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Day 8/9: Road Trip in the Time of Covid

Day 8: Mesa Verde > Silverton, Colorado

So...overnight, someone decided to mess with me and change the direction of east. I don’t know how they did it, but it was an excellent prank and they got me good. No...seriously...I saw the sun setting at Farview Lodge two nights in a row. It was directly behind me and slightly to the right. My logical mind said the sun would rise in the morning in front of me and slightly to the left. In fact!...I could have sworn I have watched the sunrise from my balcony at the Farview Lodge on more than one occasion. So, you can imagine my surprise when I get up at 4:00 AM to watch sunrise at Farview and the sun is inexplicably BEHIND me and to the left. I seriously don’t know what happened there. I would usually chalk it up to aliens, but I don’t think even they could manage this feat of physics gone wrong.

After I scratched my head (and questioned my sanity), I backtracked to a viewpoint which I knew overlooked the Rocky Mountains, so I knew it had to face eastward. Luckily, during the 20 minute drive, the trickster gods put east back where it belonged, so I got a lovely (calm wind) sunrise time lapse video.

After sunrise, I headed back to the main campground area to do laundry and shower before taking off for the Rocky Mountains. While I waited for the laundry, I reorganized my living space. Taking everything out and putting it back in gave me an enormous sense of well being. Just like I can’t stand a cluttered condo, I realized I need to do a cleaning/reorganizing of my car at least once a week for my own peace of mind. I have now designated laundry day as that day - it’s convenient since I have to strip the bed, anyway.

I had spent a lot of time looking at my map and pondering my next destination. Today's plan was to ultimately head for Silverton, Colorado, but I also wanted to drive the entire looping San Juan Scenic Parkway, which meant I would be backtracking some of the loop. Not a problem, but I was trying to factor in the best position of the sun and what time I would get into Silverton.

I planned to stay in Silverton a few days since I was going to take the Durango/Silverton Narrow Gage Railroad this week. I had looked it up online before I left to confirm they would be operating. They were, so I thought about booking a ticket ahead of time since my main splurge on this trip was going to be spending a boatload on a seat in the Presidential caboose car with its private outdoor viewing platform. I decided not to purchase a ticket before I left since I didn’t know which day I would be in Silverton.

I decided to do the loop counter-clockwise and when I stopped in Durango for gas, I hopped online to book my train ticket for the next day. Sadness of all sadness, the railroad decided not to reopen the Silverton route like they had planned.

Got to admit - this broke me a little bit. I come from a town which celebrates the rail-riding hobo lifestyle. In fact, Britt, Iowa, has an annual convention called, “Hobo Days.” It happens every August and, since I work on the road May-Oct, I’m rarely able to attend, anymore. But this festival and the concept of riding the rails is a part of my historical DNA. I attribute some of my traveling wanderlust to growing up hearing about the care-free, work-to-travel lifestyle of the American Hobo.

In fact, since I wasn’t working this summer, I had planned on road tripping back to my hometown and running for Hobo Queen. Honest to goodness, we have a crowning of a new Hobo King and Queen each year. Unfortunately, they cancelled the Hobo Days this year due to Covid, but by golly - next year I’m already planning to do it - even if I have to take time off work! Fun fact: a decade ago, before I was The Joyful Travelista, my very first blog was as The Happy Hobo.

So, as you can imagine, I was bummed to miss out on this iconic train riding experience. Like a trooper, I soldiered on up the San Juan Scenic Byway to Silverton. I don’t know why Silverton has such a significant place in my heart (separate from the cool railroad), but I fell in love with this tiny Rocky Mountain hamlet the first time I laid eyes on it. When you’re entering the town from the south, you descend a mountain pass and suddenly, the town appears nestled in a lush, green valley. It is just so charming. The town also had a notorious reputation of a Wild West era boomtown with over 40 brothels lining its infamous Blair Street. Today, it is a tourist mecca due to the scenic railroad flooding the town with tourists each day all summer long.

I first came to the town 15 years ago as a camping guide, but I have been back several times as a tourist, myself. In fact, when I took my parents on western road trips on separate occasions, I routed us through Silverton for a night. Each time we booked rooms at the "Bent Elbow,” one of the original Blair Street brothels. The rooms are made up in vintage Victorian style and the rooms I always choose have a balcony out front overlooking Blair Street.

As I rolled into town, I was feeling a combination of sadness about missing the railroad experience and also a bit of “travel fatigue.” Surprisingly, travel fatigue isn’t something I experience when I’m working as a Travel Director. I think it’s because I’m in work mode. There are no decisions to be made - I have a well organized trip and I merely execute it. Simple. But, I’m currently feeling the exhaustion of constant decision making. Where do I want to go? What do I want to see? Where will I get food/gas? Where will I sleep? Where can I shower? Where can I simply just go to the bathroom? Plus, the getting up in the wee hours of the morning for sunrise, but also staying up for sunset are leaving me with an odd nap-necessary sleeping pattern.

Fortunately, I recognize the travel fatigue and I am in a position to take steps to diminish it. I parked my car outside the Bent Elbow and looked online to see if they had any balcony rooms available for the night. They did and I booked it. Since they didn’t have anyone in the room the night before, they were gracious enough to allow me to check in early.

I spent the rest of the afternoon making like it was April 2020: I laid on my bed and putzed around on my phone - something I hadn’t done in a whole week.

I eventually got up, took a stroll around town, grabbed a real sit-down-in-a-restaurant meal and then returned to my room to lounge on the balcony the rest of the evening. The idea of checking out in the morning and moving on filled me with stress, so I got back onto the hotel website and booked the room for another night. That meant I could have an entire day to do absolutely nothing more stressful than sitting on a balcony, people watching the occasional tourist below me. I went to bed with a very satisfied smile on my face.

Day 9: Silverton, Colorado

I'll be honest: I didn't leave my hotel balcony the entire day. It was heaven. To quote the classic 90's film Office Space: "I did absolutely nothing all day, and it was everything I thought I could be."

Granted, I did edit a few photos, write up some blog posts, and analyse my finances... but that's all fun stuff to a nerd like me. The best part is, I could do it all from the comfort of my balcony overlooking Blair Street.

Speaking of finances, I decided to review my expenses for the first week of the trip, just to see how I'm doing. Yikes. At an average of $87 a day, I’m spending quite a bit more than my hoped-for $50 per day budget.

Here's the breakdown…

Lodging: $113 - that’s even with free BLM sites and stealth camping 4 nights. The campgrounds have been averaging $36 per night when I spring for one.

Food: $201 - I honestly can’t figure out why that number is so high. I’ve only sat down at restaurants for a proper meal twice. The rest has been grocery stores and Navajo Tacos. Oh, well. A girl’s gotta eat.

Gas: $131 - I’m super happy with this number. Gas prices are great, right now. Mostly low $2.00 range.

Misc: $163 - This includes a few entrance fees which aren’t covered by my National Park pass, plus random items like an extra sweatshirt to keep warm.

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