We couldn’t face a 5 hour drive to Denver today so we needed to find a place to stay roughly half way and we chose the ski resort of Vail. The town of Vail sits at the foot of Vail Mountain and is a great place for winter sports like skiing and snowboarding. This time of year, however, the main activities are cycling, golf and hiking.
Accommodation is very expensive here in Vail and dining out will cost at least double what it would cost in the UK. We spotted a Rib-eye steak costing $50, which is excessive by all reasonable standards. The up-side, however, is that Vail is like a fairytail Alpine town and you can almost believe you are in Austria or Germany – some hotels and restaurants having very German-sounding names.
The town is spotlessly clean with WiFi available everywhere, even outside in the streets. There are trickling fountains dotted about and lots of outdoor dining. The shops are very up-market and selling fantastic clothing, jewellery and sportswear. A bus is available, ferrying people from one end of town to the other for free. Stand on any street corner studying a town map or looking confused (as we did constantly) for a mere moment and some helpful soul will cheerfully volunteer their help in finding what you are looking for. We were walking along the street chatting about which restaurants we might like to visit when a woman came walking beside us and actually offered her advice on the best restaurants in town, without us even asking for it. It’s like they can read your mind. Vail is a place that goes out of its way to please and would be the perfect place were it not for the astronomical price of almost everything.
With our trip coming to an end, we wanted to wind down with something relaxing and not too tiring so we hired bicycles and cycled along the river to the outskirts of town and back, stopping along the way for drinks and to listen to some live music, right at the foot of a ski lift, which is not in use at this time of year.
We’ve had a wonderful journey here in the south-west of America and have seen some amazing things, from dizzying mountain peaks, baking hot canyons and vast desert landscapes to the beautiful fall colours of Aspen forests and the majestic Lake Powell. We were thrilled by the scale of the Glen Canyon Dam and humbled by the Pueblos of Taos.
But once again we have been struck mostly by the generosity and kindness of the American people (unless they are driving cars – that’s a whole different ball game!), the esteem in which they hold their country and their eagerness to share it with others. And who can blame them? There is so much to be thankful for and so much to celebrate in this wonderful country.
It is the people, however, that we remember most: the brief encounters in the street or in restaurants and bars or while walking in the wilderness. From the guys in Cripple Creek who thought we were Australians to Daniel, who I spent a valuable 20 minutes with in the Great Sand Dunes, talking about his interesting life. From the poor vagrant in Colorado Springs or the guy in Socorro who thought the world was ending to the new friends we have made from North Carolina and Denver. These have been the most valuable encounters of all.
So as this latest blog comes to an end, we are already tentatively planning our next journey but that is for another day. For now, we will happily remember the time we have spent here in the south-west of America – until next time.