Despite all my best intentions, my road trips have never started on time and thankfully our endeavor to Fruita's famous Fat Tyre Fest would pose no change to this habit. That being the case, 0800 came awfully early in the morning last Friday... so we renegotiated a twelve noon departure time.
Like desperate seafaring pirates on the hunt for Spanish gilded treasure, we too thirsted for the plunder that sweetened our daydreams along our westbound journey. We sailed up, into, and well beyond the aspen and evergreen forests of Colorado's high country and descended into the barren sandy landscapes of the farthest west reaches of our great state. As we reached Grand Junction (or as my good friend so endearingly puts it, Grand Junkyard) our caravel was embraced by the Valley's warmth and red stained enormity.
Saturday, again began with the casual atmosphere that is usually reserved for opium dens. Around 10AM that morning we met up with the rest of our party, the unscrupulous and notorious Treads Bicycle Outfitter gang. After some minor repairs graciously performed by the Cannondale road crew, we set sail for Road 18 and singletrack treasures therein...
After a failed attempt of a proper start on Joe's Ridge (and a rather crappy tongue lashing from a "fellow" rider) we luckily ran into Mike, a Fruita local out on his usual ride. He completely took our rag-tag group under his generous wings and led us through several trail rides. With his help we swerved, grinded and sweated our way over true Colorado classics such as Kessel, Bookcliffs and others. I lawndarted twice that day and have a couple of raspberries to remind me of my new touchy disk brakes until my next ride. These trails, all found in the lee of the BookCliffs are fairly smooth and sandy rollercoasters weaving their way in and out of the thousands of washes along the faces of this one very big "hill". There are other more technical trails with far greater elevation gain, namely the Outer Edge Loop if you are ready for a 5 hour ride with little to no support and a high degree of exposure risk... sounds fine, but be sure to bring more than enough food and water.
We resumed our plunders across the river on Sunday morning hitting Mary's loop and Horsetheif bench. In contrast to Saturday's rides, the rocky ribbons found on the south side of I70 and inside the Colorado National Monument are vastly more technical and contain some more variety in geology. Its also tightly hugs the ridgeline overlooking the Colorado River far far below creating a more dramatic backdrop for your ride. Luckily, we once again met up with our new found guide and friend Mike just above Horsethief Bench. After several minutes of scouting lines and postulations on potential damage outcomes, Damien engineered a clean decent of the bouldery and dicey 50 yard staircase. Ian and Curtis also gambled their bodies to the trail gods there as well, but luckily the gods were not inclined to take them up on the offering. Beyond this nutty beginning we bobbed and weaved the rest of the 4 mile loop in tight formation eventually returning to Mary's Loop to finish the remainder of our ride. Mary's Loop did not disappoint either as we all feasted upon her stratigraphicly eroded spoils. Neither day saw much in elevation gains or losses, which made for an reasonable pacing given the various trails skill levels of the members in our group.
In the end, our belly's full from the weekend's trailcandy, we all gave thanks to our host and his wife, and extended our farewell's for the journey home.