Suppose you have hyperactive kids that always need to burn lots of energy. Now suppose you’re traveling cross-country with them, on a road trip, and your little brats are bouncing off the sides and roof of your SUV. How do you keep your sanity?
Might I suggest a stop at Bishop Castle in Rye, Colorado? Bishop Castle is free, although a donation box at the entrance might trigger some guilt and open your wallet a little. It’s a very tall castle, with corkscrew stairs leading to dizzying heights. And it’s very easy for unsupervised children to accidentally plummet over the edge, to their demise, should they get a little too rambunctious.
If your kids survive the experience, they’ll be tuckered out from all the stair climbing, and you’ll be able to enjoy a few miles of restful sanity, as they snooze in the back. But should they not survive, it’s even better, for you’ll get extra miles of sanity as you complete your coast-to-coast trip.
A few members of my family and I visited Bishop Castle about a month ago. There, we found the general spirit of the place exuded the attitude of good ol’ American independence and self-responsibility. You’re free to take all the chances you want, while climbing around on this somewhat rickety and precipitous playground.
The owner has posted an advisory sign at the entrance, explicitly warning that you are entering at your own risk, that you are responsible for your own safety, and that you must be willing to tolerate the language and expressive behavior of others.
Here’s exactly how the sign reads:
ENTER AT YOUR OWN RISK!
***YOU MUST READ THIS SIGN BEFORE ENTERING***
*WE ARE NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR SAFETY!
*WE ARE NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR PHYSICAL MENTAL OR EMOTIONAL WELL BEING!
*BISHOP CASTLE IS UNDER CONSTRUCTION!
*PROCEED PAST THIS POINT WITH EXTREME CAUTION!
*YOU MUST KEEP CHILDREN AND PETS UNDER CONTROL AT ALL TIMES!
*WE RESERVE OUR RIGHT TO FREEDOM OF SPEECH AND EXPRESSION!
*YOU MIGHT EXPERIENCE FOUL LANGUAGE!
*YOU MIGHT EXPERIENCE STRONGLY EXPRESSIVE BEHAVIOR!
*WE RESERVE OUR RIGHT TO REFUSE ENTRY TO ANYONE AT ANY TIME!
*IF AT ANY TIME THE MANAGEMENT OF THIS PROPERTY FEELS THAT YOU DO NOT AGREE WITH OR HAVE NOT READ THIS SIGN YOU WILL BE ASKED TO LEAVE!
*IF YOU ARE ASKED BY THE MANAGEMENT OF THIS PROPERTY TO LEAVE YOU MUST DO SO IMMEDIATELY!
IF YOU DO NOT AGREE WITH ANY OF THESE CONDITIONS DO NOT ENTER!
IF YOU DO NOT AGREE YOU ARE TRESPASSING!
ENTER AT YOUR OWN RISK!
We read the sign, gulped while mentally agreeing to its terms, and entered.
Upon entering, you are immediately confronted by the imposing castle. The tallest tower is 160 feet high, which you ascend through a narrow, circumvoluting staircase made of ornamental ironwork. Some of the ironwork seems to have loosened over time, so it’s important to watch your step. If you want to pass someone on this staircase, you’ll have to flatten yourself against the rocky, exterior wall, or cling to the center, suck in your gut, then tiptoe carefully while apologizing profusely for any and all unintended body contact.
I felt scared, thrilled, and refreshed to experience Bishop Castle. The heights got my adrenaline pumping, especially because some of the ornamental ironwork I depended upon to protect me from gravity had a wobbly feel to it. But it was refreshing that I was free to follow my own judgment and take my own risks, without a bunch of officious minders sternly watching me, and warning me away from doing anything foolish.
I like that about Jim Bishop, the king of this castle.
My brother, sister, and I spent about an hour at Bishop Castle, exploring its various rooms, floors, and parapets. We had a fun time, and I even bought a little souvenir for my wife, at their gift shop. It’s an ornamental lamp, and she loves it.
When we climbed back into the car, my muscles felt tired from all the stair climbing. I no longer possessed the excitement and vigor that animated me on the drive to the castle. I needed some rest. And so my brother enjoyed a peaceful, relaxing time as he drove my sister and me back home.