City of Golden, Colorado, at the Base of the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains

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This week I’ll show you some pics and give you some info about the big little town of Golden, Colorado. Anyone who hasn’t been living under a rock will know that it’s famous for the Coors Brewery, and I’ll give you a rundown of the tour there in a future post. Today I want to give you some background about this Old West town that was once in contention for Colorado’s capital before Denver horned in and took that over.

You might remember I mentioned Golden in my post about Buffalo Bill’s grave. In that post you can see a picture overlooking Golden and notice that it lies between North and South Table Mountains (mesas). The city lies about 15 miles due west of Denver, along Clear Creek at the base of what is called the Front Range of the Rockies. It’s that creek that Coors uses for its beer. Golden has in the neighborhood of 20,000 residents and is the county seat of Jefferson County. It’s slightly higher than Denver, at 5,675 feet above sea level. It was founded in 1859 as Golden City.

Though Denver is the capital of the state today, Golden City was named the capital of the Colorado Territory in 1862. When Denver won out as capital city of the state in 1867, Goldenites (Goldenites?) were perturbed. They also seem to have not let go of that, either:

As I mentioned, Clear Creek runs right through the middle of the town. It used to be called Cannonball Creek because of the size of the rocks in it. I’ll remind you that Colorado is all about geology; you’ll see evidence of that again and again. Anyway, Golden City was the “last flat place” before the Rockies, hence many people there made lots of money supplying miners headed into the mountains. People seldom got rich mining for gold, but lots of money was made supplying those miners.

After the gold rush, Golden depended on agriculture (rich farm land and lots of water from Clear Creek) and industry, such as the aforementioned Coors Brewery, which made its appearance in 1873.

Today, Golden struts its stuff as a tourist mecca, as evidenced by the main drag, Washington Avenue:

Did you know that barbers were surgeons in the past?

Golden has lots to look at besides the Old West feel of the place. They have public artworks, such as the big (and I can attest, hollow) metal buffalo in the above photo near the street in front of the Buffalo Rose bar. Also, there is a great cowboy fly-fisherman sculpture just a few blocks away:

Golden is very walkable, with all the cozy bars, restaurants and shops within a few blocks of each other. Get there early for a parking space; it can be limited. There is plenty but you may have to walk (uphill) from your parking place. Another reason to get there early in the day is that the place becomes overrun with tourists by noon.

Golden is also home to the really, really well-respected-in-these-parts Colorado School of Mines, founded in 1870. Here’s a shot from the Coors Brewery tour, and I’ll post that in the future, don’t worry. But the reason for posting this photo now is because of the big M on the mountaintop. See it? It stands for the School of Mines.

Each year the freshman class carries a 10-pound rock from their hometowns up to the M as a group. They all whitewash the rocks when they get there and add them to the M. Almost 1,400 freshmen will trek up the mountain this Friday! I think it’s on a road, but still!

But back to Golden. There is an arts center, historic homes and churches and a railroad museum. I’ve read they have a wonderful Christmas celebration as well as Buffalo Bill Days in July (didn’t make it this year but it’s on the list!). I’m quite sure there is much more than I saw the first time I was there. Don’t think it’s the last time, either!

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Historic Georgetown Loop Railroad Steam Train in Silver Plume, Colorado

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For the past few weeks I’ve described places I encountered on Memorial Day weekend during the mountain road trip my husband and I took this year. Well, the whole ray-zon dee etra of the trip, as far as I was concerned, was the topic of today’s post: the Georgetown Loop Railroad steam train. In fact, I bought the train tickets and then we built the rest of the trip around that!

The Georgetown Loop Railroad is a tourist attraction, to be sure, but it’s a restoration of the original silver mine train loop that stood on the same site.

Railroads made their way into the Rockies in the late 1800s because of gold and silver strikes. Once the rush was over, the railroads were a way for tourists to experience the mountains. During the build-up, the route known as the Georgetown Loop was constructed. By the early 1900s, though, automobiles replaced trains as the main mode of transportation for tourists. By 1938, the trains had stopped running and the Georgetown Loop had been dismantled.

However, starting in 1959, a program by the Colorado Historical Society begins to acquire the land and reconstruct and preserve the railroad and mines in the area. By 1975, a small portion of the Georgetown Loop had been rebuilt and tourists could again ride historic trains on it. As of 1984, the whole Loop had been restored and was opened for visitors.

So, on our way back to Denver from the Bachelor Gulch/Beaver Creek area on Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, we arrived at the Silver Plume Depot, restored in 1985, to board the train.

One of the first things I saw, actually heard, was this:

And I had to retrieve our reserved tickets at the depot ticket office. Notice how all the personnel are dressed for the part:You can see the railroad museum in the above photo on the right, across the tracks from the ticket office. In the background is the huffing and puffing locomotive in front of the engine house.

The ticket office itself was also dressed for the part:

We had arrived early, so we had time to visit the museum (included in the price), which, admittedly, was not very elaborate – plus it was downright cold in there!

That wooden display case on the right in the photo above is a model of the Loop, which gave us a nice concept of where the train runs and the terrain surrounding it.

Then we waited some more – I’m glad we got there early because I got better photos without many people. But just when I was about to get very bored, two guys came out to wipe down Old Number 111’s face (possibly my favorite shot of the day):

Steam Engine 111 was to be our iron horse for the trip. Because the railroad had been dismantled in 1938, none of the original equipment, charmingly called rolling stock, is still run on the Loop. They had to collect engines and cars from other places. In this case, Number 111 was built in 1926 by Baldwin Locomotive Works in Philly. It did some time in El Salvador before returning to the USA. It was on display in Breckenridge until it came to Silver Plume for rebuilding. Then it was pressed into service in 2016 for the Georgetown Loop.

When we were finally ready for boarding, I was glad I’d chosen the “Parlor” class instead of the “Coach” class. Here’s the coach car we walked through first:

And our “luxury” parlor car (notice the chips and granola bars in the basket on the table. AND we got a soda, too, ALL INCLUSIVE! Nothing but the best for us!

I’m given to understand there is a quite luxurious Pullman car available, complete with velvet divans and such, but not that day, not at the prices we paid! I think it’s only for special events. Anyway, our car formerly ran on the White Pass and Yukon Railroad. That route still connects Alaska’s Skagway port with Whitehorse in the Yukon. It’s car number 228, in case you’re interested.

Our car was at the front of the train heading out, and Old Number 111 was actually nose to us because (they told us) the locomotive has to act as a brake doing downhill, which is most of the first leg of the trip. I think it might actually have been because it was easier to put it on the other end of the train when we got to Georgetown.

In any case, we set off! Choo-choo! It was slow going and not entirely smooth, as you would expect. We ran alongside the interstate for a while then veered off a little into the valley and ran along Clear Creek, all on the narrow-gauge track, of course.

Along the way we passed, and actually stopped at, the old Lebanon mine, which has also been restored along with the railway. For extra pesos you can get off the train here, tour the mine and pan for gold or silver (see the two sluices under the foremost tent?) and get back on the train on its next round. We didn’t do that this time, though.

There was a guided tour given by the train engineer that came over the loudspeakers. I couldn’t hear it very well because of the other passengers talking and also because of old train noise. Eventually the woman tending our parlor car took over and gave us the information. Word of advice: NEVER believe tour guides. This one gave us complete hokum (I say, at the risk of sounding even more like Sheldon than I already do). She told us very flawed stories of the origin of the phrase “Miner 49-er”, and gave us a lot of hooey about why trains must signal with the horn two longs, one short and one long blast when approaching a street crossing. These were only the things I knew for sure were wrong. No telling what else was in error. I’ve heard so many tour guides in my life that gave false information – even if they believed it themselves – that I caution you to question every bit of information you hear on a guided tour. (Stepping down off soapbox…)

At one point the train stopped on a very high trestle above the creek. I stepped out on the platform at the end of the car near the locomotive and shot this:

It was kind of scary looking down from there at the water below. I also have a panoramic video I shot out there.

Presently we arrived at the other depot for the Georgetown Loop, and that’s the Devil’s Gate Station in Georgetown. You can board the train at either depot for the same ticket price. We chose Silver Plume because it was closest to where we started out that day. Georgetown is actually closer to Denver. The Devil’s Gate Station has also been restored and is quite a bit more modern than the Silver Plume Depot:They even have Old West wanted posters in the ladies room. Apparently there are bandits in and around the trains in June! 

And what chance did a guy with a name like Ugly Jack Badguy have but to be a train robber?

After our stop, which was long enough for a bathroom break and a swift trip through the gift shop, we re-boarded and set out to climb back up the hill. Now the locomotive was at the other end of the train:

There was some drama getting started on our return journey. At one point the train began to roll backwards downhill for a few yards, gaining a startling amount of speed in just a few seconds. Suddenly it slammed to a halt, and a man that had been standing in the aisle was now lying in the aisle. He could have been seriously injured, but he was ok. I’m just glad I was sitting down.

They called up a diesel locomotive to give us a little push, and it came up to the end of our car where Old Number 111 had been. It more-or-less gently gave us a shove and the steam locomotive was able to take it from there.

We reached the Silver Plume Depot without further incident, except lots of gorgeous mountain scenery and friendly folks. We even saw a real beaver dam. Our snacks were good, the drinks were cold and we made it back to the car very satisfied.

I would highly recommend this excursion. It’s just a daytrip outside of Denver and well worth the effort. Our tickets were about $36 per adult; kids are less, seniors are less and coach cars are less. I loved the sound of the old steam engine and the experience of chugging along an old mine train route. And you can’t beat the vistas!

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Glenwood Springs, Colorado: Hot Springs and Old West

Last week I brought you some pictures of the Rocky Mountains along I-70 west of Denver that I shot over Memorial Day weekend this year. Our first destination on the roadtrip was Glenwood Springs, a suggestion by a server at a sushi joint called Happy Sumo in nearby Westminster. During the same conversation, she also said the most true thing we’ve heard since we moved here: “Just go to the mountains and anywhere you get off the interstate is amazing.” Yes!

So Glenwood Springs lies about three hours west of Denver and is known for its hot springs, something we didn’t really realize until we got there. We didn’t partake of the healing waters on that expedition, but we will next time. For our first jaunt, though, we discovered lots and lots of other stuff. For one thing, the town looks like an Old West movie set…

… except for the road construction right down the middle of town:

The hot springs were used by the native Ute tribe, who were nomadic. In the early 1880s it was homesteaded by people of European extraction. I find the alleyways telling in that the rear of the buildings look very authentically historic:

The railroad came into the area in 1887, bringing lots of tourists who wanted to partake of the sulphurous, healing spring waters there. The historic train station in Glenwood Springs also has a railroad museum. My husband and I tried to visit it, but, alas, we were too late. It closed at 3pm and we arrived at 2:58. In any case, I got some pictures of the station itself:

We discovered that Amtrak takes passengers from Denver to Glenwood Springs in just a few hours, so we are going to take the train up there next time. The rest of the town is composed of fantastic restaurants, shops, tour companies, outdoor gear stores and not a few hotels.

For dinner, I especially recommend the aged pork chops at the Colorado Ranch House. They had a cranberry-based sauce on them that was perfect for grilled pork! I managed to get the recipe, so I’ll bring you that once I figure out the proportions. Here are two other restaurants in town whose names and buildings were intriguing:

Then there were the shops. We first stopped by the Cooper Corner Gallery, which is a co-op of local artists. Then I was admiring the High Country Gems and Minerals shop next door, in front or which was painted this seven-pointed star:

As I was photographing that, I was accosted by the owner, who identified herself as “Patty the Rock Star”. She was the creator of the painted star. She beckoned me into the shop and showed me a seven-pointed geode to match the sidewalk:

This woman was very talkative and had a million stories, not the least of which was how she talked her friend into selling her that geode, though “it wasn’t for sale”. He’d discovered it in Mexico. We spent a lot of time in that shop, talking to Patty and the staff and digging through piles of rocks and gems.

Then it was down the street to the Rocky Mountain Ranch leather shop:

When we first stepped into the shop, there was a distinct aroma of fresh leather goods. Farther back into the store, however, we began to smell bacon, which I thought was pretty funny. I looked around for silk purses. Turns out there was an open entryway in the wall between the leather shop and the eatery next door, which was serving breakfast. So, leather, bacon, it was all of a theme. It was only after I left the leather shop that I noticed this on painted on the front door:

So, of course, I had to look that up. I had romantic, Old West visions of Doc Holliday in a gunfight, finally perishing on the dusty streets of Glenwood Springs. But, alas, I was way off. He was from Georgia (b. 1851) and earned a degree in dentistry in Pennsylvania, so he really was a practicing doctor for a while. He contracted tuberculosis shortly after beginning his practice and moved to Dallas where the hot, dry climate would be better for his health. He practiced there for a while but then moved farther west to Denver, Cheyenne and many other locations. He ended up becoming a gambler and gunfighter in Arizona and met famous lawman Wyatt Earp when he drew a gun on some cowboys threatening Earp in a saloon. (I feel like I’m writing a movie script.) He became close friends with Wyatt Earp and was involved in the gunfight at the OK Corral, among other things such as murder charges, train robbery accusations and the like. However, Holliday wasn’t killed in a gunfight. Instead, he’d come to Glenwood Springs because his tuberculosis was becoming debilitating. He hoped the hot springs would help him recover, but that didn’t happen. He died in 1887 at the age of 36 in the Hotel Glenwood, which stood on the spot of this leather good store until it burned in 1945. You can visit his grave in the nearby Linwood Cemetery. Apparently it’s quite an easy walk to his grave if you follow the Doc Holliday Grave and Hiking Trail, a 0.7-mile trek starting right down town.

Glenwood Springs has been a player in the tourist industry from the get-go. It thrived during Prohibition, Hollywood has seen fit to film nine movies there, including Mr. and Mrs. Smith with Pitt and Jolie, plus the Great K and A Train Robbery with Tom Mix, a silent-era jewel. In addition to the stars from the movies in progress, celebrities visit often. It has a giant public swimming pool, which we bypassed because of all the kids carrying pool noodles lining up there. Next time, though, we plan to spend lots of time at Iron Mountain Hot Springs resort. But enough of future plans, stay tuned for the next few blog posts where I describe what we DID do! As in, a mountain-top amusement park and a historic, possibly haunted, hotel.

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Things to Do in Tampa Bay Florida: Tampa Bay History Center

This will be my last post of the year. Yours Truly is taking a holiday break, so there will be no blog posts for the next two weeks. You’ll see the first post for 2017 on January 12th. I sincerely hope all of you have been inspired, or at least entertained, by my postings and photos over the last 12 months. Also, I hope you have purchased and continue to enjoy my books and ATFT gear (click the Shop tab above for info). Please leave me a comment and tell me what you’ve liked most about what I do.

So, for my final blog post of 2016, I’ll give you just one more place to take (or send) your out-of-state visitors so they can get a snootful of Tampa Bay history. It’s the Tampa Bay History Center at Channelside, near the Port of Tampa right beside the Amelie Arena where the Lightning hockey team plays.

I went there with my friend Carolyn, who suggested we go see the Clyde Butcher “Preserving Eden” photography exhibit, which is on display until January 8, 2017, if you’re interested. Clyde Butcher is a well-known Florida photographer, very old-school, who slogs through the Everglades in waders, carrying a huge view camera. His black-and-white images are spectacular as a result, and you can see many of them in large format at the History Center on the top floor.

That’s just the temporary exhibit, though. The other two floors have extensive permanent exhibits, with topics like the first European explorers and settlers, early and later wars, plus Native American history:

Florida’s orange growing industry:

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the area’s NFL team, and other sports teams:

Florida’s extensive history of tourism, including area fishing:

Interactive exhibits about farming:

And my personal favorite, the cigar industry that grew up in Ybor City:

The exhibits were well done and very well-maintained; no dust or cobwebs in sight, as so often happens in many places.

After our leisurely perusal of the History Center, we settled in the lobby where the famous Columbia Restaurant has installed a little branch of itself called the Columbia Cafe. It has an impressive replica of the original wooden bar from the Ybor City location:  We had a wonderful waiter in the Spanish-style surroundings, and I even bought a sangria pitcher from Spain in their gift shop. Then, I visited the History Center’s gift shop on the other side of the lobby and bought the Columbia cookbook. I’m looking forward to trying my hand at the Spanish bean soup.

Ticket prices for the History Center are a manageable $12.95 for adults, which includes the permanent and temporary exhibits, with discounts for children, seniors, students, youth and military. Plus you get free parking at Amalie’s Blue Lot adjacent to the History Center. They’re open every day from 10am to 5pm, except Thanksgiving and Christmas.

After our lovely morning and lunch at the History Center, we jaunted just down the street to the Florida Aquarium. But that’s a topic for another blog post.

By the way, here’s an easy, tasty cheese appetizer recipe to go with the seasoned saltine recipe I gave you last week:

[ultimate-recipe id=”7998″ template=”default”]

Ok, Kiddies, that’s it for 2016. I wish you all a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and a really Happy and Prosperous New Year. Please enjoy your friends and family, plus all those goodies, and I will see you next year!

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Things to Do in Tampa Bay Florida: Tarpon Springs Sponge Docks

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving – now you know it’s full-on holiday shopping season! You can take care of a lot of people on your list with ATFT gear from my Zazzle storefront (aprons, mugs, totes, luggage tags, etc.). Or choose one of my books to put under the tree for the cook in your life (or photo head or English learner). Click the SHOP tab above for all the details. Also, remember to subscribe to the blog using the form at right to get discounts on cool stuff!

This week I’m continuing my series on what to do with pesky relatives and friends who come to visit because you live in Florida. There is only so long you can talk to them, so I’m posting a list of things you can take or send them to. This week, Tarpon Springs Sponge Docks.


I like Tarpon Springs so much and I can’t believe I’ve never written about it before on this blog. I always take my visitors there, plus it’s a regular stop for me and my friends for some good Greek food and homemade soap. It’s the closest thing to a European village in these parts.

I knew that Tarpon Springs used to be the center of a thriving sponge industry. What I didn’t know before researching this article was that the town was a high-end resort for movie stars and the wealthy before it was a sponge center. That’s why there are so many beautiful, historic Victorian homes there. You can even stay in a couple of them that are now BnBs.

Around 1900, some capitalist came and, seeing a thriving sponge industry in Key West, decided to create some competition, seeing as how Tarpon Springs had large, prolific sponge beds in its waters. Up til then, sponging consisted of raking the sponges into a boat with a claw on a long pole. A Greek sponge buyer told this capitalist that the Greeks had better tech (i.e., rubberized sponge-diving suits with those big bronze helmets) and helped him bring a bunch of Greek divers and their families to Tarpon Springs to live and work. The town boomed!

Soon the docks were built up and the Sponge Exchange was built as a center for buying and selling. Today, the Sponge Exchange has lots of shops where you can find beach clothes, shells, jewelry, souvenirs and, yes, lots of sponges. There’s even a giant plastic great white shark suitable for photographing your crazy friends in front of.


In the 1940s a blight wiped out most of the sponges and the industry dried up (really, no pun intended!). Now it’s mostly a tourist area, but I’ve read that the sponge population has recovered enough that the industry is once again thriving.  You can find a much more detailed history on the Authentic Florida website than I’m giving you here.

It’s truly a seaside neighborhood and you can see evidence of the spongers and shrimpers and recreational boaters floating nearby:





But what I like most about Tarpon Springs are its nautical and highly photographable details:






Ok, that last one isn’t nautical, but it’s cool!

My favorite shop there is Getaguru handmade olive-oil soaps:


Next favorite are the restaurants. Costas Greek restaurant just off the main drag is my most frequented one. I can also recommend Hellas, near the middle of Dodecanese, and Rusty Bellies at the far end:


They have the best hush puppies!


You can buy fresh catch from the fishmonger next door (they have crabs):

fishmonger The Sponge Docks are located on Dodecanese Boulevard just off Alternate 19. The Greek influence is immediately apparent when you turn onto the street, even if you don’t see the giant St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral on Alternate 19 as you drive in. I haven’t been to Greece yet, but those in the know have told me that the Sponge Docks look just like it. The sky and water always seem to be that deep Aegean blue and the stark white buildings stand in beautiful contrast. It’s truly lovely. I even like shopping there; there are many bins of cheap souvenirs, yes, but they also have tons of beautiful, comfy cotton clothing from Greece as well.

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