What a Difference a Day Makes

The skies over the foothills had a different look to them this morning, and not necessarily in a pleasing way like last night's sunset. Today, the ridgeline was less visible and covered in a blue-gray haze, and the smell of smoke was noticeable. After a quick peek at a local newspaper's website I learned that the haze and smell wasn't from a fire on the other side of the hill (thankfully); rather, from about 30 small fires in northwest Colorado's, about 150 miles away. (Apparently, local emergency dispatchers were getting flooded with calls thinking the fires were much closer.)

The day wasn't all gloomy, though. While running errands, I drove by a local home (see picture) that's a achieved local landmark status because it's exterior was used during the filming of a mildly popular late-70s/early-80s sitcom. If you can't figure out which one, here are 3 clues: Pam Dawber; rainbow suspenders; Orson.


1st Soccer Practice, and Sunset

Immediately after school today, I took Chloe to her 1st soccer practice. (It also happened to be my 1st practice as assistant coach, too.) Coincidentally, her team is an all-girl team in a co-ed league, so Brad (coach) and I are curious to see how that plays out once the games begin. From what I saw, I think the unnamed-as-of-yet team will fare well... I saw several girls willing to put their boot on the ball when someone else has it. As for team names, Brad took suggestions from the girls, and the choices thus far are: Lions, Tigers, Bears and Yellow Kangaroos. We have another practice next Wednesday, and the first game is September 6. I'll keep you posted.

While cleaning up the kitchen tonight, I happened to look out the window and into the foothills to see a very pretty sunset taking place. So I ran upstairs, grabbed the camera and went up the street a bit to get this unobstructed view. (click on the picture to see a larger version.)


1st Family Hike

With it being another sunny day here – a quite often occurrence as Boulder typically has 300+ days of sun per year – Peggy organized our first family hike. With lunches, dog treats and camera packed, we got in the car and headed to Bald Mountain (insert joke about me here), which is at 7,160 feet and just 5 miles outside of town. Soon after arriving, we found that it is a pretty popular place for families with younger children, as we saw several within steps of the parking lot. We parked on the East side of the mountain, but once we made our way around to the West side, we got a much better view of the Back Range. We could also see the very distinctive roof of Denver International Airport, which is about 38 miles away. It was a short hike (listed at 1.5 miles) but a great way to introduce Chloe to hiking.

Not wanting to head home, Peg consulted her guide to good hikes with children, and we made our up way up Boulder Creek Canyon to Boulder Falls. (Pictures, top to bottom: the warning sign that awaits you at the trailhead; Peggy, Chloe and Chamberlain breaking trail; view of the Back Range; Chloe by Boulder Falls; and Chloe in Picture Rock.)

Also, I added a picture of Chloe getting off the bus on her 1st day of school. Visit the "One Giant Step" post to see it.


One Giant Step

Today was Chloe's first day in Kindergarten, and man, was she excited about it! She woke up at 6:24a wanting to eat breakfast and get dressed and brush her teeth and... (From a parent's perspective, I found this refreshing not only because I'm glad she's looking forward to it, but also because it was the 1st time in a LONG time when she was ready EARLY!) We left the house a couple of minutes before 8:00a and walked 2 blocks to the bus stop. After a couple of minutes of waiting and meeting some neighborhood kids and parents, bus 514 came along, Chloe stepped on and started yet another new chapter — for her, for Peg and for me. (Pictures, top to bottom: Chloe modeling her "Apple Dress"; Peggy and Chloe at the bus stop; One Giant Step; and putting Day 1 in the books.)

First Day Recap
She got off the bus shortly after 3:00p and it's Peg
and my belief that we have one tired Kindergartener on our hands. Despite the barrage of questions, this is what we were able to get out of her — she did some arts and crafts, ate snack outside, had a lot of books read to her, sang 'hello' and 'goodbye' songs, and oh yeah, saw a dead fox on the sidewalk while riding the bus home.


A Trip on the Highest Paved Road in the U.S.*

With the rain of the previous two days seemingly behind us, the sun shining brightly and the temps in the mid 60s, we thought it would be nice to take a drive and see some more of our new home state. So after lunch, we jumped in the car and headed to Mt. Evans (14,264 ft), which is just west of Denver. After about 75 minutes, we arrive at the ranger station, only to see the sign "Mt. Evans road - Closed." Are you kidding me?!?

I went into the station to find out if the sign out front was right. The ranger said it was, kind of. She told us we could drive up about 20 miles, but the last couple miles of the road were closed because road crews were up there trying to clear away the 6 - 9 inches of snow and ice they received last night!

Not remembering the last time we saw snow in August before, we drove on up as far as we were allowed. The drive up was pretty interesting... the temps were dropping as we ascended, and there was no guardrail. Nonetheless, it was a pretty amazing sight once we got above tree line to see the snow accumulation.

(Picture: Chloe and I at Summit Lake [12,800 ft.] In 32 degree temperatures. In snow flurries. In August.)

* The road to the top of Mount Evans is the highest paved road in North America but reaches a dead end at the summit. Trail Ridge Road in Colorado's Rocky Mountain National Park is the highest paved continuous highway in the United States and reaches a maximum elevation of 12,183 ft.


A Cycling Post

Q. Why is cycling in Pennsylvania better than cycling in Colorado?
A. Because in Pennsylvania, you don't need cold weather gear when going on a ride in August!

As alluded to in earlier posts, the weather here is pretty dynamic. The highs this weekend were in the mid-50s, accompanied with plenty of rain. Nonetheless, I knew I needed to get back in cycling shape and so jumped on my trusty steed when it looked like the rain was letting up for a bit.

There's a saying out here that goes "If you don't like the weather, wait 15 minutes." Well, I wasn't even afforded 15 minutes. About 10 minutes into my ride, the clouds opened up again. Thinking the shower would pass by quick, I kept with my planned route and pedaled onward. As you'll find again later in this post, what I thought isn't what happened. The rain continued as a steady drizzle for about the next hour, and since I was already soaked to my toes, I figured I might as well finish my ride as planned.

As mentioned above, I really need to get back in cycling shape. I'm off to a good and cautious start — in the 2 weeks we've been here, I've been on 6 rides of modest length (25-45 miles). By comparison, I was on only 4 rides in the previous 2 months prior to moving. (Yup... Winter shape in August. Yuck!) So for my first ride, I planned a route on roads that I had a pretty good idea about, terrain wise. I knew my conditioning wasn't great, and that altitude would be a factor (Boulder is at 5,480 ft. above sea level, Richboro at 338 ft.) So, I thought in addition to the flat and rolling roads I planned, throwing in one called "Olde Stage Road" at the end of the ride should be harmless — the thinking being, "If the stagecoach went on it, surely it can't be too hilly. I mean, horses had to pull stuff on it, right?"

Well, my thinking failed me again. I was already about 30 miles and 2 hours into my first ride at this altitude and when I turned onto Olde Stage. And as you can see by the image to the right, it doesn't get flatter at mile 30. Just the opposite, it gets steeper the further you go up the hill; the last half mile is over 7%. I made it — huffing and puffing like never before and standing out of the saddle with my chain in its lowest gear, eeking out 3 mph at the top. Luckily, the last 2.5 miles were downhill to home. When I got there, Peg said she never saw me look so whooped. I couldn't argue with her because 1) I thought she was right and 2) I could barely talk.


"My (Dog's) Name is Earl" and the weather

I know I just wrote about Chamberlain, but I just had to post again about today's trip to the dog park. Before I go any further, though, which picture is a picture of Chamberlain and Earl? Only if you guessed "Both" would you be right. In the top picture, Earl is a Wheaton Terrier (foreground) and as you might suspect, isn't as keen as the Earl in the bottom picture of having Chamberlain on his lap.

Based on recent temperature observations, one could easily say "It's summertime." For example, yesterday's high was 91 degrees. And based on recent temperature forecasts, one could say "It's summertime in Boulder." Tomorrow's high is to be around 55 degrees, with possible snow flurries in higher elevations. I better tune up the skis!


Some news on Chamberlain

So far, the old boy is adjusting well to city life. Perhaps the biggest adjustment he had to make was getting used to the new size of his outdoor empire: he went from having about 2/3 of an acre to roam around to about 350 sq. ft. Thankfully, there's a dog park that's about a 7-10 minute walk away, so Chloe and I usually take him over there several times a week. Occasionally, he thinks he rules that, too, so it's fun to watch when another dog put's him in his place. We also take him with us to the neighborhood park and playground whenever we take Chloe there, and more often than not there are dogs there for him to play with. (Picture: Chloe filling the doggie fountain for Chamberlain at the dog park.)


A Big Couple of Days for Chloe (pic added!)

The last couple of days each had events that will undoubtedly have a profound impact on Chloe's development.

The one is that I registered her today for Kindergarten at Foothill Elementary School. Her 1st day will be August 20th, and she will be attending all day - the morning session is an enrichment program, and then after lunch will be the Kindergarten class.

The other pivotal event is that I took her to get a new bike a couple of days ago, which will undoubtedly be used to lay the foundation her Olympic career.


We're not in Kansas, er, Pennsylvania, anymore (and other observations)

We knew living in the West would provide many changes, including what pops up in the newspapers.
1.) This first story took place about 1/2 mile away from where we are. (1st story)
2.) The second story took place further away, thankfully for Chamberlain. (2nd story)

Other observations:
- There's a HUGE difference between 85 degrees with 70% humidity, and 95 degrees with 20% humidity.
- If you're not wearing a watch but notice dark clouds rolling in over the mountains, it's probably 3 in the afternoon (give or take an hour.) The afternoon rain shower is quite common here... it usually doesn't last long, maybe 20 minutes, but it does a nice job of cooling things down for the evening.


We got our stuff!

After two nights of "house camping", and close to a week since we slept in our own beds, it was a great sight to see the moving trailer make its way in front of our house this afternoon. What we need to confront now is: What in the world are we going to do with everything. We like the house we're in, but it sure is lacking in storage. We have a feeling our garage is going to look like the set from Sanford and Son for a bit.


The Movers and The Drive

(I know it's customary for posts to blogs to be a "daily diary" arrangement, but since I'm starting this a few days later than I ideally should have, this first post will cover several days. For pictures, visit http://share.shutterfly.com/action/welcome?sid=8AYsnLlozZN37g&notag=1)

July 28

The movers came this morning at around 7:50a. A couple of thoughts came into my head as they went to work: 1) It's weird to think that basically all of our earthly possessions will easily fit into just half of a semi-trailer, and 2) MAN! I really hope I packed that Steelers mug nice and securely.

At 7:35p, the movers finally left. That's right... nearly 12 hours to load up our house! Aargh!!! They were nice and all, but terms like "glacial," "snail's pace," and "molasses in January" come to mind. To say the least, I was pretty frustrated with how long things took. So, on the way up to my parents (the place KnPnCnC would call home for a couple of days) I relied on the musical stylings of System of the Down, Tool, and Rammstein to ease away the stress. (If you don't know these groups, trust me, you won't considerate it time well spent if you go looking for samples of their music.) See ya' later Richboro.

July 31 - Wagons, Ho!
With our belongings packed and rations nearby (and after a side trip to Indiana, PA), we set off for the West. "Giddy-up, Honda! Giddy-up, Ford!"

Upon leaving the
Allegheny Mtns. and northern Ohio River Valley, we quickly entered the Grain Belt. Man, we couldn't believe the size of some of the cornfields in IN and IL! For nearly 5 hours, I had to fight the urge to unnecessarily floss my teeth.

After 10 hours, 584 miles and parts of 5 states (PA, WV, OH, IN and IL), we ended today's segment in Effingham, IL (known as The Crossroads of Opportunity and home to a giant cross). The EconoLodge was great... accepts pets, close to take-out restaurants, and best of all, a pool for Chloe to burn off some energy.

August 1 - More Breadbasket and The Ol' Man
We moseyed out of Effingham at 7:30a and continued to be amaze
d by the grain fields along the interstate. As we approached St. Louis, Peg chimed in on the 2-way radio wondering how much out of the way it is to see The Arch. I knew it wasn't too far out of the way, but I couldn't tell which way to go to go out of the way by looking at a small GPS screen. So, I dialed up good friend Mike Drew (a former Show Me stater) for advice. Like Moses and the Israelites, he guided us through the desert (actually, East St. Louis, but by the looks of it, I would have preferred to be in the desert.)

After a few miles and our fair share of abrupt lane changes, we found ourselves on a bridge crossing the
Mississippi River (say it with me "That there's the Mississippi. The Mighty Mississip. The Old Miss. The Ol' Man... Deep River. My home is over Jordan") with a beautiful view of The Arch. (Kudos on the directions Mike! If the FAA thing goes south, perhaps a career at AAA awaits!) With Chamberlain in the car we couldn't get out to walk around and in it, but it was a nice and easy little detour.

With today's excitement over, we continued on through
Missouri (a state with more hills than I anticipated) and into Kansas (which was some beautiful prairies in the east) and our first look at The Great Plains.

Today's overnight stop, after 532 miles and parts of just 3 states, was in
Salina, KS. Salina, by the way, is home to the biggest grain elevator I ever saw. (Here are the specs.) The America's Best Value Inn was so-so... it did have a pool but it was in complete sun and the temps were in the mid 90s. To stay cool, PnCnC hung out in the AC, and I went to the DQ. The heat pretty much confined us to our room, but we made the most of it. For example: we knew that once we got there we wanted to do things that Boulderites do. Furthermore, we also knew today was the 1st day for single game seats to go on sale for University of Colorado football. So I made a call and got us tix to see them play Texas in October. I'm interested in the game; Peg and Chloe more so in the live buffalo that runs onto the field during pregame festivities.

August 2 - The New Home Home Stretch
Knowing (hoping, too) that today's the last leg of our trip, we got another early jump (7:35a departure). Less there be any doubt,
Kansas — and not just Oklahoma — also has winds sweeping down the plains. For several miles before and after Ellsworth, KS we drove past a huge wind farm — somewhere in the neighborhood of 150 windmills were there, all spinning in the 20-30 mph wind. And when we got out at a rest stop, we found out those winds can be hot... temps today danced around 100 degrees.

There were probably some during the previous two days, but we noticed some interesting signs along today's route. For example:
Russell, KS is the boyhood home for both Sens. Bob Dole and Arlen Specter.
- Somewhere off of Exit 70 is the World's Largest Prairie Dog
- And somewhere in the vicinity of that wonder of the world is another... a 6-legged steer.

I don't recall when we reached the KS/CO state line but it was probably around 11a. Though unofficially known as the
Rocky Mountain State, eastern Colorado is anything but mountainous. Geographically speaking, the eastern Plains were both blah and amazing at the same time. "Blah" because there's not much there. "Amazing" because of how far one can see and not see much. Even with that contradiction, Peggy and I kinda enjoyed that stretch... we found it refreshing to see such openness, especially having come from the congested northeast US. Zipping long at 80 mph was nice, too.

After 453 miles (and parts of just 2 states) we arrived at our home in
Boulder shortly after 2p. Yee-haw!