is now over
To find out what comes next
see my new website at:- IanUsher.com
Current status: 93/100 goals - 100/100 weeks
Weeks 51 to 60
Goal 51 - 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea. Sunday, July 19, 2009
Well, it wasn't quite 20,000 leagues, more like 20 feet under the sea, but it was still a boyhood dream come true.
Nancy gave me a quick tour around Fort Lauderdale yesterday morning, and then dropped me off to collect my car. It took me a couple of hours to drive down to Key Largo, where I soon found Jules' Undersea Lodge, just off the main highway. After some brief paperwork, I was ready to go, and geared up with scuba equipment. No wetsuit would be required, as the water was almost as warm as bathwater.
My instructor/hotel guide Jason showed me the surface control room and explained the communication systems with the lodge below. He put the belongings I would need down below into a small waterproof case, and we entered the lagoon.
I spent twenty minutes or so exploring the area, while Jason prepared the hotel, and unpacked my gear down there. Eventually I made my way through the rather murky water to the hotel itself, and swimming below it, came up into the wet room via the moon-pool entrance. It was a very atmospheric moment, something I had imagined doing for such a long time.
After Jason gave me a quick tour, he left me alone and I was free to explore, rather like an excited child! The place was great, an odd mixture of old, practical functionality, and modern comfort.
It was originally built as a research station, and was used as such between 1972 and 1975, and then in the early 80s was converted to it's current use. Just under the veneer of comfortable hotel, in many of the cupboards I looked in there are valves and pipes and pumps all humming and buzzing away.
I made myself comfortable, and at 6pm Jason brought dinner down, again in a watertight case, and made the final preparations in the microwave in the small kitchen. It was all quite a bizarre experience. He then left, and I started watching an entertainingiy terrible underwater movie called "Leviathan", where the inhabitants of an underwater mining base are troubled with alien issues.
Once dinner had settled, I geared up and went for a dive in the lagoon. Once again it was wonderful to exit throught the moon-pool and already be at a depth of 20 feet. I spent some time examining the hotel itself, fascinated by the structure. It is quite impressively big outside, compared to the smaller space inside, but was built with all sorts of ballast tanks, so it could originally be floated into place, then the tanks flooded to sink it into position, much like a submarine. It is quite an extraordinary feat of engineering.
Later, when it went dark, I went out for a second dive in the now very gloomy and eerie lagoon. Jason had told me that a couple of nurse sharks sometimes came in at night to sleep under one of the piers, but I couldn't find them. I followed a lobster around the seabed for a while, and got pretty dis-orientated, and then made my way back "home".
I slept really well, and woke in the morning just as the large bedroom porthole window was beginning to lighten. I helped myself to breakfast and coffee in the small but well organised kitchen, and Jason gave me a call to come and collect me.
I had been living under the sea for around 18 hours, and as I surfaced, I wished it could have been much longer. It was so atmospheric, and so unique.
Many thanks to Jason and Debbie at Jules' Lodge for such a greta experience, and thanks also to my surface support crew members Cari and Nancy for helping make this long-held dream come true.
40 years later! Monday, July 20, 2009
On the Sunday afternoon after my return from the underwater hotel, Cari took me to meet her brother Richard and his wife Ivette. Richard and I got on pretty well, and have similar interests and outlooks on many things. One of his passions is helping out with a private collection of big cats and other exotics near where he lives, and he is currently working on trying to get them relocated to better facilities.
Before long we were in his car, heading out there to take a look. They are beautiful creatures, but I found it a little sad to see them in such restricted living conditions. Richard feels the same, and although he will be sorry to see them leave, he is committed to finding beter quarters for them all. What a priviledge to stroke a tiger, a bear, play with a very fiesty bobcat, and hold an alligator!
And so today, 20th July 2009, I had been excited to find out, is the 40th anniversary of Neil Armstrong first setting foot on the moon. And with a free day in Florida, what better place to visit than the Kennedy Space Center?
They were celebrating the big day with a huge "Moon Pie", around which there was a very excited crowd. We eventually managed to get a piece each, and President Kennedy himself seemed to be the ideal guy to eat it with!
The tour of the space center was interesting, but it was a busy day, and Florida is the land of the endless queue (or line, as it is called here!) You have to queue to get on the tour bus, queue again to see the exhibitions, again to get back on the bus, and so it goes on. But it was all worth it when we finally arrived at the Saturn 5 building. The Saturn 5 is the rocket that powered the Apollo missions, and it is absolutely awesome! Huge just does not describe how impossibly big it is. Very impressive indeed!
My quick visit to Florida is now over, and as always, I feel I could have spent so much longer here, as there is so much to see and do. But I must be moving on, and am excited to be heading to Mexico in the morning, to visit one of the seven new wonders of the world. Once again huge thanks to Cari, for being an incredible Florida guide and host. I hope I can get back this way again soon.
I flew from Tampa down to Cancun on Tuesday, and made my way to the hostel that I had booked, managing to check in just before lunch time. I got settled in and read about two pages of my book before I fell asleep. I woke at 7pm, having slept deeply for about 6 hours. Over the past few days I have been battling jetlag, and have not been sleeping too well, but I felt great when I woke up in the evening.
I didn't get much of a chance to have a look around Cancun, but did go out for some dinner, then slept again. I think I was pretty run down.
In the morning I went to the reception of the nearby Soberanis Hotel, where I was picked up for my tour of Chichen Itza. This goal was the last one added to my list of 100, after another of my goals became impossible when the business shut down. More details here and here. Chichen Itza is one of the New 7 Wonders of the World, and is now the third one that I have seen, having been to both the Colosseum in Rome, and Petra in Jordan before. Four more to go, all of which are on my 100goals list.
We gathered several others from other hotels, and eventually set off on the two-hour drive to Chichen Itza. We stopped for a while for a period of enforced tourist shopping, but the racks of tacky Mexican souvenirs soon drove me out onto the main road for a look around.
We arrived at Chichen Itza itself at around 1pm, and were issued tickets, and with slight dismay I found myself as part of a large tourist group, following a flag-waving guide. However, the historical background was very interesting, and after a while we were set loose to explore on our own.
The first thing that you see as you enter, after running the gauntlet of enthusiastic local vendors, is the spectacular central pyramid. But that is only one part of the whole place. Between 600 and 1200 AD this place, whose name means "at the mouth of the Itza (a family name) well", was a thriving Mayan city of an estimated 50,000 citizens.
There are many structures, including a huge games arena called the ball court, where a game which resulted in sacrificial beheadings of the losers (or possibly winners) was played. There is a huge area made up of a thousand pillars, which was a covered marketplace, and many other buildings, thought to include an observatory, nunnery, church, and much more.
Also fascinating was the deep Sacred Cenote, a deep limestone sinkhole, where it is thought that all sorts of sacrifices, including human ones, were made. All sorts of artifacts and human remains have been found in the water there.
Once away from the tour groups it was easy to wander away from the crowds, and is often the case in these places, if you are prepared to do a little extra walking, you can find yourself totally alone. I wandered through quiet remains with nothing but the sounds of the jungle around me, and it was easy to imagine how it might have been when the Mayans lived and thrived here.
But it is the central pyramid that drew mw back to the more crowded areas. It is a beautiful building, but even more so when the extraordinary geometrical and astronomical principles built into the design are explained. There is an incredible precision to the design that means that on the equinoxes, the sun lights the structure with an almost unbelievable accuracy to produce the effect of a snake descending the side of the pyramid.
Time passed quickly, and I headed back to the tour bus for the next part of the trip. We were taken to another cenote nearby, and had time to go swimming in the cool fresh water of the amazing limestone sinkhole. Trees grew around the edge with huge long roots trailing down to the water. Small black catfish swam around in the clear water, and people jumped and swam.
I took some pictures, and then went to jump off the high walkway. I soon wished I hadn't! Something hurt my left foot as I hit the water, and as I climbed out, I discovered that my big toe was bleeding quite badly, and something black was buried in the underside of it. It is quite painful to stand on, and all I can think is that I landed on a fish as I plunged into the water. I thought at first I might have broken my toe, but it is alot less painful today. However, I will certainly have to remove the suspected fish spine that is still in there! Ouch!
At the evening sound and light presentation, the equinox sunlight effect of the descending snake is reproduced artificially, and really must be quite something to see for real. How did they manage to build so precisely? Absolutely fascinating.
What a fantastic place to see, and well-deserving of it's place as one of the New 7 Wonders of the World. I have one day left now in Cancun, which I will spend hobbling around the downtown area exploring, before I fly back to the States and try to convince them to let me back in again.
Birthday weekend in San Francisco. Monday, July 27, 2009
On the last day in Cancun, I went again to a favourite food stall that I had discovered earlier, where for less than $3 you could have a couple of fantastic tacos and a huge gless of orchata, a delicious type of milk drink made with long grain rice, and sprinkled with cinnamon.
By the time I got to the airport, carrying my two rucsacs, I was incedibly hot, and planned on getting changed before flying. However, two backpackers, Mindy and Lisa, asked to borrow a corkscrew, and impressed that I had one, convinced me to sit outside and share their bottle of wine with them before the flight.
The wine certainly helped the first flight go by easily, and I did manage to find time to get changed, so that I wouldn't offend my fellow travellers too much.
A delayed second flight meant I arrived later than expected in San Francisco, and I just managed to catch the last train into the city. Susan, who looked after me last time I was here, met me at the station, and has a place I can stay, her circumstances having changed recently.
And so I woke the next day to celebrate my birthday in sunny San Francisco, including a wonderful Indian meal that evening. The entertaining highlight of the whole birthday weekend was a visit to the Solano County Fair, something Susan was very keen to show me.
It reminded me very much of the Perth Royal Show back in Australia, very much country products and livestock based, with fairground rides and other entertainments. But the most stiking differences were the big sign at the entrance banning gang colours, and the huge groups of Hispanic youths roaming the fairground aisles - you don't see too much of that in Perth at the Royal Show!
The highlight of the day for me was the splash dogs event, in which very excited dogs jumped quite amazing distances into a huge pool of water. I also got to hold a pretty big snake, and a scorpion too.
Susan was most excited about seeing a small kangaroo in the petting zoo, and about the pig racing! The pigs were funny, and in the first race I had picked yellow, on the inside track, but as you can see in the photo, he got a very slow start. However, in race 2 the inside line proved successful, and I had backed a winner, and claimed a small ribbon as my prize!
There was more entertainment from chinese acrobats, and and we found a Mexican food stall for dinner without too much dificulty, but the prices were way higher than in Cancun!
And so after a weekend off, it's now time to start to get myself organised for the next part of the trip, and today I rang Scotty from Bridge Storage, where my RV is stored. I plan to go down tomorrow to take a look over it, and see if it will start. I need to get some repairs done to the water tanks too, where I broke a couple of important parts off when crossing rough ground near the Grand Canyon last year. I am really looking forward to getting back on the road again.
More goals invites.... come and join in. Wednesday, August 5, 2009
My RV is now repaired, and departure is imminent! The next leg of my trip will take me around the western states of America, where my next set of goals and challenges are scheduled to take place. As always, the offer is there for anybody that wants to come and join in for any of the activities.
The timetable for the next few weeks is as follows:-
6th to 9th August - drive San Francisco to Wendover, Utah 9th to 12th August - Bonneville Salt Flats - Speed Week 15th August - Bobsleigh Ride - Olympic Park, Salt Lake City 16th August - travel down to Colorado 19th August - flight from Boulder, Colorado to London 22nd and 23rd August - Worthing Birdman Competition, UK 24th August - flight from London back to Denver 25th August - drive down to Colorado Springs 26th August to 1st September - "7 Peaks in 7 Days" - also includes Whitewater Rafting
This last week of August probably offers the best opportunity to join in, as there are seven days of hill walking/mountain climbing, starting fairly easily at the beginning of the challenge, working up to longer routes with more technical climbing involved. Also, in the middle of the week is the chance to join in for another goal, whitewater rafting. The schedule for the week is as follows:-
Day #1: Pikes Peak Date: Wednesday August 26, 2009 Start Time: 9am Start Location: Devils Playground Parking Area on Pikes Peak Hwy Estimated Summit Time: 11am Approximate Elevation Gain: 1300’ Approximate Distance: 2.5 miles Car P/U @ Summit of Pikes Peak - Return to C/S then Drive to Dillon, CO Early Dinner at Beau Joe’s Pizza in Idaho Springs approx 4:00pm Wednesday Night: Condo in Dillon
Day #2: Lincoln, Democrat, & Bross Date: Thursday August 27, 2009 Start Time: 7:00am Start Location: Kite Lake Route: Democrat/Lincoln/Cameron/Bross Estimated Summit Time Democrat: 9am Estimated Summit Time Lincoln: 11am Estimated Summit Time Bross: 12pm Approximate Elevation Gain: 3700’ Approximate Distance: 7.5 miles Happy Hour @ Arapahoe Cafe Dillon, CO approx 5pm Thursday Night: Condo in Dillon
Day#3: Drive to Ouray Via Glenwood Sprgs & Black Canyon (6 hr Drive w/ no stops) Date: Friday August 28, 2009 Leave condo in Dillon 8am Optional Hike @ Hanging Lake Trail by Glenwood Sprgs (add 2hr) Optional Detour into N. Rim of Black Canyon (add 2 hr) Happy Hour in Ouray and/or Dip in Ouray Hot Springs approx 4:00pm Drive to Campsite in Yankee Boy Basin & set up camp approx 7pm Friday Night: Tent Camp in Yankee Boy Basin
Day #4: Climb Mount Sneffels Date: Saturday August 29, 2009 Start Time: 6:30am Route: Lavender Col from Yankee Boy Basin Estimated Summit Time: 10:30am Approximate Elevation Gain: 3430’ Approximate Distance: 4 miles Happy Hour @ O’Brians Pub in Ouray approx 3pm Drive to Campsite @ Matterhorn Creek Trailhead & Set up Camp approx 6pm Saturday Night: Tent Camp @ Matterhorn Creek Trailhead Note: Grillin/Chillin/Thrillin Music & Brew Fest in Ouray 8/29 12pm - 6pm
Day #5: Climb Wetterhorn Peak Date: Sunday August 30, 2009 Start Time: 6:30am Route: Southeast Ridge from Matterhorn Creek Estimated Summit Time: 11am Approximate Elevation Gain: 3535’ Approximate Distance: 6.5 miles Happy Hour @ Packer Saloon & Cannibal Grill in Lake City approx 3pm Drive Lake City to Salida - Approx 2hr 20min drive Sunday Night: Chalet in Salida
Day #6: Travel to Westcliffe or Weather Contingency Day Date: Monday August 31, 2009 Leave Lake City or Gunnison: TBD Royal Gorge Rafting Trip beginning @ 8:30am - (4hr + $60)* Hike up to Colony Lakes Base Camp: 3pm Monday Night: Tent Camp @ Colony Lakes *If interested in raft trip, contact Raven Rafting (800)332-3381 - mention that you are with the 7 summits/7 days group and receive a $5/person discount. We are doing the 1/2 day trip
Day #7: Crestone’s (Crestone Peak, Crestone Needle, or Both) Date: Tuesday September 1, 2009 Start Time: 6am Route: North Couloir from Colony Lakes Estimated Summit Crestone Peak: 11am Estimated Summit Crestone Needle (if attempted): 3pm Approximate Elevation Gain 4700’ - 5300’ Approximate Distance: 6 miles - 15 miles Drive back to Colorado Springs
As usual, contact me through the "Contact Me" page if you would like to be involved at any point.
Following the week in Colorado, I plan to head to Las Vegas to play some Texas Hold 'Em, and then make my way to LA to try to score a small part in a Hollywood movie - does anyone have any contacts that might be able to help out there?
On the road again. Friday, August 7, 2009
The RV waste water tanks are repaired, my time in San Francisco is over, and it's time to hit the road again.
I have thoroughly enjoyed my time here in the city, and have made great use of the hills each day to toughen up my legs in preparation for forth-coming challenges. I have also managed to arrive at the top of Twin Peaks a couple of times now in clear conditions, and as I had expected, the view was magnificent.
The salt flats of Utah are now calling me, but I have one more promise to fulfil here in California before I leave. Susan's neighbours, a lovely couple called Anthony and Elizabeth, have two great kids, Allesandra, age 5 and Cole, age 3, who are very entertaining.
Since I arrived the kids have been wondering what it would be like to spend a night in the RV, and I made the mistake of promising them that when it was fixed, I would take them for a night out. And since then they have been in a state of high expectation.
And so with promises to keep, we packed Susan's little car with all my gear (packed away into my two rucsacs again), her gear (which was about the same size as mine, even though she was only going to be away for one night), the kids two car seats, and all of their gear for one night (which eclipsed both mine and Susan's gear completely!)
They dropped me off at Mike's RV repair centre, and when I came back from paying, I found the excited kids clambering around inside the RV. Eventually we got sorted out and headed south for 20 miles or so to the Anthony Chabot Family Reserve, hidden away in the hills above Oakland. The campsite was fantastic, set high abpove Chabot Lake, in beautiful woodland surroundings.
We set up camp and took a walk through the woods, and later that evening we made a campfire in the BBQ pit, and roasted marshmallows. We invited our RV neighbour Felicity to join us, and I discovered that she too was an RV-based writer working on her own book. More about Felicity and her project here:- www.FelicityWright.com
This morning I was up early, and took a run down through the woods to the lake, still trying to toughen up the leg muscles a bit more. I was still and quiet, and very serene, and I gave up running and just wandered quietly. We hung around the campsite for most of the day, then Susan headed back to the city with the kids, and I settled in for a second night, and got to work cleaning the RV after it's six month break.
Tomorrow the real travelling starts, as I head east across California, into Nevada, and eventually to Utah.
Crossing Nevada. Sunday, August 9, 2009
On the way down out of the hills I passed a very enthusiastic group of girls shouting about car washes, and decided that it was time to give the outside of the RV a bit of a clean. The girls from Castro Valley High School cheerleader squad did a fantastic job!
Fuel for the next leg of the journey was the next order of business, and at the gas station I met Peter, who had a fantastic home-built motorised bicycle. The Schwinn bike had an 80cc go-cart engine mounted on the frame, and Peter told me he could get 80 miles per gallon, and 50 miles per hour out of it. I really want one of these. It would be the ideal transport to carry on the back of the RV, for exploring areas when the RV is parked up. Maybe one day... I got Peter's number for when I get round to building one!
I spent a few hours shopping for food and some DIY materials to make life in the RV a little more comfortable and practical. Susan had decided to join me for the trip to Utah, and I met her at the train station, this time with a surprisingly small bag, and the journey finally began.
After an overnight stop at my favourite RV-friendly store, Walmart, in Roseville, California, we made good time this morning, and crossed into Nevada, stopping in Reno for lunch, and to wander around a few of the casinos there. We invested a dollar in one of the 1 cent slot machines for very little return, and hit the road again.
Tonight's stop is another freebie in one of the well-appointed Nevada roadside rest areas, a quick climb up one of the neaaby hills, and another longer tougher walk early tomorrow morning too.
Goal 53 - Bonneville Speed Week. Wednesday, August 12, 2009
After he left school my friend Bruce travelled from England to travel around the States, and while driving across from the East Coast to the West, crossing Utah, he spotted several race cars on trailers travelling along Highway I-80. When he spotted a couple turning off and heading out onto the large expanse of salt he followed, and found himself at Bonneville Speed Week. Since he told me about that many years ago I have always wanted to come and see for myself. More recently I watched the movie "The World's fastest Indian", which tells the story of New Zealander Bert Munro, and his journey to Bonneville glory, and this merely fuelled my desire to come, and today I have finally made it.
We actually arrived yesterday, and saw a bit of racing, but really had no idea what was going on. After a night high in the mountains in Nevada at another small rest area the previous evening, we drove down into Wendover, just on the Nevada/Utah border, and refuelled, and found a great little information bureau, where I could access the internet and upload a couple of previous blogs and check email. Linda told us of the attractions that Wendover has to offer, and we went to take a look around. The salt lake is so big and flat that from a viewpoint above the town it is possible to view the curvature of the Earth, which is pretty amazing to see. Just out of town we also took a look at the airforce base museum where bomber crews trained for dropping the Hiroshima and Nagasaki nuclear bombs that ended WWII. Also there was the plane that was used in the movie "Con Air", which was fun to scramble around in.
Eventually we headed out to the flats and were allowed onto the salt without charge, as we had arrived so late in the afternoon, and watched a few vehicles rocket past the pits at high speed, and wandered around the Impound area, where potential record breakers were stored for the evening. To gain a record, a vehicle must first qualify to do so on one run, by going faster than the old record. The vehicle then goes into Impound, where it can be worked on for a period of up to four hours. The next morning a further hour's work can be done, then the vehicle has to consolidate the record-breaking run with a second pass, the average of the two runs being taken. This makes records hard to beat, because as well as one-time speed, consistency and reliability is also required.
Last night we parked out on the salt along with perhaps another hundred RVs and campers, and watched "The World's Fastest Indian" on the computer, and this morning were up very early to secure a fantastic front row parking spot at the start line. It is possible to sit in the RV and watch the amazing action.
The atmosphere is fantastic, and everyone is incredibly friendly and helpful, and many people have been very patient in answering my endless questions. The whole style of racing is much more laid-back than anything I have ever experienced, as each run is against the clock, rather than other vehicles, and starting speed and early acceleration is not too important. Top speed is all that counts here, and most people are here to try to beat personal bests.
One of the most exciting runs to see was 71 year old Connie on a huge motorcycle, who beat her own personal best of 211 mph by a significant margin, achieving 229 mph. Apparently her 82 year old boyfriend also rides the bike!
There are some absolutely incredible vehicles here, and just wandering around the start line listening to the engines fire up and the cars and bikes accelerate away is such a thrill.
Already I have started wondering how I might make it back here, and what sort of motorbike I would like to bring to have a go on. "Certainly, you should give it a go," one guy that I chatted to encouraged me. "First step is to pick up a rule book to find out what you would need to do!" That's excatly what I did. Maybe one day I will be back here to race something myself, if finances ever permit! In the meantime I am very happy to be here as a spectator.
Thanks to Susan for being my wonderful travelling companion on this goal. As always it is so much more fun to see things like this with someone else than to do so alone. And thanks also to all the people we have met here that have been so wonderfully friendly and helpful.
Salt Lake City. Friday, August 14, 2009
Tiffany contacted me back in September last year, prompted by a blog I wrote at the time about the guy who made a list of "100 Things To Do Before You Die", and then unfortunately died when only about halfway through his list. (I am just over halfway myself now, so am being as careful as I can be at the moment! Don't want to tempt fate too much!)
Well, what a coincidence. She wrote again just a few days ago, wondering how I was doing and where I was. I had forgot that she had said she lived in Salt Lake City, and I emailed back telling her that I would be arriving there in two days.
She sent me a list of a few things we might like to see in Salt Lake City, and suggested that there was a friend of hers that I might like to meet too. From her list of possibilities I was very keen to see Kennecott's Bingham Canyon Mine, a Rio Tinto copper mine, which Tiffany claimed was the biggest pit in the world. I was slightly sceptical, having worked in the SuperPit in Kalgoorlie, and seen the amazing iron ore mine at Newman, both in Western Australia.
Susan and I had a last few hours at Bonneville, and took a ride out to the start of the Special Course, where all of the newer riders, and slower vehicles usually compete. Unfortunately we were too late in the week, I think, and there was nobody there, but we could at least give the RV a run along the course!
Two hours of driving took us to Salt Lake City, and we booked into an RV park near the city. We discovered that there was a free shuttle bus into the city centre, and that evening went to see the famous Mormon Tabernacle Choir practicing.
The next morning Tiffany came to collect us, and took us to meet her friend Clay Egan, who is an amazing guy. He had a motorcycle accident just over 15 years ago, hitting a horse in the middle of the road late at night. He fractured several vertebrae, and damaged his spinal cord, and has been confined to a wheelchair ever since. He has no use of his legs, and about 65% use of hands and arms, and yet lives an incredibly active and adventurous life. He is involved in the amazing sport of rockcrawling, which involves taking 4-wheel drive vehicles over the most rugged terrain. He competes at a professional level, with no concessions given to the fact that he has to drive a vehicle modified to suit, and is very highly ranked in the competitive sport. He works as a motivational speaker, is putting together his own TV show, and considering his own line of sporting goods. He also recently just done a skydive! He really is a very inspirational guy, and great fun to hang out with too. You can read more about Clay here: www.ClayEganRacing.com
Clay, and his friend Tom took us all up to the Kennecott mine, where I had to admit, it certainly does look like the biggest man-made excavation on Earth, as the mine info claims. I really enjoyed seeing the place, and felt quite nostalgic watching the familiar CAT 793 trucks on their endless cycles up and down the main ramp.
We went for lunch afterwards, and then back to Clay's house, where I insisted he show us his skydive video. What an impressive attitude to life. I had so many questions for Clay, and could have spent hours chatting to him and Tom, but time ran out, and Tiffany dropped us off at the RV park and headed off to her next charity event. She too is very motivated and inspirational, and you can read more about her here: www.TiffanyBerg.com
Many thanks to Tiffany, Clay and Tom for a fantastic day out!
Goal 54 - Bobsleigh ride. Saturday, August 15, 2009
Tiffany offered to take us up to Park City, where Utah's Olympic Park is located. She was running a little late in the morning, but all worked out well, as when we arrived the bobsled had not started running yet, as there was an aerial ski jump display just about to start. What great timing!
There are several big ski jumps there, and a fantastic ski jump training facility, with huge ramps, and jumps of various sizes, all into a swimming pool. The display team consisted of quite a few olympic team members, and was very spectacular. The height of some of the bigger tricks was incredible. I have added another goal to the bottom of my list, and would very much like to come back here one day to do their beginner's training course.
After the show we jumped in the minibus to the top of the bobsled track. Susan and I were the only ones going to do it, as Tiffany unfortunately has a recent neck injury (so she said!), and here two kids Ben and Hannah did not seem too keen either. I'm not surprised, it looked very fast from the run we saw set off before us.
Once all the waivers were signed, and we were issued with helmets and instructions, we climbed into position behind our worryingly young driver, Carter, and clipped ourselves in. The lights turned green, our helpers pushed, and we were off!
The ride started slowly, and the first two or three corners were pretty tame, but as we picked up speed quickly the corners became tighter and longer, and the G-force was very strong. We were thrown from side to side, and in front of me I could see Susan's head forced down onto her chest, which gave me a great view forward. The corners looked amazing as we banked around them high up the wall.
Carter did a great job, and very soon we ended up at the bottom of the track, still in one piece. What an incredibly thrilling ride. I seriously considered a second go, and would have definitely done so if I could have taken my little camera with me in the camera glove I made for it, but they wouldn't let me! I can see why though - it's a pretty wild ride, and you really do have to hang on tight!
Afterwards we went on both of the steep ziplines they have there, one of which comes down at about 55mph over the 120m ski jump. We also tried out the toboggan which has small sit-on carts that run down a fast, twisting stainless steel track, very similar to the one I did in Chamonix last year.
Olympic Park is a fantastic place, and Ed at the front desk was kind enough to offer us a great discount too. I really hope to be back soon to try some ski jumping, and maybe the winter bobsled ride too.
Thanks again to Tiffany, and her kids too for their patience during the day, and to Susan for joining me in achieving another great goal.
I'll take the high road.... Wednesday, August 19, 2009
After the exciting day at Utah's Olympic Park we dropped in at local TV station KSL, who wanted to do an interview about goal number 54 being achieved in their state, and the interview appeared on the 10 o'clock news. You can see it online here by clicking on the picture below:-
The next morning I dropped Susan off at Salt Lake City airport for her flight back to San Francisco, and after a quick stop at the RV park again for a shower and to send a final few emails, I hit the road heading for Colorado.
I spent a long day at the wheel, covering 400 miles across Wyoming, and ended up in Laramie, where I stayed with at least six other RVers at the Walmart carpark there. I considered pusshing on for the final two hours that it would take me to get to Boulder, but it looked like a big storm was approaching, and after eating dinner I really did not feel like any more driving, so settled in for the night.
The next day dawned fine and bright, without a breath of wind, and I headed south to the Colorado border. The scenery chenged almost immediately from the high flat plains of Wyoming to more mountainous terrain. The drive from Laramie to Fort Collins was beautiful, the road smooth and winding, and the views spectacular.
For most of the journey across Wyoming and down into Colorado the GPS informed me that I have been at an altitude of between 7,000 and 8,000 feet, which is amazing, as it seems so flat and open. That height is around the same height of the tallest peak in Australia (Mount Kosciusko - 7,310 feet), but is more than double the height of the tallest peak in England! (Scafell Pike - 3,209 feet). And I am only in the foothills. I am really looking forward to some walking and climbing here.
I arrived mid-morning in Boulder at Yvette's house, and soon settled in to the spare room, putting the laundry to good use, as I am on my last set of clean clothes! I met Yvette last year in LA, after she had heard about my story online, and contacted me. Our "blind date" ended up with us skinny-dipping at Santa Monica Pier! More details here.
In the evening Yvette was presenting a Social Media 101 talk at the local library, discussing the benefits of using social sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, which was very interesting, as I am on all of those sites, but hardly ever find the time to use or update them.
The next morning we headed up to Chautauqua Park, and climbed the steep path past some incledible rock slabs to the spectacular Royal Arch. The weather was sunny when we set off, but halfway up the skies darkened and thunder rumbled. There were a few spots of rain, but the storm missed us and we managed to stay dry. It was a good reminder of how quickly the weather can change in the mountains.
In the evening we went to a local hotel, where we listned to jazz singer Hazel Miller, and met and chatted with Yvette's friends Michael, Ryan, Patti and Hestor. I have emailled back and forth a few times with Ryan, who works with travel website everlater.com, and I was keen to discuss travel writing, climbing, and poker-playing with him.
Today is a day for practical matters. More laundry, the RV needs a clean out, and I need to pack a bag for the weekend, as I fly tonight to London for the Worthing Birdman Competition on Sunday on England's south coast.
Many thanks to Yvette, and her son Scotty for their wonderful hospitality.
Spooky Hotel. Friday, August 21, 2009
Yvette had mentioned a nearby hotel to me that she thought I might like to visit, and when I found that it was the original inspiration for Stephen King's book, and later movie and TV mini-series, "The Shining", I insisted that we change plans, and go there for the tour.
It would be cutting things a little close, but it would be well worth it, I thought. We drove for an hour or so into the mountains, through more beautiful scenery, and eventually came to The Stanley Hotel, at an altitude of 7,500 feet in Estes Park.
The place was in a spectacular location, but did not seem at all familiar from the movie. We had booked in for the informative ghost tour, and I soon found out why! The hotel was the original inspiration for Stephen King's book, and was later used as the location for the 1997 TV miniseries, but was not used for the better-known 1980 movie by Stanley Kubric, which starred Jack Nicholson in one of his most chilling roles.
Apparently King had not liked the movie version of his book, which was inspired by his ghostly visit to The Stanley Hotel in 1973, and decided to re-film the story later, using the original location, and staying more faithful to the book.
When King stayed here on October 31st 1973, he and his wife booked into haunted Room 217, juat as the hotel was closing down for the winter. His wife Tabitha experience ghostly "Mrs Wilson", who haunts the room, while King himself had several ghostly experiences, including seeing an old fashioned dance in the main ballroom, when nobody was there.
Apparently Jim Carrey also stayed in Room 217 when filming Dumb and Dumber, and only managed to spend three hours there before leaving and refusing to set foot in the hotel again!
The tour, led by our enthusiastic guide Tyler, was very interesting, and I am now very keen to see The Shining TV series that was filmed there. Tyler encouraged us to take many photographs in one particular location, explaining that many people found unusual shadows, or strange balls of light, called orbs, in their pictures, and many cameras clicked.
Being the open-minded sceptic that I am, (read more about my earlier ghostly experiences-or-not on my Haunted House goal here), I was interested to find a couple of pictures with unusual lights on them. The middle picture below is the best one, and shows a faint ball of light at the bottom of the stairs. Dust on the lens? A reflection caused by someone else's flash? Or ghostly energy? You decide! For me, the jury is still out, but I have never noticed my camera produce this type of effect anywhere else, but it did so a couple of times here! Oooooo!!!
After returning to Yvette's home in Boulder, I hurriedly packed my bag, while Yvette very kindly gave the RV a quick vacuum - much needed because the carpet was still full of salt from the Bonneville Salt Flats. Thanks again to Yvette for being a wonderful Colorado host.
I made a quick dash across to Denver International Airport, where I left the RV in long term parking, and caught the direct overnight flight to London, enjoying an interesting chat with my fellow passengers Jim and Betty, off to visit family in Norway.
It is quite surreal to be suddenly back in the familiar surroundings of my brother's house in London again, after many weeks of travel, and I am struggling to adjust to the 7 hour difference in time zones. My body has no idea now of when it should be awake and when it should be asleep. I am typing the last of this blog, wide awake at 5am London-time, the equivalent of 10pm yesterday in Denver!
I hope I get properly adjusted by the time of the big jump on Sunday afternoon. "Flying" takes place for me from 1pm on Sunday afternoon at Worthing Pier for anyone that wants to come along.
Weekend in Worthing. Saturday, August 22, 2009
After writing my blog at 5 am yesterday morning I got up and had some breakfast, but as nobody else was up and about, I went back upstairs to read for a while, and wait for the rest of the household to catch up with me. The next thing I knew, it was about 12.30 in the afternoon, Martin had gone to work hours before, and Rachel had been working all morning at home! For me it was still only the equivalent of 5.30am Denver-time.
I had a quick shower and packed Martin's car, and headed for the south coast, keen to miss the worst of the traffic that would be streaming out of the capital on a Friday afternoon later on.
I made my way to Bognor Regis, the original home of the Bognor Birdman Competition. The pier there was damaged by fire a couple of years ago, and was drastically shortened, and the water at the new end of the pier is no longer deep enough for jumping/flying off!
Bognor is a typical English seaside town, it's glory years now long behind it. Despite the fact that it is still summer holidays, the windy beach was deserted, and the whole place had a faded, run-down atmosphere about it.
I took some pictures of the folorn pier and empty beach, and then drove ten miles along the coast to Worthing, the new home of the Birdman Competition. Worthing is a lot cleaner, and seems to have a bit more life about it. Although all of the concerts advertised at the Pier Theatre had a distinctly oldies flavour about them!
The pier itself has a huge scaffold construction at the end, and I wandered along to take some pictures. It looked quite alarming, as the tide was right out, and the drop from the platform must be at least 50 feet, onto the sands below. I imagine that the event itself later today and on Sunday afternoon are timed to co-incide with high tide. Even so, the top of the platform is impressively high.
At around 6pm, Michelle called me, letting me know that she had finished work and arrived back at home. Michelle lives in Worthing, a short walk from the pier, and had contacted me through the website, and offered to accomodate me for the weekend. I eventually found the house, and we headed out for a fantastic Mexican meal in town.
Once again it is now around 2am, and I am still wide awake. I will try to sleep as long as possible tomorrow morning, and then am keen to go and see the serious flyers launch themselves off the platform in the afternoon.
Worthing Birdman - day 1. Sunday, August 23, 2009
Saturday was a beautiful sunny day, and Michelle and I wandered down to the seafront for day one of the Worthing Birdman Competition. There are three classes of flyer, the most serious being the Condor class, who usually have hangliders, sometimes specially modified for the competition. The second group is the Leonardo Da Vinci class, who have more homemade contraptions, but still with the potential to fly a significant distance. Both of these classes would be competing on Saturday, but the third class, in which I had entered, the Kingfishers, would not be "flying" until Sunday.
So I could happily enjoy the day as a spectator. And what a lovely day it was. The sun was out, the beach was packed, big screens were set up for viewing the action, and the whole place had a great carnival atmosphere.
We watched a couple of flights from the beach, and then wandered out along the pier. We were surprised at how close we could get to the action, and eventually headed up the stairs to the bar on the second floor in the pavillion at the end of the pier, where the balcony offered an excellent vantage point.
The wind was in the right direction for the flyers, blowing straight onto the platform, and there were some spectacular flights. The most amazing was by Steve Elkins, who flew an incredible 99.87 metres, easily beating the previous record. He must have been very disappointed to fall 13cm short of the target distance of 100m, which would have won the £30,000 prize that is on offer!
Later on in the evening, Michelle dropped me in Brighton, and I met up with Martin and Rachel, who had come down to show support for my flight the next afternoon, and were out and about on the town with friends Rob aand Suzanne. A great evening, although I went steady with the beer - a big day the next day! The flyers' platform certainly looked unnervingly high, but I am looking forward to my own "flight" from it.
Goal 55 - Fly like an ostrich! Monday, August 24, 2009
I had to drop my "craft" off at the pier before 11am, and then had to be dressed in costume by noon for the judging of the Kingfisher class. The theatre on the pier where the mayor and others came to judge us was filled with a variety of entertaining costumes, including a guy in a hugh crocodile outfit, Laurel and Hardy, naughty nurses, and many others.
At 12.30, there was a mandatory safety briefing for all of the "flyers", which included the 18 serious flyers from the day before, who would be making a second attempt, as well as the 20 or so Kingfishers. The atmosphere was fantastic, and humourous comments from many of the contestants made the briefing very entertaining.
At 1pm the "flights" began, with a guy in Hawaiian hula girl outfit and a body board plunging off the platform into the water below. He was followed by more spectacular plunges by other crazily dressed competitors, and I took my place in the queue behind "Del Boy" Trotter from UK comedy "Only Fools And Horses". He had a complete mock-up of Del's famous car, which failed to fly any further than any of the other Kingfishers, and disintegrated on impact with the water.
It was my turn next, and I waddled up the steep ramp to the platform in my costume. I had opted to "fly" sat astride an ostrich, and had worked on the costume a couple of months before, with much sowing assistance from my mum while last in England. I had also begged shoes for the outfit from my godson Owen, and found the perfect pair of ostrich feet flippers while at a car boot sale down in Devon back in June.
Each contestant was interviewed on camera at the top of the ramp, the pictures being transmitted on the big screens up and down the beach, and streamed live on the internet too. I was asked quite a few questions about both ALife4Sale and 100goals, and was trying to explain my fundraising goal, when I was informed that my time had begun, and I had thirty seconds left!
I barely had time to waddle to the end of the platform, and wanted to take the time to actually look off at the height of it. "5 seconds!" I was informed as I looked off the edge. It really was a spectacularly high jump! "Go, go, go!" I heard, and I flew - well, plumetted really! It was a long fall, and I hit the water pretty hard, but the ostrich costume protected me well.
The safety boat arrived and I was dragged aboard completely waterlogged! We waited for the next competitor, who had managed to split his lip and was bleeding a bit. I saw him interviewed later on the beach, and he was still shaking!
I got changed, thrilled by the jump, and went to watch the last of the Kingfishers, followed by the more serious flyers. ("Are you suggesting that we are not serious?" a guy in an outrageous drag outfit beside me at the safety briefing had asked loudly!)
Unfortunately the wind conditions were not as good as the previous day, and nobody came anywhere near the previous days' fantastic efforts, but the sun was out, and for the spectators the weather was fantastic.
Worthing Council did an absolutely awesome job of organising a fantastic event, which all seemed to go very smoothly. The English summer weather was perfect for the whole weekend, other than wind direction on the second day, and the crowds were huge.
Many thanks to all who made this goal possible, including my costume designers, contributors and assistants - mainly mum and Owen! Also to Martin, Rachel and Rob, as well as one of the other Ian Ushers and family for coming along to offer support and encouragement. And huge thanks to Michelle for being a wonderful Worthing host. A brilliant weekend all round. More from the BBC here (thanks to "tacobet" on the forum for the link):- http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/sussex/8217125.stm
I now have to dash back to Heathrow, and will be back in Colorado tonight. Quite surreal.
More Birdman photos and video. Tuesday, August 25, 2009
My Worthing host and official Birdman helper/photographer Michelle got chatting to Sara, wife of the flying crocodile, and they were stood together taking photos of our "flights". Thanks to Sara, who forwarded these fantastic pictures:-
And here are Worthing Town Council's videos of the fun from both afternoons. (Note: Compared to many of the "flyers" who took amazing running leaps, my sedate launch from a standing start looks a bit timid, but have you ever tried running in flippers?):-
I am writing this now in bed at 6am at my host Val's house in Colorado Springs! Yesterday was a very long day. It is quite disorienting to wake up in Worthing on the south coast of England, and go to bed in Colorado 22 hours later. From Worthing I drove Martin's car back up to London, got the tube to Heathrow, flew to Denver, caught the shuttle bus to the long-term parking, then drove the RV south to Colorado Springs, arriving here at abot 10pm Colorado-time, the equivalent of 5am the next morning back in England. Trains, planes and automobiles!!
I think by the time I got to Val and Brenda's house and met them, my meeting-new-people skills had just about at the end of their tether, and we only chatted for a short while before I made my excuses and headed for bed. I managed a good eight hours sleep though, and am going to try for a few more hours right now, to get firmly back onto US time again.
7 peaks - day 1. Wednesday, August 26, 2009
After my late arrival the night before, I had a fairly easy day around Colorado Springs, and was shown around some of the local sights by Val. We went to see Garden of the Gods, which has some spectacular rock formations, and met with a TV news reporter who wanted to do an article for the news that evening.
We collected a minibus which Val planned to use for the next day's hike to Pikes Peak, and I met a few people at Val's workplace, a couple of whom may be joining us later in the week for a couple of peaks.
That evening Val and Branda had organised a BBQ at their lovely home, and I met many of their friends. Several of them will be joining us for some or even all of the seven peaks.
The next morning we got a reasonably early start, and several fellow climbers turned up at the house for the trip to Pikes Peak, probably Colorado's most famous and accessible 14,000 foot peak, also known as America's Mountain.
There is a road that leads all the way to the summit, and we started our climb pretty high up the mountain, as Val wanted to give me a reasonably easy introduction to mountaineering at such altitudes. There were also a few other beginners like myself in the group.
The weather was cool but clear, and we made our way up towards the clouds which hovered just above the summit. The climb itself was relatively easy, but the air is very thin, and pretty soon I was panting hard, and my heart was pounding. Many of the others in the group seemed to be able to walk quite a bit quicker than me, holding a conversation at the same time, while I simply struggled to gasp for breath.
We reached the summit around an hour and a half later, and I was amazed to find a full car park, a gift shop and restaurant, and a cog railway (the highest one in the world) that comes up to the summit on the other side of the peak. It really is accessible to all.
After a quick break a few of us elected to walk back down to the start point, while others elected to return in the minibus. By the end of the walk my head was starting to pound a bit, and I was certainly feeling the effects of the altitude.
We only had a couple of hours to get ready to set off for the rest of the week, and I hurriedly re-packed and organised my bags, still feeling the after effects of the slight altitude sickness that I had.
Val's friend Tim, who would be joining us for all 7 peaks, drove us to Dillon, where more of Val's friends have a condo that we will be using for the next couple of nights. I elected to take the back seat, and promptly fell asleep for most of the journey. I felt much better when I woke, and we have now settled in to the very scenic apartment for the evening.
Thanks to all who joined me for the first of my Colorado 14ers, making this the biggest ever group of people to have joined me so far on my travels. A great, and reasonably easy introduction to high-altitude mountains.
One peak conquered in one day, only six more to go! More info on Pikes Peak here:- Pikes Peak
7 peaks - day 2. Thursday, August 27, 2009
Day Two of my attempt to climb seven of Colorado's 14ers (peaks higher than 14,000 feet) began early with breakfast at the condo, and an early departure for the day's start point about an hour's drive away.
There would be a group of eight of us climbing today, myself, Val and Tim, who are hoping to achieve all seven peaks, and also from yesterday, Bob, Mary, and Justin. New additions to the group Eric and Paul also joined us. Eric plans to be with us for the rest of the week, and having climbed Pikes Peak before, is also pretty-much doing all seven peaks.
It was cold in the shadow of the mountains as we began our climb, but we soon climbed up into the sun and the layers of clothes started to come off. The day was bright and clear, winds light, and the climb fairly steep, but not too demanding.
I was feeling pretty fresh again, and took my time climbing, and although I could feel the same gasping shortness of breath at times, the first peak of the day was soon conquered, and we stood on top of Mount Democrat, at a height of 14,148 feet, 38 feet higher than yesterday, and a new record for me. (Before yesterday the highest I had been was 13,435 feet way back in 1999, when I climbed Mount Kinabalu in Borneo)
I was feeling fine, and confident about the next two peaks planned for the day, which would take us on a circular route without losing too much height. We dropped down to the saddle and started climbing again, crossing another summit of over 14,000 feet. Unfortunately, Mount Cameron is not counted as a true 14er, as there are several criteria that need to be fulfilled to do so. Mount Cameron is 14,238 feet high, but between there and the next peak, Mount Lincoln, there is less than 300 feet of drop, and less than a mile distance, both of which are required for inclusion in the list of 53 true 14ers.
By the time I reached the summit of Mount Lincoln, at 14,286 feet, lagging a little behind most of the group, my altitude headache had started, and I sat with my head in my hands for a while. More water, and a bite to eat improved my condition, and after another summit photograph, I was ready for the descent to the next saddle, feeling good again.
But the final climb to the 14,172' summit of Mount Bross, was a real struggle, and my head was really pounding by the time I got there. I laid down and closed my eyes, feeling a bit nauseous too, and it was all I could do five minutes later to drag myself up for a final summit photo. I improved a little with some rest, and felt better as we begun our long steep descent back to the vehicles.
By the time we got down I was feeling pretty rough again, and slept in the car on the way back to Dillon. I woke feeling much better, and beer and a burger at our happy hour bar soon sorted me out again. It really is surprising how quick the altitude sickness can come, and then how quick it can go again.
The whole trip took around seven hours, all of which was spent at over 12,000', most of it well above 13,000'. We now have a rest day planned for tomorrow as we travel from Dillon to Ouray, and Val thinks that I shouldn't have too many more problems now, as I should be fairly well conditioned for the altitude. I hope he is right, as the last hour of today's descent was pretty miserable.
The actual walking and climbing itself is reasonably easy, and in England, a walk like today around peaks in the Lake District, or down in Devon, would be a nice easy day out. But at yesterday's altitude, it became one of the toughest days I have ever spent in the mountains. But afterwards, when the head stopped pounding and I had had a bit of sleep, I certainly felt proud of the achievement.
Thanks again to all who came along on tough Day Two, and also for all of the support and encouragement that was much needed. Four peaks in two days!
We left the condo at Dillon at around 9am, and headed west towards Grand Junction. There were now only four in our group, myself, Val, Tim and Eric, the four who would be doing all of the peaks. We made a couple of stops, for fuel and to look at a pretty waterfall by the roadside. The main road, I-70, is spectacular, and at one point winds through a narrow gorge, where the river, railroad, and four lanes of traffic all vie for space, until it gets so narrow that the westbound lanes are built over the top of the eastbound lanes. There is also a cycle track that would be a fantastic ride, almost all downhill from the pass at Vail Summit.
At Glenwood Springs we headed south, and then turned off the main road to a place called Marble, where marble is quarried and shipped all over the country. We had lunch at a fantastic BBQ place called Woody's, and then headed on up into the mountains.
I had expressed an interest in seeing an abandoned town in the mountains, and for four miles we battled up the roughest track I have ever seen in my life. Nobody else seemed at all surprised by the road conditions, and when I asked, I was told that most mountain tracks are like this.
Eventually we arrived at Crystal Mill, which was such a surprise, as it seems to be in the middle of absolutely nowhere! It is very dilapidated, and a sign explained that the historical society was doing its best to keep it in reasonable shape, but that each year the tough, harsh winters would take their toll.
After looking at the mill, and clambering around taking photos, we continued up the track, and I was surprised to see a sign suggesting that we drive slowly through town! We came up over the top of a rise, and entered the town of Crystal. It used to be an old mining town, but had long since been abandoned except by a hardy few that return each summer and maintain the buildings. There was a small gift shop, and a few cabins that could be rented. It would certainly be an out-of-the-way holiday destination! Quite amazing to find there so high in the mountains.
It was almost dark by the time we arrived at Ouray, and we headed out of town to set up camp. Once organised we went back to town and we had a couple of beers with dinner at O'Briens pub, where we were joined by Eric's wife Jackie, sons Brian and Dylan, Loren and his sister Lisa, and Bob and Patrick. It was going to be a busy day on the mountain the next day!
Afterwards we headed out of town to our mountain campsite, and were all early to bed, ready for an early start.
7 peaks - day 4. Saturday, August 29, 2009
5.30am seemed to come very quickly, and I was very comfortable in my sleeping bag, but it sounded like many of the others were up and about, so I dragged myself out of bed. It was still dark, and the sky was incredibly clear. Breakfast consisted of a handful of granola, and a breakfast bar, and a much appreciated cup of tea kindly provided by Eric.
The trip from camp to the trailhead in Tim's 4WD was extraordinary. I have never travelled on such rough roads, up and up into the mountains, an amazingly steep gorge dropping away right beside us. This trail made yesterdays trip up to Crystal look tame by comparison! Eventually we climbed out of the gorge into a huge basin surrounded by mountains on all sides, where we met John, who would also be joining us again, having missed the second day. The sun was coming up, and the views were stunning. We soon geared up, and headed on upwards.
The day's climb was much steeper and rockier than my previous 14ers, and although a bit slower than many of the others in our group, I felt pretty good, and climbed steadily at my own pace, making good progress. I even managed a bit of a conversation with Brian, Eric's son, until he took off at speed again.
The climb became even steeper, and before the peak, Loren sat astride a large buttress pointing the way. I opted for the more difficult climb, and really enjoyed the approach to the peak.
The peak of Mount Sneffels is 14,150' high, and offers a fantastic view of the surrounding mountains. Conditions were clear, and there was hardly a breath of wind. It really was amazingly beautiful. After the obligatory summit photos were taken, and the summit log book signed, any of our group soon started to head down. I held back, as did Loren, and as everyone else disappeared, we sat and enjoyed the view in silence. Colorado is truly a stunning, and very special place.
But the day's adventures were not yet over! After the return to the vehicles, we went back down to Ouray, and enjoyed both the hot springs and the beer festival in the park, followed by a fantastic Mexican meal. It is a lovely town hidden away at the end of a cliff-sided valley.
The next part of the journey took us over Engineer Pass, which goes from Ouray to Lake City, the highest point being 12,800'. It is an incredibly steep climb, over the roughest roads I have seen so far, and that really is saying something, after the roads I have seen so far! But the most incredible thing was that Loren elected to take his old Subaru Legacy over the pass too, along with the other 4WD vehicles.
Loren had bought the Legacy for $1,200, and it had over 160,000 miles on the clock. For those not familiar with the model, it is an all-wheel-drive vehicle, but has no extra clearance, and is really only a standard family vehicle. What Loren managed to do with it was brilliant, and the most entertaining part of the trip so far. The only damage was a broken fog lamp, and a couple of dents in the sills and floor pan. A truly awesome drive! I have loads of video of the amazing drive, but until I get it edited, here is one picture that might give you a bit of an idea of how mad these Colorado guys are!
Update: 3rd Sept: Video is now done, check out Loren's amazing feat of offroad driving:-
It was pretty dark by the time we got over the scary 12,800' summit of Engineer Pass, and I was sort of glad that I couldn't see the drop-off for most of the journey. We decided not to bother with tents, as it was so late, and simply emptied the truck beds out, and slept in the back of the pick ups. Alarms were set, and we looked forward to another 5.30am start! Five peaks in four days so far!
More on Mount Sneffels here, including a great panorama pic from the summit:- Mount Sneffels
7 Peaks - day 5. Sunday, August 30, 2009
Once again the keen local boys were up before I was, and once again I had to force myself out of my warm sleeping bag. The flatbed of the pick-up had been surprisingly comfortable, and it had been a clear, dry night.
The early morning routine was becoming quite familiar, as people wandered around eating breakfast and packing bags for the day. When everyone was ready we made the mercifully short trip over the now unsurprisingly rough approach road to the trailhead, and were ready for departure at 7am.
On the early stages of the trail we bumped into the final additions to the day's climbing contingent, when we met Bruce and friends, Jerry, Kevin and Tim. The planned route to the summit of Wetterhorn Peak, at 14,015', was longer than yesterday's climb, and involved more vertical height gain too, so day by day things are getting tougher.
However, again I was feeling pretty good, and hoped that I would fare as well as yesterday, when I had had no real ill-effects from the altitude, other than the expected breathlessness.
Eventually the winding trail led to the saddle, and the climb became steeper, and just below the spectacular summit, the climbing became even more challenging and exposed. It was a great route, and again we were lucky at the summit to have some awesome views, as we were just below cloud base. The weather was closing in a bit though, and we had a brief flurry of snow on the summit before heading down again.
It was a long trek back down, but we maintained a good pace, except when we came across a couple of marmots sunning themselves on the rocks, reluctant to get out of our way. I had only seen smaller ones before, and had no idea that they grew so big. They are quite funny, squeeking as walkers go past, and dashing about without much fear of climbers. Eventually we made it back to the vehicles just inside the planned six hours.
Many of the large group we had gathered over the course of the weekend said their goodbyes, and finally we were left with the core group again of the four of us.
From Lake City we drove through Gunnison, and on into Salida, where it was raining by the time we arrived. Without too much discussion, it was agreed that a comfy room at the Days Inn was much preferable to a wet night at the campsite.
Another fantastic and challenging day in the mountains. Six summits in five days! Tomorrow is a planned rest day, although we are not planning on taking things too easy, as we are booked for a whitewater rafting trip first thing in the morning!
Goal 56 - Whitewater rafting. Monday, August 31, 2009
Our day off from slogging up the mountains was far from relaxing. After a great night's sleep at the Days Inn, and a fine breakfast we were on our way to Raven Rafting at the head of Royal Gorge on the Arkansas River, where we met Diane, Val's cousin, who would be our fifth rafting team member for the day.
We were geared up, some of us opting for wetsuits, other tougher locals happy to simply wear shorts and t-shirts. I went for the warmer wetsuit option! A short minibus ride took us to our start point, and we launched pretty quickly, our guide Carrie happy to give us our instructions and safety talk once we got moving.
The first rapids were pretty shallow, and we scraped and bumped down them, and started to get our paddling teamwork together. We had arrived pretty much at the end of the rafting season, and the river was low, the flow being about 280 cfs (cubic feet per second). In June, when the river flow is at it highest, the flow can be over 3,000 cfs! However, the lower levels would make the trip quite technical, and would mean we would actually have to do alot more paddling to make our way through.
As the walls of the gorge narrowed and we entered the canyon the rapids got bigger, and we started to drop into some more exciting, tricky sections. At one point we got well and truly stuck, and Carrie later told me that I needed write in the blog for anyone familiar with the river that we were left at Bird Drop (oops!) in Sledgehammer Rapid! I guess we weren't meant to go that way! It certainly took some teamwork to get us out again.
The scenery was very spectacular, and the steep sided canyon had all sorts of interesting and unusual features. A railway ran through the gorge, and the train passed by a couple of times, filled with waving tourists. There were remnants a water pipe that used to run along just above the river, from a past era of mining here, now just a skeletal framework. There was a steep cog railway up out of the gorge, a rollercoaster that hung out high above us over the steep cliffs, and the highest suspension bridge I have ever seen!
Halfway down the river there was an opportunity to get out of the rafts and do some jumping off the cliffs, which was fun. Well done to Diane, who pushed herself to make the jump, and did so in fine style.
After a couple of final exciting rapids we began the easier final approach into Canon City, and I got to have a go at steering the raft, and calling out the instructions for the rest of the crew, which was fun, although I don't feel I was quite awarded the same amount of respect that our guide Carrie was!
What a fantastic trip, thanks again to Val for organising things, to Tim, Eric and Diane for joining in too, and of course, to Carrie, our wonderful guide, and the rest of the staff at Raven Rafting.
That night we made our way back up into the mountains, up a 4WD track out of Westcliffe, that, believe it or not, made the previous tracks look relatively smooth. We found a fantastic campsite just below Colony Lakes, and made a campfire. I made the most of a couple of hours of down-time to try to catch up on writing about the previous days' adventures, which seemed to amuse the others. I admit it must look unusual to be sat in the middle of the wilderness with a computer perched on a log, but it's been a busy week, and you have to fit blog-writing in whenever possible!
7 peaks - day 7 - Goal 57 finally achieved! Tuesday, September 1, 2009
We didn't quite get the early start we had hoped for, but were still on the trail towards South Colony Lake at the foot of the Crestones before the sun came up. Once again it looked like the weather was going to be kind to us, and we would have a full week of perfect conditions.
Above the lake the climbing soon became steeper, and the four of us made good progress towards the saddle. Above that the path became much steeper and rockier, and the hughely enjoyable climbing began.
The easiest route suggested climbing to about 13,800' up the east gully, then traversing into the easier top section of the west gully, but there is a slightly harder climb which continues up the east gully. I was climbing well, and felt pretty confident on the solid rock, and elected to continue straight up. I climbed fast, now above the others, and decided I wanted to be the first to the summit for my final peak, and pushed on, panting hard.
It was such a fantastic climb, in perfect conditions, on great, solid foot- and hand-holds, that despite the effort, I had a hugh grin on my face. At the summit, I had about four or five minutes before Eric arrived, followed by Val and Tim. I signed the summit log book, and for a short time, I was the only person who had been on the summit of Crestone Needle during September!
The weather was perfect, not a breath of wind at the summit once again, but the view was quite hazy, we suspected because of hugh bush fires currently burning to the west in California.
We sat in quiet reflection on the summit, our goal having been achieved, and were soon joined by Laura, who Val knows from his work, and her brother Brian. They were planning on continuing onward across a very steep looking traverse to Crestone Peak, which we had also considered, but had decided we would probably not do.
However, after some discussion, and a bit of time spent surveying the route Val, Eric and myself decided to join Laura nad Brian. Tim, who has already done all of the Colorado 14ers, decided to head back the way we had come, and we all wished each other well.
The descent off the needle was a steep down-climb on good holds, but with quite an intimidating drop below. All our group managed without need to resort to the ropes we had, and we continued down and across the steep terrain towards the next summit.
Navigation through the steep crags was tricky, and we headed down one steep gully and around towards the next. There was more up and down climbing, and eventually we were almost below the summit of Crestone Peak. I elected to stay on the steeper, but solid rock and climb up, rather than head around to the next gully. Followed by Eric, we headed upwards, and reached the peak without too much difficulty, on great climbing holds in a fantastic location.
The others joined us, and there were congratulations all round. After a bite to eat it was time for the journey down, which took us down a steep, loose gully, probably the most dangerous part of the day, as occasionally a slip would send a rock cascading down to those lower down. All went well though, and after another steep climb down and out of the gully we reahed better terrain, and slightly easier conditions along a rocky ridge.
I really was at the end of my stamina, and the journey back to the vehicles looked like an endless trudge ahead, and I was amazed and very impressed when Laura nad Brian decided to collect a third 14er, by heading up the steep but easy slopes of Humbolt Peak.
We eventually reached the vehicles, and after a tortuous journey down the rough track, we made it back to Westcliffe, and treaded ourselves to a well-deserved beer and burger.
What a long, hard day. We were away from the vehicles for almost 12 hours, most of which was pretty tough going, but eventually we have not only managed to achieve the goal, but over-achieved by managing 8 peaks in 7 days. I think we all felt justifiably proud of ourselves.
I have had an amazing week here in Colorado, which really is a stunningly beautiful place. Despite all the miles we have driven, the tracks we have battled up, and the trails we have climbed, I feel like I have only just scratched the surface of this incredible place.
My hughest thanks to Val, who has done an incredible job of putting all of this together, and offering me a truly wonderful experience, and a tough, rewarding challenge. This goal has certainly been the one which has required the most consistent and long term effort, from cycling and swimming while in Perth, visiting the gym with Martin and Rachel in London, and climbing the steep hills of San Francisco, followed by a steadily increacing set of challenges here in Colorado.
Hugh thanks also to Tim and Eric, who accompanied Val and I for the whole of the challenge, and did a fantastic job of driving around the whole enormous state, and up and down some of the most roughest roads I have ever seen.
And thanks of course to everybody else who came to join us on one or more of the peaks - Brenda, Jackie, Bryan and Dylan, Laura and Brian, Loren and Lisa, Bob, Patrick, Jerry and Mary, Paul, Justin, John, Amanda, Jonathon and Camilla, Eric and Aletha, Jack and Susan, Bruce, Jerry, Kevin and Tim. I hope I haven't missed anyone, but apologies if I have, I have met so many people here, and so many people have come along on the climbs. This really must be one of the fittest places I have ever been to! Great people, great place, great fun. Thank you all.
After finishing the "7 Peaks in 7 days" challenge I had a couple of spare days before meeting my friend Andrew, also from Australia and also travelling around the States at the moment. As I was due to pick him up at Denver airport, Val and Brenda suggested that I could stay with them an extra day or two and relax a bit.
Their friend Kris, who I had met at the BBQ before we went off climbing, offered to show me around a bit, and we had a great afternoon driving around with the top of her convertible Saab down, through the beautiful Garden of the Gods, and took a tour around the fantastically situated house, Glen Eyrie.
Kris has faced some significant challenges in her life, and does some motivational speaking, and I was keen to hear more of her inspirational story, and quiz her a bit on how she got started on the speaking circuit. What a great afternoon! More about Kris here: Kris Harty
Kris dropped me off as Val finished work, and the next activity really caused me to wonder about the nature of relaxation here in Colorado. Val had suggested trying out The Incline, where locals go for a bit of excercise, and I thought it sounded like a good idea!
The incline is an incredibly long and incredibly steep climb up the remains of an old cog railway. All that is left now are the wooden sleepers (or ties, as they are called here). Val's target time was around 35 minutes, as he is a regular at this, and comes a couple of times a week. At the start of the climb we bumped into Laura, who had joined us on a couple of peaks over the previous week, and her training partner.
As soon as we started I found myself at the back of the group, with Buddy, Val's dog, occasionally running back down to me to see how I was doing, and encourage me onward.
The climb was long and tough, and I was panting hard all the way, but pushed myself on. The false summit before the end is a bit of a heart-breaker, but I was very proud, despite being the slowest of our group, to achieve a respectable time of 43 minutes on my first attempt. I am certainly fitter than I was a week ago.
Unfortunately, Andrew's plans had to change, and family circumstances meant he had to fly back to Australia at short notice, so I changed my plans a little too. Val was planning a surprise party for Brenda the next day, and suggested that I should stay for that.
He also mentioned that it was Labor Day Weekend, and the Colorado Balloon Classic was on in the local park.
We were up early the next morning, and taking me to see the hot air balloons gave Val the perfect excuse to get Brenda out of the house for a while, so her family members could get into the house and prepare their surprise.
Weather prevented the balloons from taking off, but the sight of them all inflated ready to go was quite spectacular.
Brenda's reaction was fantastic when she discovered her family from all over the country in her front room. Val had done a great job of getting everyone organised, and Brenda had had no idea that something was going on.
In the evening more friends arrived, and I enjoyed catching up again with many of the people who had joined us on one or more of the peaks. Val and Brenda's nephew Matt was also celebrating his birthday, and was keen to go skydiving, and before long, Val, Eric and his wife Jackie had also decided they would go and jump the next day. I rang the dropzone, and confirmed that I would be able to hire gear there and jump too, and we had an enthusiastic group organised.
This morning we were off fairly early, and at the Canon City dropzone, once my paperwork was checked, and everyone trained for their jumps, we were into the plane and off. I had to sit by the open door, which was slightly nerve-wracking, and my first jump was from 4,000 feet. Also on board were Matt and Val, and their tandem masters. At my exit height I had no room to do anything but roll out the door, and after about 8 seconds of freefall I pulled my chute, and enjoyed the flight down.
On the ground I was given a second parachute, and along with Jackie and Eric, headed back to the plane, meeting the first jumpers as they landed. Matt's face was a picture of excitement, and he had obviously thoroughly enjoyed his first jump.
Back in the plane, now with a lighter load of fuel, I could go to maximum height with Eric and Jackie, and had brought along my small camera that fits in a glove on my left hand. The video from it is okay, but as my left hand also had the altimeter in it, and is used to steer the canopy too, some of the video is a bit shaky.
It was fantastic to get back in the air again, and also good to be a little more current, as I have a few skydive goals to attend to soon. The last jump I did was back at Easter in Perth.
Well done to Matt, Val, Eric and Jackie. What a fantastic day, and all organised at the last minute at a party the night before. That's relaxation Colorado-style!
We were back at Val's for lunch, and after finishing this blog it is time to hit the road again. I plan to take my time heading to Las Vegas, as there is alot to see between here and there.
I will be sad to leave here, as I have had such a fantastic time. Colorado is such a beautiful place, and I am sure I will be back again one day. My thanks to Val and Brenda for being such wonderful hosts, and my thanks too to all their friends and family who have welcomed me to their group with open arms. What a a brilliant couple of weeks.
Picnic at Hanging Lake. Monday, September 7, 2009
I set off late afternoon from Colorado Springs and drove westward for a few hours, across the spectacular I-70, which at one point climbs to over 11,000'. The RV did well, and all was going to plan as I pulled up at my intended destination at Hanging Lake Rest Area in the stunning Glenwood Canyon. But as I turned the engine off, a worrying boiling sound issued from under the hood. I decided to leave it until the next day to investigate.
I got up early in the morning, and only one other vehicle had arrived at the rest area, so I would be one of the first on the Hanging Lake Trail. This was one of the places Val had planned to stop on our "7 Peaks" week, but time had been against us that particular day.
It took about 45 minutes to climb up to the lake hidden high in the valley. I think my legs are pretty-well trained now for this sort of stuff, as the sign suggested it would take about an hour, and I felt I was going pretty slow!
The water was crystal clear, and the waterfalls beautiful.
Just above the lake Spouting Rock proved to be exactly as described, and a spectacular waterfall issues out of the middle of a cliff face!
The view back down the gorge was spectacular too. I headed back down to the RV just as the carpark was starting to fill. I spent the next hour or so laid under the RV, fiddling with the fan belts. It had thrown the belt that runs the alternator and waterpump, and I used some thin rope I had to try to rig something up to get me into town, about 8 miles away.
My string system got me 4 miles or so before the makeshift belt snapped, and the rising temperature of the engine forced me to stop at the side of the interstate. Another hour later, when it cooled down again I refilled the water and managed to make it to town. Labor Day holiday is not the best time to breakdown, but I managed to find the one mechanic in town who was still working, and by mid-afternoon I was back on the road, all fixed up.
I arrived in Grand Junction, my intended destination by 5pm, which was pretty good, considering the day I had had, and made my way to Eric, Jackie and Dylan's house - my recent climbing and skydiving buddies.
I was ready for a relaxed evening, and an introduction to the strategic game of "Settlers of Catan" was the perfect answer.
Arches National Park, Utah. Tuesday, September 8, 2009
It was mid-morning before we got organised and left Eric and Jackie's house. I think Dylan and I playing Star Wars on the PlayStation did nothing to help ensure an early departure. Eric had decided to take the day off work, and bring the family along to do some sight-seeing. We headed along in convoy, my RV lumbering along behind Eric's pickup, and soon arrived at Colorado National Monument, which is a spectacular road up through steep canyons cut through the red rock. The views down these steep ravines are fantastic.
We headed west on I-70, crossing into Utah, then turned south onto a scenic bypass route to follow the spectacular Colorado river down through a deeply cut valley towards the town of Moab.
We left the RV at the junction where I would be continuing south later, and I jumped into the pickup, and we drove into Arches National Park. From the park information leaflet, we decided to make our first stop the spectacular Landscape Arch. There were amazing views everywhere we looked. What a place.
Our stop for sunset was at the viewpoint for Delicate Arch, and we sat and watched the colours change as darkness started to fall.
There was more that I wanted to see, and after dinner in Moab, I decided I would stay in the area and come and see some more in the morning. Eric, Jackie and Dylan dropped me off at the RV, and we said our goodbyes and they headed for home, and I went to find an overnight spot on the banks of the Colorado River.
Thanks to Eric, Jackie and Dylan for their wonderful kindness, and excellent tour-guiding services. I really enjoyed my time with you guys and hope to see you again soon.
I had set my alarm for 6am, and after a quick cup of tea I made my way back to Arches National Park to see sunrise at Balanced Rock.
I then made my way to The Windows area of the park, which was beautiful too, and took the deserted trail around behind the North and South Windows.
With a bit of scrambling up some rocks, I managed to find one of the best views I have ever seen, with one arch framed right in the middle of another. I sat quietly, enjoying this incredible vista for a while.
Eventually I headed down into Moab to restock food, water and fuel. Moab looks like my type of town, as every second building on the main road through town advertises some sort of adventure activity - 4WD trips, rafting, skydiving, mountan biking, ATV trips, and much more. But money is getting a little tight, and time running short on my last leg of my US visit, so after lunch I decided to push on southwards, deeper into the desert, towards Monument Valley on the Utah/Arizona border.
Monumental landscapes. Thursday, September 10, 2009
Just as I crossed into the Navajo Tribal Lands, a dust storm turned the horizon a gloomy orange, and in the distance the spires of Monument Valley could just be seen shrouded in the dust clouds. The winds came up, and the RV battled a little with a strong headwind, but I eventually made it to Monument Valley, and made my way to the primitive campground there.
As evening came the winds lessened, and I went for a walk around the base of on of the huge buttes, and a couple of miles from the campsite I sat in the utter silence to wait for sunset. It was a bit too cloudy for a spectacular sunset, but it was very atmospheric to sit alone among the towering spires of this majestic landscape.
Once again my alarm was set for 6am, and I got up just as it was getting lighter. I drove deeper into the spectacular park on dusty desert roads, following the trail that loops around some of the spectacular rock formations. Once again it was a bit too cloudy for a spectacular sunrise, but the views were awesome.
I am going to have to do some serious cleaning inside the RV later on today, as the red dust seems to have got in somewhere, and there is a thin red layer on every flat surface. However, the views make it all worth while!
This place has been the backdrop for so many movies that there is quite a strange feeling of familiarity being here.
After leaving Monument Valley I crossed the border into Arizona, and drove about twenty miles south to Kayenda, where I finally turned west again, with the North Rim of the Grand Canyon as my destination for this evening.
However, once again, there are many points along the road worth stopping and looking at, and plans had to change as I realised that I would never reach the North Rim before dark. This really is an incredibly spectacular part of the country, and there is so much to see and do.
I stopped in the town of Page, and went to take a look at the huge Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell that it forms in the now flooded Glen Canyon. At the visitor centre a tour down into the centre of the dam was just about to start, and I hurriedly joined in. Some of the views of the dam and bridge, which is 700' high, were fantastic.
After visiting the dam I made my way into town to fuel up again, and headed to the local RV park, where rather cheekily, I filled my water tanks, and following someone else through the security coded door, I enjoyed the luxury of my first shower in three days!
That evening I drove out of town and found a quiet little roadside pull-off with a great view of the flat plain below, where the Colorado River begins to cut its deep path which is soon to become the Grand Canyon not far to the southwest.
After a much welcome long lie-in, I hit the road and stopped for lunch at Navajo Bridge, where one of the original bridges to span the Colorado River still stands. There is a newer bridge now beside the original one, which was never designed to cope with today's heavy traffic.
The original bridge is open to pedestrian traffic, and offers some beautiful views of the rafts on the calm waters of the Colorado River far below. I would love to come back one day and go rafting on the Colorado. The views from inside the canyon must be wonderful.
I eventually arrived at the Grand Canyon, which I visited last year in November, achieving Goal #14, although this time I was on the north side of the canyon rather than the south. Once again I am completely alone here, and like the last time I was here, the awesome majesty of sunset over such a spectacular location made me feel quite lonely and slightly melancholy.
I thought of the words from a song by Richard Ashcroft, called "Nature Is The Law", whose lyrics are always best when he is at his most reflective:-
Old river, And your restless wonder, And your graceful leisure, Rolling to the sea. Many men have stood like I am, Gazing out and wishing for someone.
It is slightly ironic, however, that it is not actually possible to see the Colorado River from the viewpoints at the North Rim Visitor Centre!
After the sun had set I had to drive back out of the National Park, as the campground there was full, and no other camping was allowed in the vicinity. Outside the entrance to the park however, camping is allowed in the Kaibab National Forest, and I found a very picturesque, secluded spot hidden away up one of the narrow forestry roads.
Grand Canyon - East Rim. Sunday, September 13, 2009
I had planned to be up before sunrise and make my way back into the National Park to see dawn break over the canyon, but when the alarm went off I really did not feel like getting up, so turned over and went back to sleep. When I did finally wake I decided to remain in the forest for another day, and relax a bit.
However, after breakfast, relaxing too the form of a four mile hike up through the forest to the East Rim, where ther was not another soul. I spotted what looked like a wonderful viewpoint further down and around the valley, and tried to make my way ther, but could not find a path. Undeterred, I made my way through thick undergrowth and on very steep slopes scattered with dead trees, towards where I thought the vantage point was.
Eventually I made it, wondering what it is that causes me to set these challenges for myself. But sitting there in silence, watching a couple of eagles soaring back and forth on the updraughts just above me, I reflected that it is often only through such extra effort that such wonderful moments can be experienced.
By the time I made it back up to the forestry road, with a four mile hike ahead of me back down to the RV, it was starting to rain. Fortunately I bumped into a forest ranger, who kindly offered me a lift back down to the main road near to where my RV was parked.
I spent the rest of the afternoon and evening reading, and sitting out by a lovely glowing fire.
I did manage to get up when the alarm went off the next morning, and drove back into the national park, but instead of heading to the visitor centre, I turned off the main road onto the Walhalla Plateau, and saw sunrise from one of the viewpoints looking to the east. Once again, there wasn't anyone else around. It really does pay to get up a little earlier, and make that extra effort to get away from the visitor centre area, and be able to enjoy such majesty in total peace and silence.
Cape Royal Point further alont this quiet stretch of road offers stunning views of the canyon, and the Angel's Window is quite breath-taking too. This is the only place in the North Rim National Park where you can actually get a glimpse of the Colorado River, over a mile below in the depths of the canyon.
It is hard to capture the incredible grandeur of the spectacle, and even multiple pictures of the sweeping vista do not truly do it justice. Eventually I stopped trying to capture the scene with my camera, and just sat and gazed in awe, trying to soak up the whole spectacle.
The huge scale of the place is hard to grasp, and signs point out the distances of some of the features that you can see. It is astounding that one of the closer buttes, which really does look close in comparison to the rest of the vast vista, is over two miles away. The far, south rim of the canyon, where I stood in November last year is ten miles away! Absolutely awesome!
Back at the North Rim, I went to the campground and used the showers and laundry there, before continuing north-west, crossing back into Utah again, and heading for Zion National Park.
I set off from the Grand Canyon late in the afternoon, and found another great camping spot for the night up a country road just before the entrance to Zion National Park. In the morning I was up before first light, and entered via the east gate, through a very impressive old tunnel completed in 1930, and saw sunrise over Virgin River in Zion Canyon.
I first heard of Zion last year at Palo Duro Canyon State Park, when a couple who I chatted with told me how magnificent it is. Since then I have heard it mentioned quite a few times, the most recent being by username:tacobet on the Forum pages.
I followed his (or her?) suggestion, and decided to make the hike up to Angel's Landing. The park is very well organised, and you park at the visitor centre, then take a free shuttle bus to wherever you want to go.
The climb to the top of Angel's Landing is about two and a half miles, and climbs 1,500 feet. It is a superb walk/scramble, offering incredible views. But be warned, it is not for those who have a touch of vertigo - the path is very narrow in places with enormous vertical drops! The route up is great fun, and the view from the top is breath-taking. Highly recommended.
On the way back down I took a look at the Emerald Pools, the top one of the three pools being set in a lovely shaded hollow at the foot of a monstrous cliff.
What an absolutely fantastic place! The southwest states keep on offering incredible experiences and awesome views. My goals seem to have fallen a little by the wayside this past week or so, as I have marvelled at the fantastic wealth of natural beauty here. I could spend so much more time travelling around this area - I absolutely love it here!
And another suggestion from username:tacobet on the Forum pages - check out these awesome photos of Angel's Landing and other parts of Zion from much more skilled photographer than myself, Joe Braun:- Joe Braun Photography
Early in my day at Zion, I met photographer Jeff Tangen, as we bothe enjoyed the sun coming up over the magnificent view of the Virgin River. Jeff now has his photos from that visit to Zion online, and you can see them here:- JeffTangenPhoto.com They really capture the spectacular nature of this place so much better than I can.
Gambling in Las Vegas. Tuesday, September 15, 2009
From Zion I drove down yesterday afternoon to Mesquite, just inside the Nevada border, and at the Nevada Welcome Center there I found a free wireless internet connection. I decided to stop there for the evening to update the blog and attend to my much-neglected email. Once the computer battery went flat, I went for coffee in Burger King just nearby to recharge it, and discovered that the wireless connection to the Welcome Center still worked from there. I was turfed out at 10pm though!
I stayed overnight in the parking lot, and when all my online jobs were done this morning, I picked up some Las Vegas info, and started my gambling research. An email from my friend Misty, who I met last year in Las Vegas, gave me some suggestions on casino choices for poker playing. Unfortunately Misty is away on holiday, so I won't get to catch up with her and Michael this time around.
I continued on to Las Vegas. I planned to visit Justin, Val's nephew, who had done a couple of the 7 Peaks with us, and made my way to his apartment complex with the assistance of the ever-useful GPS. I managed to get in to the gated complex via an unlocked gate, and made myself comfortable by the pool, meeting Justin when he finished work.
My plan is to head down to The Strip tomorrow to begin my poker goal. I haven't played since leaving Australia in May, so have decided to enter a couple of smaller tournaments first, to get back in practice, then achieve the goal in a bigger cash game.
So tomorrow (Wed 16th September) I plan to enter the $45 tournament at 11am at The Sahara, as suggested by Misty. On Thursday I am going to go to The Rio, home of the World Series Of Poker, and play in their $60 tournament at noon.
I then plan to play my $1,000 game on Friday evening, either at The Wynn, or Caesar's Palace, both of which run $2/$5 games with maximum buy-ins of over $1,000.
I have changed my poker goal slightly since first adding it to the list of goals, when I had no real knowledge of how tournaments are organised and played. It has become pretty clear to me that to enter a tournament that has a buy-in of $1,000 would really mean that I would be way out of my league, and I would probably just be throwing my money away.
So what I have decided to do is enter a game with $1,000 to play with, and potentially lose. To satisfy myself in terms of the goal, I think there are three ways that the goal will be achieved, and these are (in the most likely order, I imagine!):- 1). I lose all of my $1,000. 2). I play for at least 3 hours, and come away with whatever I have when I decide I have had enough, or 3). I end up well into profit, with over $3,000 in front of me!!
I can't wait to get sat down at a table tomorrow at The Sahara, but I am really looking forward to playing at The Rio on Thursday. As part of my preparations for this goal, I have on the computer the TV series of the World Series Of Poker 2007, which was played at The Rio, and have been watching an episode or two each evening as I have travelled through the National Parks over the last week or so. It will be very atmospheric to actually play there.
Poker in Las Vegas - Day 1. Wednesday, September 16, 2009
I left Justin's place on the west side of the city shortly after he went to work, and after doing a bit of grocery shopping, headed in towards The Strip. At the Sahara it was quite obvious that the RV was not going to get into the low clearance parking garage, but the valet parking guy directed me to Circus Circus, where there was plenty of open parking space.
Back at the Sahara, I paid my $45 and drew seat 7 at table 2. With twenty minutes to spare I found my way out to the swimming pool area for a short while, and then took my seat at the table, and with 4,000 in chips in front of me, began to play. It was quite a luxury to have a dealer, as in most of the pub games I played in in Australia, everyone had to take their turn to deal. It was also nice to have someone bring you whatever you wanted to drink. I stuck with coffee at 11am.
I didn't get much in the way of decent cards for the first hour, and found myself reverting to my old ways and playing very conservatively, and my chips were slowly nibbled away. I made it to the break though, as a couple of the other more aggresive players around me were busted out.
At one point I had one of those moments of wonderfully satisfying clarity, when I realised where I was and what I was doing. I had just won a hand, and was stacking my newly-won chips, when it hit me! "I'm in Las Vegas, playing in a poker tournament," I thought excitedly, "and I know what I am doing too!"
However, it soon turned out that I didn't know what I was doing. I had two pairs, aces and queens, and ended up "All In" with the meagre balance of my chips, and was beaten by a flush that I hadn't even spotted as a possibility. Amateur!
Oh well, it was good fun to sit back down at a table and play, and I am really looking forward to tomorrow's game at The Rio. I only have three episodes of the 2007 World Series Of Poker, which was played at The Rio, left to watch as part of my homework!
Afterwards I made my way to Sam's Town Hotel, Casino and RV Park a couple of miles out ofrom The Strip. It's a pretty nice place, only $18 per night for the RV, and there is a nice pool to lounge around by during the afternoon, and a free shuttle bus to The Strip. What a bargain!
Poker in Las Vegas - Day 2. Thursday, September 17, 2009
Day 2 didn't start so well. I took the shuttle bus from Sam's Town RV Park to The Strip, and walked to The Rio in good time for the start of the noon tournament, but was dismayed to find that the tournament now started at 11am, and I was too late to enter. The next one was not scheduled until 7pm.
I wondered what to do, and eventually decided to head back to Sam's Town for an afternoon of lounging around by the pool, and then drive in again for the 7pm tournament, as I am really keen to play at The Rio, home of the World Series Of Poker.
The shuttle wasn't an option for the evening game, as the last one back would be too early for me unless I managed to get knocked out of the 7pm tournament very early, which wasn't part of the plan!
I returned to The Rio at around 6.30pm and couldn't find a space big enough for the RV in the parking lot there, but managed to park easily in the huge Gold Beach casino parking lot just across the road. I registered for the $70 tournament, and drew seat number 6 on the only table to be used, and sat down to play at 7pm. With a couple of early bust outs and a couple of later arrivals there were about twelve people in the tournament, the smallest competition I have ever played in.
I think I played quite a bit better than yesterday, and won a couple of good hands, remaining competitive for a good while. I won a great "All In" hand against three others, with my pair of queens, and had a pretty good stack for a while. Unfortunately I lost about half of my chips in an unlucky hand just before the ten minute break, but did survive to return to the table.
Shortly after the break I had two possibilities for a straight, eight cards in all, and called what I thought was an "All In" bluff, but neither of my cards came up, and I was beaten by a pair of queens, ironically, leaving the table with only four players remaining.
My wallet is $70 lighter, but I had a brilliant evening. I loved playing in the home of the World Series Of Poker. Poker really is an exciting game, and in terms of thrill for your dollar, I reckon it beats many of the adventure activities I have spent similar sums of money on. It is a different sort of thrill though - a longer, lower level, but constant tension and awareness of nerves and concentration.
I am excited and nervous too about tomorrow. It will only be the second time I have sat down to play in a cash game, the first time being in Deadwood last year, where I blew $60 pretty quickly. I know a bit more about the game now, and am hoping that my conservative style of play will serve me well at a cash table.
As Kenny Rogers train-travelling gambling buddy told him:-
You got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em. Know when to walk away and know when to run. You never count your money, when you're sittin' at the table. There'll be time enough for countin', when the dealin's done.
I hope I do know when to hold 'em, and when to fold 'em tomorrow night!!
Poker in Las Vegas - Day 3 - Goal 58 achieved! Friday, September 18, 2009
What an evening! I am quite drained by my time at the poker table tonight. This evening's game certainly took me well outside of my comfort zone. After a lazy afternoon by the pool I took the 4.30pm shuttle into town, and made my way to my chosen game at The Wynn.
The walk from the shuttle stop was a nervous one, as the money I had chosen to play with, although not absolutely devastating if it did all go, was certainly a sum that would be uncomfortable to lose. But most of my poker experience is in very cheap tournaments, and I didn't really know what to expect of a bigger cash game. So with some trepidation, I put my name on the list for a seat at a table. My choice was a Texas No Limit Hold 'Em $2/$5 cash table, without an upper limit, so I could "invest" a sum of $1,000. I had to wait nervously for a while for a seat, and eventually sat down to play just before 6pm.
I surprised myself a little by playing fairly aggressively with the first couple of hands, when I received some decent cards, but lost both of the hands I got involved in pretty quickly, and was down by about $300 within the first ten minutes. I settled down though, and decided not to let the early setback get to me, and half an hour later won a pretty good hand, bringing me almost back to my starting point.
From then on I played fairly steady, winning a few, and losing a few, but my chips slowly dwindled. At one point the crunch came, and a young Australian guy across the table from me with a huge stack of chips went "All In", and after a brief hesitation I called him, reasonably confident with a ten in my hand to go with the two other tens on the board. The other guy had the fourth ten, and we split the pot, both profiting fairly well from other players bets.
I felt that was the moment when my goal was achieved, as the last of my money had been at risk, and felt pretty proud to be still in the game.
I ended up down by the time I had to leave, having lost over half of my stack, and when I cashed in, I collected over $400, just less than half of what I started with. However, I am generally a "glass-half-full" type of guy, and in this case, I reckoned anything that I came away with was a bonus.
It is pretty clear to me now that I am no poker genius, and at tonight's table there were guys that had a much better idea of what they were doing than I did. Others can see things that I simply miss, or discuss finer points of betting strategies that I only half understand. I certainly have no mis-conceptions about winning the World Series any time soon. However, I did have a fantastic time, and I know I will be taking part in many more, but less costly, games. I am glad to have experienced the excitement of a game at this level though, and do think that I got great value for money in terms of thrill and experience.
After I cashed my remaining chips in, I tried to find my way out to the street, but got completely lost in the huge place. These casinos are deliberately designed to let you find your way in, but make it very difficult to ever find an exit, I am sure! Eventually, with a little help I found my way out, and just made it to the Riviera in time for the last shuttle back to Sam's Town. If I had missed it, the taxi fare would have made serious inroads into the remnants of my capital!
I arrived back at Sam's town, and went into the casino there to grab a beer, but somehow found myself at the poker room, wondering how much the 11pm poker tournament might cost me! "What are you thinking?" I asked myself. "Quit while you're ahead - well, not ahead - but at least while you are no further behind than you need to be!" I really didn't think the $50 entry fee would be a good investment, and in the end I think I made a great value-call by investing a further $3 in three more beers and heading back to my RV to watch a movie.
Goal 59 - ten out of ten! Monday, September 21, 2009
From Las Vegas I spent a long hot day on Saturday driving down to Los Angeles, where I turned up at my friend Evan's house, in a lovely location right by the beach, about 50 miles north of the city.
I first "met" Evan when he helped out with some of the online publicity for ALife4Sale, and then met him in person last year when I came to LA in November, when I achieved Goal #17 - skydiving in a wind tunnel.
Evan was away for the weekend, but had left me the keys for his apartment and car, and a note asking if I could pick him up at LAX airport at 10pm the next evening. So on Sunday afternoon I went to meet another internet contact, Chris, and his mate Nick, in The Corner Office sports bar in Costa Mesa. I managed to gain a slightly better understanding of American football, but am still somewhat confused by all the plays.
After the game, we arranged to meet the following weekend again if we didn't manage to catch up during the week, and I made my way to the airport, where I was pleased to see Evan again.
On Monday I borrowed Evan's car once more, and went to meet Andrew, who had just flown in from Australia. Andrew had joined me on my trip to Israelite Bay earlier in the year, and had planned to join me in Las Vegas, but unfortunately had not been able to make it.
We wandered around Hollywood Boulevard, and took a drive out to the coast at Santa Monica, and up Highway 1 to Malibu, where we watched the sunset over a huge field of commemorative flags at Pepperdine University.
That evening we met up with Eric, who I have spoken to several times on the telephone, and was looking forward to meet. Eric chose Dukes Restaurant right on the water's edge at Malibu as our rendezvous, where we had a great Hawaiian chicken meal.
Eric is a TV producer, and I had had an amusing conversation when I spoke to him the first time, right at the very end of the ALife4Sale auction, about three or four minutes before the auction closed. At the time of the conversation there were three different TV crews in my living room, a news helicopter flying overhead looking for a place to land, and a live uStream internet video feed from my house. When I think back about that time it all seems so long ago now.
Eric is actually the tenth person on the the list of people that I wanted to meet in person, who I had come across during the course of selling my life. After I finished ALife4Sale, and wrote out my list of 100 goals, I decided that I would like to meet some of these people who had contacted me to offer support, or ideas, or encouragement during that process. There were about twenty people on that list, and I have now met ten of them. In actual fact, I must have met at least fifty people, maybe more, who knew of me and contacted me because of ALife4Sale, or 100goals, so the goal has been well-and-truly achieved!
The ten people that I have met that were on my original to-meet list are as follows:-
Misty Misty wrote to me to tell me she was doing a painting inspired my my life for sale idea, and I got to meet her, and see the picture, in Las Vegas in November 2008
Evan Evan White helped me alot with PR for ALife4Sale, and we became good friends. We met and went to Perris Skydiving in California, where Evan did a tandem jump, and I tried out the wind tunnel. EvanWhitePR
Yvette Yvette writes a couple of blogs herself, and made a few comments on my ALife4Sale blogs. She also was trying to achieve a new adventure each month in 2008. Her idea was that one of her adventures might be to try to meet me, and we went for an evening out in Los Angeles when we discovered we were both there in November 2008.
Brandon Evan introduced me to Brandon when several people were asking about movie rights early on during the development of media interest in the ALife4Sale story. I finally met Brandon in person when we went for lunch in Beverley Hills.
John John email me to tell me that he was using my idea as inspiration for his own life-sale, and offered his home and lifestyle living and working as an artist by the beach on hus website artistlifeforsale.com. I experienced the life that was in offer when I visited him in Santa Monica.
David David was the winner of my video clips competition that I ran in the final days running up to the auction, and chose the book "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die" as his prize. We jept in touch, and I mrt him and his family in Portland, Oregon as I passed through.
Moe Moe had offered to take me dogsledding in the wilderness if i fancied a change of pace after selling my life, and that idea subsequently went onto the 100 Goals list, and became a wonderful reality when i flew up to Whithorse in Canada for an amazing week.
Matthew Matthew was my dedicated eBay help representative for the whole of ALife4Sale, and we talked alot during that time. We finally got to meet when I was in his hometown of vancouver.
Richard Richard branson was quite an inspiration for my final decision to go ahead with ALife4Sale, and although I did not speak to him during those months, I did blog about him here, and finally got to meet him in London.
Eric Eric seems to have a remarkable ability to call me just as somethng big is happening. He called duting the final minutes of the auction, and then completely at random he called when I was in Australia, the evening before I was due to set off on the second part of my 100goals journey - great timing!
There are so many others that could have been on this list that I have met over the last 14 months, and I imagine many more wonderful people yet to meet before this adventure is all over. Thanks again to everyone who has offered help, support and encouragement on this amazing journey. It would never have been possible to have achieved so much without your kindness and generosity.
Top marks - ten out of ten to you all!
Red Bull Soapbox Races in LA. Saturday, September 26, 2009
The last few days have been pretty easy-going. I have been hanging out with Evan and Andrew at Evan's beach pad at Hollywood Beach in Oxnard. Evan has had alot of work to do, and can be seen suffering through a tough day at the office below. He still manages to find time to enjoy a beer on the beach at sunset most evenings though.
We managed to fit a couple of games of ten pin bowling the other night, and met up with Wade and his girlfriend Michelle. I had played against Wade when I was here last year, and scored my best game ever. Wade was looking forward to our return match, and sure enough, this time around he beat me, but it was a very close and exciting match.
The next day I dropped Andrew off at the railway station, as he headed for Burbank airport, and then on to Las Vegas on his journey eastwards. That evening Evan and I wandered along to the local bar, a wonderful little place right on the sand at the end of the peninsula, where we played pool and darts.
I have been wandering the beach most mornings trying to maintain a bit of my new-found fitness from my Colorado climbing adventure, and have been swimming a couple of times in the surf. The weather is really nice here at the moment.
I have also been trying to secure a position as an extra in a Hollywood movie, but this is proving to be a little trickier than I imagined, as I do not have any sort of work visa for the USA. I see that as a minor technicality, and am hoping that I will be able to work on a voluntary, unpaid basis. Unfortunately, the extras casting agencies seem to see this as a bit more of a hurdle than I do!!
Today's entertainment was awesome! Earlier in the week I found out that the Red Bull Soapbox Race was due to be held in LA city centre, and after seeing some of the photos, decided that this was a must-see event.
Evan and I headed into the city in the morning. The traffic was a bit slow on the way in, and it became obvious that we wouldn't quite make it in time to have a look around the pits before racing began at 1pm. We found a parking garage close by and got to the main corner of the course just as the first soapbox headed down the track.
The street was packed, and we tried to find a good vantage point, but all seemed to be taken already. We watched from a tall cafe garden for a while, and then made our way up to the start of the course, where we found a pretty good view of the start line, just below a huge monitor where we could watch the whole run on the screen.
The course, marked out by hay bales down a pretty steep hill twisted and turned a bit, taking the crazy vehicles over a small jump before reaching the sharp left turn, where a huge berm was set up, and the carts could angle up the steep bank to take the corner. From there another couple of turns and jumps took them to the finish line.
There were some spectacular crashes as competitors didn't manage to negotiate the corner, or when a wheel fell off after a jump. Some of the elaborate constructions did not seem to have the required robustness to finish the course.
The event was very well organised, the atmosphere was fantastic, and the racing spectacular. It reminded me quite a bit of the fun atmosphere at the jump off the pier at the Worthing Birdman Competition last month.
Evan's favourite soapbox was "Pole Position", a mobile pole dancing table!!
"Travelling the world is something that many people would dream of, but after a while and long enough you just want to actually come home."
Weeks 1 to 10
Weeks 11 to 20
Weeks 21 to 30
Weeks 31 to 40
Weeks 41 to 50
Weeks 51 to 60
Weeks 61 to 70
Weeks 71 to 80
Weeks 81 to 90
Weeks 91 to 100 Epilogue
Weeks 1 to 10
Weeks 11 to 20
Weeks 21 to 30
Weeks 31 to 40
Weeks 41 to 50
Weeks 51 to 60
Weeks 61 to 70
Weeks 71 to 80
Weeks 81 to 90
Weeks 91 to 100 Epilogue
01 Jul 2008AMAZING RESPONSE!! 02 Jul 2008Website updates, and a BIG "Thank You". 03 Jul 2008Planning nightmares..... 04 Jul 2008Get involved - Add 5 05 Jul 2008Bulletin Boards now open for business. 06 Jul 2008Some plans starting to come together... slowly! 07 Jul 2008Kids goals! 08 Jul 2008Oh dear, looks like one goal will have to be changed! 09 Jul 2008Crazy Horse mountain sculpture 10 Jul 2008A goal achieved today! 11 Jul 20087 Wonders of the World 12 Jul 2008Who bought ALife4Sale? All the answers.... 13 Jul 2008Vote now for "Add 5" extra goals 14 Jul 2008A goal in common, achieved now by both of us. 15 Jul 2008"The Bucket List" 16 Jul 2008Plan B swings into action.... 17 Jul 2008You don't know what you don't know!! 18 Jul 2008"Happy Guy" update. 19 Jul 2008Another "Home Open". 20 Jul 2008Back in the air again. 21 Jul 2008"Add 5" voting now ended!! 22 Jul 2008Dinner in the sky! 23 Jul 2008The best travel video ever...possibly! 24 Jul 2008How exciting! Main flights now booked! 25 Jul 2008Virtual birthday cake! 26 Jul 2008Calling all Ian Ushers... 31 Jul 2008House up for auction... again! 01 Aug 2008Someone else has 100 goals too...
Weeks 1 to 10
03 Aug 2008Today is the day. 100 goals starts now! 04 Aug 2008First impressions of Dubai. 05 Aug 2008First goal achieved! 06 Aug 2008Abu Dhabi. What a place! 07 Aug 2008Is it Istanbul, or Constantinople? 08 Aug 2008Vive la difference! European plans. 11 Aug 2008Second goal completed! 17 Aug 2008A busy week! 17 Aug 2008From the beach to the snow. 17 Aug 2008Two more goals - close but not quite! 17 Aug 2008Third goal completed! 19 Aug 2008Fourth goal completed! 21 Aug 2008French progress. 23 Aug 2008On the road (or tracks) again! 26 Aug 2008Viva Espana! 27 Aug 2008Welcome to Valencia! 27 Aug 2008Fifth goal completed! 31 Aug 2008Madrid. 01 Sep 2008London. 01 Sep 2008More Tomatina pix. 02 Sep 2008French newspaper article - Le Monde 02 Sep 2008Two more goals achieved! 03 Sep 2008Eiffel Tower on Friday! Come and join in! 04 Sep 2008Wakeboarding. 06 Sep 2008Goal number 6 completed! 07 Sep 2008Paris. 08 Sep 2008Heading north - England underwater! 08 Sep 2008The Horn Dance! 09 Sep 2008Is anyone else selling their life? 10 Sep 2008Isn't it ironic, don't you think? 11 Sep 2008Next goal - I have run into a small problem! 12 Sep 2008Darlington. 13 Sep 2008Barnard Castle. 14 Sep 2008Goal Number 7 causes a bit of a splash! 16 Sep 2008Whitby. 18 Sep 2008Scarborough. 21 Sep 2008Bridlington. 22 Sep 2008Gold Cup Motorcycle Races. 23 Sep 2008Microlighting. 25 Sep 2008Famous on the internet. 26 Sep 2008Museums. 29 Sep 2008Coming To America. 30 Sep 2008Lost balls. 01 Oct 2008Friedrichshafen. 02 Oct 2008Goal number 8 - Prost! 04 Oct 2008More beer! 04 Oct 2008Where Eagles Dare! 05 Oct 2008Eisriesenwelt. 07 Oct 2008New York, New York. 08 Oct 2008Lady Liberty - goal number 9 achieved! 10 Oct 2008The Sopranos Tour. 11 Oct 2008Goal 10 completed!
Weeks 11 to 20
13 Oct 2008The last supper. 15 Oct 2008Goal 11 achieved! Niagara Falls. 16 Oct 2008Ontario frustrations! 20 Oct 2008Welcome to the windy city. 22 Oct 2008Chicago on a nicer day. 23 Oct 2008RV sorted out. 26 Oct 2008Is there a doctor in the pub? 27 Oct 2008Route 66 plans 28 Oct 2008"Well it winds from Chicago to LA..." 29 Oct 2008Goal number 12 has been inked into place! 30 Oct 2008"Well it goes from St. Louis..." 31 Oct 2008"down through Missouri..." 01 Nov 2008Goal 13 comes swooping in. 04 Nov 2008Election Day in Oklahoma. 06 Nov 2008"Oklahoma City looks oh so pretty..." 07 Nov 2008Guntastic! 08 Nov 2008"You'll see Amarillo..." 09 Nov 2008Albuquerque. 10 Nov 2008"and Gallup, New Mexico..." 10 Nov 2008"Flagstaff, Arizona. Don't forget Winona..." 11 Nov 2008What a beautiful morning! 12 Nov 2008Goal 14 completed - Grand Canyon. 13 Nov 2008Pretty dam spectacular! 15 Nov 2008TV script writers running out of ideas? 17 Nov 2008Goal 15 sculpted to perfection - Mount Rushmore. 18 Nov 2008Goal 16 achieved - Las Vegas. 18 Nov 2008Only in Las Vegas! 20 Nov 2008Viva Las Vegas! 20 Nov 2008"Kingman, Barstow, San Bernadino." 22 Nov 2008San Diego. 22 Nov 2008Goal 17 blows into place - skydive wind tunnel. 23 Nov 2008Goal 18 completed - "More than 2,000 miles all the way." 24 Nov 2008Goal 19 achieved - The City of the Angels. 26 Nov 2008Another goal achieved, but... 27 Nov 2008What an experience! 28 Nov 2008Happy Thanksgiving Day! Goal 20 achieved! 29 Nov 2008Small town LA - life's little coincidences! 03 Dec 2008Art and science in LA. 05 Dec 2008San Francisco. 06 Dec 2008Goal 21 completed - San Francisco. 08 Dec 2008Sailing on the Frisco Bay. 09 Dec 2008Goal 22 is tamed - horse riding at sunset. 10 Dec 2008Ghostly Goal 23 completed. 11 Dec 2008Gold Beach, Oregon. 13 Dec 2008Portland. 15 Dec 2008Seattle. 18 Dec 2008Time Magazine year-end lists.
Weeks 21 to 30
21 Dec 2008Twenty Weeks! - Snowed-in In Seattle! 24 Dec 2008Snowy Vancouver. 25 Dec 2008Merry Christmas!! (or should that be Happy Holidays?) 26 Dec 2008Goal 24 completed - Merry Christmas! 27 Dec 2008BBC end-of-year quiz. 28 Dec 2008Goal 25 - VERY cold!! 30 Dec 2008Winter in Whitehorse. 01 Jan 2009Happy New Year! 04 Jan 2009Goal 26 achieved - more fun in the snow. 05 Jan 2009Last day at Whistler! 06 Jan 2009Bobsleigh run - close, but not quite! 07 Jan 2009Another person from ALife4Sale. 08 Jan 2009Many thanks to Dave Gorman! 11 Jan 2009Travelling south. 14 Jan 2009Heading to Hawaii. 16 Jan 2009Ahola! 17 Jan 2009No manta rays yet... 17 Jan 2009Goal 27 achieved - Kilauea volcano. 18 Jan 2009A day out with Captain Zodiac. 19 Jan 2009Mystic reading with Troy. 19 Jan 2009Dive! Dive! Dive! Journey aboard Atlantis. 20 Jan 2009Goal 28 - amazing underwater ballet. 20 Jan 2009Pelagic Magic. 20 Jan 2009Goal 29 - take controls of a helicopter. 21 Jan 2009Welcome to Waikiki. 22 Jan 2009Fundraising goal - be a small part of it. 24 Jan 2009Goal 30 - Hawaii Five-0. 25 Jan 2009Hawaii holiday. 26 Jan 2009Goal 31 - Paula Campbell is in the top ten! 27 Jan 2009Travelling forward through time. 28 Jan 2009Konichiwa - Goal 32 achieved in Tokyo. 30 Jan 2009Amazing Tokyo! 01 Feb 2009Lost In Translation. 05 Feb 2009Goal 33 glides into view - hammerhead sharks! 06 Feb 2009Goal 34 - A Life Sold! 07 Feb 2009Goal 35 - Thar she blows! 09 Feb 2009Goal 36 - Yuki Matsuri. 13 Feb 2009Sydney. Not quite as pleasant as some recent activities... 16 Feb 2009Around the world in 196 days - back in Perth. 17 Feb 2009The Best Job In The World! 22 Feb 2009Perth progress. 26 Feb 2009Goal 37 - outback adventure.
Weeks 31 to 40
01 Mar 2009Breakthrough to Success. 02 Mar 2009Job applications. 05 Mar 2009New learnings. 06 Mar 2009Flat Stanley achieves his Australian goal. 06 Mar 2009Didgeridoo progress. 08 Mar 2009Some weighty issues! 12 Mar 2009Some new plans coming together. 13 Mar 2009Goal 38 - this never happened, but.... 14 Mar 2009One year later.... 16 Mar 2009Back in the air, but no skydiving goals achieved yet... 24 Mar 2009Light winds causing slow progress.... 27 Mar 2009Goal 39 - rock of ages. 29 Mar 2009Kata Tjuta - "many heads". 30 Mar 2009Goal 40 - didgeridoo dawn. 31 Mar 2009Uluru dawn - Kata Tjuta sunset. 02 Apr 2009Blowing in the wind - gusty goal 41 completed. 05 Apr 2009Join in - learning how to lucid dream.... 10 Apr 2009Remnants of my life now on sale. 13 Apr 2009Skydiving goals proving to be elusive! 17 Apr 2009Dreaming difficulties.... 18 Apr 2009Anyone for online poker? 20 Apr 2009Aerobatics. 23 Apr 2009Poker face! 24 Apr 2009Two steps forward, one step back.... 26 Apr 2009WA State Finals. 27 Apr 2009Kitesurfing, Richard Branson, and naked supermodels!! 29 Apr 2009Heading north to see the whalesharks. 30 Apr 2009Goal 42 - gentle giants. 05 May 2009More whalesharks. 09 May 2009Unusual choices.
Weeks 41 to 50
10 May 200940 weeks!! New travels start tomorrow. 11 May 2009Fundraising - your help needed please. 13 May 2009Travelling like a beginner! 14 May 2009Cannes Film Festival Opening Day. 15 May 2009Goal 43 - Cannes-tastic! 18 May 2009Underwater Hotel - an invitation to join in..... 23 May 2009Cannes round-up. 24 May 2009Goal 44 - Je parle Francais (un petit peu!) 26 May 2009Goal 45 - chasing cheese. 26 May 2009CNN cheese rolling reports. 28 May 2009Help needed... yes, again!! 31 May 2009Goal 46 - Virgin territory. 05 Jun 2009More slow progress being made. 09 Jun 2009The real ideas-man behind "ALife4Sale". 10 Jun 2009Red Apple Day. 13 Jun 2009Death defying goal 47 - day 1. 15 Jun 2009Goal 47 - Wall Of Death, day 2. 19 Jun 2009Two invites for tomorrow - goals 48 and 49 - possibly.... 20 Jun 2009Goal 48 - WingWalking. 21 Jun 2009Four Ian Ushers! 22 Jun 2009Never give up!! 27 Jun 2009A few days down in Devon. 30 Jun 2009The path will reveal itself.... 03 Jul 2009Past, present and future. 05 Jul 2009Nervous! 06 Jul 2009San Fermin opening ceremony. 06 Jul 2009Death in the afternoon. 07 Jul 2009Live bull running video tomorrow morning.... 08 Jul 2009Goal 49 - run for your life! 09 Jul 2009Bull ring madness. 10 Jul 2009Never say never again! 11 Jul 2009Leaving Pamplona. 11 Jul 2009Pamplona video highlights. 11 Jul 2009The best laid plans.... 12 Jul 2009Goal 50 - Greenpeace - persistence pays off. 15 Jul 2009Gibraltar and Tarifa. 18 Jul 2009Returning to America.
Weeks 51 to 60
19 Jul 2009Goal 51 - 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea. 20 Jul 200940 years later! 23 Jul 2009Goal 52 - 7th Wonder - Chichen Itza. 27 Jul 2009Birthday weekend in San Francisco. 29 Jul 2009The Streets of San Francisco. 05 Aug 2009More goals invites.... come and join in. 07 Aug 2009On the road again. 09 Aug 2009Crossing Nevada. 12 Aug 2009Goal 53 - Bonneville Speed Week. 14 Aug 2009Salt Lake City. 15 Aug 2009Goal 54 - Bobsleigh ride. 19 Aug 2009I'll take the high road.... 21 Aug 2009Spooky Hotel. 22 Aug 2009Weekend in Worthing. 23 Aug 2009Worthing Birdman - day 1. 24 Aug 2009Goal 55 - Fly like an ostrich! 25 Aug 2009More Birdman photos and video. 26 Aug 20097 peaks - day 1. 27 Aug 20097 peaks - day 2. 28 Aug 20097 peaks - day 3. 29 Aug 20097 peaks - day 4. 30 Aug 20097 Peaks - day 5. 31 Aug 2009Goal 56 - Whitewater rafting. 01 Sep 20097 peaks - day 7 - Goal 57 finally achieved! 06 Sep 2009Relaxing in Colorado. 07 Sep 2009Picnic at Hanging Lake. 08 Sep 2009Arches National Park, Utah. 09 Sep 2009Arches and Moab. 10 Sep 2009Monumental landscapes. 11 Sep 2009Old river.... 13 Sep 2009Grand Canyon - East Rim. 14 Sep 2009Zion National Park. 15 Sep 2009Gambling in Las Vegas. 16 Sep 2009Poker in Las Vegas - Day 1. 17 Sep 2009Poker in Las Vegas - Day 2. 18 Sep 2009Poker in Las Vegas - Day 3 - Goal achieved! 21 Sep 2009Goal 59 - ten out of ten! 26 Sep 2009Red Bull Soapbox Races in LA.
Weeks 61 to 70
02 Oct 2009Rejection!! 04 Oct 2009Goal 60 - helicopter skydive. 06 Oct 2009“I’m Ready For My Close Up Now, Mr. Demille!” 07 Oct 2009RV for sale! 11 Oct 2009Progressing slowly. 14 Oct 2009Downtown Hollywood!! 17 Oct 2009Making pens in San Diego. 20 Oct 2009Deadliest catch!! 21 Oct 2009Goal 61 - "and......Action!" 22 Oct 2009Next goal invite. 24 Oct 2009Goal 62 - "If you can keep your head..." 27 Oct 2009Christmas crabs causing confusion!! 30 Oct 2009Heading down to Mexico. 30 Oct 2009Magnificent Mexico! 01 Nov 2009Goal 63 - Dia de Muertos. 03 Nov 2009Thought-provoking last day in Mexico. 06 Nov 2009Long days of travelling. 07 Nov 2009Kuala Lumpur stopover. 09 Nov 2009Day One in Beijing. 10 Nov 2009Tian'anmen Square 10 Nov 2009Summer Palace on a winter's day 11 Nov 2009Forbidden City 13 Nov 2009Goal 64 - Walking on the Chinese Wall. 14 Nov 2009Wild Great Wall. 16 Nov 2009Chinese opera on the Great Wall. 17 Nov 2009One night in Bangkok. 19 Nov 2009Pachyderms practicing. 20 Nov 2009Goal 65 - Riding in the Elephant Parade. 22 Nov 2009Goal 66 - Elephant Round Up. 26 Nov 2009Back on track. 27 Nov 2009Malaysia to Singapore. 28 Nov 2009Deja vu again. 29 Nov 2009Christmas Island. 01 Dec 2009Island life. 03 Dec 2009The Old Man and The Sea! 05 Dec 2009Moving the goalposts.
Weeks 71 to 80
07 Dec 2009Island weekends. 11 Dec 2009Christmas Island diving. 12 Dec 2009Goal 67 - Crab spawning spectacle. 14 Dec 2009Christmas Island video. 15 Dec 2009Next goal - halfway there - aided slightly by food-poisoning!! 17 Dec 2009Icelandic introduction. 20 Dec 2009Reykjavik nights. 21 Dec 2009Goal 68 - Iceberg adventure. 22 Dec 2009Goal 69 lights up the sky (dimly!) 22 Dec 2009Hot and cold water. 25 Dec 2009Merry Christmas! 01 Jan 2010Happy New Year! 03 Jan 2010Cape Of Good Hope. 04 Jan 2010Lion's Head 05 Jan 2010Goal 70 - Table Mountain. 07 Jan 2010Goal 71 - A murky glimpse of "Jaws"! 09 Jan 2010Goal 72 - riding a real ostrich this time! 11 Jan 2010Goal #2 revisited. 13 Jan 2010Lucky meetings. 16 Jan 2010African travel adventures. 17 Jan 2010Goal 73 - regal Victoria Falls. 18 Jan 2010Dr. Livingstone, I presume? 19 Jan 2010Victoria Falls video. 20 Jan 2010Money matters. 22 Jan 2010Santiago de Chile. 23 Jan 2010Isla de Pascua. 25 Jan 2010Basic bicycle blunder. 25 Jan 2010Goal 74 - Rapa Nui. 27 Jan 2010Around Easter Island. 28 Jan 2010There may be trouble ahead ... 29 Jan 2010"100 Goals" final day big party invite!! 30 Jan 2010Leaving Easter Island. 01 Feb 2010Lima, Peru. 02 Feb 2010Machu Pichu misery. 04 Feb 2010Mal de altura! 07 Feb 2010Goal 75 - Machu Picchu challenges!! 09 Feb 2010Last day in Cusco. 10 Feb 2010Peru plane problems. 11 Feb 2010Goal 76 - Iguazu, another incredible waterfall. 12 Feb 2010Goal 77 - Hablo Espanyol (solo un pocito!) 12 Feb 2010Iguassu Falls, Brazil.
Weeks 81 to 90
15 Feb 2010Goal 78 - Carnival in Rio. 16 Feb 2010Goal 79 - Redemption... finally. 17 Feb 2010Birdman of Rio. 20 Feb 2010Last days in South America. 23 Feb 2010Expecting to fly. 24 Feb 2010Taking to the skies. 25 Feb 2010Tricky landings. 26 Feb 2010The best pub in the world.... possibly! 27 Feb 2010Goal 80 - "...and there you will always long to return." 28 Feb 2010Out of Africa. 03 Mar 2010Jetlag down under. 06 Mar 2010Goal 81 - Dangling in the breeze!! 09 Mar 2010The final countdown.... 11 Mar 2010Happy Birthday Martin! 14 Mar 2010Quad biking in the forest. 16 Mar 2010Slow but steady progress with some of the final goals. 18 Mar 2010... and a few minor setbacks too! 21 Mar 2010Revisiting a previously achieved goal. 23 Mar 2010And another goal revisited. 26 Mar 2010100 days to go! 28 Mar 2010Night skydiving troubles. 30 Mar 2010An impressive erection! 31 Mar 2010Goal 82 - something lost, hopefully forever! 04 Apr 2010Departure preparations. 06 Apr 2010Kathmandu. 07 Apr 2010Himalayan preparations completed. 10 Apr 2010First steps towards Everest. 12 Apr 2010Plodding steadily upwards. 15 Apr 2010Himalayan heights. 16 Apr 2010Goal 83 - "Because it's there..." 18 Apr 2010Heading back down to Namche. 20 Apr 2010Return to Kathmandu. 22 Apr 2010Everest video, picture, map, and news. 24 Apr 2010High peaks and low troughs.
Weeks 91 to 100
26 Apr 2010Last day in Kathmandu - I hope!! 28 Apr 2010Goal 84 - Taj Mahal. 28 Apr 2010Delhi airport. 03 May 2010Back in England again. 06 May 2010The future is unwritten... 08 May 2010Fundraising assistance appreciated. 10 May 2010Heading to America again. 11 May 2010Miami. 12 May 2010Tampa. 13 May 2010Three goals in one day! Goals 85, 86 and 87. 14 May 2010Shuttle launch. 18 May 2010Jamaica-time. 20 May 2010Goal 88 - romantic workplace. 21 May 2010Last day in Jamaica. 23 May 2010Breakfast in Jamaica, lunch in Miami, dinner in Costa Rica. 26 May 2010Horse riding in Quepos. 27 May 2010The great monkey-feeding exposé. 30 May 2010Costa Rican rafting - another goal re-visited. 02 Jun 2010Another active volcano... and an earthquake! 04 Jun 2010Remaining goals in Colorado. 05 Jun 2010An uphill struggle. 07 Jun 2010Other Aussies raising funds for bowel cancer research. 09 Jun 2010Accountability. 13 Jun 2010Self-publishing workshop. 16 Jun 2010Batter up! 17 Jun 2010Return to eBay for final fundraising effort! 19 Jun 2010Getting fitter! 20 Jun 2010Wobbly Goal 89 achieved at the BBQ. 23 Jun 2010Goal 90 - "On top of Old Princeton." 24 Jun 2010eBay issues! Always read the fine print!! 26 Jun 2010Bad weather foils night skydives again! 27 Jun 2010Goal 91 - Black night. 29 Jun 2010Seven Falls. 30 Jun 2010Goal 92 - six-pack stomach. 02 Jul 2010Return to New York. 03 Jul 2010Goal 93 - BlindsidedNetwork.com
04 Jul 2010Final day in New York. 05 Jul 2010And finally.... 06 Jul 2010Goals still to be achieved. 09 Jul 2010IanUsher.com - new website. 11 Jul 2010Northern exposure. 25 Jul 2010Birthday blog. 01 Aug 2010Alaska road trip. 02 Aug 2010BlindsidedNetwork.com forum page complete. 03 Aug 2010Two years exactly - final 100goals blog post.