Places to go and things to see by Gypsy Bev

Archive for the ‘Colorado’ Category

90th Birthday Words of Wisdom “Family first and always”

Luella's favorite photo of herself

Luella’s favorite photo of herself

How does it feel to be 90 years old? “I love it!” exclaimed Luella Polcyn of Coshocton, Ohio as she celebrated her 90th birthday with family and friends.  Now ninety candles on a cake could cause quite a flame, so they wisely scheduled the party at Three Rivers Fire House – just in case!

When she blew out the candles at her 80th birthday party, someone asked her what she had wished for. She quickly replied, “I wished everyone of you would be at my 90th birthday celebration.” Now she wants a repeat performance at age 100.

Luella began school at the age of four, walking with her brother Charles along the narrows of Wills Creek to school at Tyner in Guernsey County, Ohio. They walked about a mile each way in all kinds of weather to get their education at this one room school.

The family moved to Colorado when she was ten. Seven people fit in that 1928 Olds – their first car with glass windows – with the trip taking seven days. She graduated from high school at the age of sixteen in Colorado Springs before going to Blair Business College. That was quite the education for a young lady at that time.

Some of Luella's grandchildren look over her 90th birthday cake.

Some of Luella’s grandchildren look over her 90th birthday cake. She still likes sweets!

Her first job at sixteen was a waitress at a restaurant. They were allowed to eat one free meal a day including dessert. Luella has always had a sweet tooth and dessert is sometimes her entire meal these days, but then she just couldn’t resist having ice cream on her pie…two desserts. That time her sweet tooth got her fired, even though it seemed to her that they had plenty of each.

At a carnival in Colorado Springs, she met the man who was to be her husband, Louie Polcyn, and was married in 1942.  Two years later, Louie was off to WWII and stationed in Burma where he was a mule skinner. While he was at war, Luella worked at the Nabisco Cracker Company for 46 cents an hour. Somehow with the $30 Louie sent home from his military pay each month, and her working at Nabisco, Luella saved $1,000, which was used for down payment on a house. They also bought a Model A Ford about that time, and she remembers that the gas prices were 10-12 cents a gallon.

Luella's family made this quilt especially for her birthday.

Luella’s family made this quilt especially for her 90th birthday.

At the age of 50, Luella found a job that would change her life. Her children were raised and she began working at Frontier Airlines. Now she was traveling to places she had previously only dreamed of – Rome, Russia, Mexico, Portugal, Alaska, and many more. She was footloose and fancy free.

Now Luella enjoys relaxing at home so a beautiful autumn leaf quilt was made by members of the family – one square at a time. Luella has made many quilts over the years and all the family has enjoyed a gift quilt for some special occassion – birthday, graduation, wedding, new baby and the list could continue. So today they thought it fitting to reward her wtih a quilt they made especially for her. Each person who assisted wrote their name on one of the leaves. Before the party was finished, everyone in attendance had written their name and good wishes on the back of the quilt. Now on a cold winter’s day, Luella will be surrounded with the love of her family and friends.

This 90 year old lady has seen many changes over her lifetime. Some would automatically expect that all the new technology would be the biggest change, but Luella says that is not so. To her the biggest difference in today’s world is how people treat each other and have lack of consideration for another person’s life. She never thought she would see the crime we have today.

Luella surrounded by her children: Gladys, Randy, Greg, and John.

Luella surrounded by her children: Gladys, Randy, Greg, and John.

Her greatest accomplishlment in life, however, is her loving family. Their love of children shines through with every addition to the family, and there have been plenty of those. Besides her four children, who came to the celebration from Colorado, Hilliard, Ohio, and Coshocton, Luella has 13 grandchildren, 17 great-grandchildren, and 7 great-great-grandchildren.  She tells everyone, “One thing you should never forget – family first and always.”

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Inspiring Easter Sunrise Service at Red Rock Amphitheater

Easter Sunrise in the beautiful red rocks of Colorado provides a spectacular view. Imagine watching the sun rise over the mile high city of Denver, Colorado in the Red Rock Amphitheater, formerly known as the Garden of Angels. Mother Nature displays her beautiful handiwork every direction the eyes turn.

Red Rock AmphitheaterNestled in the Rocky Mountains, The Red Rock Amphitheater, only  fifteen miles west of Denver, sets a magical stage for Easter Sunrise as well as many concerts throughout the year. Great acts including John Denver, the Beatles, Sting, U-2, the opera, and many symphony orchestras vie to perform in this magnificent setting. This geological phenomenon, at an elevation of 6,450 feet, happens to be the only naturally occurring, acoustically perfect amphitheater in the world.

250,000,000 years ago, the shifting movement of the earth’s plates pushed up two large rocks.  Today these two, extending 300′ above the amphitheater stage, are called Ship Rock and Creation Rock. They form the natural amphitheater shape with perfect acoustics. Those surroundings naturally attracted performing artists to a roughly built stage as early as 1906, but most likely the Ute Indians used this setting for ceremonies long before that time.

Steps and Seating at AmphitheaterThe amphitheater steps and seats were built by hand during the great depression. The Civilian Conservation Corp completed work in 1935. It was dedicated in 1941 with the first service in the newly constructed setting being an Easter Sunrise Service.

In order to get a good seat and a close parking place for Easter Sunrise Service, arrive at Red Rock Amphitheater by 4:00 in the morning. Otherwise, you could have quite a long walk up the mountainside. Seating might not be a problem since it can easily hold 9,000 people. On many occasions however, it is filled to capacity.

Reverend Leon's RevivalEaster Sunrise is always the first performance of the season. In a recent trip, Reverend Leon’s Revival began the early morning service by reciting and singing one of his favorites, Refrigerator Call.  Rev James Ryan, Executive Director of the Colorado Council of Churches, has conducted the service since 1999.  The service culminated with an Indian in full dress playing a melodic flute solo.

Release of a hundred doves took place just as the sun rose on the horizon. Three crosses atop Stage Rock made a spectacular backdrop for sunrise. Listening to nearly nine thousand people lift their voices in the song, He Lives, was an amazing experience never to be forgotten.

Garden of the GodsWhile in the area, travel just a little south of the Red Rock Amphitheater to Colorado Springs. There you can stroll through the geological masterpiece, Garden of the Gods, which provides a place of inspiration and relaxation. Take time to wander among the great red giants. Around every bend of the path, unusual red rock shapes loom skyward.  Upon closer observation, petroglyphs left by the ancient Ute Indians, who used this as a tribal meeting ground, add a bit of intrigue. This is definitely Red Rock Country!

Red Rocks Amphitheater is located in Red Rocks Park near Morrison, Colorado, 15 miles west of Denver. Coming from Downtown Denver, take I-70 west to exit 259, turn left at the bottom of the Morrison exit ramp, cruise on downhill 1.5 miles to the Red Rocks Park entrance. Coming from south Denver, take C-470 to the Morrison exit, turn west and follow the signs to the Park entrances.

Snow on Aspen Mountain Creates Colorado Rocky Mountain High

ColoradoA “Colorado Rocky Mountain High” surrounds you while driving through spectacular mountains, which  open to the valley where ski resort town, Aspen, is located.  This town was first built during the late 1880”s on one of the richest silver lodes in the Rockies.  Aspen was the leading silver producer in the nation in 1891 accounting for a sixth of the silver output in the United States.  However, their boom was sort lived because in 1893, the US government returned to the gold standard, pulling the plug on the basis for their silver production.

Developing ski slopes seemed a natural, next step in this fantastic mountain region. That first ski lift acquired the name of “Boat Tow”. This very primitive lift, which was constructed partially from old silver mine parts, contained an old motor, two mini hoists, and two 10-person sleds. But that was then, and this is now!

Silver Queen GondolaToday this Rocky Mountain playground of the rich and famous is one of the world’s top ski resorts.  The mountainside aspen forests, which gave the town its name, still grow in abundance. Tourism is now where its treasure can be found. The Silver Queen Gondola gives an all-day ticket for skiers, as well as onlookers, to the top of Aspen Mountain and back down. Ski lifts being my idea of fun, several trips were made during the day.

Beginning SkiersThe ride to the top of 11,212′, about two and a half miles by ski lift, took about fifteen, breathtaking minutes. The gondola held quite a crowd and of course, many were carrying their ski gear along as well. They seemed to frown upon those going along just for the ride, so tried to stay back in a corner out of their way.

Somewhere on this mountainside a shrine has been built to John Denver, composer of “Rocky Mountain High”, which is now one of the two state songs of Colorado. Aspen was one of his favorite places to ski so it seemed natural to gather a collection of photos, posters, records and even wind chimes here on the mountainside at an undisclosed location, known and discovered by only a few.

At the top was a beautiful lodge, Sundeck, with a grand fireplace where you could sit with a cup of hot chocolate and watch the snow fly by the floor-to-ceiling windows.  Watching the skiers go down the trails through glades, bumps and steeps was great fun as well.  These trails were actually named according to their difficulty, for example, starting with the most difficult to the easiest: Sunset, Pussyfoot, One Leaf, and Slow.

Skiing through the snowflakesAt the top, snow started coming down heavily so headed back down one last time before finding a place to stay for the night. Had plans on going on east that evening, but the road had been snowed in for two months so had to backtrack just a bit.  The interstate was getting snow-covered also and the lighted sign across the road said, “Chains required 10 miles ahead.”  This was one of those nights when any motel looked like a great place to stop…no matter the price!

This snowy journey continued the following day as the interstate still called for chains. So I took a quiet, slow, snow-covered back road through the mountains. It was called “Top of the Rockies” at about 10,000′ with the peaks being about 14,000′.  Arrived the next day at the  slopes at Vail Ski Resort, which had 28″ of snow on the ground.  At Vail can be found another paradise for those who enjoy the slopes, and a great museum dedicated to skiers, Colorado Ski Museum and Ski Hall of Fame, where  “Skiing is a dance, and the mountain always leads”. These slopes fascinated me!

However, if snow is not your passion, come back in the spring for plentiful wildflowers in the alpine meadows. These mountains are beautiful any season of the year.

From I-70 in Colorado, take exit #116 south ,Colorado Highway 82. After about 40 miles, take a right on 7th Street in Aspen, then a left on Main Street.  You will definitely be able to spot the ski slopes!

Scenic Pikes Peak Cog Railway Blocked by Heavy Snow

Pikes Peak Cog Railway“End of the line for today,” announced the engineer as the Manitou & Pikes Peak Cog Railway locomotive came to a stop.  Thus, Windy Point, at about 12,000 feet, became the end of the journey up Pikes Peak in Colorado that particular afternoon. The snow was too deep on the tracks for the blower to remove it…and it was still snowing.

Traveling by car to the top of Pikes Peak has been a memorable occasion since childhood; however, traveling by cog railway was an entirely different experience. Even though it was April, seems that spring isPikes Peak's Windy Point the time for heaviest snow in the Rockies as the main road to the top for automobiles was not passable. The only possibility of traveling up the mountainside was taking the Cog Railway and seeing how far it would be able to go on that particular day.

Pikes Peak was named for Zebulon Pike, an early explorer, who happened upon it in his 1806 travels.  He attempted to climb it with a small band of men, but they only reached 10,000 feet before they were turned away by deep snow. Even before Pike, the Ute Indians camped at the base of Pikes Peak and it is suspected that they had a pathway to the top to get ceremonial eagle feathers.Pikes Peak Early Steam Engine

Starting back in 1889,  workers were paid twenty-five cents an hour to lay the rails to the top of Pikes Peak. The first steam locomotive took a Denver church choir to the summit. These early locomotives pushed the passenger car up the steep incline. Over the years the engines have developed from steam to gasoline and then diesel. Today the cog locomotive is run by a combination of diesel and electric.

A cog railway uses a gear called a “cog wheel”, which meshes into a special rack rail in the middle of the outer tracks.  With its use, the locomotive is able to travel much steeper inclines than a standard track. Manitou & Pikes Peak Railway is the highest cog railway in the world…with a perfect safety record.

Pikes Peak steep inclineWhat a great view all the way up the steep incline to the timberline, which designates the altitude where trees can no longer grow due to lack of moisture caused by the frozen permafrost under the surface.  Seemed like you could see  forever over the beautiful snow-covered Rocky Mountains with their forests of tall pine. Fantastic rock formations often gave way to breathtaking cliffs overlooking steep canyons.  Passengers oo-ed and ah-ed all the way to the top.

Back at the base in front of the old courthouse in Colorado Springs, there is a statue of Katharine Lee Bates sitting and looking up at Pikes Peak, which was her inspiration to write the words for “America the Beautiful”.  Although written back in 1913 after going to the Peak using a team of mules, the purple mountain majesty still reigns over Colorado Springs to this day.

Cog Railroad OrnamentWhen in Colorado, take Exit 141 (US 24) off I-25.  Go west toward the Rocky Mountains on US 24 about four miles to the Manitou Ave exit, which is in Manitou Springs. Keep going west one and a half miles to Ruxton Avenue. Turn left on Ruxton Avenue at the Mountain Man Shop using a roundabout. At the top of Ruxton Avenue is the entrance to the Cog Railway. Enjoy the ride!

Bishop Castle – One Man’s Dream

Bishop Castle: “The Largest One Man Construction Project in the USA,” and possibly the World! When you see this beautiful, magnificent castle, it is difficult to imagine that one man did all of the work.  Everyone has their dreams, but Jim Bishop’s dream turned out to be larger than most. Jim has never stopped working on his inspiration since 1969.

Located in the Rocky Mountains near Pueblo, Colorado, this 150 foot high castle is a treasure when discovered among the pines on a back country road.  Due to all the problems Jim had with governmental interference, you won’t find it listed in the Colorado travel literature.  After seeing several cars parked along the highway, your curiosity makes you wonder what the attraction is here, so you look a little more closely and discover a medieval castle peeking through the tree tops.

Jim works on his castle on weekends and more often during the summer.  His family also operates Eagle River Pewter in Pueblo, which explains the beautiful ironwork seen throughout the castle.  He is often seen strolling the grounds either on his way to add something to his castle, or to talk with visitors.  Seems like quite an ordinary guy with a huge imagination.

When Jim was 15 years old, he purchased two and a half acres for $450 at the edge of the San Isabel National Forest.  He had saved his money from mowing lawns, delivering newspapers, and working with his dad at the iron works. That is the year he dropped out of school as his English teacher told him, “You’ll never amount to anything, Jim Bishop!”  To begin withl the land was used for hunting and fishing, but then Jim decided to build a small cottage on the property. Since the Rockies were handy, stone by native stone was added and the beginnings of a castle rose from the forest.

No castle would be complete without a huge fireplace, but this one had a unique feature as it vented through the head of a dragon made from recycled metal hospital trays.  Smoke escaped through the nostrils of the dragon’s nose.  Just for a little added excitement, sometimes the dragon breathed fire with the help of a burner from a hot air balloon.

Inside the castle on the upper floor was a beautiful ballroom with stained glass windows, which were custom made by individual request.  Many of them commemorate a wedding held there or remember a loved one. A studio in Colorado designed the windows, and then Jim installed the stained glass beauty himself. He definitely lived by that old saying: “If you want something done right, do it yourself.” This is his unique work of art except for the wall around the water tank in the corner of the castle…his dad helped build that when Jim was first building the cottage.

The Gift Shop was the main source of funding for Bishop’s Castle as there was no charge for admission. Here you could purchase dragons, Renaissance and fantasy weaponry, Jim’s own ornamental ironwork plus all the regular gift shop items. Actually the picture at the beginning of this article is from a tee shirt purchased there on a Rocky Mountain trip.

Over the years, Jim had many legal problems with his building of the castle. At one time he posted a sign that said: Lawyers, Politicians, Bureaucrats, Gestapo  Most of you need to get an honest job.

While work is nearly complete on the castle itself after forty odd years, there are plans for a gatehouse as well as a fence around the castle. Jim has decided to let a few volunteers help him with this last phase of construction.  Men like Jim Bishop make you realize that even an ordinary man can make their biggest, wildest dream come true. Don’t forget to dream!

Land of the Dinosaurs

If these bones could talk, what stories we would hear! Take a trip back in time and explore the  Dinosaur Gardens in Vernal, Utah to see life size replicas of dinosaurs as they used to roam this region; then head to the quarry to see some fossilized dinosaur bones.  These unusual gardens and a wonderful museum are part of the Utah Field House of Natural History State Park. Inside you will find real fossil skeletons, a Fossil Lab plus an interesting film, while outside the beautiful dinosaur replicas along the garden path give you a great size comparison. It is like visiting a prehistoric zoo!

One of my favorites was the Brontosaurus, now also called Apatosaurus due to a scientific battle.  This long necked, plant eater just seemed a peaceful animal in spite of its size. Often 70 foot long, “Thunder Lizard” weighed up to 30 tons. Being the symbol of Sinclair Oil, it is one of the most familiar dinosaur images.

Triceratops was the most famous horned dinosaur as its fossils are found in greater numbers than any of the others.  Even though they looked quite fierce and were very successful in battle, Triceratops were plant eaters. Their strong jaws made it possible to grind up vegetation, probably including small flowering shrubs. Triceratops was about twice the size of a rhinoceros, with four short legs and three horns on its face.  People often find it difficult to fathom that this creature lived approximately 65 million years ago.

As we head North from Vernal, we pass movable sprinkler irrigation systems as we glimpse our first view of Dinosaur National Monument in the distance. Early settlers developed an irrigation system, which is assisted by Flaming Gorge Dam today, to provide water to the developed farming area. Before irrigation and the building of dams, this area was a barren cactus flat and not considered a desirable place for settlement.

Upon arrival at Dinosaur National Monument, you find a large quarry of dinosaur remains in an exposed sandstone wall. The actual Quarry Visitor Center is in Utah, while most of the Dinosaur National Monument extends into bordering Colorado.

Discovered in 1909 while searching for fossils for Carnegie Museum, this area is thought to be the best in the world for obtaining information concerning late-Jurassic-period dinosaurs. It would appear the dinosaur carcasses were washed down the Green and Yampa Rivers, then caught on the sandbars, which eventually turned to rock. After all these years, there still seems to be no end to what can be found buried in this rock face.

At the present time, The Quarry Visitor Center is being rebuilt due to structural problems with the original building, and expected to reopen in the Fall of 2011. In the meantime, you can walk the Fossil Discovery Hiking Trail to see dinosaur fossils in the cliff face – as long as the temperature is below 95.  The trail is actually closed for safety from heat related problems when it exceeds that temperature.

When there several years ago, it was amazing to see the vast amount of fossils naturally exposed in such a small area. Enjoyed watching the paleontologists at work on the sandstone surface, carefully chiseling away the sandstone from the fossilized bones.

Stop back after October, 2011 to see the new Quarry Visitor Center. An interesting place to visit, but would be more exciting to be part of the dig, and chisel bones from the wall…very carefully.  Maybe you could discover something yet unknown!

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