Friday, July 25, 2008

Morning Coffee is Pressing!

I'm always interested in the best coffee brew. I've been drinking coffee made using freshly ground beans in the morning, purchased from a local coffee bean roaster. I've even tried roasting my own beans in a popcorn popper. Put a cup of coffee in front of me that was made with pre-ground coffee, I can tell without even tasting it.

Here is an article from Yahoo News that I found this morning:
How to Make the Perfect Cup of Coffee:

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Smoky Mountain News: July 23rd, 2008 and Me!

Simulated fly-overs give bikers a bird’s eye view

By Becky Johnson • Staff Writer

For a cyclist embarking on one of WNC’s epic century rides, studying the elevation profile can be a bit like tracking the sudden rise and fall of the Richter scale during a major quake. It’s enough to make your thighs sore and lungs burn.

The epic rides are plentiful: the Tour de Cashiers, Tour de Tuck, Nantahala Nightmare, Hilly Hillacious Hundred, Hot Doggit, and the list goes on. The rides push cyclists over one gap after another, logging total elevation gains of 10,000 feet or more over 100-mile routes.

If it sounds a bit daunting, there is an easy way out — a very easy way out, in fact. From the comfort of your desk chair, you can take an aerial 3D fly-over of most major bike rides in the region courtsey of Frank Obusek’s Web site, Southern Appalchian Road Climbs. The simulated rides last less than two minutes. As you soar over the landscape, the mountains rise and fall beneath you, lapping up the undulating miles of a particular route.

Obusek, 38, has every major ride in WNC under his tires, from the Assault on Mount Mitchell to the Cherohala Challenge. He’s also a computer geek, driving him to spend months of free time building the Web site:

Obusek had a slight advantage when creating the 3D fly-overs. He used to work at the company Erdas that created the software. It is quite the labor-intensive process, however. Starting with a plain map, he builds the rest: drawing in the route, tagging its length with elevation points, and draping it into a 3D environment. It’s still a static map at that point, albeit 3D, but it doesn’t move. So next, he builds a series of sequential maps and puts them together like a digital version of a flipbook.

“You add all those points together and you can create a flight path as if you were an airplane just flying through the air. When it flies through you can record that as a movie,” Obusek said.

The last step is adding background music. The package comes to you in the form of a Windows Media clip.

While the simulated flyovers are the signature of Obusek’s web site, his site catalogs road climbs across the Southern Appalachians. From a regional map sporting highlighted road climbs, you can click on each one to retrieve a topo map of the climb, plus stats like the average grade, the length and elevation gain. Unfortunately, there wasn’t any software to help with that part.

“I actually had to ride and do the climbs myself. I had a computer on my bike that would record this and when I got home I would download the information,” Obusek said.

Obusek should get commission on the travelers he rakes into WNC with his site. Google “road climbs” and Obusek’s site is the second to pop up. Cyclists plan their vacations based on Obusek’s site, while pros coming here to train study the stats of his climbs.

When Obusek first launched the site about three years ago, he shared the link through on-line bike forums. Word quickly circulated.

“Before I knew it people were coming out of the wood works saying ‘I checked out your Web site. It is really cool,’” Obusek said. “I was getting emails from people all over the country who were coming here to ride and had found the web site.”

The Web site has no advertising. It was purely a fun endeavor for Obusek. Once it was up and running, event organizers began asking Obusek to create flyovers of their road rides. For a few favorites, Obusek complied, like the Nantahala Nightmare for NOC or the Hot Doggit out of Hot Springs, but he wouldn’t accept money for it.

“It is a combination between by professional background and my personal interest,” Obusek said.

By day, Obusek is a geospatial image specialist for the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources in Asheville. He can take satellite images of a lake, measure the light reflecting off the water and turn it into a map of sediment sources. He can take aerial photography of town and calculate the percentage of impervious surfaces.

For those who are into that kind of thing, Obusek even has a geospatial imaging blog — In one post he calls on fellow geospatial imagers to “Get out your red-blue stereo anaglyph glasses.” In another, he delves into the ins and outs of orthorectification. Last Christmas, he posted an aerial shot of his office building with a big red bow superimposed on the roof.

Obusek has a personal blog as well — A travelogue of a trip out West includes a map with points of interest he visited for those who want to follow his itinerary, including the best local coffee shops.

Link to the Smoky Mountain News and the article.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Smoky Mountain News

Be sure to check out this Wednesday's edition of the Smoky Mountain News!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

2 Days and We Are Home

On the way out Thursday morning, we stopped by Dogtooth Coffee again. The drive out of CO Springs was both sad and anticipated. I kept looking back in the side view mirror for that "last glimpse" of the Colorado Rockies. Finally, the departure from the mountains passed and we were headed east into the endless horizon of Colorado-Kansas great plains!

We arrived in St. Louis late Wednesday night at a Super 8 hotel that I was able to make reservations using the contact information on my Garmin nuvi. We slept and then departed early Thursday morning. We made great time and the drive was smooth with no interruptions. We arrived home around 5 PM. There were no pictures taken during the drive home except for one taken with my cell phone (My batteries in my camera were dead).

It was very nice to come home to a place that also has mountains and many opportunities for outdoor adventures. The trip seems like it started so long ago, but at the same time went so fast! Did we really go or not? What did we do?

A big part of the trip was posting the updates on this blog. All of which was a very enjoyable part of this adventure. Something therapeutic about drinking that morning coffee and updating the blog.

Several people have asked me about information from our trip. Here is a short list.

We camped at Lightner Creek Campground while staying in Durango. This was a great experience, both "roughing" it and convenient.

Durango Fireworks are best viewed from Tech Center Drive. The shoot them off about 300 yards north of this location.

Super 8 Motels are the best deal across the country. Not a bad stay for around $60! Clean too!

View Larger MapHere is a Google Map of some of the locations of interest of our trip. We did not get to all the locations we had hoped to, but we did get to most of them.

Garden of the Gods

After lunch at Poor Richards (pizza!) we had some chill time with Mike and his family at their home. The residential areas in CO Springs are very nice! The roads are wide!

I have not seen Mike for a long time. We went to grad school together years ago.

The kids got along great together! Instant friends who never knew each other before!

We arrived at the visitors center of the Garden of the Gods. Took this picture from the deck. The high mountain peak in the background is Pikes Peak. We were up there earlier in the day.

The red rocks and green vegetation just look awesome togtether.

We parked and hiked around the park for a bit. Took lots of great pictures. I wanted to climb these rocks! They were so inviting.

I did a little rock scramble and snapped this picture. Then I scaled down the other side. I love playing on big rocks like this.

Last stop was at Balanced Rock!

Afterwards we stopped at Adams Mountain Cafe in Manitou Springs. The salmon fettuccine was yummy! I had ate so much the last 3 days. As we walked to the car it was sad to realize that we are leaving for home tomorrow (Wednesday).

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

CO Springs and Pikes Peak

Good day! We started off the day with a stop at Dogtooth Coffee. We had some breakfast and coffee. I picked up a couple bags of beans, Velvet Hammer and Ethiopian Yirgacheffe (EY is my absolute favorite coffee!). I also picked up a Dogtooth Coffee coffee mug! The coffee was great and I will likely stop by again before we leave CO Springs.

Then we navigated through CO Springs to US 24 and started our ascent up the Pikes Peak Highway. We took a lot of pictures.

Of course we had to do some searching for Big Foot. BF is a very elusive creature that has been seen in many parts of the country. The rarest creatures are the BFs sporting the cool mullet! He must have been sighted here a few times in the past though.

The drive up the Pikes Peak Highway started on paved road, then went to dirt, and then went back to paved, and then back to dirt at the top of the mountain. The views and the invitations to explore were plentiful!

Here is a clip of the drive up. While watching the movie, listen close. You can hear my RPMs revving up. I could manage no more than 20 mph in 2nd gear. But, there was no need to go fast.

We made it to the top!

My CRV (with bikes) at the top of Pikes Peak. Hmmmm, next time we ride the bikes down and back up again! What do you say?

It was spitting snow at the top of the mountain, over 14,000 feet above sea level. One part of the drive there was a sign saying that Pikes Peak is a mile higher than we were at the moment of the drive.

A shot from the top exposed a long drop off! There is no way to appreciate the view captured in this picture unless you are there to experience it yourself.

We started the drive down the mountain. Notice that we are "above" the clouds here! There was a thunder storm at the next peak over. There was also a lot of road construction at the top which squeezed us into single lane traffic many times.

The Super Bowl! What an experience it must be to use a porta potty at 14,000 feet above sea level. Don't push too hard, you might go light-headed and pass out!

So this is me with the whole entire world at my arms reach! I admit that views like this are much more appreciated when you hike on foot to get there, but nonetheless by car it is still awesome!

Every view was continually incredible. There are a lot of places that I would like to return to and explore at Pikes Peak. The entire experience far exceeded my expectations! I must return!

6 Degrees of Separtation: And a Stretch, More and Less

I'm here in CO Springs staying with my friend from graduate school, Mike. His next door neighbor used to be Greg and Alison Dunlap. Greg sent picts to Mike that he received from Daniel that were taken of Danny Pate (from CO Springs) racing the time trial in today's stage of the Tour de France. Danny has been to Greg's house many times. Mike has probably met him across the fence.

So, maybe when I return home I will actually turn on the Tour this year and have somebody to root for!

Monday, July 7, 2008

The Rio Grande and Taos, NM

We left White Rock, NM early this morning and headed for Taos, NM.

Rob had told me about the "coffee guy" in a white van. Since I love coffee he suggested that we stop. He'll be on the side of the road on your way out. "Look for his white van." Sure enough we found it and we got some java-drivin-joe for the road. We talked to the Coffee Guy. He said he's been doing this for 2 years and really appreciated that we made the effort to stop by and check out his gig.

On the way we diverted to the Rio Grande river and traveled some dirt roads. Here is a shot looking up stream of the Rio Grande valley driving along the river. Check out the basalt on the hillsides.

A look back down the Grand gorge....

...and a shot of the both of us.

We went to check out some truss at the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge. We parked and walked out onto the bridge. Are you scared of heights? This is a good way to stick your neck out and FACE YOUR FEAR in the face! Do you remember this bridge from the movies Natural Born Killers and Twins? The bridge is 650 feet above the Rio Grande and is one of the highest bridges in the US. Man, did this bridge shake when the semi-trucks drove across it!

Once to Taos, NM, we had a big lunch at Ogelvies. We had a sweet table on the 2nd floor deck. I had the Tomato Caprese and chicken burrito. Em had the Alfredo pasta. I ate a lot. I would have to find some coffee to get me through the rest of the day's drive.....

.....and how about some chocolate too!!! OMG, my racing form will be really shot when I get back.

After some shopping, we did another group pict in the plaza square!

Driving US 160 to I-25 and Colorado Springs to meet up with my friend Mike from grad school. Haven't seen him in about 7 years.

Tomorrow: Pikes Peak and Garden of the Gods!

Bandelier and Santa Fe, NM

On Sunday we woke up and headed for Bandelier National Park. It was just a few miles from where we were staying in White Rock, NM.

On the way there we found a rock that had fallen to the road.

We hiked the short 1.2 mile trail to see the Ancestral Pueblo ruins of the people who lived here 800 to 500 years ago. The main rock formation of interest was the tuff. Tuff is very erosive ash rock that was deposited by Jemez Volcano over one million years ago. Check out the remaining caldera. This rock became homes to the people who lived here.

Then we hooked up with Rob and Stephani and headed for Santa Fe, NM. We spent the day there walking through the shops and looking at all the fine art and pottery of the area. We had burritos for lunch.

We stopped by the Loretto Chapel to check out a famous spiral staircase that when originally built did not have the banisters and did not have any support from below or above, but only the staircase it self. This was a very pretty church.

After dinner at the Hill Diner in Los Alamos, we went out for a view at the White Rock overlook.

Later that night I helped Rob and Stephani set up their own blog site!

Headed for Taos and the Colorado Springs tomorrow morning.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Pagosa Springs, CO and White Rock, NM

We left Durango this morning for the next leg of our trip. It was sad to tear down our campsite of 4 days. We've been contemplating revamping our travel itinerary to just stay in Durango. But, we did not.

Before leaving town we went back to Carvers Brewing Company Cafe for lunch. Sure enough we had the same server as the night before. She recognized us.

We sat on the back patio this time. There is No Parking on Saturday from 4PM to 9PM because of a bike race! Where are you going to find another sign like this?

Instead of a porter, I ordered their fresh brew coffee! It was great. I picked up a souvenir Carvers coffee mug. I also enjoyed the Portabella wrap while Em had the same dish she had the night before.

After lunch we hit the road for NM. We went through Pagosa Springs, CO this time for better scenery than what we had driving from Albuquerque to Durango.

In Pagosa Springs we needed a pick-me-up. So we found Higher Grounds Coffee. A step into the bathroom was interestingly filled with motivational sayings. I ordered a Europa brew and Emily had a Iced Chi Tea. It was perfect for the rest of the drive.

The drive to NM was very nice. We took routes US 160 and US 84. It was nice to finally arrive at Rob and Stephani's home in White Rock, NM. Gratefully, they have a wireless internet connection.

Off to explore Santa Fe, NM tomorrow and maybe Bandelier on Monday.

Durango and the 4th

The 4th of July was a lazy day for us. We slept in and didn't drive anywhere. We spent most of the day in downtown Durango, CO.

Our campground had a 4th of July parade. Since we had a lazy morning, we just inadvertently got caught up in the celebrations!

We ate at Home Slice Pizza. "You want a piece of me?", read the sticker on the side of the trash can! And had a deep dish pizza which we could not finish. This place had a nice outdoor patio and was a few blocks away from downtown, but worth the visit!

Went shopping. I love these boots! There not even men's boots either. Who could I buy these for?

Some advice....
More useful advice! I am in need of advice. If you need some too, click on the images. They are big on purpose so you can better see the detail.

We DID NOT stop at Starbucks and opted for the local coffee shops. We can get Starbucks anywhere. But, you cannot get a Velvet Hammer from Steaming Bean just anywhere. I love eating and drinking what is local.

We did stop at the Candy Factory!

Drank some Zuberfizz at where they make the drink.

Rode bikes on the local paved bike path.

Saw the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge train come through.

Listened to live music at the 4th of July street festival. Knockin on Heaves Door and a few other selections were played.

Then! I had the best meal and beer in one sitting ever! We ate dinner at Carvers Brewing Company Cafe. Em ordered pest linguini and I ordered spinach feta stuff salmon! I also had a Power House Porter that includes Carvers organic brew coffee in it. It was the best of both worlds, coffee and porter! This place is incredible.

Then, we saw the best fireworks show ever. We were about 300 yards (or so) from where they were setting them off. They were right above us and it lasted for more than 30 minutes. My phone and camera batteries kept going dead....but, I salvaged something. I usually don't get too excited about fire works, but this show was great!

Headed to Santa Fe today and then Colorado Springs on Monday. Should be back in NC on either Thursday or Friday.