“We’ve got a mouse.”
“Yeah, he just ran under the bed.”
Oh, Colorado… We’ve missed you.
Same. Exact. Thing.
At least the place is consistent.
The problems started almost as soon as we crossed the state border. Our original plan was to stop halfway between Santa Fe and Colorado Springs and spend a night at a Walmart located near Trinidad, Colorado. I had checked the Allstays app for reviews of the particular store and they looked great. Review after review noted it was a popular stop for RVers, quiet, safe, and welcoming. Here’s a screencap:
But, as we drove off I-25 and into the lot, we were greeted by one red flag after another.
On one side of the lot was a legal weed shop, on the other, a liquor store. At each entrance stood a panhandler with a sign, and as we pulled into an open area near the front of the lot, we noticed several young people loitering around a car and sitting on the nearby curb. Now, I’m not one to judge people based on their appearances, but they were drug addicts. Trust me. They were.
Even more concerning, we saw no other RVs in the lot. It was late in the afternoon and there was not a single overnighter to be seen anywhere.
As soon as we parked, we noticed several of our loitering friends walk past our RV as they approached a car that had just entered the lot from the other entrance. Several of them started yelling and gesturing at the occupants of the incoming car – we couldn’t make out what they were yelling about, but it all had the appearance of an episode of Jerry Springer.
We wanted no part of any of what we were seeing. So, I grabbed my computer, fired up Reserve America and booked us a site for the night at Cheyenne Mountain State Park, which is where we were headed the next day anyway.
Less than five minutes after pulling into the lot, we were headed out the exit. We never even turned the engine off.
I was so surprised by the disconnect between the reviews on Allstays and what we experienced that I pulled up the reviews again. And, this time, I noticed something that I’d missed the first time. The last review was in April of 2018. Prior to that, there were consistent reviews every couple of months. Yet, after April, 2018, there were no reviews at all. I’m not sure what, if anything, happened between then and now, but whatever the case may be, neither of us felt comfortable staying there.
So, almost 3 years in, we still have yet to spend a night in a Walmart parking lot. Given what we saw in Trinidad, we’re OK with that.
Cheyenne Mountain State Park, Colorado Springs
Whatever complications we’ve had in Colorado, we must say their state parks are just wonderful. Cheyenne Mountain is a new park, built up on a mountain (the same mountain that is home to NORAD) with spacious, paved, full hook-up sites that offer commanding views of the city of Colorado Springs. If only every campground was built like this… (click on individual pictures for larger images).
We had a huge private patio area that boasted fantastic views of Colorado Springs. Nighttime was especially beautiful as we could take in the whole city, all lit up, from our site.
Unfortunately, most of the time it looked like this:
As has been the case for all of 2019, we were stuck in awful weather for a good portion of our visit. We had snow, freezing temps, and winds so intense we had to pull our slides in just to sleep.
Garden of the Gods
Of course, because this is Colorado, all was not lost. While in town, we had a couple nice days and we endeavored to make the most of them.
Garden of the Gods is a National Natural Landmark which is free to all visitors.
The park is made up of an assortment of enormous sandstone formations surrounded by numerous walking paths. We stopped at the visitor’s center and learned of an excellent trail known as the Palmer Trail that goes along the outer perimeter of the park. Because it is located outside the main loop road, it is much less busy than the popular central trails and affords fantastic views of some of the park’s largest formations.
The trail provides access to a double formation called the Siamese Twins which has a natural window at the bottom. If you look through the window, you get this view of Pikes Peak – one of Colorado’s 14,000 foot mountains:
We wandered along several of the paths in the central garden area, marveling at the formations, several of which are over 300 feet high, and watching the tiny (lunatic) rock climbers make their way along the top of some of the rocks.
There were numerous impressive formations (including Balanced Rock, the featured image at the top of this post), plenty of fun obstacles for the dog to climb on, and superb views of the surrounding mountains.
In fact, we enjoyed Garden of the Gods so much, we returned multiple times and still only saw a portion of what was there.
Air Force Academy Chapel
The most famous building at the U.S. Air Force Academy, and one of the most famous buildings in Colorado, is the Air Force Academy Cadet Chapel.
The chapel, completed in 1963, is constructed of aluminum, steel, and glass, and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2004. The building was designed to house services for different denominations and, today, there are independent worship areas for Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, and Buddhist cadets. As recently as two months ago, the building was slated to close for four years for extensive renovations, however, the funding for that project was just canceled.
Whether the funding will be reinstated at some point is unclear, but if it is, the chapel will be closed for a very long time. In the meantime, if you have the opportunity to go check it out, it is well worth a visit.
The U.S. Olympic Training Center
One of country’s three U.S. Olympic Training Centers is located in Colorado Springs (the others are located in Lake Placid, New York, and Chula Vista, California.) Some athletes live at the facility for months or even years in various accommodations (dorms or apartments) while others travel here for special camps, rehabilitation, or testing while completing the bulk of their training at their home facilities.
The USOTC at Colorado Springs is the main training location for several indoor summer events such as swimming, wrestling, shooting, and men’s gymnastics.
Additionally, the facility is home to various sports medicine and rehab facilities as well as sport psychology programs.
After watching a 15 minute introductory video, visitors can tour the facility. Tour guides are often current athletes living at the facility.
St. Vrain State Park, Longmont
Our original itinerary had us in Longmont, located 40 minutes north of Denver, for just five nights, but we ended up spending thirteen there. While the weather in Colorado was not great, it was even worse in South Dakota, which is where we were headed next. So, we kept extending our Longmont reservation while shortening our South Dakota ones. Because the campground is very busy on weekends, each time we extended, we had to move sites (for a total of 4 moves in 13 days), but that was a small price to pay to stay in a beautiful campground that was just a bit warmer than the alternative.
St. Vrain was another gorgeous Colorado state park with a mixture of full hook-up sites and electric/water ones, arranged around a series of picturesque ponds.
Here, we enjoyed spacious, private, and convenient sites…
and endured more of our endless (ENDLESS!!!) winter…
But, we had a bigger problem to address while we were at St. Vrain.
An Uninvited Guest
On our very first night, one “Mickey S. Mouse” decided that life on the road sounded pretty good and elected to make himself at home in our humble abode.
We should have known something was wrong when, late in the evening, while Kevin was watching TV and I was working on my computer, Thor suddenly launched himself off the couch, ran to the bedroom, and started sniffing around like he’d found the mother lode of bacon. We didn’t think much of it though because, well, because he’s Thor. However, about an hour later, Kevin saw a mouse amble out to the living room, look around like a tourist checking out Times Square, and then rush back to the bedroom.
I immediately remembered reading a post by our friends, Mike and Kathie, when they, too, were in Colorado and picked up a family of mice. I re-read their post and then headed over to YouTube to see how various RVers addressed this unfortunately common RV problem.
That was a mistake.
By the end of the third video, I was convinced our new roommate was A) going to destroy all the wiring and insulation in our house; B) was going to poop all over our food supply; and C) was going to crawl all over us while we slept and infect us with Hantavirus – a nasty illness that can be deadly.
20 minutes on the internet was enough to convince me it was time to drive Barney off a cliff and start over, but then I thought about it and realized this was a war that could be won, if only I was in the proper mindset.
That mindset being:
The first thing we did, based on Mike and Kathie’s advice, was to move Barney up in our parking space so our tail end wasn’t hanging over the tall grasses behind our site. There are, apparently, quite a few access points toward the back to the RV and once they get in there, they can run all over.
Next, we headed for the local Walmart (where all the normal people hang out at 1:00 a.m. on a Friday night.)
Mice are a common issue in RVs and there are several non-toxic repellants people swear by. Each method has as many detractors as champions and, in the end, most people just pick one and pray it works. Two of the more popular options are Irish Spring soap and peppermint oil. Supposedly, mice don’t like the smell of either, so people opt for one or the other and hope for the best. I had chosen to go with Irish Spring when we started living in the RV and, presumably, it had worked until we got to St. Vrain (or we’d just gotten really lucky).
When we got to Walmart, we picked up fresh bars of the soap as well as a couple bottles of peppermint oil. Given the situation, I saw no reason not to use both (other than making our rig smell like a leprechaun’s Christmas party).
Finally, we bought an assortment of mouse traps to place around the interior of the rig.
Did we really need eight mouse traps to deal with one mouse living in less than 300 square feet?
Did General Eisenhower say “Nah, I don’t need more troops” when he was preparing to invade Normandy?
When we got back from the store, we locked Thor in his kennel, placed the traps all over the place, and settled in for a lousy night of sleep. About 5:00 a.m., we were awoken by a loud “click!” and we knew our long national nightmare was over.
I’ve continued to refresh the peppermint oil and, to date, we have seen no more mice, so… Success!!!
Breweries and Trails
The Longmont and Boulder areas are home to some of our favorite breweries, so we checked in at a couple of those. Left Hand Brewing makes the amazingly fabulous Left Hand Milk Stout served on nitro. We also tried a number of their other stouts – all of which were delicious, but none eclipsed the Milk Stout.
The city of Boulder is located about 25 minutes west of Longmont, so we visited several times and absolutely loved it. We found an awesome walking path right by the river that runs through town which was a great place to take Thor for some exercise and socialization. We also explored the famous pedestrian-only Pearl Street district.
We found the town to be green, clean, and vibrant. We would have loved to spend even more time there, but the weather – always the weather – was not often cooperative while we were in town.
Speaking of which, looking back at the last time Colorado drove us nuts, much of that was also due to the weather. Then, we were dealing with temperatures well over 100. This time, it was all about cold and snow and wind, and rain. Either way, Colorado is home to several places we might have considered long term landing spots if only Mother Nature had been a little kinder during our visits.
Next up, and speaking of bad weather (seriously… ENDLESS!!!!), South Dakota!!
Where we stayed:
Cheyenne Mountain State Park, Colorado Springs, Colorado
St. Vrain State Park, Longmont, Colorado