Archive for the ‘Colorado’ Category

Bicycle rides around the country, and the world

June 18, 2013

Here in North Carolina, our summer days are often too dang hot for bike riding, unless you get up at the crack o’ dawn (which we occasionally do). But in many parts of the country and certainly in northern Europe, where one of us hails from, this is the ultimate cycling season. To that end, some trips to inspire you.

201306_01_placestobikeFirst, check out the book “Fifty Places to Bike Before You Die,” by Chris Santella (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, $24.95). Santella is more editor than author — he enlists advice from a hosts of cyclists, from advocates to tour guides to writers. It’s a great read, and for cyclists like us, it’s like reading a dessert menu that spans the globe.

For those of us sticking closer to home, I wrote a list of cross-state bike rides for the Boston Globe that I’m reprinting here. As avid cyclists know, nearly every state these days offers some kind of multiple-day ride. Many are staged by volunteers or advocacy groups and are quite affordable, though, yeah, you’re not staying at the Four Seasons. For you luxury-minded riders, I suggest a trip with a commercial tour company, of which there are zillions. For the rest of us, check these out or Google your way to rides in your favorite states.

Participants of the Ride the Rockies

Participants of the Ride the Rockies

RIDE THE ROCKIES

One of the most rugged cross-state tours, this year’s sold-out Colorado version (right), from Telluride to Colorado Springs, features three scenic mountain passes and 20,400 feet of climbing over 513 miles. June 8-15, http://www.ridetherockies.com (Some friends are about to embark on an awesome Colorado tour. I had to pass because of my work schedule. So sad.)

BIKEMAINE

Inaugural weeklong event kicks off Sept. 7 with a challenging 400-mile loop starting in Orono and including stops in Belfast, Castine, Bar Harbor, and Bangor, with a cumulative elevation gain of 24,000 feet. Routes will change yearly. http://ride.bikemaine.org/

201306_03_RAGBRAI

RAGBRAI

The Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa, an annual seven-day, 470-mile ride in July, is the oldest (since 1972), largest, and longest bicycle touring event in the world. Day passes available. July 21-27, http://www.ragbrai.com (I did this in 2005.  What a blast!!!!!!!! Make sure you train for it!)

RIDE ACROSS WASHINGTON

This year’s tour, themed “Pines to Vines,” takes 250 riders from near the Canadian border north of Spokane south to the Hood River with about 21,000 feet of climbing and spectacular scenery. Aug. 3-10, http://www.cascade.org

Logo of the 2013 Bike Florida tour

Logo of the 2013 Bike Florida tour

BIKE FLORIDA

The 20th anniversary ride, in early spring 2014, will showcase northeast Florida’s back roads, trails, and beaches. Dates and stops to be determined. http://www.bikeflorida.org

Denver, design mecca?

October 17, 2010

Irving Harper's Marshmallow Sofa (1956)

When you think of Denver, Colo., you likely conjure images of cowboys, the Mile High Stadium, Coors beer, and of course the Rocky Mountains. But as the location of one of the world’s best collections of mid-century modern design and decorative art? Hardly.

OK, you know where this is headed. It is indeed! The last time I was in town, my pal Kelley Griffin said that I must, simply must visit “the Kirkland.” And so I did. And I was wowed. Wow! Here’s the little ditty I wrote about it, which appears today as a “Rave” in the Boston Globe Travel section (finally!). 

In Colorado, cutting-edge design on display

Vance Kirkland’s studio remains intact, including the straps he used to suspend himself above his horizontal canvases

DENVER — You might want to wear your shades inside the Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art. Bright colors, crazy shapes, and offbeat objects — more than 3,300 of them — are packed into every conceivable cranny of the small downtown space. For starters, mid-century modern and Art Deco devotees will want to seek out the shiny chrome 1937 Electrolux vacuum, original-production 1956 “Marshmallow Sofa,” and the 1931 Jazz Bowl by Viktor Schreckengost, the museum’s American Art Deco masterpiece. Decorative objects share space with paintings from 170 Colorado artists of the last century. The star among them is namesake Vance Kirkland (1904-81), a design collector and eccentric painter whose own art incorporated, at times, Surrealism, abstract expressionism, and dots.

The 1931 Jazz Bowl by Viktor Schreckengost

The museum was founded in 2003 by his heir, curator Hugh Grant. The building had been Kirkland’s studio, and his work space remains intact, including the straps he used to suspend himself above his horizontal canvases after he became frail. While Grant started the museum with the modest goal of preserving Kirkland’s legacy and displaying his beloved objects, it has turned into something much bigger: a world-renowned design showcase.

1311 Pearl St., 303-832-8576 , www.kirklandmuseum.org. Closed Monday. Adults $7; children under age 13 not admitted.

Salida’s secret is out by now

August 13, 2009

I wrote this story for the Boston Globe in 2006. While I wouldn’t say that Salida is a household word, its secret is out.  So, now, I can tell the world!

SALIDA, Colo. The threats came in before I even arrived in Denver.

The historic Palace Hotel on F Street

The historic Palace Hotel on F Street

“Tell her to bury that story,” advised a colleague of the friend I was planning to visit in the Mile High City and take along on a weekend getaway 145 miles to the southwest. When I met said colleague, the first words out of his mouth, only half-jokingly, were, “I’m part of that group asking you not to write about Salida.” Wow, I hadn’t known there was an entire posse trying to keep a lid on things. Perhaps they’d missed Outside magazine’s declaration two years ago that Salida is an “American Dream Town.” So let it be known that I am not the spoiler, or at least not the only one.

It is true, though, that there are still a good number of people who have never heard of Salida (pronounced suh-LIE-duh). Even many Coloradans pass by without stopping, though the town is only a short detour from the highway. They don’t know what they’re missing.

Kayaker in white water of Arkansas River

Whitewater aficionado tests the Arkansas River right in downtown Salida

The whitewater folks, however, are in the know. In the summer, when the Arkansas River is racing, more than a dozen rafting and kayaking operators spring to life in Chaffee County. And every June, about 10,000 visitors triple Salida’s population for the Blue Paddle FIBArk Whitewater Festival (“FIBArk” stands for First in Boating on the Arkansas River). Arguably the country’s top whitewater event, the fest draws the sport’s stars, who come to race and trick out on the rushing waters. Depending on when you visit, you can experience rapids from a nothing Class I to a menacing Class V. Salida is but one of the stops along the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area, a 148-mile linear park of riverbanks and river.

Whitewater is center stage in the city-run kayakers’ “play park,” officially the Arkansas River Whitewater Park and Greenway, where from bleachers set up for spectators you can watch those maniacs play in the rapids, roll upside-down over and over, and get water up their noses. (You can’t tell me those plugs really work.)

Friend Kelley reaches the top during a ride outside Salida

Friend Kelley rejoices at the end of her mountain climb during a ride near Salida

Luckily one doesn’t have to be a paddler to enjoy Salida’s riches. My friend and I, who get white-knuckled even thinking about whitewater, merrily eliminated going down the stream. Instead, we cycled, strolled, shopped, dined, and generally made ourselves at home in this incredibly congenial town. We discovered that the abundance of friendly folks wasn’t a show for the sake of commerce. Even the locals talk about how friendly the locals are, and many compare unpretentious Salida with snootier Colorado towns.

“In Aspen and Vail people want you to know they know everyone and have been everywhere. Here, you just know they have, but they don’t need to tell you,” said Jeff Schweitzer, who with his chef wife, Margie Sohl, owns Laughing Ladies Restaurant, arguably the best dining in town. The night we ate in the small, cheery establishment, Schweitzer toured the room several times, chatting with diners he knew, which seemed to be half the room, while passersby would wave from the sidewalk to friends inside.

Buildings in dowtown dating from the heyday in the late 19th century

Most of downtown dates to the late 1800s

Modern-day Salida plays up its appeal to tourists and relocating retirees, but back in the 1880s, the city boomed for being top post on the main line of the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad. The railroad left in 1950, but mining kept things going until the bust in the 1980s. Despite the recent influx of tourists and new residents, ranching and agriculture remain a mainstay. Signs of both worlds are charmingly evident on downtown streets, as old pickup trucks with ranch mutts barking from the back pass by SUVs sporting shiny bicycles and brightly colored kayaks on their roof racks.

The compact downtown is wonderfully down to earth, not yet having fallen victim to chain stores and developers. Virtually every building in the historic section is more than 100 years old and made of red brick, thanks to a town code that was enacted after fires in the late 1880s destroyed much of the city. We looked out for Victorian homes along side streets, and looked up inside every building we entered. Yep, we’d nod, another gorgeous tin ceiling.

Pauline Brodeur in her art gallery on 151 West 1st Street

Paulette Brodeur in her eclectic art gallery

Salida is building a reputation for its artwork as much as for its outdoor play. Monthly receptions (second Saturdays) have brought the dozen galleries together, and a large three-day art festival among the shops has been held in June for the past 14 years. We were particularly fond of Culture Clash for its mix of works from regional artisans, The Bungled Jungle for its menagerie of crazy creatures, and Brodeur Art Gallery for its amazing mix of media all from one font of creativity, Paulette Brodeur. She had a great show up called “Adventures in Salida,” or, as she put it, “what makes Salida Salida,” with contemporary impressionist paintings of cyclists, kayakers, mountains, and more. Brodeur also decorates lampshades, makes jewelry, and paints funky pet portraits. She even turned her father’s old bomber jacket and her mother’s dilapidated fringe coat into sculptures.

“When I moved here 12 years ago Salida was a ghost town,” said Brodeur, who lives a ways east in rural Cotopaxi. “There wasn’t even a coffee shop. The growth has been gradual. I think this is going to be the year. I love being here and meeting all the people. But when it tips to what I don’t like, I’m outta here.”

If this isn’t “the year” for Salida, it could be 2009, the projected time for environmental artists Christo and Jeanne Claude’s next installation. The pair have a project in the works to hang dancing fabric over eight segments of the Arkansas River, for a total of 7 miles between Canon City and Salida. It’s still in the approval process, but, if it happens, the two-week exhibit is estimated to attract some 250,000 visitors.

But, as that posse from Denver would say, don’t tell anyone.

Thousands join us for mile-high run

December 1, 2008
Diane stays ahead of the pack

Diane stays ahead of the pack.

Wessel and I had a lovely Thanksgiving run in Denver. We’d planned to go alone, but then about 7,600 others joined us. We were in the Mile-High City last week visiting my longtime friend Kelley Griffin. Kel and I met when we worked together at the Patriot Ledger in Quincy, Mass., some 20 years ago (ack). She’s now news director at Colorado Public Radio.

Earlier in the week, Wessel and I spied a park with a dirt running track during a drive downtown. Kel told us it was Washington Park, a city favorite for more than a century. “Wash Park” is pretty amazing. One of Denver’s nicest and largest (165 acres) parks, it has a 2.6-mile jogging path, several gardens, soccer fields, playgrounds, basketball court, horseshoe court, a lawn bowling green, 10 tennis courts, two lakes and a pond. Impressive! The best part for us was it was only a mile from Kel’s house.

Start of the Denver turkey trot

Start of Denver's 35th annual Turkey Trot.

We jogged over around 9:30 Thursday morning, and the closer we got the more people we saw driving or jogging up. Then we started to see people wearing numbers. Turned out it was the 35th annual 4-mile Turkey Trot, a T-Day fund-raiser for Mile High United Way. Runners of all ages and abilities were gathering for the 10:15 start. Luckily, we had just enough time to do our own trot around the dirt trail, passing runners and friends, and dogs of all breeds out with their humans for a stroll. (Of course the dachshund in a red coat was my favorite.)

Joggers wearing turkey hats

Festive trotters in turkey hats.

Around the time we completed the dirt perimeter trail (there’s a shorter paved inside loop as well), the runners were about to start. Even Mayor John W. Hickenlooper was there to cheer them on. As we watched from the side of the road, trotters kept coming and coming and coming. I read in the paper the next day that there were more than 7,600 of them. Some runners took it seriously, while others, sporting turkey hats and even turkey legs/feet, were more interested in the festivities.

Runners during the turkey trot

The things we do to make room for food.

We left feeling like we’d experienced a wonderful slice of Denver life — before trotting back home for our equally wonderful slice of turkey (and ham, stuffing, cranberry sauce, asparagus, potatoes, pumpkin pie, pecan pie ….)