NYC 2021: Getting There

I’m never quite sure which day is the first day of the trip. Living in a town without a major airport, there’s always travel involved before the “real” travel. This time, that included some appointments and social time in the Denver metro area too.

There’s not much to report about getting to Denver, beyond the fact that it was still green despite a week of blistering heat. And Denver has traffic. But that’s no surprise. We made it to the appointment easily and ordered and ate from Etai’s Greenhouse between appointments. It’s pretty good, but Maureen would prefer some “less fussy” (my term, not hers) salad options. It also appeared that COVID restrictions had made the Etai’s area off limits to visitors. Oops.

Next we headed to DIA (Denver International Airport) for a preview visit. Not really. Actually a TSA Pre-Check interview, but it did function as a preview. We watched soccer from the doorway of the Boulder Beer Tap House, but reduced capacity meant they did not have seats for us. While Maureen interviewed, I checked out the seasonal Park on the Plaza near the Westin Hotel, which is located above the light rail station. As far as I could tell, the only things that had changed at the airport were that everyone was wearing masks and restaurants had limited capacity.

Our next stop was Boulder and since it was Friday afternoon, we gladly paid the tolls on the Northwest Parkway to avoid some of the traffic. We arrived a bit early and were able to take a lap around the Pearl St./Walnut St. area. It has changed a lot since I moved there in 1989. It definitely does not hold the same magic for me now that it did then. Fortunately, some changes are good. Such as the addition of Rosetta Hall, a restaurant and bar complex between the old Walnut Brewery space and the still operating Rio Grande Restaurant. We met friends there for happy hour and early dinner. Drinks were good, and dinner choices were varied and consistently tasty. Even better, there’s no standing in line or jostling to get your order placed (my mental image of food halls) as everything is ordered online and then picked up at the counter when it’s ready. Some COVID modifications that are helpful in “normal” times!

Rosetta Hall has a patisserie, but inexplicably no ice cream (the horror!), so of course we needed to swing by Sweet Cow before leaving town. The flavors never disappoint, but the size of the “tiny” has actually become tiny, so I will sadly have to move up to a small in the future.

The next day (transition day!) began with a bike ride to stretch our legs and get some fresh air before tackling a long travel day. It was nice to ride somewhere other than our usual Pueblo routes. We fueled up with Mad Greens salads, then headed to the light rail station. The shuttle lots are still closed at DIA, supposedly due to “low travel volume,” so we decided taking light rail made more sense than paying $15-28 per day to park in the garage or economy lots. We paid for parking ($4/day since we live outside the RTD tax district), bought our tickets to the airport ($10.50 each), then schlepped our bags up the stairs to the platform. What is it with elevators and public transit? The elevators you’d really like to use never seem to be in service.

Riding to DIA requires a transfer from almost anywhere in the metro area once your suburban train arrives at Union Station. We walked right onto an “A Line” train when we arrived and had about a 40-minute ride from downtown to DIA. Unfortunately, many of the windows are covered with advertisements, which made it difficult to see out. I kept trying to push my sunglasses—which I wasn’t wearing—up because it was so dark. 😎😂

Once at the airport, we rode the escalator up to the grassy plaza, took a moment to remove our masks and dump our water bottles, then headed for the ticket counter. It was incredibly empty compared to the crowds the previous day. We did a little experiment, since I had pre-check and Maureen did not. On this uncrowded day, pre-check saved about 10 minutes. I was particularly happy not to have to take off my shoes or remove multiple items from my backpack. If you have the option to get this paid for through a credit card—or even if you have to pay the $85 for pre-check or $100 for global entry—it is probably worth doing if you travel several times a year. (More on this on the return leg.)

Again, the only things that seem to be different at the airport are the masks and the limited restaurant capacity. Crowds and clue-free travelers have returned. We headed first for ice cream at Little Man (also a positive change at the airport), which was as reliably good as ever—salted Oreo for me and espresso fudge for Maureen. Airlines are still serving neither food nor alcohol, so next we had duck wings and wine at Root Down, one of the great dining choices at DIA. I also acquired some carrot hummus for the plane. Maureen’s plane food was a chicken salad sandwich on marble rye from Woody Creek Bakery.

Our flight was delayed about an hour, but given how many flights were cancelled that week and that day, we considered ourselves lucky. We got even luckier when two seats were available in the exit row, despite our Southwest boarding positions of B38 and 39. If you’re flying soon, keep in mind that in-flight nourishment options may still be quite limited. Ours offered three soda choices (or water) and provided two small bags of snacks, but no food boxes or anything else for purchase. Happily, we enjoyed our DIA-purchased food.

We both watched Wonder Woman 1984 on the flight. It was entertaining and I was glad to have the opportunity to view it for “free,” but I am conflicted about some of the messages. In the interests of avoiding spoilers, I won’t go into detail, but I will say that I am surprised it was directed by a woman.

We arrived into New York LaGuardia after midnight. Luckily, it was easy to get a taxi, but the fare was more than we might have hoped. After slight disappointment surrounding breakfast options at our Hilton Garden Inn (more on that to come), we headed up to our “city view” room and settled in for a little bit of sleep.

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