Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Colorado Springs Adventures

September 22 - October 5, 2016:

Every route out of Nederland involves a steep winding mountain pass or canyon, there were several potential routes and I suppose we took the fastest  and easiest one.  I’m not sure it was the right one as it was a fairly miserable high traffic drive.  We began on route 119 through Boulder Canyon which is very scenic, but a steep, winding downhill run.  At Boulder, it’s route 36 to route 25 south and through the high traffic Denver metropolitan area.  Eventually around Castle Rock the traffic thins and the mountain come into view.  We have a reservation at Goldfields RV Park very close to the Colorado City district.  It is a closely spaced RV Park next to route 24, lots of traffic noise, but they accept Passport America and are convenient to all the attractions of Colorado Springs.

Rainbow over the campground

Colorado City is a short walk across route 24, from the campground.  It was the original settlement started in 1859 that was for a short time the territorial Capital of Colorado Territory.  It has several really good restaurants that I highly recommend such as the Bon Ton Cafe for breakfast and the Front Range BBQ for lunch, dinner and live music. 

Love this sign, overnight Train layovers, resulting in 21 bars,
Gambling Dens and Bordelos.  Queen Laura Belle and
Prairie Dog O'Byrne raced down Colorado Ave pulled
by the Elk "Thunder and Buttons"

A few miles north of the campground is another historic town, Manitou Springs, which as the name implies is the site of several mineral springs.  The Indians original camped in this area and considered the Springs sacred.  The Spanish also wandered through, then the French Trappers and then the Americans came looking for gold and silver.  When the gold and Silver didn’t pan out, they capitalized on the Mineral Springs by building grand resorts and bottling the water.  The Indians were disposed of and the town of Manitou Springs was established in 1871.  A some point the town took on a artistic free spirit bohemian flavor attracting tourism which is the main draw today.

A retired Manitou and Pike's Peak Railroad Steam Locomotive

One the several mineral fountains in town

Muzzleloading outfitters love Santa's workshop

Beautiful Aspen Tree next to a sky blue building

Much green vegetation growing upstairs ?

It's all pipes, vape, smoke and mystic in Monitou 

But, it all started with the water

On Saturday we return to a favorite of ours, the third time, to the City of Pueblo, Colorado for their Chile and Frijoles festival.  It is a perfect day and the festival is jammed with people as expected.  This is the second time we have gone to this festival, so the novelty has sort of worn off, but the roasting of the chile peppers and the chile enhanced foods for sale are always interesting. 

This is what it's all about, roasting the Chiles

Many types of chili for sale

Inhalation of this smoke may be hazardous to your health

The roasters are really hot

Many food vendors

A couple of good street musicians

This Colorado Springs area has tons of live music about every night of the week.  On Friday night I go to the Stargazers Theater, for a concert by the almost legendary bluesman, Tinsley Ellis.  Tinsley is one of those guitar players who makes it look so easy as Eric Clapton / Jimi Hendrix sounds emanate from his guitar.

Sunday afternoon I go to the Whistle Pig Brewing Company to see Grant Sabin who I had seen perform last year on the Durango Blues Train.  This is a small Colorado Springs Brewery where he plays regularly on Sunday afternoons.

I then went to Johnny’s Navajo Hogan which is a very cool historic structure with a roof built like a Hogan with circular overlapping wood boards.  It has a historical plaque installed by the local chapter of E Clampus Vitus so you know it’s pretty cool.  This bar/cafe also has a great neon sign, they have live music on weekends and good eats.

Johnny's Navajo Hogan famous sign

Monday is a trip to Denver International Airport to visit the Capital building and the 16th Avenue Mall area.  16th Avenue is closed off to vehicle traffic for about a mile, but has a free trolley that runs constantly back and forth.  The entire area is retail shops, restaurants, bars, offices, banks, etc.  There is much to do in Denver, you could easily spend a whole week here.

Mural on new construction project

Looking up into the Capital dome

Murals mostly celebrating the wonders of man's achievement
damming the rivers, digging for minerals, cutting the trees,
building the cities and other things harmful to the Earth

Looking down from the second floor

The Colorado Capital from the outside

Interesting sculpture near Art Museum

Paramount Theater on 16th Avenue

Typical 16th Avenue Mall view

A favorite view on a side street

Some days I feel that way

The Mayan opened in 1930 and remains one of the countries
three remaining theaters designated in the Art Deco Mayan
Revival style.  It was saved from demolition in the 1980's
by the Landmark Theater who totally rehabilitated it.

Monday night I’m off to Benny’s restaurant and Grill for their weekly Sweet T’s Rude Blues Jam.  The place was packed, a real dance crowd, and so many guitar players and all of them were good.  I don’t think I’ve been to an open mike session with so much talent.  This place seems to be a serious party bar for the 30-50 age group.  Benny’s has live music several times during the week and is a real blue collar working mans kind of bar.

These guys were impressive 

Benny's in the dark looks dangerous

Colorado Springs is a beautiful city with the backdrop of the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains.  It pretty much has it all, the US Air Force Academy, Fort Carson Army Base, NORAD Headquarters and even an Olympic Training Center.
Colorado Springs had two iconic men in its early days who are immortalized today with statues in downtown.
Winfield Scott Stratton arrived in 1872 as a simple carpenter, staked two claims and struck it rich at the goldfields in Victor, Colorado.  He made millions, sold his mines in 1899 for 10 million dollars which made him the richest man in town.  He didn't socialize with the wealthy, gave away much money to the needy and contributed to many civic causes.

William Jackson Palmer began a railroad career then volunteered for action in the civil war.  He was elevated to the position of Brigadier General by wars end and awarded a Medal of Honor for his actions.  After the war, he promoted the burning of coal in Steam Locomotives and development of Narrow gauge rail systems.  He eventually founded the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad, the town of Colorado Springs and the town of Manitou Springs.  He also contributed greatly to  civic causes in the Colorado Springs area.

Colorado Springs City Hall

Statue of Winfield Scott Stratton

One of a series of such sculptures in downtown

The front of the Pioneers Museum

Old Colorado Springs view

An old musical piece from the Colorado Springs legendary
Cotton Club

William Jackson Palmer founder of Colorado Springs,
Manitou Springs and the Denver & Rio Grande
Western Railroad

I take a short hike near the campground at the Red Rocks Open Space Area, a sort of a mini "Garden of the Gods".

These deer cautiously passed me about 30 feet away

A view across town of the Garden of the Gods

View in the Red Rocks

Another view across the valley

These flower heads caught my eye

I spent a couple of hours at The Buzz on Friday night to see the Plastic Mojo Band.  They are a couple of veteran blues players with a young drummer and a attractive, overly dynamic vocalist with a booming voice.  I was kind of thinking she needed to temper her act a bit, but it was entertaining.  The Buzz is another good music venue, lots of music there. 

There was a Rockabilly Expo in Colorado Springs on Saturday afternoon which I couldn’t miss.  It was held in the historic Colorado Springs City Auditorium which I wanted to see anyhow and I thought the Expo would be interesting.  It didn’t disappoint, but I did leave thinking that these Rockabilly people are too weird !  The car show was somewhat of a disappointment, not much to it, but the women were fun to watch.  The Rockabilly thing blends itself perfectly into todays Tattoo obsession and the haircut / hairstyle thing has similarities to some of todays styles.  They had hair stylists doing hair, Tattoo artists doing Tattoos, air brush artists painting womens naked bodies and a photographer to take photos of you when finished.  They had all sorts of vendors and live bands playing, unfortunately I missed the evening Pin Up competition, but a couple of hours of this ridiculousness was enough.

Looks trashy to me

They all want to be Pin Up girls

Don't know what this look has to do with Rockabilly ?

This guy did Elvis justice

The artistry continued on  the front side

Nice polka dot paint job, but sexy, NOT !

OK, this is good

Great mural by Archie Musick in the auditorium.  Archie
blew into town on a freight train in 1924.  He fell in love 
with the area and stayed.  He taught ,art locally for 33 
years and painted several murals, this is mural is called
"Hard Rock Miners".

On Saturday, it was to the Front Range BBQ in nearby Colorado City to hear another veteran blues playing couple, Joe and Vicki Price.  This BBQ joint is great, it was featured on an episode of Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.  It was packed with people for dinner with a long wait for a table, but luckily for me an open seat at the bar.  As I’m eating, the couple on my right mentions something about Deborah, Iowa, which I once visited to see my friend Gordon Tindall.  As I tell them this, the musicians, Joe and Vicki, (also from Iowa) show up on my left.  Joe and Vicki are also from the Decorah area and remember Gordon’s diner in Decorah and his present Spud Boy Diner in Lanesboro, Minnesota.  Vicki even says she is somehow related to Gordon’s wife Val.  It was a pretty amazing coincidence.  Joe and Vicki have been performing for decades, have opened for many notable blues musicians and have an amazing and unique style.  If you like old country, finger picking, slide, foot stomping blues you need to see these guys, there’re classic.

Joe and Vicki were great !

Sunday morning I feel the need for some hiking so I am off to the Garden of the Gods.  It was super crowded, but the weather was good and I did a few miles and saw the sights.  This area was saved from development by the actions of a few prominent forward thinking Colorado Springs pioneers.

These rock formation all have silly names which I
am never able to remember later.

This massive Red Rock fortress has an arch near the top

These are all so immense

I believe this to be the White Rock, that makes sense 

Everyone has to climb or pose at the Balancing Rock

Later in the afternoon, I head to the Jack Quinn Irish Alehouse and Pub for the weekly Sunday afternoon traditional Irish music session.  They have about 15 people in a circle with all kinds of instruments who all play together.  The same people must play together every Sunday and they all know the songs and play well together.  I went there thinking to have one beer, but they were so great, I stayed for a couple of Guinness’s and an excellent Shepard’s Pie.

Irish music session was good stuff !

I make a return to Denver to explore the area around Union Station, lower downtown, known as LODO.  It's an old industrial area on the far end of the 16th Avenue Mall with many historic buildings.  Union Station is an iconic view as you approach it from 16th Avenue.  It is still utilized as a transit center in Denver although the station is mostly retail shops and restaurants today.

Union Station has been totally restored and converted into
a shopping, eating and entertainment venue, but is still used by Amtrak

Many great old repurposed old industrial buildings in
this area near the railroad now known as LODO for

Lower Downtown

This is "Mannys Bridge" named for a Emanuel Salzman
who fought to save it from demolition.  Manny and his
wife championed the cause of historic preservation.

Another old industrial building

Old John Deere Plow Company has seen changes

Studebaker Buggies and Carriages
once were here

Like the graphics

Seems to be a Cannabis dispensary on every corner,
lots of sick people in Denver ?

The Ice House near Union Station which was a Creamery
and cold storage warehouse in past days; now an upscale 
sports Tavern with residential Lofts.

Twinkles is back and we had a goodeating binge before going back on our diets, first to Jack Quinn's Irish Alehouse for dinner, then to breakfast at the Bon Ton Cafe and finally to the Front Range BBQ for dinner and a blues show.

The Delta Sonics Blues Band at the Front Range BBQ

In the the impossible task of shortening this blog, the Gold Belt touring segment to Cripple Creek, Victor and Canon City, Colorado will be in the next blog, don't miss it !

Next stop is the Great Sand Dunes National Park,
Twinkles and Slick

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