Road Trip to Cañon City and Florence, Colorado
(3rd to 5th August 2012)

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This weekend trip was twofold in that it was the beginning of my month-long art exhibit in Cañon City, Colorado, and a two-night stay in two bed and breakfasts in the area.  Our art show was being featured in the Fremont Center for the Arts in Cañon City and consisted of the work of three women.  We drove down on August 1st to hang our art and returned on the 3rd for the evening reception.  After the reception, the others went home while I stayed on for two nights to see the city and the surrounding area.

I had only passed through Cañon City (pr Canyon) once a few years ago, but was aware that it featured many old buildings and lots of art in the Historic Downtown area.  Just what inspires me!  It is also the home of the world's highest suspension bridge (the Royal Gorge), some fantastic river rafting, zipline tours, and of course the Royal Gorge Railroad where you can enjoy spectacular vistas, have a meal, or enjoy the Murder Mystery Train.  I was very hot and exhausted after the show so I went directly to the Jewel of the Canyons Bed and Breakfast, which coincidentally, was diagonally across the way from the Fremont Center for the Arts.  I did manage to pop out of the show and across the road to listen to a little jazz, which they have on the first Fridays of the summer months that coincide with galleries all being open in the evenings for viewers to stop by and have a glass of wine and a snack, and hopefully to buy some art.

After a lovely breakfast and great company at the bed and breakfast, I headed out for a walk around the historic district.  Cañon City was founded around 1861 and some of the old buildings are still around.  You can walk up and down Main Street where you'll find an array of art galleries, restaurants, interesting used clothes and items stores, and more.  Sadly, many people drive right through the city without going just a block up to Main Street where all the action is.  I walked down to the Arkansas River and the Royal Gorge Train station.  Beautiful surrounds with grassy patches.  Lots of people like to walk or bike ride on the trail alongside the river.  Do keep a lookout for the many murals around this city.

A drive along the Skyline Drive is well worth the trip.  Just a few miles west on US Hwy-50 and you'll see the sign on the right.  A one-way drive across a skinny road high above the ground will give you stunning views of the city and area below.  The road was built by chain gangs from Territorial Prison.  Fremont County is home to a number of prisons, one being "Old Max" where the "shoe bomber" and the "una-bomber" are housed.  Apparently there are about 8,000 inmates in the area.

After some walking around, I had to check out of the B&B, so after saying goodbye, I drove around looking at the pretty churches and homes.  None of the churches were open for me to go inside this Saturday morning.  I also went to The Winery at Holy Cross Abbey for some wine tasting.  Their Sauvignon Blanc Reserve and American Riesling were absolutely delicious.  The Abbey itself was being renovated so I couldn't see much of it, but the grounds and winery are worth a visit.

Around 2pm I began feeling a little hungry (all that walking!) so I went to check out Michael's on Main, a restaurant/art gallery.  If you don't visit any other gallery, DO visit this one.  The exquisite art on show in the upstairs of the restaurant is superb and very classy.  I had a Reuben sandwich with waffle fries which were fantastic. Too much for lunch so I took half home for supper.  If you're a chocolate lover, you have to check out their chocolate shoppe at the back of the restaurant.

My next stop was a short 14-minute drive on CO-115 to the quaint town of Florence.  I spotted the Florence Rose Bed & Breakfast just as I was getting into town.  I checked in and got the full tour of the house.  After unpacking I drove into town for a look around and ended up spending about three hours going in and out of a few antique stores and chatting to all and sundry.  Everyone was so friendly that I didn't get to see much else.  There was a music and art festival going on but I was so late after the antiques, I decided to go straight to the B&B and eat my leftover lunch, have a beer, and write this story.  I did visit the supermarket on the other side of town and took a drive through the area to get the feel for it, but was looking forward to sitting down and relaxing on the patio in the cool evening.

The first antiques store I visited was Legends and Lace Antiques where I chatted with Sarah.  The old clothes in this store made me think of a movie set wardrobe.  There was even an old Wurlitzer playing old tunes.  Sarah also hand makes all the lampshades in the store!  The next stop was an enormous two-storey store stuffed with antiques from yesteryear.  It was called The Mezzanine Antiques and Collectibles.  On offer were any number of fabulously old things, from lace doilies to ladies hats.  It's like a walk down Memory Lane, if you're of a certain age!  My final stop was at Touch of Grace where I chatted with Freita for what seemed like ages.  We laughed and yakked our heads off.  This store had some lovely old quilts, clothes, hats, art work, you name it!  I also met and chatted with Svetlana outside her Raindrops Art Gallery.  Such nice and interesting people!

I really picked the right weekend to visit both Cañon City and Florence as it was First Friday and most places stayed open later than usual, with visitors and locals hanging out and visiting each other.  There was a very festive feeling, and with the music and art festival as well, I couldn't believe my luck.  I will definitely be making a few return trips to these two lovely places as it's "just down the road" from me.

After breakfast on Sunday morning, I decided to extend my car rental until the next day so that I could go and see Bishop Castle.  I had to take a detour because of the washed away road along CO-67.  The drive is spectacularly beautiful through the San Isabel National Forest and Wet Mountains.  It rained as I was driving through this area, making everything even fresher and greener.  The castle itself is huge, and I climbed one of the turrets but was petrified.  I get vertigo, so what possessed me to climb it, I'll never know.  It's rickety, incredible, and dangerous, so hold onto your little kids.  Jim Bishop built his castle by himself over a period of 40 years, and he's still not finished.  Very outspoken about the government and the Constitution, he'll talk your ear off if you let him.  Well worth a visit to see what one man can do if he really wants to.

Cañon City is just an hour from Colorado Springs (two hours from Denver), and if you take CO-115, you'll be taking the scenic route—much more enjoyable than racing along the I-25 to Pueblo and then west on US Hwy-50. The latter route would take longer than 45 minutes.  (Route)  There is so much to see and do in this area, from fishing, wildlife spotting, the dinosaur museum, the prison museum, fossils, Main Streets, the Gold Belt Tour, and of course the Royal Gorge Train.  Do request a guide book from the Florence Chamber of Commerce.  Also get a copy of the Colorado Royal Gorge Region as it's full of interesting ideas, facts, and photos to help you plan your trip to this area.  You can also visit the Cañon City Visitor Center for brochures.  They have a good Walking Tour pamphlet.
 


Accommodations
Jewel of the Canyons Bed and Breakfast   Florence Rose Bed and Breakfast

Jewel of the Canyons Bed and Breakfast

This old Victorian home is slap bang in the middle of the Historic District, and easy to find.  I was met by owner Lyn Burnett who showed me around the house and to my room, the Phantom Canyon.  The house has lots of wood including a wooden staircase, dressers, cupboards, wooden floors and beams.  I particularly enjoyed the stained glass windows.  My room was huge with space to move around even though the bed was big.  I also had a table and chairs at which to work, a large closet complete with spare fold-away bed, oscillating fan, iron and ironing board, bathrobes, and extra pillows.  I found it very welcoming to discover fresh-cut flowers, some fruit, and a few caramel chocolates.  There were also useful tour brochures I could scan.  My bathroom was down the hall and had the most beautiful old bath/shower, and I just loved the fixtures!  I had a cool shower to try and cool down from the horrid temperatures outside.  It worked, and my room had air conditioning.  I also had a television in my room.  I also loved the antique-looking silver radiators throughout the home.
Up early, I got a cup of coffee from the dining room and sat on the front porch in a rocking chair enjoying the much cooler morning air.  Before long a couple of hummingbirds flitted by, checking out the pretty hanging baskets of flowers.  Two other couples joined me for a pre-breakfast cuppa on the porch.  Breakfast consisted of fresh strawberries with Devonshire cream, glazed pecan French toast with a cheesy egg to round things off.  Coffee, teas and juices were also available.  Conversation with the other three couples was fun and interesting.
Contacts and links to their website are below.  I would recommend this B&B as a place to stay when you visit Cañon City as it's handy to everything you might want to see, especially if you like walking around.  The room was very quiet and peaceful, and the house is a charming reminder of days gone by.  Parking on the street.
Here's my TripAdvisor review.



Florence Rose Bed and Breakfast Inn

Just on the outskirts of Florence is the beautiful Florence Rose Bed & Breakfast Guesthouse.  With ample parking on the property, a gazebo complete with hot tub, this beautiful house dominates this very tranquil spot.  The house dates back to 1886 and the current owners, Bob and Barb Ricigliano, have done all they can to maintain the authenticity of the house and property.  You can read all about the history of the house in the folder in the rooms.  There are five bedrooms, one of which used to be an operating theater during the war.  I had the Elizabeth Anne Room, so named after Bob's mother.  Barb's mother is remembered by the Yvonne Room.  I had my own private shower/loo which was fantastic as the shower had about five different settings!  I loved the quilts that all the beds are graced with (I was given a private tour of the house) and the artwork all over the place.
One of the things I really liked about this B&B is that all of the rooms are inside the house, but they have one that is detached.  It's a stone's throw from the house and completely private for those wishing total solitude or those who have trouble sleeping, or a honeymoon couple, and/or someone with a pet.  This is their only pet-friendly room.  The patio is large and can accommodate a bunch of people, as can the gazebo.  I can't speak for the hot tub!  There aren't any televisions in the rooms but there is one downstairs in the sitting room.  While you're downstairs, check out their music parlor, original chairs and all!  I also enjoyed air conditioning and free wi-fi.
Being the early riser I am, I was up and about around 8am, but too late apparently, because I missed the mama doe and her fawn who scampered across the property earlier.  I went outside to enjoy the coolness of the morning before my breakfast.  I had a mixed fruit bowl (strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, banana, kiwi fruit, melon, peaches, and pears together with some yogurt and tasty granola.  I followed this with a couple of delicious mini muffins.  Next came a tasty little sausage and cheese biscuit patty and that was followed by yummy almond French toast with bacon, syrup and fruit.  Coffee, tea and juices were also available.  Hearty and filling and just delicious.
Contacts and links to their website are below.  I would highly recommend this B&B for anyone looking for a quiet spot to call their own.  Enjoy being pampered by Bob and Barb as guests in their beautiful home.
Here's my TripAdvisor review.



Route
Once again I began my journey at the Colorado Springs airport as that's where I rented my car.  I made my way west to CO-115 and then headed south to US Hwy-50.  From there I went west to Cañon City, which took about 45 minutes.  To Florence I went south on 9th Avenue which became CO-115.  Because part of the road on CO-67 had been washed away, I had to take a detour to go and see Bishop Castle which is on CO-165.  So I got back onto Hwy-50 and headed east towards Pueblo, going south on CO-45 and west on CO-96 which took me through Wetmore.  At the junction of CO-165 I turned left for about 11 miles until I came to Bishop Castle.  This trip took me about two hours when it should have taken about 45 minutes.  My return trip was back to Pueblo and north on I-25.

Contacts
Enterprise Rent-A-Car
(Colorado Springs Airport Terminal, CO):  A Nissan Sentra (free upgrade) for 3 days @ $8.36 (YES!) p/day with unlimited mileage = $41.74 (including taxes) plus your choice of insurance and gas.  Like I usually do, I checked and rechecked rates prior to departure and really came up with this low rate.  I got approximately 32 mpg.  I really enjoyed driving this Nissan Sentra, as it's small enough to be compact yet roomy enough for passengers.  I loved the huge trunk.  It's easy to park and has lots of go!  I drove a total of 324 miles.
As usual, Enterprise offered me a great service (they don't offer the "we'll pick you up" service from the airport), and gladly extended my original reservation by one day at the same daily rate!  I highly recommend you try Enterprise.
Web: www.enterprise.com  Tel: (719) 591-6644   Toll-free (Reservations): 1-800-261-7331   Toll-free (Customer Service): 1-800-264-6350
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/enterpriserentacar


Accommodation Contacts
Jewel of the Canyons Bed & Breakfast - 429 Greenwood Avenue, Cañon City, Colorado 81212
(corner of Greenwood Ave and 5th Street)
Tel: (719) 275-0378
Web: www.jewelofthecanyons.com
E-mail: info@jewelofthecanyons.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/pages/Jewel-of-The-Canyons-Bed-Breakfast/111528965553484?ref=ts&fref=ts
Twitter: twitter.com/CanyonsJewel
Free wi-fi.
Rates: from $99 - $119 per room.
Visit their website for up-to-date information and rates.  Check ahead of time regarding pets.
Florence Rose Bed & Breakfast - 1305 West Third Street, Florence, CO 81226
Tel: (719) 784-4734 or Cell: (732) 685-5445
Web: www.florencerose.com
E-mail: florencerosebb@gmail.com
Free wi-fi.
Rates: From $139 - $149 per room.
Please visit their website for up-to-date information and rates and if you want bring your pet along.

Sights and Contacts and Links
To make the most of your trip, do investigate online or request brochures.  It really helps to get to know the lay of the land for walking about, or where else you'd like to visit. 
Fremont Center for the Arts - 505 Macon Avenue, Cañon City, CO 81212
Tel: (719) 275-2790
Website: www.fremontarts.org
E-mail: info@fremontarts.org
Fee: $3.00
This is where my art is exhibited for the month of August 2012.


Royal Gorge Train - Santa Fe Depot, 401 Water Street, Cañon City, CO 81212
Tel: 1-888-724-5748
Website: www.RoyalGorgeRoute.com
E-mail: Email online on the website.
Facebook https://www.facebook.com/RoyalGorgeRouteRailroad?ref=ts
Fee: Visit the website for more information and prices on the various train trips.


The Winery at Holy Cross Abbey - 3011 E. Highway 50, Cañon City, CO 81212
Tel: (719) 276-5191   Toll-free: 1-877-422-9463
Website: www.AbbeyWinery.com
E-mail: Email online on the website.
Fee: Free

Michael's on Main - 605 Main Street, Cañon City, CO 81212
Tel: (719) 276-2233
Website: www.michaelsonmain.us
E-mail: jamie.brown@michaelsonmain.us


Cañon City Visitor Center - 403 Royal Gorge Blvd. (US Hwy-50), Cañon City, CO 81212
Tel: (719) 275-2331   Toll-free: 1-800-876-7922
Website: www.canoncitychamber.com
E-mail: chamber@canoncity.com or tourism@canoncity.com
Facebook http://www.facebook.com/pages/Canon-City-Chamber-of-Commerce/216088761739423

Legends and Lace Antiques - 131A West Main Street, Florence, CO 81226
Tel: (719) 784-2274
Website: www.HatsandShadesBySarah.com
E-mail: Sarah@HatsandShadesBySarah.com


Raindrops Art Gallery - 108 E Main Street, Florence, CO 81226
Tel: (719) 214-1493
Website: www.raindropsgallery.com
E-mail: raindropsgallery@gmail.com


Touch of Grace - 115 West Main Street, Florence, CO 81226
Tel: (704) 604-8580
E-mail: touchofgraceco@aol.com


The Mezzanine - 127 West Main Street, Florence, CO 81226
Tel: (719) 784-4598
E-mail: mezz127@earthlink.net
Facebook http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Mezzanine/117157315011711


Florence Chamber of Commerce - 117 South Pikes Peak Ave., Florence, CO 81226
Tel: (719) 784-3544
Website: www.florencecoloradochamber.com
E-mail: FlorenceCoChamber@QwestOffice.net


Bishop Castle - State Highway 165, approximately 13 miles (21 km) southeast of the junction of State Highway 96 and State Highway 165.
Tel: (719) 485-3040 (Castle) or (719) 564-4366 (Office)
Website: www.BishopCastle.org or www.bishopcastle.info
Fee: Free
I've not seen the website as it was under construction when I last visited.
Prices quoted were correct at the time, August 2012.

E-mail:  pettprojects@yahoo.com

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