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Colorado Springs woman's dream of a bicycle resort being realized

August 10, 2016 Updated: August 11, 2016 at 1:12 pm
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Amy Seltzer hangs art with a bicycle theme in the lodge of the Buffalo Lodge Bicycle Resort on Wednesday, August 10, 2016. The motel is being converted into bicycle resort. There will be a grand reopening on Friday, August 12. photo by Jerilee Bennett/The Gazette

It started with a dream.  

As she slept one night last spring, bicycle enthusiast Torie Giffin saw a hotel where fellow enthusiasts stayed, with their bikes kept in their ground-level rooms during their riding breaks, with washing and repair stations available to them, along with a lawn where they hung out, brews in hands around fire pits.

Months later, the place appeared to Giffin. During a day ride, she stopped at the parking lot of 2 El Paso Blvd., at the old Buffalo Lodge near Manitou Springs. The place, with its 4 acres of stucco buildings and grassy pads with nearby roads leading to the area's bounty of trails, was for sale.

"I just started bawling," Giffin said said. "I knew it. I just knew it."

After closing on a $1.2 million deal, Giffin is transforming the Buffalo Lodge into the Buffalo Lodge Bicycle Resort. The hotel's lobby today is a blend of its former rustic Western self and its future self, with modern industrial d├ęcor overtaking the space reserved for antiques and taxidermy through the lodge's history. The property was first reserved for hunters in 1919.

Also in the lobby are displayed paintings for this weekend's annual Roll Bicycle Art Festival. On Friday and Saturday, at the end of her eighth week in the owner's office, Giffin is hosting a grand opening. Each day she'll lead rides to the Garden of the Gods from the motel, where she'll show off the vision that came to her in that dream from a year ago.

When she stopped at the lodge during that ride, she called her husband, who was home with their three young children. Judging by her frantic crying, he worried his wife had been hit by a car or something. She told him she'd found the place, that it was selling for $1.2 million.

"OK," he responded, "what's that have to do with us?"

"I mean, we're just regular people," Nathan Giffin, who works for an office supply company, said at the lodge beside his wife, a community relations director at a Chik-fil-A the past six years. "I grew up in a very poor family, as did she."

At the forefront of Torie Giffin's mind was her dream, not the money to make it happen. She put together a fat binder of material, research that supported the idea of a bicycle resort working in town. It included the 2015 study by the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments that found 80,000 cyclists every year visit the region and stay overnight.

"There are a lot of people who want to take their bicycles with them and explore new places on two wheels," said Kate Brady, bicycle planner for the city. "And you hear from people who say things like, 'I went to Portland or Seattle for vacation and decided to move there.' I think it's possible a lot of people would have a great experience at that resort."

Ken Gart, designated last year by Gov. John Hickenlooper as the "bike czar" tasked with making Colorado more bicycle friendly, said the resort goes hand in hand with his goal.

"It's great on all accounts," he said. "It brings more people to the area, more people telling friends about the area. It builds on what we're trying to do."

And it's happening thanks to investments from friends and family, including Torie Giffin's mother, her favorite cycling partner growing up. The Giffins came up with 20 percent to buy the $1.2 million lodge. To secure a bank loan, they posted their home along with all of their other assets as collateral.

"We're risking everything that we planned for our future on a pretty big gamble," Torie Giffin said.

Is it worth it? She and her husband looked at each other one recent afternoon and smiled. The 46-room hotel had been sold out every weekend they'd been there, and they'd employed nine, and they'd replaced four A/C units and five televisions, and considerable maintenance was needed on washing machines and plumbing.

"It'll be worth it after one year," Nathan Giffin said.

By then, through fundraising efforts, the hope is to install a patio-side tap room as well as a stage on a lawn beside the pool where bands can play. By then, hopefully all rooms will be closer to being fully remodeled and renovated.

Hopefully in a year, it'll look closer to Torie Giffin's dream.

"I feel like this was my destiny," she said. "I was meant to do this."

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