Cross-Country Trek: Colorado Springs to Flagstaff to Evansville

Howdy, friends.  I’m getting back to my roots in Tulsa, Oklahoma on this fine evening – en route to Evansville for the next week or so.  It has been about 19 years since I lived here, but it is still pretty recognizable.  One look at Oral Roberts University brought back all sorts of inappropriate jokes that I must have heard as a kid, but had forgotten in the interim.

Eric and I are behind on blogging (I think we left off in March), and I intend to catch up soon.  In the meantime, I’m going to skip to the present and tell you about our most recent adventure.

It all starts in Colorado Springs…yes, we went back to visit our cat, Tiger, and our perfectly adorable baby niece, Zoe (not to mention, her parents, too).  Zoe is in a very expressive, bubble-blowing phase, sitting up on her own, and on the verge of crawling.  Her first tooth broke through the surface on Eric’s 30th birthday – what a momentous occasion!  Zoe loves to bounce and make noises and stick out her tongue, a talent learned from her dear Grandpa Angermeier.  She loves to jump in her bouncer, preferably while wearing only one sock.  This free website doesn’t support video, but if you’re interested in seeing an amazing amount of cuteness, you can watch Zoe blow bubbles and squeak here.


We stayed in Springs for a couple of weeks, so that Eric could acclimate to the altitude, in preparation for the Barn Burner 104 in Flagstaff.  Meanwhile, I did lots of homework: Investing and Statistics are occupying a lot of my time this summer.  Lauren also started back to school, working toward her RN.  She is mothering, working full-time and taking three classes.  Kudos to her!  We spent an entire Saturday outside on the front porch doing homework, while Zoe helped.  What bonding time!


Zoe and I snuggling between studies. She’s chewing on my headphones in this picture. It was taken only a few minutes before I found said headphones dangling in my warm coffee.

Eric spent a lot of time riding his road and mountain bikes.  One day, he drove up to the New Belgium Brewery in Fort Collins and participated in mountain bike races held on the brewery’s private course.  There, he also met up with a fellow Guitar Lab teammate, Josh Schuler, and his kiddos, who also race.  Eric was under strict orders to obtain a photo while there, but he came home empty-handed.  Eric also reconnected with a buddy from high school who had recently moved to Springs, Rick McDaniel.  They got together one night and saw a Primus concert.  Primus sucks.

I did snap some shots of a road race in which Eric participated when we first arrived in Colorado.  His heart was really in it; unfortunately, his lungs weren’t.  He made a great effort, and still finished ahead of many locals.


Lauren, Zoe, Eric and I ventured out on a hike one day.  We trekked through Cheyenne Mountain State Park for two hours, in the shadow of the NORAD nuclear bunker.  It was sunny and hot and strenuous, and I cannot fathom how my sister hauled twenty+ pounds of baby around, while climbing and climbing.


Lauren & Zoe at Cheyenne Mountain.

All too soon, it was time to leave for Flagstaff.  On the way, we stopped at the Great Sand Dunes National Park.  Who knew there was a beach in Colorado?  Over thirty square miles of sand and rock have been blown here by the wind, rising 750 feet above the ground.


The Great Sand Dunes National Park.

Kids wore bathing suit, splashing in the water.  Teens brought sleds and tackled the slopes.  Many hiked the trail to the peaks of the sand dunes.  We will have to go back, with proper shoes and water supplies, to explore some more.


Another view of the Great Sand Dunes Park.

Onward we drove, to Durango, Colorado.  We stayed at the Rochester Hotel in town.  I highly recommend it, if you’re ever in the area.  Coincidentally, Eric’s friend, Eric Newman, of Houston, was in town for a bicycle race the previous weekend.  He noticed on Facebook that we were in town for the night, so we all went out to dinner – Eric Newman, Eric Newman, and me.


Eric Newman and Eric Newman

After a scrumptious, homemade breakfast at the inn, we left early the next morning.

This happened, not too long afterward.


I like to call him Eric Elk.

Much of the driving this day was in the desert.  What a strange feeling, to be surrounded by so much sand and rock sculpture.  We stopped for a stretch at Four Corners, where Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona meet.  Gorgeous desert views abound there.


Our love straddles four states. The silver toes are mine. 🙂

Next up: Flagstaff.  We rented a cabin in the shadow of the Snow Bowl, on a high plain west of town.  Gorgeous!  Since the Barn Burner was coming up, Eric continued his training regimen on the bike.  One day, I rented a mountain bike, and we rode 26 miles (uphill the first twenty, with a speedy descent at the end).  We stuck to fire rodes, but Eric did explore some single-track trails on his own.  We also rode our road bikes around the ‘hood a bit.

Eric completed the 104 miles of mountain biking that comprised the Barn Burner in just 9.5 hours.  I’m going to refrain from saying anything more than that, as I expect him to write his own little blog about it.  Needless to say, he did a great job, and expects to move up a couple of corrals in the Leadville start.  Also, he won an awesome 3″ belt buckle (complete with bottle opener), so we need to find him a nice, hand-tooled leather belt on which to display that sucker.


Someone collapsed immediately after crossing the finish line. Note the lovely buckle in the bottom, left-hand corner.

After sleeping away most of the next day, Eric was recovered well enough to venture out.  As you will see from our next few adventures, my science nerd really came out in New Mexico.

First: Meteor Crater, the world’s most perfectly-preserved meteor crater.  It was blasted out 50,000 years ago, when a 150-foot nickel-iron meteorite crashed into the earth at 26,000 miles per hour.  The result: a hole 4,000 feet across and 550 feet deep.  This thing formed diamonds on impact.  Amazing!


View from the top rim of meteor crater.

The combination of high desert plains and thin atmosphere makes the Southwest an ideal location for astronomy.  Guess who figured this out, 118 years ago?  Percival Lowell.  It was here that Pluto, the dwarf planet formerly known as the ninth planet, was discovered.  It was later downgraded to dwarf stature in an effort led by Neil DeGrasse Tyson (my favorite astrophysicist).  Go ahead and follow him on Twitter.  You’ll thank me later.


The telescope. Enlarge the picture to see the bright, white “star” in the sky. That’s Saturn, and we could see it in such detail, that the Cassini gap was visible.

Anyway, back to Lowell Observatory.  We went in the early evening, in time to observe a wonderful lecture on the planets, solar system, galaxy, and universe.  Then we queued up to see Saturn (and five of its moons!) through the Clarke telescope.  Afterward, we observed an open star cluster with a pair of nifty binoculars, and moved on to a globular cluster through an personal telescope.  That telescope happened to be owned by a retired astronomy professor, with whom we pleasantly conversed for an hour or so.  He was passionate about the stars and trains, and more than once, I thought to myself: This is an older Sheldon Cooper.

The next day, we went west of Flagstaff, to explore the mile-long lava tube, which is sort of a cave made of volcanic rock.  If I had done more research, I would have realized  how undeveloped the cave was.  Unfortunately, we showed up to check it out with only flashlights and bottles of water.  We really needed headlamps and Camelbaks, so we did not venture too far.


View from just beneath the entrance, looking to the surface.

We took one last drive through the Coconino Forest before heading out-of-town.


Saying farewell to the Coconino Forest.

Our next destination is Evansville, Indiana.  This coming Saturday, June 8, the Second Annual River City Bicycle Classic will take place.  The race and festivities are organized and led by his cycling team, Team Guitar Lab.  It will be fun for the whole family, with events for the kiddos, a beer garden presented by Tin Man, and some serious cycling.  Come visit with us there!

In the meantime, check out our latest pit-stop on the way back to Indiana: the Very Large Array.  Quite an original name, right?  Actually, it’s the National Radio Astronomy Observatory’s Karl G. Jansky Expanded Very Large Array, and it is, in fact, very large.  Each antenna is 84 feet across, weighing 230 tons, and can slide along railroad tracks.  There are a total of 27 antennae, nine on each of three tracks, which are configured in a Y-shape.  At the largest the antenna span 22 miles; when we saw them, they were tightly clustered, spanning only 2.1 miles.


A small portion of the VLA.

You may recognize the antennae from movies, like Contact.  In fact, these antennae are looking deep into space, to observe radio frequencies emitted by distant objects, in an effort to develop a better picture of our universe – one that includes these frequencies not visible to the naked eye, like this picture of a black hole.

We also saw the International Space Station fly overhead the past two nights (once in Flagstaff, once out in the boonies of New Mexico).  Tonight, I am ready for bed in Tulsa.  May you sleep with the stars in your eyes.


4 Responses to “Cross-Country Trek: Colorado Springs to Flagstaff to Evansville”
  1. Dave says:

    TEAM NEWMAN, really enjoyed the updated blog info:)
    D&D and The Zoo Too:)!

  2. Mary Anne says:

    What fun, keep it up! So love reading about the West, I miss living there…..
    Enjoy all that you are doing, but it sounds like you already are 🙂

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