Just A Typical Week in Colorado Springs
What we did for a week in 2014
Three different couples visited me here in Colorado Springs this summer. Two were house guests for a few days. We did lots of things, had tons of fun. One couple stayed almost a week and our activities were diverse enough that I started to take notes. When they left, it seemed like a fun idea to put it here. This is my perspective on what transpired. Names have been changed to protect the innocent.
So, my old friend Garrett and his lovely wife Lucinda stopped here in September, coming from a vacation stop in New Mexico, and on their way next to visit a relative, then westward to Nevada. Garrett has money, and a small (but expensive) airplane. This is what we did for the 5-6 days they were in Colorado Springs. Mostly chronological. Considering my normal routine consists of morning exercise, afternoon nap, evening TV, this was quite an exciting (and challenging) time for me.
Friday Sept 26 – Stocking the Fridge/ The Big Fish
Picked them up at the Colorado Jet Center FBO (private fixed base operator) about 3 PM. Straight home, then to the supermarket. I had been pondering for weeks what to do about food during their visit. I am not a cook, nor do I eat out often, and prefer to eat simple things at home. Pizza, eggs, tuna salad, salmon, etc. Chicken is fine, but no red meat, please. Lucinda I remembered as a great and creative cook, so on a whim riding home from the A/P I suggested that she do all the dinner meals. She was enthusiastic about saying yes. Before heading to the store, we stopped at the house to look over my cooking gear, which met her approval. Her jaw actually dropped when she opened the refrig to see the voidness wrapped in white. Ditto, the freezer side.
On the counter after they put their traveling cooler food in my fridge, I noticed two small cups with red liquid. (jello shots?) Later, these became quite a mystery*. I put them in fridge.
Got them moved into the palatial ground level quarters and comfortable with the facilities. Then off to Safeway for food and a cheese grater. There we had our first memorable ‘experience’. Salmon was to be our main course, so we picked up everything else to last a few days, then to the fresh seafood counter. Probably ten salmon filets available in the glass case, but no fish person to help us. Rang the bell, etc. No help? No Problem for this team. Lucinda raised the glass cover from the front, Garrett deftly pulled a clear plastic glove from a box on the counter top, reached under the glass and held up every single filet until Lucinda said ‘that one’. Garrett gently removed the filet, put it in a plastic bag, weighed it accurately on the scale and then with a black pencil again from the counter, wrote down the weight and price per pound on a separate slip of paper. We finish shopping (actually the cart was full, that’s how we decided we’d bought enough food) and head for the front to get in line.
Turns out the unpackaged fish caused such a stir that it required three employees and 5 extra minutes to complete our transaction. The checkout guy freaked out at the floppy fish bag, the bag boy (probably 15 yo) seemed to be personally offended that there had been no help at the seafood counter, and the manager was the one who finally figured out what we owed, by calculating the weight and $ per lb on his phone. Needless to say, the folks behind us were smiling, but not at all happy at the delay. We left with the well-handled salmon (it had been passed around for all to inspect) still in the clear plastic bag. (You might want to try this in your own supermarket, if you have a little time to burn and need a laugh)
The bill at Safeway was $127, this for maybe two dinners for the three of us, and including a quality grater. OK. Several unique (to me) items were placed in our shopping kart that evening: a head of cabbage, a package of marojam, a cylindrical box of (uncooked) Quaker Oats, two huge yams and a pound of freshly ground turkey packaged and looking just like ground hamburger. Maybe brussels sprouts also. I asked about the scary looking things (yams and B sprouts) and Lucinda was kind enough to explain her plans for each. Dubious.
Back at the house, we took advantage of the nice weather and walked a block over to the Model home in my subdivision. It is six years newer than my house, with depressingly nicer finishes. Probably $60,000 in upgrades. While Lucinda started the dinner (six PM sharp sitting down at the table, no excuses), Garrett and I checked the Atlas to see where Croatia is and noticed that country has the best of the Adriatic Coast. Why did we do this? I cannot recall a reason, just two men trying to avoid helping with dinner.
Did not write down what we had for dinner that evening, probably because I ate too much. Lucinda is a gourmet cook. Better than a good cook, much better than even an excellent cook. Gourmet at the blue ribbon level. Each and every meal was planned, the ingredients were correct, seasoning was almost undetectable and the presentation was suburb. It is hard to describe my awe and wonderment each evening at six. Of course, Garrett and I did set the table and help with the clean-up.
Friday evening, we watched a movie selected by all. I believe it revolved around an adulterous husband.
Saturday Sept 27 – Hiking, Nachos and Fries Flies
Garrett and Lucinda are quite a bit younger than I, and in excellent condition; there was quite a concern that they would be slowing down their normal pace for me to keep up. We picked a hike with very little vertical plus invited a friend along to make it more of a party than exercise.
We chose to take our walk in the Spring’s most famous landmark, Garden of the Gods. My friend Kathy met us in the parking lot. It was perfect weather again and the trail was among the firs and pines. We did a loop of about 2.8 miles. Garrett made it a point to get friendly with Kathy, and soon knew more about my friends’ career than I. A nurse, no wonder she is such a nice person always. Her former husband was in the Air Force, an M.D. Like so many others, she and her husband had come back to retire here – of all the choices and places they’ve been stationed, the Springs has what they want after a military career. Met some college guys on the trail from Boise State who were here for the Air Force Academy game. They expected to win and seemed to feel sorry for AF. Turned out AF upset them, 28 – 14 that evening.
Cruised through downtown Manitou Springs (a small city adjacent to the Springs) on the way home. Lucinda saw an outdoor restaurant with umbrellas and immediately requested to stop and have a beer. It was crowded, we parked and walked several blocks back. Decided to have lunch, it was Mexican food. My order of Nachos arrived on a gigantic oval plate with a six inch high pile of chips, cheese, jalapenos and whatever else (but no red meat) belongs in a 1,000 calorie appetizer. Garrett and Lucinda each ate 1/4 from the ends, I ate the middle 2/3. Both gave me some of their lunch as a trade. They got the best deal – ½ of my nachos. I believe they took some food home to help fill up the available crevices in my fridge. Service was OK, weather was perfect – 80 degrees, no wind. Lucinda stopped in a dress shop on the way to the car, and made several positive comments about the little town of Manitou Springs. She refilled her water bottle from one of Manitou’s ten mineral springs (a fountain, really) right there on the sidewalk of the main street. Very successful day so far with the scenic, easy hike and Manitou Springs nearby. Everyone happy.
Late that afternoon, Lucinda showed me her photos of the vacation house they had just come from in Ruidoso. I showed my guests photos from my visits to their two places (Arkansas and South Carolina) several years back. Also a video of one of my scenic motorcycle rides in California this June, near Bodega Bay and Lake Sonoma.
The windows in my house have been opened hardly at all since I moved in seven years ago. My house has a central humidifier and once the humidity has been raised to say 50%, it will get sucked out through any window or door left open to the outside, where 10-15% is normal. Well, Lucinda begged for fresh air (after the first night) so we let flies in for several hours each day thereafter. I have no screens because: A. I never open the windows and B. The views are much better through glass only and C. Much faster to clean.
Sunday Sept 28 – Movies Justifying Adulterous Decisions
I went to the gym early, then back to notice that Garrett and Lucinda had settled into their normal routine. Checking email and correspondence while sitting in front of the TV, sound turned down. Good, they are comfortable, and most importantly know how to use the remote.
G and L were impressed with the hi-res TV in the living room. I suspect, that just like what happened to me, once they saw the difference in a friend’s home, they’ll have to have one too. Football games, for example are mesmerizing, with the detail, instant replay and close-up action.
Movies (were mandatory entertainment each evening) ALL had adultery. We tried streaming ‘Orange is the New Black’, and were not impressed with the episode (cry baby woman) or the streaming speed. Then watched ‘The Good Wife’ (unexciting episode, I could see the story line and characters had potential, but wasn’t gripping, moving or endearing that night) (Note: by now I have taped several episodes and started watching, the female lead Julia Margolis does carry the storyline and it’s reasonably good). ‘Prime’ with Meryl Streep and Uma Thurman (hot) was excellent except the ending took a twist no one liked. ‘Saving Mr. Banks’ turned out to be much better than I expected and Tom Hanks again proved he can pull off about any role. Emma Thompson played the author P.L. Travers, who wrote Mary Poppins under the pen name Mr. Banks and she was terrific.
Late that evening, we all stepped out on my back deck and observed the Big Dipper and Polaris. According to Lucinda, the Big Dipper is known as a ‘Bear’ in Russia. Oh yeah, I forgot, Lucinda is from Russia, which is also near Croatia, maybe that’s one reason to look at the Atlas. Turns out the Big Dipper IS part of the Ursa Major constellation!! Neither of us educated men knew what was obvious to Lucinda.
Monday Sept 29 – Hiking, Simulator Flying and Peanut Butter
Five of us hiked Seven Bridges (drove to the trailhead five miles from home) with Kathy, and another friend Martina. About 3.75 miles, maybe 1,000 feet vertical. The trail was narrow and perilous. We turned back a little early as Kathy was feeling nauseous with the steepness and precipitous slopes. The decision to stop was unanimously approved by all five, as we had crossed all seven bridges in sunshine and were headed upward into the dark forest ahead. Lucinda and I went in my car to Walmart for extra lunch supplies (this is the trip where brussels sprouts were purchased). Kathy followed Garrett and Martina to my house and missed the turn into the neighborhood. Martina went back to find Kathy while Garrett prepared the table for sandwiches and a game of Mexican Train dominoes. Kathy won the final game, but was cheated when she played a double, and Garrett (Mr. Rules) incorrectly told her she would have to play a second domino immediately, or else draw one and pass. Garrett won two plays later. Next day, I found the official rules and confronted Garrett. No apologies. Poor Kathy, but as always, she was nice about the situation.
Garrett tried out my flight simulator (Real Flight 6.5) which has a control box exactly like the radio control hobbyists use for flying their models. (Remember we are both expert pilots with years of experience and finely coordinated motor skills) The simulator runs on my PC with 24” monitor and is very realistic. We each tried three different airplanes and never once landed without crashing. He crashed on every single ‘flight’ shortly after takeoff. The simulator crashes are also realistic; the airplane usually disintegrates spectacularly and with sound effects. We both laughed so hard we were crying. Flying a model is not even close to flying a real airplane, it takes different skills entirely.
Garrett and I studied my raised relief map of Colorado to confirm his flight route from the Springs airport to Vegas. He wanted to thread through the Rockies at the lowest altitude on the shortest route, and he had an opinion from his on-line research. Look at the map and see if you can see the best way across. Monarch Pass is 11,300’. An altitude at which you need, and Garrett had brought, oxygen. A big bottle and two masks, in the back seat ready for use.
That evening, I noticed the Peanut Butter jar in the pantry had been moved to the front. Turns out Garrett had eaten quite a portion, despite a large handwritten note on the lid ‘Do Not Eat – Mouse Bait’. Yes, Garrett helped himself to – Mouse Bait. Lucinda later requested me to remove the chocolate pieces from the after dinner trail mix I served each evening. Evidently Garrett requires supervision around food.
Tuesday Sept 30 – Actual Flying in the Mountains
Went flying (without Lucinda, she stayed at the house), was supposed to be three of us as I had asked Garrett to let my friend Robert go along and sit in the right seat. Robert got his signals mixed up (he does not keep a calendar, evidently) (which is extra weird, since he’s the only one with a job), so it was just Garrett and I. Took a grand tour of the beautiful Springs area, then north to Castle Rock and back down the South Platte River Valley and Ute Pass. A 150 mile loop around a small group of mountains called the Rampart Range, highest elevation 9,600’. We checked out the devastation from the 2012 Waldo Canyon fire, which destroyed 340+ homes in the Springs and 18,000 acres of forest in the mountains. Garrett says I’m almost ready to try a touch and go in his expensive airplane. Maybe.
Upon landing, we noticed a beautiful twelve seat jet (Gulfstream IV?) with ‘The United States of America’ in gold letters on a white and sky blue paint job parked at the Jet Center, went over and took some photos of it. In the terminal was the crew, so we got to talk to the very friendly Air Force pilot-in-command, who confirmed that his job was one of the better tours in the AF. His only duty was to transport government officials – from V.P. Biden on down the Chain of Command – to meetings around the world. His airplane has a 4,000 mile maximum leg. He couldn’t tell us who was his high profile passenger on this trip.
Then on to the National Museum of World War II Aviation, right here at the Springs airport. (Lucinda later commented she was sorry to have missed this museum) We were lucky and talked our way into an in-depth tour of all the facilities, including the normally off-limits hangars where they are in the process of restoration. The volunteers at the museum were rebuilding a Link trainer, designed in the 40’s and extremely sophisticated for its time. Both Garrett and I had been required to spend many hours in our versions (Garrett AF, me Navy in the ‘60s) of this exact trainer they were rebuilding.
WestPac Restoration (for profit) has a separate hangar with astoundingly complex restorations underway. For example a P-38. We talked to a propeller specialist who was straightening and balancing blades. They are balanced similar to auto tires, except to extremely small tolerances, it might take days to get a big prop balanced so that it will not self-destruct. A large propeller – 6’ per blade on a big motor will exceed the speed of sound at its tip. Another gentleman was rebuilding a wing, and had been working on it (just the wing) for 3-1/2 years. The wing frame was mostly from a wrecked airplane, he was bending (complex curves) the new aluminum skin and then riveting each small panel to the frame. Just guessing, over 100,000 rivets in the one wing, amazing. That’s right, 100k rivets in a single P-38 wing.
The restoration company had a perfect Douglas A-1 Skyraider in the hangar with the most beautiful paint scheme ever. My best friend in the Navy Training Command flew this same airplane in Nam in the late ‘60s. Propeller was 14’ diameter and the ‘spad’ could take off from a carrier without a catapult, easily even when loaded with munitions. On landing, It was prone to fatal torque roll if waved off (go around) and too much throttle. Engine is a twin row, 18 cylinder turbocharged beast of 3,700 HP (200 HP per cylinder). Each piston is about the size of a janitor’s mop bucket. Lord have mercy, and the pilot had better have a strong (but coordinated) right leg.
On the way home, Garrett and I stopped by a FedEx office to send the data cards from the Cirrus back to his home field for updating. He will pick them up before he leaves next week. The Cirrus has what is called a ‘glass cockpit’ (instrument panel), and almost every gauge is dependent on the software (data cards) and hardware. Did not get back home till almost three.
Late in the afternoon, after a short nap, all three of us drove up the hill, parked and took a short hike to a promontory in Red Rock Canyon Open Space, which overlooks the city, and my house. Back for dinner, trying to use up the massive amount of food still in my fridge. Today only, Lucinda relented on the six PM dinner bell.
That evening, Garrett introduced me to ‘Airplane Repo’ on Discovery channel. Good show with lots of angst watching a small group of legit pilot thieves try to find and repossess an airplane. We both learned what problem an illuminated ‘Chip Light’ indicates on a 50 year old amphibious airplane. The re-possessors got the warning light (indicates metal chips in the oil sump), and had to put down on the water for immediate repairs.
Wednesday Oct 01 – The Air Force Academy and Goodbyes
Garrett and Lucinda packed up while I went to the gym. When I got back, they had stripped the bed, washed all the linens and towels, and were remaking their bed, cleaning up their bathroom and kitchen until everything sparkled! Now, these are guests I will invite back! Our plan was to leave for the AFA (Air Force Academy) by 11:00 so we could watch the cadets form up and march to lunch.
We arrived just in time. The formations were on the quadrangle (Mall of Heroes) and the band started playing as we walked up from the visitor center. Probably 100 people with us on the plaza above watching. 2,000 cadets march in formation to the mess hall, and they do this every single day at noon! With a band! Went back to the visitor center to watch a 20 minute movie of cadet life (both Garrett and I cried a little) and to learn about the ‘Rock’ (a granite formation on the base to which cadets hike). Garrett’s brother met us at the Academy gate (he couldn’t get in, no Driver’s License?), followed us to Qdoba Mexican Grill down the freeway for lunch. Lucinda had requested Mexican food, I used Yelp for the first time. Yelp gave Qdoba 4 stars, I would give it maybe one point five. Garrett paid for lunch, again! Transferred the luggage, said our good-byes and off they went to Garrett’s brother’s house a few miles away.
I returned home to a sadly quiet and empty house. Immediately assessed the refrigerator for what I could allow to stay and what must be abandoned. In the latter category was cabbage, marojam, unidentifiable leftovers in two tupperwares, the box of oatmeal and a rectangular box of generic raisin bran. I did keep some bread (Lucinda had introduced me to pumpernickel – so good!), mayo (for sandwiches, otherwise not allowed), lettuce and deli meat. Immediately ate the yummy (identifiable) leftovers: a rice casserole and two turkey fritters (what is a fritter?).
Neighborhood street repair occurred every day on my block starting on Saturday AM, the day after my guests arrived. Naturally, the work was completed today, and the incessant noise stopped.
*The Jello Cups Controversy
Who brought them into my house? It wasn’t me, for sure. Here’s the conversation, after they left and I’m cleaning out the fridge and notice they did not take them. I mentioned to them (email) that they were still here, maybe it was something important in the cups and they forgot them. Part of the back and forth: