Thursday, June 28, 2007

Northern Rockies Road Trip: Part III: Picas and Sheep and Bears, Oh My!

We took most of Saturday traveling the Icefields Parkyway (Promenade des Glaciers to those Francophiles or romantics out there). While the trip is less than 200 miles (288 kilometers) and can be "safely traveled in just over 3 hours" according to our guide, it lives up to its reputation as the most beautiful highway in the world. The entire drive is one amazing view after another with each bend in the road showcasing another dramatic mountain-scape, glacier, and/or alpine lake. We stopped at the Icefield Visitor Center at the Columbia Glacier where I learned that the Columbia Glacier feeds the same Columbia River that runs through Washington and out to the Pacific Ocean. I also learned all about mountain critters like picas.* We briefly considered taking one of the snow-bus-thingies onto the glacier and decided instead to take a hike to where we could better see the glaciers. We walked through snow and at one point we were actually getting snowed on.

As we continued our drive south we stopped for big horn sheep crossing the road and later saw bears just off the side of the highway, one in a tree. How do you spot bear? Why, just look for the dozens of cars parked on the shoulder with tourists with huge cameras wandering all over the road.** We considered stopping at Lake Louise, but as it was already about 6 pm when we passed it, we didn't want to be too rushed, so we saved it for the next day.

* Having grown up in Colorado and doing a fair amount of hiking and camping as a boy scout, Jeff was wise in the ways of picas and other mountain fauna. It became a bit of a joke as Jeff compared these Rockies to the ones in Colorado (the peak's only 12000 feet? In Colorado, the peaks are much higher..) and so on. At one point when we were planning the trip, I mentioned staying in Calgary. "Why would we want to spend time there; it will be just like Denver?" "But I've never been to Denver."

** Every single guide book/pamphlet/display we read instructed us not to stop for bear or other animals near the road. They associate people with food and by stopping on the road, it just makes them more likely to come close to the road, which is not good for their mortality rates.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Road Trip Continued: Part II - Party on, Patricia

I think I sort of ran out of steam with that last extended report of our first day. Anyway, we got back on the road after lunch on Friday and made it to Jasper without incident. Views were absolutely amazing on the drive, especially once we hit the Rockies. My car performed just great; it was such a pleasure to be able to drive as fast as the law would let us (no, we had no run-ins; I just didn't want to tangle with Provincial Authorities, so was a bit conservative re: the speed limit).

We drove through the town of Jasper around 6 pm mountain time and to our lodging on Patricia Lake. I couldn't resist making reservations at a place with my first name. Most of the cabins they rent were booked up by the time I made our last-minute reservations, so I was talked into staying in one of their new luxury suites. A little more spendy, but once we arrived I realized that the extra $'s (only $.92's, really) was worth it. Our "room" was half of a duplex cabin in the woods that contained a small kitchen with full sized fridge and appliances, a living room with wide-screened plasma tv with DVD player and gas fireplace, a bedroom, also with a small plasma tv, bath with granite / tile everything and heated towel rack, and patio overlooking the lake and the mountains with a gas grill. Since we were only going to be able to stay one night here instead of the two we'd originally booked, we decided to spend as much time there as possible and picked up steaks and trimmings for the grill. The next morning we went on a short (and breathless - it's the altitude!) run to the next lake over, checked out just in time, and then got back on the road to Banff.

Some notes: I'm used to a noon checkout, but everywhere we stayed in Canada had 11 am. While this wouldn't normally be an issue, there were several days where we wanted to sleep in, then go for a run or bike ride, and then take our time eating breakfast and packing all of our stuff (and we brought way too much stuff that I was continually reorganizing), which made it tough to fit all that in by 11. Fortunately, most folks were forgiving of a few minutes and/or would extend the time a bit when asked.

The water in all of the lakes and rivers in all of the National Parks we traveled through was an amazing turquiose blue color. The color was due to the silt run-off caused by the glacier movement; it never failed to amaze, especially when the sun was out (about half the time we were there).

You can find some pictures of the trip here at Jeff's new page.

Monday, June 25, 2007

The Road Trip Through the Northern Rockies

Part I - Axel

Our Road Trip was pretty amazing, despite one large hiccup that made for one very stressful afternoon. We got on the road Thursday morning ~ 7:30 am, bolstered by our favorite road trip breakfast (Ladro's double tall lowfat latte and croissant for me, vegan oat bar and grande latte for Jeff). We had a lovely drive north with a surprisingly quick boarder crossing, although we had to dump the bag of apples we'd brought along as part of our massive bag of snacks and supplies. (FYI for those driving to Canada: you can bring non-native fruit like bananas in, but nothing with seeds that is grown locally).

We had a lovely picnic somewhere near Hope, and then hope left us as we found that my car was growing more and more feeble when trying to climb the mountains we were driving through. I'd noticed the problem last month when driving to Vancouver with Jeff's parents, but at the time I'd attributed the car's sluggishness to being more heavily loaded than usual. But as we dragged up each hill more slowly than the last, dropping into 3rd gear in the truck pull-out lane with hazards flashing wondering if the car would make it up the hill, we realized that we had a very significant problem. At this point we were 300 miles from home with 4 nights of lodging paid for and no idea where we'd find someone who could diagnose and fix my once-healthy 2003 diesel Jetta. We found Frank's Auto Repair in Merritt, B.C., a small shop in a one-street town, where Frank took pity on us and replaced the car's fuel filter. "It's only a guess," he told us when we asked if he thought that would fix the problem. "You'll know if it's fixed as soon as you drive out of town." He gave us a few names for shops in Kamloops (the next city on our route, about 60 miles north) in case we still needed help.

We drove away hopeful, but as we tried to climb up the next hill we once again found ourselves going 35 mph watching trucks wiz by us. We started talking contingenies: turn around and get Jeff's car and try the trip the next day; ditch the car in Kamlops and rent something for the trip; give up altogether; that's as far as we got. We made it (thankfully) into Kamloops, and the very nice people at the Visitor's Center gave us maps, hotel and car rental information, and we were able to use their phone to contact the auto shop recommended to us by Frank. We got there around 4 pm and the mechanic we spoke to was able to quickly diagnose the problem - a completely carbon-clogged air intake manifold, something that can happen when a car owner is a bike-commuter and only drives her car a few blocks to the grocery store. It was too late to work on it that day, so he told us to have at the shop at 7:30 the next morning and he'd get to work on it first thing.

Knowing that there was a probable solution to our problem took a huge weight of our minds and we were able to enjoy a relatively pleasant evening in Kamloops along with the passenges from the transcontinental railroad passengers also spending the night in town. The next morning we dropped off the car and took our bikes for a ride along the river while the folks at Axel's Auto Shop went to work. One more mechanical difficulty when my pedal fell off, but Jeff was able to fix that and we did our ride and picked up the car at 11 am: FIXED!! After a relaxing lunch of saag paneer and tandori lamb, we were back on the road in our zippy like-new car, with the new moniker, Axel.

To be continued...

Friday, June 22, 2007

Home Again

We had an amazing time on our trip to the Northern Rockies with some, um, snags along the way. Stories and pictures to come...

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Sleep Walking

One of my most frequent stress dreams involves trying to get somewhere (like a graduation ceremony as was in my dream last Thursday night) when I'm running late and I just can't seem to get everything together and get going. Hours pass while I try to gather my things and get to where I need to go and it feels like I'm moving in glue.

Today: I'm living the dream.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Trail Note: Random Road Rant

As summer slowly rolls in and the weather gets nicer (two steps forward, one step back, is how our summer weather travels), tensions between cars and bicycles seem to grow. At least my tension when I'm on a bike rises as I get more and more annoyed at cars whose drivers seem to feel like they own the road. A week or so ago I was biking home, just north of the Fremont Bridge, about to cross Nickerson and in the left lane (because the right lane was right turn only and I was going straight). I was in the middle of the lane because there's no real room to pass at this point, only about a hundred feet. A car, however, anxious to turn right onto Nickerson, passed me in the half a block he had before the light, and yelled at me through the passenger window. Something about how I should get out of the way. He then swerved back into the lane, cutting me off, and proceeded to turn right in front of me as I went straight. I suppose if this guy had his way, I'd wait at the sidewalk with the pedestrians, waiting until every car at the busy intersection had gone where they wanted to go before biking home.

Since Cascade Bicycle Club has adopted "Give Cyclists 3 Feet of Space" as their motto for Bike to Work month last month, I've been watching to see how much room drivers allow when they pass me. Several times I've been passed with less than 1 foot, and that is very scary. One little wobble, and I'm under a tire. I like to allow 3 feet from the side of the road while riding (in case I need to avoid something or a parked car door opens), so when you add another 3 feet between me and a car, a car really needs to pass a bike just as it would pass another car; no sharing of lanes.

There are times when I wish I had a flashing sign above my head to send messages to oblivious cars. One would read "if you're passing me, you're probably driving too fast" for when I'm passed on a narrow road or in a residential neighborhood and traveling pretty fast (20+ mph) myself. Another one is "I'm not blocking traffic: I am traffic," which is a sticker I saw on another bike. The final one might not be appropriate for children to read, so I should probably think twice about this sign idea. Plus, the drag would really slow me down.

Have I mentioned how amazing my new bike is? I feel so fast and so light and it's so responsive. It's really a joy to ride, it makes me feel bad when I gripe about minor annoyances on the road. Most drivers are considerate and some are downright friendly. The community of other cyclists is fun, too. Since one of these minor annoyances could be deadly, however, I'll keep griping in the hopes that more people will key into the 3 Feet message.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

If Only the CIA Had Their Intel

Yesterday I returned from my graduation ceremony and celebratory lunch to find a letter from the UW Alumni Association in the mail.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Our Challenge

...Should we choose to accept it, is to plan a 1 week (approximate) vacation, leaving no sooner than a week from today and no later than 2 weeks from today. Our criteria:

- Must be relaxing
- Must be fun
- Should be in a place that is a good June destination (i.e. we're not going to go to Hawaii or CA or Florida in June; if you live in Seattle you go to those places between November and March)
- Should be reasonably priced considering that we're going last minute (I'm not sure exactly what that means $-wise; suffice it to say that we do not have unlimited funds but I would not want to artificially price myself out of a great trip)
- Should be within 3 time zones (no Europe or Asian trips with only 1 week for travel)

Our current contenders:
- Alaskan cruise
- Alaskan trip; no cruise ship (i.e. fly to Anchorage and find ways to get around Kenai)
- Canadian Rockies road trip (take the bikes, the tent, and the hiking boots to Banff, Jasper, and Glacier National Parks)
- NYC / Long Island to visit family and friends (who are not aware of these unmade plans)

Any suggestions?

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Trail Note

As of today, there are exactly 2 months until our triathlon. Jeff and I were discussing this frightening fact as we ran on Sunday. We had gone on a really pleasant bike ride on Saturday (to Mercer Island and back through downtown with a few small bonus loops; perfect cycling weather with amazing views; new-bike excitement has not worn off), so our legs were a bit tired. Jeff also swan on Saturday, so our run on Sunday was sort of an extended tri-workout for him.

Sunday was another (the last for a while) summery warm and sunny day. We drove out to Alki in West Seattle to run along the beach and have a scenic, uninterrupted, and fairly flat route for our long run. It was also a nice place for Jeff's parents (in town for the weekend) to hang our for the hour and a half or so that we were gone.

While the legs were tired, by keeping the pace slow, we actually felt better as the ran progressed. By the time we turned around for our out-and-back route, I was feeling pretty good, and I think we ran the second half a bit faster than the first. While we'd originally intended to go 9 miles, I wasn't too disappointed in the 8.5 loop that we completed.

Now, back to our regularly scheduled grey drizzle.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Big Weeks

Wednesday 5/23 - Learn that my sister eloped
Thursday 5/24 - Head to Vancouver for a few days with Jeff's parents
Friday 5/25 - Run through Stanley Park, eat dim sum, watch Beluga whales, relax
Saturday 5/26 - Shop for work clothes at outlets on trip home
Sunday 5/27 - Enjoy a rain day
Monday 5/28 - Ride the 7 Hills of Kirkland on my amazing new bike
Tuesday 5/29 - Have Degree Project bound; turn it in
Wednesday 5/30 - Accept a job offer
Thursday 5/31 - Take first final exam
Friday 6/1 - Go to end of year picnic and "Dan Evans Ball"

Up for next week: two more finals, an independent study paper to finish, another short visit with Jeff's parents, BBQ with the newlyweds, work party, baby shower, and graduation
I think I'd like to see this.