Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Colorado trip

Last fall I heard about a group in my old hometown of Pagosa Springs Colorado, called GECKO, that puts on trail races in the area. So last winter I eagerly awaited their 2011 schedule to see if we could work out a trip back there to do a race and visit the family.

Their Turkey Track Trail Race sounded perfect - it's in June so it shouldn't be too hot, but is late enough that we shouldn't need snowshoes, and it's a pretty mild course for our sea-level lungs. We also decided to inflict Facebook on my parents and bring them a laptop computer.

It was all set - we had the computer, my parents had the WIFI, we had plane tickets - what could go wrong?

Life has a way of tossing challenges at you just to see how you handle them.

My sister Zil's (not her real name) ex-mother in law passed away about a week before we headed out. The funeral was set to be on the same day as our race. (Since we didn't know her, we fortunately didn't really have to make a choice between the race or the funeral.)

The good thing that came out of this was that bonus family members ended up being in town at the same time as us - we would get to have an impromptu family reunion!

Note: I have already posted a LOT of pictures from this trip. I'll include links to those pictures where appropriate below.

Wednesday: Flying to Denver
Mrs Notthat and I wanted to have a few days in Colorado to acclimate a bit, so we chose to fly out four days before the race, with the goal of getting halfway to Pagosa that night. After nightmare rush hour traffic in Denver and a nasty traffic backup on a narrow road, we barely managed to get to the Royal Gorge before sunset.

The Royal Gorge itself is very cool - deep majestic canyons made even more dramatic by the late afternoon sun. Then they decided to build a fragile, frightening bridge over it. Mrs Notthat loved it.

This is what she was looking at in the above picture. Getting there a bit late meant we didn't have to pay to get in (they normally charge $15 or so a person, but all the shops and rides and whatever that justify that money were closed by this time).

We drove to Salida, found a motel, and ate a very late Mexican dinner.

Thursday: Arriving in Pagosa
Driving from Salida to Pagosa was pretty straightforward, outside of some very crooked roads and needing to dodge road construction.

The official overlook on Wolf Creek Pass is closed while they work on the road, but we found this unofficial overlook. (That's as close as I dared to get to the edge - heights and I don't get along all that well.)

We arrived around lunch time to find everyone busy preparing for the viewing and funeral. Lots of smiling and laughing was still to be found though.

Click here to see a bunch more pictures from the trip to Pagosa.

Friday: Testing the altitude and garage sales
There were a couple of issues facing Mrs Notthat and I with respect to the next day's race: How would her blistered heel hold up (she got the blister the weekend before) and how would our sea level lungs perform.

So Friday morning, we got up a bit early and headed out to the golf course to test things on the cart paths.

The blister bit went OK - the bandaids and tape made it tolerable (and by the next day, the blister was no issue at all). The altitude was another story - short, level runs made both of us wheeze like 100 year old steam trains. No personal records were going to get set the next day.

A fun pastime in the area is to hit the garage sales. One of the first ones we went to had this very perky dog that loved to chase that mud and slobber-encrusted frisbee. For reasons that dog will never understand, there was no way Mrs Notthat was going to pick it up and toss it. (I, on the other hand, had no problems doing that over and over.)

Look at the view from this yard sale. A few days earlier this view did not include those mountains in the distance due to smoke from the wildfires in Arizona. We were very fortunate that the winds changed and cleared the air before our race.

There were an AMAZING number of AMAZING kids around the house - most were nephews and nieces that we had either never met before or were much smaller the last time we saw them.

And the weather was wonderful, making this little backyard fountain awfully attractive to the kids.

Friday night we picked up our race packets and Mrs Notthat bought a pair of snake-proof sandals. I've got no idea why she's making that face, but I'll probably spend the night on the deck for including this picture in this post.

Saturday: Raceday!
The trail race was fantastic, although you couldn't have gotten me to say that during the last five miles of my Full Marathon.

Here Mrs Notthat and nephew Blailand come out looking for me, having a hard time believing how long it is taking me to finish. No PR for me, but Mrs did manage to get a PR for her on the Half - this was a stunning accomplishment given her heel and the altitude.

You can read all about the race here and see a lot of pictures from the day here.

Sunday: Family reunion
First, I should mention that the computer thing went OK. We were able to get the WIFI to work and spend some time getting my parents hooked up to email and Facebook.

Here a group is watching YouTube cat videos or rap musicals or something.

We also spent some time looking at my mom's quilts in progress. These things are stunning!

There are a LOT of pictures from the reunion here - for those with an aversion to clicking links, here is the shot of my parents, brothers, and sisters. All born in Kansas - who would have thought we would end up in Colorado, standing in front of a large spruce tree that my sister Einnob (not here real name) stole from a forest when it was just a foot tall?

Monday and Tuesday: Heading back to Denver and California
Monday afternoon Mrs Notthat and I headed back to Denver, with plans to stop at the Great Sand Dunes National Monument along the way.

At the top of Wolf Creek Pass.

Me sitting on a small sand dune, at the foot of some really big sand dunes. This place was really hard to believe, even when you were staring straight at it.

A short distance from the sand dunes there was this fun waterfall (complete with mini-glacier in the upper-left corner) at Zapata State Park. You had to work a bit to see these though.

This is looking back the way I had come, walking up the middle of the icy creek, to be able to see the falls.

The flight home on Tuesday was nearly magical - the plane was only about half full! And on time!

And it was great to see Weird Haired Mom pull up curbside at the airport. You can see a bunch more pictures of the trip home here.

It turned out to be a great trip. I wish we had been able to drag our kids along, just to come closer to completing the impromptu family reunion, but it was a lot of fun to see everyone who did manage to make it. It would have been better if we could have stayed longer as well, but with work the way it has been, it was good to have gotten this much time.

The cool thing is that we are planning to do this all again next year, with the added bonus of at least Blailand joining us on the trails.

Thanks to everyone who worked so hard to make this all go so well - especially my parents who ended up with a VERY full house (and a bathroom that took the brunt of the action - it was not a good sign when we showed up Thursday only to find mom with a plunger in her hand, but all seemed to go well after that).

That's it - move along...


mary ann said...

I so enjoyed this post ~ you are getting to be quite the travel writer!

notthatlucas said...

MAS! You are making me blush! (And ironically, I don't like traveling all that much.) Now you, on the other hand, can do a really cracking travel report!

DAK said...

That's an astonishing sand dune photo. What always makes me smile is that all our families outside of the Bay Area seem to look so much alike. Does that mean we are our own stereotypes too? I mean, does your cousin Somebody look at you and say "Man! He is so Northern California!"