Life’s a TRip, Episode 12

By Ojijaak

The expanse of the American prairie is behind Polly and me. Following a short drive across the barest and broadest of western Kansas and eastern Colorado, we enter the foothills of the Rockies in Cañon City, a town that I last visited in 1975 – at about the same time that Polly was delivered to her new owner in Calgary. Cañon City has changed since then. So have I. Polly, though, is as good-looking, or better than she was then.

Each morning I have checked her oil, and she has not used a drop since departure from Indianapolis. She starts willingly with less than full choke, and has not grumbled or missed a stroke. I have not checked fuel mileage (what difference does it make?), but it seems reasonable. I fill each morning before departure, and, except for the run from Garden City, once again before bedding down for the night.

The restaurant where I ate rainbow trout in 1975 is not to be found. Even the pond on the front lawn of that restaurant, kept full of trout in 1975, is not in evidence. Only the prison at the west end of town was recognizable from my earlier visits. There is, however, a brewpub!

That brewpub is called World’s End Brewing Company. With a name like that, I could not afford to miss it. It was perhaps two blocks from our Econo Lodge room, so Polly would not be at risk in a parking spot on the street.

World’s End is a nice enough pub; it looks to be relatively new, or at least well-kept. The barstools, though, were not conducive to long visits. I have straddled some stools that I swear must have been relics of the Spanish Inquisition, but these babies were prize winners! Fortunately, the beer was more inviting.

Again, what’s in a name? Well, at a place called World’s End, would you expect someone like me to pass on a brew called Dragonspit? No, me either.

The dinner menu was limited, so I opted for a dish that, if offered, should be at its best in a brewpub: fish and chips. Meh…overcooked and possibly related somehow to Mrs. Paul’s fish sticks. The Dragon Spit was very good, though.

If you travel to Cañon City, do stop by World’s End if you are a beer fan. Maybe opt for the sidewalk seating area, and look for something that interesting in the food menu that is not called fish and chips. If you would, let me know if you find a restaurant with a trout pond in front.

The next morning, July 31, was to be Polly’s big day. She had still used no oil, but I took a few minutes to clean up the remains of insect suicides that had found their way under her bonnet. I also checked brake and clutch fluids. No problems there.

To the west of Cañon City, Colorado Route 9 turns north from US 50. This road is designated the Gold Belt Tour and Scenic Byway. If you follow it, you will emerge on US 24 west of Pike’s Peak. There are several county roads that you might choose as alternatives and still arrive on US 24. I suggest that you get a good map to choose your route. Some of the county highways in this part of Colorado are not paved, but might be more interesting and scenic even than Route 9. In Polly, I kept to the paved roads.

You will traverse alpine meadows that are pasture fields with mountain streams. Something of a mix of John Denver and the vonTrapp Family. Although you will be climbing, there are sudden sharp downgrades, lots of curves, and each of these brings a new vista to enjoy. You will not find many safe spots to pull aside for photos, though, and where a shoulder even exists, it is narrow. I chose to enjoy the drive without risking a stop.

You may know that at present, there is construction at the summit of Pike’s Peak. A new Summit House (separator) is being built. Because of the construction vehicles and activity, parking is limited at the summit. Most vehicles are issued a shuttle pass that designates a parking area below the summit with passage to the top aboard a shuttle bus. Pets are not permitted to board the shuttles. I was concerned with what response Nokomis and I might receive.

There were three or four lanes open at the gate. In the lane that I chose, a smiling lady ranger came to Polly’s window and asked, “Are either of you (I assume that she meant to include Nokomis, but not Polly) disabled?”

Nokomis is at the least mostly blind, and, after days of driving in Polly’s small cabin, I was not at my best. I told the ranger just that, laughing at my/ourselves, but I added that neither of us was certified as disabled. Our mission was, I went on, just to photograph Polly at the summit of America’s mountain.

“Sounds good to me,” the ranger smiled, and she applied the coveted Summit Pass to Polly’s windshield. Victory!

I am surprised at how few people have visited Pike’s Peak. I have been to the summit at least three times, and on another occasion, I was stopped at Glen Cove due to snow on a June day. The experience is indescribable. Whether you choose to drive or to visit via the cog railway, put Pike’s Peak on your bucket list. If you drive, keep your foot off the brake pedal as much as possible during descent. You will be stopped at Glen Cove, just below the timberline to check brake temperature. If you are hot, you will be directed to a parking area to allow a cool-off.

I am getting ahead of the story, but as we descended, the only use that I made of the brake was to stop for that check. Signs along the roadway say, “Use Lowest Gear,” but that was a bit much for Polly. I chose second, or occasionally third gear, and even at that, Polly’s bellowing would have scared even Bigfoot away. All the same, do drive carefully because if you miss a turn, it is a long way to the bottom of your fall.

Back to the ascent, the road is beautiful. It is a constant climb, becoming steeper as you climb through trees and around hairpins. Above the timberline, you will notice a loss of engine power, and realize why the rangers tell you that you are not to use air conditioning on the way up. You won’t need it, anyway, even on the hottest days. It wasn’t an option with Polly.

Polly was coping well until she was not. It was instant, as if someone had thrown a switch. At a point somewhere between 12,700 and 13,200 feet AMSL, she simply ran out of oxygen. Seriously, we rounded a hairpin at the end of a climb, and as I gently opened the throttle on the next short ascending straight, Polly blew a load of unburned fuel into her hot exhaust, fired it, and coughed to a small parking area located most fortunately at that point.

I could have pulled out my screwdrivers to lean the mixture. I did not. To have done would have required another adjustment after the descent. I have described Polly’s effort as “valiant.” It was, and I have put it in her win column. Even Nokomis was panting, and when invited to pee on top of the world, she got out slowly, made her contribution to the mountain streams, and climbed back into the passenger seat. Most unlike her; done.

Polly and Nokomis at our highest elevation on Pike’s Peak.

I was sorry to be unable to take Polly’s picture at the summit. I have visualized that scene since I first began planning this TRip. Still, the drive was its own reward. Back to Cañon City!

I found another favorite of mine at an ice cream shop next to the hotel. Lemon ice cream – hard to find even in large supermarkets, but available in this tiny shop in a small Colorado city.

Later in the evening, I checked Polly’s fluids again because I wanted to get an earlier-than-usual start the next morning. Polly had used a pint of oil! This was a first, and I theorized that it was due to her hard work on the mountain. I topped up and she has not used a drop since.

If you have followed Life’s a TRip, you will remember that there were options for the Colorado passage. Rocky Mountain National Park’s Trail Ridge Road is one, and the northernmost. It is a great ride. Farther south, US 24 would have taken us over Independence Pass, another great road. I have driven both in years past. For this TRip, though, I continued west on US 50. This is the road that takes you over Monarch Pass west of Salida. The only major east-west route through the Rockies that I have not driven is, strangely, Interstate 70 through the Eisenhower Tunnel. It is probably an interesting ride as Interstates go, but it is not Polly’s sort of road.

Regrettably this record of our TRip has been delayed in reporting. For that reason, and because Polly, Nokomis, and I have more Trips scheduled this year, I will end our journey at this point. Only two notable events occurred later: about twenty miles from home, an electrical gremlin disabled Polly’s overdrive, and Nokomis seems to have injured herself in a jump to a bare floor that resulted in a slide and a pulled muscle. These are just examples of life being a trip. I hope you enjoyed this TRip and that you will join us for more travels later this year and beyond.


The rant:

I propose that we ban the preposition “at,” since you folks can’t seem to use it properly.

Example: “At this point in time…” Redundant fluff. This is the sort of crap that is used in an English 101 essay to pad the word count. It is enough to say or write, “At this point…” or “At this time…”

Example: “Where are you/we at?” As a preposition, “at” should not ordinarily end a sentence. In addition, it is just piss poor grammar. Say only, “Where are you/we?” If you persist in using “at,” my answer to, “Where are you at?” will be, “Right before the at.”

Hearing usage like these especially by journalists or television meteorologists makes my skin crawl, and the rest of the great unwashed should not assume that because they heard these from “word people,” they are correct, or even acceptable. They certainly are not, ever, or by anyone.

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