Must Stop to See Shop

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I’m not sure when the word repurposed became the new catchphrase of this century, but I love that it breaths life back into things that might otherwise end up in the rubbish or junk pile.  For those eclectic home decorators who want to adorn their space with unique, and most often one of a kind objects, Rustic Woods in Buena Vista, Colorado should be first on your list for that special gewgaw or treasured find.

Kathy Ridlon  landed in Buena Vista from Illnois, by way of Florida, in 2001 with her daughter, Jenny Erchul.  Kathy and Jenny partnered to create Rustic Woods soon thereafter and have been in several locations.  Kathy claims that the History Channel’s “American Pickers” has hurt her business because people think their long-forgotten junk is worth more than it really is, but that doesn’t stop Kathy from getting her hands dirty by scouring old barns and out-buildings looking for trash that can be turned into treasure.

If you’ve heard location, location, location, you have to know that moving in early 2016 into the old Remax building  at the corner of Highway 24 and Main St. was the right move for them.   You’ll find a multitude of impressive and interesting items in their store which is home to a plethora of metal, rust and wood items….thus Rustic Woods!

Jenny’s top ten list of favorite items (she had a tough time  picking only 10!):

  • Kinetic wind spinners
  • Woodwick jar candles
  • Pressed ceiling tin frame
  • Chain saw carved bear with sign “welcome” or “wipe your paws”
  • Colorado license plate guitar
  • Throw blanket by Fleece Ragz (using recycled fibers)
  • Bath robe by Fleece Ragz (using recycled fibers)
  • Yard art out of recycled metal
  • Hand painted agate night lights by a local artist
  • Bird houses with repurposed “junk” (each is one of a kind)


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Chain Saw Bear

A full service filling station (in the picture below) once shared the same acreage as the Rustic Woods building.  Rustic Woods’ building has been many things from a real estate office (most recently Remax) to a barber shop and the United States Post Office.  In the last 135 years, Buena Vista’s Post Office has been moved several times to fit the needs of the community.   It was once located in the back of the stationary store which is now the Lariat Bar & Grill.   It was also in the former Matzen Barber Shop from 1920 until 1959, which is now the present day Rustic Woods location.   After an era of population growth, 741 in 1940 to 1800 in 1958, it was time to find a bigger location, which subsequently has been in 2 other spots until its present day location.

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At the corner of Highway 24 and Main on the northeast corner where Rustic Woods is today





The Rope: Lariat Bar & Grill

Lariat InfoA-Lariat Bar & Grill and Town Hall (1)


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Court & Robbie Johnson, both avid skiers, met eight years ago at Bachelor Gulch, the sister slope to Beaver Creek.   They used their cabin in Ranch of the Rockies as their private getaway and fell in love with Buena Vista, vowing to live here someday. That someday occurred in the fall of 2015 when they purchased the Lariat Bar & Grill.  Court, originally from Lake Zurich, Illinois and Robbie, from Toronto, felt like they were “coming home”.  The things that drew them to Buena Vista were the access to mountain sports, the great weather, and because Buena Vista is not a ski town, with all the issues that come along with that kind of community.

The Johnsons were drawn to the Lariat because of the “great bones” and the soul of the bar.  It’s not something that can be reproduced, “it’s the real thing that comes from a 130 year old building,” said Court.

For fifteen years, Court managed his two older boys’ rock band and has spent many hours in both bars and music venues.  Their vision is to maintain the bar and to create a music venue for the many local artists as well as those out of area.   They see this as the perfect space for a bar, as well as a music venue.

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Court Johnson

Court & Robbie closed on the bar on a Thursday, which at that time was the designated night for open mic, and were blown away by the local talent.  They have continued with open mic night, which was moved to Wednesday night and expanded to include a jam session every Friday.  They also intend to continue the “Pimp & Ho” party which is a popular summer event.  They have also brought in a culinary chef and intend to provide more bistro type foods and drinks.

The Johnsons realize that they can’t be all things to all people, however, they are actively seeking input from the community that has embraced, supported, and encouraged them.


(This article was written last fall for an article in the Buena Vista Heritage Newsletter.  Today, Mach 2016, the Johnsons are undergoing a major remodel and expansion.   Buena Vistans are excited to see their outcome.)

Buena Vista Circa 1950’s

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Downtown Buena Vista, Colorado, circa late 1950’s

I found this old postcard in a pile of rubbish destined for the trash.  At first glance, it all looks the same as downtown Buena Vista in 2016 but there are also some very distinct changes.    What was once the Cash & Carry Market was Ben Franklin when I moved to town in 2000.  It is now Mystic Wellness.  The Lariat Bar & Grill (which is currently undergoing a massive remodel) is where the Cafe/Bar and tackle & bait shop once stood.  Next is Town Hall which was once a bank.  I love going into town hall.  The front door is 10 foot tall (in my mind).  The vault is still in the big office area in the front.

I’m sure in the 1950’s trains ran through town on a regular schedule which made the crossbuck in the middle of the street a necessity.  They are long gone now as are the trains that run through town.

On the other side of the tracks there was a bar that is now  home to Gone to the Dogs which is a dog grooming and doggy daycare center.

The cars in this picture are what will date it, but I don’t know enough about cars to throw a date on this picture.  I’m sure there are some motorheads out there who can tell me!

(A friend recently told me that there is a 1957 Pontiac in this picture so I would say this picture was probably taken that year or close to.)

Li’l Daisy is Fresh!


I was invited to a friend’s house a few years ago whose claim to fame was curating the “best margarita ever”.  I mean, really, EVER?  Imagine my disappointment when I was presented with a sugar & water, green dye, and lime flavored concoction.  Oh, my friend, the disappointment.   I made it my mission to discover the best alternative (outside of squeezing a dozen limes by hand) to this horrid mixer.  I am by no means a tequila connoisseur, but you won’t find one that goes down much smoother than the Peligroso brand, however the heart of a margarita comes from the mixer.  By accident, I stumbled upon the Freshies brand, which has the most appealing flavor.  The salt around the rim of your glass is the perfect compliment to the tangy lime stock of the mixer.  If so inclined, you can even add triple sec to your potion or even a few ounces of your favorite beer.  I’m  personally satisfied to have just the Freshies mixer and tequila.  Now that, my friend,  is the Best Margarita EVER!

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Freshies Margarita Mix

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Freshies Bloody Mary Mix “Hot Mary”  

Hot Mary, blessed be thy name!  Divine intervention with a lime, pickle and olives.  If I had any celery in the fridge, I would have thrown that in too!   I picked up Freshies Margarita Mix and Hot Bloody Mary Mix the other day.  I wanted to add pictures to this blog and needed the real deal so I mixed up a batch of both.  I’m not one to let anything go to waste so I had to  drink them both once I was through.  They were, of course, fresh and delicious and the Bloody Mary had just the right amount of spice!  On occasion, I’ll even throw in a dash of Tabasco and/or black pepper, but it’s  really not necessary with the “Hot Mary” mixer.

Freshies stared in a little mountain town called Telluride.  The story began with a chef and a bartender (just like any other good story).  Their cocktails had become famous throughout the west, so they decided to start bottling the mixers.  Today, you can enjoy those same recipes that make Freshies Cocktail Mixers the best product out of a bottle, guaranteed.  These Freshies are all natural, free of preservatives, gluten free and totally delicious.   [This came straight off of the mixer bottle]

Apparently, Freshies is bottled in Denver, CO (that’s on the bottle too) and here is their website:  FRESHIES

To purchase Freshies in Buena Vista, Little Daisy Liquor Store carries several varieties.  Little Daisy Liquor

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Vertex Festival in Buena Vista, CO


Buena Vista is expecting 20,000 tourists this summer the first full weekend of August, 2016, courtesy of The Madison House #MadHouse.

Megan Carpenter, office manager at Buena Vista Chamber of Commerce, has put together a playlist for the festival on Spotify.  Check it out!

Vertex Playlist compiled by Megan Carpenter

Disclaimer:  The photo used in their advertising is of Mt. Shavano, approximately 20 miles south of the designated music venue site.


Mere Minutes Until Your Next Adventure [Infographic]

Buena Vista, Colorado town proper is located in the Upper Arkansas River Valley within the shadows of the Collegiate Peaks Range.  Rafting, kayaking, snowmobiling, fishing, skiing, biking, and hiking are just a few of the great adventures that are awaiting your arrival.  The center of Town is located at the one stoplight, which is the intersection of Highway 24 and County Road 306.  From there you can head north, west, south and east to do just about anything that your adventurous heart desires.   It might be something as simple as taking the kids to the park, or throwing your kayak into Town Lake to paddle around a bit.  It might even be as exciting as whitewater rafting on the Arkansas River or even a zip line tour.  Whatever “floats your boat” (tongue in cheek), Buena Vista will not disappoint!

Feel free to download the infographic below, but please give Baby Doe Studios, the creator, credit if you post it online.  To download, click on “BUENA VISTA, CO INFOGRAHIC” below.


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Traveling on the Edge

Our Adventure began on the Skyline Drive just outside of Canon City.  This scenic roadway was built with prison labor in 1908 and spans a hogback ridge.  At the top, our view of the City of Canon City to the east and Highway 50 to the west was breathtaking!  The road was quite narrow with a sheer dropoff on either side, so it’s not for the feint of heart….

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All Aboard!!  The first passenger train to run through the Royal Gorge at Canon City, Colorado was in the 1880’s.  By 1890, four passenger trains a day passed through the Royal Gorge.  With the popularity of buses and automobiles the last passenger train through the Gorge ran on July 27, 1967.

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BDS_0310 copyWhile waiting for the train to depart the station, we ordered lunch and wine from the on-board bar & grill.  A glass of white zin was the perfect compliment for our turkey cheese melt sandwiches.  Somehow, they even made Paige’s hot dog & bun seem gourmet.


The line was reestablished in the fall of 1998 as a tourist scenic attraction.  It leaves Canon City for a 24 mile round trip to Parkdale, Colorado.  The trip takes just under 2 hours.

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 Our tickets entitled us to ride in the parlor car, however, with the 60 degree weather, we were drawn to the open air car for the return trip.

DSC_5192 copyWe were told there could be big horn sheep, (which we did see) bear (we weren’t expecting to see any bear this time of year), duck, and geese.  We’ve driven through the canyon many times and I had never noticed the wood stave water line hanging off the canyon wall.  The train ride brought a whole new perspective.








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This wood stave waterline was a steel wrapped pipeline to carry water to the town of Canon City.  It was made out of redwood and the constant flow of water made the wood swell which sealed against water leakage.  The steel braces prevented breakage under pressure yet kept the structure lightweight.


BDS_9859 copyThis is part of the remaining dam structure that diverted water to the pipeline.  It was used from the early 1900’s until 1974.  Commercial companies were rafting the Gorge in the ’70’s.  According to the guide, rafters had to portage around the dam.   You might wonder why Canon City had to pipe water that would run downhill naturally.  By capturing the water at a higher elevation and piping it to town it could be naturally pressurized.

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This a remnant of one out of dozen foot bridges that allowed workers to walk to the other side for maintenance on the waterline.

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This rock formation is called “Old Man in the Rock”.  I actually think I see two faces.
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Because the gorge narrows to only 30 feet wide with canyon walls that rise 2600 feet above the water, a hanging bridge was constructed to hold the tracks in 1879.  It was designed by a Kansas engineer, Charles Shaler Smith and cost $11,759 to build.  The steel A shaped girders span the Arkansas River and are anchored to the rock wall on the other side of the river.

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We saw this little structure along the route and forgot to ask the guide what he thought it was.  I emailed it to a railroad expert I know and his response back was that he thought it was a valve house for the water pipeline. June 11, 2013 saw wildfire tear through the Royal Gorge. 3800 acres burned, which also shut the train down for about 5 days.  At least a mile of the wood stave pipeline was burned, leaving the steel wrap behind.  A cleanup effort  to prevent the steel rings from polluting the river is underway.  The fire also burned 48 of the 52 buildings in the park.

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However, the fire did not reach the historic suspension bridge 1053 feet above the Arkansas River.  The suspension bridge, which we’ve previously crossed by both car and foot, was built in 1929 at a cost of $350,000.  It was originally a toll bridge.  It is 1260 feet long and 18 feet wide with almost 1300 wood planks (of which 250 are replaced a year).   After reconstruction of the park, it reopened to the public in March 2014.

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As we pulled out of the station and returned, we passed the medium security prison on the edge of town in Canon City.

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This territorial prison was built in 1868 as part of the federal prison system.  After Colorado’s statehood, it became a state prison in 1876.  The first inmate was John Shepler on June 13, 1871, Prisoner No. 1.  This prison, still in use today, was also home to Alfred Packer (known as Colorado’s Hannibal the Cannibal) as well as Unibomber Ted Kazynski. The prison is referred to as “Old Max”.

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The original guard tower which is obviously no longer in use.

We’ve taken this particular train ride several times and it never disappoints!


#RoyalGorge  #Train #Tourist #Colorado #Prison #OldMax #BigHornSheep

Hand-Crafted Whiskey Cocktail

The Deerhammer Distilling Company  is located in downtown Buena Vista, Colorado.  They bottle whiskey under their own label.  They even have a tasting room in the front of the distillery.  According to the owner, Lenny Eckstein, The Deerhammer chose their name in deference to the “Mother of Buena Vista”,  Alsina Dearheimer. Direct Link to Info on Buena Vista History

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The pronunciation of Buena Vista is hotly debated by almost every tourist and newcomer.  It may take some time, but you’ll know you are firmly entrenched in the community when you finally accept the unique pronunciation and are proud of it.  According to Suzy Kelly, author of “Buena Vista’s Tales From the Past”,   Alsina proposed changing the name from Mahonville to Buena Vista, with the emphasis on the “u”.  Alsina did not speak Spanish and her mother tongue was German, so she most likely had a thick German accent, which would account for her choice in the pronunciation.  Buena Vista loosely translates to beautiful view in Spanish.  Alsina wanted the pronunciation to focus on the “b – u” in beautiful.

More Buena Vista information can be found in A History of Chaffee County by June Shapitus and Suzy Kelly at Chaffee County History

But I digress (which is not an unusual occurrence), The Deerhammer doesn’t open until late afternoon, however, they are worth the wait.  They provide a quality whiskey in which they then create a crafted cocktail….my favorite being the High Roller.  They even provide tours of their distillery.  Here is a link to their site:  For the Best Whiskey Ever, Click Here  Cheers!



Top 10 Places to Eat in Buena Vista

I had the chance to dine at the Simple Eatery featuring Spoon It Up recently.  Ryan McFadden, the owner had a few minutes to sit down with me to reminisce about his move to Buena Vista, Colorado as a restauranteer.

BDS_0132Ryan and his wife, Heather, and two girls, arrived here in April of 2009 at the behest of his sister, Molly Heynekamp, and her husband, Mick.  The Heynekamps were slated to open a restaurant and brewery in South Main, an up and coming subdivision in Buena Vista.  The McFaddens left New Mexico behind and embraced their new home while immersing themselves within the community.

Ryan incorporated both his psychology and business degrees to co-manage the Eddyline Restaurant & Brewery.  After his sister and her husband sold their interest in the restaurant to focus on their brewery and taproom, Ryan left to manage the Eddyline Brewery & Taproom during its recent transition and expansion.

Ryan said goodbye to the Eddyline family for good in the summer of 2014 to create a new eatery inside the former State Highway Dept. building.  His concept is a fresh take on simple classic food.  For him, it all starts with the spoon.  Hot or cold, we all use a spoon.  He founded an eatery that focuses (with a fresh twist) on pasta dishes, salads, and yogurt by the ounce, and of course, a spoon.  He has rounded out his varied menu with several meat dishes and fresh baked bread.

This business started as a “Proof of Concept” that has proven to be a downtown destination.  Ryan is looking to the future with a second location and to expand his bread line.

Doyle's Undertaking bldgDoyle Furniture Maker & Undertaker once sat on the same site as what is now known as the State Highway Dept. Next door to the mortuary was a livery stable, the fire department and the Webb Hotel.  The DeRemer Hook & Ladder Co. was formed on June 8, 1881, at a time when volunteer firefighters answered the call of the bell by hooking themselves to the water cart and pulling it to the fire.  Imagine their surprise, in 1934, when the bell rang and they arrived to find their firehouse burning.  The bell was still ringing as it crashed to the ground.  The only building on this block that is still standing today is the structure in the far right of the image.  It was built in 1885 by J.F. Jacobs.  It once housed the Webb Hotel, Welkers Antique Store, Meister House and Mother’s Bistro.    Courtesy of Buena Vista Heritage Collection and “A History of Chaffee County”.

Ryan is contributing to  Buena Vista history himself, however, the building which houses his eatery had a life of its own.  It is now referred to as the State Highway Dept. building, but it was built in the 1920’s by George “Skinny” Pyle as a car garage.  Because it was heated, locals rented space inside the building during the 40’s and 50’s to store their vehicles to ensure they would start when the weather had a bit of a nip to it.  It wasn’t until the 1960’s that the highway department moved in and painted their name across the front (which is still visible).  Today, The Trailhead, an outdoor adventure retail store and Simple Eatery featuring Spoon It Up cater to both locals and tourists alike.

So here are my choices and in no particular order (it just depends on what you are hungry for):

  1. Simple Eatery featuring Spoon It Up (see above….love it all! They also carry Eddyline and Elevation craft beers)
  2. The Lariat Bar & Grill (best burger & tap beer in town)
  3. Los Girasoles (2 for 1 margaritas, lovely salsa & chips)
  4. Eddyline Brewery & Taproom (home of the Whitewater Pizza!  Great music on the patio, locally brewed craft beer.  Honey Wheat is my all time fave – grab a growler!)
  5. The Rooster’s Crow (breakfast – bacon – until 2 p.m.)
  6. K’s Dairy Delite (fish & chips if you are in a hurry, and of course soft ice cream!)
  7. The Midland Stop (located in South Main – great flavorful gelato and a great cup of coffee or tea)
  8. Eddyline Restaurant (located in South Main…anything on their menu….it’s all wood smoked!)
  9. Jan’s Restaurant (yummy comfort food)
  10. Jade Garden (Asian food, great for lunch if you are in a hurry)

#BVRocks     #EscapetotheMountains   #SimpleEatery  #TheTrailhead   #StateHighwayDept


The Mountains are Calling and I Must GO!

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Photo Credit by Baby Doe Studios/McMurray Ranch below Mt. Princeton

Everyone has a unique story to tell about why they have chosen to call the Upper Arkansas River Valley and more particularly, Buena Vista, Colorado, home.  For many, it’s the “small town” atmosphere that has drawn them (you just have to accept that everyone in town knows your business).  Or, it could be that they love the people and the energy.  I’ve also heard that people choose to live here for what it isn’t.  Buena Vista isn’t a ski town, nor is it a celebrity mecca, unless you count Hannah Rose, a young local musician who has won several singing contests.    For most, it is the lifestyle and adventure that living here affords. Not only do we get to wake up to the glorious mountains every morning, but we can choose to go skiing in less than an hour, whitewater rafting right in our back yard, horseback riding in the back country, or participating in any of the many festivals hosted in town.

In light of that celebrity reference, I should mention that I did see Robert Duvall in town, but that was many years ago.  I had heard that he liked to snow mobile in this part of the country  and managed to get himself lost which meant Search & Rescue had to be dispatched.  Oh, and then there was that one time that I saw Jessica Biel and Justin Timberlake (pre-marriage) at Wal Mart in Salida.  Of course, her grannie still lives in the area.   Fortunately for the locals, Buena Vista hasn’t caught on with anyone of their celebrity status.   We are still just a bunch of hard working, honest, happy and adventuresome folks with a desire to contribute to a great community, and to improve our lives as well as the lives of our children.

With that being said, the mountains are calling and I must go.  the Mountains are calling
Mt. Antero/Part of the Collegiate Peaks Mountain Range

#BVRocks #EscapetotheMountains #MountainLiving #Freedom #MtPrinceton