Samantha Johnston: Enjoy it like a visitor, respect it like local no matter where you land
You know how you look at teenagers sometimes and you think, “Surely, I didn’t behave like that when I was 16?” I feel the same way about people I see in Aspen doing things that make me say, “Surely, I don’t behave like that when I’m visiting (insert anywhere in the world).”
The Fourth of July holiday is, in my opinion, the best of what Aspen has to offer in the way of holidays. It’s community. It’s summer. It’s children running through fountains and dogs romping in Wagner Park. It’s Red Fox fro yo and patio cocktails. It’s toned down and amped all the way up. It’s hometown with a tequila chaser.
The July Fourth holiday also is when I find myself saying, “Well, that’s a first,” when I see any number of things that cause a double-take. I’ve said it a million times before as I dismiss behavior of others, “Well, we’re all tourists somewhere.” While none of the below are firsts, they are four of the things to consider as you come to play here or anywhere, really.
1. The street selfie with Aspen Mountain in the background. It’s true that it’s very difficult to effect this shot if you aren’t standing in the middle of the street. But the street is still a street. Cars drive on the roads around here, so when you are on your 11th take because the photo just isn’t turning out right (trust me, I know, it takes 100 selfies of myself to find one that’s usable and by then, I’m over posting it anyway), I’m still waiting. To use the road. To go to work.
2. Now I don’t have any science to back up what I’m about to say, but I think my gut is right: If you are not good at riding a regular bike, you are probably no better (and arguably much worse) at riding an e-bike. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t try it, but it is to say that you should make sure you get adequate instruction and feel comfortable on the bike. Giving it the first test run on a busy Hyman pedestrian mall (which by the way, is not for bike riding) is a bad idea for everyone involved. Taking it on a dirt trail that you aren’t sure you could ride on a regular bike is an even worse idea.
3. I think there should be a cardinal rule of trail usage. It would read like this: You are in nature to enjoy nature. Doing things that diminish the nature means you missed the whole point, but it also means that others can’t enjoy what they came to enjoy. For me, an after work blast up the Ute is to clear my mind, get the heart and lungs pumping and smell the smells and hear the sounds. When club music is pumping through the pines, it’s just …. not natural. If music in nature is your jam, cool. Just buy any one of a thousand types of headphones so you enjoy your nature and I can enjoy mine.
4. Aspen feels like Disneyland only WAY better. The longest lines are at Kemosabe for new summer straw; the best ride around is the Silver Queen Gondola or anywhere two wheels on a mountain bike can take you; and there’s delicious treats, snacks and schwag on every corner. The biggest difference is that those wide streets through Disneyland don’t have cars on them. They are for people. In Aspen, roads are still for cars. Stepping off the curb into oncoming traffic after your fourth cocktail because pedestrians have the right of way is taking your own life into your hands. Have you taken a look at a busy intersection in downtown Aspen recently? It includes dogs, babies, bicycles, e-bicycles, electric cars, draft horses, real cars and people. I find it’s most life preserving to obey the signals, push the buttons to get the signal you need and don’t just assume the guy looking at the other 13 things mentioned also sees you dart into the street.
We all are enamored by the places we choose to go to — it’s why we picked them. When you’re lucky enough to land in our little neck of the woods, enjoy it like a visitor but respect it like a local. We know we are blessed to live here and don’t take it for granted. We hope you’ll see it the same way, and when we come to your slice of heaven, we’ll keep ourselves in check. Deal?
Samantha Johnston is the publisher of The Aspen Times and a Colorado native. She acknowledges she’s done her fair share of stupid things as a visitor in other towns.
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