Colorado, my home away from home

"It's knowing that this can't go on forever// Likely one of us will have to spend some days alone// Maybe we'll get forty years together// But one day I'll be gone// Or one day you'll be gone." -- Jason Isbell (If we were vampires)

What started off as a normal road trip across seven states ended up making me love my husband even more.... Traveling across country to go see our most favorite musician Ryan Adams perform at the Red Rocks was a life changing experience to say the least. We both learned a very valuable life lesson -- "The road is not always kind to you" -- while driving in Kansas in a very big SUV thanks to Enterprise (never using Enterprise again but that's another story). Sure, the trip started off extremely ROCKY (no pun intended) but all the sites we got to walk around and see with our own eyes was really something... literally took my breathe away at times (that altitude was no joke) and I highly recommend everyone needs to take a few days, jump on an airplane (it was a over 17 hours drive from Tennessee to Colorado so we will be flying from now on) that way we can skip over Kansas from now on too, and witness the beauty with your own eyes. The pictures are great, but nothing like seeing it in real life.

The first main destination we checked out was down at the Great Sand Dunes. It was about a 3 1/2 hour drive down to it, but it was totally worth it...the view was absolutely breathtaking, the sun was out shining, and the sky was a color blue like I've never seen before. We stopped off at the main entrance sign for some photos and I left a 615Rocks rock I found in Portland for another family to find (It's a Tennessee thing). You could see the detail in the sand dunes, and with every gust of wind it would change. Truly incredible.

Next stop that day as we traveled back up to the Denver area was over at Bishops Castle. Go ahead and Google it if you want... it's a legit castle this guy named Jim Bishop is still building to this day. He had his master plan laid out, and let me just tell you, that when it is finished I will be going back!!! We climbed many staircases that took you to the tip top of it... you were as tall as the tallest tree as you looked around. When a gust of wind hit you, you just had to grab on the handle bars... but once you got back down to the ground, it felt like you just got off the fastest rollercoaster and was a little dizzy from the altitude changes. Leaving the castle, we had to guess which way to travel in since we had no phone service... luckily we were right lol.

Driving another hour or so, we reached the Garden of the Gods (this was a place that was on my bucket list since we started planning this trip_ it did not disappoint me). We went to the Visitors Center to get a map for our scrapbook and from their deck area you were able to see it all including some killer mountains (Pikes Peak was one) while the sun was just starting to set, which left a golden tint on the rocks. We ended up driving through the Garden of the Gods and hiking part of it.... we saw two guys rock climbing one of the rocks in the garden which was really high up in the air, but you could tell they were having the time of their lives.

We stopped off a IL Vicino Pizza for a late lunch before heading to our last main stop for the night.... sat outside on the patio watching people walk by, while we enjoyed some amazing pizza and lots of water (it was super hot and sunny that day) Our last big stop for the day ended at Seven Falls--- literally seven total waterfalls that all connect and run down the mountain side. Okay, this place took my breathe away.... seriously. So many steps to climb in order to reach the top and once again, that altitude is nothing to joke about (at least I had my inhaler lol) but once you got there and looked down, it was worth it. Not going to lie, my anxiety was out of the roof climbing to the top, but with my husbands support and pep talks, we made it to the top. Thank you Jay for always being there to help me reach the top. By the time we got there and reached the top, they had turned the colorful lights on that shown on the water falling down the mountain. You need to check this place out... and buy the tram tickets that take you to it so you have enough strength to climb to 224 steps to the top.... we did not. The shuttle ride was also pretty fun too.

Our late night snack was at Voodoo Doughnuts of the Mile High City. Parking? Impossible! So I stood in line while Jay stayed with the car just to be safe lol. We got the Voodoo and the M&M Doughnuts and let me just tell you, you have never had a better doughnut! No lie! I wish we brought some home with us!!!

Day Two in the colorful state of Colorado started with a stroll through Denver's Botanic Gardens before our lunch reservations at Guard & Grace (best steak ever people__ trust me). The atmosphere of the restaurant was amazing, service was incredible, and the food was seriously the best... yes, it beats Ruth's Chris Steak in my opinion.  

After we had our bellies full of yumminess, it was time to get ready for the main event... the reason why we drove across seven states... ended up staying awake for over 40 hours twice in a week due to driving... it was time put our own feet at the magical venue called Red Rocks to see Ryan Adams... that's Ryan with a R not B.... first off, let's talk about the venue itself....so many steps... what is it with Colorado and so many stairs everywhere? lol Once you reach the top, you are out of air (altitude people) but the view is worth it all. You can see the city in the background behind the stage area at nighttime while a lightning storm is happening in the distance around the mountains. MAGICAL... that's the word that comes to mind when I think about Red Rocks. My most favorite concert venues I have been to in all my years of concert going. The sound was perfect, the lights and effects they used on the rocks were awesome, and Ryan put on the best show ever. We even got us a new Improv Song about Colorado being awesome. With every song came emotions like a wave... he even sang Dear John!!!! That song has been this road trip's theme song. If you have not heard it before, please.... go pull it up on YouTube or something right now and prepare yourself for a good cry. So So sad, but a genius song indeed. To Be Young, It Takes Two, Come Pick Me Up, Lie To Me, New York, some killer Jam Sessions, and WONDERWALL are just a few of the songs we enjoyed that night in that magical venue in that colorful state of Colorado. By the way... where else does the people pregame before a concert in the parking lot??? Too cool!

"Cause your always mine// To keep when you're gone// Two silver rings// Ones on my finger, the other one is gone// Went underground with you// Dear John." -- Ryan Adams (Dear John)

Our last day was on Wednesday.... the theme word for that day was ROCKY. We started off driving up to Estes Park where the Rocky Mountains are. We checked out the Stanley Hotel where Stephen King wrote the Shining, shopped at some souvenir stores, and entered the ROCKY MOUNTAINS!!!! We drove all the way to the Alpine Summit area and hiked to the tip top of the world. If you have not been able to witness the beauty of the Rocky Mountains in real life, I urge you to take a trip there. It is life changing, it truly is. I was in awe of it the whole time, and I can still close my eyes and see the tall mountains covered in snow-- I mean come on, snow in JUNE-- too cool. We saw wildlife along the way up to the top, the air was thin, and drinking water tasted different at the top. It was amazing. It was a photographers paradise for sure.

That night we ended Colorado at a Rockies Baseball game. For my very first actual baseball game, it was a BLAST! They let us in the lower levels with some awesome seats and the best view of the whole field. We sang Take me to the Ballgame at the 7th inning stretch with the whole crowd.. memories to cherish forever. On the way back to the SUV (once again, thanks Enterprise for not changing our car for us when it was being weird-- real swell) we were greeted by what seemed like hundreds of people of all ages riding their bicycles down a hill at alarming speeds over a rail road crossing... of course people fall off, but the worse was a little girl. We ended up helping her out before leaving that night.. that was an intense way of starting a 17 hour drive back home.

The hubby was the real MVP during the whole trip and drove the entire way... I'm not sure how I really feel about coffee anymore... and to this day, I still feel like it was all a dream. Colorado was the only place I have been to out of state that I could see myself live there. Everyone was the nicest ever, and you think people in the south was the nicest, go to Colorado... it will blow your mind. It was a photographer's dream state to live in too. Even though Kansas was an awful experience to say the least --- who wants to get pulled over for having a too big SUV at like 4 in the morning with no sleep at all, and had to sit on the side of the road while they searched our big SUV... not the best way to start a road trip I can tell you that. That experience was an eye opener. But even with all that, Colorado was a place that I like to call my home away from home. The first day back here in Portland, I felt like I was the tourist in my own town, like I belonged back in Colorado. I even had someone reach out to me while in Colorado Springs about wanting to book a session with me (couldn't this time, but next time we are getting together). I hear it's so expensive to live out that but I really felt at home there. I literally can not wait to go back to it to explore even more. There's still so much we haven't seen yet!!!

"I rather see something once with my own eyes, than hear about it for a lifetime"