Thursday, August 19, 2010


Warning: mega-post!

Okay, this is waaaaay overdue.  We went to Colorado 2 months ago.  But I still wanted to share some of the fun stuff we did now that summer is winding down.

Participants in this epic journey included not just the three of us, but also my husband's parents and brother, and the brother's wife and his 2 daughters, ages 8 and 10.  We took 2 vehicles since the 9 of us couldn't fit in one van and it wouldn't have been pretty if we did.

Why Colorado Springs?  My father-in-law was stationed at the Air Force Academy when dh was a kid, and they all have very fond memories of the area that they wanted to share with the rest of us while my BIL and his wife were visiting from Germany.

Day 1:  Drove to my parents' house (3 hours) so that we would have a bit of a head start the next day.  They were on guinea pig duty while we were gone.

Day 2:  Drove to Junction City, Kansas.  (6 hours)  We were supposed to stay in quarters at Fort Riley, but our reservations were messed up beyond all recognition (MUBAR? Ha!), so we ended up in a hotel.  Which was fine, because the kids got a chance to swim.

Day 3:  Drove to Colorado Springs!  (8 hours)  Grandma rode in our car this day and watched a movie with Samuel.

driving to Colorado
watching The Mummy

His finger is in his mouth because he was wiggling a loose tooth.

It was fun to be able to see Pike's Peak from so far away and watch it get closer and closer.  By the time we checked in at the hotel, dumped our stuff, and regrouped to go get something for dinner, it was getting fairly late.  We wanted to go to one of the Yakitori restaurants in the area, since that was something that my husband and his family had enjoyed when they lived there.  We found the nearest one - Yakitori #5 - with the help of the GPS, and showed up at exactly 8:00pm, only to discover that they closed at... 8:00pm!  However, a very nice woman (who we later discovered is one of the co-owners) saw us standing outside looking all forlorn and hungry, and she invited us in and cooked for us!  The food was awesome, and need I say more about the service???  Plus, even though Yakitori is a Japanese chain, since the owner of this one is Thai, they have Thai food on the menu also at this particular restaurant and I had the best Pad Thai ever.

Moral of the story:  if you are in the Colorado Springs area, you must eat at Yakitori #5!  Tell 'em those people from Illinois sent you.  :)

Day 4: The plan was to go horseback riding at the Air Force Academy riding stables, and since they don't take reservations, we got there right when they opened... right behind another big group that wanted the "beginner" horses.  So, we went for a little tour of the Academy.  After discovering to everyone's dismay that the house dh's family lived in is now a little grassy patch next to the woods, we headed over to see the famous Air Force Academy Chapel.

Some views of the Protestant chapel upstairs:

cool organ, eh?

a view of the unique architecture

Samuel in the Air Force Academy Chapel

The Catholic chapel in the basement:

After our sightseeing tour of the base, we headed back to saddle up.

Samuel petting Slick
Samuel patting his horse, Slick

Samuel and Slick

My MIL and dh were both given obstinate horses, but once those problems were solved, a good time was had by all.  I am pretty sure we took the wrong trail, because I trusted my horse to go the right way at an ambiguous fork in the road, but we ended up back at the stables at the right time, so it all worked out in the end.

our view on the horse trail
view from the trail

After lunch at the Falcon Club, we went to the Garden of the Gods - first the museum and gift shop, and then the actual park.

Samuel at Garden of the Gods

Samuel LOVED climbing all the rocks.  Of course, there are signs posted saying not to climb the rocks, but then there are areas where it's clearly acceptable, so we just used common sense about where to allow it.

Samuel and Daddy at Garden of the Gods

We discovered that the Trading Post inside the park is much better than the gift shop attached to the museum and spent way too much time and money there.  Really, we bought a ridiculous amount of stuff over the course of the whole trip.  One of my favorites, though, was bought at the Trading Post.  It's a painted wooden plaque with a picture of St. Pasquale and it's now hanging in my kitchen and I love it! You can find the artist here.

my St. Pasqual plaque

If you are unfamiliar with St. Pasqual, you must read Pascual and the Kitchen Angels by Tomie dePaola.

Day 5: We rode the Cog Railway all the way up to Pike's Peak!  We loved the ride up: the views were amazing and the tour was interesting.

on the cog railway up to Pike's Peak
not the best pic of Samuel, but look out the window!

The top was windy and cold, which we expected.  I mean, you could see the snow up there from the bottom, so we knew to bring jackets.  Even so, it was COLD up there!  We did take a few pics at the top, but they are mostly not so good because we are all squinting into the sun and wind.  There was an interesting fellow up there, though, who proved quite photogenic.

coyote or fox at the top of Pike's Peak

blue sky

Okay, that last picture isn't that spectacular, but just look how blue that sky is!  Oh, almost forgot one of the most fun things we saw (but didn't get a picture of) on our way up and down the mountain: yellow-bellied whistling marmots!  Very cute.

After we ate some high-altitude doughnuts (SO good!) and rode back down the mountain, we decided to check out the arts-and-crafts mecca that is Manitou Springs.  We had lunch at the Euro Cafe.  The food there was all very good, but the best part was the Nutella crepe that we had to finish things off.  Then we shopped 'til we dropped.  Okay, mostly browsed.  There were lots and lots of beautiful things, but we were in the market for some rocks and minerals and found a much better place to buy later on.

There are seven springs in the area (hence the name) that you can drink from, so we filled up our water bottles on the way home to give it a try.  It tasted like European-style carbonated mineral water!  We all loved it and I could easily see getting a large portion of our drinking water there if we lived close enough.

We then headed over to the Flying W, which is a working cattle ranch that also boasts a fun western town setup, a delicious chuckwagon dinner, and a fabulous band.  We really had an awesome time here!

Samuel warming himself at the "campfire"
enjoying the scenery at Flying W

these two got ornery, so I had to throw 'em in jail
Look at these two hooligans!

the Flying W Wranglers put on an awesome show!
These guys were awesome!  They do a very fun show!

Day 6: We drove out to Cañon City and took the Royal Gorge Scenic Railway, which was a fun little ride.  Looking out over the gorge is impressive, of course, but I also enjoyed seeing the ground we rode over glittering with mica.  Then we headed over to Buckskin Joe, an old frontier town where several Westerns have been filmed.  We had a good time watching gunfights and magic shows, but it was ridiculously hot that day.  Not the best time to spend your day in a dusty frontier town!

he just kept getting himself thrown into jail
in trouble again

Samuel and the "Mayor" of Buckskin Joe
Samuel and the mayor of Buckskin Joe

shooting gallery at Buckskin Joe
shooting gallery!

after getting thrown in jail so many times, this kid almost got measured for a pine box ;)

On our way back through Cañon City, we stopped at a trading post where Samuel and Shawn bought cowboy hats.  Then we went to the Gold Mine Rock Shop, which is the store of which we'd been dreaming.  There were piles and piles of beautiful rocks and minerals, big pieces, little pieces anything in between.  I was supposed to buy amazonite and smoky quartz for my mother and sister and picked up some for myself as well.  Also got my sister some raw garnets, and we added raw copper, peridot, and a bunch of other things to our rock collection.  I was going to include a picture of everything, but maybe I'll make that a separate post and get it all properly photographed and labeled.

After spending WAY too much money (and oh my goodness, I just realized they have an online store, let's pretend that isn't true), we were famished and headed back to Yakitori #5 because I needed more Pad Thai.  :)

By the way, if you think that we did a crazy amount of stuff while we were there, you are right, but it was a blast.  Also, we swam in the hotel pool every night, too!

Day 7: It was Sunday, so we went to Mass at the Air Force Academy Chapel.  Then we headed off to the one place that I had been before, way back when I was 12 years old and visiting my Aunt Janie in Denver:  Casa Bonita!  This is a crazy-huge Mexican restaurant that includes multiple themed dining areas, two arcades, musicians, shows, and... cliff diving.  Yes, there is a waterfall in the middle of the restaurant, and they do silly shows and jump, fall, and dive into the pool below!  Oh, and the food was excellent, but really all you need to know is: all-you-can-eat-sopapillas.  Soooooo good!

By the time we got back to Colorado Springs, it was getting late, but we still had time to hike at bit at Garden of the Gods before it got too dark.

Day 8: Our last day in Colorado, sniff.  We started off with just a little more hiking at Garden of the Gods.

at Garden of the Gods

at Garden of the Gods - that's Pike's Peak in the background
that's Pike's Peak in the background

at Garden of the Gods

if this doesn't get me the Cool Mom of the Year award, I don't know what will
If this doesn't get me the Cool Mom award, nothing will.

at Garden of the Gods

that sign next to us says we're not allowed to climb any farther
The sign next to us says not to climb any farther!

at Garden of the Gods

the "kissing camels"
the Kissing Camels

me kissing the camel

Then we went to Cave of the Winds, and took the basic tour.  Turns out there are other tours where you carry lanterns and fun stuff like that, so we'll have to give that a try next time.  We made one last stop in Manitou Springs to get some more spring water!  We filled our three Kleen Kanteens, plus several plastic bottles that we'd collected.

Samuel filling up with the awesome mineral water at the Twin spring in Manitou Springs
filling up at the Twin Spring

Finally, it was time to head east, so we got on the road.  We were supposed to meet the rest of the group at a hotel in Kansas, but we ended up having to stop early due to tornadoes and hail!  Samuel, who had actually been slightly nervous about driving through Kansas due to tornadoes (like we never have tornadoes in Illinois?) was actually disappointed that we didn't get to see any, although they were nearby, according to the radio.  I did not share his disappointment!

Day 9:  Got an early start, since we didn't get as far the day before, but we still didn't get as far as we'd hoped.  We wanted to try and get all the way home this day, but as we got closer to my parents' house, it became evident that we weren't going any farther.  The guinea pigs greeted Samuel with squeals of joy.  Apparently they had been nearly silent the whole time we were gone, so they must have really missed us!

Day 10: Home at last!

It was a very tiring but fun trip, and I'd definitely do it again if we get the chance!


Anonymous said...

great post! Just to let you know, the extended tours at cave of the winds have some really strange (not necessary) commentary (suicides, possession, demons etc.) Way beyond the typical, funny scary stuff.

S/V Mari Hal-O-Jen said...

We were out in CO around the Fourth of July and had a terrific time at the Academy, though Dad said it had all changed tons since he was there too. And Casa Bonita? Delicious! Sooo much fun!!!