The Springs in Fall — 2015 Photos #29: Outtakes, Colorado

Rocky Mountains!

Those amazing colossal Rocky Mountains up in Rocky Mountain National Park. Better or worse than the shots we shared before?

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: we guided you through our second trip to Colorado in twenty-eight episodes — November 1-6, 2015, Sunday through Friday, which represented our very first experience with air travel. We didn’t lose any luggage, eat any airline meals, wait extra hours for a delayed flight, land early due to onboard nuisance, see any Muslims snap-judged, or throw up at any point. And between the flights there and back again, we saw lots more Colorado we hadn’t seen our first time around when we drove out there from Indianapolis in 2012.

Here, in our grand finale: a selection of outtakes from various chapters — a few skipped by dumb oversight; a few that captured isolated moments disconnected from the rest of the narrative; and a few left behind due to inadequate wow factor. We may be aging amateurs who don’t have thousands of unconditional superfans, but we do have light standards.

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The Springs in Fall — 2015 Photos #28: Farewell, Colorado

Southwest Wing!

Have wing, add prayer.

At last our six-day excursion to Colorado was drawing to close, with one last chance to wander Denver International Airport before our flight home to Indianapolis around 6 p.m. MST. We tried to make the most of it.

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The Springs in Fall — 2015 Photos #27: Clocking Out of Cloudy Colorado

Colorado Clouds!

At 3:00 p.m. Mountain Standard Time on Friday, November 6, 2015, my wife wrapped up the final shift of her Colorado Springs business trip, jumped in the rental car with me and sighed in relief. Her work week hadn’t been an easy one. The branch appreciated her assistance, but it was clear they needed more help than she could give them in her 40+ hours on the premises. She did her part, but what happened after she left was no longer her concern. At long last she was free. She could finally unwind and enjoy a little Colorado sightseeing before we ended our six-day experience.

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The Springs in Fall — 2015 Photos #20: Three Cities, Much Rock

Castle Rock!

Castle Rock, a 37-story butte sitting next to the town of Castle Rock, Colorado. No relation to the Stephen King Literary Universe.

Day Four was a busy driving day for me, trying to cover as much ground as I could before we had to fly home on Day Six. I spent the first half up in Denver and the late afternoon back in Colorado Springs, with a stopover in between to stare for a while at the formidable formation above. Works of God and of Man were each the order of the day.

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The Springs in Fall — 2015 Photos #19: The Denver Museum of Nature & Science on $0.00 a Day

Fossil!

Remember, kids: if it isn’t packed with eighty-six tons of dinosaur fossils, it isn’t a real science museum and you should report it to your local science authorities right away.

After lunch and conversation with an old friend in Denver, I spent a bit more of Day Four wandering a few other locations over the next two hours. Halfway through our week, though, a bit of budget consciousness was tampering my mood, leading me to think carefully how else I spent my remaining time and personal funds in Colorado. That’s what happens when you can’t normally afford two vacations a year but can’t resist a good deal on a second one.

Not far from the Denver Biscuit Company and All in a Dream is the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, five hundred thousand square feet of Smithsonian-affiliated exhibits, experiments, and special presentations about all the niftiest sciences ever. For visitors in a cheapskate position like me, a few points of interest stand on the path leading from the free parking lot to the ticket counter, a.k.a. the point of no return.

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The Springs in Fall…2015 Photos #8: Munchies in the Mountains

Mountain Wookies!

This is not the Star Wars toy store you’re looking for.

By the time I left the Cave of the Winds, it was after 12 and lunch sounded like a great idea. My original plan had been to work my way up US 24 into the Rocky Mountains for a while, eventually switch to another winding highway, and browse the restaurant and sightseeing options in the town of Cripple Creek. All the brochure photos looked like Deadwood or other Old-West throwbacks filled with arts, crafts, state-themed souvenirs, cheesy knickknacks, period boutiques, and probably casinos in every other storefront. Plenty of opportunities for bemusement and/or learning experiences, maybe.

Halfway there my appetite was seriously interfering with my enthusiasm for driving all those dozens and dozens of elevated disaster curves. I reached the much nearer hideaway of Woodland Park, noted a smattering of old-fashioned facades, cut my drive a couple dozen miles short, and thought to myself, “Yeah, this’ll do. Food now.”

Right this way for an impromptu stop in a quiet Colorado town!

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 #3: Rocky Mountain Higher and Higher

Rocky Mountains!

As we promised last time: MOUNTAINS. We saw some.

Welcome back to Rocky Mountain National Park in beautiful Estes Park, Colorado.

Right this way for mountains! And clouds! And mountains with clouds on them!

The Springs in Fall — 2015 Photos #2: Sunday in Estes Park

Rocky Mountain National Park!

I sure hope y’all like mountains because we took roughly six million photos of the Rockies on this trip.

On Sunday we landed in Denver shortly after 9:30 their time. Our Colorado Springs hotel was seventy minutes south of the airport. We couldn’t check in till 3 p.m. With plenty of time on our hands, we decided to follow up our short flight with a long drive — two hours northwest of the airport for an encore in a little town we last visited in 2012 called Estes Park, snug inside the Rocky Mountains.

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2012 Road Trip Photos #40: The Season Finale: Look Back in Outtakes

Nine days. Five states. 2,887 miles. 828 photos. One mountaintop. Fourteen stops for gas. Innumerable sights and memories. Nine consecutive entries for journals written on location. Forty entries for photos, additional commentary, and hindsight. My wife and I have taken a road trip in some fashion each year since 1999 — before we were married or even dating, back when we were best friends. Our week-plus excursion to Colorado via Kansas was one of our most ambitious, successful, and draining road trips to date. Thanks sincerely to those lovable readers who followed along with us and offered encouragement throughout the process, whether in ways great or small, conscious or unwitting.

As my way of concluding the “2012 Road Trip Photos” series and holding the blogging equivalent of a post-production wrap party, please enjoy this assortment of previously unshared photos from the journey. Some are alternate viewpoints of sights you’ve seen; some are little moments bypassed till now. For the complete itinerary, check out the 2012 Road Trip checklist for the ultimate reading guide, with links to all the notes and photos, day by day. They’re a fun way to kill an afternoon or help decide how your own future trips to these locales will be even better.

Let the montage begin!

F-14 Tomcast, WaKeeney, Kansas

DAY TWO: my wife peeks out from underneath the F-14 Tomcat in WaKeeney, Kansas.

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2012 Road Trip Photos #27: Lamar, Colorado — Last Stop, This State

Day Seven of our family’s nine-day road trip kicked off with our last remaining hours in the amazing state of Colorado. After extended visits with the Rocky Mountains, Pikes Peak, the Royal Gorge Bridge, and Smashburger, our time to depart was nigh.

In a rare move for us, we chose to exit Colorado not by interstate, but by ordinary state highway. This is a rare move for us. I’m usually a fiend for the interstates with their higher speed limits and lack of intersection interference. This time, we decided to try something different, as both Colorado and Kansas offered tourist attractions along their southern halves, through which almost no interstates traverse. On the bright side, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that their highway speed limits were generous compared to ours back in Indiana. In terms of travel time, I hardly noticed a difference. Better still, Highway 50 through Kansas was all but deserted. The open road was mine.

Before Kansas, though, we had one final haven of roadside attractions to visit in Colorado. The town of Lamar is designed more as a warm Colorado welcome wagon than as a “Good Luck surviving Kansas” outpost, but we enjoyed a few minutes of walkabout anyway.

One of their most famous spots is this building constructed from ancient petrified wood. Originally a gas station, it now serves as a small used-car lot.

Petrified used car lot, Lamar, Colorado

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2012 Road Trip Photos #26: Pueblo’s Arkansas Riverwalk, Part 2 of 2: Art of the Riverside

Previously on Day Six: While my son held down the fort back at our Pueblo hotel room, my wife and I spent a romantic evening strolling along the city’s Arkansas Riverwalk, which domesticated and decorated a stretch of the same bumpy river that we’d watched bubble and babble beneath the Royal Gorge Bridge mere hours and miles prior.

As with any well-executed riverwalk, art is a key contributor to quality of leisure. Clean sidewalks, neatly trimmed grass, and vivacious flower arrangements are to be expected, but artistic expressions are a much-appreciated means to enliven any pedestrian attraction. One of the key pieces along the Arkansas Riverwalk is Walks Among the Stars, a Lakota Sioux woman cast in bronze and clad in an actual quilt.

Walks Among the Stars, Arkansas Riverwalk

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2012 Road Trip Photos #25: Pueblo’s Arkansas Riverwalk, Part 1 of 2: Return of the Arkansas

Day Six of our vacation ended in Pueblo, Colorado — an address well-known to anyone who ever saw one of the famous commercials from the ’70s/’80s about the Consumer Information Center and its free catalogs by mail. For that alone, my wife and I assumed the city held world-famous status. Some of our friends disagreed, but that’s their problem, not ours. Believe it or not, TV had more than just toy commercials back then.

The two of us spent the evening visiting the Historic Arkansas Riverwalk of Pueblo, a pleasant downtown diversion that interested my son not one bit. This, we decided, was the perfect opportunity for a husband/wife outing. Our hometown of Indianapolis has its Canal Walk, and we enjoyed the visual diversity of the San Antonio Riverwalk in 2005. Pueblo is much smaller than either city, but its foray into the beautifying riverwalk business is fairly new, still expanding, and worth several moments of time and dallying.

I was a little surprised to reunite with the Arkansas River, the very same waterway that runs beneath the Royal Gorge Bridge back in Cañon City, a few dozen miles west of Pueblo. How nice of the Arkansas to serve as a thematic through-line to our day. Note that Pueblo has succeeded in containing the Arkansas and removing those turbulent rapids and imposing mountainside walls.

Arkansas Riverwalk, Pueblo Colorado

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2012 Road Trip Photos #24: War Memorial on the Edge of the Rockies

After we reluctantly departed the Royal Gorge Bridge and Park, Day Six continued east on U.S. Route 50 from Cañon City to Pueblo. The distance was a relatively short hop of thirty-five miles, but we paused for one unplanned attraction in our path, the Colonel Leo Sidney Boston War Memorial Park. The park was established in 1997 as a tribute to veterans alive and dead. I’d pegged its location as Florence in my original notes, but online sources say the official address is in Penrose. Its namesake was a Cañon City native who fought in Vietnam, was declared MIA circa 1971, and presumed officially dead in 1997. In April 2011, his family was notified of a positive DNA match for him contained in a set of recovered remains. I wouldn’t presume to imagine the toll of such an experience.

At the time, when we pulled over to the roadside for a gander, we knew nothing about the eponymous hometown hero. All I knew was that we were standing before a military hardware collection stationed in an unusual spot.

Ah-1 Cobra Helicopter, Colorado

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2012 Road Trip Photos #23: Royal Gorge Bridge, Part 3 of 3: Voyage to the Bottom of the Gorge

Previously on Day Six: We traveled southwest from Colorado Springs to Cañon City for the pleasure of visiting the Royal Gorge Bridge and Park, home of the professed highest suspension bridge in America, with animals and performers stationed on either side so that the bridge could foster traversal between activities and sights instead of between two dusty, rugged landmasses.

At bridge level, the Rocky Mountains are your eastern horizon, while the steep banks of the Royal Gorge serve as noise barriers to the Arkansas River below.

Royal Gorge, Canon City, Colorado

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2012 Road Trip Photos #22: Royal Gorge Bridge, Part 2 of 3: Animals and Apparatus

Previously on Day Six: We traveled southwest from Colorado Springs to Cañon City for the pleasure of visiting the Royal Gorge Bridge and Park, home of the professed highest suspension bridge in America, with optional attractions posted on either side to provide visitors with incentive to cross back and forth and truly enjoy the bridge experience to its fullest.

If you’re feeling saucy or afraid of swaying bridges that remind you of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, you have the option of crossing the bridge on the Aerial Tram. Up to thirty-five passengers can travel 2,200 death-defying feet across a much wider gap in the Gorge than the bridge itself traverses. Pray your fellow passengers aren’t prone to panic attacks.

Aerial Tram, Royal Gorge Bridge, Canon City, Colorado

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2012 Road Trip Photos #21: Royal Gorge Bridge, Part 1 of 3: the Bridge Over the River Arkansas

After we departed Seven Falls at 9:30 a.m., Day Six of our road trip continued southwest in the town of Cañon City, location of the Royal Gorge Bridge and Park.

The highest bridge in America according to WikiPedia, the Royal Gorge Bridge is 956 feet high above the Arkansas River; is 1,270 feet and eighteen feet wide; and allegedly will hold two million pounds even though the wood looks weathered and you can see between the slats. A modest entertainment park has been built around it.

Royal Gorge Bridge, Canon City, Colorado

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2012 Road Trip Photos #20: Seven Falls, Part 2 of 2 — That Critically Acclaimed Canyon

In part one of this miniseries-within-a-maxiseries, our intrepid band of wanderers (i.e., my family and I) began Day Six of our nine-day road trip by sallying forth from Colorado Springs to Seven Falls, a natural curiosity comprised of what they say they are, each one positioned above the other, nestled into the back of a spacious canyon with an eighteen-story metal staircase affixed to one side so that tourists aren’t required to bring their own climbing gear or jetpacks.

From the platform at the halfway point of the staircase, you can see their main observation deck called the Nest, from which most people snap their official Seven Falls souvenir photos.

Seven Falls, Colorado Springs, The Nest

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2012 Road Trip Photos #19: Seven Falls, Part 1 of 2 — Falls Upon Falls

Day Six of our nine-day vacation began in Colorado Springs, traveling from our east-side hotel to the Rockies on the west side of town, where resides the attraction called Seven Falls. The septet of vertically stacked waterfalls begin eighteen stories above ground, each one a direct tributary to the next one down. They’re not especially loud or powerful, merely peculiar in their natural occurrence.

They’re also apparently contained within a critically acclaimed canyon. They did it! They finally did it! They found the world’s most beautiful canyon! Congratulations, God!

Seven Falls, Colorado Springs

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2012 Road Trip Photo #18: Coming Down from Pikes Peak, Physically and Emotionally

With only forty-five minutes to enjoy the top of Pikes Peak as much as possible, we tried to savor the view, the thin air (for the uniqueness of the experience, not because we liked gasping), and the near-freezing temperatures that perfectly counteracted the summertime heat that had been hammering us at ground level. Alas, forty-five minutes flew by in about ten minutes flat.

One last shot for the road, then:

Pikes Peak

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