Welcome to Chapter 2 of Dan Bennett - The Diary of a Bored Kid!
PSA - This is a really long one, but it's a good one.
So here we are.. The start of the adventure.
My girlfriend Caitlin and I had decided what better way to start the adventure than a 5 day, City and Hiking trip to the Rockies. In particular we would be landing in Denver on Thursday morning, drinking and bar hopping all day there, then we would pick up our rental car (F*** you Hertz) on Friday morning where we would be driving to Hike outside of Denver. The plan was then to drive up to Breckenridge where we had our second night Air Bnb all booked, Saturday we had a hike and White Water Rafting Planned, Saturday night drive to Boulder, where we'd stay and spend the night eating and drinking. Sunday morning we were to be up at 4.45am as Caitlins sister had planned a surprise Birthday morning Sunrise Hot Air Balloon ride over the Rockies for Caitlin.. From there Sunday we would drive back to Denver where we had dinner and a hotel. Explore Denver all day Monday, and then get the 6pm flight back to the East Coast. Seems simple.. It wasn't.
Just a PSA - As this website is in its infancy, I don't intend for this page to turn into a lovey dovey, couples traveling blog page where we will have over filtered pictures of us looking deep into each others eyes with a cool view in the background. Far from that, as Caitlin and I do travel a lot together there is no way of escaping that she is going to make up a large part of these stories and more often than not without her "event planning organizational skills" I would be truly screwed on planning all of our adventures. Although, traveling is in my blood, I have to say organization is not! In step Caitlin.
A very important point to note as well, this trip was Caitlin and I's first ever solo trip together. We'd been away multiple times with friends and family but never just the two of us. Although, we didn't foresee any issues she could have ended up being one of those people who claps when the plane lands. (Thank god she wasn't!)
Our alarms were set to go off roughly around 4.00am. As per typical, I had got in late from training the night before and had just concluded that I could not be arsed to pack my bags at 9.30pm at night, Caitlin was in a similar boat and she concluded she would do a 50/50 split between Wednesday night packing and Thursday morning. We needed to leave the house no later than 5.30am, as our flight left from Logan International at around 7.30am. Caitlins Dad was kind enough to drop us off at the airport Thursday morning. Not going to lie to you, never would I have thought at 25, I would be living with the in-laws but here we are... That #Nomad life means there is absolutely no point in renting a new apartment in Boston, and the fact that I'm going to be on the road pretty consecutively for the next few months, meant Caitlins family were kind of enough to take me in in-between travels... Legends.
The time hits 5.30am, Caitlin is still not ready to go and she's already getting stressed cursing that it's everyone else's fault that she cant find her things. Not sure what it is about those high stress situations when you are running late for something but it is always someone else's fault, and reminding them they are late never helps the situation. We eventually get on the road and make it on the pretty uneventful flight to Denver.
First thoughts of Denver when flying in... It was pretty dry and farmland esc... I was certain that there were mountains, and had seen beautiful pictures of gorgeous snow capped mountains. yeah... you don't see any of that when flying in. Maybe I'm wrong, but I just saw a vast expanse of farm land reaching out to the surrounding states as far as the eyes can see, which actually made for a pretty underwhelming entrance. We come to the learn that because of the fires, the smoke was so bad that it was masking the mountain ranges that hid in the distance.
Anyways, we finally get off the plane and come to the realization that I had left my trainers (sneakers to you American folk) back at home and Caitlin had forgotten all of her Bra's.... Great start dickheads!
We eventually check into the hotel. The hotel was beautiful, we were very fortunate to have a great view of Denver and the weather was beautiful. Blue skies, and sun welcomed us and there we were both so excited to get out exploring. One thing that I really did not expect, was how much the altitude was going to screw with us. It might be the fact that because of COVID my typically healthy lifestyle had been replaced with one of a couch potato, but Jesus Christ I did not anticipate how out of breath I would be. No word of a lie, and you may think I am over exaggerating but I was out of breath putting my clothes on after a shower. It was truly staggering how it zapped all our energy when we were walking, often time it was like I was breathing through a straw.
We took advice from our friends of parts of the city we needed to explore, and then took advice on where to go for good food and drink recommendations. For all those who we reached out too... You guys delivered BIG time... Being a Thursday at midday we were in time for happy hour after happy hour, we stumbled into a place called Postino in LOHI and had $5 pitchers and a selection of different Tapas dishes.Holy Shit balls!! We had the most unreal Bruschetta we have ever had. Honestly, if money wasn't an option I would fly back to Denver for more of the Bruschetta and beers. It was a great time and the combination of lack of sleep, altitude, cheap beers went to my head straight away and I was hammered within an hour or 2.
After about 2-3 pitchers of beer and a bunch of tapas dishes.. enjoying my new found freedom I get a call from a Colorado based phone number.
Hiccup #1 -
"Hi is this Daniel?"
"Yes it is. How can I help?"
"Hey it's Gregg from Hertz. I've got some bad news..."
Gregg continues to go on to say that he has no cars available for us, that our reservation will have to be cancelled because as it is a Labor Day Weekend they have ran out of cars and inventory. Initially, I was cool and polite because I just assumed that although Hertz weren't going to have a car he was at least going to help us find one from somewhere... Nope... Nothing... Man did nothing... He continue to say that the airport had ran out of cars, all surrounding Hertz dealers had nothing and basically to go f*** ourselves. He essentially said that we had to figure out a new place to get a car from. In less than 24 hours. On a Holiday weekend. During a Global Pandemic, (Why that is important - Colorado had just been named one of the only States safe enough to travel to and travelers did not need a 2 week quarantine upon return to your home State.)
Safe to say we were screwed - royally screwed. Our affordable $150-$200 compact 3 day rental was a thing of the past, and we had to call every rental car company in the Mid West to try and find us some form of vehicle. Avis came to our rescue. The only car they had available was what would later be known as Big Bessy. She was a 12 seater Mini Bus and she was Thicccccc. Avis claimed it was the only vehicle available and we could take her off their hands for the weekend, at the lovely price of $650 for 3 days...
Caitlin and I had no choice. We had hikes, activities, Air Bnb's, Hotels literally all over Denver and without a car we would have to stay in Denver and scrap all existing plans. We ended up confirming we would take Big Bessy and eventually got on the road Friday morning to our 1st Hike Spot - St Mary's Glacier. It was beautiful! Only a short hike, but a Ice Cold Glacier sitting on a mountain top, over looking a crystal lake. It was pretty sick I cant lie!
We spent most of the day hanging around the lake and doing a photoshoot with Caitlin's selfie stick #ContentMakers and then eventually made our way back down the mountain where we did the hour and half long drive to Breckenridge.
Once back in the car and on route to Breckenridge. Caitlin got a notification on her phone quickly followed by an alert on my phone - I'm driving Big Bessy, trying my hardest not to flip the 5 tonne beast down one of Colorado's many rock faces. Caitlin checks her phone and there is a long silence, followed by a half chuckle / palm in face moment.
"We regret to inform you that the water levels in the Poudre river have dropped to an extremely low level which we are not able to operate at. This is forcing us to cancel all remaining trips that we have scheduled."
Of all the things that we expected to happen on this trip, a river running too low on water was not one of them. We spent the remainder of the journey calling every other White Water Rafting company in the vicinity seeing if there was any spaces left available to go before we left.
There was nothing.
A combination of Labor Day weekend and end of Rafting Season meant that any trips that were still running were completely booked up. Nightmare.
We decided to make the best of the situation and researched Hikes / Activities / Restaurants / Bars that could make up the time and replace that part of the day on Saturday - we found a bunch of cool options and were rest assured knowing that we wouldn't be twiddling our thumbs on Saturday.
We continued the rest of the journey driving through the valleys and peaks of Colorado - This to me was one of the more special parts of the trip, jamming with some unreal music out of our phones because Bessy didn't have Bluetooth, recording Time-lapses of mountain peaks and ranges that spanned the Horizon, and having deep conversations on the road looking over the peaks was really cool. Without sounding like a complete loser, it really did make us feel inconsequentially small in comparison to these Ranges and the vast expanse of Pine Tree's that went as far as you could and we guessed had to be in the millions.
Friday was a long day.. We had been up early sorting the car situation out, and the combination of altitude and day drinking the day before left us both feeling pretty shitty. We had driven an hour up into the mountains for the Hike Trail we had done, and then spent a good chunk of the afternoon hiking, on top of that we then had a hour and half drive to the Air Bnb in Breckenridge. We were tired, hungry and ready for a nice hot shower, a quick lay down and then out to explore the bars and restaurants in Breck....
(Just a disclaimer) - One thing I am going to promise myself when writing this blog and doing my podcast is that I don't ever want to have to lie for exaggeration purposes. What I write, and what I recall are going to be how it happened no manifested BS to make a better story - I don't want to be like Jay from the Inbetweeners.
We drove through Breckenridge and finally arrived at the destination - As it was Labor Day weekend, hotel and Air Bnb prices were astronomical. Keep this in the back of your mind, I'm now jobless so my days of just shrugging about paying a little extra for things needed to be behind me - Where as before I could guarantee I was going to get paid again in 2 weeks which would offset any damage to my bank account.. yeah those days were behind me, so I had to be fairly careful with my spending.
We arrive at our Air Bnb, the woman (Who shall not be named) had great scores on Air Bnb - Her place was a 10 minute walk to Downtown Breckenridge and she had great reviews offering out her private basement that was converted into a living area. For just the one night and for the affordability it seemed to be a great choice.
Caitlin walks into the room first and on first inspection it seemed fine. Clean bed, a little dark, but nothing to phone home about. The game plan was to shower and change, lay down for a bit and then make our way into Breck for food. At this point, we are feeling kinda gross and getting Hungry. Caitlin goes into the bathroom and notices that in the stand up shower there seems to be some flower petals or something that had not been cleaned up.
She mentions it to me and I go over to check to see what it was....
What I saw was a war scene from Saving Private Ryan. Honestly, I swear there was less guts and bones in Normandy.
What lay there was the completely disfigured body of a (Rat / Mouse). Cut in half, tail, feet, face, fur, teeth... All completely covering the shower floor.
Now when it comes to Rodents, I am a complete and utter pussy. Give me a burglar or a robber over a Mouse / Rat. Especially one that is completely and utterly discombobulated in our shower. So many questions?? Are there more? how did this even happen? The shower door was closed? Has it been there a while? Has the Air Bnb not been cleaned? Was there another shower?
Needless to say, we were shook. We left immediately and I went into a storm of different emotions from anger, to confusion, to sadness, to empathy for the mouse. Honestly, we were shook.
We decided to get food and drinks and calm down. We needed to game plan what we were going to do. More times than once, we looked at Bessy and contemplated each taking a row of seats for the night.
After a few hours, the Air Bnb host had sent a cleaning crew in and told us she was comping us the night for free. By this point we were hammered trying to forget about the Mouse, and any back up plans to go and find a new hotel were futile as they were starting at roughly $350/$400 a night, and most were a drive away and neither of us could be arsed to repack the van and get on the road for the sake of one night.
The actual night in Breckenridge was awesome, live bands and music encapsulated the street and the food and beer was amazing. We were serenaded by a Cello player in the middle of the street, who was playing his own original songs. Caitlin was balling her eyes out listening to him, and I had something in my eye. It topped off a really random, weird and awesome night.
We woke up in the morning early ready to put the trials and tribulations behind us. We wanted to wake up, go and get breakfast and coffee downtown and then we would make our way to one of the Alpine Ski Resorts where they had a bunch of summer activities. Alpine sled, Scenic Ski Lift to the top peak, a propel yourself rollercoaster, followed by an awesome lunch at Distillery in Breckenridge. The plans for the day were looking optimistic, and we wanted to have a great day in Breckenridge before we would travel to Boulder that night.
As was everything with this trip, luck wasn't on our side so prior to walking to get Breakfast in downtown I sensed that with everything going slightly tits up, I could foresee us losing the very small Air Bnb keys. This is random and stupid of me, but I suggested for us to leave them in the lock box so that we knew they would be safe and secure when we were at breakfast.
After a couple of hours exploring and eating in downtown Breckenridge, we eventually made our way back to the Air Bnb. I walked to the lockbox and opened it up... Nothing was there. No Key. Nothing. I turned to Caitlin and our heart sank. The door was locked and there was no key. There was no way we had the key, so someone had been in and taken the key and locked the door behind them. Now as you can imagine, all the worst things come to mind - Broken into, all our belongings gone, Passports, keys, etc etc... We banged on the door, and it wasn't budging.
We called the host and fortunately on the 2nd or 3rd attempt she eventually picked up and explained that the cleaner must have come early to check if we were still in and had accidentally taken the key with her. Now... I have no idea why a cleaner would see the need to come and check on Air BNB tenants at 8am, when check out was 11am, let alone take the keys with them but nevertheless it happened.
We had to sit on the pavement outside for about 30 minutes while we waited for her to drop the key back off. At this point it was a mixture of just laughing and face palming at how absurd this was becoming. Within 30 minutes we were back in the Air Bnb, we freshened up and hit the road.
As mentioned the day trip we had planned was awesome! We had an unreal time doing the Alpine sledding and the food after was immense.
The time had come to leave Breck and we were on the road to Boulder for Saturday night. The drive from Breck to Boulder was beautiful! What we did not expect though, was the sheer temperature difference between Breckenridge and Boulder. We jumped out at a gas station in Boulder, and it was 95 degrees. It was brutally hot!
Saturday night we checked into our hotel and eventually met up with one of our good friends Sam and we bar hopped and ate great food. The demographic of Boulder completely took me by surprise, I knew they were going to be hip and edgy, but this was like nothing I'd seen. Very much the heightened end of hippy.
The time had come to go to bed excited about the adventure that lay ahead Sunday morning. As mentioned prior, Caitlins Sister had planned a surprise sunrise Hot Air Ballooning trip for us and the plan was for me to drive us to the launch site for a 6.30am take off.
We both woke up super excited for Caitlins Birthday, she jumped in the shower to freshen up and I lay in bed just checking my emails and checking my socials. Within minutes at 5.07am we get a call from another Colorado based number.
"Hi, is this Daniel?"
"Yes it is. How can I help?"
"Hey it's Jeff from Fairwinds Hot Air Ballooning. I've got some bad news..."
Jeff went on to inform us that because of the speed of the wind, that it was too dangerous to go up as they wouldn't have control of the balloon. He apologized and said there was nothing he could do. They only go up first thing in the morning and as an alternative he offered us the option to rebook for Monday morning.
Caitlin and I spoke about it, the original plan had never been to have a car for the Monday. We were staying in Denver Sunday night so getting back out to the launch site for 6am on the Monday would be impossible without a car.
We decided it was a once in a lifetime experience and we had to do it. We confirmed with Jeff and said that we would see him Monday morning for a 6.30am take off.
Now the dilemma of the car.... We were dropping Bessy back at 5pm and would need something to get us to the launch site in the AM. We called around to Avis and multiple other Car Rentals to see what the going rate was for one more night. IF we had chosen to keep Bessy that extra Sunday night, the total rate of the car would have gone from $650 to nearly $900... Madness. Absolute Madness. My rent in Boston for my first year was less than that.
To cut a long story short, we eventually dropped Bessy back at Avis and we pleaded with the dude at the desk to help us find an affordable car that was cheap and easy that we could have for one more night.
We settled on a Toyota Camry for $140 for the Sunday night / Monday. Absolutely ludacris, at this point we were so far over budget I was contemplating calling back my old Boss seeing if they had any temp jobs going.
Never the less, we eventually got back on the road and drove into Denver where we had a mint night at the Art Hotel. Beautiful hotel! Caitlins family had planned to leave her some cakes and goodies in the room so that was a welcome treat when we arrived.
We ate dinner at El Five one of Denvers more trendy and cooler restaurants sitting high up on a rooftop overlooking the skyline. The food and the views were amazing. Although pricey, I couldn't argue with the caliber or experience. 1,000,000% would go again. Highly recommend the Carne Paella if you ever happen to find yourself there.
The night comes to a close, our bags are packed and we are ready for our early morning Hot Air Balloon ride overlooking the Rockies.
Like for like with the day before, Caitlin jumped out of bed all excited and goes and showers to get ready. Within minutes my phone starts ringing. I am greeted with a very disappointed Jeff on the phone who goes onto explain that because of the Wild Fires that had raged Ft Collins for the past few days that the smoke, and falling ash from the sky meant it was just far too dangerous for us to go up. He said visibility would be too low, and we would be at risk and it would not be safe.
Usually, any attempt to avoid anything to do with heights I am more than happy to get out of. As well as being a pussy when it comes to Mice and Rats, I am also a complete and utter pussy when it comes to heights.
However, this time seeing the look on Caitlins face was genuinely upsetting. Although she had not originally known what the surprise was, she had known for 24 hours that we were going up, on top of the added expense of the car we rented for an extra day to drive to the launch site, left her feeling pretty deflated and upset.
We made the best of a bad situation and slept in, and then went for a pretty awesome breakfast in Denver and had some morning cocktails. We spent our last day exploring Golden Colorado, and stopped on the side of a highway and went and relaxed near one of the many rivers that ran in-between the mountain valleys.
Eventually, making our way back to the airport we dropped off the rental car and found a dinner spot and made our way home.
Although this was definitely not the trip we had planned for - I think an important lesson to learn was that things are always going to go wrong, there are things completely out of your control that you have no say over. In times like that, you just have to laugh, shake it off and roll with the punches and then make the best of a situation.
Despite us absolutely killing our budget, and missing out on certain activities we wanted to do. I don't think I would change the trip in any way. What better way to test if you are compatible with someone when traveling, than traveling on a trip where everything goes wrong.
Apologies for how long this section was - There was so much that crammed into 5 days that it was hard to keep it concise. I hope you enjoyed Chapter 2!
Thanks for reading!