Rocky Mountain High and Hot Springs
There are a lot of towns in the Rockies based on tourism. People from the surrounding areas commute 30 minutes to an hour to Aspen for work. The closest Wal-Mart or Target is up north along I-70 in Glenwood Springs, named for the famous Hot Springs that attract tourists throughout the cold winter months.
Redstone, Carbondale, and the rest of the outlying towns are mostly residential. It's a much different place than east of the Rockies in metropolitan areas like Denver. It reminds me of where I grew up in southeastern, AZ, where old western towns like Tombstone, Bisbee, and Wilcox are scattered throughout the mountainous desert. It's nice to know such places still exist in the fast-paced digital world.
My first stop was for a night. The next morning I decided to purchase some marijuana at the first recreational dispensary I came across, which happened to be on the other side of the parking lot I slept in. Purchasing recreational marijuana in Denver this past April was a high in itself. It's a much different experience on the Western Slope.
Medicinal vs Local Discount Pricing
Having lived in a touristy small town area, you learn growing up that prices can fluctuate, depending on whether or not you're a local. Recreational pot dispensaries are no different than those places along the highway offering to show you "The Mysterious Thing." If you can convince them you're a local, you'll get much lower pricing than advertised. You can also purchase more, as tourist purchases are capped at a quarter ounce.
The first time I went in, I only purchased a quarter of Strawberry Cough flower and paid a higher price (although I was friendly, so the guy behind the counter did give me a slight discount). I hadn't been stoned in nearly two months, so I needed to lay out and get back into the habit.
Walking back to my car, which was parked at McDonald's, a homeless man on a bench asked, "Has anyone wished you well today?"
"No," I lied. "Would you like to come sit in my van and get high?"
I ended up spending the day with the man, enjoying the Rocky Mountain high with anyone who walked by. They all told me their favorite spots, hikes, and hideouts. I learned of a spot above the hot springs, known affectionately by the locals as Pervert's Peak, as some of the older gentleman enjoy hanging out behind the bushes to watch tourists have sex in the hot springs.
With my next few cannabis purchases, I decided to try out the product variety. I purchased some edibles, oils, and hash. Returning with experience and my bag from the previous purchases, I'm now getting local pricing at a few dispensaries. The pricing is lower, but still not what I'd get as a medicinal patient.
A friend of mine in Colorado City has a caregiver who can get him $33 grams of oil. Even with the discount, I paid $15 for 150 mg, so I'm definitely still paying retail. Even worse, the edibles do nothing, and I only have a week left to smoke all this stuff before I'm due in Salt Lake City. Thankfully, there are plenty of places in the woods to get high.
Camping Out in the Wild
You meet a lot of crazy people living on the road. The ones that'll stop to talk to you are normally the eccentrics. Most good family people are too busy taking their family on the road to bother having friendly conversations with random strangers.
I've met more buses full of hippies than I ever thought I'd see. Occasionally, I would wake up in the middle of the night and go wandering or step out for a stretch, and I'd be approached by a car full of younger people on some sort of late night adventure. Each time I'd smoke them out, and have a friendly chat for a day or evening before moving on.
Camping in the van has definitely been an experience. I've been living in this particular van for the better part of four months now. Bringing my van dwelling out into the mountains, rivers, and forests of Colorado reminded me why it is I do what I do.
Brian Penny is a former Operations Manager and Business Analyst at Bank of America turned whistleblower. He's a frequent contributor to The Street, Huffington Post, Cannabis Now, and Fast Company.