They see me curling, they hatin’

Last weekend my friend Cody was kind enough to invite me to try Curling. He is a seasoned pro having played for several years in Wyoming (up near Canada) and plays in a four person league (the only Curling in Fort Collins) where his team were short a player. So, following our American tradition of say yes to new exciting things, I got involved.

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Our Curling team from left to right: Me, Rachel, John and Cody. I was subbing for Cody’s wife Mollie who was busy saving lives at a hospital.

I really cannot state enough how much fun it is trying something new and different for the first time. As funny as it was when I first played volleyball and accidentally started practicing with a basketball (which is much bigger and heavier), I adored it despite the abuse and ridicule.

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Needless to say I fell over once (and almost another two times), and missed my first few throws, but by the end of the match got to the point where most of my stones (the 40 pound slab of granite you try to curl) made it to the house (the 12 ft red ring that we aim for). Here I am pretending I know anything at all about curling from 10 minutes on google / youtube learning how to curl:

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I sadly have no pictures, but Cat laughed rather rudely at me practicing the night before with a sweeping brush and a backpack to see if I could get in the correct positions.

Oh yeah, did I mention it’s really difficult? You do a 1 legged squat on fairly slippy ice, shoot yourself off in vaguely the right direction and try to make the stone go 138 ft down some ice and stop (or takeout another stone) at exactly the right spot. Here is what you are supposed to look like (notice the snazzy pajamas):

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Here I am just after releasing the stone. I give myself a A for effort, C for grace and E for flexibility.

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You are probably thinking to yourself, wow Rob looks pretty silly, why is his arm straight at his side like he thinks aerodynamics matter, and why has he only gone about 5 ft down the ice? Trust me, it’s surprisingly hard to balance, throw correctly and not stick your tongue out while concentrating.

Fortunately, we won 7-4 thanks to some chess-level tactics of our skip (Cody) and if they are ever one short again the team said they would be happy to have me back. Much like Bruce Wayne, I am not the sub they need, but I am the one they deserve.

Rob

Fancy Dress

Fancy dress or ‘dressing up’ as Americans call it, is really big here. It’s taken very seriously by adults as well as children and some of the costumes people make are fantastic. To get in the American spirit, Cat and I take part whenever we can, and do our best to make an effort.

Every year the New Belgium brewery puts on a load of fancy dress cycle’s around the US, culminating in a party and gig at a local New Belgium brewery. The costumes are amazing, and the weather warm (start of September). These are by now means the best, but just about average from what I saw:

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I took this costume to be Left Shark from Kate Perry’s Super Bowl XLIX halftime Show (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WmcWZ2Bzoho). The next is a classic example of how do you combine Fort Collins 3 favorite things: Dogs, Biking and beer?

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I like to think the dog is giving directions. This next one probably looks innocuous but was a massive burn to Colorado State University at the time.

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The week before Tour De Fat, my University (Colorado State University) played against Colorado University in the local derby at Mile High Stadium (where the Denver Broncos play). We ended up losing 17 – 3 although it is probably the worst refereeing I have ever seen in a sporting event. Without going on a massive rant, local papers ran headlines such as “Officials make a mess of Buffs’ win in Rocky Mountain Showdown” – The Denver Post. So dressing up as the Colorado referee (with the little yellow handkerchief to throw for fouls) was actually pretty excellent.

I decided to go left field and bring Christmas to Fort Collins early. Here I am dressed as a Christmas tree, plugged into the wall so my lights can be on.

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For the record, it was about 86 F (30 C) during the cycle, but I kept my hat on and only lost 3 baubles.

More recently, Cat and I were invited out for Halloween fancy dress at a nice cocktail bar. Our friends Cody and Mollie had friends visiting and wanted to go as characters from the TV show Game of Thrones. Once again, me and Cat skipped all the main / sensible characters and went as White Walkers (imagine a Zombie in Antarctica):

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I think we look jolly scary, although having to learn about putting eye liner inside your eyes was probably the scariest bit for me. Here is our group all out after the cocktail bar. Bonus points to people who can guess the other main characters.

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By far the funniest bit of the evening was out friend Mollie trying to say “you know nothing John Snow” in a Scottish accent after a few cocktails. Sadly no description could do it justice, it was just a you-had-to-be-there moment.

Finally, earlier that same week on the actual day of Halloween, our volleyball team (Team Cooper) had our last league game of the season and decided to dress up as Wilson from the Movie Castaway.

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Wilson is a volleyball who becomes the closest friend to Tom Hanks when he is deserted on an island. His face is a bloody and print (see the front of our t-shirts above) and Wilson (Tom Hanks) was nicely played by Cody (middle back with the fake beard).

Image result for wilson volleyballWe even got our branding right and I think you’ll agree we did a good job (even though we lost 3-0 haha)

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Rob

Fall, Volleyball, Steak and Gin

This fall, Cat and I have been trying a strange combination of getting healthy whilst simultaneously trying out new restaurants and breweries. This has taken on many strange forms, for example we are both now running buddies for Toby:

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Toby is a 5 year old chocolate lab / pointer cross who absolutely adores us (owned by one of our sets of American surrogate parents). He LOVES walks and runs more than anybody else loves anything, and has 4 speed settings:

  1. Sit politely (especially at a crosswalk / zebra crossing as he has been well trained)
  2. Trot casually (this happens to be exactly the speed Cat and I run at, although he does make a sound like somebody sawing wood instead of panting)
  3. Gallop very fast (this is too fast for me to run any sensible distance and I have been slowly teaching him “slow” as a way to not pull me over)
  4. Sprint (saved for when rabbits or squirrels are about)

Cat always says he knows me as ‘sweaty man‘ as I used to take him for runs on my own, and she was known as ‘head scratching lady‘, as you can tell from the happy face in this picture:

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For me, the volleyball season has just ended so I have switched from Volleyball 3 times a week to the gym, running and swimming. My team managed to make the playoffs but sadly got stuffed in the quarter final thanks to some poor playing and bad luck. However, we did end up entering two teams this year from our friends / work colleagues, so Cat kindly came along to take some photos of my team’s glorious 3-0 victory.

Here I am pretending I know how to serve (notice the space jam themed team t-shirts):

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… and here I am spiking (hitting the ball) at least 4 inches off the ground:

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We have also been trying to eat a little healthier. This is surprisingly hard in America as all the portions are scaled up and most of the fruit and veg is organic; going off after about 1-2 days. Cat was pleased that I have mastered cauliflower rice and steak.

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The trick is to marinade the steak in salt and pepper, then add onion and garlic to the rice for seasoning. I promise it is more tasty than it looks.

Just to keep us sane, Cat kindly took me on a date to a gin and wine distillery (http://www.coppermuse.com/). This place has awesome food and awesome cocktails, like this delicious old fashioned in a mug.

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They also have board games on the tables, so me and Cat played some chess. I managed to win 1 game and force a draw in the second from a losing position (which I was shamefully pleased with), though Cat may have bent / added some new rules based on resurrection, as when I cam back from the bar this is what awaited me (Cat is white in this game):

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Despite these efforts, we are still only at 8/19 breweries and 4/5 distilleries visited in Fort Collins alone! At least this will keep us busy through the winter.

Rob

Summer in Fort Collins

Somebody reading our blog may justifiably assume all we do is go on holiday to wonderful places like Moab, Tulum, and Seattle. Sadly we can’t be on holiday all the time, but we still find ways to get up to mischief in Fort Collins.

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This summer when Mum and Dad (the Channon’s) visited, we were slightly concerned if we could find new things to do as we had already proved Fort Collins is awesome the last winter when they visited. Fortunately (as is a common Channon trait), we managed to get into all sorts of unexpected mischief around town. We started off with a trip to The Whiskey, a bar with over 1700 whiskeys from around the world. You may notice from the picture above that Cat has a whiskey-free crazy green cocktail – basically the equivalent of ordering fish and chips in a Indian restaurant – but they rest of us really enjoyed the whiskey, atmosphere and strangely polite waiter. (Cat admittedly does describe the taste of whiskey as pthe pthe pthe, so it’s only fair)

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Next, was the Fort fun softball batting cages for Dad to demonstrate his Cut shot through the covers…

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… and Mum to let the ball know who was boss:

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I also wanted to play some golf while they were here (as last time they visited it was negative Celsius). Cat suggested we should warm up with some mini golf to work on our putting, which worked surprisingly well as 3 of us had hole in 1’s!

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With this celebration from Mum probably winning the most style points, especially after hitting her ball out of bounds a few holes earlier:

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Afterwards Dad and I played real golf at Collindale golf course in a somewhat overheating 98 F (about 38 C). This picture below was Dad’s second favorite as he called it “Oops I forgot to hit the ball”:

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With his favorite being the HOLE IN ONE I hit about 3 holes later:

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(This was my best impression of a politely smug golfer, notice the pitch mark at the front of the green)

Hole in one’s are very rare at amateur levels (maybe 1 per lifetime playing golf), so it was really nice to hit one at 177 yards on round with Dad there. He also called it as soon as I hit it, but I was convinced that that sort of thing doesn’t happen to janky golfers like me and it must have gone off the back of the green, wasn’t I surprised! Now you might think this is about the most unusually and exciting thing that could happen during the holiday but then we went for a casual hike…

The Arthur’s Rock trail in Lory State park is one of out favorite local hikes as its moderately challenging and the views of Fort Collins and the reservoir are fantastic from 1000 ft higher altitude:

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Mum and Dad were very excited to see some American wildlife, and sure enough we spotted a Turkey Vulture right at the top of the trail:

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Here is Cat standing a very safe distance away from Terrance:

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Now put yourself in our shoes. You have been hiking and seen some pretty birds and butterflies. You are vaguely keeping an eye out for any bears or other big wildlife, so you are walking back down the trail looking most up and sometimes in the distance. What you are not expecting at this point in as encounter with a rattle snake!

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(spot the camouflage tiny friend)

This cheeky chappy was about a foot from the trail, and rather than pre-warning me and Dad who were chatting and could be heard coming from a distance, the rattle snake decided to angrily shake is rattle when we were right beside him. Needless to say we both screamed like little girls and jumped away (jumping backwards uphill on a trail is no mean feat!). A ranger came by and told us that they are poisonous, but can only spring half of their body length so we were probably fine. He had about 8 rattles on his tail which makes him 8 years old apparently (you learn something new every day).

At the end of our holiday, we all went to our local pub (the forge) for a nice quiet sit down, happy to safe from all the excitement.

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Rob

Bike to work day

One thing I love about Colorado is the sun. It’s not just that it is uplifting, or that it makes outdoor sports more fun, but it’s much more pleasant to cycle in. Fort Collins itself is absolutely bike crazy.

There are 28 Bike shops in Fort Collins (this compares to 9 in Coventry (UK) which is twice as big as Fort Collins – 316900 people vs 156480 in FoCo), and there are lots of good biking events like races, fancy dress events, trail routes and bike to work day.

IMG_3357On Fort Collins bike to work day, there are 60 Breakfast stations set up all over town, most of which have Bike tuning stations. My work colleagues and I were kindly given the early part of the morning off by our boss (Chuck, in the red top in the background) to go and tour around these stations, get some free breakfast and get our bikes tuned up.

We also ran into Smokey Bear, a US mascot who warn’s of the dangers of Wildfires, so naturally we got a picture together:

20170628_083710.jpgAfter several more stations and loading up on OJ, breakfast burritos, granola and fruit, we made our way to the New Belgium who were reportedly doing beermosa’s (though they had run out by 8.50 when we arrived, so I ended up with Fat Tire and a pizza bagel).

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To top off the morning and digest our beer, we played Rolle Bolle. It’s a game, a bit like shuffleboard / curling where you have to roll a ball that looks like a cheese wheel along a cylinder and try to land it at the other end without going off.

roly-poly.jpgNeedless to say, it’s pretty fun and just the right amount of mental exertion after a morning of cycling and half a beer.

Rob

PS/ For those wondering, I was wearing my new Softball Top for the Quantum Mechanics, and I went with the name ‘Ringo’ as ‘Rob’ is too difficult for most Americans to understand in my accent.

May Snow Day

We love Colorado, it’s all kinds of awesome and all kinds of crazy as anybody who has come to visit us can attest. This is perfectly exemplified by the weather over the last week.

On Wednesday it was 70 F (21 C) and Cat managed to get sunburnt hanging out with friends at a pool. For some reason, she wouldn’t let me take photographs of her all red, but here is a dramatic reenactment of what happened:
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Getting sunburnt in May is not out of the ordinary, however it looks kind of strange when it snowed heavily for the next two days.
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Snow at Colorado State University
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This was actually quite a big problem at the University as the snow was unusually wet (for Colorado), meaning loads of tree branches were falling under the weight. They even closed the university for the afternoon which is pretty unusual for a city as used to snow as Fort Collins.

Fortunately, I managed to convince my work colleagues to come join me for a snowball fight before the university was closed. This was particularly fun seeing as a) I haven’t had a good snowball fight since I moved here, because b) the snow here is usually too dry to make good snowballs (but it was unusually humid last week), and c) a few of my work colleagues from dryer climates (e.g. Brazil and Thialand) had not seen a lot of snow and had only had 1 snowball fight in their life, and with rubbish dry snow.
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Needless to say, we had a great time, even Cody (the guy taking this picture who got pelted 5 seconds afterwards), and notice the big tree branches freshly fallen behind us. We even managed to pelt our bosses window with some snowballs to let him know we were working hard on our experiments, thank you and sorry Chuck! At least we wore safety glasses…

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If you are reading this from England, don’t feel too jealous of our fun weather and take solace in the fact it is at least warmer in England today that Fort Collins.

Rob

The Second Peckspedition

Back when I was in my first year at Warwick University (2007), two of my oldest friends came to visit me all the way from Birmingham and Southampton to meet my new girlfriend, known only to them as ‘Peck’. They called this trip the Peckspedition and came and surprised me and an unsuspecting Cat, who froze like a rabbit in headlights when two Bristol boys that she had never met ran up in public and bear-hugged her.
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Last week (or 10 years later than the first Peckspedition), Josh and his girlfriend Hannah came out to visit me and Cat in Fort Collins. We had a lovely time, not just for nostalgic reasons (I have known Josh for 19 years) but it’s always nice to be able to speak proper English and show off the best bits about FoCo (Fort Collins) and ‘Murica (the USA).
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Josh and Hannah made great use of their time and saw all the best bits including Estes park (picture above), New Belgium brewery, the Wild Animal Sanctuary,
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Fort Fun,
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They also took some artistic shots during the Arthurs Rock Hike around the foothills (Instagram much Josh?),
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did a hike around a river up in the Red Feather Lakes district,
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… and even saw a Buddhist Temple up in the mountains.
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We were very grateful to Josh and Hannah for coming and visiting, especially as Boston was under a foot of snow so adjusting to the warm, dry, high altitude Fort Collins climate was not straightforward. So, we decided to end their holiday with the most American thing we could think of: country line dancing
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Josh and Hannah are in the quite famous and semi-professional folk band Threepenny Bit (http://threepennybit.com/), so are very used to folk dancing and Cèilidhs, though are more accustomed to providing the music than the dancing. So, we did a couples line dancing class (learning the waltz) and had a great time, only crashing into each other about 5 times. Josh and Hannah were particularly impressed by “the wearing of cowboy boots and hats unironically” as well as the live country band playing a cover of the national anthem as their first song.

We had so much fun we had no time to take pictures, but I can assure everyone it’s one of the most fun things we have done in the US.

Finally, I am not one who likes being photographed, especially if I have to pose. But if I ever decide to record a country music album this picture is going in, thanks Josh for the awesome photographs!

Rob

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