Saturday, January 29, 2011

Dog Sled Races on Grand Mesa

Just east of Grand Junction, and not too far from Montrose is the Grand Mesa, a flat top mountain that has an elevation of around 10,000 feet. Today on top of Grand Mesa, in about four feet of snow under a clear blue winter sky, a whole bunch of dogs and a whole lot more people got together for sled dog races. Unlike what you might expect from movies and TV, the sleds are small and lightweight, and just big enough to carry one person. Another aspect of sled dog racing that surprises neophytes like me are the breeds of dogs that are pulling the sleds. Most breeds were represented except Chihuahuas and French poodles. And the huskies that were pulling sleds were much smaller and leaner than I imagined.
Ski-joring is an event that I remember seeing on the main street of Steamboat Springs, Colorado, with cowboys on horses pulling skiers and the skiers spear rings while zooming down the course. This is the first I've seen using dogs. It was a two dog, one skier competition but I overheard this skier tell someone that his other dog had just died. So he went with one dog only.

Below, is the start of the four dog sled competition and as you can hear the dogs are loaded with energy, yelping and anxious to start.

Dogs are carted around in trailers or pick-ups with cages on the back. These poor guys were feeling lonely and neglected and letting their feelings be known to all the world. And of course you can hear me egging them on.

Here's the finish line as one four dog sled completes the course.

Oh Woe! Tickets Bought, Plans Made, Visitors Scheduled

Nancy spent a lot of the last month on the inter-tubes buying airline tickets to Toulouse, as well as arranging accommodations for when we have to vacate our house in Leran, and also making arrangements for our Mexican trip such as ferry rides and overnight accommodations. I can barely remember how it was done before the internet? As I recall, there were two ways we dealt with it. One was the travel agent, a phenomenon that seems to be disappearing into oblivion now, almost as rare as a dial telephone. And two, we would just wing it. Instead of doing research and making reservations on the internet.....we'd just show up at the ticket counter of the ferry boat, bus terminal, train station or hotel and haul out the traveller's cheques (another travel staple that has all but disappeared).

As soon as those travel arrangements were made, we could tell our family and other potential guests when they could come visit. As of today, we are very excited to have my youngest sister Amy and her family arriving in July, sandwiched in between two trips we'll make to Spain. The two trips to Spain are necessitated by our house trades that we made for Mexico. The first trip is to the southern coast near Granada and the second is a brief visit to Barcelona.

We should arrive in Leran on May 17 and go home on August 17, using up the 90 days the French government allows U.S. nationals to visit their country. We tossed around the idea of staying in France for four or five months. However, to be legal, we'd have to get an extended stay visa ($150 each) by making a personal appearance at the French Consulate in Los Angeles, and then once in France, informing the proper authorities and then getting a medical examination, a complete physical to the tune of 300 Euro each. Coupled with the expense of the trip to LA, we decided to forgo additional time in France.

While in the midst of the confusion and turmoil of all these plans, we made a very sad error. We made our airline reservations through British Airways, and we learned too late they do not transport dogs in June, July and August through the Denver airport due to the danger of high heat in the cargo space. Sadly, that meant Fergus would have to stay home this summer. Nancy and I are very worked up at the thought of the three month separation. But, he'll stay with sister Amy (and with sister Peggy while Amy travels) and he couldn't be in better hands. He'll be well taken care of but we'll miss him, and if you have animals, you know how we will be suffering.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Southbound and Down

Nancy and I are anxiously awaiting the beginning of our Mexican excursion which begins about a month from now. We visited Peurto Vallarta last winter; we traded the Leran house for a condo overlooking the Bay of Banderas. We flew down for two weeks, and it only whetted our appetites to see more of Mexico. This winter we'll be driving down from Colorado spending about six weeks south of the border. Our first port of call will be Todos Santos, pictured above. Todos Santos is close to the southern end of the Baja Peninsula, on the Pacific side sort of half way between La Paz and Cabo San Lucas. Todos Santo is called an artist's community, whatever that means. Reports claim that there are two paved streets and a single stop light that works occasionally. We'll see. One thing's for sure, it looks like there are miles and miles of beaches.

We'll take the ferry from Los Mochis to La Paz and back to the mainland two weeks later. It will be our first time on the Baja Peninsula (except for a brief excursion across the border to Ensenada more that 25 years ago). We have some hopes that we can do some whale watching because it will be calving season and an excellent time to see the cows and calves.

We'll travel from Los Mochis to Mazatlan, over the Sierra Madre to Durango, then to Aguascalientes, Zacatecas and then San Miguel de Allende, taking about three days to make the rather leisurely drive. At San Miguel, we have another house trade lined up for another two weeks.

San Miguel is a colonial town that has become somewhat of an international community with many ex-pats from up north and Europe as well. It has been called one of the most pleasant and beautiful cities in Mexico. So stay tuned.....we'll be reporting in as we have time and Internet access.