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"Summer is the time when one sheds one's tensions with one's clothes, 
and the right kind of day is bejeweled balm for a battered spirit. A few of those days
 and you can become drunk with the belief that all's well with the world."
~ Ada Louise Huxtable
This is our last morning at the USAF Academy. We've spent sixteen enjoyable days in one of our very favorite campgrounds in one of our very favorite areas of the Rockies.

Although not all is well with the world (far from it!) just being here has calmed our spirits.

Bluebird of happiness??  Saw this fella out my window this morning . . .

This entry covers a hodgepodge of activities and observations during our time in Colorado Springs. I took all these photos either in the campground or nearby on the Academy grounds in recent days.


Each time we've camped at Peregrine Pines there have been several other Cameo or Carri-Lite 5th-wheel coaches here. For some reason we see them more routinely at military installations than in public campgrounds or when we're boondocking. We rarely stay at private campgrounds; most owners of Carriage RVs probably stay there since they are marketed as "resort vehicles."

We obviously didn't get ours to stay at resorts! You know that if you've read much about our travel adventures.

We got the Cameo because it is supposed to be built and warranted for full-time use. We're very pleased with our rolling residence, especially with how comfortable and handsome it is.

Our comfy little home in the pines since July 18

When we got to Peregrine Pines I noted on my first walk around the campground that there were four other Carriage 5ers in the campground.

That's typical behavior for RV owners looking for something in common with their neighbors, plus it helps when we can find out what problems other Carriage owners have had with their units and how they resolved them. One thing you can be certain of with any RV, be it a pop-up trailer or $500,000 motor home -- there will be some problems with it and the more you know about preventing and fixing them, the better off your wallet (and sanity) will be.

Forewarned is fore-armed and all that . . .

Anyway, with the campground about 90% full when we arrived I was happy to count three other Cameos and one Carri-Lite in our loop the first evening.

I talked with one of the owners while I was riding my bike. He and his wife are teachers from Florida, almost our age but not retiring for another two years. They have a 2008 35SB3 (our model but two years older) and have had similar problems with it as we have.

I said hi to another couple from Oklahoma in a different 2010 model. It's easy to spot Cameo models built in 2010 and 2011 because they have the Big Foot leveling system. There’s also a 2011 coach like it with South Dakota tags and an older Carri-Lite with Texas tags.

We've talked several times with the couple several sites away from us that has a 38-foot Cameo. Their names are Paul and Paula, like in the popular '60s song ("Hey, Paul . . . Hey, Paula"). They are full-timers registered in South Dakota.

We have other things in common with them, too. For example, they have a black Lab that looks a lot like Cody. They have a house in Massachusetts they rent out because they'd lose too much money if they tried to sell it (we don't rent ours but we'd also like to sell).

Paul and Paula had lots of questions since they are fairly new full-timers. We also learned some new things from them. That's how it always goes.

When we talked with the Carri-Lite couple we learned they have a house in Texas but, like us, are on the road about 10 months of the year. David was in the Air Force and stationed at the facility on Apple Orchard Mountain in Virginia in the 1960s. The couple lived in Bedford while he was there. Both the mountain and the town of Bedford are near our house.

A couple other folks with Cameos and Carri-Lites that came in later left before we had a chance to talk with them. Carriage owners kept rotating in and out while we were here. There have been four or five of us at any one time.


One Saturday we had a bit of a surprise when we got back to our site – there was an identical Cameo next to us!

That spot was empty the first week. As full as the campground has been we figured someone would come in over the weekend.

The site is fairly short and close to our back end. The camper faced the other direction but it still looked like a mirror image to our rig. It's also a 35SB3 but a year newer than ours. That made having close neighbors more palatable for the days they were there.

Seeing double; we're on the left  (note the storm clouds).

I was walking Cody back when I saw an older couple get out of the truck in front of the Twin Cameo. I went over and said, “Nice rig!” and let them know we were in the other Cameo next to theirs. They were as surprised to see our camper when they were assigned to that spot as we were to come home to find them.

The couple’s names are Dick and Kay. They are in their late 70s. Dick was having trouble with his rear Big Foot levelers so I encouraged Jim to go over and see if he could help him figure out the problem. Dick’s had the rig for several months but has used it only three times. He and Kay live just  65 miles away. Most of their kids and grandkids live in the COS area.

The couple used to have a house in Fairfax County, VA, and they miss it; they are familiar with the Roanoke area, about 15 miles from the location of our house. Dick was an air traffic controller in ‘Nam when Jim was there . . .

Needless to say, we found lots of things to talk about while they were parked next to us, not just about RVs and traveling.

View of the Twin Cameos from the other side; now we're on the right.

Jim printed off some information for Dick from the Big Foot website and Dick gave us some duplicate booklets he got from his dealer. We talked about the trips they've taken to Alaska and discussed camping at other military campgrounds, Texas state parks, and various boon-docking sites (National Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, etc.).

They also loaned us a copy of a 2010 issue of Trailer Life to read about Slab City, a free boondocking area in southern California at an abandoned Army post. "Slab" refers to the old concrete foundations the RVs sit on. We've heard about the place but this article gave us more detailed information.

Sounds like it's right out of the Flower Power era, ranging the gamut from jobless free spirits in dilapidated VW vans to wealthy retirees in classy motorhomes. It's a curiosity we'd like to see but we're not sure we want to camp there.


Last Friday we came back to the camper after a morning of exercise at Red Rock Canyon and saw Paul and Paula’s Cameo in a spot about 200 feet across the road from us. They extended their reservation but someone else was booked in the site they've been occupying for three weeks so they had to move to another site.

Instead of just the “Twins,” we had “Cameo Corner" for a few hours:

That's us (L) and our twin on one side of the road . . .

. . . and that's Paul's/Paula's Cameo (R) on the other side of the road
(we're to the left and out of this shot).

That didn't last long; Dick and Kay in the "twin" left the same afternoon.

We'll miss them; they were good neighbors. Besides Paul/Paula's Cameo and ours, there are still two Carri-Lites at Peregrine Pines carrying on the Carriage tradition. (OK, one Cameo after we pull out today.)

By the way, we don't just mingle with folks who have the same brand of RV that we do! There are all kinds of interesting folks at military campgrounds and we talk with a lot of them when they're outside their campers. It's remarkable how many things we can find in common with them.


Since we usually have a pretty strong, free WiFi signal here, we’ve been online a lot at the Academy. Good thing, with all the travel research we've been doing to modify our summer/fall schedule.

I’ve also used it as an opportunity to read the Wandering Wishnies’ Alaska trip journal from 2008. Fred and Jo Wishnie are Cameo owners who sometimes post to the Carriage internet forum. Their blog entries are entertaining and detailed; I’m taking hand-written notes from their Alaska journal about routes, camping sites, and things to see and do that I think would be useful on our trip next summer. We have a lot to learn since we've never been up there before.

When I’m done with their journal I’ll read some more recent Alaska blogs I've found that were written by Cameo owners and folks with other RVs. I'm more interested in where they've camped than what they've seen, which is why I'm focusing right now on people who have visited Alaska with 5th-wheels or motorhomes.

I’m ‘way behind on our journal, but I’ll get cracking on it soon . . . one of many reasons why I get so far behind. Life just won't stand still!

When we first got here Jim ordered two books from Amazon for the Alaska trip. They arrived in a few days and we've started reading them, too. (We also have the detailed DeLorme Alaskan atlas to help us locate things.)

One is the book that everyone recommends for folks traveling to Alaska by RV or other vehicle, The Milepost Alaska Travel Planner. Updated annually, it includes mile-by-mile highway information through Alberta, British Columbia, Yukon Territory, Northwest Territory, and Alaska. We got the 2011 edition, which should suffice for our 2012 trip.

We also got The Traveler's Guide to Alaskan (and Yukon) Camping by Mike and Terri Church, which is also regularly updated. It includes information about boondocking as well as public and private campgrounds.

Both books also have a wealth of information about things to do and see in Alaska and on the way there.

We've got a lot to digest about Alaska and the parts of Canada we'll be passing through. In addition to all of our reading and internet research, we also pick everyone's brain when we discover they have been there. We've already forgotten more than we remember, but it'll all come together in time.

We're more excited about next summer's plans than we are about this winter's plans! Our summer trips in the mountains are always more enjoyable than our winter trips to the Southwest.


Mountains have their disadvantages sometimes, however.

Colorado is known for its sometimes-violent summer thunderstorms during "monsoon" season in July and August. We have heard the very loud warnings issued by the Academy to everyone on campus several times in the last two weeks.

We've had some gully-washers, too -- heavy, very localized rain, lightning, and wind gusts. We haven't gotten any hail but that's always a possibility, too. We've heard about flash flooding in the Pike's Peak region twice, including yesterday after three to four inches of rain fell in the afternoon and evening.

Several downtown Colorado Springs streets were flooded last night but I don't think we'll run into any problems with them when we leave town today.

Too many clouds to see Pike's Peak from the Academy on this afternoon

Our weather has been considerably hotter than it was in Silverton but not as bad as it was when we went to Ohio for the funeral. Colorado is also affected by the heat wave that's blanketed most of the country in recent weeks.

At least it's a dry heat here. People joke about that, but when you compare it with the humidity east of the Mississippi, you definitely notice the difference.

Jim and I make sure we get out early in the morning to hike and ride to beat both the heat and the storms, which are most likely to occur in the afternoon and early evening.

We often ride by the Air Force Stadium on our bikes but we do it when the weather's nice.

Daytime temperatures have been in the 80s and 90s F. just about every day. Many evenings we're able to walk or ride around the campground when the temperature cools off. It's typically in the low 60s F. in the morning when we get up. Since we have full hook-ups we've used the AC several times. We haven't had to use the furnace or space heater while we've been here.

Now we're headed for Leadville, elevation 10,200 feet (3,500 feet higher than this campground). We'll be more likely to need heat than AC there.


I just read on the ultra list July 30 that Jennifer Pharr Davis would set a new AT speed record the next day. She improved on her own previous women’s record by 10 days and beat the men’s record time by about 7 hours. Good job, Jennifer!!

I wish I’d known about this when she began 46 days earlier so I could have read her husband’s journal more in “real time.” I am reading it now.


In addition to lots of hiking and bike riding, getting Jim's new bike and fixing mine, visiting with folks in the campground, figuring out our summer/fall itinerary, and doing lots of stuff at our computers -- topics I've already written about -- we've done lots of other things to stay busy while we've been here.

Housekeeping chores, camper and truck maintenance, errands, shopping, TV, reading, and stressing about our latest mail package have also kept us occupied.

We finally got the mail, which took much longer to get to us than usual via the USPS -- this, during the week when the Postal Service announced it wants to close a tenth of its offices around the country, which will further delay the mail but is supposed to help make the business more profitable.

Call me paranoid but I'm wondering if some disgruntled postal worker somewhere between our mailing service in Rapid City and the post office at the USAF Academy -- not such a great distance -- deliberately held up our mail so it took an unreasonable length of time to reach us. More likely it was just plain carelessness or lack of pride in a job well done. The tracking information was pretty useless, too. The package just disappeared for several days. Blip, gone.

It should not take seven days for a flats priority package to travel only three states!! (It usually takes only two or three days.)

Jim rides his bike on the New Santa Fe Trail through the Academy; it's a great place to de-stress.

That's just one of the stressors we've had recently.

There has also been the truck engine trouble, a warning that two of our rather new truck tires aren't wearing properly, agonizingly slow and complicated TriCare claims (our secondary health insurance) that require constant monitoring and phone calls, and Congressional gridlock** that is further depressing the stock and housing markets.

**Unless you never listen to or read the news you probably know that the House and Senate waited until the last possible day recently to vote on the national debt ceiling. Now they’ll be in recess for about a month, leaving plenty of other important business un-done. The stock exchanges took a big dive, in addition to all their other recent losses.

I was hoping the financial markets would do better after the current debt limit crisis was over. Now I don’t think the debt crisis will ever be over in my lifetime. Pity all you younger folks who may be affected by it even more than Jim and I will be.

There's always something big or little to stress us out.

Most things have gone well here, however.

We had lunch at Thai Basil twice in two weeks. Both times we each ordered an extra meal to take home, a thrifty trick we learned last year at this restaurant. Even their lunch-sized portions are large. Four entrees at $6.50 and $6.75 each = $26.50 + tax make a total of eight yummy servings (four meals each) for us. Times two = eight yummy meals each from Thai Basil in sixteen days.

Yeah, we like Thai food!


We've patronized the nearby Walmart, Sam's Club, REI, Whole Foods, Home Depot, Petsmart, the BX, and bike and auto shops several times. Yesterday we really loaded up on groceries and supplies because we won't be close to any big box stores for several weeks while we're at Kenosha Pass and Leadville.

I got my hair permed again at the Stylique Salon near the BX on the Academy grounds; the woman who did it last summer is still there so I made my appointment with her. I'm pleased with the results. Getting my hair permed by a different hairdresser every three months is a little scary!

Jim changed the oil in the truck at the Academy’s auto "hobby" shop and got the tires rotated free at Sam’s Club. He saves us a lot of money by doing almost all of the maintenance and repairs on our vehicles, camper, and house himself.

The day he got the tires rotated he also drove down to Fort Carson. He simply reported that it's huge. He prefers camping at the Academy, which also has spacious grounds but seems less hectic.

I've finished reading two books while we've been here. Both are dog books that Jim ordered but hasn't read yet.

One Good Dog by Susan Wilson is a pretty good book about second chances. The information about the main character, Adam March, is in the third person. The dog, Chance, speaks for himself, kind of like Enzo in The Art of Racing in the Rain. I liked Racing better, though; the man and dog were more likable!

The other novel, A Dog’s Purpose by W. Bruce Cameron, chronicles the multiple lives of one dog that keeps reincarnating into different dogs to serve the needs of different people each time he comes back to life. It's another interesting dog's-eye perspective on relationships. I enjoyed it the most of these three novels. I found myself laughing out loud at times, and crying at others. You can read more about Purpose here.

Like many novels, all three of these have heart-wrenching moments but each ends well.

Next entry: a super-scenic drive through the Rockies.

Happy trails,

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

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© 2011 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil