Colorado has it all: gorgeous mountain peaks, frontier forts and places of unique history, wildlife reserves, villages you'd swear were plucked from Europe and gently placed along a state highway for the amusement of visitor and resident alike.
Any number of guides can show you the most popular sights in Colorado, but that isn't my goal today. I want to show you the weirdest possible long weekend you can find without leaving our state.
1.) Let's start in Fruita, near Grand Junction on the western side of things, where we have a certain peculiar statue dedicated to a decidedly peculiar series of events: The Statue of Mike the Headless Chicken. For an animal with an estimated lifespan of under three years, the legend of Mike lives on and is worth a bit of research.
2.) A beautiful 2.5 hour drive will take you from Fruita to Aspen to the Hunter S. Thompson Shrine, a fittingly weird place to ponder one of the most unabashedly American authors this country has produced.
3.) Keeping in the theme of memorials to giants of American culture, we take a 4.5 hour drive to Idaho Springs where the Steve Canyon statue can be found. For those of us born after 1930, Steve Canyon was an All-American comic book strip character who was massively popular after World War 2. The city of Idaho Springs decided to capitalize on this popularity and erected this statue in 1950. It's a smaller and smaller set of folks each year who know the complete story behind this statue, much like how you'll be telling your grandchildren why there's a "Gangam Style" statue downtown one day.
4.) A leisurely 30 minute drive to Golden delivers you to the Sculptured House, which looks exactly like what people in the 1950's thought life in the 1990's would look like. A testament to how weird projects get when funding starts, stops, and restarts with another architect at the helm, nothing quite looks out of place on Genesee Mountain as this place.
5.) About an hour away at Denver International Airport is the famous (infamous, perhaps) Blue Mustang. Also known as the "Demon Horse," this iconic statue has a tragic history worth looking into. You can practically hear new arrivals to Denver seeing the statue for the first time and either recoiling in terror or beaming in amazement. It's always been a mix of both for myself.
6.) About an hour north of Denver in Fort Collins is one of the oddest zoos you will ever see, The Swetsville Zoo. Built by local artist Bill Swets as a means of dealing with insomnia, this zoo is one part menagerie, one part sculpture park, and two parts other-worldly calling. It's fascinating, free, and a testament of what you can do if people leave you to your own long enough to keep from interrupting your projects.
7.) Our last stop on this trip, and hour and a half northwest of the Swetsville Zoo, is Gnome Road (actually a dirt lane between Apache Lake and Hiawatha Lake in the community of Red Feather Lakes). You'll realize quickly that as a human you are the minority as porcelain gnomes behind every tree glance at you. Apparently, elves and gnomes have lived among us for years, but tired of urban sprawl, decided to retreat to a more rural locale.
Jokes aside, there really doesn't have to be a good reason for a Colorado road trip. Every little town you drive through has some local art worth a second glance, a bit of history that gives pause, or something so downright funny or creepy you have to tell someone. I sincerely hope you'll keep an eye out for the strange artifacts that our wonderful state has hidden away and share them with your fellow travelers.