City Portrait: Denver, CO

Jan 01, 2002 View Comments by

City Portrait: Denver, CO

Monika is shaking a little bit. Not because of the curvy road without a railing we just encountered. It’s because she’s freezing. No wonder, it’s 30 degrees; and while sitting at the top of Mount Evans, it starts snowing on us. Unbelievable, it’s the middle of August. But the weather can turn cold and foul anytime of year at this elevation. This particular peak, at 14,264 ft./4,351 meters, is one of the 53 Fourteeners in Colorado. In good weather, you get a great view of the Rockies and can even see downtown Denver. And if you are in the mood for a hike, there are plenty of opportunities on the way up or down. We are more in the mood for a hot cup of coffee and a stop at the little restaurant beside Echo Lake at the bottom. That’ll get your brain working properly again and defrost your joints.

It’s Sunday and a good time for driving downtown and doing some sightseeing. Bikers’ choice for a stop and a snack is Larimer Square, Denver’s oldest street with Victorian-era storefronts, right at the edge of northern downtown and close to Coors Field. On a sunny day, you will see lots of motorcycles parked on the side of the street. From here you can walk to historic Union Station, one of the oldest buildings in town and still a railroad hub for Amtrak. Six daily arrivals and departures serve L. A., San Francisco, Seattle and Chicago. Trains also make daily stops in ski-resort destinations and other towns in Colorado.

We take a look at the high buildings of the business district, walk along the 16th Street Mall and make a stop in the Hard Rock Café. We park our bike at Coors Field and watch a game, the Colorado Rockies baseball team of Denver. To me, going to a baseball game is also about experiencing the atmosphere, as well as the contest on the field. If you sit in the right seats, you can see the peaks of the Rockies far away.

Next morning, a short ride west of Denver, we visit Golden, a small town filled with typical Western flair and home of the Coors Brewery. “Howdy folks, welcome,” says a big banner across Washington Street. The old buildings here give the University town (the Colorado School of Mines) its character. Foss Drug Store offers a wide variety of products worth seeing and gives you a feel for the good ol’ days. We grab a burger at the Old Capitol Grill and sit outside to enjoy the warming sun. Right across the street is the Buffalo Rose where bikers usually stop for a beverage. The large back room of the bar has a stage where famous bands of the past entertain fans. Check out their sign for upcoming concerts.

Buffalo Rose reminds us of our next destination, the Buffalo Bill Museum and Grave on top of Lookout Mountain on the west side of Golden. Some road construction pioneers did a great job cutting a nice pass with amazing turns in the rocks of the foothills here. Expect wildlife along the road, so be careful and ride safely! The memorabilia in the museum tells the story of the life and death of William Frederick Cody, better known as Buffalo Bill, Pony Express rider, frontier scout, bison hunter and showman. Just a few steps away, a quartz-rock encrusted grave holds his wife and Cody’s remains. He died in Denver on January 10, 1917, and as the story says, he had chosen a spot on Cedar Mountain outside Cody, Wyoming, for his eternal rest. But Denver officials hung onto his body and finally buried it on top of Lookout Mountain. Several tons of steel-reinforced concrete made sure the townfolks of Cody, Wyoming, wouldn’t be able to retrieve the bones of the famous scout although they had vowed to send the militia to reclaim the body. It never happened; but for a certain time the Cody American Legion Post offered a $10,000 reward for Cody’s remains.

That’s going to a whole lot of trouble for a man who isn’t regarded as a hero by everyone. At least those are my thoughts when we watch the bison grazing at Buffalo Herd Overlook near Genesee. Cody was the principal figure encouraging the hunting that almost wiped out these magnificent animals. Today, their stock is growing and they are safe again.

On the road again, we continue on I-70 to US 74 and pick up Morrison Road (CO-8) in Evergreen (just go straight, 74 makes a right turn). This back road leads you through one of the nicest canyons around Denver. You see anglers trying their luck in Bear Creek and some people canoe there when the water level is high enough. On our ride we are surrounded by large rocks and plenty of wildlife, not to mention the great winding road. Shortly before Morrison, we make a left turn towards Red Rocks Park, a great place to lean back and relax. It’s noon and most of the people seem to be enjoying their lunch, so we are basically alone. We climb the steps of the big amphitheater. During the summer season you can attend the concerts of many famous bands and artists. Bruce Dickinson, Sting and Neil Young have performed here.

It’s time to head back. Instead of taking the busy C-470, we return on Morrison Road to enjoy the curves and nature one last time. After getting back on CO-74 and I-70, we hit busy traffic again. My choice is the alternative route over US-40. Shortly before we get back to Golden I pull onto the little mountain road that leads up to the Mother Cabrini Shrine. From here we enjoy the sunset and the overlook displaying the foothills and downtown Denver. We had a great time on our two-day ride. And it really doesn’t take a lot of effort, logistically or timewise, to feel free and relaxed when you take your bike (and your wife) for a ride.

Tags: Categories: Chronicles