Tuesday, August 13, 2013

We Hit the Peak!

Pike's Peak, that is. It would be so sad to say that days 3 & 4 of our trip were the peak of what turned into 10 days. However, given the company we kept, it would not be far off to make that statement, either. I'll get to that in a minute...Day 3 we awoke in Manitou Springs, Colorado. What a CUTE little town. It is also where one boards the Manitou-Pike's Peak cog railroad which is the highest cog railway in North America. So, the temperature was cool in Manitou Springs, but it certainly was comfortable. We bought our tickets and boarded the train. Then, mom started coughing so I went to get her a bottled water. While in the shop, there were a couple of "kids" looking for sweatshirts...now, I'm from S-Central Texas. I'm not accustomed to people talking about sweatshirts in August so I asked the sales-clerk if we really needed sweatshirts on Pike's Peak. She responded that the current temperature was 42 degrees but that it had fallen from 44...WHAT!!! Yep, I bought us each a sweatshirt and we were off.
It took us over an hour to get to the top but the ride was pretty straight and no one complained about suffering from motion-sickness and it was comfortably cool. Then, about 2/3 of the way up, we decided that it was a little too cool so we put our sweatshirts on.  As we continued our climb to the top, the conductor regaled us with tales of earlier explorers and adventurous souls who thought it would be great to live on the mountain and try their hand at taming "Mother Nature." However, for most, it's like the old commercial used to advise: "It's not nice to fool with Mother Nature"--not advisable either.
temp was 41
windchill was 32
The views from the top and the beauty you see are unbelievable. I do not have the words to adequately explain the immense panorama you find at >14,000 feet. Trees do not grow that high but particular species of mammals are hardy enough to thrive in this environment.
So after too short a time, we boarded the train for our descent back to Manitou Springs. We enjoyed a great lunch and headed for my cousin Duane's house.

Duane is my dad's nephew, (that is, Duane's mom and my dad were siblings) and he was raised in Kansas, near Wichita. Growing up, we visited my paternal relatives on occasion, that is, maybe once a year. My parents had the five of us very close together and travelling with young children, toddlers and infants was certainly not something anyone (then or now) would have dreamed about. As we got older, my sisters and I always wanted to get to know Dad's family. You see, we were (and still are) close to mom's side and wanted the same types of relationships with Dad's. Time, circumstances and distances kept us from getting close to most of them, except Aunt Dorothy, (Duane's mom). She and my dad maintained a close relationship so we did get to know them the best. Duane is an interesting combination of traits. There are so many things about him that remind me of my dad. Physically, they share some likeness but, even more important to me, their personalities are similar. Both highly intelligent, self-motivated and driven to succeed. However, it is their sense of humor that draws me. Duane is a NUT!!! There is just no other way to describe him. He has such a dry sense of humor, you can just never be sure if he is being honest or telling you a whopper of a lie.  

"kissing camels" at Garden of the Gods"
Duane and his wife (the saint) Carol, live in Colorado Springs, very near the Garden of the Gods. Their home is beautiful and they were great hosts. Our first night there, we sat on their back patio and shared drinks, told stories, (mostly true...I think), and reminisced. It was a great time. After a couple of hours, we decided we'd better think about eating dinner...I would have been fine with more of my Gentleman Jack but eating was probably a good idea too. We decided on pizza and Carol ordered. When it arrived, the pizza was rectangular in shape. Duane had his fodder...for the remainder of the night, we heard comments about "square" pizza. Things like: "how in the world can anyone call this a pizza pie...pies are round." Well, obviously this is one of those "location" stories (you just had to be there...) but it was classic Duane and I loved it. I was immediately transported to my youth and the bantering of my dad and my Aunt Dorothy.

Colorado red granite
View from the road to the Peak
Our original plans were to spend only one night with Duane and Carol, then hit the road again. We decided to stay an additional day. Duane and I drove up to Pike's Peak on our 4th day. It was simply, breathtaking! I have to say, I enjoyed both means of transportation to the top. They actually take approximately the same time and they are completely different. The scenery to the top via the drive is much better. Additionally, there are multiple "turnouts" for those all important "Kodak moments."
As beautiful as it was, for me, the best part was getting to spend a couple of hours with Duane. We discussed life, work, and family. We told stories, (mostly true...I think) and shared some of the most incredible beauty I have ever seen.

All-in-all, maybe we did hit the peak of our trip on days 3-4...

Come back to see what the next several days were like.


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