A Nineteen Mile Drive

We went to church yesterday. It took us a while to find the place but it was a pleasant drive through the country nonetheless. The church was housed in an old movie complex with worship taking place in one theater and youth and children’s activities in their respective theaters. Lots of rock and roll praise and, oddly enough, we were all overdressed. We stuck out like sore thumbs. In spite of the crowd the “Pastor of Care” spied us out and gave the run down on how things work at Vanguard Church. There were a lot of young people including the elusive twenty-somethings so hard to attract at other churches. It was the third service of the morning, at 11:30. The preaching was good, a real gift, a word I needed to hear about redemption and restoration. Thank you, Jesus.

After lunch we packed into the van for a ride to the largest local attraction, Pike’s Peak. Our campsite is right at the base of the mountain; truthfully all of Colorado Springs is at the base of this mountain. At 14,110 feet, it’s a big mountain. We found the road easily enough and then we found the entrance…$35 for a family. Yikes! We almost turned around, but decided to take the blow. At the gate we found a fine man who asked us how many adults…two. How many in the party…eight. Eight! Are all those kids yours? Yes sir.

I handed him my Discover card. I’m sorry, Visa and Master Card only. I handed him my Visa. He handed me the receipt. $20. I gave you a little gift. Thank you so much!

I’m beginning to like Pike’s Peak already.

It was 19 mile round trip. I figured this meant 9.5 miles up and the same back down. It turned out to be 19 miles up! This is a big mountain. There’s an interesting history to the place, the peak having captured the imagination of generations of local folks. Apparently it was first “discovered” by a fellow named Lt. Zebulun Montgomery Pike who had been dispatched by President Thomas Jefferson in an effort to determine the extent of the Louisiana Purchase’s southwestern borders. Pike attempts to climb the mountain with his party but is turned back due to snow. He names it Grand Peak.

In 1820 it was first ascended by a naturalist and historian by the name of Dr. Edwin James along with a couple other guys who spent an hour at the top. In 1840 it was officially named Pike’s Peak.

During the “Gold Rush” many settlers painted their wagons with the phrase, “Pike’s Peak or Bust,” the mountain serving as a visual landmark. Most of them busted.

In an effort to stimulate interest in Colorado Springs in 1873 the Army Signal Corp. built a weather station atop the peak which was manned year-round until 1889. It was a lonely, difficult job as those posted were responsible to maintain the telegraph wire that ran from the town to the summit. It was hard enough to lay the wire, strung along trees and rocks for miles, but keeping it working was especially difficult during the brutal winters on the mountain. As we learned in the drama we heard on Saturday, “just finding the wire was the hardest part.”

A road to the top was begun in 1868 and completed in 1888 and, after two failed attempts at building a narrow gauge railway and an aerial tram a cog rail was successfully completed in 1891. The cost for a ride to the top was $5, a princely sum in those days. It costs $60 today, another princely sum. Still, it would be an awesome thing to take the ride.

In 1894 Katherine Lee Bates penned the words to “America the Beautiful,” inspired by the awesome sights at the top. The first car reached the top in 1901. An annual car race to the top was begun in 1916 to commemorate the completion of the first highway to the top. The road is continually maintained through tolls by the city of Colorado Springs, off and on since 1948. It is a trip well worth making. It was not an easy trip in spite of the highway and the comfort of our vehicle. It took us about an hour to make the ascent and we learned what it means to climb hills in low gear. The descent was full of warnings about the importance of traveling in low gear and about how “hot brakes fail.” On the way down there was actually a brake check. “Brakes over 300 degrees will not be allowed to pass.”

At the top there was plenty of space for the many tourists and plenty of souvenirs at the shop for those wishing to commemorate the big climb. It really was an awesome place with a view of the surrounding lakes and plains that can only be experienced. Again, words and even pictures fail to capture the majesty of the Creation.

Pondering our journey and the interesting history of the place I am forced to ask the question, “Why?” Why has so much energy and time (lives?) been spent on conquering this magnificent hill? A book I read recently called The Victory of Reason suggests that such feats and the ever expanding development of technology and progress is rooted in our Christian faith. Unlike other religions which venerate the past and tradition, Christianity is constantly looking forward, striving to see what God has around the next bend. Development and discovery is actually a way of honoring God and glorying in His Creation.

I’m not sure if all those who climbed the hill and who devoted such boundless energy in doing so were motivated by their love of Jesus. More likely it was pride and the desire to do things just because we can, or we might. Is that bad? Sir Walter Scott states that pride is the root of so much good and so much evil in the world. Is it pride based in our love of God or our love of ourselves? Maybe both?

As for me and my house I am grateful to God for the chance to make the journey and for the safety with which we were blessed in the doing of it. I am thankful for the audacity and the daring of those who came before us. But, most especially I stand in awe and am made to feel rightly small, though no less loved by the God who made it all and put it here in the first place.

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One Response to A Nineteen Mile Drive

  1. Anonymous says:

    Sorry I couldn’t publish my note: couldn’t remember password if I even had one. Kay

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