We then hit the road and drove mostly through the dark onto Valentine, NE, where we were staying for the night.
We grabbed the Interstate so we could more quickly get into Colorado, but once in things didn't really change. It basically looked exactly the same as the Nebraska landscape until we neared Denver and could start to see some mountains, or the foothills of the Rockies.
We did have lunch at a Country Kitchen somewhere in Nebraska, though, and we think we may have barely missed becoming a Criminal Minds episode. There was an extremely creepy waiter--he totally had serial killer glasses and he kept rearranging the plates that he cleared. He came over to talk to us a few times and asked several times where we were from and what we were doing in the area. Finally Ryan lied and said we were from Iowa. We quickly got our bill and basically ran to the car so we could flee from the restaurant and be on our way!
We arrived at our hotel in the Denver area without too many issues and stopped at a pretty large JCPenney so we could pick up pillows for camping (one of the things we forgot to pack!). Then we headed back to our hotel to rest a little before meeting up with one of my sorority sisters who is attending grad school at Colorado School of Mines in Golden.
We met up with Kariah and her roommate at a microbrewery (how 'Colorado' of us) called Cannonball Creek. I had a Solid Gold and Ryan had some kind of dark beer. We had kale tacos from a food truck--Kariah told us that microbreweries often pair up with food trucks--and had an interesting conversation with the food truck workers. They convinced us to try the kale on our tacos and we told them that we aren't even sure where we would buy kale where we live. After finding out where that was one of them said "Oh, South Dakota--that's the land of Jesus and anti-abortion billboards right?" We had to laugh, as it's accurate but we'd never really thought about it before.
We enjoyed talking with Kariah and her roommate about the perks of Colorado--wonderful weather, with almost no bugs, and wonderful outdoor opportunities--as well as some of the downsides. It's apparently very expensive to live in a place like Golden, and Kariah joked that if she chooses to stay in Colorado after graduation it'll be expensive for another reason: all of the hiking/skiing/etc. equipment she'll have to buy! They also said that in a place like Colorado the active/outdoorsy lifestyle can even become competitive. "I did this 14er last weekend, what did you do?" Part of this trip was Ryan and I checking out areas out west where we might like to live. While we loved a lot of things about Colorado, and would definitely visit again, but we didn't think the lifestyle was quite for us. We said goodbye to Kariah (one of her main complaints about the nightlife: bars close at 9 or 10! Apparently because everyone needs to be up early to hike the next day) and headed back to our hotel, excited about our own (non-athletic) 14er experience that we had planned for the next morning.