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