Friday, May 28, 2010

Finger Lakin' Good

Yes, of course, as always there is something special about finding a beautiful place, but I find it all that much better if you find such a special spot by accident. That is what happened for me in passing through the Finger Lakes region on the return trip to CT. The lakes themselves, well, they're big and wet, long and skinny, and I can take or leave them.
My Finger Lakes experience started, ironically, with a sunset.

So, what was so special? Simply, it is the ways the water gets down to those lakes. The topography and geology has lent itself to a bevy of spectacular canyons and waterfalls for the liquid to shoot on its way down from the hillsides. On my route through to Ithaca, I had the chance to visit with three of these areas.

First came Watkins Glen, which I knew for its race track only.

This is what the back side of a waterfall looks like.

Yes, another bridge, of course.

Then on to Robert H. Treman state park.

Through the majority of the two mile walk up the canyon,
I thought, "Nice, but not so spectacular as Watkins Glen."
Then I saw these gigantic falls,
which a picture does little to no justice,
so I just included the photos I like.
Go see it yourself,

And lastly, Buttermilk Falls,
but some photos other than the falls.
Yup, a bridge!

Now a special thanks are due to the fellows at Ithaca Foreign Car Service, and by "foreign," they apparently mean "Volvo." Once I arrived in the town, I noticed a sudden spike in the number of old rear wheel drive Volvos on the road, as if Karlee had happened into a family reunion--something about eastern college towns maybe. So, in walking around town, I noticed the repair shop with exclusively Volvos in the yard, and a number of 240s is states of disassemble, so in light of my lack of proper hood hinge, I stopped in to see if they'd sell one off a parts car. Well, no, not sell, but rather I was told to help myself, which I did, and Karlee know proudly wears a zip-tie free silver hinge on her right side. Thank you again guys, and if you find yourself in Ithaca with a Volvo needing work, this shop on West State Street seem genuinely forthright, honest, and good.

But Ithaca as a town, for some reason, feels the need to hide their river
behind a ten foot high wall.

Meanwhile, Connecticut welcomed me back with flowers!

Hence, I've spent the last couple days visiting in Connecticut and seeing to some odds and ends to get Karlee running a little more ship shape (a thorough removal of oxidation on the fuse panel has the overdrive engaging really well with the solenoid finally seeing full voltage). Early next week I depart northward for some time in the White Mountains, and maybe a lot of time if I find I like it enough.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Mio, MI

Me oh, my!
The Au Sable River (big and two hearted?)
So I've found Hemingway's Michigan, and it isn't the north peninsula as I'd presumed. I arrived last night and nestled into the trees on the north side of Au Sable river just outside Mio, MI. Flat out, this is a darn pretty waterway. It is how I always envisioned Nick Adams on his fishing trip, just right.

Down the street from my Au Sable campsite

The gateway to southern Michigan

A couple shots from Wisconsin, which reminded me exactly of non-coastal Maine,
right down to all the logging trucks and paper mills.

From here, I continue my turtle's pace (although I am moving faster than the outbound trip), down to Port Huron, then to visit my Canadian neighbors to the east. I'm enjoying what has turned into a more direct driving touring with daily bicycle exploration off-route.
Snapper moving slowing across Michigan

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

No Small Apples

Minneapolis, that is.

Power station north of Pierre, SD

This will be brief at best, but I have the time for a brief celebration on returning to the northeastern quadrant of the United States. What can I say; I'm a fan of moist air and deciduous trees, and it feels good to be back, if maybe a little strung out from a long day or two of driving across South Dakota. Don't get me wrong, the trip west has been beautiful, even, much to my surprise, some of the open prairie land, but I'm ready to find some water body, lake or stream will do, in a Wisconsin national forest a relax a day or two.

No, not hell, The Mall of America in MN.
Oh, wait, you're right, that is hell.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

My morning walk

A stroll around the neighborhood, atop Lookout Mountain in Golden, roughly 6:30AM.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Settling (Burrowing?) In

Babe the Blue Ox's ursine cousin

As I recovered from my riding with a lack of complete acclimation, the last few days involved more walking than rolling, so I had a chance to explore some the the hiking-only trails on Lookout Mountain, and yesterday I took the commuter bus into the big city of Denver. From my travels (not just this trip), I'm inclined to say a city, is a city, is a city, just with the popular wardrobe changing for variety. No doubt, Denver's ambiance and flavor are affected by its proximity to substantial mountains and wilderness, but hey, it is still definitely a city, just with a few extra outdoor equipment shops.

Denver scenes

In the mean time, my plan was to depart Golden today for a visit in Boulder before starting to wander back to the east closer, and even across, the Canadian border, but May 12th on the front range had us waking to four inches of snow on the ground and more falling from the sky through the day. No reason to face sloppy roads, so now Friday is the ETD, which left me more time to help Russ and the gang finish with the painting next door, or at least the less messy prep and clean-up work, given my lack of paintable clothing.

Karlee and the Organic Mechanic trailer snuggle in the May snow.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Golden Days or, mine!

A local park, Colorado style

This is odd, but at times I'm enjoying how altitude can make me feel like an asthmatic little child. Saturday, I joined a road ride with Joe up Golden Gate Canyon into the national forest. This road has what is a pretty steep incline for Colorado (say average for CT) where they love their switchbacks, and then dives into a 20% grade loose dirt downhill into the canyon--yahoo! On the climb up I learned that a breathing rate which would have my legs blowing sky high within 10 seconds closer to sea level is just about right for up here.

Now that is a road, four sections of it

On Sunday, trying another road ride with Russ and Todd, I learned that I don't yet recover well at 7,800 feet. About seven miles from their turn around point heading out west through the I-70 corridor, I realized the truth that my time was better spent riding back at my own pace and watching kids on skateboards race down the hill from the house. This weekend was the annual Pagan Downhill Buffalo Bill Race.

Another from Lookout Mountain Park

Now I said hill, but really, it is a small mountain, Lookout Mountain, where Russ and the gang have a house on the top. As for the skateboards, yup, long boards no brakes other than skidding sideways or possibly dragging the plastic block riders had stuck to the palm of their gloves. It wasn't immensely fast, but having spent a little of my youth on a deck with four wheels, I could definitely appreciate how far the riders would lean over the board to carve the hairpin turn I was spectating. Still, I think I'll stick to two wheels. And brakes.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Lake views, red rocks, and Bear, oh my!

When last we met, Gunnison was the town of the day, and dry at that--yecht. Luckily, with a little gained elevation, I made it back into the trees and found a cozy campsite at the base of the climb up to Monarch Pass, the highest elevation Karlee has seen, likely in her life, at 11,312ft. Of note, this car seems to love thin air and low octane fuel--with a tank of 86PON that did include an overall drop of about 1,500 feet over 430 miles, but also included multiple 10,000ft+ passes, I averaged 40.55mpg, which is just, well, silly. Note, I'm taking it really easy, going up the long climbs doing about 30mph in 3rd gear, which does have the advantage of giving a lot of time to look out the windows.

In May, they still have a lot of snow on Monarch Pass,
and a super cool machine for moving it around.

So, after seeing the top of Monarch Pass at sunrise, which was pretty cool (actually it was downright frigid) but not spectacular do to a big rounded lump of the earth situated due east, I made the long meander down 285 into the valley junction with Rt24, where I stashed the car behind some shrubbery and rode into the stiffest headwind I've ever experienced trying to cross the valley floor back to the mountain side and the road up to Cotton Wood Pass. I managed about 7mph up a nearly false-flat incline, and now have some idea of what using a sandblaster on my face would feel like.

Rocky Mountain High...beaver

Still, once into the somewhat sheltered canyon road, things turned pretty, and even more so, once I opted for the turn to Cotton Wood Lake, a hard packed dirt climb up to a sheltered natural mountain lake, or tarn (yippee, I remembered a vocabulary word; thank you crossword puzzles!). Again, nice, pretty, quiet, peaceful, and all that, but again, damn that wind. To give some idea, it took me just under two hours to get up there riding into it; the return trip was just over 30 minutes, and it would have been less than that except for excessive speed leading to resonant front end wobbles with the cross winds. It was actually a pretty tiring descent.

One view across Cotton Wood Lake,
and the super nifty road to get there.

Down to the Denver area, or Golden specifically, but not without an impulsive stop at Red Rocks Park, another improbably feature of the Colorado landscape. One almost starts to get used to that kind of thing out here.

Red Rocks Park has some of the most amazing sculpted rocks,
yet some fool thought it needed a sculpture.

In the time since, I've been hanging out up at the top of Lookout Mountain in Golden with Russ, Todd, Joe, and their dogs (including one called Bear, get the blog title now?). They, and most recently I, get to enjoy one heck of a half hour steady climb home after picking up food from the Safeway in town, and it sure is fun passing fully-shod roadies with my wool pants and messenger bag bulging with bananas and bread. Golden has disappointed in only one way: firearms are strictly prohibited on Coors Brewery property, which just seems downright un-American, or as Russ pointed out, there's a reason Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms are all under one government agency.

Russ and I took a little hike today up to an interesting pile of rocks.
Stormy snow conditions had us thinking better of the higher peak we intended,
freezing to death in a white out being what it is.