The inaugural Dead Beat Walking Tour, which followed in the footsteps of such literary legends as Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady, was such a hit last month that Summer Waters, founder of Colorado Walking Tours, quickly added more dates that could take advantage of long evenings and balmy weather, including a tour on Thursday, September 14.
"The number of locals who were there was pretty cool," she says of the first Beat trek. "I've been here a long time, and I'd still never been to My Brother's Bar." The building at 2376 15th Street that's housed that classic watering hole for close to fifty years has been home to a bar since as far back as the 1880s; bad-boy Cassady asked a pal to take care of an outstanding tab at what was then known as Paul's Place while he was in reform school.
Waters, who's lived here for the past fifteen years and "a couple of times" before that, says the initial Dead Beat tour group included both transplants and natives. She could identify with both: Her great-grandparents homesteaded on the Western Slope, and her father was born here, but she "grew up in a musical family," she explains, "and traveled a lot as a youth and into adulthood."
She landed in Aurora with Americorps in the ’90s, when she and her colleagues were reading "two rebellious novels": The Monkey Wrench Gang and On the Road. Inspired by Kerouac's tales of the rebellious Dean Moriarty (Cassady) and their adventures in Denver's jazz scene four decades before, they went searching. "The only thing we found was El Chapultepec," she recalls.
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Years later, when she returned to Denver, "I thought the revitalization had brought back some of the vibe," Waters says. So when she launched her tour company in June, she decided to include a Beat tour.
"For me, I got introduced to the movement through Jack Kerouac, and I started researching him and then Neal Cassady. He had a rough upbringing, and was maybe kind of a thug, but his ability to express himself through poetry made him a bigger-than-life character," Waters says. "I was inspired discovering that character, and how many people he touched."
Get touched yourself at the September 14 tour; it starts at 6 p.m. at Union Station and winds up at My Brother's. (RSVP at coloradowalkingtours.com; tickets are $20.) Waters has other tours on the agenda, including the Granola and a fall walking tour of the Riverfront area. "The interest has been above and beyond, with such a great mix: locals, complete tourists who'd just heard about it," she says. "I feel reconnected with the city."
Want to connect? Find out more at coloradowalkingtours.com.