Day at the beach, at 8,000 feet

Once again it has been quite a while since the last update.

Generally, we are living a quite life at the Garden of the Gods Campground in Colorado Springs, Colorado.  Compared to summers in Van Nuys (or Florida for that matter), the weather here has been delightfully cool.  Daytime highs are in the high 70s to low 80s and temperatures drop about 30 degrees at night.  For the first time in a long while, we can leave the air conditioning off and open the coach during the day.  At night, we leave some small windows open and sleep soundly in the cool air.  Anyone who has lived in extreme heat or humidity will share our appreciation for cool, dry air.

Last Sunday, Bob and Suzy stopped by for another visit.  Their daughter had just started her freshman year at college and they had just gotten back from the school.  They were obviously tired from getting her off to school, which involved getting all her ‘stuff’ packed and transported.  We feel their pain.

Anyway, we had a relaxing visit which included a walk around the nearby Garden of the Gods monument.  Pictures of this location were previously posted, but there are some new pictures associated with this log entry.  Since Bob and Suzy are both geologists, we enjoyed a running dissertation of the rocks and the surrounding area. It was truly interesting and appreciated.  The weather was perfect and we spent a long time just sitting and taking in the view.  Afterwards we had an excellent dinner at P .F. Chang’s.  All in all, it was a perfect day spent with good friends.

When we checked into the campground, it was packed and we expected it to remain that way until after Labor Day.  However, the campground slowly started to empty and at the time of writing this, the section we are in is mostly clear.  We expect to get a few more rigs in over the Labor Day weekend, but the summer season is rapidly coming to an end.

We did make some new friends with some of our fellow campers.  Jesse and Linda were camped next to us in a rig that looked very much like ours.  Like us, they are baby boomers.  We are starting to see more baby boomers on the road and it is interesting talking with them.  We all seem to share (more or less) common experiences of career, family and growing up in the 60s.  Although we are now in our 50s (some in their late 50s), I’m not sure our basic outlook on life is much different than it was 40 years ago.  To be sure, we are older and wiser.  Anyway, we enjoyed visiting with Jesse and Linda and wish them well on their travels.  Hopefully our paths will cross again.

Another husband/wife team was camped next to us for a few days.  They were from Texas.  A very flat part of Texas.  Gene’s business was installing and repairing pumps for agricultural irrigation systems and for two days I got a running seminar on irrigation systems.  Gene patiently explained how those circular irrigation systems stay straight as they revolve around the field.  It was very interesting.

In the its-a-small-world department, we met Dave, a retired Ventura County Sheriff, who know Jeanne’s Aunt Leola, who is also a retired Ventura County Sheriff.

We took one overnight trip to the south of Colorado Springs.  The area of interest was the San Luis valley just to the west of the Sangre de Cristo Range.  Our route first took us into the high country near the small town of Buena Vista and then south through the small town of Saguache.  If you were wondering, this is pronounced Sah-watch. We spent the night in Alamosa, which is the largest town in the area.  There was lots of nice scenery, but as a place to settle, we were underwhelmed.

The municipality of Saguache was one of the most run-down places we have seen on our trip.  The town of Saguache is the county seat for the county of the same name.  There wasn’t much there.  In fact, directly across from the county courthouse was an abandoned two story house.  Abandoned buildings weren’t unusual in the town but what made this one special was the full grown deer that was sleeping under the bushes by the front door.  It woke when we drove by, but otherwise made no move to indicate it was frightened.  Apparently, having deer living in the middle of this particular town was normal.  We drove on, shaking our heads in wonderment.

The San Luis valley is very high, very dry and thinly populated.  The headwaters of the Rio Grande are nearby and the river flows through into the middle of the valley before turning south towards New Mexico.  There is some irrigated farming close to the Rio Grande.  With high mountains on either side, the place reminded us of the Central Valley in California.  The small town of Alamosa was the sort of dusty town you would find in a farming community.  After renting a room at the Clarion, we cruised around town for a while.  There was nothing redeeming about the town and it was quickly struck from the list of possible places to live.  If we wanted to live in Chula Vista, we would have stayed in California.  We selected one of the Mexican restaurants for dinner and overall the meal was o.k.

The hotel stay was not one of our better consumer experiences.  The in-room Wi-Fi internet connection didn’t work, there was NO hot water in the morning, the sheets were too small for the bed and the skylight in the lobby leaked.  When hot water service was restored (after our showers, of course) the toilet filled with hot water.  You get the idea.

The following morning, we got an early start and headed for the Great Sand Dune National Park and Preserve, which is somewhat to the northeast of Alamosa.  Here’s the deal:  winds blowing (more like howling) from the west pick up sand from the valley floor and pile it up against the base of the Sangre de Cristo Range.  From the east, wind and water erode the mountains and deposit even more sand at the base of the mountains.  Over tens of thousands of years, these combined actions piled up enough sand to create 700 foot dunes over a thirty square mile area.  You can clearly see the dunes from almost anywhere in the valley, and it was just too strange a place for us to pass up.

Fortunately for us, we arrived in the calm and cool of the morning.  The scale of the dune field is hard to describe, but the setting was beautiful.  There were 14,000 mountains in the background, endless views of the valley, 14,000 foot mountains on the far side of the valley and 700 foot sand dunes, all under a deep blue sky.  It was a scene from Lawrence of Arabia.

Visitors are encouraged to explore the dunes, so off we went.  It wasn’t long before our shoes were filled with sand.  Jeanne got the bright idea of racing to the top of a dune, so we both took off at a full run, uphill, in sand, at 8,000 feet.  The race didn’t last long.  It was a day at the beach, 1,500 miles from, and 8,000 feet above any ocean.  We spent most of the morning there and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

On our trip home we passed through the small towns of Walsenburg and La Veta.  Walsenburg was a wide spot along the interstate but La Veta was a pretty little town nestled in a mountain pass.  We contacted some local real estate brokers and feel we may make a return trip to look at property.  The last leg of the journey took us along interstate 25 through Pueblo.

There is one more event of note.  About eight weeks ago my sciatica flared up and effectively shut down the exercise routine.  As usual, the leg slowly got better and about a week ago it was good enough to begin exercising again.  I cut a deal with a local gym with the intent of easing back into an exercise routine.  After the first session at the gym, it was clear things can go downhill fast.  And, at 52, it would be a hard road back.  Hell, it is hard enough to fit into my jeans, let alone doing a workout.  After a layoff, running 20 minutes on a treadmill at 6,000 feet is no easy task.  But I am committed to making a comeback.

So those were the highlights of the past week.  I won’t bore you with the sunny days at the pool, shopping at the weird Walmart, the group of Mennonites and their children that terrorized the campground or the book titled Sling Braiding of the Andes.

Looking ahead, we are still in discussions about where to go next.  West?  South?  North?  Certainly not east.  We’re just not sure, but in the meantime we’re enjoying our stay here in Colorado Springs.