Saturday, July 2, 2005

New York City

On the 2nd of July, at around 8:00 AM, we boarded a bus to NYC. I enjoyed the bus ride a lot, like I would back in India. This was my first bus ride in the US. 

The atmosphere at NYC reminded me remotely of India. The city was over crowded and the people honked. The streets were not as clean as in other cities of the US. We saw the WTC site being renovated. 

We walked to Battery park and waited in the long queue to catch a ferry to reach the statue of liberty. Most of the tourists there were Indians. The statue gifted by the French to the Americans is indeed very impressive. 

The next stop was Elise island. Here, the immigrants had arrived centuries ago. Their documents were validated before they were let into the country. 

In the city, we used the subway to get around. It is convenient and fast. We went to China town to look for our bus stop. Sundar and I were supposed to catch a bus from China town, the next day to Baltimore. It was crowded and a few Chinese, directed us to the place. It was weird because this office from where we had booked ticket online was so small that it resembled a tiny balcony with a window. 

Back in the city, we again stood in another queue at Empire state building, the tallest building in the world. The view from the top was amazing. However, I must say that Chicago still remains my most favourite city in terms of architecture. 

Our final stop was Time Square, it was crowded but well lit and vibrant. 

After another long talk with G1 until 4 AM, I went to bed. 

Friday, July 1, 2005

Atlantic City

On the 30th of June, Sundar and I took two flights (Colorado Springs to Atlanta, Atlanta to Newark) to reach Newark. Our friend G1 picked us up from the airport and we drove to Annandale, New Jersey, to his house. He works at another sector of our company that has an office there. That night, we obviously had a lot to catch up with. G1 and I, both hail from Mangalore, so we had lot of common things to discuss in our native language while, Sundar went to bed early. 

Next day (July 1st), I woke up late. G1 had already left for office. At around 4 PM, after he returned, we drove to Atlantic city. The traffic was bad and it delayed our journey. I was delighted to be by the shores again, this time it was next to the Atlantic ocean. 

After some quality time spent at the beach, we tried our hand with gambling at the casino called Sands. I lost $5 in a slot machine. The atmosphere was dull and nothing like the vibrant Las Vegas that I had visited last year.

When we got back to the apartment, G1 and I spoke a lot again, late until 2 AM. We obviously had so many stories to share and topics to discuss. 

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. 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.