10 August 65 : Garden of the Gods : Colorado Springs, Colorado

Tony and Colin are now on the road, travelling in their split screen VW campervan.

This continues the letter dated 9 August 1965, which began:

Dear family,

Tuesday 10th August, Colorado Springs. 

We spent last night in a wheat field and finished our journey to Colorado Springs today – and arrived about 10:30 am. The latter half of Kansas, and the start of Colorado, was fabulous with miles and miles of prairie with loads of cattle roaming. You could see for miles in every direction and the weather was beautiful.

Yesterday we passed through a town and stopped for a coffee and it was 102 Fahrenheit which is pretty hot. However it isn’t humid, so it’s quite bearable.

As we approached Colorado Springs we could see the fabulous Rocky Mountains in the distance. They still have snow on them and they looked very impressive. It seemed as though we would reach them quite soon – but we were deceived by their size and in actual fact they were still 50 miles away.

 

img144 - Rocky Mountains in the distance, Colorado
Tony’s photo, captioned: Rocky Mountains in the distance, Colorado

 

We arrived in Colorado Springs and soon found Mrs Smith’s house, but she was out and had left a note, so we went away and had some lunch. When we came back she was still out and as we were waiting we got chatting to a postman, who invited us to join him for a coffee, which we did, and he introduced us to several people.

Later, when we got back to Mrs Smith’s she was there and she was delighted to see us – “Friends from the old country” she called us. She has a beautiful house and we each had a very nice bedroom, and mine had a wonderful view of the mountains. We chatted for a while and then we went out to visit the ‘Garden of the Gods‘.

 

img141 Mrs Smith_s home in Colorado Springs, Colorado
Colin with Mrs Smith, outside her home in Colorado Springs

 

img150 near Colorado Springs
Tony’s photo, captioned ‘near Colorado Springs’ – very probably taken at the Garden Of The Gods

 

This is an area of very spectacular scenery just outside Colorado Springs, and is just like the scenery in the cowboy films – huge red rock formations, and gullies, and passes, and cactus plants growing everywhere. It was all very unspoilt and very memorable. It was in these parts that the Indians used to ambush the settlers and I could just imagine it happening too. We expected at any moment to see smoke signals in the rocks above us!

It was time for dinner and we went back and spent the evening chatting to Mrs S, and watching TV. I was terribly tired, and have been ever since, and this is due to the elevation. Colorado Springs is over a mile high at well over 6,500 ft, and this makes the air very much thinner – and I certainly notice it. I have felt quite odd. It makes me feel very lightheaded, and short of breath. I suppose one gets used to it in time. Mrs Smith says that cooking is very difficult at that height too.

It was great to sleep in a bed again. The climate here is ideal. It’s very hot in the day, but not at all humid, and cold in the night which makes sleeping very pleasant. It is always clear but when it rains it is all over very quickly. It seems to be the perfect climate.

The town is set at the base of the Rockies and is very clean and tidy. Yesterday we decided to drive to a ghost town called ‘Cripple Creek’ which is about 43 miles from the ‘Springs’ and way up in the mountains.

This is one of the towns that sprang up very quickly at the beginning of the century in the gold rush (all this area is filled with gold). In 1906 there were 20,000 people living there – all searching for gold. Now there are only a couple of hundred and it is a ghost town, and simply a tourist attraction.  

 

Battle_Mountain_mines,_Cripple_Creek,_Colorado,_ca._1898
Battle Mountain mines in Cripple Creek, approx 1898 (Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11160912)

 

We decided to take the very scenic mountain route and drove up a red dirt mountain road, with hairpin bends and sheer drops, but with some really breathtaking views.

Sparkling mountain streams and waterfalls (we stopped to cool our feet) and rocky, snow capped peaks, pine trees and all sorts of animals – chipmunks are very common. We stopped and had our lunch at 9000 ft, and a more picturesque setting for a lunch would be hard to find!

We had a bit of a disappointment when we found that the road was washed away just before the town, and we had to turn back without seeing it – but the drive alone made up for it.

Life in our campervan is great – now that we are organised at last!!!  It took several days to achieve this but now we have a system and we are very pleased with our mobile home. We do all our own cooking which is very cheap.

It’s very economical on petrol – the only snag is that it’s very slow on these mountain roads but it will get to the top of anything – eventually!! Also we are losing 30% of our power due to the altitude, and have got to have the jets changed to special mountain jets (so we are told).

 

img140 somewhere in America (1)
On the road in America – Tony with campervan

 

You would be amused I’m sure if you saw where we keep some of our food – in the toilet!!! We didn’t want to use it as a toilet and we needed the space, so in went the bread, sugar, etc.

Last night Mrs Smith arranged a little dinner party for us, and we had a delightful meal outside on the patio with her daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren. We had a very enjoyable evening, and later they drove us up into the mountains to see the lights of Colorado Springs at night. I showed Mrs Smith the photographs of the wedding and she was very impressed I think.

Mrs Smith was very anxious for us to stay for a few days more, but we had to leave – much to our regret, but before we left she did all our washing and even darned Colin’s socks for him. We said goodbye, and set off.

But before we left Colorado we went on a train ride to the top of Mount Manitou, a medium-sized mountain which offers a good view, and on a clear day you can see seven States. It was certainly worth the money and gave us a memorable sight.

 

img149 near Colorado Springs
Tony’s photo, captioned ‘Near Colorado Springs’
img143 - Near Colorado Springs
Tony’s photo, captioned: ‘Near Colorado Springs.’

 

We then set off for Denver, but on the way stopped to tour the United States Air Force Academy. This is the equivalent of Cranwell in England. The only difference is that this is a super-deluxe place set in the Rockies.

It’s all ultra modern, and the most spectacular feature is the church – which is for three denominations, and has 17 spires. It’s all made of steel and glistens in the sun.

 

img142 - United States Air Force Academy –Colorado Springs, Colorado
Tony’s photo, captioned: United States Air Force Academy – Colorado Springs.
1200px-USAFA_Chapel_July_2007_exterior
The Cadet Chapel at USAFA – photo with thanks by Michael Barera, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7445145

 

We spent most of the day here and very impressed we were too. We then set off for Yellowstone National Park and went through Denver, the capital of Colorado, and on up to Laramie in Wyoming.

From here on we were crossing the Rockies – and it was murder in the van, as it was 30 miles per hour all the way. However, we made it, and are now in the process of crossing Wyoming (the Cowboy State) on Route 287 (if you have your map). It’s very spectacular country, mountainous, rocky, rugged, and desolate. Cattle roam the range freely, and we have seen cowboys driving them to the water holes.

You would never believe how uninhabited this area is – we drove for about 20 miles before we saw a house. Some people live about 20 – 40 miles from the town, and the ‘town’ consists of about half a dozen houses!! The whole area looks scorched and how the cows find enough to eat is a miracle, but they obviously do as they look very hardy.

For the last 50 miles or so we have been passing tiny oil wells at the roadside, and in the hills, and as I write this (in the van as we travel – hence the bad writing) we are passing through a 1,000 square mile Indian reservation – and we have seen quite a number of Indians.

To be continued… 

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You can follow us at www.facebook.com/Tones1960stravels, feel free to say hello or ask Tony a question 🙂

NOTE: In this letter, Tony mentions travelling through an ‘Indian reservation’ – back in the 1960s, the term Native or Indigenous Americans hadn’t yet been created, and so he was using the language of the day. Please see the historical caveat page for our chat about changing language and views.

 

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