The sharing economy is increasing opportunities for travelers who want to explore what the world has to offer, with less damage to their pocketbook and the environment. A woman who works for a new car-sharing program called RelayRides has asked me to share one of my favorite “hidden gems” in Denver so she can give customers ideas about fun stuff to do in my city. The RelayRides concept is similar to Airbnb or other budget vacation rentals in which people briefly rent out their homes while they’re away. With RelayRides, when you travel to another city you can rent your car to someone who’s coming to your city, and then rent a car from someone in the city you’re going to.
One benefit of this sort of sharing program is that it decreases the cost of renting a car. Another is that it decreases the energy-consumptive nature of rental companies maintaining huge fleets of rental cars. Of course, it can consume even less energy to simply drive your own car across the country, but not everyone has time for that. To me car-sharing looks like a great option, so long as I’m comfortable with the private parties I’m renting from or to.
The concept has certainly worked for me in renting vacation homes. My sister and I recently stayed in a fantastic condo in Puerto Vallarta that was much cheaper than a typical hotel, with more room and more privacy. The time-honored traditions of hostels and couch surfing create even cheaper options. When we “share” in these ways we have access to more for less.
For RelayRides users who visit Denver, the concept seems like a great combo with Denver’s B-cycle program, one of the largest bike-sharing systems in the country. Denver is a very bike-able city, connected by plenty of bike trails and bike lanes. My favorite trails run alongside lovely waterways, such as Cherry Creek and the Platte River. A couple of my friends have used the B-cycle program and loved it.
B-cycle stations are conveniently located at major points of interest all over town. You simply pay an $8 fee to join and then anytime you want to use a bike it costs $1 for an hour. If you keep the bike for more than an hour, the per-hour fee goes up, because the main idea is to get you to and from the station near your destination. But hey, even if you want to take your time enjoying the trails, an hour is plenty of time. I envision budget travelers in Denver using a car-sharing program for longer trips around the city, and then switching to the B-cycle program for shorter jaunts.
Which brings me to the “hidden gem” I’d like to suggest to Denver visitors as a possible biking destination: Old South Pearl Street in my neighborhood. In the 1890s it used to be the end of the trolley line between the cities of Denver and South Denver. Today, you can still feel the history in its little brick businesses, old street lamps, and neighborly vibe. There’s a B-cycle station at the corner of Florida and South Pearl, so you can check your bike in, hang out as long as you’d like, and check out another bike when you’re done. In fact, South Pearl has plenty of bike racks for everyone, so if you’re biking with locals they can bring their own:
From late spring to early fall, I suggest visiting the Old South Pearl Street Farmers Market on Sundays between 9:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. It’s my favorite street market because it’s not too big or overwhelming, but still has everything you could want in just a block and a half: local produce, homemade tamales, food trucks, roasted chilies, popsicles, kettle corn, pastries, live music, balloon animals, antiques, Biker Jim’s gourmet hot dogs, and a carnival atmosphere.
On other days, Old South Pearl is a lovely place to stroll, shop, and eat. My husband and I frequent Pajama Baking Company, where we often grab coffee, chai, and delicious pastries and walk them three blocks to the restful Platt Park to sit and eat among big old trees. Sometimes we eat their homemade ice cream instead. They have eclectic, ever-changing selections, such as: almond butter fudge, chocolate-chocolate chip, avocado, butter pecan, maple-bacon, chocolate cherry bomb, and coffee.
Our favorite pizza joint is Kaos Pizzeria, with wood-fired ovens and a delightful garden to sit in, though we usually take our pizza home. We always order the Smokehouse, with roasted poblanos, bacon, and goat cheese. They sell bottled Mexican Cokes, the kind with cane sugar instead of high-fructose corn syrup—they taste so much better, I’ll never go back to cans or plastic.
Our favorite burger is a few blocks south of the main drag: Park Burger. You’ve never had such fresh ingredients on a burger, and the sweet-potato fries are perfection: crisp and lightly salty outside, soft and sweet inside.
For consignment shopping, Common Threads is fun. However, for the most exciting consignment finds, I suggest walking a few blocks north, across the highway at the tiny section of South Pearl behind Whole Foods. That’s where you’ll find Birds and Belles Clothing Boutique. The owner is an artist and it shows in the clothes she picks: I get compliments on everything I buy there. If you like funky shops with unique novelties, Five Green Boxes is a fun spot to explore.
Even if you’re not usually much of a shopper, and I’m usually not, Pearl Street’s charm might temporarily convert you. So it’s good to know that B-cycle bikes have handy-dandy baskets on the handlebars, just in case.
I’m reminded that the best sort of sharing that travelers do is exchanging information. And the best info we all have is not about places we’ve traveled, but our favorite places to hang when we’re back home. Who knows better than us? And who knows more about the value of sharing than a budget traveler?