In late June, my son Josh and his wife Cassidy welcomed the newest member to the Walker family – Jade Elizabeth. The beautiful young girl joins this world at the height of insanity and hopefully, by the time she knows what is happening, we will have returned to “normal.” This year marks the 20th anniversary of my father’s passing and as such, I was personally hoping that she would be born on my father’s birthday (June 13), but she had other plans and arrived a short time later.
Rita and I were the last of the grandparents to make a visit, but ours was the best (because I said so). We opted to drive so that we would have our vehicle (the trip truck) and not be tied to or restricted by air travel. In uncharacteristic fashion, this was an interstate-only trip and all in all not horrible. To limit how much we drove each day to get there, I booked reservations in Effingham, Illinois, and Hays, Kansas which made for an easy drive out.
Effingham and Hays
The stop in Effingham turned out to be a pleasant surprise. While we obviously didn’t have time to experience the town, there is no shortage of restaurants and the people were extremely nice. I think the midwest is only second to the south when it comes to friendliness and hospitality. When we travel we like to experience local restaurants and Effingham has several. Our first choice, the Firefly Grill, was closed due to ‘rona-related delays with renovations. I am half tempted just to drive to Effingham to have dinner there. Alternatives included restaurants in the downtown area, but as soon as we saw one on the lake, our decision was made. Pinky’s is an outdoor-only restaurant on the shores of Lake Sarah. The food was not fantastic, but the venue was very nice (not fancy, just simple) and was very family-oriented. I think if a good BBQ company or cook was there, this place would be amazing. At this time their idea of barbecued pork is more like Sloppy Joes – not what I was expecting.
Day two saw us arrive in Hays, Kansas. This is the second time we have stayed here and not much had changed since 2013 (more hotels). We drove around a bit and it strikes me that Hays is on the cusp of booming and they have great marketing billboards. We wanted to try a new microbrewery, but it is closed on Sundays, so we revisited the one we tried during our last visit – Gella’s.
Gella’s is a great venue and has very good food. Their “award-winning” beer still doesn’t do anything for me.
Our arrival in Colorado Springs was uneventful. We checked into the hotel (great customer service), and then made our way to Peterson AFB to see the family. Our granddaughter (1-month-old) is beautiful. I know all parents and grandparents say that so I will leave it at that, but here are a few photos to allow you to judge for yourself.
Colorado Springs, and the entire I25 corridor between the Springs to Denver and points north, continue to be developed at an almost obscene pace (my opinion). What used to be a long, scenic drive is now almost one continuous stretch of urbanization. Reminds me of LA to San Diego. What Colorado Springs does have that I really like is a huge selection of restaurants – chain and locally owned. We ate at Rudy’s BBQ (chain) not good and expensive. If you are having a craving for BBQ and there are no alternatives, Mission BBQ is better. For outstanding barbeque, I recommend going to Front Range Barbeque (closed Mondays and Tuesdays). We had tried to go here on the Monday we arrived, but they were closed. Thank goodness we took the time to seek it out again. We also ate at Rocky Mountain Brewery (north side of town) which wasn’t bad, and Uwe’s German restaurant. The latter is a small, hole in the wall, location, but the food was very good – true German, not Americanized.
Aside from eating, we also had the opportunity to hike in Garden of the Gods, visit Estes Park (love this town) and Royal Gorge which were amazing, and we had the opportunity to reconnect with some old friends – The Dowlings. This was one of the highlights of the visit. The Dowling “estate” is beautiful and the combination of the Colorado beauty, their house, and how I feel at higher elevations, makes me want to move – it’s just too expensive and Jade will likely be moving elsewhere in the future.
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The top image was taken 40 minutes into our trip. The sunrise was captured from the Sideling Hill rest area.