Oh, how the warm spring days bring with them such difficult decisions—like, should I bike or ski today?
Even though the lifts are still running, and the festive vibe that defines spring skiing is at its peak in Telluride, Fruita’s single track and the Colorado National Monument’s smooth pavement called this weekend — so, off to the Grand Valley I went. The packed car included two chics (albeit moms), four bikes, (one road bike and one mountain bike apiece) a rough plan (aka ride bikes) and two credit cards (one with a significantly higher limit than the other).
The plan: Drive to Grand Junction and check out the hot, new restaurant Bin 707 Foodbar; get an evening mountain bike ride in Fruita; eat at the “it” spot, Hot Tomato; sleep, wake up, get coffee; then hop on the road bikes and ride the Monument.
Bin 707 Foodbar and hip, hot restaurants like it are redefining Junction’s downtown scene. Eclectic and modern, Bin 707 also evokes an intimate, personal atmosphere. Chef and owner, Josh Niernberg brings passion, discipline, and a freestyle spirit to his work and menu, which he says changes nightly.
“Beer or food, it’s pretty much guaranteed there will be something our customers have never had,” Niernberg said. “It’s fun for us, but a challenge as well.”
Niernberg describes his food as American Cuisine, which he prepares with the discipline and technique of French cooking. He is especially proud of his house-cured meat and house-made cheeses that he happily serves at the bar with specialty cocktails and wine. Only in its second year, Bin 707 Foodbar is already defining Junction’s bistro scene.
Fruita’s 18 Road is about 14 miles outside of Fruita, just outside of Grand Junction. 18 Road leads through rural Colorado agricultural land then literally dead ends into the Book Cliffs trail system – a high desert camping and mountain biking playground controlled by the BLM. The trails wind through desert-tough junipers; technical sandy, steep hills; and plateaus reminiscent of the Serengeti. The lighting and temperature are perfect early morning and late evening this time of year.
At 18 Road choose from mellow, buff single track that banks from side to side or technical, steep whoop de doops that will force you to hang your butt way behind your bike seat so as not to go over the handle bars. Easier, undulating trails like Prime Cut and Kessel Run go right through the center of the park, and the more difficult trails such as Chutes and Ladders and Zippity-Doo-Da flank the area’s outer edges. The most advanced rider and the beginner, including kids, can all find something to ride at the Book Cliffs.
Hot Tomato is off the main street, Aspen Street, in downtown Fruita and is hands down the “it’ spot. The fare is simple — pizzas, strombolis, salads, and beer – and made with fresh ingredients and a ton of heart. Owners, Jen Zeuner and Anne Keller, have combined their love of people, food, Fruita and biking to create tasty meals and a fun gathering spot. With orange and green walls; Anne’s professional, framed mountain biking photos on the wall; a bar made from recycled metal and tables of reclaimed wood, every nook and cranny of the place represents the owners’ sweat equity, energy and love. It’s hard to tell what attracts the customers more — the owners or the food. In the end, it’s the combination of the two that makes the Hot Tomato, hot.
Colorado National Monument is a road biker’s dream come true – challenging climbs, winding downhills, fast flats, and breath-taking scenery. The Monument itself is a plateau of red rock intricately cut by wind and erosion. Features reminiscent of the canyon lands such as smoothed amphitheater walls and lone, rock sandcastles dominate the landscape. Riders can loop the ride either going east to west or west to east. After the initial four or five mile climb (depending on which side you begin) the bulk of the ride takes visitors on the rim of the vacuous canyon.
From gate to gate the total miles of riding within the Monument is 23 with an aggregate of 2,300 vertical feet of climbing. However, when you add the additional miles of surface streets to complete the loop, the entire ride becomes around 35 spectacular miles.
I think it’s safe to say, whatever you choose to do this weekend in southwest Colorado, it’ll be a winner. And, if you don’t make it to the Grand Valley this time, put it on your list for after the lifts close – once you experience it, it won’t be a difficult decision at all.
Snow Sunday is a weekly column by Jesse James McTigue and sponsored by Jagged Edge intended to deliver tips, news, musings and stories about the people, places, events and experiences that make the Telluride winter an epic adventure.