31 December 2010

Happy New Year

The Top Ten In Oh Ten

Everyone else is doing it today... So, I figure, why not? I'm gonna write my very own 2010 Top Ten List, too!

But first, a few stats: Here at rockychrysler.blogspot.com we got a whopping-huge 8207 pageviews this past year, of that over 5100 views were unique, which I think is a better way of looking at how many actual, individual people visited this site last year... However, I could be wrong about this. I'm no SEO expert, that's for sure. But I know enough to know this: those are not exactly earth-shattering numbers. Nevertheless, I think I'm satisfied with them. This is, after-all just a place for me to "practice writing," which really means it's just another blog in the vast array of navel-gazey blogs that are clogging our cultural In-Sink-Erator.

Anyway, here's a list of the Top Ten posts on rockychrysler.blogspot.com in 2010 based on the number of unique pageviews each received (feel free to click-thru and read the ones you might have missed):

Number 1: Just about a bike [Retrotec #64] - 31 July 2010 (194 unique pageviews)

Number 2: Hangover - 14 November 2010 (166 unique pageviews)

Number 3: What I really think about snow-making at Snowbowl - 29 August 2010 (137 unique pageviews)

Number 4: The Resurrection of Rock Lobster #06 - 10 October 2010 (100 unique pageviews)

Number 5: Just about a bike [Rock Lobster] - 25 April 2010 (100 unique pageviews)

Number 6: Just about a bike [Ibis Mountain Trials] - 22 March 2010 (61 unique pageviews)

Number 7: Who? (57 unique pageviews)

Number 8: #Flagstafffire. Not a good meme - 20 June 2010 (54 unique pageviews)

Number 9: How? (47 unique pageviews)

Number 10: Wow. Okay. Maybe - 29 May 2010 (46 unique pageviews)

24 December 2010

Slipped through the cracks

I'm sitting here this afternoon too sick to hike in the woods, too sick to ski on the mountain, too sick to head down to Sedona for a ride.

Instead, I'm listening-in as my wife and daughter play Disney-Scrabble together, wishing I felt good enough to play, too.  In the meantime, I've been watching videos.  Mostly bike-riding videos today, for some reason.  Lift-served skiing officially starts tomorrow... and I'm stoked about that.  But, I'm also happy to be able to note: I've already had one (kinda) fun day on the mountain already, hiking up and skiing down with Ken last Saturday.

But for today, I'm just hangin' on the couch watching Sedona trail videos, hoping I get well soon.

And, it's occurred to me, just moments ago, that I failed to post-up the one-and-only video I shot while riding with Lyle, and Mark, and Joe in Sedona over the Thanksgiving weekend.  I only shot one video because I was too busy talking and laughing and riding and saying stuff like "Wow!" about a million times during this ride on the sooooper secret (not really) Highline Trail on the Cathedral Rock complex between Sedona and Village of Oak Creek.  There's nothing especially interesting in the video below, except that it serves as some kind of a record of what was a really awesome day out riding with some good, old friends.

For whatever it's worth, we rode together for about 4 hours and did what's known in Sedona as a double-H ride: Highline and the Hogs (the triple-H adds 2 more hours and includes the Hangover trail).  As I mentioned in a previous post, there's a lot of neat new trail-building going on down there, and these two exceptionally cool trails are additional examples of that work.

19 December 2010

In defense of all of us nerds [updated]

I've been corresponding with the editor of our local newspaper a bit lately.  Which, you know, is kind of exciting.

Some time ago, on Twitter, he/they/whoever tweets as @azds, said they were, "Seeking testimonials from Daily Sun Twitter followers..." To which I responded, "I'd be happy to contribute, if you're still in need."  I was honestly more-than-happy to oblige.  I like Twitter precisely because of the things I'm able to glean from organizations like the Daily Sun, along with NPR, the Arizona Snowbowl, Huffington Post, and about 15 other Twitter-users who I follow but who don't follow me back.  I guess that's okay.  I mean, it kinda hurts my feelings when other Twitterers don't follow me back.  But I guess I understand, too... It's all part of the Great Unseen Internet Hierarchy which relegates bloggers and others like me to some too-crowded rung near the bottom of the ladder.

Update: Here's the ad.
Anyway, as I expected it would, it took awhile, but the editor finally emailed me back last week to ask for the testimonial and a short bio.  And also to schedule a photo shoot with one of his photojournalists.  I met him down at the shop last Thursday after work.  He was a nice guy.  Seemed a bit puzzled about the assignment, but he thought it would be cool, given the weather and all my waterproof garb, to get a few pictures of me standing with my bike on my shoulder in front of Lyle's awesome mural on the shop's west-most wall.

I didn't expect to see the pictures anytime soon; I was under the impression they were going to run along with my testimonial and bio as part of the First. Best. series the paper's been doing lately.  But somehow my friend (and shop manager) Tony found one of them on the Sun's website.  It didn't actually run anywhere in-print.  Nor does it appear to have been linked-to from any section of the paper online.  But there it is: me, looking like a dork, riding my bike home from work on a wet, slightly-snowy afternoon.

When he posted the picture of me on the shop's Facebook yesterday, Tony called me a nerd for riding my bike in the snow... though, in fairness it's a label he applied to all of us who work together at the bike shop.  It's not a label I dispute.

But, in defense of all of us nerds who ride bikes in the snow, I wanted to show this video of a whole city full of nerds-on-bikes-in-snow.  In the short time that this 67-second Flickr video takes to show the traffic passing through an intersection in Leiden (It's in the Netherlands), I count at least 30 bicycles that ride past... each quite capably, I might add... in the snow, too.  Just like it's no big deal.

You should try it sometime.  It's fun!

16 December 2010

The New Age: Post-Conversationalism

My wife and I have decided that we, she and I and all of us denizens of the Internets, are now living in a Brand New Age... the age of post-conversationalism... a heretofore uncoined term we're pleased to introduce into the modern lexicon right now (Google it).

It's not groundbreaking, nor is it even the least bit shocking, to point out that we live in a time when it's often more convenient to send a text message than it is to make a call... when it's simpler to Google the right answer than it is to try and suss it out with dialog, discourse, and maybe even disagreement... when an email, a Tweet, or a Facebook update will suffice for a greeting, a well-wish, or, heck, almost anything.

There are probably lots of other examples of what we're talking about.  Like blogging?  Maybe.

What seems to have gone unrecognized to this point is that, just as postmodernism tends to grey-up what Truth is (or might be), post-conversationalism does likewise with what might qualify as quality discourse and dialog.

Most of us would probably consider all of the aforementioned forms of communication to be types of conversation.  But really, they're not the same.  Don't think so?  Ask yourself, next time you're sitting around having a cuppa and a conversation with a friend or a lover or a child: Is this anything like an email, or a status update?  You're sure to come to the same conclusion we have:  It's not.  It's nothing like those things.  Face-to-face conversation's different.  Whatever it is we're doing here on the 'Net, it's not the same.

To be sure: real, live conversation isn't completely dead.  We've still gotta talk occasionally.  But, it's not exactly thriving anymore either, is it?  Like letter-writing, handwriting, and postage stamps, talk's ever becoming more and more archaic and quaint.

We're not here to make recommendations, or to get all-preachy or nostalgic.  Nor are we going to try and somehow deconstruct this new age, this new post-conversationalism in which we live.  We only hope to recognize its presence... and perhaps coin a new term... while pointing out the obvious... which is, in fact, the epiphany we ourselves had just a couple of nights ago:

It's been too long since we talked.

13 December 2010

Little Red Trailer

Little Red Trailer review
My friend Josh recently acquired a new website: Commute By Bike and asked me to review a new product for them: a little red, wooden bike utility trailer called the Little Red Trailer (natch).  It's made out of recycled wood and it's pretty darn good for hauling stuff around.  I finished it yesterday and it posted to their website this afternoon.  I think it came out okay.
She's quite handy with that cordless drill
Even if you're not into bike trailers (what?!), the review has some fun pictures of my kid in it; she helped me unbox and assemble it in the living room a few weeks ago.

04 December 2010

A Few Borrowed Lines About Our Old Dog Shadow

[UPDATED June 2011 - See below]

There's this great poem, by a writer named Paul Mariani, that I memorized long, long ago, back in college, when I was competing on the Arizona State Forensics Squad.  At the time I used the poem, entitled Lines I Told Myself I Wouldn't Write, as a dramatic-interp piece, and I did pretty well with it.

It's about a guy who loves and then loses a good old dog.

"I promised myself I wouldn't go soft over one fleabag arthritic half gone in the head..."

I can only remember bits and pieces of it by heart now.

But lately, when I watch as my own old dog "limps down to the Sawmill" I think of that poem; it returns to me like scent memory, unexpectedly.  And it returns with increasing regularity. Even though Mariani's poem isn't about watching an old dog age a little more everyday, I nevertheless find myself grateful for his words, which so well-express what it means to love a dog you never really expected to love.

With that in mind, I wanted to write a few words about our dog, Shadow, in what I hope may be ever-so-slightly the style of Paul Mariani's poem. As an homage.  Both to him and his poem, and likewise, to our dog.

She came to us already named
like a Barbie
as a Shadow. An obvious, but fitting brand

for a blue-black dog with a cautious, shrinking demeanor
afraid of the wind
and unseen food-thieving curs

Two weeks
a fort-night
she was supposed to be with us.

Just while we're gone,
they said. Dogsit for us.
So we did. While they jetted off to London

In that time, like all good fortune
she found us

while we were not seeking her
by gently imploring us for wooden walks
paws crossed in front of her looking into us

for that spark
which she seemed to know she could kindle
curled on the foot of our bed without invitation

and to our surprise
knowing she was welcome there.
They returned but she stayed.

And years later we understood better
that to love a dog (despite the way she can stink-up a room)
or perhaps just this dog, was a harbinger,

a bell-weathered insight
of the affection we might likewise hold for a kid
and so we had one

taught well as we had been
by this Shadow
about how to cherish and find joy and care

for something other
and so much bigger
than me or even us

I know I said
I wouldn't go weepy when it came, and I haven't.
At least not that much

Not yet.  But it's hard to watch her get old
and be troubled by the jump
into and out of the back of the car

growing bony and lumpy
grey around the muzzle
as she slowly rises to her fourteenth year

Her restless creaking snore awakens us both now
and at times we wonder aloud in the night What if...
But her breathing always resumes

steady before she bestirs herself to pace the floor
dig an earnest new nest
and slip off into her dogish dreams again.

Her paws twitch
her lips curl
she is chasing squirrels

UPDATE - June 2011

I shared this blog entry with the guy who wrote the poem that inspired it, Paul Mariani. In an email to him at Boston College I wrote:
Hello Dr. Mariani,

We've never met. But long ago I read and loved a poem you wrote, Lines I Told Myself I Wouldn't Write. Some time ago I was compelled to use it as inspiration for a blog entry and, likewise, to write a kind of homage to it. I am not a poet. Nor much of a writer, in fact. I am an elementary school teacher, truth be told. But the poem has long been special to me. I have shared it, or parts of it, with many people over many years. And I am reminded of it regularly of late. My dog is not lost, but she is getting old. For all of those reasons, I wanted to share what I've written with you. I know that's probably a silly thing. But I wanted to say, "Thanks for your words. You are an excellent writer."

He was kind enough to respond the same day with the following:
Thanks, John, for forwarding your lovely poem about Shadow. I don't think one ever forgets a dog you've had this long. And though my son Mark has lost yet another dog, Bergen, a golden retriever--we still remember Sparky. In fact, about 15 years after I wrote Lines I wrote another poem for him, which I enclose here. The English in particular seem to love this one, for BBC has aired it several times, though I've never heard it. Take care, and may those Arizona fires finally quiet down. Best, Paul Mariani
Here's a link to the poem he forwarded to me. It's very good. Made my wife cry.

21 November 2010

Days Like These

Around here, we pretty much get excited whenever it starts to snow.  As in always.  But, we get doubly excited when the first snow of the season begins to fall, as it did today.

While it didn't snow-and-stick much in our neighborhood, and we were disappointed to find the road up the mountain closed on our quest to find real snow, we nevertheless were able to locate a pretty decent stash of a couple-three inches of snow to play in out in the woods near Baderville.

As we've done every year for the past several years, we built a snowgirl, watched the dog(s) run and play, and shot a little home video.  Nothing especially notable, except that today was Rubi(the new puppy)'s first time in the snow.  We're pretty sure she enjoyed herself.

Otherwise, what follows is just another four-minute video of us doing what we do.

Life is good.

14 November 2010


A lot's been said, and believe it or not, even more's been done, about wildcat trail-building in Sedona, Arizona.

What's a wildcat trail?  A wildcat trail is a trail that somebody made (or sometimes found) without anyone's permission that goes somewhere (usually somewhere cool or essential) where previously there wasn't a trail.  Often they're pretty well-hidden, like any good secret.  And likewise, information about their location often spreads by word-of-mouth.  Nine times out of ten, they're right where you always thought, "Man, it would be so cool if there was a trail there."

Typically they're not especially well-built, sensible, or sustainable.  Often they simply follow the path-of-least resistance to their destination.  But because they receive far less traffic than sanctioned, system trails, this usually isn't that big a deal.

I'll tell you right now: I, for one, am a proponent of this sort of improvised, experimental, nonsanctioned, nonsystem social trail.  And I don't really care how you feel about them... unless, of course, you are a proponent of them as well.  As you should be.  Because pretty much every trail that you love, if it wasn't built by volunteers in the last 10 years probably began as a wildcat trail.  Or a road.

But, as I've already said, typically wildcat trails are not especially well-built or sustainable. However, some are.

Hangover, in Sedona, is one wildcat trail that's definitely in that latter category.  No mere social trail, Hangover is an unbelievably well-scouted, built, and maintained trail.  It is, in a nutshell, someone's life-work, his (or her) crowning achievement.  Hands-down, it's the most solidly constructed, bold, sustainable, challenging, frightening, thrilling, clever wildcat trail I've ever had the pleasure to ride in all my years on a bike.

I got to ride it today, for the very first time, with my friend Joe (aka Rockman).  He's pretty much famous for his knowledge of the Sedona trail-system and many of its denizens, too.  I maybe could have done this ride without him.  But I'm really glad I didn't.

We did an eight mile loop in just under two-and-a-half hours, with one short stop for snacks. It was a blast riding this incredible trail with Joe today.

An absolute, unmitigated, total blast.

More pictures (Thanks, Rockman!):

Link-to BONUS: Bike Magazine's Morgan Meredith also rode this trail some time ago and took a series of really incredible pictures.

25 October 2010


The annual Leaf-Peeping Madness compels swarms of people to inundate the Peaks looking for special golden stands of quaking aspen.
But aspen, like spotted owl, are a delicate breed, too-sensitive to climactic whims, the ebb and flow of time, and change.
Gambel oak, though perhaps lacking in coloration and stature the majesty and grandeur of quaking aspen, are nevertheless a hardier lot, ready throughout the millennia to withstand drought, fire, harsh climatic change, and rocky, alkaline ground.  For all this, and its many beneficial uses, as well as for its uncommon beauty, the oak merits respect and attention.
It's altogether too easy to overlook the oak.  And yet, the woods all around us, not just those at elevation, are filled with impressive color these days.  This is the height of oaken-Autumn.  This is the week of the year when the oaks turn together.

18 October 2010

Cold, Dry, And Far South

Once upon a time we traveled to Mexico every year.  Year after year after year.  Some years, twice.  In October, for sure, and then again often in March.  It was grand.

We were younger then.  And thinner (at least I was).  Newly married and childless.

It was just Puerto PeƱasco (Rocky Point), and a white-washed rented villa on the beach; within our means, and nothing too exotic.  But it was ours.  At least for a week at a time.

And, as I said: it was grand.

But, almost six years ago now, we got pregnant and (wonder of wonders!) we had a kid.  Afterward my wife became a stay-at-home mom.

And that has been a wonderful thing!

But as a single-income family living on a mid-career public-school teacher's salary, we had to make a few adjustments in our lifestyle in order to get this arrangement to work.  And, I'll admit, with some sadness, our annual trip(s) to Mexico was among the first of many extravagant things that found its neck on our fiscal cutting block.

But it's all been worth it.  Our daughter's older now.  In kindergarten.  And (in my humble opinion) so smart and well-adjusted and interesting.

Worth it, indeed.

But we miss the beach.  A lot. And the food.

More than that, we miss our favorite Mexico-beach-vacation traveling companions, Mike and Kathy.  Over the course of many years, we spent nearly every trip down there with them, save only a few.  Like us, they're both school teachers.  Plus, they're friendly, intelligent, and extraordinarily intrepid travelers.  They were a real pleasure to travel with and I know of few noteworthy places in the world they haven't been.

Of course, Antarctica always came to mind.  At least until recently.

Mike retired a few years ago.  But Kathy's still teaching, after like 30 years in the classroom.  In the interim, since he shuffled off the rigors and constraints of a work-a-day job, Mike's been working as a river guide, running regular trips down the Colorado for an array of important clients.

However, just a few months ago, Mike sent out an excited email to many of his friends (us included) indicating that his long-time dream of living and working in Antarctica for a season was finally going to happen, during the southern hemisphere Spring and Summer this year.

He left Flagstaff just a few weeks ago.  To spend five months "on the ice."  Without his very-understanding wife, I might add.

He's there right now.  In the cold.  Living at McMurdo Station.  Driving Ivan The Terra-Bus back and forth between Happy Campers Camp and the Ice Runway.  And blogging about it.  He calls his blog, which he updates almost every day, Cold, Dry, And Far South.  It's fascinating.  Totally fascinating.  I promise.

I'd like to encourage you to give it a read now and then.

10 October 2010

The Resurrection of Rock Lobster #06

The Rock Lobster is rebuilt (You may recall: it broke).  And it is good!

02 October 2010


Fridays at school the kids go home early, right after lunch.  And most weeks, after the kids leave, we're given a few solid hours to collaborate with our coworkers and make plans and grade papers.  It's great.  Except for the grading.  I'm not a big fan of grading papers...

While I work on planning and grading I usually fire up Songbird and use it to listen to the new slate of songs posted on my very favorite music website, Cover Lay Down.

Songbird is a multi-platform web-browser built on the same code as Firefox.  But, what's cool and different about Songbird is how it lists all the songs embedded on any given website in a neat little file-index window below the browser window.  All ya gotta do is press the play button to listen to all the music on the site.  I think Songbird's a pretty neat deal.

The blog Cover Lay Down, as the name implies, features mostly cover-songs.  In their own words:
"At Cover Lay Down, we believe that familiarity breeds contentment — that is, that coversongs create an especially powerful comfort zone for fans to discover new artists and composers. As such, all songs included herein are ultimately shared for the purpose of introducing you to new and previously-unappreciated musicians, that you might follow the threads to those artists’ original works, and in doing so, become part of the base of support which allows musicianship to continue to be a fruitful way to make a living, and allows the creation of new music itself to be subsidized."
I think that's a great policy.  And, thanks to Cover Lay Down, I have encountered a bunch of great new folksy artists and composers.  Plus, I'm fascinated by cover songs... the new ways in which a familiar song can be recreated and take on the unique nuances of an artist's voice and musicianship while still maintaining much of its original melodic and lyrical structure.

Some time ago Cover Lay Down featured a cover of one of my favorite songs, Thirteen, by the '70s band Big Star (whose co-founder Alex Chilton died this past March, by the way).  I'm sure you know it.  It's a great song that's probably been covered a gagillion times.  But, this particular cover of Thirteen was done by two artists I was only marginally familiar with: Beth Orton and Sam Amidon.  They do it as a lovely, kinda jangly, down-tempo acoustic duet.  It's nice.  And it got me to thinking about other covers of the same song that I've enjoyed over the years.  So I browsed on over to The Hype Machine and searched around.

BTW: Thanks to this blog, Cover Lay Down, and a few others for having a very similar opinion of this song to my own, and for posting many of these covers online, saving me the trouble (and perhaps the liability, too).

Finally, this live version, by one of my favorite bands of all time, Travis, is pretty darn great, too!

Last of all, as a bonus, here's Travis again, this time doing a different and really surprisingly great live cover... of Britney Spears' Baby One More Time.

26 September 2010


Maybe you don't know Gerv.  You should.  Grant "Brad" Gerver is kind of a legendary dude in my world.

He was my cooperating teacher, back in 1992.  And it was he, more than anyone else, who taught me how to be a school teacher.  I think he did a pretty good job.  He's an awesome teacher.  Ask anyone who's ever learned from him or worked with him.  Everyone agrees.  He's one of a kind.  The very best.

His students always call him, "Gerv!"  Not Mr. G.  Definitely not Mr. Gerver.  Just Gerv.  My daughter calls him that, too.  So does my wife.  As do I.

We'd never met, Gerv and I, until I started my student teaching; I met him for the first time in the doorway of his classroom at Weitzel Elementary School.  He shook my hand and welcomed me sincerely.  That was a long, long time ago.  But we have been good friends ever since.

Gerv's retired now.  A well-deserved honor after many, many years of a job well done.  These days, when he's not out riding his bike hither-and-yon around town, he writes witty bumper-stickers, original blues songs, and plays his guitar in his little home-office under the stairs.

He's an incredible guitar player and has a voice that was made to sing the blues.

24 September 2010

March 1, 2020

I'm not good with dates.  In my lifetime I've forgotten my mom's and dad's birthdays several times.  Been off by a week or two for many friends', even girlfriends' birthdays, on several occasions.  I've missed performances, and rehearsals, and tons of other important things due to my disability with dates.  Once I even got fired for this; forgot to attend an important client's special event during my first year out of college while working in PR.

I deserved it.  It was a lame oversight.

All part of my "accidental" path to becoming a teacher, I guess.

But, I do know our wedding anniversary.  My wife's birthday.  And my kid's.  They're all important days to me.  I've never forgotten any of them.

I also usually know the start and end dates of the school year long before the school year's begun.

And, I'll sometimes have a deadline or two in mind, too.  For whatever it's worth, these days, I do tend to hit my deadlines a little bit early whenever I can.

To be fair, I should add: Google calendar helps me a lot with all this.

But, along with all these important dates, there's one other that I've got stored away in the corner of my mind.  March 1, 2020.  And every year about this time I get a wonderful reminder of it... in the mail from the Arizona State Retirement System (ASRS).  According to the mailing, on that date... March 1, 2020... a date that's now officially a smidge less than a decade away... I will have earned my 80 points... 80 and 49 thousandths points to be precise... and, per ASRS, that means, by whatever arbitrary algorithm of odd calculations they're using to determine such things, on that day the great State of Arizona has determined I will become eligible for something they call Normal Retirement... which sounds a whole heckuva lot like plain ol' retirement!  Which, at 53 years of age, after mere 26.7 years in the game, ain't too shabby.

It's a Sunday.

I'm thinking, on Monday, March 2, 2020, I'll probably call-off...

15 September 2010

Riding in Borneo. Yeah. Borneo

My buddy Ben and his family are living and teaching in Borneo this year. To be unnecessarily specific, they're in Balikpapan, East Kalimantan, Borneo, Indonesia.  Ben posted a few pictures on Flickr the other day of his group ride last weekend [GPS]. In a nutshell: they're insane... a trillion colors of green... weird murky streams... and some odd, too-narrow urban by-ways for good measure. Worth a look, if only because you're curious... and you know (let's be honest) you're never gonna ride there yourself.

12 September 2010

Craigslist ... Rock Lobster Resurrection Project begins

Paul Sadoff is awesome!  The Rock Lobster is back.  And it's repaired!  On to paint and, after that: rebuilding and riding!

In the course of things, I decided to have the bike shipped to the shop since there would be no one to receive it at home during the day during the week.  I knew the guys at the shop would take good care of it and gimme a call when it arrived.

They did.

But first they unboxed it and put it on Craigslist!

For Sale is a Rock Lobster mountain bike frame for 26 wheels. It has recently ben repaired, so there's no paint, but I swear it's a rock lobster! It has a lugged front tube and everywhere else it is welded with what appears to be bronze. It also has a little loop thing under the seat, I don't know what for. It also has backwards wheel slots so you can single speed it if yer tuff enuff. I'm selling it because I can't put disc brakes on it and v brakes suck. At $85 it won't last long so call today! No emails please, I don't know much about computers and it's taken me hours just to make this ad. 


For the record: 85 bucks is a darn good deal.

04 September 2010

Stu-In-Flag dot net

I don't know Stuart.  But, as often happens in Flagstaff, I know people who know Stuart.

We're a one-degree-of-separation kind of town.

Stu has a blog.  It's about the weather.  I read it every day.  And I look at his weather instrument data everyday.  Stu's got way more toys to measure weather-stuff than I do.  And, from my perspective, he knows a heck of a lot more about the weather than I do, too.  I'm pretty wonky about weather.  But Stu makes me look pretty much clueless.

He's kinda become my hero.

But then, today, he posts up this pessimistic crap:

"So, where does that leave us for the winter? Sorry folks. As of the start of September, it appears this winter will be near climitological normals for temperature. Now, the global outlook is for a colder than normal winter. This may cause Northern Arizona to be colder than normal. I’m just not sure. I doubt it will be warmer. This cooling trend is being driven by a very weak solar cycle among other things.
"On the precipitation side, we will be dry. Probably very dry. December – February may see precipitation totals of less than 1.5 inches. I won’t be buying a season pass at Snowbowl."

To which I must say: WHATEVER, Stu!

What. Ever.

Might need to find me a new guru...

29 August 2010

What I really think about snow-making at Snowbowl [UPDATED]

UPDATE 24 December 2021:

After nearly 25 years as a passholder, and almost 40 now since the day I first learned to ski, in a blizzard on the Prairie, I've found that it is all-too-easy to armchair QB Snowbowl while failing to recognize its vast organizational and technological complexities, all of which are wholly and entirely weather (read: wind) dependent. 

It's days like today, when 15" of thick, spreadable, cream cheese fell from the sky overnight, and wind and rime compelled the operators to shut down almost the entire resort, one chair after the other, throughout the morning, which tempt even the most faithful to unrestrained snark and prolific grumbling. 

And yet, we return, year after year, storm after storm, not just because Snowbowl is the only game in town, but because, when Snowbowl is good, it's very good, despite the fact that "snow making" did nothing to mitigate the 'Bowl's persistent wind-closures.

Sometimes, like today, when the Upper Bowl is open from Rustler to Larry's, and the out-bound meadows are wide, skippable, and fresh, and the snow-snakes have all been fully oblated by repeated ample dumps, it is even very Very Good.


Tomorrow night our City Council will hold one last session wherein public opinion on the subject of selling well- or reclaimed-water to the Arizona Snowbowl for artificial snow-making will be heard. I'm not planning to attend. I have a feeling the whole thing's a done-deal. Not to sound too-much the cynic, but money talks, ya know; it's sorta the way things roll in Flagstaff.  Nevertheless, for posterity... and just in case someone with their finger more on-the-pulse or better able to get-the-ear of our oft' misguided but generally well-intentioned Council happens upon this post... I wanted to state my case.  For the record, you know.

I love to ski.  Anyone who knows me knows that.  But that's an easy thing to say: "I love to ski."  Anybody who's ever skied has probably described the experience with the same words.  But, really, in my case, it's the truth: I love to ski. That is simply the best way to express my fondness for skiing.  I love it.  Absolutely totally love it.

I learned to ski at the Arizona Snowbowl in late 1984.  I don't remember what month of that season I first made the trip up the road, whether it was November or December.  But it was during my senior year in high school.  I was a late bloomer. My buddy Derrill and I learned together.  And every year since, pretty much without fail, we still make at least one trip up the mountain together for a day skiing.

I've had a season pass at Snowbowl for 10 or 12 years now... ever since I could afford such an expensive luxury.  And I've always felt that it was a $400.00 gamble... some years it snows a lot, some years not so much.  Ya take what you can get on the Peaks.  This is, after all, Arizona.

I think I'm a fairly decent skier.  I ski with a lot of folks who are a lot better than me.  Folks with names well-known on the mountain... unlike my own.  And they school me.  Regularly.  But I can hang, much of the time.  And even if I can't, even when I flail, even when I flail huge, I've still almost always got my stoke on.  Because I love to ski.

When Snowbowl's open, I'm there every chance I get.  Every Opening Day (and sometimes well before that I'm hiking up Ridge for first tracks on Upper White Lightning).  Every Snow Day.  Every weekend.  Every holiday.  I never take personal days from work.  Except to ski.  When Snowbowl's open in November, I'm there in November, rejoicing.  When they're open until April, I'm there until April, rejoicing again.  I'm there every chance I get, thick or thin, wet and cold, sunny and baking, I'm there.  Sometimes a full day, sometimes a half day.  It doesn't matter.  I'm up and down that road so often every season that I get seriously sick of driving it.  But I do it.  Because I love to ski.

Love to ski.  Wish I could ski more.  If I could choose to do anything other than hang out with my family, I'd choose to go skiing.  When I grow up and finally get to retire from my job-job, I want to join the ski patrol.  I'm serious.

All that being said, I nevertheless stand AGAINST the proposal currently before the Council to sell water (any water) to the Arizona Snowbowl for the purposes of making artificial snow.

Here's why, in a nutshell:
  • This is Arizona.  It will always be Arizona.  Arizona will never regularly be a great place to go skiing.  
  • Water is valuable, too valuable to misuse.  Drinking water especially.  Especially in Arizona.
  • Reclaimed water (effluent) still has lots of drugs and metals in it.
  • Snowbowl, it's employees, and the city arguably stand to benefit more from the area becoming a year-round, four-season resort than they do from extending the ski season by a month or two via snow-making.
  • Those with a vested interest in the Snowbowl LLC are the only ones who stand to benefit in any material way from the introduction of snow-making at the ski area.   
  • There is no way to gauge any variation in Snowbowl's impact on the local economy between lean, short-season years and years of abundant snow and long seasons.  Lengthening the season with snow-making will have no measurable effect on the local economy.
What do I think Snowbowl should do?
  • Fix the always-slipping-on-powder-days cable/bull-wheel assembly on Agassiz and stop paying for all this litigation.
  • Resubmit.  Go get another EIS, one that includes mountain biking and interpretive hiking and whatever... and become a real four-season resort so you can employ people year-round and sell over-priced hot dogs and hot cocoa year-round, too.
  • Accept the fact that, despite the aging infrastructure and cigarette-smoking Phoenicians, Snowbowl works pretty-much okay just the way it is and that we're lucky to get whatever snow we get whenever we get it.   And we ought to just enjoy it. As it is.  Remember: this is Arizona.

31 July 2010

Just about a bike: Retrotec

I wish I could tell you my first mountain bike was a Raleigh Elkhorn.  But it wasn't.  My little brother's  first mountain bike was a Raleigh Elkhorn.

To me, his second-hand Elkhorn was a very cool bike... I envied it from the git-go.  Right down to the one-size-fits-all paint-color (forest green, natch).  In 1991, to my untrained eye, his Elkhorn just seemed to be a bike built for one thing: riding around in the woods.  I envied it then.  I'm still a little envious of it now.  And I'm more than a little disappointed that he sold it... probably to some dirt-bag who ruined it leaving it out in the snow all winter, or let it get stolen, or let it disintegrate into just another a clapped-out beater bike downtown.  Tell ya what: someday I'm gonna find me a really sweet old Elkhorn of my own... one that someone's been keeping in a nice, dry garage for like 30 years.  And I'm gonna ride it a bunch, in the woods, and I'm never ever going to sell it.

No. My first mountain bike was not an Elkhorn.  My first mountain bike was a Motiv Ground Pounder.

Oh, the shame of it...

Motiv's were everywhere in the 1990s.  Sold then, and until recently, by Price Clubs, Costcos, and other similar big-box-bulk retailers, Motiv bikes were inexpensive mountain bikes aimed squarely at the mass market.  Back in mountain biking's hey-day they sported pseudo-exciting names (like Ground Pounder, Rock Ridge, and Stone Grinder), garish color-schemes, goopy Taiwanese TIG-welds, super-wide, deeply-padded saddles, and cheap Shimano gruppos (mine was Exage 500LX) with the number of gears (21-speed!) labeled prominently on the chainstay.  Lots of people had them.

Riding my Motiv.
Cactus Cup, Scottsdale, AZ, March 1992
But today, if you scour the Internet for any information on old Motiv mountain bikes (I know; I tried.) you'll come up nearly empty-handed.   Their domain registration appears to have expired in 2006 (but their old website, motivsports.com has been preserved at archive.org). No one collects them.  No one even seems to have kept them running.  They were too cheap and too mass-market to ever have become collectable.  But, if you look a little further down in the search results you'll find a few additional Motiv-related nuggets... mentions of Motiv bikes abound in forums for beginners, for newbies, for the totally uninitiated.  Turns out, as someone who first got enticed to ride bikes in the woods by riding a Motiv there, I've got a lot of company.  So there's that.  And, well, for that fact alone, and despite the shame I sometimes feel towards it, I will always credit my old Motiv, my first mountain bike, as the important and valuable... seriously: life-changing... bike that it really and truly was.

Fresh from the powdercoater in 1992
But I didn't ride the Motiv for long.  I owned it for about 18 months before I gave it (sold it?) to my other younger brother so it could become his first mountain bike.  Because, about a year after I moved to Flagstaff, early in the summer of 1992, I'd finally saved up enough money working the night shift at Bookman's to buy myself a new bike... actually just a new bike frame... stripped naked and devoid of any-and-all parts, accessories, or accoutrements such as frame decals or head-badges.  Nevertheless it was, at the time, The Bike Of My Dreams... a Bob Seals Retrotec... Number 64, to be precise.  Not exactly a custom bike, built just for me... but a brand new, exotic, handmade steel mountain bike like no other that might as well have been built just for me.

Bartlett Wash
Moab, UT, 1993
Within two weeks, I'd had it powder-coated (black), built it up with whatever discounted parts I could scrounge at my local bike shop, and got busy riding it.  It's silly, and probably still a figment of my imagination, but I swear: the bike immediately improved my abilities as a rider.  I'd never crossed Rocky Ridge, the then-super-challenging, quite-well-named, local trail I'd been practicing my skills on for at least a year, with fewer than 4 dabs... until my first ride across its undulating traverse on the Retrotec... when I cleaned it, in its entirety. No dabs at all!   Needless to say, it was more-or-less at this moment that I became a believer in the value of a good bike... and in the assertion that my Retrotec, more than most other bikes in the world, possessed some sort of special magic that made me a better rider.

The Retro's still a favorite-bike.  And I still ride it a lot, several times a month, for sure.  But it's changed character more than any of my other bikes in the intervening years.  It's had flat bars and riser bars, as well as a Surly Torsion Bar with huge sweep... it's had rigid forks and suspension forks, cantilever brakes and widget brakes, toeclips and clipless pedals, bar ends or not, several wheelsets, all kinds of new gearing, and more than a couple different stems... including, at one time, an Allsop suspension stem
Internally-routed cables
which failed rather catastrophically on me while I was riding down a big rock in Sedona.  Ka-blooey.

Now, some 20 years later, the Retro's become a bit of a relic, I guess.  Over the years it's been broken and repaired (by Curtis Inglis).  And it's broken me pretty badly a couple times, too.  It's really just another in a long line of well-worn old hand-built mountain bikes from the 1990s.  They're not all that rare.  Not really.  That's certainly one way to look at it anyway.  And, indeed, that's the most common reaction to the bike when I show up for a group ride riding it.  But I prefer to view it as more of a period-piece... a good, solid, working example of a by-gone but-good era, of a time not so long ago, back when mountain biking was a lot newer.  That makes its mostly eclectic and almost universally obsolete parts-mix a little more interesting and a whole lot less sad.

I like the bike's unpainted clearcoat finish and the way the brass fillets add golden details to the bike's otherwise gray color.  I'm quite proud of the clearcoated Koski DuraTrack fork and Salsa ProMoto stem, too, as well as the black-anno IRD seatpost, silver IRD Widget brakes, and black IRD rear-brake
Mount Elden
Flagstaff, AZ
booster.  I like the old ratcheting black Shimano Deerhead top-mount shifters, the Dia-Compe SS-5 brake levers and the Oury grips.  I think the gun-metal-blue and silver XTR M900 rear derailleur is the best looking bike part Shimano ever produced, and that the polished silver XT hubs and the 110mm 5-bolt XT cranks run a close second and third (in that order).  I'm convinced the hand-laced wheels built on gray Mavic 217 hoops match the frame color almost perfectly.  I still think they're simple-n-cool, so I have old-school Onza clipless pedals on most of my bikes, including this one.  And finally, I think the black 1-inch Chris King 2Nut headset and the stainless King bottle cages add a nice touch of class.

For what it's worth, the black Ritchey Pro 30mm riser bars and the Specialized BG Pro saddle aren't really period, but they're not ridiculous either.  Plus, I like them.

It started with a Motiv.  Sure.  The Motiv set the hook in me, no question about it.  But the Retrotec will always be the bike that taught me how to ride well and moreover, how to become a better rider.  And for that I'll always sorta consider it First-Bike.

The Motiv's long gone, and that's okay.

The Retro will always be with me.

Click images to enlarge

Mountain Bike Action - Dec. 1992

Bicycling+Mountain Bike Mar. 1993

Bicycling+Mountain Bike - Mar. 1993

May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. -- Ed Abbey