Friday, July 13, 2018

Colorado Honeymoon (Part 3)

Wednesday (6/6/18)
The biggest highlight of Wednesday was our long-awaited ziplining trip. This was the only thing we really wanted to accomplish from this trip, so we were pretty pumped to make this happen. As I mentioned back in part one, I found a Groupon for our excursion, which was a nice bright spot! The course was located a couple of miles away from Royal Gorge, which made it about an hour away from Colorado Springs. During our drive out there, we saw lots of beautiful scenery (though that's arguably the case for most of Colorado) and the town of Cañon City that contained a shocking number of prisons.

All in all, we had a lot of fun out on our ziplining course. Our guides/instructors were top-notch and loads of fun! Despite my initial trepidation, I had a blast on the course. That is, until I wiped out on one of the lines. In short, the line I was on was not covered by plastic tubing like the other lines were, so you built up a lot more speed. I never quite got the gist of how to properly brake, and, unlike the other lines, it was not set up in a way that could compensate for that. Thankfully, it was equipped with an emergency brake, which engaged as I came (literally) crashing into the landing platform. Thankfully, the only injuries I incurred were a massive bruise on the top of my left calf and a damaged ego. I was a little bummed that that happened right before the last line, which was a two-person race in which I knew I would have beat Thomas. On the last line, I did everything I could to summon the courage to make it across without falling into total panic.

As a side note, I should mention that Thomas purchased a GoPro specifically for this excursion, and he managed to get most of my wreck on camera until he realized what was happening and he went back into husband mode. I still can't watch it without cringing!

Once we returned to the base, we decided to purchase the stupidly expensive pictures only since it was our honeymoon, there were a lot of good pictures of us from the course, and we weren't able to take any other photos while out there. (I don't have them downloaded to this computer, so none of those pictures, unfortunately!)

Afterwards, we were ready to devour our picnic lunch at nearby Royal Gorge. I'm glad I took the time to look into it a little bit before we went, as we found out that regular admission was $27/person!  ($25/person if you bought tickets online) In the grand scheme of things, it's probably not that expensive, and it did include a few things with it. However, by that point, we were done with the racket of paying admission fees, so we opted to pass on it. We still decided to drive in as far as we could to see what we could see. This ended up being a good decision, as we ended up finding a nice covered picnic area. No more than 100 feet from the picnic area was a scenic overlook in which we could see the gorge! It was a million-dollar view for free! No, we didn't see the bridge, but who cares! After lunch and grabbing some pictures of the gorge, we stopped at a trading post area to see if there were any souvenirs we couldn't live without.

On our way back to town, we stopped in at Holy Cross Abbey Winery, which was an old Benedictine monastery turned winery/vineyard/wedding venue. It was well worth our time of visiting! They offered upwards of 20 wines for sampling. All, except a few reserve wines, were free to sample. The reserve wines only cost $1/sample, which was pretty reasonable. We sampled most of the regular wines and one of the reserve wines. We ended up leaving the winery with a case of wine! (If you knew either Thomas' dad or my dad this would not be shocking news in the least...just saying!) They offered a bulk discount, which was a big deciding factor for us, along with our desire to buy a few bottles for our families. We also found out that they will ship to Texas, so we're making note of our favorites and planning on reordering in the future!

The vineyard
After visiting the winery, we needed a little bit of time to recoup from all of our samples (or I did, at least) so we popped into the old abbey to look around. We were about 5 minutes too late to visit their gift shop (darn!) and potentially get a guided tour, but a staff member was still there and allowed us to walk around and look at everything. It was a little depressing to see it not serving its original purpose, but it was still comforting to know that the new owners kept a lot of the monastic identity. (Pray for vocations, y'all!)

Former sleeping quarters turned memorabilia room


The chapel, which was the most Catholic non-Catholic chapel I've ever seen in my life!

Gorgeous stained glass behind the altar!

What the chapel used to look like

The perfectly preserved sacristy

This painting made me chuckle

Staircase to the cloistered area

The front of the beautiful!
After perusing the monastery, we headed back to the hotel to clean up and so that I could ice my leg, which was seriously bruised at that point. Dinner that night was at N3 Taphouse, which was basically a casual beer/burger place in an old firehouse. We were excited to go there, but we were a little disappointed initially, as there was NO parking available. After circling the lot a couple of times, someone pulled out and we were able to grab a spot. It was nice enough outside that we opted for outdoor seating. They had a great atmosphere with good food and craft beers!

Firefighters can sign the Maltese cross on the door!
The night ended with us going back to the hotel so that I could ice my leg (again) and rest.
My bruise, in all of its glory. 

Thursday (6/7/18)
Of all the "adventure" days of our trip, Thursday was the least planned. We slept in quite a bit for the first time that week, as we had no firm plans for the day. Our general plan was to go to Denver to see some breweries, and possibly tour the coin mint. We ended up touring the Coors brewery in Golden. Neither of us are particularly fond of Coors beer, but it being a free tour was enough to entice us. We started at the parking lot, where we waited for a shuttle bus to take us to the factory. I think it was their way of keeping tour traffic separate from employee/truck traffic since it's a functional factory. Also, it allowed them to slowly filter people in and out of the facility without being totally bombarded.

The tour itself was self-guided and largely anticlimactic, which, for it being a free tour, wasn't that big of a deal to us. Seeing aspects of the factory was fascinating to both of us, especially the bottling room. As a child I always loved watching shows that showed how factories worked (especially the crayon factory segment on Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood), so I enjoyed that a lot! The real highlight of the tour was the sampling room, in which each person who was of age was allotted 3-8 oz. samples of beers brewed by the Coors company. So, even if you couldn't stand Coors, there were 5 other options that were appealing. They also offered water and soda for those who didn't want to drink beer or who weren't of age to do so, making it a family-friendly tour. Thomas and I really weren't able to finish anything past our second sample, as it was barely lunchtime, so we headed over to the gift shop to get some novelty glassware to take home to family. Shortly thereafter, we left on the outbound shuttle bus and headed to Denver to visit the Blue Moon brewery.

Outside of the brewery

Tap wall showing everything they brew at that brewery

We didn't realize just how close we were to Denver, as the trip took no more than 20 minutes. Upon finding the brewery, we were happy to know that they had a full restaurant. It's actually a good thing that they did, as the brewery portion was very lackluster. The "tour" was basically walking through a back hallway where you could see the brewing equipment and a few wooden casks that were aging some seasonal brews. The food alone made it worth our time of going, so it wasn't a total loss!

When in Rome...
After that, we were both too exhausted to even think about going anywhere else besides the hotel, and generally over the idea of consuming any more beer. We wanted to do more in Denver, but both decided that it was almost big enough to warrant its own trip or at least a couple of days, so we made a resolution to return one day in the future. We were glad we left when we did, as the traffic going back to CO Springs was atrocious, even by Dallas standards! It took everything I had not to fall asleep while navigating for Thomas. I knew he felt the same way, so I didn't want to make it any more difficult than necessary for him. To make matters more challenging, it also started pouring during that drive, so traffic slowed even more than before. We made it back to the hotel with just enough time to freshen up and relax before our dinner reservation for that night.

We ate dinner at renowned authentic German restaurant, Edelweiss. They had a lovely atmosphere with HUGE portions. I felt terrible that I had barely eaten anything when I felt full, so I had a healthy to-go box to take back with us! We also opted to get a slice of german chocolate cake to go. On our way back that night, we drove through the nearby University of Colorado-Colorado Springs campus. It was a nice, sprawling campus. I'm sure people who saw us thought we were weirdos, but there's something interesting to both of us about seeing different campuses. Upon our return to the hotel, we packed up, relaxed, and I iced my leg even more! We also ate our slice of cake, which was probably one of the best cakes we've tasted in quite some time!

Friday (6/8/18)
Just as quickly as it had begun, our trip was over! We had our earliest morning yet, as we planned on leaving by 7 AM (MST). It turns out that we brought a lot of things and had amassed a decent collection of souvenirs, so we didn't get packed up, loaded, checked out, and on the road until 7:30, which still wasn't bad at all. We took a short pitstop somewhere in New Mexico, where I took over driving for a little bit. We continued all the way to Dumas, Texas, where we stopped around 1:30 (CST) to refuel and eat some leftover pizza for lunch. Thomas took the helm once again, and we set out with the sole goal of getting home. Breaking up the trip on the way up there was a good call, because we were both very stir crazy in the car on the long drive home. We had to make our own fun to keep from going crazy, so this is what we did:

  • played the license plate game (which we decided we should have done at the beginning of the trip, as we could have found a lot more at the tourist sites)
  • listened to the complete Jennifer Fulwiler show (a first for Thomas)
  • watched for Steve, Diana, and Elizabeth, who were on their way to Estes Park 
  • decided what we wanted to eat when we finally made it home
  • read an article detailing the name origins of 50 Texas town
  • regaled favorite parts of the trip, and pointed out funny things we saw that we also saw on the way up there
Our list at the end of the trip...not too bad for only driving through 3 states!

After a stop in Wichita Falls for fuel (yet again), we FINALLY made it home around 8:15 that night and decided to stop at a Braum's drive-thru, as neither of us could summon the energy to cook anything. As with any trip, it's great to go, but even better to come home!

General thoughts/themes from our trip:
-It was a huge culture shock for me to see the bustling marijuana industry in Colorado. In Colorado Springs, there were dispensaries on (what seemed like) every corner. We made a game out of finding the dispensary with the funniest/most clever name. No, we did not partake. Yes, it was weird to see it all. In general, Colorado has a different culture than most places I'm used to. (Then again, I've spent my life in über-conservative Oklahoma and Texas, so many places have to seem like culture shock to anyone coming from that worldview.) Colorado is very relaxed, and people seem to have a general love of the outdoors and recreation. I think it would be fun to grow up with awesome hiking and outdoor adventure all around, but then again, the mountain roads freak me out, so that's a hard no from me.

-Kitchenette hotel rooms are largely underrated, especially on long trips. Thomas and I cooked dinner a couple of nights and packed a lunch each day of the trip (except Thursday), and we couldn't have done that in any other hotel room. Also, I love that house rentals are becoming more of a norm on vacations. Not that we used them this trip, but we heard a LOT about people doing so. We're definitely thinking we'll have to try that in the future, especially if we ever decide to do a big vacation with all of my family!

-I actually enjoy beer, but I have the weirdest taste. I either like fruity ciders or heavy stouts. Nothing in between really appeals to me. Go figure.

-Adaptability has been a huge theme in my and Thomas' relationship and in this vacation in general. Also, Thomas is my opposite in all the aspects when it really counts. We came back just as in love as we did before, so that has to count for something.

Link to Part 1
Link to Part 2

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