A Rocky Mountain Venture…..#224 (the 90’s)

Greensburg Well

The Willson’s Buick was heading west on highway 54,  a Colorado journey to join Gary’s father & mother in-law  Bud and Helen Murrow at their annual summer retreat on the western slope of the Rockies, their 35 ft. fifth wheel trailer a Rocky Mountain 6 weeks  provisional home.   This summers foray would also find other members of Jan’s family assembling in the quiescence of the Rocky Mountain domain.   The Willson’s first stop, Greensburg,  a typical Kansas farming community celebrated as having the largest hand-dug well in the world, not a planned agenda stop  but the highway sign according the families attention.   The Greensburg morning stop a novelty to investigate something off the beaten path, it’s proclamation of acclaim giving raise to curiosity. The entrance thru a gift shop, finding a stairway leading down the 110 foot depth  to the 1880’s era’s townships water supplying well.   Robert, Sandra and Gary descending the stairwell into the dimly lighted hand -dug cavern,  Gary’s dissertation wasn’t the cogitation of the descent  but the experience.

Replica of old Dodge City.

Gun fight at Dodge

The journey continuing northwest thru old Fort Dodge,  erected in 1866 and then deeded to the State of Kansas in 1890 as the Kansas State Soldiers Home.   Another 5 miles to Dodge City,  the famous Cow town making its historic significance from 1876 to 1886,  a span of ten years before reverting to a sleepy West Kansas meat packing community.   The 1951 radio and later television program Gunsmoke responsible for its new-found prominence,  the replica’s of the Long Branch Saloon and the Boot Hill Museum a host to the inquisitive like Gary whom was an avid Gunsmoke radio listener of that  era.   The original Front Street buildings no longer giving a presence,  the victims of a 1970 urban renewal program,  but the flavor of the old west still could be perceived,  the Willson’s touring the replicas,  mounting boot hill,  enjoying a gunfight presentation, savoring the memorable realm.

Double rainbow at Canon City Colorado

US Highway 50, the median west thru  Garden City,  then elapsing less than a mile from another noted Kansas town,  Holcomb, its acclaim pronounced by Truman Capote 1966 book and movie,  In Cold Blood.  The 1959 well publicized murder of the Clutter family in farming community of Holcomb being chronicled.   Crossing into Colorado,  the small town of Rocky Ford,  another distinctive town  nationally renown, noted for it its  cantaloupes.  Gary making a mental note for the return trip home, to stop at one of many roadside stands and redeem a quantity of Rocky Fords nationally known product.  Trekking west thru Pueblo, the arid flat plains of Colorado giving way to a vista view of the Colorado Rocky Mountains in the distance.   The day long venture about to conclude,  echoing in the first nights rest at the Holiday Motel in Canon City,  a small privately owned facility without amenities,  but the congeniality of the management and its low-budget rooms were adequate for an overnight stay.  Canon City,  the gateway to the Royal Gorge Bridge and State Park, Gary reserving the gorge visit for the returning journey home to Kansas.   The early morning breakfast fulfilled, the family having made a decision according a northward 1 ½ hour detour from Highway 50 to the Colorado gold mining communities of Cripple Creek and Victor.

Robert on the road to Cripple Creek

Cripple Creek

Journeying on Highway 9 the unpaved portion before the uphill Highway 11 to Cripple Creek and its sister city Victor reminded Gary of the mountainous roads of Siskiyou County California as a youth with the exception of the rocks as the road narrowed to a single lane when passing through the tunneled walls of solid granite.  The once booming 1890 town now renounced from its past,  the state of Colorado having just legalized Cripple Creek for gambling,  the sparse old shops housing antiques and tourist knickknacks now sporting For-Lease or For-Sale signs,  the future modern-day entrepreneurial proprietors yet to established all their gambling enterprises.

Aboard the CC & Victor Narrow Gauge Railroad

Train Robbers

An early lunch at the Victor Hotel dining room,  followed by a tour of the remaining shops of Cripple Creek and a boarding of the CC & Victor Narrow Gauge Railway. The scenic journey hugging the cliff endowed tracks,  crossing the old trestles,  following the paths of the ore carrying cars to the stamp mills.  A group of masked outlaws,  firing their  guns,  boarding the train,  commanding a hold-up,  extracting gratuities from the tourist passengers,  a payment for the reenactment.   The late afternoon finding the Willson’s receding the 9494 ft. elevations of Cripple Creek this time on State Highway 24,  Gary thankful for leaving the thin air of the mining community,  the Buick breaching the scenic high mountain meadows,  again to acquaint US 50,  the westward venture continuing.  The scenic wonders of the Colorado Mountains fulfilling the excursion as they continued upward on the majestic expanse of the Continental Divide.

Rocky Mountains leaving Cripple Creek


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