Monthly Archives: February 2010

Pikes Peak Part II: The Bottom of the Top of the World

The base of Pikes Peak springs up from Manitou Springs, the Mecca of Colorado and well of CO spiritual life since time began. The first mile of this base is called The Incline, and I heard from several different sources that it’s the Stairmaster from Hell. Did I believe them? Nooo! and so a couple of weeks after coasting up the Peak in a motorcar, my Colorado Springs buddy Daniel showed me the local’s way up, The Incline

Of course I didn’t believe them. There was no way it could be as hard as they said. I told people I was going up The Incline for a week before I actually did it, and they were properly impressed. The guy at the gym told me the gruesome story of his divorce with his ex-wife, a tale beginning when she wimped out on a similar trail. Beverly Hills chick, pshaw.
You know what? It was every bit as hard as people said it was. I was prepared for ridiculously steep and tall steps made for people with 6’ legs, and I was even forewarned for the 68% grade. Did you know that the steepest road grade is 8%? Or 12%? Something like that. Just keep it in mind. The average Incline grade evens out at about 41%, and yes, really cracks down at 68%. But I hadn’t quite grasped exactly what a difference an extra 1,000 feet of altitude or so makes until The Incline made me feel it.

It’s hard enough to walk in straight line uninebriated on flat ground. Here, I was pretty much sauced on lack of oxygen, and I could hardly put one foot in front of the other. In fact, let’s be realistic. I was stumbling up like I’d started the day off with one too many and I nearly fell to my death from the edge of the trail and died a sad death of being trampled by the hordes of athletic old ladies and their athletic dogs. I felt ridiculous. It was ridiculous. I looked completely ridiculous. I had to stop every 15’ feet.

The Incline Club’s lack-of-oxygen tee and diagrams make me feel a little better.
As does the fact that the trail down is a cautious slope of switchbacks that covers 4 miles to The Incline’s 1 mile distance. But by the time we got to the switchbacks, I was so dizzy that I could barely walk on solid ground, and the wooden rails on the downward trail that usually seem to be crawling with germs and their offspring were a great idea.
Ah, The Incline, what a great, local, empowering thing-to-have-done. I’m even strongly considering getting the I’ve Done the Incline tee. I loved it: the top gives a panorama of the city that looks like a pen-and-ink from the 60’s.

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Pikes Peak Part I: The Top of the World

Addie and the kids and I drove up Pikes Peak a few weeks ago to see the natural wonders of the surrounding area and to sing Sharon, Lois and Bram on the way up. The natural wonders were very wonderful. The top was rather – excruciatingly – windy.
Lucille & Molly at the Peak
Jeromy spilled his hot chocolate on the lodge floor, two times. The clerk who had to clean it up was a total jerk before the spill, so he deserved to get the mop out twice. Teach him to know everything and to be too cocky to sell a coffee! Lulu and I almost fainted in the girls restroom when she needed a quick try because it was sauna-warm and mineral-smelling and the lights were the kind used to torture Communist POWs. No postcards. How cliché is Pikes Peak – no, really, I didn’t want to get out my license AGAIN for the mop-boy who would have totally made me do it, too.
So we finished our hot chocko in the car after some quick pix in the wind on the view points, and, while the kids basked in the warmth of the Lumina, I had a quick dash around the perimeter by myself. Wow. It really is breath-taking, strolling around the edge of mountain that is on top of America, on top of the curve of the earth. So what that you can see five states. This is the world. This mountain peaks the land, it’s an ultimatum of the good earth, rumbling together from hundreds of miles away into this graceful, aquiline crest of rock.

I lost a glove in the field of Mars rocks before the earth falls away and all of the dashing around looking for it made me really, really dizzy. Amazingly, I found it. Happy ending. We drove down through the Garden of the Gods – a really great group of rocks that looks like a collection of blood-orange baked Play-Dough statues, complete with kissing camels and all, and were back by 12.00 in the afternoon. We went to the top of the world and back by noon.

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Chai in Boulder

I acclimated myself to Boulder with a chalice of frothing chai at the Dunshanbe Tea House, a Tajikistan palace imported into an open park in downtown Boulder. Although Dunshanbe is a full restaurant, it is known far and wide as the best cup of chai, and nowhere in all the land is there to be found a tea with as much warmth or as nippy a snap. I sat at the mahogany bar with my chai; the silver-screen perfect waiters get five stars.
Dunshanbe is a marble courtyard, palmed and candled. In the center is the fountain of the Seven Beauties, seven princesses of a fairy tale inscribed in the scrolls of the poet Nezami Ganjavi in the 12th century. In the Nezami translation that I found, the hero is beset by a quest to find his love and hindered by tasks and a strong Victorian voice.

A hundred arms were weak on block to move
Of thousands, moulded by the hand of Love
Into fantastic shapes and forms of grace
Which crowd each nook of that fantastic place.

Love grants me powers that nature might deny;
And whatsoe’er my doom, the world shall tell,
The lover gave to immortality
Her name he loved – so fatally – so well!

This fountain is a replica of the seven princesses, and the seven princesses set the tone for Dunshanbe. Pourquoi – Dunshanbe, Tijakistan presented the city of Boulder, Colorado with a teahouse to cement the sister city ties in 1990. Let’s hope that Boulder did right by them and built them – I don’t know, a nice frat house?

Incidentally, Dunshanbe is “Monday” in Tajik because the capitol grew up around the Monday market place. Now you know. Go have some chai.

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