Wednesday, August 31, 2016

A Nice Weekend in Grand Junction

My first visit to Grand Junction was March, 2014 when I flew into town to run a great half marathon. I stayed in the really cute downtown area of Grand Junction and fell in love with the town. The race itself ran along the Colorado River at the base of the fabulous towering cliff walls of Colorado National Monument. After that race, the race director organized a winery tour, a most perfect post-race activity and a great way to see the beautiful and fertile Colorado River valley area.

This year I saw an opportunity to return to Grand Junction when I learned that a motorcycling acquaintance was basing his HW3 scavenger-style rally out of the Clarion Hotel in Grand Junction. I could combine this with a few days in Santa Fe and have a really great vacation trip. So I emailed him, offering to volunteer for the rally. I made my reservations at the rally headquarters hotel and made my travel plans for the trip.

I knew that I'd be put to work all day on Friday, helping conduct the check-in process for the riders, so there's be no free time to drive the short distance to Palisade to get to a couple of the wineries, so I made sure I left Santa Fe early enough on Thursday morning to make it to at least one of the wineries before getting to the hotel.

I made it to my most favorite winery, The Meadery of Colorado just 1/2 hour before they closed and was able to pick up a case of mixed meads. I had another winery routed but didn't make it there in time before they closed. So it was definitely in my plans for the weekend, and was hoping I'd have some free time to get there.

Riders began arriving to the hotel Thursday evening, and I found a couple of my most favorite long-time IBA motorcycling friends in the hotel bar so I joined them for a beer and we went ahead and had dinner together at the hotel restaurant.

Visiting with one of the rally riders

Checking in one of the rally riders

Going over a rally rider's paperwork

The next morning the volunteer staff met over breakfast and then went out to the parking lot to start greeting the riders and getting them checked in. But not before I led a couple of the others to a great little coffee house next door for some really kick-butt good coffee. The check-in process included checking drivers license for M endorsement, insurance for required coverage, current vehicle registration, and that VIN number matched on all documents. It was a great opportunity to meet some of the riders, too.
Reviewing a rider's paperwork with fellow volunteer John.

That evening there was a group dinner at the hotel and riders were given last minute instructions before the early morning start the next day. I set my alarm and made sure I was dressed and out the door at 5:30 AM the next morning to help if needed and to see the release of the riders for the start of their rally. After all of the riders were departed, a couple of us walked to that great coffee house and sat for a bit, enjoying our drinks and making plans for the day.

Friday night rider/volunteer dinner

I invited one of my friends to join me for a short drive to that winery. He needed to stop at the grocery store to pick something up, so we ran that errand first, then headed east to the town of Palisade to the Talon Winery. It was fun to share the wine tasting with him. We both bought some wine, then took a little tour of the downtown Palisade area before returning to the hotel.

The entire group of volunteers all piled into the hotel courtesy van to go the short distance to The Ale House for dinner that evening. When we got back to the hotel, it was getting late and I returned to my room to get into bed and watch the Olympics. It had been a very long day with a very early wake-up and I was ready to quit for the night.

Sunday morning staffer meeting and review of scoring forms

Sunday morning, I joined some of the volunteers for breakfast and we all moved to the conference room, where we reviewed the scoring process and uploaded some files and connected to other files on Google Sheets, an online document sharing site. We were ready to start scoring, and were watching the Shared Spot tracker page to determine when the first riders would arrive. Within minutes we got word from the parking lot that the first rider had arrived. A couple of hours later, the next rider arrived, and soon the room began to fill with arrived riders, waiting to be scored.

Going over scoring process and forms before riders begin arriving

I scored 8 of the riders and as I scored them one by one, began to see many of the same bonus locations among the riders that I scored. This made it easy, not having to refer to the sample photo to verify. It was fun meeting these riders and hearing their stories, seeing how some were exhausted, others elated. Three of the riders I scored were in the top ten riders, two of these three were first-time ralliers.
Scoring one of the rally riders

When we were done scoring, I returned to my room, grabbed a couple of bottles of Sweaty Betty beers and sat outside by the pool with one of my fellow volunteers, John from California. We've been friends for years, seeing each other at various IBA events and MTF gatherings over the years. As we sat there, we were surprised by the arrival of a good friend from Utah who was originally not going to stop by. She surprised us all by showing up and it was a real treat seeing her again.

The awards banquet started at 6:00 PM. The riders were all eager to find out the results of the rally. But first, we were fed a great buffet meal. Then the awards were announced. All of the riders, no matter how well they felt they'd performed in the rally, were very happy with the rally and the experience. It was fun to be witness to their experiences.

As I sat at our table talking with my California friend John, the room slowly emptied out. I considered joining the others afterward in the bar or the parking lot, but I really wanted to watch the Olympic closing ceremonies on TV. I also knew I had a very long drive home and needed to be well rested and get an early start, especially since the change in time zones was not in my favor returning to Texas.

The next morning I had breakfast with another of my motorcycle friends, and got on the road early - 7:30 AM - for the long drive to Amarillo for the night. It was going to be all secondary roads, some of them slow and tedious, so I knew it was going to be a tough 620 mile day.

It was a good trip, and I got to see some of my favorite IBA friends. I got to visit a couple of my favorite little towns in the Rockies west and to bring home some of my favorite Colorado wines.

Now home for another month before my next adventure.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Road Trip to Santa Fe and Beyond

After more than a month of being a homebody, it was time to hit the road again. This time not for a marathon, but for some R&R in Santa Fe and then a long weekend volunteering with other riding friends at a bonus rally event in Grand Junction.

Santa Fe, for me, is one of the perfect little towns to settle in for a few days and relax. The lovely villa at Villas de Santa Fe is comfortable and very nicely located within an easy stroll from the historic town center and plenty of things to see and do, and plenty of resources - Starbucks, grocery store, CVS, fun little shops.

It was a long, boring drive to get to Santa Fe, with an overnight stop in Snyder TX along the way. But I did finally arrive in town around 2-2:30 PM and stopped at Albertson's to buy groceries and wine for my few days' stay and drove around to the other side of the shopping center to get myself a Starbucks cappuccino. Finally! I'd arrived! I moved right into my villa, unloading the car and stowing the groceries. Then I plopped down on the sofa to enjoy my cappucino and watch the news and then the night's Olympics coverage.

The next morning I walked down to that Starbucks - a 1.5 mile round trip - and brought my drink back to the villa and had breakfast of Cheerios and fresh strawberries. I caught a bit of the morning Olympics coverage, then walked to the pretty central square in historic Santa Fe, enjoying the beautiful weather along the way. Pleasant temps, low humidity, such a refreshing change from the oppressive weather I left behind in S.E. Texas!

Fun little duo on banjo and guitar. They were fun to talk to

Tops on my "to do" list was to get to Senor Murphy's candy shop to buy my favorite chocolate candy: chile pistachio dark chocolate bark! I discovered this shop several years ago on my first trip to Santa Fe. Each time I return to this quaint little town, I make a point of stopping in. And when I'm back in Texas craving it, I order it online from their website. It's addictive!

Oh yeah, come to mamma!! Chile pistachio dark chocolate bark

Some more Senor Murphy delectables

Wonderful aroma coming from this chicken fajita food stand

As I passed by the central square, I noticed that the food carts were starting up their grills, giving off their tantalizing aromas, so I walked back that way to check them out and to listen to some of the live music being performed in the shade of the large trees ringing the square.

The best chicken fajita wrap ever!!

The chicken fajita cart caught my interest, so a chicken fajita wrap for lunch it will be! As I sat at one of the tables along the edge of the park, I ate my lunch and enjoyed the most excellent blue grass music coming from a delightful duo playing fiddle and banjo.

Excellent blue grass duo to entertain during lunch

I slowly made my way back to the villa, taking the roundabout way through the town, checking out the shop windows along the way. But I confess to being eager to return to my rooms so that I could watch more of the Olympics. I'd already missed two full days' worth while on the road. So back to my villa, TV tuned to the coverage and thinking about dinner. I'd bought a rotisserie chicken at the grocery store, and plenty of vegetables for a big salad.

I got onto my laptop computer and planned out a running route for the next morning, one that would be scenic and with a coffee shop stop near the end. I came up with a 3.5 mile route and was actually eager to get out the next morning to do it. I'd been getting soooo bored lately, doing miles in my own neighborhood. I was looking forward to the change of scenery.

7,200 feet above sea level! Yes, I was well aware of this from the moment I arrived in town and had to haul my luggage to my villa! But the exercise will do me good!

It took very little effort to get out the door early the next morning for that run! I was so eager for the newness of the locale. My route took me east and then south along Paseo de Peralta for about a mile, a gradual uphill climb past neat banks and businesses which began to give way to private residences. I turned left on Palace Ave, which continued the gradual uphill climb through a beautiful neighborhood filled with mature homes with large trees,and lovely landscaping. Huge mounds of morning glories were everywhere, their giant white blooms nodding in the morning sun.

Wednesday morning run route...3.5 miles including Starbucks

I then turned right onto El Alamo Street, a short connector street to Alameda Street. Homes lined this street to the north, while a lovely landscaped park - Santa Fe River Park - ran the length of the street on the south side. The Santa Fe River ran through the middle of this park, with its lovely small waterfalls and little white water cataracts burbling and gurgling along. A pedestrian path with occasional benches lined the park perimeter. It was lovely!
Google street view of Alameda Rd and Santa Fe River Park
Then I was back onto Paseo de Peralta, as it curved west and then I was passing the state capitol building, with it's modern yet very attractive exterior design. I turned north on Don Gaspar Ave, heading into the little downtown area and the Starbucks which is just one block off of the little town square.

Hot cappuccino in hand, I finished my outing, walking the last few blocks to my villa and to breakfast.

I enjoyed my little run so much that I repeated the next morning, my last morning in Santa Fe. I shortened it a bit, but it still felt good! I'd packed up most of my things the night before and had moved most of it out to the car. All I needed to do was shower, have breakfast, pack the perishables, and check out.

Repeat part of Wednesday's route on Thursday morning.

Grand Junction CO is the next stop on this trip so I headed the car north of town on U.S. 285. Next stop: The Meadery of Colorado in Palisade, CO and then on to the hotel in Grand Junction for the next few days.