526 Miles to Vail...

I went into this trip with a lot of excitement and a little fear. The excitement came from my first train ride and staying in Vail. The fear included sleeping on the train, Amtrak itself, and a seven hour car ride to our final destination. It starts off in Flagstaff around the dinner hour. We meet up with Emily (Elliot’s oldest daughter), then drove straight to Snow Bowl to have a campfire under the stars. This was amazing, but the cool of the night was upon us and Emily and I quickly turned into popsicles. After a few hours and many laughs we set out for town to check into our hotel. Upon arrival at the hotel (motel) I was informed it was "historic", which explained the smell. Each room was named after famous actor/actress. We were fortunate to stay in Humphrey Bogart’s room, with wonderful gold painted walls that were accented with a black ceiling. Inside the bathroom, above the sink, stood a bare light bulb over the mirror. For your convince was a pull string to activate. All sarcasm aside, the essence of the property really was an experience to remember! Emily and I both thought it would be good to go to Beaver Creek Brewery for dinner. I've been there before and was excited to have the chili again. We were seated in the farthest booth in the corner of the restaurant. The dining room was only 1/3 full at 8:30 pm, but we waited for service, and we waited, and waited, while the entire staff walked by and looked at us.  So we moved ourselves to the bar, where we ended the evening with a full belly.We headed back early, in an effort to get a few hours of sleep before we had to board the train. However, I soon learned that “First Friday” is a big deal in the hotel bar below. You see it would have been ok, but Elliot has 100 degree blood flowing thru his veins, which warranted an open window. I go along to get along, and hoped I that once I fell asleep it will be alright… Nope, all  wrong! We listened to Lisa and Mary argue over clothes, purses and a grey pair of tights Mary ruined. Then two guys carrying on right under our window until around 1 am. One guy yelling over and over “tell her the truth”. At one point I thought if I screamed “I am trying to sleep”, like they do in the movies it might help. But after careful consideration I decided rationing with a drunk never works. As the morning neared, I remembered we had a sleeping car on the train - happy day!

vail.jpgAt 4am we boarded the train, finally I was going to get a few hours of sleep. Our "Sleepette" was private with bunk bed style sleeping, I would recommend bringing your own pillows and blankets. I think Amtrak and the airlines buy their linens from the same company; Barbie sized pillows and a terry cloth hand towel for a blanket.We slept till 7am or so, cleaned up and went to the dining car for breakfast. Which was served on crisp white cloth table linens, and pretty plastic china, BUT a full sit down menu. It was tasty egg omelets, oatmeal, toast, fresh fruit, bacon, the works. Food quality was equivalent to Denny’s, but it really wasn’t bad and the price was very reasonable. With breakfast done, we wandered through the observation car and into the coach cabins. They also have a convenience store where you can buy souvenirs, soda, chips, snacks etc.The last stop, Albuquerque. I was very excited to get to Vail, but definitely not looking forward to the drive. Time went by really fast, I had my very own tour guide (Elliot, yes he is a history-geography buff!  Lucky me, huh?) I learned about mountains, highest peaks, canyons, washes, continental divides, lakes, streams, past trips, snowstorms, icy roads, Hwy 70, Hwy 293, and much, much more I promise you! At times funny, and yet painful when two people who love to talk, can't have the floor. We arrived around 8pm, unpacked, and headed to find food. This time of year the entire village shuts down for 2 weeks to prepare for high season. Everyone takes their time off, for family vacations, property renovations, stock shelves etc. However we managed to find a small pub open in the village, as a bonus football was on the T.V. We enjoyed a bowl of soup and shared a BLT sandwich; I swear it was the best meal in recent memory. There is nothing better than hot soup with a chill in the air and fireplace burning. It felt like home, (for those of you who don’t know, home is Minnesota we moved to AZ in the 80’s)The next morning was an early rise, since we couldn’t sleep. Off we went exploring and hiking the most beautiful area of Vail, we even managed to get close to 12,000 feet in elevation. What a great workout in the wind, mud and snow! I now understand the saying “god’s country”, as it was the most beautiful landscape ever. Hiking there was an amazing experience, it was Zen-like!

As our trip started to wind down, we took a bike ride through Vail Village and Lions Head Resort, they're small quaint village’s that run together. Both little villages put together probably only cover a 2 mile radius. It was fun to look at the enormous homes and the beauty they add to the landscape. Absolutely the most beautiful homes I have ever seen, and I would be proud to own any of them. We continued through the village, browsing the boutiques and all the restaurants that offered and array of food. You could have Seafood, a big fat steak paired a high dollar bottle of wine, or just plain ol’ chicken wings with a cold beer. Regardless of your fancy or how big your checkbook is, it definitely is a place to visit at least once. I went to bed that night exhausted with my soul rejuvenated, but feeling a touch of sadness, knowing that it was almost over. As Monday morning came I felt great! Elliot and I had breakfast at what I think was an owner-operated restaurant, in the Holiday Inn. They had the best fresh ground coffee EVER! After breakfast we headed down the hill to Denver, so Elliot could work and I could catch my flight home. A bit somber to leave, but I was happy in my heart, and with that I boarded my plane for home.