Best Wildflower Ride 2002 | Hewlett GulchPoudre Park, Larimer County | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword
The ten-mile, single-track Hewlett Gulch trail, which starts at the Poudre Park picnic area on the Cache la Poudre River, is full of gnarly challenges like twists and turns and rocky stream crossings. But the initial 3.1-mile climb up the appropriately named Flower Road is flanked by beautiful wildflowers, a soothing sight for sore thighs.

Best Place to Get a Bike Fitting by a Tour de France Racer and Olympian

Wheat Ridge Cyclery

Ron Kiefel finished six out of seven of his Tour de France tries, won a bronze medal in the 1984 Olympics for a team time trial and has probably ridden more than 300,000 miles during his cycling career -- which makes him especially suited to understand all the nuances of riding bicycles. Kiefel believes getting a custom bicycle fitting is important for anyone who is serious about cycling: With the right frame, a cyclist can ride better, faster and longer. Ron and the twelve other certified bicycle fitters who work at Wheat Ridge Cyclery choose a frame best suited for your frame, and with over 1,000 bicycles in stock, it's not hard to find a fit. Even if you're not in the market for an $8,000 high-performance cycle, you can visit when they pedal their wisdom at free monthly bicycle-maintenance clinics.

Say hi to lowriders: After you've seen a decked-out lowrider bicycle, regular bikes just look like plain, boring, single scoops of vanilla ice cream. Kids go crazy over lowriders' smooth lines, colorfully airbrushed frames, whitewall tires and other accessories, such as headlights and steering wheels. When we stopped by recently to survey the goods at Dragon Lowriders, there were at least five kids in the shop ogling the many pairs of spiffy chrome rims, gleaming, twisting front forks and velvet banana seats; the photographs of colorful, customized lowrider bikes lining the store's windows gave them plenty of ideas. Dragon Lowriders started back in 1994, when owner Santiago Mondragon had trouble ordering parts for his son's custom lowrider. He opened the shop in an empty spot next to his frame shop on Santa Fe Drive, and, eight years later, the shop is busier than ever. Take a little trip.

You've seen them on TV, and you know they gather important information about severe weather that can save lives. You think they might be a little bit nuts, and you wish you could be one of them: Storm Chasers, the guys and gals who go out of their way to find and photograph tornadoes up close and personal. Now you can give it a try, by signing up with Storm Chasing Adventure Tours. For the past five years, severe-storm expert Todd Thorn and his band of merry madmen have been providing tornado tours to people from around the world who are in search of the ultimate adventure vacation. Last year, the tours sighted seven tornadoes and dozens of storm cells; this year, Storm Chasing Tours has added a two-way satellite Internet system in the tornado van for full-time, real-time weather-data access. The storm season starts in May in Texas and Oklahoma, then moves to Colorado and Nebraska in June and July, and Storm Chasing Adventure Tours has ten tours planned to catch as many of them as possible. More information and registration are available at

Those who think they've seen everything the Stock Show has to offer should check out the Mexican Rodeo Extravaganza, which gives a colorful makeover to bull riding and fighting, trick roping and the like. And that's not to mention the Paso de la Muerte, also known as the "death jump." Look before you leap.

Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be cowgirls: They might turn into bull riders instead. At least, that's what happened to Ashlin Spence, aka Flip, of Fort Collins. The sixteen-year-old Poudre High School student was the only girl to compete in the bull-riding event in the Salt Lake ProAm Olympics Rodeo -- out of about 1,000 competitors. Flip was also the 2001 junior champion of the Wild Bunch Bullriding series. She's broken some bones, bruised up some ribs and busted out a front tooth, but Flip plans to keep on riding about a hundred bulls a year. You go, girl.

If you want to learn to ride like Flip -- or, more likely, just flip head-first off some livestock -- here's your chance. Each year, Lancaster's Rock-N-Roll Rodeo Gear sponsors two three-day championship bullriding and bullfighting schools at the indoor Bar W Slash Rodeo Arena in Aurora. Classes are offered for all ages and levels of experience, although 15 through 25 is considered the prime age for bull riding. Participants should have their own gloves and spurs;the school supplies the bulls, and there are enough for each student to have his own ride. The $350 tuition includes instruction from champion bullfighter Rowdy Barry and Fort Collins's own Mike Moore. The spring session takes place the first weekend in April, with upcoming schools planned for October or November.
Your mama was always worried that you'd go off and join the circus, but you went to college and made her proud instead. It's not too late for you, though, because the trapeze isn't just for super-athletic, death-defying circus performers anymore. In 2000, a group of people left the Imperial Flyers, a Denver-based amateur-flying-trapeze club, and decided to construct an indoor rig at the Bladium Sports Club so that they could practice in the winter. At the same time, they started Thin Air Trapeze, a nonprofit trapeze school. Beginning classes at Thin Air Trapeze teach you some basic trapeze moves with the added security of safety lines at your waist. Now people between the ages of 9 and 96 can learn how to climb and take off from the perch, how to swing, how to fly in the "knee hang," and the all-important lesson of how to fall to the net gracefully. Thin Air Trapeze also offers intermediate and advanced lessons for trapeze enthusiasts. If flying high above the ground at fast speeds is not for you, Thin Air Trapeze also teaches circus-arts classes closer the ground, such as juggling and trampoline tricks. You can learn to fly on the trapeze for $75 for four sessions, or stop by on a drop-in basis for $25; however, reservations are required. You also must sign a waiver to participate in the high-flying fun. Nervous yet? Visit them on the Web at
A sister sport to our buddy the trapeze, aerial fabric is a graceful, artistic and physically challenging discipline. You've maybe seen aerial dancers at the circus or on TV, but you probably never pictured yourself doing such a thing. Cathy Gauch, founder of Aircat Aerial Arts, can teach you. She's well-versed in high-flying acrobatics and has an extensive aerial repertoire, including trapeze, hoops, ropes, bungees, swings, straps and fabric. She teaches novice and intermediate aerial dancers ages twelve and up at her studio in Boulder and at Bladium Sports Club, where our friends from Thin Air Trapeze also teach. Additionally, Gauch teaches aerial hoops, Spanish web rope and classes for kids between four and eight. Aircat Aerial Arts is also a performance company. Look for more information at

Just because you can't get that hydrangea to flourish on the north side of your garage doesn't mean there aren't hundreds of plants that thrive in the bright sun and crisp air of the Rocky Mountain Region. Since 1997, it has been the purpose of the Plant Select program -- a cooperative effort of the Denver Botanic Gardens and Colorado State University -- to seek out and distribute the very best plants for landscapes and gardens from the mountains to the high plains. Each year, a half-dozen or so plants make the cut, as either Recommended (plants that have been grown in the region for years), Originals (time-tested hybrids), or Introductions (brand-new plants discovered by the program). Look for this year's Mesa Verde Ice Plant Introduction, scientifically named for longtime Denver horticulturist and Plant Select director Panayoti Kelaidis.

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