Friday, April 17, 2015

Colorado, part 2, Royal Gorge Bridge

Returning to the lower elevation, we located a State Park that was within the Colorado Springs city limits.  Cheyenne Mountain State Park sits up in the hills above the city, backed up by the higher Front Range mountains.  This premiere park has only been opened since 2006.  The park's 2700 acres, formerly the JL Ranch, offers 20 miles of hiking/biking trails and 51 full service camp sites.  The campground is set out in multiple small cul-de-sacs , each containing 8 campsites.   Because the park is located  just beneath the eastern flank of Cheyenne Mountain, the views from each campsite are extensive.

 Night view

Between every two circles there are rest rooms

Situated at a central location is a Camper Services building with a small store, laundry and showers.

All the trails are paved with a fine gravel and are well marked.

Our intent was to hang out here for one or two days until the weather moved on.  However, mother nature had different ideas and a strong low pressure cell hung over the area from here to Cheyenne, Wyoming for four days (so far)  We weren't too anxious to push north through the snow and wind with the camper in tow, so we have opted to see what Colorado Springs has to offer.

A brochure we picked up mentioned the Royal Gorge Bridge.  Recalling how my father-in-law had marveled at this bridge, we headed out for a day trip to Canon City where the bridge is located. We were not sure if it was a road bridge, a railroad bridge, or where it went from Canon City but we had nothing else on today's list.

Driving into the parking lot, this is what we saw.

We still did not know where it went or what it was used for, but the visitors center answered many of our questions.  Fortunately for us, it was a cold, rainy, snowy day and there were only half a dozen people at the bridge. We were told this bridge was built and is used only as a tourist attraction. Last year they averaged over 1000 people per day coming here.   

This shot was taken from the gondola ride, which is where you begin a tour of all the attractions the park has to offer. Yes, I must agree with Maynard, this is an amazing sight to see, let alone to have been accomplished in 1929. The 5000 acres incorporated in the park was deeded to the city of Canon by the Department of Interior, after a Texan, named Lon Piper, proposed building the bridge with the sole purpose of creating a tourist attraction.  Local legend contends that a fellow Texan bet him he could not build a bridge across the gorge, so he did.

The gondola takes you from the visitors center, 2,200 feet across the gorge, to several other attractions.

View of the river below, from the gondola.  A train track weaves its way through the gorge on a track that is partially suspended over the river.  You can take this train ride from the village of Canon.  Bet that is fun.

When you reach the other side there is a lookout for photography, a "Royal Rush Skyscraper", which is a ride that swings you out over the gorge while laying on your stomach, a new zip line, and a theater where they show a movie about the park.  Unfortunately, the Skyscraper and the Zip line were closed today due to weather.  I would love to have tried the zip at 30 miles per hour all the way across the gorge!

The Plaza Theater where the movie is shown.  This building was one of the only four out of 52 buildings left after a wild fire that destroyed most of this park in 2013.  The park just reopened in the fall of 2014, 14 months after the fire, with a new visitors center and a new updated gondola. Although they are open, there is still construction going on to replace more of what was lost.

The overlook where you can take great photos.  The legs of the Royal Rush Skyscraper are visible next to the photo spot.  No swingers today.

After riding to the far side of the gorge, you can return on the gondola, or walk over the bridge.  We decided to walk, since the rain had stopped (for awhile).  You can only drive over the 18 foot wide bridge after 5 PM, or get a ride with one of the shuttles that go back and forth.  During the fire only 100 boards of the bridge bed needed to be replaced.  We were told that if the bridge had been destroyed, the park would not have been rebuilt.

A bit of humor.  The bridge is 956 feet above the Arkansas River.

Along the bridge are the names of all 50 states.  So we stopped for a photo op.  (You can see it began snowing again)

Back on the visitors center side of the bridge, the remains of one of the old gondola cars has been left so visitors can get an idea of how much damage occurred during the fire.

The fire was so hot it melted the cables for the original gondola.  A completely new one had to be built on the opposite side of the new visitors center.

Glad we got to do this attraction when there were so few people here.  Had a chance to have some long conversations with staff.  Fun place.  If you are ever in Colorado Springs, this is worth a trip.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Colorado, part 1

Lubbock was our last stop in Texas.  The next day we moved on and made it to Trinidad Lake,  State Park, Colorado.

This was a beautiful park on a large reservoir, just over the line from New Mexico.

Nice spacious camp sites

Each site had electric hookups, but water only in regional locations.  We think this is because of winter freezing, but maybe not!  We spent two relaxing days here before moving further north.

Spent my Birthday in the city of Colorado Springs, enjoying a great dinner at the Colorado Mountain Brewing Company.  Great company (Marlin), good locally brewed beer, delicious fish tacos, and a fun waiter.  The next day, after checking out a local fly shop, we headed for Eleven Mile State Park, which is 50 or so miles back in the Mountains near a region called South Park.   Colorado Springs sits just on the edge of the front range of the Rocky Mountains. Off to the east is endless prairie, while the western edge of the city rises slowly until stopped by steep mountains. 

Eleven Mile State Park is also on a reservoir and just like Trinidad Lake, sites have electricity but water is in central locations.
The terrain, even though it is in the mountains, with prominent rocky formations, is much like the prairie.

The grander Rocky Mountains can be seen in the distance.

The weather was perfect, and the park has some very nice trails that I took advantage of while Marlin fished.

Lots of spring wildflowers sprouting up through the grass.

Marlin had several grand days of fishing in the South Platte River.  As the saying goes, "the fishing was great, the catching not so good", but he enjoyed every minute of his time there.  Other fishermen to talk to, and the aura of the mountain men who traveled along the South Platte in the 1840, made good companions for his time on the river.

Other critters he had for company! Wild burros on the road.
After three days, the weather forecast was for snow and high winds, so we decided to move back to a lower altitude with the camper.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Buddy Holly Center, Lubbock, TX

My expectations for Lubbock were far exceeded during our short two day stay here.  Thinking this City, in the central panhandle prairie land of Texas, that is six hours from anything else, would have limited facilities and attractions.  Wrong.  Lubbock was on our path to Montana, but also our friend Rick Cote, who is a huge Buddy Holly fan, asked if were anywhere near Lubbock to go by and check out his grave.  Local attraction brochures told about the Buddy Holly Center and grave site, but we found out there is more to Lubbock than just Buddy Holly's birth place.  There are multiple first rate museums, and a vibrant music scene.  There is nightly music at most restaurants and night spots all through the city.  Sounds like a mini-Austin atmosphere.

The Buddy Holly Center was easy to find.  The City's Department of Transportation made it easy.

 The Center is located at the old Railroad depot, which now serves as a combined art museum for local artists, as well as an addition where the Buddy Holly Center is located.

Unfortunately, no photographs were allowed inside the galleries.  The only picture we could take in the building was this sign in the hallway.  The docent said photographs were not allowed because many of the artifacts were only on loan and did not actually belong to the center.

Much of the gallery was set up in time lines that covered the trajectory of his carer, as well as all the other significent musical happenings during the time he was alive.  It is easy to forget about events that belong together, or how the styles of music were changing during the 1950's era.  Pictures would have been a great asset for my aging memory.  One interesting item was that when Buddy Holly and his friends were still playing around Lubbock, their band opened for Elvis Presley when he came to town.  It was reported that Elvis became a strong influence on Buddy's music after that event.

 Adjacent to the Center is the J.I. Allison house.

Inside this circa 1950's house was very nostalgic.  Apparently, this home was the gathering place for lots of J.I.'s friends and where some of the early Crickets songs were written.  Tiny, by today's standards, but the walls were covered with photos of lots of kids hanging out and playing music. 

The tour docent said this was not J.I. Allison's original drum set, but he picked out one exactly like his first set, and set it up just the way he had it when he was a boy.  The house was scheduled to be torn down to make way for a shopping center, so the center bought it, had it moved to the Center grounds, and restored it according to pictures and information from the Allison family.

When the renovations were finished, the three original Crickets, J.I Allison, Joe Mauldin, and Sonny Curtis, were interviewed at the house and during the tour we were shown a video of that interview.  Fun to hear them talk about growing up in Lubbock and getting a band together for their first gigs.

On the other side of Crickets Avenue there is a park, featuring a statue of Buddy Holly, but also a Walk of Fame dedicated to all the famous artists who have come from the Lubbock area.  We recognized some of the names.

Our next stop was the Lubbock cemetery.  With so many people looking for Buddy Holly's grave, the sexton had a sign erected to direct people to the right spot.

The grave marker is very modest.  This may have been because his family had limited means at that time or perhaps because his family did not realize he was as well know as he was at the time of his death.

The docent at the Buddy Holly Center said his real name was spelled Holley, but it was printed Holly on his first Decca Record contract, so he continued to spell it that way.

Leaving the cemetery at 3:30, with still a couple of personal errands to complete, made for a full day.  On our list of places to see were a World War II glider museum, a wind mill museum, a functioning drive-in theater, and an art museum. Guess we will have to return to Lubbock someday.  The return to our camper gave us one more delight for the day.

It was a double rainbow, but by the time I got out the camera, only one was left.