Tuesday, September 2, 2014

WINGS OVER THE ROCKIES AIR AND SPACE MUSEUM, Denver, Colorado on "TRAVEL TUESDAY"

A few minutes from the heart of downtown Denver, CO, on the grounds of the old Lowry Air Force Base, sits a gold mine of military aviation history - worth a look for the pilot, astronaut, and kid in all of us.  This is the WINGS OVER THE ROCKIES AIR AND SPACE MUSEUM.
We actually dropped by this site in January (hence the garland on the pole).  Opened in 1994, some pretty impressive military aviation history is housed within the 40,000 sq ft Hangar #1, built in 1939.  The area surrounding the former air base has been transformed as of late, and is now a fairly metropolitan area, including a beer garden/restaurant in one of the adjoining hangars, shopping and a gym across the way, and surrounding by houses and apartments.
The museum preserves the history of Lowry AFB's operations from 1938 to 1994 in its collections, archives, and research library.
Features of this museum's collection include the USAF's B-1A Lancer and B-52 Stratofortress bombers, as well as other military and general aviation aircraft - there are over 3 dozen aircraft in this collection.
Open daily, with exhibits and cockpit demonstrations hosted by volunteers and Civil Air Patrol Cadets.  The Museum also hosts summer Space Camp events.
The Museum hosts annual events, such as a B-17 Flying Fortress Bomber Fly-In, the Annual Gala, and the Spreading Wings Award. We actually went there that day for a large antique show, in amongst the airplanes, and were surprised at the history we found.
Largest plane I believe I've ever seen - it was hard to get it all in one shot and get any type of perspective.
Bombs - every shape and form.  The B-61 Nuclear one is hanging from the parachute in the upper photo.
The Space and Rocketry Exhibit gives a nod to our aerospace industry and Colorado astronauts.  My dad is standing next to a lunar jet pack (until he calls and tells me what this actually is) he worked on (for NASA) as a Design Engineer for Martin-Marietta, "back in the day".  UPDATE:  As expected, I now know that the item in the case is a "Man Maneuvering Unit"...one of the first made, and designed for use in repairs made outside spacecraft, while in flight.
Shiny and impressive!
There's also a little something for the Star Wars fans - an X-Wing Fighter from the movies...part of another special exhibit, that stayed on full-time.
Large-scale models in the entryway.  You can find all the information you could ever want to visit this fabulous museum by clicking right here... WINGS OVER THE ROCKIES AIR AND SPACE MUSEUM.  Up, up and away...Happy Tuesday!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

HAPPY BIRTHDAY MOM...

Here's to Barb, on this 28th day of August...Wife, Mom, Grandmother, Great-Grandmother, FRIEND.  Enjoying her day in HER mountains (as she likes to refer to them), today...HAPPY BIRTHDAY, YOU!
Cutie pie, all her life - lover of animals (that's her and Peggy) and ANYTHING fun (showing off the panties from an early age)...ALWAYS fashionable, she.  Wonder Woman in so many ways...
Could rock a fringed leather jacket  and rhinestone cat-eyes like no other (pre-Chicos); kind to kittens; deadly with a bow and arrow.  I love her to death - we ALL love her to death.  Bobbie Jean - Barbara - Babe - Mom. FABULOUS at 77 - fabulous her entire life - here's to much more fabulousness yet to come!
Love you more...XOXOXO

Monday, August 25, 2014

BECAUSE THE CRACKER JACK LION "KICKED ASS"...

Actually, it was because I needed a camera strap makeover - the lion was an afterthought.
My well-worn Nikon camera strap got a makeover this weekend.  A "challenge", of sorts, from a friend - a challenge to make a new camera strap for myself, after we did hers last week.  I took the easy way out and actually made a padded, quilted cover for mine, and slipped the original inside.
Handmade linen roses, antique buttons, and a Cracker Jack celluloid lion charm (saved for just the right project) later, I had myself a strap.  THEN I needed a bag...
The bag was actually born of necessity (I needed to experiment with pattern changes for a fabric I'm afraid to cut), and the fact that I am tired of dragging not only my camera bag along, but my hobo/shoulder bag as well - leaving me weighted down on both shoulders and looking like the quintessential tourist wherever I went.
A sturdy Home Dec fabric for the outside - filled with batting and custom quilting.  Large Bakelite button and grommets with leather ties - bohemian fun, this one.
Large enough (but not TOO large - the perfect shoulder bag size) to house my small DSLR camera case and my everyday essentials at the same time (I love me a good wallet with someone else's name on it - and I have SEVERAL).  This will be fabulous for travel, consolidating my two essential bags into one.  And the pattern "kinks"/changes worked out perfect enough to for me to gather the nerve to cut that next project.  Here's to a little creative fun in your week ahead...

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The OH MY GOD ROAD in IDAHO SPRINGS, COLORADO on "Travel Tuesday"

For an outing full of Colorado history and scenery, there's a steep little dirt road that snakes its way up and over one of the richest mountains in the world.  Room enough for (BARELY) two cars to pass (SLOWLY) THISCLOSE!  This is the OH MY GOD ROAD.  Drive it for yourself, through some video magic at the bottom of this post.
This old nine-mile road connects the two former Boom Towns of Idaho Springs and Central City, Colorado. Officially named the Virginia Canyon Road, with the locals referring to it as the Oh My God Road, it climbs at about a 7% grade, to an elevation of 9,400 feet.  Paved at the top of the switchbacks, you need to be a little cautious of the narrower stretches of the loose gravel road (no guardrails on this one), slowing for any oncoming cars and/or bicyclists.
Dad and I spied this mine from the road, hidden in the trees, and decided to do a little photo exploring.  We climbed up a treacherous shale hill (one step forward and three slides back), before hitting the top and realizing there was a really nice trail leading up, further back behind us.  This had been a pretty big operation at one time, as evidenced by the tailings left behind.
Be mindful of private property signage; otherwise, you're free to explore.  The old mines have shafts that drop down hundreds of feet, with tunnels that branch out at several levels.  This creates a very real danger of cave-ins.  When in doubt about what is underfoot, PLEASE check out the old mines and buildings from well-worn trails or roads - use that zoom lens and play it safe.
Up, over, and down the other side, through the ghost town of Nevadaville (there are a few modern day houses sprinkled in this little valley); this road takes you through the heart of another old mining operation from days gone by.
Spy something like this old mine opening?  DEFINITELY do not enter - take that picture from afar.  This one has been sealed off with a grate, but there are plenty more in these mountains where these precautions have not been taken.  Gases inside are another hazard, in addition to deep drop offs.  Play it safe!
The Lace House at the top of Central City - and views from the neighboring hills (I have no idea about the golden calf in the two right side photos, but I liked it) - the amount of gold tailings dotting the hills is incredible in "this neck of the woods".
"And now for something completely different"...I found this time-lapse video someone made of driving the OMG Road from Idaho Springs, down through Central City and over the mountains to Nederland and beyond (another gorgeous drive). No need to watch the entire thing, unless you're so inclined. A few minutes and you've got the idea (the OMG Road/Central City portion will take you halfway through the video, plus, I get sick motion sick watching these things)...the gravel road starts at about 38 seconds in.
How do I GET to the Oh My God Road, you might ask?  Located about an hour west of Denver, take I-70 to exit 241 in Idaho Springs.  You'll follow Colorado Blvd. into town.  At the fork in the road, stay to the right, and take the second right you come to, onto Virginia Canyon Road.  That's where the pavement ends and the fun begins!

Monday, August 11, 2014

PIKES PEAK, COLORADO on "TRAVEL TUESDAY"...

I always said I was going to do it one of these days...I went and climbed that "Fourteener" (the term for a mountain that rises more than 14,000 feet above sea level - Colorado has 54 of them).  I climbed it in the comfort of the passenger seat of a car, up 14,110 feet into the air; easing around hairpin turns on a road no wider than two passing cars; drop offs straight down the side; and in CLOUDS (not fog) thick as proverbial pea soup.  Yes, we drove it, but I'm still counting it.  
High above the cities of Colorado and Manitou Springs, it's where the legendary PIKES PEAK INTERNATIONAL HILL CLIMB automobile and motorcycle race takes place every year.  A "Race to the Clouds", indeed.  To and THROUGH the clouds.  Through the clouds AND the snow, this past week!  Though they race from closer to the bottom of the Pike National Forest area (there's also an annual marathon and a bike race), the "hairy" stuff starts around the 11,440 foot mark, at the Glen Cove Inn - a great place to stretch your legs on the way up, and a required brake test stop on the way down, performed by Park Rangers.
Breathtaking scenery abounds at every turn.  You can find a few "wide" (JUST barely) spots here and there for photo ops - more on the downhill "side".
Cars disappeared 10 feet in front of us in spots, where the clouds were thickest on the road.  Countless hairpin curves on this drive - you just take it steady, slowing as needed in the clouds, and following the center line if nothing else (we had an excellent driver that day).  Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep grazed in a large area, almost hidden by the clouds.  We passed a guy that had better determination and stamina than we...walking his bike the last few hundred feet - kudos to him for achieving what I wouldn't even attempt!  
The summit provides PLENTY of panoramic vistas.  This was in the middle of July - you WILL want a jacket (it can be 30-40 degrees cooler than Colorado Springs below it).  The black speck in the rock photos (click on the grouping and click again to zoom) was a young man, sitting on the very edge of an out-cropping - it was a long way down, believe me.  I eased my way out to the memorial plaque, which tested MY nerves on the height thing MORE than enough.
"In recognition of the notable career of ZEBULON MONTGOMERY PIKE, soldier – explorer - The people of Colorado have placed this tablet on the summit of the great mountain first seen by Pike, November 15, 1806..."
We were told at the bottom, to be sure to have the donuts at the top.  "World Famous", they said - "best donuts ever!", too.  "They" were right on both counts.  Deep fried right there in the coffee/souvenir shop on the summit - SERIOUSLY the best donut I think I have ever popped into my mouth.  You notice no frosting?  They didn't need it.  They had an unbelievable line of people waiting for these to be come out.
THE MANITOU AND PIKES PEAK RAILWAY is a cog railroad that operates year-round, from Manitou Springs to the summit, weather permitting.  Want to hike it?  There is the Barr Trail from the east (13 miles one-way, and an 8,000 ft. elevation gain, though only a Class 1 trail).  Another route approaches the summit from the west, at Crags Campground.
It's always amazing to me that you can actually see the curvature of the earth, the higher you get off the ground.  
The clouds were thinning and drifting by the time we started back down hill, affording us more jaw-dropping views.
A few more sheep were seen on these beautiful grassy Alpine areas, as well as the fat Rock Chuck (Ground Hog) that popped up to see what I was snapping.
For more info, visit PIKES-PEAK.COM (click the link here, plus any you may find in the body of this post, to be transported).  "On a clear day, you can see forevvvvvvvvvvvvver"...on a day with patchy clouds, you'll still be glad you "climbed" 'er!  Have the donuts!

Monday, August 4, 2014

HIGHEST I'VE BEEN IN AWHILE! THE HIGH ROLLER in LAS VEGAS on "TRAVEL TUESDAY"...

Being a Colorado girl (though "in absentia", for the time being), I can get away with the "high" jokes (both because of the elevation AND the newly passed pot laws).  Starting a new summer of Travelogue posts (I had to travel to come up with some material, but am back now), and starting with the HIGHEST spots first (and actually I was higher, on a mountaintop back home this summer, but that's another post). I know that every once in blue moon, someone lands here (whether accidentally or on purpose) that might just be interested in what I've seen or have to offer up travel tidbits about.  I begin with the "high" at the end of my summer travels, the new HIGH ROLLER at The Linq, on the Las Vegas Strip.
Standing at 550 feet tall, this is presently the world's largest observation wheel, with a wheel diameter of 520 ft.  We have watched with interest at this being built, over the past few years - being a little uneasy with heights, I really had no idea if I would ride or not...
until this past week, when my Dad and I braved it.  There are special Summer ticket rates now, through Labor Day, with Tuesdays also being half price for locals.  We decided we would be able to see farther during the day, but both agreed that a nighttime trip is probably in store next time round.
28 spherical pods, each weighing 44,000 lbs., can hold up to 40 people (yes, in each compartment - you can't even begin to get a feel for how big this thing is without seeing it in person).  We shared our cabin with 5 other strangers that day - 3, a delightful family from England, home of the 443 ft. London Eye Ferris Wheel.
Blast-off!
Looking up upon departure - each pod offers a 360 degree view.  The wheel maintains a constant motion, meaning you will board and depart while it is slowly moving.  There are ride attendants to help you on and off, should you need the help.  I am also assuming that if they have someone who really is is need of more help with these processes, they do bring the wheel to a halt - it did stop once while we were up towards the top, for about 3 minutes.
My dad, ever the engineer, noticed that part of the driving force behind keeping this giant wheel in motion are sets of large automobile tires on a track at the bottom (see large photo).  The wheel rotates on a pair of custom designed spherical roller-bearings, each weighing approx. 19,400 lbs.  Eye level with ascending airplanes, and my car (in the second from bottom row of the parking lot photo, 5th from the left), looking like a Matchbox toy.
Two banks of seats on opposite sides of each pod; air-conditioning; and an overhead video/sound system with wheel information during your 33-minute trip, up and over.
Make sure you bring a camera - it is usually so hard to capture the perspective your naked eye sees, and relay it in a manner that reads the same.  550 feet above the Las Vegas valley floor was pretty impressive, to say the least!
Up, out, over, under...the windows afford a clear shot of just about anything you want to see.  I noticed that the Imperial Palace/Quad needs to take more pride in the aging rooftop of their hotel.   
High, high, high...for those who are a little "nervous" with heights - as I said before, I hyperventilate at the Hoover Dam, but wasn't bothered a bit by this.  I did pop a half a Dramamine that morning (yeah, plagued by motion sickness too), and didn't have a problem with that either. 
Vegas from the air...
Definitely a "don't miss" sight in "the town with something for everyone".  
Looking west, while Dad looked south...so high!
We were even treated to a view of the fountain show at the Bellagio (just to the left of the Flamingo Hilton building in the large photo).  For those interested in more information, click on THIS!! THE LINQ/HIGH ROLLER!  If you're traveling through, hit me up and I'll meet you there!  More travel highs next Tuesday ~