Monday, December 29, 2008


The office was pretty empty on Tuesday, and by 4 it was almost totally empty, so I left and headed to the Gingerman for possibly a final sampling of winter seasonals. About 7:30 I went over to Whole Foods, but just missed getting in on the last session of ice skating for the day. I had dinner there, then went home. Wednesday was a nice sunny day, so I decided to ride my bicycle downtown and try the skating again. I got there about 12:30, bought my ticket for the 1 o'clock session and got some lunch. After skating for a little bit I realized I'd forgotten the strain on the shin muscles. I also found for some reason the right skate was pretty uncomfortable, while the left one was okay, at least until it started making my ankle sore. The ice was really scraped up (they didn't exactly have a Zamboni to clean it between hour-long sessions), which made skating kind of jerky and destabilizing. The sections that were exposed to the sun had water on the surface, making them slicker. After a little while I kind of got the hang of it, but by that point the novelty of ice skating on a grocery store roof on a 70 degree day had pretty much worn off. Plus it was mostly kids and families on the ice, so it was hard to do much of anything. Other than skating backwards, I can't do any tricks or anything, so I just kept skating until my ankle was really sore and the hour was almost up. I rode down Lamar from there and saw JCVD at the Alamo, which I really enjoyed.
I woke up pretty early on Thursday. I had already decided to ride to my aunt and uncle's, so I wanted to wait until the sun came up before leaving. I had opened a couple presents the night before, and opened the rest in the morning over breakfast. It was about 50 degrees at the house, but I was counting on it warming up. I left fully geared up, but got pretty cold since the temperature dropped north of Georgetown and I didn't see the sun until I got to Waco. I made a quick small detour to get an "I" and arrived at my aunt and uncle's at 11. Their daughter, her husband and two kids were already there. My grandmother arrived a little later, and we all sat down to a nice dinner. We had a little gift exchange, after which some of us napped. Around 6 we had leftover sandwiches and then went to the theater to see Yes Man, which wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it might be. The theater was absolutely packed, with big lines stretching outside for the movies that opened that day.
I was awake from 4 to 5 am on Friday, but managed to get back to sleep until 8, and had some breakfast before heading out. When I decided to ride up there, I thought since the weather was supposed to be pretty good I would ride to two new counties, Fannin to the northeast, and Jack to the northwest of the Dallas area. It was pretty warm and actually muggy that morning, so I left dressed lightly. I got to Fannin County about 11, then headed west. About noon I stopped for gas and took the liner out of my jacket and switched to fingerless gloves. I got to Jacksboro, took a picture in front of the county courthouse, and finally headed toward home. By the time I got to Ft. Worth I'd already ridden 250 miles, and was only about 20 miles from where I started, and had 200 more miles to go to get home. The traffic was fairly heavy on 35W, but it was moving fairly well, but of course since it's two lanes it's almost impossible to maintain a good speed. The traffic only got worse from there, with waves of hurry up and slow down, even coming to a complete stop a couple times, but also with a stretch of 80. It moved better through Waco, where there are three lanes, but once it squeezed back down to two it really sucked. It was shitty and then got worse closer to Temple, where there was a major accident on the northbound side of the highway (not affecting the southbound side at all at that point) and stupid rubberneckers were slowing down and causing the massive backup. I was so pissed off and the sun was right in my eyes, so I stopped and had dinner at the TX Roadhouse in Temple at 5. Traffic slowed down for a second when I first got back on the interstate, but otherwise it wasn't too terrible the rest of the way home.
Saturday I went shopping looking for sales, but didn't find much of anything I wanted at my favorite retailers. I stopped by the Harley shop, then went to REI where I bought a new pair of shoes that were on sale. I went to Fry's and bought a new paper shredder since the one I had finally went kaput. After lolling all morning Sunday I went for a bicycle ride about noon. I was planning to ride further, but after 5 miles I had lunch and then just went back home. It was overcast and kind of chilly, and I wasn't feeling particularly ambitious.

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Onset of Winter

After work on Friday I went to Uncle Billy's and sampled a pint of their winter seasonal, called "Yule be Bock." It wasn't actually a bock, more of a wheat made with some roasted malt, but it was fairly tasty. I went from there to the Texican, where I met Jimmy for dinner. After we were done eating we were carrying on a bit and a woman from the next table came over an joined us for a while, after mistaking my saying Jimmy for her name, Jenny. After bullshitting a while, Jimmy and I went next door to Stardust. We joined his kids and bunch of their friends. We were hanging out and enjoying ourselves, but once I started talking to this really attractive woman I wasn't that interested in doing anything else. I never wound up getting her number or anything, but I enjoyed talking with her. I thought about "appropriating" her number for myself when she got up for a bit and left her phone, but I thought that would be way too creepy.
I was a bit hung over when I woke up at 9 Saturday, and lazed about until noon, then went to Alamo Ritz and saw Milk, which was really good. Uncharacteristically, although I was hungry when I got there, I had trouble finishing my lunch of pizza. Heading toward home, I went to check out the Barton Springs Greenbelt, partially because I've been near it tons of times but never actually checked out, but mainly as a possible alternative route to get to work. The part of the park I saw was pretty nice, although the creek wasn't flowing at all with the severe drought we're under. There were a ton of intersecting trails with no markers whatsoever, so I wasn't sure where to go, but I found a path down to the creek and got a Dr Pepper from the convenience store on the other side. The trail was too rough to take road bike on and the path from where I parked (where I would presumably enter) down the the creek was pretty steep and would be pretty treacherous on a bike, to me at least.
I wanted to go for a bicycle ride Sunday, but the temperature was in the 40s and it was windy, so I drove to Alamo Lamar and saw the Swedish vampire movie Let the Right One In, which was also really good. I was thinking there were a couple of things I'd like to pick up at Best Buy, not thinking that it was the Sunday before Christmas, and was overwhelmed by the number of cars trying to park in their small lot. It took me five minutes just to get through and leave. I did a little bit of picking up around the house, then went over to Jimmy's and watched football and have dinner. When I got home I happened to notice that my thermostat was blank and realized why the house had felt a bit cold all day. I checked everything I could think of, like the breakers and the thermostat itself, but didn't see anything obvious. I was thinking I would be freezing without heat on a sub-freezing night, so I went to sleep in my new down sleeping bag. I woke up sweating at 2am and just slept in my fleece sweats under the covers.
This morning I called a handyman Jimmy knows. He found a 5 amp automotive-type fuse hidden under a couple of access panels had blown. He replaced the fuse, but it blew again immediately after the power was turned back on to the unit. I tried calling a HVAC guy he knows, but couldn't get a hold of him, so my house is still without heat, and it's still in the 30s outside. I went to work just so I could warm up. So now I have to get a professional out, and I'm sure it's not going to be cheap.

Monday, December 15, 2008


Tuesday I found out a fraternity brother was coming down to Austin, very briefly, for a job interview. He was supposed to get in around 9, which is already on the late side for getting together for a drink, but due to weather he didn't get in until closer to 10. By that point the weather in Austin had gone from rain to a rain/sleet mix, but it wasn't supposed to get below freezing at any point, so the roads weren't supposed to be problematic. I met him downtown at the Gingerman and we had a few beers to chat and catch up. While we were sitting there, the sleet turned to snow, and almost everyone in the bar ran outside. Since I had just been in NY and gotten real snow, and he lives in Pittsburgh and is unfazed by snow, we just sat there. The roads were wet but not slippery, even for my sporty car with summer-only tires. The next morning there was the slightest hint of snow on my lawn, but apparently areas further from the city got a little accumulation, judging by the snow on people's cars.
Friday I rode the Night Train to work, then after work went to Chuy's for dinner and then had a couple beers at the Gingerman. Although it warmed up throughout the day, it didn't get so warm that I really needed to take my chaps off. On Saturday, however, I was really glad to have had elastic netting with me so I could take them off and strap them on the back. I left the house at about 8 so I could pick up a toy at Wal-Mart for the chapter toy run to the children's hospital. It turned out to be a pretty nice day and there was a really good turnout of bikes, and an incredible number of toys. At about 11 I left and set out to do some ABCs, but decided to check out the new REI in Round Rock. It was a nice store, but the kid who was telling me stuff about backpacks later looked at me as though I had a third head when I asked about crampons. I had lunch in the same new retail complex before setting off and getting 5 more points. After getting back mid-afternoon, I puttered about some more and then got ready for the company Christmas party downtown. I got there about 7:15 and was about the 3rd person to show up, but I was at the front of a wave of people, and the place was packed by 8. The food was really good, great appetizers including shrimp and crab claws, although I didn't get any of the tuna. The main course had asparagus and beef or chicken. It was kind of nice to meet some people I've seen around but never actually met, catch up with some people I don't see much anymore, and talk with others in a relaxed social atmosphere.
Sunday I woke up at 6, read until 7, putzed until about 10, then set off on a bicycle trip. Since I've been wanting to get a feel for riding to work and also not having done any Christmas shopping, I decided to go to the mall. The ride went fine for the section I do all the time, but when it got to the section I knew was going to be hairy, my legs started feeling really tired. I made it to the top of one hill and then started descending fast down the other side. It was pretty frightening going really fast and the shoulder narrowed down to almost nothing approaching a bridge barrier wall. My heart was pounding out of my chest going back uphill with all the traffic whizzing past. I had to stop at a traffic light for several minutes to catch my breath before attempting the small remaining distance. I'm certain it would be much worse during rush hour traffic, so I'm rethinking trying to take that route to work. I didn't realize that most of the stores in the mall don't open until noon, which was surprising with so few shopping days left until Christmas. It didn't make a big difference since I was looking in the department stores, which were open. I stuck around until just past noon and left after having some terrible food court food. I struggled getting back home, and then collapsed. I cooled off and recovered enough that after a shower, I went to Alamo Ritz to see RoboCop, which was pretty fun.

Monday, December 8, 2008


Friday, after freezing riding the Night Train to work and getting home merely cold, I drove downtown to see the GWAR show at La Zona Rosa. I heard about it and thought it might be fun to see, but I didn't really decide to go and see it until I saw Kingdom of Sorrow, a "supergroup" headed by Jamey Jasta of Hatebreed, was opening for them. By the time I got parked and walked to the venue, I'd missed the first act, which is probably no big loss. Kingdom came out and tore it up, encouraging the mosh pit, which was a safe distance and lower level from me. I really only know one of their songs, but that didn't really matter, I still enjoyed their ~40 minute set. It didn't make any difference that I only know one GWAR song since I couldn't understand anything Oderus Urungus was saying. Their set started with a recorded message from their "manager," Sleazy P. Martini, setting up a wrestling-related story involving prize belts. The show alternated between songs and wrestling interludes involving massive amounts of fake blood. In the first match, Oderus decapitated some guy, the second was a tag-team that ended with Obama being decapitated and Hillary Clinton's breasts being ripped off. The third match was much less one-sided, after two space aliens (similar to the band) stole the belts and Oderus and Bonesnapper fought them back and forth before ultimately prevailing. The show was as disgusting as expected, since I have seen them live before, but completely different. Everybody near the front got sprayed by red and green colored (how festive!) "blood" and "pus" or whatever. There were some people who had been to a previous show and were wearing the same (once) white t-shirts stained red and green.
Saturday I rode the Night Train to pick up a few last-minute pictures for the ABCs of Touring in the morning. I got home around noon, changed and then went for a bicycle ride. I rode over to the Wildflower Center and veloway, stopping to have a sandwich for lunch along the way. I took a stroll through the Wildflower Center's store, which was having a sale, to see if there was anything I could get as a gift for somebody. I went across the street and did two laps on the veloway. It was kind of funny that the hills didn't seem nearly as high as when I would skate on it. I rode home, pretty slowly since I was tired at that point. I took a shower and got dressed for the HOG chapter holiday party. Jimmy called me about 6 and said I should come over and ride with them over to the place. The place was pretty nice, a large rustic barn/dance hall, but new. Dinner was not great, but it was okay. The cobbler for dessert was pretty good. They had casino style games after dinner. I played craps for a little, then sat down and played blackjack for a while. You can tell there's no real money involved by the low quality of the dealers, paying out when they shouldn't and such. At the end they drew door prizes and I won a Harley tool box and $50 Craftsman gift card. We went back to their house and Jimmy and I stood in the driveway bullshitting until after 1am.
Sunday morning I woke up at 6:30, but fortunately went back to sleep until 8:30. I putzed around for a while, then at 11 I got on my bicycle and rode downtown. My butt was kind of sore from the previous day. My first stop was at REI, where I bought a climbing harness and helmet, taking advantage of a $20 off deal. I rode from there to the campus area and had lunch at a pizza place. It was pretty good, but not as good as Home Slice. From there I went and saw Charlie Kaufman's new movie, Synecdoce, New York at the Dobie theater, which I'd never been in before. There was only one other person in the theater when I got there, about 10 minutes before showtime, but more arrived for a total of about 10. I enjoyed the movie, but it was so surreal I was slightly disoriented when I walked back into the real world.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Thangsgiving Holiday

I flew to New York the Sunday morning before Thanksgiving. The trip was pleasantly uneventful, and I actually got into LaGuardia a little early. On the Dallas to NY leg I my assigned seat was way in the back next to the galley. The two seats next to me were empty for a while, until a couple and their two small children showed up. As they were struggling to strap in their car seat, I asked the stewardess about sitting somewhere else. The plane was a lot less full than I would have expected, and I was able to sit all the way up front behind the bulkhead. For dinner that night my parents took me to our favorite restaurant near their house we've been going to for years. I didn't do anything too exciting on Monday, mostly just helped my mom in the garden and had my favorite pizza for lunch.
Tuesday I went into Manhattan, going down on the first off-peak train at 9:30. I walked along Museum Mile for a bit, poking my head into the Guggenheim to take a couple pictures, and then went to the Met. I mostly looked at their special exhibitions- one about the acquisitions made during the tenure of the head curator who is retiring, one on love in renaissance art, and one on photography. I decided to go through the Egyptian wing and the Temple of Dendur before leaving about 1. I picked up a hot dog at the entrance to Central Park and walked through the park to its southern end. It was gray and a bit drizzly still, even though the weather man said it should clear up by noon. I walked down 5th avenue for a while, making a brief stop in the Apple store. Since I was kind of tired at that point, I did a search for a brewpub and came up with one a few blocks away, so I went there for rest and libations. From there I walked a few blocks to my dad's new office, got a tour of the place, and we went to Grand Central to catch the last off-peak train back north.
Wednesday morning we drove upstate to friends' farm, where we've been having Thanksgiving dinner for years and years. They were glad we were there early to help get everything ready since they had gotten a few inches of snow and it put them behind in preparations. I shoveled snow for the first time in I can't remember how many years, as well as hauling stuff here and there. There were something like 12 for dinner that night, a delicious spiral-cut ham. Thursday was kind of more of the same, except more people kept showing up. The total for dinner was 22 people and 4 dogs. I of course stuffed my face, and everything was excellent. The turkey was moist and delicious, all the side dishes were tasty, and the dessert certainly wasn't bad. Friday my dad woke my up at 6am and we left at 6:30, before anyone else was awake, in order to get to the airport for my 1pm flight. We stopped at their house for a few minutes and dropped off my mom before my dad took me and dropped me off at the airport. I had a bunch of time to kill before my flight, so I mostly wandered around, read a magazine, and ate the lunch my mom had made. I had more time to kill at O'Hare between flights, but it was also uneventful and I got back to Austin about 8:30.
Saturday I rode in the Chuy's Children Giving to Children parade for the first time. The HOG chapter has been participating for years, but I've always been out of town. It was fun, but it was a lot of hurry up and wait, we left the dealership at 9 and the parade didn't start until a quarter to 11. We rode down Congress avenue waving and honking to tons of people lining the street to watch. Afterward, a lot of us went to have lunch further down Congress. I figured since I was already downtown, I would go to the new Patagonia store to look for a jacket. The prices were way too high, so I went to REI and found a jacket that was on sale, but not before it started raining. It wasn't a particularly nasty rain, but it wasn't fun, and it was fairly cold. I went home and fortunately it was pretty dry at that point as I drove over to the dealership and picked up my Night Train at long last, rode home, and rode back on my bicycle. I thought about going out for dinner, but just stayed home and vegetated.
Sunday I had a ticket for the Lord of the Rings marathon and feast at the Alamo. I left the house at 9, earlier than I thought I really needed to, and got to the theater to find it was already pretty full. I found a decent spot and settled in for an epic. The first two movies were shown in extended versions, but apparently the third film was never released on 35mm in extended version, so they showed the regular version rather than watch a DVD. The food throughout was incredible. There were 8 courses, including dessert, corresponding to the halflings' eating times, so: breakfast, second breakfast, elevensies, luncheon, afternoon tea, dinner, supper, then dessert. I was actually a bit amazed that I stayed awake until the end at 9:30pm. Since they were serving from the back to the front and I was in the middle, I could tell whenever a new course was coming by the sound of silverware on dishes behind me. It was epic and definitely worth doing once. Maybe I'd do it again, but not anytime soon.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Lazy Weekend (in High-Definition)

I didn't feel all that well on Friday, not really sick, just sort of a low level head cold. Not enough to stay home from work, but enough to be unpleasant. I wasn't feeling a whole lot better Saturday, and I already had a built in excuse of Time Warner coming out to switch me over to digital cable and phone. I laid on the couch watching stuff off my existing DVR until he showed up around 10, then kind of hovered while he was working. I hooked up the new converter/DVR box while he put in the new modem. Not very surprisingly things didn't work right the first time, the box had to be rebooted after messing around with how it was hooked up, and he had to call in to get the modem working correctly. He didn't actually wind up doing anything with the phone, since AT&T hadn't disconnected my existing service. He didn't even have the part he should have had which would have switched service over. He said he was going to come back and get the part and do the wiring, but he never came back. I laid on the couch switching between my existing DVR and the new digital cable. I am now in love with High Definition television. I've seen hi-def sports in bars before, but to have other stuff, like the Discovery Channel in hi-def is really awesome. The interface on the new DVR sucks compared to my existing one, but I pay $13 a month just for the service and it doesn't do hi-def, so it's going to go by the wayside. The installer called me at 11 this morning, asking if I was home since my AT&T service had been shut off and he was at my house to complete the installation. I of course was at work since I had no idea when he was coming back, the contractor hadn't told me anything after the guy left. Since it was close enough to lunch time I went home and let him into my house to complete the work.
Sunday was a gorgeous day and I figured I had to get out of the house at least for a little while. I didn't want to ride my bicycle since I had been sick, the Night Train was still in the shop because of issues with the aftermarket parts I'm having put on, and the Fat Boy hasn't been running very well lately, so I drove. I had lunch at Home Slice Pizza and then took a stroll along the hike-and-bike trail.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Lost Maples

A few people came to work Friday afternoon dressed up for Halloween. In the afternoon there was a little party with snacks and cupcakes. I went to Doc's on Congress for dinner, but didn't see as many costumed women as I had hoped, probably because it was still early. I didn't want to get any closer to the madness of Sixth Street, so I just went home about 7. There were a bunch of kids trick-or-treating in the neighborhood when I got home. I didn't have any candy, so I just watched TV for the rest of the night.
I rode my bicycle downtown Saturday morning, checking out the book festival for a little while, then a swing through BookPeople and REI before going to the Ritz to see Zack and Miri Make a Porno. I liked the film, but it was in the small theater, so I was closer to the screen than I normally like. I rode home and just after I got home at 3, Jimmy called wanting some help setting up for a birthday gathering for two friends since Rene wasn't home. I helped clean up the deck, then had to run over the Harley shop before they closed to get a new headlight bulb since my low beam had burned out. I installed it myself in the parking lot. It was super filthy from dead bugs and road grime under the trim ring. After I changed the bulb and put the light back together, I tested it, and there was no light. My first thought was there was something wrong with that bulb, then I remembered I forgot to plug the light back in. I took it apart again, plugged it in, tested it, and then buttoned everything back up again. I swung by the house to switch to my car and went back to Jimmy's. It was a nice night, didn't get too cold, and everyone enjoyed hanging out. Jimmy served up some delicious half sirloin/half deer burgers and deer sausage. I got home about midnight, turned on the television and immediately fell asleep.
Fortunately I did remember to set my clocks back before I went to bed. I woke up at 6:15, tried to go back to sleep a little bit longer, but wound up getting up and getting ready to go riding. I left the house a little earlier than I normally would so I could eat breakfast at McDonald's since I didn't have any milk. It was still a little bit cool on the way over, but after breakfast it was starting to warm up. I decided to keep my jacket on, but opened the vents. It didn't get too warm and I kept it on the rest of the morning, thinking I would be a little chilly just wearing a synthetic t-shirt. Just before the lunch stop, I broke off from the group and went to Lost Maples State Natural Area. Just going down the main road into the park had better colors than I'd seen so far this year. It's nothing like the northeast, but for Central Texas is was fairly impressive- a few trees in shades of yellow, orange and red. After parking and changing into shorts I headed for the west trail, having done the east trail last year. Once I got a half mile or so, I got away from the hordes of screaming children and into a quieter area. The whole time I was on the west trail proper I saw about 10 people going the other way and only 2 going my way. In the first mile or so there were several nice trees with good color. I stopped for some pictures, but didn't take much of a break until I got to the highest part and sat down for a PBJ. After 2 miles or so I was regretting the decision to not bring my hiking boots and just hike in my riding boots. My feet were killing me by the end and I was wishing I had at least worn hiking socks. I left the park about 3 and headed home the reverse of the route I plan on taking for my ride coming up. It was a good thing I checked it out because there wasn't a gas station where I was thinking/hoping there would be, so I had to go looking a little bit. I didn't take the whole route, opting for a quicker route since it was getting dark. I stopped in Dripping Springs to put on my clear glasses and jacket. I got home and watched drag racing until I started falling asleep around 9.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Camping Again

Now that it's finally fall and it cools off after dark and doesn't get really hot during the day, I've got a lot of riding and camping planned for the next few weeks. Saturday Grant and I did sort of a joint pre-ride, for a ride he's doing on the 2nd and my ride on the 15th, both going out to the hill country near Utopia. We went out, had lunch at the Lost Maples Cafe in Utopia, and then went over to Garner State Park to get some information for my camp-out ride. It had warmed up by the afternoon and I wanted to take my jacket off, but even though I had my sissy bar and bag with me, I didn't have any room since it was filled with crap for staying out at Camp Ben McCullough. When we got there about 6, there were a number of people hanging out. Grant went home and I set up my tent and then spent the rest of the evening drinking beer and telling lies. A guy some of us had met 6 or 7 years ago when he was visiting the US from Denmark was back again with two of his friends, as well as some Austin people I don't see all that often.
Sunday was the HOG chapter picnic, which wasn't all that well attended. I slept fine, but woke up a little rough around the edges when Jimmy left on his bike at 8. People started showing up about 11 and socialized for a while before starting the games around noon. Lunch was at 1 and it was quite tasty, chicken fried steak. People thinned out pretty quickly after lunch and skipped the rest of the games. I stuck around until everyone except Dave left. I had left my tent up thinking I might want to take a nap later, but it was actually kind of hot in the sun and when there wasn't a breeze. I packed up and left about 4:30.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Kickapoo Cavern

After work on Friday I went to check out Bicycle Sport Shop's sale, but was unimpressed. There weren't many bicycles on sale, mostly components and parts. I had dinner at Chuy's and then went to Performance Bicycle and eventually decided on a new bike. It's not quite a full-on road bike, since it has flat bars instead of drop bars, but it's pretty close. It's definitely a lot lighter than my mountain bike, as was made quite obvious when I lifted up the mountain bike to hang it back on the hooks in the ceiling.
I woke up at 5:30 Saturday morning, but fortunately was able to get back to sleep for another hour. I left the house just past 8 and took highways out to Kickapoo Cavern State Park, which is still getting ready to open to the public. I got there in just 4 hours, sooner than I thought I would. I considered checking out the movie set down the road, most famous for John Wayne's Alamo, but it was $10.75 and two miles down a gravel road, so I just went to the park. When I got there the gate was locked and I had figured it would be open by the time I got there, so didn't ask for the combination. I tried to call them, but I didn't have any service. I considered jumping the gate and walking to try and find a ranger, but just sat on my bike, ate a PBJ and read some of the paper. About 12:30 a couple, coincidentally also from Austin, drove up for the tour. Unfortunately they didn't have the combination either and their phone didn't have service. While we were standing around waiting, chatting a bit, a game warden drove up, kind of wondering what we were doing there. He tried to help us, he thought he might have had the combination to one of the five locks on the gate, but didn't and he couldn't get a hold of anybody at the park. Finally, a little after 1, two rangers came down in a truck and opened the gate, just to have us go 100 feet to park in a small gravel parking area. Apparently it was only the three of us for the tour, since almost nobody (other than law enforcement) had even passed by the place. The five of us got into the truck, visited the nice new virtually unused facilities on the other side of the park, then came back to where we started and went down a four-wheel drive dirt trail back to the entrance to the cave we were going to tour. The ranger said they have 23 "caves" on the property, but most of them are really just sinkholes. We ducked through the gate to the cave, which is completely unlighted and has no pathways. When compared with the rangers' Maglites, it was obvious my 4D batteries were pretty dead, and with the other bright lights my headlamp was pretty useless. Immediately after entering we were smacked by the almost 90% humidity that made it feel hotter inside than it was outside. It only felt a little cooler at the very deepest part of the cave. Combined with the relatively strenuous tour, we were all sweating by the time we got out.
The first room was pretty large and we had to walk across a mountain of craggy breakdown. That part was pretty dry and didn't have many formations. At the end of that room were very large columns, one of which is supposed to be the largest in Texas. We climbed down the rubble and continued in a good-sized room with some formations on the walls. On our way back out we went into the "wishing well" room off to the side. The room went a pretty decent distance back and was covered in formations, including a lot of helictites. The ceiling was a lot lower, and there was evidence something like an earthquake had caused the floor to drop a few inches somewhere well back in time. It was quite unfortunate, but there was a considerable amount of graffiti, names scratched into the formations and written in soot on the walls and ceiling. It was really sad that people would do that to such a beautiful place. Just before we climbed back up the breakdown to get out I tried to take a long exposure shot of the largest column by "painting" it with light, but the camera moved and the picture came out blurry. When we got out, about 3, we all cooled off outside in the perfect weather.
When I left, I headed north for a slightly more scenic ride home. I was going to try and make it home without having to change my gear, but at 7 it was getting too dark and had to change into my clear glasses just a few miles from home in the parking lot of the Nutty Brown Cafe. It stayed warm enough that I didn't have to put my leather jacket back on.
I went out for a ride on the new bicycle about 10 Sunday and it was soon apparent that the front derailleur was out of adjustment, either from the ride home in the trunk of my car or when I put on the front light. I mainly used the large sprocket in front since it wasn't rubbing that way. I set out trying to stick to the street since the sidewalks that are in disrepair are murder on the skinny road tires, however it wasn't too long before my legs were getting tired and I was going so slowly I felt safer on the sidewalk. I went downtown to the UT campus, mainly to see the sculptures on loan from the Met, but also hoping to visit the Blanton, but it didn't open until 1pm. I guess some of the sculptures must be inside of buildings, because I only saw about 4 of the 20-some that are supposed to be on campus. After seeing the Mark di Suvero I rode to Texas Chili Parlor for Frito pie, some beer, football, and the newspaper. I rode over and took a quick swing through REI and BookPeople, then took a short lap on the hike-and-bike trail. That was probably a really bad idea as shortly after getting back onto Lamar I realized my back tire was flat. I put some air in it with my miniature pump and continued on, but very quickly it was flat again. When I stopped again to change the tube I realized the front tire was flat too. Since I only had one new tube, I changed the back tire, checking for any punctures, but just put some more air in the front tire hoping it would be enough to get me to the bike shop. The mechanic adjusted my derailleur and changed the front tube and pulled out a bunch of thorns, and didn't even charge me anything. I'll be going back sometime this week to look for more aggressive tires, and ultimately sticking to the streets more.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Visit From Dad

Friday night I had dinner with my dad, who was down in Texas visiting his mother in the Dallas area. We stuffed ourselves at Chuy's, then went home and fell asleep in front of the television. Saturday we went to the Blanton museum and looked at their European collection, then had lunch at Katz's. We had brought my bicycle in the trunk of the rental car, so I got out and he headed back north to Dallas to have dinner with the family up there. I rode around a bit, then headed home, stopping for a Dr Pepper and a pound of Twizzlers, which were gone before the end of the next day, as I expected. When I got home I cooled off, cleaned up a little bit, then changed and rode the Night Train over to Stubb's to see Clutch. Overall the show was really great. The first band, Graveyard, was kind of southern rock and much better than I was expecting. The second opener was The Sword, who are actually from Austin. I'd never seen them live and pretty much only knew of them because they had a song in Guitar Hero. They were really good, pretty much old-fashioned heavy metal. Clutch came on at 10 and played for an hour and a half. It was a good show, even though I only really recognized one song.
Sunday I went to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Expo out at their headquarters. I just wandered most of the time, but I did pick up some info on a few Texas State Parks. I wanted to climb on the rock climbing walls, but the line was too long for me, and mostly kids. I left there a little past noon and went to McKinney Falls SP, which is adjacent. I took a stroll on their 3-mile asphalt "hike and bike" trail, then went home and mostly watched TV for the rest of the day, but I did pick dead sunflowers in the back yard for a little bit. I finally finished watching season 2 of Heroes, and now Time Warner doesn't have NBC, so I guess I'll have to watch season 3 online.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Wedding in SC

Friday morning Jimmy and Rene picked me up and we went to the airport to fly to the Carolinas for the wedding of our friend Curt who moved back to South Carolina from Austin 3 years ago. He met her after moving back, so none of us had ever met his bride. Dave rode his bike and met us in Darlington, where Curt grew up, and site of the wedding. It was rainy on Friday from remnants of a a tropical storm, but Saturday and Sunday were sunny and beautiful, not too hot or muggy as it could have been. I was at least a little surprised, pleasantly so, that the plate in my ankle didn't set off the metal detectors.
We flew into Charlotte, NC, rented a car and then drove down into SC to our hotel in Florence. We took a US highway instead of the interstate, which was quite built up, with lots of traffic lights, so it was kind of slow going. It took quite a while to get out of greater Charlotte. Because of the gas shortage, the gas stations were either out of gas or had ridiculous lines, some even had police to keep things orderly. We got to the hotel about 6, checked in, then met up with Dave and went over to the church for the rehearsal dinner. The food was very good, we got a chance to meet some people and catch up with Curt a little bit. I didn't really get a chance to say much more than hello to the bride. After dinner we picked up some beer and went and hung out in the driveway of one of his childhood friends' dad's house. We stayed there until much too late, mostly telling stories about Curt. Almost all the other people there had grown up with Curt right in that neighborhood.
Saturday we had breakfast, then went to the Harley shop in Florence. While we were out we picked up ingredients to make Mexican Martinis, something of a signature Austin drink, which Curt has been missing since moving back. We also stopped at a farmers market and picked up some boiled peanuts, which I think are really good, but are quite messy. We picked up some burgers from the local favorite shop, and then it was pretty much time to get ready for the 4 o'clock wedding. The ceremony was nice, but it was hard to see from where we were sitting. The reception was good, but dry since it was at the church. The food was pretty good, served buffet style, but we mostly agreed we preferred the food the night before. We went from the reception to find where the after party was being held, even though it wasn't supposed to really start until a little later. We had a hard time finding it since we got directions from Curt's brother, who apparently hadn't been out there in a while and didn't know that a road to it had been blocked off. We finally found the place, and it was directly behind the racetrack. We dropped Dave off and went back to the hotel to change back into jeans. The party was fun, but the music was much too loud, for me at least, to have a conversation. When we got back to the hotel we sat by the pool, which was closed for work, and stayed up drinking beer for a little while longer.
Sunday I woke up at 7, took some Advil and went back to sleep until 9. We flew home, again having a fairly short layover at DFW with just enough time to take the tram from terminal to terminal and get to the connection as it was boarding. We got into Austin about 7, and had dinner before they dropped me off back home.

Monday, September 22, 2008

In Memoriam

This past week had the unusual coincidence of having two memorials for people I knew from riding Harleys. On Thursday it was for a guy I knew from the HOG chapter but had recently sold his Harley and bought a Honda Gold Wing instead. He died as a result of a motorcycle crash in the San Antonio area. It was a nice, touching memorial. Most people were teary eyed. The second memorial, on Saturday night was for a guy I knew from the Harley shop. I didn't know him well, but I saw him a little while back and found out that he had been on death's door with cancer, but lived for another two years. Apparently he had a life insurance policy that went into effect four days after he died, leaving his daughter with little, so it was a memorial/benefit for her.
Saturday I rode my bicycle downtown and had lunch at Chuy's. I stopped at the bike shop, starting to think more seriously about getting a new bicycle again. My rear derailleur is out of adjustment again and it's really annoying. The last time I had it adjusted the tech pretty much declared it dead, along with most of the rest of the bike. I didn't stay downtown long, I headed home, took a shower and went to the benefit, then went and hung out on Jimmy's porch until far too late. I had a hard time getting up Sunday morning, but made it in time to go on a ride dubbed "I can't drive 55," for a road captain's 55th birthday. We ended up at his house for some lunch and a little party. I stuffed myself, mostly on the snacks before lunch. I napped on the couch for most of the rest of the afternoon, watching drag racing when I was awake.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Crazy-ass Road Trip '08: Part 6

In the light of the day Monday I realized how much worse of a location the KOA is versus any park campground: it's feet from a highway and next door to a horse farm, which explained what I was smelling. After some breakfast I headed into RMNP and stopped to look at the map. I wasn't really interested in much hiking, but didn't really have any other plans for the day. I took my time on the way up the mountain pass, stopping at several scenic overlooks for some pictures. I stopped at the visitors center near the top. At 11,796 it's the highest in the parks system. I got a soda and hiked a short distance up some stairs to a vantage point. I rode down to the western side of the park, took a stroll along a stream, then started back up the pass. Back at the visitors center I had a "light" lunch of a chili dog. There were some elk off in the distance, but too far to see without magnification. As I was riding back toward Estes Park the clouds were looking kind of ominous, like they might live up to the reputation of rain almost every afternoon. I pulled over and put on my rain pants and gloves and was soon glad I did. I ran into a mix of rain and sort of a heavy, wet snow. It wasn't sleet, it wasn't quite hail, but was like miniature snowballs. It fogged up my windshield and was overall quite unpleasant. It turned into just rain at lower altitude and continued as I rode into Estes Park. I had been planning on going to Ft. Collins to visit New Belgium Brewery, since it's one of my favorites and it was so close by, but instead I stopped in a bar in town and drank one of their beers while I dried off. I wandered around town for a bit once I was mostly dry. I considered going somewhere for dinner, but decided to just go back to camp and have a freeze-dried meal. I bought some firewood but had a hard time getting it started since there weren't any sticks or anything else small to get it going, so I used a handful of wood mulch. I sat by the fire reading until I started falling asleep.
I woke up about 5 on Tuesday, took a shower, packed, and then stopped for breakfast at McDonald's about 7. I headed south through hilly roads, eventually turning off onto a side road toward the trailhead for Elbert. I stopped well short of the trail when the road got bad, took a picture and got back on the road. I wasn't completely sure the mountain I was looking at was actually Elbert, since it was curiously not marked anywhere that I saw, unlike many other mountains. I got in to Taos about 3 and got a room at the Best Western. I rode into town, its tiny roads jammed with traffic. I found it somewhat disorienting and it took me a little while to the brewpub I found on Google. The place was tiny and had a real hippy-type vibe. The beer and the food were pretty decent. The black clouds I'd been seeing since I got there seemed to be gathering and getting ready to soak the town, so I skipped the shops and went back to the motel, where I surfed the web and watched TV until I went to sleep.
Wednesday morning I took advantage of the surprisingly decent complimentary buffet breakfast and headed toward Taos Ski Valley. I went through the paved parking area for the easy route to the summit of Wheeler Peak and started up the gravel road to the parking area for the shorter distance, but more challenging route to the top. I paused when I saw a sign saying "Four Wheel Drive Vehicles Only," but then noticed it only applied during the winter months. There was quite a bit of construction going on, summer obviously being the off season in a ski resort. I took my time going up the gravel, but it was still pretty dicey. I contemplated stopping a couple times, but continued on to the next switchback. After one last ugly section I got spooked and parked in a switchback by another road going off somewhere else. I walked the half mile to the parking area for the Williams Lake trail. The sign said it was bear country, so I got out my bell since there was only one car in the parking lot at 8:30. I started on the trail but was feeling a bit lightheaded due to the altitude. I was thinking I'd get to the lake and have to turn around because of it, but was kind of surprised to get to Williams Lake, at 11,040 ft., ahead of my goal of 9:30. After some water and half a PBJ, I figured it was much too early in the day to turn back, so I headed up toward Wheeler. It started out kind of steep and I had to stop about every 100 feet of vertical gain to catch my breath, then it got a little steeper and the trail doubled as a stream bed. For a while, above what I estimated to be 12,000 ft., I was pausing every five steps for breath, but after a longer break I was back to pausing every 50-100 ft. At the end of the trail, 200-300 feet below the peak, it came to a steep scree slope. It was tough going, trying to find relatively solid places to step. I followed in the footsteps of a previous hiker for the most part. I figured the tracks must have been made that day since it rained the night before, but I never saw whoever made them. I finally made it up to the ridge, and it was awesome. The view was great and I felt good, like I still had energy. I set my pack down beside the trail and went up to what I was guessing was the peak. It was hard to tell since there was a peak to my left and one to my right, and they both looked about the same elevation from where I was standing. There was a sign on top of the one to my left, which turned out to be Mount Walter, but I went to the right first and after a small peak, the trail continued along the ridge to the actual peak. Wheeler Peak There was a small stone structure with a metal tube and a plaque, but not the usual ammo box for a summit register. It felt exhilarating having made the difficult trek. I took a bunch of pictures and went back to my pack for a proper rest and to eat. As I was sitting there a hiker, who had come up the easier route, came along the ridge. We chatted for a bit, then he went on to the peak and I headed back down the steep trail. It wasn't quite as bad going down as I thought it might be. I actually found it easier to go down the loose scree than the more packed sections. It was a lot quicker and less effort than going up, but it was murder on the shins. I had to stop a few times and sit down to give my legs a break. Once I got back down to Williams Lake there were several people there hiking around or sitting and enjoying the view. I hiked back down to my bike, stopping at a stream to wash up a bit. I was hoping to get a drink or something at The Bavarian restaurant, but despite its large "Restaurant Open" banner, it was not open. When I got to my bike, I changed shirts and socks and boots and took a minute to relax before braving the gravel road again. There were some black clouds in the mountains south of Taos. I pulled over to put on my rain gear, as much because I was cold as the threat of rain. Other than some wet roads I didn't hit any rain, but I kept the rain gear on because it was still cool. After dark I stopped for the night in Hereford, a little cow town. So much so that the whole place smelled like cows. It was after 10 but I was hungry, not having had dinner or much lunch, so I got a burger and vegged in my motel room.
Thursday morning I left with the sun low and it was still kind of chilly. I was a bit chilled just wearing a t-shirt, but knew it would warm up soon enough. It was up in the mid 90s by the afternoon as I was getting closer to Austin. I finally got to use my mister again for some relief. I got home at 4:30 and it was 91 degrees in my house. I turned the AC back on and laid down under the fan for a while before starting to unpack the bike and catch up on things.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Crazy-ass Road Trip '08: Part 5

Thursday I woke up a little before 6 and it was raining. I organized stuff in the tent and killed time waiting for a break in the rain. After almost an hour it let up, but I didn't even finish packing before it started again. I laid back down in the empty tent for a bit longer until it finally let up again about 8. It was still drizzling a bit in the park, but it was overcast but dry elsewhere. I rode for a ways in some desolate lands until I came to a stretch of road under construction and the woman flagging recommended going a different route since the road was torn up and left with dirt. I was getting low on fuel, but it wasn't critical, so I bypassed the tiny gas station in that town. As I went on another 30-40 miles not even coming close to another station, I was regretting that decision and really worried about running out of gas. I kept forward towards the interstate since it was at least as far back to that town. The motor died just before I got to the interstate, but it restarted and I went one mile to the next exit which, thank the stars, had gas. The motor died a few more times, but I made it and poured in 4.9 gallons (to a tank rated at 5 gallons). I went on to Helena, took a picture in front of the Capitol, then went on to Bozeman to my aunt and uncle's. I got there about 3, squeezed my bike into the garage before a bit of rain, and settled in a bit. I went with my aunt to the Harley shop where I got a replacement turn signal bulb, a t-shirt, and a neck warmer to cover some of my face and a hole at the neck of my jacket. We had dinner and then stayed up for a while watching the Olympics.
Friday I woke up pretty early. My uncle cooked breakfast, I packed up and headed on. When I arrived at Wind Cave NP at 5 my fears of having trouble finding a campsite were allayed when I found about 8 of 50+ sites filled. I set up in the most secluded site of the vacant tent area and went to the visitors center. I had missed the last tour, so I rode 50ish miles into Rapid City for dinner at a brewpub a friend recommended. I rode back in the cold and dark on windy roads to find a group had set up camp near my parking spot. I made fast friends with the group of five high school friends on a two-week road trip from Michigan. It was a darned good thing nobody else was around because we raised Cain drinking and telling lies until 2am.
I woke up at 6:30 Saturday, but went back to sleep until 7:15, had breakfast, and rode through Custer State Park to the trailhead for Harney Peak. I started off behind a group of four, but didn't mind so much since one girl was quite cute. I passed them and several others along the 3 1/2 mile trail to the top. I got there about 11:15, an hour and a half after I left, took in the view, ate a sandwich, took some pictures and headed back. As I was leaving the girl I had been admiring was arriving and made a comment like "up and back already?" which was a plus. I didn't go down really quickly since my blisters were bad again. I got back on the bike about 1 and headed to Jewel Cave National Monument. Since I didn't know when I'd get there, I didn't have a reservation and the next tours I could go on were 3:20, 3:30 or 4:25. I opted for the 3:30 lantern tour and went back to Custer at a kitschy place where I had bison brisket swimming in sauce. I got to the tour meeting place about 3 and killed some time until it started. We each got a paraffin lantern and walked to the opening, much like early visitors did. We went toward the Dungeon Room, which required through the "trap door" and other narrow and low passages. We didn't really go far into the cave, but it took a while for everyone to get through certain points. At the farthest point we all blew out our lanterns for some total darkness before the ranger relit each one. The ranger was really good and it was a really fun, somewhat adventurous way to see a small portion of what is the second longest cave system in the world. Since it was 5:30 when we got out, I missed the Wind Cave tour again, so I got some gas and beer and went back to camp, where I had new neighbors. I started a fire, cooked some SPAM for dinner and then went to a ranger program on the Parks Service in general and Wind Cave in particular.
This morning my tent was wet with dew, but ultimately packed it before it dried. I went to the visitors center a little past 8, bought a ticket for the 9am natural entrance tour and sat down to read until the tour started. The tour was okay, on cement walkways, and passed countless other passages that make it number four in the world in length. The problem was that I was in the back, behind people taking flash photos every second, and in front of a couple with a whiny little girl. I got well ahead of them for the trip back. I was on the road a little past 10 and headed into Nebraska. I was kind of tired and the endless rolling plains didn't help. I went down to the corner of the state near WY and CO to go to its highest point. It was several miles down a gravel road, but it was the first time I've had my bike at the actual highest point. I went on through Wyoming and suddenly remembered that Cheyenne is the capital, so I went downtown to the capitol for a picture. I continued to Colorado, through flatlands before getting back into the Rockies. I went through Estes Park to a park info booth, but it was closed. I found some info in the store next door and decided that since there are no shower facilities in the park, I'd go back to town to the KOA. I set up, showered and had dinner at the local brewery, then came back here.

Crazy-ass Road Trip '08: Part 4

Sunday I rode the short distance to the Canadian border, went through customs, then stopped in a visitors center and got some Canadian cash. I stopped and had a burger in the town of Revelstoke, then went on through a couple of National Parks without stopping. I did stop in Yoho NP, mainly because it looked like I was about to run into some rain and wanted to put on my rain gear. While I was at the visitors center I found the campground I had intended to stay in was already full, but every other one had sites available. I went on to the town of Banff and got a campsite just out of the town itself. I set up camp and then went into town for gas and dinner. I had a steak at a place called The Keg which had unsecured wireless for me to catch up on news and whatnot. I was going to do laundry after dinner, but at that point it was too late and they were getting ready to close.
Monday morning I rode to Lake Louise, checked on trails, and bought a sandwich to take with. The pastrami with lettuce and tomato wasn't the most packable lunch, but their to go was utterly worthless to pack, so I took it out of its styrofoam and put it into pastry bags. I rode up to the lake parking area and started off around the perimeter, booking around the throngs of tourists to the trail leading to Six Glacier Point. The trail wasn't too strenuous in general, but there were a few uphill slogs. After about 5 and a half kilometers I made it to the tea house, where I sat down and had a lemonade and half of my sandwich. I contemplated not continuing on for a closer view of the glaciers, but did and the trail was pretty flat until it got to a vantage point and then went up a ways and then got really steep and loose to a little waterfall. I didn't go all the way, but it was a really impressive view nonetheless. I stopped and had the other half of my sandwich back at the tea house and sat and read for a while by the stream. I diverged form the way I came on the way back, intending to see other things, but at a fork I headed back to the main trail since it was downhill. Once I realized the error I was kind of upset with myself for not consulting the map, but didn't want to go back uphill. I thought the whole thing was a complete waste until I heard a noise and witnessed a huge chunk of ice falling off one of the high glaciers. I rode back to Banff and hit a patch of rain near the campground, but it was just an isolated cloud. I went into town back to the laundromat to wash my clothes. I ate a Subway sandwich and read my book while waiting. Some of my clothes weren't completely dry, but I folded them and headed back to camp after a beer and some internet usage off of an unsecured router.
Tuesday I packed up and headed back to the states. I got to Glacier NP about 2, set up camp and got lunch just before a storm came in from the pass. I was hoping it would be isolated and pass quickly, but it persisted for a while so I started drinking beer on the porch of the store. Around 4 the weather cleared and I set out on the Going-to-the-Sun road. I got to Apgar, studied trail maps and headed back east. The return was amazing with the light at my back and for my money, I'd say Glacier's glacial valley rivals Yosemite's. At least in Glacier there isn't a village in the valley. The main problem was that the road was under construction, so in addition to one-lane sections, there was a big stretch of gravel as well as a few short sections.
Wednesday started gray but it wasn't raining in the campground in the morning, so I decided to stick with my hiking plan. It started raining just before Logan Pass, but I stuck with it and took the shuttle to the Loop to start my hike. It was a mildly strenuous 4 miles up to the chalet and was relatively dry most of the way until near the top and then really picking up right at the chalet. I passed several people doing the much easier and more popular reverse of what I was doing. I spent an hour in the chalet, eating two PBJs and reading a chapter of my book. The weather never let up and I never got any view, plus my clothes didn't really dry at all, wet mostly from sweating. I set out on the 7.5 mile hike back to Logan thinking it was flattish, but after an initial quick downhill, the trail leveled off and then started uphill, getting a bit steep in places. It was raining fairly lightly at that point, but the temperature was in the 40s. With the strain of hiking I wasn't doing too badly. After crossing some snow where the trail was kind of ambiguous, I ran into some Bighorn Sheep in the trail. I tried anything I could think of, my bear bell, clapping, yelling, but one in particular had found something good to eat and wasn't moving. I was trapped there 20-30 minutes waiting as weather rolled in. When the bighorns finally moved visibility was down to ten or so yards. I slogged on, kind of cold and miserable but really not too bad, until roughly 3 miles from Logan when the rain picked up and soaked me to the skin. It was such a miserable grind the rest of the way, all my clothes wet. When I got to the visitors center I was so glad to see a wood fire. I stood there shivering for a while until one of the rangers noticed and started to help get me warm and dry. I wound up staying there in front of that fire for two hours getting dry and warm with the help of the two rangers at the desk and another two, one of whom gave me his soup. I was dreading it, but the 12 miles back to camp wasn't too bad, and I took a long hot shower before getting dinner and going to sleep.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Crazy-ass Road Trip '08: Part 3

I woke up at 5 Thursday, packed up, had breakfast, gassed up and got back on the road. I got to Rainier NP in the afternoon and went to Paradise to the information desk. A ranger called down to Cougar Rock campground and fortunately they had some availability. I rode over, found a site and quickly set up camp before going back to Paradise to hike. I started from the visitors center on the Alta Vista trail. I started out at an unsustainably quick pace in order to pass a group of young women. After a while I had to slow down to catch my breath. I was still going pretty quickly, sweating and breathing hard. When I got to a section of the trail covered in snow, I picked up a handful to cool myself off with. I was almost to the viewpoint when I started getting a cramp in my side, so I laid down on a bench cooling myself with the snow until my heartrate came back to a reasonable level. I continued along the Skyline trail to Glacier Vista, with a good view of the Nisqually Glacier. It was quiet enough that I could occasionally hear the glacier creaking and popping. At that point I figured I may as well continue up to Panorama Point. I had checked my reservoir a little earlier, but when I got to the point it was almost empty. Not wanting to just go back the way I came, I continued up the Skyline trail. I got to a shorter cutoff trail to find it was closed, apparently blocked by a wall of snow. Still not wanting to turn back I took the high trail up further before it finally started back down. I took the Golden Gate trail, which cut out a mile of hiking and required crossing a stream. The whole way I was using snow and streams to cool off when possible. I got back to the visitors center after 6 and found a Dr Pepper even though the concession was closed. I went back to camp, had dinner and then attended a ranger program on climbing Rainier. It was a decent program, but would have been better if it were given by someone who had actually climbed the mountain, not some young guy who'd seen it for the first time a couple months earlier. I got some firewood but had trouble getting a decent fire going. I had to douse it not too long after it was finally going because I was tired and had to go to sleep.
Friday got off riding just before 8 headed toward Olympic NP. The waypoint I had in my GPS turned out to be terrible. After heading down a small road a ways I saw the most dreaded of all road signs: Pavement Ends. I continued down the gravel road for about 3 miles before I actually saw a sign for the park just as the road went from bad to worse: the aggregate was larger and the road less packed. I stopped and checked out that area for a little while before turning around and going back to US 101. Originally I was thinking of going clockwise around the Olympic peninsula but from that point it made more sense to go counter-clockwise. There was way more traffic than I would have liked. I was stuck behind a semi that wouldn't pull aside. I eventually managed to pass him. Traffic got even heavier close to Port Angeles. After a gas stop and getting away from town, traffic was much less on the western side. The road took me through two sections of Olympic NP. On the coast it got pretty chilly and foggy. I stopped and put on my jacket and gloves. Back inland it warmed up significantly and I had to take them back off. The real pain was the road work, with several sections one lane. Eventually it cleared up and I was following a Hummer with the license plate GAMBLR, which could have been because he was going 70 in a 60 and his plate was almost impossible to read. I got back to camp around 8, much later than I had expected. I had dinner and started another fire and read for a while, then just sat transfixed staring at the fire.
This morning I wasn't in a real rush, so I cooked some oatmeal and then packed up, getting off just past 8. I stopped at a Harley shop I happened past and bought my first t-shirt of the trip. I went to downtown Seattle and using Google found a brewpub for lunch. I texted a friend who recommended a brewpub in the area. Since I wasn't in a rush, I took a detour to check it out and it was definitely the best bar I've been in so far this trip. I rode on up the interstate, getting off on a road leading through North Cascades NP. It was picturesque, but reading The Monkey Wrench Gang made me less than appreciative of the hydroelectric dams. I passed through a little tourist trap of a town on to my intended destination for the night, Omak. It was kind of weird because there was a little town, then I crossed onto an Indian reservation and there was almost nothing other than a bingo casino. I found the new Best Western and a no-name place on the US highway were already booked up, so I came into town, tiny as it is, and found a room at the Rodeway. After a much needed shower, I strolled through town only to find the only decent-looking restaurant had just closed. I got a six-pack and a terrible pizza and vegged out watching the Olympics.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Crazy-ass Road Trip '08: Part Two

That didn't turn out so bad, turns out the problem was with one of my email accounts refusing to send. I'll try to bring things up to date now.

Sunday morning my feet were still rather sore from the hiking, and I still had big blisters near my big toes, the left one being worse. I headed back up the interstate, stopped for a McGriddle since I didn't want to pay Holiday Inn any more, and went through Walsenburg again. I went on to Great Sand Dunes NP, where I waded across the shallow river and climbed up the dune a little bit. A combination of sore feet and wanting to get to Durango kept me from climbing up to the top. When I went through Alamosa I really wished I had stayed there instead, it had way more going on than Walsenburg and would have given me more time in the park. I got to Durango HD about 2 hoping to get an oil change I was slightly overdue for after the rebuild only to find that their service department is closed on Sundays. I was kind of secretly hoping that would be the case so I'd be forced to spend the night in Durango. I started something of a random search for a place to stay when I saw an information place. The woman there gave me some info and suggestions, I checked with a place that was reasonably priced, and booked a room. I had planned to drop my stuff and visit Mesa Verde NP but the information woman suggested morning would be a better time, so I decided I would spend the afternoon drinking beer by the pool instead. I checked into the motel which was older and not anything great, but it was comfortable and clean. It was a really beautiful 80-something degree day and I enjoyed spending some time by the pool. I changed and walked downtown to a brewpub for dinner. I drank a beer made with habaneros, which was quite spicy, and ate a tasty calzone. I went to another brewpub nearby which was almost empty but I actually enjoyed myself chatting with some locals while watching the Olympics.
Monday morning I left the motel at 6:45, before the office was even open and had breakfast at Denny's since the Harley shop didn't open until 8. After they checked me in, right at 8, I started writing but didn't get very far (what with the tiny keyboard and all) before they had it ready at 8:30. I rode to Mesa Verde and found a pretty good line of people waiting to buy tour tickets. Since all the tours before noon were sold out already, I just decided to do the self-guided sites. I checked out about as much as I could, taking a bunch of pictures, and I did climb inside the demonstration kiva at one site. I headed on a bit past noon and got to Moab at 4. When I got to the entrance to Arches, the woman told me the campground filled at 9 am and to get info on other sites in the visitors center. I got the info and checked and a place nearby with a pool had tent sites available. It was 99 degrees at that point so I opted for the private campground over the National Forest sites. I picked a shady spot with a leanto, set up my tent and changed into my bathing suit, and went back to the front to pay for my stay and get some beer to drink by the pool. The pool felt so excellent and I hung out there for a while, alternating between the pool and the hot tub. I had a freeze-dried dinner at camp and then went back to the hot tub until after dark.
Tuesday morning I went back into the park with my backpack full of water and headed straight for Delicate Arch, the most famous in the park. It turned out to be a good time to get there because other than a tour bus there weren't many cars. I did pass the tour group heading back when I was almost to the arch. The arch is pretty spectacular and probably moreso in dramatic light. There is kind of a bowl-shaped area around it that was kind of hard to sit on. I very nearly lost my sunglasses. I took a bunch of pictures and headed back. Again the timing seemed good as a steady stream of people were headed the other direction. From there I went to Landscape Arch, which is pretty amazing at 300+ feet long, however it looks quite fragile, especially considering the nearby Wall Arch just collapsed and the main path to Double O Arch was closed. I would have liked to see the other arches in that area but the extra 3 miles was less than appealing at that point. I stopped along the path back to the parking lot and ate a PBJ in the shade. I then went to the Windows area, where they have the unusual Turret Arch, of course North and South Window, and on the other side of the parking lot was probably my favorite, Double Arch. I sat in its shadow for a while, but that was also because it was getting hot at that point. I headed out of the park from there, stopping for a quick picture at Balanced Rock. I got gas before going into Canyonlands NP's 'Island in the Sky' unit, basically a large mesa connected to the rest of the area by a narrow 'neck.' I rode through there, stopping to take some pictures, but it was real hot and my feet were bothering me enough I was limping a little. I went back to camp, showered, jumped in the pool and had dinner before doing a bunch of repacking.
I packed the rest of my gear this morning after waking up at 4:30 and not being able to get back to sleep. I only had a granola bar for breakfast since I had packed my stuff to make my usual oatmeal. I was off at sunrise, 6:30. I had more of a real breakfast at my first stop. I was chilled early on and almost put on my jacket, but figured it would warm up soon enough. And boy did it. I first felt like it was going to be a scorcher about 11, and it did not disappoint. I was hot and tired and decided to stop for a little while in Boise. I took a picture at the capitol and stopped into the tiny t-shirt store of the local Harley shop on my way to a brewpub for some dinner. The food and the beer were pretty good. I headed out of town at 6 headed right into the late afternoon sun and ran into construction. It wasn't pleasant, but it could have been worse. I continued on to Baker City, Oregon and got here about 7 Pacific time, and this is what I've been doing since.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Crazy-ass Road Trip '08: Part One

I've been trying to make a post while on the road but have been having some difficulty, so we'll see how it goes now...

I left from my office at 4 pm Friday, with the temperature somewhere around 100 (I don't really care to know what it was exactly). Other than the heat everything was fine. I picked up a couple new counties. I had planned on spending the night in Lubbock, but my route skirted me around town and I didn't pass any motels. Rather than deviate from my route, I went up I27 to Plainview, getting there about 11:30. I was pretty tired and my lower back was killing me. I brought far too much crap with me, so much that I have to wear my backpack, which is stuffed to the brim, and because I have a bunch of camping gear on the back seat, it pushes me forward on the seat, which makes it hard to sit comfortably.
I woke up pretty early Saturday even though I didn't get to sleep until 1. I went through Amarillo and into Oklahoma and turned off the highway onto a small back road with a few families of prairie dogs. When I got to Kenton, a few miles from the OK high point, I was very glad to see they had a gas pump since I was getting low. When I went inside the clerk informed me that they haven't had gas for a while since an inspector shut it down. She told me the nearest places that did have gas, I bought a drink and headed to the HP. In the gravel parking area I changed into shorts, a short sleeved t-shirt, and my hiking boots. It was a 4 mile hike one way, but not particularly strenuous. I did wind up drinking every drop of my 1-liter Nalgene bottle. There was a fairly flat section, then a switchback up to the top of Black Mesa, then pretty flat across the mesa to the high point, marked by a stone obelisk. It honestly wasn't especially impressive, there was a decent view but certainly not the best view I've had on an 8-mile hike. I took some pictures and headed back to the parking area. I changed back and headed to New Mexico to get gas and then went up I25 into Colorado. I was planning on staying in Walsenburg, but it's a small town and didn't have many lodging options. I pretty much had my mind set on drinking beer in a hot tub, so I decided instead to backtrack and stay in Trinidad. I stayed in a Holiday Inn, which was far too expensive, ate in their restaurant, which was decent but not great, and sat in the hot tub for a while. They didn't allow outside alcohol since they have a liquor license but I wasn't as intent on a beer at that point. The problem with the pool area, though, was that there were six unsupervised children running around. I chatted for a bit with a retired guy, then retired to my attractive, comfortable room.

Monday, August 4, 2008


Saturday morning it was a good thing I had set my alarm since I stayed up past my bedtime bullshitting with Jimmy over at Bigley's after we had dinner at the Texican. There wound up being a pretty good turn out for the ride, especially considering the 100+ forecast, 9 bikes and 12 people. We got off a little bit late, since we waited a little bit in case anybody was stuck in the accident-related traffic on the interstate. The ride went fairly smoothly most of the way down, the only issue I saw being that the bike immediately behind me, who I'd never ridden with before, left more of a gap than I would have liked, it made me feel like I was going too fast for him. When we were a mile from the cavern, a couple went down in a left-hand 90-degree turn. He said he was going too fast and went off the road to keep from hitting the pavement, and fell in some gravel. They were both okay, just scraped elbows and the engine guard was bent, but no other damage. I didn't really see the accident, but I thought I saw something, and pretty soon knew something had happened when everybody behind stopped and turned around. The road we were on was very narrow with no shoulder, so I went on and stopped at an intersection. I had the two bikes that were still following me go on the short distance to the cavern and turned around. By the time I got most of the way to the accident site, all the bikes were already on their way, so I turned around and followed them the rest of the way to the cavern. I don't know if anyone in our party requested it, but we had a tour all to ourselves. The kid taking ticket money, in addition to being pretty slow with the transactions, had a hard time understanding how he was supposed to track who was on which tour. Our tour started about noon and the guide seemed reasonably well informed, but I didn't quite believe everything he said. The cave itself was pretty nice, but for the most part not all that spectacular. It is supposed to be one of the wettest caves in the world, flooding regularly, so it did have lots of formations, but until the end, it was narrow. Also because of the regular flooding the lighting was pretty makeshift and poor. One of the good things is that they have made almost no attempt to accommodate people by blasting out the floors, leaving several sections where we had to hunch down. At the end of the tour, the cave opens up and leads to the waterfall for which the cave is named. It was pretty neat, but not lit very well, it was kind of hard to see. Also with the rushing water it was hard to hear the guide. I tried a few different ways to get a picture of the falls, but for some reason my light meter wasn't working correctly, it seemed like it was reading the ambient light instead of the light in the frame, so all the pictures I took are incredibly dark. By the time we were all back on the surface it was just past 1 o'clock and everyone was pretty hungry. We decided that after getting gas, we would go to Po-po's in Welfare, and I would lead again. Everyone stayed together for lunch, which was kind of unusual and kind of nice, but in order to get seated we broke into three tables. The service was slower at our table, one table left while we were eating and the other table waited for us to finish. I absolutely gorged myself, all of it fried- chicken fried steak with onion rings and fried okra. When we left there and headed home a little after 2, it was hot but not brutally so. It was probably about 95 in that area, but it got hotter the closer we got to Austin, getting noticeably hotter east of 281. I wasn't quite dripping with sweat, but I was pretty hot by the time I got home. I cooled off and vegetated for a while, then went over to Jimmy's for dinner with some other friends. Once again we stayed up too late bullshitting.
Sunday I slept until 8 then putzed until about 11:30, then got on the bicycle and rode to a sandwich shop about 4 miles away for lunch. I went from there to the Wildflower Center and read the paper on a bench in the shade for a little while. I went for a lap on the Veloway before starting home. When I stopped at a drug store for a drink and an ice cream bar, my phone said it was 100 degrees out at 2pm. Fortunately I was already home in the AC before it topped out at 105. I didn't do a whole lot for the rest of the day other than read the paper and watch TV, except to do some gathering and packing for my crazy road trip.

Monday, July 28, 2008

At Long Last

After what seemed like forever, but was really just a matter of weeks, on Tuesday I got my iPhone and on Thursday I got my Fat Boy back from the shop. I got an email Monday that my phone was being sent overnight from Dallas, so I stopped at the AT&T store on my way home from work on Tuesday, as did several other people, so I had a little wait before it could be activated. I got it home and hooked it up to my Vista PC and started transferring music. After a few songs, iTunes froze. I restarted it, it looked okay, and started copying more music. It froze again, i killed iTunes, and when I restarted it, iTunes said there was a problem with my iPhone and it had to be restored. I uninstalled iTunes, rebooted my computer, reinstalled iTunes and it still said it couldn't see the iPhone. The phone itself could play the music that had managed to transfer, but it wasn't talking with my computer. The next day I brought the phone in to work, which is an XP machine, and it could see the iPhone just fine, but I couldn't put any of the music on my machine onto the phone. I did manage to sync with my Outlook calendar, but that was about it. At home that evening it was the same story, iTunes said there was a problem, so I tried its suggestion of restoring the phone, but since I'd never backed it up, there was nothing to restore. At work on Thursday I did a restore, which zapped a number of changes I'd made to contacts and bookmarks. I called Apple and after waiting for someone to talk to, he suggested creating a playlist and syncing that, which isn't the usage model I've used with my iPod, but I tried it and it did work, but I had to force iTunes to do it. At least I was able to get music on my phone. The problem with my work computer is that the music I have ripped on it is in WMA format, which Apple doesn't support. A while back when I first got my iPod I transcoded some of the collection to AAC, but I've gotten a lot of music since then. I started transcoding, which took all afternoon and into the night and filled up my disk. I came in the next morning with all kinds of errors, due in large part to its having re-copied songs already in AAC format. I now have my music about how I want it on the iPhone and spent some time this morning getting album covers, which it turns out is not nearly as automatic as I would have liked.
After work on Thursday I went over to the Harley shop and practically signed over my first born to pay for the repair bill. I wasn't happy that it was ready and they hadn't called me, but I was glad to at least finally have it back. I got a small box of trophies with it- the cam plate and two very scorched pistons, as well as some miscellaneous small pieces. Fortunately the Hurricane Dolly-related rains had subsided and it wasn't raining, but the roads were still wet and dirty, so the wash job was nullified. Riding back to the shop on my bicycle was even more dirty since I was riding on the shoulder of the road some.
After work on Friday I had dinner at Shady Grove, then went downtown. I went to Gingerman for a little, then hoofed it over to Stubb's for the Air Guitar finals, but when I got there at 8:30 thinking the show started at 9, I found out that the doors didn't open until 9:15 and the show started at 10. I went to kill the time at Coyote Ugly, which was fully staffed but not yet full of patrons. It was something like "wigged out Friday" for no apparent reason, and all the girls were wearing wigs. I went back to Stubb's for the competition, which was held in the usual format, pitting the winners from the preliminary rounds and the dark horse round earlier in the week, as well letting a couple other people who pretty much just showed up. The first round was everyone's prepared routines, then there was a break before the compulsory round where the top scorers of the first round had a shred-off to Motorhead's Ace of Spades. There were some great high-energy performances, but the winner by far was "Master of Destruction," and according to the Facebook page, another favorite The Guardian won in Dallas, so he'll be competing in the US finals in NY as well. After the competition everyone got up on the stage for a little air guitar.
Saturday I left the house on my bicycle about 9:30 for the 11:35 showing of Dark Knight at the Alamo. When I got there, there were already people seated in the theater, and it was the smallest theater. I wound up with nobody sitting next to me, but it was about the only empty seat in the place. It was almost 2:30 when I left the theater, got a couple things at REI and rode the hike-and-bike trail for a bit. It was extremely hot riding home around 4, so I took it kind of lazily, stopping along the way to cool off in air conditioned stores.
Sunday I met up with another road captain to pre-ride this Saturday's ride to Cascade Caverns. The ride down there was really nice, good weather, but then it was only 10:30 when we got there. We didn't do the tour, and just turned around after getting some information on the place. Claudia and I separated when I stopped for gas, and I got home a little after noon, before it was scorchingly hot. This ride was also a little test of the Fat Boy and my electronic set-up. Two years ago when I had my Sirius on the bike during my big road trip (I haven't used it on the bike since), the biggest problem was that its loudest volume was just a little bit too quiet for me to hear well. I bought a small inline headphone amplifier, which did gave me plenty of volume, but for one thing it's one more thing to carry in my pocket (which is part of why I got a new phone), and it got intermittent interference from my phone. The interference shouldn't be a problem on my trip, since I'll have my phone off most of the time I'm riding, and I guess I'll deal with all the crap in my pockets like I always have in the past.

Monday, July 21, 2008


Friday afternoon at 3:15 I got an email via Facebook from the Alamo that there were two last-minute tickets available for their Batman adventure to Bracken cave. I wanted to go to the event when I first heard about it, but when checking online it went from not on sale to sold out. Apparently it sold out in about 15 minutes. I thought about it for 15 minutes, since I was still at work and would have to run out to make it in time for the 4:30 departure. I figured that they would be gone by the time I decided I wanted to go, but called and found out at least one was still available. I purchased the ticket (for $110!), finished up a few things and headed over to the theater on Lamar. I was sitting by myself on the bus for a while until a couple ran up at the last minute and the woman sat down next to me. We chatted some on the way down to the cave and also laughed at the campy original Batman episode they played. As soon as we stopped I rushed off the bus to the bathroom, which was a single port-o-potty, because of the beers I drank and I decided to wait until we got there after we turned off of the interstate. There were a couple of people there from Bat Conservancy, which actually owns the cave and surrounding land, to tell us about the cave and the bats, as well as a crew from the Alamo to cook and serve dinner. The food was top-notch, but for whatever reason seemed to have something of a raw/rare theme. Appetizers were steak tartare and ceviche, and the main course was rare tuna steak. I ate every bite, but it was kind of weird to eat raw food more or less in the middle of nowhere, and it didn't seem to have any connection to bats or the movie. As I was finishing the main course, about 7:30, the bat flight started. Apparently due to various factors, the flights have started earlier than normal, and it's something of a rare treat to be able to see them leave in full sunlight, usually it's closer to dusk. Everyone got up from the tables to see the bats closer up. It was really incredible to see, but what I found much more amazing was just the sound, particularly the sound of all the wings flapping. For reasons even the bat guy didn't know, the first flight didn't last very long and quite a few came back, which was really neat to see, and apparently very unusual. They did a sort of dive bomb into the cave. Closer to dusk, a second flight started and continued until we left at dark. On the way back a different woman sat next to me and we chatted most of the way about movies, music, and whatever. We got back to the theater and had a whole section blocked off for us for the 11:30 show. I thought the movie was really good, but I missed some of it having to go to the bathroom and I think I briefly fell asleep since it was past my bed time. Plus the mojitos didn't help.
Saturday morning I lazed about for a while, then left on my bicycle around 10:30. I got to Home Slice at 11:15 and as I was about to walk in the back door, I was told they didn't open for another 15 minutes, explaining the staff meeting on the patio. As I waited out front reading the paper about a dozen more people showed up. The pizza was excellent as always and I ate three slices. From there I rode to Uncle Billy's and drank beer in the AC reading the paper for two hours. I decided to go to the Blanton museum from there to see the Michener collection of Japanese prints as well as an exhibition on printmaking in general. I left there about 4 and headed to Chuy's for dinner. I of course stuffed myself and had something of a hard time getting my fat ass (which was pretty saddle sore at that point) back home. I got home about 7 and watched qualifying for the drag race, which was a measly one hour show, then watched Hostel part 2, which was predictably silly torture porn.
I did almost nothing of any value on Sunday, except to get a few things at the grocery store after having lunch, until after dinner I went rollerblading for the first time since I broke my ankle. It went better than I thought it might, I was able to make the full 5K in a decent time. My ankle was really uncomfortable, but I powered through and did a second full lap after a 5-minute break, which also went pretty well. After the second lap my ankle was pretty sore, and it still is, particularly around the top of the implant on the fibula.

Monday, July 14, 2008

No iPhone... Yet

I was planning on trying to get one of the new iPhones on Friday, thinking the insanity wouldn't be as much this time, but I soon learned that was definitely not the case. Friday morning on my way to work I stopped at the AT&T store near my house. As I drove up I didn't see a line, but it turns out I was just approaching from the opposite direction as the line was going. I got out of my car and started toward the store when I saw the line, which at first looked to be close to my patience level, but as I walked toward the corner of the building and found the line turned and kept going for a ways, I just got back in my car and went to work. At lunch I stopped in another store and was not surprised to find they didn't have any, but the guy said they'd be getting more in the coming days. Saturday morning I went back to the store near my house just before they opened at 9. There was only one person there, who had already been told they didn't have any in stock there. Other people walking up had reports of absurd waits at the stores that did have stock. I stuck around until they opened and decided instead of waiting or checking in every day I would do direct fulfillment, where the send the phone to that store in 7 to 10 days. With some luck I'll have it this Friday or Saturday. I did play with a live demo of the new version of the iPhone in the store.
I went back home and putzed for a little bit before getting on my bike to do a charity ride. The flier I had must have been a misprint because it said first bike out at 11, when it was really last bike out at 11, so when I got there at 11:10 they were just about to leave. The ride was pretty nice, nothing I haven't done innumerable times before. The fourth stop in Lago Vista was the only one I really hadn't been to, and it was down a ways off the main road, so I wasn't sure if I was headed the right direction. I got there at 1 and was getting hungry, so I was glad to see the Lions Club was selling BBQ, which wasn't bad. At the final stop at Carlos and Charlie's I was kind of surprised not to find my co-worker who rides with the group that put the event on and was the one who told me about it. He showed up later, having stopped for a long lunch in Marble Falls. I did pretty well in the "Scrabble Scramble," but wound up just outside of prize range. I stuck around there until 5, didn't get home until 6, quickly cleaned up a bit, changed and jumped in the car to get to a friend's surprise birthday party. I got there much later than I had hoped- right at 7 when she was supposed to arrive. As I was walking from my car to their house I saw a car pulling up that I thought might have been hers. Turns out it was her car and I kind of ruined the surprise, but at that point she already pretty much knew what was going on from all of her friends' cars parked in the street. The party was good, I enjoyed myself. The food was good as it always is at their parties. It didn't get quite as crazy as the last party of theirs I went to, but it was pretty rowdy. I finally left after 2 and got home about 3:30 and went straight to bed.
I woke up at 8 Sunday, read for a bit and otherwise did nothing until about 10 when I went to the theater to see Hellboy 2, which I really enjoyed. I went from there to my company's summer party. I had never been to the place, near the airport and kind of hard to get to, but the company party had been there the previous two years as well. People who had been to those parties as well grumbled some that the party should go somewhere else. That and the oppressive heat probably kept a lot of people away, as turnout wasn't great. There were mostly families with young children, and some couples. After lunch, which was just okay, I was looking forward to riding the zip line. It turns out it wasn't really engineered and they imposed an age/weight limit because their stopping mechanism wasn't meant for much more than 100 pounds. After being denied on the zip line, I was thinking about going home but decided to change into my swim trunks and jump in the pool. The pool was cool but not too cold and it felt great after sweating in the nearly 100 degree heat. I left about 5 and went home and watched the drag race. I fell asleep on the couch about 7 and woke up at 8:30, watched drag racing until about 10:30 and read until I fell asleep about 11.

Monday, July 7, 2008


I was planning on getting dinner somewhere I could sit outside on Thursday, but just before I left the office it started pouring rain. I went downtown, where it didn't look like they'd gotten any rain, to the Gingerman instead. About 6:30 I decided to go to the Alamo to try to catch the Team America: World Police special. It was a quote- and sing-along and included a goodie bag of props including a balloon, a glow stick and a noisemaker for certain parts of the movie. It was good rowdy fun, then we all went out on sixth street to play with sparklers and sing "America: Fuck Yeah."
Friday morning I read for a while before heading out on my bicycle around 9:30. I rode up to the Alamo Lamar for the 11 showing of WALL-E. There were a lot more children than I would have hoped, but at least the theater wasn't full. One little boy to my right kept asking his dad questions throughout the whole movie. I did manage to enjoy the movie anyway. I rode to Uncle Billy's and when I got off my thighs felt like they were going to cramp up. I stretched and walked around for a bit before going inside to cool off in the AC. I hadn't realized they don't filter their beers until I got a very cloudy beer, which the bartender was due to having recently put on a new keg. The taste was a little different and there was a big clump of yeast at the bottom of the glass when I was finished, so I switched to one of their other beers. From there I decided to go to Hula Hut. There were lots of good-looking women as I expected, but it was too crowded and I couldn't sit down, so I left after having one beer. I stopped in at REI to get some sort of light for my bicycle, anticipating riding home after dark. I had a couple of beers at the Gingerman before going to the dock for the CMU alumni boat cruise on Lady Bird Lake. It was pretty much as I expected- nice, but kind of lame. Dinner was decent- chicken and beef fajitas. There were mostly families with children ranging from babies to college-aged, and some younger alums, some of whom I had seen at other events. It was a good vantage point to watch the fireworks display at the very least. It was a total cluster fuck trying to get out of the downtown area. I had to dodge the swarms of cars and throngs of pedestrians just to get started on my way home. I went a different route than I normally have gone, down South First. It went fine most of the way, but after I stopped to get a soda the sidewalk stopped, which wasn't too bad at first, but eventually I had to ride in the street. Traffic was very light at that point, but I was still pretty nervous with just a single blinking LED. I got home about 11:30 and took a shower, and then I couldn't get to sleep so I surfed the web for a little while.
Saturday morning I went over to the Harley shop for a ride benefiting Make-A-Wish down to the dealership in Gruene. It wasn't full-on group ride, more like poker run style where you either go by yourself or in a small group and make certain stops along the way. Before leaving on the ride I checked with the tech working on my Fat Boy, who said he thinks the counterbalancer bearings also need to be replaced, which requires splitting the case, which means $800 in labor for $50 in parts. I left the shop by myself, but soon caught up with another group of people I didn't know. They weren't really going slow, just slightly slower than I wanted to ride, so at the first stop I got my raffle ticket and took off while they were all dallying about. At the second stop I caught up with a group of people I do know, but they left before I did. Somehow I missed a turn and missed the third stop, but by the time I realized it I didn't really care, so I headed straight to the dealership. I hung out there for a little while, then blazed up I35 straight home where I did almost nothing for the rest of the day.
Sunday I did some little things around the house in the morning and in the afternoon I went downtown. I went to the Ransom Center for the first time since it got its own location to see an exhibit called "On the Road With the Beats," which I've wanted to see for a while having read some Kerouac and in the midst of Burroughs. I enjoyed the exhibit, it was well laid out and had lots of good material. I had originally thought about going to the Blanton museum afterward, but I stayed at the Ransom until a quarter to five, when both museums close. I went and had dinner at the TX Chili Parlor nearby. I don't know if it was me, the hot weather or the chili itself, but it didn't seem as spicy as it normally does. At about 6:30 I headed towards the Austin Music Hall for the show, and went to kill some time at the Gingerman for the third time. I didn't care much about the opening bands and read the paper there until almost 8. It was the first time I'd been to the Hall since they rebuilt it. It seemed rather familiar, except that the upstairs space was much larger. It was oppressively hot inside. I don't know if their ventilation/air conditioning wasn't on or it just couldn't handle that crowd, but it was absurdly hot and humid. Soilent Green was already playing when I got in. They were alright. I was going to try to get some air while Chimaira was setting up, but the porch was jammed with smokers, so I just sat down upstairs. I'm familiar with at least a couple Chimaira songs, but they're not a favorite of mine. They were good live. Between acts I went back downstairs to get a close-ish spot. The Dethklok show was pretty awesome. They had a cartoon going the whole time that was more than just clips from the show. The cartoon even had some banter to allow the real band some breathing time. The band was good. I was most impressed by Brendon Small, the show's creator, who was playing lead guitar and singing in a character voice, especially "Hatredcopter," where is sung by two characters. I was kind of disappointed that none of them had long hair, and Brendon is nothing like Nathan Explosion. They finished up their roughly hour set with my favorites "Thunderhorse" and "Go into the Water" before a final "encore" of "Go Forth and Die." I don't know if it was because it was the last show, but the only Dethklok merch was a poster, I was kind of hoping to get a t-shirt.