10.31.2009

Give me an "H." Give me an "A." Give me an "L." Give me an "L." Give me an "O." (You get the idea.)

The snow melted in plenty of time for Chloe to have a wonderful time with her Halloween activities.  The party at her school as well as the Trick-or-Treating went very well...  she probably couldn't tell you what she learned at school today, but I'm fairly certain she could tell you how many pieces of candy she got tonight!

10.29.2009

Snow Day, Take 2

Another several inches of snow. Another day off from school for Chloe.

About 22" of snow has fallen since Tuesday night... and it's flurrying again as I type this.

Below are some videos of our morning at Scott Carpenter Park.

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10.28.2009

In a Cycling Mecca, You Can ALWAYS Ride

Today, despite there being a boatload of snow on the ground — and more still to come as I type this — Chloe got a bike ride in. Inside.

Today, was her first CycleTykes class at Boulder Indoor Cycling (Boulder's indoor velodrome.) No, she's not riding on the track. Instead, they've set up an "obstacle" course in the track's infield to help kids of all ages practice in bike handling skills. She was clearly a little intimidate by it... there were a couple of things she clearly wasn't ready to do with her classmates. But, the most encouraging feedback was when we got back in the car to head home... she said she had a good time and would like to go back again next week.

(Pictures, top to bottom: Chloe [pink helmet] and her classmates getting ready to ride the boards, Boulder-style; a wide angle view of the velodrome track and infield.)

Snow Day

With 10" on the ground (so far!) and a day off from school, Chloe, Chamberlain and I spent some time this morning at the local sledding hill.

10.20.2009

Parent-Teacher Conference Day

Peggy and I met with Chloe's teacher today and couldn't be more pleased and proud of the feedback we received.
- Chloe's doing very well with her reading and is on a good pace to be slightly beyond a 1st grade reading level by the end of the school year. Peggy and I weren't too surprised to hear this, as we have been noticing some tremendous improvements the last several weeks. Her daily reading assignment homework seems to be paying off quite well!
- As for spelling, she is pretty strong in that area, too. A little more work is need on capitalization and punctuation, but her teacher said that is not uncommon at this stage.
- She is doing very well in mathematics, so much so that her teacher is thinking about giving her some "advanced" problems to see how she does with them.

Chloe is doing well non-academically, too. She gets along with everyone in her class, is eager to participate in discussions and class activities (sometimes over eager, we learned!) and shows concern when someone is sick or can't find something.

It was a GREAT visit with her teacher. We hope there are many more like that to come.

10.13.2009

It's Not Just Like Riding a (Road) Bike

This past weekend, I took some friends up on their invite for a weekend of mountain biking out in Fruita, CO (which is about 4.5 hours West of here, and just about 16 as-the-crow-flies miles from the Utah State Line.) I thought it would be a great opportunity to try something new, and do so with some friends who know what they are doing. Even though I've put several thousand miles behind me whilst in a bike saddle, the lion's share of those have been on a road bike. On a paved road. With relatively few obstacles in my path (save for the occasional squirrel darting out.) Though a novice, I knew enough about the sport of mountain biking that I shouldn't expect such conditions.

My friend Carl and I drove out Friday to an area called the Bookcliffs and met up with some other friends who had driven out the day before. When we arrived at the campsite, they had just returned from a ride, so Carl and I changed around and did a short "get my feet wet" ride before dinner. I quickly came to learn that except for there being a chain and a place to sit, there are very few similarities between a mountain and road bike. It is a completely different feel on a mountain bike and requires a different set of bike handling skills. For example, on a road bike, if you feel your back tire sliding out, you may tend to freak out a bit and may end up in a world of hurt; on a mountain bike, you just keep on pedaling.

Another difference is not only looking at things that might impact your front or rear tires, but also what you might hit your pedals on. A lot of the trails we were on are "single track," meaning they're wide enough for only 1 biker to be going on (i.e. no 2-abreast riding). So, the trail is relatively narrow and usually lined with rocks, boulders, trees, tree stumps, roots, etc. I can't tell you how many times I banged my pedals on those kinds of things because, previously, I never really had to consider them when thinking about ground clearance for my pedals.

On Saturday, we biked near camp and made our way to the the Zippity Doo Daa trail. Despite the name, this was, I would find out, no kiddie ride at Disney. First clue: the "experts only" sign at the trailhead that my friends said I should not be freaked out by. And, by the early going, they were right. Relatively mild terrain, but nothing too extreme. I was still having my usual troubles of being in the right gear for the short, steep climbs, and whacking my pedals against things. And I did my fair share of "hike-a-bike." But all in all, not too bad.

Then we got ourselves to the section that this trail is known for... the "knife's edge" ridge riding and the "steeps." I've hiked on terrain like this before, but to have a bike trail traverse it was pretty spectacular and unlike anything I had ever done on a bike before. The ridge riding didn't bother me too much (despite the threat of one bad turn and I'd be tumbling down the side of a pretty long, steep hill.) The steep descents, though, were something else. They, too, usually involved a ridge of some kind, but because of their nature, usually involved much greater speed and hence even less room for error.

At the first steep decline, we all stopped at the top to check out the trail and to do a gut check. Experienced riders Carl and Neal went first and made it down safely. I was next. And nervous. I'm not sure why, but I didn't feel like thinking about it too long, so I just went. And picked up speed quickly despite feathering the back brake. The bike drifted right and almost went off the trail before finding its way down the center of the trail and to the bottom of the descent. Carl and Neal were stunned – they couldn't believe a) I attempted it and b) I kept the bike upright after nearly going off the trail.

And frankly, I was in complete agreement. I was so startled by what had just taken place that my legs were shaking for a couple of minutes afterward. Much like at the top of the hill, I had another "didn't feel like thinking about it too long moment" at the bottom, but this time it was: I don't want to do anything like THAT again soon. And even though opportunities presented themselves, I was more than glad to do the "hike a bike" down some of the remaining steeps.

(Here's a link to a video someone took while riding this trail. I don't know this person, but I found it on YouTube and it gives a pretty good idea of what the ridge riding is like at times. It doesn't do justice to the "steeps" though. At about 4:15 into the clip, you'll see the descent that got my legs shaking. Again, it's tough to discern from the video how steep the trail is at that point.) After the steeps and ridge riding were over, we made our way back to camp via a trail called Prime Cut. This one was much more "tame" as it was mostly a gradual climb up to the camp.

On Sunday, we loaded up the bikes and headed to the Kokopelli trail area about 30 minutes away. The first trail we got on was Mary's Loop and it was wonderful. It paralleled (at a pretty safe distance) the canyon cliffs along a stretch of the Colorado River, providing excellent views practically the entire time. After about 2 miles, we did a side trail called Horsethief Bench Loop. To get to it, though, required a hike-a-bike down a boulder-strewn trail. Once at the bottom, more fun was ready to be had as we got ourselves lower in the canyon and got some even better views of the river and canyon walls. It was still mostly single-track riding but it wasn't as treacherous as some of the stuff from Saturday. That said, though, it was on this trail that I happened to do my first "endo." Thankfully, it was a relatively slow event and one from which I came relatively unscathed. Another great feature of this trail was the return to the beginning of the loop... it followed a dry, twisty creekbed along some sandstone walls

After finishing the loop, we hiked back up to Mary's Loop. At this point, the guys who came Thursday had to head back to the Boulder area, so Carl and I continued on our way on Mary's Loop – again, riding the rim of the canyon and enjoying the scenery – and eventually did part of another side trail called Steve's Loop. This, too, was another great side trail with little risk and great reward.

There was no time to ride on Sunday, so Carl and I decided to drive through Colorado National Monument on our way back home. And what a wonderful side trip this was. The canyon walls and rock formations were incredible and the road through the monument skirted the rim, yielding sights and views practically the entire way.

For pictures, follow this link.

10.03.2009

A Night at Nature's Drive-In

Our original plan for tonight was to do a one-night camping trip with our friends the Teagues. But after seeing the forecasted lows (upper 30s), we thought that might be a bit too extreme for our 6 year olds. So after kicking around some alternative ideas, we decided to address the need to do something outdoorsy. And the outdoorsy thing we decided to do was this: drive up to Rocky Mountain National Park in the afternoon to first do a kid-friendly hike somewhere, and then follow that up by spreading out a blanket along side a large meadow to have a picnic dinner during the annual elk rut to watch the drama play out.

"What is the elk rut?" you may ask. Well, check out this video to hear it described by a RMNP spokeswoman. And if you're like us, you, too, will find it hard to believe a large animal like a bull elk is making that kind of high-pitched sound.

Having read a little bit about it prior to heading up there, we knew that dawn and dusk were the times of day with the most elk activity. So we planned accordingly and set out on a hike with the Teagues around 4:00p. Even then, though there weren't any elk in sight, we could here some of the bugling throughout the valley. We strolled around for about 90 minutes, and then headed back to the car in order to find a good spot to set up our picnic and watch the feature presentation.

Thankfully, we only had to drive about 1 mile from where we were hiking to get a good seat for Nature's show... out in the meadow were about 35 cows (female elk) with several bulls (males) doing their best to attract some of the females away from the bull who had herded them together and is now trying to keep them his. And what a show Nature put on. Several bulls in the area were bugling, and we saw one make its way about 400 yards across the meadow to try and entice some cows out of the group. The "harem owner" bull was indeed a busy fellow, for not only did he have to chase off other bulls that got too close, he also had to recollect any cow that was getting wooed away by another bull. There was also the coyote near the herd, checking things out and probably looking for an opportunity to get a meal.

Now you may think us strange for actually wanting to go see such a thing. That is, perhaps, true. But you must also know that we were far from alone, for the park roads were packed with onlookers! And we were just one of several groups of spectators that decided to make it into a "dinner theater" show. This is actually a pretty popular annual attraction in the area; for example, the nearby town of Estes Park was holding its "Elk Fest" this weekend.

(Pictures, top to bottom: the herd we were watching during our picnic dinner; a bull elk corralling some of his lady friends; a bull elk running off some unwanted competition; the first heard we saw after entering the park; a bull elk on the outside looking in; a bull elk bugling; Steelers Nation... gotta love it.)