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Linda Kay Peterson pointed to the mountains as we stood outside the Breckenridge Welcome Center.
“Look at the Ten Mile Range,” she said, “because that is the genesis of our mining town.” It’s a genesis that, according to Peterson, began 65 to 70 million years ago.
Bob LeMassena told me his age with a smile and a gleam in his eye, as if letting me in on a long-kept secret. “I’m still young,” he said. Bob is 93. And then he quoted the first line of a Samuel Ullman poem: “Youth is not a time of life, it is a state of mind,” adding, “I live by that one.”
Bob is a volunteer at the Colorado Railroad Museum near Golden, where he works in the library cataloging thousands of photographs of steam locomotives with an energy that proves his point.
We were in the Denver Art Museum’s newest addition, the Frederic C. Hamilton Building, standing in front of “Headless” by Michael Joo — 28 identical terracotta headless Buddhas, a few feet high, meditating in neat rows. Twenty-eight heads from old action figures and dolls suspended from the ceiling by nearly-invisible strings replaced the Buddha heads: X-Men’s Wolverine, Doc, one of the seven dwarfs, and, of course, Pee-wee Herman.
“Any idea what it means?” asked the man to my right.
“No,” I said. “Sorry.”
The training period lasted less than two minutes, and it went something (though not entirely) like this: “Put your feet here. One foot on the brake to slow down, two feet to stop. And lean with your turn. If you don’t lean, you’re going to get real friendly with a tree. Let’s go.”
Brandon Barnhorst, our guide at Good Times Adventures in Breckenridge, had a dry sense of humor and a ponytail, and prided himself in giving guests a more adventurous tour than the other guides. “I tend to beat up a lot of people,” he said, only half-joking. Perfect.
Everyone knows there are no oysters in the Rocky Mountains. The oysters we’re talking about, for better or worse, aren’t seafood at all — they’re the family jewels from that herd grazing next to Interstate 76, and they’re a tradition of sorts in Colorado, a novelty food hanging around from the days of vast cattle drives like a bad hangover that won’t go away.
Most Colorado natives are familiar with Rocky Mountain Oysters‚ but I’m not a Coloradan. I’m a proud Michigander, and, until a few days ago, I could happily say that I had never eaten a testicle in my life.