The Colorado Rockies and More

Trip Start Apr 02, 2011
Trip End Sep 29, 2011

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Various Places Along the Way and Back

Flag of United States  , Colorado
Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Sorry this is so long...skim over the parts you don't find interesting...don't want to boor you!

This particular part of my Great Baseball Park Adventure included a family vacation. Sandy, Kevin and I started our trip to Denver on Thursday, June 30, leaving town at 8:00 am. There are three ways to get to Denver; the southern route using mainly I-70, the central route mainly I-80 and the northern route using I-90. We were planning to drive the southern route out, getting to Salina, Kansas tonight...a trip of 475 miles. We headed down to Springfield by the large smokestacks of City Water Light and Power, affectionately known to Kevin as "the factory where they make clouds." And then west on I-72 to Hannibal, MO; the same route I took to the Kansas City and St Louis games. We passed by the 90 degree longitude marker, the Free Frank McCorter Historical Site in Pike County, across the swollen Illinois and Mississippi Rivers, stopping in Hannibal, MO, just for gas and a bio break. I find we have to take more bio breaks with Kevin and Sandy than I would ordinarily.

We went on to Macon, MO for a bite to food this time...Taco Bell...Oh well. Then back on the road toward Salina which includes General John Black Jack Pershing's hometown (as you may recall). South to Kansas City and West on I-70 toward Salina. The Missouri River was extremely high. A few things I had forgotten, about Kansas...Leavenworth (where Fort Leavenworth and Leavenworth Federal Prison is located), and along the way was President Dwight D. Eisenhower's hometown of Abilene, KS.  There were farmers in their fields harvesting the last of their winter wheat crop. Harvesting starts in June in southern Kansas and moves northward. We caught just the tail end of it...only a few farmers in their fields and only a few fields yet to be harvested.

It was hot! Hottest my thermometer in the car got was 110 degrees, but most of the day 95-100. Even the wind was hot. Stopped for gas and it felt good to get back in the car.

We stopped a few more times before hitting Salina. I usually get a Holiday Inn Express or Hampton Inn to stay in, but tonight, took a chance on an AmericInn. Great choice. Very nicely done. I could tell when I entered it was a former Comfort Inn & Suites...seen many of them in my hotel inspection days. AmericInn had just taken over. It was a good clean room, indoor swimming for Kevin, free hot breakfast and most of all $62.10 for the night.

We headed to a barbecue place nearby called the Hickory Hut. Great choice too. Great barbecue!

Back to the motel for more swimming and then to bed.

After breakfast the next morning, we headed out to Denver, about 400 miles away. Several things we noticed along the way:

* There is a neat statue we stopped at in Oakley, KS. It depicts Buffalo Bill Cody (twice life size) riding his horse and in the act of shooting a buffalo. It stems from the story that another person also went by Buffalo Bill, and as a way to decide who should keep the name they devised a contest as to who could shoot the most buffalo in a day. Cody won something like 65 to 49 and earned the name Buffalo Bill Cody for life. It's also the place, as the town's name suggests where Annie Oakley was born. I liked it.  
* The speed limit is 75 mph out here. Why not, you could hit more cows than people, I think.
* Noticed signs saying when the light is flashing, it was illegal to continue on I-70. Finally figured out it was for winter driving when they actually close the road.
* Drove through Russell, KS, boyhood home of Robert Dole...don't even pretend you don't remember him.
* We drove through Fort Hays, KS. I remember it from the movie Dances with Wolves where Kevin Costner meets that strange commanding officer who sends him on to Fort Sedgewick, CO. We may see the actual set erected for the movie later's near Mt. Rushmore. We'll see.
* If you happen to stop by Victoria, KS, you can stop in "The Cathedral of the Plains." We didn't but just FYI it was the largest church west of the Mississippi when constructed in the early 1900s. And it's not really a cathedral (not the seat for a bishop), but it is a Catholic Church and was given the "Cathedral" name by William Jennings Bryan because of its size...seats 1100 people when he visited shortly after it was built.
* I didn't realize there were so many oil wells in Kansas. Thought they were a Texas thing. There were quite a few along the way...we still paid $3.45 a gallon for gas!!!
* Anybody ever heard of Nicodemus National Historic Site? Me neither, but it's in Nicodemus, KS. Had to look it up. Begun by former slaves from Kentucky after the Civil War, it was and still is the only all-African American town west of the Mississippi. I did not know that!
* As we drove by the little town of Ellis, KS, we noted that it was the boyhood home of Walter P. Chrysler...yep, the automobile man.
* Strangest sign I've ever read. Just outside the little town of Genoa, Colorado, just after you cross over from Kansas is a sign apparently placed there to entice you to find out more. All it said was, "Point of Interest Next Exit." Hmmm.... We didn't stop, but figured it out a few miles down the road. There's a large tower and the sign outside said, "See six states." I was skeptical, so I checked it out on the web. Sure enough, it's almost a hoax. People say you certainly can see Colorado and Kansas. And on a clear day you might see the mountain ranges of Wyoming, New Mexico, Nebraska and South Dakota...but I don't think so. But an interesting curiosity along the way.

On to Denver and our hotel. I sprung for a nicer one for the next two days...Crowne Plaza near the airport. Great hotel and with an AARP discount (I don't want to hear it!), it was only $89 a night. Got settled and decided we had time to make the Rockies game tonight. I ordered tickets...most expensive I've paid...tough to find 3 together this late. Drove to the park, parked ($20) and went in. We walked around the beautiful ballpark. It is truly very well done. And the people were so very friendly. Made you feel at home. I bought my usual program, but bought 2 baseballs tonight...if I was going to give one away, I was going to have to give one to Kevin too. He brought his glove, but didn't catch a foul, even though several were relatively close to us.

Dinner was a brat shared by Sandy and me, and a hot dog for Kevin...both foot long! Very tasty with a Coors beer...not Coors Light, but an actual Coors.

The contest Rockies 9, Kansas City 0. Great offensive showing by the Rockies.

Then something strange...we waited 30 minutes for fireworks. The reason we waited was they brought all the people from left and center field onto the outfield grass (away from the first) before starting the show. I was getting annoyed, but that soon stopped when the show started. I have been going to fireworks shows since I was a kid when Mom and Dad would take us to Memorial Stadium at the U of I for fireworks. And I have to tell you this was the best fireworks show I have ever seen, bar none! Hope to see more at Mt. Rushmore on Monday night.

Oh, the ball, as we were leaving, a little boy and his mom were walking up the stairs and this young kid...I don't know 8 or 9, stopped and let us out of our aisle to go first. I immediately took the ball out of my pocket and gave it to him. He and is mom were both very appreciative.

Saturday, July 2

Slept until about 8:00 and then up for breakfast. I knew this great place by the airport called The Midnight Diner. It's a 1950's style restaurant with a counter, and pictures of Elvis and Marilyn Monroe and the like covering the walls. Some great memorabilia. And a great breakfast served by a lovely waitress named Rita. She took great care of us and after tipping her well, I told the manager. He said, she had been with him since the beginning. Great start to a great day.

Then it was up in the mountains...Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park. Some fabulous scenery punctuated by close-up sightings of mule deer and elk (see pictures). I've been to the Rockies several times and never seen this much snow this late in summer. So much for global warming! (Don't get me started!) We made it to the continental divide and Kevin and I even had a snowball fight on July 3...very cool. Coming back to our hotel, we took a scenic route...Route 7 toward Boulder and then to Denver. What a beautiful drive.

Sunday, July 3

Slept in even later, 9:00 am, checked out and back to The Midnight Diner for another great breakfast served by Rita. She absolutely loved Kevin and gave him a quarter for the gum ball machine.

We headed to Mt. Rushmore, but went what I call the back road. Up through Nebraska and into South Dakota. Lots of wheat farming and ranching, and not much else, but we made good time.

About 4:30 we stopped in Hot Springs, SD at a place called Evan's Plunge. It's a natural hot spring and they built this great swimming pool (both indoor and out) right on the spot. Water was 84 degrees.  We had stopped there with the kids 25 years ago and they loved it. Kevin was no different. He tired out Grandpa on the three water slides they have, but he was having a blast.

Then we headed to a very cool place or a very cruel hoax depending on your way of thinking; the Crazy Horse Memorial. One man (I can't begin to pronounce his name) started building a memorial to Crazy Horse on this mountain near and similar to Mt. Rushmore in 1947. When we came through here 25 years ago, he hadn't made much progress. Now, there's a face and a hole in the mountain under where his arm will be. What they have done with the $10 each or $27 per car load is build a great big information center. They don't use any federal help so the work is fact, I have no doubt, it will not be completed in my lifetime. Maybe Kevin's! But I liked it.

Then we headed to Mt. Rushmore where I read there was a laser light show, but no fireworks. We got there right about 9:00 pm when a band finished playing patriotic tunes, a young woman sang the Star Spangled Banner and they lowered the flag at 9:11 pm in honor of those who lost their lives on September 11, 2001. Then the whole thing ended. We finally ran into a park ranger and asked about the light show. He said, there was no such thing here at Mt. Rushmore and the fireworks were stopped just this year for "environmental" as well as fire safety reasons. Nice spin to tell us the "tree-hugging environmentalists" had struck again. Oh well, it was beautiful to see Mt. Rushmore lit up at night, and we'll find some fireworks tomorrow night, but I doubt they'll top the ones at Coors Field the other night. Mt. Rushmore at night was still very impressive and very moving, especially on the eve of July 4.

Our hotel is in Sturgis, about 25 miles west of Rapid City. You know Sturgis, where the big Harley rally is every year. Checked into the Holiday Inn Express and passed out!

Monday, July 4 - Happy Independence Day

After breakfast, we headed to Deadwood, SD. Home of Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane...both are buried there. Took an outstanding one hour driving tour of Deadwood given by a man who was nothing short of fantastic. He was "Rain Man" when it came to names, dates, etc of Deadwood. Did you know Kevin Costner (Dances With Wolves) owns a casino there and has costumes of many of his movies on the 2nd floor. Tin Cup (clubs), Waterworld, and of course, Field of Dreams. Very cool. Hickok was shot in the back by Jack McCall in 1876. He was only 39. At the time, he was playing poker in the #10 Saloon and had a hand of Aces and 8s...forever after known as a dead man's hand. Did you know Wild Bill was born in Illinois?  Yep, Troy Grove near LaSalle-Peru. Calamity Jane was only 19 when she came to Deadwood, and it was said (by her) that she could out ride, out shoot, and out cuss any man in Deadwood. She died in 1903 at the age of 43. You know I gave tours of Lincoln's Home in college and I considered myself an excellent tour guide but this guy put me to shame. We tipped him well.

Then we headed to Mt. Rushmore to see it in the daylight. It was fabulous. Saw the movie and even saw actors portraying Mr. Lincoln, Mr. Jefferson and Mr. Roosevelt. Very cool. A great place to be on Independence Day! (Missed seeing Mr. Washington)

Then we headed to "Wind Cave." Outstanding tour given by a young lady from Ohio who is attending Purdue. She too was an outstanding tour guide. Thought I might be a bit claustrophobic inside the cave (I have that tendency), but not at all. Great fun...and Kevin loved it.

Headed to Hot Springs for dinner and then raced back to Crazy Horse to see the laser light show at the monument. It was only average. 

No fireworks...but anything we would have seen would have paled in comparison to Coors Field the other night.

Tuesday, July 5

Up and at 'em and on the road for some heavy duty traveling. But first, a stop at the legendary Wall Drug. I mean you really have to, don't you. What a marketing genius.

Then we took the loop road through The Badlands, where little Cecil B. DeColee (Kevin) took many pictures. He's become quite the photographer.

Drove for a while and made the obligatory stop at the Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD. Quite a cool place. Saw the film on how it originated back in 1892 as a marketing tool to get settlers to Mitchell instead of Pierre. Pierre got the Capitol but Mitchell kept the Corn Palace.

Then we drove and drove and drove...until almost Midnight. Waterloo, Iowa...only 60 minutes from Field of Dreams. Drove by Laura Ingalls Wilder's childhood home in Burr Oak, Iowa. I loved those books as a kid. Also the Pipestone National Monument (never heard of it) where Indians quarried the red pipestone for peace interesting.  And most interesting, The Little Brown Church in the Vale in Nashua, Iowa. Wish we had time to stop.  You may remember the song, sometimes called "Church in the Wildwood." I used to sing it at church as a kid.  The song was actually written by a music teacher, William Pitts in 1848 before there was even a church on the spot. He thought a church would look good there. Almost 15 years later Pitts returned to Nashua to find, much to his amazement a church had been built on the spot where he thought one would look so good...and the congregation had painted it brown.  He quickly ran home and dusted off the song and taught it to his class who sang it at the church dedication service. So Pitts wrote a song for a church that wasn't there and the congregation had painted the church brown without ever hearing the song...amazing! (My favorite rendition is done by Tennessee Ernie Ford.)

Finally made it to the Hampton Inn in Waterloo, Iowa...only 60 miles from Dyersville, Iowa.

Wednesday, July 6

Up early and drove the 60 miles to Dyersville in no time.  I always get excited to see The Field of Dreams movie site...silly, huh?  Kevin watched the movie last week, and he enjoyed playing catch on the field with Grandpa, running the bases, posing Grandma and Grandpa in front of the house and especially getting a picture of himself coming out of the corn. Very cool.
Drove the last 3.5 hours to home.  A good vacation which included a great baseball park...20 down, 10 to go!
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Kay Robertson on

That sounds like a wonderful time!! I'm also learning a little more about history than I did when I was preoccupied with "other things" in high school!! Glad you're back. Giv e me a shout when you want lunch.

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