When the streetlights come on
There are Christmases that live forever in your memory. I can think of a few, but there is one year in particular that I will never forget. I was 12 and obsessed with playing outside and being with my friends who lived down the street. I remember money was particularly tight that year, so I wasn’t expecting anything big for Christmas. To my surprise, my father carried a very large package up the stairs for me to open. I will never forget the moment I unboxed my shiny new purple bike. I was completely stunned by the magnitude of this gift and almost in disbelief that my parents gave me this cool gift. It was everything I had ever dreamed of at the time. I could barely wait until the next morning to drive it down the street to my friend’s house to show off my new vehicle.
The next morning came, and I proudly rode my glorious new purple bike down the street to parade it past my friend’s house. I quickly rang his doorbell, then quickly ran downstairs to hop on my bike. I started to figure eight casually down the street until she came out. I thought I was so cool. She raved about the bike and was as impressed as I was. I rode my bike almost every day until I learned to drive. I was glued to this bike from the moment I woke up in the morning until the streetlights came on at night. It gave me unreasonable joy.
Recently my friend and I decided to rent e-bikes and ride up to the majestic Maroon Bells. This is known to be one of Colorado’s most iconic bike rides. Having never done it before in my six years of living here, I thought it was time to check it off the to-do list. Not only had I never been to the Bells with an e-bike, but it was also my first time riding an e-bike. Can you believe that?
It was early on a Saturday morning and the downtown farmer’s market was in full swing. We wandered around the Hub of Aspen to pick up our e-bikes and escape the crazy hustle and bustle of Aspen. This legendary bike shop (located across from the Aspen Museum of Art) is Aspen’s oldest bike shop, with origins dating back to 1980. Lately there have been quite a few incidents with bikes electric so Tim the owner made sure we got the full safety talk before we even touched the bikes. After receiving a detailed tutorial on how to operate e-bikes and navigate the roads, my friend Tori and I hopped on the bikes and hit the streets.
As soon as I felt the pedal assist pick up my speed, I couldn’t help but smile. In the past, I had only been to the Maroon Bells by vehicle. Navigating up there using a bicycle was much more exhilarating and rewarding. The bike path climbs 1,300 feet for nearly 7 miles from the Highlands to Maroon Lake (elevation 9,100 feet).
Our scenery showed the mighty Pyramid Peak, which was exposed for most of our ride, as well as the lush groves of Aspen that lined the road. It took us about 45 minutes to get from town to our great view finish at Maroon Lake.
As we walked towards the bells, my friend and I looked at each other in absolute disbelief at the beauty of our surroundings. We walked around the lake taking it all in and of course taking an unnecessary number of photos.
Our trip home was like a kind of amusement park roller coaster. It wasn’t even necessary to turn on the e-bikes for the ride home as it was all basically downhill. We descended the mountain at an exhilarating 30 mph. It was in a hurry.
The whole day made me think about my childhood and my love for cycling. From the moment I hopped on this bike, I was immediately transported to a simpler time in small town Iowa, when there was only 12-year-old Shannon and her purple bike against the world. I felt nostalgic for those summer nights when my parents almost had to drag me inside because I never wanted the days to end. I always dreaded those streetlights turning on, because it always meant it was time to put the bike away and get in. It was a much simpler time, and I would give anything to take one more walk around the neighborhood with those same friends.
Living in Aspen, people often ask me if I became numb to the beauty of the landscape on any given day. The honest truth is: no. He really never gets old. The landscapes never cease to amaze me and constantly leave me speechless.
One place in particular that never loses its luster is the Maroon Bells. No matter how many times I visit these famous photographed peaks, I always feel so small next to them. I look at the bells the same way I looked at that purple bike: with utter wide-eyed childlike wonder. I hope I never lose that sense of wonder.