Monday, June 30, 2014

The National Museum of World War II Aviation - 6/28/14

This museum, recently opened, is dedicated solely to the legacy of American World War II era aviation. Our guide provided detailed insight into the legendary and inspiring stories of the battles involving aircraft during the war, including information about those Americans that joined the UK and China armed forces to serve as pilots prior to the U.S. entry into World War II after Pearl Harbor.

The exhibits tell the stories of diverse people coming together for a common purpose in the U.S.  The countries at war were engaged in fierce competition to create faster, heavier, and more agile military aircraft. Even by today's standards, the later aircraft during WW II feature impressive performance.  

The sacrifices and dedication on the home front to the war effort are documented in this exhibit.

Japanese artifacts.
Restored aircraft.

C-25 used extensively in WW II.

This aircraft served on these carriers.


Restored WW II fire truck.

The museum is focused on restoring aircraft that saw combat during WW II, as opposed to models built subsequently that were not involved in battles. Therefore, they have very impressive restoration shops as many of the aircraft were buried during the 1940s. These shops are also used to repair/restore privately-owned aircraft including one of the best propeller shops in the world.

Stinsen/Vultee L-5 Sentinel (in final stages of restoration). Sometimes called "the flying jeep," 4,000 were built during the war and were used by all branches of the military. It served as an artillery spotter, forward air controller on close air support missions, and evacuation aircraft of wounded from forward air positions.

Note the design of the wings ... this was to enable more aircraft to fit on an aircraft carrier.

I personally found this museum interesting because my dad served in the South Pacific in the Navy during World War II as a turret gunner on a bomber. John also enjoyed the military historical value this museum brings to the public.

Open to the public Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturdays, a guided tour is provided. Our guide had a wealth of information about the planes and times of WW II.  Admission is $10/adults and $8/seniors, retired or active duty military. 

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Cripple Creek, CO - 6/17/14

Surrounded by majestic mountains and breathtaking scenery, this historic mining town is located on the west side of Pikes Peak. The Colorado Gold Rush of 1900 put Cripple Creak on the map when gold worth more than $18M was mined in more than 500 mines. The Cripple Creek and Victor Gold Mining Company mined $438M worth of gold last year, making it the 4th largest gold mine in the world. More gold has been mined from this area than from both Alaska and California combined! It is estimated that only 20% of the gold in the area has been mined thus far.

In the 1890s, Cripple Creek had a population of 30,000 with 50,000 total in the district including Victor, Goldfield, and surrounding regions. Population in 2012 was 1,200 people. Gambling has been a part of Cripple Creek's colorful past since the mid-1800s. In 1991, gambling was legalized and 13 casinos are in operation today which has, of course, bolstered the economy. They range from the historic to ultra modern with hotel accommodations available in some.

Views of the main drag through the town.

Cripple Creek had two opera houses (Butte Opera House and The Imperial Theatre) as performing arts was an important part of its history. Today the restored Butte Opera House offers year-round professional performances and The Gold Bar Room Theatre (in the Imperial Hotel) re-opened in 2012.

There are multiple small museums in the region (see website for full details). We visited the Cripple Creek District Museum and the Old Homestead House Museum.

The Cripple Creek District Museum is comprised of three historical buildings: 1893 Colorado Trading & Transfer Company (that also houses a gift shop), 1895 Midland Terminal Railroad Depot, and 1900 Assay Office (where miners brought their ore to assess its gold value). The primary exhibits are in the Depot including artifacts on mining and mineral collections, photos/memorabilia, gaming devices, Native American artifacts, and the third floor rooms were the living quarters of the station master. It is furnished with Victorian-furnishings of the 1890s.

The Victorian-era third floor.

Check out that chair!

Pinnacle Mine Headframe (circa 1895)

Admission to the museum is $5/adults and $3/seniors.

Old Homestead Parlour House Museum: During the booming 1890s, there were approximately 350 prostitutes on Meyers Street (red light district) in Cripple Creek. The Old Homestead House was the poshest in town. There were 4 ladies and a madame in residence. The cost was $50 a trick and $250 a night (that is equivalent to $9,000 a night in today's economy), so all patrons had to apply for the privilege to visit and were appropriately vetted by the madame. The cost of a trick in other Meyers Street houses was $.25 to $3.00, so only the very wealthy visited the Old Homestead. Many original artifacts (furniture, chandiliers, trunks, dressing screens, clothing, photos, curling irons, etc.) are on display.

Admission to the museum is $5 and includes a 30-minute guided tour.

The 81st Donkey Derby Day will be held the day after we visited, so we had the privilege of meeting a few of the contenders. It is a 12-mile donkey race from Victor to Cripple Creek along with many festivities in town.

Sand castle for Donkey Derby Days.

Overall, this was an interesting side trip to a fascinating gold mining town. We were astounded by the amount of gold still being extracted daily and it appears this will continue for years!

The tree-less mountains in the background are where the gold mining is occurring today.


Friday, June 27, 2014

Cheyenne Mountain Zoo - 6/24/14

The zoo was founded in 1926 by philanthropist Spencer Penrose to house his growing collection of exotic animals. It has about 150 species, 30 of which are endangered, and a total of 750 animals.  As the name indicates, it is on the slope of Cheyenne Mountain. There is a tram and a sky lift to help visitors access different levels of the zoo. 

This zoo has the largest herd of reticulated giraffes in the U.S. and for $2 you can purchase romaine lettuce to hand-feed them. Their giraffe breeding program has been so successful that they have had 199 births since 1954. There is a webcam (go to their website) if you want to catch a real-time view of these amazing animals. We saw a  young one jog a couple of laps around the exhibit area - very cool!

A hungry giraffe ... gimme more lettuce.

These two were "necking."

More of the herd.

Following are photos of select animals (my favorites) ... a very small % of those found at the zoo.

Sweet baby porcupine.
Mountain goat.
River otter.
Young wallaby (8 months).
Black bear ...looking up!
And his mate.
Grizzly bear.
Check out his claws....
Enjoying the water.
Bald Eagle.

View from Mountaineer Sky Ride.

We had the good fortune of meeting the head vet at this zoo who is the niece of a friend from PA that we caught up last Friday (while she was visiting Colorado Springs). What impressive work is going on here!

Admission is $17.25/adults and $15.25/seniors May 1 through Labor Day and $3 less off-season. The zoo is a non-profit organization that gets all of its funding through admission fees, merchandise, patrons, etc.