When I was kid, my family used to take trips around the southeast, leaving Birmingham, Ala., either for the Gulf or my grandparents' house in Bristol, Tenn. My two older brothers and I rode on a firm bench seat in the back of my dad's van, far from the air-conditioning vents and our mother's scrutiny.
My brothers invented ingenious ways to pick on me. Reading or playing games made me carsick. Generally, I showed no promise for ever becoming an iron-gutted, firm-constitutioned traveler. I was, in short, a lily sissy.
In truth, I cannot recall exactly when I stopped puking like a seasick cruise-ship vacationer and started developing some respectable road fortitude. All I know is that one day, I found myself sipping beer and reading on a sweltering train in Europe while seated facing the caboose the countryside whipping by my periphery in a blur as I swayed back and forth with train's motion and I though to myself, "Holy crap ... I'm invincible."
Somewhere along the way, being on the road morphed from dreaded task into passion. One summer, my friends and I racked up over 15,000 miles across the U.S. and in a trek up the Alcan to Alaska. I hadn't just come out of my shell; I'd become a mobile monster.
Too much time spent stationary, and I'd get antsy, grumpy and bored. I craved salty pumpkin seeds and a horizonless drive, a long hike, a day fishing on the river, a night soaking in hot water under the stars anything but the interior of my home.
I initially came to Colorado for school, but I decided to stay afterward because of all those big, green spots on the state's map. Here was a place where a decade of weekend sauntering and impulsive jaunting would still leave stones unturned. For the motivated, Colorado is a daytrip mecca. Hell, for the lazy, the state's still a cherry destination-land, packed with proximate, accessible points of interest.
This is the haven of socially conscious, gorp-eating hippies who drink microbrewed beer produced at wind-energized breweries. This is the land of cavernous-lunged ridge runners, buffalo-calved cyclists, rope-armed climbers, sun-crisped anglers, gear-clad, off-road motorists, armed hunters and nimble skiers.
We live in a western sanctuary amidst an expanding country of city-sprawl. Sure, there's plenty of concrete and asphalt here, too, but fortunately, a lot of it leads to dirt road confluences and trailheads.
Over the past few years, I've set various travel goals that I intend to fulfill whenever possible.
Beyond playing in every national park or major landmark, I want to soak in every Colorado hot spring. I'd like to tour all the ghost towns, stop for coffee in all the quaint mountain towns and eat a buffalo burger in every tourist trap. I want to climb more fourteeners, swim in more mountain lakes, and snowshoe somewhere deep in winter sleep. I want to wear the tread on my hiking boots baby-smooth. Show me the roadside bazaar the dumber, the better.
To any Coloradan who hasn't roamed the Great Sand Dunes, trekked a mountain pass when the aspens are changing color, or found a favorite day-drive: Get crackin', Sally! Cash in some sick days at work, get a map and aim for something interesting.
What to bring:
Sunblock, sunglasses, sunhat
Music for the road
Warm clothes, rain jacket
What not to bring:
Cell phone (unless kept off, emergency use only)
Someone you have no desire to spend time with
Monuments and parks
Art galleries/antique shops
Bed & breakfasts
Hiking, biking or cross-country trails
Rivers (rafting, fishing, kayaking)
Top 5 favorite past daytrips:
1. Drive-In Movie Motel in Alamosa
2. "Ghost lights" cemetery in Silver Cliff
3. Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park (csindy.com/csindy/2005-04-28/daytripper.html)
4. Bishop's Castle
5. Four-in-one fourteener circuit