US 50 just west of Wellsville, almost to the Gorge
We turned onto US 50 near the town of Salida, Colorado. Not long after the highway began to parallel both the Denver and Rio Grande railroad tracks and the Arkansas River. Both of these cut through the Arkansas River Valley making a natural place to put the highway. It also made for some pretty landscapes. The river would run close and the dance away from the highway, only to return a few miles later.
This dance continued for most of the next hour, when the river wandered far out of sight to the north.
Then it attacked at a right angle just a mile or so from out turn off, and we crossed the river. It continued out of sight. We expected to see it again later in the day.
Jessi is all tuckered out
About a mile and a half later we passed the turn off to the Royal Gorge. We were planning to visit, but our first stop of the day was going to be Buckskin Joe.
Buckskin Joe Frontier Town and Railway is a recreated Old West town complete with gunfights and a (mini) railroad. The railroad is just to get you closer to the Gorge. But, the town gets you closer to the Old West.
As a matter of fact it has been used as a movie set for 21 different Hollywood films including; True Grit, Cat Ballou, The Cowboys, How the West was Won, The Sacketts, and Lightning Jack. The likes of John Wayne, James Arness, Sam Elliot and Charles Bronson walked the dusty streets of Buckskin Joe.
Mom and Dad at lunch
I had been here before, when Jolene was a toddler and then again two years ago. It was looking forward to showing Dad this place. He is a big western fan, with John Wayne topping his list of favorite actor. But, first we needed to eat. Our breakfast had worn off and everyone was hungry. So we all made a beeline for the Golden Nugget Restaurant. This was about the only place to get a meal here, but you could do a lot worse. The food is decent, and the atmosphere is old western. Plus, they have buffalo on the menu. Dad and I each had a buffalo burger.
It was soon time for one of the two gunfights we would see today.
They gave us some background on this particular fight, telling us it was based on a real one that happened in New Mexico (I think, maybe Lordsburg or Shakespeare?). The just of it was a rough character didn’t care for the sheriff, and the sheriff didn’t care for said rough character. Of course they were going to meet in gunplay, or else it would be pretty boring to watch. There ended up being several men with guns blazing away, one of which was a shotgun. That got you attention when it was fired off. The whole reenactment last about 10 minutes, and was well received.
Later, and I think this was at the conclusion of the second gunfight there was a hanging! You don’t see this everyday. As volunteers would be hard to come by for real hanging, there had to have been some sort of harness involved that would support the actor’s weight, instead of his neck.
But, you could not tell, and it looked very real when the trapdoor dropped! Afterwards they invited the crowd to come up a take pictures. I wasn’t going to miss that.
We wandered around the various shops, old buildings, and displays. There was a place set up to pan for gold and girls spent sometime sloshing the dirt and water. No gold though. They had places set up to take gag pictures, and we all took turns poking our heads through the cutouts. We found the undertakers office, with a coffin outside, standing on end. So of course, pictures had to be taken there as well.
When all was said and done, we spent far more time here than I had planned. If we wanted to see any of the Royal Gorge we need to get a move on.
But, as it turned out, Dad had decided that he had had enough fun for one day. He didn’t want to tour anymore, so as we were all tired we decided to just take a ride on Royal Gorge Scenic Railway. This is a pint size passenger railroad that takes you to a viewing area to see a panoramic view of the Royal Gorge. The trip lasts about a half hour each way and travels 3 miles one way. Along the way, which traverses dry, cacti filled land; they have various displays set up. One was a toy T-Rex, in which the engineer had just spent the last several minutes telling you about the monster coming up. It was corny, but it passed the time. Being out in the open air was fun and it was a nice experience.
The Royal Gorge
Once we got there the view was impressive. We got a real perspective on how deep the canon is. We could see the people on the bridge and the aerial tram that spans the Gorge. I don’t think we could see the incline railway that takes people to the bottom, but it was there. We were quite ways from the canon, so all of this was fairly small, but still impressive. We took in the view from the viewing platform for around 15 minutes, and then it was time to go back. 30 minutes later we were on our way back to the car, getting ready to drive to Colorado Springs, where we would be spending the night. Tomorrow we planned to visit the Rodeo Hall of Fame, a museum, and chuck wagon dinner at the Flying W Ranch.