Colorado is cool! We had a really nice visit here, albeit insufficient days again. We spent our first of two days walking all about downtown, visiting the Durango Diner for lunch, visiting the Chevy dealer for an engine oil filter change (have we really driven 3,000 miles already in one month?), and exploring a couple of shops.
Durango Diner is another of Stern’s Road Food recommendations. We trustingly ordered the green chili cheeseburger. What a great sandwich! Immediately we realized we would not be picking this one up with our hands. The sandwich was tasty and the staff were all very friendly and fun. And, we didn’t need to eat again for two days, although we probably found our way to another table the next day anyhow.
Our second day started early to board the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge train for Silverton, CO. Our entire caravan group seated on two open cars for the three hour ride from Durango to Silverton. Many of us had not ridden a train in a very long while, if ever, so this was an interesting experience. This train line has operated continuously since 1881 between Durango and Silverton, and has seen a lot of history, eh?
Another sight from this train is fantastic scenery. Gosh, Colorado is very pretty, and so green after spending a week or two in New Mexico. We like Colorado, at least this part of it. The Animas River is full of snow melt and accompanied us our entire journey. Above 8,000 feet we encountered more frequent snow drifts along the river’s banks. The snow-capped mountains towered high above us, even when we were well above the river’s course.
The train travels a leisurely 12 to 15 mph as it climbs from Durango to Silverton. We merrily rocked back and forth on the closely-spaced narrow gauge rails. Our positions in the open car allowed us excellent views of the beautiful scenery and of the old coal-fired steam locomotive blasting it’s steam sideways, pouring it’s condensate on the gravel bed, and shooting the sulphurous exhaust skyward. We found ourselves imagining this same trip up these rails 100 years ago (lots of info about this train here).
Our train arrived one car short in Silverton. Our train crew elected to drop off one car on a siding in Rockwood, midway up the tracks between Durango and Silverton. They advised us the car had some sort of brakes problem and their best solution was to drop the car. The train crew completed this unhitching and re-hitching maneuver faster than we can unhitch and hitch our RVs. Pretty slick crew in this company!
Silverton was throbbing with excitement! This is the first train arrival of the year. Not since last fall has the train brought visitors up from the city. New money, shoppers hunting bargains, and all the passengers will expect to find a good meal during their two-hour layover. The entire town turned out for our arrival, many of them in Victorian garb.
Fortunately, the weather guessers were wrong again — their forecast was for a high temperature of 31 degrees F in Silverton. Silverton’s weather was instead very pleasant for walking and touring. Debbie and I veered away from the throng of people to walk about the town of Silverton. We walked many blocks of the residential area, finding some fixer-upper specials on sale and a few charming little houses very well kept.
We learned the town only supports 200 people over the winter, and a little over three times as many through the summer, not including up to ten thousand daily visitors during July 4 weekend. What employment opportunities are in Silverton? Mostly catering to the tourist trade, the town supports many wait staff and retail store personnel. And they were plainly glad to see us.
Our meal at Pickle Barrel was delightfully tasty and wholesome. We had an interesting and very good carrot and sweet potato soup, followed by a green salad, and a pair of divine desserts. Debbie’s was a chocolate and peanut butter silk pie, and it was really smooth as silk. Mine is a four-layer chocolate cake with a mousse between the layers and fudge icing on the outside. It is not four layers, but five.
And no, I haven’t lost control of my verb tenses — the cake survives, still in the present tense. Debbie let me sample her pie, and she helped me a little with my cake. And I still brought half of the cake home with me. I’m looking forward to eating it again, and I think I may finish it this time. I’ve never seen a larger, or richer, slice of cake. We would eat at Pickle Barrel again anytime. The food and service were wonderful.
We waddled back to the train for our descent to Durango. Some of us nodded off and on as we jostled down the narrow tracks. The day was wonderful, exciting, and satisfying. Our train ride took us from 6500 feet up to 9,300 feet. The weather was glorious all day. Our train car was not left on a siding in the middle of nowhere. We had a very nice walk and a great meal in Silverton. And we returned home safely.
The D & SNG train ride might have excited us as much as it did Silverton, and there was plenty of excitement in the brisk air. Maybe it just goes with the territory. How much better can things be? Spring is really sprung, festivals are happening in Durango. Silverton celebrated this year’s first day of visitors arriving on the train. Even Big Al Harper, D & SNG’s owner arrived in his private rail car. And we were there.
See you down the road!