The title sounds like some sad attempt at a pun, but it’s technically not. Not on my part, anyway. Pictured above is America the Beautiful Park, one of the more scenic public spaces I found in Colorado Springs. Even without the Rocky Mountains backing it up, the park has a few classy touches of its own, which you can appreciate if you can first find the park.
Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:
Each year my wife and I take a road trip to a different part of the United States and see what sorts of historical landmarks, natural wonders, man-made oddities, unexplored restaurants, and cautionary tales await us. From November 1-6, 2015, we racked up a number of personal firsts. My wife Anne was invited on her first business trip to Colorado Springs, all expenses paid from flight to food to lodging to rental car, to assist with cross-training at a distant affiliate. Her supervisor gave me permission to attend as her personal travel companion as long as I bought my own plane ticket and food. I posted one photo for each of the six days while we were on location. With this series, we delve into selections from the 500+ other photos we took along the way.
As we awoke too early on Day Two, we could see from our still-shadowed hotel that sunrise was already shining upon the Rockies to our west.
Sadly, this was one of the few natural sights Anne got to see all day. This was Monday and she had to report to work for the first of five shifts to assist her company’s local branch with training. Meanwhile, this would be my first time vacationing solo. In a few ways it was liberating because I could move at whatever pace I wanted to — walk briskly, stop frequently, spend agonizing minutes playing with camera settings, check social media on a whim — without worrying about inconveniencing or annoying anyone else around me. On the other hand, most of the time I was lonely as heck. I consoled myself by making it my personal mission to take lots and lots of pics as I could for Anne’s sake so she could enjoy the area by proxy if nothing else.
My first stop was the official Colorado Springs Visitors Center, located in a rather blue-collar area where the juxtaposition of distant natural wondrous and the upfront rugged mundane was at its most jarring.
I walked inside shortly after they opened and chatted with a friendly lady who suggested a few things we hadn’t already done on our 2012 road trip. Then she kept suggesting and suggesting for several minutes while I smiled and nodded and tried to flip through pamphlets in peace, but the Visitors Center is small and there’s nowhere to hide from helpfulness.
One creative spot I found along my walk was a building whose sign said “The Warehouse”. The fancy mural caught my eye first, then the odd name that struck me as something you’d see in a ’60s Batman comic. A quick lookup confirmed it’s a restaurant, albeit not open for breakfast.
The mural continues from the side entrance to the street front, where this two-dimensional chap thinks he’s blending in.
I returned to the car, followed my directions, and parked near what I thought was America the Beautiful Park. This was my first sight: Yul Jorgensen’s 2015 farm-implement sculpture “Regenesis”.
I looked around the rest of the area. It was a small city block of grass and trees, the one sculpture, and this 1906 monolith erected in honor of U.S. Army officer Zebulon Pike, whose 1806-1807 expedition was the first such American exploration of the area that would later become Colorado. So he has Pike’s Peak named after him and this 119-year-old urban slab to his credit.
A quick check of my facts and bearings confirmed this was the wrong place. I was in Antlers Park, which was not the same thing. Antlers Park once had an old-time locomotive on display that was its biggest highlight, but it was taken away several weeks earlier. I retreated slowly to the car without bothering the homeless guys sleeping under the trees and drove a couple more blocks west, where I found the longer, more upscale park I was looking for, tucked away between I-25, a gravel lot, and some sort of business related to the U.S. Olympics that I might’ve investigated if I were into sports.
America the Beautiful Park is thirty acres of grass, circular walking/jogging/biking track, kids’ playground, picnic shelter, two obelisks, and this giant fountain dedicated in 2007 to local philanthropist Julie Penrose, who had a hand in many local charities and organizations. Judging by how often the name “Penrose” popped up in my travels this week, I’m guessing the whole family is a big deal ’round there.
I’m told Colorado Springs has mild weather year-round compared to Indiana’s, but whatever water normally runs through the fountain in the warmer months was nonetheless shut off. It probably looks even cooler with the water. This is how it looks if you walk around to the other side, face away from the Rockies at 9:30 MDT, and nearly blind yourself.
A plaque on one of the obelisks touts the park’s mission statement as “Celebrating the Cycle of Water and Life”. Conservation, ecology, recycling, and generally saving Earth are paramount concerns in the area, as encapsulated by this artwork posted along the path.
Also a fan of nature’s survival: this large cricket that stayed quiet and motionless and wouldn’t stop staring at me as I passed by.
For those curious about the origin of the park’s name, clarification is provided in the form of a 2005 monument containing the first two verses to the old standard “America the Beautiful”, as written in Colorado Springs in 1893 by visiting poet Katharine Lee Bates, probably no relation to the Oscar winner.
Detail from the lower left corner: the Founding Fathers labeling and lawmaking while an angry American eagle stands guard and the Mayflower remains ready to return them to England if this whole “America” experiment doesn’t pan out.
In the lower right corner: diversity! Because without diversity, America is just a disappointing sequel to the really boring parts of Europe.
To be continued!
[Link enclosed here to handy checklist for previous and future chapters, and for our complete road trip history to date. Thanks for reading!]