Friday, March 29, 2013

Royal Gorge, Colorado

The same day we toured the craziness of Bishop's Castle, we also drove up to Royal Gorge. They're about an hour drive away from each other so it's really doable to push these two into the same day.

Winter is apparently not the "in-season" for Royal Gorge but it was still a great site to see. And we didn't have to fight many other tourists either. We didn't get there until late into the afternoon because we had been trodging around Bishop's Castle most of the morning. Unfortunately for us, things were already closing down for the day.

We took the ride (it's not really a ride but I can't think of the dern name of it) down the mountainside to the bottom of the Gorge, which has the river running through it. My sister says they did a white water rafting adventure when they first moved to Colorado several years ago. Apparently it was a good time so you should check it out if you go during the summer.

My beautiful sis and niece, JoJo and Rachel

As we were going down, I tried to yodel the miner's yodel from Price Is Right. No one got my joke.

The sun is just about to set over the mountains
So, you take this ride (once again, my memory fades as to what the heck they call it) down the mountain so you're just alongside the river. It's a beautiful view. But, they only give you 3 minutes down there! For goodness sake, I can't create a memory in 3 minutes people! That was a little irritating. Especially since we took the last ride down so there was no time for dilly dally. Annoying, Royal Gorge people. Flat annoying.

Once we got back to the top, we walked across the massive bridge. You can drive across it too, which I would really recommend if you go in the winter. It takes a lot longer to drive across than it looks.

I cannot believe Robby actually had the guts to walk out there. He is so terrified of heights.

View from the top
My clan
No doubt she's the cutest toddler to cross the Gorge. Of all time!
There are crazy people who have jumped from this bridge. This ridiculously high bridge. No. Thank. You.

The view travels farther than the eye can see
I have never been to the Grand Canyon but I imagine this is Colorado's version. Winter or summer, I'm sure they both offer beauty to see. It's a kid-friendly place. Olivia was fine traveling in her stroller across the bridge and she did fine when we held her to ride that thing (again, no memory) down the mountain. Go earlier in the day because you'll have more services than we had available to us. I think it was 20 some dollars per person. I can't exactly remember but it may have been 30 some too. Either way, I thought it was a little pricey.

The things you do for site-seeing.

Enjoy your weekend!

Pan, The Gravel-Roadin' Guru

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Float Trips & Camping ~MO River Style~

I'm not finished telling you about my Colorado vacation. I still have things to cover like skiing atop the most gorgeous mountain and of course, driving through the arm pit of the US. AKA: Kansas. Ugh.
But today my Missouri friends, I am going to divulge some Missouri stuff. Float trips and camping. What's more Missouri than that?

The float trip I'm going to tell you about is not the kind you are thinking of. You know, the Current River (or Bennett Springs or Meramac, whichever region you're in), drinking all day, jello shots, TONS of rafts and canoes that are all just floating lifelessly by mid-afternoon.

No, no. Now, I've been on my fair share of those but the float trip we went on last summer was one of the more laid back style. Robby and I had just bought our pontoon. My friend, Danielle, and her boyfriend, Matt, came along on their fishing boat (it's a bit of a stretch to say just "fishing boat". Matt's boat is fairly massive for a "fishing boat"), two other couples, Lindsey & Jon, Amber & Jesse came along too.

We met up at the Mokane River Access to the Missouri. If you've never put in here, know that it can sometimes be a little tricky. The annual juggin' tournament had just finished so fisherman were still lingering about telling all the tales of the morning. Matt & Danielle (well, Matt really) won 1st place so kudos to him. He was in fish-heaven all day.

We set out with no real plan. Our boat was completely loaded down with coolers galore, tents, fold-up chairs, bags, and probably tons of crap that we really didn't need but I have some friends who tend to come overprepared. Ahem. Amber.....

Anyways, I don't know what I had in mind. Our plans had changed to camping on the riverbank, to this, and then back to something else.

What we ended up with was perfect. We floated and boated (Haha. I'm a poet and didn't know it!) all afternoon. Drinking cold brewskies and soaking up the intense Missouri summer sun. We talked and laughed. We listened to music. We laid there. And did nothing. For hours. And it was great.

I adore these gals! Besties for the longest time.

 Being a parent is the most wonderful thing God ever did for my life but it's also the most stressful. I hate being away from Olivia but it's also good for my soul. It's good to just go be "Amanda" and listen completely and just be. I enjoyed this trip so much that I'm certain we're going to have to go again this year.

We actually went towards the end of summer, with Autumn on the horizon and the leaves were beginning to turn. This is one of the most beautiful times to spend on the rivers. The bluffsides are blazing with all the bright colors of this time. Robby has always said that when he lived on the Osage River, the fall was always the best.

Heaven, I tell ya. Pure Heaven.
 The river was so low last year that there were plenty of sandbars to choose from. This one was just perfect as it was kind of blocked off from the main waterway of the Missouri.

Do not judge. I promise we picked it all up. Promise.

Setting up shop. I mean, camp. Setting up camp.

Like the 30 year olds that we are, we all passed out at a reasonable time and were up at a reasonable time. The perfect time to enjoy the stillness of the water and air. The time before life begins. We made breakfast. We sat there, none of us in a hurry to get back to "regular life".

As much as our boat needs a full river, I did so enjoy having this huge sandbar all to ourselves. I'm hoping to have another such trip this coming year. As these winter days drag on and on (yeah, nothing but 20s and 30s for the next week!), I keep these thoughts in my soul and dream of the warmer days to come.

What was your best float trip? What are you looking forward to this summer?

Keep your chin up, folks. Spring is here and the winter days will be gone before we know it! (That's what Robby keeps reassuring me anyway)


Monday, March 18, 2013

Meadow Muffins: Old Colorado City, CO

Friday afternoon we were headed down to Old Colorado City. My goal, my one purpose in life that day was to find the childrens store where we bought Olivia this ridiculously cute hat last summer. I had to have another one for next winter since she draws so much attention with this one.

You see how cute I'm talking about??? Look at that hat! Look at that face!

Unfortunately, I didn't get my hat. The store only had infant sizes and bless Olivia's heart, she didn't even have an infant size head when she was an infant. Like father, like daughter.

Alas, the day was not completely ruined. I asked my sis where a good local eatery would be close to Old Colorado City. She gave me a couple options, one being Meadow Muffins.

After I picked up the pieces of my broken heart at the childrens store, I was listing off my sister's picks of restaurants. Meadow Muffins. blah. blah. blah. (I say this because I just can't remember the other places she told me)

"Meadow Muffins. What a dumb name. I'm not eating there."- Robby. That's right. Mr. Judgement himself said that. He had no clue anything about this restaurant except the name and for some reason, he was biased.

He went on and on about how the name didn't make sense. The name was stupid. On and on.

When my niece, Rach, came down to meet us, we started going through the list with her and asking her opinions.

Twenty guesses as to what she recommended........ You guessed right. Meadow Muffins. "It's kind of like bar food. Cozy atmosphere", she told Robby. Well, why didn't you say so before? Ugh, do you see what I have to put up with people???

Meadow Muffins it is. Friday afternoon in the off season was a perfect time. Just a few other stragglers about but pretty slow.

Alright, I apologize. I can't get this stupid picture to turn. Stupid blog site. Just kink your head a little to the right and you'll be good.

Robby got the Jiffy Burger. Sounds atrocious. It's not. It's not the best thing in my book but it's worth trying. Apparently these peanut butter burgers are the "in" thing now. I got the philly cheese steak. Yum-O. Rachel got the fried pickles. Heart attack? Ah, who cares!

The really neat thing about Meadow Muffins is the relics. And I don't mean your run-of-the-mill, Applebee's type relics. Actual cool stuff. From actual places. Sat on by actual people. The back of the menu tells all about it. 

Casablanca fans just above the bar

Thanks for the blurry picture, Rach.

Look at that gorgeous ceiling. And let's not forget about the moose head. Right? Right?!?

The carriage from Gone With The Wind. Oh yeah, and a naked gal on the far wall.
If you're in the area, I recommend giving it a try. I'm an atmosphere gal, and this definitely has the laid-back, relaxed vibe that I so enjoy. The prices are reasonable and items on the menu are "bar food" as Rachel puts it. It's a serve yourself joint. You go to the bar for your drinks and go to the walk up window for your food. Right downtown in Old Colorado City.

Pan, The Gravel-Roadin' Guru

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Vibrant little town: Manitou Springs, CO

Manitou (pronounced man-eh-too) Springs sits just on the outskirts of Colorado Springs, no more than a hop, skip, and jump away.

Our first full day of Colorado was halfway spent getting from Stratton to Colorado Springs, since the highways had shut down for some unknown, unGodly reason the night prior. By the time we took the long way in (because I was jabbering on the phone and didn't tell Robby to make a turn), and by the time we unloaded the vehicle, and by the time we changed O's entire outfit (pee all the way through which of course soaked into my sweater), and by the time we sat around the living room chit-chatting, there really wasn't left of our day.

So just as a 'something-to-do', we set out for Manitou Springs. I've been here before. Several times. Each time seems different yet the same. It's honestly one of the cutest little towns I've seen. It's got the small town feel but it's got tons of life with all the restaurants and shops that line the curvy little mountain town roads.

On this day, we were late in the day so there were a lot of shops closed down for the day. So go at a decent time if you want to actually get your biggest bang for the buck.

Manitou Springs has fresh springs throughout the town. Huh. Who would have thought, right? Each spring is offered for tastings through water fountains built just for this purpose.

Robby helps himself
When one thinks of a freshwater spring, one thinks of something that is colder than ice. Fresher than Dasani. Cleaner than Clorox. Well, I'm here to tell you that these springs taste nasty! Nasty, I tell ya. One tasted (and smelled) like rotten eggs.

"Oh Lord that's awful!"
Still yet, there's the novelty in the tasting of the springs.

Or the novelty of just standing beside the dern thing for a photo op
There are shops with handmade pottery and original paintings by Colorado Springs artists. These things are always great to take home and remind you of your vacay. Also good for supporting the local arts! (Even if some of these arts are weird. Very weird)

Manitou Springs feels, to me, like a town of movement. A town where there is always change, always something new, and a town where there is something for everyone. The storefronts are inviting and the streets are easily maneuverable. We had Olivia in the stroller so it is easy to get around even with toddlers in tow.

According to my sister, Colorado Springs resident, there is always something happening in Manitou Springs.

The biggest interest peaker for me was hearing that every year they have the Emma Crawford Coffin Races. Apparently long ago (for the sake of sounding historical we'll say 1894), there was a woman buried atop the mountain and her casket was swept through the town, right along the streets, when the town experienced a great rain storm. In honor (or something like that) of Emma, there are coffin races down the streets every year. Each team dresses up, has a whole theme, and really puts on a good show for all passerbys.

How much fun does this look like?

If you're in the area, I highly recommend spending a day in Manitou Springs and checking out all it has to offer. You won't be disappointed.


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Bishop's Castle, Pueblo, CO: The height of eccentrisism

A couple weeks ago, we had a rocky start to our Rocky Mountain vacation. The day of our departure, Missouri had the first of many snowstorms, bringing our trip to a screeching halt. When we finally left and traveled all the way through the pit of hell, I mean Kansas, and made it to Colorado, we were suddenly faced with road closures. And lots of them. Instead of getting to my sisters house as planned, we had to bunk up at the Rodeway Inn (more on this horrific night later).

Finally, on day 2, we made it into the Springs. Our first day was pretty non-productive and was spent lounging on my sisters sofa thinking about what we would do "tomorrow". Tomorrow brought us to Bishop's Castle, at the suggestion of my niece, who had heard about this place but never been herself.

First step. Google It. And Google we did. It's hard to find the address for this single-handed man made creation, but look hard and you will see it.

This castle is amazing and so weird all at the same time. Warnings are posted on the Bishops Castle website that if Mr. Bishop is there, he's quite likely to rant about politics, the world, or the shoes your wearing (ok, that last part is made up but it sounds like he's a little cantankerous).

The stone castle is definitely beautiful in it's own way. Mr. Bishop, who bought this land atop a gorgeous mountain when he was 15, started constructing the castle in 19. The website states that he's most likely to be found there on weekends so I'm assuming he's had a job all these years. I'm impressed at his drive to continue working on this castle this many years. My oomph would have pittered out years ago.

Word on the street is that Mr. Bishop specializes in steel work. Judging by the pictures above, I'd venture that's a pretty true statement. Ornate steel designs adorn the exterior and interior of the castle.

Panes of stain glass are placed, each with different sayings, in honor of those who donated money to the cause. The castle is 100% free and open to the public (I think at all hours of the day).

Just as you enter the castle, this signs sits at the bottom of the stairs. There are several signs throughout the castle that Bishop painted that talk about how law enforcement agencies have tried to shut down the castle and are all against him and his work. Mr. Bishop definitely has passion about his castle, I will give that to him.

My expectation was we would be able to use the stroller for Olivia. This was not the case. The grounds are not stroller-friendly nor even kid-friendly. The whole place actually looked abandoned from the road because there was atleast a foot and a half of snow covering the walkways. Can I say snowshovel? I guess that's what you get for a free attraction. The only bathroom facilities is the outside just at the entrance of the castle grounds. Warning: DO NOT go in there. Just don't. The side of the road works just fine.

Mr. Bishop is currently building a moat around the castle. How cool is that? 'Cause you really can't have a castle without a moat!!

And what would a castle be without a fire-breathing dragon, I ask?!?!

And of course, the Leaning Tower of Bishop......

I was incredibly disappointed to find the gift shop abandoned and snowed it. I was looking forward to buying a Bishops Castle trinket!

The doorways and windows are still not completed, therefore the house is cold and drafty this time of year. Take it from Olivia, bundle up.

It truly is an incredible sight. It's worth the drive. Mr. Bishop strongly urges leaving donations since he offers viewings of his castle at no charge. I'm ashamed to say that we had every intention of leaving money and completely forgot. My sister plans to return in the summer and will leave an extra $5 for me. Thanks Mr. Bishop!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Colorado: Picture Preview

Me and the fam just returned from a much needed, and much too short, vacay to Colorado. I have lots to tell you, just have to find the time. For now, here's a little preview...

Made a totally unexpected stop at the Rodeway Inn in Stratton, CO

Wandered the streets of Manitou Springs with my sis and niece

Stared in awe at the Royal Gorge

Went skiing in Keystone with this gorgeous view as the backdrop

Drove through the Garden of the Gods

Toured this eccentric castle
I can't wait to fill you in on all the details! For now, these few pictures will have to wet your whistle!