This week is my second trip ever to Colorado Springs. I came to attend Boarding Area Mini-Bacon, a small gathering of bloggers for a day of workshops and a chance for Boarding Area affiliated bloggers to make contact with each other and House of Miles staff.
Last time I was in Colorado Springs was May 2013 for the inaugural BAcon (Boarding Area conference). I arrived in town that year after driving across the desert west alone for days and hiking in several national parks along the way. The environment of suddenly finding myself in the midst of 100+ hyperactive people wildly overstimulated me. I don’t even think I took a photo of Pikes Peak before driving out of town three days later.
When I say hyperactive bloggers, consider the fact that many of the BoardingArea blog writers are people who work full time jobs and jet set around the world, some for work, some for a weekend of lounges and luxury hotels, some for a year-round lifestyle.
Takin’ it Easy at Loyalty Traveler
My day job is quietly peaceful living in Monterey, California in the place I was born, living with a woman in a home about 300 yards from where we met 35 years ago. She was born in San Francisco, but Kelley is even more local and Californian than I am in terms of years she spent on the Monterey Peninsula. We live 20 minutes walk to the beach in what many people would call a sleepy town.
Monterey is a location with more visible marine mammals from the coast than most any other town on the planet. People go to Santa Cruz, 45 miles on the other side of Monterey Bay when they want hyperactive nightlife.
My days at home are spent reading and writing and hanging out with our attention demanding cats in the day, and my wife when she is not working her job. A slow paced, low stress lifestyle is one I arranged with intent for Loyalty Traveler.
No frequent flyer award service from me. I don’t want to be your travel agent.
No credit card affiliate offers from me. I don’t want banks telling me what I have to say and what I can’t say on Loyalty Traveler.
I even walk 50 minutes to and from Monterey MRY airport sometimes for my travel departures and arrivals.
Hyperactivity only hits me when I am somewhere new and I want to explore the local environment to develop internal awareness and sense of place.
Uber or hotel shuttle? No thanks. I’ll walk there.
SJC to Denver cost $96 round trip and I rented a car for 4 days for $92 to drive to Colorado Springs. After one night at Hyatt House Colorado Springs for 5,000 points, I drove another 6 miles south to Clarion Hotel & Conference Center Colorado Springs. The hotel location was only a half-mile walk to Phantom Canyon Brewery for our Saturday mini-BAcon meeting.
Even better was Clarion Hotel shares the property with Quality Suites Colorado Springs. I stayed Friday night at Clarion and Saturday night at Quality Suites. I never even moved the rental car from one side of the hotel parking lot to the other during the two days. Those two nights earned 8,000 Choice Privileges points for $195. I stayed at Clarion Prague City two weeks ago for 8,000 Choice Privileges points when room rates were 110 EUR.
Impressions of Colorado Springs
The location of Colorado Springs is a city at 6,000 feet nestled up against the Rocky Mountains. Pikes Peak at 14,114 feet is clearly visible from all around Colorado Springs.
Pikes Peak is mountain seen on right side of photo. Picture was taken from I-25 overpass.
First impression of Colorado Springs is this city has some serious homelessness. A plaza next to Interstate 25 and directly beside the Clarion/Quality Suites complex was filled with about a dozen homeless men and women with all their belongings at noon on Friday. The temperature had been 25 degrees Friday morning.
Saturday morning, when I walked West Bijou Street into downtown, the plaza looked to have at least six people still sleeping under thermal blankets. Saturday morning had warmed to about 40.
A gnarly grizzled veteran, probably in his mid-60s, was at the freeway exit panhandling Friday afternoon. On the east side of I-25, groups of homeless people gathered in Monument Creek Park.
The next block revealed a church food bank, which probably explained the high concentration of homeless in the immediate vicinity.
Acacia Park, an urban park square with a playground, showed a sense of community. Moms and dads with children filled the park. Two street beat cops walked south past me on the sidewalk as I walked north.
Walking north a block I realized more of the businesses were to the south. The two street cops were talking to a couple of homeless men seated on street corner as I walked past. I overheard the homeless guy telling the cops his wife died six years ago and after 15 years of married life, he simply could not cope and had to walk away from everything and everyone in the place they had lived.
Where are the lunch specials?
In the mood for some food, sticker shock hit me as I walked by dozens of restaurants on North Tejon Street. Every menu I looked at was priced $10 or more for lunch items. Seemed like California pricing to me. $5 meals spoiled me on my two weeks in Europe in October.
Oskar Blues Brewery caught my eye in the 1897 brick building across the street on North Tejon. Turns out the brewery held its grand opening October 21 in the historic Colorado Springs building.
Colorado Springs was founded in 1871, so pretty much any structure that is 19th century is seriously ‘historic’.
In 2012 I attended TBEX Keystone. My first day of the conference was a sponsored Colorado beer road rally (with designated sober drivers) starting with beer at 8:15am in the Denver Zoo and ending around 2pm with a beer on the hillside above Loveland Pass (11,991 ft.) at an elevation over 12,000 feet. Oskar Blues Brewery catered the Red Rocks stop on the way to the high mountains.
Beer Shots at 12,000+ ft. Loveland Pass, Colorado (June 16, 2012).
Back to the food quest. $12 burger or $14 enchilada at Oskar Blues did not make my self-imposed dining budget objective.
Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum
The beautiful El Paso County 1903 courthouse is now the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum.
Touring the free museum provided a good hour of history knowledge about Colorado Springs and the region.
Historic photo of Pikes Peak and Antlers Hotel, Colorado Springs. Antlers Hotel is one building structure removed from the design seen in the picture. There have been three Antlers hotels since June 1883. The current Antlers Hotel was built in 1963 and is currently a Wyndham Hotel.
Modern Antlers Hotel and historic Antlers Lego-style in the hotel lobby.
I would have likely stayed at Antlers Hotel on 15,000 Wyndham Rewards points, if not for the Choice Privileges 8,000 points opportunity. The hotel is across the street from Phantom Canyon Brewing Company where we had our mini-BAcon Saturday.
Phantom Canyon Brewing Company was a great conference location. The place ranks #13 of 1,165 restaurants in Colorado Springs on TripAdvisor. After the catered lunch, the wait staff asked if anyone wanted extra food to go. I have been dining off salmon, steak, potatoes and asparagus leftovers for three meals since then. Still have one steak and asparagus left for Monday lunch before driving back to Denver Airport.
While I like beer, I pretty much only drink European lager. Phantom Canyon had a Skippy Dortmunder lager I enjoyed for a couple of pints. Apparently there was not enough drink consumption happening during mini-BAcon since we were encouraged to drink more to meet the minimum tab. The elevation kept me in check. I did not want my outdoors mountain hiking plan for Sunday to go awry with a hangover.
Back to Friday afternoon and downtown Colorado food quest.
Hunan Springs $6.95 beef met my budget objective at a TripAdvisor #643 of 1,165 Colorado Springs restaurant. Food was fine, whining children annoying.
Halloween spirit on the way to Alchemy, Not Just a Pub
Checked into Clarion Hotel at 3pm, checked out the room, not impressed. I remembered why some people think Choice Privileges is a useless loyalty program. Nordic Choice Hotels in Scandinavia and Clarion deals in Prague make the program one of the highest value loyalty programs for me. I have redeemed some 150,000 points in 2017 for 15 nights in Copenhagen, Stockholm, Malmo and Prague in hotels I heartily recommend.
Alchemy Irish Pub showed up as a 2.7 mile walk on Google Maps. I left the hotel at 3:15pm for a 4:00-7:00 mini-BAcon gathering. Have to give a hand to House of Miles staff. Alchemy, not just a pub ranks #33 on TripAdvisor’s 1,165 list.
In contrast to the homelessness of the afternoon in downtown Colorado Springs, the walk west to Alchemy is primarily residential neighborhoods. The area seemed so culturally traditional Americana with nearly 50% of houses decorated for Halloween.
I have only had one knock on my Monterey, California door in the past 14 years for Halloween trick-or-treaters.
Stopping to snap the photo above turned into a 20-minute conversation on the sidewalk about Halloween and pets with a local woman walking her dog.
Old Colorado City National Historic District
Residences turned into commercial Old Colorado City National Historic District (1859).
When gold was discovered in the Rockies, Colorado Springs was founded as a miners supply town.
Eventually I made it to Alchemy after about an hour walk.
Meeting new bloggers and reconnecting with bloggers and House of Miles staff was nice to feel like part of the crew again. I have not attended a function with Boarding Area bloggers since 2014.
Noise overload after a couple hours motivated me to head back out into the night for the walk back to Clarion.
The crisp air, leaves falling off trees and making contact with bloggers and BoardingArea staff gave me more of a buzz than the beer.
I packed light for this trip and made the rare decision to leave my Nikon at home when traveling.
Masked bandits of Old Colorado City hunkering down in a street sewer drain provided an immense sense of joy. And regret that my old iPhone takes crap photos in low lighting.