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Posts Tagged ‘travel’

Trip to Minnesota

IMG_7381Maya and I traveled to Minneapolis a few weeks ago to spend a few days with family there.  My grandmother is 98 years old and by now she probably had given up on meeting a great-grandchild produced by me.

IMG_7377So, they now have met.  Maya was a trooper during the travel process, and my grandma was a trooper while having her face and other body parts grabbed.

Grandma was impressed by how happy Maya is.  She asked several times whether Maya ever cries.  The next photo documents Maya crying while on my grandma’s lap.  My grandma, who doesn’t hear well, is just about to ask “What’s that sound?”

IMG_7403

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Fall in the High Country

My mom and dad came to visit us last week, and we went up in to the mountains near Buena Vista to look at old mining towns.  It turns out last weekend may have been peak fall color in the mountains of Colorado.

St. Elmo, like most mining towns we saw, experienced a boom in the late 19th century and at one time had as many as 2,000 inhabitants.  Today, a few people still live here, and there are even a few operating businesses, such as a general store and a vacation rental service.

Winfield, a bit further north, had a similar story and similarly sized population at one time.

There was still a little bit left of the Winfield Cemetery, which served as a final resting place for 25 people (many of them babies, sadly).

My favorite was the company town of Vicksburg.  It was the smallest of the three we visited, but maybe that gave the obvious attempts at creating a “real town” more poignancy.

After exploring these old sites in the San Isabel National Forest, we drove north to Leadville for lunch.  And guess what? there was a reason for the bite in the air: it was already snowing in the high country.

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There and Back Again

UH OH!  It’s out again.  I hate that weird box.  It means something bad is going to happen.  Someone is going to go away.  What if BOTH of them disappear again? I do not like this.  I do not like this at all.

Hmm.  Smells like Lia.  Figures.  At least when she goes away, Bo is around and gives me a lot of food (which is more than I can say for her when he is gone! harumph).

Riverwalk and Tower of the Americas

So, she came back eventually, and we had to pick her up at the airport, even though it was really HOT, even though it was late at night.  She showed us pictures of someplace called San Antonio, which is in Texas.

St. Anthony Hotel lounge

King William Historic District

Even though I was mad that she left, I was still pretty glad when she got home.  I think she felt bad for leaving– maybe she even tried to make it up to me?

I guess those stupid weird boxes aren’t so bad after all.

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The Work-horse

This week we drove Bo’s vehicle from Klamath Falls, Oregon, where it’s been abando–, er, living for the past year and half, to our house in Golden.  It’s a 1985 Chevy Suburban 4×4, and the odometer reads something like 87,000.  The fuel gauge is broken, and after installing the new carburetor we weren’t sure of the miles-per-gallon capacity, so we had to keep track of mileage at gas fill-ups.  After the first filling, I asked if it really only had 86-something thousand miles, and Bo said no– it’s rolled over twice.  Duh.  When the odometer only goes to five spaces, there is no way to register that you’ve passed 99,999.  At any rate, we were pleased to find that we were getting nearly 16 miles to the gallon.  (I know, this fuel inefficiency was terrible, and that we probably are due for a scolding for even considering driving halfway across the country in a vehicle that we suspected would get worse mileage).

Apparently this unnamed truck has driven from the East coast to Anchorage and back at least once.  But since I met Bo in 2007, I’ve only known it to go from eastern Oregon to Seattle two or three times, and then from Dayville to Klamath Falls, where it sat largely unused for 3 years.   Problems with the afore-mentioned carburetor caused it to be unusable, sitting like a giant hunk of metal in the driveway of the little crackerbox house we rented for a year (to be fair, it was a good free storage locker).  In fact, the only way to get it out of there when we moved was by flat-bed tow truck.The ensuing mechanical work didn’t really fix the problem (which was, as I said, the carburetor), but it lent the illusion that all was well.  Bo even was able to use it to haul his other vehicle to our next rental.This chore proved to be too much for the work-horse, however, and another long period of inactivity set in.

So how did it come to be that it conveyed us all the way from Oregon to Colorado this week, you may ask?  It’s rather a round-about story.  Last summer, we set out from Golden in my trusty Subaru Forester headed for a family reunion in Minnesota.  About 45 miles out of town, the timing belt ruptured, taking out most of the top end of the engine with it.  The culprit?  The shop in Klamath Falls that had changed the timing belt didn’t replace the tensioner pulleys at the same time, and we never thought to ask.  So, one of the pulleys failed, the otherwise perfectly reliable belt burst, and the rest is history.  The next time he was in Klamath Falls, Bo mentioned this to the guys at the shop.  And voila, suddenly the necessary diagnosis and work on the truck engine was accomplished.

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On the Ground

I’ve posted nothing for the last few weeks because I was off doing things. Oh, and I didn’t bring my laptop, and there was no internet in most of the places I’ve been.  This is where I used to live from 2000-2008.  See the small white roof on the left side of the ridge?  That’s the barn on my former property, and the  old trailer house is just to the right of that, tucked into the brow of the ridge.

The photo was taken from the front porch of the house our friends Kerri and Jim are just moving into.  It was built in the last year or two before I left Dayville, on a piece of property that was undeveloped for the first few years that I lived there.  In those days I was laboring over my dissertation with varying degrees of success.  I had finally begun to wring some productivity out of myself by setting a firm schedule: get up at 6 am, write until 10:30 or so, go for a long walk with Joda, and then show up “at the crack of noon” (as my boss liked to put it), for my job as a museum technician at John Day Fossil Beds NM.  Joda would start reminding me that it was time to walk at around 10:20, and we’d set off from the house in some southerly direction, usually following game or livestock trails off into the hills.  We explored all the draws, hollows, and ridges around there, getting to know the land and the critters that were living there.

I was reminded how much I like this kind of hiking while we were on this recent trip: somewhat directed, but with no established trail, just a beginning and an end with no way to predict what might be in the middle.  Follow the deer trail and see where it goes–  as you continue on, there’s always one more ridge to follow, one more curve to peek around.  You might run into an old trapper cabin, or an abandoned mountain lion den, or some lovely red beds (above).

Now that my hiking buddy has gotten too old for long treks, and we live in a land of established human trails, the magic of this kind of hiking has been absent.  Sadly, I don’t think there’s any way to make Joda into a hiking dog again.  But on the drive back from Oregon, I saw some hiking possibilities closer to home.

western Wyoming

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Bicycle Heaven, aka Amsterdam

Last month a good friend of mine was visiting friends out of town and was hit by a car while trying to ride her bicycle to a local coffee shop.  Luckily, she was nearly completely unhurt, though shaken up and with a bit of road rash.  But I ride my bicycle to work almost every day, and am now going on road rides 3-4 times a week as I train for a bicycle race next month.  These longer training rides have led me to think about the relationship between those two denizens of the roads– cars, and bicycles.

Most cyclists also drive cars (except for the very young ones), so they are familiar with the habits and limitations of automobiles.  Many cyclists (unfortunately, not all) also know the rules that govern their behavior on the roads.  But many motorists do not also ride bicycles, nor have they been educated to the laws and limitations that apply to cyclists.  So, here are a few things that I wish motorists knew about.

1. Cyclists have a right to ride on the road, the street, and even many highways.  They also have many of the responsibilities of motorists, including signalling before turns and stops (to the extent that they can do so and still maintain control of the bicycle).  While cyclists are allowed to ride on the sidewalk in many places, they must yield the right of way to pedestrians, who often are not expecting to accommodate cyclists.

2. Most cyclists don’t have a rear-view mirror.  Some cyclists have a small mirror attached to their helmet, and it seems like a good idea, but many of them don’t.  Remember this: other than hearing audio cues, a cyclist may not know that a motorist is right on their rear flank, and the action of turning his/her head around to check may cause the bicycle to wobble out of the line of travel.

3.  A cyclist may not be able to hear a motorist coming up from behind, especially if it is a windy day.  The noise of air passing over the ears can make it very difficult to detect automobile noise from ambient noise.

4.  Many cyclists these days use “clipless pedals”– in other words, they wear shoes that snap on to the pedals of the bike.  This has implications for their ability to stop quickly.  Think about it:  when you stop your bike, you eventually need to put a foot down on the ground, or else you’ll fall over.  When cyclists have to stop, they also have to detach at least one foot from the pedal.  Any stickiness in the shoe cleat can lead to a fall if the stop is an unexpected one.  This also has implications for cyclist behavior at intersections.  If the cyclist is expecting to have the right of way, s/he may only come to a stop for a few seconds (if it’s a 4-way stop, for example).  And likewise, if the cyclist is expecting to stop, s/he will commit to unclipping and putting a foot on the ground.  Most cyclists want to follow the traffic rules– they also want visual cues about what other motorists are going to do.

Now that I live in an area where cycling is very popular, I expect most motorists and cyclists to abide by the same set of rules.  Unfortunately, I sometimes see people who don’t– motorists overtaking cyclists without giving the minimum 3 feet of space, cyclists wandering aimlessly over street and sidewalk with no indication of their intentions– and I get frustrated and disappointed.  But I still think if we all hang in there and trust the other kind of vehicle to be informed and considerate– and work on educating others– the situation will just keep on improving.

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Uplift

It was time to spend a Saturday doing something other than Work on the House.  So, we jumped in the plane (at the crack of noon) and headed to Cheyenne.  Although a brownish haze blanketed the entire area, it was a good day to look around at the landscape of northern Colorado.  The snow brings out terrain details that are not so obvious otherwise:  hedgerows, roads, paths, tilled fields, etc.  I’m still pretty sketchy on regional geology here, but my understanding is that landforms in Wyoming preserve areas of the original high plains, which previously sloped down eastward from the Rockies.  Later uplift led to speedy erosion of most of the high plains that existed throughout the continent just east of the mountains, but not in eastern Wyoming.  There, the original high plains surface still exists, and is known as the “gangplank” since it serves as a ramp that allows travelers to go gradually from lower elevations to higher (around 8,000′ near Laramie, WY).  Our airplane trips let me identify some of that over the larger landscape.

terrain and wind farm south of Cheyenne

To get back to human affairs: downtown Cheyenne was rather quiet and half-shut-down on the Saturday afternoon preceding the President’s Day holiday.  But we wandered around window-shopping and reading historic marker signs, trying to decide where to get something to eat.  The historic train depot was mildly busy, with a visitor center/museum at one end, a restaurant at the other, and this in-between:Since the Korean restaurant was closed on Saturday (you may be thinking “???” and so did the locals whom we asked about the Korean restaurant…), we picked the brewpub at the depot for a late lunch of pulled pork and sweet potato fries.  Although the building is no longer used as a depot for passengers, the railyard is still active with hundreds of freight cars with the Burlington Northern logo, which we could see coming and going from our table near the window.

Meanwhile, another symbol of the West is strewn about the downtown area: giant cowboy boots decorated with appropriate subjects.  I’ve seen this kind of thing in other cities, usually with old carousel horses: local artists decorate them, they are auctioned off to raise money, and then the finished products are displayed around town.

Grumman parked at Cheyenne airport

We followed our late lunch with some errands, and then a walk in Lions Park, where noisy ducks and geese entertained us with their take-offs and landings on the partially frozen lake and we read the signs for some of the specialized gardens currently buried under a foot of snow.  Then, the sun just having dropped over the horizon, we said our goodbyes to the violent-orange fellow Grumman parked next to us at the airport (but not its pilot, whom we never saw) and got in the plane for our trip home.

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