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.
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.
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:
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):
Here I am just after releasing the stone. I give myself a A for effort, C for grace and E for flexibility.
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.
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:
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?
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.
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.
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):
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.
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.
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).
We even got our branding right and I think you’ll agree we did a good job (even though we lost 3-0 haha)
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:
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:
Sit politely (especially at a crosswalk / zebra crossing as he has been well trained)
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)
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)
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:
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):
… and here I am spiking (hitting the ball) at least 4 inches off the ground:
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.
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.
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):
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.
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.
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)
Next, was the Fort fun softball batting cages for Dad to demonstrate his Cut shot through the covers…
… and Mum to let the ball know who was boss:
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!
With this celebration from Mum probably winning the most style points, especially after hitting her ball out of bounds a few holes earlier:
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”:
With his favorite being the HOLE IN ONE I hit about 3 holes later:
(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:
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:
Here is Cat standing a very safe distance away from Terrance:
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!
(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.
Today is another Football Sunday, when Rob and I spend the day watching a lot of football, drinking beer, obsessing about our fantasy teams and just generally being American, so we thought we’d share a little of it with you!
Watching football is of course the key part of the day, usually in a bar with friends. Because football is so big in America and Americans are generally super friendly this is a really nice thing to do – everyone just chats away in one big group, most bars provide free snacks, and when someone gets a touchdown we all throw our hands up and jump around. It’s also not unusual for this to be a family thing, so people don’t get too drunk and aren’t very competitive. We’ve quite happily watched games with fans of competing teams, and you just have a great time lightly roasting each other.
I think part of what makes football here so popular is that it’s primarily designed to be fun to watch, rather than focusing on athleticism like a sport arguably should. We were lucky enough to go watch the Rocky Mountain showdown a few weeks ago, which is a college game between the two local universities – CSU (where Rob works) and CU. We were of course rooting for CSU, but CU are a significantly better team and invariably win. That’s not important though, because the game happens at Mile High Stadium (where the Denver Broncos play) and there is all sorts of nonsense happening besides the game itself.
Firstly, the stadium: Mile High is a beautiful open air stadium in Denver city center, and late night games mean that you get to watch the sun set behind the stadium as you play:
You can see that it’s also pretty massive (capacity 76,125 – about the same as Old Trafford) and almost alarmingly well lit.
Second, the band. You can see them in the first picture marching around in formation, which they were pretty darn good at. They made quite a lot of noise throughout the game, and were great fun to watch:
Between the players, the band, the cheerleaders and the other support it’s weird to think how many of the CSU students are actually just there to support the football team. There’s a fair amount of travel involved, so studying must take a hit.
Speaking of cheerleaders, you can see some of them here alongside interesting thing number three – the gigantic artillery cannon…
It’s there in the bottom right being manned by the nice army men, and goes off whenever either team scores a touchdown/ extra point. Despite all the noise going on in the stadium, the cannon cuts through quite nicely! I’m still getting the hang of not flinching whenever it goes off, and this was not made any easier by the fact that at a recent CSU game they had a GUEST firing the cannon! I don’t know what training he had, but the cannon was going off at pretty unpredictable times, which caused everyone to flinch (including the players).
Last but not least, the mascots! CSU’s mascot is Cam the Ram, who always attends the game and does a lap of the field whenever CSU get a touchdown. Here he is nicely decked out in his CSU gear, being looked after by his entourage.
Our friend once asked a member of the team where Cam is kept, and was told that this was ‘privileged information’… so it’s good to know that Cam is being spoiled nicely and kept very safe, and he seemed surprisingly unfazed by the crowd or the cannon-fire.
The CU team likewise have a mascot, and one that I suspect is a little harder to handle than Cam – Ralphie the Buffalo! It was not easy to get pictures of Ralphie, but here he is being moved onto the pitch for a lap, and then running around whilst dragging his team alongside him:
I love how in the last picture you can see that almost everyone has lost their hat, and are running as fast as their little legs can carry them. It really did not take Ralphie a long time to run across the field and back, after which he was taken away again to go relax.
I was pretty excited to see the Ralphie running around, and I strongly recommend watching a few YouTube videos where Ralphie decides to go off-script:
So anyway, with all this the game ends up lasting quite a while!
As well as the actual football games, we have our own very competitive Fantasy Football league with friends from Rob’s work. This year there are 20 of us, and we all pick up players from the league to make our own unique teams. Players cannot appear in more than one team, and you have limited bench space. Since your team inevitably ends up being made up of players from a wide range of teams, you then have a stake in multiple games instead of just your own team’s game.
For extra fun this year, your team also has to have a pun based name. Mine and Rob’s teams are the New England Catriots (instead of New England Patriots) and the Oakland Ringos (instead of Oakland Raiders). I’m proud to say that the names across the rest of the league are no less sublime! I came second in the league last year (so close…) and currently I’m ranked 6th and Rob is 9th. We should both win this week and move up a little, so fingers crossed!!
Finally, I should just mention the drinks. As I’ve said we drink mostly beer, but the massive need for day drinking caused by Football Sunday has led to some truly magical innovations within the drinks industry. My favorite of these is Wisconsin Bloody Mary’s, which are the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever seen. They’re basically regular Bloody Mary’s, but with EXTREMELY generous food placement on the skewers. Normally you get a piece of bacon and an olive if you’re lucky, but not in Wisconsin…
It’s really a miracle anyone lives to 50.
It’s a lot of fun though, like I said, and we enjoy it a lot 🙂 The game starts soon so I’m off!
Long time no blog! Apologies for that, we’ve had a pretty busy couple of weeks. Let me tell you all about them 🙂
Firstly, two weekends ago we decided to go on a drive around Northern Colorado, to see the fall colours. There are a lot of Aspen trees throughout Colorado which change a beautiful orange/ yellow colour in Fall (a.k.a Autumn), and because the temperature changes quite abruptly between seasons you tend to get an intense few weeks of Fall here, rather than a few months of Autumn. Not wanting to miss anything we plotted out quite a long route, which took us most of the day to cover:
The route is mostly quite small dirt roads, and since we felt that our poor car couldn’t handle such things without shaking apart we went ahead and booked a rental car. We asked for a smallish SUV, but somehow ended up with what I think might be the largest car in existence…
That, my friends, is the Dodge Ram 2500 – it has a 5.7 litre engine, weights around three tonnes, and is two meters tall. We both had to run and jump to get into it! It was most definitely capable of handling the back roads though, so off we went.
The first part of the drive was around 90 minutes long, and we took it slowly so that we could do some sight-seeing. The views and trees were beautiful, and the remoteness was extremely peaceful. We also got to see this guy, posing nicely for our pictures!
It was not easy to sneak up on him in our gigantic car, but somehow sneak up on him we did! I think he’s a young Golden Eagle, but name that bird at me if I’m wrong 🙂
As well as the great wildlife, the forest was very beautiful – and like I said you can see the roads are nothing if not rural!
Our first stop was the cheerfully named Deadman Lookout, which was stunning. It’s home to Deadman Tower, one of the last remaining fire lookout towers, and has great views across Northern Colorado and Wyoming:
We were the only people there, and probably the only people around for quite a way. We had a wander around the area looking at the sights, and then settled down to eat the sandwiches we’d brought with us. We were going to eat these at the picnic table there, but sadly the table was under a few feet of snow… instead, we took the long climb up into the back of our pickup truck and ate there 🙂
This had the added advantage that if any bears came sniffing around, we could run down and hide in the truck 😉
Once we finished our lunch we drove on, heading towards Diamond Tail Ranch. This is something that I hadn’t heard of before, but is apparently a full Bison farm just two hours from our house! We were promised that we would see huge herds of Bison, but they were apparently hiding for the winter. We’ll go back for them another day, and for now we enjoyed the beautiful views and the many friendly cows:
Sadly the pictures don’t capture the colours very well, since it was such a bright day, but rest assured that it was absolutely stunning 🙂 We drove nice and slowly through the ranch so that we wouldn’t upset the cows (who were basically lying around everywhere, including in the road) and took lots of pictures. There were a lot of calves there, so I got very excited watching all the tiny calves run around together ❤
The stretch of drive back down towards Poudre Canyon looked very Alpine, and was almost completely lined with Aspen trees. These trees looks especially bright against the grey mountain backgrounds:
I loved it!
Finally, we got to the Chambers Lake turning which would take us back home via the Poudre Canyon. Again, Chambers Lake was one of the Lakes that we hadn’t visited or even really heard about, although we must have driven very close to it a fair number of times. It was very pretty, especially with the mountain view in the background and despite the clouds!
We stopped here briefly to have a look around, and then made our way home via the Poudre Canyon. Lots of bumping around in the car and some very nice views!
We were extremely sad at the end of the day when we had to give our car back, since we’d become very accustom to such an insanely high vantage point and such tough suspension. We finally did agree to return the car, and had a quite scary ride back to our apartment in our considerably lower-to-the-ground Subaru! All in all a great day though, and we’ll definitely have to find a similarly awesome Winter drive once the snow comes…
Welcome back to Seattle, where after the fun of the aquarium we decided to double down on Nature and visit one of the many state parks in the area…
Washington State, especially around the Seattle area, has a whole bunch of spectacular forest. Not just any forest though, but Old Growth Forest! This is basically what it sounds like… very old forest that has been undisturbed for a long time, so is massive and has lots of rare plant growth.
We started our Nature exploring with Squak State Park, and what we thought was a nice short four mile hike…
The forest itself was beautiful, and there was almost no-one around which made it even better. As with all things American it was also very big!
The whole hike was supposed to be about a four mile round trip, which we thought would take us about three hours if we were going slow. It certainly helped for Rob and I that we were once again back near sea level, where walking is a much easier task! Mum too was in her element:
We walked for about two hours whilst going uphill the whole time, which suggested that perhaps we were not as quick at walking as we thought we were. The humidity was also an exciting challenge, and something that us Mountain people had completely forgot about! Feeling good, we decided to risk getting attacked by bears by sitting down and having a lovely sandwich break. Possible bear attacks are another advantage of Old Growth Forest 😉
Full of sandwiches, on we went!
The whole hike really was stunning, although all in all it ended up taking us about six hours and was most definitely not four miles! A lot of US hiking trails only list the one way distance as their overall distance, especially on there and back trails, so it’s very possible that the map reader (…me) made a very understandable error there.
Despite my shenanigans, we did eventually make it back to the car 🙂
After our fun with the forest we decided to continue our nature theme the next day, but with much less walking about. We booked in to do the thing that I was extremely excited about… Whale Watching!!
Specifically, Orca/ Killer Whale watching! We booked in with one of the local tour groups, put on all our warm clothes, and gripped our cameras tight. To see the whales we actually had to go quite far out to sea, and even briefly cross into Canadian waters. Fortunately while some whale tours offer smaller boats so that you can get really close to the killer whales, we opted for one of the big, comfortable boats and the reduced chance of getting eaten.
This meant that we ended up having a few comfortable few hours boat trip out to the San Juan islands, and got to do some top quality bird watching on the way! And yes, I like bird watching now. Pity me. But at least I got some good photos out of it 🙂
I probably would’ve got more photos, but about an hour into the trip the fog descended! It was actually very beautiful, although did obviously have a pretty detrimental effect on visibility…
The picture above was literally as far out as we could see in any direction for almost an hour, which did make us start to worry about our whale watching chances. Fortunately once we got a little further out it cleared up again, and then all we needed to worry about was how much ocean there was. It sounds silly, but seriously – so much ocean.
You can see a few ships in the picture above, and we ended up doing what is done in most nature watching tours… follow the other ships until they find something. Fortunately we didn’t have to wait long!!
Very exciting times! There was a whole pod swimming along together, and I got somehow even more excited once I spotted the baby whale ❤
It’s actually a miracle that we didn’t capsize the boat – the whales could stay underwater for a few minutes at a time, so when they disappeared everyone would run around the top of a boat in a panic trying to figure out where they were, and then run over to the same side once they were spotted again. So freaking cool!
After a half hour watching the wales we stopped off at a port called Friday harbor for a quick spot of food and some sightseeing…
Then back to the boat!
On the long way back towards Seattle we were treated to even more delights, including some seagulls, cormorants and extremely sleepy looking fur seals:
As well as this, more whales! Or possibly the same whales coming to eat the fur seals, it was hard to tell.
Whatever the case these whales were definitely more lively than the ones we’d seen before. You can see the whale above blowing water, plus one of them treated us to some breaching! This is where the whales jump out of the water nose first, for reasons that are not at all clear to me. Here he is just leaving the water…
At which point I decided the two thousand photos that I had of whales/ empty ocean would be enough, and instead focused on shouting “DID YOU SEE THOSE WHALES??” at literally anyone who came close to me.