Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Amazing April ..........

Hello all! The month of April is only half over but I have been enjoying myself so much I wanted to share with you all what I have been up to. The weather has finally turned and is mostly warm and sunny now, instead of freezing and sunny (most days are sunny here - except today as I write this it is has been overcast and raining all day!). Someone once told me as I was heading over here that people hibernate during winter and I would not see many people around until it was warmer. I actually didn't think she would be as right as she was - I have seen neighbours and kids in my street that I did not see for the first two months!! Its like they just appeared one day and moved in!! Very strange :-)

Due to the warm weather, hiking has started happening more and more. I headed off on April Fool's Day with Kristi, a recently retired teacher and ex-exchangee, and a couple of her friends to hike to the Mica Mines on the edge of Colorado Monument. It is a fairly easy hike - 2.6 miles round trip and fairly flat, although the ground is mostly uneven with rocks and stones and such. You walk through a canyon and the rock formations above you and around you are fascinating to look at as you go through. I enjoyed the hike enormously! Unfortunately I left my camera at home, but hopefully I will return and take photos for you all to see next time! :-)

Drive of the Season

The following Friday I finished school at 4pm and headed east out of GJ towards Denver. The Aussie exchangees had a Denver Nuggets basketball game on Saturday night to attend thanks to CITEL group and I was hoping to spend the Saturday exploring Denver city and surrounds as I had not had the opportunity as yet. So I headed off Friday after school and got a good start on the trip. I hit some heavy wind about 45 minutes out but that cleared up further along and I made good time to Vail, where I pulled off the Interstate for a dinner break. Now, I pulled off at 7pm - it was cold but clear skies. A half hour later when I emerged from dinner - overcast and constant, steady rain like we get all the time in Gippsland! What!! The weather turns very fast that high up! However, it was just rain and I was just over an hour and a half from my destination - I decided to load up and continue. Note to self - next time, CHECK COTRIP.ORG ANYWAY!!! :-)

The reason for my "loud" typing above follows........ as I drove back onto the I-70 and started heading east, the large raindrops began to look icy as they hit my windshield. As I passed the last exit to Vail, the icy raindrops began to be accompanied on their descent by white flakes. And another 10 minutes along the road, the rain stopped completely and was replaced by large white snow flakes that were sticking to everything! 15-20 minutes after I had gotten into my car, I was in the middle of a snowstorm on the I-70 with no way of exiting for another 30 kms. Alright, I thought, I can handle this. And I could - for the next 10 minutes. After that, my nerves started to become frayed as the snow began piling up on my windscreen and my back window was covered and I could not see the road for the flurries of snow or the side of the road either!! I managed to catch up to a large truck and sat about 3m behind it going about 30-40 km/h. I locked my eyes onto the taillights and did not look up basically! I lost that truck as it sped u pat one point and I was on my own - that was interesting, slipping and sliding in the snow. I think I almost got the median rail in the middle of the road too at one stage! Got very close anyway I think :-/ I caught up to three cars travelling in a line though and again sat behind them and just followed them wherever they went on the 'road' - very glad they were able to find the road myself! Through this I managed to click my iPad on, drop a pin on the next town and begin the countdown until I could turn off......20 km......15 km........10 km.......8 km.......6 km.......5 km........4 km.......3 km........1km..........Yes!!! Hello Frisco :-) I turned off into the lovely town of Frisco with about a 45 square centimetre cleared space on my windscreen (in front of me thankfully) and a pile of snow on the side where the wipers had cleared it to sitting 15 cm high. Hotel Frisco was kind enough to have a room for me and I crashed out on adrenaline overload at 8:30pm. Eeeck! An adventure I do not want to repeat any time soon - and this was a fairly tame one to what it could have been!!!

So due to my adrenaline crash after finding a room to allow me to stay off the I-70 and not stay in my car that night, I did not get photos of my snow covered car. Sorry. However, as I was driving I actually was doing a mental run through of the clothes I had in my car in case I did have to park at a gas station all night! Anyway, the next morning it was a beautiful clear blue sky and Frisco was a gorgeous place to wander and have breakfast. Here are some photos of my saviour town:

Hotel Frisco

I made it to Denver at noon - 15 hours after I had planned on! Despite this, we still had the afternoon to explore, so Leanne and I headed to Red Rock Amphitheatre and the tiny town of Golden - just west 10 minutes of Denver. The amphitheatre sits at the meeting point of the Great Plains and the Rocky Mountains. There is 868 acres of awesome history and geological wonders there, all surrounded by magical scenic vistas. Red Rocks is the only naturally occurring, acoustically perfect amphitheatre in the world. Every year during the summer, it has phenomenal musical acts performing - Sting, The Beatles, U2, The Fray........the list goes on!! Check it out at the website http://www.redrocksonline.com/. Unfortunately, I am not in the area this summer much or I would have snapped up some of the concert tickets - Zac Brown Band, BareNaked Ladies, Josh Groben, John Mayer, Bruno Mars, Keith Urban.........

Following this scenic visit, Leanne and I headed for Golden for lunch. Golden is a cute little cowboy town about 10 minutes from Denver that is a bit tricky to find sometimes on the freeway - may have also just been my driving too!

The town of Golden - Main Street

Every little town here has a river or creek to walk along :-)

Cute cowboy and cowgirl statue!!

That night the Nuggets won like their 20th straight game and shot over 115 points - too busy catching up with our Aussie contingent to take photos sorry, but I am back at the Pepsi Centre in June and October to see Taylor Swift and Pink respectively - I'll post PC pics then :-)

By the way - on the trip back home Sunday morning, perfect weather!! See -

Palisade Wine Tasting Tour

A group of friends and I headed out to explore some of Palisade's amazing wineries. We even did it responsibly (as we always do and should - in case there is any students reading this blog still)! We all met at my place and then walked about a block to the first two wineries which were the Meadery of the Rockies (favourite!!) and Plum Creek Cellars. We then walked towards the I-70 and tasted at St Kathryn Cellars (another favourite), Grande River Vineyards and even another one we found as we were walking through town to the Brewery and Distillery! (forgot the name of that one). It was a really fun and great way to spend a Sunday afternoon with mates. We will be doing that again hopefully!!

My friends and I at Grande River Vineyards

Rodeo Uni style!

They have high school and college rodeo teams here! Interesting right? I went to Friday night here in GJ with a friend from school, Sara, and watched the local college host the first rodeo of the season. Students from different colleges competed in rodeo activities - barrel racing, roping, horse and bull riding. The best event though - sheep riding! Why? It is participated in by toddlers and kids!!!!! Kids as young as probably 3 and no older than 5 years were given a helmet and a mini flak jacket, sat on top of a sheep, had their arms wrapped around the neck of the animal and then told to hold on. The sheep takes off and the kids hold on as long as they can. Some come up happy, some not so!! But as I was watching it I was actually thinking that I know some little tackers who who absolutely LOVE that!! :-D

Honeybee Festival

Palisade held its first festival on the weekend - the Honeybee festival which was, perhaps obviously, themed around bees!! Some interesting activities, a lot of handmade honey and soaps and even a talk by a bee keeper! A good way to check out downtown and get to know what was there as well.

Palisade Rim Hike

I have posted pictures on a separate page (see right) because this was a magical hike. My friend Andy and I headed off to do the Palisade Rim Hike yesterday (Sunday) afternoon. It was gorgeous weather - I am very glad I wore sunscreen too!! We walked about 4 -5 miles and were out hiking about 3 hours. The start was a bit strenuous at times but once we got up high it was gorgeous views and flat walking. We even went off the beaten track and did some walkabout tripping over some hills behind the main track. That made for an interesting rejoining of the main trail when we were faced with a big drop and climb! Easy managed though in the end :-) This is a definite favourite so far of the hikes I have done and I will be doing this again throughout the season for sure! Every visitor will also join me :-D

Enjoy heading back into Term 2 fellow teacher friends, students and family. Everyone else - hope this finds you all well! Keep smiling and stay safe wherever this year takes you.

Back soon with more adventures!

Candice xx

Monday, 8 April 2013

Spring Break...........


Spring Break gave me a week off from school and I headed out of Colorado with another Victorian exchangee from Pakenham to New Orleans. Leanne is in Denver this year so we planned to fly out the Monday morning for Louisiana.

The Friday school broke there was a massive storm system that moved across the mountains and Denver. It did not hit GJ, however I had planned to drive across the mountains to Denver on Sunday morning. I had not done this trip yet and was hesitant to attempt my first time with the storm. So on Saturday night I decided to book a ticket on the train. I was dropped off Sunday morning all ready to head to Denver. However as I was buying a bottle of water, I realised I had not only left my license in the car due to Friday social night after school but I had also left my passport on the counter at home! As we were flying to NO, I kinda needed the identification! So my train travel was no longer possible - by the time I had gone home 20 minutes and come back I would miss the departure :-( So I ended up putting my bags into my car and heading off to Denver via the snow packed, wet and icy roads!

Despite my nerves, it was not as bad as I expected. About an hour in I started to get some snow flurries on and off, but they never lasted more than 10 minutes and were not very heavy - I still had visibility. About 2 hours in the roads started to stay covered with snow, but there was a drive line that I followed. The trip took me 4 1/2 hours to get to Leanne's place in Denver (with a 20 min food stop), which is a good time considering I was able to go the speed limit most of the time. Thanks must also go to my Dad who taught me to be a careful and confident driver in all conditions!

Despite the slightly disrupted beginning, I found myself in New Orleans on Monday afternoon. The city is an easy city to get around and has an interesting history I loved learning about. We did a few different tours and spent a lot of time wandering around the river area, main city centre and the French Quarter district.

We spent one morning walking around the oldest cemetery in the city. It was great as we heard a lot about the history and why they have tombs from our guide. The people can't bury in the ground as the water table is so high and the caskets would just float to the top again. So they built tombs where the bodies were laid to rest.

Another interesting tour we went on was a plantation tour. We visited the Laura Plantation, which is an old Creole plantation. I learnt a lot about the history of the area here and about the Creole people. We followed this up by going five minutes down the road to Oak Alley Plantation, which has a gorgeous oak lined alley leading to the main house. The oaks are over 300 years old - there was a second alley leading from the back of the house. This second alley is the 'baby' alley with oaks of approximately 150 years old!

I have always wondered about what it would be like to see the swamp bayou area of America. With this in mind, I took a ride on an airboat - yes, those ones with the fan engine on the back! It was very loud but extremely cool. This was one of my favourite times of the week - the scenery was so different to what I have seen anywhere else. The photos don't really capture the light but they give a good idea of the weird and wonderful environment!

Bourban Street was an entertaining experience! We were there early on our first night looking for dinner. The street is all blocked off so it becomes kind of a mall type area apart from the cross streets. After dinner we walked most of the way along the street and back. As the night got later the more interesting it became! One different aspect of New Orleans is that you can buy a drink in one bar and take it outside with you as you  move to the next bar. Or, even more incredibly, there are drive through daquari stores!! Yes, drive throughs! Seriously!

Overall, New Orleans was a wonderfully relaxing four days. It was fantastic to wander around a new city and take in a different history. The buildings were exactly as I expected - particularly in the French Quarter! I had a great time and would love to visit again in the future. I have included a lot more pictures with captions on a seperate page on this blog. Check out the pages links on the top right.


The Easter Bunny managed to find me via Australia Post!! I recieved these in my mailbox on Good Friday - what great timing! It was so good to have chocolate from home again! Chocolate here is just not quite the same :-) Easter Sunday I celebrated with a group of new friends at a cafe in Downtown Grand Junction. Following brunch I then enjoyed my awesome Aussie eggs during the afternoon. It was a great way to finish a wonderful Spring Break week!

Other March Happenings

I helped celebrate a birthday with another dress up party - 1980s style! The music teacher at school invited me to her party and so I neon-ed it up in an 80s style outfit. :-)
Aside from the above, March was quiet as I spent two weeks being sick :-( I fought off the yucky American germs as long as I could - but they finally wore me down! Two weeks and three packets of cold and flu later I was on the other side. It took me another week to really recover fully, but thankfully this week was when I was in New Orleans so I was relaxing for a good reason!

The fun continues........

I can't believe it's April - 7 more weeks until I am on summer break and my sister arrives! Yay! I'll be back keeping you up to date shortly. Stay safe and enjoy life, whatever you are up to! :-D
Keep smiling,