Weekend with the Baby

We had a very nice weekend with Miss Phoebe. Once again, it was a delight to have Daddy home! After a stop at the coffee shop, where we consumed breakfast, we headed to the flagship REI in Denver to look at baby backpacks. We’ve mostly settled on a Deuter backpack that comes highly recommended, but we wanted to try out some other options. We walked around the store with Phoebe in the Bjorn and bags of weight in the backpack (she’s too little to hold her head up and sit in the pack). Dave always wants to look at tents, so we did that. We also sat outside to feed Phoebe and do Daddy’s first diaper change on the fly—it was a gorgeous afternoon. Lots of cyclists out. Dave and I are itching to get back on our bikes! We have a trailer for Phoebe, but she has to be able to hold her head up before we can use it. Saturday afternoon we spent watching Transporter and Transporter 2 on TV and feeding Phoebe.

Saturday evening Phoebe got another sponge bath—not her favorite activity. But Daddy made her a cute mohawk.

Bathtime mohawk.
Bathtime mohawk.

Sunday was another beautiful day. We went to church and then headed over to Mount Sanitas, a mountain just at the edge of Boulder, to hike. Dave carried Phoebe in the Bjorn and I carried the diaper bag complete with a picnic. We stopped pretty quickly for lunch.

The Gribble family on a picnic.
The Gribble family on a picnic.

After lunch, we hiked up, up, up to the top of the mountain and then hiked down the east side back to our car. We learned from an interpretive sign that there used to be sandstone mining on Sanitas and that some of CU’s buildings are built with local sandstone. The view of the Indian Peaks was gorgeous!

The Indian Peaks from Mount Sanitas.
The Indian Peaks from Mount Sanitas.

After our hike, we met Ben and Elijah to throw the football for a few minutes and then headed over to Amante to watch the Paris-Roubaix bike race on TV. We got home just in time to let Jen in. She brought a delicious strata for dinner. Yum! Phoebe was as hungry as we were after our long day…she ate almost continuously from 7:00 p.m. through midnight. She also shrieked and cried quite a bit. Tummy ache? General grouchiness? Who can read the mind of a baby?

Happily, last night was better and Phoebe is napping as I type. Here’s a final video:

Phoebe tries to wake up (unsuccessfully)

What’s for you in Banff, eh?

This is the cute coffee shop in Bozeman, Montana (Home Page) we stopped at on our way to Glacier.
This is the cute coffee shop (Home Page) in Bozeman, Montana, where we stopped on our way to Glacier. It's also the first picture owing to sunrise having just happened!

Yup, that’s what the customs officer asked us as we crossed the border from Montana into Alberta early on Thursday afternoon. I was thinking, are you serious?, but I answered politely. I guess they’re probably more paranoid at the small back-country border-crossing deeply in unabomber territory than in other places.

So far, we’ve been having an awesome vacation. It started, as many Gribble vacations do, with a lot of car time. We left Boulder basically after work on Tuesday night and drove through cover of darkness into Montana. The rental car we’re using for the trip has XM Satellite Radio pre-installed, and I must say it’s a pretty nice feature. We don’t typically have much luck finding radio stations in Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, etc. so it was certainly convenient to be able to put something on, get a clear signal, and not have to search for something new every few miles. As an added side benefit, I was actually able to listen to a Penguins game. Unfortunately, it was the Ducks radio broadcast crew, but the Pens managed to get their 7th straight road victory to open the season.

After driving all night without much traffic, we pulled into Bozeman, Montana, just in time to watch the sun come up while grabbing some breakfast and coffee in one of the downtown’s many coffee shops. A review of the other options should really be forthcoming! Jess sat in the coffee shop for a bit using their WiFi to get some of her teaching work done, while I walked around the downtown taking pictures. I think I passed 3 other coffee shops, a bagel place, two fly shops, a few mountain sports/mountain bike/ski shops, a couple of banks, and the rest of the stuff you see in a typical mountain town. There are some nice older buildings, and the downtown is generally quite clean. You could also catch a glimpse of mountains in just about every direction, and that’s always a good sign.

The museus of mine history at Montana Tech in Butte. Unfortunately, it was closed for the season. We'd see more of that trend throughout the trip.
The World Museum of Mining at Montana Tech in Butte. Unfortunately, it was closed for the season. We'd see more of that trend throughout the trip.

After leaving Bozeman, we started our sight-seeing phase of the long drive to Banff. We stopped briefly in just about every city we passed through. I got to check out the awesome (at least in size) Berkley Mine Pit in Butte, but alas we couldn’t get into position for a good photograph. Before getting back onto the road, we grabbed another cup of coffee, it was getting harder to stay alert, and despite being very reasonably priced, this time it came with a bendy straw! I guess there are weird customs all over the place.

By this point, we were getting anxious to reach Glacier and do some real sightseeing. We finally got to Missoula, where we left the super highways for slower roads. By now we were driving past a variety of splendid mountains and lakes. The northwest corner of Montana is quite lovely. We had a little traffic to contend with from a couple of road construction projects, but it was a pretty nice drive. When we arrived in West Glacier, just outside the park, we discovered that the National Park is pretty much closed for the winter.

Jess and I in front of the snow covered mountains of Glacier National Park as seen from Apgar Villiage.
Jess and I in front of the snow covered mountains of Glacier National Park as seen from Apgar Villiage.

We used the self-pay station, as the park was pretty much deserted; however, some recent snow sitting on the mountain peaks really made things spectacular. We spent a few hours driving around and snapping pictures. While only a few miles of the Going-To-The-Sun Road were open from each direction, it seemed there was a new and fantastic view of the mountains around each corner. I pity those that have to view the slideshows later!

We had planned to get something to eat in Kalispell, MT, that night and camp in the park, but I hadn’t realized how far it was from the west entrance of Glacier National Park to Kalispell. Instead we decided to try our luck with the next little town heading east around the park and see where we could find to camp. It turns out that a little Forest Service campground near the summit of Marina (?) pass was open and we found a little greasy spoon in Browning. I think we were in camp by about 8:00 and asleep by 8:30.

Super-Duper Heil Ranch

Ski Magazine published an editorial a while back where the writer was ticked-off about living in Boulder. Sure, it was tongue-in-cheek, but it was pretty accurate. And it’s true, Boulder doesn’t have a doughnut shop anywhere in town! That’s why it was funny. The truth is that everyone in Boulder is pretty much lame in comparison to someone else. The town, and even the county, is so full of extreme athletes, you can hardly throw a stone without hitting someone who climbs 5.14 or kayaks class V+ or holds the current U.S. pro cycling title. In general, merely competent athletes aren’t even also-rans in Boulder.

Topo map for the Super-Duper Heil Ranch ride. Only the read portion of the route was a repeat. I went into Boulder on the blue route and returned from Lyons on the green route. Unfortunately my topo map software is too old to include the trails at Heil Valley Ranch, so just imagine some twisty route between the end of the blue and the beginning of the green segments. Total route (dirt included) was about 60 miles.
Topo map for the Super-Duper Heil Ranch ride. Only the red portion of the route was a repeat. I went into Boulder on the blue route and returned from Lyons on the green route. Unfortunately my topo map software is too old to include the trails at Heil Valley Ranch, so just imagine some twisty route between the end of the blue and the beginning of the green segments. Total route (dirt included) was about 60 miles.

Case in point: Yesterday I had a rare day off while Jess had to work, so I decided to go for a long mountain bike ride. I’m not a big fan of driving to trailheads, but there really aren’t any trails very near the house. This is unfortunate, because there’s plenty of amenable terrain. Nevertheless, I decided to try riding the new Picture Rock trail that opened last year connecting Heil Valley Ranch to Hall Ranch in nearby Lyons. For years Super Hall Ranch has been a standard ride where you leave from Boulder and ride to Lyons before tackling Hall Ranch. Of course you ride back when it’s all finished, with perhaps a stop by Oscar Blues for beer and a burger.

My plan was a bit more ambitious because I was going to leave from Lafayette and combine Heil Valley Ranch with Hall Ranch and a lot more road. The first 15 miles went by pretty uneventfully, landing me at the Amante Coffee in North Boulder. On the weekends, this is possibly the most popular rendezvous spot for groups of cyclists (road and mountain alike), heading off into the mountain roads west of town. While I was sitting outside enjoying a mocha and some biscotti, up rode a former coworker, and current domestic pro cyclist, Tom Zirbel. You may have heard of him. We had a nice chat. He’s house shopping with his girlfriend between training and racing. Yesterday he was doing some motor pacing, where you ride fast (really fast if you’re Tom) behind a motorcycle.

Shortly thereafter, one of Tom’s teammates rode up, and since I’d finished my drink, I started up the canyon towards the trailhead. After a mile or two of riding, I was about to catch a pair of road cyclists when Tom’s teammate passed me like a bullet shot out of a gun. I looked down for a minute, and when I looked back up again he was about a mile down the road. Grant you, I was on a mountain bike with 2.4″ knobby tires, but I was still doing around 20 mph. Another minute later, I heard a motorcycle closing in on me. Tom shouted to get on (the pace line), and for a second I thought about doing just that, but there was no way. Even on the road bike it would have taken everything I had available to hang for even a mile.

After another 8 miles, I’d reached the trailhead just off Left Hand Canyon Road. From there, it’s about 2.5 miles of rocky climbing to reach the upper loops. Part way around the loop you then come to a junction with the Picture Rock trail that takes about 5.5 miles of almost exclusively downhill riding into Lyons. The new trail is a bit rocky at the top, but turns into some really fun singletrack in the latter half. There are even a few colorful bits of art (if you can call a rusted old bullet-riddled car art) to check out along the way. There are also a bunch of deer. Clearly they’re quite accustomed to people, because they weren’t the least bit fazed by my presence.

At the oposite trailhead, in Lyons, my day’s mileage was at about 34 miles (about 10 on dirt). When I packed for the day’s ride, the pantry was bare. Normally we have a few Clif Bars sitting around, but there just wasn’t anything to bring on the ride. At that point, I was super hungry, so I found a little pizza shop in Lyons and gobbled down their lunch special (2 slices and a fountain drink). My legs felt pretty good, but my butt was pretty sore. I have a long-term rant about bike shops not selling seats properly. There’s no good way to tell if a seat is going to work well for a rider unless you log some time atop it, preferably on your own bike. Therefore, my seat is less than ideal, and after a few hours and 30+ miles, so is the comfort level of my derrier.

At any rate, I needed to get home to shower and meet Jess for Good Friday service at church. Since I wasn’t wearing a watch and have no cyclometer on the mountain bike, I wasn’t sure what time it was. Nevertheless, the sun was out now, so I could tell it was well past noon, maybe 3:00.  I would have to pass on Hall Ranch and just ride back to Lafayette instead. I took a slightly different route, and made it back to the house by about 5:30.  In total, it was about 6 hours on the bike and about 60 miles of riding for a pathetic 10 miles per hour average. I’ll have to ride Super-Duper Heil Ranch again some day and see if I can improve my time.

Jess’s Suggestions for Top-Notch Laptop Use

I’m no expert, but I sit in front of a computer all day, so here are my suggestions, à la Dave Letterman:

10. Make sure you have a high-speed Internet connection.

9. Buy a computer with a built-in video camera so you can Skype with your video-enabled friends and family.

8. Tell your video-enabled friends and family that you’d rather not see up their nostrils. Before you both log on.

7. Buy a USB or Bluetooth mouse and turn your touchpad off when you have the table space to use the mouse. (If your computer is new enough to come with that option.) It keeps you from bumping the touchpad, which makes the cursor of another sentence jump around, which makes you type half a sentence in the middle. (Darn it!)

6. Quit taking photos of yourself using the built-in camera!

5. For maximum pleasure, sit in a yuppie Boulder coffee shop with other yuppie Boulder laptopers, most of them wearing Spandex. Travel with lots of USB devices and headphones. Plug your computer into the wall, plug all your devices into the computer, and get busy doing important things like checking the weather while you watch it snow through the big coffee shop windows.

4. If you have kids, make sure to have a blog or photo gallery account with at least three hundred pictures of them. Insist that it’ll only take a minute to fire up the laptop and log into the forty-five pictures of Billy’s second birthday party, including a 365° view of him blowing out the candles and mashing cake all over himself.

3. Work everywhere you go. Weekends, evenings…we’re American, after all!

2. Spend plenty of time with your husband/wife/life partner. This is very important to a strong relationship. Make sure to occasionally smile across the glowing screen of your laptop and read a few sentences from whatever extremely specialized document you’re perusing. Pretend to yourself that your sweetie is paying attention to the amazing new Linux platform or poem scansion you’ve discovered. Feel the connection of true love. (Quickly, before his or her eyes dart back to the screen!)

AND FINALLY,

1. Always travel with your system administrator. Show her/him any virus messages that pop up, and feel free to make unreasonable demands. Also feel free to offer her/his services to any friends, colleagues, or random people on the street. (“Seriously, s/he likes to spend every waking minute of the weekend working on other people’s computer problems!”)

XHTML Ain’t Brain Surgery

Coding things for the web isn’t really all that difficult. It certainly isn’t brain surgery, and it isn’t even computer programming—sorry if that deflates anybody’s ego. There are really just a few simple rules that you need to follow. While this isn’t going to be an XHTML (eXtensible HyperText Markup Language) tutorial, I’ll give you all a few neat tips that seem to stump newbies the world over.

For starters, make sure you have the appropriate header info at the beginning of your XHTML document. If this seems terribly foreign, point your browser the the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) for a full primer. The most important part of your header isn’t all of that author garbage or meta-tag nastiness created by overpriced WYSIWYG web design suites. Rather it is the DTD (Document Type Definition). This is critical, because if you’ve dropped tables as a design element (and really you should, but that’s a rant of another color) and embraced CSS (Cascading Style Sheets), the DTD is essential for the web browser displaying your creation to get things right. In XHTML, there are 3 valid DTDs, but unless you’re using frames (and who’s doing that anymore?), you can just concern yourself with the strict and transitional definitions.

A big part of XHTML is the requirement that everything be well formed. What this actually means is that all tags like <something goes here> must be closed. In the previous example, the tag “<something goes here>” isn’t closed. In fact, it’s meaningless jibber-jabber that even Internet Explorer won’t be able to make sense of. A real world example would be something like <p>Here is a paragraph</P>. The <p> tag is the indication of the opening of the paragraph. The 2nd tag, </p>, indicates the end of the paragraph. This is pretty simple stuff, but when paired with cascading style sheets, it’s an extremely powerful and lightweight way to instruct browsers on how to display your content.

Okay, so you don’t want to sit at an empty notepad and write your blog entry with all of these tags, and besides, you’re using some blogging software that does all of this for you, so what’s the point? Well, unless your software is far more sophisticated than mine, there are a number of things it won’t do for you. For starters, there’s no way to use subscripts like H2O or superscripts like 22 = 4. This can be annoying, but with just a little knowledge, and another browser window with Google open, you can get all of these functions and several useful symbols like em dashes and degree symbols.

First, putting expressions into superscript (subscript, italics, bold, etc.) is quite easy. For our example we’ll create a superscript. Let’s say we want to write 5.95 nanometers in scientific notation. The proper notation would be 5.95 x 10-9. But how do we get this exponent to appear as a superscript? The answer is to enclose the exponent within the proper tags for a superscript. In XHTML, the opening tag is <sup>and the closing tag is </sup>. Closing tags are just as important as opening tags, and they can always be recognized by the “/” located just after the “<” symbol.

Now for the next piece of the puzzle. Let’s say you want to write 27 degrees Celsius, but you’d rather see it as 27° C. How do you get that to happen? Here we are going to use an HTML expression for a special character. In this case we want the degree symbol. Go back to your trusty search engine and Google (or Yahoo! if you prefer) something like HTML and degrees symbol. You should be rewarded with a page like this one that lists codes for an assortment of special characters. The code for the degrees symbol is &deg; and when interpreted by the browser properly displays °. Of course, don’t limit yourself to just temperatures and angles; look up the code for other things like the em dash “&mdash;” or if you’re blogging at a sweet cafe, why not write café instead?

Now that you’ve got all the skills necessary to wow your blog devotees, remember this one parting caution. In order to add these tags and special characters, you’ll need to be working with the raw XHTML. Almost all GUI interfaces will convert special characters like {&, <, and >} into the appropriate codes in order to prevent them from being interpreted in bowsers as part of the markup. Therefore, you must be working with the markup directly in order to avoid this happening. All of the programs are a little different, but look for a button labeled “HTML” or something similar.