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Super bowling of a different kind in Rifle: Beat wintertime blues by bowling some frames at Fireside

Caitlyn Boe picks out her bowling ball during league night at Rifle Fireside Lanes on Tuesday evening.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

Gas patch worker Scott Mueller owns a ball and shoes, but he really isn’t a bowler, per se.

Instead, the 42-year-old Parachute resident spends time at Rifle Fireside Lanes for other reasons.

“This league gets a little wild,” he joked. “About 9 o’clock, it’s gonna get ugly.”



As pool balls clacked on a nearby table, people started to stroll in for co-ed league play on this dreary Tuesday night.

Mueller just finished wiping his ball as he waited for teammates to lace up.



About five years ago, Mueller was asked to substitute. Now, he’s a permanent team member.

“We’re not that competitive as a team,” he said. “We just like to have fun.”

There’s about 12 teams in this league. Most of them likely don’t sport a 250-point average. That doesn’t really matter, however.

People bowl at Rifle Fireside Lanes on Tuesday evening.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

“Most of the time us old people go home and sit on the couch and watch TV,” he said. “On Tuesday nights, we don’t.”

ON A ROLL

Larry Stewart offers two major reasons why he enjoys bowling. One, it’s fun for the whole family. Two, and perhaps more importantly, bowling is more of a finesse sport.

“You can still have a competitive edge,” Stewart said, “without having to run up and down a court.”

The Indiana native who’s been rolling since age 10 admits the indoor sport isn’t what people usually think of when it comes to Colorado.

Nikki Swick bowls with friends at league night at Rifle Fireside Lanes on Tuesday evening.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

“It definitely gets overlooked,” he said. “And if you compare it to skiing, it’s much more affordable.”

Which is why Stewart, a Rifle community banker, recently started a high school bowling team with players from Coal Ridge, Rifle and Yampa.

For prospective bowlers, meanwhile, Stewart encourages them to take to the lanes.

Ask people like Roy Munson, Ernie “Big Ern” McCracken, Jeffrey “The Dude” Lebowski or Theodore Donald “Donny” Kerabatsos, league night is a sacred night, and Rifle is the bowling mecca of Garfield County.

“Start getting out there and participating in what they call ‘open bowling,’” Stewart said. “Just get out there and go bowling with your friends and your family. There’s a lot of entry-level leagues that you can join.”

Leagues include Wednesday night men’s and Thursday night mixed.

“You get your spouse and another husband and wife or spouse combo together and basically go out there and have a good time,” he said.

Tuesday nights, of course, people like Mueller come to Rifle to participate in Fireside’s tattoo league, where rollers each week have chances to win a certificate to get a tattoo from a local parlor.

“It attracts a different clientele,” Stewart said.

PUT A PIN IN IT

Nikki Swick’s checking account once revealed she spent more than $200 the night before.

As players began rolling some warm-up rounds Tuesday night, the 38-year-old office manager explained she essentially lost a bet.

Nikki Swick bowls with friends at league night at Rifle Fireside Lanes on Tuesday evening.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

Whenever a bowler in this league hits a rack but leaves the middle pin standing, people bet drinks to see whether the bowler can end the frame with a spare.

Swick, unfortunately, once missed, and was forced to purchase anyone courageous enough to wager a shot.

“It’s a way to be positive and have fun,” Swick said of league night. “I love to be out, I love to meet people and be out in the community.”

Not many bowling alleys line the streets of Garfield County anymore. New Castle used to have Mountain Bowl, while the Bowl Lounge in Glenwood Springs is long gone.

Rifle Fireside Lanes is the last remaining place to quote The Big Lebowski or Kingpin before rolling a gutter ball in Garfield County.

Caitlyn Boe prepares to bowl a frame during league night at Rifle Fireside Lanes.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

Elsewhere, the nearest alleys are Bowlski’s in El Jebel, the Back Bowl Bowling Center in Eagle or Snowmass Lanes & Lounge. Grand Junction, meanwhile, boasts Orchard Mesa lanes and Freeway Bowl.

In Rifle, however, almost every night league teams like Who Gives a Split, Dolls with Balls and Turkey Punchers converge to bowl a few frames.

The alley, located at 23 Colorado Highway 325, is open from noon-10 p.m. daily. Food concessions and a full bar are available.

“It’s a lot of good people,” Swick said. “We get together and we have a good time.”

Larry Stewart’s top five bowling tips

Larry Stewart is head coach and leader of the Colorado River Valley High School Bowling Conference. The Indiana native has been bowling since age 10.

1. Make sure you’re wearing bowling shoes.

2. Get the right size bowling ball. Too light or too heavy can impact you either way.

3. When you approach your throw, don’t go too fast. Take your time.

4. Make sure you know what you’re aiming for.

5. Have fun.

Reporter Ray K. Erku can be reached at 612-423-5273 or rerku@postindependent.com.


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