Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Gunnison

"Where's your favorite place?" is the question we are asked most frequently. Our answer has always been vague. ("It's tough to say.") Now, we know. Gunnison, Colorado, is our favorite! Over the last six weeks we have fallen in love with the place. And, what's not to love? Though it's surrounded by beautiful mountains, Gunnison is flat, making it an extremely bike-friendly town. At an elevation of 7,700 feet the Summer air is cool and clear. With a population between 5,000 and 11,000 (depending on who's counting and what time of year it is), it has a great small town feeling. Main Street offers up just about everything you need.

Gunnison boasts some mighty fine eating establishments, and we've sampled just about every one. The Gunnisack is a great place to grab a burger and a beer and meet up with friends Fred and Jo Wishnie who were camped between here and Crested Butte.

We've followed the travels of Fred, Jo and Boo Boo for years. It was a real treat to finally get to meet these good folks live and in person.

We introduced Fred and Jo to friends Darren and Joyce over dinner at The Twisted Fork, one of Gunnison's fine dining establishments. Darren and Joyce detoured their travel plans to meet up with us here. It was so great to spend time with these friends in our new favorite town. We wish them all safe travels and look forward to seeing them down the road.

One of the things that makes Gunnison great, in our humble opinion, is it's a college town. Western State College brings about 2500 students and staff to town each fall. As they started arriving this week, we watched Gunnison greet them with a warm welcome.

There's always something going on in Gunnison. Shortly after our arrival, Gunnison celebrated "Cattlemen's Days", which included a classic small town parade.

This parade float celebrated the many outdoor activities you can enjoy in and around Gunnison, including golf, zip lining, mountain biking and (our recently acquired sport) disc golf. This is one more thing we love about Gunnison!

Cattlemen's Days also features a rodeo and junior livestock show. This parade float included the winning 4-H members and their animals. Any town that celebrates 4-H is our kind of place!

The Boy Scouts showed up at the parade in full force and distributed candy. Like every small town parade, there were also pretty girls on horses, politicians in classic cars and clowns in tiny ones. But, this post already has plenty of pictures. So, we'll move along.

Legion Park has been the site of a couple of art fairs during our stay. This expansive green space is the perfect spot to spend a sunny Sunday afternoon. While wandering amongst the vendors, several woodcarvings caught our eye.

This was one of the amazing works of art on permanent display. Each year, Gunnison hosts "Carvin' Up Colorado", a chainsaw carving competition that attracts artists from several states to transform tree stumps into works of art. The creations from each competition become the property of the city and are placed on permanent display around town.

This year's competition was held last weekend, so we made a trip back to Legion Park to watch this artistry in action. The tree stumps are collected by the city throughout the year from trees felled for safety reasons. The sculptures are created solely using chainsaws. Paint, burns and stain add character and dimension. The results are gorgeous!

Works of art of a different nature were on display across the street from the chainsaw competition. The Gunnison Car Club sponsored its 24th annual Gunnison Car Show in beautiful Jorgensen Park. We took advantage of a comfortable and sunny Saturday afternoon and spent some time wandering around the 300 or so classic cars. This 1950 Willys Jeepster convertible is a distant relative of our Rocky. Sixty-some years later we can see a resemblance!

This '70s era VW convertible reminded us of one of our favorite possessions we parted with before we left California.

Cars just don't have "faces" like this anymore!

Long before crash-tested car seats, this is how kids stayed safe in the car. Paul has fond memories of standing in the back of the family sedan and holding on to this safety strap across the back of the front seat.

How's this for another flashback? This relic was part of a display for a classic Mustang. You know you're old if you know what this is! (And, yes. We do!)

Our new favorite town enjoyed international attention yesterday as the USA Pro Cycling Challenge came to town. This first-year race brought 135 elite professional cyclists from around the world to Colorado for seven consecutive days of racing around the Rockies. For Stage One, Gunnison had a front-row seat along the route from Salida to Crested Butte. We weren't sure what to expect, but we quickly discovered that when the top finishers from the Tour de' France come to town with TV viewers from 161 countries, Gunnison knows how to throw a party.

We joined the festive crowds lining Main Street and waited patiently at the turn. Following a flurry of support vehicles, we got a great view of the day's two leaders fly through the turn toward Crested Butte. Then, we waited about five minutes for the pentolon to arrive.

Whooooosh! This picture doesn't really capture the energy and excitement of seeing 133 professional cyclists fly by in a couple of seconds. It was awesome!

After our up close and personal race experience, we were hooked. We rushed home to watch the rest of Stage 1 on TV.

This morning, Gunnison was up bright and early to host the start of Stage 2. Main Street was lined with cheering crowds ready to give the riders a proper send off.

Stage 2 is known as The Queen Stage, the crown jewel of the seven stages. Lots of today's spectators donned most appropriate crowns for the occasion.

To a chorus of cheers, clapping, bells and whistles, the riders headed out of Gunnison for their day with the Queen. Today's route from here to Aspen covers 131.1 miles and covers two (count 'em, two) mountain passes for a total climb of 9,746 feet. That kind of riding will definitely take your breath away!

Our accommodations here in Gunnison have been quite comfortable. We spent our first month in this scenic and green site at the Gunnison KOA. If you click on the photo and take a closer look you'll see the end of a rainbow!

The KOA is adjacent to the Gunnison-Crested Butte Airport. There are just a few flights in and out of here every day, so the place was pretty quiet. But, one day we caught a view of the tail end of a plane doing touch-and-goes on the peaceful airstrip. Now, that's a unique tail! Neighbors Karen and Arvin hopped in their Jeep as we jumped in ours to get a closer look.

We arrived at the airport just in time to see the plane land once again. Click on the photo to identify this very special aircraft. We checked the White House website to see if the President or Vice President had Gunnison on their agenda, but they didn't. Perhaps someone was here on unofficial business.

The best thing about the Gunnison KOA is the people who run the place. Owner Dave goes out of his way to take care of his guests, especially the kids. Karen and Arvin's grandsons Sammy and Grady looked forward to Dave's "Friday Night Fights", which gave Sammy a chance to practice his newly acquired boxing skills. (Grady provided back up.) Dave was "knocked out" every time!

When he's not busy boxing, Sammy likes to work on his ropin' skills. One afternoon he brought his "dummy" over and showed us his stuff. This kid is good! We look forward to seeing him perform at the Cattlemen's Day Rodeo some day.


When Karen and Arvin hit the road a couple of weeks ago, we decided to check out a park across town. Palisades RV Park is a "senior" park that is owned and operated by the City of Gunnison. Our friends Darren and Joyce enjoyed their stay here and so did we. Sadly, tomorrow we'll be pulling up stakes and heading east over Monarch Pass to Colorado Springs. But, we will be back!

There you have it. We've covered six weeks in one post! We look forward to sharing more in our future visits to our new favorite town. This is one place that we will definitely make a regular stop on our travels.

In case you couldn't tell, we really like it here!

3 comments:

Kevin and Evelyn said...

Thanks for the information on the hedge apples. We met Fred and Jo last winter in Yuma. This RVing community is pretty amazing. We loved our stay in Colorado last fall, although we didn't get to Gunnison. Sounds like a good reason to go back someday.

Sue and Doug said...

you know of course you have now increased the population of Gunnison by saying how wonderful it is!!!..great recap and we can see why you like it so much..we like it too and we haven't even been there!!!

dreamjosie said...

Nice recap on your stay in Gunnison. Now I don't feel so bad that I hardly get around to writing mine anymore. I see I'm not the only one :)

Saw the comment by "Kevelyn" and immediately remembered meeting them in Yuma. Yes, RVing makes this a small world indeed.

P.S. We also had some good times recently with Joyce and Darren, and met their friends Paul and Paula too.

Happy Travels,
Jo