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Day 2, Sunday, May 21, 2017:
Colorado Springs, Colorado -> Divide -> Florissant -> Cripple Creek -> Caņon City -> Pueblo, Colorado

Locally our first stop was the Garden of the Gods. Designated a National Natural Landmark it's a local park and it was a very busy day. There were many ways to enjoy the park, biking, walking and driving the road that winds through the site. The drive through was a good fit once we realized the scale of the place. The red sandstone formations were stunning. We managed to score slots in the crowded pullouts to get some pictures including Balance Rock.

We headed out into the hills to locate The Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument. When we got nearby it was lunch time. This became our first encounter with a Colorado general store. In Maine the convenience store with bait and fresh hot pizza is common. Here Liquor, Beer, Groceries and Feed may be offered along with guns and ammo. They had a Subway sandwich counter and that sufficed for lunch.

We headed off to the fossil bed monument and stopped at a homestead site that was preserved on the property. The ground was riddled with big burrows of some critters like I had never seen. At the visitor center we got our National Park pass that would cover us for a year including the duration of the trip. The fossil beds involved quite a bit of hiking. We were acclimating to the altitude and settled for the exhibits at the visitor center.

Leaving Florissant we came upon Evergreen Station, another variant of the Colorado rural general store / rambling strip mall. Gasoline, groceries, apparel, liquor custom leather and saddlery are featured. The aqua clapboard gives the place a cottage feel.

We were driving the Gold Belt Tour loop and next arrived at the quaint former gold mining town of Cripple Creek. The downtown is very hilly and we spotted at least 3 casinos, there are said to be 9 or more depending how you count them. Some seemed modest, occupying the second floor spaces. Wildwood, on the edge of the village was the largest. Cripple Creek is one of only 9 towns in Colorado allowed to have gambling. The town is sometimes billed as a casino resort. If that's a resort, I'll stay on the farm. When we passed through it was drizzling and raw. The downtown was quiet on this Sunday afternoon and nothing gave us reason to stop and walk around. I can imagine it to be a nice place to wander when busier and milder. We stopped at the Dollar General store for a few odds and ends. On the way out of the village we visited a memorial to servicemen lost in the war on terrorism and it includes a helicopter suspended on a post. The memorial was near the top of the road going into town and the rugged surrounding mountains made some nice photos.

Our next destination was Skyline drive in Caņon City. This is a public one way road that rises then follows the top of a high razorback ridge overlooking Caņon City. The narrow paved road has no guardrails and at times when both sides are clear to the edge you have the sensation of flying with no ground visible alongside your vehicle. There are turnouts for sightseeing and photos including one just before the descent. The site had steady traffic including at least one hired jeep tour that made the run. I took GoPro video of the drive and there are a number of others already on YouTube. This attraction was on the to-do list courtesy of a local Gilson owner that offered the suggestion. It was built by inmate labor in 1908. Downtown Caņon City seemed like a nice place but it was too early to stop to dine or lodge.

Heading down US 50 to Pueblo for the night we noticed the Royal Gorge Bridge over the Arkansas River. Once we looked into it we realized it was a for fee tourist attraction, close to closing if it was even open that day and likely to make one of us freak out! We headed down the road.

The rest of the drive down US 50 to Pueblo was a nice mix of open spaces, mountains and mesas. We stopped for a few pictures but the afternoon was getting long. We made good time getting to the Best Western, checked in and went looking for dinner. Lorna was still looking for that steak dinner and the desk clerk suggested the Texas Roadhouse, hardly a local treasure. We thanked her politely. Hungry as we were we headed over to find people lined up in front of the place on a Monday night. That was not going to be the answer. We found something on Yelp that looked interesting but it was closed or gone, I forget as I catch up on journaling. We spotted this place called "Black-eyed Pea". It turned out to be a small regional chain that felt like an Applebee's with a menu closer to Cracker Barrel. The meals were good. We both took a chance on the deep fried corn on the cob, heavily breaded and crispy, a decadent treat with my salad.

We called it a day, began downloading and backing up photos and crashed.

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Created May 14, 2017