Not Dead Yet II: Still Not Dead!
September 12, 2000
I pick up some brocures in the motel lobby and realize that Pike's Peak is a short distance to the south and there are several campgrounds in the immediate area. I decide to change my itinerary and go south to Colorado Springs for a few days, instead of going straight to Dinosaur. The trip is short, only a little over an hour, and I arrive in town around 11am. I have a good map, for once, and I locate a strip of motels that advertised $24.95 a night prices, just as a backup. They look a bit rough, so I am uncertain of the level of safety should I need to stay here instead of camping. I press on to the Garden of the Gods, where I plan to camp. I find the trading post I hope to find some jewelry at, and also see a quaint lodge not too far from it, which would be central to all the locations I hope to visit. Finding that the rooms are $50 a night, I keep looking. I find the campground easily, and I start to circle through to look at a site when I see a sign indicating that the tent areas are closed. I go in to inquire about this and find out that they had closed them this past weekend. The desk clerk did not know why, only that the owners said to close them. Outside it is in the 80's, so I'd have to say this is a bad business decision. I get back on my bike and locate two campgrounds listed in a brocure I had looked at this morning. They are located in RV parks, which, as is typical, means that the tent sites are mere afterthoughts, placed in areas where motor homes can't fit and aren't particularly decent. I'm back on the road, once again learning the layout of a city for hours on end. I go back to the strip of motels with the cheap prices and look at one room. I'm pretty sure the owners moved the bed in first and then built the walls around it.
Tired, hungry, thirsty, I remember that the first lodge I stopped at had weekly rates that were cheaper than the three nights I was hoping to stay, so I realized there must be some room to negotiate a price. I speak with the owner, and after some haggling, we come at $120 cash for three nights. This is still not low enough for me, so I go back to my bike and look at the book of KOA campgrounds that I have. The nearest one is at Pike's Peak, but at over 10,000 feet. I know that with the clear air it is getting chilly at night that high. Defeated, I take the owner up on his offer and settle into a small but comfortable room. I'm pretty wore out from the lack of food and from the two hard days of travel to get here, so I spend the remainder of the day napping.
September 12, 2000
I spend the morning getting caught up on email and my finances. I am spending more per day than I anticipated. I hope to make it up some after leaving here, as there are several places I expect to camp. I have been spending a lot of time traveling, and run into some bad luck as well. It happens.
While it is still cool, I walk up to the trading post at the Garden of the Gods. It is the largest in Colorado and contains some absolutely beautiful works by Native American artists. I purchase a pair of earring studs that are hand crafted in 14k with a stone called sugilent, which is a medium purple gem mined in Africa. I have on order a ring that I liked a lot but was not available in my size. It, too, will be hand crafted, even if it is a non-unique design. It is the perfect thumb ring, and I look forward to receiving it.
I have lunch there, and afterward wander into the rock formations known as The Garden of the Gods. I don't know why they are called this, as for some reason I am in a free spirit mood and can't be bothered by brocures or maps. They are fascinating structures, and there are plenty of hiking paths that wind through the area. The towering mountains to the west, which include Pike's Peak, are a breathtaking backdrop against the red stone in the Garden. I spend two and a half hours wandering around the stones, sometimes following the same path twice (remember, I can't be bothered with maps), sometimes using west as my only guide. I climb a couple of the smaller structures, but the main giants require specialized climbing equipment. I watch a few rockclimbers, but lose interest when I see that much of the climbing work has already been done a long time ago, as there are already many routes up that have the pikons already embedded into the rock and it is merely a matter of climbing from pikon to pikon and clipping one's safety rope in. I would have been much more interested by any free climbers, but there are none. I do get some nice pictures, and I look forward to posting them.
I find myself quite worn out when I get back to my room, so I nap some before going back out to a place called The Flute Player Gallery. I am looking for Kokopelli curios for my friend Cecilia, but there are almost none here. The shop is in a part of town called "Old Colorado City", which apparently was the original city before Colorado Springs moved the center of interest a few miles east. Colorado Springs is a very nice, clean city. It is called the "Silicon Valley of the West" due to the local residence of companies like Oracle, IBM, Intel and others. There are many millionaires here from startups gone good. Seymour Cray, of Cray Supercomputers fame, was living here and starting up another company after selling Cray to Silicon Graphics when he was killed in an automobile accident on of the twisting roads outside of town. I am told he lived quite modestly and was well respected. I spend some time wandering the street front shops, and I am pleased to find a curio I think Cecilia will like quite a bit. I should have taken a picture of it to post, but I have already had it shipped. As I know she is reading these posts, I'll have to wait until I know she's received it before describing it.
September 14, 2000
Today I plan to climb Pike's Peak. I dress warmly and begin the climb on my motorcycle. The first seven miles are tight but paved. I enjoy this section a lot, with the exception of the two drivers who do not respect the posted etiquette that asks for slower drivers to use the pulloffs to let faster traffic pass. One even moves over to the left to block me, but I am around him quickly and blasting off to the next corner. After the seventh mile, shortly past the Crystal Lake Reservoir, the road turns into a alternating packed dirt and crudely paved mish mash of ruts and ripples. I have to slow down significantly, to first, second, and occasionally third gear speeds. I still pass cars, but with less enthusiasm. From time to time the tail end kicks out and I slide the bike in a corner, and now and then the ripples kick the rear wheel off the ground, but it is not too bad. I'd love to have a car through here, as I would fishtail my way up the hill in the best Pike's Peak Auto Hillclimb tradition. One note, the temperature dropped rapidly, and by the time I made it to the barren top of the mountain the thermometer reads 45 degrees.
I am surprised at how hungry I am, and shortly after I arrive the hunger turns to nausea. I ignore it and climb around the sides to get some pictures and find myself very lightheaded. When I was out on my last trip I crossed Wolf's Creek Pass, at 11,000 feet and hiked some and even with my pack on I did not feel any ill effects. I can not say the same at 14,000 feet. Within ten minutes of arriving at the top I had a significant headache and the nausea was growing. I decide to go into the shop at the top for some lunch and find that they have lost power and are not serving food. A couple minutes later a walkietalkie announces that the generator has blown up and there is no water because of this. At this point they close the shop completely. Since I am feeling quite ill at this point, I decide to head down.
The loose scrambling up is definately less pleasant on the way down. Instead of passing cars, I am the one moving over. The front wheel doesn't want to dig any, feeling more like it wants to plow straight in the curves, and I exercise prudence by taking my time coming down. I am grateful for the warm temperatures at the bottom. I know I have my work cut out for me getting to Yellowstone and camping out.
After lunch I visit the Anasazi cliff dwellings outside of town. I have been to other cliff dwellings, at Gila River and Canyon de Chelley, and I try to visit them whenever I am near some. I am always moved by the harsh conditions these people endured to survive. The residences for families are small five foot by five foot cubicles, and usually one building will house two or three families, each on their own floor above another. Around here temperatures can go down to -20F, and it is inconceivable to me that people could live in adobe brick structures under these conditions. These particular dwellings are open to the public, and I spend a couple hours taking in the importance of the history here. Support the National Park Service's efforts to preserve these locations, please. Visit one and you will see why.
So it's now late in the evening and I'm caught up with my journal. I'm restless, but not really rested, as the two days here have been physically demanding. The climb up Pike's Peak has taken a good bit of effort, and my left arm, the elbow of which I broke two and a half months ago, is quite stiff and sore from the jarring. My left hamstring, which I partially tore about three months ago, is straining from the effort of this trip, and yesterday's hiking and climbing in particular. I've got a few minor burns, and a couple bruises, but overall I am well and holding up. Coming up is Dinosaur National Monument, a brief stop in Utah, and then Yellowstone, where they have already had the first snow of the year. I had hoped to go to Glacier, but I received word today that they have already received heavy snow and a check of the NPS website shows the campsites are all closed, so I will be headed west after Yellowstone instead of further north. I suspect that my luck will hold and that I will find affordable motels few and far between and I will instead be spending my nights in campgrounds as the night temperatures dip into the 40s and below. The dry air here has worn out its novelty, and I long for the moist air of the Pacific Coast. Soon, soon.
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