Colorado Vacation – Day 7

Day 7:

  • Left camp around 8:30
  • Gas stop in Golden (15.5mpg)
  • Drove to Blackhawk to start the Peak to Peak scenic byway
  • Took a side-trip up near “Dakota Hill”
  • Lunch and playtime at the elementary school playground in Estes Park
  • Set up camp and nap time
  • Back into town for a trip on an an aerial tram and dinner
  • Back to camp to relax

Today was mostly a travel and relaxation day. We left town pretty early and took the scenic route up to Estes Park. I learned today why I see so many 3/4 ton trucks out here pulling popups. My Dakota has a 4.7L V8 engine and is rated to tow almost 6000 lbs. It’s no slouch – the engine makes 235 horsepower and 295 ft-lbs of torque, and can do zero to 60 in about 7 seconds. Loaded up and ready to tow, I’m still under 50% of my tow rating. That being said, the truck really got a workout on I-70 West out of Denver. It spent a fair amount of time in 2nd gear cranking away to keep up with traffic in the slow lane. I could have maintained 65 mph, but I didn’t want to risking blowing it up. Even taking if fairly easy, the fan still came on to cool the engine, something that’s never happened before. Downhills were just fine, but the altitude combine with the grades made uphill a bit challenging. I certainly wouldn’t have wanted to have a bigger trailer or smaller tow vehicle.

We took the Peak to Peak scenic byway from Blackhawk up to Estes Park. The Dakota Mailing List club that we’re meeting up with next week plan to journey up to “Dakota Hill” (just because of the name), so we took a side trip up towards the top of that hill to scout it out ahead of time. We negotiated about 5 miles of narrow dirt road (not very rough) and got within about 2 miles from the top before discovering that the last road we needed was too rough to drag the trailer up. We continued up to Estes Park in time for lunch at a park and then headed to camp.

We’re staying at National Park Retreats for the next couple of days. It’s a fairly nice place. It’s more of camping-type of place than the center-for-stuffy-people-trying-to-convince-themselves-they’re-having-fun we were at before (which was still nice). This place if full of life – lots of kids, campfires, and a group of 8 teenagers trying to put up a 25 year old tent. Our site is a little screwed up, because it required backing up about 100 feet, past another site. It’s got plenty of room, but the electrical and water service is at the completely wrong end of the site, way closer to the neighboring site. I didn’t have a 30 amp extension cord to use, but they only have 15 amp service anyway. I had just enough regular extension cord to reach the outlet though. We can’t use the A/C (it needs 20 amps), but that’ll be OK. It’s supposed to being very cool at night, but it was 95 degrees when we arrived. I’m a wuss when it comes to heat though, which is one of the reasons we got the camper in the first place. It also just so happens that our next-door camp neighbors lived in Pekin, IL for quite some time, and noticed the “Peoria” on my license plate frame!

After Evan took a nap we went back into town, where we found an aerial tram to ride. It was a nice ride and a nice view, and Evan enjoyed it. We found a little pizza place, grabbed a bite to eat, grabbed a few groceries and headed back to camp to relax for the evening.

Some more observations:

  • A lot of Subarus – I’ve never seen such a high percentage of Subarus on the road, which is not surprising with the mountain weather
  • Brakelights – it’s amazing how many people don’t know how to drive down a mountain. We saw a lady at a visitor’s center who was asking whether it was OK to continue to the next town to get her minivan’s brakes fixed after she roasted them on the highway.
  • Lots of pull offs – there were plenty of opportunities for us to pull off the road to let the traffic behind us pass
  • A campground with free wifi – woo hoo! That’s good, because the cell phone doesn’t work.
  • Lots of tent and popup campers – it’s nice to be among them
  • Little girls collecting pine cones, and a pine cone that fell on my truck and stayed there for miles
  • Very sparse facial hair – I haven’t been shaving on vacation, so we’ll see what happens
  • McGregor Mountain, towering over our campsite

I’m also uploading some more pictures until to today.

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