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No Gators Here; Lady Mountain Driver; Beignets; An Elkador? Dam Road; Two Pretty Skiers; Kissing on the Grass

Before leaving Loveland, we got a last bike ride in around Boyd Lake. The bike path, like many we have ridden in Colorado, is paved and wide enough for two bikes to safely pass at speed. The view of the Rocky Mountains from these lakeside houses is lovely. And there are no water moccasins or alligators in the lake… imagine that!  

We were headed west from the Denver area, which takes you on I-70 into the Rockies. I generously took the first shift, and asked Corvette Chick if she would like to take over just before the steep grades leading to the Continental Divide for her very first time to drive our new coach. I am a very thoughtful husband. She took over happily, and this photo proves she was in a good frame of mind. The Coach’s 450 hp Cummins diesel powered us up the mountains easily, although our speed was reduced to 45 and then 35 mph to keep pace with heavier semis in the right lane. The left lane had a 50-55 mph minimum, and we couldn’t keep up that speed on these steep grades. 

We reached the crest at the 1.7 mile long Eisenhower Tunnel, at 11,158 ft. elevation; it is the longest mountain tunnel and highest point on the Interstate highway system. The tunnel has a command center with 52 full-time staff to monitor traffic, remove stranded vehicles, and maintain generators that keep the tunnel’s lighting and ventilation system running. 

The views from I-70 are impressive. There is still a lot of snow up above 11,000 feet. 

For those who have only driven in relatively flat parts of the US, this sign will grab your attention. Imagine a 70,000 lb semi and loaded trailer losing its brakes on an 8% down grade. These runaway truck ramps, with a curved upward grade, are filled with loose gravel to stop the runaway before it hits the trees. The Coach has an engine exhaust brake that uses compression to slow us down. Even on steep grades, Suzanne merely had to cut in the engine brake and our speed was reduced to 45-48 mph without even having to touch the brakes (the transmission also automatically downshifts, in this case from 6th to 4th gear).  The Coach and Suzanne finished the shift without breaking a sweat.

We arrived in beautiful Dillon and adjacent Silverthorne, Colorado, Sunday evening and hooked up to shore power at the Elks Lodge. With snowcapped peaks all around, it’s an enchanting area. On our Monday morning w-a-l-k in t-o-w-n with our puppies, I spied a tempting sign… “Beignets”… Louisiana French fried pastries, covered in confectioner’s sugar, a New Orleans delight. Being a native of the Crescent City, I had to sample them, and they were excellent. The elevation and dry air here gives them a different texture than back in NOLA, but with a cup of coffee and chickory, they were still very tasty. It helped that the owner was from Barataria, Louisiana, in Cajun country west of the city. 

It’s a good thing I had those beignets and coffee, because just after leaving town, I was attacked by a giant elk. (He mustn’t have known I was a member of the Silver Springs Elks Lodge back in Florida.)  We went face-to-face, hands to antlers, for several minutes before I bested the brute and he beat it back to the brush. Colorado wildlife has been tough on me this month… 

We are now at 9,000 feet, so after the elk adventure, what’s to do but laze around and have an ice cream, right? Wrong… how about a 19 mile mountain bike ride from Silverthorne to Dillon and then to Frisco? No, not San Francisco, but the lovely town of Frisco, pop. 2,863, founded in 1880 to support silver mining, but now a popular ski destination. Copper Mt., Keystone, Arapahoe Basin and Breckinridge are nearby. Frisco sits alongside Lake Dillon, seen behind My Lovely Bride. We had just finished a long series of switchbacks from the base of the dam to the crest. 

The bike trail circles the lake, and you ride across the top of the dam on… what else… the Dam Road. We had ridden here last year when the reservoir was nearly full, but now it was way, way low. You can see how far down the water level is, with the boat docks on the mud and a series of “waterlines” on the shore.  

When we got to the Frisco marina, we had to find out…  was Global Warming the culprit behind the low water levels? We went into the marina office and shop and found two delightful young women, Jenn and Emily, who gave us the scoop. The reservoir level varies seasonally up to 30-40 feet. It bottoms out in late winter/early spring when the snows are on the mountains, and fills up when the snows melt in late spring/early summer. Since it is a major source of water for Denver and its sprawling suburbs and nearby cities, what comes in does go out, and it replenishes annually. By the way, Jenn is from Durango, Colorado, and Emily hales from Nashua, New Hampshire. Both are expert skiers; Jenn climbed a local 14er (14,000 ft peak) and skied down; Emily skied Tuckerman’s Ravine on Mount Washington, one of the most challenging runs in New England. They both moved here because of the beauty of the mountains and the outdoor adventures to be enjoyed in this part of Colorado.  

After a shower, Rudy and Gretchen insisted on another ride and walk, so we found a nice park area near the Dillon Marina and found a nice sunny, grassy area for me to collapse onto. I snoozed for just a minute, and woke up to find My Lovely Bride getting kissed by another guy… “Hey, Dude, that’s my girl!”  

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