Banjo Billy's Bus Tour: History, Mystery And Bad Jokes Boulder, Colo., is usually associated with hiking and the outdoors. But one tour guide makes the town's history come alive through humor.
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Banjo Billy's Bus Tour: History, Mystery And Bad Jokes

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Banjo Billy's Bus Tour: History, Mystery And Bad Jokes

Banjo Billy's Bus Tour: History, Mystery And Bad Jokes

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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We're highlighting local tour guides on our summer Nickel Tour series. Today, we're off to Boulder, Colorado to take a tour more about history and humor than hiking.

Grace Hood of member station KUNC climbed aboard Banjo Billy's bus.

GRACE HOOD, BYLINE: Our rambling, funky ride is equal parts history, crime stories and comedy. It's all woven together in a playful, choose-your-own-adventure style by John Georgis, who calls himself Banjo Billy.

JOHN GEORGIS: All right, so this is part of the tour. You can either choose a PG tour, or a PG-13 tour or an R-rated tour.

HOOD: R-rated.

GEORGIS: If you want an R-rated tour, you got to say it like a pirate.


GEORGIS: Arrgh it is.

HOOD: Actually, we've edited this tour for a PG audience. Overall, its less "Pirates of the Caribbean" than it is "Beverly Hillbillies." As we ride through Boulder's affluent downtown streets, Banjo Billy's remodeled school bus attracts plenty of stares. And what's better than cruising in a log cabin on wheels?


HOOD: One that occasionally makes barnyard sounds at pedestrians.

GEORGIS: Crime or history? Crime or history?


GEORGIS: This bank here on left hand side is Boulder's oldest continuous bank. It opened up in 1899. It's also the very first bank in Boulder to be robbed.

HOOD: Banjo explains a 71-year-old man took a bus from Denver and used a water bottle as a weapon, claiming it was nitroglycerin.

GEORGIS: Now, I like this story for two reasons. Number one: It took almost 100 years for the first bank in Boulder to be robbed.

HOOD: So much for the Wild West.

GEORGIS: When it is robbed, it's robbed in Boulder style.

HOOD: He takes the bus to get there.

GEORGIS: Robs it with a bottle of water. If he would have had a prairie dog in his pocket, it would have been the Boulder trifecta.


HOOD: One common question on the tour has to do with John Georgis himself. How did he get the name Banjo Billy? In 2005, he quit his job as a data analyst and bought a school bus on eBay. Then he remodeled it, raising the roof and removing the windows.

GEORGIS: So when we took those out, it started looking like a shack on wheels, and my friends started laughing at me.

HOOD: They said he looked like a hillbilly.

GEORGIS: And they started calling me Banjo. But Banjo John doesn't sound very good. So we went for the alliteration: Banjo Billy's Bus Tours.

HOOD: So far there is only one place Banjo Billy won't visit in Boulder.

GEORGIS: And talking about unsolved cases, we never have done and never will do the Jon Benet Ramsey case. It is not on the tour.


GEORGIS: Why not? Because it's just too darn sad.


GEORGIS: All right, to our right hand side. That is an awfully pretty today.

HOOD: Banjo Billy approaches a parking lot next to a green meadow, framed by mountains and three towering rock formations called Flatirons. This is Chautauqua Park, and it's the moment that everyone brings out their cameras. But they're not here for the views. They're here for a story about a dumpster.

GEORGIS: So every fall, there's a race from that trashcan to the base of that third flatiron. The record was broken in 2008 by a guy named Dave Mackey.


GEORGIS: Dave did that round trip from trashcan to trashcan in 33 minutes, 17 seconds.


HOOD: That's news to Carolyn Molitor, who lives outside of Boulder. She signed up for the tour because she had family visiting from out of town and says she learned a few things.

CAROLYN MOLITOR: A little bit of history, a little bit of mystery, a little bit of bad jokes.

HOOD: Molitor says she hopes to return with her friends for another tour, because Banjo Billy excels at juggling mundane settler history with funny anecdotes.

GEORGIS: OK, that's worst joke I know, and that's how I'm going to end the tour. So thanks for coming on Banjo Billy's. Cheers.

HOOD: And most of the passengers don't mind some groaners along the way.




HOOD: For NPR News, I'm Grace Hood.

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