Asher on Aspen: When the Streetlights Come On |

Asher on Aspen: When the Streetlights Come On

Shannon Asher
Shannon Asher (top) and Tori Mateer enjoy a ride to the Maroon Bells.
Shannon Asher

There are some Christmases that live in your memory forever. I can think of a few off-hand, but there is one year in particular that I will never forget. I was 12 years old, and I was obsessed with playing outside and being with my friends, who lived down the street. I remember money being especially tight that year, so I wasn’t expecting anything big for Christmas. To my utmost surprise, my dad carried one very large package up the stairs for me to open. I will never forget the moment I unwrapped my shiny new purple bicycle. I was completely stunned by the magnitude of this gift and almost in disbelief that my parents got me this cool of a present. It was all I had ever dreamed of at the time. I could hardly wait until the next morning to drive it down the street to my friend’s house to show off my new ride.

The next morning came, and I proudly rode my glorious new purple bicycle down the street to parade it in front of my friend’s house. I promptly rang her doorbell and then quickly ran back down to hop on my bike. I started casually circling in figure-eight formations in the street until she came outside. I thought I was so cool. She marveled at the bike and was equally as impressed as I was. I rode that bike nearly every single day until I learned to drive. I was glued to that bike from the moment I woke up in the morning to the moment the streetlights came on at night. It brought me an unreasonable amount of joy.

Recently, my friend and I decided to rent e-bikes and ride up to the majestic Maroon Bells. This is famously known for being one of Colorado’s most iconic bike rides. Having never done it before in my six years living here, I reasoned it was time to check it off the bucket list. Not only had I never been to the Bells with an e-bike, but it was also my first time ever riding an e-bike. Can you believe that?

It was early on a Saturday morning, and the downtown Farmer’s Market was in full swing. We strolled into the Hub of Aspen to pick up our e-bikes and escape the crazy hustle and bustle of Aspen. This legendary bike shop (located across the street from the Aspen Art Museum) is the oldest bike shop in Aspen, with origins dating back to 1980. Lately, there have been quite a few incidents with e-bikes so Tim, the owner, made sure we got the full safety talk before we even touched the bikes. After receiving an in-depth tutorial on how to run e-bikes and how to navigate the roads, my friend Tori and I hopped on the bicycles and took to the streets.

As soon as I felt the pedal assist accelerate my speed, I couldn’t stop smiling. In the past, I had only ever been to the Maroon Bells by way of vehicle. Cruising up there by means of a bicycle was significantly more exhilarating and rewarding. The cycling route climbs 1,300 feet over nearly 7 miles, from Highlands to Maroon Lake (elevation 9,100 feet).

Our scenery showed off the mighty Pyramid Peak, which was on display for most of our ride, along with the luscious Aspen groves that lined the road. It took us about 45 minutes to get from town to our stunning arrival view at Maroon Lake.

Walking up to the Bells, my friend and I looked at each other in absolute disbelief with how beautiful our surroundings were. We moseyed around the lake just taking it all in and, of course, taking an unnecessary number of pictures.

Our journey back down felt like some sort of rollercoaster ride from an amusement park. It wasn’t even necessary to turn the e-bikes on for the ride home, as it was essentially all downhill. We floated down the mountain at an exhilarating pace of 30 mph. It was a rush.

The entirety of the day just had me thinking about my childhood and my love for biking. From the moment I hopped on that bicycle, I was immediately transported back to a simpler time in small-town Iowa, when it was just 12-year-old Shannon and her purple bicycle against the world. I felt nostalgic for those summer nights when my parents had to nearly drag me inside because I never wanted the days to end. I always dreaded those streetlights coming on, because it always meant that it was time to put the bike away and go inside. It was a much simpler time, and I would give anything to have one more ride around the neighborhood with those exact same friends.

Living in Aspen, people often ask me if I have become desensitized to how beautiful the landscape is on any given day. The wholehearted truth is: no. It truly never gets old. The landscapes never cease to amaze me, and they leave me dumbfounded time and time again.

One place especially that never loses its luster is the Maroon Bells. No matter how many times I visit these famously photographed peaks, I still feel so small standing next to them. I look at the Bells the same way I used to look at that purple bike: with absolute wide-eyed, childlike wonder. I hope I never lose that sense of wonder.

Activities & Events

Anderson Ranch Arts Center in Snowmass to start fall lectures

Anderson Ranch Arts Center’s new fall lecture series will run weekly from Oct. 20 through Dec. 6. The lineup consists of artists nationwide who will be spending one to three weeks at the ranch completing projects within their area of expertise and exploring new work in the studios.

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