Wednesday, August 26, 2009

RMNP: Day 1 - Part 1. Getting There.

As any diligent reader of this fabulously popular site knows, I spent 4 days, 3 nights camping in RMNP (Rocky Mountain National Park) at the end of last month. The posts are somewhat tardy, but better late than never? Or is that better never than ever?

I don't know if I was brain dead or what, but my plan on getting to RMNP, and my camp site, didn't include looking at a map. A paper map or Google map, that is. I decided to put my trust in a Magellan GPS.

Plan A: Type in the name of the camp ground, Moraine, into the GPS and select that as the destination. There was no Moraine camp ground listed. Go to plan B?

Plan B: Look at a map before it's time to leave, bonehead. Plan C?

Plan C: What if we just put Moraine in the GPS? It does come up with Moraine Museum, Estes Park. Is that close? I don't know, but what the heck, lets go with that...

The drive takes about an hour and a half to two hours. I found that following GPS directions for long distances when I had no real clue as to where I was (or if the destination I selected was close enough), was more than a little disconcerting. After 50 minutes or so into the drive I was really jonesing for an old school map to look at. I tried zooming out the GPS to give me some perspective, but I was on a road that was too 'small'. The GPS software would not draw it when zoomed out even a little. In fact, when I was at the max zoom out where it would still draw it, it was the only road on the map. Kinda hard to get a perspective from that...

As luck would have it, Moraine Museum was actually in the park, and only about a mile from the campground - there were signs that I could follow from there.

My site for night one was D-0151. A walk out. Means you gotta lug your gear from the parking spot to the camp site - in this case about 120 yards. I could not see the site from the car, so I headed out with just the tent to scout out the spot. I hadn't gone more than 15 yards when a blue Element pulled up behind the FJ. Wow, Dave and Christa have awesome timing. Two more people to lug gear. ;-)

The trek to the site was worth it. Good views, a picnic table next to a stand of trees, and no other camp sites close by. In fact I could only see parts of two others a ways away.

Koal and Amber were enjoying themselves at their new home. Koal was perky and energetically wagging his tail, while Amber was rolling around on her back in some grass. Too bad this site was only available for one night - gotta move to another tomorrow.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Invisible Dentine Alignment

Back when I was a kid, I had braces in order to straighten my teeth. They didn't do a perfect job. One of my lower front teeth stuck out slightly forward of the rest. It stayed that way for several years, then 'popped' and got pushed forward rather quickly (in teeth time that is). Within a couple years, it was fully forward and the neighboring teeth had moved in behind it.

This caused the out of place tooth to hit the back of the respective top tooth. Over the ensuing years, it wore down the top of one and put a nice dent in the other. On top of this, my jaw finally gave up on trying to compensate for the out of place tooth - it now hurts too much to pull my lower jaw in enough that my teeth can close properly. I couldn't even chew with the right teeth. It's time for Invisalign to get these ducks back in a row.

So, four weeks ago I paid a big chunk of money and had the impressions and photos taken. Yesterday I got my first pair of Invisalign trays. Oooo! What fun!

While we are on the subject of large chunks of change, I'll take this time to note the obvious: insurance sucks. They wouldn't pay a dime towards a procedure that would relieve pain, and allow my jaw to close properly so I can eat without grinding away front teeth. Teeth that they would be obliged to pay out bigger bucks to replace some time in the future.

I suppose I shouldn't complain much about the pain. I think, so far, it's much better than braces. But still, it's relentlessly uncomfortable.

I got the trays yesterday about an hour before dinner. Taking them out to eat was a nice bit of relief. Putting them back in afterward wasn't too bad. It was a slight discomfort, and I knew that discomfort meant that my teeth were on the way to getting back in order. Later on, when it came to bed time, they were, of course, still reporting to the brain that they were in a displeasing situation. The brain, knowing that it has trouble getting to sleep with the slightest of distractions, decided to stay up a little later to make getting to sleep easier. So, after watching reruns of Mythbusters while surfing the web till 1:00 am, I was tired enough to try to sleep.

Although I didn't immediately fall into a dreamy slumber at the moment my head fell upon pillow, I did fall asleep in relatively short order. But, the discomfort kept waking me up and withheld any deep, restful sleep.

When the morning alarm awoke me from my fitful respite, I was reminded immediately of the torture device in my mouth. I looked forward to the minutes I would spend without it while I brushed my teeth. Oh, how wrong I was. Upon taking these insane pieces of pure evil out of my mouth, with the 'holding pressure' removed, my gums immediately started pushing my teeth back to where they most recently called home. Yikes! That feels
worse than with the trays in! So with a quick teeth brushing, which was like prodding teeth that have already been shot and stabbed, I replaced the trays and sighed with relief in the relative comfort that they now provided.

Now, if you struggle, and look closely for the bright side of this, I think two gems can actually be found.

1) You are supposed to keep the trays in for 23 hours a day for them to work (I think they will work with less, but they tell you that to get you to wear it more often). When I was a kid, I had 2 removable apparatus. I was supposed to wear them all the time - even while eating. They could be removed for teeth brushing. I was very bad and wore them sometimes for less than 8 hours a day. They never really worked and my orthodontist was particularly unhappy with me. With these trays, I don't *want* to take them out, because I know it will hurt more. So they are virtually guaranteed to work.

2) With not being able to eat with the trays in, and not wanting to do stuff with my teeth while they are out, I'm not inclined to spend a lot of time eating. New weight loss plan. Akin to having your jaw wired shut.

-- As always, comments are welcome on every post. --

OBTW, aren't you glad I didn't post pictures with this entry??

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Tropic Thunder or Tragic Blunder?

I posted a short movie review a little while back, and gave Julie & Julia a two thumbs up rating. So, I figured I'd continue my movie reviews with the next movie I saw. Although I saw J&J in the theater, I saw Tropic Thunder on DVD a few days ago.

It got low/mixed reviews from most newspaper/TV critics, but IMDB had it rated at a 7.3 by it's users. I thought the trailers were mildly funny, and thought it had some potential. Though, I wasn't betting the farm on it - I picked up the DVD used.

The movie starts off bad, and pretty much stays there. The story is of four prima donna Hollywood actors and their *adventure* filming a war movie. It's got Robert Downey Jr. playing an Australian actor playing a black man. During a large percentage of the opening scenes, and a significant percentage of the rest of the movie, I could not understand what he was saying. Ben Stiller's character (the hero of the movie within a movie) was infamous for his prior movie where he played a mentally challenged young man. His performance in that was supposed to be bad, which was supposed to make it funny. But it wasn't. The 3rd prima donna was known for his movies where he plays fat people that fart a lot. The 4th, I don't know what was supposed to make him famous, but he was busy hocking a beverage called Booty Sweat.

It's not that the movie premise or any of the character 'twists' were that bad. And it's not as if the movie didn't have
multiple jokes, prat falls, punch lines that were funny. It's just that none of the jokes were more than 'chuckle' funny, or 'groan' funny, and the rest of the movie was like being forced to endure sand paper on your eyeballs.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Pleasant Dinner Conversation

Last night we went to Barb's for Sunday dinner. It had been a little while and it was good to see everyone. Curtis, Tina, Cindy, Bob, Carl, Sam, and, of course, Barb.

Bob and Cindy brought over their energetic new puppy, Stella. I don't know how old she is now, but she prolly weighs 35-40 pounds, and looks like she will end up at about 60 to me. Kind of a Labrador stature and hair length, but with Border Collie black and white colors. When she stopped in one place long enough to be petted, she enjoyed it and looked to have a good people disposition.

As with most young dogs (or cats for that matter) cruising at high speed just above floor level, it's only a matter of time before the dog mistakes a closed screen door for an open one. Zoom... Crash... Door = toast.

After calming everyone down, and propping the door back in place (more or less), a yummy dinner of sausage sandwiches and veg sloppy joes was served, and for the most part was accompanied with pleasant conversation.

As a marker to denote the end of dinner, Cindy posed the following question: "How do people hide a dead body without it stinking?" Or something to that effect. As if all those sitting around the table were experts in the subject. Wow! Did Cindy forget who she was eating dinner with? Does she regularly fraternize with people that have read all the Good Housekeeping tips on de-scenting a corpse? Or, was this a
casual question to help her with an issue she currently has at home? Or, is she planning to use the info in the near future? On one of us?

No, nothing that sinister. She had some raw chicken that spoiled, so she threw it out. It stunk. Bad. She wrapped it in a plastic garbage bag. And then stuck that in another. And another, and another. It still stunk. So, she was wondering how these psychos she hears about in the news that hide dead bodies in their basements don't get caught right away due to the smell.

There were too many reasonable ideas in response to the question:  Freeze it. Cook it (rotting cooked chicken does not smell as bad as rotting raw chicken, so one could assume the same for other meat). Get a large Seal-A-Meal.

I was beginning to wonder if I should be suspicious of more than just Cindy...

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Julie & Julia

Tonight we went to see Julie & Julia. A movie based on two true stories. We all know who Julia Child is. But the movie documents her time in France while writing the cookbook - before her TV show. The other Julie is a woman in New York that decided to cook all 500+ recipes from Julia's book in one year - and blog about it.

Blog about it? Gee wiz, everyone's doing a blog these days...

Well, it was actually back in 2002 for Julie's blog, and the 1950's for Julia. The movie went back and forth between the two, developed parallels between them, and showed that Julie not only learned how to cook from the exercise, but grew, and learned valuable life lessons.

Meryl Streep was an awesome Julia Child. She was a joy to watch and I would have liked seeing more of Julia's story. Makes me want to watch her TV show "The French Chef". And to cook. They all looked like they were enjoying the food way more than should be allowed. Mmmm.

Two thumbs up. 'Cause I only have two thumbs.

Bon Appetite!

Monday, August 10, 2009


In case you aren't a curious, click happy web surfer, I'll explicitly divulge a non-intuitive fact about photos and blogs. This blog in particular, if not others.

If you click on the first picture in a posting, you will get the picture in it's original size. i.e. larger. More detailed. I don't know why it does not work on subsequent photos in a posting, but it doesn't. In future posts I'll try to manually include links to the pictures that I think are best viewed bigger.

Just remember the 'head' photos just need to be clicked on to see more detail.

Try it below. :-)

[Edit:  In future posts, I figured out what I was doing wrong, and all pictures are clickable to display larger versions of themselves.  Enjoy.]

Sunday, August 9, 2009


I finally finished the Tour de France. Duh, not the actual ride - but watching it. I had heard that the last stage, heading in to Paris on the Champs Elysees was a cruise, and that the Yellow Jersey was never threatened. Although I agree that the Yellow Jersey wasn't challenged, the last 50 km at over 50 kph is not the definition of 'cruise' that I was thinking of.

That's a monster 3 weeks of riding that is quite impressive to complete. I was impressed by the old man finishing 3rd in the GC, and I was happy to see Thor win the Green Jersey - although I'd have liked to have seen him take it by more than 13 points (he only won it by 10). Also, I'll note that I was impressed by the White Jersey winner, and his second place overall - I look forward to seeing Andy Schlek in future Tours de France.

As for my own cycle riding, the Thursday before camping, I went out on my normal ride (26 miles), but pushed it too fast too soon. After only about 9 miles I bonked. I stopped to try to get some energy back, and was weak and shaky. Thank goodness I had a Clif Shot with me. That lessened the shakes significantly, and gave me enough energy to ride the 9 miles back to the car.

On a happier note, I went on a ride today, and tried much harder to pace my energy output. Wow. A much much better ride. Doing mostly cruising and a few short, light intervals before hitting the climbs allowed the engine to warm up, but didn't drain the gas tank. I was able to attack all the climbs, and didn't bonk. With the climbs behind me, I raised the pace on the last 3rd of the ride on mostly flats for some extra burn in the legs and hopefully to build up more strength and stamina - if not dexterity and agility.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Marathon Ride

I've been catching up on things that I put off due to camping and the all day ride, so the blog posts are tardy. I'll start with the most recent, and get back to making a camping post or two later. I'll add pictures to this post later too...

After several days of camping and getting little sleep due to a certain yellow lab that snored and insisted on sleeping next to my ear, I was recalcitrant to the concept of getting up early for an all day ride - especially since the last 4 days have included a lot of rain. Check-in started at 6 something and closed at 8:15. So I aimed for 8:00. I got there, checked in, and looked around for Darren. No Darren. I called his cell phone, which is blue toothed to his Garmin Nuvi, which is blue toothed to his helmet. No answer. 8:15 came and went. I tried his home phone. An answer. Not good. He lives 30 minutes away and he's already late. Turns out that's not the worst of it. He's not feeling well. Not a good idea to do a full day ride when you are sick. I'm on my own.

I got the map of the route, and am somewhat dubious of my ability to do the whole thing by myself with a late start. It goes from Lakewood to Fairplay to Breckenridge to Loveland pass to Leadville to Vail to Dillon to Kremling to Rand to Walden, then down Poudre Canyon to Fort Collins. I take a deep breath, gas up, and head out, unclear on how far I plan to ride. It was almost 9:00, and I had an estimated 10 to 11 hours of riding to do.

The first leg was easy. I didn't have to look at the map for the first 79 miles to Fairplay. Been there before. From there, the route went up 9 to Brek. Have not been on that one before. It was nice. Smooth and twisty. I'll add it to my list of good biking roads. (Blogspot sucks. The map should auto link to a bigger map, but didn't. I put in a manual link for it, but that is broken. So I have to add a link here.)

Rather than continue a play by play about which roads I took, where I gassed up, and where I peed, I'll finish up with some with some observations I made. It's not that I'm afraid I'd put the seasoned reader to sleep, because, well, you made it this far and you are still here, aren't ya? It's that I'd bore myself to death before I could hit the POST button.

Duh: It's cold on a bike traversing 11,000 foot passes in the morning - even in August. I'd pull in to a gas station all bundled up and still fighting some shivers, and see all the people wandering around in tee shirts and shorts. I looked at them like they were crazy. Or was it them looking at me that way?

Pine beetles. We've had big issues with them in Colorado for the past several years. My tour of the central part of the Colorado Rockies allowed me to see where it was the worst. Easily, the hands down winner for most dead trees goes to the Brek area. Some mountain slopes had close to 100% dead brown trees. The worst spread north to Granby / Grand Lake to give them 2nd place with over 90% brown slopes. The good part of the trip was that the rest of the areas seldom passed 50% brown, and often was only about 10%. So, there is still a lot of beauty in the Colorado Rockies. The mountains. Not the baseball team. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Gas mileage. Not sure what the mpg was for the entire trip (one station didn't print a receipt for me), but on the leg from Lakewood - Fairplay - Brek - Loveland pass - Leadville, I got about a nice 48 mpg. Better than I was expecting.

Total distance. Round trip from when I gassed up was 544 miles, and I got home at about 7:00. Mr. Iron Butt did ok. Stopping for gas every hour or so for the first half, then every 45 minutes for the remainder was enough to keep the ferrous buns quiet. That said, I was glad to be home.

Weather or not. The weather for the ride was awesome. Mostly sunny skies and no rain for the entire time. I'm glad I tackled and completed the whole trip. The ever changing scenery from green trees, to brown trees, to the shimmering purple/pink/rust of mature grasses waving in the wind, to whites/yellows/blues of wild flowers, to majestic outcroppings of rocks, to rivers running by the roads, always kept the awe meter in positive territory. Already looking forward to next year...