Visiting Carbondale? Bring your bike
Special to The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
CARBONDALE – You hear whoops in the night, then, perhaps in some confusion, you spot approaching glow necklaces. Music — from a good sound system, at that, with woofer speakers — emanates from a bike topped by a rotating disco ball. One fellow sports a bicycle outfitted with a table and lamp.
Must be the Carbondale Full Moon Ride.
This is when 300 or more people from all up and down the valley meet at Sopris Park on the night of the full moon, and ride around town, with scheduled stops to regroup at places like the high school and bus station parking lots and Dos Gringos Burritos. People wear costumes, and kids and anyone, everyone, is welcome. Main Street shuts down to usher the hordes by.
“It’s a riot,” says Brian Bailey, local photographer, who has often brought his son and daughter along. “We’ve taken friends for the first time, and they say, ‘This is the most fun thing I’ve done since moving here.’ ” The rides go year-round and are emblematic: Biking in Carbondale is this inviting, multifaceted, and welcoming.
Biking is grand, any day of the week
Take your choice: cruise the paved bike paths that stretch cross-town, ride up to El Jebel beside the pastures of Catherine Store Road, or six miles out toward Redstone along the Crystal River; or try the technical single track up on the Red Hill Recreation area, which features one of the grandest viewpoints in the valley, Mushroom Rock. Prince Creek Road, near the flanks of landmark Mount Sopris, accesses a whole handful of loops and trails.
Or on a summer afternoon or evening, ride out to the North Face property on the south side of town, near the new flagship Roaring Fork High School, and see (or join) local riders, members of area teams and some pros, on the dirt jumps beside the skate park. These jumps were built through the combined efforts of the town and volunteers, including youth, by dint of many work evenings with shovels and hoses.
You can even bike to the Carbondale Wild West Rodeo, thanks to a new ramp and crosswalk.
Details: For information on the Full Moon rides, see http://www.roaringfork.bz/moonlight-ride.html or check in at Aloha Mountain Cyclery (alohamountaincyclery.com) or Ajax Bike and Sports (www.ajaxbikeandsport.com).
Ajax Sports has daily hybrid-bike, mountain-bike and road-bike rentals, and rentals are also available at the Confluence Center, http://www.ConfluenceCenter.net, located on the Rio Grande Trail. If you want a high-tech bike, Aloha rents out some of its demos. For directions to the Red Hill and Prince Creek, ask at the bike shops or see http://www.carbondale.com
When, years ago, a woman arrived from Annapolis, Md., to help her adult daughter with a new baby, she couldn’t believe what she saw on the marquis of the Crystal Theatre. The visitor had been looking for the delicate “Il Postino” everywhere, had been prepared to drive an hour to Washington, D.C., to see the film. And there it was, in Carbondale.
The Crystal Theatre, 427 Main Street, is pretty great for a place that was once condemned. More small town and local than even seems possible in today’s world, it brings in a smart and eclectic mix of commercial and art films.
“We just pay attention to what’s out there,” says Kathy Ezra, co-owner with her husband, Bob.
The theatre has one screen and a small concession stand with popcorn made fresh nightly, using Spectrum cold-pressed canola oil and served with seasonings such as cheddar cheese, cheddar and spice, nacho cheese and nutritional yeast. (The theatre sold truffles made by a friend’s company during the movie Chocolat in 2001.)
Formerly part of the Dinkel Mercantile Company, the space in 1948 was converted to a live theatre, also called the Crystal Theatre, that operated until the early 1960’s, after which it held community events and an annual talent show.
“It was condemned in the early 80’s, which is where we came in,” says Kathy. She and Bob oversaw a complete renovation from 1982 until 1985, when the theatre re-emerged. “We have been there 25 years and most of our great staff have been there almost as long.”
You can do it all from Carbondale. The town built at the foot of Mount Sopris offers classic mountain-town living, with altitude and population about the same at 6,181 and just over 6,000 respectively, and an average 295 days of sunshine a year.
As well as being set in the mountains, Carbondale sits at the confluence of the Roaring Fork and Crystal Rivers, and offers world-class trout fishing, rafting and kayaking as well as hiking and biking.
Confluence Outdoor Center: Dad can fish, Mom can ride a bike (or vice versa) and the kids can go to a nature camp, all from the same place.
The family-owned Confluence Center, 635 County Road 106 (half a mile out of town at the Roaring Fork Marina and on the Rio Grande Trail, with free shuttles), has a naturalist flair, with youth fishing and nature programs, bikes, rafts, standup paddleboards, a swimming pool, guided fly fishing (wade and float trips), fishing raft and dory rentals, and motorboat rentals for waterskiing. See http://www.confluencecenter.net.
Alpine Angling and Roaring Fork Anglers: 995 Cowen Drive, offers guided trips (float trips and wade trips); rents out waders, boots, rods and reels; and sells flies, outerwear and anything else you need. See http://www.roaringforkanglers.com.
Crystal River Hatchery: run by the Colorado Division of Wildlife at 2957 Highway 133. Stroll along the waterways gaping at trout from tiny to lunker, drop quarters in the machines and feed the fish to watch them jump, or get lures and try the fishing in the adjacent pond.
Carbondale Wild West Rodeo: held every Thursday evening from June through August at the Darien Riding Arena on County Road 100, offering mutton busting, barrel racing, bull riding, saddle bronc riding and roping. Attesting to the rodeo’s popularity is the rule saying “Event parking not allowed before 6 a.m.” That is when the first teenagers begin strategically placing pickups to be packed with cheering cohorts for the evening’s fun. See http://www.carbondalerodeo.com.
Carbondale Recreation Department: seasonal activities and field trips. It operates the swimming pool at 684 Main St. and the 13,000-square-foot North Face Skatepark on the south side of town. The department is based at the Carbondale Recreation and Community Center, 567 Colorado Ave., which is LEED (Leadership Energy and Environmental Design) certified, and powered by its own rooftop photovoltaic solar plant. Shoot some hoops, sling some weights, or climb on the 32-foot climbing wall. See http://www.carbondale.com/activities-recreation.
Running: stop by Independence Run and Hike, the only specialty running shop in the valley, at 995 Cowan Dr. The shop owner leads group runs every Saturday morning at 7:30 a.m.
Feed the mind: Check for Story Time within the welcoming walls of the Gordon Cooper Library, 76 South 4th, http://www.garfieldlibraries.org/content/gordon-cooper-branch. Take a pottery class at the Carbondale Clay Center, 135 Main St., http://www.carbondaleclay.org.
The thriving Third Street Center, 520 S. 3rd Street, presents music, theatre and special film showings all year. Visit http://www.thirdstreetcenter.net. Or see the SAW, Studio for Arts and Works, with potters, painters and a jeweler, 978 Euclid Street, sawcarbondale.wordpress.com.
First Friday: If you are around on a First Friday of any month, Main Street shuts down while Carbondale cranks up the fun. Walk around, check out shops and galleries, see Steve’s Guitars (half guitar museum and half performance arena for, say, some rockabilly) and maybe end up dancing at Phat Thai.
Farmers’ Market: fresh produce and specialty items, every Wednesday all summer at 4th and Main.
If you are ever here early season, check in on the “inspirational adventure” 5Point Film festival, held this year on April 28-May 1, based at the Rec Center. See http://www.5pointfilm.org.
In July, wander the myriad crafts booths of the Carbondale Mountain Fair, with music and food. Based in Sopris Park, the fair is this year is in its grand 40th iteration, and will be held from July 29-31. Visit http://www.carbondalearts.com/mountain-fair.
More info: http://www.carbondale.com.
“The hot-dog place”: That is what some local kids call the Carbondale Beer Works brewpub, 647 Main. Others might just call it mix-and-match hot dogs (faves are D’s Chicago Hot Dog and Sunny’s Sonoran Dog, with guac, chili and bacon), with, as well, salad, a hummus plate and a rotating mix of brews. The Beer Works has bands on many if not most nights, as varied as the Hell Roaring String Band, a bluegrass band comprised of talented local teachers (oh, the pub also has a weekly Teachers’ Night with discount beers) and, recently, a string quartet. The place also has the single biggest couch you’ve ever seen.
Other great places with outdoor dining include Dos Gringos Burritos and its Cafe Ole for coffee, 588 Highway 133, for healthy food that you can get on the fly. “Dos” does more than serve food, functioning as a community center to show films and host music circles, Scrabble night and other gatherings.
You can get pizza with nice doughy crusts at White House Pizza, 801 Main Ct., where the live music can include rock and roll or dance and hip hop. Or seek your pizza in the very casual atmosphere of Peppino’s, 524 Main Street, a kid hangout and ideal place for after-game or after-sports gatherings.
If your children are small and extra busy, the Village Smithy, 26 S. 3rd Street, has an enclosed yard where they can run around while you wait, or finish your meal. Kids love the Smithy “Mousecakes,” while among adults the heuvos rancheros are a famous calling card, as is the multicourse Smithy Breakfast. The family-owned Smithy really was once a smithy: See the commemorative mural inside.
Also easy-breezy is the convivial Red Rock Diner, 155 Highway 133, open for three meals a day. The buffalo burgers are a widespread fave, as are, with kids, the sundaes and milkshakes of the varied dessert menu.
For authentic Mexican food, visit Mi Casita, 580 Main St., or El Pollo Rico restaurant at 952 Highway 133.
The Pour House, 351 Main, is very local and casual, sort of the “Cheers” of Carbondale, and Midge makes a mean Texas Sheet Cake.
For fine dining, truly sophisticated and elegant menus are offered at Six89, 689 Main St. (no further address needed), or Russets, 225 Main, while the newer Hestia, 348 Main, has Mediterranean fare, with a merciful variety that also allows for a simple burger or salad. And never forget fun and comfortable Phat Thai, where the wait staff might sit down on the bench seats beside you.
The homey Ambiance Inn B and B, 66 N. 2nd St., barely off Main and easy walking distance from its shops and amenities, offers a cozy atmosphere, great breakfast with lots of home baking, and accommodating hosts.
The Van Horn House, just out of town and upvalley on 318 Lions Ridge Road, is similarly welcoming, and offers a heavenly deck view.
The riverside Days Inn, 950 Cowen Drive, and Comfort Inn, 920 Cowen, are bargains, pleasant, and with indoor swimming pools; both allow pets.
The BRB Crystal River Resort, six miles out of town at 7202 Highway 133, is rustic, with 13 cabins ranging from studio to two-room, and dozens of RV and tent sites. Many cabins and sites are right on the river. Good for a big gathering such as a reunion or wedding, and located right on a town bike path.
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