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Retiring employee ready to explore world outside of post office lobby

Autumn Phillips

Mick McCoy punched out at 5:30 p.m. Thursday for the last time.

Now the real journey begins.

For 27 years, McCoy has punched the time clock as an employee for the U.S. Postal Service. For 27 years, he has sorted other people’s mail — 17 of those years at the downtown post office in Steamboat Springs.

Now, he is busy sorting his own belongings — deciding what to keep and give away, what to store and what to pack for his new life in Nicaragua.

At 56, McCoy never has to work again, unless he wants to.

The U.S. government offers retirement to any civil servant after 30 years of service. With 27 years as a postal employee and three years in the Army during the Vietnam War, McCoy has put in his time.

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He cleaned out his locker a week before his last day, eager for retirement.

McCoy remembers walking into a Denver post office when he was 26 years old to fill out an application.

“It was better than what I was doing at the time, working construction,” he said. McCoy found himself in Colorado, stationed at Fort Carson, after he returned from Vietnam. The job at the post office was going to be temporary until he found his bearings and decided what he really wanted to be doing.

“It wasn’t supposed to be a career,” he said. “But I met my wife. We had a family. Things changed.” The years passed.

When McCoy realized that he was going to stay with the Postal Service for the duration of his career, he asked for a transfer to Steamboat. He moved here in 1985.

“I’m an old hippie. It was always my dream to live in the mountains,” he said. “It was better than I imagined. Besides marrying my wife, it was the best move I ever made.

“I’ve gotten to be a good skier. The lifestyle keeps you young, and it’s still a great place to raise kids.”

McCoy has been a dispatch clerk for almost 20 years, putting parcels into lockers in the post office lobby in the morning and loading trucks bound for Denver in the afternoon.

McCoy’s long, white beard and his friendly smile are a familiar sight at the post office.

“I think I’m the unofficial post office greeter,” he said.

After almost 30 years, McCoy can do his job without much thought, freeing his mind to daydream “about more important things.” Lately, his thoughts have been on retirement and all the years of traveling he has ahead of him.

During his years with the Postal Service, McCoy earned five weeks a year of paid vacation, which he used to explore the world, one country at a time. He has been to Europe three times, to Honduras, Belize, Costa Rica, Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Nepal and Cambodia.

He plans to finish out the ski season, move to Nicaragua and enroll in an intensive Spanish language emersion program.

He chose Nicaragua because, “it’s out of the way.” How long will he stay?

“Until it isn’t fun anymore,” he said, and after that, he doesn’t know what will happen.

“I want to see as much of the world as I can and grow from that,” he said. “I don’t know when I’m coming back, but I will. I still get the rush coming over the pass after being away.”

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