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John, a rock, a fort and The Shining

February 16, 2010

I set off for Denver with only the vaguest notion of where I was going once I got there. Denver is evidently not a huge backpacking town as hostels were few and far between. Nevertheless, with bags collected and an address that I was hoping existed I went to the bus stand and boarded one that would take me downtown. Denver’s decidedly low key downtown rose out of the night and as luck would have it the bus dropped me one street from the hostel I’d managed to find.

Out the front a bunch of Mexicans were waiting for a bus, conveniently blocking the entrance, and were apparently oblivious of this fact as I tried to push my way through. Once inside I thankfully scored a room for the night. Keys in hand, I opened the door and stepped outside, straight into a man who had apparently not noticed a frazzled Australian with out of control hair and a 15kg pack on his back go in. I finally got up to the room and dropped my bags, finding it occupied by three other men in their 40s who were clearly in for the long haul; photos, boxes of food and a washing line adorned the walls and shelves. I backed out slowly and went downtown.

Denver is not what you would call a bustling metropolis, but the streets were pleasant to walk, lined with trees adorned with fairy lights instead of homeless people adorned with cups of change. The 16th Street Mall is permanently closed to traffic and is serviced by buses that run up and down, rather like Burke Street Mall back home. I wandered up and down the mall while waiting for Yvonne to call me, an old friend from my Contiki days. Eventually she did and so we arranged to meet at an Italian restaurant just off the mall. Over sausage ziti we caught up on the past two years and headed out for drinks at a bar in SoDo, conveniently called Sodo’s. Colorado boasts a number of decent microbreweries so over various samples of their fruits we planned something of an itinerary for the next few days. Still being used to Central Time I was an hour out, so we called it a night and I returned to wake up my significantly older roommates.

In the morning I checked out, Yvonne picked me up and we hit the road. A quick drive through Denver ensued with Yvonne pointing out the major sights, which didn’t take long, before we got on the highway and headed for Boulder. Similar to Denver, but much nicer, Boulder’s main drag was Pearl Street, lined with cafes, antique shops and restaurants. After a coffee and a scone we drove on to Celestial Seasonings, a tea factory making all kinds of wonderful infusions and teas. We went on a tour, the highlight being the mint room, where after five minutes inside your eyes start watering and your throat and sinuses are burning.

Our whirlwind tour continued on to Estes Park and the Stanley Hotel, the place that inspired Stephen King to write The Shining. The hotel is also famous (or infamous) for being haunted, and so it runs ghost tours of the building. Rob the tour guide entertained us with a history of the building and stories of strange goings on. For example, the music room has a piano that has been known to be played by Mrs. Stanley (the owner’s wife) at odd hours of the night.

We continued upstairs to room 217, the hotel’s most haunted room. During the filming of Dumb and Dumber (the bar scene where Jim Carey waited at 10am was filmed here), Jim Carey was given this room. He lasted three hours before going down to the lobby and requesting a room change after some odd happenings such as doors opening and closing and lights going on and off. The most famous story about this room was after a guy and his buddies had a bit too much to drink in the bar downstairs, and decided to see how haunted the room was. They called out to Mrs. Wilson, the former housekeeper, to come out and say hello. When she didn’t, they started to abuse her and went back down to the bar. A few drinks later, the man comes back up to go to bed, opens the door, and finds his luggage has exploded: his clothes are scattered everywhere and a pair of jeans tied to the bedpost. Feeling somewhat alarmed at this, he goes downstairs to request a room change, but the hotel is booked solid. The concierge suggests he apologise to Mrs. Wilson to calm her down. The man goes back upstairs and does so. In the morning, he finds his jeans neatly folded on the end of his bed.

We continued upstairs to the fourth floor, the former wing for nannies and children where guests have reported hearing children run up and down the halls in the early hours of the morning. The last stop was down in the cellars, which was the haunt (zing!) of children playing around, and also where Ghosthunters managed to capture a creepy little girl’s voice. With the tour done we returned to the car and continued on up the hill when Yvonne suddenly stopped the car and pulled over and wordlessly pointed out to the left. It took me a couple of seconds to realise that the five enormous elk bulls were in fact real. I stealthily opened the car door and stepped outside to snap some photos, fully expecting to be charged at any moment. However, they simply moseyed on down the hill and so we began the descent back towards Fort Collins. According to Yvonne, seeing five bulls together like that is extremely rare, so I felt special.

The next day promised brewery tours, and so after lunch we set off. The first stop was Anheuser-Busch, the monsters responsible for Bud and Bud Light. But there were also a number of other beers I’d never heard of so after the tour we sampled various brews. Next stop was New Belgian, a microbrewery that produces some wonderful ales and where I scored a free poster. Our final stop was Odell’s, which was by now just about closed, and I was just about drunk after so many samples. The drinking continued as we hit Old Town and its many collegiate bars, starting with Lucious, a bar that dispensed lethal alcoholic slurpees; the limit is three because of their toxicity. We kicked on to the token sports bar and the night ended with a Jagerbomb. Back at home we talked until the wee hours until I realised I had yet to pack for my flight to Seattle in 8 hours, and so I did just that and fell asleep.

N.B. At Luscious, I was looking over the photos I’d taken from the Stanley Hotel when I noticed a blue shadow that I hadn’t seen before. The plot thickens…

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