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14 Years of Anniversary Road Trips | 5 States, 2 Countries

Five years before I started HeidiTown, Ryan and I got married in in Golden, Colorado in May 2002. After honeymooning in England, we made a pact to spend each anniversary in a different state. That lasted a number of years until HeidiTown was in full swing and we were traveling nearly exclusively in Colorado.

14 Anniversary Trips. Arches National Park, Moab, Utah. HeidiTown.com

Corona Arch in Moab, Utah.

Now that HeidiTown has annexed six new states, I’m excited to start exploring the states surrounding Colorado again once again.

Since we’ve been taking a road trip on every anniversary for the last 14 years, I thought I’d share with you the 14 places we’ve visited in nearly 15 years of marriage.

On our first anniversary in 2003, we traveled to a small bed and breakfast at the foot of the Snowy Range near Centennial, Wyoming. We hiked on their expansive alpaca ranch, soaked in the hot tub and went on a horseback ride at a nearby ranch.

Unfortunately that bed and breakfast no longers exists, but this anniversary was a true getaway and one reason I think we both still associate trips to Wyoming with serenity.

In 2004, on our second anniversary, we went to Santa Fe, New Mexico, a city we both love and had previously visited. In fact, we visited Santa Fe a number of times before HeidiTown was established. Continue reading

Don’t Be a Hangry Travel Buddy: Tried & True Road Trip Rules To Live By

I am, without a doubt, the Road Trip Queen. I put tens of thousands of miles on my car every year checking out festivals and exploring new destinations, and I’ve learned a thing or two along the way.

Road Trip Planning 101. San Luis Valley, HeidiTown.com

Hwy 285 near Villa Grove, Colorado in the San Luis Valley.

With spring a few days away, and summer just around the corner, here are some tried and trued ways to make your next road trip the best experience possible.

Check Your Fluids

My first piece of advice is boring, but important. Before heading out on the highway, make sure your car is in good working order. Make sure the tires have the correct pressure and the oil isn’t overdue for a change. Also, check to make sure that your window washer fluid is full. Take it from me, you don’t want to be stuck on a slushy pass without it.

Don’t be Hangry

Pack snacks and water or plan to make pit stops for food along the way. There’s a gas station in Walden, Colorado with free popcorn and I hear there’s a gas station in Fairplay, Colorado with great hot dogs. Continue reading

Fort Collins for Christmas

Considering a holiday getaway this month? Fort Collins is an excellent Colorado Christmas town. Downtown sparkles with thousands of lights and from Old Town Square to Oak Street Plaza Park, the atmosphere is merry.

Fort Collins for Christmas

This past weekend, we did one-night getaway in Fort Collins to experience the city’s holiday offerings. Before exploring the festive scene we checked into the Fernweh Inn & Hostel on Mulberry, just blocks from the excitement of downtown Fort Collins.

Some people, including my husband, Ryan, have an aversion to any place with hostel in the name. The word makes him worried that he’s going to have to share a bathroom or wash dishes to earn his keep.

Fort Collins for Christmas, the Fernweh Inn & Hostel in the snow

Fernweh is a modern-day, American hostel which offers private rooms as well as bunk rooms. Our private room, “The Loft,” was a virtual suite because the space occupied the entire upstairs of this historic, Victorian home. There was a full bathroom in the room complete with large, soaking bathtub and multiple beds, making it perfect for a family or friends. Continue reading

Trinidad, Colorado, It’s Not What You Think

This is not a post about the island in the Caribbean. This is a post about Trinidad, Colorado. You may have heard about it. Over the years, Trinidad became well-known as the sex change capital of the United States.

Trinidad, Colorado, it's not what you think

ArtoCade on Commercial Street in downtown Trinidad, Colorado.

Interestingly, the clinic that put the town on the map for sex change surgery, moved to California a number of years ago, but preconceptions die hard, especially when a town’s sex change reputation is big enough to have made it onto an episode of South Park.

Before I visited Trinidad this past summer, it was 1) the sex change capital of the United States 2) a place I drove through on my way to New Mexico and 3) the place my friend Amanda, who makes the world’s best green chile, grew up.

After visiting Trinidad, I’ve developed an entirely new perspective on the town. It’s a place where no one is a stranger, where art thrives and history runs deep, where waiters sing and the positive energy is so thick it’s hard not to get caught up in its flow. Continue reading

Camping at Echo Park in Dinosaur National Monument

When we told friends that we were spending our wedding anniversary camping at Dinosaur National Monument in Northwest Colorado, most of them looked at us in confusion. After all, a monument is just a rock in the ground erected in memory of a person or historical event, right? Yes, but a National Monument is so much more.

Camping at Echo Park in Dinosaur National Monument. Looking down at the road to Echo Park Campground. HeidiTown.com

See that winding road? That’s the road to Echo Park Campground.

A National Monument is a federally protected area that is similar to a National Park. Colorado has eight National Monuments and so far we’ve visited five.

Located in both Utah and Colorado and best known for its dinosaur bones and petroglyphs, we did not visit Dinosaur National Monument to see dinos, although we did hope to catch site of a pterodactyl flying over our campsite. Kidding, of course, although Echo Park did have a sort of Jurassic Park type of feel. Continue reading

Colorado National Monument: A gem on the Western Slope

Several weeks ago, Ryan and spent a weekend in Grand Junction. This was a true adventure because we’d never been to Grand Junction before. We’d driven through, but never stopped to smell the roses, or rather, the perfume of wine.

Colorado National Monument March 2013 HeidiTown

I’m going to highlight our foodie and wine adventures in Grand Junction in another post, but here I want to concentrate on our morning at the Colorado National Monument. First, like many of you, we thought the Colorado National Monument was an actual monument, and we were a bit startled and overjoyed to discover that it is a gigantic park with rock formations that rival those we’ve seen just across the border in Utah.

CO National Monument jutting rock March 2013 HeidiTown

We entered the park via the Fruita entrance on the recommendation of several people, including our helpful hotel shuttle driver from The Clarion  in Grand Junction. Even before we entered the park, we spotted a beautiful bird hanging out in a dead tree. The lighting was such that we couldn’t identify the bird, but we treated the sighting as an omen of good things to come – and it was.

Entering the park through the Fruita entrance is an excellent choice because you are immediately surrounded by spectacular views and huge rock formations that rise unexpectedly from the ground. At first, we were stopping at every overlook to snap pictures and take in the incredible view of the mesas.

The view from the Mesa at Colorado National Monument March 2013 HeidiTown

By the time we reached the visitor center we were in a cheerful mood. This place wasn’t a tourist trap with some old boring monument – this place was a gem and we felt as though we had just discovered it. Of course, we weren’t the first to discover it, and the people of the Western Slope are well aware of their treasure.

In fact, there’s a movement afoot to give the park National Park status, but there’s also a group opposed to such a move. They don’t want the crowds that come with having a National Park in your backyard, but I think that the Colorado National Monument shouldn’t be a secret. I think it should receive National Park status and be added to our state’s impressive repertoire of national parks.

Inside the visitor center we were greeted by two young female rangers who quickly pulled out photos of the park’s most recent addition; two baby big horn sheep. We knew there were bighorn sheep in the region, but we had no idea that we had come during lambing season, running February through April.

For those who do not know me, I’m a huge freak when it comes to baby animals. Puppies, ducklings, kittens, kits, calves, foals, eaglets, chicks, goslings”¦ if it’s a baby animal of any sort, I’m a fan. So when we found out about the baby bighorn sheep we were determined to find them.

Dead tree CO National Monument March 2013 HeidiTown

We struck out on a hike with a purpose – my favorite kind of hike. We started from the visitor center down a small and easy trail with enormous views and then veered through the campground. The rangers had given us some useful tips on finding the bighorn sheep.

They like to hang out on the outcroppings above the roads around the park and one way you can tell that they’ve been in a certain location are rocks on the road. They scatter the rocks as they scramble up the mountain. You can often hear the bighorns kicking around rocks before you actually spot them.

The rangers told us we might find them on a rock outcropping we’d driven under earlier, so we backtracked, by foot. Peering through binoculars towards the specific location, at first Ryan saw nothing, but then JACK POT! We had found them. Two bighorn sheep lambs and their mothers, right where the park rangers said they might be.

They were still pretty far away from us, and couldn’t be seen without binoculars, but there they were and we marked the hike a grand success. We snapped some pictures, hoping we could zoom in later to find the little guys.

baby big horn sheep at Colorado National Monument March 2013 HeidiTown

They are really difficult to see, but there are two baby bighorn sheep in the middle of this photo.

Back at the visitors center we were accosted by a juniper titmouse. The bird spotted us walking through the parking lot and fluttered over to land on a tree limb directly in front of my face – I could have reached out and touched him. When we told the park ranger of this encounter she said it’s not because people feed them, it’s because the juniper titmouse is a friendly little bird with a big attitude.

juniper titmouse at CO National Monument March 2013 HeidiTown

We managed to get a photo of this Juniper Titmouse before he flew off looking for some other park visitor to chat with.

The rest of our drive through the park was uneventful. The scenery was still breathtaking but to my disappointment we had no more wildlife encounters. I was hoping to spot a male bighorn walking on the road, as they tend to do quite often.

The Colorado National Monument is a treasure and should not to be missed when visiting the Grand Junction area. Within 15 minutes of Grand Junction, it makes for an easy morning excursion, or you can make it a longer adventure by hiking, rock climbing or camping in the park.  

Learn more about the Colorado National Monument HERE.  Check out everything Grand Junction has to offer by going to VisitGrandJunction.com and following them on Facebook and Twitter.

Balancing Rock at CO National Monument March 2013 HeidiTownTips for visiting the Colorado National Monument:

1. Stop at the Visitor Center to see what animals have been spotted in the park recently.

2. Bring a good camera, not just your phone. This place deserves high resolution photos.

3. Bring a water bottle. The park will no longer be selling water. To reduce waste they are installing a water bottle refilling station at the visitor center.

4. Bring binoculars.

5. Pack a light coat. It can be a bit chilly atop the mesas on a spring day.

This trip sponsored by Visit Grand Junction.

HeidiTown on the Radio – Colorado winter carnivals & winter sports to try this season

Ryan Ziplining HeidiTown 2013

Ziplining at Top of the Rockies Ziplines, near Leadville, Colorado. Photo by H.M. Kerr-Schlaefer.

It’s time for another HeidiTown segment on KRFC 88.9 FM.

As a reminder, I’ve decided to cut down on these radio shows because I create entirely new content for each segment and it’s too much  to keep up with on a weekly basis. So, the HeidiTown show can be heard now twice a month on the radio.

This week’s show includes a preview of a couple upcoming winter carnivals and a look at some Colorado winter sports you should try out this season. Some of these “sports” require little more than sitting down and hanging on, as you can see by this photo.

So sit back and buckle up and take a listen to this week’s radio show HERE.

HeidiTown on the radio – Oktoberfest & Colorado Fall Travel

Oktoberfest GingerbreadIt’s time for another segment of HeidiTown on the radio. If your curious about when these air, you can hear me at noonish on Wednesdays and during your drive home on Fridays around 5:30 p.m. on KRFC 88.9 FM.

Some of the info in this week’s segment will seem like old news to my avid readers, because I’ve already written about Berthoud Oktoberfest on previous occasions, but it will be new information for my radio audience.

This radio show also has some advice on traveling in Colorado during the fall. Both my birthday and my husband’s birthday are in the fall, and we tend to do weekend getaways to celebrate, so we’ve learned a lot about traveling the state during this time of year.

Listen to this week’s segment HERE.

Dispelling the myths about staying at a bed & breakfast

When I was a child, my family used to vacation each year on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada. We always stayed at the same bed and breakfast, and I have wonderful memories of our stays there. As an adult, I continue to choose this style of lodging when I am on vacation, especially when visiting smaller towns around Colorado.

Over the years, Ryan and I have stayed at bed and breakfasts in the United States, and across Great Britain. We love bed and breakfasts, but I realize that a lot of you are hesitant about this type of vacation lodging.

Here are some of the common fears I hear about bed and breakfast, and my responses to each:

Rose Street B&B Georgetown, Colorado

Rose Street B&B in Georgetown, Colorado. Photo by H.M. Kerr-Schlaefer, all rights reserved.

“I will feel like I’m invading someone’s home.”

Only once have I had the experience of feeling like a nuisance when staying at a bed and breakfast and this took place in England. Sometimes the line between bed and breakfasts and “renting a room in a house” becomes blurred, and this was one of those times. But this was an exception. This had never been our experience before and has never been our experience after at any bed and breakfast in England or stateside.

Typically, we choose a room with our own bathroom and have even had rooms with their own private entrance. Breakfast is usually served in a dining room where you may or may not meet other guests at the establishment. Most bed and breakfasts in the United States take pride in making delicious and memorable meals. Ryan and I still rave about the breakfast we had on the terrace at Hughes Hacienda in Colorado Springs.

“People will get all up in my business.”

I think this is the #1 fear I hear from my friends. They think that a bed and breakfast will lack privacy or that they will be forced into extensive conversations with perfect strangers. I can tell you that a bed and breakfast experience is what YOU make of it. Most proprietors are friendly and enjoy people, otherwise they wouldn’t be in this profession.

However, most proprietors are very intuitive as to their guests’ level of comfort in chatting, and will not push their guests into conversation, especially if a guest appears to be a more private type of person.

arch in Moab

Thanks to the proprietors of Dream Keeper Inn, we were able to find out about this amazing hike in Moab, Utah.

If you do choose to engage the bed and breakfast proprietors, and I suggest that you do, they are a wealth of information about the area in which you are staying. During our stay at Dream Keeper Inn, in Moab, Utah, the owners knew all the best local hikes, and were a big help in assisting us in picking a wonderful hike to see a hidden arch.

You can also choose whether or not to engage the other guests, who you will likely only run into during breakfast service. Many bed and breakfasts have multiple tables, although some seat everyone together. We have met the most interesting people over the years, and have had a blast sharing travel stories with Australians in Bath, England and with New Yorkers during  a stay in Georgetown, Colorado.

“B&B’s are too expensive.”

This is a complete misnomer. With the price of hotel lodging today, bed and breakfasts are often competitive when it comes to price. Plus, you get a free, full breakfast every day of your stay, which will easily cost more than $20 at a restaurant.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love staying at a nice hotel, and we do not choose bed and breakfasts on every trip we take. However, they are a nice change up from the traditional hotel room, and can create memorable stories that will last you a lifetime.

Agri-what? Colorado agritourism & why you’ll want to take part

farm fieldAgritourism is a relatively new word, and in fact it is so new that my computer does not actually recognize it as a real word. Agritourism is one of the fastest growing segments of the travel industry, but what is it?

It’s where agriculture and tourism intersect. If you’ve ever visited a working farm to buy eggs or tour their vegetable patch, or if you’ve taken your children to a corn maze or on a hay ride, you’ve participated in agritourism.

Agritourism covers a broad range of activities and includes educational, cultural and culinary events. It often involves hands-on experiences.

While most people consider Colorado a ski and adventure destination, our state was built on agriculture. Today, tourism is a big piece of the state’s economy, so bringing agriculture and tourism together just makes sense.

I’ll admit, I’ve only participated a little in agritourism, although the wine country on the Western Slope is at the top of my must-do list. Colorado’s Western Slope is a mecca for agritourism, especially as Colorado’s wine grows in popularity and reputation.

cluster of red grapesEvents like Tour de Vineyard, happening this weekend, are the perfect opportunity to participate in agritourism. This 25-mile bike ride travels through Colorado’s Wine Country, and is held just prior to the Colorado Mountain Winefest, featuring over 50 state wineries.

The Western Slope isn’t only a wine lovers paradise, they also grow all sorts of fruit and celebrate their harvest all summer and fall with music, dancing and of course, lots of delicious food.

For instance, the Mountain Harvest Festival, held the last weekend in September in Paonia, gives visitors the opportunity to meet local farmers. The festival’s website includes a page with links to two local farm tours you can take while attending the festival; one is a self-guided tour, while the other is a farm to farm bicycle tour.

RanchStaying at a dude ranch also falls in the agritourism travel category and you don’t have to go to Wyoming or Montana to find one. ColoradoRanch.com has 29 ranches listed, with activities that include cattle drives to white water rafting.

There are all types of ranch stays to choose from; you can indulge in a luxury stay, or an experience where your hands may blister and your boots will surely get dirty. Personally, I think the luxury stay sounds rather nice, although I wouldn’t mind feeding some chickens or gathering eggs in the morning.

In researching agritourism, I also found this cool website called FarmStayUS.com. It lists working farms throughout the United States where you can stay and experience rural living on either a farm, ranch or vineyard.

Another interesting way to participate right now in agritourism is visiting a “U Pick Farm.” According to Colorado.com, Berry Patch Farms in Brighton has a fall crops like apples, beets, carrots, garlic, onions, squash, pumpkins and peppers. You can even meet the farm’s chickens, ducks and pigs. See Colorado.com’s  list of U Pick Farms here.

So there you have it, a quick overview of agritourism and how you can participate. I hope to have some agritourism adventures of my own next summer, and you can be sure that I will share them with you here on HeidiTown.

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