Saturday, March 22, 2008

Killer Mountain Challenge Champions

Having been raised with three brothers, I have borne witness to an interesting phenomenon. When you place more than one male in a room, and introduce a competition of any kind, large amounts of testosterone begin permeating the air, leading to various strange behavioral changes in the participants of said competition. Previously timid men may begin boasting of their skills, while others will try to undermine the confidence of their competitiors.

Our Killer Mountain Challenge is no different. By the time the trash talking ended, and the dust had settled, one could have sworn that one was in the company of Olympic level mountain bikers.

Case in point: Emile, a former road racer, and generally all round excellent rider, hails from Holland. Which is flat. As in - without hills. Thus, Emile is a terrific, strong and fast rider on the flats. Fredie, whose idea of a relaxing ride is traversing the Swiss Alps for exersize after work, is ok on the flats, but can navigate up a mountain side as effortlessly as the billy goats of his native Switzerland. By placing these two characters together in this competition, one is almost suffocated by the levels of testosterone. Emile blasts away from the group on the flats, while Fredi seemingly without strain floats up the mountain. At the end of the ride, they both turn on Big Al, whose riding strengths do not include either flats or mountains, but rather the technical, single track trails of the rolling hills of Canada.

That aside, despite Emile's greatest efforts, he was able to climb only 50% of the way up the mountain. Always only as far as a certain metre deep pit, on the left side of the trail. Fredi has since christened it the Emile pit, as Emile seems unable to veer away from it, and consequently winds up falling into it.
Please meet Fredi Miklevic - from Switzerland.

Fredi is our Killer Mountain Champion for the 2006-2007 season, with a remarkable 88% of the mountain conquered. Conratulations Fredi! When are you coming back for a visit, dude? You have to meet your new challengers!

For all of the other guys that attempted the mountain - keep training, and we'll see you again next year!

The competitive spirit is alive and well among the women, as we have had many women attempt the 'Killer Mountain Challenge' as well. It is interesting to note the differences in preparation between the men and the women. There is less trash talking, more checking of the equipment, and more hydration among the women. Some of our female competitors logged their best effort after several attempts at conquering the mountain. One such woman is our Women's Killer Mountain Challenge Champion for 2006-2007.
Please meet Diane Horton of Toronto, Canada.

Diane Horton - The Women's 2006-07 Killer Mountain Challenge Champion

After several gruelling yet determined attempts, Diane logs in as our female champ with a well deserved 50% of the mountain conquered. Congratulations, Diane!

Killer Mountain Challenge - 2007-2008 Season

We have had a very strong season so far, with many attempts at the mountain challenge. The trash talking among the men continues unabated, while the women continue to hydrate.....! However, I must share this story - about my three favourite Frenchmen.

I received a call from one of the hotels that there were several guys interested in the mountain bike tours. No problem. I go to meet the customers, to explain about the 3 tours, the early morning pick-up etc. That is when I met Christophe Chaput. I start to explain about the three different rides, and start telling him about the mountain challenge. Well........ Christophe starts looking around and asking 'What mountain? Which mountain? How high is it? Why hasn't anyone made it to the top? I will make it to the top. Who is this Fredi?

We make all of the arrangements, I pick up Christophe and his two friends, Patrick and Frederic on the morning of the ride. While Al is getting the bikes ready, Christophe is totally stoked about the challenge, and asks me to send Fredi a trash talking e-mail, basically telling Fredi that his crown is being threatened! Just before the group left, I asked Al if he had his camera with him, but Patrick assured me that he had his. I just had a feeling about this group.........!

After my yoga girls had gone home, I see the riders making their way up the last hill. And I hear Al shouting - 'Nora - get the camera!' Not only one of their group made it all the way up, but two. Both Christophe and Patrick challenged the mountain and won.

Please meet Christophe Chaput, Patrick Casalino and Frederic Chevalier - of France.

This is photographic evidence of Patrick's one, successful attempt to conquer the mountain. Congratulations, Patrick!

After a few attempts, this is Christophe's ride. The others in the group, stood by the side of the trail and cheered Christophe on, as he made his way up the mountain.

Al and I had so much fun with these guys, that we invited them to our 'White Party' to inaugurate our new swimming pool.

In this photo from left to right: Frederic, Patrick, Maryluz (of course!), Christophe and Kathy.

For all of you extreme athletes out there, you gotta hear this! Christophe is planning an epic bike ride journey, from his home town in Marseilles, France to northern China. This mammoth undertaking is called "The Iron Bike Adventure". If anyone is interested in following Christophe's progress, please email me at: and I will pass along his contact info to you. Christophe - Good luck on your ride, and may the wind always be at your back!

Mountain biking

Good morning everyone!

Wow - had a great morning sail yesterday, the crowds of Semana Santa notwithstanding. Al and I, and Tom and Kathy (the owners of Vela)went out for about an hour and a half, and had a great time. Tom said he counted only 5 other sails besides ours, so the ocean was wide open! I had a few spectacular crashes on the outside while trying to jibe. Tom took pity on me, and gave me an impromptu carve jibing lesson. As hard as it is to teach an old dog new tricks, some of what Tommy taught me actually stuck, and my jibing improved. Thanks Tommy!

We have been offering guided mountain biking tours for several years here in El Yaque, and have met some very cool athletes in the process. My husband, Al, is an avid mountain biker, and when we decided to live here full time, we went exploring by bike to find some good routes. We developed three tours. The photo above depicts the 'Macanao tour', which consists primarily of desert trails right next to the ocean. It is a spectacular ride! This tour runs approximately 4 hours, as we have to drive to the western part of the island (and back) and has a riding time of about 2 hours.

Check out the bike carrier that we had locally made. This welded contraption was designed to carry six bikes. It lasted for two rides out to Macanao...... :( Needless to say, we now have a new system. In this photo, Big Al is heading out with Maryluz, our friend Emile (who now owns and runs his posada called 'Rancho Delfin', and Hector, our friend who owns the surfshop called 'Mormaii'.

On a light wind morning, this is the perfect way to work in some cardio into one's windsurfing vacation. This tour leaves from our house, Casa Nora, at 7:00 am and arrives back in El Yaque at around noon. I pack a cooler full of food, water, fruit and chocolate, so there is enough sustenance for the riders for breakfast and lunch.

Here's another group enjoying some food after the ride. From the left, Wayne (from the UK), Johnny T (from Canada), and Emile (originally from Holland, now a resident of El Yaque).

A new feature of this tour is a swim in the ocean mid-way through the ride. As I understand it, clothing is optional.........!

As you can see, by this year, we created a new bike transport system, which seems to be working really well. From left to right, the riders are: Emile, Big Al, Karen (our friend from Germany), Anita (Stefan's fiancee), Roman (from Germany), and kneeling down, our neighbour and posada owner, Stefan.

Welcome to the "Killer Mountain Challenge". This challenge is part of our second tour, which leaves from Casa Nora at 7:00 am and returns in time for breakfast at about 9:00 am or so. This is a beautiful ride through various terrain, near El Yaque. It just so happens to have this hill near the beginning of the tour. Emile, a former Dutch road racer has tried many times to make it to the top. So, has Al. But to no avail. I have tried - and no go. And we can't figure out why. It is not a particularly steep incline. Nor is it very long. Many, who have tried unsuccessfully to make it to the top, call it 'technical'. Hhhhmmmmm

Al and I decided to make this a competition, which we dubbed the 'Killer Mountain Challenge'. During each attempt, Al would play the role of judge, and ascertain what percentage of the mountain was climbed. The person who made it the highest would be photographed and posted on our blog. (The winners of last year and this year are posted on a separate blog.)

Well, the minute the competition was announced, we had folks lining up for a chance to challenge the mountain. We've had triathletes, Iron Men and Women, marathon runners, road racers, and mountain biker racers - all have tried, but only a few have succeeded in taming the mountain. Please look for my next blog for the names and photos of our champions!!!!!!

Our third tour is called the 'Musipan' tour, which also leaves Casa Nora at 7:00 am and returns about an hour later. This is a very relaxing and relatively short ride through the desert near El Yaque. The terrain varies from single track desert trails, to road riding, to riding through a salina, as well as some coastal riding through a fishing village. This ride is a great warm up for the other two tours.

As you can see, the mountain biking here is as varied, as it is scenic. We have tours to challenge the most dedicated riders, and we also have tours that are a relaxing morning ride. Big Al and his group of pals, ride virtually every morning, so if anyone wants to come along, just email me at to make arrangements. Once you have arrived in El Yaque, you can also call me locally at: 0416-296-8038. Once you have decided which morning you'd like to ride, I will pick you up at your hotel or posada at 6:45 am, and drive you to Casa Nora, where Al will outfit you with your bike and gear. The price of each tour is US $40.00/tour, but if you take a 3-pack of tours, I'm sure Big Al will give you a discount.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Welcome to the new No Wind No Cry/Casa Nora blog!

Hi there everyone!
Hola to all of our former houseguests, mountain bikers, scooter rental folks, yoga enthusiasts, windsurfers and kiters, and friends all around the world.
Welcome/Bienvenidos to our new blog, where you will find all of the latest news and info from our beach, as well as photos of all of the exciting and fun goings-on at Casa Nora and in El Yaque!

First - a note of thanks to our new WebMaster and computer genius, recent house-guest and windsurfing enthusiast - all the way from Sweden - Sone Alvelund! (See photo.) In less than one hour, Sone solved all of our web-related issues, and suggested that instead of trying to edit our website (and thereby having to learn html and Java Script codes - yuck!), we should just create a blog. So, here we are. Thanks Sone! In fact, he has made this blog interactive, so if anyone wants to leave a comment, please do so. We would love to hear from you guys!

The blog
Since the inception of Casa Nora and No Wind No Cry, I have amassed quite a collection of stories and photos, which I want to post on this blog. So, I am going to start at the beginning, some years ago, and end up posting the most current news, info and photos of this 2007/2008 season. While I will post the blogs chronologically, I will address specific topics, like mountain biking, or upgrades to Casa Nora, or a World Tour Freestyle competition in El Yaque, or a bbq here - well, you get the picture.
Speaking of pictures - through the next series of photos, I'd like to introduce you all to some people that I think you should know.

If you guys don't know who this is - well, then I don't know what to say..... :( This is Gollito, a native of El Yaque, and last year's Freestyle Champion. He recently won first place in the Freestyle competition held here in El Yaque.
This guy is so good, he defies description. And, he's a very nice guy to boot.

This is Cheo. Also a native of El Yaque, and last year's Number Two in the world for Freestyle. During the competition here, he placed second.....frankly, as he should, because he is also spectacular to watch. This guy is not only a terrific windsurfer, but he is also a real estate developer. Not bad for a kid barely in his twenties.

And this is Ricardo Campello - former three time World Champion for Freestyle. Also a resident of El Yaque. If you guys don't know who Ricardo is, well, then I really can't help you, or you are not really all that into windsurfing...... Ricardo placed fourth in our competition, behind Andre, from Germany.

Well, this is a photo of Al and Nora. We are also residents of El Yaque, and not in any way ranked in any windsurf competition or rating system. But, we do love to windsurf, and Lord knows, we do try! We also are the proprietors of Casa Nora, and Big Al does the mountain bike tours, and I offer the yoga classes in the mornings.

And, these are my best friends, Maryluz and Kathy. Some of you may know Maryluz as the best Spanish teacher here in El Yaque. And some of you may know Kathy (and her husband Tom) as the owners and operators of the Vela windsurf centre.

And here are some of my favourite people having a great time. Just so you all know, Maryluz is in almost all of the photos that I have - she's like a camera magnet. Among other things, Mary likes to dance, sing, read and write poetry, and she's an accomplished cook. And Kath is my daily yoga partner, who also is a great cook.

Y'see - here is Mary again, dancing with my friend Johnny T, from Canada. John and his girl, Diane visited us here in February for a week. Too much fun!
The wind has picked up, and even though I still have alot to post, I am going windsurfing! Ciao for now!
P.S. The Wind Dog says: Better, when wet.......

Saturday, March 1, 2008