Southwest Vacation – Part I

It’s that time of year again! Thankfully, this time we left a little earlier this year so I’d be less stressed out with the next school year looming. Like last year, however, we left in the early afternoon so that Brooke could put in a few hours of work and the rest of us could get the car loaded. We left a little later than Brooke wanted to, on account of me not being quite ready yet, but we were out the door around 12:30ish.

Of course, we made it past the Marshall Junction and I asked whether the new tablet holder (mounted on the passenger seat head rest above) worked, so Calvin was going to try it out…..only to find that he’d left his tablet on the counter at home…

Thus, we turned around, grabbed it, and left closer to a little after 1:00…..

The goal was to make it as far as we could, and if we were lucky, we’d hit Hays, KS. Luckily, we didn’t really hit any traffic in Kansas City, nor construction anywhere else. And Kansas is Kansas, so there isn’t much to see… We ended up pushing it all the way to Limon, CO, which would only leave us around 4.5 hours to reach our destination for the next few days!

We rolled into Limon after 9:00 pm MDT (which is 10:00 CDT….so the rest of the family was rather tired…), so we slept in a bit the next morning. After we grabbed breakfast, we headed toward Denver, looking for something to pass the time before hitting our destination for the night in Redstone, CO, which is on the other side of the Rocky Mountains.

My buddy, Waylon, works out in Colorado in the early summers, and given that Utah, doesn’t have the best beer selection, he recommended getting some on the other side of Denver. Near there, we found the Colorado Railroad Museum, which ended up being a pleasant surprise!

They have quite a few functional engines, as well as some that are being refurbished. The tours are run mostly by volunteers, all of whom seemed to really enjoy what they were doing. The gentleman pictured above was enthusiastic talking to the kids (and the adults……) about the differences between North American Morse Code and International Morse Code (there’s a difference?!), the history of those differences, and how the codes are mostly obsolete, but still used to this day by intelligence forces as they listen in on communications overseas.

There were quite a few things to see, some of which included relatively modern dining cars, or older refrigeration cars, or postal service cars. The engine pictured above featured a series of levers that had been attached to a sound simulation system (that used to cost $0.25, but the lady said they don’t charge anymore because no one carries change!). She gave direction on how to increase and decrease speed, ring the bell, and so forth. It was pretty neat!

They also have a “roundhouse” that puts engines under a roof for repair, and can then bring them out as needed (you know, like in Thomas the Tank Engine). They don’t actively pull trains out of it, but it was set up so that the kids could push the turntable around with a big, wooden lever. Calvin struggled a bit, but with a little help from the volunteer, they got the job done!

The park is geared toward children, but there were cool activities for the adults. There was a train ride that takes a trip around the grounds 3 times where passengers can ride in a late-1800s passenger car. They also had a series of miniatures, one of which was outside (with an example of the aforementioned Thomas the Tank Engine, naturally…). The model was cool, and featured some of the same buildings that were around the museum.

Down in the basement, they had a classic HO scale train set that was pretty intricate. There wasn’t a lot of interaction from the outside, but there was a ladder that could be slid along so kids could get a better view. It was pretty impressive, and reminded me of yet another hobby from my childhood (and before) that’s slowly disappearing.

After that adventure, it was time to cross the Rockies! Rather than taking the Eisenhower Tunnel on I-70, which we have taken quite a few times over the years, we decided to go the scenic route and take Loveland Pass. It wasn’t a particularly difficult journey or anything, though the two-lane roads following large trucks can be annoying. Really, it was the “uphill” that took longer, and after we’d stopped at the pass for a few pictures and starting heading down, we made good time.

As always, it’s fun to see so much snow when it’s late-May and you’re from Missouri! It may not look like it in this picture, but it was pretty chilly up there, which made us question the shorts-and-t-shirt wardrobe we’d chosen. We weren’t out there for very long, though!

We looked for a few abandoned gold mines to tour, as that’s the kind of activity both Brooke and I enjoyed from our childhoods, but the railroad museum had to suffice: the gold mine tours we found looked pretty “tourist-y” and not all that cheap for what would be an hour or two of time to kill. Next time, perhaps!

Onward to Redstone, CO!

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