What a lovely Steamboat Springs summer it is! Yes, I live in a major tourist destination where we get lots of outside visitors, and I am darned lucky for it with all of the new faces and amentities I enjoy, but I’ve had some fun and heartwarming small town moments these past days that reminded me why I moved here 18 years ago.
Actually, let’s start there, back in July of 1992. I visited Steamboat Springs on the advice of friends while living in Spain and looking for a USA destination for an English-language summer camp which I operated with a friend. I arrived in town on a warm summer evening and was immediately captivated by the natural beauty, the ease of getting around town on public transportation, and the sincere and open friendliness of the locals (actually, I thought they were all enjoying an altered state of consciousness, especially after the Steamboat bus driver thanked ME for riding his free bus!). The clincher came, however, when I wandered into Sore Saddle Cyclery. As an avid mountain biker at the time, I was interested in learning about local trails, and the shop owner, Trip, was only too happy to oblige. When I inquired about the gorgeous Moots mountain bike he had on display, he gave me all of the technical details and then explained that it could be mine for a mere $3500 – a veritable fortune for a youngish globetrotter. I laughed and said the bike was perhaps not for me, but Trip suggested I take it out for a test ride anyway. Coming from the big bad city of Madrid, I was astounded that he might let me out of the shop with his merchandise, but I asked what he needed from me in the way of a credit card or my first-born or some such, but he just said, “Why? Aren’t you planning to bring it back?” So off I went, enjoying the ride, adoring Trip and planning to relocate to Steamboat Springs someday. And I did!
Now, 18 years, a wonderful husband, a satisfying job, great friends and three pieces of real estate later, I can still be amazed by the day-to-day surprises life in Steamboat Springs brings. For example, I was hiking on the ski mountain on Friday, and I suddenly saw and heard a rather large black animal bounding downhill pretty close by. My first thought was boistrous dog, and I looked around for its human. A woman approached on the trail, and I asked if she was hiking with a canine pal, but when she answered that she was in fact alone, we both looked left and spied a big black bear not 10 metres away, just sitting and watching. Without further conversation, my new friend and I both turned downhill, and when she broke into a loud rendition of “Row,Row, Row Your Boat” to discourage closer interaction with Mr. Bear, I joined right in. A bit further down the trail, she went right while I went left, and we carried on with our days. Another fun moment took place in front of my dentist’s office recently. There’s a group of women and their dogs who hike Steamboat’s many mountain trails together quite often, and I’m pleased to be included in such a diverse group with the common love of walking uphill. As I got out of my car to enter the dentist’s surgery, my outdoor buddy Deb walked by, heading into her office where she works as a physical therapist. I looked at her and she at me, and we burst into laughter, as neither of us had ever seen the other in clothing other than hiking gear and without baseball caps. We complimented each other on our workday polish and girliness and wished each other a fine day.
And finally, I reconnected recently with a woman I worked with many years ago when I first arrived in Steamboat. She noted that I had a different surname and inquired about my husband. I asked if she remembered a blue-eyed Irishman with a shaved head who loaded Gondola cars back then. Her eyes lit up and she exclaimed, “He’s VERY tall, and he has a great smile -you married him?” My father from North Carolina would suggest you avoid the local supermarket unless you have plenty of time to stop and hug someone on every aisle, and don’t even think of walking down Lincoln Avenue without eye contact and a smile for everyone you pass.
If you happen to visit Steamboat some day – perhaps next winter – and you do not experience the genuine small-town friendliness that’s kept me here so long, give me a call and I’ll join you for a beer and a catch-up at the Double Z.