Posts Tagged ‘CO’

Homeslice Pizza, Durango, CO

20 July 2016

Homeslice Pizza North Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

After getting off the trail from three days of backpacking, our Scouts were hungry! We were at the nearby Community Center for showers, and called in our pizza order (for 20!) to give Homeslice some warning.

They treated us very well, we got there and were seated on the small patio around a cool serving area. The pizzas started coming in about 10 minutes. Our crew went through five large pizzas (pepperoni, supreme, greek, cheese, and something else) pretty quickly. Drinks were provided with glasses and pitchers of several beverages, including a welcome pitcher of Dr. Pepper!

The pizzas were thin crust, and were very good.

Our server was seemingly always there and smiling, which was especially hard when the first round of drinks were dispensed, which meant a lot of back and forth with pitchers.

I don’t know what the check was, but the pizza was excellent, and I would gladly go back again.

Garbanzo Mediterranean Grill, Colorado Springs, CO

24 March 2016

Garbanzo Mediterranean Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

In the last post (I think) from Colorado Springs, I had lunch the last day there at Garbanzos. This is not necessarily a bad review, but it’s not the kind of food I generally go for. You might really like it. I didn’t think it was bad, but it didn’t appeal to me.

I had the chicken plate (bowl) with rice, tzatziki sauce, lettuce, pickles, and chips. The tea was not very good, so I switched that drink to Coke (IIRC).

Service is at the counter, and was very nice. My check was $11.17. Next time it’s suggested, I will probably go get some brisket at the nearby Bird Dog BBQ, but that’s just more to my taste.

Hacienda Villareal, Colorado Springs, CO

24 March 2016

Hacienda Villareal Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

As part of my December trip to Colorado Springs, several people who had been stationed at Peterson AFB recommended this place for lunch. It was great! We had about 12 people.

I had Pork Chili Verde, and it was perfect. Not too spicy, with tender, flavorful pork chunks in a very tasty verde sauce. I had double beans, and they were pretty darn good as well.

Service was fast and friendly (it helped that we got in there at 1300, so the lunch rush was past). My check was $12.38. Great chow, I’d be happy to go back.

Rocco’s Italian, Colorado Springs, CO

24 March 2016

Rocco's Italian Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tonight, I go back to 01 December 2015. I was in Colorado Springs on a business trip. I hit Rocco’s for dinner.

At the servers recommendation, I had beef stroganoff. It was… OK. I expect stro to have a rich, full flavor that is imparted by the sauce to slow-simmered beef. The beef was on the tough side, and the beef and the sauce were neither rich in flavor, nor was the flavor entirely pleasant. In fact, I didn’t finish the meal (if you know me, that’s really rare).

The iced tea was OK, and service was very friendly. My check was $21.42, which was too high given the quality of the meal.

I think I would be willing to give Rocco’s another try, this time for one of the Italian dishes. But the stroganoff was very disappointing.

Bar D Chuckwagon, Durango, CO

4 March 2016

Bar D Chuckwagon Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

OK, just so you know, you don’t go here for the food. You go for the cowboy singing.

Bar D is a faux village from the American Old West. You show up in early evening and walk around and buy stuff. We were there 23 July 2015. Our Girl Scouts looked at all the shops and such, and then had more fun in the playground area running around.

I will say up front, again, the food is OK, but don’t go here expecting to get the best chow around. As they tell you, they can serve 700 people in 30 min, and in that situation, it isn’t fine dining.

You have three options for dinner: roast beef (which looked to me to be chuck roast braised in BBQ sauce), grilled chicken dipped in BBQ sauce, or (for an upcharge), a ribeye grilled to medium (although mine, Erin’s, and all I saw were medium well). The sides are a baked potato, applesauce, and baked beans. The objective is to get everyone through the line as fast as possible, so no customization.

One very impressive thing: the dining area is usually open-air on picnic tables. The entire area can be covered by a telescoping cover that rolls out from the back of the dining area, very impressive. We had a shower pass by while we were eating, and the cover deployed in about 30 seconds.

During the meal, you get seconds on beans and applesauce, and drinks are kept refilled by roving bands of servers.

After the meal and a dessert of cake, the entertainment begins. The show goes for about 45 minutes, and is five cowboys singing western songs and cracking jokes. They are pretty darn good singers.

So it was a fun experience. The best part was the entertainment, and the food was OK as a bonus. I would go back.

Brown Bear Cafe, Silverton, CO

4 March 2016

Brown Bear Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

We stopped in here for lunch in Silverton on 22 July after touring the mine and walking through town. I only remember what three of the five of us had. Erin and I had cheeseburgers that were good if not spectacular. I also had some vegetable beef soup that was very good. One of our Scouts had a ribeye that she reported to be excellent.

The iced tea was good, and service was a bit on the slow side. Our check (for five) was $80.

Serious Texas BBQ, Durango, CO

4 March 2016

Serious Texas Barbeque Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Can you tell I have some time on my hands this evening? Cranking out a bunch of catch-up posts. I’m going to end the evening with a trio of posts on meals we ate “out” while on the Girl Scout High Adventure Team (HAT) Durango Adventure last summer.

On Monday of the trip (20 July) the Scouts went whitewater rafting. Since I don’t find that appealing, Steve and I ran some errands for the crew, and since that was very tiring ( 🙂 ), we had to fill up on BBQ.

I had a half pound of brisket and an add-on rib. The rib was OK, surprisingly pretty good. The brisket was excellent, tender and smoky. I had cheesy potatoes (yes, that’s the name) for my side, and they were really good, especially after I mixed a little BBQ in.

Service is order at a counter and pick up from there. The iced tea was great! We picked a table next to an open window, we could see the Animas River and rafters cruising by. My check was $17.50. Great stuff.

Fried Chicken at Loaf N Jug

28 February 2016

So this might be more of a sad post than a review. Last summer, on our HAT Durango adventure, we passed through Alamosa, CO. My driving was shift was up when we stopped at the Loaf and Jug on US 160. It was right at lunch, and I went in there and found a small deli.

I got some of the best fried chicken there I have ever had. Large pieces, perfectly fried up, with the skin crispy yet flexible. Wonderful taste, and juicy all the way through. Just perfect. Erin had some chicken tenders and said they were really good as well.

On the way back from Durango a week+ later, we stopped there again. I got more of that chicken, and it was wonderful again.

I complemented the cook on the chicken, and she said that City Market, which owned the Loaf N Jug stores, had elected to close the deli and replace it with a Subway.

I found that very sad. I like Subway, but I love the fried chicken at LnJ, and also feel that we are quite homogenized enough already with a Subway on seemingly every corner. I think that the deli with good local food would be a loss if it were replaced.

I just looked on the LnJ site and it reports that the store has a Real Time Crispy Chicken. I hope it is still the case. I would get that chicken any time.

Peak Deli, Pagosa Springs, CO

1 January 2015

Peak Deli on Urbanspoon

We had lunch here today after we arrived at Pagosa Springs.

I had the “Wolf Creek”, ham, turkey, and bacon on wheat. They toasted it for me, and it was a perfect sandwich. Erin and Ian had roast beef sandwiches (his toasted, hers not), and Raegan had turkey, bacon, and avocado sandwich. They all enjoyed the sandwiches. Erin and I also had their chicken verde soup. First, it was hotter than heck. I thought the spice level was right on, but Erin and Reagan though it was a bit much. We had some chips and cookies. Drinks are all bottled from cooler.

Service was fast and friendly. Our check was $57.00. Might seem a bit high, but we got all the extra stuff, and after all, it’s a ski town. I would eat there again.

The Old Firehouse, South Fork, CO

1 January 2015

Old Firehouse on Urbanspoon

We had settled into our nice cabin in South Fork this evening, and needed dinner. Our host recommended The Old Firehouse, and it was a good call.

Ian and Erin both got cheeseburgers with different dressings. They were asked how they liked their burgers cooked, which was nice. I had a taste of Erin’s burger; it was excellent, with great texture and flavor. Both of them reported the burgers were great, and ate all of them. Raegan and I both had the roast quarter-chicken, which came with mashers, gravy, and green beans. We both enjoyed the birds, they were plump and tender and HOT. The veg was very good also.

We finished the meal with a hot brownie covered in hot fudge and with a scoop of ice cream, wonderful.

Service was just right and super friendly. The iced tea was pretty good, and kept filled. Our check was $62.30. Good meal.

Subway, Colorado Springs, CO (S. Academy)

24 July 2014

Subway on Urbanspoon

In the second part of our two-part lunch last Sunday, we jetted the half mile up Academy from George’s to this Subway. Raegan got a 6″ Turkey and Ham sub meal. The only glitch happened when she asked for some oil and vinegar, but got vinagrette. The rest of the sandwich was done right and was completely consumed.

The check was $9.47; service was fast and friendly. Good stuff.

George’s Gyros and Burgers, Colorado Springs, CO

24 July 2014

George's Gyros & Burgers on Urbanspoon

After visiting the USAFA last Sunday, we hit George’s for the first part of a two-part lunch. It was pretty good.

Erin and I got burgers, she a bacon cheeseburger and me a double cheeseburger. We both liked those burgers a lot. They were smallish (1/6 lb, probably) and just a touch overcooked, but had good flavor. We both really liked the fries as well, they seemed to be battered.

The iced tea was not the best, but I got Dr. Pepper and it was OK. Our check was $19.28. Good stuff.

Great American Grill, Colorado Springs, CO

20 July 2014

Great American Grill (Hilton Garden Inn Briargate) on Urbanspoon

This Grill is inside the Hilton Garden Inn outside the Air Force Academy in north Colorado Springs. We had breakfast here a week ago today, and again today. In both cases, the food a service were very good. Last week, I had pancakes and enjoyed them greatly. Today I had a ham and cheese omelet, same result. Erin stuck with cold stuff. Raegan had some fried eggs and some of the good fruit selection. We all had some bacon and sausage.

The service model is one of the odd Great American Grill models. If you want anything other than cooked to order, you grab it yourself. If you want stuff cooked to order, you tell the cook, and a server brings it out to you. The GAGs (such a horrible acronym!) have a couple variations on this no matter where you visit. Regardless, the food here was very good, and the service was fast. Last week, it was packed, today not.

You could do far worse for breakfast in the north Springs.

Bird Dog BBQ, Colorado Springs, CO (Briargate)

20 July 2014

Bird Dog BBQ on Urbanspoon

We had dinner here this evening, as it has been a week without BBQ for Bill. It helped that the place was across the street from our hotel in Colorado Springs.

It was a bit of a disappointment. Raegan and Erin both got turkey sandwiches. I thought the turkey was very good (in fact, the best part of the meal). I got a three-meat with brisket, pulled pork, and ribs. I was not impressed by the ribs; they had a flavor that I can’t identify, I wonder if it is some odd smoke flavor. Regardless, the ribs were not very meaty, and were not tender. The brisket was OK, pretty tender. The pulled pork had little flavor and was not tender.

The sides (okra, corn on the cob, baked beans, and slaw) were pretty good. The iced tea was also. The staff was friendly and service fast. Our check was $35.64.

So it was a mixed bag. If I went back, I would get turkey and maybe the brisket. The ribs, not.

EG’s Grill, Grand Lake, CO

19 July 2014

EG's Grill on Urbanspoon

First off, this is printed right on the menu:

“Substitutions politely declined. While modifications and substitutions may seem easy to accommodate, these requests compromise the unique characteristics of our food and the efficiency of our service”.

I’m going to throw the BS flag here. This statement is possibly the most arrogant thing I’ve seen in a restaurant. I could (possibly) understand this sort of mentality in a mass production or time-critical environment, like a lunch truck. Not, however, from a general restaurant, and especially given the pedestrian nature of your offerings, and the service I experienced tonight.

All that being said, the restaurant has some decent food.

We had dinner at EGs this evening. Service was, I will say up front, slow and irregular. Given that we didn’t ask for any substitutions, perhaps the management should be working on THAT instead of being arrogant about keeping up your “efficiency”.

Raegan ordered a dinner salad and chicken lasagne, and Erin a caesar salad. I ordered iced tea, and for my meal the fried chicken (without much in the way of confidence that this southern staple would be any good). The meal came with soup or salad (I chose a soup of the day, beer cheese and bacon), and the potato of the day, and slaw.

I asked our server before ordering what the chicken pieces were. He didn’t know. Maybe some training, instead of arrogant statements? For the record, it was a breast and a leg.

The general workflow was: time passed, then a lot of stuff came out, then time passed again. It took a good 10 min to get our drinks out. And we didn’t ask for modifications. Food came out in a wave. Even though we were seated after another family, and several other tables trickled in over the next 20 minutes, all of the tables were served in about a five-minute timeframe. Very odd.

Raegan and Erin had their meals out a couple minutes before my meal came out. My meal came as my soup course (not prior to the main course), and a plate with my two pieces of chicken. No potato or slaw. The family another table over had the same chicken situation. I asked our server where my potato and slaw were; he didn’t know (training needed, instead of an arrogant statement?), he went to ask, and he came back about 5 minutes later with some potato au gratin, a small rectangle about 1.5″x3″. Still no slaw. Hmmm, more training needed, instead of an arrogant statement? I never got the slaw, BTW.

For the record, the food was pretty good. The chicken was fried nice and crispy, and not at all greasy. The Potato Of The Day was bland at best. I cannot report on the slaw. The soup was pretty good. Raegan and Erin liked their food.

The iced tea was pretty good, and served in a large mason jar. I never got a refill; not even an offer. Maybe that’s a MODIFICATION?

Service was inconsistent. Our check was $43.60. Not a good value, given the arrogant attitude of restaurant management, the service, and the simple nature of the food.

There are better places in Grand Lake to eat. And they don’t mind working with customers.

The Hub, Grand Lake, CO

18 July 2014

The Hub Coffee & Cones on Urbanspoon

This is a limited review. The Hub is across the street from our hotel here in Grand Lake, and we dropped in this morning to have a very good blueberry muffin, and a couple excellent cinnamon rolls. For about $10, it fed the three of us just fine. We got the muffin right away, and the rolls took a little longer. You could do far worse for a quick and yummy breakfast in Grand Lake.

An update: this morning Raegan and Erin scored bagels with egg, bacon, and cheese from the Hub, and both liked them.

Grand Pizza, Grand Lake, CO

18 July 2014

Grand Pizza on Urbanspoon

Erin had dinner here last Monday, and she and I had dinner here this evening.

We started with sweet tea. Didn’t realize that it was sweet fruity tea. I switched to the regular stuff, which was pretty good. We also had some buffalo wings. They were great, just the right amount of spice. We left a denuded pile of bonelets.

She and I shared a 12″ thin crust. Hers was chicken and roast garlic, mine was meat lovers, which was pepperoni, sausage, hamburger, and bacon. She liked her half, and took part back to the hotel for Raegan. My half was pretty good. The only thing I would count down is that the pizza builder left a pile of bacon and stuff in one place, and it was pretty charred (see the photo I put on Urbanspoon). That being said, I ate my half.

We also got a takeaway salad for Raegan, with ranch dressing.

Service was very good. Our check was $41.97.

I heard some talk around the restaurant that left me a bit cold. Someone in back was kind of obnoxious and used profanity a couple times. When I ordered Raegans salad, I passed along her request for some grated cheese. Our server asked what kind, I said American, and whoever our server talked to at the back said quite loudly that if it wasn’t on the menu, then it’s not available, what was the matter with the guy? Our server, to her credit, pointed out shredded cheddar, which also worked, but I think that the guy in back was very rude. They also shut down 15 minutes early, and four guys who came in at 2050 for dinner were turned away (they were clearly disappointed but not rude, to their credit). In a similar vein, our server warned us that the kitchen might shut down and I wouldn’t be able to get her salad (this was at 2040). I don’t know that management of the place gives much of a damn about customers.

SO, would I go back? Probably not. There are nice restaurants in Grand Lake, and a couple of them do pizza, and I would probably try them first. They are also quite expensive; the 12 in meat lovers clocks in at $21.75, and it wasn’t *that* good.

Dairy King, Grand Lake, CO

17 July 2014

Grand Lake Dairy King on Urbanspoon

This place was right down the street from our hotel, but it wasn’t even listed on Urbanspoon (which oversight has since been corrected).

Erin and I stopped here for lunch on the way to a hike to Adams Falls. It was great! I got a double cheeseburger, she got a single. We both got fries. All of this was excellent. The burgers were fine beef and cooked just right, not too greasy. I really liked the fries, even though I couldn’t eat all of them.

The iced tea was very good, and service was friendly and fast. The place has both indoor and outdoor seating. Being a dairy place, there are milkshakes, soft serve, and hand dipped ice cream. Our check was $20.77. Highly recommended, enough that we went a second time to score a burger for Raegan, and a second burger for Erin.

Maverick’s Grille, Granby, CO

17 July 2014

Maverick's Grille on Urbanspoon

While visiting Granby last evening, I needed some dinner. This place was perfect.

I started with a cup of pork chili verde soup. Excellent. The spice level was perfect, and the mix of chili verde was darn fine. My main course was a half pound cheeseburger. I was asked how I wanted it cooked (a nice touch); I specified medium well. Here is my only gripelet: it came medium rare. Being the risk taker that I am, I ate it anyway. It was a great burger, with good texture, and great beef flavor. The fries were pretty good as well.

Service was right on the money, and the iced tea was great. My check was $18.09. I’d eat here again any time.

Johnny Macs, Littleton, CO

14 July 2014

Johnny Mac's Cafe on Urbanspoon

This place was great! We stopped here on our trip to Grand Lake, CO, to grab some very tasty food.

Erin and I got cheeseburgers. Wonderful. Great flavor, good texture, a burger done right. Raegan got a BLT and her only complaint was it was too larger (I tried it, really good!). The onion rings were perfect, and I really enjoyed the fries also. The place has fry sauce, yummy.

The iced tea was excellent. The milkshake Erin got, and the malt Raegan got, were reported as excellent. Service was fast and very friendly. This place is great! Our check was $28.96.

Ten Pin Grill, USAFA, Colorado Springs, CO

15 June 2014

Ten Pin Grill on Urbanspoon

Friday afternoon, we left Boy Scout Camp Alexander to take Troop 15 on a tour of the United States Air Force Academy (USAFA). We decided to eat on base, and Rob found the menu for the Ten Pin Grill, which is in the base bowling alley, so off we went.

We showed up with our 30 people at 1300. The manager and staff welcomed us in a most friendly way (30 somewhat dirty-from-a-week-of-camp Scouts showing up might have put off some people!). They quickly worked with us to get the boys a burger or hot dog meal with fries and a drink. The boys played some video games, but mainly just say (in the air conditioning) and talked.

I got a double-meat cheeseburger with chili cheese fries and a Coke (I tried the Gold Peak but it wasn’t very good). That was a fine burger. Good beef, cooked with a nice crust on it, and tasty. I think the bun was whole wheat, a treat, and it was grilled. Some mayo and pickles on the burger. The chili cheese fries were also very good. My check was $9.10

The boys and adults and those burgers and dogs… I don’t think a scrap was left.

The manager and staff were great. We were in and out in 45 minutes. Our Scouts were Courteous as well. If I was on the Academy grounds, I would be glad to get another burger at the Grill.

Marconi’s, Pagosa Springs, CO

3 January 2014

Marconi's on Urbanspoon

After skiing today, Raegan announced she would like pizza or Italian. We checked Urbanspoon and found Marconi’s. Great find!

We started off with a big bowl of mixed greens salad with a vinaigrette dressing. Lightly dressed, and very good. We also got some garlic cheese bread, and outstanding marinara to dip it in. Erin ordered bruschetta.

Ian and Erin got chicken parm, great stuff! I got chicken marsala, and ate every bit of it. Raegan got chicken fettuccine al fredo. All of the meals were huge; I’m the only one that finished. The fettuccine had some interesting flavors, and was excellent. We really liked the chicken parm as well.

Our check was $81.45. The only problem? Each dish was essentially two meals for normal people. Service was great, the iced tea was great, and kept refilled (impressive given that we had just come off a hard day skiing, and Bill in particular was putting the stuff away).

This place was very, very good. I look forward to the next visit to Pagosa, I will eat here again.

Saltgrass Steakhouse, Colorado Springs, CO

12 September 2013

Saltgrass Steakhouse on Urbanspoon

I ran across the Saltgrass as I got into town this evening. They are pretty reliable, so I stopped.

It was a bit of a disappointment in some ways. I ordered a t-bone (medium), with a bowl of baked potato soup. It took about 10 min to get any attention, and it turned out to be a manager. Between the manager and the servers, I had four people at my table over the course of the meal.

It took a while, but my soup arrived; it was pretty good as I would expect from a Saltgrass. My steak arrived five minutes later. So now I had a lot of food on the table. The steak was more to the rare side. I let it sit for a good 10 minutes while I ate soup; it eventually got to between medium rare and medium. It was pretty tasty, though. The second side was a baked potato that needed a bit more time in the oven baking.

The iced tea was excellent. Service seemed rushed and less than attentive. It was not the Saltgrass experience that I expected. I hope that they were having a problem compensating for some issue.

Breakfast Club, Loveland, CO

12 September 2013

Breakfast Club on Urbanspoon

This place was great! I stopped here around 1300 after coming down from Rocky Mountain National Park. I ordered the “Big Guy”, which is biscuits and gravy, hash browns, a couple eggs, and a meat. I got a hamburger patty for the meat. They brought bacon, and then brought a hamburger patty. I had ordered another side of bacon, so I was in good shape there :).

The meal was pretty much perfect. The gravy was really good. The hamburger patty was a quarter-pound, and it was a bit crumbly, with a nice crust and very good beef flavor. I didn’t leave anything on the plate.

The iced tea was great. Service was a bit spotty. My check was $15.93. Great meal, I would gladly eat here again.

Pancho and Lefty’s, Grand Lake, CO

11 September 2013

Pancho & Lefty's on Urbanspoon

We had this place recommended by two people in the Estes Park area.  We walked 1.5 miles from camp in RMNP Summerland Group to town, and it was worth it.

I started with a cup of outstanding green chili pork soup.  Great taste and just the right amount of spice.  Great stuff.  I had the chicken chimi, which was positively stuffed with chicken.  The frioles and rice were pretty good.  I was not impressed with the “sopapillas”, which were bread dough used for crescent rolls (they had the tear-aparts), so had no puff, and were extra cost.

Service was excellent.  The iced tea was perfect.  My check was around $20.  I would gladly eat there again.

Sagebrush BBQ, Grand Lake, CO

11 September 2013

Sagebrush Barbque & Grill on Urbanspoon

While this is primarily a BBQ place, it was recommended to us for breakfast.  And a fine recommendation it was.

I got CFS with a couple eggs, toast, bacon, and sausage.  All of this was excellent.  My over-easy eggs were a touch on the over-hard side.  The CFS was fork-tender, and the gravy was clearly made right there.  Loved that gravy.

I had excellent iced tea, and two mugs of hot tea as well.  Service was great and very friendly.  I would eat here anytime.  My check was about $14.

The Other Side, Estes Park, CO

11 September 2013

Other Side Restaurant on Urbanspoon

We had dinner here this evening after getting off the trail.  The restaurant is divided into two sections, one more of a cafe and the other slightly more upscale.  We ate in the cafe.

I had a big bowl of French onion soup that was excellent, hot and salty.  The main course was a huge helping of pot roast and mashers, with an adequate amount of excellent brown gravy and carrots.  It was more than I could finish.

The iced tea was OK.  Service was sparodic.  My check was $19.38.  You could do far worse than have dinner here.

Local’s Grill, Estes Park, CO

11 September 2013

Local's Grill on Urbanspoon

We had lunch here after arriving in Estes Park, it was very good. 

I had chicken fried steak.  It came with a very good cream gravy and mashers.  I got their chili as a second side, it was very good.

The iced tea was OK; it was clearly Gold Peak.  Service was decent.  My check was around $18.

Smokin Dave’s BBQ, Estes Park, CO

11 September 2013

Smokin Dave's BBQ & Taphouse on Urbanspoon

My hiking buddies and I had dinner here Saturday evening.  I had a two-meat dinner of smoked chicken and pulled pork.  It was uniformly excellent. 

Service was prompt and friendly.  The iced tea was excellent.  My check was around $20.

This place copies a number of the elements used in the Famous Dave’s chain, which I find amusing.

Great American Grill, Hilton Garden Inn, Rapid City, SD, and Highlands Ranch, CO

5 July 2013

The Great American Grills are pretty standard from a food standpoint. The discriminator, to me, is the service they provide.

Great American Grill on Urbanspoon

In the case of the Rapid City location, where we stayed last Monday evening, the mode is to sit at a table, and a server comes by to take your order for the cooked-to-order stuff. You still have to get up and get your own milk, oatmeal, and OJ. The Rapid City location has limited tables, and they had a larger area on the west side closed off, so there were only about three tables that would seat more than two; the three of us had to sit at the bar. All that being said, service was pretty fast, and the food was pretty good.

Great American Grill on Urbanspoon

Last night we stayed at the HGI at Highlands Ranch, which meant we had breakfast there this morning. This MO was to order directly from the cook, and the servers bring the food out. The Highlands Ranch servers came around fairly often to check to see if we needed anything else. The food quality wasn’t as good as I would have expected; my eggs (scrambled) were lumpy, and the french toast had little batter.

Both were very nice hotels. I like the HGIs overall.

Ranch House Cafe, Denver, CO

5 July 2013

Ranch House on Urbanspoon

This was a great find! We had tried a couple places along Colfax after visiting the Museum of Science and History (they were closed due to the 4th), and were on the way out of town when we drove past Ranch House, and stopped because there were people in side.

We started with chips and salsa. The chips were HOT, we think they made them there, and great. The salsa was excellent, just the right amount of heat, and very tasty.

Erin got three ground beef soft tacos, and she ate every bit of them (except the bite I took, which I liked). Raegan got a chicken chimi. That was on outstanding chimi. It was positively stuffed with chicken, and was made with a chili verde that reminded us of the green salsa we’ve had in New Mexico. Great stuff. I ate about 1/3 of her chimi (it was huge), and I think it was the best chimi I have ever had. I ordered the chicken fried steak, and it was my third really good CFS of this trip. It had a touch, just a hint, that the oil needed to be changed. But it was mostly fork tender, the breading was good, and the beef had great flavor. The mashers and gravy were very good as well. My meal came with a simple salad; I liked it and the ranch dressing.

One note: there are two CFS on the menu. One is hand-breaded there, the other is pre-fab. Do NOT get the pre-fab.

The tea was excellent! Service was excellent! Our check was $32.37, a great value for all the food we got, and the quality of every item.

The next time I’m in Denver, this place gets a second visit.

Mama Alvino’s Pizzaria, Aurora, CO

4 July 2013

Mama Alvino's Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

I am a fan of Mama Alvino’s in Bellevue, a suburb of Omaha, NE. I’ve been eating there for years. My blog post on that restaurant is at:

https://billhensley.wordpress.com/2009/07/23/mama-alvinos-bellevue-ne/

On the wall there is a newspaper article from when the Bellevue location was opened. It talked about the original location in Aurora, and I have wanted to try that location for a while. Since we were in the Denver area today, we stopped at the Aurora location for dinner. It was wonderful!

We started off with some cheese bread, with outstanding marinara. It was the same marinara I’m used to in Nebraska, but a bit spicier. Really good.

Raegan and I split a pizza; it was perfect. It was light on the pizza sauce, but the thin crust was perfect and the toppings were also (canadian bacon, hamburger, pepperoni). I also got a small meateater calzone; wonderful! It had some of that great marinara on it. Erin also got a calzone and liked it.

The iced tea was excellent, and service was spot on. Our check was $42.92. A great visit, I’d be happy to go again.

Hiking Red Rocks Open Space, Colorado Springs, CO

1 April 2013

This is a bit of a catch-up post. Back in January I had a business trip to Colorado Springs, and found myself without much to do around 1400. I did a quick bit of research and headed to Red Rocks Open Space on the west side of town.

The photos from the hike are here on Google+.

I did just over six miles in about three hours. It was about 40F when I got started, and in the low 30s when I finished. Most of the most interesting rock formations are in the west side of the park. As you go south and climb, the rock is somewhat replaced with forest. It’s all very pretty.

As I got up a little bit, I could look to the northwest and see the burned areas from the Waldo Canyon fire.

There were a LOT of people out there! That’s always impressive to me. There isn’t any water anywhere in the area that I found, so be sure to fill up your water bottle before coming out. A very pretty area very close to town, a worthy hike any time.

Sandy’s Restaurant, Colorado Springs, CO

24 January 2013

Sandy's Restaurant on Urbanspoon

I had lunch here on 06 January with my friend Clark. We got there about 1030 and left about an hour later. It was some great food.

I got the chicken fried steak and eggs, with pancakes on the side. It was an excellent CFS, hand breaded and deep fried, good flavor beef and good breading. It came with perfectly cooked hash browns, and the pancakes were excellent. I don’t recall what Clark got, but he didn’t leave any of it.

NOTE: This place is cash only. It is a very good breakfast. Our check was just under $20. Our servers were very attentive and friendly. Good stuff.

One odd thing: there is a prominent sign at the entrance forbidding photography of any kind. I was going to ask why, but forgot to. No telling.

Biscuits Cafe, Watkins, CO

30 July 2012

Biscuits Cafe on Urbanspoon

We stopped here for lunch on the way from the Denver area back home. It’s kind of run-down looking, but the food is good.

We got there around 1230 and left around 1315. Raegan got a BLT on wheat and enjoyed it. Erin got a chicken tenders salad, and ate the chicken and some of the salad. I got a patty melt on rye, it was great. Ian got a 1/2 lb cheeseburger. I tried it, excellent! One patty instead of two 1/4 lb patties. That was some good beef.

We all got iced tea, great stuff. Service was curt, but the other server picked up the slack a bit. Our check was $38.43. I would eat here again.

Net’s Cafe, Maybell, CO

30 July 2012

Net's Cafe on Urbanspoon

We were cruising east on US 40 after visiting Dinosaur National Monument, it was past lunch and we were hungry. We passed through Maybell and were pleased to note that Net’s was open.

We got there around 1530 and left around 1615.

Raegan got a BLT and pronounced it yummy. The BLT came with really good thin-cut fries.

Erin and Ian both got cheeseburgers. Ian ordered his as a double at first, then our server informed him it was a *pound* of beef. He then downgraded to a normal half pounder. I ended up eating part of Erins, it was excellent beef, great flavor, and with just the right amount of crust on the meat. The burgers were on square, fairly dense, and excellent bread, instead of the standard burger buns. These came with fries as well.

I got a CFS. It was breaded up there (the breading was really good and did a good job of sticking to the beef), and was 100% fork tender. Great flavor. I’d rate theat CFS a 9.5. It came with very good gravy.

We all got excellent iced tea. Service was prompt and extremely friendly. Our check was $41.38. If you are passing through Maybell, Net’s is an excellent choice for lunch. The breakfast menu had the usual items on it, plus some items that were “imported” from other towns in the region, that looked very good as well.

Big Horn Restaurant, Estes Park, CO

30 July 2012

Big Horn Restaurant on Urbanspoon

What a nice place to run across! We came down out of Rocky Mountain National Park, and were looking for dinner. We came by Big Horn and decided to try it. It was 2058, they closed at 2100, but the restaurant staff very graciously invited us in anyway for dinner.

We all got salads; a vary basic salad bar, the ranch dressing was excellent. I also got some of the veg soup, liked it a lot.

Raegan and I got the fried chicken. Excellent! Three pieces, breaded and fried up perfectly, really tasty. Erin got a Rocky Mountain trout; ate every scrap. Ian got a ribeye; it was a bit thin, but cooked medium just as ordered, and a very good steak.

The iced tea was excellent, some of the best we’ve had on this trip. The staff, all of them, were super friendly. I will gladly eat here again one day. Our check was $88.04. A bit expensive, but it was in a mountain town, so somewhat expected.

The Country Bounty, Salida, CO

26 July 2012

The Country Bounty on Urbanspoon

We were cruising Salida Saturday after visiting Great Sand Dunes National Park to the south, and stopped in for lunch.

We were seated immediately, but had to wait for our server for a while – about 10 minutes. This became a problem during the meal. He would not come out for a while, or bring something to another table and walk off without looking around. This was consistent, and not professional at all.

In a bit of this-is-better, we had an entire pitcher of iced tea left at the table. I wish more restaurants would do this.

I started us off with nachos supreme. They didn’t have a great deal of ground beef, but were OK.

Raegan got a garlic grilled pork loin sandwich. She wanted chips, but they never were delivered. The sandwich was really good.

Erin got a buffalo (bison) burger. She wanted mayo and cheese, and both were missed. It took a while to rectify the situation with our server MIA.

Ian got a CFS. The server admitted that the CFS was pre-breaded, but that it was angus beef or somesuch. Ian liked it; I tried a bite and it was decent.

I got a smothered burrito. Great stuff. The burrito had a mass of spicy ground beef, beans, and cheese in it. The salsa was just the right temperature. The rice and beans were also great.

Our check was $68.20. A bit expensive for lunch, but the meat-light nachos were $11 of that total. A pretty good meal, it would have been better if the server had been a bit more on the ball. We got there around 1400 and left around 1530.

Golden Cavvy Restaurant, Craig, CO

24 July 2012

Golden Cavvy Restaurant & LNG on Urbanspoon

This was a great restaurant! We were cruising through NW Colorado and needed dinner, so we picked this place out after driving down the main drag and not finding anything that was appealing.

Ian got french dip and ate every scrap. Raegan got the daily special, which was ham and potato soup and a salad, and it was all great as well. Erin got fried chicken strips; excellent. I got fried chicken, was was wonderful. My meal came with grilled squash and zuchinni, which were perfectly done and highly tasty. I got some gravy, great stuff to dip the chicken in.

The iced tea was great, the service was attentive. Overall, a great meal at a reasonable price. Our check was $41.95. Recommended.

Malt Shoppe, Pagosa Springs, CO

30 November 2011

Malt Shoppe on Urbanspoon

Ian and Erin had a hankering for cheeseburgers last Saturday as we were leaving Pagosa.

The kids and I got cheeseburgers and shakes. Raegan got a fried fish sandwich. None of the sandwiches were any good. The burgers were tasteless. The fish was overcooked and had no flavor. The shakes were OK. The Coke was OK. The tea was concentrate and not good.

There were a lot of local people in there, so there must be something good there. We just didn’t have any of it.

Our check was $38.45. Not recommended.

If you want a good cheeseburger in Pagosa, hit Junction.

Boss Hogg’s, Pagosa Springs, CO

24 November 2011

Boss Hoggs on Urbanspoon

We ate at Boss Hogg’s last year during our Thanksgiving ski trip to Wolf Creek Ski Area. We liked the place enough that it displaced our previous favorite, Junction.

We ate there last evening. Raegan got a burrito and loved it. I got a pork tenderloin, it was excellent. Erin got chicken fettuccine alfredo, and both she and Raegan liked it (Erin could not eat it all, so it was lunch for Raegan today). Ian got a chicken fried steak on my recommendation.

The meal came with a loaf of wheat bread and honey butter; both were really good.

The salad bar was really good; it had excellent clam chowder on it.

Service was a little slow; our server seemed to be focused on several other tables. Our check was $52.27. Recommended.

Hiking Waldo Canyon, Colorado Springs, CO

1 October 2011

Hike Summary: 7.3 miles, 1085 net altitude gain. Decent hike. Started about 1445, and done around 1830.

The meeting I was at got done early, around noon, and after lunch and an email check, I selected Waldo canyon and headed out. It’s very close to downtown Colorado Springs, right up US 24. The parking lot holds about 15 cars. There is no water there, so fill up before you get there.

There is a lot of up here, but it is balanced by some contour following. I took one break to participate in a telecon for work, and another near the top to admire the view and the breeze.

The trail starts out wide and graveled. Note that there is NO cover for this part of the hike. The trail goes up to a loop, and every bit of the pre-loop, and about 1/3 of the east side of the loop, is pretty much exposed to the sun.

A couple hundred feet up, there is a formation of Pikes Granite. It’s pretty cool.

One other thing I noted on this part of the trail, there are tons of sparkles of pyrite in the trail. It makes for an interesting effect as you walk if you are looking down.

As you get higher, you get some pretty decent views of Colorado Springs. I took this shot from a trailet that led a bit east off the main trail. That’s Cheyenne Mountain to the right, and US 24 left of center.

There are some places where you get cover. The trail is always side and well paved. There are very few places where you have to stairstep using rocks or roots.

As you get higher, Pikes Peak comes into view, looming a couple ridges over.

I think this very cool cliff formation is Williams Canyon. More on that later.

Eventually you come to up and over the trail high point, and you are at the top of Waldo Canyon. This pano is naturally dominated by Pikes Peak.

You start heading back down at the point. One thing I noticed, at one place on the trail, there were a bunch of pine pieces; each had a lot of small pine cones on. I wondered if some squirrels had been stocking up.

Going down the canyon, there were a couple mongo boulders – huge!

The trail down follows a creek. This was the only water on this trail, and there was not very much of it. It was clear, at least. This is looking back up-trail. A pool-let of water is just to right of center.

I saw a number of squirrels and some birds, but no medium or large mammals. There was some rustling in the leaves to the side of the trail every once in a while, but it could have been birds, chipmunks, or a cougar, who knows.

Here are the maps for the trail topo, terrain, and altitude:

I have tried a couple times to do a 3D plot of a hike. Excel (which I use to generate the altitude graphs like the one right above) claims 3D capability, but I tried many times, with no luck. I tried GnuPlot today, and generated this in about five minutes:

This was interesting. GnuPlot generated the plot, and using the arrow keys, you can shift the perspective in all three dimensions. Useful? Don’t know. Cool? Very.

I saw a total of about 10 people on this hike, and three dogs. It was about 83F when I got on the trail and about 75 when I got back down. I had cell coverage for probably 80% of the hike. Nice hike, I’d do it again.

My plan had actually been to hike both the Waldo Canyon loop, by going up the Waldo Canyon loop counterclockwise, then head on a trail connector over to Williams Canyon, then to the head of that canyon, then complete the Waldo loop. But, I never saw the connector to Williams Canyon. One thing I did not do before I headed out was download the local topo map into my GPS. I just did a quick look of my GPS File Depot Colorado Map, and it shows neither a Williams Canyon placemark or a trail connecting Waldo and Williams. I will have to go back to find the site that referenced that connector trail and see if there is a GPX I can get. Later.

This final shot is not part of the hike, but it is the sunset behind the mountains as I went looking for dinner. I think that the sun is setting over the Waldo Canyon area.

Happy trails!

Texas T Bone, Colorado Springs, CO

29 September 2011

Texas T-Bone on Urbanspoon

I got to the restaurant about 1900 after a hard and fun hike in the mountains. I left around 2030.

First of all, the place has good wifi! I logged in and caught up on email that had come in while I was up looking for bears.

I got a t-bone (appropriate). The meal started with a very good warm loaflet of wheat bread (wheat, yea!), and some cinnamon butter, very good. I got some potato soup that was very good, with lots of potato, bacon, and smoky flavor.

The steak got there pretty much medium like I asked, and pretty quickly. While I was only halfway done with the soup (grrr, a little bit). The steak was a thin-cut, and had quite a bit of gristle that had to be cut off it. It wasn’t burned, though, so that was good. It had decent flavor as well. You get a side, and I asked for sauteed mushrooms and onions, which were pretty good.

So the meal was pretty good, and I got work caught up. Service was SUPER nice, my server was a bundle of energy. My check was $27.32.

You have to compare where appropriate. I had eaten at the southside restaurant with two friends back in Jan or Feb, and the steak there was better. It could be the cook (they have to have the same beef source, I would think). So the next time, I might have to eat at both on successive nights…

The Firehouse BBQ, Colorado Springs, CO

29 September 2011

The Firehouse on Urbanspoon

I picked this place for two reasons: it’s BBQ, and it was conveniently on the way to where I was going to hike afterwards. Convenient, no?

I got there around 1330 and left around 1430. I started with tea, unsweet. It was strong enough to remove paint – a good thing. I upgraded to half and half with the next glass.

I got the BBQ plate, which is two meats. I got brisket and chicken. The meal came with two sides. The BBQ beans were probably OK, except for all the jalapenos in them, so I ate very little of them. The green beans were great (how could “Green Beans With Bacon” be bad?), they had bacon and onion, and had a lot of bacon.

The brisket… it had potential. The problem was that it was tough and stringy, and required a lot of chewing work to get down. The flavor was not too bad – good and smoky. There was quite a bit, also. The chicken was another thing altogether. Smoked chicken, in my experience, is too ofen over-cooked, tough and dry. This stuff was perfect, a quarter chicken with the breast and wing. Great stuff.

Service was prompt and extremely friendly. I would go back here any time, and try some of the other stuff, and get more chicken! My check was $15.55. Yummy!

Black Bear Diner, Colorado Springs, CO

28 September 2011

Black Bear Diner on Urbanspoon

When I was driving from Sacramento to visit Lassen Volcanic National Park, I stopped at a Black Bear Diner off of I-5, and liked it. I drove past this diner when I was tooling around Colorado Springs Monday, and realized that I had eaten in the Diner here about five years ago.

I went there for dinner Monday evening. The meal started off with a very good chicken noodle soup. Thick and hot and not too salty, and very good. The soup came with a very good cornbread, that was hot from the oven, and served with warm, sweet butter. Yum.

The only downer part of the meal came when my entree was served while I was only about half done with the soup.

I ordered pot roast. It was huge!

The pot roast was OK. Most of it was tender, but a couple pieces required some effort to cut apart. The flavor was OK, not spectacular. The pot roast came with mashers. Both roast and potatoes had a decent brown gravy over them; more gravy was requested and delivered. The meal came with green beans. These were very, very good, and had some onion and a significant amount of chopped up bacon. The plate had a lot of celery (not so good) and a couple (ONLY) carrot pieces. Should have had more carrot and less celery. There was also some red/purple onion that needed to be cooked more.

I decided that some cobbler would be good. It came hot, and had a largish scoop of ice cream on top.

The cobbler was huge. It was baked like a chicken pot pie – a complete shell, filled with peaches. The peach was flavored with cinnamon. It was really good, and hotter than heck when it was served. The ice cream was good for cooling it down, and adding some more flavor.

I got iced tea, it was strong and kept refilled.

I got there around 1715 and left around 1830. My check was $19.30. There was a lot of food there. I probably could have split my pot roast with Raegan and we both would have been happy about it. Same with the cobbler. Service was excellent.

I’d eat here again, and not wait five or so years.

Glad’s Original BBQ, Colorado Springs, CO

28 September 2011

Glad's Original Bar-B-Q LLC on Urbanspoon

I was headed to a steakhouse here in Colorado Springs this evening, and as I waited at a light, I saw this BBQ across the road in a small shopping center.

I got there around 1845 and left about 45 minutes later. I ordered a brisket dinner, with mac and cheese and baked beans. The beans were fairly basic, and were very good. The mac and cheese was baked after it was made, and was a little baked together, but it was tasty anyway. The brisket was fairly tender. It seemed to be fairly tasty. I had to go to some length to verify this. The brisket was drowned in a sauce that seemed to be about 50% standard sauce and 50% cooking drippings. That sauce was like something I might have made (don’t think that is criticism, I liked it!). Regardless, it was good.

My check was $11.70. This was decent BBQ, the serving size was good. There seemed to be a lot more takeaway than sit-down service. I’d go here again.

Note that when I went to Urban Spoon, that website shows Glad’s as permanently closed. The address for that location (3750 Astrozon Blvd) is different than their current address, so I suspect they just moved.

King’s Chef Diner, Colorado Springs, CO

26 September 2011

King's Chef Diner on Urbanspoon

This was a neat find! I was driving through downtown and literally drove by, and since it was brunch time, and my breakfast of crumb cake and tea was six hours and 500 miles behind me, it was time to eat.

I got there around 1055 and left around 1130. This place is small, it has maybe 10 stools at the counter, and a couple tables outside. I got a bacon cheeseburger and fries. The cheeseburger was excellent, a half pound of very good beef. It was cooked medium well, and had the perfect balance of juice. The fries were excellent. Perfectly cooked and flavorful, they were (black) peppered before serving, something I have not tried before. They serve both sweet and unsweet tea, it was strong.

My check was $13 and some change. This diner is cash only, so be advised. There seems to be a strong to-go business from people in the area, and everone in there was very friendly. Recommended.

Hiking C&O Canal Historical Park, MD

21 April 2011

I was able to hike the Billy Goat A trail here at the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park about a year ago, and wanted to come back and do some more hiking, in particular the B and C trails. Good idea, but the Potomac River had other ideas. There had been a LOT of rain the previous couple days, and the Potomac was seriously flooding. All three of the Billy Goat trails had parts under running water.

Summary: Flooded Potomac River, 10.0 miles more or less out-and-back, and about 200 ft altitude gain.

I did this hike last Monday, 18 April. I left the hotel out by Dulles Airport and got to the trail area about 1530. I parked at the Anglers Inn area again, put on my pack, and headed out. There is no water that I could find at the Anglers Inn area, so fill up before you come out. There is water at the Great Falls Tavern area.

I started off on a trail above the towpath (Berma Road), that is really a re-purposed road.

There are some really pretty bluffs above this road, and the trees are beautiful.

Eventually I saw a trail headed off at the Lock 16 loop area, so I turned there and started up a decent hill. There were a lot of trails in here. The trail was a bit more trail-like.

This area was stunning! The temperature was just right (high 70Fs), and partly cloudy overhead. The trees were tall and beautiful, there were leaves on the ground, and the terrain kept changing. Here are a couple examples.

I turned on the Gold Mine Loop and followed it for a while. There are a couple buildings that are the remains of gold mining operations that date back to just after the Civil War. A soldier in the area noticed gold dust, and realized that there was some gold in the quartz rock in the area. Several mining operations were set up; the process was to collect the rock, crush it up, and bathe it in mercury, which dissolved the gold. The mercury was boiled off (most collected for reuse), and the gold was left behind. There were a lot of quartz rocks around.

I ended up next to MacArthur Road, and thought I would walk down it to the Great Falls Tavern Visitor Center. I saw this camoflaged cell tower.

After I walked on the road for a while, I ran across an unmarked trail. I decided to head down that, and so was back in the trees. Eventually I ran across another segment of the Gold Mine Loop, and took it down to the Tavern area.

The river was right up to the bank of the Tavern area. There is a river overlook there, and it was a fine place to look at all that water.

The Tavern area has a lock preserved, along with the Tavern building that has been restored from post-Revolutionary times.

The Tavern was surrounded on the River side by some sandbags, so I’m guessing that the River was expected to come up even farther than it did.

This beautiful tree was near the parking area. I thought it was a cherry tree, but on post-hike review, it’s a Dogwood.

My plan was to take the Ford Mine Trail north from the parking area. The map I had showed the trail connected to the towpath, so I was going to come back on the towpath; it was 0.7 miles, so that made a nice 1.4 mile loop. Well, I walked out there 1.7 miles, and never found a bridge or anything like that. So I turned around and came back the same way.

It’s a beautiful trail. I saw a number of herdlets of deer. There were a number of stunning streams, including one that had a couple small waterfalls.

Eventually, I got back to the Tavern area, and kept walking down to the trail that leads to the Great Falls Overlook. That path was closed due to the floods, and there was some serious tumbling water here.

I ended up the hike by walking back down the towpath, past Billy Goat A, and to the parking area. Just as an FYI, there were a lot of people here, like the last time I was here.

Here is my path as downloaded from my GPS, followed by the terrain from Google Earth, and the altitude of the hike.

This was a really nice way to spend part of an afternoon. I got a great workout, and got to relax in a beautiful area less than five miles from serious urban area.

There are still two major trails down on the water, and a large number of forest area trails up on the hill. I’ll be back to hike them later.

Hike to Rampart Lake, CO

12 February 2011

Hike summary: On a road, to Rampart Lake. 5.8 miles total, about 500 ft altitude loss and gain. Pretty cold.

Yesterday, after work, a friend and I went up into the mountains west of Colorado Springs. My target was to drive to and hike around Rampart Lake. The Forest Service had the roads to the lake blocked, so we walked down a road to the dam and back. We got started about 1645 local, and finished up at 1845. The temp the entire time was about 26F, but I suspect it was a bit colder down near the lake.

On the drive out, we pulled a guy out of where he had stuck his truck in the snow next to the road, and saw a couple of what can only be described as ice sculptures.

There were pipes with a “sprinkler head” arrangement that dripped water down, where it froze in unusual shapes. There were four or five of these, but these pictures turned out the best.

I didn’t take any pictures walking in our out, just down by the lake. The road was pretty clear, with a bit of snow and ice every once in a while. It was drivable, I don’t know why it was blocked off.

We didn’t see any animals or birds this entire walk, surprisingly enough. We had seen one coyote on the drive in (with a *very* bushy coat and tail), and we saw coyote or dog tracks on the road, and a couple deer tracks, but no critters.

When we got down the lake, we walked out on the dam to check the area out. We got a really nice view of the terminator off to the east.

We had a great view of Pike’s Peak off to the south. There was not as much snow as I would have expected, I wonder if this has been a low snow year.

The lake, not unexpectedly, was frozen over. There were places along the shore where the ice was that particular aqua color that I associate with glaciers.

There were two big microwave horns mounted on the dam. One was pointed through a gap in the mountains, and the other pointed down at a receiver at the base of the dam. You can see the receiver towards the bottom of the second photo, the green circle.

It was getting dark when we left the dam, walking back along the dam road. We went around the dam gate, and past the dam (locked) restrooms. And it was getting colder. We kept a pretty good pace on the way back, but stopped to rest and stargaze a couple times, since we were headed uphill at a pretty good rate.

We had a half moon, but the sky was gloriously clear, and we saw tons of stars. Three satellites made an appearance also.

Here is the hike route overlaid on a topo map, followed by the Google Earth view (which most certainly was NOT green,since it was completely snow covered), and finally the altitude chart.

Altitude

This was a great way to spend a couple hours. It was pretty darn cold, but walking fast helped mitigate that. After we got back to the car, we headed down into Woodland Park for a decent tex-mex dinner, then back to our respective hotels to get ready to head back home. Thanks, Lance, for walking with me!

Hiking Cheyenne Mountain State Park, CO

12 February 2011

Hike summary: 4.3 miles, all in snow 2-8″ deep (more as the altitude increased, of course). Temp 11F, 450 ft altitude change.

Last Wednesday, after I had completed a bunch of work and a couple telecons, and lunch, I headed out to Cheyenne Mountain State Park (CMSP), which is southwest of Colorado Springs, and between Fort Carson and the NORAD facility.

So the day before I got to Colorado Springs, it had snowed some. I wanted to rent some snowshoes. I checked out the website for CMSP, and noted that the park was open, although the Visitor Center was closed due to flooding. I called the main number to ask about whether I would need snowshoes, and got an answering machine. The Voice On The Machine noted that the park was open, but the Visitor Center was closed, but people were there, and if you would leave your question, they would get back to you ASAP. So I left my number and my question. Three hours and two more calls later, I didn’t have my answer. Hmmm….

So I drove out there, and as soon as I hit the parking lot I ran into a Ranger, and asked him the same question. He said that if I didn’t mind occasional snow up to my ankles, I didn’t really need snowshoes. I avoided the temptation to ask why they couldn’t seem to be able to return phone calls.

It costs $7 to get into the park. A bit high, especially given that there was not a single restroom available anywhere. The Visitor Center was closed, of course, but all of the heads at all the other areas (the day use area, the camping area, etc.) were all closed. I think the fee is cash only; I didn’t see any credit card stickers. I paid at the drive-up window entrance to the park.

After paying, I walked back to the visitor center and finished getting ready. I was pretty heavily dressed, since the temp was 11F at 1330. It didn’t get any warmer, in spite of the cloudless, sunny sky. I wore thermals top and bottom, jeans, and my insulated pants, and a t-shirt, mock turtleneck, and sweater. This was finished off with a knit hat, my boots (with two layers of socks), and a heavy coat. I was never cold, and in fact, I got a bit sweaty during some of the slogging phases of the hike.

The snow was in fact over my ankles, just a few places. I didn’t posthole into the snow very often, but walking efficiency was not very good.

I had a vague plan for hiking, but it got modified after the first trail… The trails are largely a set of interconnecting loops, which is nice, as you have a lot of options. I started off by the visitor center. The mountain is Cheyenne Mountain.

I started off in about two inches of new snow. I was the first person to walk on it, so that was kind of cool.

One thing I was amazed by, the animal tracks. I saw a number of different critter tracks. These are coyote or dog tracks, albeit filled in a bit.

This was a set of mouse or vole tracks, leading to (or away) from a burrow. While most of the tracks were into the brush on the side of the trail, one set came out of a burrow, then went down the trail at least 50 ft, then turned around and went straight back.

These were deer tracks.

Most of the trail was pretty easy to follow, as it was the wide stripe. As I got farther back, there were more human tracks, which was nice, since the trail was a bit harder to pick up due to rocks and roots.

As I got farther away from the Visitor Center, and higher, there was more trees and a bit more brush. The trail got a bit steep in places, and with the altitude, this flatlander was puffing a little bit. A minute on the side of the trail to rest got my breath back quickly. You can see the snow here is quite a bit deeper.

This tree was one of the few with snow stuck to it. I could not figure out why. There were a number of other conifers nearby that didn’t have the snow on them. I also liked how the tree stood in contrast to the sky.

This was about as thick as the surrounding trees got.

As I walked up the hill, at one point I came around a slight bend and walked within 10 ft of these deer. They looked at me a minute, and then walked off. I didn’t seem to worry them very much.

This area was about the deepest the snow got for any period of time. It was consistently about 6-8″, and one or two places close to 12″. I was wearing my insulated pants, which have built-in gaiters, and didn’t get any snow inside my pants or boots.

I was headed back down when I came into this clearing. The mountain is a bit closer, and there was a good view down onto the plain. The view is generally Fort Carson, I think.

I got done around 1645. It was, of course, harder to walk in the snow. I saw exactly *1* other person on the trail the entire time I was there. The stillness was broken by traffic on CO 15 and helicopters from Fort Carson.

Here are topo, Google Earth, and altitude tracks for the hike.

The trails I walked were Coyote Run, Talon (very little), Zook Loop, Blackmer Loop, part of Boulder Run, Raccoon Ridge, Acorn Alley, Bobcat Way, and finally Soaring Kestral.

This was an enjoyable hike. I didn’t have any problems finding the trails through the snow, although a couple times I did walk off the trail, I found it again in seconds. I would like to go back and hit Cougar Ridge. The Park includes the peak of Cheyenne Mountain, and will supposedly be developed to extend the trails to the peak at some point in the future. That would also be a nice hike.

Casa Grande Mexican Restaurant, Woodland Park, CO

12 February 2011

Casa Grande Mexican Restaurant on Urbanspoon

After a very nice hike to Rampart Lake, a friend and I were rather hungry. We picked Casa Grande since it was easy to get to!

We got there around 1900, and left around 2030. The restaurant was about 30% full when we got there. The iced tea was excellent!

I ordered some queso; it was pretty good, not spectacular. The meal started with chips (very good, light and crispy), pretty good red salsa, and really good green chili salsa.

We both ordered the Michoacan Trio, which is three enchiladas. Mine were two chicken and one ground beef, and Lance got one each chicken, ground beef, and cheese. I really liked mine; there was too much food, even for me!

Service was good, the tea was kept refilled. Our check was $31.49. Good food!

Wade’s Cafe, Colorado Springs, CO

11 February 2011

Wade's Cafe on Urbanspoon

Yesterday I needed some lunch, and I like diners, so I found Wade’s via Google Maps and went to check it out. I got there about 1200, and it was packed! I waited for a table about three minutes, and the place stayed full the entire time I was there. I got out around 1300.

I ordered a chicken fried steak on the recommendation of my server. She asked if I wanted it breakfast style or lunch style; I chose breakfast. It came with a bunch of hash browns and two eggs. The hash browns and eggs were both good and done right. The CFS was not as good as I would have liked; I rated it a six out of ten. The thing was pretty large (about 4×6″), but the flavor just wasn’t there. The gravy (of which there was not enough…) was pretty good.

My check was $9.00.

Gunther Toody’s Diner, Colorado Springs, CO

11 February 2011

Gunther Toody's Diner on Urbanspoon

OK, that is one silly name for a restaurant. I have driven by this place a dozen times of the years, and had it recommended to me several times. Last night, a couple work friends and I checked it out.

We got there around 1945, and left 2050. The service was spotty overall. I noticed after we left that even though I had ordered chili fries, I got plain fries, so I got cheated out of $1.69. NBD in the Grand Scheme of Things, but a bit annoying.

I started with iced tea and a vanilla shake. The shake was excellent, just like a milkshake should be. The tea was OK at best.

I ordered a couple cheeseburger. One cool thing: they offered a choice of breads for the bun! I got mine on a wheat bun. The burger was OK. I’ve had better, and I’ve had worse. The beef was not overly flavorful. The fries were not very good; they were kind of greasy.

So the meal was a mixed bag. The shake was good, the rest of the meal was OK. Service was OK. I don’t think I would mind going back, but it would not be my first choice.

Texas T Bone Steakhouse, Colorado Springs, CO

11 February 2011

Texas T-Bone on Urbanspoon

A couple work friends and I went here for dinner tonight. We got there around 1815, and left around 1930.

I started with iced tea. It was excellent, the best tea I have had on this trip. Strong, tasty, and kept refilled. I got an order of onion straws for an appetizer; they came with ranch dressing that was really good. The “straws” were quite a bit thicker than most onion straws I have had. They were good, but could have been cooked a bit longer.

I ordered a t-bone, medium. It was cooked perfectly, had great beef flavor, WAS NOT CHARRED, and overall was a better than average steak. There was quite a bit on the strip side, less on the tenderloin side (one of my friends also got a t-bone, and it had a lot more tenderloin). The steak came with a baked potato that was good also.

I didn’t leave a bit of steak uneaten. I ended up with a scoop of vanilla ice cream for dessert. The service was very good. My check would have been around $28, except Lance picked it up (THANKS!). I would enjoy eating here again.

Skiing At Wolf Creek This Year

13 December 2010

OK, this is kind of a pointless post.

We like to ski, and we try every year to go to Wolf Creek Ski Area over the Thanksgiving holiday. This year, I took the entire week. We intended to drive to Santa Fe on Monday, leaving around 1445, then into Pagosa Springs mid-Tuesday, ski two or three days, then head back Saturday, getting back to Oklahoma City late Saturday.

Instead, we left OKC late Monday at 1800, overnighted in Santa Rosa, didn’t get to Pagosa until 1700, and faced a blizzard at Wolf Creek Wednesday (temps around 4F, winds 35-40 sustained, gusts to 70). We went to watch the Harry Potter movie in Durango instead. We left way late on Saturday, and overnighted in Amarillo, getting to OKC around 1500.

Time-wise, we are consistent not so much.

As is her custom, my very cute and culinary and quiet-seeking roommate stayed in our cabin, and cooked dinner for us. We had pretty much the full Thanksgiving meal Thursday, and then the leftovers Friday. It was great!

Skiing on Thursday and Friday was fantastic. The high on Thursday was about 14F (I had my glove off a couple times and my hand went numb very quickly), but it was sunny both days. The high on Friday was about 25F, which was good since I left my knitted hat at Pagosa, and skied bare-headed that day. The longest lift line I stood in either day was about one minute.

Here are some of the pictures I took those days.

I didn’t take this picture of the three of us, Wold Creek has a photographer crew roaming the mountain.

I carried a GPS with me the first day up. I was looking for essentially how far I skied. In summary, my total movement during the day was… 36 miles! I really had no idea that the total distance was that far! After I backed out the distances from riding the chair lifts, I ended up with total ski distance of about 25 miles. I really had no idea it would be that far.

One of the reasons I carried the GPS is that I have always wondered just how fast you go. I had the GPS data sorted by speed, and found… there were a lot of speeds north of 20 mph. There were two instances where I touched 27 mph. One of those was on a blue run on the far east part of the ski area; the other one was on a run that led straight down towards the Bonanza lift. Most of the speeds were in the 15 or so area. I looked closely at one run that was pretty consistently around 15 mph, and it led from the top of the Bonanza lift, down the west boundary of the ski area, on a group of blues and greens that were wide open, and the track shows me doing a set of edge-to-edge turns all the way down in one continuous run.

This chart of altitude over time is interesting. You can see how many runs I took (26, of which seven were on the beginner lift). I would ski down to the beginner lift every once in a while to see how the kids were doing, or I would go up it to be able to ski down to the big lifts. There are three big lifts, the lowest one (Raven) is a high-speed detachable quad.

I decided that the highest lift (Treasure) wasn’t worth the ride. The extra altitude serves mainly extreme expert, and all you end doing if you are a Blue skier like me is to ski down roads to where the open Blues are, which is where you can get to from the “middle” lift, Bonanza. That’s why there are only four runs from Treasure.

This is an overlay of all the ski runs on a topographic map of the area, followed by a Google Earth overlay.

Couple notes. The main snack/lunch area at Wolf Creek does not take credit cards. There is an ATM there, but it is slow and does not work sometimes. There is another eating area just above the lift ticket area that I *think* takes credit cards. The chili at the lunch area is excellent. The cheeseburgers are good beef, but sometimes they are not cooked, or even worse, are raw in the middle and charred on the outside. The chicken strips could be used as pitons if you are rock climbing. They do not allow drink refills, which is just another way to chisel some more money from us. The cold sandwiches are pretty good (ham and turkey in particular).

We paid $150 for the three of us to ski, each day. The two adult (Ian and I) tickets were $52 each, and Erin’s a bit less). Rental equipment cost was also a bit more expensive, where we got it at Ski and Bow in Pagosa. I have noted before that I really like High Country Lodge.

Boss Hoggs, Pagosa Springs, CO

13 December 2010

This is one of two catch-up posts. My very cute and detail-oriented roommate pointed out that I had not written a review of her favorite restaurant in Pagosa Springs, Boss Hoggs.

We went there for lunch on an extended leaving-town sequence back on Saturday, 27 Nov. We had visited a couple shops after checking out of High Country Lodge, and it was past noon. We got there around 1230 and were immediately seated.

There are a LOT of dead animals on the walls there.

We got our drinks (the tea was excellent) and ordered. I got a chicken fried steak. One work for it – excellent. Great flavor, perfect breading, good gravy. Raegan got a dinner salad. She liked it. Ian got the rib plate. Those were some decent ribs. I tried part of one and thought that it had potential. Erin got a frito chili pie (it was huge!). It was good, but a bit too spicy for her.

We all got salad and soup from the salad bar. The ranch dressing I got was excellent. The soup – I can’t remember what the stuff was, but it was unusual, and it was great! Perfectly spicy and tasty.

We all got dessert – R2 and I got chocolate cream pie, and the kids got ice cream. The pie was great stuff.

So R2 likes Boss Hoggs better than Junction. I would have to say from this meal that they certainly give Junction a run for the money. We will try Hoggs again the next time we are in Pagosa. We left at 1325. Our check was $56.34. Service was great – very attentive.

Junction Restaurant, Pagosa Springs, CO

24 November 2010

Junction Restaurant on Urbanspoon

I have been to Pagosa Springs many, many times, starting with my good friends Jamie and David back in 1985. We drove into town right past the Junction. They had a sign out front, and on a portable sign under that one had the words “Taxidermy”. We laughed a lot at that, and then stopped for an excellent dinner. I’ve eaten at the Junction every time I have been in Pagosa since, with one exception (we came through around 1000 a couple of years ago coming home from a TDY/Vacation, and kept going).

So we got into Pagosa late this afternoon, and stopped there after we had picked up our rental skis. It was pretty darn good, as always.

Raegan was not terribly hungry, so she got a bowl of chicken noodle soup and said it was good.

Ian got a cheeseburger. I tried it, and while it was very good, I wish he would get other things.

Erin got a grilled cheese, and ate every scrap.

I got a chopped sirloin with sauteed onions and mushrooms on top. It came with a baked potato that could have spent a touch longer in the oven. The chop was perfect, medium well just like I asked.

The tea was plentiful and kept refilled. Raegan and I also got peach cobbler, but the server couldn’t seem to get it heated up in spite of us asking about three times.

We got there around 1800, and there were two other tables occupied – both of those left within minutes of our arrival (I don’t think there was a cause and effect 🙂 ). We left around 1915. Our check was $41.26. Service was OK.

We plan on keeping going here.

3 Days, 3 Hikes: Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, CO

15 June 2010

Last week, we hiked to an overlook trail at Black Canyon. It’s at the end of the south rim drive.

The trail is pretty good. It’s a mix of packed dirt with occasional rocks.

The views from up there are stunning. You are walking a ridge to the west. The canyon is on the north. Trees and mountain are to the south.

We made it out to the point fairly quickly – it’s only about 0.8 miles one way. There are some rocks up there to sit on, and a bit of shade. There are no guardrails!

A nice couple took a picture of the kids and I.

The view west down the canyon is spectacular.

This is the north rim from the point.

There is not a lot of cover up there. Sunscreen is a must during the middle of the day.

This is the town of Montrose to the SW.

This mountain is a ridge or two over to the SSE of Montrose. I did some map checking, and I think that this is the mountain where Telluride Ski Area is located.

The trail is usually wide and smooth.

This was a quartize rock. I was trying to capture how well it reflected the sun at a certain angle.

There were a surprising number of wildflowers up there, and no cactus that I saw.

Here is the GPS trail overlaid on a Google Earth map.

And here is the altitude track for the hike.

As a bit of perspective, I flew over Black Canyon a couple months ago. Here is a photo I took from 30Kft, with the area we hiked highlighted.

Make darn sure you carry water on this hike. It’s hot and dry even in the first week of June. The nearest water is the park visitor center. The total length for this hike is 1.6 miles out and back. Not long, but exhilarating!

Hiking Up to Catamount Lakes, CO

14 June 2010

Last Wednesday, I flew into Colorado Springs for a meeting the next day. After a couple telecons, I headed up to Green Mountain Falls for a hike. I got there about 1345. You HAVE to park in one of the parking lots next to the small lake (with a gazebo in the middle). The roads that lead to the trails are signed with all manner of dreadful threats to tow your car if you park there.

I parked on the east side of the lake, got my pack ready, and headed out. There are trail maps in a mailbox on the sign in front of the west parking lot. I walked most of the length of the town on the main road (Ute Pass Avenue), all the way to the swimming pool. It was pretty hot, and I realized as I approached the pool, I hadn’t filled up my water bottle. There is no place to fill the bottle that I could find around the pool (there is a pump handle in the park the north of the pool, but it was locked). I ended up walking back to the lake. There is a nice little trail on the north side of the creek that runs along Ute Pass, that takes you back to the lake.

There is a water fountain in the northeast corner of the lake park. I took a long drink, and then filled both my Nalgene and a smaller disposable bottle (which came back all the way to OKC and is in recycling here at the house). Then I headed BACK along Ute to find Belvidere.

The trail map shows that you can get on the main trail from either Belvidere or Hondo Avenues. I picked Belvidere to start on, at random, planning on coming back down via Hondo. It’s a long walk on either road, but Hondo is a lot steeper. So if you want to take it easier, I would recommend going up Belvidere and down either Hondo.

Once you get off the road part, the trail starts as a gravel road. It goes up fairly steeply.

As you climb, the view gets better and better. The big road in the distance is US 24.

The Belvidere and Hondo roads come together at the bottom of the Catamount Falls. There is a large structure there was is a water storage tank for the town. One thing I found funny – the structure is a water tank, it’s made of stone and concrete, and there is nothing flammable about it, but there is a fire plug in front of it.

One neat thing, right here I met two guys who had been backpacking for five days around Pikes Peak. We talked for a bit, and I talked to one of them about Scouts, and how to choose a troop for his 10-year-old son.

The “gentle” road now gives way to rocks – you have to do some serious stairstepping up this trail.

The first part of the trail follows Catamount Falls up a couple hundred feet. The waterfalls are a set of tumbles over rocks. I stopped a number of times on the way up to just watch the water a bit.

One thing I noticed a lot on the hike was growth on the cedar trees. Big or small, most of the trees had an inch or so of new twig growth, and it was really pretty. This picture is from a small, perfect holiday tree.

After am initial steep rock stair, the trail became a bit more of a combination of packed dirt, rocks, and tree roots. A number of places, there are tree trunks that have fallen over the trail.

A couple hundred feet up, a side trail runs out to an overlook.

There is not much chance of getting lost on this trail 🙂

After a significant amount of “up”, with a number of switchbacks, you go over a ridge, down just a bit, and you enter a grove that is named “Garden of Eden”. I looked but did not see any snakes or apple trees.

This part of the hikes follows the stream again, and there are more tumbling small waterfalls. I heard a couple rumbles of thunder to the north as I walked here, and was looking for rocks to hide under of lightning in my area became evident.

Eventually, you reach another road. Doing research later, I found that this road is a loop of the main road that goes up Pikes Peak. There was a water measurement gauge at the place the trail meets the road. The small pond had some trout in it, and this small water snake, so maybe there was an apple tree around there somewhere.

After walking a while along the road, you come to the dam for South Lake Catamount. I climbed right up the dam backside, and found myself on a dam road. Right in front of me, across the lake – Pikes Peak.

I really liked the thunderstorm to the east of the Peak.

This is looking from the dam road back down the road I had walked in on.

I walked along the dam road, and up a bit more, and found the road to North Lake Catamount. Turns out this had a dam road to walk on also.

The thunderstorm east of Pikes had matured a little bit.

The peak to the west of Pikes looks to be volcanic to me. I really liked the snow bridges that were still there.

The lakes had one surprise to me. There were probably 20 vehicles up there at the two lakes, and people from those vehicles were fishing.

I headed back down after spending a half hour or so at the lakes. I made good progress down, and stopped for about 20 minutes in the “saddle” area right before the trail became switchbacks again.

I saw little wildlife. I number of birds, a couple squirrels and chipmunks. I saw deer scat. The area was warned for mountain lions.

One thing I liked about walking through the houses in town – a lot of the properties are named by the residents (things like “Aspen Glen”). I saw a disturbing number of OU flags and placards outside houses, but also one orange OSU flag.

As I left town after the hike, I drove up US 24 to get some dinner in Woodland Park. I got a good view of the area I just hiked. I don’t know the area well enough to know exactly what the path is, but I know it was UP.

Here is an overlay of the GPS track data onto Google Maps.

Here is a plot of the altitude for the hike.

I felt GREAT after this hike. It was a long distance, and went up pretty high, at a high altitude to begin with. It was absolutely beautiful. A wonderful way to spend the afternoon. The GPS reports that the hike was 8.7 miles round trip. You can see from the track overlay that a significant portion of that was from the center of town to the trailhead. You can also see a smaller loop at the end that is my walk on the south dam road, then up to the end at the north dam road.

In the summer, take extra water. I went through my big Nalgene and half of the smaller bottle.

Tabeguache Steakhouse, Woodland Park, CO

14 June 2010

Tabeguache Steak House & Winebar on Urbanspoon

After a hard but very satisfying hike in Green Mountain Falls, I headed up the road to Woodland Park for dinner. I was a little disappointed by the choices, but I decided to try Tabeguache Steakhouse. What does “Tabeguache” mean? According to Wikipedia, it is a translation from Ute for “place where the snow melts first”. It is also the name of one of Colorado’s 14ers that are along the Arkansas River headwaters.

I got there around 2000; the restaurant was about 1/3 full. I started off with iced tea. It was not bad. I had a little trouble keeping it full during the meal.

I started off with some sauteed mushrooms. I sort of didn’t like them. They were sauteed in balsamic vinegar and old. The BV was really strong and overwhelmed the taste of the mushrooms. They were also large mushrooms, and some of the larger pieces were not cooked all the way through, so some of they were kind of fibrous.

I got a soup instead of salad. It was a chicken, rice, and veg soup that was quite thick. It had a nice taste to it.

The main course was a 16 oz ribeye. That steak was cooked and tasted like I cooked it on my backyard grill – it was darned good! A perfect medium, and mostly fork tender. Not a scrap was left! I got some OK rice with it, and it had a mixed steamed veg medley.

Overall, a good meal. The beef was excellent and cooked completely to order. When I left at 2115, the place was still about 1/3 full. My check was $41.30. Good place!

The Mason Jar, Manitou Springs, CO

14 June 2010

The Mason Jar on Urbanspoon

We ran across The Mason Jar quite at random during a family visit to the Colorado Springs area a couple years ago. We had visited Cave of the Winds, and some other stuff, and just drove past the Jar on the way back into town. At the time, we were highly impressed.

I went to Colorado Springs last week on business, and before the business part, I headed to the mountains to recreate. I decided to eat the the Jar again. I was not quite as impressed this time.

I got there around 1245; the place was about 70% full, and I was immediately seated. I got iced tea (very good) in the usual small, trademark Mason jars.

I listened to the specials, but remembered how good the chicken fried steak was during the previous visit (as it was clearly hand made), so that’s what I ordered. It comes in two sizes, lunch and dinner. Turns out that the dinner size is really TWO of the lunch sized CFSs. Only these things were clearly mass produced. The breading was not terribly good, and the meat was bland and tasteless. They were also physically uniform; I stacked them, and rotated the top one about 25deg, and they were IDENTICAL.

This was not what I expected at all. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t anything like good, either. In a quite jarring “what?“, the gravy was excellent! I got a green salad with some very good ranch dressing. The meal also came with some good, but small, biscuits. The side with the CFS was some decent mashed potatoes.

I was overall disappointed. The CFS was not what I expected given the quality of the previous several meals I had at the Jar. One thing I noticed as Raegan and the kids and I drove through Colorado Springs last week coming home was that there is at least one other location now. I hope that the company is not expanding, and going to pre-fab food. I don’t get to The Springs nearly often enough, and I will try the Jar again the next trip through, and see if this visit was an anomaly.

I left at 1315. Service was OK. My check was $15.98.

Some Cools Things From The Air, COS-DFW

13 June 2010

I took a very quick trip to Colorado Springs Wednesday and Thursday. I saw a couple cool things from my seat.

This is a large valley structure. It’s kind of hard to see, but the north and south plains are at the same altitude, and then something ate out the land between. I haven’t been able to precisely find out where this is, but I know it’s very close and west of Wichita Falls, TX.

There were a lot of clouds until we got to Colorado. This photo is two pictures merged through the magic of The GIMP. The lower ridge closest to the camera is the front range of the Rockies. In back, on the left you have still-snow-capped Huerfano Peak. The North Zapata Ridge goes, well, north from there. Below and behind the Ridge is Great Sand Dunes National Park.

We quickly got close to COS.

In this shot, we have a very nice view of Pikes Peak. Colorado Springs is overcast. For perspective, the two peaks poking up through the clouds are Cheyenne Mountain (home of NORAD) and The Horns. From the air, I could see the antenna farm on top of Cheyenne Mountain, but the camera has a hard time resolving them.

On the way back home the next day, I saw some really cool things!

Out east of COS, there is the smallest Air Force Base that I know if. This is Schriever Air Force Base. I always thought that to be an Air Force Base, you had to have a runway. The only way to use one of these roads for a runway is to be a VSTOL aircraft.

A little farther on, I could see this odd structure. Turns out that it is Transportation Technology Center, Inc. (TTCI), a wholly owned subsidiary of the Association of American Railroads. They test railroad technology here. They have a website here.

This is a closeup of the buildings there.

This shows how for out test track runs.

Just south of TTCI is Pueblo Army Depot.

According to the web, the Depot is closed, but still has mustard gas stored at it.

We flew through clouds for a bit, but eventually saw these towns. First, Stratford, TX, in the panhandle.

A little farther on, we flew near Borger, TX (and its suburb of Phillips), and nearby Meredith Lake.

That’s all for these flights.

Driving from Grand Junction to Colorado Springs, CO

7 June 2010

We left Grand Junction at about 1130 this morning, headed ESE on US 50. We planned on driving through Montrose, and to Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.

As we headed out, we were treated to this nice thunderstorm in profile, to the north.

We drove up the Gunnison River; we didn’t see it after we left Grand Junction until we crossed it in Delta. We could see the large canyon off to our south as we drove towards Delta.

The mountains were drawing nearer as we went east.

We drove through Montrose. We made a tactical error here, and should have had lunch. Since we didn’t, we ended up backtracking to Montrose, and loosing almost an hour of travel time.

We drove on to Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. We thought we would be there about an hour, we spent almost three! It was a great park, had a nice hike, and some stunning views. I highly recommend a visit here if you are in the central Colorado area.

This is a series from the first overlook.

The Gunnison River is visible far below, followed by a close-up.

We went to the Visitor Center. There is a very nice overlook there.

This is a shot across the canyon to the north rim. The north rim is accessible from Delta on a Colorado tertiary road. The last six miles of that road is gravel.

This is R2 and the kids at the Visitor Center.

There were some thunderstorms going up as well.

These are the mountains through which run I-70. There are a bunch of ski resorts there, like Vail and Beaver Creek.

This is from one of the other overlooks, to the west and the mouth of Black Canyon.

The cliff across the way is the tallest cliff in Colorado. It’s 3000+ft tall. I really liked the veining of minerals in it. The view down the canyon to the river was stunning also.

There was some additional veining a little farther east.

This was a nice cactus in bloom.

I saw some movement across on the north rim. Here is the rim, then I zoomed in and saw the people making the movement…

Looking east, there is a big notch between the north and south rims. I saw this from the air a couple months ago.

This lizard was trying to stay away from the people who were around.

We went for a nice hike while we were there, it’s a separate blog post.

After dinner in Montrose (see blog post), we headed out on US 50 again. The drive along the canyon to the north of us was stunning often.

Soon, we skirted the beautiful Blue Mesa Lake.

After the lake, we made it to Gunnison. I had expected Gunnison, being a ski town, to have a mountain nearby. None to speak of. A sign for Crested Butte ski area pointed north out of town, and Erin said she saw another pointing to the south, but no mountains there. Hmmm, a topic for research in the next couple days…

We drove on, and soon got up into more mountains. Real mountains, with huge pine trees. We went up and down Monarch Mountain, seeing a scenic chair lift, and eventually the Monarch ski area. We got our high point of the trip here, at 11,300 ft. Down from Monarch is a huge mining operation, looks like gravel. More research.

Soon after, we got into the Arkansas River valley, and followed the river up to US 24. US 24 goes up into a small (relatively speaking) set of mountains, and dumps out in a huge, 40-mile wide valley. There were tremendous thunderstorms to the north, northeast, and south. On the other (east) side, we got up into more mountains, and eventually made it into Colorado Springs about 2100.

We saw an opposite-horizon optical effect. I will have to research to find the name of the effect. That’s Pike’s Peak that the effect is over.

To close out the day, a spectacular sunset in back of us.

We saw deer, an elk, a bunch of pronghorn, and the usual sheep, cows, and horses along the way. There were a couple groups of burros, and mules as well.

This was a classic Colorado drive. The mountains were spectacular, and were not of the “desert” variety we saw in Arizona and Utah (which are also spectacular, in a different way).

Red Barn Restaurant, Montrose, CO

7 June 2010

Red Barn Restaurant on Urbanspoon

I don’t think I’ve ever done this (except maybe for the specific Lee’s Sandwiches in OKC), but I do not recommend this restaurant.

We had been up in Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, and got some advice from the staff there. We were heading east towards Colorado Springs, and didn’t really want to drive the 12 miles or so back west into Montrose. The staff said the next town (Cimmaron, about 10 miles east) was just a wide spot (but when we drove through there, there were a couple cafes and a restaurant open), and we didn’t think we wanted to wait the 40 minutes or so to get to Gunnison. So we went to the Red Barn.

Let me note up front that we also had an Italian recommendation for Garlic Bobs, and that was actually our first try, but they don’t open until 1700.

My summary is that most of the food wasn’t bad, but it sure wasn’t good either, and the cost was pretty high, so I don’t think it was a good value.

We got there about 1615. There was no one else in the place.

The first good thing: the tea was excellent! I was dried out from hiking in Black Canyon, and downed a lot of tea during the meal.

Erin ordered cheese sticks. They were all consumed. Everybody except me got Caesar salads; they were good.

I ordered a chicken fried steak. The host said that it was breaded there, but I just don’t think that was the case. The CFS was a uniform oval, and uniformly breaded. It looked mass produced. It tasted OK. The gravy was really good. It came with a medley of veg that included red and green bell peppers that screwed up the taste of the veg significantly. NOTE TO RESTAURANTS: Bell peppers are not repeat not a vegetable, they are a fruit, and they do not go well with mixed veg!!!! I got a cup of the three alarm chili. It was more like a single-match temperature. It had a good taste, but no spiciness, and also had a ton of kidney beans in it.

I ended up trading my CFS for Erin’s meal. I encouraged her to try something new, specifically the chicken stir fry. It came pretty much as expected, except… it was full of red and green bell peppers. Not a usual stir fry item (did they get the bell peppers on a special good deal?). She didn’t like it at all, so I let her finish the CFS while I fished peppers out, and ate most of the stir-fry and rice. It was OK.

Ian got baby back ribs. I am not a fan of baby backs, and had recommended he get the spare ribs, but he didn’t hear. They were tender enough, but had little flavor.

Raegan got talapia. I know, why get fish in landlocked Colorado. She said it was OK at best, and very bland.

We finished about 1710. Our check was $80.31. It seemed way high to me. However, the CFS was $13, the tilapia clocked in at $17, the baby backs (a half order) at $14, the cheese sticks were $7. All pretty high dollar. The service was OK.

I just came out of there with the feeling that I got ripped off, in a quality/cost perspective. Maybe it’s because they are in the middle of the state, maybe they are just high dollar. I just would not recommend eating there.

Driving from Bryce Canyon to Grand Junction

6 June 2010

The original travel plan had to been to head out from Bryce Canyon mid-morning, then go through Capitol Reef and Arches National Parks, before arriving at Grand Junction in the late afternoon. Unfortunately, a really late departure from Las Vegas got us into Bryce near dinner, pushing back my desired hike to today, and so pushing back our departure to after lunch.

We left the Bryce area close to 1400 local. We drove east on UT 12, a truly beautiful drive. It starts out descending into Bryce Canyon, with hoodoos everywhere, along with soaring rock faces, and then runs through Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. The terrain runs from hoodoos to huge red rock bluffs and cliffs, to volcanic ash to a beige rock.

This is the large structure that we saw from west of Bryce Canyon on the way there yesterday.

This is looking west back towards Bryce Canyon.

There were still lots of hoodoos around.

And also some hoodoos in the making.

After the National Monument, you go through a series of steep climbs and steep descents, including one 10 degrees down.

Eventually, you end up at an overlook for a really pretty overlook for the Escalante River canyon. The road dives steeply down to a river crossing, at about 5200 ft elevation, then back up and up and up, along the canyons along Calf Creek. The views here are amazing, but…

As you go along north, Now, running along the spine of a set of mountains. As you get up to about the 6400 ft level, you are running along the spine of a ridge, with steep, 1000+ft dropoffs on both sides of the road. At a couple points, you have only a soft shoulder on either side of the road, then AIR.

After this, you go through the town of Boulder, and then some really pretty forests that are a combination of pine and aspen. As you drive up Boulder Mountain, the trees give way to mostly aspen. Since we drove through in early June, the leaves were bright green, and just beautiful. There are a couple overlooks along the way – stop at ALL of them.

We made our way around Boulder Mountain to Torrey (UT 24), then west through Capitol Reef National Park, and through a virtual moonscape of hoodoos and rock formations of every color.

At Hanksville, we turned north, and went about 40 miles along a treeless landscape. I have to admit, I opened up the car along this stretch. You occasionally pass rock formations, and after a while there was a nice set of bluffs along the west side of the road.

This was a spectacular, if slow drive, with stunning scenery. There is little cell service, but there are enough little towns along the way for drinks and food. I’d recommend gassing up in the Bryce area.

We had dinner in Green River, and then headed into Grand Junction on I-70. The last thing we took a photo of was a small lenticular cloud.

This was the last photo we took for the day, but there was still amazing mountains and ridges and other views on the way to Grand Junction. Great drive, great views.

Some Cool Things From The Air, 04 April 2010

14 April 2010

I flew back home from Salt Lake City on 04 April 2010, via DFW. Saw some pretty neat things.

As we left SLC to the south, we flew back west, then north, then between Salt Lake City and Prov0, then turned back to the SE. I had an indistinct view of the copper mine southwest of SLC. The big copper smelter got a good look:

This is a pond used to hold tailings runoff. Note the distinct copper-blue color.

It’s hard to tell through the clouds, but that’s Hill Air Force Base in Provo, UT.

After we flew over the Wasatch, I saw this lake. It took some Googling, but this is East Canyon Reservoir and State Park, UT.

We flew over the Unitas Range in Utah. This mountain range is distinctive in that it is the only range in North America that runs west to east. I was astounded by the sheer amount of snow! These are some pretty tall and very rugged mountains, but they were almost completely obscured by huge snows.

This extremely rugged area features Mt Agassiz to the bottom of the picture.

I have not been able to find any names, but from a bit of Googling, these mountains are the home of Upper Ottoson Lake and Lower Ottoson Lake.

We flew for a while with clouds obsuring the gound. After a bit, I got a view of the ground, and saw this. It is Lake County Airport. The town of Leadville, CO is off to the upper left of the photo.

One thing that is cool about this airport. It is at roughly 9600ft. Off to the south end of the runway, the terrain drops off about 500ft. Hope you’ve got airspeed…

Just a bit farther on, we had a great view of Pikes Peak.

Just a bit farther on, we crossed the Front Range area. This is the Canon City, CO, looking east.

I saw this structure just a minute later. From a bit of map reading, it turns out that this is the United States Penitentiary Administrative Maximum Facility (ADX), i.e. a “supermax” prison, in Florence, Colorado. Looks quite cheerless.

This is a nice view along the Arkansas River in the Colorado plain. The facilities are cement mines or manufacturers.

This is Pikes Peak and Cheyenne Mountain again, from the south.

Again in the theme of cement, this facility is just south of Pueblo, CO. I did a lot of web scouring with no luck; Google shows the facility, but it is clearly under construction. I sent the photo to the Pueblo Chamber of Commerce, and a very helpful reply came back a couple days later that it looked like the new Grupo Cementos cement plant. That led to an annual report, which included a photo of a facility that looked a lot like the shot I took. So, I call it a state-of-the-art cement plant that feeds on limestone. There is a pit to the NW that is on “Lime Road”.

We flew southwest for a while. I was on the left side of the airplane. Philmont and the Sangre de Cristos were off to the right.

We overflew the Oklahoma Panhandle, then into the Texas Panhandle. This is Boise City, OK.

Just southeast of Boise City, I saw these two groups of wind generators. I am utterly fascinated by these. My very cute and long-suffering roommate has been subjected to several episodes of driving to wind farms just to watch them. The little town in the distance is Texhoma, TX.

This is Shamrock, TX. I barely looked out the window in time to get the camera fired up.

This is Mangum, OK, in the southwestern part of the state.

The quality here isn’t really good, but this is Lake Altus and Quartz Mountain State Park in southwestern OK. I’ve been camping there, and hiked and rock climbed all over it.

This is Altus, OK, and then a closeup of Altus Air Force Base. I’ve been down here twice to see the Shuttle on a refueling stop.

After we landed at DFW, I got on another Super 80 for OKC. This is the Dolese crushed-limestone quarry that is on the northern edge of the Arbuckle Mountains in south-central Oklahoma.

We also overflew the National Weather Center on the OU Norman campus.

This is the Native American Museum on the banks of the Oklahoma River southeast of downtown Oklahoma City.

I have another shot of the museum from a previous trip, and you can see that some progress is being made in construction.

Finally, we flew a little farther north over Oklahoma City, and so we got a good view of the Zoo, part of Remington Park, and the National Softball Hall of Fame.

That’s it!

Some Cool Things From The Air, DFW-SLC

1 April 2010

I flew from DFW to SLC yesterday morning. I was in 3F on the Super 80, and saw some pretty cool things from the air.

As we departed DFW, we overflew the new Dallas Cowboys Stadium. It’s HUGE.

Right west of the DFW Metroplex is a large mine. I rooted around on the net, and found that it is Texas Industries. They dig up sand, gravel, and crushed limestone. From some of the relief (the shadows) there are some really tall walls in that mine.

There was a lot of cloud cover as we went NW, but it started clearing a bit out over the Texas Panhandle.

We flew over this mountain. I really enjoyed the way that the snow was on the elevation but not on the plain below. I was also excited since I thought this was Capulin Volcano National Monument. After some Google Mapping, turns out that this is Sierra Grande; more than 9K altitude, 2200 ft above terrain. Sierra Grande is an extinct shield volcano. The Capulin volcano is off to the northwest, behind the clouds.

This is Trinidad, CO.

The only bad part of this trip was that we flew just north of Philmont Scout Ranch. I needed to be on the other side of the airplane to see that.

These two peaks were just stunning; Spanish Peak, and East Spanish Peak. Off in the distance it Pike’s Peak.

This was a really nice ridge running north from Culebra Peak, CO.

This is Fort Garland, CO. The reason I thought this was interesting was what looks like an airstring up in the mountain behind the town.

This was really neat once I realized what it was. This is Great Sand Dunes National Park.

This park is really amazing. The sand comes from the rivers that flow through the basin west of the park; the wind picks up the sand deposited on the ground as the rivers move around, and gets blown east and piled up at the foot of the mountains. The dunes are as high as 750 ft (yes, seven hundred and fifty).

A bit farther west, this is areas of clear cutting.

This was just a really nice view. The mesa just south of picture center, with pure snow on it.

This next series of of a really cool feature. It is Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. The first picture is Blue Mesa Reservoir, near Gunnison. From there, the next couple shots are of the rest of the canyon. It’s really impressive from the air.

As we flew across Colorado, there was a pretty good view up the canyon. This is the frozen Gunnison River.

This is a closeup of the Chasm View area of the park.

The next thing was a stretch of the Colorado River just over the UT border. I really liked all the oxbows. Maybe they are not oxbows, but they are clearly places where the water is more powerful than the rock.

This was a little farther along, north of Arches National Park and I-70. The photo really does not do the actual view full justice, but the crenelated surface was amazing.

This last set was as we were approaching SLC. There was a plume over the SLC area. The wind that day was really strong 35-50mph at the surface) out of the SSW, and it was picking up dust from the desert of central Utah, and lofting it over the Salt Lake area. Even though the plume was fairly distinct, I could not get a good shot of it as we turned from the downwind leg onto the base leg.

There was a lot of stuff to see on this trip. I love flying over the American West, it’s always beautiful.