Sunday, November 9, 2008

Vintage Roadside motors from Salida, Colorado to Heber City, Utah

We begin the day getting our first look around Salida, Colorado. We came into town late last night via a very dark Highway 50 and are looking forward to seeing the town. One of the things we hope for along the main road in every town we pass through is a sign stating "Historic Downtown" with a helpful arrow. Salida was not to disappoint!

In addition to some great early 1900s architecture, we spotted a nice collection of vintage, hand painted wall signs. In this era of signs produced via computer in an hour or less, it's always a treat to see reminders of a time when a skilled artist spent hours and days producing advertising works of art. The old Manhattan Hotel had a great collection including the iconic Coca Cola logo along with one of the town's many Snow Drift Shortening signs.

Back out along Highway 50, this wonderful sign advertised High's Liquors. Another great example of the individuality that was once a common sight along the road.

Just west of Salida we decided to head north along Highway 24.

Vintage Roadside public service announcement - This area is at a fairly high altitude and we would recommend always checking the weather forecast before setting out through this part of the country. Also, you may want to pack extra lotion as the dryness in the air can and will without warning unleash a maddening case of the "itchies"!

Highway 24 took us through the town of Leadville. Another town which seemed to be humming away with activity. We were treated to a great main street with well-kept buildings and friendly people. The Golden Burro Cafe sign was a real standout.

We were happily driving along when a sign flashed by that took us a few seconds to process.

Mr. Vintage Roadside: "Did that say Continental Divide?"
Mrs. Vintage Roadside: "I'm pretty sure it did!"
Mr. Vintage Roadside: "Should we turn around?"
Mrs. Vintage Roadside: "Hmm, I don't see how we can't!"

We've got several vintage photographs from the 1940s and 1950s showing people posing next to signs like this. It's just one of those moments on a road trip you've got to stop the car and take some photos. Sort of like those "Welcome to California" or "Yellowstone National Park" signs. Nothing says "I've been on a vacation" more than you and the family standing next to one of these! We've got our photos but will save those for the family slide show :-)

As you can see we were extremely fortunate with the weather and road conditions. This was about the only patch of snow we could find at 10,000 + feet above sea level.

The next part of the drive was one of the few times we found ourselves on an interstate. The good news was that this stretch of Interstate 70 runs through the canyons along the Colorado River, one of the most dramatic, scenic stretches of interstate we've ever driven. We continued along I-70 for about 60 miles before jumping off in the town of Rifle. Our goal was to reach Dinosaur, Colorado for no reason other than the fact that we thought the named sounded fun.

Heading north out of Rifle along Highway 13 our next stop was the small town of Meeker. Driving along Main Street we discovered this great local pharmacy. The Meeker Drug Store had a nice neon sign and beautiful vintage tile work.

Leaving Meeker we headed west along Highway 64. We passed through the town of Rangely and found ourselves in Dinosaur, Colorado. We were happy to find the fella below greeting visitors to the town.

On the serious side of the dinosaur coin, the town also offers the Dinosaur National Monument. There are currently some issues with the structural integrity of the facility, but hopefully next time we pass through we can get a look at the main exhibit wall.

We also spotted this great looking little tourist court in Dinosaur. The Park Motel was a nice example of the individual cottage style courts that were once common along the road.

The next part of the drive was a bit of a white knuckle trip due to the large number of deer along the road. We were leaving Dinosaur around dusk and knew the deer would be an issue so we took our time and make it safely to Vernal.

The Vernal leg of the journey is one of those stretches that seem to pop up once or twice on every road trip. We had planned for days to visit Vernal, Utah to see the giant pink dinosaur. We were right on our schedule of reaching the town at the end of the day with the thought of spending the night, and seeing everything around town the next morning.

Yeah, about that...

We had no idea Vernal was a modern-day oil boom town with all of the resulting traffic, lodging issues, and overall feel of everything moving at 100 mph. We had no luck finding a motel for the night and, based on feedback from the numerous motels we called, would very much recommend not planning on finding lodging in town. In hindsight, one of the more humorous responses to our inquiry checking for room availability was, "I wish people would stop calling!" The clearest answer we could get was that most places were booked out for the next three months.

It was a shame we had to keep driving as Vernal had a number of interesting looking roadside signs and statues, but it was getting late and the next town with lodging was another 120+ deer-filled miles away. We did manage to snap an incredibly poor photo of the Vernal Dinosaur which ironically once graced a motel in town.

We finally found lodging in Heber City at around 1:30 am. The good news was we got the room for half price! The bad news was that starting at 7:00 am all of the motel's water would be turned off. Deal!

On our next leg we'll shoot for making it through the rest of Utah, and across the southeast corner of Idaho. We hope you'll join us!

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