When my train pulled in to Denver at about 6:30, I was disappointed to find that the regular Union Station (a glorious, cavernous, picturesque piece of history) was under construction. Thus, we were re-routed to a small cinderblock "station" nearby that was as small as it was sad.
As I stepped onto the street, my cow-eyed lounge car companion, my burly seatmate, and two other (more outgoing) Australians had formed a posse that was determined to find a liquor store and stock up, even though it's illegal to bring your own booze onto a train and/or drink it in your seat. I wished them luck in their quest, doubting they would make it back in time but hopeful for the fortunes of the nearest long-range taxi driver.
My friend Katie picked me up and we drove about an hour to Colorado Springs, where she lives and works as a photo archivist at a library. I mention her profession only because it has endowed her with a wealth of knowledge about the area, meaning that I essentially had my own personal historical guide. Here are some highlights from my visit.
Garden of the Gods. We strolled through this beautiful park at the foot of Pikes Peak, getting some sun and watching several novice rock climbers panic in their attempts to scale the huge red boulders scattered about.
Manitou Springs. We spent the majority of our time in this cute, touristy town at the Penny Arcade, where I put a penny in a machine reading "Advice for Single Women," and it told me to "Try Necking." Point taken. We then got hooked on an old horse-racing game with a skee ball theme, and I hit a hot streak that resulted in 70 points, which got converted into a hot pink shot glass with a tikki theme. Item of note: as we walked past some squat buildings on the main street, Katie pointed out that they used to be TB huts back in the day. I remarked that if I had a business in one of them, I'd make it a train store and call it Consumption Junction. Without missing a beat, Katie replied that she'd have a restaurant called Conspicuous Consumption. Advantage: Katie.
The Olympic Training Center. We arrived just before the free tour started, which began with a very patriotic 15-minute video montage of Americans kicking ass. It ended with a personal tour of the facility by an aspiring Olympic athlete, in this case a 90-lb. female weightlifter who admitted in Tonya Harding-like fashion that there was "one girl ahead of her" that she "had to get rid of" before she'd make it to London in 2012. Do tell!
The DAM. We spent most of Sunday at the Denver Art Museum, which was fantastic. Downtown Denver is quite inviting. After stopping for a lovely lunch at a pub, getting yet another ice cream (Josh and John, meet Little Man!), and taking a walk along the river in the gorgeous late afternoon light, it was time to ride the rails once again.
Little did I know that my trip from Denver to Chicago would go horribly, hilariously wrong.