Colorado and New Mexico Trip Part I

Between the uncertainty of my shoulder surgery recovery and my car blowing its head gasket, this was the first summer in many years I didn't have the money or the fitness to plan some sort of vacation adventure. So, last week, with my shoulder on the mend, I decided at the last minute to take a little road trip before classes start again.  Last Tuesday I flew out to Denver, and then drove down to Colorado Springs and stayed the night. I went for a run in the morning, had breakfast, and then went out to load up the car. I was greeted with the wonderful sight of broken glass where my car window used to be.  I was tired when I got in and while I took the laptop and the cameras into the room, I left my wireless internet adapter and, worst of all, my GPS dongle for my laptop (which makes storm chasing a whole lot easier) in a little bag along with some cables in the car, which the bastards got (my guess is they were looking for a GPS navigation unit). I called the police, and they actually told me to fill out my report online! I tried to do this from my laptop, but their site kept crashing, so I called in. The operator told me someone would call me back, and I called Hertz. Hertz took the report and told me to go out to the Colorado Springs airport location, which was great since they gave me another car right away (although I'm sure I haven't heard the end of this process--they asked for my car insurance information). A very nice Colorado Springs officer called and took a report, and both he and the very nice guy at Hertz told me this had been happening a lot recently--the Hertz guy said one morning two women who didn't know each other parked next to each other and both came in with smashed out windows.  It's ironic that living in a place with a(n undeserved) bad reputation for crime, I had to travel to Colorado to be a crime victim. Anyway, I headed to Wal Mart and bought another wireless internet adaptor (Verizon this time instead of Virgin Mobile/Sprint), and then headed off to Pikes Peak

It was pretty amazing, but I hadn't really acclimatized to the 14,000' altitude, and was getting a headache at the summit, so I didn't stay long, but it was cool:

Saw some wildlife:

They actually check your brake temperature on the way down with an infra-red thermometer.  If you've been riding your brakes, you have to stop and let them cool off.  My temperature was about 260 degrees, which the guy called "outstanding" (I had been engine braking as much as possible).  A thunderstorm followed me down the mountain, which was pretty cool.

The storm system went severe over Colorado Springs (I could see it on my laptop), and I saw some amazing curving rain shafts due to the high downburst speeds.  Unfortunately, I blew most of the pictures (camera still set for landscapes with long shutter speed) but for the weather geeks this one came out OK

I headed from Pikes Peak down to incredible Great Sand Dunes National Park.  Thanks to the bastard car theives, and road construction on Pikes Peak, I got to the dunes only at sunset.  But I was able to get a few photos during the golden hour:

 

 

More to come in Part II...