“OK – Am focused on our trip again so will take up the saga having just arrived in Colorado Springs, Sunday afternoon, May 29, in a slight drizzle. We first stopped at the National Rodeo Hall of Fame Museum, easily recognizable by the big statue of Casey Tibbs on a bucking bronco out front. I remembered Tibbs, Jim Shoulders, and Larry Mahan from my youth, but haven’t kept up. Very interesting in that the Hall of Fame also inducts the great bulls and horses as well. One bull was cited as having participated in 1500 attempted rides. Only one time was he ridden for the full 8-seconds. 1499 wins, 1 loss – imagine a baseball pitcher or a boxer with that record! I think his name was Tornado. Almost no female members. Apparently the women’s lib movements are somewhat less insistent that girls learn to ride a 1700 lb bull than drive a tank. We went on into town and checked into the Econo-Lodge Downtown. Not recommended, although it was cheap and convenient. AAA gave it 2.5 stars. My grade would be one moon, but like I said it was cheap which (in the pre-bedbug era) pretty much meets all my imperative criteria. We had dinner in the old Denver and Rio Grande (D&RG) RR station which is now an Italian restaurant decorated to look like a railroad station. It was full of antique RR stuff, and a big BNSF freight would go by about every 15 minutes. A terrific restaurant, ideal location, highly recommended, and as a bonus the service and food weren’t bad.
My brother Robert picked us up early enough Monday morning. We drove down thru Canon City and up the mesa to the Royal Gorge Bridge. The views from the suspension bridge are exceptional, not adequately described by me so I won’t try except to say that during creation our Father glorified Himself there about a billion times moreso than in Louisiana or South Texas. From the bridge deck its over 1000 ft to the Arkansas River below, where the D&RG “Scenic Line of the World” ran. I took a lot of pictures, my favorite, the “No fishing from Bridge” sign, but the postcards are better. We all walked across the bridge (~ 1/2 mile) and back, but they allow vehicles on it also. The bridge has a wooden deck and it shakes when a car or bus goes by. There is an aerial gondola crossing the Gorge in addition to the bridge, and the steepest inclined railway in the world that will take you to the Hanging Bridge at the bottom of the Gorge and back.
After experiencing the grandeur of the Gorge from its rims, we drove back into Canon City to the restored Santa Fe RR station and boarded the Canon City and Royal Gorge excursion train to see the Gorge up close, Arkansas river level. Bob had reservations for us for lunch on the train in the exquisitely-appointed 1st class dining car. The train is pulled by a pair of old C&NW F7’s liveried up to look like the original D&RG diesels. Food was the best we had on the whole trip, 5 stars. And the same scenery we saw from the top of the plateau on the bridge we now saw from the diner (or open observation cars) and it was even better than the food. We went all the way through the canyon (They call it the Royal Gorge because of all the food we consumed during the trip), then stopped for a photo op 1090 ft under the suspension bridge and right on top of the world-famous “hanging bridge.” Santa Fe/D&RG had to suspend their RR tracks along the river for a few hundred yards where there was no room or way to cut a right-of-way into the side of the cliffs, so they invented the hanging bridge. Its an engineering marvel, about 100 years old, and best seen to be appreciated, so you will either have to go, or look at my souvenir book or photos, a weak, unendorsed choice. I watched the videotape I bought as a souvenir just this weekend, and can claim that the Royal Gorge trip rivals the White Pass and Yukon excursion from Skagway AK to the top of the Pass for pure, unadulterated scenic beauty. And if you throw in the great food, Royal Gorge is the winner.
Leaving Canon City, we drove by the old CO Territorial Prison. It is now a museum, a tourist attraction, and …State prison. Reminded me of Brushy at Petros TN the way it was cut back into the mountain. We headed back north to Cripple Creek, one of a bunch of mining towns in the area that are still taking a lot of gold and silver out of the ground. At Cripple Creek we went through the Cripple Creek and Victor RR station/museum and got on the Cripple Creek and Victor narrow gauge excursion train. It doesn’t go all the way to Victor anymore, just 4-5 miles out of town, past 2 -3 dozen gold mines, some shut down, some working, some big, some small. Our engineer/fireman/conductor/brakeman/tour guide said that the biggest gold mine in the area now is located in downtown Cripple Creek on Main Street, the new casino/hotel. The ones that dig it out of the ground only make a couple million each year. The casino does that every few days. P.T. Barnum was right.
After Cripple Creek we drove around the base of Pike’s Peak and back to CO Springs, where our Dad had a peanut butter cracker fit. We stopped at 3-4 different places looking for square, peanut butter-filled cheese-crackers. We discovered Dad can be a tad persnickety when it comes to peanut butter-filled cheese-crackers. They shall not be round (place # 1). They shall not be peanut-butter filled cookie-crackers (place # 2). They shall not be cheese-filled cheese crackers (place # 3). Needless to say, when we found a place that passed muster (place # 4, a 7-11), we bought every square, peanut butter-filled cheese-cracker they had. We finished the trip 14 days later with 2 packs left.
Weather all day had been good but it was now raining pretty steadily, so we called it a night. Pike’s Peak or bust, Garden of the gods, coins, Brown Palace, and back on the Zephyr in the next installment.”