Tuesday, July 27, 2010

I Can't Believe I'm Getting Paid to do This

Today was "Wingman Day" at work.  Wingman Day is where we get talked to about suicide awareness, safety, and looking out for each other.  After a series of speeches by the higher ups, we watched some informational videos and then broke for teambuilding.  Since 2 of my officemates are gone for the week, that left Rhett and I to do our teambuilding mano u mano.  We decided to go for a hike in the foothills at the Air Force Academy.  We of course interspersed our hike with Wingman Day reminders like "hey, don't forget we're not 17 years old, so let's not kill ourselves running down this hill".

The first half of the hike was steep and rocky terrain along a stream, while the second half meandered through woods and glade.  Unfortunately I didn't get any pictures in the woods which were very pleasant.  Sorry.

There was a reservoir at the top.  Rhett wanted to fish here but I had to be at a home inspection at 2:30 and we didn't get to the top until after 1:00 so we'll have to do that another time.

We saw a couple of hummingbirds on the hike.  I didn't get any pictures of them, but I did get this picture of Rhett messing with his Camelbak.

There were some nice views coming down.  We ran the last half mile so I wouldn't be late.  This photo op was a welcome 15 second break.

Thank you Air Force for letting me and Rhett get some bonding in on the trail today.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

How Do I Roll the Windows Up on This Thing?

After a few days with no motorcycle while the battery was being charged and saddlebag brackets were being installed I was happy a couple days ago to have my bike back for my daily commute.  Being the cheap guy I am I had put the saddlebags on without a bracket, but once one of them had a hole rubbed in it from contact with the rear tire (which is impressive, considering they are made of leather) I decided the bracket was a necessary accessory.  It turns out I would have been better off taking the car.

When I arrived at work, I decided to take my helmet in, rather than leave it with the bike, since there was a good chance of rain in the afternoon.  As I rounded a corner approaching the building I scraped the faceshield against a brick wall, leaving three nice permanent scars on the visor.  The drive home would cause me to forget about this mild annoyance.  A meeting kept me at work almost two hours late, by which time a nice storm had brewed up.  At least I didn't know until the next day that there was a tornado watch at the time.

Fortunately the poor weather was still travelling my way when I got to my bike, allowing me to gear up with my water-proof jacket liner and pants.  I knew my leather gloves and boots wouldn't hold the water out for long, but at least the majority of me would be nice and dry.  This proved to be true as the rain and intermittant hail pelted me until about halfway home, when I realized the water was running down my jacket liner and down between the waist of my rain pants and my body.  The thing that clued me in was the unmistakable feeling that my underwear was slowly filling up with water.  If you've not felt this sensation it is a disturbing one.  Especially when you are travelling at 60 miles an hour 20 minutes from home and there's nothing you can do to stop it.

I decided to alter my route by taking a country road that adds a few miles and about 5 minutes to the ride, but would keep me away from a low lying hilly road that I suspected would be flooded due to the volume of rain.  As the road approached a town 5 miles from my house I realized I could stop by and visit a friend from work who lived there and get out of the rain until the worst of it passed.  Of course, this would add another 10 minutes to the ride overall, but I could get out of the rain sooner.  My boots now had standing water sloshing in them, and my hands were soaked, as well as my bottom, so I decided to go for the "longer to get home but out of this weather sooner" option.  I was quite happy as I pulled up and rang the doorbell.  I could hear the yellow lab barking on the other side.  And barking.  And barking.  Nobody but the dog was home.  Back on the bike and another 15 minutes of soaked riding in front of me.  Not cool.

As I finally got near my house, the rain was coming down so hard it was running across the road in sheets.  I saw a deeper section in time to let off the gas, but not to brake.  As I hit it the force of the wave shooting up from my tire actually forced my feet of the pegs and felt like someone hit my feet with a two by four.  I was just happy the bike stayed stable.  I slowed down a bit more after that.  A few minutes later and I was home and wringing the water out of my socks.  Some dry clothes and love from a hair dryer and all was well again in my world.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Some Moments Are Best Shared With Scraggly Haired Strangers

One of the benefits of having my friends Matt and Jenny move into town is that Matt and I are old disk golf buddies.  On Saturday we decided to hit the links at a local course in town while Jenny took the kids to the local playground to wear themselves out.

If you have never played disk golf (also known as frisbee golf for the uninitiated who don't realize that the hard plastic disks are similar to frisbees but smaller and much harder, and are never used to play catch with a border collie) allow me to give a brief introduction.  This sport is played much like traditional golf, with a concrete pad to "tee off" of, various hazards (mostly trees, bushes and ravines) and instead of hitting a ball into a hole your objective is to throw a disk into a basket.  To make it easier the basket is mounted on the middle of a pole, with chains hanging from the top of the pole down into the basket.  If you hit the chains squarely the disk generally will fall into the basket.

Matt and I began playing disk golf while stationed in Minot North Dakota, where there are not many options for entertainment, unless you enjoy pushing round bales of hay through a farmer's field with your truck.  Since neither Matt nor I own trucks, we had to find something else to pass the time.  (In fact archaelogists, upon finding remains of some of the earliest indiginous peoples in the region, at first believed they had frozen during the harsh winter, but upon closer forensic examination realized they had been bored to death, don't you know.)  Needless to say, a relatively easy to learn but difficult to master sport that requires no fees other than buying a couple drivers and a putter (yes, there are different disks made to use in different situations) is an opportunity hard to ignore.  So Matt and I played a lot of disk golf in North Dakota.

But on to the present. Unlike our small 9 hole course from ND the course we played on Saturday has 18 holes, many of which are deep amongst a grove of trees, making it difficult to find the basket you're shooting for from the tee.  When we ran into a couple of old-timers (who as it turns out have been playing since the 70's) who offered to let us play with them on the premise that they would take us along since they knew the locations of all the holes, we jumped at the opportunity to tag along.

In addition to guiding us through the forested playing field, these kindly men also gave us some helpful pointers.  After I missed an easy putt, they gave me a couple tips on how to focus my aim on a single chain above the basket and how to hold the disk upon release. 

On my next hole I was about 50 feet from the basket (more of a chip shot than putting range) and tried out my newly received advice.   I focused in and released the disk.  There was nothing between myself and the basket but distance, although a tree on the right 2/3rds of the way down threatened my disk, as I tend to have to aim right due to a natural hook.  In this instance my throw sailed straight for the basket, rising some 15 feet into the air, avoiding the tree on the right, and sank down into the chains hanging above the basket with a successfully resonating “ching!” Throwing my arms in the air with an exuberant “Yes!” I turn to Matt, who is behind me, and he has his back turned looking back on where we started playing the hole. He was trying to remember how many throws he had made! I told him he was as bad as my dad, who missed my one triple in little league because he had gone to get a cheeseburger at McDonalds.  I'm just glad the two strangers we had just met were there to witness my feat and celebrate with me.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

I Prefer When You Provide the Propulsion

While riding my motorcycle to get saddlebag brackets installed on it at a bike shop downtown  a couple of days ago, it unexpectedly died at an intersection.  After doing the obligatory inspection of the bike both to see if there was an obvious cause (out of gas) and to appear like I knew what I was doing (hey, there's a guy kneeling by his bike poking around, must know what he's doing), none of the obvious solutions were the cause.  With only 85 miles on the tripometer I knew I wasn't out of gas.  The battery terminal was still connected.  Didn't have a clue what else to check.  In my world bikers aren't mechanically inclined.  At least not the short ones with no tatoos.

As it turned out, I was only a few blocks from the shop, with no hills left to climb, so I decided to push Bessy the rest of the way.  I didn't want to risk the helmet falling off the seat, and had no place to put my jacket, so off I went in the close to 100 degree heat, pushing my bike while fully suited up.  While the invention of wheels, one of man's greatest achievents, and eclipsed only by the realization that bread can be sliced, made the process doable, it was still hot and hard work.  One lady in her car asked if I was alright, an elderly gentleman asked if I was out of gas, and a young troop circled around on his bike to see if I needed assistance.  Respectfully declining their offers with thanks for their concern, I plodded on, passed by cars, a bus, and a cop car. 

Finally I arrived at the shop, and informed the clerk that in addition to getting my brackets put on I would need to have a service call.  He let me know that I didn't have an appointment for anything beyond getting the brackets put on, and they may not have time to look at it for a few days.  I replied that I had just pushed the bike a half mile and wouldn't be self-propelling it any further, and whenever they could get around to it would work for me.  He was adament that they might not be able to work on it simultaneously with the bracket install.  I was adament that the bike wasn't going anywhere any time soon.  We came to a gentlemen's agreement that they would check the battery connection and Heather took me home in the CR-V.

Today I picked up Bessy, with a freshly charged battery that had apparently lost its charge due to a loose cable.  We went much faster, and had a more enjoyable time together, with her providing the power this time.  With "Back in the saddle again" playing in my head I gleefully returned home on my faithful steed.  Welcome back, Bessy.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A Hike up Mt Princeton

I finally made it up another 14er this weekend.  This time I took a buddy from church named Sam.  Sam was really excited about going hiking, so we met up at 4:00 and made the drive over to Buena Vista.  I learned to never take a 12 year old up a mountain.  I consider myself to be in pretty good shape, but Sam kicked my butt.  It was all I could do to keep up with him.  Oh to have that kind of energy.  He wouldn't even help drive on the way home so I could take a nap. 

When we arrived in Buena Vista, it was just short of sunrise.  We were treated with a beautiful pink sky as the sun approched the horizon.  We found the parking area at the bottom of the trailhead with no problems, and parked the car.  I had read about parking along the road going up the mountain and considered driving further but decided not to risk not being able to find a space.  As several cars rumbled past and we walked on and on I realized the folly of my mistake.  In all we hiked 14 miles and ascended close to a mile in elevation, which is cool, and didn't phase my pre-adolescent partner, but if I had it to do again, I would have shaved a few miles and a couple thousand feet of climb and parked up the road.  Lesson learned.

The first half of the hike was all on the dirt road, before we missed our turn onto the trail that leads to the peak.  After seeing almost no other hikers the turnoff seemed a funnel where everyone came together.  Several of us missed the turn, but I expect I was the only one carrying a handheld GPS unit that should have clued me in.  I had long since turned the sound off, as I tired of hearing it beep with every waypoint I had plugged into it, seeing as how there were 250 total plotted it was beeping every minute or so.  Luckily another hiker was heading back down and informed us that he (and we) had missed the turnoff.  I was looking for the steps as shown in the route description on 14ers.com and still didn't see it.  At least I wasn't the only one.

Having made the turn we proceeded along a pleasant cow path cutting through a green field before getting to the rocky portion.  I normally enjoy scrambling, but there was a sufficiently large enough field of talus that even I was getting tired of climbing over rocks.  It didn't help that I crushed my middle finger between two rocks, and almost fell a dozen times.  My normally cat-like balancing abilities were in tune enough to save me from any serious falls but failed me enough to make for a few exciting moments.  Of course Sam didn't have any issues.  I would blame his smaller size but since I'm not much larger I wouldn't have much of an argument.

While crossing the talus field I noticed large black spiders and their accompanying webs every few feet.  I have a distaste for spiders that borders on phobia, so this was a bit disconcerting, but I was able to avoid them pretty well.  I have found that if you don't focus on whatever causes you distress, it bothers you less.  What do hundreds of spiders feed on at 13,000 ft?  Lost hikers perhaps?

We hit the peak three and a half hours after starting.  We took the obligatory pictures, took in the wonderful views, and started back down.  We stopped at 10:30 to rest and get a bite to eat, then made our way down to the car without event.  It was a good hike, and I'm glad I was able to keep up with my hiking partner the whole way.

Sam on the road we should have driven up.  At least it was shady. 
Sam definitely added to the cool factor of the group.

Nice views looking back

And along the trail

This is looking back where the cow path had turned into rock.  It is only a half-mile to a mile from the road to here.

This shows the large field of rocks you must cross.  We followed the trail up to the saddle then followed the ridge to the peak at center right of the picture.  We often were without trail here and just picked our way through the rocks.

Sam looking cool  The rocks looking rocky.  This portion makes wearing boots preferable to cross-trainers like I had chosen.

This picture from the top shows a majority of the trail after it leaves the cow path just on the other side of the ridge.

It's hard to believe you're seeing this with before your eyes and not in a magazine or painting.

Yes, I love Colorado.

We made it!  Too bad you can't see more of the view in the background.  Thanks Sam for letting me be the tallest.  Don't worry, you can be the tallest next year.  When you're a teenager.