With my 2021 Volvo XC90, dubbed Vivian Valet, now jam-packed with Chile-infused jams, spices and hot sauces collected all over Colorado – some with X-rated names – it was time to head further south. As usual, we got waylaid.
We stopped briefly at the fairly bizarre, several story stone and iron Bishop Castle in Rye, Colo. Less of a castle and more of a strange, one-man project over several decades involving an odd rock fascination, Jim Bishop has, stone by stone, become king of his own peculiar castle.
At nearby San Isabel National Forest’s pretty Lake Isabel, we hiked around the southern part of the lake for an hour catching up with local fisherman eager to show off their catch. Rerun the Lab assumed the hanging, trout-laden hooks were her midmorning snack, until she got up close and personal. Immediately she decided kibble was far superior than pungent poisson.
Once a mining town along the Santa Fe Trail, Trinidad is halfway between Denver and Santa Fe. Here during Prohibition Al Capone hid out, and for over 30 years Trinidad was known as the “sex-change capital of the world.”
After serving as a medic in Korea, Trinidadian Stanley Biber became a surgeon. Dr. Biber, who died in 2006, performed his first gender reassignment surgery in 1969. Between then and 2010, he and protégé, transgender physician Dr. Marci Bowers, now practicing in Burlingame, performed several thousand surgeries.
About 10,000 people call Trinidad home and downtown’s Main Street has some well-preserved Victorian architecture. As Trinidad is near states where marijuana is illegal, it has become cannabis central housing a plethora of outlets.
Trinidad is also home to Temple Aaron, the longest continuously operating synagogue in Colorado. Completed in 1889 in an exotic Revival-Moorish style by German-Jewish settlers, it has gorgeous stained-glass windows and has incredibly managed to survive, even though there are virtually no Jews remaining here.
Splendid Santa Fe
A great place to remain socially distant while enjoying truly inspired food and drinks is the pet-friendly Four Seasons Resort Rancho Encantado Santa Fe set on 57 acres in the Sangre de Cristo foothills.
Large spread out casitas have private patios or balconies to enjoy those epic Santa Fe sunsets, house wood-burning fireplaces and deep Japanese-style soaking tubs. Rerun was blissful during daily morning hikes while our guide gave us the area’s history, instilling a sense of place. The lovely pool cooled us off, and complimentary yoga on the pool lawn and a relaxing spa made it hard to leave the property. The complimentary nightly s’mores made it even harder.
The hotel’s “Dine & Imbibe” culinary series has wine-paired dinners monthly on first Wednesdays through March 2021. Here executive chef Kai Autenrieth gets to flex his seriously talented muscle. Lucking out, I was there when Calistoga’s Frank Family Vineyards poured excellent wines to pair with Autenrieth’s mouthwatering creations, including fire-roasted street corn topped with duck confit and American Wagyu alongside chipotle hollandaise-dotted lobster tail. Pastry chef David Flores’ piñata dessert was as beautiful as a Michelangelo masterpiece and exquisite. https://www.fourseasons.com/santafe/
Downtown Santa Fe is only 15 minutes away. Pleasurably strolling through the buzzing art community, with galleries, boutiques and shops galore, I channeled my inner artist. Rerun sniffed every inch of the verdant grassy town square.
Traveling toward Texas
As I had a meeting in Austin, I commenced the long, 11-hour drive southeast. Passing through Fort Sumner I happened upon yet another cemetery with a storied past.
In this tiny cemetery, next to a one-room visitor center, Billy the Kid was buried after being shot in 1881 by Sheriff Pat Garrett. Three months earlier while escaping from Lincoln County Courthouse 140 miles away, Kid had killed two deputy sheriffs. Lore has it Kid fled to Fort Sumner where his girlfriend lived.
Lingering questions remained surrounding Kid’s demise. Some rumors suggested Kid’s death was staged and he survived. The grave marker has “Pals” inscribed with three names: Kid’s, Charlie Boudre and Tom O’Follard. Now a cemetery veteran with potential extra sensory perceptive skills, Rerun sniffed the wrought iron surrounding Kid’s marker and promptly relieved herself, perhaps finally putting those rumors to rest.
Plenty of nothing ensued before finally crossing into Texas. This was followed by plenty of grain elevators, then plenty of cows. Sadly in Sudan, Texas, a dead white horse mysteriously lay on the highway’s shoulder.
As I passed through tiny Goldthwait in the heart of Texas, the sun began setting over my right shoulder. With its First Baptist Church appearing like a beacon towards the horizon, I could see onward for miles.
The allure of Austin
Though I’ve been to Texas several times over the years, somehow I managed to never get to Austin. Big mistake. Huge. It’s a lovely, manageable, clean city and the bluest in Texas.
Its enormous state capital building, the largest in the U.S., looms over Austin. Sitting on about 22 manicured acres, Rerun felt it her dogged duty to sniff as much of it as her snout permitted.
Checking into the pet-friendly Fairmont Austin, the vanilla and turquoise hues of its glistening lobby and gorgeously appointed guestrooms gave the idyllic sensation of floating amid clouds. Incredibly friendly staff and all guests donned masks while temperatures were checked each time one returned. https://www.fairmont.com/austin/
Lady Bird Lake and the Austin Rowing Club view from the Fairmont’s floor-to-ceiling windows nearly drove water-crazed Rerun to distraction. Happily, five minutes away, the 10-mile trail surrounding the lake has bridges, observation points, gardens and exercise areas. It was canine Nirvana and a gorgeous place to pass an afternoon.
The South Congress district nearby has hip shops, old-style barber shops and cool diners. At South Congress Café, we sat on the outdoor patio. Refueling with fish tacos, Rerun drank a gallon of water thinking perhaps she might float out of there.
About 12 miles from downtown, the 22-mile long, 1,830-acre manmade Lake Austin on the Colorado River is breathtaking. There are boat ramps and rentals, mansions to dream about and sunset to swoon over. Rerun was certain she found heaven.
Next up: Bananas foster nachos, Orwellian cameras and missile testing.
Julie L. Kessler is a journalist, attorney and legal columnist and the author of the memoir “Fifty-Fifty: The Clarity of Hindsight.” She can be reached at www.vagabondlawyer.com. Some vendors hosted the writer, but content was not reviewed by them prior to publication and is solely the writer’s opinion.