shack puts, uh, a spin on scruffy, spirited stories

It was a dark and stormy night.

All right, semi-stormy.

The commute from downtown Denver creeps along at the speed of molasses, leaving plenty of time to stare at and speculate over the sight several vehicles ahead:

Naturally I’ve gotta google Banjo Billy’s bus. What I find is pretty darn different … not to mention has received tons of write-ups and features, including from the Travel Channel and Food Network’s Adam Richman himself.

inside Banjo Billy's bus

“Banjo Billy’s gives history tours of Boulder and Denver, Colorado from an old school bus tricked out to look like a traveling hillbilly shack.

“Hear ghost tales, crime stories, and history while sitting on a couch, recliner or saddle as the bus rolls through the core of the cities. You won’t forget this tour bus!”

Reckon you won’t! I ain’t too interested in the Boulder tour; the one listed close to home intrigues:

“As the Queen City of the Plains, Denver has long been a destination for those traveling west. But it’s been a rocky road from mining town to metropolis …

Banjo Billy's bus

“Here are just some of the things we cover:

* How Denver’s corruption led to a war right in front of our city hall.
* Ever wonder if the U.S. Mint has ever been robbed? It depends on who you ask.
* Why people in Victorian clothing wander through Cheesman Park.
* How Denver got its name for the price of a barrel of whiskey.
* The real story of Molly Brown, before and after that boat incident.”

Yes, that Molly! — of the Unsinkable Molly Brown fame and survivor of the Titanic. Her local Victorian home is now a museum.

So the best way to get answers to these burning questions is to take the tour myself.

a tour inside Banjo Billy's bus

And one day I will. They say it’s a hoot!

Speaking of hoot and creatures that go bump in the night, the Halloween edition’s right up my alley — pardon the word play. The perfect season to be regaled with tales tall and small, legends and the version of Denver’s history that isn’t highlighted in the guide from the Convention and Visitors’ Bureau.

Banjo Billy’s bus accommodates 25 and supposedly allows spirits of the bottled variety aboard, I’ve not confirmed this.

While it’s a bit pricey at 22 bucks per adult pop for the 90-minute tour, it’s a ride to in funky town, accompanied by banjo if you’re lucky, worth taking once.

Aside: the story of the fella behind the bus is purty interestin’; perhaps another posting …

By the way, spoiler alert: The Mint WAS robbed.

The year was 1922. The date: December 18. The time: Half past 10 in the morning.

The Federal Reserve truck parked out front was being loaded with $200,000 in freshly-minted — boy, we walked smack into that one! — $5 bills when a black Buick with curtains drawn pulled up.

Men numbering three, four or five, depending which account you read, packing sawed-off shotguns jumped out and began pelting the Mint while one man grabbed the five bundles.

Some 50 guards sprang into action and fired back. But the thieves were quicker — or the guards were bad shots — and escaped with the loot.

One guard shot in the jaw lost his life.

A fraction of the cash was eventually recovered in another state. While police had their suspects — ID’d ’em years later as a gang from the Midwest — no charges or arrests were made due to insufficient evidence and the case was closed 12 years later.

Just one peek at what may or may not await in Banjo Billy’s bus … all of which goes to show that being stuck in the commute can have its, ahem, reward.


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. lexiemom
    Aug 15, 2011 @ 15:16:21

    Sounds like a real hoot!!! Wish I could tour with you!


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