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Zapped; Melanzane and a Fat Tire; Even Fatter Tires! Colorado Springs Event; Garden of the Gods; GG and the Broadmoor; The Marlboro Man; Laugh of the Week

We have experienced our first major casualty to The Coach. While in the Steamboat Springs campground, we noticed a fleeting burning electrical odor. I tried tracing it down, but could find nothing definitive. Then while in Fort Collins, we had an electrical voltage spike, and our 50 amp connection to shore power wouldn’t work at all, 30 amp would work fine, but the generator wouldn’t pick up any loads at all. It was obviously a problem in the battery charger/inverter, which has a transfer switch that selects the correct power source. The transfer switch had fried. In the Navy, we call this “N.G.” – not good. I called TransWest, the local Winnebago/Itasca dealer, which coincidentally is where we bought the coach last year, and they got us in on Friday morning. It took all day to get the parts, but by 1800 (6:00 PM for you landlubbers), our friendly and professional RV technician Lance had completed the repair and we were ready to go. I asked Lance if he had to call his wife to tell her he’d be late for dinner, but he laughed and said no, his wife was a veterinarian for a canine shelter, and loved her work so much she usually arrived home after he did. She could have opened a private practice and made tons of bucks, but her shelter work was more personally rewarding. We need more fine people like Lance and his wife in this world.

We stayed the night in TransWest’s RV lot, hooked up to electric power, which now worked perfectly. We were starving by then, and had a late Italian dinner out with Elizabeth Magee, her cousin Rusty and Rusty’s husband Jerry Bianchi, who live in Lakewood, Colorado. I hadn’t had Melanzane alla Parmigiana (AKA eggplant Parmesan) for ages, and it was yummy. My Lovely Bride had veal piccata. Since we were near the New Belgium brewery where my favorite beer is made, I felt obligated to have their Fat Tire amber ale. (It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it.) Jerry was my trout fishing partner during our visit last year, but he says fishing hasn’t been very good this summer, probably due to heavy rain, high temperatures, poor insect hatchings, phase of the moon, excessive pollen in the air, etc. (Fishermen always have 57 reasons for not catching fish…)

The next day we saddled up the coach and headed south to Colorado Springs, where we are currently established for five nights. As we checked in, there was a prominent sign warning of a cougar that walked blithely through the campground just a week ago in broad daylight. We now keep our bear spray close at hand when walking the puppies. The campground, called Peregrine Pines, is delightful, with lots of pine trees for shade and very few neighbors, since it’s after Labor Day and Air Force doesn’t have a home football game this week. We even got to wash The Coach in a special RV wash area; this is most unusual, since 99.9% of campgrounds do not allow the practice.

Suzanne got me out for a mellow bike ride after we got set up. At least she claimed it would be mellow… “Ty, this is going to be easy since we’re down in elevation to only 6,600 feet.” Well, sports fans, let me tell you, the Falcon Trail is not mellow… it is not easy… it is hilly (1,521 foot ascent). Here is MLB pointing to the Air Force Academy chapel with its 13 spires near the top of the trail. I didn’t want my picture taken because I was gasping for air like a flounder in the bottom of a fishing boat…

The Falcon Trail is also very sandy in many places, and if you haven’t ridden a bike in sand recently, it’s a killer. “Oh, but Ty, you have fat tires on your mountain bike, don’t you?” Funny you should ask… yes, our tires are 2.5 inches wide, good for hard packed dirt, rocks and roots. But in sand they bog down quite a bit. I didn’t realize what we were in for until I was gasping for breath and this much younger guy rides by like he’s not even sweating. We stopped to chat, and met Lt Col Jim Lovewell, USAF, who is stationed nearby at USNORTHCOM headquarters. Jim just returned from a one year unaccompanied tour in Thule, Greenland. His family stayed here in Colorado Springs for the sake of their children’s schooling. Such are the sacrifices of a military career. Anyway, Jim showed us his Fat Boy bike with Really Fat studded tires, 5 inches wide, which roll over sand like there’s nuthin’ to it. (Yes, that is sand and gravel by his left foot.) By the way, Jim is from San Diego, a Navy town, and I’m sure that his school chums were disappointed when he went over to The Dark Side (the Air Force) instead of going Navy…

Suzanne’s first event in Colorado Springs was to give the message at Sunday services for the High Plains Unitarian Universalist Church. She also did a book signing after the service. Many thanks to Annabel Carney for coordinating our visit and to all your members for their warm hospitality. We will be back at 6:00 PM on Wednesday evening, September 24th, when Suzanne will give her Making the Connection presentation.

On Monday we decided to do a local hike at Garden of the Gods. Suzanne had been here with her parents years ago, but it was my first visit. We started hiking and in a mile or two found ourselves overlooking the spectacular red rock “hogbacks” that make this 1,367 acre city park famous. There may be a spiritual vortex here, because you can see the effect it had on my hiking partner.

This rock formation is known as the Siamese Twins. Many Indian tribes have visited here, including the Ute, Comanche, Apache, Kiowa, Shoshone, Pawnee, Cheyenne and Lakota. In 1859, two surveyors explored the area. One, M. S. Beach, suggested that it would be a capital site for a beer garden. His companion, Rufus Cable, was appalled, and said, “Beer garden? It is a place fit for the gods to assemble. We shall call it The Garden of the Gods.” Thankfully, Rufus’ idea was accepted.

In the 1870s, American poet and author Helen Hunt Jackson wrote of the park, “You wind among rocks of every conceivable and inconceivable shape and size… all bright red, all motionless and silent, with a strange look of having been just stopped and held back in the very climax of some supernatural catastrophe.” She loved the Garden of the Gods and Colorado Springs so much that after her death in San Francisco, she was buried in Evergreen Cemetery here.

One of the best things about Colorado Springs was the opportunity to catch up with our wonderful friend GG Moore, the widow of Major General Tom Moore, USAF. GG is one of the most delightful people you will ever meet, and has many fascinating stories about her life as a general’s bride. GG attended the Sunday service at High Plains, and invited us to dinner with her at Broadmoor, a five star resort and hotel complex just a mile or so from her lovely home in Colorado Springs.

While at dinner, a couple walked by heading to their table, and GG said, “That’s Robert Norris, the original  Marlboro Man.” I had to meet him, so I walked over and we chatted for a minute and I got his picture. Bob Norris and his lovely wife Jane own the famous T Cross Ranch here in Colorado. Not only does he look the part of a real western rancher and cowboy, but he still raises championship quarter horses and was director of the American Quarter Horse Association and received the Record Stockmen Livestock “Man of the Year” Award in 1982.

Our dinner at the Broadmoor was fabulous. GG and I both had prime rib – the best I have ever had; Suzanne had the trout, also fantastic. The decor in the Tavern Restaurant was not what I expected… the art work was Toulouse Lautrec, one of my favorite artists, and until a few years ago they were all priceless originals. Common sense and prudence prevailed and high quality prints now hang in their places. GG, thank you for a fabulous evening we will long remember.

Finally, the Laugh of the Week came the other night as we were lying in bed reading, with the puppies between us. (I only wish I had the forethought to keep a camera next to the bed, but MLB may wonder about my intent…) All of a sudden I heard this whoosh, the sound of air escaping from something… and My Lovely Bride began sinking… yes, sinking!  She dropped down a full 10 inches below the level of my side of the bed. Our inflatable king size mattress is actually two singles side by side, so either person can keep the mattress pumped up hard, soft or anywhere in between that he/she wants. Her side had sprung a leak where the air hose connects into the mattress. Further analysis showed that the hose had separated from the fitting on the mattress. I put it back in, but over the next few days it came off several times. I called the company, INNOMAX, which just happened to be in Denver, and on Monday we drove up and Edna and Kelly took care of our problem by replacing the offending mattress free of charge. They suggested that the problem may have been caused by our spending so much time at higher elevations. What service! Now My Lovely Bride can get a good night’s sleep without worrying about sinking to the floor. And for all you smarty pants out there, I will remind you that the problem occurred because of air pressure at altitude, not because of, well, you know…

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