Day 4: Some may never live, but the crazy never die
When I opened the door of my motel room, I was greeted by dense fog and a steady cold wind. The sky was grey for as far as I could see, so I stayed in the room for a while, repacking my bags, updating this site and drinking coffee. Once the fog dissipated a bit, I made my way back to the interstate en route to Colorado Springs.
Overcast skies had me in a bit of a funk, but a few miles down the road, I crossed under an overpass, and somehow, all the clouds disappeared. I mean, all of them. Freaked me out a little.
At Limon, I left I-70 for U.S. 24, the highway to Colorado Springs. My plan for the day included getting to the summit of Pikes Peak and dinner at the Woody Creek Tavern, and there was no reason to go to Denver unless you like being in a police state—preparations for the Democratic National Convention were already underway, and I couldn’t afford the delays.
The drive to Colorado Springs is full of rolling hills and small communities, with the shadowy blue silhouette of Pikes Peak at the horizon. Its size seemed to grow exponentially the closer I got.
As I got closer, I decided to visit the Garden Of The Gods, a magnificent set of rock formations just outside Colorado Springs. It was, as expected, packed to the gills with tourists, so I didn’t spend as much time as I’d have liked, because I am not a hiker, and the photo opportunities were marred by people. Still, I managed these two:
After leaving the park, I thought it was as good a time as any to make the summit of Pikes Peak. $10 poorer, I began driving up the winding Pikes Peak Highway, and started getting altitude sickness almost immediately. Still, I was determined to make it to the summit. After all, Alton Brown made it on a motorcycle and brewed coffee from melted snow during the first series of Feasting On Asphalt. How hard could it be?
Hard. So hard that I only made it as far as Crystal Reservoir, still several miles down the road and a mile lower in elevation than the summit. I was dizzy and disoriented and had to turn back, but not before taking a photo of the gorgeous scene in front of me:
On the way down, I also stopped at Ute Pass to give my brakes a rest, and saw this:
I punched up the location of Woody Creek Tavern on my GPS and took the shorter of the two routes it offered.
Boy, was that a mistake.
The shortest route from Pikes Peak to Woody Creek follows Colorado 82, which looked relatively benign on the screen. What it didn’t show was that a sizeable portion of the route involved driving all the way up and down a mountain.
On the other side, I finally made it to through Aspen to Woody Creek Tavern. WCT is the place Dr. Hunter S. Thompson held court for many, many years, and the decor shows it. Original “Thompson for Sheriff 1970” posters, original Ralph Steadman sketches, photos, bumper stickers, paintings and memorabilia related the Thompson and Woody Creek cover every available inch of wall. I tipped my glass of Flying Dog Amber Ale to Thompson’s memory, and to my friend Lane who wasn’t along for the ride this time (but who, unlike Thompson, is still very much alive).
After a dinner of homemade corn chowder and tilapia tacos, I got back in the car and tested my memory of the previous trip out here in 1995: could I find Owl Farm, Thompson’s residence in Woody Creek, again? I had no address, nothing but foggy memories of a late-night drop-by and intuition guiding me, the same thing that got us there the first time.
Twists, turns, turnarounds, split roads … and lo, there it was, just as I’d remembered it, even if the big red Cadillac convertible and the peacock cages were gone, the house was still there, just as I remembered it.
From the road, I could see a car in the driveway and someone doing something, but I knew better than to stop. I closed my eyes for a moment and recalled the previous trip, our encounter with Dr. Thompson, and decided I’d rather it live that way than add a new location memory and destroy it.
Mission complete, I turned up Highway 24 and landed at the Ramada Inn in Glenwood Springs for the night.