DOWNSHIFTERS' DIARY: Oh, Colorado's Calling Me...

Heading south from Ft. Collins in the general director of Santa Fe, New Mexico, I couldn't seem to get a '70s song about the state out of my head.

No, it wasn't a John Denver song; it was a send-up of John Denver that was originally on National Lampoon's 1973 album Lemmings and also made its way on to their Greatest Hits album/CD. Written by Christopher Guest, various passages kept coming to me as we headed south on I-25.

The wind sang us a lullaby.
The snow was thick as cream.
And icicles were chandeliers
Like crystals in a dream.
And the streams were strips of diamonds
And the hills were white as snow
And a bear ate all our soybeans in the night.

The wind wasn't exactly singing us a lullaby; it was shoving us around rather vigorously as we headed down the highway, but you get the idea.

Armed with the AAA Tour Books that have quickly become valued traveling companions, my wife started checking out the things we should look into.

We decided we'd each seen enough of Denver's attractions when we visited there a few years ago but thought the Mint, which was closed to the public for a time after 9/11, might be interesting. However, on-line reservations for the tours were strongly recommended; walk-ups would be catch-as-catch-can. We passed and continued on toward Colorado Springs.

We'd both visited the U.S. Air Force Academy previously and, while it is an absolute must-see for those who haven't been, we chose instead to focus on sites we hadn't yet seen. In addition, the minimum two-hour time commitment recommended by the AAA Tour Book - which we both thought was reasonable - was more time that we wanted to devote.

Instead, as both of our fathers were into rocks and minerals, we spent about a half-hour at the Western Museum of Mining and Industry. We found the history of mining to be quite fascinating, as were many of the tools, machines, and minerals on display, such as those shown here.

Oh, Colorado's calling me ...
From her hillsides and her rivers
And her mesas and her trees.
When blizzards snap the power lines
And all the toilets freeze ...
In December in the Colorado Rockies.

Although it was April, it was freezing in some parts of the Rockies. We concluded that many outdoor attractions that we otherwise would have liked to see -- including Pikes Peak and the cog railway, the Flying V Ranch, Seven Falls, Cave of the Winds, Royal Gorge, and others -- would have to wait for warmer weather. In fact, our guidebook pointed out that some of these attractions didn't even open to the public until May or, in some cases, Memorial Day.

With indoor activities more the order of the day, we took a quick side trip to the Focus on the Family Welcome Center for a brief overview of the history of James Dobson and his organization.

We would have liked to see the American Numismatic Association Money Museum and the U.S. Olympic Complex, but didn't learn of them until we were well south of the city. There were many other indoor attractions that, for one reason or another, we chose not to visit. These included the World Figure Skating Museum and Hall of Fame and the ProRodeo Hall of Fame.

We had time and space and freedom,
We had love and peace to spare....

There was plenty of space south of Colorado Springs and it took a lot of time to traverse that space as we headed for New Mexico. Sure, there was the booming metropolis of Pueblo but by then, we were Running on Empty (I know, I know -- "ANOTHER '70s reference?" Sorry; couldn't help myself...) so grabbed a bite to eat and continued south.

Traversing the plains of southern Colorado gave us lots of time to talk about our observations. Clearly, there is a lot to see and do in Colorado, but the best time (unless it's winter sports you're seeking) is probably the summer months when weather wouldn't prove to be an impediment to the many outdoor activities the area has to offer.

They tell me I'll be cured soon,
Thawed, and ready to return ...
When it's April in the Colorado Rockies.

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Photos by Carl Dombek
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