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)

Oh Canada!

The mountains from downtown Banff (the town) in Banff (the Park) in Alberta, Canada
The mountains from downtown Banff (the town) in Banff (the Park) in Alberta, Canada

After crossing the border into Canada (see the previous post), we headed north past several small towns. Interestingly, many are much cleaner and more affluent in appearance then their counterparts just south of the border. I wonder if the Canadians think of this part of Canada as the “Deep South”? At any rate, we continued north towards Calgary. Jess commented that the roads were in fabulous shape. For the most part, she was totally correct. I wonder why?

Along the way, we had to pick up gas at the Gas Bar (an interesting Canadian fuel service center). The price was about $0.954 a liter (1 US gallon is about 3.8 liters) which comes to around $3.61 a gallon! I’m sure most of this is in additional taxes. In Canada, the fuel tax rate is province dependent just like it is state dependent in the US. According to Petro-Canada, Alberta currently charges $0.19 + 5% (GST) per liter of gas while Colorado, in comparison, charges around $0.404 per gallon (state and federal) + any applicable local taxes. Again, putting these into consistent units gives a ratio of $0.722 to $0.404 for the fixed taxes. That’s about 32 cents per gallon more in Canada than in the US and doesn’t include the 5% GST charge. While that may not seem like a lot, based on 2008 gasoline consumption in the US (137,800,488,000 gallons),  total state and federal taxes for 2008 should have totaled almost $55.7 billion. If Canadian consumption was equal to US consumption (of course it wasn’t) they’d have collected some $43.8 billion in federal and provincial taxes. Since the Canadian and US dollars are almost equal, I won’t bother with exchange rates, which muddy the discussion.

Road damage or wear is roughly proportional to use, and use is determined by miles driven and vehicle weight—both of which directly influence fuel consumption. The actual Canadian fuel consumption isn’t critical because consumption and wear are roughly proportional. All that matters is the effective tax rate per unit volume of transportation fuel. Based on these numbers, it’s clear that more funds are collected per mile driven than in the US. Assuming the bulk of these funds are earmarked for road construction/maintenance it makes sense that the roads should be in better shape. Just think what an extra 40 billion per year might due to improve federal roads in the US!

Back on the road to Banff, we encountered some rush-hour traffic around Calgary. For some reason it had not occurred to us that the map of Alberta in our big Rand McNally atlas of North America might not be sufficient. Our pathetic attempts to route around Calgary to the southwest instead put us right downtown at 17:00 (Canada-style time). We arrived in Banff with just enough time to drive up to the Mountain Culture Center for the first evening’s talks. On the agenda were climber Chris Sharma, conservationist Mike Fay, and the book awards.

Lake Louise from the trail to the Lake Agnes Teahouse in Banff (the park).
Lake Louise from the trail to the Lake Agnes Teahouse in Banff (the park).

Chris spoke first and discussed his life growing up in the climbing community and his two most recent accomplishments. The first was a new route on a beautiful arch near Mallorca, Spain, called Es Pontas (9b). It’s been called the most difficult deep-water solo in the world, and it’s likely the most beautiful as well. Next up was Sharma’s new route called Jumbo Love (5.15b) on Clark Mountain near the Nevada-California border. Both routes are currently unrepeated, and the latest success is documented in a new film by Peter Mortimer of Sender Films called First Ascent: The Impossible Climb. After Chris’s talk, they announced the book awards from the concurrent Book Festival. Several sounded quite good, including a nonfiction book about geology with climbers as the main audience. Flakes, Jugs, and Splitters by Sarah Garlick (Globe Pequot Press) might actually help me achieve my full Cliff Clavin potential. After Sharma’s talk and the book awards were announced we bailed, as we hadn’t had time to eat beforehand and Jess was getting especially hungry.

Friday morning was our only sight-seeing opportunity of the trip. We were scheduled to watch some more speakers and films that night, and with full days of films on Saturday and Sunday, we really had to make the most of this opening. We hopped back into the car and drove the hour or so from Banff (the town) to Lake Louise. The weather wasn’t spectacular from a picture-taking perspective. The skies were overcast and cloudy with intermittent light snowfall all day. The lake was also mostly frozen, but we did get a chance to see the spectacular blue water from the hike up to the Lake Agnes Teahouse. The teahouse was also closed for the season (remember the theme from the last post), but we did expect as much. Nevertheless, it was a nice hike of about 14 km (round trip) and fit perfectly into our schedule. We had a little fun on the ride home as the roads iced up after the sun set, but the speed limit in Banff (the park) is low enough that it didn’t make much of a difference. We got back just in time to get a little dinner before the night’s speaker.

Dave in front of the Lake Agnes Teahouse. I don't know why they weren't open. We made the hike in just over an hour despite the snow. Canadians are weak!
Dave in front of the Lake Agnes Teahouse. I don't know why they weren't open. We made the hike in just over an hour despite the snow. Canadians are weak!

At 7:30 we settled into our assigned seats and listened to Ueli Steck tell us about his unbelievable, record-setting speed ascents of the Eiger-, Grandes Jorasses-, and Matterhorn-Nordwand (North Face). Local hero Will Gadd introduced Ueli and told us a fun story about how he passed the mountain guide tests in Alberta without speaking English. Ueli started his talk by assuring us his English was much improved. He explained how he became inspired to try speed climbing on the Eiger in the first place, and ultimately the training regime he employed to pull off the summit in under 3 hours. He even told us about finding a British climber’s crampon on his first solo attempt. The climber eventually heard about Ueli’s ascent and e-mailed to thank him for the crampon. I guess having a few soloists around makes everyone safer!

Saturday we spent almost the entire day watching films. We misread the schedule and got out of bed a little late for the first film, but otherwise we made it to every screening, for a total of 9 different films. The films were all quite good and featured the film about Chris Sharma’s ascent of Jumbo Love, which someone in line described as better than Chris Sharma in person. I guess that’s about the best compliment a filmmaker could receive, and I kinda agree. There were a couple of films about Yellowstone. A spectacular feature about life in the park during winter and another short featured an interesting member of the previous film’s crew. He likes to swim the Yellowstone River, and the film documented both his unique pastime and the plight of the endangered Cutthroat Trout of Yellowstone. We also watched Solo, the heart-wrenching tale of Andrew McAuley’s attempt to become the first person to kayak across the ferocious Tasman Sea from Australian to New Zealand. It’s staggering what he persevered through on his 1600 km voyage only to die within sight of the coast of New Zealand.

The Saturday night speaker was ultra-marathoner Dean Karnazes. He’s recently published an experiential book about running 50 marathons in 50 days and he’s been on David Letterman. As you might expect, he’s got an awful lot of energy. Among other things, we learned what he eats while running. It includes just about anything he can get his hands on, including whole pizzas delivered to intersections at pre-arranged times by a very trusting San Francisco pizzeria. Dean explained that you order them un-cut, roll them up like a burrito, and gnaw away as you run. In a recent 200 mile relay that he ran solo, he monitored all of the calories he ate. After 72+ hours and thousands of calories, he still lost 4 pounds. He joked that an ultramarathon diet books was in the works. In all seriousness, he’s now planning to run a marathon in every officially recognized country in a single calendar year. Wikipedia lists 193 generally recognized states and 204 if you include de facto or de jure states. Either way, that’s a nearly 4 marathons a week for an entire year or a whopping 5057–5345 miles! I think even my co-worker Jim “Wildman” Fisher would call that crazy.

Sunday we settled in for another day of film watching. This time we got up early enough to not only see the day’s first film (A NOVA special called Extreme Ice that documented changes in global ice) but also get some of the comfy armchairs. Actually the Sunday morning session in the Max Bell Auditorium wasn’t as heavily attended as the Saturday sessions. Perhaps people were skiing or attending church. Either way, they missed some  excellent films. My favorite from the morning was footage of an elusive Snow Leopard and her “kitten” in Pakistan. The movie also featured probably 95+ percent of all of the extant footage of these animals in the wild. Also documented were some incredibly sure-footed mountain goats butting each other on improbably-steep slopes. Despite the crazy violence, the goats all managed to avoid toppling down the hillside as they vied for mating superiority. The leopard was no slouch on the slopes either. I know more than a few climbers that would be envious of how she moved across the rocks.

In total, we watched 21 films, listened to 3 different speakers, and enjoyed a simulcast on free soloing called “Party of One: Leaving the Rope at Home” with Peter Croft, Matt Maddaloni, Royal Robbins, Ueli Steck, and Peter Mortimer while eating lunch. We had a great time, despite all the driving, and we highly recommend attending the festival if you ever have the chance. As an alternative, you should at least plan to attend a local screening of the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour if it’s coming to your area. If you like either films or mountain culture, you’ll like what you see. I know we’ll be going to at least one of the showings in Boulder, because we didn’t see anything from the Radical Reels night and we need our mountain biking/whitewater kayaking/extreme snow sports/mountain unicycling/base jumping/rock climbing fix.

P.S. from Jess: On the way home, we stopped at my new favorite coffee shop in Bozeman for some dessert in lieu of dinner and WiFi. We got back into town at 5:45 a.m. and slept until 7:15 or so, before heading off to work. There’s no rule that says you have to be rested at the end of a great vacation!

The Second Weekend of November and the First Blog

Hi everyone! I’ve been wanting to start a blog for a while, but it never seemed like the right time. Nothing momentus ever happened. Well, nothing momentus enough. On the other hand, Dave and I would like to keep in touch with all of you, so I guess now is as good a time as any to begin. I can warm up for the inevitable New Year’s resolution, in which I promise to blog every day. Which will likely last, as these things do, until the second week of January. Maybe you can keep me honest.

Hi everyone! I’ve been wanting to start a blog for a while, but it never seemed like the right time. Nothing momentus ever happened. Well, nothing momentus enough. On the other hand, Dave and I would like to keep in touch with all of you, so I guess now is as good a time as any to begin. I can warm up for the inevitable New Year’s resolution, in which I promise to blog every day. Which will likely last, as these things do, until the second week of January. Maybe you can keep me honest.

We had a reasonably eventful weekend, actually. After some discussion, I wound up riding Tatonka to work on Friday because Dave had to go back to the doctor for a week-long sore throat, so he needed to drive Taco. I couldn’t ride the bus because I had a Rowman & Littlefield reunion to attend after work. I’ve only been gone four months, but several friends and I had been planning to get as many ex-R&L-ers together as we could. We thought of more than fifty people who have passed through the Boulder office! We wound up with thirteen people that evening, and we had a lovely time at Dolan’s, which Dave calls the “old people’s steakhouse.” (He might have stolen that from someone.) I’d never been there before, but the happy hour prices were great and there’s a cool room way at the back that easily accommodated us. Anyway, I had fun catching up with old friends, and I was among the last group to leave. When I got out to the parking lot, my motorcycle wouldn’t start! It tried to turn over a couple of times early on, but mostly made a “cccccccc” sound when I pressed the starter. I took out my “MOM” (motorcycle owner’s manual) and tried to find the problem. The manual mentioned that the engine might be flooded, so I followed the instructions for fixing that, to no avail. I went back into the restaurant and called Dave to tell him what was going on, and then I gathered up my helmet and two motorcycle bags, which I didn’t want to leave out overnight. I headed for the bus home. I was walking down the wrong side of the road when I saw the bus, behind me a bit. I managed, miraculously, to cross the road before the bus and took off running to get to the stop. Running in motorcycle boots is uncomfortable and it was really awkward with all that stuff in my hands. I could tell I wasn’t going to make it, and the bus only comes once an hour, so I was feeling pretty dejected (while still running). But the bus pulled up next to me and the door opened! The driver shouted, “I wasn’t going to make you run all that way!”

Perhaps my luck had turned! I got on, set my stuff down, and found the right change in my jacket–another surprise, since I don’t usually have cash. The driver told me that he’s a biker and he stopped because he saw my helmet. “Where’s the bike?” he wanted to know. I explained about the noise and he said that the battery must be dead. He said I could buy another one at Wal-Mart, much cheaper than going to a bike shop. I said, “But what if I don’t shop at Wal-Mart?” and the only other guy on the bus pointed at me and said “right on.” Then he pulled the cord and got off. The bus driver–Michael–and I got to chatting about bikes and his previous life. He rides a Harley, has been in two bad accidents, and keeps a couple of Hondas around to work on. He did a stint as a physicist, working on lasers, in California, but quit when he realized that his co-workers never got his jokes. Plus, he was just doing the work to make his dad proud. He quit the high-paying job, sold his house, moved to Boulder, and still enjoys driving a bus, because he likes to be around people and, as a little kid, he always thought it would be cool to drive something that big. Did I believe him? Mostly. Let’s say this: I really wanted to believe him. And I was pleased to hear that his dad wasn’t disappointed.

It turned out that the bus route was to Erie, which is nearby, but isn’t Lafaytte, where I was trying to go. So Michael let me off as close to home as the route went, at the King Soopers where I usually buy groceries. (Dad, if you’re reading this, it’s at Baseline and 287.) I called Dave to pick me up, which didn’t take too long. The next morning I woke up worrying about Tatonka. Dave had a meeting with some church folks at a coffee shop in Lafayette, so we had breakfast together (Santiago’s burritos–the cheapest and best breakfast in town!) and then parted ways. I drove into Boulder and discovered that CU was playing football at home that afternoon. That meant that Dolan’s was renting parking spaces for $15, but luckily my bike was still there and wasn’t ticketed. I took out the battery, following the instructions in my MOM closely, and making due with the tools I had. I brought some extra sockets, but I brought the wrong wrench and couldn’t attach them. I ended up making a handle of sorts by jamming an Allen key into the end of the socket and holding my breath. It worked! I learned a few interesting things about some tools I should add to the kit that came with the bike. I drove the battery over to Powersports, where I bought Tatonka. They confirmed that the battery was dead and sold me a new one (at, I later discovered, a very steep markup!) and a trickle charger, which I’d been meaning to get anyway. Since the guy told me the battery needed to be charged, which he told me would take six hours, I met Dave and we headed home. What do you know? It was charged in about an hour, so I’m sure it would’ve started the bike. Oh, well. I learned another interesting thing about not buying stuff without looking around first, even if you’re eager to get your bike home safely in the garage.

New topic, having to do with Saturday afternoon.

We recently had the house painted, and it’s gorgeous. The main color is Wine Barrel, which is a red with a lot of brown. The trim is Mountain Elk, a green with a lot of gray. We generally do home improvements ourselves, and were totally thrilled to come home each day to see more and more of the house painted. Without us doing anything! If you’re in the Boulder area and need a painter, we recommend Bill Wilson of We Bee Paintin’. He was terrific and reasonably priced. (Plus he’s a Browns fan!) However, we had asked him to match the paint scheme of the houses next door, so he’d painted some of the window trim Wine Barrel. We decided that we wanted it to be Mountain Elk instead. I wanted to get it done before the winter, so we wouldn’t be putting new paint on a slightly faded house. (Even in the winter, the sun is out almost every day, and the UV is powerful!) So I went out and painted the first coat of most of the trim. That felt like a good accomplishment, and then we drove into town to put the new battery into Tatonka. It didn’t take too long to reverse the process, with better tools this time, and it sure was nice to hear the engine start up!

Then we headed over to church for a concert. Our music director, Jim, is just terrific, and he has a bunch of talented friends. This concert featured him on piano, our organist, Kristina, on organ, and dynamic soprano Julie Mark, singing the heck out of some opera music. How nice to hear live music on a Saturday night! We got home in time to watch Eastern Promises, our newest Netflix rental. I’d heard that I’d have the pleasure of seeing Viggo Mortensen in his altogether (albeit in a knife fight in a sauna), so I’d been wanting to see it. Too much gore in places, although I suspect that’s normal in a Russian gangster movie. I think I ended up liking it more than Dave did, even though I thought it ended right in the middle of the story. And of course, as always, he had to explain who was who the whole time and what the heck they were talking about. I’m one of those people who never figures out the answer to the murder mystery until the author tells me…and sometimes I don’t even really understand it then.


Sunday was nice too. I woke up at 8:00 a.m. with the sun in my eyes, so I got up and made this frittata I’ve been wanting to cook. I was looking for a recipe that includes both pumpkin and zucchini (two vegetables that seem to work in my garden). You brown the vegetables and then pour eggs mixed with cream and feta cheese in with the veggies. Then bake. The Australian recipe I got online said “in a moderately hot oven.” The translating from metric to English wasn’t too hard (thanks to Google), but since I’m not a grandma yet, I don’t understand directions like “a pinch,” “moderately hot,” or “until it’s workable.” I tried 350 and, lo and behold, it worked! I thought it was delicious, especially with pepper. Dave thought it was too sweet, but ate it anyway. He’s such a good guy! Then we went to church and listened to a great sermon that tied chosing to live as God asks (the five silly and five wise bridesmaids) with stewardship. (I also spent plenty of time making faces at John Brinkman, our friends’ six-month-old. He was in a great mood and wearing little overalls with a football on them and a matching shirt. How could I resist?) Then I dropped Dave at The Laughing Goat, a terrific coffee shop in town (Best. lattes. ever. Well, okay, they’re really good at Amante and Trident and Vic’s, too.) I went home to finish the painting, which included trying to surprise Dave by painting the trim on the two high windows that our ladder wouldn’t reach. I sat on the windowsill and leaned out. (Carefully, Mom.) I also did the second coat on yesterday’s work. And then a second coat on the high windows.

It was 3:30 by the time I was done, so I drove into town to meet Dave, Ben, Christina, Elijah, and Matt for a bit of soccer. It was a gorgeous day, warm enough for short sleeves, even for me. I remember that November 1 was that warm, and now we’re already at November 9 and the sun is still out! The weather is supposed to turn crummy tomorrow. After soccer we had some dinner (Little Ceasar’s Hot and Ready pizza) and watched some Sunday night football (the Giants beat the Eagles). Now I’m here, starting a blog. Not too shabby! I think I’m even ready for work tomorrow. It’s a three-day week because we’re headed to Portland. But more on that later.

Our house, pre-paint job, showing the new colors. (Thanks, Mom and Don!) Pink. We were ready for a change.
Our house, pre-paint job, showing the new colors. (Thanks, Mom and Don!) Pink...we were ready for a change.