The Springs in Fall — 2015 Photos #13: The Will Rogers Fan Site

Will Rogers Shrine of the Sun!

If you visit the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs and read your brochure front-to-back, you’ll notice your admission includes an unusual mountainside bonus that requires some extra effort to check out. It’s nothing to do with animals, but it’s an interesting tangent in the Zoo’s historical and literal background even if you’re too young to know anything about actor/humorist Will Rogers. Ask your grandparents if they remember their parents ever mentioning him.

Right this way for a high tower tour!

The Springs in Fall — 2015 Photos #12: A Merry Mountainside Menagerie


The giraffes had space both indoors and outdoors. In the mornings, you’ll find them where the food is.

If you read Part 10 and Part 11, you saw a lot of me nattering on about the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, that fabulous nature spot with animal pens up the side of a mountain, but not so much about the zoo animals beyond the meerkats. This, then, is the one with a bunch of other animals in it.

Right this way for a keen animal photo gallery!

The Springs in Fall — 2015 Photos #11: Meerkat Man


It’s the kind of moment a man hears can happen, but never sees coming. He’s walking around by himself, minding his own business, lonesome in a crowd but trying to keep up his spirits. Then out of nowhere a young lady walks up to him without preamble or any sign of hesitation, stares him down point-blank, and hits him up with the kind of once-in-a-lifetime proposition he’d have to be a fool to refuse:

“Hi! Would you like to help feed the meerkats?”

Right this way for my brief brush with the tribe of Timon!

The Springs in Fall — 2015 Photos #10: Nature Near NORAD

Cheyenne Mountain Zoo!

Fans of Dr. Strangelove, Stargate SG-1, WarGames, and numerous other near-apocalyptic dramas may recognize the location. No, I don’t mean the zoo.

Welcome to Cheyenne Mountain! One of the most distinctive sections of the Rocky Mountains in the Colorado Springs area, this mass was once home base for the North American Aerospace Defense Command. If you saw a movie or TV show in the ’80s or ’90s in which grouchy American military officials glowered at each other in a secret underground bunker and tossed around terms like “mutually assured destruction” or “DEFCON 1” or “the football” or “Russkies”, chances are they were filmed in a sterile Hollywood soundstage but fronted by a stock photo of thick, beautiful Cheyenne Mountain.

NORAD isn’t quite the hotbed of top-secret nuclear management it once was, having transferred its primary functions to nearby Peterson Air Force Base. (No public tours. I checked.) Today it’s a mountain with a lot going on around its base, not much of it related to national security anymore.

Right this way for another round of scenery and guaranteed animals!

The Springs in Fall * 2015 Photos #9: Rollin’ ‘Round Red Rock

Two Prong Rock!

If the sun tries to burn me, maybe this giant rock shaped like a crab claw will save me.

By the time I was finished wandering Woodland Park, I’d lost interest in continuing the snaky haul southwest through the Rockies to Cripple Creek, and decided to head back east toward Colorado Springs. I was tired of driving but, to my surprise, still in the mood for high-altitude walking.

Despite my appearance, I’ve come to like the sensation of walking in and of itself, as long as the surroundings don’t bore me and especially if I can walk at my own speed. Years of discreetly running from class to class in both junior high and high school, followed by twelve years of restaurant work in which speed was essential to both service and survival, conditioned me for an above-average pace when left to my own devices. It’s rare that I really get to cut loose back home. If I do, my wife’s cute tiny legs struggle to keep up. I’ve never actually seen my son hurry, and my mom decided in her forties that she’s officially elderly, a few decades ahead of schedule. If I indulge myself, I leave my loved ones eating my dust.

(Please note these sentiments apply to walking only. Jogging and running are a different story. My enthusiasm has its boundaries.)

US 24 took me through Manitou Springs and to the perfect spot to push myself: Red Rock Canyon Open Space. Curious natural sights, varied terrains, and the Rockies for a backdrop. Much more stimulating than the average treadmill grind.

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The Springs in Fall * 2015 Photos: Circles of Sugar and Joy

Amy's Donuts!

Of all the food we enjoyed during our six November days in Colorado Springs, none made a more lasting impression than these six sweet, intricate, handcrafted circles filled with creative ingredients, sinful carbs, and a heaping helping of love.

Right this way for the names and my motives behind this purchase…

The Springs in Fall. 2015 Photos #7: Views from the Cave of the Winds

Cave of the Winds!

This wasn’t my first cave, but this stalactite was possibly the longest I’ve ever seen.

I had to kill a few hours in the morning puttering around free areas while waiting for other Colorado Springs businesses to open. Eventually I made my way west through the Rockies, up the side of a mountain, then down inside it.

Right this way for caverns, Rockies, and bears!

The Springs in Fall ~ 2015 Photos #6: America the Beautiful Park

America the Beautiful Park!

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.

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Missing the War

F7F Tigercat!

MCC readers may recall my wife Anne and I visited the National WWII Museum as part of our 2015 road trip to New Orleans back in July. When I researched possible stops for this week’s trip to Colorado Springs, I was surprised to find they have a logical companion attraction, the National Museum of WWII Aviation. The latter isn’t owned by the same people, hasn’t been given the same official accreditation, and definitely doesn’t have the same ginormous funding, but it serves as a local hands-on educational center for students and aficionados specifically interested in World War II air combat history. Like the National WWII Museum’s Boeing Center, this one boasts its own collection of vintage WWII planes in various states of flight readiness. Unlike its rival, this one isn’t afraid to get into the nitty-gritty of engine design, aviation mechanics, comparison/contrast studies with Axis aircraft, carburetor logistics, and related vocabulary such as “pitch” and “ailerons” and “sorties”. But the important thing is you still get to look at real planes.

Pictured above is their F7F Tigercat, one of the largest intact planes on site. This particular model wasn’t deemed ready for war use until August 1945, by which time the Allies had everything pretty much under control. The Tigercat came in handy years later as a night-flying option during the Korean War. Its development occurred during WWII, but it just missed out on any real action against Nazis or Zeros. It wasn’t the Tigercat’s fault that it couldn’t be there.

Anne, major WWII history buff that she is, might’ve appreciated the museum more than I did, if only she could’ve had that chance in person.

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Top 10 Captions for Your Inflatable Armed Snowman

Snowman Hunter!

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: we took our first plane ride and walked away from the landing without a scratch. While my wife is holding up the “business” end of her “business trip” travel deal, I’m spending the week running around Colorado Springs and the surrounding areas to see new sights that didn’t make the cut on our 2012 road trip.

After she was released from duty today a few hours early, we spent some bonus quality time together and visited a few places we’d never been before. One of those was Bass Pro Shops, which has zero locations within 100 miles of our hometown. We don’t hunt, fish, boat, seriously hike, go camping, stock up on assault gear, or participate in most other functions supported by the products we saw, so it’s not as though we’d personally have a good use for one. But we know they’re a big deal to some folks, and we just so happened to be in a convenient position to peek inside one. We decided to browse for our own curiosity.

As I expected, we saw animal taxidermy, assorted weapons, outdoor clothing for outdoor people, fish capturing mechanisms, and so forth. In other words, much like our Dick’s Sporting Goods back home, or the Cabela’s we’ve seen in other states. That makes sense to me. Not our demographic, but we have plenty of friends and family who’d consider such places a great reason for an all-day shopping trip.

And then there was the big guy in the above photo. I stared and I stared, and I don’t get him. I just don’t understand his existence. At all.

Right this way for pet theories why!

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