Mesa Verde Camping

It’s rare for us to have a camping trip with WiFi, so I thought I’d take advantage of the luxury to put up a quick blog post about our trip to Mesa Verde (still ongoing). So, the post will be pretty short on prose in favor or pics.

We left the front range after work and B’s soccer and a quick Chipotle dinner at around 7:30. Since it’s about 7 hours of driving to Mesa Verde we arrived around 2:30 in the morning. I think everyone was more than ready to climb into the tent which is precisely what we did as soon as I got everything setup.

Saturday morning we slept in a bit, made a yummy pancake breakfast (with sausage), and made our way back down to the visitor’s center to buy a new park pass and get tickets for one of the guided cliff-dwelling tours. The kiddos enjoyed learning about nature and making beaded necklaces and bracelets with some CU students while I waited in line for tickets. One of the dwellings (the Spruce Treehouse) is currently closed due to some recent rockfall, so that left just 3 options. While waiting in line, one of the volunteers gave a short description of the options and it was clear that the more adventurous Balcony House tour was perfect with its 32’ ladder and tunnel, so I got us tickets for the 5 o’clock tour.

Here’s a cactus we saw n the hike into Balcony House.
This is the big 32’ ladder you have to climb to get into the cliff dwelling. I was climbing behind Benjamin and both trying to keep up with a carefree 5-year old while simultaneously staying ready to catch said 5-yera old and maintain a sufficient grip to keep dad and son from falling. Needless to say I was happy to reach the top safely! Unfortunately I couldn’t get pics of the kiddos on the big ladder. They weren’t the least bit scared and thought it was great.
Here’s the first set of rooms you see after topping out from the ladder climb and the namesake feature for the site.
Benjamin really wanted to climb into the kiva. He asked some questions too like how did they get down there?
He’s such a cutie and a ham when he wants to be.
Here’s a smaller ladder at the exit. This time Jess was following B and came to fully understand just how terrifying that is. Again the kiddos both thought it was fun and easy which was not true of the other adults on the tour either!
Here’s Phoebe approaching the tunnel exit. I think the kiddos are ready for some caving.
Here’s a parting shot of the big ladder from the plaza of the Balcony House. This gives you a good feel for the exposure.

That pretty much wraps up day 1 at Mesa Verde. Everyone had a blast and we hope you enjoy the photos.

Reinventing the Wheel

It’s been said that the only certainty is change. The last couple of weeks have really driven this home for me. It started with a short-notice decision to head to Sedona, AZ, for a weekend of early-season mountain biking. In pulling stuff together I was reminded that I’ve been riding for the last year or so on Jess’s rear wheel due to a mechanical failure in my own wheel that cannot be fixed due to the lack of replacement parts. I’ve been wanting to return Jess’s wheel for several reasons, but after searching around somewhat extensively I’ve discovered that the growing popularity of 29er and 27.5er wheels, 26″ mountain bike wheels are becoming scarce. This is especially true in the middle ground between the ultra-expensive Cadillac parts and the el-cheapo.

Luckily, on this occasion, we’re a family of pack rats and a desperate scavenger hunt through the garage turned up not only a “new” rear hub, but also a matching rim. I had purchased some spares when they were being discontinued, but never used most of them. So, for the cost of 3 dozen spokes and nipples (and a couple of hours of time) I could build a nearly identical replacement and re-live the glory of the early 2000s.

This week Phoebe is a bit hobbled with not 1, but 2 sprained ankles, so I thought I’d offer her the opportunity to help with the wheel build. Now, with a 5-11/12 year old you never know how they’ll respond, but she was super excited to build a wheel. So yesterday after dinner we set to work with the rim, hub, spokes (2-sizes), nipples, and guidebook (The Bicycle Wheel, by Jobst Brandt) spread out before us.

I’ll spare you all of the technical details (a quick search back through old blog posts will turn up an extended description of wheel building) and simply relay that Phoebe had a blast. Her pattern skills were invaluable in aligning the spokes to the holes, and you’d have been amazed to hear her read the instructions as we went. It was chock full of the usual kindergarten sight words like incremental and lateral stress. Jess captured a couple of pictures and this cool interview with Phoebe midway through the assembly. BTW, Phoebe now says that wheel building is easy. Maybe she has another vocation to add to doctor, banker, and delicatessen worker.


Some amazing reading:

After Phoebe went to bed, I finished off the build by tensioning, centering, and truing the wheel. Now all I need to do is find some elusive 26″ tires. . . Bike industry, I’ve a bone to pick with you!

Our Adventures in May

I promised to post more photos of Benjamin sitting. He’s getting very good at it; he can reach his arms out in front to play with a toy without losing his balance, and he can recover if he starts to tip to the side. We’re very proud of him!

May 6


May 9

May 11




On Mother’s Day, we went to church, got interviewed about cloth diapers (see some footage from the interview here), and had a band concert. Jan and Elaina (from church) came to watch the kids, who were terrific. Phoebe obviously found the music…soporific.

Sleeping through our band concert.
Sleeping through our band concert.

Phoebe was proud of this configuration!

Phoebe plays with her magnaforms.
Phoebe plays with her magnaforms.

May 14

Wearing an old onesie of Daddy's.
Wearing an old onesie of Daddy’s.
Reading the spider book.
Reading the spider book.

May 16: Phoebe and Dave did some chalk drawing.

Check out Daddy's great caterpillar drawing!
Check out Daddy’s great caterpillar drawing!
And now Caterpillar is upside down!
And now Caterpillar is upside down!

May 18 we planned to go camping, but Benjamin got sent home from school that week with asthma/viral symptoms. Dave and Phoebe camped out in the backyard on Friday night instead. On Saturday morning, Benjamin got his first look at the inside of our tent.

Benjamin's first time in the tent.
Benjamin’s first time in the tent.
Surprised to be here!
Surprised to be here!

We had hoped to camp with the Wilensky/Berzanskis family (my friend Andrew from work, his wife Maggie, and their two kids), but the girls had a great time at the Wow! museum instead

Going to the grocery store.
Going to the grocery store.
Tilley and Phoebe play dress-up.
Tilley and Phoebe play dress-up.

May 19

Baking homemade pizza.
Baking homemade pizza.

May 20: More sitting.

Sitting with snake.
Sitting with snake.

Dave and I are playing summer softball on the Mount Calvary co-ed team. (Dave is also playing for the men’s team.) When we got to the game on May 22, it was lightning and pouring rain, but it stopped in time for us to win the game! Here the kids are sitting in the car with me while Dave checks on the weather.

Waiting for the rain to stop.
Waiting for the rain to stop.

On May 23, Phoebe was riding her Strider bike around the deck when she decided that Caterpillar wanted her to pull him in the wagon. She cleverly attached it to her bike all by herself! (It wasn’t quite as easy to ride afterward, though.)

Creative thought in action.
Creative thought in action.

On May 25, we finally got to go camping! We drove out to Angel of Shavano campground near Salida and found a nice site. Here Benjamin waits to be taken out of the car.

He's getting good at manipulating Sophie, who's a wonderful teething toy.
He’s getting good at manipulating Sophie, who’s a wonderful teething toy.
Yum, Sophie.
Yum, Sophie.

We spent most of the afternoon at camp before driving into Salida to pick up some wood and s’mores materials.

Benjamin, sit here while I get something out of your bag.
Benjamin, sit here while I get something out of your bag.
Sitting around camp in the Bumbo.
Sitting around camp in the Bumbo.

On Sunday, we had a nice morning in camp. In the afternoon, we drove into town again to watch some boaters and listen to bluegrass in the park. When we got there, we discovered a bouncy castle! You can imagine who was SUPER EXCITED about that.

Benjamin is trying hard to eat my sandwich.
Benjamin is trying hard to eat my sandwich.
Extra, extra; read all about it!
Extra, extra; read all about it!
A chilly camping evening.
A chilly camping evening.
Going on a pre-bedtime walk with Dad.
Going on a pre-bedtime walk with Dad.

Phoebe got the idea that she should make some mud in her bucket, but the water pump wasn’t working, so Dave took her to the creek. Here’s an interview about the mud. The loud sound in the background is Benjamin’s Albuterol nebulizer; he still had to take medicine, so we found a handy way to bring it along. (We plugged it into the power source for Dave’s telescope.)

On Memorial Day, we cleaned up camp and headed home to cook Indian food and finish our long weekend together. It was a lovely camping trip!

Our very good helper.
Our very good helper.
Helping Mommy pack up the sleeping bags and pads.
Helping Mommy pack up the sleeping bags and pads.

End of July and the Bronskis Visit!

Dave did an excellent job writing about our trip to Pennsylvania, but I can’t help but add a few terrific photos he didn’t include.

Three little cousins: Genevieve, Phoebe, and Cordelia.

There’s a photo just like this in which the grownups all look happy…but the kids aren’t as cute. So we’ll go with this one!

Jess, Phoebe, Erika, Cordelia, Genevieve, and Dave
Grammie with her little granddaughters.
I think Pappy might be doing a bit of tickling…

The week after we got back from Ephrata, the Bronskis came to Boulder to sign the closing paperwork on their house. We haven’t seen them in a year, so we knew that Marin and Charlotte would be big girls all of a sudden! Here are some photos from our YABS (young adult Bible study) get-together.

This is what happens when you leave the kids alone in the playroom…
Hi-ho, the witch is dead! Notice the legs poking out from the mattress.
Charlotte, Phoebe, Addie, Marin, John, Thomas.
This is the aftermath (middle-math?) of Phoebe’s first whole Klondike!

The Bronskis planned a really cool trip while they were in town, and we were lucky to be invited. On Friday, July 13, we headed up to Vance’s Cabin, one of the 10th Mountain Division huts. We were carpooling with our friend John (aka Big John), so we left work a little bit early to pick him up in Boulder. We stopped at a good Nepali restaurant in town for dinner and then drove out toward the cabin, near mile marker 164 on I-24. I know…that’s a weird geographic description! However, the trip had become more exciting earlier that week when a huge sinkhole opened up along I-24 at mile marker 165. Pete sent us an e-mail saying that even though there was a blockade, we should be able to get through, since we were considered local traffic and we weren’t going as far as the sinkhole.

Thanks to the Huffington Post for this image of the sinkhole.

It was a long drive up there, about 3 hours. As we neared our turn, we ran into a roadblock around mile marker 162. Dave got out to talk to the two mustachioed men who were not interested in allowing us through. Despite pulling out a map and showing them where we were headed, they simply refused. We drove back a short way to see if we could waylay Marlene and Jade, who were coming after us. In fact, we were pretty sure we saw them go by, but they didn’t come back. John didn’t have cell phone coverage, so we couldn’t get any information up at the roadblock.

We were pretty exhausted by that point, and Phoebe was extremely late for bed (and not sleeping in the car). Fortunately, John’s parents have a ski condo in Vail, which was just back down the mountain. That seemed a lot better than driving all the way back to Boulder! Unfortunately, our little peanut gets carsick on winding roads, so she ended up throwing up all over on the way back down. We had a nice night in the condo—Phoebe got to sleep on Sesame Street sheets! (So did Dave and I, actually.) Many thanks to the Friedbergs for their hospitality in absentia.

We had reached Pete on the way back down the mountain, so we learned that Marlene had indeed talked her way through the roadblock. In the morning, we decided to go back up, armed with the information that the sinkhole was beyond our destination and local traffic was allowed through the first roadblock. This time we met a Hispanic guy who couldn’t understand much of what we were saying. At one point, he frustratedly asked if we could speak Spanish. (A bit of high school Spanish, but nothing better! I know we never learned “sinkhole.”) We managed to convince him to let us through, and as we started to go ahead, a car came through the roadblock the other way and picked him up! So I guess we’d have made it through in another minute anyway.

When we got to the cabin, the Bronskis and Marlene and Jade were out for a hike, so we decided to go for our own hike. We had plans to find them, but we ended up on a different trail. We would’ve liked to get through a saddle between two hills, but it started to rain and hail, and Phoebe got cold, so we ended up heading back.

Phoebe, John, and Dave consulting the map.
The view on the way back to the cabin.
Look how long the kiddo’s legs are getting in that backpack!
What a pretty hike!

It was a nice hike, and John even found the shoe Phoebe lost partway down the trail! She’d been asleep, and when she woke up she said, “My other shoe.” At least we knew to look for it. When we got back to the cabin, we had a really nice afternoon with old friends. The little girls played, and the grownups even got in a game of horseshoes. We enjoyed dinner and had some time to chat once the girls went to bed.

Kelli reading to a lineup of little girls.
Big John gets covered in stickers.

After a nice hut trip, we headed back for a makeup softball game on Sunday afternoon. We left at about 9:50 to get back to Boulder for a 1:00 p.m. game. Can you believe that we missed all but 10 minutes of the game? The I-70 traffic was just atrocious. Fortunately, we got to the game in time for Dave to make the winning hit.

Here’s a photo of Phoebe working on a puzzle that came from my cousins Evers and Ashe. Isn’t her one-piece jumpsuit adorable?

Working on a Noah’s ark puzzle.

Finally, I’ll leave you with a very impressive tower Phoebe built.

Vacation in PA

Last week we took a nice vacation trip to Ephrata, PA, to visit with Phoebe’s Grammie and Pappy. My sister Erika was also there part of the time with Phoebe’s cousins Genevieve and Cordelia (unfortunately Heidi was stuck in Pittsburgh working). For most of the family, the trip started early Tuesday morning when we woke up and hopped into the car in order to make our 8:30 a.m. flight to Philidelphia, but I got a jump on Jess and Phoebe by taking Monday off to escape the blazing summer heat by doing some mountain biking. Dann and I left Lafayette at about 6:30 a.m. and headed up to the Copper Mountain ski area. We found some parking and made the out-and-back ride along the Colorado Trail to Searle Pass. It was pretty brutal in my current (activity-challenged) physical state, but the views were amazing and the downhill run back to civilization easily worth the pain. I can see why it’s a highly regarded ride.

This was some of the nicest singletrack on the ride. We climbed gently up a long valley meadow before eventually getting up to treeline.
Here’s the view we were rewarded with for all of the effort to reach Searle Pass.
Here I am on the way back down next to a little mountain stream. The stream was a couple of hundred feet below the pass and just above Janet’s Cabin.
Here’s a shot of Dann from earlier in the ride. Look how much energy he still has!

Tuesday and Sunday were mostly lost to travel, but at least the travel was pretty easy. We did have a little bout of road-sickness with Phoebe just as we were reaching the airport, but she did great on the flight out. I, on the other hand, was starting to get nauseated as we landed in Philadelphia. I think one more highly-banked turn and I’d have been a goner. On the return flight, the tables were turned with Phoebe getting a little sick (yes, she actually did get sick on Jess’s leg). Thankfully it wasn’t too bad (depending on who you ask) and occurred right at the end of the flight, so she didn’t have to suffer through too much. In fact, she was so tuckered out from playing with her cousins and having a generally great time that she actually slept about 1/2 the time.

Hurry; let’s get this firetruck to Colorado ASAP!

On Wednesday, Don’s daughters came over and we all had a fantastic cookout. Despite the temps, we were able to lazily sit outside enjoying beer and chatting. Don set up a little sandbox and filled a kiddie pool for Phoebe and Genevieve. They had a great time playing in both, but seemed to especially enjoy putting the pool water into the sandbox and the sand into the pool. Hopefully Pappy will eventually get the sand dried out and be able to use his tub again for mixing concrete and mortar.

Phoebe and Genevieve had a lot of fun playing in the sandbox. In this pic it looks like Phoebe has already decided to fetch water from the pool.
We’re gonna need a lot more water.
Even Cordelia couldn’t resist enjoying some fun in the sun on the 4th.
Wow, look how fast this ball rolls down the hill.
There might be a lot of “plain folk” around Lancaster, but the crowd at the Mennonite church says they still like fireworks (and oldies). Our view was partially obstructed by a tree, but it was still a blast to watch.

Erika, Genevieve, and Cordelia had to leave early (relatively) on Friday morning so that they could get back to Pittsburgh in time for another week-long vacation. Now that’s a tough life! After the rest of us got motivated, we headed over to a nice little petting zoo within a park in Lancaster. Phoebe seemed to like the donkeys and Jess really liked petting the llama. I think everyone liked the pot-bellied pig, but she was a bit protective of her food. When Phoebe got too close, she was effectively backed off by a surprisingly quick and agile snout. After the petting zoo, we moved about 100 yards farther along the road through the park to another huge playground. Phoebe loves to climb around on the playground and had a blast on one of the slides. She’s taken to testing them for temperature (a very good idea) and pronouncing any warm play structure as “hot.” It’s very cute, if a little frustrating at times.

It was a few days early, but we all got to celebrate Genevieve’s 3rd birthday with Grammie and Pappy.
We also got a chance to see the wheat field get harvested. Can you tell where the lawn stops and the field starts?
The girls had a blast playing dress-up with Genevieve’s new costumes.

One of the nicest parts of the vacation was just sitting around and relaxing while the girls played doctor and “cooked” us various foods. We also owe the neighbors a thank you for letting us enjoy their pool. It felt great to cool off in the water, and Phoebe really loves swimming. As the week passed by, we knew it would be hard to say goodby and return to Boulder, but the onset of cooler temps and the Colorado monsoon season helped a bit with the motivation.

Here’s Phoebe telling Grammie and Pappy about the slide.
No wonder she was excited about the slide!
Phoebe and mom checking out the Vietnamese pot-bellied pig. You can see that Phoebe was also wearing her new Noah’s Ark backpack. Perfect attire for a petting zoo. I think the pig had the right idea on such a hot afternoon.

Aside from being hot and humid all week, we had a great time on the trip. We even got in a little exercise. Jess managed to go for a jog with Don while the rest of us played with the girls at the playground, and both of us went for a nice bike ride while Phoebe and Grammie enjoyed a walk along a rail trail nearby. Luckily for us Don is better stocked than some bike rental shops, so his ability to outfit us with mounts, helmets, gloves, and (in my case) shoes was handy. We did run into one little snag with a stripped seat-clamp bolt (I’m that strong), but it was quickly remedied with a trip to the nearby hardware store. For us the trail was pretty shady, and the temps didn’t feel at all like the 101°F reality while riding. We also managed to cover enough terrain to rendezvous with a giant root-beer barrel. I hear it was a bit hotter at walking speed in the sun and seriously lacking in refreshment stands. Afterward we all enjoyed some lunch at a neat little pub and stopped for some ice cream on the way home.

The next day, we got up early, pulled our stuff together, exchanged some pics, and headed back to the airport in Philadelphia. It was a great vacation, but it’s always nice to be back home as well.

When we got back to Colorado, Phoebe spotted this really cool bug. It’s covered with about 2.7 million beads. Nice catch Phoebe!