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Four State Vacation

It’s taken over a month to finally recap my entire vacation.  I still have a few lingering diner reviews left, but with one phase of life over and the next moving forward, I figured it would be best to wrap finally wrap the trip up.

As I mentioned a month ago, my husband and I had no plans when we went out there.  We booked two plane tickets and a rental car.  We had no hotels booked, no plans of which towns and cities we would see, but figured we would wing it.  We didn’t imagine we would drive to four different states and put over 2600 miles on our car…but we did.

road trip through colorado

So where to begin?

We flew into Denver.

We stayed for a few days in Denver.  We explored the city a bit, and went for a few gorgeous runs.  We also got to see my good friend Kevin and his wife which I haen’t seen in a while.  

While in Denver, we drove up and went hiking at Flagstaff Mountain in Boulder.  We went to a few diners including Sams 3 which was on the Food Network as well as the brand new Snooze Cafe.

Next, we headed out West towards Utah.  My good friend Janae had said there were a fun 5k/13.1 and we thought…why not.  It’s only about 400 miles, right?  Plus, we would see what we would see.

Earlier in the year one of my closest friends, Angela, moved to Colorado (from South Jersey). The route to Utah went right through her town which we had been planning to do anyway.  We stayed the night at Angela and her husband’s house, went for a gorgeous run, and of course at her local diner: The New Castle Diner.

Reunited with Angela and it feels so good. 25 degree running…well not so much

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Then we continued towards Utah.  It was a scenic and beautiful drive.  Most of the time we didn’t have cell service which was actually nice.  No internet, blogging, or Facebooking.  Just the road and rocks on either side.

We got into Provo late that night, found a nice hotel near the race.  Since there was a half marathon, packet pickup was the night before at the mall.  We overheard some locals talking about the “lazy people” doing the 5k…YAY for being lazy.

haunted half 5k provo ut me running

The race itself was tough.  NJ is at sea level, Utah is 4000-5000 above (I can’t remember).  There was also a massive hill at the end of the race, and I finished in 19:40 dry heaving the whole way.  You can read more about the Haunted Half 5k here.

haunted half 5k provo ut me running

No, seriously it was painful

Janae, who just had her baby, finished and placed in her age group.  It was great to hang out, and the morning was definitely one of the highlights of the trip.   Another state I’ve raced in, not that I’m even sure how many that is.

After the race in Utah, we drove South.  We stayed the night, woke up the next morning and explored both Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park.

Hiking in Zion National Park

Both were beautiful, and we could have spent days, weeks, and probably months in either.  I hope one day to get back and spend more time and each.  Both have half and full marathons too, which would be fun to run if we trained appropriately (IE: at elevation).  Judging from the 5k, it might be awhile. We went to Meme’s cafe for lunch in Zion, which was an “interesting” experience.

Made it to Bryce Canyon for incredible views of the Hoodoos and Rainbow point.

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After that, we stayed overnight and headed down to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.  We were only a few hours away, and I’ve always wanted to see it.  A few hours away is a lot closer than NJ, so we decided to just drive down there.  It was absolutely breathtaking!

We've always wanted to go to the Grand Canyon…so we did.

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After the Grand Canyon, we progressed east towards Colorado.  We wanted to make a stop at the Four Corners: where Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico meet.  It’s a bucket list item, just to say you did.  It wasn’t too crowded when we got there.  You can stand in all Four Corners or lay there…

For the next couple of days, we just enjoyed the drive, view, and hanging out.  We saw a lot of cute towns.  We drove through Uncompahgre National Forest and over a terrifying mountain pass in which it was snowing.  We decided to stop and take a photo at the top.  It was one of the most incredible views of the trip.

For Halloween, I traveled to 11,000 feet and dressed up like someone who likes winter.

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Afterwards, we headed to Tim’s relative’s house in Montrose, Colorado.  It was nice to see family, and they took us for a 10+ mile four wheeling expedition up a mountain.  I’ve never been four wheeling before, so it was a brand new but so much fun experience.  The mountain in the background is actually the mountain we drove over and took the photo (above).

I didn't wake up thinking I would take my first ATV ride this morning, but here we are.

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After an enjoyable visit in Montrose, we headed back towards Denver.  We stopped in Colorado Springs for a couple of days.  Initially, we wanted to go walk around the Air Force Academy, but there were essential meetings, and we weren’t allowed on.  We should have started our trip that way!  We decided to hike the Seven Bridges Trail (yes, you cross 7 bridges) as well as the Grey Back Peak Trail.

We also stopped (of course) at the King Chef Diner which was featured on the Food Network.  If you’ve never been, you have to go.  It is definitely one of my favorite diners that I’ve been too, including in NJ!   There are two locations but we chose the 13 seat, small purple castle.

They are most known for their Burritos.  Even with running and hiking, I left full.

King Chef Diner Colorado Springs

Finally, we wrapped our way back to Denver, and it was time to go.  At the airport, I ended up getting food poisoning which I’m still dealing with but that is a blog post for another day.

In summary:

12 Days
4 states
Over 100 miles run
Highest elevation 11000
Lowest elevation 3200
Temperatures between 28-80 degrees
And 2600 miles driven (on the dot)

I had one of the best trips of my life, and it was nice to spend time with my husband before he deployed.  One day we want to do something similar again, but going North to Montana and that way.

Questions for you:

Have you ever been on a road trip?

What is your favorite vacation?

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The Thunderbird Restaurant (Mt. Carmel, Utah)

The Thunderbird Restaurant in Mount Carmel Junction is one of the most small-town diners I’ve been too.  It’s attached to the Best Western, and when we stopped in, it seemed like the happening spot to stop.  We had opted to stay at the Best Western and didn’t know there was a restaurant/diner attached.

We decided to go in the morning when they opened at 7.  For the short time, we were there, we were the only people in the entire restaurant!

Atmosphere: A
If you are looking for a small town diner, where everyone knows everyone, this is your diner.  The Thunderbird Café is cute, and they are known for their “Ho-Made” pies.  It’s attached to the Best Western so you can see it from the side of the road.  The inside has plenty of booths and tables.

Service: A
Our waitress was friendly, brought plenty of refills, and our food came out quickly.  She was great.

Coffee: B
The coffee at the Thunderbird Café was strong and tasted good.  I could have used a few more refills but other than that, I had no issues.  Strong coffee in the morning is important.

Food: A
For breakfast, I decided to order two eggs, toast, and a blueberry muffin.  Since it was a bit early to order a pie, I thought a muffin would suffice in trying their homemade baked goods.  The muffin was delicious.  It was cooked just enough that the top was crispy.

thunderbird cafe mount carmel junction utah breakfast

The bread was homemade and thick.  It was some of the best diner bread I’ve had, and the eggs were cooked well too.

thunderbird cafe mount carmel junction utah muffin

In all, my food was excellent.

Cost: $

For the coffee, breakfast, and muffin, the cost was $14, which was a little bit more expensive than I expected.
Overall/Would I Come Back?

I liked the Thunderbird Café, and if I’m ever traveling through, I would go back.  I had a positive experience there, and it’s a great stop.  If you’re looking for a local stop, and a friendly hotel too, this is your place.

Atmosphere: A
Service: A
Coffee: B
Food: A
Cost: $10-$20
Overall: A

Questions for you:
What is your favorite type of muffin?
Have you ever been to a local favorite?

Meme’s Cafe (Zion, Utah)

While hiking through Zion National Park, my husband and I decided to stop at Meme’s café in Springdale, Utah.  There are a lot of small restaurants in the area.  With little cell service and other things to do, I didn’t scout out restaurants.  We saw a few listed and just chose Memes.

memes zion cafe

Atmosphere: B
We arrived around 11:30 on a Sunday and Meme’s was crowded.  That is one of the busiest times to eat out so if they aren’t crowded, that is never a good sign.  There is indoor and outdoor seating.  I wanted to eat outdoors. However, there was no room.  We sat inside at the closest table near the door.

Coffee:  B
The coffee came in a huge mug, with plenty of whipped cream.  It was brewed hot.  I noticed a sign on the front that said that one of their coffee machines weren’t working, but that was fine as the coffee was great.

Memes cafe zion national park utah

Food: A
Meme’s café is known for the crepes, so I decided to order the “Poppa’s Harvest Crepe” which came with apples, caramel, and topped with whipped cream. I can’t remember the last time I had a crepe, but the food was good.  It was stuffed with baked apples and topped with whipped cream.  So how could I hate it?

Memes cafe zion national park utah

Service: F
The service at Meme’s was terrible.  We came at peak time, which was no big deal and we are easily able to wait, however, our waitress was not friendly.  After waiting for several minutes, another waitress said: “your waitress will be right with you”.  Then another 5 minutes passed, and she came over.  We were in the restaurant for at least 20 minutes before ordering.  We watched as every other waitress was much more friendly and prompt with guests.  Finally, when it was time to pay the bill, the waitress brought back the credit card with food all over it.

Cost: $$
For the crepe and coffee, the cost was $11.

Overall/Would I Come Back?
I liked the food and coffee at Meme’s. However, the service was terrible.  I’m not sure I would go back.

Atmosphere: B
Coffee: B
Food: A
Service: F
Overall: C

Diners Visited on Vacation:
Sams 3 Diner (Denver)
New Castle Diner (Colorado)
King Chefs Diner (Colorado Springs)
Snooze (Denver)

See more diner reviews here.

Questions for you:
What is the worst service you’ve received?
Do you like crepes?

Visiting the Grand Canyon

After visiting Utah, my husband and I drove back towards Colorado. One thing we wanted to do was see the Grand Canyon. While it was a little bit out of our way, being so close it was hard to say no.   Where we stayed in Utah, it made the most sense to go to the North Rim.  I’ve always wanted to go the Grand Canyon, I mean who doesn’t?

The first and possibly most crucial stop we made, was when we saw the wild Buffalo.  I have always wanted to see them, and it was cool to see them in person.  No, I had no intentions of getting any closer than that, as who knows with wild creatures.

grand canyon north rim

After driving about 20 miles into the park, we came up to the lodging area and the actual canyon.  We had been warned the lodging was not open but that was fine by us because it was much quieter at the North Rim versus the South.  In fact, there were maybe about 20 people there.

grand canyon north rim

It was honestly breathtaking to just look out and see nothing but the canyon for miles.  It was also terrifying to look down and know you were over a mile high.

grand canyon north rim

The daredevil and clumsy person in me, said that was far enough.

grand canyon north rim

grand canyon north rim

grand canyon north rim

My husband was a little bit more adventurous.

grand canyon north rim

In total, we spent about 2 hours just walking around.  Like with Zion and the Grand Canyon, we wanted to see the Grand Canyon, but we also wanted to do other things too.  It is definitely somewhere we could (and eventually plan too) spend more time at.grand canyon north rim

After the Grand Canyon, we took to the road for the day and drove over to the Four Corners Monument.  It’s where Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico all meet.  It’s definitely a bucket list item.

Like many monuments, you stand in line for a chance to take a photo there.  Or look at it, whatever you want to do.  I decided to lay there.  Keep in mind it is a $5 fee that goes towards the Navajo Nation, which isn’t included with Park passes.

Posts from Vacation:
Hiking: 
Hiking Flagstaff Mountain in Boulder
Hiking Zion and Bryce Canyon

Running: 
Haunted Half Marathon 5k (19:40)
Two Weeks of Training: Easy Miles Out West

Diners: 
Sams 3 Diner (Denver)
New Castle Diner (Colorado)
King Chefs Diner (Colorado Springs)

Questions for you:
Have you ever been to the Grand Canyon or Four Corners?
What is your favorite monument you’ve been too?

 

Exploring Bryce Canyon and Zion Park

It’s taken me a little longer to catch up on blog posts about our vacation.  Between assimilating back into real life NJ, being sick, and preparation for the Philadelphia marathon weekend, it’s been busy.

Anyway, one of the best days my husband and I had was at Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park.

We knew we wanted to go to both but timing wise, it wasn’t going to work out to spend a lot of time at both. We decided to drive through Bryce Canyon and look out and then spend a little more time in Zion National Park.   They aren’t too far apart, so you are able to do both.

Personally, we could both spend a lot of time in either.  They are two gorgeous parks!  Hopefully, sometime in the future, we will be able to go back and explore.

Bryce Canyon: 

While visiting Bryce Canyon, we went out to Rainbow point and walked around.  There is a 10-mile hike you can do and look over the Hoodoo Ampethetiar.  If we had more time, we would have done it!

The park itself is easily driveable.  It’s about an 18-mile drive to the tip of Rainbow Point, and there are several spots and opportunities for photos.

Made it to Bryce Canyon for incredible views of the Hoodoos and Rainbow point.

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Zion National Park:

Like Bryce Canyon, we could spend days in Zion National Park.  Before arriving, we planned to do a longer hike but quickly realized timing would not allow us too.

We still wanted to get back to Colorado and spend a few days there too!  When we arrived at the park, it was crowded and it was hard to even find parking.  By the time we were able to park and get out of the car, it was nearly 1 pm.

We could have begun the hike but it was a lengthy one and I didn’t want to be hiking at dark.  You had to take a bus to a certain location, then start, then take the bus back.  It was just a lot and if you’ve ever seen me hiking hangry…well…my husband would have left me there. Hiking in Zion National Park

So we just decided to explore and climb up to our own rock.  We didn’t have an exact trail or route but it was more fun that way.  We pulled over at a random spot and just hiked.  Even with hundreds of people inside the park, we didn’t run into anyone.

Hiking in Zion National Park

Sitting in a rock seat

Hiking away from everyone was much better for us anyway.  If you ever go to Zion National Park, don’t be afraid to just stop and explore. Hiking in Zion National Park

You don’t need a trail or destination.  And yes, we actually made it up an entire rock.  You can see the main road in the background.

To be honest, both Bryce and Zion were two of my favorite spots.  Eventually, my husband and I plan to go back.  You could spend days, weeks, and even months just exploring.

road trip through colorado

Posts from Vacation:
Hiking: 
Hiking Flagstaff Mountain in Boulder

Running: 
Haunted Half Marathon 5k (19:40)
Two Weeks of Training: Easy Miles Out West

Diners: 
Sams 3 Diner (Denver)
New Castle Diner (Colorado)

Questions for you:

Where is your favorite place to hike?

Have you ever been to Zion or Bryce Canyon? 

 

Haunted Half Marathon 5k (19:40)

Last week, I ran the Haunted Half Marathon 5k in Provo, Utah.  Janae, Hungry Runners Girl, recommended we drive out to Utah and run.  Since we had zero plans, but had a rental car and had never been to Utah, we thought it sounded fun.  So we progressed over and were there for the Saturday race.

The race itself was massive.  There was a half marathon that was a point to point.  While yes, I could have gutted out a half marathon a few things prevented me from wanting to do that.

  • I don’t run at altitude and we were at 4500 feet.
  • I had run a half the week before, and while I’ve done back to back half marathon weekends, I’m not in that fitness right now. I would probably injure myself.
  • I didn’t want to be sore the entire vacation.
  • I like the 5k.

We picked up the packets at the mall and on Saturday quickly made it to the start.  There was a big parking lot which made it easy.  The race went off right at 9 am.

During the first mile, my legs felt heavy.  I didn’t feel good.  Between traveling, not eating the best (well, the best for my soul…not for training), and still recovering from the half, it wasn’t surprising.

The first mile was the easiest, and I ran a 6:20.  I had positioned myself as the second woman, and third was shortly behind me.

During the second mile, we ran down a small hill and made a hairpin turn at the bottom.  The turn was sharp, and I wasn’t expecting it and nearly barreled into a volunteer holding water at the bottom.  Luckily I didn’t.  As we turned around, we ran straight through a tunnel which Janae more accurately recapped.  I hit several of the streamers.  After popping out in front of a barricade, I thought I had gone the wrong way, but another racer said we were going the right way.  We hit the second mile in 6:12.

haunted half 5k provo ut me running

No, seriously it was painful

During the third mile, I felt the altitude hit me.  I felt as though I was breathing through a straw and winded.  We also ran up a giant hill, and I wheezed the entire way.  I made it my goal to break 20 minutes.  I felt like I couldn’t breath (not in a dangerous way) just in working tough way.

Around 2.7, we hit a long straight away, and I could hear the third place woman catching me.  I am making it a point to work hard on my finishing kick.  I had too many races last training cycle that I was passed in the final strides.

haunted half 5k provo ut me running

I crossed the third mile in 6:30 and finished in 19:40 as second woman.  In all, I’m pleased with my time.  It was a fun race, and it was a whole different experience running at altitude.

haunted half 5k provo ut me running

Afterwards, I got to hang with Janae for a while, which was a lot of fun.

haunted half 5k provo ut me running

My husband got fourth overall with a time of 18:05

It was definitely one of the highlights of the trip.   I had no idea Provo was as big as it is!

Questions for you:

Have you met another blogger before?

Do you run at altitude or sea level?

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