Friday, June 29, 2012

How I burned my nose

Ever since I got an iphone, I am on the grid all the time.    This summer the iphone just got better.  I downloaded an altimeter ap and now I know just how high we are driving, biking, or hiking.  I don't even even need GPS or cell service to know why I am huffing and puffing.  This ap works in ASTER mode (Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection) when GPS signals are too weak.  This very minute I am typing at 7,592 feet above sea level, ASTER mode says. 

I love technology.  I know how far I have hiked from my pedometer, which measures accurately to a tenth of a mile over two miles.  Not only do I know exactly how far I have hiked, I can download my hiking data to my computer and create all manner of charts and graphs.  

When I bike, I wear a heart rate monitor that tells me my low, high and average heart rate for the ride.  It confirms that when I am only moving 5 mph in Lo Lo gear going uphill  that my heart is about to beat right out of my chest.  The heart rate monitor justifies getting off the bike and walking to the top of the hill.  Good tool to have.

The other day I was hiking uphill for two miles, which is not much by Colorado standards, but to me it is monumental.  I moved over for three people to meet me on the path.  One of them got out his phone and said to his buddy, "Put your finger on the camera eye."  He had a heart rate ap that measured his pulse by resting his finger on the camera lens!  I whipped out my altimeter and shared our elevation.  And I need that heart rate ap!

This spring my trusty camera died, and I bemoaned its passing.  Such a familiar friend.  Now I can't even remember it, so enthralled am I with the next generation point and shoot.  I haven't even watched the informational cd that came with it.  I just turned it on and let it take over.  The automatic function switches from macro to landscape to portrait without any prompting.  It is so SMART.  And the panorama function eliminated the need to load five photos into photoshop and stitch them together. Maybe I could take better pictures if I watched the tutorial, but I doubt I'll ever be smarter than automatic.

Many times when an old friend dies, like the camera, things get better.  I am glad my old laptop died.  This new one weighs maybe three pounds.  Lighter is better.  And when Carl left his Garmain out in rain,  he replaced it with the next generation.  Illustrations point to the correct lane as you approach intersections.  It warns us of upcoming construction zones and suggests alternate routes around trouble spots to save time.  It tells us if we are speeding.  Or driving on water.

This spring my left eye cataract reduced my vision to a blur.  Boy was this ever a good thing!  Now I have a multi-focal lens in my left eye, and the only time I use glasses is to work on my computer.  A few years ago I would not have had the multi-focal upgrade option.   I LOVE my bionic eye. It has taken over completely for my less than perfect right eye. 

So, with all this technology available, how did I burn my nose? It happened when I went off the grid.  Strawberry Park Hot Springs, north of Steamboat a few miles, is located in a canyon off the grid.  There's no electricity in the entire canyon except that produced by generators or solar power.  The pools are heated by 140 degree water coming out of springs on the hillside, water the Ute Indians bathed in long before a man developed the springs to their current level in the early 80's.  The owner kept them quite natural, with stone dams capturing hot water, and cool water from the creek mixing in to create temperatures ranging from frigid trout habitat to 108 degrees.

I was in one of the hotter pools, feeling like I was about to boil inside, and I made my way to the creek water spilling over a small dam to catch some cool.  I could feel the cool at the edges as I approached and plunged my face into it.  Ouch!  The edges were cool, the center was boiling hot.  A dam is not a mixer tap.

My nose is peeling like a sunburn, and in a few days, when it is no longer tender, I might get a high tech facial to finish peeling off the layers.  I stand humbled in the face of low technology.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012


Finally, after two weeks, I am breathing normally.  I can walk, bike and chew gum without gasping for air.  Since that first Colorado bike ride where five miles took 45 minutes, I now can't wait for my next ride.  I've ridden at Leadville, 10,600 feet, Buena Vista, 8,400 feet, Steamboat, 6,700 feet, Glenwood Springs 7500 feet, Denver 5200 feet.  I'm not much on hills, but I can do a little rise or two.  Bike paths are still my choice.  I'm not crazy about getting out on the highway like all the Coloradans do.

The Leadville ride deserves bragging rights.  It's the highest bike path in the nation.  Like Rocky Mountain National Park bragging about the highest paved road in the nation. The Leadville ride was uphill for the first five miles.  I walked a lot of it.

I feel really healthy.  Like an everyday Coloradan.  Normal is not easy.   I finally reached the high end of  normal body mass index after 35 years of BMI's that are considered borderline obese.  It took 17 months and lots of exercise.  But since I am finally high end of NORMAL, I think I can do things I would never have considered.   Tomorrow I'm going to try an uphill hike in Rocky Mountain National Park.  With all the normal people.  Can't wait!

Colorado's Burning

A new fire pops up every few days on the front range since we have been here.  Two of them are huge.  The area west of Fort Collins has been burning since we arrived, over 80,000 acres, and now Colorado Springs is overshadowing that one.  It has moved into populated areas and over 32,000 are evacuated, hundreds losing their homes.  A few days ago Estes Park had a fire (now extinguished) and eyes are on Boulder, the lastest fire.  We saw a fire one night in Leadville, luckily contained the next day.

A small inconvenience to our vacation planning, a huge loss to the people of Colorado.  

Maintenance Log 2012

Carl does something every day for maintenance.  I decided he deserved his own blog entry to keep track of this.

Our first maintenance happened before the trip started.  No refrigerator.   At first he looked at alternate causes, as in parking not level, but with those eliminated, I started calling repair shops.  Jill in Conroe was the only one who could take us sooner than a week.  I loved Jill.  In the end the source of the problem was a power converter.  Who knew we had one of those?  110 to 12 volt.  So glad this happened in the comfort of our home.

Last night Carl repaired a crack in the windshield.  Hopefully it will not spread.

This morning he removed the battery from my laptop that would not start up.

He has replaced the screw holds in the air conditioner cover with anchors since the original screw holds were stripped.

The windshield washer fluid dispenser tube came undone.  He clamped that back on.

A bolt fell out of the ladder.  He replaced both of them.

The window shade went flacid.  He fixed that so it raises and lowers.

The shade on the door has to be rewound all the time.  He did it once, needs it again.  My solution has always been a sign that says "DO NOT raise or lower this shade."  Carl prefers that it works.

When I put a movie in to play I discovered the remote didn't work.  The batteries had corroded.  Carl ordered a new one sent to our house for next season.  I just used the play button on the DVD itself until one night I really needed an enter button to choose english over french.   That's the night Carl used aluminum foil to jump start the remote.  A wonder!

Then another night the movie skipped to the end.  I inserted the cleaner disk without reading the directions.  Nothing happened.  Carl read the directions, and then cleaned the DVD player, and then the movie went smoothly.

Probably because of the refrigerator repair, the cover for the light bulb came off.  Carl put it back and it fell again.  Next the bulb fell out.  He ordered a new holder for the bulb, to be waiting for us when we get home.  No light in frig for now, but it's nice and cool in there.

I plan to ask him tonight to make the light over my bed work.  I am sure there will be something else tomorrow.  I'll keep you posted!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Adults Only

Here in Olathe, Colorado, (need help with  Pronunciation?  ) the highest rated RV park in town is listed Adult Only.  I took my chances that everyone would be naked because Uncompaghre River Adult RV Park had the highest rated bathrooms in the area.

When we arrived we saw a crowd of fully clothed adults gathered under the pavilion.  The owner left the group to help us and explained it was 4:30 tea time.  Bring a beverage of your choice and join the group.  She also has coffee at 9:30 am.  Come on over.  And anyone can work on the jigsaw puzzle in the rec room.  She further explained that most of the population of the park summers here and winters in Arizona.  Adult means Senior.

I like Senior Parks.  The shower doesn't have sand it in from children playing barefoot.  The campgrounds don't have bits of chicken bones and powdered donuts for Daisy to find and be sick over later, nor cigarette butts in the fire circle.  I'd be willing to get naked for these perks.

By morning Ann the owner and I were family, just like all the other folks in the coffee club.  I complemented her on the gardens.  She said everyone works in them.  They come for six months and each takes a plot and keeps it up.  They need something to do, she says.  I asked if they grew corn in the gardens, this being Olathe.  She said No, no need.  There's so much corn in the area, they just buy a bunch and have a big roast.

I love Olathe corn.  When August rolls around, I'm in Kroger three times a week buying it.   I asked if it was time yet for Olathe corn.  Not yet, Ann explained.  Ron comes into town July 10.  He makes the ice to ship the corn.  Then about a week later, everyone starts shipping corn.  I'm assuming Ron stays at the Uncompahgre River Adult RV Park with the rest of the family during corn time.

In future years, when I buy my Olathe corn, I'll remember Ann and Ron and the family at the Adults Only Park.  I think it will taste even sweeter.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Scenic driving

So much gorgeous stuff here in Colorado!
The Blue Mesa Resevoir

Maroon Bells near Aspen, 14,000 footers, with a lake at the base.  Yummy little hike to a waterfall.
Glenwood Canyon from the bike path along the Colorado
Grand Mesa Scenic Byway
Cormorant rookery, City Park, Denver

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Fear of falling

I can't start talking about this summer's adventures without telling you that I started riding with CLIPS!  I have been thinking of riding with clips for at least two years.  It's very efficient, since you push and pull with each stroke and your foot stays aligned correctly.

However, it is also VERY SCARY.  My foot is attached to the bike.  What if I have to stop suddenly and can't get unclipped?   Every one I know who rides with clips will tell a story of the time they forgot they were clipped in and fell over, causing a domino line of other riders to go down. The thought paralyzed me from moving forward to clipping.

Finally, I decided to try an old pair of Carl's clip shoes. I wouldn't have a big investment in case things didn't work out, and I chose spin class for my training ground.  If I couldn't unclip, then at least I couldn't possibly fall over.

After a few classes and lots of stupid moments, I finally had the hang of it.  But I was still terrified of hitting the street clipped in.   One morning Carl explained that if it was that hard, 14,000 riders on the MS 150 wouldn't be out there clipped in.  When he put it that way, it put the mountain I was making into molehill perspective.  So I asked to borrow his bike with clip pedals already on it and prepared to make my maiden voyage.

Carl  also suggested maybe I needed something on my knees.  If I fell, most likely I would scrape them.  I found my old self defense class knee pads and elbow pads and put them on. Dorky, but prepared.   

And I was off.  The power.  The smoothness.  The ecstasy!   I didn't fall that day, and so far, I have not taken the first fall.  I will, I know, some day when I forget what I am doing.  But until then, I am soaring!

I kept Carl's bike for my own. ( It was his hybrid backup, and who knows where I am going with this biking thing.  Too soon to go buy a bike fit for me.)  This move alone increased my speed by two miles per hour.  I'm not pushing the weight of my Auntie Em bike around anymore.  Carl is still faster than me, but at least we arrive at our destination within the same day. (I think he likes resting while he waits for me to catch up.)

Now that I have laid the groundwork for my new passion, let me tell you about my first bike ride at 6,000 feet above sea level.  Yikes!   I live at 50 feet above sea level and everything is flat, flat, flat.   When we got to Golden, Colorado, I looked up all the amazing bike paths in the area and found we could ride several staring two blocks away.

We took off on our chosen path, about three miles long. I intended to take it easy my first day at altitude. Should be able to out and back that one, right?  WRONG.   Check out the scenery and I shouldn't have to explain  further.

I made great time going downhill. As a matter of fact, I braked all the way down.  I'm a flatlander who might hit 15 mph down an overpass and my bike wants to go 40 mph.  I'm a freakin' clip newbie attached to a bike that could crash!  Brakes!!!

But uphill?  I huffed and puffed and downshifted.  When I slowed to 5 mph in LoLo and my pulse hit 160,  I got off and walked.  It took close to an hour to go five miles.  Silver lining?  No wind whatsoever.

Coloradans must have lungs the size of big helium birthday balloons.  Yesterday we drove up Lookout Mountain.  At the end of a workday, the biking community was out climbing to the top of the 7,500 foot mountain.   There must have been 100 bicyclists out for their evening iron man experience. The cyclists rode faster than we drove.

I stand humbled and hopeful, looking toward the Rockies and dreaming of the day I have big lungs too.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Hot, gusting to 30

Monday morning I woke up to this view: Kansas prairie.  Elevation around 2000 feet. 
I walked Daisy on the Russell, Kansas flatland that morning.   Without scenery to distract me, I was free to wonder why the street names were Amy, Bruce, Barbara, Cecil, Edward.  Not quite alphabetical. Does that bother you too?

The temp was a bit warmish, but the 20-30 mph wind gusts kept me from feeling it.  Little House on the Prairie settlers, I take my hat off to you.  What an environment.  As a security guard at the Eisenhower Memorial said.  "Bright, hot and windy, that's Kansas summer".

You might be wondering how, with that climate,  Kansas attracted any people?  The railroad.

Abilene was the first of many Kansas cities to come into being as a railroad cowtown.  Just after the Civil War one of the early residents  promoted Abilene as a destination for cattle driven from Texas on the Chisolm Trail.  Cows were shipped east for food and west to start new herds in Wyoming and Montana. Abilene and then other towns on the railroad boomed.  In 1871 the largest cattle drive in the history of Abilene recorded 600,000 cattle driven up from Texas. I have a personal connection to this slice of history.  My great great grandfather is enshrined in the Texas Trail Drivers Hall of Fame in San Antonio.   I probably parked the RV overnight where he would have grazed the herds on the prairies south of Abilene before driving on to the auction and the train.  Wonder how he got any sleep with that wind blowing all night?

Winter wheat came to the area in the late 1800's by way of German Russian Mennonites.  Winter wheat is sowed in the fall and sprouts before the freeze.  Then it goes dormant until spring and is harvested the following summer.  The crop 's success pitted cowboys against sodbusters and changed Kansas from Cowtown into the breadbasket of the nation.

Think about that when you look at your sandwich at lunch today.  You might be eating Kansas Hard Winter Wheat.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Grass Roots Art

OMG!  What a town!   Lucas Kansas is beyond funky.  The photo above is their new public toilet, with a tank for the building and a seat out front.  Off to the side is a roll of concrete toilet paper.  This is a most fitting toilet for a town that is the grassroots art capital of the world.  The town only has 400 residents, but most of them do something artsy.  Almost all the artists began creating their work at retirement.

Grassroots art is not our grandma's water colors, but if she could create something with a little concrete, some spare car parts and a welding torch, she'd fit right in in Lucas.  Created by people with no formal art training, grassroots art uses ordinary objects and materials in unique ways.
Samuel Dinsmoor is the grandfather of the movement.  A civil war veteran who was a farmer and wildly progressive thinker, he started building this retirement home in town at the age of 64.  But the time of his death at age 89 he had not only finished this limestone log house but a city block of concrete figures called the Garden of Eden, his own mausoleum (where you can still look at his mummy) and a tourist attraction that has 7000 visitors a year.

The Grassroots Arts Center has works from over 30 artists on display, including this lifesize pull tab car. 

By the time I finished my tour of this little town, I was scratching my head.  What would I do to make my mark in the grassroots movement?  I have reached the age where my talents should be developed.  I just need to decide my medium.  Concrete?  Broken plates? Chewing gum?  Buttons?  Old tools?  Plastic bottles?  Barbie doll heads?  Trash from the river?    So many choices.  Can't believe I spent all that money on water colors when the medium of my future art is right there in my discards.

Presidential junkie

I adore past presidents, well, most of them, and especially ones like Ike.  My first presidential memory is I Like Ike buttons.  Does anyone else from Yoakum remember that they were pasted on the sidewalks?  I was six, so I could be wrong.

And Mamie.  Everyone loved Mamie.

It was worth a fifty mile detour to visit Abilene Kansas to find out more about Ike at his birthplace and resting place.  Above is the house he grew up in with six brothers.  His father worked at the creamery and then the gas company.  Ike too worked at the creamery for two years to help his older brother finish college.  They were working class folks from the poor side of the tracks.

When it was his turn for college, he got an appointment to West Point, giving up the dream of Annapolis because by then he was too old.

Ike came back from WWII a reluctant hero.  He never considered running for President, but he was sought out by so many grass roots campaign groups from both parties that he finally accepted the Republican party nomination. The museum has a movie on Ike that says several times that he never sought his careers, that the job always found the man.

As president, he was concerned with the large military industry that was growing at the expense of other needs of the American people, and he advocated for peaceful solutions.

Once again I left a Presidential Library impressed with the common man who rises to greatness and lives a life of duty.

Get your Q in Cushing

Cushing, OK is the Pipeline Capital of the world, so when they decide to have a cookoff, they PIPE the heat from a central fie tank.  What other way?  Welcome to BBQ and Blues at Cushing.  That's the Sunoco tanker smoker at the top.

Anyone in Oil and Gas knows that you also look to Cushing for the price of West Texas Intermediate.  The surplus or scarcity at Cushing drives price.  Not only are there pipelines, but acres of storage tanks.

But the real fame of Cushing is that it is the residence of my cousin Katy.  Thanks for a good time, Katy!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Waiting to chill

You can park your RV on the hill like this for a while, but leave it too long and the refrigerator will stop working.  That's what masked the refrigerator malfunction that has postponed our plans for Colorado Kool.   We thought we caused it by parking the RV on the slant  for several days.  Carl reset the frig and it started working again.

A few days later it stopped working again, and shame on us, we were three bubbles off plumb that time too.  Once more a reset did the trick.

The following day, when I started loading for our trek, we were dead level.  And the frig was dead, dead, dead.

I found seven service dealers for Norcold frigerators listed in Houston.  The most popular one could see us in 23 days.  Only one, an hour away in Conroe, would take us in the next day.  The manager's name ?  Jill. 

I felt an affinity for Jill when I talked to her on the phone.  Then I watched her skillful handling of Carl's engineering questions and was really impressed.  The girl knows her stuff, and she knows how to handle customers too.  She tells us what is happening about every four hours.  Turns out that diagnosing an ailing RV fridge is a process of bypassing one system at a time and waiting for the frig to run overnight or fail.  Translation:  several days.

Right now the unit seems to be cooling if they bypass all the power supplies and temperature controls and overrides supplied by the RV.  Maybe it's one of those things.  Jill's not saying till she knows.

Meanwhile, all the stops we planned in the next week have been told we are on HOLD.  I definitely don't want to drink warm milk all summer or spend a week at a dealership with Daisy while they run diagnostics. 

I'm comfy here at home with all my possessions packed in piles ready to load.  Looks like an episode of Horders.  We turned internet and cable back on for a few days and will hang till things are chilling again.