features a short drive south from Denver to Cañon City, Colorado.
The temperature is in the high eighties by nine o'clock and will reach
nearly one hundred degrees before the day is out.
I arrive in Cañon City in less than two
hours and in time for the twelve thirty departure of the Royal
Gorge Railroad. The railroad runs west from Cañon City
through the Royal
Gorge (hence the name), a one thousand foot deep canyon cut through
the mountains by the Arkansas River.
train is pulled by two streamlined, 1949 locomotives operated - amazingly
- by a retired engineer who drove these same locomotives 40 years ago in
regular service. I manage to obtain a
seat in the locomotive between Bob, the engineer, and Bob, a retired
CPA from Philadelphia who travels the country by swapping his time share
with other retirees. CPA Bob shares with me the story of his wife's
battle with breast/bone cancer which is chilling and explains why she is
riding in the air-conditioned coach while CPA Bob rides up front.
Engineer Bob tells stories of his days on the rails, visiting titty bars
in Chicago while on layovers and being mooned by busty females rafting
on the Arkansas River.
Gorge is beautiful and intimidating. The tracks run along the north
bank of the Arkansas River and the canyon wall is close enough to touch
if I dared lean past CPA Bob to do so. River rafts pass us on their
way down river and a couple of rafters drop their pants to moon the train.
I'm too slow with the camera to catch the flash of white flesh passing
on the rapids. Engineer Bob laughs and recalls last summer when really
lusty women mooned his locomotive.
This railroad line was built using convict labor
from the territorial prison. The prison itself was built using convict
labor. In fact, most of Cañon City was built by convicts.
The prison remains in use and stands across the street from the depot in
hotel is the 117 year old Saint
Cloud Hotel on Main Street. The bellhop/desk clerk/elevator operator
tells me the elevator is the oldest operating elevator in all of Colorado.
I suspect this has greater relevance to the profitability of the property
than it does any historic value. My room on the third floor is cooled
by an anemic window air conditioner and ceiling fan attached to the not-historic
drop down ceiling. The bellhop/desk clerk/elevator operator (his
forehead beaded with sweat) tells me I should just leave the air conditioner
on so it the room will eventually cool down. Before returning to
the lobby, he reminds me I'm on the third floor and the hot water will
take a few minutes to reach my shower. The hotel was also built with
City is in the grips of full-fledge red, white and blue fever. Every
store window features red, white and blue themes. The wedding store
even offers a red,
white and blue striped wedding dress with accompanying brides maids
dresses in full matching colors.
Colorado, especially this portion of Colorado,
is Christian Country. Passing through Colorado Springs earlier in
the day, I suppressed my desire to stop at the Focus on the Family Visitor
Center (marked with official highways signs and a dedicated exit).
Cañon City sports a store called Christian
Outfitters complete with shirts claiming: "It's Hell Without
I'll give my air conditioner time to work by watching
Angels at the Skyline Theatre. I'll move on to Durango
in the morning and will miss the Annual
Chicken Flying Contest and Women's
In-House Encounter with Old Glory.