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Mount Rushmore Road Trip Part 5B

25 Nov

A Slice of Life

Bill Lites

Day 5 Sunday – Continued 

9/13/2020 

From Breckenridge it was another 35 miles northeast on I-70 where I visited the Georgetown Loop Railroad, located near Clear Creek in Georgetown, CO.  This unique railroad offers visitors a spectacular trip on a vintage steam engine train, that travels some 4-½ miles over a corkscrew route of horseshoe curves, steep grades (4%) and the 95’ high Devil’s Gate trestle over the Clear Creek Gorge.  All that distance, and you only travel the 2.0 miles (as the crow flies) from Georgetown to Silver Plume.  This is a trip to be remembered!

After this thrilling experience, I headed another 15 miles northeast on I-70 to visit the Argo Gold Mine & Mill located in Idaho Springs, CO.  Built in 1893, the gold mill and processing facility is located just north of Clear Creek and provides visitors with tours of the gold tunnel (mine) and the equipment to try their luck at panning for gold.  There are indoor and outdoor museum displays, including examples of gold mining, milling, and processing equipment used during the late 1800s.

Now it was just another 25 miles east on I-70 to check out the Buffalo Bill Museum & Grave located in Golden, CO.  I had visited Buffalo Bill’s birthplace and homestead in LeClaire, Iowa a couple of years ago, during another road trip, and now here I was visiting his gravesite (In Lookout Mountain Park). This museum chronicles the life and times of William F. Cody with artifacts and memorabilia dating from his birth (1846) to his death (1917).

On my way to meet my niece, Karen and her husband, Brian for dinner, I stopped at the Colorado Railroad Museum to see what they had to offer.  As it turned out, the museum was hosting an open house (family day), and I choose not to elbow my way thru the crowd of parents and their kids.  I took a few photos of their rolling stock outside and headed for the restaurant.

I met Brian and Karen at Tequila’s Mexican Restaurant there in Golden where we enjoyed a delicious meal and a delightful (but short) family visit.  Their training schedule gave them the afternoon off, so we had plenty of time to catch up on things.  The last time I had seen them was in 2019, when they helped me on another of my road trips.  They had picked me up at the Chicago airport, and we had lunch.  Then they took me to pick up my rental car.

I almost gave up trying to find and photograph the James F. Bailey Assay Office Museum located at the east edge of the Rocky Mountain National Park, near Gold Hill, and just west of Boulder, Co.  This historic structure served as the Wall Street assay office for the Gold Extraction Mining Co. during the hard-rock mining years between the late 1880s and early 1900s.  The museum exhibits the tools and equipment used to determine the value of ore samples.

After my ordeal with multiple stops for road construction and the winding mountain roads to get to the Assay Office, I headed for my motel.  On the way, I swung past the Shelby American Collection, located just a few miles northeast in Boulder, CO.  This museum consists of a fantastic collection of some 40+ donated mid-century race cars that represent the evolution of the Shelby Mustang, Cobra, and Ford GT as created by Carroll Shelby and others.  WOW! 

The motel was a welcome sight when I finally got there.  I was ready to stop, eat, and rest after this busy day.  Of course there was nothing worth watching on TV, so I just recorded my day’s activities, had a snack of a few salted in-the-shell pistachios and went to bed.

—–To Be Continued—–

Bill is a retired Mechanical engineer living with his wonderful artist/writer wife, DiVoran, of 63 years in Titusville, Florida. He was born and raised in the Southwest, did a tour of duty with the U.S. Navy, attended Northrop University in Southern California and ended up working on America’s Manned Space Program for 35 years. He currently is retired and spends most of his time building and flying R/C model airplanes, traveling, writing blogs about his travels for Word Press and supporting his wife’s hobbies with framing, editing and marketing.  He also volunteers with a local church Car Care Ministry and as a tour guide at the Valiant Air Command Warbird Museum there in Titusville.  Bill has two wonderful children, two outstanding grandchildren, and a loving sister and her husband, all of whom also live in Central Florida, so he and DiVoran are rewarded by having family close to spend lots of quality time with.

One of Bill’s favorite Scriptures is:  John 10:10

Mount Rushmore Road Trip Part 5A

18 Nov

A Slice of Life

Bill Lites

Day 5 Sunday 

9/13/2020 

Before leaving Canon City this morning I took the time to stop at the Royal Gorge Route Railway Depot for a photo.  In 2006 DiVoran and I had made a trip to Canon City to visit family and friends.  During that visit one of the tourist things we did was to take the Royal Gorge Route train ride.  The ride starts at the old Santa Fe Depot in Canon City, travels under the Royal Gorge Bridge and returns to the depot.  It’s a really great experience for anyone who hasn’t ever ridden on an open-air train car and the scenery is awesome.

Then since it was on the way out of town to my next stop was at the Royal Gorge Dinosaur Experience for a photo.  The Dinosaur Experience is new since our 2006 trip to Canon City, when DiVoran and I had explored the dinosaur footprints, located along the Skyline Drive.  I figured they were still there, if I wanted to see real dinosaur footprints, and I didn’t have time to see the museum’s exhibits.

Next I took the road to the Royal Gorge Bridge for a photo of the world’s highest suspension bridge (at least it was in 1929 when it was built).  I’m not sure they have improved the road much since then, but the view of the bridge from the Park & Visitor Center is spectacular.  Back in 1975, when our family took a six-week cross-country camping trip, we were allowed to drive or walk across the bridge.  What a thrill that was.

Now I took CO-9 north 75 miles to visit Fairplay, CO which was founded in 1859, during the Pikes Peak Gold Rush days.  The historic old town is located on a hillside just east of the Middle Fork South Platte River, and has been maintained as the open-air museum called South Park City.  There was not much going on this morning, as most of the old town was closed off because of COVID-19.  So I headed northeast another 25 miles on CO-9 to Breckenridge, CO. 

On my way to Breckenridge I crossed the Continental Divide at Hoosier Pass (Elevation 11,539 feet) and had to stop and have my picture taken at that historic spot.  A couple from Illinois was kind enough to take my picture after I offered to take theirs, in front of the Historical Marker.

Then it was downhill to Breckenridge (Elevation 9600 feet).  It was Sunday and some of the streets in Breckenridge were blocked off for a street fair.  Greta (my Garmin) couldn’t get me close to the Underhill Museum, so I parked and walked a few blocks to find the museum closed for the festivities.  A couple of blocks from Main Street I visited the Erwin Carter Museum, which is a small local natural history museum filled with all kinds of taxidermy displays, mostly done by the miner-turned environmentalist in the late 1880s.

As I was leaving Breckenridge I visited the Lomax Gold Mine located in the Lomax Placer Gulch.  This original 19th century gold mine offers visitors the experience of panning for gold in a setting of 1860s gold mining equipment and historic cabins.  I didn’t have time to try my hand at panning on this trip, but maybe next time I’m in Colorado I’ll give it a give it a whirl.  

—–To Be Continued—–

Bill is a retired Mechanical engineer living with his wonderful artist/writer wife, DiVoran, of 63 years in Titusville, Florida. He was born and raised in the Southwest, did a tour of duty with the U.S. Navy, attended Northrop University in Southern California and ended up working on America’s Manned Space Program for 35 years. He currently is retired and spends most of his time building and flying R/C model airplanes, traveling, writing blogs about his travels for Word Press and supporting his wife’s hobbies with framing, editing and marketing.  He also volunteers with a local church Car Care Ministry and as a tour guide at the Valiant Air Command Warbird Museum there in Titusville.  Bill has two wonderful children, two outstanding grandchildren, and a loving sister and her husband, all of whom also live in Central Florida, so he and DiVoran are rewarded by having family close to spend lots of quality time with.

One of Bill’s favorite Scriptures is:  John 10:10

Mount Rushmore Road Trip Part 4

11 Nov

A Slice of Life

Bill Lites

Day 4 Saturday

9/12/2020 

I started today’s activities with a visit to the Weisbrod Aircraft Museum located adjacent to the Pueblo Memorial Airport, and it was close to my motel.  This is a great aviation museum with 40+ beautifully restored aircraft and lots of other aviation artifacts and memorabilia in two large hangers and outside.  The museum’s show-piece is a Boeing B-29 by the name of “Peachy.”  I just wish our Valiant Air Command Warbird Museum at home had more of these rare WWII aircraft in it’s collection.  

Now I drove into downtown to visit the El Pueblo Museum.  This museum displays artifacts and memorabilia related to the history and culture of the ethnic groups from the southern Colorado area.  It also has an archaeological excavation scene depicting the original 1842 El Pueblo trading post site, and a re-created scene showing what the El Pueblo Trading Post & Plaza would have looked like in the mid-1840s.

A few blocks away, and adjacant to the Arkansas River,  I visited the Pueblo Railway Museum located in a part of the old original Pueblo Union Depot.  The museum displays artifacts and memorabilia discribing the railroad history in and around the Pueblo area from the 1880s to the 1940s.  The musuem’s outdoor  displays include historic steam engines and other rolling stock from the 1940s    Pueblo has continued to be a major rail center, and at one time or another as many as five different railroad systems served the city.

Next I drove over to inspect the Steelworks Center of the West which houses the Steelworks Museum and the Steelworks Park.  The Pueblo Steel Mill, Located just south of downtown Pueblo, was founded in 1881 and has been productive thru many turbulant times.  Today with only a fraction of the number of employees it once employed, the mill still produces a smaller quanity of steel products from rcycled scrap metal.  Interesting tours of the mill are still available to visitors that focus on preserving the history of the coal and steel industry in the Southwestern United States.  DiVoran remembers the day her grade school class made the trip from Canon City to Pueblo for a field-trip to the (working) steel mill.  What a thrill that was for the kids.

Now I headed west on US-50 toward Canon City.  On the way I stopped in Penrose long enough to take a photo of the Estes Model Rocket factory.  My son, Billy, and I have fond memories of building and flying model rockets over the years.  We even introduced his son, Jacob, to the sport when he was a teenager.  My, how the time does fly.  It seems as if it was only yestarday when the three of us were launching model rockets from the local school yard.

I arrived in Canon City in time to meet DiVoran’s cousin, Lois, at the Museum of Colorado Prisons (Old Max) for a tour.  The old Colorado Territorial Prison was built in 1871 and served as such until 1935 when it was converted to a women’s prison.  A new prison was built in 1993 and the old prison was renovated and opened as a museum.  The museum displays artifacts and memorabilia of the Colorado Prison System from 1871 to the present day.

After the prison tour, Lois went home to pick up Hank,  and I took a drive over the famous Skyline Drive.  I always get a thrill when driving over that one-way (no guardrails) 3-mile long  ridge road over looking Canon City.  Built by the Colorado Territorial Prison inmates in 1905, it has been a little-known tourist attraction over the years.  I found this really great video of the drive on the internet.

I met with Lois, Hank, Carol & Rob for dinner at the Quality Inn where we had a some really good food (beer battered fish and ‘O’ rings) and a wonderful visit.  After dinner Lois and Hank invited me to their house for home-made brownies and Otter Paws ice cream.  I couldn’t very well turn down that offer now could I?  While enjoying that dessert Hank’s son, John, came in for a visit.  Before I knew it, the night was late and I headed for the motel.

—–To Be Continued—–

Bill is a retired Mechanical engineer living with his wonderful artist/writer wife, DiVoran, of 63 years in Titusville, Florida. He was born and raised in the Southwest, did a tour of duty with the U.S. Navy, attended Northrop University in Southern California and ended up working on America’s Manned Space Program for 35 years. He currently is retired and spends most of his time building and flying R/C model airplanes, traveling, writing blogs about his travels for Word Press and supporting his wife’s hobbies with framing, editing and marketing.  He also volunteers with a local church Car Care Ministry and as a tour guide at the Valiant Air Command Warbird Museum there in Titusville.  Bill has two wonderful children, two outstanding grandchildren, and a loving sister and her husband, all of whom also live in Central Florida, so he and DiVoran are rewarded by having family close to spend lots of quality time with.

One of Bill’s favorite Scriptures is:  John 10:10

Mount Rushmore Road Trip Part 3

4 Nov

A Slice of Life

Day 3 Friday 

9/11/2020 

The American Numismatic Musuem (Money Museum) located in Colorado Springs, CO was the first stop on my list this morning.  This museum has three display galleries that give visitors a look at many different rare and historic types of coins from all over the world.  Included as part to the museum’s exibits is a mini-mint machine that allows guests to learn how gold and silver coins were made in the early 1500s-1800s. 

Down the road a few miles east I visited the Lester Fire Museum located in the Head Quarters building of the Colorado Springs Fire Department.  This museum temporarly was closed due to COVID-19, but Wikipedia informes me that the museum displays artifacts and memorabilia covering the early history of  the Colorado Springs Fire Department including hand-drawn fire fighting aparatius and equipment from the mid=1800s. 

On my way east a few miles, to visit the Peterson AFB museum, I stopped at the National Museum of WWII Aviation located adjacent to the Colorado Springs Airport.  This is one of the best aviation museums I’ve visited on this trip.  The 28 beautifuly restored flying aircraft are conveniently displayed so visitors can get good photos of the planes.  The docents are well-versed in the history of the museum’s collection and their restoration area is a deticated work in progress. 

I was disappointed that the Peterson Air & Space Museum (located on the base) was closed to the public due to COVID-19, but their website informes me that the museum displays some 20 (mostly Cold War era) restored aircraft.  The museum also displays multiple Air Defence Command early warning system artifacts and mumorabilia to educate future generations about the advancemet in defence technology during that time period.

Now I headed a few miles west, across I-25, to visit the Penrose Heritage Museum located in the north Cheyenne Canon Park area.  This museum showcases the history and heritage of the Pikes Peak area with hundreds of vintage artifacts and memorabilia.  I was not aware, until now, that the Pikes Peak Hill Climb and the Manitou & Pikes Peak Railway exhibits were associated with this museum.  WOW, three for one!

I traveled south on CO-115, on my way to Pueblo,  for a quick stop at the Fort Carson 4th Infantry Division Museum located just south of Gate 1 to the Fort Carson Army Base.  This small museum displays scenes of U.S. Army 4thDivision’s participation in various campaigns from 1917 to the present, along with other 4th Infantry artifacts and memorabilia.  The Tank Garden outside displays the different tank models the 4th Infantry has used during their assignments throughout the world.  The Fort Carson Army Base was named in honor of Brigadier General Clearance (Kit) Carson who pioneered much of the western expansion of this area and later commanded Fort Garland during the Civil War. 

Now I headed on south another 40 miles to Pueblo, CO where I originally had plans to see DiVoran’s friends for dinner.  They had a situation that interrupted our meeting, so I just headed to the motel.  After I got checked in at the motel, I asked the desk clerk for his recommendations for good restaurants in the area, and he pointed me to DJ’s Stake House where I enjoyed a plate of their Grilled salmon with honey chipotle glaze.  Yummmm!

—–To Be Continued—–

Bill is a retired Mechanical engineer living with his wonderful artist/writer wife, DiVoran, of 63 years in Titusville, Florida. He was born and raised in the Southwest, did a tour of duty with the U.S. Navy, attended Northrop University in Southern California and ended up working on America’s Manned Space Program for 35 years. He currently is retired and spends most of his time building and flying R/C model airplanes, traveling, writing blogs about his travels for Word Press and supporting his wife’s hobbies with framing, editing and marketing.  He also volunteers with a local church Car Care Ministry and as a tour guide at the Valiant Air Command Warbird Museum there in Titusville.  Bill has two wonderful children, two outstanding grandchildren, and a loving sister and her husband, all of whom also live in Central Florida, so he and DiVoran are rewarded by having family close to spend lots of quality time with.

One of Bill’s favorite Scriptures is:  John 10:10

Mount Rushmore Road Trip Part 2

28 Oct

A Slice of Life

Bill Lites

Day 2 Thursday 

9/10/2020

I started today’s activities by visiting the “Cars Remember When” restoration center located in Littleton, CO.  The center consists of a relatively small working shop with lots of active restoration projects in progress.  There is a display room where some 30+ beautifully restored cars are rotated.   There were Mini cars, Muscle cars, Sport cars, and family cars.  I especially enjoyed seeing a beautiful 1955 Buick Roadmaster hardtop just like the one our family had when I was a teenager (except ours was red & white).

Just up the street a short way I visited the Littleton Museum.  This 40-acre museum site consists of artifacts and memorabilia representing local farm life from the 1860s to the 19890s.  There is also a living farm with a 1880s cabin, farm implements, and farm animals including cattle, sheep, pigs, and turkeys.   Museum staff, dressed in period costumes, are available to help guests re-live mid-1800s farm life in Littleton and the South Platte Valley of Colorado.

Next I visited the Vehicle Vault Auto Gallery located in Parker, CO.  This unique building houses a museum that displays some 40+ beautifully restored rare and exotic automobiles from all over the world.  New finds are continually being restored and the inventory is rotated periodically to give guests a fresh view of the history of the auto industry.  The building is also available and used for special events and conferences.

On my way to visit the Mining Museum I stopped in Monument, CO to check-out the Greater European Missions (GEM) facility.  I have relatives that work for GEM as missionary training counselors and wanted to see where the facility was located.  My nephew, Brian, and his wife Karen are based in the Chicago area, but travel to Monument periodically during the year for training sessions.  They were not there today, but were scheduled to arrive there later in the week and we had made plans to get together for dinner then.

A few miles south on I-25 I visited the Western Museum of Mining & Industry located in Colorado Springs, CO.  This museum displays antique drilling and mining equipment, such as pneumatic machines, and steam engines used for mining gold and silver in central Colorado in the mid-1800s.  The museum also has a recreation of an old miners assay office inside, with examples of a stamp mill and steam shovel outside.

The USAF Academy was just a few miles on south on I-25 and I was looking forward to visiting the famous Academy grounds and their aviation museum.  However, when I got to the gate, the guard told me the museum (located on the base) was closed to the public until after the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions were lifted.  What a Bumber!  So, I headed south on I-25 a few miles to visit the Rocky Mountain Motorcycle Museum located just east of the interstate.  This museum has a great collection of vintage motorcycles of all types, and I enjoyed the thrill of revisiting my teenage motorcycle past.

Now I took a couple of back-roads over to visit the Garden of the Gods Park located on US-24.  This is an amazing place!  It is said that the mysterious red rock formations were formed as a result of a geological upheaval that took place along a natural fault line millions of years ago.  The resulting rock formations had many different shapes; some toppled, there were some that got overturned, while some were pushed upright and others were pushed around and ended up slanted.  

While I was in the area I drove on over to check out the Miramont Castle Museum located in Manitou Springs, CO.    The 14,000 sq. ft. Victorian-era castle that houses the museum was built in 1895 as the private home for the French-born Catholic priest Father Jean Baptist Francolon.  Around that same time the Sisters of Mercy were allowed to use a part of the castle, for the private Montcalm Sanitarium that they operated, with the blessing of Father Francolon.  Museum visitors can tour some 42 of the castle’s lavishly furnished rooms when the museum is open.

On the way to the motel, in Colorado Springs, I picked up a three-piece chicken dinner from KFC and enjoyed a delicious meal with the Colonel in my motel room.  Then I recorded the day’s activities and finally put my tired and aching body to bed for the night.

—–To Be Continued—–

Bill is a retired Mechanical engineer living with his wonderful artist/writer wife, DiVoran, of 63 years in Titusville, Florida. He was born and raised in the Southwest, did a tour of duty with the U.S. Navy, attended Northrop University in Southern California and ended up working on America’s Manned Space Program for 35 years. He currently is retired and spends most of his time building and flying R/C model airplanes, traveling, writing blogs about his travels for Word Press and supporting his wife’s hobbies with framing, editing and marketing.  He also volunteers with a local church Car Care Ministry and as a tour guide at the Valiant Air Command Warbird Museum there in Titusville.  Bill has two wonderful children, two outstanding grandchildren, and a loving sister and her husband, all of whom also live in Central Florida, so he and DiVoran are rewarded by having family close to spend lots of quality time with.

One of Bill’s favorite Scriptures is:  John 10:10

Mount Rushmore Road Trip Part 1

21 Oct

A Slice of Life

Bill Lites

Day 1 Wednesday

9/09/2020

I packed a wool vest and a lined jacket and headed for the Orlando airport.  The Southwest flight to Denver was uneventful as it was cloud cover the whole way.  But the passengers were rewarded with fresh mini-pretzels, small cinnamon cookies and ice-cold water.  It was 39 degrees in Denver when I arrived with snow on the surrounding mountains.  I was witness to an unusual sight after picking up my rental car.  As I headed for the Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum I noticed that all the houses in the sub-divisions were covered with snow, but there was no snow on the driveways or on the streets.  I guess the sun baked road surfaces had melted the snow as soon as it hit the pavement.  

The Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum is located within the former Lowry AFB, and displays some 40+ beautifully restored aircraft and lots of aviation related memorabilia.  I am always glad to see the history of aviation restored and displayed in this manner.  I believe it helps to preserve the evolvelution of aviation in our country for future generations

Next I headed a few miles west to visit the Denver Firefighters Museum.  The Volunteer Hook & Ladder Company No. 1 was formed in 1866 and was the first in the Colorado Territory.  This museum is located in the former Fire Station No. 1 built in 1909.  The four-gallery museum displays over 30,000 artifacts and memorabilia.  Beautifully restored displays include fire fighting apparatus such as early 1800s hand-pulled & pumped fire fighting equipment as well as modern day fire engines and trucks, covering the history of Denver firefighters dating from mid-1800s.

Now I drove another few more miles to visit the Forney Museum of Transportation located in historic downtown Denver.  Established by J. D. Forney in 1964 with a single 1921 Kissel Tourister the museum has expanded, over the years, to cover the history of transportation.  This museum’s collection is absolutely amazing.  It consists of over 600 artifacts which include all types of transportation devices such as bicycles, buggies, wagons, motorcycles, firetrucks, automobiles, steam engines and the Fornair airplane.  

After experiencing that amazing collection, I found the Molly Brown House Museum located in downtown Denver.  The museum was closed, but Wikipedia informs me that the house that now houses the museum was built in 1887 for Isaac and Mary Large.  It was sold to James and Margaret Brown in 1894.  In 1902 it was used by the Governer of Colorado  while the Governer’’s mansion was being remodeled.  Margaret became known as The Unsinkable Molly Brown after surviving the sinking of the RMS Titanic in 1912.  The house was purchased in 1970 by Historic Denver, Inc and restored to its original Queen Ann style architecture and opened as a museum.  I took a photo and moved on to the visit the Cussler Museum.

The Cussler Museum is located in Arvada, CO and displays some 100+ beautifully restored classic cars collected by the novelest Clive Cussler.  I had the opportunity to talk to the Curator of the museum, and he told me that the Denver collection was only part of the  Cussler collection, as there are more cars in a museum in Arizona near the Cussler home.  I was thrilled to get a chance to see a few of the classic cars mentioned in the Clive Cussler novels I have read over the years.

As I made my way toward the motel, I stopped at a local Walmart for a styrofoam cooler, water,  and morning breakfast supplies.   I also picked up a couple of pre-packaged “Heat & Serve” dinner meals to enjoy in my motel room.  I was tired and hungry from the day’s activities, so I just crashed in the room and recorded the day’s activities.  Then I watched some TV while I enjoyed a good hot ready-made meal.

—–To Be Continued—–

Bill is a retired Mechanical engineer living with his wonderful artist/writer wife, DiVoran, of 63 years in Titusville, Florida. He was born and raised in the Southwest, did a tour of duty with the U.S. Navy, attended Northrop University in Southern California and ended up working on America’s Manned Space Program for 35 years. He currently is retired and spends most of his time building and flying R/C model airplanes, traveling, writing blogs about his travels for Word Press and supporting his wife’s hobbies with framing, editing and marketing.  He also volunteers with a local church Car Care Ministry and as a tour guide at the Valiant Air Command Warbird Museum there in Titusville.  Bill has two wonderful children, two outstanding grandchildren, and a loving sister and her husband, all of whom also live in Central Florida, so he and DiVoran are rewarded by having family close to spend lots of quality time with.

One of Bill’s favorite Scriptures is:  John 10:10

Mount Rushmore Road Trip Prolog

14 Oct

A Slice of Life

Bill Lites

Prolog:

As you might have guessed from the title, the main reason for this road trip was to visit the Mount Rushmore Memorial which I had never visited.  During my North Country Road Trip in 2017 I visited various northern museums from Fargo, ND west to Missoula, MT (mostly along the I-94 corridor).  Then after heading south I visited many museums from Idaho Falls, ID to Omaha, NE (mostly along the I-80 corridor).  That was a great trip, but I completely missed a lot of the major points of interest in the middle of South Dakota.  A lot of those points of interest, for me, were located around the Rapid City, SD area, which included Mount Rushmore and much of the Great Plains history in and around the Black Hills National Forest.  That left a big hole in my knowledge of the central South Dakota area, and I wanted to rectify that situation.   For these road trips I try to see as much of our beautiful country as I can while visiting museums of all types along the way, but I can’t see it all in one trip.  So as a result, I plan my trips for a maximum of 14 to 16 days duration.

My wife, DiVoran, has a grade school friend in Pueblo, CO that she keeps in touch with, and she also has cousins in Canon City, CO near where she grew up.  So for this trip, I made plans to start by flying into Denver, CO.  This would put me in the relatively close proximity for a visit with friends and relatives.  Southwest Airlines cooperated with that plan by having roundtrip non-stop flights from Orlando to Denver and return (free) with my Rewards Points.  DiVoran says, “I love it when Bill travels. It is not my passion and I couldn’t withstand the pace of visiting multiple museums in a day and all that daily driving for two weeks. The thing I like best is that Bill sees to it that everything in the house and with my car is in topnotch condition before he departs.  It’s kind of like a deal between us.  I enjoy just drifting along in my everyday routine.  He calls every evening from his motel and we catch up on our days activities and before I know it, he’s home again.“

As I planned this trip, I had been keeping a close eye on the weather.  I was concerned that the temperatures in the higher elevations and northern states would be getting cold anytime now.  Once a route had been established and reservations had been confirmed, I was pretty much committed to the plan.  However, as the day for my trip drew closer, I became a little apprehensive about what the weather was going to be like.  The southwest part of the country had been dealing with record high temperatures, but now there was a freak cold front heading southeast out of Canada.  Then I got the bad news.  The weather in Denver was forecast for 90 degrees on Monday and 35 degrees (with snow) on Tuesday.  And here I was flying into Denver on Wednesday.  How was this Floridian going to handle the cold weather?

—–To Be Continued—–

Bill is a retired Mechanical engineer living with his wonderful artist/writer wife, DiVoran, of 63 years in Titusville, Florida. He was born and raised in the Southwest, did a tour of duty with the U.S. Navy, attended Northrop University in Southern California and ended up working on America’s Manned Space Program for 35 years. He currently is retired and spends most of his time building and flying R/C model airplanes, traveling, writing blogs about his travels for Word Press and supporting his wife’s hobbies with framing, editing and marketing.  He also volunteers with a local church Car Care Ministry and as a tour guide at the Valiant Air Command Warbird Museum there in Titusville.  Bill has two wonderful children, two outstanding grandchildren, and a loving sister and her husband, all of whom also live in Central Florida, so he and DiVoran are rewarded by having family close to spend lots of quality time with.

One of Bill’s favorite Scriptures is:  John 10:10

How I Met the Love of My Life Part 7

7 Oct

A Slice of Life

Bill Lites

Did I mention it was the middle of the night on New Year’s Eve, and we were on Route 66 somewhere in the Chihuahuan Desert?  Have I mentioned recently that it was freezing cold outside, and that the only thing we had passed for miles, was an occasional car going the other way?  They weren’t going to be any help.  Every time the temperature gage came off of the “Cold” peg, and started creeping toward the “Normal” peg, I would hold my breath.  That would mean the engine water level was getting low and we better start looking for another one of those “Stations.”  God was watching over these foolish young people that night, and we were able to limp from one station to the next, or use our water bags, and actually made it into Albuquerque around 4:00 pm on New Year’s Eve.  I didn’t have to worry about falling asleep at the wheel that night. Whew!  Was that ever a stressful trip!

Wouldn’t you know it, our friend Leon, thinking we would get into Albuquerque in plenty of time for some rest, had set us up to attend a New Year’s Eve party that evening.  Remember, we had not had any sleep for over 30 hours.  But, we got cleaned up, left the Mercury dripping in DiVoran’s folks’ driveway and went to the party in Leon’s car.  DiVoran’s aunt commented as we walked out the door to our last party for a long time, “Oh, I’m so glad I’m not young anymore.”  We managed to stay awake until the stroke of midnight, and had a great time, but then we slept until almost noon before DiVoran’s dad, Ivan, woke us. 

I had guessed right, the water leak was coming from one of the two water pumps.  That afternoon, after a diligent search for an open auto parts store, we found one, and Ivan helped me replace the leaking water pump.  Then we added antifreeze to the cooling system, since night time temperatures were going to be near or below freezing in Albuquerque for a while.  After I drove the Mercury around several blocks to make sure everything was working right, we discovered the antifreeze had eaten thru the old seals in the second water pump, and we had to drain the system and replace that pump too.  That finally took care of the leaking water pump problem, and we installed the proper thermostats, so DiVoran would have a working heater during the winter.

The rest of my leave was spent having a great visit with my folks, my aunt Jessie and Granny.  DiVoran and I had a T-bone steak dinner, with all the trimmings, at our favorite Mom & Pop restaurant in downtown Albuquerque.  On another evening, we had a superb lobster dinner at our favorite seafood restaurant uptown, in the Nob Hill area.  When my leave was up, it was really hard to say goodbye to friends and family.  Finally, on the last day, DiVoran and I said our long and tearful goodbyes, and I left her with her folks.  I took the Santa Fe, El Capitan, train back to San Diego, to join the crew of the USS Hector for its voyage to Japan for duty.  That was a lonely train trip, but as usual the U.S. Navy found lots of things to keep me busy, for the next eight months, before I would once again see my lovely wife.

When I look back at some of the things we did as Young Adults, it’s hard to believe we had the nerve to strike out on adventures like those.  It seems as though we were thinking nothing of the possible dangers and challenges we might come up against.   I thank God for watching over us back then, when we were young and thought we were indestructible.  And that’s the short version of the story of “How I Met the Love of My Life.”  I remember those times (63 years ago) like they were just yesterday, and I will never forget them.

—–The End—–

Bill is a retired Mechanical engineer living with his wonderful artist/writer wife, DiVoran, of 63 years in Titusville, Florida. He was born and raised in the Southwest, did a tour of duty with the U.S. Navy, attended Northrop University in Southern California and ended up working on America’s Manned Space Program for 35 years. He currently is retired and spends most of his time building and flying R/C model airplanes, traveling, writing blogs about his travels for Word Press and supporting his wife’s hobbies with framing, editing and marketing.  He also volunteers with a local church Car Care Ministry and as a tour guide at the Valiant Air Command Warbird Museum there in Titusville.  Bill has two wonderful children, two outstanding grandchildren, and a loving sister and her husband, all of whom also live in Central Florida, so he and DiVoran are rewarded by having family close to spend lots of quality time with.

One of Bill’s favorite Scriptures is:  John 10:10

How I Met the Love of My Life-Part 6

30 Sep

A Slice of Life

Bill Lites

On December 30, 1957 we loaded up the Mercury with everything we owned and headed east.  I had two weeks leave before the USS Hector sailed for Japan, and I was taking DiVoran to Albuquerque to stay with her parents while I was gone.  I had thought, at the time, that she was going to finish some of her collage classes.  We had planned to leave first thing in the morning, but you know how it is when you are trying to get ready for a trip; there are always those last minute things, you have to finish, that keep popping up.  That’s the way it was that day, we were trying to make sure we didn’t leave anything in the apartment.  We were both hot and sweaty as we locked up the apartment and gave the keys to our landlady.  As it turned out, we didn’t get away until late afternoon, and I wasn’t looking forward to driving the 800+ miles, across the desert at night.  And just as I had predicted, the afternoon desert heat was scorching (no air-conditioning).

As we got into the Arizona Mountains, the terribly hot desert temperature began to drop and we were so relieved.  That is, until I turned on the heater and nothing but cold air came out.  In all of our excitement about the trip, we had not thought about it being “Winter” outside the San Diego area.  The next thing I knew, the engine temperature gage pegged out on “COLD” and we were scrambling for something warm to put on.  As we came down out of the mountains onto the high-plains desert, I was hoping the temperatures would be warmer, but that was not to be.  Even though we were bundled up in everything we could find, and the heater off, we were still freezing for the next few hours.  In hindsight, a piece of cardboard in front of the radiator that night would have helped.  Oh well, as the old saying goes, you live and learn.

Then, after a while, I noticed the temperature gage begin to swing back toward “Normal” and then on over toward “Hot.”  What was going on, I wondered?  Back in those days, on the old two-lane Route 66, the “Trading Post/Filling Stations” were very popular and were usually spaced several miles apart.  The first of many miracles that night was that we were just coming up on one of those “Stations” right now.  We pulled into the station, but of course, they were closed (New Year’s Eve).  I looked under the car, and could see water dripping from one of the water pumps.  Another miracle; they had left a water hose by the gas pumps, and I was able to fill the radiator.  I made sure our two “Desert Water Bags” (Don’t drive in the desert without them!) I had hanging on the front bumper were full.  I jumped in the car, and we headed down the road, as fast as the old flathead Mercury “V-8” would take us, all the time watching the temperature gage closely.  If we didn’t come to one of those (few) “Stations” before the temperature gage got near “Hot” again, we would pull over and pour the two bags of water into the radiator and take off again.

—–To Be Continued—–

Bill is a retired Mechanical engineer living with his wonderful artist/writer wife, DiVoran, of 63 years in Titusville, Florida. He was born and raised in the Southwest, did a tour of duty with the U.S. Navy, attended Northrop University in Southern California and ended up working on America’s Manned Space Program for 35 years. He currently is retired and spends most of his time building and flying R/C model airplanes, traveling, writing blogs about his travels for Word Press and supporting his wife’s hobbies with framing, editing and marketing.  He also volunteers with a local church Car Care Ministry and as a tour guide at the Valiant Air Command Warbird Museum there in Titusville.  Bill has two wonderful children, two outstanding grandchildren, and a loving sister and her husband, all of whom also live in Central Florida, so he and DiVoran are rewarded by having family close to spend lots of quality time with.

One of Bill’s favorite Scriptures is:  John 10:10

How I Met the Love of My Life-Part 5

23 Sep

A Slice of Life

Bill Lites

On the following Tuesday morning, I headed back to the ship and DiVoran began looking thru the “Want Ads” for a job.  Her first interview was for a receptionist position with a local funeral home.  They liked her, but told her they couldn’t hire her because she was too young, too cute, and too cheerful.  That didn’t bother DiVoran at all!  After several phone calls and interviews, she finally found a job as a waitress in the San Diego area, where she could start right-a-way.  DiVoran says she realized that the waitress job was just the kind of job her parents were trying to protect her from, by encouraging her to finish her education.  However, she knew she would much rather be doing that, and being with her Bill, than she would be languishing away in Albuquerque without him.

I got permission to spend the nights “on the beach” as long as I was back on the ship in time for roll-call each morning.  DiVoran rode the bus to and from work at the restaurant, and when I didn’t have “the duty” on the ship, we would have the weekends free. But, going places was not a lot of fun for DiVoran at first because the car I owned, at the time, was a 1932 Ford five-window coupe.  I had bought the “Hot Rod” (A Bucket List Item) from a guy who had stripped it down to use for drag-racing. The interior had been completely gutted, with only a plywood seat bolted to the frame for the driver, and plywood sheeting for all the rest of the car’s interior flooring (no seat for a passenger). I had started restoring the car with the engine (of course) and had not bothered to do anything about the interior until now, because nobody ever rode with me.  DiVoran had to sit on the hard plywood and hang on to the window frame, to keep from sliding under the dash during turns.  To say she was not happy with that arrangement would be an understatement.

I finally found a guy on my ship that wanted that Hot Rod real bad.  I traded it to him for a really nice 1950 Mercury four-door sedan, plus, he gave me $300 dollars in cash (what I had originally had paid for the Hot Rod).  DiVoran was thrilled, and it was a great deal for us.  The engine ran good, it was quiet, and it rode so much smoother than the Hot Rod.  That was really great, because now we could both ride in comfort where ever we went.  That was the day I said goodbye to my “Dream Car.”  But, I have to say, that Mercury was one of the best cars I ever owned, and it did well by us for a long time.

—To Be Continued—–

Bill is a retired Mechanical engineer living with his wonderful artist/writer wife, DiVoran, of 63 years in Titusville, Florida. He was born and raised in the Southwest, did a tour of duty with the U.S. Navy, attended Northrop University in Southern California and ended up working on America’s Manned Space Program for 35 years. He currently is retired and spends most of his time building and flying R/C model airplanes, traveling, writing blogs about his travels for Word Press and supporting his wife’s hobbies with framing, editing and marketing.  He also volunteers with a local church Car Care Ministry and as a tour guide at the Valiant Air Command Warbird Museum there in Titusville.  Bill has two wonderful children, two outstanding grandchildren, and a loving sister and her husband, all of whom also live in Central Florida, so he and DiVoran are rewarded by having family close to spend lots of quality time with.

One of Bill’s favorite Scriptures is:  John 10:10

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