Serenaded by John Denver’s Ghost

Even though we’ve lived here for more than three years now, it’s still weird to think we can just hop in the car and find ourselves in Colorado a few hours later. But we can. And we did.

Fort Collins is an easy five-hour drive from Rapid City. Easy but boring: let’s just say there isn’t a lot to see driving across the Wyoming plains. But the weather, at least, kept things interesting.

We set out mid-afternoon on Friday and narrowly dodged thunderstorms the entire way. But then the clouds magically parted, and we arrived just as the sun was setting over the Rocky Mountains.

You could practically hear the ghost of John Denver crooning songs about Colorado. “I’ve seen it rainin’ fire in the sky” was never more apropos.

The reason for our getaway, by the way, was to stock up on essentials from Trader Joe’s. The closest location is Fort Collins, so we like to get down there once or twice a year to fill the pantry and freezer with essentials. Like steel cut oatmeal and chile lime chicken burgers and dark chocolate peanut butter cups and pork shu mai.

What can I say? It’s an eclectic shopping list.

The fact that this was a three-day holiday weekend was a bonus. Gives us an extra day at home to relax and recover.

Saturday was spent driving and exploring. We took Highway 34 from Loveland to Estes Park, through Big Thompson Canyon. We didn’t hit Rocky Mountain National Park because they are limiting the number of visitors. Reservations were required for timed entrances, and we were just kind of winging it. Not that we were lacking in scenery.

Then, we hit Highways 7 to 72 to 119 (are you keeping track?) down to Boulder, with a pit stop in a charming mountain town called Nederland for cocktails and a plate of nachos.

I was excited to check out Boulder. Located in the foothills of the Flatirons, it’s known for its scenery, liberalism, and mix of galleries, brewpubs, cafes, and boutiques. A major scene in my novel, No Time for Kings, takes place in Boulder…even though I’d never been. You know what else is in Boulder? The house from Mork & Mindy.

I loved that show growing up. So much that I had a plastic yellow Mork & Mindy lunch box I used to haul to school every day. Not to mention trading cards and stickers. It was pretty exciting to see it in person.

What can I say? I’m easily amused.

Sure enough, Boulder was a pretty interesting place. We wandered the Pearl Street Mall for a couple of hours. The people-watching (a fave pastime) was great, as was the entertainment. We ducked into a pub for a couple of drinks before heading back to Loveland. Boulder reminded me a bit of Portland…but the Portland of a dozen years ago, before it all went to hell.

We grabbed dinner at Rock Bottom Brewery just a stone’s throw from our hotel in Loveland before calling it a night.

Sunday, after breakfast, we hit up Trader Joe’s and a couple of liquor stores before returning home. The drive back was uneventful; we got home around 5:30 and had a chill evening.

Today, we’re just hanging around the house. Going to grill some baby back ribs and try to stay cool (mid-90s expected).

Happy Labor Day to those not laboring!

35 thoughts on “Serenaded by John Denver’s Ghost

  1. Your pictures just enhance the reason my daughter chose to transfer to Colorado! I cannot imagine being surrounded by scenery like this every day right outside my door. The Cascades really pale in comparison in my opinion. I love TJ’s, but really…5 hours. I get cranky because I have to drive 20 minutes to my closest store!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Your daughter made a great move! I agree with you. Love the Cascades, but the Rockies are even more dramatic.

      As far as TJs goes…you don’t understand. I used to walk there every weekend for years. I always had my favorites on hand. I’d go through withdrawals if I couldn’t get this stuff!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s a hot commodity when you have to travel three states to get there! TJs is in a class by itself. I miss it more than any other place in the PNW.

      But, as you point out, we do have pretty great cheese curds out here! I’d make that trade with you…

      Liked by 1 person

  2. We drove across Wyoming from Yellowstone to Rapid City. It was the most boring drive of my life. Except for seeing the population signs of 11 or so. Why make the sign??

    Remember when we were supposed to visit RMNP last year? I’m still bitter.I’m glad you got pictures of that cool church in the middle of nowhere. Great scenery!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There’s a town in the Black Hills with a population of three. And yes, there’s a sign!

      I do remember that. Hope you guys can make it out that way sometime in the near future. Tara and I are talking about spending 4-5 days out there and visiting the park, instead of a quick weekend trip. Maybe next year.


      1. Actually, if I wanted to kill you, I could tell you that I don’t shop at any of them. Worse still: I often go there with my neighbor and STILL don’t buy anything.
        I really am the worst.


  3. We drove that route last year when we were in Estes Park. Gorgeous! As for Trader Joe’s, we get the pork shu mai, too! Also, no Trader Joe’s trip is ever complete (for me) without a stop by their dried fruit aisle. Sound boring? Normally, it would be, but their candied coconut strips and candied ginger are out of this world. It’s a problem, actually, because I can inhale an entire bag in one sitting. Ergo, I don’t go to TJ’s often.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Candied coconut strips? I have to admit, I did not know that was a thing. I even walked right past the dried fruit aisle, and thought, what’s the point? Well. Now I know!

      We’re going to be in Omaha next month. Omaha has a TJ’s. Hmm…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. At the risk of giving you WAY too much info, they sell two kinds of candied ginger: round slices that have been coated in visible sugar and amorphous blobs that have sugar but it’s not visible on the blobs. They’re both good, but I prefer the amorphous blobs.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. In the UK you could easily spend 5 hours driving less than a 100 miles – say a journey from SE London to SW and then 50 miles or so on the M25… I’m intrigued though, by drinking and driving in the US. I thought you guys were a lot more strict – cocktails and then jumping back in the car would be frowned upon here. Or are these “mocktails”? I used to be really careful about alcohol and driving when I was in the US, even that weakly stuff labelled “beer”


    1. It’s just a beer or two over several hours before getting back in the car. Nowhere near enough to raise your blood alcohol level significantly. It’s like, if you go wine tasting. You’re not going to camp out at the winery overnight…you just have to enjoy in moderation.


  5. No offense….but: Portland has NOT “gone to hell”. Don’t believe the NAY-sayers or the news.

    Portland is FINE. Still beautiful, still fun, still safe, still full of cool places to eat and drink.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Becky. Admittedly, I’m going by what I’ve heard from friends and family members still living there. A lot of people are unhappy with the direction PDX has gone…but I’ll have to see for myself when we get out there next spring. I hope it’s still the fun and vibrant place I remember!


  6. What a fun trip to Trader Joe’s!
    I feel bad knowing I have one that is about 25 minutes away and I never go.
    I also loved Mork & Mindy and I think Boulder is a cute and charming little town.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Ahhh I miss my Trader Joes. Let me see how far my nearest one here in Arkansas is. Oh, Little Rock. So only 2 hrs 34 minutes. How do you get your frozen stuff back home on the 5 hour drive? Just in a regular cooler with ice or do they make more high-tech, efficient ways to transport frozens nowadays? lol

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Amazing! I know nothing about traveling all over the country, what a wonderful looking place to explore.
    Visit website: “

    Liked by 1 person

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