Strange but True: The year's weirdest news stories

2010 was a weird year, with nothing weirder than the race for governor, which saw the leading Republican nominee go down in a plagiarism scandal while his opponent became a joke and a former Republican made an amazing run as a third-party candidate.

Perhaps the best way to examine the fates of the five people involved, however, is through their favorite two-wheeled vehicles.

Governor Bill Ritter, who'd announced in January that he was not running for re-election, crashed his bike and broke a couple of ribs in March. Tom Tancredo roared onto the scene with a lot of noise and flash, but took a spill on his motorcycle in September. And despite not wearing a helmet, he came out unscathed, almost energized.

Dan Maes stuck to his car — but then, he couldn't claim mileage reimbursements for a bike. Besides, he alleged that John Hickenlooper's B-cycle program, which debuted in April, was part of a larger plot to cede control of U.S. cities to the United Nations. His charge that Hickenlooper's agenda, and B-cycle in particular, are "converting Denver into a United Nations community" may well have been the weirdest story in this weird year.

"This is all very well-disguised, but it will be exposed," Maes told the Denver Post. "This is bigger than it looks like on the surface, and it could threaten our personal freedoms.... These aren't just warm, fuzzy ideas from the mayor. These are very specific strategies that are dictated to us by this United Nations program that mayors have signed on to."

Maes's outlandish ramblings helped Hick, a longtime lover of both bicycles and scooters, roll over the competition on his way to the finish line.

And then there was Scott McInnis, who let other people do the riding for him.

But politicians didn't have a monopoly on strange in 2010 — not by a long shot. Enjoy the rest of these tales from the year that was.

Weirdest Stories of the Year

In January, supermarkets began sporting bottles of Gatorade whose original labels had been removed and replaced by pictures of golfer Tiger Woods with his now-ex-wife, Elin Nordegren, and the word "unfaithful." Food and Drug Administration officials eventually discovered an e-mail address hidden in the labels, which led them to 38-year-old Jason Eric Kay of Longmont. Kay confessed to purchasing dozens of Gatorade bottles, changing the labels and returning them to the store. The stunt was a form of pop art, he said, intended to create conversation about why Gatorade had dropped Woods as a spokesman; Kay even offered to do the project for Gatorade as an official marketing scheme. Federal agents didn't appreciate Kay's artistic sensibilities, however, and charged him with product tampering. In May, he was sentenced to two years of probation and a $1,000 fine.

In October, Tiffany Hartley, a longtime Colorado resident who'd recently moved to Texas, told police a harrowing, almost unbelievable tale. While she and her husband, David, had been jet-skiing on Falcon Lake, which straddles the border between Texas and Mexico, a group of people on a boat had opened fire, hitting her husband and knocking him into the water. Unable to rescue her husband, Tiffany fled. David Hartley's body has never been found, and the incident spawned an official American protest of the way the Mexican government handled the case. Two suspects, allegedly members of a drug cartel, were eventually identified by a Mexican investigator, who later was found dead and beheaded. Two other suspects have since been identified, but no one has been arrested. Tiffany is now safely back in Colorado.

A suspicious fire that gutted the Sheepskin Factory store on Colorado Boulevard in April turned out to be the work of a radical animal activist. Walter Bond, 34, was charged with arson in June, shortly after someone calling himself Lone Wolf from the Animal Liberation Front claimed responsibility for the fire in an online posting. "The arson at the Sheepskin Factory in Denver was done in defense and retaliation for all the innocent animals that have died cruelly at the hands of human oppressors," the post stated, according to 9News. Bond, who has the word "vegan" tattooed in large letters across his throat, pleaded guilty in November.

Montana truck driver Kathleen Folden was so incensed by stories about a controversial piece of artwork that may or may not have depicted Jesus in a sex act that she got in her rig, drove to Loveland and walked into the Loveland Museum. There she used a crowbar to smash the glass in front of "The Misadventures of Romantic Cannibals" and ripped up the painting. Loveland had already been a-twitter about the work by Enrique Chagoya, but this act of vandalism propelled the city into the national spotlight. Folden, 56, was charged with felony criminal mischief and has pleaded not guilty.

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Jonathan Shikes is a Denver native who writes about business and beer for Westword.
Contact: Jonathan Shikes