Pike's Peak, Garden of the Gods and The Seven Falls

The Dynamic Duo- Seven Falls
Garden of the gods
At the top of Pike's Peak

When you travel with someone, you quickly find out that travel incentive points are important. Do you travel American or United? Do you use Avis or Hertz? Do you stay at Marriott, Hilton or Starwood?   They add up fast.  My travel partner and I quickly discovered our points were in different companies.  He was an Avis guy, I used Hertz. He stayed at Hilton and I stayed at Marriott.  This is how we settled the differences.  Whoever booked the car chose the company.  Sometimes we would choose hotels that were located nearby so we could each get our own points.  That is exactly how we managed this trip.  He traveled more often than I did and he had a lot of points. When we got to the Denver airport at Avis they upgraded us to a Hummer. I raised my eyebrow and said “well this will be interesting.”   We hopped in the car and John started to drive. We had agreed we would share the driving as necessary.  We were not 20 minutes into the trip when he started to make comments about the temperature. “ It is hot in here”  This went on for several miles and about every 10 minutes or so he would ask, “Really You’re not hot?” After a discussion on typical male female temperature preferences,   I finally gave up and said you should turn on the air conditioner; I will put on a jacket.   He was driving, it was the least I could do.    After finding the familiar berm that surrounds most of the company facilities, we took off to find lunch and get our bearings around the city.  We worked the second half of the day and then headed to our hotel to get checked in.   We stopped at Hilton first and John said “Your turn to drive.  Why don’t you take the car to your hotel and then we can hook up for dinner later.”   I “Ok by me,”  I replied. As he was getting his luggage out of the back, I jumped into the driver’s seat and found it was more than warm it was flat out hot.  I leaned out the window and said in my most sarcastic tone “Hey John, next time you‘re hot while driving you might want to check to see if the seat heaters are on high.” We both broke out laughing.  I was already showing my personality. I was glad he took sarcasm lightly.  We met up for a nice dinner and made plans for the next day.

I had previously set up appointments for us with my extended team in this region so that we could have a synchronized visit and be really efficient.  This was not only the first time we traveled together, it was the first time either of us would meet my extended team. We had to visit two facilities about 2 hours away from each other.  We would spend two and half days at the larger facility and then move on to the smaller facility. We had set up a general introductory meeting s at both facilities and then we would meet up with individual teams for specialized tours. It would take every bit of 4 days.  The teams were fairly skeptical about our visit because we had an initiative to streamline occupancy.   They knew we had the initiative but our visit made it real and we were there to begin the planning process.

 I was working for one of larger business units at the time of our visit but I had formally spent several years working for the facilities department. That experience taught me two things where people hated to change; their food and their location.  Yep, you start to change a food service program or you tell people they are relocating to a different building or worse yet tell them you’re reducing food service or work space and their whole world unravels.   They are upset for a while and complain like crazy.  Then the realization comes over them that YOU are the person who is taking things away and moving them someplace else. Then the courting begins… they want to be your best friend.  All of a sudden they want a window seat or the best space in a computer room, training facilities, conference space and extra storage for stuff they don’t really need half the time.  You name it, they will ask.   I have seen this happen a thousand times at all levels of every organization.  It is just human nature.  Fundamentally, I understood that people really don’t like change and what they really want is to have their fears of the unknown addressed.  What they needed to know was that they are going to have enough space to do their job and it was my job to make sure they were using that space efficiently.  The teams in Colorado were no different; they wanted to make sure I understood their need.  I had to build trust and assure them that I would take care of them and they would have what they needed.   This trip was where I would start to build relationships that would eventually circle the globe and I would continue to work with these people and many others for the next five years.   After finishing our work at the first site, one of the directors said to us. “Enjoy Garden of the Gods” Indeed we would.

We arrived in Colorado Springs late in the evening.  We completed our work the following day and left the office about four pm. We still had enough daylight left to go to the top of Pikes Peak.  When we  arrived at the gate and the park ranger let us know that  we were welcome to start up the mountain but if the storm moved in faster than expected they would close the mountain  and we would be required to come down.  We immediately agreed and headed up the road in that trusty Hummer.  It started to rain as we went through several layers of clouds.  John said “we won’t be able to see a thing at the top. “I replied.    “Oh come on, don’t give up so soon. I once went to Waimea Canyon in Hawaii and it was cloudy the whole way what to the top.  And guess what?  Just as we got the top… TA DA …. the clouds parted and we had the most fabulous  view.  So let’s just go with that for now.” He grumbled a bit at me and said “well don’t bank on that happening again.” The road was paved only part of the way up the mountain and then it became dirt and gravel.  I was grateful John was driving.  I would never have done this alone.    We made it to the top and it was cold and slightly drizzly.  It was cloudy and then the most incredible thing happened, the lightening started to strike below us. I have never seen lightning strike while I was l standing above the clouds. It was truly amazing.  I suppose you could see this from an airplane but I never had that experience.    This was a really beautiful visual display so we watched for a while and decided the storm was probably coming so we might have to leave.  We walked into the gift shop/ restaurant and it was filled with a group of Mennonite travelers.   It was a bit of an other worldly experience. I was standing on the top of a mountain and I felt like I was traveling back in time. I excused myself to use the ladies room because I knew it would be a long way down the mountain.  When I emerged John was running across the gift shop making a beeline for me. He had a serious determined look on his face and I asked “what is wrong?”  The clouds parted!!  Come quick! “You are going to miss it!  We ran out to the most incredible view you can imagine.  This mountain sits at 14,110 feet above sea level and was the inspiration for “America the Beautiful”.    I know why.   It was truly the embodiment of purple mountains majesty. With the clouds parted and the flat grey light. It was ethereal.   After about 10 minutes of standing in awe and looking at the valley below it started to rain again. The air was full of electricity; I was starting to have trouble breathing in the high altitude air.  We got in the hummer and trundled down the hill. It was dark by the time we reached the park gate.  We went to a small Mexican restaurant and had dinner and talked about our experience on that mountain.   I was pretty sure I had found an adventurous travel buddy at work.

The next day was really a travel day.  Over breakfast, we discussed all that we had learned and compared notes about the two sites we visited and then took off to play before heading home.   We thought we could fit two stops in our itinerary; The Seven Falls and Garden of the Gods.  We went to Seven Falls first as it was not very big. We hiked up the staircases, over the falls on bridges, rode the elevator inside the mountain, took plenty of pictures, and enjoyed the scenery and the spray of the falls. That was it; we had to be on our way.   This was little more than a drive by tour, we had to get on the road if we wanted to see Garden of the Gods.

 We arrived at the park, had for a look around the visitor’s center and headed out onto the trails. This was not going to be a leisurely visit; we did not have time to read how the rocks got there or any of the history, we were there for the view and the experience. These geological formations of red sandstones are like a small mountain range, each with unique names; The Gateway Rocks, Kissing Camels, Siamese Twins, Cathedral Rock and you can see Pikes’ Peak looming in the background. We walked around on the easy hiking trails enjoying those spectacular rocks, watching the birds nestle in crack of the mountains and the wonderful warm sun. This is truly a beautiful area, I was sorry we did not have time to linger.   We jumped into the Hummer to head for the airport we were already running late. We arrive just in time, to turn in the car, grab our bags and get on the bus to the terminal.  We took one last look at the Hummer and started laughing.  In the mud caked on it sides and every grain of red sandstone dust, It carried the memories of going to Pike’s Peak in the rain and Garden of the Gods in the sun.    I would come to learn that late arrivals to the airport were typical for John as he told me many stories of just making flights.  I hate being late and running through airports. On the flight back John told me he had left his company phone.  Hmmm. “The consequences for cutting your arrival time short are sometime real. “  He scrunched his nose at me.  We had not planned in advance to take all these side trips but I was glad we did. It was enriching and in the process I formed a relationship with John that would last for several years to come. We would touch bases about work, go on a few more trips, and compare notes on who had gone where.  He racked up more miles, hotel points, car points and countries than I did but I checked in with him the other day and he had never gotten another Hummer nor did the clouds ever part for him on any other mountain he climbed.

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Mark Justycky | Reply 19.02.2013 13.22

What I remember the most about visiting Pike's Peak was the difficulty to breathe up there. But what really astonished me was that people were smoking cigarette

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