Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. –H. Jackson Brown, Jr.’s mom
The internet will tell you that is a quote from Mark Twain…but it isn’t.
Day: 11 Pikes’s Peak and Manitou Cliffs. 57 miles.
We slept late. Our agenda was fairly light for the day so the extra sleep didn’t impact our plans. We drove to the top of Pike’s Peak…all 14,115 feet. The trip was both epic and awful; beautiful and terrifying. I have no need to ever go to the top of a high, steep mountain for the rest of my life. Doesn’t mean that I won’t but you’ll have to be crazy charismatic to get me there. Oldest and Littlest wouldn’t go anywhere near the edge for pictures. I was fine at the top until we went inside the visitor center. Then I felt dizzy and like I was walking next to myself. I did get some fudge for all of us because I felt a deep need for chocolate to get through the trip down and they did not have any wine up there.
The trip down was just as nerve-wracking as the trip up. We did find a spot of snow in a shady area. I guess that little spot does not get any sunlight. About half way down we pulled into a picnic area for lunch.
Our last stop of the day was a visit to the Manitou Cliff Dwellers Museum. I was at first really confused by the place since the Anasazi cliff dwellings are further south. I later learned these cliff dwellings were relocated to Manitou from the Mesa Verda area to protect the ruins and artifacts from looters (before the government got involved in such things). The museum and visitor center was remodeled from a Taos Pueblo home that was used by a native family of dancers that entertained visitors at the location. I was really confused by the Anasazi/Taos Pueblo architectural mash-up. Anyway, it is fun to visit because you can go inside the cliff dwellings. The museum has a large pottery collection and explains how the pottery was made. You can also take some home if you have lots of money. They also have the hardest bathrooms to locate.
We ordered take-out from Old Chicago Pizza (great food, horrible service) and then I spent the evening watching the sun set from the backyard.
Day 12: Garden of the Gods and Manitou Springs but not Seven Falls
We started out going to Seven Falls. However, it is gated and vehicles are sent to a shuttle service about twelve miles away. The shuttle had just left by the time we got there so it was going to be at least a twenty-minute wait before the shuttle returned to pick us up. We decided to hold off visiting the falls and went to The Garden of the Gods instead. We ended up skipping Seven Falls after I learned it would cost us seventy dollars just to get in.
Garden of the Gods was really pretty and we enjoyed walking along the path and viewing the scenery. I was not feeling very well that morning but did my best to keep up. We then headed for the town of Manitou Springs and did a bit of shopping. My husband and I wanted to go through several of the shops but the kids were tiring out. I managed to find a few gifts for friends. Our favorite shop in the area was actually at the base of Pikes Peak. We ended up going back to get some pottery and gemstones. They also had a nice Lakota style drum that we picked up for Littlest’s birthday next month.
We spent our last evening in Colorado Springs prepping for the rest of our trip and enjoying the sunset.
Day 13: Colorado Springs, New Mexico, Texas, Route 66 to Elk City, Oklahoma. 506 miles
We hit the road early hoping to make good time and it was Sparkles thirteenth birthday. Somewhere along the way we hoped to find a pasta place for a birthday meal. Sparkles loves pasta and shrimp scampi is her new favorite (since IBD took away her Daddy’s homemade spaghetti sauce).
For the most part we traveled through beautiful rural country. Our route passed the site of the Ludlow massacre. Ludlow was the site where a tent city of striking coal miners sprang up. They wanted better pay, improved working conditions, fewer hours, and the right to live and shop outside of the company owned town. The town and coal mine were owned by the Rockefellers. After a few days the state militia burned down the tent city and shot anyone trying to leave; including women and children. It was some sobering history to pass.
In New Mexico we saw elk and bear crossing signs but not the animals and an old abandoned mission along the Santa Fe trail. We also passed the Capulin Volcano. The volcano is located in some rather flat terrain so you notice it from a fair distance. We thought about stopping but continued on, hoping to get to Amarillo (or Armadillo as Oldest said) and drive a bit of Route 66 before nightfall.
In Amarillo we stopped at Cheddar’s for a pasta birthday meal for Sparkles. Littlest started humming the Hallelujah Chorus when he learned he did not have to eat another sandwich from the cooler. Afterward we picked up the trail for Route 66 and followed it to Elk City, Oklahoma. Elk City was a nice stopping point and the kids played in the hotel pool for an hour or so before bed. There were a couple of times we ended up on a rural dirt road while searching for 66. I didn’t write much about the day except that the songs “Running Down a Dream” by Tom Petty and “Baba O’Riley” by The Who will always remind me of riding shotgun in the open fields of Oklahoma.
Day 14: Elk City To Joplin along Route 66…most of the time. 406 miles
Oldest spent his fifteenth birthday along Route 66. Elk City turned out to have a great Route 66 and local history museum. This museum also allowed hands-on fun so the kids really enjoyed exploring a bit. Oldest and Sparkles picked out some souvenirs to remember their Route 66 birthdays.
Route 66 is an interesting road to follow and not always easy to find. I enjoyed the day on the road far more than the interstate. Sometimes I felt sad to see empty and abandoned buildings or museums that were closed and for sale. We were on a road trip searching for the road that became the vision for the “great American Road trip”. The Mother Road is one of the symbols of American freedom. Now it crumbles in places and grass grows through the cracks.
Night had come by the time we reached Joplin. We stopped at Red, Hot and Blue for Oldest’s birthday dinner and then found a place to turn in for the evening.
Day 15: Joplin to home. 629 miles
We were tired and did not get out as early as we would have liked. After looking at the weather and potential traffic situations we decided to abandon Route 66 and head home. We chose to travel the long way round with more scenic views and less traffic. We drove in and out of rain that followed us all the way to Kentucky. We were all so happy to see Kentucky and familiar places.
Time to dream and plan our next journey on the open road.
There is no such knowledge of the nation as comes of travelling in it, of seeing eye to eye its vast extent, its various and teeming wealth, and, above all, its purpose-full people.—Samuel Bowles