Traveler’s Log from the 15 Limited

A ride on Denver’s RTD express bus down Colfax Avenue can turn into an urban adventure

The author on the RTD 15 Limited bus this morning. (Photo by Lucrizia)

Bus Log: 3/1/17 8:20 a.m.

I step onto the 15 Limited at Colfax and Josephine and show the driver my new pass for March. There are just a few empty seats. I make my way to the second half of the bus and sit next to a young man in a black wool cap who moved his knapsack to make space for me.

“Thanks,” I say. He says nothing and looks out the window.

I don’t mind the lack of conversation. It gives me space to write in my green pocket notebook.

Colfax Avenue, a.k.a. 15th Street, is a gritty, colorful east-west artery through Denver. I will be traveling west toward the mountains until the route heads north to Lower Downtown, known here as LoDo.

On the south side of Colfax we pass Taco Bell, Family Dollar, Burger King, Bourbon Grill, and Fresh Vapor Electronic Cigarettes.

A few rows behind me I hear a guy talking loudly enough that I can easily catch what he’s saying. I assume he’s on a cellphone. I don’t feel completely right eavesdropping and taking notes. But it’s a public space, and I mean no disrespect. On the contrary.

A friend of mine just got ripped off by another friend of mine that I’m living with. I had nothing to do with it, but I felt guilty about it, so I loaned him some money.

Directly behind me a man is speaking Spanish. Even though he is closer, his conversation is language-protected from my notetaking.

A middle-aged man in an expensive black wool overcoat sits directly in front of me.

On the north side of Colfax we pass Romantix Adult Entertainment, Martha’s Beauty Salon, and the Fillmore Auditorium, an historic venue that lists upcoming acts on the marquee.

The event that catches my eye is “Rocky Mountain Roller Girls,” coming to the Fillmore on March 4. Dooms Daisies will tangle with the Sugar Hill Gang.

Date night with Darlene? Probably not, but you never know. After 32 years of marriage, I’m trying to be less predictable. So it might be fun to suggest it. VIP tix are a reasonable $29 each.

The man a few rows back has my attention again:

I’ve been broke ever since I moved into this house. I cannot find a safe place to live. I can’t make enough money to do more than eat.

He gets off the bus at Broadway, just past the gold-domed State Capitol. He wears a camo jacket and carries a beat-up skateboard. I see that he wasn’t on a phone. He was talking to a woman with red hair who gets off with him, listening as they walk down the sidewalk.

Most of the other riders exit the 15L at Broadway, leaving lots of empty seats.

8:28 a.m.

The bus turns northwest onto 15th Street. Between the two halves of the vehicle there is a circle of steel on the floor that rotates as the bus takes the corner. At the sides of the bus’s mid-section are flexible vertical slats that remind me of an accordion. Two seats on each side of the circle face each other.

There is only one passenger in the middle seats, a young woman listening with earbuds to her smartphone. I approach politely, tell her I am writing about the bus ride, and ask if she will take a photo of me. She says sure and taps my iPhone 7 once for a shot. Her name is Lucrizia.

8:32 a.m.

‘STOP REQUESTED,” the pleasant lady-robot voice announces as we approach 15th and Curtis. You can see the name of the next stop on a bright, digital display at the ceiling just behind the driver.

A man of about 30 holds a pen in his mouth as he taps on his phone. A stack of papers and a spiral notebook resting on his lap suggest he is a student headed for the Auraria campus shared by Community College of Denver, Metro State, and UC Denver.

As my stop approaches, I pull the yellow cord at the top of the window by my seat. I like being the one to request a stop, like hitting the button first on a TV game show.

I also am also delighted with my very first bus pass. We don’t have a car in Denver, and I have been riding the bus regularly with books of single-ride tickets. At the Union Station bus ticket window last week, I learned it would be cheaper to buy an unlimited monthly pass. With the Senior Discount I bought one for $49. Single tickets were costing me $1.30 each.

Today was the first time I’ve used the pass. As I stepped onto the bus and showed it to the driver, I had a nano-moment of doubt. Did I have the right pass? Would he ask for ID to prove I’m really 65 or older? I needn’t have worried. The driver gave me a routine nod, and I took my seat.

8:37 a.m.

The 15L stops two blocks from our home. On the sidewalk I receive a text from Darlene:

“On your way home?”

“I just got off the bus!” I reply with enthusiasm. As if I’d just completed an urban adventure that I couldn’t wait to tell her about.