I have lived in quite a few different places leading up to this short-term move to Colorado and I must say that Colorado has a very distinct culture. How do I mean distinct? Most people would agree that New York City or Portland have a distinct culture, but those are just cities within a state; we are talking about an entire state here people.
Now maybe I’m jumping to conclusions because I haven’t been everywhere in Colorado. To be fair, I’ve only visited Colorado a few times prior to moving here and we’ve only been living here a week. With that disclaimer in mind, here we go!
There are more people driving around with one to three bikes hooked onto their car than people without a bike. Whether or not you have a bike hooked to your car you may also have a gear stow attached to the roof of your car.
Folks live severely deep in the forest. There are communities dug-in well beyond the threshold of any other state that I’ve seen. Just when you think there couldn’t possibly be anything more beyond the middle of nowhere you will drive through another community. And when I say community I don’t mean a town, I mean a community. A town gives the perception that houses are clumped together with stores and amenities. A Colorado community is an unspecified number of homes peppered throughout the forest in the same general area with 1 restaurant or watering hole to frequent.
Tye-dye shirts, fanny-packs and men wearing long hair are embedded in the fashion of Colorado.
Colorado is a web of highways, State and Interstate Highways alike. It seems that you cannot get anywhere without being on a highway of some sort. Mountain towns (not communities) are splotched along highways and if you’re quick enough you can make the turn to exit before zooming past.
Colorado embraces strip malls to a degree that is unmatched by any other place I’ve seen. A distant second would be Phoenix, Arizona. However, many mountain towns are strip malls with maybe a few other offerings that are not attached to one another.
The forest is clean, the cities? Not so much. Colorado thrives on the outdoors so there are droves of recreation employees ensuring the State Parks and National Forests are kept clean but the cities don’t seem to be so cleanly. I went to a park in Denver to jog around a lake and I couldn’t wait to finish because it was smelly and there was trash everywhere. Other cities I’ve been to in Colorado seem to try a little harder than Denver but the point still stands that dirty cities and clean forests seem to be part of the culture.
When people go to the city parks for the day they bring half of their home with them. I witnessed a similar style observing New Zealanders camp. They go camping for upwards of a month and they bring an obscene amount of things with them. Colorado folks bring shade tents, volleyball nets, grills, chairs, tables, several coolers, bags of clothes, bags of food, bins of miscellaneous items, etc. They anchor in for the day. Going to the park is a commitment not a last minute decision.
Colorado has people. They have people deep in the forests, the parks, grocery stores, rivers, museums, parking lots, and restaurants. They are on the sidewalks, the mountaintops, the highways, and on each other’s bumpers in traffic. Colorado is busy. They might want to post a sign at the state line like they do with a parking lot at a special event; it would simply say “FULL”.
The other thing about Colorado culture is that even though they are “Full” they are still welcoming. I went to a community potluck in the middle of nowhere (where I am currently living) and I felt like I was famous. I was a new person and they couldn’t have been more genuinely inviting and friendly. When I attempted to sneak out the door without making a scene the room turned into a frenzy of waving hands and people yelling out, “See you next Saturday!” And they will, because I dig potlucks and friendly people. That is Colorado Culture.