Exploring the West – Maryland to Colorado

Written by James on October 11th, 2011

Megan and I set out Friday, Sept 9th from Maryland. It will take us 3 days of driving to get to the mountains of Colorado. 2 planned stops between MD and CO. The first in WV with family, the next in Topeka KS.

We left after work on Friday, and headed out under an ominous sky.

Soon after hitting the road, we hit the traffic that turned the 6 hour drive into an 8 hour drive. Not great when hitting the road at about 4pm, and getting up early the next.

During the remaining dark hours of the drive, we passed the “east coast continental divide”. Max elevations were around 2800 feet. Sounds like nothing now that we’ve been through CO… but those inclines certainly challenge any heavily laden vehicles.

After a restless night and a quick breakfast with the family, we headed off.

With a conventional road GPS, a laptop GPS, and a SPOT tracking our location, we headed off. Below you can see the layout, including the dash cam setup on a suction mount.

West Virginia, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas… time for a rest stop…

Mississippi River, and the St. Louis arch. Basically the only notable location of the day.

Stayed at a fancy hotel that night to try to get more rest before the haul to Estes Park, CO for the next night.
Here’s a look at the itinerary sheet… plugging it all into the GPSes. Megan said she felt like she was navigator for the space shuttle or something with all the tracking systems we had. Maybe it was overkill for much of this trip, but there were times when it was certainly nice to have them all.

Today was also the 10th anniversary of 9-11. I thought it was incredible that even though we were in the middle of nowhere, Kansas, that every single overpass had people or firemen hanging out, waving flags, showing their support for this country. Even though there were no skyscrapers nearby, people didn’t forget, and gave their time to show their support. At one overpass there was a single motionless fireman in full turnout gear, holding a flag. That single image was quite powerful and will probably stay in my mind just as some of the other images from 9-11 will.

The rest of the drive was very uneventful. If you’ve never been through Kansas, it is actually very beautiful, but in it’s own unique way. The beauty doesn’t really carry through the entire 8 hour drive to Denver… at a certain point you just want out… your foot presses on the gas, and the fuel economy goes out the window.

Once we got to Denver, we quickly found a good local food joint and chowed down. This was a place called “Jack-n-grill”. Nice fresh Mexican food… if anyone’s in the area, we surely enjoyed it.

The last leg of the drive was the prettiest. It took us from approximately 5k feet to 7.5k feet in Estes Park. Much of the drive was in the dark, but we still enjoyed our first taste of the Rockies, and made us look forward to the next day, which would be the first with any time off pavement.

Here’s a collage of videos from the dash cam, giving you a peek into our travel for the day:


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