October 13, 2011 by Shawn Smith
If I’ve done one thing right in my life, it was being born in Denver. Having lived here ever since, Colfax Avenue has been a fixture in my life. In grade school we learned about the ladies of the night who supposedly posted their wares on every corner of this street. In high school we discovered hole-in-the-wall diners with large portions and small prices. In college I coaxed my pitiful 1979 Dodge Omni across the avenue countless times en route to work or class. And for most of my adult life I lived within a few blocks of Colfax.
At about 25 miles in length from east to west, they say that Colfax is one of the longest continuous commercial streets in the world. If you’re anything like me, your mind gives you thoughts like this: “I should walk from one end to the other!”
So on a lovely fall day, Iron Wife and I plotted a complex route:
Having thus worked out the details, we rode the bus to the east side of town and started walking toward the foothills west of Denver – a 19.5 mile hike.
This was not a fundraiser, or an exercise in mindfulness, or any other admirable enterprise. It was just a self-indulgent, sentimental stroll along a colorful street.
Colfax traverses a wild array of neighborhoods. Some are wealthy, others are poor. Some are perfectly safe, others require you to watch your back. We started our hike in a neighborhood working its way up from the very definition of “sketchy” thanks to the ongoing installation of the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center (visible on the right).
It’s on the site of the old Fitzsimmons Army hospital, some vestiges of which still remain.
My pre-doctoral internship was headquartered on this campus but I spent my time at other locations, so it didn’t evoke any impulse to linger and reminisce. Onward. The foothills in the distance were the destination, and they looked awfully far away.
One of the first restaurants we passed was an old school McDonalds.
…but Colfax has more interesting offerings:
Pete’s Kitchen has been there as long as I can remember. This sign is a friendly beacon in the night to anyone who has been hungry and drunk at 4:00 AM.
Traveling out of Aurora and into Denver, I think we saw Engine 8 a few times. They always seemed to be in a hurry. Fire engines are my favorite vehicles. I would drive one if I could afford to.
Even though we were in Denver now, those mountains were still far away.
All along Colfax are small hotels, some in better repair than others.
“B ig Bunny” is a Denver legend. By the way, our intellectual property attorneys have asked us to remind you that this is not, nor has it ever been, the Bugs Bunny Motel.
Colfax and Broadway is in the middle of Denver. It’s like the nexus of the universe to a local kid like me. That’s the Denver Post building in the background. I forgot who’s riding that horse.
Here we see pigeons proceeding in an orderly fashion with The Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in the background.
Still at Colfax and Broadway, outside the capitol building. It would be unusual not to find somebody protesting here.
West of downtown is the Colfax viaduct. It was long, hot, and mostly uninteresting – except that I unintentionally gave the lady on the bicycle a face full of cigar smoke. She was good natured enough not to complain. Sorry about that. Mountains are getting closer!
Here we see people doing something useful with their Saturday. And I don’t care what Sports Authority says, THAT is Mile High Stadium.
Colfax has lots of cool signs that don’t seem to crop up elsewhere. That’s a shame. The world would be a better place with more signs like these.
It also has plenty of local landmarks, and even some national ones. Some are more reputable than others. (Kitty’s is an ancient pr0n store. I think it predates Charlemagne.)
A self-portrait taken at the halfway point. Did I mention that the Iron Wife is a really good sport? Iron Child, on the other hand, gave up and got left behind at mile two. (Kidding.)
Downtown is behind us now. The building in the background with the gold dome is the state capitol. In the foreground, a randomly placed port-a-potty. I’ll forgo the obvious comparisons.
Careful! Don’t fall into the…
I stopped here to pick up a few essentials.
Locals will recognize this as one of the finest restaurants in Denver. I will not entertain dissension on this point. They give you unlimited tacos. I rest my case. It sits on the former site of the Jewish Consumptive Relief Society (or near it, I don’t know for sure).
I lived within walking distance of Davies’ for years and still haven’t eaten there. A shame, since I love pancakes, steaks, and fried chicken.
This is the heart of Lakewood, where Colfax is dominated by miles of used car lots. Sorry, no pictures of those. You’ll have to use your imagination. The foothills are getting closer!
Fast forward a few miles, and we’re at the top of the last hill. Just a bit further.
This spot overlooks Golden. Yes, that is an actual view about 100 feet off Colfax.
Tucked away in a rather odd corner of Colfax is this tribute. The inscription says, “Dedicated to the courageous American citizen soldiers who have so nobly sacrificed their lives upon the alter of freedom.”
Back to the parking lot just before sunset. Time for some pancakes, steaks, and fried chicken!