Chris Rogers in high school and with business school friend.

Denver & Old Friends – American Road Trip (pt22)

Sept 8-9, 2015    Days 30-31 of my American Road Trip.

 

After about a week in Montana and Wyoming, it was time to make my way to Denver to see some old friends.  One of my best friends from high school and another great friend from business school.  When I first started my trip, both said they’d be up for a visit if I made it to Denver, and after 30 days roaming the country, it was time for that visit.   

 

Wyoming Frontier Prison

My 8-hour drive from Jackson, Wyoming to Denver, Colorado was relatively uneventful.  After looking through my pictures, I noticed I only took two along the way, which is pretty rare for me.  One at a haunted frontier prison in Wyoming and the other at “The Shining” Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado.  Ok, that sounds a lot more exciting that it really was.  

During my road trips, I always try to keep my eye out for cool spots along the way that I didn’t know where there.  That’s how I stumbled upon The American Gothic House, 1880 Town and Little Bighorn Battlefield.

As I drove from Jackson towards Denver I saw a brown landmark road sign stating the “Wyoming Frontier Prison” was coming up in Rawlings.  After four hours on the wide open plains of Wyoming, this looked cool enough to stop and check out.

 

Wyoming brick Frontier Prison and state flags on a sunny day.

Wyoming Frontier Prison

 

It was a couple of hours until the next tour when I arrived, so I decided to just visit the museum and keep moving.  It was quite interesting reading all the frontier crime stories, wild west shenanigans and executions that may or may not have been legitimate.  Apparently, the prison is also haunted.  Which probably shouldn’t come as a surprise with all the bad guys they put down there.

For those that like those types of things, I definitely recommend a visit if you’re passing through the area on your National Park tour.  

 

The Shining hotel (or not)

After Rawlings I continued on towards Denver and decided to make another stop in Estes Park, Colorado since I had a little time to kill.  My business school buddy recommended I stop by Estes Park and see the hotel from “The Shining” movie.  He said the drive through the Rocky Mountains was worth the trip.  That sounded good to me and was my second stop (and picture) on my way to Denver.  

When I got to Estes Park, I found the hotel and snapped a roadside picture thinking it was actually the hotel from the movie.  Yup, it’s not the hotel from the movie.  And not the best picture either.  Where did that tree-bush come from?  

 

View of white and red Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado.

Stanley Hotel street view in Estes Park, Colorado.

 

Not until a few minutes ago, which is over 8 months after seeing the hotel, did I discover that the Estes Park Stanley Hotel is not “The Shining” hotel.  It was only the inspiration for Stephen King’s novel after he stayed there in 1973.  Stanley Kubrick actually filmed most of the movie on sets in England and the outside scenes were filmed at the Timberline Lodge in Mount Hood, Oregon.  All my extensive internet research can be found at this link and this link.  There’s two links and neither one is a Wikipedia link so it’s gotta be true, right?  Sorry Colorado friends.   

It was cool to see what I thought was “The Shining” hotel, but driving my German souvenir up through the windy Rocky Mountain National Park roads with no one in front of me was just a tad bit better.  I still cringe thinking about the downhill drive to Denver with a slow truck in front of me and no way to pass.  All those amazing turns that should have been taken at more appropriate speeds.  What a waste.  If I wasn’t meeting my high school friend in Denver, I probably would have driven back up for another shot at an open downhill drive.   

 

Denver

I arrived in Denver in the afternoon to see one of my best high School friends, Brenda, and her husband Tom and their two boys.  I hadn’t been to Denver in a few years and had not yet met her youngest son.  Brenda was one of the first people to say she was up for a visit when I started the road trip.  Day 30 and I finally made it. 

I’ve known Brenda since high school (class of ’92) and even though I haven’t always stayed in touch as I’ve roamed planet earth, I still consider her one of my best friends.  I’m pretty sure that’s me on the right in the picture below.  Not sure if it was costume day or that was my dress up attire.  Brenda still looks the same of course.

 

Chris Rogers high school picture in 1992

High school picture circa 1992. Someone looks the same 20+ years later and it’s not me.

 

After I arrived, we hung out on their back patio for a while catching up and then walked down to get some gluten-free pizza at Atomic Cowboy.  I must say, I’d never thought I’d have a gluten-free pizza but it was pretty good.    

Brenda and Tom live in Highlands area of Denver.  On the way home from pizza, we walked their neighborhood and Tom gave me the background on all the newly refurbished homes amidst the untouched Victorian era homes.  For some reason, I explicitly remember Tom saying that when Denver was a relatively new town, Highlands is where the wealthy would vacation in the summer.  Definitely a very cool part of Denver.  

I had a great visit that night with Brenda, Tom and her their boys.  We got all caught up on our lives, families and even a little world politics if I remember correctly.  

Before bed, we took the obligatory Rogers road show picture.  Her boys had just gotten their Halloween costumes that day and were still sporting them for the pic.  Thanks for the hospitality Vyles Family.  I’ll see you on the next road trip.   

 

Chris Rogers and Vyles family with kids dressed in superhero costumes.

Me, Brenda and Tom Vyles and superhero children.

 

The next morning I met a grad school buddy for breakfast.  Lee and I were petty close for a couple of years during grad school and had some great times.  I only share a couple of the “networking” event pictures below to save us both some serious embarrassment.  Trust me Lee, the Ugly Sweater party pic was a much better choice than Halloween party costume of you as a muppet.  

 

 

Not long after graduating from UC Irvine’s Paul Merage School of business, Lee had moved to Denver to pursue his commercial real estate career.  We hadn’t stayed in touch all that much but when I saw him it was like only a couple of days had passed.  I guess that’s the sign of a good friendship.  It was great to catch up with Lee and hear about all the success he is having in Denver.  

After breakfast, we walked over to the capitol building and asked a French tourist to take our picture.  Trust me, I’m just as happy as Lee in the picture, I just didn’t know the guy was taking the picture.  It was great seeing you and catching up, Lee.

 

Chris Rogers and Lee Busse standing in front of the Denver Capitol Building.

Me and Lee Busse in front of the Denver Capitol Building.

 

Denver is one of my favorite cities and it’s good to know that I have such good friends there should I ever decide to settle down for more than 4-6 months.

 

Best Driving Experience of the Road Trip

After breakfast, I was off to Colorado Springs and had best driving experience of my 50-day trip thanks to an aggressive Lexus and impatient Audi that got it all started.  

I’ve thought about this quite a bit and I’m not quite sure how to tell this story without incriminating myself.  I’ve written it out and the story is over 1000 words, all which could probably be used against me in a court of law.  Or future background check.  So, I’ll just say it was very reminiscent of an experience I had on the German autobahn with a Mercedes and Audi back in 2014.  I didn’t win back in 2014 (zee Germans can drive) but I “may” have set a land speed record to Colorado Springs to make sure the Lexus didn’t get back ahead of me.  Seeing him exit as we entered town still brings a big – you know what – eating grin to my face.  I won that match.  Man I love road trips.  

 

Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed another peek into the life of Rogers.

Have a great weekend.
-Chris

 

Last Stop: Grand Teton National Park
Next Stop: “Garden of the Gods” – Colorado Springs, Colorado