Colorado Snowsports Museum and Hall of Fame, Vail

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Photos for No Apparent Reason (PFNAR) 2016

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YOU know PFNAR: the photos at the end of each blog post – the pics are unrelated to the blog posts and have no explanation. Until now!

Where did I take the pictures? What on earth motivated me to take and post them?

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On the way from Dillon to Vail recently, my husband and I were driving along I-70 on a very dark night. I wouldn’t recommend this drive, but at least it wasn’t snowing. There wasn’t much to see, including the lines on the road, but, as we passed Vail Village, I saw a lighted image projected onto the side of the mountain. Shaped like a badge, it had a V in the middle, but also looked like crossed skis or swords; it was maybe 50-100 feet high, but I couldn’t be sure. The purpose wasn’t clear, and I was left with only questions.

As luck would have it, the answers came in spades the next day! While touring Vail Village, one of the first things we passed was the Colorado Snowsports Museum and Hall of Fame. It was closed when we arrived early that day, but I saw a photo shoot in progress through the window. The subject of the portraits was an elderly man in a military uniform.

Across from the museum was this statue, which is larger-than-life-sized, or else it could be mistaken for a real person:

That guy showed up everywhere that weekend!

The statue stands in tribute to the 10th Mountain Division, a fabled light infantry army unit based out of NY state. It started as the 10th Light Division (Alpine) in 1943 and was redesignated as the 10th Mountain in 1944. The brigade fought during WWII in rough alpine terrain in northern Italy. The unit has been deactivated, reactivated, and redesignated a few times over the years, but it’s still active. It’s the most deployed unit in the US military.

How does it relate to Vail? The training for WWII soldiers of the 10th Mountain took place at Camp Hale, just 14 miles from Vail. Many veterans of the 10th founded or helped found and run at least 60 ski resorts after the war, too, including Vail. Lots of credit is given to these vets for starting the US ski industry in general.

This particular weekend, the town was conducting Vail Legacy Days to honor this unit and their vets. The person I saw in uniform through the museum window was one such vet.

So, on our way out of Vail Village that day, my husband and I visited the museum. It’s free for a donation, and it is very impressive. I’ll start with the 10th Mountain exhibit.

That illuminated badge on the mountainside I’d seen the night before appears in this museum plaque. Note the crossed skis which also look like swords.

Here’s the layout of the winter gear the soldiers wore in WWII:

The goggles were especially interesting. They are made of aluminum with tiny slits to see through. This reflected and reduced the bright light of the snow. The plaque said the goggles were not army issue, but that they were worn by the soldiers as the best eye protection before the high-tech goggles of today were invented.

Here’s a dress uniform from the old days:

I found the display of personal letters from the soldiers in Europe especially touching:

In this one, the typed part recounts, in more detail than I thought the censors would have allowed, the activities of this guy’s unit and how they fended off Axis forces, captured enemies and so on. He says he “began to get yellow eyes”, which I took to mean jaundice, and now he’s in the hospital. The handwritten part at the end says, “There is more I could add, but it would have made a very bulky letter. One thing I’m adding, though, is I love you.” I’m not crying; YOU’RE crying!

But the 10th exhibit was only half the museum. The other half was the permanent display of the history of snow sports.

Check out these old skis and boots:

And how functional is this ski dress?

Snowboards, of course, are also represented:

Here’s a picture of an early snowboard. Notice the rope on the front to guide it, with a stick to drag along behind like a rudder – think canoe paddle.

There was lots more to see in this small but well designed space. I learned more than I thought I could about snowsports in a very short while, not to mention a good intro to the 10th Mountain. My hat’s off to them!

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Georgetown, Colorado, off I-70 in the Rocky Mountains

Previously I blogged about my very cool trip on the historic Georgetown Loop steam train. Although the train bears the name of Georgetown, I didn’t visit the town at that time. The closest I got was the well-traveled and very modern rest area off I-70. And I will say that the rest area is very much worth a stop because of its welcome center. Not only does it have the requisite bathrooms, it also has art displays from museums and shops nearby, as well as a surprisingly well-stocked gift shop. Outside are coin-operated viewers that you can look through to try to spot bighorns on the mountains opposite.

But back to the town itself. A friend and I went there to just look around recently, hoping to see bighorns on the mountains. Unfortunately, there were none that day, but we ventured further into town and saw its wonderfully charming Old West streets.

Georgetown has just over 1000 inhabitants and its elevation is 8,530 feet. It was founded in 1859 during the Pike’s Peak Gold Rush, but grew the most after silver was discovered in nearby mountains in 1864. The train I mentioned above served mainly to tote the silver ore out of the mountains.

Anyway, the town today is very quaint and charming, although there wasn’t much happening when we were there. It was mid-afternoon on a weekday, so hardly anyone was about. You could see Christmas decorations just going up (it was early November), and the afternoon light was magnificent.


We stopped in a t-shirt shop that had a coffee bar. The shirts were very reasonably priced, so we each got one or two. I think my friend returned a few days later to buy more for gifts!

Here is my favorite building, which we decided looked like a brothel, with it’s purple paint job. It had a gift shop on the ground floor and apartments above. Most of the shops on the historic streets had apartments above them.

You could buy a jackalope for $259, and the price for a real squirrel is $139!

We drove past some residences to the train station where you can catch the steam train when it’s running. It’s a very short drive from the historic district. No one was around, though, that day.

I learned that John Denver filmed a Christmas movie here, released in 1986, called The Christmas Gift. Have you seen it? I don’t think I have. Regardless, every October, there is a tribute celebration to John Denver in Georgetown, with his music and showings of the film. Georgetown’s event, I think, precedes Aspen’s John Denver celebration by one week every year.

I was definitely surprised to see how photogenic little Georgetown is! I’d recommend a short visit, or even a pilgrimage to the John Denver event in October. At least visit the rest area!

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A Brief Mosey down Central Avenue in Nebraska City, NE

I hope you’ve read my recent posts about the Morton Mansion and its carriage house. They are located just outside Nebraska City, NE. Although in this case the term “city” is used generously (its population is only about 8000 souls), it was a fun little place that I had lunch in just after visiting the Morton grounds. Therefore, I thought I would share some pictures of Central Avenue, it’s main drag, which shows much evidence of preservation of historic architecture (many places are on the National Register of Historic Places):

Nebraska City lies on the Missouri River. It was incorporated in 1855, and before that it was the site of Ft. Kearney from 1846. Before that, Lewis and Clark noted that the area would make a good place for a settlement. My hunch is that Native Americans pretty much knew that already.

I had lunch with my friend that day at The Keeping Room, a combination cafe and gift shop. It was very pleasant. Otherwise, we ranged up and down the street, taking in the sights and rummaging through the plethora of thrift shops, antique stores and architectural salvage concerns. Man, if I were building a house, I’d rent a truck and drive the ten hours back over there to take advantage of the selection and pricing. What a goldmine! There must be some sort of grapevine there, too, because, as we progressed down the street, these shops magically opened up just before we arrived at each one. Small towns!

It was nearing Halloween when I visited, so many businesses had decorations out front:

And it was evident they knew how to capitalize on their history. Freshly freshened, old-time murals were everywhere:

We found an Oregon Trail marker, too:

Although we focused on the shops I mentioned above, there are several other things to do in the area, which speaks to a healthy tourism factor. Examples include the Kregel Windmill Factory Museum, the Kimmel-Harding-Nelson Center for the Arts, Lewis and Clark Visitor Center and Old Freighters Museum, to name a few.

I enjoyed my visit to this charming little town and would recommend it to you if you’re in the area. It’s only about an hour by car from Lincoln or Omaha. And bring a truck!

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The Archway Museum in Kearney, Nebraska

I’ve described more than a couple of sights on a roadtrip through Nebraska from the Denver area, such as the Morton Mansion and Lee’s Chicken Restaurant. My husband had a business trip there and I got to joyride along with him.

Of course, Nebraska is one place where our great country gets fed by the noble farmer. Most of the roadtrip looked something like this:

But there was one thing that broke up the flat landscape dramatically, and that was The Archway in Kearney, Nebraska:

That archway houses a pioneer museum directly over the traffic! We saw it on the way to Lincoln and, fortunately, we had enough time and good weather on the way back to manage a rest stop there.

The outdoor area has log structures that look like a fort, complete with bronze buffalo:

and seemingly abandoned covered wagon:

A quite gruesome statue stands outside the main door:

A plaque explains that these two Martin brothers (Robert, 12, and Nathaniel, 15) were gathering hay with their father in 1864 when a Native American tribe attacked. The brothers fled on horseback but were struck with four arrows, one of which pierced both of them. They were left for dead, but they actually survived and lived into adulthood. What a grisly thing to present to our children at this “family-friendly” place.

There was also a replica of a locally famous Hammer Motel, which was located on the nearby historical Lincoln Highway. Unfortunately, now it’s a parking lot, but it was apparently a big deal back in the day. There’s a good article on it here.

The main entrance of The Archway looks like this:

I wanted to show you the inside of the place, but I can’t find those photos ANYWHERE! I swear I took some, but I’m flipped if I can find them. Oh, well, sometimes it happens.

In any case, I found a blog with a photo of the dramatic escalator you see as you walk through the door. There are ambient sounds of horses and wagons and people that enhance the experience. The escalator takes you to the actual archway over the interstate. There, according to the period-dressed ticket-sellers, you can see the settling of the Old West by the pioneers. We didn’t go that day, because I think the 1.5-hour tour time seemed too long at that juncture. We wanted to get home. However, we did spend a few minutes in the gift shop, where, of course, I got a pin for my travel collection.

Adult tickets are $12 each and the tour is self-guided audio. Hours differ according to the season, so check their website. You can even book an event or school trip there. Plus, the outdoor campus is free and is a great picnic area if you want a break from the road for a while.

Ok, is anyone else thinking Archway cookies right now?

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Morton Mansion Carriage House and Arbor Day Farm

Last week I wrote about the Morton Mansion/Arbor Lodge in Nebraska City, Nebraska. For the history of the prestigious family and their mansion, check out that post. As promised, this week I’m posting photos and a little info about the grounds and other buildings, too. A short walk from the main house is the stables, or carriage house:

True to its name, the two-story carriage house contained – whaddaya think – carriages! No horseless ones, of course, but some nice ones. Like this Chippendale, used by one of J. Sterling Morton’s sons in Chicago. I was interested to see the white rubber tires on these wagon wheels.

There was a brougham, one of my favorite words (should be two syllables, but isn’t quite – or is it?):

For the record, this carriage design was named after Lord Brougham who designed it in the 1700s. The driver sat outside and passengers inside, implying a chauffeur. Then there’s this surrey (with the fringe on top!):

There were probably a dozen or so carriages, all in pretty good condition. Downstairs there were horse stables, empty of course.

I like the brickwork floor. Also, outer rooms downstairs had a beautiful metal-stamped ceiling:

There was a tackroom, with a painful-looking wooden “Indian saddle”:

I saw this above the tackroom window:

Though I could tell it was for a horse’s foot, I had never seen anything like it before. I looked it up, and it turns out to be a leather boot for horses so that they don’t ruin a nice lawn. In fact, today there are many different designs of horse boots for different purposes, such as grabbing slippery terrain and so forth. Ya learn something new every day!

The weirdest thing my friend Cheryl and I saw that day was this:

As you can see, it’s a meat tenderizer tool, and it was enormous! We both said aloud, “What kind of meat are they tenderizing?!?” It weighed a ton! Glad to have my USDA-graded meat and Adolf’s!

Anyway, the 72-acres of Morton’s property have become the Arbor Lodge State Historical Park, donated to Nebraska in 1923. Before that, they planted and harvested an apple orchard on the property, among many other agricultural things. Of course, cider was a big deal for them. They even have their first cider press on display:

After perusing the carriage house, we crossed the road to the Arbor Day Farm, which is a sort of arborish amusement park.

We had lunch at the Apple House Market, where I also bought some of the local apple wine and an ear of popcorn-on-the-cob. They don’t grow that here, but I’m from Indiana and couldn’t resist!
I don’t have any terribly good pictures of the rest of the Arbor Day Farm (costs extra to get in, and there were loads of schoolchildren ahead of us). However, I’ll tell you there’s a big log-cabin-type welcome center which is the entrance to the Tree Adventures section. If you buy a ticket, you can go through that building, which also has a souvenir shop, and see what’s left of the Morton’s apple orchard, climb a wooden treehouse observation tower, follow a trail through the woods with educational and interactive exhibits, and more that I can’t even remember. It smacked of school field trip, though, and seemed pretty new and amazing. Best thing: after availing yourself of all the activities, you could exit through the Leid Greenhouse and pick up a free tree seedling to plant when you got home.

I would recommend this family-friendly destination, because the kids would enjoy Tree Adventures, there’s fun and relaxing shopping and surroundings, the cafe serves pretty good snackbar fare, and history buffs can get their history on inside the mansion. To make it easy to visit, also nearby and part of the complex, is the Lied Lodge and Conference Center (hotel). Not bad for a daytrip, huh?

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