12 Bright Days*

December 29, 2017

fishing in the river

It’s been colder than we’re used to these last few days – in fact we woke up on Boxing Day to discover it had snowed (and all credit to the little girl with the scooter who was scooting up and down the pavement with a snow shovel clearing the sidewalks her neighbours had neglected to shovel themselves), followed by overnight lows of -15C (that’s F cold in Fahrenheit) and days that didn’t ever get above freezing.

pawprints on ice

It’s curtailed our cycling somewhat – I’m fond of my fingers – but we’ve still been getting out and about even if it’s felt like a bit more of an ordeal than I really like.

throwing stones

If you get the right rock, and the right kind of ice, it sings

Tomorrow afternoon we will be flying home, so naturally the weather has started to warm up again. We still didn’t get out on the bikes but we did get a final stop for tacos and a walk round the State Park where it seems the beavers have been busy

beaver chewings

Back to normal Scottish weather service soon, you will be glad to hear. We’ll miss the sunshine. We probably won’t miss the sight of people walking in to restaurants to order tacos with a sidearm (not waving it about – they paid like a normal person – but still, a gun, in a holster, at their hip. I hope the food was served exactly how they liked it. America, I love you but you have no idea how strange this feels to a sheltered European).

seed heads

* I don’t normally do these things, but Findra’s 12 Bright Days of Christmas campaign seems as good an aspiration for Christmas as any.

 


Drove the Chevy to the Levee

December 23, 2017

Bikes are all very well, but it’s even better when you can ride your bike under a train pulling a load of trucks …

train pulling trucks

Or stop and watch a humungous digger ripping apart the levee as if it were made of gingerbread.

levee repairs

Actually it’s kind of sad to see the art works that have adorned the levee for the last forty years disappear into dust but apparently it needs repairing. I thought I had taken more photographs of them before they got ripped down but I can’t find them. Some of them were quite … special and suggest that the local commitment to recreational marijuana long predates the recent legalisation.

Anyway I imagine they’ll be back. Indeed it looks like they’ve already started …

new graffiti

Edited to add: just realised I missed an opportunity to call this ‘exciting flood defences news’


Turning Left in December: A Taco Safari

December 19, 2017

Shortness of time prevented me from attempting a microadventure before we left for the US, so clearly I was going to have to do a bit of exploring in Pueblo instead. We’ve pretty much been to all the places where the river path will easily take us so we decided to go off piste a bit, and add in something for the other half to enjoy and the #tacosafari was born

The other half tracked down some likely taco places (not hard in Pueblo) that would be nice to cycle to (slightly harder) and with a sunny and warmish day forecast, we set off for a rolling lunch …

Stop 1 was Vazquez Taco Shop, which was just off the river path, so didn’t really count as turning left. It did serve up a mean taco though.*

Vazquez Taco Shop

To be honest, that would have done me for lunch (my normal lunch is two slices of marmite toast and an orange) but we had many more taco shops to try. Having negotiated the other half down from his planned six to three, we set off back along the river path to our next destination.

river path

This meant properly turning left, and onto some less than inviting looking roads. I remembered too late that ‘turning left’ is the hard one in the US. The other half made it through the intersection on two wheels but I wimped out and reverted to two legs to get across, although given I’m still not reliably looking the right way when crossing the road I’m not sure that was really any safer.

scary intersection

yikes

Once through that bit and up the hill we found ourselves at Tacos Navarro, home of the street taco, apparently.

Tacos Navarro

Well, it would be churlish not to …

street tacos

This was also extremely delicious although we quickly lost track of which taco was which. At this point I decided that I wasn’t going to repeat the experience of getting there on a bike again, so if the other half wanted to try the tamale shop we’d passed on the way, now was the moment.

Tamale shop

The less-than-promising exterior of the tamale shop

I was feeling pretty full, plus it was a tamale, so after one bite, which reminded me that I wasn’t that keen on tamales, I left it to the other half to enjoy.

tamale

Back down the road, through the scary intersection, blessing the light traffic and the extremely chilled Colorado drivers, we regained the river path and pedalled off our second lunch for a bit until we reached our final taco shopriver path

(this was actually about a block from the first one, but we needed a bit of time in between for digestion)

Taqueria Marquez

The Taqueria Marquez was also jolly good although we blew the chance to practise our Spanish by answering in English when we were greeted with a cheery ‘buenas tardes’.

half-eaten tacos

Mental note to self: food photographs better if you haven’t started to tear into it before you remember to take a picture

(This place also intriguingly had three red ‘hotline’ telephones that were something to do with transferring money to Mexico. I was dying to find out more, but didn’t quite fancy asking (or taking a photo – it was bad enough that I was photographing the food as these really aren’t the sort of places where everyone instagrams their meal) and my Spanish wasn’t up to deciphering the instructions.)

Anyway, our third – or fourth – lunch finished, and having picked up an extra plate of tacos (with extra hot sauce) for my father in law, who has contracted the other half’s cold, we got back on our bikes and – like pythons digesting a goat apiece (if pythons had legs so they could ride a bike) pedalled very slowly home…

* I had thought we might review the taco places we tried but I don’t really know much about what makes a good taco, and the other half wouldn’t comment much beyond ‘oh yeah that’s good’ at pretty much everything he ate.


Hello Deer

December 16, 2017

So after our brief interlude in a very wintry Minnesota we made it down to Colorado yesterday. Today there was only one order of business:

garage bikes

Winter in Minnesota is definitely pretty hardcore – we did get out for one walk in the snow the day after we arrived but it feels like the sort of thing that might kill you if you’re not careful so it wasn’t a very long one – so we were pretty keen to enjoy Pueblo’s much more appealing December climate. Today did not disappoint – it might have been -9C when we woke up, but once the sun got going it soon warmed up and it was 18C by the time we’d had lunch and got the bikes out.

winter trees

The other half was suffering from a cold (bloody aeroplanes are worse than a classroom of nursery children when it comes to germ spreading) so we didn’t do more than the gentlest of pootles along the river – the cycling equivalent of a stroll. And we weren’t the only ones taking it easy: a couple of very chilled deer didn’t seem all that fazed by our presence.

deer crossing

It was warm enough that we could sit down by the water and bask in the sun and watch the birds go by. In fact, it was warm enough to take off my gloves and that doesn’t even happen in July at home…

bikes waiting


The Tough Go Shopping

October 21, 2016

I had a birthday related errand to run yesterday, which meant getting myself to the mall under my own steam. Perhaps surprisingly, the Pueblo Mall is one of those places that is fairly easy to get to by bike, as it’s connected to the river cycle path.

to the mall

The route takes you under the road, and while it mightn’t be very welcoming after dark (you know you’re not in the best of neigbourhoods when you’re cycling over discarded ‘hungry and homeless’ signs) it beats the heck out of tangling with Highway 50

acres of tarmac

From there, the mall is within sight. It’s just a matter of crossing approximately an acre of tarmac to get there. This is good sprinting practice because you don’t get the green man for very long. I have to admit, there may have been jaywalking done, once I’d figured out which way the traffic was (or wasn’t) coming from

Shopping done, I decided to stop off at the Goodwill (think UK charity shop, but then scale it up to about the size of a middleweight Tesco, complete with shopping carts and checkouts) to pick up some emergency hot-weather clothes as the heat wave is scheduled to return. That meant crossing the road again – all 6 lanes of it. It wasn’t as if there were many cars, but they were spread out enough that I didn’t feel entirely comfortable judging the gap. As you may have gathered, these roads are wiiiiiide. Add in the fact that my brain kept wanting me to look the wrong way, and I might still be there, dithering, had someone not stopped for me to let me across. I do love Pueblo drivers…

Anyway, for the princely sum of four bucks I am now the proud owner of a nice pair of cream trousers which there would have been absolutely no point my buying new given their practicality on a bike. Oh, and I might have been tempted to get a new light for my bike too

 


Burning Issues

October 18, 2016

Sunday ride

Well, we seem to have arrived in Colorado during a heatwave, which would be better if I’d actually packed accordingly. I don’t know about you, but even though I did check the forecast and see that we were looking at some pretty warm days, somehow it’s hard to believe that it isn’t more prudent to pack a jumper or three rather than t-shirts and shorts which is what I could really be doing with. Not that I’m hoping for cooler weather, mind – there’s no such thing as too hot – but I’m certainly testing to destruction the claims that merino is magic at any temperature …

reflections in the lake

Anyway, the weather has made for nice sitting-out-on-the-porch type activities, which is fine by me, but anything more active has meant getting going early. Yesterday we took off after breakfast on the bikes to enjoy the slightly cooler morning and a brisk (the other half doesn’t do any other speed) spin out along the river path to the Nature Center and back, via a coffee stop* in town.

autumn trees

Today was intended to be a hike in the mountains but when we headed out to the car the sky looked rather odd

smokey skies

A grassland fire out towards the mountains was raging away, closing the mountain park and generally giving everything an apocalyptic feel.

smoke filled skies

Perhaps there really is such a thing as too hot after all…

* There’s a risk we may have started coffeeneuring by accident …


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 …

tumbleweed

(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…


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 …