In April I road tripped to Denver with my brother. It was a six-day adventure where we tried to visit three different households, look at housing for rent in Boulder, and do a little tourist ish on the side. These were my favorite experiences!
(Coors Brewery – the Largest in the World)
Welcome to the home of Coors Brewery, which is oddly situated over a river that the company SWEARS it isn’t just bottling up and passing off as beer. I actually have new respect for the company, which was founded by a German immigrant eons ago and now gives three free beers as samples on its free tour. There’s even a short-cut to the tour for people who want to skip the copper barrels and head straight to the bar. You have to take a shuttle to get to the beer factory, but it was a fun ride with a short tour through the tiny town. The driver might have been slightly inebriated, but who wouldn’t after getting nine free cases of beer each month as per Coors employee policy?
But the best part of Golden was the previous night. We stayed in the swanky, historic, riverside Golden Hotel and bar-hopped down and around the main thoroughfare of Washington Avenue. Everyone was super laid-back and friendly, with an obvious dearth of skinny jeans, hipster haircuts and people glued to their cell phones (thank GOD). We shared beers on breezy outdoor patios and talked about moving to Golden. Coors beer was about $2 a pop, as it should be, and which we drank. When in Golden…
(In the Mountains Near Boulder)
Arriving into Boulder the first sight I saw was a panhandler at an intersection. His wavy hair was blowing in the breeze, and he wore a bath towel with pom-pom balls and a pair of stilettos. His sign said: Too ugly to prostitute, Too honest to steal. Most oddly of all, he was dancing, and smiling, and laughing – a far cry from the panhandlers of LA that I am used to! Entering the local coffee shop for a caffeine infusion, the barista seemed to be on Cloud 9, complimenting my name, my brother’s beard, offering advice on orange juice prices and being in general insanely happy. WTF was up with this place?
We spent a bit of time in Boulder throughout the trip, mainly on the tulip-laden Pearl Street Mall. We dined in high style at a rooftop cantina called The Rio, with strong margaritas that seemed even stronger in the elevated altitude. It was warm and sunny and beautiful, and we talked about moving to Boulder over flautas and chimichangas. Later on in the trip we would return to the pedestrianized area for brunch at Snooze around 3PM, with killer Bloody Marys and breakfast tacos. The entire area is amazing, although most of the boutiques are pricy – places like Free People and Piece Love and Chocolate, an enchanting boutique with mesmerizing candy and shocking prices. Boulder is a student town, but obviously these aren’t student prices. Still, it would be a lovely place to call home. It’s just a quick 15-minute drive up the foothills, and you’re into the mountains and on top of the world.
(Nathan the Brother)
GARDEN OF THE GODS
For me, Colorado Springs means one thing: Garden of the Gods. Bright red-orange rocks jut up from the surface of the earth, cutting sharp towards the sky with angles that make your neck hurt. There are extensive hiking trails for athletes, as well as a paved area for strolling slowly if you aren’t up for extensive sports action. A few people were climbing high on the rocks, colorful birds were farting around the bushes, and tourists were trying in vain to take pictures that captured the epic natural beauty of this funky rock collection. We wandered around the trails and talked about moving to Colorado Springs.
Touristy, shoppy, ice-creamy and windy as hell, this picture-perfect mountain town is a place that your mother would love. Located on the way up to Pike’s Peak, this charming stop had a handful of kitchsy souvenir stores, fancy restaurants, a historic hotel and our favorite find – a brand new brewery, the Manitou Brewing Company. We noshed on hot wings, fried pickles and fresh, delicious beer. It was cozy, with wooden décor and a friendly bartender – the perfect antidote to the touristy town. My brother and I sipped slowly, stopped for some ice cream and talked about moving to Manitou Springs.
(Trying to Hit His Head)
Undoubtedly one of the greatest tourist traps in the world, this aging restaurant combines all-you-can-eat Mexican food with cliff diving, cave explorations, arcade games, an old mine, a plush theater and SO much more. It’s glory days were obviously about 30 years ago – the pile of puke on the way in should have tipped me off. The restaurant is at the end of a strip mall in a super sketchy neighborhood, with pawn shops, liquor stores and plenty of homeless people wandering around aimlessly.
But I remembered being here when I was young and just had to return – kind of like Cartman. First of all, you HAD to buy something to eat – too bad for my hungover brother. The food was sub-par (and that’s being generous) but it did come with endless guacamole and sopapillas. Birthday kids ran around screaming and having the time of their lives as the parents downed sickly sweet blue margaritas (oh wait, that was me). Casa Bonita’s cliff diving performance was the worst show I have ever seen in my life. You couldn’t understand a word the “actors” were saying, and when the diver jumped off with a despondent look on his face, it truly seemed like he was trying to hit his head on the rock and die. That water has probably not been changed since the restaurant opened 39 years ago; you could see the slime from the second story. Part of the ceiling was falling in, and there was a thick 6-inch layer of dust right above our table. The food was horrible, the show was worse – but as far as travel experiences go, it was one that I will never forget!
The best part of Casa Bonita is Blackbeard’s Cave. It scared the hell out of me and I screamed in terror. We left shortly after the sopapillas, passing the faded posters outside the building and stepping over puke as we laughed all the way out into the parking lot.
(New Zealander Attempting to Eat the 72 oz. Steak at The Big Texan in Amarillo)
If you ever want to know what the world will be like after the apocalypse, just drive through West Texas. Forlorn and filled with dust, this remote region features an unparalleled collection of half-fallen down shacks, rusted out flatbed pick-up trucks and hulls of delapodated trailers marked with a sign: For Sale. There are no grocery stores, only signs that say shit like “9-11 was only the beginning. Repent sinner or burn forever. You have been warned.” And you have been. Every stop for gas is met with an anxious anticipation to get the hell out of there as soon as you can. Restaurants? Forget it. We stopped at a Pizza Hut, hoping to procure some suitable nosh from corporate America. Too bad they were out of peppers, onions, olives and mushrooms – thus said the girl with no teeth at the front counter.
Best of all was the severe dust storm we encountered on the return drive. My phone buzzed with emergency warning texts to avoid all travel – yeah right, like I was going to sit on the side of the Godforsaken road in the panhandle for 10 hours. It was like a scene from the Wizard of Oz, where the air is chock full of particulates, from eight billion tumbleweeds to pieces of wooden boards and lawn furniture. Apocalypse NOW. We finally made it to Amarillo, which is super ghetto and scary enough on its own. “Does this kind of storm happen a lot?” I asked the girl at the Cracker Barrel. “Yes,” she said, matter-of-factly. “Welcome to West Texas.”
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