Next stop: Fruita, Colorado. This was our base for a full week, a tiny one-horse town near Grand Junction, close to the Utah border, and the perfect base from which to explore this part of the country.

S had to work for a few days, which suited me fine, as I still felt pretty rough, and so I proceeded to nap and read and even managed to edit a podcast episode. I discovered that I adore sleeping in a hammock, however, my back did not, and reminded me sharply the next morning that I’m not 20 anymore. No hiking, biking or even walking for a few days, which was such a disappointment. At least I managed to climb into the passenger seat of our car and stay in a sitting position, so we managed to explore the National Park around the corner, the Colorado National Monument, by driving through it, lazy American style (which the girls rather liked).

Colorado National Monument

We did the same at Arches National Park and Moab, with a few short walks this time. It was really hot and, unlike the other parks, pretty busy, and so driving ended up being the safest way (I have a hunch we’ll be coming back here at some point post-pandemic, preferably during a cooler season).

Arches
An arch

Having never spent a single 4th July in the US as a family (usually some or all of us had always been In Europe at this time of year), we’ve never had any special proceedings for this day, nor felt particularly patriotic – certainly not this year. A cosy fire in our little fire pit seemed appropriate, and S and I loved sitting outside chatting while the sun went down, until we almost fell asleep. It was nice to have a week of less activity, and being able to process all the things we’d seen so far. Road trips are a wonderful way of seeing a country, and the scale, changing scenery and vastness of the American landscape is something that can only be fully appreciated when driving through it. Which takes ages. Nine hours just to get out of Texas.

Our next stop was Telluride, a place I’d only ever associated with skiing, and was really looking forward to seeing in summer. We decided to visit another National Park on the way up there, the “Black Canyon of the Gunnison“, which we’d never heard of before. The pictures we googled looked nice, but nothing prepared us for the stunning, dramatic scenery of this National Park, which would have made a fine setting for Game of Thrones.

Painted Wall, Black Canyon

And then, to top it all off, we arrived in Telluride, or rather, Mountain Village, a true little slice of paradise, a 20-minute gondola ride from Telluride village, surrounded by snow-capped mountains and aspen forests. To F’s delight, our hotel had a swimming pool, and we spent many blissful hours working on our sunburns.

Aspen forest
Happy trail dog

It was hard to leave Telluride, and S and I would have happily extended the trip, but our teens had had enough of sharing a room with their ageing parents and were keen to get back and hide in their own rooms. So we packed up and started the long trek back to Texas, with a stop in Taos, to break up the journey. Unfortunately, an hour outside of Taos, with no cell phone signal or a lot of other signs of civilisation, a deer decided to commit suicide and chose us as the executor. Needless to say, the mood of our last night away was spectacularly ruined, not least because our massive car was smashed enough to be undriveable, and we had to find a replacement, somewhere in the sticks in New Mexico, on a Sunday night. I suppose one day this will make a good anecdote.

Driving back to Austin the next day was uneventful, and I guess the suitable anticlimax to such a memorable trip. 11 hours along straight dusty roads, past oil fields and dreary agricultural towns – the first town after crossing the border from New Mexico to Texas was called “Progress” and proudly displayed a giant Confederate flag (I was too stunned to take a picture). It was interesting to see oil pumps vying with windmills, in fact, windmills as far as the eye could see, a perfect example of the dichotomy of Texas, caught between staunch conservatism and innovative spirit.

Oil vs. wind

Highlights of this stage of the trip:

  • Rock shop in Moab: my girls are into healing stones and crystals, and I could barely get them out of this place.
  • The awe-inspiring beauty of Arches National Park
  • The surprising dramatics of Black Canyon
  • Final relaxation and a sense of “I think I’ve found another happy place” in Telluride
  • A rare sense of happiness – all of us together hiking to Little Hawaii off Bear Creek trail
  • Making memories on this trip, which might be one of our last family trips for a while
Little Hawaii
a rare 10-minute moment of family harmony
Bear Creek Trail

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