Off Limits: Sucker! The circus is back in town, a town that was never home to P.T. Barnum

Like everything that accompanies the Greatest Show on Earth, the train carrying the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus to Denver this week is big, big, big — packed with spectacle, history, legend, lore and plenty of, um, fertilizer. Challenger No. 3985 is reportedly the largest steam locomotive in the world, and it will chug into town pulling a mile of cars loaded with 6,000 tons of elephants, circus tents, clowns and trapeze artists.

But while the train will depart after the circus's ten-day run at the Denver Coliseum, the sideshow over Phineas "P.T." Barnum himself — and what he did and didn't do in the Mile High City — will continue to stun and amaze spectators, just as it has here in Denver for the past 130 years. In 1871, Barnum bought 760 acres of land between Sixth and Alameda and Sheridan and Federal, just outside the city limits. But despite all the stories about the homes he owned in town and his plans to turn the property into an off-season headquarters for his circus and its four-legged entertainers, P.T. never lived in Denver. Nor did he ever keep his animals on the land, which was annexed by Denver in 1896 and is now the Barnum neighborhood.

And he most definitely never enlisted one of his circus elephants to push a train up Boreas Pass. That's pure hokum, P.T. Barnum style. But then, "there's a sucker born every minute," as he liked to say.


Phineas P.T. Barnum

Or did he?

Bike locks: The B-cycle bike-sharing program, which is run by the nonprofit Denver Bike Sharing, has been on a roll since it debuted in April, and plans to add five more stations before closing up for the snowy months. And by next year, B-cycle's Brent Tongco hopes to have funding in place to add another thirty stations. But finding a spot to put these stations isn't always easy — and not just because the red bikes are part of what GOP gubernatorial candidate Dan Maes considers a United Nations conspiracy involving John Hickenlooper and "personal freedoms."

Nope, sometimes the real answers are simpler than conspiracy theories. B-cycle had originally wanted to put a station outside the new buildings at 1400 and 1401 Wynkoop Street — but the building owner didn't want to commit to a bike rack until it had filled all of the retail space there. So B-cycle moved up the block, to 1444 Wazee Street (known as the Elephant Corral, and no relation to P.T. Barnum, either!), where it will unveil a new station sometime in the next few weeks. "Lots of property owners want the stations in front of their buildings, and the support from them and from businesses has been overwhelming," Tongco says.

Ironically, the Wynkoop building reluctant to commit to the rack houses the headquarters for Chipotle, a big fan of biking in general and B-cycle in particular. In fact, on September 11, seven Denver Chipotles donated 50 percent of their proceeds to Denver Bike Sharing, and last June, Chipotle gave away free burritos to B-cycle members during Bike to Work Day. Chipotle may be involved with the new station opening on Wazee Street as well, Tongco says.

In the meantime, B-cycle has been collecting stories about people making eating, entertainment and even life decisions based on the bike stations. For instance, margarita-swilling patrons of Benny's Restaurante y Tequila Bar are thrilled with the new bike rack at Seventh Avenue and Grant Street, while a couple getting married at the Denver Botanic Gardens this weekend plans to consummate their marriage by taking a celebratory ride — along with twenty other people — from the station there to City Park and back.

Sounds like a wheel good time.


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