Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Me No Biker Boy

As I finally climb out of the remnants of my glorious infection, I find I'm seriously enjoying getting out again.  It's so good to be back!  Climbing, hiking, cycling, my life is so enriched by these activities.  I got out with a couple of young lads for a twenty miler in high winds.  We pushed pretty hard, so a good workout was had by all.  Recently, however, even my daily commute has been bike-free because on getting to the bus stop one day, I noticed not one but two broken spokes.  Not good.  I'm not adept at wheel work, so I had a friend drop off the wheel at the nearest bike shop--about 50 miles away, grrrrrrrr.  So for days I've been stuck using our truck, sometimes the car, to get back and forth to the bus.  I miss my daily dose of two wheels zipping down and cranking up our hills.  Still, there is always the morning walks with Django, the Wonder Dog.  These photos were taken during a recent morning's stroll.  I head out early, about 6AM, a big tank of hot coffee in hand and Django at my heals--or ahead--or behind depending on his mood and the stinks he wants to explore.  He's a smart boy, and we always go leash free--easy and safe in our low-traffic "hood."  The hush of the snow-covered landscape, the total transformation of familiar views, snow here is always a delight for us, and, unlike the brutal stuff in the northern parts of the country, ours never lasts long, "toy snow" I call it.  Still, it's great fun to watch Django roll around like a maniac, and he loves nothing more than a snowball right in the face.  So here are a few shots from my morning coffee walk with the hound.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Rocky Redux

A careful study of various weather sites revealed a window, a moment of stillness and warmth, something we couldn't let pass.  For a day we escaped to the East Side, as aficionados call it, the east side of the Sierra Nevada mountains.  Within a reasonable day trip distance, the town of Lone Pine below Mt. Whitney provides us with a fantastic mini-adventure.  Specifically, we're attracted to the world-class views and the jumbled stones of the Alabama Hills, a strange alien landscape of rough brown towers, walls, boulders and corridors where we spend frequent days clinging from edges like lizards.  To some the area might be harsh, barren, but the movie industry discovered it back in the 1930's, and it's been a favorite spot for many classic films from Gunga Din of old to the modern Gladiator with Russell Crowe.  So, throw ropes and gear into the Subaru, leave home at 7AM, arrive at 9AM for a day on the rocks.

Fuel for the drive home!

Monday, February 20, 2012

On the Rocks

Sunday gave us an extraordinary little outing.  After almost six months since we last molested the stone, it was time to get off the horizontal and venture once more into regions where gravity and nerve play a particularly spicy role.  Think burly jalapenos, at least for the average flat lander.  For those acquainted with vertical travel, our climbs were tame affairs, but for us, after so long away from climbing, getting back into the game is always "interesting."  We took Jodi's sister along and traveled to a remote desert canyon remarkable for its flowing water pouring down through a dramatic granitic landscape, jumbled chaos of boulders and faces hundreds of feet high.  Much of the climbing here is difficult, but we knew of a few easy climbs that would be good reintroductions to the sport.  My approaching 50th birthday marks my 35th year of climbing, both numbers that leave me scratching my head in disbelief.  Can such things be?  Indeed they are, pilgrim, and you'd best get used to it. One incredible experience we had on the way out was when we stopped to water the foliage.  As Jodi stepped into a grove of tamarisk trees, they exploded with owls!  This was absolutely unique for us.  We've only seen them singly and usually during night or late dusk, early dawn.   This was a gaggle of owls, a veritable Harry Potteresque convocation of the curious raptors, at least a dozen, maybe more.  A group migrating?  Mysterious.  Unfortunately, it was impossible to photograph.  Being in the middle of a barren desert, however, the owls didn't go far but circled back quickly to roost in the thick branches.  Simply astounding.  Later, up in the wilderness of rocks, we saw a group of three hawks screeching their complaints into the blue winter sky.

About two hours of driving, adding ruthlessly to our carbon footprint, took us to a long, sandy wash and this view:

Water in the desert:

We thought we might have the place to ourselves--not an unusual occurrence out here--but we were later joined by a huge, noisy party that included much drinking, dope smoking, and even some gun play.  We did a climb close to the parking area then moved operations hundreds of feet into the wilderness of rocks and so had a fairly quiet (save for a few gun shots) afternoon.  A picture of the hero and his first climb (piss easy with much internal fear!):

After this climb, it was a strenuous hike with climbing gear up to the next area:

This wall was our objective.  We have in the past climbed to the summit.  This time, we only went about halfway up and set a rope for practice.  This wall is close to 300 ft. high:

Django feeling no pain:

The wilderness of rocks:

What a grand, wonderful day.  Get out there, folks.  Life is stinkin' short!

Saturday, February 18, 2012


It's been a long, fairly warm and dry winter, but at long last, snow has come back to Tehachistan.  I've had my own long, slow recovery from the Ebola/Hunta/Andromeda Strain that has been corrupting my system, but I'm finally starting to get my strength back.  Dreams of long rides and hikes and climbs are starting to feel like a possibility again.  It's strange how when you're sick, it feels like you've always been sick.  I've had a cough for two straight weeks and only now is it finally subsiding.  It's good to be back.  We get out, hike the local mountains and did our first ride together in weeks.  We need to start doing a lot more of that so that by the time August rolls around we're a couple of pedaling machines.   In June I have a fundraising adventure ride for the Wounded Warrior Project.  Please, feel free to pitch in!

Once again, as we pedal and hike about our local area, I'm struck by how much we are the freaks, the odd balls.  The overwhelming majority is in cars.  Virtually no one does errands on bikes in this area.  I can count the number of times I've seen someone at the grocery store with a bike on one hand.  I think it will take astronomically high gas prices to change this behavior.  That, of course, will mean a total change of the economy and our collective lifestyles.  I truly wish I could jump forward a good two or three hundred years to see what the end of the petroleum age looks like.  Certainly our lives will be lived much more locally unless some scientist truly cracks the fuel problem--hydrogen, perhaps?  There's no way to tell.  When my grandparents were born, internal combustion was just getting started.  As children they would run out into the streets  to see a plane fly overhead.  When they died, we had been to the moon.  What I find especially fascinating from a human-powered perspective is that the bicycle is still the most efficient means of transportation ever invented in terms of distance traveled for energy input.  No other invention even comes close.  Spread the gospel of the pedal and the chain!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

When the couch wins...

It's been a low, difficult week as I wage battle against the infernal forces of a viral infection.  Chills, aches, sweating at night to a disturbing degree, days of coughing...aaarrrrgh.  I hate to be consigned to the couch.  I'm slowly climbing back, but I'm not there yet.  The light strong feeling of health and easy movement can be so quickly taken for granted.  Those of us without any significant disabilities, especially when we're young, can drift through our days neglectful of the gift that is our physical selves.  Only when disease or accident knocks us down do we fully appreciate what we had.  I see so many in this culture addicted to laziness, using their bodies to the least degree, guzzling gallons of toxic soda every day, sitting in smog-belching vehicles in the drive-thru for McPuke's, Starfunks, the bank, the pharmacy for the drugs to manage their diabetes and high blood pressure that they wouldn't have if they weren't sitting in a line of cars waiting for their drugs!  It's a self-reinforcing death spiral and I'm sickened and saddened by it.   One of the bus drivers I encounter regularly is a sweet, middle-aged woman.  We all like her.  But, alas, she's as big as a house, and climbing the three steps up into the cab leaves her gasping and heaving with the effort--three steps!  There was a time when such large people were rare; today they are common place.  On that one bus ride alone there were three super-obese young people probably less than half the driver's age but fully her equal in bulk.  They are virtually certain to live shorter lives plagued by chronic diseases.  Isn't life hard enough?

This is a recent condition for society.  In the last twenty years, the American population has literally ballooned.  If we combine the overweight with the obese, we're looking at close to three quarters of the population.  Disease has been quick to follow.  I remember the early 90's film What's Eating Gilbert Grape in which the protagonist leads a limited life of shame and embarrassment because he has to care for his huger-than-life mother.  The climactic scene shows the mother staggering--outside!--with a cane, her dress billowing like a circus tent.  The turn of the plot is such that we are supposed to empathize with her and Gilbert, see the sweet mother for something more than a freak.  Most viewers do, I suspect, but there's no doubting the effect of seeing such a large person.  I mean, holy cow, look at the size of that lady!  So here's the rub:  She is not uncommon anymore.  On the bus, at the mall, everywhere I see Gilbert's mom and countless others in training for the role.  Politically correct pundits talk about "size acceptance."  Certainly we should not publicly humiliate the overweight amongst us.  We are the overweight.  But how "accepting" should we be be of this deadly trend?  We eat crappy food and sit too much, and that's all there is to it.  When I was a boy, huge numbers of kids walked and rode bikes to school.  Today, gaming-addicted kids and fearful parents have made the bike racks forlorn and dusty affairs.

The most important gospel we can spread today is that of health, of joyful movement, of ditching the screen for the ultimate hi-def super display: the great outdoors.  So while I stare at this screen, while I sink into the couch, I'm plotting my escape, dreaming of the hills, of wind, of a bicycle humming beneath my straining bones, the trail unfurling through sagebrush and grey pine.  Snow lingers on the heights.  It's time to go....

A few photos from the last hike I did before this Ebola/Hunta/Andromeda Strain kicked my ass: