Old Milwaukee Eisenbock = Epic Fail

Happy Thanksgiving to our loyal Gribblog readers. Yesterday we gorged ourselves on turkey with all of the traditional trimmings. Of course our good friends Jennifer and Lee (along with their son Alexander and daughter Kaitlynn) were present, and we had a great dinner. The turkey came out well thanks to some directions from Cooks Illustrated, and Jess’s recommendation to sharpen the knives made the carving process somewhat less stressful for me. I’m glad the turkey wasn’t alive for that! One fun addition to the Thanksgiving spread was an eisenbock I’d been planning to make for about a year. Last year at the grotto auction I purchased (much to Jess’s dismay) a $5 case of Old Milwaukee Light (oops).

This is the result (well under a gallon) of ice distilling an entire case of Old Milwaukee Light. Please disregard the label from Wild Mountain; they make a very nice selection of beers.

Obviously I had no real intention of drinking it, but the money went to the grotto. I wouldn’t even recommend cooking with it—PBR is much better by all accounts—but I’d hoped that ice distilling the beer would improve the flavor. Although I froze the heck out of the beer and reduced the volume, thereby concentrating the flavor and alcohol drastically, nothing, it would seem, can tame the Beast. According to the cans, the beer won a gold medal at the 2008 World Beer Cup–I guess they have a category for beer that looks, smells, and tastes (I think) the most like piss. OK, technically it was for best American-Style Light Lager, but is there really a difference? Sadly, more bad flavor is, well, um, worse! Be ye warned, don’t try this at home.

A 3-Day Pass in Lake City

The Lake City Ice Park the day after the festival; this is a moderately busy day.
The Lake City Ice Park the day after the festival; this is a moderately busy day.

I feel more than a wee bit guilty spending a long weekend in Lake City while Jess is home with a snuffly little girl, but it hasn’t made the climbing any less fun. In fact, the climbing has been pretty darn good. Andy and Gretchen picked me up on Saturday morning at a little past 7:00, and we were on the road shortly thereafter. Although there was snow in the forecast, we got over Monarch Pass and all the way to Lake City with pretty much dry pavement and arrived by about 12:30. We checked into our room at the Matterhorn Motel (same place Pete and I stayed last year) and grabbed some lunch at one of the two open eateries. By the time we sauntered over to the ice park, things were well underway. The top rope and and lead climbing comps were set up in the same spots as last year, and the ice appeared a bit thinner. Andy and Gretchen walked up to the top to set up a top rope on a short little climb just to the left of the little mixed cave in the park while I relaxed below watching the comp and waiting to give advice (only if necessary, of course) in regards to rope placement. We spent a couple of hours taking turns doing laps on the climb in what was a consistent snow that soaked just about everything we had. Just as we were packing things up, someone got clobbered by a large piece of ice from an adjacent climber. It looked for a while as though he may have dislocated a shoulder, or worse, but he managed to regroup and finish the climb after a few minutes of what appeared to be intense pain. We didn’t end up with any pictures and had to hang up the ropes and gear to dry in the closet, but we had a fun time. Later that evening we made the 2-minute walk down the hill to the Packer Grill for a little ice festival afterparty and some beer. Sadly, there was no live band this year, but they did have the skills competition from the weekends NBA All Star Gala on the tube. Although the Packer Grill might be named for Lake City’s famous cannibal, I tried not to hold the decorations from Wisconsin’s famed football team against them.

Gretchen tearin' it up on our day-two route.
Gretchen tearin' it up on our day-two route.

The next morning we slept in a bit, as things are pretty laid back in Lake City. I made it out the door first and trekked to the coffee shop for a mocha and a bagel. A few minutes later, I was joined by the rest of the team. We chatted a bit with the proprietor before heading back to the room to grab our gear. A few minutes later and we were back in the ice park contemplating our options. This time Andy and I hiked up to the top and we ended up setting up a toprope on what was the lead comp route the day before. Since the climbs are fairly long, we used some cordalettes and a bit of static line to extend the anchor about 40-50 feet from the post glued into the ground until it reached over the lip. It ended up working well with both ends of the 60-meter cord reaching the ground and no rope drag. This was especially nice as there was about 6 inches of fresh snow along the top of the climb.

We managed about 3-4 laps each of the former comp route. It seemed to get easier with each lap despite the growing fatigue in my forearms, so either I was climbing more efficiently as the day went on, finding more of the hooks left from a constant barrage of assaults the day before (quite likely as we were slowly cleaning the snow from the route), or just making more big holes with each ascent. Regardless, we had a splendid time on the ice and thoroughly enjoyed beating ourselves to a pulp. Andy managed to clobber himself in the chin with a decent-sized hunk of ice (there wasn’t really any blood, so it ranks as fairly minor) and I got a little bruise on one knee.

After another night of bar hopping (Lake City has 3 functional bars in the winter), I’m comfortably back in the motel room able to share these pics from the weekend and planning out tomorrow’s climbing. As was the case last year, the festival was a fun low-key weekend in a city full of fun and welcoming people that seemed legitimately glad to have us in town, and just like last year, I’ll be heading back to the front range tomorrow certain that I’ll return next year. Maybe  next year Jess and Phoebe will be able to come.

Andy on the comp route under overcast but snow-free skies.
Andy on the comp route under overcast but snow-free skies.
Here I am shaking out some pump about half way up the comp route. Believe it or not, the routes steeper than it appears in this image.
Here I am shaking out some pump about half way up the comp route. Believe it or not, the route's steeper than it appears in this image.

Ch-ch-ch-changes!

It was this cold for several days in the past two weeks. Phoebe's day cae, and all of the locals schools, were closed due to cold temperatures.
It was this cold for several days in the past two weeks. Phoebe's day care and all of the local schools were closed due to cold temperatures.

I’ve never been one to miss an opportunity to reference David Bowie, and this one seems to really fit the last few weeks. We’ve a lot of fun to report on and have barely updated the Gribblog since Christmas. It has been a pretty mild winter in Colorado, with a lot of days in the 50s and even some 60s, but we’ve had a few sub-zero days in the past two weeks as well.

Last weekend we hosted our 11th annual Super Bowl party. We had one very small gathering in Boston (OK, technically we lived in Brighton right between BU and BC on the green line), and we’ve now hosted 10 Super Bowl parties in Colorado. Five years ago, we had a tough choice, but we decided that we should still have a party despite the Steelers’ (Dave’s team) participation in Super Bowl XL. With all of the cooking and small talk and related hosting responsibilities, we didn’t get to “watch” as much of the game as we would have liked, but we did get to share the fun of victory (that was the one for the thumb) with a bunch of friends. Three years later we were faced with the same conundrum, but the decision was a no-brainer and again we got to celebrate with some friends (Rob excluded, as he was rooting for the Cactus Wrens).

This year's version of a Steelers cake. Jess is getting pretty good at making hypocycloids with icing.
This year's version of a Steelers cake. Jess is getting pretty good at making hypocycloids with icing.

This year the decision was a bit more complicated as we had not only a Steelers appearance but also little Phoebe running around. Ultimately we decided we should still hold a party, but we made a smaller than normal guest list. In another attempt to make things easier on us, we prepped a fajita bar so that we wouldn’t have to do any cooking during the party. On Saturday afternoon, we dreamed up a large 3-D helmet cake concept (clearly the result of watching too many weird shows via Netflix like Cake Boss) featuring the Steelers on one side and the Packers on the opposite with a yellow stripe down the middle. We weren’t sure how to make an edible facemask (or black and green fondant for that matter) so we bailed on the massive concept cake and made a chocolate Steelers cake and a separate yellow Packers cake instead. By now we all know that the Steelers came up just short of pulling off the comeback. While the start was a little rough, the game was close in the last quarter and turned out to be pretty enjoyable. I guess we’ll have to wait another year or two for the 7th Lombardi Trophy. The attendance was great, but we should have kept the same no-holds-barred invite list from years gone by. . . on several occasions we wondered where some of our friends were only to remember we snubbed them.

It turns out that a Packers logo uses less yellow icig that we remembered.
It turns out that a Packers logo uses less yellow icing than we remembered.

Sorry to everyone; next year you’re all invited, so unless there is a prolonged lock-out that whacks Super Bowl XLVI, mark your calendars and make your travel plans early!

Since the Super Bowl let-down, Phoebe has accelerated her learning processes. A couple of days ago we were certain that she knew what the wall was, and she would reliably point to it during dinner when prompted; however, in the intervening days, she’s really taken to clapping (which is super cute) and will clap enthusiastically when we ask her where the wall is. I guess she’s currently a one-trick-at-a-time pony.

Speaking of tricks, her newest one is “walking” with just one hand. This one was revealed just yesterday. Phoebe and I were walking around in the children’s section of Borders when I let go of her left hand. Previously she would have immediately sat down, but this time she just kept on walking along. It was so cool, we had to wobble back to the cafe where Jess was busily working on Phoenix stuff to show off the new skill. Jess was amazed, and later that afternoon Phoebe took one little step completely on her own before immediately sitting down and crawling off. It won’t be long until she’s running all over the place. Jess already thinks we’re in big trouble.

Another fun change—this one is still somewhat in the works—will be a new banner and theme update for the blog. It seems it’s about time to add miss Phoebe to the picture at the top of the site, so we’ll be unveiling a new concept in the coming weeks. Keep on the lookout and let us know what you think when it arrives. Of course there are a bunch of other fun new things to report, but I’ve got to leave something for Jess to write about.

Catching Up

Our friend Katie commented that Phoebe sure is fast, in response to Jess’s recent Step Climbing post, and she’s absolutely right. Too fast in fact for her poor parents to keep up with all of her new tricks. Yesterday was my, gasp, 34th birthday. I got a bunch of wonderful presents. Jess and Phoebe decided to go with a couple of pairs of well selected socks (Phoebe picked, see the video below for an example) instead of the jazz CDs I received last year. Although Phoebe seems to be enjoying music reasonably well, and she sat through an entire band concert in the afternoon without a peep, I think it’ll be at least another year before she can assist in proper CD vetting.

I also got a cool new bit of Apple bling. Jess got me one of the new Apple TV things so that in addition to streaming Netflix straight from the Internet, we can pull up videos and photos from the desktop upstairs—visitors be warned! I also finally broke down and ordered a cheap wall mount for the TV from Amazon, so next weekend’s project will be a mix of Christmas preparations and now long-overdue baby-proofing. I’m hoping that with the TV firmly mounted to the wall, at least one small fear will subside.

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Go ahead and nap Mom and Dad; I'll just engage the cruise control and take a turn driving for a while.

In the interest of keeping everything in proper retrograde motion, I’ll proceed to our recent Thanksgiving trip. As many of you likely know, we have a bit of a tradition where we trade off with our friends Jennifer and Lee (and Alexander of course) traveling for the holiday. We started the tradition almost a decade ago, and it’s still going strong. A couple of years ago, it was Jennifer and Lee who got to experience the joys of traveling with a little baby; now this year it was our turn. We’d been monitoring the airplane prices for a couple of months, but since we got a new car back in July, I think both Jess and I were itching for a proper road trip (Phoebe, perhaps not so much). Being as it’s a long drive from Colorado to Michigan, we knew our only hope of success would be to drive all night when Phoebe is generally asleep anyway. As an added benefit, she’s still at an age where the car tends to knock her out, so we weren’t too apprehensive.

Just before hitting the road, I met Jess in Boulder to pick up the car after getting some new snow tires installed. Of course we left this task to literally the eleventh hour, but it all worked out just fine. We got to daycare in time to pick up Phoebe and ultimately hit the road at about 7:00 after getting the little lady fed and changed. She fell asleep almost immediately, and we settled in for a long car ride. Despite some bitter cold temperatures and some wicked wind across Nebraska (A.K.A. nothing unusual), we had lovely, clear, empty-road driving all the way to Chicagoland where we picked up some heavy rain. We also managed to avoid any close encounters of the law enforcement kind this time around. The drive was a bit longer than usual due to some extended out-of-car-seat stops, but not too bad.

We had a lovely, albeit short, visit with the Ott family. Alexander is a little ball of energy, and I think he has more toys than an F.A.O. Schwartz. We missed all of the parades and most of the football games, but we weren’t exactly excited about any of the match-ups anyway. Just after arriving, dinner was ready, so we pigged out and then goofed off a bit in the basement until everybody crashed.

After just a little over a day of hanging out with our friends, we piled back into the car and headed towards Coldwater, Michigan, for a quick visit with one set of Phoebe’s great-grandparents. The Hoots hadn’t met her yet, and seeing how close they are to Saint Joseph, it seemed a perfect opportunity. We decided to grab a sub for lunch with Jennifer and Lee (Alexander doesn’t care for them yet) and stopped at a nearby gas station along the way. When we fired up Luna again after the refueling, the check engine light came on and the cruise control indicator began to flash. Needless to say, this was not a reassuring sight! It also made for an unpleasant and nervous lunch. Jess and I both had BLTs from the Jimmy Johns and Lee explained how to get onto the highway heading towards South Bend. After lunch, we said goodbye and shared a round of hugs. Alexander didn’t want a hug, but I grabbed him from behind and gave him one anyway. He laughed, so I think it was all good.

Back in the car, the various indicator lamps all acted up again when we started the engine, so we discussed our options as we made progress towards the great-grandparents. Neither of us was keen on driving all the way back to Colorado with the prospect of imminent automobile failure (Taco was more than capable of providing us with those kinds of experiences and, quite frankly, the reason we had to get Luna as a replacement). After a few different sections of the manual were consulted, we learned two interesting things about the Subaru. First, a check engine light pretty much indicates an issue somewhere within the emission control system, and second, the issue can be as simple as a loose fuel cap. We pulled off to the side of the road, and I hopped out (after turning off the car) to check the cap. Honestly I couldn’t tell if it was on properly or not, so I removed it and replaced it just to be sure. Of course, the lights all came back on or flashed repeatedly as had been the case, but I was willing to drive to Colorado if the only issue was a little loss of fuel efficiency and a wee bit more CO or NOx emissions. The manual also mentioned that it might take a few trips before the lights stopped illuminating after tightening the fuel cap, but somehow we’d forgotten that aspect. Jess fixated on the alternative suggestion that you could turn the key to ACC and then re-start the engine to clear the error messages. When we stopped briefly a few minutes later to use a restroom at one of the Indian Tool Road’s rest areas, I appeased Jess by doing precisely this and, wouldn’t you know it, the error messages disappeared. Now we’ll never know for sure if it was the ACC position or just waiting long enough for the gas cap tightening to be noticed by the internal sensor. Regardless we were much happier.

On an interesting side note, an earlier glance through the Subaru manual educated me to the unusual procedures recommended for dealing with flat tires. According to Subaru, in order to avoid damaging the symmetrical all wheel drive system, you must never tow the car (this might be why there are so many flat bed tow-trucks in Colorado), and when deploying the spare tire, you must place it on one of the rear wheels (which can mean a lot of extra jacking and lug-nutting if the flat is in the front,) and pull the all-wheel drive fuse to disable the system before driving. I’ve mentioned this to several long-term Subaru owners and it’s been news to all of them. I guess I’m the only loser reading car manuals.

After a little over an hour, we arrived. It was great to get to visit with everyone. We were able to get some video of Phoebe with both of her great grandparents and everybody seemed to have a great time. We had a nice dinner and then relaxed for a couple of hours. We were grilled over our choice of a foreign automobile, but we explained that a Subaru is a requirement for living in Colorado. Somehow that seemed to help. Although a very short visit, it was a good distraction before heading back to Colorado, and dinner allowed us to fully de-stress from the automobile false alarm. The ride home was as uneventful as the trip out, with a similar dose of wind across Nebraska, but much nicer temps. We even arrived home with enough time to relax and take a walk before getting ready to return to work and going to bed.

Going yet a bit further back in time, Phoebe recently started “swimming” lessons. I say “swimming” because splashing or even floating would be better descriptions, but that’s not what they’re calling it at the Burger center. I went to the first lesson in order to get take some photos and shoot a little video of Phoebe’s first time swimming. In general it was pretty fun, but Phoebe and several other little swimmers were getting cold by the end of the half-hour lesson, and Jess was a little apprehensive of the ping pong ball they were supposed to toss out and let the babies “swim” towards and grab. I must agree that it would make a pretty spectacular choking hazard. Happily nobody choked on anything and Phoebe seemed to have a great time except for a brief moment when she lost her balance from a sitting position in the extremely shallow end and slipped underwater. To her credit, Mom was fast, and I’m not sure Phoebe even knew what happened.

Camping Again

Colorado's only real fall color is a very pretty yellow-gold. You can se some of the aspen leaves dispersed throughout the pine trees.
Colorado's only real fall color is a very pretty yellow-gold. You can see some of the aspen leaves dispersed throughout the pine trees.

Last weekend Jess and I wanted to get one last camping trip in before the end of the summer. We were pretty busy, so we couldn’t hit the road until Saturday morning. We were going to go up to the national park, but it turns out it was the last weekend of the year that they take reservations, and everything was reserved. So, we did a little searching and discovered that some of the campgrounds along the Peak to Peak highway were still open.

Come Saturday we got up relatively early and finished packing up our stuff. Most of our gear was already packed from the previous weekend’s aborted trip, but we still had to pack up the cooler. We were supposed to meet our friend Elijah in Boulder at 10:00, but by the time we were leaving the house it was clear that we weren’t going to make it there that early. As things turned out, Elijah needed a few more minutes as well, so everything worked out pretty well.

Jess and Phoebe hiking and smiling.
Jess and Phoebe hiking and smiling.

There were a few nice spots left when we got up to the campground, so we picked the most wooded one and set up our camp. Elijah was planning to sleep under the stars, but we brought a 2nd tent just in case he wanted it. We’d end up setting it up too, but despite some ominous clouds and a couple of late afternoon sprinkles, it never really rained.

We decided to skip lunch and went for a little afternoon hike. Somehow we walked right past the trails and ended up following the road for a couple of miles. We had some fun watching a guy ride his ATV through a giant mud puddle that enveloped a short stretch of the road.The rider was dressed more appropriately for the Saturday cruise ride to Kermit’s than a 4-wheel drive road. Elijah thought he looked like Sylvester Stallone’s character Cobra from the movie with the same name. I’m not sure how he managed to stay mud-free, but he looked relatively clean when he cruised through the campground again later that evening.

Here is one of the images I shot using the Nikon pointed towards the Orion nebula. The images was a 30 second exposure at f/4 with a 24 mm lens and the cmos sensor was set to an ISO equivalent of 3200. You can see the faint glow from either the rising sun or Denver, I can't say which.
Here is one of the images I shot using the Nikon pointed towards the Orion nebula. The image was a 30-second exposure at f/4 with a 24 mm lens and the cmos sensor was set to an ISO equivalent of 3200. You can see the faint glow from either the rising sun or Denver, I can't say which.

While we were navigating the same giant mud puddle on the return trip, Jess managed to step directly into the mud. Turns out it was about ankle deep. Of course she blamed me for not rushing to her aid, but I mean, how would another pair of wet boots have helped us? Phoebe slept most of the hike out, but was awake and happy for most of the return trip.

When we got back to camp, we hopped into the car and made a quick trip to Nederland to pick up some firewood and beer. We were in such a hurry to leave town we’d forgotten to pick up a six pack, so we thought it might be interesting to get a growler from the little smoke house and brew pub on the main drag in Ned. We’d first discovered the place a year or so ago after doing a little mountain biking on the West Magnolia trails with Andy and Gretchen and rather liked the beers we sampled. This time around we agreed on a pretty hopped-up IPA style beer.

Back at camp, we grilled up some brats and made up some garlic mashed potatoes. Elijah cooked a grilled cheese on the fire grate, and we all enjoyed a cup or two from the growler. It didn’t take long for the sun to disappear and Phoebe’s bed time to roll around. Since we’d only picked up one little bundle of wood, the timing worked out pretty well. Everyone went to bed and I poured a couple of gallons over the fire to make sure it was out. The Fourmile Canyon fire was only a few weeks ago, so  fire safety was on the top of all of our minds.

This shot was an 88 second exposure pointed along the Milky Way. You can see a couple of other galaxies as well if you look closely. Here I boosted the contrast a bit and used a little unsharp mask to help the fainter stars stand out from the background. I also used the camera's built-in dark frame subtraction.
This shot was an 88-second exposure pointed along the Milky Way. You can see a couple of other galaxies as well if you look closely. Here I boosted the contrast a bit and used a little unsharp mask to help the fainter stars stand out from the background. I also used the camera's built-in dark frame subtraction. You can also see a little shooting star that luckily crossed part of the field of view.

As I mentioned before, there were a few light sprinkles, but the sky was already clearing by the time we made it into the tent. I planned to get up in the middle of the night in order to take some star photos with the new camera if everything looked clear. We’d also forgotten the changing pad we’d used as a baby-sized sleeping pad, so we put little Phoebe between us to help keep her warm. She again slept great, even if her hands and feet got a bit colder than I would have liked. I, on the other hand, got pretty cold taking photos in the middle of the night and couldn’t warm back up once I returned to the tent.

The next morning, we switched things up a little and Jess cooked some breakfast while I packed up our tent. We headed back into town so that Jess could do a little more of her Phoenix work. We also had some friends from church coming over for the first gathering of a new discussion group that sprung phoenix-like from the ashes of the book group. I managed to get everything ready with Jess’s help just in time for the hordes to arrive.

This is another shot of Orion composed from 5 separate 20 second exposures stacked together using Deep Sky Stacker. I though I'd get a bit more detail, but I guess the seeing wasn't as good as I thought, or I've got a few things to figure out about stacking exposures. Probably a bit of each. Again I boosted the contrast a bit and applied a little unsharp mask to get the final image.
This final image of Orion is a composite from 5 separate 20-second exposures stacked together using Deep Sky Stacker. I though I'd get a bit more detail, but I guess the seeing wasn't as good as I thought, or I've got a few things to figure out about stacking exposures. Probably a bit of each. Again I boosted the contrast a bit and applied a little unsharp mask to get the final image.