Summer Vacation in Colorado Fulfills Bucket List

Traveling to Central City in Colorado

Growing up, my family always took a summer vacation. Sometimes it wasn’t to any place in particular. We might head off north, south, east, or west with a vague plan, but, with the intention of stopping for a few hours or even a few days when we came to an interesting place we’d never been before. Some of those trips are my most memorable. This summer was different—destination Central City, Colorado. If you aren’t familiar with this little town, it’s off I70, west of Denver, and 3000 feet higher. Central City is virtually uphill or down, three blocks wide and possibly five or six miles long. It has no industry except Casinos and a population of only 800 in the winter. So why travel almost 1000 miles to this little town? For two reasons: (1) its opera house, a beautiful rock structure, built in 1878 by the local Welsh and Cornish miners when Central City was a booming town along the railroad from Denver to the richest silver mines in the U.S (2) to spend five days with my friend, Martha.

Enjoying Vacation with Vision Loss

I want to detour from my adventure momentarily to answer a question that newly visually impaired people may be thinking. How do you enjoy a vacation, especially one to the mountains, when you can’t see well or can’t see at all? In one sentence: vacations are about creating memories, and that never changes. Over my lifetime, I’ve spent four other vacations in Colorado, each one with varying amounts of vision. (I have retinitis pigmentosa which caused me to gradually lose my vision.)

Central City Known for Opera

Central City Opera house By Rainer Halama (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

If you like opera, you know that Central City is one of the small towns across the country that offers opera buffs excellent opera in the summer. Attending an opera at the Central City opera house has been on my bucket list since I was twelve years old. This trip was extra special, because not only did I fulfill a fifty-year-old dream, but I also got to hear Stephen, my friend Martha’s son, sing in the Central City opera house! By the way, the Opera House is operated by the Central City Operation Association, the 5th oldest opera company in the United States.

First Time Vacationing in Colorado

snow capped Mt. Lincoln in Colorado by Thomson200 (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

Although the first time I saw the Rocky Mountains rising above the western plains was breathtaking, what occurred thirty minutes later is possibly more memorable. A Colorado highway patrolman who saw us taking pictures along I70 stopped to give us a Colorado map and then—imagine this—took us to meet some friends of his, a judge and his family who lived on a big ranch nearby. After touring the judge’s small museum of fossils and Colorado memorabilia, the judge’s wife invited us to stay for lunch.

Other Trips to Colorado

On my second trip, my folks and I visited the cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde. Again, seeing those strange indescribable dwellings clinging to the wall of a canyon was incredulous, but the greater memory is the feelings I had as I climbed a thirty foot rope ladder up the side of a cliff so I could crawl through one of the dwellings. My third trip to Colorado took me to beautiful Aspen for five weeks of school. The Rockies were the backdrop but there I met several well-known composers and musicians and sang in my first opera.

Back to Central City and Visiting with Friend

By now I know you get my point, so back to Central City. This summer the mountain air was clean, crisp, and cool and filled with the rustling sound of aspen leaves blowing in the breeze as my friend of forty years and I sat on the deck of our condominium and talked! Talked! And TALKED! Every day we enjoyed beautiful music in the historic opera house or a smaller venue called the Stable. (Yes, once upon a time it was a horse stable.) One night we heard the opera, The Ballad of Baby Doe, based on the true story of the torrid love affair between Baby Doe and Horace Tabor, owner of the richest silver mine in the late 1800s. After the show Stephen introduced us to the singer who played the jilted wife of Horace. What “pipes” on such a small woman! Another evening we heard a concert of show tunes from numerous Broadway musicals. And for the grand finale, we were spellbound by the queen of all operas, Tosca! After Tosca we met the villainous Scarpia, a part Stephen will no doubt sing in the future.

When we weren’t attending performances, Martha and I visited a few historical sites and sat in a tranquil memory garden soaking up the wonderful Colorado sunshine and, yes, talking. Of course, we went shopping for our opera memorabilia. We visited the opera house gift shop so many times we became friends with the shopkeepers. They even learned to fold the signature line on the credit card slip so I could sign on a raised line!

On our last day, we drove to Leadville, the location of the Tabor silver mine, and the beginning of a two and a half hour train trip into the glorious Colorado peaks. The train’s conductor/narrator of the sights was so descriptive I could visualize everything he was pointing out to the sighted passengers. Of course, we had to buy more souvenirs in the train gift shop and drink a cup of hot chocolate. It was quite chilly at 13,000 feet.

Summer Vacations Create Great Memories to Share

My friend Martha and I have chatted several times since the trip. What do you suppose we’ve talked about the most? Yes, for the first time in forty years, we had all the time we wanted to talk with a beautiful backdrop as an added benefit! What are your favorite vacation memories? I suspect—just like mine—they are the unexpected events and the people you shared them with. Keep building those memories!