Blessed Birthday

After all the activity and stress of getting settled in Pueblo, Angie suggested it might be good for us to get away for a weekend to celebrate my birthday. Now that she’s working too, we needed to pick somewhere that was easy to get to and from without much trouble or travel time. Since Salida is in such a spectacular part of the state and is home to a brand new hostel, not to mention only a two-hour drive, we selected that as our destination. Angie made the reservation for us to spend two nights in a private room at The Salida Hostel, which would also give us a chance to check out what is going on with another of the bike-friendly hostels springing up around the country. A couple of days before our arrival, I also dropped an email to the info address to ask if the managers would have time to meet with us so we could learn more and share notes. Andrew and Emily Walker, the managers, responded almost instantaneously to set up a meeting with us, and the owner, Karen Karnuta, on Saturday morning. We were thrilled.

We drove to Salida on Friday evening after work. Since the days are getting longer, we were able to see much of the gorgeous scenery along Highway 50 during daylight. Neither of us had ever driven on this route before, except for the short stretch between Pueblo and Canon City, since we’d gone there a couple of weeks ago to hike. We didn’t stop to take any pictures but the route along the Arkansas River, with train tracks snaking along on the other side of the water, reminded me in places of Glenwood Canyon, another spectacular part of the state.

We enjoyed the rugged terrain and the frequent wildlife sightings of deer, pronghorn and even some bighorn sheep.

We arrived at the hostel around 7:15 PM, and were instantly welcomed by Andrew and Emily. They gave us a quick lay of the land and showed us to our room (Osprey) so we would know where we were sleeping, since we really needed to get out and get some dinner. We took our room key and headed out to find a local restaurant that had been recommended by our friend Robin, who spends a lot of time in the Salida/Buena Vista area, the Boathouse Cantina.

We found the place quite quickly and were happy to be shown to a table quite fast. The Boathouse Cantina is a simple pub-type place on the water. All the tables were high tops but we managed to make ourselves at home. The service was good and we enjoyed a cocktail each with our dinner. I had a blackberry mojito that was very flavorful, along with a hamburger called a griller. It was actually a fantastic burger. The best part about it was that the mushrooms that were added to the topping had been sautéed with ground pepper. It made it quite delicious. Angie had a jalapeño pineapple margarita that she felt had a bit of a kick to it but she enjoyed it. She chased that up with chicken tacos that were quite good as well.

It was good nourishment and the repast helped us wind down after our drive.

On Saturday morning we got up to the sight of a pair of ospreys sitting on a nesting platform across from the window of our  eponymously named room. Apparently they nest there every year.

IMG_1359 (1)At 8:00 AM we met with Karen, the owner of the hostel, along with Andrew and Emily to pick their brains and exchange notes and ideas. Knowing it was my birthday, Emily had very kindly made a special breakfast bread. She makes some sort of muffin or baked good most days, but on this day she made a chocolate chip bread pudding. It was so scrumptious.

Emily also works at the Little Red Hen Bakery in Salida and she is clearly no slouch on the baked goods front.

The meeting went really well. We felt so welcomed and were made to feel that Karen, Andrew, and Emily were completely committed to and enthusiastic about sharing information and ideas with us and supporting our goal. We talked about marketing a lot, and the different roles that need to be fulfilled, as well as a little bit about what it will take for us to pay the bills and be in the black.

After the meeting, Angie and I made some quick scrambled eggs so we would have a little protein in us, and headed off for a short ride. Karen had kindly suggested a perfect ride route for us, which would give us about 15 miles in a loop. Unfortunately, we headed into a nasty headwind on our way out of town and decided we didn’t want to ride up the challenging looking hill before us with the daunting wind added to the mix. We turned instead onto one of the side roads that heads toward the airport and worked our way out to Highway 160, riding out and back on that for a little way and enjoying the scenery and relatively quiet roads. We ended up with an 11-mile ride but it felt like a pretty decent workout to me, given the blustery weather. It was also very beautiful out, so that made the ride totally worthwhile also. The building in the picture below is the beautiful Chaffee County Courthouse, an Art Deco delight.

We headed back to the hostel via the Little Red Hen Bakery. They have an outdoor wood oven that they use to bake bread part of the time, and the bakers had just taken some ciabatta out. Emily handed one to me and it was sublime. Angie tried a little of the chili cheese bread that had also been baked in the oven, and we left after purchasing a brownie and a piece of shortbread to snack on later in the day!

After a quick lunch of soup and sandwiches back at the hostel, Angie and I headed to Mt. Princeton Hot Springs. We wanted to check it out since we’d both been to Cottonwood Springs before. I don’t know if we will go back again. The customer service skills of the girl at the entrance were not great, so when Angie tried to get information about the different options, she steered us toward the really basic package, which essentially gets you only into two pools, and you have to pay extra for towels and a locker. There are more pools and a “spa” on the other side of Chalk Creek, which is also quite warm because it’s fed in part by the hot springs, but the girl didn’t seem interested in telling us about them or selling us that package. Based on the website and Angie’s detective work, a day pass for the Spa and Club cost about $13 more but also included the towel, the locker, and more pools. We did go in both the pools to which we had access. Neither of them have places to sit in the water, so that was a bit of a drag for us. We then decided to carefully pick our way down the rocks and into Chalk Creek, where many people were also enjoying the warm waters that are countered in part by the cool water of the creek as it works its way down the mountains. A lovely couple from Colorado Springs invited us to share their spot with them and we had a delightful conversation while adjusting ourselves as the water ran super hot and then cooler, depending on the rocks we were sitting on. It was the best part of the experience for sure.

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Since it wasn’t terribly warm on Saturday afternoon, we didn’t stay more than a couple of hours at the hot springs. It was too chilly to sit poolside without warm clothing or at least a robe.

This meant we got to Buena Vista with quite a lot of time to spare before our dinner reservation. We considered trying to get a table earlier but first we opted to take a bit of a look at the main drag of the town. And, what’s this? A distillery? Of course we have to check it out.

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Deerhammer Distilling Company  is about 4 years old and the distillers make whiskey and gin. They offer two types of whiskey, the white dog (pre-barrel) and the aged whiskey, which is aged for one to two years in charred barrels, as is the custom with American whiskeys. They call their aged whiskey the Downtime. The bartender gave us a sample of the whiskeys and it just seemed to make sense that on my birthday we should have a cocktail at a distillery to kill some time before dinner! I had the Downtime old-fashioned, which I have to say was one of the tastiest old-fashioneds I’ve sampled to date. Angie had a Moscow Mule Deer, which is made with the white dog (which they call Whitewater Whiskey), so is a variation on the theme of a Moscow Mule, which is usually made with vodka. She didn’t like it as much, and thought maybe I’d made the better choice this time! Angie is usually the best picker-outer of cocktails! We enjoyed our drinks and the atmosphere before it was time to wander across the street for dinner.

We had done a bit of research to try to find something other than a tavern for my birthday dinner celebration, and picked out the Asian Palate in Buena Vista. When we’d said to Karen, Andrew, and Emily at the hostel that that we were going to have Asian food for dinner, they all instantly knew the place we’d chosen. Apparently it’s a well-regarded spot. We had made a reservation and it’s good that we did, because it was quite crowded. We enjoyed our meal, particularly the sushi offerings, and Angie was happy with the miso soup. I had ordered the Thai beef with sweet basil. On the face of it I expected to love it, since the dish contained many of my favorite ingredients, including, of course, basil, along with cabbage and shitake mushrooms. However, I found it a little on the dry side, although the flavor was quite good. We did enjoy the service and the atmosphere, and on the whole I’d say it was a successful dinner, though I would for sure pick something different to eat next time.

It was a good evening and overall I’d say it was as good as a birthday can get.

The weekend as a whole got even better the next day. On Friday night at the Boathouse Cantina, we had asked our server for advice on somewhere to go for breakfast/brunch on Sunday that would enable us to potentially watch my soccer team, Tottenham Hotspur, play their must-win game against Manchester United if the staff at the restaurant would let us pick the channel. Although the odds are getting slimmer, Spurs are still in striking distance of first place in the league, and if they win it, it would be the first time in 55 years! Yes, pretty much my entire lifetime since they last won the league title.

The game was going to be on NBC-SN, which you can’t get everywhere. The server had instantly suggested we try the sister restaurant, Rivers Edge, which was to be open at the right time AND has televisions. At Emily Walker’s suggestion, we walked to the restaurant along the path that follows the Arkansas River into town. It was a lovely little walk and we saw one of the ospreys sitting on top of one of the lights at the ballfield as we went by.

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Since it was a nice day, most of the demand at the restaurant was for outside tables, and on any other occasion we might have sat outside too. However, this gave us our choice of tables inside, so we could figure out the table with the best view of the TV. The server kindly gave us the remote so we could determine what channel the game was on on DirecTV, which was their service, and was not the least bit concerned about letting us pick a channel or having us stay so we could watch the entire game (which it turned out was starting a half-hour late after poor United got stuck in traffic). As she said, everyone was sitting outside, so there was no demand for our table. The food was pretty good and the game was outstanding. It was a thrill to watch my team handily beat a club that has in the past few years pretty much held them at bay.

The plan was to head back home after the game, and we certainly hit the road on a high note after a brilliant weekend. I am so grateful to Angie for coming up with some great ideas for my birthday weekend and for going along with the bits of it I came up with too!

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