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Illustration by Dan Page

How Do You Know When It’s Time to Leave Colorado?

One Subaru-driving writer grapples with his sense of identity as he realizes his dream state isn't what he thought it would be.

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There’s a certain sound I associate with Colorado. It’s not the swoosh of skis on groomers or the plunky intro to John Denver’s “Rocky Mountain High.” It’s something even more familiar to Centennial State citizens: the chirp of a Subaru unlocking at a trailhead.

I purchased my khaki-colored Subaru Crosstrek in 2014 while still living in my home state of Michigan, where the top-selling vehicle typically rotates between a Ford and a Chevy. So when I bought my Japanese-made Subie, I was ecstatic. I loved its wealth of cargo space, impressive fuel efficiency, and reliable all-wheel drive that—after an intense mountain biking session—maintained purchase on even the muddiest roads. And, to be honest, the shallow part of me was proud of what the car said about its owner. That starry emblem let it be known that not only was I my own man (unswayed by the Big Three), but I was also a rugged outdoorsman in hipster-heavy Detroit.

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Then, in 2017, I moved to Denver, lured by a new job, a growing city, and a chance to live among my own kind: Ford and Toyota might make the top-selling rides in 32 states, but in Colorado, Subaru is king. I assumed my Crosstrek and I would feel at home in the Mile High City—and we did. Everywhere. In breweries, cycling shops, and Sprouts Farmers Market parking lots, twenty- or thirtysomething Subaru owners were eager to commune over the shared capabilities of our cars. The guests at each dinner party I attended, it seemed, were Subaru-driving Midwest transplants who had moved west to run or ride too. I was thrilled. (Fellow hikers! Mountain bikers! Friends!) At least at first.

But the longer I spent in the city I’d expected to be my mecca, the more I wanted to distance myself from it. Those dinner-party conversations started to feel scripted. We had Subarus in common, but replacing the deeper bonds I’d forged and cherished in Michigan proved difficult. Instead of rejoicing in our mutual interests, I’d sip my triple-hopped IPA, stare into the frosted glass, and think, Is this where I belong? Plus, I’d come to Colorado with the hope of solidifying my sense of self. But living amid a sea of outdoorsy doppelgangers, I felt like I’d lost it. In Michigan, I had been the Subaru guy, my Crosstrek not defining my personality, but definitely reflecting it. Here I was simply a Subaru guy.

I’m still a Subaru fanatic. I hear the company’s newest offering—the recently released, family-friendly Ascent, with its three rows of seats and 19 cup holders—might be the best model yet. But the Colorado Subie tribe, no matter how large or passionate, couldn’t replace the friends and family I left behind in Michigan.

After almost a year in Colorado, I headed back to the Mitten. I’m still not sure it was the right decision professionally. And I desperately miss all the mountainous locales my Crosstrek made accessible. My Subaru consoles me, though, because it allows me to feel like a Coloradan on Michigander roads—without having to be another bearded face in the crowd.

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