Westward Ho! It’s a phrase I remember as a chapter title from my textbook in high school American History class, all because of the numerous smirks and giggles from classmates due to it containing modern slang for a promiscuous individual. Relating to history, it describes a calling of Americans to head westward to new territories and proclaim their “manifest destiny”, thereby exploring and conquering new western territories. Rather appropriately, it also describes my most recent vacation to Colorado.
In what has become sort of a now annual tradition for me and now Pat, early-September marks a 5-day or so vacation. Two years ago, a single me went on a solo expedition to France and Germany, while last year Pat and I vacationed in the Bahamas. We initially wanted to go to the Caribbean again, but had difficulty agreeing on an island and a resort that didn’t require an entire day of travel each way from Boston. Additionally, the increasing concern regarding numerous tourist deaths in some Caribbean countries further deterred us from taking a tropical trip. In hindsight, it was 100% the right decision as the week we left, Hurricane Dorian catastrophically slammed the Bahamas.
Having lived in Colorado for a year when he played college basketball, Pat has always spoken highly of it and a desire to go back, and given our shared love for hiking and spa-oriented resorts, I suggested that we just vacation there, especially given the relative ease of travel from Boston. I’ve been to Nevada and California several times, but never to a “Mountain Time” state, so I was especially excited to check out a place new to me.
Our five-day trip of total relaxation took us primarily to the winter ski resort town of Vail, which in summer caters to those seeking moderate to quite challenging hiking trails, as well as mountain biking and fly fishing. On either end, we stayed a night in Colorado’s capital of Denver (cue the theme song from Dynasty), which perfectly book-ended our trip with a little more hustle and bustle.
Following a nearly three-hour “maintenance-related” delay from JetBlue which resulted in us landing in Denver after 11PM local time, Pat and I picked up our “midsize luxury” rental from Sixt. Given the choice of a Land Rover Discovery (which I’ve had plenty of seat time in and don’t particularly love), Cadillac XT5 (which I’ve heard is truly horrid), and Volvo XC60 (which I hadn’t yet driven, but had other modern Volvos and found them very favorable), I happily selected the Volvo, for I knew what to expect and that I’d be happy with it.
Happy is truly the way to put it with the XC60, and given it was a T6 Inscription made it all the more so pleasurable. Having rented a 2018 Volvo V90 T8 Inscription for 10 days in Europe last fall, and very recently driven a 2016 Volvo XC90 T5 Momentum that I took in on trade on a 4-hour round trip to the Cape, I can confidently say that I’m highly impressed with today’s Volvos. I won’t go into a very extensive review of the XC60 as I’ve already done so on the 2018 V90 I rented last year and the two share so much in common right down to their dashboards and placement of all controls.
Things like superbly comfortable front seats, highly user-friendly controls and infotainment system, and finely crafted interiors with impeccable attention to detail are shared between the two. The top-level Inscription trim adds finer touches such as perforated Nappa leather upholstery, stitched leather-covered dash, and very Scandinavian-looking real wood trim, although even the base Momentum trim boasts an interior of high-quality materials for a true luxury ambiance.
The primary difference between the two lies in the driving experience. While both offer a balanced combination of smooth, supple ride and spirited, communicative performance, the svelter XC60 predictably feels more agile and a bit more dynamic than its bulkier V90 and XC90 siblings I’ve driven. This XC60 had the standard coil suspension and optional 20-inch wheels, which naturally made the ride a bit firmer than the V90 I rented with its silky-smooth optional air suspension — not to mention superior European roads.
In any event, all three of these Volvos that I’ve recently driven are comfortable highway cruisers as well as engaging handlers on the back roads and around town. I think I most prefer the XC60 for its size and “sweet spot” T6 inline-4 engine, making a healthy 316 horsepower and 295 lb-ft torque. Given that I usually prefer wagons to CUVs, I have a feeling I’d really like the new V60. Maybe I’ll have to give one a test drive soon?
Regardless of model, trim level, or powertrain, all modern Volvos tend to have a similar overall feel, which is no detriment at all. You see, with an excellent fusion of comfort, performance, luxury, and style, Volvo is really on top of their game right now, offering a lineup of some of the industry’s most well-rounded luxury vehicles. No matter which model one looks at, Volvo truly presents a compelling alternative to German rivals.
As for the trip itself, it was one filled with fun, exploration, and relaxation. I’m fortunate enough to take at least one vacation per year, but there was something about the pace of this one that’s made it one of my favorites. Much like the Volvo we rented, our trip to Colorado gave us a wonderful balance of freedom to go out and explore what we wanted when we wanted, but not so much that we felt overwhelmed with sights to see and activities to.
Our first night took us to the incredible Crawford Hotel which was recommended to us by CC’s own and long-time Colorado resident Jim Klein. Residing in part of Denver’s beautifully restored Union Station, this luxury hotel put us in the heart of Denver for me to take a scenic morning run and then a nice morning walk with Pat to soak in a positive feel of the mile high city.
We then met up with Jim himself for a wonderful Sunday brunch on the patio, before embarking on our journey to Vail. Taking just over 1.5 hours, the ride was scenic, enjoyable, and devoid of any traffic, the latter something foreign to native Bostonians. It also took us through the Eisenhower Tunnel, which holds the record as both the U.S. interstate’s highest elevation tunnel and longest mountain tunnel.
Arriving at the swanky (and surprisingly affordable during the summer off-season) Four Seasons Vail around 2:30 PM, our room wasn’t quite ready but the front desk guaranteed it would be ready with our luggage inside by the 4PM check-in time (take a hint Caesar’s Palace). In the meantime, Pat and I were happy to soak in the ambiance with a drink by the fire in the hotel’s Remedy Bar.
Vail treated us to an immensely relaxing three days of enjoyment and quality time together. While there we took in the sights of the beautiful Alpine-styled town, did some shopping, got massages at the spa, went on an incredibly scenic and challenging four-hour hike on Booth Falls Trail, all while still being able to relax back in the room and not feel guilty for being on our computers and watching re-runs of Friends and Modern Family.
While high temperatures during the day reached the 80s in Denver, in higher-elevation Vail, they only got up around a comfortable 70, while morning lows were down around 40°F for a crisp autumn-like feeling. Indeed my daily morning runs in Vail were chilly, and also quite short. I typically run between 3-7 miles five to six days per week, but up at Vail’s elevation of 11,000 feet above sea level, the lower air pressure makes it significantly more difficult for oxygen to enter the vascular system, and thus harder to breathe, especially for someone like me with asthma. Each morning in Vail I only managed 2 miles, but indeed once I got home 7 miles seemed like a breeze.
Our last full day took us back to Denver, where we checked into the hip Maven boutique hotel located in Denver’s Dairy Block and spent the remainder of the day exploring, relaxing, and celebrating over the good news I’d received that morning regarding a major career change I’ve been pursuing (but more on that to come).
Our trip was not without a few CC sightings and indeed Denver bestowed a few interesting Curbside Classics on me like this tricked-out first generation Chrysler Concorde…
…This short-lived Aussie transplant Pontiac GTO…
…This well-preserved first generation Lexus LS 400…
…And this stunning Land Rover LR3 looking ready to go anywhere and tackle anything, plus a few more special ones that deserve dedicated articles to come soon!
All in all, it was an amazing trip! Denver is wonderfully modern and cosmopolitan yet has a friendly laid-back and small-town feel to it, while Vail is mountain retreat that’s just almost a complete escape from reality. Everywhere in between was enjoyable from behind the wheel of the superb XC60, and getting to take it all in with the person who matters most made it all the more enjoyable!