Our trip to Ouray started the day after July 4th, 2005. While the rest of the country was enduring the high
temperatures of summer, the gage at Keystone,
Colorado, read a pleasant seventy-five degrees.
We motored west on Highway I-70 following our Mapquest recommendation and passed by Vail and Beaver Creek. In just a few years, these towns have really grown. Many more large homes have been added to the already crowded landscape.
Our first stop en route was for lunch at the Colorado Hotel in Glenwood Springs. This Hotel, built in 1883, boasts the site of the first western White House. Teddy Roosevelt brought his entire cabinet there in 1905 for a cooler place to conduct the government's business. Other notables to stay there were Molly Brown, the unsinkable, the Mayo Brothers (as in Clinic) and President Taft.
We lunched on shrimp salad and roasted tomato bisque. Then, we were on our way to Exit 37 where we traveled south onto Highway 141 to US 50 East, then to the last leg, Highway 550 from Montrose where we got our first view of the San Juan Mountains. These mountains are the most dramatic in Colorado. As we approached Ouray, we passed Ridgeway, the site of Ralph Lauren's ranch and were treated with the sight of Angel Ridge, a jagged rock wall to the East. Ouray is a town of about 800 people nestled in a canyon near the Uncompahgre River (we are checking the meaning of this French or Indian word).
Our destination was the Beaumont Hotel at the corner of 7th Street and Main in Ouray. The hotel sat vacant for 35 years before Dan and Mary King bought it and restored it with personal funds. The government refused to give a grant because the Kings wanted to update the old building by adding some modern amenities to accommodate guests. The wall coverings and furnishings were magnificent. The hotel is the best restoration that Cricket and I have seen in our many travels.
The hotel won the First Inaugural Presidential Preserve America Award in 2004. We had a very fine dinner at Tundra, a very dramatic, two-story dining room in the hotel. The chef, we were told by Dan King, came from the Alpenglow Stube Restaurant in Keystone. Dan was proud of the AAA Five Diamond award the restaurant
received this past year.
We learned that the variety store in town sells swimming suits, along with a thousand other items, in case you forgot yours (like I did) and wanted to take the waters at the Ouray mineral pool.
We met a number of local people including Dan King in less than 24 hours. As we toured the town by foot, we walked into the local movie house that was playing Star Wars (the latest prequel) in an opera house that had been built in the late 1800's. We stopped by the Beaumont Artisan Bakery and Deli and met Trevor, who had truly mastered the art. There we purchased a loaf of Maytag blue cheese and walnut bread and a loaf of whole wheat. Both were freshly baked and, as we continued our journey on foot, an occasional whiff into the bread bag heightened our Ouray experience. The red stone canyon walls made a perfect backdrop to some wonderful old and new Victorian homes. As we passed by one garden, which we admired, we were invited by its owner, a former Sunnyvale California native, to come in and get a closer view.
As we walked back to the hotel, we observed two deer lying in a fenced yard which we took to be excellent replicas. Suddenly, one with horns-in-velvet moved his head to look back at us. A neighbor said that they visit all the time.
We passed by what appeared to be a high end Italian restaurant with both Ornellaia and Sassicaia on the wine list. The restaurant was connected to the St Elmo Hotel and was named Bon Ton. We stopped an art gallery across 7th street from the hotel that sold a variety of art including oils, pottery and woodcarvings. There we purchased some pottery made by local artists.
Leaving town, we stopped for a sandwich and salad at a deli on the West edge of town. We should have gone back to Trevor's. We decided to return to Keystone by a different route. Instead of I-70, we proceeded back to Montrose and then took US 50 through Gunnison and Salida. The route passes beautiful scenery including Monarch Pass and a dark blue reservoir called Blue Mesa on the Gunnison River. We proceeded north on 24 through Buena Vista along the Arkansas River with the Collegiate Range to our west. Our last town before Highway 91, Copper Mountain and I-70 was Leadville. They keep trying in Leadville, to become a Gunnison or Montrose; but nothing seems to work. Poor Leadville. The main source of revenue it appears will continue to be through its speed traps. So go slow, but dont stop.