Monday, February 26, 2007

The Windy City

I remember going on a bike ride my senior year at Dordt and sensing that, if I didn't lean hard into the wind, I'd be blown right into the ditch. At that point in my life, I was quite certain that Iowa was the windiest place on earth. Now I'm not quite so convinced. Denver, and the Eastern plains of Colorado, give Iowa a pretty good run for its money. In fact, I suspect that the real wind starts in the Rocky Mountains and has slowed down considerably by the time it gets to the Midwest.

I made this discovery while doing one of my favorite things on a bike today--taking a tandem ride with Jill. There are a lot of reasons to love tandem riding, but what it basically comes down to is that, although Jill weighs a bit more than my ipod, she's a whole lot more entertaining. (Jill did suggest today that one thing that would make tandem riding even more enjoyable is if we could get Daisy to join in the fun. "Do you think that she would ride in one of those Burley trailers?"). Daisy's absence aside, the only real downside of tandeming is that with Jill riding "stoker", I couldn't dispose of my, um, "cold bi-product" quite so easily as if I were riding solo--Jill generally doesn't appreciate the old "farmer blow"/"snot rocket" coming back her way. That meant that meant I had to resort to one of the most disgusting inventions ever made--the handkerchief (I'm all for sustainable living--but I draw the line at carrying around what amounts to a personal booger collection in my pocket).

Anyway, the wind. We discovered the power of the wind when climbing up to the top of Chatfield Reservoir in Chatfield State Park. Climbing up the reservoir leaves you very exposed (as the picture to the left hopefully demonstrates)--remember that there aren't a lot of trees here (outside of the mountains) and so when the wind blows down, it really pushes on you (not unlike Iowa in this regard). I think at one point, Jill thought that it was going to blow us right over. Based on our previous experience falling on the tandem, that would not have been popular.

On the bright side, the wind did make for a fast--and fun--ride home (Another great thing about tandems is the speed you can pick up going down hill. When Jill asks how fast we're going, my standard reply is "Not very", but on a descent hill its not difficult to top 40 mph). We really appreciate the trail system in Denver (it's like self-contained roads for bikes--it goes beside/over/under roads and there are separate trails for walkers/joggers on the side). But there's one catch. If you're going for scenery, you have to be fairly selective in what you look at.

On the one hand, yes, there is a lot of nice scenery. The Platte River Trail, which we rode today out to Chatfield, runs right next to the Platte River (hence the catchy name) and through several golf courses (it's really, really hard for me not to yell at the golfers when they're in mid-swing). So it's not unusual to scenes like the one depicted to the right (try to ignore the RV dealership there in the distance).
On the other hand, the trail also runs next to Santa Fe Ave (Highway 85) and past a lot of the normal junk you'd expect to see in a city. So you can also count among the highlights the place that cars go to die (pic. #1: "The Car Crematorium") and the place where Waste Management trucks apparently store our trash before taking it to the landfill (pic. #2: sorry Dad, I couldn't get a better shot of the RMT cylinders in action). I also had some pictures of big loaders doing whatever big loaders do that I wanted to include for Caleb S (if he's still into that sort of thing), but for some reason they wouldn't stick.

Not quite ideal and, in truth, it does make us miss the backroads of Michigan. But then again, maybe there's a moral to the story.* Maybe riding in Denver is like the rest of life here (or anywhere else)--a whole lot depends on your outlook. Of course there's always plenty of junk to be found--but if that's what you focus on, life/cycling is not going to be very enjoyable. Undoubtedly, we'd all be better off if we learn to develop eyes to see beauty where it can be found.

Maybe I'll have to work on that.

*My apologies--I didn't intend to write a morality tale today.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Day Away

Last Thursday, I went skiing for the first time as a resident of Colorado. I suppose that in the opinion of the natives, it's really my first time I've ever really skied (I don't know if they count my one time in high school when I went with the youth group to Mount Kato in Minnesota. It's whopping 240 feet don't sound all that impressive to folks here). Anyway, with a death/funeral to deal with over the weekend and more work this weekend, I needed a day off. I heard Cal (a member of our church) was going to take another beginner out to Keystone on Thursday, so I asked if I could tag along. Cal, being Cal, happily obliged. We picked up Mike from the airport around 8 and were at Keystone by 10:30. Cal was kind enough to give me a few lessons, take some time on the bunny hills with me, and then take me down my first run. I was quite impressive, if I don't say so myself. Cal was also kind enough to snap this shot of me going off a sweet jump:

I told you I was impressive.

Okay, that's not really me (I know you're really surprised). But I think I did all right. I got off the beginner hill, went down a few runs, and didn't fall too much--except when Cal "accidentally" took me down one of the hardest blues in the place. Then I looked more like this.

I'd like to think that mine were more impressive--that there were higher speeds involved, a bigger spray of snow, a few more acrobatics on my part--but they probably weren't. Regardless, this little clip captures a few key elements of my wipe outs: (A). The desperate flailing of arms before the inevitable fall. (B.) The slow, humiliating slide down hill (C) The high level of entertainment/comedy involved for onlookers (Cal's a really nice guy, but I'm sure even he laughed a lot on Thursday).

Despite all that, it was a good day. It was topped off with a big steak at "The Mint"--a place in Keystone where you pick/cook your own steak. (Sometime I'll have to write about the steak from Japan which was "raised on beer and massaged twice daily..." (the massage was before it was killed--I asked). I would've ordered it, but I couldn't bring myself to pay $60 for a chunk of meat. But really--how would you like to massage livestock for a living?!)

So again, a good day. I didn't think about work (well, very little. Mike kept asking me questions) and it felt like I was gone longer than a day. I was hoping to take Jill Monday (OUR day off now that she has her new job) but I've been fighting off this terrible cold that she had last week (durn preschoolers) and think I better rest up instead.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

It bloggles my mind

So I never really understood the whole blogging thing (thang, for all you kids out there). I didn't understand why people would want to post the trivial (or not-so-trivial) details of of their lives for all the world to see. Or why anyone would want to read them.

And then I moved to the big dirty city.

We don't know many people in the big dirty city. At least not well. I don't have what you'd call an "active social life". So in my boredom, during "Law & Order" commercial breaks, I started reading blogs. I started with people I knew--kind of. And suddenly I was reading about the cycling adventures of "Jill in Alaska" (just think, a 135 mile mtb race in the middle of the Alaskan winter!) or about what some person in New Hampshire likes to read.

And then I had to admit it. I was one of "those people." You know, those people apparently looking for non-personal inter-personal contact via the webernet. Beats watching "Fraiser" re-runs I guess. Not that I'm doing it all the time. But it is interesting. And I can see where it might be a good way to keep in some contact with folks I'm not very good at emailing or calling (college friends, in-laws, parents, siblings). So yeah, maybe I'll give this a shot.

Then again, I was thinking about giving up the webernet for Lent (too much wasted time. I need a real hobby). So maybe this is a bad time to start.


I think that speaks for itself.