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Colorado cool stuff: otterbox, panda bikes and pine beetle furnishings


Phone and handheld computer case-maker OtterBox dove into the iPad market as fast as it could with two new products designed to protect Apple's latest and greatest gadget: The Commuter is the basic model, protecting against drops and dust and scratches, and the Defender is a bit tougher, plus features a built-in stand.
"The Defender Series has been extremely popular due to the protection it provides from drops and scratches, allowing users to keep their devices safe even on the go," says Laura Sanchez, OtterBox's general manager for the Americas. "This has been our largest launch to date, and we anticipate continued success as our cases start to make their way into distributor channels, carriers and throughout the consumer market." Commuter: $64.95 retail. Defender: $89.95 retail. Made by Otter Products LLC, Fort Collins, (888) 695-8820, www.otterbox.com .


In late 2008, CSU grad students Jacob Castillo, John McKinney and Marck Schlink were brainstorming over beers after McKinney met a sustainable bamboo farmer in Mexico. Knowing bamboo was too small for construction, the trio realized its 4-inch diameter - not to mention its tensile strength - was perfect for a bicycle frame.
"It's light and it's strong and it has ideal frame construction character," Castillo says. They launched Panda Bicycles early last year and have since sold more than 50 frames and bikes to customers in "D.C. to San Francisco," Castillo says. $1,500 (frame) to $3,250 (full bike) retail. Made by Panda Bicycles LLC, Fort Collins, (970) 372-2123, www.pandabicycles.com .


In 1997, carpenter Randy Blunt was first exposed to blue-stained beetle-kill pine when he was commissioned to make an entertainment center. Today it's his full-time pursuit, as he's made more than 100 book-matched beetle-kill tables, four-poster bed frames, and other furnishings from the distinctively patterned wood.
"It's a combination between the beetles and a fungus that grows on the tree," Blunt says. "They call it blue-stained, but it's rarely blue - it can be a grayish color, or red or green. It's really quite beautiful."
About half of Blunt's work is custom, and he shows at numerous festivals every year, including the upcoming Estes Park Fine Arts and Crafts Festival (Sept. 18-19). $200 and up retail. Made by Randy Blunt of Mountain Woodworks, Black Hawk, (303) 582-5076, www.pinebeetlefurnishings.com .


The proprietors of Mountain Boy Sledworks, the premiere sled-maker of the San Juans, Karen and Brice Hoskin have a thing for rum. After touring distilleries in Guatemala and Belize in 2008, they decided to start their own high-altitude rum operation in Silverton. Using old Stranahan's Colorado Whiskey barrels to age their Oro (dark) and Platino (light) varieties, the Hoskins found the market was craving premium aged rum. "There are a lot of cocktails being missed out on," says Karen, adding, "It's been a good couple of years. We predicted there was a lot of love for rum, and we were right." $24.99 to $29.99 retail. Made by Montanya Distillers, Silverton, (970) 799-3206, www.montanyadistillers.com . 
A list of Colorado retailers is on the website.
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Eric Peterson

Denver-based writer Eric Peterson is the author of Frommer's Colorado, Frommer's Montana & Wyoming, Frommer's Yellowstone & Grand Teton National Parks and the Ramble series of guidebooks, featuring first-person travelogues covering everything from atomic landmarks in New Mexico to celebrity gone wrong in Hollywood. Peterson has also recently written about backpacking in Yosemite, cross-country skiing in Yellowstone and downhill skiing in Colorado for such publications as Denver's Westword and The New York Daily News. He can be reached at Eptcb126@msn.com

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