Wednesday, August 4, 2021
We left our boondocking site in the San Juan National Forest just before lunchtime and made the 17-mile drive west to the Oasis RV Resort & Cottages in Durango. The resort is located on a hill on the eastern outskirts of Durango, providing easy access to all that the city has to offer. And our primary reason for being there was, of course, to ride the train from Durango to Silverton.
I had made reservations for two nights at this location for the sole purpose of having an electrical hookup to run the air conditioner for the kitties while we were out and about, sightseeing. Otherwise, we would have stayed at our boondocking spot in the forest for two more nights.
When we arrived, I checked in at the office and was given our site assignment, Site #18. The had a guy in a golf cart to escort us to the site and make sure we got backed in safely. The site was very nice, and we quickly set to getting everything hooked up and ready for our stay. Andy worked on the utilities, and I worked on the inside and started getting things ready for lunch.
Since it was already getting warm, we turned on the air conditioner, and it ran for about five or ten minutes before everything in the rig shut down. No A/C. Andy went outside to see if we had a good connection, and then told me that our surge protector had tripped. He reset everything and told me to try the A/C again.
This time it ran for less than 10 seconds before everything shut down again. We consulted the paperwork for the surge protector to decipher the fault code, and determined that it was telling us there was low voltage coming from the electrical hookup. In theory, low voltage can damage electrical systems in the rig, so the surge protector was doing its job by shutting everything down.
So Andy drove back up to the front office to report that problem, and I went ahead and ate lunch (I was STARVING). He came back about 20 minutes later and reported that they had reassigned us to a different site. So after he had his lunch, we unhooked the utilities, brought in the slide, and moved to site #39. This actually worked out better since it was right across from the showers, and there was no problem whatsoever with the electricity. We were set for the next two nights.
As soon as we got everything hooked up again, we both hit those refreshing showers, and then we were ready to start exploring Durango. We left the air conditioner on for the kitties and then drove about 15 minutes to Historic Downtown Durango, where we found a free parking spot.
We spent the next 90 minutes or so wandering up and down Main Street, checking out the shops and galleries. Of course, we had to get souvenir T-shirts, and we found a few other things that caught our interest. Durango appears to have weathered the pandemic shut-downs pretty well, as we didn’t see any businesses that were closed or shuttered.
When it came time to find somewhere to eat dinner, we tried several places with no luck. The first place had an hour-long wait, the little Thai place was TOO little, and the Lone Spur Cafe had their lights on but the door was locked. So we wound up at the Strater Hotel at the Diamond Bell Saloon–and we’re SO glad that it worked out that way!
When we stepped through the door, we could see that they were already pretty full. I told the hostess we needed a table for two, and she said the only one available was “up there on the balcony” overlooking the establishment. I said, “We’ll take it.” It turned out to be the best seat in the house, in our opinion. We could see everything that was going on, including watching the piano player perform some of the best ragtime music I’ve ever heard on a piano that was over 100 years old.
Our waitress was amazing, the food was excellent, and we had a blast listening to the music and watching the customers interact with the waitresses who were all dressed in saloon-girl outfits. If you’re ever in Durango and want a really fun dining experience, be sure to check out the Diamond Belle Saloon!
Thursday, August 5, 2021
We got up early for our train ride, arriving in Durango about 8:00 A.M. for a 9:00 A.M. departure. The material we had received with our tickets said that we should dress in layers because of the unpredictable weather on the trip up to Silverton, so we had each brought jackets with us. However, it was already warm in Durango, and when we went inside the train depot we saw a sign that showed the forecast high for Silverton was 77°. So I took our jackets back to the car and lightened our load.
They started boarding the train at 8:30 A.M. We had reserved seats in the Yankee Girl car, which was reserved for passengers 21 and over (it was one of the few available seats left on any car when I made reservations). We were seated across from one another at a table for four, and we each had a window seat. Our tablemates were Jim and Shelia, a wonderful couple from Prescott, Arizona. We quickly struck up a friendship with them, and couldn’t have asked for better folks to travel with.
Our train left the station right on time at 9:00 A.M. The attendant in our car was a guy named Corey, and it just happened to be his 21st birthday, so we had a lot of fun with that. The price of our ticket included unlimited coffee, tea, soft drinks, hot chocolate and hot apple cider, as well as a muffin on the trip to Silverton, and a gourmet cookie on the way back.
The trip up to Silverton lasted about 3-1/2 hours, and it was not boring at all. The scenery was amazing, and Corey kept us all entertained with stories and information about the railroad, the history of the area, and his own experience working for the railroad.
We arrived in Silverton about 12:30 and had about two hours to look around and eat lunch before it was time to board the train for the return trip. Our train was pulled by a steam engine, but there is actually a second train, pulled by a more modern diesel engine, that leaves the station about an hour earlier, so that train had already arrived in Silverton and the streets and restaurants were already full of tourists when we got there.
Our first stop was at a jewelry shop that specialized in astorite, a mineral that Andy had not heard of, so of course we had to check it out. It’s a beautiful pink stone, very similar to rhodonite, that is mined locally by the store’s owner and his wife. If you’re interested in lapidary work or geology, you can find out more about the stone here. The mine from which the mineral comes was originally owned by John Jacob Astor, who died on the Titanic; so the new owners of the mine named the newly-discovered mineral in his honor.
We checked out a few more shops, bought T-shirts (of course), and then stopped for lunch at the Lone Spur Cafe. The place was packed but we found a table in the back that just needed to be cleaned off. We were going for chicken, but there was none on the menu, so I had the first beef hamburger that I’ve eaten in at least 7-8 years, and yes, it was pretty good. Andy got the French dip sandwich. We sampled some local brew as well, and by then it was time to head back to the train.
When we walked outside the restaurant, the clouds were hanging low over the surrounding mountains and it was just starting to rain. We double-timed it back toward the depot, but the train was nowhere in sight. There were just a lot of people hanging around under any available overhang, trying to stay dry. Finally, we heard the train coming, and it finally appeared, backing down the tracks toward us from around the corner. Everyone boarded quickly, and we soon pulled out of Silverton for the return trip to Durango. Since they had turned the train around, we were seated on the opposite side of the tracks for the return trip, so we got to see some of the scenery we had missed on the earlier trip. It soon stopped raining, and again, it was gorgeous!
I managed to get some video clips with my iPhone, which I stitched together and uploaded to YouTube. It’s about 15 minutes of footage from a 7-hour train ride, so I think I kept it pretty concise. There’s no background music or narration, just beautiful scenery. Here’s a link if you would like to check it out….
We got back to the RV around 7:00 PM, pretty tired but very happy with our experience in Durango. The kitties were nice and cool in the rig, but they were definitely ready for some supper and some attention. We got another great night’s sleep in the cool air of Colorado, and awoke the next morning ready to move on to more adventures.
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