We started out on Friday August 3rd, 2012 in the early afternoon. The goal was to get out of the state and into Georgia for the night. Then we would drive straight through from Saturday morning to Sunday night and sleep in Estes Park, CO.
Crazy, I know. We had a destination and a set route in mind for our trip, and there wasn’t a moment to waste. We even bypassed visiting my sister and her family in Oklahoma, something for which she still razes me for.
As we drove North through the Panhandle, we decided to bypass GA and swing more into Alabama. We wanted to avoid the rush hour traffic on the major highways and instead took county routes through Alabama.
It was about this time that the Trailblazer’s check engine light came on. Thankfully we were already plugged into the PCM with the scangauge and able to Google the code. I forget the specific P code, but she was running rich for some reason. We cleared the code twice more before she finally settled down.
As night came we made the decision to just push through the night. We had a backup plan of staying in Kansas, near the Colorado border. Our decision to push through meant reaching the Ozarks just as the sun began to rise behind us on Saturday morning.
It was absolutely refreshing to see mountains again! You don’t realize how much you appreciate something till you don’t have it anymore, and we both missed mountains while living in flat Florida. We felt invigorated and continued to push on!
By mid-day Saturday, the novelty of the flat Kansas plains was beginning to wear thin. We were making great time though, so we decided to push on to Denver and try to find a place to stay in Estes Park that night.
We ended up coming upon Denver just as the sun was setting behind the Rockies. I (JorDanée) had never been further West than Oklahoma, so my idea of “mountains” was limited to the Appalachians. So I was in complete awe of the size and beauty of the Rockies. It was so amazing to see the Rockies shadowed giants, standing shoulder to shoulder, backlit by the setting sun. The clouds were a fiery red, adding to the stark contrast.
I was in love!
We made it into Estes Park after 10pm Saturday (36 hours straight from Florida), and by some miracle found the last available room in the entire town. A part of us wishes we had stayed in Estes Park longer, especially to see the drive up from Boulder to Estes Park in daylight. It was a windy, curvy climb in elevation, and we could hear the sound of a bubbling stream often. Pretty sure we saw an outline of an old water wheel at one point as well.
Sunday dawned bright and chilly, a drastic change from the 80+ degree humid Florida weather, and we and the Trailblazer loved it. Not sure what it was, but once we crossed into Colorado we noticed a significant increase in our mpg, from 16 to 19+, which lasted until we started having some real fun in Moab.
Our initial drive into Rocky Mountain National Forest was pleasant. We stopped to take in some sites, meet some creatures, and just enjoy the view. Our trip seemed to have truly begun!
Once we made it to the top of the Trail Ridge, we decided to head back down and find the dirt trail Old Fall River Road. It wasn’t too hard to find. Just follow the stock Jeeps. 😉
The Old Fall River Road is a one-way road that is passable for almost any car. It offered some spectacular sights and a few great photo opportunities. After all, we bought two new cameras for this trip, and we were going to get the most use out of them.
The Old Fall River Road also provided us with our first opportunity to see what it would be like to air down our tires and test the General Grabber ATs. We took several of the switchbacks at a higher speed with tight cornering and the tires held really well. She felt solid the whole way up and the ride itself was extremely smooth. It felt like we were on blacktop honestly, much to our amusement as we passed one Jeep that was getting bounced around quite a bit.
Once back at the top, we aired up, answered a few questions of what we were doing, and took in more sites. We stayed on the Trail Ridge Road until we came to Granby, CO. There we picked up I-70 and headed for Grand Junction. Our destination for the night was a little National park tucked away just South of Grand Juntion.
As we neared Grand Junction we noticed the rock getting consistently red and the landscape was becoming more dry and arid. However, Grand Junction and Fruita are nestled in a green valley surrounded on all sides by some of the most beautiful red rock.
We made our way directly towards Colordao Monument National Park where we discovered a gem of national parks. I (JorDanée) instantly fell in love with red rock. It was an amazing end to the first day of our trip.