Thursday, October 23, 2003

Take it Easy

Today was a day off from taking a day off. Except for visiting one of the local gold mines, we really didn’t have anything planned and it was great. No clock, no schedule, no specific destination… pure freedom.

We started out the day going to the Phoenix Mine in Idaho Springs. I had wanted to visit one of the mines all week but we never had time at the end of the day. Today, we went.

The mine tour was kinda short. It took about 45 minutes and we didn’t really go too far into the mine but it was fun. I now know why gold costs so much… it’s damn hard to extract. From one ton of rock (not ore), they generally extract less than half an ounce of gold.

During the tour, we learned a bit of geology, a bit of mining history, and a bit of economics. Even though the Phoenix is advertised as a working mine, our guide preferred to call it a “workable” mine. Despite the presence of some very rich veins, the price of gold is too low at the moment to make it worth their while to mine it.

We also learned about the different minerals that are extracted in addition to gold. Within the veins, you might also find iron, copper, and the stuff used in solar collectors (I don’t remember what it’s called).

Once the tour was over, I panned for gold in their half mile of streambed. I enjoyed doing it and I found some gold-colored flakes (they were most likely mica), saved some sparkly sand from the bottom of one of the pans, and found a few chunks of minerals like quartz and other pretty things. The most fun part, though, was listening to the tour group of grade-schoolers.

When we arrived, a large group of children were going through the mine tour in small groups. The rest were playing in the stream. I say they were playing rather than panning because I listened to several elated exclamations about finding silver, pretty rocks and even a diamond (there was an argument over that one… “Look! I found a diamond.” “That’s not a diamond.” “Yes it is.” “No, it’s not.” “You don’t know!”). One group of three or four youngsters were even setting up their own mine right there on the stream.

I sifted four or five panfuls of sand and rock and decided that was enough.

When we left the mine, we went back into Idaho Springs. We drove around a bit and decided to go up the road to Georgetown.

Georgetown was fun. I took dad into the End Of The Line soda fountain and gift shop. It’s a fun little store and the owner is nice. We bought a couple of T-Shirts then went next door to The Rock Shop. I’m not into collecting geodes but it’s interesting to browse through their shop and look at all the pretty rocks.

After The Rock Shop, we stopped in at The Trading Post. Dad found a gift for mom and I browsed through the hats. I don’t know why I developed a recent affinity for hats. I used to hate hats (this is all, of course, excluding baseball caps). I didn’t like the way they looked on me. Maybe my facial structure has changed but about 18 months ago I was wandering through Wal-Mart at 2am (why I was there at 2am is a whole other story that you’ll probably never hear) and found this brown, felt hat. This was doubly odd because, not only did I not used to like hats, I really didn’t like brown hats. I even went so far as to buy an official Indiana Jones fedora in grey because I didn’t like brown (I didn’t care so much what the hat looked like at the time because it was an Indiana Jones Stetson – I think it looks good now, though).

Anyway, I tried on this brown, soft felt hat and really liked the way it looked… so I plunked down the $26.00 to buy it. My wife was not too pleased but allowed me the indulgence. She’s adjusted to it because I use it during cold and inclement weather. A couple of weeks ago, when I brought home the new, black, rigid wool cowboy hat, she wasn’t too pleased about the $23.00 for a hat and she thought it was silly that I had suddenly become enamored with hats but she let me keep it.

There is a point to this whole story and here it is. While I was in The Trading Post, I looked at a couple of hats I liked. I knew I couldn’t afford another hat and was 99.999% sure I couldn’t get away with buying two hats in the same month. When I looked at the $39.95 price tag, I became 100% sure.

In discussing this with dad, I discovered another parallel. He likes hats, too… and mom would kill him if he bought another.

After Grandview, we ended up in Silverthorne. Silverthorne is a more affluent town than Idaho Springs or Grandview mostly due to its proximity to three different ski resorts and the presence of a large outlet mall.

We stopped for a late lunch/early dinner and decided to head up highway 9 rather than going back over Berthoud pass to get back to Fraser. As we have most of the weekend, we spoke infrequently and enjoyed the breathtaking scenery.

Tomorrow, we head back to Kansas City. I’m ready to go home but this trip has been one of the most satisfying vacations I’ve experienced in a long time.

No comments: