Installment 10… Colorado Part 2: Dinosaurs, Highways and Queen.

Here’s the first set of highlights from the state of Colorado… a close to whistle stop tour of Red Rocks Amphitheater, the Million Dollar Highway and Dinosaur Ridge. Queen, natural beauty, sci-fi kicks, claws and warnings all wrapped up in a Rats tour guide wrapping.

Jump sections here or consume all at once…

  1. Red Rocks Amphitheater
  2. Million Dollar Highway
  3. Dinosaur Ridge

Red Rocks Amphitheater.

Every man, woman and child with a mouth that we mentioned our trip to Colorado to, they told us to head up to Red Rocks. It’s a vast concert venue built into the sandstone where every sound resonates and ricochets ’round until it hits in your ears with precision. The sound is incredible, especially up close, beneath rust colored rocks and a wide open sky.

Now we only had a small window to pick from,  had we had a little longer around Red Rocks and Denver I might be writing about some other band. But as is we landed with Queen – or the Killer Queen tribute to be truthful.  As the stage hammered out classic track after track in the what I assume was bone-dry, we perched under trees that gave zero protection looking out at a sea of soaked ponchos and hoods. Under Pressure under lightning, Radio GaGa in the rain, in a wet-heavy storm with a Flash Gordon soundtrack.

Yelling along in a waterlogged wail, in spite of best tastes and lost cool points, it took barely three songs to drag me from out of my shelter. Hairspray from an ex-quiff streaked down my face and ran into my eyes and dripped into my beer and I grinned a grin cheek to cheek. It’s an occasion well worth splashing out for.

If you get the chance, go! I don’t think it would make a difference or matter who’s playing for you to enjoy. Rust lit up in amber, towering around you, wide sky above you, 6.4 thousand feet above sea with sound that runs through smooth and happy.

Just don’t think about drinking too much. Turns out it’s exactly at 6.4 thousand feet where tequila transforms into kryptonite. Elevation Vs unprocessed liquids + science and biology equals  …one Batman sized comic-strip BAM!!

Keep a tab at what’s coming up at Red Rocks here and see if you can’t get to something.


Million Dollar Highway.

With the effects of the kryptonite faded we mapped some more natural marvels. The Million Dollar Highway runs Durango through Silverton and Ouray to Ridgeway on cliff edges, thin mountain passes, nigh-on hairpin bends over precipice ledges and rock-hugging twists, winds and turns. No guardrails. No crash banks. No room for error… It’s beautiful, gut-lurching, incredible.

We get lucky with weather. Blue skies dominated as we took turns to drive and look out and under; when you’re driving a stretch where the road winds beneath you and you’re at the height as the tree tops below, you can almost believe that you’re flying. I imagined the wheels of our car folding flat in that Back to the Future DeLorean way and us taking off over the edges, mixing with treetops and eagles.  I stopped imagining quick at the very next corner where I had to refocus attention.

A little trivia says it’s name comes the phrase “you’d have to pay me a million dollars to drive it”. Before these lanes were updated and treated and widened (enough for a car to just scrape past a camper), I might believe that to be true. The US-550 its more formal name.

Driving spirals at height, cutting down on through canyons, wrapping around weaving rivers and banks, I’m thankful for all that I’m seeing. And grateful for the lack of traffic.



Dinosaur Ridge.

There’s something in the kids I’ve met here in the States, a confidence pre-installed that I couldn’t muster ’til double their age. A 10 year old’s voice pricked me out of my gaze at a rock with a “say, you’re not from around here, I can tell by your accent…” The keen-eared pre-teen proceeded to tell me just what I was looking at, what fossil it was and his want to be a paleontologist. He had more info in him that than the plaque on the rock so I gave him his dues and my thanks.

Dinosaur Ridge is a little way north and a nudge west of Denver, we clocked it on way into the city amongst our 80s radio and storm weather warnings. And how could I not go see dinosaurs?!

Unlike other attractions we’ve drove in and out of on our way through the states, this was strangely fuss free. No high entrance fees, no semi-Vegas style gentrification or show-off welcome signs on the way. Even the dinosaur models that signpost you in stand modest, non-monstrous in stature.

But maybe it speaks for itself… Once you twig on to and try comprehend that the slopes that you stand on, as high and as far from the sea as could be and stacked up at near half right angles, that these were once floors of beaches where monsters once fed …well maybe no glamour can top it.

At one time these mountains were flats. At one time these were sands by the sea. Footprints and claw marks of dinosaurs and birds that were pressed in back when are still seen. I’m in awe of the violence and chaos that plays over time and tectonic plates as we move on to more proof of the past; bones in the rock smooth and brown to the touch, impressions of weight in the lines of the stone, side-on 3D views of huge load bearing feet… our tour guide explains how to spot them, letting us know how they got here.

We get told how these things were discovered, and what protective measures have  been put in place to stop damage, erosion and theft . While the museum is sadly underfunded, there’s a want to inform and a genuine feel and interest for the place that comes out in tour guides and staff.

I wonder what chaos comes next, and if it will be nature’s or ours. Either way it’s nice knowing that everything shifts and that everything gives way to something. Not to better or worse… just to next.

See more of Dino Ridge here.