Colorado/Wyoming/Nebraska - May 2017

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

I've made the drive from Des Moines to my grandmother's home in western Nebraska a dozen times or so.  For those of you unfamiliar with the drive through Nebraska, once you're past Lincoln, if you've seen one mile, you've seen 'em all.  And she's clear across Nebraska, only about 30 miles from the Wyoming border.

I've only actually done the driving once, the rest of the time as a passenger and that drive is exhausting.  So when cheap fares pop up on Frontier Airlines, it's tempting to book a quick trip to see my grandma.  I'm sure I'm the only person from Iowa flying to Denver to visit someone in Nebraska, but I find the 2 hour flight and 3 hour drive much easier to swallow than the 8+ hour trip in the car.

So James and I packed our bag for the cheap flight to Denver.  Since Frontier charges for carryons and checked bags, we shared a checked bag, and somehow managed to only pack 26.6 lbs for three days.  New personal best.  On a rainy Wednesday, we boarded our flight to the mile high city.

Frontier Airline's planes each feature a different wild animal, which they proudly display as you enter the aircraft.  Overall, the flight was okay.  Anytime I fly a discount airline, I miss the cushy comfort of Delta and American.  But then I remember we had to pay for our tickets (not my employer) at about half the cost of the major airlines, so it's worth minor annoyances.  We paid for a couple cans of soda on our flight in hard plastic seats that didn't recline.  Since I was in the middle seat, I was particularly grumpy but a couple episodes of The West Wing Weekly podcast kept me distracted until we landed.

After making our way through the airport, we waited for the Avis shuttle and discovered we had been assigned a Suburban for our four day adventure.  I laughed as the last thing the two of us needed was a car that seats eight, so we checked in with the Preferred desk and they mentioned a shortage of cars but let us pick between a Ford Explorer or a Lincoln Navigator.  James quickly chimed in that the Navigator would be just fine.  After figuring out a few of the bells and whistles (including the best navigation system I've used, and lights with the Lincoln logo), we left for my cousin Melissa's house in Brighton, grabbing pizza so we could catch up with her and her two kids.  As the sun started to set, we said our goodbyes and left for Scottsbluff, Nebraska.

As the sun quickly set, we drove on the two lane highway that was only lit by our headlights, only passing by a few cars.  After crossing from Colorado into Nebraska, we stopped to stretch our legs in Kimball, about 45 miles outside of our destination.  This small town had a few businesses that caught our attention, so I snapped a few pics before we decided to check out Beer and Loathing bar, an homage to Hunter S. Thompson and his book Fear and Loathing.  The bar was great and the bartender was awesome.  After about a half hour, we figured it was time to get back on the road and get checked into our hotel.

Our time in Scottsbluff was short, but highlights include cabbage burgers at The Mixing Bowl, Gering Bakery, but most of all - spending time with family.  In addition to my grandmother, my Aunt and Uncle live nearby, and I got to see my cousins and meet my cousin's new baby too!

As we packed up to head back to Denver, I laughed at the difference in our packings styles.  I may be the one that travels most for business, but clearly he's winning at the adulting game.

We took our time on the trek back to Denver, refueling at this cute gas station/diner in Scottsbluff and grabbing lunch at Beer and Loathing as we made our way to Wyoming.  The drive was relaxing and the views were magnificent.  When we found ourselves in a construction traffic jam, we hopped off the interstate for a quick pit-stop, when I realized we were near the town where my grandparents lived for most of my childhood.  Every year, we'd spend a week or more with them over the summer or Christmas, and it had been sixteen years since I had last seen their little subdivision, and the amazing views of protected state land directly behind their townhouse.
A quick call to my dad, we were able to remember the name of their street, and google maps narrowed down the neighborhood when I recognized the King Sooper's grocery store.  It once sat all alone in a field, but the entire county has now been developed.  Turns out we were only about fifteen minutes from our destination.  We drove by the pool where my sister and I used to swim, and I got to see the roses and aspen trees my grandfather had planted.  The yard wasn't quite as manicured as he kept it, but I could tell the home was well loved by it's current owners.  We totally tresspassed through their side yard and I snuck a few photos of the gorgeous view.  It was a bittersweet trip down memory lane.

James had researched and found the 16th Street Mall in downtown Denver as our destination.  On our way, we got to see a packed Coors Field.  The road we were on led right to the stadium, almost looking like it reached center field.  On 16th Street, we picked up souvenirs, did a LOT of people watching, and grabbed dinner at Illegal Burger, a funky burger place, on par with Zombie Burger in Des Moines.  
Exhausted from the day, we made our way to our hotel near the airport and got ready for our early flight the next day.  Our checked bag weighed 19.5 lbs more than our trip out thanks to a purchase of Tab Cola that isn't available in Des Moines.  Surprisingly, every can made it home intact!  Since we arrived to the airport early, I wandered around taking photos and timelapse videos.  Click the Instagram image below to see a quick timelapse.

I'm so grateful for the chance to visit family and enjoy some quality time on the road with my best guy.

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