We entered into a full room of set-up tents, a nice introduction to what could be termed a museum of modern camping. Factor in the friendly, knowledgeable and readily available staff and you have an optimal place to shop.
Anything you might need for a successful outdoor experience likely sits somewhere in this high-ceilinged, well-lit building with hardwood and stone floors.
High-tech has earned its place among the essentials of camping and outdoor recreation. I was happy to find radios and flashlights powered by hand cranking.
Part of company lore includes Leon Bean's decision to save money on locks by never closing. Indeed, the place has stayed open 24 hours a day since 1951. A clerk confided there can be slow times during the winter, with some nights passing without a single customer. Ironically, big snowstorms bring in crowds.
"People come in off the highway because they know we're open!"
Next, I'd fly out to Santa Fe. The venerable Spanish settlement has grown into New Mexico's state capital. It also may boast the highest concentration of shops, galleries and artists studios in America.
Visitors flock to the boutiques and galleries on the perimeter of the city's large plaza and to similar opportunities out Canyon Road. However, I have a specific place in mind, the Palace of the Governors. Built as the seat of government shortly after the Spanish arrival in 1609, this adobe building has spent its last century as a museum.
Inside, there's a comprehensive exhibition of territorial history, along with a host of artifacts from Spanish, Mexican and early Anglo frontier days. One wall holds signatures of governors in residence from 1610 through 1910. Two paintings on buffalo hide date to before 1750; they're touted to be the "earliest known depiction of colonial life in the United States." A re-created 19th-century New Mexican chapel, a sparsely furnished Mexican governor's office of 1845 and American Governor Prince's 1893 Victorian reception room of the 1890s are additional exhibits.