Thursday, December 12, 2019

Terminus: A and R Lines

On this trip, I checked out two terminuses, Denver Airport and Peoria. Peoria wasn't that difficult. It's where their rail lines, A and R, meet. A is a commuter rail running from Union Station to the Denver International Airport and the R line is a light rail that connects the A line in Peoria and Ridgegate south of Denver. The R line also parallels the H line from Bellevue Station to Florida station.

That's Peoria Station. It's in the middle of an industrial area. Access is by streets. I didn't see any trails, so I didn't spend any more time there than a wait for the R line on my return trip. 

I walked up to Arapahoe Station and took the E line to Union Station and drank a cold brew coffee at the Pigtrain Coffee Company. I normally don't drink black coffee. It usually just tastes bitter to me, but this concoction was Coffee amplified. It was delicious.

The primary attractions on the A line commuter rail are the big, comfortable trains, the University of Colorado Denver campus, and the airport. It leaves the hills of the South Platte Valley and travels across the high plains proper. I can see a trip back this way in the future for wildlife watching. The plains also afford some spectacular views of the Rockies from a distance 

[The High Plains]

[The epitome of "snowcapped mountain majesty"]

This photograph also shows a windbreak, or snow fence along a road. The plains can have some ferocious windstorms and blizzards. On a trip to Cincinnati a few years back, Coyote, and I encountered a blizzard on the way back. We were in Kansas not far from the Colorado border and would have liked to drive on home, but this thing was blowing tractor-trailers off the icy roads, so we decided to stop overnight. That also explained the gates that could be drawn across the Interstate highway to shut it down!

I usually do a "weird Denver" hike in October but this year's move to Centennial forced me to delay it until November. Although it's easy enough to find "weird" in Denver, I had the A line terminus on my list and the airport has more than its share of weird, so it was a natural choice.

Take, for instance, the sentinel statue, Big Blue Mustang" also known affectionately as "Blucifer". I was hoping to get a close-up of this bizarre piece of art with its fiery eyes and grotesquely veiny surface (is that hardening of the arteries?) but it is surrounded by traffic and not at all easy to get to. Luckily, there is no lack of photos of this famous nightmare (uh, night-stallion) on the Internet (just search for "Blucifer") and DIT has fully owned the horse.

[Blucifer poster]

The statue earned it's widespread notoriety by killing it's creator, artist Luis Jiminez, when a segment of the unfinished statue fell on his leg, severing an artery. It is rather unfortunate that this prolific and respected artist's life and works is so overshadowed by the circumstances of his death. You may want to check out his other works on the Internet.

The horse does fit the overall modernistic trend of the Denver International Airport. The roofs of the air and train terminals are replete with interesting curved surfaces. Here is the train station.

[A line terminal]

The huge "end-cap" looming over the terminal is the Westin Hotel, and integral part of the airport structure.

The roofs on theses structures are studies in architectural curves. The canopy over the rail station is a light mesh of steel girders that look to me like a hyperbolic surface. To see how that works, hold a sheet of paper out flat from your hand and try to support something, say, a pencil with it. You can't do it. Now give it a slight curve and try again. Just a slight curve will give the sheet much greater strength. 

The structure is also an arch, funneling stresses down to the two supports and into the ground.

Lightness and strength were prime considerations in the design of the airport. I read that early designs wouldn't stand up to the plains winds and had to be scrapped.

The escalator connecting the train terminal to the airport concourse is...large. If you're acrophobic, don't look up or down. Just keep your eyes straight and don't move around and you should be okay.

If you aren't bothered by heights, enjoy the art on the wall above you. I have left a lot out of this blog. I'm not trying to leave you some surprises. I could walk around the airport all day snapping photos and still cover only a fraction of what's there to see. For instance, if you visit DIT look for the gargoyles.

The terminal itself looks like a giant tent….because it is a giant tent. The roof is said to be designed to suggest Native American dwellings on the plains or snowcapped mountains. Regardless, it's made of Teflon coated fabric and held aloft by cables in much the same way that cables are strung on suspension bridges.

[The roof of the Denver International Airport]

Controversies abound at the airport and they're alright with that, as shown by the many Denfiles posters scattered around.


Of course, the big "weird" murals help. Where I see a celebration of world cultures in an International Airport, many see cosmic relevance. Maybe I lack imagination…

[Leo Tanguma - In Peace and Harmony with Nature]

It doesn't take a lot of moving around in Denver to realize that Denver likes art. The airport is no different. It's an art museum in its own right. Check out the arts section of their website.

The plazas offer stunning views of the mountains and plains.

[Big sky]

[Pike's Peak]

And it's an airport, so I have to show one of these.

At 33,531 acres, Denver International us the largest airport in North America and the second largest in the world. It is the fifth busiest in the United States. I could wander around there for a few days and not see everything, and I will probably return. My bird watcher friend claims that there are good birdwatching areas on the property.

For variety, I returned home on the R Lightrail which connects Peoria with the Parker area. The Florida area looks like a popular shopping spot and there are several trails. It will feature in a later terminus blog.

Airports can be interesting places. I remember a sort of natural history museum with a huge, stuffed grizzly bear in the Great Falls, Montana airport, and very fondly remember the La Compass restaurant in the New Orleans airport. As many layovers I've had, I've had to find the time-killing points of interest. Is there an airport near you? You might want to check it out.

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