Aspen Times Weekly cover story: Finding summer still in Fruita |

Aspen Times Weekly cover story: Finding summer still in Fruita

Beth Brandon
Aspen Times Weekly
Aspen, CO Colorado
Contributed photoCover design by Afton Groepper

FRUITA, Colo. – Offseason in a mountain town allows for a lot of getaways, many of which are within state lines. We wanted to bike and only had a couple days so we chose Fruita, home to biking that ranges from beginner to above-my-pay-scale and had exactly what we needed.

I wanted the trip to be about fun and freedom and biking in the desert in the fall. And it was, along with a refresher course in “letting go” along the way.

My husband likes to say that I went from “zero to hero” on my bike. “Hero” is probably a bit of a stretch, but I’ll take the boost of confidence. With this the end of my second full season on a full suspension ride I do feel pretty competent on my trusty steed.

We read up on the mountain biking in the area, specifically 18 Road and the Kokopelli Loop Trails and prepared for a good time and tired legs. We also learned some new bike terminology in our readings.

My favorite was “cockrotter,” which is someone who leaves their bike in disrepair and wonders why it then breaks so easily. “Dab” was another goodie. To dab is to clip out of one pedal so as to make the turns in hairy switchbacks. Giving it a name somehow made it OK for me, so dab I did.

Our first series of Loops was just between Loma and Mack, Colo. Mary’s Loop, Lion’s Loop and Troy Built were all part of the plan, but we decided to add Steve’s in there for good measure. The riding was fun and trails were buff. I realized quickly that I had been there two summers prior when taking my bike, Pinky Tuscadero, on her first ride.

We finished the day on an uphill, which is never fun, especially when the ride is 20 miles.

My mood changed to crabby around mile 15. I decided my husband wasn’t waiting for me enough. Lame, I know. But when I’m tested by the elements and a physical challenge, my amygdala kicks in by hissing and pointing blame at whomever’s closest.

Once we finished riding we made our way to Fruita to set up camp. The town displays its personality as you drive through it to get to 18 Road, where the goods are kept. Camp is clean and perfectly located at the base of the trails, bike-in, bike-out style.

On the second morning, I was still a little pent up, as can be the case for many on a vacation. Maybe it was adjusting to tent sleep or simply feeling fatigued from Day 1. I was edgy though and my goal for Day 2 was to eradicate that feeling no matter what.

How long does it really take to unwind? Especially when you throw in some added physical challenges and plain old survival? For me, it’s so indicative of how I move through my life. Once I let go, I’m golden, but until then I have a tendency to stand in my own way.

We began our series of loops on Joe’s and linked to Kessel’s, which gave me the first of many ear-to-ear grins. We continued on to Prime Cut, Chutes and Ladders, which was a bit tougher, then Vegetarian and Prime Cut again. We hadn’t tried the new trail, PBR, which wasn’t on our map, but figured it couldn’t hurt.

PBR might as well stand for Pure Bliss Resurrected. It is hands down the most fun trail I have ever ridden. The brake-happy rider in me didn’t feel compelled to squeeze the handles once. I just let it ride and tried to keep my mouth closed.

On the climb back up Prime Cut the feeling could only be described as “post-bliss residual” since no one seemed to mind the 500-foot climb for the third time that day. At first it felt long. Then it felt kind of hard. With “PBR” running through our veins, the third time was a breeze.

We ended with Zippity Do Da, which was part fun, part tough with knife-edge drop-offs that made me feel queasy and suddenly fearful of heights.

Day 2 mission accomplished. I wasn’t sure where the angst was coming from that morning, but all was remedied on the bike ride. Letting go = joy. Holding on = frustration.

We saved the “epic” ride for the last day. I don’t love these rides, but I’ll give anything a shot once. They always yield a sense of accomplishment via a severe beating along the way. So sure, if you enjoy hazing, then you’d love it.

The Edge Loop is nearly 30 miles and is rated moderate to tough, which meant someone would be crying. I feared it would be me.

My husband’s chain broke two hours in. (See cockrotter above.) He had to ride it back like a child’s strider back after a failed repair attempt. With just two of us left there was nowhere to go but up.

After completing the Edge Loop I vowed to never ride it again. Actually, I vowed that before I finished the ride. Words like “brutal,” “crushing” and “punishing” were the only way to describe the insane amount of uphill contained in that ride. In fact, if I were to draw a pie chart about that ride it would be mostly red, indicating a 92 percent uphill and a small blue sliver would represent the 8 percent of downhill that accompanied the ride.

Think uphill, downhill, looooong uphill through gas pipelines, nice view, hike a bike downhill, single-track downhill that had been obliterated by dirt bikes, canyoneering via bike, repel-a-bike, more sand, more uphill, uphill, long flat out, uphill … then finish.

I felt like Kramer when he fell asleep in the tanning bed, all crispy and crusty. Excluding the hour-long bike maintenance we were in the saddle for five-and-a-half hours. I was tired.

The amazing thing was that I didn’t fall. Not once. I rode it clean. It’s kind of unbelievable to me. Since I’m a somewhat anxious outdoorswoman, I’m surprised I didn’t fall off my bike standing still in the parking lot.

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