Going Places: Tales from the road: Telluride to Moab, Day 1

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
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Virtual adventure: Telluride to Moab

Tap the Rockies, then ride 'em
Downtown Telluride

September 8, 1996
12:50 p.m. (Mountain time): A Coke can cum airplane bashes onto the tarmac with a shudder in Montrose, Colorado. I'm in it enjoying the view, but wondering why the passenger compartment keeps twisting like a Red Vine.

I check my watch. I've got plenty of time remaining to catch a shuttle from Montrose Airport to Telluride where I'm scheduled to meet up with Mark Eppley, Keil Hillman, Annabel Spencer, and Paul Andrews for the mountain biking vacation of a lifetime. We'll be riding from Telluride, Colorado, to Moab, Utah--seven days of pure, pampered backcountry adventure. The trip is hut-supported, so we need carry only clothes, water, and whatever miscellaneous mountain biking gear we'll need. Each hut has food and two gallons of water plus sleeping bags. Now that's camping. Seven straight days of unencumbered, backcountry mountain biking from high mountain to sprawling desert. The forecast is clear, the air thin and pure. I'm drooling.

3 p.m.: We're nearly to Telluride in the local shuttle van. If you've not traveled to Colorado before, allow me to sum it up in two words: beautiful and loony. On our right is the usual spate of medium-sized working ranches. The houses don't look particularly opulent and I see more than one sign for conservative rabble-rouser and Colorado Rep. Ben Nighthorse-Campbell. On the left are about 500,000 acres (according to my shuttle driver) of Double RL ranch. That's RL for Ralph Lauren. Apparently he bought about six broad miles of the valley here for a song 20 years ago and turned it into his own quirky slice of Colorado ranching. Cows cover the land. A meticulous four-rail wooden fence stretches the ranch's entire length. My driver tells me the entire ranch is bounded by that fence and every single rail was actually bolted to its post--by hand! Which just goes to show: beautiful scenery and money create wacky stuff. Still, it's a very classy spread and with a half-million acres, at least it's not being subdivided.

The necessary tools for a high-tech mountain biking adventure

4:30 p.m.: I arrive at the Viking Lodge right under the broad shoulders of the Telluride Ski Resort. No one's in our room and a call to the desk reveals that there is no reservation under anyone's name. I'm confused now, and alone in Telluride with apparently no room, no companions, and no clue. Yeesh. I start walking in search of a pay phone hoping for some good--or even bad--news on my voice mail. After walking the entire length of town (which is not far, actually) I find the only pay phone on the deck of a bakery. As I key-punch my way through the voice-mail lady's menu maze, I look to the far end of the deck and see the rest of the gang sitting with pizza and beer. Problem solved; they'd already checked in. Note to potential visitors: Telluride is small. You can find anyone, pretty much.

6 p.m.: We're riding down the narrow Telluride streets on our mountain bikes. Keil and Annabel are carrying large pizzas. I've got a half-rack of Coors (a "Banquet Beer") under my arm. It's time to pack for tomorrow morning. Life is good. We get back to the condo and start monkeying with our bikes, arranging gear, eating the pies, and "hydrating." We've got two of every bike component more fragile than the frame. We should be able to get through. Note to travelers: Though a cush ski town, Telluride is in Colorado, so bring your own micro-brews if your palate is too picky for honest American lagers.

©2000, Mariah Media Inc.

Filed To: Snow Sports

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