Hard to avoid being taken with the Outdoor Industry’s prodigious marketing campaign. Like my forty-eight dollar carton of eggs from Whole Foods, my buying anything emblazoned with Patagonia or North Face whispers sweet affirmations across my brainwaves.
“You’re welcome world, these overly priced sunglasses are absolutely my good deed for the day.”
Certainly that’s utter nonsense. Could have just as easily been made by a young lad whose school day was cut short so he could get back to the sweat shop; “But, look, they’re right next to this organic energy jelly made down the street by two retirees who’ve dedicated their life to pure organic farming principles…they MUST be good.”
If you’ve heard the long draw of Yo-Yo Ma’s brazilwood cello bow, you know the kind of sweet music REI plays on the strings of human desire and genuine good intention.
On a short family trip to our “aspirational home” in Colorado, we took a detour and paid a visit to the Radio City Music Hall of outdoor stores. Not so much a store, but an experience, REI’s Flagship in Denver, Colorado is going to leave you simultaneously broke and happy.
No longer will you have to wonder what it feels like to be a Sailor pulling into port on pay-day. You’ll “need” all the stuff. Everything you see.
Its design is the genetically engineered love child of Walt Disney’s Wilderness Lodge and the MGM Grand. Your first steps through the oversized hunks of trees serving as doors remind you; you’re walking INto the OUTdoors. There is no escape.
To your left is that adventure van we all secretly want. You know exactly which one I’m talking about. The vintage, slightly tattered, totally unreliable and unrepairable Ford version of the Volkswagen that’s basically been adventure’s mascot since it hit the road fifty years ago. But no, it’s not just a hunk of metal. Painstakingly arranged to ensure your impulse is to just “buy the whole set” are the must-haves spilling into the surrounding campsite. Like presents under a Christmas Tree.
To your right is everything you could ever need to plan good use for such an adventure wagon. A collection of maps and books and posters. Perhaps a book by New Innocents will end up in there one day.
Straight ahead you see the squatty ceiling giving way to a cavernous open-air warehouse. A tidal wave of sunshine pouring in through skylights. From the floor, you find what looks like a piece of the Rocky Mountains shooting straight to the ceiling. Belay ropes draped about like they accidentally fell that way. The whole scene screams “professional grade.”
Your kids are going be well-behaved, busying themselves crawling through the product displays. Which is great because it will give you no reason to quickly exit the store. Ever. Oh, but what about coffee? Yeah, they’ve got a Starbucks too. Pearly white and emerald green Starbucks cup in hand, you’ll walk a labyrinth of cycling stuff and climbing gear. With a trail-snob strut, you’ll hike a few acres of yoga pants, through a rainbow of super-puffy jackets, and around shoes with military tank tread soles. After enough walking to start concerning yourself with stuff like nutrition and hydration, you end up at the “Kid’s Section.” And of course it’s perfect.
A jungle gym, out of the way, crawling with kids pushing the experience a bit past its intended envelope. You can’t “dump” the kids there, but it sure as hell beats the mall benches normally reserved for middle-aged dads while mom is in the store loading up on essentials.
We tooled around for an hour and took off. I think that’s about right. Wouldn’t make a special trip but, if you’re in Denver, why not? If it’s your last “civilized” stop before striking off on an actual adventure…All the better.