Thursday, July 17, 2014

Colorado 2014 - Lawrence, Kansas?

Now, you may be saying to yourself, "Weren't they just in Glenwood Springs, CO? Lawrence, KS is a long way from there..," and you'd be right. It's about 700 miles from there. I realized that I had completely forgotten to tell you about our drive out to Colorado. 

Last year, we planned it so that we left Greensboro at about 2am and got into Kansas City (Independence, MO to be exact) around dinner time the next day. We figured that the kids would wake up a little when we put them in the car, but fall right back to sleep. Wrong. They were awake for at least an hour, if not 2. This year, we wanted to leave earlier so the kids would be in the car right at bedtime (8pm) and just sleep the night through. Unfortunately, I'm really terrible at prioritizing and packing, so we were late leaving. We didn't get on the road until 11pm, but the kids were mostly asleep by then anyway, so it kinda worked. However, because of a lack of hotel rooms and wanting the best deal, I had booked us a room at the Springhill Suites in Lawrence, Kansas, which added about an hour onto the trip. We also didn't want to hit the various cities (Nashville,m St Louis and KC) at rush hour, so leaving late made things a little harder. For the most part, it was unremarkable except for being stuck on I-40 outside Statesville, NC for about an hour and a half at 1am. We did hit Nashville at morning rush hour, but Rebecca managed to make it through there with flying colors, even with the trailer (yep, we borrowed a trailer). 

We made it to St Louis around 3pm, avoiding rush hour, but we made a stop to buy a bicycle trailer off of a guy on Craigslist, so that made us even a little later. We pushed on and got through KC and into Lawrence around 8pm Eastern Time (7pm local time) and had just enough time to get the kids in the room and get them to bed. So in all, we spent 21 hours on the road that first day. The Springhill Suites was a decent hotel. The room was spacious and had a pull-out couch along with the 2 queen beds. We put the boys on the couch and Emma and Olivia in one of the beds. We had the pack-n-play for Irene. A nice touch was the fact that we were right on the Kansas River. All the rooms overlooked it and we were on the first floor, so there was a wide walkway right outside our window where you could go out and sit or stroll along the river. Once the kids were in bed, Rebecca and I got a hankering for some real food. We browsed the available places to eat on Google Maps and decided on a place called The Casbah Burger Stand.

When we looked at the menu, we were impressed by the sheer variety of items they had and how eccentric some of them seemed. "Poutine? Duck-fat Fries? Kobe Burger with truffle butter? We have GOT to try this place!" We made our choices and off I went to find it. It turns out that Lawrence is a pretty cool college town, not unlike Chapel Hill, NC. Their main drag (Massachusetts Street) is lined with eateries, eclectic shops and a few standard college-town chains (American Eagle, Gap, Chipotle, Buffalo Wild Wings, Starbucks...) It took me a few minutes to find it amongst all the people (what was everyone doing out at 9pm on a Wednesday???), but it wasn't too hard. I decided to just have a classic burger with duck-fat fries, and Rebecca got the Smoke Burger (minus the bacon, of course) with onion rings. We were not disappointed. The food was amazing! They cooked the burger however you wanted it, so I got mine rare. The guy warned me what rare meant 3 or 4 times before I convinced him I understood what I was ordering. Rebecca's I got medium. I thought my burger was perfect until... I tried Rebecca's. Holy cow, was that good. Still, I was able to console myself in the duck-fat fries. Truth be told, they weren't too different-tasting from regular fries, just a little richer with a... ducky(?) hint. Would I get them again? Probably, but I'd be interested in trying their regular fries just for comparison's sake. Rebecca's onion rings were excellent, too. Sitting on a bench beside the river certainly enhanced the atmosphere. With full bellies, we turned in for the night, intending to get on the road early for the remaining 7-8 hours to Franktown, CO. 

The morning found us late, as usual, since the alarm didn't go off, though it was only about 30 minutes this time. We dressed, packed and loaded the kids in the van and headed out to grab some coffee at the far-too-early hour of 7am. Ok, maybe not so early, but still... We were headed for the Starbucks I had seen the night before when Rebecca spotted a hole-in-the-wall shop called The Java Break. Always a sucker for a local coffee shop, we parked and ran in. Awesome. Simple, quirky, basement. Really good coffee, a Cereal Bar (as in, you choose your cereal and toppings, not a granola bar), paninis and other very cool stuff. Rebecca and I decided to grab breakfast there as well as coffee. She got biscuits and gravy with veggie sausage and I got a breakfast panini with veggie sausage. They were both fantastic. Well worth the stop and so glad Rebecca saw the place. Ultimately, I would say that Lawrence is an excellent stopover point on the drive out to Colorado and we will probably make it the regular one for us.

After Lawrence, everything else was downhill. Not "downhill" as in "went bad", but "downhill" as in "an easy coast to the finish." Well, actually it was uphill. And we were pulling a trailer, so we didn't coast. The rest of Kansas was... Kansas. 
The scenery throughout most of Kansas. 
We did think this was a little funny with the giant windmills around the little one.

Long, mostly straight (though not flat like people expect), and imperceptibly climbing up to the high plateau that is Eastern Colorado. Crossing that Kansas/Colorado border is always a bit of a let-down since it still a couple hundred miles of mostly flat prairie, though it does have its own subtle beauty. However, there's nothing out there but land and more land. There's a reason why Flagler, CO has big signs offering free land...
We didn't take a picture of the Welcome to Colorado sign, so we borrowed Google's. Can you see the mountains in the distance? No? Hmm... When we first made this drive, we had about the same reaction these people had. Then we realized that nothing had changed and wouldn't for about 150 miles.

Once we reached Limon and got on CO-86 headed toward Kiowa, Elizabeth and ultimately Franktown, the landscape gradually became more what we were accustomed to: pine and cottonwood groves, rolling hills and ranch-land. We rolled into Franktown around 3pm and were very happy to be there. I have to brag about how good the kids were on the trip. 21 hours in the car is a long time for an adult, let alone a 9-,5-,4-,2- and 1-year old in cramped conditions belted into 5-point harnesses for the entire ride. There was very little drama and all were in relatively good spirits throughout the long journey.

No comments: