OK, let's try this again. I always forget that Typepad gets contrary when Internet Explorer releases a new update. Nothing more frustrating that losing an entire post when you're almost done with it. We'll see if I can baby this along this time.
Are you tired of hearing about Colorado yet? I hope not because I'm still savoring the memories of all that we saw and did.
Wayne and his brother Maurice have more than just a casual familiarity with the Manitou and Colorado Springs area. They spent a chunk of every summer there while growing up as their dad did his Reserve Duty at nearby Fort Carson. Life on those visits wasn't all Army drills and whatever else one does at summer camp; they had plenty of time to explore the back roads too which obviously are far different from Kansas back roads. And I know for us (and probably for Mo too) each subsequent trip has found us on at least some of those same back roads.
Like Phantom Canyon Road. It may look wide and flat in this photo but believe me, it doesn't stay that way for long. It might give you a better idea of the road conditions if I told you we rented an SUV for this day's drive rather than take either of our own. Phantom Canyon Road is built on the old rail bed for the train that carried gold down from Cripple Creek in the late 1800's and early 1900's so it twists and turns as it climbs from just outside the Springs up to Cripple Creek.
And it narrows too, often to just one lane like here in the tunnel. Fortunately, the tunnels are short enough you can see if it's clear all the way through before entering. Sometimes those narrow places in the road came on corners. That made it exciting for both drivers when we encountered another vehicle making the trip from the other end but the speed limit is only 20 mph so it was easy to stop and figure who was getting over while the other got by.
That slower pace was just perfect for taking in all the majestic scenery. Wayne had downloaded a narrative of the history of the road and stories of what life was like along it in the gold rush days so we learned a little something playing that CD in the car as we rode. It was just enough storytelling to give us a new perspective of a somewhat familiar road.
We stopped for a picnic lunch at a park in Victor and it wasn't hard to imagine what life there might have been like in the heart of the gold rush. Of course, you could just look on up the mountain and see the giant dump trucks working at a still-operating gold mine to know it hasn't completely disappeared. From there it was on to Cripple Creek, a once thriving gold rush town that now mines for a different resource: greenbacks from your wallet in all the casinos that operate there.
We weren't after casinos though; we wanted the railroad. The guys can't resist driving on crooked roads and they can't resist riding on trains pulled by old steam engines either. The ride wasn't long but the scenery was pretty and the stories the engineer told were interesting.
My favorite part was hearing the echo of the engine's whistle as the sound rolled down the valley. It was almost lonely and haunting, fitting for the all the abandoned mines and remnants of buildings of a disappeared era.
From here the plan was to return to Colorado Springs via the Gold Camp Road, an even narrower and less maintained route than Phantom Canyon Road. We bumped and we bounced and we ricocheted over a surface that was far more washboard that roadway. When those of us in the back seat (my sister-in-law Marsha and I) complained about the assault our bodies were enduring, those in the front seat (Mo and Wayne) allowed as how people paid good money for a deep-tissue massage. Good thing the scenery was impressive.
Being the good Boy Scout that he is, my favorite trip-planner had a map; it was not this map. His map had one line, not all those little pink lines that represent forestry roads and other twisty, turny, bumpy mountain roads. And guess what? There are precious few signs at the intersections. Apparently, knowing whether drivers are on the Upper Gold Camp Road, the Lower Gold Camp Road or a goat path to nowhere isn't important to those in charge. Thank goodness for Google maps and Marsha's occasion cellphone signal or we might still be trying to find our way down the mountain. I have the feeling this adventure will live long in the family lore.
The good news is there were plenty of awesome scenes to distract us from the washboards and not knowing exactly where we were.
The rental car return was one where you just park the vehicle in a numbered space and note that on the paperwork you turn in inside the airport. I'm sure whoever had to clean all the dust off the car the next morning wondered where in the world it had been. After the workout we gave them, we might should have suggested they check the shocks too.