Friday, July 29, 2011

Visiting Black Hawk, Colorado

Having spent several long weekends at Harrah's in Cherokee, NC, Black Hawk, CO was a pretty tempting destination for Mr. LH and I while the kids were off visiting their grandparents. We're not high stakes gamblers, but we do enjoy playing the penny slots from time to time dreaming of the "big win". Though a jackpot from a penny machine will most likely just win you enough money to pay for dinner for 2 at a nice restaurant. Basically, for the cost of dinner and a movie, we have all day entertainment.

Photo from the City of Black Hawk website at
From mining boom town to decay and back to boom town again, this time as a limited stakes gambling area, this area has a history of ambition, opportunity and survival.
"Black Hawk, "The City of Mills," is one of Colorado's oldest cities. It is one of a number of towns that grew up in "Gregory's Gulch," the narrow ravine where Georgia prospector John H. Gregory first discovered lode gold in the western part of Kansas Territory in 1859." Read the complete history
Only an hour drive from Denver, Black Hawk was a great day trip for us - if only we would be able to see all the historical sites in town as well as drop in on a casino or two.

We left Denver at noon on a Wednesday (planning to spend one night in Black hawk) and headed up I-70 surprised that just half an hour later, almost immediately after the sweat-inducing 6% grade descent on the highway near Golden, we came to our exit - Central City Parkway. Only 10 miles to go!

Black Hawk, even with the addition of all the casinos, resembled a older town from the wild west with a few upgrades. The mountain cliffs were carved out to make room for the tall parking decks and towering hotels and some of the casinos were designed to look weather beaten or rustic though most simply showcased a mountain theme. The traffic was not bad, though I think most people just park at their hotel and walk through the town, which is what we did.

We strolled through the streets and into several of the casinos to see the penny slots that each one had available. Everything was definitely on a much smaller scale than what we were used to at Harrah's, but that's not a bad thing. Harrah's was the only game in town in Cherokee, NC. Here in Black Hawk, it was nice to be able to leave an establishment and go elsewhere if the slot machines were being "stingy". In fact, we were able to leave Black Hawk the next day with money still in our pockets!

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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Heat Wave and Monsoon Season

At about this time last year, if someone had asked me what came to mind when I thought of Colorado, I would have said, "Mountains and snow". Never would I have thought "excessive heat and monsoon rains" but during the last 2 weeks, that's exactly what we have gotten.

The news stations call it "Monsoon Season". Before now, I've only associated monsoon weather with coastal regions...and we are definitely NOT coastal here. High daytime temperatures cause clouds to build up resulting in heavy downpours. Parts of Denver have been flooded from storm drains unable to handle the large amounts of water in such a short period of time. And it's not just rain. These cells have been producing severe lightening and hail as well.

I've been hearing (again, from the news) the storms are normal for this time of year but the hail is not. Good thing because for about 10 days, some "lucky" part of the state has received hail - sometimes as large as hen eggs and even baseballs. We've been lucky to only see marble sized hail since we've lived here.

July 14, 2011 - Lightning strike in Aurora, Colorado
It's just amazing how frequently the lightning would strike, enabling so many people to get photos and video of them.

Like many rain showers, the best thing about all these storms is the way they cool the air. With temps reaching the mid nineties (even without the humidity we were used to in NC) and the sun as intense as it seems to be (severe sunburn when it's 70 degrees), it gets downright HOT! Especially in a home that has no air conditioning (and there are plenty of homes here that have no air conditioning).

Normally, we just open the windows and let the breeze come in. But if there's no breeze, conditions inside the house are miserable. Then when the rain starts coming down as heavily as it has been, the windows have to be closed so you don't get a flood inside the house. But once the rains have passed, the windows get thrown open and the cooler air (sometimes 30 degrees cooler) can rush on in.

We've experienced a comfortable fall, a mild Colorado winter, the non-existence of spring, and the summertime heat and storms.

One of Mr. LH's co-workers asked me in May how I liked Colorado. That was when the daytime temperatures would be anywhere from the 40's to the mid 70's with nighttime temps sometimes dipping below freezing. I replied, "I love it. I'm just waiting for it to be consistently warm," to which he answered that once it was consistently warm, I would be waiting anxiously for winter again. With the forecast for the coming week showing high near 100 degrees, I'd have to say he was right.

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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Tasty Harvest

I could go on and on about the benefits of growing your own vegetables, but it all comes down to one doesn't get any fresher or tastier than this...

Harvest season has definitely kicked in where the pole beans are concerned. Every day for the last few days, sometimes twice a day, I pick a huge handful or two from the modest number of bean plants we have. I am so happy I was able to use an Earth Box to get at least a small amount of gardening done this year!

I only hope there will still be some beans to pick when the "Pickles" get back home in three weeks. I know The Girl would have a great time looking for the green beans on the vines.

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Saturday, July 16, 2011

Exploring the Possibilities

The "Pickles" have only been gone for a week but we miss them terribly.

I've spent the last few days taking advantage of their absence by doing some deep cleaning since I don't need to worry about having everything cluttered up anytime soon. But deep cleaning is not my idea of a fun-filled summer so once Mr. LH's Summer Semester at the school is over, we decided we could spend our remaining weeks without the kids by visiting those places they might find less than exciting, like The Molly Brown House Museum.

But when I looked it up, it just so happens that for Molly's 144th birthday, the museum is having a party - with fun activities for the kids. Guess we'll have to take them there sometime anyway (and The Boy is interested in the Titanic almost as much as I am).

Other things going on this month include the 150th annual Arapahoe County Fair and the first annual Denver County Fair. The Colorado Renaissance Festival is still running through the end of July, too.

I'm really interested in venturing up to Wyoming to go to the Cheyenne Frontier Days. It's only a 90 minute drive from Denver. During the day you can watch rodeos, enjoy carnival rides, visit the indian campground (dubbed "Indian Village"), experience the Old West through the museum or the Wild Horse Horse Gulch. At night you can enjoy concerts from some big names in music. This year they have artists such as the Zac Brown Band, Charlie Daniels, Toby Keith, Darius Rucker (and even Motley Crue).

I suppose we could venture over to Golden, CO and take a tour of Coors Brewery - or maybe driving up to Boulder, CO for a tour of Celestial Seasonings. We've also considered visiting the Denver Mint, taking a tour of the Capitol Building or driving up to Central City and Blackhawk.

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Friday, July 15, 2011

Summer Sunset

After 10 days of severe weather every afternoon and evening including flooding rains, lightening and hail, it was nice to see such a brilliant sky. In fact, the camera couldn't capture even a small part of the gorgeous sunset that lit up the horizon.

And as the sun continued to sink lower in the sky, the colors became even more intense.

It was a beautiful evening to be outdoors.

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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Earth Box Harvest

Needless to say, I was thrilled to finally be able to harvest some beans from my Earth Box crop. I got a whopping 2 beans from it as early as June 8th and another five beans on June 11th. I just wash them and freeze them until I have enough for a meal. It's funny how exciting it is to search through the vines over and over again and finally spot a bean camouflaged among the leaves!

There are lots of small beans maturing on the vines right now and even more blossoms showing up every day!

The Earth Box itself has been holding up well to the occasional downpours and high wind gusts that come through. Once I decided to stop constantly bringing the box inside during inclement weather, it has stayed parked in the same spot and only budged a tiny bit when we has some really high winds come through.

The plants have reached the top of the stakes and have spilled over in just the last couple of weeks.

The Girl was so excited to pull the first beans from the plants last week and even more excited about finding all the baby beans hidden among the leaves. I'm hoping there will still be some harvesting to do when the "Pickles" come back from their long vacation in August.

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Monday, July 11, 2011

Taste of Tellico

This was probably only our fourth time to Tennessee to visit my parents "retirement home" (place of retirement?) in Tellico Village, but we've enjoyed it every time. This trip was shorter than the rest since we got there around dinner time and had to catch an early morning flight out of Knoxville the next day, but we made the most of it.

We had a choice for dinner destinations and decided on a new restaurant that my parents have tried out and proclaimed delicious. They were right!

Key Largo Grille is one of the many places that sits by the water overlooking one of Tennessee's largest marinas just above Ft. Loudon Dam. We dined on the deck outside, and while the sun was hot and the humidity much higher than we're now used to, the breeze and the company made it very nice.

Though they have a lot of tempting seafood items on the menu, I ordered the Black and Bleu steak salad (is there a theme this weekend?) which was fantastic! It was actually a whole blackened steak on top of a salad.

We all split a couple of Key Lime Pie slices for dessert. I think next time I'll get my own :)

After dinner, we drove around the area looking at homes in the waterfront neighborhoods and enjoying the scenery. 

We also visited a golf course that my parents help to maintain (and where The Boy is going to receive golf lessons while he is visiting).

The next morning came much too quickly and we packed our bags, said our goodbyes and headed back to Denver.

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Sunday, July 10, 2011

A North Carolina Visit

The day after we flew in to Knoxville, Tennessee, Mr. LH and I headed east with The Girl to North Carolina. We were taking her to spend the rest of July at Mr. LH's parents house. Since we were only going to be in town for a night, extensive visiting was out of the question. However, we made plans to meet my brother and niece for dinner.

We hadn't seen either of them since we left for Colorado in October and although The Boy was still in Tennessee, it was nice for the rest of us to spend some time with him, even if it was only for a couple of hours.

We decided to go to Big Shotz Tavern in Clemmons, NC for dinner.

Mr. LH and I discovered the place about a year before we moved out west and it immediately became a favorite of ours. The staff was always very friendly, the service excellent, and their food was always absolutely delicious. And I haven't been able to find a salad in Colorado that even comes close to their Steak House Salad, my usual order. YUM!

We all had a wonderful time together talking and joking and laughing while The Girl and her cousin played. We didn't want to night to end, but it was getting late and Mr. LH and I had an early morning ahead of us with our drive back to Tennessee. Maybe we'll get my brother out to Colorado for a visit soon.

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Saturday, July 9, 2011

First Flight

Last summer, The Boy spent a week with my parents in Tennessee. He learned to sail and he played on the beach of the lake, but his favorite part of the trip was fishing with Papaw. We wanted to give him the opportunity again this summer but with the additional 1000 miles between us and the grandparents made planning such a trip hectic.

We lucked out when Frontier started to offer direct flights to Knoxville for cheaper than usual airfare. It was low enough so Mr. LH and I could escort both children to Knoxville, drop The Boy off with my parents, drive The Girl to NC to stay with Mr. LH's parents and then fly out of Knoxville back home to Colorado. The kids would get an extra long vacation with their grandparents (The Boy meeting up with The Girl during part of the stay), the grandparents, in turn, could spend time with the Pickles, and Mr. LH and I could take care of "boring" business in Colorado (house hunting) without having to worry about entertaining the kids.

The "Pickles", now 7 and 11 years old, had never been on an airplane before so this trip was going to be even more exciting for them. We packed lightly and carefully so everything could be carried on to the plane and we wouldn't have any problems getting through security. We needed to make sure the kids had everything they would need for their vacation, but also things to keep them busy on their long car-ride back home in August.

Severe storms were brewing on the day we were to fly out of Denver. Apparently, monsoon season came a bit early and was a bit more extreme than normal (I didn't even know they HAD a monsoon season in Colorado).

Luckily, the worst of the storms had passed by the time our flight was scheduled to leave.

Everything about the airport excited the Pickles. Since they had never gone beyond security before when we would drop people off or pick them up, they didn't know about the train that takes you from the main terminal to the concourses.

They were excited about all the escalators they got to ride (we counted five one way) and the moving sidewalks that The Girl kept stopping on right before we got to the end (I almost fell over her one time).

Once on the plane, they wanted to fiddle with all the buttons - the controls for the tv, the light, the air vent, the seat...

It was "Coco's" first flight, too.
It was late afternoon when we left so they could see the Rocky Mountains in the distance...

The sun setting above the top layer of clouds...

and the night time lights below as we neared Knoxville at dusk. But I think it was the complimentary chocolate chip cookie that won them over.

They definitely enjoyed their first plane ride and wished they could fly back home. But they can't do that because we've purchased and packed up a bunch of delicious Cheerwine in North Carolina for them to bring back to Colorado with them in the car...

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Monday, July 4, 2011

Cooling Off At Pirate's Cove - Englewood, CO

Although June brought some pretty high temps, July seems more like the official beginning of summer. To welcome in the month and start off a great July 4th weekend, we headed out on July 1st to Englewood, CO to explore Pirate's Cove, a city run water park.

As far as water parks go, it was small, but it was packed full of fun...and plenty big enough for us. There is a lazy river that winds its way beneath three water slides...

... a 750 gallon "dump bucket", water shooters and play structure in a kid zone that has water levels from zero to 3ft 6 inches (perfect for kids that just want to play around)...

and a larger public pool style swimming pool with deeper water, roped off areas for swimming laps, a short tube slide and a diving board. There was even a sand filled play area where children could take their buckets and shovels and create masterpieces.

The park had lots of lounge chairs and picnic tables, but with all the people there, everything was filled up. We were able to spread out an over-sized beach towel on one of the many patches of soft grass to create our "landing zone" for our stuff.

Our valuables could be kept in a locker that charged 25 cents each time you needed to open it. It came in handy for the car keys, wallet and the camera. We were also able to bring in a cooler full of drinks and lunch - which was nice to help keep expenses down.

For less than $40, the four of us got all day admission to the park and had a fun-filled day. Pirates Cove is definitely a place we'll venture off to again!

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