September 6th, 2006

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Sunday Impressions I: The Garden of the Gods

Continuing the pointillist view of our vacation, on to Sunday:

Morning in the Garden of the Gods. In with the other tourists, wandering amidst sandstone. These are not hills, they are still rocks, 300 feet high, river-tossed haphazardly around the landscape. Red dominates the view, everywhere you look.

Among rocks carefully labeled with "No Climbing (except as authorized)" signs, are of course the authorized technical climbers, making their way ant-like up and over every stone big and steep enough to be interesting. A young woman is being tutored in the art of the climb, braced by the rope that her instructor has fastened to the rock face above.

We clamber up one rock, amateurs getting as high as we can before the signs tell us to stop, only to find a guide sitting placidly up there, a guru of rock-lore, stationed there to tell us about the weird erosions of the stone, and how they all got there.

As we wend our way out of the park (a single-file line of cars, conga dancing around the perimeter), I spot an improbably sheer rock, flat enough that it would be perfect for a giant's skipping-stone, stuck end-on into the ground in the distance. Atop a summit that can't be more than a yard across, and 200 feet up, is a lone man standing proudly.
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Sunday Impressions II: The Point of the Exercise

Sunday afternoon, we get to the reason we've all been called to Colorado Springs: the wedding of my stepbrother Mike and his longtime lady Crystal.

The gazebo sits in the middle of a small pond. For a larger wedding, the guests would sit on the mammoth stones of the amphitheater along one side of the pond, and watch the entertainment from there. But we are only twenty people (plus two children, one dog, and approximately 35 cameras), so we fit nicely into the gazebo. It is hibernating, and does not eat us.

Joshua and Riley (my sister's children, 5 and 2) steal the day comprehensively. Joshua proudly bears his first suit through the ceremony, before proudly losing his first tie.

The ceremony flows elegantly, as the bride and groom have designed it. While being mostly devoid of religion, it nonetheless has good ritual -- the bride gives stones to each attendee, asking them to seal a wish in the stone and then return it to the bowl designed to hold those wishes permanently.

The ringbearer is Ciana -- the dog. The rings are extricated from the pouch hung from her collar; everyone oohs appropriately.

Staring into The Wall of Cameras, one cannot quite tell whether there are actually people back there: they are too hidden by all the lenses. It doesn't seem possible that so few people can take so many photographs at once.

Dinner at The Blue Star. (Gratuitous Galaxina references go through msmemory's and my minds, but we don't bring them up to the family, because it would require describing that wretched movie.) One long table: the Tegers (the groom's side) settle at one end, and the Shaws (the bride's) at the other. All are friendly, but the difference in taste is evident from the choice of salad on.

The cake is unique: a literal mountain of chocolate icing, with the bride and groom scaling it. Joshua eats the bride's (marzipan) head, and informs the crowd that it is hard.
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Monday Impressions

Breakfast on Monday is quite typical of the Cheyenne Canon Inn, but worth mentioning. Waffles with Creme Anglaise; Pear Apple Crisp; Portobello Frittata; and the best bacon I'd ever had. We chat with Keith, the owner (a professional chef), who describes life in the B&B world and how one has to be distinctive -- he has chosen breakfast to be his weapon against the competition. I approve.

Then off to Manitou Springs, perhaps the earthiest-crunchiest place on Earth. First the annual Commonwheel Arts Festival, held on the green: dozens of artists vying to separate us from our money. A triptych of magnificent photographs tempts me, but my more rational better half points out that we really can't afford two grand for them. We do wind up buying an iron pelican, though.

The town is made up of a strict alternation of kitschy tourist shops and little craft stores, the tacky side-by-side with the beautiful.

The dead center of Manitou is The Arcade, certainly one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World. It stretches on for half-a-dozen shopfronts, the most remarkable collection of entertainment devices ever assembled. From four different baseball games (the pinball-shaped 1920s ones that roll a ball and let you swing a flipper to knock one out of the park), through dozens of pinball machines, every classic videogame console ever made (Centipede, Joust, Tron, Space Invaders -- you name it), to the most current devices (one DDR Extreme set dominated by teenage girls) and even a couple of air hockey tables, I realize that I have found Geek Paradise. I don't even start, being unsure that I am capable of stopping once I do.

A few silly purchases made, we retire back to the inn, and its hot tub. There are few better ways to relax than just the two of us in the tub, looking out and up at the Rocky Mountains looming right outside the window.