“If discontent is your disease, travel is your medicine.” -Jedidiah Jenkins
At the end of 2017, I was so sick. I was drowning in regret after dismantling the most important relationship I had ever had. My anxiety and stress tore ulcers in my stomach. Every night I cried in a ball on my bedroom floor, wishing this man would come back into my life, replaying everything I said and didn’t say and still wanted to say, wishing I was different, and had made different decisions. One day, at the lowest and most desperate I had ever been, I decided to change everything, quit my job, leave Tampa, and move to Colorado to live with my cousin. She extended the offer months earlier and finally I was ready; I couldn’t take another hour of sadness in the same apartment, riding the same streets, and I didn’t see a light at the end of that long, dark tunnel.
A year and a half later, I barely know that girl anymore. I found a community and a new life that has turned my entire life around. It was a mindset shift, yes, but it was also travel. And I now look at it in a whole new way. Travel didn’t solve my problems, necessarily, but it helped see them from a distance and take a harder look at myself as a person and how I can be a better one.
Allllllll that to say, I’m trying to travel more often, even if it’s just weekend trips. It’s so so good for the soul. So, this weekend I decided to head south to Santa Fe. It’s about six hours from Boulder and one of the most beautiful drives I’ve ever been on.
Why Santa Fe? Just about everyone asked me that while we were talking about our long weekend plans at work. And, honestly? I was just having a slower afternoon at work one day, opened Google Maps, and picked a city that was south and within a day’s driving distance of Boulder. There isn’t anything too exciting directly north or east of Boulder and all the western cities I was going to visit in mid to late summer—plus, they’re still snow-covered and less ideal for riding. And during the particularly rainy and snowy week that I was making travel plans, sunshine and mid-70s sounded like paradise.
The two weeks leading up to the trip, I spent every free minute I had researching the area, getting recommendations from social media friends and co-workers and building a list of places to ride, run, eat, shop, and visit…and I didn’t hit even a fraction of the places I wanted to. And I ended up leaving a day early. Here’s what happened.
^^^ This is my excited face. Can you tell I’m excited?
Thursday afternoon I was so pumped and ready to get out of work and on the road, so I packed up my things and left around 4 p.m. In true Colorado fashion, it started blizzarding 20 minutes into the drive and got worse and worse the higher I went into the mountains. I took highway 285, which is the more scenic route…unless it’s raining ice because then it’s a slippery mess for hundreds of miles on one-lane roads winding through the mountains. Fun (and scary times).
After white-knuckling the wheel for awhile, I made it to some better weather in Salida and it stayed that way all the way to Alamosa.
I planned to stay there and finish the drive in the morning so I wouldn’t be on the road and exhausted all night. Funny enough, Alamosa is home to Adams State University, like THE number one school in cross country. I remember them just absolutely cleaning up at nationals each year. Alamosa is this teeny tiny (and very weird) little town in southern-central Colorado and it makes me wonder how they have this amazing cross country team because, if it were me, I’m not sure I’d want to go to school there simply because of the location. To be honest, the most happenin’ thing in Alamosa is the Super Walmart.
“There are only 8 calendar years since the first title in 1968 was one that ASU hasn’t brought home a title. There has only been 10 academic calendars without a national title brought back to Alamosa, with three years being the longest drought. The athletic department is on the longest such streak of years with a national title won at 15 school years.” SOURCE
Anyway. I was in Alamosa for a grand total of about 12 hours before I hit the road at 9 a.m. on Friday morning for Santa Fe. Unlike most of the drive to Alamosa, the next day was beautiful sunshine, pure blue skies, and temps in the mid-60s all the way to Santa Fe.
I don’t road trip that much, so getting to see the landscapes change by the hour was pretty incredible. I went from mountain vistas to dry desert and clay in just six hours. Crazy! The culture shifts along the way mimicked that, too. One by one I drove through tiny towns with barely a main street and a two-pump gas station, locals milling about like that was their only responsibility that day. Some homes were more than sixty miles from anything you could really call a town. How and when do they get groceries? Do their kids go to school? Do they have kids? I had so many questions for every person I saw. But I kept driving.
Around 11:30 a.m., I finally made it to Santa Fe, dropped all my things at the hotel and headed straight to downtown. During all my trip planning and gathering tips from friends and family, I heard it was a must-visit.
Pro tip: if you visit Santa Fe, get a hotel near the main drag. Mine was about 5 miles southwest and it took almost 20 minutes because the traffic was a bit nuts. Maybe it was just Memorial Day weekend congestion or maybe Santa Fe is that populated?
My first stop was for a cold iced Americano at Mamunia to sip on while I explored.
^^^ Every single building was Adobe-style architecture. Every one. Banks, homes, restaurants, parking garages, gas stations, Starbucks. Have you ever seen an Adobe-style Best Buy? I have.
The Internet and everyone I talked to was right—downtown is where it’s at. There are teeny tiny shops inside of other shops down the alley next to more shops. It’s like Inception. One door led to another door which led to another doorway that any normal sized human being had to duck to get through. From floor to ceiling, walls were filled with drawings, paintings, sculptures, crafts, jewelry, books, toys, souvenirs and more. Combined with the colors oozing from every corner and inch of the city, it was a bit overwhelming and I tried to just take it all in. Everyone I talked to and passed by was so friendly. Santa Fe is a friendly city, if nothing else.
A couple hours later, I was hangry. And I hate what I’m about to say but I late lunched at the Whole Foods hot bar.
I know. I KNOW, OKAY? I’m in this beautiful city with rich history and exquisite authentic Mexican food…and I get a loaded salad at a snooty grocery store buffet. But, guys, I have a very real fear of food poisoning and most of the places I passed on the way to Whole Paycheck were…not what I’m used to. I don’t eat out a lot because of this fear and I couldn’t get the idea of getting sick out of my head. So I went with what I know and what I felt comfortable with. Leave your hate comments at home, please.
(No pictures. I was ashamed.)
I needed to find out more about Santa Fe’s biking scene because I brought my gravel bike and was excited to explore the area. I found the highest rated bike shop closest to my hotel and stopped in for some tips. When I asked about where to get on some good dirt, the man behind the counter looked at me like I had four heads and spoke Chinese.
“Umm…gravel? Oh, dirt? Umm, I’m not sure, actually, let me ask another guy.”
“Okay…,” I replied very confused.
As I waited for his co-worker to finish up helping a couple guys with tires, I stared at a fleet of Trek Checkpoints hanging from the ceiling.
Those are gravel bikes. They sell bikes to ride on gravel…how was my question confusing? What do they tell other people when they buy a Checkpoint?
Anyway. The nice guy and I chatted for a few minutes and he pointed me to The Rail Trail, which I had already seen online. I was hoping for secret spots, ya know? Like cool dirt roads that only the locals know about. Something you need to know a handshake to ride. Not really, but you get me.
I left a little bummed but optimistic about the trail. It sounded beautiful and the wind was supposed to die down the next day when I planned to ride it, so I headed back to the hotel to chill out the rest of the evening. The drives, the hot and dry climate and the elevation took it out of me.
Saturday morning I enjoyed a cup of coffee on my balcony before packing up my things and heading to the trailhead. It was just a few miles from the hotel, and I probably could’ve ridden there, but my sense of direction is not where it should be at almost 30 years old so we drove. There are actually several places to pick up the trail, but where I parked is where the trail turned from pavement to gravel.
The Rail Trail is a 15-ish mile walking, running, and biking trail that runs from downtown Santa Fe to highway 285 along an active railway. But maybe less active on Saturdays because I didn’t see any trains.
The ride was so-so. There was gravel, the weather was beautiful, and the trail wasn’t overly crowded, but it wasn’t better than anything I’ve ridden in Colorado. (We’re so spoiled!!) I didn’t expect it to be, but I thought there would be more to ride. About halfway through the ride, I decided to bag the vacation and head back home instead of stay another night. It was perfect timing because I got back to the hotel around 11:15 a.m. and checkout was at noon.
By the time I got my car packed up, I realized I was thirsty and starving so I went to…Whole Foods. AGAIN OMG I KNOW SUE ME FOR HAVING AN IRRATIONAL FEAR OF TAINTED FOOD.
I sat outside and enjoyed some hot bar and the biggest fizzy water I could find.
Despite heading back a day early, I was really happy I made the trip. It felt good to get out of Boulder for a few days and explore parts of the country I’ve never seen before and probably would never have seen if I were still living in Florida. The cool, dry breeze blew across my face and perspective flooded my cells. Fully satisfied, I hopped in the car and headed north.
I didn’t realize how much I missed seeing on the way down until a massive mountain range appeared up ahead as I neared Salida. I wasn’t driving through a blizzard again and the skies were mostly clear, so I enjoyed the most beautiful views of southern Colorado’s mountain ranges. At one point, I was staring in my rearview so often I decided to pull over and take it in. Standing roadside in the sunshine in the presence of these humongous mountains is a feeling I’ll never forget. I can’t wait to get even closer to them and do some hiking and riding up there later this summer.
While Santa Fe wasn’t my favorite city in the world, it was truly beautiful and had a vastly different climate than Boulder, which is exactly what I think I needed this weekend. It’s easy to get stuck there because it’s beautiful, there’s so much to do, and everything you could need is probably within a 15-mile radius of where you live. But I liked seeing brand new faces and landscapes for a few days.
Would recommend for those who:
-LOVE art: museums, galleries, etc.
-Can get down on some authentic Mexican food
-Are short on time—it’s easy to “do” Santa Fe in two days
Q for you: Got any trips planned soon?