Great weekend

Last weekend was pretty special, with lots of fun things and two additions to the family.

As the penultimate Grand Prix of 2012 was in Texas I was able to watch both morning practice and qualifying on Saturday morning while talking to my parents who are in New Zealand. Then after lunch Beth and I drove north-west to Dinosaur Ridge which is located in the foot hills outside Denver.

In the 1900’s they found a lot of dinosaur tracks and bones in them thar hills. The walk was pretty good, it started with a pretty dull steep elevation increase but eventually led to dirt tracks that went along the top of the hill. These were great but made a little worse by the number of cyclists using the narrow trail and dog walkers. From the top we had a great view of Denver, and of Bandimere Speedway, a drag strip a mile away. More enticingly I could make out their kart track and was able to work out the layout.

Dinosaur Ridge

On the way back down the ridge it was decided that we would go down to the track, see what their prices were and then see if there were spaces. So once we made it back down the boring long road (obviously now downhill) we drove the short distance to the track and found out that they had one more session for the day and it had spaces. Due to the falling temperatures Beth decided she would not partake but gave me the all clear. (it was $35 for 10 laps which is rather pricey at £2.10 a lap compared to the max of £1.50 a lap we pay in the UK).

I suited up with everyone else for a ten lap session. I got chatting with a guy named Sam who had also been karting before. They let people leave the pits in pairs about five seconds apart and I was in the fourth group. By the end of the third lap I had overtaken everyone else but it turned out that Sam was around my pace, as although I had passed him he was on my tail. The two of us were clearly faster than everyone else. The karts were single engined so were slower than I was used to and so there were only two spots where I even had to slow around the kilometer long circuit.

Bandimere Speedway

We pushed on getting quicker and quicker, eventually I caught some backmarkers at a bad spot and Sam was able to sneak past me. I followed him home over the remaining two laps. Afterwards we chatted, he was able to take one of the corners I slowed for flat and I managed to take a tight chicane that he slowed for flat. His line would give a bigger advantage as it led to a long straight so I assumed that I probably lost on the fastest lap count. We eventually received our times (11 drivers):

Jonathan – 58.072
Sam – 58.080
Third – 61.029
Fourth – 63.199
Last – 84.691

I beat him by eight thousandths of a second, I guess we were fairly equally matched. We resolved to meet up and go again sometime and swapped numbers, hopefully that will happen. Couple of other comments, it’s a fast and exciting track, I got black flagged on my third lap according to the timesheet, I never saw a black flag and have no idea what I supposedly did, must be a phantom call? Beth also said the guys owning the track came out and commented on how fast the two of us were going.

Karting at Bandimere

Beth and I headed home via the biggest liquor store I’ve ever seen and soon after getting home we went out again and bought two adorable dwarf hamsters for $7 each. We named them Mika Hakkinen and Kamui Kobayashi (names Beth’s idea). We played with them in the evening.

Dwarf Hamsters

On Sunday I went to church with Beth and then watched the first five laps of the Grand Prix before meeting Ethan and heading to the Broncos vs Chargers game. As a Philip Rivers hater and Broncos lover it was a great game for three quarters. Unfortunately we eventually gave him two touchdowns in the fourth to make him look less crap but it was enjoyable and yet another home win. We headed back to the Blomberg’s via Papa Murphy’s, a pizza place where they make it and you cook it (making it cheaper than ordering). We got a double decker five meat pizza that totaled 4800 calories, we were eager to eat it but it took thirty minutes to bake. Eventually we tried some and it was fantastic, neither of us was able to get much past a quarter each though. Sarah came over and watched the second half of the Steelers vs Raiders game with us and then Beth showed up with Leslie Ward our university friend. We all ate in the basement and watched the football.

Chargers @ Broncos

When that was over I introduced the natives to Formula One and we watched the first 24 laps of the race before Sarah and Ethan headed home. We finished it then next day and it was great to watch Lewis win. A fantastic weekend. It set up what was to be a great thanksgiving week but more on that later.

More pictures in the gallery.

Denver Film Festival

Before I arrived in Denver, one of my Mother-in-law’s church friends suggested that I get involved in the Denver film festival during my stay in the States. When I got out here this friend put me in touch with the volunteer manager for the festival Charles Powell and between the two of us we narrowed down my options.

I was excited to be a part of a film festival, even if its scope was not that major, it has now been around for thirty five years. It gave me a rare chance to put my degree to some vague use and also to get out of my basement for an extended period of time.

Due to my lack of guaranteed vehicle access I eventually got placed on the volunteer check-in desk, which was fine by me. I got six six-hour shifts to work on during the ten day film festival which would allow me to balance the festival with other commitments. The day before the festival started I met with the Charles at the Denver film theatre, on what is billed as Colorado’s longest street, next to a Tattered Cover book store. Tattered Cover is a book store with character and is one of my favourite shops in the world.

Anyway, I met with Charles and he explained my role, I would be signing in and out volunteers and answering their questions. The signing in and out would be done on an iPad and it was a nice simple job. Sounded fine to me, plus I would get four movie tickets for each shift I did that would be redeemable for a year.

I began my shift on the second day of the festival, I drove to the lightrail station and took it all the way downtown to 16th Street which is a great pedestrianized high street in the center of Denver. I made my way to the cinema and found my spot. While there were long periods of inactivity (sometimes three consecutive hours) and the desk was situated a floor down from the main festival, it was good fun. I got to meet a lot of lovely people, including those on the customer services desk (such as artist Susan Goldstein who has been involved in the festival for all but one of its 35 years) next to me. I also got to sample the filmmakers lounge next door and was able to get free food and drinks from there each night. I also thought I was putting my tickets to good use. I got tickets to four films: The Revisionaries, a documentary about the Texas State board of education pushing their agenda of creationism and other nonsense; Polski Film, a comedy from Poland; Virgin Tales, a documentary about girls brought up with chastity promises; and John Dies at the End, an Indie film starring Paul Giamatti.

Unfortunately I was not to go and see any of those four films. I missed out on The Revisionaries on the Tuesday night of the festival because I was going to take Beth and we would have gotten home late, with Beth having an 8am class the next day. I missed the other three because on the Wednesday morning, with half my shifts complete I got food poisoning.

I am now fine, I put it down to some slightly undercooked chicken on Tuesday night. The illness wiped out the remaining three shifts I had at the film festival though and meant I wasn’t able to see the remaining movies either. Even so, I greatly enjoyed my three shifts at the festival, it felt like I was able to use the knowledge from my degree talking to the other volunteers and I met some lovely people. The illness meanwhile meant I wasn’t able to do anything for four days. I felt better in time for a trip to Skyfall on Saturday evening. By Sunday night I was completely back to normal, I lost five pounds but I’m back in action.

I also got featured in their volunteer spotlight: http://denverfilmsocietyvolunteers.tumblr.com/