Friday, February 27, 2009

Tour of California Adventure

Even though Lucy and I did not make it to Maui we fulfilled another dream of ours. A day after not being able to get on a flight to Maui we hopped a Southwest Airlines flight to Los Angeles, California. We rented a Toyota Prius hybrid (1. because Lucy really wanted to drive a hybrid since Drew won't let them buy new cars and 2. to save money since they would be driving a lot this vacation.) and drove north to meet up with stages 6-8 of the Tour of California. For Lucy it was quite an adventure driving up the Pacific Coast Highway. We spent our first evening in Santa Barbara where we had a whale of a good time.

After a relaxing evening walking around town (think Territory Ahead brand outlet store), we stopped off at the Santa Barbara Brewery. Nothing too crazy since we had to get up early and drive north to meet up with the race the next day.

The Tour of California is a relatively new road bike stage race. Even though '09 is only the fourth annual race, top riders from all over the world are now racing in the event. The race started in Sacramento with just over 135 racers and finished 9 days later in the outskirts of San Diego with approximately 85 racers. The stages were grueling and covered everything from individual time trials, wicked hill climbs, and long, 100+ mile stages in the flat lands of the Central Valley. Overall, the race covered more than 750 miles.

"Lucy likes the fast racers! Here she is pictured next to Levi Leipheimer's bike."

"Drew likes the slower endurance racers and their steady machines!"

The two of us caught up with the race in Solvang for the individual time trial. Each rider competed against the clock on a 15-mile course for the best overall time. Here is a picture of David Zabriskie wearing the USA national time trial champion uniform 200 meters from the finish line. The riders were so close, and the energy was contageous. Good vibes.

We drove almost 120 miles that afternoon to Santa Clarita. Since this was a very last minute planning effort, we knew not that we would serendipitously end up staying at the same hotel as the staff of the race! The hotels across the parking lot housed all the riders. The next morning Lucy trolled the parking lots gauking at the mechanics working on the sleek and serious bicycles.
Santa Clarita was the starting point for stage 7; a 90-mile course into Pasadena finishing at the Rose Bowl. This was our first opportunity to get a roadside view of team racing in action. After early stage action, we raced to the Rose Bowl to watch the racers on the finishing circuits. This was especially cool because it was an exciting finish down to the wire. We were positioned 50 m after the finish line, so not only did we see the racers fly by 5 times on the finishing circuit, we were right next to them when they stopped after the race, all breathless and sweaty. (Whale watching in Hawaii notwithstanding, this was most outstanding for Lucy.)

"Team Astana, including Levi Leipheimer and Lance Armstrong on the finishing circuit, stage 7."

The final stage of the race started in Rancho Bernardo just outside of San Diego. This stage was insanely difficult and included a giant climb up Mt. Palomar plus over 100 miles of racing. Lucy was well connected wherever she went with minute by minute live web updates of the race coming in on her mobile device (cell phone). We were able to keep up with the race in even most remote locations, which made it MUCH better than watching on TV at home.
We watched the racers climb up the hill, attacks and breakaways included, and then scream by us down the hill. Here is a short video clip of the racers going by Lucy on the inside of a hairpin turn. As the racers go by at 45+ mph, they have their "game face" on, concentrating on the road, and it looks as if they are heading straight for you!

It was not the adventure we set out to have at the beginning of the week, but what an adventure we had navigating the California freeways, cheering on the top cyclists in the world, and enjoying a few tasty pints along the way! Until our next adventure we wish you all the best.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Drew & Lucy do Stage 7 of the tour of CA!

Drew and Lucy ventured out on the road in Santa Clarita, CA to observe stage 7 of the Tour of CA. We had a great time finding a strategic vantage point about 15 miles into the race. The racers came by in a flurry of excitement, which faded as soon as it was upon us. We made a beeline for the Rose Bowl in Paseadena where the racers were due to roll across the finish line a little over 2 hours later. The racers approached the finish circuit about 45 minutes after we arrived. They crossed by our position for the first of 5 finish laps, each about 5 miles in length. It was a stage filled with attacks and road-cycling tactics. We had an incredible time out on the course and in the crowded finish venue area. We are now in Oceanside relaxing and getting ready to watch stage 8 tomorrow. More pictures to follow, but we thought you might like this 3-minute video showing the two of us out on the road today.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Maui. Malibu. It's all good.

On Wednesday, Drew and Lucy packed their bags for a week in Maui. They gambled on the slowdown in the economy and the post-winter, pre-spring break lull allowing an empty seat on a Delta flight. Lucy and Drew are poor gamblers. 27 other non-revenue passangers were lucky enough to be sampling the pineapple today, but Lucy, being #32 on the list (out of 32) was not one of them. So, like the flexible travelers they have become, off they flew (on a great airline this time) to LAX. They rented a hybrid and drove to gorgeous, warm Santa Barbara to position themselves to take in stage 6 of America's premier professional cycling race. Here is Lucy today in Solvang dreaming of driving the team car for Levi, Lance, Horner and the boys. The energy watching the world's very top cyclists zoom the last 200 meters to the finish line was intoxicating and invigorating. Utah native Jeff Louder was among them, which was exciting, but even more so was seeing Dave Z, Levi Leipheimer, and Lance Armstrong whiz by not 20 feet from us as they rounded that last corner. Levi took the stage by only 8 seconds over our favorite, Dave Zabriskie (whose Mom used to work at my doctors office). So we may not be whale watching in Hawaii, but watching cute Euro dudes in lycra shorts is another of nature's spectacles I, for one, have been wanting to observe for a long time.
Posted by Lucy

Monday, February 16, 2009

Here is my winning husband. I am so proud of him.
A couple of weeks ago we attended our Revolution/Peak Fasteners mountain bike race team party. There were awards for MVR (most valuable rider), most improved racer, etc., all voted on by team members in secret ballot. My studdly husband won Team Rouleur. The official definition of rouleur is "one who can ride up and down hills all day long". The award for our team also had the extended definition of a person who is always there, helping others achieve their goals, and always willing to go on long rides, even if it means he doesn't win a lot of races. This is Drew in a nutshell. Example, when we raced the American Mountain Classic 4-day endurance race last August, we were entered as individuals. However, when Drew saw me suffering (as in crying and pouting and unsure if I could complete the day's ride) on day 3, he held back and rode with me, although it meant he would no longer be competitive in his category. He talked me through the hardest parts, kept a distance when I tried to bite his head off, and walked with me when my rear end decided it had had enough of that silly bike seat. Or day 6 of the BC bike race, when I was really angry at the race organizers for taking us over these stupidly difficult trails and wanted to be done with the ordeal so badly, Drew calmed me down and urged me on. He is my rock, and he deserved this cheesy trophy more than anyone I know. It took a couple of weeks, but I finally got him to pose with his prize. He is my prize!!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Fireplace #4

We worked on the fireplace a bunch more this weekend. Yesterday, Drew and I got about a third of the surfaces free from the wretched paint. Today, I rented an electric jackhammer again to remove the mauve pink tile and try to salvage the old original tile on the hearth. It took four hours of hammering, but mauve is no more (hallelujah!!!!), and I was able to pry up 32 intact hearth tiles. We might try to incorporate them into the new surround. The first picture shows before the jackhammer; the second is our mostly complete demo picture.

The video is me gettin' jiggy with the jackhammer. I think I say, "So, going to take off some pink mauve tile!". And, no, I do not accidentally hit the ceiling, it just appears that way.

Valentines Day

Drew was supposed to go to Vegas this weekend with friend Jim, but they canceled due to weather. That meant we got to spend Valentines Day together. Yippee! After a relaxing morning, we grabbed lunch at Einsteins and headed to White Pine touring in Park City for some classic style cross country skiing. Everyone else must have been getting ready for elaborate nights out, because we had nearly the entire 15 miles of trails to ourselves. Beautiful day.

Later, we scraped paint off the fireplace woodwork after letting the Soygel work on it all day. I know, we are die-hard romantics. We capped off the night with a bite to eat at the site of our first date and wedding rehearsal restaurant, Fiddlers Elbow.

I love Drew and I love when we get to spend time together.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Temple tour

Last Friday I toured the new Draper Utah LDS (Latter-day Saints) Temple. Draper is a suburb of Salt Lake City and has a really awesome mountain bike trail system Drew and I often ride with our friends. Our Mormon friends, Steve and Heather, live in Draper, and invited us to go tour the temple with them before it is dedicated and closed off to all but Mormons in good standing. Drew had to work, but friend Jim, Jim's daughters, and I accompanied Steve, Heather, their girls, and Grandma Hales on a walking tour through the temple. It was probably the best opportunity for me to see the inside of a place so very important to our friends and half the population of my neighbors. Plus, we had watched it being constructed near our trail for so long, and I knew if I didn't see inside it, I would regret that apathy each time I rode my bike behind it.
My impressions:

1) The building itself is very beautiful on the inside. It has sort of an art-deco architecture, but the gorgeous stained glass is arts-and-crafts style, and the furniture is more classical in style, but somehow it all works wonderfully together. Worthy of Candice Olson's Devine Design on HGTV.

2) The stone is way cool. "The Draper Utah Temple is built of the finest materials including granite from China ... and limestone from France." I wanted to get down on my hands and knees to see if I could identify any fossils in the limestone, but I wasn't in appropriate company, although I bet Madeleine, Steve and Heather's girl, would have loved to study it with me.

3) The baptismal font is this super cool giant challis thing surrounded by a dry moat and marble oxen statues. At first I thought they were pigs, which, for those of you who know me, would have been almost enough to have me baptized. But the baptisms the Saints do here are only for dead people so they can be with their families in heaven, so I wouldn't get to dunk here anyway. Still, it makes my Catholic baptism of a little baby over a bowl of water seem sort of unceremonious.

3) The celestial room: the center of it all. It was extremely pretty, but not as I suspected. The Mormons I know say the celestial room is a very sacred place that brings them peace. Maybe it was because I was walking through with 30 other people in a steady stream of gawkers, or perhaps it's because I am a non-believer, or maybe because the place had not been consecrated, but it didn't feel holy for me. I was unsure what to make of the fact that there were only these really soft and comfortable-looking sofas there (we were not allowed to sit on them); I had pictured either no seating or church pews. The natural lighting through the enormously high stained glass windows was stunning , and everything focused on the very center of the room. In this room was one heck of a chandelier! I hope it has really stout earthquake protection rigged in. I suspect that when the Saints are there in the right frame of mind, being in this room might be to them what being out in the desert alone is to me: peaceful, fulfilling, purposeful.

4) I expected a church type room, but there was nothing of the sort. Mormons have church at their local neighborhood churches, not the temple. I learn somethin' new every Friday.

My tour was made much richer because Heather was whispering all these interesting little tidbits about what activities go on in each room, and what this-or-that room meant to her. Like in the sealing room, she explained to me that this is where Mormon couples are sealed to each other forever (as in after death, too, contrary to "until death do us part"). I'm glad she hung with me on the tour even though I was wearing pants and 99% of the other women were wearing dresses ;-). Thanks to Heather and Steve for sharing this part of their lives with us.

So now I have been inside a Mormon temple. I won't say my life is complete, but I do feel more of a part of this community I live in.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Fireplace #3

I spent the weekend in the living room with "The Silent Paint Remover" heat plate and a paint stripping heat gun. Drew was working until Sunday night, so I had no one to tear me away from the project anyway. Here is just about a third of the paint chunks I peeled off.

The doors to the side bookcases have been removed temporarily so I can do those outside, which will reduce the strong vaporized paint fumes in the house. (Note: the guns heat the paint to 800 degrees and lead does not volatilize until 1100 degrees, so I don't think I'm inhaling lead vapors. Now solid paint chips, that might be another story. I try to wear a mask most of the time.)

I still need to go over the whole thing with non-toxic Soygel paint remover to get in the cracks and remove the shellac or varnish, but it is looking much better.

Here is the insert we found to go back into the firebox. We went to a local salvage outfit; they didn't have anything, but gave us the name of a fella that had two matching coal-burning fireplaces he was going to use in a construction project, but didn't. This one is all original with all the parts intact: a rare find! This could be inserted to be a working coal or wood fireplace, but we are going to outfit it with a natural-gas coal-look basket. It is similar in function to a gas log insert, but looks like coal instead. Our attempt at authenticity, but without the coal dust and pollution.

My next step is to rent the electric jack hammer again and remove the rest of the mauve tile and try to salvage the floor tile. Man, am I going to be ready to go to Maui on the 18th!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Grand Parents visit Salt Lake City

January is cold and things tend to slow down for Lucy and Drew. We find ourselves working on projects around the house after many months of neglect. When the weather is fair we are traveling and exploring during our free time. When things slow down in the winter we find ourselves putting down roots for a few months. This is usually the best time for family and friends to come out and visit.

My parents jumped at this opportunity to come out and visit us the last week of January. My Mom came out under the pretense of doing research in the genealogy library which is an incredible source of information. She usually spends hours cross checking facts and pursuing leads that she has formulated over the months back home in Pennsylvania. My Dad traveled out to Salt Lake under the guise of doing research as well for his upcoming cross country flight in his home built airplane this summer. He looked at prospective airports to land at and talked with local pilots about the best ways to navigate through the Uinta and Wasatch Mountain ranges.

The real reason for their visit was quite obvious to Lucy and I though. It had been 4 months since "Mango Mandy" came in to our lives and the proud grandparents wanted to come out and visit their newest grand daughter. "Mango Mandy" made such an incredible change in all of our lives and my parents wanted to see her first hand. Now that we have a 29'ner in the family we can not imagine what life would be like without her!
After a few days of playing with "Mango Mandy" and working on genealogy and flight planning we all decided to head up to Heber Valley and ride the Heber Creeper train. It was a cold clear morning when we all boarded the train in Heber and headed south towards the Provo Canyon.

The train had two inside cars which were heated and an exterior passenger car. The fresh snow on the valley floor made for a beautiful backdrop as we headed south. The train traveled for approximately 11 miles before we turned around and traveled back to the station in Heber. The whole ride took about 2.5 hours and we all had a wonderful time.

My parents flew back to Philadelphia PA with new photos of their grand daughter, new genealogy leads to follow up on and dreams for my Dad of flying through the beautiful mountain ranges that surround Salt Lake City. Lucy and I had a wonderful time during their visit and were glad that we could share part of our every day lives with them.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Field work in February

Time to get ready for spring's work. As part of the ground-water monitoring network I'm helping create in Utah's west desert, my colleagues and I will be installing gauges at 5 or 6 springs to monitor and record the discharge from each spring on a real-time basis. The plan is to install flumes at each site and record the level of the water, or stage, passing through the flume. For any given level, the discharge can be calculated. The data will be recorded and sent via radio signal to a base station. The base station will be called on a weekly basis and the data uploaded to our website. Cutting edge, baby.

Here I am at an irrigation diversion structure with two local ranchers and Aaron, a very helpful fella from the Division of Water Rights. Aaron is the guy that actually knows how to build and install the equipment; I'm just learning. I would have worn my Carhartt jacket, but I wanted to make a female fashion statement. No, really, the red ski jacket is much warmer than my Carhartt.
Here is one of a number of small springs near the Nevada state line that coalesce to produce part of the flow seen in the picture below. The water is issuing right out of the limestone bedrock here. Pretty cool stuff for a hydrogeologist.

Here I am at another of the monitoring sites. The mountains the in the background are the Southern Snake Range, Nevada, but I am in Utah in this picture.

This is one of the old flumes that we will probably be able to rehab and install at the site in the picture above. If this old flume is in good shape, it will save the Utah taxpayers a couple thousand dollars.

The distance between each of the prospective monitoring site is very far, so trips to visit them end up being mostly about driving on gravel roads punctuated by little tours of the spring areas. It still beats office work any day.

I love to see the desert sleeping. Temps this time around were in the low 40s for the high. The landscape is all brown and crispy and the big sun shines with absolute clarity out there this time of year. We saw chipmunks, hawks, rabbits, coyotes, and a great horned owl at close range, maybe 30 feet. Mr. Owl was totally OK with us gawking at him.