I'm currently sitting in the train station in Denver (which I'm a bit obsessed with). Most of the stations we've been to so far have been really small and mostly consist of one ticket window and some benches to wait on. Not Denver! Their downtown station, known as Union Station, features a hotel, bar, restaurants, coffee shop, ice cream shop, couches, community tables for working, and shuffle board. I think this place is the coolest.
We arrived in Denver on Tuesday evening. We ended up being 2 hours delayed getting in (and then had to wait on the engineers to adjust the track (I don't know the real words for that), so we could pull up to the platform. By the time we got off and got to our AirBnB it was 9:15p.m and we were STARVING. We found a place to stay in the Highlands Square area and we were able to walk to restaurants and shops down the street. This area really reminded us of East Nashville. Very trendy, lots of remodeled homes, and plenty of walkable options. We felt right at home.
We found a Mexican restaurant down the street that was open until midnight, and, if you know me well, you know I was PUMPED about that. We walked up to the hostess and asked if what we were wearing was ok (we were in train clothes that we had been wearing since 3:00a.m the night before). She took one look at our yoga pants and said, "This is Colorado! Duh!" We were friends with Colorado immediately.
Night 1 at our AirBnB started off a little rocky with a broken A/C situation. It had been in the 90s that day so the house was HOT. We turned to fans and open windows. Luckily the repair man showed up Wednesday morning and got it all fixed.
We decided to rent a car for the day on Wednesday and head out to Rocky Mountain National Park. Richards had never seen the Rockies and I hadn't seen them in the summer. Thanks to Silver Car we found a last minute rental and headed out. We stopped at a visitor center on the way into the park to ask about the best options. The ranger did not disappoint with his suggestions!
We drove up the mountain (stopping along the way) and got all the way to the top. The views were breath-taking (and literally took your breath a way a little with the high altitude). And might I mention it was chilly? Some of us (ME) had dressed for 85 degree weather and not considered the temperature change in the mountains. That chilly air was so refreshing, though.
We saw some elk, some deer, and some animal we described as a MountainLlamaDonkeyGoat. Super scientific. It rained a bit, but we sure didn't care. We couldn't stop commenting on the mountains. It's impossible for me to look at them and not see God.
Despite the fact that we went from a day on the train to a day in the car, it did our hearts good to wander through the park, be away from cell service, and just breathe in the majestic scene.
We spent about 3 hours in the park and then headed back to Denver. We stopped in Winter Park on the way home for dinner (we had Mexican--please don't be surprised).
Today (Thursday) has been a slower day. We slept in, returned our car, and made our way downtown. I got far too excited when I saw one of my favorite burger places, Hopdoddy, next to Union Station. We grabbed a late lunch and walked through the 16th Street Mall. I was super impressed with how nice the downtown area was. The street mall even included a free bus that would take you up and down the street (which was nice considering it's 94 degrees). I think Nashville has a thing or two to learn from Denver about improving downtown scene.
Continuing in our discussion on what items have been a must for this trip, I'm handing it over to Richards. She's got a few words to say about it:
Top 3 Essentials for #TrainGames2016 (from Katie Richards)
As Boatman (see what I did there?) has mentioned, I spent a lot of time reading and researching in order to be prepared for our 40+ hours of train travel. Overall, I would give my purchasing and packing efforts an A-. I grossly overestimated the amount of books I would read and went a little too healthy with my snack choices, but other than that I've been pretty spot on with my purchases. The following are my top 3 train travel product recommendations:
The train gets cold and temperatures vary wildly from car to car so I would recommend having a blanket no matter what. And if you're going to bring a blanket why not bring the best-selling travel blanket on Amazon? In 2010 we would have called this a Snuggie, but it's 2016 and this blanket is known as a PREMIER class travel blanket. It's soft, it's long, and it goes over your head which means it won't slip off mid-nap. Bonus: it can double as a pillow when zipped up. I would recommend the 40 x 72 inches to keep your feet warm too (but also pack socks!)
I happened upon these one day when I was shopping with my mom for a travel backpack. My mom insisted I try these on and buy them and if I've learned one thing in my 30+ year--it's mom always knows. These things are legit. They stay snug on your feet, they are stretchy, and the padding is made from yoga mat material. Best part is you forget they're on your feet. What more do I need to say?
3. Good Jams
Every good life experience needs a worthy soundtrack. Before getting on the train I made sure to download lots of music for the views and I'm glad I did. I've listened to lots of different artists but the following four have provided the best soundtrack in different ways for the train experience. (I would highly recommend listening to anything Shane & Shane on repeat when riding through the majestic scenery between Salt Lake City and Denver. Shoutout to Psalm 34 (Taste and See).
Other honorable mentions include: REI Grand Tour 80 Travel Pack with detachable day bag, J Travel Pillow with chin and neck support , Anker External Battery Pack
(Back to Boatman)
We board our train at 7:00p.m. and head to Chicago! This will be our first true overnight trip (EEK), so we're setting low expectations for the night. We've been told there are 160 boarding with us, so having a row to ourselves is definitely not likely. This will be our last train ride, though, so we'll take it all in. We get to Chicago at 3:00p.m. on Friday and hope to head to a White Sox game Friday night (as long as the train is on time). See you soon, central time zone!
In case you missed it... You can catch the previous posts here: