Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas and Colorado Springs, Colorado

How wonderful it is to be in Colorado! This is state #31 as we continue our travels around North America. We’re quickly approaching our 1-year mark of being full-timers on the road. Our departure date from Alaska in the motor coach was June 17, 2008. We’re now camping at the Air Force Academy’s Famcamp nestled right into the breathtaking Rocky Mountains. We’re at about 7,000 ft, and Pike’s Peak towers up at 14,000 ft just south of us.

Let me back up a week to where I left off in Liberty, MO. We headed west for Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas for a wonderful visit with the Galvin’s. Jim and Thom were classmates four years ago at Univ of Texas at Austin, when they acquired their fellowship (War College equivalent). Regina is a senior editor and fantastic writer, and they have two daughters, Shelby (15) and Olivia (11). Jim just retired as a Colonel last month, and they’re moving to Evergreen, CO where Jim accepted a fantastic job offer with NREL (Natl. Renewable Energy Lab) in Golden, CO.

After a delicious ham dinner, we had two visitors stop by. Paul Funk is another UT classmate who will soon be moving to Ft. Leavenworth with his family and he’s being promoted shortly to Brigadier General! It was great seeing him. Also, Dave McBride who is a West Point classmate of Thom’s and a neighbor of the Galvin’s, stopped by. He and his family are moving to Heidelberg, Germany this month. What a memorable evening!

The kids had a sleepover and had a great time playing Guitar Hero and other games. Olivia and Will were best buddies back in Austin. The six kids played outside the next day and helped a precious baby bird which had fallen out of its nest. Before we left, it was flying on its own. We all walked around Ft. Leavenworth on an ideal spring day, taking in the sights of the wide Missouri River and visiting the museum. Lewis and Clark came right through this area.

Bryce McCloskey saw us walking along and caught up to give us a bottle of wine from his brother-in-law in Iowa. Thanks Bryce! Regina and I enjoyed our time together, and she showed me pictures online of their beautiful home in CO. Thom’s applied to NREL as well, so there’s a possibility that we could be neighbors. That would be terrific.

We took our time driving west along I-70, staying at two different campgrounds along the way. Kansas is a huge, flat state thriving on agriculture. This is truly America’s bread basket, with wheat fields stretching as far as the eye can see. Thom enjoyed watching at least a hundred giant wind turbines as we drove through western Kansas.

The boys continued with school work. We’re now at lesson 150 out of 160, so the boys are close to the end of their school year. They’re so excited for summer to truly begin. Most kids are out of school now, so our boys are motivated to finish. Thom and I are proud of their efforts, and looking forward to summer break as well! Here's a photo taken in Kansas at a truck wash because the coach and SUV were sooooo dirty.

We didn’t notice an obvious difference crossing the Colorado border, but before long, we all were looking out the windows as the landscape quickly changed. It was so beautiful! Thom exited I-70 to drive more rural roads, and we continued through rolling hills, pine forests, and saw lots of horses. The boys said, “We love Colorado. Let’s move here!” It wasn’t long before the Rocky Mountains came into view. It reminded all of us of Alaska, and our drive last summer through Banff and the Canadian Rockies. Pike’s Peak grew larger and larger as we approached Colorado Springs. We then spotted the Air Force Academy, which is quite visible from the main highway since it sits up high and you can easily see the football stadium. What a magnificent location. We set up camp, stocked up at the commissary, and the boys explored the woods nearby. We plan to stay at least a week, and maybe longer. We set up school yesterday at the Academy’s library where the boys were quite productive.

The Bailey’s are friends from Ft. Greely, Alaska who moved to Colorado Springs a few months ago. Ron, Carrie, Clayton (14), and Spencer (11) came to visit at our campsite. The six boys took off to play in the woods while the four of us visited and made dinner. Once again, it was great catching up with friends, talking about kids, school, work, and buying houses. They bought a house at an ideal time when prices are low and mortgage rates are fantastic. We can’t wait to see them this week at their new house, and the boys are looking forward to a sleepover!

On Sunday morning, we headed east to the cute little town of Simla. Our friend, Pastor Gene Raiford was giving his last sermon at the Methodist Church, before departing later in the week for Alabama. His wife, Ronda worked with Thom in Alaska in missile defense, and she now works in Huntsville in the same arena. We enjoyed our time with Gene and Ronda, and their congregation obviously loves them and will miss them dearly. Gene’s sermon was about transition, which was perfect for our family’s situation. He said a beautiful personal prayer with our family before our departure.

Next, we drove to the Carter’s Ranch in Peyton, CO. What a memorable visit! Roger and Sue put the boys to work outside, and the boys loved it. They have a 5-acre horse ranch and are finishing their vegetable garden. Robby, Will, Ben, and Sam grabbed rakes and made a new garden, complete with railroad ties. We all planted about a hundred strawberry plants, and Sue was delighted. Sam jumped in the Bobcat and Roger taught him how to drive. Sam paid attention to every word, and before I knew it, he was in complete control. That little man absolutely loves to operate machinery. The other boys got a lesson later.

We took a break for a delicious lunch, consisting of shrimp, potatoes, corn on the cob, and sausage. Roger boiled it all in a huge steamer in the garage, and when it was done, he simply dumped it all out on the picnic table. We dug in with our hands while pouring butter, mustard, and other fixings right on the plastic table cloth! What a perfect ranch meal.

Ben was dying to ride a horse, so after lunch, Roger saddled up Dusty, the 9-year old black gelding. Roger showed Ben how to handle the reins, and walked him all over the field. Each of the boys took a turn, followed by Thom. Roger let the boys ride the 4-wheeler, and Sam found the riding lawnmower to drive around. It was a hoot. We all went inside for fresh strawberries, apple pie, and whipped cream. Lastly, the boys stripped down to their underwear and took a dip in the hot tub. Yes, they all want to settle down on a ranch or farm!

Last night was another Ft. Greely reunion. Greg, Kristin, and Carmen Bowen were our immediate neighbors in Alaska for our first year there. They’ve been here in “The Springs” for the past 3 years, and Greg just took over Brigade Command for the Ground Based Midcourse Defense System. Congratulations Greg! He told us about his trip up to Ft. Greely last week, and how good it was being back there. He’s happy to be commanding after three years being a staff officer! Kristin’s doing really well with her career in human relations as she helps place executives.

Their home is stunning and they treated us to a wonderful BBQ dinner. In addition, today is Carmen’s 8th birthday, so it was fun for all the boys to be with her. Sam gave her a cool airplane he picked out at the Academy’s gift shop (along with one for himself!), and they played inside and out with them. Their friend, Marshall joined us for dinner and we enjoyed hearing about his career starting with West Point, Iraq, Colorado Springs, and he’s soon heading to Ft. Benning and Ft. Bragg. His wife is active duty and currently in Iraq. She returns in August and it’s obvious he’s looking forward to that time.

It’s 7:45am, and the boys are still asleep. What a change we’re all in for when school starts in the fall! The sky is blue with puffy, white clouds, and it’s a cool 60 degrees outside. The boys like the fact that it’s not so hot here, and they LOVE the mountains. Yesterday we toured the visitors’ center, and watched a 14-minute movie on the Air Force Academy. We’re taking advantage of our time this year to show the boys many college and academy campuses. Who knows? Maybe one of them will be a cadet here someday!

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