The trip from Santa Fe was the longest planned travel day of our trip – 312 miles. Even though it is “all interstate” that is certainly enough for one day for us. We truly are about the journey, not just the destination.
We arrived at the Colorado Springs KOA, just south of town about 2:15, which works great. This KOA, unlike most, is known as a KOA Holiday, which must be their “premier” or destination rating. Regardless, there was enough for a family that you would never need to leave the park for a week. A huge swimming pool with all kinds of slides, a second lap pool and a hot tub for 10, which unfortunately was being rebuilt. It was “Pirate’s Plunder Weekend” – with games and events scheduled every hour, including treasure hunts, hot sauce eating content, wagon rides, chalk art – the list goes on forever. It was a happy place!
Some of you may remember that Bill & I rented a “Cruise America” Class C RV several years ago, when we were without a boat – just to try the experience. We had a great time in Oregon, but upon returning the unit, Bill went out and bought another boat! We do enjoy seeing these rigs on the road as we know people are trying out a lifestyle that we hope they enjoy. We stepped out of the coach the first morning to an infestation of them!
With this location, we are getting back into a more “normal” travel experience – which includes finding a gym nearby for use in the mornings before we head out for a day’s adventure.
After a good workout, we headed to Old Colorado City. Originally a town on its own right, it is now a neighborhood within Colorado Springs. Founded during the Pikes Peak Gold Rush of 1859, it was both a supply hub and a gold ore processing center in the 1890s. Revitalization is certainly done well in this area of town and we enjoyed the Farmer’s Market in the park and then found a lovely little Irish Pub with patio – and cousin Todd Ratts joined us for a delightful midday respite.
It was one of the warmest days we have experienced, so after bidding Todd a “farewell and see you next week,” we headed for the Garden of the Gods. It is an amazing 1,300 acres of sandstone formations with walking and hiking trails, along with a one lane road where you can drive thru the Gardens.
In 1879, General William Jackson Palmer, having established Colorado Springs 8 years earlier, convinced his friend, Charles Elliott Perkins to purchase the land surrounding these magnificent stone structures. The underlying motivation was to have Perkins, head of the Burlington Roadroad, bring his railroad from Chicago to Colorado Springs. Perkins original purchase of 240 acres ($22/acre or $5,280) was later expanded, but he never built on it, preferring to leave his wonderland in its natural state for the enjoyment of the public.
Perkins died in 1907 before he made arrangements for the land to become a public park, even though it had been open to the public for years. Two years later, in 1909, Perkins’ children, knowing their father’s feelings for the Garden of the Goods, conveyed his 480 acres to the City of Colorado Springs “where it shall remain free to the public…”
Sunday morning, we visited lovely St. Raphael’s Episcopal Church near us. As with so many churches, they are struggling with lack of attendance and participation – but they have a wonderful, loving spirit. When the Interim Rector found out we were from North Carolina, her outpouring of love and admiration for Bishop Curry was almost overwhelming!
The beautiful clear, warm weather of Saturday was long gone, replaced with heavy overcast skies and a high of 57! Of course, this was the day to do Pike’s Peak, so off we went to “see what we could see”. The drive up the Peak is 20 miles with precious few guardrails on a rather precarious two lane road. It was, however, a glorious trip and the clouds parted as we ascended, especially on the western slope. The wind was howling, the clouds were racing up the slope at us and it was 39 degrees!
That evening, we found a little Japanese Restaurant close by and Captain Bil got his fix on sushi!
Monday morning we made another early visit to Gold’s Gym and then we were headed to Denver, with a stop at the Air Force Academy just north of Colorado Springs. We have been blessed to visit the Naval Academy several times in Annapolis and then West Point as we cruised up the Hudson River in 2015 aboard Ivory Lady.
The U.S. Air Force Academy (USAFA) is a sprawling campus on 18,000 acres in tune with nature. Where West Point is the stately granite and by far the oldest Military Academy and the Naval Academy has the beauty of limestone, the Air Force Academy has a stark difference in white, clean lines.
The USAFA was authorized during the Eisenhower Administration in 1954. Groundbreaking occurred 1955 and the first class was held at Lowry AFB in 1959 until the Academy was completed in 1960.
After a visit to the Barry Goldwater Visitors’ Center that included a 21 minute movie on the “life of a cadet”, we headed out for the 1/3 mile walk to the Chapel. The upper level is the Protestant Chapel, while the lower level houses chapels for Roman Catholic, Jewish and Buddist worship.
Across the courtyard, one finds the Honor Court, where bronze statues of aircraft and airmen that saw action during the various conflicts since WWI.
The USAFA lands are rich with Native American heritage and history. They are currently working with 27 federally-recognized Native American tribes that have cultural affiliation with these lands.
We returned to the coach, had a delightful lunch on board and then pointed her north on the harrowing 63 miles thru southwest Denver to Golden – most of which was under construction! The itinerary for our trip this spring was driven by the Ratts Family Reunion in Grand Lake, CO – up the mountain from Denver. So, we have made it to our “interim destination” and about the halfway point of our journey.