West to East

I enjoyed doing the bullet points about each destination of our trip. As a warning, these are just notes for jog my memory. The descriptions are nowhere near comprehensive and I am barely including the actual journey, the time on the road. I will elaborate more on a few experiences in the future.

  • Berkeley, CA. We stayed at Tom’s for an entire week because we were waiting for my car to be fixed. We basically left the rental car in the lot and walked everywhere. We always found ourselves back at Telegraph Avenue, a bustling street of local restaurants, shops, street vendors, and college students with shallow pockets. The delicious restaurants robbed us but the flavors were well worth it. Berkeley, you get an A+ for food and books.
  • Reno, NV. We drove until about 11pm and decided to randomly stop in Reno. I didn’t know much about the town besides Reno 911 so I discovered that it is a mini Vegas with a few casinos. We spent two hours hanging around and gambling a few dollars for the fun of it.
  • Twin Falls, ID. We drove through the night, taking turns napping. We stopped at a park to view the pretty waterfalls and stretched on the very green and bouncy grass.
  • Idaho Falls, ID. We drove a few more hours to Idaho Falls where we set up camp in a public park. It was right next to a lake and a few people were boating and fishing. We ended up going for a jog to release our energy out from being in a car for 24 hours. We jogged along the lake and eventually ran into several waterfalls. They seemed artificial but they still were gorgeous. The row of waterfalls never seemed to end. We jogged back and did our cooking (veggies with lots of Sriracha) and slept in our new tent where we actually had leg room.
  • Yellowstone National Park. The next morning, we drove to Yellowstone. We stopped in West Yellowstone, Montana, a tourist trap of a town selling primarily t-shirts and postcards. Our first stop in the park was Old Faithful, just because. We climbed a mile upwards to Observation point and waited until she erupted. We were pretty far away because of the elevation but I enjoyed watched it from above rather than when around hundreds of tourists down below. We then drove to our campsite in the south of the park. It was wet, cold, and uncomfortable. We joined our camping neighbors, Simon and Christian, in a game of frisbee and ended up hanging out with them all night and some of the next day. We cooked and enjoyed some food while we learned about their home country, Denmark. They had been on a similar trip as us, touring the U.S. without a solid plan. The next morning, we went to the next campsite and hung around the lodge since it was pouring outside. I was pretty miserable but it cleared up later. The Danes went off to their next excursion while Daryl and I set to go on a hike. We stayed in the “Grand Canyon of Yellowstone” area for a bit and hiked a bunch to see some powerful waterfalls. The canyon was gorgeous! We later went for a run on top of the canyon through the woods. I was a bit afraid of encountering bears but we didn’t have a problem with it. The next morning, we saw some hot springs and the mud volcano which had a disgusting smell to it. We encountered the omnipresent bison as well. After a few hours, we drove through Grand Teton which was beautiful as well. Too bad we didn’t spend time there. Yellowstone was an incredible park. I would like to go back because there is so much to experience.
  • Lander, WY. We drove six hours to the small town of Lander. I found on the web a free campsite there in the City Park. It was a very nice park with kids running around and baseball games happening. We set up camp where other tents were pitched. We were on the other side of a fence which held horses behind it. I went for a run around the neighborhoods and enjoyed beautiful views of the mountains. We met another person from New York who was on a rock climbing trip. He said that a few weeks prior, there was a big rock climbing event in Lander which had the entire park full of tents. Too bad we missed out on that! We also went to the casino right out of town on an Indian reservation. We enjoyed some free soda and coffee while I lost some money on slots.
  • Fort Collins, CO. We finally made it to Colorado! We got to our Couchsurfing host Kelsey’s place in the evening. Her and her twin brother welcomed us warmly. They took us to the reservoir where we sat on big rocks while watching the sun set overlooking a river below. We saw some intense lightning which were impossible to capture with my stinky camera. The next morning, a few of Kelsey’s friends came over and they were all incredibly nice and open minded. They brewed their own beer, a common hobby in Fort Collins. It was messy and looked complicated but smelled delicious. Speaking of beer, we went to the New Belgium Brewery tour. We got lucky because a fellow CSer let me use her reservations for the tour. I highly recommend anyone to experience it! It started out as a beer lover brewing beer at his home after getting inspired from his bicycle tour in Belgium. Eventually, the company got bigger and although it has expanded and is thriving, it still maintained that small business mentality. The employees are treated very well. After one year of working, every employee gets their own Fat Tire (name of their most famous brew) bicycle. After five years of working, EVERY employee gets a free vacation to Belgium (and gets paid on top of that!). The inside of the factory is quirky and artsy with fun things to look at. I cannot forget to mention that we got a surplus of free samples. One that stood out was a sour beer. It wouldn’t be my first choice, but it was different. We got into a long conversation with a retired couple who had recently relocated to Colorado. They had traveled the world but ultimately decided that Colorado is their favorite destination. I enjoyed talking to them and it made my heart feel warm. After sobering up, we went to the Old Town district and ate at a Mongolian barbecue place called Huahot. NOM NOM NOM. Basically, I piled my plate up with fresh vegetables and added spicy garlic sauces on top. Then, cooks grill your food. You can eat as much as you want and the food is delicious and fresh. We had three plates each! We were in such a good mood from the neverending smiles at the brewery tour and we passed that positivity onto our waiter. We had long conversations and learned about each other. We talked about social scripts and how he probably never has a real conversation with his patrons. It is just a script and everyone in the restaurant has a role. We sometimes forget that everyone is a person and everyone has a story. So we didn’t treat him as a waiter but more like a friend. He even ended up giving us a discount on the meal. It was very thoughtful. Full of veggies, we went off to our next Couchsurfing host’s, Stephanie. She lives in a big house and had dozens of wine bottles that she brewed herself. I need to get into that hobby! Stephanie was full of smiles and was very sweet. We had our very own bedroom to stay in. Too bad we didn’t spend more time with her because she had to work at 4 the next morning. After she went to bed, Daryl and I went to Road 34, a bar that Ian highly recommended. We got 2 local beers for $1 each. Both were seasonal summer ales, wheaty and sweet. We met up with Ian’s friend, Jessica, and her friend David. Jessica is also from New Jersey and is moving to Tampa for an internship at the zoo. It was great to make new friends and I love how open people are for these new encounters. It had been a long day so we headed back to Stephanie’s, slept, and woke up at 5 to hit the road again. We stopped by the famous Alley Cat Cafe, a 24 hour joint full of caffeinated CSU students. The downstairs was a bakery and it lead to the quirky cafe upstairs. After enjoying a strong coffee, we hit the road to the Rocky Mountains!
  • Rocky Mountain National Park. Before getting in the park, we stopped at an outlet mountain store in Estes Park. We ended up spending an hour there looking through the discounted camping gear. I ended up getting a good, warm jacket that I needed so badly. Emily was nice enough to let me borrow her jacket but I need one for myself when I return it! We then got in the park and set up camp at the Glacier Basin campsite. The spot had great views of snowy mountain tops. We did a few hours of hiking that afternoon and evening. The hikes led us to many clear lakes and waterfalls with trees and mountains in the backdrop. We climbed plenty of rocks (we cannot get enough of those) and even saw some elk up close. We were over a mile above sea level and our night’s sleep was COLD. The next morning, we did another hike called Estes Cone. We walked along the pretty Lily Lake and then a few miles through the Storm Trail. We were relieved to see we only had 0.7 miles left to the summit, but that was 0.7 miles straight climbing uphill on rocks with no path. It wasn’t easy but it was well worth it. We sat up on high rocks to enjoy the views. We gained about 2,000 feet elevation for a total of 11,000 feet above sea level. The Rocky Mountain NP was easily my favorite park with Zion following closely after. I am definitely visiting again to explore more of the park because there is much more I need to do there.
  • Boulder, CO. A short drive from the Rocky’s and Boulder is beautiful! We got there late at night. I just saw a bit of the shnazzy downtown Pearl Street. I watched some street performers and funky looking people. I couldn’t secure a couchsurfing host or free camping sites, so we ended up sleeping in our car in a parking lot. No one ever said a road trip should be comfortable, especially on a budget! Early in the morning, we went to a nice park, Chautauqua, and climbed  the first Iron Flat. It wasn’t as easy as it looks! Everyone we passed was full of smiles and greeted us with a short breath from heavy breathing. People in Boulder are so active and healthy. All of those endorphins must do something with their attitude because everyone is so nice. We eventually made it to the top of one of the Iron Flats for some nice views of the green Boulder. After doing another trail, we headed to Boulder Creek and walked around there. There is a designated bike lane full of bikers and runners. Some people even go tubing down the creek; it looked like a blast. We walked around “The Hill” where the CU students hang out and then ate and napped near the creek again because we were pretty exhausted! Shortly after, we were on our way to Denver.

More later!

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