Current Location: Flag City RV Resort, Lodi California
Breezy, partly cloudy, and 65 Degrees F at 6PM
On Wednesday, when we arrived in Colorado Springs, the skies were a blue so brilliant and perfect that I was enthralled. What better way to do laundry than to walk through a pine fragrant campground with an armful of clothes in the bright sunshine. I took my time catching up laundry, shaking out rugs, cleaning up the MoHo a bit and preparing for the next few days with the luxury of our home parked in one place. At Peregrine Pines, laundry is not free, but the machines are new and nice and the $1.75 per load for washing and $1.50 for drying is reasonable.
Our campsite isn’t far from the laundry and bath house at USAFA Peregrine Pines Family Camp
We decided that with the coming days of driving around both Colorado Springs and Denver, it would be a good idea to take the kayaks off the Tracker and lock them up at the campsite. With the cooler temperatures, and visits with friends and relatives on the agenda, there wouldn’t be any kayaking happening.
I let Erin know that we were settled in and we made arrangements for the following day. Since we weren’t planning to get together until lunchtime, Erin suggested that we might like to hike the short pathway from the Academy Visitor Center to see the iconic Cadet Chapel that is a landmark visible for a long distance from many parts of Colorado Springs.
The morning wasn’t as perfectly gorgeous as the previous day, and the air was chilly. We meandered around the base, which is huge, and found the VC and the trail to the chapel. As we entered the chapel, the sun came through the clouds at just the right moment to illuminate the colorful stained glass windows perfectly.
This magnificent chapel was completed in 1962 and in 2004 was named a US National Historic Landmark. There was a docent who showed us around, discussing the architecture, the lighting, and many small details that I might have missed.
For instance, the ends of the pews are made of walnut and oak, shaped like airplane propellers. The metal railings on the pews are made from aluminum, and represent the wings of an airplane.
The architecture of the building is fascinating, with huge tetrahedrons bolted together to create the modernistic shape that soars skyward. There are services held at the chapel for several denominations so that all cadets are represented.
The cross at the front of the chapel is 99 feet tall and is shaped to symbolize not only the Christian cross, but also a soaring bird in flight, or perhaps an airplane.
The windows were the most fascinating, with colors and angles that challenged the ability of the camera to capture light, turning everything a bright blue, even though that isn’t exactly how it was perceived by the eyes.
The docent pointed out the stairs leading to the Roman Catholic chapel below, in addition to the Jewish Synagogue, and a Buddhist Meditation space. The entire building was so inspirational. I would have loved to be there for a Sunday service, just to hear the magnificent pipe organ, but our schedule demands that we be on the road early Sunday morning, so we will have to save that for another visit.
After we returned to the campground, Erin and Mui drove out to our campsite and then suggested we follow them to the lunch restaurant they thought would be a nice place for the four of us. Most travelers with a tow vehicle know about the use of said vehicle as a sort of garage. We were unable to take Erin and Mui in our car because it was crammed full of all the winter clothes we didn’t need in Florida but did need in the Pacific Northwest and in Colorado, with kayak gear, paddles, extra dog food, and wet water shoes. Not a nice place to sit.
Erin and Mui had a bit of the same problem. Having only recently ended their full time lifestyle, their car had been without a back seat, and once it was replaced, they had yet to find the proper seat belts. Hence 4 people in 2 cars meandered through Colorado Springs toward the charming historic town of Colorado City.
I was delighted with the lovely town, with lots of restaurants, shops full of enticing goodies, and brilliant murals on the old brick walls. We didn’t have time to dawdle, with lunch at TAPAteria next on our agenda. Erin and Mui know good food, so I was excited to experience their choice of restaurant.
I wasn’t disappointed and we shared several small plates and a couple of salads. I even tasted Mui’s octopus, a first for me. Our shared pitcher of frosty fruity blood orange sangria was the perfect accompaniment to our delicious meal.
After lunch we decided that a trip to the nearby Garden of the Gods would be a great way to enjoy the rest of the afternoon. Once again, we caravanned to the park and began our visit by an exploration of the Visitor Center. The view from the outside deck is perfect, looking west toward the red rock fins of the park with a backdrop of snow covered Pikes Peak.
We decided to take a few minutes to see the park movie, shown in a round theater with seats that are supposed to represent a spaceship. The movie travels back in time a few billion years, explaining the creation of the rock formations of the park over the eons. Of course I loved it, even though it did seem that it was made mostly for kids.
The displays at the Visitor Center were beautifully done, and I especially fell in love with the backlit artist’s renderings of the progression of time through the ages with the associated plants and animals.
With the afternoon passing by very quickly, and the somewhat windy and chilly air, we decided that a drive through the park was more reasonable than hiking. The caravan once again took off for the 7 mile loop drive, stopping at the viewpoints to enjoy the panoramic views, and competing with a lot of people for parking spaces.
The Garden would be a lovely place to hike, and I will have that on my agenda for my next visit to Colorado Springs as well. My favorite moment, however, was when I decided to climb up the rock around Balanced Rock so Erin could get a photo. The minute my feet hit that slickrock, I was in heaven. Climbing slickrock takes at least a dozen years off my life, and instead of doddering along trying to keep from stumbling around, I am suddenly a mountain goat, bouncing up the rocks without a qualm. I love love love slickrock, probably my most favorite feeling underfoot. Slickrock is not slick at all, and almost vertical hiking feels so simple.
One last time, the two car caravan meandered across Colorado Springs back to the western edge facing the prairie toward Erin and Mui’s brand new home. What a treat! Having just completed the building of our own new home in the last couple of years, we knew exactly how it felt to have it finally finished. We were thrilled to have the honor of being their first guests.
One of my favorite moments came as we entered the lower level where all of Erin’s beautiful needlepoint and framed photographs were lined up along the wall waiting for their someday placements. Having been blogging friends with Erin for at least a decade now, I have seen occasional photos of her work. It was quite a thrill to see it in person. So beautiful! I can hardly wait to see how their home evolves as they add their touches and make it their own.
I didn’t take photos at their house, figuring that Erin could share what she chooses at her leisure, but let me tell you, that view out the windows facing the prairie is spectacular. Across from their home is open space and an arroyo that is home to antelope and other wildlife. Here is a blog post from Erin that ends with a sunrise from those gorgeous windows.
As the sun lowered in the sky over the mountains, we bid our farewells for the day, making plans to get together one more time before Mo and I resume our journey westward.
The next morning, Mo and I left the MoHo safely parked at the base, and loaded up the Tracker for a trip north to Denver to spend a night with Mo’s sister Edna.
I had to laugh, because even for a single night, traveling with our little dog is as bad as having kids. We had to pack up the dog crate, the dog bed and blankets, dog food, and halter and leash, making sure we didn’t miss anything. Mo and I didn’t bother to take much more than a toothbrush and some nightclothes.
The trip to Denver was uneventful, and we arrived at Edna’s early enough in the day to share some morning coffee and conversation before sitting outside in the lovey sunshine and taking Mattie for a nice long walk through the neighborhoods.
We spent a quiet afternoon visiting and collaborating on a 1000 piece puzzle that Edna had previously started. Made me want to buy a puzzle, but it also made me a little bit crazy. Early evening we ordered in pizza and enjoyed the company of Edna’s daughter Marci and her husband John, who came over to join us. The next morning we shared a nice breakfast Edna of leftover fabulous cherry pie before getting on the road back south.
Overnight, the crazy weather in Colorado changed again, and snow covered the hills as we traveled back south toward Colorado Springs. There was a big slowdown on Interstate 25, long enough to give me a chance to get a photo of gorgeous Pikes Peak in the morning sun.
Once back home, I let Erin and Mui know that we had returned. Initially we had thought we might do something as dramatic as visiting the Broadmoor Hotel and Manitou, but Mo and I were feeling a bit worn, and we all decided to keep it simple. Having camped at Peregrine Pines for a few weeks prior to moving into their home they knew the good spots. Erin suggested a walk around what we think is a water retention pond, and a visit to a special spot at the base that we might have missed otherwise.
Once we knew they were on their way back to the campground, we said the magic word “walk”, in fact I am pretty sure we even spelled it out, which doesn’t help at all because Mattie knows how to spell a few important words. The walk was lovely, with views of Pikes Peak, and we discussed how nice it would be to get up early enough to take photos at sunrise with reflections on the pond. Something I never quite managed to do.
W –A –L –K ?? Really, Mom? what’s the hold up??
The Heritage Trail at Doolittle Hall was lovely in the afternoon light, with memorials and statues honoring famous graduates of the Academy. Doolittle Hall and the Association of Graduates honors the heritage, legacy, and history of the USAir Force Academy and its graduates.
This lovely bridge is called the Challenge Bridge and was donated by the graduating class of 1959. We enjoyed the wildlife along the trail as well.
Dark Eyed Junco first time I have seen one
We then meandered back toward the Visitor Center Mo and I had passed on our first morning of explorations and spent some time viewing the wonderful displays of Academy history and cadet life.
As I read more and more of the codes of conduct of Academy cadets, I was so moved by what kind of inspiration it must be to young men and women to be part of such a tradition. If only part of the people that attend the Academy live up to such lofty ideals, we are lucky to have them in our world.
Great man, great smile, Mui was in the Air Force and knows how to do those hospital corners
Once again, the afternoon was waning, and it was time for Erin and Mui to lead us to supper. And what a great supper it was. The big surprise was that the Italian bistro type restaurant that we visited was in a mall, and such a mall it was. Colorado Springs seems to be a hotbed of wondrous shopping, and I really wished I would have had time to explore some of the real sticks and bricks stores that were clustered around our restaurant, Il Vicino. Add that to the list of things to do when someday we return for a visit to Colorado Springs! What a fun place to be.
What a yummy place and a truly delicious supper. I can’t believe we didn’t take any photos that evening, but we were enjoying the conversation, knowing it would be the last real time visit for who knows how long. We bid our final goodbyes and headed back to our little home on wheels, waiting patiently in the forest at the USAFA campground for the next leg of this long adventure.