After leaving Madison I drove 8 hours to Omaha, NE where I had my first experience with Airbnb.com, which is like couch surfing, but people rent out rooms in their house for money. I couldn’t find a couchsurfing host in Omaha so I paid $25 to stay in a woman’s spare room. I didn’t arrive until late, and left pretty early the next morning but I was able to do a load of laundry, and cook dinner and breakfast. Overall, it was a good experience, not as wonderful as couchsurfing, mainly because it costs money, but still pretty cool, and still cheaper than a hotel.
I left Tuesday morning and made the remaining 8 hour drive to Denver, CO. I have no real interest in the middle of the country, and after driving through Iowa and Nebraska I’m glad I didn’t spend any real time there. It is endless cornfields and fields of cattle.
Denver, CO was high on the list of place to go however. When I left Omaha Tuesday morning I had no idea where I would be staying in Denver that night, but got several offers during my 8 hour drive, some from friends of friends and some from strangers. I opted to stay with a couchsurfing host who lived right in the middle of downtown, though he was only able to host my for one night. My host was 25 years-old and a huge hippie, so when I got there we drank and smoked and watched a very informative science documentary and went to bed. He left for work the next morning and I set out to explore the city. After several hours of research on Denver I narrowed it down to 5 places I really wanted to see and after mapping it out set out on foot on an eight mile loop that ended me back near my car.
First stop was a cafe called SAME cafe, which is a non-profit cafe where the menu changes daily and the food is free!! You can eat as much or as little as you like and you may either make a donation in cash or donate some of your time to work the cafe. All profits go to charity. It is a very cool concept that I had to see for myself. I went in and had some grilled chicken pizza, which was delicious and left a donation in the box on the counter.
Next was Tattered Cover Bookstore, which is a massive and very well-known bookstore in Denver. To get there I had to walk down The 16th St. Mall, which is just a street that no cars are allowed on, but has free bus rides up and down the one mile street and is covered in shops, restaurants and bars. I looked around in some of them and made my way to Tattered Cover, I poked around there for a while and sat down and read a little. It was in a huge old brick building and had a huge selection of books. After all this walking, next stop was The Great Divide Brewing Co. which offers free tours of the brewery, and has a small bar in the brewery with $4 pints and $1 ‘samplers’ which are about 5oz each. The brewery is not huge, but has been awarded ‘Best Brewery in the US’ and has ranked top 10 in ‘Best Brewers in the World’. Seeing the brewery and how it all works was very interesting, and surprisingly simple. The beer was awesome, I tried about 5 different kinds, all of which were good and really fully flavored.
Now that I had a little buzz on, I walked a couple of miles across the city to West 13th Ave, which is made of mostly art galleries. It was late in the day by the time I made it there so some of the galleries were closed, and the ones I saw had a lot of Native American art, which isn’t really my style.
Last stop of the day was The Rooster and The Moon cafe, where they had 24oz PBRs and I had a delicious tuna melt. I also was able to get on the computer and book myself a hostel to stay for the night. Afterwards I made the trek back to my car and drove to the hostel I would be staying at. It was very large and very clean for a hostel, especially because it was less than $20 a night. Though I did play Ruzzle for a while before bed I was asleep by 11, because the following day I was snowboarding.
I did a lot of research on snowboarding in Colorado, and there are a lot of options, all of which are insanely expensive. You can find deals but most have to be bought anywhere from 72 hours to one week in advance, or you have to ride for 5 days. I didn’t have time for any of that so I had to suck it up and pay $104 for a lift ticket at Winter Park, about 90 minutes outside of Denver. Though that was a tough pill to swallow it was well worth it and I had an awesome day shredding freshies in the trees most of the day, which is just about the best kind of snowboarding there is. Though I was missing my shredding crew, I survived just fine working through the foot of powder all day. I arrived at the mountain around 9:30 and rode until 4pm, taking only half an hour for lunch. It really was some of the best snow I’ve ever ridden, the mountains out here put the east coast to shame.
The views in Colorado are also probably some of the greatest I’ve ever seen. Driving into the city was beautiful at night, driving out of the city into the mountains the next day was even more majestic, and all the way up the mountain I couldn’t stop snapping photos out my windshield (sorry mom). Between driving to and from the mountain I took over a hundred pictures of the intense scenery. Driving out of the city toward the mountains you can see the whole city, the mountains in the background. It’s really fantastic.
After snowboarding all day I was understandably exhausted and returned the The Rooster and The Moon but opted for Hendricks and margherita pizza with grilled chicken, which was really awesome as well.
I headed back to the hostel and stayed up late lurking the internet and also planned my route, because I headed out of Denver Friday morning.
Overall, Denver is a very cool city, and if I could have found a free place to stay I probably would’ve stayed a few more days. There is a lot to see, good places to shop and to eat, and it surrounded by mountains. Also, I paid $2.79/gal of gas in Denver, cheapest yet on this trip!