Saturday, July 17, 2010

Road Trip to Cripple Creek July 1980

The rain on Friday Night for the most part missed the Celina area...just when it looked like the storms was going to hit us head on, the mass of Radar reds and yellows dissipated as it came across the Indiana-Ohio State Line. We had plenty of rain in the Spring through mid-June, and we are not in a drought, but we could use some rain, and tomorrow looks like the next chance...meanwhile the heat and humidity continue unabated. In an officiating lull I'm off the baseball diamonds until next weekend, when I will alternate between the State ACME Tournament(Summer High School Baseball in Western Ohio) held here in Celina, and the Minster Youth Tournament, where Sam and I help out each year in the Pony(14-15 year old) Division.

Around town, the Celina I.C. Parish Festival is this's only a couple of blocks away, but I have not been to it in several years....we bought a couple of tickets for the new car raffle, but that may be the extent of our involvement. Next weekend, despite the OEPA and Ohio DNR warning on Grand Lake activities, the Celina Lake Festival will go fact as the large parade hits the streets(our torn up streets, what a mess this city has become) next Saturday evening, Garry and I will be doing a first round double header at Eastview Park in the ACME Tourney.

Road Trip Summer of 1980____

On occasion on this blog I write about various crazy road trips that the gang I hung around with in the mid 1970s took...crazy we were, we would pick up after the Red Door closed for the evening and just go...Kansas, Illinois, Florida, Michigan, Wisconsin....Tester, Schilling, Olson, Hromish, others, and I would just pick up and go...whether for 24, 48 hours, or a week or 10 days. Once Patricia and I married and we made our move to Wisconsin, the "Road Trips" off the cuff pretty much came to and end for the next few years.

Rick Pearson was my best man at our wedding in 1976, and I returned the favor in 1981 when he was married in northern Indiana. We were roommates so to speak for awhile in college, living in side by side rooms with a shared bathroom in 1976 for a couple of quarters at Ohio University. We still get together four or five times per year, and as I mentioned on last weeks blog, I was up at his and Toni's new place just last week or so ago. Anyway, Rick had made a few "rock" trips(him being a Geology major at Ohio U) west in the mid and late when Patricia and I decided to return to Celina from Dodge City in 1980, it gave Rick and I a chance for a road trip out west.

When we were getting ready to move back home, my 1976 Jeep Cherokee had a Universal Joint go Patricia and Anissa flew to Wisconsin for a couple of weeks, while I drove the AMC Hornet to Ohio with the Airedales, and some of the belongings...leaving the Jeep for a return trip to Dodge City, to get it, and the rest of the belongings.

I needed a co-driver in late July, 30 years ago,  to go with me to Western Kansas to pick up the Jeep and belongings...Rick had some time off and we packed up my brother Mike's Ford Pickup, and headed west. A couple of coolers full of ice, beer, and sleeping blankets, and we were off to Dodge City, and then on to Colorado, for our "Road Trip".

Now Kansas is hot and dry in July, to say the least, and 1980 was typical...when we pulled into Dodge City, the Jeep was not quite ready, so we decided to drive the two wheel drive Ford into Colorado where the Rockies beckoned we really had no set plans, just seeing some sights(I regret not taking a camera, we would have gotten some excellent shots)...and that we did. We pulled into a small city called Canon City, located on US 50 about 20 miles west of Pueblo. We checked out the Royal Gorge some 10 miles west of town, liked the view, and then and only then did we decide that Cripple Creek and Pikes Peak seemed like good spots to do some sightseeing, drink some local beers, and pan for a few grains of gold.

We pulled back into town, filled the pickup with gas, and asked the attendant the best way to get to Cripple Creek, without heading back the main drag(US 50) and taking the pavement highway, to the mostly(at that time) abandoned mining town. He tells us the scenic route is Shelf Road or Red Canyon Road as the locals called it...we figured, what the Hell? We might as well give it a wasn't dark yet, and we had plenty of time to make the 25 mile gravel road trip to Cripple Creek.

I'm not sure if the old guy was being funny, but Shelf Road was hardly a route one would take unless they knew the area...basically a one lane gravel road winding around the mountain pass, along the Fourmile Creek, north towards the town of Cripple Creek. Like I said, I wish we had taken a camera, because the photos posted are taken from other sources. The 300 foot and more drops along the way were spectacular...and made for just a little nervous driving. We pulled into town as darkness fell, stopped in a local watering hole where the clients treated us well...drinking our share, with Rick buying a couple of bricks in the wall to sign, we headed back south after a couple hours on the same don't get me wrong, no way at night, after drinking beer, was I going to try to drive back to Canon City, especially no Shelf Road, we just wanted a place to stop and sleep in the back of the covered pickup, and take in the mountain air. Here is a YouTube trip along Shelf Road...with the camera at wheel level: It gives you a great feeling of the road:

After staying the night along the creek, we awoke to a late July temperature of about 35 degrees in the mountains...and like two 30 year old dumb asses, we jumped into the creek to 'wake up'...that did the trick, it was cold, damn cold. We cooked breakfas,t and after that, being sober as a couple of Methodist ministers, we headed towards Pikes Peak....If I recall we made it half way up that road, and decided a two-wheel drive pickup, 8 cylinder or not, was not meant in stock condition to make that climb...but we had seen enough. It all-in-all was a great trip...

The Shelf Road was built in 1892, about the same time as the area went from boom to bust, and then back to boom in the tourist/yuppie days of the late 20th Century. As for me and Rick, we hit it at just the right time...1980, 30 years ago this week, Cripple Creek was in it's "bust days"...and we enjoyed the heck out of it. We headed back to Dodge City, the Jeep was ready to go...Rick drove the Cherokee, I navigated the pickup, we filled the cooler, and headed back towards Celina. My days of moving around the country during my Radio Broadcasting Career came to an end....and I have lived back in Celina now for 30 years.

Patrica and I plan on taking a long road trip west the end of next Summer...Cripple Creek? Perhaps, the Shelf Road? Not a chance...I'm content with the memories of that road, 30 years ago this month.
Back Later>>>>
Photos- Me and Pearson on the day of Patricia and my wedding in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, in December 1975....Map of the Shelf Road between Canon City and Cripple Creek. 2 photos along the Shelf Road, and one of the view over the Royal Gorge, where Rick and I stopped before heading north to Cripple Creek.


FHB said...

That's a great story. I wanna do that trip now. It sounds awesome. I don't remember why we were there, but my family and i did the drive up Pikes Peak in the winter, some time in the 60s. It was iced over and we thought we were gonna die. Couldn't stop laughing though, from the shrieks of terror that were coming from mom.

PRH....... said...

Jeff: It was a great day trip...Rick called me yesterday after he read it and sez" "How the Hell can you remember that much? I can't remember what happend last week"..

It's got me fired up for the wife and my road trip out west next Summer.....

BRUNO said...

I dunno, but as for ME, I believe that copious-amounts of alcohol just might be REQUIRED, when navigating Shelf-Road, so's to steady the nerves!

Wonder what the proceedure was, if you met someone goin' the opposite way? Would ya' flip a quarter, to determine WHO got to back-up? lol!

PRH....... said...

Actually Bruno, the folks on the inside(they would be driving south) usually are required to back up....there is another video on youtube where the chick driver meets 2 other guy goes around her on the right!!!(that's the side the drop-off is on)...we were lucky as I recall, met one other vehicle, but he/they were alread stopped at the pull over....I may try that road again one more time, if I get out that way...just to get some photos this time. :)

Deborah Wilson said...

Great story, Pat....I was just wondering the same thing as Bruno - what happens if you meet another vehicle? Scary stuff.

The road reminds me of the Bolivian Road of Death that I learned about in a documentary last year.

Mountain roads can be dangerous. I've driven on roads in Appalachia that were so steep that it actually made me ill to look down.