Best Pork Sandwich – Pass Key’s, Pueblo, Colorado — This is a must stop whenever we’re driving through Pueblo and they’re open. Anyone who grew up near Pueblo or spent time there salivates when you mention the Pass Key Special. It’s an Italian sausage patty and cheese sandwich hot off the grill served with peperoncini and fries. The handful of shredded lettuce may be the only healthy aspect but once in a while we have to indulge.
Best Piano Bar Entertainer – Doug Montgomery at Vanessie’s in Santa Fe, New Mexico — I and every woman I know who has ever seen Doug perform loves this guy. Fingers that caress the keyboard, charm and carisma all wrapped up in one cute package. His repretoire seems unlimited. After nineteen years at Vanessie’s Doug has a loyal following of Santa Fe locals and tourists.
Best Lunch – Caspian Cafe, Colorado Springs, Colorado — We heard about the Caspian from a caller to the Warren Byrne Restaurant Show. When the lady called Warren she was standing in their parking lot after having lunch and was so enthusiastic she couldn’t wait to talk about the restaurant. The following Saturday we were in Colorado Springs and stopped for lunch. By the time I took the last bite of orange and saffron caramel cream I knew just how she felt. The menu reflects Mediterranean influences from Persia to Portugal. Salads, soups, entrees – were excellent as was the service. I can’t remember when I’ve relaxed and enjoyed a lunch more.
Retro Ride – Red Bus Tour, Glacier National Park, Montana — While touring Glacier you see red buses everywhere, you would swear there are hundreds of them. In reality there are only 33 in the fleet of 1930s touring coaches fondly known as “Jammers.” Each coach holds 17 passengers. Tours cover many areas of the park, link all the historic lodges and range in length from three to eight hours. Roll-back canvas roofs allow outstanding views. Hints: make reservations before getting to the park, the tours are very popular. Even in summer take a jacket and hat.
Small Town Museums – Encampment, Wyoming and Frisco, Colorado — I can’t pick just one, both of these history parks preserve our rich Western heritage. Grand Encampment Museum is open during the summer months and weekends in September. Frisco Historic Park and Museum is open year round, closed on Mondays. I can’t believe how many times I’ve been in Frisco and didn’t even realize there was a museum.
Eeriest Cemetery – Leadville, Colorado — A walk through Evergreen Cemetery in Leadville relates the past better than any history book. Mining disasters, influenza epidemics, harsh winters and avalanches – the stories of pioneers and miners are written on weather-worn tombstones. This year we came across the oldest part of the cemetery. Few markers remain, those that do are mostly unreadable wooden planks, many fallen into the graves. One can imagine the frontiersmen, paupers, outlaws, and dance hall girls in each sunken grave. I’m not easily spooked but this corner of the cemetery epitomizes “eerie” – I wouldn’t go at night.
Sunday Buffet Brunch – Sunbird Restaurant, Colorado Springs, Colorado — The day we had brunch at the Sunbird it was snowing as we wound up the hill. With a table next to the expanse of windows overlooking the city I felt like we were in a snow globe. The selections were extensive – typical breakfast dishes, salads, soups (some of the best New England clam chowder I’ve ever had), seafood, hot entrees, made-to-order stations, fruits, cheeses, desserts and cappuccino bar. All accompanied by complimentary champagne if you choose. The buffet tables are arranged so that you can move to the area you’re interested in without standing in a long line. Chefs working the made-to-order omelets, pastas and fajitas are in a seperate area, eliminating congestion. Wait and busing staffs were attentive.
Best Art Opening – Kilborn Workshop Show, Taos, New Mexico — Bob took a week-long watercolor workshop with Stephen Kilborn in Taos, New Mexico. The theme was adobe churches, each morning the class visit one of the historic churches to sketch. Afternoons were spent in the studio painting. At the end of the week each participant framed one painting for a show in the Kilborn Gallery. What fun to see the results of Stephen’s instruction and influence on the artists.
Most Helpful Visitor’s Center – Crowsnest Pass, Albert, Canada — Ten Travel Alberta Visitor Centers welcome travelers. A stop at the Crowsnest Pass facility on Highway 3 near Coleman and just 6 kilometers from the British Columbia border wins high recommendations. We came away with all the information we needed for our stay, directions for the most scenic route to Waterton and all our questions cheerfully answered.
Best Brat Bun/Cinnamon Rolls/Cookies – Polebridge Merchantile, Polebridge, Montana — Tucked near the northwest boundry of Glacier National Park and a few miles south of the Canadian border we found Polebridge, Montana. More that one Glacier Park ranger had recommended the baked goods at Polebridge Mercantile. Getting there involves miles of gravel road – ruts, potholes and dust. Then you arrive to find some of the best baked goods ever. Cinnamon rolls, huckleberry bearclaws, pocket sandwiches, cookies. I tried to sample them all. Obviously Polebridge isn’t a secret, people were standing in line to get in the door. Every angler, hiker, rafter and kayaker in Montana stops to refuel empty tummies. It was worth eating the dust to lunch at Polebridge Merchantile.
Choice Peaches – Bikki Ranch of Liberty, Palisade, Colorado — The Palisade/Grand Junctionregion of Western Colorado produces luscious tree-ripened peaches. They’ve even been shipped to London for sell at Harrods. Many independent growers have orchard stands. Our favorite is Barbara Bikki’s Ranch of Liberty. Hope that when you stop she has time to share a bit of her fascinating history while you sample a fresh juicy peach.
Fireworks Viewing – The porch at Mother’s condo, Palm Spring, Florida — Why would anyone go to South Florida in July? Perhaps because their 90+-year-old mother’s birthday is July 3rd. The best perk is that I can lay back on the glider and watch the local fireworks display from her 3rd-story balcony. One couldn’t ask for a more comfortable or colorful celebration.
If these stirred your own memories of 2008 travel highlights or misadventures I would love to hear from you. Thanks for sharing.