Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Without Apology

I suppose I should apologize for my absence.  But I'm just not feeling it.

What I would like to say is that it's great to be hanging out with you here again on this most humble of virtual venues.

I built a bike jump in my backyard starting last night and finishing up tonight, which is, I guess, the impetus of this post, if not the true subject.

The backstory is that the pump track that I put together about 3 years ago, with the help of friends, is scheduled to soon go away forever, with no trace left.  It has become time for me to "grow up".

Many would say that this sentiment is long overdue, and that a man my age was wildly immature for building it in the first place.

I would like to counter that notion with a little story from my way-past . . .

When I was 12, I "ordered up" a Tonka mobile crane for Christmas.  I was way past the age when a boy should be playing with Tonkas of any kind, but "Santa" indulged me.  The thing is though, this crane was an advanced piece of machinery, and there is no way in hell that any 8, 10 or even 11-year-old would even have a clue as to how to maximize its potential.  A certain amount of maturity was requisite, and I had it, and I knew it.  No apologies.  Did I play with it for the next 3 years?  Hell no.  But for the next 6 months, I was industrious as hell at the helm of that fine piece of equipment.  Not a lot of friends came around during that period, but whatever.

So, can anyone build a pump track?  Why yes, of course.  But can anyone do it well??  I think possibly not.  It might just take someone with a certain amount of life and technical experience, as well as a furious pent up need to commune with a weird bunch of freaks who have a latent desire to ride in circles without pedaling.  And an even stronger need to do it well, in order to please the freaks.

Could I have pulled this off as a younger man?  Probably not, I submit.  So my maturity empowered my immaturity.  Chew on that, if you will.  And in the meantime, let me once again refuse to apologize.  I have no regrets about "doing" the pump track.

So let us elegantly segue . . .

Work has been totally bugging me.  As in the need to show up by 8 and stay until 5.  Say politically correct stuff.  That type of thing.  It occurred to me just yesterday that the prescription was to build a jump on the pump track site.  Not sure why I didn't think of this sooner.  It turned into a 2 evening project.

Brandy was on board the whole way.  Unlike the rest of you bastards, she never questions me.

Once the jump was fairly roughed in, I employed the massive footprint of the Blackborow to ride it into shape.

Eventually, the mighty Bucksaw came out to play.  Brandy is the poster child for the axiom that negative attention is better than no attention at all, and as a result, I spent the entire jump session dodging her presence in either the approach or landing zone.  Despite the hindrance, I freakin' skied!  Wish I had pics, but alas, no other party was around to run the iphone cam.  You will have to trust me on this.

While I do recognize that this last-ditch effort to exercise my dirt-moving freedom is largely symbolic (as in flipping the bird to the maturity establishment), I am also quite intrigued by the scientific aspects of the endeavor.  I'm not a bike nerd in any respectable sense of the term and I actually get quite bored by a lot of bike nerdy topics, but the whole deal about the shape of the ramp and the launch trajectory is currently fascinating to me and is probably something I will be playing with over the course of the next few days.  So clearly, I am not a nerd, to reiterate.

The way that the jump works is that you have to go out into the street to get a start, and then haul ass down the driveway, swerving around the dog, and hope you get enough speed to launch.  My neighbors will be observing an overweight, middle-aged dude doing this over and over again, in the high-90's heat of the coming weekend, if everything goes as planned.

Super weird, then.

But the feeling that I need to apologize still eludes me.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Trippin' 5

On Day 4 of our vacay, the whole deal about dragging our bikes along finally started to make me look like the genius I clearly am, as opposed to the idiot I am perceived as.  We destined to Ocean Shores, where it was raining, which rarely happens at the edge of the ocean, but sometimes it just does.

We arrived in the afternoon, so there wasn't time to do a proper beach ride, but there sure as hell was a bit of time to get out and play.  I rung up Ward, who has a place down the beach a ways from where we were staying, and he rode up to meet us.  He's no fun to hang out with, as you can clearly see.

Meanwhile, Patty was getting her first taste of beach riding on her new fatbike.  She clearly hates it.

It was our good fortune to be able to kidnap Jacque out of the big city and drag her down to the beach with us.  She got her first taste of fatbiking and beach riding, all at once.  It was intense.  Clearly.

Ward is clearly the man.

It is clear to me that my massively powerful legs are too much for my drivetrain.  What to do about it is not exactly as clear.

Patty is clearly embracing the fatbike lifestyle.

If one thing is clear, it's that beach riding is all kinds of awesome.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

The Privilege Of Power

I had just gotten home from work around 7:00 this Thursday past.  I had my overhead garage door open, as I was shuttling some important nerdy hardware from my truck to my garage/shop.  Somewhere amidst this process, I heard this mildly startling, quite unnatural noise.  It was a loud, "cracking-popping" style noise, that gave me pause.  I looked around, but couldn't figure out what it was, so I logically continued with the nerdware shuttling.  When I was done, I hit the electric garage door button.  Nothing.  I hit it again.  And then one more time.  Still nothing.

Look, I might be a little slow on the uptake, but when I finally get it right, I get it right.  And I  had finally come to the conclusion that our power was out.  Smart guy that I am.

First things first, then:  Let's get a handle on whether this is a "me" issue or an "us" issue.  I'd rather it not be a me-issue, because that means something is really messed up with my old house electrical system.  Again.  I wasn't willing to face that reality unless forced to.

Cautiously looking around at my neighbors' houses during broad daylight, clues were scarce.  Not quite ready yet to play the fool by wandering next door and spitting out the age-old line, "Hey, do you have electricity?", I continued to peer through the cracks in my now drawn shades, for signs of activity in the street.

Slowly, surely, it became clear to me that I was not the only one affected.  Like I said, I may not have the quickest mind, but when there are throngs of neighbors progressing in front of my house in an east-to-west direction, on what should otherwise be a casual Thursday evening, leave it to my amazing deductive powers to conclude that maybe something is up.

So I joined the one-block procession.  Anonymously, of course.  And here is what I saw, at our destination:

Yeah, I know!  Holy living hell, right?

That vertical 12-15 foot high object with the scruffy top just to the left of the mustard house is the stump of the tree that snapped off and fell with precise perpendicularity across the arterial that is Bernard, thereby positioning itself in a very balanced and geometric fashion high in the air, by smartly utilizing the support of the utility wires running down the east side of Bernard, as well as those running down the west side of Bernard.  And of course shorting out all electrical functionality of said lines, in the process.

You can not dream something like this up.  It was amazing to behold.  And at the same time, the burning question in my mind is how this going to get fixed.  And how long will it take.  Panic had just now begun to set in.  I FREAKING NEED MY ELECTRICITY!!!

Desperation had suddenly become my new middle name, because I just couldn't envision that the operation of removing this bigass tree from the sky, on a windy night, made any sense at all, from the perspective of the actual needs of residents, vs the safety of the folks who would have to go up there in the dark, and the wind, and get this thing off the lines, and restore power.  I was absolutely certain that I would be taking a lukewarm shower in the morning, and that I would be unable to check my email until I got to work the next morning [GASP!]

But I would be wrong.

It took a while to get the right people and equipment staged up, but when that happened, shit totally went down.  I stayed up way past my bedtime, because I could not help myself.  It was just so fascinating to watch the process that occurred in the dead of night.  All of the following is going on between about 11:30pm and 12:30am.

The crew was unbelievably skilled and organized.  There was no shouting or frenzy of any kind.  It was a totally chill, yet appropriately urgent, orchestration of human and big-rig activity.  I don't know who was calling the shots, but that person was smart, and experienced, and everyone calmly followed the orders that had been communicated for executing a well-planned operation to perform a task that would scare the pants off of you and me.

According to the Avista website, about 750 residential customers were affected.  Power was restored at around 3:00am.  Word.

Avista gets a lot of public criticism over rate hikes and expense and all of that, but damnit, they are super-committed to keeping us all continuously fed with gas and electricity, which is something we cannot help but take for granted because they do it so well.

I'm gonna try to take is a little less for granted.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Trippin' 4

There's this inherent security problem with taking your bike on a driving vacation with you, if you are to have the freedom you desire, to roam wherever the hell you want.  Bikes on roof racks, or bikes on hitch racks doesn't get it done.  You have to always be arriving at a place where you can offload them and stash them into your secure hotel room, or some such other place.  What a royal PITA.  You could throw them inside your Sprinter van, if you own one, but then you have to be willing to drive your bigass van around highly congested urban cores, if those are part of where you need to go, which for us it was, because that's where our daughter is.  And then you have to figure out how to live with your Sprinter for the other 51 weeks of the year.  Make it your daily driver?  I can't imagine how that would not totally suck.  Buy another economical daily driver and park your Sprinter most of the time, and insure and make space for and maintain them both?   I can't imagine how that would not totally suck.   It's not a trivial problem to deal with, but some form of solution was a serious priority for this trip.

I really like my Nissan Frontier.  It's a small truck that is still a really capable 'truck', that suits my city life and allows me to park in a narrow supermarket parking space or parallel park downtown.  And it still has enough power to kick ass on the interstate.  So I rigged a scheme that allowed our bikes to live securely in the back of our canopy-covered-truck during this trip.  We didn't have to make any compromises in terms of where we went or parked, and I had total peace of mind throughout the entire trip, with respect to the security of our bikes.

So with that in mind, our next stop was Seattle proper.  We met up with our daughter Jacque and BF Nate and did a walkabout from their apartment, towards our destination, while enjoying some of the Seattle-unique sights.

We ended up at the renowned Boat Street Cafe, which will soon be closing, and enjoyed the most delightful  brunch.

At some point during the course of the day, J & N routed us through Fremont Brewing.  It was a lovely day in Seattle and the place was a-hoppin.

That evening, J & N prepared a Thai meal for us in their apartment.  They both work in the food industry and know a lot about what they are doing when it comes to putting a fine meal together.

While they were cooking, I was keeping an eye on the sunset from their fire escape.  Word.

Elegant, cozy.  The food was SO GOOD, and SO HOT.  We laughed until we cried over our dilemma of pain versus pleasure.  It was a wonderful meal/experience, shared with people I love, that I will never forget.

Patty and I spent the night at the Inn At Queen Anne.  Not only was it a dump, it was on overpriced dump.  But location is everything, and our desired location was close to Jacque and Nate, so it worked for us.

Damn, what a good day.

All the while, the bikes were sitting in the back of the truck, and nary one ounce of worry was expended over their safety.  So all in all, a pretty rad, comfortable, bikes-on-vacation visit to the big city.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Trippin' 3

Later, that same day, we hit the mean streets of the greater Puget Sound region, and worked our way up to Anacortes.  Destination: Friday Harbor.  Tookalongtime.  (See??  How social media is affecting me already???)

On the way, we were able to extricate Jacque out of the big city.

 The enticement being, a particular jam session:

 There was a righteous clam bake, and of course, uke-craving souls were to be filled with uke music aplenty.

At the time, I was not a uke player, and maybe at this moment I am or am not.  Whether it would have changed the story in any way?  Oh,  I think maybe it woulda.  Or maybe not.  We will certainly never know.

Irrelevant, in any case.  My bike had been locked up in the back of my canopy-covered truck bed for well over 24 hours and needed to frickin' breathe.

So we seized the moment and did a little rideabout.

Yes, I won.

Thank you for tuning in to another episode of the slowest story ever told, and good night.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Trippin' 2

The first stop on our tour was the Infinity Center, in Everett, for Patty's graduation ceremony.

She's been this rad RN at Shriner's Hospital for the past several years, working in the OR for the most immediate past several, looking at things every day like kids getting their spines worked on. Holy hell. I would faint about 3 seconds into this job, day after day, until they mercifully fired me.

The evolution in her profession is pretty much dictating that nurses get there Bachelor's degrees, even though they've already put in the equivalent of a four year degree to get their RN, but that's the reality. So she went back to school, in her evenings, and on her weekends, while working pretty much a full time schedule at Shriner's. In the middle of all the multi-tasking and study-stress, she was awarded Spokane Shriners employee of the year. The woman rocks.

She completed her coursework a coupla months ago and got her diploma in the mail. She had decided that walking wasn't necessary, or cool, or some such nonsense. If ever there was anyone who should walk it is Patty. An intervention was clearly in order.

During a timely, fateful visit from her sister Peg and family, tremendous, yet tactful pressure was brought to bear on Patty. After due process, she caved. Because, I think, she knew what was right.  And because we weren't leaving her much choice.

And so it came to pass . . .

You may or may not notice how many of her fellow graduates are preoccupied/distracted during the ceremony, and how focused she is on the presentation.  Feel free to notice.  It's representative of her whole approach to the value and gravity of what she has gone after and earned.

Almost time . . .

. . . and POW!!!

The very people that were there to intervene and get her to change her mind about walking, were exactly the same people who showed up to watch her walk.  So awesome.

Patty and her sister Peg.  The other P & P.

Patty and her niece Grace, who is about to graduate from HS with stellar grades and resume, and just committed to GU.  Woot!

I'll not get all crazy here, but how damn lucky we are to live in a country where the limits that are imposed upon us are primarily the limits imposed by our own ambitions and not our government or culture.

It's a tremendous freedom to be able to chart your own path, but also not a particularly easy one, and I am extremely proud of my wife for what she has achieved.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Trippin' 1

So Patty and I took a trip last week.  It was kinda monumental in terms of bike/vacation integration.

In the olden days, I woulda waxed all poetic about it and spun some kinda major tale.  But these are the modern daze, and the time for that type of effort just doesn't exist.  Somehow, though, the story must be told.

So I think what I am gonna do is just punch out the hi-lites, across a few posts.

Somewhere between Spokane and Ritzville, then.  So the very boring beginning,

Patty, I love you, for driving.

I just plain love you, actually.

But do me one favor, babe, and keep your eyes on the road, and not my ear, or nose, or whatever I unwittingly appurtenanced  into the scene.

Not that I don't totally dig your attention.