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They call it “The Mistake by the Lake.” Better known as Cleveland. My hometown. Our river, the mighty Cuyahoga, was so polluted that it caught fire, and more than once. So as soon as I turned 18, I got the hell out of there and moved to Colorado so I could ski. And it was great, until I saw a bumper sticker, designed to look like the Colorado license plate, that read, “No Vacancy.” I was confused. Was it addressing me? Then I got pissed. I went nuclear. Really, ass hat? You’re from here so that makes you better than me? You’re communicating to the rest of us, via bumper, that we’re not welcome?
Later, I found out this xenophobic decal was an offshoot of the more popular “Native” bumper stickers. Regional pride is one thing, but shoving your happenstance of birth in the face of honest Midwestern folk who came out here to ski is grounds for a beating. Colorado’s high country is full of unfortunate souls who migrated from shitty burgs because they were looking for something better. And then there are the members of the Ute and Arapaho tribes, Colorado’s true natives, but let’s not open that can of smallpox-carrying worms. So I called the sticker’s distibutor, Sandy Glade of Colorado Mountain Stickers in Lakewood, Colorado, to let her have it.
“Sometimes people think that we’re snobs because we’re so proud,” Sandy says, “but we have a reason to be.” But is “No Vacancy” born of pride? “Yeah. That one ruffled a few feathers, but it’s all in fun,” she replies.
I want to hate Sandy Glade—maybe it’s my defeatist/elitist Cleveland attitude—but I can’t. She’s polite and down-to-earth. She works with her mother. She acquired the business from her brother, who started it in 1979. And we talk about football. Then Sandy lets me in on a little secret: She was born in Utah and moved to Colorado in sixth grade. She’s just another person who migrated from somewhere worse. Like I did. I can relate. Though Utah’s Green River has never spontaneously combusted.
-SKIING MAGAZINE, November 2008