Summer Road Trip – Week 1 of 8

Day 1 – Denver to Durango 

Great Sand Dunes National Park

On my first day I started my trek to Durango.  Originally I had hope to hit Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, but as the 416 fire was still growing the HWY connecting the two was closed, so instead I rerouted my adventure to Great Sand Dunes National Park.

I got into the park around noon, stopped at the visitor’s center to collect my stamp, and made my way to the dunes parking lot.  I made myself a sandwich, found some shade, and took a nice break from driving.  After lunch, I explored the dunes for a bit, then hit the road again.

Luckily I have family in Durango, so it was a no brainer where I was going to stay.  Durango is a quaint little mountain town which is fun to explore.

Day 2 – Durango to Tucson 

Petrified Forest National Park

Tucson was on my destination list as my best friends moved there a few years ago, but even if you don’t have friends in Tucson it is one of my favorite towns to visit.  Tucson is located in a high dessert valley, surrounded by 4 mountain ranges. It’s home the the U of A Wildcats, bringing the college town vibe to their downtown scene. Tucson offers an outdoorsy vibe as well, as there are endless opportunities for hiking and biking in the area.

Well my journey to Tucson consisted of going through Mesa Verde National Park and Petrified Forest National Park.  Mesa Verde is about 30 minutes outside of Durango, so I hit that first thing in the morning.  The great views from the road of the mesa are wonderful, but the hidden gem are the dwellings.

From Mesa Verde I made my way down US-491 to I-40 through New Mexico.  Petrified National Forest offers great petroglyphs and forests of petrified wood.  It is also the only National Park that contains parts of Route 66 within it’s boundaries. There is no designated camping within the park, but free backcountry permits are available at the visitor’s center.

From Petrified Forest National Park I continued my journey south to Tucson.  Luckily I have friends in the city, but if you are looking for great places to stay in Tucson click here.

Day 3 – Tucson 

Saguaro National Park

After two long days on the road, it was nice to just RELAX.  Woke up, lazily drank coffee, and eventually made my way to the gym. That evening I made my way into Saguaro National Park to capture the unbelievable sunset amongst the Saguaro Cactus.

Day 4 – Tucson 

Saguaro National Park

Since the day before I only went to Saguaro NP for the sunset, I made my way back to the park during the day to play around with the different cactus and my camera.  While hitting the park mid day in June may not be the best idea, as it was HOTTER THAN AN OVEN, but it was worth it.  Afterword I enjoyed the quaint shops on 4th Ave.  I love their little book store, Antigone Books,  as they offer great suggestions, and lots of local finds… and they are 100% solar powered! My all time favorite shop on 4th for trinkets and local art is Pop Cycle. They have a fabulous eclectic mix of art made from recycled materials; supporting local and different artists from around the states who share the common belief of producing new things out of the old.

Day 5 – Tucson to San Diego 

San Diego Zoo Safari Park

After a nice mini vacation in Tuscon it was time to say goodbye and continue on my adventure — next stop San Diego.  The drive from Tucson to San Diego is just short of a 6 hour drive.  This is not the most glorious drive, as it’s pretty much a long, boring, straight shot. I’d say the only exciting thing is passing through the dunes of Yuma, where many famous films have been shot, including: Star Wars Episode IV, Return of the Jedi, Shawshank Redemption, Spaceballs, and much more. Besides that I suggest a good audiobook to keep you entertained during the drive.

Once again I am lucky to have a friend who lives just north of San Diego, in Escondido giving me another perfect spot to stay a little while on my adventure.  I got into town just after noon and after a quick unload we headed straight to San Diego Zoo – Safari Park.  I’ve been to countless zoos around the states and even around the world, but this place is one of a kind. It’s located near Escondido, and offers free-range enclosures that can be explored via a tram to see antelopes, giraffes, buffalo, cranes, rhinos, and so much more. They put a great deal of effort into conservation, especially that of the recovery of the California Condor.

That evening, as it was a friday night, we headed to downtown Escondido to enjoy Cruisin’ Grand.  This weekly classic car show is reguarded as one of the best cruises in the country.  It shuts down all the side streets to display an amazing spectacle of over 500 cars each week. Live Bands can be found on the corners, thousands of people walking around, and great brews and food along the way.

Day 6 – Escondido 

San Diego County Fair

On Saturday we headed to to San Diego County Fair at Delmar Fairgrounds. The fair funs from June 1 – July 4, 2018.  This year’s theme was “How Sweet It is” bringing in lost of candy themed items, and a surprising amount of unicorn based foods as well.  Concerts play throughout the month, and even a few comedians would be rolling though.  But the best part for me is always the livestock and rides.  We got to hold an adorable baby goat and took the ferris wheel to see the incredible views of the ocean.

Day 7 – Escondido

 

Espinosa Vineyards, Escondido

Sunday would be my last day in San Diego, and it happened to be Father’s Day.  We started our day with wine tasting at Espinosa Vineyards . This quaint vineyard family owned and operated in Escondido, California.  The lovely couple that runs the vineyard are vibrant and passionate about their wine. You must visit this winery to get your hands on this excellent wine (wine tastings are complimentary with each bottle purchase), and stay a while to enjoy the views.

After wine tasting we headed to Stone Brewery for lunch and great brews.  On previous trips to Escondido I’ve frequented their flagship location, with amazing menus and a to die for atmosphere, but this time we checked out their location at Liberty Station.  Today Liberty Station resides on the site of the former Naval Training Center in Point Loma.  It is home to a marketplace that gives me the European vibe full of different food and retail vendors. Once again Stone does’t disappoint, with a wide range of beers, exceptional atmosphere, and one of a kind menu items.  Stone is a must see for anyone rolling through the San Diego area.

 

What an incredible week, and after being filled with great times with great friends I’m ready to embark on my second week. full of camping, hiking, and National Park sight seeing!

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