The ASS shares his favorite and not-so-favorite towns during a month-long trip to colorful Colorado.
The ASS getting a high five during the clunker crit at the inaugural Grand Junction Off-Road. Photo courtesy of Kitsbow.
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After nearly a month spent traveling around Colorado, I am back home in Reno with the fragrance of smoke filling my nostrils thanks to the Rim Fire near Yosemite, now the fourth largest fire in California history.
Raging party atop Independence Pass.
Amidst the smell of campfire permeating everything in the house, I think back on all that happened in Colorado over the last month.
Tim Johnson with Uncle Rico donning the disco ball helmet.
I somehow survived nearly 240 miles and 40,000 feet of climbing on a singlespeed in six days during the Breck Epic, got crammed in the cargo hold of a Honda Element with a giant hairy yeti in Leadville, slept in a teepee in Vail, drank beet juice until I wanted to vomit in Breckenridge, drank whiskey until I did vomit in Breckenridge, almost rode directly into an 1,800 pound moose in Breckenridge, got passed by an elderly woman on the bike path in Aspen wearing a t-shirt that said “Sea Level is for Sissies”, participated in a raging, oxygen-depraved roadside party atop Independence Pass at 12,000 feet with my buddy Uncle Rico, ate the best Italian meal I’ve ever had outside of Italy in Grand Junction, participated in my first enduro race in Durango and was on national television with a giant mirror ball on my head running beside guys who get paid to ride bikes and wear colorful lycra.
But most importantly, I got to reconnect with old friends, make new friends and discover new places and towns that I’ve never seen before – all while riding my bike.
Colorado has a remarkable cross-section of terrain, geology and vegetation. There are rides in Colorado where you can start in high alpine aspen groves at more than 10,000 feet and finish in high desert amidst cactus at 5,000 feet. Although there’s still so much more in Colorado I have yet to discover, here’s a short take on the towns I visited and what I thought of them.
Every Wednesday night in Durango during the summer there’s a group ride or race. This one was an enduro.
At 10,200 feet elevation, Leadville is the highest altitude incorporated city in America. It has a rough, ready and rustic mountain mining town charm that’s hard to resist, but the weather there is anything but irresistible. Cobalt gray skies seemed to always be present in Leadville – especially in the afternoons – and a 75-degree day is considered record-breaking heat. I can’t imagine how oppressive this place is in January. In the few short months you can actually ride, the Colorado Trail to Twin Lakes is simply magical.
Yeah, it’s great if you’re acclimated to the altitude.
Perhaps the most awe striking observation I made in Leadville was the Leadville Trail Series store. That’s right, the billion-dollar company that owns the Leadville name, Lifetime Fitness, has a year-round store selling Leadville-branded everything from coffee mugs to underwear. A month after seeing it, I’m still confused. I’m afraid the Leadville Dirt Fondo is about to jump the shark, if it hasn’t already. Cool place to visit for a day or two, but not a place I could live.
Leadville is so popular the race has its own apparel and trinket store.
I spent a majority of my time in Breck, about 10 days, and fell in love with the riding here. Trails everywhere. The town is fully behind cycling, with well-marked trails right from downtown and an awesome bike path that goes from Breck up to Frisco, Silverthorne and Dillon. Breck has a laid-back, unpretentious character that other ski towns like Beaver Creek and Vail lack. It’s very family-friendly town, but at 9,500 feet, the weather is a little less friendly.
Breckenridge has incredible trails and lots of family activities, but it’s just a bit too touristy.
My main gripe on Breck is that it’s uber touristy. Definitely the most touristy town I visited while in Colorado. I know, I know. I was a tourist too. But if I were looking for a place to live in Colorado, I would probably pass on Breck. The nonstop throng of people wasting good money on worthless trinkets and tacky t-shirts would claw at my last nerve.