Aspens shimmer in the slightest breeze showing the dark and light sides of their leaves, like the ASL sign for applause: hands pointed upward rotating at wrists quickly to show palm, back of hand, palm, back of hand.
It’s August 13, 2011 and we’re taking a post-lunch drive to Eleven Mile Canyon to re-create a photo and put our toes in the South Platte River.
Gas is at $3.39, the best we’ve seen the whole trip. Through Manitou Springs on Hwy 24 W toward Lake George, we pass Garden of the Gods Park. Massive red, purple, and sage layered rocks dotted with gnarled pines and scrub. Smoky Bear sign announces high fire danger today. A more useful color system than the terrorism alerts because you can actually avoid making campfires.
Robin naps. He’s been up since the crack of early, playing in Mom and Dad’s rec room with the 1970s Fisher Price Little People, their school, hospital, and assorted vehicles.
In Lake George we turn left at Starkey’s General Store. Mom and Dad pay our day use fee for Eleven Mile Canyon, which is part of Pike National Forest. Thanks! As we enter, the river is full up to its grassy banks–no canyon wall exposed here, just shining water, slow enough for tubing and fly fishing. At the picnic ground the river widens. The water is cold but only enough to cause a mild foot and ankle-ache without turning the skin red.
Robin submerges himself up to his thighs and wets the brim of his hat leaning over to find rocks. Woops! He got a big drink of the South Platte River. He declares every rock he finds a “big rock” unless it’s an “egg rock”–that is, a round speckled one.
A short way down from the picnic area, at the 11 mile point, the canyon walls close in and water runs faster. Climbers relish these walls, full of hand and foot holds. There is a series of tunnels, from when the area was a Colorado and Midlands Railroad right of way. It was abandoned in 1921, before this photo was taken.
Here’s our re-creation. I wish we had gotten more of the car in the photo, so future generations can gawk at my swagger wagon.
When I asked Dad what the J.H. Robinsons were about on their trip in 1928, he shared this:
The Robinsons made many trips to Colorado from about 1913 until about 1940. Since [my granddaddy’s aunt] Marjorie and her new family had moved to Pueblo in the mid/late 1920s, the Robinsons had new reasons to make summer trips to Colorado. Also, John Henry was a Mason and more than one of their trips to Colorado took them to a place known as Masonic Park near South Fork, CO. Nearby places of interest included Wagon Wheel Gap and Creede, CO. Their 1928 trip took them to all of these places as well as to the top of Pikes Peak and to Leadville, CO.
One story that came out of their trip to [Colorado in1928] involved Nan (Alice Clyde McWilliams Robinson). The cars of 1928 did not have the hydraulic brakes of today and certainly did not have anything as effective as disk brakes. Even such a well regarded car as their new 1928 Studebaker commander had only the rather uncertain mechanical brakes of the day. Applying the brakes meant the pedal pulled down on wire cables attached to brake shoes which pressed against the brake drums mounted inside the wheels. Repeated hard braking typically caused the cables and brake shoes to become hot thereby expanding the length of the cable and making the shoes so hot they no longer touched the drums. This meant that the hotter the cables and brake shoes became the less braking action one had. Overheated brakes, runaway cars and catastrophic crashes were distressingly frequent and, given the auto braking system of the day, a drive back down Pikes Peak in 1928 was an uncertain matter.
According to family legend, at some point on the return trip Nan got out of the car and said she preferred to walk. Daddad (John Henry) said something to the effect of “What’s the matter? Are afraid of my driving?” to which she said “No, but someone will need to be able to report what happened to you when the car goes airborne on one of these hairpin turns.”