Thursday, November 30, 2017

The Stark Beauty of Colorado National Monument

I really do plan my trips ahead of time. I do. It's one of my favorite things to do - besides the actual travel part. In fact, I love planning trips so much I used to do it for a living - in what seems like a past life - as a travel agent. But sometimes it seems like I'm flying by the seat of my pants when I come upon something so amazing as the Colorado National Monument and I don't have a clue about it. 

The Colorado National Monument
The Colorado National Monument - a national monument is a protected area that is similar to a national park - is located just outside the town of Grand Junction, Colorado. You travel through the monument on Rim Rock Drive - through many sheer-walled, red rock canyons filled with monoliths - stopping at overlooks that show the vastness of this area of the American West. An area I never even knew existed until we were pointed in that direction by everyone we met in Grand Junction - "Of course, you have to do the Monument" they would say as I was thinking to myself  - What monument?

Drive, Hike or Bike
You can drive, hike or bike the Colorado National Monument. Adventure seekers look at it as a bucket list item - either biking the 23 mile Rim Rock Drive with it's ascents and descents or hiking some of it's 13 back country trails with some at more than 7000 feet elevation. 

Driving Rim Rock Road We started at the east end of the road just outside of Grand Junction and worked our way to the Visitor Center at the west end near Fruita. It was July 4th weekend and I thought that maybe we would be there with a few thousand of our closest friends but until we reached the visitor center we saw maybe a handful of visitors. If you're seeking solitude and serenity, this is most definitely the place. (Rim Rock Road is the only paved road through the Monument)

History of Colorado National Monument The area was first explored by it's fiercest champion, John Otto , in the early 20th century. Many in that time believed the canyons to be inacessible to humans. But he began building trails and people started lobbying for it to become a national park. It was established as a national monument in 1911 and Otto became it's first park ranger - for a salary of $1 per month. He lived in a tent in the park and was known as "The Hermit of Monument Park". One of the most interesting things I learned about him at the park was that he was married there in 1911 to Beatrice Farnham, an artist from Boston,  at the base of Independence Monument - one of it's most famous landmarks - but the marriage lasted less than 6 months as his bride found out that he wanted her to live in his tent with him. She knew he loved the area but she didn't think they'd be tent camping for life. They divorced shortly thereafter.

If you're in Western Colorado or Eastern Utah and you want to get away from crowds while seeing some incredible scenery, head to the Colorado National Monument. I think you'll be glad you did.

Things to know before you go:
-The Monument is located outside the city of Grand Junction and is open 24/7 year round but Rim Rock Road does close for bad weather conditions. Always check before you go.
-Currently the entrance fee is $15 for cars, $10 for motorcycles and $5 for hikers/bikers.
-The park Visitor Center will be able to help you with any info you need including permits.It is located four miles from the west entrance and 19 miles from the east entrance.

How about you? Have you heard of the Colorado National Monument? Actually been there?

Linking up with: Travel Photo Thursday at Budget Travelers Sandbox,The Weekly Postcard at Travel Notes and Beyond and The Weekend Wanderlust Travel Blog Party!

Thursday, November 23, 2017


I started this blog for partly selfish reasons. My extended family has little interest in travel - and when I came back from a trip I wanted to talk about it, look at photos and rehash the enjoyment I received from my travels. As one does. So I started this blog as a gratitude journal, of sorts, to realize all the many places I've been, the people I've met and the experiences I've had. It's as much for me as for anyone else.

So on this day - and week - where we are thankful, grateful and blessed, I am thankful for all of you who come here every week to take part in my little corner of the world. Thanks for being a part of it! I'm thankful for each and every one of you. And if you're celebrating Thanksgiving today, Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 18, 2017

New York City Photo Round-up

Ahhh......New York City. A favorite city of many. If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere. Home of Broadway and it's neon lights, the Statue of Liberty, Central Park and Times Square. Our daughter has felt the pull of this city since she knew where and what it was. She is now a resident of her dream city which means we've been able to - and will be able to - visit her and take in the City that Never Sleeps at our leisure. So here's a New York photo round-up - some you've seen and some you haven't. Enjoy!

Which photo is your favorite? 

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This post is part of a link-up with: The Weekend Wanderlust Travel Blog PartyThe Weekly Postcard at Travel Notes and Beyond and Travel Photo Thursday at Budget Travelers Sandbox!

Friday, November 10, 2017

Completing the Bend Ale Trail in Oregon

Bend, Oregon has more breweries per capita than any other city in Oregon. It's called Beer City USA. And the Bend Ale Trail is the largest in the West. You can get your own Bend Ale Trail Passport and have it stamped at any of the 16 breweries in Bend. Once you complete your Ale Trail fun you can head to the Visitor Center and receive some loot - for 10 stamps you get a cool silicone drinking cup and if you complete the Ale Trail and get 16 stamps you get the cup plus a Bend Ale Trail bottle opener.( If you're not a beer drinker - there are other beverages available at breweries - and no purchase is necessary to get a stamp)

We started our Bend Ale Trail adventure on our first evening there after a delicious dinner with friends right on the Deschutes River at Greg's Grill. We went to Cascade Lakes Brewing after dinner for a beer - and headed to our campground excited to experience the Ale Trail the next day. #1

We were traveling in an RV so we (and by we, I mean Mr. UR) planned out our Ale Trail escapades so that we could take an Uber to our first stop and then walk to all of the rest. Of course, everyone should be responsible and not drink and drive. If you don't want to walk the Ale Trail - or drive - you can take the Bend Brew Bus which will happily deposit you to breweries for a fee.

Our first stop of the day didn't pan out so well - Silver Lakes Brewing was closed for remodeling. A few minutes walk away was one of the most famous breweries in Bend - Deschutes. We sat at the bar and enjoyed a full-size pour - which we would realize quickly that we couldn't do at every brewery. Please note that our stop was at Deschutes Public House located in downtown Bend - not the actual brewery - for logistics purposes. Deschutes has 19 beers on tap - and serves food also - and I believe I tried the Red Chair NWPA. And I will state right now that I'm not a huge beer lover - I prefer beers that mask the taste of beer. I know, I know - blasphemy! But I do enjoy new experiences so I was all for walking the Ale Trail. #2

Right around the corner from Deschutes was Bend Brewing Company located on the Deschutes River. Confusing, right? Bend was one of the few breweries where I actually tried a flight of beer as I had a hard time picking just one. Bend is the second oldest brewpub in Bend and has outdoor seating along the river - which unfortunately wasn't open when we were there. #3
Our next stop was one of our most unique stops - McMenamins Old St. Francis School Pub and Brewery. McMenamins is a chain of pubs, restaurants, breweries and guest houses unique to Oregon - and all are housed in old buildings which they have funkily updated. This location was an old school from 1936 and is a hotel, pub, brewery and movie theater. It was time for lunch - so we ate here - and then we had to go in search of the famous Secret Bar. Our server gave us clues and we found it - an unmarked bar hidden in one of the buildings. I'll let you find it yourself if you ever make it to McMenamins - but let's just say it was a fun treasure hunt!#4

The next brewery was another unique one - Boneyard Beer. Boneyard is housed on a back street in Bend's Historical District in an old auto shop. The floors are black and white checkerboard and the Boneyard's logo is a skull and crossbones. It was quite small  - and crowded - while we were there but I've heard there has been an expansion since then. Known for their hoppy beers, Boneyard has 17 on tap. I didn't partake at this stop as I'm not a big hoppy fan. But it was a fun place to visit. #5
Boneyard Brewing - Can you spot the black and white floor?

After our longest walk of the day we arrived at Craft Kitchen and Brewery. Craft is also a restaurant and concentrates on small batch brews. We had our best service here - our waiter was very attentive and pointed our other places we should go on our trip. Sorry to say it was Diet Coke here for me - time for some caffeine to combat the afternoon sleepies. #6

An obedient and patient dog

Now was where we really got lucky  - and were rescued by my friend G and her husband J who picked us up after they were done working for the day and drove us to the rest of our stops. We still had the goal of completing 10 so we still had a ways to go.
Almost all of us

They took us to Immersion Brewing which appeared to be one of the most popular breweries we visited. Immersion is independent and locally owned with a twist that most breweries don't have - you can brew it yourself. You can reserve a two-hour brew experience where you can create a craft beer from scratch. We didn't have time for that but we enjoyed some appetizers and checked out the outdoor food truck lot, too. #7

Ahhh.....The Good Life. Good Life Brewing is an ode to the good life that one has in Bend - skiing, hiking, kayaking and a love of the outdoors along with some good beer. We watched some basketball on TV - a few of us even drank beer (can you believe we even wanted to by now?)- and enjoyed some good conversation at The Good Life. #8

Man, it was time for dinner. G said that the next place - Riverbend Brewing Sportspub - had awesome burgers - and apparently everyone in town wanted one as it was packed to the gills. We waited a good while for a table and then enjoyed one of those burgers. Seriously, I think everyone got one. Or almost everyone. And she was right - it was very good. Riverbend has outdoor patio seating and a fire pit which would be nice on those chilly Oregon nights. #9

Our last stop of the night was right down the block at Sunriver Brewing Company. By now I was beered out - but not everyone was - so some had beer and some had dessert.  Marionberry Cobbler to be exact. From the menu "cobbler with marionberries, oat and walnut streusel topping with tillamook vanilla ice cream. " Oh man.  You just can't beat that! And we were done. #10 Phew!

The next morning we drove the RV to the Visitor Center and received our silicone Bend Ale Trail cups. They're really cool - we were told you can even bake brownies in them. But what is really cool is a fun day with great friends exploring a new place and even tasting a few beers. Now that's cool.

Have you done any of the Bend Ale Trail? Completed it? 

This post is part of a link-up with: Travel Photo Thursday at Budget Travelers Sandbox, The Weekend Wanderlust Travel Blog Party and The Weekly Postcard at Travel Notes and Beyond!