Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Delicious, delicious humble pie

Or, Mountain Biking in Moab

A week ago, Joker and I bought mountain bikes.  Clearly we needed another recreational interest in the mix since we have extra time on our hands.  Anyway, let the record state that I have not owned a bike since my Bianchi, which I'm pretty sure I got in junior high.

We also took the plunge and went clipless.

My first mountain bike ride ever (and I do mean EVER) was in Moab.  For the unaware, Moab is pretty much the world capital of mountain biking, famous for its slickrock trails.  Also, people die when they fall off the cliffs. 

Now, I'd practiced getting my shoe unclipped a couple of times, in a grassy baseball outfield here in Evergreen.  I had yet to succeed while not holding on to a fence.  So after the short paved bike path ride to the trail head, my friend encouraged me to practice getting my foot free while riding in dirt circles.  Lucky for me, the dirt was soft.  I fell over, and over, and over.  Presumably to the great amusement of the giant crowd of out-of-shape people who'd just come off the trail.  I bailed and took the kids to the pool for the afternoon.

The next day, however, I did have some success.  I rode a whole (completely non-technical) trail, and absolutely loved it.  The views of Arches National Park were stunning and the ride was fun.  I succeeded in getting my foot unclipped without falling almost every time.  And I even stayed on my bike while I bounced down a section of the slickrock. 

So, I'm calling the experience a success.  I do, in fact, have a new sport.  And I will learn how to do it.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Arches National Park

Garden of Eden in front of the La Sal Mountains
Last weekend we went to Moab, Utah - the launching point for Arches and Canyonlands National Parks.  While we didn't make it to the latter (next time, more days!), we did get to explore parts of Arches with the kids.  The views of the La Sal Mountains beyond are beautiful, and the park... Wow.

Parade of Elephants
The place is stunning, unreal.  The scale of the various formations blows the mind.  Also incredible: the amount of ground you can easily cover, even with little kids.  I'd love to do a long hike next time, but there are tons of spots to get out, hike a mile (or less, or more) and see amazing stuff.  The kids absolutely loved it, and had a blast scrambling on the rocks.
Turret Arch in the sun
North Window

In just a couple of hours, we were able to see quite a bit.  First, a short hike along the bottom of the Park Avenue formations.  The drive to our next little hike - around Balanced Rock - had sweeping views of the Petrified Dunes.  We went from Balanced Rock to the Windows Section, where we climbed around North Window, South Window and Turret Arch. No question, we will be back to see the rest.
Balanced Rock
Park Avenue

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

First month of the big K

The Bug's first kindergarten parent-teacher conference was a couple of weeks ago.  It felt extremely early to me - what in the world can someone know about your kid in just a month? - but Joker and I both went enthusiastically and took our places in the tiny chairs to hear what's what.

The short report: she's doing awesome.  Top reading group, great at math (as she informed Mrs. Grose, "four hundred plus four hundred is eight hundred"), and above all else, she love-love-LOVES school.  Perhaps most importantly - especially in the context of where she was a year ago - she is a leader in the classroom, she helps her friends.  She listens attentively and answers questions thoughtfully.  And she'll even move to a quieter spot in the room when her buddies are being too chatty.

All of this is right in sync with what we've been observing thus far.  The Bug is thriving, and every day at kindergarten is a great day.  Really, what more can you ask for?  Plus, she is actually learning to read. 

Monday, October 15, 2012

Walking their old streets

The recent passing of my dear Great-Aunt Marion took me last weekend to Aurora, IL, the town where both of my maternal grandparents were born.  Although it was a solemn occasion that brought us all there, it was a great weekend for many reasons.  I traveled with my grandparents, my mom and my uncle - we flew together, drove together, stayed in the same hotel, ate and drank together.  Regardless of the occasion, when my extended family gets together it leads to multi-generational guffaws.  And I got a very personal tour of our family history.

For some reason, I had never before been to Aurora.  But I really wanted to have Grandma and Grandpa show me around.  The actual house where such-and-such happened isn't particularly meaningful to me.  But the showing of the houses is.  The experience of hearing them recall events and people, as the streets remind them of various goings-on.  Every corner held a memory for Grandma or Grandpa or both of them - here was where she went to kindergarten, there is his childhood church, here's their first apartment after they were married. 

The art deco Paramount Theatre, downtown Aurora
Aurora itself is a neat little town (actually now it's a fairly large town), situated on the lovely Fox River.  The river itself set up many of the stories: by splitting the town into the East Side and the West Side, it created rivalries (as well as some sort of phantom difference).  When my grandparents lived there, Aurora was home to a great deal of manufacturing, a laughable number of bakeries and a surprising frequency of the name Herman Harms.  Also, apparently back then newlyweds sought their parents' approval before deciding where to move.

Aunt Marion's service was very nice, and reminiscing with family afterwards was a comfort and a pleasure - every outburst of laughter reminded us all of her.  We drank manhattans in her honor, we admired photographs, we wished she were there in the house she loved.  It was a great weekend for many reasons.