Friday, December 31, 2010

Winter at a Colorado KOA!

 I noticed a strange purple light out my bedroom window a couple of days ago, so had to get up to see this gorgeous sunrise. The entire area was bathed in this lovely purple. It was portending the coming storm, predictions of our first real snow and single digit temps. Notice the motorhome on the left. (Click to enlarge photo.) I took this from inside my trailer.

Two days later, the storm had arrived, along with the low, low temps. There's that motorhome again. I believe they are leaving for Texas in a couple of days. Can't blame them! Our row will be empty except for us on one end and the other workamper on the other end, visible way down there in the center of the photo. We do still have several monthlies here, also.

 The store and registration building, the typical KOA  'A' frame — Keith is out front shoveling the walks. He's very good at that, since we haven't yet learned to head south in the winter!

Here is our cozy home, skirts on and ready for snow and wind. Our park is across the road from the huge Strasburg grain elevators, towers so familiar in this part of Colorado. We are also right next to the famous railroad where the last spike, at Comanche Crossing, joined the rails from New York to San Francisco. (See my post from October 15) I like the rushing sound of the train and its warning whistle as it zooms through town several times a day, carrying sometimes coal and other times who knows what. To me, it's a friendly sound.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Garden of the Gods

The weather was great, warm and sunny, so we set out for Colorado Springs, about 90 miles away, using the back roads, some gravel, to avoid the freeway. This is the view of Pikes Peak from a few miles south of Strasburg. We kept wondering why there wasn't much snow up there, when we could see heavy snow on other peaks near Denver.

The map program on the iPad has been such a life-saver for us as we traverse the backroads and the cities. We'd have been lost many times over without it! We looked up a Mac store in Colorado Springs, found it using the iPad, and purchased a car charger for our handy little tool. We already had a car charger for our Verizon MiFi card. We are so spoiled to have internet wherever we are!

The main purpose of our trip was to visit The Garden of the Gods. We found it easily, up against the foothills of the Rockies. My pictures don't do it justice. What an awesome place! I would call it The Garden of God! We were met by a retired gentleman, a volunteer, who walked with us halfway through the garden, explaining the formation of the Rockies and how this particular area was formed. I can't remember most of it, and wasn't sure I believed some of it, since there was no one around but God when these wonders came to be.

These formations all have names. We didn't get a brochure to help us remember them, however. This is a partial view of the biggest one.

This tall tower was home to many pigeons. We heard the loud cooing and could tell that the birds used the crevices for their nests. You can see a flock above the left spike. We looked for faces in the rocks, and found many. I saw a family of 3 in this formation. Can you see it?

Rock climbing is a popular sport in the Garden. We saw several climbers. Here is one making his way up the right side of the spike.

We did learn why there wasn't snow on top of Pikes Peak. The Colorado Springs area is very dry, with only about 60 inches of precipitation a year! I hadn't realized that, even though up in the Denver area we've had hardly any rain or snow, either. At least there the Rockies do have a good coating of snow. I learned that Katherine Lee Bates wrote "America the Beautiful" as she gazed out from the top of Pikes Peak, which is the most easterly of the 14,000 foot high mountains. It is the most easily visible from any point east, making it a famous landmark of the Rockies for the pioneers coming west across the plains. There is a toll road going to the top, as well as a cog railway that runs year-around. There are even gift shops and other buildings on the very top! We'll save that trip for another day! This photo is the view from the Garden.

I said there were many faces in the rocks. This one is our favorite. Is it a mummy, or what?

I do remember the name of this rock, the one to the left. It is 'Balanced Rock'. It seems to be resting on only a very small portion of its bottom. It's scary that the road goes right beneath it. Guess it's been that way for millenniums, though.

Here is the Trading Post, a building originally constructed in the 1920s for trade with the Indians in the area. It's been greatly expanded and improved, while retaining the original adobe, southwest look. You can see Pikes Peak again, from the parking lot. We loved the gift shop, filled with beautiful and unusual items, but even more we loved the cafe´ where I ordered my favorite buffalo burger and Keith had chili fries. One more point of interest about The Garden — we saw a large metal plaque on the side of one of the spires that said,

"The Garden of the Gods
given to
the city of Colorado Springs
in 1909
by the children
Charles Elliott Perkins
in fulfillment of his wish
that it be kept forever
free to the public."

It is indeed free to enter and explore the park. The city has constructed beautiful parking lots, pathways and fences (and restrooms!) throughout, to protect the beauty of the place, but it remains free to the public! Our trip there was one of the highlights of our time in Colorado. More to come!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

A Museum Day

On Wednesday, since it was a beautiful day, we decided to drive into Denver and visit the Museum of Nature and Science. This amazing skeleton greeted us as we entered the building. It was a day for school kids, too, as the place was swarming with them. 
(Click to enlarge any of these photos.)

Neither of us are enthusiastic museum-goers, but we both were very impressed with the displays. There was so much to see that we only got to a small portion of it. The nature displays were awesome! There were animals and birds from all over the world, all very life-like. What amazed me was seeing the real plants, grasses, flowers, and trees in the foreground, all preserved somehow,  and in the background paintings so skillfully done that we could hardly tell where the real left off and the painting began. This display was in the Botswana, Africa section.

Again, isn't the background beautiful? Here is the American Bald Eagle. Each display was enclosed in glass. I was able to take these pictures without using my flash.

There was an American Indian collection of displays, too. Here is Keith checking out a 'hogan' from the Ute tribe. The Utes inhabited most of Utah and Colorado.

The Museum is located in the huge City Park in downtown Denver. Also on the property is the Denver Zoo, a large golf course, 2 lakes, and miles of walking and biking trails.  We discovered that up on the 4th floor of the museum there was an open observation deck, which overlooked the lakes and the skyline of Denver with the gorgeous Rocky Mountains framing the city. We spent some time up there admiring the beauty and taking these photos.

Here is my favorite shot! The Park was inhabited by thousands, and I mean thousands, of Canada Geese! They were everywhere, flying in groups, honking, landing on the lakes and all around the trails and lawns. We were told they stay all winter. They know they are safe in the Park.

Leaving the City Park we drove around the downtown. The State Capitol has beautiful grounds, but is dwarfed by the tall, more modern buildings all around it. At one time it must have been the most imposing edifice in the city. We plan to go inside, maybe on another trip.

Here is the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception. This is an awesome structure, the largest Catholic Church in Colorado, also right in the middle of the downtown. I would love to go inside. Notice the 'One Way' sign seeming to point to the church! As with the Capitol, one cannot get a good photo of the entire church because of the huge buildings and many signs and traffic around it. I photographed it by sections.

 Heading for home we drove back through the City Park to get a closer look at a building we'd seen from the observation deck. We passed by these barren trees and had to get a photo of them. They are filled with nests of some kind which are probably hidden from view when the leaves are on the trees. I wonder if they will be used in the spring? It must be a bird condominium! We returned home to Strasburg very satisfied with today's excursion into the big city. What will we find there next? I'll be sure to blog about it!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Where, oh where, has my little dog gone?

Adventure! Our next-door RV neighbor pulled out of his space this morning, not realizing one of his weiner dogs had gotten out of the truck while he wasn't looking. I peeped out the window to watch him going and saw the little dog trying to follow. I went out, grabbed the doggie, and waved frantically to no avail. The trailer turned the corner onto the main road where he couldn't see us. Keith and I jumped in the car without coats or drivers' license, me holding a trembling, bewildered dachshund, who was looking at me very suspiciously, and raced down the road in hot pursuit. We went several miles before we could get close enough to the 5th wheel to begin flashing our lights. The driver did see us, finally, and pulled his RV over. He was so surprised and happy to see his little friend, who he hadn't yet noticed was missing. Happy ending!

Christmas in Strasburg

 Every year the people of Strasburg Colorado get together and put on a community Christmas celebration. The do this without a mayor or a city council, just a lot of co-operation amongst the townsfolk and business owners. Last night we experienced this communal effort. The KOA was thoroughly involved — notice the 3 happy Santas, some of the crew here. We have Keith, all around worker, and Brittney and David, pizza makers. We were preparing for the hayride wagon to come through loaded with Christmas celebrants and potential shoppers and pizza eaters!

 Keith and David made this roaring fire and put the tables and chairs around for movie watching for any of the hayride people who were interested in staying awhile. There were 2 wagons which made round trips several times during the evening.

The sun has set, and we are waiting for the folks who will sit around our fire. They'll need to cozy up to the flames, because it is cold!

 Here's a load, waiting to leave the campground. Keith and I were talked into riding into town during our shift, by our boss, so we wouldn't miss the celebration and the decorations.

And a Merry Christmas to all from these 2 Santas, sitting on a haybale in the back of the crowded wagon! What fun!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

What a Sky!

We were returning home to Strasburg after a ride awhile ago and were treated to this beautiful sunset. I focused on the water tower in town to put it to scale. Isn't this gorgeous? As I zoomed in with my iPhoto program the yellow part of the sky began to look like a huge lake, complete with islands. There are dark lands beyond, between the golden lake and the blue sky. Amazing! It sparks one's imagination!

Monday, November 29, 2010

KOA Scenes

 I've taken a variety of quick photos around the KOA kampground, (it's Kamping, not Camping!) so thought I'd put up a few of them here. This is Jeff, the owner, putting a new roof on the hot tub enclosure. He is a talented jack-of-all-trades, very necessary skills for a campground owner.

 Every RV park should have its own kitty! Callie, a mostly outside cat, favors the bench by the office door when she's not wandering through the kampground, but she readily comes into the office and store when the weather gets cold and snowy. Isn't she pretty?

 Here is a great shot of David, one of our pizza makers, and a workamper here. He's had years in the pizza business so is a valuable asset to our KOA, where we make, sell and deliver pizzas to the kampers and the townsfolk. He's got one pizza half finished on the table and 2 coming out of the oven. Yum! It's delicious pizza. I've been known to make a few myself if orders come in before Dave or the girls get there!

 Ordinarily I work in the office, but here I pitched in to help Keith haul a big load of leaves. We were thinking the leaves might blow out while we were on our way to the burn pile, so I plopped myself down on top of them!

 It was a fun, though somewhat bumpy, ride out back. We are almost finished raking and hauling leaves. The trees are bare now.

One more KOA photo, taken this morning after a fresh snowfall — pretty sunrise!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Lowry Air Force Base

 Yesterday we set out to Aurora to see if Keith's computer was repaired yet. It wasn't, so to make the trip fruitful we decided just to drive around in Denver and see what we could see, not expecting the treat we found. Nestled right in the big city is the old Lowry Air Force Base, closed since 1994. Most of the buildings have been converted into housing, colleges, schools, and some into stores and restaurants. Two huge hangars are still there, one housing the Wings Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum. This big airplane is part of the museum exhibit. We didn't go inside, just admired the immensity of the whole complex. (Click on my title at the top to read the Wikipedia account of the Base.)

 Here is the Eisenhower Memorial Chapel, still cared for in the town center. It is on the National Register of Historic Places.

The headquarters buildings covered a lot of ground. These enormous barracks along with the headquarters in the center are now converted into apartments. Very ritzy-ditzy!

 Looking down the main street towards the former headquarters buildings we saw many unique little stores, businesses and eating places.

And, the best gift of all — we decided to eat here at the Pei Wei (Pee Wee?) Asian Diner. It was packed with the lunch crowd. We got into a brief conversation with a uniformed Air Force officer while we were reading the menu board. He went ahead of us, in our indecision about what to have, and as we ordered and then headed towards the doors thinking we would sit at the outside tables, we started to walk past the officer's table. To our surprise, he invited us to sit with him! We did, and had a fascinating and stimulating talk with him as we ate our Pad Thai and egg rolls. He was a reserve officer doing some duty with the last vestiges of the Lowry base, and told us he was a lawyer in Washington, D.C. the rest of the year. It was such an unexpected treat to be invited to eat with a perfect stranger in a crowded diner, and find the talk so engaging. We returned home feeling our trip to downtown was most rewarding!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

A Trip to Kiowa

  What beautiful, sunny October-November days we've been having! The photo above is what we see looking west from the Strasburg area. The Rockies are stunning even from this distance!

  Our day off yielded a trip to Kiowa, a small town south of us reached by a long partly paved, partly gravel road. The residents of Kiowa get to daily look at this view of Pikes Peak.

The main street of Kiowa is about this long! We were intrigued by the taller building in the center of the photo, a 'biker bar'. It was a bright turquoise color, which doesn't show up too well in the picture — it seems to blend in with the sky.

On the way home by yet another dirt and gravel road I spotted a 'photo opportunity'. The barn is made from sod or stucco of some kind, and the windmill, typical of the high plains ranches, adds to the scene, along with the contented cows. (Click to enlarge.)

Friday, October 29, 2010

Random Colorado Photos

 After some business in Aurora at the Verizon Store and the Apple Store, we set out for a drive west of Denver to Golden. We took some detours here and there. This was a stunning rock formation somewhere west of Littleton. The sun was in the wrong place for a clear picture of these beautiful red rocks.

 As the sign says, "Welcome to Golden". Since it was late in the afternoon, we cut our sightseeing short and only stopped at the local Burger King. Golden is the home of the Colorado School of Mines, as well as the site of a Coors Brewery. Those seemed to be the main businesses.

 We had to drive to this "town" many miles east of Strasburg, because Keith's middle name is Woodrow, a name we use frequently to tease. Here it is, out on the high plains. It contained 2 houses, a church, and a building that combined the post office, a coffee shop and a general store. That was it!

 This is the outskirts of the town and the typical scenery of just about anywhere east of Denver, on the high plains. We think we've about had our fill of this eastern panorama and will concentrate on going west towards the Rockies from now on!

 Nice sign!

And the many-functional General Store, Coffee Shop and Post Office of Woodrow, Colorado.