Hail Colorado…No, Really, We Get a LOT of Hail!

On Monday, May 8th a vicious hail storm went through north Denver, denting cars, breaking windows and flooding streets. It even attacked out Denver bus Daisy, who had all of her rear light broken.  Hail as big as golf balls, and even baseballs was reported, which is ironic because the storm caused 3 Banjo Billy employees to cut short a round of golf, and also caused the Rockies game against the Cubs that night to be postponed. The picture below is not snow, if is the amount of hail that fell that day.

hail

This kind of hailstorm is not unusual in this part of the country. In fact, the Front Range and Eastern Plains of Colorado are part of a “Hail Alley” that creates weather conditions conducive to creating this type of storm. In fact, the front range gets an average of 10 days a year with hail (and 300 with sunshine!).

The cause is that the mountains sometimes cause an updraft of air of air. Clouds can contain water that is far colder that what we believe is freezing, but still in a liquid state. Once something causes that to form into a particle, if gathers more cold water into ice the longer it stays up in the cloud. And the updrafts help keep that little particle grow into a dangerous hailstone. So, if you see a really, really dark cloud approaching you in Colorado, either get inside or grab a helmet.

Daisy has been repaired, and is again taking people looking to laugh and learn on tours of Denver. Meanwhile, her sister Rosey was in Boulder, where it barely rained. Come visit our girls this weekend.

Cassini Enters the Rings of Saturn with a CU Instrument On Board

The Cassini Spacecraft is a testament to long term thinking. The craft was launched in 1997 and traveled for 7 years before entering the orbit of Saturn. It is now on the Grand Finale of it’s mission, having already changed what is known about our solar system. It will diving in and out of the area between the icy rings of Saturn and the planet itself once a week until, on it’s final orbit, it will enter the atmosphere of Saturn where it will transmit data to scientists until it burns up like a meteor.

cas

As with so many NASA projects, there is a University of Colorado connection. Cassini carries an instrument called the Ultraviolet Imaging Spectrograph (UVIS) that was built by the Laboratory for Atmosphere and Space Physics (LASP) at the University of Colorado. In the 13 years that Cassini has been orbiting Saturn and it’s large moon Titan, the data from UVIS has allowed scientists to learn more about the chemistry, clouds and energy of the planet and it’s moon.

Boulder has a reputation for being a town of weird hippies, but it is also a city of scientists. LASP is one of the leading space research centers in the world, and many NASA projects have a CU connection.

You can learn more about the weird, and the really smart, people of Boulder on the Banjo Billy Bus tour. Yee HAAAWWW Cassini!

 

Denver Open It’s Doors This Weekend

In days past, visitors to Denver would arrive by train at the beautiful Union Station in what we now call LODO. Today, visitors can also arrive via train, and train from Denver International Airport, at that same architectural beauty. This weekend, the Denver Architectural Foundation invites you to visit many of the great buildings in the Queen City of the West as part of Doors Open Denver.

Denver_Union_Station_Great_Hall_Interior

Residents and visitors are welcome to explore Denver’s architecture. There will be over 60 buildings open for free, self guided tours, along with “insider” tours that require registration to attend ( and, for some, a fee). Free sites include places you may have visited like Union Station, Denver Central Library and the Elle Caulkins Opera House, along with many you may not, such as the Counter Terrorism Learning Lab on 12th Ave and the Sugarcube Building on Blake St.  Guided tours give you a behind the scenes look at Sports Authority Field and the Denver Center for the Performing Arts. There are also guided walking and bike tours in various neighborhoods.

Of course, the best tour of Denver is on the Banjo Billy Bus, but we don’t take you inside any of the places we visit. So, it you have taken our tour and want to learn more about some of the places you saw, now is a good time. Of course, you might want to take our tour first!

4/20 is Coming Soon…and it’s not a big deal anymore!

To a certain group of people, 420, 4:20 and 4/20 have a special meaning. These people also tend to have Cheetos dust under their fingernails and tickets to a Grateful Dead tribute band concert. We thought we’d delve into the history of 420.

420

The number 420 has become strongly associated with marijuana smoking. How did this happen? It appears to have started with a group of California high school kids, who called themselves the “Waldos”, who would meet at a certain spot at 4:20 in the afternoon to get high. High Times Magazine picked up on this, and it spread throughout the pot smoking world.

Boulder and, to a lesser extent, Denver were until recently the site of large gatherings of cannabis connoisseurs for several years in the early 2000’s. Around 2000, groups started to gather on Farrand Field at the University of Colorado at 4:20 on April 20 to light up. The gathering grew larger every year swelling to about 10,000 people every year from 2008-2011. This was extremely disruptive to the University, causing traffic jams and class closures. So, in 2012 the University put barricades and campus police at every entrance to the campus.  At about this time, the party moved to Denver’s Civic Center park.

In 2014 Colorado became the first state to make marijuana legal for “recreational” use, meaning those wishing to buy some legally no longer had to tell a doctor they had “chronic pain”.  Several states have followed, and now it seems, there is no longer a need to gather and smoke pot as a form of protest. This has please most of the citizens of Boulder, except, of course, purveyors of pizza and burritos.

The Banjo Billy Bus does smoke, but that is just diesel exhaust from the engine, waiting to take you around Boulder and Denver so learn can hear our great stories.  Hope to see you soon!

Denver Boy Kyle Freeland To Start Rockies Home Opener

This Friday, the Colorado Rockies play their home opener against the Los Angeles Dodgers. The weather is supposed to be beautiful for baseball, adding to the fun for the fans who will pack Coors Field to celebrate the hopefulness of a new season. And taking the mound for the Rockies on Friday will be 23 year old rookie pitcher Kyle Freeland. This is particularly newsworthy because Freeland grew up in Denver, enjoying Rockies games in Coors Field since he was old enough to walk.

kf

Freeland was born in Denver, and graduated from Denver’s Thomas Jefferson High School. Freeland then pitched for 3 years at the University of  Evansville, before being drafted by his favorite team in the first round in 2014. Friday’s game will be his first Major League start.

The Rockies play in Coors Field, which is one of the best ballparks in the country. Unfortunately, they have struggled the last 10 years to put a team on the field that is anywhere near as great as their park. But a new year brings new hope, and the Rockies will be sending a group of very young starting pitchers to the mound this season. Hopefully they can keep the team in the game until the Rockies offensive stars Nolan Arenado, Carlos Gonzalez, and DJ LeMehieu put runs on the scoreboard.

Banjo Billy is rooting for a Rockies resurgence. YEEEEHHHAAAAWWWW ROCKIES!

Top Chef is Coming to Denver and Boulder

Colorado is known for skiing, outdoor sports, beautiful scenery, and now GREAT FOOD!!

Season 15 of the Bravo show Top Chef will be shot this Spring in Boulder, Denver and Telluride. The shows producers were looking for a place with great scenery and an up and coming food scene. Our gorgeous state was the obvious choice.

tc

While Top Chef has not shot in Colorado before, there is already a Colorado collection. In season 5 of Top Chef the winner was Boulderite and CU graduate Hosea Rosenberg. At the time Rosenberg was chef at Boulder’s Jax Fishhouse. He now has his own restaurant in Boulder called Blackbelly, where he is known for doing wonderful things with pork belly.

Banjo Billy wishes best of luck to all the chefs in this year’s competition. And we’d greet the visiting crew of Top Chef with a hearty “YEEEHAAAWWW!!!”.

One last thing: April begins our Spring season. That means tours on Friday-Sunday in Boulder and Denver. Hope to see you soon.

Only A Few Months Left to See the Leanin Tree Museum

Do you like western art? If so, you may want to get to the Gunbarrel neighborhood of Boulder before the end of August to visit the Leanin Tree Museum and Sculpture Garden.

lt

The art in the Leanin Tree museum is owned by Ed Trumble, who owns the Leanin Tree Greeting Cards company. The 92 year old Trumble has decided to auction his collection in Scottsdale, AZ later this year.

The collection consists of over 300 paintings and 200 bronze sculptures by a variety of western artists. The museum was started in 1974, when Trumble bought what was then farmland to build a facility to house Leanin Tree’s manufacturing facility, which shares the grounds with the museum. There is a gallery inside, and an outdoor garden with large metal sculptures like the one shown above. It’s a pretty hard place to miss, as many of the sculptures are visible from well outside the fence surrounding the property. You can also get a tour of the greeting card plant while you’re there.

Stop in and see this magnificent collection of western art while it is still together in Boulder. And let out a big “YEEEE HAAAAAA!” while you’re there. It’s very appropriate, just like it is on the Banjo Billy Bus.

Congratulations to DU Athletics

National championships in the sports that get the most coverage are rare for Colorado colleges. The only football championship came in 1990, when CU won the Associated Press poll. This was before there was the small playoff that exists today. In fact, Georgia Tech won the UPI poll in 1990, so CU actually shared the then mythical title. And while CU has had some success in basketball in recent years, a NCAA title still seems a long way off.

du

Colorado schools have had great success in other sports, however. Most recently, last year on Memorial Day the University of Denver became the first NCAA Lacrosse champion from a school west of the Mississippi. And the Pioneers LAX team began the season ranked #1 this year, although they are currently #2 in the early season. Meanwhile, DU’s hockey team, a traditional powerhouse in the gentlemanly art of ice hockey, is currently ranked #1 nationally. They have won 7 national championships, the last one in 2005.

DU ski team is also ranked #2 in the current NCAA polls, which makes them the second highest ranked ski team in Colorado. As you might guess, Colorado attracts great skiers, and the #1 ranked ski team currently is the Colorado Buffaloes. It is probably no surprise that CU dominates intercollegiate skiing, having won the NCAA championship 20 times.

Banjo Billy wishes the best of luck to DU and CU teams as they finish their seasons this spring. We also wish to see you on our bus. Grab a ticket on our web site, or call our office to schedule a private tour for your birthday party, team building event, or just for fun.

Banjo Billy Loves Improv!

Last week our guide Patrick had the honor of performing improv briefly with the touring company from Second City at the Boulder Theater.  If you’re not familiar with Second City, it is a sketch comedy and improv company started in Chicago in the early 1960’s. It has trained many of the people you have laughed at your whole life, including Alan Alda, George Wendt, Stephen Colbert, Steve Carrell, and Tina Fey.  Second City is not the only place to learn and perform improv. In fact, there is a thriving community of improvisers in the Denver/Boulder area.

keep-calm-and-improv-203

In Denver there are 2 small venues devoted to the art of improv, The Voodoo Lounge and the Bovine Metropolis.  These venues both have shows on a regular basis featuring their own groups, or other groups from the area. If you’ve always thought you’d like to try improv, you can also take classes at the Voodoo and the Bovine.

In Boulder there is a Meetup group called the Boulder Improv Collaborative.  This is a meetup where you can sign up and get information about classes and opportunities to get together with other improvisers and play. They do not have a theater, but groups from BIC can be seen performing every third Thursday at the Wesley Chapel on the CU campus. They can also be found on occasion at the Diary Center and other venues. BIC has some of the world’s greatest and funniest improv performers…and we’re not just saying that because our Boulder guides Patrick, Myles and Glenn are all members and have performed in various groups that came from BIC.  Okay, maybe we are. In fact, Myles and Patrick work with Banjo Billy because Glenn knew them from BIC. Myles also teaches a beginning improv class via BIC.

If you’ve never been to an improv show, we encourage you to check it out. Watching a scene be created from nothing but an audience suggestion is quite fun, and almost magical when it works well. Or take a class. It is a fun, and can translate into valuable skills for whatever you do in real life.

We hope to see you at an Improv show, or perhaps a class. But we really hope to see you on the Banjo Billy Bus, where we put our skills to use informing and entertaining people from around the world.