We were headed to Leadville, a former silver mining boom-town two hours away. Our destination was as good as any other in Colorado, more an excuse to experience anew the enormity of this rugged landscape, the unmatched beauty of millions of years of upheaval followed by millions more of glacial freeze and thaw; the journey is always at the heart of travel in Colorado.
Weaving in and out of Glenwood Canyon and across the Continental Divide via the Eisenhower Tunnel, I fell silent as one vista after another vied for my attention along this “road to nowhere.”
His extension proved one of the most expensive rural highways ever built in the United States, $490 million ($800 million in today’s dollars). And yet the construction of I-70 through Glenwood Canyon earned 30 awards for the Colorado Department of Transportation, including the 1993 Outstanding Civil Engineering Achievement Award from the American Society of Civil Engineers.
A Denver architect who helped design the freeway said, “I think pieces of the highway elevate to the standard of public art.”
I think, in Colorado, the gallery is always open, not just on I-70.
We exited I-70 and merged onto CO-91 heading south; eventually we took CO-24, where the vistas just went on and on and on, all the way to Leadville.
It didn’t take much to imagine Doc Holliday sidling up to the bar for a drink. After all, he’d spent a few years in Leadville back in the 1880s.
all those years of riding the circuit in his ‘Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show’ he was probably looking for a little R&R.
the most costly and substantially built structures between St. Louis and San Francisco, was the vision of Horace Austin Warner Tabor, a well-known mining magnate, Lieutenant Governor of Colorado from 1878 to 1884 and U.S. Senator from January 27, 1883 until March 4, 1883, following the resignation of Henry M. Teller.
Tabor became a millionaire thanks to his holdings in two extremely profitable Leadville mines, the Little Pittsburg (no h in the spelling, deliberately) and the Matchless Mine.
Tabor’s life, particularly his divorce and subsequent marriage to Elizabeth “Baby Doe” McCourt in 1883 in a public (and, to some, a very scandalous) wedding ceremony in Washington, D.C. was the classic social faux pas on a very grand scale. The back lash was just as grand. Tabor’s subsequent bids for governor of Colorado in 1884, 1886 and 1888 were all unsuccessful. And when the Sherman Silver Act of 1893 was repealed, he lost his fortune. I hate when that happens. To add insult to injury, he died of appendicitis in 1899.
But the story doesn’t end there. Before Tabor’s death, he told Baby Doe to hold onto her share of the Matchless Mine. Didn’t happen! This was the Wild West, after all. Thirty-six years after Tabor’s death, Baby Doe was found frozen in the tool shed outside the Matchless mine where she’d lived penniless as Tabor’s widow.
Tabor’s life eventually became fodder for American composer Douglas Moore’s most famous opera, The Ballad of Baby Doe, which premiered at the Central City Opera in Colorado in 1956.
Gee, I wonder if Moore’s opera has played in the Tabor Opera House; certainly lots of fool’s gold along with silver in Leadville, Colorado.
Then again, my life could be fodder for a modern-day soap opera at the very least. I’ve been through a divorce; two if you count my parents’ divorce when I was a teen. I had my appendix removed several years back. I’ve just never had the rags-to-riches-back-to-rags chapter. No riches to speak of, inheritance or otherwise. I never ran for office either. I did run a 5K in the Susan G. Koman Race for the Cure a few years back. But I digress.
Before heading out for some serious exploring, we checked into our room for the night, the Delaware Hotel.
Santa apparently didn’t warrant his own room. He was relegated a corner of the hallway,
Stay tuned for more drama in the continuing saga of the wild Wild West.