I had the repair kit out last night to super-glue the sole of James’s trainers. On our last US road trip we had to buy new walking boots as he left his in the car during a heatwave and the rubber soles disintegrated a few days before we were due to hike in the Grand Canyon. Nothing so drastic today as it was a scheduled non-driving day in Denver. Our only previous trip to the city does not really count as it was only a slightly longer stop on the California Zephyr’s route called a ‘smoke stop’ which allows enough time to stand on the platform for a few minutes. There was no need today for an early rise and we wandered slowly downtown. It was already getting hot. The pedestrianised part of 16th Avenue has three painted pianos in the middle all being played by someone and there were several other buskers. I had to explore the Tattered Cover Book Store which also has a café and could have come away with a pile of books but restricted myself to one. I have read most of William Least Heat Moon’s books (many bought in the USA) and did not have his latest published last year, so that was my purchase today. On a previous trip to the Pacific North West I had bought so many books that my case was overweight and I had to repack into hand luggage and James’s bags at Vancouver airport.
James had seen an antique map in the bookshop and sure enough there is an antique map seller not far away. We had a good conversation with the proprietor, inevitably about politics and Brexit which was more interesting now that we have left the Trump heartlands. We came away having bought one small map of the Gulf Stream dating from 1840. Near to the station, I thought I could hear some gospel music and realised that a small choir were singing. However, they were on their last number by the time we got over there. On the way back from the map shop we had just missed the European Queer Chorus who were leaving the stage but enjoyed this trio: The Homonics (who hail from Dublin). I discovered that the biggest LGBT Choirs festival in the world, GALA Festival is currently happening in Denver with approximately 6000 singers here. I chatted to some of the Queer European Chorus members who were from the UK, Germany and Sweden. We certainly do not have this next to Crewe Station at home.
Over the railway is Riverside Park and we sat for a while in the shade as by then it was 95 degrees. It was then time to visit the Colorado Contemporary Art Museum which does not open until noon. We got in for free as one of the galleries was being re-hung. The artists represented were Guido Ignatti from Argentina who works in several media, his works inviting a new look at everyday objects and Molly Bounds, a local painter. We had lunch in their rooftop café. On the way back to our hotel for a siesta, we passed a cosmetic dentistry clinic where the patients/customers have their treatment right in the front window in full view of all the passers-by which would not be my choice. We also discovered that the local traffic wardens get round on Segways. There are a many street installations and examples of street art in Denver but we only saw a few during our one day here. Throughout the day we kept getting glimpses of the golden dome of the Capitol glowing in the sun and the trainers held out for more than seven miles on our ‘lazy’ day.
We had breakfast this morning listening the weather reports which were full of storms and tornadoes further east and fires in Elko County where we are heading later. As we left North Platte on R30, all the firework stalls were selling them off half price. In Sutherland we found another mileage fence. Our mileage to Frisco will be a little more than that on the fence as we are diverting down the Denver loop, exploring the Rocky Mountains and the Ruby Mountains in Nevada.
In Paxton we were diverted onto the interstate for a few miles because of roadworks and also had a new experience: Chihuahua in the road. We are used to sheep and cattle escaping onto the road but this was a new one. One of the locals was trying to catch him, somewhat unsuccessfully. We were now definitely in ranch country and saw cowboys on horseback rounding up cattle.
California hill, just to the right of the road in this photograph was on the waggon trail to California and Oregon between 1841 and 1860. So many travelled this route as the terrain restricts other ways and deep ruts are still visible on the hill. We crossed into the Mountain Time Zone and near Big Springs we switched to R138, still alongside the railway and the South Platte River. After entering Colorado, we fancied a coffee in Julesburg but the first place we saw was shut and looked as if it was out of business. The Old Ford Museum was also closed but we peered in the window at the vintage car and other items inside. It was looking as if only the essentials were open: the pharmacy and the liquor store. James popped into the liquor store who directed us to a coffee shop round the block. The towns in this area do not announce their population on their signs but their altitude. Sedgewick which we passed through is at 3,500ft. I am still adjusting to measuring altitude in feet and not metres. Near Sterling we passed a huge recycling centre suggesting Colorado might be more advanced than some of the other places we have passed through. In the town we picked up a few essentials and the woman on the checkout asked where we were from and then told us that she had had people from Denmark in the day before. Further on we passed two huge factory farms, the first with hundreds of cattle and bison, the second with just cattle. Lunch was on the green at Fort Morgan where families were picnicking in the sun. Some children were setting off fire crackers left over from 4th July celebrations. Nearer to Denver the mountains at last appeared ahead. As we had gained an hour, we diverted to the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge and wandered about looking at plants, insects, anthills, the odd bird and prairie dogs. A better time to visit would have been earlier or later in the day but that was not possible. While I was taking photographs, James was watching lightning over the mountains and then we continued the last few miles into downtown Denver.