After leaving the spectacular beauty of Glacier National Park, Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park, we traveled south to attend a Newmar RV rally in Pueblo, Colorado. The rally was held at the State Fairgrounds. The facility was a great place to hold 64 workshops and seminars on such things as maintaining the
freshness of black tanks (is that even possible?) or how to store things in tiny spaces, but the RV parking itself was marginal. There were 429 motor homes parked on a sea of asphalt. Some had full hookups which included 50 amp electric and sewer dumps, others had 30 amp with the option of signing up for truck to come by and pump out their tanks. It was first come, first serve even if you signed up in advance for a spot with all the “amenities”. Roy really loved the education workshops he participated in and he sure took advantage of what the vendors had to offer. What I really liked was digging into the tourist attractions of Pueblo.
On the way to Pueblo, we stopped for a few days in the Denver area so we could catch up with old friends. The first night, the only place that had an opening was the Denver East/Strasburg KOA . It was just adequate; we were in a gravel/grass site that was full of weeds. The road was narrow and the sites felt tight. The next day we moved on to the Dakota Ridge RV Resort in Golden. This place had a much better feel. It was nicely maintained; all the sites had cement pads and a manicured grassy area.
Because our main objective was visiting with various people, we didn’t do any touristy things in Denver. Roy went on a hilarious fishing expedition with his friend Jerry; they fished all day and even at two different places, but the only fish they brought home was from the grocery. I did get to Boulder one day to meet someone for lunch. We ate at the Hotel Boulderado which was built in 1909 and on the National Register of Historic Places. The food was decent, even a bit upscale perhaps. After lunch I wandered around Pearl Street Mall. It’s a completely paved, pedestrian only shopping area filled with interesting vendors selling stuff such as essential oils scented soaps and the like.
So the first full day we were in Pueblo, we took advantage of the historical sights of the city.
First stop was the Steelworks Museum
This is the remains of the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company (CF&I) which once employed just about everyone in Pueblo as well as towns nearby. The roots of it began in 1881 as a manufacturing plant for railroad rails. As time went on it owned mines, limestone quarries, and the Colorado and Wyoming Railway. Over the course of its history it went through bankruptcies, was once owned in part by Rockefeller heirs, saw major labor disputes, and now what is left of it belongs to a Russian steel corporation.
The Steelworks Museum owns a couple of the buildings on the property in which the history and artifacts of the company are displayed. The photo, above left, is how the drafting room looked at the turn of the 20th century. On the right is how it looks today.
It was kind of spooky to see notes written on the wall of a storage room. Old smokestacks and blast furnaces were in the process of being torn down until demolition was halted due to the discovery of asbestos in the structures.
Our next stop was the Rosemount Museum.
As we found in many of the western towns we visited, Pueblo has a founding father’s mansion museum. Rosemount, also known as the Thatcher mansion, was built from 1891 to 1893 and has 37 rooms and ten fireplaces. It was the home of John and Margaret Thatcher. Their youngest son continued to live there, keeping all the furnishings as they were, until his death in 1968 when it became a museum. I asked our guide how Mr. Thatcher made his fortune, thinking it must have been the railroad or mining. It turns out he did get into those endeavors, but later after he was in the retail business and then was heavily into establishing banks. He involved his brothers in all his business dealings and one also had a beautiful mansion. Unfortunately, it was sold and torn down before the Pueblo Metropolitan Museum Association could do anything to save it. In fact, Rosemount just sits like an island close to a huge hospital’s paved parking lots. I’m appreciative that there are organizations preserve houses such as this because I loved seeing how this family lived in the early days of Pueblo and the influence Mr. Thatcher had in Colorado.
After our big tour of Rosemount, we went to the old Pacific Union Depot to have tea.
At the time it was built in 1890, this train station was one of the most glamorous buildings around. Today it is an event center for weddings and meetings but even after surviving the great flood of 1921, in the ’20s through the ’50s it was hustling and bustling. Traffic steadily declined after that and it closed in 1971. In 1975 it was listed on the Register of Historic Places. A few presidents passed through the depot, including JFK whose picture is up on one of the walls. Also on a wall was the sign above right.
We jammed all of the above in just one day!
The second day was mostly taken up by a trip on the Royal Gorge Route Railroad . The two hour round trip ride goes along the former Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad. It runs through a very steep gorge created by the Arkansas River.
We caught the train at the Sante Fe Train Station in nearby Cañon City.
The train is huge and we were lucky enough to get seats in a dining type car with windows. There were also flatbed type cars for observation. After we ate lunch, we spent the rest of the trip viewing the sights from outside.
There is a suspension bridge at the narrowest part of the gorge. It was built in 1897 and has been maintained over the years. We could see people walking across it – no thanks! We also saw gondolas and white water rafters along the way!
As we traveled through the gorge, we could see the remains of old wooden water pipes. According to the commentator on the train, they are the remains of a system built by prisoners from the old territorial prison. In fact, there are nine state and four federal prisons in Cañon City and apparently it’s known as the “Corrections Capital of the World.”
After the train ride, we visited Pueblo’s Chile & Frijoles Festival. I was so excited to be in town the same weekend as this yearly event.
When we were planning the trip, I thought it was like a chili cook-off. Wrong-o! It’s a celebration of the mirasol pepper and people come to the festival to watch them being roasted in huge rotating baskets that look like something giants would draw their raffle tickets out of. The locals take huge plastic bags of the them home to divide them up and freeze them.
Workers from all the major area farms were hustling to empty sacks of fresh chilies in the roaster and then bag them up for the long lines of people waiting.
The scent of roasting peppers in the air made it hard to resist the festival food.
There were lots of different varieties of fresh peppers and dried beans for sale.
After those two fun packed days, most of the rest of our time was taken up by the Rally’s activities. We did manage to hit one iconic restaurant and sample Pueblo’s signature dish, the slopper.
Legend has it that the slopper, an open face cheeseburger covered with sauce made from green chilies and sprinkled with onion, was invented at Gray’s Coors Tavern. Started by the Coors company to promote their beer, it’s been part of the city’s landscape for a long time.
After the rally was over, we were ready to travel to the Durango, Colorado area and another great national park – Mesa Verde!
Just for fun, here are some links to some other Yates social media sites:
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