Farm Collector Blogs > Aussie Trek Across America

Aug. 13 to 17: Colorado

by Ron Bywaters

Tags: road trip, trek across America, tractor drive, Colorado,

Day 48

This was a day with three seasons — the morning was cool, sunny and quite spring like with all the colorful wild sunflowers along the roadways.

Then the temperature rose and was recorded at 95 degrees on a clock tower in Colorado Springs. This warmth kept up until around 4:30 p.m. when a cooler change came in, and then by 5 the clouds were looking very threatening and lightning was evident in the distance. Then the rain came down for a fairly short time and left the early evening fine but still with heavy threatening clouds.

The fine morning saw the group travel from Limon to Falcon — a relatively short run of 61 miles. During this trip, the elevation rose on every hill, the highest recording being 6,885 feet. Then, after booking in at the RV park and discussing the best sight-seeing options, we were on the road again by 11 a.m. and headed through the very scenic hills to the Royal Gorge, some 70 miles away.

After entering the Royal Gorge Bridge and Park we walked across the world’s highest suspension bridge, an amazing engineering feat which has been inspiring millions of travelers for 80 years. This bridge is suspended 1,053 feet above the Arkansas River which attracts many white water rafting enthusiasts, being one of the best stretches of water available for their sport. We were happy to just watch the cable car cross the gorge, and certainly did not envy those who chose to take the Skycoaster — daredevils who dangle themselves 1,200 feet above the river below and swing back and forth!

As always, time ran away and the planned itinerary was behind schedule. A visit to the Buckskin Joe Frontier Town was curtailed to a late lunch stop and then it was time to head back to the RV park. By this time, the threatening clouds and subsequent rainstorms made the journey rather slow, compounded by the 5 p.m. traffic. Fortunately it was dry at the RV park, but the forecast is rain over the next day or so.

Day 49

The anticipated showers did not eventuate overnight and it was a pleasant surprise to find the day fine, though still quite cloudy.

In order to be at Manitou by 7:30 a.m. to join the 8 a.m. Cog Railway trip to Pike’s Peak, we needed to leave the RV park at around 6:30. It was quite an achievement when we were actually on the road within 10 minutes of this objective, all in the one RV. Dick and Barbara stayed behind after feeling the effects of the high altitude.

The trip to Manitou went well with the help of “Mary,” the friendly GPS and we were in good time for the trip up the very steep mountain. The Manitou and Pike’s Peak Railway uses the Abt rack system to climb as much as 25 feet for every 100 feet it moves forward.

At the peak, the altitude is 14,115 feet and toward the top the clouds made visibility very poor, and then we experienced a light snow fall and extremely cold conditions. Fortunately the Pike’s Peak Summit House is ever ready for cold travelers with hot chocolate, all sorts of goodies and the house specialty — doughnuts cooked on site. It is said that if you were to take one down to the lower altitude, it would look like a flat biscuit, but ours did not have to experience that fate! On the other hand, a packet of potato crisps taken up the mountain by Allan looked like a half blown balloon!

While coming back down the mountain, the rain set in and we were all glad we had seen the wonderful views while it was still dry. These views inspired an American lady by name of Katherine Lee Bates to write a very famous poem “America the Beautiful” which when set to music, lost its bid to become the national anthem to “The Star-Spangled Banner” in 1931. Hardy folks actually hike up this mountain, usually staying overnight in a half-way house and there are even foot races held which we were informed are usually won in about the same time or less than the train takes.

While out and about, it seemed a shame not to take in another close attraction — the Garden of the Gods, a drive through the park where some of the most incredible rock formations can be seen, mostly in red rock, all totally different in their form and all very beautiful. The park also boasts a Trading Post which is the largest in Colorado and is a real trap for the shopoholics!

Once back at the RV park, Carolyn and Allan were pleased to meet up with relatives Dave and Maxine Joseph, who had driven from Arkansas to see them. Then there were interviews with TV and the local press before it was time to head north. At a little town named Kiowa our appearance was received with shock and surprise — one local said she thought she was seeing things when the first tractor went by, and was absolutely amazed to find there were three! We stopped to ask directions on the best road to take, and finished up being offered accommodation at the local fairgrounds and enjoyed the company of quite a few of the locals before dining in the local café.

Day 50

The morning was fine and cool enough to enjoy the drive north on CR194 through Bennett, then 79 to Prospect Valley where the sunflowers were blooming profusely.

After turning left into Route 52 then right into 41, a sign to an air museum was seen and the lads could not resist the temptation to visit “for a short time.” Quite some time later they re-appeared saying that the Vintage Aero Flying Museum was “absolutely fantastic!” This museum houses one of the largest collections of WWI, Golden Age and WWII aviation memorabilia in the world.

The next stop was at Wal-Mart in Greeley, Colo., where it is never hard to waste an hour or two. Then the short drive to Loveland where we parked in the grounds of the Convention Center for an overnight stay. Much to the surprise of those adventuresome lads, there was an antique car show on at the center, and they made the most of the rest of the afternoon to have a good look around these masterpieces of a bygone age.

Day 51

The morning was quite cool as everyone headed across to the Road Knights car show — 680 cars of every make and color making a really wonderful display.

The quick look the guys had yesterday did not do the show justice as not all the cars had arrived. As the day warmed up, so did the crowd increase until there was a real carnival atmosphere.

The organizers of the show had invited the tractors to park at the entrance to the show and then requested the crew members to make an appearance at their official opening at 1 p.m. The hall was absolutely packed with 680 teams represented and our group was given a rousing welcome when we all went up front. Neville gave a short talk about why we are in the USA and how much we are enjoying the experience.

For the ladies, there was also a Rubber Stamp and Scrapbook EXPO, selling every imaginable craft kit in either of these two hobbies. Even for those not smitten with such activities, there were lots of craft ideas to buy for the grandchildren.

By about 3 p.m. it was time to leave off watching the vintage cars as they drove away from the show and head to the Loveland RV park. Allan and Carolyn met us there with Carolyn’s rellies Dave, Maxine, Jack and Joyce. They had spent a couple of days together and had obviously had a great time. The park has lovely shady trees which will certainly help to keep the vans cool while we are out sightseeing in the Rocky Mountains tomorrow.

Day 52

The morning started out fine and cool — a wonderful day for our trip into the Rocky Mountains.

Those who had been up to Pike’s Peak remembered how cold the mountains are, so we were all well prepared with warm winter jackets.

The 7 a.m. start gave us good time to drive to Estes Park and have a hot drink before starting up the mountains in an open air 14-seat Toyota 4WD vehicle.

Our first stop was at the historic Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, celebrating its 100th birthday this year. Although we could only see it from the road, we were told that it is America’s third most haunted hotel and was the inspirational setting chosen for the novel The Shining by author Stephen King.

The 4WD Toyota was able to take the unsealed road to the top — many hairpin bends and very steep sides — it did not pay to look down! As we climbed through the three life zones, the temperature dropped quite dramatically. At the Visitors Center at Trail Ridge, we rejoined the paved road to the summit of Mount Evans which is the highest of its type in North America and at 14,264 feet we were well and truly in need of the rugs supplied.

The views on the uphill journey were truly incredible, with a new vista at each turn and we were indeed fortunate to have clear skies at the summit.

During the morning we saw waterfalls, fast running creeks, remnants of last year’s winter snow, regrowth after floods, valleys formed by long-gone glaciers and three of the mountain’s animals — mountain sheep, squirrels and one small animal sunbaking on the rocks. We keep being told that there are numerous animals in the mountains, but they are all very shy of visitors it would seem.

A quick lunch in Estes Park upon our return was enjoyable and then it was time to head back to the RV park for a quiet afternoon. Some members of the group took this opportunity to visit Denver, some 50 miles away.

See photos and read more on Ron’s website,