Meet the Mountains

07 May 2014
Meet the Mountains

A trip through Colorado, Nebraska and South Dakota

An email landed in my inbox last week saying I had won a competition (this is from the guy who couldn't win an argument).

I had landed a place on a trip to Denver then touring round Nebraska to South Dakota then flying to Austin to meet up with other winners.

Having never been to any of these destinations before I was intrigued and started to investigate more into the places.

Most people when they hear of the USA they think of the Florida Theme parks, the party city of Las Vegas, the glitz and glamour of Los Angeles and Hollywood, the non stop city of New York. The Midwest doesn't conjure up any of these things, most people would ask what is there to do here.

Once you start researching into this part of the country you will find it more famous than you think....

Places ranging from the great plains (beloved of the old Western Films) through Native American history to the Black Hills of Dakota .... not forgetting Mount Rushmore where Cary Grant fought with Martin Landau and Adam Williams in the Hitchcock classic North by Northwest.

The countdown to the trip has begun ................

Monday 12th May, just had the itinerary land in my inbox and it looks amazing.....

I will blog as I go along as the trip is jam packed with good stuff ranging from hiking, panoramic sightseeing, shopping, great food and drink experiences and what Im looking forward to most, a working dude ranch...

 15th May and the day has dawned.... train to London then tube to Heathrow..

train delayed but no worries, will cross to Paddington and then Heathrow Express..

Jumped on train and downloaded Heathrow Express App and bought a ticket online, very easy.

Just met the gang who I will spend the next week with at Heathrow, and THANK YOU BA upgraded to business class, very nice treat.

Flight is delayed for 2 hours but it flies from Terminal 5, loads to do. Good look to all of the police guys who are travelling to New York to take part in a charity sports programme with their counterpart emergency services in USA

Arrived in Denver and unlike my experience earlier on this year I am through immigration in 5 mins.

Arrived at the Curtis hotel pretty funky. Very nice spacious room.

Day two and its 0600am!   off on a tour of Denver City.  Arrived at the Red Rock stadium, an amphitheatre built into the living rock. What an amazing place. Denver is a very cool laid back place and visited some amazing interactive museums. We have a spare half hour so the girls go shopping and we lads go shopping to the local bar!

After a brilliant lunch at Rioja we are back on the bus to travel up to our next destination of Estes Park and the Rockies. The drive takes longer than we though as there was a major flood last year and they are repairing the roads etc. Arrive at the YMCA Rocky Mountain lodge for the evening however the weather is on the turn. We have to cancel a sunset walk as the heavens have opened!

After a nightcap at the Rocky Mountain Inn we repair back to the YMCA

Morning is a beautiful but cold day, not surprising when we at such a height. Off in the coach now up into the Rockies. We have to stop at over 2 miles high as the road is closed due to snowdrifts over 10 feet high! This pass doesn't normally open until Memorial Day. Due to the altitude the air is very thin and breathing is laboured. Back down now for a walk around the lake.

Off to Lakelands a lovely town down on the plains. We have 45 mins for shopping and then are off to a dude ranch.

Sylvandale Ranch is beautiful and we are off on horseback through the mountains. The owners are lovely people, they have opened just for us as they have been closed for a year after the devastating floods where they lost 50 % of their accommodation. After a brilliant BBQ, some cowboy singing and a game of "horseshoes" we are off to the Embassy Suites for the night. 15 mins to check in, shower change and then down to the bar for Matts birthday.....Champagne care of the hotel as well (thank you Embassy Suites).

Cold light of day and Matt has vanished, we eventually find him asleep in his room! Quick change and off to Scotts Bluff

Scotts Bluff  is a national monument with amazing views and stories of the old wagon trains, we also see this from Chimney Monument as well

Nice motel style hotel for the night in Geering and off to a Mexican restaurant where we help a local dance school to raise money

Off to the "Badlands" today.... Driving through the countryside via an old army fort (hay wagon ride as well) we arrive at the Badlands. This used to be the sea bed many millennia ago.

Cedar Lodges are our home for the night and they are amazing log cabins with all of the mod cons. Excellent meal followed by meeting some Native Americans and learning a little about their culture. Very interesting indeed.. Amazing sunset

5am and amazing sunrise.

Off on our travels up to Rapid City, passing by the old cold war missile places, wish we had time to go into visit.

Rapid City is a lovely city in South Dakota and we are shown a quick city tour. We are now on our way to a great Worldwide Icon, Mount Rushmore. What an amazing place (although smaller than I imagined), I can picture Cary Grant in the classic North by Northwest (we are staying at the same hotel tonight as well). Off now to Crazy Horse memorial

Wow, this is work in progress, they are carving out a Mount Rushmore style statue of Chief Crazy Horse out of the living rock. it still has a good few years to go yet but it will be amazing once complete.

Driving though Custer Park buffalo spotting, amazing place.

Back in the hotel now (as seen in North by Northwest) and up on the rooftop bar outside, what a place

its 4am and early start for the flight to Austin via Dallas. Bit of a problem at check in (not our doing) but all sorted and off. Small flight but the one cabin crew is brilliant and we are into Dallas. Off now for the 30 min hop to Austin.

Austin is a pretty good city, looking around the F1 race track and into the hotel.

Big reception tonight with over 120 people meeting up.

Really good night but very tired now.

Early start to meet everyone for breakfast, Austin is the worldwide capital of live music and we have a live swing band at breakfast, they are excellent..

Quick city tour of Austin and stopping for lunch on the go.

All too soon we are at Austin airport, if you want duty free you will need to buy on the plane as they don't have a duty free shop.

BA Dreamliner back to the UK, very good service, bit of a wait in immigration at Heathrow though.

All too soon back on the train home after an amazing trip. Thanks to all of my gang we had a brilliant time, non stop but we have found out what an wonderful place the USA is. You need to look beyond the usual holiday destinations and try something different. All through Colorado/Nebraska/South Dakota/Texas we meet real genuine people who treated you as family, they wanted you to enjoy their homeland.

Cant wait to go back.

 

 

 

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