Last known location: London, England

Grand Birthday at The Junction

We arrived in the large town of Grand Junction, just over the state line in Colorado, in the early evening and checked into our hotel. At reception we met a slightly shifty looking English bloke (aka my uncle, David, recently arrived by train from Denver) who was keen to hitch a lift with us around the Rockies for a week or so! We sampled some of the local wine and beer at the hotel’s ‘social hour’ (it seemed to cater to long term residents), then the three of us thought we should see what Grand Junction had to offer, and headed out to have a look around.

The downtown area seemed to have been recently tarted up, and it was all quite smart, with sculptures and trees lining the streets. We ignored all that and went for a drink and dinner at the Rockslide brewpub, where David and I sampled all the in-house brews whilst Gem had a nice cold glass of wine. We’d covered 870 miles over the previous 3 days, and it was nice to have a couple of nights in one place and take a break from being behind the wheel.

Afterwards we found a small bar called Quincy’s where we enjoyed a few games of darts and listened to some slightly terrible karaoke! We also met a few quite interesting locals. We were having a good time, helped by the 80p pints of lager during the 10pm – 12am happy hour, and eventually the inevitable happened – Gem signed us up for karaoke! We got through  some shoddy renditions of Oasis and Ace of Base before we called it a night and headed home.

We’d done very little research about Grand Junction, but on arriving it seemed that it was at the heart of Colorado’s wine country, which we all had to admit was a new one on us! So we thought that might be a fun way to spend my birthday afternoon, and the following morning we set out to hire bikes to go exploring on. The town is also the home of the Colorado National Monument – again we had no idea what this was, but some German tourists we met had come especially, and raved about it, so we thought maybe we could include this on our ride as well. After finding out that this would cost us $70 each for the day we quickly backtracked, and with a taxi costing even more Gem volunteered to be chauffeur for the trip.

We took the short drive out of town and arrived at the Monument. Having expected a statue or something similar, we were more than a little surprised to find a national park of sandstone canyons and cliffs! We took the spectacular Grand View Drive, which winds its way for 19 miles along the tops of the cliffs (a very good job the bikes didn’t work out!). There were plenty of amazing views over the landscape to the valley below, and also plenty of nerve-wracking corners, with no barriers and sheer drops off the edge! After a couple of hours we left pleasantly surprised and definitely impressed by the slightly misleadingly named area.

In the afternoon we started our wine tasting tour, another unexpected part of the trip! After taking the scenic route from town, through the orchards and vineyards, we made our first stop at Carlson Vineyards. Sweet and fruit wines seemed to be popular in the area, as well as the more usual varieties, and after tasting nearly everything we left with a couple of bottles of cherry and dessert wine – not a bad start! During the afternoon we visited another four vineyards and picked up a few more bottles along the way. The wine industry was only established in the area during the 1980’s, but it all seemed tasty enough at the time!

We finished the afternoon in the town of Palisade, at the centre of the wine area. This boasted a small distillery, where we spent our first five minutes asking the man behind the outside bar all about it – it turned out he didn’t work there at all, and was just hanging around in the smoking area, which was a bit embarrassing! We eventually made our way inside and as we sampled some of their spirits we were deafened by a mile long coal train that ploughed through the middle of town! We then went next door to the small brewery and tried some local beer, before our last stop of the day at the local saloon. This turned out to be exactly how you’d expect an American saloon to be – lots of neon beer signs, pool tables, and cowboy hatted drinkers lined up along a huge bar. After a quick beer, a few games of pool, and a chat with some locals we headed back to the hotel.

After a bit of a spruce up we went to the hotel’s tiny roof terrace where we sat and watched the sun set whilst we quaffed a bottle of local champagne we’d picked up earlier – it was my birthday after all! Having only had a liquid lunch we thought it was time for some food, and we all had tasty steak at a French restaurant on the high street before trying out the town’s Irish pub. Although it did serve Guinness, it wasn’t particularly authentic, so we soon moved on. Just after leaving we got talking to couple on the street – it turned out they were going for dinner to celebrate the woman’s 28th birthday, which was a bit of a coincidence! We asked them for bar recommendations, and they said to avoid Quincy’s (where we’d been the previous evening!).

They did recommend another quite lively bar just down the road, where we tried on cowboy hats and watched a bit more karaoke, but having had our fill of that the night before we headed back to Happy Hour at Quincy’s for more cheap beer and darts, as well as few more interesting locals. It was at this point that we found out it had a reputation as a gay bar, but we were unconcerned! The highlight was when the police arrived to cuff some guy and take a statement, and we couldn’t resist getting our photo taken with the local cops – they seemed a bit bemused but were quite cooperative! It had been a fun day, but it had to come to an end, and we made the short walk back to the hotel in the small hours – the mountains awaited us the next day.

1 Comment:
  1. Imogen 24 Jun, 2011

    Loving the photo with you and the cops! The US of A looks fantastic fun so far! We’re in China, greetings from scorchio Shanghai.
    I&O XXX

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