Tom Barr’s 1994 Chevy pickup is a virtual rolling scrapbook of all of the places he’s been and all the adventures he has had, from surfing in Baja to helicopter skiing in British Columbia. The truck is virtually plastered with stickers from legendary sports shops and ski resorts.
Tom Ross' column appears in Steamboat Today. Contact him at 970-871-4205 or tross@SteamboatToday.com.
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It isn’t unusual for Barr to come out of the grocery store to find vacationers snapping pictures of his truck.
“I like to share my experiences, so I ask people, ‘Which is your favorite sticker?’ and I’ll tell them a story about it,” Barr said. “Sometimes I come out and I’ll find stickers under the windshield wipers that people want me to put on the truck.”
We can only hope that visitors to Steamboat don’t take umbrage at Barr’s favorite sticker, which reads: “My life is better than your vacation.”
If you live in the Yampa Valley, I don’t have to explain.
The scary thing is that the engine on Barr’s half-ton Silverado has 240,000 miles on it, and it can’t last forever.
“My wife, Allie, always asks me, ‘What are you going to do if the engine blows?’” Barr said. “The truck’s not worth $500, but the stickers, and the time and money I spent — for me to replace all those stickers — I’d have to go heli-skiing again and on all of those surf trips. I’m going to keep it running as long as I can.”
But there’s another problem. T Barr, as he’s known to everyone who recognizes him as one of the most veteran ski instructors at Steamboat Ski Area, is running out of real estate on the silver truck’s slightly retro-looking sheet metal. There’s only one significant untouched location on the truck he now uses in his business, T Barr Painting Inc.
“I’ve got to start putting stickers on top of the cab,” he said over the lunch hour Wednesday. “I have some duplicates, so I’ll put new stickers over some old stickers. And I have some that are peeling off, so I’ll peel them off completely” and replace them with something new.
That only can take Routt County’s No. 1 sticker-mobile so far.
So how did T Barr get so stuck on stickers?
The truck originally was his household’s family car. Then one day, the truck picked up its first sticker, one that extols the virtues of youth sports.
Doesn’t sticker addiction always start that way?
“I got my first sticker in 2001,” Barr recalled. “I was always involved in baseball and donated some money to Little League. They gave me a sticker for it and I put it on the back bumper.
One sticker led to another.
“The ultimate sticker store we have found is in Moab, Utah,” T Barr said. “They have stickers in racks like a record store and they’re generic — they aren’t for companies. It took me an hour just to look through them and pick one.”
Barr’s entire driver’s side door is devoted to stickers from New Jersey, his home state, where he grew up playing in the waves on Long Beach Island and dreaming of the beach-boy lifestyle. He has a sticker from the original Ron Jon Surf Shop there. Another of his favorite Jersey stickers reads: “Jersey Girls Don’t Pump Gas.”
It turns out that just like in the state of Oregon, New Jersey law prohibits self-service gasoline stations in order to promote employment.
Asked about the most expensive sticker in his collection, T Barr doesn’t hesitate. It’s the sticker from Mica Heli-Skiing in British Columbia.
“For my 50th birthday, I told my (two adult) kids I’d take them heli-skiing,” Barr said. “At the end of the trip (which was wonderful) I went into the souvenir shop to get a sticker. After all the money I spent on that trip, can you believe they charged me for the sticker? That sticker cost me $30,000!”
If you think you know someone with more stickers on their vehicle than T Barr has on his truck, please get in touch. Better yet, send me a photo. I can’t wait to see it.
To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email tross@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1