staycation: grand mesa loop

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One of the best things about living where we do (near Glenwood Springs, Colorado), and one of the reasons we’ve chosen to live here twice, is its proximity to so many wonderful places. Within three hours we can be in Denver, Breckenridge, Rocky Mountain National Park, Moab, Ouray and Ridgway, Steamboat Springs, Grand Junction…you get the idea. That makes it easy to get away for a week or just a weekend without traveling too far.

Sometimes, though, we can’t get away for a whole weekend (one of the downsides of owning a retail store) but still need to leave the house and yard work. It will always be here when we get back. I keep hoping that won’t be the case, but time and again it’s still here.

Solution? A staycation daytrip! We have lots of options, for which I’m forever grateful, and last weekend it was the Grand Mesa Loop. It was a favorite back when I was a badass motorcycle chick and it’s still a favorite when I’m in the passenger seat of the Jeep.

The Grand Mesa Loop route goes from Glenwood Springs to Carbondale to Redstone on the West Elk Scenic Byway, over McClure Pass, through Paonia, Hotchkiss and Cedaredge, over the Grand Mesa, through the Debeque Canyon Cutoff, and then I-70 back home. It’s 234 miles and five plus hours according to Google Maps, but that’s without all of the fun stops along the way.

This trip, our first stop was in Redstone to check out the General Store. The new owners have made a lot of improvements, including lots of seating out front. We bought a couple of treats, they have lots of fun, old-fashioned candy, and walked through the park as we ate them. This is such a picturesque setting, I’m awestruck every time. (See top photo.) It’s easy to spend a full day or weekend here, which we did on one of our anniversaries, with tours of the Redstone Castle and lots of galleries and shops. And, you’re off the grid.

Black Bridge Winery in Paonia

Next up, over the pass and through the woods to the Black Bridge Winery in Paoinia. We found this gem years ago returning home from watching a volleyball game in Delta and stop in whenever we can. The setting on the North Fork of the Gunnison River is ideallic, and they have thoughtfully placed Adirondack chairs where you can picnic on the wine and goodies from the store. We walked way with six bottles of wine, locally made summer sausage and cheeses, snacks, two kinds of hot sauces and some handmade soap. Score!

Alongside the North Fork of the Gunnison River at Black Bridge Winery

By now it was lunchtime and we knew exactly where we were headed: Big B’s Delicious Orchards. There is a lot going on here, and it’s all good. It’s a farm and orchard where you can drink hard cider, eat good food, camp in the orchard, listen to live music, play on giant swings, pick your own fruit and veggies, buy locally made or grown products and have a swell time while you’re at it. They have great festivals as well. This trip we split a flight of ciders and had lunch at the bar since it was raining lightly outside. I love the tamales, and Scott loves the BBQ pulled pork.

Cider tasting at Big B’s Delicious Orchards

Our next stop was a new one for us, one of nine in the West Elks AVA, also known as the North Fork Valley Wineries. Mesa Winds winery is off the beaten path in Hotchkiss and definitely worth a stop. Honestly, it doesn’t look that appealing driving up but inside the covered patio tasting area is a different story. There are a handful of table facing the Mesa, each with bouquets of fresh flowers. You can taste their wines as well as guest wines from other Colorado wineries. We were able to try wines from Sauvage Spectrum in Palisade and Buckle in Gunnison. We were full so we didn’t eat, but the menu options included a charcuterie board, a crimini mushroom and goat cheese tart, a ham and provolone panini, pan-seared Verlasso salmon (YUM!) and salted caramel bread pudding. I’ll save room for some of these treats the next time we stop.

Wine tasting at Mesa Winds Winery in Hotchkiss

We’d planned to visit the Snow Capped Cider tasting room in Cedaredge next, but apparently it didn’t survive the pandemic. We stopped where we thought it was, which was lucky for me because there were several shops inside and my favorite new shirt just happened to be right next to the ladies room. I want to spend more time there and check out the Williams Winery tasting room, café and gallery. The Apple Fest in Cedaredge is worth a visit in the fall.

Score!

From there it was up and over the mesa, which is a spectacular drive on the Grand Mesa Scenic Byway. There’s a nice visitor center at the top, but the storm clouds were gathering so we headed down and back home. It was the perfect, one-day vacation that we needed to satisfy our wanderlust.

a day in Sonoma, California

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Of our four days in Sonoma County, one was spent in and around Sonoma, a historic city in northern California at the heart of the renowned Sonoma Valley wine-making region. Its history is fascinating.

According to VisitCalifornia.com, “In the mid-1800s, the town now known as Sonoma was just a collection of ranchos, governed by Mexico. Even though the U.S. government and the State of California took over the territory not too long after that, you can still sense its heritage. The centerpiece of town, Sonoma Plaza, is still anchored by the northernmost Franciscan mission in California—and it’s even the birthplace of the California State Bear Flag, created by Americans rebelling against Mexican rule. Today, however, Sonoma Plaza is lined with charming shops, tasting rooms and popular restaurants.”

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where to eat in Sonoma County: four faves

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We just got back from a wonderful, wine-filled week in Sonoma and Napa. It was an actual work trip for our liquor store. How sweet is that? Before I get to the wine, and there’s so much wine to discuss, I want to tell you about four restaurants we loved in Sonoma County. Two were recommended by winery employees. Locals have the best insights on where to, or not to, eat. The other two were found on Google.

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top 5 travel recommendations from 2014

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Colonial Williamsburg Capitol travel blog

The Capitol building in Colonial Williamsburg.

Looking back on 2014, some of it is a little fuzzy. Change was definitely the word of the year. To recap, we put our house on the market in the spring, sold it in June and then had 40 days to cut our possessions in half, pack and move what we kept into storage. Scott and I headed out in the RV in early July with no plans other than to see a lot of the country and visit with friends and family. Road trip! Continue reading

colorado cheeseburgers i love

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Horsefly Brewery

A couple of 50/50 burgers, a Six Shooter and a Bug Eyed Blonde at Horsefly Brewing Co. in Montrose.

Happy National Cheeseburger Day! In honor of this national holiday (it is a holiday, right?), here are my five favorite Colorado cheeseburgers, in no particular order. Continue reading

arizona road trip, part 2: exploring chandler

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Happy hour on the patio at El Zocalo in Chandler, Arizona.

Happy hour on the patio at El Zocalo in Chandler, Arizona.

After a romantic Valentine’s Day in Scottsdale, Arizona, we headed to Chandler for a couple of days. Historic downtown Chandler is a gastronomic delight; if you’re dieting, you should not go there. The artsy area is just a few blocks long, but it’s packed with restaurants, pubs and specialty shops. Our intention was to have lunch and do a little window-shopping. We liked it so much that we ended up spending a good portion of our weekend there.

Pretzels and beer at the SanTan Brewing Company.

Pretzels and beer at the SanTan Brewing Company.

SanTan Brewing Company was founded in 2007 and is based in a renovated 1954 bank building. There’s lots of seating inside and out, but it was still pretty busy when we got there. I had a Sun Spot Golden Ale, which was light and refreshing. Scott tried the Sex Panther, because who doesn’t want to try a beer called Sex Panther? It’s a double chocolate porter that’s only available in early spring.

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california – oregon road trip: a tale of beautiful drives, beer and cheese

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Part of the beauty of the empty nest is that it’s easier to travel. Since I can work just about anywhere, I decided to join Scott on some of his business trips. Our first opportunity was just a couple of weeks into emptynestdom. I started the research and planning early, which gave us both something to look forward to and helped keep my mind off the fact that our lives were getting ready to change pretty significantly.

Scott loves to drive, so my jobs are to generally plan the route, pretend to be able to read a map, find stops along the way and look up interesting facts about the area. I usually take a few involuntary naps as well. Continue reading