Spotted on the Roadside: Giant Milk Can

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Who doesn’t like ice cream served out of a giant milk can? Little Man Ice Cream drew a crowd even on a cold March evening. You may ask yourself: “Self, even in this relatively large milk can, how could one possibly fit all of theses flavors?” The answer is: they don’t, so I may never know what a Space Junkie actually tastes like, though Salted Oreo was at least interesting if not life-changing. Spotted on 16th St in Denver.

Why’d they build this ghost town so far away?

 

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When I saw the brochure for “Ghost Town Wild West Museum” near Colorado Springs, I was under the impression that it was actually a ghost town with a wild west museum inside, something along the lines of Cripple Creek, only with something to do there other than gamble and be depressed. Now, the thought crossed my mind that it was awfully close to a major-ish city to be a ghost town, but my pressed penny-loving lizard brain pushed that thought away. When we pulled into the parking lot and saw one building, I knew I was right to be suspicious.
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The Ghost Town Wild West Museum is essentially a small-scale wild west town built inside of a warehouse. This isn’t to say it’s bad, it’s just not an actual ghost town, no matter how many times it says “authentic” in the brochure. It reminded me a lot of “The Streets of Yesterday” in The House on the Rock, but on a much lesser scale.

After we paid our entry fee, I asked the employee if they had a pressed penny machine. She looked at me as though I had just sprouted a second head and said snottily, “We don’t have anything like that here.” I felt embarrassed until I walked in and saw that HALF THE DAMN PLACE WAS COIN-OPERATED.

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All of these machines, the shooting gallery, EVERYTHING cost extra and was coin-operated, but no, I could see how they’d be above something like a pressed penny machine. What bothers me is that they don’t have the decency to tell you outside that you need another ten dollars in quarters to see the attractions inside. House on the Rock also had a mess of coin-operated items, but they tell you in advance that you’ll need tokens and they even give you a handful. The Ghost Town Wild West Museum doesn’t even have an ATM if you wanted to withdraw cash to do these things, and then they have the audacity to have an animatronic prisoner who begs you for money to (I am not making this up) buy a gun.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASo on this “authentic” sign, we learn that old-timey miners used backwards letters to evoke a sense of false whimsy, like the ‘r’ in Toys ‘r’ Us.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAlso note the old-timey, authentic christmas lights.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOld timey authentic ghost town or hipster’s living room? YOU DECIDE.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI told Jason to rob the bank, and with each progressive photo, I told him to make a meaner face. Meaner. MEANER! MEANER!

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis animatronic guy claimed to have a cure for everything except baldness in men and “the gossip habit” in women. Fuck you, old timey asswad.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPlease tell me this is the etymology of the phrase “horse pills”: human and horse-shared medicine.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIf you get the used soap, just consider that you’re getting pubes thrown in FOR FREE.

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Old timey town or a hipster’s living room? YOU DECIDE.

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This little girl is going to learn an important lesson about co-pays and deductibles, because this old timey doctor doesn’t work for free.

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I am going to install a skinny mirror in my house and use it exclusively. I’d better eat ice cream for breakfast again, I just can’t seem to gain weight!

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI really like Chester A. Arthur’s taste in bedroom sets, but his taste in quilts was apparently ghastly.

For an additional fee (surprise!), you can have your name printed into an old-timey newspaper. I decided they’d gotten enough out of me already and that a little photo editing would suit me just as well.

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Garden of the Gods

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As I drove into Manitou Springs, the change in landscape was so astounding that I could have been convinced I was driving on Mars. Red, bulbous cliffs suddenly rise up and tower over the road, with fingers of silvery brush clinging to them. While you can see this landscape anywhere in the Manitou Springs area, the best place to be awed by nature is in the (free!) city park, Garden of the Gods. Its 1300 acres contain an abundance of plant and animal life, as well as a number of enormous sandstone rock formations, many of which are over 300 million years old! The Garden of the Gods was originally purchased by Charles Perkins in 1879, and upon his death, it was gifted to the city of Colorado Springs to be used as a park, with the stipulation that it remain free for all visitors.  Sadly, their Segway tours are summer-only, so this won’t turn into a story of me careening off a cliff…this time.

Near the entrance to the park is Balanced Rock, which shares a name with another, more famous balanced rock in Utah. I can only hope that one day these two rocks will have a balance-off, so as to determine which is the balancingest so they can change their names to “Most Balanced Rock” and “Not Quite As Balanced As the Most Balanced Rock,” respectively. The important thing is that it makes for a fine photo opportunity.

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Only a couple of these photos accurately reflect the sandstone’s redness; my camera basically looked at these walls of red and said “No, ma’am!” so you’ll have to take my word for it. It probably didn’t help that we were there on an overcast day that was threatening to snow–I bet the colors are even more dazzling in bright sunshine.

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Biker Jim’s Gourmet Dogs

If you tell me a restaurant has a variety of exotic meat, I’ll make it a priority to eat there, and my visit to Denver was no exception, as I planned a meal at Biker Jim’s Gourmet Dogs. Biker Jim’s started as a street cart and eventually expanded into a restaurant, and frankly (ahem), I can see why. They’ve got a number of exotic meat sausages on the menu as well as a standard beef dog, and I think the only miss is the duck cilantro if only because I wouldn’t cry if all cilantro was eradicated from the face of the Earth. Die, devil weed! But I will never say no to a fried pickle, so they have that going for them as well.

I decided on a reindeer sausage topped with “the conspiracy”: stilton bleu cheese, bacon red onion marmalade, lemon aioli, and french fried onions. Yes, I flew to Denver to get something shipped from Alaska. Shut up. Jason decided on the Jack-a-lope topped with cream cheese squeezed out from a caulking gun and coca-cola soaked caramelized onions. I took bites of both and they were both excellent. The Jack-a-lope was sweet and spicy while being comforting and familiar. The reindeer had a more adventurous flavor profile with the slight gaminess of the sausage, the richness of the stilton bleu being cut by the slight tart of the lemon aioli, with the crunch of the onions adding an excellent texture and the sweetness of the marmalade lingering on the palate. If I didn’t have to save room for another exotic meat adventure later, I would have liked to have tried more. Should I find myself in the Denver area again, I’d definitely go back.


It’s cold and there are wolves after me: The Manitou Cliff Dwellings

When I visited the Rocky Mountain Dinosaur Resource Center, The Manitou Cliff Dwellings were specifically called out by the employee as being completely fake and nothing more than a tourist trap. At the time, I didn’t have the resources to investigate this claim properly, and I figured that since we were already in the area, we should still go see it. Their promotional materials were a mixed bag, part of them stating that at least the gift shop and museum portion were “faithfully designed and constructed in the architectural style of the Pueblo Indians, descendants of the Anasazi” and part of them stating that they are “a rare historical treasure. Preserved under a protective red sandstone overhang, authentic Anasazi cliff dwellings, built more than 700 years ago, await you here.”

Of course they want you to believe that the cliff dwellings themselves are authentic, they even throw in some mumbo-jumbo about “feel[ing] the spirits of the people who lived, worked, and communed in such spaces centuries ago.”  A little research uncovered that the truth of the matter is that no Pueblo peoples actually dwelled in these particular cliff dwellings, or even anywhere near the area–the Manitou Cliff Dwellings were constructed in the early 1900s from stones shipped hundreds of miles from a collapsed site in  Southwestern Colorado, in the style of the dwellings at Mesa Verde National Park. This would explain why this “rare historical treasure” is not a national monument, and is instead privately held. Additionally, many of the contemporary Pueblo peoples do not like being referred to as the Anasazi, which is Navajo for “ancient enemy,” so I guess really nothing about this site is respectful. And I gave them money. Damn it!

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn the museum, Jason said “I made one of those!” “What, you did an entire stone-rubbed pot?” “No, I never got it past the coiled turd stage. But it was a magnificent pot all the same.”

The best part by far was not even cliff dwelling related, it was paying an extra five bucks to pet and photograph the Timber Wolf hybrids on site to promote Colorado Wolf Adventures. All of their wolf dogs are rescues (they don’t and won’t breed, only rescue), and their aim is to provide wolf education to the general public, who mostly view them solely as predators, so people will get excited about protecting and conserving this necessary part of the food chain.

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Overall verdict: Colorado Wolf Adventures is a worthwhile organization, and you shouldn’t feel badly about giving them your money. The Manitou Cliff Dwellings, on the other hand, are constructed from real stones on a web of lies, and if you’re looking for actual historical Pueblo structures, go to Mesa Verde instead.

Nom or Vom: Like regular caramel corn, but more EXTREME.

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Spotted in a gift shop on my trip to Colorado, I present to you: Mountain Dew Flavored Caramel Corn, for when you want all of the tooth-decay of “doing the dew” with added chewing.  Note that while this is Mountain Dew flavored popcorn, it does not actually contain Mountain Dew in its ingredients list, so you’re getting a knockoff. Plateau Droplets? Hill Sweat? Mound Moisture? I don’t know how you could get a proper soda flavor sans carbonation–without the carbonation, it seems like each piece has been carefully dipped in that uber-cloying soda fountain goo.

Pros: Now you can feel the urge to do parkour after eating as well as drinking, per serving, the popcorn is actually better (let’s not stretch it that far, I’ll go with “not as bad”) for you as the soda, maybe you have a vendetta against pepsico and enjoy sticking it to them a little

Cons: Soda fountain goo, inevitable hulls crammed up in your gums, the urge to do parkour, the whole point of drinking Mountain Dew is as a caffeine delivery system AND THIS HAS NO CAFFEINE, yellow #5, mouthful of “mound moisture”

Would you eat Mountain Dew flavored caramel corn?

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The Rocky Mountain Dinosaur Resource Center

Before we paid our admission to the Dinosaur Resource Center, I grilled the poor employee about what makes this museum different from other dinosaur museums. He told me that this is the only dinosaur museum in the world that includes fish and marine reptile fossils (aka the T-Rex of the sea) in their exhibits, and that you can also observe a working fossil laboratory; that many of the specimens we’ve seen elsewhere have been processed and sent out from this location. He also added that the things they had in their museum were real, unlike the other tourist attractions in the area (Zing! And yet we still ended up getting suckered into a few of them.).

The Oviraptor, or “chicken from hell”–you certainly didn’t see it here first, but you DID see it here, and the owner of the museum was actually brought in to collect, prepare, and restore the original find. Another selling point for the museum.

This wall mount has the goofiest expression of any I’ve ever seen.  It looks like he’s taking the ANGRIEST poop. Why don’t they sell replicas of this in the gift shop? I’d have bought one in a heartbeat, and mounted it directly opposite the toilet so guests to my home could compete in a poop-off. I can’t believe the Rocky Mountain Dinosaur Resource Center is crushing my dreams like that.

Is there a rule that all dinosaur art must have lightning or volcanoes in the background? Dinosaurs aren’t an exciting subject, so you need to jazz up the background a little?

The employee failed to mention that the fossil workers they had on site were BEAVERS with punny names. Oh, and that the beavers had the day off because there was no fossil lab work going on that I could see. Jason had to fill in as best he could.

“I’m flying, Jack!”

The employee could have saved himself a lot of breath by uttering the three magic words: “baby mammoth mummy”. SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY!

Cripple Creek: With tumbleweeds at 2, 4, and 6pm.

If you spend any time researching places to visit in Colorado, odds are, you’ll read about Cripple Creek, the once-bustling mining town that’s now overrun by the wild donkey descendents of the pack animals prospectors set loose when their gold prospects dried up. A town ruled by despotic donkeys who can be bribed with treats and will pose for photo ops? I’m in!

The day was cold but clear, and both Jason and I were excited to check out history as well as the donkey despots. There’s a turn-off that overlooks the town, so the first order of business was to take photos there.

The second order of business was to creep slowly through the town, looking for roaming donkeys. We looked, and looked, and looked…nothing. Things we did see: casino, casino, police officer giving a speeding ticket, casino, casino, casino, casino…no donkeys. A little disappointed, we parked in a lot near the museum, figuring we’d check it out and get the scoop on which casino the donkeys like to visit.

CLOSED. At the information center, we found out that the nearby Mollie Kathleen Gold Mine tour was also closed. The famous wild west brothel? Closed. “But we have lots of casinos!” the employee pointed out helpfully. And what of the donkeys? “Penned up for the winter.” NOT SO WILD, I GUESS.

Cripple Creek? More like Crapple Creek. No donkeys. No mine tour. No museum. Just casino after casino. They may as well advertise “Come to Cripple Creek, spend your day losing money in a depressing hovel, and make sure to get a souvenir speeding ticket before you leave!” as we saw someone else being pulled over as we left. I can’t imagine why anyone would want to burn rubber to get the hell away from this place.

Look at those photo ops, just behind a fence, taunting me.

Look! A donkey! Just like on the brochure! They never said the donkeys were alive.

This is the face of disappointment. Congratulations, Cripple Creek, you made Jason sad. Are you proud?