Saturday, December 27, 2008

Happy Christmas

I headed up to Sundance last week for my first skate ski day of the year and to pick up a nordic season pass. I was all ready to pay what is already a comparatively high price for the pass when the nice lady says, "you know if you get a season pass for the chairs it counts for the nordic center as well." Tempting. Very tempting. I told her that I'd mull it over while I skied and let her know before I left. While skiing, the following scenario played through my mind a dozen times:

5:45am - wake up
6:00am - leave for work
6:05am - arrive at work
2:00pm - leave work
2:30pm-3:30 - skate ski
3:30-5:00 - snowboard
5:15 - arrive home to happy wife

Okay so the schedule might be a little ambitious, but the possibility is quite appealing. Maybe I could try to throw in some snowshoeing on the same day to make a triathlon out of it. I couldn't help myself. A few days later, Wesla was surprised to find this show up in my stocking:

Santa pulled off a pretty nice stocking stuffer and somehow got my picture and everything. Unfortunately for Wesla (and conveniently convenient for me), she couldn't even question me about it in front of the kids without blowing Santa's cover.

I have a feeling that I'll be spending a lot of time up at Sundance alone this winter since I don't know anyone in the U.C. that skies (either the fat kind or the skinny kind) or snowboards. If you are from 'round here, participate in any of these activities and need someone to ride with, shoot me an email to set up an online date.

The possibility of skate skiing and boarding in the same day raises an interesting choice of apparel question. Depending on the whether, I'll sometimes dress for skate skiing similar to the way I'd dress for a cold-whether bike ride. In other words, I look a little something like these guys:

How much would you give me if I skated in my spandex (or "MANdex", according to Tony) and then went snowboarding without changing my attire? If the pot gets big enough, I might actually try it.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Oh Canada!

I hung out with the Canucks up in Calgary over the past few days. A couple of things I learned about Canada while I was there:

1) A one dollar coin is called a "loonie" and a two dollar coin is called a "toonie." It's a little tough to take their money seriously, to be perfectly honest.

2) Not every radio station plays Rush non-stop. This was a bit of a disappointment for me.

3) The TV stations do play hockey non-stop though.

4) Everyone really does say "abowt" rather than "about" (this isn't just limited to movie parodies and hockey announcers).

5) Calgary is a nice city. Reminds me a lot of SLC, in terms of climate, nice people, cleanliness, and urban sprawl. Their downtown area is bigger and seems better planned though, and it has a river running through it, which I think is a pre-req for qualifying as a really cool city. Our mountains make up for our lack of river though. Here's part of the city:

6) Calgarians don't seem very concerned about keeping roads and sidewalks clear of snow. They seem to accept it as a part of life. It snowed on Sunday and the most roads still had snow on them when I left on Tuesday. Makes sense to me though. After all, I wouldn't try and towel off in the middle of a rain storm, so why clear the roads in the middle of a Canadian winter?

7) The Canadian Rockies are pretty spectacular, and the town of Banff is like Park City, only in a location that is about 100 times prettier. The visibility in this pic of the Rockies is poor due to the snow, but it's better than nothing:
I almost forgot how much fun snowboarding is. Boarding in Sunshine Village (just outside of Banff) was one of my best boarding days ever. You know how some of your best riding days ever have been while riding alone, where everything seems a little surreal? Kind of like that. The snow was good, even though the base was lacking a little. Thank goodness for rental boards. It really has me looking forward to the day when we actually get some snow, assuming that day ever comes.

Here are a few more pictures from my "work" trip.

The powder didn't suck:

The wildlife didn't seem to mind my intrusion:

If anyone is looking for a nice anniversary spot, check this place in Banff out:

Think about it. You are now the best husband ever for choosing such a romantic getaway, and you get some of the best mountain biking, skiing, and/or boarding on earth. Not a bad setup.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Visit to Nassau and Mangrove Cay, Bahamas

The mountain biking trails around have been in near perfect condition. So perfect, in fact, that it's almost a shame that I missed out on riding the trails for a while during my trip to the Bahamas. Okay, so that is a BIG almost.

We spent a few days at the Bahamas' mega-resort in Nassau doing some work-related stuff, which I must admit was just about the most amazing man-made place to sleep that I've ever seen:

The scenery while walking from our room down to the beach looked like this:

After a few days at the mega-resort for the conference, we boarded a 15 minute flight to a tiny island called Mangrove Cay (pronounced "Key"), which is part of the Andros chain of islands, which is part of the 700+ islands that make up the Bahamas. Before I get to Mangrove Cay, it's worth mentioning that the airline that took us there would only accept cash. That's right, CASH! I'm not sure why, but for some reason, I felt a little uncomfortable entrusting my life to an organization that only accepted cash. What's more is that the Bed and Breakfast we were staying at required that you wire cash before you arrived. I felt like I was involved in some illegal cash money laundering operation. Fortunately, the airline got us to and from Mangrove without incident, and the B&B was friken' awesome.

The arrow in the picture below points to the spot we were staying at:

Mangrove Cay was as opposite as could be from the Mega-resort in Nassau. Mangrove Cay only got electricity in the 1980s. The people lead a very simple life. These kids lived next door to the place we stayed are growing playing on the beach most of the time:

I met this guy one morning on the southern port on the island. He says he's lived his entire life on Mangrove Cay. Although the island itself is 10 miles long by 20 miles wide, the only part of the island that is inhabitable is the half mile strip that is closest to the east beach because further inland is completely infested with Mangrove Trees (thus the name), which means he's lived his entire life on about 5 square miles. He couldn't have seemed happier:

The stay at Mangrove Cay offered some great recovery time:

And the recovery time was much needed after all of the hard-core training we were getting in using the bikes that Mickey (the owner of the B&B) let us borrow:

As Chad has previously pointed out, the best way to see a new city or place is on a bicycle, and we got to see a lot of cool things while traversing the island on two wheels:

Apart from a lot of laying around, we rode out to quite a few "blue holes" for some snorkeling. The blue holes on Mangrove Cay are a series of underground water-filled caves that occasionally break through to the surface, both inside the island and also just off of the beaches (think of them as the places that Caribbean pirates would hide their treasure). The mixture of fresh and salt water make for a perfect place for marine life. In one blue hole off the coast, we must have seen over a thousand fish swimming around in the coral. In another inland blue hole, I was swimming alone while Wesla was taking a nap and a four-foot long version of one of these follow me around for a few minutes:

That's a barracuda, in case you don't recognize it. Apparently, it's quite common for them to follow humans around, mistaking us for sharks that will leave behind some scraps of food for it to scavenge for. I also saw a sea turtle swimming around in the same blue hole.

The main thing I left Mangrove Cay with is a greater appreciation of the simple things in life. The locals were as happy as could be, even though their possessions were about as basic as you can imagine. While I'm not planning on giving away all my possessions and moving to Mangrove, it did make me realize that all of the crap I have doesn't mean anything without family and friends to enjoy it with.