After this extended vacation season is over, we’ll return to the Growth Matrix and flesh out some of those ideas.
But first things first.
You need to know about an incredible morsel of real estate, three places in one city block that you will want to mark with push pins on the map of Colorado you have on your wall.
1. Generally speaking, Colorado is not known for being friendly to those of us who cannot live without our Diet Dr. Pepper from the fountain. (Bottles don’t count.) But there is a convenience store in Salida that has it, along with a 64-oz. option: the Loaf ‘n’ Jug on U. S. 50 (448 E. Rainbow St.).
2. Can’t-miss breakfast is only a block away at the Patio Pancake Place (640 E. Rainbow St). I recommend the Denver omelet smothered in green chile pork. The service is fast, friendly, back-atcha funny, and attentive, but not overbearing; and the food is superb. Bacon is always cooked perfectly; almost crispy, but not. The only drawback – and it’s a serious one, without question – they serve Country Crock whipped spread instead of real butter. (Why does anyone think that’s a reasonable substitute? There is none.) But if you’ve got a side of eggs with bacon to go with your hotcakes, you don’t need it anyway. And a stack of funny books by a regional comedian will keep the kids entertained while the adults talk about serious things. For lunch, they also serve a mean Reuben. They close at 2pm; open on Sundays, and very crowded.
3. For supper, try the Windmill, which is just across the street from the Patio Pancake Place at 720 E. Rainbow St. I will grant that it doesn’t get very good reviews (see Google Maps), and we had first-row seats to a spat between an unhappy customer and the cashier while we were waiting for our table. Yes, the service is rather, er, ponderous. But our group of 8 was seated quickly, and the food arrived in a reasonable amount of time, if not lightning fast like at the Patio. As for the food, though, we had really good fortune. The chicken fried steak is done right, crispy outside with enough char to let you know it was fried on iron or steel instead of deep fried; the gravy is thick and tasty. The Ranch dressing – this is no small thing, please! – is really good, meaning that you cannot detect the tangy, disgusting mayonnaise note that always ruins Ranch dressing. The side salad is modest, with one cherry tomato and one thick slice of cucumber to go with the iceberg lettuce, but Ranch dressing redeems it nicely. The meat sauce for spaghetti is really meaty, and the meat is Italian sausage, not ground beef. The Jaegerschnitzel (essentially a CFS with brown mushroom gravy instead of cream gravy) looked excellent, and my friend Tony confirmed it. Paul’s chicken parmigiana had a crispy, tasty crust and was likewise very good. Another plus: the Windmill serves real butter for your baked spud. The onion rings were a nice surprise, though a bit on the greasy side. (Nothing a bit of ketchup cannot fix, eh?)
All in a span of one city block; it takes only one minute to walk from the Patio Pancake Place to the Loaf ‘n’ Jug.
For cheap, adequate lodging, I can also recommend the Aspen Leaf Lodge and its modest, outdoor hot tub, ideal for a therapeutic, post-climb soak under the stars. It’s about a half mile west of the Loaf ‘n’ Jug. Rooms with two queen beds were $79 during the week and $99 on weekends. The wall units didn’t chill the rooms down very well, but in Salida, CO, who cares?
Coming soon to this blog: a couple of trip reports for (a) the Willow Lake approach to Challenger Piont (14, 081′) and Kit Carson Peak (14,165′) and (b) the Missouri Gulch approach(es) to Mt. Belford (14,197′).