Pikes Peak Cog Railway Adventure

pikes peak cog railway adventure

Pikes Peak Cog Railway,

located in Manitou Springs, Colorado, is a fantastic ride through dense spruce and aspen forests up to 14,000 feet. Our Pikes Peak Cog Railway Adventure started nearly 2 hours late. There were high winds on Pikes Peak, with gusts up to 90 mph. Because of this, we could only go up to 12,000 feet that day. We were given the option for a partial refund, or a reschedule. Since our tickets were comped and we had traveled nearly 200 miles, we opted to go ahead.

 

pikes peak cog rly gazebo          pikes peak cog rly stream

pikes peak cog rly sunlight thru trees

While waiting, we browsed the gift shop and snack bar. Tiny O2 canisters were available for those with altitude issues. This is the first time I’d seen them. What a clever idea! Downstairs from the covered seating areas we explored a little stream and enjoyed the shade.

Finally, our train pulled in.

pikes peak cog train

Our conductor, Elliot, was full of goofy tour guide jokes. And our engineer Nick did a great job driving the train up and back. I only had to talk to the man and the boy a couple of times about staying off their phones. The upward journey through the forest, with the heavy scent of pine wafting into the cars, was soothing. We passed several waterfalls, each accompanied by one of Elliot’s anecdotes. Pipe waterfall was particularly entertaining. The water falling out of a pipe…

 

pikes peak cog rly window crank

I think we had the best seats in the coach. Windows all around and right next to the engineer for the return trip. The side windows have hand cranks, just like the old automobiles. You can actually roll the windows down. The wooden seats are definitely not made for luxury.

 

pikes peak cogs

You can see the cogs down the middle of the tracks.

 

pikes peak cog rly hikers

Hikers can ride the train, too. I don’t know about the cost of that.

 

The train ride was so popular at one time that there were a couple of one-room hotels, which have collapsed and/or burned down since.

hydroelectric caretaker cabin

For many years there was a hydroelectric plant along the line and a caretaker lived in this cabin.

 

lake moraine from pikes peak

There is a beautiful view of Lake Moraine near the top of the pass. The lake supplies water to Colorado Springs.

 

windy point pikes peak

We had to stop at the Windy Point Station,

elevation 12,000 feet, due to gale force winds at the 14,000 ft. peak. The wind was blowing so hard that large sticks and numerous small items were picked up and flung over the train and station. We could feel the strong vibration of the wind when we put our hands on the windows.

 

cog railway car     cog railway outhouse

The Mountain View stop

at 10,000 ft has some interesting sights. There is an old train car, OUT house, and hiking trails which cross several streamlets. It felt nice to get off the train and stretch our legs. We had time for a bit of hiking and photo ops with some interesting scenery.

 

colorado springs from pikes peak

At one point you can even see the city of Colorado springs in the distance.

 

pikes peak train

Descending through the trees

gently brought us back to reality. The October weather had been so mild, and the sun so welcome, despite the wind, that we all felt our Pikes Peak Cog Railway Adventure was over too soon.

Check out our YouTube video on this post. To plan your trip click here: Pikes Peak Cog Railway.

 

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblr

Tropical Palms RV Campground, Kissimmee, Florida

rv campground, kissimmee, florida

We found Tropical Palms RV Campground, Kissimmee, Florida through our Passport America membership. We just needed a spot for 2 nights, while we took in nearby Universal Studios, but once there, we wished we could have stayed for more.

tiny homes tropical palms fl

The RV spaces are clean and easy-in-easy-out. Mostly pull through. There is also a large section of tiny homes for rent. Several parks dot the complex, including a dog park, and there is a full-size pool, a kiddie pool, and a Jacuzzi. The laundry area is ample and the machines well maintained. The bathrooms are also very clean, with nice showers.

yak in pool, tropical palms, fl

We found dealing with the office personnel very pleasant. A staff member escorted us to our site, in a golf cart. We had plenty of 4G and were too busy during our 2 days there to really need the free wifi, so I can’t tell you how good it is. But in most cases that depends on how close you are to the signal, and how many people are on it.

tropical palms, fl dive in movie

Sitting outside under our awning was most pleasant, as the bugs were not bad. The swimming pool was convenient, right next to the laundry room, so we enjoyed several hours of splashing and swimming. Sadly, we were not there long enough to partake of the Toucan Café, the Friday night dive-in movie, or the many other activities taking place at the resort.

toucan cafe snack stand

We don’t normally care for RV parks and were happy to leave when the space next to us filled up. Despite this, Tropical Palms definitely gets 2 thumbs up. We will definitely stay there again. Especially in the off-season (if there is such a thing in Florida) when the crowds are gone.

For more info, check out the Tropical Palms website.

Tropical Palms RV Campground and Resort

2650 Holiday Trail, Kissimmee, FL 34746

  877-570-2267

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblr

Universal Studios and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

hogwarts express

Our trip to Florida was much too rushed, but we thoroughly enjoyed our day at Universal Studios and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

The rides:

Hogsmeade – The Hogwarts express sits just inside the gates, awaiting passengers to be ferried between Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley (requires a separate ticket or park-to-park admission. We felt the park-to-park admission was worth it for the day).

Tour Hogwarts Castle while you wind through the line for The Forbidden Journey. The Dragon Challenge seemed a bit too extreme for us, but the Flight of the Hippogriff was loads of fun, soaring past the pumpkin patch and Hagrid’s Hut.

Hogsmeade Station experienced a brief shut down as the train underwent some minor difficulties, so we continued to tour the town until we were able to board the Hogwarts Express. We love trains, even if it is just for a 5-minute ride to the other Universal Park.

 

diagon alley

Diagon Alley has quite a bit more shopping and a few more rides than Hogsmeade, but it also closes up earlier, so get there with enough time to enjoy all it has to offer.

 

escape from gringotts          harry potter dragon

Diagon Alley – Escape from Gringotts is rollicking fun. Atop the bank is a fire breathing dragon. Inside is an opulent reconstruction of the movie set, designed to entertain you as you wind through the line for hours awaiting your 2-minute experience. We were lucky. The longest lines we had to wait in were about 30 minutes. Without the express pass.

 

knight bus            grimmauld place

Other fun highlights outside Diagon Alley include the Knight bus (outside only) and 13 Grimmauld Place (outside only).

nine three quarters

Kings Cross Station – entering platform 9 ¾ was not as exciting as we had hoped, but we got over it, as the excitement of boarding the train mounted.

The food:

 

leaky cauldron

In Diagon Alley, traditional pub fare is available at the Leaky Cauldron, along with pumpkin juice and butterbeer. We had lunch at the Leaky Cauldron, with butter beer and pumpkin juice. Altogether too much sugar! I got a tummy ache.

Carts throughout Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley purvey bottles of ice cold pumpkin juice (be ready for the $7.50 price tag) and mugs of butterbeer.

The shopping:

 

magic knitting needles

Ollivander’s wand shop offers instruction in choosing wands – economy or deluxe. The deluxe version allows the wizard to perform magic at several spots in the wizarding world. Got wands for me – Molly Weasley, of course; the boy – Sirius Black (who knew?!), and my daughter – Snape.

Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes offers just about everything it does in the movie and more. We made sure to get a chocolate frog, peppermint toads, and some other delectables. Quite a few visitors toured the park in Madame Malkin’s “bespoke” robes. Luckily for my wallet, I had made us robes a few years ago, which were still quite serviceable. No wonder I identify so closely with Molly Weasley. It was great fun going through the shops and looking at all the wizarding items. Borgin and Burkes’ shop is as creepy as it was in the movie.

The rest:

raptor

Back in Hogsmeade, we decided to explore other areas of the park and made our way to Jurassic Park, where we narrowly escaped being lunch for a “friendly” velociraptor. Jurassic Park was exciting, especially since we had recently seen Jurassic World in the theater.

By the time we made it to Marvel Super Hero Island, it was raining. Not wanting to crush our belongings in ride lockers again, we took turns under the umbrellas with the backpacks.

spidey ride

Adventures of Spider-Man in 3D is thrilling. The close calls really get the adrenaline going. Storm Force Accelatron is a good old fashioned spinning ride.

At the end of the day, it was relaxing just to sit and enjoy the atmosphere of Hogsmeade – something we should also have done in Diagon Alley.

hogwarts castle

Note that Universal does not allow guests to bring in coolers and the lockers are quite small. Certain rides have lockers available for personal items, but they are also very small. Free for the duration of the ride, though.

My notes for future visits – keep backpack light. Just a few snacks and water. Shop just before leaving – your wands will get crushed in the tiny ride lockers. The “all day” lockers are not much bigger than the ride lockers, but if you must bring additional items, they’re a good option. they are located in the Marvel Studios area of Islands of Adventure. Also nearby are the cell phone and tablet charging lockers. This was a new feature to me and seemed like a very good idea. Though I carry my own power pack, there was a time I didn’t, and phone and camera batteries can get used up quickly on trips like these.

 

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblr

Ray’s Boathouse and Cafe, Seattle, Washington

Ray's Boathouse, Seattle
Ray’s Boathouse and Cafe on the waterfront

After Ballard Locks, we asked for a recommendation of where to eat for fresh seafood. Ray’s was mentioned. We drove downtown and found it on the docks. The outdoor seating looked appealing, but not on this chilly, overcast day. Our table inside had an outstanding view of the ocean. The seafood did, indeed seem very fresh. Steaming bowls of white clam chowder, accompanied by a shared seafood salad and a shared plate of Alaskan King Crab legs filled us up.

The quality of the food was exactly what you would expect from a high-end fresh seafood restaurant. Our budget is certainly not high-end, but by sharing 2 entrees among the 5 of us, and partaking of the cafe menu, we were able to enjoy a classy dining experience. We always enjoy waterfront dining and Ray’s is definitely tops on that list.

fishy bike rack
There’s something fishy about this bike rack.
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblr

Thunder Burgerz and Pizza, Huntington Beach, California

Jpeg

Went to lunch with dad and my aunties at my cousin’s new burger joint in Huntington Beach. About 2 blocks up from Pacific Coast Highway (aka Hwy 1), right next to Gallagher’s and the 2nd floor, Thunder Burgerz and Pizza is set to rival In-n-Out in my humble opinion.
Using high quality kobe beef and all fresh ingredients, the simple burgerz and fries are affordably priced and scrumptious. I had to try the cheeseburger, but I stole a piece of Yak’s pizza. I love the ultra thin crust and the simple, 2 price options – cheese for $5 and the works for $7.99. The perfect pile of meat, cheese and veggies without all that bread in the way.

Jpeg

The weather was perfect for sidewalk dining and we enjoyed soaking up the warm weather in the shade. People watching at the beach is always an interesting occupation.
To my chagrin, I realized after we got home that I did not try the deep fried oreos!

Jpeg

After lunch, we got a private tour of my cousin’s other new eatery, the totally upscale and gorgeous BLK’s Earth Sea Spirits. They took this old building and gutted it, completely redesigning the interior and most of the exterior to take full advantage of the abundance of natural SoCal light and unobstructed ocean views. Nearly all the décor is handmade by local artisans, including the light fixtures, tables, chairs and tchatchkes.

Jpeg

The menu is sophisticated and pricey, a bit out of my comfort zone, but I can confidently recommend it, based on the fact that the beef is kobe, the fish is fresh, and the ambiance is impeccable. I do think on my next visit I will try their Sunday brunch.

Jpeg

If you must park in the structure, make sure to bring your ticket, BLK’s validates for 2 hours, and you will want to soak up all the ocean view you can get. My aunt recommends the free parking up the street, and a leisurely stroll to work up the appetite and enjoy your dinner.
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblr