The End of the Trip

December 30, 2007 at 8:24 am

Today is our last day in the midwest for our Christmas break. Today we’ll pack everything up, and tomorrow morning we take off to head back to Colorado. It’s been a really nice trip, and I’ve put up pictures of all the fun in the gallery.

In Indiana, we played with our new toys, and had a great walk down the trail that follows the Mawmee river through Fort Wayne. It was a cloudy and cold day, but I still found a lot of pretty things to take pictures of.

Seed pods

Now that we’re back in St. Louis again, we’re relaxing, watching movies and playing a lot of Rock Band. I gotta say, banging on a fake drum kit is WAY more fun than I ever imagined. I’ve even almost convinced myself that I might have a little bit of rhythm. Sort of. But I can “play” Ok-go and Don’t Fear the Reaper like nobody! (More cowbell!)

New Toys

December 28, 2007 at 2:07 pm

Christmas has come and gone, and now Mark and I are enjoying our first round of new toys. Special thanks to all of our family that spoils us so much. Bruce especially showed his generosity this year with a wonderful investment in our happiness! Bruce bought Mark all of the inner bits of a new, awesome, gaming PC, and Mark really enjoyed putting the machine together, and now playing World in Conflict for hours on end. This is a very pretty, very cool game.

Mark and Bruce were both wonderful enough to buy me a new camera body! I’m now the proud owner of a new Nikon D80, and a 50mm f1.8 lens. These make such very pretty pictures. I’m already having so much fun, and I’m really looking forward to the next adventures!

Liv Goes to Bed

2007 Climbing Year in Review

December 27, 2007 at 6:56 pm

Similar to last year, I decided to put together a video photo collage of all of the climbing photos from the past year. Unlike 2006, this year was a REALLY good climbing year, and we managed to spend almost every weekend (besides the ones we were traveling on) climbing in lots of fun places around the western US. In fact, I had so many pictures this year, that I had to throw out a lot to make the movies.

Yes, movies, plural. In response to Doug and Liz’s Cake-themed Christmas Card, I made a smaller video with one of my favorite Cake songs as the sound track – “Short Skirt Long Jacket” – with a subset of the bigger video photos. I think it’s fun.

The real video is a little less than ten minutes long. It was a really great year, and I feel proud and accomplished looking back on all of the great climbing we did. I’m hoping next year is even better… and Mark and I already have plans for some great adventures next year!!

We MADE IT!

December 22, 2007 at 10:30 am

It’s been a h*ll of a month, and I mean that in the most literal of terms. After finishing a full draft of my thesis last Sunday morning, I spent Tuesday through Friday frantically revising certain areas, adding in front and back matter, checking my references, and doing last minute touch ups on figures. I printed the whole thing and handed it out to my committee at around 3:30p on Friday afternoon. I then buzzed home, Mark and I tossed everything we could think of into the car, and we set off to drive back to St. Louis for the holiday at about 6pm Friday night.


View Larger Map

We got into the hotel in western Kansas late Friday night, and Mark was a little grumpy about all of the blowing snow we had been driving through. While none of it had stuck to the road, the snow reflected off the headlights making visibility very poor, and did that hypnotic dance across the roadway infront of us that makes you want to drive your car right off the road and into a ditch.

Saturday morning we got up before dawn and drove out. I knew that the snow storm was coming, and there was simply nothing to do for it but brace ourselves to drive through on Saturday.

It started with blowing dry snow that wasn’t so bad. We slowed down as the road started getting accumulation in central Kansas, and the visibility started to get worse. The wind was howling, and there were moments of true white out that left both Mark and I feeling freaked out every 10 minutes or so. We slowed to 50, 45, 40 mph on the road, still knowing we had hundreds of miles of driving in this snow ahead of us.

About 60 miles west of Topeka, we came over a hill and eventually were able to see traffic infront of us. Stopped traffic. Mark slammed on the breaks and the anti-locks kicked in. Grinding and growling we slowly, slowly slid to a halt with about 10 ft left between us and the stopped white truck infront of us. The gold SUV behind us was able to swerve from hitting us, but he slid by at a weird 45 degree angle to forward, nearly hit the cement barrier to our right, and kept going off the side of the road.

Traffic began to move slowly, and we found ourselves weaving through a weird landscape of snow covered wrecks on either side of the road. There were 6 to 10 cars in accidents or simply facing the wrong way in ditches to either side of us. I could see into some windshields where a young girl was on her phone crying or an older man was staring wide-eyed through his windshield. Mark and I hoped everybody was ok, but did not feel the conditions were safe enough for us to get out of the car and start checking on people.

As we left the accidents, driving at between 5 and 15 mph now, we saw a line of six ambulances and 4 or 5 cop cars speeding down the other side of the road. We later learned that the hill side ended up with 30 cars involved in the accident, and resulted in I-70 being shut down soon after we drove through.

That particular story just amazes me. Little facts like:

  • The storm system was blamed for a 30-vehicle pileup on I-70 near Manhattan that killed one person

  • Police and other emergency workers were nearly begging people to stay home Saturday. “There is absolutely no reason to be out here unless you are a police officer,” Sgt. Jason Gill with the Sedgwick County sheriff’s office said at midday. “Roads are impassable at best.”
  • From 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Sedgwick County dispatchers took about 175 accident calls, said DeAnn Konkel, community liaison program manager for public safety and emergency management for Sedgwick County.
  • Tow truck companies were backlogged with so many calls that some told customers Saturday they wouldn’t be able to get to them until this afternoon. Happy Hooker Towing and Transportation stopped taking calls at 4 p.m. except for emergencies blocking intersections or snowplow routes, said owner Mark Ysidro.

We drove through Topeka at about 25 mph. We had to stop every 15 minutes or so and clear the ice off the windshield wipers. It took us about an hour to make it to the Kansas Tollway, and then another hour of slow driving to Kansas city, where the snow was lighter. Once in Missouri, we stopped for gas, and Mark gave up driving, possibly forever. I took over in an icy sleet that was much easier to navigate, and only had traffic down to about 45 mph on the Interstate.

An hour or so later and we were in full rain. The ice started pealing off of our car in huge chuncks, and we enjoyed watching the car peel itself out of its icy womb. The rest of the drive into St. Louis was in the rain and the dark, but no where near as bad. And, of course, St. Louis saw no snow.

I find it amazing that a snowstorm that is responsible for 11 deaths so far could pass over my parents’ house with a few sprinkles of rain and a gust or two of wind.

But we’re here, we made it, and the thesis is finished. Time to relax.

How many colors will fit in one sky?

December 12, 2007 at 9:54 pm

Hmm, halfway through December and this is my third post. Sorry about that, but, as discussed previously, I’m focusing intensely right now on finishing that darn thesis. I think there might be a light at the end of the tunnel soon, though. I see a glimmer in the distance. The bright glow of a rising sun?

I think I need to get some sleep. I”m starting to mix my metaphors.

How many colors can you fit in one sky?

First Snow Hike of the Season

December 9, 2007 at 7:47 pm

I’ve been sitting on these photos for more than a week now, but they are finally up in the gallery. Check them out here!

Looking for another quick break from writing, Mark and I dug out all of our winter expedition gear and headed out for a snowy hike up the local Greyrock Meadows trail. It turned out, even though there was several inches of snow on the ground and trees, there really wasn’t enough to use the snowshoes, but the rest of the gear was nice to find and use. And Liv loved running around in the snow for an hour or two.

Unfortunately, we got out to the trailhead and I realized that had packed all of my camera equipment — lenses, filters, flashes — but no battery. So, I left it all in the car and took pictures of the day on my iPhone.

We didn’t make it too far on the trail that afternoon. Just not moving too fast and not too motivated. But it was nice to be outside, if only for a few hours. It would be our last day in the mountains for the year, too.

Winter Sparkles

December 8, 2007 at 6:17 pm

Still writing, but it’s Christmas, and it’s hard to ignore it. Mark decorated the tree out infront of our house, and then we got a couple of inches of snow, and here we are!

Winter Sparkles

Room to Breathe

December 3, 2007 at 7:25 am

I’m getting there. Slowly, slowly, working my way up the side of the mountain that is my thesis. I know why I love the physical pursuits that I spend so much time doing. They give me a tangible analogue for the mental work I do during the other half of my life. A project can be daunting. You will want to give up and go home. You may find yourself sprinting towards what turns out to be only a false summit. Short cuts cost you time. And breaks can be both helpful and hurtful.

I took a nice break this weekend. Still got a little bit done, but I think this one was helpful, and necessary. And I made up a complement to the Mountain Pose shot for a friend.

Lotus Mudra

Lotus Pose