Tuesday, August 25, 2009


I rode my bicycle to work again on Friday. I didn't leave until after 6, and went home and vegetated all night. I went to sleep at more or less my usual time, around 11, but for no apparent reason woke up at 6 Saturday morning. I lazed about for a while, then around 10 I went to try and give blood at the new donation center near my house. I hadn't donated since I got my tattoo, because they said the convention wasn't a "licensed tattoo facility." About a month ago I finally got an email from a tattoo convention organizer saying that yes, they definitely were covered by a temporary license. Having never been there, it took me a bit of driving around the sprawling shopping development to find the place. When they looked me up in their computer, they saw the deferral. Unfortunately they couldn't just take my word that the place was, in fact, licensed, and they couldn't remove the deferral even after I showed them the email. They let me print out the email, then they faxed it over to the person who can clear me, but it apparently can take a few days and I haven't heard anything yet. Hopefully they'll get it sorted out and I can donate again soon. Since this changed my plans for the day, I decided to go home and go for a bicycle ride. I rode to the downtown area and ate lunch at Home Slice. I was pretty hungry and ate three slices of their delicious pizza. I headed into the heart of downtown from there, passing through the Batfest that was being set up on the Congress bridge. I went to the Alamo and bought a ticket for the 3 o'clock (their earliest) showing of Inglorious Basterds. Since it was only 12:30 and I had a bunch of time to kill, I rode to the art museum. I hadn't been in a while, but other than their temporary exhibition space, it was pretty much the same. I pretty much wandered around the downtown area until around 2:15 when I went to the theater and waited for the show. I really liked the movie, even though it wasn't what I was expecting. I was expecting something more like The Dirty Dozen, where Basterds's main character was more an SS colonel than the Basterds. Since it was almost 6 when I got out of the theater, I thought about going somewhere for dinner, but couldn't think of anything I particularly wanted. I stopped in at Doc's on Congress, mainly because I really had to pee, but also because there were some threatening looking clouds in the sky. I drank a beer and it still wasn't raining (and the forecast wasn't calling for it to rain on me), so I started to leave, only to find that it was now raining. I decided it was probably isolated and started home anyway. I was soon out of the rain and didn't get any more on the rest of the way home. I took a shower and went and had a nice steak dinner at the roadhouse. I fell asleep on the couch watching TV around 10.

I slept a lot later on Sunday, waking up around 8. After breakfast I drove to the veloway for a skate. I did three full laps, taking a break between each one. There were more people there than I've seen in a long time. Either I haven't been in the morning in a long time, or people are finally getting used to the heat. I showered and then went out for lunch. I decided I would try out the Carl's Jr. that went in a few months back. It was maybe a little better than most fast food places, but wasn't nearly as good as Dan's. I went to a sporting goods store to get some sale items and take advantage of tax-free weekend. At home in the afternoon I did a little bit of housework, but mostly laid on the couch. I even dozed off for a little while.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


Saturday morning I went on my first HOG chapter ride in about two months. We took a mix of highway and back roads to get to Marble Falls for breakfast at the Bluebonnet Cafe. It was nice to visit with some old friends, and a new couple who moved to Austin from Alaska not that long ago. After I finished stuffing my face, we took some back roads I've ridden countless times back to the Harley shop, where they were having their monthly lot party, which was also a "post ROT party." I paid the bill on my Fat Boy, and while I was in the service area I got talked into entering the Night Train into the dyno shoot-out. It pulled just under 80 horsepower and just over 92 foot-pounds of torque, which ultimately was good enough to win second place in the softail division, against pretty meager competition. The only problem was that I had to stick around until 4 in order to claim my prize of a t-shirt and a printed certificate in a cheap plastic frame. I killed some of the time I was there by having the Coyote Ugly girls give the Night Train a quick cleaning. Also, I left for a little while to ride the Fat Boy home, where Jimmy gave me a ride back to the shop, by way of his house where I helped him fix something on his daughter's car. Once I finally received my fabulous certificate, I rode home and chilled out for a while, then went back over to Jimmy's and we had steak for dinner.

I slept pretty late on Sunday, until 9, and then still had trouble waking up and getting out of bed. I had a little bit of breakfast and headed off on my bicycle to Alamo Lamar at 10. I couldn't decided if I wanted to see District 9 or In The Loop, so I flipped a coin when I got to the theater. It came up heads for In The Loop, and when I got inside I was pretty glad that's the way it landed when I saw the line of people waiting for District 9. I really liked the movie, I thought it was very funny- a good political satire. From there, I decided that since I'd never actually been inside the Capitol, that's what I would do. I stopped in to Patagonia along the way, but didn't find anything on sale I wanted. I was kind of pissed off that I couldn't find a bicycle rack anywhere on the Capitol grounds, and had to lock my bike to a street sign just outside the fence. I wandered around and looked at stuff for a while, then started to make my way home. I was waylaid pretty quickly, however, when I decided while waiting for a light to go to the Gingerman. I had one beer, and when I couldn't think of where I wanted to stop on the way home for some food, I just got an empanada there and another beer or two. It was around 5 when I finally left and started home. My legs were starting to get tired, seeing as this was pretty much the first time I'd exercised since Rainier, so I stopped into a market for some Dr Pepper and Twizzlers. When I got home I watched TV for the rest of the evening.

I got a call from Jimmy Monday afternoon to let me know he'd finished working on my car. I called him later once I got home, expecting him to come over and give me a ride to his shop. When I heard a car pulling up to the house, it was definitely not his truck, but was instead my car. I drove over to his house and we hung out on the deck and ate the rest of the steaks from the other night.

It was good to finally drive to work Tuesday so I could finally take my backpack home, since it had been sitting in my cubicle for a week after getting it back from Sean.

Today I rode my bicycle in, since the shower room in the building is open now. The new place is about two miles closer to my house, and cuts out a big hill, but to avoid making a big loop under the highway, I have to ride head on into traffic with no shoulder. Fortunately there was nobody using the turn lane I was riding in, but I doubt that will always be the case.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Seattle/Rainier Trip: Seattle

Sunday, 8/1, I got on a plane at the absurdly early hour of 6 am, which of course meant that I woke up at 4. I took a cab, to leave my car so that Jimmy could pick it up to do some overdue maintenance. I had a brief layover in San Francisco, which mainly consisted of rushing to the next gate, which seemed to be miles from my arrival gate. I got into Seattle on time, around 10:30. I got my checked bag and went out to wait for the shuttle to my hotel. It took a while for the shuttle to arrive. If I had been going to Dollar, I could have gone 10 times. When the shuttle finally did arrive, it turned out that its first stop was a different hotel, and up the street the other direction from my hotel. If I had known where it was beforehand, I could have been at my hotel long before I walked there taking the shuttle. I was glad my room was available when I got there, because I was ready for a nap, having only slept a little bit on the plane. After I woke up I took a city bus to downtown, and got off at the Pioneer Square neighborhood. On a recommendation from a friend, I took the Seattle Underground Tour. The tour did actually offer quite a bit about the history of Seattle, but the tour guide probably thought she was a lot funnier than I thought she was. Most of her terrible jokes were tortured puns I could see coming from a mile away. I did find the information very interesting, but to me the delivery was horrible. After the tour finished, I headed to the sound and started walking north. Since I didn't want to stop in any more obvious tourist traps, I kept going and eventually found myself at Pike Place Market. Since it was already after 6 pm, everything was closed, so I didn't get to see it in action then. However, the brewpub there was open. I sampled several of their beers, but none were exceptional. I got a gyro for dinner from a Greek place nearby, then started back toward Pioneer Square for lack of any other ideas. I went to the Smith Tower, which was the tallest building in the city when it was built in 1914. I got up to the top just before sunset, and the man working there was very informative and did not try to rush me out at all. I took a whole bunch of picture of the skyline, and attempted to photograph Mt. Rainier, but it was almost the exact same color as the sky, so only a couple of pictures came out at all. I took a bus back to the hotel, where I had a couple more beers at the bar. If I had known how much they charged for the first one, I probably wouldn't have ordered a second, but oh well. I went back to the room around 10:30 and quickly fell asleep reading my book until Stefan arrived and woke me up.

Around 8, Stef and I went off in search of breakfast. We had a pretty leisurely breakfast, I ate far too much, then we walked back to the hotel and waited for Sean and Marisa to pick us up. When they arrived, our climbing odyssey began.

On Thursday, 8/6, after a few scenic stops, Sean and Marisa dropped us off at the Greyhound station in Yakima. We locked up our big bags and went off for some lunch, which included a couple pints of beer. Once again, google failed me, pointing me to a long-closed brewpub. The restaurant that had taken over the place was okay, though. It was a converted railroad station, and they had a railroad DVD playing on one TV. We went back to the station and waited for the bus, which was running a little late. I hadn't even thought of the possibility, but the bus was fairly full when it showed up, and Stef and I weren't able to sit together. Having spent almost every minute of the previous four plus days with him, this really wasn't a problem. I did manage to finish reading my book, Nathan Rabin's The Big Rewind, his memoirs, which I enjoyed immensely. When we got in to Seattle, Stef was not too keen on walking, with his knees in pain, but it was only about 5 blocks to my hotel. I checked in, we dropped our stuff, and then went to a beer bar a block away. The bar claimed 160 beers on tap, but several of the beers I asked for (most not on their list) they didn't have. They did have some pretty good dinner, though. We just stayed there until almost midnight, then back to the hotel. Stef then left, taking a taxi to the airport to just sleep there until his 6 am flight back to Austin. I was barely awake at that point to begin with, and just went to sleep.

On Friday I was still really feeling the after effects of the climb. My quads were sore, and I still had the one minor blister on my right foot. Around 8 or so I started wandering toward Pike Place in search of breakfast. I saw the world-famous fish market, then found a deli and got a bagel with lox that I ate by the water. I picked up some tape from a drug store and headed back to my hotel, where I wrapped up my two little toes on my right foot to avoid bothering the blister. Not having a particularly strong conviction as to what I wanted to do for the day, I set off toward the REI flagship store, about a mile away. I stopped in another outdoor store nearby first, one really geared toward serious mountaineering. They had on display a down suit that had been to the summits of Vinson Massif and Everest many times. The REI store was pretty nice. The coolest part, to me at least, was their giant indoor climbing structure. If it hadn't been for my core legs and the 2-hour wait, I probably would have given it a shot. I had some lunch at a wrap place in the store, then started the ~1 mile walk to the Seattle Center, home of the Space Needle and other stuff. After wandering around and taking some pictures, I was lured into the Experience Music Project/Science Fiction Museum by an exhibit on Jim Henson. I took a pretty quick tour of both. The Henson exhibit was fairly small, and the whole space wasn't really that big. The SciFi stuff was pretty scattershot, more of an overview of the whole of SciFi than really getting too into things. The EMP seemed more geared toward musicians, with numerous recording areas. It also had sort of a local musicians hall-of-fame, which was interesting enough, but not that exciting to me. I had no interest in spending $16 to wait in a long line to go up the Space Needle, so I walked on toward the water and the Seattle Art Museum's Olympic Sculpture Park. There were some nice pieces, but nothing that blew me away. I headed south from there along the water, then headed to the SAM proper. Their collection is pretty diverse, also with quite a few nice pieces. They had a special exhibit up of Andrew Wyeth works, but it really wasn't that big. There were a few Helga paintings. I went back to my hotel, but it was pretty late in the afternoon, so I didn't take a nap or anything. I went to the hotel restaurant and had happy hour beers and a rather filling appetizer for dinner. I went out walking again, so I could take a look and some pictures of the library. I then went to a fairly "corporate" brewpub for a couple of pints. When I got back to my hotel I decided to check out the pub that was more or less in the basement. They had one of my favorite English beers on tap that I've never been able to find in the US. I was really tired by that point and should have just had one, but I figured since it was a rare occurrence I'd order a second. I didn't even drink half of it before my eyelids started getting pretty heavy. It was only just past 10, but I paid and went up to my room and crashed out.

Saturday I woke up on the early side and caught a bus to the airport around 7 for my 9 am flight. I wound up having a bunch of time to kill in the airport, but I'd rather be early than late. Thankfully, the flight home was direct, non-stop, since Alaska Airlines had- during that week- started direct flights between Austin and Seattle. I got back in to Austin around 3:30, and Jimmy picked me up and gave me a ride home. Since my house was 90 degrees, I just dropped my stuff and went to hang out with him. That evening he had a bunch of friends over for grilled fish they had caught on their vacation the week prior.

Unfortunately, due to an unexpected tire problem and wanting to get it fixed properly, by finally fixing the alignment, Jimmy still had my car at his shop all week. Since my Fat Boy was in the shop as well for its 100,000 mile service, I drove the Night Train to work all week. I would have ridden my bicycle one or more days, but since we just moved into a brand new building and the showers haven't been completed yet, I figured for everyone else's sake I wouldn't. It wasn't too big of a problem, other than the fact that it was somewhere around 100 degrees every afternoon- with the exception of Wednesday when I got rained on.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Seattle/Rainier Trip: Climbing Rainier

Sunday morning, 8/2, Sean (a co-worker) and Marisa (his wife) picked Stef (another co-worker) and me up from the hotel we spent the night in by the airport. It quickly became apparent that there was a little too much stuff in the car already to add to people in any sort of comfort. Adding in that we each had a big and small bag, it became a perfect problem for a bunch of engineers to solve. After pulling a bunch of stuff out, throwing away any garbage, we managed to stuff everything back in with just enough room for everyone to sit down. It would have to to for the two-hour ride to the motel in Ashford. The car was so full, I could only see Sean directly in front of me. However, I was fortunate to be on the side of the car that did have occasional views of Mt. Rainier as we approached it. As if we didn't have enough stuff, we stopped at a grocery store for provisions. We arrived at base camp, which includes a motel, a coffee shop, a snack stand, and a climbing store in addition to the headquarters of the guide service we had hired, Rainier Mountaineering Inc. We arrived around noon and got some food from the snack stand, but their service was so slow that day that even though I ordered right after he did, Sean was finished with his burger by the time I got mine (and he was not eating particularly fast). We looked around the store for a while, and then fortunately our room was ready earlier than promised and we had a chance to unpack the car and gather our gear for orientation. At 3, we met our head guide, Billy, and one of the other parties we would be climbing with- Mark and Kyle, co-workers from Michigan. The other party- Robert, his brother Loren and his wife Juan arrived later. We started by introducing ourselves, then Billy gave us a slide show introducing us to the mountain and the route we would be taking. Then came the gear check, going over everything from head to toe and all safety gear. The only thing I was missing was a second upper insulation layer. After we went through everything, we went back to the store, where I bought a soft shell jacket that was on sale for a good price. Unfortunately, it was too good of a bargain for Stef to pass up, and they only had it in one color. Oh well. It turned out to be a pretty good purchase, I wore it the entire second day of the climb, to the exclusion of the fleece shirt I had brought. We drove to a nearby town to get some more groceries, after having re-evaluated our stocks, and Subway sandwiches for dinner/lunch the next day. I had trouble sleeping that night. The area was just coming down from a record heat wave, and we were in an attic-like space without much ventilation.

I got some breakfast from the coffee shop Monday morning. We all packed up our gear for the day and met up at 8:15 to go to the park for mountaineering class. We changed into our plastic mountaineering boots on the bus, forcing us to get used to them a little bit on the ~2 mile hike up to the training area. The class started pretty basic- to take deep breaths, how to walk on snow, how to hold the ice axe, and how to come straight down a snow slope. Then we learned arrests, what to do in case we or anyone we're tied on to falls. In the afternoon we learned about walking with crampons, and then walked to the top of a fairly steep slope roped in two teams. The last new thing was walking on rock with crampons. This proved to be the worst for me. After hiking all day in the plastic boots, my ankle was pretty tender. Any rolling that put pressure on the inside of my left ankle caused pain, and on the rock it was much worse than the snow. Having pretty much learned everything we needed to know, the last test was to hike up another steep snow bank on our way out. As a test, the assistant guide, Elias, grabbed the rope right near Marisa to simulate a team arrest. Quite unfortunately, this twisted her previously injured knee which she had spent a lot of time to rehabilitate. She made the hike back to Paradise alright, but she dropped out of doing the actual climb. Back at base camp, we iced our various painful joints, and had pizza from the snack stand for dinner.

I slept better Monday night, but still woke up at 6. I went and sat outside for a while, and because I got a little chilly in the 52 degree air, I made the regrettable decision to hike in my fleece pants instead of my shorts. We started out of Paradise around 9:30 and it wasn't long before I was sweating profusely. I didn't let that slow me down, though, and after the first break I was hiking immediately behind our third guide, Gabriel, an Argentinian whom Sean and Stef had climbed Aconcagua with. I talked with him about climbing and various other things. Our second stop was on the Muir Snowfield. By that point, we had gained enough elevation that the breeze was pretty cool, so I put on my base layer shirt over my t-shirt. It was at that stop that we changed from our casual footwear (flip-flops in Billy's case) into our mountaineering boots. I was pretty quickly sweating profusely again. The next two stops I put on my jacket while we were stopped, but put it away before we started hiking again, which was much better as far as regulating my body temperature. The fourth and final "maintenance break" of the day was within sight of Camp Muir. Being sweaty and a bit tired, it was tantalizingly close, but agonizingly still a half hour away. It was good, then, that I was behind several people for the last leg, and I couldn't really see it when I looked up from the footsteps of the person in front of me. It was about 2:30 when we arrived at our night's accommodations, RMI's private hut. It was not much to look at, 2x4s and plywood, and consisted mainly of the closest thing to a rack I've ever seen outside of a ship. We were actually quite fortunate, in that we didn't have to bring tents or sleeping mats, and that we were their only summit team that day. Normally there would have been twice as many people that time of year, but what would have been the B summit team went a different route. We had some room to spread out our stuff on the three-level wooden bunk. I took the middle of the middle bunk laid my stuff out to prepare for the summit. Billy came in to give us a talk around 3:30, then we had time for dinner before we our appointed 6pm rest time. I barely slept the whole night. My ipod as a noise suppressor maybe wasn't the ideal choice, as it seemed there were several times where I was just about to drift off and the music woke me up again. Also not helping matters was that everything seemed to be very connected. So, while I couldn't hear people moving around or whatever, I could feel the bunk moving. I did get some sleep, but at 11 o'clock, the start of the window in which Billy said he would wake us up, I was awake. I stayed in my sleeping bag, but there was a parade of people going to the bathroom or whatever. It was about 12:15am when Billy did come in to wake us up. They brought hot water for breakfast, which I used for some oatmeal.

It was about 1:15 when we were geared up and roped together in teams ready to leave camp. In the night, Loren had gotten an upset stomach and decided not to join us, as did his wife. This required re-balancing the rope teams, and I moved from Stef and Sean's team with Gabriel to what was then Robert and Elias's team. Billy, Kyle and Mark led us out of camp onto the Cowlitz Glacier. It was a beautiful night, the moon was almost full, and really not that cold. I was wearing long johns and fleece on my legs; and my t-shirt, base layer, and soft shell jacket on top. Of course we were wearing our full phalanx of safety gear: helmet, climbing harness, avalanche transceiver, crampons, ice axe, and all. We crossed the Cowlitz, and then went up the Cumberland Gap, a loose rocky lump leading to the Ingraham Glacier. Our first stop was on the Ingraham, just past what daylight would later reveal to be an active rock fall area. I had left my iPhone on in my parka pocket, and when I put it on, it got phone service for the first time since Sunday and informed me I had a voicemail. I thought about it, but did not retrieve it nor post to facebook. The second stretch was definitely the most physically grueling. We had to cross the glacier quickly to avoid ice fall hazard, while snaking around gigantic crevasses. It was fortunate that it was dark the first time across the Ingraham. In the dark, we only knew that we were stepping over crevasses, the largest step being a full long stride. Coming back through in the light, it was clear the potential danger from seemingly infinitely deep crevasses, the giant seracs looming above, and a few narrow ledges- one which dropped off the mountain on one side, the other side dropping into a crevasse. And that was, physically, the easy part of that stretch. Then we had to climb up the Disappointment Cleaver. It was a mix of loose rock and hard rock requiring big steps up. It was not very kind to my ankle, but it hurt less than I had feared it might. Robert and I started lagging behind the other teams on the Cleaver, which actually turned out to be to our benefit. Because the route wasn't marked properly, the first two teams had to turn around and downclimb to where we were, then take a different route up. By the time we got to the top of the Cleaver, I was beyond ready for a break. I was tired, but was confident a little break would rejuvenate me. Robert, however, wasn't feeling as confident and felt like he was slowing us down. It must have been disappointing to have to turn around, but he made it a lot further than most people on Earth ever will. He and Elias climbed down to Muir while I joined Stef, Sean and Gabriel on the way up. Climbing the Emmons Glacier was not easy, it was quite steep, even following switchbacks dug into the snow, but it was definitely easier, physically. That was when the mental aspect started to become more prominent. I was feeling tired, and had to push myself for almost every step, especially after almost an hour of climbing. I was definitely feeling the effects of altitude, as well. It wasn't anything severe, I didn't even have a headache at that point, but it felt like I got less out of each breath, and I had a major loss of appetite. They all but forced us to eat and drink at each stop. At the first stop on the Emmons, I was still able to eat a Clif bar and drink water, but it just seemed to sit there in my stomach. At the next stop, the last before the summit, I all but had to force a granola bar down my throat. At the summit I only had half of a Clif bar. The Emmons was solid snow most of the way, until we got near the top and there were a few crevasses. I was pretty exhausted when we finally made it to the summit crater around 7:15. I had already scrapped my plan to continue up to the very tippy-top, about 100 feet vertically above where we came in and dropped our bags. Sean and Gabriel were the only ones who went up, while the rest of us laid down on our packs. I actually started dozing off. We were quite fortunate to have really good weather, so it afforded us some time to relax. It was pretty cold and windy, but there were only wisps of clouds blowing around. When we went to leave we had been sitting in the cold long enough that even with our down parkas on, most of us were shivering. Billy kindly allowed for a quick stop on the descent so we could keep our parkas on for a few more minutes. Very shortly into the descent, Stef's knees started giving him serious trouble. We distributed the gear he was carrying among the other three of us, which seemed to help him. We still had to go more slowly, and there were a few times that since I was in front of him, I almost pulled him over. I, on the other hand, started feeling much better on the descent. The air was getting thicker and my energy and appetite were returning. My problem then was hydration. I had, as recommended, only brought two liters of water for the summit push. I was really thirsty coming down and I had to ration what water I did have. After our first maintenance break of the descent, I was down to less than half a liter. As we kept going, I was thirsty enough that a couple of times I chipped off and ate a bit of snow. The trip down the Disappointment Cleaver was not really any easier than the trip up. It was actually kind of nice that Billy was marking a different route, because it meant we had to pause several times, long enough to catch my breath. Traversing the Ingraham Glacier again was not physically particularly difficult, it was just, as mentioned, really being able to see the man-eating hazards, plus seeing and hearing rock falls. Fortunately I'm not particularly afraid of heights, so it was actually really cool to look down into the crevasses. They really are quite beautiful. I certainly didn't dawdle while crossing them, however. Even the narrow crevasses with a good snow bridge can be dangerous, so I hurried across all of them. Our final stop before returning to Muir was the same as our first on the way out of Muir. I downed the last of my water and a little of Gabriel's. When we got back to the Gap, we had the luxury of taking off our crampons for the rest of the way. When we got back into camp around noon, it was quite a relief. But it wasn't long before the reality that we still had to hike down to Paradise set in. I rested a bit and drank lots of water before packing everything up, somewhat haphazardly. Trying to dress lightly, and really regretting not bringing shorts, I wore just my long johns for the rest of the way down, thinking it would be cooler than the fleece pants. And who cares what the tourists think. The Snowfield was really soft and loose in the afternoon sun, and we pretty much boot skied our way down. It was hardly effortless, but it was a lot easier than going up. Stef was lagging pretty far behind, even with help from Gabriel and Elias, so it offered several opportunities for me to catch my breath and take a little drink of water. We took a break at Pebble Creek and changed into everyday footwear. I barely managed to shove all my gear into my bag for the rest of the way down to the bus. Near Paradise we encountered one of the worst surfaces: asphalt. My knees weren't hurting at all until we got to the asphalt. Fortunately, that meant we were really close to the bus at that point. I drank about a liter of water between the time we got to the bus and got back to base camp. Most of us gathered for pizza, beer, and wine at the snack shop as something of a celebration. After some much-needed showers we were all asleep by 10.

Thursday morning we got up and started packing up to leave. I ate my leftover cheese and salami for breakfast. I would have drank the beers I had left in the fridge, but they had frozen. Somehow Sean managed to pack the car a bit more compactly, and although I still couldn't see Stef, at least neither of us had anything in our laps. Sean and Marisa dropped us off at the Greyhound station in Yakima and started their long drive back to Austin. We killed the time until our bus having lunch and drinking beer.