|One of the many bike paths in Fort Collins cuts through the CSU trial garden|
|Santa Fe Quesadilla at Rainbow|
After a day at home, my family followed up Idaho with a week in Fort Collins, Colorado. I've been to Colorado several times, but never to FC. We were there to visit the newest addition to the family (a cutie!), but were very pleasantly surprised by the rich array of "college town" life to be found. Our friend, an administrator at Colorado State University, told us FC has the second highest amount of restaurants per capita in America, and I wouldn't doubt it. Each restaurant we tried - Coopersmith's, Rainbow, Gravity 1020 (at Fort Collins Brewery), Uncle's, Wild Boar, and Pizza Casbah - was fantastic.
|Scores of bike racks cover the CSU campus|
But the defining feature of Fort Collins is the never ending abundance of bikes, bike lanes, and bike trails. I've been places where travel on two wheels is common - Portland, Missoula, and Japan stand out - but I've never seen a biking scene as vibrant as FC. There are cyclists in Seattle, but cycling in Seattle is an act of commission, where the cyclists you see are almost inevitably hard core athletes ready to tackle hills and nasty weather in stride. In FC, it's much more casual. People from all walks of life move about on two wheels, and because they are more "normal people", they don't necessarily speed down the street. Many seem to have chosen a bicycle over walking, with the ethos remarkably similar. This relaxed cycling environment is facilitated by bike lanes that are seemingly everywhere. And they are generous. Some roads have plenty of space for cyclists to ride two abreast. Set in the expansive mountain west, it's as if streets designed for an extra lane of cars someday were instead repurposed for bicycles to share the road. In Seattle and Portland, it seems as if drivers and cyclists compete for the road. In FC, the space and leisurely pace seem to allow all rides to co-exist peacefully.
|A few of the many bikes downtown|
When we checked in at our hotel, we immediately noticed several bikes on the generous bike racks carrying FC Bike Libary license plates. It turns out the Fort Collins Bike Library loans bikes to residents and visitors alike. A service of the City of Fort Collins, the library has a collection of cruisers and other bikes that can be borrowed for as long as seven days. You can borrow for free as a walk-in or reserve a bike for $10. With this being the busy season, in the summertime weather and after the forest fire smoke has cleared, we were unable to get a bike on our first day in town, but were still able to borrow four bikes for the last few days of our visit. These were hand-me-down kinds of bikes, making me miss my modest Trek, but they worked and the price was right. Next time we're in town, we'll make a reservation.
|Even the taxis in FC are bikes|
We rode the bikes a couple of miles to our hotel, crossing the incredibly bike friendly CSU campus. In Seattle, there's no way I'd let my 12 and 9 year old sons ride in traffic, but it felt very safe on the wide avenues in FC. We secured our bikes at the hotel with the locks provided by the Bike Library. Unfortunately, we only had one ride on a bike trail, the Spring Creek Trail. My 9 year old was struggling with his gears and temps were soaring to the mid-90s on our ride. Books and the hotel pool rated higher with my kids after that, as well as connecting with family and two local friends. Our last biking adventure was returning the bikes to the Bike Library. We left under sunshine, again crossing the CSU campus. But as we came out the north side of the campus oval (the traditional college "quad"), we started to hear thunder. As we rode up Howes Street thick storm clouds dominated the sky to the west of our north-south route, while blue sky peacefully lit the east. We balanced precariously between the two, staying dry until dismounting, only to get partially drenched locking the bikes to the Bike Library racks as a major thunderstorm swept through Old Town Fort Collins.
Now, we're happy to be home. We've seen lots of family and friends over the past two weeks, but these were "go-go-go" vacations, as opposed to restful escapes. I was exhausted in the airport awaiting our flight home and I think that goes for all of us. But the great memories with our family and friends were enhanced by our biking, especially in Fort Collins, Bike Town U.S.A.
|My 9 year old son and wife bike ahead as we cross the CSU Oval|
|The bike inventory at FC Bike Library|
|My 12 year old, a.k.a. Harry Potter and wearing his quiddich jersey, tries out his bike|
|Our bikes at the rack at our hotel, sporting the FC Bike Library license plate|
|Bike racks cover large swaths of CSU, and I'm told they are nearly full during the school year|
|FC based New Belgium Brewing, makers of bike themed Fat Tire beer, has put up bike racks around town|
|We checked out the commemorative "Fat Tire" bikes at New Belgium|
|Before returning my bike, I got a picture of the borrowed cruiser at a two-way bike lane at CSU|
|Rain beat on our bikes moments after we returned them to the Bike Library. Time to go home!|