Durango celebrates Pro Cycling Challenge

George Banker, left, sporting a Colorado flag painted on his face by a volunteer for the Liberty School, and James Irish await the peloton at the USA Pro Cycling Challenge while enjoying a fundraiser for the Fort Lewis College national cycling champions. Enlarge photo

ANN BUTLER/Durango Herald

George Banker, left, sporting a Colorado flag painted on his face by a volunteer for the Liberty School, and James Irish await the peloton at the USA Pro Cycling Challenge while enjoying a fundraiser for the Fort Lewis College national cycling champions.

It’s easy to be blasé about Durango – the best this, the most outstanding that, an Olympian over there, a world champion here. But Monday morning, the mood was electric as the crowd prepared to view the world’s best cyclists riding down our streets and avenues.

The Fort Lewis College Foundation took the opportunity to raise money for the reigning Division I national cycling champions, the FLC Skyhawks, who also made a ride down Main Ave., by setting up bleachers on 12th Street between Guido’s Favorite Foods and the Bank of Colorado.

Silver package holders sat in the bleachers and enjoyed a “sack breakfast” of a ham and cheese sandwich on flatbread, a caprese salad of tomato, basil and mozzarella and orange biscotti.

Gold package holders sat on the piazza at Guido’s, toasting the race with mimosas while noshing on focaccia, caprese and upscale ham and cheese sandwiches – paninis made with rosemary ham and provolone.

But what all of us enjoyed was some of the “best seats in the house” for the two “lazy” laps and the beginning of the road race to Telluride. It didn’t matter whether you were a cycling aficionado or a complete ignoramus like yours truly, it was a thing of beauty to watch the peloton, or main pack of cyclists, speed past.

(Thankfully, I’m not as much of an ignoramus as I was last week at this time, thanks to my colleagues at the Herald who put together that nifty pullout section about the event.)

While I don’t watch a lot of cycling on TV, there’s something mesmerizing about watching the breakaways, the sprints and the riders jockeying for position. Although we only got to see a very small part of the race, that was all happening as we watched them speed past on the final, actual race lap. And there’s no real way to understand their speed without seeing them live and in motion. Holy cow!

I know so many people who left town or stayed home to “avoid the hassle,” but they also missed out on all the fun. This kind of event is something we do really well as a community, and our community had a lot vested in making it a success.

Special kudos go to event co-chairwomen Mary Monroe and Sherri Dugdale, who worked more hours than any of us will ever be able to comprehend to make this a success. I’m hoping they’re sitting on a beach somewhere sipping a drink with a little umbrella in it.

Thanks to the almost 60 members of the organizing committee, who logged some serious time themselves. Bravos to our friends at Fort Lewis College, who opened their campus to house 850 cyclists and support staff as well as several events, just as school was set to start. It’s impossible to list the businesses and organizations that supported the challenge, but every one of them made a difference.

And finally, to the more than 1,200 volunteers who flagged, drove, set up, cleaned up and performed the myriad tasks that made it all work, you’re the reason Durango is so great.

Congratulations to all of you for a job beautifully done.

Now, ride, Tom Danielson, ride.

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Celebrating the last of the Virgo birthdays are Katie Patton, Bob Newlin, NoelPeterson, Bailey Smith, Cliff Summers, Tom West, Brian Zink, JoaniePetersen-Thomas, Tom Creyer, Judy Resner, Dan Osby, Kathy Pratt and Mickey White.

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Celebrity sightings aren’t unusual here, where people stop through to make movies or attend events. But Louis L’Amour didn’t just stop through, he made summer in Durango a part of his family’s life.

Sitting in Room 222 at the Strater Hotel, he wrote a number of short stories and novels, including many in his famous Sackett series, here. He was inspired, he said, by the music on the honky-tonk piano drifting up from the Diamond Belle Saloon.

The Strater already has designated Room 222 as the Louis L’Amour Room, but now it has achieved national recognition as a Literary Landmark by the Association of Library Trustees, Advocates, Friends and Foundations.

The bronze plaque will be dedicated next to the room at 2 p.m. Saturday, and L’Amour’s widow, Kathy, is planning to attend.

Literary Landmarks were founded in 1986, with the first dedication at Slip F18 in Bahia Mar, Fla., the anchorage of the Busted Flush, the houseboat home of Travis McGee. (Mystery lovers will recognize McGee as the protagonist in John D. McDonald’s books.)

More than 100 sites have since received the designation, with only one other in Colorado – the Thomas Hornsby Ferril House in Denver. (He was Colorado’s first poet laureate and was highly esteemed by Robert Frost and Carl Sandburg.)

Our own claim to literary fame did more and was recognized more than most of us know. In addition to winning every writing award out there and selling millions upon millions of books, L’Amour was awarded both the Congressional Gold Medal and the Medal of Freedom. President Ronald Reagan presented him with both medals in less than one year.

My personal favorite of his books is Education of a Wandering Man, an ode to L’Amour’s passion for learning and reading.

It seems appropriate that a Literary Landmark be part of our historic landmark hotel, and during the hotel’s 125th anniversary year, no less.

I’ll see y’all there.

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Whether you’ve already visited the exhibit “Quilts; Where History Meets Art” at the Animas Museum or have been thinking about it, but haven’t quite made it, Saturday’s your last chance.

The museum, 3065 West Second Ave., is holding a closing reception from 1 to 3 p.m. for the exhibit, which showcases quilts connected to the history of La Plata County. To sweeten the pot, so to speak, two new quilts will be displayed before all the fragile textiles go to protective storage.

One, from 1904, was donated by the Aspaas family just recently. The other, which was a donation a little earlier this summer and joined the exhibit for its last few weeks, was donated by the family of Bessie Finnegan. Rose Lewis, Finnegan’s mother, made the “Court House Steps” patterned quilt in the early 1900s. Finnegan worked as a nurse at the Ochsner and Mercy hospitals during World War II. Her diaries are part of the museum’s permanent collection.

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These couples are celebrating their anniversaries as summer fun ends and school begins – Peter and Liza Tregillus, Mark and Sue Chiarito, Don and BarbaraBruning and Doug and Kelly Miller.

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