Stage 2 - Day 17
By Dick & Pip Smith
Sep 1, 2006, 16:14

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At 10.10am we were on our way in the Earthroamer on the second stage of our trip around the world.  Rather than heading directly towards New York we have decided to go west through the Rockies to some of the more unusual places where we can test the four wheel drive abilities of the Earthroamer, and also see such places as Telluride, Silverton and Monument Valley. 

It is 68° outside as we leave the hotel.   We had stayed our first night in a hotel after traveling 24 hours from Australia.  Yesterday afternoon we spent an hour or so at Earthroamer in Broomfield, Denver checking out the various mods that had been done - including new float gauges for the fresh water and grey water tanks, and also fitting a 220 volt battery charger which hopefully will work in Europe. 

On our first morning, rather than dropping into McDonalds for an inexpensive breakfast as we did in May, we had breakfast at the hotel, and then headed towards Highway 40 - once again using the GPS.   We headed out on the old Road 58 towards Golden.  A few miles before Golden we came across a sign saying Colorado Railroad Museum.  Of course Dick wanted to see this so we turned off but we couldn’t find any more signs.  We stopped at a local gas station and asked directions - typically, never ask a local.  No one knew where the Railroad Museum was.  They didn't even know it existed! 

So back on the road again, through the old mining town of Golden and up Clear Creek Canyon - a narrow winding road, which joined onto Highway 40 as it climbed across the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.  Through Idaho Springs, and rather than turning off on Highway 40 over Berthoud Pass, we turned left through Georgetown and saw the lake where Dick received frostbitten feet on one of our trips to Aspen with the girls years ago. 

We stopped at Georgetown to have a look at the famous Georgetown Loop railroad. What an extraordinary railroad!  It does a complete loop as it crosses the valley, climbing on about a 1 in 30 grade to Silver Plume.  Rather than going on the train, we thought it would be better to stop and watch.  We took a photograph of the Earthroamer parked under the bridge just as the train was doing its loop.  Georgetown was a mining town, as all of the towns in this area were originally, however the Georgetown Loop Railroad was a tourist attraction from the 1880s.  People would travel from all around the world just to travel on the railway line from Georgetown to Silver Plume. 

The altitudes are high here.  We were already at 8,000 feet and climbing.  Rather than driving through the Eisenhower Tunnel - that would have been too simple - we decided to turn left and drive over Loveland Pass. This was the old route across the Rockies before the tunnel was built. At 11,992 feet this was probably one of the highest altitudes we would achieve in the whole around the world trip.  At the top of the pass it was cold and windy but we got out and went for a short walk which made us feel  absolutely breathless.  It is amazing that we can cope with going from basically sea level in Sydney for two months, to 11,992 feet and still not have a headache.  We dropped down off the pass, along a good road where we noticed lots of trucks.  The trucks are not allowed to drive through the Eisenhower Tunnel with dangerous goods so they take the narrow tortuous route up over the pass. 

In passing Copper Mountain we thought of our wonderful skiing trip with Uncle Pete, Annie, Sam and Jenny. 

We went past Vail - the home of the rich.  Last time we drove through here it was freezing cold with snow on the ground.  Now it was green with not a sign of any snow at 76 degrees F.  A tremendous amount of building was going on at Vail.  The great wealth of the wealthy in the United States is apparent everywhere. 

At Avon we turned left and headed on 24 East to follow the railway line to Leadville.  On one of our Aspen skiing trips we had driven down this valley and seen the most extraordinarily long goods trains.  Unfortunately the minute we turned off, Dick noticed that the tracks were rusty and we soon realised that the railway had been abandoned.  We later found out that this had happened about 8 years before. 

We drove up Black Mountain Canyon following the most extraordinary railway construction.  There were old miners' cottages as this area is very rich in minerals.  At one stage we looked across at the town of Gilman, a gold mine, and we turned back down the road to see if we could follow the lower creek.  Unfortunately there was a locked gate so we were not able to do this. 

In trying to get along the railway line we ended up climbing a dirt, almost four wheel drive track to the White River National Forest.  There was a long viaduct taking a water pipe - probably one of the old sluicing pipes for one of the mines.  We returned to the main road and stopped at a plaque for Camp Hale.  In 1942 this was an Army camp for training of the military.  Wow, this would have been a freezing place in winter.  Only the old foundations were left and it is now an historic monument. 

We drove over the Tennessee Pass at 10,424 feet and into Leadville.  We turned left off the main road at Leadville and went up to the old railway station.  We met the local train enthusiast who told us about day trips by train to El Capitan Mine over the Tennessee Pass. He also told us about the two story red brick house down the street that had been the St Vincent's General Hospital  that was closed in the 1950s.  

Leadville is a town of beautiful old buildings - unfortunately many of them filled with tacky junk shops.  We did find one wonderful shop.  This beautiful old building on a corner was built in the last century.  It was previously a hardware shop with offices upstairs and still had many of the original fittings and drawers of door handles and hinges. The present owner had done a deal with various antique enthusiasts and each room we walked into was operated by a different dealer.  

After spending an hour at Leadville we headed towards Salida.  Eventually we found a beautiful little camping area on the side of the Arkansas River where we camped for the night. 

Travelled 383km today 

Total since leaving Anchorage 6926km 

Earthroamer being checked at the Earthroamer factory in Broomfield, Denver

The road travelled through some tunnels as we wound our way through Clear Creek Canyon

ARGO Mine at Idaho Springs

We parked the Earthroamer underneath the Georgetown loop as the train went over

Steam train on the Georgetown loop

Beautiful old buildings in Georgetown

Loveland Pass

Dick driving past Copper Mountain

Driving past Vail

Looking across to the old mining area of Gilman

Viaduct carrying a water pipe from the old mine

Abandoned cottages and mine of Gilman

St Vincents General Hospital closed in the 1950's

Old historic steam train in Leadville

Beautiful old buildings in Leadville

Inside the old hardware shop, now an antique tourist shop

Magnificent old buildings in the main street of Leadville

Road to Salida


Enjoying our dinner inside our home on wheels

Camping beside the Arkansas River

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