Whatever you collect, we've got it," declares Al Parrish, and the Parrish Galleries owner isn't exaggerating. Shelves in his cluttered 300,000-item antiques emporium wobble with dishes, porcelain, and other timeworn wares. In the rural communities along northeast Colorado's Interstate 76 corridor ― small towns where the mood is congenial and the pace is mellow ― antiques shops, historical museums, and flea markets freckle the slumbering streets.
First stop is Fort Morgan, 75 miles northeast of Denver, at the newly renovated Fort Morgan Museum (closed Sun; donation requested; 414 Main St.; 970/867-6331). A self-guided tour reveals the Glenn Miller exhibit, a tribute to the famous 1930s bandleader who attended high school in this old-fashioned farming community.
From Fort Morgan, venture 12 miles east to the hamlet of Brush, a pastoral community. Stop in at Parrish Galleries (closed Sun; 311 Edison St.; 970/842-5719) before refueling with a late-morning pancake breakfast at Harry's Café ($; closed Sun; 301 Edison; 970/842-2110), a homespun locals' joint.
Thirty-five miles northeast of Brush sits Sterling, a quaint town where train whistles are as common as cow pastures. Head to Sand Hill Rose Emporium (closed Sun; 318 Main St.; 970/522-1011) for luxurious Victorian gifts, including Tiffany lampshade reproductions.
The owners of Sand Hill Rose also operate the town's Antique Furniture Marketplace & Flea Market (closed Sun; 101 Oak St.; 970/526-2902), a weathered space housing fine-crafted European and American antique furniture dating from the late 1800s. This is where you'll find lovingly worn wooden trunks that can make fine coffee tables.
Meander across the street to Old Warehouse Antiques (closed Sun; 326 N. Front St.; 970/522-3145) for midpriced home furnishings, Aladdin lamps, and hard-to-find wood-burning stoves. "Customers search us out for antiques that no one else has," says co-owner Mary Eastman, whose warehouse also doubles as a general store where kids can still buy candy cigarettes and not feel guilty.
For a peek into Sterling's rich past, visit the excellent Overland Trail Museum (call for hours; $2; 21053 County Rd. 25 5/10, near junction of I-76 and U.S. 6; 970/522-3895), named for the stagecoach route the first pioneers followed West. The museum sports a 1900s barber and blacksmith shop.
All that antiquing is bound to induce hunger pangs. Before leaving Sterling, swing by T. J. Bummers Kitchen ($$; 203 Broadway St.; 970/522-8397) for cornbread muffins, aged steaks, award-winning green chile, and one last dose of Americana.