Fruita. Every time I said the name, more words seemed to want to come out of my mouth. So, shortly after arriving, the music box that is constantly playing in my head blurted out Fruita the Beautah. Thank you J. Geils for planting that one in my head.
Fruita is a small town out on Colorado’s western slope just outside of Grand Junction. It’s a pretty place that sits in a big valley cut out a gazillion years ago the Colorado River. The Grand Mesa sits on one side and the up lifted Uncompahgre Plateau on the other. Water from the Colorado River makes the would-be-desert valley lush and green.
Once a fruit-growing area, it’s now a popular tourist destination. Rafting and biking are some of the big draws. Touring the Colorado National Monument, which is right outside of town, is also a draw.
It’s also home to a few festivals. There’s a three-day Fat Tire Biking Festival, a large Fall Harvest Festival, and (I shit you not), there’s Mike the Headless Chicken Festival. Mike was a chicken who lived for 18 months after his head was cut off. Lloyd Olsen, the remover of Mike’s head, continued to give him food and water with an eye dropper. He grew to be almost 8 lb (3.6 kg). Mike went on to tour the country as a side-show. The festival in his honor is held each May in Fruita. Not bad for a headless chicken.
We were there to attend the Country Jam music festival which is held just 8 miles down the road in the little hamlet of Mack. I’m going to write a separate post about the Country Jam experience. This post will cover some other things we did while in Fruita the Beautah.
Colorado River State Park
We stayed at the James M. Robb section of the Colorado River State Park. It’s another beautiful state park set along the Colorado River. In the summer months, this part of Colorado, which is outside of the mountains, is dry and hot. High 90’s type of hot. By 10:00 am, it hits mid 80’s and from noon till 6:00 pm its in the high 90’s. AC is a must and all the sites at the state park thankfully have electricity and water.
We had a very nice site with some shade trees. The state park was an easy drive to the music festival. We spent five days parked in Fruita the Beautah while we went back and forth to Country Jam.
Music in the Park
On our first night in Fruita the Beautah, we were treated the first summer concert held at the State Park. During the summer, free concerts are held each month in the state park. We just happened to arrive on the evening of the first concert.
We got to see the March Fourth Marching Band perform. It’s a group of 20 musicians playing band instruments and wearing assorted band outfits. It was very unique. In addition to the musicians, they had a majorette and various circus type performers. The music was heavy rhythm and easily got the crowd up on their feet.
I was amazed at the turnout. It was packed with about a thousand people. Seems like most the residents of Fruita the Beautah turned out for the two hour free concert. There was food and drinks being sold by vendors.
While at the concert, we just happened to sit next to a very nice couple from Fruita – Jim and Melanie Doody. Jim is a former city council member and former mayor of Grand Junction. Both Jim and Melanie are life long residents of Fruita. They gave us good insights into all there is to do in the area.
Jim is very dedicated to contributing to his community. He led the effort to build the Western Slope Vietnam War Memorial in Fruita. The memorial pays tribute the veterans who served during the war. Jim’s older brother Tommy, was a helicopter pilot who was killed in action during the war. Jim started the effort as a tribute to his brother. The center piece of the memorial is a full size UH-1H helicopter on a pedestal. It’s the type that Jim’s brother flew. Jim lead the effort to raise over $700,000 to build the memorial. If you’re going by Fruita on I-70 and stop at the Colorado Welcome Center, you’ll see the memorial.
Colorado National Monument
Just a mile up the road from the State Park is the entrance to the Colorado National Monument. This is a huge uplift plateau with several canyons. It rivals most national parks.
From the entrance, we had to drive up 7 miles to the top of the mesa to get to the Visitor Center. The drive up is pretty spectacular. We did it in a rental car versus the RV. From there, there’s a 23 mile long scenic drive along the top that weaves around several canyons.
The views are spectacular. It reminded me a little of Mesa Verde and Canyon Del Chelly.
Beginning in the early 1900’s, local resident John Otto lead the effort to have the land on the plateau designated as a National Park. Most people felt the plateau was inhospitable. But, Otto worked tirelessly lobbying the government and building trails into the area. His efforts achieved success in 1911 when the Colorado National Monument was designated. He was hired as the first Park Ranger/Custodian and worked for 16 years building and maintaining trails.
Otto was somewhat eccentric and a bit of a recluse living up on the Monument. But, in 1911 he met a woman from Boston, Beatrice Farnham, and got married near Independence Monument. The marriage was short-lived. Beatrice found living in the area too harsh and after a few weeks she bolted and left Otto and Colorado never to return. Otto died in California, a pauper working a mining claim. But thanks to the efforts of this one man, we have the Monument to enjoy.
I enjoyed getting to experience a little of Fruita the Beautah, It a pretty area, but can can be very hot during the summer. After Country Jam, we pointed the RV east and headed towards Rifle Falls.