A Trip Down Memory Lane in Colorado Springs, Colorado

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Last Wednesday, my husband and I decided at the spur of the moment to take a trip to Colorado Springs. A little bit of history – we moved our family to Eastern Iowa almost 7 years ago when my husband, Dan, separated from the Air Force. His last active duty assignment was teaching political science at the Air Force Academy. Dan is also a USAFA grad and we dated when he was a cadet. I was in college in Missouri and used to drop everything for a weekend drive to  Colorado Springs. I’m not going to lie to you – I thought it was pretty exciting dating a military cadet. ;-) And I absolutely LOVED driving out to  Colorado to spend weekends {and sometimes entire summers} with him. I thought he had a very exciting life. And I guess the feeling was mutual. He liked visiting me at my normal university where I could walk to class and wear what I wanted {and leave when I wanted}.

Anyway, a few months ago, we found out that his USAFA roomate was having a surprise 40th birthday party in Colorado Springs. We discounted the idea though, because October has been a super busy month for us – a mandatory business trip and my 20th high school reunion are still on our calendar for this month. We just didn’t think we could do it all. But last Wednesday, we decided we HAD to go. We thought we’d leave Thursday afternoon, drive half way {7 hours of the 14 hour trip} and then get to USAFA in time for the Air Force / Navy Rugby match. Dan played rugby as a cadet and later coached the team as well. He’s the last coach to take the team to the Final 4. {Yes, I can brag on my hubs for  minute…}

I thought 27 hours was plenty of time to pack up my crew and tidy the house, and called a friend to let her know we were leaving! Well, imagine my surprise when I figured out it was actually THURSDAY right then, and not Wednesday.  Instead of 27 hours to get ready for the trip, I had 3 hours… In a flash I started doing laundry – and wouldn’t you know it, my front loader somehow flooded my bathroom and I had to take 5 soaking loads of laundry to the laundry mat after we spent an entire hour mopping up the laundry room. But despite the drama, we finally did get out of Iowa. We left 2 hours later than we hoped and made it halfway by 2 am. We spent the night in Kearney, Nebraska and then drove on into the Springs on Friday, arriving early afternoon.

A Trip Down Memory Lane in Colorado Springs, Colorado

kids under the welcome to colorful colorado sign It was cold! And we ran into snow shortly before we hit Colorado.

girl in car seat examining snow flakes We didn’t get a lot of snow last winter so Sara was especially interested in it.

brown stucco house and driveway in Colorado Springs

The first place we headed was our old house. Because of the way we entered the Springs, it made sense to stop there first. We were so excited to see the old neighborhood again and show our kids the mountains. But it was so stinking cloudy, we couldn’t see them at all. We did find our house though, and were surprised to see how nice the landscaping that we built by hand still looks. We couldn’t believe how big the bushes and aspen trees are. They have grown a ton!

Then we headed to the Air Force Academy. It was freezing cold.  BRRRRR. So cold! We toured the Cadet Field House and went the Visitor Center.

family standing on the terrazo at USAFA in the fog Then we headed down to the Terrazzo to watch the rugby match.

foggy picture of a rugby match at USAFA You can see how nasty the weather was – the buildings were barely visible.  And it was too cold for the little girls, so I took them back to the van halfway through and we waited there for Dan and the older kids.The older kids were impressed by everything. They had a lot of questions about Dan’s role in the Air Force and wanted to know why we left.

the cadet chapel at USAFA in the fog It was fun talking about everything and remembering life before children. We used to lead a pretty exciting life, if I do say so myself. Of course, it’s only the good times I remember now and there were plenty of struggles too.

The next day, we drove around in search of mountains. :-) We promised our kids mountains and were determined to deliver even if they were no where to be found.

a burnt down house in Colorado Springs We didn’t find mountains, but we did find ruins from the recent fire. We were shocked to see how indiscriminate the fire was. One house would be untouched, but both houses on either side were completely destroyed. It was totally bizarre. And we saw a few scenes like the one above – stairs to an entry way of a home that is no longer there. It was mind boggling and very sad.

rebuild Colorado Springs sign After we drove around looking at the fire damage four cold kids in the rocks at Garden of the Gods for a while, we headed out to Garden of the Gods and had fun!

snow in an evergreen tree at Garden of the Gods The kids had a blast even though it was still freezing cold! We had checked the weather and packed coats, but it was still a shock to our systems. Winter’s coming…but so far we haven’t had really cold weather yet this year. {Or, they had it while we were gone…}

kids climbing in the rocks at Garden of the Gods And we climbed and hiked and taught the kids about what altitude does to physical fitness.

kids climbing in the rocks at Garden of the Gods The kids were impressed that their dear old mom could scramble too! I swear I used to be a fun person…

mom and 4 kids at kissing camels in garden of the gods And then we headed to the surprise party and enjoyed an afternoon with old friends.Our old neighbors kept the kids so Dan & I could enjoy an evening with our military friends. It was really a nice night and we were so thankful that our neighbors agreed to watch our 4 darling children. Thanks so much, Gladys, if you’re reading!!

On Sunday morning, bright and early, we got up and drove the 14 hours back to Iowa. We finally did see the mountains as we hit Denver and turned east. The clouds finally blew away and the kids were stunned. Finally – they understand what we mean when we say mountain.

All in all, this trip down memory lane was really fun. It was a TON of driving for a very short trip, and we didn’t see everyone or everything we would like to have seen, but our kids were troopers! They did such a great job and we all had a blast. We’ll go back one of these days when we have more time. And hopefully the weather will be better then, too.

Have you ever done something crazy like this? It’s good to remember to live. I’m so glad we went. Life is short. Don’t forget to have fun!


About Michelle Marine

Michelle Marine is the author of How to Raise Chickens for Meat, a long-time green-living enthusiast, and rural Iowa mom of four. She empowers families to grow and eat seasonal, local foods; to reduce their ecological footprint; and to come together through impactful travel.

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