Traci and I were really looking forward to this trip. The coronavirus pandemic that hit the U.S. in 2020 had zapped our desire to travel. The pandemic was still not over at the time of our trip, but we took some comfort in the fact that we were both fully vaccinated.
The original reason for this trip was so that Traci could attend a weekend runners' retreat called Endeavorun. It would take place in Boulder, Colorado. We saw this as an opportunity to explore the state. As usual, Traci put me in charge of planning the sightseeing portion of the trip. I did not mind this one bit. I enjoyed researching things to do, planning the driving routes, and choosing the cities for our overnights. I even managed to find a half marathon that would take place in nearby Wyoming during the time of our visit. This allowed Traci to move one state closer to reaching her goal of running a half marathon in all 50 states of the United States. I revised our itinerary several times in the weeks leading up to the trip as I learned more about our chosen attractions. All this planning helped build our excitement of traveling again after over a year and a half of no major trips.
We had a direct flight from Washington Dulles to Denver International Airport. It was almost 50% cheaper to use Lyft for getting to Dulles than parking our car in the economy lot for 13 days. Things had changed since the last time we flew. The entire plane is sanitized after each flight. We were hit with the strong scent of cleaning chemicals as we boarded our flight. Furthermore, the flight attendants were handing out packets of sani-wipes to each passenger as we boarded the plane. Masks were required to be worn during the entire flight as well as in the airports. I did not mind all these safety precautions. I was already more germophobic than most people even before the pandemic.
Our 10:15 PM United Airlines flight got us to Denver around midnight local time. I picked up our rental car, a dark red Chrysler 300S, and off we went into the night.
Our hotel for that first night (Courtyard Boulder Broomfield) was located in Broomfield, Colorado which was supposed to be about a 40-minute drive from the airport. It turned out to be quite a bit longer thanks to all the lane closures on the highway due to late-night construction work. Furthermore, we had challenges when we got to the hotel because it too was under construction. Not only did we have trouble finding the temporary entrance to the hotel, but we also had trouble finding a parking spot because half of the parking lot was ripped up for the construction project. I was told I could park across the street at the former Outback restaurant. By the time we finally got checked into our room, it was 2:30 AM. We were so sleepy.
We managed to get a few hours of sleep. We enjoyed the hotel's complimentary breakfast which turned out to be the best breakfast I had during the trip (banana bread French toast). Traci wanted to work out but (surprise, surprise) the fitness room of the hotel was under construction. Therefore, the receptionist at our hotel gave Traci directions for the short walk to the nearby Residence Inn to use their fitness facility.
Banana Bread French Toast at Courtyard Boulder Broomfield
We checked out of the hotel and made the drive to Boulder where we would be staying for the weekend so that Traci could attend the runners' retreat. It was during this 20-minute drive that I was awestruck as I got my first look at the Rocky Mountains which loom over the city. Boulder is the location of the University of Colorado Boulder as well as several tech companies. Even though it is a city, Boulder reminds me more of the suburbs with its shopping centers, chain stores, chain restaurants, and chain hotels. In addition to these conveniences, you are never too far from parks, trails, bicycle lanes, streams, and mountains for those times when you need to get your outdoor fix.
Our immediate destination was Pedego Electric Bikes for the 2 PM city tour I had booked for us. I was excited because I had always wanted to try riding an electric bicycle. It was so much fun. You can engage the pedal assist feature which gives you power and speed with little muscle effort on your part. You can use the throttle to propel you forward without pedaling or you can pedal like on a traditional bike. I preferred to use the pedal-assist when going up hills. At one point during the tour, we needed to travel up a long steep hill. I was sure to yell out "Passing on your left" as I whizzed by serious cyclists struggling to ascend the hill.
I really enjoyed the e-bike tour of Boulder. There were five of us along with two guides - one to lead and the other to bring up the rear to keep us together. We were led through the neighborhoods with cute houses. We traveled through a few of the numerous parks of Boulder. We biked through the university campus. We took a break at Boulder Creek to touch its cool rushing water. Our lead guide was a native of Boulder which was a rarity. Most of the Coloradans we met had moved there from somewhere else. The constant was that they all seemed to love Colorado and could not image themselves living anywhere else. Our guides were passionate about Boulder. They were eager to share stories about the city - so much so that our tour which was scheduled for 2.5 hours ended up being 4 hours. In that time, we had traveled 16 miles.
E-Bike tour of Boulder
We had a small snafu when we attempted to check into the Hilton Garden Inn Boulder. This was the hotel where the runners' retreat organizers had blocked rooms for participants. The problem was that the hotel had no record of Traci's reservation. Of course, they hit Traci with the line that you always seem to get when there is a problem with a reservation: "We are currently fully booked."
A quick call to the runners' retreat organizer was all that was needed to get the issue sorted out. After a brief phone conversation between the hotel and the organizer, there was suddenly vacancy and we could get checked in for our 3-night stay.
The hotel was well-situated near shopping centers, restaurants, parks, and other conveniences. It has a nice lobby and courtyard. Parking is in the hotel's underground garage. A parking fee is automatically added to your bill. Our room was a typical hotel chain room; however, I think it is about time the hotel shampoos the carpet or replaces it. I could see a brown tint on the surface from all the foot traffic over time. During this pandemic, housekeeping no longer cleans your room every day. If you need towel or washcloth replacements, you must request them. This was the case for all the hotels at which we stayed during this trip. I have a feeling it might be a long time before the hotel industry goes back to daily housekeeping service - even after the pandemic.
We only had enough time to drop off our things and freshen up a bit before I needed to drive Traci to the runners' retreat meet & greet. The organization had rented a house in Boulder for the weekend. It was there that they would hold most of their events, seminars, etc... It was a friendly group of runners of all levels from across the U.S. Even though I was not a participant, they invited me to stay for pizza, snacks, and their welcome session. I was happy to see that they took the Covid protocol seriously. Everyone had to be fully vaccinated to attend the retreat. Furthermore, you were required to wear a mask any time you entered the house. Masks were not required when meeting outside. It was the first year for the program and they seemed to be off to a great start. Throughout the weekend, participants would have the opportunity to train and consult with coaches, fitness experts, authors, dietitians, and even a former Olympian. This seemed like the perfect program for Traci who is passionate about fitness and running. She was in her element. We did so much chatting with the experts at the meet & greet that we were among the last guests to leave the house that evening.
The program, which went from Friday through Sunday, kept Traci very busy that weekend. Someone from the group would pick her up at our hotel around 6:30 AM each morning and bring her back around 9 PM. This meant that I was rolling solo for most of the weekend.
Things did not pan out so well for me that weekend. The main problem was the California wildfires. Even though these fires were located over 900 miles away from Boulder, the smoke had Colorado covered in a haze for several days. I had never experienced this before. They caused a pale-yellow haze to persist day after day. In the evenings, the sky would turn pink. The air quality had gotten so bad that weekend that it was recommended that you stay indoors.
The smoky conditions torpedoed my sightseeing plans. I had been looking forward to the nighttime excursion I booked with Elevated Astronomy Tours; however, it got canceled because of the smoke. One day, I did the Flatirons Vista Scenic Drive. This 40-minute drive is supposed to present great views of the group of mountains referred to as the Flatirons as well other interesting features of the Boulder region. I was not able to see much because of the haze. However, the green rolling hills and winding roads were a pleasant surprise.
Smoke from California wildfires caused a haze over Colorado
I cannot blame all my exploration woes on the wildfires. One day, I decided to take a walk to check out the Boulder Fish Observatory. It is located in one of the city's parks. It is a retaining wall with round glass windows that allow you to see the underwaters of Boulder Creek. Unfortunately, it does not look like the glass is well-maintained. It was so dirty that I could not see anything.
Finally, there were my attempts to get the long noodles with beef dish from a carry-out restaurant called Tibet Kitchen. The first time I walked there, the man behind the counter told me that they did not get a delivery that day and thus they only had a very limited menu that did not include what I wanted. I walked there again the next day only to be greeted by a sign on the door indicating they closed the restaurant early that day.
Despite my misfortunes with exploring the city, I still enjoyed my time in Boulder. The e-bike tour was awesome. I did some nice walks. Most of all, I enjoyed the people. They were so friendly. I remember crossing the exit of a shopping center on foot. The lady in the car who was waiting for me to pass had her window open. With a big smile, she waved and yelled out enthusiastically, "Hi". Everyone I met had a similar willingness to have an amicable interaction with a stranger.
Around 12:30 PM on Sunday, Traci called me to tell me that the runners' retreat had concluded. I swung by the house to pick her up. She really enjoyed her weekend with the other runners. Now it was time to begin the next phase of our journey - the road trip. But first, we had a few more sights to see in Boulder before we said goodbye to the lovely city.
Two popular attractions in Boulder are the Dushanbe Teahouse and the Pearl Street Mall. The teahouse was part of a sister-city exchange program between Dushanbe, Tajikistan and Boulder. Artisans in Tajikistan built the ornate teahouse by hand, dismantled it, and shipped each piece to Boulder where it was reassembled. The teahouse gets pretty busy at times. In fact, when Traci and I arrived, we were told it would be a 1.5-hour wait to be seated. This was fine for us. We left our mobile phone number with the hostess so that she could contact us when our table became available. In the meantime, Traci and I walked a couple of blocks over to Boulder's other major attraction - Pearl Street Mall.
Pearl Street Mall is a 4-block pedestrian-only street that contains boutiques and restaurants. There are also street performers and crowds. We walked the entire street - up one side and down the other. It was a hot day (above 90° Fahrenheit). Boulder was my introduction to "dry heat" as opposed to the "heat and humidity" that we get on the east coast. I think I prefer the dry heat. Yes, the sun can be intense in a dry heat climate but as soon as you step into the shade, you cool off. You don't get that muggy feeling that you get in humid regions even when you are in the shade. Furthermore, in a dry climate such as that of Boulder, your sweat evaporates quickly so that your clothes are not drenched. You just need to remember to drink plenty of water.
Pearl Street Mall
As soon as we had finished strolling the Pearl Street Mall, we got a call from the Dushanbe Teahouse to let us know that our table was ready - perfect timing. The interior of the teahouse is really something to see. It is so intricately decorated. As for the menu, there are many flavors of tea from which to choose. I am not really a tea-drinker, so I let Traci choose. I don't remember the tea she chose but it was too bitter for me. Dushanbe offers a proper afternoon tea with sandwiches and pastries. A few people around us were having this service and it looked really nice. You had to request the afternoon tea 24 hours in advance. Unfortunately, we had not done this and thus had to settle for choosing items off the standard lunch menu. We shared the Japanese Chicken Karaage dish and the St. James Cake dessert. Both were delicious.
On our way out of Boulder, Traci had me make a stop at Bobolink Trailhead. She admittedly suffers from FOMO (fear of missing out). During the morning workout of her runners' retreat, the group had to choose one of two locations at which to do their run. Traci was curious about the place she did not choose so she had me stop there. We heard that the hiking trails allow you to take in gorgeous scenery, but we did not get that far. As soon as we set foot on the trail, we were attacked by mosquitos. We gave up in less than a ¼ mile and quickly returned to the car. Bye-bye, Boulder. Continue...