Chapter 34: A Detour

All-American Ruins
9 min readNov 16, 2023

Byers Race Track / Colorado Motorsports

Peoria, CO

I stand very still, one ear facing the plains, the other leaning into the darkness of the stadium. A red bucket, strung up by a short rope, basks in the Colorado October sun, swinging back and forth ever so gently, in tempo with the emboldened wind as it strokes the fields of soil and wheat, stretching as far as I can see through the broken glass surrounding the abandoned grandstand.

It’s the first visit to abandoned space where I feel genuinely fearful. Not scared, not frightened, but fearful.

I know I heard something.

***

The road leading up to the mysterious blue structure is appealing to me, aesthetically-speaking, anyway. I have an affinity for long, dusty county highways, flatlands of growth and nutrition, empty miles of gravel that soak up more sunlight in a year than I will in my lifetime. I think it’s the curiosity they ignite in me.

Where does this long, dusty county highway go?

I leave the car in a dirt patch on the opposite side of the exit. I’m en route to Last Chance, but this unexpected, mysterious blue structure requested my attendance. There are times when I don’t have a say in the matter. If an abandoned space wants to make itself known to me, it will. I can’t ignore it.

I wonder.

I cross underneath the interstate and make a sharp left onto the train tracks. They’re in a straight line and pass behind the property. It may be too far back, but it’s my first line of offense, and I have to investigate. It’s exceedingly likely that plan A won’t work out, the further down the tracks I get, but who says you can’t detour a detour? I discover an old, orange concrete bucket and a grasshopper carcass — or perhaps it’s a cicada. They’re loud today, anyway.

But so are the crickets.

I flip a U’y and backtrack to the long, dusty county highway. I notice a blue pickup truck, fresh off I-70, start to parade down the road. I hold very still and watch it head toward, then away from, the vacant, unexpected, mysterious blue structure. I exhale and pick up the pace. I myself drove down the long, dusty county highway, briefly, to scope out the structure when I first hopped off the interstate, and I know that this is a risky move to make alone.

They’re not unclear about trespassing; but they’re not doing much to enforce it. I quickly realized, upon initial inspection while driving by in the car, that I wasn’t going to try to enter the house. It’s securely gated. Only the greyhound race track, which I recognized when I hooked back to go park the car on the westward side of the exit.

I pass between two concrete road blocks and a swivel desk chair, drunkenly hanging outside the gates of the overgrown parking lot.

“You okay, bud?” I ask it in my head.

“Djjjussssst — sh. Djustt — — just fine. KI’m — — sh. I’m good. Fine.”

“Alrighty then,” I wince as I quicken my pace to round the side of the building, out of sight from cars on the county road or from the interstate. In front of me stands a long, outdoor hallway, blue doors, the sounds of the wind off the plains, and the bent and unseemly blinds hanging by a thread in one of the doorways harmonizing with one another. There’s something about the noise of open space that pleases my ear considerably. It incites instant ecstasy of body, a spine-tingling, coma-inducing, sonic experience that melds my skin and muscles and eardrums together, pulsating electricity through one another, providing almost a feeling of weightlessness, the closest I ever get to legitimate relaxation, outside of actual sleep — and even then, every once in a while, I have bad nightmares.

I stare out across the overgrown greyhound race track, once imbedded into the cultural narrative of this particular region in Colorado, now a symbol of human evolution, of breaking outdated traditions in the name of animal rights, of another capitalistic venture come and gone, all within the blink of an eye, at least as far as the grand scheme of the planet’s existence is concerned.

From 1971 to 2010, the Byers Race Track operated out of Byers, CO in Arapahoe County, in many different forms, including Colorado Motorsports at the end of its tenure. For nearly forty years, thousands of visitors sat in the green, yellow, and orange stadium seats, sweeping down towards a once manicured track, now just dirt and dust and the echoes of greyhound dogs stampeding and ATVs racing around and around the track.

Now, it’s empty.

At least, I think it is.

As I stand there gazing into the miraged void of the plains, a sound suddenly snags my ear.

It startles me. The wind is so strong that I almost don’t notice it, which makes its presence all the more intimidating. I crick my neck up to look into the rafters, just behind me, and I see a red slop bucket, strung up, dangling from the ceiling, clanging next to an old light fixture and tire, also both dangling from the ceiling. The slants of breeze that sneak into the room through the cracks and crags burrowed in the walls and shattered windows control the swinging objects.

I stand very still. Every few seconds, I think I hear footsteps, but each time, they’re drowned out by the raging wind outside.

I look down and see someone’s chalk left behind for other explorers to enjoy. I think this is thoughtful. I leave my signature on the steps of the lower section of seats in the stadium.

As I’m crouched down finishing up my tag, I look up again at the ceiling and notice a catwalk that crosses over top the front of the stadium to a concrete landing hovering almost directly above the track. I sort out my path up and begin my ascent. Every step I take instills a bit more fear into my heart. I don’t know if I’m alone or not. Even if I’m not, this space contains spirits, and it’s not just in my imagination.

Someone’s been here.

Recently.

I can almost feel them breathing down my neck.

It feels like the wind is taking a slow, slow inhale, the kind your yoga teacher asks you to practice at home.

— in through the nose, 1, 2, 3, 4, hold, hold, hold, and out through the mouth, 1, 2, 3, 4, rest. Again —

I approach the catwalk. It’s much slimmer than I realized. I work my way out and across, glancing down to see the sea of stadium seats below, empty, but filled with the echoes of stories across space and time. I reach a concrete overlook at the end of the catwalk and walk right up to the glass.

The plains.

I hear another noise down below.

I freeze.

Wind.

The plains.

Another noise.

Hold still.

— in through the nose, 1, 2, 3, 4, hold, hold, hold, and out through the mouth, 1, 2, 3, 4, rest. Again —

Finally, it’s just the wind again. I’m alone — possibly.

I think it’s time to leave.

I scurry back downstairs, passing a tipped over shopping cart, a “NOT OPEN” sign, a podium, and a blue ticket booth, shoved underneath a concrete and metal staircase, and for a moment I think I see a ghost, of me, working at a box office in Times Square before I decided to leave New York City for good, back in 2017 — but it’s only my own muddled shadow.

This was a shorter visit than I’d hoped for, but something feels off. I have to listen to my gut these days. It’s the only method of survival. I’ve never felt more unsafe living in the United States of America than I do now. I remind myself that I’m in an open-carry state with the flimsiest of firearm safety laws, the state that sparked a decades-long battle between the NRA and the rest of the country, 61% of whom, according to Pew Research, want common-sense gun laws.

I could get shot here.

I poke my head around the final landing of office space and make sure the coast of the county highway is clear.

I quickly make my exit, stopping quickly to photograph a bulldozer sitting off to the side of the parking lot entrance. It’s small, has the number 463 pasted on the side, and I like it. I wonder who left it here.

I glare up at the sun, shielding my face from the fierce rays that tumble down onto my face. As I pass back between two concrete road blocks, I exchange glances with the drunken swivel desk chair, still hanging around the gates of the overgrown parking lot.

“You okay, bud?” I ask it in my head.

The chair says nothing this time. It just gazes off haphazardly, into the sky, at nothing. I look back up at the sky and imagine how big it is up there. It makes my head hurt and feel as if I’m a little too close to god, so I back off.

I close my eyes as the sound of the plains carries me up and over the blockade and back onto the long, dusty county highway where I keep my back turned to the space, like Sodom and Gomorrah, passing a sign that says JCT CO 40 / JCT INTERSTATE 70.

Even if I wanted to, I couldn’t look back. My eyes have been captured by the sight of the plains stretching north, up and away towards the other side of the world.

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