Although they can certainly be romantic, we don’t tend to do the horse-drawn carriage rides in most of the cities that we visit. Unfortunately, often the horses are not treated well and the prices that they charge are generally not worth the experience. Sometimes you can get some interesting information about the city from the driver, but often times you can’t always trust what they are telling you. In New York City, they are considering banning the horse-drawn carriages, which has a lot of people upset, but perhaps some regulation would do the industry some good. Even though we don’t usually go on a horse-drawn carriage ride, we decided to share a couple of photos from two of our more memorable experiences. One is from our 10th wedding anniversary that we spent in Disney World and the other is from the time that we got lost in Seville, Spain. We hope that you enjoy these photos for this week’s Cee’s Which Way Photo Challenge.
We’re not talking about mountain lions, hawks, or some other wild animal, we’re talking about NORAD and the Cheyenne Mountain Complex. If you ever drive through Colorado Springs, when you get to the south end of town, past Pikes Peak, you’ll likely notice a large group of antennas on the peaks of the southern-most mountains in the range. That is the only sign that the group of men and women who constantly scan the skies in search of any incoming threats to the United States or Canada reside inside Cheyenne Mountain. The complex is literally inside of the mountain. Built by the Army Corps of Engineers, tunnels were dug into the granite mountain in order to protect the facility from any potential air attack. Today, April 15th, the site is celebrating its 50th anniversary of being fully operational.
NORAD, North American Aerospace Defense, was created at the height of cold war to detect potential nuclear weapons being launched by Russia at the United States. These days, their work is somewhat more difficult as they monitor for potential aircrafts that might be in the control of terrorists and not following predetermined flight paths, ready to scramble jets at a minutes notice. Today the facility also houses US Northern Command, USNORTHCOM, but most of the daily operations are run from Peterson Air Force Base, located in southern Colorado Springs. Every now and again, when terrorist threats are high, residents of Colorado Springs are reminded of the potential threat to the mostly quiet city as it is home to both NORAD and the Air Force Academy. We don’t have any pictures of the antennas on top of the mountain because, well, frankly it isn’t that interesting, you can imagine what a bunch of tall antennas look like.
NORAD isn’t all seriousness and dread, however. NORAD also sponsors “NORAD tracks Santa” every year on Christmas Eve where children from around the world can call in or go online and find out the current location of Santa Claus as he flies around the world in his sleigh delivering gifts. In fact, for several years, we volunteered and answered phones, letting children know that Santa would be arriving soon and that they needed to go to bed soon. Legend has it that Sears Department Store mistakenly put in the number for NORAD in a local paper and when they started receiving calls, the staff decided to tell the children Santa’s location and the tradition was born. The truth is probably slightly different, but the end result is the same, children are thrilled with the thought that Santa is real and that our elite defense group is keeping their eyes on him, making sure he can safely deliver gifts.
Regardless of your thoughts on the military, the Cheyenne Mountain Complex is truly a unique and interesting piece of history hidden in the hillsides of Colorado Springs. The work that they do on a daily basis to keep us all safe should be complimented and appreciated. We wish them a happy anniversary for providing 50 years of service in the tunnels below the mountain.
We’re in the process of planning a trip to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary, so we decided to take a moment to look back at our 20th anniversary trip. We travel as often as we can, but since we both have full time jobs, not as much as we’d like. Travel has pretty much become our hobby and is something that we both love and we feel that it brings us closer together. For our 20th anniversary, we decided to go to Walt Disney World, just the two of us, to bring out the child in each of us. Honestly, just like Peter Pan, we’ve always teased that we’re still just kids ourselves and that one of these days, we’ll figure out what we want to do when we grow up.
We’d taken the kids to Disneyland when they were all very young and it was one of those vacations when we didn’t have a ton of money, but we made it happen anyway. We drove from Colorado to California, stopping in Las Vegas along the way. This was back when Vegas was trying to be family friendly, before they realized it was costing them money, and before they started the “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” campaign. We stayed an the Excalibur Hotel and Casino for one night and then drove across the desert to Los Angeles and Anaheim, where Disneyland is located. It was a great trip, the kids had a blast, and they never knew what a tight budget we were on. We were even able to enjoy a dinner at the Pirates of the Caribbean ride and take advantage of some of the early morning eat and greets where you have breakfast and meet some of the characters.
Things were a little different for our trip to Disneyworld, there would be no driving and we were staying at our Hilton Grand Vacations timeshare in Orlando. We planned in advance, purchasing our 6 day “Park Hopper” passes and some customized maps that you could order online. We also looked at the restaurants and made sure to have special dinner reservations for the night of our anniversary, plus a few other surprises. When we arrived in Florida, it was a stress free experience as we knew that we weren’t on a schedule and could just enjoy everything that Disney World had to offer. Disney World isn’t just a single theme park, it is actually several parks, so we were glad that we had a full week to explore and relax. Even though it was April, we’d also planned a visit to Cocoa Beach since we met in Ocean City Maryland, we thought that a visit to the Atlantic Ocean was in order.
When you enter the park, they ask if you’re celebrating anything special and, if you are, they give you a special occasion button, so we proudly wore our anniversary buttons. We weren’t the only adult couples enjoying the parks, Walt Disney World has turned themselves into quite the wedding and honeymoon destination offering even coordinators that will make any trip special. Whatever your age, we would definitely recommend that you visit Walt Disney World at least once, it is truly an experience that you’ll never forget.
We started our trip by going to the Magical Kingdom theme park, which was the original park and is where Cinderella’s castle is located. Throughout the week we made our way to the other parks as well, including Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, and the Epcot Center where they were celebrating the International Flower and Garden Festival. We weren’t shy about getting pictures with the various characters throughout the parks and going on the rides like Peter Pan’s Flight, Its a Small World, The Wizard of Oz, the Haunted Mansion, and so many others that there are too many to mention. We also made sure to watch several of the many parades at the various parks as well as stay in the park to watch the famous fireworks show. We really enjoyed Epcot Center where you could do wine tours and get a different glass of wine from each of the countries represented in the theme park.
The highlight of the trip was our anniversary dinner at Victoria & Albert’s, which reservations must be made well in advance as it is very exclusive, but also very much worth it. Before heading to the restaurant, we went on a horse drawn carriage ride where we enjoyed opening a fine bottle of wine that we’d purchased on our 10th wedding anniversary to open on our 20th. We had no doubts that we’d still be together and very much in love. At dinner, Dona was surprised with a princess tiara and glass slipper on a pillow made of flowers that Pete had arranged to be delivered. To say that the evening met our expectations would be an understatement as it will always be one of our very treasured memories.
It was a wonderful week that truly made us feel young again, reminding us that age isn’t a number, but a state of mind. Wherever we go this year for our big anniversary trip (we went to Aspen for a long weekend on our anniversary itself this year), we know that we’ll share new memories that will last a lifetime. In the words of the fairy tales that inspired Walt Disney to create his movies and theme parks, we are living “happily ever after” year after year.