|SIX THINGS YOU DON'T KNOW ABOUT: COLORADO.|
Most people still believe Colorado is a snow-covered, Wild West theme park where the air is so thin, pro athletes can regularly blast 700-foot homeruns. But did you know Colorado has more than 300 days of sunshine, is home to more technology-related jobs than any other state and has a baseball team that can't hit the ball for shit? No, of course you didn't. The second you read "Colorado" in that first sentence, all you can think about is jumping on an express chairlift, slathering a quart of neon pink Zinc on your nose and sipping Peppermint Schnapps out of a flask
you keep hidden in the breast pocket of your North Face ski jacket.
Well listen up. Colorado doesn't take kindly to out-of-state ski-bums who show up and start running their mouths about the "radical powder at Telluride." If you pull that shit, you're likely to end up standing toe-to-toe with a burly Coloradoan looking to tangle. And, trust me, Colorado isn't a place where you want to throw down. Boasting one of the healthiest populations in the country, our rock-hard fists can knock your teeth out and our finely toned legs can stomp you into a fine, pink mist, even when we're wearing our favorite pair of Birkenstocks.
Here, then, are six things about Colorado that might just keep you from getting your pretty-boy face smashed in.
#1. We Like to Drink. A Lot.
The good folks at the state tourism office like to refer to Colorado as "The Napa Valley of the Beer World." That's because Colorado leads the nation in beer production per capita and more beer is produced in Denver than in any other city. There are more than 100 breweries located across our great state, ranging in size from the largest brewery in the world (Coors Brewery in Golden) to tiny small-batch brewpubs in scenic mountain towns (Steamworks Brewing Co. in Durango). With so much beer readily available, sometimes it can be difficult to accomplish anything in a day other than getting your drink on. I mean, who wants to plow through a pile of paperwork when the buzz-tastic sweetness of a freshly-poured Fat Tire Amber Ale is just a few steps away? No one, that's who.
It's not just beer that we love to pour down our gullets, either. With a mild climate and low humidity, Colorado is an ideal place to cultivate grapes that are transformed into sweet, high-altitude wine. In 2003, Colorado's 50 vineyards produced over 500,000 liters of wine. And we're not talking about cheap swill like Mad Dog 20/20 or Thunderbird. Colorado produces award-winning wines that regularly receive honors at prestigious competitions all over the world. I'd rattle off a few names, but I'm not really into all that hoity-toity horseshit.
#2. We're the Front Line of National Defense.
The national headquarters of the North America Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) is located at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs. Manned by a bi-national military force comprised of Americans and our hockey-loving bro-bros from the Great White North, the NORAD command center sits deep inside nearby Cheyenne Mountain and keeps a watchful eye on our national airspace using a high-tech system of ground- and air-based radars and satellites that would give James Bond's buddy Q a gigantic boner.
Once considered nothing more than an aging relic of the Cold War, NORAD's role in ensuring our national security increased exponentially following September 11, 2001. Now, NORAD spends each day of the year scrutinizing every plane, hang glider and kite that has the balls to fly over North American soil. Well, except on Christmas Eve, when they turn their attention to more pressing matters like tracking Santa Claus as he delivers presents to booger-eating kids all over the country.
#3. Olympics? We Don't Need No Stinkin' Olympics.
Most states would kill to host the Olympics. Hell, in 2002 our self-righteous neighbor to the west, Utah, went so far as to bribe members of the International Olympic Committee to make sure Salt Lake City landed the Winter Games. But whereas Utah was an over-aggressive jock who clumsily tried to unhook the Olympic bra, Colorado was the original cigarette-smoking, bad-ass loner who played hard to get.
In the early 1970s, Colorado was awarded the right to host the 1976 Winter Games. At the last minute, voters told the planning committee to take their silly little games somewhere else, making us the only state in history to turn down the chance to host the Olympics. Coloradoans refused to play host because we were afraid the publicity would attract an influx of unwanted, heavy-hoofed outsiders to our unspoiled wilderness areas.
Looking back, maybe turning the Olympics away wasn't the best idea we ever had. Thirty years later we spend millions of advertising dollars annually, begging tourists to come ski at our secluded mountain resorts and camp in our pristine national parks.
#4. There Really *is* a South Park.
It's true. I've been there. Trey Parker and Matt Stone immortalized this picturesque mountain town with their foul-mouthed animated series that premiered in the mid-1990s. But long before Cartman and the gang, South Park was plenty famous: The area is home to a restored mining town circa 1860. If you think the TV South Park where a talking piece of poo spreads Christmas joy looks like fun, wait until you discover what the real South Park has to offer. Ask yourself: Is watching one of the most hilarious, satirically-biting shows of our generation more fun than walking on wooden sidewalks, poking around an authentic one-room schoolhouse or sucking on a piece of rock candy procured from the J.A. Merriam Drug Store? Is it?
#5. The Nation's Super Criminals Come Here to Die.
Located approximately two hours south of Denver, the small town of Florence is home to the U.S. Penitentiary Administrative Maximum (ADX), the highest-security federal prison in the country. Better known as "SuperMax" to those inclined to nickname prisons, the ADX has been home to some of the most notorious criminals in modern American history: Ted Kaczynski (The Unabomber), Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh and Ramzi Yousef (ring leader of the 1993 World Trade Center attack). Violent inmates from other prisons who hurt or kill corrections officers end up here, too. It might seem like a bad idea to keep all these uber-criminals locked up in the same place, but prisoners don't have much time to share grooming tips. They are confined to tiny cells 22-hours a day. When not in a cell, prisoners are cuffed, shackled and escorted by two or three guards.
Despite having the world's worst criminals just a few doors down, the people of Florence sleep well knowing that no inmate has ever escaped from the prison. And while ADX may not be the most family-friendly attraction in the state, the area's tourist revenue is supplemented by the presence of the Museum of Colorado Prisons in nearby Canon City, where Mom, Dad and the kids can view hilarious artifacts like the hangman's noose used at the state's last hanging, confiscated shanks and illegal contraband, and portraits of Jesus painted by real, honest-to-goodness prison inmates!
In 2003, Colorado led the nation with 2,947 human cases and 63 human deaths caused by the West Nile Virus, a deadly virus that attacks the central nervous system and is spread by infected mosquitoes.
Last summer was kind of like living in a bad Roland Emmerich disaster flick, but instead of being crushed by a giant lizard or swallowed by a freakishly large tsunami, we were stealthily injected with liquid-death by pissed-off bugs. Although the CDC is predicting a smaller outbreak this year, Coloradoans are gearing up for another pain-in-the-ass summer. So, while you and your hipster pals pass the summer sipping margaritas on the patio of your favorite watering hole, I'll spend the next four months constantly reapplying insect repellent to my crotch and consuming dangerous amounts of DEET whenever I try to grill a couple of brats on the back porch.
But I'm not complaining. There's no place on earth I would rather call home than Colorado, because even with all the degenerate drunks, itchy-fingered Canadian spies, murderous criminal masterminds and flying killer pests, it still beats living in California.