28 November 2009

Comets and Satellites


My parents still live in the house where I grew up, from the time I was about 5 years old. They are well-rooted people, and they raised us, my brothers and I, with the same tendencies, I think.

My wife and I have lived happily together in our house for more than a dozen years, too, since the day we got married, when the lone Scotch pine out front was a lot smaller.

My wife would like to move, someday, to a place with a real yard and without a parking lot out front. And, I'll be honest, there are days when I share this desire. But we've been happy here in our little house, and for the time being it still fits the three of us (and our cat and dog, bikes and skis) more than adequately most of the time.

We have few complaints about this life, generally speaking, but one.

Living in a town like ours, where good jobs are few and often far between, and where the cost of a home is more than most can bear, we've watched way too many of our good friends up-anchor and sail away to greener, more fruitful locales. I suppose it's a kind of advantage, or at minimum an interesting component of conversation, to say that we're fortunate to have friends doing all sorts of fascinating things all over the nation and the world. But that's poor compensation for their absence from our lives on a day-to-day basis. We miss our long-distance friends and regularly wish they were closer.

But we have found over the years that the lure, the special-gravity of Flagstaff, seems to regularly bring many of them back into our lives, like comets and satellites, albeit only for a moment. Whether they return to visit family, or to relive a moment or two in their old home town, or even as they're just passing through our crossed roads on their way elsewhere, we often have the chance to reune with old friends as they all-too-briefly pass by.

It was our good fortune to have our orbit crossed today by some old friends and their kids, here visiting family for the holiday.  We spent a chilly, gray morning together on the swings at Thorpe Park.

14 November 2009

It snowed today (mostly above 8500')

Yay snow!

It's now officially become a sort of a tradition of ours (bear with us: we have so few traditions) to seek out the first significant snow of the season and make a snow-girl. Today we found it off Snowbowl Road, not too far afield from one of our favorite places, Alfa Fia tank, at about 9000 feet. Two inches of wet-and-heavy with two inches of fluff on top for a total of maybe (maaaaaybee) four inches of snow in all. Not the ideal conditions for making snow-girls... but fun, regardless... despite our only-half-preparedness (note: our daughter's wearing stretch-pants not snow-pants). Nevertheless, hopefully this snowfall's just a harbinger of bigger-and-bigger and better-and-better storms to come.



Last year about this time we hit up Brookbank Trail for our snow-girl making. There was less snow on the ground, but it was much better snow for sculpting.



In December 2007 it went something like this:

16 October 2009

How I get home

My job. It can be difficult.

I have a theory, a kind of rule-to-govern-my-professional-interactions, that everyone (almost everyone?) carries around this impression, this sense, this subconscious attitude, that their job is "The most difficult job in the world." Remembering this when I have to deal with other people, especially people at work, helps me to meter my expectations, and my reactions to their reactions, too. If I remind myself that they're usually thinking "He has no idea how busy I am. How can he be asking me to do this? Doesn't he know how hard my job already is?" I find I'm way less surprised by the ways people react when we interact, and then we're usually on track toward having some sort of mostly-positive collaboration.

The same thing tends to be true when people ask me to do stuff, I think... And lately, I've been trying to proactively counter my natural inclination to think or project the attitude that "I've got the hardest job in the world" on my end, too. I've been trying to kind of actively push those thoughts aside when people ask me to do stuff or make demands on my time. I dunno if it's working, but I hope it is.

'Cause the truth is, my job, it can be difficult. And I should remind you: you have no idea how difficult it really can be. I know, I chose it. And have (almost?) had chances to get out of it. Plus, I know: I have no real obligations to keep doing it, even though it (almost?) pays the bills and is (almost?) basically secure.

But, seriously, working with nine-year-olds (to say nothing about teachers, administrators, nurses, counselors, speech therapists, OT/PT specialists, secretaries, receptionists, aides, and sundry other school support staff-types) everyday, day after day, for years and years and years... Let's just say: It can get taxing.

There are lots of ways to keep your sanity in any demanding job working with all sorts of demanding people (who may or may not intend to be demanding), students and/or coworkers alike. Some of us turn to drink. Others spend wildly. Many quit for greener pastures.

Me? I ride my bike home everyday. For two reasons. One: my family is home. And I love my family.

And Two: because this is my ride home, and it rocks...

05 October 2009

Lava-toobin'

I visited the best known of our 3 or 4 local lavatubes* with my brothers and some of their kids this weekend. The older boys came up from Scottsdale with their Jr. High church youth group and met up with the rest of us out in the woods on Saturday afternnon. Phoenix, apparently bored after a morning of leaf-peeping, was out at the lavatube in-force, too, so there was quite a crowd all along the tube's 3800' distance. One group of out-of-towners even managed to crawl out of the cave only to find one of their party missing-in-action, necessitating an urgent call to the county Search and Rescue crew, helicopter and all [Update 07 October: they found her safe and sound]. Exciting. Crowded. A bona fide natural wonder.



* Other local lavatubes and caves that come to mind:


  • The much-shorter, way-harder-to-find but very awesome Slate Lake Cave north of Kendrick Peak near Slate Mountain.

  • The otherwise nameless but still quite legitimate and somewhat tricky-to-find Ice Cave (a collapsed lavatube) near the Sycamore Rim Trail.

  • The closed-to-the-public Ice Cave at Sunset Crater.

  • Any and all of the truly uncountable, thoroughly unmapped volcanic caves, tunnels, and cracks along the base of Mount Elden







27 September 2009

Maybe making amends

I almost never take my camera on bike rides, so I have very few pictures and almost no video footage of my friends and I riding the trails around Flagstaff. A scant few pictures from back-in-the-day have survived.



And there's this old, crappy edit I shot with my Aiptek (at 8 fps) several years ago with my buddy Dave when we went on a cyclocross ride on Mount Elden. It's one of the few videos I have to show for nearly 20 years of riding around here.





But that's really about it. Sad, huh.

I've taken my camera to Sedona on more than one occasion over the years, and some of the stills have come out okay, I guess.



But the only video I have to show for it is this horrible thing. What a mistake, to think my chest-mounted ski-camera apparatus would work while riding. Alas, at least the music is good.



Lately, just about once per weekend, I've been able to get out in the woods with my kid to ride the trailer-bike together. Technically, I didn't bring the camera on these rides either, but I'm grateful to my wife, who hikes along behind us with the dog while we ride out-and-back a few miles, for shooting a few images now and then.

Today we rode about a mile in and out of Pumphouse Wash out behind the Kachina Village area.



However, as of this week, I'm kinda excited to maybe make amends for my lack of good images of our local trails. I've got a plan and a deadline to write a piece for publication on Trailnation.com about riding the trails around here. And I'm kinda especially stoked about it because my editor is sending me one of those fancy helmet-cams so I can add a little multimedia-appeal to the piece. Could be fun. We'll see how it goes.

18 September 2009

Oh, The Places You'll Go! Trailnation.com 2

At the end of a long week, and an even longer day today, it was nice to get online tonight and find my second article for Trailnation.com has been posted. Even better, they chose to run some of my (lame) photos along with the article. This article, like the last one, is mostly about riding bikes, but I think it's far less navel-gazey. This one is all about practical advice for riding your bike off the beaten track, where bikes don't always get ridden. Curious? Please, click-thru!

By all appearances, Trailnation continues to be targeted at the motorized, quad-crowd, making my articles on mountain bike riding and bicycle commuting feel a bit out of place. But, as long as they'll have me as a writer, I'm committed to continuing to work to see if we can change that some... I've got a few good ideas, I think.

13 September 2009

Walking on Sunday

We walk in the woods together a lot, several times a week.

Today we walked up and down this steep hill because my daughter wanted to. We'd come down it together with the trail-a-bike rig a few days ago, and she wanted to see how steep it really was up close. It's rather steep... for Tevas anyway.



Just for fun: here's the first Walking in the Woods on Sunday video we ever shot, from back in June 2004.

05 September 2009

A Confluence of Dogmas: El Nino, Part Two

I'm probably the only person in the world with daily, up-to-the-minute, ongoing Google News search filters for both Calvinism, and Rick Renzi.

I have Google scour the news for mentions of Calvinism [Wikipedia] because I enjoy reading almost anything either for or against this particularly contentious theological position. I think it's fundamentally one of the most important religious debates of all time. But that's just my opinion.

I likewise have Google comb through the news for mentions of Rick Renzi [Wikipedia] because I simply never liked having a resident of the state of Virginia as my Representative in Congress. Our differing political persuasions notwithstanding, I just always thought it was wrong, in a Constitutional-sense, that he could be allowed to do that, chiefly because he had lots of money, enough anyway to buy a house in the district, a house in which he never really lived. When he got into other trouble a while back, and chose to not run for reelection, I must admit to being pleased. He may be gone from Congress and Arizona Congressional District 1 now, but in my heart he's not forgotten. And, as he awaits trial on a number of serious charges, I read each update with great interest. I try not to gloat. But it's hard not to feel a little bit vindicated even though what he's accused of has nothing to do with his lack of concern for the democratic principles established by our Constitution.

But, these days, in the midst of this strange confluence of dogmas, there's my new favorite Gooogle News filter. I created it just a couple of weeks ago and it looks for news about El Niño every day. Not a day has gone by recently where Google hasn't aggregated a host of fascinating El Niño [Wikipedia] headlines, which seem to uniformly point to an ever-strengthening El Niño situation building in the eastern Pacific. If you live in Arizona, like I do, and you've lived through an El Niño winter or two in the past, as I have, this news makes you very optimistic about the prospect of big, deep snow on the mountain this winter. For both Argentine soybean farmers, and skiers in North America's southwestern region, El Niño winters are often a real boon, as they usually tend to be abundant producers of rain and snow.

Of course, if you're an Australian wheat farmer, or a Chilean sea lion pup, El Niño's nothing but bad news all around... starvation, reduced crop yields, and even death.

And that probably really sucks.

26 August 2009

Better than Xmas: El Nino!

If my previous post, featuring lots of fun old skiing videos, didn't make you want to ski (and in Dave's case, buy a season pass) ASAP, this lengthy-but-fascinating discussion of the El Nino sea-surface-temperature slash weather-making-phenomenon and its potential impact on the 2009-2010 winter in northern Arizona should for sure!

This kind of thing makes me almost giddy:

"Since the Climate Prediction Center is forecasting at least a moderate El Nino, we have fair confidence we will see above normal precipitation this winter [in northern Arizona]. What does that mean in terms of snowfall for the higher terrain of northern Arizona? Most El Nino events produce near- or above-normal seasonal snowfall totals. Strong El Nino events produced consistently, and in some cases considerably higher snowfall totals."

You can watch NOAA's Powerpoint presentation on their El Nino forecast here.



Yee-haw!

24 August 2009

For my brother Dave so he will buy his pass


For the past several months, whenever I see him or play a round of Call of Duty 4 with him online and we get to talk a little (wearing our geeky little Bluetooth headsets, duh), my brother Dave has been hinting at the fact that he may not buy a season pass at the Snowbowl this winter. He and I have both been season pass-holders at Snowbowl for the last decade or so, during both ridiculously good and remarkably bad years, skiing faithfully, whenever we had the chance, regardless of the conditions. But, he's now a busy, successful up-and-coming exec at an important local non-profit, as well as a father and husband, and a graduate student at ASU, too. And he's feeling like he might be a little too busy this winter to find the time to get up the mountain to ski. I can understand that.

But, for some strange reason, perhaps because it's cooler out tonight than it's been in awhile, and because September (pass-buying-month) is just around the corner, the realization that I might not be skiing with him as regularly this season as we have in years past, just kinda hit me. And so, as a kind of coping strategy, I decided this evening to go through a few years of old video and salvage a few memories, and then upload them to the YouTube. We skied together plenty even before the advent of tiny, cheap video cameras, but for the last six years or so we've been able to cobble together the presence of mind now and then to remember to bust out the old Aiptek and shoot a little footage of one another.

I've put these here tonight for one simple reason: in hopes it will convince Dave to buy his pass. Lookit all the fun we've had...

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

2003-2008 montage

22 August 2009

Trailnation dot com



So, my first editorial (that's what they're calling it anyway) for Trailnation.com is online as of today. Don't care how many times it's happened before, it's always fun to see your own byline next to something you wrote, ya know.

Trailnation looks to be a pretty slick place, though rather targeted at the quad-crowd for the time-being. Might see if we can change that some... one of these days... Regardless, I'm sincerely grateful to old-friend Jeff Henson for giving me this opportunity. Hoping he asks me for more...

Fwiw, I really enjoyed writing it.

17 August 2009

What I did while some of my friends raced Lance at Leadville...

Between two absolutely stellar rides with my kid in the woods this weekend we, as a family, enjoyed the short interlude featured below: an unfocused, impromptu test-run of the trail-ready tandem-plus-trail-a-bike rig. We haven't actually had a chance to take it out for a legit shakedown cruise yet, but, come the weekend, look out!


13 August 2009

Performance

A video I stumbled upon on a friend's blog. It's quickly making it's way around the internets because, if you ride bikes, or hang around people who ride bikes, it's really funny on many different levels.

09 August 2009

This is the way the summer ends: The Teddy Bear Picnic

My friend Jim offered to make us a deal on his old Hitchhiker trail-a-bike-like-bike more than a year ago. And at the time we were excited about the prospect of using such a clever contraption to assist us in riding further and longer into the woods than we've been able to go as hikers and Euro-style kick-bikers.

In the end, however, we waited a long while to finally seal the deal with Jim (for a 6 pack of New Belgium) because we wanted to have our daughter riding more-or-less independently on her own pedal bike first, so that she would understand balance and handling a little better and thereby minimize her risk of getting bounced off and stuff like that. Well, she's been riding quite capably on her own for some time now. And, when I called Jim last Saturday to inquire about the bike, he said he still had it and that we were still welcome to come and take it.

After a few years of neglect (Jim's daughter is 9) the rig needed a little sprucing. But once regreased and polished up a little we spent the week working incrementally up to today's adventure: our first real shred in the woods!



Earlier this week we rode around the block one day, then up the Thorpe Park FUTS to the top of Mars Hill on another day, and yesterday, we made a figure-8 loop of the trails in Buffalo Park. But today, I'm proud to say we rode some real trail: From the improvised trailhead at Park and Paradise we rode up Jumps to the Back of the Buffalo, then up the first part of Lower Oldham, East across the Pipeline, and back down to the heretofore unnamed drainage above Jumps just below the Big Rocks, which my daughter has officially named The Teddy Bear Picnic.



And that's a fine name for a trail, indeed.

02 August 2009

New gig

One of the reasons I started this blog was to provide myself, rather selfishly, with a place to write. Since Bike Magazine closed its Local Knowledge section, to which I used to contribute a monthly column covering the Southwestern U.S., I really haven't had any substantial, paying, professional writing gigs, and thus I haven't had any real impetus to keep writing. Sure, like all (people who occasionally fancy themselves) writers, I have a few personal pet-projects that I tell myself I'm working on. But in my world, without the promise of pay, and/or the threat of impending deadlines, these kinds of things tend to just languish. Add to that a wife and a kid, obligations to my 'real' jobs, and the demands of life in general, and suddenly one day you just kinda realize: It's been ages since I sat down to write anything. Ergo, this blog: A place to write and a promise-to-self to make it both meaningful and regular, despite a lack of metrics ensuring a real audience; one always hopes that someone's reading and watching what I put here. Anyway, I like to think there is.

But, like all well-intended projects of this nature, sometimes life gets in the way. To a degree, I guess that's been the case for the past several weeks, beginning with my busted ribs and concluding this past week with an inconvenient summertime kiddie-cold that I acquired from my daughter.

But, I've also been remiss in putting stuff here lately because I've been working during my spare time developing a few new pieces of writing for a spot I've been given, rather unexpectedly, at a new website: Trailnation.com. I hadn't really been trying to get any writing work lately (I did submit an unsolicited manuscript to Mountain Gazette recently which got rejected), but I was stoked when one of the editors of Trailnation.com, an old friend, contacted me and asked me to be a contributor to the new site; apparently he'd stumbled onto this blog via a link to it on my Facebook page and I guess he liked the tone of a few of the older posts. Whadya know.

I've got a deadline in just about a week for my first piece and I've been told the nascent Trailnation.com website will 'drop' around the 18th of August, and also that a Trailnation TV show will debut on the Fox Sports Network throughout the Midwest region on the 22nd of August. I have no idea what sort of format the site (or the show, for that matter) will have, or even a full grasp of what the content will be like, only that they are striving to create a place where all kinds of trail users, bicyclists, motos, hikers, and equestrians will come together to share and discuss their passion for trails and the outdoors. I've been assigned the task of writing about riding bikes on trails. Sounds good to me! We'll see how it goes.

Hope you stay tuned.

07 July 2009

Left Out



Crashed a bit today. On Easter Island, that super-flow-y trail that spurs off Old Lower Moto. Failed to spot a tombstone-shaped rock in the trail. I could blame dust, but we all know: this week, following several days of good-hard rain, that's a bit of a stretch. Following too closely at Mach, that's probably a more honest excuse; but it's also a more lame one, too. Got caught napping a little, really, near the end of another great Tuesday Morning Ride, that's the real truth, and spotted the minor rock in the trail too late for a bunnyhop, left it too late to float through. Instead, I augered my front wheel into the rock, bounced off, and rode it out on my front wheel for 5 or 6 feet until gravity conspired to dump me over the bars.

I've definitely bruised, maybe cracked, and possibly broken another rib or two. Summer just can't seem to pass-by the last few years without a rib-incident. I've been riding well, too, until today; not too banged up for midsummer, ya know. I thought maybe this year I was gonna get an injury-pass. Alas. No dice.

But, as I'm sitting here on the couch trying to find a comfortable position, typing, it's occurred to me that it's the rare crash that damages the left side of my body, as has this particular crash. My right side (on the other hand) is a mass of scars, badly-mended broken bones, and the ghosts of old sprains and tumbles from head to toe. But my left side, even after all these years of riding, it's relatively intact, aside from the occasional superficial scrape now and then. Is that a strange thing? Do other people crash more on one side than the other? I've got no clue. But that's certainly the truth of the matter as far as I am concerned.

04 July 2009

My kid is the coolest kid I know


I made this shirt for my kid a few years ago. It's really too small for her now, nevertheless this is the shirt she chose to wear this morning. Neither my wife nor I set it out for her. She knew what day today was, and she dug this shirt out from the bottom of one of her dresser drawers.

Cool kid!

30 June 2009

TMR

Ken cleaning the Portal of Pain on a Tuesday Morning Ride back-in-the-day.
I had a brainstorm a few years ago that we should sell a house-branded, hand-selected blend of bagged and roasted coffee at Absolute Bikes, the bike shop I work at in the summertime. Surprisingly, my idea was rather well received (most of them aren't) and we began a dialog with the owner of Flagstaff's Late For The Train coffee shops, and even commissioned local artist Lyle Motley to design a packaging label. We deliberated for a while before selecting a brand name for our soon-to-be-sold house coffee and eventually settled on TMR Blend, as a kind of homage to the shop's classic weekly group ride. But somehow, along the way, the whole plan to sell coffee at the bike shop got canceled. I don't remember specifically what killed it, but as is so often the case, I know for certain that it died; no bags of TMR Blend Coffee were ever sold. LFTT moved on without a second thought, and the completed design for the packaging languishes somewhere in the bowels of the vault at Absolute Bikes.

But our fleeting plan to sell coffee at the bike shop lives on in my mind; I am reminded of it every Tuesday morning as I crawl out of bed at 5:50 AM to grind and brew my own home-roasted coffee as I prep for the Flagstaff's longest-standing formally-organized no-drop group ride: the Tuesday Morning Ride.

I try to attend every Tuesday Morning Ride I can during my ever-shortening summers. Between early June, when school lets out for the summer, and early August, when teacher meetings and then classes resume, I am usually able to get in some 8-10 Tuesday Morning Rides if I really commit to getting out of bed way-too-early-for-summer. Most years I do.

I've been riding with regular attendees Ken and Chris, as well as a whole host of others who show more sporadically, on the Tuesday Morning Ride for years. And not once in all that time has the ride ever sucked. Yeah, some rides have been a bit too fast, some a bit too long, some way too slowed down by multiple flats and/or crashes, mechanicals, or lost riders. But seriously, in like 12 or 13 years of getting up early-early in the summer on Tuesday morning to ride bikes in the woods, I cannot remember even one ride that was not generally awesome: filled with great empty trails, cool temps, good strong friends, and a whole lot of climbing and descending on singletrack. Every Tuesday Morning Ride is different: different people, different trails, different themes. But they all kinda end up sounding a little like this:

Ken and Jim and Charlie (on his one-speed) and Brad and I headed around Mount Elden this morning on my third Tuesday Morning Ride of the summer. We rode out through Buffalo Park to Lower Oldham and I flatted. After the repair, we got on the new freelancer trails that head east from Oldham and eventually, after riding a few choice secrets up high at the base of the rocks, joined up with Forces of Nature and the Elden Spring system. However, because we'd spent so much time bouncing around on the rocks on the trails at the base of Elden, Ken was out of time and had to bail by the time we got to the bottom of Fat Man's Loop.

The rest of our group proceeded around the always-too-hot-no-matter-the-time-of-day eastern exposures of Mount Elden, past Hart Trail, through Sandy Seep, and eventually around the corner to the Little Elden Spring Trail on the mountain's northern slope. We crawled up Little Elden through miles of horse-assaulted trail dust to Little Bear where we ate and said goodbye Jim for a while as he took off like a rocket up the long climb. The rest of us sat-in and made a long-but-mellow no-debt steady ascent up Little Bear's miles-long four giant switchbacks to the saddle at the top where we found Jim (nearly asleep, I think) patiently waiting for us in the shade.

We took another quick break at the top of Little Bear, and since several of us were getting close to gotta-be-home-time, jumped onto Upper Red Onion down to Elden Lookout Road. Brad bailed down the Lookout Road at this point, complaining of a sore knee, and the three of us that remained made the short jump up to Lower Red Onion. Following the quick portage down the marble-covered sketchy switchback in the middle of Lower Red Onion, Jim made his first successful ride down the super-giant rock towards the bottom of the trail!

From here we hopped back on Elden Lookout Road down to Middle Oldham, ripped down it and onto Rocky Ridge. Another fast descent, and Jim split off at the Rocky Ridge/Jumps intersection. Charlie and I continued down Jumps to the back of Buffalo Park where we shook hands, said goodbye, and split, he going up to the Buffalo, and I continuing down Jumps to the Park Street trailhead and home.

Five riders. Who know how many miles or feet of climbing. Four hours fifteen minutes door-to-door. Two flats. Approximately two bottles of water and a snack each. Plenty of good conversation and scenery.

Slice it any way you like, but that's pretty much a Tuesday Morning Ride.

15 June 2009

The tree that nearly killed me


A little video I shot today of the tree that nearly got me on Saturday. Riding up Brookbank this morning, I was a little concerned that I would find the tree to actually be smaller than I remembered it in-the-moment.

It's not. It's huge. I parked my bike more-or-less where I ditched it when I started running. It lends a little perspective, I think.

More pictures on flickr.

13 June 2009

How I survived with a sprained finger


I forgot it was race day today.

In fact, I think I thought race days were still on Sundays. It's been that long since I've raced.

Regardless, it quickly became evident as I headed out this morning that I'd got my days mixed... the number plates on everyone's-bike-but-yours kinda gives that sort of thing away pretty quickly. But, other than a few skinny riders out early doing warm-up intervals on this somewhat breezy early summer morning, the only other folks I ran into on my way to ride the suffer-trail up Lower Brookbank were my friends Ken and Kurt preparing to do a little race-day corner-marshalling with a posse of their kids.

Toward the top of Brookbank the already-steep trail tips up even steeper into a section just below the Upper Brookbank intersection that's tough to clean even on ideal conditions on your very best day. Today neither of those components were present, so I rode toward this trap ready to dab. I like to ride into it as far as I can, no matter what, hoping to perhaps get lucky, and today I thought I saw a decent line through the loose stuff that's accumulated at the bottom of this section.

I've been on Brookbank several times this week, going up and down. So I immediately noticed, as I headed toward my line, that there were a few new sticks and limbs strewn about on the ground in this area that hadn't been there yesterday. A few of the limbs were sizeable, five or six footers, that had obviously sluffed off one the the many large old snags that occupy this pocket of the hillside. I didn't think too much about the limbs though, they were off my line; they were remarkable only for their size. But then, as I rode past the base of one of the nearby snags I began to hear HUGE cracking sounds just inches from my right shoulder as the dead tree next to the trail began to give way RIGHT BEHIND ME!

Instinctively, I jumped off my bike and began to run up the trail as the sound of the tree crashing to the ground grew louder behind me. In my head I'm thinking, "It's going to kill me. If it falls on me I am dead." I had no idea which direction the snag was falling, only that, judging by the sound, it was coming down very, very close to me. I didn't even turn to look, I just ran as fast as I could away from the sound. As it fell it began to sheer off it's own limbs and the limbs of other nearby trees and I could hear all of these amazing, huge cracking and crashing sounds growing louder and louder right behind me. I ran in a panic, almost on all fours, straight up the trail, stumbing over loose rock, when suddenly something inside me said, "Uphill! Run uphill!" I immediately cut up the bank of the hillside and scrambled over the duff and trailside debris. Seconds later, with a gigantic thud and crash, the snag fell to the ground. The commotion was instantly over. And I stopped running.

I was about 20 feet from the tree; my bike, where I'd ditched it when I started running, was only inches from it. It had fallen nearly perpendicular to the trail, downhill from it's rootbed, but less down the hill than I'd expected. It was an old cinnamon-colored ponderosa, with perhaps a three foot diameter, some 75-100 feet tall. A big old snag. I'm sure it's still there and will be for some time to come, until an earnest saw-crew gets all the way up there to cut through it.

I sprained my finger pretty good while I was running. Not every day you get to say that. Nor is it every day that you get to be a real live mythbuster either.

But I am today. Because I can tell you, for certain: When a tree falls in the woods, it makes a very big sound! A very big sound indeed.

More pictures on flickr.

30 May 2009

Norm!

it never rains in may. but this may it's just been raining like mad. for the last several weeks, with surprising regularity, it's rained nearly every afternoon... good, long soakers too, for the most part, different in that way from the booming summer monsoons. the flowers and grasses, convinced that this odd season is for real, are beginning to really go off. and the trails! they're in pristine, never-before-seen-in-may condition: no dust, no sand, nothing but traction through every turn. i've been in riding in flagstaff for nearly 20 years now, and i've never seen it like this this time of the year. may and june are typically dust season; this year they're shred season!

i headed out in the rain again today, as has become the norm. today, however, i had a little company, which sadly isn't the norm. noting the big drops that were beginning to change the color of his pinkish driveway a darker shade of red, ken and i put our rain-gear on before we left his house late this morning. i don't really like to ride in rain-gear, but i don't like being wet and cold either; who does? and this latest sequence of afternoon storms seems to have taught me to prep to ride more-or-less like it's the monsoons, meaning: a) be sure you've got your rain-gear; and b) if you don't have your rain-gear on when you leave home, you can be pretty sure you're going to have it on at some point, sooner rather than later, during the ride.

from ken's we rode across wake-up trail, which, being uniformly made of basalt rock and basalt clay, was already getting slick, and out past the welcoming 'no trespassing' signs into lockett trust. a steady parade of wet, jacketless, smiling riders riding back in the direction of town met us as we headed toward the parking lot at the bottom of shultz creek. but, after riding through the parking area, alight with tail-lights and alive with cars backing out of their respective spots, we headed up the trail, just the pair of us, and saw no one else, save one other pair of riders on moto, the entire afternoon.

the rain was intermittent as we climbed through the fort valley trails and both lower and upper moto, but the rocks were slick and wet, making upper moto more than a little extra challenging. after cresting moto, we dove back down to newham, across the new trail that i guess we're calling new orion springs, and then back down what has to have been easily the best, most-rippin' totally perfect ride down a totally empty shultz creek trail at full-mach on a saturday on ideal conditions in recent memory!

it would be great if this cycle of storms was a harbinger of a prolonged and much-needed early monsoon, but i get the impression from the weather folks out in bellemont that it's not, that it's just some fluky very-wet may. perhaps. nevertheless, it's been a great month for riding here in northern arizona. and i'm enough of a native arizonan to know: we must never begrudge the rain for raining on us. in fact, i really do hope it continues. it's a drag to carry/wear rain-gear. but, heck, we always need the rain.

22 May 2009

Putting it together

I'm going to try something new here, beginning today. I have a plan...

As with most plans of this nature, I fear it's only fair to admit that this new plan might honestly take root in rocky soil and bear little or no fruit. But I am going to try, nevertheless: to make regular entries on this blog.

Here's what I'd like to do: I'd like to create a place for me to write, to practice writing. I've been a writer, off-and-on, for many years. But, at the moment I find myself with no venue, no place to put my words... the magazine and newspaper assignments have all disappeared, dried-up, or been canceled for one reason or another. I find myself in need of a place to practice, a place to just write. For lack of any other venue, like millions of other writers, by default This Blog will be the place.

I don't intend for the things I write here to be anything too deep or personal. I don't intend to wax poetic or become too nostalgic or philosophical. I just want to write about what I do: the places I ride and ski, and perhaps talk a little about who I've hung with in the process... stuff like that. This certainly won't be the first blog to emphasize such things. But it will be mine... The Blog of a satisfied 42-year-old father-and-husband who has ridden bikes and skied for some 20 years in the woods near Flagstaff, Arizona.

Here's to making regular blog entries...

26 February 2009

Skiing with Mike


Crazy spring-like conditions these days up at the Snowbowl, despite the fact that it's still February. Went up with our fifth grade classes today and skied for about 2 hours with my friend and fellow teacher, Mike, while he figured out the Tele-thing for the first time. It was fun watching him figure it all out. As you will see, he was making pretty good turns toward the end of our morning on the mountain.

10 February 2009

Skiing with Ken


Arizona Snowbowl has got to be the only ski area in North America that cannot operate at capacity when it is snowing. Today, faced with several feet of new snow, and well-publicized snowdays for every elementary, high-school, and university student in the county, Snowbowl was unable to load the Agassiz lift at full capacity. Instead they loaded us two-per-chair, every third chair! An amazing, head-scratching situation to be sure! Needless to say, even though only a few hundred skiers were on the mountain before lunchtime, we were all standing in line together... waiting, waiting, waiting... Nevertheless, Ken and I were able to get in two long, memorable runs (we did a lot of backtracking, traversing, and even some skinless climbing) before we split back down the hill for lunch.

08 February 2009

Skiing with Dave


I really only see my brother Dave during ski season. The rest of the year we are just too busy doing different things to hang out much. But, come ski season our schedules align a little more often, albeit still too infrequently; I enjoy skiing with Dave and look forward to his company on the lift. We've become rather compatible skiers, I think, as he has waited for me, over the course of the last two decades, to catch up with him, more-or-less, skillwise.

23 January 2009

The $10.00 not-a-helmet-cam video-rig

Helmet cams are expensive. I've never actually used one, but, if you ski in the trees outta-bounds with a helmet-mounted camera I figure it's bound to get nailed... by a branch, by a fall, you name it: hazards are everyhere.

It sure ain't fancy, but his is my new solution to the helmet cam dilemma: the OpTech STABILIZER STRAP™. I found it online, shipped, for just over ten bucks.

To shoot skiing (and I anticipate come-spring, riding) I use
it pretty much just as pictured, my Canon S5IS camera, stock-strap, and the stabilizer. I think it's at least as stable as a helmet cam, provides an interesting viewpoint, and it's fairly well protected from environmental hazards on my chest, moreso than it is on the top of my head, I'll wager.

No argument: I score no-points for cool with this rig. But it zips into my jacket when I'm in line, so I can easily hide my dorkiness from those who might scoff.