Saturday, September 26, 2015

Leadville, Colorado

September 17 - 19, 2015:

As I get up in the morning, it was raining and the mountains were covered in clouds.  As we had no WiFi signal there was no way to check the weather forecast and I was thinking that maybe we should delay our travel a day.  I’m a little nervous about driving the mountain passes in the clouds and rain.  Twinkles on the other hand is ready to go, she is not the “worrying kind”.  Ok, so some days you just need to act like you have a pair, (if you know what I mean) throw caution to the wind and go for it.  The first part of the ride was pretty dismal as expected, but amazingly an hour into the trip the rain stops, the clouds part and the sun breaks through. In fact, it becomes a most beautiful day with dark blue sky and big white cumulous clouds.  The final 30 miles on route 24 over the Tennessee Gap with the aspen covered mountain views were spectacular ! 

A rainy view ahead

Fifty miles down the road it's all blue skies

And great Aspen views

We get set up in the Leadville Corral RV Park which is in downtown Leadville with full hookups at the half off Passport America rate.  The sites are a little tight, but it’s within walking distance of everything in downtown and everything works including cable TV, I like it.

The Leadville Corral

We did a walk around town checking out the many old buildings, stores, coffee shops and bars.  We always look for a good coffee shop with some bakery items, working WiFi and adequate seating and we found it all here at "City on a Hill Coffee and Espresso".  We then went into an antique store that has a great selection of stuff, the “Western Hardware Antique Mall” which originally was the “Manville and McCarthy” hardware store built in 1881.  All the original shelving and drawers on the walls are still there and being used.  The store is for sale and hopefully will be taken over by someone who keeps it original.  I ended up buying a couple of old postcards which is sort of becoming a new obsession of mine. 

Antique store interior

Lots of cool stuff for sale

Upstairs and downstairs

After that we needed a beer so we stopped at a historic bar, the “Silver Dollar Saloon” built in 1879.  This town is loaded with these old buildings that haven’t been totally gutted in the name of restoration and made to look brand new.  The most priceless antique cars are the unrestored originals, the same goes for antique buildings in my mind.  This place had a great back bar and much was still original, but unfortunately they have plastered the walls with an excessive number of tacky photos, pictures, animal heads and beer signs. Overall however, I approve, I’m sure they care ?

Bar interior

We next went for pizza at the highly rated “High Mountain Pies” and we now understand why.  It’s a small building with minimal inside seating, more outside with a friendly energetic staff and a sort of a new age hippie vibe.  Most importantly, the Pizza was great even by our New Jersey standards. We ate in and were amazed how busy they were with take out orders.

They may need to expand one of these days

Twinkles is all smiles after the Library sale which was the highlight of her day, best ever !!!  I added quite a number to the box also.

They had great books and dirt cheap

Leadville began as a gold strike in 1860 which was short lived, but was followed by a major silver strike.  The silver was found in a lead ore, hence the town became known as Leadville.  Leadville became a very prosperous mining boom town in its day with many classic buildings that remain today from that period.  The most famous person in town was Horace Tabor who started as a poor merchant, then invested in a mine which hit very big where he made his fortune.  He became the mayor, went on to become leutenent governor, then state senator, but sadly it all ended terribly bad.  He divorced his wife of 25 years for a younger woman who became known as "Baby Doe". He spent lavishly and lost his fortune when silver prices dropped after the Sherman Silver Act in 1890 and he died a bankrupt man.  Baby Doe lived on in a small shack at the mine until her death in 1935.

Every town should have an Iron building

Nice mural

The Pioneer Hotel

The Delaware Hotel

Steam train on display at the Depot, they run diesel excursion
trains on weekends

Boom days are an annual event at Leadville involving
rock drilling contests like in the old days

Ornate Hyman Block building

The famous Tabor Opera House

Manhattan Bar is another old one 

The Golden Burro is a local favorite, but I really didn't see why.
The sign however is a great one.

There are several museums and tours in town along with a scenic train ride, but we settled on one museum, the National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum.  It is a great one, but exhausting, we took a break half way through for lunch at the "Golden Burro" then returned to finish it.  

The Climax Mine near Leadville was one of the largest
Molybuenum mines in the world.  It was closed, but has recently
been reopened

A model of the "Ice Palace" built from ice blocks in Leadville in 
1895-96.  It was built for tourism and was huge and incredible.

A small section of the Leadville Mining map

They had exceptional mining diaramas 

The famous Horace and Elizabeth "Baby Doe" Tabor,
a sad story of great wealth lost and dying penniless

The hills above Leadville are riddled with old mine sites, a few of which are still operating.  There are roads throughout the area with old mines, head frames and several ghost town sites.  There is a self guided road tour, the Route of the Silver Kings, which I did a portion of. Parts of this road are pretty rough and I was glad to have 4 wheel drive.  It was a beautiful ride and very scenic with huge mountain views.

An old rail spur going into a building

All that remains are the foundations

The views are great

Another view

On Saturday there was the final farmers market of the year with free hamburgers and hot dogs followed by a Saint Patricks day Parade.  The Parade was small but they did have bagpipers and a good crowd was on hand.  Leadville obviously still has a sizable Irish presence. There was an old couple on the sidewalk playing banjo and Fiddle to old folk songs who were so cool. 

These guys were original

Not sure why the Shack Club ?

They sounded real

That is Gary Snider who is running for mayor, you gotta love this town

Leadville at 10,152 feet elevation, depending on which sign you believe, is the highest incorporated city in the US.  The temperature fell during the weekend to freezing temperatures.  Time to move south again.

Next stop is Salida, Colorado
Twinkles and Slick

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