"Hey, easy kids. Everybody in the car. Boat leaves in two minutes. Or, perhaps you don't want to see the second largest ball of twine on the face of the earth, which is only four short hours away?" — Clark Griswold "Vacation"
It's confirmed: Summer has begun. The almanacs suggest the official first day is June 21, but school's out, graduations are finished, camps are beginning, and, just like the Griswolds, people are packing the family truckster, getting ready to head out on vacation.
Since the late 1930s, when Route 66 was finally finished, people have loved to travel west through some previously unforgiving regions. The West is uniquely intriguing because of its various landscapes and lures, from the desert and mountains to evidence of prehistoric inhabitants, including dinosaurs, and legends of real cowboys.
Just south of Denver sits the smaller city of Colorado Springs, Colorado. The military knows it as home to the Air Force Academy. Adventurers know it for towering Pikes Peak nearby. And collectors know it for being home to the museum and library of the American Numismatic Association.
Beginning this month, active or armchair treasure hunters traveling through Colorado Springs can enjoy a major new exhibit at the ANA Money Museum: "Treasure of the Deep." For centuries, the gold and silver in the Americas has drawn explorers and prospectors. Once the precious metals were recovered and formed into coins or ingots, they had to be transported. Sometimes, when sent via ship, wind and weather could send the precious cargo to briny underwater depths.
The exhibit showcases artifacts and treasure from wrecks dating as far back as the 1500s to today. A key component of the exhibit features the Odyssey Marine Exploration, one of the world's most successful underwater recovery organizations. Highlights include the research and technology salvers used to locate sunken ships as well as the critical preservation needed for historical artifacts.
If venturing near Colorado Springs, it's definitely worth a stop to revel in the millions of dollars of recovered gold, silver and antiquities on display. The cost is $5. Group tours can also be scheduled. For directions or more info, log on to www.money.org or phone 719-632-2646.
Travel a few hundred miles west of Colorado Springs, and you'll be in Nevada. Certainly best known for the gambling meccas of Las Vegas and Reno, the state also is packed with natural wonders and history. A small bit of that is seen on a new postage stamp just issued to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Nevada's statehood.
The national spotlight originally hit Nevada even before it was officially a state, when the Comstock Lode was discovered there — still the richest deposit of silver ever found in the U.S. So much silver was mined that the U.S. Mint opened and operated a coin-minting facility in Carson City.
Although the stamp was officially released in Las Vegas, the USPS wisely opted not to feature slot machines or bordellos to represent the state. Instead, artist Ron Spears' painting shows the brilliantly colorful Fire Canyon region with its impressive sandstone landscape. The formations in the painting are somewhat stylized and not overly detailed. Nevertheless, the general feel captures the color and remoteness of the area.
Special First Day of Issue cancels on the stamp will be available to collectors and other fans of the state through July 28. To obtain one, purchase the stamps at a local post office, affix one to a self-addressed envelope, and send that inside of a separate mailing envelope to: Nevada Statehood Stamp, USPS Customer Relations Coordinator, 1001 East Sunset Road, Room 1030, Las Vegas, NV 89199-9998.
Editor's Note: A JPEG visual of the new Nevada commemorative stamp has been sent with this column.
To find out more about Peter Rexford and features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.