Thursday, March 29, 2007

Clark Peak Yurt

Waaaay back in October I reserved the Clark Peak Yurt in the Northern Colorado rockies and last weekend we finally got to take our trip. I can barely plan what I'm doing tomorrow, let alone what I'm doing 5 months so the wait was killing me. For a while I was bummed about the timing of the trip because 3 bike races ended up getting scheduled that weekend and the warm weather was taking its toll on the high country snow. But as the date drew nearer, it became clear that we were really going to luck out. There was a lot of rain along the front range at the end of the week, which made for miserable bike racing conditions. That same moisture, however, translated into a lot of snow up at the yurt. It was heavy wet snow, but at least it was snow.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

American Chopper

Set your Tivo: The first HP episode of American Chopper is on tomorrow (Thursday March 29) on TLC. The second episode will be next week.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

First race of the year

Today was my first bike race of the year - The Boulder Beer road race. If anyone has watched the classic movie "American Flyers", we were on part of the Morgul-Bismark course that was in that movie.

I didn't expect much of myself from this race, especially since I rode fairly hard yesterday and it's then end of a training block. It was mainly a chance for me to get some race time in my legs this year. I'm never a fan of riding in a tight aggressive pack, so this type of training race is a good time for me to work things out.

The course is a 7 mile loop that we did 5 times, and it contained some big hills and tricky 180 degree turnarounds. On the first lap, I was close to the front of the pack for the turnaround. That was a *scary* turnaround. There was a lot of late braking, and I rubbed wheels with someone, but nobody went down. I stayed with the peloton until somewhere during the 3rd lap. I had slipped a little off the back on a downhill and couldn't make up the gap when the group headed up the next hill.

Despite getting dropped, I'm feeling good about my fitness so far this year. I'm definitely stronger than last year, and I'm looking forward to the main focus of my early season at the end of April.

Moto ride

Christine and I got to go for our first good motorcycle ride on Saturday. We started by grabbing lunch at La Luz and then drove up to Horsetooth Mountain park and up part of Buckhorn Canyon. I haven't had much of a chance myself to get into some fun riding, so we both had a great time on two wheels.

Here's the two of us in Buckhorn Canyon. Christine is modeling her new stylish pink jacket.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Nutella and Bananas

I nearly made it out of Paris without enjoying a Nutella and banana crepe, and that would have been a shame.

Before we left Grenoble, Christine and I stopped at a bakery and I got a quiche and a pain au chocolate. Somehow that filled me up all day. I snacked on the train a bit, but I didn’t get hungry for dinner until around 5, which is somewhere between unch time and dinner time in France. We ended up at a brew pub (in Paris??) to get a beer and some fries. That hit the spot....but then we weren’t hungry for dinner. Solution: Dinner = nutella and banana crepe. :)

We walked around that evening and ended up in front of the Louvre. It was the kind of moment where you wish you had a tripod and SLR with you all the time. There was a full moon coming up over the Louvre and all I had was my little camera. I tried my best, but I just couldn’t get a good picture. C’est la vie.

Grenoble photos

I don’t know if one-piece ski suits are making a comeback in Europe, or if they never left. Either way, we saw a lot of them.


One of the fun things about France, of course, is going out to eat. It can sometimes be frustrating how long it takes go through a meal, but at least it's good food. I don't need to be in and out of a restaurant in 15 minutes, but sometimes it's nice to get back to the hotel at a reasonable time. Our last night in Grenoble we found an Italian place a little off one of the main drags. It was sometime after 7 when we got there, and the place was empty except for the staff and one other couple. But it had a wood fired pizza oven, and we figured it would be a nice simple meal. We ordered gnocchi and a pizza. Both were cooked in the wood fired oven and both were great. I love the spicy olive oil that they give you with pizzas. For dessert we ordered tiramasu and a tarte tatin. Both were great, but had we known that they'd be serving us the world's largest piece of tiramisu we'd have just gotten one dessert. With the simple and tasty food (and great company), I'd say this was my favorite meal. By the time we had left, probably a half dozen people were turned away at the door because they didn't have a reservation, but the place was still mostly empty. I guess even 8:30PM is too early for dinner in France.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

High tech in Grenoble

Commodore, Atari, and Nixie tubes. Welcome to high tech.

Paris / Grenoble

Working in a hotel room gets pretty boring, so I would usually take an afternoon break and go walk around to grab lunch and explore. The real goal was to get somewhere that I wasn't familiar with and then eventually take a metro train back to the hotel. In a city like Paris, it's pretty easy to get turned around and lost so it was kind of fun. One day I ended up near Sacre Coure, and that seemed like a pretty nice neighborhood.

Thursday night, Christine and I took a train to Grenoble to check it out and see if we might want to live there sometime. Traveling by train was a new experience for me. I guess I'd been on a train one other time, but it was an overnight Amtrak, so I ended up sleeping the whole time from Toledo to Rochester.

The first surprising thing about the SNCF train was the lack of anyone there to direct you where to go. The cars and seats were all marked pretty well, so it was really no problem. I did think it was a bit strange that there wasn't someone there to check tickets at least. I mean, what's to stop someone from hopping on the train without a ticket, or poking their head in to grab some luggage? Once on the train, it was so nice to not be constantly interrupt with a cacophony of announcements that you get hit with on a plane: Put up your trays...Turn off your phones...Watch this safety video...don't taunt the flight attendants...

The time flew by as we watched some American television shows that I had brought along for Christine, and 3 hours later, we were in Grenoble. There's a section of the city that is mostly closed off to cars, and it's full or restaurants and various stores. We were within walking distance to it, so the next day went went down there to explore. From there, we took a trip up to the fort that overlooks the city. Great views from up there, even though it was a cloudy day. From the top of that hill, we walked all the way down and around a big portion of the city. It was so nice to get out and walk around for a while and enjoy the area.

The next day we rented a car so we could check out more of the surround areas. We drove around through to a bunch of neighborhoods to get a idea for what they were like. We also drove to the HP site and a nearby mall. Attached to the mall was a large Super-Walmart-esque place and we went through there writing down prices of things we commonly buy (for comparison later).

Grenoble is a great place to be. You can't hardly beat the views of the surrounding Alps. There is surely a bunch of great hiking, biking, skiing to be had. Grenoble also has a pretty unbelievable amount of shoe stores and beauty shops. I don't know what's up with that.

Reliving the magic

(Okay, I'm finally getting around to writing more about my Paris trip.)

On one of our evenings in Paris, Christine and I decided to relive a our engagement evening. Earlier in her stay, Christine managed to find there restaurant where we had eaten. I'm glad she knew where it was, because I had no clue. Amazingly, I think we had the same waiter this time as we did last time. I like this restaurant. It's tucked away on the Rue de Beaujolais (which is pretty much an alley near the Palais Royal) and it doesn't appear to be a big tourist place. Oh, the food is good too.

After dinner we went to the Eiffel tower. Our dinner ran kind of late, and we just barely made it for the last trip up for the night. It was windy this time, and we didn't stay on the top too long. It was really freaky to be on top of the tower and feel it shaking in the wind. I would have taken her ring off and re-proposed, but I'm afraid it would have blown away. :) I guess we'll have to re-up our engagement another time.

Friday, March 9, 2007

The OCC Bike unveiling

Yesterday was the unveiling of the HP themed OCC bike in Fort Collins. I braved the cool morning temperatures and rode my motorcycle in to park in the special motorcycle parking section they set up for the event. With my 6AM arrival (I'm trying to keep on an early to bed early to rise schedule after my trip), I was the first bike there. Later in the afternoon, I walked over to the lot to see how many bikes had shown up. As I was heading over there, we ran into Paul Sr. being taken to the courtyard to scout the location. The rest of the OCC gang was hanging out in one of the conference rooms.

At around 1:30 the crowd started gathering in the courtyard for the 2PM taping. I grabbed a spot along the walkway that the bike would be coming in on. At 2, some of our executives got up on the stage and started talking things up and filling time. They had a lot of time to fill because there was a problem getting the bike to start. (I heard Jr. taping some segments for the show later and he said there was a problem with the fuel line.) The time filling was extremely not interesting, but I have to admit it was amusing to see our executives stammering up there, totally eating it. We had several high level people here, and they're usually not short on words.

Finally we heard the roar of the bike, and Paul Sr. rode down the walkway and over to the stage. There was a little ramp on the stage, and he actually nearly dumped the bike off the ramp! I really hope they show that on TV because I didn't get a good view of what happened. He was pretty out of breath when he took to the mic on the stage. I don't know if it was from the altitude or the adrenaline of nearly dropping and really expensive custom chopper.

The bike is pretty cool, but I bet not so friendly on the butt for riding as it's completely rigid. They made some cool custom wheels for it and they integrated an HP GPS gadget into the top of the gas tank. The bike is on display in our cafeteria (under 24 hour guard) until Wednesday. If any of you want to come up to Fort Collins and check it out, I can get you in.

Okay, that's enough of the recap. Now let me bitch and snark a bit. The email we received about the event very clearly said "This event is for HP employees only because of space limitations - no friends or family will be admitted." There should have been an addition: "...Unless you're an executive. In which case you can bring your whole family and let them sit on the bike." And it's quite funny to watch the money makers and their wives try to sit on a chopper when they're very clearly not comfortable on a motorcycle. They just sat there awkwardly on the bike and wouldn't even lean the bike off the stand. I completely understand and agree with the idea of making it an HP only event, but if you're going to make that rule and then blatantly break it, at least try to be a little discrete about it.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Dirty Dancing

Really, I swear I'm busy at work.

This couple did the final scene of Dirty Dancing as their wedding dance. I only wish I would have thought of this before I got married. Jme, there's still time for yours. :)

Cool goings on at work

I mentioned a little while ago the Orange County Choppers is using the workstations my team designs to help them design motorcycles. They been working on an HP themed motorcycle and they're coming to HP Fort Collins tomorrow to unveil it! It ought to be pretty cool. I'm sure the sleazy marketing guys will get to play around on some OCC bikes (saying things like "what engineers?"), but it will be pretty cool just to see one of their bikes up close. Especially one that's been made with an HP theme.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007


I'm back in the states safe and sound. I'll post photos and boring stories later as time permits.

Even though Christine was working long hours, it was great to spend time together in the evenings. I miss her and can't wait until she gets home, which unfortunately won't happen until March 16th. The original date was March 10th, but they extended it a bit. I guess they don't want to be without her either. :)

Friday, March 2, 2007

French confusion

I need some help from anyone who thinks they know France.

Showers without curtains. I can't figure this out. The shower curtain (or door) makes a lot of sense to me, but for some reason they don't use them in France. At the very least it seems like a good idea to keep the bathroom floor from becoming a slippery death rink. I feel like traveling around France with shower curtains and rods and just leaving them in various hotel room bathrooms.

TV remote controls: Why doesn't the power button actually turn the TV on? I have to push one of the channel buttons to turn the TV on. In the last hotel we stayed in, the remote's power button was even labeled "On", but it was only capable of turning the TV off.

Eventually I'll post a real update with pictures, but it may have to wait until I get back.