Colorado - 2004

May 29 th Denver to Breckenridge :
My niece, Laura Frank, was graduating from the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs this week so we did a timeshare exchange to Breckenridge.

After several changes of planes we arrived in Denver in the late afternoon. The dude at the rental exchange talked me into upgrading to a Dodge Durango from the medium size car I had reserved. For a couple bucks a day more, I agreed. Anyhow it was drizzling as we left the airport in Denver heading for Breckenridge. For a bigger car it didn't seem to negotiate the mountains any better than the cars I'm used to. When we arrived in Breckenridge the drizzle had become light snow flakes.

As the evening progressed, however, the snow got more intense. We weren't worried for we brought several sweaters to handle the cooler weather than we are used to in Corpus Christi Texas. They weren't enough. We ended up buying some heavier jackets before the week was over.
May 30 thBreckenridge :

When we got up the next morning there was about a foot of snow on the ground. Since it was Sunday, we started out for the church. Unfortunately, the Durango that I could barely fit in the parking space under the building, I had a more difficult time backing it out. The side view mirror and a hard to see wooden pole between the spots took out the mirror and the turn at the exit scraped the side fender. We did make it to Mass.

After Mass we decided to drive around the town and look at the snowy scenes. Remy was feeling a little elevation sickness but did a good job of videotaping the drive. Here are some screen captures from the video. The resolution isn't the greatest, but you can get an idea of how beautiful the scenery was after the snow event.

Breckenridge Snowy Sunday - May 30, 2004

Monday, May 31st :
Monday morning we were slow getting up and going back to trade in the car for one that would fit in the parking spots at the Grand Timber Lodge. The altitude sickness was still impacting both of us. Eventually we started off for Denver to trade in the Durango for a smaller car.

The snow wasn't covering the road as we made the ride to Denver. Remy made movies the snow covered mountains from the passenger seat and I include some screen captures here.

When we passed through the tunnel in the mountain, we came into very heavy snow. The road was bit slick for about 10 or 20 miles, and then as we proceeded down the mountain, the snow disappeared and the weather was quite nice.

Eventually we came to the area where we had seen a couple of big horn sheep next to the road on the way to Breckenridge from the airport so we stopped and searched. After looking down low for a while, I noticed some sheep way up on the top of the mountain. We watched them graze for quite a while while I videotaped them before moving on to Denver. The pictures aren't that clear because they were a long way up.

We switched to a much smaller car, and headed back to Breckenridge. The car struggled a little bit going up over the hills, but the Durango wasn't exactly zipping over them either. We stopped at an outlet Mall on the way back and bought some jackets because the sweaters weren't enough.

Breckenridge to Denver and back - May 31, 2004

Tuesday, June 1st :
Tuesday morning we were up very early and on the road to Colorado Springs for Laura's graduation from the Air Force Academy. We weren't so late because as we arrived everyone else was heading to the parade grounds, so we went directly there and were among the first to arrive.

There were a few interesting fly-bys but the ceremonies kicked off with a precision parachute demonstration. Click to see demonstration

Laura wasn't able to participate in the parade due to her not attending a "mandatory" awards dinner. The 6th squadron was about half the size of the others for that same reason.

After completion of the parade and commissioning ceremonies we all met on the field and had a mini reunion of sorts. Except Mary and her new husband who were driving up Pikes Peak this day, so we didn't see them until later

Next we walked a pretty fair distance to the Math Department for a reception there. It took Laura a few tries to find her Department. I guess all the buildings look alike? We got to meet a few of her teachers and fellow students. The view of the Chapel and campus was nice from there.

Finally we went to Laura's room to gather her stuff and headed back to the hotel to get ready for the banquet.

Air Force Academy Graduation Ceremony - June 1, 2004

We quickly changed clothes and headed back to the base for the graduation banquet. They had some pretty good hors d'oeuvres set up as you entered the cafeteria. The last meal in the cafeteria seemed to cause some tears a few of the participants' eyes, but it was just another meal to us. I was impressed at their organization and speed in delivering the meals when the time came.

Following the dinner we all made our way to the Hall where they had a dance going on. Remy and I looked in on them, but then found a cozy table in the side room where we closed our eyes for a few minutes or was it hours. Anyway when we looked up the rest of the family was seated at a nearby table but looking for us.

Air Force Academy Graduation Banquet - June 1, 2004

Eventually it got to be mid-night and we all made our way to the other end of the campus for the Commissioning Ceremonies. Tonight Laura became a Second Lieutenant in the US Air Force. The oath was given by her sponsor for the last few years, John Higgs. Pat and Debbie got to pin on the bars.
Air Force Academy Commissioning Ceremony - June 1, 2004

Tuesday, June 2nd :
We barely got to bed before we had to start heading out to Falcon Stadium for the Graduation Ceremonies. Early arrival was demanded due to the expected arrival of President Bush. Remy wasn't up to the task after the long day before. It broke her heart when she missed the opportunity to see the president, but she made up for it by shopping later. Mary and Jeffrey found seats a little higher up than the rest of us.

After the pledge of allegiance, President Bush was presented with several awards, including a set of swords. Then we settled in for about three quarters of an hour explanation of the need for the war in Iraq and his expectations from this graduating class.

Finally each cadet in the graduating class individually got a salute and a handshake from President Bush. Some also got hugs, waves to their parents, high fives, etc. For a video of the Squadron 6 encounter with the President click here: Video with President Bush

Finally when all the salutes were done and the hands were shaken, an oath was taken by all and that was followed by the traditional tossing of the hats. The hats contained $20.04 to signify the graduation year and the youths who collected them got a souvenir to cherish until they too can partake in such ceremonies. We were surprised at the final ceremonies when the cap toss was immediately followed by a perfectly timed fly by: Click here!

Finally the ceremonies were concluded with a series of fly-by's and I was able to capture some of them. For a movie clip try this link : Air Show In case you can't play that I included some screen captures below.

Air Force Academy Graduation - June 2, 2004

I included some screen shots from the video of the formation flying demonstration in case you can't view the video.
Air Force Academy Precision Flying - June 2, 2004

Later that evening we met at the home of Laura's Sponsors, Kathy and John Higgs for a nice dinner. Remy is still making the Pesto Cheese Blossom (cheese ball) we discovered there that evening.
Laura's sponsor reception - June 2, 2004

Wednesday, June 3rd :
Today we rode the Cog Railroad to the top of Pikes Peak. The elevation is over 14,000 feet and Remy about died. The ride takes over 3 hours each way and we spent about a half hour at the Summit House, before we headed back down. Remy spent the time with her down on a table. It had started to snow when we neared the summit, and while we were there it turned into a white out situation from the wind and the snow.
Pikes Peak Cog Train ride - June 3, 2004

On the way back we stopped at the Manitou Cliff Dwellers Museum. We were able to climb up and get a close look at the buildings.
Manitou Cliff Dwellers Museum - June 3, 2004

Thursday, June 4th :
So instead of taking highway 25 to Denver and Hwy 70 back to Breckenridge we headed west and made frequent stops to view the mountains. We had a weird experience that we kept hearing a popping sound and was thinking something was wrong with the tires on the car. Eventually we figured out that the partially drained coke bottle Remy had put under the seat was collapsing and expanding from the elevation changes.
Return trip to Breckinridge - June 4, 2004

Friday, June 5th :
So Remy didn't have a very good night with the elevation sickness at Breckinridge versus at that of Colorado Springs. She decided Colorado isn't for her and so made me take her to see all the places she didn't intend to come back. The day was spent driving to the various resorts. We visited Vail, and Aspen. Remy took video of the spots. If I find the tapes, I'll see if any of it is worth adding here, but I can't find it.


Grand Timber Lodge, Breckenridge, Colorado

United States Air Force Academy

Manitou Cliff Dwellers Museum

Pikes Peak Cog Railway

Back to List