It’s a beautiful, cool and colorful October day at 7,000 feet. The aspen leaves are yellow, quaking and gradually drifting to the ground. The sky is a calming blue and cloudless. The sun is high and bright but it just can’t generate the heat it did a few weeks ago. Long pants are more comfortable than cycling shorts and instead of wearing a short sleeved jersey, now I’m wearing a long sleeved wool sweater and vest. It’s not cold, just crisp, like a ripe, tart, fall apple.
We arrived in Flagstaff a week ago and were delighted to see all the bike paths, from that day forward our fondness for this college town on old Route 66 has grown exponentially. It’s location, a short drive from some of the most beautiful national parks in the world is a great attribute but the town itself is special too. Flagstaff is less than 70,000 people but has a great selection of restaurants, pubs, outfitters, bike shops… along with excellent biking, skiing, hiking… and an educated population. It’s high school graduation rate is nearly 10% above the national average and almost 40% of the population has a bachelor’s degree or higher, 16% above the national average.
Flagstaff streets are filled with traditional, well used road or mountain bikes pedaled by people in NORMAL clothing. No custom wood fenders, designer bags, or tweed knickers here. In fact many of the adults don’t even wear helmets – OMG! The people here just seem to be riding their bikes for fun and transportation (like we did as kids) and are not riding to make a politcal or fashion statement. After visiting most of the bike shops and all the outfitters (more than once) we have also been impressed by how helpful, friendly and down to earth all the staff were. Flagstaff appears to be simply inhabited by well educated people that truly like being here because of the outdoor activities available.
Of all the nice things I could say about Flagstaff I find its unpretentiousness or lack of “attitude” one of the city’s most unique and appealing characteristics – and it feels and looks great in autumn too.