Monthly Archives: May 2010

OMG Road

OMG Road 2

In 1880, former Union Army General and U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant visited Colorado. One of his hosts was Governor John L. Routt, a pal from Civil War days. As Grant’s host, Routt wished to show his friend the sights of Colorado’s mining districts, while attempting to recapture the excitement of their glory days.

After a tour of the mining camp of Central City in the mountains west of Denver, Routt decided to play a little joke on Grant. For the return trip down the mountains, Routt paid the veteran wagon driver to give Grant an exciting ride down Virginia Canyon Stage Road. That he did. For the 1,000 foot descent down eight-plus miles of gravel road, the driver urged his horses as fast as they would go down the narrow route. As they thundered along at a hair-raising pace around blind curves with sheer drops on one side, the wagon careened and leaned, sliding on the loose rock surface. Once they were safely in Idaho Springs at the bottom of the descent, a jittery Grant shook hands with the driver and presented him with a wad of money for a tip, in payment for his excellent driving skills and for the exciting ride down the mountain.

OMG Road 1

Last week, 130 years later, we found ourselves in Central City on a research jaunt. It was an easy drive up the recently built and lightly traveled Central City Parkway. When it was time to leave, my hubby asked which way I wished to go. Without hesitation, I responded that I wished to go down the Virginia Canyon Stage Road, CR 279, aka “Oh My Gawd Road”.  With a name like that, I wondered if it would thrill or disappoint us. After thirty-six years of mountain driving we’ve seen our share of dicey roads. There was only one way to find out.

The OMG Road had more thrills than an amusement park roller coaster, and as many breathtaking views. Although my driver proceeded cautiously in his Subaru, I experienced more than one white-knuckle breath-sucking moment. I could only imagine the heart-stopping excitement of careening down the mountainside and around blind curves behind a thundering team of horses.

AAA recommends that people driving trailers or unaccustomed to driving on gravel mountain roads avoid this one. Central City Visitor’s Center suggests that the passenger might prefer to sit behind the driver to avoid experiencing the illusion of sailing off the roadbed into thin air at each turn. Personally, I recommend reliance on a cautiously driven Subaru, and avoidance of a horse-driven spring wagon with a driver arranged by a jolly prankster.

Grant’s wild ride is described in Joyce Lohse’s book:
First Governor, First Lady: John and Eliza Routt of Colorado
Filter Press, 2002

Joyce B. Lohse, 5/23/2010


Posted by on May 23, 2010 in Western history


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Solitary Writing Life

Writing is sometimes a solitary endeavor. Not this week! Looking back, I am grateful for my support system, which helps make all things possible. On Tuesday evening, I attended the Colorado Authors’ League (CAL) banquet with my hub and partner, Don, who is my anchor in all aspects of life. My publishers from Filter Press, Doris and Tom Baker, braved a spring blizzard to attend with us. My friend from Women Writing the West (WWW), author Susan Tweit, was also there as a finalist, and we cheered each other on. CAL not only honored my work with their 2010 Award in Young Adult Nonfiction, but they presented me with a grant to help me attend the WWW Conference in the fall. WWW members sent numerous messages of congratulations on the Listserv digest.

CAL 2010 Award
Beyond my work as administrator for Women Writing the West, which involves interaction with approximately 250 members, I’ve enjoyed the support and society of several other groups over past weeks. CAL gave a seminar which I attended at the clubhouse of my Denver Woman’s Press Club. Yesterday, I attended a presentation at the Colorado Independent Publishers Association (CIPA), to learn how to better juggle networking options. I continue to learn new and interesting research methods from CGHS, the Columbine Genealogical and Historical Society. A week ago, I visited the Park County Archives in Bailey, Colorado. My research pal, Christie, was there, and she will also share a history lecture and trip to Leadville soon.

In upcoming entries, I will talk about some of these groups individually and describe some of their unique offerings and characteristics. They blend to lend support, education, and inspiration to those who choose to become members. Solitary writing life … I don’t think so!

Joyce Lohse, 5/16/2010

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Posted by on May 16, 2010 in Writing Life


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Celebration Time

Wm. Palmer

Thank you, William Palmer! (Courtesy Colorado College Archives)

Recently, I received an e-mail from the Colorado Author’s League containing a list of finalists for the annual Top Hand Awards. As usual, I browsed through the names to see if any of my friends were listed. I was pleased to see that Susan Tweit, a fellow  Women Writing the West member, would be honored for her book, Walking Nature Home. When I continued through the list, I was amazed to find my own name listed. My book, General William Palmer: Railroad Pioneer, is a finalist in the Young Adult Nonfiction Book category. Wow!! I called up my publishers at Filter Press, who dropped what they were doing to share the joy.

This evening, we will be attending the CAL banquet. I am thrilled and honored that my Palmer biography is receiving recognition from a distinguished and long-established Colorado book industry association. I am also pleased and thankful that William Palmer reached out and inspired me to write his story. Beyond that, I am espeically happy to share joy and celebration with my hub, my publishers, and my book friends.

To see the CAL list of Top Hand finalists, go to:

Joyce B. Lohse, 5/11/10


Posted by on May 11, 2010 in Western history


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Lost and Found

While attending a Denver Open Doors event, I found a bronze plaque commemorating General William J. Palmer in Union Station. In 1929, five of these plaques were installed in various key locations: Mexico City, Salt Lake City, Hampton Institute in Virginia, Colorado College in Colorado Springs, and Union Station in Denver. I looked high; I looked low. I never could find the Palmer plaque in the historic old Denver train station.

The bronze memorial must have been removed from the wall at some point, and put into storage. For this open house event, it was placed on an easel for all to see. They must have thought I was a little daft for getting so excited about it, but then, they graciously cleared a path so I could photograph it.

Something about this particular plaque did not look right to me. Students at Colorado College know the reason why. On test day, any student walking through Palmer Hall can acquire instant good luck by rubbing the dog’s nose on their Palmer memorial. As a result of many years of superstitious and cautious students passing by, the bronze dog in Palmer Hall has a brilliantly shiny nose.

To learn more about Palmer, see my book, General William Palmer: Railroad Pioneer, a “Now You Know Bio” from Filter Press, 2009.
Joyce B. Lohse, 5/2/10

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Posted by on May 2, 2010 in Denver history


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