17 Aug Denver, Colorado
Our recent road trip provided my first visit to Denver. Jedd had been once, fifteen years ago, with his high school volleyball team from Hawaii. (It was kind of funny how his teenage memory of the city differed from the reality of Denver that we encountered last week!)
Anyway, we followed our usual pattern when it comes to exploring new places:
Step One: Run, Walk, or Bike Around
With a little online research, we found that we could explore by bike along the South Platte River and the Cherry Creek bike paths from downtown. Since my parents’ flight home wasn’t until the afternoon, they joined us in the morning by renting B Cycles.
About B Cycle Bike Rentals
The B Cycles model is almost exactly like the Bixi Bikes we rented in Montreal where you pay $8 for the day (or $20 for a week) by swiping your credit card at a bike station. You pick out your bike and as long as you return it back to a bike station (anywhere in the city) within 30 minutes, there’s no additional charge. So you have to ride in half-hour chunks, but you can essentially lock in your bike, wait a few minutes, and check the same bike back out again for the next 30 minutes.
It takes a bit of extra planning to explore this way, but it’s a great deal because you get an unlimited number of trips and only accrue additional charges for rides longer than 30 minutes.
More Cinnamon Rolls
My unofficial quest for excellent cinnamon rolls continued through Denver. My family was easily persuaded when we chose our lunch restaurant based on rave reviews about the bacon-topped, biscuit-based cinnamon rolls at Denver Biscuit Company.
We were a little perplexed walking up to the restaurant because we saw signs for three different companies. Turns out, this place is where Biscuit Bus and Fat Sully’s Pizza Truck joined together in a brick-and-mortar location, which also housed the Atomic Cowboy bar. So now all three co-exist, each with their own hours. An interesting concept!
Anyway, we ordered biscuit sandwiches for lunch and split a regular cinnamon roll (no bacon) among the four of us. It was quite good.
At this point in the trip, we dropped off my parents at the airport and connected with our fellow Returned Peace Corps Volunteers who hosted us in Denver for two more nights. To my surprise and delight, they had picked up on my cinnamon roll obsession and found the very best cinnamon rolls in the city for me: Duffey Roll Cafe.
The mini Duffeyroll box includes The Original, Zesty Orange, Irish Cream, Mountain Maple, English Toffee, and Pecanilla Crunch. As you can see, we devoured a few before we got around to taking the picture. I like these rolls because they’re small and they’re pastry style, almost like eating a flaky croissant.
By the way, I started a photo collection on Trover about all the best baked goods I'm finding on our travels, especially cinnamon rolls. Follow along at The Pastry Queen's Most Delectable Finds.
Touring Around Denver
With our Peace Corps friends, who have lived in Denver for several decades, we got the prized benefit of local knowledge. They took us to some great spots that we didn’t get the chance to cover on our impromptu bike trip downtown. While Denver has some interesting spots downtown, like the 16th Street pedestrian mall and Larimer Square, the city also has some great green spaces and neighborhoods, which is more up our alley.
Red Rocks Amphitheater
We drove out to the Red Rocks Amphitheater, which is a really cool music venue that was crafted into the rust-colored landscape back in the days of the Civilian Conservation Corps and Work Projects Administration. When we visited, there were a bunch of people using the amphitheater to exercise – running, jumping, or climbing up and down the steps, which actually looked like fun.
We didn’t even realize it until we showed up at Red Rocks Amphitheater but we were literally across the street from Dinosaur Ridge, a trail with various dinosaur excavation sites. There is a $5 guided bus tour but we decided to just go by foot. It’s crazy to see real dinosaur remains in person and also to think that archeologists or scientists can determine what’s what from so little.
My Brother’s Bar
We had to clarify, when we found out where we were going for lunch, if our friends were related to the owner of this bar or not. It turns out “My Brother’s Bar” is just the name of the restaurant, but as a matter of fact, they are related in a way! The same restaurant owner ran a similar establishment where our friends used to live in Detroit about 40 years ago!
This place really gives you the old-fashioned feel with a hearty, American menu and classic decor. The food was great and reasonably priced. Even their website is old school simple.
Freshly Remodeled Union Station
We got to see the newly renovated, historic Union Station in downtown Denver. This massive project now provides a bright, shiny home to Amtrak, metro, and bus transit as well as some great restaurants and retail outlets. I definitely would not mind a long lay-over there.
Tattered Cover Book Store
Another Denver icon is the Tattered Cover Bookstore, an independently owned enterprise which has expanded to three locations in Denver (plus satellite stores in the airport and Union Station). In a world of big box and online retailers, it’s nice to see a classic bookstore doing so well.
Denver is a cool city. We probably should have spent a little more time there, but we were already coming up on a month on the road, and we really wanted to be back in Oregon for the remainder of the summer.
I think we’re both realizing more and more that we’re not big city people. Cities are fun to visit because there’s a lot going on. But we can only handle the traffic and crowds and other excesses for so long. It’s a good realization to make as we travel around, for whenever we do eventually “settle down” … some day.
So, after three nights in Denver, we hit the road again and made our way “home,” with overnight stops at our friends’ homes in Salt Lake City and Boise.
And that’s our one-month road trip! If you want to overview of our itinerary with links to each post along the way, you’ll find it here.
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