As we woke up in Lawrence, KS and looked out of the window, even though it was a bright sunny day, there was a quality to the light, a shimmering almost a haziness that felt closed in, maybe a little confining, which contrasted sharply with the bright crystal clear big sky sun that we left the morning before in Colorado. We wondered, “Why didn’t we notice the change as we descended from the mountain tops onto the vast plain that is the Midwest?” Perhaps because a storm was moving in that obscured the sun or maybe the transition was too gradual.
After breakfast, wandering around the downtown area two blocks from our hotel, we discovered a farmers market. Lots of fresh produce vendors, three bakeries, three wineries, multiple meat vendors, flowers, etc. It was one of the best markets we’ve seen on our trip and it runs every Saturday, May to November. Too bad our time in timeshares had come to an end and we couldn’t partake. Continuing our exploration led to lots of leafy green streets with a variety of older houses, two churches from the late 1800’s and new construction of lofts above storefronts. People seemed very friendly as they greeted us. In addition, the town is home to University of Kansas. A very pleasant vibe overall. No wonder Lawrence, KS was a top pick for Forbes in their ratings of retirement towns in the US. We both could have been happy living here except for two things, that hazy light, and a little thing called winter.
We left the Colorado Mountains less than 24 hours ago and were already missing them. Since leaving our friends in Boulder, we returned to Steamboat Spring for three nights followed by Granby for two nights, and a common theme presented itself. We attempted three hikes between the two locations and while all were enjoyable, none of them were completed, all for different reasons. The first, an Emerald Mountain hike in Steamboat to the quarry, the hike was on a fire road and we made the mistake of starting in the afternoon, way too hot, we turned around after 1 ½ hours. We did get great views of downtown Steamboat Springs.
The second in Steamboat Springs was to the upper Fish Creek Falls, the hike was intense gaining over 1000 ft., we were 15 minutes from the falls and doing well, until we came across a granite rock area that was on the edge of a cliff with a large drop off, we both decided that it was better to turn back. At which point two crazy mountain bikers came down the trail, proving that we were just wimps…or perhaps just sensibly realistic.
The third hike on the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park (close to Granby) was going well and followed the Colorado River, but we ran out of time so had to turn back.
Steamboat Springs is a pleasant town with a wide variety of restaurants and stores, just a little warm there in August. Unfortunately, we were too exhausted after the Fish Creek Falls hike to make our way to perhaps our favorite (from our first visit to Steamboat) hot springs, Strawberry Park.
However, between Steamboat Springs and Granby, we did stop at Hot Sulphur Springs, in the town of the same name. A pleasant way to spend a few hours. There are about 20 pools, each with different temperatures. The cost is $20 for an adult (small discount for seniors, but you have to ask). Most of the pools had a stronger sulphur smell than other hot springs we had visited over the past month. Not an issue since we had determined that the swim suits we had used for the past month were getting ditched after this visit.
Granby has a cute downtown, about 2 blocks, but that is about it. Grand Lake, a scenic town 10 minutes away, provides a larger selection of stores and restaurants.
Of the places we visited this trip, our favorites were Pagosa Springs followed by Granby. Breckenridge was too high in elevation and cold, Steamboat was too low and hot, Estes Park was too touristy. Our sweet spot for summer seems to be about 7500 to 8000 ft. elevation. We know, we know, we’re starting to sound like Goldilocks and the Three Bears.
Our love of the mountains in Colorado confirmed our opinion that we would be quite happy there for 1/3 of the year. If we were settling down right now, a combination of Sun City Grand, AZ with Pagosa Springs, CO (both have a lower cost of living than San Diego) would make a fine combination ––interspersed with travel, of course. But we are not settling down, and upon leaving Colorado those thoughts started making themselves felt. Colorado was a one month trip that we had looked forward to and was the equivalent of a semi-colon between our old life of living in one place and vacationing with our new life of being nomadic. Now that the reality of what we have planned is moving to center stage, we both started feeling a little apprehensive, not enough to make us change our minds, just enough to have us do a gut check as our departure date of September 30th looms closer.
For the next few weeks, we will be visiting family and friends as we make our way east and north to our departure point of Newark, NJ to Guatemala City, Guatemala. Since we know that’s not of general interest, we will be detailing how we are handling mail and health insurance while we are gone.
Ian & Ann