Tasting the Fruita
Under the cover of darkness we rolled into Fruita, Colorado. We'd hoped to arrive in time for a sunset ride, but our little detour through Preston, Idaho (see the "A Delicious Bass" posting) set us back a few hours. So instead of a ride, we hooked up some Mexican food at a local eatery and found a camp site near the Book Cliffs.
Since we arrived at night, I knew the guys would experience a whole new place in the morning. I, myself, have visited Fruita several times and ridden the many wonderful trails it has to offer. For Rom, Adam and Cody, this was all a virgin experience. In the morning they'd be treated to my personal favorite trails, in the order of cool, cooler, and coolest. They'd also wake to find themselves camping at the base of some beautiful mesas only a quarter mile to the north.
In typical 4am fashion, everyone was up and ready for action by 8 o'clock. I went to work tuning bikes, while Rom cooked some eggs and sausages.
The first trail I wanted to introduce to the Crew was the Kessel Run, a serpentine downhill single track that bobs and weaves its way through a wash from the upper parking lot to the lower.
A little background on the Kessel Run --
Some of you will recall the very first Star Wars film (Episode IV to be specific) when Obi-Wan Kenobi and Luke Skywalker hook up with a cargo smuggler named Han Solo. Obi-Wan inquires about the Millenium Falcon, "Is it a fast ship?" A little put off by Obi-Wan's question, Han Solo coyly replies, "A fast ship-- Haven't you heard of the Millenium Falcon? It made the Kessel Run in 12.5 parsecs."
Troy Rarick, owner of The Over The Edge Sports in Fruita, was one of two people who originally built and named the Kessel Run many years ago. Not being familiar with the conversion of parsecs to a more Earthly time measurement, I figured he would know. With almost no hesitation he blurted out, "One parsec is equal to 48 seconds" then grabbed a calculator to figure that 12.5 parsecs comes out to exactly 10 minutes.
We would not come close to that time on this day. On the very first run, less than 50 yards into the turns, Adam went over the bars and landed on a massive prickly pear cactus. Rom spent the next 10 minutes (12.5 parsecs) pulling thorns out of Adam's left shoulder blade, while I waited down trail wondering what the hell had happened.
The rest of the run was fabulous. The Kessel is nothing more than a practice single track, offering a half-pipe sort of thrill. You dive in and pop out of the wash, over and over, testing how fast you can maneuver the dips and turns. It's the only trail of it's kind that I know of in Colorado, and is just plain fun.
After the Kessel, I upped the coolness ante by leading the guys to Zippety Do Dah.
Zippety is also known for its downhill qualities, but is the complete opposite of the Kessel Run. Rather than cutting back and forth through a wash, Zippety Do Dah tracks high above the surrounding terrain along the edge of a ridge. Sections of the trail are reminiscent of riding an old wooden roller coaster-- you track along the rail up and over crests. On either side the ridge drops away sharply giving you the feeling impending doom should you accidentally veer off course.
Rom took a header near the top of the trail and was missing for several minutes. He re-emerged eventually, regaling us with a tale of going over the bars and smashing his thigh on a huge rock. Not only did the crash bruise up his leg, but it also destroyed the Chapstick in his pocket. Very weird.
Several sections of Zippety Do Dah take abrupt turns and blast straight down the slope. Uphill, these sections would be unridable, which means that downhill they really give you an adrenaline rush. No amount of braking will stop you once you've committed yourself over the lip, so either you ride them out or eat dirt.
By the end of the ride, the votes were in and it was unanimous-- coolness factor had been upped several notches.
After Zippety Do Dah, we broke camp by the Book Cliffs and headed into town.
While Cody bought new tires and a new front derailer for his ailing bike, I asked the owner Troy Rarick if I could ride his old fashioned bike. According to Troy, these bikes were originally made from carriage wheels back in the late 1800's and early 1900's. Ironically, they were called "Ordinaries", since they were the common bicycle of the time. Meanwhile, bicycles with wheels of similar size were called "Safety Bikes" because a rider could touch the ground. (man, people from the Turn of the Century sure were nutty!)
After the history lesson, Troy gave me a quick lesson on how to mount and dismount. I then hopped aboard and I took a little spin around the streets of Fruita.
Later in the afternoon, we made our way to the Kokopelli Trail head area just west of Fruita.
Kokopelli is a prehistoric deity, often depicted as a humpbacked flute player hundreds of times in rock art, some of it over a thousand years old, located in numerous sites in southwestern United States deserts and mountains. As for The Kokopelli Trail, it is probably more well known than the Book Cliffs area. One end begins in Colorado and winds its way 130 Miles to Moab, Utah.
We obviously weren't going to do this multi-day ride. Our goal was to explore one of the many loops near the uplifted area around the trail head. Several fun and challenging loops are a short ride from the parking lot, offering everything from a beginners ride to expert routes. I had picked one of my favorites for the Crew, Horse Thief's Bench, a more challenging single track with spectacular views of the Colorado River far bellow.
Unlike the other rides earlier in the day, this was more traditional cross country. First we'd hammer up a section of Mary's Loop, essentially a fire road over areas of exposed rock and red dirt leading to trailheads of other loops, then drop down a mostly unridable staircase onto Horse Thief's Bench. Once on the bench, sections of climbing followed by fun, sweeping single track and technical sections awaited Cody, Adam and myself. Rom's leg had cramped from his spill earlier in the day, so he wisely opted out of this ride.
Mary's Loop was a gentle uphill, leading Adam to believe this ride was going to be a cake walk. Then we reached Horse Thief's Bench trailhead, and rock staircase down to the lower bench. Suddenly the trail had changed from it's high speed vibe into full-blown technical challenge.
We scoped it out, then made bets on how far we could descend the staircase.
Cody led the charge, cleaning several of the huge drops before coming to a stop in front of a 4 footer about 20 yards from the bottom. It was an impressive first run!
I was next and took most of Cody's lines. Unfortunately, when I reached the same ledge, my front tire missed its targeted landing and jammed into a rut. I flew over the bars, managing to catch myself on hands and feet as my bike summersaulted a couple times. My first crash of the trip.
Adam, a strong rider in general, doesn't have the same level of trials skills. His descent ended towards the top of the staircase.
Horse Thief's Bench, itself, is a wild single track. The trail oscillates between sweeping high-speed turns, technical sections of outcrop and ledges, and sections of sandy creek bed. The bench is part of the uplifted formation overlooking the Colorado River, so several primo photo ops await.
Good luck only lasts so long. Midway through the ride Adam's bike went limp with a flat rear tire. Shortly after some quick repairs, he then attempted a huge drop. As I mentioned earlier his technical skills are not tip-top, so below is a pic of him laying on the ground after a spectacular endo.
Adam's nerves were shaken after this plummet, his second fall of the ride, so he opted out of the remaining ledges and technical drops. Cody and I still felt invincible, and therefore eager to drop damn near anything that came our way. Here we are desperately trying not to duplicate Adam's previous falls...
All in all, it was a wonderful day of riding. Back at the Truckster, we pounded a couple beers, then headed off to our next destination-- Aspen.
Special Thanks to Troy Rarick, owner of The Over The Edge Sports, for letting us spread out for lunch, use his tools, and play on his vintage bike! Oh... and convert parsecs!