Weekend Getaway #1: Estes Park – Colorado

Last Monday, Steven (my other half) advised me he had not left the city in nearly three months; this was definitely an issue, as when we lived in Michigan we traveled non-stop. Honestly, I can’t believe he hadn’t mentioned it sooner, now that I think about it… So on Tuesday, we began to socur the internet for a pet-friendly place to stay in either Glenwood Springs, Devil’s Thumb, or Estes Park. After emailing and calling approximately 100 places, Skyline Cottages in Estes Park was the only place to offer availability for our Friday night – Sunday morning excursion out of the city. We really lucked out, as Skyline offered an amazing cabin in the side of the Rockies for less about $140/night including pet fee; the price was definitely right, the location perfect, and the amenities of access to Big Thompson River and trail knowledge very helpful.

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View to the right from our cabin’s deck out front. Credit: Kirsten Ebey, July 2013

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To the left of our cabin, taken from the deck out front. Another great view of the Rockies. Credit: Kirsten Ebey, July 2013

Friday night, we drove to Estes Park, through the mountains in the dark. Not the most fun way to start the trip, as this is the first time we’d driven through any type of mountains in the dark – definitely an exciting ride, to say the least. All in all, the drive took about an hour and a half from our apartment in Denver. Our cabin was nestled in the side of the Rocky Mountains, away from the other Skyline cottages, up in the Vallahala Resort area. We stayed in a one-bedroom with bathroom attached, full kitchen, living room, and deck w/ grill cabin – nothing too fancy, which was just what we were looking for. However, the cabin DID have cable television, even though  we weren’t too interested due to our surroundings. The views from the deck were absolutely incredible, providing insight to what lay ahead as far as hiking on Saturday.

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The stars from our cabin’s deck in Estes Park – light from the moon in the bottom right-hand of the picture. Credit: Steven Mercer, July 2013

Friday night, we unpacked the Jeep and drank a lot of Colorado’s finest craft beers – I’d picked up a variety six pack and case just for the occasion at the fabulous Argonaut’s. On the deck, Steven set up his digital SLR, and took long-exposed pictures of the stars; from this deck, I felt like we could see the entire universe. The stars were so pronounced, with the moon so bright. I had never seen the sky the way I saw it from the deck of our cabin.

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Map on display at St. Vrain Trailhead. Credit: Kirsten Ebey, July 2013

The next morning, we took our 11 year-old cockapoo, Moguls, for a hike at the Middle St.Vrain / Buchanan Pass Trailhead. We found this trail at the end of Camp Dick, off of HWY 72, in Roosevelt National Forest. We drove through two separate campgrounds, all the way to the back parking lot where ATV’s, ORV’s, and hikers are all taking two separate trails. Finding a desginated dog-friendly trail can be difficult because National Parks don’t allow dogs on the trails, while many National Forests do. Even so, finding a defined trail or correct directions to a good trail can be a little difficult for those of us who are new to the areas, and hiking altogether. ImageThe St. Vrain / Buchanan Pass is listed as a moderate hike; it stretches for at least 16 miles (we were told by fellow hikers on the trail), and can consist of rock, mud, dirt, and narrow to wide paths. I liked the way we hit almost every type of trail terrain on this 5 mile hike; I enjoyed the challenging rocks, hopping to and from each one, as well as the uphill climbs. I was also thankful for the flat, dirt ground and breaks to catch my breath from some of the uphill battles. It was a great workout that I felt later that afternoon and the next morning for sure! The scenery on the trail is basically borderline magical – we definitely recommend visiting, and bringing your dog. Moguls did a great job keeping up, and actually led us on the way back. ImageThe hike took about 3 hours, 2 hours and 24 minutes of which we were moving (we used Strava to track what we had accomplished), and hiked 5 miles.

Some additional pictures from this hike are also pictured below.

Saturday night, we just chilled in the cabin, whooped from our first real hike in Colorado. The next morning, we packed up and ventured home to unpack, do laundry, and get ready for our favorite Sunday event: Jazz in the Park.

I definitely recommend Estes Park as a nice, weekend get-away. There’s so much to do and see – we definitely only chipped away a small surface of what Estes Park has to offer. If you don’t want to rent a cabin, there are plenty of camp sites that are reasonably priced and well-maintained. Many of which are pet-friendly, which made a huge difference for us.

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Me (Kirsten) at the top of the rocks. Credit: Kirsten Ebey, July 2013

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Steven shooting with his SLR on the hike. Credit: Kirsten Ebey, July 2013

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Moguls on the top of the rocks; he was a trooper the whole way! Credit: Kirsten Ebey, July 2013

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View from along the hike. Credit: Kirsten Ebey, July 2013

What should our next get away be? Any ideas, friends? We love traveling, and can’t wait to explore more of this awesome state. Lend us a hand in finding our next weekend get away!

Coco Bikes – SKBC – PBR – Denver Chain Chase: The Royal Rush Bike Race

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Michael (left) Kirsten (right) on the way from Checkpooint #1: Highlands to Checkpoint #2: Denver Bike Cafe. Credit: Jeff Doorn, July 2013

Saturday, July 13th, I embarked on my first bike race with two of our good friends, Michael and Jeff (their first races as well!). Like previously noted, Jeff just moved here from Dallas – he bought a bike roughly a week prior, and had ridden a few times, however we calculated the Poker Rush race to be about 20 miles. Jeff and I being the newbies to biking said, “Why the hell not?” We had 4 hours to finish the race, we didn’t mind if we were last, and we could meet some new people.

We started off at Coco Bikes on Inca in Denver; this is where we registered for $20 (which included sweet tshirt), received the manifest, and hung out until race time. There were roughly 60 people entered in the race – some beginners, like Jeff and I, some serious racers, and some participating to have a chill, bike ride day with friends. All were welcome, which made the race less intimidating.

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Poker Run – Royal Rush Bike Route. I did not include the bike ride to the starting point, Coco Bikes, from our apartment which is another 4 miles. Our ride home from Broadway clocked another 6 miles. Thanks to the Strava App for allowing me to keep track of these things!

When we were signaled to begin, Michael, Jeff, and I road to the Highlands, the hardest part of the entire race. This is where I hurled in front of children along the sidewalk of a beautiful neighborhood. I had only rode in the Highlands once, which was not anything too strenuous as it was only a few blocks. This was totally different. With some coaching and support from my friends  Jeff and Michael, we made it to our first check point. The rest of the race was around the greater downtown Denver area, including Washington Park, Odelay Tacos, & Denver Bike Cafe.

Four checkpoints, one thunderstorm, and roughly 28 miles later (including bike ride from house, race, and bike ride home), we had finished our first race. We weren’t first, last, fastest, slowest – somewhere in the middle was where we wound up. The experience was incredible, and we met amazing friends.

So, why am I writing about this? Simple: to encourage newbies to not be afraid of such events. It’s an incredible, accomplished feeling to finish a bike race, aside from it being a hell of a lot of fun.

Check out places like CocoBikes, the SKBC Facebook Page, Denver Chain Chase, and other Facebook pages to see what races are coming up in your area! Don’t be afraid – if a bunch of fresh-to-the-city Michiganders can do it, you’ve totally got this!

Big thanks to Denver Bike Cafe & Odelay Tacos for participating as check points in this awesome Poker Run event.

The Story Portal – How cool is THAT?

An interactive stage built around the idea of sharing real, true, and raw experience, The Story Portal is trying to raise money for further improving this project, and taking it to the grand stage of Burning Man in August 2013; visit their official website to lend your support. Check out their Facebook Page and see what they’re all about – it’s a very unique and interesting concept of community that I think would be incredible to experience live!

Credit to the StoryPortal’s official site for the video posted here.

https://www.facebook.com/TheStoryPortal
http://thestoryportal.org

Colorado Irish Festival – July 12-14, 2013

Driving to Littleton the other morning on my way to breakfast, I saw a sign advertising the 19th annual Colorado Irish Festival coming up this Friday through Sunday in Clement Park, Littleton, CO. Back in Michigan, there were two Irish Music Festivals that we made sure to attend every year – the music is so wonderful, the beer is always flowin’, and it’s a great way to hang out with family / friends! So of course, immediate reaction: I’m going.

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Map of the Festival, courtesy (and credit to) Colorado Irish Festival’s Official site for posting.

I checked out the site to see what to expect. Tickets range in price, and this late in the game, can either be bought at a local King Soopers, or at the gate. The tickets at King Soopers will be a bit lower in price, and save you from having to wait in line at the gate. For ticket pricing for each day, click here to be taken to the ticket info through Colorado Irish Festival’s site. There is even a VIP ticket option that gives you special viewing access to the main stage, snacks, and private bar (to name a few benefits). The festival opens Friday night, with FREE admission from 5 – 6 pm, and closes at 10 pm. Saturday, the Festival will be open from 10 am – 10 pm, and Sunday is open from 10 am to 7 pm. Scared of the parking situation? No worries – parking is free at Columbine High School, with shuttles available to bring you and your family to and from the Festival. For more info regarding what’s allowed on the premises, what bands are playing, and where to be at what time, click on the map to the left.

Kids 12 and under are in FREE with adult, so this is a perfect opportunity to get outside with the kids, and enjoy some good Irish fun! Even if attending for one of the three days, I think the ticket prices are well worth the experience!

Hope the festival kicked off right today – looking forward to stopping by tomorrow!

Happy Day of Birth, Sprouts on Colfax!

I, amongst many others, have anticipated the opening of said beloved grocery store since the second week I moved to Denver, CO. With the opening of the Sprouts at 3625 E. Colfax Avenue in Denver, the opportunity to bike 4 blocks for groceries has arose, providing even GREATER opportunity for healthier shopping more often; in my eyes, this leads to a healthier lifestyle.

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Grand Opening of Sprouts on Colfax, July 10, 2013. Cick on the picture to find other Sprouts locations to visit. Credit: Kirsten Ebey, July 2013

Today marks the opening day of this great store, so of course I had to go and see how it was going. The store is PACKED, balloons are everywhere, and the sale prices are ridiculous: three red peppers for a buck? Yeah, I’ll take it! Although the lines are long, they move quickly, so don’t shy away once you walk in. Also, the staff is incredibly friendly – we can all imagine what kind of day they’ve had!

One bummer – Sprouts, where are all of the bike racks? It’s not cool to have your customers waiting outside for a spot on one of three rails, hoping that the shopping bikers inside come out soon. Might want to work on that small logistics piece, my friends.

Aside from that, WELCOME, SPROUTS! Welcome to the neighborhood! We’ve been eagerly waiting for your arrival, and thank you for providing us a place to buy good, wholesome food at sweet prices to reflect positively on our lives. See you in two days (or less).

Need something to do? Check out 16th St. Mall

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Looking at the 16th Street Mall from the median. Credit: Kirsten Ebey, June 2013

A couple of weeks ago, I took my new friend Jeff (also a Michigander – we’re everywhere) to the 16th Street Mall to walk around, as he had never been. As he had just moved to Denver a week prior to our mall excursion, I felt it necessary for him to see it in all of its glory! It’s a mall in the sense of the British term, so more related to a boulevard. Shops, banks, and other businesses line the street on either side, and free pedestrian buses drive up and down. There are multiple stops along 16th street, collecting and dropping off the tons of people that inhabit the area each day. Not only are the free buses a great way to get to one end or the other in a timely manner, they can also be a savior when your feet are disagreeing with your choice of walking shoes.

In addition to the commercial shops of the mall, art pops up everywhere – different sculptures of wood, metal, and everything in between line the 16th St. Mall, making it THAT much cooler to get out and walk both sides. Along the middle, or median, of the 16th street mall, brightly-painted pianos reside, ready for anyone and everyone to stop and play. These were placed by the Downtown Denver Partnership in a launch lovingly referred to as “Your Keys to the City” in 2011. All pianos are painted by local artists, using their own particular inspirations.

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Jeff found a new friend on the 16th St. Mall! Pictured: Jeff Doorn. Credit: Kirsten Ebey, June 2013

Whether you stop in at H&M, have a burger at Johnny Rockets, or just lolly-gag around, there’s plenty of things to do and see on the 16th St. Mall. Pick up a sweet Colorado shirt from one of the many tourist shops along with a few rad postcards to send to your friends and family. Make sure to take in all of the interesting and entertaining people watching and street performers. A robot street performer named RoboMike, pictured below, is an expert at making passers jump, laugh, and smile – make sure you say, “Hey” when you see him!

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RoboMike is an awesomely funny performer that is guaranteed to crack you up – give him a shout the next time you’re on the Mall! Pictured: Jeff Doorn (left) and RoboMike (right). Credit: Kirsten Ebey, June 2013

Have a great time visiting the 16th St. Mall – definitely one of my favorite places to hang out in Denver!

Experiencing the Colorado Rapids – MLS Denver

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Having a brew at Three Lions before catching the bus to the game. Click on this photo to be taken to the Three Lions Official Website! Pictured: (left to right) Shawna Jones, Kirsten Ebey, and Kat Wood. Credit: Steven Mercer, July 2013

 

For the 4th of July, our good friend Mitchell urged us to see a Colorado Rapids MLS game – it would totally be the way to go to celebrate the holiday. Being a fan of sports in general, we said, “Hey, why not?!” Last Thursday, we watched the Colorado Rapids take on the New York Red Bulls at Dick Sporting Goods Park. Afterwards, we were treated to the sounds of Denver native emcees, Flobots, and a spectacular fireworks show outside of the stadium – all of which included in the price of our game tickets. Obviously, Mitchell had it right – definitely the best way to celebrate the holiday with friends. 

The 6 of us who went bought tickets online not only for the game (roughly $30 including fees & tax), but also a bus ride ($10) to, and from, the game (drinking and driving isn’t cool – be responsible). We bought our game tickets through The Rapids website, or Ticketing Central, or TicketFly (there are numerous places to purchase – pick one!). As for the bus ride to and from the game, we purchased these through Centennial 38 (C38). When purchasing the game tickets, just remember which credit card you used online to pay with them, and they will scan that same card at the entrance in order to print your tickets for you. Regarding the bus tickets, make sure you print out a copy to bring with you – this is your bus pass. 

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Check out Centennial 38 to reserve your seat on the bus by clicking on this photo! Pictured (left to right): Steven Mercer, Mitchell Blystone, Kirsten Ebey, Kat Wood. Credit: Kirsten Ebey, July 2013

Now, let’s talk about the bus ride, because this is an experience all in itself. We all decided to ride our bikes from our apartment complex to Three Lions on Colfax, and catch the bus ride from there to the game at 7 pm. Of course, we stopped to get a drink before bus time, and were ready to rock at 7 pm. When boarding the bus, you are welcomed with friendly faces, and beer – how awesome is that? Sheets with chants are on nearly every seat, and shouted sporadically on the way to and from the game. The organizers are not only passionate about the Rapids, but also about the fans having a great experience with Denver’s beloved soccer team. There’s absolutely no reason why you should not purchase a bus pass if going to the game – parking at Dick’s can be a shit show, as you will wait nearly an hour to leave depending on where you end up getting a parking spot. Better not to worry about it, or your alcohol intake vs. driving abilities, and just hop on the bus with your friends!

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Colorado Rapids fans cheering their favorite soccer team on through the end of the game. Credit: Kirsten Ebey, July 2013

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Shot from the south bleachers after scoring the 2nd goal of the night. Credit: Kirsten Ebey, July 2013

Once we arrived, the stadium was packed with people of all ages, including families and friends interested in ringing in America’s independence together. Plenty of Concession stands are available with the coolest staff, only caring about your experience and getting your concessions to you quickly; they serve everything from beer-itas, to hot dogs, to healthy chicken sandwiches, to pizza. Expect stadium prices, but cash and credit are both accepted. 

There wasn’t a moment that the 6 of us, as well as the other thousands of fans, were not invested in this intense, fast-paced game – each of us kept the pride alive while cheering for the Colorado Rapids. There wasn’t a time when spurts of rejoice, booing, or clapping couldn’t be heard, making it evident that Denver truly cares about their talented, and hard-working team. The support lasted the entirety of the game. Maybe not as important, but I was also impressed when “the wave” made a consecutive 8-lap appearance around the stadium. What a blast – it’s so cool to be a part of a soccer community that is so positive, inclusive, and awesome. The Rapids played an amazing game, defeating the New York Red Bulls 2 to 0 – way to go, guys! 

I can’t wait to go back; better get a jersey, or a “kit”, first just to ensure that everyone knows who I’m rooting for. As I heard multiple times before, during, and after the game, “I BLEED BURGUNDY!” DenverSpeax has totally jumped on that band wagon.