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Colorado 500 rolls into 44th year with nearly 200 participants
colorado 500
Photo by Janet Anderson The ride, which included a poker run, started Monday from the Inn at Aspen.

And on the third day they rose again to face the rigors and riot of riding the trails during the 2019 Colorado 500, the invitational, charitable event founded 44 years ago by Wally Dallenbach, the decorated motorsports driver and longtime resident of the Fryingpan Valley.

This year the five-day ride, which launched Monday from the Inn at Aspen and includes stops in Crested Butte and Ouray, will return to Aspen on Aug. 23 for its grand finale. A total of 192 registered riders are traversing through central Colorado during the multi-day event, most of whom have been down this road or path before. Today’s Colorado 500 has grown by leaps and bounds from the modest inaugural ride which initially attracted just a handful of friends.

“It’s the best week of the year,” said three-time Colorado 500 veteran and Dallas resident Grant Wood (who may or may not be related to the artist of the same name).

Organizers stress that the ride is not a race, but instead a fun fundraiser that has attracted a domestic and international following of multi-generational loyalists. Several attendees during the Aug. 18 kick-off party referred to their cohorts as akin to family.

colo 500
Photo by Janet Anderson Participants departed from Crested Butte on Tuesday en route to Ouray. Both communities are popular stops for the tour and both towns benefit from the Colorado 500’s largesse.
The event’s altruistic arm, which has been in place since 1981, supports charity, ministries including Grace Church Basalt and Stepping Stones for Patrick’s Place, and college scholarships. 

According to information provided by Colorado 500 spokeswoman Janet Lohman, the charity fund distributions for 2019 totaled more than $81,000 as of Aug. 18. On top of $42,000 in college scholarships granted to the Basalt High School class of 2019 were donations that included $1,500 each to Basalt Elementary, Basalt Middle School and Basalt High School, plus another $300 to BHS’ Project Graduation. Organizations in Crested Butte, Ouray, Montrose and Lake City are among others to receive a grant in 2019.

“It means so much to me,” said BHS co-valedictorian Megan Maley, of the financial support she received from the Colorado 500 that has been applied to her tuition at Scripps College in Claremont, Calif.

During the Colorado 500’s opening night party, Maley, who also rides dirt bikes, said “being part of the Colorado 500 family is such an honor.” 

“Team Ted,” a group of participants led by a 92-year-old veteran Colorado 500 rider, were keen to raise funds for Maley this year.

Rolling with it

The 44th annual event was the 13th go-round of the Colorado 500 for Jim Lattimore of Franklin, Tenn.

“This is one of the great events of this type,” said Lattimore, who is riding the Colorado 500 with his wife, Joey, for the first time in 2019. (No amateurs, the couple recently completed a ride in Argentina.)

Wally and Peppy Dollenbach
Photo by Janet Anderson Wally and Peppy Dallenbach, pictured at their property outside Basalt on Monday, rolled out the welcome wagon for participants of the 44th annual Colorado 500.
“Every day you get to look at the most beautiful scenery around,” Lattimore said of the Colorado 500.

He did allow that it isn’t always smooth sailing on the back of a bike. One year, following a heavy summer storm, a trail outside Crested Butte that was rideable earlier in the day became impassable.

“After quite a bit of rain, the beavers had taken possession of the trail,” Lattimore said. No one was hurt, however, and the Star Trail saga has made for a fine recurring tale of life along the Colorado 500.

Closer to home, the anecdotes surrounding the Colorado 500 tell a story of donations with a purpose.

According to a Basalt Middle School spokesperson, the charitable funds provided by this longstanding event support initiatives that might otherwise not get funded. In 2019 they are being used for teacher book study materials, student math enrichment and intervention opportunities. 

The Colorado 500 distributions also come in handy for a teacher who might need something during the year that’s not otherwise in the budget, it was noted.