Category: Vail Adventures

The New (Again)

Beaver Creek housing is shaping up to be much cozier than my past two rotations. I suppose I was getting a bit spoiled, with my own room and spacious kitchens (which, let’s be honest, I underutilized). Here, I share a bedroom with one other girl and have two more roommates across the living room. The kitchen is minuscule, but the bedroom is pleasantly spacious, and I managed to get all my little boxes and bags unpacked and squared away within our space. All the other girls are very friendly and helpful thus far, which, since we have to rub along together for five months, is a good way to start out.

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Views of my half of the bedroom

I have yet to figure out a reliable way to travel to and from the lower town area, although I managed to meander to the grocery store once, but I have managed to find the base of the mountain and locate the lifts I’ll be using to access work. It’s a bit odd, not being able to actually walk to the place itself, but if past seasons are any indication, I’ll be steadily settled in a week or two.

The pattern of impressions and feelings is certainly holding true and in the uneasiness of the first week, I am holding to the little details of routine that I like to claim help me survive and maintain a semi-healthy level of sanity.

These details range from calculating the length of my stay in improbable fractions to visiting the grocery store as often as is on the inside edge of reasonable. 3/19 isn’t an easily envisioned fraction for me, but it’s a marker, proving to my frustrated brain that time is, in fact, passing. And even if I don’t need much from the store, I’ll wander the aisles and take comfort in the neat rows of food. I’ll admit, I’m not sure how much of my comfort comes from the fact that I don’t have to cook it all… Here in Beaver Creek, or BC according to the omnipresent resort symbols, I am having to become accustomed to a new grocery store, as the local City Market chain is the only location close enough to walk to easily. The rows of shelves still seem to work their soothing balm, though, so the adjustment hasn’t been terribly rough yet.

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Dinky little kitchen

I am still deciding how I want to deal with my running schedule – there’s no race looming in the distance to dictate what mileage I want to aim for in long runs and I’m still working through elevation change. I should certainly look for a hilly race for my next competition – my choices for running from the apartment are grueling uphill and then down to finish off, or relaxed downhill and then up to finish off. Eventually regular runs will happen, since they are the happiest way to shake out stagnant kitchen standing muscles and de-must my head with crisp air.

Since last season’s blog-a-week was frequent enough to share the good bits, but not over-pressuring to my various other scheduled events, I’m also trying to keep up with regular postings. And since this season is quite probably my last with Vail, I’ll be trying something I’ve hardly ever done – daily journaling. I kept one sporadically when I was 10-14 and journaled daily for the length of a trip to the east coast with grandparents, but daily for five months will be far and away the most I’ve tried for.

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The bedrooms hold two of us apiece, and all four of us share this living area, the bathroom, and aforementioned dinky kitchen.

So this is the blog recounting the five days into the first settling, wherein I become accustomed to elevation, living quarters, bus schedules, grocery store locations, roommates, and not-at-homeness. Next week, I up the ante and juggle everything from the first week along with the start of my official job, investigations into my chances for a regular schedule, meeting a new chef, learning how transport to and from work will be handled, and an abundance of people to talk to while having very few to talk with.

Tune in next week to see how far my sanity has crumbled.

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View from the balcony at the back of the apartment.

Revising Peanut Butter Pancakes and Fueling Running Results

I revisited the peanut butter pancake recipe today and there were successes and backslidings. To review, the last batch of pancakes were very peanut buttery, but the batter was overly thick and the crumb was quite dense for a pancake. This go round, I reduced peanut butter by 1/8 cup to help with batter texture, used baking soda and buttermilk to increase fluff, and kept the other components stable.

The newly revised recipe reads like this:

Whisk together

1 egg
1/4 cup buttermilk
1/4 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup peanut butter

Sprinkle over the top

3 TBSP flour
1 TBSP granulated sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt

Whisk again, until combined. Drop by 3 TBSP sized gloops (technical term) onto a hot, oiled griddle or sauté pan. Cook as though they were pancakes. Eat. Yields 5 pancakes.

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I know the photo only shows four pancakes, but I was pancaking post run today, and in my exercise induced hunger ate the first as soon as it came off of the griddle. Results were mixed. While the last batch smelled like peanut butter cookies as they cooked, this batch smelled more like a half-melted Reese’s. The batter was certainly more pancake-esque, spreading without any threats from spoons. The final products looked a bit less squat and brown up at bit more prettily in the pan.

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Flavorwise, they were slightly disappointing. I could certainly taste the peanut butter, but it was much less vivid than the peanutiness of the first batch. While I ate the entire last batch unadorned, these had enough of a traditional pancake taste that I almost wanted maple syrup for them. The crumb reflected the previous findings, lighter, more traditionally pancaked, and with fewer chunks of peanut drifting around.

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It certainly looks like further testing will be required, but that’s okay, I’m willing to sacrifice myself in pursuit of the purest peanut butter pancake philosophy. I’m currently considering several solutions, ranging from spending more time in the philosophy chamber during the mixing, to upping the buttermilk and peanut butter in tandem to preserve texture, but increase nuttiness. I confess that the pancakes were a bit of a side project today, as I was actually roasting off vegetables from the fridge and pantry in order to create room for the results of today’s shopping trip. A bit more attention to detail during the creation process and we will hopefully gain transcendence on this path together.

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In other news, this morning’s run was lovely. Delayed by a day, due to a work event, and reduced by a mile during my mental pep talk so that I could convince myself to get out the door, it was the fastest run I’ve managed for quite a while and very encouraging training-wise. Last week was a slog, I didn’t manage to increase my distance on my long run even though I felt like I was pushing a bit harder than was wise. My mid-week run was decent, but not as fast as it had felt to me. Two weeks of feeling like my efforts were having no effect on fitness and simply exhausting me were making me grumpy where the half-marathon plan was concerned. I even cut off distance on two runs because of muscles that felt like they were straining wrong. Monday’s long run, however, turned out to be an even 13.1 miles (the park signs that I was trying to base my distance on disagreed with my mapping app and I went further than planned) . Not only was it the full length of my race, but I managed an average pace of 10:45 which seems decent, considering that I still have three months left to train. Today, after I took the hardest steps of any run – those from my room to the employee parking lot – I managed to get in 5.5 miles at an 8:54 pace while still feeling controlled enough to push into a sprint for the last few meters. I also got a nice breathing workout on a 300 ft hill just before my turnaround point.

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The obligatory weekly portrait is me after the red face and salt sweat tracks on my cheekbones had worn off a bit and I got dressed up to come into town for the day.

Continuing to count the positives of this week, today marks 50 days until Mother Hen and Father Bear show up for a visit and Tuesday will mark the halfway point in the summer. I’m only about 700 words behind goal in CampNaNo at the moment, a deficit that I hope to make up as soon as I put this blog to bed. If I can build a small buffer over my two days off, that will be even nicer. Right now, there’s this odd conflict where I want to count down the days until I get to go home, but then panic because I’m also counting down the days until I’m supposed to have 50,000 words written. Fortunately, the NaNo pact is very similar to the blogging pact, in that it’s more about getting words on a page than it is about getting sensible or coherent words on a page.

Until next week, then, strange and stranger peoples who happen upon these words of the odd creature known commonly as the Ronibird. May the days of the coming week be most felicitous.

The Plague of the Volunteer Mentor

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Is it only stubborn cynics, or does everyone bristle when a new acquaintance decrees that they are going to change your behavior? I’ve encountered a few people who seem to approach new co-workers as reform projects and it never fails to rub me the wrong way.

Whether it be basic personality, general upbringing, or some explanation beyond the nature vs. nurture arguement, I tend to embrace new colleagues slowly. After interacting with them in a reserved manner for a while, I begin to feel comfortable showing other facets of my personality – such as my appreciation for the fine art of the sarcastic comment. Often they are taken aback by this new approach, but in the end, it all settles down into a pleasant working relationship.

Proof that my methods work - me being not shy and reserved with friends from last summer in Wyoming.

Proof that my methods work – me being not shy and reserved with friends from last summer in Wyoming.

I can even deal with those people who decide that I am ‘shy’ or ‘need to come out of my shell,’ although their constant prodding can slow down the entire process. But I have met one or two people during this past year who manage to take it to a whole new level. These are the ones who, a few minutes after introductions volunteer themselves to be mentors/confidants/guides despite any signs I can project that I’m happy with my current mentors/confidants/guides.

It can be a doubly frustrating process when I know they have some knowledge that would be of use to me, but they hide it behind a condescending attitude, constant barrage of speech, and demands that I begin to follow their plan for my life immediately. I dislike feeling forced into less than gracious behavior, but when a person completely ignores polite comments and continues to press for a response, sometimes all I can find to say that will make any impression is some variation of “you’re not the boss of me.”

Friends met and made in Vail over the past winter.

Friends met and made in Vail over the past winter.

So far, in about four hours of working together, and with nearly no input from me, this new colleague has told me I need to move to New York, given me a list of celebrity chefs I need to start following, told me to watch certain documentaries, decided to give me impromptu quizzes, tried to correct my vocabularly/pronunciation, attempted to assign me food research ‘homework’, and decreed that he was ‘going to get me excited about something‘ (this last in almost despairing condescension).

Now, two days into our acquaintance, I’m stubbornly determined to never be excited around him. In many cases, my defense against people I don’t really want to talk to is monosyllabic replies and abstraction – but the volunteer mentor seems to view this simply as another facet of me that needs reform. They also seem to view a quiet person as an available audience for lectures, rather than someone avoiding converstaion. I’m still trying to determine the antidote for the plague of the volunteer, since engaging with them encourages, not engaging with them challenges them, and avoiding them can only succeed for short periods of time.

Unfortunately, the last one I ran across never seemed to catch onto to the fact that I wasn’t all that appreciative of his efforts, so my hope that there is an actual cure is slim. Fortunately, all my other co-workers and supervisors are pleasant and it’s easy working with them. If this new self-assigned mentor can manage not to argue word definitions with me again, I can probably manage to put up with his insistent interference in my life plan. But he’ll have to avoid trying to give me English vocabulary lessons, ’cause that’s just plain insulting.

The Randomness of Mountains

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The mosquito bites aren’t as plentiful or irritated as I worried they might be, but walking on the flat, carpeted floor feels a bit more like balancing on a tightrope than I would prefer. Amusing, considering that I’ve significantly upped my running distances for the past two weeks without such obvious side effects. But the randomness fits in with the rest of the start of this Wyoming summer.

Let me back up. I received my job ‘offer’ letter back in March and it decreed that I needed to be in Wyoming by May 14th, ready to begin work on the day after. My new boss didn’t actually call me into work until the 20th. Since that first day, my schedule has been a patchwork of being told my hours the day before, getting called in the middle of the afternoon to come in for a brief two hours of work, and texted information day-by-day.

weeks of randomness can affect one's sanity

weeks of randomness can affect one’s sanity

Random is one word to describe it, but most of all, frustrating. Hours have been few enough since I got here that I don’t want to miss out on a chance to work, but I don’t want to spend my free days glued to the golf course waiting for possible calls. Yesterday, by the time I’d ascertained that I did, indeed, have the day off and evaluated my options for the afternoon, it was 3 p.m. I was running low on provisions and decided to go ahead and make a grocery run rather than trying for a long bike ride. I outfitted myself for easy walking, thinking that I might go ahead and stroll around downtown and maybe stop in a cafe for a while and write.

I drove across Jackson to the everyday half of town (as opposed to the tourist half) and bought a few random supplies – super glue for the mug I’d managed to toss off of the nightstand, an underliner to make my in-room pantry more functional – before re-evaluating my options. I’m trying to stay aware of how much I’m using my car and not waste money using it to travel simply because I have it with me, so I elected not to drive back across town to the downtown area. I would only need to drive right back to where I was for my grocery shopping and thanks to being here without a car last summer, I knew I was perfectly capable of getting across town without driving.

cross-country travel can leave the feet dusty

cross-country travel can leave the feet dusty

But I didn’t really feel like waiting around for the bus, especially after spending the entire morning waiting around for a response from work. I could have walked to the downtown area, but I did that so many times last summer that it sounded like a dull option. So I elected to walk over to the town trail system and explore. I only discovered the entrance to the hillside trail area late last summer, so it was ground that I had only covered, at most, once before.

The first brief section of hiking led to a connection with the Snow King Trail that I had walked last year, so I turned off a relatively horizontal trail for the more familiar and much more vertical one. A lot of panting, red-facedness, and friendly dogs later and I made it to the summit, where you can stand and see the entire town laid out before you, followed by the Elk Flats and behind them and their lakes, the Tetons.

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Still retracing my steps from last summer, I hiked along the top of the mountain ridge back across town. One side of the mountain drops down to town, the other opens up to acres of open ground. The trail was mostly clear, with only a few really slushy or snow covered sections. After the hard work of the climb the cool breezes at the top were quite pleasant, except for the clouds of mosquitoes who seemed pleased with all the portable snack bars that were traveling through.

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At the far end of the ridge, the path turned back into a series of switchbacks leading down to the same area of town that I had started from. Narrower and dustier than the path I’d walked up, but no less steep, they took a fair amount energy to navigate. By the time I’d regained pavement, my legs were feeling shaky and my phone clock told me that my possible stroll downtown had turned into a three hour hike over and across a dusty mountain.

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It seemed silly to leave the grocery shopping undone, since it had been my original purpose, so I didn’t. While I already knew that shopping while hungry can cause you to buy an excess of food, I now know that shopping while thirsty and dirt-coated leads me to buy a lot of fruit. Today, I’ll have to see if my sore muscles will allow me to balance long enough to put it all away.

Coping with Communal Living

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Awkward. It really is. One moment, you’re living in your family home and the only people to argue dish duty with are parents and siblings. The next, you’re sharing employee housing with a group of strangers who may or may not have any interests, demographics, or habits similar to your own. I’m not certain if I’ve met all of my housing companions yet, and even more sure that I wouldn’t pass a cursory quiz reviewing the introductions I’ve received so far.

Here at my current assignment, it’s complicated by the fact that nearly everyone I’ve met seems to be older than me. Being the obvious youngest in a group tends to shift power away from me – something I never approve of, but can deal with. This coupled with the fact that we will be working together, in a relatively isolated location, for the next twenty weeks adds a level of stress to my living situation that I never encountered during my other brief stints away from the homestead. Perhaps the low stress of those occasions is due to living with sisters?

But my time in Wyoming last year, followed by the experiences in apartment living in Colorado had me somewhat prepared and one of the perks of driving out in my own car was the relaxed weight and space limits. In Colorado, luggage restrictions forced me to buy more than one item that I already possessed in one form or another. Here, I seem to have lugged along everything that I need for my immediate survival and happiness.

With the support of my ever expanding possessions, I’ve begun testing living systems that might make my life easier for the next few momths. Some systems seem to have already been agreed upon before I arrived. For one thing, there’s no arguing about clutter in the bathroom because the room in question is stark, barren, and empty. Well, there are the usual sink, toilet, shower, and tub fixtures, but no towels on the towel rack, no soap on the counter, and no cupboards or shelves in which to leave items. This can make using the bathroom a more complicated ritual, but I see the benefits of not having six girls fighting for room for their hair dryers.

Another system that I appreciate is the labeling of refrigerator shelves, designating this portion of the fridge for one person and that portion for another. Although we had a casual understanding of this in the Colorado apartment, I’m still fairly certain that some of my food ‘vanished’ after roommates had guests over. I’ve never been a fan of aggressive labeling (TOUCH AND DIE), at least in part because it always makes me want to touch and see what happens. A few passive/aggressive notes in Vail have turned me even further off of notes as a form of communication with strangers. So the refrigerator system is a nice, basic way to segregate cold food without crazily punctuated turf wars breaking out.

I have supplemented these methods of keeping the peace by bringing along my own dishes, dish towels, and finding places to store them in my room. If I keep my dirty plates in my room, I don’t feel guilty about cluttering up the main area and it’s easy for me to remember that I need to clean them up still. And since the dishes are mine and mine alone, I don’t worry that I’m leaving the rest of the people living here without a clean fork or cup.

The final step I’ve managed to take toward keeping spaces individual is setting my dry goods pantry up inside my room. I can evaluate what food I have on hand without blocking everyone else’s access to the kitchen and when I want a cup of tea at midnight, I don’t have to rattle around and disturb the peace.

So far, the ability to keep spaces and items individual instead of communal has lowered the possible points of friction rather drastically. I’m sure that, as time passes, my coping methods will evolve – but for now, I have managed to create enough private spaces that I don’t panic over having to deal with public spaces and that’s all I need for now.

The Start of Summer the Second

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I have arrived in Wyoming. The drive itself felt new, because I only drove bits of it, once, a year ago. But there was a pleasant familiarity when I finally made it to Jackson – along with relief that my lack of a navigator did not seem to significantly or negatively impact my travel time.

My quarters at the golf course are another pleasant surprise. I had thought, based on the descriptions given me over the phone, that I would be sharing a bedroom with a co-worker. Last summer’s four-girl room wasn’t horrible and my roommates and I ended up getting along quite nicely, but sharing space with complete strangers is significantly different from sharing space with friends and sisters. This far away from familiar faces I do like having a place I can hole up in to find complete privacy. My only quibbles with the room are the lack of a doorknob and the false drawer fronts on the desk. Whoever designed it must like playing mind games, eh?

Currently, my heffalump army guards the desk and the remainder of my things are a visual definition of the word ‘strewn.’ Reminder to self: beginning to read a novel never increases cleaning productivity. And despite the convenience of the fridge and freezer (I can reach them while still standing inside my room) I am beginning to feel a strong lack of food. Hopefully, HR check-ins, manager check-ins, housing check-ins, orientation and various other forms in triplicate won’t consume all of my time today and I can provision myself with something more than spices and a box of cornstarch.

Apart from the gnawing hunger pains, it’s definitely more fun here at this point than it was last year – things feel familiar, I know a few faces, and the beginning of the second year in this program feels like the second half of a dinner party or the last 45 minutes of an hour-and-a-half’s bike riding. It’s simply a bit easier to relax into the realization that the thing you are trying to accomplish is starting to be more rear-view mirror and less never-ending distance. Mentally, I can reassure myself that it’s downhill from here on out.

So here I am in Wyoming for the next 137 days, thinking of hiking and biking and working the summer away. Oh, and there’s the half-marathon I’ve promised to try to run at the end of it and the car that means exploring town and nearby acquaintances of friends can go on my list.

Yup. Mountains. Forests. Lakes. Summer. I think I’ll be able to manage *some* fun.

Preparations

leaving the house

I’ve survived my first year post graduation. It’s actually more like a year and a half by now, but the first five months after I stopped paying money out to the university didn’t really change much in my routine. I tried out a job in Sun Valley and was horrified by the attitudes and atmosphere and then I applied for an internship type job where I could get paid and gradually transition out of homework task mode. With a year of that behind me and two re-locations to Wyoming and Colorado, I’m soaking in the goodness of family and friends before I have to strike back out for Wyoming.

Due to transportation complications, I’ll need my own vehicle while in Wyoming and so have spent some of my precious at home time visiting the DMV and buying my first ever set of license plates. It feels so nice to know that the government is continuing to monitor me. The seven-hour drive to Jackson will be the longest car trip I’ve ever taken alone and it’s making me and my mother both a bit apprehensive. My packing plans are definitely more relaxing though, knowing that I won’t be restricted to two suitcases or 100 pounds of luggage. Both issues complicated my return trips this past year, because I strongly exhibit the human inclination toward accumulation of things.

Sadly, my siblings have all found steady local employment, so I have not convinced a single one of them to abandon the home state and come explore the eating habits of bears in Wyoming. The disadvantages of being taught at home showing again – I’m sure if I had a harder time getting along with my siblings I would miss them less. Although it’s not simply individuals I miss, it’s logical thoughts and rational discussions. And so I’m back on the blog before I leave and considering how to commit to blogging while I’m away. Because when I’m suddenly immersed in a pool of disparate lifestyles and beliefs I forget that writing out my thoughts on the subject can help me properly evaluate what I’m being exposed to and (hopefully) reduce stress-levels associated with listening to blanket judgements and logical fallacies all day long.

Maybe this way, I’ll manage to muddle through my second-year P.G. and the continuation of my awkward journey to self-sustenance.