We reluctantly pulled away from Salida in the direction of Colorado Springs. Our route took us back through Howard and through the picturesque Bighorn Sheep Canyon. On the way we passed the incarceration capitol of at least Colorado, if not the U.S. We breezed through Canon City and Florence. Florence is the home of the biggest baddest supermax prison in the federal system. The ADX Florence. This gem houses such luminaries as, Zacarias Moussaoui, Boston Bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, Shoe Bomber Richard Reid, unibomber Ted Kaczynski, Atlanta Bomber Eric Rudolph…just to name a few. Crazy.
We decided to skip a tour (kidding) and rode on into Colo Spgs as it is listed on the signage. All I could think of was this awesome article from the Denver Post that showed up in the dark days of the Tea Party takeover of Colo Springs. Apparently we were late for the party, things had bounced back. Plentiful mowed parks, a thriving military town with Pikes Peak and Cheyenne Mountain lording over the town. After finding maybe the coolest bar in town (to our reckoning), the Zodiac, some regulars directed us up the mountain to find our next campsite.
Another one of my notorious side notes… If you want to know anything about a town, from the local gossip, to the best cheapest hamburger, to the best campsite, check in at the local watering hole! If you are nice, most folks will give you the lay of the land. But I digress, we followed directions from the locals and ended up on Rampart Range Road, just North of Woodland Park. This was a little pulloff on a forest service road that turned out to be suprisingly busy due to xmas tree season. The forest service sells permits for $10 to cut your own tree and apparently no-one wants to buy a $60 tree (like most folks where we hail from). Our cute little national forest campsite turned out to be a hive of Christmas tree cutting activity much to our suprise! Still a great site.
We made the day trip over Divide and into Cripple Creek expecting a cool historic mining town, and were instead met with a mini Reno. Bright LED strips in all the windows, the glow of video gambling machines shining out the windows and bathing the historic streets in alien light. Alas. During our time in Colo, we got to check out Garden of the Gods, twice, a fantastic free city park full of sandstone fins and awesome rock formations, we hiked red rock canyon open space, and wandered the Anasazi cliff dwellings at Manitou Springs! Long story short, this was a great spot. The people were beyond friendly and the scenery was great.
Unfortunately our trip was coming to a close. The original plan was to check out Denver and Boulder (and perhaps Fort Collins) and then proceed to OK via Kansas, but the weather and time conspired against us and we re-routed. Cate always wanted to take the traytray onto route 66, and she got her wish. Turned away from Denver, we retraced steps and beyond. We drove south through Pueblo Colorado, through the lonely grasslands in New Mexico, across 40 miles of rough roads in the pitch dark to Tucumcari, NM.