Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Where Have We Been? Racing in New Mexico...

I am a little embarrassed that it has been so long since I posted. Life has gotten crazy busy. I teach seniors and they are intense this time of year. They have little numbered signs for the number of days they have left in their public school life. They look forward to it like an advent calendar. We have also been racing about three times a week. I thought I would begin with the most recent races and fill the rest in later.
As you may notice from the photos, we just spent some time in New Mexico, Albuquerque to be exact. We went down for the Vuelta a Bosque Stage Race and for a visit with my cousin Marianne, as well as her son, Evan. We had never been there, so we were excited to go. We left pretty early on Friday. We arrived at Bike Coop in the Nob Hill area to check in and get our numbers. The night before I had switched out Ellie's tires from her cross (like winter) tires to the road (like summer or touring) tires. It was my first go at it. It took me about an hour to get it done. I was concerned that I had not done it right, so we asked them to check. Thankfully we had them do that as her bike had a pinch flat in the back. Then we noticed that the brakes needed to be adjusted since I changed wheels. I was thrilled that they could help us then and there. What great greetings and service. One of the young ladies who works there had a new puppy so we busied ourselves with it. I love the smell of a puppy! As we were loading up the bike a much talker version of my nephew Evan appeared. We visited a bit and then followed him and Marianne home. (I will write more about our time with them on another day.)
Saturday we were out of the door by around 5:45. The time trial race began at 7:00 and we needed to leave time to find where we were going. The race location is by the Journal Pavilion, a location for music concerts. Out on the course there is a gas station built to look old. It will be blown up in the making of the next Terminator 4 movie. That was a thrill to the kids. The kids did well. Ethan's race was longer, 10 miles, and had a big hill. Going down the hill they estimated that many riders would reach speeds of 40 mph. Going up was another story. Later that afternoon they did the road race. Ellie went ten miles. Ethan road for 42. I had been nervous about that race. I had tried to keep my feelings to myself. It was the longest race he had ever done. He looked like a champ and finished in good time. Just another reminder that I need to trust in the strength of my kids more! I thought they would be spent - and they were- but we went to dinner and swimming later in the evening.
Sunday found us in a business park on the west end of town. The course for the criterium was a great one. Ellie and Ethan both raced well, especially considering how tired they were. Ellie started off slow. For several laps she was the last girl in her category. By the end of the race she had speed up, coming in third place and nearly coming in with the 2nd place girl. Ellie was thrilled to find that she came in 3rd over all. (In a stage race you have to finish each race to keep racing. Each race time and placement counts in figuring the overall winners.) I was proud of how well both of them did. I love watching how strong and confident they look when they race!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Moab by the River at Night

The wind begins to find its way into the valley where we were camping near the Colorado river, thought it usually only visits for the afternoon and early evening. By the time we wanted to go to bed it was nearly spent. Our first night there we were surprised by a wonderful boat cruise that happened to go by. It is called Canyonlands at Night. The boat is the Moab Queen II. They begin with a dutch oven dinner and then a ride down the river in a special open boat. The tour guide tells bits of history, chunks of tales and points out images in the rock face. We enjoyed listening as they glided past us at dusk. We were even more pleased when they returned later in the evening. By then the evening was dark, the stars were shining and suddenly the rock face was illuminated. There was solo operatic singing near by (We later learned that this lovely music was courtesy of a camper a few sites down. He could not resist the acoustics of the area. We were happy he indulged himself). It was like a live concert on the rocks back home. We were not sure why the rock face was suddenly awash with light. Then we saw it. The boat came back by us, soft tunes of Elvis and a few country music stars wafted on the light breeze as the boat passed. On the road behind us we could see s truck fit with a large number of extraordinarily bright lights echoed the movements of the boat. The lights would emblazon the rock face near the river. Then it would illuminate the other side of the canyon. It was a delightful show. It was sort of magical. What a way to welcome us to our last leg of our vacation. We had hoped to take in the cruise the next night, but it was sold out.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Utah Road Trip 2008 - Moab during the Day

Moab has a beauty of it's own. It is not beautiful in the way that Colorado is. It is a solid, intense and jagged kind of beauty. A red, rust, brown and windy kind of appeal. It causes you to step back in wonderment. It makes you stand up and take note. It is a kind of beauty that will not be ignored. And it is resilient. We have been here many times before and we still find it breathe taking. It calls to Ethan from time to time. It is also humbling.

We arrived mid-day after exploring various items of interest on the drive. We stopped in at Pagan Mountaineering to take a look around. The woman who helped us gave us great tips on where to camp and where to climb. We also picked up a few fun items from the shop. She sent us to Big Bend, just north of town. It is an area for mountain biking and camping. There are sites that follow the Colorado river up the little valley. We checked out a bunch of them and picked a great one near the west end of the camp. The site next to us housed a boy scout group. We even knew one of the boys in the troop from biking. What a small world! Next we decided to check out the bouldering sites. We had wanted to bring the rock climbing gear, but there was simply not enough room. We had to be happy with bouldering. We had some fun, but quickly decided that climbing was more to our liking. (I don't actually climb, or boulder. I just watch sometimes and take a few photos.) Next up was to check out Potash road. That is where accessible climbing is to be had. The chapter in the climbing book on this area is extensive. The Potash road chapter is long. Larr walked the road, looking at the cracks and chimneys. His fingers must have itched for chalk. He arms must have wanted to pull him up a face. He must have been envious of group after group of climbers that he past. He had to settle for taking notes and photos in preparation for a return. It would have to wait. The kids and I inched along in the van, ready to pick him up at a moment's notice. The kids put one sunscreen, sun glasses and headphones. They enjoyed having a little down time. I did a little reading as well. Earlier in the trip I had finished Angel of Death by Alane Ferguson. Ellie snatched it up and read it, too. Then we finished The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. We love his books and were sorry for it to be over. Next I wanted to pick up a Gayle Giles book. Ellie and I were prepping for the Teen Lit. conference that we are helping to launch the next weekend.
The day was waning and we were hungry, so we headed back to camp. We had a quick dinner and went back into town to check out more stuff. We had a great time at a shop, Gear Heads, or something like that. We also found the visitor center to be very useful. We spent some time in the local bookstores. My favorite bookstore in Moab is home to a longhaired white and orange kitty that has clear opinions on how one is to play with a cat. The cat entertained Ellie. I looked for a book I needed, Ethan lost himself in the gardening books and Larr tried to not get drawn in. I did not find the books I was looking for. Instead I found The Dogs Who Found Me by Ken Foster. I am a sucker for animal rescue stories. I had a hard time putting this one down. It made me cry, laugh and cry again. I was done with it quickly. Ellie took that one, too, and began to read. Moab nightlife was about to begin. But I will save that story for tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Utah Road Trip 2008- Newspaper Rock & George's Rock

This past weekend we had a lot of fun putting on the Teen Lit. conference and racing bikes. I will write about those events soon. I thought it might be nice to finish writing about the Utah road trip before beginning a new subject.

Back to Utah Road Trip 2008

The next morning we got up, had breakfast and hit the road. We had intended to find a camping spot at Whistling Wind camp grounds but were advised that it would be a bit cold there so we headed up to Moab a day earlier than expected. The advise came from the folks at the Monticello Visitor's Center. I think they are the very model of an excellent visitor's center. It was informative and inviting. They had movies about local attractions that you could enjoy while sitting on a couch with a warm drink in your hand. They had lots of different kinds of maps you could access with ease, a computer where you could check your email and the best staff. The folks there were knowledgeable but not pushy. The man was great about listening to what you want to do and advising you. So often you only get to hear the ideas they have and not interject your own. It was he who advised us that going to Big Bend on the north end of Moab would be best. And he was right! After our nice rest stop at the visitor's center we were on the road again. We stopped first at this large mound, George's Rock. I did not feel like braving the cold to see it. It seemed to have an opening on the side, so Ethan and Larr felt compelled to check it out. It is funny how one parked car will attract others. By the time we were leaving there were four more groups stopped to check out the mound. Ethan was a bit disappointed to find that the opening only went in about 10 feet.

Next up was Newspaper Rock. On the map it seemed like a long way to go to look at it, but I am thankful that we did. I really liked it. It is a rock face that has a lot of petroglyphs on it. What is nice about this one is that you can get up close and see it better than you can see the others. I think it had some of the most fun art work we have seen so far. None of the sites that we have been to explain how the artwork is created. Ethan thinks that the artist took a small rock and tapped it, thus knocking off the top layer of the rock. The top layer in this photo is most likely a very dark brown due to a mineral that is leached out of the rock when it is wet. The lighter minerals was away and this one dries, becoming a different chemical compound. The visitor center in Monticello had a poster of a segment of this wall. It was lovely. My husband's work is worthy of making into a poster, too, I think. Ethan says he wants to have paintings like this on his wall in his room at home. Ellie was a bit quiet on this leg of the trip.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Chewy Coconut Cookies, Mint Chocolate Bars and Orange Bars - Recipes for a Friday Potluck

Things are really wild here. Tonight we launch the 20th Teen Literature Conference with a potluck dinner with the other committee members(current and past), many of the authors presenting at the conference. Ellie and I were in charge of making dessert for 25 people. Ellie made a double batch of cookies and I made two variations on a special chocolate (brownie like) bar. This way there will be sure to be enough food. We love it when we get to hob nob. Here's the recipes so that you can enjoy them too. Please know that the Coconut cookies are addicting and may cause people the pester you for more, even when you have run out. Next time I may add white chocolate chip and macadamia nuts to the mix.


Chewy Coconut Cookies (from allrecipes.com)

2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
2 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2-2/3 cups flaked coconut

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C.) Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside.
In a medium bowl, cream the butter, brown sugar, and white sugar until smooth. Beat in the egg and vanilla until light and fluffy. Gradually blend in the flour mixture, then mix in the coconut. Drop dough by teaspoonfuls onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Cookies should be about 3 inches apart.
Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven, or until lightly toasted. Cool on wire racks.
Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

Mint Chocolate Bars & Orange Chocolate Bars (altered from the recipe at Cookinglight.com)

Bottom layer:
1 cup all-purpose flour (about 4 1/2 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup egg substitute
1/4 cup butter, melted
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs, beaten
1 (16-ounce) can chocolate syrup
Cooking spray

Mint ( or Orange) layer: (alterations here - I increased the amounts and changed some flavors)
3 cups powdered sugar
6 TBL butter, melted
3 tablespoons fat-free milk
1/2 teaspoon peppermint (or orange) extract
2 drops green (or orange) food coloring

3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
3 tablespoons butter

1. Preheat oven to 350°.
2. To prepare bottom layer, lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour and salt; stir with a whisk. Combine granulated sugar, egg substitute, 1/4 cup melted butter, 2 tablespoons water, vanilla, eggs, and chocolate syrup in a medium bowl; stir until smooth. Add flour mixture to chocolate mixture, stirring until blended. Pour batter into a 13 x 9–inch baking pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 23 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out almost clean. Cool completely in pan on a wire rack.
3. To prepare mint layer, combine powdered sugar, 1/4 cup melted butter, and next 3 ingredients (through food coloring) in a medium bowl; beat with a mixer until smooth. Spread mint mixture over cooled cake.
4. To prepare the glaze, combine the chocolate chips and 3 tablespoons butter in a medium microwave-safe bowl. Microwave at HIGH 1 minute or until melted, stirring after 30 seconds. Let stand 2 minutes. Spread chocolate mixture evenly over top. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Cut.
20 servings (serving size: 1 piece)

Nutritional Information
CALORIES 264(30% from fat); FAT 8.7g (sat 5.2g,mono 2.5g,poly 0.4g); PROTEIN 2.8g; CHOLESTEROL 38mg; CALCIUM 12mg; SODIUM 139mg; FIBER 0.5g; IRON 0.9mg; CARBOHYDRATE 45g
Megan Patterson ,
Cooking Light, MARCH 2008

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Bridges, a Magic Bus and Funeral

Utah Road Trip:
I wrote about our trip to see the Natural Bridges yesterday, but I am including the photos of them today. These were formed by water. The kids were a bit amazed by them. They are not sure it would be safe to walk over them. They were taken by the photo in the visitor's center that showed a row of 20 horses and their riders on the thin part of the bridge.
On Other Notes:
Have you taken time to give love to the people in your life today? I went to my student's funeral yesterday evening. I went as a friend, as a teacher, as a mother and a supporter for the others who were so sad. I was very glad to see that it was well attended. I hope that the parents take some comfort that their child was so connected. I also appreciate that they dressed Tori in a way that she loved. I think they did their best to honor her. It was heartbreaking to listen and view. No parent should have to bury their child. Tori's friends were heartbroken. For many of them, this was their first funeral. Tori's assistant principal gave a speech. She talked about Tori's willingness to love you, even if you had many faults. She also spoke about how Tori would not want any of the kids there to join her in heaven. My heart was heavy. I could not have said those words, but they needed to be said. There were two kids in the audience that I have talked out of suicide just this year. I am afraid for them. I was there for those kids. I must have hugged kids a hundred times at the funeral. One student, who was kicked out of our school but still has a great connection with me, asked me to hug him nine times. I told him I was glad to see him and that I hoped he was happy were he was living now. I hope that he felt noticed and important. I forgot to tell him I miss him. I think he already knows it, but he could have benefited from hearing it. I
hate when I forget to do things like that. Today I checked in with the kids I saw at the funeral. I think it provided good closure for them.
And a Magic Bus:
I rented "Into the Wild." It is a true story of an educated young man who gives all his money to charity and treks to Alaska, as well at other spots. He has adventures both good and bad. I will not tell you how it ends, but I will say that it is a romantic version of a difficult lifestyle. Ethan was very taken by it. I kind of wish he had not seen it. I don't want him to do the same thing. He promises me that he would not do that. He says he may go into the wild and spend a month by himself, but that we would still have contact with him. He would be safe. I trust him. I am just sad for what happened to this young man and his family. I would never want him to endure such an event. The film itself was lovely and so well done. I think the family was brave to allow it to be made.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Utah Road Trip - Capital Reef & Hog River Picnic Area

Tuesday, March 25
As much as we enjoyed Goblin Valley and our own private camping spot, we knew it was time to go. We had other places that we needed to explore. It took an long time to repack the van. We knew that it would all fit, but as it was all laid out on the ground it sure looked like it would not. We covered a lot of miles on this day. We stopped to use the bathroom and found that we needed to explore a bit at the Hog River rest stop. It did not look like much from the road, but it was a nicely diversion. The thin, shallow river was fun to walk in. Ellie had been hoping to get to play in the water so she was thrilled. In her mind she thought vacation meant that you could go swimming outside. It did not occur to her how cold it would actually be. Some spots in the river were even a bit warm as the sand held the warmth from when the sun had been there just a few hours earlier. We followed the river a bit and found a small trail that led to an interesting feature in the rock face. It looked like a natural amphitheater. When we got there the rest of the family had fun climbing on the rock piles. Larr found more petroglyphs. It would be a great place for a concert. Next we admired Glen Canyon and the north eastern tip of Lake Powell. At the viewing point there were two ravens who were enjoying playing in the breeze. They would sit on the very edge of the cliff, tossing their head in the light breeze, ruffling their neck feathers. Then they would leap into the air, gliding and hovering a bit before setting down on another part of the cliff’s edge. One would call to the other and they would begin again. Standing on that viewing point it felt like you could see for 100 miles in several directions. The winding tip of the lake below was a lovely green. The shoreline was dotted with new foliage. We also stopped and toured parts of the Natural Bridges State park. They had lovely spots for camping in the pygmy forest. The driving loop allowed viewing of the three bridges. The bridges were carved out of the stone by the river. In one case the river had changed course and abandoned the bridge it created. The third bridge is relatively young and is still actively forming when flash floods come through. The second bridge was spectacular. We might return another time and do the hike down to that bridge. It was already past five o’clock and the strenuous hike would require more time than we had. Larr and Ellie did the moderate hike down to the youngest bridge. Ethan and I chatted. Ethan had his fill of natural wonders for the day and did not feel like walking down for a closer look. Next up was section of road called the Moki Dugway. It is a gravel road of hairpin curves that opens up to a section where you can see nearly forever. It must have felt to earlier peoples like you could see to the ends of the earth. We happen to be there just as the sun was beginning to set. It was the perfect time to be there. The mounds and Knowles in the distance were set aglowing by the setting sun. The groups of rock formations were stunning. One set was the color of peanut butter. The one behind it was red and the one behind that seemed to take on a nearly blue shade. By nightfall we pulled into Bluff and checked into our motel. We were looking forward to having a nice shower and being clean again. We had a nice dinner at the Twin Rocks Restaurant. We tried real fried bread. It tasted a lot like a large sopapia. I double that it was authentic, but it was tasty.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Goblin Valley, Utah Day 2 of Our Vacation

Monday, March 24

Monday morning proved to be as beautiful as we had hoped. The nearly full moon was just peeking over the rock formations in the distance when we woke up . (The moon had been full just a night or two before. During the night it was so bright that I thought the neighbors had left the lights on their van on.) Larr and I awoke before the kids and sat, enjoying the quiet. There was a light breeze. Birds were playing near the rock face and calling to one another. We sat, hot tea in hand, and took it all in. Soon enough it was time to get going. After a hot breakfast we were on our way.
We stopped by the ranger station to use the bathroom and then headed onto Goblin Valley. It is an unusual place, unique in fact. The geological structures are called hoodoos. There are various layers of rock, some softer than others. As water and wind whipped through the valley the bases wore away at a different rates. The result is funky ball-on-stick type of rock formations. When you are there it feels like you are on a different planet. In fact, the movie, “Galaxy” (made in 1999 with Tim Allen) was made in this valley. You can see the Styrofoam replica they used for one scene in the ranger station. It was great fun to walk around, climb on and through the rocks. Ethan even found a place that he just had to crawl through .He had a hard time getting his feet through, so I was not sure he could make it, but he did. Both Ethan and Ellie delighted in finding little pockets and caves in the rock where they could sit or pretend to sleep. They thought it would be a great place to camp. We also encountered a cave that winded through the side of a structure. If was not about to go in, but the rest of the family went for it. They climbed up to the entrance and started winding their way through. At one point it seemed nearly pitch black since the darkness was intense and your eyes had not adjusted. Soon after that the room opens up. There is even a “window” at an upper level. It was a tight space. The kids tell me that it was so small that the only way you could stand fully erect was if you were as short as Ellie. One room had a skylight in the ceiling. At the end there was a small tunnel that led to a biggish round room. Ethan made it through the tunnel but Ellie and Larr did not. I sat on the rock outside, listening to a lecture that was going on. I learned about desert animals and plants. We went back to the car, had a fast lunch of PBJ sandwiches and fruit, then it was off to the Little Wild Horse Slot Canyon.
The walk to the Little Wild Horse Slot Canyon started off simple and pleasant, but I ran into a problem when I could not climb up the rock to join them. Larr, Ethan and Ellie scrambled up the rock, but I was stuck. I tried another route that took me higher and higher on a nearly cliff like section of the rock adjacent to where the rest of the family was. There came a point when I could not summon enough courage to go on. I felt stupid and scared as I sat on this bit of cliff when the kids climbed up to show me it could be done. I could not do it. I was scared I would slip and fall. I even felt like crying. The kids felt sorry for me, so we hiked back down to the rock that was such a problem for me earlier. This time they helped me up and we were back on track. The rest of the hike was a pleasant one. We walked through a dry riverbed to get to the slot canyon. It started out rambling and wide. Then it got thinner and thinner. The rock was amazing. Some sections had little divets and holes carved out. Other parts were heavy with desert varnish and stripes of colored rock. Then we got to a few sections where it was so thin that it was barely wider than us. At times I even had to bend this way or that to fit though. When it began to feel a bit tight I just had to look above me to see the blue sky or the light from the sky gleaming on the rock to feel less closed in. It was a great hike. I am really glad that my family helped me get past that road block.
Once we were done hiking we were tempted to go find another attraction to check out, but we found that the roads were a little more four wheel drive than we could do. Instead we went into Hanksville to get gas and maybe eat out. We got gas at a cool gas station that was built into the side of a rock. It was called the Hollow Mountain Gas Station. It was hard to pay $3.49 a gallon for gas, but we had to. It amazed me that it could be so high since I thought the $2.93 I paid at home was a high price. From there we headed to the Capital Reef State Park. The geology of that area was a bit different, but lovely as well. One spot afforded a view of some large petroglyphs of a few people and some animals. There was a photo from around the 1950’s that showed another large petroglyph of a person in ceremonial clothing. A huge chunk of the rock had cleaved away off the rock face, taking that drawing with it. My friend Wendy had suggested that we do waterpocket fold canyon, but we were running low on daylight and had to skip it. We stopped back by Stan’s Burger Shak in Hanksville on the way back for dinner. The kids also had giant shakes. Ethan got mint and Ellie got Oreo.
By the time we got back home we were tired. Ellie was out like a light in no time. Ethan, Larr and I admired the stars for a while before we went to bed. It was a satisfying day.