Riverfront Trail inspires a new passion for grandmother
It’s Day 5 of Ride the Rockies and it’s an easy day. A rolling 33-mile ride from Ridgway to Montrose. They had to throw that in between two incredibly difficult days. Day 4 was an 86-mile ride from Durango to Ridgway that traversed three passes — Coal Bank, Molas, and Red Mountain Pass with around 7,300 feet of climbing.
I know people who refuse to drive over Red Mountain Pass, much less ride a bike. Day 6 is a torturous 65-mile climb of around 5,000 feet from Montrose to Gunnison. But today is an easy day and we take advantage of finishing early and head down to the river to soak our legs in the cold water. Later, I’ll grill up some chicken and vegetables for dinner and we’ll all be asleep by 8:30 pm in order to be up and ready to ride by 6:30 am. The sun will still be up as we fall asleep.
Of course, I’m not actually riding the course. I’m driving a support vehicle for my 67-year-old mother who is doing all the hard work. I make sure the cooler has fresh ice, set up camp and have cold cantaloupe and cocktails ready to go when she pulls in after a 12-hour day of riding over Colorado’s Rocky Mountains. I realize how extreme this sounds and that you must think she’s some kind of super athlete. She’s not. Well, she is now. But she wasn’t a year ago.
About that time, the county finished the Monument View section of the Riverfront Trail from Redlands Parkway to Fruita. At the same time, Best Slope Coffee opened in Fruita. One day, my mother announced that she was going to ride to Fruita. I nearly spit my coffee across the table and explained that it was more than 10 miles and that she should start with something shorter. She ignored me, got on her cruiser bike which she had probably ridden three or four times in the same number of years and took off for Fruita.
I told her I’d keep my phone close by in case she needed me to pick her up. A few hours later, she returned tired, but excited about the beautiful and easy trail that ran along the Colorado River. It was easy for her to navigate. This was especially important for my directionally challenged mother. The trail is fairly flat and offered an enticing reward of coffee and a scone at the turnaround point.
A few days later, she did it again. Then she ran into a friend who liked to ride and they started meeting to ride to Fruita and back. Another friend took one look at her heavy cruiser bike and let her borrow a road bike so she could see the difference. She was hooked. My mother, who knew nothing about bikes, wandered into Over the Edge in Fruita and they treated her well, tuned up her bike, and gave her all kinds of tips. The guys at Board & Buckle in Grand Junction did the same and before I knew it, she had found a whole new community of friends, riders and mechanics who gave her the support she needed to continue to ride larger distances.
She bought a used road bike for $100 and joined a riding group twice a week. One day about six months into this new adventure, she rode to Palisade. The day she rode over the Monument, she announced that she had been invited by owners Jen and Anne to ride with the Hot Tomato team for Ride the Rockies. She decided she would do it.
Now, I come from a family of athletes — my dad was a runner when I was growing up and started me running when I was seven. My brother excelled at all kinds of sports growing up and still plays tennis with my dad weekly. But my mom was the support crew. She attended all of our races and games and lugged the cooler of snacks and drinks and gave us all the motivation and cheering on that we could take. That’s what moms do, right? And then at the age of 66, she got on a bike and started riding. All because she lived near a trail that was easy to use.
And here she is — one year later — riding 447 miles through Colorado’s most picturesque country and topping out daily at 10,000- and 11,000-foot summits. And I’m lugging the cooler with snacks and drinks and cheering her on the entire way.
All because our local leaders had the foresight to build a trail.