Full Steam(boat) Ahead!

Howdy folks! Long time no see!

We just got back from a wonderful trip to Colorado! I am going to share the painstaking details of our trip in this post for any of you who are interested (so … Mom, Dad, Nana … this one’s for you :)). I wrote the shell of this post while we were gone so that I could remember everything we did and filled in the details once we got back. We stayed pretty busy!

I will have a race recap up in a separate post (soon hopefully … in between laundry, unpacking and more laundry), so for any of you who don’t care about the details of my life and just want to read about running … hold tight for a little bit longer.

Edited to add: I’m not sure why, but my recap is showing up as an earlier post, even though I posted it after this one.

As a general overview: We took a 6 day trip to Steamboat Springs, Colorado. I think it was one of my favorite vacations to date! It was just long enough that I feel like we settled in and got a good lay of the land, but not too long that we ran out of things to do or got bored. We LOVED Steamboat and I could totally see myself living there (well … at least for a few months of the year). The temperature pretty much stayed in the sixties and seventies for the majority of our trip, which was perfect and there was even still some snow on the ground.

It was an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise and I definitely got my fill of the time in nature that I had been craving. I am typically a major homebody, but this trip definitely piqued some wanderlust that was stirring somewhere deep in my soul. Hopefully we will get the opportunity to wander around and explore more of the world (or at least the country) soon!

Day 1 (Travel Day): Our flight departed from New Orleans at 6 p.m. Wednesday evening. We left around 1 p.m. to ensure that we had plenty of time to get to the airport, find parking, etc. and in typical Daniel Gardner fashion we arrived at the airport about 3 hours before our  plane. We drove through some nasty weather and apparently flew out just in time to miss the next squall line that blew through the NOLA area. We had to adjust our flight path to avoid the storms as well, so the flight ended up being about 3.5 hours (instead of 3). Our pilot told us that if we had been delayed 10 more minutes, we wouldn’t have been able to make it out because the weather got so bad.

We definitely put our Garmin Virb camera to good use this trip. You will see lots of “selfie stick” pics included in this post and just a ton of pictures in general. I made most of them into collages so that they wouldn’t completely overtake the post.

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Not gonna lie, I was a tad skeptical of these $80 round trip flights that Daniel booked. I asked him a few times if he was sure that we had flights or if he had just paid for our baggage fee (side note: my bag didn’t exceed the 50 pound threshold for possibly the first time ever … major packing victory). We flew Frontier and as it turns out, yes, we actually had flights. On the front row! Seats 1A and 1B. We had a little turbulence and a couple of loud, chatty neighbors, overall the but flight was great! We got delayed on the tarmac once we arrived in Denver and all in all, we were about 2 hours later picking up our rental vehicle than we expected.

We drove off the lot in a Ford Expedition (we were supposed to have a “small” SUV) and first on the agenda was to get some food! Our options were very limited and we ended up getting dinner from a gas station right outside of Denver (side note: I DO NOT recommend eating an entire bag of dried fruit and a candy bar at 1 a.m. … learned that lesson the hard way). We then began the 3 hour drive to Steamboat Springs. We drove from midnight to 3 a.m. Even though it was dark, we were able to see some snow and get a little peek at a few of the mountain ranges. I even stayed awake for 90% of the drive. I took my contacts out at some point and *almost* lost a contact into the deep, dark crevices of the rental car. I didn’t bring a backup pair (note to future self: this would be smart) and so that would’ve been really bad. As Daniel was looking for a place to pull off the road so that we could search for it, I found it! In my eye! I think the delirium had started setting in.

We arrived at our hotel at 3:20 a.m. and immediately passed out.

Day 2: We lazed around the hotel for a little while Thursday morning, as we were both pretty exhausted from the long day of travel and also not feeling *stellar* (see above warning re: gas station dinner at 1 a.m.). We scoped out a few things that we wanted to do (we don’t really tend to make lots of plans beforehand when traveling … we like to just wing it). We made our way over to Stagecoach State Park (about 15 minutes outside of Steamboat) mid-morning and went for a run around Stagecoach Lake. It was absolutely beautiful!

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This was our first run at altitude and we were anxious to see how that affected us. Given that we live at 100 ft. and we traveled to close to 8,000 ft., we really weren’t sure how our bodies were going to react. Neither of us had any headaches, nausea, shortness of breath or unusual fatigue the entire trip, so we were incredibly fortunate. I felt a whole lot better going into the 50K having gotten this first run under my belt.

After our running exploration around Stagecoach State Park, we decided to get groceries so that we could do a few meals in instead of eating out for every meal. We stayed at The Steamboat Grand and our room was the “apartment” option with a full kitchen, living space, etc. so that seemed like a smart decision. In hindsight, we didn’t eat many meals “in,” but we definitely ate most of the snacks that we bought.

Thursday evening we went into town and walked around. We didn’t realize it, but apparently we were there during their “mud season,” which is the time in between their busy winter season and the summer season. The name comes from dirt paths such as roads and hiking trails that become muddy from melting snow and rain. A lot of the shops and restaurants were closed, but that was totally fine with us. We were digging the “sleepy little town” vibe. We were also digging that we got almost an entire week’s stay for the price of what one night typically would cost!

Day 3: We started the day out with a breakfast adventure run! We scoped out a few good breakfast options when we were in town Thursday evening. We also scoped out a trail that ran right through downtown Steamboat along the Yampa river that we wanted to run. We decided to combine those activities and run to breakfast, eat and then walk back.

I love being anywhere by the water and was very content to be running next to the river. We stopped to check out a botanical garden on our way back. The flowers were beautiful!

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Friday afternoon we made our way to Lone Tree Colorado. It was about a three hour drive, but the trip flew by because there was so much scenery to take in. We stopped in Breckinridge along the way for lunch. I wish I could say that we stopped at some really cool local place, but we went with Which Wich instead. We don’t have Which Wich in Alabama though, so it felt like we were getting something unique.

We were also super entertained by the changes in the fullness of my bag of chips as the elevation changed throughout our drive. The air pressure is greater at lower altitude than at higher altitude. When the bag is sealed at a certain altitude, the air is pushing out at the same rate it is being pushed on. When the bag is moved to a higher altitude, the air in the bag is pushing harder on the bag than the air around the bag (middle right picture below). Fascinating stuff …

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We made it to Lone Tree just in time to pick up our bibs for the race, check into our hotel for and grab some dinner before crashing for the evening.

Day 4: Race Day! I’m going to do a separate post for the race (it was a LONG race and I have lots of thoughts to share (as per usual)).

We made our way back to Steamboat Saturday afternoon and found the perfect post-race activity. We went to Strawberry Hot Springs, a natural hot spring located just outside of Steamboat Springs. It is supposedly one of the most spectacular mineral springs in the world. We got to soak in 100+ degree mineral water, which felt absolutely ahh-mazing after running 31 miles.

We also made our way over to the Fish Creek Falls. It was a quarter mile walk down and not gonna lie, we almost didn’t walk down there (that seemed SO FAR!), but I’m so glad that we did. The falls were roaring from all of the melting snow.

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Day 5: We lazed around our room for a while Sunday morning as we were both pretty spent from the race. We eventually ventured out to do some hiking. Daniel had been really wanting to hike up one of the ski slopes, so that’s exactly what we did. If our legs could talk, they probably would’ve said, “C’mon guys … can’t we ever just catch a break?!” In actuality, we both felt much better than we expected to, which was nice because we had stuff that we wanted to do!

We went to the Howelsen Hill Ski Area and made our way up Quarry Mountain. There were lots of hikers, runners and mountain bikers out enjoying the beautiful weather. We made friends with a couple of guys who were hiking up as well. They asked us where we were from and when we told them we were from Alabama, one of the guys told us that he used to live in AL as well. He went on to tell us that he was “ahead of the dispensary curve” (his words) and as a result of a run-in with the law, he had to do some time at the minimum security federal prison camp in Montgomery, AL. He took up walking while in the pen and told us that he walked over 15 miles a day! Now he lives in Steamboat and owns a “bagel shop,” which I find to be highly suspect (but again, his words).

He gave us some great pointers on where to hike and told us that we were crazy (after hearing about my 31 mile running adventure the day before) and that we fit in perfectly in Steamboat. We definitely felt like locals at that point. We ended up hiking 5 miles with close to 1,600 ft. of elevation gain. This was probably one of our favorite things that we did the entire trip! The views from the top of the mountain were phenomenal!

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Day 6: We RESTED! We actually didn’t set an alarm the entire trip except for the morning of the race and the morning that we left. Even though we had a very active vacation (we wouldn’t have it any other way), we also got some good rest in as well. By Monday neither one of us had any desire to do anything but lay around and rest. We discovered that our hotel had a steam room, which was quite relaxing. The steam room was the only place that I actually broke a sweat the entire trip I think! The air is just so dry (and glorious) that you don’t sweat. I mean … technically you still sweat, but it just evaporates and so you don’t *feel* sweaty.

This seems like a good place to show you some of the delicious food that we ate. I didn’t get pictures of all of it … sometimes we were too ravenous to stop for a picture. There were mud season specials at a lot of the restaurants. Buy 2 entrees and get the lesser one for free? Pretty sweet!

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Day 7 (Travel Day): Our flight left Denver at 2 p.m. Tuesday afternoon. We had to leave Steamboat around 8 a.m. to make sure that we had plenty of time to get to the airport, return our rental car and get checked in for our flight. We stopped on the way out for one last snow pic!

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We came up with a new game to play in the car. There aren’t too many billboards out there and so playing the sign game is tough. We listed to ONEderland on Sirius XM, which is a medley of pop artists (with one big hit and that was it!). The game was who would be the first to name another hit by one of the artists. It is a tough game for the musically challenged. Over the course of our trip, we probably listened to over 5 hours of ONEderland and we only knew a second some for one artist … and it was Afroman. LOL! Definitely showing our true roots with that one.

We made it back to New Orleans around 6 p.m. and were back home by 9! Thankfully Mrs. Donna picked up our little booger from the Dog Ranch for us and so we were able to get lots of Brooksy cuddles and kisses when we got home. We had a wonderful vacation, but it is always SO GOOD to be home!

Tell me: where is somewhere that you have traveled that you LOVED? We need to start planning our next adventure!

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3 thoughts on “Full Steam(boat) Ahead!

  1. Wow- you really packed a lot into a relatively short amount of time. It’s great you got to experience running at altitude. I love your photos. Glad you had such a fantastic trip!

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