The Big Trip Out West
Though I haven’t even been home for more than a month, I’ve been pretty busy. Almost immediately after coming home, my family and Julia set out on a great adventure west. We wanted to see some of our nation’s most beautiful parks during the Centennial of the National Parks Service. Our goal was to visit the Badlands, the Corn Palace, Custer’s State Park, Mt. Rushmore, Devil’s Tower, Yellowstone, the Grand Tetons, Craters of the Moon, Crater Lake, Redwoods State Park, Yosemite, King’s Canyon, Sequoias, Moab, Canyonlands, Arches, the world’s best cinnamon roll at Glen Haven, and Trail Ridge Road. But even the perfect plan can have its bumps and amazing surprises. Come along on the journey, as I’ll be posting each day (and roughly each park) throughout the next few months.
Maxwell House in Georgetown, Colorado
A few years ago (only a few), my mom and dad came to Georgetown on their honeymoon and stayed in the same hotel as this trip. Back then, it had some interesting…features. While my parents tried to sleep, they kept waking up to the noise of vibrations from the room above them. Was it a washing machine? A dish washer? A…paint mixer? They couldn’t figure it out.
It wasn’t until the next morning that they discovered the coin slots in the side of the bed. Yep. The beds were massive vibrators. (Un)fortunately, they have been replaced with normal beds these days.
Besides those crazy old beds, Georgetown is known for its wonderful old houses. Mom and Dad recall visiting the old Maxwell house when they first passed through the town. Years later, Zach drew that same house for an art assignment. During our visit, we also took a small detour to tell it hello. Its beautiful pink spire still stands!
The Word’s Best Cinnamon Roll from Glen Haven
And now, I introduce this trip’s headliner. Born in the small town of Glen Haven, this travel staple has been making nomads’ bellies and hearts happy for years. Its sweet personality brings together all who have tasted it. Now, they are all one big, happy, chubby family. The highlight of the trip (okay, one of the highlights): Glen Haven General Store’s Cinnamon Rolls.
Years before this trip, we came to Colorado for a wedding. One morning, my mother drove to Glen Haven to fetch these cinnamon rolls. In my early morning stupor (bah, mornings), I placed my cinnamon roll on my bedside table, telling myself that I would eat it later.
Later never came.
After hours in Colorado’s humidity-free air, my cinnamon roll became a cinnamon rock. I used it as a door stop. And a yard ornament. And an anchor to hold down the canoe.
But I never got to eat my cinnamon roll.
There she was. The one. The only cinnamon roll for me forever for the rest of my life and whatever comes after. I held it lovingly in my hands, taking in the heavenly smell of cinnamon sugar. I lifted the half-pound cinnamon roll up and down, feeling its weight in my hand. And after many long years, I finally ate it.
It was the best cinnamon roll of my life. Seriously. Hands down. That cinnamon roll was heaven on Earth.
Oh, and did I mention that we arrived on the very last day the the General Store would be open this season? And that road construction threatened to close the shop even earlier? How our timing was absolutely perfect for me to check this one off my bucket list? This trip was all about timing, and I was the luckiest on this one.
If you’re in Colorado, go to Glen Haven. Get yourself a cinnamon roll. Tell them that Natalie says hello. (They won’t know who I am, but you can always say it anyway.)
Trail Ridge Road: Altitude Sickness
After my angelic experience with the famous cinnamon roll, we rolled into Estes Park. We only made one stop here at the Stanley Hotel. Later on during Julia’s stay in the United States, we watched The Shining. (We were pleasantly surprised to find that the Shining movie reconstructed the Majestic Yosemite Hotel’s lobby.)
From Estes Park, we started to climb Trail Ridge Road. Unfortunately, I don’t have many good photos from this part of the trip. Altitude is one of my worst weaknesses. I can ride circular rides for weeks and keep my cool. My constitution holds up like a pro in 4-D rides. But the moment you get me about 10,000 feet? Forget about it.
At 10,001 feet, the blood immediately drains from my head. It all hides in my big toe. I get woozy, cranky, forgetful, and start feeling ill. My memory of this part of the trip isn’t very clear, and I only have these two photos.
The views from up here were astounding, but we were again frustrated with people who had a severe lack of respect for nature. Plant life here is incredibly fragile, so if you visit, stay on the trail. Tundra plants take years to recover from trampling. Give them a shot to flourish.
Trail Ridge Road ends at Grand View where we stopped for dinner. We treated Julia to an experience as the Sagebrush Bar and Grill. It’s the kind of place where you’re allowed to throw your peanut shells directly on the floor. With some coaxing, Julia finally threw some peanut shards on the ground. Just a few.
Time to Go On Home
After this stop, we faced the long haul home. We drove until 3 am to Junction City, KS. The next morning, we headed out at 8:30 am with two goals in mind. First, we wanted to arrive at the Barn and Grill Restaurant at Bourbon, Missouri for a late lunch. Second, my cousins were expecting us for the Walking Dead season premiere! Our timing couldn’t have been better, as we arrived for brain cheesecake and rice krispies at 8:56 pm exactly.
It was a very long seventeen days. Five people, one car, seventeen National and State parks, over ten hotel rooms, two nights in the car, one shower at a KOA, one typhoon, six waterfalls, one ghost truck driver, two dive bars, and one of the world’s best cinnamon rolls. That’s the ultimate recipe for the ultimate road trip.
Be kind to one another,