Travel changes you. As you move through this life and this world you change things slightly, you leave marks behind, however small. And in return, life-and travel-leaves marks on you.
----Anthony Bourdain

Thursday, April 4, 2024

The Great West Trip Part 7

I was excited about our next leg of the trip: Colorado. We went to the Steamboat Springs area 8 years before this trip and I loved it. I wanted to see different parts of Colorado on this trip. We had more decisions to make: exactly where to go. Robert had been to several places in Colorado so I left it up to him as to where to go. I just had one request (which I'll get to further in this post). We looked at going to Durango or Telluride, but taking the heat into consideration, we opted to not go that far south. We stopped at a BLM office in Grand Junction to look at dispersed camping options with higher elevations and discovered there really weren't any. Or the employees didn't really know of any. Yeah, they weren't that much of a help. We ended up driving to Montrose and staying at a KOA there. 

At first, we had a tent site but this whole campground had a weird vibe to it. It was (again) in the middle of a neighborhood, but this one (as opposed to the one in Billings) appeared to be in a not-so-great neighborhood. The tent sites faced some run-down houses and didn't feel like they were actually part of the rest of the campground. We were able to change to a pull-through site. This KOA wasn't very big, but the laundry facilities worked well. The showers were decent as well. I didn't take any pictures of the campground because it was just a usual campground. The pool was out of service which was a real bummer because the temperature was very warm. This was the warmest night we had in the van; even the Maxxair didn't cool the van down like it did the rest of the trip. We knew it was just for one night so we suffered through it. After around 11:00 pm, it did cool down to a comfortable temperature to sleep.

Robert had some concerns about the engine temperature. There was a group discussion in Facebook for our van that mentioned a place in Montrose that is a go-to. Robert called them and they said we were welcome to come by their new place and have a look around. On the way there, we saw a statue by the name of "Bad Decision" by Vic Payne.
This is one of 3 sculptures in the town by the same artist. This one can be found at "Cowboy Corner".
We also saw more beautiful mountains in the distance:
The people at Adrenaline Vans were incredibly nice. We talked with one guy for quite a while and he assured Robert that the temperature reading for the engine temperature is normal. We pushed the engine for several days straight in 100+ temperatures, going up hills. I told him that Maeve was doing what she was supposed to do: the temp would go up but then go back down. If it didn't go back down, I would have been concerned.

We had a nice visit before we were on our way and saw this really cool van. I wanted to see inside but someone owned it and we weren't invited to look in it. It was so new, it still had the plastic on it!

With assurances that the van was working as it should, we headed toward a little town that is in Robert's heart: Leadville. We found a campsite at Turquoise Lake Recreation Area (part of the US National Forest), specifically at the May Queen Campsite. We looked at a couple of the other camping areas that had openings and decided to go around the lake to see if we could find a site. May Queen is in the middle of the loop road on the other side of the lake, which may be why there was a site open. 
Simple site with no electricity or water available in the campground
Vault toilets are available in 2 areas of the campground
View from campsite
While sitting in my chair, I felt what I thought was a bug right next to my ear. I swatted it away and then realized it was a hummingbird. This happened a couple of times. We also had this little guy visit:
With an elevation of 10,000 feet, it was fairly chilly overnight. We ended up turning on the heat for a while. The next morning when I woke up, my head was killing me and I was nauseous. I ended up laying in bed for a couple of hours and then felt well enough to get up and move around. We talked with the camp host about altitude sickness. Had I known there was medicine for it I would have made sure I took some just in case. Robert spent most of the day sleeping and I spent the day reading a book and getting my body acclimated to the elevation. By the end of the day, I was completely fine and could enjoy the views from the lake.
The town of Leadville is in the distance
I think it's so amazing to see snow in mid-late July!
After a very nice "rest day", we headed to Silver Dollar Campground still on Turquoise Lake to fill up our water tank. The camp host tried to convince us to stay another day, but we were well-rested and ready to move on. While filling up with water, the camp host at this campground also tried to convince us to stay the night. The only campgrounds we saw that had openings were parking lots. Literally. Asphalt parking lots with lines outlining the campsites. I feel we were extremely fortunate to have found a spot in May Queen. It is definitely a place I would recommend.

The camp host suggested a hostel in Leadville for a shower. What a gem! It sits on the top of a hill with amazing sights. For a minute I forgot I was in the US and thought I was in Germany. They have a variety of rooms available: Dorm, private with a private bathroom, and private with a shared bathroom. We were there during the day so it was quiet. I didn't take any pictures of the hostel but check out their site. There was a "For Sale" sign in the yard but the website is still up so maybe they sold it?

I've heard about a restaurant in Leadville for years. Literally...years. Anytime we talked about Colorado, Leadville and The Golden Burro would enter the conversation. Robert spoke with the May Queen Camp Host and was very disappointed. We were told that the restaurant changed hands over the past few years and it is now vegan. The camp host said he ate there once; or, rather, he ordered once. He said he took a bite and didn't eat the rest of it. A look at their website doesn't match what he said. It could be that they tried to go vegan and switched back, but the menu looks pretty good to me. Looking at it, I wish we had checked it out because after that all I heard was how disappointed Robert was that the Golden Burro had changed so much.
The Deleware is a historic began in 1883; the hotel is thought to have at least 1 ghost
Leadville is a quaint little town. It is the highest city in the US at 10,152 feet, which further explains how I felt the day before. (Alma is the highest town in the country at 10,578 feet.) We found a place in town to empty the cassette toilet and finish filling up our water tank before we left and decided where we were going to go next.
There were some quaint, colorful houses
What a view as we left Leadville!
We weren't 100% sure where we were going next, but I knew I wasn't quite ready to leave Colorado yet.

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