I’ve finally gotten around to adding a slide show of the pictures I took on this trip. Only took 3 months!

VIEW THE SLIDE SHOW

Caveat: This is a LONG post that covers a 2.5 week vacation. It’s here for two reasons:
1. For me to remember my trip and
2. For my family to keep tabs on me.
I don’t expect anyone to actually read this entire thing…well…except for my dad. So I’ll post the pictures as a slideshow at the top as they’re a little more interesting to most. If you’re retired and have absolutely nothing better to do, feel free to read on.

Steamboat Lake State Park, Steamboat Springs, CO

Absolutely AWESOME town nestled in the Rockies. Arrived on Friday, June 1st, after 2 long days of driving, a day earlier than my scheduled reservation at the state park, in hopes that the extra day would help me acclimate to the altitude for the half marathon I was supposed to run on Sunday. After some convoluted shuffling on the part of the park office to allow me to check in a day earlier (thank goodness hotels don’t use the reservation system of CO state parks!), I picked out a campsite with a great view of Streamboat Lake and the surrounding mountains, set up camp, made supper, and made a roaring fire to roast S’mores by. Woohoo! I was in the Colorado Rockies!

I went for a short walk around part of the lake and discovered the affects of the 8,000 ft of altitude. This half marathon wasn’t going to be pretty.

Saturday, June 2

I went for a drive around the area. When I stopped along the road to take a picture, I saw something leaking out from under the car. Popped the hood and antifreeze was boiling out of the reservoir. Sure enough, the car was overheating. I turned it off and waited for it to cool. Then I drove the 30 miles into town searching for a mechanic working on a Saturday morning. Found one. When I got there he immediately looked at it and started hooking up gages. I grabbed my laptop out of the car and headed to the McDonald’s up the street for the wi-fi.

As I was walking to McD’s in my jeans and t-shirt with my laptop bag slung over my shoulder, I watched tons of people riding their bikes down the main highway through town. They all had their moisture-wicking dry-fit shirts and their cargo pocket shorts on. Two out of three cars were SUV’s and half had bike or ski racks on them. This was a town full of people that were serious about their sports. Normally, I feel out of place because I’m the only one of my family and friends that is a hiker/backpacker/runner. Here I was among the athletic people feeling out of place for being a computer geek.

I got my email, checked to make sure my server and websites were still running fine, and then popped into the newsgroups. Two members of a web developer’s group I’m on were getting married at 2pm that day and they would be broadcasting the wedding live through my Flash server account. They had everything set up, tested, and ready to go. T minus 1.5 hours.

I headed back to get the news on my car. $50 and a new cap for the antifreeze reservoir and it was good as new.

Headed the 26 miles back to the campground, which, btw, was the marathon course for the next day so I was getting to know it well. Got back at 1:35ish and saw I had a voice mail on my cell phone. Pete (the groom from the web dev group) was concerned…the streaming video app he was using for the wedding wasn’t working. CRAP!!! Twenty-five minutes till the wedding, I had no internet access to reboot the app or server and didn’t have any of the information to get to it if I did. I called Pete back on his cell phone. Got a message that the number is out of service. He’s from the U.K…just moved here to the U.S. and was still using his U.K cell phone. Apparently, I don’t have international calling on my cell phone. Ack! I had no way of getting in touch with him!

Starting to panic, I remembered I jotted down the cell numbers of a couple U.S. people from the newsgroup. Called Bonnie and got her voice mail. Called Michael. Bingo! He answered but was outside digging in the dirt. He ran home, washed his hands, and got in front of the computer, poised to be my internet connection. He sent SOS emails to my streaming video host, emailed the web group telling them the situation, and tried to contact Pete. At 1:58 the video app came back up. Pete needed to refresh his admin page in order to start the video stream. Michael called Pete again and swore he heard someone pick up with noise in the background. At the time of this writing, I don’t know if the video was ever streamed or not. If not, hopefully we’ll get to watch the recording of the lovebirds getting married and watch Pete scramble to turn his cell phone off in the beginning of the ceremony. :-D

(Editing note: They did indeed record the wedding so I have the videos posted – complete with Pete’s cell phone going off in the beginning of the service!!!. Email Kat and Pete for the link)

After THAT crisis I headed off on a hike. Spent 2 hours attempting to get to the top of Hahn’s peak. Got to the top of a neighboring peak and it looked like I still had another couple hours to go. With the looming run the next day, I headed back down to the campground.

Made a gourmet mac & cheese with tuna dish on my camp stove, and then some S’mores over another camp fire and hit the hay early for the 7:30 am marathon start the next morning.

Sunday, June 3

Woke up at 5:30, forced down a granola bar with Gatorade, and got ready for the race. I was feeling good about the altitude after the hike from the day before although my legs were a little sore. Got to the starting line, made my last port-a-potty stop, took my place near the back of the pack and we were off….along with two other races starting at the same time. The full marathon started just outside the entrance to the campground where I was living in style. The half marathon (my race) started 13 miles later at the marathon half way point. And a 10k was taking place in town.

The Steamboat marathon was voted one of the most scenic marathons by Runner’s World magazine and after driving back and forth on it to and from town, I was disappointed I wasn’t in good enough shape to run the full marathon.

Steamboat Springs Half MarathonAs it turned out, I didn’t pay much attention to the scenery after the first couple miles. I ended up running most of the race with a woman from Colorado who ran my perfect pace. We chatted about running, hiking, trail running, and backpacking with interruptions from a couple themed water stands, one of which had volunteers wearing togas.

I made it to the end 10 minutes faster than I had anticipated. Not long afterwards the first finisher of the full marathon came in. While milling around the finish area, I heard horror stories about some of the half marathon runnners. One guy was seen puking his guts out along the side of the road in the last 1/2 mile. (I have to admit, I walked half of the last mile to keep from puking myself!) Another guy passed out just before the finish line. Two fellow runners picked him up and carried him to the finisher chute. One girl just ahead of me took a spill and ended up with 2 bloody knees. And there were at least 2 people picked up by ambulance. Never heard what happened to them.

Over all it was a great race – awesome courses and extremely organized – the freezing cold wet towel we were handed as we finished was the absolute best!!! This half marathon was world’s apart from the absolutely brutal half marathon trail run I ran the weekend before.

Bummed around the rest of the day, did wash, went to a killer BBQ ribs place and then back to the campground for another roaring fire.

Monday, June 4

Left Steamboat with only a general destination of a campground somewhere in south central to south western CO. Stopped at a Pizza Hut in Leadville, CO at 10,200 ft. After looking at the area brochures, it dawned on me that this was the home of the famous Leadville 100 mile ultramarathon trail run. I had read several books about this race and was amazed that a person could run 100 miles. Now I find out that those 100 miles are run at altitudes of over 10,000 ft. Insane! If I ever even hint at wanting to run this race, please slap the shit out of me!

Continued on from Leadville over the Continental Divide at Monarch Pass (11,312 ft) and through some hair-rasing turns. Ended up in Gunnison, CO, home of everything that “shuts” by 6pm. Campground was nice (at least I had hot water in the shower!) but the area was nothing to write home about after being spoiled in Steamboat Springs.

Tuesday, June 5

Mostly non-eventful in Gunnison. Went running and felt like crap afterwards. Kept coming up short of breath with every move. Odd since Gunnison was a little lower (7700 ft) than Steamboat. So I took it easy and bummed around. Took a drive into the mountains north of Gunnison. On the way back, I saw a baby alpaca being born in a field right next to the road. The mother seemed totally unconcerned. She didn’t even stop eating during the event.

Took a nap, played with the campground dog, and made an awesome BBQ rib supper on the grill. Spent some time online looking for a next stop.

Wednesday, June 6

Headed out early. Gunnison just wasn’t a happening place. Decided to head down route 550 through Montrose, Ouray, Silverton, and Durango to see what I could find. Never quite made it to Durango. When I got to Ouray, I was so enthralled by the area that after I reached Silverton, I turned around and came back to Ouray. The drive between Ouray and Silverton is almost as hair-raising as the drive over Monarch Pass. I immediately gave up the notion of heading to Utah’s Zion and Bryce National Parks on this trip and reserved a campsite through Saturday. The campground was right in town but up against one of the mountains that surrounds the town.

I debated about getting a hotel room instead of campsite for the night after hearing the weather forecast. They were calling for up to 2 ft of snow at elevations over 6,000 ft. Ouray was at 8,000. I decided to chance it and got the campsite.
Checked out the specialty shops in town and made reservations for a few tours over the next few days, bought a hiking guide of the area and chose a hike for the next morning.

Thursday, June 7

There was no snow overnight at the campgound but you could see a heavier snow cover in the upper elevations. So, I headed out early in the chilly air (below 30 degrees) for a “moderate” hike to the top of a waterfall and some old mines. I realized half way up that I forgot my camera. Derrrr. :-\

Saw some beautiful views of the valley and neighboring peaks. But Colorado definitely has some different concepts of “moderate”. What they consider moderate is considered steep on a PA hike. My poor legs and lungs were screaming so loud I had to rest every 100 yards or so on the last couple miles of switchbacks on the ascent. I’d hate to have been out of shape!

Got back from the hike, heated up a couple hot dogs on the grill and headed off to a tour of the Bachelor-Syracuse mine. A group of us were taken 1800 ft into an old mine and given a history of mining in general and that mine in particular. It’s much different than the coal mining we have here in PA. They don’t have a problem with explosive gases building up, and because the rock they’re digging through is so hard, they only have to support the entrance of the mine. Really interesting stuff.

Cooked some spaghetti on my backpacking stove for supper and gave the leftovers to the campground dog (his name was “D.O.G”!) along with some treats. Made a roaring fire at the campsite to sit by.

Friday, June 8

Absolutely beautiful day! Up until today, it always started out clear, and then by noon, puffy clouds would roll in and hide the sun on and off. Occasionally a rain cloud would go through and spit 100 rain drops out before disappearing. But today, the sky remained completely clear the entire day. Absolutely awesome since I was headed out on a Jeef tour (in a Chevy 3500! What’s up with that?) up into the mountains south of Ouray. It was a small group but we had a blast. The guide was very knowledgeable about the area and it’s history, flowers, birds, rock types, etc. Got plenty of photos.

In the afternoon I dusted off my bathing suit and hit the community hot springs. First time I’ve been swimming in probably 10 years. The water in the pool comes from the 150 degree local hot springs and cooled to the various temps for the different sections of the pool with municipal water. Stayed mostly in the bath tub temp water but braved the colder section and 60 degree air temp to go down the slides a few times. Stayed out of the sauna temp section. Too warm for me! I was only in the pool for an hour but got a bit of a sunburn.

Splurged for dinner and got a nice filet mignon at the Outlaw Restraurant in town. Then made another roaring fire for the evening and had (can you guess….?) S’mores for dessert.

Saturday, June 9

My last day in Ouray. :-( *sob* Decided to end it with a hike. Heard the hike up to Baldy was great and the trailhead was accessible via a non-4WD or non-high-clearance car. NOT! The hike was great but my Saturn was NOT going over some of those rocks or through the 2 streams to reach the trailhead. So my original 7 mile hike suddenly became a 10+ mile hike with the extra walk to and from the car. Hoofed it up the mountain and along a ridge to what I thought was Baldy. Woops…went one peak too far. The one I just went around was the one I was supposed to bush-whack up. Guidebook directions weren’t exactly the best on this hike. This wasn’t the first time it was unclear, nor the last. Climbed up the correct peak and continued down the trail. I was supposed to go .8 miles and turn right onto a trail that led back to the trailhead. Either the trail wasn’t marked or I missed it through all the blow downs because .8 miles came and went and I was still looking. 45 minutes later I was positive I’d missed it but by that time I was closer to the next trail that was supposed to link up with the trail I’d missed. Resigned to adding another 1.5 miles to my already extended hike, I continued on. After some mild panic I found the connecting trail and followed it off the ridgeline…with a bit of difficulty. There was still snow on the ground in spots which hid where the trail actually went. I followed a run-off area where I thought the trail should go and it turned out right. A topo map would have done wonders for my nerves! The rest of the way out was uneventful. Made it back to the car in good time for the 7-mile turned 11+ mile hike. Hopped into the car and headed to a state park in Green River, UT for the night.

Sunday, June 10

Spent the night at a really crappy state campground. Actually, the campground was nice, it was all the little rugrats running around playing tag and screaming until midnight. I made no attempt to be quiet for their parents when packing up at 6am.

Headed into Las Vegas and immediately formed a hate-hate relationship with the place. Dropped in at the conference hotel to register for a web deveoper’s conference I would be attending for the next three days. Didn’t see any signs about it so I went to the desk to ask about the location. I received a blank stare:

“What conference? Well, if it’s a conference, it would be on the third floor.”
“Great. Can you point me toward the elevators?”
She points in a general direction. I look over and only see a bunch of slot machines.
“Um…could you be a little more specific on those elevators?”
*sigh* “Over there on the opposite wall.”
“Oh yea, thanks” *rolling eyes*

Made my way through the lines of slot machines and their cobweb covered players and found the elevators. Reached the third floor and immediately saw a couple familiar faces…some of the CMX members (the group that was putting on the conference). Went to the table to register and got some funny looks. “Uh…we’re still putting the books together. You can register tomorrow morning. It’ll start between 7:30 and 8. First session is at 8:30″. Ok…this ought to be interesting. Registering 300+ people in half an hour. (As it later turned out, there were only about 100 people attending. Apparently a big Adobe conference was scheduled for the same weekend.)

So, here I am in Las Vegas, hating the place with nothing to do for several hours. I can either brave going out into Las Vegas again or I can crash the CMX clique and offer to help put the books together. I crashed the party. We finished the books and I procrastinated leaving as long as I could. I think they were getting a little nervous that I might try to invite myself to their dinner because the leader of the group asked me where the No-Nephs group was meeting for dinner and when I had to meet them. I took the hint and headed down to the meeting area. When the rest of the group (10 of us) showed up, we headed over to a Mexican restaurant. Having never eaten any food more Mexican than Taco Bell, I was dubbed the Mexican virgin and Bonnie explained the menu items to me. When the waiter came, I just pointed to something on the menu and hoped it would be edible.

Murray jumped in on the dinner a few hours late due to plane problems. I had a good time until the check arrived. Apparently, they do things different out west. Instead of paying for your own meal, you just divide up the check total by the number of people so people like me who had one of the lesser expensive meals with water for the drink, no alcohol, and no dessert get to help pay for the people who order $50 meals and dessert. Fortunately, they took off the alcohol for me and my meal was only twice as expensive as it should have been. It wasn’t the money that pissed me off, it was the principle. So I grabbed dinners with a small group after that.

Monday, June 11
Showed up to register the next morning. No one seemed to be giving directions on what to do so I rooted through and grabbed my name tag and a schedule off the piles. Then I saw a couple of boxes of t-shirts with a cartoon about the conference on them. Surely they were for us, so I grabbed one. And then there were the books on the tables. Were we supposed to take one or were they for door prizes…? I checked them over and grabbed one. If they weren’t for the taking, they’d say something when I walked away with it. No one said anything.

Went through the first couple of clinics and became increasingly disappointed. Spent half the morning trying to connect my laptop to the wireless. Surely it was my computer with the problem. There had to be reliable internet access at this…it was a computer conference for crying out loud! Nope…the connection remained spotty throughout the three days. Apparently, it’s a “known issue” with the conference. What made it really annoying though was that several of the clinicians’ presentations depended on having a working internet connection. Spent the lunch time in my car with my disappointment in the conference and disdain for Las Vegas, willing myself to return and at least finish out the day instead of heading back to Colorado for the rest of my vacation.

Went back in and attended an excellent clinic. Finally. Things started going uphill after that. Overall the clinics were so-so. Murray’s were well presented and I learned a few tips, Neil’s business topics were absolutely awesome – excellent content and great presentation, and David Stiller gave a very good informative clinic, Stephanie’s was good, and I didn’t get to see Steve’s. Was it worth the money for these few? No, my money and time would have been better spent on books. Perhaps I just assumed too much. I saw the logos of the companies I assumed were supporting the conference on the conference website and assumed there would be vendors there to talk to. I heard from past members that you get a boatload of free stuff – books, extensions, etc – that also make it worthwhile to attend. I got two books, neither of which I will probably ever read.

I should mention that I do realize it IS a big project to put on a convention like this. I’ve even helped put a couple together. Getting a hotel lined up, getting speakers lined up…heck, just prying the pictures and writeups out of the speakers is a major ordeal. But it was the little things that were missing – such as a name tag that you could read at a distance or how about adding where the person is from, or having someone greet you at the registration table and ask you who you are and dig out your name tag and hand it to you. It was the lack of these little details that gave an impression of “good enough” and made the whole attitude of the conference to be, “Hi, Look at us. We put this awesome conference together for you. Aren’t we great for doing that?”

So, now that I’ve pissed people off, I should mention that perhaps the other conferences I’ve attended were just exceptional and I was expecting too much. Oh well. Live and learn.

Wednesday, June 13

The conference ended at 3pm. At 3:01 I was out the door and headed down the road out of Las Vegas, giving the town the finger as I left. I understand now why LV has the slogan of “What happens in Las Vegas stays in Las Vegas.” It’s because it’s not worth repeating.

Spent the next 3 days heading back to PA with a stop in Springfield, MO to visit with the cool people from Votaw Tool Co.

Things I forgot to mention along the way:

Got a couple nicks in the front windshield of the car from a truck that passed me and threw stones up. Had to have them treated at Cindy Rowe when I got back

When driving from Ouray to Silverton, about a dozen Hummers zoomed past when I was pulled off the road taking pictures. They were all full of mud and all had Michigan license plates. According to the locals, Hummer sends them out here for testing in the mountains.

Never mentioned how incredibly dry the air is out there. Wow, I couldn’t figure out why I was so thirsty the first few days until someone mentioned to make sure to drink a lot and stay hydrated to help acclimate to the altitude.