Monday, October 12, 2009
One of the high points of Fruita was meeting Tater, the guy who hangs out downtown and greets visitors at Aspen Street Coffee and Over the Edge Sports. He has been called Fruita's unofficial mayor, and he just might be officially the town's nicest guy.
He'll shake your hand repeatedly, give you a hug or three, and he loves to talk about getting craaazy. Have your picture taken with him, and he'll probably give you a kiss on the cheek afterward, even if you're a guy.
He's a local institution. The good kind. He's pure, unadulterated kindness, and he has enough good taste to hate the Beatles. He's an oversize personality in an undersize package.
And he's a reminder of what I love about Fruita: It's a small town. The trails may be world-class, but it's still a quiet place where a guy like Tater can safely ride to his favorite spots and greet many of the visitors. It's the kind of town where a coffee shop will let him hang out, and the bike shop will fix his flat tires.
In Moab, you can reasonably assume that most people you see on a downtown sidewalk are tourists. In Fruita, you know it's pretty obvious that you're the tourist.
When I grabbed breakfast at Pancho's Villa a couple of mornings last week, I was the lone mountain biker in a joint full of cowboy hats, fertilizer caps, and locals who all knew the waitress had only four more days to work before she retired and left town. And I'm not positive, but I think she was the same person who served me breakfast when I was there five years ago.
I liked the trails and the town even more on this trip. I hope it won't be another five years before I return to the land of Mike the Headless Chicken. I hope the town is still unspoiled when I go back. And I hope Tater will still be there to call me "ringman."