October 9: Salt Lake to Montrose: Today we'll get an early start as we begin our exciting journey. We'll have a pick up in Weber, Salt Lake and Utah Counties as we make our way south, getting acquainted along the way. We’ll make a lunch stop in Price before continuing on through Green River and across the border in to Colorado. In the late afternoon, we’ll drive along highway 50 toward Montrose. We will drive 15 miles to the south rim of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison for spectacular views of the canyon below. Then we’ll return to Montrose where we’ll spend the evening at the lovely Holiday Inn Express (or similar).
October 10: The scenery is magnificent today as we work our way into the San Juan Mountains. Our first stop is Ouray (just 30 miles away), beginning of the Million Dollar Highway. The views cannot be overstated. We'll see beautiful Box Canyon Falls before continuing into nearby Silverton where we'll board the Narrow Gauge Railroad. This train began operating in 1882 hauling gold and silver through the mountains. Today's trains are still coal-fired, steam-operated 1923 vintage locomotives in original condition. The scenery on the 3 1/2 hour journey is spectacular, especially with the fall colors in the hills. The train ends in Durango where we'll spend the evening. Tour pays for breakfast and train journey today.
October 11: Today we'll drive 36 miles to the west into Mesa Verde National Park, one of our country's most interesting national parks. Besides great scenery, this was home to the Anasazi who built and lived in defensible communities for over 700 years. These cliff-dwellings are fascinating to see and we'll have time to enjoy the park at a relaxed pace. We'll have a local guide show us the park and provide all the interesting history as we travel. We'll stay in Durango again this evening where we’ll enjoy dinner together as a group. Tour pays for breakfast, park admission and dinner.
October 12: Today we'll continue south into New Mexico. After lunch, we'll visit Los Alamos and the Bradbury Science Museum, a fascinating monument to the Manhattan Project and the first detonation of the Atomic Bomb. There are interactive displays about interesting "classified" information. From there, it's just 33 miles into Santa Fe where we'll relax at our hotel. We’ll take you down to the main square for some browsing and a chance for a unique Santa Fe dinner. Tour to pay for breakfast and museum admission today.
October 13: Welcome to Santa Fe, the City Different. The capital building has flown the flag of Mexico, Spain, and America. It is the oldest continually occupied capital dating back to 1610. A local guide will spend 2 hours with us introducing us to the interesting history and highlights of the area. After an included lunch on the main square, we'll take our 45 minute ride into Albuquerque. After checking in and relaxing, we'll have a chance to witness the first of the Balloon Fiesta events. It's called the Special Shape Glowdeo. Hot-air balloons of all different shapes ascend and "glow" against the night sky creating a unique view. Following the balloon ascension, there is an entertaining Laser Light Show that lasts about 10 minutes, followed by a spectacular fireworks display at 8:00 PM, which means we are back to the hotel by about 10:00 PM. Tour to pay for breakfast, lunch and Balloon Launch.
October 14: The Balloon Fiesta dates back to 1972 when 13 balloons lifted off from downtown Albuquerque. Nobody had any idea what it would become. 44 years later, more than 900 balloons take to the sky in what has become a magnificent spectacle. We'll arise early this morning and take a short drive to the launching area. It is a fair-like atmosphere with lots of activity going on while we await the launches (in a warm, heated tent by the way). This morning we witness what has become, by far, the most popular event: The Mass Ascension. Hundreds of balloons of all different shapes and sizes take to the air. Have your camera ready! You just have to see it to believe it and we’ll take our time and enjoy this great American tradition that has made Albuquerque famous. On our way back to town, we’ll stop at Sandia Mountain we’re we’ll take a tram to the top for lovely views of the entire region from over 10,000 feet. This is the longest tram in the world (and still takes only 15 minutes) and one of the most difficult to build. Note: The tram doesn’t take reservations during Balloon Fiesta – if lines are too long, we’ll put the funds toward an alternate activity.) You’ll then have some free time in Albuquerque’s charming Old Town. Do a little shopping, get some lunch or just enjoy the atmosphere. We’ve also included admission to the interesting Pueblo Museum where you can learn the important history of the Pueblos. After a rest at the hotel, we'll have an early, dinner followed by an option to return to the Balloon Fiesta to see another evening display called Night Magic Glow, different from last night’s Shapes Glowdeo, but also followed by a Laser Light and Fireworks show. Tour to pay for breakfast, dinner, tram and morning Balloon events.
October 15: If the launch was canceled yesterday due to bad weather, we'll have a chance to see the ascension this morning. Otherwise, we'll have breakfast and point our way home. Today is mostly a drive day. We'll take advantage of our DVD equipment on board the coach. Lunch will be in Gallup, then we'll make our way north. We’ll drive on to Moab, arriving around 5:30. After a brief rest, we have included a final dinner this evening. Fall is a great time to be in Moab. Tour to pay for breakfast and dinner.
October 16: After breakfast, we'll spend about 2 hours in Arches National Park. Whether it’s your first or 10th time, it is wonderful to enjoy this national treasure. We then work our way back to Salt Lake, arriving by about 5:00 in the afternoon. You’ll have a greater appreciation for this very interesting part of our country. Tour to pay for breakfast today.