Friday, July 27, 2012

Loveland - Part 1

Our Summer travels have not exactly gone as planned! Instead of meeting friends in Montana, we spent this week trying to get our moose repaired. (Ugh!) We arrived in Loveland, just a few miles south of Fort Collins (Weren't we just here?) Sunday afternoon. After a quick overnight at Loveland RV Resort, we checked into nearby DM Mobile RV Repair.  Owners Don and Mary Ann are great folks who made us feel comfortable that our moose was in good hands.

Our repair required removal of our heat pump for at least a day or two. With daytime temps forecasted near 100 degrees, staying in an air conditioner-less moose was not an option. We packed up the cats and a couple of bags and checked into the very accommodating and pet-friendly AmericInn in nearby Windsor. Our girl kitty felt most at home on top of our bags during our stay.

Our boy kitty enjoyed climbing to new heights in our two-room suite. From here he literally tried to climb the wall. (As our stay grew from a "night or two" to four, so did we!)

We made use of the time by doing some sightseeing in the area. These growing storm clouds looked quite dramatic over Lake Loveland.

Our friends Steve and Cathy encouraged us to tour the Benson Sculpture Garden during our stay. And, we're glad they did! Since 1985, this park has served as a beautiful and unique outdoor setting for showcasing sculpture. Each year the Loveland High Plains Arts Council hosts "Sculpture In The Park", one of the largest juried outdoor sculpture shows in the United States. This year's show, which starts in just two weeks, will showcase more than 2,000 pieces by 170 sculptors from around the world. Each year, the city acquires a few of the pieces from the annual show. The garden's permanent collection now includes more than 135 pieces on display amongst the walking paths, trees, plants and a winding stream.

When it comes to art, Loveland lives up to its name. The City of Loveland was the first in Colorado to pass an Art in Public Places Ordinance, which designates one percent of the city's capital projects for the purchase and maintenance of art.

Today, the city's collection includes more than 300 pieces placed in 29 public locations. The value of the growing collection is estimated to be approximately $7.6 million. That's something to crow about!

Living in a hotel for a few days meant lots of eating out during our stay. Henry's, located in historic downtown Loveland, was one of our favorites.

Maybe because we were living in a hotel, we stopped by open houses at a couple of new residential developments around Loveland. We didn't find anything we couldn't live without, but we did like this kitchen.

One of the most welcome distractions during our stay was an evening outing with our niece Kate, who was in town to visit her friends Abby and Max. The five of us topped off some shopping with a trip to Menchie's for frozen yogurt. No photos of Kate, Abby or Max, but I did get a snap of Kate's very healthy cone! It was great to spend time with y'all!

While we were out finding things to do, the cats were safe and sound crated in our air-conditioned suite. The housekeeping staff took a thoughtful extra step to make their stay comfortable.

This morning we got the call from Don and Mary Ann that after extensive conversations with our heat pump manufacturer, a diagnosis had been made on our heat pump. And, the news wasn't good. (Yes, dear readers, we did just wrap up two trips to the Winnebago factory for this problem, which was deemed "fixed" by them eight short weeks ago. Seems the work in Forest City caused more problems than it solved.) The repair plan requires parts that need to be shipped from the manufacturer. Instead of waiting around toasty Loveland, we've decided to pack our bags, check out of our temporary home and head for someplace cooler. We were all eager to get rolling again.

When we arrived back at DM late this afternoon, Don was wrapping up placing our crippled heat pump back in the moose. After all, half an air conditioner is better than nothing! We so appreciate Don's expertise and patience with this extra pesky problem.

After spending four days in the heat, Bullwinkle was roasty toasty inside! The late afternoon clouds brought welcome shade as our one compressor did its best to cool things down. Temperatures outside and in dropped with the setting sun. By the time we moved everybody back into the moose it was actually quite comfortable. Don and Mary Ann encouraged us to stay in their lot overnight, and we accepted their generous offer. We're settled in for the evening, enjoying the Opening Ceremonies of the Summer Olympics.

Our work here is not done. We have a date next month for Part 2 of our Loveland visit, when Don will make quick and proper work of completing our repair. Meanwhile, we've managed to snag a last-minute reservation at our favorite place to stay cool.

More soon from the mountains.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Return to Colorado Springs

While sitting in Larkspur with our still-crippled air conditioner, we went in search of a cool, shady spot to kick back and relax while we waited for our next service appointment. It didn't take long for us to decide to return to Colorado Springs. We spent a few days here at Garden of the Gods Campground last year. Since that visit the park has been purchased by a company with a reputation for creating lovely places. We were eager to see how the place had changed. (It was in need of some serious sprucing, in our opinion.)

We checked into one of the "Executive Sites" and enjoyed the spacious, level spot that had plenty of shade, cable and...

...a view of the family pool. Despite the scorching temperatures during our stay, we never made time to take a splash.

Our "fancy" site wasn't available for our entire stay. So, a few days ago, we checked into this "Deluxe" site. With precious little space, no view or cable, we're hard pressed to find anything deluxe about this spot. Actually, it all felt quilt familiar. This is exactly the same site we had last Summer.

The park is just minutes from many attractions. But, it's located in an area of Colorado Springs that's seen better days. This store across from the entrance was one of many medical marijuana dispensaries in the neighborhood. (That stuff is pricey!) And, although this is a quite high-tech town, the park is located in an AT&T dead zone. (Ugh!)

Speaking of attractions, we made time to see a few things we missed here during our last visit. Colorado Springs is home to the United Stated Olympic Committee and one of its three training centers.  In 1978, a former Air Force base was transformed into this state-of-the-art training center for Olympic and Paralympic athletes in track and field, triathlon, pentathlon, wrestling, weightlifting, fencing, gymnastics, shooting, swimming, cycling and judo.

Our free tour started with a brief film that got us fired up for next week's Winter Games. On the 45-minute walking tour of the facility, our guide informed us that the athletes competing in this year's games who trained here have already left for London. We enjoyed seeing future Olympians at work in the pool and weightlifting gym.

The tour ended in the gift shop, where visitors were snapping up all kinds of Team USA apparel. A closer inspection revealed that the garments were designed by an American, but manufactured in China!

After this visit, we are definitely in the spirit. We look forward to cheering Team USA later this month.

Another Colorado Springs landmark we'd yet to visit was Garden of the Gods. But, we took care of that earlier this week. From a distance, this very special garden reminded us of our stay in southern Utah. Gorgeous!

This public park was named a Great American Public Place last year. The honor is well deserved. In accordance with the wishes of the original owner of this spectacular piece of land, admission is free.

The 3,300 acre park is a destination for hikers, bikers and rock climbers. It's also known to attract quite a few folks who like to gawk at and photograph the towering formations. We gawked a lot more than we hiked!

The brilliant red rock makes a lovely backdrop for engagement portraits, too. (Don't they look young?)

Garden of the Gods was threatened by the recent Waldo Canyon fire, which destroyed more than 18,000 acres of national forest and adjacent neighborhoods. Thanks to the hard work of brave firefighters, Garden of the Gods and many homes in the area were spared. Signs of gratitude are everywhere.

The Mountain Shadows neighborhood of Colorado Springs was among the hardest hit areas. We had seen television news reports while we were in Gunnison. But, seeing the devastation in person made it much more real. Blocks of homes were burned to the ground in some areas. In others, like this, one home was destroyed while its neighboring homes were unscathed. Our hearts go out to the many families who were affected by this disaster.

The good news around Colorado Springs is that the much needed afternoon rains have finally returned. As a result, the fire danger has been reduced. These rainbows are most welcome! 

Tomorrow, we head north to Loveland for our Monday morning service appointment. Our fingers are crossed that our air conditioner mess up will be fixed up fast.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Pike's Peak

We've been hanging in Colorado Springs for the last week or so. A highlight of our time here was today's visit to the largest "can't miss" attraction around here: Pike's Peak. Our trusty Jeep, Rocky, was definitely up for the big climb. But, we decided to give him a break and opted to leave the driving to the Pikes Peak Cog Railway. The depot is a short hop from our park, which made making the 8:00 a.m. train a breeze.

Taking the first train of the day had many advantages. There was plenty of parking available. We avoided crowds at the station and at the top. We avoided afternoon thunderstorms, too, which make a regular appearance this time of year. And, we were back in Manitou Springs just in time for lunch!

If there was one thing we would do differently, we would request seats on the "ABC" side of the train. Our seats D and E provided a view "into" the mountain, which was interesting, but not so scenic.

Folks in seats A, B and C definitely had a better view.

We did have an up close look at the old station at Windy Point.

We enjoyed the trip with our "seatmates", a lovely couple from upstate New York. We were so busy swapping stories and sharing laughs that we didn't even get their names! (Ooops!)

As we neared the peak, the train wrapped around the mountain and treated us to some spectacular views.

About 90 minutes after we left the station, we arrived at the peak and the end of the line, quite literally.

At 14,110 feet, Pikes Peak is the easternmost of Colorado's 53 "fourteeners".  We've been "at altitude" for several weeks, so the thin air didn't really bother us. But, we did find ourselves catching our breath a few times.

Of course, the views from the top were breathtaking! The smoldering Waldo Canyon fire (and others) obscured the view of Colorado Springs and the plains of eastern Colorado.

We spent a half-hour or so exploring the summit. While other visitors gasped at the views, Paul went looking for (and found) this high-altitude geocache.

In 1893, Katharine Lee Bates took a carriage ride (Can you imagine?) to the peak. She was so inspired by the views, that she incorporated the purple mountain majesties into a poem, which later became America the Beautiful. A century after Bates' visit, a monument commemorating her famous work was placed on the peak's observation platform. The inspiring monument is also a virtual geocache, which requires a photo to prove your visit. Here's a shot of Paul for the geocaching books.

We waved to Gunnison to the west. Though, we doubt that any of our friends there could see us.

Everywhere we looked, the views were stunning. We couldn't have asked for better weather to make this special trip. (One of these days I'll figure out the "panorama" setting on my camera!)

Of course, we didn't miss a chance to get a photo to prove we were both at this landmark summit.

Before long, three blasts of the train whistle signaled the time for our descent. Our return trip was a slow and smooth as the ascent, which helped banish any worries of sitting aboard a runaway train! Many thanks to Mr. Zalmon Simmons (of Simmons Beautyrest Mattress fame) for hatching the idea of the railway to take in the panoramic views of Pike's Peak in a "civilized and comfortable manner." The Cog Railway is the only way to go!

It sure beats a carriage ride.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012


We reluctantly left Gunnison Monday morning and headed east over Monarch Pass, through Colorado Springs and north just a bit to the town of Monument for a short and not-so-sweet appointment with an RV technician. We needed some time to figure out our next step, so we checked into a park we'd been curious about: Jellystone Park in Larkspur. With family in nearby Castle Rock, we've wondered if this very kid-friendly place could be a regular stop for us.

Well, we wonder no more! This site has been our home for the last two nights. It's spartan, unlevel and dirty. The voltage gets so low it's scary. And, forget about anything that resembles the advertised free wifi. We can see (and hear) busy I-25, which is a stone's throw away. The only thing that buffers the hum of the interstate traffic is the freight train that rolls between the park and the freeway.

All this is ours for 60 bucks a night!

Our geocaching efforts led us to this nearby piece of Douglas County history along the busy I-25 corridor. The Crull/Hammond Cabin is believed to have been built circa 1874, and is the last surviving structure of a town that was once known as Huntsville. A developer purchased the surrounding property in the 1980s, and donated the one-half acre upon which the cabin sits to the county. In the 21st century, the Larkspur Historical Society restored the the structure to its late 19th century glory.

After finding the geocache, we peered inside the windows for a look back in history. Now, this is roughing it! 

With 11 days until our next service appointment north of here, we're leaving Yogi, Boo Boo and our less-than-favorite park in the morning for somewhere more scenic and fun.