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25yr Anniversary Road Trip: Downtown Denver and the Battle to Arrive Safely

Updated: May 4

Denver Pavillions at the 16th Street Mall has over 40 stores and restaurants

We're off to Denver for the first time, and we've got everything packed and ready to go. On our one-way bus then train ride from Baltimore to California in 2018, we passed via Denver. That was a unique experience in and of itself, and that experience must be shared as well, but for now, we're looking forward to putting our boots on the ground in Denver for the first time. The kid is prepared with his Nintendo Switch, which is loaded with games, his tablet, which is loaded with movies and music, and, most importantly, his headphones. His favorite handheld toys and action figures are kept in the storage compartments behind the passenger seat, while his coloring supplies and sticker book collections are kept in the compartments behind the driver's seat. The cooler is stocked with drinks and snacks and we're ready to go. Let's get this party started.

Join us on this unforgettable 20-day journey via 8 city locations and 6 family visits, and show your support for 25 years of black love along the way!

On Monday, June 7th (My Mom's birthday), we'll check in at the Homewood Suites Downtown Denver and check out on Tuesday, June 8th (His mother's birthday). We tailored the trip so that we could celebrate a few weeks early and have a double surprise party for our moms at our Vow Renewal Dinner after the ceremony. Most importantly, we'll be seeing our daughter in Charlotte, where my husband will meet his two grand daughters for the first time, and our son will meet his nieces. We'll make stops along the trip to see relatives and visit our fathers around Father's Day and I'll pay a special respect to my late father-in-law.

Road ready with my "Bear Man" and his Nintendo Switch

As you can see, we got there safely after everything we'd been through, but believe me when I say we STILL can't believe we made it there SAFELY. Let's start at the beginning and describe how the first leg of this journey began, and how safety became an unexpected issue, even for this "well-prepared and highly alert" black couple. PerMyResearch, Route 70 is the most heavily traveled route from west to east. We thought the ideal route for us would be as far north as possible, and Route 80 proved to be an excellent choice. As a black family, I can't picture ever driving through the southern states of America, and this trip is no exception. As a result, we decided to keep to the North with the more smiling and inviting vibes. From San Francisco to Denver, the sights were breathtaking. I hope you watch our YouTube videos Denver Part 1, showing all the beautiful roadside views and Denver Part 2, with a room tour at the Homewood Suites and clips from our Wells, Nevada UFO encounter.

Before heading northbound on 280 toward Route 80 and the Golden Gate Bridge, we stopped for one more car wash and tire inspection. My 2015 Ford Edge Sport was the vehicle we used. Since I was still a stay-at-home mom with a toddler, my husband bought me this crossover SUV for my anniversary last year so we could tour San Francisco. I'm sure he didn't expect this trip but we're here. We departed San Francisco about 5:30 p.m. on a Sunday, which resulted in virtually no traffic due to the weekend hour and Covid closures. That Covid thingy was also a factor in our decision to take this road trip rather than our original flight plans. It was time for her to prove herself, since we had a V6 Turbo truck with a brand new engine, low mileage, and all the bells and whistles. Against my approval, the boys jokingly named her "Princess Sparkle" due to the sparkles in the paint job but now, we own it and she proudly gets her shine on wherever she goes. We have the insurance, roadside assistance and service plans necessary for me to feel secure on the road for the amount of time expected. Hence, husband approved! Once I added my handy dandy roadside emergency kit, it was official and off we went.

2015 Ford Edge Sport

AWD V6 Turbo

Golden Gate Bridge - San Francisco

We hoped we'd be able to return to Negril to see where we were married, but the last few years have been difficult for everyone, including travelers. It's a major disappointment for a variety of reasons, but we were determined to have a good time. Our first date was at Baltimore Artscape '96. Over summer break, of my sophomore year, we were introduced by a mutual friend who told me he knew the perfect guy for a girl like me. He explained that I was unique, and that he knew this guy would be interested in me. He was right and here we are.  We'd been dating for 15 years before marrying on July 16, 2011. This was a major occasion for us after all of our hard work, and we insisted on making it as memorable as possible. We decided to have a double celebration. We chose a cross-country road trip for our 25th anniversary, and for our 10 year wedding anniversary, an intimate vow renewal weekend celebration with close friends and family. 

Wedding Location 2011 - Sandals Negril, Jamaica

The journey to Denver should take approximately 21 hours and 1300 miles, depending on traffic. Google Maps, Roadtrippers, and Gasbuddy are some of my favorite road apps. They're updated and ready to go. We wanted to leave room for spontaneity and flexibility, so I've got,, and ready for last-minute accommodations. I chose not to reserve rooms until necessary.  We don't believe in forced obligations around here. Being in a long term relationship, you'll soon learn to "make your freedoms and enjoy".  We'll stay in hotels or utilize AirBnB depending on where we are and how we feel when we're not staying with relatives. We also wanted to stay on the road as much as possible because we knew we could manage it with two capable long-range drivers. The travel was smooth as we passed through Vallejo's Six Flags Discovery Kingdom and the Napa Valley's Wineries and Cellars. We spent the first half of the drive daydreaming about the days and activities ahead, reminiscing, and snapping photos with my Nikon Z50. This was my first time using a camera and I just had a basic understanding of how to use the settings, lighting, and composition. I'm ready to film the entire adventure and share it with all of you who are rooting for us.

The stations at the station
I'm an amateur, but I intend to use professional-grade equipment to explore all of the skills I do have, so please keep an eye on our YouTube channel to see how I do. Our journey was documented with the Nikon Z50, DJI Air 2s drone, cell phone, GoPro Max action camera, and more.

Minimalist starter kit

Let me simply say that, regardless of how much gear you have, the greatest advice I can give at this point is to "always be prepared for the unexpected." When we finally arrived in Wells, Nevada, I wished I had told myself that. We had an incident with an unidentified flying object in Wells, Nevada. That's right, you read that correctly. It was a UFO. Yes, I accept it; I have no other explanation. Of course, I don't have any video of it. It took me by surprise. We had just left a gas station where we had switched drivers approximately ten minutes before. It was around 2 a.m. when my husband fell asleep, and now I'm driving. Except for the GoPro and our mounted cell phones, everything is packed away, and wow was that a mistake. Check out the video below for our first video explaining what we saw directly after the encounter. This occurrence was stranger than ever before because there were a few factors we couldn't explain, such as time missing, which appeared to be 3 hours but was within a 30 minute frame based on all timed recordings with location tags attached. We also have an 11-second pitch-black film with bizarre audio, including me sounding terrified that everything was pitch black and him telling me, shh,stay quiet," followed by a strange loud sound. Because of all the devices inside, the car was never totally black, so that pitch black footage worries me a little. Who knows, we won't even be able to explain why the lights would avoid being photographed at all times, even when I whispered instead of yelled. It was very strange.

Flying lights found online exactly like what we saw in Wells, NV at 2am on June 7th 2021

We'll be documenting our entire journey from San Francisco to Charlotte on our YouTube channel and other media. We hope you would not only follow us on your preferred platform, but also subscribe to our blog on our website to show your support. We were traveling over 100 mph before we notice they're gone.  Now that we've gotten beyond the flying lights assaulting the car from above, we're back to being the lone car on the road beside the trucks, but they're all on the opposite side of the highway, which we found odd. We finally took a breather and sent out safety calls to family when we slowed down and made the video above.

The Bonneville Salt Flats in Salt Lake City, Utah, were one of our planned excursions, but don't make the same mistake I did. I planned to stop for photos, but due to our haste to get out of Nevada, we arrived at the flats too soon to enjoy them. It was not yet open to the public. I had assumed the flats were an open zone where we could speed thru at any time, but that was not the case. We had no idea what we were in for. Instead of spending a few hours at Salt Lake, we chose to travel straight to our hotel after a much-needed stretch, breakfast, and a large coffee. As a result, we spent more time filming the mountainside, hillsides, waterfalls, and other scenic views. Those videos can be seen on our YouTube channel. So now, we're finally getting closer to our destination but first, does anyone know what this picture below is? I still don't know even after asking around. Either way, it's pretty interesting!

Finally, we've arrived in Denver! Our objective is to stay one night to freshen up and take a look around before planning a return trip. We both were dead focused on getting to our daughter's house as quickly as possible, yet neither of us seemed to be pushing harder than her younger brother. At this time, we had only the essentials and all of the equipment with us. I made sure to keep all of my gear with us or close by.

I was traveling with over $8,000 in gear, and in San Francisco, where I reside just 7 minutes away, car rentals, photographers, and travelers are the number one targets all day, every day. Knowing this, I am fully prepared to secure, protect, and defend my property at all times.

This is also something to consider when staying in different sorts of hotels. Secure your belongings! In cities where we are unfamiliar with the parking and crime zones, we always use valet service. It's like having backup insurance, and the comfort of mind is well worth it.

Empower Field - Home of the NFL Denver Broncos

We got in town a few hours early, which was perfect timing for finding pizza, which is a must-have in any large city I visit. We came across Giordano's, and they made me very happy! We ordered some drinks, created our own pizza, and sat outside in the fresh air. Everything was fine until we asked for the bill, at which point my husband immediately stood up and walked out. It seemed strange, but I reasoned that he probably went to get a cigarette so he could return and finish his beer before we left. So we sat and joked while waiting. We had to wait a little longer for the first waiter to come over and ask if everything was okay. I'm concerned at this point, but my response is "everything is OK." I'm now confused and want to go hunt for him when the second waiter arrived to check on us. Then he walked in, sat down, and paid the bill as if it were no big deal. I literally had to ask what had happened. He begins by telling me that he had left my bank card in an ATM about a half-block away. I may have started to panic a little before realizing he had just taken out the card to pay. That's most likely why he didn't tell me anything to begin with. SMH, he seems to know all there is to know about me. Because it was our first destination on this 20-day vacation, it could've been a lot worse, but it wasn't. I'm glad the pizza was tasty, but it wasn't worth the near-heart attack. Click here for our YouTube video: Story Time Review on Denver for a video recollection of our visit.

Girordano's Pizza

Love to see cleaning and stocking

We created a bbq chicken bacon pizza

We've arrived at The Homewood Suites Downtown Denver Convention Center.  Because the accommodation is ready, they allow early check-in. Always inquire about any additional expenses, such as hold fees or incidentals, when making a reservation. I booked this room through, and there is so much fine print that you need always be prepared to make a new reservation or spend an additional day's fee just to be safe. This time, the check-in process was quick and easy, just the way we like it, and we were on our way to our room. A Mountain View Corner King Suite was prepared for us. It was affordable, clean, and comfortable to stay in. There was a stove, dishwasher, microwave, and full-sized refrigerator in the kitchen. Very nice! Check out the end of our YouTube video, Denver Part 2 to see a full room tour with mountain and corner views. The lobby was bright and colorful as was the rest of the immediate areas surrounding the hotel.

We saw several amazing art and cultured spaces once leaving the hotel. We located a venue that featured LIVE music, outdoor seating, and food trucks along the street. We went out to eat in the 16th Street Mall, which is just a block from Homewood Suites and has around 40 stores and restaurants. There were  free "hop on hop off" buses operating down the same streets you'll be strolling down, so PAY ATTENTION!

Denver was pleasant; the people were friendly, and despite our reservations about the absence of mask wear, we were pleased to see smiles on the faces we passed. Then we realized that on our way to Maggiano's for dinner, all of these cheerful faces were in a "legal state". Yes, it was possible that helps the population with this relaxing vibe they offer. Feels like you're in a melting pot. "No Smoking In Bed" was the only listed rule in our hotel room and we double checked. So we gathered our favorite recreational items and returned to the hotel for an unforgettable night in Denver.

Side by side sauce comparison. Not cool!

He chose the Salmon with Crispy Calabrian Shrimp and Garlic Mashed Potatoes, while I got the Chicken Parmesan with Spaghetti. They forgot my sauce man. That's not to suggest the cuisine was bad. It was well-seasoned, and the chicken was crispy and flavorful, but the sauce distribution left much to be desired. If I had been dining in, they might have corrected it for me, but that's the worst part about take-home meals. My husband ate his entire dinner with pleasure. Overall, I would recommend this restaurant because of the excellent food and prompt and kind service. It was a little on the expensive side, but the cuisine was authentic, and we all know how that works. We took a walk about to burn off some of that food before heading in for the night.

We sat and talked about the day and the previous night's events as our night came to a close. At check out, we're getting ready for the next city, Milwaukee, WI. My husband has family in the area, so we'll be staying with them. I'm going to make a memorial for my late father-in-law. Join us on our travel to our Vow Renewal Weekend Celebration as we go on an amateur adventure. Subscribing, supporting, and following are all great ways to become involved. Thanks!

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