Back to Denver Pt 3: Smooth Start, Rough Finish

Back in IL after a final, exciting day in Denver.  The day started off wonderfully and ended on a bad luck streak that continued to this morning, but we’re thankful we got home safely!

At the start of Sunday, we had two goals for the day.  We ended up doing neither.  I wanted to try Plight of the Margo Pt 2 in Fort Collins, to finish off a three hour escape room adventure we started on our last trip to Denver.  I also wanted to visit a nearby wildlife sanctuary where animals like lions, tigers, and bears that had been released from private owners could freely roam a large sanctuary while visitors watch from an elevated trail.  Instead, we went to Estes Park.

I didn’t know much about Estes Park at all.  What stood out to us was its location on the map- nestled in the Rockies and not too far from Denver.  So we set our GPS to a brunch café in Estes Park called Notchtop and hit the road.

I always love the scenic mountain views on the roads around the area.  Christina got all the pictures of this one so I don’t have them handy, but the drive to Estes Park alone was worth the journey.

When we got to Notchtop, I was very surprised to recognize the Stanley Hotel on the hill just above the restaurant.  The Stanley Hotel was the inspiration from The Shining’s Overlook Hotel, so I didn’t expect to see it right at the edge of a populated town!

We played the Pandemic game at Estes Park Escape Rooms which was a very neat game with a lot of unique machinery. 

Afterwards, we headed up to the Stanley Hotel to explore (we wandered the hedge maze!), and we picked up a geocache.

After finishing at the Stanley Hotel, we went down to the Lake Estes Marina, intending to get a paddleboat.  Unfortunately it was too windy, so we walked around instead, getting a nice look at a bald eagle.

So far so good- Estes Park was fantastic and we were sad to leave after only one afternoon there.  The rest of the day… not so much.

Our flight was scheduled to board at 5:15 AM Monday, so we switched hotels to stay near the airport and return the car Sunday night.  We checked in at the new hotel at about 6PM and wanted to have one final activity before calling it a day.

First we picked Adventure Golf, a neat-looking mini golf course 20 minutes away.  After driving there, we found that the COVID measures at the facility required us to wear facemasks for the entire duration while playing outdoors on a 90 degree day.  So we passed.

Next activity- there is a path near our hotel containing over a dozen geocaches.  By the time we got back, Christina was worn out and preferred to stay in the car.  I wanted to nab at least one of the caches, so I ran out by myself.  The coordinates were far off- I visited two locations and both were smack dab in the middle of the pavement, with no viable hiding spaces aside from an animal hole in the pavement, and I really didn’t want to stick my hand in.

Thankfully, I searched far and wide at one of the locations and found once cache, and with our time starting to dwindle, I decided to call it a night.

I dropped Christina off at the hotel so she could order in dinner while I returned the rental car.  After I returned the car, I was stuck at the facility for an extra 20 minutes while Avis/Budget tried to deal with some confusion on one of the cars trying to exit (they only had one lane open to exit, so the confusion blocked everyone, including their own shuttles!). 

Finally, I got back to the hotel.  I scheduled a taxi for 4:30 AM the next morning from Metro Taxi Denver.  I called Metro Taxi to confirm that the booking was confirmed, and that I wouldn’t be left hanging.

So the next morning… I was left hanging.  I called Metro Taxi at 4:25 and they admitted that they had no available drivers in the area, but they’d try finding me one.  I canceled and switched to Uber, which thankfully got us to the airport with just a little time to spare.

We had a few minor hangups at the airport (for the first time ever, TSA called me out on having a Kindle in my luggage and made me run my bag a second time!), but all things considered, our flight went smoothly.  We got home and are just getting back into the swing of things.

So a smooth start, rough finish- still, no regrets.  Denver remains one of our favorite destinations and our list of things to do in the area has grown even bigger.

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