It’s time for me to climb new peaks, personally and professionally.
The day after I left Grommet, I called my close friend Anne Fahey and asked, “Are you up for a road trip in September?” Anne and I have known each other since age 17 and shared every point of our adult lives. It made sense to share this adventure too.
In fact, the only other major US road trip I ever took was with Anne. In 1981 we travelled from Ann Arbor to Chapel Hill–to drop off our pal Claudia at med school. It was time to get back on the open road!
I’ve always wanted to hike the Colorado Rockies, so that was a starting point.
Trip by the numbers:
- 28 days (9/11-10-9)
- 19 different beds
- One plane, two rental cars, three boats, one Segway
- 3,176 miles travelled and 90 hours behind the wheel
- Longest gap between meals: 24 hours
- 424 sanitizer wipes used
- 163 or 185 miles walked–depending on whose fitness counter you believe
- 37 oldie but goodie stories retold
- 17 Grommets packed and used
- 80 mph speed limit through much of CO, WY and SD (hard to slow down after enjoying that)
- Colorado: Breckenridge, Vail, Steamboat Springs, Grand Lake, Estes Park, Boulder, Denver. (Hiked 11 out of 12 days in Colorado.)
- Wyoming: Laramie and Devil’s Tower
- South Dakota: Black Hills/Custer State Park and Badlands/Scenic
- Minnesota: Minneapolis
- Wisconsin: Bayfield/Lake Superior/Fruit Loop Tour
- Michigan: Munising/Upper Peninsula, Mackinaw City/Dark Sky Park, Midland, Ann Arbor
- Ohio: Cleveland
- New Jersey: Princeton
- Massachusetts: Boston
The best sight: A mother moose and her calf in Grand Lake, CO
The best event: Buffalo Roundup in Custer State Park, South Dakota–always the last Friday in September
The best experience: cycling in the Badlands of South Dakota
Best hike: Sky Pond in Rocky Mountain National Park
Best foliage: Aspens in Dillon, CO, maples of Midland, MI and Western Pennsylvania (en route to New Jersey)
Best tourist site: Wyoming Territorial Prison
Biggest tourist trap/disappointment: Wall Drug. We actually needed drugstore type stuff when we visited, but it was just a sea of gee-gaws and very little drug store product. But, hey, the bison burgers and doughnuts were good.
The best meal (went there twice): Bird and Jim in Estes Park (especially the Rocky Mountain Trout)
The best (and only) happy hour meal: Uchi in Denver (mind blowing and affordable sushi)
The single best thing I ate: a heavenly biscuit at Circle View Ranch in Scenic, South Dakota I inhaled it too quickly to take a photo, but take my word for it. World class.
Best Coffee: WonderState in Bayfield, WI
Best breakfast: Snooze in Denver (a flight of pancakes)
The scariest night: Lake Ranch in Devil’s Tower (Hulett, Wyoming)
The most surprising places:
- George Floyd’s Minneapolis neighborhood—stable middle-class homes (I guess I expected a rougher place with hopped up cops looking for trouble)
- Midland, Michigan–so many natural and cultural amenities
Best quirky shopping: vintage stuff in Laramie, WY (but I forgot about Matthew Sheppard when we were there…and would have had trouble enjoying myself if had remembered that tragedy.)
Best boutique shopping: Joanne’s Scandinavian in Bayfield, Wisconsin
Best rural art: Metal signs at ranches in CO, WY and SD
Best Urban Art: This mural that went up within two days of RBG’s passing, in Denver’s RiCo neighborhood.
Most listened to podcast: Hacks on Tap
Most used apps:
- Trail Finder
- Hiking Project
- Trip Advisor
- Apple Podcasts
- Dark Sky
- Google Maps
Best handling of COVID protocols: State of Colorado, Southwest Airlines, and the chain hotels
Worst handling of COVID protocols: State of South Dakota and State Game Lodge in Custer State Park, SD
Most Trump lawn signs: South Dakota
Most Biden lawn signs: Michigan
Almost no lawn signs: Colorado
Crabbiest moment: checking into State Game Lodge (my TripAdvisor review here)
Most transcendent moment: exploring around Circle View Ranch in South Dakota, in the early morning
- Holiday Inn Express in Munising, MI
- The Ramble, Denver
Place I would most want to live: Boulder, CO (in fact, why does ANYONE ever move away from Colorado?)
Most used item I packed: Zamberlan boots (see above)
Never used item (yay!): waterproof pants (see above)
Most useful purchase of trip: Cat Crap
Souvenir I think I will most appreciate: Tiny little bison painting by Ron Holyfield
Favorite new accessory acquired: Stormy Kromer beanie
Product that saved our 90-hours-in-a-car butts–literally: Purple Seat Cushion. I shipped two of these to one of our Colorado hotels. Claudia told me about them when I complained about working on a hard kitchen chair. I now own four, of different styles.
Most active tourist board: South Dakota
Best tour assist: Black Hills Tour Company
Place that has not discovered Marketing (in a good way): family run orchards/cider mills near Bayfield, WI.
Best body of water: Lake Michigan
Most surprisingly boring driving: Upper Peninsula, MI
Most surprisingly NOT boring driving: Eastern Wyoming, South Dakota and Western Pennsylvania
Biggest miss: Not seeing the northern lights at the Headlands International Dark Sky Park in Mackinaw City, MI (good excuse to go to Norway or Hawaii.) They are notoriously elusive but we gave it a good college try for the two nights booked there.
Most frequent activity (apart from eating and hiking): Visiting botanical Gardens—in Vail, Denver, and Midland
Best travelling buddies in 2020: Anne Fahey and Jill McMahon
Next road trip for Anne and Jules: down south, starting with Montgomery, Alabama because of The National Memorial for Peace and Justice.
P.S. Our COVID-19 Precautions:
- Masks at all times except in car, hotel rooms, while eating, or hiking on empty trails. About 60-70% of hikers deployed masks.
- Eating outside the majority of the time. Indoor restaurants were generally well spaced with a minimum of contacts (like QR code menus). For some reason chairs freak me out a bit–they don’t clean them well enough.
- Wiping down touch points in hotel rooms
- Wiping down car after going in a business or hiking
- Avoiding crowds, Buffalo Round Up excepted
- Arranged a couple of private tours in SD with Black Hills Tours–for areas where we anticipated both a high number of sites to see, and large crowds
- Sanitizing hands before, and after, going in a business. Some restaurants also took our temperatures, which we welcomed. Many stores required sanitizing before entering.
- Even on a hike, sanitizing hands when scrambling and using our hands to grab a rock or branch other people might have grabbed
- Anne also used gloves, a medical grade mask, and goggles on her flight. I just sanitized and used a mask, but no one was near me.
- Got a rapid COVID test in Minneapolis (after seeing South Dakota) and then a PCR test the day after I got home to Boston (both negative)