Pikes Peak

Pikes Peak

Sunday, 28 August 2011

My failed adventure

My adventures this week prove that  even the best laid plans can go wrong...

One of the other wives (Zoe), a friend of hers from home (Marika) and I all planned to go for a two night get away down towards the southern Colorado to explore some of the bigger tourist traps in the state.

Zoe drove for this adventure in her great big Jeep. Once we finally woke up and got on the road, it was lunch time when we checked into our hotel in Publeo.  We then set out for our first destination: Royal Gorge (http://royalgorgebridge.com/). It is this spectacular bridge over a 1000 ft gorge, with a mini wild west park around it.  We walked across the bridge, visited old town Cannon City, saw a long horned cow that made a Clydesdale look like a pony, caught the cable car back across the gorge and then a vertical train down to the bottom of the gorge to see the stream.  It was a great afternoon, despite the thunder and lighting. 

We left fairly late in the afternoon, to go back to town for dinner.  When we got into the car, we could hear a knocking sound from the engine.  It's possible the car had been making that noise on the way to the gorge, but due to the quality conversation and fantastic music, we never heard anything.  We rang Zoe's husband to inform him the car was making a bit of noise, and he said not to worry about it. So we got into the car and drove back to the hotel.

At the hotel, ignoring all husband's comments to not worry about it, we all piled out of the car and looked at the engine.  It wasn't any of the fan belts, and the water, oil and other mechanical type liquids were adequately full, and nothing seemed particularly hinky (technical term).  Acknowledging that Zoe's husband could have been right, we chose not to pay any attention to the constant knocking and went to tea.
The next morning, after a lay in (Marika and I) and some uni study (Zoe), we set out to drive to the San Luis Valley about and hour and half south east.  The car was still making that god-awful sound, but we were so excited to go to the alpine sand dunes, that we didn't pay too much attention....

About 40 minutes in the journey the car jolted - it kind of felt like it lost a gear/power. but it picked back up and we continued on.  Carefully.  What ever it was, it didn't like it when the driver tried to get a little power out of the car to over take... 10 minutes later, it happened again, but this time we pulled over.  

We were on one of the main state highways, however the road was a bit narrow.  Climbing carefully out of the car, once again, we all knowledgeably moved to the front and examined the engine.  It seemed fine...but now the car wouldn't start...
So an hour later, the tow truck picked us up and drove us to the small town of Trinidad (with some quality country music on the radio).  The mechanic tried to start the car there... but the pistons and whatever they were attached to exploded and sent shrapnel flying.  We figured at this point our adventures were done.  Trying to think practically, we rang around for a hire car, but we arrived a 5:05pm.  Everything was closed, so we were stuck there for the night. 

We booked into another hotel, and sent an SOS to Denver for one of the other families to come save us.  The next day, we checked out of two hotels, collected our belongings from the car (that is still sitting in the garage down there) and one of the boys drove us the 4 hours home.  You can't imagine how grateful we were to him.

It wasn't quiet the adventure we had planed on but we did learn a few things.  
1) always have a phone charger in your bag - you'll never know when you need it
2)  if you have nothing to your name but the clothes on your back, you can buy everything else at Walmart
3) pizza and a margaretta will always cheer your friends up
4) and ignore your husband when he says the noises from your engine "will be right". He's wrong! 

Tristan's adventure at 6 flags also went sour this week with his phone going overboard while he was on a rollar coaster... not sure what lesson he learnt, but I'm sure that the result will be a new iPhone! 

All in all, we are safe and healthy, and have had a good laugh at ourselves.

Missing you all

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Our little stowaway

Dear All,

As you should all be aware by now, Tristan and I had a little stowaway with us when we left Australia a few months a go - we were in the very early stages of our first pregnancy. 

This made our departure from close friends and family interesting....

While it was lovely to be able to tell so many of our loved ones to their faces that there were expecting their first great grandchild, grandchild, niece/nephew, there were many more people who we weren't able to tell as it was so early.  This was made even more interesting when, in our excitement, we would blab to a room full of people, and then had to remember which if our friends knew and didn't know.  However, I am quietly confident that of those people who came to our farewell party in Canberra, no one left with our some firm suspicions.

While the theory of having an Aussie made baby made complete sense to me when we left, it has curbed some of the fun that  I could be having in my first few months in a foreign land.  Morning sickness has made mornings unbearable and a required bedtime of 9pm.  Poor Tristan had to make the most of the first few weeks together to get our house and cars set, as I was laying in bed feeling sorry for myself. All my welcome drinks have all been virgin and I've been a picky eater to say the least (God bless breakfast cereals !!!). Most of this has passed now, though I still need a strict bedtime - I feel like I'm 10 again!!

Luckily, we have had plenty of support of this side of the Pacific to help me through those tougher days while Tristan is away. 

Doctors tell us that little RJ (Rueben Jnr) is growing well and has an enormous head - I wonder who he gets that off! He has a strong heart beat, and spends plenty of time playing acrobatics on the ultrasounds.

In a couple of months we'll find out if it is a he or she so I can occupy myself decorating the nursery.  As a part of our furniture package we were given some beautiful white baby furniture. However, the white room, with white blinds and white furniture needs some colour!!

It will be fun to catch up with Tristan in a few weeks so he can see my ever growing belly! 

We'll keep you in the loop as both RJ and I grow bigger. 

soon to be proud parents 
Tristan and Penni 

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Penni's first adventure in Colorado

Fellow adventures, 

Today I set forth on my very first adventure in Colorado! 

Tired of being home alone, Zoe (another Aussie wife) and I set out on a grand adventure.  

First we needed to venture on to the Interstate 25 hwy - the scary 6 lane highway in which going at 70 miles an hour (the speed limit) will see you being run off the road for going too slow!  Deciding that we wanted to avoid any peak hour complications, we left home at the more reasonable hour of 9:30 am.  This also enabled us to sleep in ;-) 

After fighting off the trucks, RVs and speeding cars, we safety made our way down the 45 miles of freeway to Colorado Springs.  While the freeway avoids all the little towns, we still got to see the spectacular mountain scenery.  The mountains are like nothing you can describe - they jump out of the seemingly flat paddock, in to red, roaring peaks that you need to crane your neck to see the top of.  And then, to completely confuse you, many of them have flat tops - like a giant has come along and cut the top off - it is really incredible.  Then there are others that tower into the sky forever. 

Once we made it to Colorado Springs, we avoided the town - other than to pick up a smoothie - and headed for the mountains.  

Pikes Peak is 14,115 foot above sea level.   Also known as "America's Mountain", this monster is the most visited mountain in the USA.  You can take the 13 mile hike to the top, that apparently takes more days than there miles.  You can take the old cog train to the top: a 4.5 hour return trip. Or you can drive up the Pikes Peak Highway, through forests, past reservoirs, and on some truly twisty steep roads.  We chose to drive. 

And WOW!!! what a drive!!  It is 19 miles from the toll gate at the bottom of the mountain (7,600 ft) to the summit.  To get to the summit you drive through four major "life" zones: the foothills (6,000 -8,000 ft), montane (8,000-9,500 ft), sub-alpine (9,500 - 11,000 ft) and alpine (>11,500 ft).  

At the toll gate at the start of the park available oxygen is 74.9%.  As you can imagine, us poor Aussie girls were more than a little shocked by this statistic, so we decided to take it slowly. 

Supposedly, the foothills are scattered with wildlife, but all we saw was a squirrel.  As we drove up the mountain we stopped at various photo points to ohh and aww - and of course I forgot my camera. There were mile markers along the road so we knew how far we had come, and there were funny signs such as "bigfoot crossing" along the way.  

We made it half way and into the Alpine zone and decided to stop for lunch at mile 13.  At this altitude you could defiantly feel the difference in temperature, so I got out my cardigan and wondered into a log cabin full of souvenirs and a cafe.  We had a terrible lunch of coloured cardboard (cheeseburger) and glue (hot dog). At 11,400 ft the available oxygen was down to 62.6%, so the walk from the car to the loo with a view left me huffing and puffing, so we decided to proceed with caution up a little bit further so we could see the view from above the tree line.  

I inched forward, passed the compulsory brake stop on the other side of the road, and up through the most twisty turny road I have ever been on. Hairpin would be an understatement!  Further and further we drove, until, seeing a drop straight down to the bottom of the world, I pulled over.  I kid you not, the drop off was enough to make your stomach drop and your knees weak. But it was 360 degrees of beautiful spectacular scenery.  It felt like we were sitting on the edge of the world, looking down on the world unspoiled by people. 

It was at this point we realized that we made it to mile 16 - 12,780 ft (58% available oxygen!!).  That was enough! So we decided to slowly descend back into the real world.  I made it down safely - with the perfect brake temperature according to the brake stop man.  It was funny how I could feel myself picking up energy and endorphins as we went down. It was a very strange sensation. 

Next time, we want to take the old cog train to the top. The drive was magnificent, but as a driver I didn't get to see as much as I would like... next time

stay tuned for the next great adventure :-) 

wishing you could all share these adventures with me

love Penni 

p.s. Tristan is well too - only a few weeks I go visit him for some more California adventures!

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

They Crazy month of July

Hi Everyone,

July was the CRAZIEST month of our lives! 

We arrived in Denver on 5 July and the crazy began! While we were lucky enough to have a rental car and a serviced apartment, we only had 3 weeks together to buy a couple of cars, find a house to live in, furnish it, and get prepared for a few months apart. 

We looked at about 12 houses. They all looked like cookie cutter homes out of a Plesentville film: some were breathtakingly beautiful, but out of our budget; some were so filthy you would have thought that gorilla's moved out the day before; and some you could happily live out your life completely content in.  They all had similar features: double story + basement, backyards with polite hip high fences so you can chat to your neighbours with ease, double ovens, and 3 garages.

In the end, we found two houses (across the road from one another) that we REALLY wanted. One was a 5 bedroom house with a lovely kitchen, great living areas, and small deck. The other had 3 bedrooms, smaller living areas, 3 outdoor areas and the most spectacular views of a lake.  Following the flip of a coin, we moved into the 3 bedroom house - the other Aussie family that moved over at the same time as us took the other house. So we are neighbours! 

Next we needed to furnish the house.  The catch: it was so enormous that we could have easily fit our old house into it.  Luckily, the other families help set us up with a furniture rental company, and after several hours scrolling through pages and pages (and pages and pages) of options, we selected everything we needed - and more! 

Tristan took care of finding us suitable cars to own.  He selected two Fords: and Expedition and and Explorer (the fact that he owns 2 Fords should bring mirth to many).  The smaller Explorer is the car that I will drive until the snow flies.  The Expedition is currently owned by one of the Aussie families that will go home in a few months, so we won't collect it until October.  It will be the "family" car (read: gas guzzler), so I think it will be my car in the end, as I will do less driving ;-) 

Lucky for us we are surrounded by many lovely Aussie families that spolied us during these few weeks with dinner invitations, and trips to the baseball and the mountains.  I can't even tell you how many times we ate out or at other peoples houses!  We really got to experience the good life.  We saw the Rockies win (baseball), experienced the boutique nature of the local breweries at a beer festival at Breckenridge (a lovely snow village that is at a higher altitude than Mt Kosciusko), learned about the gold rush days under a mountain, went to the outlet mall at a place called Castlerock (very strange looking rocks surround this shopping village), and ate and ate and ate EVERYWHERE. 

We conquered driving on the right side of the road. However, I'm still learning to drive on the interstate corridors that are 5+ lanes, speeding at 120kms/per hour +,with 1000's of cars swiving in and out to the various exits.  The most difficult thing about it all is that it can be difficult to see the lines on the road... so staying in your own lane... well....when it's raining and dark... ekkkk!

While I'm not sure that Tristan noticed the impact that the altitude had on a few drinks, I most definitely noticed that walking up and down stairs left me huffing and puffing like the big bad wolf. It is also incredibly dry! If you don't moisturize your skin can crack in days.  It is also very easy to get dehydrated, so everywhere we go you need a couple of water bottles on hand.  The smaller adjustments you need to make when moving to the other side of the world.

So with the lease signed, car in the drive way, and many Mexican men crawling through the house setting up the furniture, Tristan and I finally moved into our new home on
22 July.  Unfortunately, we only got to spend one night together in the house before he left for training..... Checkout my facebook if you would like to see pics of the house. It's lovely!

After a week (or two or three), the internet is connected, the cable guy has come and gone, endless tradies have come in to fix the teething problems of moving into a new house, and life and become more steady.  I have found our mail box - not in our front yard, but down the road and around the corner with the rest of the neighbour's.... I think that is the strangest thing I have come across.

I've found the local SUPERmarkets - the large bulk carriers; the slightly smaller walmart that is a Coles and K-mart in the one-stop-shop; the cute little green grocers that sell fresh vegetables and other "health food"including baking ingredients that I recognise; and the super green grocers that have everything local and organic including a lunch buffet and chocolate factory...mmmm.

Life's good, busy, and still an adventure :-)

Missing you all so much! Hope you are all safe and well