It’s time to re-discover Cripple Creek

Jul 10, 2006 11:19 PM

The drive to Cripple Creek was going swimmingly. I had traversed the Castle Rock Outlet Mall with only minor credit card damage and was on my way through the twists and turns of US 24-West and CO-67, listening to my mixed CD of classic country — you know Hank Williams lamenting, "I’m So Lonely I Could Cry" and Dolly Parton’s foreboding, "Jolene" — when, as I approached the entrance to town on Bennett Avenue, Glen Campbell’s "Like a Rhinestone Cowboy" came blaring out of my tinny car speakers louder than a late-night infomercial”¦ simply and tragically not a cool entrance.

I checked into my shared bath hotel room at the Imperial Hotel. For those who are not familiar with the euphemism of "shared bath," this means that the shower and toilet are down the hall a bit and are to be shared with many other fungal footed guests.

The room on the second floor of the historic hotel was perfectly cozy with a simple desk, bed, armoire, in-room sink, and a surprisingly large television. Had the old time miners had the opportunity to see Screech’s antics on Saved by the Bell on such a large screen, they might have lost all interest in pursuing their dreams of gold.

Although I had consumed a Sonic BLT and limeade earlier in the afternoon, I was getting old west hungry. At Maggie’s restaurant, located in the basement of the Colorado Grande, I ordered the evening’s seafood special of salmon, halibut and swordfish served over Spanish style rice pilaf and steamed spinach. Prior to the main course, I enjoyed a brie-mushroom soup that was fancy”¦ but not too fancy. The Colorado Grande business card’s tagline, "Good Times, Great Food, Loose Slots" summarizes the dining experience a la the late great Benny Binion at the property succinctly

Since Cripple Creek has many family activities such as the bed races and the melodrama at the Butte, Maggie’s, with its separate entrance, allows for family dining. While usually I am surprised to see minors in a restaurant in Colorado casinos, at this non-gaming restaurant it seemed natural.

It was explained to me later by the GM, Trevor Taylor, that Cripple Creek, unlike Black Hawk and Central City, has a viable community of approximately 10,000 individuals that the city’s amenities serve along with the gamblers from the primary feeder markets of Colorado Springs and Pueblo. Maggie’s is a de facto neighborhood restaurant.

Since I am a hopeless hipster at heart, I decided after dinner to check out the nightlife. The only nightlife beyond the local’s hangout of Ralf’s Break Room (and Karaoke emporium) is the Altitude nightclub on the second floor of Uncle Sam’s casino.

Picture the Rain dance club at the Palms, now take away the drop lights, fireballs, go-go dancers, VIP booths, bottle service tables, Red Bull & Vodka fueled mayhem, and women strutting in physics-defying outfits, and you can get a sense of the Altitude happening.

To be fair, I did visit on a midweek evening. And for once I can honestly say I was the best looking person in a club (of course I was the only person in the club). Maybe during some of the larger events like Biker Days, crowds will pick up. The property deserves an "A" for effort.

Following my containment of boogie fever, I shuffled the length and width of Bennett Avenue and tried my luck at blackjack. Surprisingly, nearly every game was at full capacity. A special nod of appreciation goes to the pit staff at the Double Eagle that made everyone at the table (novice and experienced player alike feel truly welcome). Oh, also on my gaming spree, I played "South Park — the Slot Machine" at the Gold Rush. In the words of Cart man, "Sweet!"

After diminishing my bankroll, I returned to the historic Imperial Hotel. Taking off my cowboy boots (okay SAS strollers) I climbed into the comfortable bed for a solid night’s sleep. I awoke to have breakfast across the street. Nothing is better than a $2.99 breakfast.

Before my morning meetings, I imbibed some of the local flavor visiting the barbershop, a few gift shops, and historical sites. The newest find is a hidden away but most pleasant Internet café located in the Aspen Mine Center across from the Butte.

Every chance I have to explore Cripple Creek further, I learn more about its unique place in history and its distinct position as more than a gaming town in Colorado.