As we mentioned in our last update on Sunday (8/7) we lifted our jacks and drove away from Moab 175 miles to our next destination in Durango Colorado for a 5 night stay. We wanted to stay for a week but everyplace was pretty booked and the best we could do was 5 nights at the Alpine Rose Campground just a few miles north of Durango.
It was a pretty easy travel day, we drove south out of Moab on HWY 191 until we reached Monticello where we jumped on HWY 491 east and drove until we hit Mancos and then turned onto HWY 160 and took it the rest of the way to Durango. Once in Durango we took HWY 550 north just a few miles out of town too Alpine Rose Campground.
It had been raining the couple days prior to our arrival and the campground was wet and had plenty of standing water and our site was no exception. And while we were hooking up utilities and getting set up the thunder was booming and lightning was flashing and the skies were getting ready to drop some more rain. I was able to get everything hooked up before the rain started but only by a few minutes.
It poured down rain for a good while and we took advantage of the time by having a little lunch and relaxing while watching a little of the Olympics until it stopped raining and the sun came out. The sun was our que to jump in the truck and head to old town to check things out and do a little driving tour.
We drove around town a bit and then found a parking spot and walked the streets for a couple hours before making our way home where we relaxed the rest of the evening.
The next thing we knew night #1 was over and we were onto day 2. We received a text from our friends Dianne & Tom who were boondocking just outside of town saying they would be in Durango to do a little shopping and wanted to get together, so of course we were all over that opportunity!!
We gathered at a nice coffee shop named Durango Joes and had coffee and a light snack and sat and chatted for probably over an hour before parting ways knowing that in about 1 week we would be camping together along with our mutual friends Lynn & Roger.
The rest of the day we finished our tour of downtown and did a little more sightseeing around the area and made another stop at the train station to get our tickets to ride the train from Durango to Silverton, something we had heard so much about and had been looking forward to for years.
We then made a stop at The Brew Pub & Kitchen for an adult beverage before making our way to a nice little restaurant called Ken and Sues for dinner.
Day 3 we decided to take a road trip to Silverton and Quray. We had visited both towns on a motorcycle trip a few years back but like most of our motorcycle trips back then it was more about the ride than the destination and in our current life style it’s more about the destination and we wanted to spend more time in the towns and slow the pace a little on HWY 550 (The Million Dollar Highway) and take in the views.
A little story about our trip through on the motorcycle. A few years ago, maybe 6, we rode our bike through the area and ended up riding from Silverton to Ouray. Once we reached Ouray I thought about how fun the road was and just had to ride it again. So after lunch we jumped on the bike and rode to the edge of town where we pulled over to allow the traffic to get as far ahead of us we could and just as a car was about to leave and get ahead of us we jumped in front of it and rode hard until we caught traffic. Once we reached the end of the fun section of the highway we turned around and did the same thing, we let traffic get as far ahead of us that we could and then rode back to Ouray and kept on going. It was a fun fun fun day of riding LOL!!!
First off we will provide a couple links to sites that tell about the Million Dollar Highway, here they are.
We enjoyed both towns, Silverton and Ouray, we mainly walked the main streets popping in & out of a few shops before starting our drive back. From our campground it was 77 miles to Ouray so a trip there and back with stops made for a nice day of touring.
Looking down onto Silverton as we approached
Day 4 we headed out on another driving tour day. This time we headed east out of town on HWY 160 towards the small town of Bayfield, then took HWY 501 towards Ludwig Mountain and on towards Vallecito Reservoir. On the way back we took HWY 240 that eventually lead us back to Durango.
I’m not sure why but I never took the camera out of the bag that day, lots of nice scenery but just never took any pictures.
That brings us to day 5 and the highlight of our visit to Durango, the day we would ride the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad.
Durango was founded by the Denver & Rio Grande Railway in 1879. The railroad arrived in Durango on August 5, 1881 and construction on the line to Silverton began in the fall of the same year. By July of 1882, the tracks to Silverton were completed and the train began hauling both freight and passengers.
This train has been in continuous operation between Durango and Silverton since 1882.
In 1874, the Silverton town site was laid out and it soon became the center of numerous mining camps located along the Animas River. In addition to the miners, Silverton caught the eye of railroad companies in Denver so in July 1882 the first train operated by the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad rolled in to Silverton from Durango.
By 1883, Silverton had a population of 2,000 people with 400 buildings-two banks, five laundries, 32 saloons and several hotels. An invisible line ran down Greene Street keeping the respectable side of town divided from the red light district -the infamous Blair Street.
During Silverton’s early history, Blair Street was developed as the red-light district but by the 1940s most of the gambling was over and the “ladies” had moved on, citing competition from the local girls who “gave it away” in fits of patriotic fervor during WWII. The old saloons on Blair Street had a rebirth in the 1950s as movie sets where westerns such as “Run for Cover,” “Across The Wide Missouri” and “True Grit” were shot. Today the train brings over 140,000 passengers a year into Silverton from Durango to visit.
Our trip from Durango to Silverton went as expected, a nice slow ride up the mountain with plenty of great views, we even saw a Grizzly wandering up the hillside. I took a picture but didn’t have my zoom lens in so it’s hard to see but if you are good with those “Where’s Waldo” type pictures you might find it LOL!!
Once in Silverton we hopped off the train and went directly to Handlebars Saloon & Eatery for lunch. We did our research on places to eat before ever getting on the train so we could go directly there and beat the crowd of people getting off the train and bombarding the restaurants and it worked perfectly. We picked Handlebars because it was rated #1 on the Trip Advisor website that we use religiously and we scoped it out during our driving tour a couple days prior.
After eating we walked the streets taking in the sights. Once you de-board the train you have 2 hours to spend in Silverton before the train heads back to Durango and because we visited Silverton a couple days earlier it was plenty of time for us but I’d guess if you dilly dally around trying to find a place to eat and get caught up in the crowds you might find yourself a little short on time if you are a shopper and want to check out all the stuff.
Our ride back to Durango started out as expected but it wasn’t long before we figured out something was wrong. The train started to get a little jerky and we finally slowed to a not so smooth stop.
At first we thought maybe something was on the tracks or maybe we were letting someone off or on the train (they do make a couple stops along the ride to let hikers on & off) but it turned out we had an equipment failure. Nothing serious,,,,,, we just lost our brakes LOL!!!
We had gone a fare distance before this all happened so we were pretty much in the middle of the wilderness a long way from any town so it was a bit interesting. The next thing we knew the brakeman started going between each car and tightened the manual brakes by turning a large metal wheel which applied the brakes so we could creep down the mountainside. Once we started crawling our thought was “dang, it’s going to take hours to get back to Durango at this rate”. After creeping along at a snail’s pace that we could easily walk we came to a spur about 2 miles later that we slide off onto. At that point we were told that we would wait for the next train coming down from Silverton and they would pull us to Durango but it would be roughly 1 hour before it would arrive.
During our wait they unhooked our locomotive and sent it creeping down the mountain alone. Without the weight off the cars behind it it could easily limp along with the emergency brake system with little problems we were told. So there we sat.
Like we were told about 1 hour later the second train came by us and then backed up the hill to hook up and rescue us LOL!! By the time all of this was said & done it added about 2 hours to our travel day but it didn’t really bother anyone it seemed. It was all part of the adventure and added a little flavor to the ride that we otherwise would not have experienced.
But because of the added adventure and time we were pretty much ready for our day to end by the time we did finally reach Durango again.
A few years ago we had a few friends ride the train and after hearing all about it, more than once LOL, we knew it had to be on our bucket list of things to do and we are glad we did. Here are a few tips we will share, #1 we really liked the open air car. We felt it really made us feel one with the ride and on the warm ride home I think was much better than being in a somewhat closed up car. #2 the right side of the train provided the best views on the way up most of the time. And even though we didn’t switch sides on the way back we found ourselves standing a lot so we could still take in the views from either side of the car. Plus if you take the early train the right side will get most of the sun and the cold blooded person will like the sun. #3 if you decided on the open car be sure to bring sunglasses, not so much for the sun but soot from the engine does float around in the air and a number of people in our car ended up with some in their eye’s which apparently isn’t unusual because the workers were Jonny on the spot with eye wash vials and we heard them say it happens often. #4 be sure to check out the museum behind the train station. It’s free admission and it would be worth a visit even if they charged a small fee we felt, but free, you can’t go wrong.
After the train ride we headed home and relaxed the remainder of the day and started thinking about our long travel day we would endure the following day of 28 miles!! Yes, 28 miles LOL.