Archives For Denver

christmas in denver

December 29, 2015

the rockies near bolder the rockies near bolder

I spent a quiet Christmas in Denver with my youngest daughter. I’ll spend New Years Day with my oldest up in Gainesville. Such are the logistics of keeping track of adult children scattered across the country. These two photos were taken just east of Bolder, looking west towards the Rockies. It was cold (lows in the single digits) and it snowed Christmas day to give my wife one thing she wanted, a white Christmas.

The Sunday before we left my wife and I drove in the general direction of Estes Park, stopping around Bolder to do a little sight-seeing and for me to grab a few long distance photos of the Rockies. I had a new lens with me, the M.Zuiko 14-150mm Mark II. I had it mated with my E-M5. That lens, and the 17mm f/1.8 were the only pieces of camera gear I took with me besides spare batteries and a charger. I left everything else at home and depended on my iPhone 6s+ as my backup camera. The top photo was taken at 150mm, while the bottom was taken at 14mm. The one body, one zoom and one prime kit is the most practical I’ve ever taken with me on travel, and it’ll probably remain that way indefinitely.

One reason I wanted the long view of the Rockies is as documentation of what snows look like on the Rockies. With all he talk of climate change I wanted a small remembrance of what snow looked like on those peaks before it melts completely away. While it got cold while we were there both the cold and the snow were short lived. When we left the following Monday it was starting to warm up to temperatures above freezing towards the end of the week. Back here in Orlando the temperatures during the day have been in the low 80s. We do live in interesting times, don’t we?

that volvo 940

May 9, 2015

You’re looking at one of the last photos I’ll ever take of my 1994 Volvo 940 wagon. And you’re looking at one of the last photos I’ll ever take of anything in Tallahassee Florida.

I purchased that 940 used, with 54,000 miles, from the Volvo Store in Winter Park Florida in 1996. It had come in off a lease deal.

It was the second family Volvo. The first was a 1988 Volvo 240 wagon that was a replacement for a Nissan Van back in 1991. That Volvo was my wife’s and the perfect professor’s car, back when my wife was still an English professor at Valencia East.

The 940 would go on to take us on vacations around the country, including the infamous (within the family) camping vacation to Moonshine Creek North Carolina. While there, Max, still something of a very young dog, got loose from the camp. My youngest daughter went into hysterics, thinking that Max had gone off literally over the hills above the campsite. But I knew better. I walked down towards the creek that ran though the campsite looking for him. Sure enough, he’d gone splashing through the creek, then had stayed long enough to play with some of the kids, and taken off further into the camp towards people. And food. Sure enough I found him walking slowly towards me, with an embarrassed look on his face, smacking his lips, and with steak on his breath. To this day I have no idea if, or even where, he might have gotten into steak, but there were some comments later from others in the camp about how an older couple had somehow lost their lovely steak lunch which they’d left right next to their grill…

I knew where to find Max that day because I knew Labs and what motivated them.

But I digress…

The 940 served family yeoman duty right up to the point where I bought my Kia Sorrento in 2002. By that time the 940 was fully paid for, and still going strong. I tend to drive my cars until they fall apart from rust. The 940 was going to be my oldest daughter’s college car when she started as an undergraduate. The car was heavily neglected up in college, but was tough enough that when I got it back I managed to fix the really serious problems that had developed. Then my youngest wanted it for her college car, and so back out it went. And that’s where it stayed until her move to Denver.

The car was so old I gave it to Goodwill. Although it was still drivable, it had more value (financial and social) as a donation. She’d picked up a second used car, this time a 2014 Toyota Yaris fleet car with 36,000 miles on it. The 940 at that point was so old that whatever she did to it was irrelevant and costly; it was better to sink any money into a new vehicle.

When my second daughter first got the 940 she decided to put stickers and other decorations on it. For example, in 2009 when she came home, the back of the Volvo looked like this:

A True Student CarOn moving day the same tailgate looked like this:

A lot of just faded off stickers, some added, some changed. A small story in and of itself of the changes my youngest has gone through over the last six years, and something of an allegory about how dreams and ideals, especially those we form in college, will fade due to contact with reality and time…

The car itself was finally, literally, coming apart. Windows were failing to stay closed, and the various seals were leaking around the exterior, making it problematic during Tallahassee’s heavy downpours. The final straw was the idea of trying to get it to Denver. It sure wasn’t drivable that far, and even if by some miracle it had made it, Denver and Colorado have car inspections, something Florida does not. There was no way in hell it would have passed. With all the money that would have needed to be spent, a new used car was needed to replace the Volvo.

Of all the cars I’ve ever owned, I have to say I’ve gotten incredible value out of the Volvos, and the 940 specifically. The Toyotas are a close second, especially the Priuses we’ve owned since 2009. No matter how long we own the Toyotas, I don’t think I’ll ever own another car with that kind of shear ruggedness, especially in the face of indifference to service that the car suffered over the last ten years with both girls.

By the way, the car had far more than 209,813 miles on it. The trip odometer stopped working reliably at about that time some five years ago.

All this marks the end of an era. There are no more of us in Tallahassee, and no more reason to make the trek up there.

old vs new energy

Somewhere in western Kansas, the old energy vs the new energy

It has literally been a week since I helped my youngest move to Denver, Colorado. For four days last week I drove a 20 foot U-Haul van from Tallahassee Florida to a small apartment in Aurora, a bedroom community of Denver. My wife and daughter were driving with me as well in a separate car. The days were long and the driving intense, at least for me. Here’s a quick blow-by-blow of that trip as I tend to remember it.

  1. Wednesday morning 29 April. My wife and I drive to Tallahassee to meet up with my youngest daughter. The trip is between three and four hours. When we arrive my daughter is still getting the van packed with goods from the apartment. She’s hired two local guys to help her get packed. We still have to clean out what’s left behind (not going to Denver) by making trips to the local dumpster in the apartment complex, and she has to turn in the keys to the apartment. The last thing we do is donate the old 1994 Volvo 940 to Goodwill in Tallahassee. Once all that’s done we hit the road again. It’s between two and three in the afternoon. We are in two vehicles; a car has my wife, my daughter, and her two cats Molly and Ashe and me in the 20 foot long U-Haul truck.
  2. Wednesday evening, sometime around 8pm. We finally pull into a La Quinta in Mobile, Alabama. It has to be the worst place I’ve ever stayed. Even though we’ve asked for no smoking, I can smell the smoke in our third floor hallway. What’s more all the rooms on the third floor have broken electronic locks. The front desk clerk has to let us in our room with a master key. One of us then stays in the room while the other two go and unload the car, bringing in the cats for the night.
  3. Thursday morning, we try to find somewhere for breakfast. My daughter sleeps in late because she’d just finished finals at FSU the day before. We finally get back on the road late morning. We drive through all of Alabama through Meridian and Tupelo, finally stopping in Memphis in the evening for a meal of BBQ at Central BBQ. When we’re done it’s still daylight. Gas up and head outside to Arkansas just across the Mississippi River. We spend the night in Blytheville.
  4. Friday is even harder driving than Thursday. We’re trying to make up time from the two days before, so we drive up the Mississippi on I-55, through St. Louis, then pick up 70 and drive through Kansas City and on into Kansas to Topeka where we stop for the night. We would have gotten farther but for the two-lane bridge that is currently one late while the Missouri DOT works on it. That caused a complete 45-minute stop of traffic (for whatever reason) somewhere between St. Louis and Kansas City, close to Kansas City.
  5. Saturday, our last day of driving. We drive across the rest of Kansas, past huge wind farms. The wind is so strong I’ve got the van’s steering wheel wrapped pretty far to the left trying to compensate and keep the van going between 60 and 70mph. We stop at a Conoco somewhere around Hays where a guy by the name of Bill gives us a bit of the history of the area. And when I say history, I’m talking geological. We find out that the undulating portion of Kansas was the part that was under water when North America had an inland sea during the mid- to late Cretaceous period. The flatter areas further west were once the beaches to that inland sea. We gas up yet again, and start back out.
  6. We pass into Colorado mid-day. I need to go to the bathroom, and make the decision to stop at Vona, Colorado, just over the boarder and a bit west of Burlington. Big mistake. What was once the town business center is completely boarded up. It looks like a set piece for The Walking Dead. We finish our impromptu tour and head back out to I-70. We finally make it to the apartment in Aurora by 4pm local time, and meet up with my daughter’s partner. He’s been there for some weeks working an engineering job he found after he graduated (a second time, in electrical) from FSU. We unload the cats and begin to help unload the van a bit. My wife and I then leave to find a place to stay for the night. We end our evening by eating at Joe’s Crab Shack. Yes, the same chain you’ll find here in Orlando near I-Drive and Disney. Those guys.

There wasn’t much time to stop and sight-see. The very few photos I made were at places to get gas, eat, or go to the bathroom. I was in a continuous state of testiness due to trying to maintain a reasonable rate of travel, and more importantly, because of how my wife and daughter would drive through traffic. A car is a car and a U-Haul van is not. Lane changes that a car can make with impunity have to be planned and then execute carefully with a large truck. More than once I seriously through I was going to have an accident trying to keep up. To add even more hilarity to the situation, my daughter was using a Garmin GPS tracker and it was giving out verbal directions my daughter would mis-interpret from time to time. The worst example of this was in St. Louis and Kansas City. Especially Kansas City.

My daughter is still mad at me over my testiness, and probably will be for some time to come.

But we got to Denver in one piece and I caught a flight back to Orlando on Southwest. The final insult from the trip was paying $51 for a cab ride from Orlando International to my home near Universal Studios.

"grumpy" bill

“Grumpy” Bill, impromptu Kansan geologist and historian

nightly dining

A nice place for BBQ in Memphis