01 June 2022

Between every two pine trees

 "Between every two pine trees there is a door leading to a new way of life."

- John Muir


A deeply personal thematic photoblog:
A half-century or so of inadvertent tree-doorway photography

05 May 2022

Archival footage: Kind of New

In late January I finished up at the FUSD Transportation Department, where I had been asked in September 2021 to return to work temporarily as the interim Student Discipline Coordinator.  Became just kinda done-with-it for a number of reasons, mostly because of the grumpy drivers, recidivistic students, uncooperative parents, and even a few unsupportive building and district admins.  It felt really nice to have the luxury to be able to simply decide, "Nope. I don't want to fight about stuff anymore."  When I met with the director to discuss my decision to leave my interim role in his department he basically said the same thing, "Must be nice.  I'm actually a bit jealous. You did good work while you were here, thanks for your service."

Dove head-first into the whole patrol-volunteer gig after that.  Went up "to work" at Snowbowl four or five days a week, five to six hours a day, from February through the end of April.  Ended up having the best season of my life, despite the relatively meager winter. Skied almost 60 days in all, nearly 300 hours total, got to assist with any number of interesting/urgent calls-for-assistance, and loved every minute of it, doing what my ski-patroller supervisor calls, "skiing with a purpose."  


In anticipation of the end of the ski season at Snowbowl I've been mulling over for a while now other means for making a productive and satisfying use of my retired-guy time.  Lots of ideas, but the one that keeps rising to the surface is Flagstaff's lack of a legitimate new/used independent retail record store.  It vexes me that every time Record Store Day rolls around, all of us Flagstaffricans have to drive down to visit Puscifer in Jerome (a very cool store with an amazingly well-curated selection of new vinyl; you should definitely visit if you're ever there) to shop the Day's exclusive releases, simply because Flagstaff (the largest town in the region by far) doesn't actually have a store that qualifies as a dedicated, independent retailer of new music.  We have Bookmans.  Don't get me wrong, Bookmans is great!  I'm a former employee, former manager even, and a very loyal customer for the last 30 years. But it turns out, Bookmans doesn't qualify for Record Store Day because, I guess, they don't commit enough square footage of their large, mulitfacited operation to the sale of new music on vinyl.  Sure, they sell a lot of new music on vinyl. Definitely more than any other store in town.  But apparently not enough to satisfy whoever makes the decisions about which stores get to sell Record Store Day exclusives. 

So it's off to Jerome we go.

20 April 2022

Just about a bike: This old frame

My dad drove me way across town early one Saturday morning at some point in late 1975 or early 1976 so that, for the very first time, I could buy a bike with my own money. I was in the fourth grade and had saved up what was to me then a massive amount of cash doing odd jobs around the house, 40 bucks, so that I could get my very own BMX bike and shred with my buddies up and down the canal banks, and through the shady orchards, and across the vacant desert lots that lay between our Scottsdale neighborhood and the Circle K convenience store and the local Schwinn bicycle shop.

The bike that was to become mine had been advertised for a week in the classified ads in the Phoenix Gazette and fit perfectly into my adolescent price point. As soon as I laid eyes on it, leaning against the front steps of the west Phoenix house that had been its home, it looked really good to me: fully chrome with silver bars and a simple black fork, kitted out otherwise with what looked like cast-off Stingray parts as most BMX bikes were back then.

08 March 2022

Credo: This is my yellow jacket

ca. 2004-2005
This is my yellow jacket. There are many like it, but this one is mine.

My yellow jacket has been a good friend to me. Without it I am vulnerable.

My yellow jacket has faithfully guarded me from the ravages of weather.  It has protected my body from injury.

We are a part of 
one another, my yellow jacket and I. Together we have endeavored to master the mountain.






* the work of the Courtesy Patrol includes:
 lost family-member reunification,
detached ski reinstallation,
perplexed guest reorientation,
Ski Patrol incident notification,
uprooted signage restoration,
downhill-slope traffic mitigation,
& general ski-area explication
I have been volunteering as a member of the Courtesy Patrol at Arizona Snowbowl this season, skiing more days, and also longer days, than I've ever skied in any previous season, usually 3-5 days a week, 4-8 hours a day, weather and snow conditions notwithstanding.  Over the course of some 40+ days on the mountain thus far this season, and despite having one of the most amazingly fun and interesting ski seasons ever, I have nonetheless reluctantly been forced to conclude that my old yellow Marmot jacket is no longer able to keep up with the demands that my new work* has been placing upon it.  Lately, I've been getting increasingly colder, and wetter, and more wind-blown. And I've deduced that this is happening because my trusty old yellow shell is, quite simply, worn out.

Precise recollection fails me, but my best guess is that I probably bought my yellow jacket in 2004, nearly twenty ski seasons ago now.  I have worn it every winter, on practically every single day that I have skied since then (I did attempt to replace it back in 2011, with a newer, fancier jacket, but, well, that plan did not work out the way I had intended it to).

It has reliably sheltered me from the mountain's most brutal elements, and the weather's harshest conditions, during literally hundreds of great days, down many thousands of great runs, throughout what must have been the linking of at least a million great turns (How many Telemark skiers does it take to screw in a lightbulb? At least three, one to install it, and two more to say, "Dude, great turns!").

19 January 2022

Let's adopt a rescue cat!

“A human being with no dæmon was like someone without a face, or with their ribs laid open and their heart torn out; something unnatural and uncanny that belonged to the world of nightghasts, not the waking world of sense.”
— Philip Pullman, The Golden Compass

Our cat, like our dogs, is a rescue. You can tell by her one docked ear. Our vet has told us that she was likely captured when she was young as a feral stray, spayed, and then released back into the world to fend for herself. Later on in her wild early life she must have been recaptured, probably by animal control or a rescue agency. 

Fortunately for her (and us), it seems she somehow fell into the care of our local no-kill shelter at that point. That's where my wife and daughter first encountered her. They brought her home soon afterward.

They named her Rosie.

I just call her Cat.

She is, of the many many good cats I have known in my lifetime, easily the best-of-cats, my Pantalaimon, a chatty, constant companion to me at all times (except, of course, when she is cat-napping) whenever I am at home. 

03 January 2022

Archival footage: 04 January 1997

I wrote the post reproduced below for our 20th wedding anniversary, 04 January 2017. A lot has happened in the five years that have transpired since then, too much to mention here for certain. Suffice to say, we're still together, still in love with one another, still trying to figure it all out, one day at a time.

I wanted to republish what I wrote back in 2017 today, on the eve of our 25th wedding anniversary, because this one seems to me to be an even more significant milestone than was our 20th, for lots of reasons, and not just because it's a bigger number.

26 November 2021

Let's ride a singlespeed!

"When the mathematician would solve a difficult problem, he first frees the equation of all incumbrances, and reduces it to its simplest terms. So simplify the problem of life, distinguish the necessary and the real. Probe the earth to see where your main roots run."
- Henry David Thoreau

3.0:1 gain ratio, 41.6 gear inches

I recently converted my Surly Pugsley "fatbike" from an eight-speed to a singlespeed.  After a thousand or so very rode-hard miles in the past 8 years (and having been put away wet more often than not), the original drivetrain components had become seriously clapped-out.  Rather than replace them (at great expense), I decided to just remove them. Best part of this decision: stripping off the no-longer-necessary gears, shifters, cables, and derailleurs shed almost four pounds. Today, the Pugs, and her one 34x22 gear, is revitalized as a bike that is (as it truthfully always has been) an unmitigated hoot to ride!  In a way, it almost feels as though this was how she was meant to have been set-up all along.

I've been riding singlepeed bikes in the forests of northern Arizona for almost 30 years. Not counting a Surly Steamroller fixie, an old Ibis Trials Comp, and an even older Schwinn Typhoon, the newly reconfigured Pugs counts as the fourth legit singlespeed mountain bike in my garage. I dig riding one-speed bikes. Always have. Speaking honestly from experience, I can tell you: geared bikes are lots of fun. Singlespeeds, however, are truly enlightening (pun intended).

13 October 2021

Let's use a dropper-post!

Sure, 2021 is more than a little bit late-to-the-game to be writing an article advocating for the use of dropper-posts on mountain bikes. But I ride on a regular basis with a few old doods, militant Luddites all, who have yet to upgrade their bikes to a seat-post that drops with the pull of a trigger. I've been trying to convert them for years, at every opportunity singing the praises of dropper-posts loud and clear, to no avail. This blog post is all I've got left, my last-ditch effort to try and get them to see the light.



Hite-Rite & Rock Lobster
both ca. 1985
I got my first dropper-post as stock-spec on my Specialized Fuse Expert when I bought it new back in 2017. 

Actually, no. That's not an entirely accurate statement. See, I've had a Breeze & Angell Hite-Rite on my Rock Lobster singlespeed for years. The Hite-Rite is undisputedly the world's original dropper-post and it's actually very effective and efficient. But, it's also super tough to operate on-the-fly. Unlike contemporary dropper-posts, which can be moved up or down with the flick of a trigger, a stop-and-dismount is required of all but the most practiced riders in order to move the saddle up or down using a Hite-Rite. As a result, the Hite-Rite on my Rock Lobster was installed as period-correct bling, mostly for show (the frame, fabricated in 1985, even has a specific braze-on on the back of the seat tube intended for it), and, for the first fifteen-plus years that I owned it, I used it on rare occasions, only to move my seat down at the top the most ridiculously steep/sustained descents (and sometimes not even then), otherwise it mostly stayed-put and looked pretty.

05 July 2021

Archival footage: Curriculum vitae [UPDATED]

Some things in life are bad.
They can really make you mad.
Other things just make you swear and curse.
When you're chewing on life's gristle,
Don't grumble, give a whistle.
And this'll help things turn out for the best...
Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life
Monty Python - The Life Of Brian

Select images to enlarge
I was never crazy about my job as a school principal.  It feels a bit silly now to admit that I only took it on because our out-going principal and the then-district superintendent asked me to, but that's the god's-honest truth about how I ended up doing it.  I never aspired to be a school leader and I struggled every day, for seven long years, to try as best as I could to graciously manage, keep safe, and empower our staff and students.  Despite my best intentions, each of my many missteps were all too glaringly public, and any meager successes I may have wrought from the endless stream of contention that always seemed to be waiting at my office door, were far too few in number.  

In the final months of what was to become my last year in the role, when a midcareer faculty member on one of our hiring committees responded to the question asked of her by an earnest young interviewee, "Why do you love working here?" with the shoulder-shrugging reply, "I'm sorry, you should skip me. I've got nothing," I knew my time as a school leader had to be done. My disappointment now complete, I sent a 3:00 AM email to our new superintendent that night asking to be relieved of my administrative duties, and to be allowed to return to the classroom for the remainder of my career.

27 May 2021

Just about a bike: Matt Chester MuTinyman singlespeed

3.4:1 gain ratio, 46.3 gear inches
Near as I can figure, Matt Chester, a resident of Leadville, Colorado, began fabricating and selling bicycles made from titanium tubing out of his home workshop sometime early in 1999. Per his now-mothballed website, he only built bikes from Ti, focused his work exclusively on singlespeed bicycles, and tried very hard (though not always successfully) to convince all of his customers to get their bikes built with 29" (700c) wheels.  He refused to install disc-brake tabs, entirely shunned eccentric bottom bracket shells, yet nonetheless eagerly charged people for repairs to other manufacturer's broken or damaged titanium frames.  

Also, near as I can figure, sometime around 2003, Matt Chester, now a resident of Salida, Colorado, had moved his operation down-valley to the south and was building his bikes in a friend's garage.  It would seem that, around this time, Chester began to carry-out a kind of haphazard, perhaps even initially unintentional, deceptive scheme amongst his customer base, apparently taking new orders along with hefty deposits, purchasing tubing and supplies for older as-yet undelivered orders with the new-customer money, and hoping everyone, including his friend (a mutual friend of both of ours, as a matter of fact) who was leasing him shop space in his garage, would remain none the wiser (he did not; he got wise).  As with most such schemes, Chester's seems to have eventually come apart, as he most likely fell further and further behind in fulfilling his orders. It appears he was at times years behind, failing to deliver to those who had put down $1000, $2000 or more, anything but empty promises of "Soon," proffered only after persistent pestering and almost always via email.

15 May 2021

Cosmic Ray [UPDATED]

It is no small thing to say that the course of my life was, quite literally changed forever, when, shortly after moving to Flagstaff, on one of my first visits to our town's original mountain bike shop, Cosmic Cycles, I spent a few of my then very-limited funds ($5.95 plus tax to be exact) on an early edition of a little day-glo green self-published guidebook entitled Fat Tire Tales and Trails written by some dude who called himself Cosmic Ray.

I moved to Flagstaff, into a dank charmless little studio apartment, located conveniently right next door to the Greyhound bus station, in the middle of the summer of 1991, admittedly quite broke and, also, more than a little bit broken of heart/spirit/mind/body as well. 

During my first weeks in Flagstaff I had absolutely no idea (and no friends to show me) where to ride my bike. To learn the lay of the land, I regularly bumped around my neighborhood, rambled around downtown, and cruised through north campus on my bike. A couple times I rode down the two-track dirt service road that ran beside the railroad tracks as far as a big red-sandstone bridge. Nevertheless, despite my best efforts, I struggled in my first days in town to find a good way into the woods. All I found on my first forays along the railroad tracks were a few abandoned transient camps, the shell of a wrecked car or two, and several piles of surreptitiously dumped trash.

Cosmic Ray's little green book changed all that. I was hooked on page 4. 

26 April 2021

Just about a bike: Specialized Fuse 6Fattie

The archives here at rockychrysler.com never lie.  A quick glance at them and you'll see: I haven't written a Just about a bike blog post about any of my bikes since July 2016.  That's kind of a shame.  Honestly, it is.  Because I still have a few fun bikes that I haven't told you about yet.

I'll admit, there was a period of time there, beginning around fall of 2016, where I had very little to say about anything here on the old blog-space.  For lots of reasons.  So I mostly didn't.  I put up a scant 20 posts from 2016 through 2020.  Truth is, it has been quite a while since I really felt inspired to sit down and write... So I am quite pleased to report that the mood to write has resurfaced somewhat, and that a few ideas have popped into my head of late.
We'll start with something simple: my "new" bike, a first-generation 2017 Specialized Fuse Expert 6Fattie hardtail.  Really, it's called a 6Fattie?  Yep. An unfortunate marketing misstep, calling a bike, even a mid-fat (or anything other than an ample blunt), a 6Fattie, isn't it? I think so (and I'm pretty sure Specialized came to think so eventually, too.  They dropped the word "fattie" for the second generation bikes).  I've always assumed it's intended as a riff, a kind of portmanteau in fact, on the bike's stock wheel/tire size: 650b hoops, 40mm rims, and 3.0" tubeless mid-fat tires, which is, for sure, a bit on the portly side of things... right where I always like my wheels and tires to be!  And it's really for the best not to hold its somewhat unfortunate moniker against it, 'cause, in a nutshell, I'm here to tell ya, the Specialized Fuse 6Fattie rocks!

13 April 2021

Snowbiking: good shit

Select images to embiggen
Winter feels over. Skiing this season was just okay. Have to say, COVID rules made waiting in the maze to ride the chair at Snowhole kinda lame.

But, I did get to ride some seriously good shit on the Pugsley this winter. So there's that. Check it.

29 March 2021

Let's spin some records!

System specs:
Fluance RT80, Ortofon 2M Red
iFi Zen Phono (balanced), Denon AVR-1804
Paradigm Mini Monitors (v.3)
Discogs/rockychrysler
I listened to a ton of FM radio growing up, you probably did, too. I also had a small record collection in my bedroom, and a stack of tapes in a big tattered case in my car.  As a result, I was slow to adopt digital music, CDs, MP3s and streaming content, not because I was an analog purist, mostly just because of the cost of conversion. 

I have always enjoyed listening to music, not so much for the sake of the lyrics, but quite simply as a background soundtrack that permeates nearly every moment of my life. As I see it, life flows better, most things are a little easier, food and conversation are more enjoyable, and I am more productive when there's music playing.

I'm not ashamed to admit that I listened to a whole lot of mainstream music during the early period of my life, Journey, Elton John, U2, Scorpions, Def Leppard, Prince, ELO, Pink Floyd, R.E.M., Van Halen and the like. These bands and artists, and this sort of easily accessible music-for-the-masses, was the gateway through which my musical tastes have since expanded and become enriched throughout the couse of my lifetime. In fact, many of these same groups still have a well-deserved place in my music collection to this day (in truth: all of the aforementioned do, except for Def Leppard, whose former appeal has faded with time). The music of my youth is still on regular rotation in my life, not for the sake of nostalgia but because, at least to me, a lot of it is still quite diggable and good.  Still very diggable and very good, in many cases.

25 April 2020

Let's adopt a rezdog!

Nellie
Skadi
A few years ago the Internet introduced my wife to the plight of the abandoned pets at Dead Dog Beach on the island of Puerto Rico. As her awareness and concern for mistreated and misbegotten mongrels grew, she and my daughter both became occasional volunteers at a local no-kill shelter.  It was a short distance between this formative experience, helping in the recovery, care, and re-homing of unwanted animals, and the adoption of our own first rescue-pet, an adorable-but-feral little black puppy. She had been found a few weeks prior by some travelers, wandering alone and mortally ailing on the roadside not far from the town of Kayenta, Arizona.  Her bowels distended and  infested with worms and infection, the travelers took her straight to an animal hospital here in Flagstaff where she received emergency surgery to repair her destroyed prolapsed rectum, and intravenous antibiotics for several days.  Her care was made possible by High Country Puppy Rescue, from whom we acquired her.  We call her Nellie.

Our younger dog and her sole surviving sibling were clever enough to be able to evade capture by the good people at the Tuba City Humane Society for several days after they were first reported as strays to them.  Just another set of feral black puppies scavenging, motherless, in trashcans near the center of town, but my wife and daughter immediately fell in love with them the day their pictures were first posted to the agency's website.  After a brief in-person get-to-know-you session, they brought the more gentle of the pups home.  As with our first rezdog, she's quickly socialized positively into our domestic life, though, because she's still not quite a year old yet, she continues to be inclined to be cautious and nervous when out in the world beyond our home. She is never far from Nellie’s side no matter where we are.  We call her Skadi.
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. -- Ed Abbey