In Aspen, Colorado…
After reluctantly leaving Estes Park, we drove via 1-25 and I-70 to Basalt, Colorado, which is about 12 miles from Aspen. The Aspen-Basalt Area Campground was the closest park that could accept a rig of Phannie's size, and this former KOA had seen better days. (No, that's not accurate; it was a dump!) We didn't even have 50-amp power at our site, so we had to be judicious with the high-draw items while using the anemic 30-amp service. Even though we were careful, we had one main circuit breaker trip when I turned on the microwave when one of the air conditioners was running. Phannie is a power hog, and she clearly was making her displeasure known. My takeaway from this was that we could either cook or be cool, and being cool is something we needed during the day here, as the weather has really warmed up since we left Estes Park. Fortunately, we're not doing much cooking in Phannie on this trip, so managing the electricity was really not that big of a job.
Why did we choose Aspen? Well, Colorado has, for a long time, been a state way undervisited by us, most of our trips having been made to the southwestern part of the state, notably Durango and environs. So, we're catching up now. Aspen is another well-known Colorado location we had not seen--mainly because we're not rich.
The first clue regarding how well-heeled the denizens of Aspen are can be gleaned when you pass the small local airport on highway 82 coming into town. The private jets parked here numbered more than I have seen at most major airports and, as a longtime pilot, I have seen many, many airports.
I'll give the wealthy credit for choosing a scenic area for their second or fifth homes. Aspen is nestled in a valley among mountains with ski runs and Red Mountain to the north where the millionaires and billionaires live. Here's a wide shot from several miles away:
Here is a closer view of downtown Aspen. As you can see, it is a smallish place, and the residents probably want to keep it that way:
The nearby ski slopes are easily visible on this photo:
Below is the main intersection in downtown Aspen; this is typical of the understated architecture, but don't be deceived. Luxury stores abound with names like Dior, Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent, providing quick shopping access in case someone left her favorite scarf in the jet.
Aspeners must be accustomed to having good gardeners, so they insist that downtown is well turned out in the horticulture department. Flowers are everywhere, as in this photo of a small shopping area below street level:
Here's something we don't see every day; a large black bear climbed a tree just outside the downtown sandwich shop where we ate lunch. The police quickly cordoned off the area, but not before I was able to take this photo. Sandy asked one of the policemen if this sort of thing happened often, and he said that it did:
The next photos show just two of the hundreds of magnificent homes that dot the side of Red Mountain just north of Aspen. Most of these are second or third homes owned by billionaires and millionaires, including well known celebrities. Home prices in this area of Red Mountain run upwards of five million dollars.
Below is a residence that is typical of a home within the Aspen city proper. You only have to be a millionaire to afford this one:
Since there didn't appear to be any affordable housing that we could see near town, we assumed that household help and service personnel either drive into town each day or make use of the disproportionately well-developed bus system that serves the smaller bedroom communities between Aspen and Glenwood Springs. Establishing such a system by the well heeled would make sense, given the staffing required for the upkeep of all these large and upscale residences.
The larger wallets of these folks certainly have had an impact on local prices in Aspen. Sandy and I shared one chicken wrap and a Diet Coke for lunch, and the bill was over ten dollars. Leaving town, we saw this sign at a gas station. You can be sure we will not be bringing Phannie here for refueling:
So, we now know what Aspen is all about: Money; big, big money. Frankly, we were not unhappy to leave; we felt very, very out of place in our car whose value was about that of one of the headlights on the Mercedes and BMWs that glided around town.
Oddly enough, Sandy and I decided that we have really not missed anything by not having a second home in Aspen (or a first one, for that matter). Of course, there's also the possibility that that is a bunch of hooey; if I had a few hundred million bucks, I might have a completely different perspective. But I don't think so.