Thursday, March 29, 2012

Classic Cars

I'm not sure why it is, but Colorado Springs has a very nice collection of classic cars.  It is not at all uncommon when driving around on a weekend to see a beautifully restored 1957 Chevy, or a 1950 Studebaker, or a 1968 VW Bus, or any of a number of other cars that collectors love.  I know a fellow who has an authentic, perfectly restored 1965 Shelby Mustang.

I'm not talking about old beaters that some working man couldn't upgrade.  They are collectors' cars, usually with beautiful paint jobs and occasionally tricked out with fancy engines and the like.

I can't guarantee that it you are here for a week or two, that you will see any classic cars.  But I see them all the time, and you might get lucky.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Historical Curiosities

The more I learn about Colorado Springs' history, the more odd it seems.
Genteel games of shuffleboard in Acacia Park

A common view of this region of the world is that it was the "wild west" in the 1800s.  However, the available facts belie that stereotype.  In fact, Colorado Springs was founded by a rich man (General Palmer) who stumbled upon it while helping build the railway. He saw the area's potential and started a settlement a comfortable distance from the grimy plebians who already were working in the area. Palmer put his stamp on the town forevermore by building a swanky resort and bringing in all his society friends from the East Coast and abroad. You may think of gunfighters, rustlers and miners - think, instead, of monocles, tuxedos and taxis.
Alumnus, Palmer High School

Arthur Penrose was a blueblood from mainline Philadelphia stock, a famous early German settler was a Baron or something, Palmer himself was a General - these were not gun-toting outlaws.  The Butch Cassidy gang did hang out in these parts, but Butch apparently had some pretensions of grandeur, and he may have felt comfortable hobnobbing with the aristocrats.
Nikolai Tesla got rid of these with his experiments - for real

A dominant theme in surviving photographs of old Colorado Springs is the Antler Hotel. It must have been some kind of big deal, because they recorded that place like it was the White House or Mount Rushmore.

Antlers Hotel 1909

 My working assumption is that the Antlers Hotel was the honey that drew in the blue bloods who took over ownership of the mines that eventually made Colorado Springs. The town has had all sorts of weird detours like that over the centuries.
Nikolai Tesla
The town rightly should be called Tesla Springs

Case in point: Nikolai Tesla somehow wound up here. He built his huge transformer near downtown, and somehow, in some way, through his electricity experiments managed to get rid of the locusts that invaded every year. Tesla deserves a statue downtown (hell, on Mount Rushmore) for that single feat alone, much more so than General Palmer on his horse. Think about it - the town was overrun with locusts every single year, making life miserable for every single person living here, and he got rid of them all - forever! One of the most amazing feats in all of history (I'm not joking), sort of like Saint Patrick driving the saints from Ireland, only for real. A true genius who inexplicably (except for historians who take the trouble to understand him) is treated as some kind of embarrassing freak by the locals (yes, there is a tiny plaque where his laboratory used to stand - the lab itself demolished, of course, to get rid of all traces of the freak).

Chief Ouray Colorado Springs
Let us not forget the TRUE founders of the area
I just point all this out because you, too, may have some misconceptions about the origins of Colorado Springs.  The miners lived up in the mountains - the royalty lived down in the Springs.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Weird Weather

Be Prepared for Anything

The weather in Colorado Springs will confound you. This year, 2013, we had a snowstorm on May 1. The days after that were sub-freezing. In May! And that is not really all that unusual, freak snowstorms in May happen every few years here. The main pattern this year has been no pattern - 70 Degree days followed by highs in the 30s. And the weather changes on the dime, with no warning. On a beautiful day, you can watch the thunderclouds cross Pikes Peak and start rolling down towards the city.

Ice Palace at the Broadmoor back in the day

It will snow in the morning, turn hot in the afternoon, and be balmy and rainy in the evening. Once you've let down your guard, though, it then will turn sub-zero at night. You will see all four seasons in one day here, and it is not at all uncommon to be able to go outside in your shirtsleeves for several days at a time in February. Some areas nearby are notoriously different weather-wise - Pueblo always is about ten degrees warmer, while Black Forest and Monument will get double or triple the amount of snowfall that Colorado Springs itself gets.

Aww, it looks so peaceful in the sweet summertime.

Colorado Springs is semi-arid. What that means is that, unless it is snowing or raining, the area is bone dry. Which is great for forest fires. In 2012, the annual wildfires actually entered Colorado Springs and burned down an entire neighborhood. It's becoming an annual event to climb on your roof and look for the blazes in the foothills. Then again, old-timers will tell you about that time it snowed on July 4. I think that was up in the mountains, though.

Looking in a south-westerly direction from the Air Force Academy

The true weirdness, and yes I am repeating this for emphasis, is how quickly the weather will change. It is absolutely common, more so as you go up in the mountains, for the temperature to rise forty degrees in an hour. You think I'm joking! Think again, I've seen it happen with regularity. You can sit there watching the thermometer and almost see it moving from 35 Degrees to 75 Degrees. Take your eyes away for a minute, and it's gone up three degree. Once that sun hits, everything changes. This is called "Continental Weather." I tell you all this just to warn you that in Colorado Springs, the weather will become your prime concern. You have never seen anything like it, at least I haven't. If you don't respect nature and its power before you come here, odds are good that you will by the time you leave.

Friday, March 16, 2012


First,  welcome!  I want to draw your attention on the bar at the side of this page, I summarized a lot of my thoughts about Colorado Springs and its attractions in the articles that are linked there.

I am a transplant to Colorado Springs.  I came here in June 2002 from New York City, 5th Avenue and 15th Street to be exact, after having spent all of my then-40 years on the East Coast.  The transition was difficult, but I survived and prospered.  The advantage I offer is that I had to learn about Colorado Springs starting from scratch, and some of those lessons may be useful to you.

There are a couple of basic issues you will have to address very soon after you arrive here.  The first is that you will need to transition to the altitude, water and climate.  Colorado Springs is little over a mile above sea level, and the water here may well be slightly different than the water back home.  I mention the altitude and water together because it's unclear which affects you more, but you can't really escape either without going to heroic lengths, so it's just something you must accept.  Before I moved here, I visited several times for periods of a week or two.  My very first visit caused me the most problems.  I won't dwell on the symptoms, but let's just say I had a very upset stomach for a period of about a week.  Once it passed, though, I never got it again.  Once you get used to it, you will not even notice the thinner air, even when you go up in the mountains.  So, when you experience the symptoms, just bear with them with the realization that they will go away.

Colorado Springs is very sunny.  It gets something like 300 days of sunshine a year, a figure I question at times but which the powers that be here assure us is true.  You will probably be outside a lot while visiting, so I suggest not forgetting to bring sunglasses, a hat or cap, and some sunscreen.  This part of the world is arid, and you may get dehydrated easily, so be sure to drink plenty of fluids during your time here.

The second thing you will probably notice right away is that this is chain-store Heaven.  You quickly will come to the sad realization that dining out usually involves a choice between McDonald's, Applebee's, Chiles or something similar.  Shopping comes down to Walmart (there are five, yes, five within the city limits, and another half dozen or so close by, with plans to build even more), Target or Sears.  If you haven't heard of "King Soopers" yet, well, that's your other main choice for groceries.  Sure, there are other places like Safeway, Whole Foods and the like, but those places you tend to have to find in isolated strip malls off the main roads.  The Walmarts sit there by the highway like battleships and will lure you in.  Don't resist, just bear in mind that you eventually will find it easy to diversify away from the bland big box stores.

When wandering around in the mountains, it is best if you have a local to guide you around, because it is easy to get lost.  Failing that, invest in a good GPS device.  I have been here for over a decade, and mine comes in mighty handy.  It will save you endless frustration and even guide you to the nearest chain store to stock up with supplies.

I will delve more deeply into some of these issues in other posts.  Let me say, though, that the folks here can be very friendly and welcoming, so loosen up and chat with them a bit every chance you get, it will make your visit much more enjoyable!