Sep 15

United States Air Force Academy Cadet Chapel

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During a recent trip through Colorado Springs we had the opportunity to tour Colorado’s number one manmade tourist attraction, the Cadet Chapel.  It was truly an honor to see such beautiful architecture on a spectacular campus dedicated to The Lord and enriching the lives of our service men and women.  It is a bit intimidating to actually get on site to visit the chapel.  We were stopped at the traffic gate, had to show I.D. and even open our trunk for inspection.  But once you are on the grounds it is well worth any inconvenience.  The winding drive to the chapel through the campus grounds is beautiful even by itself.
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The Chapel was designed by Walter Netsch and completed in 1962.  It is a sight to behold.  The most striking aspect is the roof line of sixteen metal spires that shoot towards the sky almost mimicking stealth jets shooting into the atmosphere.  On the front a wide granite stairway leads you up to the entrance and a breathtaking view.  At geometric intersections all along the ceiling and walls of the chapel there are lines of bright beautiful stained glass.  It was difficult to capture in a photograph but almost gives off an electrical glow.
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Another wowing feature is the giant silver pipe organ that towers over the back of the chapel.  You can just hear its pipes filling the air with music.

The actual chapel is broken up into three distinct areas.  The Protestant Chapel, the largest of the three, is located on the main floor and can seat up to 1200 individuals.  Below the main chapel are a Jewish and Catholic chapel as well as a Buddhist room.  One neat feature is that all the chapels have separate entrances and can hold services at the same time without interfering with each other.

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While the Protestant chapel was the largest and most awe inspiring it was worth it and very interesting to visit the other chapels as well.  Each area feels very authentic to its faith and has artifacts that are of importance as well.  One thing that I was impressed by was the floor of the Jewish chapel, it is paved with Jerusalem brownstone which was donated by the Israeli Defense Forces.

It took us about an hour to tour the entire facility and we really enjoyed our time.  If you find yourself in Colorado Springs please take the time to visit this beautiful attraction.

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United States Air Force Academy Cadet Chapel

To get to the Academy: take Exit 156 on Interstate 25, 14 miles north of downtown Colorado Springs. Drivers will need a valid photo I.D. to enter the gate. All vehicles are subject to search.

Service Hours: Open daily 9:00am to 5:00pm, closed Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. The Visitor Center is also closed Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve.  

For more information about the Cadet Chapel visit their website at http://www.usafa.af.mil/information/visitors/

Sep 11

San Felipe de Neri Church: Albuquerque

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San Felipe de Neri Church is an active parish since its establishment in 1706 and the original building was completed in 1719 unfortunately the first building collapsed in 1792 after very heavy rain.  In 1793 a new and still standing church was constructed in adobe fashion.  The San Felipe de Neri Church is a great stop while strolling around Old Town Albuquerque.   
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Over the last decade San Felipe de Neri Church has begun a major restoration fixing up and repairing its historic structure.  My wife and I found the church to be in great condition, we though the small garden out front was beautiful and the inside while not as ornate as some of the historic churches or missions that we have visited, we still found it warm and inviting. 
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We really enjoyed our visit to the San Felipe de Neri Church it has a nice little park area across the street from it that was nice to walk around.  It really helped make our stop at Old Town a special visit.  Our particular visit to the church did not take much time we took in the architecture from the outside and then walked into the sanctuary.  We were glad that we took the time to actually go into the church we saw several people just take a few pictures from the outside and then move on their way.  Getting an inside and outside view of the historic site really gave us a greater appreciation for the San Felipe de Neri Church.      
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San Felipe de Neri Church is a beautiful piece of old architecture and if the lighting is right I am sure would produce some wonderful pictures.  A great little stop while we were touring around Albuquerque. 

to see our reviews of other historic sites click here

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San Felipe de Neri Church
Located at 2005 North Plaza, Albuquerque
Hours of Operation 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. every day of the week
Cost as of this Posting: Free
For more information visit their website at
http://sanfelipedeneri.org/

Sep 09

M’s Musings

We felt like it was time for another cute installment of M’s Musings

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Musing #1
M: Look mommy, I’m licking my cheeks
(she proceeds to weedle her tongue wildly back and forth inside her mouth)
Musing #2
M: (out of the blue) You is a handsome man Daddy!
Musing #3
We were visiting Kenny’s Mom and Dad and had my parents along for the visit so about six adults were focused on M for a lot of the trip.  She woke up from her nap and wondered…
M: Where are my people?


Musing #4
Dad: (while riding home in the car) I have everything I need, Mom, McKenna and a stack of books
M: And Gas!

Musing #5
M has been enjoying looking at pictures of our wedding and I tell her all about the beautiful garden ceremony.
M: Mom want to marry me in the garden?
Mom: Yes baby, I would love that!
M: We can marry Daddy too!

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General McKenna-ism’s

  • Library = Lie belly
  • Patrick = pack rits (Kenny’s middle name)
  • screws = skews

 That sweet girl just makes our day, we want to remember all the fun things she says.  Hopefully it gave you a little smile too.  To see more of M’s Musings click here.

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Sep 08

Explora Science Center: The Children’s Museum

The Explora Science Center is a fun learning environment geared towards preteens and was a blast for our 2 year old.  We had never taken her to a children’s museum before or even a science museum for that matter, but we picked a really good one to start her at. 

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The Explora Science Center is a little hard to classify exactly what it is because at the heart of it, it is a children’s museum, but there is so much science and hands on activities that a teenager (who likes science) or an adult can have lots of fun also.  It is not quite a science center because it does not get bogged down in a lot of science information.  I would describe it as if all the elementary students  in the country had to describe their favorite science experiments of all time and their teachers set them up to play with in one big room.  My description is selling the Explora Science Center short, but just understand that if you have a child you will be in for a real treat when you visit. 
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It is wall to wall hands on activities and the amazing thing there during our visit is that 95% of it worked.  My little daughter was in and out of all of the different little cubbyholes trying all sorts of things.  She really enjoyed the music and sound areas, the light and laser activities, the moving air experience, and of course the giant bubble tank.  Luckily for us we there on a week day in the late in the afternoon a couple of hours until closing and practically had the whole place to ourselves.  I cannot guarantee that your experience will be the same as ours, but after visiting countless number of museums, zoos, and aquariums late afternoon during the week has been the best time to go to avoid the crowds.   
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Though it is not as “fancy” or technologically advanced as other science museums we have been to, I enjoyed my time at this one so much more.  The exhibits though rather simple in design, in my opinion, provided a richer learning environment than other museums that relay on touch screen and computers to convey their information.  That might just be me, and I am somebody that likes to keep things simple, but I thought everybody that was there including my family enjoyed the experience so much more. 
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The Explora Science Center is located in a great location with several other museums nearby as well as Old Town Albuquerque so it is easy to make an entire day of it.  The experiments are a lot of fun for children of all ages and those young at heart.  I also like the fact that not all the instructions were clear cut so you had to do a little experimenting and thinking on your own to figure out some of the stations.  As a teacher I have found that trial and error is one of the greatest ways to get students to learn and retain the information.  I cannot say this enough the Explora Science Center is a great education/children/science museum. 

For other attractions to see or do in Albuquerque click here

15162032746 d473c8e806 z Explora Science Center: The Children’s Museum
Explora Science Center
Located at 1701 Mountain Rd, Albuquerque
Cost as of this Posting Adults 12 to 64 $8.00 Seniors 65 and over $5.00 and Children 1 to 11 $4.00
Hours of Operation Monday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. closed New Years, Christmas, Thanksgiving, July 4th
and the week after Labor Day
For more information visit their website at
http://www.explora.us/en/

Sep 07

Landscape Photography Number 14: Running Water

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I have always enjoyed looking at photographs of moving water captured with a slow shutter speed.  I like the smooth silky effect it puts on the water and have always wanted to do it myself.  Now with a tripod I received as a Christmas present a couple of years ago I can attempt to get the pictures I have longed admired. 

This picture, which I have called running water, was taken along the stream heading from Zapata Falls in Colorado.  After the short but steep hike up to the waterfall my family and I were enjoying the shade watching the water go by when I decided to get a few shots of the creek.  While the shot is not perfect by any means having a few whiteout spots in the upper right hand side of the picture I did like how the water, rocks, and greenery in the rest of the photograph turned out.  Another thing that I like about this photograph is that it motivates me to become a better photographer.  If I can get this decent of a photograph at the wrong time of day, I think about what I could do if I went at the golden hour of photography.  Which in turn, motivates me to get up on those vacation mornings to take pictures, which is not always an easy thing to do; any picture that makes me want to be a better photographer is a good one. 

Sep 06

Three day guide to the Black Hills

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Our three day guide to the Black Hills has been divided into two categories, one for the serious vacationer and one for the more laid back approach.  What I mean by the serious vacationer is the person that is up before the sun looking to get the perfect lighting for that perfect picture.  The more laid back approach is leaving the cabin, tent, or hotel room around 9 in the morning.  This three day guide to the Black Hills is solely based on our personal experiences in the park and the research we did to get ready for our trip.  It is also written as if you are staying in the area.  Now three days is not nearly enough time to see everything the Black Hills has to offer, three weeks would probably not be enough time to see everything.  We sincerely hope our three day guide to the Black Hills will help you in your planning and like always we wish you Happy Travels!
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3 Day Guide to the Black Hills

Serious Vacationer

Laid Back Traveler

Day 1 Leave the Black Hills for the Badlands

  • Pay the park fee to drive the loop road and if you do not mind taking your care on a dirt road drive the Sage Creek Wilderness area to see the animals that call the area home including Roberts Prairie Dog Town
  • Take some of the hiking trails in the park like my favorite the Notch Trail
  • No visit to the badlands would be complete without getting close to the Wall and its tumbling rock formations
Day 1 See the National Parks and Memorials

Day 2 Visit Mount Rushmore on your way to  Custer State Park

  • Take the Wildlife Loop Road at Dawn for the best chance to see animals including the famous begging burros
  • Hike some of the trails like the Cathedral Spires Hiking Trail or Harney Peak
  • Spend the afternoon around Sylvan Lake taking the trail around the lake
  • Custer State Park could easily be labeled a National Park if South Dakota had not already claimed the area.  It is one of the best state parks in the nation with lots of activities to do and many things to see
Day 2 Drive the Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway

  • Visit one of the 2 fine animal attractions in the area at Bear Country USA or the Reptile Gardens if animals are not your thing there is also the Chapel in the Hills which brings a little bit of Norway to the Black Hills
  • Spend the rest of your day on the Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway is constantly rated as one of the best drives in America.  SD 87 (Needles Highway,) US 16A( Iron Mountain Road,) SD 244 (Horse Thief Lake Road,) and SD 89 (Sylvan Lake Road) make up this beautiful 70 mile loop that goes by Mount Rushmore and through Custer State Park
Day 3 Drive over to Spearfish Canyon and try your luck at Deadwood

  • Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway is a wonderful short drive through limestone walls and forest.  There are also 2 beautiful waterfalls in the area Roughlock and Bridal Veil Falls
  • After visiting Spearfish Canyon try your luck at one of close to 80 gaming halls in the town of Deadwood or take in the Deadwood Alive show and witness the trail of the man that killed Wild Bill Hickok
 Day 3 Visit the many museums and parks in the area

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To see our other 3 day guides click here

Aug 30

Medano Creek: Great Sand Dunes National Park

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Medano Creek is where you will probably have the most fun during a visit to Great Sand Dunes National Park.  I know that was true for us.  As interesting as it was to hike up the sand dunes and see sunrise from the top Medano Creek was a whole lot more fun and effortless to get to.  I know my 2 year old daughter had a blast splashing and running on the smooth sandy bottom of the creek, and with water just an inch or two deep our minds where at ease watching her play.  (We were visiting in mid to late June)  Our daughter had so much fun she was still talking about it for several months after our visit.   
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Located right next main parking lot Medano Creek is an excellent place to park and play for the day.  Unfortunately Medano Creek is only seasonal with the end of April to late June being the best time for seeing water flowing in the creek.  May is the best month and has the best opportunity to experience what the national park calls “surge flow” where waves over a foot tall will flow down the creek.  Even though we only had an inch or two of water to play with it was still a lot of fun playing up and down the creek, building dams of sand, and just rubbing or feet on the soft smooth sand.  If you are worried about the water level or lack of water you can go to the national park website and check out the conditions of Medano Creek by clicking here. 
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Medano Creek was one of the main highlights of our visit to Great Sand Dunes National Park.  While the dunes were impressive seeing them snuggled up next to the mountainside was a sight to see, being able to play together in Medano Creek made it much more of a family friendly destination.  At least during our visit, we were really impressed with the fact that everybody was cleaning up after themselves and not leaving a speck of trash behind.  I hope you find Medano Creek in as a good condition as we did during our visit. 

To see our reviews of other Colorado attractions click here

Aug 29

Revisiting: Cheyenne Mountain Zoo

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We have always liked the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, and when we found ourselves back in the Colorado Springs area we just had to stop for another visit.  Our last visit was in in 2011 and we were looking forward to the seeing the new changes the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo had in store for us.   My wife and I love seeing zoos expand and reinvest to make the zoo better, newer, and create larger exhibits for their animals.  Since our last visit the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo has greatly expanded their elephant and rhino area with their Encounter Africa and also opened their Scutes Family Gallery. 
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Their Encounter Africa exhibit is a top of the line African savanna exhibit capped off with an impressive African elephant area with a 20 foot waterfall, large pool, and an elephant barn.  There is also a black rhino area, a few different areas with meerkats, multiple viewing areas of the resident lions, a sky bridge that gives you top down views of the animals along with a spectacular view of the city.  The Cheyenne Mountain Zoo did a really good job with this exhibit and it just added another great piece to their collection. 
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Cheyenne Mountain Zoo had also created the Scutes Family Gallery since our last visit which we could truly say is a unique exhibit. They basically created art from nature taking over 40 different speices of reptiles and putting them in unique artistic habitats.  For example, instead of placing a snake in a in a recreated natural environment they placed them in tank with smooth neon glass.  Basically the Scutes Family Gallery centers on the idea that beautiful art can be found and made in nature. 
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We enjoyed both new exhibits and like always the rest of the zoo is of high quality from their wonderful African Rift Valley with the chance to feed the large herd of giraffes to their Rocky Mountain Wild and seeing grizzlies going after fish.  The Cheyenne Mountain Zoo is one of our favorite zoos and one of the best ones that we have personally seen.     

Cheyenne Mountain Zoo – Colorado Springs, Colorado
Located at 4250 Cheyenne Mountain Zoo Road
Hours of Operation- Open all year round, May 1st through Labor Day 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.  all other months 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Cost as of 2014- Adults $17.25 Seniors 65 and over $15.25 and Children 3 to 11 $12.25 there is a slight discount during the off season.
For more information visit their website at http://www.cmzoo.org/

Aug 23

Update: It was a very good day

victory Update: It was a very good day
It ended up being a very good day for my first cross country meet as a high school head coach. Not to get into too many details, but 6 out of my 7 varsity guys medaled on their way to winning our first cross country meet of the season. For most of them it was their first cross country medal and for all of them it was their first cross country trophy. After one meet we have already beaten more schools then they beat all of last season. I was so happy that I was able to help them achieve some success this year. Besides the big smiles on their faces, and my runners saying thanks, and hugs, my coaching day became complete when the host of the cross country invitational shook my hand thanked us for coming, hoped that we will come back next year, and said we had one of the most solid squads that he has seen in a while. Like I said, it was a very good day.

picture via

Aug 20

Tomorrow is a Big Day

running Tomorrow is a Big Day
Tomorrow is a big day for me because that is the day I get to lead my first varsity high school team into action.  I have been a coach now going on a decade mostly at the middle school level and last year as an assistant/freshman coach.  While all of those things were great experience and a lot of fun it is nothing compared to what I am feeling now.  Butterflies are starting to build up, the constant thinking about what we have done, and wishing about what I could have or should have done differently.  Deep down I have a sense of confidence I know my team is well prepared I have seen them run fast, I have seen them put in the miles of hard work, and I know that they will try their hardest which is all, as a coach, I can really hope for. 

Tomorrow is a big day for the team because the school that I am at has had a very limited success rate when it comes to sports over the last 10 years.  You could say we have a crisis in the self-esteem department stemming from just the lack of success over that time period.  I have had seniors that have wanted to quit and told me they were going to because they were tired of taking last.  Fortunately I was able to talk them out of it just by showing them how far we have already come from last year.  I also realize if we do not have some success tomorrow I might lose my team because I have never coached them before this year and they have worked harder than they have ever worked.  If we do not get the results we want tomorrow they might think that all that hard work was pointless.        

Tomorrow is a big day for my senior runners because they have never taken home a cross country trophy and I think they can do that tomorrow.  Just as a coach I know anytime I walk by a trophy case and there are trophies that I helped put in there I swell up with a sense of pride.  I want them to have that feeling.  I want them to take home medals to be proud of and show off to their kids many years from now.  To have that pride when they hear their own kids like I do with mine when they say, “I want a medal.” 

Tomorrow is a big day for my school I know with the way they have been running my team since last spring, then all summer, the hard practices of early August when school started, that this can be a big year for the school.  That this cross country team can help start the process of turning around the stigma that goes with the school that we are at, and our city, area, state will stop looking at our school as just being a bunch of poor kids from a bad neighborhood and see what we really can do. 

Tomorrow is a big day…

picture via

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