I’ve joked about the T-shirt-iness of the downtown stretch of Estes Park. Surely, the shop owners have set up racks of Rocky Mountain-loving wear daring you to plunk down your 20 bucks and call it your own.
What tourist town doesn’t?
Truth be known, on the grand scale of Where I’ve Been, this destination for my dear wife Karen’s first Family Reunion tries somewhat harder than most.
And oh, the natural setting surrounding this town — permanent population of just short of 6,000 according to the 2010 census — at the foot of Rocky Mountain National Park.
So, as I begin to wind down The Thin Air Series, a short tour of interesting-looking joints.
Click on any gallery photo for a description. Click and hold on any gallery bottom right photo for an enlarged slide show.
The restaurants all tried hard to lure customers by proclaiming what made them special. The Wild Rose trumpeted the game on its menu. Grubsteak stuck two eating words together and had small tables up front. Penelope’s promised world-famous burgers.
We four picked one of these places for lunch one stroll.
And the winner was …
At Wild Rose’s, George Three ordered the Buffalo Burger, and declared it tasted pretty much like the beef we get at home around Syracuse. The rest of us were more tame: Salmon for Karen, chicken for Elisabeth, and French onion soup with the salad bar for me.
The street that held our blue cottages spilled down onto the main drag. To the west lay the public library lot, where those of us who were staying further from town found it most convenient to park, and then the Safeway complex lot. The other way was called East Elkhorn Avenue. We walked it all every day. Sometimes twice.
Early on, my thought was that I’d invite everybody to come to a movie with me and take an early morning to write my weekly review. I wanted to see Paper Towns, and thought it the YA story from the novel by John Green would make a proper show for the siblings and cousins. Alas, the cool-looking old theater above was fixated toward Pixels and the modern complex by Safeway was pushing the latest in the Jurassic line. My online search showed the closest showing of my choice was in Fort Collins, more than 30 miles away. I decided that would take up too much of our precious time together. My review would be late, waiting until our return to Syracuse.
I did a lot of window shopping, letting my eyes and mind wander. My girls ducked into a lot more shops than George and I. If we heard their call from where we’d migrated, we knew there was something particular inside we were supposed to see. It was a good routine.
I’m glad the local teams had their own store to sell souvenirs. I saw plenty of people wearing Broncos and University of Colorado Buffaloes gear. I imagined that the NFL squad from the big city drew a fan base from the whole state, and college town was only 45 minutes or so away. We drove through the quasi-highway-with-traffic-lights in Boulder for a quick look-see, in fact, on our way back from the Zoo/Rockies game visit to Denver.
Interestingly, there also was a Big Red store selling gear for Nebraska fans. And a sock store sold emblazoned pairs for all the teams in the Big Ten except the Newbies — Rutgers and my Maryland Terrapins. Nevertheless, Karen found a pair perfect for me anyway. More of that in Monday’s installment.
The Elk and Buffalo put a neat little representation of its work on the walk, but I couldn’t quite decide of the owners offered Glasswork or Classwork from its etching. Either way, no thank you.
The big water wheel at the very end of the avenue caught my eye. How lucky to have the natural creek to spin it. The colorful bazaar above was slightly jarring, though. The sign did not lie.
I must circle back to one T-shirt tale. When purchasing a hoodie picked out by Elisabeth and a short-sleeve selected by George because I wanted to, the cashier told me total was $50.32. I peeled off three twenties and plucked out 32 cents and handed it over. She counted, then tried to hand it back.
“No. You have to give me $50.32,” she said.
“No. You have to give me $10 change,” I answered, a bit surprised and exasperated. Elisabeth and George chuckled, and my dear daughter once again, at her wise age of 25, told me I’d been sort of knee-jerk.
Tomorrow: Eatin’ and Drinkin’
Sunday: Travelin’ Show
When you visit a tourist town, what type of establishments draw you, and why? Which of the above would you duck in, and why? What’s yo