The next day I rode my bicycle 26 kilometers (just over 16 miles) around the Air Force Academy, which wasn't easy because it was all hills, and at an altitude higher than anything I'd ridden before. It was supposed to be a rest day (you always rest two days before a race) but I drove up Pike's Peak (14,110 feet) after the ride. It was a 19 mile drive, half paved, half dirt roads which turned to mud when I reached the summit. As soon as I arrived at the summit, I went to the gift shop to find gifts. It was then that the cog railroad train arrived at the summit with about 60 tourists, and they all packed inside. I can't stand crowds, so I walked outside and sure enough, a lightning/hail storm arrived! Note pole bent sideways in second photo--the wind was powerful. I stood under an overhang, speaking to a wise old man who'd worked photography on the mountain for many years.
We spoke of the mountain, the roads, life, weather patterns, and lightning patterns. He claimed he knew lightning well enough to work in it without being in danger. I asked him if he'd ever seen anyone hit by lightning on the mountain. He said,"Last year...it came out of nowhere...hit the guy in the head and killed him instantly". Ah, well, then add death to our list of impromptu topics. I wasn't getting any good vibes from him since I was standing right in a hail storm, and he seemed to derive some pleasure from watching that guy get lit up. My teeth, tongue and lips weren't getting along very well either. I was a little delirious, as if I was writing a novel from a stream-of-conscious point of view, and I'd lost my inner-monologue. The attractive female next to the old man kept laughing at me. At least I think she was attractive. Everyone looked pretty good up there. I handed my camera to her and she took these photos as I waited in the storm for death. Hail Michael!
The wise old guy told me the weather that had moved in would not leave for the rest of the day, so I decided to head back down the mountain. I'd wanted to shoot some scenic shots but we were fogged in for almost an hour. I shot these photos of me and Alexandria (the beautiful red Honda Accord Coupe that accompanied me). There was a stone monument in honor of the song "America the Beautiful". The lyrics were written by Katharine Lee Bates and the music composed by church organist and choirmaster Samuel A. Ward. Bates originally wrote the words as a poem, Pikes Peak, first published in the July 4, 1895 church periodical The Congregationalist. The poem was titled America for publication. Ward's music combined with the Bates poem was first published in 1910 and titled America the Beautiful. I read the engraving, then I split.
Then guess what happened? I got two miles from the summit and the weather cleared! That wise old man was full of crap. I should have driven back up there and poured strawberries on him but I just let it go. He'll probably be hit by lightning soon anyway.