Walsenburg Power Plant

Okay, there might have been a No Trespassing sign that we missed, but from the angle we came in at, we really didn’t see any, and this beautiful and massive old brick structure was just too cool to pass up.

The poor old building is still grand, but has definitely seen better days and will need to have something done soon or it’ll be too far gone to save much more than bricks.

Here’s a story about the area and the plant I found online:

The Walsenburg Power Plant Story from http://www.huerfanojournal.com/node/1694 The building has been gutted and vandalized.  Its east wall is half gone.  Much of its valuable scrap metal has been scavenged.  The old Walsenburg Power Plant just west of the city limits stands officially as one of Colorado’s Most Endangered Places.  It was built extremely well to stand the test of time.  Few people remain today who can testify to the life and times of years gone by as it can.  Its current out-of-town owners are seeking funding to somehow reuse the building in a fitting tribute to times when coal was king here over a century ago.  There was a time when Colorado Fuel & Iron (CF&I) was using coal supplied by Huerfano and Las Animas coal camps to make steel at its mill in Pueblo.  CF&I owned the land and created a unique company-owned town standing just west of the Walsenburg City Limits called, Walsen Camp.

The power plant was built in 1898.  The coal brought from the nearby Walsen and Robinson Mines fired the power plant’s boilers and provided light and the power to pump out water for approximately 400 men working deep inside the mine’s 50 miles of underground tunnels and shafts.  “There was a previous power plant before the one now standing, but it was inadequate and a second one was built by the Trinidad Power Company to primarily provide light and pump out ground water,” said Carolyn Newman, docent of the Walsenburg Mining Museum.  And soon, the power plant was providing electricity to the towns of Walsenburg and La Veta as well as Walsen camp.  “Records show that approximately 80 miners died in the two mines,” Newman said.  “Miners came here from Europe, Mexico and as far as Japan.”

Walsen Camp no longer exists, but at its height in the 1920’s, approximately 1,200 people lived there in 200 company homes.  The hard-working miners were looking for their own small slice of the highly-touted American dream.  The small frame and stucco homes sat on crawl spaces made of concrete.  There were two models of this home, and it was repeated throughout all of CF&I’s coal mining camps.  If you look closely around Walsenburg, you can still find some of these homes.  Several were sold and moved into Walsenburg after the mines closed.  These small homes were all simple frame construction.  Outhouses were often shared by several families.

Many of the miners and their families were recent immigrants who came here seeking a better life than the one they had in their home countries.  Not long after the start of the 20th century, CF&I built a school and a nearby YMCA to help provide a sense of community for the miners and their families.

In the 1930’s, the mine shafts began to flood with large quantities of ground water.  “At one point, for every ton of coal that came out, ten tons of water had to be pumped out,” Newman said.  Soon after, the mines were closed.  CF&I let the residents have the option to buy and subsequently move their homes to wherever they chose to move them.  CF&I required the final ten residents to move out in 1965 and what was left was then razed.

In 1955 the power plant was sold to the City of Walsenburg.  Under the capable direction of Harry Biggi, the power plant kept going until it could go no further.  In 1972, needed repairs and deferred maintenance were deemed by City Council to be too expensive.  The lights at the power plant were turned off and power was brought in though rural electrical cooperative associations.  San Isabel Electric now provides electricity to all of Huerfano County.

The Walsenburg Mining Museum is a treasure trove of great information about the numerous mining camps that existed here.  The museum’s exhibits and resources help us to retain a vision of what was tough, tedious and dangerous work.  In addition to the exhibits, photos, and news copy, numerous books on our mining and local history are for sale at the museum.

The future of the power plant is unclear.  Its fate rests with its owner and grant writers who perhaps one day will restore it to its former glory.  The county’s proposed walk along the Cucharas River will retrace the steps of the residents of Walsen Camp.  Except for the power plant, little remains of the company town, the company store, and the company school which provided many new to America with the hope of a prosperous future.


Is Anybody Out There? A visit to the Very Large Array

The VLA is one of those things that’s in my “nearly too cool to be real” categories I keep in my head. Back when I started reading Sci Fi in the 1970’s, nothing like this existed. We didn’t even know that radio waves could be used to map the heavens. So, the thought of actually seeing these huge antennas in person made me all giggly.


Well, the place definitely lived up to my excitement level, if you ever have a chance to get out this way, definitely stop in and check out what we’re doing. The VLA may not find ET (that’s not actually what they’re looking for), but they have been able to make some astonishing discoveries over the years.



Santa Fe Day

Had an awesome day wandering around Santa Fe old town and the art studios of Canyon Road. This place is simply amazing!

It’s good there’s so much bright artwork, or the brown adobe and stucco would get pretty darned boring. But no chance of bored eyes in this place, everywhere you look are splashes of art or just a fun and funky flair that other places try but few actually pull off.

We started at the Palace of the Governors and the New Mexico History Museum. Portions of the Governor’s Palace were built in 1610, and the place oozes history — Spanish, Native American, Confederate and American stories all combine to give Santa Fe a varied and interesting past.

The attached History Museum is a beautiful and massive building also with tons of great displays. We could have easily spent the entire day here, but we needed to keep going to get at least a decent overview of the rest of the town.

Our next stop was the beautiful St. Francis Cathedral, which the current iteration is the 5th catholic church on this site. The “new” structure was completed in 1886, but also houses the chapel from the earlier La Parroquia Church, built in 1717.

The rest of our afternoon and evening was spent on Canyon Street gawking at the amazing art displays and beautiful buildings. This rabbit-warren of tiny old homes have been converted to art studios which house everything from a few boring curio shops to some amazing original artwork.

Every twist and turn of the road shows another view of dozens of different studios. Truly inspiring – with prices to match!

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Riding from Morenci to Socorro, with a side trip to Mongollon

Sometimes all it takes is a clean hotel room that doesn’t smell like mothballs and actually has working wifi to make a person happy. Especially if the previous two nights have been spent in places that included free cockroaches and valley beds. Feels like it’s been a week since I last blogged, but I guess I only missed one day. And boy, yesterday was quite a day, with an excellent side trip to Mongollon http://www.rozylowicz.com/retirement/mogollon/mogollon.html

We’re getting ready to explore Santa Fe right now, so no time to talk, hopefully I’ll have a chance to flesh out some details on this trip before I forget it all!

Anyway, here’s pics:


Devil’s Highway is heaven on two wheels

591 miles including 90 of it on the twisty section of 191.

Back in the good old days, there was a road in Arizona numbered 666. That might be one reason why it was nicknamed the Devil’s Highway, but after riding it, I think it has more to do with the road itself. Made up of untold masses of corners, steep grades and many 10mph corners, paired with the elevation and lack of any guardrails whatsoever, I can see how folks would end up cursing this stretch of road.

I honestly could not believe how many corners they pack in this 95 mile journey. Mike and I agreed it felt like all of the twisty roads in Oregon compacted into one, and then some!


We woke to rain in Panguitch Utah this morning, and rode the first few hours in everything from a torrential downpour to sprinkles. By late afternoon we’d raced ahead of the storm and even saw blue skies by the time we hit the fun part of the day.

Curve after curve after curve twists up and down through multiple valleys and peaks, every time we thought we’d be hitting the valley in Morenci, the short straightaway ended and another section of twisties presented itself. It was never ending, and demanded complete and focused attention at every turn.

This is one of those roads that really separates real riders from folks who enjoy taking a scoot down to the local coffee bar on Sunday and polishing their chrome the rest of the week.

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Nothing Endures But Change. A visit to Bodie California

Bodie sits quietly at 8300′ above sea level. It wasn’t always this quiet, when the stamping mills were running in the 1880’s this place rang with a cacophony of sound 24 hours a day every day but Sunday. Plenty of folks called this place home, now it’s only home to a few park employees. It’s not a lonely place though, the multitudes of visitors from every corner of the world make sure of that.

There are plenty of ghost towns in the American west, but most that are still standing are made of brick, or are not true ghost towns, just places with fewer residents than they held in their heyday.

Bodie is strange for a few reasons, one, it’s made of wood and by all rights should have burned to the ground years ago. Two, not only are the buildings still standing, plenty of smaller and presumably more portable items are still visible inside the homes and businesses. School books, bottles, rusty shovels, tin cans, dishes, and beds, many, many beds.

Why did people leave all this stuff? The only way out of town was via toll roads, the less you carried the less you paid. People were leaving town because the mills and the mines weren’t paying, so they either didn’t have the money for the toll or wanted to save what money they had. So they left their stuff, and remarkably, plenty of it is still there.

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Terrebonne to Walker California, 522 miles.

Why am I on the bike, it’s the middle of the night?

Yes, it’s 5am and we’re on the road with the heated gear turned up to 11 and frozen fingers. My eyes are darting 20 directions at once looking for deer and other critters. By sunrise we’ve stopped for gas in LaPine and it’s still freezing, but at least we can see further than the headlights.

Today’s ride is basically just getting us from point A to point B – namely just outside of Bodie, sticking to Hwy 97 then 395, two of the least exciting roads known to motorcycling.

As we were riding in towards Klamath Falls I was wondering what time of the year those really stinky little bugs swarm around the lake. I had just about convinced myself that it was spring when we hit the first swarm. Yea, it’s not spring.

Bug Guts!!

We did take a short detour to get off the main road, riding through a town called Lookout, which surprisingly wasn’t on top of any hills and didn’t command a view. But it was cute.

Think they can work on my 40 horses?

Nice little bridge to nowhere.

Into the great wide open

You know it’s a long ride when you end up with 4 gas receipts at the end of the day.

Toiyabe Motel, our home sweet home for the night.

Tomorrow, Bodie!

Ready to ride? We are! 2 weeks on 2 wheels.

The bags are packed, we’re ready to go, but no jet plane is included in our plan this time. We’ll be headed through the great Southwest, retracing some routes we’ve done before, and exploring new territory in New Mexico. We’ll be starting with a tour of Bodie, California and then heading across the booooooooring Nevada flats into the mountains and hopefully cooler fall temperatures of Utah and Arizona.

Here’s the plan so far….expect changes!

So, come along for the ride, it’s bound to be relatively interesting, or at least provide a few laughs at our stupidity.