Monday, December 31, 2007

Christmas and Big Bend

Christmas morning I got up early and drove up to the Dallas area to have Christmas dinner with my Aunt, Uncle, Grandmother, and my cousin and her husband and two kids. It was very good but I had to sit there smelling it for an hour before it was actually served, so I devoured my first plate and went back for seconds. After exchanging a few gifts and a power nap, I drove back to Austin.
The next morning (Boxing Day for the Brits) I got up early and started riding out to Big Bend NP. It was warmish at the house, foggy with some water on the road. I briefly considered not wearing all of my cold-weather gear, but put it all on anyway. I wore long johns, thermal socks, a thermal-type Henley shirt; then my leather jacket with the liner, my new chaps (bought for 15% off Christmas Eve to replace my old ones with broken zippers), my leather gauntlet gloves and a thin pair of gloves underneath as a liner, and a fleece face mask. I was black from helmet to boots, with only the smallest patches of skin showing that the mask didn't cover. I was thinking it would warm up along the way and I would take some of it off later, but it never did, and in fact it got colder around Fredericksburg (or at least it felt like it, it may have just been exposure). It didn't take too long before I was freezing cold even with all the gear. I later realized that my jacket was a bit too loose and allowed a draft over my chest. I made gas stops in Junction, Ozona and Fort Stockton, warming up slightly, but only stopped for about 20 minutes each time, so it didn't really help much.
I did however make a long (2 hour) stop at the Caverns of Sonora and warmed up completely. Before the tour started, they recommended that everyone leave their jackets. I was reluctant, but the assured us that the cavern was quite warm and humid. I had already taken off my chaps, and left my jacket with them. There was a short walk outside to get to the actual cave entrance, but I was already freezing at that point so it wasn't a big problem. Once we got into the cave it was much warmer, but I was still cold for a while and never felt hot. The cavern started out pretty average- not really big, not many formations- but then we got to the area where they had to blast in order to get to. The really active portion is absolutely amazing. I was amazed at the abundance of "cave popcorn" throughout. I thought the most stunning formations were the helictites, especially the "fishtail" formations. The way the defy gravity makes them so spectacular. It was very unfortunate to hear about how vandals broke one of their most famous formations, the "butterfly," two fishtails growing next to each other. Another highlight was the "geode room" or "surprise room" (so called because when they were blasting they were surprised to find it was filled with water)- what was once an almost completely enclosed room lined most of the way up with dogtooth spar formations. After the tour I had a snack then geared back up to continue on my way in the cold.
I got into the park itself about 4:45, showed my National Parks card at the entry station, and continued the 25+ miles to Chisos Basin and the campground. Once I got there, though I was lost because I'd forgotten my reservation info and had no idea what site I was staying in. After a wandering around lost for a while the campground host, who was having dinner and wine with some campers, saw me and asked if I needed some help. In his trailer he found what site I had reserved, so I headed there to make camp. Being cold and not real hungry yet, I decided to warm up by hiking up to the lodge and store. The store's selection was quite slim, nothing like the larger parks like Yellowstone or Yosemite. I bought a six pack of Bud Light and bread to make sandwiches and went back to camp to have dinner. I slept that night in pretty much what I'd worn all day, minus the leather and jeans. I was in my relatively new 20 degree sleeping bag with a bag liner and a blanket over my feet. It was in the 20s overnight and while I was a bit chilly at times, I wasn't really cold. I didn't sleep any better than I had been at home due to terrible nasal congestion. I had been hoping that the dry desert air would be a miraculous cure for what I'm assuming is just related to allergies.
After some oatmeal and consulting with the campground host, I set off with my pack full of water and granola bars and two PBJs on the Window trail. It was an easy downhill getting there and it is just spectacular. There's a really neat little stream that the trail criss-crosses toward the end. It forms little pools and mini waterfalls and is just really cool looking. "The Window" itself is a narrow slot canyon that dumps out the stream practically to the desert floor below. The view from there is quite beautiful, but really hard to photograph with my camera because the canyon is kind of dark and the desert landscape is really bright. There was a guy taking pictures at the end whom I startled a bit when I popped out from behind a rock, although he certainly should have heard me coming. After enjoying the Window, I started back toward the campground, but as suggested I went about 1/4 mile up (and I mean up- it was pretty steep) the Oak Springs trail for another amazing view of the desert, as well as the canyon I had hiked down. I decided against going all the way down to the desert on that trail and instead headed back the Window trail. Instead of just going back to the campground, I hiked on up to the store, which was a steeper trail than the rest of the Window trail, but not quite as steep as the Oak Springs trail. All told, my heart monitor watch said I burned about 1400 calories. I relaxed a bit, got a drink, went into the ranger station and ate my PBJ sandwiches. After hiking back down to camp I got some things and headed to check out the hot spring near Rio Grande Village. The road to the hot spring is not paved and about halfway there's a big sign warning not to take trailers or dual wheeled vehicles past that point. I took that to mean the didn't recommend motorcycles, but I probably wouldn't have had a problem, it wasn't that much worse than the rest of the road. Rather than walk along the road, I hiked across and down a hill to get to the trail that leads to the actual hot spring. The spring has been enclosed in rocks and cement and is directly adjacent to the Rio Grande. The pool was quite silty, mostly from the river bank crumbling into it. The water was quite warm and felt pretty good, but it wasn't very deep, only mid-chest when sitting down. The pool is fairly large, but there were quite a few people there. After I'd had enough and hiked back to my bike along the road, I rode to Rio Grande Village to take a shower. It was quite warm in that area that afternoon, getting to a high around 80, so I didn't put all of my gear on for the ride back to the basin. Rather than go right back to camp, I went and had dinner at the lodge. The steak was mediocre, the sides were pretty good but nothing special. I ate my steak with A1, which I rarely do, and I ate more fat than I normally would, on the justification that I'd burned enough calories hiking that morning.
That second night was the coldest, probably somewhere in the teens. My water bottle had a bunch of ice crystals in the morning. The eggs were kind of milky and nearly frozen. In the bowl I used to beat them, the remnants that didn't make it to the fry pan froze before I finished eating. They tasted fine, however, and went well with a slice of SPAM. I don't normally eat SPAM, but it's a great camping food with all of its salt and fat to replace what you lose hiking. Since I was planning to ride that day and it was so cold, I waited for it to warm up some before leaving. It was after 10:30 when I left. Instead of my original plan to start toward Presidio along the river road, I decided I'd start toward Alpine and have lunch somewhere in that area. I went to a diner in Fort Davis that used to be a drug store. The chopped beef sandwich I had was pretty good, the bread was very good, but the service wasn't great. The three waitresses there were very overworked and it took a while for them to get around to me. After lunch I rode to McDonald Observatory and got there just as a guided tour was about to leave. I got a ticket (for a reduced price since I'm a member of UT's Blanton museum, and the observatory is run by UT) and got the last seat on the mini tour bus, next to the driver/tour guide. We were a very large group, their busiest times being around holidays, but all fit in the telescope dome. We got a demonstration of the telescope moving, the dome rotating and the doors opening, as well as info about 107" telescope itself and the facility in general. The formal tour ended there, but the bus went on to the Hobby-Eberly Telescope, a large segmented mirrored telescope with a much more limited range of motion. We didn't get to go into the room with the HET, but the building has a lobby with info and a large window to view the telescope. When I got back to the visitors center it was 4:45 and I was very concerned about how cold it would be riding back in the dark. I knew it was too late to try to do the river road, since it would take even longer to get back and it would be too dark to enjoy the view. I did, however, want to make sure that I went through Presidio county, but wasn't quite sure where the county line was. I started on my intended path through Marfa and was glad to find that it is in fact in Presidio county. Instead of continuing to Presidio, I turned in Marfa to head back through Alpine. The GPS said it was quicker to go back the way I came, on TX 118, but in retrospect it may have been slightly quicker to go back through Marathon because of the hills and turns on 118. I got gas in Alpine just as the sun was setting. I should have changed to by clear lenses there, but thought there was enough sun left to warrant the dark glasses, so I ended up changing on the side of the road when it got too dark. It had been cold riding all day, but when the sun went down it got even colder. On the plus side, I did see a bobcat run across the road near sunset. It was so cold and there's nothing on that road, so I was just counting down the miles back to Study Butte. I stopped in at a convenience store to warm up a bit before going back into the park. I was hoping they would have some hot chocolate available, but no such luck. It was about 8 when I got back to camp, freezing cold. I wasn't really hungry and knew I was going to bed very soon, so instead of dinner I just made some hot chocolate and stood in the heated bathroom a while to warm up.
Saturday I had SPAM and eggs for breakfast again and geared up for the hike to Emory Peak, the highest point in the park. I got off a little later than I had hoped, hitting the trail about 9:30. I didn't see or hear anybody going my direction on the trail, but there was a group of people going the other direction less than a mile from the trailhead. I hardly saw anyone else on my way up the 3.5 mile Pinnacles trail, but I did see a number of small birds. The trail wasn't especially strenuous, but it did have quite a bit of elevation gain. I did have to stop to catch my breath a few times along the way. Mostly I would pause for a minute to have a drink and let my heart slow down a little. At the peak of the Pinnacles trail the view over the basin was quite spectacular. From the lodge, Casa Grande looks really high, but it's an illusion as Emory is much higher, and you're already looking down on it from the top of the Pinnacles trail. From there the trail descends a bit to the start of the Emory Peak trail. I ate a PBJ before stowing my pack in one of the bear boxes there, bringing only my 1-liter water bottle and two granola bars, plus whatever was in my pockets. The trail to the peak is steep- almost every step is a gain in elevation. I had to pause at least every 100 feet gained. I finally got to the rocky outcrop that is the actual peak. There are two upshots from a saddle, and it's hard to tell from there which is the true peak. I took a guess that it was on the left, scrambling up to the top of it only to find that the other one is the true peak. There is a solar-powered radio station (I'm guessing a weather station, but I didn't see an anemometer) on both "peaks," so they look the same from below. At that point I was thinking "Oh well, close enough" and headed down. Unfortunately I went down a different way than I came up and couldn't find the trail. I circled around the mountain looking for it, crawling under trees and getting poked by agave and prickly pears. When I found the trail, I took it back up to recover my water bottle I'd ditched when I needed my hands to ascend. Four guys had made it to the saddle by that point and were having lunch. I sat down and drank my water and ate my granola bars. While we were all sitting there, two women who spoke to each other in English and German arrived and started toward the summit. After regaining some of my energy, I decided I couldn't leave without reaching the true peak and went in the direction of these women. The second woman was being timid about scaling the boulders while her friend was coaching her. I decided I would attempt a more difficult route rather than wait for them to finish. I didn't have any real trouble with the craggy boulders and was quickly at the peak while the woman were still working on getting up. I enjoyed the view, it must have been possible to see the entire park, took some photos including one of myself to prove I was there, and started the scramble back down. Psychologically I find the descent more difficult, but it didn't really slow me down this time. On the way down to the Pinnacles/South Rim trail I passed about a dozen people on their way up, at least one alone, most in twos or small groups. After I got my pack out of the bear box, I sat and had lunch at the peak of the Pinnacles trail. It was windy, which made me feel cool just sitting there, so after drying off some of the sweat I put my down jacket back on. Once I started hiking again it wasn't long before I took it off again, plus of course it gets warmer the lower the elevation. I passed more people going up as I was going down, and there was one guy who was going down at a similar pace to me. I passed him when he stopped to take a picture, he passed me when I stopped for a quick break. Back down at the basin I bought some beer and Oreo cookies and went back to camp to read for the rest of the afternoon, it only being about 3pm. It was a great relaxing afternoon, warm enough that I took my shoes off for a while to let my feet air out. It got cold again once the sun went behind the mountains. For dinner I had a freeze-dried meal of rice and chicken, which I liked better than any of the other ones I've had, which along with everything else helped replace the 3000 calories my watch said I burned. I made up some hot chocolate and went to the amphitheater for a ranger presentation on the various raptors that live in or pass through Big Bend. It got even cooler during the presentation and I went back to my campsite and got into my sleeping bag and read my book until I fell asleep.
The last night was probably the warmest, but still in the low 30s. I slept better than I had been, but woke up about 5:15 and started packing up after reading for a little while. After oatmeal for breakfast, getting everything packed up, and waiting for the sun to really wake up, I set off from camp about 8:30. I got gas before leaving the park, since I didn't have enough to get to Marathon (the next available on my route, 70 miles away). I took a different route home, and my next stop was in Sanderson. It was actually warming up by that point (about 11), but I was still cold so I stopped long enough to drink a hot chocolate. I made a quick stop at Amistad National Recreational Area-Pecos River to look at the steep-walled river, and then continued on for my next stop in Del Rio. It was definitely warmer at that point, and was overly warm once I hit traffic. When I got gas I left my glove liners and face mask off. From there, the gas I had got me close enough to San Antonio that I wasn't worried about running out in the middle of nowhere, so decided I would go until the gauge started blinking. I was glad that it didn't blink until I was out of San Antonio proper, in Schertz, 170 miles from Del Rio. It was 4pm at that point and still pretty warm. I would have taken off my chaps if I had more room to store them, but kept them on and switched to lighter gloves. From there it was a quick 45 minute jog back home, where I plopped down and vegetated for the rest of the night. The route home added Terrell, Val Verde, and Kinney counties to the list of counties I've ridden to, taking me over the 75% mark for the state. On my colored-in county map it leaves a hole for Maverick county which I aim to fill before too long. Ending 2007, the Fat Boy stands at 77,103 miles and 2940 for the Night Train.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Freezing in the Rain

Friday after work I went to check out a new restaurant I'd noticed the day before at lunch- BJ's Restaurant and Brewhouse. I assumed they actually brewed beer there, but the bartender said that in Texas, the chain's beers are brewed under contract by Saint Arnold's. They do brew Root Beer and Cream Soda there, which I sampled and liked. I sampled four of their 7+ house beers, all of which were good but not spectacular. From there I went home for a bit before meeting up with Jimmy and Renee at TX Roadhouse for dinner. After dinner we went to have a beer at recently opened Little Woodrow's in the same development.
I slept late Saturday, and Jimmy called to have some breakfast. After swinging by his house, we went to the Texican where I stuffed myself on migas and potatoes and beans. After breakfast it was almost 11 already. With no agenda or direction, we went riding east. We eventually stopped at a tiny bar called "the Trough," with two tables made out of bathtubs. We rode around some more, stopping in Staples at Riley's, which claims to be the oldest bar in Texas. While we were sitting there, I got a call from the Harley shop that my Night Train was done getting a 103 cubic inch motor upgrade. Leaving Riley's we hauled ass back to Austin, dropped my bike at my house and then Jimmy gave me a ride to the Harley shop. It was very strange to be on the back of a bike, made more uncomfortable since he didn't have his sissy bar on. Fortunately, I don't think anyone I know saw us ride up together. The service writer wanted to hear how it sounds (as did I, of course), so I fired it up and gave it a few raps. It sounds deeper (it was already loud), with more of a lopey, big-cam sound to it. Everyone agreed it sounds nice. Since it needs to be tuned on the dyno, and they can't do that until it's broken in, it was running rich, spitting out some soot with each rap of the throttle. That evening I went to my company holiday party, which unfortunately conflicted with the HOG chapter party.
Sunday morning I went rollerblading at the veloway, but didn't stay as long as I normally do due to knee pain, fatigue from not having been in three weeks, and also because I wanted to get home for an emergency toy run. I'm not certain what the group was exactly, but I believe it was Blue Santa. There was a real good turn out, about 50 bikes, especially considering it was put together in only a few days. We rode from the dealership to Hill's Cafe, not surprisingly getting separated at traffic lights since we didn't have any sort of escort. Most everyone sat down and ordered food, which overwhelmed the staff. About 1:15 a representative of the charity showed up to collect the toys and cash, somewhat unceremoniously. After everyone had lunch, almost everyone left, opting not to go to someone else's toy run out at Cindy's near Bastrop. Dave Bigley, Troy, myself and two Reguladores members rode out there in support. I think the original idea/hope was that there would be a lot more of the first crowd going, but considering the bleak forecast and a few drops on the way from the dealership, at least the one was well attended. There were still a number of bikes at Cindy's when we got there, which seemed to be at the end of the toy run.
The problem was that we stayed too long and let the cold front come in. Just as we were about to walk out the front door, it started raining, and it had already gotten colder. In the morning, I decided that I would ride the Night Train, not bring a jacket, and just get wet if that 40% chance hit. Well, I sure payed for it then. The rain was pretty hard, but localized. I was already soaked from sitting waiting for the traffic on the highway to pull out and U-turn. Once I got going headed back to Austin, I got out of the rain pretty quickly. However, it didn't warm up any as it got drier, and I was freezing the whole way home. When I finally got home I was at least glad it was only 20-something miles, but was cold and wet from head to toe. I changed into nice dry fleece and curled up on the couch under the blanket for the rest of the evening.

Monday, December 3, 2007

New York and Paris

On Tuesday, November 20, I got up early and took a taxi to fly to New York-LaGuardia and got a ride from there to my parents' house. I was supposed to go to the city and see Spamalot on Wednesday, but because of the strike it was closed, so we just went to Best Buy and bought a new high-def TV. They didn't have it in stock and we probably couldn't have fit it in the car, so they're pretty much on their own to get it hooked up.
We left fairly early Thursday to go upstate for Thanksgiving dinner. We've been having Thanksgiving there for about 20 years now, with more or less the same group of people year after year. This year was a large crowd, 25 for dinner, as well as 4 dogs and my 2-year old niece. It was the first time I had been to the place, a former mill and onetime working farm, since a massive flood last year completely changed the stream that goes through the property, as well as additional flooding this year that damaged some of what was fixed. Where there was a pond and a waterfall feeding a swimming hole, there is "the pit" and just a stream. I walked through the marshy "pit" with a friend who had been there when the Corps of Engineers was doing work to restore the former stream bed. A tremendous amount of work had to be done to get the place back in order- all the stone walls along the creek had to be rebuilt, the plant beds had to be replace, and the bridge across was gone forever.
Dinner was excellent and of course I ate too much, and then still had dessert afterward. After socializing for a while and it feeling as though it were much later, we went into town for the night. Normally we would stay on "the farm," but since there was such a crowd and we would only be staying for one night, my family stayed at the Super 8. Most years we would have stayed up late either doing a jigsaw puzzle or playing Boggle, but this was only a short stay. The next morning my parents, sister, brother-in-law, niece and I ate at the Denny's next door before we went back home to prepare for the trip to Paris.
After final packing, we drove to JFK, parked in the long term lot and took the tram to the terminal. The airport was fairly sparse, being the day after Thanksgiving, and there was no line at the check-in counter. Our flight kept being delayed because of some "maintenance issue" that first they were checking on, then seeing if they could fix it, and then trying to find us another aircraft because they couldn't fix it. Altogether, we were about 2 1/2 hours late leaving JFK. Once we were under way, I read until dinner was served, then took a sleep aid and slept until breakfast was served about 5 hours later. The breakfast croissant paled in comparison to the real thing we had in abundance during our stay. Fortunately the plane was only about half full and there was room to stretch out. My mom and dad each had a center section of three seats to stretch across, and I had two on the right side.
In Paris at Charles de Gaulle, we met up with my mom's sister (my dad saw her after my mom and I practically walked right past her) and took the RER to Chatelet-Les Halles after failing to find the van that was supposed to take us there. After getting settled in our rented apartment a bit, we all went out for a walk past the Louvre, across to Ile de la Cite, through Notre Dame, and on to Ile Saint Louis before heading back, picking up a baguette, brie, camembert and some other things for dinner, a fine inexpensive meal we repeated the next two nights.
Sunday we all headed to Palais du Luxembourg to see the Arcimboldo exhibit. It was fun, but insanely crowded. We walked through the garden and to the Pantheon. We saw an exhibit of architectural drawings at the mayor's office on the place, which was nice and refreshingly free and empty. After a lunch of crepes, we went past the Sorbonne to the Cluny museum/museum of the middle ages. I especially liked that on the unicorn tapestries the bottom sections that were reproduced using modern synthetic dyes are much more faded than the original sections which use natural dyes. From there we split up- my parents went to the Delacroix museum, my aunt went to see other museums, and I walked to the Place de la Bastille. Unfortunately the Harley shop there was closed, and I walked back to the apartment past Place des Vosges and Centre Pompidou, as well as lots of expensive-looking stores.
Monday my parents and I went to the Louvre and we toured the northern country paintings, then the 19th century French paintings. After lunch I decided I had enough for one day, and had no interest in the "big 3" (Mona Lisa, Winged Victory, Venus de Milo). My parents only went near the Mona incidentally while viewing the "large scale" French and Italian paintings. I went for a walk, through the Tuileries, past the obelisk in Place de la Concorde, and all the way down the Champs-Elysees. I climbed up the Arc de Triomphe and had a marvelous view of Paris. I walked from there to the Eiffel Tower and continued on to Hotel des Invalides, arriving about 4pm, not leaving much time to see the various attractions inside. I went through a great collection of armor and weapons in the Musee de l'Armee. I was going through the museum of the first and second world wars (quickly, it wasn't my favorite) when the started to close the place at 4:45, so I didn't get a chance to see Napoleon's tomb or anything else in the dome. I was beat at that point and took the Metro back to the Louvre.
Tuesday morning we all went to the Musee d'Orsay for a too-quick 2 hour visit. I think I missed both upper floors, including a lot of the impressionists. I did enjoy what I did see, particularly the sculptures and the pastels, but it's hard to play favorites. From there we walked to the Rodin museum, which I enjoyed very much. I particularly liked his "partially completed" marble sculptures. I left the others, taking the Metro to Notre Dame. I was disappointed the crypt was closed for the month, but did enjoy the bell towers. It was a good hike up there and the view was spectacular. I particularly liked being so close to the gargoyles. From there I did a quick tour of the relatively small Conciergerie, which at one time imprisoned Marie Antoinette among many others. I went to the nearby (in the same complex of buildings) Saint-Chapelle church, which is smallish but has a very impressive, bright interior. Security was stronger there than anyplace else on the trip (other than the airports) due to its location in the judicial complex. After meeting back up at the apartment, we all walked to the Champs-Elysees to find dinner. We wound up eating at a nice place called Le Notre in the park-like area before you get to the shops.
Wednesday we got up and waited for a while for a shared-ride type van to the airport to pick up a rental car. It was a large van that was completely full before we left the city center- us four, an American couple, and two French women. The driver must not have planned the pickups well, as after picking up the first French woman, we drove a ways more to wind up two blocks from where we picked up the American couple. From there we took what turned out to be toll roads, which like most things were fairly expensive, all the way to Caen, then other roads around Bayeux and into Balleroy and to the Chateau. Once we arrived we were served a lunch of salad and quiche and a cheese course and dessert. Despite having had some bread and cheese along the way for lunch, we had no problem eating a fine meal that had been prepared for us. The caretaker Georges showed us all of the fully modernized Chateau, almost all rooms have their own bathroom, the room that was Malcolm Forbes' being the nicest, of course, with a sauna. I also liked the library tucked beside a good-sized (as these things go) ballroom, which is said to have a parquet floor predating that of Versailles. We went up onto the roof, which has a great view of the small town and surrounding countryside. The artwork throughout is fabulous, Kip Forbes being an avid collector. I liked the works of Comte Albert de Balleroy very much, and the place must have more of his work than anywhere else in the world (it having been his onetime home and studio). Dinner was, not surprisingly, excellent and I of course ate every bite. After talking and a bit of Calvados, a local apple brandy, we headed to bed. It felt strange to be just the four of us in such an enormous place, but I managed to sleep pretty well nonetheless.
After a full spread of breakfast the next morning, we went into the town of Bayeux, after checking out the Chateau's gift shop and the world's first ballooning museum. The museum was of course founded by Malcolm Forbes, having been an avid hot-air balloon enthusiast, as well as being the first to cross the US in a hot air balloon. During his life, the Chateau was host to ballooning festivals, where he showed off all of his specially shaped balloons- a Harley, a sphinx, and one just like the Chateau itself. In Bayeux we saw the 11th century "Bayeux Tapestry," which is really embroidery and not a tapestry. From Bayeux we went north to Omaha Beach, which is very powerful, almost overwhelming. Security was pretty tight for the museum there, but the American soldiers haven't guarded the place for several years. Unfortunately the path down to the actual beach was closed off, I had wanted to go down and see what was quite a good hill, from the beach looking up. Back at the Chateau we had another lovely dinner and a good night's sleep.
The next morning I got to walk in the moat (which apparently has never been filled), which offered a nice view but the grass was quite damp. We departed and head back east, spending the afternoon in Rouen. I enjoyed the town very much, I could have spent at least an entire day there. We all toured the Musee des Beaux-Arts, whose collection got much better as we went along. Its collection pales to that of the Louvre, but almost every art museum in the world does, but they do have a lot of very nice paintings, including a Caravaggio. They have a lot of paintings by painters from Rouen or of Rouen, including one of Monet's well known paintings of the Rouen Cathedral. I walked to that one and two other very nice churches, but Saint Ouen was closed for repairs. Leaving Rouen, we went to find our hotel for the night in Beauvais. Quite unfortunately we only had the address of the place, and no maps of the town itself. We had to ask quite a few people for help, since it was after 6 at that point and the tourism office was closed. The people were all very helpful and eventually we found the place. My parents and I went out and had dinner at a dive of a place nearby, having hamburgers and hot dogs with a mountain of fries, which the waitress made sure to point out were made in house. We got up the next morning and headed back toward Paris, stopping at an enormous Super-WalMart like supermarket to spend some of our last Euros. We dropped Alice off for her noon flight, our flight not leaving until 5:50, we went to the nearby town of Senlis. It was a very nice little old town, we walked around, had a very nice lunch in a 12th-century basement restaurant. Since everything was closed for a siesta at 2 o'clock we went back to the airport. There I spent some of my remaining Euros on a couple of beers and a French magazine. The flight left on time, I managed to sleep through most of the first movie and half of the second, but only thanks to my iPod as the family in the row in front of us did not stop talking and jumping up and down the entire flight. Landing sucked because I had to turn off and stow my portable electronic device and the young boy hated the landing very very very much, screeching that he hated flying and wanted to get off. Back at Kennedy we got on the tram to the car, and walked in the (literally) freezing cold.
Sunday morning I woke up and it was snowing. Not a good thing when you have to travel. Pretty, but terrible for planes and cars. The upside is that normally there is a mix, my parents' house getting snow, and the city getting rain, and LaGuardia wasn't reporting major delays or cancellations. To add to it all, a water main broke down the street about 9:30 in the middle of my mom washing my clothes. It was after noon before they got it fixed and the water turned back on. My dad drove me to the airport about 4, my flight being reported at that time as a half hour late. Amazingly there was no line to check in, and the gate agent thought I'd make my connection, the flights being scheduled to arrive at E7 and leave from E9. Having some time, I sat down at the "Jet Rock" bar as I usually do when I have to wait at LaGuardia and drank a beer watching some football. The flight was almost completely full to Houston, but I managed to sleep for an hour or so. We wound up getting to the gate almost 40 minutes late, and it was gate E23. I checked on my cell phone and my flight to Austin was leaving out of E4. Great. I hustled, just short of running, to the gate to find that fortunately they were holding the plane for a few minutes to let those of us from NY and our bags get on the plane. Arrived in Austin about midnight, got my bag and got a cab home. Got home, got my mail, brought in the paper, and went to bed. Now, if only I could take the day off to sleep, unpack, read my mail, ...

Monday, November 5, 2007

Riding, Hiking, Camping

Wanting to try out my new backpack and hiking boots, I decided to take the day off on Friday and ride to Enchanted Rock SNA. Fortunately all my stuff stayed on the bike, but perhaps only just. When I got there and registered at noon, the place was almost empty. I rearranged my pack a bit and headed toward my campsite, deliberately taking a slightly longer route (about 2 miles vs 1 mile direct). I didn't see anybody on the trail and when I got to the campsite, it was empty and it wasn't really clear to me which were the individual sites. I set up in a clearing, changed into shorts and went to climb the actual "Enchanted Rock." When I got there it was after 1 and a lot more people had showed up. After climbing all over the top, I headed along the northern longer route back to camp. I got back about 4 and there still weren't many people there. I read the rest of the afternoon, that day's newspaper I'd brought and Walden. I couldn't find a very comfortable place to sit and read- it was too hot in the tent, the rocks out front were in the sun so also on the warm side, and behind the tree in the shade there were ants- so I wound up rotating between them trying to relax. About 6:30 the sun was starting to go down, so I cooked my dinner- freeze dried macaroni and cheese. After dinner I laid down and read my book until I fell asleep around 9. As usual, I woke up a number of times in the night and I could hear voices all night, even at 1:30. Not so loud to be disturbing, but I could still hear them. When I woke up at 5:30 I read my book a little more (getting to a better stopping point than wherever I fell asleep) and started getting ready to leave. I had breakfast and left just after first light, about 7. As I left I saw a lot of people had arrived, there were about 20 tents that I could see. It was still before dawn when I got back to the parking area, and it was full. Probably a lot of them were there overnight, but there were some groups of rock climbers gearing up. I showered, repacked my bike and headed back toward Fredericksburg.
I rode through Kerrville and rather than head more directly to Lost Maples SNA, I went on to Bandera to get gas. I was hoping to pick up a sandwich somewhere, but most places looked like touristy cafes, not a deli, and I wasn't going to touch a gas station sandwich. I got to Lost Maples just before noon. There was a relatively long line of people waiting to pay the entrance fee, but I just snuck to the front and showed them my newly acquired State Parks Pass. I parked, had a couple granola bars, filled my water bottle, and headed to the East trail. Initially there are two parallel trails on either side of the stream, so I of course took the one less travelled. The people thinned out some after about a mile, but still I couldn't take a step without seeing or hearing people. When I got to the steep uphill portion, I could hear some young boy screaming about how he didn't want to walk any more. I hustled past that family and everyone else, only stopping twice for a breath and drink before getting to the top of the 300+ ft vertical climb. Across the ridge and back down about as much I came to a crossroads of trails and a camping area. There are these really pretty "ponds" in the stream there, which I used to splash some cold water on my face to cool off. The short trail from there back to the parking area was the most fall-like of anywhere I'd seen in the park. After cooling off sitting barefoot in the grass, I geared up for the bike and headed home, getting back about 5 o'clock.
On Sunday I met up with Grant to pre-ride for the Eola Schoolhouse ride. Doctor John joined us. It was a nice day, good temperature for most of the day, but coming home I was a bit warm with my jacket on. On the way home we took a different route, as a possible return ride. The place was busy (ha)- a couple people were just leaving and another man came in right after us, and a couple with three daughters came in while we were there. We made it home before dark and I watched the drag race until I could barely keep my eyes open at 10.

Monday, October 22, 2007

West Texas road trip

Continuing on my quest to ride through all 254 counties in Texas, I went on a road trip to El Paso this past weekend. The previous weekend I went to the coast and added Calhoun and Matagorda counties. This weekend I added Midland, Ector, Loving, Reeves, Hudspeth, El Paso and Jeff Davis counties, bringing my total so far to 188.
The basic genesis of this trip was to visit a small restaurant and microbrewery outside of San Angelo in the tiny town of Eola. My friends who came through on a beer-fueled road trip had spent the night before they arrived in Austin at this School House restaurant/brewery/lodge and insisted I had to go some time. Since it was already 200 miles from Austin, I figured I might as well tack on a few more miles and visit some new counties.
I arrived at the restaurant at 11am, just as the owner Mark was getting the kitchen warmed up for the day. The place operates pretty much like a one-man band. Mark does the cooking, brewing, and has been doing most of the renovations to the long-shuttered school himself. He sometimes gets help if there's any sort of event there, but otherwise it's just him. On this day a local college student came in to do some painting. I sampled the two beers he had on tap- a pale ale and a brown ale, which were both good. The menu is very simple, and written on a blackboard. There was a special on brisket, but I just had a simple cheeseburger.
Leaving Eola about 12:30, I gassed up in San Angelo. I filled up again in Odessa after getting off the interstate, but was rather worried about where I might find gas next. I topped off (1 gallon) in Kermit and was very low when I stopped for the night in Guadalupe Mountains National Park. There were more campers there than I had expected. There were several RV's and most of the tent sites were taken. Fortunately there was one available for me. I unpacked the bike, set up camp and cleaned up a bit before a dinner of Cup'o'Noodles and a granola bar. I read the newspaper, fighting against the wind, before turning in. I don't usually sleep well in a tent, waking up every couple hours because the blood's been pinched off somewhere or some other discomfort. The wind made this night even worse though. The occasional gusts would make a racket which would rouse me from my light slumber. Sometime very early in the morning (4ish, I would guess) the wind really picked up and it almost felt as though the tent was going to be ripped apart. When I woke up for good, I laid in my sleeping bag worried about what it would be like to ride in wind like that. For breakfast, I walked to a picnic table under a tree hoping for a little shelter from the wind, but it barely helped. I gave up on waiting for the water to boil and just had it as it was for my oatmeal.
I headed out of the park and surprisingly it got colder as I descended from the base of the mountains to the salt flats. I made a detour to the nearest town, Dell City, to get some essential gasoline. When I pulled up to what seemed to be the only gas station, it was closed, but when I walked across the street to talk to a man standing outside the cafe, the owner of the gas station drove up and turned on the pump for me. From there it was pretty much a straight shot to El Paso and jumped on I-10. I stopped in Van Horn, then Fort Stockton to get Pecos County for the ABCs, Sonora and then Fredericksburg. I got to Fredericksburg right around sundown. I had thought about stopping and actually having dinner, but decided that since I was dirty and probably smelly from riding two days solid, I would just gas up, change to my clear glasses and get on home. I got home about 8:30, took a shower, sorted through the newspaper, watched 15 minutes of television, checked my email and went to sleep.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Dallas drag race

Last Friday I took the day off of work to go up to Ennis for the O'Reilly Fall Nationals. Rather than ride straight there, I turned off the interstate to follow TX 7 to Kosse and then north on 14 from there. This took me through a bunch of Falls county, which I had only been through the corner of and through Limestone county, which I don't think I'd ridden through yet.
This time I decided to spring for nicer seats- in the super seats section, which are just to the (driver's) left of the track, tilted to have a good view of the whole track without having to crane over the rest of the hordes. The seats there have backs, although they're still stadium bench seats. My seat was closest to the tower and was in the shade from about noon to 4, which was very nice in the intense sun of Friday and Saturday. It wasn't particularly humid and the ambient temp wasn't real high, with a nice breeze, for qualifying. Eliminations on Sunday the weather was completely different- humid, very little wind and overcast. There was about a 20 minute delay for a little drizzle during the first round of funny car, but it was nothing like the downpour the previous year or what happened in Houston.
The crowd was a lot smaller on Friday, so it was easier to navigate the pits and get driver cards and autographs. I didn't wind up getting many autographs this weekend, but I did get Jeg Coughlin Sr's. I talked briefly with George Smith about the Buell motor they run in pro stock motorcycle- 160 cubic inch 60 degree sportster ohv motor. After the race I got to ask one of Tony Pedregon's crew guys about the body- he said Roush makes the bare body and they add the windshield, firewall and supports and everything to attach it to the chassis. I also talked with one of Larry Dixon's crew guys about the injector scoop and other engine stuff.
Qualifying's most spectacular moment was when Scott Palmer's engine let go and there was a huge fire ball early in the second session. Friday night qualifying is always awesome with the 8 foot flames lighting up the night. There were good runs in all the sessions, but more notable was that Robert Hight and Doug Herbert failed to qualify. It was also disappointing that Gary Densham bumped in and then was immediately bumped out again in the third session.
Eliminations started in the usual way, which I love- American flag parachutist during the Star Spangled Banner and then immediately firing the first pair of top fuelers. Other than the brief rain delay, pro eliminations went pretty smoothly. In the second round of TAFC, there was a big oildown that I missed- Bob Newberry was leaking something, which he ran over and almost took out the Christmas tree. That caused enough of a delay that they decided to push off second round of TAD to let the pros come up. Second round of pro eliminations was completely overshadowed by the big John Force-Kenny Bernstein wreck in the shutdown area. I was watching the scoreboards at that point, which showed Kenny having gotten a holeshot win over John. I didn't see the actual wreck, but it was clear something wasn't right because it looked like a sandstorm at the far end. Nobody moved for several minutes until the word came that John was alright. The ESPN camera showed Kenny getting out right away, but nobody knew what had happened to John. Bob Frey relayed little bits of information, but he didn't seem to know more than anybody else. All that I could see was every single Safety Safari vehicle, an ambulance, a tow truck and I'm not sure what else. A number of the drivers came out from the staging lanes and Cruz Pedregon and Tim Wilkerson, the next pair on the line, got out of their cars and out of some of their equipment. After they got everything cleaned up, racing continued. The semifinals of funny car was just Cruz and Tony Pedregon having singles since John and Ashley Force weren't there. The pro stock motorcycle final had the dramatic holeshot win of Peggy Llewellyn over Andrew Hines to make it into the "Countdown to 1" for the series championship, as well as getting her first career event win.
The ride home was going along alright until I got to Waco and traffic came to a dead stop. It was terrible all through town, speeding up only to come to a stop again. The traffic continued to suck ass from there on south, going from 65 down to 50 for no apparent reason all of a sudden. The speed picked up briefly in Belton when it opened up to three lanes, but slowed down the second it went back to two lanes. It continued to suck all the way to Williamson county when it opened to three lanes for good. Once the third lane opened, I took it and hit the throttle. I didn't let up until I was going 88 mph. It moved from there, but there were far too many idiots going absurdly slow in the ultra-fast lane and wouldn't get out of my way, like the guy who was going 70 I came up to at 77 and didn't get over even though there was room. I got home about 9:15 and read the paper while watching the ESPN coverage of the race until I fell asleep on the couch.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Cooper's, Inner Space Cavern, and Cannibal Corpse

Saturday morning I led a chapter ride to Cooper's BBQ. I realized late the night before that I had left the maps of the route I'd printed at my office. So after breakfast I rushed over to my office, grabbed the maps and rushed to the dealership, where there were already a number of bikes. Fortunately Joe was already there and had everything under control. The turnout was pretty good- 11 bikes, 12 people. The ride was nice except for a few sections of construction where it was one lane and we had to wait our turn. After the last one, we were stuck behind this slow moving SUV for a long time. There was no line when we got there about noon. I got a half chicken, which I don't think I'd ever had there before. I didn't realize, but it is clearly the best deal they have there- only $5 for a half a chicken (and it wasn't like it was game-bird sized). I ate the leg, wing, thigh, and had most of the breast left over for dinner. It was tasty and juicy, but very messy.

From Cooper's I decided that rather than head home, I would head across 29 to Georgetown and see Inner Space Caverns. I got there just before the 2 o'clock regular tour left, but I was interested in the "wading tour" which went into three more rooms that the regular tour wasn't going on because of some flooding that left a section of water you had to walk through. Largely to avoid the tons of rugrats, I opted to wait the 40 minutes and pay extra to do the wading tour. It turned out to be the best tour I've probably ever been on. I was the only one to buy a ticket for that wading tour, so it was me and the guide and a photojournalism student from St. Ed's who needed a special tour because she had a tripod to take pictures. We had to bring flashlights because some of the lights still weren't working from the flooding. When we got to the wading portion, it really wasn't bad, it wasn't even deeper than my boots and was only about 50 feet long. I was most amazed by the amount of formation growth that occurred since the cave was discovered and developed 44 years ago, due to high water flow. There was a stalactite hanging from one of the original bore holes that looked to be almost a foot long. That's compared to Carlsbad Cavern where they have some one inch stalactites that have grown in the 100 years since it was developed.

After going home and cooling off for a little while, I got on the Night Train and rode down to San Antonio to go see the "Metal Blade 25th Anniversary" show at the White Rabbit. I had heard of a number of shows at the White Rabbit, but I'd never been. It wasn't hard to find, and I parked right in front. It reminded me a bit of the Back Room, but it also had a courtyard outside with picnic tables and the band merchandise. At first, while the sun was still out, it was pretty warm outside and not too bad inside. As the night went on, it got sweltering hot inside, it felt like 95 degrees and 100% humidity. There were lots of fans on full blast and they opened up some doors, but it was really hot all night inside. There was a huge rush between bands to cool off outside.
The supporting acts- The Absence, Goatwhore, The Red Chord, and The Black Dahlia Murder were all pretty good, they got about a half hour each. Apparently none of them had roadies, so they were doing their own sound setup. Cannibal Corpse came on about 11:15 (they had 2 roadies setting up the stage). They played quite a few songs I wasn't familiar with and about as many that I did know. They did several off of their latest, Kill- including Make Them Suffer, Five Nails Through the Neck, and The Time to Kill is Now. The singer "Corpsegrinder" elevates headbanging to a high art in my mind. Unfortunately the stage height was such that it was hard to see much of him other than his hair when he bent over to do the windmill. He often did a move where he would do a few whips, and then start windmilling. Toward the end there was a mosh pit almost the size of the whole club. They played until almost 1am. The singer from Black Dahlia joined them onstage for the last song.
I had a much harder time getting back on the interstate that I would have thought. There were no signs directing me as to how to get back on. I could clearly see the massive elevated highway, but it didn't have a frontage road like everywhere else in Texas. I weaved back and forth under the road until I finally saw a sign for a ramp to get on I37 (I was apparently following it south instead of I35 north). I jumped on and was on my way. I stopped for a caffeine and sugar boost in New Braunfels and finally got home at 2:30, making for a very long and varied day.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Labor Day Weekend

A couple I am close friends with have been doing Labor Day weekend various places in Texas for a number of years with a group of other friends. This year they decided to go to stay at a campground on Lake Buchanan, right next to the dam, and they invited me to join them. A couple months ago, I rode with Jimmy and Eddie to check the place out and it was pretty nice, so they reserved an RV spot and a cabin.
I had dropped my Fat Boy off at the Harley shop for its 70,000 mile service and asked for it to be done on Thursday, giving me plenty of time to get ready to go to the dam Friday after work. I went to the shop Thursday after work and it wasn't even close to being done, and they promised it would be done the next morning. I left my office about 4:30 Friday afternoon to pick it up and it still wasn't ready. It was 6pm by the time I was checked out and ready to leave. Since I was way behind what I had been hoping for, I left my car at the shop and took off for Buchanan. Leaving from the shop instead of my office, I took a route that brought me through a terrible bottleneck of traffic. I ran into rain in Marble Falls, so I stopped and put on my rain gear. Traffic was slow in town, but once I got through it the rain stopped. I met up with two of the couples at a Mexican restaurant down the road from the campground. When we left it was raining, so we all put our rain suits on for the short trip back the campground.
After a night of waking up every couple hours to try to find a comfortable position on the couch of Eddie's motor home, I got up for good around 7 when Eddie got up. We didn't actually leave for breakfast until almost 9:30 and I was hungry. After breakfast we went by Dave's mom's house to get some goodies. From there, we went to Longhorn Caverns for a tour. The cave is nice, but not a lot of drip formations, mostly interesting passages, and some crystals. It's kind of sad that they blocked most of the entrances and the bat population that was once in the millions is now almost nonexistent. Also, when the cave was developed, they broke the faces off most of the crystals so they look pretty but totally unnatural. We went back to the campground and went for a swim in their really nice pool, which is basically carved out of the rock. Once I dried off and got dressed again, I left the rest of the group to go to San Antonio for a Slayer concert. I got to my seat right at 7, just as Bleeding Through was starting. They were pretty good. I was surprised but kind of glad that Slayer was playing before Manson. The set change didn't take long and Slayer was on kicking ass. They put on an awesome show, I had a really great seat in section 104. When they started "South of Heaven," two sets of speakers arranged in an upside down cross pattern lowered from above, and from there they went into "Raining Blood." They finished up about 9:15, I would have loved much more. The set change for Manson took ages. The PA music was pretty good, most people liked when Pantera's "Walk" came on. It was 10 when they cut the music and house lights, but nothing happened for a couple minutes, and then they played prerecorded music for at least 5 minutes. After 4 songs, I decided that was enough for me and I started making my way out. I took my time walking out, and had to rearrange some things on the bike before leaving. I got home about midnight despite being pulled over by a state trooper and given a warning.
Sunday morning I woke up about 7, had breakfast and rode my bicycle to the Harley shop to get my car, which took about 25 minutes. I drove back home, showered, dressed and left on my bike about 9am, rode straight to the campground and arrived about 10:20. The rest of the group got back from breakfast about 20 minutes later. Jimmy's friend Joe showed up with his pontoon boat to give us a ride not long after that. After getting changed and ready for the ride, we all boarded (including Buddy the dog) and set off to laze about on the lake. We just rode around, drinking beer, snacking, jumped in the water a couple times, looked at some of the fancy houses, and not doing much of anything. It was overcast so we weren't roasting and we didn't get rained on. We got back to the campsite about 4 and started getting ready to cook burgers and hang out. Jimmy went back to Joe's, then they drove to camp with Joe's wife. We stayed up too late and had too many beers.
I woke up kind of hung over in the morning, had a couple Advil and started moving. Everyone packed up before heading to breakfast. After breakfast we went our separate ways, me following Jimmy. We took some back roads and wound up on Hamilton Pool road. The water had gone down and the silt cleared, so we made it across the Pedernales just fine. I got home about 1 and started watching qualifying from Indy and napped for a while. It started raining in the afternoon so I didn't go rollerblading and just watched drag racing all afternoon. I started falling asleep again about 9 and finally gave up and went to bed at 10.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Flooded roads

Yesterday another road captain and I did a preride for a ride we're going to do in a few weeks. The ride was really nice, good curvy roads until we turned off onto a small side road, Cow Creek road. I had ridden it in the spring and it was a nice, scenic small road. But that was before the "rain bomb" hit that area. Immediately off the main road the flood damage was apparent. There was damaged and repaired asphalt, a real rough section, but we went on since it wasn't too terrible. As we continued, there were lots of potholes and other things standard on a small back road. Then we came to a crossing and the bridge was closed. It looked alright, but had signs blocking it off. I stopped, not knowing if we had to turn around or what to do and just heard Joe laughing as he came up next to me. The "road" went through the stream, and was just gravel. We instead went around the barricades and took the bridge across. The road continued in a fashion where it wasn't too bad as long as it wasn't near the creek. At one crossing, the vegetation showed clear signs of having been flooded and the road was almost stripped clean of asphalt. There was only one spot that actually had water on the road, and it was pretty slick, my back tire "wandered" a bit, but it was a short enough section that it wasn't a big deal. That was until we were almost at the end of the road. Seeing on my GPS that we were less than half a mile from a main road, I figured it was smooth sailing. Then I saw the last crossing- gravel leading to a wide concrete section that was under water. I slowed way down and started through, but the gravel was wet and shifted and I lost control and the bike went over. Fortunately it went down slowly and didn't go all the way down. Joe helped me pick the bike up and I went through slowly with my feet out for stability. The rest of the ride out was uneventful. We managed to get to Cooper's in time to beat the church crowd so there wasn't a line. I got one beef rib that weighed over a pound and some pork loin. I took about half of it home with me.
On the ride home, I had planned to just go straight back, but Joe had a route in mind, so I just followed him. We went via Park Road 4, which was nice and I don't think I'd ever ridden it. From there we went to Hamilton Pool Rd, were zipping along until we came to a "road closed" sign. We went around the barricade to check out the bridge. It was hard even to walk down to the actual bridge, there was at least three inches of muddy silt on the slope leading to it. The water over the bridge didn't seem too deep, but it was fairly swift if we could have even gotten to it. We wound up just turning around and heading straight back to town on a major highway.

Monday, August 6, 2007


On Saturday, after having a hearty steak lunch, I went down to the Ozzfest in Selma. I was very glad they let me in with my camelbak filled with ice and water. The security guy at the door at first sounded as though I would have to empty it out or something, but he let me through with it intact. I got to the second stage as 3 inches of blood was finishing up. When they finished I wandered around for a while, checking out some of the following acts for a bit. Devil Driver was pretty good. I enjoyed Behemoth, I wasn't very familiar with them beforehand. I was on the lawn when Hatebreed started, then headed down and stood by the sound tent. Once Jamey called for a circle pit around said tent, I went back to the lawn for the rest of their set.
After Hatebreed I headed to the actual amphitheater and was pleased that seating wasn't a free-for-all as I had thought and also that I had an actual seat. Lordi was fun with their costumes and pyro, but they're not a real big name so the crowd wasn't too energetic (at least not in the back where I was). Static-X seemed to get a better response from the crowd. They played a lot of their popular songs and I thought they did a good job. Lamb of God was awesome, I was on my feet almost their whole set. The sun was setting as they were playing and for a little while the sun was right in my eyes so it was hard to see anything. Once the sun set it was a lot easier to see the lighting.
The crowd really went wild when Ozzy came out. Almost everyone was on their feet whistling and yelling. Ozzy did his usual "I can't hear you" bit. They did lots of Ozzy hits and a couple Black Sabbath songs thrown in. Having just bought Guitar Hero, I was especially interested in seeing Zakk Wylde playing. After about 45 minutes, Ozzy and the rest of the band went off stage and left Zakk noodling that eventually led to a Hendrix-like Star Spangled Banner rendition. After about an hour of playing, Ozzy started the "we won't play until you go extra crazy" shtick and I decided it was about time to head out ahead of the rest of the hordes. After another couple songs, I headed out but stopped to see "Mama I'm Coming Home" and Zakk playing a double-necked guitar. I had a pretty easy time getting out and back onto the interstate and was glad I didn't wait until the bitter end.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Visit Back East

Last Thursday I flew up to NY for my fraternity big brother's gay wedding (technically a civil union). Usually my dad picks me up at the airport, but he had left on a business trip that day, so my parents arranged for a car service to pick me up. The flight out wasn't too terrible. We were delayed at the gate for a while out of Houston, waiting for the inbound aircraft, but then we sat on the tarmac waiting for our turn to take off for a while due to bad weather. When we finally got off the ground it was 2 hours after we were scheduled to leave.

Friday my mom and I went to Purchase, saw Andy Goldsworthy's "East Coast Cairn," part of his "Three Cairns," at SUNY Purchase. Then we went across the street to PepsiCo's sculpture gardens. I'm sure I've been years ago, but haven't been in quite some time and really enjoyed it. I particularly enjoyed George Rickey's kinetic sculpture.
That night we had a real nice dinner at a favorite nearby restaurant. I had cod cakes for an appetizer, a German-style pork dish and lemon tart with raspberries for dessert. It was all delicious as always.

Saturday my mom went with a friend to a craft fair. I went to Storm King Art Center, but it took me a lot less time to get there than I had thought and when I got there, it was still a half hour before they opened. After driving around a bit to kill time, I parked and checked out the smaller pieces in and around the museum. I set out on foot for Andy Goldsworthy's "Storm King Wall," checking out the other large pieces along the way. I started along the wall at the wooded side where it winds through the trees and is really quite spectacular. The workmanship is exquisite and it's quite dramatic the way it splits and separates the trees. After following the wall to the pond's edge, I went around to the other side where it stands straight from the thruway, across the road before making a turn and diving into the water. After that walking my knee was starting to bother me so I just walked back to the parking area and waited for the tram to take me through the other side of the property and back to the museum.
I headed to New Jersey and got the hotel about 2, checked in and vegetated for a while. I got to the hall where they were having the ceremony and reception right at 5 and started in on the extensive microbrew selection. Almost immediately I was pressed into service as an official witness on the civil union license. There were several different groups of friends/family bunched together, none of which I belonged to, so for most of the time I was talking with the other two groupless guys, Doug's fraternity little brother, and a local friend of Mike's. At 6 we all went outside to the beautifully sunny, not too hot day for the actual ceremony. The clergy woman (not sure what denomination) did a nice job, didn't go on too long or anything. Back inside, dinner was buffet style with several dishes, tasted pretty good. After some more beers people were mingling more until the party started to break up about 9ish. I helped pack up the remaining beer to head back to the hotel. After a quick drink in the bar we went to someone's room to finish off the beer.

In the morning I was feeling pretty hung over and it was a lot later than what I had wanted. The radio was pretty complicated and I obviously didn't figure it out. Growing up I remember the ads for Old Bridge Township Raceway Park (Englishtown). It's quite distinct and it plays when you go to their website ( I didn't grow up going to drag races, so I'd never been there, but when I realized that I would be in NJ the same weekend as the nationals, I had to go. I was about a half mile away stopped in raceway traffic at 11 when the first pair of top fuelers went. Fortunately (for me) racing didn't move too quickly and I saw the last couple pairs of dragsters standing in line near the finish line. Most of funny car had already gone by the time I got to the grandstands, however. After second round I went to check out the pits. It took me a little while to realize that the fuel pits are on the left side of the track and everybody else is on the right side of the track, which makes it kind of hard to get around and see it all. Plus since it was already well into eliminations a lot of teams were already packing up. I stayed until the finals and then ran out as quick as I could to beat the rush. I wound up a bit sun burned because I forgot sunscreen. The drive back to my parents' was pretty crappy. My GPS was trying to say that a US highway was quicker than the Parkway or Turnpike, so I stopped listening to it until the traffic volume picked up and slowed to a crawl (at best). Then it wanted to take me over the GWB, which is a nightmare any time. I forced it to take me over the Tappan Zee, but it took me through a bunch of bridge traffic anyway.

My mom normally babysits my niece on Mondays and my dad took the day off as well. We met my sister briefly, then went back to play for a while. We all went over to Stonecrop Garden, which is really beautiful. After walking around for a while we went back to the house and ordered a pizza from my favorite place in town. I was hungry and don't get many chances to have the genuine article and had three slices and a pepperoni roll.
Not being able to predict what traffic will be like around the airports, we left for my 7pm flight about 3:30. Traffic wasn't bad and we got there about 4:45. Because of bad weather in Houston, the checkin was a complete fiasco. People were trying to see if they could get on a different flight, checking on connections, etc., etc. Since elite flyers always get the next available kiosk/agent, the regular folks line didn't move for 45 minutes, except for letting people who weren't going to Houston use the kiosks normally reserved for those who already have their boarding pass. To top off the horrible wait, the air conditioning wasn't working in that area, so the temperature was almost as hot as some of the tempers. When I finally checked in the agent said there was an outside chance I'd make my connection, since it wasn't showing as delayed and my flight to Houston was already an hour and a half late and only an hour layover until the last flight to Austin. I essentially said "what are you going to do" and went to have a tankard of beer. After dinner and two more beers I went through security at 7:30, and it was record-settingly quick. There was nobody in line and I threw my bag and shoes on the conveyor and went right through. The inbound flight pulled up at about 8:20, so we didn't push back until about 8:50 and then had to get in line to take off. It was 9:30 before we actually took off. We landed in Houston at midnight and got right to our gate. I looked at the monitor and was not happy to see that it showed the next flight to Austin at 7:30 am, but I figured what the heck and went to the gate printed on my boarding pass. I had a hopeful feeling when I saw there were people at that gate, and tremendously relieved when they said that that plane was going to Austin. I was the last one on the jet bridge, but went in front of the standby passengers. There were obviously still lots of planes flying since it took almost 45 minutes of taxiing before we were in the air. We landed about 1:30 and after I got my bag and walked out the door I saw the airport bus I needed leave. So I had to wait to drop people off and come back for 15 minutes.

This morning my paper wasn't restarted like it was supposed to be. At work the AC work that was supposed to have been done over the weekend still wasn't finished so the whole building was hot. I gave up at 2 when it still wasn't working and went home to work remotely.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

California Road Trip- Over the Mountain and Through the Desert

I headed out of Kings Canyon and back through Sequoia. There was construction and a section was reduced to one lane. After we were through the construction, the car a few cars ahead of me pulled into a turnout but ONLY let the construction pickup truck that had joined the pack in the construction zone past before pulling back out. The jerk must have realized that the 5 cars stacked behind it wanted to pass too, but didn't pull over again and there was no other way to pass on the mountain road. Once we were out of the park and the narrow mountain roads and would have been able to pass, the car turned off. Not long after I turned off on a small road back toward the mountains. I drove up through the foothills until I got to Sherman Pass Road and started over the Sierras. I was really hoping to be out of the mountains by dark, but I only made it to the peak (9200 ft) right before sunset. It was really nice, but it was somewhat disconcerting that there was almost no other traffic if I had any problems. On my way down the eastern side in the twilight and into night the only cars I saw were near a tiny community. I could see headlights and town lights off in the distance once I was almost out of the mountains and to US-395. Heading north on 395 I stopped and spent the night at a motel in Lone Pine.

After breakfast, I headed back toward the mountains to go to Whitney Portal, the trail head for the peak trail. It didn't feel like a major elevation gain until the very end when it started into switchbacks, but the total gain was about 5000' from the town. You can't actually see the peak from the trailhead, but there's a little store and a nice stream. There were quite a few cars and some more people getting their packs ready for their attempt. I never intended to make an attempt myself since it would have required camping overnight. After checking it out for a little while, I headed back to town and then east toward Death Valley. Entering the park I made a quick stop to check out a canyon, then continued down to a flat section before going back up a bit and coming down into Death Valley proper. I stopped to get a soda and get my entrance pass, where the ranger said the expected high for the day was 108. Thermometers there and other places I stopped were reading about 100, but it's a dry heat. I stopped at Badwater, the lowest point in North America at 282 ft below sea level. Leaving the park I stopped to get gas and payed the most anywhere on the trip- 4.29 for premium. Plus the wind was blowing like mad, just as it had been in the park. From there I went through Mojave National Preserve, which was unremarkable and got on I-40. The wind was strong still, as evidenced by the occasional dust clouds in the more bare areas of the vast desert I was traveling through. I stopped for the night at a motel in Flagstaff, being sure to make use of their hot tub.

I went to the Ski Bowl in the morning, where the trail head for Humphreys Peak (highest point in AZ) is. I had originally planned to climb the mountain, but 9 miles round trip and 3000' vertical (one way) would have surely been too much for my knee. I continued east on I-40, which was pretty boring, through Albuquerque until I turned off on US-285. It's a four-lane divided highway, so I was going about the same speed as on the interstate, except without the other traffic. Instead of my planned route, I decided to go to Roswell and have dinner. I looked at a map of how I wanted to get home, but decided just to do whatever my GPS said was quickest. Since I wouldn't be going through any towns I felt like I wanted to spend the night, I decided I would just drive through all the way home. It worked out alright, but I was pretty tired and had to get caffeine at every gas stop. I got home at 4am CDT, having left Flagstaff at 9am MST. Because of all the caffeine I was still wired when I got home and stayed up for a little while longer before falling into a nice sleep that was rudely interrupted by the telephone at 10am.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

California Road Trip- The Parks

I woke up in the morning and saw that the campsite I was in (Wawona) was really great. It was large, but with lots of trees so it still felt private. My site backed up to the South Fork of the Merced River, which was freezing cold but nice to look at. Also, since there were no shower facilities in the campground, I was able to wash up a bit in the river. Being in no particular hurry, I finished setting up what I didn't bother to at 1am. After having oatmeal for breakfast, I headed back north to Yosemite Valley, stopping on the valley side of the tunnel for the amazing view. I also stopped at Bridalveil Fall and scrambled on the rocks a bit to get a bit of a closer view than the paved trail allows. Once in the valley area, I stopped and got out the binoculars to see the crazy rock climbers on El Capitan. I spent the afternoon in Yosemite Valley, saw the Yosemite Falls and the other stuff that's to be seen by short walks and the bus. After looking in the Ansel Adams Gallery, I headed back, stopping for a hike to Inspiration Point and another spectacular view of the valley. On the way back to the car, my left knee stiffened up and started hurting. Then it was back to camp for dinner and some reading before bed.

My plan for the next day was originally to hike from the valley floor to the top of Upper Yosemite Falls and back down. On my way to the valley, I decided it was the best time to go to Glacier Point. The view is quite amazing from up there at 7200', you can see several falls and a different view of Half Dome. After learning about the trails that lead from there to the valley floor and an employee telling me that there was bus service back, I decided just going down would be a lot easier. After a snack I headed down the Panorama Trail, an 8 mile trail 3200' down to the floor. Past the beautiful and seldom seem Illilouette Fall, the trail goes back uphill for a while before heading back downhill toward Nevada Fall. Up to that point, I had only seen about a dozen people on the trail, but once I met up with the John Muir trail, I started seeing a lot more people. The top of Nevada Fall was crawling with people, which surprised me being that it's a 3 mile hike up over 1000 feet vertical from the valley floor, which it seemed everyone was coming from. My knee had stiffened up again, having hiked over 5 miles and more than 1000' vertical. Continuing down the trail, I got to where the Half Dome trail branches off, and then down lots of stairs. Once I got down to Vernal Fall, I looked over the edge of it before proceeding down the aptly named Mist Trail. The rock staircase was quite wet, with puddles in some areas. It was slow going with my knee bothering me, but I still seemed to be doing better than some people. It wasn't long after that I made it down to the floor and washed some of the salt off my face and arms in the cold Merced, which was quite refreshing at that point. I had an ice cream at the shuttle bus stop and went on to find my way back to the top.
When I told the guy at the travel desk at Yosemite Lodge that I needed to get back to Glacier point, he said "good luck with that." Contrary to what the guy at Glacier Point had led me to believe, there are only two buses a day from the valley to the point, and the last one had left 2 hours prior. The guy said my options were to either hike back up, hitchhike or wait until the next bus out the next morning. Since my left leg was in pain and I didn't have anywhere to stay in the valley, I decided hitching was my best option. Having never hitchhiked before, I was a bit apprehensive, but figured a National Park was a safe enough place. I headed out of the Yellowstone Valley and after a while got a ride from a backpacker/climber guy, but only a couple of miles and not really to anywhere that helped me get to where I was going. I walked another mile to the road that was going my direction and stood across from Bridalveil Fall with my thumb out. After a little while a young parks-type guy stopped. He was on his way to a job with the Forest Service between Yosemite and Sequoia. He dropped me off at the turnoff to Glacier Point and wished me well. Knowing there would be almost no traffic after sunset, I started walking and hoped for a kind soul. After about a mile and half a dozen or so cars had passed me, a brother and sister stopped and gave me a ride the rest of the way. They were quite nice, visiting the area with other family that they had left to see the sunset. I gave them my good close parking spot and went to the far side of the parking lot to take off my boots and socks and have a snack before heading back to camp.

The next morning I was in no rush and leisurely packed up my things, cooked reconstituted freeze-dried eggs "huevos rancheros" style. After packing everything up I headed south out of the park toward Fresno. In Fresno I decided I was overdue for an oil change and stopped at a Pep Boys. Two and a half hours later I was on my way to Sequoia NP. It was rather boring sitting around, but I did manage to get in some reading and they found a nail in my tire, so it wasn't too bad. I got into Sequoia and to the campground about 6ish. The area of Lodgepole I stayed in was nowhere near as nice as Wawona was. There were tons of campsites on top of each other with very little vegetation to separate them. The shortest way to the bathroom was through another campsite, which wasn't occupied so I didn't feel too bad. After setting up my tent, I went to the general store/laundromat/shower area, had my first shower in a few days, then went to Wuksachi Lodge. The restaurant wasn't crowded and I got a table right away. I had the trout, which was excellent.

In the morning I went to the information center and bought a ticket for the first Crystal Cave tour at 11am and a map of the trails in the Giant Forest area. Not knowing how long it would take me, I headed to the cave and got there about 10:15 and chilled out until the tour. The cave was nice, the guide was knowledgeable and friendly. The passages were narrow and none of the rooms were real big, but there were lots of good formations. The blackout was good, but the small kids couldn't stay quiet to get the real experience. I went from there to Moro Rock, which was a lot more of a hike than I had realized. The view from the top was good, but the air quality was so bad visibility was probably less than 30 miles. I drove through the Tunnel Log before heading back and checking out the Museum before going to the General Sherman tree. After seeing the tree I hiked the Congress trail, where I saw a gray wolf. The hike was nice, only saw a few people, but it was close to the road and got some road noise. Back at the campground I sat around drinking beer while doing my laundry.

The next day I took the bus to the museum to start a ~4 mile hike including the Huckleberry loop. I brought two PBJ sandwiches with me and took my time hiking, taking some breaks to read my book. The first time I saw anybody else was near the Settlers Cabin and Huckleberry Meadow. After getting away from the meadow area where there were a few people, I stopped and ate my lunch and read my book a little more. I stopped at the remains of Washington tree, which was severely burned when a prescribed burn got out of control a few years ago. Because it still has a little bit of life, it's still considered one of the largest trees. When I was nearly back to the museum, I was going to take the trail to Bear Hill but my knee stiffened up just before I got where the trail split off. When I got back to the campsite, almost everyone had left since it was Sunday and a few new people had come in. After dinner I headed to Tokopah Falls, but it was further than I had thought and it was almost sunset by the time I got there. I walked back in the twilight, but had to turn on my headlamp before I got back to camp.

The next morning I packed up my camp site, not wanting to spend another night there. I headed north to Kings Canyon, then through the Sequoia National Forest. I stopped at Boyden Cave and decided to wait the half hour until the next tour. The cave was nice enough, but the tour guide was TERRIBLE. He was a young guy who didn't seem to have any knowledge or interest in caves other than this job and he came across as a complete idiot. On the way out I took the alternate route along the dry (at that time) stream bed. I continued from there into the rest of Kings Canyon NP. Because the park has almost no roads there were very few people and not too many things to see right there. I had planned to spend the night, but since it was empty and at that point I'd had enough solitude for a while (and probably in a bit of a bad mood from the crappy tour), I thought sure I'd get bored quick since it was only 2pm.

Monday, June 11, 2007

California Road Trip- Go West

I got back from a ~2 week road trip to California the other day. I was planning on riding the whole way, but recently my lower back has been hurting me, so I decided I would just drive. It makes packing a lot easier, too, not having to figure how to squeeze all the stuff onto the back of the bike.

I left the house real early, even earlier that I had hoped because I woke up well before the time I had my alarm set for. Even for the first day of Memorial Day weekend there wasn't a whole lot of traffic. West Texas went by at 80 mph, only slowing down a little for El Paso. New Mexico went by quite quickly and before long I was at my first non-gas stop, Saguaro NP in Tucson. It was quite evident that it's a relatively new National Park, because some of the signs still refer to it as a National Monument. There wasn't a whole lot to do there, mostly a circular scenic drive. After leaving the park, I went to the Harley dealership but they had just closed at 6pm. I liked that in parts of the city, the houses were set back from the road with cacti planted, so it really looked like the desert, with the houses and stores less visible. From Tucson it was on to Phoenix where I had dinner at a Texas Roadhouse and spent the night at a Holiday Inn.

The next morning I got up early, well before they were serving breakfast and packed up and had McD's. I got gas just before entering California and a long stretch of no services. I went through Joshua Tree NP, walking around the desert for a little while near the Skull Rock. Once leaving the park, it wasn't far to the outskirts of LA and the crazy traffic started. I got off the highway in Pomona to go the Fairplex and the NHRA motorsports museum. Unfortunately, it was only 30 minutes before closing, so I didn't get much time to look at the exhibits. I then went on to my hotel downtown in the financial district. After cleaning up I had dinner at the brewpub in the hotel- the food was pretty good, but the service was terrible. I went out for a walk over to the theater district, particularly to see Gehry's concert hall. There didn't seem to be much of anything going on in that area, so I packed it in for an early night.

Breakfast at the hotel was ridiculously expensive, so I ate at IHOP a few blocks away. After leaving the hotel, I drove through Hollywood, stopping at FLW's Hollyhock house in the Barnsdall art park. The house wasn't open, but I walked around the outside. A quick gawk at the tourist traps and I headed for Santa Monica and the start of the Pacific Coast Highway. It started to get interesting out of Malibu, finally starting to get away from LA, and then it turned into US-101 freeway. After a ways, PCH split off to the coast again and eventually I made it to San Simeon and the Hearst Castle. The grounds and the buildings were absolutely amazing, truly unequaled in splendor. It was almost 8pm when I got to Monterrey and decided to have dinner. Not knowing the town at all, I went to the tourist trap Fisherman's Wharf and ate at one of the seafood places. I called a couple friends in SF I was trying to meet, one couldn't make it as late as I was going to be, the other said it was just fine and sort of expected I'd be late. I met up with him after getting cleaned up a bit at my hotel. We had a beer at his favorite place, then got a beer to go from a corner store and walked around the city for a while.

The next morning I met my friend for breakfast. Since he is not currently gainfully employed, he showed me around the city by bus and on foot for most of the day. We saw or at least buzzed past a lot of the landmarks/neighborhoods- Haight/Ashbury, Castro, the TransAmerica building, Lombard street, etc. At about 6 I decided it was way past time I should have been on my way. Before getting too far, I went across the Golden Gate Bridge and drove through the Marin Headlands. Back across the Golden Gate and then the Oakland Bay Bridge, and I headed for Yosemite. It was 11:30 when I got to the park entrance and after 1am before I got to the actual campsite. After setting up my tent and laying out my mat and sleeping bag, I had no trouble falling asleep.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Peace, Love and Happiness Ride

Yesterday was the fifth annual (the third I've been to) Peace, Love and Happiness ride put on by Paul Mitchell CEO John Paul DeJoria. Robbie Knievel was there as he has been in the past. I had heard Peter Fonda was supposed to be there (also a friend of John Paul's) but I never saw him. John Paul was riding a Victory motorcycle that had been modified to run on ethanol or even a mix of pump gas and Patron tequila (I think JP is friends with the people who own Patron as well), which he demonstrated by topping off his tank from a fresh bottle of Patron.
The ride itself was nice- the weather was perfect. It wasn't very long, only about 70 miles, but with 200+ bikes you can't really go to far. A police escort is always nice- you get to go straight through intersections and traffic lights. The problem is they don't always go as fast as I would if I was riding by myself.
The ride ended up back at Cowboy HD where there were sausage wraps for lunch. They raffled off a Low Rider but I didn't win. I must have gotten a fair amount of sun because my face is still red today.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Carlsbad, NM

This past weekend I was fortunate enough to have Friday and Monday off as holidays, so I decided I'd take a motorcycle trip to work on some of my long-term goals of visiting every national park, riding through every county in Texas (I added 15 for a total of 180 out of 254), and to visit state high points (this was only my second).

Friday morning it was cool, but I figured it would warm up as the day went on. Just before leaving I thought about bringing my chaps, but decided that if I needed a little wind protection I'd just wear my rain pants. It never really warmed up and by the time I stopped in Junction I was freezing cold. After filling up, having a snack and hot chocolate I put on all the warmest gear I had with me and continued down the road. The sun was only out briefly and the rest of the time it was overcast and stayed cool. I was still freezing when I got to my motel in Carlsbad at about 5pm MDT. I laid under blankets watching TV for a couple hours warming up before venturing out for some dinner. It wasn't until sometime in the middle of the night that I had warmed up enough to actually be hot under all the covers with the heater on.

The forecast for Sunday was better than for Saturday, so I flipped my original plan of going to Guadalupe Mountains NP on Saturday and Carlsbad Caverns NP on Sunday. Saturday morning after breakfast I went out and there was ice on my bike. After warming up the bike and wiping off as much ice as possible (the air temperature was above freezing at that point), I geared up and froze riding the 20 miles to the caverns.
After stopping to take a picture in front of the sign at the park entrance, I rode up to the visitors center. When I went to get my entrance ticket I realized I had forgotten my parks pass at home, but the ranger was nice enough to take my word that I have one. I went into the caverns through the natural entrance, where there were a number of bats flying around and you could really smell the guano. The route was not nearly as strenuous as they claim and was quite nice. Once I got to the end in the Big Room, I took the walk through it. I enjoyed seeing everything but didn't feel like I'd gotten a real cave experience, so I took the elevator back to the visitors center and they still had space on the noon King's Palace tour, which is also a paved walking tour but offers a blackout experience. There were a lot more people on the tour (75) than I would have preferred, but there were some great formations, my favorite being the "draperies" in the Queen's Palace. The rangers did a blackout and simulated the light of original explorer Jim White's lantern.
After finishing the tour I went outside and it was snowing. There was no accumulation on the roads but my bike was covered in ice and snow. I couldn't get the ice off the windshield, so the whole way back I had to look over the top of it to see where I was going.

Sunday started out pretty much like Saturday- gray overcast skies and a fresh coat of ice on my bike. I figured I'd head to Guadalupe NP anyway and headed down the 45 miles back into Texas. I ran into ground-level fog which made it feel even colder than the ambient temperature and it was cold enough the fog was condensing and freezing on my windshield. A half mile from the main entrance to the park, the road popped up out of the clouds and it was sunny and felt 10 degrees warmer. I went to the trailhead and got my hiking gear out, signed the registry and headed out on the Guadalupe Peak trail. The first section was relatively steep and I felt particularly out of shape. There was a family of five going up the trail and for a while I would pass them when they stopped for a break, they would pass me when I stopped. Once the trail flattened out I started moving more quickly and didn't see anyone for a while. After crossing a wooden bridge the trail got steeper again. I was sweating from the exertion but it was too windy to take my jacket off. I passed a couple who were sitting down to have lunch, and just before I got to the peak a couple passed on their way down. Once I crested the peak, a strong wind almost knocked me down. I enjoyed the view, took some pictures, but the wind kept me from staying very long. I didn't find a geodetic marker, but wikipedia says it's 8749 feet above sea level.
The hike down was probably worse than going up. The descent was hard on my knees and I had developed blisters that started hurting on the way down. The path is rocky the whole way so I couldn't go very fast for fear of twisting an ankle (which I nearly did more than once). Once I got back to my bike I packed up my hiking gear and put my riding gear back on for the cold ride back to Carlsbad. I had originally wanted to detour to go through another two TX counties, but I didn't have enough gas to make it any further than Whites City (the nearest station).

Monday morning I packed up to head out. My bike was a little wet but fortunately no ice. I rode through fog for the first 100+ miles until after I stopped in Andrews, TX. It was still overcast all day and never got above 50-something degrees, so I was freezing when I got home just before 5pm. I spent most of the rest of the night on the couch under a blanket watching TV warming up again.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007


An old friend I hadn't seen in a while suggested that it was possible there was someone in this world who would be interested in the sorts of thing I do. I was doubtful, but I was bored and just got back from a trip so I figured I'd just give it a shot.

So why would anyone be interested in reading about my life? Probably the main thing would be the crazy motorcycle trips I make. I have ridden in 43 states, and most of that riding I've done alone. The only time my bike's been on a trailer is when I broke down recently because of a fuel line that came loose. On this last trip (which was a short 180 miles) my bike crossed the 67,000 mile mark.