Pikes Peak, the majestic 14,000′ mountain nestled in the Colorado Rockies west of Colorado Springs, is getting a major makeover. Okay, maybe not the mountain itself. Her nine-mile Cog Railway reopens in 2021 with new train cars and tracks to carry visitors to the summit. Her Manitou Incline, the one-mile ladder-like hiking trail up her eastern flank, has been improved for safer climbing. Finally, her Summit House visitor center is being replaced – sixty years after the original – with a state-of-the-art glass jewel.
Local folks like me only have one concern with all this Pikes Peak activity: the donuts. What’re they gonna do about the donuts?
You can drive, hike, or take the Cog Railway to the top of Pikes Peak, but you’ll always stop in at the visitor center once you get there. It’s the only thing you’ll find on the tiny summit beside the stunning views of the world below. Maybe you’ll purchase a supremely tacky, overpriced souvenir while you’re there. Maybe you’ll need a bathroom break. Whatever you do, you will buy a donut. Pikes Peak’s “World Famous” treats are sort of a reward for making it to 14,000 feet. Okay, so they’re not Krispy Kreme but they’re not terrible either. Just eat them at altitude. Once you begin your trek down the mountain they collapse into a mushy mess and they’re awful.
When I first realized the Summit House was getting demolished instead of remodeled my thoughts went straight to the donut machine. What are they gonna do with the donut machine? The “Belshaw Mark VI Donut Robot” delivered its final batch last week before someone pulled its plug. The Mark VI is a mechanical marvel. It can produce 700 donuts an hour (the summertime demand for Pikes Peak). The Mark VI endlessly dispenses the raw dough, four rings in a row, and creates donuts through a conveyer system of automated frying, rotating, and dispensing. Leave it on for twenty-four hours and it’ll pile up 17,000 of the little buggers.
Meanwhile, the new visitor center is getting a new donut machine. Maybe it’s the latest model of Belshaw’s Donut Robot and makes 1,000 donuts an hour. Maybe the donuts taste more like Krispy Kreme. Whatever it can do, this machine is a beast. It’s so big they had to use a crane to lift it into the building before they even closed up the walls.
If I’m the old Mark VI Donut Robot I’m not happy about being replaced, not at all. I mean, c’mon! I faithfully produced thousands of donuts day in and day out for decades! I’m not yesterday’s news just yet! Why not let me keep my job instead of giving all the love to a newer model? No siree Bob, I’m not gonna take it. I need to make some sort of statement. Y’know, demonstrate the extent of my discontent.
OH MAN, can’t you just picture it? Standing down on the streets of Colorado Springs one morning you suddenly hear this massive BAH-BOOM from the direction of Pikes Peak. Sidewalks start shaking and people start pointing. You look up to the mountain and there’s a freaking volcano blowing its top. A huge column of fire rises to the heavens. The sky is instantly air-brushed with white smoke. There’s ash raining down in every direction. Except, wait, it’s not ash… it’s…. it’s…. it’s donuts.
The rain of donuts, of course, is the Mark VI Donut Robot run amok. In its desperate attempt not to be overlooked it starts making donuts like crazy. Four at a time, plop-plop-plop-plop, fry, rotate, dispense. Faster and faster and faster, until its conveyor builds up a big head of steam and starts to break apart. Then the whole thing just blows up. Boom.
Down and further down come the donuts. Rolling by the hundreds along the hiking trails. Bobbing down the rivers and creeks like mini inner tubes. Ricocheting off the pine trees as they come back to earth until they just go poof! in a cloud of powdered-sugar smithereens. Decorating the rocks and trees with a cream-filling look of snow. Piling up in the low spots like generous helpings of oversized Cheerios. Clogging up the cog railway so the only way the train gets to the summit is for the riders to get off the train and start eating.
Truth be told, there’s an aftermarket for Belshaw’s Mark VI Donut Robot. Do the Google search if you don’t believe me. A used one runs $15,899 plus $600 for shipping, and don’t look now; they take credit cards and toss in a limited warranty! Just think what you could do with 700 donuts an hour. All you have to do is click the “Buy It Now” button on the website. But one more thing before you do. Ask the seller if their Mark VI has given them attitude lately. Like it used to be on a majestic mountaintop or something wacky like that.
Note: This post would not even be a whisper of a thought were it not for Robert McCloskey and his wonderful children’s book, Homer Price. In Homer’s short story “The Doughnuts”, a restaurant donut machine goes bonkers and starts dispensing hundreds upon hundreds. How the town resolves this donut deluge makes for a great story. Thanks, Robert.