Western Vacation, Part 5: Breathless

My mother is a fish…

Originally uploaded by steven_d_krause.

I’m typing this on Wednesday, the end of our third full day here at the YMCA of the Rockies, though I am sure I won’t be able to post this until Thursday or later. It’s been an incredibly busy day and lots of fun. It started with a trip to Bill’s Trout Pond in Winter Park, an operation run by an ex-ski bum named Bill. Bill was quite a hoot; he ran this trout pond in the summer and drove a shuttle van from the Denver airport and the Winter Park ski resort.

It was one of these places where you throw a line in the well-stocked pond and you’re going to catch a trout. The kids loved it; actually, all the kids loved it, which was a bit of a surprise. We figured that at least one of them would have gotten squeamish about the whole idea of catching fish and then watching Bill clean them, but they were all quite fascinated by the process, including the gutting. Bill, who had been running the fish farm for years and who had certainly seen groups like ours before, was not surprised to see the little kids this invested in the blood and guts side of things. Anyway, Will was the winning fisherman in that he caught two of the biggest fish (one trout that was 18 inches long), and he caught his fish first, almost right in a row. Then we had all of the fish for lunch– great and unbelievably fresh trout.

In the afternoon, Annette and Will and I went back into Winter Park to go to the ski resort and to take a try on the Alpine Sled ride. Really cool. Basically, you go down this track that is sort of like a bobsled run on a little cart where you control the speed. Will was behind Annette, and they were both way out in front of me; apparently, Will sped up on Annette, came up behind her yelling “ramming speed!� and bumped her cart, which is a no-no. It would have been fun to do that run again, actually, but we didn’t want to pay the $40 a person “all day� fee.

Anyway, after that, we went shopping and then we went out for dinner at a pretty nice German restaurant. Nice place and a good time for one and all, though I think it’s fair to say that the altitude and pine pollen had finally gotten to Annette. At one point in time, it got to everyone in my family other than the children, actually. You don’t think about this, but when you get up to 8500 feet or so above sea level and stay there for a couple of days, a lot of people start feeling pretty crappy. Just about everybody in our group (including me) had some symptoms from the altitude. So, when all is said and done, Colorado was “breathless� for more reason than one.

As before, there’s pictures on my Flickr account.

Western Vaction, Part 4: “Talking ’bout the Y-M-C-A”

Let’s see, where did I leave off? Here’s what we’ve been up to lately:

Monday morning, we went on a group hike on the Waterfall Trail, which was a pretty easy hike except for the fact that we are already at 8700 feet and we had to herd a gaggle of elementary school aged hikers. Kind of a funny thing at the end: we hiked and hiked, looking for a waterfall, and we got to this place that was kind of like a waterfall. We took some pictures and everything. Then we looked around the corner of the path and then we saw the real waterfall pictured here.

Monday afternoon, I played golf with a couple brothers-in-laws Sean and Dan (who was a real trooper since this was only the second or third time he played golf in the last five years) and my father at this place called Pole Creek Golf Course. I took some pictures with my cell phone, but I screwed up and didn’t save any of them. It’s too bad because it was a really beautiful course. Play-wise, it was an interesting place because some of the holes were relatively easy– I actually won the par contest with a total of 4– and some of the holes were im-fucking-possible– I ended up with about 120 for the round, and that’s with a fair amount of cheating along the way. Expensive, but well worth it.

Monday night included much roasting of marshmallows and creating of s’mores around the fire. Ah, camp….

Tuesday has featured stuff around the YMCA camp. Will and I made a visit to the craft area where we made a catapult– I’ll have to upload the picture for that later. The craft center was pretty nice. All the kids made tie-dyed t-shirts the previous day, a couple of them made little boats and stuff. I’m sure we could go down there and make those lanyard things out of the plastic strips from camp.

Then it was time for family pictures, some minigolf, some hanging out, etc. The camp is nice– beautiful scenery and nice facilities– but it is a little, well, wholesome for my tastes. It’s not like religion is being shoved down my throat or anything like that, but there are many young people sitting around the lobby where I’m typing this message quite busy studying their bibles.

More later; in the meantime, check out the uploaded photos.

Western Vacation, Part 3: YMCA of the Rockies

Steve and Annette in Colorado
I’m typing this Sunday night as my son (along with many nieces and nephews) are running around playing various singing games and my siblings and parents are sitting around being entertained by them and I am taking a moment to hide away in our room.

We’re staying at a YMCA camp in Colorado, a huge (5000+ acres) affair near Winter Park that caters to family reunions and church groups and such. The house we’re staying in is built to house 25, certainly comfortable for the 17 or so of us. It includes two stoves, two refrigerators, two microwaves, and two bedrooms that have nothing but bunk beds. Guess where the kiddies are staying?

It took us about four hours to drive up here, up what I thought was a pretty challenging pass. The picture here is of Annette and I at the top, taken by Will (that’s why it is a little crooked). The camp is at about 8700 feet, which means that low-landers like me are spending the first day trying to adjust to the altitude. We hiked around the camp a bit, but mostly, we watched the dramatic thunderstorms that rolled in and out of the valley and tried to see if we could start a camp fire and listened to the kids play.

Interestingly enough, even here in the wilderness, getting away from it all, it’s pretty easy to get online. I am here via a free wireless connection in the coffee shop area of the administrative building. Down the hall, there’s a little store and a grill that has a “cyber cafe� section, $5 for the day or $20 for the week. Try to give up the ‘net (which I’m not trying to do, btw), and there’s someone ready to feed you a connection, even in the middle of nature.

Pictures are here; this is where they will be for a while as I add to it…

Western Vacation, Part 2: Sterling, CO

I have nothing of substance to report about our trip today. We got up, we drove and drove and drove, through western Iowa and Nebraska and the beginnings of Colorado to here, Sterling. Frankly, the main reason I’m writing now is because I can. The hotel we’re staying at here in Sterling has free wireless as part of the deal, and I’m pretty sure my internet access will be limited or non-existent for the next three or four days. Though I guess we’ll see.

Oh, okay, since I’m here, a few things I recall from the day’s trip:

  • Lotsa rain in the morning.
  • Every little town in Nebraska has some little museum advertised as a means of sucking people in off of the interstate.
  • There were a couple of stretches of drive through Nebraska where the smell from the feed lots was pretty freakin’ awful. And long-lasting, too. I’m not talking about a drive by of a smelly farm that lasts a few seconds; I’m talking about the smell of shit and death together for a good 15 minutes. BTW, how’s the burger?
  • We left Cedar Falls this morning about the same time as my parents, more or less. We had decided that there was no point in following each other and that we’d just meet up on Sunday. So who shows up at our hotel? The Ps, of course. They did their thing for dinner while we did ours, but it’s like we planned it. Pretty funny.

Western Vacation, part 1: CF and Sturgis Falls days


Originally uploaded by steven_d_krause.

The first leg of our trip westward is here to my home town of Cedar Falls, Iowa. A few thoughts in some particular order:

  • We got here yesterday evening; this morning, my father and I played golf. I managed to get a birdie on a hole after hitting a 3-wood shot well over 200 yards up a hill and on to the green and then sinking a long long putt. This ultra-lucky shot rolled on to the green while the group ahead of us was still putting. I apologized profusely from the fairway, and my father ran into them in the clubhouse afterwards and told them I got a birdie on the hole. They seemed pleased.
  • It’s too freakin’ hot and humid– like mid-90s.
  • I continue to be impressed with the improved quality of life in Cedar Falls. For example: not only does CF finally have a Starbucks; it also has a drive-thru.
  • The highlight of the day and the source of the photo here is from the children’s costume parade at Sturgis Falls Days, which is the annual big summer celebration here in Cedar Falls. Will participated in his knight costume (as pictured above). Sturgis Falls is a nice small town fest, and if we had more time and weren’t leaving first thing tomorrow morning, I might be there still at the beer tent and listening to dixieland jazz. But we are and so I’m not. Besides, it was really REALLY hot, and then it started to rain, so time to come home.

Here is another picture from the parade:

Will leading the parade
Here’s Will (pictured in the middle) leading the parade. Well, behind the guy who was really leading the parade, a bagpipe player. A nice touch for the children’s parade, we thought.

Anyway, tomorrow we leave for Colorado, and I am thinking I won’t have Internet access for a couple of days. Probably a good thing. But stay tuned for details when access is available….

Where’s my burning flag?/The Dick Durbin apology

This is a sort of “two-fer” deal in terms of posts:

  • Isn’t it interesting, during a news cycle where we are learning that Bush’s war in Iraq is going quite badly and where poll numbers indicate that most Americans now thing this is a bad idea, that the Republicans try a diversion like the whole flag burning thing?
  • My favorite commentary on flag burning came years and years ago from Miss Manners. This had to be at least 15 years ago when I was living in Richmond and regularly reading The Washington Post. Miss Manners pointed out that the issue with burning the flag has nothing to do with it being legal or not. It’s just rude, and, as Miss Manners pointed out, sometimes people do all sorts of things that are rude just to make a point.
  • I don’t think that Dick Durbin has any reason to apologize. What he said was we were behaving like Nazis or old time Soviets with this prison in Git-mo, not that we were Nazis or old time Soviets. Anybody who doesn’t understand this ought to be forced to retake high school English….
  • The longest day/I'm outta here

    I am not quite sure if today or tomorrow is actually the longest day of the year, but today felt like the longest day to me. Without going into any great detail, today was one of those days where it seemed like I dealt with/experienced about three days worth of stuff. Some of it was good (kudos on my CHE piece, some other good news in the sense that I heard some “not bad” news, I finished grading for my spring term class, etc.), some of it bad (hearing about John, unbelievably bad traffic in town, I had to finish grading for my spring term class, etc.).

    Interestingly, one of the things that really frosted my cake (so to speak) today is something I don’t think I should write about in any detail. All I’ll say is this: today, for the first time in 17 years of teaching college, I had a student hand in a final research project/essay that was blatantly plagiarized, meaning just flat-out stolen. I was reading along with this essay, came across a sentence that made me think “wow, that sounds not like a student essay at all,” typed that sentence into Google, and whammo, there was the essay. Or most of it. I felt sorry for and really pissed off at this student all at the same time.

    Anyway, the day is finally over, as is the semester. Tomorrow morning, I’m leaving town until about July 10, give or take. I’m bringing my laptop with me, but I have no idea what sort of Internet access I’ll have, and I’m almost certain I won’t have a lot of “official” things to post. I might post some stuff to the unofficial blog if you’re really curious. If not, I’ll see ya in a couple of weeks.

    Remembering John Lovas

    I’m shocked and saddened to hear that John passed away yesterday at the age of 65. There is a web space at DeAnza college to remember John, a “Festschrift.”

    I feel like I knew him quite well as a colleague, and yet I met him in person only once at the Computers and Writing conference in Hawaii last year, and I probably only exchanged a dozen words with him then. This is how fellow bloggers are: we talk to each other through our typing.

    John’s posts at “A Writing Teacher’s Blog” were a regular way for me to start my day. I found his writing engaging, inspiring, inviting, and, well, useful. John was a great source of advice and wisdom about the practicalities of teaching writing and it was so obvious that he loved what he did. It’s fitting somehow that the last post he made about a month ago was titled “Beginnings” and is about the challenge, as John wrote, of getting “the student to connect the banalites to real experiences, observations, or recollections. When that happens, there’s a real chance for a paper worth reading.”

    I’ll miss John quite a bit and regret that I didn’t have a chance to speak with him more in person, but I’ll always remember our conversations in writing.