Sunday, October 30, 2016

Celebrating Manitou Springs' Halloween "Spirit"

While in Manitou Springs, Colorado, we heard about a unique festival that we had to check out. On the Saturday before Halloween, thousands of revelers gather to celebrate their favorite local "spirit", Emma Crawford. The imaginative costumes and friendly competition of the Emma Crawford Coffin Races and Parade provided Halloween fun for all!

According to local history, Emma Crawford moved to Manitou Springs in the late 1800s in hopes of alleviating her tuberculosis. Emma loved the mountains, and in spite of her illness, she managed to climb to the top of Red Mountain. After experiencing the beauty at the summit of the mountain she had one request ... to be buried on the top of Red Mountain. In 1891, she died at the age of 28 and was buried atop the mountain. But years of water runoff apparently unearthed her coffin and slid it down the mountain and into the streets of Manitou Springs ... and established her as a local legend.

For the last 21 years, the town has come together to celebrate their most famous local "spirit". Young and old alike come together to re-enact poor Emma's coffin racing down the street of Manitou Springs.

We were glad that we had an easy walk to the festivities from our current "home" at Pikes Peak RV Park, as the street was lined with thousands out to enjoy a beautiful autumn day.

The festivities began at 12:30 with a parade of the costumed participants. Afterwards, the 70 or so "teams" consisting of four "pallbearers" and "Emma" in her decorated coffin on wheels prepared to "race" down the street. Each team added to the humor of the event with their own special theme. Some of the fun teams included:
Emma and the Zombies

Emma and the Mario Brothers

Emma and our local finest ... her coffin lost its wheels so this dedicated team ended up carrying her across the finish line.

Emma in the "tiny house" coffin ... we can relate!

Whether racing down the street,

... or celebrating her safe arrival across the finish line,

... or just basking in her coffin on a beautiful day,

... there was fun for all during this "spirited" celebration ... except for those who don't have the "guts" to know when to say when!

Until next time ... have a safe and happy Halloween ... and enjoy the adventures in your life!

Saturday, October 22, 2016

In the Shadow of Pike's Peak

After traveling for what seems like forever across the Great Plains, it is always exciting to see the first outline of the Great Rocky Mountains rise up in the distance. The Wildebeest followed that outline and brought us to our destination for the next two weeks. We are in the shadow of Pikes Peak in Manitou Springs, Colorado, and loving every minute of it ... once I got acclimated to the higher altitude.

Pikes Peak RV Park in Manitou Springs is our current "home", and we are loving our new location! The owners, Margie and Chris, keep a very nice small RV park with full hookup sites, clean showers and laundry, and easy access to many of the area's attractions like Pikes Peak Cog Railway and Garden of the Gods. The sites are snug, but the owner expertly directed Doug into his spot ... no stress on the marriage this time!

Located alongside a peaceful babbling brook, it is an easy walk to downtown Manitou Springs with their historic buildings, cute shops, unique restaurants, and brewery!

As we walk into town, the beautiful mountain and rock formations really takes our breath away! Of course, the fact that we are at 6500 feet also contributed to our "breathlessness" the first few days!

On our daily walks through town, Doug has been happy with the wealth of Pokemon who are hiding out. But we have also discovered beauty in this quaint town in the form of:

Majestic mansions like the Miramont Castle,

Cute "tree houses" in the city park,

Colorful trees giving us a "taste" of autumn,

And a number of natural mineral springs just begging to help keep me hydrated ... I just have to remember to bring my own cup!

We are just loving this quaint town except for the fact that the public transportation seems a little "dated" ...

and there are a few "tourists" who seem to have hung around a little too long!

Yes, we can see that we are going to have a "ghoulish" time this week before Halloween ... as we hang out with some "wild" life!

Until next time ...  arouse those "spirits" ... and enjoy the adventures in your life!

Next up: Mountain Biking in REAL Mountains!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Habitat for Humanity Build #5: Kearney, Nebraska

Our previous Habitat build in Omaha was a great experience, unfortunately, we were the only Care-a-vanners there. We soon realized that we missed the opportunity of spending time with fun ... and slightly crazy people like us. So, we traveled down Interstate 80 to Kearney, Nebraska. There we found a cute small town, a dedicated group of local volunteers, and as you can see, a fun group of crazy vanners just like us!

Anyone who has traveled down Interstate 80 through Nebraska is familiar with the Archway Monument that rises above the highway. Just off that exit was our "home" for the two weeks ... Kearney RV Park. The owners graciously gave us Habitat volunteers a generous discount. Because the campground was nestled between the corn fields and I-80, the harvesting equipment, migrating geese, and vehicle traffic provided a constant musical hum. But the large, level pull-through sites and the clean shower house and laundry made it a comfy home for our stay.

A paved and well lit path connected the campground to the Archway Monument two miles away.

I spent one of my days off learning about the Great Platte River Road and the groups that traveled through the area on their way West in the 1800s. The Mormon Trail, Oregon Trail, and California 49ers Trail all passed near Fort Kearny. As I walked through the Archway, I was able to experience the trials and triumphs of the pioneers as they worked together to reach new lands and build strong communities.

With advances in forms of transportation, the area saw covered wagons, Pony Express, stagecoach, railroad, and automobile bring pioneers to the area. These rugged trails eventually evolved into the Lincoln Highway in the early 1900s ...

... and into Interstate 80 starting in 1956.

In case you have ever wondered, this is what visitors to the Archway Monument see when you are driving underneath it!

As we got to know and work with the Kearney Habitat for Humanity affiliate, we realized that they share many of the same qualities of those early pioneers as they are attempting to make a better life for members of their community. They have been building affordable housing in Kearney since 1992, but this is the first time that they hosted a Care-a-vanners group. When we saw all the progress made in a short time by the team, all agreed it was a win-win situation. 

Beginning with our arrival in Kearney, we experienced midwestern hospitality to the finest degree with a delicious home cooked meal and a chance to meet some of the the leaders for our build. They also treated us to many lunches including the unique Nebraska sandwich ... The Runza.

Despite having only one paid employee, the Kearney Habitat has still managed to accomplish amazing feats using their dedicated and skillful volunteers. In the photo below, Jerry (left) is one of the original organizers and at age 84 is still "in charge" amazing all with his construction and organizational skills. Ken (middle) is the affiliate president as well as skilled painter and donut delivery guy ... Yum! 

Rodger and his wife Kay have been Care-a-vanners themselves, and were instrumental in bringing our group to Kearney. We all appreciated their contagious laughs and dedicated natures!

The Kearney affiliate, utilizing the generous donations of their local community, has built 73 homes in their 24 year existence. They are currently working on three more homes that they hope to have complete by early winter. Normally the local volunteers work Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday mornings, so the progress can be slow at times. This is where we Care-a-vanners come in. 

We arrived at the future neighborhood as the sun rose and worked all morning and afternoon Tuesday through Saturday for the two weeks we were there. During that time amazing milestones were reached including:

Windows caulked sealing up the house against the winter winds that can blow strong across this prairieland.

Driveway cement poured ... Doug was excited to learn the "art" of playing with cement!

Sheets of metal, plywood and drywall were drilled together to form a "safe room" in the house in case of tornados since the houses don't have basements.

Walls painted ... and in some cased re-painted. Taylor, the 11-year-old future occupant of this home, decided after seeing the first coat of the bright purple wall that it was "a little too much", so we lightened it up with a softer plum color.

Ceiling fans hung ... I sensed that the local volunteers appreciated Doug, the electrician, tackling the light fixtures ... as each fixture seemed to have its own unique "issue".

"Breakfast bars" were built and tested out with a good cup of coffee and donuts!

Finishing details were finalized as the future home owners picked out countertops, flooring, carpet, and paint colors. 

By the end of our time in Kearney, the progress was evident ... and all were amazed and gratified by the progress of our team. As we gathered for a "farewell" happy hour, we reflected on how much we accomplished, and we celebrated ...

New Friends!

New Homes!

New hope for pioneers today as Habitat continues to help build strong local communities!

Until next time ... look for ways to be pioneers in your community ... and enjoy the adventures in your life!

PS ... While in Kearney we got to enjoy two new "favorites." Suwannee Thai Cuisine made us instant fans with their Mango Chicken and Choo Chee Shrimp!

And the local brewery, Thunderhead, produced many fine styles of beers and a wonderful Jalapeno Hawaiian pizza!

It's going to be hard to beat these two favorites as we continue to head southwest to Colorado Springs ... But if you have any suggestions, we would be happy to check them out!