Hitting the brakes on parking
For a split second I had a clear view into the driver’s seat of Brent Rimel’s late ’80s Honda, and then he was gone. It was a miracle of symmetry, a masterpiece of vehicular ballet, performed on the frozen face of the Battle Mountain High School parking lot (on a school night no less) after a massive snowstorm dropped perfect sliding snow all over the valley.Looking back, I’d call it stupid.Back then, we called it double doughnuts: two cars, two emergency brakes, two 16-year-olds nearly obliterating each other during an incredible crash-up-derby maneuver. Like cowboys lining up for a shootout, we floored the pedal in reverse and went blazing (backward) right at each other. At the last possible second, we hit the e-brake, slammed the wheel, and kissed bumpers as we pivoted on our back wheels. It was one of the great, if not the greatest moment in the valley’s long and distinguished doughnut history.And believe me, our valley has a long and distinguished doughnut history.Later on, shaken but proud, I even had the courage to have a long, informative chat with some of the valley’s more lighthearted policemen.After that night I promised myself to only use my e-braking abilities for the purpose of doing good upon the land. No longer would I yank the e-brake just to get a few cheap screams out of my girlfriend. No, I was a changed man.The very first thing I learned was how to get a good parking spot in the dead of a weekend winter, when every turkey in the land had landed at the base of the ski hill, filling the parking structure to capacity and spilling their cars onto the frontage road.And it began a long, happy time for me and my fellow locals. We have all known, for quite some time, where to park when, how to park when the odds are stacked against us, and how to do it for free. But the grumpy old men and women of the Town of Vail are grumbling once again, and they’ve taken away a local’s caveat, shutting down our secret spots and sending out a message that’s clear and easy to read: WE DON’T CARE ABOUT LOCALS, WE CARE ABOUT MONEY.In the 10 years that I’ve been driving in this town, I’ve never once paid for parking. Like finding powder stashes on the mountain three days after a snowstorm, finding hidden parking has been a quiet locals’ secret. It’s been one of the word-of-mouth ways young people like myself can actually survive in this overpriced town. There have always been nooks and crannies, little half-spots that seemed just a little too small but were generous enough when you put the wheel up on the hillside or pulled the magic e-brake. But most of these have now been taken away, fenced off, and are heavily monitored by angry parking patrollers with overblown inferiority complexes.We locals are getting nickeled and dimed in another very annoying way. To me it feels like a tax on visiting the heart of our very own town. It’s the same heart of town that council people are always talking about revitalizing and rebuilding, and they want so bad for the community spirit to live there, but it doesn’t.They try to revitalize in all the ways that money-hungry people do: build more stuff, remodel the whole place, put in a half-ass kayak park and fill the sidewalks with bronze statues of white kids picking flowers. That doesn’t work, because little things like a parking fee loom large for longtime locals we don’t like it, and we never will. Taken together, these little things are making the difference between a town that has a vibrant local spirit and one that has, let’s say, Vail spirit.Tom Boyd is a lifelong local and assistant editor of the Vail Trail. His work appears in the Rocky Mountain News and The Vail Trail, among other publications. He can be reached at (970) 390-1585, or firstname.lastname@example.org.