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Mr. Toy's Train Travel Tales

The California Zephyr, August 2000

Page 6

Sunday, August 13

This morning we saw part of our family head home to Oregon, while the rest of us were finally cut loose to play tourist. The four of us checked out of our room and joined some cousins, Mike and Roberta, and headed downtown.

The Toys were scheduled to check into the Queen Ann Inn, a bed and breakfast near downtown. But we couldn't check in until late afternoon, so we had some time to kill. We found a parking lot between the capitol and the Adams Mark Hotel. Arrrgh! It was a good ten degrees hotter here than in the suburbs. It was very unpleasant.

The parking lot left much to be desired, too. The pavement was uneven and in many places falling apart. The prices were outrageous. The normal rate was $6.00 per hour, but since this was a Sunday we could park as long as we wanted for that amount. The pay station consisted of a box with one tiny slot for every space. One had to push dollar bills one by one into the slot, using a little push stick provided on a chain for that purpose. We later discovered several more such lots with even higher prices scattered all over downtown. Each was as dilapidated as the next. Welcome to Denver.

We had lunch at McDonalds behind the Adams Mark. The line was barely moving, and I had an unpleasant run-in with a scroungy fellow there in line. I got fed up and went outside, only to run into this guy again a few minutes later. I thought he was going to try to start a fight, but after a minute of verbal abuse he went on his way.

After lunch we walked across a beautiful plaza to the Denver Art Museum (actual motto: "DAM That's great Art"). This was the highlight of Denver. Each of its seven stories covered a different theme. Renaissance, modern, the far east, American, etc. It was a most impressive collection. Best of all, it was air conditioned.

The view from the Denver Art Museum with the library and the state capitol.

At 5:15 we checked into the Queen Ann Inn. My wife and I had a small room, called the Tabor Room, on the second. floor, while Liz and Mom had the larger "Tower Room" across the hall. This was a very nice facility, in a historic neighborhood sandwiched between the skyscrapers and the rough side of town.

For dinner my wife and I split up from the rest of the group and went to the little town of Evergreen in the mountains. There we had dinner in the home of one of my old high school teachers, Kay, and her family. En route we got caught in a massive hailstorm that pounded on our car for all of 60 seconds. It hit us hard and sudden, reducing visibility to maybe 75 feet. Then it cleared just as abruptly as it started. When it was over a river of water was coming down the road at us. It was a thrilling way to cool off!


The view from Kay's house

Kay's house was up in the forest, with a spectacular view of the valley below. This was really our only opportunity to experience rural Colorado outside of the train. The air had a distinctive smell, which I remembered from my days at summer camp in the Colorado Rockies back in 1971, I think. During dinner we had a few loud booms from a passing thunderstorm. It was an absolutely beautiful place. I wish we could have spent more time here, and less in Denver.

After dark we headed back to the Queen Ann and settled in for the night.

Monday, August 14
Tourist Day

The day began with breakfast served in the dining room. The hot offering was a tasty cheese strudel. Wonderful.

The morning plan was to visit the U.S. Mint, then the State Capitol. We found a parking place on the street right behind the mint. There was a line, and we were told by a grumpy tour guide that we would have to wait 45 minutes in the hot hot hot hot sun. No thanks. We'll visit the mint in San Francisco someday instead.

Denver's City-County building

Across the street was the city/county building, which looked almost as interesting as the capitol. So we went in for a look. I had to check my Swiss Army knife at the door, and we had to go through a metal detector. Inside we looked around a bit, but there wasn't really much to see, aside from a few statues. So the ladies walked over to the capitol, while I went back to get the car and move it over there.

The steps to the Colorado State Capitol

Inside it was not air conditioned, warm, but reasonably so. We stopped at the snack bar for some bottled water. It was a cafeteria style setup, and at the end of the line was a blind cashier. We told her what we had, she rung it up and made correct change.

The building interior was one of the most beautiful I have seen. Gilded from top to bottom, it sparkled at every turn.

This is a composite image of the capitol interior.

Lunch and beyond

For lunch the four of us split up again. Mom and Liz went with Mike and Roberta to the mountains for a picnic. Meanwhile we met up with another school friend who worked downtown, in the area known as LoDo, or Lower Downtown, not far from Union Station. We parked on the street in a metered space for just $1.00 per hour. Marsha took us to her regular lunch place, a deli on Blake Street called Manny's Underground. We caught up on each other's lives then she gave us a tour of her workplace, which was once a firehouse.

After sending Marsha back to work, we drove around Union Station and saw a yellow Rio Grande passenger train there. (I later learned it was the Ski Train which runs up to Winter Park.) I didn't have my camera with me though.

The Queen Ann Inn

Back at the Queen Ann we had a little nap, and made use of their free internet access to check the mail. We then went back out for a little drive, passing by the Molly Brown house and other points of interest. Acting on Marsha's recommendation, we stopped in at the Tattered Cover bookstore, across the street from Union Station.

Late in the afternoon we met up with the rest of the family back at the inn. They had been to the top of a 14,000 foot peak to experience the view and thin air.

We said goodbye to the cousins, then made dinner plans. We checked a few menus then decided to go to LoDo and see what we could find. We spent a fair amount of time searching for a parking place, and while wanderign around the neighborhood we saw today's train arriving at the station, right on time. So it is possible.

We settled in at Dixon's at 16th and Wazee. This was a great place for plain old good eatin'. I had a terrific Philly steak sandwich. The servers had a great sense of humor, which was a pleasant contrast to all the grumpy people we had encountered in this town.

Denver Union Station

After dinner we also were able to enjoy the illuminated grandeur of Union Station's neon. It reminded us we had a train to catch at 8:30 in the morning, so after a little window shopping we were off to bed.

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