These are the jottings made during a trip to Canada and the USA with the goal of meeting up with Jane's millenium colleagues in Colorada Springs for a reunion. The people who we have shared a dwelling with in 2008 when we re-united in Itay (more...), Don and Slava Panko had invited us to their home in Markham, not far from Toronto. We would then make our way to Colorado Springs for the reunion.
These are the jottings made during the IOSC (International Operations Support Centre) Reunion in Colorado Springs from 14-18 September 2014. The reunion has previously taken place in Vancouver(2006), Lucca(2008), Santa Fe(2010), Vienna(2012). The reunion was organised by Jaap with help from Roeline. The people attending it were Jaap and Roeline, Don and Slava, Bill and Joan, Graham and Jane, Eva and Lynn.
For Graham, Jane, Don and Slava this event took place at the end of a long car journey from Markham, Ontario (more...) These jottings are the end section of their three-week holiday. The four of them arrived in Colorado Springs on the afternoon of Saturday, 13 September.
Instructions are here.
|Saturday, 30 August - Journey to Markham, Ontario
Sunday, 31 August - Preparing for the Labor Day BBQ
Monday, 1 September - Labor Day BBQ
Tuesday, 2 September - A Drive around Toronto
Wednesday, 3 September - Visit to Oshawa Skeet and Gun Club
Thursday, 4 September - Niagara Falls and Niagara on the Lake
Friday, 5 September - Toronto Aquarium
Saturday, 6 September - Problems with the passports
Sunday, 7 September - Planes and Cars and Pigs
Monday, 8 September - Happy Birthday Jane
|Tuesday, 9 September - Ontario to Illinois
Wednesday, 10 September - Illinois to South Dakota
Thursday, 11 September - South Dakota to Wyoming
Friday, 12 September - Yellowstone Park
Saturday, 13 September - Cody to Colorado Springs
Sunday, 14 September - Cliff Dwellings and the Reunion Commences
Monday, 15 September - Fine Arts and the Garden of Gods
Tuesday, 16 September - Pikes Peak
Wednesday, 17 September - Royal Gorge and Fondue
Thursday, 18 September - Denver and Home
Bill drives us to Heathrow at 7:35am in our car. We stayed with Bill and Mary on Friday night. Bill drops us at Terminal 5. We check in and make our way to the business lounge near gate B32. The 747 takes off half an hour late and heads out west. We watch "the 100 year old man who jumped out the window" and fall asleep. We arrive in Toronto 20 minutes late and are greeted by Don Panko. Don drives us and our luggage east to Markham and their house situated close to the village centre. Really it's a large sprawling city with 0.3 million inhabitants but it does have an old village centre. We are introduced to Dexter, their daughter's golden doodle. We rest and chat outside in the garden. At 6pm we eat barbecued chicken, rice and beans. Instead of sitting on chairs at the table, the Pankos sit on very large Pilates balls. Afterwards we go for a walk into the village of Markham, full of restaurants, coffee shops, and banks. We return and retire to bed. We are now 5 hours behind UK time.
We awake several times during the night and finally get dressed at 7:30am. It's still warm outside at about 21C. We have a Facetime conversation with Stephen, in Austria, where it is raining. For breakfast Don cooks us both enormous omelettes. Graham and Don and Dexter go for a walk while Jane helps Slava prepare food for tomorrow. Don then takes Gaham to the Princess Auto store in Scarborough where we have a free coffee and find a bolt and washer for Don. We return via Malvern and Don discovers he has bought the wrong bolt so we go out to pick up some more beer, bags of ice, two cauliflowers and the correct bolt and washer. After lunch the ladies walk into the village to a shops that sells olive oil. Don teaches Graham some metal working techniques on his seventy year old metal lathe and milling machines. Graham makes a present for Jane. Don and Graham walk to the station with Dexter to find the times of the trains into Toronto. There are six between 5:40am and 8:04am and that's it for the day. It is only a single track. We walk back to the house via a park area where Dexter runs and catches a tennis ball. We have a salad and retire early as Jane is very tired. The rain forecast for today never appeared. There are two seasons in Ontario - winter and construction.
Don cooks us a type of porridge made from oats, flax and cinnamon. It is tasty. We get chairs from the cellar and arrange them in the back yard. Tables are arranged for food and drinks. Graham and Don go in the pick up truck to a farm shop on the outskirts of Markham to collect the 72 husks of corn awaiting its collection. At 2:30 the first guests arrive. Vera is Slava's elder sister and David is Don and Slava's son. He lives in downtown Toronto and has come in his open top all electric Tesla bringing beer and wine. The Tesla can do 400 km on one charge. It is quite nippy and will reach 50 Kph in 3.4 seconds. David is a good Tesla salesman. Other members of the family arrive - Don's brother Bob and sister-in-law Liz and their son Andrew and son Dan and his wife Stacey plus their son and the latest addition, 3-weeks old Grace, Don and Slava's daughter Oricia, her husband Rob and their children, Slava's sister Mary and her daughter Jenny and boyfriend Kia, Vera's daughter Julia and Dean and their children. Julia and Dean met at school, several decades ago. Rob and Oricia are the owners of Dexter. Don boils the corn in his homemade boiler. When you've got a metal workshop you can make anything from old scrap metal. The boiler is half a beer-barrel with a reworked broken funnel for a lid. An old hockey puck serves as a handle. A part from on old stove is used as the burner. The cooked corn cobs are dunked in a jar of hot water and butter - ingenious. David cooks the beef tenderloin steaks on a conventional gas barbecue except the gas supply comes from a pipe attached to the wall of the house. The salads prepared yesterday are wonderful. The peach crumble is delicious. The weather was fine and 26C. It was a good family gathering. The next reunion is at Christmas.
For breakfast we have muesli from the Dorset Cereal company. We are not going to do archery this morning but instead we go to the Tilly shop in Don Mills and buy Graham a foldable, non-creasing jacket and a hat. Jane buys herself another hat and a blouse. We partake of the free coffee and cookies. Don drives us into the centre of Toronto and points out the sites we should visit when we make our way there on Friday. On the way back to Markham we spend half an hour wandering around the Pacific Mall which reminds us of China. A bright iPhone cover is bought for Jane so she can find it in her handbag. We return to the Panko's home and the heavens open. We have vey tasty left-overs from yesterday's barbecue. Don finds a small project for Graham to do in the garage cum factory. Graham is taught how to do stick welding and produces a stainless steel hook welded onto a back plate with two bolt holes. After a light meal and when the rain has stopped we walk out down Main Street, Markham and back via Tim Horton's where we just walk through the coffee shop so that we can say we have been in a Tim Horton's.
Don cooks us an omelette with a spicy sausage and vegetables. We leave at 10am and travel north east to the Oshawa Skeet and Gun Club where Don and Slava go every Wednesday. Julia in reception comes from Sheffleld and her 82 year old mother comes from Chesterfield. We sign away all our rights in order to shoot. We make our way to the practice trap shooting area where Don adjusts the clay shooter so it only fires in one direction. Jane is the first pupil. Out of her five shots she hits two clays. It's Graham's turn next and he hits one more. Jane finds Slava's gun is too heavy so stops. Don encourages Graham to fire five more cartridges and he hits a couple more clays. We then watch as Don and Slava have a competition with two men. They each stand on a paving slab arranged at equal distances from the firing house. They each take it in turns to shoot. After five shots they move to the slab to the right and fire another five shots. This continues until they have all shot from each of the five slabs. Slava won with 23 hits out of 25. Don persuades Graham to take part. Because Graham is not licenced Don stands by Graham giving him further instructions. Out of 25 shots Graham hit four clays. We finish and make our way to a Sail store whcih sells outdoor goods for hiking, walking, fishing and kayaking. Jane buys a couple of walking poles and a top and trousers. Graham buys nothing. We make our way to a Tim Horton's and have a coffee. We return to Reeve Drive and have a late lunch. For the first time we watch television - the local and international news. At 7pm we go for a walk down Main Street. Don and Graham return home while Slava and Jane continue their walk. Don teaches Graham how to refill the rifle cartridges. Don calls them shot shells. It is all performed on one machine with five stations. The first one is used for knocking out the primer and resetting the primer hole. The second stage is used for inserting a primer. The third stage is for adding the gunpowder, wadding and shot. The fourth stage is for pre-crimping the cartridge and the last stage is for crimping the end of the cartridge. The ladies return and we retire to bed. We have a long day tomorrow.
Cereals with flax and cinnamon and fruit for breakfast today. We pack and leave at 10am to go south around lake Ontario for 123 km to Niagara Falls. We stop for a glimpse of the rapids and then drive on to park just off the Niagara Falls Parkway overlooking the falls. We had last been here in 1980 with Emma in a push chair, to be precise, a McClaren Buggy. We walk in the heat and a bit of spray to just opposite the American Falls and then retrace our steps to the Welcome Centre where we have a lunch of sushi. Don drives us to the Whirlpool Ride (a cable car crossing the river) where photos are taken. Next stop is the Peller Winery where we have complementary tickets for a wine tasting. At the tasting bar Graham is spoken to by a young lady who is Cornish but has lived in Shanghai for five years where she is a pastry chef at the Peninsular Hotel. We try a Muscat wine, a Meritage (like a Bordeaux) and a Riesling Ice Wine. They all taste good. The next stop is the Golf Club at Niagara on the Lake. It is the oldest golf club in North America (more...). Here Don confirms that we have a reservation for a meal at five o'clock. We stroll into the town and look for the Court House Theatre where will go after the meal. On the way we have deliciious Italian ice cream. We also see the hotel where we stayed with Emma - the Prince of Wales. Having found the theatre the ladies cannot resist entering the Just Christmas shop. Don and Graham sit on a bench outside and admire the passers-by. A New Zealander sits by us and regales us with his tale of woe. He'd got dizzy on the Maid of the Mist and fallen down. His left elbow was bandaged and he had wounds on his arm and head. The ladies rejoin us and we return to the golf club but it is too early to eat so we have a drink on the patio overlooking the mouth of the Niagara River. At five we enter the dining room and have an excellent three-course meal - probably too much before watching a play. We walk to the theatre and find a car parking place (free after 6pm) for Don to park the car. We are a little early for the performance so we sit in the lounge and wait. When we are allowed in we find our seats are in the front row at the side of the stage. We had better not fall asleep here. The play is 'The Sea' by Edward Bond and is set in a coastal community in the east of England. There is a lot of farcical humour in it but also some serious parts. On returning to the car a skunk walks in front of us. Graham is told not to chase it and annoy it. Don drives us back to Markham and we retire at half past midnight having spent a most enjoyable day.
Don cooks us blueberry pancakes which we eat with maple syrup. We plan to walk to Markham station but Don insists on taking us. He has lent us their Presto passes. We board the double-decker train and climb to the upper deck. We are different from the other pasengers. They all have dark hair. Some are sleeping. It is only 7:35am. We arrive an hour later at Union Station. There is a lot of construction work. We find a Second Cup and have a coffee. We wander to the CN tower but decline to incline. Besides it is Ripley's Aquarium where we enter with our complimentary tickets. The exhibits are very well displayed. There is a perspex tunnel with a moving walkway similar to a baggage carousel at an airport. We are allowed to touch horseshoe crabs and tiger sharks. We leave and make our way to the St Lawrence Market. This is a big food hall with lots of stalls. We wander around and stop at Busters Sea Cove where we have clam strips and fresh sea smelts with french fries. We leave the market and have another coffee in another Second Cup. We make our way back in the heat to the station and find that the train we wanted does not go to Markham so instead of waiting for hours we go to the GO bus terminal and queue up to get the 1:50pm GO bus to Markham and that's its first stop. We sit in the front seats as we are first on. The lady drives quite quickly on the parkways and expressways. We get off at the Markham Station where Don dropped us earlier and walk down the street. We call in at a Frozen Yoghurt shop and sample its wares. We return to the house and Jane has a siesta. At 6:45 Bev and Phil arrive to take us to Al Dente on Markham's Main Street. It is an Italian restaurant and they decide to drive us as it is forecast to rain. We have a good meal and reminisce about the times when Jane met Bev when she visited Toronto on business. It was a good decision to drive as when we left the heavens had opened. Phil drove us home.
Don cooks us his flax, oats and cinnamon porridge which goes down well with maple syrup. Don tells us that the contingency plans will be used up as they discovered last night that their passports have expired. Until recently they only needed a driving licence to cross into the USA. Driving licences expire on birthdays but passports don't. It can take up to ten days to get a new passport but Don says there is chance they could be obtained in 24 hours. The first thing to do is to get authorised passport photos. We drive to nearby Markville and a shopping mall where there is a passport photographer. The photos are obtained but we will have to wait till Monday when they can visit the passport office in Scarborough to see if they qualify to have their passport renewals expedited. Jane and Slava go shopping in Markham. Graham is given some card with which to make a birthday card for Jane in the studio in the basement. At 6pm we watch the news on television for an hour. For dinner we have barbecued spicy sausages, a paler and fatter version of Merguez sausages. This is followed by a birthday cake with a single candle on it.
Don cooks us omelettes for breakfast. At 9am we leave for Orono for the annual 'Barnyard Fly-in' at Hawkefield Airfield (more...). It is described on the net as 'A friendly gathering of pilots, their families and their ultralights, home builds, restorations, war birds and certifiers from across Southern Ontario'. Hawkefield is privately owned and has a long grass air-strip and a hangar. Entrance is free. The planes fly in and park to the side of the air-strip under the guidance of air marshalls. We wander around and await the arrival of the Panko's trap shooting friend, Michael, who flies in from Guelph Airport, 65 miles west of Toronto. Michael expertly guides us along the lines of planes pointing out the safe ones (lowest speed at which they will stall - best are under 20mph), the home-made kit planes and those he would definitely not fly in such as a home-made plane called an Osprey. We leave to return home for lunch. After lunch we walk in the baking heat up Markham Main Street which has been closed in order to hold a classic car show. The cars line both sides of the streets. The most popular are Chevrolet Corvettes. There are a few Jaguars, Triumphs, MGs and a London Taxi. The largest car is a huge brown Hudson. We walk back to the home and prepare for the next activity. We drive to the York County Bowmen club (more...) where Don and Slava do there archery. Today is a social event for members and their families and special guests. It is a pig roast. Don sets up his corn boiler. We go inside and have a go at archery. Under the expert tuition from Mr Miyagi Graham hits the target (20 yards away) a couple of times. Next Don takes Graham to the 3D course in the woods. There are 40 life-size plastic animals situated on either side of a path way running through 50 acres of York Forest. Graham misses the first target - a deer and it takes some time to find the arrow. The next target is a dinosaur which Graham overshoots. We return to the club house and eat the pork and salads. We return home and retire early somewhat tired.
Don has left early to sort out the passports. Stephen and Sophie have a Facetime conversation with us. Yesterday Stephen and Sophie went to Monza to see Lewis Hamilton win the Italian Grand Prix. Graham hands over to Jane the metallic keyring constructed in Don's metal workshop. Slava phones around to make sure there are two people who will be contactable on mobile phones so that the passport people can phone them to help renew the passports. Jane is given a Don-made camera belt on which to clip her camera. It is much better than the contraption Graham built for her. Jane goes out to Markham to collect her shoes which have been stretched. Don and Slava return from the passport office with news that they might be ready at 4pm today. We have barbecued chicken and salad for lunch and finish off the birthday cake. Don goes and fetches the passports and pops into Princess Auto on the way home to buy Jane a birthday present. It is an iTilt on which she can rest her iPad. Don also bought a welders underhat for Graham. There is too much food to eat up before we leave for the USA so we don't go out to eat and celebrate Jane's birthday.
We get up at 6am and eat Don's pankokes. As usual they are delicious. Don packs the car and adds a short platform onto the trailer hitch for an extra bag. Unfortunately when in reverse this fires a sensor which means the car is about to reverse into something. We set off on Express Tollway 407 westwards. In Canada the road numbering is the opposite to the US. Odd numbered roads go East-West and even numbered roads run North-South. Golden rod is everywhere on the borders of the road as we make our way to Sarnia and the Canada/USA border. At the Canadian side we stop to find out if we can reclaim the tax on the goods we have bought but are out of luck. On the other side of the river at the American border post all four of us are ushered into the immigration office so that we can be checked out. The car keys are removed from us. How do we know the Pankos? What is the name of the hotel in Colorado Springs? The young lady is very pleasant and has a sense of humour. Our passports are stamped and we can stay till 7 December. The ladies want to go to the washroom in the building so the men have to wait for them as all four of us have to leave the building at the same time. We return to the car and start the American part of our journey. Don refers to the Sat Nav as 'the GPS'. Graham prefers the name 'Brenda' and starts to converse with her. Their is a lot of construction work and we find we are going to Detroit so we retrace our route and get on to the interstate to Flint. At Lansing we get off and have a very inexpensive but good three course meal in a Bob Evans. We fill the car up at a BP gas station and make our way to the outskirts of Chicago. Just to the west is the town of Elgin. We stop at a Courtyard Marriot and are told it is full. Apparently there are large conferences taking part in Chicago. We make our way to Rockford. Once again the Courtyard Marriot is full. Vikki, the receptionist, phones around other hotels but they are all full. At last she tries the Holiday Inn Express and we reserve two rooms. We drive up Bell School Road and eventually arrive at our destination. It turns out that they now have only one room left. Thank you, Vikki. There are no catering facilities so Jane and Graham walk to the gas station and purchase two Subway rolls and drinks which we take to our rooms on the fourth floor. We have gained an hour. We are now 6 hours behind UK time. It is now 8pm. Don has driven 993 km today.
We meet in the breakfast room at 7am and eat cereals, fruit, an omelette, mushrooms in a cream sauce. After loading the car and filling up the drink containers with hot drinks we set off in the rain. The temperature is 20C. It had poured down during the night. We get back onto I-90 and pay $1.50 in tolls every few miles until we leave Illinois. We enter Wisconsin and stop at a rest area to use the washrooms. The rain has stopped. We journeyed on and got off I-90 at La Crosse to look for an old paddle steamer which takes tourists on the upper stretches of the Mississippi. Amazingly the Mississipi starts a few miles South of Lake Superior and flows South to the Gulf of Mexico. We cross the river and climb up to a plateau and enter Minnesota. At St Charles we stop at a gas station which has an Amish shop. The wind is blowing and it is now only 12C. The shop has interesting bits on sale such as books on tractors, interestingly scented candles (Monkey Farts or New Mown Lawn), pop-up wooden baskets made from a single piece of wood. We decide not to have lunch and eat fruit in the car instead. We pass Rochester where Graham once went to IBM in the winter. We continue on across southern Minnesota where there a lots of wind farms and corn farms. Just before we reached Sioux Falls Don declared that we should eat in Sioux Falls and lodge in Mitchell. Following last night's problems we used Don's sat nav to find a hotel in Mtchell. We plump for the Hampton Inn because Jane has a Hilton Hotels loyalty card which she can use there. Having reserved two rooms we make our way to a Red Lobster restaurant on the edge of Sioux Falls for an early evening meal at 4:30pm. After an altercation with a glass of wine which splashes Slava's fleece, the waiter provides Slava with a glass of soda water to get out the wine stains and Graham with another glass of wine. The wine spillage was not of Graham's making. All of us are given a new set of clean napkins. This incident is followed by a pleasant all inclusive 3 course meal. When we leave the restaurant is nearly full. We drive 33 miles across the prairies to Mitchell and find the Hampton Inn just off i-90. By now it is 7pm and time to retire to our rooms. Don has driven 895 km today.
We are up early as there is far to travel. We have breakfast at 6am would you believe. We reserve two rooms in Gillette for tonight. We learn that it is snowing at Rapid City. Shortly after we leave it starts to shower. We drive west through more prairies - just corn or cattle. On and on we drive till we come to Chamberlain on the Missouri River. We cross the river and the landscape changes to become more undulating. We have also crossed into the Mountain time zone. We come across a visitor centre near Murdo and it is suggested we take a side trip to the Badlands. Flags are flying at half-mast. It is in memory of 9/11 (2001). We leave i-90 at exit 131. Exit 131 is 131 miles from the western border of the state. We fill up with gas and pay $15 to enter the Badlands National Park. We stop at various places to admire the views and the fascinating rock formations along route 240. Lots of photos are taken despite it trying hard to drizzle. We go under I-90 and enter the town of Wall where we visit Wall Drug (more...) which has been heavily advertised on the side of the I-90. We eat their signature dish called 'Legendary Beef sandwich and mash potato and gravy'. We eat it in a picture gallery and wash it down with 5c coffee. It was the worst meal we have had. We return to the car and make our way to Mount Rushmore. It is snowing. We reach the Mount Rushmore entrance and are told that the monumental sculptures are not visible so we do not pay $11 to see them and return to Rapid City in the snow. We rejoin I-90 and cross the state border into Wyoming. We go to a visitor centre to use the rest room. It has free wifi. We learn that two sheep have died at home poisoned by laurel left on the bonfire. At the centre there is an exhibition. Wyoming is one of the smallest states but provides 40% of the energy used by the USA mainly from open cast coal mining. Long trains transport the coal. We find the Hampton Inn in Gillette and then dine at Jordans in the town. Jane and Graham have tasty bison stakes while Don and Slava share elk medallions. These turn out to be very chewy and are replaced with a tender bison stake. We return to the hotel and retire. We are now 7 hours behind UK time. Don has driven 730 km today.
We get up for 6am and have breakfast. We have a FaceTime chat with Emma about the dead sheep. We leave about 7am. It has stopped snowing but snow is everywhere. We get back onto I-90 and motor west and north to Sheridan. At Sheridan we go into a Visitor Center to check what the weather is like in Yellowstone Park. It is going to be better than in Sheridan - sunny and not too cold. We return to I-90 and enter a bank of fog. At Ranchester we turn off the I-90 to make our way to the park. We climb up and up among the snow clad hills and eventually we go down to Greybull via some amazing clff formations. The snow has disappeared. Don drives us through Cody (dedicated to Buffalo Bill) and to the East entrance to the park. We pay the $25 fee and use the primitive restrooms. The sky is clear blue and cloudless. It looks like the trees have been burnt down but they have been attacked by the pine bark beetle. It is now 1pm. We stop at the Visitor Center at Fishing Bridges and learn that Old Faithful (more...) will be performing at 4:30pm or there abouts. We stop at Mud Volcano and walk along the boardwalks and sniff the sulphurous fumes. Next we visit the Sulphur Cauldron to take in more fumes. We decide to go to Old Faithful, watch the show and then visit other interesting sites afterwards. On the way we see herds of bison and a male elk. We stop to allow a bison to walk down the middle of the road. We get to Old Faithful and take our seat. Don finds out that the next performance will be at 4:37pm /- 10 minutes. We have twenty minutes to wait and spend it bantering with the natives who have travelled from Virginia and Kansas to witness the spectacle. The performance is good though not as good as at Rotorua. Show video ...We return to the car and make our way to the Fountain Paintpots where we walk half a mile and admire the fumes and various coloured bubblings. We decide we should eat at Fishing Bridge so we make our way back. There are several hold ups to view bison and deer but one is to view a coyote mauling a rabbit. There is nowhere to eat at Fishing Bridges but there is a store about to close down - it is now 7pm. We buy some snacks and Don drives us to Cody where we book into an expensive Best Western. We say goodnight to Don and Slava and go and have a small meal in the restaurant. It has been a hectic and long day but well worth every minute of it. Don has driven 845 km today.
We have a poor buffet breakfast at 7am and leave at 8:15am. There is no ad lib juice and coffee. It is cold but the sky is clear. We drive to Thermopolis through sagebrush grassland and see many pronghorn antelope (more...). At Thermopolis we check out the washrooms of Macdonalds. South of Thermopolis we enter Wind River Canyon which is very picturesque. After leaving the canyon we reenter the sagebrush grassland which stretches for as far as the eye can see and contains no trees. We see the occasional nodding donkey (Canadian: Rocking horse aka 'well head pump'). We join the I-25 at Casper. We stop at Wheatland and have lunch in the Western Sky's family diner. We all have salads. The waitress suggests that at Denver we should take the clockwise tollway. We do and it is very quiet and completely avoids Denver. The Pankos are expecting a bill as the toll will be collected using licence plate recognition. We are uncertain as to whether the recognition was successful. We arrive at the Quality Inn in Colorado Springs very shortly after 6pm and are greeted by Yaap and Roeline. All six of us go out for an evening meal at a Mexican restaurant called the Sonterra. The food is good and we return to our rooms at 9:45pm. Don has driven 893 km today. We are now 4356 km from Markham via Old Faithful and admire Don's tenacity and concentration during the average of 871 km per day.
We have a late breakfast for us on this holiday at 8am. There are no long journeys today. We return to our room on the fourth floor and do very little. Graham walks to the nearby 7/11 to get some cranberry juice for Jane. At 12:30 we meet Yaap and Roeline in reception and are driven to Manitou Springs, about 5 minutes away. There we have caesar salad for lunch sitting outside on the patio of the Townhouse Lounge restaurant (more...). Jaap has buffalo wings. We then visit the Manitou Cliff Dwellings and its museum (more...). Since AD 1100 families have been liviving here. It was opened to public viewing in 1907. It wsa very interesting if not a bit cramped for anyone living in the homes. We return to our room for a siesta. At 6:50pm we are driven to the Sunbird Restaurant where we have our first reunion meal overlooking the city of Colorado Springs. After the starters Eva joins us. She has just flown for 18 hours into Colorado Springs from Vienna via Washington. We have excellent prime rib. We return to our room just after 10pm.
At 9:30am we are driven to the Colorado Fine Arts Centre but we arrive too early as it is does not open till 10:00am. We each pay $20 - no old age concessions here. A group photo is taken. The first room contains 'tactile' exhibits all of which can be touched. We wander around the galleries admiring the photography of Laura Gilpin and then all the bead work put into the North American Indian clothing. We then enter the special exhibition of glasswork created by Dale Chihuly (more...). On the second level are various interesting modern exhibits including one of a mass of paper umbrellas, like giant cocktail sticks, suspended from the ceiing (more...). In the coffee shop we watch a fascinating DVD about the making of the glass sculptures (more...) and (more...). We leave and make our way in three cars to Old Colorado City and have lunch in Bon Ton's restaurant. We eat outside. After lunch we go for a stroll along the street. We get back into Don's freshly cleaned BMW and are driven to the Garden of the Gods. We stop first at the balanced rock and then make our way to the north car park where Don lends us all a recycled hockey stick turned into a walking stick. We start to walk around the very large sandstone outcrops. In the middle of a short circular wall we test for an echo. There is one. We continue to walk. Jane spots a blue jay. We return to the car and are talken to the Welcome Center where we hope to see a film about how the rocks were formed. Alas we are too late so we return to the hotel for a short break. We meet at 6:45pm and are driven to some garage parking close to where we are going to eat. We walk to the Ritz Grill and have a long table with 10 seats at the front of the restaurant. Most of us have rib-eye steaks at $15 each as it is the special of the day. After we have eaten we look outside to see two police women tring hard to handcuff a young man with a rucksack. Eventually they wrestle him to the ground and call for back up. Soon two police cars arrive with sirens blaring. They help get the suspect into the car and drive off. We return to our hotel at about 9:30pm.
At 9:15am we are driven to the Cog Railway station at Manitou Springs. We are a little early but at 10:40am we board the train and Jaap gives us our tickets. It takes 90 minutes for the longest cog railway in the world to climb up to the 14,115 foot summit of Pike's Peak (more...). On the way up we see yellow-bellied marmots and bristlecone pines. At the top we take lots of photos. We can see into 5 states from the top which is Colorado's 31st tallest mountain (webcam...). Some have bought small spray cans of peppermint flavoured oxygen. We discover that the top is reasonably flat and there is a road up to the top (more...). We start the descent at 12:30pm. It is 54F at the top. On the way down we see longhorn sheep. A lot of people are asleep. At the bottom we drive to the Garden of the Gods visitor center as some wish to see the movie about the garden's creation which we were too late to see yesterday. It is not being shown today because the bulb in the projector has broken. We have coffee and return to our hotel. It is now 80F. At 7pm we eat next door to the hotel at Chick-fil-A (more...). We have chicken salads and cokes and get change from $20. The person who takes our order at the counter has set up a business in Xinging, the capital of Qinghai province in China. He is American and is back for a year with his wife and family. It is a bit of a mystery to us as to why he is here. The salads are very good.
We take it easy till 11:30 am when we all meet to drive to Cañon City. It is an hour's drive away. Our destination is 2315 East Main Street where we park and enter the Colorado Jeep Tours (more...) reception and shop. We sign our indemnity papers and give Bill and Joan's daughter as the emergency telephone number. Our guide is Will. Another couple from our hotel are also taking the tour. Don and Slava join them so that the rest of us have more room in our ten-seater Jeep. We set off and learn that there are 14 prisons in or close to the city (more...). We drive by some interesting properties including the Peabody House which has changed hands as betting debt settlement. We visit the Greenwood Cemetery where inmates are buried on Woodpecker Hill. We go onto a gravel track and meander over the terrain until we arrive at an area close to the Royal Gorge Bridge where we stop and have a chance to view the scenery of the gorge (more...). We cross the bridge slowly as there is a big tractor coming towards us. Once over we go off road again and ascend Fremont Peak. Here we meet the other Jeep. After the peak we descend and go on the Skyline Drive (more...). We stop to admire a dinosaur's foot print and then to see trees laid out as 1924 across the valley. We return to our starting point and say goodbye to Lynn who will take 4 hours to drive back to her home in Sante Fe. The rest of us return to our hotel. At 6:30pm we drive to the Mona Lisa fondue restaurant in Manitou Springs (more...). We have a salad, several cheese fondues, a wild game fondue followed by a chocolate fondue. We are stuffed! We say goodbye to Eva and Joan and Bill who are leaving early tomorrow morning. Don drives us back to the hotel and we say goodbye and a very big thank you to them. We will have breakfast with Jaap and Roeline tomorrow.
We have breakfast with Jaap and Roeline. At 10am we try and load Jaap's rented Chrysler 300 but the boot is small and only takes their two cases and our smaller bags but there is not room for our two cases. We need to use the shuttle bus. Ah wait! If the cases are put side by side upright in the middle of the back seat we can sit belted up and everyone is happy. We ask Reggie in reception where we could have lunch and he suggests Arapahoe Road in Denver. The sat nav is set to find this address. We are driven north to the mile-high city. The official elavation of Denver is 5280 feet which is exactly one mile. That's why its called 'mile-high city'. It is roughly a thousand feet lower than Colorado Springs. We reach Denver about 11:30am and we start driving along Arapahoe Road, in and out of shopping areas. At last we find the Elephant Bar and Restaurant and enter it. Jane has a plate of sushi. Roeline has green salad with fruit. Jaap has cajun chicken whilst Graham has a cobb salad. At about 1pm we leave and drive to the airport where we are dropped. We say our goodbyes and thank Jaap for his wonderful, flawless organisation of the reunion. Jaap and Roeline are staying in a hotel close to the airport tonight and will fly to Washington tomorrow to visit their son. We find the BA checking area and sit and wait till they open at 3pm. We check in our bags and are left with our hand luggage including Don's walking sticks made from old ice-hockey sticks. We make our way to gate A37 and find a seat near a power point. We wait till 8:15pm until we can board the Boeing 777. It is full. We have two seats in the middle in row 34. Graham sits next to a young Italian lady who has been touring with 3 others in a car visiting some of the places in Wyoming and South Dakota where we went. The flight lasts 8 and a bit hours. We are met at Heathrow by Bill who whisks us off in our car to meet Mary who has been waiting in small commercial area near the airport. We thank them and return home, arriving at 3pm to an empty house. Emma returns shortly after.
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