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Rediscovering my Hometown

Colorado
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for Western Australia
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Rediscovering my Hometown

I’m an American from Colorado, currently living in Perth, Australia. While Colorado Springs is my hometown, I haven’t lived there in over 30 years, although I do get back once a year or so to attend to personal business and visit friends and family. In recent years I’ve approached these trips home as I would any other holiday, researching what to see and do, where to eat, etc. This helps keep things fresh, and prevents me from falling into a set pattern.

Due to a very chaotic year and stressful relocation in Perth, I had no time to research as I’d have liked, but I still managed to squeeze quite a bit into my month long stay in the Springs, much of it new to me.

Flights –

Colorado is probably as far away from Perth as a person can get. I flew from Perth to Singapore on Singapore Airlines, spending a night in the Changi Airport Transit Hotel before connecting to another Singapore Airlines flight to Seoul the following morning. After a short layover in Seoul (just long enough to deplane and be routed through security and re-board the same plane), I was bound for San Francisco. I never will understand why passengers must go through security immediately after getting off a plane for which they’ve previously cleared security, but so it goes.

I’m United Gold, but frankly, I have no interest in flying long haul on United in coach. I recently depleted my miles, so it was either suffer in United cattle class, or look elsewhere; a no-brainer as far as I’m concerned. Singapore Airlines earned my business for many reasons, including the routing through SFO instead of LAX (which I avoid like the plague), their excellent service and extensive entertainment system; a godsend to non-sleeping passengers like myself. I spent a few bucks more to secure a ‘preferred seat’ (bulkhead) and even though I was in the middle seat on the outward journey, it was worth every penny.

I arrived at SFO exhausted, as one does after 20 hours in a metal tube, a 14 hour time difference and very little sleep. I was booked on a United flight to Denver with a connection to Colorado Springs, but alas, it was not to be. My four hour layover turned into eight, due to a delay which would have prevented me from making my connection in Denver.

Luckily, I was able to get re-booked on the direct flight from SFO to COS later in the evening, which I would have booked originally…had it not meant an eight hour layover before the final leg of an already too-long journey. There was a silver lining though, as I was upgraded to First Class, such that it is on a CRJ-200. I finally arrived in COS, zombie-like, but otherwise intact.

But I digress, this report isn’t about the journey, it’s about Colorado.

To be continued…

Colorado
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for Western Australia
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1. Re: Rediscovering my Hometown

Colorado is as dry as a bone on a good day, but as anyone familiar with the state knows, the moisture situation (or lack thereof) has become downright dire. Local farmers are in trouble, trees are dying, rivers and creeks have dried up, ski resorts are very nervous…and fires have ravaged the state.

With the exception of a handful of cold mornings, the weather during my stay has been bizarrely warm, much too warm for November and December. And while I’ve selfishly enjoyed the unusually warm days, long morning walks amongst the fearless suburban deer, and not having to test my rusty winter driving skills, Colorado desperately needs rain and snow, and soon.

So how have I spent my time in the beautiful, but seriously thirsty state of Colorado?

I’ve explored.

I’ve walked many miles in many neighborhoods, re-visiting the familiar and discovering the new.

One such neighborhood was Mountain Shadows, the foothills suburb devastated by this past summer’s Waldo Canyon Fire which consumed 346 homes. Nearby Flying W Ranch, of which I have fond childhood memories, is now just that, a memory, it too, completely destroyed by the fire. Sobering indeed, the bizarre path of the fire weirdly evident, some homes completely gone, yet homes directly next door untouched.

But I was amazed at the progress; lots have been cleared and new construction is underway.

I’m incredibly proud of the way my hometown pulled together in this time of need. The stories I’ve heard have been heartwarming and restore my faith in mankind.

But on to happier topics…

I enjoyed my first US of A based Thanksgiving in years and demolished some of the best stuffing I’ve ever had. I visited family and friends, catching up on the lives (and drama) of loved ones.

And I explored some more.

I finally made it up to the Wild Animal Sanctuary, which I’d learned about from a poster on another forum. The sanctuary is about a 90 minute drive north east of Colorado Springs (30 miles northeast of Denver) and well worth a visit.

http://www.wildanimalsanctuary.org/

I spent two nights in Buena Vista, my new favorite Colorado town, where my mother and I stayed at the lovely Vista Inn. We walked the trail to Agnes Vaille Falls and hiked a small portion of the Colorado Trail, which we accessed from Chalk Creek Canyon. Not too shabby for a 76 year old (good on ya Mom!). Our hikes were followed by some lovely Mexican food (two thumbs up for both Casa del Sol and El Paraiso), and long soaks in the hotel’s hot tub.

On the drive to Buena Vista and the return from, we stopped at Wilkerson Pass to ogle those glorious views of the Collegiate Peaks, stretch our legs and explore the one mile hiking trail along the valley floor.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wilkerson_Pass

Although the trees are naturally barren this time of year, there’s no denying the sad black sticks that have replaced the forest along Highway 24, yet more evidence of the Waldo Canyon fire.

Woodland Park made the ideal lunch stop (good sandwiches and friendly down home service at Joanie’s), and a poke through a log furniture store was interesting, to say the least.

To be continued…

Charleston, South...
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for Charleston, South Carolina, Telluride
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2. Re: Rediscovering my Hometown

Wonderful trip report so far. Of the many that I have read over the years, it seems that the people from Australia (apparently even if transplanted) usually write great reports. :-)

Colorado
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for Western Australia
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3. Re: Rediscovering my Hometown

Why thank you endosunshine!

Another day found my mother and I driving I-25 south past Pueblo, and west on Highway 165 via Colorado City and Rye to Bishop Castle, for a big fat slice of Colorado weirdness, which mere words cannot adequately describe.

http://www.bishopcastle.org/

http://www.roadsideamerica.com/story/2047

Glutton for punishment that I am, I climbed the interior staircase to the top of the highest tower, but reckoned that was far enough for my unreliable knees. The views were fabulous, but the descent turned my knuckles white. A miniature version of my mother, patiently waiting on a bench a very long way below me, could be seen through the gaping holes between the rail-less iron stairwell and the exterior walls. Not a fan of heights, Mom probably would have passed out had she chosen that moment to look up.

Another morning was spent taking a tour of McCallister House in downtown Colorado Springs, for a taste of local history in a place I’ve probably driven past a thousand times, but never heard of. It was an enjoyable and informative tour, which I highly recommend.

http://mcallisterhouse.org/

One weekend I hosted a girlfriend from Denver for a sleepover at my accommodation. We drove up Ute Pass (west Highway 24) to explore another place I’d driven past many times, The Wines of Colorado.

http://www.winesofcolorado.com/

We both enjoyed our creek side lunch, and the smells emanating from the smokehouse (?) were tantalizing, but I wasn’t impressed with the wine tasting set-up, or the wine for that matter (granted, I didn’t taste all 50 of them…).

I’m the first to admit that I’m a bit of a wine snob. I’ve long been spoiled by the drops of New Zealand and Australia, and I live at the doorstep of three wine regions. I’ll also admit that I’m new to Colorado wine and that much more tasting is in order.

That afternoon was spent walking the streets of Old Colorado City, doing our wee bit to support Small Business Saturday.

Several trips were made to the Garden of the Gods Trading Post, a place I’d not visited in years and couldn’t believe the size of. The Native American jewelry and various and sundry souvenirs (some locally made, some not) is quite amazing. Originally built in the early 1920’s, the trading post has expanded six times, and the diminutive exterior belies the enormous shopping experience within.

http://www.gardenofthegodstradingpost.com/

Two visits were made to the Garden of the God’s Visitor’s Center and three drives were made through the park (one by accident…when exiting the Trading Post, don’t turn right unless you want to meander through the one way roads of the park).

To be continued…

Colorado
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for Western Australia
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4. Re: Rediscovering my Hometown

Food glorious food…

While the food in Australia is generally very good, I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t miss a few culinary delights from home. It varies from year to year, trip to trip, but my cravings usually involve American bacon and just about anything Mexican. This year, however, was all about the margaritas.

While the lowly margarita might seem ordinary and mundane to the average American, they’re as rare as hen’s teeth in the antipodes. Perhaps it’s due to the cost of limes ($29.99 a kilo last time I had the nerve to check) or an apparent shortage of decent tequila (heck, the prices in Australia might lead one to believe there’s a shortage of everything, but that’s another story for another day). Whatever the reason, a restaurant or bar prepared margarita, when you can find one, will set a person back about $18 in Perth, so I stopped looking.

Had I not been too knackered to swallow, I’d have sought out that much missed limey elixir of the gods the minute my feet touched the ground in Colorado. Although somewhat delayed, I managed to satisfy my craving multiple times throughout my stay with several margarita runs to Salsa Brava and Sonterra Grill.

http://www.rockymtnrg.com/salsabrava

And a visit to Colorado wouldn’t be complete without at least one meal at the Brewery Bar in Denver, home to my all-time favorite chile rellenos covered in my all-time favorite hot green chile. Washed down with an icy margarita of course. Be still my heart.

http://www.brewerybar3.com/

And…I went to Casa Bonita. Yes, the ‘entertainment destination’ slash Mexican restaurant complete with cliff divers, 30’ waterfall and notoriously mediocre food.

A friend of my sister-in-law (a visiting Bostonian who lives and works on Kwajalein) had expressed his burning desire to visit Casa Bonita ever since he’d seen a particular episode of South Park. His time was limited, I was available, willing, and intrigued, so I ferried him up to Lakewood.

Casa Bonita was a big deal back in the old days when I was in high school. I didn’t even know it was still in business (37 years!). I was expecting a dull afternoon made worse by lousy food, but I surprised myself by having a really good time (sans margaritas no less!). It was a fun blast from my past, and yeah, the food is still mediocre.

http://www.casabonitadenver.com/

But good eats were had and cravings were satisfied at Over Easy, the new sister restaurant of Salsa Brava and Sonterra Grill (breakfast and lunch place, fabulous biscuits and gravy). And I just this minute discovered they have breakfast margaritas, how did I miss that?

www.visitcos.com/node/159/111/Over%20Easy

I had two excellent lunches at another of my old haunts, Marigold Bakery. Their sandwiches never disappoint and their double chocolate mousse cake will forever be a personal chocolate orgy favorite.

http://www.marigoldcoloradosprings.com/

Good pizzas were enjoyed Il Vincino, which now has two Colorado Springs locations:

http://ilvicino.com/coloradosprings/

Ever the chocoholic, I made a complete nuisance of myself with my numerous trips to See’s Candies. There was a time I had to drive to Denver for my chocolate fix, but no more. See’s is quite handy (too handy) with its north Colorado Springs retail shop.

My stay was topped off with Brule’s Red Nativity, a Native American holiday music and dance extravaganza held annually at the Pikes Peak Center. For the first time in years my visit coincided with their one and only Christmas performance, so I felt pretty lucky. It was a wonderful show; vibrant, energetic and uplifting. In the end, the parking woes (downtown Colorado Springs simultaneously held a holiday parade, worsening an already bad parking situation) were worth the effort.

It was a great trip. Fantastic weather and scenery, no shortage of things to see and do, good company and food; what more could a person want?

The return trip to Perth had its issues though.

Snow and wind delayed our landing in Seoul, then once on the ground, we were delayed a further five hours due to the mysterious need to replace four tires on the plane, congestion at the airport, torrential rain and de-icing. My hopes of a few hours of lying prone were dashed, as I made it to Singapore with just enough time for a quick shower, a poke around duty free and a snack…no nap in the Transit Hotel for me. Then it was back onto yet another plane for the last leg.

I was a complete zombie for a few days, but I'm home, safe and sound.

Colorado
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for Colorado
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5. Re: Rediscovering my Hometown

Loved the report! Thanks for taking the time.

Both this

" Bishop Castle, for a big fat slice of Colorado weirdness, which mere words cannot adequately describe."

and your visit to Casa Bonits reminds me of the book, American Gods, worth the read if you can find it.

http://www.neilgaiman.com/works/Books/American+Gods/

Colorado
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for Western Australia
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6. Re: Rediscovering my Hometown

Thanks for that alli, I'm always looking for a good read.

WI
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for Wisconsin, Colorado Springs
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7. Re: Rediscovering my Hometown

I have heard mediocre/not good food for Casa Bonita but for the kitsch of it I think we'd love to go when we're in Denver next if we get a chance. So it was neat to see how you pointed out enjoying it even though the food is definitely not why you went.

Fun trip report, I also did not know Colorado Springs had See's there! Also some other highlights you mentioned I wasn't familiar with. Thanks for taking time to share your in depth report Melnq8!

8. Re: Rediscovering my Hometown

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