The ROYAL ROAD TRIP – Day Two: We Love Colorado

We’d finally given it up and gone to bed on Friday night, with clear skies and beautiful stars, cool temperatures, (almost cold, to those of us who are known for the No Blood Syndrome, and how in the world did I ever live in the mountains), and wondering what the next day would offer. Imagine our surprise, and not a little dismay, to awaken to smoke filled skies and the smell of burn in the air. The Los Alamos fire had chased us, and caught up with us in far northern New Mexico. We weren’t off to a very early start in Road Trip world, due to our staying up entirely too late, a trend that would hold for most of our adventure. So by the time we were packed, fed and loaded up and back on the highway, it was every bit of 10:30. Well, not too bad, considering…. royalty, you know. And other than having a hard deadline on July 4th, no one was poking us with sticks to be somewhere, or anywhere, for that matter.

I had decided to take a new route into Colorado, since I’d been up that way to Pagosa Springs and beyond several times, and I was wanting New Road. That worked for a while, but I soon discovered that we’d missed a turn out there in the hinterlands, and we had to get turned around and back on course. No matter, really, because it was all beautiful, and GREEN. We played hide and seek with the smoke for a while, but finally left it behind us, and then the skies were gloriously clear and blue. No wonder all us pesky Texans flee to Colorado – it’s a glorious alternative to the miserable summers we’re often offered, especially this one. Surely I’ve mentioned too many times about our drought and the miserable shade of sickly yellow and brown that covers the Hill Country, all seared into our brains by the unrelenting heat. It’s a bad summer…. But enough of that.

We had decided to make our way up to Pagosa, on to Durango, and then head up via the Million Dollar Highway to Silverton, to Ouray and beyond. These were still familiar, and wonderful roads, although it had been many years since I’d been much beyond Durango, when the Queen Mum and I used to take our two weeks of Getting the Hell out of Dodge after 50 weeks of Real Job drudgery. We had been out here several times, jeep riding in the high peaks of the San Juan Mountains, and staying in the little gingerbread styled houses that were B&Bs. Hard to take a wrong road up here – it’s all spectacular.

Pagosa was, in a word, insane.  Again, duh, 4th of July weekend, and there were festivals and carnivals and untold numbers of actual tourists, (unlike US!), who were jamming the roads. I’d been there enough to know it as a somewhat sleepy little mountain town when not at the height of some summer holiday or special event, so this was a new experience, and a double whammy. One of my good friends has a little cabin down by the river and we took a short detour to see what was going on down that street. What street? You could hardly see the street for the vehicles that had parked all up and down it so they could access the river and get over to the park where all the rides and tents and 4th of July weekend madness was happening all around. Enough already. We went down to the end of the old street to turn around – it was in what was left of the historic section of town – and it was sad to see where the developer had gone in and torn down the old cabins that used to house the long ago Calvary men, all rustic and time-worn, and they’d been replaced by the ubiquitous “town” condos that sat right next to the river. Progress raises its ugly head once again. Time to get the hell out of this Dodge, and head for the far North.

We got to the western end of town and stopped for gas and liquids, (push push push those fluids in the high country), and got another heapin’ helping of humanity. Where was the peace?  Not here, and we took in the images of the moment.  I was particularly taken by the spirit of the trailer next to us, which evidently portrayed how they get their deer in the mountains. Poor Bambi, to have come to this. I wondered where its new resting place was to be. Target practice, I assumed.


But we were Outa There! Onward to Durango, then the turn North where the mountains would really start reaching to the sky, hopefully without quite so many participants of the humanoid variety. (Hope springs eternal you know, even on the 4th of July.)

Our next objective was a lunch stop, so we began looking for a suitable spectacular setting.  Before we got too far out of town, we stopped at Trimble Hot Springs, a posh resort, and took in the sights. We opted for some bottled teas, put it in our memory banks for future reference, then struck out for something a bit more on the wild side. Several possibilities presented themselves on the map, so we opted for a destination point of Haviland Lake, not too far up and off the highway. We took our first side road, and not long after found ourselves in the company of a respectable number of vacationers, but at least they weren’t swarming. We found ourselves a parking place next to the lake, with a sitting area and a little dock.

All this began what amounted to a lunch routine for most of the time: find a place, a park, a something – then offload the ice chests and tote bags containing our food goodies, and soak in the ambiance while we munched on cheese, crackers, veggies, and then tried to make a dent in our chocolate stores.

Not a bad first choice, huh:


I soon found out that TheQueen is prone to certain behaviors when confronted with appealing waters. She’s into her bathing suit, and then she’s into the water, no matter what the temperature might be, cold-wise. I have to say that immersing myself in cold mountain waters would for me likely be a heart-stopping experience – I am definitely a warm water creature. But true to her stories of such, in she went, and she swam for a while out there.  I tip my tiara to her – you go, girl.


Meantime I watched a pair of ospreys who were gliding above the lake, making their rounds while hunting for whatever was available.  I never saw a dive, but they called out often, and that was a thrill.  Hawk is my Spirit Animal, and any special moments with them are treasured.


There were dragonflies galore, and unknown aquatic plants blooming in the mossy depths, and dragonfly love was in the air.


It was an Americana moment, with children laughing and exploring, people throwing balls in the lake for their Labs to retrieve, and picnics going on all around the shoreline. We fed carrots to the chipmunks, and enjoyed the sunshine on our shoulders, a la John Denver. And took pictures….


Not a bad lunch stop, as mountains and lakes go. One more dragonfly graced us with an appearance as we were packing out  – of those red guys. Dragonflies always seem to be mystical, magical creatures. How can such things be?


But soon time to press on, since we were supposed to land in Wyoming by the next night, and it was still far, far away, and we didn’t seem particularly proficient at making miles. Too many things to see, and photograph, so we bid adieu to beautiful Haviland Lake, and turned back northward into the high country.

And so began the twists and turns and postcard vistas offered by the spectacular highways and byways of Southwestern Colorado. It was hard to make good time, (impossible, actually), as we pulled over again and again to view the waterfalls and valleys, ridge lines and peaks, still adorned with what was left of winter’s snows. All this was as we drove through the Weminuche Wilderness, over the passes that ranged about ten and eleven thousand feet. We thought a lot of TheQueen’s friend Maria, who does not do well on winding, twisting, fall off into nothing mountain roads, and laughed as we conquered them, and loved those 10 mph curves.



I’d forgotten about the dramatic highway that led into Silverton, and then yet another with the twisting turns that drop down into Ouray. Maria would’ve been on the floor. Once in town, we stopped at the Visitors Center in Silverton to check things out and pick up a few more maps and “touristy” stuff. I have to admit I was agitated to hear the Star Spangled Banner playing over and over, non-stop, on their sound system. Now it might have been 4th of July weekend, but it quickly became torture after about the sixth repetition. I asked the fellow on duty what he thought about that, and got an appropriate eye-rolling response. He’d about had enough, too, but he had to be there. I’d have been running into the hills after a while for sure. I always wish we’d gone with America the Beautiful for our national anthem, but I suppose that was too peaceful and bucolic for whoever made that decision. Too much war in what we chose, or “they” chose, (all those bombs bursting in air – still!), but I know I’m getting political here, so I’ll put the soapbox back in the closet.

Ouray was even more packed than Silverton – so much so that we decided to just keep on truckin’ through, even dispensing with photo opportunities at every turn – at least of the cute mountain town variety. It had grown so much since the last time I’d spent a few days there, way back in the 80’s. Time keeps marching on, with big boots. TheQueen and I had been having interesting conversations about these little towns. She’d fallen in love with Telluride, (just over one of the ridges), a bunch of years before, and felt fairly well convinced that should such things as previous lives exist, she’d lived one there. I have the same feelings about being one of the “working girls” in such a town, and maybe this was one of our connections, but she swears this isn’t our first go-round. Whatever, in present time, the crowds were not what we wanted, so that was that for Ouray, and we skedaddled out of town, looking for wilderness.

And then the land got stretched out, and really pleasing. Ridgeway has a huge lake that goes for miles, and that answered the question of “what was the deal with all those boats” we’d been seeing. Stick a beautiful lake in the middle of all that mountain majesty, and well, could I move to Ridgeway? Maybe. Or Montrose, right down the road. I liked the look of all this…. even if I didn’t take any pictures. And I can’t answer what the deal is with that. Sometimes it’s just all about the ride.

In due time we made our way into Delta, which turned out to be an amazing little town. We tracked up and down the streets, clean and updated and totally inviting, and found out that this is the town of murals. Murals, everywhere, well done and dozens of them. But did we get any pictures? Well, no, but there was a reason. (For that you’ll have to stay tuned for Day Three, which was an absolute doozy.)

We found, again, the perfect motel, looking like a compound of little rock and log cabins with all the amenities, including the fantabulous neon sign which would occupy us for quite a while. But first we went out to dinner, which could never quite equal our experience in Chama. We did find margaritas, (which were big, but not anything close to those perfect ones at the High Country Saloon), and nothing worth dolling up for with tiaras and boas. Sufficiently nourished, we headed back to the neon lights.

And boy, did we have fun with them. What a great sign! It flashed multiple colors, red and orange one cycle, blue the next. And neon over the rooms, and even the office was decorated like Christmas. For pure art and ambiance, the Westways won our Best Motel award, and we even had private suites!

It was at this first Night Shoot that I began to learn many lessons from TheQueen. (In truth, it happened the minute I picked her up at the airport – there were numerous lessons, or better put, revelations and positive attitude observational opportunities.) Sure, I call myself a ”professional photographer,” but I often shake my own head at that term. There are countless more who so far surpass me in technical knowledge that sometimes I feel quite the fraud. The appeal of my images stems, I believe, from my different viewpoint and composition – the “different eye” and the story, you’d call it. And for what that is, it works. But I haven’t challenged myself so much with what I don’t yet know, and TheQueen pushed that button. She had herself a brand spankin’ new camera, and was challenging herself to learn it. And as I followed her example, I found myself pushing my own boundaries of experience. Learning, opening new doors, satisfaction with limits tested and surpassed. As I look back on all this later, it becomes more obvious that there was a lot more than a road trip going on, which was a little hard to discern in the giddiness of the living of it. Opportunity, indeed, and wasn’t I just glad that I’d said YES.  And perhaps even more important, so had TheQueen.

The morrow would find us in Wyoming, our destination point. We had two or three days’ worth of miles and sights to accomplish in only one, with the added factor that I was finally to be on new, untrodden pathways. Time for new vistas, and great adventures, and as we tried to sleep, the neon flashed all night long.  Hard to sleep with all that Adventure waiting right outside the door.  But tomorrow would be another day.  Oh boy.


Goodnight, Y’all.  See you on Day Three.


5 Responses to “The ROYAL ROAD TRIP – Day Two: We Love Colorado”

  1. I love the Copper Mountain with snow photos . . . nice nice trip, photos and commentary. Agree with you totally on the choice of national anthem.

  2. Julie (aka: Melons) Says:

    I’m so jealous! In all the uglies of this world we still have America the Beautiful ! What an adventure. Melons

  3. There is nothing like a road trip with two beautiful queens, ya know what I mean!

  4. “wow!”
    I am really loving the re-living of our trip! THANK YOU!

    I loved my little swim in the lake!
    I loved us being photographers together!

    I loved the Million Dollar Highway!! And yes…loved us looking forward to the adventures awaiting us!! One of my best memories is the major reason as to why it was hard to get to sleep: we were laughing soooo much, sooo loudly and for sooo long that it was difficult to wind down 😉 Could hardly catch our breath a couple of times! Now thinking back on whatever was soooo funny?? I don’t specifically recall!! Doesn’t really matter; we were having a good time!!

    Re-living the experience of Day Three is going to be fun….and beautiful!! Write on, O gifted one!!

  5. What beautiful scenery. Looks like you two had a great time. I like the motel and would like to stay there myself.

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