Jesse and I got invited to fly out to Colorado with a guy who bought a Piper Lance. Jesse had been instructing him in this airplane for awhile. Well, he (James) and his wife (Kathy) kindly invited us to join them for a trip to Colorado!
Jesse and I took off the day from work on Friday, and we left Poplar Bluff (KPOF) around noon. It was about a 4 1/2 hour flight with a stop about 30 miles from Wichita, Kansas to refuel. I have to tell you that the airport we landed at for refueling was a bit of a rinky airport, but it had sort of an old timey feel. Just in front of our plane was a Cessna 140, the predecessor to the Cessna 150. It was this tiny, 2 seat, silver tail dragger airplane, and the instruments (yes, I looked inside the window because I couldn’t resist. It looked as though they were the original stuff from the 1940’s. Then there were some hangars that were open and doorless, and in one of them was a bright yellow biplane.
Once we got fuel, we took off and continued our trek out to Pueblo, Colorado (KPU. You know, they say that driving through Kansas is brutal because there isn’t crap out there. Flying ain’t much better – there really isn’t crap out there. So for most of the rest of the flight, Kathy and I slept off and on while Jesse and James flew the plane because there wasn’t much else to do.
I have to tell you, though, once we got near KPUB, it was awesome. The Rockies finally jutted up from the flat nothingness of Kansas (and part of Colorado), and the terrain below turned into rock. I took pics from the airplane, er, tried because we were in the pattern and kept turning. Once we landed, we all grabbed our stuff, had the plane tied down, and went to get our rental car. We drove from Pueblo to Canon City and stopped at a Comfort Inn to check in. Then we went out to eat since we were pretty famished from the flight.
On Saturday, we all got up and checked out from the motel, and we all decided to just do our separate things for the day. So Jesse and I got our own rental car and looked over the map. Our first conquest: the Royal Gorge. Man, it is a HUGE gorge. The world’s highest suspension bridge is the Royal Gorge Bridge, at over 1,000 feet. We didn’t go onto the bridge because they made you pay to go onto it, but we took pics from an observation spot over by the visitor center. The Arkansas River flows at the bottom of the Royal Gorge, and from over a thousand feet up, it looks like a little tiny stream.
Our next conquest was finding Cripple Creek, the place where we were going to stay Saturday night. We took a whole lot of byways out there, and it was beautiful driving, though the roads were sinuous. We get to Cripple Creek, and I have to say that it is one of the most unique towns I have ever been to. This town has remained, for the most part, unchanged by time since it was established in the late 1890’s. Cripple Creek, along with many other small mountain settlements, was established as a gold mining town, and it actually still is since the hills and mountains surrounding it are filled with millions of dollars worth of gold ore. Even most of the houses of the town are the original homesteads. Cripple Creek is also a gambling town, which I suspect helps its economy aside from the mining. Our hotel, the Double Eagle, was also a casino.
Once we found Cripple Creek and our hotel, we decided to try horseback riding at Garden of the Gods. On our way to Manitou Spring, I called to reserve the horses, but they wanted us to be there 45 mins. early, so we said we could make it, but as Murphy’s Law would have it, we got lost, and when we found the stables, they had already left. So no horseback riding for us. Then we decided to go up to Pike’s Peak, but when we got there, they closed the road at 3 (because it snows at random up there later in the day), and it was about 3:10! D= So we missed both activities by just a few minutes.
We went back to Garden of the Gods, and took a really long hike up to these neat rock formations. By the time we got to the central garden, Jesse and I were out of breath and dying of thirst. I found a water fountain, and was rejoicing – until I pushed the button and nothing came out! Then I voiced my anguish over this, and a guy behind us was cracking up at me. After we looked over the rocks, we decided to head back down the road to our vehicle so we could go back to Cripple Creek. Unfortunately, the sun was beginning to set, and when the sun disappears behind the mountain, it gets COLD. We also left our car about 3 miles down the long and winding road. The guy who cracked up at us at the fountain was nice enough to give me and Jesse a lift to our vehicle.
We found our way back to Cripple Creek, and it was well after sunset by the time we got there. We met back up with James and Kathy and had dinner at the restaurant in the casino/hotel. Jesse and I worked up such an appetite that we pretty well oinked out on our meals. James and Kathy pretty well did most of the stuff that we did, and we kept missing one another! So after dinner, they went back to their room, and Jesse and I were pretty content to just explore the town a little before we returned to our room for the night. We slept very well!
We got up this morning, packed our stuff, had breakfast, and made the return trip back to Poplar Bluff. It was another long, 4 hour flight, and we were tired when we got home, but we all had a great time, and I hope we get to do this again. Maybe next time we’ll actually conquer Pike’s Peak. -Diane