Category Archives: Sleep

Caravan Inn . Glenwood Springs

A few weeks ago I went rafting with a group of friends on the Colorado River in Glenwood Canyon. My friend arranged a group rate at the Caravan Inn, whose owners are friends with Whitewater Rafting and got us a very special family rate.

I’ve passed through Glenwood Springs countless times, and when overnighting have always stayed at the surprisingly cozy Ramada Inn off I-70. Glenwood Springs also makes an excellent affordable base camp for skiing Aspen, if you don’t mind trading a 40 minute drive for much cheaper lodging and dining options.

The Caravan Inn is an older era motel about a mile south of I-70. While the exterior appears solidly dated, inside it’s clean, has very large rooms, free secure internet, fridge and a big pool and hot tub. The large bathrooms are completely modern – no squeaky or ancient faucets. The large open spaces and peaked roof give it a “straight out of the 60s” look and you can almost picture the wood paneled family station wagon pulling up with the kids piling out begging to hit the pool.

The furniture in our room on the north building was more modern then our friend’s across the lot, but I’m not that picky about a dresser and headboard.

19th Street Diner is one block south. Great place for breakfast with an attached bar for drinks in the evening.

One Tripadvisor review gave negative marks for being too far to walk from downtown Glenwood Springs. I’d dispute that as I mapped it at .8 miles exactly, making a perfect stroll for after dinner.

Da Vinci Hotel . New York City

I had promised to report on my next Travelocity interaction, which would have been never had Joel and team not promptly addressed my Last Minute Package debacle and offered me a $100 Travelocity credit for the inconvenience and overall mess.

I was in New York City and applied his credit toward the Da Vinci Hotel at Columbus Circle. The Travelocity price was $97 a night with all taxes, making my cost $195 for a three night stay.  A very good rate by New York City standards.

The TripAdvisor reviews looked above average after filtering out the few high maintenance rants from those expecting the Waldorf for budget rates, rather than the more realistic modest yet tidy and modern room with an alley view.

The Da Vinci doesn’t look impressive from the outside, mainly because one of the city’s ubiquitous scaffolds is currently lording over the sidewalk, however inside it’s a quiet and pleasant place.  The lobby is large with comfy chairs, two guest computers, friendly desk staff and the rooms and overall building are very clean and well maintained.

I was really surpised at how large the room was, (again by NYC standards,) which included a desk, wardrobe, spacious bathroom, (with bright clean tile,) and flat panel TV.  I had requested the second floor for a better Wi-Fi connection, so I didn’t have a view – but that wasn’t important to me since I was busy in the city and just sleeping and relaxing between going out.

The location is perfect at 244 West 56th Street, close to the Theater District and Central Park.  The entrance to the Columbus Circle Subway station is right across 8th Avenue next to the Dunkin Donuts, and the 57th Street station is one Avenue east at 7th.  Sundries can be round at Duane Reed just a block away, and there’s a Whole Foods in the Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle.  (I stopped inside for some fruit and bottled water but walked out because there were 842 people in line.)

Coffee and breads are served in the morning,  and there’s an Italian Restaurant on the lower level.  I didn’t eat there, but did have a good wrap with a few Guiness around the corner at Matt’s Grill on 8th Avenue.

My only negative:  Most hotels have a luggage storage room for those arriving early and departing after check out time, but here guests left their luggage along the wall in the lobby.  The desk is always staffed, but I didn’t want to leave my awesome Eagle Creek roller bag (with laptop,) exposed for an entire afternoon, so after checking out I walked a few blocks down 8th Avenue to the Hampden Inn and checked my bag there until my evening flight, paying a $5 gratuity.

This wouldn’t prevent me from staying again, and I’d recommend the Da Vinci Hotel as a clean, safe and spacious budget hotel in Manhattan.  It was a nice surprise for a budget hotel.

(Frugal travelers tip: there is giant bowl of delicious red apples in the Hampton Inn lobby.)

Da Vinci Hotel
244 West 56th Street

Related:   Chelsea Pines Inn . New York City

Apartments in Buenos Aires

When staying in another city for more than a few days I always find it more economical and rewarding to rent an apartment rather than stay in a hotel. For me the benefits of your own “pad” far outweigh daily maid service or a pillow mint. A rented apartment, even a studio, usually provides more space than a hotel room. Plus you have a kitchen – saving you money and time when you don’t care to eat out, a fridge to store leftovers when you do, and provides an opportunity to visit local markets and cook as the locals do. An apartment is also more secure. You’re located in a residential environment, without cleaning staff and other travelers milling around your room.

The potential CON that comes with renting an apartment, is the opportunity to BE conned. Payment methods vary among renters and companies. Some rentals request a deposit of cash be WIRE TRANSFERRED in advance. That’s a 100% no for me under any circumstance. I only rent with those that accept credit cards, or Paypal which allows payment via your credit card. Should your transaction turn sketchy you can easily dispute the charges on your card, and your email exchanges will provide proof for an easy chargeback. Even L.A. Times travel writer Catharine Hamm was bold enough to use herself as an example to warn others what can happen: Don’t send cash, period.

Unlike hotels, with rentals you can’t filter through dozens of Tripadvisor reviews for details. You’re dependent on the referrals you find on the ‘net and the interaction you have by phone and email leading up to your stay. Good research pays. One night in a crummy hotel is far less lost than a rental provider not following through on a unit or ditching you upon arrival. For that reason I also take the name and address of a nearby hotel or hostel with availability, as a backup in case plans falls through. I’ve never had to use a backup, but it’s better to be prepared than sitting on your suitcase at a foreign payphone looking for someplace to sleep.

In a big city the options can be overwhelming. Googling “Buenos Aires Apartments,” or “short term rental” with any other large city yields a multitude of results.

In Buenos Aires I recommend BA4U Apartments. I found them through a small company specializing in day trips and activities geared to GLBT folks. BA4U Apartments only requested one night up front for my 15 day stay. I sent this on my credit card via Paypal, and was able to send the deposit via Paypal which was promptly refunded after departure. Their units are located primarily in the Recoleta, Barrio Norte and Palermo neighborhoods. The site is easy to use with plenty of photos and rates clearly posted, and most importantly my email communications were a breeze and all questions and any concerns answered promptly.

I had originally booked “The View”, but a few days before departure my contact Tomas informed me of gas problems in the building that would require substantial time to fix. He was apologetic and offered an upgrade to the “River View,” a new unit near Las Heras and Aguero, near Parque Las Heras, and also included airport transportation at no charge. Issue solved proactively and with excellent communication. Mind at ease I was then curious what the residents of the other building were doing without hot water. The only stipulation to my upgrade was that I water the plants. They obviously were unaware of my history with gardening. Thankfully it rained heavily the third day.

I actually preferred “RiverView’s” neighborhood along Las Heras over our original apartment along the stuffy designer store laden blocks east of Recoleta Cemetary. The neighborhood is perfect, and we found many small cafes walking various streets down to Avenida Santa Fe and back. This may have been particular to the building, but the two building managers were some of the friendliest Portenos I’ve ever met. I felt as though I had lived there for years and was more than just a tourist staying for a few weeks. On a few nights we had friends over with some new acquaintances for drinks – and I truly have never felt more like an expat living in a new city, even if it was for only half a month.

When returning I’ll definitely be scouting their catalog of residences again. And for those looking for a referral I highly and happily recommend them.

Doing it: All apartments and contact info listed at

Above: View to the north and the Rio de la Plata. Right: Overlooking Avenida Las Heras and Hospital Rivadavia

Below: Drinks with friends. Right: The neighbor across the way tending to her flowers

Related: Marnixkade Canalview . Amsterdam

Childhood Haunt . Chicago

Normally I would worry for someone reminiscing fondly of a two star budget motel abutting a downtown off ramp. But if that motel helped create happy family vacation memories then it’s understandable. I think.

Growing up in Michigan we made frequent family trips to Chicago. I remember we often stayed at a Days Inn a few blocks southwest of the Sears Tower. The Days Inn offered budget rooms, cheap parking, a pool, and being frugal Dutch folk saw no reason to indulge ourselves with such luxuries as mildew free curtains or functioning elevators.

When in Chicago I’m usually on the north side, but this time stayed in the south loop. With some time to kill on a Saturday afternoon I went for a walk with no destination in mind. The logical choice would be the lakeshore and Grant Park, sparkling and sunny this Memorial Day weekend, but some exploring sounded more interesting so I set out to find my old motel..

The one highlight I remember most was the diamond shaped rooftop pool, which at 10 years old was a real treat after trundling around the city all day. When atop the Sears Tower I would look down excited that I could spot our tiny ant size hotel among the grid of streets and other buildings. Did I say “Sears” Tower? I’m sorry, I meant the soon to be “Willis” Tower.

I headed towards the Sears Tower, and over the Van Buren street bridge. I was surprised to see the main post office had been shut down. A friend later told me it’s been that way for several years. This building, eating up two entire city blocks along the river, is a behemoth structure with the Eisenhower Expressway running under it. With enormous interior spaces it would be a challenge to reinvent as residential. Current retail trends favors outdoor walkable spaces, which leaves this building waiting for some sort of factory or manufacturing base – which it will probably never see. Not as many people send letters now, (which is correct – I haven’t MAILED a bill anywhere in years,) and technology is more advanced and physically compact. In its heyday I picture the building filled of mazes of roller coaster looking conveyer belts and sorting machines – spinning and whirling letters around like bottles in a brewery.

I walked along Canal Street, which runs under interstate 290. I hadn’t remembered traversing this grubby portion under the expressway to access the touristy parts of Chicago.

The building was still standing. It’s now a Holiday Inn Hotel and Suites. However it looked nothing like the picture in my mind. I remember the old Days Inn having very narrow windows, and being quite dark and gloomy inside. I was certain the structure had been razed and a new building was in its place. I headed inside and saw a standard check in area and small lobby.

I took the elevator up to the pool, and contrary to my prediction the diamond shaped pool was still there. So apparently the building had been gutted and remodeled, but not completely razed.

Although the walk under the freeway isn’t very enticing, overall it looks like a decent place to stay. It wouldn’t be my first choice, but for a brief overnight would be acceptable. There are some nice condos opposite the building on South Clinton and the Blue Line is a block away. Tripadvisor’s reviews average out quite high, so the staff must be doing a good job.

Next time I’ll have to find that building where I got my arm stuck in the revolving door. Meanwhile I hope something good happens with the post office.

More photos…

Related: Sherman Tower or Mezzo . Denver

James Van Dellen Denver

Hotel Banana . Playa del Carmen

A few years back during my first visit to the Yucatan I stayed at the Mayan Riveria resort, located halfway between Cancun and Playa del Carmen.  Our time share room was courtesy of a relative.  While immaculately landscaped and filled with friendly staff it didn’t appeal to me in the least.  In short – too perfect. I just don’t care places that are the gargantuan scale of Las Vegas casinos, and the Mexican time share megaresorts are the equivalent. Minus the gambling that is. If you need to learn the golf cart tram schedule to get around it’s simply too big.

My most enjoyable stays have been in small guest houses I’ve found online after scouring reviews, local listings, and personal travel blogs.  The work usually pays off.  Fortunately during the same trip I also found the Luz en Yucatan over in Merida, and also explored Puerto Morelos, a small village halfway between Cancun and Playa del Carmen. If you’re looking for seclusion Morelos is a beautiful village yet close to everything along the coast, including Cancun.

On the subject of growing too big for enjoyment, that’s the assessment many folks currently hold on Playa del Carmen.  People who have been regulars or visitors for 20 years are now seeing a progressive increase in construction, including resorts inside the city limits which eat up multiple blocks. I happen to like Playa del Carmen, perhaps because I see it in the present rather than the days it was just a small fishing village. It also makes a great launching point for truly getting off the beaten path with easy access to Tulum and points south, and west to the villages and old towns of the inland Yucatan Peninsula.

Despite the encroaching developments the city is still “people-scale,” and it’s easy to get around by walking, bike, or a quick taxi ride.  Many small hotels and guest houses are found in Playa del Carmen, allowing you to fully aborb the beach and the town, without being isolated in a ostentatious and isolated time share 20 miles in the middle of nowhere.

Hotel Banana sits on the north end of town. They recently changed their name, so a search brings up their former name “Fiesta Banana” as well. Not only am I thankful I found this hotel, but also the neighborhood. It’s quiet and the location borders a residential area to the north and west. Further south you’re surrounded by non-stop merchants, nightlife, and tourists that populate Calle Quinta (the 5th Street pedestrian mall.)

The rooms in Hotel Banana are similar to most medium range small to medium size hotels in Mexico, in that Americans would consider them spartan, furnished simply with the basics.   However much effort goes into the common areas and courtyards, which are usually filled with lush trees, comfortable sitting areas, and promote open air socializing and relaxation rather than staying cooped up in your room.

Hotel Banana has three floors with an open air sitting/breakfast area on the second floor. The location can’t be beat, and it’s quiet with little traffic or pedestrian noise at night. That’s not the case south on the busier parts of 5th. It’s about a five block walk down to the beach, which is closer than you’ll get staying at other large “beachfront” resorts.

The staff is friendly and always ready to help. My Mom made friends with the housekeeping ladies and locals from the dive shop during her hours spent reading on the second floor. Despite the language barrier they enjoyed each other’s company, and since my mom has been on a crocheting spree she knocked out some potholders for them.

My only suggestion would be to offer a bit more for breakfast. Currently the breakfast is just toast with nutella, and fresh coffee with juice. But if you need more there’s a small cafe on the first floor run by some Italians who really love soccer.

On a related note, I do enjoy having a kitchen for longer stays. The Hotel Banana lacks any suites, however some rooms have fridges and there’s plenty of inexpensive markets and cafes nearby. I just returned yesterday from Puerto Vallarta, doing the beach with some friends. (My Hotel Banana stay was in December.) I stopped for pizza at Wyman’s #5 en route home from the airport, and the waitress told me about a small condo in Playa del Carmen that she absolutely loves. However I was so tired I didn’t remember the name, but may research it further. If she’s reading this perhaps she can post. Occasionally I’ll be sitting at a diner here in Denver and I’ll see people whispering while pointing at me – then one will walk up and say “Excuse me, but are you the Future Gringo?” and want a photo. ok that never happens, but it’s a joke amongst my friends and coworkers.

Another great resort that is comparable to Hotel Banana is Hotel Del Arco Cabo, located in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.

The German Future Hotel Room

The BBC’s Steve Rosenberg tours a highly unconventional and technologically advanced hotel room created by a German institute.  This “hotel room of the future” is complete with a rocking bed, color changing ceiling, and scented steams to your desire. 

The small features are nice, but to me the aesthetics are that of a space station medical exam room circa 2040.  The entire place appears frigid – and upon checkin I wouldn’t be surprised to be assigned a sterile white sheet to wrap around me for the duration of my stay..

Is our future completely void of coziness and warmth?  Minimalism is in.  Cocoons are not. 

I can’t embed the video but check it out here.  Photo from  – which is worth a nostalgic look after seeing that video…

Chelsea Pines Inn . New York

Over the summer I made plans to spend four fall days in New York City. True to my hopes the weather was absolutely perfect this October weekend. Booking a flight was the easy part. Finding a place to stay was not. I have a few friends in NYC, but like many New Yorkers their places are small and or shared. I didn’t want to impose and preferred to be independent without worry of disturbing people when returning from jaunts around town or coming in late at night.

Recommended budget hotels like the Pod were all booked. I checked out a few sites like New York 50– a site devoted to hotels and rentals for around $50 a night.  Needless to say the reviews were atrocious.  I found various lists of top rated budget hotels including this collection, but they were booked too. I checked out a condo rental site with attractive rates, but balked when I learned they wanted a 50% deposit forked over via wire transfer. Yeah right. Take a credit card already – This isn’t 1950.  For a month I occasionally read reviews and prices. Holiday Inns, Hampton Inns and the other chains run north of $300 a night in Manhattan. The nicer hostels were booked. Tripadvisor’s reviews of budget hotels were actually amusing to read – if not frightening.  When finding a place for under $140 I would pull up the Tripadvisor review and read horrifying tales of bugs, mold, surly staff, and even beetles crawling over people as they slept. I wish I had bookmarked some of the reviews as they’re hilarious. I’m far from high maintenance, but I do require my room beetle free.

Someone on Lonely Planet mentioned the Chelsea Pines Inn to another poster looking for accommodations. It was the neighborhood I wanted to be in, for a very good price, and they had availability. Tired or searching and comparing I immediately booked it.

Chelsea Pines sits on 14th Street between 7th and 8th Avenue.  Typical to the area its a narrow building with five floors, with about four to five guest rooms per floor.  Giving the rooms a distinct style and character, each is dedicated to a former actor or actress from Hollywood’s golden years. There’s a sunroom and patio for socializing and meeting fellow visitors, and breakfast is served every morning until 11am.  Even though I always travel with earplugs just in case I wind up above a noisy street, the sounds below on 14th Street didn’t wake me at all.  It was fairly quiet at night, and central airconditioning helps too.   (Above photo of 14th Street taken from room.)

Something else makes this place special though: The variety and diversity in their rooms and rates. The deluxe, modern rooms on the lower floors are decked out in granite, have iPod docks, flat screen TVs and modern fixtures.  Standard rooms reside in the middle floors, and the fourth and fifth floor house smaller economy rooms with a partial shared bath – (not uncommon in NYC hotels.)  My room wasn’t as modern as the updated ones, but that was ok by me because the rate was below average for a place of it’s overall superb quality.  When I return I may opt for fancier accommodations, but this time my needs were simple.  There are plenty of economy rooms dotting the city, but being able to find an economy room that’s also in a well hosted and well kept building is rare.  I’m appreciative of proprietor Jay and the staff for offering their guests a variety of economic options, which results in a nice blend of guests too.

Although there were a few faces manning the front desk I didn’t meet, I chatted with the owner Jay a few times and met a small group visiting from Scotland.  Chelsea Pines is clean, comfortable, and more than spacious enough for myself traveling solo – and I’d recommend it as a “second home” to anyone staying in the city.

They’re at 317 West 14th Street in Chelsea, and about 30 steps from the subway too.  Check out Chelsea Pines Inn .com for rate details and their history.  And any other hotel should be so fortunate to have their Tripadvisor ranking.  

If you find them booked when visiting NYC check out this article in New York Magazine listing other highly rated budget hotels.

by James Van Dellen

Cabin Fever . Poudre Canyon

The Cache La Poudre River’s headwaters are in North Central Colorado, and flow from the Rockies down into the northeastern plains of Colorado.  For those not from Colorado, or Normandy France, the word “Poudre” is French for powder.  The name is derived from the days when the French fur trappers of the early 1800s stored their gunpowder along the river.

Locals refer to it simply as “The Poudre.”  Reaching up from the narrow portions of the canyon where the road and river run side by side are tall rock walls for climbing, hiking trails reaching back into the wilderness, and rapids providing adventure for rafting outfits and kayakers.

Last week we attended a wedding at “Archer’s Poudre River Resort,” an event center about 40 miles west of Fort Collins along highway 14, which follows the Poudre and eventually makes it’s way to Walden.  Archer’s is located in a medium size valley, located a few blocks after emerging from the the most windy and rocky part of Highway 14.  Archer’s is a pleasant stop off if traveling through this part of the state or just a day trip from the city.  While they arrange on-site activities like horseback riding and candle making, their site also lists nearby activities like hiking trails and rafting companies, which makes it the Archer’s website an excellent resource if traveling in the area.

We stayed overnight a mile east of Archer’s at the The Glenn Echo Resort, a collection of cabins and campgrounds.  The property is split between cabins, campers and RVers staying for a limited time, and anchored trailer homes.  Such a mix makes it enjoyable for meeting fellow travelers, whether its a family with a small pop-top, some Harley riders spending the night, or the couple from Kansas City I chatted with living in the dreamy airstream pictured below.  The general store has sundries, laundry facilities, rents videos, and an adjacent restaurant serves up great chicken fried steak.

Some of the cabins are “rustic,” a nice way of saying they lack bathrooms; however a modern facility is located in the center of the grounds.  We stayed in one of the duplex cabins, which did have a bathroom plus two bedrooms and a large kitchen.    I absolutely love the older cabinets and wood paneling.   Although the fixtures and style are retro, the place is very well kept.  The shower had better water pressure than most motels I’ve stayed at.  And how can anyone go wrong with a colorful Brady Bunch coffee maker like this?  Forget Kitchenaid and their shiny stainless.  These appliances rock.

Seeing my phone flash “NO SERVICE” made me a little uneasy at first, but I was too busy celebrating and sharing cake and wine among friends to worry about it.  Just an FYI if you’re running your eBay business from the road, and to me to start treating my internet addiction.

Archers and Glenn Echo make a great escape for local Front Rangers and travelers alike – check out their digs and excellent hospitality!

Marnixkade Canalview . Amsterdam

I attribute my wonderful first experience in Amsterdam partly to the staff of the Marnikade Canalview Apartments. The other part would have to be the sensory overload of bikes, beautiful canals, old tipsy buildings and walking the streets and alleys of the compact city. Exploring it all was defintely a wonderful albiet exhausting experience, but I like to take in and do absolutely as much as possible when visiting a new city, even if it means major fatigue and a visit to the chiropractor upon arriving home.

I found the Marnixkade Canalview after a few days of haphazardly hunting around online for a place to reside during two weeks in Amsterdam. I researched the basic areas of town and was intent on finding a place in a more neighborhoody environment rather than the central tourist area or red light district. I was in the city solo for a four days before my best friend Lili flew in to meet me.

Based on the excellent reviews and email exchanges I chose the Marnixkade Canalview.  There are just two apartments in a typical looking four story building. Each apartment has a living room, separate bedroom, with full kitchen and washer/dryer.  I cooked dinner at home the first few nights there (being by myself,) so the nice kitchen was a plus to cook in during those rainy evenings.  The most notable feature is the beautiful view of the canal between Marnixkade and Nassaukade from the wide living room windows.

If you strive to “live like a local” when visiting a city, the Joordan district of Amsterdam is a prime location. Around the corner is Westerstraat, a larger retail street with grocery stores, clothing boutiques, and restaurants. The folks at Videoland were nice enough to set me up with a membership. (Another reason to return.)

The Marnixkade’s location is about a five minute bike ride to the city center. However you could spend an entire day in the Joordan alone. Home to the Ann Frank House and Westerkirk (church,) along with intricate mazes of smaller streets, (watch out for bikes and scooters!) From this location its easy to follow the semi circular path of the canals to access other parts of town too, while avoiding the busy streets.

The Marnixkade is run by Bruce and Eelko. Bruce is an expat from the U.S., and his Dutch partner Eelco have lived in the house for about 15 years. Allen, a student from South Africa manages the day to day duties, and has a really cool accent too. Upon arrival I found a kitchen stocked with meats, cheeses, breads and miscellaneous Dutch treats including those cookies with the caramel in the middle.

If you’re looking for a temporary home in Amsterdam, I can’t say enough wonderful things about Bruce, Eelco, Allen, and the Marnixkade. More info on their site at

Buena Vista . Colorado

I wrapped up a perfect weekend of rafting, grilling, and relaxing in Buena Vista, one of my favorite Colorado towns.

I’ve written previously about how much I love the Arkansas River Valley in this post from ’06. Nearby alpine ski towns which pack countless upscale resorts and condos into narrow valleys. Nothing wrong with that, but this area of central Colorado is rural by comparison. Between the majestic 14ers you see wide open spaces, some farmland, and remnants of the 1800s mining boom are still seen along the highways and county roads.

Small cabins speckle the rivers and creeks, and you’ll find small motels, family restaurants, and outdoor outfitters in the friendly towns of Leadville, Buena Vista, and Salida.

But first a quick tip for those heading southwest from Denver via 285: As you climb up the canyon past 470 there are some stretches that are 45mph. The tight curves provide a perfect shelter for the Morrison Police Department to hide out and catch zooming motorists who are attempting to be on time for their noon rafting departure. Since this was my first ticket in seven years Officer McConnell knocked it down to a mere two points and a $115 fine. Lesson learned; check’s in the mail.

An hour later we were back on schedule – and hungry. My regular breakfast place on I-70 is “Marion’s of the Rockies” in Idaho Springs. I’m far less traveled on 285, and would have preferred to push on and dine at the Evergreen Cafe in Buena Vista, (another fav,) but we decided to check out the “Dinky Dairy” in Fairplay. I’ve seen this shack of a building several times and have always thought it was just a small ice cream joint. After piling in I was surprised to see a menu board full of burgers and sandwiches, plus a complete breakfast menu and a variety of coffee brews.

Good stuff – especially the Cafe Americana. I recommend it and will be back.

I’ve rafted with Arkansas Valley Adventures a few times before, usually when taking family and friends to the mountains in the summer. AVA’s Upper Arkansas River location is just a few miles north of Buena Vista in the village of Granite. The environment is casual and relaxed, and they have all the gear needed to prep you for your trip. (However bring shoes that can get wet.) They’re a safe and professional organization with excellent guides and top-notch gear.

You’ll notice I have no photos of rafting. That’s because you get VERY wet. Usually there’s a photographer camped out on the rocks taking some group photos – but I find it pointless to purchase them, because since you’re donned in wetsuits, jackets, helmets, and life vests, any stock photo could look just like you. In lieu of an action packed shot of paddles churning the rapids here’s a photo of “Rally Liquor” at 402 Highway 24 North. Rally offers a fine selection of beer and spirits and they sell the large size Red Bulls. They have a drive through in case you need to get drinking in a hurry.

We rode a section of the Arkansas called “The Numbers.” The title is derived from the sets of rapids following each other in close sequence. With the spring season and recent snowmelt this was by far the fastest and highest water I’ve ever seen. In addition to a lengthy safety briefing covering all potential rapids related catastrophes our group of six boast was also accompanied by a safety kayaker. This was all for good reason since three people, including a guide, were bounced out of their respective rafts during our trip. Fortunately none from our raft! Our guide (sorry name forgotten,) was a bit bossy, but with violent waters like these her demanding military style was needed and appreciated. She got us through our trip safe and sound.

Since the nights are still chilly we decided to rent a cabin instead of camp. Via The Google I found Paradise Cove Cabins, located about three miles west of Buena Vista near the Cottonwood Hot Springs. Paradise Cove is run by Shiarra, a fellow Michigan native. Her two cabins are located along a creek downstream from Cottonwood Lake. The “Paradise Cottage” cabin has a full bedroom plus loft with two beds upstairs. The smaller “Abbot Cabin” is cozy and great for couples. Both feature fully stocked kitchens for cooking, and large decks to sit out and watch the river flow by.

I’ve recommended the advantages of staying in a condo or guest house many times, and this ranks right up with the Luz en Yucatan, New Orleans’s Burgundy, and the Amsterdam’s Marnixkade, (review soon-promise.)

Places like this are what makes traveling worth it, even if its only three hours outside your backyard. When you find places well cared for homes like this its like having your own vacation home, but without those pesky time-share fees.

More info about Paradise Cove on their site.

And seriously of you’re coming to Colorado during the summer skip Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park and head to this area. Fewer people, open spaces, and great people.

Bottom Left: Mt Harvard from Highway 24.