Archive for category: Biking

Silent Spring

Categories: Adventure, Animals, Biking, Buddhist Practice, Cancer, Conscious Living, Family, France, Health and Fitness, Horses, Psychology, Relationships, Travel

My life has been so blessed overall–but I/we surely got dealt our lifetime ration of yuck over the past six months!!

In January, my beautiful young Rocky Mountain Horse, Shambhala Sunrise, died ;  our local property “caretakers” did the opposite of taking care of us and our property, instead figuring out how to destroy our yurt, and bilk us and the state of California, no more said about them, but we don’t miss them; the son of a (unbeknownst to us uninsured) roofer fell off the roof of our ranch in the Sierras; my truck was vandalized and my wallet and ID was stolen by a ring of sophisticated identity thieves; we had to cancel our long awaited trip to visit our godson in South America when my beloved husband, Jim, was diagnosed (mis, fortunately) with colon cancer; my new horse bucked me off twice and fractured my collar bone.  I didn’t feel like talking much about it all!  IT seemed like a good time to observe “SILENT SPRING” and wait until the dark clouds passed over.

Today, in celebration of the end of that Silent Spring, we are back on track-marking the end of the winter of our discontent and celebrating our 30th Anniversary with a tandem bicycle trip following the Rhine and Moselle Rivers,  More to follow!

HOW I HIT THE JACKPOT!

Categories: Adventure, Animals, Biking, Dining, Gourmet, Health and Fitness, Hiking, Pets, Travel - Tags: , , , , , , ,

Hiking High Above KESSLER CANYON RANCH, COLORADO

We have been book tour traveling off and on since Pulling Up Stakes: Stepping Into Freedom (http://www.pullingupstakesbook.com) was released in April.  This month we have dates at bookstore in Vail and Boulder, Colorado.  Of course, being savvy travellers, we’ve cherry picked our trips and it has really worked out well for us.  So when we were confirmed at Bookworm in Vail (http://www.bookwormofedwards.com) and Boulder Books Store (http://www.boulderbookstore.net)  in Boulder, I went on the web to find out what else we might do to light our fire while in Colorado.

One of my favorite websites is Luxury Links (http://www.luxurylinks.com). We’ve stayed at some amazing places all over the world during our sabbatical that we found, bid on and won at Luxury Links.  This time I found a property called Kessler Canyon (www.kesslercanyon.com) that looked like it might just be the spark to light our fire for the Colorado tour (oops, too many wildfires are burning right now in the west….anyway, you know what I mean).

It was a competitive bid, but luckily, this place must be the best kept secret in Western Colorado.  SO, drumroll….I won the auction—3 days and 2 nights, all meals and activities included.  But, we didn’t have a clue we had won the JACKPOT until we landed in Grand Junction, got a free upgrade to any car of our choice (a 4 wheel drive Jeep SUV) because they were out of compact cars.  We drove north to DeBeque and 17 miles west through high desert before we found the gates to Kessler Canyon and drove 4.5 more dusty dirt road miles into a canyon surrounded by rugged sandstone and shale peaks before arriving at the oasis that is this private resort.

Kessler’s Homage to the Wild Mustangs Greeted Us–6 Larger Than Lifesize Sculptures Galloping Across the Crest of a Hill

We were greeted like long lost relatives, I was immediately hugged and called “Lil Darlin’” by Chef Lenny, a generously proportioned cowboy (definitely gourmet) cook/chef.  They’d been waiting for us and couldn’t wait to welcome us, help us get settled in this amazing place. Our huge room has original old west paintings, leather easy chairs, hand carved wooden tables and chests and a gorgeous spa-like bathroom.

We soon learned that the Kessler family fortune was made in the 1970s with the establishment of the Days Inns along highway interchanges.  This canyon has been the family’s private 23,000 acre hunting and fishing retreat from managing over a dozen other boutique hotels throughout the south. We’re here, it turns out to our amazement and delight, with only two other guests and a hand-picked gifted staff of 19.  Oh, My!  If there were stars to award and five was excellent, this place would rate a ten!

 

 

 

 

Cowboy Chef Lenny in a Rarely Pensive Moment (He is Usually Laughing or Singing)


 

 

We have been treated like visiting royalty.  Encouraged to fish in one of the lakes, take lessons in shooting skeet (this is a private big game hunting lodge during hunting season)—both shotguns and high powered rifles.  Now as a Buddhist, I clearly clo not believe in killing, but I certainly don’t object to shooting skeet and tin targets at 250 yard, especially when a Navy sharpshooter who has been teaching for almost twenty years offers himself as your private guide and instructor.

We’ve also been mountain biking and this morning we took Tess, the family Springer Spaniel, a reportedly $10.000 dog who recently gave birth to eight wonderful puppies, on a challenging hike up to the top of the plateau overlooking this canyon (see above photo)—about a 3,000 ft climb.

 

Mama Tess, the Amazing Springer Spaniel

We really feel we deserve the phenomenal gourmet meals Cowboy Chef Lenny prepares for us each meal.

We also were invited to learn (fast) and take out our own ATVs —for someone who’s never done that, and always only hiked, biked or ridden horses, that’s another adventure into a testosterone-drenched world, like shooting guns,.  Suffice it to say, we didn’t flip our ATVs. But there were more than a few “Yee Haws!” as we swooped down through stream beds and up steep banks to gun it (lots of guns here) out the straightaway.

Well, all I can say, is “Present Moment, Wonderful Moment” has many unexpected, sometimes challenging, yet extraordinary meanings.  It does appear, for the price we paid and the amazing experience we have had, that we have surely hit the jackpot.

Aloha Nui Nui

Categories: Adventure, Biking, Conscious Living, Travel - Tags: , , , ,

Lest anyone imagine us Madly, Kindly and Truly celebrating our “Golden Years” and Jim’s 75th Birthday on a beach somewhere under a palm tree with a tall drink with a paper umbrella—NO!!

We just cycled 50 Molokai miles today in a headwind, climbing almost 3,ooo feet on a gorgeous narrow road that even has Big Sur beat hands down for extreme coastal beauty.  (This, because one dramatically rugged stretch of the road with almost NO cars, hugs the escarpment edge, zigzaging in precipitous switchbacks from the beach up to the pass offering jaw-dropping vistas of the azure sea crashing into white foam on rocks below).

Along the way, we stopped briefly to hike in hushed jungle silence to the remains of Liliopae, the island’s largest and hidden heiau (temple), where powerful Kahuna (priests) made human blood sacrifice drench the football field size array of stones blood red. The ancient aura is still potent.

Back on our tandems after a brief stop at the Puu O Hoko Ranch Store at the top, we descended a sheer white knuckle road however many breath-taking feet down into Halawa Valley.  We stopped to catch our breaths for a picnic before hiking 5 rugged miles into a beautiful sacred waterfall cascading into a large pool.

At the entry to the trail, however, our path was blocked by a cursing Harpie. (Was she on drugs?) Why didn’t her proximity to the ancient sacred pools she was guarding, help her at least maintain a modicum of aloha courtesy while defending her beliefs?

She’s not alone with the major sturm and drang on Molokai against visitors. Turns out a few months ago a yacht with 30 tourists docked in Molokaii. Many locals are terrified that that signals the beginning of commercial tourism, cruise ships, etc. and they want NONE of that. Fair and foresighted enough.   Unfortunately, since we’re in lycra bike shorts and neon safety colors, we stand out like beacons.  We’ve been cursed, given the Hawaiian version of the double “F” sign and barked at by dogs.  Not all the people are that way, for sure–some are very hospitable, and we are here under our own pedal power, respectful of the sacred sites and history of this island.

After the strident Harpie finally realized we were visiting at the invitation of our guide, her neighbor down the road, she retreated and we were able to set out on the jungle trail, probably still hyperventilating a bit from her high decibel confrontation.  But by the time we reached the waterfall Jim and I were too beat and it was getting too late to even take the time to take a swim, envisioning still ahead of us, the return hike then bike ride back up and down those amazing hills. These Golden Years are exhausting!

Tandem Bike Touring in Hawaii

Categories: Adventure, Biking, Conscious Living, Health and Fitness, Hiking, Relationships, Self-Improvement, Travel - Tags: , , , , ,

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Daisy, Daisy, Give me your answer true. I’m half crazy all for the love of you. It won’t be a stylish marriage.  I can’t afford a carriage.  But you’ll look sweet, upon the seat, of a BICYCLE BUILT FOR TWO!

So, we’re off on another tandem adventure.  Last winter was so endless and wet, we jumped at the chance  for some sun this year to rejoin Santana Tandem Tours for their “Sweetheart Ride” on three of Hawaii’s islands–Maui, Lanai and Molokai.  Jim and I will go early and relax first in remote Hana, Maui, then assemble our tandem and join the group for the tour–and wind up with a trial run — a rental RV for a week touring around on the big island of Hawaii.

But first, we have to scramble at the eleventh hour to revive the frequent flyer tickets I’d reserved with American Airlines months before for the trip.  SOMEBODY over there had pushed the delete button.  So after four hours in the middle of the night escalating from the first groundling to the top senior supervisor, we finally have seats, but not non-stop and costing even more fly miles and flying out of San Francisco instead of closer San Jose.  Well, soon we’ll be in Hawaii and this will be a distant memory!

After a langorous recovery at a condo on the beach in beautiful Hana, sleeping, reading, cooking, beach combing and hiking, we wind back the narrow Hana “highway” (misnomer–it’s one lane) to Kanapali to join the Santana group and assemble our tandem.  Oops….should have started MUCH earlier–there are so many little pieces!  So many adjustments!  Jim is stalwart and help abounds….

Bike Building on Maui

What’s a Tandem Without a Partner? Arles and Le Camargue

Categories: Adventure, Biking, France, Health and Fitness, Horses - Tags: , ,

Our tour’s final ride leaves Arles on Sunday morning for a route through the Camargue; a national wildlife refuge on the Rhone River Delta. Jan and Bill report that on their scouting trip they spotted wild horses, pink flamingos, mammals related to woodchucks, storks and various birds of prey. They also passed farms where they saw the Camargue breed of bulls grazing. They’ve made an optional unpaved loop which passes two lighthouses and offers views of the Grande Rhone Delta into Mediterranean.

From the Camargue we will ferry across the Rhone and reach Port Saint Louis; where the Amadeus Symphony will be waiting with lunch in time to pack our tandems on the top deck, cruise back upriver to Arles for a farewell banquet.

Jim and I have a 6 AM flight tomorrow from Marseilles so we have to wake up at 2:45AM for a 3AM bus from Arles to the Marseilles airport.  This promises to be a very full day—but I am really excited to ride and especially to see the wild horses of the Camargue.  There’s a fantastic YouTube video floating around the web in which one of the Camarge cowboys harnesses up six of the grey-white ponies—two in the back and four in the front—and rides them at full gallop along the tidal surf of the delta—He rides by standing barefoot, one foot on each of the two back horses.  It is extraordinary to see these beautiful beasts, flying fearlessly along the tide line, in total harmonious connection with their cowboy rider/driver.  Soon, he signals to them to head into the sea and swim.  The video ends with the image of the six horses heads only showing above the water line—manes wet, powerfully pulling forward, swimming in the surf, with their rider standing barefoot on the rumps of the two last horses.  Clearly magical.

Do I dream of coming here to the Camargue and seeing the place where this amazing horseman and these magical horses live?  Of Course!  So waking in the 6 AM darkness to get up and get dressed for the day, I am SO disappointed to hear Jim croak, “I’m not riding today.”  It doesn’t sound negotiable.  Tandem riding is wonderful, but it does have this one major problem.  It takes two riders, both desiring to ride.  Suddenly, with great disappointment, I realize that we are/ I am boat bound today and my dream of riding the Camargue will not happen.

But wait, maybe somebody else on this boat, another captain of a tandem, may be hearing the same message from his stoker, that she has caught the cold that is going around everywhere and is opting out for today.  I decide to “dress for the dance” even though I don’t have a dance partner or dance invitation, just in case there’s an extra captain in the dining room at breakfast.  Jim encourages me to do that and after our morning ablutions, at 7 we head down for breakfast .  I head straight for Bill and Jan McCready’s table to let him know I am available to stoke.  Then, realizing that a river delta is going to be totally flat, I head over to find Wolgang, the German psycylist, figuring how dangerous could it be on the flats with him?  But his partner is pertly dressed and ready to ride.  I look around the dining room and, typical tandem style, there are pairs and pairs of matching jerseys, indicating green light for all the tandems, except in the case of those who aren’t suited up to ride at all.

I circle the dining room three times, asking around and feeling exactly like an awkwardly gangly 7th grade wall flower at an excruciatingly painful school dance with no partner.  Oh, well.  Not meant to be.  Best to make the best of it.  I can write my blog and pack very calmly.  As I am eating breakfast, I hear Bill pick up the microphone and announce, “Any of you captains out there without a stoker today, Harriet Wrye is a small very strong stoker, looking to ride…..” I am so embarrassed at being singled out like this, but it actually works. Loren from near Houston, Texas is hale and hearty but his wife Kelly has succumbed to the cold, probably from overstressing up Mt. Ventaux.  But she DID Mt. Ventaux, and Loren looks a lot younger than me.  Nevertheless, I am thrilled to be able to ride, so off I go to get my waterbottles, rain gear, camera and helmet.

Man, what a ride it was!  Just about the last ones to leave the boat after adjusting the seat and pedals to fit me, and with the wrong map loaded on Loren’s Garmen GPS unit, we sail out of town in the wrong direction.  Not a problem.  Loren is in fine fettle and he and Kelly have a tandem microphone setup so they can talk to each other.  What a great idea!  Plus, they have the most comfortable bike seats I’ve ever ridden.  With Loren’s youth, strength and my gratitude and gumption, we fairly fly the thirty miles across the Camargue, stopping for a few photos of horses and egrets.  What a fun finale, and to boot, when we make it back to the boat at Port St. Louis, Jim has been feeling well enough to disassemble our “Pandemonium, Commotion Tandemonium” and pack her up in her two bike cases.  All that remains is for us to enjoy a final delicious lunch and for me to pack up our personal gear.  Soon, this amazing trip will become a shadow of a sweet tandem memory. . . .

At our farewell lunch, we just serendipitously happen to land at the “dog” table—everybody is talking about their dogs—and puppies—and this gives me a wonderful chance to refresh my rusty memories of puppy training—and to share our good news about going home to pick up our new Poodle puppy, “Monsieur Bon Bon de Beau Beaune” this week, or Beau for short!

 

“Pique-nique” in Arles

Categories: Biking, Conscious Living, Dining, France, Gourmet, Travel - Tags: , , , , ,

The ride today is out and back from Arles to the foot of the Alpilles, en route to Saint Remy de Provence, where Vincent van Gogh hospitalized himself for thirteen artistically productive months after cutting off part of his ear. Then we ride on to the same spots that inspired some of van Gogh’s finest works. The next stop on the ride, dozens of feet beneath the olive groves that Van Gogh painted, is where archeologists more recently unearthed Glanum, a Roman regional capital dating from 100 B.C.  Finally, routed on this memorably promising day is Les Baux, the massive castle where knightly chivalry was practiced and the art form of the troubadour was refined. There’s also a display of classic “engines of war” that include a full size catapult and trebuchet. Although the castle (portions of it dating back to pre-Roman times), was pulled down for religious reasons in 1632 (it had become a refuge for protestants!) the village survived, and is as intriguing as the fortress.

All this is so exciting because Jim and I took our first tandem trip here in 1988 and I remember this route as a high point of that trip.  However, as Scottish poet Robert Burns wrote, the “best laid plans of mice and men are aftly gang awry.”  At breakfast, Jim starts sneezing uncontrollably and then, turning to me ruefully, says, “I’m coming down with a cold.”  Of course spending eight days on an air-conditioned boat is like being confined within an airplane cabin for days.  I hadn’t realized it, but cyclists are dropping like flies from colds.

Well, actually, not bad timing, Jim!  The boat will be staying overnight again here in Arles and today being Saturday, we have in Arles Provence’s largest outdoor market.  We’d already suited up in our bike clothes, so after the rest of the still-healthy cyclists take off for St Remy En Provence, we change from our cleated bike shoes into more comfortable footwear and head into the center of town to the huge blocks and blocks long street market.  We’ve been cycling so much, it’s really the first time I’ve had any free time to browse for gifts for the kids at home.  Jim quickly tires of this hunter-gathering mode and returns to read, rest and nurse his cold on the ship, leaving me to scour the market for Provencal bibelots for friends and family.

There are the most delectable offerings in the food department, but I know there’s no way the extraordinary selections of cheese, pates or olive tapenades can make it home with us, so I take lots of pictures and head, just slightly downcast, into the part of the market that sells Provencal linens, fabrics, olive oils, lavender soaps and sachets.  I fill my basket, enjoying brief conversations in French with the merchants and turn toward home.  But it is already noon and there is no lunch scheduled on the boat today, so I spin around with zest and fresh culinary purpose and return to the market.  Voila!  I will buy some of those amazing cheeses, tapinades, olives and bread and make Jim a picnic!

Back on the boat, I lay out the booty on a table in the deserted lounge of the boat, invite Jim to join me, and we have probably our favorite meal on the whole trip.  It’s intimate, delicious, beautiful and fun.  Bon Apetite!

I pray Jim can breathe well enough tomorrow to ride, because tomorrow promises to be perhaps the most unique day of all—riding our tandems across the Camargue—the flat delta of the Rhone, so rich with wildlife, it abounds in pink flamingos, wild horses, mammals related to woodchucks, storks and various birds of prey.  Oh, la la!

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