Golden, CO

April 30, 2015
Golden, CO is an old mining town and home to Coors Brewing Company. We thought we'd check out a brewery tour. However, when we arrived there was an hour + wait for an hour long tour. Um, no thanks. We don't like Coors much anyhow. We went to Lookout Mountain so the trip wouldn't be a complete waste. It was cold - surprise, surprise - but beautiful. The mountain is just a foothill to the Rockies and sits at 7,377 ft. It's home to the gravesite of William Frederick "Buffalo Bill" Cody.

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You might need to click to enlarge but that's Coors through the trees.

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The Mile High City

April 29, 2015
When planning for Denver, I thought I would book on Airbnb. I figured a rental would be less than two hotel rooms and many of the lofts have roof top decks and such, which sounded like a nice perk. Ordinarily, that would be the better option. However, for our time period, I kept getting quotes that were astronomical. Finally, I was clued in that the Cannabis Cup was driving up rates and left very little to chose from. When I turned to hotels, rates didn't improve. Thankfully, about two months out, Hotwire ran a sale and I was able to secure a decent rate at 4.5 star property in LoDo. I was surprised to learn that we'd be staying at the Oxford, it's the #3 rated hotel on Tripadvisor. It has superb location. You can't get closer to Union Station. It was a shame that no games were scheduled at Coors Field, because we were less than three blocks from the ballpark.

Upon check in, I was told no king rooms were available but we'd have queens. I understood it as two queen beds in each room, but no, it was only a single queen. Of course, they were sold out so there wasn't much to be done about it. Frank and I just would have to deal with three restless nights. Restless they were! The bed was elevated far from the floor, I was terrified I'd fall out. I clung to the edge like my life depended on it, which prevented me from ever falling into a deep slumber. Plus, the pillows were tiny; comfort was impossible. Especially, with my neck and shoulder issues. To make matters worse the bed was so bouncy, every time Frank turned, I was practically tossed out. Thank goodness I honed my death grip. Needless to say, it was exhausting. All the rooms are different; our bathroom had a ginormous tub that I literally had to climb into. I fared okay, but Frank slipped and broke a toe. Jake & Alysha's room had no tub, shower only with no curtain or door so containing moisture and heat was a chore, but their stay was more restful and injury free.

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The rooms have humongous key chains that I've only encountered traveling outside the country. They don't expect you to carry at all times, so you can check your key when you leave. We kept with tradition, and named it, Snowy. The parking rate was insane at $40/night we opted to park for $15/day at the lot around the corner. The location, though, is really fantastic. When it comes to historic hotels you often sacrifice convenience for charm, I get that. Hotwire only guarantees the room will accommodate the number of guests, not the room type, so I wasn't upset. I just wouldn't book again unless I had a guaranteed room type at the Oxford.

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Denver is known for many things, but people aren't flocking there for the food scene. When I started researching food in Denver, I turned up a lot of breakfast joints. Do you know where else that occurred? Albuquerque. You might remember, we had a great time in Albuquerque seeing the sights and Breaking Bad filming locations, but the eats were rather disappointing (exceptions being Rebel Donut and the Doghouse). The two cities also have green chili in common. I tire of green chili quickly. Denver was more promising and there are a handful of restaurants I'd like to try in the future. Our friend's aren't as adventurous as we are, but we still sought out highly recommended places and found quite a few duds.

The best of the bunch was Odyssey Italian Restaurant. A father and son team welcomed us as if we were guests in their home. We wanted for nothing and everything was fantastic from the caesar salads to the pastas, lamb and fish. Oh, and don't miss the arancini! Seriously, this place is a gem.

Backcountry Delicatessen was pretty solid. We didn't realize it was a franchise, we later saw a bunch more. It turned up in a search for deli sandwiches and we had a good laugh when we spotted the sign out front. Frank and I shared the Reuben. It was pretty good. Definitely better than we anticipated. Frank enjoyed the black bean soup too. Their chocolate chip cookie hit the spot and I loved the pomegranate ice tea.

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An unexpected find was Sliceworks, we were hungry and wanted a bite before retiring to bed. We found this place (open after last call) near the hotel. It started to rain so I wussed out and went back to the hotel, but Frank brought back three slices: Sicilian, white and green chili. The first two were average, but the green chili was damn good. We went back for more the following night. It was perfect with a side of ranch. Yes, you read that right. There was once a time I never thought I'd utter that sentence, but there you have it. It has its place.

On our first night, we were in the mood for Mexican we chose D'Corazon for dinner. It didn't live up to the reviews, but there are so many types of Mexican it can be hard to find the type that meets your expectations, especially when traveling. We thought the guacamole was weak, but otherwise our entrees were satisfactory. It fit the bill... what I'd consider your typical rice and beans type place.

Our first stop in Denver was Sam's No. 3 it's been featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. Breakfast seems to be the best option. I had chili relleno with pork green chili. The pork green chili was pretty good as far as green chili goes, but the chili rellenos were like bricks filled with yellow cheese. Nothing like what I'm used to. Omelets, skillet and French toast all seemed to be A-OK. I'm happy there was no wait. I wouldn't suggest seeking it out, but it can satisfy an appetite.

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The next morning, our first choice for breakfast was Snooze. It's a cute space in Union Station, but the wait turned us away. We ended up choosing Jelly Cafe as an alternative. Again, we were met with a long wait - 45 minutes. Against better judgement we stuck it out. They have a great app that tells you how many people are ahead of you so you're able to keep tabs on your place in line. In the meantime, we went to Wax Trax. It was neat to see all the vinyl. It reminded of my dads collection, it was fun to reminisce about my first albums. After, we followed signs for an open house. Denver's real estate market is booming. I couldn't believe this small old 1 bed, 1 ba third story walk up was going for what some houses go for in Vegas. And it had multiple offers. Good time to be a seller in Denver. We returned to the restaurant and still had 15 minutes to kill. We contemplated bailing, but again chose to see it through. Finally, we were seated.

Jelly is a cute space on the surface, very retro with cereal boxes from our childhood lining the walls. Once you sit, you see the wear and tear. But whatever, we were there to eat. Our friends ordered french toast and a breakfast burrito, Frank had the corned beef hash and I had the tres leche pancakes. We sampled four donut holes to start, each picking our favorite flavor. As long as we waited anything should have been tasty for as hungry as we were, but I didn't even finish my lemon custard donut. The first bite tasted like a grease bomb, I had no interest returning for a second. Unfortunately, the disappointment didn't end there. The french toast was so soggy, it was inedible. The hash was sad looking, with a few dry corned beef scraps. The accompanying biscuit was dry as bone. With a name like jelly you'd think there would be a variety of jellies, but no, our waitress said there was only the mango pineapple. Frank doesn't care for pineapple so it was a lost cause. My pancakes were edible, but I wouldn't recommend it and its certainly not worthy of a 45 minute wait. The breakfast burrito appeared to be the best choice, but even that was pretty lackluster. From start to finish it ended up being a two hour ordeal. Never again.

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The worst meal, though, was at The Broker. This restaurant has such potential, but it ended up being a complete flop. It is located in the old Denver National Bank Building. There is intimate dining in the vault and their wine cellar was the original cash vault. We met our friends, and their family here for dinner. We should've known something was off when no one else was there, but we gave it a chance. Service was incredibly sluggish, there's no excuse when we were the only diners. You would think ordering a steak here would be a home run, but the NY strip was undercooked - served blue not medium rare, under seasoned, tough and just terrible. I didn't even want to bother with another, but I was convinced otherwise. The second steak was no better, it wasn't as raw, but it still didn't qualify as medium rare. By then, I threw in the towel. Other entrees were unsatisfactory as well. I think only a couple were actually edible. It was a real shame. They did refund a good portion of the dinner to help remedy the situation so I give credit for the gesture, but oh my, what a dud.

Denver is better known for its beer. There are many breweries in Denver that do not distribute to Nevada so we had a field day trying new brews. We attempted to go to Great Divide Brewery, but it was so packed we stood at the bar without drawing any attention so we bailed. Across the street is the Lobby. They were finishing up bottomless mimosa service. It seems to be hugely popular because the place was trashed as the drunken crowds cleared. They had a decent beer selection. I learned I was a fan of Great Divide's Titan IPA, but I really don't care for the others I tried. We did visit an out of the way brewery, Wit's End. That had a solid selection. Everything was quite good. Breckenridge was a bust, we didn't like anything there. We stopped for drinks at Marg's Taco Bistro, but that was a dud too. The margaritas and mexican mule were pretty terrible. Terminal bar had some of the worst service we encountered - wow. We came upon City Grille with no expectations, chips and salsa were a flop, but drinks were good and priced right. Service was friendly too. Bars line the streets by the ballpark, many have rooftop patios. We checked out the Tavern downtown and braved the cold to enjoy the roof top views. It'd be a great spot when its not so cold.

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Near the capital building was Sancho's Broken Arrow, a Grateful Dead dive bar with good beer and strong cocktails. We spent an afternoon here. Great vibe, air hockey, foosball and pool in back. Turns out I'm a big fan of New Belgium's 1554 Black Lager. My cousin and her boyfriend met us here. She's lived in Denver a little over a year and seems to enjoy it. It was fun catching up with them. She took us over to 1UP bar to play Pac-Man. They had skee ball too which was a riot. Good times!

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When researching things to do, I found the Upstairs Circus. They offer a full bar and a variety of crafts to create while visiting with friends. It seemed like a neat concept so we decided to check it out, we went during Friday happy hour so projects were $25. The nice thing is everyone can choose their own craft. I almost decided against it, because I worried about getting my project home. I'm glad Alysha convinced me to stay. It was fun, even if my hands grew tired as I grew frustrated. Thankfully, Frank and Jake pitched in to help me finish.

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We used Uber and Lyft to get around. Our drivers were fantastic. Other than no legroom for Frank, flights in and out on Frontier were uneventful. Which is always good, I get nervous when checking bags (cheaper than carry ons). The airport might be the least convenient of any city I've visited - 20 miles to downtown. But all in all, we had a great time in Denver - even if it was cold, brrrr! We also visited Golden and Fort Collins. So, there are more details to come.

Odyssey Italian restaurant and Wine Bar on Urbanspoon Odyssey Italian restaurant and Wine Bar on Urbanspoon Sliceworks on Urbanspoon D'Corazon on Urbanspoon Sam's #3 on Urbanspoon Jelly on Urbanspoon The Broker Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Red Rocks Amphitheatre

April 28, 2015
If you love music, you must check out Red Rocks in Morrison, CO! I've not been to them all, but I have no doubt that it is the best live music venue. I am certain it is the most beautiful. We've talked of going for sometime, but when we saw SOJA was performing their first headline show there - we knew we had to go. We saw SOJA at Brooklyn Bowl last year and they blew us away. We bought VIP tickets to make the most of our first Red Rocks experience. It ended up being a good call because it was a sold out show.

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In no way do my photos do it justice. You must see for yourself. Typically, I don't care for outdoor shows because the sound is inevitably distorted, but here it was crisp and clear. I'm not sure I would've stuck out an outdoor show in 30-degree weather otherwise. It was fucking cold - my bones felt like glass just waiting to shatter, but the show was fucking amazing!! I will return in the summer months to fully enjoy the experience and tour the full venue. If all goes to plan, we'll return in August to see the Dirty Heads.

The day before the show, we attempted to pick up our tickets at Will Call. The box office was closed, but we did get to see some neat waterfalls from the mid-afternoon snow melt.

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Black Hawk, CO

April 27, 2015
Prior to our departure, we were routinely checking the forecast hoping it would improve. When we booked this trip with our friends, Jake & Alysha; we figured temps in Denver would be in the 60's - we knew it'd be cooler than home, but we never anticipated how cold it actually got. So much for jeans and flip flops - We needed to bundle up. Black Hawk called for a high of 38 and 3-5 inches of snow. The night before our trip I found myself at the outlet mall in search of a warm jacket. I have a beast of coat that kept me warm during Chicago winters, but it weighs like 20lbs - no joke. I didn't want to lug that around. My Vegas winter coat fits too snug when wearing layers and my spring coat that keeps me warm in San Francisco wouldn't cut it. Unfortunately, the outlet mall was geared toward summer, I struck out at Columbia, but did find a long denim coat at Wilson Leather. It would have to do. I'm so glad I had it.

It was cold.

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When we arrived at Denver's airport, the snow had already begun to fall. I had reserved a midsize vehicle, but at the rental counter we upgraded to 4x4 expecting poor conditions in the mountains. Thank goodness we had the foresight to do so. I think 3" fell by the time we checked into our rooms at Ameristar. The snowflakes only grew and fell faster as the day went on; it quickly turned into a winter storm warning. By morning, 15" fell and they had closed roads in and out of Black Hawk/Central City. We were afraid we'd be stuck, but the roads were cleared and reopened in the afternoon. What a relief!

Our stay was great at Ameristar. The accommodations are comfortable. Staff is very friendly. The casino/hotel is non-smoking but there are nice patio with heaters if you care to smoke.

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We made the most of the winter wonderland. We casino hopped, had snowball fights, built snowmen, and took advantage of free play and dining offers at the various casinos. It reminded me a lot of Laughlin; just frigid, instead of sweltering. The casinos were quiet and happy to have us. We earned free dinner buffets at the Monarch and $80 food voucher at Lady Luck. We didn't pay for any food and drinks were $2-$4 at the casino bars. Only catch is that they only serve one drink every thirty minutes. Responsible gaming... yada, yada. You can't bring your drinks to next casino either, even when connected by an indoor walkway. We're so spoiled by Vegas.
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The Buffet at Monarch dinner offerings were pretty good ($18.99 Sunday-Thurs). They serve whole main lobsters, crab and prime rib nightly, since it was Thursday. They also had Pho made to order. I mainly ate crab and created my own crab fried rice. Jake was the one who enjoys lobster so he had quite the spread. Though, we all left satisfied. All we had to do was earn 20 points after signing up for the player's card. Pretty sweet.

We used our dining vouchers ($20 each) at Otis & Henry's at Lady Luck. We had chicken wings, onion rings, quesadilla, two reubens, fajatas and a philly cheese steak. We stuffed ourselves silly trying to spend our full amount. We didn't expect much, but we were pleasantly surprised by the quality of food and service was attentive especially considering they were short handed since many couldn't come in until the roads opened.

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We had a great time! Frank and Jake enjoyed playing poker, and Alysha and I had a good streak playing blackjack. We made the most of the blizzard. Frank and I were happy we didn't choose to get married there. It was funny enough that we celebrated our first snowversary for our 11th year of marriage. We drove through Central City, but we didn't stop and play. We had enough of the cold and snow by then. I would like to return... in August, perhaps.

Do You Want To Build A Snowman?

April 24, 2015
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This month has been a wild ride. Frank and I celebrated our 18th year together and eleven years of marriage. We had a two week visit with my dad, sister, niece and nephew. Almost bought a house, but bought a car instead. Filed taxes... never fun for DINKs (dual income no kids). Flew to Denver, got stuck in a blizzard, saw a killer show at Red Rocks, came back to warmth and a cozy comfy bed, got slammed at work and now? I'm here to tell you about building spring time snowmen. They are far less impressive when built by desert dwellers that do their best to limit their exposure to the cold. I never had "build a snowman in April" on my bucket list. But I've done it, and there's the proof. Enjoy.

Khun Chai Thai Restaurant

April 9, 2015
I love a good lunch special and one of the best around is at Khun Chai. They have a selection of dishes that include soup, salad and eggroll for $6.99. Which is plenty for me, but if you have a large appetite there is another option for $9.99 that has a larger portion.

Previously, this restaurant was Pam Real Thai. I was hooked on their pad kee mao and garlic fried rice. I sulked for weeks when they closed.

Fortunately, Khun Chai puts out one of the better pad kee mao's around. The veggies are always fresh and crisp, the noodles are tender and sop up the delicious flavor and if you like heat - This is the place! Their scale goes 1-5, I like spicy, but I usually stick with a 2 here because I like the sweetness of the basil to shine through the heat. The Tom Yum soup is excellent. The salads are always fresh and you get your choice of dressing, I'm partial to the honey mustard. The eggrolls are always satisfying as well. It's a great place to grab a quick lunch. My brother and I find ourselves there a few times a month. They also offer a discount when paying cash. There is often live music too.

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Khun Chai Thai Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Wordless Wednesday: A Taste of San Antonio

April 8, 2015
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Prickly Pear Margarita, yum!


They're Here!

April 7, 2015
My favorite kiddos, my sister and my dad are visiting for Spring Break. Addison has grown by leaps and bounds. Her personality has really developed, she's positively adorable and has no fear. She loves to talk and she'll be walking in no time. She already cruises the furniture. She's tiny at only at 7 mos, so it's extra cute. Nick is smarter than ever. He's growing like a weed too. He'll be 5 foot in no time. My sister has been working hard to get her pre-pregnancy body back and she looks great. Having my dad around is an extra special treat. It's been about four years since his last visit. They've been here a week and have a week to go. Last weekend, we invited our friend's kids over too so they could all swim. Pool time before Easter is simply awesome, I wish I was so lucky as a kid. We celebrated Easter at my mom's, it was nice to have the family together. It is so rare. Nick hunted for eggs and the Easter Bunny left them baskets filled with goodies. I'm so happy we have the opportunity to make these memories.

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