Curt and Carole Zeigler are discovering the magical landscapes of America’s gigantic Cordilleras in their 300 SL Roadster: their epic road trip commences near the highly fashionable Aspen. At Maroon Lake the colours literally seem to explode when the early-morning sun first tints the patches of snow on the summits of Pyramid Peak and Maroon Bells in a mild violet light, then lights up the groves of trees.
Visitors love this small, highly un-American mining town. Instead of shopping malls it has small shops, cafés and galleries in historical buildings. Neither have fast-food restaurants found their way here, because there are nice restaurants and the bar in the New Sheridan Hotel, where visitors and locals have been getting together since 1895. Roudy Roudebush is among the latter: sporting a colourful neckerchief, chaps, spurs and a hat, the cowboy regularly calls in for a drink.
Experiencing the Colorado Rockies in any car is a real pleasure. Signposted scenic roads describe a thousand curves to the most beautiful vantage points and, as at Independence Pass, to the most vertiginous of heights. There are 58 majestic “fourteeners”, mountains that are more than 14 000 feet or 4267 meters high. One recipe for even greater pleasure is to let the wind blow through your hair as you explore the region in an open-top sports car, as the affable Zeiglers from Denver like to do.
During its boom era around 1900, Dunton Hot Springs was a settlement with 300 inhabitants. It even boasted a two-storey hotel whose guests included the infamous bank-robber Butch Cassidy. Although thermal water still bubbles out of the ground at 40 degrees Celsius, the seams of gold and silver have long since run dry. This quaint collection would probably have fallen into ruins long ago, if a German industrialist had not realized his dream of the Wild West and turned Dunton into a hotel.
Leaving the Rockies, Highway 141 descends to the border with Utah, into an archaic landscape with grandiose sandstone formations. It is here that John Hendricks, founder of the Discovery Channel, exhibits some of his car collection in a private museum. Yet the Gateway Canyons Resort he created is above all intended as a base for adventurous visitors wanting to explore the ancient canyons of the region: “It is here that our planet opens up to tell its story,” says Hendricks.