It was late on the night of March 1 when I rolled into Steamboat Springs, crawling over snow-blown Rabbit Ears Pass on my way to a new house, a new town and a new job.
I would be covering business and the town of Hayden for the Pilot & Today, and my Corolla, newly shod with all-weather tires, probably was more prepared than I was. So I set out to get acclimated and adjusted and to meet the people of my beats.
That - and my appreciation for light American lagers - led me to the HiWay Bar in Hayden on Sunday.
The place was bustling at about 3:30 p.m. when I walked in and ordered a bottle. Pool players were playing pool, NASCAR watchers were watching NASCAR, beer drinkers were drinking beer. The environment was relaxed, and the patrons seemed to know one another. It was obvious that I was a stranger.
But I didn't feel out of place.
Owner Fawna Odom, paging through the Sunday Pilot & Today, was happy to chat about the town and her time there. She promised me that the folks of Hayden were friendly - once they trust you, that is.
And friendly they were, before and after they learned that I was a reporter for the paper.
I spoke with several people about what issues might be flying under the radar in the town and what they thought I should know about my new beat. But beyond that, we just talked about what we did, who we were and where we came from.
The HiWay Bar is a comfortable place, with its wood interior and group of welcoming regulars. It reminded me of bars I'd stopped at in my travels through the small towns of Texas, where I lived until mid-February. People treated each other like family and were ready with a smile even if your face wasn't familiar.
The bar has been undergoing renovations since last summer, and Odom said the work was just about finished. "Little piddly things" are all that are left, she said, predicting those would be taken care of by April 1. A grand opening will follow, Odom said, probably in mid-April.
The Jefferson Avenue building, which was built in 1888, has been added to the Routt County Register of Historic Properties.
"It's now the historic HiWay Bar," Odom said. "Come on by and check it out."
- Blythe Terrell, 4 Points