For many, many years we’ve heard about Leadville’s burro races (part of their annual Boom Days celebration), but the timing has never worked out for us to attend. Fortunately this year our trip overlapped with a similar quadruped-fest in nearby South Park. Not only does it feature burros, it has a whole day called Llamarama!
We joke that Seamy identifies as a llama, and he was more than a little intrigued by these big, curly guys.
It turns out that llamas & alpacas are both members of the camelid family, so it was cool to bookend our trip with camels. Check out Shepherd Finn escorting a llama through the grueling obstacle course. 🙃
As you can see in our gallery, we all had fun meeting the creatures, as well as exploring the town—especially its Wild West-era buildings and trains. Here’s hoping we can meet these guys again someday!
Literally every time we’ve visited Leadville, we’ve driven past a gorgeous mountain lake surrounded by mountains, and probably half of those times we’ve asked ourselves, “Hey, why don’t we ever stop off here for a hike?”
A few days after the boys returned to us in Leadville, we turned right back to head down the mountain to spend an eventful weekend with pals in & around Denver.
Following a great Friday evening dinner with Margot’s old friend Troy and his wife (with whom Henry bonded over vintage model trains—because, of course he would!), we got up on Saturday and headed over to the Forney Transportation Museum. As you can see, Hen was craaaazy excited to see the Big Boy engine & vintage vehicles 🤪:
Here’s a gallery we captured during our visit. Notably, Hen did most of the shooting himself (!), rocking my big camera and later helping me pick pics.
Afterwards we met up with the Lingles to celebrate Auntie Laura’s birthday over some Native American cuisine, then dropped by my buddy Justin’s beautiful new home & met his lovely girlfriend Maria. We all had a blast—especially Seamus, somewhat literally 😉:
On Sunday we made plans to meet up with our old friends Ethan & Diane and their son Charlie in Golden, a cute town that sits between Denver & Leadville. Back in 2016 we’d visited the Colorado Train Museum in Golden (see gallery from that day), which the boys naturally loved.
Dropping by again this year let us re-enact some of of our previous antics in front of the giant snowplow train. Compare 2016…
It was especially fun that Finn chose to join Henry & me at the museum while Margot and Seamus explored Golden. Many episodes of brotherly fake-beatdowns followed, as did the boys pushing the enormous turntable around by hand! Check out our gallery from the day, plus a quick vid of our ride around the grounds:
And last but not least, here’s a small gallery showing our shots from dinner, lunch, Justin’s house, and our time in Golden.
Following Henry’s birthday, the lads headed off to Denver with Auntie Laura & Grandpa for a few days of fun with their cousins (go-karts & kayaks & trampolines, oh my!). This left Margot, Seamus, and me to hold down the fort—oddly & rather refreshingly alone! We took advantage of the time to bike around Leadville’s Mineral Belt Trail…
After we came home tired & happy, it was time to celebrate officially. Here’s a handful of shots, plus the total highlight of the day—Henry getting his great-great grandfather Liggett’s railroad watch! Check it out:
Following the Fourth, it was time for the four cousins to go off for some adventures together. We all journeyed down to Copper Mountain, then turned the lads loose:
We have just a small gallery from the day, given that the guys were off on their own (running through an obstacle course, duking it out on water-spraying bumper boats, cruising skyward in a gondola, and more), but here’s a video showing the super fun alpine coaster we all rode:
“Life is as big as you make it,” we always tell the boys, and Henry—in his idiosyncratic, insistent way—is often a great catalyst for getting off one’s duff and into the world.
Last year he wrangled me into poking around some abandoned train tracks, picking up “treasure” just as I did around Galena as a kid. This year he got me & Seamy to join him down there on what proved to be a spectacular evening. Check out a gallery of pics the two of us took. (Seamus contributed more as a model than as a photog. 😌)
A couple of days later, Hen persuaded me to drive down towards Buena Vista in hopes of exploring some old Rio Grande RR bridges. Amidst some trial and error involving little back roads, we were able to scramble down to the water, Legos in hand:
Here’s one trippy little video we concocted on & around the bridges…
…and another we made while zipping through the old train tunnels outside of Buena Vista:
And just like that—a mere 168 hours after leaving home—we arrived in Leadville!
Things were just as we left them, and it was great to spread out and connect with the fam. Chilling on the porch never disappoints:
Over the weekend the boys headed down to Turquoise Lake for some paddleboarding with the cousins and Uncle James, and on Sunday the Fourth of July parade was just as cute and charming as ever. James cooked up some amazing BBQ, and we enjoyed meeting his sister and her husband.
After a solid week on the road, our destination was at last just around the bend (where “bend” equals giant mountain range—but still!). Take ‘er away, narrator Hen:
We woke up, packed up, and hit the road. When we got back to Crested Butte, we got some breakfast and walked around. Finn kept stealing my hat, and he almost threw it in a river!
Next, we went hiking around Peanut Lake, where there were the most beautiful wildflowers. When we were going back to the car we ran into the Wiggins again, who told us to meet them at a bridge and a river in an hour.
While we waited, we ate some killer burgers and picked one up for Hazel. While there we saw a guy blasting country music on a pink Vespa scooter with a unicorn head stuck on the front. (A human man was actually driving this!!) We then drove to the bridge with a burger for Hazel.
We had fun skipping rocks and chatting about various topics. Next, we left CB and started up Cottonwood Pass. It was really beautiful. The end of the pass leads straight through Buena Vista and on to LEADVILLE!!
We left the yurt camels & drove back to Alamosa. There Dad & I looked at some F and E-unit locomotives bound for scrap, and some great passenger cars that had been sold. My legs got super inflamed again. 😕
Next, we drove through some farmland, and then some mountains/buttes/trees-y mesas. We stopped at a gas station where I changed pants. We drove through Gunnison, past “Henry’s TV” to Crested Butte where we parked by a cafe 100% covered in old license plates.
When we turned the corner, we ran into Hazel Wiggin, who recommended Secret Stash pizza, where we later hung out with the Wiggins. We went across the street, got some shirts, and then drove to the soccer field, where we shot goals with Seamy and the Wiggins.
After having dinner with the Wiggii and their friends, we stayed at the KOA campground in Gunnison, which featured an old Ford-FMC fire truck. There were so many mosquitoes it was almost comical!
And right on schedule, here’s our gallery from the day. 😌
After Gallup we drove over the Continental Divide to Albuquerque. In the morning we went on a hike to see 400 ancient petroglyphs. Mom and I sang the “No bug song” because I was freaking out about all the huge millipedes and beetles.
Soon thereafter we drove to Santa Fe, where we look at Rail Runner trains, age Chicago hot dogs, and walked around. We also looked at their beautifully painted caboose.
After Santa Fe we drove past the Cumbres and Toltec RR on our way to the Great Sand Dunes, where I got some great Lego pics.
Check out our Petroglyphs & Great Sand Dunes gallery.
This is where my legs started getting itchy, exactly one year after they did in Arches. We then ate in Alamosa, at an incredibly good microbrew pub. I got a Philly cheesesteak (my first ever!).
We started off from Flagstaff and got to Holbrook, where we visited the Wigwam Motel (one of the last two in America) that Dad and I visited back in March (video).
From there we went to a rock shop featuring fake dinosaurs.
Next, we went past the Painted Desert Indian Center. Near the border of New Mexico, we went past an Indian trading post that sells the worst tacos known to mankind. (I described the tortillas as “matted.”)
Once we crossed the border, we went to Gallup, NM. We stopped in a really cool gallery, and we ate some yum tacos while Mom looked in a pawn shop that was covered floor-to-ceiling in Native American stuff. Then we went to another store, where I got an awesome book on NM (and where we learned the phrase “rare as a three-legged chicken”).
After Gallup we drove over the Continental Divide to Albuquerque.
We left Las Vegas and headed through the Mojave to Kingman, and along the way we kept seeing billboards for “Gus’s Beef Jerky” and various junkyards. When we actually got to Gus’s the sign looked like this:
We also saw an old bombed-out pizzeria, where it looked like the “ia” fell/melted off, so it just said “Pizzer!”
When we arrived in Kingman we looked at the steamie in the park, and then we crossed the street and went to the visitors’ center/Route 66 museum. In the museum they had lots of cool stuff, like a neon Mobil pegasus where the wings moved. On the ground floor they had a really interesting documentary all about all of Arizona’s 66 towns. They also had an electric car museum from which I saw two BNSF trains go by each other.
When Dad & I left, Finn came running out with Seamy, because we didn’t know they were inside. He told us how he was in the gift shop for 45 minutes, watching the same video about “The Route 66 Kid” over and over again!
We then crossed the street and ate at Mr. D’z 50’s diner. When we got back to the van, I nearly died from choking on a mint, and Dad forgot to pay, so he had to run back. Soon after we drove down Kingman’s bit of 66 and saw their train station.
Next, we started on our drive to Flagstaff. We drove through the historic towns of Seligman & Williams. On the way through Williams we saw several old Santa Fe cabeese.
Soon we arrived at Flagstaff, and Dad, Mom, and I went to the pioneer museum and saw their steam locomotive and caboose #999455. Next, we drove downtown and visited the sticker shop. We went back to the room and ate Little Caesar’s pizza.
After we’d chilled out (literally) following our Meow Wolf & antique explorations, we packed up the van & headed out to Hoover Dam & beyond. Henry write,
After a while staying at the motel, we embarked to the Hoover Dam—”The Zeus”—which had a super low water level. Dam, that was a fun time! 😛
Here’s a quick clip of our journey across the top:
Next, we went to the Nevada Southern RR for rail bikes, and on the way we stopped at A&W, where we got a family meal pack that included a gallon of root beer in its own special flagon/bladder!
We of course enjoyed touring the old trains, and all five of us hopped onto a rail bike for a sunset ride. Check out the pics.
When we were riding, Seamy’s poor tail got stuck in the axle, and we had to back up and unwind it. The rest of the ride [minus Dad & Seamy, who walked back up to the station] was really beautiful, though a little ruined by the incident.
We got picked up by the Union Pacific GP-30-844 and some passenger cars + caboose. Seamy & Dad rode down in the caboose, and we all rode back in the caboose. I got to sit in the cupola.
Happily, Seamy’s proud plume wasn’t badly injured, and it was back to flying at full mast within a few days. ❤️
Our time in Vegas was all about beating the heat—especially for our fur-coated amigo. Even at 8am, our jaunt to the dog park was insufferably hot, though it did produce a memorable interaction with a homeless guy offering some, uh, unique grooming services (“For 20 bucks I’ll squeegee yer dawg!”).
While Mom & Finn took in the amazing Meow Wolf exhibition (more on that below), Henry and I took El Poocho on a little antiques exploration of the arts district. Hen in particular was thrilled to drop in on the shop featured in the Pawn Stars TV show. He says “I saw some Confederate paper bills & even some Picassos!”
We were relieved to find a dog-friendly & air conditioned shop where Hen chatted up the proprietor & impressed him with his extensive knowledge of arcane railroad facts. 🙃 He writes,
I budgeted myself $20, and I found the coolest old mug from the Santa Fe Railroad with their mascot, Chico. I also found an old anti-drugs pin for Finn, with a lion he named Darnell. 🦁
Now, about Meow Wolf: it’s the product of an artists’ collective that’s turned into a sprawling, madcap interactive space. The entrance seems to be a too-perfect convenience store (“Omega Mart”) stocked with really bizarre products. From there you’re beckoned (by crawling through tents, lockers, and other hidden portals) into a psychedelic world-behind-the-world, complete with weird interactive instruments, climbing walls, slides, aliens, and more.
Margot and Finn checked it out first, spending a good three hours (!) exploring, after which Hen & I passed Seamus off to them and explored it ourselves. Take a peek at what we saw.
Following our Red Rocks jaunt, we plunged right into the triple-digit temperatures of Las Vegas. The city isn’t one we’d normally choose to visit, as characterized by Henry continuously flipping the bird to the big, gross edifice owned by The Former Guy. To our surprise, though, in the last couple of years the town has grown a rather cool arts district, and it was fun to explore it with the boys & Seamus, as you can see in this little gallery.
And here’s a quick little timelapse of our sunset walk:
Later we attempted to take the lads to see old Fremont Street, but between the still-triple-digit nighttime temperatures & total lack of parking, we opted to cruise the Strip in air-conditioned relative comfort. I had fun making this trippy little rendition of the journey:
Adhering to the timeless wisdom of ZZ Top, we began our second day by scoring some cheap sunglasses—then headed out to Barstow, the huge rail hub we first discovered in 2019 and then visited last summer and again in March.
After hitting Centennial Park (where Hen scrambled over a vintage Marine tank) and visiting the various trains and Harvey House, we headed out to piping-hot Las Vegas. Before we got there, though, we took a cool detour through Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, where Henry picked up a little stuffed buddy, “Churro the Burro.”
Dropping by the Tehachapi Loop (“the Eight Wonder of the railroading world”) last year en route to Colorado was a highlight of the journey and one of Henry’s greatest railfanning experiences ever—which is really saying something!
So, this year we planned our first overnight in the cute little railroad town of Tehachapi, and while Margot and Finn chilled out with Seamus, Hen & I set out for some sunset trainspotting. We were thrilled to see multiple trains passing each other & looping over one another via the corkscrew tracks.
Henry worked my big cam (check out his gallery of shots) while I flew overhead via my drone. Here’s the fun video we just cut together, featuring a “Big Train” soundtrack by the great Wynton Marsalis & friends:
And here you can click and drag to explore the site from overhead:
You only turn twelve once, so the dudes & I said YOLO and rang in Hen’s milestone by flying over Leadville at the Top of the Rockies zipline tour. As you can see in our gallery and in the vids below, we had a blast zooming over the railroad tracks and on down the mountain. Check it out!
Having been a fireman & machinist for Southern Pacific, our neighbor Severn is incredibly well connected to folks dedicated to railroad preservation, and his skills remain in high demand.
On Saturday we were delighted to accept his invitation to drive up to Napa, where a team of volunteers devote many hours per week to restoring old engines & cars. It was an especially interesting day as the group was firing up their 100-year-old steam engine for the first time in many years.
Severn & the whole team were incredibly generous with their time and knowledge, taking us through their numerous old cars. Highlights include a mail car that had been trapped in an avalanche in the 50’s (causing the passengers to have to rip up & burn its flooring to stay warm) and a beautifully restored Art Deco lounge car featuring an amazing round bar.
The real highlight, though, was Henry getting to fire up a pair of the old diesel locomotives on site! Here’s video of the whole process: