Road (and Train) Trip to Leadville, Colorado
then to Vail, Beaver Creek, and home via Breckenridge, CO.
(15th and 16th September, 2008)

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The whole reason for my trip to Leadville was to do the two-and-a-half-hour train trip on the Leadville, Colorado & Southern train, and to see the fall foliage.  (See the route I took.)  I started my two-day trip from Colorado Springs, CO at 9.00 a.m. and drove west and north to Leadville, which took about three-and-a-quarter hours.  I was prepared for the flatness of the terrain between Divide and Buena Vista, but once the Rockies came into full view, things looked up.  Unfortunately the fall colors were not at their best yet, but I did get to see much yellow.

Leadville
The little town of Leadville, in the shadow of the mighty Mt. Elbert (the highest peak in Colorado at 14,433 feet), has an interesting mining history.  Back in 1860 gold was discovered, and with that came a flood of prospectors.  Like most other mining towns, it was boomtown, for a while, complete with hotels, hostels, dance halls, saloons, brothels, and gambling rooms.  After the gold production ebbed, silver was then mined.  They discovered Molybdenum in 1918 in Climax, CO (just outside Leadville) and this completely revitalized the town.  The mine closed in 1995 and is due to reopen in 2010.  Molybdenum is a transition metal and its symbol is Mo and its atomic number is 42.  The Climax mine was the highest mine in the country at an elevation of 11,360 feet (3,465 meters).

Leadville has quaint Victorian buildings and houses which beg to be looked at, and photographed.  It's also a great little place to do walking tours.  Harrison Ave., the main drag, is full of colorful buildings and is home to a variety of interesting shops.  One I found particularly interesting was the Rock Hut (706 Harrison Avenue - www.rockhutleadville.com) where I saw an 80-million-year-old fossil as well as gorgeous crystals.

Some of Leadville's illustrious visitors include Oscar Wilde, Sarah Bernhardt, Buffalo Bill, Teddy Roosevelt, and Doc Holliday.  Request a brochure on Leadville and plan your trip there, and check out the Calendar of Events for when you plan to visit.  Of course there is skiing, to be found in nearby Ski Cooper, golf at Mount Massive Golf Course, the scenic Twin Lakes area, river rafting, and more.  I didn't sample the nightlife, but I believe it exists.  Leadville is also home to the Independence Film Fest of Colorado (early September).

Leadville, Colorado & Southern Train Trip  (Contacts below)
As you might know if you're a regular visitor to this site, I love train trips.  I can't remember how I discovered this little trip (perhaps a television ad), but I decided to give it a try.  Besides, it was fall and the leaves were reportedly great.  They weren't, but I decided to go anyway.  We weren't taken the full length of the trip because of an earlier derailment (they didn't say whose train was derailed) and they were working on the tracks.  The weather was spectacular, and although I brought along a warm jacket (and gloves, just in case), I never need anything other than the t-shirt I arrived in.  At 10,152 feet, the weather could easily have been much colder.  The views were breathtaking and ranged from green pine trees, yellow and slightly oranging Aspens, granite mountain peaks, sheer rock faces, rivers, and more.  There are restrooms on board as well as a little café car.

Invariably one gets talking to fellow travelers, and this trip was no different.  I met the delightful Mary Ellen and Zane, from Seattle, who suggested I visit Beaver Creek seeing as I was venturing up north to check out Vail.  We chatted like old friends and I was invited to visit them out west.

Ice Palace Bed and Breakfast, Leadville, CO  (Contacts below)
The cutest victorian home was my stay for the night.  Sherry and Marcie welcomed me at their bed and breakfast after my train trip and a stroll around the town.  They put me in the newly renovated Crystal Carnival room which had a private bath, shower, and loo.  It was very comfortable and I had a great sleep.  The Ice Palace B&B boasts that they are "highest B&B in North America" at 10,202 feet - I wouldn't dispute this fact.  They are situated a few blocks west of Harrison Ave., and the stillness was magical.  No sirens or traffic noise.  For breakfast, we (there were eight of us) enjoyed superb coffee, orange juice, fresh fruit cocktail, and scrumptuous blueberry pancakes/waffles.  We all sat at a large table (there were other tables) as we wanted to chat and feel cozy.  For those who have tired, there is a comfortable sitting room with board games you can play or books you can read.  Very homey.  Keep a lookout for the very friendly Charlie.

Vail
You've heard how gorgeous this ski town is, and it is, but there was so much construction going on, that I found it all rather cramped.  It seems as though they were cramming in more and more buildings.  Vail lies alongside the I-25 along the Eagle River.  While full of condominiums and hotels, there are some truly spectaculor homes which I encourage you to check out.  The steep ski slopes are in plain view and I closed my eyes to imagine what they must look like covered in snow.  Walking around in certain parts is pretty and you'll notice some Bavarian-ish buildings, complete with flower murals.  Lots of outdoor eating places (where the paparazzi no doubt snap the well-healed wining and dining) and sporting apparel shops.  It's highly probable that things are not cheap here.  Not having too much time to dawdle, I spent about an hour walking and gawking before heading to my next brief stop.

Beaver Creek
Just a few minutes west on I-25 (take the second Avon exit) is the stunningly beautiful and serene town of Beaver Creek.  Oh my goodness, upon entering the area I was looking out over a pristine golf course which was lined with fabulous homes.  It's a very pretty drive and you have to go through security gates to get to the center where there are shops and restaurants.  There are also a lot of condos and exquisite homes to look at and not nearly as cramped as Vail.  The shopping area is a very relaxing place to walk around, and I loved all the bronze animals and characters scattered around.  Very classy stores to poke your head into.  Very worthwhile visiting for its exclusive and impressive layout.  Naturally, Beaver Creek also has skiing.


Route
I started from Colorado Springs and drove west on US Highway 24 to Buena Vista.  Then I turned northwards, still on US Highway 24 (signs say US Hwy 24 West) to Leadville, which all took approximately three hours.  After my visit to Leadville, I was back on US Hwy 24 (West) to Vail on Interstate 70, and this trip took me about an hour.  After Vail I headed west on I-25 for about 8 minutes to the town of Avon (second exit) with the intention of getting to Beaver Creek.  I then backtracked on I-25 past Vail and to the Frisco off-ramp and onto State Highway 9 South, going through Breckenridge, Alma, and Fairplay until I reached US Hwy 24.  I turned left and headed towards home on US Hwy 24 East.  I got home in three hours - saved quite a bit of time on the home journey.

   

Toyota Pruis Hybrid Car Rental
I felt compelled to share my experience with the Toyota Prius hybrid car I rented for this trip.  From the moment I sat inside the car, I was a little skeptical because the dash features looked so space-age.  I needn't have worried however, because once the Enterprise representative showed me how things worked, I was off.  The car was extremely comfortable, very easy to drive, and I felt I could see everything as the large windows let in so much light.  I liked that because I'm a little claustrophobic.  The acceleration was fantastic and I didn't struggle on any of the mountain climbs (I was the only passenger so I have no idea how it would perform as a fully-loaded car.)  Something I just loved was that it turned on a dime.  No more three-point turns!  The car is very spacious, with an ample trunk, and plenty of legroom in the back (I tried it out).  The outside mirrors were the most helpful, and if positioned correctly, are invaluable - you can see everything you need to see from both sides!  The view from the rearview mirror took a little getting used to as the back windshield is a little different, but I used the side mirrors to my advantage.  The greatest news, in today's economic climate, was the gas mileage I got.  I averaged 50.9 mpg (according to the readout on the little screen).  I traveled 414 miles and filled up with a measly 7 gallons of gas ($24.64) for my two-day trip, which worked out to be 59.1 mpg!!  Do yourself a favor and request a Prius when you next rent a car with Enterprise.
I'm considering a trip to Santa Fe and Taos, New Mexico, and will definitely try and get another Prius for the trip.  I fell in love with this great car and have dreams of having one of my own someday.

Prices quoted were correct at the time, September 2008.


Contacts   Contact Me

Enterprise Rent-A-Car (Motor City, Colorado Springs) - 2 days @ $27.49 p/day with unlimited mileage (which = $85.44 and includes tax and my choice of insurance) plus your choice of insurance and gas.  Often you get better rates making your reservation on the Internet.  See my note on the Prius.
Enterprise offered me superlative service in that they picked me up and dropped me at home (I don't have a car of my own) which made things a whole lot easier.  Staff were friendly, knowledgeable, accommodating, and very helpful.  I highly recommend you try Enterprise - efficient, well-priced, and helpful.
Web: www.enterprise.com  Tel: (719) 635-8029   Toll-free (Reservations): 1-800-261-7331   Toll-free (Customer Service): 1-800-264-6350     Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/enterpriserentacar

Ice Palace Bed & Breakfast - 813 Spruce St., Leadville, CO 80461
Tel: (970) 445-7664   or   (719) 221-9958
Web: www.icepalaceleadville.com  
E-mail: stay@icepalaceinn.com or email on their website
Rates: from $105 per night for double occupancy.
This notice is posted on their website:
♦ During holidays and some special events, a TWO - FIVE night minimum stay may be required, and/or higher rates may apply
♦ Rates include a gourmet breakfast
♦ Prices are based on double occupancy
♦ For additional guests sharing the same room, add $20 per person, per night
♦ Applicable taxes not included
♦ Prices subject to change without notice
♦ Feather beds are easily removed for guests with allergies or personal preference.  Please let us know when making your reservation.
Do read their Policies for more information.

Leadville, Colorado & Southern R.R. Co. (Train) - 326 East 7th Street, P.O. Box 916, Leadville, CO 80461
Tel: (719) 486-3936   Toll-free: 1-866-386-3936   Web: www.leadville-train.com
Adults - $28.00   Children (4-12) - $16.50   Children under 3 - Free

Leadville/Lake County Chamber of Commerce - 809 Harrison Ave., P.O. Box 861, Leadville, CO 80461
Tel: (719) 486-3900   Toll-free: 1-888-532-3845   Web: www.LeadvilleUSA.com
E-mail: Leadville@LeadvilleUSA.com

Prices quoted were correct at the time, September 2008.


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