part 1 of 3
Best Batting Cage
6091 S. Pierce St., Littleton
Dig in there, slugger. For one buck you get to see sixteen pitches (would you like the 35-mph floater or the 85-mph smoke?), and if your hands aren't bleeding after that, shell out $20 for something called the Heavy Hitter punch card, which entitles you to thirty rounds of sixteen pitches each. Located in Littleton's Clement Park, Batter's Box features nine outdoor hitting cages for baseball and softball (fast pitch and fifteen-foot arc), and the ball carries far enough in the open air that any budding Willie Mays can tell how well he's really hit it. Aluminum bats and helmets are provided, of course.
Readers' choice: Batter Up
Best Bargain Baseball Parking
1550 Delgany St.
The private parking lots surrounding Coors Field are not what most of us would call cheap: $7 and $10 rates are commonplace. But just a few blocks away, directly behind the Terminal Annex Post Office that's within sight of the ballpark, are a pair of Allright lots that will run you a mere $2 maximum. It'll take you a few extra steps to get to your seat, but you're saving $8 for hoofing it an additional three blocks.
Best View From Inside Coors Field
Bullpen balconies on the mezzanine
Stroll around the mezzanine to the outfield, and between sections 201 and 205 in right-center field, you'll behold artists and craftsmen at work--up-close and personal. Coors Field's bullpen balconies are situated just ten feet above relief pitchers warming up for the fray, and from this perch you can hear every heater pop the catcher's mitt and watch every yakker break. Seats in the right-field mezz go for $8, but even if you're not sitting there, an intimate visit to the pen is a must for every Rockies fan--even when Darren Holmes is bouncing his famous 55-foot curve balls up to the plate.
Best Coors Field Pacifier
Children's play area
Even six-year-olds who love baseball often have difficulty sitting still for more than two hours. Fortunately, the designers of Coors Field came up with a solution: a large jungle gym placed just beyond the left-field seats. Better yet, parents keeping an eye on their progeny as they climb, slide and run around are still able to see the game from this vantage point. Clearly, it's a win-win situation--or win-win-win, depending on the Rockies.
Best Coors Field Art
"Evolution of the Ball"
Fans who enter Coors Field through the entrance just north of 19th Street would do well to stop and look at the gateway above them before they scurry to their seats. "Evolution of the Ball" is an ideal introduction to the diamond. Hanzon's contraption, whose artistic ambitions take a backseat to fun, incorporates a section of railroad track in tribute to the history of the area, as well as a fanciful history of the ball that blends the literal (eyeballs, skee balls, Koosh balls, balls of string) with the loony (one sphere is identified as "The Amaze-ing Future Ball"). It may not be Picasso, but it sets the right tone for a ballpark.
Best Rockies Scorecard
Publisher Bert Matthews turns out a no-nonsense, sixteen-page booklet on the kind of coarse, heavy paper that makes scorekeeping easy, and the individual at-bat boxes are larger than most. Scouting reports on home and visiting teams make for quick reading, and there are columns by Denver writers John Ashton and Lew Cady, as well as "collectibles" and nostalgia features. Radio storyteller Garrison Keillor is listed as a "Special Flyer Contributor," which means the publication reprints a baseball piece of his from time to time. At $1, this is a real score.
Best Concession Stand Inside Coors Field
Level Three in the Clock Tower area behind Section 331
How do you say it? Hot Dog. Hot Dog? Hot Dog! When you've got the best dog in the park, who cares? Hot Dog serves up a spicy Hebrew National dog that's a cut above the humdrum variety of links offered at other ballpark stands. Plus, it's located in Coors Field's best concession area, featuring brand-name fast food, Dreyer's ice cream and espresso, a convenient ticket booth, Rocky Mountain Oysters and the Clock Tower Bar, which looks like it could be haunted by Quasimodo. But we're sticking to tradition: hot dog, pretzel and beer. Nothing foul about that.
Readers' choice: Sandlot MicroBrew
Best Foam Delivery
Bob D. Beerman
You've got your surf bums and you've got your ski bums, but Bob Donchez--aka Bob D. Beerman--has got to be the world's most famous ballpark bum. He was first in line to apply for the job when ARA Services began hiring beer vendors for Colorado Rockies games. Selling beer is his calling, in spite of--or, perhaps, thanks to--an MBA from Fordham University and a stint in the concrete canyons of Wall Street. So he wrote a book about his suds-pouring experiences in the stands, got some press and managed to wheedle himself onto ESPN's SportsNight. Bob, who actually works all the arenas in town (and a few out of town, like Wrigley Field), prefers hawking Rockies games: "The pace of the game is like the tide coming in and out," he says. And it allows him time to perfect the science of vending beer. These days, Bob hardly ever spills a drop.
Best Vendor Outside Coors Field
Northwest corner of 20th and Blake streets
Freddy Garcia, who sets up shop at a prime location catty-corner from the stadium, is one of the regulars. And like many of Coors Field's street-corner entrepreneurs, he mainly traffics in the lowly legume that is a ballpark mainstay. But his stand also goes upscale and down south with bags of pistachios and pinon nuts. Does he sell them for peanuts? Let's just say you'll pay Freddy a lot less for your goober pile than you will inside.
Readers' choice: Burrito lady at 20th and Blake
Best 10th Inning Stretch
1962 Market St.
Blake and Market streets are now lined with baseball-themed saloons (some of which won't survive the current season), but there's still only one 'Pec. Jerry Krantz's glorious hole in the wall has been around half a century and has featured pretty fair burritos, cold beer and great local jazz for twenty years. Think he'll change a thing because Coors Field is right across the street? Don't bet on it. "I got the only place they see the sign when they come out the ballpark," Krantz reports with a gleam in his eye. True. And he'll still be there when the Rox win the Series.
Best Local Sports Tome
Hardwood Gold: The Rise & Fall...and Rise of the Denver Nuggets
It seems like much more than a year ago that the Nuggets rose up and bit the league-best Seattle Supersonics in the playoffs and came within a game of knocking off Karl Malone and the Utah Jazz. Since then the team has gone through two coaches, lost LaPhonso Ellis to injury and fallen back on hard times. Mike Monroe, a veteran Denver Post sportswriter who's been covering the Nuggets for eleven seasons, follows the entire ABA/NBA history of the club from laughingstock to Cinderella, employing his customary precise prose and lots of nostalgic pictures. The introduction by Dan Issel is an instant antique, of course. But that's the way the ball bounces.
Best Ski Book for Women
Colorado native Claudia Carbone, who's been skiing since the '50s, was disturbed to learn that many women skiers are easily discouraged and quit after an average of two years of going downhill. In an effort to understand those statistics, Carbone went out and got answers--drawing from questionnaires, interviews and discussions with women skiers and experts in several ski-related disciplines. The resulting book not only explores reasons why women quit--biological and mental factors, insensitive instructors and poorly designed equipment--but also offers workable, no-nonsense solutions to help get them back on the slopes.
Limon Lanes, Limon
Too often, bowling involves fighting crowds for an alley in some industrial-sized building where league nights seem perpetual. For a trip down memory lanes, drive east on I-70 to Limon. It's a haul, but the six pristine and uncrowded Limon Lanes are well worth it. Drink Budweiser from plastic cups. Spend the evening throwing strikes next to a Plains family of buzz-cut kids.
Best Hidden Treasure
Manitou Grand Caverns
Serpentine Drive Highway, north of Manitou Springs
Discovered in 1881 by prospector George W. Snider, Manitou Grand Caverns soon overshadowed in popularity the neighboring Cave of the Winds as a Victorian-age tourist attraction. But time marches on: When the Cave of the Winds was strung with lights in 1907, it was curtains for the unlit Grand Caverns, which were closed down and languished unvisited for decades. Falling victim to flooding and neglect, the former tour route, blocked by debris, is now lost. In recent years, though, cavers from the National Speleological Society have worked to uncover new passages through Manitou's extensive and still not fully explored grottos, installing new stairs and pathways. As a result, the caverns reopened this summer for spooky candlelit public tours given by guides in period costumes and focusing on history. Call ahead; rain this spring left the caves pretty soggy.
Take Marc Hament to the edge and he'll know exactly what to do. An adventurer from head to foot, he's been a high-country Jeep tour guide, photographer and firefighter. But ten years ago he went underground, and now "Caveman" Hament--as he's known these days--has taken the wheel of the Manitou Grand Caverns project, overseeing redevelopment, training guides and ensuring safety and an uncommercial atmosphere for all who enter the pitch-black, unelectrified chambers. Where was this man when they decided to put up lights at Wrigley Field?
Best Racing Greyhound
This two-year-old flash from the Linda Blanch Kennel broke in last year at Mile High Kennel Club and, in 78 career starts to date, has won 33 races, finished second ten times and gotten the show money sixteen times. This past winter, the white, ticked and brindle son of Bold and Brazen and Arjo Pennyheart won the Interstate Kennel Club Juvenile Classic and the Cloverleaf Inaugural. At Mile High's summer meet, he's again showing his versatility--running sprints and route races against the top "A" dogs on the grounds.
Best Arapahoe Park Thoroughbred
Last year, the then-seven-year-old son of Boca Rio by Harry's Queen upset a couple of respected California shippers to win the $100,000 Arapahoe Park Sprint, and he's back in the barn this season for owner Jean Dillard. Some bigger names--Let the Big Hoss Roll and Shoot the Jukebox--may invade from Hollywood Park this year, but at this writing, the hard-knocking sprinter with the repeating name boasted nineteen wins, twelve seconds and four third-place finishes in 42 career starts and had won $482,877. You don't often see that kind of quality on the prairies of Aurora.
The Pennsylvania native is riding her third season at Arapahoe Park, and while she finished fourth in wins last season, she was leading 1995's local jockey colony at press time. Painter is widely admired for her strong hands, her ability to rate a horse over a distance of ground and her track-smart, hard-driving runs to the wire. Arizona racing fans also know her well: She was among the riding leaders in 1995 at Turf Paradise in Phoenix.
Best Local Fishin' Hole
18350 E. Quincy Ave., Aurora
Anglers in search of something big and plentiful will be perfectly happy at Quincy, where humongous tiger muskie, crappie and hatchery-raised bass mingle in the man-made deep. Quincy is close by and literally swims with fish. Plus it's smaller, with less potential for human company than the more heavily used Aurora Reservoir.
Readers' choice: Chatfield Reservoir
Best Little-Known Local Fishin' Hole
56th Ave. and Lowell Blvd.
Feeling lucky? Lowell Ponds, located just off I-76 in Adams County, are not only convenient, they're also nicely stocked with crappie and bluegill that are all just dying to snap up your bait. Featuring a cast of thousands.
Best Quickie Fishing Getaway
South Platte River at Deckers
If river fishing in a mountain setting is to your liking, the drive to Deckers, southwest of Sedalia on Highway 67, is exceptionally pretty, and it's a doable day trip to boot. Fishing boot, that is. Strap 'em on. And if the day is good and you find just the right pool, the South Platte ought to be running with a crafty commune of rainbow and brown trout. One word of advice: For the reasons detailed above, Deckers is a favorite party spot. The fishing is usually the best--and most relaxed--midweek.
Best Fishing Expedition
Jenny and Yankee Doodle lakes
High above Boulder, in the rugged shadow of Rollins Pass, these pristine mountain lakes are accessible to citified fisherfolk, just so long as they don't mind hiking in a mile or so with their tackle and gear. It's the ultimate mountain fishing experience, sans the tent and 100-pound backpack. If you've got four-wheel drive, all the better.
Best Place to Flip a Disc
This eighteen-hole beaut was built in 1991 to accommodate disc golf, the hottest new alternative sport this side of snowboarding, in which new-age duffers attempt to hurl souped-up Frisbees into metal baskets. And Edora has everything a spin doctor could want: plenty of water hazards and strategically placed trees for tight maneuvering, but also several holes that require monster drives over gargantuan expanses of manicured grass. First-timers may need a little help figuring out where the pins are--maps are for wimps is the governing principle on this par-72 layout--but once you've played it, you'll want to go around--and around--again.
Best Place to Get Free Frisbees
5900 Allison Ct., Arvada
If you're willing to get your feet wet, a veritable trove of sunken treasures awaits in the northern suburbs. The disc-golf course next to Arvada's city offices was designed by sadists who placed practically every pin next to Ralston Creek, which rampages through the park, waiting to swallow up wayward projectiles. On any given day, you can find golfers in the creek, Reeboks off and pants rolled up, in search of their slipped discs. They may even find them--unless you get there first.
Best Hole on a Public Golf Course
No. 13, Eagle Golf Club
1200 Clubhouse Dr., Broomfield
Grab some air. This 427-yard par-4 runs entirely uphill, and to get there you must avoid hitting your drive into one of two bunkers 220 yards down the right side of the fairway and one 230 yards down the left side. And try to miss that 200-yard-long ditch on the right, okay? That done, now loft your second shot toward a severely left-and-forward-sloping green with another trap situated front-left. Okay so far? Did you miss the other bunker to the right of the green? Fine. Now try to read the wicked breaks in the green and two-putt. Good. Four. Now, how about the six lakes and 61 remaining bunkers that lurk along the rest of this Dick Phelps-designed layout?
Readers' choice: No. 13, Arrowhead
Best Out-of-the-Way Driving Range
Old West Driving Range
14771 Morrison Rd., Morrison
For those golfers among you who'd rather work on your game without dozens of other duffers analyzing (and snickering at) your every swing, this is your dream range. Just off Highway C-470, Old West is located in a scenic and fairly isolated area next to Old West Stables (a popular place to rent horses) and a good distance from the scrutiny of wiseacres. Prices are good, too: A bucket of seventy balls will run you $4, and if you purchase nine buckets, you get a tenth free.
Best Run for Your Money
The Leukemia Society's "Team in Training" program
It's a classic tradeoff: Ambitious Denver-area runners get a chance to work with expert personal trainers and then be shipped off to major marathons around the country. But first, they must donate at least $2,500 to the Leukemia Society for the benefit of leukemia patients. The runners get to fulfill their long-distance dreams, while leukemia research and patient-aid programs get a boost.
Best Run for Your Monkey
Run for the Zoo
City Park's annual Run for the Zoo draws all kinds of people, from the very, very young to human centipedes costumed and joined at the waist. Those who ran, walked or fell over laughing in last fall's run got the usual T-shirt and other post-race goodies, along with a free zoo pass. But the real winners were the zoo's cramped primates, whose future new world-class home, Primate Panorama, was the recipient of race proceeds. You can bet the joint was swinging.
Best In-City Mountain Bike Trail
Cherry Creek Dirt Trails
You could take your mountain bike down the cement-smooth Cherry Creek bike path. But then, what's the point of stacking your alloy frame with $1,200 worth of Rock Shoks, fat tires and other off-road accoutrements? What many people don't know is that running parallel to the Cherry Creek path in the stream bed itself is a zig-zagging network of dirt trails that zoom in and out of trees, reeds, rocks and water. Veer off the concrete just south of the Cherry Creek Mall.
Best Place to Put Your Mettle to the Pedal
King of the Rockies Off-Road Stage Race and Mountain Bike Festival
Winter Park Resort
Maybe the nicest thing about King of the Rockies is that it's for everyone. During the week-long fest in mid-summer, mountain-bike tours suiting various skill levels are arranged (including one that takes place under the stars), a kids' race is scheduled, gear gets spotlighted at a Summer Sports Expo and parties are thrown. But the race, attracting the world's top cyclers, is surely the biggest thrill of the event, offering average cyclists an opportunity to rub elbows with the fiercely competitive.
Best Maps for Fearless Mountain Bikers
P.O. Box 4086, Boulder 80306
All geared up and no place to go? Grant and Mary Morrison's Western Hardbody Mecca Series of maps are an excellent introduction to some of the best--and most challenging--mountain-biking meccas in the West, from Vail Valley to Lake Tahoe. Everything from remote, single-track trails to paved paths and byways is covered. Turn the maps over and you'll find safety hints and regional information to help you get your bearings in new territory. And no matter what kind of conditions you encounter, don't worry about ruining your map--these are tear-resistant and waterproof.
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Best Bikes for Hire
Yellow Checkered Bike Project
It would be so much easier to bike around town if you didn't have to worry about what to do with your cycle once you got where you were going. Entrepreneur Joe Canepa, who is also handy with a wrench, took a cue from Amsterdam's streets and decided to do something about it. With a little help from his friends and Metro State student volunteers, he collected bikes (along the lines of a Schwinn Varsity) and spiffed them up with easy-to-see yellow paint and reflective tape for free use by the public. The two-wheelers even have names, like Alberta, Chauncey and Trixie. The idea: You pick one up--on LoDo streets beginning June 30--and ride it to your destination, where you can leave it for the next person to come along. Canepa's plans don't stop there: watch for downtown valet bike-parking facilities soon.
Best Getaway Vehicle
Colorado Association of Campgrounds, Cabins and Lodges
5101 Pennsylvania Ave., Boulder 80303-2799
Gone are the days when you could just take off for the Rockies and easily find a room or campsite at day's end--reservations are a must. But The Colorado Directory: Camping, Cabins, Lodges, Fun Things to Do makes it easy to carry on with some semblance of spontaneity. Created by a nonprofit organization linking owners of commercial lodgings and campgrounds throughout the state, the guide describes hundreds of places where Colorado travelers can rest their weary bones. If you're in a rush, send $6.50 and they'll send you one right away; if you're just in the planning stages and not in a big hurry, they'll ship it to you free within four weeks. Nothing fancy, but use it and you'll rest easy.
end of part 1