Saturday, December 22, 2007

Thanksgiving +

Since I last wrote on 12-Oct-07, things have been equally busy. Folks at work are taking leave in waves, so those who remain are filling in (I find myself presently in the latter group); though I will be taking off at the end of December for two weeks to visit DC (29-Dec) and Cincinnati (2-Jan), also, there have been several exciting cases, so I am happy to be picking up on new developments. I will be working the 24th, and hope to skip out in time for church, but in any event will have Christmas dinner with the Vargas' (from home group) after a Christmas-day ride. Today we served vin chaud and hot apple cider after both Christmas eve-eve services. Now to backtrack a bit.

After Oktoberfest, it was back to things as usual. Since the weather started to turn, I shifted gears to run more (about 25 miles a week) and bike less, though weather permitting I do still get bike rides in on the weekends, and random weekdays. UN-wide, we had last Thursday off, so I decided to head out to the Saléve to ride the face up to Croisette which I haven't done in a few weeks. It was a beautiful day with a high of about 40 (which lasts for about 5 minutes on its way back to 30). Still, riding up was a good bit of work, since I hadn’t been climbing much lately and this is a mildly step ascent. (I did try to climb a new hill last weekend, La Dôle in the Jura mountains above the town of Divonne les Bains – on the other side of the lake, but about 1/3 of the way up was met with unplowed roads). Hill work means elevated heart rate and body heat, so despite the cold, it was time to unzip the jacket and shed the helmet. It was surreal. Finding myself in thick fog right from the base of the climb, it only got thicker as I climbed with the sun poking through to create very limited visibility of about 100 meters. It was cold in the fog, the grass and trees were coated with ice, like an eerily quiet forest of pristine ice statutes (which happened in Cincinnati about 12 years ago and netted us a week off of school). As I ascended further, the ice turned to snow, the roads were wet, so I continuously checked for black ice - thankfully there was none. Then as the top of the tree line appeared, I left the fog behind meeting with a spectacularly calm sky and crystal clear view of Mont Blanc. Dense billowy fog covered the entire valley, without the perspective of distance, Mont Blanc looked like it was in my backyard – and it the fog was so dense it looked as if you could just step right off the Saléve and walk across to Mont Blanc.

Back in the beginning of November, I went hiking again with some Geneva locals folks to a mountain out near the Col de Joux Plane, to the Lac de Vogele. It was a great hike, quite cold in the early hours of the morning, so I started off with a good base layer head-to-toe. As the sun rose, it started to warm, so off came the leg warmers and vest. The hike up was beautiful. There were a few spots with mini rock scrambles with ropes anchored in for tricky parts. Getting to the top, we were greeted with a dried-up lake. Oh yea, didn’t I mention, says one guy, it is one of the few lakes that actually dries up in the winter. Not that knowing that would have caused us to not hike it, and still, it was a great view with jagged peaks in every direction. We sat down for lunch, and had to move about every five minutes to stay in the sun. It was fading fast over one of the peaks. During lunch, I noticed a little rock scramble to what looked like the summit, so I decided to go see. It was steep, and took me longer than I thought. Plus there was another equally far off summit I couldn't see until I got up there. The view was great, but it was time to head out to beat the sun. And we just did. By the time we got to the village about 10 minutes from the base, it was pitch black. A quick beer to recuperate, and back to Geneva.

Following that, I had not one, but two Thanksgiving dinners. One with folks from Crossroads, the other with Jason and Kelly’s friends, mostly Alcoa expats. It was so nice to have a little slice of home. At the dinner with Crossroads folks, a Mexican fellow asked me if this was typical: the hosts Jay and Libby (P&G folks who did a brief stint in Cincinnati) had a satellite with college football which was a magnet for some of the guys, kids running around the kid table, people telling you how full they were right before they got up for seconds, 10 different side dishes, yes, I told him, it was the scene you’d expect to see if you were to drop in just about any house in the States on Thanksgiving, and it was great.

I also was able to call home and talk to Samuel who hit quite a rough patch with a throat infection. He was amazingly upbeat despite being in the hospital for a week (he made the most of it, and had his own car / iv rack to ride around in). After he got home, we spoke again and he was so excited to tell me that he got bunk beds for his room – and he even offered to let Brad and I stay in them when we come to town. Brad, Mike, my Mom and I sent him the Lightning Storm McQueen for his birthday which coincided roughly with his going home. As expected, he remembered it from one quick visit to Target – I told him at the time that it was too expensive, and he was so happy he wrote us all an email with a picture of him and Lightning.

In other news, Jason (with whom I went to Amsterdam city of bike highways, Van Gogh, leaning houses, canals, the closed Heineken factory, red lights, coffee shops, and Wii two weeks ago – to visit his friend, and I.T. guy from Tennessee who had just returned from a stint in Baghdad) is going to bring my mountain bike back to Geneva for me. I am super excited, we found a huge huge mountain bike park on the other side of the lake in the Champery / Valais region (serviced by lifts from the Portes du Soleil ski area). It was featured in a magazine recently. We are also training for a 121km+ mountain bike race this fall – which would require my staying here post-WIPO (and also plan to do Alp D'Huez among other road rides). With mountains on both sides of us, there have to be lots of MTB trails; I never thought I’d mountain bike in Switzerland or France, can't wait.