On the slopes in Utah & Wyoming

Sweat pouring down my brow, muscles aching and I have only just put on the ski clothing and boots! This does not bode well for the next week. After a long sleep and a leisurely first day just relaxing and sightseeing, Friday the 9th is the big test for me: back on skis for the first time in four years. Our first stop is Snowbasin, a ski resort northeast of Salt Lake City which we have not been to before. The reason for this is that I purchased a ticket called “Mountain Collective” which gives two days skiing at a number of resorts in the USA and Canada for an all inclusive price. So we will be resort hopping for the next week.

After a record “powder” season last year in Utah, the snow gods have not been kind to this region in 2018. Brown barren landscapes greet us as we wend our way towards Snowbasin, only the peaks show the glimmer of snow – we had more snow along the roadside here last year on ‘Streak’ and ‘Storm’ in May. The roadside snow depth indicators have their bases exposed, that’s how poor the snowfall has been!

The lodge at Snowbasin is well appointed and Anne will be comfortable while she waits for me, spending the day enjoying myself on the slopes, still she has to prepare the presentation for…. ahh you will have wait for that one, nearly let our secret destination out of the bag. I can still get on and off the chairlift without causing a catastrophe, let’s see how the skiing bit will go.

Snowbasin looking east, no lower elevation snow

Tested the stopping first, then upward and onwards, let’s explore. It quickly becomes apparent as perched on the chairlift rising up the mountain side; the lack of snow, bare patches between trees, “no snow well”, as I heard from other skiers, around the base of the trees. It seemed like spring skiing conditions, without the warmer weather. If it was not for the continuous snow making during the day as well as at night, I shudder to think what the slopes would be like.

Snowbasin, snow covered at higher elevations

I am able to ski! No style, not much skill, but I can get down the easy blue run. I am skiing again. I am sorry that Anne cannot join me, but glad that skiing friends did not take up the suggestion that they join us in Utah this year. Two days of gentle skiing at Snowbasin are a very enjoyable return to skiing for me. I explore the mountain finding a mixture of snow and ice, realise I have really been spoilt in the past by groomed slopes and fresh powder. Still I am happy.

Two days up at Snowbasin and onwards to our next ski resort on the Mountain Collective pass, Jackson Hole Wyoming which we passed through Jackson in 2015 on our first RTW. First a short detour to KLIM to see Rhylea and Kelsey, KLIM Woman’s Adventure Motorcycle clothing designers, who back in May last year during our visit on the second RTW, were designing the KLIM 2018 range. We travel with snow falling again as we did in May last year, this time we are inside our nice warm car, so much more comfortable.

KLIM having shared their thoughts with us then, and listened to Anne’s comments on her current KLIM Altitude jacket, Kelsey and Rhylea were now able to show Anne the results of all their hard work: the Artemis jacket and pants which is hitting the stores as we speak, or write in my case. Rhylea and Kelsey exceeded Anne’s expectations and they also seemed pleased to see Anne’s reactions as they showed all the features of the new motorcycle clothing. The end result, Anne purchased an Artemis set and cannot wait to get home to test them out. More adventures in that direction coming I think.

Jackson Hole does not disappoint, a little further north and a little more snow, I am soon wizzing down the slopes, blue only I hasten to add, over 28km on the first day. A lot less on the second day, even though I exercised before departure by cycling, my legs tell me from time to time to ease off a little. The second day sees intermittent snow showers, which darken the sky, this allied with my cataract impaired vision has me still staying on the groomed slopes to keep me safe.

Beautiful open runs at Jackson Hole

I always enjoy the rides on the cablecar or chairlift, meeting people from different backgrounds and always learn something interesting. This time I met two people who are using stem cell treatments, one to overcome a back injury, the other a stroke, neither in the USA however as the regulation and approval of such treatment is governed by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA). As it was pointed out, why does the use of ones own stem cells on oneself require approval of a drugs administration? Interesting.

My final skiing destination is Alta, back near Salt Lake City, an old favourite from the time Anne and I both skied together and one of only three, I believe, that only allow skiers and not snowboarders, thus a favourite of Anne’s, after being knocked unconscious by an out of control snowboarder at Park City, Utah some 10 years ago.

A perfect day for skiing

Blue skies and 17 inches / 40+ cm. of fresh power snow are waiting for us at Alta. We get an early start, along with many others heading up high to take advantage of the snow and sun after such a poor ski season to date. The crisp crunch of the perfect snow underfoot brings back great memories. I cannot wait to get started. The view from the top is spectacular and a quick run down and back has me warmed up and eying a large patch of virgin power snow. A must do after the crunch of the groomed slopes, the almost soundless hiss of the skis hidden beneath the deep powder snow is priceless. Up and down a few more times, then the ‘signed’ gate onto a black run beckons. ‘Expert skiers only’, ‘Beware Avalanche’ etc etc. Good thing I have cataracts as the USA seems paranoid about risk. Down the fresh powder and splat, face first into the deep unmarked powder. Ten minutes are spent fruitlessly searching for a lost ski, invisible beneath the deep snow. Ski found and I am off again. A few minutes later I am reminded why they have different types of categories for ski runs as I peer down a steep snow filled chute watching the effects of gravity on dislodged snow as it runs without stopping further and further down the mountain.

Exploring the black runs

Starts to get more interesting

Suffice to say, I get down, albeit with a few falls and a reminder that advanced areas with exposed rocks, trees and narrow descents are best left to those with the requisite skills – do heed the warning signs! Still, over the next one and a half days I ventured off groomed tracks more than once and enjoyed every minute. It did make me realise that if I wish to progress further, more exercise in advance and a lesson or two would not go amiss. Thank you Anne for sitting, watching and wishing you could join me.

What a wonderful day I have had

My ski holiday is over, next stop Europe, family and friends in what will be a busy few weeks.

– Anthony

Home or away?

We are on the move again, this entry comes as we fly across the Pacific from Brisbane to Los Angeles on a Qantas B747 to meet the sunrise on the same day as we left. Just before you drag the couch back from the side of the house where it has sat forlornly since engines-off back in October 2017, this is not a another motorcycle or 4 wheel drive adventure, but a family visit with a little skiing thrown in, for me anyway, en-route. There is however a new country, with a motorcycling connection, we will be visiting. If that piques your interest do keep dragging the couch back towards the house.

Brisbane city to the sea looking east

We have found that there is a patten forming with our travel: even years, surgery for me with a non-motorcycle journey and odd years, riding Streak and Storm. Some may say that we were on the road in 2014, but that was the start of the journey, so no pattern had been established. Surgery? I like to try and spread the work around, having supported cardiac and orthopaedic surgeons in the past, I thought that this year, the eye surgeons should have their turn. April and May will see me undergo cataract surgery as the gradual decline in vision, that we all suffer to a greater or lesser degree, due to cataracts has reached a point for me where correction makes sense from a medical and personal point of view, perhaps being able to see the road ahead more clearly will have me heading for the couch instead.

On the home improvement front, progress has been pitiful, the extensive list we drew up on our return has two items ticked off, new blinds installed and the front door painted. While matt paint on the door worked ok, my attempt at window frames with gloss paint produced one blotchy result, probably due to poor preparation, oh well we can push that down the track for a while longer, maybe this is why the open road is so appealing and we do think about it often. Anne recently said “what about a quick motorcycle trip down to Iran from the UK?” on Streak and Storm to see our friends who we sadly had to miss due to not being able to secure Turkmenistan visas in 2017. We will get back there someday, but not this year. I have suggested to friend that he comes on a Southern African adventure, he has all the riding and mechanical skills I lack. Another friend has been trying to get us to ride with him in India, the local gods protected us once, but we do not want to try our luck there a second time.

Catching up recently at a couple of barbecues with other RTW motorcycle riders reminded us of all the places we would still like to visit, plus wishing to spend more time exploring in more detail some of the regions we visited on Streak and Storm, too many choices not enough time. Can we stay settled and at home with all the open roads whispering in our ears?

I was feeling more attached to being home as we locked the front door to the point where I just had to go back inside, to remove the batteries from the smoke detectors that were going off due to the mist from the insect ‘bombs’ I had initiated before we left, seemed like great idea at the time! Then back in again as then the mains powered sensors went off as well. Hopefully that has all abated now, when we turn our phones back on in Los Angles, hopefully they will remain silent.

Skiing will be interesting as I have not skied since 2014 in Austria and I suspect my limited skills, as they were then, have atrophied and will be sorely tested by the mountains in Utah and Wyoming. It will also be sad as Anne will not be skiing with me. Anne has decided that she wants to save her knee for other activities and that it time to hang up her ski poles – hard for someone who used to ski from patch to patch of snow between the trees in Switzerland in her teens. I may well be joining her after the first run but it is realistic to realise that the ageing process robs us of capabilities over time and it is better to call it a day sooner rather than after an accident than ends both that activity and others.

Descending past the Bingham Canyon Copper mine into Salt Lake City

So for me from here on it’s downhill all the way! We will see how that turns out in the next week!

– Anthony

Happy New Year 2018

Happy New Year for 2018 from the 2slowspeeds.

Another year has passed into history and we are on the cusp of 2018. What will it hold for all of us. I hope more peace, health, prosperity and most of all tolerance and understanding as we all navigate the future. Our 1st January 2017 blog entry had our idea for a second RTW all laid out, even though we ended up going in the opposite direction! No such plans this time round. A trip to the USA and Europe in February skiing and visiting family will be followed up by cataract surgery for me in April, seems to be my April prize in even years after ankle surgery in April 2016. What will the rest of the year hold, who knows but we will keep you updated.

Have a fabulous 2018.

Anthony & Anne

By 2slowspeeds Posted in General

Life back home

We are only home a week and I volunteer to present at an upcoming motorcycle forum in just 2 weeks’ time. And not one presentation, but two different ones! What was I thinking?! We hadn’t finished unpacking yet, I hadn’t even switched my PC on, let alone downloaded all our photos from the last 7 months’ travel and the inevitable multiple software updates (and all the surprises, frustrations and headaches this exercise always attracts). We still have so many lunches, afternoon teas and dinners to have to catch up with friends – that all important step to regrounding ourselves. I did volunteer though … and very glad to have done so really.

Lunch with friends

As Anthony explained, we wanted to give back to the motorcycle community which we have got advice, information, inspiration from over time. It was a massive job preparing those 40 minute presentations but it was worth it from a giving back point of view and meeting fellow travellers, old and new. We decided to hire a car rather than fly or put our 19 year old car through 3000kms suddenly after not being used for months: that way we could also catch up with friends – sorry we missed so many, but hiring a car meant quite a few extra dollars for every day away …

Destination: Jindabyne for 4 days, 1500kms each way. First stop, Sydney and catch with friend and faithful blog follower John. We met John when we went to Bhutan in 2009: the three of us were always last, constantly stopping for photos, taking in the scenery and simply enjoying a sedate ride. It was great to catch up, chewing the fat and enjoying Sydney’s stunning harbour and tasty food. Talk about travel was never far!!

Magnificient Sydney Harbour

Rather than camping over the 4 days at the motorcycle meeting, we took up the generous offer of staying at a friend’s house just 50kms away. It meant a bit of driving everyday, but what’s 100kms?! And the scenery is simply gorgeous – just no drinking for me as I was the designated driving. Anthony found out just before we left for this week’s trip that his cataracts had worsened badly – yes, he realised that of course but the diagnosis means a consultation with the surgeon this week. So no driving at night for him (although he is still legally allowed to drive). And we made sure we avoided the dangerous dusk and dawn driving as big kangaroos are everywhere in this area.

The Horizons Unlimited Snowy Mountains 2017 meeting was fun to attend. The presentations were well received based on the lovely feedback we had and we were asked if we would make our presentations available, so they must have them useful.

HU Snowy 2017 presentation

The presentations are UK to Oz (and back) and Iran and Stans.

The weather was pretty wild and unusually freezing for that time of the year!

Jindabyne in November!

Everyone’s bike is set up differently

On the way back, with stopped over in Sydney to see our oldest Australian friends – Jenny we met in southern Egypt in 1982 and we entered the Sudan together. It was wonderful to see Mark and Jenny as always, spending the afternoon chatting, going for a walk to the beach and having a family dinner with the 3 “kids” in the evening.

Many thanks to our friends for their hospitality and generosity. It was so great to see you.

We made the most of passing through Canberra to stop off and visit a exhibition on an important Aboriginal dreamtime story: the Seven Sisters. The paintings there were exquisite and the way the story was explained in different regions extremely well done. How the museum incorporated several paintings with a narrative which you watch lying down staring up at a dome was superb!! Quite magical.

It was a long day driving from Sydney to Brisbane as we stopped off in Port Macquarie to see more friends. Back home before midnight. What a whirlwind week. We packed so much in.

Home again. The rest of the unpacking, more washing from this past week, more paperwork to add to the mound of still-unopened-and-to-be-filed mail that greeted us when we returned from our RTW 3 weeks ago now: oh, this is overwhelming… Tackling the software issues, buying a new PC as Anthony’s died just before we left for the Snowies, sorting out the weeds in the garden, finding so many things dying after not being used for so long like the whippersnipper, being faced with a horrendous quote to fix the rusted gutters (we need scaffolding from a scaffold company but also the installation needs to be audited by another specialist to make sure it is safe – occupational health and safety gone mad once again) and paperwork – so much paperwork… And of course, there is the decorating, sometime. It is so much easier on the road: pay the odd bill back home and continue travelling with just 3 decisions: which direction, where will we eat and where will we sleep. So much easier…

The post RTW blues is a common problem and articles have been written about it recently by travellers. Everyone has their way of coping or recovering. We went through it once already, so the second time around, we know what to expect and how to combat it. I was so proud of Anthony when I read his last blog. It takes me a bit longer. My problem is not so much travel “blues” as such but feeling disconnected and rudderless. That’s where reconnecting with friends and having a routine is important to me. And working on new plans for the future.

First, a trip back bush calls me so I am off for a week. I buy new, fabulous art and visit some old friends. It is exactly what I needed on many levels. And my drive out bush was so special. I am just disappointed that I was not able to visit one particular community which always brings me so much joy but the road conditions would not allow me in the car I had – there was a shortage of 4×4 in Alice this week and I only managed to get a ‘fake’ one, an automatic Mitsubishi outlander. It would not have got me across the Sandover river bed. I chose sense over heart… can you believe that?!

I don’t like flying but love seeing the world from the air – our gorgeous outback

Red centre sand dunes

The area around Alice is looking green after all the rain

Wild weather in Alice – my car nearly submerged in 15 minutes

The Sandover Highway

The road to Mulga Bore is looking slippery today

Mavis, who welcomed me into the family 14 years ago and to whom I owe so much

Oh I do love being here

It was a short but fun day out

I was not going to pay the $80 washing fee so did it myself!! That red mud is sticky!!

The resident peacock at my hotel in Alice

And I am looking forward to going home!!! RTW blues over 🙂

– Anne

Phantom Post: Fixed in the next release…..

Have the 2slowspeeds lost the plot? Has Anne gone ‘Bush’ while in Alice Springs, has Anthony too much time on his hands? This morning’s unexpected post, unexpected to us as well, as a ‘Phantom Post’ magically appeared making no sense at all. I could not log in at first, then Anne contacted WordPress and found they had just done an upgrade of, you guessed it, the Post Editor. Wonder what the culprit could be?

So that’s the answer folks, a WordPress software upgrade somehow created a spurious blog entry so you can all relax, well, until the next upgrade anyway. I am glad I got out of IT back in 1997 when it was a simpler world and I still believe that Oracle Version 6.0.36 was the best RDBMS ever. Maybe I have lost it after all.

– Anthony