We took a gamble this weekend and drove over the mountains to the little farming town of Fruita near the Utah border. I try to make a pilgrimage there at least twice a year (it doesn't always work, but I try) because the mountain biking is phenomenal. And because it's an arid spot at around 4,000 feet, the weather is almost always good.
ALMOST always. Last year, we tried to ride the Book Cliffs section of Fruita after a night of rain. The shaley clay was so sticky we were soon carrying about 10 pounds of mud each on our bikes. It clogged our tires to the point where they would no longer roll. Fortunately, the other side of the valley, near the Colorado River, is all slickrock and sandy gravel. Even when it's wet, it's great riding.
This year, when we arrived Saturday, almost an inch of rain had fallen over night, so we headed to the Colorado River section of trails. The turf was primo: slightly tacky from the moisture and groomed by the rain. And the crowds from the Front Range had been scared away by forecasts of storms. Too bad. It was sunny the whole time.
We started with Rustlers Loop, an easy, but by no means boring 3-mile loop along the river. Then we graduated to Horsethief Bench, a 5-mile loop just next door, with fast, winding singletrack, some great, challenging rock ledges, and postcard views from cliffs dropping straight down to the river. It was so fun that we got back to the car and decided to do it again.
That night we ate at Hot Tomato on Aspen Street in Fruita. It's good, well-priced pizza, and a nice alternative to the chains on the interstate.
Next morning we hit the Book Cliffs, hoping they had dried out enough to let us ride. They had. We hit Joes Ridge for a fast, rolling descent, then rode up to Zippity Doo Dah to test our skills against a narrow ridge ride with some CRAZY steep drops. The drops are actually pretty easy, but the shale is so smooth it's like dropping into a half pipe. Still, until you figure this out it can be a little freaky.
We finished up with a ride down Kessel Run, a fun, looping connector trail that was short enough for me to let my retired greyhound, Stella, come along. She loved it, and in true racing greyhound fashion, couldn't stand being at the end of the pack. Halfway through, she made her move, nearly pushing me off the trail, and sprinted ahead to the finish.