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Thursday, April 13

At the Great Divide

The Chapel at the Air Force Academy is world famous. It has separate sanctuaries for different faiths. The Protestants are on top... The blue light is from stained glass windows in the arch. This picture was taken a bit after noon.

and today's added attraction:

Katherine Lee Bates wrote "America the Beautiful" instpired by her visit to Pikes Peak,

At the Continental Divide... (We aren't in Kansas anymore)

A settler making it to Hays, Kansas must have been in sad shape. It's more than half way across the plains, but there's still a long way to go. And the farther you go, the flatter and drier the land becomes. About 100 miles before Colorado Springs I spotted a small white shape in the distance slightly off to the left. It could have been a cloud, but on a cloudless day, it wasn't moving. It grew as we headed on Colorado 24 from I-70 toward the west. It was Pikes Peak. I expected a range of mountains, but it's really just this one small group that juts into the east. The Rockies are a way off.

With 360,000 people, Colorado Springs is the second largest city in the state. At the outskirts we saw something we have seen at nearly every town and city on the trip. Suburbs are moving farther and farther out. The computer said 20+ miles to Colorado Springs, but on CO 24 (now expanded to 4 lanes) we saw seveal new strip malls, big box grocery stores, and the first of what would shortly be several fast food stores. Some guys in suits were inspecting a new Jiffy Lube next to the new Wendys. And then there were the new subdivisions.

Later in the day, in a historic district we spoke to two librarians in a small library, one of the three in the area, originally donated by Andrew Carnegie at the turn of the last century. Old Colorado Springs is near Manitou and features the usual eclectic western mix of pueblo style dwellings and house styles imported from the east and midwest.

Pikes Peak -- There are two ways to the top (practice isn't one of them). This time of year they run two cog rail trains a day. We missed both, so we drove to the top. It's early, before the tourist season, so we saw only a dozen or so cars coming down and at the top. The drive reminded me of the few hours after New Years Eve in Boston, when the city's normally frenetic drivers become very patient and cautious. It's 19 miles to the top, but the road is mostly paved, and fairly wide. Air at the top is thin, and it clearly takes a bit longer to get around. Temperature in Colorado Springs, low 80s. Temperature on Pikes Peak, 45.

Manitou Springs is a little tourist destination on the road to the Peak (our old friend, CO 24), along with Santa Claus :and, a small amusement area near the entrance to the drive.

After wandering around in old Colorado Springs (we were too late to visit the Focus on the Family organization, or the Museum of the American Numismatic Association), we headed for the car wash, a daily ritual for a long car trip. The number of bugs the car picks up driving across the plains is unbelievable. Daily car washes are required, and even then, at least one stop to debug the windshield is likely. Add the mud and dust from Pikes Peak and the car looks like something from the Grapes of Wrath. The good news is that we are now clearly in the west! There are real car washes, where attendants vacuum the car, clean the windows, and dry it off at the end. We are clearly on the home stretch!

Pueblo, about 40 miles south of Colorado Springs is where we pulled in to spend the night. An informational video said this town was about water. It was a popular smelter for Colorodo minerals because it has water from the Arkansas River. But this also led to a massive flood in the 20s and drought in the 30s with the Dust Bowl. Water or its absence, seems likely to be a continuing theme as we move from the plains to the arid west.

And finally, from Today's Pueblo Chieftan, there is page one news of problems with the Arkansas river and worrying about a drought.

Last Updated: Friday, April 14, 2006 9:30 PM