Adventures in life and photography out West

Posts tagged “Estes Park

The rest of the story

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When we left our heroes, they were being buffeted and blown all over Trail Ridge Road’s highest points by gale-force winds . . .

We were never so happy to get down and back into trees. And while the wind persisted all the way into Estes Park, it was never so bad as on the alpine tundra.

Riders arrived just in time to see one of my favorite weekly events, the Estes Valley Farmers Market, as the market was closing for the day. The town wanted to make room for the riders events later in the evening.

Local bands, including Amplified Soul, performed for the riders as local venders offered their wares. It was fun but it was a brief night, as most riders were tired from the short but challenging day through the park.

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Donald at the Estes Valley Farmers Market.

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Amplified Soul plays at the RTR event in Estes Park.

This particular stop was the whole reason I could not resist the pull of RTR this year. This was the chance to show off my little town. I have lived in Estes Park for 16 years and love promoting it. I also got to sleep in my own bed, and offer Donald a spare bed. It made for a wonderful night’s sleep ahead of the Grand Arrival, the final day of riding.

The last day of RTR2016 was a relatively short 51 miles. Starting in Estes Park, we rolled down the Big Thompson Canyon. The long line of riders snaked and plunged through the canyon, tracing the Big Thompson River until the famous and popular Masonville ride. Riders ambled through the countryside west of Loveland toward Horsetooth Reservoir. Then, the final climbs.

Horsetooth consists of four hard, steep, short climbs. All of them between 6-10 percent. A bit of a sting in the legs. After the last descent around the north end of the reservoir, riders enjoyed a sort of precession through the beautiful neighborhood on Mountain Avenue, eastward into Old Town Fort Collins. We rolled into O’Dell Brewery for food, entertainment and closing festivities.

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Donald Lewis and the author pose at the finish in Fort Collins.

After a week of riding and more than 400 miles, we had arrived; tired, short on sleep and as happy as we could be. The arrival is always bitter-sweet.

We see each other for one week, once a year. We share stories, we catch up on lives outside of the tour, and for a week, we are a large, rolling family reunion. When we roll into the final stop, we have to say our good-byes.

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Betsy, the Tour Assistant.

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Renee, Community Relations Manager.

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Liz, the Event Coordinator.

One good-bye was going to be a bit more permanent. Tour Director Chandler Smith was stepping down after eight years. Chandler challenged riders and adapted to last-minute challenges, himself. Just in my five additions, Chandler had to change two tour routes due to wildfires, and had to sag riders all along the Berthoud Pass climb on the first day of the 2014 RTR. He has served us well and advanced the RTR, improving the event and, hopefully, improving relations with the beautiful little towns in this amazing state.

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Ride the Rockies has been a great tour for a long time. Each rout, even when closely paralleling previous routs, offer a new adventure. Chandler, Renee, Liz, Betsy and the army of volunteers, once again, gave riders a week to remember, about which to reminisce, and stories to retell.What more could we want. Thanks for the memories, and may luck smile on you, Chandler.

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Have fun, be safe. I’m going riding.


One More Time!

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Saturday, February 6, was the day of the Ride the Rockies Route Announcement Party. For the second time in five years, Ride the Rockies will traverse the highest paved highway pass road in North America, Trail Ridge Road. I’m excited because, of course, the “Big Road” is in my back yard, almost literally. It’s a relatively short route, at 403 miles over six days, but it’s also going to be beautiful!

The route will closely resemble the one I first rode, five years ago. This one begins in beautiful Carbondale on Sunday, June 12. Day one rolls from Carbondale to the famous ski town of Aspen. Chandler and the crew are easing us into the race as the two towns are only 50 miles apart. Mile for mile, however, it is a stunning ride.

Walt Hester - Maroon Bells

The ride rolls down the Roaring Fork River along a trail that runs from Glenwood Springs to Aspen past the Maroon Bells. Of course, one would need to take a side trip to get the beautiful view.

Day two, Monday, June 13, might be the Queen Stage, beginning in Aspen, riders nearly immediately start the 85-mile day climbing. And this is not just any climb. This is 19 miles and 4,000 feet of climbing. It averages somewhere in the neighborhood of 5%. The last three miles are the worst at around 7% to the top of Independence Pass. After that, it’s a fast dive down to Twin Lakes.

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From the lakes, riders take a left and head to the highest incorporated town in North America, Leadville, at 10,152 feet. This year, the ride passes through on to Fremont Pass, 12 miles averaging 1.5%, maxing out at 7% and 11,318 feet. Riders bomb down the north side of the pass into Copper Mountain Resort.

Copper Flowers

For the past two RTRs, the ride has taken an extra day in one of the towns. Two years ago, we stayed an extra day in Steamboat Springs. Last year, we rode from Grand Junction, through the Colorado National Monument and back. This season, Day 3, June 14, the route takes an extra day in Copper Mountain Resort to tackle the Copper Triangle. The 78-mile route takes riders back over Fremont Pass, past Leadville, over Battle Mountain and Tennessee Pass, over the Red Cliff Bridge, through Minturn and Vail and finally over Vail Pass before returning to Copper.

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On Day 4, June 15, riders descend a snaking bike trail from Copper to Frisco, past Dillon Lake, through Silverthorn and north to Ute Pass. Four years ago, Chandler and the gang took riders over gravel roads into Kremmling. The route is now part of RTR lore. This time around, riders will see some of those same roads, eventually taking riders into the remote resort town of Grand Lake. This is tied with Day Two as the longest-milage day at 85 miles.

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This takes us to Day 5, June 16, and the whole reason that I can’t possibly miss this ride. It’s a short day at only 49 miles, but it’s over the famous Trail Ridge Road; more than 20 miles of climbing at around 4.5% to over 12,100 feet above sea level. The climb takes riders from the shore of Grand Lake, through arid pine meadows, through aspen stands, past the habitat of moose, elk and big horn sheep, eventually out onto the alpine tundra. Riders enjoy views of the Never Summer Range, the Continental Divide, Forest Canyon, Rock Cut, as well as the Alpine Visitor Center, Rainbow Curve and the fast, winding descent into my town, Estes Park.

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Longs From Rock Cut

Home of the world-famous, and slightly creepy Stanley Hotel, Estes Park made a big deal out of hosting the 2012 RTR. My town had a big party with local musicians and great food. My town knows how to entertain.

As luck would have it, the ride comes through Estes Park on a Thursday, which is Farmers’ Market Day, so be sure to swing by Bond Park as you arrive to get some refueling goodies.

Farmers' Market

Come see our town, our fun and my favorite bike shop, the Via Bicycle Cafe! Come get coffee, pie, BBQ, all great in Estes Park. Yes, I’m biased, but I love this town and you will, too.

Amplified Soul

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Riders enjoy Friday, June 17, Day 6’s mostly-downhill ride out Devils Gulch and the Switchbacks, through Glen Haven, through local rider-favorite Masonville, around Horsetooth Reservoir and finally, into Fort Collins.

Pro Wmn at Horsetooth

The six-day ride will reward any rider fit enough to make the journey, with vistas, new friends and great stories. I love this ride and would urge any rider to register  the lottery before February 28. The organizers, Chandler Smith, Renee Wheelock, Liz Brown and an army (that’s no exaggeration) of volunteers, work hard to put on a great ride and I have never been disappointed. It will be the most challenging, most enjoyable week of your riding season.

Have fun, be safe. I’m going training!

Ride Organizers

 


New adventures 

I’m working a lot lately. Facing some challenges that I’m happy to have. I haven’t posted in a while. Just tying, as I often do, to find time and just do it.

One new challenge is riding rollers. A friend gave me a set about a year ago, but I never got the technique until this week. I hope to get a bunch of miles on the rollers as the winter snow stubbornly hangs on.

Another project has been recording interviews at my local bike shop. Via Bicycle Cafe is the lone dedicated shop in Estes Park and I really want it to thrive.

The shop not only sells Scott, Salsa and Colnago bikes, Stefano Tomasello, the owner, is a pro wrench and a Cat 2 racer. He hopes to gain enough points this season to move up to Cat 1 before ending his competitive cycling career.

The other side of the shop is a great coffee bar. Stef serves locally-roasted Notch Top coffee, as well as a variety of goodies for riders. Stef takes as much pride in making a great cup of coffee as he does working on bikes. I hope to get plenty of rides in with Stef and the bike community that has quickly sprung up around his shop.

I plan to have more on the shop, but until then, have fun, be safe. I’m going riding.

 

A trio from Estes Park pedals toward the Old Fall River Road in Rocky Mountain National Park.

A trio from Estes Park pedals toward the Old Fall River Road in Rocky Mountain National Park.

 

Stefano Tomasello, foreground, points back toward town on the Old Fall River Road. Stef's idea in opening his shop was to provide a hub for the local cycling community.

Stefano Tomasello, foreground, points back toward town on the Old Fall River Road. Stef’s idea for opening his shop was to provide a hub for the local cycling community.

 

Josh Cramer, left, owner/operator of Notch Top Coffee, and high school cyclist Jeremy Norris, mill about Via Bicycle Cafe last fall. The shop is as much about the cycling community as it is the bikes.

Josh Cramer, left, owner/operator of Notch Top Coffee, and high school cyclist Jeremy Norris, mill about Via Bicycle Cafe last fall. The shop is as much about the cycling community as it is the bikes.

 

Tomasello brews a cup of coffee in what he describes as a giant Keurig machine. Stef, as he is called by much of the community, is as passionate about coffee as he is cycling.

Tomasello brews a cup of coffee in what he describes as a giant Keurig machine. Stef, as he is called by much of the community, is as passionate about coffee as he is cycling.

 

Holiday cookies bare Italian national colors and an approximation of the shop jersey. While Via has been open to the public for less than six months, the local community has embraced the shop.

Holiday cookies bare Italian national colors and an approximation of the shop jersey. While Via has been open to the public for less than six months, the local community has embraced the shop.

 

Jeremy Norris, member of the Estes Park High School mountain bike team, shows off his medal from the Colorado State Cyclocross Championships. Via has quickly become that spot to celebrate achievement and share stories.

Jeremy Norris, member of the Estes Park High School mountain bike team, shows off his medal from the Colorado State Cyclocross Championships. Via has quickly become that spot to celebrate achievement and share stories.

 

Steven Wens, Belgian national and Estes Park resident, holds a cookie with the Belgian colors at Via after the Colorado State Cyclocross Championships. Cyclists of all abilities have embraced Via for it's friendly vibe, as well as great, locally roasted coffee.

Steven Wens, Belgian national and Estes Park resident, holds a cookie with the Belgian colors at Via after the Colorado State Cyclocross Championships. Cyclists of all abilities have embraced Via for it’s friendly vibe, as well as great, locally roasted coffee.

 

Stef sits on what has become his shop's trade mark pink couch. As his name implies, Tomasello is Italian, by heritage, and loves the iconic hue of the Giro d'Italia.

Stef sits on what has become his shop’s trade mark pink couch. As his name implies, Tomasello is Italian, by heritage, and loves the iconic hue of the Giro d’Italia.

 

Stef pulls an espresso shot for an eager customer. In addition to several bicycle brands, Tomasello also sells high-end espresso machines.

Stef pulls an espresso shot for an eager customer. In addition to several bicycle brands, Tomasello also sells high-end espresso machines.

 


Vincero!!

May is painted pink on the international cycling calendar. Pink is the color of victory. Pink is the color of triumph. Pink is the color of legend in Italy.

The Giro d’Italia is slated to begin next Saturday along the Mediterranean coast with a team time trial, as this race so often does. For those of us just escaping winter’s icy grip, or those still trying to shake it off, the palm trees of Sanremo are the signs of hope, of the summer soon to arrive. To see the tight, double-paceline of the team time trial blasting past the sea and the swaying palms brings lightness to hearts and freshness to tired legs, as well as a new vision to eyes too long inside on the stationary trainer.

One of Italy’s favorite sons, and 2013 champion, Vincenzo Nibali, has chosen to focus all energies on the Tour this year, so there will be no pink and Astana turquoise this season. Nairo Quintana of Movistar and Sky’s Chris Froome have also decided to skip the Giro to better prepare for the TdF.

All eyes will be on a different Spaniard as El Pistolero, Alberto Contador, attempts the Giro-Tour double. Contador will lead a slightly disheveled Tinkoff-Saxo squad through Italy without the help of master tactician and team founder Bjarne Riis. Riis was jettisoned from the squad after a falling-out with Olag Tinkoff, the team owner. In spite of being the Yankees of the cycling world with such stars as Contador, former two-time Giro champ Ivan Basso and Slovakian sprinter Peter Sagan, the team has little to show for their extravagant payroll. I suppose that makes them more like the Knicks than the Yankees.

A bit of history; the last Giro-Tour double-winner was tragic cycling hero Marco Pantani. Il Pirata took both grand tours in 1998, forever sealing the little climber’s name in cycling lore. Unfortunately, the diminutive, enigmatic Italian was booted from the Giro in 1999 at Madonna di Campiglio, for doping, with one mountain stage remaining and while wearing the Maglia Rosa. He was suspended from competition for the remainder of that season, and while his career never fully recovered, he had enough fire in his heart and his legs to treat cycling fans to an epic battle with fellow doper Lance Armstrong during the 2000 TdF. The little pirate would die of a massive cocaine overdose, alone in a Rimini, Italy, hotel room on St. Valentine’s Day, 2004.

Now I can not officially endorse using the Shimano Ultegra 11-32 cassette with the top-of-the-line Dura Ace derailleur. One should probably take the advice of the experts and manufacturers and buy the Ultegra long-cage rear derailleur, as it is designed to fit this cassette. So, pay no attention to me when I say WOW DO I LOVE THE WAY THIS SETUP WORKS!

I had a tough Ride the Rockies last year when, on day one, we climbed out of Boulder and up the 11,306-foot Berthoud Pass. Snow and the climb made for achy knees. Day four involved an interminable climb from State Bridge to Avon. My knees have never hurt quite so much. This is when I vowed to get a better climbing gear. So I have.

I actually have all of the proper equipment. I have the Ultegra derailleur in a box in the workshop. I just don’t want to haul it to Boulder to have it put on. I could do the job, but I don’t want to replace cables and housing, for which, again, I would want to travel to Boulder, about 36 miles down the canyon. So far, I have had no shifting issues. I have not taken it out on anything truly steep, yet. I hope to do that next week. I’ll let you know how it goes.

While pink is the color of May, July is decidedly yellow. So is my team’s jerseys for July’s Children’s Hospital Colorado Foundation Courage Classic. That’s officially how one is supposed to mention the event on first reference. I’ve been in “The Media” for a while. So the Courage Classic is a fund-raising event for the hospital foundation. It’s a great organization, a good cause and probably the best ride I do each year. I mention it now because I need to start raising donations.

The Courage Classic itself is the payoff for raising funds. It’s three days of riding through the heart of Colorado’s ski country, as well as at least one classic route. This year’s ride starts, as it did last season, with the Copper Triangle; 80 miles from Copper Mountain Resort, up to Leadville, the highest town in North America at 10,200 feet, down through Minturn, through Vail, and up the steeper west side of Vail Pass, before plunging back down into Copper.

Day two is a bit different than in years past. This year, riders will start in Copper, zip down the bike path to Frisco and Dillon, around the east side of Lake Dillon, on to Keystone, over Swan Mountain, through Breckenridge, then up Hoosier Pass, then returning to Breck and finishing in Copper.

Day three is relatively short, just about 35 miles from Copper to Breck and back to Copper for the final BBQ party.
If you are interested in joining the team, we are Team Estes and have been together in various forms for six years. We tend to be pretty small, but we have a great time. The ride runs from Saturday, July 18, through Monday, July 20, based out of Copper Mountain Resort in Summit County, Colorado.

Follow this link to donate to our team for the ride. Thanks for your support.

I still have about two weeks before I can test out my new Shimano Sports Camera and its iPhone app. I still have to buy the tiny media card. When I do finally get the card, I will be sure to record one of my favorite descents to test it out, then post here.

Until then, have fun, be safe. I’m going riding!

My team's 2015 jersey, by Pactimo.

My team’s 2015 jersey, by Pactimo. My design!


Starting anew!

I’m on the couch, with my winter tights on, watching Stage One of the Tour Down Under, getting excited about the eventual coming of spring. While we have sunshine here at 7,522 feet, clouds are building and snow is on the way. It’s January. What do you expect?

I’m starting to receive invitations to all of the great summer rides: Ride the Rockies, Elephant Rock, Copper Triangle. I also have a new ride. After crushing my frame last year, a horrible roof-rack related incident, I picked up a frame at VeloSwap in October. SportsGarage hung my Dura-Ace 9000 parts on it and I’m ready to ride . . . when the weather is. I have plenty of warm clothing, so that should be today.

Meanwhile, I’m starting to ramp up my training. The CrossFit Open registration opened last week. I intend to participate. It is great for both building strength and stamina, as well as fulfilling me need to compete. I have been hurt doing CrossFit, but nothing worse than putting equal intensity into my riding.

I have a buddy who decries CrossFit, stating it’s dangerous and that you will suffer a serious injury doing it. That is not my experience over the last five years. My posture has improved, my knees feel better, my shoulders feel better, when I ride hard, I recover faster than I used to, and when I crash, and I do occasionally crash, the injuries are not as bad. While your results may very, I’ve had great trainers with a focus on form and technique. The folks at CrossFit Estes Park have been fantastic. By the way, it seems to work for Evelyn Stevens.

While I acknowledge that CrossFit is not for everyone, neither is P90X, mixed martial arts, self-coaching or, for that matter, beer. Not everyone who drinks beer developed a problem. I do. Just because I have a problem with beer does not mean I will bash beer, in general. I just won’t drink. If you have a bad coach, in any discipline, you will likely get hurt. If you have a good coach, you will be built up slowly and taught good technique and form and you won’t get hurt. Pretty simple.

Well, the historic September floods in Colorado have severely limited the riding opportunities around Northern Colorado. The Big Thompson Canyon between Estes Park and Loveland is closed to cyclists. Much of the pavement from Drake in the canyon to Glen Haven is still missing. Even the Peak to Peak Highway has signs state “Ride at your own risk” for cyclists. It’s a sad state. It could be a year or more before the canyons are back to normal. Hopefully, with the rebuilding, some routes might be better.

In Colorado, the law states that whenever a road is rebuilt, it is required to have a wider, rider-friendly shoulder. This is something that would never have happened in much of the foothills without the disaster. Neither money nor political will was evident in improving the roads to be bike-friendly. Ironically, the very thing that mountain folk dislike about cyclists, getting in their way, could be remedied by the improvements.

Much of the Peak to Peak Highway in Larimer County, and most of the North St. Vrain Canyon, aka US 36, were without shoulders, putting riders into the lane of traffic. While perfectly legal, drivers often took exception to the relatively slow pace of cyclists, especially when traffic was heavy in both directions. A legitimate shoulder should help. I hold out hope.

Meanwhile, I’m off to my first outdoor ride of the year on the new steed. I hope you have the chance to do the same.

Have fun, be safe. I’m going riding.

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The volunteers and staff of the 2013 Ride the Rockies in Salida. May we see you all again soon!


Fending off cold

So, I picked up a generic carbon frame, Step, at VeloSwap this year. I’m not sure what to expect, but I will tell you as soon as I can. I took it down to Boulder’s Sports Garage on Wednesday. The other thing I will get to comment on is the Pro Bike Fit. I have no doubt the resulting fit will be great. It will merely be a matter of how great. I will have a new Specialized saddle and a new handlebar, as well as position. We’ll see how it goes.

I’m looking at a bunch of fun stuff for winter training. While down in Boulder, I picked up the Pearl Izumi Elite AmFib tights for $170. It has a laminated finish across the front of the legs and on the butt to protect the rider against road spray. Just sitting around in them, yes, I’m just sitting around while writing this, they feel snug and warm. They also have a gaiter and cuff at the bottom. They have a strategically-placed flag over the top of the actual tights, where the suspenders begin. As I have not ridden in them, yet, I can’t comment on the chamois, other than identifying it as their Elite 3D. So far, so good. I will wear them in Estes Park’s infamous wind probably right after completing this entry.

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I have a thing for high-end bike clothes, but my beautiful wife is in charge of the money. And for good reason. So, I pick and choose which high-end stuff I get. I have been riding in the cold with the Rapha deep winter cycling cap for the last year. It is great. The web site claims it is windproof and water resistant. I can agree, as I’ve ridden with it through the late fall, this year and the late winter, last year. The liner is Marino wool. When you sweat in it, take it off for a while, then put it back on, it can feel damp and cold. Once back on, it keeps your head good and warm. The brim is long enough to block sun and snow from the top of your glasses, but not so long as to block your view. The back and side fabric, described as the rearguard, is ribbed and comfy, not restricting head and neck movement. Black and understated, it will match anything. It’s a bit pricy at $80, but a quality piece of cycleware. I have washed it over and over in the last year and it has pilled, a bit, but has retained its shape. Don’t put it through the dryer, however. The insert in the bill will likely be ruined.

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My town is slowly coming around. By Monday, November 4, US 36, linking Estes Park to Lyons, will reopen, about one month ahead of time. The Colorado and Utah National Guards have done great things in help us link more directly with the rest of the world.I plan to get out in the next few days, before the road opens, to ride the road at least half way down, to about Pinewood Springs. I’m hoping there is more of a shoulder to the road, as I’ve wanted to ride the 20-mile stretch for years. The lack of any real shoulder is a big deterrent for me, however. It will be very nice to only drive 45 minutes to Boulder next week, in stead of the 90 minutes it now takes.

We still have a month until the Big Thompson Canyon opens. We don’t know when Devils Gulch Road, the road through Glen Haven, will be open. We’ll hope for the best.

Come up and see Estes Park, by two wheels or four. It is still a beautiful little town and worth the drive. On Friday, November 29, Estes Park celebrates the Holiday season with our Catch the Glow Parade. Bundle up, as it’s after dark, but it is filled with lighted floats and a child-like innocence. Afterward, plenty of restaurants have reopened for the visitors and could really use the business. Come see us.

Have fun, be safe. I’m going riding. 


Frost on the Pumpkin

So, it’s getting chilly here at 7,522 feet, and my career path change has given me the opportunity to commute by bike. Up here, this time of the year, there will be times in the commute when bundling and lighting up are necessary. My shift starts at 2 p.m. and lasts to 10:30 p.m. When I’m done, it’s cold and dark. This gives me the chance to put a few items through their paces.

The first thing I worry about, no matter the season, is seeing and being seen. I’ve been hit by a car once. I saw it coming, so I was able to take measures to minimize damage. What it came down to was that the driver did not see me. Head lights in 1995 were not as bright for as reasonable a price as they are today. The old head light I probably picked up at Olympus Cycles in Omaha, Nebraska took four “AA” batteries, had an incandescent bulb and a running time of possibly two or three hours. Not good in a Midwest mid-February.

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My current head light is the Cygolite Pace 750. With 750 lumens (candle power) at it’s brightest setting, it is plenty bright for commuting. It comes with a Li-Ion battery that charges via USB cable in the light housing. The mount is an adjustable quick release, so it fits multiple handlebars. The LED light’s highest (Boost) mode lasts for 90 minutes, while the lowest of the eight settings (day pulse) will go for 22 hours. I was so impressed that I recently purchased the CygoLite helmet mount and an additional CygoLite 800 OSP LED light. It has not arrived, so that review has to wait.

My little town is slowly returning to normal. My neighborhood should have the flush ban lifted in the next two weeks. One annual event that goes on is tonight’s Shining Ball at the Stanley Hotel. The hotel was the inspiration for Stephen King’s famous horror classic, though the best-know Stanley Kubric movie was filmed in Oregon, while the mini-series was returned to the hotel that inspired the book. The event is a nod to King, as well as a chance for grown ups to dress up and act out alter-egos. My wife and her best friend are doing Mexican Dia de los Muertos “sugar scull” costumes while I will wear my usual horns. The ball has been sold out for weeks, so I don’t feel bad about writing now, but be ready. Imagine a great costume and get tickets for next year.

Have fun, be safe. I’m going riding.