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Stan & Dee Ink Storm the Rockies

Stan and Dee Ink at the Garden of Gods Porch at the foot of Pike's Peak. Photo provided by Stan Ink.

Stan and Dee Ink at the Garden of Gods Porch at the foot of Pike’s Peak. Photo provided by Stan Ink.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011 – Dee and I left home at 1500 to drive to Tampa in hopes of getting a flight early the next day to Colorado Springs, CO. We were going there to visit our daughter, Sharon. We spent the night at a La Quinta on Gandy Blvd , as there was no availability at the MacDill AFB Inn, FL, and we had a dinner at KFC.

Thursday – We left the motel about 0530 to be at the Space-A call at the MacDill AFB terminal by 0600. Then we had a problem. We could not get on base as our cards had not been registered in their new system. This is very new, as we have been on and off the base for 20 years or more without a problem.

Then we found the visitor center did not open until 0600 and there were several people waiting. We finally got registered with new pictures and fingerprints required. It seems that they started a biometric system and our cards did not have that data on them. I called the terminal and the agent said to hurry and he would try to hold the plane. We got to the terminal and checked in as the only passengers and rushed to the bus to the plane. We got on about 0655 and were airborne by 0710.

The plane was a C-37A, the military version of a Gulfstream V corporate jet. It has 13 deluxe leather seats, TV monitors, wood trim interior, large windows, etc. We were the only passengers, although there were three men, in addition to the crew that the steward fed a hot breakfast. We got a glass of orange juice and water. He offered us Mimosas. We didn’t expect to be fed. The crew and passengers were all in civilian clothes, so I have no idea who they were. The agent that met the plane said they were coming to take DV’s somewhere. It took only three and a half hours and we were in Colorado Springs.

Peterson AFB is very nice, but one needs a car, as lodging, the BX and the terminal are very far apart. They do have an Enterprise car rental near the gate, but not near the terminal, though there is a drop box there for when you depart, to leave the key.

We were about to walk the three blocks to lodging, where I had made a one-night reservation, when a man offered to drive us there. Then as we talked about getting a car, he said we should rent from the company he used. I called them and they were out of cars. He said he was turning his rental in Saturday and could do it sooner as he just bought a car. Anyway, we went to his rental office and rented his old car, a nice Kia SUV. Then we took him to lunch and parted to go back to our room on base. He is an Army Chaplain and was super nice to us. Our car was rented for only two days, but they hoped to get us one for longer when I turned it in Saturday. It seems the place was very crowded with the women’s US Open going on.

Dee got Sharon on the phone and we planned to meet her for dinner tonight. Then, who knows what we will do for the next several days. We had dinner and a nice visit at Sharon ’s apartment and then went back to Peterson AFB for the night.

Friday – We had breakfast in the room with stuff we bought at the commissary. Then we drove to the AAA to get some maps and travel information. We drove north to the town of Monument where Sharon works. We were to meet for lunch but since it was early we toured the town (very small) and a lake nearby where many people were fishing for trout and perch. It was a sunny clear day with low humidity and temperatures in the 70’s. The mountains beyond the lake were very scenic.

We met Sharon and saw her office where she is the architectural reviewer for the residents of the 3,000-home subdivision, who want to make changes, improvements or repairs on their homes. We had a nice lunch at the Village Inn. She went back to work and we drove south to the Air Force Academy.

Stan Ink standing among the aircraft displays near the iconic U.S. Air Force Academy Chapel on the Academy grounds. Photo provided by Stan Ink.

Stan Ink standing among the aircraft displays near the iconic U.S. Air Force Academy Chapel on the Academy grounds. Photo provided by Stan Ink.

We checked in to the Rampart Lodge for a three-night stay. This base is very large. It is nearly five miles from the gate to the lodge and the BX and commissary are about five miles in another direction. The center of buildings and chapel are about three miles away from the lodge. The land is very green and landscaped perfectly with many concrete walks and paved roadways. The mountains in the distance make for a beautiful site. The cadets are on summer break so most buildings appear empty. There is a large area of homes in a valley that I assume are for the workers and teachers.

Sharon came by after work. Then we drove off base to Applebee’s for dinner. All the eating places on base were closed except Burger King and the bowling alley grill. That grill may have been OK to eat in but it was too noisy being in the alley. After dinner, Sharon drove home and we came back to the Rampart Lodge.

Saturday – We did our usual 45-minute walk at 0600 and then had breakfast in the room. It was sunny and in the 60’s. On the walk we saw a deer, a rabbit, three turkeys and some magpies that were into the garbage can. During the walk we went by Doolittle Hall surrounded by plaques and bricks with graduate’s names.

Then at 0930 we drove to town and the car rental place to turn in our SUV. Sharon met us there and took us to the Hertz office to pick up the next car, an HHR Chevy. Then we took both cars to her apartment to park hers. I, then, drove us to the Garden of Gods Visitor Center. We watched a movie of how that area was formed and also had lunch on the balcony overlooking the park, with the mountains behind including Pike’s Peak.

It was a most beautiful setting on this clear day with white billowing clouds above. I was remembering about my parents driving out here from Ohio on their honeymoon in 1923. I may have gotten the travel bug from them, since driving that far 88 years ago was uncommon, I think.

After lunch we drove slowly through the park and stopped for a few pictures. There was much traffic so parking was a problem. Then we drove on to the Cave of the Winds, another tourist attraction. After buying tickets we had to wait about an hour for our tour to start. They took about 20 at a time on the half-mile walk, up and down 207 steps in the semi-darkness. There were many low bridge spots where I had trouble not bumping my head. It was a little strenuous since we were at 7,200 foot altitude. But we near-80-year-olds were able to keep up with the rest of the group that were under 40 years, with several under 10. After leaving there, we went to Sharon’s apartment to rest for a bit before going out for a pizza dinner.

Sunday – We had our early morning walk, this time to the Doolittle Hall where we spent time reading the brass plaques and looking for a brick with John Gunyou’s name. He is our cousin and a 1970 graduate. We did not find his brick.

After breakfast in the room, we drove to Sharon’s to get her and drive up Pike’s Peak. The drive is about 10 miles out of Colorado Springs and is 19 miles of very winding roads to the top. It is all paved except for three miles. There are no guardrails which frightens some. At the bottom it was a 75 degree incline and 52 at the top. It was a sunny day so we could see for miles. It is 14,100 feet high, so the altitude can affect some. I felt a little weak in the legs. We saw the ruins of the hotel that was at the top when my parents  drove up there 88 years ago. After touring the lookout areas and getting a picture of us at the summit sign, we went inside for lunch.

Stan, daughter Sharon and Dee at Pike's Peak. Photo provided by Stan Ink.

Stan, daughter Sharon and Dee at Pike’s Peak. Photo provided by Stan Ink.

After an hour or so on top, we started down. They have a mandatory stop for brake tests to see if they are too hot. Ours were, so we had to wait for 15 minutes. I met a man there who had a new Ford Focus which stalled out at 13,000 feet and he had to turn around. That’s a warranty claim for Ford.

Down at the bottom we went by the NORAD entrance, but could not get in. We then went over to Fort Carson to check out their PX. We stopped at a Safeway for some dinner stuff to take home after dropping Sharon off at her apartment. We got in a six-mile long traffic jam on Interstate 25 on the way back to the Academy where we had our dinner, ending today.

Monday – After we checked out of our room we went to the Visitors Center and read all the academy displays and watched a 15 minute movie about the cadet training. This is certainly a prestigious institution that anyone would be proud to graduate from. Then we went to the parking near the church and parade grounds. They have plaques & displays of many airplanes. It was quite along walk to the church, a very modern structure that most of you have seen pictures of. We toured inside it as well. We must have walked well over a mile touring the grounds.

After that we drove to Seven Falls, a tourist attraction of seven waterfalls with 210 steps to the top. We did not climb as there was an elevator that went up to a good view point. We had a McDonald’s lunch before driving to and touring the Olympic Training Facility. All the Olympic participants train here as this is their HQ. Then we went back to our room to rest a bit before meeting Sharon for dinner.

We planned to meet at a Ruby Tuesdays, but found out it was closed, so we ended at the other choice in this shopping center, Hooters. Sharon brought along a friend, so we had 4 for dinner. The food was not the greatest, but then Hooters is better known for their scenery. Then it was back to our Peterson AFB quarters.

Tuesday – We went to the BX before returning our Hertz car. They took us to the terminal, where we waited for several hours to find out that there were 11 active duty passengers vying for 7 seats on a flight to Andrews AFB, MD. Obviously we didn’t make the cut. We did have a reservation at the lodge on base so we got a ride back there and checked in, having a microwave dinner from the choices that were offered at the lodge desk.

Wednesday – We had breakfast in the room with pay items offered in the room, then waited for Enterprise to pick us up and drive to their office near the gate. We got a Nissan Sentra for an open-end rental. We decided to go to Cripple Creek and along the way stopped for carry out lunch which we ate at Muller Colorado State Park. The lunch cost under $5 and the “cover charge” for admission to the park was $7. But it was a very nice park in the woods. We drove on through the red rock roadway cuts in sunny weather with deep blue skies and billowing white clouds. This area is one of the most beautiful mountain areas we have seen.

In Cripple Creek we walked the town and checked out the steam train ride. It was similar to others we have taken so we did not do it. Also, I was not feeling well, I think it was due to the 9,500 foot altitude. After we got down to Colorado Springs, at about 6,000 feet, I was fine. On the way back we went through the part of town called Old Colorado, with many quaint shops. We then met Sharon at a Cracker Barrel for dinner, and then back to our room.

Thursday,  July 14, Bastille Day in France (I remember from when we lived there). We went to the passenger terminal at 0700 for a 0730 call on a C-21 to Scott AFB, IL. We were booked on it until the pilot said he could only take one person due to weight restrictions. So we waited another hour and actually got selected on another C-37 to Andrews AFB, MD. This is a nearly new plane with 13 seats and 11 passengers. It also is the type of plane that the Air Force uses to haul important people, like Congress persons and generals. It even has movies, but the food is what we brought. We came here in the same type of plane. Lucky!!

We are now at Andrews after a nice three-hour flight. The flight attendant was an airman who is also a University of Florida Gator, like us, though he only went there for one year. But he did offer to help us find quarters. He called to base lodgings from the airplane but they had no rooms. It turned out that we didn’t need them as we got on a flight in the next two hours. We were in Andrews just from 1600 to 1800 and then flew in a VR58 Ft Worth C-40 to Oceana NAS, VA. There were no rooms on base there either so we called a taxi and waited a long time for it to come and take us to the nearest motel, a Red Roof Inn. That was a $60 taxi ride. We had eaten snacks all day so did not need dinner, but went to a nearby 7-11 for breakfast food.

Friday – We took another taxi to the Norfolk NAS, where we were told there was a flight to Jacksonville, FL, at 1230. When we got there, it had been changed to 1130 which we thought was good. But it turned out it was full of troops so there were no seats. So we waited for another flight about seven hours later, a C-40 to the JAX NAS which was heading home from an overseas tour. We finally arrived about 1800 and the Duty Driver took us to the Gateway Inn, stopping by McDonald’s on the way.

Saturday – The Duty Driver took us to the gate where a Hertz driver took us to their office in Orange Park to pick up a Nissan Altima for the drive to get our car in Tampa . We stopped first in St Augustine for a short visit with Dee’s brother, Guy, and Linda. We were tired by the time we got to Tampa and stopped at a motel for the night.

Sunday – After breakfast at the motel we went to MacDill AFB to pick up our car and then drive it and the rental car the 10 miles or so to the Tampa airport to turn in the rental before driving home to Ft Myers, ending a nice Space-A trip.

Maj. Stan Ink, USAF, retired and Dee Ink Ft Myers, FL

Reprint from July-Aug 2012 • Volume 42, No. 4

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