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Posts tagged ‘mountains’

of music, mountains, and folktales…

I am not an exceptional cyclist.  Yet somehow, I have managed to have extraordinary and exceptional journeys.  Slowly.  Purposefully.  Sometimes accidentally.  On two wheels.

For me it is the love of slow travel.  It is not about pushing through to a destination, or about arriving. Rather, it is a conscious savoring of each meter, each mile along the way – under my own power, and to the beat of my own heart.  It is about letting the day unwind before me as it will.   It is about the diversions and accidental discoveries.  It is about seeing the beauty through all of the senses – through touch, sight, sound, smell and taste.

We – my beloved and I – spent mid- through late September traveling and cycling through three magnificent countries – Austria, Slovenia and Italy.  We began in Salzburg and finished in Venice.  And in between, we fell in love with the mountains, the people,  and the villages of Slovenia.  We were in the land of the Julian Alps, a region whose heritage is rich in music, folklore, and mountaineering.  It often looked and felt like something taken out of a fairy tale … and in a way, I suppose it was.

It is difficult for me to write, at least publicly and impartially, about this adventure.  There is so much that goes beyond even the best words and photos.  But for the benefit of our boys (who are spread far and wide right now), our families, a few close friends – and anyone else who may be interested in a glimpse of this region as seen from the saddle of a bicycle – I will share briefly and as well as a I can.  I will spare you all a day-by-day, blow-by-blow account, and instead provide a few posts and a few photo galleries about each of the regions.  Just to give you a taste.  Just to (hopefully) inspire you to visit this region a create your own journey…

We arrived in Salzburg several days before we were to begin cycling.  Salzburg is a picturesque city, surrounded my mountains and watched over by the old fortress – the Festung Hohensalzburg, or the “High Salzburg Fortress”.

At the heart of Old Salzburg are magnificent baroque churches and architecture, the meticulously manicured Mirabell Gardens, and the gentle blue-green ribbon of the Salzach River.

The city is rich in its musical heritage, with Mozart being the biggest draw for me.  It is the birthplace and childhood home of Mozart – and the resting place for his wife and father.   It is home to the renown Salzburg music festival and the Mozarteum University.  And more recently, it was the home of conductor Herbert von Karajan – as well as being the setting (and home of Maria von Trapp ) from The Sound of Music, which was filmed in and around the city and continues to be a major tourist draw.

Like many other old European cities, Salzburg is wonderfully bicycle-centric.  In the heart of the city, bicycles are the rule, rather than the exception.  The streets are mostly void of vehicular traffic, with the exception of a few delivery trucks and a network of electric buses.  People walk or bike, or use some combination of the two – coupled with public transportation when needed.  It is a beautiful thing to see.

After three days of walking and seeing Salzburg on foot, we were ready to get on our bicycles … but that will have to wait for another day, another post.

To be continued …

cycling, interrupted

The month of March feels kind of like a vinyl record with a scratch in it; there is still a lot of music, but there are skips, repeats, and the tracks don’t always play as they should.  For now, I am starting at the present, and moving backwards – in pieces.

Our son Mason came home from school for a brief weekend visit, as we had missed him over his Spring Break.  We got to catch up, get back on our bikes after too many days absence, and do a little leisurely riding in the incredibly balmy temps that have been setting records across the country.  Mason had spent his break with a team of students from his university; they travelled to the islands of Trinidad & Tobago to work on a Habitat for Humanity Global Village project –  mixing concrete, shoveling sand and helping lay the foundation for a family’s new home.  There was a cement workers’ strike on the islands, so they really had their work cut out for themselves – mixing everything by hand with shovels and a lot of muscle.

He had some wonderful stories (best listened to while we were out on our bikes), made some new friends, got some running in (lol), and I loved that he took some time from his busy schedule to do some giving back.  (Photos from my son’s camera).

 foot race challenge

Habitat for Humanity Global Village, Trinidad & Tobago … the cement mixing

While Mason was off getting dirty and building houses, the rest of us headed to the mountains for our annual week of skiing in Colorado.  It was a well-needed break for all of us.  The snow was wonderful, the skiing fantastic, and like in years past, it was hard to come back home – I always tend to leave a part of myself in the snow and mountains, and someday may be staying for good.  My plan is to post a gallery of snow-mountain-ski pics of this place I love, my second home, later this week.  But for now I’m just including a few of the bike-y ones (and a snowy one … because it’s been so warm everywhere else).

I love the active mountain culture in Steamboat, and especially that they are so bicycle friendly – they are an LAB Gold Level community.  Skiers on bikes, bikes loaded with everything from groceries to snowboards to dogs and kids.  Weather, altitude, snow-covered roads are never a deterrent.  One of these days my dream is to have a little house along the Yampa River, riding on the Core Trail into town for breakfast or lunch, and loading my skis on my Xtracycle for a trip to the slopes.  Oh, perfect life.

And then there was all of the tornado and Red Cross stuff that I had left off with.  Sigh.  I am relieved to report that the damage was not as massive in scope as last April – which is still little consolation to the people who have lost their homes – and we are all grateful that no lives were lost.  Our local Red Cross chapter joined with folks from Chattanooga and Knoxville, and the relief efforts went very well, as you can read in detail here.  (Photo credit for these two shots from my volunteer friend, Sandy; my camera stayed at home).

But very sadly, in the midst of all of the disaster response, our chapter suffered another major blow; due to continuing reorganization and personell changes, we now no longer have a Disaster Services Director in our chapter.  My friend, mentor, and “boss”, Michele – a 10 year Red Cross veteran – is no longer with the organization.   This change in addition to the other personell cuts made earlier in the month, I can’t help but think that the writing is on the wall, so to speak.  It appears our small local chapter has effectively been dismantled at this point, and I am greatly saddened … I honestly don’t know what my own volunteer future will be.

Most frustrating, no one from the upper echelons seems to be providing any communication/direction to the volunteer base.  It reminds me of sitting in an airplane on a runway with no pilot … are they going to cancel our flight?  Are they going to send another pilot?  Or do they just expect one of the passengers to take the controls?  Like I said, it’s just incredibly frustrating – which made my decision to leave for some skiing during Spring Break a little easier.

I am back to my bike, my silly routine.  I am sorry to have not been able to finish the Utilitaire games, but I take my hat off to The Old Guy and my other friends who finished successfully – I applaud you all.  And I thank MG for the dreaming up the whole idea, for I had great fun participating for the weeks that I was able to – which, for me, is what it was all about anyway.  It made me re-think variety in destination riding, and I look forward to incorporating the goals into my riding routine.

Hopefully the remainder of March will be a little more normal, a little less interrupted, no big scratches.  We’ll see.

mountain(s), bike(s)

Steamboat Springs ... a great way to get to the slopes

Had annual wonderful week’s vacation in Steamboat Springs, CO, last week.  It tends to be the week that “gets me through” the rest of the year.  I love the snow, the mountains, the skiing … the whole atmosphere and “vibe” of town.

I guess my love affair with Steamboat stems from my history with the place.  Back when I was probably 9 or 10 years old, our family would head to Steamboat in the summer to visit friends who owned a fantastic cabin in Route National Forrest.  I remember sleeping in the cabin loft with my sister and my friends, Karen and Kirsten – shrieking at the bats that would fly about the eaves on summer evenings.  Also memories of my “Aunt Pat” waking us up every morning to the sound of the Beatles’ Here Comes the Sun. Hiking up to mountain lakes for some trout fishing, horseback riding, the July 4th rodeo, visiting F.M. Light’s in town … all part of those wonderful memories of the “cowboy” mountain town of Steamboat Springs.

My parents began taking us on winter ski vacations in Steamboat back in the 1970’s – after skiing at various places throughout the west, from CO to NM.  I loved staying on the mountain at the Scandinavian Lodge, skiing right out our door onto the slopes.  Although we had skied at many Colorado resorts – Aspen, Vail, Winter Park… – Steamboat somehow became our favorite place, and the place we kept returning to.  Famous for their high altitude “Champagne Powder” along with maintaining their small-town atmosphere, it always seemed to be more laid-back and genuine than the developing glitz of places like Aspen.

Mark and I began taking our own boys to the mountain about 6 years ago.  Despite the fact that the boys don’t have the opportunity to ski as often as I did when I was younger, they’ve become very skilled and competent skiers – able to tackle every black diamond run on the mountain, along with a few of the double-black diamond chutes.  We’ve made a lot of wonderful memories skiing together, playing in the powder, finding our favorite outfitters and eateries in town.  As Mark recently commented, I think we both wish that we’d started the tradition years earlier.  And although we’ve seen the town changing, and some aspects have become rather uber-wealthy resort-ish, the town still manages to maintain a sense of charm that other resort areas are missing … at least in my opinion.

Dillon - Storm Peak, 2010

Dillon - cutting it up on Storm Peak

Although skiing remains at the top of my list of reasons to visit Steamboat, I have always been impressed by the great bike culture around town – whether summer or winter.  We’ve seen a great Xtracycle conversion with a PVC tube used for hauling skis, lots of committed cyclists riding through the worst of weather and road conditions, lots of people going about their daily routine in town – by bicycle.  One of my favorite sights in town one day this year, was this dad with his mini-pedalers and the family dog, riding down the main street.  Sweet! 😀

Dad, two tots and the dog - by bike; awesome!

never too young to start 🙂

Macs and bicycles ... a perfect combo!

macs and bikes - the perfect combo!

I really want a leopard-print saddle ... downtown "date bike"

Upon getting back home, the current issue of LAB’s (League of American Bicyclists) 2010 Bicycle Friendly America was in the mailbox.  I was happy to read that Steamboat had achieved Silver status as a Bicycle Friendly City (I believe they moved up from Bronze within this past year?).  According to the article:

The community boasts a 4 percent bicycling mode share; an ever growing network of on-road and off-road bicycling facilities – including 266 miles of natural-surface trails … The Open Space and Trails Master Plan includes over 25 miles of new bicycle routes and lanes to the city. More cyclists than ever are commuting and using their bicycles for errands around town.  The local political bodies responded by ramping-up their support for bicycling in the form of budget allocations and Community Development Code provisions for bicycle facilities and transportation systems, instead of thinking of it as a marginal or luxury issue for a special sub-group.

Last year we rented some bicycles and rode along the Yampa River bike path … a beautiful multi-use path that links several communities and provides a great way to get to and from the heart of downtown.  We’ve seen more and more people hauling skis by bike up to the base area of the mountain, as well bikes parked outside the grocery stores and restaurants around town.  It’s inspiring – and often amazing, given the weather and road conditions we’ve seen some of them out riding in.  Hat’s off!

So … vacation is over, and spring is well on its way.  Although the sight of blooming daffodils is lovely, I somehow still would rather see sparkling snow on a sunny mountain.  Just me.  😉

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