Canon City to Swissvale - The woman who sat on the toilet too long (and other odd American tales) - CycleBlaze

June 17, 2014

Canon City to Swissvale

Cañon City remembers its past
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Find a lost cow on the streets of Cañon City and you can trace its owner thanks to a convenient wall chart
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NOW THIS is more like it! The scenery was striking, the day started with a decent but enjoyable climb, and we rode all day beside a rushing river to the sound of shrieking people riding the rapids in blue, inflatable rafts.

But first was the novelty of finding that the biggest industry in Cañon City is locking people up. They go in for it in a big way here, with prisons - or "correctional facilities", because nobody goes to jail here - outside and within the city. In fact they compete: the one in the centre of town boasts of being "the first and the best."

We stopped at the first and the best and admired the shiny barbed wire. There was no intention that anybody should get out.

"We don't get the worst of the worst in here," the uniformed jailer on the gate said with a faint tone of relief when he walked over to tell me, half-heartedly, that I couldn't take pictures of what was visible from the street. "Security issues," he explained without believing it and ignoring the pictures I'd already taken.

I told him I had no plan to help others escape and no wish to break in the other way, "but I'm used to jails in French cities, which are forbidding places with big old stone walls round them; I don't know what they're like on the inside but seeing the outside is enough."

He smiled. "It's because we're a college," he said mysteriously, telling me I was wrong to think of education but not explaining what he did mean. "We're 'accreditated' by the state. So what gets broke gets mended."

I think we were speaking the same language but I couldn't be sure. Anyway, he said there were two prisons, the first, on the left, an assessment centre and the one on the right the actual pokey. There were some lifers, he said, but most were in for 10 years, accumulating or whittling points that would govern their release date.

"And if they have containment issues, they get sent elsewhere," he said. I think that was the expression. That was how he spoke. What he meant was those who thought they were at Colditz and started burrowing their way out didn't get to stay long.

More of appealing Cañon City
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Downtown Cañon City is pleasant. Usually a "historic downtown" means anything older than the branches of MacDonalds on the ring road. I don't know how "historic" Cañon City is but it was worth riding through. And a brief respite before the hill, gentle at first and then a little more steeply to the horrible commercialism before the drop to Royal Gorge. And then we rolled beside the rushing water of the Arkansas - pronounced as it looks and not like the state - to the yelps of happy people struggling to keep control as they floated downstream in blue overalls and colourful helmets.

We are camping tonight in a lay-by before the village of Swissvale, which in turn is just before Salida, which is Spanish for "exit" and probably means the end of the valley. In fact, this little patch with gravel tent pads and toilets but no running water - we washed ourselves and our clothes in the river - is called Rincon. Since that is Spanish for "corner", it betrays the history of the region.

It's been a good day, not without traffic - although all of it impeccably behaved - and repayment for the grovelling across Kansas and eastern Colorado and, especially, yesterday.

The first and the best - but not so wonderful that they can risk doing without the barbed wire
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So good because it's "accreditated"
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Oh how the countryside has improved!
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Today's ride: 82 km (51 miles)
Total: 3,776 km (2,345 miles)

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