I know we haven’t written in quite a while, so there’s a lot to catch up on. Durango was amazing, and I could see us living and thriving there, but there are many more towns that we must see before making a final decision. Once we departed Durango, our next destination was Gunnison, CO. As fate would have it, however, we stretched the 3.5 hour drive into a 5-day drive after getting stranded in Silverton, CO with truck problems. Silverton is a sleepy mountain town in southwest Colorado with a booming population of 400. Honestly though, we met some great people there and ended up making some great memories.
The drive from Durango to Silverton took us over Coal Bank Pass, which turned out to be a long climb up a tall mountain. By the time we got to the top, Tiny’s engine was smoking up a storm from antifreeze that was spewing from a cracked line leading into the radiator (Tiny is the name of our Ram 3500 dually pulling our house all over God’s green/white earth). Engine temps started to climb as we reached the top of the pass, so I pulled off the road and shut her down for a while before things got ugly. Once she settled down, we coasted down the other side into sleepy Silverton and found the one and only mechanic in town, named “The Bearded Wonder,” who operated a small, log cabin shop heated by a wood-burning stove. He was super hospitable and willing to help us out in a pinch. All said and done, the repair cost about $175, but we had to wait a couple days for the part to come in because they kept closing Red Mountain Pass - the road on which the part was being delivered.
While we were there, living in the sole gas station’s parking lot, we visited the town’s two breweries, and many other shops and met some of the locals. Every single person we met was so nice and welcoming, and they loved how small and slow-paced their town was. Apparently, the town really comes alive in the summer, when recreationists from all over visit Silverton to go “jeeping” on the miles and miles of trails wrapping through the rugged San Juan Mountains in the region. I fully plan on dragging Kendall back there and partaking in such a venture.
Once we got Tiny all bandaged up, we geared up to tackle Red Mountain Pass. The drive north from Durango was the first time I’ve driven through these types of mountain passes... so why shouldn’t the first time be in the middle of winter, on snowy and icy roads, dragging everything we own in the form of a 14,000 lb trailer? We looked it up later and saw that Red Mountain Pass is arguably the most dangerous mountain pass in the country, but if those truckers can do it, I can do it too... So we waited for a clear day, said a quick prayer, and hit the road. They weren’t lying... Red Mountain Pass is a very narrow road with a sheer drop off hundreds of feet on one side, a vertical cliff wall shooting straight up on the other side, and no guard rails. The views were spectacular though! (Not that I really had a chance to enjoy them though...) A couple hours later, we pulled into Gunnison, CO.
Gunnison is a cool town, and both Kendall and I are seriously considering it as our future home. Gunnison is located 30 minutes south of Crested Butte - a well known ski resort just acquired by Vail Ski Resorts. We snowboarded at Crested Butte several days while we were there, and we absolutely loved it. Crested Butte is known for its extreme terrain and vintage ski vibe. It takes a certain level of commitment to get to Crested Butte; consequently, it’s not over-commercialized like the resorts near Denver (Breckenridge, Keystone, Vail, A-basin, etc.). It really does maintain its old-school, hard core ski vibe. There are more skiers than snowboarders, and beginners are nowhere to be found. Skiers here go HARD, and they love their small ski-town culture. It’s an atmosphere that we really enjoyed and could get used to. Plus, they had an amazing, clean, and efficient bus system that ran from Crested Butte to Gunnison, including the small towns in between. We really liked this feature of the area.
Gunnison has been experiencing rapid population growth, which is a vital factor in our selection. And with Vail’s recent acquisition of Crested Butte, we predict further rapid growth in the entire area between Crested Butte and Gunnison. Currently, Gunnison is a town of about 6,000, and housing is apparently hard to find. This could be a great situation for a couple aspiring business owners and long-term real estate investors like ourselves.
Winter life on the road in a camper has its drawbacks. Keeping water running is a challenge; staying warm is a challenge; keeping water lines, holding tanks, and valves from freezing and busting is a challenge. It’s all a challenge. But I’m grateful for this opportunity, and we’re going to make it work.
At this point in our journey, we wanted to settle down for a few days somewhere, and get some quality days on the snow. We picked Leadville as our next destination, because it was within an hour from Breckenridge, Keystone, Vail, and Beaver Creek ski resorts - all of which are included in our season pass. We found an open campground called the RV Corral right in town in Leadville with affordable monthly rates, so we pulled the trigger and decided to bunker down for a month. During that month, we logged 17 days on the snow and covered over 240,000 vertical feet. Kendall and I didn’t particularly favor Leadville as a place to live, so we mainly focused on getting a lot of skiing in. We did, however, visit the towns of Carbondale and Glenwood Springs on Christmas Day. Those towns were nice, but they didn’t have that special “feeling” that we’re looking for. So, back to skiing. We both decided to demo a set of skis one day, as opposed to snowboarding. I liked it enough to invest in a set of my own skis, which I did a few days later. Basically, it was a selfish Christmas present to myself, but I’m really enjoying them - skiing is so much faster than snowboarding! I predict a new snowboard setup is in the cards for Kendall soon as well.
While in Leadville, we also had the opportunity to spend some quality time with one of Kendall’s best friends, Kalli. We were able to ski with her a few times, and we spent New Years with her as well. We attended a New Years Eve bluegrass concert in Keystone, which turned out to be a great time. Welcome, 2019! We also had the opportunity to ski with one of the ROTC cadets that I sponsored while working with the Corps of Engineers in Savannah. It was great to catch up with him, meet a couple of his Army buddies, and see how his Army career has been progressing since we met. He’s going through the platoon leader phase that I experienced five years ago, so we shared stories and talked Army for a bit. I wish him the best of luck; I’m sure he’ll be an amazing leader. By the end of our month in Leadville, we we’re quite ready to leave and continue looking for that special place that speaks to us.
After leaving Leadville, our next destination was Jackson, Wyoming. First, we stopped for two nights in Grand Junction, which wasn’t even on the way. We thought Grand Junction may be a viable option, and we planned to visit Rifle and revisit Carbondale, since seeing it on Christmas Day wasn’t a fair representation of what the town is actually like. Turns out, we didn’t like Grand Junction at all. It was too big, had too much of a “city” feel, too many homeless people running around, and felt generally grimy. So we decided to forego everything else in Colorado and just get on with it.
From Grand Junction to Jackson, WY is about a 7.5 hour drive in a car under good conditions. We managed to stretch it into an entire day - about 12 hours in the truck altogether. Part of the reason was we wanted to avoid Douglas Pass, since the oncoming snowstorm already had the road completely covered in snow. (CO Trip is great website where we can see road conditions before attempting the drive via cameras stationed all over the state.) So we took the long way. The oncoming storm was a big one, preparing to dump multiple feet of snow all over the western United States, and we wanted to beat it to Jackson, so we hustled. We pulled into town about midnight as the snow was already falling. It was slow progress through the windy, unfamiliar mountain roads in the dark, but it was worth it. The next morning, the snow flakes were so big and heavy, and there was already a solid 3-4 inches on the ground since we pulled in. Jackson is a beautiful town, especially under heavy snow.
Currently, we are still here in Jackson. It has been a great stay, and we plan on skiing at Jackson Hole tomorrow. I’m excited to ski in the tracks of many legendary skiers that have ripped huge double backflips off the cornice of Corbet’s Couloir and other extreme lines here at Jackson Hole. This place is world renown for having the steepest, gnarliest in-bounds terrain on earth. The town itself is gorgeous. Our families were able to see us on the public webcam angled at the town square as we huddled there in the dumping snow. We’ve eaten an a couple different restaurants, samped a couple breweries, explored some of the local shops, and met some cool locals. Tonight, my sweet mother is treating us to an early birthday dinner at the Gun Barrel, a fine restaurant serving up locally raised bison and other exotic meat dishes. We’re very excited!
Over the last two days, we’ve tried cross country skiing for the first time, which was amazing! We skied at Grand Teton National Park, which offered fantastic views of the Teton Mountains. Cross country skiing is a little slower than the 50 mph downhill pace that I’m used to, but it was a great experience. I even took the skis back out for a 6-mile sunrise trek on Cache Creek Trail yesterday morning. We love the idea of going cross-country skiing as our cardio workouts instead of running on a treadmill or something...
Lastly, we checked out Teton Village last night - the base area of Jackson Hole resort. Amongst the tuning shops, chop houses, and ritzy ski apparel stores, was an apres ski bar named the Mangy Moose. Naturally, we went in to see what all the post-ski excitement was about. It was the most lively, entertaining apres environment I have ever seen. There was great live music, and the beer was flowing faster than Niagara Falls. We even saw several “shot-skis” in action! We had to stay for dinner to enjoy more of authentic ski town atmosphere. We imagine ourselves owning an apres bar like this someday. There would never be a dull moment. My dream is to have a spot just like this at the base of our own ski resort. That’s the ultimate business goal for us; let’s see if we can make it happen!