Colorado Goes to Pot

Colorado's legalization of weed has stimulated production of designer weed. Photo from gopusa.com.
Colorado’s legalization of weed has stimulated production of designer weed. Photo from gopusa.com.

Can it be that people in Colorado drive slower than those in neighboring states?

I’m sure somebody keeps those records, but it seemed that way.   Anyway, the Centennial State’s oxygen-rich, high-altitude air did offer a temporary distraction from the constant warning of the CHECK ENGINE light upon our arrival in the Rocky Mountains.

Alice’s daughter, Joanie, and son, Ed, welcomed us with open arms.  Because Joanie suffers from multiple sclerosis (MS), she already enjoyed some relief from its effects through medical marijuana.  Due to its recent legalization for recreational use, she shared stash obtained for that purpose.  The sense of open community realized from passing of that first joint was as refreshing as the calming effects from deeply inhaling the distinctly scented smoke characteristic of “wacky tobaccy.”

Ed doesn’t smoke weed, so after an hour of Colorado family hospitality at their Ponderosa cabin settlement, he drove us the few miles down US-285 – where an incessant line of weekend traffic leaving Aspen allowed scant opportunity to merge onto the highway – to Rustic Station, a well-patronized watering hole and restaurant with high-definition TVs in the center of Bailey.

Upon our arrival, everyone’s attention was focused on the bar and grill’s televisions, because the Broncos’ game against the Kansas City Chiefs was tied 17-17.  Once Denver scored the game-winning touchdown, the restaurant erupted in infectious cheers for the home team.  This spontaneous celebration offered a perfect distraction from imagined catastrophe earlier in the day.

The grub we ordered – a cheeseburger with sweet potato fries and fish and chips – was familiar and edible, especially welcome since Alice and I chose not to stop for lunch during the looming prospect of Denver’s football fans clogging the expressways.

A cabin home with an inspiring view.
A cabin home with an inspiring view.

Even though our sleeping quarters were confined, they were comfortable, and we slept like contented babies overnight and awoke Monday morning to Rocky Mountain splendor.  Across the road from our high-altitude oasis was an awe-inspiring tableau of greenery nestled around craggy mountaintops.  What a wonderful view Joanie and Ed were privileged to behold each morning.

As we dressed and sipped morning coffee, I felt a pressing need to get back on the road.  If I could limp Betsy across the Continental Divide – which would mean driving back down to Denver and then ascending up Interstate 70 – to a temporary three-day haven offered by my brother’s first family in Grand Junction, Colo., we could get the Ford Escape’s problem diagnosed and perhaps fixed.

Joanie, Alice and Ed pose for a goodbye photo.
Joanie, Alice, Eddie and his parrot, Phoebe, pose for a goodbye photo.

Alice and I said our goodbyes to her offspring, and went to a quirky café populated by distinctively outfitted regulars and motorcycle enthusiasts.  As we were walking out, we struck up a conversation with a congenial, middle-aged couple who offered an inviting option to the aforementioned route my GPS recommended.

Motorcyclists are welcome at the Cutthroat Cafe.
Motorcyclists are welcome at the Cutthroat Cafe.

Keep heading southwest on US-285 up the mountains and descend into the town of Fairplay, they urged, where we would turn north on Colorado Highway 9 through Hoosier Pass, where spectacular scenery and an altitude of 11,541 feet would await.  That’s quite a climb for Betsy, I thought, but nowhere near the challenge of descending back to the Mile-High City and steeply ascending again to brave the Eisenhower Tunnel and heights beyond.

We mutually chose the less-traveled scenic route, and that’s where – with the nagging CHECK ENGINE light continuing to unsettle me – the following travelogue section reveals some of the wonders that mesmerized us.  (Photos by Alice McCormick.

Bailey's one and only pot shop: Sunrise Solutions.
Bailey’s one and only pot shop: Sunrise Solutions.

Before we left Bailey, we couldn’t resist the urge to visit our first pot shop, Sunrise Solutions.  The windows are darkened to shield young curiosity seekers’ eyes from being tainted by the evil weed inside.  Once in the shop, we were treated to an enthusiastic presentation of various strains of weed with oddball names, a far cry from the old days when a toker was left to decide whether the pot was just good or bad.

One relevant observation: Because of how much recreational marijuana is taxed and regulated, its cost is reputed to be twice the black market price.

This picturesque ranch was spotted on the way to Fairplay.
This picturesque ranch was spotted on the way to Fairplay.
Colorful slopes highlight the landscape in Colorado's mountains.
Colorful slopes highlight the landscape in Colorado’s mountains.
Hay bundles illustrate a working mountain farm.
Hay bundles illustrate a working mountain farm.
Scenery that "flat-landers" know little about.
Scenery that “flat-landers” know little about.

A changing landscape of productive ranches and mountain scenery unfolded around every bend.

The buildings on the main street of Breckenridge leave little doubt that prices may be steep.
The buildings on the main street of Breckenridge leave little doubt that prices may be steep.
Cable cars in Breckenridge pass overhead Highway 9.
Cable cars in Breckenridge pass overhead Highway 9.

We never realized how much the wondrous vistas would change until we entered the chic town of Breckenridge, known as much for its film festival as the ski resorts in the mountains above.

The elevation of Dillon Reservoir is over 9,000 feet high.
The elevation of Dillon Reservoir is over 9,000 feet high.

Near Breckenridge are the pristine Dillon Reservoir and its dam that evoke serious security concerns since the vast snow melt provides Denver with drinking water.

This is not the locale to feel isolated.
This is not the locale to feel isolated.

Heading out of town toward I-70, a newly enlarged four-lane highway accommodates a rapidly growing local population.

These two happy souls find adventure on the road.
These two happy souls find adventure on the road.
This Carolina native found pleasure in the travel companions shown above.
This Carolina native found pleasure in the travel companions shown above.

Immediately before the 10,666-foot Vail Pass on the Interstate, we stopped for a bathroom break at a rest stop.  Once we parked according to signage, Alice and I encountered real-life hippies of the modern era.

Pardon the bug splattered on the windshield ahead!
Pardon the bug splattered on the windshield ahead!
Bluffs on the canyon walls provide a picturesque gasp of ooohs and aaahs.
Bluffs on the canyon walls provide a picturesque gasp of ooohs and aaahs.

Coming down from the Vail area, where we observed recently built high-end townhouses, mountains appeared less daunting in scope and the CHECK ENGINE light not so imminent.

The 12.5-mile section of viaducts, bridges and tunnels along I-70 were opened in 1992.
The 12.5-mile section of viaducts, bridges and tunnels along I-70 were opened in 1992.

The road ahead challenged Betsy one final time, as we entered Glenwood Canyon.  This engineering feat positioned the interstate highway, a well-used railroad and the mighty Colorado River together.

As the mileage toward Grand Junction dropped into single figures, I began to relax as road signs beckoned us into a land of civilization, where fast-food shops, tony housing developments, medical centers and lots of traffic awaited.

We pulled off at a designated exit, found the closest supermarket where we bought some cat litter and disposable litter boxes to accommodate Millie, whose infrequent serenades of complaint reminded us we were not alone.

A phone call to Mary, our future hostess with the most-est, confirmed the GPS directions to a first-floor condominium in the heart of Grand Junction.  Within 15 minutes of our conversation, we pulled into her driveway, eager to enjoy a respite from four hard days of driving.

With recreational marijuana dancing in our heads, she led us to a place where we could enjoy a recently rolled joint.  We lit the inviting doobie and passed it around, as Alice mused, “Welcome to Colorado.”

We were safe and nestled in the bosom of protective family – at least for the next three days.

The conclusion of this adventure continues here.

4 thoughts on “Colorado Goes to Pot”

  1. I enjoyed all of your posts. Felt like I was making the tip with you. Was wonderful to see you both; catching up on the approximately 30 year gap since we sat around a table in Miami, Florida and your brother and I commenced our near-cross country trip to Texas from Miami. Lots of surprises, the years went by quickly and soon everything changed when we divorced twenty years later.
    Found myself in a foreign land alone; children had moved out and I continued my journey first to New Mexico and then Grand Junction, Co. where I currently live. Children have migrated back into my life and I had an opportunity to play host to my “Brother-in-law from another marriage” and his lovely partner, Alice. Had a wonderful time with them. Ya’ll come to visit anytime, I loved it. Continue on your path ever mindful of “times, they are a changing”; but family is family and will always be; thank you for being mine.

  2. Such good reading! Such tantalizing photos! I sure am enjoying this travelogue of your adventures! Thanks, Mason!

  3. Your photos and your narrative brought me back to our recent trip to Colorado this past June. Stayed in Denver at a conference for four days and then our friends from Ft. Collins picked us up for some touring of Colorado. After staying with them in Ft. Collins, the four of us did a road trip to Wyoming, Montana and S. Dakota. Wow, Wow, Wow!

  4. Mason, loved the article and great photos. Are you sure it’s not the fresh air and not the pot that’s gone to your head?

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