We sat outside all evening until the sky grew dark, the  stars started twinkling and the mountains became giant shadows in the skyline.  The hummingbirds had stopped flitting at the feeders and a bat was flying around looking for a tasty morsel.  Dinner was chicken burgers and a Coors Light, of course.  An evening cup of tea was just the right drink after a post-dinner walk around the campground.  We were told to stay close to camp at this time in the evening because there are cougars about.  Sweet!  Leon had his camera ready for all kinds of pictures – the hummingbirds, the cacti, the large ant hills and of course, the mountains.

We arrived here after driving south-west for about 4 hours with many stops on the way.  We left Matt’s house in north east Denver around 11am and went in search of a distillery.  Leon has been investigating a new business idea so we stopped at Downslope Distilleries and had a great chat with the owner.  I had a wee dram of the spirit but it was a bit early in the day to fully appreciate its flavour.  From there we continued on to the Gardens of the Gods, a large group of rock formations that reminded me in some ways of Uluru and the Olgas. The area is located just past Colorado Springs which has suffered from major forest fires lately.  It was not unusual to see signs thanking firefighters for saving their home.

As we drove further south west, we started to really see the Colorado we had invisioned, all green and mountainous.  The most impressive view came as we drove down from a high pass (over 10,000 ft) into this large high plain – a huge area where you could imagine Plains Indians living centuries ago.  Today, there are a few fences, some cattle, horses and the odd house.  And on the horizon, another chain of mountains with even higher peaks.  So this is where we stopped for the night.  We couldn’t think of a more beautiful setting.

When we drove into Denver on Wed, we arrived from the east where Colorado is quite flat.  Leon and I had a bet going as to when we would see  the mountains.  He lost, but really, it was only about 20 miles out that I finally spotted the shadow of a peak or two.  The haze and smoke from the recent fires really were apparent.  We got to Matt’s house with little trouble, thanks to Bruce, our GPS.  Here was another surprise.  We knew Matt loves to hunt and fish and he had told us he had a few animal heads on his walls.  We expected some log cabin in the woods.  Instead we found a lovely bungalow with great landscaping outside and tidy decor inside – where the rooms had different themes such as the moose themed bathroom and the duck theme ensuite.  Yes, there are various animal heads on his walls and a large zebra skin too.  And yes, he did shoot them himself.  It might sound a bit much, but it all works.  Of course, the view of the mountains from his yard is great too.

On Thu, we had to get the camper checked out.  We lost power twice on the road the day before.  We weren’t sure if it was the battery or the alternator or maybe the fridge was shorting something.  So we went to a local garage and had a bit of a tune up including buying a new battery.  Then it was Matt’s turn to get a few car parts to repair a problem with his truck.  We drove down Broadway which is in a part of town that starts off rather rough but has some interesting antique and second hand shops.  We got to look in the windows because there was a wicked traffic jam caused by construction. But what surprised me the most were the signs for medicinal marijuana.  They are common, advertise new stock or low prices, etc.  Now that is different!!

Once the car errands were done, we finally drove downtown to see 16th street – a large walking mall, and LoDo (lower downtown).  We saw the Brown Palace, Denver’s oldest running hotel, Union station, which is being renovated into a hotel and shops while the new station is being built beside it, the state capitol building with its real gold dome, Coors stadium (baseball mecca to some) and several breweries.  We stopped for lunch at one microbrewery and enjoyed a great meal and good conversation.  We talked about the friends we made in Australia, other exchange teachers, and decided to plan a trip to the UK for next July.  We’d love to surprise them all there.  Matt had us laughing with his stories about how hated he felt when visiting Australia, Korea and other countries.  He told us that from his arrival in Australia, others told him to just say he was Canadian.  But he wanted to show everyone that Americans are good people too.  About 2 weeks before he left Melbourne, he had a small accident with his car.  The lady in the other car got out and when she heard his accent, asked where he was from.  He thought quickly of all the trouble he was going to get into if he admitted he was a “hated” American.  So he told her he was Canadian!!!  What a hoot!!

balancing rock – also in the garden of the gods
buena vista Colorado
cactus in bloom
hazy mountains
kissing camels
looks like a promotional shot for our Roadtrek – garden of the gods, again
garden of the gods
brewery lunch Denver
the brown palace lobby – the iron lace reminds us of Bendigo
In front of Coyote Ugly – a bucket list item for Leon? We did go in and I bought a shot glass for my daughter. I really don’t want her to go in there personally.
the civic bldg viewed from the Capitol bldg
Capitol bldg, Denver – the dome is solid gold
On step 13 of the Capitol, you are supposed to be exactly 1 mile above sea level. That’s Matt in the middle.
Matt and Leon stopped a guy on the street for info. It looked like a blue shirt conference was in town.
ice house Denver
union station Denver
matt’s house