The sea, once more, called our name. The salty beaches, seafood lunches, sand between our toes and an occasional grog to close the evenings were just what the doctor ordered. We chose Galveston Island because two Coast Guard shipmates live in Texas City and another who lives in Katy. Continue reading “Galveston, OH Galveston!”
Back in 2015, while we were parked at Oasis RV Resort for a few days in Amarillo, Texas, we took a day to lace up our hiking shoes, stock our backpacks, and grab our walking sticks to head to Palo Duro Canyon. Who would have know there was this big hole in the flatland of the Texas Panhandle?
Since we were little kids, We’ve always wanted to go to Texas. We remember watching black and white tv shows that were filmed in Texas. I love big shiny belt buckles, cowboy hats and boots. Both were enamored watching gunslingin’ heroes with big shiny revolvers. Equally, we love all things Texas; cactus, armadillos, cowboys (not the Dallas team) and the big stars in the big Texas sky. Oh, and let’s not forget my favorite, the King of Country, George Strait.
A few years ago, we watched a documentary on television about a little chapel in the middle of a historic city in the desert southwest that has quite a bit of cool notoriety. So, who would have known years later that we’d find this beautiful historic treasure. We’ll call this one Our Walk of Faith in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
In the summer of 2015, we relocated from the Air Force Academy Campground to Haggard’s RV Park in Pueblo, Colorado to visit our son who also lived in Pueblo. While parked there, we also met up with our RV friends, Brittany and Eric (also a Coast Guard Vet) of RV Wanderlustsome comraderie and campfires.
When our RV friends weren’t working their remote jobs, we’d get together for an outing and vittles. One morning, we all rose early to drive out to the Great Sand Dunes National Park for some hiking, sightseeing and to get our National Park Passports stamped.
Brittany and Eric gladly agreed to drive if we packed a picnic lunch for the trip. It was about a three hour drive to the Dunes.
About the Great Sand Dunes…
Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve is actually quite young; established in 2004. It sprawls some 150,000 acres; across part of Southern Colorado’s San Luis Valley, a broad and plain between the San Juan Mountains on the west and the Sangre de Cristos on the east. The tallest dune towers over 750 feet.
Streams and creeks flowing out of the San Juan Mountains over millennia carried gravel and sand into shallow lakes in the San Luis Valley. During drought periods, these lakes dried, releasing the sand particles to the action of the wind. Strong prevailing southwesterly winds carry the tiny grains toward the Sangre de Cristos, piling them up against the foothills.
The resulting dunes are the tallest in North America, covering more than 30 square miles. Adults hike across them and marvel at their beauty; children run and slide down their steep faces, enjoying a playground of fairy-tale proportions. You can read more about how they formed and their geological natures here.
Welcome to the Dunes…
Once we got to the entrance, we stopped for photos because, in our world, it didn’t happen unless there were pictures!
After getting parked, we got our passports stamped at the Visitor Center and viewed a video and hands-on informational exhibits.
All four of us headed to the picnic area where we sat down to enjoy some fellowship while chowing down on our cooler full of vittles. We were blessed with beautiful weather too.
After packing up leftover crumbs of our lunch, we all trekked out to the base of the Dunes and climbed up the first that led to the rest of them.
Our exciting adventure…
It was already a very warm day so it seemed like it was a little more work but that didn’t stop Dan and Brittany from doing the inevitable; climbing to the top of the dunes. Being that Eric has bad knees and I have knee and back issues, we hung out at the top of the smallest dune to watch Brittany and Dan challenge themselves.Now remember, we were already 6000′ above sea level, so this was a bit more challenging than just taking a stroll up a 750′ hill, not to mention, it was loose sand. The kind that gets-in-your-shoes-sand.
While Eric and I stood there chatting for what seemed forever (because we stood there in the heat for all of it), Brittany and Dan disappeared over the crest of the first dune. They looked like little ants the further they hiked. We’d see them again and then loose them doing down another…and another…and another.
Brittany’s words upon their return, ‘it was quite exerting; one step forward, three steps back and doing it at higher altitude, we just couldn’t catch our breath’.
Dan said they had to stop often to empty their shoes which weighted them down. Traipsing through loose sand, Eric and I could only imagine how much work that would be. Adding to that, it was a very warm day; about 85 degrees.
A few times, we’d see one of them, bend over in the distance during their climb and stop for awhile. They said they were offered water by some passerby’s (hikers that were faster and more in shape as them?!). Then we’d see them start up again.
The finish line…
An hour and a half later, they successfully made it to the top and another hour and a half after that, they came back tired, weary but celebrated. They were red-faced and a bit dehydrated so Eric and I sacrificed our own water bottles to get them back to looking a normal color. But LOOK at them!!
It was a fun day trip with great friends! A little ‘RV Family Bonding’ is what we call it. Dan and Brittany felt celebrated and accomplished. I bought them each their own ‘I climbed the Great Sand Dunes’ sticker for their vehicles (if there were trophies, I would have bought them too!).
On the drive back, our tummies were growling so Eric took to googling places to eat in Pueblo. We agreed on the Bingo Burger which turned out to be a very deserved and pleasant meal. Fantastic burgers!Best friends! Good times! Fantastic memories!
Back in 2016, while we were parked at the Air Force Academy, Dan was called out for a family emergency in Pennsylvania. Our campground neighbors made certain I didn’t have to be alone the whole time. It was then that I met another motorcycle riding couple, Vicki and Rex in the sight behind ours.
During a morning coffee conversation, Vicki asked if I knew of any good roads or day-rides (they had a trike). I had told them about a cool trip to Bishop Castle, a hand-built medieval castle in Wetmore, Colorado that our son took us to see years prior. I told her the route to get there was outstanding, especially riding motorcycles.
Austin heard me talking about it and googled it on his phone as I described it. We all then made plans to ride out the following day with Austin riding on the back of her trike as her navigator.
The next morning, we coffee-d up, ate breakfast and rode out. The ride out was gorgeous as was the day! Surprisingly, not much traffic for being a weekend. Getting there was simple.
We rode out the gate of the Air Force Academy south on I-25 to CO 115 to Florence, onto CO 67, turning right on Hwy 96 in Wetmore. We saw signs directing us to the castle; turning left onto CO 165. It was about a 90 minute ride out to Bishop Castle.
Once we got there, the site was a little busy but nothing to be worried about when it came to capturing some good photos.
Admission was free, although donations were greatly appreciated. There was also a gift shop that helped finance Mr. Bishop’s ongoing build. It’s open most of the time.
About Bishop Castle…
There is nothing architecturally ‘perfect’ about the castle. Its completely constructed by the hands of Mr. Bishop. I’m willing to bet there were no official blueprints. If you’re into the whole Harry Potter thing, this is the place for you! The stonework, iron work and blacksmithing was done all onsite; there is even a room where all of his tools and shop are on the ground level.
Every year since 1969, Bishop has single-handedly gathered and set over 1000 tons of rock to create this stone and iron fortress in the middle of nowhere. Bishop called it “a monument to hardworking people” and “America’s biggest, one-man, physical project. I always wanted a castle. Every man wants a castle,” Bishop said.
It hasn’t been easy for his masterpiece build. For most of those 40 years Bishop was engaged in a running battle with Washington bureaucrats over the rocks that he used, which came from the San Isabel National Forest that surrounds the castle property. Bishop felt that they were his for the taking, the government wanted to charge him per truckload.
Another bone of contention that stuck in Bishop’s craw belonged to the Colorado state Chamber of Commerce, which refused to list Bishop Castle as an attraction in its official tourism guides.”
Visitors could climb all the way to the top, winding through interior stone stairs and hand-forged iron and steel grid exterior walkways around the top. I had climbed it before years prior, so I stayed below in the main room to wait for them and take photos. Vicki made it about a third of the way up however, came down after feeling a little uneasy about going all the way up. On the other hand, Austin was investigating every inch and climbing everything that could.
After Austin climbed every inch of stone and metal, we had to get back back to the Academy as he had a curfew. As beautiful as our ride was getting there, it was even better coming home as we were able to ride with the beautiful Colorado sunset to our backs.
So, if you’re in the Colorado Springs or Pueblo, Colorado area, definitely put this on your list of places to visit in Colorado regardless of your ride…or drive!
How many of us remember studying the Oregon Trail and the mass movement to the west via covered wagon caravans? Our visit to several stopping points brought history to life for us as we learned about what settlers and pioneers endured while transiting west.