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Connecticut River Valley, New England, United States

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Windy Colorado

The day broke bright and sunny as we left Cheyenne at around 825 at 27 degrees. Took a picture of the gate and its relationship to our motel window and continued on our way South to the scene of yesterday's accident. The snow on both sides of the road was gouged by multiple tire tracks in every possible direction giving testimony to the scene of skidding vehicles almost into the Northbound lanes and almost through the fence to the service road. It must have been horrific, especially with the full trucks across the lanes of travel. What was left of them was unbelievable. Gratefully, we drove by on wet but not terribly slick roads.

Within a few miles we entered Colorado, the last of the lower 48 for me to travel. The visitors' center lies 31 miles away from the state line in Ft. Collins, which was rated the most desirable American city in which to live several years ago by ? Maybe NatGeo Travel or some such magazine. I do remember that it was rated on excellent schools, cultural activities, employment, cost of living, crime rate, weather etc. Unfortunately, from an interstate it is difficult to even see the physical aspect of the town. We stopped at the center and chatted with the two ladies on duty--both of whom seemed happy to have warm bodies stop by. They said were it summer they would hardly have time to say hello it is so busy. Picked up a Colorado map, which I had not sent for, not expecting to travel this way. I'd had the Nevada packet sent to Betsy in Bozeman and, of course, forgot it. But Nevada is not on the agenda this year after all.

Not much farther along we suddenly noticed that the snow had disappeared--totally and that the mountains running parallel with us on the west side were also pretty clear of snow. A very strong wind was, however, rushing down their leeward slopes and across the flat valley trying very hard to send us Eastward into Kansas! We struggled with this wind the entire trip through Colorado. As a matter of fact, at the Shamrock station where we stopped for drinks, Bill almost could not open his door against it and when he got one leg out had to struggle to prevent it from being crushed by the door.

I-25 is a corridor of subdivisions, a few ranches, lots of business buildings and malls from just south of Ft Collins all the way to Pueblo. Denver, like Boston, extends out to meet you miles before the city center and remains with you miles after you've left it in your rear view mirror. I noticed the tollway loop around the city and perhaps that would have been a better way to go. Never having been this way before I wanted to see the skyline. The mile high city is not a city of high buildings. Perhaps that awful wind has something to do with that. There is a municipal train system that feeds along I-25 into the city from North and South but few people were on the station platforms or on the two trains we saw, rather the populace appears to prefer driving. At Colorado Blvd we were in stop and go traffic for about half an hour --the result of an accident. My neck on the window side felt like something was pinching it or like a pin was jabbing it. I reached up and my hand brushed my metal earring which was very hot to touch--the sun coming through the window had heated it--I've never experienced that before. The temperature was now 50 degrees

Colorado Springs again had subdivisions with houses quite huge pushed together like sardines in a can. I would hate living with no land around my house--where do you garden or sit out in the air on nice days? I would have liked to explore this place--the Air Force Academy, the Professional Rodeo Riders Museum and the home of the NHL. But, though I probably could have asked to arrive a day later to my friend's house in NM, Bill would not consider stopping. By this time the temperature had reached 54 degrees and I was sweltering in my heavy blue sweater. The sun coming through the windshield was burning my arm through the sleeve! Off to the West snow was falling on Pike's Peak to which there was not a reference anywhere except one exit for the highway to take you there. I think it was then that I realized I hadn't seen any billboards in Colorado! Are they banned there as well as in Vermont. I must say whenever they proliferate in other states I am so grateful we don't have them.

Pueblo has ancient industrial sites along the corridor---the installations were unfamiliar to us so we have no idea what industry took place there, whether it is still operable or if , as in so many other places, these grand old brick structures are empty waiting for the vandals. We passed through a very old part of town and a very impoverished part of town. Not what I expected in a town whose name I've always loved--probably because it sounds like pebble to me.

On we went and as we reached the southern end of the state around Trinidad the landscape became more Southwestern and we knew that New Mexico was not far away. I was surprised at the topography of this part of Colorado but Bill said it is considered part of the Plains and it is only Westward as one reaches the Rockies that it truly is the mountainous West.

In Ludlow--well, near what used to be Ludlow--there is a monument commemorating the Ludlow massacre. I don't know how I knew that this was not the site of an Indian altercation but rather a Rockefeller mining town massacre but I did. We didn't pull off there either so I had to look it up --Coal miners in 1914 went on a widespread strike across the board, not only in Ludlow. Here, as in other places, the Rockefeller family and the Harriman family among other rich folk, utilized strong arm men to subdue the strikers. In this case the Colorado National Guard opened fire on a settlement of 1200 miners and their families and killed 19 of them. Can you imagine--a State National Guard at the disposal of millionaire mine owners to subdue their workers and force them back to work? My Dad used to speak of towns that you could not drive through because the mine owners had their own policing forces and they kept outsiders out of the towns--they were posted on the roads, armed and stopped all traffic through the town.

The last county in Colorado through which we passed--Las Animas Co--had several nicely painted semi- trailers parked perpendicular to the highway. The message was in varying ways stated that there was enough land already taken and no more should go. So I looked that up too and it seems the Army which already has a huge tract of land in Pinion Canyon wishes to extend its size. These trailers in lieu of billboards is urging action against this expansion. Going to Pinion Canyon.com I found that there is a community organization urging people to buy an inch of the land to keep it out of the gov't's hands. LOL Wonder how much an inch of Colorado canyonland costs?

Finally, we came to Raton Pass which is 7000+ feet elevation but what does that matter when the towns we have been going through are 6000+ feet? So the climb was really insignificant--the pass is long and in some places open although it is mostly narrow. The winds were gusty in places but not terrible. At the top, where one enters NM, there is a weigh station at the peak on a curve with gusty winds and narrow road. I'd love to meet the idiot that designed that location. But then we were on the downgrade along which there were many elk warning signs and one bear warning sign. I hoped we would not meet any on the road though I would have loved a sighting. Elk are so elegant and bear are just cuddly LOOKING! But no. So off we got at the Raton northern exit and ran through the old town. My camera acted up so I was unable to get a shot of the two little art deco movie theatres side by side. The Schuster and the El Raton--hmmm. The King's Speech and the Justin Bieber movie were playing but, though I really wanted to see TKS, Bill was very tired from battling the winds for almost 325 miles. I satisfied myself reading Death on the Lizard, which I still haven't finished.

The wind is howling outside the motel window and the weather channel is saying a snow storm is moving into NM today around Albuquerque but we are headed there for an overnight visit with my friend Gloria and her husband, Bud. The sun is out now and I'm foregoing boots and heavy sweater today!

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