Monthly Archives: May 2008

Colorado Springs 2008

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It was not until I saw the Starbucks sign on 21st street (intersecting highway 24) that I realized the sands in my “year glass” have all flown through the tube – exactly a year ago, I was here, having climbed to the top of Pikes Peak – and came back down – and was trying to go to the next destination: Garden of the Gods. We were sort of lost and thus had been driving around that Starbucks a couple of times. Memorial Day weekend, 2008, we had new purposes in Colorado Springs: to see the famous U.S. Air Force Academy and the grandest mile of scenery – the Seven Falls.
As usual, dad demanded us to get up as early as possible and start our journey hopefully before the sun is making everything too hot. I managed to wear contact lenses, fix my hear, put on lots of sun blocks, and throw on my sunglasses. I also remembered to grab my personal mixed CD so I can play DJ in the car.
Chatting, singing along to songs, and snacking made the hour-and-a-half drive piece of cake (of course, I didn’t drive, so it’s easy for me to say!). Here we were at the guards of the Air Force Academy. The guy in uniform told us the visitor center was 4.5 miles from the gate and let us in. I thought, that’s almost as far as driving to work (25 minutes). Well, how I wished commuting to work would be more like this: there were no traffic lights, no crazy drivers, and along the path, both sides were full of green plants. Therefore, it only took us 4 minutes to get to the visitor center.
We went in at great timing, a 14-minute documentary about the academy and its students/trainees, which are called Cadets, was about to begin. After watching “Pursuit of Excellency”, I realized how tough, but fulfilling, the life of a cadet is. They must complete some 60 programs before becoming an officer in the military; the first step is physical training. The trainings they do remind me of action heros in movies, except movie stars are on wires when doing a flying scene, whereas these cadets are not. Here’s a model room for cadets:
Apparently two cadets share one room (I doubt any one room would be this clean, though)!
Besides strict discipline, there are all kinds of activities the cadets can do, such as religious rituals in the chapel, which is an architecturally stunning building, it also is where the cadets’ graduation ceremony is held:

We spent the longest time trying to find a parking spot. Then we realized something must be going on, because everyone who walks towards the chapel was very nicely dressed. We rushed to the entrance but were stopped by the guard. He told us there will be a graduation here in a few days (sure enough, President Bush came too and gave the commencement speech, it was on the local papers on Wednesday, 5-28-2008) and so today, a parent conference was taking place in the chapel, thus it was full, we could not go in. Not giving up, we tried to go in through the downstairs door for handicaps, but got dirty looks from a woman who was watching us. Failed to steal a peek of the inside of the chapel, I at least needed to have a picture of the side of the building:

(A plane was flying above and so the echo was loud…)

Onto our next destination. We figured we’d head over to Manitou Springs, but there were too many things to see there, including the Ghost Town museum (of things from the 1800’s!!), the Miramont Castle (where the famous Grand Staircase was housed), the ruins of the cliff dwellings off the side of Highway 24, etc. Finally, we cheaped out and decided to go to downtown Manitou Springs, which didn’t cost anything, and was categorized as a historic district with lots of old buildings.

I could only describe the downtown as NEAT:

It felt so good to be here. The weather was nice, people were out strolling with their dogs, sun-tanning, or drinking iced coffee and chit chatting under the sun… What a great life!

These buildings were probably well over 100 years! And many of them were in, on top of, beside, at the foot of, hills!


The tourist brochure mentioned the water of Manitou Springs, calling it having a “distinctive taste.” We tried a handful from this fountain and sure enough, the water was cool, and at first tasted a little salty and smelled a little like fish. But the aftertaste turned sweet and it helped quench our thirst till lunch time.

Later, we stopped at a couple of stores that sold hand-made jewelries and souvenirs. One of them was called the 10 dollar store where everything was $10 or under. I got really excited at first seeing all the vintage styled watches, necklaces, and earrings. But after browsing for a while, I realized the watches were out of battery and the jewelries were not that great of quality – not worth even 10 bucks. So we said thank you and goodbye to the store owner while feeling pretty bad for him. For the 15 minutes we were in his store, lots of people came in as well, we all touched, looked, and compared items, but nobody was seen paying for anything….

On the other side of the street, there was a jewelry store that sold pearls, Gordon’s was the name:

Mr. Gordon was very excited to see us. He started telling us about his hand cast pearl pendant collection and opened every cabinet for us to look. Dad was marveling about his cabinets, which, to our surprise, were all put together by Mr. Gordon himself, about 30 years ago, using logs that looked old, but gave a long-lasting feeling. His pearl pendants were very appealing, even though they were mostly casted in silver. Mom picked one out for me, it looked like a freshly picked cherry. With silver casting of a piece of leaf and stem, and the pearl shaping like a cherry. Mr. Gordon went inside and took out all three color pearls in the same style: white, green, and blue. I thought the blue one looked the prettiest and bought it. It also came with a silver chain so instead of putting it in a bag, I wore it right away!

The whole morning was gone fast, now way past noon, we were all very hungry. But it was hard to decide what to eat since there were so many restaurants, bars, cafes, and delis down the street. Mom suggested a bar close to where we parked, she recalled the sign said “best food in town.” Dad and I both objected, we were too hungry to walk the distance. Finally, we stopped by PJ’s Bistro, for we saw on their open menu, something we’ve never had before: Pierogi

I was happy as soon as I walked inside the little bistro, it was very cute (we sat on that middle table from the left row):

Picture from http://www.babayaga.net/

Curious of what Pierogis were, we had an order. Also on our order were a Turkey Bagel Sandwich and a Club Sandwich. (My parents didn’t want me to act like a fool and take pictures, so….). I highly recommend PJ Bistro’s sandwiches. The portion was pretty good (big), and they grilled their stuff almost to perfection. Also good were their various sauces. The Pierogis were not impressive at all because they were simply dumplings with beef stew stuffing. Nothing in the world can compare to my mom’s hand-made dumplings, so that was out of the question. However, the sauce used for the piergis, sweet and sour, red wine colored, was not bad. (Click on the link above for their address and menu and be sure to try their sandwiches if you happen to be in Manitou Springs!)

Despite being really full and sleepy, I reapplied sun blocks as the sun seemed to sting even more when you had a full belly. We took a shortcut to the Seven Falls instead of what our trip planner said, I felt so good about it! When we got there, the line was very long and moving ridiculously slow. Many people turned their cars around and left. We wondered if there was an accident and whether or not to continue waiting. After the man from the car before us returned and told his wife to keep waiting, we knew it was merely too many tourists. After about half an hour of wait, we finally got to the ticket booth. Guess what? It was taking so long because everybody was trying to purchase tickets with credit cards; therefore, there were a lot of handing over paper to sign, and receipts, etc. An old man that looked like a retired park ranger was going down car by car, keeping the passengers entertained and in line. My parents could not stop shaking their heads. They said if this was in China, there was no way that the matter could be handled like this. Things would need to be done 10 times faster to accommodate the number of people and a lot more staff would be hired to sell tickets….

Finally, we were in. We parked our car at a certain stop and walked a little up the slope. Besides kids, we could hear very clearly the sound of water running. We knew we must be near the waterfall… First thing we came to see was a human-dug tunnel where the elevator was housed that would lead to the overlook deck. Or people could take the stairs to go up. We chose the elevator because we wanted to go inside the tunnel. As I took off my sunglasses, I could feel lots of cool air surrounding me, like in an air conditioned room, it felt so good! Inside and outside the tunnel were like two different worlds! Too bad the elevator was not a see through one. Before we knew it, the doors opened and we walked out of the elevator, and the heat was instantly felt.

Many people were already here, taking pictures. We wondered what they were taking pictures of, where was the waterfall anyway? A kid pointed at a direction and yelled “mom, look, look!”, we looked to that direction, and to our surprise, there it was, the waterfall, the so called “grandest mile of scenery in Colorado.” My mom immediately regretted paying $9 each to come in. There weren’t seven waterfalls, just one that turned seven times, whether natural or man-made. All there was to see was the cascading style of the waterfall that doesn’t even compare to some of China’s little waterfalls, in terms of grandness:



Here’s the looking-down view:

Since we were already here, we decided we should still go up to the source of the waterfall. So we came back down by elevator, and headed towards the bigger staircase.

The staircase was pretty steep, 2 flights and 224 steps of stairs!

At about step 10, a bare-footed little girl started crying, “mommy, I’m scared”. So her mom carried her down and told the rest of the family to keep going. I hate to admit but I got affected by the little girl and my heart started pounding as I climbed each step, and looking down didn’t help at all. It was kind of scary. Especially to your left you must leave room for people to walk down.

I started counting the steps out loud while gasping which seemed to have helped. I am proud to report this was one of the fastest time I continuously climbed so many steps of stair! Here’s my proud look when I reached the destination:


… and my dad’s victory look:

While my mom and I sat on the rocks to rest our feet and catch our breath, despite how uncomfortable the “rock chair” was, we saw this 70 something year old Chinese man walking right past us, so unaffected from the climbing, as if he had just been walking back and forth in his living room. Our jaws dropped. Then we turned heads and saw his son gasping for air even harder than we were. We broke out into laughters. Since we were all Chinese, we started chatting and the topic was centered around how nowadays, the young generation was much weaker than the old generation. We also found out this family, consisted of grandparents, mom and dad, daughter and son, have lived in Colorado Springs for 10 years and today was only their first time doing some sight-seeing in the city!! We were much less ashamed of ourselves after hearing that!
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I AM BACK~~~

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Like my new blog theme? I do! Can’t wait to continue writing my “diary”. In the past two months, many things have happened, I even went and got my ears pierced (on April 19, 2008)! Saw a lot of movies, attended my cousin and Tracy’s wedding, went places, finally got back in touch with Ayuer, etc. etc.

What can be expected from this new phase of my blog? Less movie/music critiques, as I became more active in the online community DouBan which is designed just for movie/music/books. Unless it’s something I am eager to comment on. Hopefully less “beauty products” but more “beauty tips”. Hmm, I’d still like to continue taking pictures of food and restaurants, but probably not crazy like before. Definitely more pictures and thoughts about other things. Notice the name of the blog is still “LS Loves….”? It’ll remain as my “happy diary”!