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Re: OT convention planning

Hello, all -- this is long, so hit "delete" if not interested!

Last week there was some chat re the Denver AIS Convention in June -- I
didn't rise to the bait then but now want to throw out some comments.

First, if you will be flying in from out of state you should be aware
that the new Denver airport (DIA) is clear the heck & gone (roughly 25
miles) north & east of the downtown, center city. The only access to &
from DIA is via Pena (there should be a tilde over the "n") Blvd.
leading south to I70. The Denver Tech Center area, where the main
Convention activities are to be held at the Marriot, is well south & a
bit east of downtown, easiest to reach via I25 or I225 -- these run
more-or-less north-south & I70 runs east-west. 

Getting from DIA to the Tech Center will be pricey unless the hotel
you're staying at provides airport shuttle service -- cab fare will be
outrageous. The city, not to mention the suburbs & mountain areas, is
difficult to get around in except by private car as public transit (bus
& light rail) is spotty & mostly aimed at job commuters. There are,
however, several cab co.s which work fine within the city proper but are
not so helpful if you want to leave the urban confines. Best bet is to
rent a car. 

Driving within the city or the close-in suburbs will present you with
the typical joys of any urban sprawl but using the interstates & main
arteries whenever possible will make it less painful. Don't be nervous
about driving into the mountains -- the Front Range is quite accessible
via 4- & 6-lane divided highways & involves little or no "cliff-hanger"
adventures unless you seek out secondary roads (state & federal
highways), most of which are 2-lane & well-maintained. However, if you
WANT to experience narrow canyon or oh-my-god roads, there are plenty to
choose from! 

Another thot is that flying into the Colorado Springs airport is often
cheaper than having DIA as your destination. Since the Springs is due
south of Denver on I25, this is not a bad choice for those planning to
rent a car anyway & head directly from the Springs' airport to the Tech
Center. Figure about an hour's drive time between the two, depending on
time of day, etc. -- this is about the same drive time as from DIA
because of having to cross the city besides the crow-flies distance.

T'would be a shame to be in Colorado without spending at least some time
exploring the foothills & mountains -- apparently, there are no such
excursions planned as part of the Convention activites, unless there is
to be a group trip to Long's Gardens in Boulder, which is at the edge of
the Flatirons north & west of Denver (roughly 30 -45 min. drive from the
Tech Center.) BTW, giving directions/destinations in terms of drive time
rather than in miles is a very typical Colorado thing, perhaps even a
Western habit!

Jim Wilson mentioned GrayLine Bus Tours but had a bit of misinformation
-- they operate 7 days a week year 'round but *sometimes* their daily
tours are cancelled due to weather/road conditions or lack of riders
(the latter is rarely a problem May thru Oct.) For example, the day-long
tour of Rocky Mtn Nat'l Park is dependent on Trail Ridge Rd. being open
-- snowpack may keep it closed as late as Memorial Day tho some years
it's plowed open by May 1. (Call first to check &/or to make
reservations: 1-800-348-6877, $50/person + lunch, runs daily, road
conditions permitting, 8:30 - 6:30.) 

A delightful short tour of many of the Denver Mtn. Parks (in the
foothills to approx. 7,000' alt. west of the city) leaves daily at 2 pm
(returning about 5:30 to the downtown bus terminal at 19th & Curtis,
where all the GrayLine tours operate from) & among other stops visits
Red Rocks Park & Amphitheater, Buffalo Bill's Grave on Lookout Mtn (&
the nearby buffalo herd, which belongs to the city of Denver!) & also
stops in my hometown of Evergreen, which has some nice shops & galleries
to visit plus you can easily stroll along Bear Creek which parallels the
main drag. (If you're curious about Evergreen, check out this website:
http://heartbeat-of-evergreen.com/ ) Cost is $25/person. Jim thot this
tour didn't start until June 15th but in fact it's available daily year
'round provided enough riders sign up. 

There is also the day-long trip to Pike's Peak which Jim mentioned but
that I neglected to get info. about -- cost/times probably comparable to
the Rocky Nat'l Park trip but road closure due to snow is not as likely.
In addition to traveling to the summit of Pike's Peak, I believe this
tour takes in the Garden of Gods, a beautiful area of red sandstone
"monoliths" similar to that comprising Red Rocks Park but located just
north of Colorado Springs -- it may include other tourist sites as well. 

Another good day-trip by private car could take you west on I70 to Idaho
Springs & Georgetown, where I lived for many years. Both are 19th
century gold & silver mining towns & Georgetown, particularly, is full
of excellent shops, galleries & restaurants -- it is also further into
the mtns. by 12 mi. than Idaho Springs & only about 20-30 min. from
Loveland Pass (just shy of 12,000' alt.) & several ski areas. There are
also *shuttle buses* that will take you from Denver to Central City &
Blackhawk, also old mining towns in the mountains, now given over to
gambling casinos -- the various casinos operate the shuttle busses,
usually for a nominal fee. Parking in these 2 narrow-canyon towns is
limited & expensive so the shuttles are the best bet -- more info should
be available from your hotel/motel.

Diana Winship mentioned a desire to re-visit the Royal Gorge, which is
near Canon City (that's pronounced "can-yon" -- imagine the tilde over
the n.) The Gorge is located well south of Denver -- I believe the
simplest car route would be I25 south beyond Colorado Springs to Pueblo,
then west on hwy. 50 to Canon City. This trip would be a long day --
probably best, if you go, to plan an overnight. Traversing the
suspension bridge over the Gorge is quite an experience but I'm sure
there are definite hours/days it's open -- I'll find out more info if
anyone wants me to.

For gardeners, I highly recommend visits to both the Denver Botanic
Gardens (10th & York St., a little east of downtown) & Hudson Gardens
(2888 W. Maplewood in the s/w suburb of Littleton.) The DBG is great --
I'm especially fond of the various rock gardens, with both alpine &
plains/foothills natives, the xeric plantings & the Japanese gardens but
the glass conservatory building is terrific, too, as are the more
general plantings & gardens. I still haven't made it to the new Hudson
Gardens (2 years old) but I'm sure it has much to offer also. The DBG
also operates the Chatfield Aboretum, way south of the urban area near
Chatfield Dam in Littleton.

Obviously, I'm fond of my homestate & will be happy to try to answer any
questions Listers might have about it. I'm not (yet) a member of AIS but
hope to at least attend the flower show, which will be my first such
event, plus check out the iris plantings at the host gardens if I'm able
to. Looking forward to it!

Marte in the mtns	Zone 4/Sunset 1  Colorado -- skiff of snow here last
night but mostly continuing dry & mild. Garden still very, very dormant
with old snow drifts or ice covering most of the beds.

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