Joanne Palmer: Keep an eye out for these beach stereotypes |

Joanne Palmer: Keep an eye out for these beach stereotypes

Steamboat’s mass exodus creates a community of refugees

Joanne Palmer

In 1989, Joanne Palmer left a publishing career in Manhattan and has missed her paycheck ever since. She is a mom, weekly columnist for the Steamboat Pilot & Today, and the owner of a property management company, The House Nanny. Her new book "Life in the 'Boat: How I fell on Warren Miller's skis, cheated on my hairdresser and fought off the Fat Fairy" is now available in local bookstores and online at or

— Back when dinosaurs roamed the Earth, people sent postcards to their friends and family when they went on vacation. Typically, they selected an envy-producing photograph of a tropical vista, famous monument or stunning sunset. The standard message went: "The scenery is beautiful. Wish you were here."

Now, of course, dinosaurs are extinct and so almost are postcards. People can now tweet, text, blog or Facebook their adventures, and post every memorable moment instantly.

However, Steamboaters don't have to worry. There's no need to digitally update friends because, well, many are on vacation with you. Since there is a mass exodus over spring break, the odds of seeing someone from Steamboat are excellent — about as good as spotting snow piling up in your backyard. Whether you pick Moab, Vegas, Florida or Mexico, you are almost guaranteed to share your vacation paradise with a few other winter-weary 'Boat folks.

We didn't even make it past Silverthorne before we spotted another Steamboat Springs couple buying some last-minute items. When we got to our hotel in Denver, yep, there was another local heading to visit family in Kansas.

While riding the airport shuttle, we took bets on how many people we would see before we boarded our flight to Florida. The high guess was five, the low two. All wrong. There were 10 people on our flight headed for the sun and another family staying at our condo.


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Personally, I like spotting a familiar face or two while on vacation as it makes me less homesick and I have someone to ask the standard "where to go, what to do" questions.

I heard people say they get bored on the beach, which seems odd to me. Sitting under a striped beach umbrella is like settling into a movie seat at the theater to do some great people-watching. I always have a stack of books, bottled water, suntan lotion and snacks on hand, but instead of reading I usually watch the cast of characters passing in front of me. Here, in no particular order, are some of my beach observations:

■ The Leather Ladies

Despite all of the media attention regarding melanoma and the importance of using sunscreen, these women obviously pay no attention and are intent on turning their skin the color of shoe leather. They are only on the beach during "prime time," the hours between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., with the tiniest of bikinis, no sunglasses, catching full-on rays. They may go into the water, but just to cool off. To tan front and back simultaneously, one intrepid woman was reading a hard-cover novel standing up.

■ The Shellers

Sanibel, Fla., should really be renamed Shell Town U.S.A. It's world-renowned for the seashells that wash up onto its shores. Shelling is such a popular pastime that at sunset, or low tide, I could look down the beach and see hundreds of people bent over in the "Sanibel Stoop" looking for conchs, whelks, scallops and starfish. After the sun went down, shellers continued their search with flashlights, and the beach was illuminated with magical twinkling lights.

■ Snap Happy

How long of a camera lens do you need to snap a picture of an osprey? Half the length of a football field may be just about right to capture a picture of an osprey winging its way across the water with a fish. Serious birdwatchers seem to have serious amounts of camera gear, and it was serious fun to watch them.

The scenery was beautiful. Wish you all were there.

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