I woke up about 6:30am to see a brilliant quarter moon hanging over dark Denver so close you wanted to eat it. I jumped down from my upper berth and commenced to working more on revisions to LITTLE ROCK. By the time we pulled out of Denver the sun was up, and from here on out was where the finest viewing on the California Zephyr began.
The observation car was absolutely packed, a standing room only crowd, so I went downstairs to the snack lounge to visit my new friend (ever since I bought out all of his little bottles of Dewar’s last night) Rod Pasko who runs it. Rod took a screenwriting class years ago in college, is an avid Dungeons & Dragons player and is currently writing a fantasy novel that started as a character sketch for one of his gaming characters. Good luck, Rod.
He also makes a mean Bloody Mary, and he hipped me to the fact that I could sit right there at one of his neglected dining tables that offer just as good a view on both sides of the train as the observation car upstairs, so I planted myself to write and inevitably snap a few pix.
A mellow hour and another Bloody Mary later the Warren-Powell family tramped into this Paradise and took over a table across the aisle from me. They are two grandparents and four grandchildren, the eldest being 18 and wearing a Fallen Angel t-shirt. They had gotten on last night in Osceola, IA and spent the night aboard the Zephyr like me. They were also getting off in Glenwood Springs to enjoy the “vapor caves” and outdoor hot springs pool the same as me, and they were doing it over spring break the same as me. “Where you staying?” I asked.
“The Hot Springs Lodge.”
“I’m staying at the Hotel Colorado.”
“That place is haunted,” said Grandma Warren.
I sat up, air-fived her across the aisle and told her I had hoped it would be given its age and allure (Presidents Teddy Roosevelt and Taft and Al Capone made it a regular stop in the early 20th century; actor Tom Mix and the Unsinkable Molly Brown also stayed here; during WW II it was used as a US Naval hospital and a portion of the basement used as a morgue; gunslingers Doc Holliday and Kid Curry died in this town and is buried right up the road) and that I planned to try out my spirit box while I was there. I was just about to launch into my rote explanation of a spirit box and that I’m past caring whether the voices are “real” or not and view it as a kind of a surrealist art form, when, without missing a beat Fallen Angel says, “I really want to get a P-SB7.” My jaw dropped, as that’s the one I own. Not only did I not have to explain it to them, but they were all as into this stuff as I am. Synchronicity, baby.
Right away we began making plans to hold a Ouija session in my room during one of the two nights I’m here. We swapped many a spooky yarn while being awestruck by the views, all of us snapping away on our various devices in our own little corner of the Zephyr for the next two hours while Granddad Warren and I had Rod keep the Bloody Marys comin’. At one point we went through the 6 and half mile Moffat Tunnel, inside of a mountain, mind you, for a full 10 minutes, during which time we crossed the Continental Divide. I came out the other side feeling reborn, renewed, in a new place. You’ll probably accuse me of making a Freudian joke but sometimes a tunnel is just a tunnel. At 9239 feet above sea level it’s also the highest elevation of any Amtrak train.
When I hopped off in unseasonably warm and stunningly beautiful Glenwood Springs, CO I got picked up by the guy from Enterprise to take me to my rental car. I told him I was staying at the grand old Hotel Colorado and he had a similar reaction as the Warren-Powell clan. “It’s haunted.”
“Perfect. Which rooms?” I asked eagerly. He looked a little surprised, named one and I thanked him for the tip. Upon check-in I took the direct approach with the clerk. “I hear the place is haunted. What’s your take?” She hesitated, unsure, I think, which answer I wanted to hear.
I’m sure the last thing she wanted to do was have me switch hotels so I put her at ease. “Because if there’s a haunted room can I have it?”
She checked the system while explaining to me that there are, “if you believe in that stuff,” two haunted rooms. Sadly both are booked so she put me in a room next door to one of them. Maybe I’ll get some bleed-through. I’m already in e-touch with the Warren-Powell families staying in the Hot Springs Lodge next door and I hope to hold them to our plan.
Meanwhile I walked across the street to the Glenwood Hot Springs Pool, the world’s largest, which is fed with natural, hot mineral water. These springs were originally considered sacred healing places by the Ute natives. The experience was amazing. To my eyes it was like a giant, slow motion hot tub. Tiny tots and codgers alike all crept about in the soothing waters dazed with pleasure, half-smiles on all our faces.
I did try actual swimming a bit but it just wasn’t the scene for that. Even a backstroke felt out of place. Instead, people just bobbed slowly in place or stood on the sides going “aaaah,” if they said anything at all. In my hotel room there’s a photo of Teddy Roosevelt digging the hot springs many decades ago and looking as shameless and egoless as the bathers I saw today, his hair and trademark mustache matted down such that he looked comical and almost unrecognizable.
I’m now in the courtyard of the Hotel Colorado writing and having a scotch while a jazz band plays softly in the grand lobby beside me.