In Case of Emergency

December 14, 2010

There’s a town up in the mountains round here that we like to visit. It’s one of the few places in Colorado that I could imagine us actually living in.

I’m not entirely sure why.

Except that it seems to have its priorities right (actual number blacked out to protect the innocent)

And the views in the forests around it don’t hurt either.


Shocking

December 13, 2010

I think the other half is getting a little tired of me flinching away from him when he’s been down in his Dad’s basement playing pool. It’s not him, exactly – it’s just that after he’s been walking around on the basement carpet for a while, the dry desert air means he’s nicely charged up with static electricity and the next person to touch him gets a shock. Well, they do say you should try and put that spark back into your marriage whenever you can. Only I think that the electricity between you is meant to be mainly metaphorical.

Not, you know, that I’m complaining. We cycled out along the river again this morning and it wasn’t just that it was sunny, it was downright hot on the way back. It’s not forecast to last, and we’re making the most of it while it does, but I’ve a sneaking suspicion that the Weather Gods have lost track of our whereabouts, and as soon as they catch up with us we’ll get what for. But you know what? It will have been worth it all the same…


The Trail Runs Ever On and On

December 11, 2010

I was on my own today (the other half and his folks having to drive up to Denver to take his grandma to catch her flight) and, left with the choice between sitting at home with my father-in-law’s chocolate chip cookies and going out on the bike, it was no contest: I would take the chocolate chip cookies with me on the bike. Just down the road from where we’re staying there’s a river trail that runs right around into town, and then on and out to the reservoir beyond. I wasn’t quite up for the 36-mile round trip the reservoir would entail, but, it being another beautiful day, I was up for a bit of exploration.


The weather was perfect: crisp and cool and very clear, with no wind and a light scattering of cloud. The ride down to the trail was worryingly downhill all the way but once on the trail it was gently undulating, following the course of the creek. Mindful of the altitude and the need to get back up the hill at the end, I took it at a steady pace. In fact, that was pretty much all my borrowed bike – having spent the last decade or so in the garage – was going to do. We must have looked quite a sight as we travelled down the path together, me in my flat cap and waxed coat, sitting bolt upright, it enjoying its first proper outing in years. The bike had been a little neglected and I could only really get three useful gears out of it and the back brake was purely advisory. But at the stately pace that we were going, it didn’t really matter. And besides, on the trail the only real hazard I was likely to encounter was apparently a rabid skunk.

Oh, and my fellow cyclists. For having stopped on the bridge to take a couple of photos, I heard the familiar whizzing of wheels and clicking of gears. ‘On your left’ they cried and zipped past me as I flattened myself against the parapet of the bridge, fwooom, fwoom, fwoom, all lycra and shades and helmet-mounted cameras. I said good morning but they were going too fast to hear, and besides, I don’t think they recognised me as a fellow cyclist. Clearly, I was but a person on a bike. Or maybe they thought I was about to talk to them about God?

But never mind all that. I could have ridden on forever, lured by the endless trail, but caution prevailed and I stopped at some curiously elaborate picnic tables and had my cookies in the sun and then I mounted my steed and made my way home again with my shadow running before me. By the time I got home I wasn’t even out of breath, and I’m hatching plans now for exploring further afield, and dragging the other half out with me too.

But if it wasn’t for the trail, I don’t know how much cycling I’d want to do around here. The streets around my in-law’s house are fine, enormously wide (I think the road that leads up to theirs is as wide as Big A-road at home) and very lightly used and everything so far has given me a lot of room, even when I was on the right side of the street.* There’s even the odd bike lane painted on some of the roads. But all the other roads are multi-lane monsters and the entry level car around here appears to be a pickup truck the size of our house. Even if I could stick to the proper side of the street, I wouldn’t want to be in amongst more than the lightest traffic and the quietest roads. The rest just looks too scary to be fun. I’ll stick to the trail for now, and take my chances with the rabid skunk.

*There might *ahem* have been one occasion when I found myself cycling happily along on the left. But it was a very empty road, and honestly, anyone could have made the same mistake…


Bicycle Evangelists

December 10, 2010

So, yesterday being a lovely, sunny morning, the other half and I took our jetlag out for a walk. It’s been a while since we were over here so we were getting acclimatised to the altitude, the actual sunlight, and the need to say ‘howdy’ instead of ‘morning’ when we passed someone on the street (the locals always love it when you make the effort to learn a little of their language, I find). Then, as we rounded a corner and headed back for home, my eye was drawn – of course it was – to the sight of two cyclists labouring up the hill towards us. ‘ooh, look, bikes,’ I said. ‘And they’re normally dressed too, that guy is in a suit and tie.’ This, surely, was the very embodiment of Pueblo cycle chic.

The other half, being a little more alert and a little less entranced by the sight of anyone on two wheels, started to pick up his pace a little. Especially when they spotted us and veered across the road towards us. After all, nobody wears a suit and tie around here, where formal requires your best cowboy hat and cleanest jeans. There’s only one set of people likely to be wearing a suit around here, as we discovered: evangelists.  ‘Have you ever had a conversation with missionaries?’ one of them panted as he came to a halt (the hill was rather steep). ‘Ah, no thanks,’ we said as we hurried on. Well, certainly not missionaries on bikes.  And definitely not one that got past the ‘sorry, not interested, thanks,’ stage.

I suppose this serves me right for all the times I’ve managed to shoe-horn bicycles into a perfectly innocent and un-bicycle-related conversation, with the light of a zealot in my eye. But I am encouraged to discover that the Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses or whoever have an eye to their carbon footprint in this world, as well as the likely fate of the next. Or is it just easier to catch up with an escaping sinner on a bike?

 


Y tu Maleta También

December 9, 2010

If this blog post makes no sense it was because I was woken this morning at 1:15 by the other half wondering if it was time for coffee yet. As it happens, it was, but it was time for coffee in Scotland and we were in Colorado having travelled for the last 18 hours by train, disintegrating Picadilly line (signal failure in the Hatton Cross area), emergency detour to Ealing Broadway, Heathrow connect, 767, airport shuttle, scarily small commuter plane and car. As ever, the air travel part of the trip reinforced my suspicion that all airports are designed by Greenpeace to put people off flying for life – although we did manage to find the one corner of Chicago O’Hare airport where CNN isn’t coming at you from three directions - but the only really traumatic part was getting to Heathrow in the first place. Our cunning plan of booking a flight that left at the civilised hour of noon turned out on closer inspection to involve crossing Central London at the height of the rush hour with our enormous main suitcase, smaller emergency backup suitcase and, for maximum commuter annoyance, two backpacks. Turns out that there are some Londoners who, when encountering two yokel types (I was accused of dressing like a farmer by one of my ex-colleagues on Tuesday) and their assorted baggage attempting to squeeze onto the Picadilly line at 8:15 am, are actually pleasant and helpful about it rather than doing what I would have done and formed a human wall to prevent them getting onto the train at all. Who knew?

Anyway we have arrived, and our suitcase too, which is more than it did last time. The sun is shining, the weather is forecast to be about 15°C (59°F), there are rumours that there might be some bikes lurking somewhere and I’ve got myself a connection to the internet. What more could I possibly require?

Well, a copy of the Guardian would be nice, but that would be a hell of a cycle ride…


Right, that’s It

December 5, 2010

We’re off. We’ve had enough. Enough of it getting dark at four o’clock in the afternoon, of finding ice on the INSIDE of the windows, of lighting the stove and retreating to the kitchen until we can no longer see our breath in the sitting room, and hacking our frozen vegetables out of the frozen ground and chipping our frozen laundry off the frozen line. We can’t do this winter stuff a minute longer. We’re off somewhere where the sun shines for longer than an hour or so a day* and someone else is footing the heating bill…

… and for those of you panicking in the back, don’t worry, we’re coming back. It’s just that we’re off to the States to Christmas so the other half can reconnect with his heritage a little and remind his family what he looks like. I’ll be posting off and on as the mood takes me, but mostly I’ll probably be sitting around reading and eating cinnamon-flavoured things and that doesn’t make for terribly exciting blogging. If you really miss me, I suggest you just read the equivalent month from last year in the archives. The way I’ve taken to repeating myself these days you’ll probably won’t even notice the difference.

*Of course, having written that first paragraph it’s now all sparkly sunshine and crisp glittery snow outside the window. But never mind, I know it won’t last


In the Bleak Midwinter

December 3, 2010

We’ve officially reached that time of the year when the main purpose of going for a walk is to make the house feel warm when we get back in…


… that and fetching more wood for the fire.

Ross asks how the stove is performing now it’s really properly cold. Well, while still blooming marvellous, obviously, we’ve yet to find ourselves sitting around in t-shirts, or cowering behind the sofa (except when there are monster parsnips about, but that’s another matter). Partly it might be to do with the fact that we’ve yet to track down a really reliable source of seasoned hardwood where the wood that is delivered actually turns out to be seasoned hardwood and not on closer examination a mixed lot of seasoned hardwood, stuff that was lying around on the ground in the Duke of Buccleuch’s forests and not-really-very-seasoned-at-all hardwood. And partly it’s because once the stove gets going it has such a powerful draw that the draught in from the cooler parts of the house would probably turn a wind turbine. Suddenly the Victorians’ obsessions with high backed wing chairs and footstools makes a lot more sense. But at least we know we’re not going to die of carbon monoxide poisoning.

I read on one of the green housebuilding forums that once you start trying to heat your house with it, gathering wood goes from being a hobby to an obsession. We’re not quite there yet, partly because we’re still running the oil-fired heating in the morning, but I can see how that might happen. Already a woodland only looks like so much firewood to me. And if a tree falls in a forest and there’s nobody around to hear it? The real question is, do you think we could get to it before anyone else does first …


Winter Cycling Checklist

December 2, 2010
  • hat – check
  • ear warmers – check
  • Buff – check
  • merino base layer – check
  • two jumpers – check
  • gloves – check
  • two pairs of socks – check
  • winter boots – check
  • brown trousers – check  (well, some of those downhill sections can be a little dicey).

Thus kitted out, I set off to fetch the paper yesterday. We haven’t really had that much snow, but we’ve had pretty much solidly freezing temperatures for days now and what snow we’ve had is still there on the back roads. It’s cyclable with care, except where there’s been enough sun to melt it and let it re-freeze into ice. There were a few adrenaline-pumping moments when the back wheel shimmied beneath me but I somehow stayed upright. And by the time I got home I was glowing with the ride and feeling pretty hardy to have got out at all.

Or at least, I would have been feeling hardy had I not seen a girl in Bigtown the other night wearing a pair of capri trousers and – I swear I’m not making this up – sparkly flip-flops. All this at -2°C. I knew they bred them hardy up here; I just didn’t know they bred them totally insane.


Freeze Dried

December 1, 2010

 

‘Did you remember to get the laundry in from the line this afternoon?’

‘Ah. No. Bugger.’

I think we might have to break down and resort to the tumble drier after all…


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