Monday, May 9, 2016

Colorado Marathon Weekend Recap


As usual, after every road trip where I run a race, I like to recap the entire weekend.  This is mostly for my sake (and my mom's) who like to read the little things that happen.

I am not going to recount much about the race here but read on if you'd like to learn more about my weekend in Fort Collins and Black Hawk.


From Salt Lake to Fort Collins, it is about a 7 hour drive.  I wanted to get there somewhat early on account to make the Expo and pick up my bib.  Having a bit of a cushion also would help with any unforeseen delays.

We wound up leaving the house around 8:30 and had smooth sailing as we headed east along I-80.  Once we crossed into Wyoming the weather started to get dicey.  It had been threatening rain and an hour or so into the trip it started to rain.  Once we got a bit further into Wyoming that rain turned into snow. 

Those living in northern Utah know that I-80 can get shut down and it can be hours or days before it'll open up.  Luckily, the snow wasn't accumulating much but it still slowed us down.  

We wound up eating at a gas station Denny's in Rawlins, Wyoming.  Not my favorite Denny's but the food was served quick and we were in and out in a half hour.  I wound up getting a garden omelette which wasn't bad at all.  I also got gas there.

By the time we got to Fort Collins, the snow had given way to rain.  On a side note, it seemed like someone had taken an ugly stick to Wyoming.  Most people think Wyoming is a beautiful place -- and a lot of it is, but I-80 definitely is not. Once you cross into Utah (going west) on I-80 the scenery gets remarkably better.  The same can be said once you cross the border just south of Laramie into Colorado. The barren landscape goes from plains to red rock and pine almost immediately.

We arrived in Fort Collins around mid afternoon and I had no problems finding the Hilton -- the host hotel and packet pickup area.  

The Hilton was pretty expensive and as much as I would've liked to have stayed there, I wound up booking the Candlewood Suites -- about 5 miles down the road.  This place was truly a suite with a kitchenette, a separate "living" room and a nice bedroom.  It made it super convenient in the morning to fix my food without waking up anyone.

We wound up eating at Carrabbas Italian Grill, which was just around the corner.  Good stuff and they had plenty of bread to carb up on:

I wound up trying to sleep around 9 pm.  I took a sleep aid, which didn't help and if I was lucky I got about 3 or 4 hours of very fitful sleep.


In the morning I woke up and ran the Fort Collins / Colorado Marathon.

After the marathon, I quickly got myself situated and headed back to the hotel.  I had arranged a late checkout and had anticipated getting out of the hotel by 1 pm.  However, I was super quick and had my stuff bathed and packed up by a little after noon.

I was fairly hungry and had been looking for something local on the way back.  I had spotted Inca's Mexican Restaurant and decided that I was in the mood for Mexican food (which I never eat before a race).  Turned out to be a good choice.  The had epic portions and the food was reasonably priced.  While not my favorite Mexican restaurant of all time, it fit the bill.

Shari hadn't seen much of Fort Collins other than the restaurants and a few short drives, so I took her to the finish line area of the race.  At this point it was after 1 and the race was in the cleanup process.  The finish line had been torn down and everything was being packed up.

I spent some time wandering around the downtown area, window shopping and checking out some of the old buildings:

For a Sunday, the downtown area was well trafficked with people and cars.  I didn't see anything I wanted to buy but it was interesting to take in the town and all that it had to offer.

After goofing around for about an hour we decided it was time to head to Black Hawk.  We had a room booked for two nights at the Ameristar.  For a Sunday, the drive there was pretty busy but nothing major in terms of traffic -- compared to Salt Lake, though, the freeways were busy.  I have noticed that Colorado drivers in general, tend to be pokey and don't use the passing lane -- for you know -- passing.  

The drive to Black Hawk -- once we were past Golden -- was interesting.  The canyon resembled the one I had just run down -- although the river was on the other side and there seemed to be a bit less snow.  There were a ton of places I was itching to go hiking but I was sort of anxious to lay low for a bit.

Upon arriving we grabbed our luggage and went to check-in, only to find that our room wasn't ready.  They told us to come back in 20 - 30 minutes and it should be ready.  So I checked the luggage and then we messed around in the casino for about an hour.  The casinos in Black Hawk seem to all have self-service pop and coffee machines, which was nice for someone semi-dehydrated.  

I wasn't having very much luck despite the casino having most of my favorite games.  I was really excited to see so many of them but really frustrated to find that they were so tight.  I'd put in $20 and it would be gone in minutes.  By the time we were ready to eat dinner, I was done nearly a $100.  Shari's luck was mildly better, but not much. 

The Ameristar is definitely the crown jewel of Black Hawk and we were blown away by the cleanliness and beauty.  Just a gorgeous casino:

By the time we attempted to check-in again, we discovered that our room still wasn't ready.  Granted, rooms became available and people would take them but our luck wasn't good.  We protested a bit and were granted an upgraded room (free of charge).  It was on the second to the top floor with a gorgeous city view.  Just an awesome experience and more than made up for the wait.

View from the room

View from the room

View from the room

The room itself.
I needed to relax so I decided to hit up the pool  They had an incredible sauna up there with some super power jets.  As I was getting in the pool, a couple was up there smoking pot.  Welcome to Colorado I guess.

After cleaning up, we gambled a bit more before hitting up the Ameristar Buffet.  I was surprised -- for a Sunday night they had crab legs for dinner.  It was super pricey and the crab legs were not cracked.  Luckily, we had a nice waitress who showed me some tricks of the trade on how to crack a crab leg without using the provided tools.  The buffet was pricey and the place wasn't super busy, so the food turnover wasn't great.  Hence, the food just wasn't warm or very fresh.  It was also a pricey buffet -- at nearly $30 a pop.  They did have kimchi, which I have never seen in a buffet before.

After eating, I was incredibly tired.  I think we circled the casino for about another hour and continued to piss away money.  I got fed up and decided to stop... if their machines were going to be that stingy, so was I.

I actually slept pretty well and the views of Black Hawk were incredible from our room at night:


In the morning, we woke up and decided to hit the buffet.  I had done zero research into the best buffets in town but for $12 or so, the breakfast buffet at the Ameristar wasn't too bad.  Again, the crowd for a Monday morning was really light.  They had a pretty good selection of food and I certainly do leave hungry.

After eating, we made the one mile drive to the next town and explored the city of Central City.  We wandered around the stores and did a bit of gambling.  We quickly found out that our gambling dollar went a lot further and we were getting a lot more action.

The town definitely had some character left over from its mining day.  But now it seemed relegated to a lot of ma and pa casinos.  They did have one of my favorite machines, Dragon Spin, which I've only seen in Vegas.  

After exploring Central City we made the drive to Nederland.  Again you can see the pictures here.

I was actually doing fairly well gambling wise now and upon arriving back at the hotel I hit up the sauna again.  I spent way too much time in there but it felt good on my marathon weary muscles.

We had heard good things about the Majestic Hotel and Casino.  People were saying the slots were loose, it was big and they had a good buffet.  Turns out all three things were true.  We thought about driving, but I said to Shari, let's walk.  That was a good choice, as we stumbled through several more casinos on the way there and back.

The Majestic did have an offer -- earn 20 points (or so) on their loyalty card and get a free dinner.  20 points turns out to be about $20 or so, so it was super easy.  And best of all, I turned a profit!

The buffet had more crab legs and a lobster tail to boot (one to a customer)!  Shari didn't want hers so I wound having two.  The buffet wasn't huge by any means but they had everything I wanted.  And once again, the employees just about everywhere at those casinos were friendly and helpful.

I wound up winning including this hot spin: 

We didn't wind up back at the hotel until close to midnight.  We kept finding yet one more casino we wanted to walk through and invariably we'd grab a soda at one of the free dispensers or try our luck on one of our favorite machines.  I think only in one place I didn't come out ahead.


We got up somewhat early and decided to go back to the Majestic for breakfast.  They were significantly cheaper than the Ameristar and they were open much earlier.

It was a ghost town in the there but we each ate for like $7.  It was about the smallest breakfast buffet ever ,but there was enough food to keep me filled up.  And I couldn't really complain about the price.

We waited for our food to settle and gambled a bit.  I wound up hitting a nice red envelope win to top things off!  Helped to go home about $135 richer.

The trip home was actually one of the more enjoyable drives I've taken.  I'll close with the best photos I took as we drove by places such as Vail, Glenwood Springs and Grand Junction.

It is sort of interesting to see the landscape change, however, from "Colorado" -- kind of green, mountainy pine to more desert as you get closer to Moab.  I really wasn't bored despite the 7.5 hour drive.

Overall I really liked Colorado.  It looks like an awesome place to live and this was a trip I'll certainly remember for a while:

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