Saturday, December 13, 2008

Kauai trip recap

Here are some photos and a summary of our trip to Kauai with the kids and my parents, Dean and Linda.
I already wrote about our first 3 days in a previous post.
Friday Dec. 5
A few minute walk from our condo gets us to Poipu beach, where we do some snorkeling and the kids played in the sand. Some endangered monk seals spend their days sleeping on the beach here, and locals rope off an area of beach around them so they can rest without being bothered by people.
The sheltered swim area at Poipu beach (above) is great for kids.
Dean enjoys a crossword puzzle and the feral chickens while the rest of us play in on the beach.
A monk seal naps on the beach.

Saturday Dec. 6
I got in a coastline run before sunrise. Then we packed everyone into our 2 rental cars and headed to the north side. We spent the afternoon at Hanalei beach, shown below.

Sunday December 7 - a lazy day.

Monday December 8
I twisted my back at the tide pools at shipwreck beach in front of Hyatt. Waimea Canyon, which wreaked havoc with our scuba diving plans over the next 3 days. At any rate, we spent Monday at Waimea canyon, a 10 mile long, 3000 foot deep canyon. Quite impressive. The photos below don't really do it justice. My mom & dad went to Beach House for a fancy dinner while Amy and I entertained the kids at the condo.
Amy and Elizabeth at the top of Kalalau valley.
Tuesday December 9
Mom & dad took a helicopter tour and had the front seats. Amy and I did that last time we were here so we saved our $400 for other things, like the chiropractor I unfortunately had to visit while Amy & the kids played at shipwreck beach and made a sandcastle. Andrew collected shells and coral bits.

Shipwreck beach at sunrise

Andrew and Elizabeth in front of their sand castle.

Wednesday December 10
Amy, Linda and kids rode the train at Kilohana Plantation. Dean and I went to Poipu beach to snorkel, but dad couldn't get the hang of breathing through the snorkel and didn't like the choppy surf, so I went out briefly by myself. Amy and Linda went to botanical gardens and picked some amazing star fruit while dad and I played with the kids at the pool. Amy snorkeled at Lawai beach - best snorkelling yet, and I missed it. This was the end of the good weather - overnight and into Thursday morning we got a downpour of about 4 inches of rain.

Thursday December 11
Amy and I tried to snorkel at Lawai again after 4 inches of overnight rain and gale force winds. After 2 minutes in the water, Amy says "I can't see s**t". She was right. We gave up. Next we took the kids to Wailua falls (below) and Opaeka'a falls, not to mention their favorite spot on the island, Lydgate park, which has an amazing "play bridge"; an elaborate structure and maze with a big bridge. Mom & dad toured the coffee plantation while we were out with the kids, and we enjoyed a nice weather day in between storms. We decided to cook our own fresh fish dinner again tonight - this time grilled swordfish, wild rice and an excellent stir fry. Yummy.

My back got 90% better after diving into pool after dinner. No idea why that would fix it. Andrew is diving - head first - into the pool now, without goggles! To celebrate my ability to once again move without terrible pain, Amy and I went to the Stevenson's Library bar at the nearby swanky Grand Hyatt where I enjoyed a $16 organic margarita and $8 beer from a can. At least we got in 2 games of pool and enjoyed the live jazz band for no extra charge.

Wailua Falls (above)

Andrew dives!

Friday December 12
More rain fell overnight, but this morning we had a few hours of respite with just a few sprinkles, so we took the kids on a hike along the coastal cliffs (below). Andrew insisted on going back this afternoon to his favorite spot - the play bridge - despite the rain. Amy and I each bought $30 used wet suits, which I promptly used during my surf lesson in the rain. We had our hearts set on pizza for dinner, and checked reviews on the internet, our guide book, and by asking the locals before finally choosing Brick Oven Pizza in nearby Kalaheo town (a 15 minute drive). It was worth it. Great pizza, but pretty pricy, like most things on the island.

Hiking the south coast of Kauai

Saturday December 13

Our last day on Kauai was wet. I started the day with a run in pouring rain and wind, which was a refreshing change from the cold rain in Colorado. The rain slowed long enough for a brief walk in the tide pools again where Amy spotted a very cool sea snake slithering around in a little pool. I convinced Andrew that the rain didn't matter if you're in the pool, so enjoyed so more father-son bonding time while Elizabeth napped and I watched him repeatedly dive in to the pool. Hopefully our flight home will be on time - if so, we'll arrive at 6 am Denver time, just when the kids should be waking up.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Surfing in the rain

Since I last reported on our lazy Sunday in Kauai, things have been interesting. I arrived in Kauai last week fighting a cold, and since that means trouble clearing my ears, it meant waiting to arrange a scuba diving trip. That quickly cleared up thanks to the warm, humid climate but then on Monday morning, I threw out my back. I wish I had a great story to tell about how I did it, but I think I'm just getting old. What a drag it is getting old. I just leaned over a bit and something in lower back went completely haywire and I spent the next 3 and half days in pain, even visiting a chiropractor, until it miraculously healed itself upon diving into the pool on Thursday night.

The real bummer is that we had fantastic weather while I was in agony with back pain, but Wednesday night the island got 4 inches of rain and it hasn't really stopped raining since then. All the rivers blew out with mud and debris, and the wind tossed up huge waves. That nixed our dive plans. Amy was even more disappointed than I was.

So today I settled for a surfing lesson - in the pouring rain. I called a few people and no one was doing surf lessons in these conditions, so we packed the kids in the car to drive to the awesome playground at Lydgate beach/park (yes, also in the rain). Surfing must have been ordained, for this is apparently the one spot on the island today where the water wasn't dangerously murky and polluted. In another sign from the heavens, there was a truck parked at the beach with surf boards strapped to the top and the message "surf lessons 645-1029" painted on the door. I called and got my surf lesson, which renewed my respect for surfing. It's hard as hell to time the wave, paddle, and launch yourself up on the board while placing your feet precisely in the right spot to balance. I managed to ride 4 or 5 easy waves in my hour long lesson. Kudos to my instructor, a Hawaiian native named Lono, for showing me a great time.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Lazy Sunday on the Garden Isle

We spent a lazy day today on the Garden Isle, as Kauai is often called. After breakfast we lounged at the pool and hot tub with the kids. For our most ambitious part of the day, we hauled a couple of boogie boards down to the nearby Brennecke's beach and Amy and I enjoyed waves of up to 4 feet while my mom watched the kids play in the sand. My dad searched fruitlessly for a sports bar that would have the Bronco game on, and then we retired to our condo for lunch and the 49'ers - Jets game. With the 3 hour time difference, the early NFL games come on at 8 am. The kids and I had a nice siesta and then we took a short trip to the store for some supplies - and ice cream. Right now we're cooking our own dinner again - baked whole chicken, wild rice, and salad. Most people would probably eat out every day while on vacation, but I don't mind cooking - especially with the kids, who get restless sitting at a restaurant table.

I love staying at a condo with a fully equiped kitchen, but the one thing hate at every condo I've ever stayed in is dull knives. Drives me nuts. This place is no exception. This afternoon, though, I found a knife sharpener in the drawer and went to town. Now I can slice a tomato without smashing it.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Denver to Kauai

We woke up on Thursday at 3 am. That's right. 3 am. I took a 2 minute shower just to wake up, threw on some clothes, and tossed the luggage in the car. Check flight status: United says our flight at 6 am is on time. It's snowing outside. We grabbed the kids out of bed. Andrew was so excited about going to Hawaii that he was already awake. We strapped him and Liz into their car seats and backed out into the snow, heading to my parents house. Dean and Linda are joining us on our Kauai trip, and we don't want to pay to park 2 cars for 10 days. Yep, we're cheapskates.

We arrived at DIA a little before 5 am, and we're fumbling with the self-check-in kiosks, wondering why it keeps telling us to talk to an attendant. Finally, we give up and follow it's instructions, and learn that our plane has mechanical problems. The 6 am flight is canceled, so we'll be departing at 10:30 instead. 10:30? I got up at frickin' 3 am!!!

At least they gave us each $15 meal vouchers for our trouble I wanted to explain that my hourly rate is much higher than that, but I refrained. Of course the only place open that early is McD's, so we got some coffee and a burrito, hashbrows for the kids, all just appetizers for the big breakfast at Pour La France - whenever it finally opens. You gotta keep the kids entertained, and we figured if we stuffed ourselves now we wouldn't need to pay $10 for crappy airline food. If there was a silver lining to all this, on our new flight from LA to Kauai, Amy and I and the kids had a whole row of 6 seats to ourselves, so we could at least stretch out a bit.

At any rate, we arrived on the garden isle at 6 pm. 5 hours later than planned. Got to our condo in Poi Pu and crashed for the night. Good thing we went to bed early, because the kids woke up at 4 am. If you have kids, then you know that we also, therefore, got up at 4 am. The good thing about getting up at 4 am is you can have a lazy morning and still beat the crowds to the beach. Poi Pu beach state park is a short walk from our condo, and a great spot for the kids, with a breakwater creating a calm area for the kids. Pretty decent snorkelling, to. We spotted banner fish, unicorn fish, trumpet fish, and many others. Humuhumnukunukuapua'a - the Hawaii state fish - a type of trigger fish with pattern so geometric you can't believe it's natural. Oh yeah, and 3 monk seals were snoozing on beach, oblivious to the hordes of gawking tourists.

80 degrees and sunny, with a nice breeze. Perfect temp. Back in Denver we heard the overnight low temp was 5 below zero (F). Brrrrrr. Low temp here was about 75 (above zero). Nice.

Saturday. Up early again. About 5 am today. I went for a shoreline run in the dark while the kids watched TV. After a big breakfast, we headed to the north side. Stopped at some roadside stands to buy some freshly picked grapefruit, bananas, tangerines, and limes. Yummy. Next stop was Hanalei (inspiration for Puff the Magic Dragon, and still crawling with hippies). Bought some fresh fish at the Dolphin fish market. Took our chances with 2 pounds of Walu, which we've never tried before, and were richly rewarded with one of the best fish meals I've ever had, thanks to Dean's grilling skills.

Back to Hanalei. The north shore is famous for surf, especially in the winter, and today we saw why at the mile-long crescent shaped Hanalei beach bay. I'm not a surfer, but after watching dozens of people ride the great waves here today, I think I gotta spend a day and try it my self. At least I got in some body surfing in. I held Andrew's hand for about an hour as we both played in the edge of the surf. He absolutely loved the waves.

Next stop - the pools of Mokolea, some small tide pool and one lava tube perfectly situated so the waves come shooting up out of it. Pretty neat. No one else is around.

After an hour-long drive back around the island while Andrew slept, we enjoyed the grilled walu, along with a stir fry of bok choy, onion, and mushroom, plus Dean's specialty baked potato recipe. A fabulous meal that would have cost $40 per person at a restaurant.

I'm pooped. Time for bed!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Let the Big 3 fail

Detroit needs a shake up. The big 3 can't produce quality products at a profitable price. Part of the reason is their union contracts, and part of it is that they just can't figure out how to compete with Toyota. Giving them a taxpayer funded bailout now would be no better than offering free herion to a junkie to feed his bad habit. It's time we let a bad business fail, and give new, innovative companies the opportunity to fill the void.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Elizabeth's first ski trip

This past Sunday we took advantage of the Colorado passes we bought and hauled the kids up to Breckenridge for some early season skiing - and Elizabeth's first time on skis, at age 2 and a half! It was a great day to introduce her to the wonderful world of snow sports, with bright sunshine and temperatures in the 40's. Andrew's first skiing experience, on the other hand, was a frigid and windy day at Mary Jane. He didn't last long in those conditions. We got 4 runs in on Sunday, and Elizabeth really enjoyed it. It certainly helped that she had a big brother encouraging her.

Friday, October 31, 2008

The Halloween Owl

How often do you get to have a close encounter with a wild owl - on Halloween? The kids and I had just such an experience tonight! We left the house at dusk to go trick-or-treat, and as we were tromping up the sidewalk to the 2nd house of the evening, we heard an owl hooting. At first I figured one of the neighbors had a soundtrack of scary halloween noises playing, but then we heard it again. Not just me - the kids heard it too - and Andrew said "Owl!". I stopped and scanned the trees across the street, and sure enough, perched at the top of a nearly leafless tree across the street was the silhouette of an owl. I pointed it out to the kids - they saw it now too. As I was pointing, it launched itself from the tree and swooped right toward us, as if to make a meal out of little Elizabeth, paused directly overhead - just 15 feet above us, then turned slightly and flew away silently. Quite a halloween treat!

Here are me and the kids in our costumes, showing off the jack-o-lanterns that the kids carved (with help from mom) from pumpkins my dad grew in his garden. Thanks, dad!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Last harvest?

Raspberries in late October? Yep. I checked our backyard raspberry patch yesterday - October 20 - and found 3 very nice, ripe golden raspberries in our raspberry patch. There are a few more unripe berries on there, but with the colder weather moving in today, I suspect that was my last harvest this year from our garden.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Thailand and Laos (June 14, 2002)

This is another installment in the series: 'Round the World Revisited. I sent this email from Thailand on June 14, 2002 during our 6 month journey around the world.

Hello all!!

A long time ago in a galaxy far far away . . .

We previously gave you a lesson in Australian english
- I suppose we need to include some Thai versions of
the English language as well:
-"Please Waiting" - a sign at a theater

-"Smooth and Mellon" - on a Tiger whiskey bottle

-"Please don't feet up on sanitary" - in a bathroom
stall - translation Don't stand on the toilet

-"No ladey bar or gaydey bar in room" - in our Chiang
Mai hotel - translation No hookers or Drag queens in
your room

We've also seen some unusual English words, I hesitate
to call them expressions, on T-shirts:
-"Haworthia. The nature coming."

-"What your bathroom?" with a cartoon kitty

-"Indiana Ten Bigfoots" with a big 23 similar to a

Observations on Laos:
-This is real Asia unspoiled by too much tourism and
the fake front that goes with it

-The pace of life is slow and relaxing. Everybody is
very laid back.

-In general the people are more friendly than the
Thais. Probably because it is less touristed.

-Transportation is slow - it's a good thing nobody is
in a hurry

-The largest Lao bill is 5000 kip, equivalent to about
50 cents. This means when you change a hundred dollar
travelers check you are a millionaire with a 2 inch
tall stack of bills.

We've been busy since last we wrote. We headed north
from Bangkok and stopped in Ayuthaya, the former
capitol city, to see the 17th to 19th century ruins.
These are nothing compared with the ruins at Angkor,
but worth a stop none the less.

From here we took an overnight train to Chiang Mai.
The train was really nice compared to the bus. Our
seats converted into beds and there was a fold away
table, waiters to deliver food to your seat, the works
- and this is only second class. We really liked
Chiang Mai. It's much cleaner, quieter, cheaper and
more laid back than Bangkok. The people are also a
lot more friendly. From here we did a three day trek
to visit some Hill Tribe villages. The hill tribes
are minority groups, mostly having migrated south from
China and vicinity, that live in small rural mountain
villages practicing subsistence farming.

We also took a Thai cooking class which was really
good and went to "Monk Chat" where the monks get to
practice English and the tourists get to ask questions
one on one.

Also as part of the trek we rode a bamboo "raft" down
the river, with little bits of it continually falling
off. Finally we rode some elephants through the
jungle. This would have been cool except for the
horrible cruelty displayed by the trainers - hitting
them with big sticks and stabbing them with knives.

From Chiang Mai we headed into Laos via Huay Xai. We
took a "slow boat" down the Mekong to Luang Prabang.
It took 2 days to go just a couple hundred kilometers
in a cramped boat with wooden bench seats. The
temples in this World Heritage Area were amazing.
Just the sheer number of them is overwhelming. Also
the monks are really friendly since they all want to
practice their English on the tourists. We even
helped a few with their homework. We really enjoyed
the city and watching the local crafts people at work
(papermaking and silk weaving). This has been one of
our favorite spots of the trip.

It has been Brad's dream to accumulate enough scars to
scare little kids when he's old. He managed to scare
several Lao kids without even showing one scar. We
went on a trek to some Lao villages that had only been
visited by tourists once before. Some of the kids
that had never seen white people before burst into
tears at the sight of us. The rest of the kids and
not a few adults just stared at our every move. They
wanted to see how we walked, what we ate, everything.
It made me empathize with celebrities who are
constantly followed by the press. The only toy we had
to show off was the zoom lens on the camera. The kids
had fun looking through it as we zoomed in and out.
Our guide Mr. Nou (pronounced new) was awesome, the
best we've had. The village where we stayed overnight
was holding a ceremony the day we were there, no
outsiders allowed. Mr. Nou managed to get around this
with a bribe of 1 chicken and a bottle of whiskey
(total value $2.50). At night they fired up the
generator to watch a Lao dubbed version of the
original Planet of the Apes.

From Luang Prabang we took an 11 hour bus ride to the
capitol city, Vientiane (again only a couple hundred
kilometers). Along the way we stopped at some road
side "rest stops" - no facilities. The windshield on
the bus was held on with packing tape and the bus was
retrofitted with a wooden floor. We headed for a
little "eco-resort" outside of Vientiane for a little
peace and quiet. Since this place has no electricity
one of the workers invited us to his house to watch
the World Cup (soccer) game on that evening. This led
to an invitation to a wedding in his village the
following day. We didn't see the actual ceremony, but
the reception is pretty much like an American wedding,
food, drink and dancing. Just like back home, Amy
danced while Brad sat and drank whiskey. The kids had
a good laugh watching Amy dance and everyone made an
effort to make us feel welcome.

On the bus ride to the resort the bus would stop
anytime someone asked it to, wait for them to do their
shopping, and let them back on. On the bus ride back
to Vientiane about 1/3 of the bus was filled with
goods for market including live frogs and chickens.
Back in Vientiane we realized that our world view has
changed when we decided not to eat in a nice
restaurant because the $6 meals were outrageously

We re-entered Thailand and headed to the country's
first national park, Khao Yai (translates to Big
Mountain). This was one of the highlights of our trip
to Thailand. We were able to see Macaque monkeys,
Gibbons (these are apes not monkeys as we were told),
several species of squirrel, Hornbill birds, Barking
Deer, Sambar Deer, porcupine, Elephant Scorpion,
Indian Civet (exotic looking feline) and our favorite,

Next it was back to Bangkok to spend a couple days
before flying on to Turkey tonight. We decided to
take advantage of the air-con in the movie theater and
saw Star Wars II. After the previews there is a
message that says "Please pay tribute to the king".
At this point everybody stands while scenic images of
Thailand and the King doing good things are shown.
Everybody here really seems to respect and like the

Until next time . . .

Brad and Amy

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Employee no more

I officially became an independent contractor today. My former employer, IP Commerce, eliminated my position as part of a reorganization. They did offer me a contract, however, as a technical account manager, which I accepted, but the contract may last only a month or two. I'm a bit disappointed because I really enjoyed my job and my team. I'm also a bit excited because this unexpected change has provided me the motivation to pursue some of my own business ideas, and to venture into the world of contracting.

I'm looking forward to the next chapter of my professional life.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Snowy hike

Amy and I had an overnight getaway to Georgetown this weekend. After dropping the kids with Amy's parents on Friday evening, we spent the night at the charming Rose Street B & B in Georgetown. There was one other couple staying in the house that night, and we had some really engaging conversations with them Friday night and Saturday morning. We far prefer the B & B or hostel setting over the typical motel/hotel for this reason - you have the opportunity to meet great people that you just don't get at a hotel.

Saturday morning we were greeting by some unusually beautiful weather - bright sun shining through a light snowfall with golden aspen leaves and green conifers all around. After a relaxed morning and a fantastic breakfast, we drove up Guanella Pass for a hike to Silver Dollar Lake. Up at this high altitude, the snow was falling. Not the fluffy winter variety of snowflakes, but the autumn ice pellets, driven by the wind. I don't mind the cold and snow - in fact I really enjoy it - and it made for a great hike of a few miles to the lake. On the way down, we spotted a pair of ptarmigan with half summer and half winter plumage. They didn't mind us at all as they slowly hopped from rock to rock on a scree field just yards off the trail. Bring on the winter snows - I'm ready!

Saturday, October 04, 2008

4:43 mile - for 26.2 miles???

Imagine running a single mile in 4 minutes 43 seconds. I can't because I've tried and can't even come close to 5 minutes. But Haile Gebrselassie from Ethiopia just set the world record marathon time of 2:03:59, which is 4:43 per mile for 26.2 miles! That's an all-out sprint for over 2 hours. It's absolutely unbelievable, and a little depressing to know that even with all my training, I'll never even come close to a feat like that. Well it's time to stop feeling sorry for myself and just keep running.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

The kids visit cousin Trevyn

The family piled into the car for a trip to Laramie yesterday to see my sister's family and Andrew & Elizabeth's newborn cousin Trevyn.

Jeff (dad) and Trevyn

The Swansons and Trevyn

The cousins

Lynette (mom) and the baby

Andrew and Roscoe play fetch

For the drive back, we employed our favorite tactic of waiting til the kids bedtime so they'd sleep in the car. Ahh, sweet silence!

Tiny town

Yet another delay post due to my laziness! We finished our labor weekend a month ago with a visit to the famous Tiny Town Railroad just up the hill from our house. This is another great spot to take the kids for the day. Besides the train that loops around the pint-sized village, it also has a regular playground - great when they get tired of exploring the tiny buildings and riding the train.

Rifle Falls

I never got around to writing about our family trip to New Castle on Labor day weekend - almost a month ago. Besides the obligatory visit to the Glenwood hot springs pool - which the kids love - we spent a half day at Rifle Falls State Park, near Rifle. It's an impressive falls over a limestone formation that also has quite a few caves to explore. Unfortunately we didn't know about the caves, and didn't come prepared with flashlights. It's a worthwhile daytrip if you're in the area. One of my dad's neighbors in New Castle has a boy, Colin, who is Andrew's age and he joined us - including my dad - for our tour of the falls.
Dean (my dad), Colin, Andrew, Elizabeth, and me.
Dad and Elizabeth from behind the falls.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Nephew #2

I'm an Uncle times two today. My sister Lynette had a baby boy! Trevyn Jeffrey Morris was born at 1:10am on Sept 7. He weighed in at 6lbs, 10oz, 19 3/4 inches. Congrats, Lynette and Jeff!

Monday, September 01, 2008

Photo from Pikes Peak

I finally received my photo from the Pikes Peak Ascent. You can barely tell it's me, but it is. If you're thinking it looks like I'm not even running, you're right. The last few miles of the race are more like a fast hike - for most people, anyway.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

2008 Pikes Peak Ascent results

Some people who have run in the Pikes Peak Ascent and marathon for years are calling the weather for the 2008 Ascent the worst in race history. According to the Colorado Springs Gazette, only 760 of 1972 registered runners finished the race, and 80 finishers were treated for hypothermia. The paper has another decent article about yesterday's Pikes Peak Ascent, but unfortunately their online article doesn't have the photos they included in the print version. Here is Pikes Peak on Sunday morning - showing the August snowfall.

Here are some stats on my 2008 run and a comparison to last year's results.
I finished in 3:03:32 in 52th place overall, 46th among men (yes, that means that 6 women beat me), 9th out of 109 finishers in my age divison (male 35-39). That compares with 3:05:03, 69th place overall, 63rd among the men, and 12th out of 189 in my age group in 2007. The official 2008 results are posted here, but their list skips 15th place overall, so maybe I really finished in 51st place?

That's 1:31 faster than last year's time. Not bad, but I'm still disappointed that I didn't hit my goal of 3 hours.

Although I was fairly sore Saturday afternoon and evening, I'm a bit surprised that I'm not very sore at all today. Even so, I don't have any plans to go running again for a few days.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Note to self: buy better gloves

Here's a rundown of the big race day - the 2008 Pikes Peak Ascent.

My morning prep:
  • 6 am - ate a half of a banana and a few bites of a Clif bar
  • 6:30 ride my bike about a mile up the road from the kitschy Rainbow Lodge, then lock it and walk the rest of the way to the starting line
  • 6:45 down a Clif Shot and some water
My gear for the run:
  • polyester running tights
  • polyester long sleeve shirt
  • North Face GoreTex rain jacket with large vents
  • gloves (most definitely not waterproof)
  • one handheld water bottle (empty to start the race)
  • one Clif Shot packet (energy gel)
  • my Mizuno Wave Ascend 2 trail running shoes - the best shoes I've ever owned
As predicted, it's wet and chilly. It wasn't too cold in Manitou Springs (at 6,300 feet) but it was certainly wet. The race started at 7 under a steady rain. For the first few miles, I was actually a little too warm in my rain jacket, even with the vents wide open and the front zipper mostly open. Nevertheless, I don't want to get too wet because I know the mercury is gonna drop big-time as I go up. I felt strong this morning - unlike my start on Mt. Evans in June.

Miles 2 to 5 are the steepest part of the race, on a section of the Barr trail called The W's because on a map the switchbacks make it look like a bunch of W's strung together. Despite steady rain for the past 24 hours, the trail isn't too muddy for 2 reasons: first, because it's too steep for water to collect anywhere, and secondly because the surface is crushed granite gravel - granite doesn't absorb water.

As I rose past the W's, we seemed to rise above the clouds and the rain diminished to a mere annoying drizzle. I was optimistic that I'd seen the worst of the weather. I was soon to be sorely disappointed.

Miles 5 to 10 are less steep - this is the easiest part of the race. A few spots are even flat enough to have puddles. At this point my hat is wet and pants are slightly damp, but I'm comfortable. Make that comfortable temperature-wise; I'm running at about 91% of my max heart rate, right at the edge of my aerobic max, which is never exactly comfortable.

So why would I start the race carrying an empty water bottle? The first 4 aid stations are close enough together that I don't need to carry my own drinks. However, between aid stations 4 and 5 (Bob's road to Barr camp) is 2.3 miles, and the distance between stations 5 and 6 (Barr camp to the A-frame). The amazing volunteers at the stations fill my bottle with gatorade to keep me going. Here's the first problem with my cheap water-resistant gloves, though - filling a small-mouthed bottle from a pitcher of gatorade results in spillage - on my already damp gloves. And it's starting to get cold up here at 10,000 feet. Did I mention that it was raining, too?

At the A-frame aid station, the volunteers are telling people to turn around if they're cold. One guy heeded their advice and turned around. The trail emerges above tree line. At this point, the rain has turned to rain-hail mix. I'd take hail (very small hail, anyway) over rain anyday. Hail bounces right off and doesn't get you wet. The trail gets steep from here on up, and the boulders I have to step over get bigger, too. I've passed several people over the past few miles, and I'm still feeling relatively strong.

Now things start to get interesting. That GoreTex jacket that was keeping me too warm 2 hours ago is now a Godsend. The wind has picked up and the temperature is somewhere in the 30's. I'm in a dense fog with hail/snow falling on me. And I'm wearing wet gloves. I took one off to see if I was better without them, but bare wet skin was even worse, so I pulled it back on. It's cold enough now that I put my hood on and closed the jacket vents. With about 2 miles to go, I pulled out my earmuffs and put them on too (I'm damn glad I decided to pack those for the ride). It's now hail/snowing steadliy and it's accumulating on the trail, first as slush and later as bonafide snow.

With about a mile and a half to go, my hands are starting to get numb. Finally, the thought occurs to me that I should pull my fingers back into my palm, which gives my freezing hands some slight relief from the icy cold, wet fingers of the dreaded water resistant gloves.

Now my calves are cramping each time I need to step over large boulders. For the last 3-4 miles of the race, I'm mostly doing a fast hike, although I still break into a jog when the trail isn't too steep.

I can't see anyone else around me who has warm clothing - many of them are wearing shorts with rain-resistant tops, and nobody has a hood.

I crossed the finish line at 14,115 feet after 3:03:30 (approximately - I haven't seen my official time yet); a minute and a half faster than last year, but 3:30 slower than my goal of 3 hours. At the summit, it's cold, windy, foggy, and snowing. Not quite a blizzard, but damn close for mid-August. I made a bee-line for the shelter of the Cog railway station/gift shop for some warmth. The race organizers haul a bag for each runner up to the summit - typically filled with dry clothes. My hands are so numb and cold that I can't untie the knot in it, so I head to the men's room and warm my nearly frostbitten hands under the air dryers. As they warm up, the pain starts - shooting pains as my flesh defrosts. One of the other runners in there is shivering hard. While I'm inside, I learned that the race was just stopped due to thunder - any runners who hadn't passed the A-frame (about 10.5 miles into the race) would have to turn around and run back down. I can only imagine the utter disappointment.

After changing clothes and doing a bit of stretching (although not nearly as much as I would have done if I was warmer), I jumped on a van for a ride down the mountain. The guy next to me didn't go inside to warm up - he went straight from finish line to van - and he is shivering violently. I untied his bag and helped him get some dry clothes on.

"We'll look back on this tomorrow and laugh about it", says one of the other guys on the van. He's right. I promised myself that I'll buy warm, waterproof gloves before I run any more races like this. Are runners crazy or what?

Friday, August 15, 2008

Race day forecast: cold and wet

It looks like I'll need some warm clothes for the Pikes Peak Ascent tomorrow. The forecast is a high temp of 57 degrees (F) and rain - at the base of the mountain. That likely means it will be snowing at the top. Brrrrr.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Soggy camping weekend

We spent a soggy weekend camping near Keystone. We were lucky Friday night, when it didn't rain til after we were all in the tent getting ready for bed. Saturday morning I went for a run under cloudy skies and came across 2 moose walking up the road. Since they were walking the other way, didn't see me for quite a while so I was able to watch them for several minutes unseen. This is the first time I've seen moose south of I-70. Our friends Mike & Renee Kappus joined us, so combined we had kids ages 2, 3, 4 and 5. They watched the kids for a few hours Saturday afternoon while Amy and I rode mountain bikes. In keeping with the weekend theme, it rained on us, but we were prepared and had rain jackets. Saturday evening we cooked dinner and roasted marshmallows under a light drizzle, which wasn't so bad since I had rigged up our huge 10 ft by 20 ft tarp between some trees to give us a nice area to cook and stay dry. Sunday morning was overcast yet again, but I got in a long run - 2 hours and about 2700 vertical feet. That's my last big run before the Pikes Peak Ascent next Saturday. It never did rain Sunday morning, so Mike and Renee got in a short bike ride before we all packed up our wet gear and hit the road. Not the best camping weather, but I've certainly endured worse.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Fire on Green Mountain

Lightning started a grass fire on Green Mountain on Monday afternoon, and the fire burned right to the edge of our neighborhood, about half a mile from our house. Fortunately no homes burned, but it got pretty tense with some evacuations. Our house smelled like smoke Monday and Tuesday, but most of the smoke odor is gone. This is the second time in 2 weeks we've had a fire in the open space on Green Mountain. The last one was much smaller.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Green Mtn. and Mt. Evans training runs

I did training runs this weekend, the first one on Saturday morning on Green Mountain. I ran for an hour and 40 minutes (1:40), getting the top 2 different times and doing a complete circuit of the mountain. It was already hot even at 6:30 am, which might explain why a 6-foot long bullsnake was laying across the trail warming himself up for the day.

Today I drove up to Echo Lake on Mt. Evans and ran from there up the Chicago creek trail, over a steep pass to summit lake, then a few miles more up the road, and finally off the road and up the south flank to the summit, finishing in 2:15. Chicago Creek and the 2 Chicago Lakes are in a surprising beautiful glacial valley - it's a spot I'd like to revisit someday when I have more time to linger, and cast a fly line. On the way up I surprised a lone deer, got real close to a herd of 18 mountain goats, and hiked right through a family of ptarmigan just below the summit. I hitched a ride back down, and spotted a few big horn sheep on the drive.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Elizabeth's bedtime routine

Although her feet are straight now and she can walk just fine, Elizabeth will need to wear her foot brace at nighttime until she is at least 4 years old to prevent a relapse. The brace is such a part of her routine that she doesn't mind it at all. Here she is in her PJs, with the brace, and sporting a new hairdo courtesy of mommy.

Bush's Dept. of Justice broke the law

It's disappointing, but unfortunately not too surprising to learn that the Bush administration improperly and illegally meddled in the hiring process at DOJ. According to a Department of Justice internal report, White House liason Monica Goodling rejected one candidate because of his wife's political views, and another because of the mere rumor that she was a lesbian. The politicized screening process even blacklisted candidates who were members of The Nature Conservancy (see report here), an organization that uses free-market forces to conserve natural habitats. Don't conservatives supposedly believe in free market solutions and doesn't the term conservative derive from the word conserve?

When did I wake up in a country where the President is above the law? If you're not outraged, you're not paying attention.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Training for the Pikes Peak Ascent

I'm a glutton for punishment, or so it might seem. I'm running in the Pikes Peak Ascent again this year on August 16. It's a trail race of 13.3 miles and -- more significantly -- 7815 feet of vertical gain. My goal is to finish in under 3 hours, and beat my time from last year (3:05:03). In conjunction with my efforts, I'll once again be collecting donations for the Ponseti International Association for the Advancement of Clubfoot Treatment - so they can help more children with club foot birth defects. If you'd like to make a donation, click here.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Buckets and Tap Shoes

Amy and I took the kids to see a performance by Buckets and Tap Shoes on Wednesday evening. These guys have a unique and entertaining act mixing drums, bass, some guitar, lots of tap dancing, and yes, banging on buckets, all with a good funky groove. It was fun for the kids and adults. They even invited all the kids in the audience to the stage for the last song to bang on drums and buckets. See them if you have the chance!

Lemongrass Creme Brulee

If you're looking for a restaurant with a unique menu, I'd recommend Zengo. The Latin-Asian fusion dishes are definitely out of the ordinary, and quite tasty. We went there for Amy's birthday an Tuesday night and sampled about a dozen different appetizers, tapas-style, instead of ordering entrees. For dessert, we had lemongrass creme brulee - an odd sounding flavor combination, but as it turns out, delicious. Very distinctive, too.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Weekend sans kids

Jon Christensen, my friend and co-worker at 3 different companies (BoldTech, StorePerform, and IP Commerce), got married this weekend near Vail, and Amy's parents agreed to take care of the kids for us for 2 nights. We took full advantage of our kid-less situation, starting with a lazy Saturday morning at home - something we can't do when our kids are up at 7 am or earlier. Then we packed the 4runner with camping gear and loaded our mountain bikes, and had a nice ride on the Colorado Trail going west from Copper Mountain part way up Searle pass. The bottom section of the trail was a rutted, bumpy mess thanks to all the horses that ride through, but the upper part was beautiful and great riding. Our next stop was Piney River Ranch just north of Vail - the site of the wedding. We both washed up, dressed up, and enjoyed the ceremony and reception with it's spectacular backdrop of Piney Lake, the glacially carved Piney river valley, and the impressively jagged Gore range. Early Sunday morning, I got in some altitude training by running about 6 miles round-trip from 9,300 ft elevation to about 11,500. After breakfast, Amy and I hiked up the valley to the cataracts on the Piney river. We arrived back at Ron and Dena's a little after 5:00 pm to pick up the kids and get dinner. One heckuva weekend.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

I'm an uncle

A big congratulations to Amy's brother Jason and his wife Jan, who became proud parents today of a baby boy, Emerson Butler! They also succeeded in making me an uncle, and bringing Andrew and Elizabeth their first cousin. Here is Jason with the newborn boy.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

11th Anniversary

Amy and I celebrated 11 happy years of marriage today with a nice dinner at 240 Union and a concert by the Colorado Symphony Orchestra at Red Rocks. I love you, Amy!

Camping and fireworks

For the long 4th of July weekend, we took the kids camping near Keystone. The trip got off to a rocky start on Thursday, which was a company holiday for me. With a customer deployment deadline of July 15, we ran into a snag with a supplier that I had to deal with on Thursday morning. Once I had my team working on the issue, we escaped to head up to the hills for two nights.

When we go camping, we do our best to avoid established campgrounds, most of which pack people way too close together and have all the charm of a trailer park. We picked nice spot next to a small stream, with no pit toilets or "rules & regulations" signs to be seen. Upon arrival, Andrew and Elizabeth grabbed their buckets and shovels and proceeded to get absolutely filthy, which is what you're supposed to do out in the woods. For dinner we grilled pork chops. Some advice, by the way - avoid the "light the bag" charcoal - unless you enjoy the taste of lighter fluid. (I knew this, but we couldn't find a small bag that wasn't the match-light kind.)

After dinner, we roasted marshmallows, and Andrew discovered the magic of a camp fire. He thoroughly enjoyed putting a stick into the coals then pulling it out to watch it glow and make smoke. (Last year, there was a fire ban throughout most of the state all summer, so we had to forego this most important ingredient of a proper camping trip.)

On the 4th, we snuck away from the camp site and took the kids to Keystone for the jumping castle, playground and some ice cream. At night, we enjoyed the fireworks display, which had Elizabeth fascinated and a bit scared at the same time. The next day, she called it "lightning McQueen" - a mix-up of lightning and the main character from the movie Cars.

We finished off our trip with a nice lunch in Breckenridge with my brother Erik, and a hike to Monarch lake. (By the way, three weeks after I popped into the bar where Erik bartends, he says people are still asking about his "twin" brother.)

Monday, June 30, 2008

Andrew's Lemonade Stand

Andrew has been obsessed with money lately - counting it, trading ones for tens, playing Monopoly even. From gifts and doing chores, he had amassed about $20, even after spending some on candy. He is now intent on having $100, so Amy helped him start toward that goal today by helping him set up a lemonade stand. Andrew bought $7 worth of lemons and sugar at the store - with his own money - and helped mom make the lemonade. Then they drove to the Green Mountain trailhead parking lot, where a bunch of thirsty hikers and bikers would hopefully shell out $1.50 for a small glass or $2.50 for a large. Andrew made the signs himself. The result:

Expenses: $7
Revenue: $25
Net profit: $18

Not a bad ROI for a few hours of labor.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Tour de Southeast Colorado

Amy's friend Sara Reid, whose family owns a cattle ranch near Ordway, Colo., invited us down this weekend to see the ranch and witness the calf branding. The ranch is only a few hours drive from Denver, but it's a world away. It's wide, wide open spaces out there. Turning off I-70 onto highway 71 at Limon, the sign says "Next services 75 miles". Sara's parents Janelle and John treated us to a fantastic meal when we arrived. Of course, beef was on the menu. On Saturday morning after another filling meal, we took Andrew and Elizabeth to see the animals, along with Sara's neice and nephew, Maggie and Shane, who are the same ages and Andrew and Elizabeth, respectively. Maggie was our tour guide, and the first stop was the chicken coop. They have a few dozen chicks that are several months old and the kids enjoyed chasing the around the coop. They also enjoyed sitting in the cab of the John Deere tractor, petting the horses, and feeding the cows some hay. Later in the morning we watched as the Reids and their friends roped, branded, immunized ear-tagged, and de-horned, a bunch of calves. I didn't realize the de-horned the little things - it looks painful. After the horn buds are off, they squirt a bit of linseed oil and turpentine on the wound to slow the bleeding and keep flies off. They used an old bottle chocolate syrup for the squirt bottle. Andrew got to ride a horse, which he thought was great. Elizabeth, who loves to point out horses - both in books and when she sees them for real - was a bit overwhelmed by the specter of a big horse at close range, and refused to get on one.

Andrew also may now fully realize the implications of what he's known for a few years - that beef comes from cows. As he asked more and more questions about what they do with the cows, we told him the brutal truth - that eventually they go to a place where people cut them into pieces so we can buy the meat at the store. He pondered that reality in silence for a minute, then went back to playing. He still eats meat.

Saturday afternoon we drove another 90 minutes or so to Pueblo - observing a whole lot of boarded-up store fronts and run down housing along the way. Once there we visited Amy's grandmother and great Aunt.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Bike to work

Today is bike to work day in Denver. I often ride my bike to the park-n-ride and put it on the bus, but this is the first time I've ridden to work since I moved to Lakewood. The main reason I don't ride more is because all the routes from my house to downtown involve some riding in traffic, which I like to avoid. I did find a route that's fairly direct and keeps me out of traffic most of the way, except for about a 1-mile stretch on Perry St, which I found out today doesn't have much traffic. I may just do this ride a bit more often.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Torn supraspintaus

I while back I wrote about getting an MRI to determine how much damage I had done to my shoulder. It turns out I have a "low grade partial tear" - about 20% - of my supraspinatus - a tendon in my rotator cuff. The doctor recommended more physical therapy before surgery. I was relieved to hear that because the recovery from arthroscopic shoulder surgery, as both he and the therapist explained, is long and painful: about 3 months before I could do anything substantial with my right arm, 6 months til I could be active, and up to year before I'd regain 95% of my original strenght. Ughh. No thanks. I'd much rather do the exercise every day for a year.

1 minute faster on Mt. Evans Ascent

Yesterday I ran in the Mt. Evans Ascent, 14.5 miles from Echo Lake at 10,600 feet elevation to the summit at 14,264 feet. My time this year was 2:24:17, or 9:57 per mile, which is 54 seconds faster than I ran the same race last year. Even though my time improved, it was a much more competitive race this year and I went from 21st place overall in 2007 to 43rd in 2008 (out of 360 people). Not bad, but I was hoping for a bigger improvement over last year's time. The overall winner was Matt Carpenter, who beat the previous course record by 4 minutes, and beat the 2nd place finisher by more than 12 minutes! That guy is a rock star of running.

I ran the first mile in 8 minutes, but wasn't feeling strong, my place slowed, and many people passed me. I improved in the second half of the race, at least compared to other racers, and was able to regain position by passing several people, including 5 people in the last half mile of the race - which is definitely my fondest memory of the race.

Before the race I had delusions about a top 10 finish, but I would have had to run at a pace of 8:25 per mile to do that. That's a minute and half faster, per mile! To do that would take a fundamentally different level of commitment to the sport, and/or different genetics than I was born with. I don't think I'm ready to commit the time it would take to get to that level.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

5:48 mile

I while ago I set the goal (perhaps overly optimistically) of running a 5 minute mile. I hit 5:05 on a treadmill, and in November ran a 5:49 mile on a track. I tried again yesterday and ran a mile on the same track in 5:48. Most of my training recently has been for hills, distance and altitude, and I guess that doesn't necessarily translate into a faster mile.

Monday, June 09, 2008

The 5-year-old world traveler

A few days ago Andrew saw my sister, his Aunt Lynette, and they talked about Lynette's husband Jeff being in China. I wasn't there but here's what Lynette had to say about it.
When I told him on Saturday that Jeff is in China, he said, "Oh yea? Where in China?" I thought it was cute because I don't know of many 5 year olds that would ask where in China. I told him I wasn't sure of everywhere Jeff would be but he was starting and ending his trip in Beijing and Andrew said, "Oh I've been to Beijing".... like most 5 year olds would say about having been to Chuck E Cheese or something. It made me laugh.
Just your typical conversation with a five-year-old!

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Backstage and 3rd row for Big Head Todd

Amy and I had a memorable experience at Red Rocks Amphitheatre yesterday - a backstage tour, access to the sound check, and 3rd row seats for Big Head Todd and the Monsters. Our tour included a glimpse of the cave-like backstage dressing rooms and the tunnel from backstage to the sound booth - scrawled with graffiti from decades of rock stars and their crews.
The show itself was fantastic: great performance, perfect sound. It was 2 full sets of BHTM - about 3 hours of music. Hazel Miller made a special appearance on several songs as did a horn section. The encore finally was an extra-bluesy cover of Joe Walsh's Rocky Mountain High. The band filmed the whole show for a DVD they'll release later this year.
The 3rd row seats made the performance unforgettable. If you've never sat up close before, I highly recommed getting general admission tickets to a show and arriving early to snatch the good seats. It's well worth it. Here are a few photos and brief video clip.

Sound check: Todd and Jeremy

Tunnel under the seats at Red Rocks

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

IP Commerce announces $17M funding

My employer, IP Commerce, announced the closing of our Series C capital raise of $17M, which was led by Venrock venture capital.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Altitude training

To prepare for the Mt. Evans Ascent race in 3 weeks, I did some altitude training yesterday. Here's a timeline:

  • 4:59 am - wake up (I woke up on my own 1 minute before my alarm was set to go off)
  • 5:20 am - leave the house after having a drink and a banana
  • 6:30 am - arrive at Summit Lake on Mt. Evans (12,850 ft)
  • 6:40 am - begin running. uphill. on the road. 5.5 miles to the summit
  • 7:40 am - arrive at the summit (14,264 ft). Enjoy a few minutes of the spectacular view
  • 7:50 am - start running back down (another 5.5 miles)
  • 8:28 am - arrive back at Summit Lake
  • 10:50 am - back home to watch the kids while Amy plays soccer
Hell of a way to start a Sunday!

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Andrew's 5th birthday

We celebrated Andrew's 5th birthday today with about 20 of his friends plus their parents at Lions park in Golden. Andrew and Amy made a pinata from scratch, which was probably the highlight of the event. After several good whacks, it broke off it's string and our brave friend Mike Kappus held it up until Quentin, our next-door neighbor, gave it the fatal blow. Mom put a lot of time into the event, getting helium balloons, fixing food and drinks, and cooking 2 cakes.
Andrew winds up for the swing
Mike Kappus gets crazy

The frenzied aftermath

First harvest 2008

Yesterday (May 30) we harvested our first vegetables from our garden: some spinach. We had spinach salad with our spaghetti, which was Andrew's request for his birthday dinner.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Southern Colorado Vacation

We arrived home from a family vacation to southern Colorado, including the Sand Dunes, Pagosa Springs, Mesa Verde, and drives over the state's most spectacular passes after a spring snow storm. Here are the highlights.

May 16 Friday

First stop - about 8 pm (45 minutes into our journey) at a convenience store in Fairplay for a potty break. Andrew was wearing his rocket ship pajamas - mom put them on to prepare for him sleeping in the car. I told Andrew he could buy one item (within reason), and he chose a dozen Hostess donuts - chocolate, powdered sugar, and plain. Not a bad choice, since it was their post-breakfast dessert for the next 3 mornings. We arrived at our first destination - the Medano-Zapata Ranch near the Great Sand Dunes - at around 11 pm. The ranch is 100,000 acres owned by the Nature Conservancy bordering the National Park. The Conservancy just recently opened their lodge and guest house for nightly lodging. Amy and I are long-time Conservancy donors, and we had been interested in staying at the ranch, but until recently the only option was to join a multi-day naturalist workshop. It was perfect for us. Of the 3 nights we were there in the 6 room guest house, we had the whole place to ourselves except for 1 night. The house has a large living area and kitchen, with a panoramic view of the dunes and Sangre de Christo mountains; a beautiful spot to enjoy a meal.

May 17 Saturday
After breakfast we went straight to the dunes. A steady cool wind was blowing from the east, making it just cold enough that we all wore light jackets. Medano creek was running strong and cold on the edge of the dunes. After crossing, we didn't go too far into the dunes before we settled in a nice spot and the kids started playing with their buckets and shovels in 30-square-mile sandbox. We all ran down the dune faces a few times, too. I got a good workout doing laps up and down one steep dune. After a picnic lunch, we stopped at the visitor center, where Andrew earned his badge as a Junior Park Ranger. He beamed with pride for the next few days telling anyone who would listen that he was a Junior Park Ranger. While Andrew earned his badge with Mommy's help, I took Elizabeth on a short nature walk. We see several bugs (she calls all bugs "lady bugs"), some animal burrows, and I pointed out to her a pile of deer poo poo. She now excitedly points out to us every pile of deer poo poo she sees. After naps for me and the kids, we mosied over to the main ranch house, where a fairly tame herd of deer was feasting on the green grass, and the kids got a pretty close look at them.

May 18 Sunday

I started my day at 5:30 am, hitting the road for a short drive to a trailhead, and got some uphill altitude training in. I ran up the Zapata Lake trail from about 9000 to 11,300 feet elevation and back again. That's a hell of a way to spend a vacation, eh? After breakfast back at the ranch, we all piled into the truck and went back to the dunes! We did a short nature hike where the highlight for the kids was throwing rocks into a stream, and then on to the dunes again. Andrew told us he didn't want to go to the sand again, but we knew better and took him anyway. This time we went to the east side, where fewer people go because you need 4 wheel drive and partially deflated tires to get thru the sand. The great thing about this spot is that the creek here runs right into the bottom of the steepest dune around, one with about 300 feet of vertical rise straight from the creek. Amy and the kids played in the wet sand and creek while I scaled the dune and ran straight down again, leaping several times as far as I could to land in the soft sand. The sand makes an odd rumbling noise when you land in it - hard to describe. I then helped Andrew build a sand castle and moat while Amy took her turn leaping down the dune. After all that, it was nap time for the kids, so back to the ranch we went. Andrew now said he loves the sand dunes, despite telling us earlier that day that he didn't want to go back.

May 19 Monday
This morning we went on a bison tour. A ranch hand drove us out where we got up real close to some of the ranch bison, including several calves that were about 1 month old. We got up close but stayed in the car to watch. The animals are huge and unpredictable. The conservancy maintains them as an essentially wild herd, providing no feed. They do round up and sell many of them each year to slaughter, but they are increasing the herd size. Without any wolves, they don't have any predators. It surreal to see about 3 dozen bison at close range, with the dunes and the snow-capped peaks of the Sangres as a backdrop. After the tour, we packed up and headed toward Pagosa Springs. Andrew and Elizabeth napped for about an hour (ahh, sweet silence!). We listened to C.W. McCall's "Wolf Creek Pass" as we drove on Wolf Creek Pass and stopped at Treasure Falls. With a drop of about 100 feet and and creek swollen with snow melt, this is the most impressive waterfall I've seen in Colorado. The short hike from the road for a closer look is well worth it. We're now at the Pagosa Hot Springs, where the kids have the only thing required for kids to have a fun vacation: a pool.

May 20 Tuesday

Tuesday was a kid-centric day with most of the day spent in the hot springs pool. Amy and I took turns getting massages, so wasn't entirely kid-centered. The hot springs are right next to the San Juan river, which was probably 6 feet higher than normal due to snowmelt: high enough that they put up sandbags to keep the turbid and frigid water out of the hot tubs.

May 21 Wednesday

After a morning dip in the pool, we hit the road toward Mesa Verde, stopping at Durango on the way for lunch and a stop at the candy store. At this time of year, Mesa Verde lives up to its name, with vivid green spring growth everywhere. Andrew earned his 2nd Junior Park Ranger badge, and we all toured the Spruce Tree House ruin. We spent the next 3 nights at Kelly Place, an amazing B&B west of Cortez, nestled in the canyons underneath 10,000 foot Sleeping Ute mountain. There are several Anasazi ruins right on the property, including one very well restored pueblo and kiva (circular, underground room used for ceremonies). It also borders Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, where several more cliff dwellings are a short hike away. There was a group of about a dozen people here on a "vision quest"; after a few days banging on drums and various activities at Kelly Place, they all packed up for a week of backpacking in the Utah desert. They were really nice folks, and not nearly as weird as you might expect.

May 22 Thursday

We spent the whole day in Mesa Verde, starting with the ranger-led tour of Cliff Palace, the largest cliff dwelling in the park. Surprisingly, there is a winery and vinyard just up the road from us along McElmo creek - Guy Drew Vineyards. We stopped in for a tasting and bought half a case of wine. One of those bottles we promptly finished off back at the B&B while the kids napped. It was a cold rainy day, so enjoying some nice wine and a book was a great way to spend the afternoon.

May 23 Friday
Today we hiked a few miles into Canyons of the Ancients to see the cliff dwellings. They're certainly not as big or impressive as those at Mesa Verde, but the solitude - we were the only people there - makes it well worth the walk. Back at Kelly Place, we ate dinner and played games. They had an ancient Monopoly game without the board, so Andrew improvised a game - something like shopkeeper. He doled me out a stack of monopolymoney and then "sold" me various items and gave me change. So he got to exercise his math skills by calculating change, and he absolutely loved it. He insisted on playing again the next morning after breakfast!

May 24 Saturday

Today was a big driving day, but a beautiful one. The cold spring weather left fresh snow everywhere above about 8000 feet, and we spent a lot of time at these altitudes as we drove through Durango, over 2 passes to Silverton, then over Red Mountain pass to Ouray, and finally over McClure pass to Basalt and Glenwood Springs. If you've never been over these passes, they are absolutely spectacular. I also bought the most expensive gasoline I've ever bought - $4.29/gallon in Ouray. (Fortunately, and somewhat miraculously, I got 22 mpg in my 1995 Toyota 4Runner on this tank of gas - the best mileage I've ever gotten.) We spent the night with my dad at my parents' place in New Castle, and as usual, enjoyed great food and great company!

May 25 Sunday

We saw a bear! Driving home over Vail pass on Sunday evening, there was a handful of people stopped to look at something - a big black bear! Just a hundred yards off the road, the bear was grazing on vegetation. This is the first time I've seen a wild bear in Colorado. Pretty cool way to finish our vacation! (Unfortunately we didn't have a good zoom lens...)