Thursday, May 30, 2013

Batching It

Denver is the last time we will be near a major airport for quite some time.  Leeanne took the opportunity to take her flight back to the Midwest to visit family, friends, and even the dentist.

2013-05-25_10-59-00_773So, what I am doing while she is away?  I am doing GUY stuff of course.  I drove out to the historic former gold mining towns of Black Hawk and Central City.  Just as with Cripple Creek, these gold mining towns flourished in the 1800s and in the 1900s almost became ghost towns.  And just as with Cripple Creek, the gold in these towns now comes from casino gambling.  The area is essentially the casino district of metropolitan Denver.

And my game of “skill” – live poker – Texas Holdem.  I played in two small tournaments of about 30 players each.  In the first one, I had my pocket aces cracked on the turn by pocket queens hitting a set.  But in the second tournament I persevered by folding all my bad cards until my cards finally improved and carried me through to a third place finish.

100_6419I also took in some beautiful scenery, if somewhat by accident.  On the way to Black Hawk, I drove up a road that following a canyon stream – Clear Creek.  It was an amazing drive with a stream full of rushing water from the snow melt off the Rockies.  They still are having snow up in the peaks and at least one ski resort still is open.  The reservoirs are full and it has rained some as well so the drought conditions are easing just a bit which is very good news for the area.




2013-05-26_10-40-32_344As for other GUY stuff, I watched the Indy 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 on the same day.  That is a lot of racing.  My head still is going around in ovals.  I went to the driving range and played golf.  I watched hockey only to see the Red Wings loose a three games to one lead in their series with the Black Hawks.  And I did a little biking on theses great urban bike trails.  Of course, I have also found ample time for some bonding with the Alley cat.

Today I am going to make a meat loaf for myself that is half Spam.  Leeanne and I are polar opposites when it comes to Spam.  She isn’t going to be the least bit sorry she missed this meat loaf.  But as I said as the start, I am doing GUY stuff.

Friday, May 24, 2013

The Broadmoor

100_6390About the last thing we did in Colorado Springs was to tour the Broadmoor hotel complex.  The Broadmoor is among the most famous of hotels and resorts in the country.  The resort dates from 1891 but most of the current resort was built in 1918.  It was THE resort destination of the Rocky Mountains in the age of railroads.  Over the years it has successfully reinvented itself and is now largely a luxury conference center with over 700 rooms and a world class spa.  It is rated 5 stars/5 diamonds by whomever is doing such ratings.

100_6401It was once the main home of figure skating in the US, but now is most noted for its tennis center and three 18-hole golf courses with designs/redesigns from Donald Ross, Robert Trent Jones, and Jack Nicklaus.  We walked down to the starter’s building at the courses.  Gary asked the starter a few questions including, “how much does a round cost”?  Well, you have to be a course member or a hotel guest to play and for hotel guests the price of a round is $225.  Nope, we didn’t play, but then we couldn’t as we weren’t guests at the hotel.

The shops and boutiques were impressive.  We had a drink in on of their bars thinking maybe they would validate our parking in their garage, but no such luck.  Somehow, we’re thinking we are unlikely to be staying here in any of our future travels, but it was interesting to see how the “other half” vacations.


100_6409We rolled out of Colorado Springs and moved only about an hour up the road to the Denver area.  When we were looking for a campground we had a lot of difficulty finding a space as our stay includes the Memorial Day weekend.  It was with some trepidation that we booked a place that had mobile home in its name ahead of RV.  But the reality was we found a real winner, a nicely treed urban oasis with a swimming pool, clubhouse, easy access to great city bicycle trails, nearby access to the light rail systems and affordable golfing right next door.  But on our way out of Colorado Springs we had to get one last shot of Pike’s Peak out the windshield of the motor home.

Monday, May 20, 2013

U.S. Olympic Training Center

Colorado Springs is the home of one of three Olympic Training Centers in the United States.  The others are in Chula Vista, California and Lake Placid, New York.  There are also fourteen Olympic Training Sites.  The United States Olympic Committee is also headquartered in  Colorado Springs as are many of the US governing bodies of the various Olympic sports.

We took a free guided tour of the training center.  Our tour guide told us that training at 6,500 feet above sea level with its thin atmosphere the bodies of athletes actually grow more capillaries, the tiniest blood vessels to try to bring more oxygen to the muscles, which is of great benefit when the athletes return to nearer to sea level conditions.  Let’s see how the training at these altitudes has affected us.



Pretty impressive, eh?

Up On Cripple Creek…….

Trying to get a song stuck in your head with this blog title.  Do you remember who sang the song?

We went up on Cripple Creek.  And it really is an up.  It’s a climb around the back side of Pike’s Peak with a  lot of the the road in the range of 9,000 to 10,000+ feet above sea level.  Cripple Creek itself is in a valley but at about 9,500 feet.  We have been a mile high or higher for a few weeks now, but it still seems like we are catching our breath with any physical exertion.


100_6357Gold was found in Cripple Creek in 1890 and it was the last great gold rush in Colorado.  The population of Cripple Creek swelled to over 35,000, but by the time of World War II, Cripple Creek’s mining days were largely over.  Cripple Creek became a virtual ghost town and in order to try to revive the town, casino gambling was approved in 1991.  The casinos are located in the buildings of the historic downtown with several of them sharing multiple store fronts.  And open pit gold mine is also operating in the area.

By the way, the song, “Up On Cripple Creek” was performed by The Band.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Garden Of The Gods

100_6324The Garden of the Gods is a Colorado Springs city park that contains many sandstone formations spread about a 500-acre parcel of land donated to the City on one condition – that it remain free to the public and it still is free.  It hosts nearly 2 million visitors a year.



At one time these rock formations laid in the ground horizontally, but were thrust up and to vertical by the rupture of the mountain range behind them -- the range that includes Pike’s Peak.


And 47 years after his first attempt (photo on the left from the albums of Gary’s parents), Gary took another shot at lifting and pushing this giant boulder off its perch.  He pushed it up just as he had the last time, but alas he still couldn’t roll it off.


Thursday, May 16, 2013

Paintless Dent Repair

We try to keep our “toad” (AKA Number 2) free from dents.  We use a device called Protect-a-Tow, a shield between the motor home and our car that helps to push down and under the car any rocks and debris kicked up by the motor home. We highly recommend this device and it is very quick and easy to install. 

We don’t park way out by ourselves at parking lots, but we do avoid narrow parking spaces and we try to park in spaces with curbs on one side whenever possible to garner more space between us and the next vehicle.  In spite of our best efforts, someone banged us with their door at a lot.  And we aren’t talking a tiny little paint chip.  This hit and the dent it created were so deep that it actually also bent the door edge and how it matched up with the quarter panel.  Of course no one left a note on our windshield even though there was no way possible they could not have known they hit us hugely with their door.  And it wasn’t but a couple weeks later until someone else with their door put another significant dent in the same area.

We were only vaguely aware of the concept of paintless dent repair where they use various tools on the back side of the dent to work it out.  We happened to see a shop here in Colorado Springs called “The Ding Guy”.  They had good reviews on line and Gary took the car there and they told him they felt they could get those two dents 80-90% restored and that for a couple of others that had been there since we purchased the car, they could remove them virtually 100%.

At the end of a 3-hour visit, the dent removal was even better than advertised. We were extremely pleased.   The door edge came back into shape as well.  The cost for removing the four dents was $250.

We had assumed they would have to have direct access to the back of the dent but in the case of our worst dents, they didn’t even removed the inner door trim panel.  Instead, they ran their tool down the glass channel and worked it out with that little bit of clearance.

We now are sold on the concept of paintless dent repair wherever it can be used.  If you want to see a Youtube video on the process, here is one you could watch:

The Manitou and Pike’s Peak Railway

We decided to splurge a bit and take the train up to the top of Pike’s Peak (we certainly were not going to hike it, and driving up was virtually out of the question as well).  This railroad has been serving the tourist trade since the 1890s.  It is not an ordinary train as it climbs about 7,500 feet to reach the top with grades as high as 25%.  In order to make this climb, the railway employs a cog system.  It is probably easier to show what that means with a couple of pictures.


The trip takes about an hour and a half each way as the trail climbs up through forests, past rock formations then above the tree line to the peak of the mountain.  Below is a picture of two trains passing on the tracks.  There are diesel engines, generators and electric motors at the banks of wheels on each end of the car.  Also shown below is what the system looked like in 1949 when a separate locomotive pushed the passenger car up the mountain.  We know that it was 1949 as the picture was taken by Gary’s Grandparents  when they visited there that year.


The air is thin at top with an elevation over 14,000 above sea level.  It was somewhat cloudy and it was snowing a bit but we were able to snap a couple pictures from Pike’s Peak.


Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Mother’s Day Baseball?


100_6200So, what did we do to celebrate Mother’s Day?  Gary took me out to the old ball park.  But, don’t get me wrong, this was the best day we had had here – low 70s and sunny – and it was great to get out in that lovely weather.  And it was 50-cent hot dog day to boot.  When some ballparks charge $4 for a hot dog, what a deal.


100_6198The venue this time was Security Service Field, home of the Colorado Springs Sky Sox, the AAA affiliate of the Colorado Rockies.  The park is advertised as the highest professional ballpark in the country at 6,531 feet above sea level.  Many ballparks these days feature a view of the skyline of their city.  But at this park, of course there is a view of the front range of the Rocky Mountains.




What kind of a mascot would “Sky Sox” have? Why a Sky Sox Fox, of course.

There was a special pizza deal if a team scored at least 10 runs and the final score was 14 to 4, but unfortunately the Sky Sox would had to have been on the winning side of that score and they weren’t.  No pizza to go with the dogs, Aww.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

US Air Force Academy

100_6180During our full-timing travels, we now have visited all three of the major military service academies.  The Air Force Academy (AFA) has a very different look from the other two.  The Naval Academy and West Point are much older and have traditional looks with mainly stone buildings.  The AFA was established in the 1950s and is aluminum and glass.  It seems rather fitting for the academy of the Air Force.

The Academy is set against the front face of the Rocky Mountains.  The center piece of the AFA is it’s chapel, an extremely stylish building.



100_6181And at the football stadium, Gary had to regale me with his stories about how the AFA had approached him to apply and if accepted try out for their football team, but that he had been rejected for consideration because of his teeth of all things – he has a bit of an overbite.  It’s the story that keeps on giving about how he could have played football against Norte Dame.

Friday, May 10, 2013

On To Colorado Springs

100_6143Or, were we ever going to get down from up on this mountain valley?  We had a beautiful day for the Great Sand Dunes, but we knew there was potential for precipitation for several days thereafter.  We probably should only have spent one night the in the area of the sand dunes and taken off in the sunny afternoon.  But as only hindsight is 20/20, we waited until the next morning only to wake up to ugly looking clouds in the mountain pass we needed to pass through.   And not only did the say it was raining in the pass, but that it was SNOWING.  So let’s see.  Our motor home plus car weigh well over 35,000 pounds, the mountain pass is at 9,400 feet of elevation.  There is 6 miles of 6% downgrade.  And it is snowing up there.  It’s a pretty easy call to sit still for a few hours.

Fortunately the clouds passed, it turned sunny and warmer, and we became convinced it was likely safe to proceed.  By the time we were at the top of the pass, there were only a few wet patches of road left.  The Jake Brake on our diesel motor 100_6149work flawlessly and we were able to roll down the 6% grade at only about 40 mph without the need to stab the service brakes.

The interstate up to Colorado Springs is down out of the mountains and although a bit of a roller coaster ride is quite straight.  It is amazing here how you got from the plains of eastern Colorado immediately up to the 14,000 foot mountain peaks of western Colorado.

100_6151Our campsite is super.  From what we see, we scored the very best site in the park.  We look right out our front window at the front range of the Rocky Mountains with Pike’s Peak as the foremost peak of the range.  Albuquerque may have its beautiful backdrops of mountains, but the backdrop here in Colorado Springs is even more spectacular.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Great Sand Dunes National Park


100_6093It was time to move north out of New Mexico.  We weren’t keen about the weather forecast as it had rain in it with the potential to make the roads slick.  But we already had delayed our move up into Colorado and Alley cat was demanding that we take her to another new state.  And with Colorado under her harness, she now has been to a total of 30 states – quite the quantity of travel for a kitty.


100_6096We had only a bit of rain on the drive, but it was cloudy and foggy around the mountains as we arrived.  We were in for a treat when we woke up to sunny and clear skies the next morning.  Gary said, “take a look back out the window”.  The RV park we are in is more than a bit on the seedy side, so I didn’t know what to think when he told me to look.  But what a glorious view that absolutely could not be seen when we rolled in.  This is Blanca Peak, the seventh tallest mountain peak in the continental United States, right here in our back yard, and we didn’t even know it.

100_6105Our stop in this part of Colorado was to visit the Great Sand Dunes National Park.  Sand dunes you ask?  In a mountain valley at around 8,000 feet elevation?  Sand dunes against the back drop of 13,000 and 14,000 foot mountain peaks?  So how does this area come to have the tallest sand dunes in North America?  Well, this is a huge and very flat valley fully surrounded by 100_6127mountains.  All the snow melt and rain in the mountains wears on the rock and creates grains of sand that flow into the creeks and main river of the valley, once again, that Rio Grande that we have been following all this year.  In the summer, the water flow becomes a trickle, the winds blow, primarily out of the southwest, and the sand is blown across the valley. It finally reaches the mountain range known as the Sangre de Cristos and the sand becomes trapped as huge dunes at the base of the mountains.  The dunes rise as high as 750 feet from the floor of the valley and cover around 30 square miles of area,

100_6111We hiked up a bit on the lower dunes and watched some children slide down dune faces on sleds.  There were also people who had special boards very similar to snow boards who skied down the dunes.  On a drive back through one area of the park we came upon a small group of mule deer who didn’t seem to be bothered by us at all – right up close and personal.

Sunday, May 5, 2013



We are camped on the north side of Santa Fe in part so we also could explore the town of Taos.  It also is a pueblo town, but has grown over time into an arts area along with being a snow skiing resort.

We took one route over to Taos and another on the way back.  The first route was the “high road to Taos”.  It travels up and on the mountains and mesas.  Our GPS unit gives us elevation readings as we travel.  We were generally in the range of  8,000 to 9,000 feet above sea level on the drive.  There were several little villages with small galleries and Indian crafts along the way, making it a popular day trip out of Santa Fe.


100_6028The town is another one of adobe style buildings.  The town square was surrounded by galleries and specialty shops. Turquoise jewelry is especially popular in this area.




100_6033Our trip back was the “low road” which follows the Rio Grande River through a gorge carved through the rock mesa.  The Rio Grande originates in the mountain areas of Colorado and draws most of its water from the mountains of southern Colorado and northern New Mexico.  I caught quite the sunset on the trip back.



100_5664One thing that has been ever present here are the long green and red New Mexico chiles.  These aren’t the super hot peppers but they definitely have tang and flavor.  They are probably most similar to an Anaheim variety of pepper, but they are served with every meal here.  You are asked if you want green or red and if you want both, the proper request is “Christmas”.  And the red ones are used for decoration and you see bundles of them everywhere.


We broke out the golf clubs one day, something we need to do more often if we are going to keep hauling them around.  We played a Par 3 course.  Gary hit one tee shot to about a foot from the cup – and then proceeded to miss his birdie putt.  He was not a happy camper, er golfer. 

Friday, May 3, 2013

Santa Fe

100_6051We moved up from Albuquerque to Santa Fe.  We had thought of moving on up into Colorado, but these cold fronts keeping dropping down and they continue to have snow storms up there.  Even here in Santa Fe we have had a couple of nights below freezing.  We are in a State that borders Mexico; where is Spring?


100_6042On our way out of Albuquerque we stopped at a Cummins shop for some routine maintenance and checks, before we start tracing the Rocky Mountains.  Most everything seemed to be in order, but we were a little low on coolant.  Not sure where it went as we haven’t seen any sign of any leaks so it will have to be something for us to watch.




100_6039We did a walking tour of Santa Fe, the capitol of New Mexico.  We often use for our walking tours as we have had good success with them.  Our first stop was the Capitol Building, or Roundhouse, the only round capitol building in the United States.  We entered the building thinking that we likely could not tour it.  We were quite surprised that with just a quick sign in and without even passing through a metal detector, we were able to tour most all of the building even right past the entrance to the Governor’s office.  The round design seemed very efficient.  There is a center hub to the building with an open atrium to a skylight ceiling with hallway spokes from the outer ring to the inner ring all covered with artwork, and mostly from New Mexican artists.  We happened in at the time of a special exhibit of contemporary fiber art.

The history of Santa Fe is strongly influenced by the Indian Pueblo culture predating and combined with the Spanish influence of the 1500 and 1600s.  In the early 1900s Santa Fe imposed a unified building style of the “Spanish Pueblo Revival” look.  Meanwhile many artists streamed into the area to paint the adobe style and the soaring landscapes of the surrounding mountains.  There are hundreds of art galleries in this city of fewer than 100,000 people.