Category Archives: Colorado

Don't catch you slippin up

Zion, Grand Canyon, Mesa Verde, Arches, Bryce, Vegas

There’s a part of the country I’ve been meaning to see for some time. Decided to swing out this Memorial Day weekend to check it out.

I’ve done two large road trips of the states and one of the areas that I have never made it out to was the Grand Canyon and all of those surrounding national parks.

Had the idea on Wednesday. Booked the flight and the car and swung out the following day.

Thu 05/24

Finished up work out in Times Square. From there it’s a commute home to Jersey City to pick up my gear and a quick 15-minute uber out to Newark.

I was initially going to pack my Osprey Atmos 50-liter pack for the trip. While going through my gear I grabbed an REI 22-liter pack that I was going to bring for day hikes and whatnot. Holding the pack in my hand made me start to question whether it would be possible to fit my entire trip in that small pack.

I’m going to need my camera gear, laptop, a variety of clothes. I end up fitting it all in. Tripod, two camera lenses, battery packs, chargers, down jacket that can keep me warm (it got into the 30s-40s at one point on the trip), rain jacket, toiletries (I don’t bring my shaver or cologne), and a clean pair of clothes for every day I’ll be out there. I also bring my small camera bag that has my body, two lenses, a couple spare batteries. I love traveling with this camera. It’s effortless.

The flight out is pretty much as expected.

I go to grab my rental car. I ordered the cheapest one I could get online. Usually the cheap models are good on gas and very practical with space and a small size for getting around and parking. They’re usually my preferable choice. I bought something called a “manager’s special” or something like that. It ends up being a Camaro SS. Which I’m pretty certain was the V8 (because the display showed this). If that’s the case it has 455 hp and 455 ft-lb torque. It certainly felt like that on the drive. The thing rips pretty hard. You need to be careful driving something like this in rear wheel. I was worried of even going sideways a bit in a straight line. It was not what I expected, but it was fun to be able to drive this around, ripping 0-60s occasionally, and flying past cars when I was passing them.

The plan for the night is the swing a little closer to Zion. I end up staying in St. George, Utah. Dinner consists of a couple cookies and a bag of chips. I end up eating terribly on this trip, usually alternating between gas station food, fast food, and occasional burgers.

When I get to the hotel it’s after midnight. The guy at the desk is really upbeat. I’m not sure if I’m just used to the coldness of New York, but it’s refreshing to communicate with people who are all super friendly. He tells me to check out the narrows at Zion. I tend to follow recommendations, as they usually point me in the right directions. I thank him and retreat to the room for some sleep.

Fri 05/25

The drive to Zion National Park is a quick one. I get into the park, picking up an annual pass for $80. It gets you access to many of the parks in the States, and you can share it with one other person. So, if you’re looking to roadtrip the states within the next year, let me know and you can sign your name on the other spot and see the parks for free. Most of the parks on this trip have a car entry of $20-$30.

The park is pretty full. I’ve heard online and also from the rangers that this weekend is a nightmare weekend. The traffic is supposed to be a disaster. The congestion and people are supposed to be unbearable. But really traffic was fine for me in the parks at all times. I’m not sure if it’s coming from the NJ/NY area or how packed Times Square can be, but it feels really empty out here. Touting numbers like 30,000-60,000 people in a 200 square mile park doesn’t seem like much when Times Square is getting 350,000 people in an area that you wouldn’t even use miles to measure.

Zion is a nice park. In my opinion it’s one of the ones that is famous because of its location to a larger city. It’s a beautiful place, but it’s popularity is due to the number of people around it. It’s the third most visited park in the States, with 4.5 million visitors.

There are some great views.

Rockin out
Rockin out

I hike out to the narrows. It’s the narrowest section of the canyon. You walk along a river and there’s no way to avoid the trail other than to get your feet and shoes wet. The rocks make barefoot crossing probably very unwise. There’s a lot of people in the area and I’m a bit lazy to get a good shot of it.

Nature and the photography of it has been something of interest for me when I was starting out taking pictures. These days I’m a lot less interested in taking pictures of this stuff. I’d kind of rather just experience it. Going into the trip I was a little worried I wouldn’t be inspired to take many good pictures, but I think I ended up with some.

I don’t really enjoy a lot of the travel and nature pictures that a lot of people love. I kind of really despise that whole wanderlust instagram culture of pictures. I guess in some ways some of the shots I took on this trip are intentionally disrespectful to some of those photographers. I did some point and shooting out of a moving car. I didn’t focus stack any images. I didn’t use a tripod in some scenarios where I should have. I thought I wouldn’t go through the small effort of merging panoramas in photoshop (but I did a few of those).

In addition to my displeasure and changing tastes with the camera, there are often just a ton of really amazing pictures on Google. Go search Zion narrows and look at some great pictures. I’m not going to waste time taking a picture that someone else has pretty much technically mastered. There sure is a lot of room for creativity and exploration even in a format as classic as landscapes, but if I can’t find that creativity then I’m don’t want to waste the time getting the picture.

With that said there are some pretty generic old school style landscape pictures in here. And if you see an area where a picture is missing or don’t understand why I didn’t take the same iconic picture that everyone else has taken of an area, it’s probably do to some combination of the previous thoughts. Just go google it (or don’t since you already know what it looks like).

I actually kind of dig this next picture. Although everyone on the bus had a camera, no one on the bus was taking pictures. I kind of really liked the half open window. The left side provides a cool textured purplish filter, and the right gives you the open air natural shot. The real beauty of this picture (besides the little bit of speaker off to the bottom right) is the two tiny rock climbers that are perfectly framed by the window. If you don’t see them you can click the picture and check them out. They are along the left side of the V.

Two rock climbers
Two rock climbers

Pointing and clicking. This is a reasonable shot. Sure, it could be more perfect by getting a secondary subject in there and getting somethings more in focus. But also, we have access to really high shutter speeds, so we should consider using them. There’s not much of a difference in this picture if it’s being viewed on a phone, and in the end it’s kind of not all that interesting. It’s a picture I would have liked a bit more many years ago but now it’s rather boring. I think it’s a much worse picture than the one with the two climbers.

Point and click
Point and click

And pointing and clicking some more.

La la la
La la la

Zion is a nice park. There’s a lot you can of course explore and see. I feel like I had a nice quick view of it and decide to swing out to Antelope Canyon.

Antelope Canyon is one of those super popular wanderlusty spots. You’ve seen the images before. Even still it looks amazing and it’s worth checking out since I’m out this way.

I get to the upper canyon at 3:50 PM and miss the final shuttle which is supposed to leave at 4 PM. Tickets were $60 per adult and half that price for children! I think that’s completely unreasonable. I think to take pictures you have pay even more. Prices online say $80 to take pictures that I don’t even want to take. To be honest I would have paid the price. I was here, I don’t think I’ll ever be back here. I went up to the ticket booth and tried to buy tickets but was told it was sold out.

There’s no way to visit the canyons without a tour.

So I was beat.

I guess I’m going to spare everyone the embarrassing irony of a white man complaining about how the Navajo are unfairly hoarding resources and making absurd profits off of them, but $80 for entrance is pricy. I just paid $80 for entrance to all of the national parks in the country for an entire year for that price. The national parks are well maintained and doing so costs a lot of money. I want them to be around for people to enjoy, and I am fine paying that money because of the enormous costs that they are.

To all the Navajo, get your money. I have nothing but love for you all. Thank you for allowing me into your land to enjoy the beautiful treasures that you have respected so deeply for so long. You are really the og’s of a lot of important things. President Woodrow Wilson gets credit for national parks (thank you) but for people like the Navajo it is core to the soul to be respectful of the land and the energy that surrounds it.

This isn’t really my country. This is yours. I’m a visitor here. Ahehee!

Since Antelope Canyon was closed for the day I decided to swing out to Horseshoe Bend. Originally the plan was to try to catch the sunset here, but it’s too early.

I park and start the pretty quick stroll out to the lookout. There’s a little dust storm going on but it dies down quickly. No amount of wind will really hold me back from checking this out.

There’s a lot of people standing very close to the edge. Kind of impatiently cramming their way into a picture spot. I watch this and give myself a little time to get accustomed to the height. I’m waiting my time to get a picture. I’m not looking to slip over the side. The fall from this height would be 800 feet and sure death.

For me it’s refreshing that this spot has not been Americanized (yet). There’s no railing here. Construction is underway off to the side to put up railings and make the place safe (and also importantly accessible), but it’s refreshing that there are cliffs in the States that aren’t guarded. Where common sense and logic are the only things keeping you one either side of the drop off.

I get pretty close to the edge, but far enough away that it’s safe. Again, I’m not looking for an incredible picture here. I don’t have to inch to an unsafe spot. I don’t have to get the best shot ever from here. There are already many on Google. And unless I’m doing something different I don’t feel like putting in the work or taking the risk.

A simpler picture will certainly do. Horseshoe Bend is gorgeous. It’s as beautiful as all of the instagram pictures would have you think it is. It’s one of the nicest views in the country in my opinion. The number of tourists that have visited this area has exploded over recent years. What may have been a local secret is out drawing people from around the globe.

About as close as I was willing to go
About as close as I was willing to go

The sun is beating down. No Antelope Canyon. A quick sight of Horseshoe Bend. It’s nowhere near sunset. I look at the map and my itinerary of things I want to see on this trip and think I might be able to make it to the Grand Canyon for sunset. Seems like a win to me.

I hop back in the car and zip off. This is what I came to see. And it’s sunset as well. The Grand Canyon.

First I point and click at some cool scenery on the way. I generally have been turning up some of the colors in my pictures. Lately I’ve been messing around a bit with muting the colors. I kind of dig overexposing as a technique. It helps to rip out a lot of color and add whitespace in a pretty beautiful way. I guess some people will say it’s just a bad or improper picture, but I disagree. I acknowledge how basic and wannabe it might seem as well. In a world of minimalism and bad photographers, there are few Michael Kenna’s.

Shot this from a moving car, it's ok
Shot this from a moving car, it’s ok

I make it to the south entrance with plenty of light still up. Pictures should be pretty good with this lighting. This next one is one of the first views I get of the canyon. The lighting really makes it a beautiful place.

Grand canyon
Grand canyon

It’s nice because it fades out a lot of the iconic Grand Canyon colors. I’m not looking to capture images that are already available. Just looking to mess around with whatever might be interesting to me.

It’s fun shooting into the sun. I love layered rock formations, and what they look like at various stages of lighting.

Ok, I can dig it
Ok, I can dig it

And here’s another one shot with a kind of disappointing cheap 55-200mm Sony stock zoom lens that I picked up used for $100. I figure the autofocus alone would have made it worth it at the price. But I guess it’s better to save the money for better glass.

Meh
Meh

Here’s another shot from a different location.

Do you wanna see my rocks?
Do you wanna see my rocks?

The canyon is beautiful. It’s worth going to, although there are some more beautiful views on this trip.

I swing down to Flagstaff for the night off of a recommendation and grab a brew at both The Annex Cocktail Lounge and Hops on Birch. It’s nice to be at a bar on Friday during peak hours and pay $3-$6 for whatever craft beer you wanted. Everything is so much cheaper (or more fairly priced) than back in nyc.

I retreat to the hotel and grab some sleep. I have a long drive tomorrow that I did not think I would be making any time soon. Train crossings can occasionally cause a delay.

Kids were throwing rocks at the train
Kids were throwing rocks at the train

Sat 05/26

Not being able to make it to Antelope Canyon really opened up the schedule. I had planned on spending all day at the Grand Canyon today, but after seeing a couple incredible vantage points during really beautiful lighting, I think I’m happy enough to move on.

The goal is to get out to Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado. It would truly be an unexpected and amazing experience if I can get out there on this trip. More on that later.

First up is Oljato-Monument Valley. It’s on the border of Arizona and Utah, and like with many things in this area, in and around the Navajo Nation.

Some more overexposing.

Meh part two
Meh part two

And some more point and clicking with some more typical colors.

Oh come on
Oh come on

And a classic wanderlust shot of the road of this area that you might have seen done a lot better someplace else.

Look at me, I'm roadtripping
Look at me, I’m roadtripping

Monument Valley is beautiful to drive through. But in this heat I’m not interested in poking around for any more hikes. I really want to get out to Mesa Verde.

And I do.

Mesa Verde National Park. I’m back in Colorado. One of my favorite places. Although this is south west Colorado. Seven hours from Denver or Phoenix. Six and a half from Salt Lake City. Eight forty from Vegas. Five from Albuquerque.

Unless you’re making an effort to get out here, or a random day opens up in your itinerary, I’m not sure you’re going to find it so easy to make it out here and back.

So why is Mesa Verde so special? You will see in a second. I remember I think a half dozen years ago seeing my first image of this park. When I saw it, I could not believe that this was in the States.

It seemed too old. Too foreign. Too beautiful. Too historic. Surely Google or where ever I saw the image was wrong. This couldn’t be in the US. This couldn’t be in Colorado. In some ways seeing that picture set me on a journey to see this place. To verify that is was in fact here.

The distance had always posed a logistical problem. Mesa Verde was something I wanted to see, but not directly go to. So the chance to make it out here in the middle of nowhere was a really awesome surprise.

The drive up the park is great. Like many of the parks out here it winds upwards and provides some gorgeous vistas. It’s important to look at green after you’ve been looking at red for so long.

Red to green
Red to green

And a better picture in black and white.

A bit better
A bit better

The burned trees create an ominous feeling as you get closer to one of the coolest things.

The history here is old. 7500 BC sort of old. Lots of different people have been in and out of the area since then. Some of the most notorious people in this area created some absolutely gorgeous cliff dwellings at the end of the 12th century.

Social and environmental instability and a series of droughts caused the area to be abandoned, with inhabitants moving to other local areas.

The story is a great one. The sight is something just as incredible. The place does exist. A place that to me looks and feels so foreign that it’s hard to accept it as American.

Sure, we do a terrible job at honoring Native Americans. The entire history of coming over and taking these lands was one of the true great tragedies of the world (there are many). But cave dwellings? Of this complexity and this beauty?

This is America
This is America

This is one of the coolest things that I never knew existed here. And I’m really happy I was able to make it out to see it.

I take some time to reflect on what I’ve experienced and swing out to Moab so that I’ll be ready to see Arches National Park in the morning.

There’s not a single room available in town for the night.

Looks like it might be a night in the car.

I head out to the Moab Brewery to grab a burger and a beer. The bartender asks if she can get anything else for me. I ask her if she knows of anywhere I can crash because there are no rooms available. She says she’ll check.

A girl to my right overhears. She’s done up a bit more than everyone else around here. Everyone else at the bar is in standard Western local/visiting national park casual clothing. She looks a little too good for this bar. Her makeup is done more than anyone else, and not in a bad way, it’s just that no one else is wearing as much.

We start talking. I work out in Times Square and live in Jersey City. She’s originally from Long Island. She’s down here from Salt Lake City, taking a break from work. She’s thinking about a transfer to Rutgers. She’s also roadtripping around for a week. This might be my only chance of not sleeping in the car.

Conversation goes well. She’s a brain surgeon. I think the brain is a frontier that we have not stepped very far into. I doubt we will ever be able to truly understand it. I ask her if she thinks we can ever fully understand it. She says probably within thirty or forty years. I appreciate the optimism.

We talk about science and art. I think science is a prerequisite of certain artistic exploration. I think art is a lot more important these days. Sure, it’s great to have the things that science can give to us. But if we didn’t have the beauty and inspiration of pictures or other art forms, I’m not sure if there would be much of a point.

Apparently there are no pain receptors in the brain. There are in the skull and the lining of the brain. But once you move passed that you are able to do as you wish and the patient will not feel pain.

When you’re operating on the brain trying to remove cancer, there’s a tradeoff to be made. You have to remove a large enough portion of the cancer, but there’s really not much of a distinction between the cancer and the brain. There’s no clear point of delineation. It overlaps and becomes a single object. If you remove too much the patient may not be able to function. If you don’t remove enough the cancer will still be there.

The way you operate is to first put the patient out, rip the skull open, and get to the brain. Then once this is done you wake the patient back up. Then begins a process of removing a bit of the cancer/brain, and asking the patient a series of questions. For example, you show them a picture of an umbrella and ask them what it is. You show them a simple math equation and ask them to solve it, etc. If they answer correctly and there is still more cancer left, then you slice off another piece and show the patient another card. You continue hopefully until the cancer is gone, but more often until the patient starts to fizzle out. They might struggle to tell you that the image in front of them is an apple. That’s when you stop. You can always remove the cancer. But can you leave behind a functional person? She says that’s an example of art in the science world. I’s probably agree.

Dinner wraps up. We say goodbyes. I ask if I can crash on her floor. She tells me she’s sleeping in her car tonight as well.

With that probably goes one of the better chances I have of not sleeping in the car. I retreat to the Camaro, drive over to a packed parking lot of a Super 8, pull the back seat down, and layout half in the trunk and half on the folded down row of backseats. I hope morning comes soon and I don’t get woken up by security or police.

Sun 05/27

Sleeping in a car is something I wondered if I would be doing on this trip. It was nice to go through a little character building experience, but to be honest I’m getting a little too old and bougie to continue enjoying such things. It’s great to be humbled, but it’s also great to sleep in a bed, and have a shower to start off your day.

The really good thing about this situation is that I wake up at about 5:15 AM. I swing out to a gas station to grab some food and drinks, use the bathroom, and brush my teeth. I wiped down my body the night before with one of those bath wipes that I picked up from REI. They are really amazing. One wipe is probably equivalent to 60-80% of a shower. To be able to have that in your pack is pure joy.

I hop back in the car and make the short trip into Arches. The sun is just coming up. The unfortune of not finding a room has allowed for some beautiful lighting, and an experience I would not have had if I would have woken up around 10 AM. There’s not even really any people in the park. It has worked out well.

Arches has some gorgeous red rock. It gives you those iconic Western scenes that you might expect.

Don't catch you slippin up
Don’t catch you slippin up

I take the hike out to Delicate Arch. It’s a nice little uphill hike. At the top there are some beautiful narrow paths along a cliff. Two steps to the left and all is over. The top near the arch has a beautiful view. It slopes downwards into a drop off. You have to be careful here.

I find a place on a rock and sit down in a crossed leg kind of basic yoga posture. Behind me is a sloping dropoff. In front of me and to my left is the arch, and to the right is a sloping dropoff. It looks like this.

Look what I'm whippin up
Look what I’m whippin up

I go through a sort of a flow. Sitting up straight. Lowering my shoulders. Relaxing my legs. Clearing out my mind. Palms up and open to whatever comes. I fade away from the people taking pictures.

It ends up being a great experience. I occasionally open my eyes and peak out to this beautiful view. There’s a bit of a strong wind that picks up. It almost feels like it can push me in either direction, down one of the slopes. At one point two tears well up and drip down my cheeks. I’m not so sure why. When you close your eyes and meditate the outcome is not so important. You don’t have to analyze and determine why. Just relax and let go. The takeaway for me is to just accept the good things in life.

After some time, I unwrap my legs. I come back to the beautiful world around me. Look around and soak up the view. And head back down the trail.

Tree
Tree

I get to the car and swing out to Devils Garden. There’s a longer seven-mile trail here, but I opt for one that’s an out and back that’s about two miles. It takes me out to Landscape Arch.

Yea
Yea

It’s a nice trail. Arches is a really cool park.

Flowers
Flowers

Since it’s so early I have enough time to make it out to Bryce Canyon National Park. As I’m leaving Arches there is a line of cars starting to form. I don’t mind driving during the blazing hot heat of the mid-day. Getting into parks earlier and later has provided some great lighting and has often meant low traffic.

The drives out here are sometimes as beautiful as the parks. There’s a rest area that comes up that I pull into to take a little nap. The Eagle Canyon rest area is just a pull off. The view from it is an example as to how beautiful and abundant the nature and scenery is out here. There might be ten people in the rest stop looking at this view.

Parking lot views
Parking lot views

I get to Bryce. It’s freezing here for some reason, so I grab my trusty down jacket and throw it on.

I make my way up and around the park. There are some good views of these orangish rock formations that extend upwards from the earth.

Bryce
Bryce

I end up taking some pictures for some couples at one of the overlooks. One couple is from San Fran but is looking to move out. One day they saw an unusual amount of NJ license plates in town. They made a decision that if the saw one more by the end of the day that they would move here. At the end of the night there was an NJ plate on a car blocking them from making a turn that they were trying to make. They played a game with fate, and hopefully they will follow through.

I rarely set up the tripod to take pictures of myself or have people take pictures of me. The couple asks if I want my picture taken and I say yes. It’s the only one I have from the trip. It’s not really framed all that well. Angling it down would have given a much better picture, but ho well. Hair is still growing and I have the beginnings of a travel beard going, yay.

Bryce with me
Bryce with me

After hanging in Bryce, I swing out to Las Vegas. The nature and the parks are going to be behind me. It was a fast sprint out to some amazing views. I really enjoyed the scenery and the hikes. Forgetting about the busy city life and connecting with myself and the world. But I’m ready for some busy city life.

I get to Vegas pretty early. It’s about 9 PM. There’s plenty of time to go do something fun. After the night in the car and the grind of the travel, I decide to just take it easy and grab some sleep in the hotel.

Mon 05/28 Las Vegas

I’m not completely certain I’ll be staying in Vegas for the night. I’ve been here before, and while it was fun, I don’t necessarily have to do it again. I’m not interested in the casinos, the shows, the strip clubs, the shops.

I want to look at art but I’m not sure I’ll be able to find too much out this way. I find out about a place called The Arts Center. It’s sitting in the middle of a cool area called the arts district that I would recommend poking around if you’re interested in something other than the expected Vegas experience.

It’s Memorial Day so I’m not sure if it’s going to be open but it is. About half of the artists are here. Bringing in pieces, setting things up. I talk to most of them and they are all very welcoming.

Photography of art can be a touchy subject. I don’t want to take any pictures of anyone’s work who isn’t there to allow me to. I personally think photography should always be allowed. Me taking pictures of your stuff and spreading the word just allows you a little bit more reach. Who really knows who’s going to come through here and potentially see your work from some art place out in New York City.

I take some pictures with permission. Mostly textures and colors.

Colors and textures
Colors and textures

This is a piece called Red Poppy Meadow by Raleigh French. He’s here hustling about the building.

This is a bad picture of a good painting
This is a bad picture of a good painting

And I get the okay to take a picture of a beautiful sink. It’s not an intentional art piece, but I think the mostly subconscious decisions that went into creating the colors and patterns that you see are beautiful. Good luck making something this beautiful with the conscious mind.

Mixed media
Mixed media

It was great looking at some of the pieces that I could get access to. It was awesome to be able to talk to the artists and pick up recommendations for what to do next. I figure this is the place to find out the right next direction. Although I’m not a local, I’m able to connect a bit from working in Times Square. There’s an understanding that I have with people from Vegas who understand the similar bizarro world that I live in. I leave behind a group of people putting in the work needed to build up a cool space and head out to check out more of the area. (also, what up Rob!)

Outside I start to hit my stride with pictures. I’m back looking at art and cityscapes. The inspiration to shoot is back in a way that was lacking in the parks. The parks were meant to be explored and enjoyed, not really photographed by me. But give me some art or give me a city and let me poke around.

Cadillac looking pretty dope.

Back on my grind
Back on my grind

And although this next picture might not look like anything special, the key is in the holes that run along the bottom third of the picture. It’s not great, but it’s not as bad as you think it is.

Some good things going on here
Some good things going on here

I love some of the muted tones and colors that are out here. I think this picture is awesome. I love the mix of textures and materials and patterns and colors.

I feel it's fadin
I feel it’s fadin

I swing over to Makers & Finders Coffee off of recommendation. It’s a great place to pick up a cup. They’ll make the coffee however you want. I end up getting a cup of drip. It’s nice not drinking pretentious coffee.

A girl to my left sees my camera and asks what I’ve been taking pictures of. People out this way seem to just talk to you. In nyc people generally leave you alone. Out this way people see you and get to chatting.

She’s originally from Philadelphia. She writes a lot on paper. She’s reevaluating and figuring things out. She used to take a lot of pictures, but she doesn’t any more. She, along with many other people, have recommended container park.

We finish our cups of coffee after a while. I ask if she wants to hang but she says she has errands to run. It’s strange. You can have really good conversation with people here and they don’t want anything to do with you. Just a chat and keep it moving. Who chooses to run errands on Memorial Day? Not me.

We part ways and I swing into some of the antique shops. Antique shops are actually pretty cool. You can find some really awesome quality things at very reasonable prices. For example, you can pick up some sick cups or glasses for the same price as you would pay for some lame stuff from a store. It’s fun strolling around. It reminds me of my childhood hunting around the shops with my pops looking for those hidden gems.

Stuff: the series that should be
Stuff: the series that should be

I also swing into Las Vegas Oddities. It’s a store that has all kinds of strange and cool things. It provides for some decent pictures.

Legs for days
Legs for days

Some of the stuff in here is rather wild.

Roar
Roar

Afterwards I swing out to container park.

Don’t swing out to container park.

I heard is was a bunch of shipping containers that have been converted into food trucks and little art shops and things like that. Sounds like a really cool place. But when you get there it’s been super commercialized and it’s targeted towards kids. It feels like Disney or something like that.

I swing out to check out Fremont street off of recommendation. I’m not sure if I missed it but I didn’t see anything particularly interesting out this way.

I swing over to Atomic Liquors. I was out here the last time I was in Vegas. I’m hoping to catch the Warriors vs Rockets game 7, but the only thing on is the Vegas Golden Knights Stanley cup game 1. It’s being played live down the street and there’s a bit of a buzz around the city for the game. Cheapest tickets to get in were $700. They end up winning the game. The bartenders pour out a couple complimentary shots throughout the game for the entire bar for anyone watching the game. The shots pair well with a glass of KBS.

After the games I book a hotel. I just want something to drop my stuff off. Somewhere in the downtown. I’m not feeling the strip this trip. I thought I might swing over to it and mess around with pictures. But I’ve rather enjoyed the time I’ve spent keeping it lowkey in Vegas.

My hotel ends up being a casino with a brewery. I wasn’t planning on betting but if I found myself at a roulette table I’d put a $100 on black. I’ve done this two or three times before. I’ve never won. I usually watch the wheel and wait until red shows up, and then I’ll bet the next spin. This time I don’t wait. There’s no reason to. If you’re going to throw your money away you may as well get it over with. The wheel spins. The ball is rolled. It ends up on black. That just paid for my entire day here in Vegas (the hotel was only $50). It’s the first time I’ve hit. We’ll see what happens the next time.

I go step outside to grab a picture of some lights in the Vegas night. It’s kind of obligatory to get a picture, and the lack of lighting out this way forces me to take a picture that I rather prefer to some of the other lit up Vegas shots you are accustomed to seeing.

All of the lights
All of the lights

I grab a burger and a beer and retreat to the hotel to pack up for the return home. The 22 liter and the small camera bag pack with ease.

Tue 05/29

I hop in the car one last time.

Back to the rental car drop off.

Back on the plane.

The flight is mostly uneventful. I spend the majority of it going through and editing all of these pictures.

It’s a mostly full flight minus the seat next to me. It was nice to have a little extra room.

The one thing that was cool to see on the flight was the Grand Canyon.

From the ground I think it is just ok. You can get a feeling for its size and stature.

But from this high up you really see how amazing it is. It’s enormous. And beautiful. And this is the way to see it.

This is really crazy
This is really crazy

So that’s about it. It was great to swing into this pocket of the country that I have been close to, but haven’t exactly gotten to.

The nature was phenomenal all over.

Vegas provided another couple beautiful gems off of the strip.

It’s nice to have a break from the concrete jungle.

But it’s also nice to be back.

Jersey City feels like my home now for sure.

And New York City still is just as captivating as when I left it.

USA ROAD TRIP, Video and concluding remarks

Video from the trip is done! Check out some of the highlights from the trip in this video.

Huge props to my mate Jesse Nanton for going through all of the GoPro footage and composing an awesome original song to go with the video footage of this trip.

It was one hell of a trip. The grandiose plan was devised on a regular night while Mikey and I were hanging out. We decided to follow through and now have some memories that will last a lifetime. The final itinerary looks like this.

March 10: New Jersey. Cherokee, NC. Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Gatlinburg, TN
March 11: Knoxville, TN. Nashville, TN
March 12: Memphis, TN
March 13: New Orleans, LA
March 14: Houston, TX. Austin, TX
March 15: Austin, TX
March 16: San Antonio, TX. Roswell, NM
March 17: White Sands National Monument. Albuquerque, NM. Santa Fe, NM
March 18: Denver, CO, Lafayette, CO.
March 19: Rocky Mountain National Park
March 20: Boulder, CO. Lawrence, KS. Kansas City, MO
March 21: St Louis, MO
March 22: Louisville, KY. Magnolia, KY
March 23: Home

Rough route that we took
Rough route that we took

14 days
17 states (NJ, PA, MD, VA, TN, NC, MS, LA, TX, NM, CO, KS, MO, IL, IN, KY, WV)
6020.9 miles

6020.9 miles
6020.9 miles

A lot of time people hear of a trip like this and they think it’s impossible for them to do it because of time or money constraints. Sure getting two weeks off can be a little rough, but in half that time Mikey and I were able to make it from New Jersey all the way out to Roswell, New Mexico. And in only three days we were able to make it from Kansas City all the way back to New Jersey. You can definitely make time for an awesome adventure so don’t let that keep you cooped up.

As for the money, it didn’t end up costing a tremendous amount for what we were able to see and do. In the 14 days we slept in the car 4 times, stayed with people we knew three times, and checked out reviews online to get good deals on cheap places. Most were from $40-60 a night with only Austin and New Orleans being outside of that price. Gas is reasonable considering the cost of alternative travel options. If you don’t have a car you can score a cheap car rental price with unlimited miles. Grabbing a cooler and buying a bunch of good healthy food at the supermarket was great in many ways other than the low cost. It was fast and kept us fueled up. The hotels and motels always offered free ice to keep our stuff cool. When we went out to eat we usually went out for an awesome dinner. There’s a ton of great stuff to see in this country and a lot of it’s free or really cheap. The price break down looked something like this.

Gas: $630
Places to stay: $570
Food/Drink: $1100
Supermarket: $150
Admission/Misc: $300

Total: $2750

Per person: $1375
Per person per day: $98

I overestimated on most things because I’m too lazy to go through all of the receipts. You could definitely take this same trip spending a ton more or a ton less money depending on what you do or don’t do. Adding some more travelers would let you chop away some of those costs as well. I’d think the price is fair for a once in a lifetime trip that you’ll remember for the rest of your life.

If anyone has any questions, feel free to leave a comment and I will follow up with the answer. Let me know about what adventures you have planned. Best of luck!

USA ROAD TRIP, PART 4 OF 5 Denver, Lafayette, Rocky Mountain National Park, Boulder Colorado

Woke up in Santa Fe and had some dreadful coffee which was complimentary to the Motel 6 we were staying at. I couldn’t finish drinking it. But no worries, we were off to Colorado! We were thinking about maybe checking out Pike’s Peak or Garden of the Gods on the way up but it looked like we wouldn’t have time. The first place we stopped was Denver. We made our way over to Great Divide Brewing Company. Had to dodge a bum fight on the way there, but we got there safely.

Colorado has the best beer in the country
Colorado has the best beer in the country

Great Divide throws down with the beer that they make there. If you get a chance to have some, I recommend it. You just can’t beat the intense freshness and quality of a beer poured from a tap at the brewery where it was conceived.

Great Divide throws down
Great Divide throws down

Great Divide is my favorite brewery so I was pretty pumped to go through the samples with Mikey. His favorite was the Claymore Scotch Ale and mine was the Espresso Oak Aged Yeti.

Much beer, very Colorado
Much beer, very Colorado

After our quick stop in Denver, we were off to meet up with the family in Lafayette. They let us crash and provided great hospitality as always.

True champions
True champions

We went out and grabbed some grub at The Post Brewing Company (there are breweries everywhere in Colorado). It was nice to catch up with everyone but we had to get to bed a little early because everyone had work the next day.

When Mikey and I woke up the next morning we decided to check out Rocky Mountain National Park. But first I had to get a cup of coffee. Colorado throws down with their coffees so I knew I would be able to get that dreadful motel coffee taste out of my mouth. Upon recommendation from a local coffee expert (thanks Meliss!) we went to Proper Grounds Coffee Roasters. There’s a reason why this new shop has a 5.0 rating.

Fresh bean
Fresh bean

The beans are sourced from a variety of farms all around the world. Then they are roasted in house. Then they are crafted into whatever fine drink you like. I opted for a large coffee and a homemade pastry. Mikey skipped the coffee (for shame) but also went with a delicious bite. We discussed our plans to go into the Rockies over these delicious treats.

The shop is very open and creatively stimulating
The shop is very open and creatively stimulating

Before we bounced out of Proper Grounds, I fueled up on another cup for the road. There are a lot of places that we could have checked out but Rocky Mountain National Park is pretty unbeatable for a quick trip to the Denver/Boulder area. We ran into a little traffic on the roads because they were removing rocks and working on the roads that were damaged from the floods. We drove through Estes Park but didn’t have time to stop. We drove into Rocky Mountain National Park and were blown away. It was in beautiful form.

Hashtag no filter
Hashtag no filter

The park offers some amazing views, but catching a herd of grazing elk is tremendous. They don’t mind the cars or the camera. We could have stayed around and watched them for as long as we wanted to.

Beautiful creatures
Beautiful creatures

Onwards we went. Upwards we climbed. Stunning views greet you at every turn. Rocky Mountain National Park is small enough that you can see it in a day, but also big enough that you can get lost in it and explore new parts if you have more time to spend here.

About as high up as we could go
About as high up as we could go

The road was closed off at the top so we had to turn around, but even with the road closure you can still get pretty high up. The views are just great up there.

We had to get out of the park because we had a kickball date for later on that night. After having a rough couple seasons, the team started off the year with a couple wins. It was up to Mikey and I to keep the team undefeated. Road closures slowed us down a little but we got to the house on time. It’s a drinking league which means you can drink beers in the dugout, so we stopped at Avery Brewing Company to grab a bite and a brew before the game. Had a banh mi sandwich which was delicious and a sampler of a few beers. The Chocolate Mint Stout is worth a sip and the Eremita VI is worth a glass. Game time was approaching so we got out of Avery and went to the field.

Mikey and I were pumped for this game ever since we heard about it back when we were in Austin. Finally we were here, ready to keep the undefeated streak alive. The game was close. Hits and runs were hard to come by. 1-0. 1-1. Then we went down 2-1. You had to fight for everything. Everyone on our team was kicking ass and making great plays though.

What a catch cousin Amy
What a catch cousin Amy

Eventually we tied it 2-2. Extra innings. Then another inning. Things getting sticky. Getting out of sticky situations. Yeesh. Bottom of the 9th (game was only supposed to go to 6) and we have a runner on 3rd. A little dribbler is hit and our guy sprints for home. Play at the plate. And he’s safe! We finally were able to taste that sweet, sweet victory in extra innings and won 3-2.

I was surprised at how well setup the league was. There was an ump and a scoreboard and everything. But mostly the league is about having fun. Co-ed drinking kickball is something that is very Colorado and I was happy to experience it.

We got back to the house and hung out for a little bit. Mikey and I said our goodbyes to everyone that night before we went to bed since they all had to be up early for work the next morning. We would be heading due east the next morning as our trip slowly was starting to wind down.

Before we left the next morning, we stopped in Boulder to hang out at the Pearl Street Mall. We grabbed some delicious Colorado coffee and checked out the shops. We took part in a silent disco at University of Colorado (you put earphones on and listen to whatever music you want to and dance in an open field on the campus). Stuff like this happened.

Probably should have picked this up
Probably should have picked this up

Some of the shops out here are tremendous. I was pretty tempted to buy a magic wand. The craftsmanship on these wands is great. They are all individually made. Seemed like a good deal to be able to use magical powers in exchange for $200 but I couldn’t justify it and kept the money in my wallet.

The wand chooses the wizard, Mr. Potter
The wand chooses the wizard, Mr. Potter

And like that, we were off. Eastward we went. Slowly making our way home.

Colorado New Year’s 2014

Colorado is an awesome place. The place has everything you could want in a place to live. Awesome nature, great food and local beers, lots of friendly young people, delicious coffee, a health conscious community, a thriving tech community, an affordable cost of living, and a million other things. It’s easy to see why part of my girlfriend’s family moved out there. And I’m happy they did because it gave me the chance to visit this beautiful state. This was my third time out to Colorado and the trip was as awesome as always.

Hiking the range near Boulder
Hiking the range near Boulder

Hiking and getting into the mountains in Colorado is a must. The Rockies are beautiful. A quick drive can often get you to one of the many gorgeous trails. It’s nice to venture into the woods and take in the beautiful scenery.

Hiking in the Rockies
Hiking in the Rockies

Stopped by the National Center for Atmospheric Research just to check it out. The weather exhibits were pretty fun but the supercomputer setup they have there is remarkable. It was nice to see the gear humming along. I saw this signed photo which was tremendous.

Seymour Cray, the father of supercomputing
Seymour Cray, the father of supercomputing

So far we saw some tech, some nature and hung out with some cool people. But we were in need of some delicious local brews. They were provided by Front Range Brewing Company, a quick walk from the house in Lafayette. The sampler is recommended. Eight small samples packed with flavor. Then we went off to Odd13 Brewing for more bites of Colorado food and local brewed beers.

One of the many awesome breweries in Colorado
One of the many awesome breweries in Colorado

The next day included some frisbee golf. Frisbee golf is an activity that is very Colorado. It’s slightly different than what you might be used to. It’s outdoors. It’s a bunch of fun. Frisbee golf is just regular like golf. You start far away. Then you toss your frisbee and try to get it into the basket in the fewest throws. I witnessed a tremendous attempt from B-Large. He’s standing to the left of the next picture and threw it all the way to basket on the right of the picture. It hit the basket but didn’t stay in.

B-Large is a wizard of the disc
B-Large is a wizard of the disc

After frisbee golf we had to make a quick stop at Left Hand Brewing. The Nitro Milk Stout is one of my favorites, so I was pumped to grab this in person. It’s amazing how much better beer is when you get it at the brewery that it was brewed at. Many times better than when you get it at your local liquor store.

Nothing beats a beer at the brewery
Nothing beats a beer at the brewery

I decided to show my thanks to my girlfriend’s family by cooking up some of my signature cioppino. It’s kind of hard to beat an assortment of scallops, king crab, shrimp, clams and mussels in a spicy tomato broth with a nice piece or two of garlic bread.

Cookin up some cioppino
Cookin up some cioppino

The next day we went off to Steamboat Springs. The ride out there was gorgeous. I was pretty happy to grab this shot of a Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep that was chowing down right along the road.

Sweet Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep
Sweet Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep

The ride offers stunning landscapes.

I heard about plateaus but never seen one before
I heard about plateaus but never seen one before

Eventually we made our way to the town of Steamboat Springs. It looks like a great place to carve up the fresh powder, but we spent our time checking out the shops in town. We actually grabbed some po’ boys at a New Orleans restaurant called Sunpie’s Bistro which was an unexpected surprise. We spent the day strolling through town.

My love and I
My love and I

After we were done strolling through Steamboat Springs we went to Strawberry Park Hot Springs. The hot springs provide quite the experience. Strip down in the freezing cold into your bathing suit and hop into the pools of hot water. It’s interesting because if you dip your head under water and then keep it above water for a short period of time, the water on your hair will freeze due to the below freezing temperature of the outside air. There is a really hot pool and a lukewarm pool, and another pool that is has incredibly cold water.

Strawberry Park Hot Springs
Strawberry Park Hot Springs

After the hot springs we freshened up for a night out. The rest of the night was spent trying to keep warm, hustling around Steamboat Springs from place to place. Supposedly we just missed the guys from Duck Dynasty who visited a liquor store a couple minutes before us which made sense because they were in Steamboat Springs at the time.

The next morning we woke up, grabbed some good breakfast, strolled some more of the town, and then hopped in the car for our return back to Lafayette. The drive was once again beautiful, with gorgeous scenery along the way.

Back to Lafayette we go
Back to Lafayette we go

The rest of the night was spent hanging out at the house getting ready for our trip to Red Rocks Amphitheatre and the New Year’s Eve festivities. Red Rocks is open for visitors for free at any time when there is no concert. A lot of people use the steps for various exercises, which as I would imagine is very effective.

Center stage at Red Rocks
Center stage at Red Rocks

The top of Red Rocks provides a nice view of Colorado. You can see the tall buildings of Denver in the distance. Looking out from the top will provide you will a stunning view. The red rock provides a beautiful contrast to the blue sky, the white snow, the dark pines, and the faded grass.

From the top of Red Rocks
From the top of Red Rocks

The area around Red Rocks has some beautiful trails which are worth the trek. The scenery around Red Rocks is gorgeous.

Even without a concert it's worth a visit
Even without a concert it’s worth a visit

New Year’s Eve was spent in several places. Stopped by a friend’s house party. Then went off to a place in search of food. None of the restaurants/bars were serving food on New Year’s Eve so we had to score some Chinese food from Double Happy. Met back up with everyone with just a couple minutes to spare. Toasted to the New Year. After our celebrations we woke up and headed to the airport for our return back to New Jersey. As always, it was a great time in Colorado.