Whew! Another Peach Festival has come and gone over in picturesque Palisade, Colorado. It’s difficult to remember the details of said festivities with all the peach themed parties, peach scented hot tubs, peach infused vodka – and of course peach pie. The DJs this year were flown in from Mykonos and Reykjavik, thus making the Grand Junction / Palisade metro area without doubt the most rock in’ spot between Vegas and New York. It started when Caleb’s mom Kara announced she’d be in Salt Lake City and asked if we wanted to meet for dinner. You’ll remember Kara from my literary sparse Mazatlan posts a couple years back. We explained that Salt Lake City wasn’t exactly a quick afternoon jaunt from Denver, and it wouldn’t really be enjoyable to meet in the middle of Wyoming off an I-80 truck stop for pork chops, so we decided to meet in Grand Junction Colorado and make a weekend out of it.
Grand Junction is a beautiful 250 mile drive from Denver or Salt Lake, and adjacent to nearby Palisade, where of course the Peach Festival and the accompanying all night circuit parties would occurring. We left Saturday morning and were off to a rough start as we had to shampoo the car floor after I spilled Starbucks all over. But soon we were zipping past Vail and through the incredibly gorgeous Glenwood Canyon.
Grand Junction and the western slope of Colorado brands itself as “Colorado’s wine country”. Over the past years vineyards have opened themselves up for tours and wine tasting. As a result tourism as increased and people from the region and further away are actually visiting and spending a few days, rather than just spending the night exhausted from driving to or from somewhere else.
The wide area known as the “western slope” encompasses one of the most beautiful pasts of Colorado. 100 miles west of the steep cliffs and forests of the Central Rockies, and past the resorts of Summit County, Vail, and Aspen, the western slope consists of rich fertile farmland fed by the Colorado River, with sandy red mesas surrounding the valleys. The trip from Glenwood Canyon to the Grand Junction and the Utah border – whether you take it by car, touring bike, or train, (via Amtrak’s California Zephyr,) transports you through the green valleys alongside the Colorado River and through one of the most amazing parts of the country. There are plenty of access points to the Colorado River and nearby hiking and biking trails, and a few rafting companies are based in the town of Glenwood Springs.
I attempted to reserve a room at one of the many bed and breakfasts and guest homes that dot the area, but this time of year, (you know, the Peach Festival,) it was difficult to find a vacancy, so we settled on the Hampton Inn in downtown Grand Junction. I had never visited Grand Junction except when rushing through on interstate 70 en route to Vegas or L.A., so I was curious to explore the actual town rather that just peeing in filthy bathrooms at off-ramp gas stations. There is a cluster of chain motels near I-70 and Horizon, but the Hampton Inn, or adjacent Hawthorn Suites downtown is in walking distance to the pedestrian friendly downtown, and the best hotel location in the city. We checked in and met Kara – then together walked around the compact central area adjacent to the Colorado River and rail line. Downtown Grand Junction is like any other medium size semi rural town: art galleries, eateries, and bars share space with low rise office buildings scattered about the grid. We ate at the Rockslide Brewery for dinner, and made a spur of the moment decision to see the musical “Sugar” playing at the Cabaret Dinner Theatre a few blocks away. Based on the movie “Some Like it Hot”, “Sugar” is a comedy about two guys who dress up as women in an all girl swing band to escape the mob. We watched the show consisting of some relatively good actors and some obvious amateur ones, but with the rich chocolate desserts and strong margaritas the show was fun and amusing.
After the show I asked one of the more “festive” performers where a good place to go dancing was for our crowd. He told us that the only place around, Club Fuzion, had ceased operations, and that our best bet was a local pub called Quincy’s. And it was at 6th and Main only a block from the theatre. Quincy’s was a nice big dive bar with a mix of cowboys, Mexicans, gay and lesbian, all who come to the same place to party. We walked by here twice and had no idea it was the town’s only gay bar and gathering spot. Inside the bartenders were welcoming and the crowd was friendly, and while the crowd certainly wasn’t fashionably dressed, neither were we. One place we didn’t get to but noticed and heard some great blues music emanating from was Boomers at 3rd and Main.
Below: Tucan Coffee House
The next morning we gave the Hampton Inn waffle maker a run for it’s money and swiped a few complimentary apples before meeting Kara and driving over to Palisade. Palisade is about 10 miles east of Grand Junction. It’s a beautiful farm town nestled between two large sandy mesas. The Peach Festival was winding down but the Sunday farmers market was in full swing, and the peaches were ripe and ready for harvest. In addition to peaches local vendors sold homemade pastas, barbeque sauce, and many other eats that made the street aroma rich. The Tucan Coffee House, (can’t miss it,) serves up fresh brews, sandwiches, and offers a relaxing environment to escape the true hard core farmers-marketers.
After passing Grand Junction multiple times it was an enjoyable interesting place to spend a weekend. If you’re into wine, fresh fruit, semi-southwestern art, and outdoor recreation the western Colorado and Grand Junction area is well worth a stop.
Of course no weekend in the Colorado Mountains is complete without experiencing the horrifically miserable traffic on interstate 70 crawls through the canyons. We stopped and had dinner in Georgetown at the Red Ram, (pictured left,) a favorite of mine.
The beer and onion rings made the last 50 miles fly by as traffic lightened up and we dropped back down the mountains and home into Denver.