Monthly Archives: September 2016

Colorado Springs

From the dunes, we headed north to Colorado Springs. We weren’t daring enough to do the drive up, so we opted to take the train to Pike’s Peak.



The views from the 14,000 foot peak were stunning.

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It was also quite chilly, but the sun was bright and the skies were clear.

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On the way down we spotted some big horn sheep.  It’s amazing to me how much they blend into the rocks.


…and a marmot.  I’m ashamed to admit that before this trip, I didn’t know that a marmot is an actual animal and not just the name of a camping gear and outdoor wear company.  They’re pretty cute creatures.  They’re kind of a cross between a beaver and a groundhog.


It was nice to get into the warm train for our trip back down the mountain.



While we were in town, we took a tour of the United States Air Force Academy.  This is a picture of the outside of the chapel…


…and then the inside.  I love how the stained-glassed windows reflected in the sunlight.



We also stopped by the United States Olympic Team training center.  It was a state-of-the art facility.

dsc_0278Sadly, we didn’t get a chance to see many athletes training since most of them had already left for Rio.  We did see some para-Olympians, which was really neat as well as inspiring.

dsc_0281We wrapped up our visit to Colorado Springs with some rock climbing at the Garden of the Gods.

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Great Sand Dunes National Park

Our next stop was Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve.

Of the time we spent with the Sheffields, this park was my favorite.  Not everyone in the group agreed, however.  For me, it was such a unique place.


The sand dunes were tremendous, like a mountain range themselves.  When we walked on them, I felt like I was somewhere like the Gobi Desert, with an unending landscape of arid sand.

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But then you could look up above the dunes and see the green mountain ranges reaching in the background with snow-capped peaks.  It was an interesting contrast.  I could swear I was on the set of a Star Wars movie.



The kids rented some boards to sled down the dunes.





The boards were more fun in theory than in actual practice.  None of us were very good at riding them, except Benny.  I guess his light weight helped him glide down the dunes rather than crashing head over bum like the rest of us.  We did get a lot of laughs, though.


I would have liked to make the trek up to the very top of the dunes, but we ran out of water and the natives were getting restless again.

It was hot and dry.  The wind was whipping up thick clouds of dust.  The sand was omnipresent.  We looked like snickerdoodle cookies by the time we walked out of that place.


For weeks to come, we would be cleaning the sand out of our shoes, ears and nether-regions.

Road-tripping Recollections

For my own benefit, I’m going to include some memories of our road trip that I find funny and I don’t want to forget about them.

From Mesa Verde, we continued on our way and drove up and down winding mountain roads to our next destination.


The natives were getting restless in the back and after about the 20th time of being asked when we were eating lunch, we decided to stop at a roadside park and take a break.  We quickly ate our snacks and sandwiches and made our way back to the van.

As we were walking, Jen’s youngest son, Benjamin, decided he wanted to run ahead of all of us.  Despite protests and warnings from the adults in the group, he kept running along the side of the highway beside some cars that were parked on the edge of the road.  At the exact moment he ran past the side door of a RV, the door swung open, hitting Benjamin and launching him into a ditch beside the road.  I was directly behind him and I threw my hand over my mouth so as to stifle my laughter.  He moaned a little bit, but got up, brushed himself off and didn’t make a fuss.  Aaron ran up to him and said, “Wow Benny that was good enough to be on America’s Funniest Home videos!”  When we knew Benny was OK, we all got a good laugh out of it.


Back aboard Shelly, we continued up the mountain.  Benjy suddenly noticed that an engine warning light had illuminated and the van was giving him a message “to pull over safely.”  The engine gauge was at maximum temperature, so Benjy pulled over.

Jen told Benjy to open the hood and see if he could see anything wrong.  For some reason, Benjy didn’t want to because he said all we needed to do was wait for the engine to cool down.  Besides none of us were mechanics and would never know what the problem was.

Jen and I kept chiding Benjy and finally he relented and opened the hood.


The three of us peered inside, but didn’t see anything wrong initially.  Then, I glanced over at the water tank and noticed that it was bone dry.  “It looks like we need some water,” said I.  “Hmmph, yeah I guess so,” said Benjy.  We take one of our bottles of water from the van and Benjy pours it into the empty water tank.

After a few seconds, smoke starts pouring out of the engine.  Jen yells to the kids in the car, “EVERYONE OUT!!!”  All the kids dashed out of the car and waited at a safe distance.  They were a bit afraid that the car might explode.

I looked back into the engine to see if I could find the source of the smoke.  I noticed a hose that appeared to be disconnected.  I pointed to it and say to Benjy, “Shouldn’t this be connected to the engine?”  Benjy says, “hmmm, yeah probably.”  He reaches into the steaming engine, grabs the hot hose and immediately yelps with pain.  “Ouch that’s hot!”

We quickly deduced that the hose had come loose and the water had completely drained from the water tank.  We needed to re-hook the hose if we were going to keep the water in the tank, thus preventing the engine from overheating.  It’s a good thing I studied finance in undergrad and not engineering like someone else in our group.

How are we going to do that when the hose is molten hot?  We all scratched our heads.  I said, “we need a pot holder of some sort.”  That’s when I removed my shoe and took off my sock and handed it to him.  “Here, put this on your hand.”  Whatdaya know?  It worked!

Benjy hooked up the hose and poured more water in the tank.  The water held, but we really needed some antifreeze to keep the engine from overheating.  Fortuitously, we had pulled over just past an enormous RV park.  Not far from us was a man with a truck who was fixing a sign for the park.

Benjy approached him and asked him if he worked at the RV park.  The man said, “oh you mean the family resort village?”  OK, yeah, that place over there.  Benjy and the man chatted for awhile.  To make a long story longer, we got some antifreeze and were back in business.

As an aside, Jen’s husband, Shane, and other son, Luke, had to catch up with us on the trip because Luke’s baseball team had unexpectedly made the playoffs.  Their plan was to meet us after Mesa Verde.  While we were in our predicament, we were communicating with Shane who was enroute to meet up with us.  We were only 20 miles from our destination for the night and Shane was only 10 miles ahead of us.  He had turned around and was on his way to come get us.

Once Benjy got the hose rigged and it looked like it was going to hold, he just wanted to go for it and head straight away to our destination for the night.  Shane had other ideas, however, and wanted us to pull over so he could check Benjy’s handy work.  Shane had stopped and was waiting for us on the side of the road.

We blew right past him, lights flashing, horn blaring and me hanging out the window shouting that we’re going for it.  Shane stood there with his mouth agape and Luke was in the back of the car waving at us as we flew past.  Everyone in the van was roaring with laughter.  Shane, on the other hand, was not at all amused.  It reminded me of a scene out of the Muppet Show where Shane was Kermit the Frog being heckled by Gonzo’s chickens and the 2 old men in back of the theater.


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I don’t know why I find this memory so funny, but it sticks out in my mind.  I think it was the sound of all of us guffawing in unison that makes me chuckle.  I also can’t get the look on Shane’s face out of my mind.  It was like: what in the !@#$% are you doing??!!!

So we made it OK to our Airbnb rental which was a farm.  It had this gorgeous view and also had…



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I wanna a llama as a pet now.  They were just so sweet looking and seemed so curious and interested in us.  The owner told us that despite their harmless looks, they are quite fierce.  Thanks to them, the farm has no problems with deer, wolves, foxes or other predators.

It was chilly enough for us to build a fire and make s’mores.


Shane had calmed down by this time and was getting into the vacay mode.



All was forgiven.