"These reckless heaven-ambitous peaks,
These gorges, turbulent-clear streams, this naked freshness,
These formless wild arrays...."..
(from a poem by Walt Whitman: Spirit That Formed This Scene, written during his visit to Colorado in 1879.)
Last week's trip brought very welcome lower temperatures - daytime 80s with much cooler evenings, rather than the recent Oklahoma 100+ degree burners and sticky nights. Some spectacular scenery, though, was the true highlight.
We had only a vague route planned when we set out, but even that was abandoned once on the road. What was intended to be a round trip setting out via Texas, returning via southern Kansas didn't work out, due to disrupting road works or a few missed turnings, followed by the attitude, "what the heck, we'll go back more or less the way we came and stop off to see Amarillo's antique shops!"
Highlights and unexpected encounters of the trip follow with my own photographs, and a couple from my husband's camera.
We travelled west from home in SW Oklahoma via the Texas panhandle to Clayton, New Mexico, our first overnight stay. On to Salida, Colorado next day. On the way, 16 miles northwest of Rye and about 25 miles southwest of Pueblo, Colorado we came across "Bishop's Castle". There's a good, detailed article on the Castle HERE
In a nutshell: the Castle's creator, Jim Bishop, works in his family's ornamental iron shop in Pueblo for seven months each year, when weather keeps him from castle building. For the past 40+ summers he has painstakingly and almost single-handedly constructed this amazing edifice from local stone, scrap metals and other cast-offs. He has constantly battled local authorities who were, initially, less than impressed by his complete disregard for local byelaws.
Almost as jaw-droppingly amazing as his Castle is the man himself. He has to be one of the USA's great eccentrics (and I'd thought England had 'em all!) He has to be classed as eccentric, anarchist, anti-establishment, and an example of how a syndrome dubbed "concretia dementia" manifests. Concretia dementia = "excessive compulsion to build using whatever materials are readily available, usually concrete, bottles, cans, scrap metal and other industrial and household junk."
While we were taking photographs of the Castle he was there, using the back of his truck as a soapbox, expounding on the ills of today's political climate. Most of what he said broadly matched my own views - something I wasn't expecting. My husband felt uneasy about the situation as a little crowd began to gather around Mr. Bishop. Bearing in mind those revered 2nd Amendment rights (to bear arms), and realising that extreme views on the opposite side could well be held by some visitors, we left. I would have liked to chat with Mr.Bishop, and would have certainly asked for his birth date, strongly sensing an explosion of Uranus!
Just one example of Jim Bishop's ingenuity (from article linked above)
Enter The Dragon:
In the mid 1980's, a friend of Jim's was driving a truck full of discarded stainless steel warming plates from the Pueblo County Hospital to the landfill. He decided that Jim could probably put this motherload of expensive stainless steel to better use than the dump could, so dropped it off at the Bishop Ornamental Iron Shop instead. Jim spent the winter building a chimney out of the steel, riviting thousands of hammered "scales" that he had cut out of the plates together around a steel frame. The dragon was completed in the spring and Jim hauled it up the mountian to tackle the daunting task of raising and installing this incredible sculpture to where it rests today perched off of the front of the Grand Ballroom eighty feet in the air! Later on came the addition of a burner from a hot air balloon (that was donated!) which Jim put in the back of the dragons throat, making it a true Fire Breathing Dragon! The dragon usually gets fired up weekends through the summer.
There had been a vague plan that Salida would be our "base camp". We'd stay for 3 or 4 nights. However, due to an uncomfortable motel we moved on after just 1 night, though not before exploring a couple of mountain towns: Buena Vista, and further north in a high mountain valley at 10,430 ft, the old mining town of Leadville. We'd have loved to explore and take photos of Leadville's Victorian architecture, but the altitude hit us both within 15 minutes of walking the main street. My head began to swim, later morphing into a severe headache; my husband soon became breathless and uncomfortable. Sadly, we didn't experience the best that Leadville had to offer.
Moving westward to Gunnison next day, we stayed two nights, explored the surrounding area and discovered the very photogenic little town of Crested Butte, north of Gunnison.
We made a round trip back to Gunnison, via Kebler Pass (10,000+ ft) and mainly unpaved roads open only from May to October. The unpaved roads took us through some spectacular scenery. In a few weeks' time it'll be even more spectacular, when the Aspen forests turn to gold.
Heading east, towards home, on the start of our return journey, your friendly neighbourhood blogger got in the way of her husband's shot of "an interesting building" in Saguache, a tiny town of less than 600 people situated in the San Luis Valley. From insignia on the building it seems to have had masonic connection. Tiny as it is, Saguache is the county seat and the county's most populous town.
Somewhere on our route I'd spotted a couple of toy elder citizens in a rather murky store window. Two live elder citizens joined the scene.
Our last night on the road was spent in Canyon, Texas, a few miles south of Amarillo. In a nearby wee town called Claude, we stopped to look around an antique-cum-junk store where I bought a book for $1 "Effective Writing" by Robert Hamilton Moore, then tried to chat with a local - who didn't seem too interested.
And so.....here's to the next time!
EPILOGUE: In an antique store in Amarillo's 6th street (the street's full of 'em) I bought me a framed aphorism....motto(?) I will apply the thought it contains to my attitude to the United States of America, when I consider some unfortunate attitudes and what I, as a relative newcomer from a different culture, see as its political wrongs.
It goes like this:
I CAN COMPLAIN BECAUSE ROSEBUSHES HAVE THORNS....Colorado is, without doubt, one of the US's most beautiful blooms so, right now, I'll rejoice.
OR REJOICE BECAUSE THE THORNBUSH HAS A ROSE...
.....IT'S ALL UP TO ME.