Saturday, April 29, 2006
Sarah's Birthday party
To celebrate Sarah's milestone birthday, her and her friends went to Magic Island. This is a night spot downtown that has a magic theme. It's like a magic dinner theater. They also have small rooms where they do close up magic and fortune telling. They met at our house and car pooled down to the venue.
Although we didn't get much information out of Sarah, her friends said a good time was had by all.
Sunday, April 16, 2006
Unrelated, but equally (if not more) important
I will be 18 this Wed.
The big 1-8.
Its about time.
Oh, and tax season is over, so our mom can like breathe and stuff now.
All the more time for her to nag me with...kidding. (Shes standing right behind me...with the flat iron I left on in the bathroom...Ooops)
But thats another blog for another day.
After strapping on the board, we are able to slide down our 2ft mountain will relative ease. Getting up to the top again was a slightly different story. It’s like wearing a giant skateboard that wants to point off to the side while pushing and hopping with the other foot. After a couple of runs we take a break, we are still not used to the altitude. Then we assemble at the ski school meeting place with the other newbies. We are a mixed bunch. I am clearly the oldest although there is another man there with his daughter.
Our instructor, Jason shows up and dude, he’s stoked about teaching us. Turns out most of us are from Texas although there are 2 girls from Japan who don’t speak much English. Jason figures out the names of half of us. With some prompting he remembers Katie’s name but I have been relegated to “dad”. He takes us over to the practice hill, it is the 2ft one Katie and I were practicing on earlier. Our confidence bolstered, he herds us over to the bunny hill chair lift.
I have been skiing for over 30 years and I can unequivocally state that the bunny hill is the most terrifying place on a ski mountain. There are tears, screams, anxiety attracts and hopeless despair and that just covers the parents, ski instructors and lift operators. If you already know how to ski you are still scared because you know the damage an adolescent boy or a 20 something wanabe ski-bunny can do when the urge to “just do it” overcomes common sense. One by one we mount the lift and view the carnage below that will soon claim us.
For the next 2 hours our instructor has us try and ski about 30 yards make a turn and stop. It’s usually that last part that gets tricky. There are a couple of girls that are having a real hard time. The rest of us lay on the snow waiting for our turn. We resemble a yard sale after a storm. Katie is doing great, she is getting the hang of it. Just as important, she is able to pop right up when she needs to get off the snow. The lunch time break is upon us. We are only sore in 2 places, the front and the back. When you fall on a snowboard there are two options, a face plant or a butt slam. You might be able to save your face if you sacrifice your knees and wrists. Your behind is garneted to take a pounding.
Our 1 hour lunch seemed to last about 2.5 minutes. Back at the lift, our numbers have diminished, several of our classmates have thrown in the towel. The snow is picking up and starting to blow. We are making multiple turns before we assume the yard sale position. I am able to handle the turning and stopping but the getting up off the snow is killing me. I begin to ski to the bottom without stopping and wait for them at the lift. Jason pays me the ultimate complement, “dude! are you sure you have never done this before?” I tell him “noway dude”. Katie is really enjoying herself she likes snowboarding even more than skiing. We take a few runs by ourselves, the class is disintegrating. It’s a full blown snowstorm now. We are ready to pack it in.
We make it, lasted the whole day. It’s a long walk back to the rental hut. After returning our gear we make our way to the car. With some trepidation we start it and make our way out of the parking lot. Down the mountain, past Nederland Middle High School and back to Boulder we teeter back and fourth between satisfaction and exhaustion.
4 hotel nights and food $400, car repair $1000, cheeseburgers and cokes in the ski lodge $23, one of the most memorable vacations of all time with your daughter – priceless.
Saturday, April 15, 2006
We found the place easily. I was at night and it was glowing. We parked at the top of the hill, paid our money at a little shack and got our inner tubes. The "hill" looked a little scary to me, it seemed steep. On a sled I think you would have gone about a mile before you stopped. But there were other people going down and we didn't see any bodies strewn about. I took one kid and Linda took the other. We held on to their tube and down we went. It was a blast. It was a bit of a walk to the lift which was actually a rope tow. For those of you unfamiliar with rope tows, they are innocuous looking devices used for torture, humiliation and pulling you up the hill.
The instructions suggested you lay on your tube and grab one of the rope loops and let it pull you up the hill. This is analogous to saying to change your car tire, lift the car by the bumper, take off the old one and mount the new one. The kids have no chance of holding on to the rope much less staying on their tube.
Linda and I each take a kid and try various strategies involving stacking tubes, dragging kids and putting them on our backs. On more than one occasion we lost something, a kid, a tube or a parent that went sliding down the line tormenting the poor souls behind us. I think I made it up twice, Linda once before the torture/humiliation machine owned us and sent us whimpering back to the car with our knuckles dragging the ground. This is where Katie and I were going to try and fill the void left by the missing snow scoots.
We parked at the top of the hill, paid our money at a little shack and got our inner tubes. This time we had to watch a safety film that essentially said "if you fall off the rope tow don't slide down and torment the poor people behind you . . . and if you get hurt it's not our fault". Looking down from the top of the hill 10 years later it looks even scarier. Not wanting to cry in front of my teenage daughter we just go for it, hold on to each other's tubes and slide. It was a blast. First lesson learned, maintain several inches clearance between the bottom of your tube and your own bottom.
There is a pretty good size line waiting for the torture machine and surprising enough no one is whimpering. When we get to the front we see why. There is a kid there, he is helping you sit in your tube. The rope loops are replaced with shiny metal clubs. The kid grabs a ring that is attached to your tube and slides it around the club as it goes by. After the initial jerk you sit there with your dignity intact and your arms securely in their sockets. All is peachy until you are unceremoniously dumped in a small bowl at the top and have to scramble to your feet before the next guy is dumped on you. Over all, the experience is 100% better.
We ride the white monster over and over, laying, sitting and sliding into other people. It's not snow scooting but it's a lot a fun and it's a good recovery considering earlier in the afternoon we didn't even have a car. Even though Winter Park is a couple hours away from Boulder, I hear something, yes it's clear now, it's the hot tub in our hotel. It's calling me.
Thursday, April 13, 2006
It had been our plan to spend Tuesday in Winter Park, the closest big ski resort which was about 1.5 hrs away. When the kids were little we skied in the area and took them to a meadow where we rented “Snow Scoots”. They are essentially mini snowmobiles. The kids loved it and we have the video to prove it. Last year Sarah and I returned and did it again. This time I let her drive her own. It might have been her most favorite part of the trip (right up there with the food) Katie was really looking forward to snow scooting on this trip. We weren’t sure if we were going to make it. I would depend on when we would get our car back. Also remember that we didn’t get to snowboard yesterday so that was on our list for our last day (Wednesday).
The next morning we had a lazy breakfast, we had time on our hands. The Ford dealer called and told me I needed a new alternator and idle valve. Great, at least it wasn’t the dreaded gasketcylinderEMCmanifold. “Go ahead and fix it”. It was a beautiful day, the air seemed ultraclear, no clouds, no humidity and about 50 degrees. We went for a walk. The hotel is right next to Colorado Univ. home of the Buffalos. The campus is pretty although everything is pretty on a day like today. We did a little light shopping in a nearby shopping center and had the random snowball fight. Around 1:30 the Ford guy called and said the car would be ready soon and they would send the van to pick us up. We hoofed it back to the hotel and waited.
We left the dealership around 3:00 and decided to try to make it to Winter Park in time to do some scooting. It was a beautiful ride as we went over and through mountains bigger then Eldora. The car drove great although I must admit I was nervous several times. We drove through Winter Park but I couldn’t find the Snow Scoot place. I began to fear the worst. We stopped at a gas station to fill up and I asked the girl behind the counter. She said they were gone, the meadow was sold to a developer and they had a hard time getting replacement parts for their scoots. Now I had to tell Katie – not good.
She took it OK but was clearly unhappy. Once again we needed a plan B. I remembered another activity we did when they were little. It didn’t turn out that great back then but maybe now that they were older . . .?
Wednesday, April 12, 2006
I am pacing around the front door. I imagine Ray’s boys grabbing my truck and running off with it. A tow truck pulls into the parking lot, it’s Ray’s boys. In my best apologetic but firm voice I tell them I won’t need them. The driver seems OK but the other guy with him is not happy and grills me on the details. Eventually they give me their card and tell me to call them if the other guy can’t make it through the canyon or doesn’t show up, maybe they can help me maybe not.
Back in the school, there has been a steady stream of kids and adults leaving. We give our story to various people who wonder what we are doing hanging out here so long. This is a SMALL school. If you look at the picture in our last post – click on it. You will see a picture on the wall of the entire faculty, middle school plus high school. I think the PE staff at Katie’s high school has more people. Another tow truck pulls into the parking lot, it’s Marvs this time. As I walk out I am hoping for the best and expecting the worst.
I introduce myself and explain our situation. The man in the truck has the requisite dirty overalls, wild hair and big boots. His name is Ed and he has a few surprises. The first one is a pair of sideburns that could hide small woodland creatures. The second which is no less surprising, is a speaking voice that is very literate with a slight Boston accent. He has little round professor glasses and he seems like a nice guy. He also seems like he knows what he is doing. I explain our situation and he gets to work.
Katie and I climb into the cab and bid Nederland Middle High School goodbye. I start a friendly conversation he responds in kind. Turns out he has a college degree from Boston U. has lived many places around the country, is a writer and was lured to Colorado from New Orleans just before the hurricane by his girlfriend who is going to school at Colorado Univ. Katie chimes in and asks about Jazz in New Orleans. They hit it off. Most of the 45 min ride is consumed with discussions about Miles Davis, local Jazz clubs and the possibility of mutual acquaintances. So much for my instructive on tow truck drivers.
As we come down the canyon the snow and ice dissipate. Ray’s boys were just trying to scare us. We arrive at the Ford dealer just before they close and I explain my situation. He tells us they can look at it tomorrow and they can give us a ride back to our hotel in the courtesy van. About 12 hrs after we walked out of our hotel room we walked back in. Yes, we had an adventure and there is always tomorrow.
Monday, April 10, 2006
Our travels part 7
Nederland (pronounced Ned er lend) is a little village at the base of the mountains. This is their middle school and high school. I am wearing my ski clothes. The school looks pretty normal, fairly new, small, except there are no metal detectors. I go to the office and explain our situation. The office lady writes down the number for a local tow truck and points to a phone just outside the office. I say thank you and go for the phone. I have not finished dialing and a girl of about 14 stands next to me. A guy named Ray answers the phone and puts me on hold. Now there is a boy standing next to the girl. They are both looking at me. I am not talking and they want to use the phone. I sheepishly tell them my car died, my cell phone won’t work and I am on hold. I got about the same reaction as if I told them my socks were a little tight.
Ray comes back to the phone and tells me his tow truck is out on a job, he is not sure when they will be back, could be 20 min (if they just need a jump) or 3 hours if they have to tow the car into Boulder (the next real town). He as no way of knowing because CELL PHONES DON’T WORK out here. It’s not just ours, there is absolutely NO service. He asks for a number he can reach me at. What? Cell phones don’t work, there is no number on the mommy phone I am using. I consider asking the girl breathing on my shoulder. I think better of it and tell Ray I will call him in 30 min.
Back to the truck to check on Katie, remember Katie? She is freezing in the truck, she didn’t want to go into the school with me. The heat stopped working back in the skiing parking lot. The truck is about 3 feet in front of the people now sitting in the bus stop. They are staring at us. I convince Katie to go inside, we may have a long wait. The bus stop people tell me I can’t park there. I explain our situation. “Well at least put on your flashers.” I explain the part about the car being dead, this time I add hand gestures. I get the tight sock look again. Katie and I navigate the slushy parking lot in our snow sneakers and go back into the school.
3 hours? We can’t wait that long, they will close the school before that, who knows, the canyon road could be closed by then. It’s still snowing. I need a plan B. I go back to the office lady in search of a phone book. I tell her what Ray said. She opens the phone book and writes down another number “Marvs” she tells me this is the service she and her family use. I don’t say what I am thinking, just “thank you”. As I start for the phone outside the office she says maybe I should use this phone inside the office so the kids can use the other phone. Thank you.
The Marvs guy says he can have someone here in an hour and take us into Boulder. Let’s do it. I get the Ford dealership number from the Marvs guy and call to let them know we are coming. I hope to make it there by 6:00. The next call is to Ray, you remember Ray. I tell him we wont need his truck. He says “aw it’s too late they just left to get you and I can’t call them back . . . because cell phones don’t work out here."
Sunday, April 09, 2006
Thursday, April 06, 2006
Our travels part 6
Snow is building on the windshield, I discover the windshield wipers don't work. Another sharp turn comes up. As I start to turn the wheel it feels like it is stuck. I instinctively hit the breaks, they are stuck too. But they do move just really slow and hard. The engine has died, the battery is dead, no power steering, no power breaks, no lights.
I am grunting trying to make the linked turns, Katie is not sure what to think. I explain we are having car trouble. I tell her I will let her know if I have to do anything drastic like drive the car into the side of the mountain to slow us down or stop us. I don't think I make her feel much better. Fortunately the traffic going up the mountain is light which gives me a little more room on the turns.
I need a place to pull off the road but there are no shoulders or driveways. The snow has been piled up by the snow plows where ever the road widens. Our speed is managable, I am guessing about 30MPH. I could stop the car but it will take about 100 yrds. Still no place to pull over. We merge with another road, we are off the mountain road an onto a rural road that leads into town about 4 miles away. The cars are backed up behind me now I am well under the speed limit.
The road is a little wider now but still not a real shoulder, just a ditch. At least the mountain is no longer leaning over our right side. We remember a school we passed on the way up. Surely we could get off the road there and we would have some idea where we were. The road flattens out, I am no longer concerned with uncontrollable speed. I notice Katie and I are both leaning forward trying to make it to the school. Several cars go around us. We have been drifting for about 3 miles (it seemed like 30). We can see the school, we are down to about 15MPH.
It's a small school, only 1 in and 1 out for the parking lot. I get ready to attempt a 90 degree turn, but wait - no parking spaces and the busses are lined up. It's about 3:30 school is still in session. In front of the school there is a public bus stop and a real shoulder for the bus to drive on - it's bus stop or bust. Going about 3 MPH we glide onto the bus lane and stop dead in front of the little hut where people wait, like we did it on purpose. We made it. Our backs leaned back up against the leather captains chairs for the first time since we were in the ski slope parking lot.
Wednesday, April 05, 2006
Our travels part 5
We climb back into our car and prepare for the long twisty ride back. Not so fast. We have the same problem we did earlier in the morning. The car will start but then it dies After 5 min or so of trying to keep it running matters get worse. It won't even start now, just the dreaded "click click click". We decide to wait to see if it will recover. The wind is blowing hard and the snow is really coming down.
15 min later I give up trying to revive the car on my own, I need a jump. I go in search of a good Samaritan. I end up in the Human Resources office of Eldora (the mountian), they say they will send someone to help us. 15 min later he shows up in his big white pickup and gives me a jump.
The car is running but it will die if I take my foot off the gas. The maintenance man tells me to keep it on until it warms up. Just then all the gauges in the car die. The car is still running. I tell the guy - his response - "I didn't do it". I ask if it is OK to drive, he says yes but you should probably take it to a mechanic. OK, I need to get out of here, things are getting worse by the minute. I decide to make my move.
It's tricky to back out of a parking space and maneuver around the other cars without letting off the gas. I finally make it to the open end of the parking lot, it hasn't stalled yet. We pass 2 guys trying to push their Mustang out of the ice and snow. We clear the parking lot and are in a line of cars going down the twisty mountain road, we are all going slow, it's slippery. The realization hits me that I can't keep my foot on the gas, it's all down hill.
Tuesday, April 04, 2006
Our travels part 4
Once at the mountain we proceeded to the ski school/rental area. There was a pretty good size line. When we made it to the front we asked about the Snowboarding package that included equipment, lift ticket and (most importantly) lessons. Too late, they were sold out. On to plan B.
We rented regular ski equipment and bought our lift ticket. We were off, it was about 9:30am. We went straight for the main lift. Katie hadn't skied for years but there would be an easy trail we could take from the top, or so I thought. As the chair lift reached the top and we stuck the dismount, all trails were marked intermediate or advanced. I said nothing, most people went to the left so we followed.
As we found out later, we chose the most difficult "intermediate" run on the mountain for our first time down. Katie was a little shaky at first but she only fell once. I was very proud of her, the last time she was on skis she was about 7. When we made it to the bottom we jumped right back on the lift and took a different "blue square" down. And so our morning went, we were having a fantastic time.
We broke for lunch in the lodge, had some overpriced cafeteria food and were back in the saddle (chair lift) in no time. We proceeded to explore most of the intermediate runs across the mountain. As we were wrapping up the day we found the green circle runs and finished on a high note. It had been snowing most of the day, but now it was really picking up. Time to get a move on so we wouldn't have too much trouble in the canyon.