Traveling West-2017 Colorado Springs 

Have you ever built up a destination so big in your mind, planning, dreaming, traveling, only to find when you arrive, you are completely disappointed?

Colorado Springs is not one of those places. It was simply love at first sight for me.

Located around 60 miles south of Denver, at the eastern foot of the Rockies, it ranks as the 2nd post populated area in Colorado with around 500,000 people. It is home to several military facilities which account for about 40% of the economy. I found the people very warm and friendly. And as seems to be the case around the United States, most do not hail from the area, but have chosen to make it their home.

We arrived in Colorado Springs on a cool, sunny Sunday afternoon. Our new home, because home is where you park it, was Goldfield RV Park. The park was basically a city gravel parking lot outfitted with electric and sewer hook-ups located directly behind Highway 24, a heavily traveled local road. The place was a nice mix of America’s mobile workforce, young people on a grand adventure, and nomads such as ourselves. What this place lacked in amenities, it made up for in location. We quickly set up our city RV site and set out to explore the area.

Old Colorado City

We were just 2 blocks away from Old Colorado City, a section of Colorado Springs. As seen in many revived American towns, Old Colorado City has a very vibrant and artsy feel to it. We found many fine eating establishments, eclectic shops, and fun drinkatoriums.

When you first arrive in a new location, you really have no idea what you are looking for. Our usual plan is to drive in, park (free parking in Old Colorado City!), wander around, and see what’s going on. We always talk to the locals to see what’s really happening beyond all the usual touristy stuff, and discover what they do in their free time. We did just that and started formulating our plan for the visit.

Garden of the Gods

The next morning we awoke to a bright blue sky just demanding some adventure. We set off to explore one of the area’s biggest attractions, Garden of the Gods.

Garden of the Gods is a 480 acre plot of land that holds within it’s confines  huge 300 foot sandstone formations of all sort of shapes, the most famous being Balancing Rock. The land was donated by the children of Charles Elliot Perkins in 1909 with the stipulation that it always remain free to the public.

Balancing Rock

What a gift to the area and it’s people and visitors. We packed a lunch and spent a good portion of the day wandering around in awe. So much to look at my eyes could barely take it all in.

It is a very congested area, lots of visitors everyday, so if you go, bring your patience, and your walking shoes. You can drive the area, but really, this is one of those places you want to get up close and personal.

Some days you just feel like escaping from the crowds and hiking a bit more remotely. The next day was one of those days for me. We decided to visit the Red Rock Canyon Open Space. Red Rocks is another free recreation area, a 789 acre city park. The park contains a number of reclaimed industrial sites, old quarries, gravel pits, a gold refining mine, and small landfill. Other than the quarries, none of this was visible to the eye. Just more glorious views.

I call this peek-a-boo rock

I thought this one resembled a dinosaur

Lakes are a rarity here

Red Rocks was just a few blocks from our site well within walking distance, and soon became our favorite place to catch a hike. There are numerous trails some easy, some tough, to choose from. I think by the time we left we had done nearly all of them. If I were a local, I would be there all the time!

Pulpit Rock

Another nice area to hike on the other side of town is a place called Pulpit Rock Park. There is a series of small trails with the highlight being a climb to Pulpit Rock Ridge.

When they say small trails, they mean it. Trails going every which way. No signage, it’s a guessing game. We worked our way up a trail which seemed to be a main one. Winding higher and higher, the rocks became more loose and unstable. Sometimes heights get to me. They did on this day, and I had to call Uncle and turn around before I reached the summit. I later discovered we were on the most difficult trail up. Now I have another reason to return and reach that ridge!

Found the easy trail!

Heck yeah!

Speaking of heights, Have you ever heard of a mountain named Pikes Peak? It’s so popular it is nicknamed America’s Mountain. And what a hill it is. It is the 2nd most visited peak in the world, coming in right behind Japan’s Mt. Fuji.

Standing tall at 14,115 feet, Pikes Peak is the 31st tallest peak in Colorado. The summit can be reached in one of three ways. You could hike it from the Barr Trail at the base, a climb of about 13 or so miles, drive the Pikes Peak Highway,a 19 mile twisty road, or take the Cog Railway with an average grade of 45%.

Piles Peak in the distance

I am a decent hiker, but would in no way attempt this climb without the proper training. Driving is out since my encounter with Forest Road #69 in the Great Smokey Mountains (never again!)

Train at the summit

We opted to spend the money, $40 per person, to ride the rail. I am so happy we did. It is about a 3:40 round trip from base to summit. The guide was wonderful in giving us bits of information and history. Seating is tight, and you are faced toward another set of seats, so you get to know your seatmates in a quick hurry. We faced a lovely older couple who had taken the trip previously, and filled us in with some more tidbits of information.

A shot from the train

Almost past the tree line

Upon reaching the summit, if you’ve never felt the effects of a high altitude, you certainly will here. The minute the door opens and you step out, your breath is literally taken away. By the thin air and scenery. Woozy, is what I would call it. I rather liked the feeling, I felt euphoric. On top of the world.

Throwing snowballs at 14,000+ feet

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What a view

I could see many people were not enjoying it, or the cold, it was about 25 degrees with the wind chill. I am a Michigander. I look at weather regularly and dress accordingly. I am guessing the folks in their shorts and flip-flops did not. It was around 80 degrees in Manitou Springs.

Euphoria and me

I had such fun floating around that summit. I could see others were as well. A young lady twirling a hula hoop, a guy meditating into the open space, people like me giggly with lack of air, and literally stoned from the views. I am sure this is where the term “high” originated.

However all good things must end. After about 30 minutes at the top, the train’s bell rang and we had to prepare for departure. Some people feel the effects more than others, and altitude sickness may set in after 30-40 minutes at the summit.

We had a young couple join us on the return trip who had just completed the hike, and opted to take the train back to base. They started their trek at 4:30 AM and finished 11 hours later. They were exhausted, oxygen deprived, elated, and looking forward to a steak dinner and a cold brew to celebrate their success. Maybe I should attempt that hike someday.

Cliff dwelling

Another place of note on our tour of the area were the Manitou Cliff Dwellings. The dwellings are are a group of relocated Anasazi ruined cliff dwellings that were moved to Manitou Springs, reassembled, and has been open to the public since 1907. There is a bit of controversy to the place. Is it real or a kitchy tourist trap? A bit of both it seems, due to the fact they were not the original dwellings, but rather a reconstruction. In any case, I always find ancient civilizations fascinating, and there is an attached museum which holds many artifacts.

Plants were used for food and medicine by the ancients

I see you Bruce!

One of the highlights of our journey was a trip to Aurora, a suburb of Denver to meet up with my BFF’s son, Tyler, who had recently moved there himself, embarking upon an adventure of his own. He and his roommates had relocated to the area in search of a different way of life and a taste of something new. The 4 roomies from Michigan share a house and are all gainfully employed and completely engaged with life. And, hey Janet, Tyler’s room was very clean! We hung out at their house for a bit, went to dinner, and once again had to say some goodbyes. It’s always so nice to see familiar faces. And to see young people pursuing their dreams, well that’s just a bonus!img_8861

We spent the majority of our time outside, doing what we enjoy best. Hiking in new areas, enjoying the company of the locals, trying out a few new restaurants (Rudy’s and their luscious brisket, sadly I have no picture, I ate it way too fast), a couple brew pubs, and, of course, basking in the joy that travel and adventure bring to us.

Until we meet again…

I have to say, Colorado Springs currently tops the list of places in the continental U.S. that I have had the pleasure of traveling to. And yes, I will be back…

…Meanwhile, I’ll see you in Austin, TX. The next stop on our journey.

Thoughts from the Road-America’s Mobile Workforce. 

Home of some of the mobile workforce

Not all fulltime RVer’s are the carefree retired types or pre-retirement adventurers like myself.

Many of our mobile community are gainfully employed and travel the country following their jobs. Lots of oil workers, road construction crews, mobile health-care professionals, and IT techs have rigs and will travel. Some stay put for a month, some for years. And when the job is finished, they pull up stakes and move on down the road to the next assignment. 

In warm climates like Texas, you may find many covered RV sites to keep the heat at bay, and give the AC units a break. Some in cold climates, such as Minnesota, live in big pole barn-types buildings to keep the furnace happy. I have never actually seen one of those in person, having no desire to travel in the cold, but I witnessed these covered sites pictured above while taking a stroll last night through the park we stopped to overnight in.

I have done the math. Even when figuring a monthly rig payment+lot rent+electricity bill, it still works out to less money than you could rent an apartment for, and when following the work, a house with a mortgage is out of the question. Mobile life is the perfect solution for housing.

Many have families, and some rigs have 2 separate sleeping spaces, a bath and a half or sometimes 2, dishwasher, washer and dryer, all the amenities one might find in a sticks and bricks home.

Bruce and I do NOT live in this type of rig, although many of our retiree/adventurer friends do. We do just fine with our simple Flying Dutchman.

The Flying Dutchman

Some enroll their kids in the local school system and some choose to homeschool their kids. I find this lifestyle extremely fascinating, and wish it had been an option when I was working and raising a family.

So to all of you folks yearning for the mobile lifestyle, but think you are limited to RV living on the weekends because of your job constraints, this may be something to consider.

See you on the road!

Traveling West 2017 Part 2-Nebraska 

The rig and it’s occupants departed Iowa on a bright sunny morning; destination North Platte, Nebraska. 

The city is located in the southwest corner of Nebraska, situated along the I-80 corridor, where the North and South Platte Rivers converge. The population is around 25,000, and it appeared to me to be the only decent sized town for miles. There were the typical Walmart, Target, Applebees, etc that one expects to find in any mid-sized town.

North Platte has two claims to fame. First it was the home of Buffalo Bill Cody. Second it has the largest rail yard in the world.

Scout’s Rest Ranch

We toured both and rapidly ran out of things to do. Not being shoppers, cruising the stores was not an option.

Buffalo Bill

The rail yard

Referred by a local gal, we attempted a hike. The area near the North Platte river was little more than a horse path, and was quite over grown, and could be in no means be termed a hiking trail. Hiking denied!

This is about as much Nature as I could muster up

One evening we decided to try the only brewery in the area, Pals Brewery. The brews were good and the nachos were delicious. I was surprised they were not busy, it was Friday night prime time and business was sluggish despite the good food and drink and decent prices. I guess the brew pub craze has not yet reached the area.

Yum!

Great nachos!

 

As I reflect upon my stay a few things come to mind. I did not find the residents to be overly friendly or  upbeat. This town seems to me to be kind of stuck in the 1990’s or something. There is a vibe of boredom or dullness that permeates the area.

If you are a person who pines for the past, don’t need much entertainment, and are not outdoorsy, this may be just the place for you.

I, for one, and I am sure Bruce will agree, find no need to return. I have been there, done that, and am ready to travel west to Colorado.

Catch me if you can!