Eugene Buchanan: Riding the Moots Ranch Rally
Steamboat Springs — You ever notice that ouch is part of “off the couch?”
I did two weekends ago, when joining local bike manufacturer Moots on its second annual, 50-mile Moots Ranch Rally, a communal dirt-road ride showcasing area ranches while benefitting the Community Agriculture Alliance.
Showing up at their headquarters Saturday morning, my baggy shorts stuck out from the lycra-clad as much as my fitness did. My ace up my sleeve was my ride: an 18-pound Vamoots DR, complete with disk brakes and cutting-edge electronic shifters that switched gears better than my car.
That I got it sized at the last minute spelled more good news.
After imbibing coffee from host The Ristretto and pastries from Smell That Bread, the main group took off at the buzzer, meaning I didn’t have to suffer the indignity of getting passed. I was off the back from the get-go, which suited my style just fine
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Not that it mattered; the ride was billed as “non-competitive,” drawing everyone from Olympians and World Champions like Ruthie Matthes to regular shift-down-when-you-meant-to-shift-up Joes like me.
With that we were off, Moots president Butch Boucher graciously starting out with said media attendee. With the pack well ahead, we spun up Routt County Road 129 and then turned left onto C.R. 44 and ranchville.
From here, it got a bit confusing. The route filled with road name variations of 44-E, -A and -Ds as well as 46, 52, 54 and 56-somethings. I should have left a trail of bread crumbs if I hoped to follow it again. Suffice it to say it took us across the Elk River and around a jollier and greener than ever Sleeping Giant, past creeks I never knew existed and ranches I never knew were there.
Which, of course, was the whole point.
When my head wasn’t down and heart in my throat, I’d see such ranches as Sherrod, Soash Farm, Monger, Belton, Wolf Mountain, Smith Rancho, Fait Haystack, Long Gulch and other icons of Steamboat’s Western heritage whiz by. One, I kid you not, was even named Werdaphucawee
In their busiest time of year, all were more practical than pretentious — some small, some big, some with long honey-do lists and some immaculate. But they all shared a vital cog to our colorful past.
According to the USDA 2012 Ag Census, they’re part of 799 Routt County farms and ranches with annual combined agriculture sales exceed a whopping $46 million. That’s a lot of money for an under-appreciated aspect of the local economy lost in today’s tourism-oriented era, especially one that was here way before GU and GoPros.
Dusted by my wingmen riders, eventually I made it to the aid station at mile 25, where my buddies were waiting (I told them that I stopped to help a trio of gals fix a flat, but I don’t think they believed me). It was oddly fitting, I noted, that we had to pass the Elk River and Deep Creek cemeteries to get here.
Sufficiently fueled and rested, it was then off on another set of numerically alphabetized roads before the brief pavement of C.R. 129 led back to 54 to 52-E. Or was it 52 to 54-E?
Whatever, it led to a final climb up Fly Gulch, where I actually saw a silver fork lying in the road but, with apologies to Yogi Berra, didn’t stop to take it.
This all led back to 44, where we — my new slower rider buddies and I — rode to lunch at the Rocking C Bar Ranch, owned by Doc and Marsha Daughenbaugh. Cowhands and kids sprayed a cow’s derriere in a stall as we ate sandwiches from Backcountry Deli under the shade of a giant, multi-limbed cottonwood tree,
“It was a great event, with perfect weather,” said Marsha, who in her spare time also heads the Community Agriculture Alliance. “It took riders past some of the area’s classic ranches and offered spectacular views. Everyone seemed to appreciate our ranching heritage.”
While I certainly did, I also appreciated that the end was near. A few miles later, after 50 miles and 2,600 vertical feet (about 50 feet per mile, but who’s counting?), the ride ended with a party at the Moots factory with beer by Butcherknife, food by Drunken Onion and, later, a quad-massage by my wife.
While I might not have been first out of the gate at the start, you should have seen me sprint for the keg.
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