It was Friday morning and time to start heading back to Denver. Our first flight leading us home was on Saturday morning.
One of my team leads and his wife, both colleagues of mine, live in Denver and invited us over Friday evening. So we just had the daytime hours to finish up all our adventures!
We had no plans for the day, other than taking Interstate 70 back to Denver, Colorado.
We knew we had a new annual National Park’s pass so I scoured the maps to see if there was anything to see on the way that was covered by that pass. I found Colorado National Monument wasn’t too far from our route and promised a scenic drive. Let’s do it!
First, I have to say, I70 is fast! The speed limit in northern Utah was 80 miles per hour! That’s 129 km/hr. Who needs to drive that fast!? It was the first Interstate route we navigated on this trip. It worked to get us across half of Colorado quickly, but we prefer backroads and less traffic. Frankly, a ton of traffic is a bit of a shock when you live in the sparsely populated Yukon!
The Colorado National Monument Park was a small-scale version of the parks we had seen already this week, with amazing views, red rock cliffs, curvy and hilly roads, but this park had SHEEP!
And a small tunnel! Tunnels are fun, and we drove through a few of them on this trip!
The morning was cool with nice sun. The forecast ahead in Denver was much colder though so we put pants on for the first time since arriving in Denver!
It was sad to learn that people had died here, blasting out the rock to make this scenic drive. Their names are shared on this plaque.
There are several hikes in the park, and not too many visitors on this Friday morning at the end of October.
Unlike the other parks we’d been to, this one had a second entrance, so you could just take the scenic drive and exit out the other end an hour later (depending on how much you stopped to take pictures or hike).
We were right near Grand Junction, Colorado, which is a pretty big and busy city. And they had a Cabala’s! So we stopped in to see if Jeff could find some new shoes. His were slightly too small and bothering his feet. He found some!
Then we had a quick fast food lunch and headed back out on the highway towards Denver.
The digital signs hung over the highway kept warning of snow, but with very little detail. Just super ominous signs saying “Be Prepared” and “Winter Storm Forecasted”. People had been vaguely mentioning to us all week that snow was overdue and it was coming but every time I checked the forecast, no snow was in it. Were we about to get buried around the next corner? Or is this just a seasonal warning? We had no clue!
We got to go through several more tunnels on I70 this day, including the Eisenhower – Johnson tunnels! The elevation where these tunnels are is over 11,000 ft!
The nice feature of using GPS navigation (we were using Apple Maps on my phone with the truck’s Car Pay system to display on its huge sceen on the centre dashboard), is it tells you your expected arrival time. We discovered we were going to get to the city an hour before we needed to, so we had time to go to Leadville, Colorado! It is another old mining town that is really high in elevation – 10,152 feet! I updated our route to zip down on Highway 24 and back up 91 to return to the I70.
Before we got to the turn-off to Leadville, there was another road with a closed section, through a pass, due to snow. We were starting to see fresh snow on the peaks around us, but nothing down at our level. Digging into it more, I found that pass closes every winter, so we are unsure if it actually had snow today.
The road to Leadville was very busy, narrow, curvy, but scenic! There were beautiful trees, some farming, and this old mine and its houses tucked inside one of the curves:
Leadville was a bit unexpected. I was expecting a historical mining town. And half of it was. With old storefronts and old little houses with character.
But then there was an entire other half of brand new houses and townhouses and it was very much in contrast. The town was very busy, and seemingly growing significantly?
We didn’t have time to explore much, but drove through and back again.
From many of the hiking YouTube series we watch, we knew about the Melazana clothing that is made here that hikers rave about. I decided to hop out of the truck for a moment to see the store.
If you don’t know of this company, they manufacture lightweight fleece sweaters mostly, right there in the old warehouse-like store on Leadville’s main street.
I don’t know if I should congratulate their clever ingenuity in finding a unique way to make themselves popular? Or if I should just stay entirely annoyed at it. You can only shop by appointment at this store.
Next available appointment?
You see they want to be able to keep up with demand, and in essence, have created an artificially manipulated demand.
You can have two appointments per year, and you can only buy two items at each appointment.
I was greeted at the door and was told I could shop to my right, where there were a few factory seconds available. Or, I was welcome to explore all of the store. But I wouldn’t be allowed to buy anything. You can’t shop online either.
I browsed the items available to me but didn’t have any interest in buying any. They look like homemade polar fleece shirts. I know people adore them. I guess I’m not hip enough to get in on the trend.
Wouldn’t it make more sense to hire more people to sew so you can sell more and make more income? What do I know.
After Leadville we headed back north to get back on the highway and head to Golden.
I didn’t take a single picture at Cat & Westi’s house! What is wrong with me? It was Friday night, so they had a couple of friends over, with their kids so they could all play together, while the adults ate pizza and played that Mexican train domino game! We had a really fun time and it was hard to force ourselves to leave! But we knew we had to get across Denver to the airport area where I had a hotel reservation, and to reorganize our suitcases and fill in our advance declaration for the border. So we hugged our goodbyes and plotted our Apple Maps to guide us across the city at night.
The next morning we woke up to SNOW! A few inches of it!!
The roads were hard-packed ice under it, with slushy snow on top of it. Yuck!
Before we could fly out, we had to return the rental truck. I had made arrangements so it could be dropped off at the airport to save any hassle. The Denver airport is WAY WAY far from downtown Denver.
The hotel was quite close to the airport, thank goodness, because who wants to drive in snow. We almost forgot to fuel up the tank though! Luckily, there was a gas station just a block or so away from the Budget return lot. Budget had a shuttle bus too, that was waiting for us at the perfect time, so we hopped out of the truck and onto a bus.
The Denver airport is a busy one, and because I can’t use my Nexus card to fast truck security if all members of my travelling party aren’t also carrying a Nexus card, I had to go in the normal security line with
all the peasants Jeff.
We had some time to kill at the airport, so I had another pumpkin spice chai latte, as one does in America, and then we boarded for Vancouver.
We had 4 hours in Vancouver, but that was plenty of time to chat with the border agent (had to declare those two cans of hot & spicy Spam that Jeff found in an American Walmart as imported meat!) (It was no trouble.).
Then we boarded our next flight that evening for Whitehorse!!
When the plane was fully boarded and pulling away from the gate, the captain told us that the weather conditions in Whitehorse weren’t good. He said there are minimum conditions which must be met to attempt a landing, and they were right at it now. He said they’d try though.
So we flew to Whitehorse for 2.5 hours. And we started our descent. I’m glued to the window (I’m in a window seat).
As we descend through the clouds, the sky clears for awhile. I can see through the darkness that there is a thick layer of fog right on the ground. We keep descending and enter the fog.
As we keep going down, I’m glued to the window, expecting to see the street lights pop through at any time.
Only they didn’t.
We kept going and going and going and then we pulled up!
We were still going pretty slow, but clearly no longer descending. Then we could see a big hole in that fog layer right over Whitehorse’s downtown. Would we turn and try again, descending through that hole first?
Turns out they put exactly the amount of fuel in the plane that ensures only one landing attempt and the full route back to Vancouver.
So if we tried again, we couldn’t get back to Vancouver. And where else were we going to land?
So we went all the way back to Vancouver!!
It was after midnight when we landed. They had us all get off the plane and gather around the gate. The airport was practically deserted and I’m sure the few gate agents they gathered for us were working after hours.
Being a weather-related incident, I’m pretty sure Air Canada owed us nothing. But as we waited, they printed vouchers for each of us – for a hotel room that night, taxi fare to and from the hotel, and $30 each in vouchers for airport food! Thank-you Air Canada!! (how often do you ever hear anyone say that, and mean it!?)
They put us up in the Sandman Signature hotel and rebooked our flight for 10:30am the next day. That sounded great! Except then we were going to miss our scheduled flight with Air North to Dawson. And we wouldn’t be checking into our Whitehorse hotel. And we’d both need to miss work on Monday. And we’d be a day late picking up Hank. So we made the necessary arrangements and went to sleep at the Sandman. I was so tired I went to bed without dinner, but Jeff zipped next door to the 24 hour Denny’s for a really late dinner.
The next morning we had to re-check our luggage and go through security again.
Without my precious Nexus card again.
And this time, it didn’t go well.
First my crotch lit up the full body scanning machine.
That meant they needed to pat me down. And then scan me again. And again, my crotch set off the machine.
So they did another pat down and then they used the swab thing to take swabs of my hands, which also set off the alarms, testing positive for something! The only thing on my hands was the hotel lotion.
Then the supervisor had to start filling out a sheet about me on a clipboard. All of my carry-on luggage had to be emptied and every item had to be swabbed. Nothing tested positive so they eventually let me go on my way. The whole while Jeff was standing on the sidelines, kinda snickering at the whole thing. I wasn’t. I did not enjoy it. Not even the frisking. Glad we got to the airport early!
There were a couple of other people on the flight from Dawson too, Tony and Michael, so we chatted with them for an hour waiting to board the plane, reminiscing about our aborted landing the night before.
This time our flight landed in Whitehorse! Along the way my uncle Jeff sent me this screenshot:
Denver’s game, just one week later, was going to be freezing cold with snow!? Ha!!! Were we lucky or what!?
We then had about 24 hours in a terrible hotel in Whitehorse waiting for our rebooked flight on Monday. There wasn’t even wifi. The horror! And then they refused to give us a late check-out, so we just went to the airport early a few hours before our flight and waited there instead of on the streets.
And we made it home! Hank was at the shelter boarding, and he was fine (and oddly calm – exhausted from the puppies also at the shelter?). Sally was a bit standoffish but she was great because I had two friends stop by every day and sometimes twice a day to feed her wet food (her preference in her senior years!). Thank-you Cass and Nicole!
The house was good. The pipes didn’t freeze. It didn’t even snow while we were gone.
What a perfect vacation!!
I’m working on one more post to wrap up this trip. Coming soon!