Grand County has always been a good place to experience the joys of bicycling |

Grand County has always been a good place to experience the joys of bicycling

Jean Miller/VOICES of the PASTand Other History Stories
from the Grand County Historical Associatio

Bicycling has been a favorite pastime in recent years in Grand County. People pedaling along the highway, crowds crawling through the forests ” the mountains are full of folks getting their exercise. Many of the bicycles are worth thousands of dollars and have who knows how many gears.

People weren’t always so lucky, but the urge to use this form of transportation started early. For instance, back in 1892, (see Volume II, 1982 GCHA Journal, The Journey), Mr. and Mrs. Hatch had decided to tour this area. That year, Agnes was dared by her husband to hike the total route from Georgetown to Grand Lake. He never thought she could do it, but she did ” in four days. The following year, 1893, they determined to ride bikes over the same trail. Mr. Hatch was positive that his wife would be more comfortable in bloomers, so he persuaded her to make some.

However, she also took along a full skirt that she could button in a hurry.

On the pass, Mrs. Hatch would crouch by her bicycle whenever they met a freighting team. She was really embarrassed to be seen in bloomers. Even at that, horses shied a little. Mr. Hatch urged her just to go on and walk by her bicycle. She went ahead and put her skirt on after that.

At the turn of the 20th century, Mrs. Orlando Ward (Edith Hannington) later related that her father often rode over the pass from Empire to Grand Lake on his bicycle.

Now, this was one of the high bikes with a huge front wheel and no brakes; so he would cut a small tree and tie that on to the back to slow him down as he descended the west side of the pass. He liked to keep track of his riding schedule-when he arrived at certain spots and how long it took from one point to the next. He stored that information over the front door inside their cabin. He often told his daughter that the water he drank from Mrs. Coulter’s well was the sweetest, coldest, and most delicious in the whole United States. The Coulter Stage Station on the west side of Red Dirt Hill was one of his regular stops.

Jumping forward a decade, the Grand County Historical Association’s 2000 Journal on Old Time Religion tells that The Rev. Adelbert Anton Fonken, age 39, came to Fraser in 1911 to be the first minister called for the Presbyterian Church. Normally Mr. Fonken rode a horse to make his calls to lumber camps, to Granby and to Hot Sulphur Springs. Then somebody stole his saddle. Always conscientious, Mr. Fonken pedaled his bicycle down wagon roads, or pushed it up hills, instead. One time, on the way to Granby, the chain broke on the west side of Red Dirt Hill, leaving him without brakes. He picked up speed-faster and faster, until disaster seemed imminent. Then he saw a ravine coming at him to the right and he quickly turned up that, managing to stop without damage.

It was probably between 1947-1951, one old man by the name of Mr. McQuestion rigged his bike with a small cart that he pulled behind him. He was a frequent sight, pedaling between Tabernash, where he lived, to Fraser to buy groceries and such, summer and winter.

Generally, people thought this was pretty high country in which to ride bikes. With the fat tires, heavy frame, and no gears, it truly was a lot of work. However, there was about to be a big improvement.

In the 1950s a young chap by the name of Fred Naff had brought his prized bicycle with him when he came to a new job in the Fraser Valley. This bike had three gears. Nobody had three gears at that time. Fred was so proud of it, and in his off time, he decided to try riding to the top of Berthoud Pass without stopping.

One day he announced to his employers that he had succeeded in doing this. Soon he went around, getting bets on whether he could indeed ride up without stopping.

(He already knew the answer.) The day was set and somebody followed Fred up the pass to make sure there were no stops. Success. Fred would have been entitled to collect his money, but he was an honest boy and knew that the bets weren’t in any question at all; he just told them that he knew beforehand that he would win.

Today, of course, bicycling has many purposes. Stretching the legs after a day’s work, challenging precipitous hills, riding to work even in the winter. One sees bicycles built for two, bikes with little carriers following behind for one or more babies, mountain bikes and road bikes.

People may use these to prepare for major cross-country rides. Others are developing their lungs for foot races. In gyms, stationary bikes are used for rehab purposes ” people with broken knees, torn ACLs, new knees. In fact, one can say that bicycling has become a way of life in the high country.

” Visit the Cozens Ranch Museum, the Pioneer Village Museum and Heritage Park Museum bookstores and browse through 15 historic Journals and numerous other publications full of anecdotes and history stories of Grand County.

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