Home Up Day 13

Day 12-Rifle, CO to Goodland, KS

For the first time in over a week, we awoke to cool air. And by cool, I mean the low 70s.  Today we where really going to hit the 'mountains', taking Interstate 70 through the Glenwood Canyon, and then over the Eisenhower Pass, the highest part of any of the US Interstate system - 11,800 feet. Glenwood Canyon was one of the last parts of the US interstate system to be finished, it's one of those "engineering marvels" that you read about. Environmental concerns along the somewhat untouched river made building your standard mountain highway (dynamite, earth moving, tunnels, etc) out of the picture. After much thought and work, it was decided that the roadway, about 18 miles of four-lane interstate, would be built on piers following the riverbank, thereby causing the least amount of environmental disruption, but costing seven times as much as a standard roadbed, and taking at least three times as long to build. So that's what it came down to - about 15 miles of swooping, elevated roadway that drove though pristine wilderness and hardly even made a mess. We stopped at the first of several turnoffs and read about the project, and then I went down to the river bank and grabbed Melissa a couple pounds of river rock for back home. All too soon we got spit out of the other side of the canyon, and we slowly climbed up into the hills.  

  Rifle, early AM before we hit the road 

  Bluffs above Rifle 

  Scenic stop in Glenwood Canyon 

  Glenwood Canyon 

  Glenwood Canyon (not my shot) 

  Glenwood Canyon (not my shot) 

 Glenwood Canyon, through the windshield

 Out of the Canyon, through Colorado's high country

Once out of the canyon, we drove along Colorado's high country - the river was never far out of sight. The flat bottom land along the river was occupied by farms and ranches, and not much else. It was pretty, but not spectacular. Very bright sunlight made taking some of these shots through the windshield a bit problematic, but we couldn't stop every half mile just so old Jim could snap a shot off. After a few dozen miles, we found the little town of Eagle, where they promised a Rocky Mountain museum, and a little small touristy area. We toured the museum, I took some shots along the river, and then we walked up into town to hit the Drugstore and souvenir place. Very pretty little town.

  Eagle, Co Mountain Museum, Chamber of Commerce and Tourist Info Center 

After saying goodbye to Eagle, we found ourselves climbing, slowly but surely, up towards the ski areas of Aspen and Vail.  About 2 miles after we passed the last exit for Aspen, Hal said "You know, I kind of wanted to see Aspen."  So about thirty miles farther on, after following a large cement truck up the grade, we took the exit for Vail. It was a very nice little place, a bit tres chic, if you know what I mean, and rather expensive-touristy, but nice nevertheless. It was hard to imagine the place five feet deep in snow, it being about 85' and sunny. We wandered around, bought the t-shirts, had some lunch, and hit the road again.

The park for RV drivers

What appeared to be ski condo units built around an upscale shopping arcade kind of place...

Back on the road, we head up towards Vail Summit pass - the interstate was well graded, just long stretches of easy hills, then level for a while, then back uphill. The summit of the pass is at 10,600 feet, so we climbed about 2,000 feet from Vail. It was the White River National Forest. Interestingly, these were'nt craggy, stony peaks like you might have imagined - just forests of pine, aspen and cedar along the slopes, and very little elevation above the tree lines. Please excuse the windshield reflections and crud.

After the Vail Summit, we began the long, slow climb to the Eisenhower Pass. 28-30mph the whole way but we made it with no trouble. The skies would clear for a while, then darken again as a storm looked like it was heading in the same direction we were.

Finally the tubes arrived. 11,800 feet, the highest point in our journey.  It was a surprisingly short tunnel, though, no more than a mile or so at most. You spend more time going under the Baltimore Harbor...

We came out on the eastern slope, and ran into our first real rainstorm of the journey. It made things a bit dicey going down hill, but it wasn't bad at all. We stopped in Idaho Springs at about 2:45 to gas up, and in the 65' chill, I noticed that the line of traffic heading west up to the tunnels was heavier than the east bound traffic we were in. I'm not sure, but I think it's a steeper climb when you go east-to-west like they were doing.

As we dropped down past Golden into the outskirts of Denver, the rain got a big heavier, and traffic got busier. Thus, I don't have any pictures of the Denver Metrop. area, not that it was all that exciting. It took us about an hour or so to traverse the city and get out of town, which wasn't too bad considering it was just about rush hour, 4:30 or so. We dropped out of the mountains, the interstate took a jog south, and then we came out onto the plains. Wind was terrific, blowing from right to left across our front. It was surprising to feel the wind coming up out of the south. You had to constantly fight the wheel, and then when a larger bus or truck passed us, the whole thing shifted and swerved, so we had to stay pretty alert. Took a few pictures of the flat pancake land, and what looked like more storms coming. It was still drizzling as we crossed eastern Colorado.

About 50 miles before we hit Kansas, the awning came loose again, and we decided to sacrifice it. We pulled over, and as the trucks and busses whizzed by at 80 MPH, I climbed up on the roof in the 40 mph gale, and quickly sliced a knife down the awning along the roller tube, to release it. It was flapping like mad in the wind, so it was a bit of a struggle but I finally got the whole darn thing cut off, and Hal pushed the remains into one of the storage compartments  We crossed the state line about 6 PM, stopped at the Welcome Center, which was closed for the day, and headed to Goodland - the only city of any size for a couple of hundred miles, and we made for the KOA there. We ate dinner at a Wendys just off the interstate, and doubled back through town to the campground.  We got there about 9:30 in the evening, signed in to the night reservation system, and found a nice spot. The place was pretty deserted.  Another long day, even though we covered less than 400 miles - the two sightseeing stops in Eagle and Vail were nice, though, a welcome break from driving all day long.

 Heres where we took off the unrolled and torn awning.
End of Day 12 - 382 miles
Day 11
Day 13