Bearly winter yet

Almost time for this guy to be hibernating somewhere higher than under our deck.  It’s been four days now and he/she is still hanging out.  It should be a deterrent for the homeless guys in the park coming our direction.

On the recreation/adventure front I can now add spelunking to the list of things I’ve tried and probably won’t do too much more.  The one thing I was instantly reminded of was that caves, like mines, are always about 58° inside which was definitely warmer than it was outside.  I didn’t even know we had caves around this region, but I was reminded that caves can form anywhere there are large limestone formations and a source of water.  Bell’s Cave is only several hundred meters off off two roads that I travel often.  It’s known to the underground cognoscenti as a “sacrificial cave”, meaning it’s location is fairly common knowledge, it’s not too difficult and it’s a good place for newbies to visit.  All the interesting artifacts have been stolen or removed so there is nothing that the would be tampered with.  I now know there must be many more caves that only the “in crowd” visits because they don’t want the mystery and magic destroyed by the likes of guys like me.

Bell’s cave is plenty for a newbie, because there is lots of bouldering, shimmying, crawling and craggy formations to maneuver around.  Fortunately there was about 100 feet in a yellow surveyors line strung out showing which way to crawl, climb or drop.  I recon we only went a 150 yards or more, but it took us over an hour to go in and back out.  If I’d had the bike LED light I’d used for the Southern Tier ride that cave would have been much more interesting.  The LED headlamps were fine but only enough light to see where to put your hands and feet. This cave was well trampled and fortunately not wet at this time.

Long Wonderful Fall

A life long local said in the gym yesterday that this was the longest Fall she’s seen ever in Durango.  Considering she’s almost my age or better that’s saying a lot.  I’d call it an Indian Summer (if that’s still politically correct) because the day I returned from my ride it froze. And before that single night freeze I guess they’d had a couple of weeks of super weather as well. So this long 3 week stretch qualifies as a bone fide  summer extension after the first freeze.

We’ve enjoyed warm afternoons, great hikes (even with hunting season) and even better, the last Sunday bike ride up the Animas Valley.  The clear deep blue skies beg you to get outside and enjoy the Fall weather.  Saturday I went on a short hike just to test out some new gear before the season completely closes us out of the high country.  See if you can guess what my new gear was from the photo.  I’d really like to work in an overnight but it will probably have to be south of here, because the overnight temps in the high country are in the 20’s and my three season ultralite set-up is too light for sleeping at those temps.  I have gotten a number of new additions to the gear list and think that my next overnight hike could have a base weight about 8 1/2 pounds including a stove this time.  Now if I can just improve the food selection, I’ll have it all dialed in for some sort of thru hike.

As you can see from the deck photo we’ve put up all the deck plantings and have just a few more pieces of furniture to bring in for the winter.  Fall colors have lasted considerably longer than we remember and the Animas river is the lowest we’ve ever seen it.  And it you haven’t checked Ivan has almost finished his cross country ride.

Culture Shock

Living in a small rural Colorado town and traveling many months of the year out of the states leaves us culturally isolated and ignorant of current American and urban trends, styles and services. I have often thought of myself as an entrepreneur of sorts but I just never would of thought to offer Poo pick-up services, probably because I don’t have a dog.  Traveling to Denver this last weekend for a reunion of old Silverton-days friends I couldn’t help laughing at this truck in front of us evidently dispatched in hot pursuit of piles of cash.

Wasn’t it Ronald Reagan that is quoted as saying when he saw a pile of horseshit, “There must be a pony in here somewhere”?  So I’m guessing that the grass mowing union has required that lawns be Poo free now before they will mow.  Good thing we’re in a condo so that we don’t need lawn service, pool service and poo service.  Add that to your Cable and Cell Phone-texting service plus a daily Starbucks, and it’s no wonder people can’t afford their mortgages.

The reunion, called the Order of the Grape, is a carry-over from when a select group of Silverton EMS folks used to gather at the French Bakery, usually after hours, and solve the local, national and world problems.  There are a number of solutions this group has to it’s credit and accomplishment, but it’s so long ago that no one but us remembers the good things we did.  So we get together a couple times each decade to re-live our glory and catch-up on one another and who we all used to know.  It is interesting to note that we consume far less “grapes” than we used to as five of the eight bottles of wine were left over, but the food has gotten much better over the years.



Hogsback Hike

Clear blue Fall day, perfect for a hike. So we climbed the Hogback just up the street from our condo.  One hour put us on top at 7,484′ and a spectacular view of the entire Durango Valley.  Above photo is a panorama taken with the new iOS 6 iPhone camera feature. Won’t enlarge unfortunately, I’ll try and see what it takes to get it larger.  Looks great across dual monitors. Here’s my Dropbox URL to see the photo and click to enlarge.

Haven’t seen Stanna in exactly a month between our two travels.  Hike was a good time to catch up on each of our trips.

As you can see the Fall colors haven’t quite over the city, just small splashes of yellows and reds. Not a single cloud in the sky for 360°.  We had lunch on top the Hogsback Rock and home in time for put away all the deck

planters for winter. Supposed to hit 29° in the morning. Back to the routine of Spinning and Yoga, and normal eating. Plus a couple more hikes before the hunters and cold take over the  high country.

Home Again

Queueing in sleet at Denver

Certainly a change in weather and temps on the way home.  Left Austin at 78° and arrived in Denver at 32° and sleeting. As you can see United’s regional jets still require passengers to queue up on the tarmac, but this keeps us tough and probably the price down.

Fortunately it was in high 50’s in Durango and by mid-afternoon it was 72°.  After unpacking and shower the scale showed I’d gained 4.2 pounds.  Kinda disappointing since I’d figured I could easily eat all those milkshakes, fries and ice cream when I was burning over 5,000 calories a day.  Stanna was kind saying, “it must be muscle gain.” (Update: next day I was back down 3.6 pounds so it must have been water, cuz you don’t lose “muscle” that fast).  My send-off meal was a several-thousand-calorie Bacon Ruben with fries.  This restaurant, called Bacon, was quite unique with a very limited menu and all except the fries included bacon, even the pecan pie. I was hoping my metabolism was going to carry me

though this dining experience.

My only chore in Austin besides, silently celebrating my end-of-ride (Ivan was only half done and I’m sure it’s going to be different riding by yourself), was to score a bike shipping box.  Ivan & Jean had friends – Christi & Steve – who came up to Austin in their Suburban for the day (on Christi’s Birthday incidently) and shuttled me around for a box and shipping it.  And it was a TV show that Christi saw about the Bacon restaurant, so we all, including their Freshman UT daughter, tried out this iconic diner for our lunch. Great place for a “big lunch”. Turns out shipping thru FedEx at $60 was much cheaper than the United oversize baggage fee of $100.  I lucked out on shipping, both price and convenience.  Thanks to Christi & Steve.

Keep an eye on Ivan’s blog he’s still going on solo to Vero Beach, Florida.


Our approximate route

Here’s an approximate representation of our route on a Google Map. Each letter shows our daily progress. Fun to see it layed out now that we’ve done it.

Closing the Link

Spent much of this morning’s ride thinking about the bicycle journey across the southern tier of United States (admittedly in two sections). Beyond the initial fun planning and organizing the ride itself, beyond the training and psyching yourself up, more than the chance to see new country, interesting places and “slices of life” – is the challenge and adventure.

Challenge and adventure seem hard to differentiate. Adventure is the challenge and the challenge is the adventure. Challenge, for me, is not just learning if you can do it, endure it, complete it, but also be happy you took it on in the first place. Was it a worthwhile task, effort or experience, rather than just something to say you did or check off the list? Adventure is discovery, not knowing, figuring out, solving, experiencing what’s unfamiliar. Stanna often quotes the parable, “the trouble with learning by experience is the test comes first.” I’d submit that the challenge or adventure comes first as well.

Obviously, cycling across the US isn’t experiencing the great unknown. This second half has been more comfortable in terms of lodging and food options (thanks to Jean meeting us every night with a car), but it still meets my criteria for adventure and challenge. I’ve learned that it wasn’t so bad cycling across the desert; that temps over a 100 weren’t that bad if you are moving; that consecutive days of cycling distances under a 100 miles eventually add up to crossing states; that bad roads eventually turn good; that uphills always go back down; and that people manage to live anywhere and everywhere.

What’s great about long distance cycling is that, like passage-making, your mind wanders and trips-off on visual clues. You can think about lots of things or nothing. You can focus on the road, the hill, the cadence, or your own heartbeat. Like looking out a train window, you can experience those “slices of life”, and make-up scenarios to fit the images. I’m not sure what metaphysical or Zen experiences are, but the rhythm and pace of distance cycling must also produce some sort of endorphic high.

Somehow I’d like to fit in the axiom, “how many summers do you have left”, but I’m bent on not wasting mine. Tomorrow, we’ll be in Austin where three years ago I left for St. Augustine, Florida, for the first leg of this adventure. I look forward to the next long ride, but more than anything, to be able to still have another adventure and challenge.

Something(s) positive about Texas

I’d resolved to say some good things about Texas, even before I got feedback about Bubba Bellies and their shirttails. Not all Texans are obese, the Trash Cowboy wasn’t and today I saw a couple more that weren’t.

But on the positive side: most the highways have 8-10′ shoulders, there is far less roadside litter than New Mexico. We know and saw more evidence today that Texas is the largest producer of wind energy in the US. Drivers and truckers especially are very respectful of bicycles on the highway. The AT&T cell network has worked much better than in Colorado. I’m sure there is more, just doesn’t come to mind with our limited perspective of cycling highways, eating out and staying in a different motel each night.

From the lead photo you see that it’s not all work. We’ve had 3 pools and 2 hot tubs and one of them was warm enough to get into. This pool shows Ivan soaking his feet and checking to see if his A-Fib is at bay (not a single occurrence since the one that put him the hospital two weeks ago).

Two more days to go for me and I close the track in Austin, thereby completing a cycle across the Southern Tier of the US, albeit in two sections, three years apart.

True Grit and the Trash Cowboy

Texas finally got to me today. I have been ignoring a number of things but today the straw broke the camel’s back. I’ve been trying to ignore the virtual army of US border patrol vehicles parading back-and-forth hour after hour in a charade of defense and strength. I put little import in Alpine to the comment the bike shop owner said about 47% of locals being on some sort of dole. I’ve looked the other way with all the Bubba’s who have their shirts outside their pants because they can’t keep them tucked in or around their seemingly pregnant bellies. Or the numerous businesses that only accept cash (but do collect tax from you – they just don’t pass it on to the the gub’ment). Or the pickup loads of bagged “deer corn” so that they can salt and chum around their hunting blinds. They feed the deer, which become like livestock – which they then hunt as wild game.

But while we are at a historic marker rest stop, a Marlboro Man driving a brand-new shiny. king cab four-wheel-drive pickup, steps out of his truck, with his Wrangler jeans hiked up around his waist, a crisp long-sleeve button-down one-tone muted pink oxford shirt and sporting a white cowboy hat, looks furtively around and reaches into the bed of his pickup – takes a bag of household garbage and calmly places it next to the highway department litter trashcan with a sign above it saying “no household garbage – thousand dollars fine payable.” He looks around again before stepping back into his fancy truck, and drives off..

20121001-181709.jpgI guess he just forgot to give that bag of trash to his kids before they got on the school bus today, so they can drop it off at school. Just why does this modern Texas cowboy (and the 10 other households of trash stacked around the litter barrel), think they have the right to place trash so that the highway department needs to deal with it? Or worse, if the bag breaks open, then all the nice “adopt a highway” folks need to go around picking up after them. Is this why all the rest stops looks like trash transfer stations?

Maybe it was just the road conditions that sent me reeling. I spent over an hour trying to figure out why Texas can’t afford oil or asphalt to go along with the grit they spread on the highway. It can’t be good for the tires and this kind of roadway is the noisiest I’ve heard. Ivan, behind me, sounds like a passenger car; pickups like tractor trailers. The smoothest part of the highway is the narrow white line and that’s hard to ride true.

We’re currently in Bracketville at a former military outpost – Fork Clark – now transformed into a golf resort/RV park and motel. There are nicely preserved grounds and officer’s barracks that have been converted into motel rooms. Very comfortable and picturesque.