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Colorado: Colorado Columbines

October 10, 2017

August−The month of August found 21 Columbine coaches heading to Gering, NE to be at the center of the Great American Total Solar Eclipse as it passes exclusively over the United States from OR to SC on Aug. 21. This is the largest turnout of members in recent memory. The Columbines are extraordinarily fortunate to have wagonmasters who extensively planned this awesome outing over a year ahead of the event. These exceptional wagonmasters are: Michelle and Jim Freas, Mary Ann Ferrie and Red Zyskowski, and Jan and Ron Rakickas who arrived early at the Robidoux RV to ensure everything was going to be perfect. The park is a beautiful, well-manicured RV park in the shadow of Scott's Bluff National Monument.

Joining the wagonmasters in this memorable outing were the coaches of: Richardson, Atencio with Coulton, Carroll, Dugdale, Edwards, Kyes, McCuskey, Baker, Venable, Bowman, Stanley, Johnson, Davenport, Reinert, Nordstrom with Erica, Browne, Kaplan, and Novovesky. Honorary Members Eva and Irv Lieser joined in the fun.

The weekend was kicked off on Friday with the mandatory happy hour in the park's private group room and was followed by Red and Mary Ann'syummy sloppy joes with all the sides. What a great start for a memorable weekend! This ideal private room was ours for the four days of our visit and it was without extra charge.

Saturday morning we lined up to drive to the Legacy of the Plains Museum, a surprisingly extensive collection of NE stuff. The large museum complex featured a wide variety of agricultural implements, people, products, and memorabilia.

After a couple hours of exhibits, we enjoyed a catered Italian buffet at the museum. The only issue was that the caterer only had ten extra slices of garlic bread, which were gobbled down quickly.

The afternoon was filled with an opportunity to explore the surrounding area. A popular selection was the nearby Scotts Bluff National Monument, a prominent landmark along the OR and Mormon Trails. These trails were traversed by approximately 450,000 hearty individuals in search of a better life.

Our wagonmasters were concerned about the possible overcrowding of restaurants in the area, so after happy hour, they provided another feast—this time it was pulled pork with the fixins'. After dinner, some chose to go to a special Laser Light Spectacular with Pink Floyd music.

Sunday, the day of rest, found folks exploring the area with trips to surrounding attractions like Ft. Robinson, the original Cabela's store, Carhenge, and Chimney Rock.

By the time we settled back at the campground, we found the grassy areas filled with dozens of tents and dry camping RVs since everyone was looking for a spot to watch Monday's spectacular show. Once again, we reconvened for happy hour and a huge potluck feast prepared by everyone.

Our business meeting followed where 2018 club officers were elected. They are Jim Freas, President; Mark Klibbe, Vice President; Wayne George, Treasurer; Sandi Stanley, Secretary; Michelle Freas, Membership Director; and Wayne George, Events Director.

On Monday morning (the day we all had been waiting for), we awoke to a thick dense fog. Happily, it burned off quickly and the sun revealed a cloudless sky. Perfect! Things got even better with the wagonmasters outdoing themselves again with a bountiful breakfast. It was a great way to start this most memorable day—The Great American Eclipse.

By mid-morning, the lawn chairs were clustered on the grass and heads were turned skyward watching the slow progression of the moon covering the sun. An amazing event since the sun is 400 times the size of our tiny moon.

It was a special time to be able to share this "once in lifetime" experience with our fellow Columbines. A wee bit shy of noon the street lights came on, the temperature dropped 10-15 degrees, and dusk was upon us for one brief moment.

Some said it was a spiritual experience while others just said "WOW!" Shortly after the skies were back to normal, but not the traffic passing our campground, which inched along home for the next couple of hours.

The afternoon was spent in conversations about the Total Solar Eclipse and some less relevant subjects. Once again, happy hour was on schedule and this evening we had a feast of heavy hors d'oeuvres, also known as appetizers for those that are spelling challenged. After time to clean up the eating area and rearranging the seating arrangements, we were treated to an hour of music, pictures, and stories. Michelle Freas, with Jim's assistance, had put together a PowerPoint presentation of the Columbines including old pictures, birthdays, anniversaries, and narratives as to how each couple had met. It was a fun and entertaining presentation. The chapter really appreciated the many hours that they had invested in this project to make it happen.

The next morning, the Columbines were sent on their way home or to parts unknown by a generous continental breakfast served by exhausted wagonmasters.

By Dick Dugdale