In the saddle: The lunch loop on Missouri Heights |

In the saddle: The lunch loop on Missouri Heights

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO Colorado

EL JEBEL – A colleague of mine, and a strong biker, refers to a midvalley loop up onto Missouri Heights as a “lunch ride.”

I figured it would be something more than that for me, since I don’t possess impossibly long legs that double as high-powered pistons. A two-martini lunch, including time for recovery, might be a more apt expectation, I figured, setting out from El Jebel well before the lunch hour. I rode down to the Catherine Store Road and then began the climb up onto “Misery Heights,” an ascent that had me in granny gear almost immediately.

The grade eased up a bit, and I went from gulping for air to merely audible gasping. It was my first hill climb of the season, and I immediately decided I was in no condition to do the upcoming Ride for the Pass in Aspen, given the dots floating through my vision as I labored upward.

The road flattened out a bit, once I was on the “heights.” This is horse country, by and large, with large irrigated meadows and open vistas. Gleaming Mount Sopris ruled over the landscape. Horses and the occasional foal on stilt-like legs ignored both me and the multi-million-dollar scenery.

I went too far up Catherine Store Road, heading toward Cottonwood Pass, before I doubled back to find the turn that would take me in an upvalley direction. I should have taken a right on Missouri Heights Road, a rolling, rural road boasting short, steep climbs interspersed with more merciful grades. At some point, the road becomes Fender Lane, and if you’re doing this ride from the El Jebel side, turn left off El Jebel Road (which becomes Upper Cattle Creek Road when it starts to climb above the valley floor) onto Fender Lane. Fender will be Missouri Heights Road when you get to the other end.

The drop back down to El Jebel had me gripping the brakes like a true non-biker. I dislike the unsettling feeling of unchecked speed – the kind that makes me think my handlebars could wind up poking through my spleen if things go awry. In fact, no matter how hard the climb, I prefer it to the descent.

Yeah, the Ride for the Pass may be a bad idea. The uphill is excruciating, but it’s the descent that could kill me.

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