Castle Rock Fat Bike Snow Adventure and Cultural Hub Extraordinaire?

By Rob Quinn,

Some folks like to get away.....Take a holiday from the neighborhood.... Drive the SUV to Crested Butte.... Or to Glenwood... Me? I’m driving a pickup... Down that I-25 South line...I’m in a Castle Rock state of mind.  

When I say Castle Rock, Colorado…what comes to mind?

Awesome backcountry adventure? A gritty and popular brew pub vibe from “the other side of the tracks”. Perhaps that shining monument to Law and Order—The Douglas County Jail complex? Or, if you are like me, Castle Rock reminds you of New York City right? Well, in an epic Dirt Journal mix tape they all collided last week.

Join me in Narnia. 

If Castle Rock reminds you of none of the above, except perhaps the Justice Center (that’s a separate story on to itself) I’ll show you how this overgrown Highlands Ranch is actually a trippy Narnia. You just need to put on the magic rose colored hippie glasses to see it.

If you have been reading Dirt Journal, a familiar sequence is starting to appear: Bike, Business, Beer, Boondoggle. My Castle Rock mission was long overdue but with the last snow and cooler weather…and the holidays upon us…it was “go” time for Castle Rock.

Back Country Adventure you say? Don’t look at me that way. Sooo…

The Ridgeline Trail system runs through the densely packed Mc Mansions West of downtown with 15 miles of moderate wide singletrack…it’s a nice flowing trail with moderate climbs and on a mesa that catches some snow and cold air, perfect I thought for Fat Biking!

Gritty Pub scene on the other side of the tracks you say? Check. The 105 West Brewing company checks that box. A funky ass joint located in the industrial section of The Rock. It’s a locals hang out with plenty of dogs and dudes in everything from Carhart’s to khakis. The vibe and the brew are the real deal. Trust me, I know of what I speak. 

Reminds you of New York you say? My buddy Dan from New York lives there and has a tunnel from his basement to the 105 West. The product of New York law Enforcement, Danny got outta the neighborhood on a Rugby scholarship and became one of those Wall Street types, but in the Denver Tech Center.  Twenty years ago we met while lifting weights at the 24 Hour Fitness in the Tech Center. When he entered the gym he had the whole Gordan Gecko suit with suspenders thing going, but when he changed into his work out stuff his T-shirts were tie-dye-trippin’-hippy. Plenty of Dead and Allman Brother tour shirts.

Finally, I walked up to him and said “I’m confused? Are you a Wall Street dude or a hippy”? He said, “Both, who the fuck are you, John Denver?”. Boom…we have been friends since. Apparently, Dan is not allowed to leave Castle Rock so all our meetings occur at the 105 West. 

Castle Rock Justice Center you Say? Let me tease you with this. When you put the rose-colored glasses on and Castle Rock becomes Narnia, that old Justice Center doesn’t seem so scary, in fact in Narnia, the cops buy your IPA, and that’s what happened to me. Got your interest? Read on. As impossible as this seems it all comes together.

Business you say? Just so happens a client I’m courting is located in Castle Rock and I invited him to join what was about to become one,Hippy-trippy-chippy afternoon.

My first and fondest memory of Castle Rock was when I first moved to Denver and a Dodge dealer had these crazy ass TV commercials that showed The Castle Rock turning into a face and talking. This is 25 years before legal weed, so that was some cool creative.  Over the years I’ve ridden the Ridgeline Open Space system and although pretty modest compared to the foothills, I had a hunch it would be perfect conditions for the fat bike when you need the snow-pack and the vertical “just so.” Otherwise, it’s a long day on the fatty.

I pulled into an empty parking lot at 12:30 PM and was out on the phatty within minutes. My fears of soupy mud were put to rest and the conditions were absolutely perfect. The fat bikes were out the day before and they groomed the system. Two hours drifted by in the white sameness. I’ve been on a bit of a jazz binge lately, so the moody and unpredictable Charles Mingus kept me company today. I was taking the “A” Train when I pulled into the parking lot feeling like a million bucks and looking forward to meeting Danny boy at his home court, the 105 West.

A quick stop at a rare Jack-in-the-box (that always reminds me of bar-time in San Diego) next door and then across the tracks to the 105. Some people treat their body like a temple. I treat mine like a Tuff Shed. 

The 105 is proudly located next to the bankrupt Arthur Murray Dance studio. Instead of changing, I keep my tights- baggies-BMX jersey on so Dan can go to work on what a hippie ass loser I look like. Danny doesn’t ride. 

Right-on-cue I am met with a barrage of insults that would make Archie Bunker blush and cannot be printed. Dan immediately tells me he’s killing two birds with one stone and this gathering will also be a coach’s meeting for the High School Rugby Club he coaches. Cool!

Each of us is issued a wooden chip that is our “account”. Rounds are being bought.

I’m funny when it comes to friends. I don’t care how much money they have, who their family is or how smart they are. My friends are a strange combination of outlaw, drinker, artist, athlete and mad man.

I am bored easily by unremarkable people. 

Something’s wrong. My schtick is not selling with the new crew. I’m throwing out all my tried and true material. Weed jokes, Widespread Panic lyrics, sophomore styled sexual innuendo. Even the tried and trusted fart jokes were not selling. In fact, I think I’m pissing the large gentleman off. We’ll call him El Jefe. On route to the head, I ask Danny what’s up with is friends? In his Bronx he snaps “Hey jerky, those two are Douglas County Deputies, you need to reel it in a notch”.

Me: “Thanks for telling me. Oh and the Mets sucks”. 

I put it into “Rob lite” mode and concentrate on my coaching experience and what a cool place Castle Rock has become. The crowd warms like the gas heater next to me in the chilly night. El Jefe says he’s been on the force 27 years and he’s seen a lot change. A smile is cracked. The sun is setting and it’s time to go. Good stories are flowing like the beer. On the way out El Jefe comments on my pretty tights and beanie. 

I jump off the high dive and respond; “fuck you deputy dog”. The silence is deafening. He breaks into laughter and gives me a bear hug that actually adjusted my back. His strength is amazing. He lifts my 185 lbs like I’m a rag doll. The lady with El Jefe responds, “I’ll keep an eye out for you at work.”—wink wink, she is a jailer.

El Jefe says that I’m invited to join them any Thursday I’m in town. It’s a sincere invite and I sincerely tell him I’ll take him up on it. 

I head to the bar to pay my tab, but I’m informed El Jefe beat me to it. 

I hand the beer tender a 20 and say Merry Christmas. All is right in Narnia. The cops actually do pay your tab. 

I’m feeling pretty good about myself on the drive home. This world can be a pretty spectacular place if you shut up and ride the wave. 

I get a text, holy shit, it’s my perspective client—I totally forgot. Says they are working late, his apologies, and can’t make it to the brew pub. But call him tomorrow! Always a great sign.

My youngest daughter has just arrived from Arizona and with a full heart, a full house of family and dogs, I’m about to unpack the bike and get this Jefferson County party started. Get the grill stoked.

Another text arrives. What could this message bring on a night like this?

I’m floored with the force of a 2 x 4 to the back of the head. I re-read the message, this must be some joke, my phone rings and it’s confirmed. If 2020 was a tough year. The worst day of this year was now in play. I scream a primal scream of anguish. Some dogs scatter, some dogs run to my aid. Narnia is burning. To be continued……

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