Wednesday, August 22, 2012

A road trip and another check off the bucket list

A happy barn we saw on the road
We were feeling stale and flat like old brittle bread.  Now, of course, we are grateful for our home, garden, swimming pool and cat, but we needed a scenery change and inspiration after the Olympics ended.  We were a little aimless and blue.  A different perspective, a getaway, a mini-vacation was manifesting in our minds.  However, this trip could not be costly because we do not have the funds.  At the last minute we came upon a solution—a weekend road trip in our own state to absorb different scenery and breathe different air and be inspired.  But what would be the destination?

Right now there are 58 of them located in the Unites States of America (and two U. S. territories). Twenty-seven states have at least one, in addition to American Samoa and the Unites States Virgin Islands.  Alaska and California have eight; Utah has five;  Colorado has four; Arizona, Florida, Nevada, and Washington have three,  Hawaii,  Montana, South Dakota, Texas, and Wyoming have two; and Arkansas, Idaho,  Kentucky, Maine, Michigan,  Minnesota,  New Mexico,  North Carolina,  North Dakota,  Oregon,  Ohio,  South Carolina, Tennessee , Virginia,  American Samoa, and U.S. Virgin Islands have just one.  I have visited 17 of them and Bumble tops me having visited 28. Know what I am writing about? It is our beautiful National Parks showing off the best piece of nature available throughout North America and the surrounding oceans.
The National Park Service preserves unimpaired, the natural and cultural resources and values of the national park system for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations (U.S. Department of the Interior).
The Organic Act of 1916 (love that name) created the National Park Service, which was intended "to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and wildlife therein, and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.”  There are hiking trails aplenty for taking one’s soul searching for a spiritual offering that only nature can bring, and visitor’s centers which will educate the tourist about the ecosystems, geology, history, flora and fauna of each unique park place.

Our National Parks are not to be confused with our wonderful National Monuments (numbering 101) , National Historic Parks (numbering 45),  National Historic Sites (numbering 89), or National Preserves (numbering 18).  These are great adventures too, but the National Parks and visiting all 58 before I pass into the wild blue yonder, are on my bucket list.  Bumble is half way to this goal and I am thirty percent there.  I look forward to each visit with the curiosity and excitement of a child asking in the car, “Are we there yet?”

To prepare quickly for the road trip, we harvested some of our peaches and grapes, bought a bunch of cheese, filled our water containers, packed an overnight bag, and dropped our cat off at the Pet Hotel.  Next, we filled the gas tank and headed out. The drive was delightful.  We left Denver and traveled west through Glenwood Springs, past the historic town of Redstone, over the McClure Pass into an agricultural region of our state called the North Fork Valley (Paonia, Hotchkiss, Crawford) that is making the healthful transition towards growing organic produce. We delighted in a wine tasting at Stone Cottage Cellars, located on a hill off the highway to Paonia. It is proud to be the second highest altitude vineyard in America. The wines were incredible and the stone structures were charming and built by the proprietor.

Stone Cottage Cellars in Paonia, CO
A view of the vineyard and the mountains surrounding the North Fork Valley
Living Farm Cafe and B&B in Paonia, CO
Serving local produce and meats at the Living Farm Cafe

We rested at a B & B called The Living Farm Café (on Grand Avenue in quaint downtown Paonia) owned by the Gillespie family that has farmed in the area since 1938. The café specializes in serving harvest appropriate organic meals that offer gluten free, dairy free, and vegetarian options.  The rooms were homey, spotless and simple with comfortable inviting beds adorned in crisp white sheets and patchwork quilts. The folks were easy going and friendly! To cool down on a hot summer evening we walked down to Ollie’s Ice Cream Parlor and had a few delicious scoops.

On to our final destination—the North Rim of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison.  It is a magnificent and ancient Precambrian carving of the earth by the river and is surrounded by the Pinyon-Juniper woodland community and big sagebrush.  The fragrance of the air is a glorious mixture of pine, juniper, sage and sunshine that I adore.  Hopefully, my photos can say a thousand words of how utterly beautiful this canyon is.  For over two hours, we never saw another human being (except the ranger at the station). We could hear two climbers across the canyon shouting “on belay or off belay;” but without our binoculars we could not see them on the rock face.  When we embarked on the 3 mile loop trail to “Exclamation Point,” a female elk immediately made her presence known (no time to get my camera out), crossing the path only yards away.  This elk crossing was precursor of many marvelous views to come of this awesome canyon.  At Exclamation Point our hearts pounded as we looked over the cliffs to the thin silver sliver of the Gunnison River below. I have not been to the Grand Canyon National Park yet but this view was spectacular! Exclamation Point!

Black Canyon of the Gunnison
Black Canyon of the Gunnison
Another view of the canyon
The sliver of the Gunnison River far below
The sliver of the Gunnison River far below

On the way back to civilization we soaked in the Glenwood Hot Springs Pool and stayed at the historic Hotel Colorado, the same hotel President Teddy Roosevelt had frequented often. We sat out on the veranda overlooking the region’s red-rocked mountain and sipped a cocktail. It was a view unlike the backyard at home and we felt like we had been somewhere. The trip was like hitting a refresh button and we were enchanted by the experience.


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

TMTV (Too Much Television) or Watching the Olympics

I am embarrassed to admit it but I have spent the last two weeks watching television over four hours a day. But without the chocolate-covered cherries. Since I was a kid, observing the telecast of the Olympics has been a highpoint in my life. The visuals have stayed with me – moments of grace, strength and beauty performed by Peggy Fleming, Dorothy Hamil, Mary Lou Retton, Nadia Comaneci, and the Soviet darling, Olga Korbut. In the midst of the cold war with U.S.S.R. in 1972, a little sprite with pigtails named Olga would melt the hearts of the American media and public. Everyone was smitten by her. Gone were the geographical boundaries and political differences, all that remained was her engaging smile and amazing feats. She conquered gymnastics with charm, charisma and fearlessness; and her performance changed the face of gymnastics forever. She would go on to become ABC’s Wide World of Sports Athlete of the Year.  I can still see her routine in my mind’s eye.

Olga Korbut on balance beam 1972, courtesy Google Images

To me, the Olympics are the most motivating and invigorating event to grace my television screen (even with the annoying and cloying commercials). Watching the best of the best perform in a sport—any sport—is immensely inspirational. We know it takes thousands of hours (and days) of serious commitment to perfect a sport and to hone the machine that accomplishes that sport—the body.  Years or actually decades of years are invested. There are injuries, illnesses, accidents, time and money constraints that can interfere with one’s goal. And when you see the people who show up against these tremendous odds— well, it just is something else: it is magical.

Gabby Douglas on balance beam 2012, courtesy Google Images

There are so many stories that left me inspired and teary-eyed, and I know everyone who watched the summer games has a special affiliation for an athlete or a team that touched them. We all rooted for athletes from our land and other countries too, because it was about the individual's or the team's effort not their geography. I will not  forget the first Sunday morning I spent watching the Women’s Cycling Road Race. It was held in typically-British wet weather complete with slick shiny roads and water droplets on the cameras; and the thrill of the final sprint at the end after hours of bike riding by Marianne Vos of the Netherlands crossing the finish line inches ahead of Elizabeth Armitstead of Great Britain.

Marianne Vos at the finish line, photo courtesy Google Images
And I must say Great Britain gave us quite an Olympic show. They were not only great hosts but awesome performers as well, ranking 3rd in the overall medal count (after the U.S. and China) winning 29 Gold, 17 Silver, and 19 Bronze medals. They did their land proud and so did we. An amazing 46 Gold medals were won by the United States athletes who include: Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte, Missy Franklin, Allison Schmitt, Nathan Adrian, Matthew Grevers, Tyler Clary, Katie Ledecky, Dana Vollmer, Rebecca Soni, Gabby Douglas, Alexandra Raisman, Dave Boidia, Ashton Eaton, Allyson Felix, Sanya Richard-Ross, Jennifer Suhr, Brittney Reese, Claressa Shields, Kristin Armstrong, Kayla Harrison, Vincent Hancock, Jamie Lynn Gray, Kimberly Rhode, Serena Williams, Jordan Ernest Burroughs, Jacob Stephen Varner, and U.S.  Men’s And Women’s Basketball Teams, the Women’s Beach Volleyball Team of Misty May-Treanor and Kerry Walsh, Women’s Football Team, Women’s Gymnastics Team, Women’s Eight in Rowing, Men’s and Women’s  4x200m Freestyle Relay, Men's and Women’s 4x100m Medley Relay, Men’s and Women’s Doubles Tennis, Women’s Track and Field 4x100m and 4x400m relay, and Women’s Water Polo.  Furthermore, the U.S. captured an additional 29 medals each in both the Silver and Bronze categories—for a total of 104 medals, putting the U.S. at the top of the medal’s count.  China was 2nd in the medal count with 38 Gold, 27 Silver and 23 Bronze for a total of 88. I am utterly proud and inspired for our teams and each and every performer and athlete from every country present at the London Olympic Games.

The Amazing Michael Phelps, photo courtesy Google Images 
Equestrian Jumping, photo courtesy Google Images
Misty May-Treanor and Kerry Walsh winning gold, photo courtesy Google Images
In sync - synchronized divers, photo courtesy Google Images
Oscar Pistorius taking off, photo courtesy of Google Images
Colorado Olympian Missy Franklin, photo courtesy Google Images

Each day that I spent watching these athletes inspired me to get my sneakers on and run longer and faster or to put on my tank suit and swim harder and better. They say there are two types of motivation: Intrinsic motivation which comes from within and is the desire to do something because we find it enjoyable; and extrinsic motivation which comes from outside stimuli such as praise, awards or financial gain. The high-level of competition exhibited in the Olympics is a curious balance between these two kinds of motivation: doing something because it feels fabulous when you do it well, and then doing it harder because you may win that shiny round medal for your country and get well paid for a commercial.  All I can say is that these athletes from around the world motivated me to get off the couch (when I wasn’t watching them perform on TV, that is).  It was a good thing after all – all this television watching.  And when it ended, I was quite sad and felt a bit empty. But I take heart; in less than two years I will be watching the Winter Olympics held in Sochi, Russia, in February 2014. That’s when I will probably get out my snow skis and make better turns. Gotta go do some laps.