Sometimes, breaking away is as close as — Castle Creek Road.
When cycling pals from Grand Junction made a stopover in Aspen last weekend, they insisted on a road ride to Ashcroft — their favorite road-bike trek in the Aspen area.
Since the Ashcroft ride is a longtime personal favorite, I was more than happy to join the rolling party on Castle Creek Road for the spin to the ghost town and beyond to the Pine Creek Cookhouse.
Just two weeks earlier, I had accompanied the same Junction cyclists on a Tour of the Moon — the signature loop ride around the Colorado National Monument on the outskirts of Grand Junction.
I couldn’t help but remind my friends what a spectacular desert ride they had right there in their own backyard.
The tour had become second nature to them. But they appreciated my reminders about the special nature of the silky-smooth pavement, challenging climbs, fast descents and staggering canyon-country views from Rim Drive in the Colorado National Monument.
Switch to Castle Creek Road; switch roles.
My riding pals were quick to remind me that the ride to Ashcroft is one never to be taken for granted.
The intoxicating sounds of the creek, the smooth road surface and the courteous traffic instantly reinforced their enthusiasm for the cycling trip up the creek.
Then, the views up into Highland Bowl captivated our attention.
A spectacular view of Mount Hayden, framed by a giant gray construction crane, was the next visual snapshot of our trip.
Onward and upward.
Well-placed climbs followed by downhill recovery spins.
Past the turnoff to Conundrum; past the interchange at Little Annie Road.
Onward and upward.
Past the location (between mile markers 8 and 9) where Castle Creek twists and turns and travels in every possible direction in a dizzying display of the lifeblood of water in the American West.
On past the outlying suburbs of Ashcroft, complete with etched-glass address markers.
Past the former Elk Mountain Lodge.
On across the upper flats to the ghostly settlement of Ashcroft.
And past the ghost town on up to the Pine Creek Cookhouse and out to the end of the pavement.
Then, my pals reminded me about the best part of the road-bike ride to Ashcroft — the ride back down into Aspen.
That’s some 13 miles of road-riding downhill bliss — right in our own backyard.