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AirBNB for the win again

Maybe I'm a risk-taker. Maybe I just like to travel off the beaten path. But the highlight of my recent road trip from Northern Colorado to Southwest Colorado (nine hours, in a car, with a 5-year-old) was a last-minute choice to stay the night in a remote yurt in Mancos.

OK, I admit it, I wanted to say the word "yurt." And this yurt had a llama. And it was my birthday, and I wanted to do something different.

We stayed at the Thunderbird Ranch's yurt, on 83 acres off a long, dusty and stunning dirt road outside of Mancos, Colo. It was a short drive to Mesa Verde, which I was updating for the Fodor's Travel Guides, and not far from Durango, where I ate pie and drank microbrews in honor of surviving yet another year.

The yurt was like entering a stress-free, calm bubble. The ranch was bustling with the friendliest animals I've ever met. I think I saw three cats, four dogs, three goats, chickens, bunnies, a bunch of horses and yes, my grumpy llama friend (aren't they all?) who made me laugh and totally didn't spit at me, which I consider a birthday miracle. I found the yurt on AirBNB for just $60 a night, and was more than delighted by the experience. The owner, Debbie, even brought us bagels for breakfast the next morning and left me a box of birthday dark chocolate, which I ate while playing Scrabble and fell asleep by the fireplace before my daughter did. Because I'm one year older. And because I could.

A few things to note when planning a yurt-scursion:

* We were totally off the grid. No wifi, no cell phone service, only limited solar electricity, no TV, no "Monster High." * There was no plumbing, so we had to use a compost toilet, which I found far less awkward than I expected and significantly more pleasant than the latrines in Uganda, but then that's a given. * It got chilly at night, so make sure you know how to kindle a good fire. Sleep in layers. Snuggle close. * No showers in the yurt, although Debbie said we could use hers in the main house, if needed. We chose to go the free-spirited hippie route, which no one in the general community appreciated the next morning when we went for breakfast in town.

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