American Locations 44

The trip is from Lewis & Clark Monument, Illinois, to Kickapoo State Park, Illinois, by way of the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, Arizona

Outside Denver, Colorado

They drove us up Mt. Evans, which gives a great view of Denver in the distance. The road is a narrow twisting sharp ascent that made up for us not getting to drive up Pike’s Peak. This time I was a passenger and, not driving, meant I could look around a lot more than I usually get to. It was a gorgeous drive.

Of course, we made frequent stops to roam around on the ascent.

At the very top we parked and hiked around.

We saw some critters who lived up here.

There was a visitor center and observatory at the top.

Notice the road far below. It was a great drive up.

Of course, I had to hike up to the very top.

From this shot you can see the overflow parking below and to the right (just kidding).

My wife’s sister and her husband at the very top.

As you can see, they were smiling. I was not. I was gasping for oxygen. They are natives, and I was definitely not acclimated to these altitudes. The hike to the top sapped me, I was panting like a dog. But I managed a grimace.

The drive back down was just as nice.

Coming off Mt. Evans, we drove the short distance to Central City. Like Cripple Creek, this was an old mining town where the historic buildings were preserved by converting them into small storefront casinos.

Another day they took us to Waterton Canyon. It was a good place to ride bikes.

We saw a lot of bighorn sheep.

The best trip they took us on was to Rocky Mountain National Park.

Next Destination – Rocky Mountain NP, Colorado

American Location 43

The trip is from Lewis & Clark Monument, Illinois, to Kickapoo State Park, Illinois, by way of the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, Arizona

Denver, Colorado

The next morning we backtracked from Cripple Creek north on Rte. 67 to Divide, where we continued to backtrack by turning onto Hwy. 24 first northeast to Woodland Park, then southeast through Manitou Springs on to Colorado Springs. From there we headed north on I-25 the short distance to Denver.

My wife’s sister and her husband live in Aurora, a city on the outskirts of Denver. We parked our motor home at their home and rode with them to places around Denver.  Such as Red Rocks .

It was a long walk down to the stage.

Then an even longer trek (or so it seemed) back up. Believe it not, there were people running up and down these steps.

There was also a museum to see.

Then it was off to a tour of Coors.

I could have helped produce the tops of these vats Coors brews their beer in. Coors was a customer of the metal fabrication plant I worked at most of my life. I spun up and machined the edges of tank ends like these. Pure copper was difficult to work with. It was soft and slick, and quickly hardened and cracked and thinned out if worked too long. Of course, it was also an expensive metal, which management kept emphasizing while nervously watching me flange these tank ends. 

Our hosts also took us around to some locales outside of Denver.

Next Destination – Outside Denver, Colorado

American Locations 42

The trip is from Lewis & Clark Monument, Illinois, to Kickapoo State Park, Illinois, by way of the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, Arizona

Pike’s Peak & Cripple Creek, Colorado

Leaving Garden of the Gods, we drove northwest on Hwy. 24 through Manitou Springs to Cascade, where we took the Pike’s Peak Hwy. to Pike’s Peak. No way were we driving the motor home up that twisting steep road to the top, so we took the cog railway.

A cog train can scale heights a normal railroad engine can’t. Here is an article I found on Wikipedia on cog trains (which they call rack railway):

rack railway (also rack-and-pinion railwaycog railway, or cogwheel railway) is a steep grade railway with a toothed rack rail, usually between the running rails. The trains are fitted with one or more cog wheels or pinions that mesh with this rack rail. This allows the trains to operate on steep grades above 10%, which is the maximum for friction-based rail. Most rack railways are mountain railways, although a few are transit railways or tramways built to overcome a steep gradient in an urban environment.

Here is an entry specific on Pike’s Peak cog trail:

The track of the Pikes Peak Cog Railway is 8.9 miles long. The round trip lasts 3 hours and 10 minutes. Check for departure dates and times before your trip to the summit.

The first third of the Pikes Peak train trip is along Ruxton Creek. Here the steep track follows a cascading stream through dense stands of spruce and  Ponderosa pine trees. It is estimated that some trees on Pikes Peak are over 2000 years old. The middle third of the trip is on a gentler grade. Right below the old settlement of Ruxton Park, the train passes through what is known as “Hell Gate,” a natural gateway to the mountains. Then the track passes over the Four Mile Siding and gets our first glimpse of Pikes Peak!

Once the Pikes Peak Cog Railway climbs above timberline, the views become more expansive. Here passengers frequently see yellow-bellied marmots and Bighorn sheep. Pikes Peak is home to one of the largest herds of Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep in Colorado. To the east stretch the Great Plains beyond the border of Kansas. To the south, the Sangre de Christo Range stretches to New Mexico.

It was a good experience. The ride was smooth. The train went straight up, instead of winding all around the mountain like the road did. Also, the views were good as the sides of the cars were mostly glass.

The track split in places to allow simultaneous ascent and descent of the trains.

Once on top, you disembarked and could remain as long as you wanted. There was a gift shop, or course, and a restaurant and visitor center.

The views were spectacular, and you were allowed to roam wherever you wanted. There was a trail if you wanted to hike either up or down, or both. You could buy a one-way ticket for either way. In fact, a passenger on the trip down, a woman celebrating her 68th birthday, had hiked up and was catching a ride back down. Not bad for 68.

You could catch glimpses of the road twisting up to the top.

Here is a good shot of the rail.

People scampered everywhere.

But we stayed safely away from the edge.

It was cool and windy up there. So after we had seen enough we were ready to ride back down. There was a place where the rail split, allowing our descending car to pass by an ascending car, which is the one I took a photo of.

Leaving Pike’s Peak, we drove back out the Pike’s Peak Hwy. to Hwy. 24, where we turned north. At Divide, we turned south on Rte. 67 to Cripple Creek.

Here is a brief Wikipedia entry:

On the 20th of October, 1890, Robert Miller “Bob” Womack discovered a rich ore and the last great Colorado gold rush began. Thousands of prospectors flocked to the region, and before long Winfield Scott Stratton located the famous Independence lode, one of the largest gold strikes in history. In three years, the population increased from five hundred to ten thousand. Although $500 million worth of gold ore was dug from Cripple Creek, Womack died penniless on 10 August 1909.[10]

Today, relics of the gold rush remain, and tours of old gold mines are given.

But what draws most tourists are the casinos. The town has preserved its historic charm, while gutting the insides of historic buildings and installing casinos. We spent a pleasant evening strolling the streets and ducking into one small store-front casino after another, placing a few bets then moving on.

Once we’d had enough, we found a small private campground for the night.

Next Destination – Denver, Colorado

American Locations 41

The trip is from Lewis & Clark Monument, Illinois, to Kickapoo State Park, Illinois, by way of the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, Arizona

Garden of the Gods, Colorado Springs, Colorado

Leaving our camp site in Cheyenne Mountain State Park, we drove down into adjacent Colorado Springs to see Garden of the Gods.

We parked and traversed all the paved walkways.

Dogs were allowed.

As were birds. The porous rock made for good nesting.

People were even allowed to rock climb.

We spent the morning roaming about the rock formations on a pleasant sunny day.

That afternoon we hopped on Hwy. 24 and headed northwest for Pike’s Peak.

Next Destination – Pikes Peak, Colorado

American Locations 40

The trip is from Lewis & Clark Monument, Illinois, to Kickapoo State Park, Illinois, by way of the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, Arizona

Cheyenne Mountain State Park, Colorado

Driving north on Rte. 115, we turned off and got a site in Cheyenne Mountain State Park just outside of Colorado Springs. It is just at the edge of the Rockies overlooking Colorado Springs.

We had a clear view of the Air Force Academy.

Of course, there is more to see underground than there is above ground. Towers like these are all over the mountain, evidence of the Strategic Air Command buried deep in the mountain.

Here is a Wikipedia article:

Cheyenne Mountain is a triple-peaked mountain in El Paso County, Colorado, southwest of downtown Colorado Springs. The mountain serves as a host for military, communications, recreational, and residential functions. The underground operations center for the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) was built during the Cold War to monitor North American airspace for missile launches and Soviet military aircraft. Built deep within granite, it was designed to withstand the impact and fallout from a nuclear bomb. Its function broadened with the end of the Cold War, and then many of its functions were transferred to Peterson Air Force Base in 2006.

In the 1950s, during the Cold War, the interior of the mountain became a site for the operations center for the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD).[11]:1 The center, deep within Cheyenne Mountain, was completed in 1966 after spending $142 million and using 500 tons of explosives. The result was an underground city operated by the Air Force.[3] Popular Science wrote in 1965, before the dedication of the facility, that Cheyenne Mountain is the only mountain known to have buildings constructed on the inside of a mountain. It was built to withstand being bombed: eleven multiple-story buildings stand on coil springs to absorb the shock of a blast and it was designed so that up to 800 people could survive fall-out of a nuclear bomb. The buildings are encased in steel, surrounded by granite, and the facility is behind blast-proof doors. It was designed to be the “nerve center” for NORAD.[32]

The NORAD center has been staffed by Canadian and United States military personnel to monitor North American air space for intercontinental ballistic missiles and incoming Soviet military aircraft.[33][31]:194–195 Locally, this military boom during the Cold War included the establishment of the United States Air Force AcademyPeterson Air Force Base, and Fort Carson.[11]:1 After the Cold War, NORAD monitored objects orbiting the earth and aircraft without flight plans. It is also known for monitoring the Christmas Eve orbit of Santa Claus.[33]

NORAD used to offer public tours, but due to security concerns they were suspended in 1999. The off-ramp on NORAD road has been staffed by Air Force Security Police since September 11, 2001.[3] Most of the center’s operations were moved to Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs in 2006,[33] then in April 2015, the Pentagon reported that a few operations would be moving back in.[citation needed]

The park has many good trails to hike, which I explored.

The next morning a person camping next to us knocked on our door to report seeing a bobcat prowling around our motor home earlier. She sent us photos she had taken.

After breakfast, we continued north on Rte. 115 into Colorado Springs to see Garden of the Gods.

Next Location – Garden of the Gods, Colorado