Month: June 2013

Strawberry Park Hot Springs Forever

Steamboat Springs, Colorado is probably one of my favorite mountain towns in the Rockies. With over 12,000 full-time residents, it feels homey, not touristy.

Nature is incorporated quite well in the city making it easy for any outdoor enthusiast to get his/her outdoors on. The Yampa River runs through the town and there are paths everywhere throughout making biking, hiking, or walking easy. National Forest access is everywhere.

Not to mention, there are a bunch of great restaurants serving good food and microbrews. Plain and simple, what more could you ask for?

Strawberry Park Hot Springs, that’s what. Maybe one of the best hot springs I’ve visited to date is nestled in the mountains just outside of the city center. You have to drive almost 3 miles on a 4WD dirt road to get there, but it’s worth it.

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I’ve never been in a hot spring with steam actually emitting from the falls in summer. These springs were hot tub hot, about 104 degrees. Though it is summer, the springs felt amazing and soothed my achy, weary travelling bones.

The Springs
The Springs

Jon and I paid our $10 fee and made an afternoon of jumping in and out of the water. There is also access to the cold stream if you need a quick dip in to cool off. Because it was June and there was still mountain run-off fuelling the stream, we opted for the hot pools.

Happy after some R&R
Happy after some R&R

From the springs, Jon and I cruised into town on a mission to find a cheap lunch for under $20. Somehow, Jon has a knack for finding just such deals and we wandered into Sunpie’s Bistro and had an absolute blast. To our luck, it was happy hour. So there we sat, in the sun, rested next to the Yampa river, sipping our microbrews and taking in the view.

Life is good my friends
Life is good my friends

We also had some $1 tacos at happy hour. When they say their salsa is hot, believe them. They chalk them full of habanero peppers. I like to think I’m a girl who can handle my heat, but I was sweating after that salsa.

ON FIRE!
ON FIRE!

An amazing afternoon was had by the two of us in Steamboat Springs. We liked it there so much, in fact, we decided to go back and try to find work for the summer (although that didn’t pan out). Anyone looking for a place to recharge the batteries in the Rockies, Steamboat’s the place to do it.

Microbrews, food trucks and cook outs, oh my!

Mine and Jon’s trip to Colorado was nothing short of amazing.

I was happy to get of the Midwest after enduring mile after unbearable mile of flat terrain. After driving 2 days, we finally hit the Colorado border and set up camp at North Sterling State Park for the night. This was our second experience camping at a state park, and I have to say that once you go state park, you never go back. They’re clean, beautiful and often have amenities like power and water hookups for campers.

We celebrated our arrival into Colorado the best way we knew how: a cook-out! If you know anything about Jon and I, it’s that we don’t skimp on food. We’ve been dubbed foodies amongst our friends and family, and for good reason. And so, to celebrate, we cooked over an open camp fire.

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Nothing like steak, shrimp and veggies over an open flame

Suffice it to say that everything about Colorado is different from the Midwest. I saw my first tumble weed and spent the evening hours trying to lure the jumping trout onto my fishing pole with no luck. We enjoyed a fantastic sunset and set our sights on Fort Collins.

A view of sunset at North Sterling State Park
A view of sunset at North Sterling State Park

Once we hit Fort Collins, beer was top-of-mind. I’ve never visited any breweries in Colorado before, so it came as a shock to me just how delicious all of the beers tasted. It must be that cool, fresh mountain water that makes it so good. After a flight of beers at Fort Collins Brewery, we hit up town to visit Cooper Smith’s Pub and Brewing for lunch and a few Punjabi Pale Ales.

Happiness comes in 3 oz glasses
Happiness comes in 3 oz glasses

While Fort Collins was a haze of humidity and drunken-altitude stupor, it was time to cut ties and head to Denver to meet up with my friend Rebecca from Big Island.

We spent two days grilling out on her front porch and touring Denver with 10+ year local. She gave us a rock star tour including a food truck festival, a bar called 1-up (complete with giant Jenga), and yet another brewery called Wynkoop Brewing Company, maybe the best of the 3 breweries we visited. Not to mention, that night we grilled out yet again, but this time on the menu was crab legs and shrimp. Score for all!

Enjoy the lovely photos:

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Food truck frenzy for lunch
Rebecca contemplating her next move; Jon is clearly amused
Rebecca contemplating her next move; Jon is clearly amused
C'mon. You wish you were here.
C’mon. You wish you were here.

All in all, a great start to an unbelievable 10 days in Colorado. After saying goodbye to Rebecca and thanking for her generous hospitality (letting us crash in her driveway for 2 nights), we were off to Steamboat Springs for the next adventure…

Heading West: The Great American Road Trip Commences

Jon and I souped our truck and finally put the Northstar 850 SC slide in camper on top. It took two days to pack everything we own (I thought not much, but after cramming everything into every little crevice, it turns out we have a lot of crap) and finally hit the road.

Jon and I getting ready to hit the road in our Northstar Camper
Jon and I getting ready to hit the road in our Northstar Camper

We started traveling west from Chicago on I-80 with one destination in mind: The Northstar Camper factory in Waterloo, Iowa.

I’ve traveled the world over and have had lofty destinations like Sydney, Bangkok, Honolulu, San Francisco. Waterloo, Iowa was the first stop on our list, and honestly it didn’t sound like much. The idea was to shoot straight through Iowa and Nebraska and just hit up the Rockies. But as usual, travel offers you unexpected delightful surprises.

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We made an appointment to meet with Rex, a co-owner of Northstar, so that he could help us iron out the finer details of our camper since our dealer had zero experiences with our model.

After 5 hours of driving through boring Illinois, we arrived in Waterloo. We pulled into the Northstar Factory, and Rex greeted us with open arms.

He immediately grabbed a forklift to move other models of slide in campers out of the way and made us his first priority. The minute we got out of the car, he started caulking the roof, nailing in loose bits and firing off very useful pieces of information.

As it turns out, Northstar operates a very family-oriented business out of a smallish warehouse off a country road in Iowa. Rex, the co-owner recalled growing up on that very block.

“The carnival would roll into town and my dad was friends with the carnies. They would set up a ride in the parking lot and we’d eat hot dogs and funnel cakes and just have good old-fashioned fun,” Rex said. “Then they’d show us their RVs.”

The RV culture is alive and well in the USA. I always chalked RVers up to be bored, retired people, but once you get an RV and start going places, you realize how many awesome wanderers are really out there. A lifelong passion for building campers for lovers of RVs was born in Rex at a young age.

Rex took 2 hours out of his day to show us how to use our awning, the fridge, power system, stove, hot water heater, furnace, toilet and water system. Where we had left a valve open in the water system, he plugged it up and filled us up with 40 gallons of water with a wink of the eye. His 21-year-old cat slunk around the workshop, drinking our drained (clean) water off the floor. Meeting with Rex was like visiting an uncle: He told us stories of the road, gave us tried and true tips and even gave us an awesome alternate route to Colorado along US 30 (runs parallel to I-80, but has those small little towns to stop off at along the way).

He told us that over 40 percent of his business is overseas, with a huge interest in Australia. I recalled fondly the beautiful, wild landscapes of Australia when I was backpacking last year. One day maybe we can take our Northstar down under and really live off the grid!

After Rex fixed us up, we walked around a bit and saw the different models of Northstar campers being built. It was a really neat, home-grown production facility epitomized by sincerity and quality.

So many campers, so little time!
So many campers, so little time!

I’m very happy with our purchase and would recommend anyone to get a Northstar Camper. Also, if you have the time and you’re heading west like us, stop by and talk to Rex. He will give you all the pointers you need in the world. After all, he built the thing!

After stopping in Waterloo, Jon and I head south to Cedar Rapids and then continued on our journey west on 30. We stopped in Tama for dinner, a very small farmer town in rural Iowa before making camp at Outback Campground on top of a hill.

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It was a fun day full of unexpected surprises. The best feeling is the open road. Although we only finished one day on the road, we already realized the best plan is no plan. When leaving the factory, we asked Rex how much we owed him for his time. He said those golden words:

“Just get out of here and have some fun. Consider this a great start to a great trip.”

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If you are interested in Northstar Campers, visit their website at http://northstarcampers.com/