I skipped over our 2 days in Limon, Colorado, mostly because there really wasn’t anything going on except a stay in a local KOA that specializes in one-night-stands for folks passing through.  The only thing that happened was that we discovered we’d picked up a drywall screw in the sidewall of one of the tires on our toad.   I had noted a slow drop in pressure since we returned from Dodge City, Kansas, but didn’t realize at first that we were dealing with a tire replacement.   We drove over to a nearby restaurant for dinner in Limon, and soon a young man came in and shouted, “Who owns this Chevy Equinox?  You’ve got a flat.”   Turns out that he was a mechanic in one of the local shops and helped me pinpoint the screw sticking out of the tire.   He wouldn’t take any money for helping me, and I’ll take it as truth that that’s just the way people are here.  If they can help out, they do it without sticking their hands out to be paid.  I thanked him and managed to get the car back around the corner to the RV, where I broke out the temp spare and jack, and threw the offending tire into the trunk.  Next morning, I drove a quarter-mile or so down to the NAPA store and had a new tire mounted by 9 AM.  Good thing, too, because we were due to leave the park by 11 AM for Colorado Springs.

We did the hour’s drive to Colorado Springs, stopped for lunch, got onto the Academy’s grounds by using our DOD Retiree CAC cards,and  checked in at the U.S. Air Force Academy’s “Famcamp,” Peregrine Pines RV Park.  Peregrine Pines is a sweet little park set up in a thick pine forest on the academy’s grounds.  For $26/night we got full hookups, spent a week there, and it made a great base for exploring the area.  We also got to explore the academy, attend church in the iconic USAFA chapel and check out the school’s grounds, watch movies about the Academy and watch the parachutists and glider pilots do their thing in the skies above.

 

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The USAFA Chapel, built in 1962. Catholics get the basement, protestants get the upstairs and the chapel also contains a jewish tabernacle and buddhist facility.  There’s also a mosque available.
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USAFA Cadets doing their morning formation while we blithely stroll around the grounds.

What to do in Colorado Springs?  Go to a rodeo!

Pat really loves a rodeo, and lo and behold there was one going on in Colorado Springs, called the “Pike’s Peak or Bust Rodeo” that supported the local USAFA population as well as offered a $70,000 purse for the winners.  We had a great time watching bulls, broncs, calves and even sheep figure out how to pizza-toss their riders into the mud.

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Calf-roping at the Pike’s Peak or Bust Rodeo.  Note the academy cadets in the stands across the way.

Garden of the Gods Park: We didn’t get to do much with this phenomenon since it was late in the day when we arrived there.  The park was originally part of a ranch, and was donated to the state of Colorado with the proviso that it remain free to all.  It features some pretty neat rock formations, and has lots of poured cement pathways in and amongs the rocks.  It was busy even late in the day, so we found parking and walked a couple of the paths, stopping to watch the rock climbers do their thing and digging the mule deer, mountain goats and other wildlife that hang around the rocks.  So when we exhausted ourselves on the trail, we drove the road that circles the rocks and stopped at the visitor center, which was more for folks younger than ourselves.

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Pike’s Peak, Damn Near Busted

We tried to get reservations on the cogwheel train that takes visitors directly to the top of the mountain, but everything was booked for weeks in the future.  So we drove up.  The few hairs I have left on the back of my neck were standing up straight the whole way up the mountain.  There were lots and lots of switchbacks without the luxury of guardrails should panic strike. In a lot of places there really wasn’t anything further out from the pavement other than a complete death drop to the valley below, so I kept the speed up the mountain to a crawl and hugged the double yellow whenever possible.   Oblivious to the bullets I was sweating, Pat was going “Oooh” and “Aaaah” and hanging out the window with her phone trying to snap pictures every few feet.

Life at 14,000 feet didn’t treat me very well, though, since I had a hard time with the lack of oxygen.  I snapped a few pictures and went to take a nap in the car until Pat got her fill, hoping that I could lick the oxygen thing long enough to launch the Equinox back down the mountain the same way we came up.   Things got quickly back to normal in my lungs after we descended a couple of thousand feet, and low gear on the Chevy got us back down without anything wild happening.   I promised myself, though, that next time, no matter what it takes, I’m taking the cogwheel train.

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Life above the treeline.  Those lakes are located about halfway up the climb, just to give an idea how far we had to go up.

 

Denver

Denver represented the goal of our westward journey, mostly to meet up with family and celebrate the wedding of my niece Sharon Klebba. My brother Jerry and his wife Beth are also retired and full-time RVers, and both of us fetched up in the same park, Dakota Ridge RV Park in Golden, Colorado to renew face-to-face relations, trade good-natured insults and laughs, eat a lot of food and watch Jerry’s kid get hitched.  The wedding went off like a charm, lots of family was met and introduced for the first time, and the festivities went on for two days, included a 19-piece swing band during the reception on Saturday, and ended in a Sunday brunch at a local restaurant, by which time we were mostly partied out.   The happy couple are both vegetarians so I had to sneak off every now and then to find a Burger King, but boy, were we full of food and good wishes by the time we were done!

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The happy couple hitched.  Dinner and jitterbugging to a swing band to follow.

Rocky Mountain National Park

Having gotten the wedding out of the way, we drove up to Boulder to visit with Pat’s niece Cindy and her family, and this culminated in a day-long trip up to Rocky Mountain National Park doing another edge-of-the-world climb up to the snowy tops of a bunch of mountains.   Pat used her senior pass to get the entire carload of me, Pat, Cindy and nephew-in-law Shawn into the park.   We entered the north entrance, went up to the visitor center at the top of the road (14,115 feet) and then went down through the south entrance.  This took all of about 5 hours and was an epic trip that I think everyone should make once in their lives.  It also represented a major bucket list item for Pat and me

Rebounding out of Denver. First Stop: Scotts Bluff, Nebraska

Over the next week our goal is to make it back to our home base of Rapid City, South Dakota.  We left Denver on Tuesday morning and, true to Pat’s usual planning thoroughness, we found a halfway point in Scotts Bluff, Nebraska that’s worthy of a couple days of sightseeing, in a fine RV park (Robidoux RV Park).   Scotts Bluff actually has a bluff – a raised ridgeline that towers over the top of the RV park and town, and was a major landmark for settlers heading west on the Oregon Trail.  We have two days to spend sightseeing and walking the trails in Scotts Bluff National Monument before we finish this leg of the trip up to Rapid City.  There we will check in with our doctors, credit union and mail forwarder.   Enough for now!