Saturday, December 31, 2005

LA to Colorado Springs to LA to San Diego to LA

So I'm back from driving 3,000 miles over nine days. Here's the trip report.

We left on Wednesday, Dec 21st to Las Vegas where we stayed with the in laws. Traffic was much worse than normal as we left around 3:30pm and didn't make in to Vegas until nearly 10pm.

Las Vegas to Vail, Thursday, Dec 22nd. Got up and left at 6:30am. It's been at least 15 years since I've been north of Vegas on I-15. We hit the Virgin River Gorge in Arizona which is a breathtaking drive. They canyon is a little more narrow than most passages and can seem a bit claustrophobic.

Stopped for gas in Cedar City and then made the turn on I-70. There's a segment of I-70 between Salina and Green River of about 110 miles where there are no gas stations, restaurants or hotels. There's a 40 mile stretch after you come down out of the mountains east bound that is simply spectacular. It's not on any map but I suspect it's under BLM management. I would suspect this is part of the formation that makes up Capitol Reef National Park to the south. You also pass over Eagle Canyon. It's a great drive.

One thing that made this trip so pleasant was XM Radio. I bought it last March because I drive so much between Vegas and LA and I also wanted to listen to my beloved SF Giants. I listen to CNN most of the time but when Aerin is with me, she's in charge of the music. Cross country trips in the old days were hell because you'd listen to all your CD's and then be at the mercy of AM/FM radio signals. I wasn't sure what the value is of subscribing to satellite radio but I can say now I am a fan and would recommend it to anyone who spends a lot of time in the car.

We stopped in Green River, UT for lunch at Ray's Tavern. Ray's was recommended to me by two people and it's really the only decent place to eat on I-70 in Utah. Green River is not much of a town and in fact I-70 pretty much bypasses it but you have to stop there to get gas. The 1/2 pound burger was excellent. It's on the south side of the main drag as you come into town and it's on a side street. Blink and you'll miss it.

Then it was off to Glenwood Springs for gas and a stop at Gart Sports to buy a new Camelback for Aerin. It was dark by now and we still had another 60 miles to go. With the time change, a couple stops for gas, and an hour for lunch, we rolled into the Vail Cascade resort at 6:30pm. We did about 660 miles around nine hours of driving time.

I had booked the Vail Cascade resort through Hotwire and got a $300 hotel room for about $150 including tax. It's a four star resort but because it was right before Christmas, it wasn't crowded. The customer service was fantastic and it was well worth the value. Aerin hit the gym, I had a few beers and watched the OU basketball team tank it against West Virginia. We went to the village and had dinner at Lancelot's. It was okay. We then hit the outdoor hot tub and heated pool before going to sleep.

Skiing in Vail and then off to Colorado Springs, Friday December 23rd. Six inches of snow fell overnight at the resort with much more at the upper elevations. Morning skiing was fantastic as the conditions were just right. The resort workers said it was the best December in Vail in over 10 years and I have no doubt they were right. We went over to the back side of the mountain and made it over to Blue Sky Basin where it started to get really windy. We came back up to the Two Elks Lodge for lunch and by the time we where through, they had closed off the back part of the mountain and the top of the main mountain because of wind. It took a while to traverse across to the mountain to the Cascade lodge and by then it was the end of the day. We loaded up and headed to Colorado Springs.

Traffic was very bad coming down on I-70 from Frisco until Idaho Springs. My sister said it was because all the college kids were home and they were getting in some skiing before the holidays.

We made it to Colorado Springs in time for dinner with Corinne, Peter, and my niece Meilan and then it was off to bed.

Skiing in Winter Park, Friday December 24th. Yes we skiing on Christmas Eve. After a delay in the morning, we made up to Winter Park. It was pretty clear and making it over Berthoud Pass, we got to Winter Park and got on the mountain. Winter Park is part of the Intrawest family and since we're MVP passholders at Mammoth Mountain, we got 1/2 price lift tickets for Winter Park. I had heard a lot about WP and it was a very good mountain. I got over to Mary Jane which was also good.

Traffic was clear on the way back to Colorado Springs and we had a lovely dinner on Christmas Eve.

Xmas in Colorado Springs. Meilan was up early and was prime for presents. Of course, she got everything she wanted. Lots of Barbies. We took a drive around Colorado Springs to see where Aerin lived when she was very little. Saw lots of deer. Christmas dinner was wonderful and afterwards I watched "Fever Pitch" with Jimmy Fallon and Drew Barrymore. As a baseball fan, I enjoyed it and this was the first time I really liked Drew Barrymore in a film.

Skiing in Copper Mountain and overnight in Grand Junction, December 26th. Made it to Copper and on the mountain by 10am. I heard great things about Copper and it certainly did not disappoint. Copper is part of the Intrawest family so again we got 1/2 price tickets. Afterwards, we drove to Grand Junction where we stayed at the Grand Vista Hotel (exit 31). I booked it for $45.80 on Expedia the night before (the rack rate I heard when we checked in was $59). Grand Vista was probably par for the course in Grand Junction. There was an indoor pool and hot tub along with requisite families and obnoxious kids.

Arches National Park, Moab, and back to Vegas, December 27th. We stopped off at Arches National Park which is about 45 miles south of Exit 214 going westbound on I-70. That takes you down the Colorado River and a breathtaking drive into Moab. During the summer, I can see how it would be so crowded with campers and RV's but in the winter it was wide open. Arches was very beautiful and I recommend it highly. Since we weren't spending too much time there, we did the easy hikes and took a lot of pics. Lunch was at the Moab Diner ("the best green chili in Utah"). I had the ham and cheese omlette which was big and plentiful. After that, we hightailed back to Las Vegas.

Vegas to LA, December 28th. We did a late gift exchange with the in laws and ended up back in LA at 8pm, just in time to stock up the fridge from Trader Joe's. I got "The Bridge Over the River Kwai" from Netflix and watched it. It's a classic but it's been years since I've seen it. Not one of my top films of all time but you can see what a great director that Daivd Lean was. "Lawrence of Arabia" is one of my favorite films of all time.

LA to San Diego and the Holiday Bowl, December 29th. So after a short turnaround, I headed down to San Clemente to meet up with my friend from all the way back in Junior High, Maria (Molina) Hazelquist and her husband Hugh to head down to Qualcomm Stadium to watch OU vs Oregon in the Holiday Bowl. OU has had a disappointing season but we're looking good for 2006 and beyond. Bomar has come into his own and Peterson is still the best back in college football when healthy (yes, better than Reggie Bush). We got to the game about 7 minutes in just in time to see OU kick a field goal. Oregon moved the ball well in the 2nd quarter - big yardage on 1st down and throwing on 2nd and short and took the lead. But OU played very well in the third quarter to take the lead only to try and give it back. But the defense held and we won 17 - 14. After many beers, Maria put me up at her hotel, the Dana Point Marriott which is a very nice resort. I slept in and drove back to LA the next morning.


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