Our North American Trip - April to June 2010.
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Trip Report for San Francisco, Denver, Breckenridge.  17-26 April

(This will be updated as and when the opportunity presents itself, and we’ll add photos when time permits.  It could be a bit disorganised at times due to infrequent Internet access!!)

Saturday, 17 April 2010  -  New Zealand - San Francisco

Departed Wellington at 4pm, then Auckland at 7.30pm – flew Business Class – what a  bliss compared to cattle class …  nice food and wine and a lie flat bed.

Arrived San Francisco at 12 noon on USA Sat, 17 April.  Used GO Lorries Shuttles to transport us to the Sir Francis Drake Hotel, 450 Powell Streets, San Francisco (close to Union square) – both pre-booked from home.


Sunday, 18 April  -  San Francisco
Weather:   Clear blue sky  -  low 20s oC

Walked across the road to The Chancellor Hotel to have a cereal & fruit breakfast – healthy & adequate.  Caught a #45 bus on Columbus St down to the Italian area.  We arrived in the area early, so had a walk around the area noting a huge crowd outside Mama’s Café (two women in the queue had heard there was good breakfast food at this cafe!).

We then met up with others for a “Local Tastes of the City Food Tour” at 10am - Judi being our guide (combined with a group of 12 women approx 3hrs south of San Francisco (a book club group) and another couple from Austin, Texas. 

Initially we called into Caffe Roma to have a  cup of coffee followed by a talk about how they roast their coffee beans.  We next walked to “XOX Truffles” where we were given a small bag of samples, then the owner explained how he made these, then provided us all with further very fresh samples he had just made to show us how it was done – only uses dark French Covateur chocolate - yummy!  Walked onto the church of Saints Peter & Paul (catholic - has services in Chinese, Italian & English).  Onto a focaccia bread bakery where we had a wide variety of samples to try (olive, herb, cheese, etc);  then onto an Italian French bakery where we were given some French bread, macaroons and some chocolate biscotti.   Onto the La Spiaggia Delicatessen to sample some extra virgin olive oil and some rice balls filled with seasoned beef, marinara and cheese - rather nice.  Next we called into  Victoria Pastry Co and while there  we celebrated the 60th birthdays of Elaine & Peggy with a green iced sponge cake filled with cream, custard and jam – a little sweet but very pleasant, finishing the tour at The Beat Museum around 1.45pm.

From there we walked up Telegraph Hill to the Coit Tower, getting a lift to the top to look at great views of San Francisco.  From there we walked down to Fisherman’s Wharf area to check out the Red & White Fleet cruises at Pier 43 – went on the Harbour Cruise out to and under the Golden Gate bridge and around Alcatraz – nice views.

As it was now about 4.30pm we attempted to catch a “street Car” (tram) but they took off in our faces (even though the driver was well aware we wanted a ride) so instead waited and caught one of the many “Cable Cars” back (up and over the hill) to our hotel near Union Square.

We went to check out several cafes/restaurants to decide where we would have a light meal for dinner as we had eaten quite a lot of food on our food tour.  Decided to go to the Colibri Mexican Bistro – we shared three smallish dishes, one being a large guacamole with freshly fried corn chips, shredded chicken and spices on corn chips, followed by some more chicken, pork and vegetable mixtures on crumbled queso  – they were very tasty and so nice to eat.


Monday, 19 April – San Francisco – Denver (Breckenridge)
Denver Weather:   Clear blue sky -  mid 20oC and very warm

GO Lorries Shuttle collected us from the St Francis Drake Hotel – transferred us to San Francisco Airport to catch our United Airlines flight to Denver.  Our plane had been upgraded to a 777 so our dedicated seating had been changed when Graham went to “check us in” online prior to our arrival at the airport.  Did our baggage checking in and Boarding Passes via the electronic machines at the airport. 

United airlines only provide a drink while in flight – water, juice, tea or coffee (one can purchase food on board but its either junk or fast food).  We purchased some sushi and fruit at the airport to eat for lunch during our flight – was so nice.  

We still struggle to believe the size of baggage some passengers continue to carry on board the planes and struggle to be able to find space in the overhead lockers to fit them in!  Some have two quite large bags - almost as if they don’t check any bags in, and the plane was full, aggravating the problem of space.

We departed San Francisco @ 11.20am  (by the time we got a free runway to take off – 3 runways being used at the same time – one across two others) and arrived at Denver at 2.30pm (lost 1hr during the trip as went across a time zone) - a little faster in the larger plane.  It was good we had upgraded ourselves to Economy Plus – more leg room.

Denver airport is a very new airport, located on a huge area of land.  Once we got off the plane we had to catch the automated train (driverless) to  go to collect our luggage, then had to catch a bus out to where our rental car depot was. 

We duly chose the car we wanted to drive (a Subaru, but we could have had a truck (large ute) or a Dodge Caravan people carrier), and then drove to Elizabeth Snyder’s place (new upcoming exchange student).  We found their house without a problem and spent a very pleasant 1¼ hrs talking with Elizabeth, her mother and sisters – her older sister had previously been on an exchange to Finland so was good to discuss Elizabeth’s upcoming exchange with.  We had a drink of water (temp was mid 20 deg C) and some Rock Melon, strawberries and blackberries while there.  Elizabeth was more relaxed when we left and had quite a few questions to ask us while we were there, which was good – Food and what the College would be like were some of her main questions.  A very likeable young lady.

Found a food market before leaving Denver at 6pm to drive up to Andrew and Lee’s place at Breckenridge (in the Rockies) – arrived at 7.30pm.  The temperature up there in the Rockies was considerably colder than we have experienced so far.  As it was getting a little late, we went to a Mexican restaurant for dinner   We are up 9,600 ft from sea level in Breckenridge so very dry and need to keep our fluids up.  Last night we also noticed that the stars in the sky are a lot bigger and brighter and more prominent than we have seen before – due to how high above sea level we are.


Tuesday, 20 April – Breckenridge  (with Andrew & Lee)
Weather:   Clear blue sky  -  low 20oC

Had a lazy morning – caught up with some washing and had a good talk with Andrew – Lee was out attending her restaurant staff closing party.

In the afternoon we drove down to Breckenridge with Andrew to have a look around and visit the supermarket to get some fish for dinner.  While there, we also shared two crepes – raspberry, chocolate & cream and Banana & chocolate – yummy.

Drove up through Keystone ski area to A Basin (Arapahoe Basin) ski field to pick up Lee then Andrew and Annette prepared dinner – stir fried prawns in garlic butter followed by roasted fresh salmon on rice with asparagus – v nice.


Wednesday, 21 April – Breckenridge  -  Aspen (& Return)
Weather:   Slight Cloud and fine  -  low 20oC (Aspin area)

Left Breckenridge around 9am and drove to Frisco – Lee & Graham purchased bagels and Andrew dropped his truck off at a garage for the day.  Lee also showed us the Bagali’s Restaurant (Italian) where she worked during this last winter.  Drove down the Interstate 70 highway passing Copper Mountain (Andrew & Lee had worked there some years ago) viewing a half pipe as we passed then over Vail Pass before passing Vail village and ski field, Beaver Creek ski area.  We turned off the highway at Eagle as Andrew wanted to show us the Taco Bell fast food outlet he had helped build 5 yrs ago, then met up with some of Andrew & Lee’s friends (Sam & Ellie) and had a coffee together at Yeti’s Grind Café then drove onto Gypsum Airport to get Andrew signed up so he could drive our rental car. 

Back onto the I70 highway we passed through the Glenwood Canyon and turned off at Glenwood Springs township (Highway 82).  Drove toward Aspin, passing through Snowmass village (where Andrew and Lisa lived for the 07/08 winter seasons) and up to Aspen and their ski area.  As we approached Aspin we passed the airport and couldn’t help but notice several rather luxurious looking private jets parked at the side – owned by some of the rich and famous!!

We had a very late lunch at Peach’s Corner Café in Aspin (soup, salads, sandwiches & quiche between us), then had a walk around the town (deciduous trees line the streets) and checked out the main Aspin ski area (adjacent to the town).  Andrew then took us for a drive up Red Mountain to show us some of the $10 Million dollar homes built amongst deciduous trees that had amazing views out over the Aspin & Snowmass village and its ski slopes – some rather large homes.

He then drove up to the Snowmass ski mountain area where he and Lee worked for 2 seasons during 2007/08.  Once again many of the houses were built amongst deciduous trees, built & painted in very subdued colours (lots of browns, tans, greens etc) that blend into the natural surroundings.

Almost all the house colours up in the mountain areas blend into their natural surroundings and look great.  Andrew drove us home, returning home around 7pm.


Thursday, 22 April  –  Breckenridge
Weather:   Cloudy and fine, med to high 10’s

We woke this morning to a reasonable amount of snow all over the outside areas and cars.

Spent the morning relaxing and catching up around the house with diary, photos and washing.

Mid afternoon we drove to the Silverthorne outlet shops approx 15 min away to buy some socks primarily.  Late afternoon some very dark clouds started rolling in and sure enough it started to snow again.

Annette cooked the evening meal:  Elk meat (similar to venison - Andrew & Lee’s friends gave us some yesterday), mushrooms, asparagus and roasted tomatoes – was very nice.


Friday, 23 April  –  Breckenridge – Denver 
Snowing then Cloudy, 0 – 8oC

Initially we woke up to a heavy snow fall. Andrew drove to Breckenridge and verbally agreed to sell his Toyota Truck to a private buyer.

Mid morning we drove to Breckenridge to get a “Notary Public” witness Andrew’s signature on some legal documents.  We had them copied and posted them back to NZ.

We finished packing and early afternoon we left for Denver stopping at Pika Bagel Co, Frisco for some Bagels for lunch.  Joined Highway I70 travelling in some of the worst weather we have ever driven in – it was snowing, there was a significant amount of water and grit on the road – we passed two different accidents near the Eisenhower Tunnel (at the highest point, about 11,000 feet above sea level).

As we drove down toward Denver the snow continued to be quite variable, but to our surprise as we got closer to Denver it was quite obvious that they had also experienced quite a lot of snow overnight as well, hence the low temperatures we have experienced today both up in Breckenridge and down in Denver.  

Once we arrived in Denver we went to Lakewood to check up on some items in a lock-up (Andrew & Lee’s), then Annette did a little retail therapy in the nearby shopping complex.  There was a lot of snow on the roads and water running everywhere.

We checked into the Sheraton Hotel (Rm 607) for the night (booked on a last minute website – US$75 pn) and Graham and I went for a walk along the 16th Street Mall and had a ride on one of the “Free Mall Ride” buses along that street as we were trying to find a camera shop.  While in the area we also found the local Information Centre and saw one of the local “The Ride” light rail Trams.

The reason for going to Denver was to go to a baseball game, but the weather was such that we abandoned that idea and just went out for dinner instead.  In the evening Andrew drove us out to the “Sushi Den” – about 15 min drive from the centre of Denver.  We have never tasted such good fresh seafood in so many different ways before.  Some of the best sushi we have never experienced and a great variation of flavours.  Each time new yummy food arrived at our table it was soon eaten, hence we forgot to take any photos until we were nearly finished.  We all had a reasonable quantity of food but none of us felt we had eaten too much.  The restaurant was packed to the hilt (3 large rooms of people) and very popular, and having a good waiter made a huge difference.  No wonder the restaurant was so good, as it was the 2nd best restaurant out of 1500 restaurants in the Denver area, so v interesting.  Still people waiting to be seated when we left.

We had also planned on having a ride on the Pikes Peak Cog Wheel Railway (there is a rally car race up to the peak each year – 14,000 feet above sea level), but as the weather was so bad (snow and rain) we gave it a miss, as we would not have been able to see anything once we got up to the top.  .

Saturday, 24 April  –  Denver - Breckenridge
Weather:  Slightly windy clear day  -  4 deg – 10 deg C 

We woke to a cold moderately windy morning with the weather clearing and becoming quite warm in the afternoon.

This morning we walked to Café Snooze from our hotel (Sheraton in downtown Denver – booked online as a last minute hotel booking the night before for US$75 for the night) to have breakfast - nice food and the waitress guessed we were from NZ – most people think we are from Australia, so we praised her for that.  It was a very nice breakfast.  Lee and Andrew are good at picking good food places!  On our way  back to the hotel we did quite a bit of walking around Denver and briefly visited the Coors Field Stadium (baseball played there) and the local Train Station.

Once we had checked out of the hotel in Denver, we went to a couple of shops Graham wanted to go to – an Amateur Radio outlet - he wanted to show Andrew some equipment he will need when they sail out to NZ next year (a ham radio – to keep in touch with us - and a Morse Key - for emergencies & poor conditions), and to hopefully find a new camera bag (as he had earlier purchased a new camera and had it mailed to Andrew here in the USA, prior to our arrival). 

We also went to a movie this afternoon while still in Denver – “Kick Ass” – a little violence, but very funny at times and we enjoyed it.  Andrew did most of the driving around today and back from Denver and he knows the place very well, and that’s been such a help. 

We arrived back home (in Breckenridge) around 7.30pm and Andrew has gone off to sell his ‘truck’ (we would know it as a Toyota ute in NZ) - Graham has gone to collect him.  Lee has also found a buyer for her Subaru (station wagon) and is due to sell it on Monday to another woman – they will then be car less, however some good friends of theirs have a spare car they are not currently using, so they will use that until they shift to New York later in May.  Andrew has a few tasks to do to tidy up their little house, so tomorrow Graham will help him make up some shelving to go into a couple of their cupboards, as they want to rent the house while they are in New York.

Sunday, 25 April:   Breckenridge
Snowed most of the day - fine & cloudy middle of day  Temp: -3oC – 10o

We woke up this morning to light snow – it started to clear mid morning.  We had quite a lazy day - did some washing as this is our last day with Andrew and Lisa.

Went out early afternoon to Dillon – Andrew showed us the lake where he goes sailing in the summer, visited a couple of food shops, then to the “Outlet Shops” at Silverthorne (adjacent to Dillon over the other side of Highway Interstate 70.  Went back to the Pearl Izumi cycle accessories shop to buy some Arm and Leg Warmers and a pair of PRO Cycling Bib Shorts for Simon (received info via several e-mails with Simon – so much cheaper to buy over here).

Drove to Copper mountain to pick up Andrew & Lee's friends' car.

While we were out shopping and soon after arriving back home again (around 4pm) it started snowing again.

For dinner we spread lots of snack type food – guacamole, salsa, hummus, corn chips, parmesan dry roasted break slices, 3 different cheeses & some raisin & nut crostini, followed by some blackberries, strawberries and rock melon (called Cantaloupe in the USA). 

It’s pretty special being inside and every time you look outside it’s snowing.


Monday, 26 April:   Breckenridge – Denver Airport – San Francisco
Snowed during night – fine sunny day      Temp:  -1oC – 14oC 

It continued to snow during the night, hence when we woke this morning the snow was thicker than we had seen it during the last week, while we have been in Breckenridge – even Andrew went outside and took some photos of the snow.

Drove down to the Breckenridge post office to send a parcel of cycle clothing to Simon in Australia.  Breckenridge was very picturesque this morning after all the snow we had last night.

While we were out Lee met with the woman who had agreed to buy her car so they could finalise the sale paperwork etc.  They have now sold both of their vehicles – what a relief for them.

We departed Breckenridge with Andrew soon after 10.30am and soon after arriving in the western outskirts of Denver we stopped and had a quick lunch at a Whole Foods Market.  We then dropped Andrew off to hire a ‘Truck’ for the rest of the week so he can get some of the necessary jobs done around their house before they rent it out and shift to New York.

While driving out to Denver Airport we exited off that motorway to fill the car up with petrol and put it through a car wash – had a little difficulty finding one until we remembered we could get the GPS to do a search for a petrol station – hey presto, we then found one within a few minutes.

We returned our “National” rental car back to it’s depot at Denver Airport, caught the shuttle bus back to the airport, checked in then went through security (have to also take your shoes off in the USA), then caught the automated underground train out to our departure gate only to be advised that the plane we were to fly to San Francisco was unserviceable so we would have to wait until another one arrived before we could depart Denver – we were delayed approx 1.5hrs and arrived in San Francisco around 6.20pm.

After a bit of a wait, we caught our pre-paid GO Lorries Shuttle from San Francisco Airport to the St Francis Drake Hotel, Powell St in the central city – this time we were given a corner room (#1016) that’s much larger than the room we had on L9 a week ago (largest room on the 10th floor – possibly because Graham took the time to reply to a “Feedback Survey” they e-mailed to him after our earlier stay!).  We had a light meal at the Colibri Mexican Bistro in Geary Street.

Click here to go to Tuesday, 27 April