I've got this year's Parade of Homes on-deck, but frankly it was even more lackluster than last, and my heart just isn't in it. So first some smaller news:
The good news is I got a notice from a collection agency that I owed the remaining balance in full of nearly $200 on my hospital bill. This was confusing to me, as not only have I been paying them faithfully $50 a month, they've been taking it automatically so I KNOW I haven't missed any payments. I was even more confused because, by my reckoning, I actually owed them close to $500.
I reluctantly called the number to get to the bottom of it. Long story short, it's another case of "pay X amount now and we'll forgive the rest of it." Tery says sometimes they just want to "clean up their books" or something, though I can't see why anyone would walk away from money rightfully owed to them, particularly money that was actually being paid. But hey, pay $200 to save $300? Groupons never has deals so good.
So, another $86 to the ambulance company and I AM DONE. Maybe they'll tell me they'll settle for $20?
We have a new neighbor below us. Nice quiet nonsmoking Kara decided she wanted to live with her boyfriend (so she said; we think she was tired of listening to the still ongoing Feline Wars every morning at 3 am. For that matter, so are we).
It took surprisingly no time for her replacement to move in, considering how many other units seem to sit perpetually empty in the complex. I met him one morning returning from my bike ride -- Mike, a heavyset, 50ish, meek-looking guy. Not unlike the ill-fated Kent, of never making a peep before dropping dead of a heart attack fame.
Mike has been here about two weeks and so far I've been positively beastly to him. In our first conversation he won me over instantly by starting with "I haven't rented an apartment in about 20 years, so please let me know if I'm making too much noise." I asked him to do the same for us, explaining he really only had to contend with our cats racing around at all hours. "Oh, I have two golden retrievers back in my house in Pine Valley" (I think that's a housing community south of us). "If you have a house why are you renting an apartment?" I asked, a fair question I thought. He suddenly looked really uncomfortable and confessed, "My son just went to college and my wife, ummm, wanted to make the most of her empty nest syndrome."
Well, what the hell does THAT mean? I interpreted it as, "The kid's gone and I want the whole house to myself now." Without thinking I said to him, "That seems kind of harsh." He turned a deep red and we went our separate ways. I felt bad, it seemed a really embarrassing detail to share with someone you just met 30 seconds ago, but he needs to come up with a better cover story, it seems to me.
The next time I saw him we said hi, then for some reason I couldn't just drop it there. I said we had been admiring his satellite dish (a fancy 3-room jobbie with HD) -- and couldn't drop it THERE, adding, "Seems a bit excessive for such a small place." He blushed and shrugged helplessly, and closed his door. I simply shouldn't be allowed to speak to this man ever again.
Just tonight a new theory occurred to me: What if he's a serial killer, but also a really bad liar, and this "empty nest syndrome" was the best he could come up with on short notice? In which case I must be at the top of his list by now. Notify the authorities if I don't update within a week or two. But so far he is very quiet and doesn't smoke, so it's all good.
Suddenly fall is upon us. You're probably wondering what became of all my mountain biking adventures. I am too.
Tery's new Toyota suffered a crazy amount of hail damage in one of the last storms of monsoon season. Her car looked like a tinfoil Jiffy Pop cover, with thousands of little indentations. Fortunately insurance was covering it. Unfortunately we just went with the first shop they mentioned, a place called Global Collision.
My insurance company offered multiple times to set us up with a rental car, but Global said it would only take three days. We thought we could survive for three days using my car. Then three days turned into three weeks (Tery insists it might have even been a little longer). Every time she would call for an update she was told it would "hopefully" be ready by such-and-such a day. "Hopefully." As if she was their first client and they had no idea yet how long the process took. I don't know what game they were playing, but she was told on two completely different days a week apart it was "going to paint."
I was getting steadily more and more furious, but Tery hates confrontation so my fury never made it past her ears. We went together to pick it up FINALLY, and I sat and watched as she inspected their work and gratefully shook the salesman's hand as he gave her the keys. "You sure gave him a piece of your mind," I commented when we got home. "He never knew what hit him."
Thankfully she was a bit more honest when USAA called for a follow-up survey of her satisfaction. Which doesn't change the fact that GLOBAL COLLISION STOLE MY SUMMER.
Not helping the situation was the few times I made it to the mountains it was with Tery, who is still struggling to gain some confidence on the trail. I've been patient with her, god knows I didn't start out as the fearless daredevil I've become since last season, but it's really, really difficult to find a trail that doesn't have any technical sections (translation: rock pits, tree roots or anything else that might create a bump in the road) or steep hills to climb (these are still mountains, don't forget), and she ends up walking her bike almost the entire way.
We tried Elk Meadow ("It's a meadow. You can't ask for easier than a meadow" -- well, only a teeny tiny part of it is meadow. The rest is a lot of climbing and, of necessity, descending, which scares her the most). Last weekend we did Meyer Ranch in Conifer, parts of which she liked quite a lot. That was only 4 miles though, so we were going to also hit nearby Flying J Ranch (a trail which Singletracks.com describes as "Adrenaline junkies should go past the first entrance, go past the second entrance and then just keep driving until you find a different ride" LOL) but opted to head home instead.
Meyer Ranch was actually a consolation prize from the previous weekend, when we set out in search of Buffalo Creek Trail in Pine, CO. Following the directions from my book "Bike With a View: Easy and Moderate Trails in Colorado" (published 1994) was our first mistake. We followed a sign for the Buffalo Creek Rec Center which sounded promising, but after driving for 20 minutes on what seemed to be an incredibly long, bumpy dirt road and seeing nothing, we stopped at a random trailhead, set out, and within ten minutes decided this particular trail was too difficult (for Tery. I still might have tried it on my own) and headed home -- after I stubbornly drove for another half an hour on the main road convinced that the stupid trail had to be just around the next bend.
(We didn't see "nothing" exactly -- we stopped to ask for guidance from a family setting up their campground. The parents were off doing something else, so I approached the grubby 9-year-old boy who just stepped off the Deliverance
set. He looked wary of me, so I kept it brief. "Is there anything in that direction?" I pointed down the road. "Oh yeah, there's plenty down there" he answered. I thanked him and ran back to reassure Tery.
"Oh, I'm sure there's plenty," she snarked, "Plenty of bears, plenty of trees, plenty of..." I don't know why she was so snippy -- I saw plenty of what appeared to be biking trails disappearing off the sides of the road, but as I said, she can't handle just any trail.)
So Meyer Ranch was something we noticed on our very disappointed drive back to town and went back to a week later.
However, the first trailhead we saw upon turning onto the dirt road was called "Little Scraggy." We didn't want to risk exploring it at the time (still hoping for the Holy Grail of Buffalo Creek), but it did look intriguing to me; intriguing enough to want to return Monday on my own, which I damn well did.
WELL. As it turned out, this trail was exactly what I've been looking for for Tery. Super smooth, literally only two or three rock pits in the entire 8 miles I rode, and really gentle, no major elevation changes. One minor complaint would be that about 45% of it was covered with loose gravelly sand, but other than that an absolute dream ride. Little Scraggy was only the first section. It soon joined up with the Colorado Trail (I'm beginning to suspect every trail in the mountains does; it's apparently 483 miles long, according to Wiki), and farther along the branch I took, the Shinglemill Trail.
This trail winds through the site of the Buffalo Creek wildfire, which I remember happened in 1996, the year we moved to Colorado (we're pleading the fifth). The area is slowly recovering, but still very much characterized by blighted acres of blackened fallen trees, which sounds horrific but actually is kind of beautiful in its own way. Definitely makes for great biking as you can see in every direction for miles upon miles.
Unfortunately this trail goes downhill first, which means you're lured into going much farther than you probably should before remembering what goes down must come up. I never wanted it to end, it was so incredibly fun coasting down the mountain on twisty, rollercoaster-like turns (Tery could do it I was sure, just maybe not at my speed). But I eventually hit the dirt road at the bottom and reluctantly decided to turn back.
No, up wasn't as fun, but it was really just lung-busting more than difficult. I could ride the whole way, but had to stop often to catch my breath. It being a Monday, I was the only one out there, and it was so eerily quiet. There was no wildlife living in the burned out valley. No black devil squirrels crossing my path, no birds, not even any insects really. I forgot how much I enjoyed being so utterly alone.
By the time I got back to my car I had gone 8 miles in about 2 hours (the slow return climb had made it seem much longer than that). I headed back to town exhilarated in the knowledge that I had found my new favorite trail -- just in time for the end of the season (also just received my last batch of cycling jerseys from an eBay seller in England yesterday, naturally. Guess these puppies will have to wait for next year to see any action).
I bring photos. This one is my favorite, I think.