James Canyon

Since I was out West already to to attend a friend’s wedding and had a bunch of vacation days to spare, I had really wanted to tack on a camping trip. Then I procrastinated on getting permits and finding an appropriate solo route. So I fell back to my old haunt of cycling in Boulder, Colorado.

And I’m glad I did. I fell in love with the place even more than I had been already.

At the end of my stay, I can say that I’ve never been more relaxed. I want to move here someday.

Monday

Greenride: Getting from the Denver airport to Boulder is kind of a PITA: it’s kind of far away, so Uber/Lyft drivers don’t like going there, and regular taxi fares are ridiculous. Enter Greenride: shared vans and buses to Boulder every hour, with drop-off available wherever in town (for a small additional change and likely with a transfer). I was super-impressed by their punctuality, professionalism, and organization. I will definitely use this service again.

Basecamp Boulder: I stayed in the Boulderado the last time I was here alone, and it was fine, but I wanted something new (and while I’d love to stay at the St. Julien, I didn’t want to spend $600 a night). I had heard of this place because it has camping-themed rooms and a climbing wall, so why not? Plus, I knew I’d be using the BCycle bike share network, and Basecamp was near a station and one of the main downtown multi-use paths.

It turned out to not be bad, but it is basically a glorified motel. The food options are not great. But, the front-of-house staff were super-friendly and helpful, and I really enjoyed sitting in the chill outside with the firepit going. Another plus was they have a coin-operated washer and dryer and will even give you some free detergent.

Next time I might just try one of the big chain hotels at the end of Pearl Street, like the Hyatt Place.

 Hawaiian pizza with jalepenos, along with a Melvin 2x4 DIPA

Backcountry Pizza: I arrived at Basecamp kind of late on a Monday, so food and beer options were limited. Luckily, my Greenride driver recommended Backcountry for being only a couple of blocks away and having good pizza and beer, which is definitely in my wheelhouse. Then, the frontdesk staffer at Basecamp made exactly the same recommendation. Done and done, no need to convince me more. As luck would have it, one of my favorite breweries in the world, Melvin, had a bar takeover that night, complete with a muted samurai movie playing on the TVs and rap music playing over it, just like at their brewpub Thai Me Up in Jackson, Wyoming. I had the Mt. Hawaiian pizza, which I’m ashamed to say is the first time I’ve had jalapenos on a pineapple and ham pizza, but it won’t be the last. Definitely recommended if you’re in the area; the tap list is really good.

Tuesday

 Delicious breakfast at The Buff

The Buff: This is a huge claim: this may have been the best breakfast I’ve ever had. For starters, the menu was huge and had everything you could possibly want for breakfast. Then, there was outdoor seating (albeit on a noisy intersection), The “Matterhorn skillet” is recommended.

University Cycles: I rent a bike from UCycles everytime I come here and everytime I come here I’m greeted by great, friendly service at a shop that has every accessory I could possibly want. I’m sort of interested in renting from Full Cycle (which has a really great shop, too), Vecchio’s (which specializes in titanium bikes), or grabbing a Canyon from Rapha, but I just really love the University Cycles shop and staff.

Ride: Super-Flagstaff->Nederland->Sugarloaf: This was a really great ride that I still dream about weeks later. Here are some things I’d want to know before this route:

  • The Flagstaff climb is a local legend for a reason. The descent on the other side is pretty great.
  • The Gross Dam Road descent is loose, coarse gravel, with some intense washboarding at times, making it a little harrowing on a mere road bike. Take your time and you’ll be fine.
  • The climb after the reservoir is great, though!
  • There’s not a lot of water until near Nederland: I stopped at the top of Flagstaff and rang the doorbell at the firehouse, asking a the fireman on duty for a refill.
  • The Peak-to-Peak (P2P) is great as a means to get between destinations: it has wide shoulders and not a ton of traffic.
  • The descent on Sugarloaf is disappointingly short.
  • The 1.5 miles of Boulder Canyon Dr. is sketchy due to the amount of high-speed traffic. I missed a pretty bad car collision by a couple of seconds and almost ran into the debris field. This was easily the suckiest part of the ride.

BRU: I wanted to get some food and some beer (namely, the second and third components of my vacation) and I liked this place’s tagline: “bringing together the art of food & beer”. Indeed, both were pretty good, though nothing I had was particularly stand-out. A neat feature of the bar is that they have a Nintendo 64, a TV, and a bunch of games available.

Heifer and Hen: I stopped at this organic ice cream shop next door to BRU to pick up an ice cream sandwich to bring to the next brewery. I got a chocolate chip cajeta and it was delicious.

 Mmm beer and ice cream sandwich

Wild Woods: This is a really great brewery. I highly recommend bringing some food or getting delivery to the bar and getting the Purple Mountain Majesties IPA, which has a great color and nose, and the Ponderosa Porter, which was deep and complex.

Wednesday

 This is almost always a good sign.

Ride: “Connie’s Ride” + part of NCAR: Having not ridden much this year, I decided to be less ambitious after a fairly big ride the previous day. I remembered a video from Rapha featuring Connie Carpenter that highlighted some nice unpaved roads along with a route. This was a nice ride that showed me a couple areas of Boulder I hadn’t seen and made me fall in love with Boulder even more. I then decided to check out the National Center for Atmospheric Research, which is on top of a mesa, with a low-traffic, gentle climb right in town.

 The Post Brewing.

The Post Brewing: This brewery is right Pearl Street and has the slogan “Hot Chicken Loves Cold Beer”, and I love all of those things. The windows were open on a gorgeous day; I sat at the bar and, true to the place, ordered an IPA and a “Nashville hot” fried chicken sandwich. Tasty, but not the best. I’d come back if I needed a beer or food and I was in the area.

Pearl Street: I had to do the touristy thing and meander down the pedestrian-friendly (mostly car-free) Pearl Street Mall. As a visitor, I like that the area isn’t as big box store-like as Denver’s pedestrian mall: while there are many chains, there are a bunch of independent places too, and there are a lot of stores that are high quality. I stopped in at Rapha to check out their sales and sat outside of Boxcar Coffee Roasters with a delicious espresso.

I went to dinner at a friend’s newly acquired house nearby, with their newly acquired puppy, so nothing more to report.

Thursday

Breakfast at The Cup: This is my go-to early morning breakfast place in Boulder: it opens early and is centrally located downtown. While the bagel sandwiches just aren’t as good as in New York, the cappuccino certainly is.

 More James Canyon

Ride: Old Stage -> James -> Lefthand: This was a repeat of a ride I made the previous year and really enjoyed. The James Canyon ascent is probably my favorite climb ever: the scenery is gorgeous, the road is pretty fun, and you end up on a gravel road on the top of the world. Rocky Mountain weather is notorious for changing quickly. Despite starting the climb in beautiful, sunny, 80°F weather, I heard the rumbles of thunder in the distance, and by the time I got to the top, it dropped down to 45°F and hailing. Luckily, the hail turned into sleet then into drizzle and then disappeared within 15 minutes, leaving a gorgeous day. This could have turned out much worse, but that it didn’t has made an excellent memory.

I made the requisite stops at:

  • Jamestown Mercantile: I enjoyed my breakfast burrito here the prior year, but I showed up too late for food (I wasn’t that hungry anyway, as this is only midway up the climb): their hours are interesting. Paying homage to Phil Gaimon, I snagged a cookie and chatted with two other very nice cyclists with whom I hope to ride some day.
  • Utica Street Market: Get an espresso and sit outside in the sun.
 At the top of Bald Mountain

This is definitely my favorite ride so far. The climb is interesting and varied and the descent is fast. It avoids any bad roads whatsoever (e.g. Boulder Canyon Drive) and has good espresso along the route.

Asher Brewing: I had two goals for my post-ride calorie consumption and last night in Boudler: visit Asher for the first time and visit Avery for the umpteenth. Asher is an all-organic brewery and their IPAs are excellent. They, too, have an ample amount of outdoor seating.

Avery Brewery: This is one of my favorite places in the world. Lots of outdoor seating, lots of good comfort food, lots of happy dogs, and most importantly, lots of really well executed, one-of-a-kind brews. I ended up having my last beer in a nice rocking chair on a gantry above their production floor. The meatloaf was excellent.

Friday

 Eldorado Canyon

Ride: Eldorado Canyon: I didn’t have a ton of time before having to leave for my flight, but I wanted to get one last ride in before returning the bike. I chose to visit Eldorado Springs, since it is a popular cycling destination in a direction from Boulder that I hadn’t ever travelled. The road eventually turns into the entrance to Eldorado Canyon State Park and the scenery is lovely. I didn’t actually enter the park (despite the entrance fee for bikes being only $4) out of concern for time, but I’d love to come back.

Breakfast at Snooze AM: Anyone who knows me knows that I love a good breakfast burrito. This popular breakfast-oriented diner delivers. But, the pancakes also looked good; lo and behold, one can order pancakes as a side! Done and Done. I had to wait a bit just to sit at the counter; coming early is recommended. I’m definitely coming back here.