Category Archives: Colorado

Car-less in Colorado

Today’s guest blog is from Francine, my London chum, who had a fabulous trip in Boulder. Her precise prose will put mine to shame!



This summer, Russell and I  decided to spend our annual holiday in the USA and take up Betsy’s challenge to come to Iowa and ride Ragbrai 2014 with her and Dirck. That is another blog. This one is about going Green and why you don’t need to rent a car to have a fabulous time in Colorado.

Before plopping down in Des Moines, to prepare ourselves for the insanity of cycling 418 miles across Iowa, we decided to go to Boulder, Colorado.   Betsy recommended that we stay in a wonderful place called Chautauqua on the outskirts of Boulder. As anybody knows who reads her blogs regularly, Betsy’s picks are the best. However, how on earth were we going to get there once we had landed in Denver?  Betsy automatically assumed we would rent a car as did everybody else we knew. We thought we would too. After all, we needed to get to Boulder which is about an hour away from Denver International Airport (DIA). We had a lot of luggage which included amongst other things, our cycling gear, my beloved sheepskin saddle cover and gifts from London. To cap it all, we were arriving late into the evening. We wanted to go to the Rocky Mountains National Park. A car was essential right? Well actually no. Boulder is one of the greenest cities in the USA we had heard. Practically everyone has a bicycle. There had to be a way to do this without emitting more carbon into the atmosphere.  So we thought we would give it a go.

We arrived at DIA at about 11.30pm, after our flight had been delayed for nearly 3 hours at London Heathrow airport. So it was just as well, I had booked a budget hotel on the perimeter of the airport overnight. We were too knackered to push a luggage trolley, let alone drive a car in a strange city on the wrong side of the road. Our hotel had a free courtesy bus immediately outside the terminal which ran every half hour. We could have also taken a taxi at around $25 but there were long queues. As Betsy would say, the airport was a bit “zooey” despite the lateness of the hour. Within 20 minutes of taking the bus, we had checked in, showered and collapsed into bed.

On the porch at the cottage in Chautauqua

On the porch at the cottage in Chautauqua

The next morning, we hopped on the courtesy bus back to the airport and picked up a small shuttle van to take us to Boulder. The shuttle is operated by Green Ride  a company, based in Boulder We were dropped in Chautauqua, a fascinating historical district of Boulder, in just over an hour. On the way, we delivered a fellow passenger to Eldorado Springs, giving us our first close up view of the wonderful Flatiron Mountains.

Once we got settled in to our delightful cottage, built in the 1920s and managed by the Colorado Chautauqua Association  we decided to explore Boulder. We asked the pleasant young woman in the Accommodation Office how to get into town and she started to give us driving directions. She was rather surprised and then thrilled when we said we did not have a car and intended to walk or get a bus downtown. She told us the best way to get to the center of Boulder was to walk down 9th  Street opposite the main entrance to the Chautauqua Park. This would take us to the famous Pearl Street Mall where we would find shops, bars and restaurants galore.   The walk is a brisk 20-25 minutes downhill and takes you through a leafy residential area, past a well maintained cemetery and then over a bridge across Boulder Creek.  The walk is approximately 1.5 miles but is slightly more strenuous on the way back as it’s up hill. There is a circular bus  about halfway down 9th Street at College Avenue. It goes clockwise and anti-clockwise as far as Twenty Ninth Street Mall. The bus goes through downtown, past the RDT bus terminal and appears to continue until quite late into the evening. We jumped on it once and ended up going the wrong direction. We didn’t mind. It gave us an opportunity to see the huge campus of the University of Colorado. The bus turns round at the newish looking  Mall which looks as if it has been sympathetically designed to meet the sensibilities of the good people of Boulder.

We were lucky to be in Chautauqua in the summer which meant that there are usually nightly concerts in the Association’s splendid old Auditorium throughout July and August. The city of Boulder provides a free shuttle bus (The Hop) from Pearl Street Mall starting in the late afternoon so people can get a ride up the hill to Chautauqua, have a drink or meal on the verandah of the Dining Hall or picnic on the grass before the concert. The buses take people back to Pearl Street after the concert is over.  We took this free bus a couple of times when we found ourselves in town. We also went to excellent concert. I can recommend the Carolina Chocolate Drops  an eclectic band from North Carolina who entertained the audience with variety of folk songs, jigs and jazzy blues.

But if you come to this part of the world, you have to get on a bike at some point. We also needed to get some training in before Ragbrai. There are some great bicycle shops in Boulder where you can buy the latest tight fitting jersey or bike shorts.  We rented bikes for two days from Full Cycle at a cost of $45 dollars each. The staff were very helpful and the bikes were well maintained. We cycled west along the Boulder Creek bike path towards the mountains and then east across the city to Valmont Park, scattering manic prairie dogs in our wake. The next day we headed north to Wonderland Lake Park where we were greeted with warning signs about rattle-snakes although we didn’t see any!  On the way back, we stopped at an unpretentious vegan café, Julia’s Kitchen, 3980 Broadway  and enjoyed a plate of delicious hummus and crackers. Boulder has an incredible network of car-free bike paths and designated routes to explore. Pick up a free bicycle path map from the tourist information booth in Pearl Street Mall.

We were worried that our desire to go car-less  would be defeated by our determination to also  visit the spectacular Rocky Mountains National Park which is about 50 or so miles away from Boulder. There is no public bus from Boulder and the private charter sightseeing tours are expensive.  We discovered a company that shuttles between Denver International Airport, Boulder and Estes Park   which picked us up outside the RDT bus terminal in Boulder in the morning and deposited us back in the evening. The cost was $85 round trip per person. The journey takes about an hour and we travelled along a now repaired highway which had been virtually destroyed by serious flooding in 2013. Most houses along the road have been rebuilt but huge trees remain upturned and some homes are sadly abandoned.

The shuttle drops  people  off either in the town of Estes Park or  in the park itself. We got off at Beaver Meadows Visitors Centre, which is in the park and transferred to a free “Hikers Shuttle”. This took us to a Park and Ride car park where we found yet another free shuttle bus service going to either Bear Lake or Moraine Park. Both spots offer a number of spectacular trails. Although, we returned to Boulder on the same day, avid hikers could decide to stay in Estes Park for longer and use the town’s network of no less than 5 free shuttle buses to explore the Rocky Mountains National Park and surrounding area more thoroughly.

We spent the last couple of days in in what Mike, the Estes Park shuttle bus driver, dubbed “The People’s Republic of Boulder” using the best form of transport at our disposal, our legs!  Following clearly marked trails, we walked into the mountains relishing the pure air and wild flowers of the Flatirons. At the end of our 6 day stay, Green Ride shuttled us back to Denver airport. We were sad to leave but also delighted to have minimized our carbon footprint, saved money, upped our fitness levels and supported the community.  The best bit was meeting local people on buses, shuttles and bike shops, all of whom were very pleased that we were making such an effort to use their services. Going Car-less in Colorado is not only possible, it’s also great fun.  I think  we did Betsy proud!

Francine and Russell Selfie

Francine and Russell Selfie


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Good news and not for our Brits vacationing in Boulder this week




Two items about Boulder/thereabouts in the paper today

1) 2nd day in a row lighting has been blamed in the death of a visitor at Rocky Mountain National park – parks’ first lightning fatalities since 2000. ( Didn’t even know this could happen)
 2) on a more cheerful note: Boulder cited as “best bike-friendly city”  “from family friendly paths to leg-searing climbs, Boulder has more than 200 miles of bike paths, lanes and roads with shoulders. The Boulder Creek Path (which we went on…) meanders 5 miles along scenic Boulder Creek (and ends up not far from the veggie burger I mentioned in an earlier email – or at least I think it did.). The reportedly largest free urban bike park in the U.S. is the 40 -acre Valmont Bike Park.”

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Travel tips for Boulder – a bit old but better than nothing….

I’m sending friends from London to Boulder to stay at the Chatauqua compound there and realized I haven’t offered many suggestions here on what to do. So here’s some suggestions I sent to other friends back in 2011 when they went there (and had a great time!)




–        Hike Chautauqua grounds (6.9 mile mesa trail, flatirons)

–       Bike on Boulder Creek Path (details below) Good bike rental in town. We biked to the veggie burger place mentioned below.

–         day trip to Rocky Mountain national Park and lodge for lunch/dinner at Grand Lake nearby!

–        Pearl Street (Friday sidewalk sale)

–        Concerts (Shakespeare Tuesday or Friday; music festival m,w, thur; free at couthouse lawn)

–        Celestial seasonings Tea tour. (izee, white wave tofu, moosehead brew)

–        U of Colorado

–        Swim at Scott carpenter pool

–        Tubing at creek downtown (but dangerous, beware)


–        Common threads, 2707 spruce, consignment

–        Pear street: Six persimmisons, face stuff;Two hands papery, Parsec time and distance – runner.

–        Also on pearl: Outdoor divas,Boulder arts and crafts cooperative, tonic

–      Good farmers market downtown

To eat: we went to highlighted ones.

–        Dushanbe Teahouse, 1770 13th st., – curries, tea, sat. brunch,

–        Sherpa’s Adventures Rest. And bar, 825 walnut; veggie, inidan/tebeta, nepl. (lunch 11-3)

–        VG burger, organic burgers (veggie)

–        Burnt toast (1236 penn. Ave) – breakfast (cold coffee/surley servie)

–        Amante coffee, 4580 broadway

–        Mountain Sub Pub/brewery – pearl st., Sunday night rock, Colorado kind ale.

–        West end, pearl street – breakfast etc.

–        Rhumba, pearl street, live reggae/acoustic sun night.

–        Walnut café, 3037 walnut, breakfast, great view

DENVER: redrock,  art museum

Day trips: (from my friend Thea) Scott Carpenter Pool

Rocky Mountain National Park is about 45 minutes away by car from Boulder.  It really is stunning and you can drive around a lot of it – Estes Park, the town just outside the park has a lot of great shops – some very touristy – but some good

There is the Central City Opera – an old opera house in what used to be a mining town – and is now a big gambling town – but still fun – I’ve never been there – but it’s supposed to be good

Dairy Center is the local arts center

Bounder County Fair

Butterly Pavilion  (shakespeare festival )


 Boulder Creek Path Parallels Arapahoe Avenue Boulder, CO 80302 Tel: +1 303 441 3200

This paved path, free of motorized vehicles, brings walkers, bikers and inline skaters from the eastern edge of Boulder proper to the mountains. Winding along Boulder Creek, the trail accesses shady, grassy picnic areas and trout ponds. Eventually the pathway meanders through a large park and playground, perfect for kids and dogs. On the trail’s western fringe, just before it wanders into the foothills, kayakers and inner-tubers can negotiate a series of small waterfalls. A section of the path is just a few blocks west of the Pearl Street Mall, and makes for an easy diversion from shopping and a refreshing side trip into nature.

Boulder Falls

Canyon Blvd

Boulder, CO 80302

Fed by mountain snow melt from North Boulder Creek this cascading chute of white water is a true spectacle. Located in a shaded canyon, just minutes west of Boulder, it provides a nice haven from the heat during the height of summer. However, be forewarned that the spot can get crowded. From the intersection of Canyon Boulevard and Ninth Street follow Canyon west for 7.2 miles. The falls are on the right. The site is heavily marked, and there is plenty of parking.

Flagstaff Mountain

Flagstaff Mountain Road

Boulder, CO 80302

Tel: +1 303 441 3408

This meandering mountain road frequented by drivers, bicyclists and ambitious inline skaters offers stunning daytime and nighttime views of Boulder, Denver and the mountains. Attractions include picnic areas, mountain bike trails and the Summit Nature Center, which is open weekends from May to August. The Flagstaff House, one of Boulder’s more romantic dining destinations, is also situated along this scenic road. To get here, follow Baseline Road west; it winds and hairpins more than 1,600 feet to the summit.

               University of Colorado

University Avenue and Broadway

Boulder, CO 80309

Tel: +1 303 492 1411

A visit to Boulder is not complete without a stroll or bike ride through the historic main campus of the University of Colorado. Established in 1876, the year Colorado became a state and Denver became a capital, the university reflects visions of the past while keeping with the growing technological age. The Red Rural Italian Renaissance architecture, implemented on buildings erected after 1912, lush landscaping and gorgeous views of the Flatirons (The) make this one of the most attractive campuses in the nation. Guided tours are available.


3198 Broadway (Parks Department)

Boulder, CO 80302

These giant, Pennsylvanian red sandstone slabs rise as a dramatic backdrop to south Boulder and are the town’s best-known geological landmarks. The alluvial deposits thrust upward into jagged peaks almost 70 million years ago, during the birth of the Rocky Mountains. Today, residents and visitors alike enjoy hiking around the base and climbing the front face of The Flatirons. Towering 1400 feet above Boulder, the Third Flatiron is one of the most popular climbing routes in North America.



–        Peak to peak highway – links estes park with central city – through mountain towns like Meeker Park, allenspark, Raymond and ward (old silver gold camps) and ghost towns like caribou, hiking in Indian peaks area.

–        From Estes Park, the highway climbs into the mountains of southwest Larimer County and skirts the east side of Rocky Mountain National Park, providing the closest vehicle approach to the popular trailhead to the summit of Longs Peak. At the community of Raymond, it turns to the east and follows the St. Vrain River downstream onto the piedmont at Lyons, where it intersects U.S. Highway 36 (the Peak-to-Peak Scenic Byway continues south from Raymond as Colorado State Highway 72). South of Lyons it is concurrent with U.S. 36 along the base of the foothills to Boulder (this section is signed only as U.S. 36).Boulder Falls NEDERLAND!

–        Situated on Colorado’s oldest and one of its most scenic byways, Ward is the ideal Front Range escape. The village is just one highlight along the 55-mile Peak to Peak Byway, just an hour from Denver. Other attractions along the popular circuit include Rocky Mountain National Park, Golden Gate Canyon State Park, Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests, ghost towns, the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area, and Eldora Ski Resort. The historic town of Ward, like many villages in Colorado, was founded on silver. It was once the richest town in the state. When the railroad reached town and the byway grew as a popular tourist route, Ward became a small center of commerce. Ravaged twice by fires, many of the town’s structures were damaged or destroyed. However numerous historic buildings still remain and will make for an interesting self-guided tour.


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Joys of the Burbank Airport

Terminal building at Bob Hope Airport

A week ago we were wending our way home from green and sunny Los Angeles (now we’ve got snow again in Iowa grrrr) and appreciating the ease of traveling through the Burbank “Bob Hope” Airport. It cost considerably more to fly home from Burbank rather than LAX but man was it worth it – considering that we had a 3 p.m. flight (rather than the early morning flights available from LAX) and the airport is about 10 minutes from my brother’s house in Burbank. It’s a surprisingly tiny, pokey place – reminds me of Des Moines’ airport before it got bigger and busier. (Oddly our plane from Burbank to Denver was much smaller than the plane from Denver to Des Moines. )

One other tip: it pays to ask when you’re dealing with a tight connection in Denver. We chanced a 35-40 minute connection between United flights in Denver and even though our flight left almost on time from Burbank (10 minutes late technically), making our connecting flight was touch-and-go. The connecting flight was in the same Terminal B but about 60 gates away. I ended up asking an airport employee standing behind a desk with a disabled sign on it how long it would take to get to that far-away gate and without batting an eyelash, he offered to drive us in his cart – which saved the day. We got to the gate as people were boarding. (He did accept a tip – we weren’t sure of the protocol.)

Boarding from Terminal B


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Hotspots in Boulder

A recent NYTimes story recommends when in Boulder to visit:

– Amante Coffee, with not just roasted coffee beans from northern Italy but “calzone-like breggos” (Breggos are apparently a Colorado invention, a baked or fried turnover of pizza dough  stuffed with this and that).

– Bacco Trattoria and Mozzarella Bar – including a quartet of house-made and imported cheese including the cheese-of-the-moment: burrata (made with mozzarella and cream so it’s soft like butta. (Burrata means buttered in Italian.) Delicious but likely to upset my sensitive Jewish stomach.

– I Love to Grow, a garden center with a “hippie-vibe.”

– Absolute Vinyl Records & Stereo – real LPs featuring somewhat obscure music (Pre-World War II jazz anyone?)

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