Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Cool Colorado


On my recent trip to Denver, I had a little time to explore the area. There are a number of interesting attractions in the city, which is Colorado's capital, as well as in the nearby mountains. Here are three that I visited.

Pikes Peak

Located about 90 minutes south of Denver and just west of Colorado Springs, Pikes Peak calls itself America's Mountain. Or rather, the local tourist board calls it that; the mountain is inanimate and can't label itself anything. The reason that Pikes Peak is so famous is that it is easily accessible via a 19-mile paved road that leads right to the summit. The trip costs $12 per person and takes over an hour to navigate, with several stopping points along the way that provide incredible views of the surrounding countryside. The summit is 14,115 feet above sea level, which means it is likely the highest that most of its visitors will ever be outside of an airplane. At the top, oxygen is noticeably less and some people exhibit signs of altitude sickness. Thus 30 minutes to an hour is all you need up here before you should head down. From Denver and back, you should estimate at least six hours to complete the journey.



During the drive down, put your car in low gear and avoid riding your brakes. The moron in front of me basically had his foot on the brake the whole way down to the checkpoint, where they make sure your brakes aren't too hot. I even pulled over for a couple of minutes to let him get well ahead and still caught up to him just a mile or so on, and I was taking it quite slowly. He didn't bother to pull over and let people pass either, until just before the checkpoint. Truly an idiot. Make sure to read all the advice on how to properly drive up and down the road before taking the trip so you don't end up being the object of another driver's ire.



Just one of many views from the summit; it seems like you can actually see the curvature of the earth from up here, though that may be an illusion.

Colorado State Capitol

As mentioned, Denver is the capital of the Centennial State, and the Capitol Building is worth a look. It isn't that far from downtown and a short walk from the end of the Free Mall Ride bus service that goes up and down the 16th Street Mall.



There are guided tours on the half hour and those are well worth your time (they last about an hour). The highlight is getting to walk up to the top of the dome and go outside, where you can see the city surrounding. Below is a picture of the Civic Center which lies west of the Capitol. You can do a self-guided tour, but you are not allowed into the dome without an official guide.



Wings Over the Rockies

I am a big fan of aviation and found a brochure about this airplane museum while at the Capitol. It is about a 30-minute bus ride from there and well worth the trip if you like old planes, such as the B-52 bomber below.



Admission is $12.50 but the brochure had a 50% off coupon for the second person, so it ended up being $9.375 per person as Sharpy joined me on this little venture.



There are a few dozen exhibits around, mostly military in nature as you can see above, but the most surprising is the X-Wing fighter from Star Wars. This one was actually used in the Battle of Yavin.



The museum is inside a hangar that sits on what use to be Lowry Air Force Base and takes a good couple of hours if you read everything. There are exhibits related to space exploration, the Air National Guard, a local crash from several decades ago, and several other aviation areas. Each comes with quite a bit of detail, so make sure to allot enough time to see it all.

Afterward, you can enjoy a meal at the Lowry Beer Garden which is right next door. This is an open-air bar with a decent selection of craft brews and a healthy food menu, as well as a few TVs to catch up on sports. A perfect spot!

Notes

Sometimes you happen upon things that are not mentioned in the tourist information centres, such as this small garden inside an outline of the United States. Note the engravings on the side that represent  what each are of the country is famous for (lizards in Florida for example). This is at the southwest corner of Grant Street and 18th Avenue just a couple of blocks from the Capitol and is easily visible on the satellite view of Google Maps. Not really worth a trip in itself, but a nice find as we were wandering around.



My blog is about sports travel, but it is important to remember that when you are on the road, there is more to see than just sports. Denver is one of the cities where this is definitely true, and there are many others. Always take the time to check out just one attraction when you are in a new place, you will be glad you did.

Best,

Sean

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