Saturday, June 30, 2012

Just In Time For The Olympics

Having visited the Colorado Springs area in the past and seeing a lot of the standard tourist attractions like Pikes Peak, Manitou Springs and the Air Force Academy grounds Denny and I decided to take one of the free tours at the U.S. Olympic training center.

The guided tours last about 45 minutes and are lead by local athletes or Olympic athletes in training. Our particular guide this day was a young lady who is not an Olympic athlete but is a national ranking weight lifter in the 105 pound class who lives and trains in the area.

While you're waiting for your tour to begin you have the opportunity to tour the visitor center with its gift shop, Hall of Fame and displays of memorabilia.  To begin your tour you watch a brief video clip about the Olympics to get you excited about the experience, then you are lead outside to view a few of the buildings from behind closed doors and to be able to observe some of the athletes in training. 

Here at the Colorado Springs training facility the Olympic athletes are involved in the triathlon, fencing, pentathlon, wrestling, gymnastics, shooting, track and field, weightlifting, paralympic cycling, paralympic shooting, paralympic swimming and paralympic judo.

This is the indoor shooting range.  The two men to the right will be in this year's Olympics and they are practicing with air pistols.  The targets they are shooting at are the size of a silver dollar.  Incredible.  Click the photos to enlarge and note the men shoot with one hand in their pockets.

This is a residence hall.  This training center can house up to almost 600 athletes and coaches.  Once here, the athletes are provided with their room and board along with the training; only athletes that are in the top 10-15% of their sport will be invited to train here.
A brief aside; the grounds are beautifully landscaped and well maintained.  I noticed this "black" petunia with a yellow star inside.  Gorgeous.
Above Denny's head is the Olympic record for the high jump while Denny is stretching to show that his "wingspan" is the same as that of Michael Phelps, Olympic gold medal winner in swimming.
Female weightlifters and wrestlers do their strength training in this area.  Note the huge chain at the bottom of the photograph; the ladies pick the chain up and waggle it like the one gal is doing with the huge ropes.

One of the female athletes getting ready to do a clean and jerk. I have no idea of the amount of weight on that bar but I know I couldn't lift it!

More strength and endurance training.
The main walkway of the Olympic training center.  The flags lining the walkway are those of all the countries that compete in the Olympics.
Metal sculptures abound, all representing the various sports of the Olympics.
We were not allowed to entire the swimming complex but those red barrels in front are used for strength training.  Ropes are attached to the swimming by a belt around their waist; the barrels are weighted and the swimmer must swim across the pool with that weight as resistance.  I'd drown.
There is a pleasant outdoor seating area where you can have lunch or just sit and enjoy the activity going on at the complex.  There are always athletes wandering around (or limping in the case of several the day we visited) and there is much to read in the various informational pedestals placed around the grounds.
After touring the grounds of the training center Denny and I headed to the Garden of the Gods for our picnic lunch.  But that's for another post.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

A Hot Time in Colorado

Today there is a pall of smoke over the town of Loveland and surrounding areas.  The news lists the various wildfires erupting all over Colorado; the still growing and uncontained High Park fire west of Fort Collins, Colorado Springs where people in Manitou Springs were subject to a mandatory evacuation yesterday after a wildfire spread to more than 2,000 acres of land engulfed and Estes Park where several historic homes burned down yesterday afternoon.  Denny and I had left Monument, Colorado which is the next town north of Colorado Springs on Friday and we're currently located about 17 miles east of Estes Park.  Out of the frying pan into the fire it seems.  While the Estes Park fire was contained, the other two burn unabated and the firemen are even losing ground at the High Park fire northwest of us.

Smoke from the High Park fire billows over the hills as seen from my friend's house in Loveland, Colorado.

As I mentioned in a previous post, my girlfriend Shelley has opened her land and her house to the wolves and the staff of the Wolf Sanctuary that is located west of Fort Collins and currently in the heart of the fire area.  Temporary shelters have been built for the more tame wolves and wolfdogs and misters have been purchased to try to alleviate some of the intense 100 degree heat we're currently suffering through.  Some of the wolves are adapting better than others, but all of them are traumatized by the move, the surroundings and the heat.

This is Rajan, one of the wolf mixes that is acclimated to humans.  He will eventually be used as a wolf ambassador to promote the cause of the Wolf Sanctuary.

Some of the kennel runs in Shelley's back yard.

This is one of the shyer wolfdogs who is rather traumatized by the situation of being moved and placed in a much smaller, strange environment.
Shelley and Rajan.
This is Vi and one of the wolves; Vi and her husband Frank operate the Wolf Sanctuary and both of them along with a cadre of volunteers are working desperately to keep the wolves healthy and calm in an unusual situation.

How can you not love a face like this?
Pax is curious but very nervous in her new surroundings.

Shelley, Denny and I went out for breakfast and to run some errands yesterday.  Bailey, Shelley's Golden Retriever, goes with her everywhere and was a bit tuckered out by the heat.  He's a lover.

To the north the High Park fire's smoke was still billowing but a little further to the south and west we had a bit of a nice sunset yesterday.
Frank and Vi have been unable to get any good answers as to the status of the Wolf Sanctuary from the people working the fire at this point.  They know that some of the outbuildings have burned down and have heard that the fire has started back up in some areas that had been under control so they don't know if any of the property will be usable once the fire is out.  If all of the trees burn down, there will be no habitat or shade for the wolves and a new home will have to be found for the sanctuary.  So they are not only worried about the current health and well being of all their animals but they have no idea whether or not there will still be a wolf sanctuary when the fire is finally under control.

If you would like to learn more about the Wolf Sanctuary, click here.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Random Post from the Past--July 1999

While awaiting the Dell computer tech, I decided to look through some of the old files on the laptop I'm using in the meantime.  I discovered some of the files from my original Yahoo geocities website which was my first attempt at "blogging" about our travels.  Yahoo has since eliminated the Geocities websites so I'm going to dust off a few journal entries at random as soon as I can get the external hard drive hooked up to find the photographs that originally accompanied this particular post.  As a side note, Roo was our 1994 Bounder motorhome that was our first "full timers" mode of transportation.  Although we purchased it new in 1994, we only lasted a year in it as full time travelers as we discovered the roominess of fifth wheel trailers in November of 1998 and purchased our first one in December of 1999.

July 1999

We turned Roo's nose towards New Hampshire next.  Our campground was the Twin Mountain Motor Court & RV Park, Twin Mountain, NH.  We had a beautiful view of the mountains, plus a steep trail led down to a wide stream behind the campground where Mouse and I could watch fly fishermen entice trout.  We spent our entire week here driving, going up to Conway to see the sales tax-free outlet shops and take a sightseeing train around the mountains, playing golf in Bethlehem (where there were granite bounders in the middle of one fairway!) and visiting Franconia Notch State Park and seeing the famous Great Stone Face immortalized by Nathaniel Hawthorne.  When people ask about our favorite places, the White Mountains of New Hampshire immediately come to mind.  Every roadway has a crystal clear stream tumbling over granite boulders running beside it, with waterfalls and cascades appearing along side the roads suddenly.  I can't even begin to imagine how beautiful it would be in the fall!

The covered bridge at Franconia Notch State Park.

A wayside waterfall; all along the roadways in the area of the White Mountains in New Hampshire you'll discover small waterfalls and granite filled creek beds bubbling over with crystal clear water.  Men fly casting fascinated me as it was the first time I had ever seen anyone fly fishing.

Crawford's Notch--just a beautiful stop on a day long sightseeing trip.  Of course I wish I could take the photographs all over again with today's much better digital cameras.

The walk up to "The Flume", the waterfall at White Mountain National Park in New Hampshire.

At the top of the Flume.

The Whirlpool, a very large natural catch basin of mountain spring water at White Mountain National Park.

I was thrilled to see "The Great Stone Face" of Nathaniel Hawthorne's novel and crushed when several years later the "face" slid off the side of the mountain despite the best attempts of man to anchor the rock.

While we wanted to stay longer, the lure of lobsters pulled us into Maine.  Our first stop was the Red Barn Campground in Holden, ME.  Lots of kids here, but a nice, clean park convenient to Bangor (it was here that ignorant Buckeyes learned to pronounce the capitol city as Bang-gor instead of Bang-her).  Lots and lots of lobster.  Lots.  Messy, wonderful lobster.  We did do the obligatory drive to Bar Harbor but were so turned off by the crowds that we made an immediate one block loop through town and headed back to explore Acadia National Park, which was much less crowded and certainly more scenic!  We just aren't into crowds and touristy little craft shops.  Part of that is that we have no room for knick-knacks and wouldn't pay the prices they charge anyway.  Golf that week was at Herman Meadow Golf Club in Bangor.  

The Bar Harbor Lighthouse.

It was time to head into Canada, where Denny made the mistake of telling Canadian Customs that we were full timers.  We were immediately pulled over and subjected to a very thorough search of both Roo and Sassy.  Needless to say, I was very unhappy as I had to hold a struggling, frightened cat in my arms outside while they were searching inside as we didn't bring a cat carrier with us since Mouse didn't travel outside the rig.  I finally threw her into the car, but had to drag her out when they wanted to search the car- did I say that there was also a drug dog involved?  Not a pleasant experience.  I discovered later that the custom's officers assume that all full time RVers carry guns.  Thank goodness Denny didn't mention he was a retired police officer!  But we had left his pistol with our oldest son, knowing that guns weren't allowed in Candad.  Then we had to pay duty charges due to having too much booze; we should have told them to confiscate it as it would have been cheaper to buy new!  A very educational border crossing.

We spent a week in New Brunswick at the Heritage Farm Campground in Mactaquac, New Brunswick.  A nice campground that accepts the Passport discount and is near to golf courses.  We visited King's Landing where the employees dress the part of early settlers and act as if it's really the late 1800s on a farm.  The
horse-powered saw was fascinating and we learned how ingenious man can be.  It is definitely worth stopping to see if you happen to be in the area. 

And now I'm wishing I had taken more time to elaborate on the places we visited back then, but I was more interesting in living what we were doing than writing about it.

I'll be inserting more of these early journal entries at random.  Now it's time to step away from the computer.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Wild Fire and Wolves

West of Fort Collins, Colorado the High Park wild fire burns unabated.  People are being evacuated, homes have been lost and at least one person has died as a result of the fire.  Also located west of Fort Collins is the Wolf Sanctuary, a non-profit organization for the protection of captive bred wolves and wolf-dogs who can no longer be cared for by their owners.  This past week the wolves of the Sanctuary also had to be evacuated and one of my best friends from high school has taken in several of these beautiful creatures.  I'll let her tell the story in the form of quotes from some of her recent emails.

" I saw a fire to the northwest of my house on Saturday around 10:30 a.m. I emailed Frank, founder of the WOLF Sanctuary that I volunteer at, to see if WOLF was safe. He said I was the 3rd person to contact him about it but he didn’t see anything from the Sanctuary.
I came into work. Watched the fire grow, asked how I could help WOLF. By 4:30 Saturday I was headed home and recruiting help to convert Beauty, Noble, Freedom and Spirits runs and outbuilding into secure enclosures for evacuated wolves. Friends, neighbors came and helped to secure the 4 runs.
By evening, I had 5 animals: Lance, Pride, Rajan, Renada and Webster. Muc and Atlantis went to Susan in Laramie. Sasha and Pax went to Michelle’s parents. Tullian and Sigmund went to a kennel. That left 19 at the sanctuary.
Frank stayed up at WOLF with the fire approaching and everyone left before it got too dark. Vi (Frank’s significant other, best friend and wonderful person) brought their dog Maggie, and two cats (Stella and Hailey). They are living downstairs until they can go back home to the cabin at the sanctuary.
On Sunday, we were told that maybe, just maybe 3 vehicles could go up to evacuate more and check in on Frank. From what I understand several vehicles were allowed to go up but they only got two more: Matoska and Kasota, and had to leave because it was becoming dangerous. Frank came back down with them.
While they were gone, volunteer, neighbors and friends mobilized in mass to setup more runs for potential evacuees. I bought 4 more runs and a floor AC unit to setup on the unfinished side of my outbuilding. Then donations started pouring in. We have quite a few runs donated, food, bowls, etc. We setup 4 runs on the other side of the outbuilding and 4 more runs outside.
Yesterday morning a troop went in several cars to see if they could get up to the sanctuary. After 4 hours they were turned away but Frank stayed. Finally Frank was escorted to the sanctuary. Frank had to suit up in fire gear with a folder emergency shelter attached to his hop. All 17 were okay. They were freaked out and it took some time before they came to where Frank could see them. Apparently Loci was unphased by everything and came bouncing down the hillside say “Hi Dad! What’s up?”. That’s Loci – no surprise. They had water in their troughs and buckets.
The fire was apparently like a tornado, hit and miss. Down along the 2.5 mile dirt lane back to the sanctuary, places would be okay and other places would be totally burned to the ground.
The last two houses just prior to the sanctuary property and the shack just inside the sanctuary where Steve Wolfsong, grounds keep and maintenance guy lives, are gone. There were embers smoldering around the enclosures where, sadly ironic, there are wood shaving piles from starting to clear fire barrier areas around enclosures and for clearing for putting up fire dens for the wolves. Hopefully the embers did not start new fires last night and all are still safe.
Frank is going to try to go back up today. Fingers, toes, eyes, legs, arms, everything crossed ….. Please send your good thoughts and prayers toward the sanctuary and remaining animals.
Yesterday afternoon Sasha and Pax were moved to my place in a new outside enclosure and last night Tullian and Sigmund were moved to my place in a new outside enclosure. When they brought Tullian, who is a strong presence and weights 150#s, was brought, my guys were in alarm mode. Yikes!
But all in all, all animals seem to be handling their temporary setup as well as can be expected. A few of the really shy ones are a bit stressed but WOLF has on the Board a holistic vet who is taking care fo them.
My pups are now living in the backyard. We moved over the 4 igloos to the backyard. Noble is showing the most stress because he’s confused about the pecking order with all the new animals coming in. The volunteers and friends will be working on reassuring him that he’s alpha.
So, WOLF operations are now at my house. We have 3-10 volunteers there 24/7. My outside frig is jammed with raw meat – too funny being a vegan. Neo and Morpheus are staying upstairs until eves when it’s a little quieter. Frank, Vi and their 4-legged babies are living downstairs for now.
I’ll be sending pictures that I took this morning in several emails. The smoke is really thick. I couldn’t see the Keyhole when I first got up this morning. Even if the fire did come toward the house, there are very few trees in my area and it would be mainly just grass fires and easy to control."

Later: "The remaining animals were evacuated! Yea! 14 went to TWAS and 3 more came to my place.
Kiki is now back with Rajan. Boots and Lena came to my place. Lena is very traumatized. So Boots was seen laying and wrapping himself around her to comfort her. Makes your heart melt.
The animals going to TWAS were placed inside the Big Cat Pavilion. All settled down quite nicely. However Mr. Loci is bouncing up and down and barking at the Big Cats (you know like tiger big cats) saying “hey wanna play?”.
Fire did come into the edges of two enclosures: Renada and Webster’s and Rajan and Kiki’s. WOLF lost the cabin Steve Wolfsong stays at when he’s working. And we also lost the outhouse the is just above the volunteer shack that sits in-between the enclosures for Renada and Rajan. This is how close the fire came!
It’s not the idea situation but all are free from harm of the fire."

" Please tell everyone this and spread the word:
- for monetary donations go to WOLF's webstie and there is a link to donations via Paypal, etc.
The Facebook page for photos of some of the wolves is here.  If the fire stays away from the Loveland area next week Denny and I will be visiting Shelley and her new crew of critters and helping out where we can for a few days.  I'm excited.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Time Flies

Suddenly two weeks have flown since my last post.  I think after seven years of blogging I've just lost interest in doing this on a regular basis.   Plus, this past week Denny and I were in Albuquerque to visit Denny's sister and running errands and accomplishing some of the tasks she had planned for us took up a lot more of our time than we budgeted for and I didn't even get a chance to get together with my ABQ blogging buddy.  That made me sad.

Settled high in the hills east of Albuquerque we were in time for some late blooming cactus.
There was also a nesting pair of hairy woodpeckers in the cottonwood tree on our site.  It bothered them to no end to have Patches sunning outside right below their tree while the two of them were trying to feed their little brood hidden inside the tree.  On our last day in Tijeras the little ones apparently flew the nest because for the first time in a week the incessant chirping/begging had stopped.

There was a partial lunar eclipse early one morning.  I had forgotten to take the tripod out of the truck and it was too early to be banging truck doors to get it out so I had to go with hand held shots of the moon.  I'm a lot shakier than I used to be so the photos lack the sharpness I was hoping to have.  This shot had a tiny bit of cloud cover moving in.

This was of the tail end of the partial eclipse since I woke up too late to see how "partial" partial was.

But all work and no play make the Brauns a dull set of folks so as a treat Connie drove us up to Santa Fe one day.  Denny and I both fell in love with the architecture of this historic town.  Although we weren't enamored of the prices of the items being sold in the many stores in town.

Under the roof of this long open air building sit a double row of Native Americans who have laid out their wares on blankets on the sidewalk to sell.  The craftsmanship of their work is exquisite and I wished I had a lot of throw away money to spend on the jewelry alone.

Long ago I had read the story of the famed staircase of the Loretto Chapel.  When the Chapel was built there was no room for a staircase and it would have been too difficult for the nuns to climb a ladder to the choir loft so they prayed to St. Joseph for assistance.  A workman appeared a few days later and built this beautiful staircase (originally there was no bannister) without the use of nails and with wood that apparently appeared from nowhere.  When you try to envision this staircase as it was built, without the handrail, you can see what an engineering marvel it is.

Outside the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis there is a statue dedicated to Kateri Tekakwitha, the only Native American to be named a saint.
While our week went much too quickly, Denny, Connie and I were able to knock out the items on Connie's to-do list and enjoy some good meals at the Savory Fare and El Patron restaurants in Albuquerque and at Bobcat Bite in Santa Fe.  Win-win.

Next up, wild fires in New Mexico and Colorado--all the way up to our next two destinations.  

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