Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Driving Back Roads

 Mr. Keith is an incurable back-road driver. He absolutely must follow every road he sees. Out here on the plains of eastern Colorado there are many roads, some paved, some gravel, some just dirt. They seem to follow what must have been originally the 640 acre sections of land, because they are all laid out in squares. With just 2 weeks to go before we leave Colorado, we are pleased to see some green starting to appear, mostly in the fields planted with winter wheat. I love this lone tree.

 From one back road we got a good view of the Denver International Airport. The main terminal is constructed to look like the Rocky Mountains. Planes were taking off and landing every few minutes. (Click to enlarge.)

 The grass is always greener...!  One horse wouldn't give us the time of day while he stretched his neck through the fence in search of something better. We didn't see anything green there, though. The other horse was more curious about us.

Here was the best part of our day. We kept hearing the melodious song of meadowlarks as we drove along the fields. On a whim, I opened the Peterson bird identification app on my iPad and played the meadowlark song. This bird, who was sitting on a mailbox a few yards away from us, promptly flew as close as he dared, and answered us back each time we played the recording. I wonder if he was saying, "I keep getting a recording! I want to talk to a real bird!"

Friday, March 25, 2011

Dorothy, you're not in Kansas anymore!

 With just 3 weeks left before we hit the road again, moving on to our next job, we decided we'd better make a trip to Kansas, just to say we'd been there. Mr. Keith had crossed that state many times in his youth, but I'd never been there. Ten hours and 370 miles later, I can say I've been to Kansas! The first photo shows the countryside near Limon, Colorado. I love the golden colors, and the railroad bridge gives the scene perspective.

 We decided to travel old highway 24, which runs close to I-70, so we could see the little towns up close. We stopped in every single one! This strange tower was in Genoa, Colorado. It advertised that you could see 6 states from the tower. We did not go up. Genoa itself seemed to be completely dead. There were some occupied homes, but the downtown had only boarded up buildings. How sad.

 Bethune, another town with deserted buildings, did have some life, seen in these pretty horses. We wondered if the freeway by-passing the towns had something to do with their demise.

 This is Vona, typical of the other small towns we explored. One wonders what they were like when these buildings were first constructed and used. They are almost like ghost towns.

A few miles away from Burlington, a healthy, thriving town, we left Colorado and entered Kansas. The very first town on Hwy 24 was called Kanorado, also old and half abandoned.

 It looks like Kansas is preparing for a celebration this year!

 Here we see the grain elevators in Goodland, KS, which was another small but thriving town. We have noticed that just about every town is announced miles away by these huge elevators, most much more compact but equally as tall as these in Goodland. It's hard to imagine the vast amounts of grain they hold.

As we headed up highway 36 towards St. Francis, the final town on our way out of Kansas, I took this photo of the landscape. These metal towers I'm sure also hold grain. They were all over the countryside. This looks like last summer's corn crop.The land seemed to be divided into 640 acre sections. There were gravel roads arranged in squares every mile. It's like that in Colorado, too.

We enjoyed our very leisurely trip into Kansas. The wind blew fiercely and it was cold, but we had a productive, fun day. I now understand how Dorothy's house blew up into the sky and took her and Toto to the land of Oz! We did not see the yellow brick road, but we could imagine it!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Estes Park, Colorado

 Mr. Keith and I have taken another day trip, this one to Estes Park, Colorado. This mountain view was with us almost the entire trip, standing out amongst the other peaks in the Rockies. Having been told that there was "nothing" in the town of Longmont, we decided to go through there to see for ourselves, as it's right on the way up to Estes Park. We were very impressed, and found out that Longmont was listed as "One of the Best Places to Live" in 2006 and 2008, plus it was awarded "All-America City" in 2006. So much for the verdict of "nothing"! We agreed that we could live there!
 Back to the peaks in the photo — the front peak is Mt. Meeker, 13,911 feet, and the other is Longs Peak, 14,259 feet. They are sometimes called the Twin Peaks. Both are inside Rocky Mt. National Park. We snapped this photo just west of Longmont.

In the same area, we were intrigued with this scene. The trees are actually growing out of the tops of the silos, which are obviously not still in use!

Here we are at the entrance to the Estes Park Valley. Some kind ladies who were also enjoying the view took this photo for us.

Estes Park was established in 1859, and is the headquarters for the Rocky Mountain National Park, as well as a popular summer resort area. We were told we were fortunate to be there in March instead of during the summer, when the streets and stores are jammed with people.

We'd heard about the Stanley Hotel, so were excited to see it. This old and exceptionally beautiful hotel is on the National Register of Historic Places, and has the majestic backdrop of the Rocky Mts. We were told that the movie "The Shining" was filmed here, and the hotel is reportedly haunted. They capitalize on that rumor!

Here is a close-up of the main building. We drove all around it but did not go inside. Maybe we were timid about ghosts! There are other buildings in the complex, all equally gleaming with white paint.

These elk were on the lawn directly in front of the Stanley Hotel. They allowed people to go right up to them. We were trying to figure out if they've been tamed, or what. They ignored us completely!

 No day out would be complete without a good meal. We drove all around looking at restaurants and finally decided on Penelope's World Famous Hamburgers and Fries, right on the main street among all the tourist shops. To our surprise, it was quite crowded. We were told there is sometimes a 2 hour wait in the summer. I always have a buffalo burger whenever it's on the menu, and Mr. Keith enjoyed his shrimp basket and fries. We will not soon forget the breathtaking views, clear air, and fun shops of Estes Park!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Colorado State Capitol

The Colorado State Capitol is an imposing, elegant, and huge edifice, right in downtown Denver. I could not get far enough away to snap a really good photo of the entire complex from the front because of so many bigger, taller buildings all around it. In its early days the Capitol was probably the tallest building around, but no longer! Here is one fairly good view from the side.

The inside of the building is gorgeous, all granite and marble. This collection of paintings of the presidents goes all the way around the 3rd level.

We two old coots decided we simply had to climb up to the top of the dome. I forget how many steps it was, but we made it, huffing and puffing! The view was well worth the climb. I can remember hiking to the top of the Capitol in Olympia WA when I was a child. The steps up were closed for safety reasons many years ago, so I was glad we could still go to the top of the Colorado Capitol.

This is the dome. The circle paintings going all the way around it are portraying various people who were important to the history of Colorado. You could not really see those unless you did climb up there! We were up at the top railing, above the pictures.

I took a picture from every window up at the top. This is the best one, looking right down on to the main part of downtown. After we finished our tour, we found a riverfront park where we could take a walk along the Platte River. Mr. Keith always talks to strangers (his mom didn't teach him not to!) so we found out there were some great restaurants and even a huge bookstore not too far away. We drove there, and did discover a fun place to eat called "Noodles & Company". Yum! One of the very most central streets in Denver is called the 16th Street Mall. It runs for a mile, and is closed to all vehicles except city buses. The street is lined with shops and restaurants and other interesting places. A person could spend a day there, walking along and seeing all the stores! It was jammed with people on their lunch break, and hungry tourists like us.

On this part of the 16th Street Mall I noticed these old buildings dwarfed by the newer, taller highrises. We walked over there and discovered they were indeed the old original downtown buildings of early Denver, carefully preserved. They look so out-of-place but so intriguing! The date on the first one said it was built in 1881. They've been turned into shops and eating places and offices. As we hiked back to our car we thought it would be a perfect time to find a Coldstone Creamery to round out our day. Our handy iPad located one for us so off we went to indulge one more time before we headed home. It was a delicious end to a tiring but an exciting day!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Denver Zoo, Again!

 The first time we went to the Zoo, in October, we were thrilled to find it was a "free" day, no admission charge. We soon decided that we'd better come again when we had to pay, because the free day was so jam-packed with attenders! We didn't get to see everything as well as we wanted to. We've been amazed at the vast flocks of Canada Geese in the Denver area. The first thing we noticed at the zoo was that the geese had no fear of people and were actively begging with loud honks and squawks! They cleaned up all food scraps dropped to the ground.

We ate lunch at the outside tables and were solicited by these 2 geese. The photo is blurry because I had to click so quickly so many times to get a shot of this guy snapping up a french fry. Mr. Keith donated almost his entire lunch to them! What fun!

 This spotted hyena is between a rock and a hard place, obviously enjoying his nap in the sunshine. I'm glad there was thick glass between me and him!

 Here's a great shot of a majestic lioness. Seems like she was posing!

 And here's a couple, the Mrs. enjoying a large bone while the Mr. looks on.

 We took a good picture of Nemo the clownfish at the Downtown Aquarium a few weeks ago, but I think this display at the zoo was even better. I heard several moms say to their toddlers, "Come and see Nemo!" I like the blue fish, too, but don't know what kind he is.

 Some of my favorites at the zoo were these tiny antelopes, dik diks, I believe. They are the size of cats, and so delicate and pretty.

Last, but certainly not least, we saw this hippo, which we missed last time. She was very pretty and smooth, and had just taken a dip in her large pond when we came upon her enclosure.

It was a wonderful day at the zoo! We walked for at least 4 hours, seeing all we could. We noticed that the crowd consisted mostly of parents with small children and babies, with lots of strollers......and old people like us! Mr. Keith got to try out his giraffe joke several times. "Why is the giraffe's neck so long? Because his head is so high!"