Colorado Trip: Rental/Mercedes; Denver Botanical Gardens; Exploring Boulder

So as mentioned in our previous post because it was such an awesome part of the trip… we got that brand new Mercedes-Benz on Saturday morning, Day 3 of the trip, from a quiet neighborhood a bit west of downtown.  We took approximately a million pictures of it (Turo is clever and allows both owner and renter to photograph the car and load the photos to the app, to make arguments over “well it wasn’t like this BEFORE the trip” invalid in many cases).

A cautious drive over to the middle of town (a fast little car, and also an expensive one – even with the premium insurance covering me, I wanted to be careful!), and we made it over to the…

Denver Botanic Gardens

The Botanic Gardens (it still throws me off that it isn’t the typical “botanicAL gardens”) were our first stop, what with their free parking, their open air enjoyment of the Denver venue (unlike the museum the day before, what with its being packed to the gills with children).  We met up with an old friend and coworker of Sophia’s, and we walked through the various segments of the garden.  The unexpected big deal: a corpse flower had actually bloomed the night previously, which is a once-per-decade occurrence, so we got to see it at its peak bloom:

The aptly named Lil' Stinker, a freshly-bloomed corpse plant

The aptly named Lil’ Stinker, a freshly-bloomed corpse flower

The focus of our visit was more on the Colorado and southwest United States areas of the gardens – as we wanted to get a good sense of what we might see.  Perhaps a bit unsurprisingly, we saw: a series of rocks, tall grasses, coniferous trees, and then interspersed blossoms.  All of it beautiful – but none of it worth reproducing here as the rest of these blog posts will cover it in full.

Instead, enjoy an idyllic Japanese-style aquatic plant spread from the Garden:

One of the ornamental lakes in all its blooming finery

One of the ornamental lakes in all its blooming finery

A nice little jaunt, if you will, through some lovely gardens – but at a certain point we were experiencing a deficit of further Garden to explore, versus a surplus of hunger and desire to go see Boulder.

And so: we again took up our mechanical steed and made for the nearby Boulder.   As our Lyft driver has told us the previous day (in between his explaining how much he loved his recent trip to Germany with his brother; and how much he hoped to become a computer hacker by just attending the upcoming DEFCON hacker’s conference in Vegas) – the Denver 16th Street Mall was OK… but the Boulder Pearl Street Mall was filled to the brim with street performers, and hippies, and weed burnouts, and other noteworthy experiences.  Thusly, we departed for…

Boulder, CO: The Pearl Street Mall

We arrived and found some delicious free public parking in a parking garage (Thanks, Saturday!) and immediately got out and searched for food.

Thankfully we found likely our favorite meal in CO: Illegal Pete’s.  In short: an organic and yuppy-focused version of Chipotle but hot damn was the food good.  A chicken burrito bowl is easy… but with the huge dollop of fresh pesto they added, I was in heaven.

After eating our fill (or perhaps a bit more than that), we ventured out and walked the entirety of the Mall, seeing musicians…

Small guitar best played while balancing atop a bass. FYI.

Small guitar best played while balancing atop a bass. FYI.

… other life performers like this fire juggler who stopped and called out “come on, its a kid – this isn’t lighter fluid on the ground, its just water!” and then the ENTIRE crowd left him.  Disappointing!).

A rather disappointing fire performer.

A rather disappointing fire performer.

We heard a talented old yogi babble about the need to really pop the bones out of your sockets; we heard giggling stoners; we heard local couples dish on the annoying visitors; we heard visitors dish on the weird habits of the local couples.  We saw artwork, we saw cheap touristy crap for sale, we walked through stacks of delicious food and junk food alike.  A little bit of something for everyone, on the Pearl Street Mall.

Very Coloradan artwork - people running near a mountain with decent weather in evidence.

Very Coloradan artwork – people running near a mountain with decent weather in evidence.

That said, though, we decided to then do the native Coloradan thing, and fit in some serious nature time to our day – we drove our way out of the center town and began the ascent at…

Boulder, CO: Flagstaff Mountain

Our final stop for the day was to the Flagstaff Mountain overlooking Boulder.  We initially missed our turn and got to experience our first light mountain driving, stopping off a few times at (what turned out to be the norm for Colorado:) unpaved gravel parking lots for just 3 or 4 cars off the sides of major roads, so people can stop and soak in all the nature, or hike, or get photographs.

We also encountered the first of multiple dead-serious signs about escaping flash floods:

The first of several brusquely honest (but helpful) signs near Flagstaff!

The first of several brusquely honest (but helpful) signs near Flagstaff!

We soaked in the wilderness, but eventually realized we went way out of the way – we turned around and got back on track, and we went UP.  Mini switchbacks, small (15%) grades in the road, no guardrails.  Pretty unsettling to drive up, but also a good warmup for the following days of Rocky Mountains experience.

Plus, we got some beautiful views of the mountain and its sister rocks:

Damn nature, u purdy.

Damn nature, u purdy.

Another helpful sign - always remember to fight back against the bears and mountain lions!

Another helpful sign – always remember to fight back against the bears and mountain lions!

A wedding was just departing, leaving us the amphitheater they used (and leaving me with yet more evidence that the most expensive wedding venues have almost no correlation to their suitability for special days), and again served mostly to whet our appetites for the amazing vistas and gorgeous overlooks to come:

A lovely little amphitheater overlooking downtown Boulder, atop Flagstaff

A lovely little amphitheater overlooking downtown Boulder, atop Flagstaff

We drove back, tired from a long but good day, and again marveled at both the scenic vistas on either side of the highway… and also the huge amount of traffic around us.  After all: the saying we were told, that in Colorado everyone goes out to enjoy nature and sports in one form or another as there is nothing else to do… proved to be true!

A double rainbow outside of Boulder (the second is faint but on the right side of the frame)

A double rainbow outside of Boulder (the second is faint but on the right side of the frame)

Evergreen, CO: Willie Nelson’s chosen bar

We ended our day by driving to the nearby Evergreen, as the suggestion of a girl at our hotel, to get a genuine Colorado small town experience… and also so we could go to The Little Bear Saloon.

A poor photo as the sun set, but we went and experienced the grease-splosion food... and the live music which spent 45 minutes tuning and testing mics.

A poor photo as the sun set, but we went and experienced the grease-splosion food… and the live music which spent 45 minutes tuning and testing mics.

Greasy and unsanitary, with food that left a lot to be desired… the Little Bear is also known for being the bar that Willie Nelson would consistently visit with no warning and just play live shows at.  None of us three were big fans of him before our visit (nor, I can safely say, after our departure) but it seemed like a good choice to hit the place while we were near it.  We had the experience, we departed, and we got to do some twisty/turny roads between us and the hotel – another good bit of warmup for the days ahead!

All told: our third day was a great one!

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