Cliffhangers, Ghost Towns and History…

We are back from a getaway to scenic Colorado that had much to offer beyond skis, snow and spandex. Finally after 70 years, I was able to see the fabled Aspens in their peacock splendor and wind generated whispers. They are beautiful. Folks write about the Million Dollar Highway, and it is a treat, but examples of this kind of cliffhanging motoring abound within the state. The ride through Independence Pass was complicated by bicyclists that were pedaling both up and down as if they were on the Katy Trail. We wondered what it would be like to have a resting heart rate of around 3. Colorado has a well earned reputation for personal health, an attribute they are justifiably proud of.

Sharon and Tazzy on the Divide

There are thought to be around 600 ghost towns in Colorado, vestiges of the glory days of gold and silver mining. To understand their magnetic appeal, one needs to spend a couple of hours at the Mining Museum in Leadville, high in the Rockies. You can understand the magic of gold, silver and other metals that drew folks from a depressed eastern seaboard to the freezing mountains of this beautiful state. The mining activities and lust for riches have resulted in 24 Super Fund sites being declared by the EPA through out the state. Toxic wastes are still leeching from the mining sites as Superfund status is not a guarantee of restoration. The superfund is currently woefully underfunded. There are many ties to Missouri in Colorado mining country, not the least of which is the plethora of mining experts turned out by our own University, formerly known as the School of Mines in Rolla, Missouri, now referred to as Missouri S&T, for science and technology.

Let’s talk cliffhanging for a minute. Colorado has a number of roads leading to the crests of it’s tallest mountains. Folks who have negotiated them have an appreciation of heights and white knuckles. Your car or motorcycle requires a diligent, focused effort to operate as you both ascend and descend these peaks. We drove to the Continental divide at Independence Pass on a sunny morning, sharing the road with bicyclists in both directions. The bicyclists, and there were many of them, started at the base of the mountain and rode, non-stop to the divide. Had I not watched this with my own eyes, I would have told you no way. The harrowing consideration is sharing the road with vehicles, around hairpin curves, sans guardrails, and chugging bicyclists going up and hurtling down. It is no wonder that Colorado enjoys a stellar reputation for robust personal health and conditioning. I talked, through a mask, and briefly, with a passenger who had just made the ascent to the divide who declared the trip was “terrifying”. She had a point!

Colorado’s history is well preserved. Every mountain town, through preservation and restoration, has a story to tell. These villages and ramshackle whistle stops are becoming very popular and expensive as folks are relocating back to these quaint environments in great numbers. Consequently, real estate prices are eye opening and the properties in great demand.

Every pancake, no matter how thin, has two sides. We drove through scenic Aspen where the rich and famous casually stroll through town in spandex and fur. Their town is a far cry from Leadville, where we were most comfortable. The town was wrapped in an aura of opulence and wealth. We did not feel unwelcome….nor did we feel welcome either. We love the Dillon, Breckinridge vibe, places we know and skied once upon a time. We are jeans and flannel folks and pride ourselves on never meeting people without a smile and greeting. Good old boys would be well advised to seek the ski country on the “other” side of the tracks, where cold beer and strong drinks are all readily identifiable. Places where designer shirts come from Duluth Trading or Carhartt and jeans are cut for a loose, high waisted fit………

Time for another coffee and additional reflection on the ability to ride a bicycle up a mountain….

Have a great weekend, pray for our President, and remember to be civil….

SR

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