23 December 2011

An artifact of my ride

I was feeling pretty good yesterday morning when I awoke.  We were in Phoenix.  It was 50 degrees outside with overcast skies.  So, of course, I went on a bike ride.

Like all good rides in Phoenix, this one began with a 25 minute drive in the car to the trailhead... which i really just a huge parking lot filled with nice cars, wedged between a golf course and a subdivision.


Based on how my ride turned out, I think it's safe to conclude that my previously mentioned banged-uppedness might be just a bit more profound than I originally thought.  I've got a pretty good sense now that what I'd hoped was a bit of bruising and tenderness from a pole-grip to the ribs may, in fact, be something a bit more notable and less quick-to-heal.  Like a crack or a fracture... again.

I got about 4 miles and 1000 vertical feet and an uncomfortable number of dabs into my ride up South Mountain's National Trail (always one heck of a tough trail) yesterday when my rib began to hurt quite badly.  I had planned on only a slightly a longer ride, up to the towers and back, but instead, given my growing discomfort, elected to turn back at the 4.5 mile mark, just at the top of the saddle that begins the short descent into the Buena Vista parking lot.  So I ended up riding only about 9 miles.  But they were 9 tough miles, 9 painful miles, 9 miles where it would have been nice to bunny-hop or ride over or down this or that tricky-trap, but which became 9 miles of caution and wincing instead.

While I was out, I ran across a couple of dudes with a Go-Pro camera on a tripod at The Waterfall on National Trail, which, if the denizens of MTBR's Arizona forum are to be believed, is a place of deep and abiding lore on South Mountain.  'Tis a right of passage, so I've read many times, to ride down The Waterfall successfully.

Of course, I walked it yesterday.  Blamed the rib.

And because I've ridden it many times before, and for the first time more than 20 years ago, I think that's fair.

Of the two dudes I encountered at The Waterfall, I think the guy who made the film below tends to run a little hot. This is just my opinion. But I think he runs unnecessarily hot around the mouth, in that he speaks in a rather profane manner, and likewise hot as-in he seems to use way less of his brakes in certain situations (such as those featured in the video below) than I would, given the terrain.  I include his profane and somewhat sketchy video here because I walked right through his shot yesterday as I carried my bike up The Waterfall, and despite the fact that he edited out my nonetheless very stylish portage.

We'll call it an artifact of my ride nevertheless...

South Mountain 2011-12-22.

20 December 2011

Wolf Creek

I am a bit at a loss for words, but feel as if I would be remiss to fail to record the trip my brother and I took to ski at Wolf Creek in Colorado this week.

I am sore, slightly bruised, but never the worse for wear, as they say.

The trip was great!  Amazing, really.  Six hours door-to-door.  54 dollar lift tix.  Vast and challenging terrain. And the conditions, considering the time of the year, were incredible; 100 percent open, everything covered, still soft and turny, with nothing clunky underfoot. The far-east Alberta chair, where we spent most of our two days, is basically devoid of crowds, of other people entirely, really.  We made laps through glades and over steep headwalls with no waiting, run-after-run-after-run.

In all we skied 17 runs, covering some 40 miles, and got about 20,000 vert over two days.  Not an epic, but a great start to the early season, for sure!

08 December 2011

Other people's dead dogs

Well, I think I'm officially done with my homework.  My first of four classes in pursuit of my state school principal certification will officially conclude next week.  But, for right now, it's all done but for the grading, and the turning-in of my final project, which I'll do sometime tomorrow.

So we've enjoyed a nice quiet evening together tonight, sitting around as a family after dinner, listening to folksie seasonal music on Pandora (a nice mix based on Rosie Thomas+holiday) and looking nostalgically at a few familiar pictures of our good old dog.

There's a higher-purpose to our reverie tonight, however.  You see, our favorite local bagel shop, Biffs, makers of the finest bagels in the northland, and one our regular weekend breakfast stops is, oddly enough, themed around a vast collection of individually framed pictures of hundreds of other people's dead dogs.  It sounds a little morbid, but it's not.  Dog-people will understand, I think.  It's really kinda touching.  Anyway, we dig it.  So we always imagined, once Shadow was gone, we would be just-so-pleased to hang one of her pictures on the wall at Biffs, where we could see it now and then, whenever we visit.

But it's taken us a little time to find one we all like enough to place into Biff's permanent collection.  We've got thousands of pictures of Shadow.  Literally thousands.  But we didn't look through all of them to find just the right one.  We did, however, scrutinize several dozen looking pretty carefully for just the right one among the 190 favorite-photos of our good old dog in a set of her pictures we've kept for years on flickr.com.

We think the one we picked captures Shadow as perfectly as any photo could.

02 December 2011

Dog is patient. Dog is kind. Dog never fails. [UPDATED]

A good dog is a great blessing.

Reprinted below is a post I wrote about our dog, Shadow, in December 2010.

We said goodbye to her today.

A Few Borrowed Lines About Our Old Dog Shadow

[Originally posted December 2010. Updated June 2011 - See below]

There's this great poem, by a writer named Paul Mariani, which 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. 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 what 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 to care

for something other
and bigger
than me and or 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

To be 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 a 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."

Here is the link to my blog: http://rockychrysler.blogspot.com/2010/12/few-borrowed-lines-about-our-old-dog.html
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.

01 December 2011

One more thing...

It's all coming together quite nicely!  Our incoming batch of exciting weather is at the door, spinning somewhere over Vegas at the moment, by the looks of things.

Snowy weather is imminent, and should be beginning sometime this morning, I think, and in earnest later tonight.  Probably now is a good time to get outta town if you're planning to drive in the next 48 hours...

Wanted to share one last great weather site with y'all.  What follows in the frame below is NOAA's Graphical Forecast page.  It's got so much cool data on it I'm not really even going to try to explain it all.  Best thing for you to do is play around with it.  Use the top toggle-arrows, next to the day of the week to move forward in time.  Use the items listed below [Weather, Temp., Amount Of Precip, Snow Amount, Snow Level, etc.] to get a good idea about what the weather's probably going to do.  I use this page a lot, once it looks like weather is more-or-less for-certain.  When you're feeling wonky, it's great fun.

30 November 2011

I like zippers [part two]

Commute By Bike just posted my latest review of the completely zipperless Ortlieb Saddle-Bag.  Read on, should you care to learn all there is to learn about my opinion of basic, black, waterproof, German bicycle seatbags.

25 November 2011

Riding with Rockman

Any time you get to ride in Sedona with Rockman it's a special occasion.  Few know their way around the area was well as he does. Today we rode a bunch of trails I'd never ridden before: Last Frontier, Special Ed, Witch Doctor, Cakewalk, Under The Radar... this list goes on.  Here's a little (crappy) video of  today's adventure, set (as always) to good music (Silversun Pickups):

A few stats about today's ride.
  • Total distance: about 13 miles. 
  • Total elevation gained: about 3000 feet. 
  • Total elevation lost: about 3000 feet
  • Riding time: about 2 hours. 
  • Time on trail: about 3 hours. 
  • Average speed: about 4 miles an hour.  
  • Real average speed: about 6 miles an hour
  • Broken parts: zero. 
  • Broken riders: zero 
  • Flats: zero
That's a very good day in Sedona.

GPX file and other ride-data available on Everytrail.

23 November 2011

I like zippers

I like zippers. Zippers do important work.  But I prefer zippers with zipper pulls. Zippers that lack zipper pulls are often more difficult to use than need-be.  And they tend to rattle.

Of a like mind?  Nice. Then perhaps you will enjoy my recent review of the Green Guru Spinner backpack at Commute By Bike dot com.

13 November 2011

Orange hat and pink hood

Today we went walking in the snow.
Bekah wore her orange hat and pink hood.
Snow was thrown.
Most of it at me.
I used to wear this same orange cap
when I was about her age.
I think it's cool that she wears it now.
Lisa often wears her Muppet gloves.
But she throws a killer snowball with them.

11 November 2011

A lot of people think this is a dumb thing to do

I got a new lens this week... Took a few first-pictures with it this morning... No flash, manual focus, just messing around, really.  But thought I'd write a blog about a few of them anyway.

This is the Onza H.O. clipless pedal.
I use these pedals almost exclusively, on several bikes, even my new one.
A lot of people think this is a dumb thing to do.
I don't use them because I think they're the best.
 I know that there are many other fine, newer pedals available.
I use them because I own about 20 sets of Onza pedals.
And because I've used them pretty reliably since 1995.
This is the Suntour XC-II platform pedal.
I use these pedals on several bikes, too.
The Suntour XC-II a great big, flat pedal with easy-to-service bearings.
For riding in real shoes there's probably never been a better pedal.
This is Pikachu. He sits on our mantle-piece.
When I visited Japan in 2001 a girl gave him to me.
If you push the button on his back
he says, "Pee-kee-kah-choo."

03 November 2011

Boot Deep

Know what I did today? I stayed home from work. Sick. Haven't done that in a while.

What did I do while I stayed home from work today?
  • Worked. Some (mostly answered emails and made phone calls). 
  • Did a bit of homework (gotta take classes if I want to keep this job). 
  • Lay around waiting for my temp to come down (it did). 
  • And, right around lunchtime, I watched this awesome film (see below).
I watch my fair-share of ski-videos and -movies, to be sure. And some of them are pretty good. Too often, however, in the films and videos I watch, I feel like the essence of skiing (basically: trees and pow and friends) gets lost in too many heli-drops, or too much slo-mo footage of big backcountry jumps and jibby park-stuff that just doesn't usually hold much appeal for me.  Mostly 'cause I can't or never will do that stuff...

There's some jibby stuff in this film. And there's at least one massive backcountry kicker, too. But, they hike to it all. So I gotta say, hand-to-heart, this film (shot near Alta by Janky Films) is one of the funnest, most essential and legit ski films I've seen in a while. Why?  Trees, pow, and friends.  Exactly that.  In my opinion, these guys nail the experience, the essence of skiing in this beautifully shot 30-minute short.  I enjoyed the heck out of it. Hope you do, too.  Make sure you full-screen-HD it, for sure!

BOOT DEEP! from JANKYfilms on Vimeo.

29 October 2011

One Waterbottle and Imminent Danger

I live quite near the trails where I ride.  Near enough to feel a little bit guilty now and then about my seriously awesome proximity to some of the the finest trails in the southwest.

But, we don't really live in the woods; we live in a modest neighborhood, surrounded by houses.  I can see The Peaks from my backyard, but from my house, I can only actually see one trail;  I can see it when I'm standing in my driveway.  It's called The Lost Burrito.

The Lost Burrito is one of the oldest mountain biking trails in Flagstaff.  It was here long before I got here in 1991, making it's official debut as an aptly-named-trail in the very first-edition of my friend Cosmic Ray's Fat Tire Tale and Trails guidebook, which is now in its umpteenth revision.  In fact, before it was a mountain biking trail, The Lost Burrito was a sheep driveway which lead from the Schultz Creek drainage up to the bucolic meadows in the twin calderas collapsed lava domes atop the Dry Lake Hills.  You can follow the blazes, which are still set deep into the bark of the older trees, nearly from the top to the bottom.

Thing is, almost nobody rides The Lost Burrito anymore.

Back in the day, when I first started riding it, it was a hairball of a trail... 1200 vertical feet of crazy, rocky, steep trail, with a few genuinely scary no-fall zones near the top.  It was very difficult to ride up, and always required a few portages.  But it was pretty much rideable down, if you had the courage to stay on your bike while locked into a terminal skid on a steeply sloping trail.

I hadn't been on the Burrito in several years... perhaps as many as five, until today.  Since moving into our new house in June, I've been staring at it daily... and it's been calling to me... quietly but persistently coaxing me to come ride it.

So today I did.

No longer merely a hairball, the upper quarter of The Lost Burrito, quite frankly, humiliated me.  What had once been a rideable test-of-courage was now nothing more than a near-vertical screefield, a rockslide, a viscous, unpredictable talus-slope-of-terror.  I walked several parts of it.

Fortunately, the view from the top is still spectacular.  And descending the much-less-steep, still-swoopy-fun bottom three-quarters of The Lost Burrito trail is great enough to almost make you forget about the fear you tasted on the upper portions.  And seriously, how often does one ever get to descend 1200 feet in under a mile?  So I walked a bit of it.  It's still an amazing claim-to-fame for a trail (or sheep driveway) of any kind, fully rideable or not.


If you're curious you can view my entire Lost Burrito Loop at Everytrail; it was a shortish ride for a Saturday morning... Dogfood to AZ-Onceler to Little Gnarly to The Lost Burrito... about 11 miles... but a perfect just-one-waterbottle ride.  Watch as I descend at under 4 miles an hour!  Better yet: Watch-and-learn as I avoid Schultz Creek Trail in its entirety on a Saturday.

16 October 2011

Little Lindy

We watched the new Flag-centric mountain biking movie Changing Gears together as a family the other night.  It's a fine local film, fun to watch and lovingly made; it tends to be about the early days of mountain biking in Flagstaff.  But the best part of all was seeing so many of our old friends in it, including Linden, the former retail manager at the shop, and one of the best, fastest, most winningest and friendliest riders around.

My daughter loves Linden, always has, since she was a little-little baby.  Probably because Linden's always made Bekah feel special.  No matter how frazzled Linden's day on the salesfloor has become, whenever we stop in to say hello, she has always taken the time to greet Bekah with a smile, give her a big hug, and a swing around in circles... something cool that only Linden does for her.

So it was extra special to Bek when my wife decided to call her "Little Lindy" as she was riding along on her bike so capably in the woods today.  It's a nickname that just might stick.  Gotta admit, just like Linden, our kid's really got it when it comes to handling her bike on the trails!

15 October 2011

balanced a rockstack

balanced a rockstack
marks not a place to begin
but an idea

01 October 2011

Sir Ken

I've been waiting for more than a month for the chance to see and hear Sir Ken Robinson, one of the great contemporary voices in education, speak at NAU.  Got second row seats, thanks to my cohorts' early arrivals, and found myself completely enthralled during his humorous, provocative, and inspiring 90-minute talk.

Sir Ken, my wife, and me
But the best part was when he approached our table on his own after the luncheon, just to say hello.  I was genuinely thrilled to make his acquaintance personally, and he likewise seemed genuinely interested in our school and how our magnet arts and science programs work to try and instill creativity and innovation into our core curriculum.

Thus far no one seems to have posted video of yesterday's talk, but when they do, I'll be sure to update this post with a link to it. In the meantime, some of Sir Ken's best talks are archived at TED.org.  I'd love to recommend that you give him a listen at some point; all TED talks are limited to 18 minutes, so it won't take much time.  But it just might change your perception of what really needs to be reformed when we consider reforming education.  One of my favorite Sir Ken TED talks is embedded below:

24 September 2011

Home Coffee Roasting

19 pounds of green coffee beans
Several years ago, I was introduced to home coffee roasting by one of my friends. I've been happily ordering green beans from Sweet Maria's and roasting them in a small roaster in my backyard ever since.

Roasting one's own coffee certainly adds a bit of complexity to the whole coffee-drinking process.  But I think it likewise adds to one's satisfaction with the experience in equal if not greater proportion.

Roasting allows me to find just the right point at which a particular bean's flavor appeals to my palate, and because of this, home-roasting allows me to become just -that-much better acquainted with my coffee.  Similarly, roasting has allowed me to better understand how coffee is grown and processed, and even to identify certain cup-qualities and regions of the world that seem to tend to grow coffee cultivars that we especially enjoy.

Bagged for storage
This week we received our latest shipment of coffee beans...nineteen pounds, in 1 to 5 pound lots... which I transferred into muslin bags for storage.  We order lots of varying size depending on our familiarity with the beans; five pound bags for beans from farms or regions we already know we love; 1 or 2 pound bags for new beans we're trying out.

Sweet Maria's ships faster than any place I know, so just a few days after placing our order a box arrives filled with the unique aroma of green coffee from cool places all over the world... in this case: Sumatra, Ethiopia, and Central America.  This shipment will last us several months.  However, in the interim we're likely to order more as we find we really like particular beans in this order enough to invest in larger quantities.  This is also a good idea because Sweet Maria's inventories are often quite limited.  They're fond of reminding customers that coffee is a commodity, not a drink.

17 September 2011

Poster Girl [UPDATED]

We bought our daughter a new bicycle the other day. It's her fourth bike, a real one, for a big-girl, with 20-inch wheels, hand brakes, gears to shift, and front shocks. She's pretty stoked about it. So are we.

She's basically the poster-girl for Specialized Hotrock and Hotwalk bikes.  Chiefly because her daddy sometimes works at a bike shop that sells them, but also because they're really great little bikes.  Below, I've thrown together a quick chronology of her bikes, from today all the way back to the beginning...

Hotrock 20" -- Sept. 2011
Hotrock 20" -- Sept. 2011
Hotrock 16" -- October 2010
Hotrock 16" -- February 2011
Hotrock 12" -- April 2010
Hotrock 12" -- July 2009
Hotwalk 12" -- Marsh 2009
Hotwalk 12" -- May 2008

Never had training wheels.  Makes me proud...

UPDATE: 27 October 2016

For her birthday in April 2014, we bought her another Specialized, another Hotrock in fact, this time one with 24" wheels and a triple chainring, 21 gears in all. Bigger wheels and the wider range of gears made a huge difference. She rode this bike with increasing proficiency for about two and a half years, until the seat post was at its max.

This bike made her a mountain biker. A full on, legit, shredder of singletrack.

Then, 'round about the end of the summer of 2016, it became quite obvious that she was going to need yet another upgrade, to a much larger bike with even bigger wheels.

Fortunately, we were given the opportunity to buy her a like-new but slightly-used Surly Pugsley from a fleet of winter rentals that were being off loaded by a local outfitter and friend.  He gave us a great deal and she's been killin' it on her new super-big wheels ever since.  I'm hoping she hangs on to this rig for a long time, perhaps even forever if she doesn't end up too tall.

I love my Surlys.  I'm pretty sure she does, too.

UPDATE: 01 May 2017

Stoked, once again, to have come across a classic steel Ritchey P-bike (a 1995 Crazy Pete) in super-nice condition the other day. Fits my now-12-year-old daughter perfectly and likely will for some time, maybe for always.

So fun to watch her shred on a seriously-classy vintage bike that was built (to shred) some 10 years before she was born.

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