6/29/15

Vacation Weeks 2 and 3 Recap...

Vacation 2015 photo dump of weeks #2 and #3!

Week two found us in Walnut Creek staying with my father-in-law. In spite of the intense summer heat during the day in the East Bay, one is always guaranteed a nice cool down at night into the 50's and 60's which makes for comfortable sleeping and late evening/early morning walks.

There are always lots of turkeys parading around my father-in-laws place, but they are not easy to get on camera unless you have a nice telephoto lens as they scurry away the moment you make a step in their direction. I did manage to get close to this one to get a shot on my iPhone after a nice morning walk...

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We rode our bikes while there to take in some of the local riding. The climb up Pinehurst road is scenic and rewarding as you crest it - not to mention the 4 mile descent on the winding roads being fun!

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Cresting the climb...

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Following that ride, I couldn't resist a little artery clogging refuel via the day's special - hot pastrami and parmesan garlic fries!!!

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Then a surprising thing happened the next day. It rained! Yes, right in the middle of a drought, we had a day of rain which kept us off the bikes. We had nice visits with friends and family during week 2 of our vacation. We rode the Iron Horse Trail a couple of times to work in some recovery riding and coffee to keep the legs fresh for our more intense efforts.

One of the things we did included a trip into San Francisco on BART to meet up with Tara's cousin, Elaine. She took us to Lands End in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area for a nice walk before we headed to dinner at her favorite Indian Restaurant in the city. The fog was rolling in for the evening, but we enjoyed the walk and views.

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Our last day in the Bay Area was Saturday, June 13th and we had planned on a dual ride in Marin County. One mountain bike, the other road bike. We headed to China Camp State Park to ride the mountain bike trails as my memory of the trail was that it would be favorable for Tara to ride. Somehow we ended up in the parking lot at the south end which was not my intention. That, and my memory not being so keen to remember the last time I rode there in 2005, we ended up riding the route sort of backwards from the preferred direction that everyone rides it. This meant we were riding the most technical stuff going uphill all the way making it a grueling climb. Tara all smiles before the climb began...

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Our return was on the easier Shoreline Trail which has been revamped since I was there in 2005 and is now a machine cut, IMBA inspired sustainable multi-use trail for bikers, hikers, and joggers. We should have gone north on this trail first, and then ridden back on the upper trail singletrack that is much more technical - or at least at the intermediate level in sections. Tara thought I was trying to kill her on purpose because so much of that trail is lined with steep drop offs, switchbacks, steep climbs next to steep dropoffs, etc... . I was frustrated because my memory of the trail was that it was easy and within her capabilities, but I was wrong. We made it, but not before some discussion

Post ride back at the parking lot - all was well, or at least forgiven.

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I noticed I had a screw lodged in my front driver side tire which set us off in San Rafael to locate a tire shop to get the screw removed and a patch. $30 later we were on our way over to Sausalito for the road biking portion of this dual ride day. We had planned on riding from Sausalito over the Golden Gate Bridge and to Fisherman's Wharf and back. However, the fog had not lifted, it was a howling wind and the temperature was 55 degrees. We got out of the car, looked at each other, and said - scratch that. So, we decided to head back to my father-in-law's for some nice Mexican food at a restaurant in Lafayette (the town where we got married 25 years earlier) and to do a load of laundry for our departure on Sunday.

Sunday's planned drive was from Walnut Creek to Provo, Utah. Beautiful scenery as we took the familiar I-80 through the Sierra Nevada mountain range.

Back in Nevada about a week after we were last passing through it...

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I-80 passes Reno, and eventually heads across the salt flats and into Salt Lake City as you cross back into Utah. We had a great meal at a local restaurant while we watched the NBA Finals, then headed off to our motel for a night's rest. Monday morning had us with another beautiful drive that took us to Moab, Utah for our next stop and vacation playground.

Moab is a recreational playground. Mountain biking, hiking, off road 4 wheeling, desert beauty, National Parks, river rafting, local flavor and plenty to see and do. I think one needs at least a good week there to enjoy it all (just like most of the areas we had visited on this trip). The original plan for this vacation was to stay in Walnut Creek a couple more days, but when we passed through Utah earlier in the vacation on our way to the Grand Canyon, Tara told me we had a blank day between that and our stay at Snowmass Village to fill. So I quickly got to work and booked us at Moab and talked her into leaving a day earlier so we could have two days of fun at Moab which was not far from our final stop on the vacation - Snowmass/Aspen - at all. Moab had crossed into the dangerous hot time of year, so most things needed to be done in the morning, or at least one needed to be careful planning what altitude you would be spending the day outside at to keep temperatures down.

First up on Monday was to hit Arches National Park. This is a park that needs about 2 days to stop at all the famous geological and erosion formations to get in all of the hikes. So Monday's plan was to hit 1/2 of them. We set out with our Camelbaks full of water, good clothing that breathed well was worn, and suntan lotion was applied so we could have at it.

First up was the famous Balanced Rock.

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Or course, I forced Tara to take a goofy shot of me...

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Then it was on to the 2+ hour round trip hike to the Delicate Arch. This is not a hike for the out of shape, or family with small children - at least in this heat above 100 degrees. Part of the hike there is a big section of slickrock to cross. Our running shoes were perfect for good grip...

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Tara had me sit down on the slickrock for a photo. The rock was so hot, I think I toasted my backside for the few seconds I sat down.

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All I can say is the hike is totally worth it. Great views and the Delicate Arch is pretty immense in size compared to the pictures I have seen of it...

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Lots of beautiful slickrock in this park...

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We met a nice couple from Austria (Salzburg) up on the hike, and a nice young local couple who gave us some good tips about where to mountain bike the next day to avoid the heat.

Then we saw the Three Gossips which is this rock formation that the title explains quite well...

Gossips

That ended up being enough of the heat and had has retreat back to the motel where we sat out by the pool in the shade for some chips and beer to relax.

Day 2 at Moab was a plan to drive 28 miles to Dead Horse Point State Park because the trails were at a level that Tara could ride and the predicted temperature was to be about 15 degrees cooler than down in Moab. On top of that, we were informed that two of the trails were brand new and getting rave reviews from the locals. That sounded good to me. Temperature wise, it is much different riding with temperatures in the 80's than 100+, so that's where we headed. Look at the great list of trails that are all right around Moab...HERE.

Again, what a beautiful park. We were almost shocked at how much cooler it was up at this altitude than it was down in Moab. The desert was alive and well and in full bloom.

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We started out on some easy desert trail to warm up (as if one needs to warm up in this heat)...

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Tara loved these trails...

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What surprised me was that she actually liked the most technical trails we were riding on the best. Lots of ledges, rocks, shelfs, slickrock and what not. She loved the slickrock...

Slickrock

And was all smiles about it too...

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Cactus

We did the same loop two times so it would afford her a chance to practice and gain confidence at her developing skills. I was having a blast too as riding the singlespeed provided plenty of skill building opportunity and a work out for me to enjoy as well.

After 3 hours of desert mountain biking, it was time for lunch so we headed back downtown to Moab to split a burger and blue corn chips. Then we got changed to head out for some afternoon hiking again at Arches National Park to see the other half of it.

Views and eye candy everywhere...

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The Garden of Eden - well you see why it is called that....

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And another long hike up to an arch called Landscape Arch is very worthy of seeing...

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Finally, the Windows Arch is a must see as well...

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Very beautiful to visit here...

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Okay, enough Arch fascination. We finished the water in our Camelbaks and that ended our hike. So we drove back into town for our final evening's meal in Moab. I think we both agree it would be nice to return here and spend more time to hike, bike and see more things. Although very hot, with proper water, electrolytes, and clothing we felt pretty good. Peak season for this area is before mid-June, and in the Fall September/October time frame to avoid the intense heat. Neither are ideal for our work schedule based around the academic calendar.

Wednesday, June 24th had us driving from Moab to Snowmass Village where Tara had reserved a condo for us to stay three nights. It was a pretty short drive to get there from Moab. In fact, it was our shortest drive of the vacation in terms of crossing state lines with only about 3 - 3 1/2 hours of driving on tap for the day. Again, the beautiful drive on I-70 up into the Rockies and over to Aspen/Snowmass is full of eye candy. 

We arrived and checked into our condo (very nice!!!), then headed into Aspen for ride number one. On tap was to ride on the Rio Grande Trail which is a rails to trails famous ride that stretches 40 miles from Aspen to Glenwood Springs. I guess I have failed to mention that weather was nothing short of spectacular for our entire vacation. Wednesday in Aspen was no different...

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There are sections of the Rio Grande Trail that are gravel, and this is on one of those sections...

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Coming into Aspen on the return trip after riding towards Glenwood Springs...

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Next to the Roaring Fork River as we approach Aspen...

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That pretty much did it for Wednesday with 1/2 day of driving and a 1/2 day of riding. We decided to stop by a grocery store and stock up on food to cook for ourselves in the condo. I grilled some steak and Tara made veggies and salad. We got a phone call that my father had been admitted to the Emergency Room in Rapid City. So we spent a lot of time trying to figure out if we should leave, what his condition was, and logistics of our next move.

After speaking with my nephew at the hospital on Thursday morning, he assured me that driving right up at that moment was not needed as my father was going through a bunch of tests to determine the cause of his weakness (turns out he had a strep infection in his blood and would require 6 weeks of antibiotics). So we delayed a decision of packing up and leaving to think things through, and make arrangements.

While we thought about it all, Thursday morning was Papa's day to pick the ride, so we headed up what is called the Rim Trail in Snowmass. It starts out with one heck of a climb up the mountain that is tempered with switchbacks, but my heart rate was maxed out at that altitude and Tara had to walk several sections. We were told this was an easy intermediate trail, but keep in mind what is intermediate in areas like Moab, and Colorado is a lot tougher than what we see here in the Midwest. Sweating and cursing at my tall gear on the singlespeed for such climbing, we got to the top of the rim to enjoy a beautiful scenic ride (mostly downhill)...

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The flowers were in full bloom...

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The trail was visually too challenging for Tara with the cliffs and steep drop offs on the side, so after we finished it was decided not to ride any more singletrack in the area. The joint decision was to focus on pavement instead. We got to ride the paved trail all the way back up to Snowmass Village and to our condo which was an uphill serious battle and workout! Lunch was well deserved at one of the local ski deli's on the mountain before heading back over to the condo for a shower. I spoke with my nephew again and was keeping up to date on what few test results were coming in to help make a decision. I spoke with my sister as well. I determined I had to go during the days of Thursday and Friday's discussion and updates. It was also decided we would stick with our vacation plans to finish it out, but we booked a flight from Denver to Des Moines for Tara so she could fly home on Saturday and I would drive up to Rapid City.

Friday was our planned ride on the most famous ride in Aspen - from Aspen to the Maroon Bells. They close the road from 9 am to 5 pm and only allow the local bus and residents to travel on the road. This makes it very safe for cyclists to ride. It is a good hour climb from Aspen proper to the Maroon Bells which was a nice workout for both of us.

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The view, once there, is quite spectacular. We had packed a lunch, so sat down overlooking the lake and ate our wraps before descending. The view is again - well worthy of seeing.

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TheBells

The descent was about 30-35 mph using brakes to control one's speed, and I was grinning all the way. I would have gone faster, but there was a car in front of me driving the posted speed limit for the 9 mile descent (35 mph).

Once we got back down into Aspen, we rode around town a bit and stopped for some pictures. Tara in front of a church spire on the outskirts of town...

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Me outside the main tent at the Aspen Music Festival...

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We had a coffee and cake downtown Aspen to relax, and then rode our bikes back to where we had parked to begin the day's ride. We had purchased tickets to attend an event on Friday evening called Heritage Fire. 3000 pounds of meat was to be smoked and served with all kinds of vegetables, cheeses, wines, drinks, snacks, cigars, to the VIP Crowd, and the General Public Crowd. We were part of the GP Crowd as tickets were $105 less per person. We were to arrive at 5 pm, an hour after the VIP Crowd had arrived.

Since I love to smoke meat, I called this event "Heaven on the Hill" as I got to see some master chefs and BBQ gurus work their magic and talk to me about how they prepared it.

Here's Hog Heaven...

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A Flounder being smoked...

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Goats...

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Lamb...

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And of course there was beef, salmon, more fish, poultry - you name it - they had it. I sampled most, but never got to try the Flounder as it wasn't finished until long after we retired. The ticket said the event was over at 7 pm, but it went on well past 10 pm with live music and a lively party atmosphere as part of the overall Aspen Wine Festival that was taking place.

The blue Jose Cuervo truck was there serving up Margaritas and other drinks...

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Everyone was enjoying the perfect weather, food, and drink...

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Who knows what Tara was laughing at by this point?

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After we got our fill (around 7 pm), we took the gondola up part of the mountain, went for a small walk, then headed back to our condo. A nice end to a beautiful vacation!

Saturday, we drove into the Denver airport where I dropped Tara off at the curb to catch her flight to Des Moines, and I drove the 7 hours up to Rapid City to see my father. 

Vacation 2015 - three weeks on the road with 4 bikes in the car is one we will not forget for a long time! We both had so much fun with each other, and got to see gobs of beautiful scenery in parts of America we haven't had the pleasure of visiting before. 

One for the books, but one well savored.