The Beauty and the Peculiars - My Family Travels

"Turn it off."


"Fernando!" The stereo blared.


Finally, Mom took pity on me and turned the music off. It was going on our 11th hour in the van, and I was learning to hate Abba. It was torture to careen down the highway in a monstrous van with nothing but the strains of 'the stars were shining bright, Fernando…for liberty, Fernando'  for company. We were visiting Mom's friend from college, Maureen, whose daughter was herself heading to college soon. We were there as much for vacation as we were to comfort Maureen's anxiety over her soon-to-be empty nest.

â–º  Quarter Finalist 2011 Teen Travel Writing Scholarship

The first night in Colorado, more than 500 miles from home — St. Joseph, MO — we had dinner with Maureen and her family. At the foot of the Rocky Mountains, we relaxed.

On our second day in Denver, we decided to take a little trip. To the Mountains. As close as they seemed, it took us roughly an hour to reach the National Park, where we took the trail Angel Falls. Hundreds of fellow pilgrims made the journey to breath-taking beauty with us, picnicing at end while watching peaks in the distance dance in and out of shadow. The week flew by. At its end, we said our good-byes and started the traditional part of our vacations: sight-seeing.

The first stop was Manitou Springs. There, we went to the 'haunted' Miramont Castle, which was first a sanitarium, then housed the rich, and finally became a museum. It didn't make sense–the fact that rich people had lived there, puffed up with their egos, when 'crazies' had been locked in their only years before. But whatever 'floated their boat,' which was the same thing I thought when we started our tour and the woman at the desk said, 'If you find any strange orbs in your pictures, that's the ghost.' Right.

Next, we went to the Garden of the Gods, another awing National Park with orange rocks skyscrapers standing against a flawless, robins-egg-blue backdrop. After that, the Genoa Tower in Genoa, CO. It was a house of over 20 rooms filled with momentos, junk, and antiques alike. They carpeted the walls, counters, and ceilings. The Pickers would’ve been proud.

Then we started the historical portion of our trip. We visited the Ghost Town Musuem and the St. Joseph's Church in Damar, Kansas, which we loved for both its air-conditioning and stained-glass. We also went to Nicodemus, KS, which was the first all-Black town. Next was theGarden of Eden, which Samuel Dinsmoor had built in 1907, when he was 64, and continued building for 22 years. He surrounded his house with sculptures of Adam and Eve, American symbols, and cowboys and indians. He also  built a huge mausoleum for his wife and himself in their backyard. It was… charming.

Lastly, we visited another burial site, an 8 Wonders of Kansas Finalist: the Davis Memorial in Hiawatha. The story goes that John Davis built the 50-ton marble memorial partly in memory to his wife, and partly as a way to spend all his money in order that his wife's family not get a penny. There's a likeness of Davis himself, and his wife. And 'The Vacant Chair.' As stated in the brochure, everyone knows 'whodunit: John Milbourn Davis. The question remains… why?' Seeing it for ourselves, we wondered 'why?' as well. But we laughed, too. That's one way to keep your money from greedy relatives.

Maybe I could take a page from Davis' book. If I get rid of it, people can't use it.


Dad might never see that Abba CD again.


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