Pop and I had a road-trip adventure planned.
We planned to drive “Oh my God Road” up to Central City; take the Peak to Peak Scenic Byway to Estes Park, make a left into Rocky Mountain National Park and the Trail Ridge Road Scenic Byway and then onto the Colorado Headwaters Scenic Byway before heading back to Evergreen.
Are you ready?
We left Evergreen and headed west onto I-70.
Down at the bottom of Floyd Hill is the Two Bears Tap & Grill.
We’ve driven by it 100’s of times, but we had never stopped.
A few minutes up the road is Idaho Springs.
Where the gold rush began.
At least that’s what the sign reads.
We got off of I-70 at exit 241A and were immediately greeted by the 6 & 40 Motel.
I’ve been eye-balling this sign ever since I first saw it years ago.
There’s no neon, but I love the little sputnik on top.
Then we stopped into Marion’s for breakfast.
Pop had pancakes and I had biscuits and gravy – my favorite.
After breakfast we headed for Virginia Canyon Road which has the nickname: “Oh My God Road.”
It’s a 2-way dirt-road about a lane-and-a-half wide, no guard rails and a steep drop off the side if you venture too far over.
I’m impressed it’s still open to the public.
On the way to Central City there’s a few abandoned mines to explore.
Virginia Canyon Road isn’t even 10 miles long.
It’s well worth the drive.
We made it to Central City.
During Colorado’s gold rush, Denver may have been the Capitol of Colorado, but Central City was the economic center.
It’s still called the “Richest Square Mile on Earth.”
The drive down the hill into Central City is like driving back in time.
It’s a weird mix of state-of-the-art casinos standing side by side with buildings over a century old.
We turned left out of Central City and got on the Peak to Peak Scenic Byway.
The Peak to Peak Scenic Byway is the oldest Scenic Byway in Colorado.
It’s not only a Colorado Scenic Byway, it’s also an America’s Scenic Byway.
It’s one of 11 federally designated “America’s Byways” in Colorado – the most of any state.
After we passed Ferncliff, Pop told me to keep a look out for a stone church.
If you’ve driven the Peak to Peak Scenic Byway you’ve seen this church.
The Chapel on the Rock or Saint Catherine of Siena Chapel.
It was built on a massive boulder in 1936 and it so cool Pope John Paul II stopped by to check it out in 1993.
Estes Park is a little over 10 miles north of the stone church.
In Estes Park we made a left at the stop-light onto St. Vrain Avenue and then a right onto Wonderview Avenue.
The first right after you get on Wonderview is Steamer Parkway – home of the Stanley Hotel.
It opened in 1909 and was built by Frelan Oscar Stanley – the inventor of the Stanley Steamer – and is now on the National Register of Historic Places.
It’s the “real Stanley Hotel” from Stephen King’s book “The Shining.”
It’s so popular there was no parking available to get a picture so we got back on Wonderview Avenue and made a right.
Wonderview turns into Fall River Road and is the entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park.
Even with my America the Beautiful annual pass, we had to make reservations online to get into Rocky Mountain National Park because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Once we got into the park, we followed Fall River Road until it turned into Trail Ridge Road.
Here’s some cool statistics about Trail Ridge Road:
Trail Ridge Road – like the Peak to Peak Scenic Byway – is also an “America’s Byway” – and even more special, it’s a nationally designated “All American Road.”
Trail Ridge Road is America’s highest continuously paved road topping out at 12,183 feet above sea level.
Rocky Mountain National Park has the highest paved roads in any National Park in the United States.
11 miles of Trail Ridge Road are above timberline – that’s over 11,500 feet above sea level.
It’s a steep, narrow road that usually has spectacular views.
The spectacular views were a little hazy because of all the smoke from the forrest fires.
But looking down at the green meadows below and being surrounded by 14,000 foot mountains is pretty awesome!
We stopped at the Forrest Canyon Overlook but the parking lot was packed so we got back on the road.
I’ll admit that sometimes I can get a little impatient.
Slow drivers suck.
I saw an opening and I took it.
I dropped The 55 into 3rd-gear and passed a few cars.
Then – just before “Rock Cut”…
The engine stalled.
I dropped it into neutral and we coasted up the hill.
There was no turn-out or shoulder to pull-off onto my right.
And to my left was either on-coming traffic or a cliff.
We had enough momentum built up that we were able to crest the summit of the pass and coast into the Rock Cut restroom parking area.
Rock Cut is a rock formation at 12,110′ elevation that they had cut through in order to allow the Trail Ridge Road to pass.
Once safely parked and out of the way, I popped the hood.
Everything was dry and looked normal.
I let it cool off for about 10 minutes, which is easy at over 12,000 feet, and it fired back up like nothing happened.
I pulled across the road from where we stopped to get this shot – the view from Rock Cut.
We cruised down to the Alpine Visitors Center at 11,796 and pulled in to have some lunch.
That’s not haze or smog covering the Rocky Mountains – that’s smoke from the fires out here in Colorado.
Then I noticed it.
Drip, drip, drip from the radiator.
It looked like it was dripping from the same place it was dripping from when I got to Idaho.
It looks like the aluma-seal stopped working.
The leaking radiator ruined my appetite, but I did have a spare bottle of radiator stop-leak in the back of The 55 that I was saving for an emergency.
At almost 12,000 feet above sea level in Colorado’s arctic tundra, with no cell phone service I figured this was a good time to use it.
The stop-leak is a thick, sloppy goo that I reluctantly poured into the radiator.
I topped it off with some water, fired it up and let it run for a few minutes so I could check for leaks and we were on our way.
We had planned on driving the Colorado Headwaters Scenic Byway but because of the leaking radiator we decided to save that drive for another time.
When we got down to Grand Lake there was some road construction that stopped us for about 20 minutes.
And they say LA traffic is bad.
Even sitting at a complete stop the coolant temperature never got above 185.
It looked like the stop-leak goo was working.
From Grand Lake we made a left, got on CO-40 and drove thru Granby.
We cruised thru Empire and were boogying up Berthoud Pass – 11,307 – when it stalled out me again.
No warning – no nothing – it just died.
I wasn’t running a data-log on the fuel injection system so there’s no real way to diagnose the problem.
We must’ve had a guardian Angel looking over us because it stalled out at a point where we could pull off the side of the road safely.
So we had that going for us – which was nice.
I let it cool off for 15 minutes or so, fired it up and we were back on our way.
Pop and I made it back to Evergreen without any further mishaps.
I still don’t know why it died – but I’m now ready to run a data-log at a moments notice.
At least we’re safe and I was kind of prepared.
Either way – Pop and I had ourselves an adventure.
We drove Virginia Canyon Road, the Peak to Peak Scenic Byway, saw Rocky Mountain National Park and drove Trail Ridge Road Scenic Byway and saw some beautiful scenery along the way.
Now I’ve just gotta figure out why it stalled out.
After this I’m preparing The 55 for our next adventure – the Guanella Pass Scenic Byway – from Grant into Georgetown.
I hope to see you out on the road.
Pop and I had a road-trip adventure planned.