14 February 2019

A potter is born

When does an artist get to start calling herself an artist?  Who gets to decide when an artist gets to start calling herself an artist?  Is it different if the would-be artist is a potter?

These are the things that I wonder about on long road trips.

We did the first kiln fire since I've been working at The Purple Peacock.  I wanted to learn everything I could, so I helped load the kiln under the watchful eye of a bona fide potter and artist.  I am so thankful that these women are so eager to share their knowledge, and nurture my learning about this ancient art form.

Nighty night, naked clay.  Tomorrow, you'll be ready for glaze!

Pottery is fired twice - once to bake the clay, and again to bake the glaze.  Each time the kiln is unloaded, its like Christmas morning.  You never quite know whether everything will survive being exposed to 2000+ degrees for several hours.  And after glazing, you just don't know how the different glaze colors will interact with each other once they are exposed to so much heat, so every piece is its own little science experiment.

This is everything that came out after the glaze fire from all of the potters at the studio.

This is just my stuff.  Not sure any of it qualifies me as a "potter", but at least its functional!
Two days later, right back at it.  With Sunday looking on, of course.

I still don't know if I'm "allowed" to call myself a potter, but I'm going to anyway because yesterday I ate my Cheerios out of a bowl I made with my own hands.

My Cheerios. My bowl.  I declare myself a "potter".  

Road Trip!!

When we first decided to spend the winter here, we (foolishly) calculated that it would be cheaper to just buy new winter gear than to trek all the way to Arizona to retrieve our stuff from storage.  At the time, I think I was thinking we'd just need XC skiis and some winter socks.  If I wasn't so obsessed with doing ALL THE THINGS, that probably would have been accurate. 

But I missed my GoreTex snowpants, and my flat-light goggles, and my favorite mittens.  And winter won't last forever, so I also know that soon enough, I'll miss my tent, and my large backpack, and the MTB rack for my car.  Time to visit the storage unit!!

The trip took me from the snowy mountains of Colorado to the warm desert of Arizona. 

Sunrise at home - Ouray, CO.

Ridgway, CO about 15 miles from home.

Mountain Village, Colorado - about 50 miles from home.

Rt. 145 south of Ophir, Colorado, looking at the mountain they appropriately call the Matterhorn.

Less snow and smaller mountains in Cortez, Colorado, about 113 miles from home.

Starting to look like the desert.  On the Ute Reservation in the farthest part of Southwestern Colorado.

More desert, with the promise of snowy mountains ahead, in Teec Nos Pos, Arizona - 160 miles from home.

More flat dry brown desert.  Kayenta, AZ - 220 miles from home.

Boring boring boring. Tuba City, AZ - 293 miles from home.

So many decisions.  This time, to Flagstaff, but next time ....??????

That was the first day.  There was lots of singing along to all the music I only listen to when alone (e.g., Indigo Girls) and, obviously, snapping photos out the windshield.  I spent the night at a hotel in Flagstaff, went for a hike the next morning, and then headed to Tucson. 

Early spring in all its muddy glory in Ft. Tuthill Park in Flagstaff -- 388 miles from home.

South of Flagstaff on I-17 - 427 miles from home.

North Phoenix -- 530 miles from home -- and where the traffic starts to get obnoxious.
Picacho Peak - on the hiking bucket list since 2012 - south of Phoenix and 600 miles from home.
Finally at my destination in Tucson - 600 miles from home - welcomed by these two lovebugs!!

The best part of the road trip (other than liberating my snowboard from storage) was spending time with great friends from Arizona, Kerri and Kate.  We went out to dinner, drank wine, complained about the current state of affairs, and played Cards Against Humanity - Trump version.  So.  Much.  Laughter. 

Kate, Kerri and Me.  

Dinner on a patio - one of the benefits of February in the desert!

If you haven't experienced Cards Against Humanity, you need to. Right now. My sides still hurt from laughing.  

On the second day in Tucson, I drove down to Sierra Vista, home of Ft. Huachuca and our storage unit.  I was a little surprised at the absence of the "wow factor" I used to have when driving towards these mountains.  Side effect of living in Colorado, I guess.

Sierra Vista, Arizona - we lived here from 2012-2014 and again for a few months in 2016

There are few things as beautiful as a sunset in Southern Arizona.
My snowboard!!!!!  My MTB rack!!!!  I'm sorry I left you in the storage unit for so long!  

Having liberated the important stuff from the storage unit, gotten my "girl fix" with Kerri & Kate, and loved on some DoodleDogs, I turned the car around and headed back to my pack and the Colorado mountains.   Mission Accomplished.

Ouray Ice Fest 2019

There are actually people out there who - on purpose - trek into a cavern where the sun doesn't shine, in the middle of winter, and then spend the day with their entire bodies pressed against a giant slab of ice.  I am not one of those people.

Not me.  Obviously.

Nope. Not me here either.  

Now, you may recall that I was planning to take an Ice Climbing Course last month.  I was all about trying new things, but ended up canceling my registration because my arms and chest just aren't strong enough yet to pull my overweight body up an ice wall by just my hands.

But Ouray is the self-declared Ice Climbing capital of the world, and I wasn't about to miss out on the biggest event of the year:  Ice Fest.  So I hitched my ice axe to the most awesome women's adventure group ever - Chicks With Picks (a/k/a/ Chicks Climbing and Skiing).  These are the same women with whom I took the Avalanche Rescue Course back in November.  This year was their 20th Anniversary, so they were hosting a big party, and had a booth at the fest.  I volunteered to help them decorate the Community Center for the party and man the booth for a day during the festival.  It was a blast!  I came home and told Doug I had finally found "my tribe". 

Handing out energy bars and hot tea to the climbers at the Chicks Booth.

Sunday was an honorary Chick for the day.

DJ BiBi McGill - who's last gig was as a guitarist for Beyonce - spinning the tunes at the Anniversary Party

My Tribe.  Adventurous women who drink beer.  


Who says an old dog can't learn new tricks? 

I haven't been on downhill skis since I traded in my twin-sticks for a snowboard in 1997.  I love snowboarding. Really really really love snowboarding.  But a snowboard requires a lift ticket at a resort, and a lift ticket at a resort these days requires a trust fund.

However, backcountry skiing requires only legs, lungs, and determination.  (Screw you, big-corporate-ski-area-charging-$200-for-one-day-on-a-stupid-chairlift!!)

Now, theoretically, backcountry snowboarding is a thing, but it requires a (wicked expensive) splitboard.  Backcountry skiing requires "alpine touring" gear that allows the heel to be free on the up, and locked down on the down.  If you're still confused, there's a good overview of them all here

Anyway, last month I set out on a quest to find either a splitboard or AT ski setup at a reasonable cost.  Thanks to the wonders of the Internet, I found a bottomless bin of reasonably-priced used AT gear.  It quickly became apparent that a splitboard would be way out of my budget, so this old dog set out to learn some new tricks on twin-sticks.

Pretty, huh?

Again, not my color choice, but CHEAP!

The skis were being sold by a woman in Glenwood Springs, which was an excellent excuse for a road trip to a new piece of Colorado.  Finn spent the night with his BFF, and Sunday donned her service vest for an overnight stay in a hotel that once served as a Navy hospital.   Oh, and it was also a good opportunity to check out two new breweries.  Because beer.

That's her "there better be treats if you're going to make me work" look.

Once we returned to Ouray, I got the skis tuned and boot liners molded, and set out for my first skiing adventure.  Avalanche danger here has been nuts this winter, so I picked a very safe route on an unplowed jeep road far from any avy paths.  The skin up was fantastic.  It was a beautiful route, lined with big snow-covered pines, and quiet .... so very quiet.

Well, I figured out how to get the boots on, everything into "walk mode", and into the bindings.  Its a start.

So much better than sitting on a chairlift. 

Somebody else on twin-sticks had been here, so I must be in the right place.

The skin up was pretty damned empowering.  I was super proud of myself for diving into something totally new and killing it.  I took lots of pictures.  I laughed.  I thought about how amazing my life was.  I even took a selfie at the top and texted it to Doug. 

Then I peeled the skins off, locked down my heels, and pointed those tips downhill.  And it became immediately apparent that I was in WAY over my head.  I face planted.  I ate snow.  I face planted again.  I purposely threw myself into a snowbank to avoid hitting a giant tree.  It wasn't pretty.  I was frustrated.  I took my skis off and started to just walk back to the bottom.  But then I remembered how good it felt to tackle something new, and I put those skis back on and tumbled my way back to the bottom, thankful that there weren't any other humans (or dogs) here to witness my own personal shitshow. 

Then, I texted Doug and told him I needed to go do something I was actually good at, and drowned my frustrations in an IPA at Ouray Brewery.  The fact that their IPA is named "Powder Day" just seemed to be unnecessary mocking at that point.

It took me awhile to get back out there, but I did.  And it went much better.  This time, I chose a less steep, and much wider, jeep road.  No face plants, and I actually made some pretty turns.  No beer needed afterwards, either. 

Plenty of room to make turns on the way back down.

Temps in the high 20s, but still hot & sweaty on the way up.

Feeling much more confident about the trip down this time.  

So yeah, an old dog can learn new tricks.  I still love my snowboard, but this twin-sticks thing might work out OK. 

Glenwood Springs Area Breweries

1.  Carbondale Beer Works

In the heart of the impossibly adorable town of Carbondale, right next to the Post Office, is this little gem of a brewery.  The beer was good and our appetizer of pretzels with beer cheese was really really good.  The bartender was a little surly, but we had a great conversation with a furloughed Forest Service employee, who was begrudgingly (??) passing her free time at the bar.   

2.  Glenwood Canyon Brewing

This one barely gets a "meh".  The beer was just ok, and the food was good only because we were really hungry.  It was one of those big restaurant types of breweries (think: Rock Bottom or Yard House) that has put the craft of making good beer and food on the back burner while it focuses on having the biggest menu (of crap) in town.  Definitely won't return here.

Downsizing is highly overrated

We've been a one-car family since the fall of 2016.  It was part of the downsizing.  And while driving a ginormous dualie in the tiny streets of San Antonio was a pain in the ass, we made it work.

Parking this monster is always a challenge.

But then it snowed.  Have you ever driven a dualie in snow?  I don't recommend it. 

Ergo, I was too afraid to drive on the muddy/snowy/unmaintained forest service roads to do the hikes I really wanted to do.  I was constantly worried about getting to a trailhead, only to be not able to turn the dualie around to get back out.  It was seriously cramping my style.

And then I got stuck in snowbank in front of the post office.  I couldn't get the chains on, because .... dualie in a snowbank.  A nice CODOT guy driving a bucketloader took pity on me and plowed me out, but that was the snowflake that broke the camel's back.

So I employed the "I could be dead tomorrow" theory and bought me a car.  A bright orange car. 

I love my Subaru, even if it is orange!
This is my fourth Subaru - all the others were blue Outbacks - and it is just perfect.  If given the choice, I wouldn't have picked the color, but its growing on me.  This thing goes ANYWHERE.  I've driven it over and through snowbanks and up and down ice-covered mountain roads without a second thought.  It gets me where I want to go, every time, without fail.  And it averages 30-35 m.p.g. (vs. the 10-15 on the dualie) and can park in the tiniest of spaces. 

I have no idea what we'll do with it once we start traveling again, but I'll obsess over that when the snow melts.  😀

05 January 2019

It never gets old

Snow!  Snow!  Snow!

You've heard me say that before, I know, but it never gets old.  Especially since I rarely have to be anywhere at a set time, don't have to travel for work, and don't have to shovel my own driveway.

And its so damn pretty.

View from the RV.  In the spring, I'll post all of these photos again to see the transition from season to season.

No filter here.  That's really what the red rocks look like under a fresh snow. 

Since the last post, I've done some amazing XC skiing. See, here in Colorado, you just dip into pretty much anywhere in the National Forest and start skiing. None of that groomed shit, thank you very much.   Sometimes there are snowmobile tracks, sometimes you just plow through the powder.  And when I say powder, I mean like legit oh-my-effing-Frosty, no-friends-on-a-powdah-day, business-closed-due-to-powdah  kind of powder.  The kind that if you fall (on purpose, of course), it just fluffs up and disappears.  For this New England girl (read: master of bulletproof ice and death cookies), its like being in heaven.  Every.  Damn.  Day.

This is at the end of County Route 14a - one of my favorite XC routes.  Look at all that powdah! ❄❅❆

Same spot, different day, different angle.  
View from CR 14 toward the Sneffles Range

Again, I will state publicly that Doug is going to have a hell of a time convincing me to ever leave here.  (Until all the summer tourists-with-screaming-children come, then I'll flee like the wind).

The pups seem to approve of this backcountry nordic skiing, too.  Something about a human skiing almost-out-of-control down a long downhill that fires up their herding instincts.

BTW, you really haven't lived until you've skied with a BC and an Aussie, herding each other and barking their heads off for the entire 4 miles.  Trust me on this one.

Action shot!

As if these pups weren't lucky enough, we also walk by the Ouray Meat & Cheese Market on our way to the Post Office nearly every day.  Which means that after every good run in the snow, they get to gnaw on a little cow leg.

Yeah, I think Doug's going to have a hard time convincing the pups to leave here, too.  😎

When I'm not on the snow, I'm pursuing my other re-found passion - pottery.  I worked out a deal with the owner of the studio in which I work in the studio in exchange for free clay, studio time, firing, glazing, etc.  The studio also serves as display space for local artists, so I've met some really cool, very talented, Colorado artists while I'm "working".

My wheel at the studio  Oh yeah, Sunday has her own chair, too.  

Life is good here on the Western Slope.  I still pinch myself several times a day to make sure I'm not just dreaming.

Sunday getting pets (and peanuts) in front of the fire at Mr. Grumpy Pants Brewing Co.

A friend shared this little gem today.  Nailed it!