There was a bear wandering around the Stanley Hotel up in Estes Park last week — yes, a bear. Not a dude in a bear costume, or anything like that. This was a bear that probably just wanted a room, and maybe to find out what all the Stephen King ghost-story hubbub was about. (The squirrels near his den vacationed in Estes last fall and just won’t shut up about it.)
But this is Colorado, which is why this was a “Huh…that’s funny” news item, and not an OMIGOD, THERE IS A BEAR IN A HOTEL headline. Because bears are a thing. I went camping for a friend’s bachelor party some years back, and we saw a bear on the road leading up to the campground. And we still went camping. We told the bear story over beers around the fire. Was that smart? I don’t know. But this is Colorado, and we make our own rules.
The potential omnipresence of the ursine isn’t the only thing that marks this place as Colorado. If you look around, you'll see lots of other signs that, yes, you’re a Coloradan. Here are just ten of the most noteworthy.
1. You Don’t Notice Altitude
You don’t get winded as fast as your friends visiting from sad sea-level states. This is especially exciting for those of us who spend more time binge-watching Game of Thrones than binge-hiking mountain trails, because we are still physically superior without having exerted any real effort outside of living here most of the time. Magic. Related sign: You have a cabinet in your home for all of your sunscreen.
2. Your Subaru Has a Ski Rack
You don’t even have to ski to have a ski rack: If you get a new car in Colorado, chances are good it’ll already have one that's been factory installed, especially if the car is an all-wheel-drive. Which it probably will be, so you can safely ignore the advice from your dad about keeping bags of sand in your trunk alongside a shovel and a bag of salt. And a blanket, and a jug of water, and emergency flares, and probably your dad himself, who decided to go ahead and ride back there just in case.
3. You’re Probably House-Poor
If you own a house here — especially in Denver — chances are good that you pay a larger percentage of your income for housing than do most of your non-Coloradan friends. (You know, unless they live in Manhattan or parts of California.) Unless you bought over a decade ago and never refinanced or relocated — in which case you’re probably living inside your most valuable asset — you’re paying a price to live at a mile high.
4. You Refuse to Patronize a Restaurant Without a Dog-Friendly Patio
If you’ve ever been righteously indignant that the drinking establishment didn’t provide a water bowl for your golden lab or appropriately coo over your precious pug, you are a Coloradan.
5. Humidity Is Weird
“Why is the air so...wet?” you may think when visiting any state other than, say, Arizona. Coloradans don’t like Texans much in the first place, but the immediate sweatball we become when we step off a flight to Houston doesn’t help matters.
6. Pot Has Stopped Being a Deal
Remember back when smoking marijuana was the sort of thing that people hid and worried about and felt guilty about using? Yeah, most of Colorado doesn’t, either. Of course, ironically, that may be because of all the pot.
7. Your Budget Includes Items Like “Concerts” and “REI”
With so many legendary music venues just in Denver and the surrounding areas, the music scene is pretty all-encompassing. It’ll keep you busy, keeping up with all the great shows — and keep you spending, too. Same with hiking and general mountain fun. Sure, walking is free, but the right shoes aren’t. And then there’s the backpack, and the sun hat, and the cargo shorts, and the sweat-wicking socks, and all those things that seem like such a good idea until you have to put down the beer and leave your couch.
8. You Arrange Your Summer Diet Around Palisade Peaches and Rocky Ford Cantaloupe
There isn’t much you can’t make better with peaches: pies, cakes, cookies, salsa, pork chops, salads and more. What doesn’t go well with peaches? (Okay, there are a few things: macaroni and cheese, maybe?) But in the summer months, Coloradans go nuts for their peaches and their cantaloupes.
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9. Orange and Blue Are Always Valid Paint Options…for Anything
Just tell the HOA that those aren’t Broncos colors — they’re Sunset and Ocean Depths. Or just tell them to shove their approved-hue lists, or else they just might get a visit from a couple of former defensive linemen that are now on John Elway’s private payroll.
10. Pizza Crusts? Pass the Honey.
Sorry, Papa John's. Your garlic dipping sauce might be delicious, but it’s Colorado’s own Beau Jo’s for the crust-crowning win.