Colorado Vacation: Part 2 – A Good Day in Denver

This is a multi-part trip report. If you haven’t already, you should start with Part 1. Remember that you can click on any of the photos to see larger versions of them.

First on Saturday’s to-do list: the final exam for my world religions class. It was a Saturday-only, timed test, so I settled in to use the free wifi at the front of the state park’s Visitors’ Center. What began as a quiet spot quickly became more distracting, as the visitors’ center opened and all the reservation disputes and campground arguments from the night before began to appear at the front door. Have you ever tried to write an essay comparing Jainism and Sikhism while sitting on the ground ten feet from a guy who’s been kicked out of a building for arguing over campground reservations?

I almost got an A. Under the circumstances, I thought an 88% was pretty good.

After a snack at Starbucks and a visit to the REI customer service counter to return Bryan’s de-laminating Chacos, we enjoyed browsing through their ‘flagship’ Denver store. It’s beautiful. We got the items on our list, and enjoyed people-watching in a place where most of the customers are slim and happy-looking and have good bags and interesting shoes.

Next, we rented bikes from a B-cycle kiosk next to the REI store. (It’s $5 each for a days’ membership, and rental is free if you keep the bikes for a half-hour or less.) We rode from REI to the Patagonia store downtown, and ate lunch at Noodles and Company

We rode a few miles on the bike/pedestrian trail, getting on city streets only long enough to find another kiosk, turn in our bikes, and check them out again.  The trail system in Denver is great (7mb PDF) – there’s lots of trail completely separated from car and truck traffic. The busier trail we were on even separated bikes from pedestrians for a portion of its length.

It was fun to be part of bike traffic in a place where bike traffic is accepted. Nobody acted as if we were out of place, even when we were on city streets. There were lots of other bikes everywhere – on the streets, on the trails, parked in front of stores and restaurants.

The B-cycles themselves are pretty neat. They’re three-speed, with easily adjustable seat, generator-powered lights and baskets for your things. They’re sort of ugly and not what I’d want to ride for hours every day. But they’re comfortable and work really well for what they’re designed to do.

After turning in our B-cycles, we headed through the mountains toward Grand Lake. We spent a lot of time on the phone at this very pretty gas station in Winter Park. Our credit card was locked up due to ‘suspicious charges’. (Apparently, the VISA company didn’t mind that we’d been making large purchases in states where we don’t live – but the three $5 charges at B-cycle freaked them out.) We bought groceries at a super-fancy Safeway and stopped at a thrift store to look for ski poles to make into bike polo mallets.

And then we were in Grand Lake, just before dark.

We drove through town and into the National Park, looking for the west-side car-campground. By moonlight, we saw the plumes of campfire smoke before we saw the campground sign.