2010 RUNNING & TRAVEL ADVENTURES

 

   
 
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   COLORADO SPRINGS, TAKE TWO:
BACK @ THE USAF ACADEMY

WEDNESDAY, JULY 21

 
"Wherever you go, no matter what the weather, always bring your own sunshine."
~ Anthony J. D'Anjelo
 
 
We had so doggone much fun in Colorado Springs at the end of spring that we decided to come back for another couple weeks at the U.S. Air Force Academy's family campground! I still have a bunch of things on my wish list that we didn't do in May -- climbing up Pike's Peak, exploring more of the open space parks, visiting the wolf center, touring Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument, seeing some museums, etc.


Golf, anyone? The Falcon multi-use trail loop passes by the scenic golf course.

In this entry I'll talk about what we've been up to the last four days. Photos are from the Peregrine Pines campground and the Falcon Loop trail.

Let's start with some travel and campground information for fellow RVers:

KENOSHA PASS → THE USAF ACADEMY

We left Kenosha Pass on Sunday morning and drove 110 miles east on US 285, south and east on I-470, and south on I-25. Traffic was moderate and moving at or above the speed limit. All the roads were good, with no time lost to road construction since it was Sunday.

There are two entrances off I-25 to the Academy: exit 156 at the north end of the base and exit 150 at the south end. If you're driving an RV or towing a trailer longer than about 25 feet it's much easier to go in the south gate (exit 150). The barricades at the north entrance are difficult for larger campers to negotiate. It's fine to go OUT either gate, however -- there aren't as many sharp turns and curbs on that side.


View from one of the ridge trails

Entry to the Academy is pretty quick and easy. Both entrances are well-guarded but since so many non-military folks visit the grounds to use the trails, visit the museum, attend sporting events and graduation, etc., all you really need to get in is a valid driver's license or other accepted picture ID and proof of insurance on your vehicle. We got through each time with just our military IDs.

Don't assume you'll just breeze through, however. Even local cyclists riding in on their bikes have to show their identity and we have seen some vehicles being searched by the guards. [Note that in all the military installations we've entered since 9-11 with an RV, only one place -- the AFB near White Sands, NM -- has ever searched our vehicle or camper.]

PEREGRINE PINES FAMILY CAMPGROUND

The FamCamp is located closer to the north gate than the south gate so we had to drive three or four miles on base to reach it from exit 150. Compared to other military installations, this campground is very easy to find, as is everything else on campus.

It would be nice if every base/post had such good maps. In a few places with no maps the guards haven't even been able to give us good verbal directions to find the campground and it's not always possible to plug the address into a GPS.

Most of the flowers blooming now are different than the ones we saw in May.

When we checked in at the campground office we were delighted to be assigned to the site closest to it in the east loop. It's one of the best of the 100+ sites in the whole campground, one we admired when we were here in May-June in the west loop (the two sites are kitty-corner across the road from each other).

Since folks can't choose which site they'll get at the FamCamp, we totally lucked out. About the only things you can specify when making reservations are the size of your camper, preferred amperage (30- or 50-amp service), pull-through or back-in, and which of the two loops you'd like. The west loop is farther from the train tracks but generally has smaller sites.


We have a nice big "yard" at this site, although the driveway on the other side is fairly close.

In our current site we also get to play "gatekeeper" again! We can see RVs when they check in at the office and everyone on this elongated, multiple loop has to enter and leave on either side of our site. And since we're close to the little road that bisects the two campground loops, we can also see who's going in and out of the other loop.

Oh, dear, this is gonna keep us busy!  < wink  >

We like this site even better than the one we had across the road in May. It's much larger = farther from our closest neighbors, pull-through instead of back-in, mostly treed, and as close to the entrance as anyone can get. We are still close to a laundry room and garbage bins. We have full hook-ups, including sewer and 50-amp electrical service. Last time we had a 30-amp site and that was OK for the cooler late springtime temperatures we usually had at 6,670 feet elevation. July is much warmer, however, and we'll need 50 amps if we want to run one or both of our air conditioners.


There is a playground, another campground loop, and lots of wooded and open space across the road.

After camping at Silverton and Kenosha Pass for the last month with no hookups or TV reception, and no phone and internet connections at Kenosha for the past week, we are real happy to have all that and more for a couple weeks -- and so many services either on base or nearby. The nearby WiFi tower has also been beefed up since we were here before, so our internet reception has been great in the camper.

The summer rate is very reasonable, just $20/night for active duty and retired military personnel. There are no weekly or monthly rates. Visitors may stay for only a maximum of thirty days between April and October but they can hunker down as long as they want from November to March (gotta love snow to do that). When we leave the campground in early August we'll still have three or four days left of our 30-day limit. We might come back a third time in September or October.

Can you tell that we love this place?? We highly recommend it if you're in the military or a military retiree. But make reservations in advance, because Peregrine Pines stays pretty full in the warm months. There are very few empty spots right now, and it's not even a holiday or graduation week.

 

 

In our walks around the campground we've discovered two other Cameo 5th-wheel coaches that are owned by different people than the ones we saw here in May. Jim has already talked with both couples about their rigs, which are a little older than ours. He can learn a lot from problems other owners have had and share information about fixes and modifications he's made, such as the solar installation. He did a great job on that and it's working fine.

I wrote extensively in the May 25 entry about the FamCamp and the USAF Academy. I won't repeat any more of that here except to show you new photos and talk about the runs and hikes we'll do on the fabulous trails on campus.

HOW WE'VE BEEN AMUSING OURSELVES THE LAST FOUR DAYS

Jim has recovered quite fast from the North Fork 50-mile trail race that he ran on Saturday. That's the good part of taking 14 hours to do it! Although he described himself as "hammered" the evening of the race, he took only one day off from training afterwards. Today he ran/walked the hilly 13-mile Falcon Loop on base at a 13+ minute/mile pace.

We were both pretty lazy on Sunday, after getting up so early Saturday morning and being on our feet for so many hours at the race. We got up late that morning, drove two hours to Colorado Springs, and spent a lazy afternoon around the campground.


Much of the Falcon Trail is through pine forests.

Jim put up the hummingbird feeder, hoping to attract as many birds as we had at Kenosha Pass, then noticed in the written campground rules that no feeders are allowed because they attract bears! Oops. All the dumpsters in the campground have bear-proof locks on them, too.

Phooey. Oh well, maybe I'll get more done if I'm not distracted by hummers, too! I'm already several weeks behind in this journal . . .

We took the feeder down as soon as we realized it was verboten, then heard today that a bear damaged a cooler left outside someone's RV last night. The occupants heard the commotion and turned on the lights, which scared the bear off. Guess we've been lucky at all the places in Colorado where we've used the hummingbird feeder the last few years; this was the first we've heard about them attracting bears.

 

By Monday we were both on the Falcon Loop for an hour's run (Jim) and hike (Cody and me) out and back from the campground. Even at 7:30 - 8:30 AM, which is early for us to get out there, it felt hot in the sun. The temperature was 68 F. when we stopped and reached 90 on our shaded thermometer in the afternoon. The sandy trail and surrounding plant life are very dry. The area obviously needed some rain.

And we got it this week, too.


Low storm clouds obscure the mountains on Tuesday morning.

We were startled the first time a storm thunderstorm warning was VERY LOUDLY broadcast over the PA system on base. My first thought was that we were being attacked or something! We never heard such warnings back in May. For the last three days we've been notified when severe storms are either heading our way or are very close. We're going to have to choose which day(s) to climb Pike's Peak very carefully.

ALL HAIL BROKE LOOSE . . .

We lucked out on Monday with only some much-needed moderate rain in the afternoon but got hit with hard, drenching rain and some hail in the campground late Tuesday afternoon. There was quite a thunder-and-lightning show with it. After the storm passed Jim drove a couple miles to the BX and was surprised to see piles of marble-sized hail lying around that area of the base. I wish he'd had a camera with him.

That was a cloudy, dreary day. We knew storms were very likely so we stuck close to the campground in the morning, when rain was less likely, for an hour's run/hike on the Falcon Trail:


Smooth trail along the ridge above the cadet area; clouds on Tuesday
mostly hid the mountains in the background.

This morning (Wednesday) there were still some low-hanging clouds in the foothills in and near the Academy which made for some interesting views as we ran and hiked on the Falcon Trail again. We could see more blue sky today, however.

 

 

 

Jim ran all thirteen miles, taking about three hours to complete the hilly loop. Cody and I did about seven miles in an out-and-back hike that took over two hours. Only one of ten mountain bikers I encountered was a jerk; the rest were very courteous. This is a very popular cycling trail so we try to avoid it on weekends.

We've also been riding my road bike a few miles most days. There are probably thirty miles of paved roads on base but we probably won't ride all of them.


Lots of smooth dirt trails for running, hiking, and cycling

Jim rested after supper this evening while I took a pleasant seven-mile road bike ride around the cemetery and campus. It's still staying light quite late in the evening but the sun is hidden fairly early by the mountain ridges on the west side of the Academy. The temperature starts dropping after ~ 6 PM and there is also less traffic than during the daytime. It's my favorite time to ride on the roads.

When I returned to the camper I discovered we had a visitor: John Cassidy, a local ultra runner who reads our web journal. He knew we were in the Colorado Springs area in May when I wanted to climb Pike's Peak. He e-mailed us then and later we talked with him at the Bighorn and North Fork races. He's given us some great information about the trails on Pike's Peak, Williams Canyon, and the Rampart Range. We plan to explore all three while we're here this time.

Thanks for stopping by, John!

RIGHT AT HOME

I joked in May that I like camping at Peregrine Pines so much I wish we could just move in. Well, for the warmer months anyway.

I still feel that way. It's a beautiful campground and it is convenient to so many places. It was a treat to shop at Sam's Club after not seeing one for the last month. We've also been to WalMart a couple times already. I've discovered the world's best scrapbooking/archival store nearby, as well as a Whole Foods AKA "Whole Paycheck" store ('spensive stuff, so I don't get much there) and an REI (not so 'spensive and has lots of cool sporting goods).


Hang glider highlighted against today's interesting clouds (cadet flight practice)

I also spotted a Thai restaurant that we'll have to try one day at lunch; Thai is our favorite destination when we want to splurge a little and eat out. It's usually very inexpensive compared to other restaurants, and even more so at lunch. I'll have a report if we eat there.


Hang glider and tow plane silhouetted against the sky

It's a pleasure to have an inexpensive place to do our laundry, too. Laundry day can be a hassle some places, especially when we have as much accumulated as we did when we arrived here. This campground has two fairly small laundry rooms but they are very clean, the machines all work, and the price is definitely right (about half what we pay in commercial laundries). We can see our loop's laundry room from the camper. When we know it's empty, we take our baskets over and don't have to wait for machines.

Yesterday I got my hair permed at the Stylique Studio on base near the BX. Shirley-the-manager did a good job and for less than my hairdresser in Roanoke charges. It's always risky to get my hair permed by a stranger when we travel but I've usually had good luck in that regard. My hair grows so fast that I get perms every three months.

 


Early morning dew

Another thing keeping Jim busy is watching NetFlix movies. We found out how convenient NetFlix is for RVers when we were camp-hosting at Brazos Bend SP in Texas in March. The hosts we worked with loaned us a couple movies they'd gotten and raved about the service.

Jim joined this week and was able to watch several free movies on his computer before ordering one to be sent to the Academy. He laughed throughout "The Proposal" with Sandra Bullock and Betty White, so it must have been good. "Bucket List" should arrive in the mail tomorrow and he'll pick it up at the post office on base. I'll definitely watch that one because it features two of my favorite actors, Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson. It's gotta be good! After that we'll order "Blindside" and "Marley and Me." This is a treat for us because we haven't been to a movie theatre for years. We like movies, but not the hassle of going to a theatre to see one. As long as we watch several movies each month the NetFlix fee is very reasonable.


See the ants? Four or five are visible here (look behind two of the petals on the right).

We also got our mail delivered to us from our mailing service for the first time in about a month. Since we do almost all of our financial business and magazine reading on-line and have gone "paperless" as much as possible for various statements, medical EOBs, utility bills, etc., we don't get much paper mail. Our local post office in Virginia trashes all junk mail and forwards only first-class mail that comes to our house address to our mailing service in South Dakota. Most of the paper mail we still get goes directly to the mailing service address; it isn't screened but we don't get much junk mail from businesses in SD.

Going paperless isn't a good way to keep Jim's former employer (the USPS) in business but it makes things easier on us when we're gallivanting around the country.

SO MUCH TO DO . . .

It's good to be back in Colorado Springs. I have a long list of things I want to do while we're here this time. It's pretty much the same list I wrote when we left on June 2. Stay tuned!

Next entry: exploring trails at Red Rock Canyon

Happy trails,

Sue
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, and Cody the Ultra Lab

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2010 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil

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