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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Bill Shuler "On the Road Again" Somewhere in Colorado

Bill Schuler
On America's Road

Spring Break and I am on the road again. This year my annual road trip takes me to Colorado. I had been meaning to do this state for a while but never got around to it, until now. This is the last destination I can get to easily by car, so next year I will have to fly. Haven’t decided yet but I have narrowed it down to Tennessee, where I served my mission, or New York/Washington, where the flights are cheap an I have family I haven’t seen in years.

Anyway, back to Colorado. Friday afternoon, after work I headed out of town. The weather was nasty rain, wind, and snow in the higher elevations. My destination for the night was Grand Junction Colorado, about 4 hours from home. I arrived and checked into my hovel at the KOA Campground. These are referred to a “Kozy Cabins”. They are log structures large enough to sleep 4. Additionally they have electric lights, heating and air conditioning. Showers and restrooms are in a central building. They are pretty comfortable and cost about half what a cheap hotel room goes for.

Next morning was pretty clear but still chilly. I drove east on Interstate 70 through the Rocky Mountains. This is one of the more scenic stretches of interstate highway around. About an hour out of Denver my truck starts dying. Losing power an dogging along. What could be wrong. Then I pass an elevation sign telling me I am at 11,100 feet above sea level! Descending the east face of the Rockies I stop at Golden Colorado, Home of the Colorado School of Mines, but best known as the home of Coors Beer brewery. The brewery complex itself is larger than the city of Golden itself. It is also home of the Colorado Railroad Museum, An excellent facility that gives a great historical perspective on the impact of railroads on america, particularly the late 19th and early 20th Century when parents routinely mailed their children parcel post because it was cheaper than a regular train ticket.

Stayed the night in a Motel 6, no KOA’s, and the next morning drove into downtown Denver to block out a city tour. I am going to be doing more tours of Colorado in the future so I figured it was time to nail down the tour. This takes a bit of doing. First you get a decent map then make a route passing all the sights you want to point out, then you drive it. This can be endlessly frustrating because trying to read sloppy writing while navigating city traffic is not good for your insurance rating. Inevitably, the route selected may need adjustment, this is hard to do while on the fly behind the wheel. Following this course of action usually leads me to use a significant number of words not considered socially acceptable.

If possible, what I like to do is what I like to do, is walk the route. From head high level you can make adjustments quickly without seriously endangering your or other people. This tack was really successful when I had to figure a way to get to Molly Brown’s house (look it up!). Denver like most large cities has gone to one way streets. This impacts a tours routing through a given area to see the sights and sometimes problems arise that don’t appear on a map.

Anyway after some adjustment I had what appeared to be a viable tour. I covered almost 10 miles of foot. Fortunately I am addicted to walking so the actual distance wasn’t that big of a deal, I usually walk that far daily for exercise. One thing that was different was the constant stopping and starting required when coming to intersections, that stop and start really fatigues you relative to a constant loose walk.

Once back in the truck I drove the route, and it came off perfectly without once getting lost, One run and I had it down. When I do this again in June I will be doing it in a 60 foot motorcoach, giving commentary to the passengers while giving subtle instructions to the driver on where to turn. No pressure!

That finished I had some fun for myself, I stopped by the Downtown Aquarium. Not one of your larger aquariums as aquariums go but laid out better than most. Fresh water exhibits outnumbered the salt water exhibits which was great, I have seen so much salt water stuff that I usually just walk past them. But the fresh water stuff was amazing because you don’t usually see them so well thought out. One even included a Sumatran Tiger!, Not Tiger fish, a Tiger, as in cat!

After my visit with the fishes I headed out of the big city. My destination for the next several nights is Colorado Springs, about 70 mines south of Denver. This morning I visited the US Air Force Academy. It was a beautiful clear, if cool day. The facility is very impressive and you can visit much of the campus. Only the lower quad is off limits to visitors. I arrived on monday to view the weekly parade ceremony. I participated in this ceremony 4 times while in Air Force basic training and once while on active duty during a change of command. Air Force Cadets do it once a week for 4 years! At first glance the whole thing seems rather silly given this sort of thing was dreamed up by the Romans. What use is it today. As one who has participated in this ceremony, it is to develop teamwork, confidence, pride, attention to detail, and snap an precision. It also looks really cool.

In the afternoon I spent my time wandering around Garden of the Gods park. The place looks like one big Star Trek set. Tomorrow I am going to hike down Pikes Peak. I would rather hike up it but there is no guarantee of the train meeting you once you get there and doing a round trip in a day isn’t fun, 13 miles is fine but 26 I would rather not do, not that I couldn’t, it just ain’t fun. Pray for me, If you never hear from me again, a bear must have gotten me.

City of Golden

Colorado School of Mines

Denver under a cloud

I do the same thing with my aquarium.

I dare you to say that on THIS side of the glass!

Air Force Cadets forming ranks.

Pass and review

Snap and Precision

Lunch Time!
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