Inmate charged in flood released |

Inmate charged in flood released

Fixing flood damage allegedly caused by an inmate at the Pitkin County Jail last week is now estimated to cost $50,000, though that number is guaranteed to increase, officials said Monday.

Meanwhile, a District Court judge allowed the inmate who allegedly caused the damage by breaking off a sprinkler head out of jail Monday on a $3,000 personal recognizance bond.

That means Benjamin Garrett, 32, had to put up no money to get out of jail despite the fact that he reportedly fought violently with law enforcement personnel, has been charged with three felonies and allegedly caused a flood that knocked out law enforcement communications, forced the permanent relocation of the county’s 911 call center and will cost tens of thousands of dollars to fix.

District Judge Denise Lynch said she was releasing Garrett on the PR bond because he has no prior criminal history and plans to remain in the Roaring Fork Valley.

Garrett said in court Monday that he’s “recently unemployed” but has worked previously as a chef at two Carbondale restaurants. He also said he has no place to live, has been staying with friends lately and has no family in the area.

“I’m not a danger to the community,” said Garrett, who was initially arrested Wednesday for possession of methamphetamine. He now also faces charges of felony assault and criminal mischief.

Garrett was arrested Wednesday night after he called emergency dispatchers and reported that a group of 30 people representing a “crime ring” were trying to illegally tow his car, according to a police report. An Aspen police officer who responded wrote in the report that Garrett’s story had no merit “and that he either had a mental health issue or was on something,” the report states.

Garrett also volunteered that he had methamphetamine and a meth pipe in his pocket, which earned him a trip to the Pitkin County Jail on the drug charge, according to the report.

Then about 3:30 a.m., a jail deputy got on the police radio and requested help moving an inmate who was flooding his cell, according to second police report filed in District Court on Friday. Garrett had clogged the sink drain in his cell with an article of clothing and turned the water on full, said Jail Administrator Don Bird.

An Aspen police officer and a Pitkin County sheriff’s deputy responded and were told Garrett “was acting extremely strange” and needed to be moved because of the flood he caused, the report states. Garrett eventually agreed to move to another cell and the two law enforcement officers left the jail, according to the report.

Five minutes later, however, the jail deputy radioed for help again, and the two officers returned to find a “massive amount of water spraying inside of the cell from the area of the bathroom,” the report states.

The sheriff’s office allowed a reporter to view a video of the incident Monday, though Sheriff Joe DiSalvo declined to immediately release the video publicly.

The video shows Aspen police Officer Walter Chi pushing Garrett inside the holding cell and shutting the door. About 4 1/2 minutes later, Garrett can be seen prying a metal vent grate off the ceiling. He takes the vent cover into the bathroom and returns to the cell area. There are no cameras inside the bathroom, but presumably Garrett destroyed the sprinkler head with the vent cover because as soon as he returns to the cell, brown water begins flowing across the cell floor, according to the video.

At that point, Garrett became “increasingly aggressive towards officers” and began “screaming unintelligible things at the officers and refused to cooperate with their verbal commands,” according to the police report. The video doesn’t contain audio, but Garrett can be seen smashing the vent cover against the cell’s windows and door as officers on the other side point at him and yell.

Garrett covers his nose with his shirt at one point, probably because the water flowing into the cell has been sitting in the pipes for years, perhaps decades, and doesn’t smell good, according to the video and DiSalvo.

For the next 20 minutes or so, water continues to gush into the cell, while Garrett intermittently uses the vent cover to try and pry unknown objects off the cell ceiling and cut holes in the mattress, and officers on the other side bark orders at him. Officers also called in other deputies to help with the situation during that time, the report states.

Finally, Deputy Marcin Debski can be seen standing outside the cell door, clearly telling Garrett, who doesn’t have the vent cover in hand at the time, to get away from the door and lay down on the bed. Garrett ignores those orders and Debski turns and tells a jail deputy behind him to open the cell door, according to the video.

Garrett is standing in front of the door as it opens and hesitates for a split second when he sees Debski. Then he raises both hands to Debski’s neck and tries to choke him, according to the video and the police report. Immediately, Debski and Deputy Ryan Turner bum rush Garrett and force him into the bathroom, out of sight of the cell camera.

The deputies were able to take him to the ground, then drag him out of the bathroom with the help of Chi and another two deputies, and into the cell area again. They all pile on top of him trying to get him under control.

Everyone is completely drenched by that point because the water from the sprinkler continues to spray into the cell, according to the video. The water, which is now flowing clear instead of brown, turns red with Garrett’s blood at one point while the officers attempt to control him. Eventually they drag him out of the cell, where he continues to kick and fight them, before they are able to strap him into a chair with a hood over his head, according to the video.

“I think they did the right thing under the circumstances,” DiSalvo said.

Garrett was later taken to Aspen Valley Hospital with facial injuries and broken ribs.

Meanwhile, the water from the sprinkler knocked out servers in the jail basement that control 911 communications, law enforcement communications and law enforcement records management systems. Vail 911 dispatchers handled calls for about an hour early Thursday morning until Aspen dispatchers were able to move to a temporary location at the Mountain Rescue Aspen building near the Aspen Business Center.

Pitkin County experienced no interruption in 911 service, officials have said.

The dispatch center was scheduled to move permanently to the North 40 Fire Station at the Aspen Business Center in about a month. Much of that new digital radio equipment already had been installed at the North 40, so county officials were able to speed up the transfer and start up the new dispatch center Friday night, said Jodi Smith, the county’s facilities manager.

Also on Friday, officials were able to procure a $50,000 server from Philadelphia for the records management system, which allowed that system to come back online, DiSalvo said. No damage was done to renovations done at the jail last month, he said.

Smith said Monday that the jail basement was still wet and that crews pulled 14 gallons of water out of just one of the ducts over the weekend. Crews are taking their time cleaning up all the water because they don’t want to have to mitigate for mold, she said.

To avoid similar situations in the future, officials plan to convert the jail’s fire sprinklers into a system that won’t begin spraying water until two sprinkler heads are contacted by fire, Smith said. Also, a majority of the servers in the jail’s basement will be moved to the North 40, a plan that was already in place, she said.

None of the county officials interviewed Monday were able to release an estimate of the total cost of the jail flood. However, Assistant County Manager Phylis Mattice said she expects the total, including overtime costs, computer replacements and clean-up, to rise much higher than $50,000.

“That would be my guess,” she said.

Palisade bans some headstones due to vandalism

PALISADE, Colo. (AP) — The western Colorado town of Palisade has banned headstones at some plots in the municipal cemetery due to concerns about vandalism.

The Daily Sentinel of Grand Junction reports ( ) that Palisade’s Board of Trustees has made more than 1,000 grave spaces off-limits to standing headstones. Memorials will instead be limited to flat grave markers.

Palisade Public Works Director Frank Watt asked trustees to limit some sections of the Palisade Municipal Cemetery to flat markers only, citing difficulty with maintenance and vandalism with upright headstones.

Local memorial businesses have criticized the decision, saying it takes options away from grieving family members.


Information from: The Daily Sentinel,

Brad Howard named PI ad director

The Post Independent on Monday welcomed Brad Howard as its new director of advertising.

Howard is the former general manager and chief revenue officer for Gazette Media in Colorado Springs, where he also served as vice president of sales and marketing.

He most recently was publisher of Parker Lifestyle, a glossy magazine mailed to 13,000 homes. He has extensive experience, having been vice president of advertising at The Sun News of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and general manager of a startup free daily newspaper targeted at young adults affiliated with the Baltimore Sun, among other roles.

“People in Garfield County communities are going to enjoy getting to know Brad,” said PI Publisher and Editor Randy Essex. “He’s a real pro and very approachable, with a passion for helping local businesses succeed.”

Said Howard: “I look forward to getting involved in the community and building a strong sales team at the Post Independent. My wife and I have visited many times and are very excited to now call the Roaring Fork Valley our home.

“Hopefully my marketing experience will help our advertising partners grow their businesses with comprehensive print and digital solutions,” he added. “I welcome businesses to reach out and have a conversation with me to see if our product portfolio is right for them.”

Essex noted that beyond Howard’s wealth of experience and energy, he’s got a strong history of community involvement.

In Colorado Springs, Howard was a board member and served 15 months as chair of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Pikes Peak; was on the board of Junior Achievement of Southern Colorado; and on the board of the Intergeneration Foundation, which promotes research of intergenerational issues and has won recognition in 43 states.

Howard, an Ohio native, has an undergraduate degree in journalism and political science from the University of North Carolina and a master’s of business administration from Western Carolina University.

He and his wife, Corrinn, will live in New Castle.

Guest opinion: Energy development is good for us all

Recently, there has been much discussion related to oil and gas production in Colorado. In fact two initiatives that barely missed making this year’s ballot would have drastically curtailed development. One would have effectively banned 80 percent of future oil and gas production while the other would have led to an unworkable patchwork of local regulations. The passage of either could have proven very detrimental to not only the energy industry but our entire state.

Unfortunately, there is a perception by some that only the major oil and gas companies gain from energy development. This view could not be further from the truth. All of us, in one manner or another, benefit from the presence of this important industry and the jobs, economic development, and tax revenue that it generates.

Why is the energy industry so important? We only need harken back 15 years, when even a minor incident in the Middle East could trigger spikes in fuel prices due to our dependence on foreign oil. This roller coaster was bad for all business but particularly those, like ours, who are dependent on fuel. Since then with the advent of horizontal drilling and advances in the decades-old technique of fracture stimulation, the energy industry has been able to unlock key resources in the U.S., placing us on the cusp of energy independence.

This domestic development has been a boon for Colorado and the nation, generating billions of dollars in business activity and tax revenue while reducing our trade deficit.

One somewhat forgotten contribution to Colorado was the oil and gas industry’s role in the last economic recession. The old phrase “a rising tide lifts all boats” was an appropriate analogy during that time. While many industries were cutting operations, the “rising tide” of energy development in Colorado softened the blow to our economy. Energy development helped to keep afloat many businesses within our state as it invested heavily in our state’s economy. Without this important industry to bolster our economy we would have witnessed far more business failures and job losses.

In the trucking industry, we see the positive impact of the energy industry daily. While only 10 percent of our companies are directly involved in the oil and gas development, the remaining 90 percent benefit from the presence of this important industry. The annual infusion of $30 billion by this industry into our economy has a ripple effect that cuts across all sectors. This translates into more consumer purchases, additional equipment orders, greater food demand, and increased construction activity. For us, this translates into more freight, additional truck purchases, and ultimately more jobs.

All of us have also benefitted from the lower costs and stability associated with domestic energy production. While fuel prices may fluctuate, we no longer see wild swings and it has also led to lower fuel prices. The difference between diesel at $4 versus $2.50/gallon is an annual savings of $25,000 for one long-haul truck, which is passed along through lower costs to businesses and consumers.

There is an old phrase that says, “If you got it, a truck brought it.” It refers to the essential nature of our industry to our everyday lives. Almost everything in our homes, everything we eat, wear or use travels by truck to reach its destination. The energy industry is similar in how it touches our lives daily whether it is heating our homes, fueling our vehicles, or being used in agriculture or manufacturing. Rather than looking to curtail this industry, we should look at working as partners with the energy industry to increase responsible and safe production. If that occurs, we all win.

Jeff Cummings is the chairman of the board of the Colorado Motor Carriers Association, which represents more than 650 companies involved in trucking in Colorado. He is the president and CEO of Duffy Crane and Hauling, one of Colorado’s oldest companies.

Judge rejects Ogden suppression motions

Judge John Neiley has denied several defense motions to suppress statements and evidence in the upcoming trial of Matthew Ogden, the Parachute man facing first-degree murder in the death of his month-old daughter.

Ogden’s wife, who pleaded guilty to negligent child abuse resulting in death in December, told investigators that she awoke one night to see Ogden violently shaking daughter Sarah.

Her cause of death would be found as a fractured skull, hemorrhaging to her brain and a lacerated liver.

Ogden faces first-degree murder of a victim under 12, a class 1 felony, and child abuse resulting in death, a class 2 felony.

The judge’s orders follow three and a half days of hearings.

Phyllis “Amy” Wyatt, the mother, pleaded guilty of criminally negligent child abuse resulting in death and was sentenced to eight years in prison. The couple fled Colorado a few days after Sarah’s death, but were arrested in Minnesota.

Ogden’s defense had filed motions to suppress statements he made in interviews with investigators, evidence seized though a warrantless search and evidence taken by investigators later with a search warrant.

After Sarah was pronounced dead at Grand Valley Hospital, a Parachute police officer and the deputy chief coroner went to Ogden’s apartment to investigate the baby’s death.

They took evidence from the apartment without a warrant, but the court found that Ogden consented to this search and seizure.

The defense argued to exclude the evidence, which included body camera footage, a blanket and baby formula. Ogden was also seeking suppression of evidence from his cell phone.

Parachute Officer Alexander Graham said the phone had important photos of Sarah taken the night before her death.

Neiley found that Ogden had consented to the search of the phone as well, and they later got a warrant.

The defense also sought to suppress evidence obtained via search warrants that were executed in the days following Sarah’s death. These were also for Ogden’s apartment, allowing investigators to seize “blood, saliva, DNA evidence, defendant’s cell phone, weapons, sheets, blankets and pillowcases, and any other evidence of homicide, ” as well as the mattress and box springs, according to Neiley’s order.

This suppression motion too was denied, the judge finding no defect with the search warrants or affidavits.

Neiley also denied the motion to suppress Ogden’s statements to investigators, expect for one section, during which he said the couldn’t go on with the interview while he was being advised of his Miranda rights.

Out the full day of interviews investigators had with Ogden two days after Sarah’s death, Neiley suppressed about 20 minutes worth, saying that Ogden should have been given his rights for this section.

“The court finds that this interview was custodial interrogation” — that a reasonable person would consider him or herself to be in custody, wrote the judge.

Ogden told officers that he was under too much stress, that he was fighting off seizures, but the officers continued the interview anyway, wrote Neiley. The interview became more intense with investigators describing the cause of Sarah’s death, becoming accusatory and suggesting the possibilities of jail time and the Department of Human Services taking Ogden’s surviving child, wrote the judge.

The prosecution will not be allowed to use this interview during the trail. However, should Ogden take the stand to testify, the prosecutors could use these statements for impeachment.

Neiley has also denied a motion to relocate the upcoming trial, according to the district attorney’s office. The defense argued the level of publicity in this case would make it impossible to seat a fair and impartial jury.

Ogden’s trial is scheduled to begin Sept. 26.

Teacher housing plan moves to council

A plan to convert a dozen units in a previously approved south Glenwood Springs residential development to teacher housing has cleared its first city review hurdle.

Glenwood’s Planning and Zoning Commission last week gave a unanimous recommendation for approval to developer Peter Waller’s plan to sell three of the five multifamily buildings in the Cardiff Mesa section of his larger Silver Sage development to the Roaring Fork School District.

The transfer would satisfy Waller’s affordable housing obligation to the city, and become part of the school district’s new teacher housing program that made up a $15 million portion of last year’s $122 million bond issue.

“This is a potential public-private partnership that will be good for the schools, and help get a project done that was otherwise very difficult from a cost perspective,” Waller said after the decision.

The proposal was slightly modified from the revised plan initially submitted to city planners. Instead of asking for six additional units, Waller is seeking to add just four more than was originally approved three years ago.

The proposal goes before City Council on Sept. 15 for a final decision.

Silver Sage was first approved in February of 2013 for a total of 55 residences southwest of the intersection of Four Mile and Airport roads, including 38 duplex units on the upper Silver Sage Preserve and 17 multifamily units on the 42-acre lower bench called Cardiff Mesa.

P&Z, at its Aug. 23 meeting, was OK increasing the number of units on the lower bench to 21 and adding some one-bedroom units to the mix, where the previous plan called only for two- and three-bedroom units.

The review panel did, however, want at least some of the original improvements outlined for Airport Road to be paid for by the developer, including curb, gutter, sidewalks, landscaping and repaving of a 750-foot stretch fronting the new development.

Waller had asked for relief from that requirement as a way to keep development costs down.

P&Z agreed to a compromise that would involve a 3-inch asphalt overlay on the road, and 60 percent of the trees that were originally required.

The panel also requested that the school district provide a deed restriction for the units it acquires that spells out the long-term affordability of the rental units. Garfield County included a similar requirement earlier this year when it OK’d a plan for the Ironbridge development south of Glenwood Springs to count six teacher housing units toward its affordable housing requirement.

A handful of residents from the Cardiff Glen neighborhood located across Airport Road from Waller’s development site have expressed concern about additional traffic and parking problems from the new homes.

Howard Jay, a former principal at Sopris Elementary School who now lives at Cardiff Glen, said at the P&Z meeting that he supports the school district’s endeavor to create teacher housing. But he worried that eliminating the Waller’s obligation to provide a percentage of “community housing” that would otherwise be made available for sale to qualified buyers fails to acknowledge the broader need.

“The taxpayers said they are willing to let the school district buy housing,” Jay said of voter approval for the bond issue last fall. “But that is just one segment of the community that needs housing.

“I am leery of selling to the school district to satisfy the developer’s housing requirement,” he said, adding “there are other vital workers that need housing.”

School district voters last fall approved a $122 million bond issue to pay for two major school projects in Glenwood Springs and variety of other facility improvements across the district. It also included $15 million earmarked to purchase or build affordable teacher rental housing in Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Basalt.

The district is already pursuing 17 units in the next phase of construction at the Willits project in Basalt, and recently won support from the county for the six units at Ironbridge.

Sen. Bennet talks child care challenges in Rifle

When it comes to affordable and quality child care in Garfield County, parents are frequently left with few options — an imbalance that can lead to decisions they otherwise would not make.

That was U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet’s assessment after hearing from mothers and childcare experts Monday in Rifle.

While there are some qualifying details more specific to Rifle and the county, the broader issue is not unique to the area, said Bennet, a Democrat and Colorado’s senior senator who is facing Republican challenger Darryl Glenn in the November election.

“What I heard here today is very consistent with what I’ve heard around the state,” Bennet said after a quick tour of Caring Kids Preschool in Rifle and a forum with area mothers. “I think there are probably greater access issues here just because of the distances that people have to travel for work or to put their child in a place like this, and weather challenges that some people in other parts of the state don’t face, but in terms of the kinds of decisions people have to make in order to keep their child in this center was very consistent with what I’ve heard (elsewhere in the state).”

A lack of options in the area led Jennifer Knott, with the assistance of many people, to open Caring Kids Preschool in Rifle about eight months ago. As a mother of two, Knott was unable to find child care that would allow her to go back to work.

Caring Kids currently is 100 percent full with 37 children. The wait list ranges between 40 to 45 children, said Lorie Bishop, director of Caring Kids. Once a bathroom on the second floor is renovated, Knott and crew hope to double the center’s capacity and take in another 30 to 40 children.

“It’s something we desperately needed,” Mindy Pope, a single mother of two, told Bennet regarding Caring Kids.

Many of the challenges discussed Monday echoed those covered by the Post Independent in a two-part story series published earlier this month. Those stories touched on both the challenges to parents left with little options, as well as the hurdles facing providers.

“It’s hard but we want to be able to provide this to the community,” Knott said after rattling off a number of recurring expenses.

Bennet said the escalating cost of child care, along with other services such as health care and higher education, are “conspiring to force people that … in the long run aren’t getting them where they need to be.”

The problem, he added, is while all of those services have become dramatically more expensive, wages have largely stayed flat.

There is no simple solution, but Bennet said increasing a federal tax credit for child care, known as the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit, would be a solid step in the right direction. Bennet wants to expand the current caps of $3,000 for one child and $6,000 for two or more to $8,000 and $16,000 respectively.

“There are a lot of different dimensions to this but I do think that increasing the tax credit at the federal level as a recognition of the struggle people are having paying for this would be an important first step,” he said.

Denver Broncos name their starting quarterback: Trevor Siemian

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Trevor Siemian couldn’t be rattled.

Not by the knee injury that ended his college career at Northwestern and scared away everyone but the Denver Broncos, who made him the 250th overall pick in last year’s draft.

Not by his six-month audition for the Broncos’ starting QB job that began with him as the dark horse against veteran Mark Sanchez and first-round draft pick Paxton Lynch.

He wasn’t even unnerved Monday when coach Gary Kubiak informed him he’d won the job — making him the only QB with no passing attempts to take over a defending Super Bowl champion in Week 1.

“I feel like it’s the right decision,” said Kubiak, whose team opens against Carolina on Sept. 8 in a title game rematch. “I believe in this kid and what he can do for our football team.”

Siemian was just as calm after the announcement as he’s been every other day during his remarkable rise from part-time college starter to Peyton Manning’s surprise successor.

“I’m not trying to be Peyton. I could probably get in a lot of trouble trying to be a first ballot Hall of Famer,” Siemian said. “So, those shoes are way too big to fill. I’m just trying to be the best man I can be every day, be the best teammate and take it from there.”

He has no plans to hit up Manning’s phone, either.

“No, I’m sure he’s pretty busy,” Siemian said. “He’s probably got some commercials to shoot or something.”

Siemian says he pays no mind to the stress of the job. And he has no designs on changing his understated style, no plans to switch from the quiet, leader-by-example type to one who’s more vocal.

“I don’t think I want to change who I am or who I am in the locker room. I think we’re really fortunate here we’ve got a lot of great leadership here in the locker room,” Siemian said.

Siemian realizes a lot of NFL fans are asking who he is.

“That’s a tough question,” Siemian said. “I like playing football. I try to be a good teammate, work every day, put my head down and be the best guy I can be.”

Siemian learned Kubiak’s West Coast offense last year when he had a birds-eye view of the Broncos’ QB conundrum that required the coach to gather his team every Monday from mid-November on to inform the players whether Manning or Brock Osweiler would start.

Kubiak said he won’t pare the playbook for Siemian despite his inexperience — his only NFL snap was a kneel-down last year.

“If there’s one thing that is a big strength of Trevor’s is how much he can handle,” Kubiak said.

Two things that impressed receiver Emmanuel Sanders about Siemian was his slow heartbeat and his lightning bolt of a right arm.

“He’s very poised, even when he comes into the huddle, he’s always the same guy,” Sanders said. “I remember when he first came in, I said, ‘You remind me a lot of Aaron Rodgers’ in the way that he goes about his business and is always having fun, and even in the way he slings the football around. He’s kind of that backyard football kind of guy. But yet he’s still loose.

“I know everyone in the huddle enjoys when he comes in there because he’s always cool, calm and collected.”

Siemian was an afterthought even after Manning’s retirement and Osweiler departed in free agency. GM John Elway traded for Sanchez and tried to woo Colin Kaepernick, a quest he abandoned after drafting Lynch.

Meanwhile, Siemian was out to prove Elway had his man in Denver all along.

“Last year I got a chance to learn a lot and I was starting to get comfortable in the system, but I hadn’t taken a lot of reps,” Siemian said. “So, coming back I got a chance to do that in OTAs and I think that’s when I got a chance to grow a little more and pick things up and get comfortable with the guys and the scheme.”

Also invaluable to his development was running the scout team last year against Denver’s dizzying defense.

“Yeah, it was an unbelievable challenge,” Siemian said. “You’re forced to use your imagination a little bit against our guys, and you’re right, I think going against them every day and getting your butt kicked a lot helped.”

Kubiak said Lynch will play the entire preseason finale at Arizona on Thursday night. He didn’t say if Sanchez has a future in Denver. The Broncos would save $3.5 million and a conditional seventh-round draft pick if they cut him.

Sanchez hurt his chances with two red-zone fumbles against San Francisco, but Kubiak said it was more of what Siemian did that won him the job.

“He’s earned the right to be our guy,” Kubiak said. “Is it a lot to ask of a young kid? Yes, it is. But it’s not a lot to ask of our team. And I believe in our team. It’s going to be about how we play as a group, not about one guy.”


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Understanding the meaning of minimalism

Minimalism is a growing trend, but I’ve recently heard it suggested that people of affluence have an easier time boasting the virtues of simplicity, while those with lesser financial means may be inadvertently excluded from a lifestyle that touts the benefits of living with less. My cross-country experience bikepacking across the United States has become a metaphor for testing that theory.

In the summer of 2004, I rode my bike from Carbondale, Colorado, to San Francisco. I took the long way, riding north into Wyoming, across Montana, Idaho, Oregon and down the California coastline. Self-supported for over seven weeks, I pulled what I needed behind me with a one-wheeled trailer. Traversing the Continental Divide no less than 10 times, I traveled over 2,400 miles and learned a little something about what we need to find happiness.

On any given day, there are very few things we truly need. Once our basic human necessities are met (water, food, shelter, clothes, companionship, intellectual stimulation, etc.), everything else is proverbial gravy. When you’re literally carrying everything you own, gravy can become a liability. During that bike trip, the weight of my load was inescapable. My epic journey was a lesson in ounces; every day I learned to scrutinize my pack for things I didn’t really need.

Some things I shipped home. Some things I gave away on the road. Over time, I learned the virtue of less. Stocking up on supplies meant carrying more weight. Getting stuck on a remote stretch of road without enough food or water meant risking dehydration, hunger or worse. Every day was an intentional balancing act to determine what I needed, how much weight I could pull, how far I had to go, what I may need depending on the terrain, weather and the condition of my bike — and the sobering consequences if I miscalculated.

I met others on the road piloting fancy racing bikes, carrying little more than a rain jacket, a few energy bars and a credit card. Those who could afford to eat at restaurants and stay in hotels along the way tended to carry less. Conversely, I also met those who were homeless. They tended to carry everything with them — all the time. Without the financial resources to resupply daily, they found security in carrying as much as they might need in order to manage an uncertain life on the road.

Living simply is relative. Happiness exists in the balance of purpose, belonging and serving others with heart and integrity. What matters most is who we love, what we do, and how and why we live. Because everything else is just stuff.

While I support the philosophy of minimalism, I am not an orthodox minimalist. I’ve got a life, a home, and a family in the mountains of Colorado — and we have stuff. That said, it’s apparent that practical minimalism is infinitely easier for people of affluence. However, my unique flavor of simplicity has less to do with the superficial aesthetic found in Dwell magazine, and much more to do with becoming more mindful about what we actually need — and what we don’t — on any given day.

Focus your consumerism and subsequent organizational practice on achieving balance in service to others, as responsible stewards of this planet. When individuals and families tune into what we truly need; when we simplify our stuff; and get organized in our lives, it’s easier to find balance, no matter how vast or paltry our resources. In my experience, across the growing socio-economic divide, most of us readily admit: Collectively, we have too much.

So, don’t get hung up on Zen mastery, tiny homes and over-styled imagery often associated with the word “minimalism.” Instead, connect the dots between what you truly need and your ability to downsize where you can. You may find that you live more simply with greater freedom, less impact and greater happiness. In that balance, we can all discover sustainability for the long haul.

Evan Zislis is author of the bestselling book “ClutterFree Revolution: Simplify Your Stuff, Organize Your Life & Save the World” and “Aphrodisiac: Clearing the Cluttered Path to Epic Love, Great Sex & Relationships that Last.” He is founder and principal consultant of For more information, like ClutterFree Revolution on Facebook, call 970-366-2532, or email

Doctor’s Tip: These are berry good for you

We’re now on the ninth of Dr. Michael Greger’s daily dozen, foods we should be eating daily for optimal health, from his book “How Not to Die” — which, by the way, is now available in Spanish, as is the documentary “Forks Over Knives.”

There has been a theme running through the last several columns: We should be “eating the rainbow” because plant-based foods with intense colors have high levels of antioxidants. Rust is oxidation of metal, a cut apple turns brown because of oxidation (notice that the peel does not turn brown because that’s where most of the antioxidants are).

Oxidation in our bodies contributes to aging, cardiovascular disease and to cancer. Berries are intensely colored and therefore have lots of antioxidants. According to Dr. Joel Fuhrman, author of several books including “The End of Heart Disease,” flavonoid pigments in berries “affect pathways leading to changes in gene expression; detoxification; inhibition of cancer cell growth and proliferation; and inhibition of inflammation and other processes related to heart disease.”

Here’s what Dr. Greger says about some specific berries:

• Goji berries, available in bulk at Vitamin Cottage, have high concentrations of melatonin, the “sleep hormone,” so try eating some in the evening. Zeaxanthin, an antioxidant pigment in gogi berries, protects against macular degeneration and may even treat it. Zeaxanthin is fat-soluble, so eating nuts or seeds with goji berries helps with absorption of this nutrient.

• Bilberries, blackberries, strawberries, aronia berries, elderberries, black raspberries and blueberries (especially the smaller “wild” varieties) all have an antioxidant-laden pigment called anthocyanin.

• Tart cherries (included by Dr. Greger under “berries”) have strong anti-inflammatory properties, and can be used to prevent and treat gout.

• Cranberries have been shown in the lab to suppress the growth of several types of human cancer cells, due to the pigment anthocyanin. Unsweetened cranberries are quite tart, so mix them with some other fruit.

Dr. Fuhrman says that blueberries, strawberries and blackberries have been shown in animal and human studies to slow or reverse age-related cognitive decline.

Dr. Greger’s favorite berries are acai berries, barberries, blackberries, blueberries, cherries (sweet or tart), concord grapes, cranberries, goji berries, kumquats, mulberries, raspberries (black or red) and strawberries. He recommends a serving a day, one serving being ½ cup of fresh or frozen or ¼ cup dried. Sprinkle them on your oatmeal in the morning and/or have a large bowl of them for dessert after dinner, maybe with some unsweetened almond milk. Another way of enjoying berries is to simply blend frozen berries and eating them as “ice cream.”

In order to avoid insecticides and other toxins, it’s always best to buy organic, and due to the high surface area this is particularly important with berries. Often you can find fresh organic berries on sale in the summer at local grocery stores. At other times of the year, large bags of frozen blueberries can be found at Costco at a reasonable price, and frozen berries have the same nutritional value as fresh (I advise against the mixed berries at Costco because the blackberries in them sometimes taste moldy). Vitamin Cottage has smaller bags of various frozen berries including unsweetened cranberries and cherries.

Dr. Feinsinger, who retired from Glenwood Medical Associates after 42 years as a family physician, now has a nonprofit Center For Prevention and Treatment of Disease Through Nutrition. He is available for free consultations about heart attack prevention and any other medical concerns. Call 970-379-5718 for an appointment. For questions about his columns, email him at