Once the day came to begin the trek west, the leaving FL part happened all too quickly, which left me a little off kilter. But with adventure in my heart and with Butch secured nestled on his customized table for the ride, it was the click of seat belts and we were off.
Next stop CO! Well, after a few well thought out stops in between!
After deciding to take a leisurely drive over 4 days, (Merry Christmas to all!) the route was very carefully planned with a southern direction so we could avoid any weather issues. Seriously, this was the plan! The meticulously created plan! What do they say about the best paid plans…Yikes.
A few hours into the journey, our first stop was Lambert’s Café, the only home of the throwed rolls, in Foley, AL. Now this was a place we were very familiar with as we’d enjoyed their MO location a few times with the kids in tow. So we knew we were in for some down home cooking that would feed both the tired bodies and hungry souls.
Just looking at the picture from that dinner, the crust on that fried chicken still makes my mouth water! Perfectly seasoned, not the least bit greasy and with a special kind of crispiness that is usually only found in Grandma’s kitchen. And yes, if you want a roll, just sit tight while the server with the most important job of all pushes a cart around filled with soft, buttery hot rolls and he starts chucking them! Across the table, across the room, and if you’re not careful, you just might get a roll right up ‘side your head! This did not, however, happen to me as I am an ace catcher of hot buttered rolls!
After a quiet night, we stopped for breakfast the next morning at Julwin’s Restaurant in Fairhope, AL.
At this point I must take a moment to tell you about the decadent bacon in this little downtown beauty. Being a bit of a bacon snob, not too thick, not too thin, perfectly extra crispy, and by no means can there be any flopping! What is that about anyway! I cannot do floppy bacon. These strips were heaven on a plate. The kind of heaven that crunches with each bite and then little bacon sprinkles land on your shirt and your fingers are just the tiniest bit of greasy.
And now… Please let’s have a moment of silence please to remember the perfect bacon at Julwin’s… and thank you!
Next up, were the eggs over medium and a side of slow cooked, not instant, grits. Yum! The hubby went the hash browns and pancake route and needless to say he was very quiet during the meal as he enjoyed those fluffy pancakes and extra crispy potatoes.
This morning they even were playing live Christmas music.
Oh, right, I almost forgot to tell you, we were traveling just a few days before Christmas and expected to reach CO on Dec 26th. Very reasonably priced, excellent service, very courteous and we never waited for a drink refill. Not that it’s a pet peeve or anything, I’m just saying. With our bellies full and my soaking in as much of the true southern cooking as I could, since I didn’t know how long it would be until I got more like this, we hit the road again.
A quick stop in downtown Fairhope gave us a little time to walk off a bit of breakfast and let Butch stretch his legs too. But we noticed the sky was getting a bit gray and the air was certainly cooling from the previous 24 hours. Sweatshirts were in order when we got out of the truck this time.
After several more hours of driving, our overnight stay that night was a bit unsettling. The hotel, although clean, was surrounded by a security fence and a police officer was stationed all night in the lobby. I was too tired to think much about what this clearly meant and decided to stay in denial while I dreamt of the truck being gone come morning. But, thankfully I was wrong! And off we went.
An afternoon stop found us in Vicksburg, MS and a little break for walking. We walked around a few of the historic buildings, while Butch joined us all decked out in his new Tanner and Dash of New York quilted coat. He was not impressed that he’d had to give up his Harley Davidson t-shirt in favor of a quilted coat! Well, there was no choice! It was getting colder and colder as we drove.
The day passed uneventfully and we decided to stop that night in Amarillo TX. Again, following our logic of the southern route, this seemed like a brilliant plan. It would also seem like a brilliant plan to turn the radio on occasionally to hear the local weather. But nope, we listened for hour after hour to our hundreds of songs on disc. Country, Rock, Pop, even Jazz, it was all in there, but no local station. After all, if we’d actually turned on the radio, we would have heard about the horrid winter storm that was racing smack towards Amarillo!
After a most nu-luxurious night in what turned out to be a raggedy motel, you know the kind, where the door opens directly to the outside and you wouldn’t dare walk around barefoot, we woke up the next morning, turned on the news and were in total shock.
Massive Winter Storm!
Winds blowing so hard it was difficult to stand up, there were no words. Of course I was still wearing my sandals that I started the trip in and refused to change shoes (at least at this point). I guess I thought my sandals were magic and they would make the winter storm vanish and warm my bones in the process. Wrong!
Since we only took an overnight bag inside the hotel, the rest of our stuff stayed in the truck. Everything fared well, except for Butch’s bowl of water which was frozen solid into a 6 inch chunk of ice and my Tempur-pedic pillow which was also frozen solid and didn’t thaw completely for almost 48 hours.
But the most heart wrenching trauma of that frigid morning was the fact that the only house plant I had moved with me was a bonsai tree that I had nurtured for almost 5 years… overnight it met an untimely death in the frozen truck.
And so the journey in this raging winter storm lasted for more than 8 hours. Without stopping, without saying a single word, at super slow speeds, the drive was excruciating. I read two full books cover to cover and prayed.
Then the strangest thing happened. As if the weather weren’t enough, the loss of my spoiled rotten bonsai tree and finally somewhat giving up and wearing socks with my sandals, we were on a stretch of highway in northwest Texas and the driving had gotten a little easier. Thankfully the worse of the storm was behind us but the wind was still fierce! I mean so fierce it was rocking the truck from side to side as we rode and the cold was still blasting in around the doors.
Then out of nowhere, seriously nowhere since there was nothing at all except open fields as far as I could see, these massive tumbleweeds started flying across the fields and smashing in the truck. Now, I mean there was no damage to the truck but I felt a lot like a pinball getting smacked around by those flipper things. Those tumbleweeds were relentless and somewhat terrifying! This assault continued for almost 40 minutes and then they stopped as abruptly as they had started.
So, needless to say, after 2 nights in somewhat sketchy hotels, almost 8 hours of storm driving, truck silence, grieving the death of my tree, and being pounded by a bunch of rogue tumbleweeds, we just started laughing. Seriously (inane) laughing. You know the kind of belly laughing that makes your face hurt. Yeah, that kind. Because after all what’s a trip without a little adventure! Our perfectly planned trip had proven to be anything but perfect instead it left us with plenty of stories to laugh about some day.
Our next stop was a quick break in Pueblo to fuel up and stretch since we hadn’t been out of the truck for way too long!
It was pretty eerie because as we were driving one minute we were in the wicked storm, then the storm stopped and we were pummeled by tumbleweeds but when we rounded a curve heading into Pueblo, it looked like a totally different place. The wind stopped, the sun was shining and I am pretty sure I heard angels singing. A Diet coke (me) a Diet Pepsi (him) and several minutes for strolling about (yes, still in my sandals!) and we were on the road again.
At this point we were so road weary that we decided to push through to Denver so we could get into a nice hotel and by nice, I mean super clean, smelling good, friendly professional service and a comfy bed. So I started Googling options and making calls until I found the perfect hotel, the Westin, complete with its heavenly bed and a dog friendly paradise!
It wasn’t too many hours later and we checked into the Westin hotel. Butch was prancing! This was a fancy hotel that obviously adored dogs! He got his own check in gift, a bed and water and food bowls in the room. Yes, he was so happy. In fact, as soon as we got to the room, he jumped up on the bed and started rolling around, over and over! He was one happy dog!
On the other hand, with the bellman moving luggage in and the hubby tipping him, I walked over to the window, breathless at my first Colorado sunset and just started bawling. Again, the total ugly crying with big fat tears was in full force! The bellman couldn’t get out of there fast enough! Sheer exhaustion of every kind, the stress from the road trip, all the changes, I don’t know, but wow, I was a wreck!! After lots of sobbing, a long hot shower, I took a deep breath and realized just how blessed we were to have such an incredible opportunity to land in our laps. Was it scary? Absolutely! What change of that extreme wouldn't be scary, but I knew then and I know now, I wouldn't change a thing. So we made a decision right then and there to embrace the adventure for the amazing gift it was and hand in hand we headed downstairs for dinner. Kachina Grill, located in the hotel, served us an absolutely decadent dinner filled with organic and farm-fresh local fare. But we barely made it through dinner before total exhaustion hit and sleep couldn’t come fast enough! So we snuggled into the “heavenly bed” linens and all three of us slept straight for 15 hours!
So that’s how we ended up in beautiful, memory-making, life changing Colorado and that’s the beginning of our Beaches to Peaks story.
I hope you will see from our story how changing our shoes, from flip flops and sandals to hiking boots and snow shoes, really did change everything! I can’t wait to share that journey with you! Welcome to my mountain life!