Back in Time, Back in Ved

July 31, 2007 at 6:12 am

So, here’s another post about activities we did a few weeks ago. I put photos from one day that weekend up in the gallery.

So, two weekends ago, July 21 & 22, we spent our first weekend back at climbing in Vedauwoo since we left for vacation. Saturday was hot, and we weren’t feeling strong, so we hiked out to Jurassic Park, an area we had never been to. It took us a little while to find the climbs we were looking for. Though, we did spend about an hour laying around in rock caves and in the sun enjoying the view.


Around lunchtime, Ann and Dylan found their way to our little crag. It was so nice to see Dylan hike up around the corner, glance up at the wall and exclaim “Oooo! Sport climbs!

He started us out on an exciting lead of First Iteration (5.9+), a fun steep slab climb with a few bolts. Dylan got the redpoint (of course), but he had to do some wild, huge sidesteps back and forth across the face. I fell a few times but found my way up eventually, and it felt good to be back on the rock, and on my toes again.

Mark had a great lead of Recombination Mutation (5.7) after this. The climb goes through a squeeze opening to start out, and Mark had some trouble getting himself and his gear through. He actually spun a full 360-degrees before deciding how to proceed upwards. I had a ball on this climb, which finishes in a fu-u-un handcrack after the cool little chimney. My favorite two things about Ved in one climb, chimneys and handcracks!

Our last climb of the day was Sore-O-Pod (5.8). This was a long, grunting, grinding handcrack that we all climbed on TR from the First Iteration anchor. It was hard, especially after being off the rock for so long, but I had a great time on it.


Saturday night we camped out with Dylan and Ann, and enjoyed celebrating breaking in their new camper! It was an exciting evening, with fans grinding up metal, batteries going dead (and causing carbon monoxide alarms to beep), and giant moth attacks!!

Sunday morning, Mark and I hopped on Ted’s Trot (5.7). I’ve done this climb before but Mark was out of the country. This time, Mark got to try it. The pro wasn’t as good as I remembered it, and Mark did not enjoy the beginning chimney as much as I did. The crux was really interesting, though, and he figured it out and had a great time to finish. It was a great morning, and we had enough time to get everybody up and down before most of the rain hit.

Hello Vedauwoo, we’re back!

Oh Yeah…

July 30, 2007 at 8:57 am

So, despite what it must look like, Mark and I are still leaving the house occasionally this summer. I know it seems like I’ve just been sitting around writing about Italy, but, in fact, we’ve been out climbing! I know, it’s amazing!


Yesterday I stuck shots from bouldering at Rotary Park up in the gallery. I know, I know, these shots are two weeks old! But I like them, and I thought they deserved some attention.


This was the Sunday the day after I got home from Italy. Ann and Dylan had a little picnic with the group up at Rotary Park to celebrate various family members visiting, their purchase of an awesome new camper, and (ahem) my safe return from overseas. After a tasty dinner of perfectly grilled chicken and really good quinoa salad, the boys retired to the boulders, and I dug out my flash.

Dylan Tops Out

Perugia, the last week in Italy

July 26, 2007 at 6:58 pm

The last five days I was in country were at the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics (IUGG) yearly conference in Perugia, Italy. The University of Perugia is in Umbria, Italy, which is about two hours northeast of Rome by train.

The photos from the last five days are in the gallery.

It was a hard, but good experience for me to travel a bit by myself. After Mark left on Monday morning, I had two days until my coworkers were due to show up, and I had to figure everything out on my own.

When I got to the town, I found out the hotel was too far away to reach by bus. I had to take the train back two towns and then a taxi to this little country hotel that was 30 miles from the conference. I was not happy. I ended up renting a car, and then spent several hours driving around, looking for parking lots, and trying to figure out my way around the crazy streets of central Italy.

The town of Perugia was pretty neat, it sits on top of a very tall hill, surrounded by high city walls and filled with old stone buildings and churches. Its small cobbled streets reminded me of Venice, but the tall houses in this city also had deep, deep basements. In fact, our poster session was held in the catacomb-like tunnels beneath the main piazza.

The conference itself was great. I got tons of great feedback, learned a lot of interesting things, and met lots of helpful people. It was so nice to be able to go out and show my work to other people, and see that they found it interesting!

It was a crazy, stressful, but wondeful week, and on Friday, I was ready to head home. We had one night at a hotel near the airport in Rome, and then 24 hours of flying and travel to get back to Fort Collins.

In all, I’d say it was a great experience, and a great trip!!! When do I get to go back? :)

A Day at Torchello

July 23, 2007 at 6:31 am

Still writing up the last few posts about the trip to Italy. I put the pictures from this day in the gallery.

On our last day in Venice, we decided to explore some of the outlaying islands in the Venetian lagoon. Our goal for the day was the Byzantine-styled cathedral on the little northern island of Torchello. Check out the adventure map to see where we were in relation to Venice.

It took us a little less than 2 hours on water taxis to circle around to the north side of island of Venice, ride out across the lagoon to the far northern island of Burano, and then shuttle across to the landing on Torchello. The island was once a bustling town, with the seat of the local Bishopric in the cathedral and church on the island. But most of the canals became silted in, the population of Venice exploded, and malaria took its toll, leaving the island with only 60 residents today.

The quiet country-side setting for the old church was a welcome change for Mark and I. After a week in the loud, crowded streets of Rome and Venice, to be able to lay in green grass under a bright sun was just wonderful. The only sounds were a distant local bar open for lunch, the cries of sea gulls and frogs in the lagoon, and the lapping of shallow waves all around us.

The church itself was fantastic. As the oldest church in the Venetian area, it was wonderful to wander through the ancient buildings, looking at art and relics from the days of the early Christian church. The walls of the cathedral were covered not with renaissance frescoes, or elaborate baroque sculptures, but in beautiful Byzantine mosaics. The largest wall of the cathedral was covered in a huge mosaic telling the story of Revolations, the end of the world, and the travels of the sinful into Hell. It was elaborate and amazing. And I wasn’t allowed to take pictures. I have post-cards though, I hope to be able to scan them in and post them here eventually.

After checking out the church and cathedral, we climbed the stairs of the local bell tower (campanile). The views were great, you could see Venice on the very distant horizon, but mostly you saw gardens, houses, lagoons and quiet sea-side islands.

It was a really nice day, great to get out on boats, to get out of the city, and to see such old and beautiful buildings and artifacts. The next day we traveled back to Rome, spent the night at a nice hotel near the airport, and then put Mark on a airplane to head back to the States. I was ready to begin my trip to the conference in Perugia.

The Gondola

July 18, 2007 at 5:40 pm

You can’t go to Venice without taking a ride in a Gondola! But they’ll make you pay out your nose for it. My photos from the little boat trip are now up in the gallery.

Gondolas have been an important part of Venetian transportation for hundreds of years. One of my favorite parts of our stay in the city was watching the Gondoliers ply their trade. The city may have felt like a giant theme park, but the gondoliers were real. Definitely authentic.

Venetian gondoliers are required by an old law to be born in Venice, and they pass down the trade from father to son. The boats are all required to be painted black, and most are elaborately decorated in an extremely sumptuous manor. The boats are asymmetrical – they curve to the right to counter the constant rowing off the right side of the boat.

Venice by Gondola

The stroke mainly used is called Sculling, but not in the usual sense of rowing teams. The gondolier faces forward and moves the long oar in figure-8s behind the boat in order to provide propulsion forward. They can also use little swirls to move the boat completely sideways, backwards, and around sharp curves without any problem. Sometimes they would kick off a wall to swing the back end around, but these guys were expert boatmen, all of them.

Also, gondoliers don’t sing. Not at all. Sometimes they would have a little flotilla of boats traveling around, and one of them would include a serenading accordion player. That was always nice to see float by in the evening as you’re walking back from dinner. But gondoliers pretty much just yell at each other. They have little phrases they call when going around a blind corner, or docking, or passing other boats. The way the calls echo off the water and steep brick walls of the narrow canals is very melodic.

I think Mark’s favorite part of the whole trip to Venice occurred while we were in the gondola. We pulled into a thin canal behind a very old building, with ancient rotting wood piers and crumbling brick on either side. All of a sudden, Mark gets really excited and yells:

“Look! Look! A rat! There’s a rat swimming in the canal!” Sure enough, a very large rat was swimming away from our boat at we headed down the ancient waterway.

“Ok, now Venice is real.” Mark said as he settled back into his velvet cushion. And the gondolier chuckled to himself.

Heading North

July 17, 2007 at 6:31 pm

On the Forth of July last week, we hopped on a train in Rome and headed across the Italian countryside up to Venice. I’ve put the first batch of m photos up in the gallery! The pictures were all so nice, I think I’ll keep the writing here to a minimum. Check out the descriptions to the right of each photo for more info about the subjects.

The trip on the train took a little less than 6 hours, and we stopped at several towns along the way: Florence, Bologna, and Padua among others. Mark experienced instant Italian Espresso (for 3.50 euro), and I got to sit next to an old Italian man who smelled like a frat house: beer and pizza!

Arriving in Venice, the place didn’t seem real. It felt more like… a casino in Vegas. Or an expo in Epcot. It didn’t help that everybody we could see seemed to be American. The place was full to the brim with tourists, from all over the world. I suppose the Americans were just the loudest.

On our first full day in the city, we saw the view of the island from the Bell Tower, and explored the courtyards, prisons, and beautiful bridges around the Doge’s Palace.

Dinner that night was at a small restaurant in a dark alley near the Rialto Bridge. It was a wonderful seafood ratatoria. I had a whole grilled sea bass, and it was great, even though I came at the fillet from the wrong side. Walking around the city that night was warm and full of soft lights reflecting off of smoothly lapping waves. It may not have felt real, but it still felt wonderful.

Evening on the Grand Canal

The Last of Rome

July 15, 2007 at 2:13 pm

Well, I’m back in Colorado. After 24 full hours of traveling yesterday, I’m feeling stiff, sore, and exhausted still. I’m moving slow, and spending some time getting photos organized and documented. I rearranged the gallery a bit, and I added a few photos to both of the sub galleries.

I want to write one more post about the other sites we saw while in Rome. Yes, the ancient center was amazing, and the Vatican full of incredible sites, but there are lots of other things to see in the Eternal City.

Fountains – You can’t walk 30 feet in Rome without stumbling on one fountain or another. Many are incredibly beautiful, and most are full of “potable” water. It’s not uncommon to see people drinking from these fountains. I only drank from the fountains with spigots that seemed to obviously be built for supplying drinking water. And I haven’t gotten sick yet!

I found these fountains very photogenic, and today I uploaded several shots of Bernini’s Fontana del Tritone, one of the fountain outside S. Maria d. Vittoria, and a few of The Fountain of the Naiads.

Churches – The fountains might be every 30ft, but it seems like the churches are closer together. I think Mark spent more time in church on this trip than he has in his entire life. :) The buildings were varied and beautiful, but here is a little about Mark and my three favorites in Rome.

Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini: We wandered up to this little church by accident. It was only mentioned in a few paragraphs in our guidebook, and not given stars or anything to note how, well, bizarre the place is. They don’t allow photographs in the place, but I bought postcards and intend to scan them in.

So, for over 200 years, the brothers of of the Capuchins would take the bones of the dead and arrange them into wall decorations, alters, shelves, even lamps and chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. In 3 or 4 rooms below the church, the bones of over 4,000 bodies have been glued and nailed together in the most elaborate and disturbing shrine to the dead that I have ever… well… heard of, let alone seen. There are a few full mummies, and the full skeleton of a little girl is nailed to the ceiling of the last room.

Here’s a shot from

Santa Maria della Vittoria: We came upon this church looking for other interesting sites near the Concezione. Mark declared it to be his favorite church of the trip to Rome. The intensely baroque architecture was mostly designed and built in the 17th century, and houses two amazing sculptures by Bernini who has become one of my favorite artists.

Every square inch of this church was covered in some of the most beautiful frescos and carvings that we would see in our entire trip. Everything was in beautiful condition, and the church was small enough that there was no crowd, and you could really approach the art and spend time examining the amazing detail.

Santa Maria in Trastevere: This church is considered to be the first Christian church in Rome, and was originally built around 300 AD, when emperors were still pagan and Christianity a minority cult. The current building and many of the incredibly beautiful mosaics date from around the 12-13th centuries, or the end of the last crusade, though the church did contain many earlier carvings and works of art.

The detail and mysterious symbols in the mosaics were captivating. In the shot below, that is Jesus with a “queen” sitting beside him. Most people see that as his mother Mary, but those who have read The De Vinci Code might see a different Mary there. The six-winged angles in the top are Seraphim, ancient orders of Angels described in Judaic and Christian writings as being the highest order of Angels.

Santa Maria in Trasevere

In Perugia

July 10, 2007 at 2:36 am

Well, I made it. I don’t know if I’ll be taking many pictures in Perugia. It’s hard enough trying to figure out how to get to the conference venues and how to get around town quickly. I ended up renting a car. Yep, that’s right, I’m driving a car around Italy! It’s actually not so bad. Everything is VERY well signed. Most Americans would be astonished by how well documented every intersection is. Plus, all of the cars are tiny. I don’t have to worry about being crushed by a giant Semi-truck or an F-350 here. And people don’t drive as fast as they have reputations for. Taxi drivers, ok. But the general public, not too bad. I haven’t gone above 80 kmph yet.

Why does traveling by yourself suck so much? I know some people really get into it, but I’ve never liked it. I don’t like sitting quietly among strangers having fun and chatting with each other. I don’t like sitting by myself in a restaurant when everybody else has somebody to enjoy their meal with.

I know some people feel that there is a strength of character found in being alone in a crowd. That the ability to sit quietly all day long is a skill of some sort, and that being able to eat a meal by themselves shows their true independence and self-confidence. I don’t feel that way. I am capable of doing all of these things, but I don’t like to.

I would rather have somebody with me occasionally than be by myself all of the time. I would rather share a view or a meal than revel in my independence. And I’d much rather have somebody there to back me up when things get sketchy or difficult, than have to face the world alone.

Just because I’m capable of traveling alone, doesn’t mean I have to like it.