Driving from the eastern end of South Park on Route 24 to Colorado Springs is a favorite drive of mine. I was excited to take my mom and my daughters on this, our summer Colorado road trip, as I reminisced about all the times we drove this drive when I was growing up. My daughters were still reeling at the magnificent mountains; something they simply can’t see where we live in Maine. Although, in my opinion, we were leaving most of the biggest and best mountains behind, we still had one more giant in our path before we descended on Colorado Springs – Pikes Peak. As we drove east, we could see Pikes Peak in the distance, the only mountain of its size on the Front Range.
Route 24 became very interesting as it wound through natural formations of giant boulders, tumbling rivers, and scenic small towns along the way. My mom and I planned that we would stop in the little town of Lake George, because there was a favorite restaurant we used to visit when I was young and we remembered it as having the best hamburgers west of the Mississippi. Our mouths were watering as we drove into the tiny town, but much to our dismay, the restaurant was closed. We were sad, but we headed on toward Woodland Park, where we knew we could find a place to have lunch.
Woodland Park is at the top of Ute Pass just 18 miles up into the mountains above Colorado Springs. It used to be little more than a bend in the road, but it has become one of the premier places to live and commute into the city. With spectacular views of Pikes Peak from anywhere in town, there is not a bad place to live in Woodland Park. We had old friends in Woodland Park, so after picking up lunch at the local Taco Bell, we drove into the surrounding hills to pay a visit.
After chatting for a while, catching up on old times, and making new memories, we said our good-byes and drove the winding drive down Ute Pass. We passed the quaint town of Green Mountain Falls, and glimpsed Santa Claus on top of the Peppermint Slide at the North Pole Amusement Park. The 25 minute drive brought us down into the heart of Old Colorado City, which hugs the western side of Colorado Springs. Although we were tired from our day of driving, we could not resist stopping off at the Garden of the Gods Park, where we visited the new, huge visitor center and watched a short film about how the giant red rocks were formed. We then drove on to our hotel to change, and then we had a wonderful Mexican dinner out with some more old friends. We went to an old piano bar type restaurant called El Sombrero Restaurante. We were delighted when a one-man band showed up just after our arrival, and began singing country and western songs. He had a voice that was a cross between George Straight and Randy Travis, and he could sing anything past and present. We made requests, sang along, and had a lot of laughs; and we all marveled at that talented singer who was singing in a small but good Mexican restaurant, when he should have been on the radio.
The next morning, we were up early with plans to take the girls horseback riding at the Garden of the Gods stable, and then to take the Cog Railway up to the summit of Pikes Peak. We also had plans to have dinner with more old friends later that evening. The day began as it should have, and we drove the girls to the riding stable, enjoying yet another sunny day in paradise; but just as their ride ended, I became ill with a 24-hour virus. I went back to the hotel and suffered in bed while my mom took the girls out to Michelle’s Ice Cream Parlor downtown. She was not up to taking them up Pikes Peak, but they had a wonderful day in spite of the change in plans. We also had to cancel our dinner with friends, but we were able to pay them a short visit the next day before we left town. Sometimes the best laid plans simply must be changed to suit the situation.