Leaving Jackson last week, we were feeling good. Jackson turned out to be a very bus friendly city and we had a great time biking and hanging with new friends. Our next stop, after a quick backpacking stopover in the Wind River Range of Wyoming, was Steamboat Springs.
We’ve been to Steamboat twice before, once in summer and once in winter. While they have an adorable little downtown with great shops and restaurants, we weren’t sure how friendly they would be towards the bus. Our first night in we played it safe by staying at the Steamboat KOA, for a whopping $61 per night. Sure, it was full hookups, but that is waaaaay out of our nightly budget of “free.”
Our first full day in Steamboat we parked the bus in the only stretch of public parking we could find for the bus near downtown. It was a pretty good spot for working, but we felt uncomfortable with all of the variations of “no parking” signs around us. That night we tried to find parking in the empty ski resort lots (no luck) and ended up staying at the closest national forest land we could find, which – turns out – was actually day use only, so we were technically breaking the law.
Sleeping somewhere you know you’re not allowed is a stressful situation. We keep all the lights off and go straight to bed, but never sleep well because we’re always worried if this car that just rolled up is going to be the one that tells us to move along. We weren’t bothered that night, but we didn’t feel good about it either.
I don’t like breaking the rules, even if it’s a victimless crime like staying overnight in a parking lot that doesn’t allow overnight parking. (I say victimless because we’re totally self contained – we don’t use their bathrooms or trash services, we don’t party, we don’t impact anything other than taking up a few parking spots.) Needless to say, we weren’t loving Steamboat.
The final straw was Will’s attempt to bike Fish Creek Falls, a trail just outside of town. To avoid having to drive the bus up Rabbit Ears Pass, his plan was to hitchhike up to the trailhead and ride back down. In Jackson, Bozeman, or Winter Park, this would have been no problem – in fact, we’ve hitchhiked in two out of those three cities already! In Steamboat? No way. He tried for over an hour and got nowhere.
Tired of having to live under the radar and constantly stressed about getting kicked out, we left Steamboat and headed straight for last winter’s home base, Winter Park. We’d heard that the ski resort allowed overnight parking in their winter lots, and we knew that the town would be a friendly place to hang out for a few days.
We stopped at the first Winter Park parking lot just outside of town, where a few Sprinters and other camper vans had already set up camp. Will got out of the bus to see what the deal was and was immediately greeted by a big group of people and dogs. Not only was it OK for us to stay here (yeah, Winter Park!) but these guys were happy to have us join their crew. They even knew about the bus, because one of them was an old co-worker of mine from my Olive Garden days in San Luis Obispo – amazing!
It’s crazy how much a place can impact our lifestyle and mood. Waking up this morning was much more pleasant than yesterday, simply because we know it’s OK for us to be here. Steamboat is the first non-bus friendly town we’ve encountered, but I’m sure there are more out there. Luckily, I think that for every grumpy “Steamboat” out there, there’s also a friendly “Winter Park.” We are so happy to be here! Stay tuned for more adventures.