Colorado – August 3-5, 2016

And so we were in Colorado.

The brake indicator kept lighting up, and the rig was pulling to the left whenever Cliff applied the brakes, so we decided that Rocky Mountain National Park, which contains 72 named peaks higher than 12,000 feet, was out of the question.  It was a tough decision since we were RIGHT THERE and the pictures looked SO BEAUTIFUL!

But, after crossing the continental divide several times on our journey and traversing numerous  ranges…our internal mountain gauges were on “full” at this point.  After all, we had passed Mount Rainier and participated in mountain-climbing races with semi trucks less than a week before.  So that eased the pain.

As we neared Boulder, we were surprised at how much of the scenery reminded us of home (mountains notwithstanding).  There were several spots along the way where we mused, “If you told me that we were in Indiana right now, I’d believe you.”  There was also a big dose of commercial beautification/standardization that we had not seen for quite some time.  It’s strange how something so sickening can feel so comfortable and “safe”.  It hit me.  Hard to explain.

We veered off the interstate toward Boulder to tour the Celestial Seasonings Factory, which happened to be closing soon.  So we booked it over there.  As an avid tea drinker, I had been looking forward to this since blast off!  We assumed that there would be RV parking.  We didn’t realize our error until it was too late.  Again, Cliff’s excellent driving got us out of a real bind.



To our delight, the vacant lots around the factory were  populated by prairie dogs!  It was SO stinkin’ cute!  We were surprised that they had a different “look” than the prairie dogs we spotted in the Badlands.  I would’ve watched them longer, but I didn’t want to miss the tour.



If you’re familiar with the colorful illustrations on Celestial Seasonings tea boxes, you can imagine the decor of the compound.  It made me smile.  The street signs didn’t even escape the theme.  Here we are at the corner of “Zinger” & “Sleepytime.”



I smiled even more when I found out that the “tickets” to the free tour were packets of Lemon Zinger.  Oh yeah.  Thanks, man!


And then, my smile widened as I approached their bar area, where one can sample any one of their 90 different flavors…on the house!  The kids and I thoroughly enjoyed it!  I was actually disappointed when they announced that it was time for our tour.  But not for long.

The tour was interesting.  We learned a lot & even got to visit their “Peppermint Room” for a bit.  The menthol was so strong, making our eyes water and clearing our sinuses!  And then, the gift shop.  I expected some major price gouging.  After all, isn’t that what gift shops are made of?  Surprisingly, the tea prices were comparable to grocery store sale prices.  I bought several cases to bring back as souvenirs as well as some interesting flavors to try at home.  If you have the chance, try their Coconut Thai Chai.  Earth Fare in Greenwood is the only store on the south side that carries it.  Sweetened and with cream, there’s a happy place inside each box.



From there we planned to spot the Mile High Stadium as we cruised by on the interstate and spend the night in Colorado Heights.  However, we were low on fuel.  The afternoon had different plans for us.  I’m not quite sure why, but this community didn’t seem to believe in gas stations.  To set the scene, I need to tell you that it was around 5pm.  Yep, rush hour in Denver.


And it was at least 90 degrees outside.  To get better gas mileage, we opted to turn off the air conditioner, which is almost a death sentence inside an RV in this weather.  Our clothes were sticking to us (no details here).  We were all SOAKING wet.  Our cushions were even soaked.  After spotting a gas station on the GPS we exited into an area which was, shall we say, less-than-ideal?  It turns out that the gas station was too small for us to enter anyway, so we got the heck outta there (albeit slowly because of the traffic).



Our GPS, who we affectionately call Lola, flashed another gas station at an exit farther on.  BIG MISTAKE.  The long, curved ramp spit us out in downtown Denver!  At rush hour!  Huge buildings!  Narrow lanes!  As in, NO fun!



There were people everywhere, cars everywhere, several police officers directing traffic.  You’ve heard of “fight-or-flight” mode?  Well, I was in “freeze-and-freak” mode, which wasn’t entirely helpful to Cliff, who again was handling this like a pro.



I finally pulled myself together and got us back on the interstate, passing right by the Mile High Stadium.  So glad we didn’t miss it.


Don’t you just love it when sunshine does that neat splitting-of-the-rays thing?


I was glad to see this rainbow, too, once we got back to the 25.  Promises always feel good.



We decided to ignore Lola for awhile, as she was on a streak of getting us in trouble.  We exited for our necessary pit stop once we were confident that we had arrived in suburbia’s wide open spaces!  After filling up we cranked the A/C.  It’s amazing how those two little letters can make everything better!

I love the way that nature here seems to exist for the pure pleasure of glancing upon it.



Even the marks of civilization cannot detract from the happy feeling it emits.



We settled in to the Colorado Springs Walmart for the night, ready to take off early for Pike’s Peak in the morning.  Well, after we changed out of our wet clothes.



We arrived at the Cog Railway well ahead of schedule.



This was a sentimental stop for me.  My mom and late stepfather Marvin, a WWII vet, brought my sister and me here in the early 90s.  I remember being cold at the top, so I made sure to overdress everyone this morning!  They told us to drink plenty of water to offset elevation sickness, so Cliff ran back to the car to get a case of bottled water while the rest of us boarded the train.


The trip up was amazing.  We loved seeing the granite, which reminded us a lot of the Black Hills,



and the aspen trees



and small waterfalls were breathtaking.  Our tour guide actually joked that this fall was “higher” than Niagara Falls, because of its elevation.



Once we left the treeline, amazing views overtook us.  So pristine.



The tour guide also told us that on a clear day, you could see all the way to Oklahoma from here.  (It wasn’t a clear day.)



Check out the road up here.  Do not attempt this in an RV!



About this time, however, I realized that the three bottles of water I drank did not prevent elevation sickness.  I suddenly felt tired, had a headache, and was queasy.  (I didn’t realize it at the time, but all 6 of us were feeling the sickness to some degree.)  I don’t recall much of our time at the peak except that I was miserable and couldn’t wait to begin the descent.  I managed to snap off a few quick pictures, though.



This guy’s an overachiever.


I spent the rest of the day in bed.  My poor family watched movies in the Walmart parking lot while I slept it off.  Sorry guys!

The next day Cliff made an appointment to check out our brakes before we headed out.  Along the way, we saw a sign for Focus on the Family Welcome Center and decided to return in our TOAD during the servicing.  (The diagnosis was that the brakes overheated because of so much downhill driving from Wyoming into Colorado.  Nothing was wrong.  They just needed a little R&R.)

It was a nice distraction for the kids, who were in need of some pure-kid-fun.  We were glad for them to stretch their legs and play because we scheduled an aggressive driving timeline in the upcoming days.



Plus, they enjoyed ice cream at Whit’s End!



There was so much more that we could’ve done while we were here…the Manitou Cliff Dwellings and Garden of the Gods to name a couple on our list.  But, with the combination of brake trouble, altitude sickness, as well as a strong yearning to be home, we made the decision to continue east.



Eastern Colorado possessed its own beauty, different from the mountains of Denver/Colorado Springs.  Here we saw a familiar road sign…I-70!  It felt good to be heading home.



Next stop: Kansas!



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