The Colorado RV & Boat Show

“Pretty soon, if you want to see the unspoiled grandeur of Colorado you’ll have to go to Wyoming.” Paul Garret in Centennial by James A. Michener, 1974

Colorado has been kind to me in many ways. Or, more particularly, the Colorado Front Range corridor where I’ve been since 1999.

Living here has allowed me to increase my outdoor skill set over the years.  And I managed to develop a day job career that is in demand and gives me funds for what I enjoy doing in life. And, perhaps most importantly, I’ve made some deep friendships I cherish.

The Colorado Front Range is a place where I have access to outdoor pursuits while maintaining a middle-class lifestyle. And being able to share it with some people who have been part of my life now for almost twenty years.

Over the past decade or so, many other people have also grown to enjoy these attributes of where I live. Ninety-six percent of Colorado’s population growth is along this narrow corridor in which I live.

Which means anything within three or four hours radius of this general area is rather popular. Permits are being mandated, and shuttles are now required in many places.

Solitude can be found. The key is to look at the maps and find areas off the beaten path.  And to go to popular areas in the off-season or even during mid-week with sufficient daylight.

No. The problem is not getting solitude.

It is getting to these places when, like everyone else, my time off is at very set intervals.

The trailheads are full.  Sometimes making for difficult access to these pockets of nearby solitude. And the roads? Oh, the roads are a challenge.

The primary access points for leaving the Front Range Corridor are choked.

From Floyd Hill. Denver Post photo.

The I25 corridor going north and south is often busy in either direction on a Friday or weekend from  Pueblo to Ft. Collins. This corridor is admittedly still the least busy of the three most important Front Range exit points.

I70 is just as busy during the summer, if not more so, as winter.

And 285? The population and use are larger than this (mainly) two-lane road can handle.

To quote the linked article that discussed I70, but could apply to most of the Colorado road system:

“It’s a system that was designed in the ’50s and built in the ’60s for a population that they thought would be about three million statewide in the ’80s,”

Which means on weekends and holidays? Well, it has become The Colorado RV & Boat Show. 

I can’t take credit for coining this term. This term was shared with me by my friend Val. We met when she was working for the Continental Divide Trail Coalition. Val is a fellow East Coast native, also has a large, vocal, and colorful family, and has a similar sense of humor. I am forever grateful for her sharing this term with me.

The idea Val shared makes total sense.  Think of any holiday or vacation traffic. What do you see? RVs and boats. 🙂

I was able to take this photo because the traffic was literally stopped. 🙂

Obviously, there are more than just boats and RVs on the road during periods of congestion.  But The Colorado SUV, Subaru, Pickup, Hybrid, and Sedan Show does not roll off the tongue quite as easy…

Crowds, traffic, and congestion. Three things that I can’t stand.  So much so  I turned around last Saturday as it would have taken twice the drive time. I would have been too frazzled to enjoy the initial part of my trip.

I found I need to avoid this phenomenon to enjoy my precious time off.

How to avoid The Colorado & RV Boat Show?

  • Leave before 3 PM Friday or after 7 PM Friday.  Fridays are my busiest day at work. So that option was not a good one last week. I should have left later in the evening, find a place to camp along the way, and then leave in the morning. I must confess I was beat, though. But I paid for it the following day.  Having said that, this is the option that makes the most sense for me and the one I typically choose.
  • Leave extremely early on Saturday.  Around 5 AM or so.  Another option I was too lazy/tired to do. But, again, I should know better.
  • Pick an alternate day to start and return.  Perhaps the second best idea of all. When I left Sunday and came home later Tuesday, the traffic was very thin. Not always an option as not everyone has the vacation time, flexible schedule, or willingness to burn a day off to avoid traffic.
  • Hope the Broncos are in the Super Bowl every year!  When the Broncos were in the Super Bowl a couple of seasons back, the traffic to and from the mountain areas along I70 was blissfully empty. I loved it! I do not follow football at all. But I will root for the Broncos and wish them godspeed on their Super Bowl quest. 🙂
  • Go East.  The High Plains are a place I truly enjoy. I would not want to go there in all seasons and for all trips. But in the early Spring or late Fall, I’ve found these areas to be delightful. And not attractive at all to most.
  • Move.  🙂  As mentioned, most of Colorado’s rapid growth is in a thin corridor where I chose to call home. I am part of the problem. But I can be part of the solution and find elsewhere to live. Sure, many Front Rangers such as myself visit these mountain areas on weekends and holidays. But, again, it is not solitude I have trouble finding. It is accessing the trailheads and the traffic on the roads as I travel with my fellow weekend or holiday warriors.  If I am where I want to be anyway, easy enough to avoid traffic. Or even drive somewhere else that is out of weekend range of my (former in the future?) fellow Front Rangers.

So that is The Colorado RV & Boat Show.  If I stick to a conventional job and hour structure, I suspect I will see more of this phenomenon in the years ahead.  We’ll see what the future brings…

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11 Replies to “The Colorado RV & Boat Show”

  1. Man I hear that. Same issues in the Willamette Valley. So frustrating! There are areas I won’t even consider going to anymore due to crowds (locals and tourists).

  2. Have kids. You won’t get out much (while they’re young like mine) and then youl’ll savor that precious time in the woods and schedule around the crowds. Lol j/k

  3. I grew up in Colorado and have since moved. I can say for certain that SLC and Boise are the same. Terrible. Just terrible. Don’t move here.

  4. I lived in Colorado Springs almost 50 years ago and frequented your part of the world frequently. My last visit to the Front Range was a couple years ago and with all the people now inhabiting the area it will be my last.

    I grew up in LA and left exactly 40 years ago and moved to a small desert village with year round easy access to camping and backpacking areas. I still have easy access and even trips to the Sierra Nevada Mountains entail little traffic. But the backcountry is becoming over crowded and I have to keep searching and finding new remote places.

    • Nick, I’ve been wanting to leave the Front Range for a while. I had plans to move to Montana last Fall. But, well, that did not pan out. There is also a certain person in the very town where I was thinking of starting another chapter in life. But, well, that is another story, too. 😉

  5. A Texan here. I want to get that out of the way up front. so you can all stop reading. I know I am one of the problem children but try to be small in the area I use (with my tent).
    I first saw Colorado and Mountains when I was 26 (31 years ago). I never knew anything that beautiful existed. I have been enthralled with Colorado since then. I tent camped in remote areas for many years with my family in complete solitude and (by pure chance) on what was our last family camping trip, the places we went to to be alone were beginning to fill with many other people. It’s been 9 years since I have been back now and will be 2 more before I can get retired and return.
    I’m just hoping for one small window of solitude 698 days from now when I retire.
    What a place Colorado must have been at the turn of the century before people had their way with it.
    James Michener was obviously right when he wrote that line for Paul and Edward Abbey nailed it with his resentment of roads allowing the masses to access anything and everything.

    Great story PM.

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