Wide streets with a touch of sophistication
14.09.2007 - 18.09.2007 -17 °C
Ramada Inn proved a winner with its shuttle van providing a timely trip to Union Station for the 8am train to Grand Junction. The ‘Amtrak boarding system’ seemed designed to create maximum tension and confusion. Even though it is supposedly a Reserved Seat ticket, the seating is open and you finally figure out that you are assigned to a car where you find a free seat. Because single travelers have the lowest priority I was wondering if I’d be standing (British Rail style). In the event, there was a lot of space and I had found a seat with a good view and legroom. This is a most spectacular rail journey. Volunteers from the USA Park Service gave a running commentary during the trip.. I learned that the old freight cars on one huge curve were there to protect the train from the high winds which had blown a train off the tracks in the 1960s. the cars were filled with dirt and by now, had full grown tress in them.
There are 43 tunnels between Denver and Grand Junction and it was exiting to come out from a tunnel into the light and a new vista. The railway line was cut through rock for much of the way and the mountains are beautiful as the train climbs up to the Intercontinental Divide.
My nephew Larry and his wife Brenda met me at Grand Junction ( I was slightly late). We went to a very good Italian restaurant in Delta, near their home. Real food in a friendly atmosphere and after my second glass of red wine I suddenly realised there were people waiting for tables, so we left and went to Larry and Brenda’s home in the mountains outside Cedaredge. Oh dear, this is really ‘off the grid’. A few miles from a small town and then down a road to their 18 acre spread. A vast house (certainly by English standards) .. but oh dear, the views. Mountains in the distance a large meadow in front of house .. as if on queue, three deer came to drink from the bird bath, seemingly oblivious to the lights in the living room. Larry and Brenda said that a buck deer will often come up to window and stare in. All manner of smaller animals are present, depending on the time of year. My immediate thought was that no matter how beautiful this place was, it was a long walk to the nearest pub or tavern. I later learned that it was not walkable and was a long drive.
After our trip to Durango, we came back to Grand Junction for a day's touring there. Monday
We drove up to the mountains above Grand Junction
Colorado National Monument
By this time I was running out of superlatives (or was I just out of words because of the altitude?). Different from the Black Canyon because it was bigger in scale, wider and with sedimentary rock which have eroded to leave isolated rock formations standing all along the 23 mile drive on the rim of the canyon. I had difficulty getting my bearings because of the huge scale of this park .. at first I thought we were looking at the same canyon from different viewpoints but actually there are many canyons which make up the vast park. There were multiple places to park and walk along trails to dizzy making viewing platforms. In the process we became familiar with the most amasing juniper trees whose gnarled trunks are sculptural .. and a beautiful called Morman tea (aid to have medicinal values) ; both of which seemed to flourish with even the smallest amount of soil, appearing to grow right out of rock.
Dinner was a special treat at a fine restaurant in Grand Junction, The Winery. I had a heft New York Strip steak ; Larry and Brenda had halibut steak and we were all pleased with the meal.
I spent the morning doing chores including Internet and shopping ; we met for lunch at a super little Italian sandwich shop on the edge of town. All freshly made – Larry and Brenda are both trim (maybe hard work and exercise play a roll) and their choice of restaurants was a reminder to me that the USA is not all fast food and there are good inexpensive places with real food. The train to Los Angeles was two hours late but after we had a little walkabout I was all installed in my ‘roomette’ for my trip to San Francisco.
Just west of Grand Junction the train went through Ruby Canyon in Utah .. which proved that ‘when you have seen one canyon, you ain’t seen them all’. Fairly wide and not as high as Colorado , the canyon had red, purple and ruby colours in its sedimentary rocks, with occasional flashes of dense green from the trees growing along the river rushing through the canyon floor.
With great regret I made my way to dinner as the sun was setting … but what a pleasing image to retain on the final day in the great South West of America.
It was a two day trip to San Francisco (where most of the time was spent soicalising).