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Historically customized passenger tour bus to offer rides in Garden of the Gods

Eric "Denim" Peterson, a driver for the 1909-styled tour bus that will be offered at the Garden of the Gods Visitor & Nature Center this summer, steers the custom-built rig past a rock formation during a recent test drive that included center officials.
Westside Pioneer photo
When tourists come to the Garden of the Gods during the warmer months this year, they will have the chance to tour the famous city park in the same kind of style as their predecessors from a century ago.
       The ride will take the form of an open-air, 14-passenger jitney, built to resemble a park trolley from 1909. People seeking the 25-minute, $12-a-person experience - including a driver providing park facts and the occasional tall tale - can step on board at the Garden of the Gods Visitor & Nature Center, 1805 N. 30th St. Departure times will be every 45 minutes between 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., with the route taking in Gateway Road and the Juniper Way Loop.
       The vehicle was built over the past year and a half by Greg Wellens, owner of Adventures out West, a local company that also offers jeep, van and segway rides
Tim Eckert (right) and Greg Wellens, who built the open-air bus, are shown in conversation during a recent test ride through the Garden of the Gods.
Westside Pioneer photo
from the Visitor Center; and Tim Eckert, a veteran Pikes Peak Hill Climb racer and auto designer who's also worked on cars for the Disney company.
       “We're building on the area's history,” Wellens said. “There are so many things that have been done on the Westside for tourism.” With the new/old vehicle, “we're pulling from the past as an inspiration for the future.”
       A photo of a 1909 Garden sightseeing bus was used as a model as Wellens and Eckert fashioned a roughly 18-foot-long housing onto a 2005 Ford full-size van chassis. The final product bears close resemblance to the 1909 version, including the style, high ceiling, wood side steps and wheels which - while lacking the original's wood spokes - are painted to look that way. An extra feature, possibly not available in 1909, is padded seats.
       Wellens prefers not to publicize how much the job cost. “It was just fun,” he summarized. “I like making stuff that's different. The more unique, the better.”
       The tour starts and finishes by going through the limited-access vehicle/pedestrian tunnel under 30th Street. The tunnel height is 12 feet; the
A photo of the 1909 sightseeing bus (provided courtesy of the Pioneers Museum) is among numerous historical pictures that can be displayed by using this interactive feature on the top (main) floor of the Garden of the Gods Visitor & Nature Center.
Westside Pioneer photo
vehicle height is 11 feet. Wellens and Eckert laughed that they measured it three times, just to be on the safe side that their motorize creation would not be too tall.
       During a recent Garden test drive, including Wellens, Eckert and Visitor Center officials, the vehicle drew long glances from various early-season tourists along the park roads.
       According to Dolores Davis, a Visitor Center employee writing in the recent edition of FOGGHorn - the newsletter for the Friends of Garden of the Gods (FOGG) - the 1909 photo “shows Edwardian-era travelers in their dapper outfits driving through the park.” The photo is part of the “Fit for the Gods” historic photo exhibit at the Visitor Center (to which admission is free).
       Adventures Out West has a ticket counter inside the Visitor Center. The company has offered Garden Segway and Jeep tours from that location since 2009 and, in doing so, helps “support the center's mission to generate revenue for the park,” according to Davis. She added that “the park tour vehicle will surely be a spectacular new way to experience the grandeur of Garden of the Gods Park.”

Westside Pioneer article
(Posted 3/24/16, updated 3/28/16; Outdoors: (Garden of the Gods)

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