Monday, June 4, 2018

Boulder, Colorado: Celestial Seasonings Tour

It had been about a quarter-century since our last visit to the Celestial Seasonings Factory in Boulder. It supposedly had been updated since then. Therefore, it was - once again  - tea time.

The plant is located a few miles east of downtown Boulder. Naturally, its address is 4600 Sleepytime Drive. Visitors can sign up for a free tour upon arrival, and try a variety of teas (and buy some pastries) while they waited.

The tour started with a video that explained the history of the company and the story of the manufacturing of the team in a straight-forward, pleasant manner. Then it was on to the factory itself. Everyone puts on a hairnet and beardnet (where applicable) before starting. We went on a Sunday, so getting in the way of workers was not an issue. The guide said that in the fall and winter, the plant is running 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Since tea is somewhat seasonal in terms of sales, things slow down a bit in the spring and summer.

The Mint Room remains a highlight. Tourists stroll into a room filled with mint, and it's almost overpowering. In fact, it some cases, visitors ask to leave the room. From there, it's on to the packaging area, as the tea is shipped throughout the world, Naturally, at the end of the tour, you go through a door into the gift shop. A variety of tea-related items are sold, including the product itself. The variety is wide and the prices are fair.

It's always interesting to go through a plant like this and see how things are made. While it helps to have a taste for this beverage, it's not a requirement.

Since photos aren't allowed on the tour, this video will show you what the tour includes:



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Estes Park, Colorado: Aerial Tramway

A little tip for those of you visiting Rocky Mountain National Park:

It can be crowded. Really crowded.

Weekends have gotten to be quite popular, and multiply that a time or two if it is a holiday weekend. So be prepared for a long wait to actually enter the park, especially in the morning or early afternoon.

If you didn't have much time to see the area, you can spend some happy hours in the jumping off point to the park, Estes Park. And, a way to see the high peaks is via the Aerial Tramway.

The facility opened after World War II and heads for the top of a nearby mountain - about a five-minute ride, one way. There you can see some of the Rockies' biggest peaks as well as the city of Estes Park. It's all quite spectacular, actually.

Each car holds about nine adults, and I'd bet the lines can be long. We waited about 40 minutes for our turn to go up. By the way, there is a good souvenir shop, etc. at the top. It's much more down-to-earth than the one at the bottom, which is more "arty." You can even get a drink and look over the countryside; there are worse ways to spend part of an afternoon.



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Allenspark, Colorado: The Chapel on the Rock

This scene might make you stop while driving along a highway in the Rocky Mountains.

It's the Chapel on the Rock, located a handful of miles south of Rocky Mountain National Park. If you like your churches to be inspirational, this is your place.

The facility was completed in 1936 after several years of fundraising and construction. The building's highlight came in 1993, when Pope John Paul II visited on his trip to Colorado. He blessed the building and took a walk in the area.

A nearby retreat center was burned up in a 2011 fire, and the surrounding area was wiped out, more or less, by a flood and landslide in 2013. Luckily, the chapel is fine, and a fundraising effort to construct a visitors' center is underway.

We had never heard of this before driving by it one day. It's a good idea to stop and look around.

The full tour:



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South St. Vrain Canyon, Coloardo

Interested in getting to Rocky Mountain National Park from the south? Here's a good tip passed on by a local.

One of the entry cities in the region is Lyons, located in the foothills of the Rockies. There are two ways of getting to the National Park. The best way to enter is to take Route 7, which climbs up South St. Vrain Canyon. I believe the area is part of the Roosevelt National Forest, but don't hold me to that.

In any event, the drive is spectacular. A creek runs down along of the road, and the path is surrounded by beautiful mountains. As the photo shows, it's particularly nice on a sunny day.

Eventually, Route 7 becomes part of the Peak to Peak Highway, which if a fine mountain road with some great views. It goes to Estes Park, where the main entrance is located. Route 36 then goes back to Lyons, and the road then goes to Boulder and points south.

By the way, there can be bunches of cyclists on the road - this being Colorado and all. So be careful out there. 

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Denver, Colorado: Confluence Park

Many major cities are located on rivers - big or small. The South Platte River isn't particularly mighty at this point of the country, but it does pick up a little volume at the point where Cherry Creek runs into it. That geographic point has been turned into a park area by the wise city leaders of Denver - Confluence Park. Supposedly, the city was founded there - which makes some sense.

It was a hot day when we were there in May - plenty of dogs were frolicking in the water in an attempt to cool off, and their owners didn't mind standing in the river either. It's surrounded by some nice parkland, and it is convenient to a variety of attractions in the area.

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Denver, Colorado: Millennium Bridge

If you head west on foot on the 16th Street mall, eventually you'll run into some railroad tracks and a light rail system. What do you do to get to Lower Downtown?

Walk over a bridge, naturally. And this bridge is a spiffy one, the first bridge using post-tensioned structural construction in the world - according to Wikipedia. We'll assume they know what they are doing.

The idea was to make it easy for pedestrians to cross over the tracks without having to go up and down a lot of steps. The beams apparently cut down on the size and depth of the bridge, so there's less walking involved.

From there, it's an easy walk to the riverfront. And you won't be too tired when you arrive.

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Denver, Colorado: Blue Bear

What's that blue bear doing on the outside of the Colorado Convention Center? Is he threatening to sit on a couple of well-meaning tourists?

Thankfully, no. The late Lawrence Argent was commissioned to provide a little fun to the outside of the building, located in downtown Denver. This (the bear, not the tourists) was the result. The Blue Bear is 40 feet tall. Argent remembered a photo of a bear looking through a window, and he thought the animal might have the same reaction if he went by the Convention Center? "What's going on in there?"

This isn't the best angle of the art work (it must be fun to see from the inside), but it will have to do.

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Denver, Colorado: State Capitol

The most interesting part of the capitol building for Colorado is a story told on the steps.

The structure is located about one mile above sea level, depending on where you stand. But which step is correct? That's the big question when you prepare to enter the building, which is higher than most of downtown Denver.

Originally, the 15th step was designated as 5,280 feet up. But then measuring techniques improved, and the 18th step was designated as the spot in 1969. Fast forward about 25 years, and the line dropped to the 13th step. Well, if you bounce up the steps you are sure to cross the right one along the way. By the way, you can sit exactly a mile above sea level if you attend a Colorado Rockies' home game; the line goes through the upper deck and the appropriate seats are painted a different color.

This was opened for business in 1894 (the state entered the Union in 1876), and has a gold leafing on its dome. There is plenty of marble and stained glass. If you want a good view, be prepared to go up 99 steps to the dome to see Denver from above.

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Denver, Colorado: City and County Building

More than 100 years ago, the city of Denver thought it had something of a plan for its best civic buildings - put them in one place. A campus was set up that included the state capitol and the civic center. The problem was that it wasn't finished at that point, and it took some time to figure out the next step.

Finally, in 1933, that step was taken when the City and County Building was constructed. Yes, the mayor works there and he is joined by other government officials. But it's a grand building, and you can tour it for free.

Take the short walk through the park to get there.

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Saturday, May 5, 2018

Corolla, North Carolina: Currituck Beach Light Station

When you drive as far as you can in the north direction along the Outer Banks, you run into... another lighthouse. OK, that wasn't a difficult one.

The Currituck Beach Light Station was the third of three such structures that we saw while touring the region. It has been up since 1875. It's interesting that there is no distinctive paint job on the building. That's to make it look different from the other regions, and you can see the 1,000,000 or so bricks nicely. The facility was fixed up in the later years of the 20th century, and looks nice now. You can indeed climb to the top for $10. It is 220 steps, so the top is 162 feet from the group.

Corolla is the end point for Highway 12. Eventually, you run into the Currituck Banks Reserve. That area does not allow the usual traffic, but tours do take visitors into that part of the island. The main attraction is the wild horses. Supposedly, some were washed up on shore when their ship wrecked a few hundred years ago. Their relatives are still running around the area.

The Outer Banks do stretch all the way into Virginia, but you'll have to go the long way to get there ... or do some swimming.

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