It has been quite a while since I posted anything on the Grand Adventure, so this will be a longer post than usual…. and hopefully not too boring. This is mostly because we have just been chilling our jets in Fort Collins waiting, waiting, and waiting. That is not a complaint at all and in fact it has been truly lovely hanging out here in Colorado for the winter. Especially because it has been a surprisingly cold and dreary winter by Colorado standards and it would have been a bit trying if we had been in the trailer.
What has spurred us out of hibernation is that New Zealand is finally opening back up after 2 years! YEAH!!!!!!!!!! Both Susanne and I have been watching and reading the New Zealand news obsessively over the last 5 months looking for any clues on the reopening and the status of our application. We were watching a Jacinda Ardern press conference on the phased reopening one day and she announced that the country would reopen for visa waiver countries (i.e., the USA) beginning on May 1st. We both let out a huge Yahoo! and gave each other a hug. After such a long time, we were finally going to get to go back to New Zealand.
But before I update you those plans, let me just update you a bit on what we have been doing to entertain ourselves here in Fort Collins. First a few facts about Ft. Collins (as stated by “Visit Fort Collins”)
- Our Historic Old Town Inspired Disneyland’s Look
- Fort Collins is 1 of only 5 towns in the nation designated a Platinum Level Bike-Friendly Community by the League of American Bicyclists
- Colorado’s Only Nationally Designated Wild & Scenic River Runs Through the Heart of Fort Collins
- There’s an Underwater City at Horsetooth Reservoir
- We have a Restored Trolley Car Still in Operation
- There are a Number of Decoratively Painted Pianos all Across Town
- Fort Collins is Home to a Drive in Movie Theater
- # 2 ‘Best U.S. Cycling Town’ — USA Today
- # 2 Best Beer Scene in the nation — USA Today
- # 3 on Travelocity’s Beer Tourism Index for Top Small Metro Areas
- One of 25 towns named America’s Best Towns Ever and Best Bike to Happy Hour Town
- Top Beer Tourism Destination
Needless to say, it is a pretty cool city. I had spent some time here before, but not enough to really appreciate it. Due to COVID and a growing intolerance to gluten, we did not get to experience the beer town too much. But I will say the biking is amazing. And the number of bikers is crazy. I’m still pretty fast for an old fart, but holy cow these dudes and dudettes are fast here. I had forgotten just how good the bikers are in Colorado. I also had forgotten how big the climbs are, too. I really do think they have gotten steeper.
The weather was awesome for our first couple of weeks here with nothing but sunshine and temps in the 60s and 70s. We took the opportunity to explore some of the hiking in and around FoCo. There is a state park (Lory) about 15 minutes away that had some really nice trails. My sister stopped by on her way from Michigan to Santa Barbara, so we headed up there to do a famous hike called “Arthur’s Rock.”
The geology here is very striking. You get these incredible looking “hog backs” formations where you can see the layers of rock that have been folded up during the Larimide orogeny which uplifted the Colorado Plateau and Rocky Mountains about 45 million years ago. Even though I haven’t practiced geology in a very long time, I have never lost the fascination for it.
As mentioned above, I got a lot of bike riding in here at Fort Collins. The road riding is spectacularly good and there are just miles and miles and miles of lonely safe roads to ride. My favorite ride was down to Loveland then up and around through Masonville, over a few climbs and then back to FoCo. It is about 38 miles or so and the scenery is amazing. My favorite part was coming down to and along Horsetooth reservoir. Just an amazing view and really fun riding. The mountain biking is ok, but it is either quite short or super difficult. A lot of the riding here is very rocky and very technical — more than this old fart wanted to try to tackle.
We were pretty euphoric about how nice the weather was and were thinking, yep, winter is just not that bad here. Well, that changed. The snow came and with it a lot of really cold weather. Bummer. The storms were spaced out just wrong such that the snow never really melted off the ground. All the open spaces and trails were closed because of the muddy conditions. The bike riding came to a screeching halt as well. I had to resort to swimming. The good news is that there are some really nice rec facilities here and now that I am truly an old fart, I even qualified for the old guy discount. Yeah!
I am not a bad swimmer, but I am not a good swimmer either. Try as I might, I am just slow. My form isn’t terrible and my fitness is good, but I just can’t seem to get very fast. I plod along at my 2:00 per 100. But it was nice to be back swimming again. I was absolutely committed to learning a flip turn and spent an inordinate amount of time watching really good swimmers make it look easy. Mine…well, not so much. It looks more like a drowning whale in need of help. I am happy to report that at the time of this writing, I can now do a flip turn pretty consistently without drowning. Yeah for me! Good to have goals.
It has been nice being back in Colorado and reconnecting with some old friends that we hadn’t see for awhile. One night I drove down to Larkspur to hang out with my good buddies Apryl and Kim. Kim is a chef and cooked us a lovely meal that we ate with some wonderful wine. It was just before Christmas so a lot of the houses were fully decorated. I can safely say that we never decorate anything for Christmas. In fact, often we totally forget that it is even Christmas. I like Thanksgiving better as it is more about food and friends than buying stuff. That said, Apryl took me down the road from their house to see what is unquestionably the most elaborate light decorations on a house I have ever seen. I can’t imagine how long it took to get this all set up. Click on the video below and let me know what you think!
In January, we went up to Ruby Ranch to visit our friends the Gradys and hang out in the snow for awhile. This is where we had a house for 20 years, but decided to sell it after watching so many people get chased down to lower elevations as they got older. Plus, it is a really long winter (7 months!) and now that I can’t snowboard anymore, it isn’t so fun living through that much snow. We had a good time, but their son tested positive for COVID which was a bummer. Luckily he was ok and miraculously, none of the rest of us tested positive.
Susanne had not seen her sister and brother-in-law for quite some time, so she decided to fly out to Hawaii for a week visit. I stayed back behind taking care of all the animals in FoCo.
I was very glad she got a chance to go out and hang out in such a nice place. The animals and I froze our buttinskis off in FoCo. Dang. It was super icy on the road, so it was quite hazardous when we went out for a walk.
The other animal that we are taking care of is Kitty the cat. She is not the most pleasant cat of all times and in general most cats are not very pleasant to me for some reason. One minute she is nice to you and the next she is hissing and swiping a nasty set of claws at you. The dogs avoid her at all costs. However, sometimes in the morning she will go for a walk with you. Odd. When you try and feed her, she gets all indignant and hisses and complains. Really? I am giving you food, you dumb cat. Anyway, I have decided to give her a nickname to represent the duality of her personality: “Schrodinger.” I won’t miss her temper tantrums when we leave.
The other thing that we have been doing to keep ourselves entertained is cooking. We both love to cook and we cook really well together. We seem to have an inherent ability to execute in a flexible leadership model when we cook. We keep thinking we should apply for a competitive cooking show where it is couples cooking together; how can that not be entertaining reality tv? Oh the drama! but I think we would kick butt. I’ve been trying to cook some new and different things along with some classics. It is easy to fall into a rut and make the same things over and over.
It hasn’t been all fun and excitement here in Colorado, we also needed to take care of a bunch of mundane stuff like banking, drivers licenses, and boring medical stuff. The worst was we were both due for our colonoscopies. Yuk. If you have never done one, the procedure is a piece of cake….it is the prep you have to do that is truly awful. We did ours a week apart. We were both quite excited to get that out of the way. I also managed to do an unauthorized bone density test by crashing my bike on a sheet of ice. I landed on my hip really hard…about as hard as I have ever hit in a bike crash. I managed to ride home and all seemed good, no broken bones, but I had world class hematoma. I finally went to the doc and she cheerfully announced “at least we know you have good strong bones!” I feel lucky that I came away with just a bruised hip and ego. A word of advice: don’t ride you bike on a sheet of ice. You will thank me later.
My crazy buddy Bill is going to buy our trailer and truck when we head out to New Zealand but I realized that I had forgotten the titles in the storage unit in Flagstaff. Bummer. I looked at my United account and had just enough miles to get a round trip ticket to Flag and back. Yeah! So I piled into a plane for the first time in 2 years and headed down to get those papers, some camping gear (because I was planning on doing a rafting trip with Bill in May) and just make sure all was well. I can safely say I don’t miss flying. It is a stark reminder how hard it has been on my body over the last 10 years traveling so much for business. Just never gonna do that no mo’!
Housesitting here has been really wonderful. The animals are great (except for the cat, who is suspect); Amelia has been great and fun to get to know. The town has been lovely and the outdoor activities have been outstanding. About the only big problem we have had the whole time is that the main sewer drain got backed up. It really looked bad. I thought they were going to have to get the backhoe out here and redo the sewer line. A guy came out and snaked the bejeezus out of it and got it working again. Whew, disaster averted.
Both Susanne and I have been a bit obsessive reading the news, watching press conferences from Jacinda, and trying any way we can to get some sense for when we might hear from New Zealand Immigration on our application and/or whether we could at least get down there as tourist to start planning for our new life. Things really were starting to feel like they would never happen. So much so, we both started doing a lot of research on our second choice: Portugal. It is a lovely place and much easier to immigrate too. Both Susanne and I started learning Portuguese from DuoLingo. That is how pessimistic we were feeling. Susanne would pick it up quickly; it would be a struggle for me if we moved there.
There was an announcement in February that New Zealand was reopening up in a staged approach starting in April. The information that was put forth that visa waiver countries (i.e., the USA) would be allowed to travel to NZ in July. This was exciting news, but both of us were skeptical that it would stick. We have been disappointed too many times to get our hopes up. We continued our Portuguese lessons.
Then one day, Jacinda was having a press conference to talk about the phased reopening and she said “Visa waiver countries will be allowed in no later than July, and we expect it to be significantly sooner” Whoa! What!!!!! We both let out a huge shout of joy. It was going to happen. We started thinking about everything we were going to need to do, but I was thinking mid-June as likely. Lots of time to plan.
Then they had another announcement and said that visa waiver countries would be allowed in starting May 1st, 2022! Holy cow! We were ecstatic. We quickly started looking at the calendar and when was the fastest practical time we could get down there. We mapped out our remaining time here in FoCo and dropping off the truck, visiting a few friends and family before leaving, and decided on May 16th.
So we now have tickets and most everything we need to head on down there. We are both counting the days. On the other good news front, a guy from the UK that Susanne got connected with and is immigrating on the same type of visa as we are got word that his application was being looked reviewed. This was the first time in 2 years that we saw any movement at all. Our application is about 4 months behind his, but it looked like they were really starting to accelerate the processing!!! Yeah!!
Our initial plan is to go down to NZ for 3 months, as that is all we can do on our visa waiver status and check out a few likely places that we might want to live. If we don’t hear in that time frame, we will fly back to Hawaii on August 11th, but we are hopeful we might hear some good news while we are down there. Our advisor Richard indicated they would start reviewing our application in May. Woohoo!!!
So our current itinerary for this trip is as follows:
- May 16th: Off to NZ!
- May 18th to 24th: Auckland
- May 24th to 28th: Taupo
- May 28th to June 30th: Napier
- June 30th: Martinborough
- July 1st to July 4th: Wellington
- July 4th to July 11th: Blenheim
- July 11th to August 11th: Nelson area