My dad is fascinated by the cliff-dwellings out West. This makes perfect sense, he dedicated his working life to building homes for countless people over his career. He’s one of the most proficient and passionate carpenters i’ve ever know and i owe him an incalculable debt because of the skills he’s handed down to me. So these brick and stone dwellings wedged into cliff faces naturally hold a special appeal to him.
He’d been to Mesa Verde a few times but never been able to tour the dwelling sites. Mesa Verde National Park sells tickets, very affordable tickets too, but they have to be purchased on site or in the nearby town of Cortez. The Park has a fine way of handling these ticket sales as you can even purchase advance tickets, up to two days prior to your visit. Alas, his visits to Mesa Verde have all been shall we say “pass thru” visits. Once he was on his way to Alaska on this used RV he had purchased, the second he was on a road trip by car, but neither trip had enough time for him to wait a day or two for a slot he could take. So he’s been fascinated by them but unable to see the dwellings in Mesa Verde up Close.
So talks began for he and i to take a trip to Colorado so he could finally tread where the builders of these sites had tread! We had a weapon in our fight to get the tickets we needed: i have a friend who lives in Cortez! She agreed to acquire the tickets we needed a day or two before so we booked some airfare to Denver and set out!
Denver, you question? Well, if you know where Mesa Verde is located and where Denver is located you probably do question. But yes, Denver. We figured if we were going to fly out to Colorado we may as well make some sort of road trip out of it! So road trip we did! We drove an amazing circuit of Colorado in a rented Buick Regal… Don’t get me started on that car (either i’m getting really old or the Buick Regal isn’t what it used to be! Probably my favorite rental car i’ve ever had and i’ve driven a lot of rentals).
Over the course of our Colorado road trip we drove through Rocky Mountain National Park, Gunnison National Park, of course Mesa Verde National Park. We passed through a handful of National Forests, Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre, and San Juan to name drop three of them. We drove 30 miles on a gravel road that seemed to be leading to nowhere (actually did that a few times, but the 30 mile stretch was the longest one). We drove what i contend is the prettiest stretch of interstate highway in America, Interstate 70 West of Denver. We hit the Aspen leaf change perfectly! All the while that sleek and luxurious rental car carried us safely through it all, even to the top of Pikes Peak where the blizzard-like conditions at the peak meant we could see nothing- also we were the only car we saw that didn’t have to stop and let our brakes cool down at the brake check station! Was it the car… or the driver? i’ll let you decide (it was the driver, who was me).
Of all the amazing experiences we had i don’t think anything was better for me than the morning we crawled through Balcony House and strolled in the grandeur of Cliff Palace in Mesa Verde. My friend came through with tickets to what she dubbed the two best tours in the park! For me the cliff dwellings were very interesting, but the real payoff was being a part of making sure my father got something he wanted in this life. He’s at that age, and has had a measure of success in life, where if he wants something he probably has it. This man who had worked to feed and house me when i was growing up, who handed down as much of his encyclopedic knowledge of building as my brain would hold, to see him have this experience he’d been so close to having but missed before… That was as good as any Rocky Mountain view.
We spent a lot of time in a car that trip. We’d ride for a while, get out and look at the mighty Rocky Mountains. We’d eat Peanut Butter and Banana sandwiches in a National Park or a National Forest and find something hot to eat every night, sleeping at whatever deal Priceline would find us for a motel that night. We talked about frivolous things, serious things, and we didn’t talk at all. Some hours we’d just ride in amicable silence and watch the mountains crawl past, and it was a magical week in Colorado.