Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Another Week!

The trek had left a sense of achievement in me that lasted for a long time after the walk. It felt good. I told our funny story to friends at office and everyone had a good laugh while they also appreciated our courage and determination. 

Rest of the week, Sundar and I a few talks. We attended the Archeology group meet that Judy and her husband Bob are part of. Well, it was a gathering of a few old people with some talk and good food. We also visited another talk by a woman who had bicycled in Nepal. It was interesting. 

Sundar had his driving classes and I would drop him off there. I sat next to him during his skills training display. It was funny, as for all other kids, it was their parents sitting next to them. 

When ever I got chance, I would drive to Sai Mart to meet Nagendra. I stayed there, chatting with him, until he closed the shop. In a month, I would be heading back to India. I have made good friends here and I would miss a lot of things here but I was also missing India and I longed to return. 

One weekend, Seb, Sundar and I went to Denver to watch Hindi movie called Paheli. It was okay. We had a good buffet dinner at Woodlands restaurant. 

I also finished my first novel - Miasma. Its an amazing feeling because, I wrote this entirely in the US. 

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Pike Peak Trek

Until this day, I had not trekked a lot though I always wanted to. Whenever I saw the Pikes peak stand tall amongst the rocky mountains, I wanted to hike up the mountain. When I mentioned this desire of mine to an Indian colleague Shivanand, he immediately made plans. Sundar and Seb decided to join. We packed some fruits and water for the trek. 

At office, we received a lot of advice to pack light and take plenty of water. On the 18th Of June, at around 5:45 AM, Jonah dropped us off at Manitou springs, where the Barr trail that was constructed between the year 1914-18 begins.

Pikes peak was called the Sun Mountain by the Ute tribe. It is the second most visited peak in the world, after Mt Fuji in Japan. It is 14,110 Ft above sea level and is 31st highest peak out of the 54 fourteeners in Colorado. Barr trail is 13 miles long. Midway on this trail is the Barr camp where you can book a bed in advance if you plan to stay there overnight. 

We walked very slowly as compared to the other hikers. We took plenty of breaks.  Shiv was our guardian who ensured that we did not sit close to the edge of the trail and that we ate the trail mix he had brought. He had also printed out some jokes and he read them out while we took breaks. That was really funny. 

At around 10:50 AM, we reached Barr camp. We filled some water here and had a quick lunch. We continued the trek at around 11:25 AM. The next part of the trek was a bit tiring for me. We walked past the tall pine trees and made our way up. 

We walked really slowly and there we met some slow trekkers who too overtook us eventually. Some though, were running up the mountain and already returning back. 

At around 3 PM we were at the signboard that informed us that the peak was just 3 miles away. We were very happy as now the summit seemed achievable. As we moved up the tree line, I felt better. Fresh air made my climb easier. However, the others seemed to feel tired. We somehow made our way to the signboard that read - 2 miles to go.  

At around 5 PM we decided to continue. It was hear that we learnt about Seb’s altitude sickness. He could not breath. The next half mile, we walked really slowly. Seb took a lot of time. To add to the dilemma, we ran out of water. It was impossible  to climb without water. Though walking above tree line is easy with fresh breeze, the sun is harsh on you. Luckily we found a stream of melting snow and we filled water. We used iodine tablets to purify the water. 

We just had 1.5 miles to go, but the trail was getting steeper and tougher. Seb could not walk even a step. He kept breathing through his mouth. To prevent him from falling off the cliff, we followed him very closely. The trial was icy at the top and that too slowed us down. The last stretch was so icy that we had to climb around it. We slowly did that and helped Seb out. 

We just had one mile to go and Seb’s condition became worse. He simply could not walk further. We kept encouraging him but hoped that he would be fine and we did not have to call 911. He finally stood up and we continued our journey. It was already 7:15 PM.

At the next stop, Sundar felt sick and vomited. He had eaten a lot of trail mix that Shivu had carried. It was funny to see Seb encourage Sundar now and we had a good laugh about it. Determined, we all made the climb and reached the summit at 7:45 PM. 

Despite our pathetic timing, we had finally made it. We had taken 14 hours to climb the peak and 5 hours just for the last 3 miles. 

Our miseries had not ended there though. There was more to come. We reached the summit house and freshen up. When we enquired at the reception we learnt that the last train had left at 7:20 PM. The van (Taxi) had left too. All visitors had also left. We could not ask anyone to drive up as the gates below close at 7:30 PM. 

When we enquired at the summit house, the girl at the counter told us that the only option we had was to wait for the truck that collects trash. But meanwhile Shiv spoke to a ranger and he called the gate at midway and asked them to stop the van. 

We were served free donuts at the summit house. Everybody had left and the four of us sat below the pikes peak signboard freezing to death. For a while we wondered what would happen to us if nobody arrived. It was scary. The wind blew ferociously and suddenly it was freezing at the summit. 

Thankfully the van arrived before the trash truck did. The driver was asked to returned from the gate at midway. He was our saviour. We reached the base at around 9 PM. Jonah picked us up at Manitou Springs. 

We drove to Shiv’s house where his wife had prepared amazing south Indian meals. It was truly a treat after that tiring day. 

This will remain as one of the most memorable trek experience of my life with so many near death experiences. But most of all, it was my first trek and that too a fourteener!

Friday, June 17, 2005

An Eventful Week!

I had a funny experience. One of our colleagues, Judy Kilgore had mentioned to me about this archeology group that she and her husband are part of. They meet some Tuesday, she said at a hall in the police department. I asked Sundar to join me and we drove to the police department on Tuesday. 

When we entered the hall, a serious conversation was in progress. Judy was no where in sight and it took me a while to release that they were speaking about literature and books. Apparently the archeology group meets on a different Tuesday of the month. However, it was fun attending the writer's group meet as well. Three authors shared their experience of publishing their work. 

Having liked that experience, I referred to the Colorado college magazine called Independence to check for more such events and on Wednesday, Sundar and I went to another meet-up. This time it was a book reading- "I dream of microwave" written by Imad Rehman. The author read a few pages from the book. 

In the evenings, as always, I stopped by at Sai Mart to meet Nagendra. Nagendra wants me to settle down in the US. He has big plans for me. He would want me to convert my J1 visa to H1. He even has a girl in mind for me to marry - Daughter of a restaurant owner. It is always funny and interesting to listen to Nagendra. He invited me home one evening and promised to drive us to Cripple Creek- a town filled with casinos. 

Today, one of my colleagues, Jennifer had her last day at office. My boss Alan sent out an email requesting people to join for a dinner with her. Since it was to go dutch, not many turned up. It was Alan, Jen, Peggy, Shawna, her friend and me. We had good time discussing various topics such as office, India, China etc. Alan talked about the pub hopping competition they used to have in college and how they would go from one pub to another trying a new drink in every place. Alan drove me back home. Alan is a great manager and a talented and good human being. He truly is a role model to me as a manager. 

After return, I did some shopping for tomorrow - I am hiking Pikes Peak!!!

Monday, June 13, 2005

Taos & The Great Sand Dunes

On the 12th of June, Sundar, Seb and I drove south, towards Taos, New Mexico. It was great to be on the road again. Driving has become a new craze and I enjoy it immensely. The drive was excellent, specially as we entered the state of New Mexico. 

The small town of Taos is very impressive. It has houses and buildings of similar style, with an earthen feel to it, perhaps inspired by the native American architecture. I understand that all the buildings in the town had to be built in similar style. We took a walk around the town centre and walked into little book and art stores. It was very peaceful there.

We next drove to an ashram called Neem Karoli Baba Ashram. A small room with a idol of hanuman in the centre. Some foreigners were chanting Hanuman chalis continuously. We sat there for a while. 

We next drove back to Colorado through a different route to get to the Great Sand Dunes. By the time we reached there, it was 3:30 PM. This place really took me by surprise. Surrounded by greenery and mountains, stood a heap of sand like a mini desert. It was very impressive.

We began our climb up the dunes. But it got terribly windy. We were able to climb only three fourth of the distance and then it became unbearable. The wind blew the sand violently at us. We decided to head back.

Just on the other side of the dunes, within a half mile walk is Zapata falls. It is a very impressive falls, falling right inside a cave like formation.

At around 7PM, we decided to head back. I was extremely tired and wanted to get back home at the earliest so, I drove really fast and reached home by 9 PM. It was a great day.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Glad To Be Back

I was so glad to be back in Springs. It was like I had missed home. The day after we returned, Sundar and I caught up on the updates. He was at Colorado Springs all that time while we were off for a month.  As always, he had funny incidents to narrate about office and other things that had happened while we were away. 

Sundar and I went to Sai Mart and I had a good time chatting with Nagendra. We spoke for more than an hour. Sundar and I then went for a walk in Cotton wood creek park. 

The week that followed was eventful too. I had to catchup on work as well, after getting back to Springs. Shivanand (A colleague) and I planned a hike to Pikes peak on June 18th. I am super excited about it. Everyone else at office is surprised by the amount of traveling we are doing. 

On one of the days (June 6th), Sundar and I went on a long walk. We walked to a nearby Walgreens (3/4 mile) as I wanted to get some pictures printed. I just wanted to try a few and see how they come out before having the others printed. The print came out well so we walked back home to collect the other pictures (3/4 mile). The girl attending us told us that it might take a while when all the pictures get printed so, we decided to take another long walk. We walked to a Burger king which is about 2 miles from the Walgreens store. Had dinner there and then walked back home (Another 1.25 miles). It was a long walk of around 5 miles but was thoroughly enjoyed. I drove back to the Walgreens to collect the prints. I am quiet impressed with some of my photographs.

During my visits to our manufacturing plant, I met Subbiah who is getting married soon. I teased him about it and watched him blush at the mention of marriage. 

At office, my colleagues Judy and Bob suggested some of the places that I could visit while driving to Taos. I have been planning a drive to Taos and the great Sand Dunes.

At office, I have made a new friend. Jenn is a professor at a college in Boulder and during her summer break has joined our office as receptionist. She has studied Indian mythology and knows quiet a lot about our culture. We have great conversation about literature and Indian culture. I am certain that we would stay in touch due to the common interests that we share. 

Peggy and I also had lot to catch up with. She mentioned about her sick brother whom she was worried about. She also mentioned about the things that were worrying her at work. 

On Saturday, the 11th of June, we all decided to go to the Airforce academy. I woke everyone up early and asked them to get ready. It is such a pain to do that always. By the time we were ready to leave, Jonah wanted to watch a scene from the film Mask of Zorro, that was playing on television. He had already watched the movie several times but still wanted to watch this particular scene for like the nth time. I was pissed off and so took off alone. I drove to Sai Mart and then Taste of India and then returned after half an hour. Shocked by my behaviour, the others soon got ready and we drove to the airforce academy. I was shocked by my behaviour too. It was probably somewhere around this time that I began to openly expressing my disapproval, something I rarely did before. 

Unfortunately, the academy was closed at 1:30 PM. So, we decided to drive to Castle Rock where a factory outlet sells interesting goods. 

On our way to Castle Rock, we passed by exit 187. Months ago, Seb and my first trip to Denver had ended here when we had realised that we had not brought my driver’s licence. 

We then drove to Arora near Denver to have dinner at the woodlands restaurant. 

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Series Of Unfortunate Events

Our time to return back to Colorado Springs was approaching. I was all excited about the return. I had begun to like springs as much as I loved Mangalore or Bangalore. I could not wait to get back home. But a series of unfortunate events over the weekend was waiting for us.

Lost In Downtown (June-2nd-2005 …Thursday)

Bj Sushanth, Jonah, Seb and I decided to dine together that evening; at an Indian restaurant in downtown. After parking our car at a main junction (at Indianapolis Downtown square), we walked around the place. 

We later searched for the Indian Restaurant and had a good dinner. By the time we were done and reached back to the junction, it was 20 minutes past 10 PM. We went around the Junction but did not find our car. The board next to the parking lot said that we could park cars only till 10:00pm. So one thing was clear - Our car has been towed away. The gorgeous blue Sonata was towed away!


Now, none of us had had this experience before, so we all started discussing how to go about it. We called 911 and tried to find out how to handle this. The lady at the other end told us where we needed to go. Since the audio was not clear, we had to hang up the phone without properly understanding her. Now, the next thing was to search for the place. We walked into a hotel near by and asked for the directions to this place. After getting few hints from them, we started walking towards the office, where we expected to find our car. This place was only about 2 to 3 blocks away, so we reached the place very quickly. There were some more folks like us; some worried, some pretty cool, as though it wasn’t something that bothered anymore. Jonah had to go in and talk to some guy as the car was rented on his name and we had to pay a fine of $65.

Well now the question was – “where is our car?”

Answer – “8 blocks from here sir, we keep all the cars there.”

So we walk again for about a mile or so, at almost around midnight to the suburbs of the city. If we hadn’t been a group of 5, one could not even think of walking on those roads all alone at that odd hour. The streets were dangerously deserted. Shabby houses hinted towards a poorer suburb. But anyways, while in a group, such experiences are always a fun. We had our share of jokes and then reached the place. Plenty of cars still waited there for their owners. After this tiring experience, we returned back to our hotel and retired for the day.

Bunty Aur Bubli (June-3rd -2005 -Friday)

We had nice plans for the evening; to watch a Hindi film “Bunty Aur Bubli” at one of the IMAX Theatres in the city museum. Jonah, Seb and I walked out of office a little early and after freshening up, drove to the theatre. Obviously we were very happy trying our driving turns on the beautiful blue Sonata car.

Seb was driving, I sat next to him. Jonah was in the back seat. So as usual, we were talking loud, joking and having fun. When we were near the parking lot, there was a good looking girl who smiled at Seb and neatly offered him the parking lot ticket. As always we loved pulling Seb’s leg. (He is the silent type). We teased him about it.

Seb was so excited about all the fun talks that he quickly hit on gas to accelerate. We had to take a slight turn and enter into the parking lot and a pillar stood in front of us. Seb drove straight and hit the pillar with a bang. The side mirror crushed and turned to face me. We were all laughing till that moment and suddenly all of us turned shockingly silent. Seb did not stop but took off and the entire side of the car dragged itself past the pillar. Obviously our mood was out. We did not know how to handle this situation. Of course the company insurance would pay for it, but still this was a situation which we did not know how to handle at that moment.

Surprisingly the movie “B Aur B” managed to take away the tension for at least a few hours. Once we were out of the world of Bunty and Bubli, the bad shaped Sonata, brought us back to the reality.

The After Effects (June-4th -2005-Sunday)

So after all these bad events, we are ready to say good bye to Indiana and board our flight to Colorado Springs. Our flight timing was at 2:00 PM. After calling Hertz, we found out that the insurance from the company would cover the expenses and we only had to fill up a form. This reduced our tension a little and we decided to have some good Mexican food for lunch. Well now this place was really late in service as they had just opened a couple of minutes before. So after eating the food in a hurry we rushed to the airport. We went directly to return the car and filled out the required forms. After which we waited for a bus that would take us to the terminal. By the time we were near the counter it was 1:30 PM. The lady at the counter said that we could not board the flight as we had to be at least 45 minutes before the take off. She could not send our checked in baggages now to the flight. She then enquired about the next flight and put us on it. And that was at 7:30 PM. That is, waiting for 6 long hours in airport.

After that long wait, it was not a smooth journey again, due to lot of turbulence. A funny apprentice flight attendant, who was scared of any beep in the plane, kept unknowingly entertaining us. It was good to be flying again, above the clouds. 

So finally we reached  Denver. From here, we rented a ford escape to get back to Colorado Springs. We were finally back home! It felt so good.