In the saddle: My urban oasis |

In the saddle: My urban oasis

Jon Maletz
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado

DENVER – I’ve been spending most of my weekends in Denver these past few months, visiting my incomparably lovely girlfriend and trying my best to beat the heat.

Admittedly, that has been easier said than done. It’s been blistering on the Front Range this summer. Oppressively hot. Surface-of-the-sun hot. It’s the kind of weather that wilts flowers and saps your energy the moment you step out the door. It’s the kind of weather that makes me feel for those polar bears at the Denver Zoo.

We’ve ventured outdoors on a few occasions – notably a couple of weeks ago, when we drove up to the Flatirons and climbed to Royal Arch in Chautauqua Park. By the time we reached the top, temperatures had reached triple digits, my T-shirt was soaked with sweat and I felt like my head was about to spontaneously combust.

More often, though, we retreat indoors – to movie theaters, bowling alleys, literally anywhere with air conditioning. I’ve been spending so much time at Best Buy that I know the sales staff by name.

It’s been fun, and the company has been great, sure, but my activity level has been suffering – a major issue considering how much ice cream and Chipotle I’ve been consuming.

I’ve tried to exercise. I’ve been to 24 Hour Fitness a few times, but fighting for machines in a muggy gym overflowing with muscle-bound, tattooed guys who look like they spend every waking hour downing protein shakes and flipping monster-truck tires is less than savory.

Thankfully, I recently found my urban oasis.

When Jen heads off to work Monday morning, I hop out of bed, grab a granola bar and pull the 29er out of my Jeep. I pedal down Ogden and Downing streets, cut through a dirt path between some large pines and into Washington Park – a sprawling, 165-acre tract that has become a perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of city life. It’s a place that reminds me of home.

It’s a place where calm breezes sweep off the waters of Smith Lake, effectively drowning out most traffic noise, and massive trees provide welcome and perpetual shade.

It’s a place where I check out, turn on the iPod and circle 2.75 miles of smooth pavement for hours on end.

On a recent rainy morning, I had the place nearly all to myself, save for a few bold geese plodding across the road, some rollerbladers and maintenance workers and few folks riding surreys – those two- and four-person bikes that look like Model T’s. A few youngsters tossed a Frisbee while others wandered through the colorful gardens just off Downing. Some paddle boaters giddily dodged rain drops.

I took a sip of water, turned on some David Cross stand-up and pedaled. I couldn’t help but smile.

The park doesn’t quite offer the beauty of our quaint Rocky Mountain paradise. It isn’t as exhilarating as riding Snowmass’ Rim Trail or Sunnyside. It’s quite the retreat, however, and every second spent in the saddle is a treat.

And did I mention there’s a Chipotle right down the street?

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