A Last Blast of Winter Trip – 2002 IV

As usual, I overslept the next morning simply because it was too comfortable under the covers with the temperature outside reading 33 degrees. Vivian and the kids were at church, but I found Gerald in his workshop blissfully tinkering away. It was one of those spacious layouts replete with workbenches and tools of all kinds – just what an apartment dweller like myself would envy. On one wall was a huge blueline print in plan of the Denver Bronco’s new football stadium. Jerry explained that he was one of the chosen few to be commissioned as an electrical engineer for the wiring of all those plush executive suites that are a mainstay of any new sports arena. I also noticed that the architectural firm was the one with which my old friend Ron Booth (from RNL days in Denver) was employeed. Well, that was a coincidence.

I had a lunch of leftovers with Vivian and the kids (Jerry had to make some business trip) which gave me a chance to really enjoy Rachel and Randy (ages 8 and 9). Kids that age can be so persuasive without even trying. I found myself contributing five dollars to Randy’s Little League Bat-a-Thon (something about getting a quarter for every hit off a Tee-Stand). Whatever that was, I was glad to be a benefactor. As much as I play the W. C. Fields part (“A man who hates kids and dogs can’t be half-bad”), I couldn’t help but be enraptured by the precociousness of the two. Oh, by the way, there was a third addition to the Rosso clan, John Alvin (age three) who could steal your heart. I mentioned to Vivian that I had passed by Moore Ranch on the way down from Kenosha Pass, and how it brought back memories of their grand wedding reception. I couldn’t believe it was as far back as 1990. I also added, “Vivian, that was when I got reaquainted with all my second and third cousins, like you and your sisters and brother, and your mom and dad, your uncle Marshall, and Tom and Mary Gould. It was like a reawakening.” Enough of that falderal.

I cruised on down to Denver and made my usual beeline to King Soupers on Capitol Hill – that’s the supermarket whose parking lot always served as a “homebase” – delicious delectibles, convenient payphones, and a launching pad for bicycling. I called my old friend Tom Reilly, and we made plans for a get-together at his house. I had several hours to play with, so naturally I unhooked the velicopede and took off for a tour of my old neighborhood. After a grind around Cheeseman Park, I pedalled over to 1020 Logan and the DeVille Apts. (I always referred to it as the “Cadillac of Logan”) which was my first Denver home in January of 1979. I just happened on an elderly lady who was about to enter the rear door. I called out, “Excuse me ma’am, I used to live here 23 years ago. I was wondering how well they’ve been maintained inside. It looks exactly the same on the outside.” She replied, “I couldn’t be happier. We have a great manager. She keeps the place real clean.” Remembering all the apartments were efficiencies, I just had to ask, “If you don’t mind, what do you pay for rent? Back in ’79 it was $155.” She answered, “$515.” “Not bad, not bad at all, ” I thought at the time.

As I was biking around, I started throwing figures around in my head and it occurred to me that the DeVille rent had increased 230 per cent. Then I compared it with my rent increase at The Village over the same period ($400 to $540) which amounted to a meager 35 per cent hike. And that was for an apartment twice the size! All of a sudden, I felt very, very fortunate to live where I did. I biked over to the Coburn House where I had rented for several interim months and happened on a dude who was just going into Charlie Brown’s Restaurant & Bar right next door. I had to ask him, “You by any chance live in the Coburn? I rented there back in 1983.” He replied, “Yea, it’s still in good shape. They did a rennovation on it several years ago.” It felt good to see the old hotel/apartment house still in working condition. It was one of a kind still remaining on Capitol Hill. On the way back to King Soupers I biked pass the Governor’s Mansion and the fabled Molly Brown House. Gosh, I felt so comfortable biking around the old neighborhood.

It was a pleasant two-mile drive over to 920 S. Gilpin to Tom and Fran’s house. In all my years in Denver, I never, ever encountered any stress while driving, mainly because of the synchronized traffic lights that allowed one to drive 30 mph and hit every light green – a truly civilized city. It had been much too long since I had seen my old friend. Ah yes, it was a serendipitous evening to say the least, recollecting old times with the RNL design teams and swapping anecdotes about all the guys we worked with. I mentioned about seeing the new Mile High Stadium as I crossed over the 6th Avenue viaduct. I said to Tom, “You know, with the tilted light standards and the undulating top rim, the stadium looks like a birthday cake in a melt-down stage.” Tom laughingly agreed. To top off the night, Mr. Reilly exhibited his culinary skills by cooking some buffalo burgers…where else but in Colorado. What a super time! I spent the night in King Soupers ancillary parking lot.

For some inexplicable reason, I wasn’t in the mood to hang out in Denver for another day. And instead of taking the traffic-choked I-25, I opted to meander south on State Hwy 83 through the erstwhile small enclave of Parker. It was my curiousity that drove me. I had never been in this area southeast of Denver, but I had heard horror stories about how the suburban sprawl had all but swallowed up the town of Parker. My fears were justified. A divided six-lane Daytona 500 cut a concrete swath through the countryside with the usual bric-a-brac of commercial and residential development on both sides. The real abomination was the tawdry, zero-lot-line, all-look-alike wooden houses crammed into the developer’s wallet. I was on the verge of nausea.

At Franktown, I hooked a left onto State Hwy 86 and headed east out to the Colorado plains. What a relief! I was both glad and sad I had seen what the tennacles of Denver had wrought. Now I was on a rollercoaster ride, down across small rivers at the towns of Elizabeth and Kiowa and up and over crests where I could still see the snow-capped Rockies at least fifty miles in the distance. It was no wonder because my altimeter read 6500 feet at those points (that’s 1300 feet above Denver). As I rolled along the road, I tried picturing the Native Americans habitating and roaming this miraculous land of evergreen groves, bountiful grasslands, and knee-deep arroyos of fresh water. The Kiowa Nation definitely chose a great place to hang. Then I got really introspective. I thought to myself: “When the White man found this land, Indians were running it – no taxes, no debts; plenty of buffalo, deer, and beaver, women did most of the work; Medicine man was free; Indian men hunted and fished all the time. The White man was dumb enough to think he could improve a system like that.” Hey, was that powerful or what?