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 #26: Mission in Manitou Springs

Manitou Springs!

One last time in the shadow of Pikes Peak.

The week was winding down before we knew it. Anne got off work so late on Thursday that we had time only for dinner and an all-new Sleepy Hollow before she faced one last earl bedtime and one last shift in Colorado Springs. Friday is usually a time for rejoicing in the work week’s end, but this one would prove bittersweet. We loved the mountains and the culinary forays, but we missed our home and our dog, and I’d crossed all the high-ranking attractions off my to-do list. The remaining options ranged in curiosity level from “maybe” to “meh”. Colorado Springs and the surrounding areas have a lot to see and do for a variety of interests and tourists. Not all of them were for me, but I tried to keep an open mind.

I spent the morning of Day Six as a lot of normal travelers might: I lounged around the hotel room for a few hours and did virtually nothing. I procrastinated the MCC Sleepy Hollow recap in favor of reading, relaxing, and catching reruns of Supernatural on TNT. I’d never watched a single episode before, and perhaps it was a bizarre choice to begin my viewership with the season-7 finale and the season-8 premiere, but that’s the beauty of vacation: you get to have fun and break some rules no matter what kind of looks people give you for it.

Eventually I snapped out of my lazy doldrums and came up with a plan. I checked out of the hotel, leaving behind ten of the twenty-four bottled waters that I’d picked up on my way to the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo and taking three with me for the road. Just as the previous guests had left us a fresh half-gallon of milk and a box of breakfast Hot Pockets that neither of us could bear to touch, so did we pay it forward to the next guests in our own way.

Then I launched myself on a side quest of sorts to cross a few items off Anne’s own to-do list. This wouldn’t just be a time-killer or selfish indulgence: it would be an act of service for someone I loved, frivolous though the targeted treasures might be.

And that’s how I wound up once again in Manitou Springs for my final close-ups of the Rocky Mountains.

Right this way for one last walkabout before heading home!

The Springs in Fall: 2015 Photos #4: Quest for Snow


Last Saturday, November 21st, Indiana got its first snowfall of the 2015-2016 winter season, a month ahead of its official kickoff. Three weeks earlier, I drove my wife up the side of a Colorado mountain just so she could throw a snowball.

Right this way for teaser photos of precipitation coming soon!

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!

One of Several Rockies

Rocky Mountain!

Life must be easy for Colorado residents. Whenever you need money, just walk outside, take a photo, turn it into postcards, sit back and wait for tourists either onsite or faraway by internet to make your payday. I don’t see how they can get used to walking out the front door without saying “WOW” every ten minutes and getting on each other’s nerves. Then again, I live in a state where mountains are more or less against the law. To me, mountains are a such staggering part of Creation, and yet in other states live people who think of mountains the same way I think of maple trees. Your everyday context determines what’s mundane and what’s extraordinary, I guess.

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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 #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 #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 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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2012 Road Trip Photos #14: Morning in the Garden of the Gods

With sweet sorrow we parted with Denver on Day Five and headed south toward Colorado Springs. The tragic wildfires had been extinguished barely a week before our arrival, but we steered clear of Waldo Canyon and other affected areas. Those affected didn’t need voyeuristic out-of-towners traipsing around for scrapbook subjects.

Our first major stop was a park west of the city called the Garden of the Gods, whose claim to fame is a collection of geological oddities that don’t remotely blend in with their surroundings. Once you reach the Visitors Center, where I stood while snapping this, you can just tell which part of the landscape is the actual Garden.

Garden of the Gods, Colorado Springs, Colorado

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2012 Road Trip Photos #9: Rocky Mountain National Park, Part 2 of 2: Small Stuff at the Feet of Giants

Previously on “Rocky Mountain National Park: the Miniseries Within a Maxiseries”: the second half of Day Three of our road trip was spent in and on the way to Rocky Mountain National Park, amidst a splendidly arranged mountain collection that shames the pitiful hills of our Indiana homeland.

The most conveniently paved entrance to RMNP from the southeast is US Route 36, through Lyon and into the town of Estes Park, crossing here over scenic Lake Estes.

Lake Estes, Estes Park, CO

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2012 Road Trip Photos #8: Rocky Mountain National Park, Part 1 of 2: Panoramas on Parade

After I acquiesced to my wife’s demand for a slow, careful descent down Lookout Mountain, our scenic Day Three continued north with a two-hour drive along the east side of the Rockies, through Boulder (very fancy and well-manicured, though not a single Mork & Mindy statue in sight) and northwest to the cozy, wooded town of Estes Park, home of Rocky Mountain National Park.

The drive can be accomplished in less than two hours if you keep your eyes focused on the road and ignore your surroundings. That’s a terrible way to experience the Rockies, though. I had a hard time deciding how often to stop, which views might stand out the most on camera, and which ones to pass by without stopping. Along that entire stretch, beautiful vistas were as common as mile markers. We thought highly of them, anyway. I don’t know if people who live near mountains take them for granted or genuinely wake up appreciating them every day, but we’re used to the topography of Indiana, where the nearest mountains are in West Virginia and all those rolling hills in the southern half of the state stopped impressing me around age 5. Then again, I can imagine Kansans driving up and down State Road 37 between Bloomington and the Ohio River, oohing and aahing at how not-flat everything is. It’s all about your geographic context and personal perspective, I suppose.

I have to admit to myself here that God’s majestic monoliths don’t really beg for puny human captions. This is me stepping back, shutting up for the space of several pics (some taken inside the park, some on the way to the park, all clickable for plus-sized goodness), and letting you enjoy the kind of views that have inspired many a landscape painter, poet, mountain climber, and cinematographer.

Rockies Panorama #1

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2012 Road Trip Photos #7: the View from Buffalo Bill’s Memorial on Lookout Mountain

Just as Dinosaur Ridge was mere minutes from the Red Rocks Amphitheatre, so was our next stop ten minutes or so from Dinosaur Ridge, down the slope of Alameda Parkway, across the interstate, and up the forested residential side of Lookout Mountain. We were elated to suffer no ill effects from the changing altitudes this time. The real estate on the way was curiously maintained, as most of the home along Lookout Mountain appeared well-to-do, as if the local upper-class had all sought refuge together in case of another worldwide flood. At the very least, I imagine their homeowners’ association prides itself on strict upkeep.

Past the mountainside suburbs and one abandoned restaurant was our next stop, the Buffalo Bill Memorial, final resting place of Old West legend William F. Cody himself. I’m not sure why visitors feel compelled to throw pennies at him. Perhaps famous people’s graves are like wishing wells if you toss them just right. Perhaps they’re meant as tributes to Charon. Perhaps they’re a down payment from those who think Buffalo Bill’s ghost is a detective who helps the helpless and gives hope to the hopeless…for a price. Perhaps they’ve somehow mistaken his grave for Benjamin Franklin’s. The world may never know.

Buffalo Bill Cody's final resting place

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2012 Road Trip Photos #6: Fossils and Folly at Dinosaur Ridge

Our itinerary for Day Three continued from the Red Rocks Amphitheatre to nearby Dinosaur Ridge, less than a mile down the road as the crow flies. We’ve seen dinosaur fossils before at the Children’s Museum in Indianapolis, as well as the Natural History Museums in Manhattan, Chicago, and Washington, DC. Truth be known, simple fossil exhibits aren’t as exotic to me now as they were in my youth. The displays at Dinosaur Ridge offer a different take on the subject — their fossils and samples are outdoors and still embedded in solid rock, exposed ever so slightly for visitors to see them in their natural habitat instead of being reassembled on a dais or sealed inside a glass cabinet.

When I first learned of the Dinosaur Ridge premise, I imagined entire walls filled with a panoply of complete, recognizable skeletons. That’s not quite the reality. The entrance and welcome center set the stage just like any standard museum, with the prerequisite dinosaur statues and shelves of dinosaur toys. For an added flourish, off to one side is a stegosaurus pride parade.

The natural exhibits comprise the wall along a curvy, uphill mile of Alameda Parkway heading west from the visitor center. No cars are allowed up the ridge except the official Dinosaur Ridge shuttles. The shuttle ride is free, as is their tour guide who elaborates on any points of interest and keeps you focused on the marvels you’d hoped to witness. If you’d prefer to chart your own destiny, pedestrians and bicyclists are permitted to traverse the ridge as they see fit. Our family policy is we prefer to set our own pace and avoid trapping ourselves in other tourists’ schedules or paces. In some situations this can be advantageous if you know what you’re doing and have all the same exhibit access that the tour groups do.

In this situation, it meant a stubborn one-mile walk uphill, which mostly looked like this. Open highway plains to the left of us, rough terrain to the right.

Every several hundred feet, we’d arrive at something of note. This collection of preserved footprints wins Best of Show, Dinosaur Ridge Exhibit category.

If your child thinks ancient plants are as cool as dinosaurs, this selection of imprints may make an interesting poster.

Most of the long walk was decorated with naught save rocks, stones, pebbles, boulders, and suffering grass. In a few spots, helpful signs invited more specific attention to traces that are scientifically noteworthy, easily overlooked, and nearly invisible to the untrained eye.

Closer inspection could reveal greater detail, or stump the more impatient onlookers.

Thinking about chiseling your own souvenirs out of the walls? Think again! Guests are strongly encouraged to tattletale on other guests. Big Paleontology is Watching You. Amateur geology is ungood. We have always been at war with Eastdakota.

If you survive your one-mile uphill calisthenics, congratulations! Your reward is a breathtaking sight of other Rocky Mountains in your area. If you’re a seasoned hiker (which describes none of us), this was a cakewalk. If you’re my wife and you’re still acclimatizing to the thinner air at this elevation, a nearby bench offers a broad landscape view and a moment to reflect on your husband’s boneheaded decision to skip the shuttle.

The return trip downhill was thankfully easier and faster. The rematerializing storm clouds that dogged our heels certainly encouraged a brisker pace and inspired us to catch our second wind. By the time we reconvened at the car, the threat of downpour subsided and it was still only 11:30 a.m. MDT. Our long day in the Rockies was far from over. As you can imagine, walking requirements were negotiated down to a bare minimum at subsequent stops.

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!]

2012 Road Trip Photos #5: Red Rocks Amphitheatre Under a Dull Gray Sky

When we arose on Day Three, the sky remained cloudy and scary throughout the morning. As we headed west from our Aurora hotel through Denver, eventually we were privileged to cast our eyes at long last on the grandeur of the Rocky Mountains. Even with overcast weather, we were still in awe. Please enjoy the first of several clickable photos, uploaded in higher resolution than previous entries for extra mountainous goodness:

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2012 Road Trip Notes on the Go, Day 3: Misty Mountain Marathon

We’ve never been so happy to have rain on our vacation. Our various Colorado clerks and service reps were even more joyous for any weather other than “hot with a chance of combustion.”

Our entire day was spent in, around, and hugging the Rocky Mountains, which we finally located once the storm system lightened up. Fortunately all roads dried quickly, and temperatures stayed in the low 70s all day long. As the driver, I was afforded the opportunity to navigate the winding, twisting mountain roads with half my mind paying attention to the road and the other half overwhelmed by dozens of miles of looming, gargantuan majesty.

We started at the Red Rocks Amphitheater, a concert venue built into a mountainside, reportedly with fantastic acoustics. Numerous joggers convene there early in the morning for workouts, zipping up and down the stairs, back and forth across the rows. A setup crew was working onstage for tonight’s scheduled concert (weather permitting), the Beach Boys, on their 50th anniversary tour and far from their natural setting. The reverberations were keen enough that I could overhear one-half of a conversation between two joggers standing fifty feet away, one of whom was facing the side wall.

The drive up Alameda Parkway to the amphitheater was scenic in its own right. Back at ground level, the same parkway leads in the other direction directly to Dinosaur Ridge, but Google Maps hadn’t taken into consideration that this straightforward route was permitted only for pedestrians, bicyclists, and shuttle buses. That meant we had to leave the parkway, drive back north to the interstate, drive to the very next exit, then drive back south to where we nearly began. The folks at the gift shop were among the friendliest we’ve met this week, but we made the mistake of taking a self-guided walk up the ridge rather than taking the optional shuttle bus with a helpful, informed tour guide.

Without the bus or the guide, our experience amounted to an uphill one-mile walk to view one set of dinosaur footprints, several examples of variegated stratification, some plant fossil imprints, and one or two very tiny, singular fossils embedded in the cliff walls, no full sets of skeletons. After missing out on whatever the tour guide told the paying customers, we found the subsequent one-mile downhill walk back to the car a little disappointing. The healthier, better equipped bicyclists zipping past us up and down the route each added just a few grains of salt to our wounds. That salt was then washed away when the rain returned for a few minutes. This was not our finest hour.

From there to Lookout Mountain was a jaunt of less than ten minutes, thankfully by car and not by foot. We weaved through a network of posh mountainside homes to reach the Buffalo Bill Museum and final resting place of the man, the myth, the legend, and his wife. Since the only other restaurant along the way had been shut down, our lunch wound up being at the museum’s Pataska Tepee cafe, decent diner food at gift shop prices. Mr. Cody’s gravesite, adjacent to a panoramic lookout, notes his accomplishments as a husband, an Indian fighter, and a Masonic lodge brother.

Even more fun than all of the above was the adventurous trip down the other, more dangerous side of Lookout Mountain. That led us northward through Boulder (which resembled some of our upper-class suburbs back in Indy, except Colorado has ten times as many bicyclists), up through Lyons and into Estes Park, where we later stopped to check out the famous Stanley Hotel, Stephen King’s inspiration for The Shining and filming location for the Steven Weber TV adaptation (not Kubrick’s version). Alas, its lot is gated, secured, at at first glance not welcoming to any busybodies without reservations. Also odd: whereas the fictional Shining hotel is isolated from civilization, the Stanley is a stone’s throw away from a dense, sprawling conglomeration of tourist shopping traps.

Estes Park is also the eastern gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park, a natural smorgasbord of mountains, more mountains, animals, and still more mountains. Mostly I remember miles upon miles of looking and staring and pondering and then staring some more, with an occasional sidelong glance the road in front of me to confirm I wasn’t colliding with anything. In addition to the Alluvial Fan falls and the bighorn sheep meadow (empty today, alas), we also saw several squirrels, one weird black-and-white bird, and two sleeping snakes we didn’t dare disturb. By this time our legs were all damaged to varying degrees, so we enjoyed God’s grand works more from the car than I would’ve preferred, but it was a direct consequence of overextending ourselves. Enjoyed immensely, sure, but overextended nonetheless.

This is not unusual for us. Every one of our road trips has had its share of setbacks, oversights, and moments of humility. We accept the situation, note the results mentally for future reference, and make sure we took plenty of photos anyway. Today’s lessons learned the hard way:

1. Mind your altitude changes. The drive up Alameda Parkway, the walk up to the amphitheater, the excited walk down its sixty-odd steps, and the beginnings of the walk back up said steps combined with the thinner atmosphere to leave my wife dehydrated and struggling to breathe. We had all expected me, the least healthiest of us three, to succumb to illness first. No one would have bet on her to draw the short straw. I made the trip back to the car, fetched two bottles of water, and returned to where she left off, thankfully without falling ill myself. After some resting and drinking, her condition improved, but we paid more attention to our physical statuses the rest of the day. (Rest assured the subsequent Dinosaur Ridge two-mile round trip was marched at an extremely slow pace, foolhardy though it might’ve been nonetheless.)

2. Let your credit card company know your travel plans. My wife faithfully notifies her provider every year. I’ve always interpreted this as a polite courtesy on her part, not a mandatory task. When we tried to check in Sunday night at our hotel, my card was declined without comment. I wrongheadedly dismissed it as a card reader error. When we stopped for gas today in Boulder, lightning struck twice. Sure enough, after one unhappy phone call to my provider, I found my card had been flagged for “suspicious activity” because I’m out of town. We’re all straightened out now, but I was not excited about having to make other arrangements. I should be grateful that they’re watching out for my interests, but those two awkward moments in hindsight feel more as though I were subject to the whims of an overprotective parent.

3. Remember your time zone at all times. I keep forgetting we’re in Mountain Daylight Time rather than Eastern Daylight Time, and consequently failed to do the math in time to realize that Bunheads started at 7 p.m. here, not 9 p.m. I’ve another item to add to my back-home to-do list, then.

4. If someone offers you a shuttle bus that’s inexpensive or free, you say YES.

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