The Colorado Bucket List

I complained to Jamie last year how we rarely get visitors. We live in Colorado, for heaven’s sake, not Kansas. People should be lining up to discover our state’s glory!

As it turns out, we’ve finally had a steady stream of friends and family staying with us and I couldn’t be more delighted. Our most recent were my brother Pat and his wife Jane, who have not been to Denver since my wedding 12 years ago. Jane surprised Pat with an item on his bucket list: to attend a Broncos game and spend a couple of days with us. Clarification: The Broncos game was the bucket list; hanging Chez Johnson was a huge bonus.

I was initially at a loss how to entertain them. Though they live near the Canadian Rockies, every spare moment is spent on the water but Jane soothed my concerns and told me they wanted to experience “My Colorado,” which is another way of saying they value near-death experiences.

Day 1

So, on Day 1, I took them to Chautauqua Park in Boulder. They’re not hikers so we did a moderate one-hour loop but when Pat smack-talked me “Is that all you’ve got?” it made me vow to kill them off next time around with a more strenuous trek. At least him; Jane is much more accommodating.

We spent the afternoon strolling and lunching along Pearl Street Mall.

The real highlight (for Jane at least) was to treat the whole family to Casa Bonita that evening! When she was doing her research on Colorado haunts, this Mexican restaurant was listed as one of the nation’s Top 10 Roadside Attractions, evidence that list had a very low standard. Don’t get me wrong. Casa Bonita’s pageantry–divers plunging into a pool below a 30-ft. waterfall,  fire jugglers, strolling mariachi bands, a pirate cave, magicians, puppet shows, skee-ball machine, puppet show and arcade games–are fun but the food is terrible, with the exception of their sopapillas.  But if you drown enough of them in honey, you start enjoying yourself in that cheesy Mexican funhouse!

This picture is blurry due to my sheer terror in Black Bart’s Cave.

Day 2

Boulder’s Flatirons are the foothills of Colorado’s Rocky Mountains. For Pat and Jane’s second day in Colorado, I wanted to expose them to Colorado’s extremes.

We started at Red Rocks, which is known nationally for its famous music venue. For athletes, it is a haven for pushing the limits. From “Red Rocks is known nationally for its famous music venue. For athletes, it is a haven for pushing the limits in the altitude. Sitting at 6,000 feet high, Red Rocks has two staircases on either side of the amphitheater that rise from the lower parking lot to the upper concession level, each with about 380 steps. There are two interior stairways on either side of the bleachers each with 138 steps from the stage to the top. Red Rocks features 69 rows of seats in the venue, which equates to running approximately three miles on an ascent or descent of the bleachers. Add in 21 planter boxes for plyo jumps, side stairways that climb from the stage to the upper parking lot with 83 steps, which then connect by way of an ascending quarter-mile ramp to 62 steps straight up to the upper concession area; you have a challenging workout amidst some of the best scenery in the Rocky Mountains.”

Sounds fun, right? I didn’t want to kill us off so we hiked the amphitheater loop and then did a few rounds up Red Rocks’ stairs. Believe me, that was plenty!

We felt a bit less guilty about indulging at my beloved Country Road Cafe. Jamie always orders the Breakfast Burrito but I like to test out new menu items and fell in love with the Berry Bush, potato pancakes topped with cream cheese, sausage patties, two eggs, hollandaise and blackberry-sage drizzle. It was delicious but the real show-stopper was Jane’s “Holy Cow,” a heap of mashed potatoes topped with a scramble of eggs, ham, bacon, cheese, country fried steak, sausage gravy and crispy onions surrounded by french toast. 

Aptly-named “Holy Cow!”

I kid you not: her plate was triple the size of our already-huge portions and her leftovers fed my entire family for dinner. And a small nation.

From there, we were 14er-bound to drive to the top of Mount Evans, the highest paved road in North America. We popped some Tylenol to battle altitude-induced headaches during the circuitous drive but it wasn’t until we got out of the car to hike a few hundred feet to the summit that the elevation started to wreak havoc, particularly with Jane. 

Pat had another issue: he’s deathly afraid of heights and there was something about looming 14,000 feet above the valley floor that was unsettling for him. Go figure. Regardless, the views stunned but poor Jane passed out driving down and upon arriving home, this is how I found them.

If this isn’t a raving endorsement for “Come to Colorado and I’ll show you a good time,” I don’t know what is.

In my defense, this is what I look like after spending a day on the boat with them.

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