To Be Frank

December 29, 2015

It’s never a good sign when people keep tweeting you the weather forecast in your area. We’re heading off home tomorrow and it looks like we’ll just miss Storm Frank* but not, perhaps, his soggy aftermath. SEPA’s flood warning manages to be both vague and ominous, talking about highest water levels ever and basically putting the whole of Bigtownshire on flood alert. Despite living on the side of a hill, we can still get flooded and this time two years ago we were sitting in Salt Lake City airport under an improbably blue sky getting tweets about the rain at home and we returned to find that the flood water had got into the shed and found our heat logs, which was how we learned that when super-dried pressed wood products meet water, they turn rapidly into piles of fluffy damp sawdust. This year we did move the heatlogs to higher ground (and by ‘we’ I mean ‘the other half’, obviously) before we left but not, I realised guiltily last night, the bikes. What kind of a terrible owner am I?

yard flooded

Hopefully we won’t be coming back to something like this. Bikes live in the shed to the left behind the bench…

Here it’s been cold – too cold to make cycling or walking any real fun (we were reduced to stretching our legs in the Pueblo Mall the other day, don’t judge me) especially after I developed a clogged-up ear possibly from insisting on going out for a walk in sub freezing temperatures. But I can hardly complain given what everyone else is suffering, from tornadoes wiping out parts of Texas, to the horrible flooding in York and Hebden Bridge.

Now all we have to do is cram all of our purchases (you can buy an enormous amount of secondhand books for a $50 gift voucher, I’ve discovered) into our suitcase and hope we’re not over the weight limit. It’s been nice, as ever, to see a bit of winter sun and real winter cold. It will be even nice to get home too, however soggy it may be. If only to discover what’s happened to my garlic …

Trees and December sky

* And can this be the last year we give them names? It’s clearly just giving them ideas above their station.

Merry Christmas

December 25, 2015

May your day be merry and bright …

white trees blue sky

… even if your Christmas isn’t white

Walking with a Purpose

December 24, 2015

If you think cycling to the shops is doing it wrong around here, walking to buy something is even more outlandish (unless you’re at the mall, of course). Much as I like going for a walk, I also like walking to get somewhere, especially if that somewhere has some sort of a reward attached. Here you can just about walk to the nearest garage, if you were really desperate for some sort of corn-based cheese-food-flavoured snack products, but otherwise if you wanted to get your treats on foot, we thought we were out of luck. But then we learned that the best donuts in town were actually sold at the nearby Chinese restaurant, which is just over the road:

Although by ‘over the road’ we mean ‘Highway 50’ …

donut shop

here be donuts

Still, when the other half jokingly suggested that if I was going to go for a walk I should pick up some donuts while I was at it, I decided to take him at his word. I did take the slightly more scenic route though – up via the University, past the golf course, through the tumbleweed on the sidewalk …


(that’s slightly unfair – the road in question is a dead end so the tumbleweed has piled up everywhere, not just on the pavements. But you’ve got to love how even a dead end has about 3 lanes in each direction)

dead end road

Anyway, 50 minutes later (I took the more direct route back) I reckoned that the box had it right.

you deserve a donut

And then we went for a proper walk so we could deserve a couple more

Nature Centre, Pueblo

Secret Santa

December 22, 2015
Pueblo road

you don’t have to be crazy to cycle here, but it helps

Committed utility cyclist though I am, it’s hard to shake off the feeling around here that to cycle to the actual shops – the big box stores where about 90% of the retail happens in Pueblo, not the little antiques places and coffee shops in the historic downtown – is to commit a category error. It’s not that you can’t, it’s just that to do so when you have access to a car is verging on the perverse, like hopping when you have two legs, or walking around backwards with your hair combed over your face.

However, I had a present to get for the other half. and wanted to take the opportunity to do so discreetly while he was out shopping for his father. Technically, I could have asked to borrowed the other car and driven myself but in reality given my driving skillz at the best of times let alone on the wrong side of the road, I didn’t want to do that to my in-laws. And besides, I had access to a bike, the weather was fine and not too cold, Barnes & Noble isn’t all that far away, and besides, I like the idea of using a bike to get around, even if it is against the grain. The other half might consider cycling to the shops as a good way to ruin a nice bike ride, whereas I think of it as a great way to improve an otherwise boring shopping trip.


So I set off. The river path joins up with a footway that runs alongside Highway 50 over the Fountain Creek, so it wasn’t as if I had to tangle with the really hairy roads, even though this part of town is pure driving country

Someone had decided to put a ginormous block of concrete across the path in the direction I wanted to go, but I didn’t let that stop me

river path blocked

Once under the highway, I realised why, but fortunately it wasn’t too hairy to ride around the gap along the drainage channel, with no real danger that I’d end up cycling into the river

damaged cycle path

Over the bridge, thanking my lucky stars that I wasn’t having to take the lane and man up or any of those other things the ‘real’ cyclists seem to think you should do.

crossing alongside Highway 50

Colorado law allows you to cycle on the sidewalk, except where prohibited. I decided that the ‘bike route’ sign implied this wasn’t one of the prohibied places. So all I had to do was get up the hill – Barnes and Noble was in the row of huge shops opposite the Walmart in the distance.

bike route sign

I’ll say this for Pueblo, it has sidewalks and pedestrian crossings everywhere you might need them. Even if it was just me and the homeless guy actually using them.

pedestrian crossing

In truth, with a bit of ingenuity and if you’re happy to ride on the pavement it was perfectly doable, and there was even bike parking right outside the bookshop door (and no problem finding a space). The only flaw in my plan was that there are very few shops in Pueblo that sell the sort of things we’re likely to buy, so just as I finished paying for the other half’s present, feeling very pleased with myself for managing to sneak out and get something all by myself, in he walked and caught me red handed…

One Good Thing about Wide, Wide Streets …

December 20, 2015

… is that when you want to put in a bike lane you don’t need to mess about.

Contraflow bike lane Pueblo

Wide enough for ya?

Yesterday, on our way back from a picnic at the reservoir, the other half & I detoured into Pueblo to stop for coffee, a spot of Christmas shopping and a very small infrastructure safari down Pueblo’s very own parking protected bike lane.

We’d stopped to chat with the busker playing something that looked like a cross between a zither and an accordion to admire his very nice Schwinn trike and talk cargo bikes, bike lane design and filtered permeability (why, what do you talk to buskers about?). He was bemoaning Pueblo’s ability to put bike lanes on the worst-surfaced part of the road, and it’s true that a good half of the lane was crumbling somewhat, and there was no sign of any snow clearance, short of the normal Pueblo tactic of waiting for it to melt.

parking protected bike lane

Astoundingly, every single one of these drivers managed to park in the parking bit, and not on the bike lane. What skillz

But – certainly from a UK perspective – never mind the quality, feel the width! That’s a whole lane of traffic removed with plenty of space to go around the potholes, snow, other bikes, and any stray jumbo jets someone might have left lying around. We got our own little bicycle shaped traffic lights (they kept going green before I could take a proper photograph so you’ll just have to believe me).

The only slight drawback is that it’s about 5 blocks long and not exactly integrated into the cycling network (turning left onto it across the approximately 17 lanes of Main St was interesting, although it would have been more interesting had the traffic consisted of more than one bemused pickup truck wondering what the crazy bicyclists were up to). That said, at the other end of 5th Street there is a very good cheese shop, while Main Street has a nice coffee shop that gives a 10% discount to those arriving by bike so in a broader sense it *is* integrated into the wider bike network. We didn’t have time to make full use of either of those amenities, so we will have to investigate it again…

Old Fashioned Courtesy

December 19, 2015

vintage pickup

I must admit – and I’m not complaining in any way shape or form – that the extremely courteous attitude of drivers around here to pedstrians is beginning to freak us out. There you are, ambling through a car park to a shop, minding your own business, when you realise that the car which has randomly come to a halt several yards in front of you is not just sitting there for the fun of it – its driver has anticipated the fact that you were going to be crossing their path and is now waiting with no sign of impatience whatsoever for us to mosey along and get past it so they can be on their way. Still, given I’m still habitually looking the wrong way when attempting to cross the road, and the roads are very very wide, it’s probably no bad thing. It’s still weird though*

more blue skies

This picture doesn’t illustrate anything particularly to do with the text. It’s just there to make you jealous

Twitter suggested it might be something to do with the gun laws (the other half thinks it’s more to do with the recreational marijuana laws – and you have to enjoy the fact that the local police are currently investigating a break in at a cannabis growing facility …). I’m not so sure about that, but I was pleased to stumble upon the secret motherlode of Trousers That Fit, in Big R (Carhartt relaxed fit heavy duty work khakis, if you’re interested), a store whose customer demographic must surely contain a large proportion of women who come armed with a gun. Given that Hoggs of Fife have recently been – worryingly – talking about their ‘new fashion cut’ for their ladies’ moleskin trousers, I shall have to stock up before we leave…

me and my shadow

* and yes, I know it’s the law, but so is giving way to pedestrians at zebra crossings in the UK and that never happens unless you make it happen. It makes me feel even sorrier for any Americans who visit Britain than I do when I contemplate the difference between what they consider a ham sandwich to be and what passes for a ham sandwich in the UK. Sorry, guys. We have other fine qualities, honest …

Leaving Footprints Redux

December 17, 2015

river path and sunshine

Are you bored of the blue Southern Colorado skies yet? We aren’t – actually we had a couple of days of snow and grey skies and cold, so it was a relief to wake to a sparkly sunny morning this morning even if it was 8 degrees outside. And for viewers in the UK thinking, ‘what is she talking about, 8 degrees isn’t too bad for December’ – this is Fahrenheit so we’re talking -13 in real money. Combine clear skies, desert air and enough altitude and it gets F cold at night around here

Fortunately it warms up eventually once the sun gets going and we had a lunch date at Papa José’s so we set off on the bikes in a desperate attempt to burn off enough calories to justify a Mexican meal. This might have worked had we not stopped off at the bakery afterwards (we were popping in for a loaf of bread but somehow came out laden with cookies the size of side plates plus a bonus free scone) so we took the long route home.

Coming back, on the shaded side of the river path, we noticed a curious phenomenon. I don’t know if it’s the dry air or the loose snow or what, but in what you might call a reverse Wenceslas, people’s footprints linger long after the rest of the snow has gone…

snow footprints

More sunshine and a bit more warmth is on its way. Just shout if you’d like me to stop posting pictures …

Leave Only Footprints

December 15, 2015

View from Pueblo Mountain Park

firetowerWhat with one thing and another, we haven’t managed to get out and enjoy the mountains yet this trip but a window of opportunity opened up this morning and we got while the getting was good …

Our goal was one of our favourite lunch spots – the service is patchy, the choice is limited (to what you brought yourself, basically) but the views are fabulous. Although this time we didn’t lunch right at the top of the tower because of the wind. It was mostly gloriously sunny and warm, but every so often the wind would pour in and roar past us like a freight train, before dying down again. Very odd.

tracks in the snow

Apart from a couple of school outings, who stayed mostly on the lower slopes, we had the place more or less to ourselves and for much of our walk we had the pleasure of being the first (humans) to follow the trail since it snowed. I quite enjoyed attempting to interpret the various prints we did see but I don’t think anyone is going to be hiring me as their native guide any time soon.

squirrel tracks

me: ‘Oh how sweet! Squirrel! Boing boing boing!’

All in all, a very satisfying day’s outing

Elfin Safety

December 12, 2015

December sky

It’s supposed to snow and freeze tomorrow, although you’d hardly know it from the temperature this afternoon (63F) so we took advantage while stocks lasted …

Pausing at a little park along the river path, I couldn’t help but notice this sign which suffers not only from horrible apostrophe abuse, but also a bad case of lawyeritis

Warning sign

Fair enough,* you’re probably thinking, climbing *is* dangerous, it’s reasonable to warn people, the City of Pueblo has to cover its arse, etc, etc, but that’s before you see the climbing ‘facility’ in question, which was effectively a big rock.

climbing rock

Bicycle for scale – it must be all of 8 feet tall

I’m fairly clumsy, and regularly bruise myself by failing to walk accurately through the open bit of a door – but even I would struggle to damage myself on that.

december sky

Before anyone gets too smug, we’re not immune to this in the UK either

* not the apostrophes, obviously, there are limits…

Moving Mountains

December 11, 2015

Well, we made it safely to Colorado,* after three flights and more time spent going through security rigmaroles than anyone should have to and woke bright and early this morning ready for the really important things in life

My father in law had had the bikes serviced for our arrival, which was very welcome – but our real question was whether the river path – which was underwater last time we visited – had been repaired yet

end of the bike path

I remember when all this used to be bike path…

The short answer is no, although they’re working on it. The long answer is that they’re busy trying to put the Fountain Creek back where it used to be, instead of where it is, which is where the river path used to be (or bits of it anyway). Given that rivers have a way of going where they want to, given enough time and the odd downpour, I would have thought that it would be easier to put the river path somewhere else, perhaps on slightly higher ground, but that’s probably why I’m not a river engineer. Either way, it looks as if they’re going to be some time.

desire line

Fortunately there is another force that’s even more powerful at shaping landscapes than unruly rivers, and that’s the human tendency people have to walk where they want to walk, and not where the powers that be want them to walk. And enough people have decided that they want to walk along the river path that a new river path has appeared through the formerly snake-infested undergrowth. It’s now wide enough to cycle on, with a bit of care, so we can resume our usual adventuring. Or we could, if it wasn’t for the forecast snow and freezing temperatures in the offing. It seems the Weather Gods might have got wind of where we are …

* My credit card, on the other hand, appears to have made an unscheduled stop somewhere along the way where it is having an exciting and – until the nice people at Yorkshire Bank put a stop on it – very expensive holiday. My lifelong reliance on the kindness and fundamental honesty of strangers had to come to a sticky end sometime but I’ve had a good run …