West Coast Spring 2018 – Denver

August 11 – 12

Our drive to Jenna (Rendy’s daughter) and Tyson’s house in Thornton, a suburb of Denver would take a little over five hours.  Per Doug’s recommendation, we decided to take the scenic route to the I-70 over the Grand Mesa, a twisty and steep ascent and descent through spectacular scenery.

Cedaredge to Thorton

Cedaredge to Thorton

The largest flat-topped mountain in the world, it has an area of about 500 square miles and stretches for approximately 40 miles east of Grand Junction between the Colorado River and the Gunnison River, its tributary to the south.  Rising around 6,000 feet above its surrounding river valleys, including the Grand Valley to the west, it reaches an elevation of about 11,000 feet.


Grand Mesa and Mt. Garfield

We set out driving directly north on Highway 65 from Cedaredge, soon arriving at the base of a steep and winding road that would take us to the top of the Mesa.  It was a gorgeous day and as we drove, sunlight filtered through groves of trees changing as we gained altitude, from Aspen to Spruce and various types of Fir.


West Edge of the Grand Mesa (GM: By DrunkDriver – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16873788)

As we began our descent, trouble soon developed; the Highlander had a shade under 100,000 miles on it at the time and was, and is, still running on its original disc brake pads.  Throughout the journey I’d noticed a discreet pulsing from the front brakes during heavy braking, more through the pedal than through the steering.


Aspen Trees on the Mesa

As we continued on the steep downhill, the pulsing became more pronounced, beginning to shake the steering wheel.  One downside of the Highlander is it is equipped with a CVT (Continuously Variable) transmission which offers seamless acceleration without interruption for gear shifts and also eliminates abrupt downshifting when additional power is needed for passing.  One downside is that although ours is listed as having a lower gear than drive, that lower gear isn’t effective given the nature of the transmission and isn’t very useful for braking.


Toyota Super CVT (By Hatsukari715 – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4604432)

Boy, could I have used that lower gear now.  I tried feathering, pumping, downshifting to that useless gear, anything to take pressure off the brakes but about halfway down we got really concerned when we smelled something burning.  When I could do so safely, I pulled off on the shoulder and got out to look at the driver’s side wheel and saw that it was smoking.


A Disc Brake

Yikes!  We let it cool down a bit and then resumed our descent, fortunately on the lower side with a less steep grade, enabling me to back off on the brakes.  Fortunately, this would be the last steep downhill of the trip and we could get home without further heavy braking.  We would find out later upon our return home that the rotor was slightly warped and the oscillation under braking no doubt caused the wobble and overheating.

Willie's Reserve

Willie’s Reserve

We stopped, purely for research purposes, just outside of the small town of De Beque at the junction with the I-70 in at Tumbleweed Dispensary, in this state where marijuana (i.e.; weed, ganja, grass, reefer, herb, pot, etc.) is legal to check out someone’s (who will go unnamed) recommendation of a pre-rolled product known as Willie’s Reserve.  Again, this was all purely for purposes of research.  As an aside, the tide on this issue is turning with thirty-three states and the District of Columbia currently having passed laws broadly legalizing marijuana in some form.

Legal Pot

Legal Pot

Back on the road we stopped near Loveland Pass to eat sandwiches we’d brought with us before continuing on to Boulder to meet up with Rendy, Jenna, Tyson, and baby Stella at Boulder Beer Company.  We were the first to arrive with Jenna following shortly after; we grabbed a table in a side room and waited for the others, enjoying our first round of beers, for me their Pulp Fusion Blood Orange IPA.  I’ve acquired a taste for citrus tinged IPA’s and this was a good one.

Brewers Salad with Chicken

Brewers Salad with Chicken

We later ordered food, for Joanna the Brewer’s Salad with Chicken and I their version of Pork Green Chili, both substantial and good, the chili yet another take on a dish native to the southwest and one that we’ve come to discover can take many forms.  Throughout our stay, both at the brewery and the house, we were continually entertained and captivated by baby Stella, one of the happiest little creatures I’ve ever encountered, a true joy to be around.

Pork Green Chili

Pork Green Chili

The next day, as planned, we took two cars into downtown Denver for the game between the Rockies and the Dodgers.  Coors Field is located two blocks from Union Station in Denver’s Lower Downtown neighborhood, one of the oldest settlements in the city.  A mixed-use historic district, known for its nightlife, it serves as an example of success in urban reinvestment and revitalization.

Coors Field

Coors Field

The game was fun although the Dodgers would lose a heartbreaker, a bases loaded walk in the bottom of the ninth inning giving the Rockies a 4–3 walk-off win.  Jenna had left midway through the game to take Stella home and the rest of us in need of solace to repair our broken spirits left the stadium to repair to Jackson’s, a popular bar nearby.



It was a great way to end the day, reminiscent of my last visit to Denver with the Cisco’s in 2016 (see post https://wordpress.com/post/3jmann.com/4277) and time spent in LoDo, this visit came with an equally enjoyable cast of characters.



The beauty of travel is not just visiting new places, but that it is often full of old places, fondly remembered, with different sets of people, each bringing their own flavor to the experience, making for a new memory of a familiar place.

Baby Stella

Baby Stella Entertaining the Troops


Grand Mesa: https://www.visitgrandjunction.com/exploring-grand-mesa-national-forest

CVT: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Continuously_variable_transmission

Tumbleweed Dispensary: https://www.tumbleweed420.com/our-story/

Willie’s Reserve: https://williesreserve.com/

Boulder Beer: https://boulderbeer.com/







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