Forth Annual Driving for Kids Rally - September 21-24, 2019
We went back to some old familiar route segments this year because we had to complement a new wrinklefour days of Driving for Kids and some special new roads that begged us to take them. So this year was a mix of old and new and the new was just spectacular: Unaweep Canyon and Cottonwood Pass. But lets not get ahead of ourselves, lets begin at the beginning!
Day One, Saturday September 21st:
We departed from Hagertys Golden Headquarters on a glorious fall morning after continental breakfast and driver orientation. We drove up through Clear Creek Canyon with light traffic and sorted ourselves into several groups with differing speeds over Berthoud Pass through Winter Park and on to Granby for lunch. After lunch at the still great Brickhouse 40, we drove west through the scenic Byers Canyon rock formations to Kremmling and a rest stop. After loading up on snacks for the margarita party tomorrow night we went west on US 40, then over Gore Pass and down to Wolcott where we then turned west on Interstate 70 for a short blast to the high point of the day; a visit to the Roundup River Ranch and the kids there. We spent about 1 ½ hours at the ranch showing the kids the cars and soaking up their enthusiasm then took Colorado River Road to I-70 and through Glenwood Canyon to our lodging and dinner in Glenwood Springs. Once again we went to Smoke, whose barbeque and cool vibe always make us smile. At our Antlers motel, we found the fire pits and while the temps dropped we stayed warm and shared stories of the day for hourseven Ted Ax got in on it.
Day Two, September 22nd:
Departed about 9:30 after some parking lot ribbing and primping and headed southeast on CO 82 toward Carbondale 12 miles away. There we turned south to the town of Redstone which was established in the late 19th century. The historic inn, which is listed on the National Register as the Redstone Inn, is now a destination resort offering year-round accommodations. It is lovely, so we stopped and had tea, dont you know.
We then continued southwest over 8,755 feet high McClure pass to Delta for lunch. Some folks even made the turn on the first try; the rest we flagged down from a safe spot in the median. After lunch, we drove down the Highway 141 canyon to the Gateway Auto Museum and lodging and dinner in Gateway, CO. After a nice cool museum visit we got our room assignments and keys from the staff and began searching for our rooms. It took several tries up and down stairs to find the rooms for some before we could check in and clean up from the drive. We gathered at the reception area after we checked in to celebrate with our traditional Margaritas and swap stories of the days drive, but apparently the permission we had received from the reservation staff was not going to be honored by the on-site staff. So, we packed up everything and adjourned to Bob and Tricia Duddings room and the nice shady patio outside. The staff ignored our little indiscretion and we had a great time until dinner.
After suitable libations and snacks we cleaned up for dinner right at the resort in the Paradox Grille. It was a beautiful evening for a bit of walking to see the many interesting things that abound here. Then we adjourned to our beautiful rooms to rest up for the coming high tomorrow.
Day Three, Monday September 23rd:
We left the Gateway Canyons Resort about 9:30 AM southbound on one of the best roads in CO which winds through a red rock canyon along the Dolores River through Unaweep Canyon which is one of the most unusual red rock canyons in the world. The Unaweep is said to be the only canyon in the world that is drained by two creeks; East Creek and West Creek, sending water off in opposite directions. This mouth of the canyon was completely different than that we drove in on yesterday. While that was a lush and green broad valley, this drainage was dry and red with huge vertical walls almost next to the road. Each has a spectacular beauty in its own way of course, though this drainage was far more dramatic. Much like the nearby Colorado National Monument, we had the dual task to enjoy the drive and try to keep at least some of our attention on the winding road. We turned away from the river onto the high desert plateau to our rest stop in Naturita and hardscrabble farming country. After a meander on the mesa, we dropped down the steep Norwood grade and into more welcoming geography in the San Miguel River valley. While the road an scenery were beautiful, we were stuck behind a pair of rental RVs that we had encountered at our rest stop in Naturita, and failed to get ahead of there. Of course we could have passed them easily up on the mesa but now in the twisting canyon there were few passing opportunities. Finally, I passed them and slowed them in the passing zones enough so that the rest of the folks could get by. Once we were free of them we had a nice romp down the valley and up the Dallas Divide on CO 62 past the miles and miles of split rail fencing (it defines the ranch owned by Ralph Lipschitz, better known as the Polo shirt guy; Ralph Lauren) into Ridgway and our lunch stop. This was another tricky turn that Jeff Kruger was kind enough to park next to and allow the geographically challenged to find the turn.
We are lucky to have some wonderful supporters of Driving for Kids, Cat and Bart Lichtenbelt who live just north of Ridgway invited us to their home for a catered lunch. They have a large deck with views of Mt. Sneffels and the Uncompahgre range and plenty of parking for our cars so were able to enjoy some special personal hospitality with some of our favorite people.
After a wonderful lunch we head north on an unfortunate road. This was the route I planned from Google maps, but was advised by Cat not to take. Of course, at the point where we could have turned, one of our group, who shall remain nameless to protect his feelings, said to turn right which I dutifully did and led the whole group on about a dozen miles of horrible gravel road. I must learn to heed local knowledge. Do you think they will ever forgive me? Our next stop in Montrose was to fill up our cars and empty the lunch drinks at our rest stop. But we couldnt all find it! Somehow we all were able to regroup and proceed. We turned east on US 50 which has a lovely rhythm to it as it winds next to the Gunnison River until it climbs over the hills away from the river which cuts through the black granite a bit north of the highway. This road segment is comprised a few hairpins but mostly of big sweeping turns in contrast to the tight Dolores river canyon we traversed this morning. We at DfK aim for an interesting variety in the roads we select. This road was smooth and the vistas were great around the Blue Mesa Reservoir to our lodging in Gunnison
Day Four, Tuesday September 24th:
The hoped for cherry on top of all the trip was still to come. About 9:30 we drove north toward Crested Butte on CO 135 and soon joined with the Gunnison River on our right which we followed almost to its source. As we got further from Gunnison the scenery improved and the topography became more mountainous. This, of course meant the road got more interesting. Soon we left CO 135 behind at the charming little village of Almont and started our climb up the west flanks of the Collegiate Range following the Taylor River up, up, and up to the Taylor Reservoir and our rest stop. This is Colorado at its best!
With our rest stop behind us we headed for the second highlight of our fourth Driving for Kids tripthe crossing of the Continental Divide on Cottonwood Pass! This pass has been here for more than a hundred years, but paving was only completed the month before our drive. The official ribbon cutting ceremony was Thursday September 19, 2019, so we believe we were the first old British cars to grace this pavement. It was a four wheel drive road until now but it affirms the adage that Black is Beautiful! Lightly travelled, it is a treat for any car but especially an old British sportscar. We stopped at the summit parking lot for a group photo and to enjoy and make mental notes for reminiscing at lunch later.
We ended with our awards celebration and lunch at the Lariat Restaurant where we noted with joy that we had raised over $40,000 on this years drive making a total of over $186,000 in four years of Driving for Kids.
That finished the 2019 Driving for Kids run. You can be proud that you were with us for the fourth edition of this great event. See you next year!