2012 Road Trip Photos #13: Denver’s 16th Street Mall, with Good Money After Bad

After our extended lunch at the Buckhorn Exchange, we spent the late afternoon of Day Four in and around the 16th Street Mall, a 1¼-mile-long stretch of street tiled over for use exclusively by pedestrians and free shuttle buses. This sounded like a novel concept to us, but in person it wasn’t too different from the “lifestyle centers” (the new euphemism for outdoor malls) that we have back home in Indy, despite being four times their size. The constant (and free!) shuttle buses were a wonderful touch, though.

16th Street Mall, Denver, Colorado

I had meant to take more photos of the Mall, but…well, it’s a mall. Most of their stores are universal franchises. Also, I was still without camera batteries for most of our walk, until we finally ran across a Rite-Aid. We don’t have Rite-Aids back home — our primary drugstore chains are CVS and Walgreens. In that sense, Rite-Aid was technically more exotic to us than all the Mall’s clothing stores.

Artistic expression flourished around the Mall. We couldn’t determine the name of these statues of kids on stilts. I like to think the contrast between their real height and their street-performing height is a metaphor for the Duality of Man, or a salute to circus child labor.

children on stilts statue, Denver, Colorado

A pair of blue oxen were tattooed with comic strips spouting Denver trivia.

Buffalo silhouettes marching one-by-one in all the colors of the wind.

buffalo silhouettes, Denver, Colorado

Southwest of the 16th Street Mall, the Colorado Convention Center is a cinch to locate, not just because of its size. This famous statue of a big, blue bear permanently breaking the law on its northeast side is called “I See What You Mean”.

Colorado Convention Center big blue bear, "I See What You Mean"

My wife provides side-by-side size comparison. The poor beast was clearly intimidated and threw its paws up in surrender.

Colorado Convention Center big blue bear, "I See What You Mean"

Our longest indoor experience of the afternoon was at the Denver branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, which allows tourists the opportunity to undergo several minutes’ worth of review at a security checkpoint before permitting entry to a handful of exhibits, mostly geared toward children who want to know more about money.

Exhibit A: this is what money looks like when old, unusable bills are shredded and parceled out as free souvenirs. Even if you spend months meticulously gluing all those strips back together, I have a feeling many vendors won’t accept them, and most of them are probably lower denominations anyway. I expect employees probably have the privilege of taking home handfuls of shredded $100 bills to use as pillow stuffing or kindling.

shredded money

Children can also gaze longingly upon this stack of thirty million one-dollar bills. The majority of those children would despair if they could do the math and realize they’ll never earn this much money in their lifetime. The other kids will merely scoff, “This is why Mother and Father hired me my own financial advisor.” This is what it would look like if Hans Gruber tithed on the fortune he and his cronies attempted to steal in Die Hard.

Thirty. Million. DOLLARS.

Also available for children’s use was a table of paper, crayons, and rubbing templates so they could design their very own dollar bills. If there’s no line, adults aren’t barred from taking a turn.

children's money exhibit

With its classy design elements that include a bull, an ear of corn, and the word “BUCK” in all-caps, my proposed new $1.0 × 10100 bill would allow me to buy the entire planet and have just enough money left over for a half-tank of gas. For currency exchange purposes, my googol-dollar bill would equal ten zillion Schrute Bucks.

To be continued!

[Link enclosed here to handy checklist for previous and future chapters, and for our complete road trip history to date. Thanks for reading!]

6 responses

    • Great photos! Denver and the other cities we visited were all very nice places — would love to go back someday, if we can hurry up and cross a bunch of other states off our list that we haven’t seen yet. We missed the wildfires by a mere matter of days. For a while we were afraid we might have to make other plans, and our 2012 road trip would’ve ended up being nine days of Kansas. Fortunately that wasn’t an issue, and it was heartening seeing the locals’ various fundraising efforts to help take care of their own in the wake of so much tragedy. We did what we could to spread our tourist dollars around…


      • Yeah, I was supposed to meet a friend while we were there to attend a “cash mob” for businesses in Manitou Springs, but people being evaced because of the Waldo Canyon fire. Ever been to Texas? The sun can rise and set before you make it across the state! Nice place to visit, but…Never thought I’d find myself here. 🙂 We toured around a bit when we first moved here. Seen one cowboy hat emporium, you’ve seen em all. Actually, there are some beautiful places in Texas worth seeing.


        • Texas was part of our big 2005 road trip, back when we were still getting the hang of the whole “road trip” experience. We drove from Little Rock to San Antonio in one day, and it felt like the longest day of our lives. San Antonio was an interesting place (loved the Riverwalk), and we found interesting stops in Dallas (Sixth Floor Museum) and Waco (Dr. Pepper Museum), but in my mind we barely scratched Texas’ surface.


    • Absolutely enjoyed the time spent there. Except for some much-needed rain on our first day-‘n’-a-half in town, the week’s weather in general was much milder than what we’d been experiencing back home. The coolness up in the mountains was especially welcome. We need mountains like that here!


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