21. TELLURIDE, CO

(Alert! Start with Day 1 of our “30 Days x 30 Cities” blog series to follow this trip from the start)

We hit the road early the next morning from our overnight stay in Mesa Verde, AZ. The drive would be 8 hours without stops, one of our lengthiest.

Knowing we'd be met at the end of the day's miles with our longest stay of the trip, we agreed to pack in as much sightseeing as possible and set off!

Less than 100 miles separated us from breakfast as we pushed our car toward the picturesque town of Telluride, CO. We'd quickly searched for a good place to eat the night before without bothering to investigate any further. Needless to say, there were a few surprises along the way.

The first of the day was driving through Lizard Head Wilderness in the San Juan National Forest. The fourteeners of Colorado did not disappoint with their groves of classic evergreens and white aspens standing guard over impressive mountain lakes.

(Brant, where did you find the strength to ever leave this place?)

Having views of the California coast, Yosemite, Death Valley and the Grand Canyon under our belt, it is still fair to say that the land in southeastern Colorado was some of the most incredible of the trip.

After stopping several times for photos, we entered the former silver mining camp of Telluride to learn that all of Hollywood had descended upon it for the annual Telluride Film Festival. Heavy hitters unite

Oblivious to this at first, it wasn't until we poked our heads through the crowd at the Abel Gance Open Air Cinema to witness Reese Witherspoon and Cheryl Strayed talking about their long-anticipated film, Wild. Determined to play it cool, we tore ourselves away and headed down Main Street for breakfast at The Butcher and The Baker.

On our way, a couple of hysterical teenage girls ran by clutching each other as they as they searched for Channing Tatum. Shit was getting real...

After a hearty meal beside far too many well-preserved, stylish people, we made the walk back to our car stopping briefly for a final peek at the immense crowd gathered around the latest panel.

Surprise!

Moderator Annette Insdorf muttered the something that sounded an awful lot like the name "Werner" during introductions and I insisted we stick around to figure out who the panelists were.

Sure enough "The Forty-Year Pendulun" panel kicked off casually by mafioso Francis Coppola himself... After what felt like an eternity (in this exaggeration, eternity = ~ 5 minutes) the infamous Werner Herzog took command of the mic in what has to be the world's most recognizable voice. At that point, I let go of all pretense and pulled out my iPhone to record the audio.

Also on the panel were Walter Murch, Volker Schlöndorff, Wim Wenders, Alejandro González Iñárritu and — Oh Captain, My Captain!Ethan Hawke!

No doubt, the festival was as surprising and surreal as the gorgeous peaks that surrounded us forming the box canyon. It was also one of my favorite unplanned moments of the trip. One of those things that doesn't happen to you if you're always just standing still.

I could have stayed in Telluride for weeks. Lucky for Channing Tatum's wife, it was time for us to keep moving...