Despite the earth shaking thunder I went right to sleep! Too many nights in places with lots of random noises! It was almost 6 before I woke up too! YAY!
It was cloudy and cool as I headed out from the KOA. It was nice at first because the sun can be brutal out there with nothing to absorb it. Soon however the highway was ensconced in the thickest fog I think I've ever had to drive in! It was like Washington State. You couldn't even see the road signs until you were right up on them! It was crazy. And it went on for 40 miles. After that fog burned off, or I drove out of it, it was smooth sailing!
Crossing the Colorado State Line was very exciting! It was great to finally be here. However, I still had over 200 miles of the most desolate scenery of the whole trip to cover! That's what they don't tell you...eastern Colorado is worse than Kansas. Kansas is a great state to drive through. Eastern Colorado is dreadful. But, it makes those first views of the high peaks that much better!
Colorado Springs is a much bigger town than I expected and there was so much traffic. I never knew which lane I wanted to be in and it wasn't much fun driving. I'd just turned off onto business 24 to go into Manitou Springs where my campground is and I saw a sign to Garden of the Gods. I knew I wanted to go there and it was early so I decided to head up there. I wound through a neigborhood following the signs, hoping there'd be signs to get me back.
I need to pause here and explain the differences between my expectations for what Garden of the Gods was vs what it actually is. I thought Garden of the Gods was like a museum - you drove in, parked, and walked around, like a botanical garden. What it actually is is a car hike! There are lots of roads that take you around to the different spots, you can park and get out or stay in your car, but it's mostly a driving event. There is a visitor center and you can park there and walk. Also, I'd thought it was a religious thing, a Christian place, but it's totally not. (And I'm glad, I didn't really want to evaglized to just so I could see cool rocks.)
So now that you understand where my brain was, totally confused, back to what happened...
I was driving up the hill in this neighborhood when I saw a big sign that said "no oversize vehicles. No buses, RVs or vans. I might have just ignored the sign if it hadn't said "vans". But now I was concerned. The sign said to use Becker Lane. I didn't know where I was, let alone where Becker Lane was. And I couldn't turn around (seriously? Does anyone consider the placement of these signs? And that they should tell drivers of large vehicles to turn around at a location where they still can?). I'd already almost caused a 4 car pile up trying to read the sign. So, I had no choice but to go forward and hope for the best.
Soon I came to a spot that was a narrow passage between two rocks. You had to turn a hard right then a hard left and it was barely big enough. But, I made it. Threaded the needle and slipped right through! For anyone who has been to Garden of the Gods I was at Balanced Rock.
There was a parking lot here and people getting out to take pictures. This is where I figured out that my expectations were off.
I continued down the road and soon came to the trading post. I found a bus parking spot and headed in. In my head I think I'd confused "trading post" with "visitor center". I was hoping to get a free map of the place so I could figure it out. But no. This was a huge gift shop with all types of junk to buy! And it was packed full of tourists. I quickly moved on.
As I was driving I realized there's a nice bike lane along the road, I was thinking I should have left the van and ridden my bike! But I still didn't really know where I was going.
I did eventually find the visitor center and there was a bus/RV parking spot open! (I almost had to get out my teacher voice for the folks in a sedan who'd parked in one of the bus/RV spots, but I held my tongue. First of many times I wanted to correct someone's behavior.) in the VC I obtained a map and got a great tip on where I could go to walk.
Right by my campground there is a store called "Maggie's Farm". I thought it sounded like a store I'd enjoy and had thought I'd check it out. Until I read the fine print: Retail Marijuana". Ha! Welcome to Colorado.
The campground, Pikes Peak RV Park isn't anything special. It's basically a gravel parking lot and the RVs are crammed in. I have the "cheap" site - no sewer and anything bigger than my van wouldn't fit. They have a guy escort you in and he and I shoehorned my RV in - it was about a 10 point back in! Hopefully he'll be here when I come back from my adventures tomorrow!
After dinner I went for a walk on the walking trail behind the park. The town seems run down and tired. It's a nice enough place, but it's not going to be my favorite destination. Everything I've seen has been very touristy and there's soooo many people!