Once upon a time, in a previous life, I had a client in Colorado Springs for a few years. I must have visited at least 3 or 4 times, never got a chance to see much, other than a drive through the Garden of the Gods, and an even quicker drive through the Air Force Academy. But the city has always been touted as one of the best places to live in America. Maybe we should investigate further?
First, we are a mile above sea level at 6,035 feet, and bordering famed Pikes Peak, at over 14,000 feet. Most significantly to young, promising athletes with Olympic aspirations, Colorado Springs is home to the U.S. Olympic Committee, and the U.S. Olympic Training Center (1977). The city is often called Olympic City, USA. San Joaquin Valley (Tulare) legend Bob Mathias headed up the training center at one time.
Second, the city is about half a million, making it Colorado’s second largest city after Denver. And it is almost always on the list of “Best Places to Live in the USA.” Just take a look at any “experts” list, and the Springs are in the Top Ten.
Natives first inhabited the area, which was later included in the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. In 1859, the Pike’s Peak gold rush helped to establish the first local settlement. In 1891, the Broadmoor Company built the Broadmoor Suburb and Casino. And during WW2, the U.S. Army Air Force leased land adjacent to the municipal airfield. NORAD was headquartered here later in the 50s and 60s. Interestingly, the Libertarian Party was founded here also in the 1970’s.
As expected, the economy is fueled by the military followed by high tech and tourism. Besides the Garden of the Gods and Pikes Peak, the area attracts outdoor enthusiasts of all shapes and sizes.
As a youngster, I first became aware of this area because of the famous Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. The invitational race is always held on the last Sunday of June. The route is 12.42 miles, with 156 turns, and 4720 feet of elevation. The race is self-sanctioned and is the most diverse one day motorsports event in the world with everything from Sidecars, Motorcycles, Semi-Trucks, and 1,400+hp EV & Unlimited Racers being able to compete in the same event. This is where the racing Unser family became famous. The highway wasn’t completely paved until 2011.
The Mountain West Conference for collegiate sports is also based in Colorado Springs. Our hometown Fresno State Bulldogs are a member of this conference. The famed Air Force Academy is here, along with the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame, and the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association.
I-25 runs north and south from Denver, and serves as the main route here. Part of it is called the Ronald Reagan Highway, perhaps because the drivers fall asleep while driving it? The area does boast some famous people who started or still live here: Charles Schulz, Lon Cheney, Scott Walker (Gov. of Wisconsin), Nikola Tesla, Dave Dravecky, Goose Gossage, Rick Barry, Steve Sabol, Cullen Bryant, and astronaut Jim Irwin.
The Air Force Academy is the youngest of our military academies, with their first graduating class in 1959. I knew a few guys when I went to Cal, who dropped out of these academies. They all had the same reason for dropping, the curriculum was boring, and the discipline quite rigorous. Incoming classes are 1200, and about 1000 will graduate each year. The program at the Academy is guided by the Air Force’s core values of “Integrity First, Service Before Self, and Excellence in All We Do” and based on the four pillars of excellence, military training, academics, athletics, and character development. But it is free to all who attend!
Nevertheless, it is always a tossup as to driving here or Boulder. Maybe both this trip? I love Boulder, the college atmosphere, and the outdoor activities. But the Springs has its own charm and history.