Bubble in the desert

A blog I started whilst on a GE "Bubble" assignment in Nevada. I'm back in Cambridge (UK) now but still miss the desert and my friends out there.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Sking at Kirkwood

A new guy in town, Etienne, kindly responded to my car pool message and gave me a lift to Kirkwood. Nice to go up there with a few friendly faces. They we'ren't messing around either and made a bee line to the Cornice (chair 6). When we disembarked they headed left. It didn't take more than a millisecond and a glance at the black 'expert's only' sign to persuade me to part ways! Even the easier way down from 6 is pretty tough. I selected an ungroomed, steep mogul field for my first proper try out of the new skis. I survived and got right back on chair 6 at the bottom but my skiing was all over the place.

I had aquired some 'demo skis' for the weekend called Head Monster M70s. Whilst I could see they were excellent skis and they really bit in to the snow on some curves, I think they were a bit beyond my level of competence and I wasn't all that happy with them. The ski shop said that the M70 is narrow at the boot (70mm!) which makes it turn fast on groomed slopes but potentially not great on ungroomed stuff. They recommend that next time I try an M77, more of an "all mountain" ski.

Snow and conditions were a little funny. There was fresh snow down and deep powder in places, sometimes kinda frosted on top. Like trying to ski in porridge at times. It was pretty overcast all day, leading me to unforeseen bumps and an occasional spill which I didn't see coming on a silly gully coming off chair 5. As I landed on my back I immediately felt pain in my ribs - quite odd. I fall over a lot and it rarely hurts. Well, nothing seems broken.

Saw a couple of cars with flat tyres. Apparently the snow chains sometimes cause that. I'd better be prepared to change a wheel the next time I go.

Saturday, January 28, 2006


Nick has 2 great dogs golden retrievers and his wife, a vet, was looking after a puppy too. The retrievers look similar at a glance but one is 12 and one just 2. The older one is the fittest looking golden retriever I've ever seen. Doesn't seem to have any stiffness in it's legs at all.

The 6 week old puppy is a collie/retriever cross and was pretty couragous (stupid) in playing tug of war with the 2 year old and nipping everyone in sight. Things came to a head when the pup nipped the 2 year old's tail and hung on as she spun around ("she got air"!). Things had clearly progressed to the next level of puppy induced irritation at this point and important lessons in pecking order followed!

All highly entertaining!

Snow Shoeing Heavenly

Went snow shoeing with Nick and his dogs after work up at Heavenly Ski Resort. It's a kind of dubious endeavour since the guys are out in huge "cats" grooming the slopes with big beam lights on. We hiked up the edge of the ski slopes and got as far as the top of Olympic. The guys working the slopes saw us a few times but seemed ok with us being there - perhaps a bit of entertainment for them! It's foresty commission land so I think we're fine to walk on it.

We hiked from 'Stagecoach' (bottom left) to the top of the Olympic run (top right).

This was about 2,000ft straight up and as you can see in the following photo, it felt like it too! You can see the lights of Carson Valley in the background.

At the top it would've been nice to have some skis to strap on. Instead we tried sitting down, lifting the snow shoes (they are big) and sliding down on our backsides, prodding ourselves along with the poles. This was sadly only effective on the steeper stuff but walking down was quite nice anyway.

The English Language

Having a few more problems with the English Language here. I have just about stopped sniggering when someone says 'pants' to mean trousers, but pants will always be underwear to me.

I found out that braces are called suspenders here. No need to explain that suspenders are for holding up stockings, so an interesting mental picture there.

But today's big news concerns the 'jumper'. I just thought it was the wrong word for sweater here but in fact it is far worse than i imagined. Here is a US verion of a 'jumper'.

Oh dear. I must stop making that mistake!

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Yoga - calories burned?

A quick surf of the web tells me that I've burned between 180 and 350 calories from 60 minutes yoga with sonja today.

Certainly felt better after a stretch and burn, though my back feels a bit fragile, perhaps from all the running.

Not sure a huge calorie burner today, perhaps I'd better go swim...

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Running improves

My lunchtime run was quite a bit quicker today so perhaps my fitness is edging it's way back - though the big belly is still evident.

My times for the 3.53 mile route (middle mile is muddy) over the last week have been:

18 Jan 33:01 Pace 9.22/mile (8:59; 10:10; 9:12) 470 calories
20 Jan 31:10 Pace 8.56/mile (9:01; 9:53; 8:09) 485 calories
23 Jan 29:46 Pace 8.30/mile (8:28; 9:08; 8:06) 495 calories

So, it seems like a good improvement but the middle mile is a bit of a wildcard because the weather dictates the condition of the snow/mud.

Can anyone explain why moving the same mass the same distance, albeit at different speeds, uses more energy? I assume it is more to do with chemistry than physics!

Monday, January 23, 2006

Awesome skiing at Kirkwood

Saturday was what the locals call "a bluebird day" which means blue sky and nice conditions. The snow base was very deep and lots of pretty fresh snow on the top led to some excellent skiing conditions. I was surprised at home much easier it was to ski in such crunchy, squeeky snow. Fantastic!

I had a great time, particularly in some of the runs I was familiar with from chair 11. Having skied past the gully up there a few times I decided to head down that too. It's pretty tricky to ski the gully up there but great fun. There are all kinds of obstacles down there from trees to chair lift poles to hard ice. As you swoop down into the gully the natural thing to do is to scrub some speed off by swooping up the other side. Sadly this often ends in tears as there soon comes a point when you have reached a great height on one side and the only way on is down! To add to the entertainment there is thick crusty ice at these great heights too, so you just slip off it! I think I've fallen over every time I've tried this so far but I still love it. The swooping gully really challenges your balance and the turns you need to make often seem to be in the wrong direction but when you get it right it's sweet!

As we set out today we were warned that snow chains would be required so I was pleased I'd had a practice fitting in the garage yesterday. However, although the road was not great, we didnt have to put the chains on in the end.

Weather was a bit less fun today with winds keeping many of the lifts closed and big crowds waiting for the lifts on the few that were open. Scott and I mainly skied from lift 11, which was excellent. We explored a couple of the other black runs to the right, which were in the wind a bit and quite steep, but lots of fun.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Good movies!

Managed to watch a couple of decent films this weekend. The Island, which is a sci fi thing about cloning; and Motorcycle Diaries which is about a trip around South America that Che Guevara made in his 20's with a friend. Really good and is supposedly an insight into the making of the man but I don't know enough about him to really buy that completely.

Reno Airport Parking Tip!

Parking at Reno Airport is pretty expensive at $8 a day (outdoor).

Parking at Thrifty nearby is $7 a day and is very convenient. There's a neat shuttlebus nearby and they drop you and your luggage nearer the airport door than if you parked yourself. Mind you, $7 a day is still not everso cheap.

So, on my recent trip home I heeded the advice of some of the guys at work and left my car at a Casino. They advised parking it in a quiet spot in one of the huge car parks but I'd heard of someone having a car broken into this way so I investigated Valet Parking options, thinking the valet parking guys probably know the best place to stick a car for a longer stay.

So, planning to park from December 21st to January 16th would be about 26 days. At Reno airport parking rates this would be $208. Thrifty would have been $182 + $4 (shuttle driver tip, $2 each way), so $186.

Parking at the Peppermill Casino cost me:
$39.90 One night hotel room booked on Expedia.com
$ 3.60 Energy surcharge for the room (what a con!)
$10.00 Tip for Valet parking lads
$4.00 Tip for Bellboy (well it was Christmas)
$1.00 Fruit Machine Spends
$1.00 Black Jack spends (including 3 free Cokes)
$1.00 Tip for barman
$3.00 Tip for shuttle driver (outbound)
$3.00 Tip for shuttle driver (inbound)
$5.00 Tip for valet lads on collection

$71.50! Including a room for the night; gambling; drinks and tips!

So, the Peppermill is highly recommended for Airport Parking. In fact, the Casino seems to encourage it with airport shuttle buses every 30 minutes from 4.30am until 11.30pm. The rules stipulate that you can only leave a car there for 14 days really but these casinos have huge carparks and the Valet guys, motivated solely by tips, were not at all bothered about me leaving the car for nearly a month. I reckon giving them a decent tip is the way to make this dodge work! Chatting to the valets on the way back I got the impression that they wouldn't care if you didnt stay at the casino at all but just valet parked your car and got on the shuttle. But this would be quite quite cheeky I would say.

I'm not a huge fan of smokey casinos. In fact, I was a bit more successful than I hoped at Blackjack with my $1 lasting me far longer than my tolerance for the guy next to me at the bar's smoking habit.

I turned up at the casino with my pockets full of small change ready to play the slots. After a scout around I concluded that all of the machines only accepted notes. So I had to find other ways to lose my pocket full of coins. It's not much like Southend around here!

Friday, January 20, 2006


My weight is getting out of hand so drastic measures are in order. I seem to weigh 193lbs and measure 37.5 inches around my waist, which is quite a lot over my usual 180lbs!

So, last week I ran every lunchtime (3.5 miles, buring ~ 500 calories) and tried to eat less junk. Scott loaned me his south beach diet book, which seems quite sensible in parts though I dont like that it says to avoid:
- bread
- potatoes
- ketchup
- beer
- Grape nuts

But other than that it seems sensible. Actually I have cooked proper food every day since I've got back too, so that's an improvement as well.

I would like to blame the US for my weight gain but really I think the bulk of it came from my trip to Brazil and the excellent food there (especially for breakfast!).

I somehow think losing 13lbs is not going to be a walk in the park. Oh well, pass the lentils!

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

BACK in Nevada

OK, I'm back in Nevada. Picked my car up from the Peppermill Casino on Monday night and drove home, into the snow.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006


Kathryn picked out an old National Trust cottage for a quick break at christmas.


Here's the view from the front door across the field we had to walk across to get to it! Such views always make me think of Tolkien's Shire.


We walked up to the blue lake on Cadar Idris. I got offended that someone had left a bright green frizzbie in the lake so I waded in to get it out.
cadar idris

It was so cold it burned!

I recovered eventually!

We even saw a little wildlife - a toad?