I'd Like to Buy a Vowel

I recently mentioned my peregrination to Colorado, including an allusion to some hiking.  When I hike in the desert, I like the canyons.  When I hike in the mountains, though, I like valleys and lakes.  Not surprisingly, I like valleys that end in lakes.  Double score!

Outside of Crested Butte, not too far, is a pretty lake - Emerald Lake, to be specific - that lies as the source of a small river.  It's a good valley to explore, and a GREAT lake to visit.  Here is photo of Emerald Lake:

As an added bonus, just such a lake lies in small bowl surrounded by mountain peaks.  Such a bowl is called, I believe,  a "cirque," which is a very fine word.  I'm not 100% sure a cirque with a lake is still called a cirque, but I like to think so.  I do know cirques lie at the heads of mountain valleys and are, thus, usually good places to be.

Even better, a synonym for cirque is "cwm," pronounced "koom."  Now, if you consider the letter "y" to be a vowel, there are very few words left in the English language that are spelled without vowels.  If you furthermore eliminate words that are somewhat onomatopoetic in nature, such as "psst" ahd "hmm," the list grows even shorter.  Of the ones I can find, cwm is my favorite.  Probably because of what it is.

So, I made my way to Emerald Lake, located in a honey of a cwm, and put my own spin on the experience, as has become my once-per-trip tradition:


I'm not sure it gets any better than this: a beautiful mountain lake, an icy Coke, a can of Vienna Sausage, and a cwm.  Perfect.


On the Road Again

I'd like to think I do a pretty good job of living below my means.  I drive an 11 year old pickup truck, live in what amounts to a motel room, buy my jeans at Walmart and purchase about 1 pair of shoes per year.  However, I'm certainly not afraid to make the occasional big buy.  To go out and spend some bucks.  Usually I buy things I think I'll use, things that will entertain me or give me some recreational advantage.  I don't buy candles or knick-knacks or decorations.  Nope, I like to buy things I can utilize.

(Note: Please don't think I'm tooting my own horn.  I get as crazy as anyone sometimes and blow money for no reason.)

So it was, not too long ago, that I dropped a few bucks on something I really wanted.  Something I once loved, but had "lost touch" with, if you prefer.  Here is a photo of my big buy:

Ah yes, a road bike, the Specialized Secteur Comp.  She's a beauty, ain't she?  Why a Specialized?  Because my last 3 bikes (all Mt. Bikes) have been Specialized and I'm brand loyal.  Why the Secteur? Because it was in the sweet spot, price wise, and it is supposedly a good all-around, comfortable road bike.  Why "Comp?"  I have no idea, perhaps just to get me to spend a few more dollars.  Regardless, I've now had my new bike for about a month, and have put almost 200 miles on it.  Hopefully I will keep riding.

Riding in the country is a joy; I can't imagine having to ride in the city.  So far I've seen deer, spectacular fall foliage, sunsets over the mountains, beautiful crimson skies, a huge full moon.  I have NOT seen a single sidewalk, sat in a line of traffic at a stop light, dodged big trucks, or had anyone flip me off.  I'm getting spoiled, I think, by my idyllic country rides!

So far I've settled on a 14 mile out and back route that takes me just over an hour.  My longest ride thus far has been 26 miles, but my day to day ride is the 14 miler.  It IS Arkansas, so I must contend with hills.  My route features 3 big hills, but they ride different depending on whether I'm coming or going.  One hill in particular is very, very steep on the way out, but more gradual on the other side.  As I crest the steep side on my way out, and begin the longer, more gradual descent, I can really pick up some speed.  According to my little cyclo-computer, my top speed so far is 34 miles per hour.

All that downhill speed never fails to remind me of one moment of glory from many years ago.  Here's the story:

When I was, perhaps, 13 years old, I received my single best Christmas present of all time: a Fuji ten-speed bicycle.  Throughout my teenage years I rode my bike all over town, here tweaking and there refining my sleek Fuji machine.  I was really into it; I bought all sorts of tools and became something of a bike mechanic.  Once in college, however, I sort of ignored my Fuji, left it at home and instead bought a Mt. Bike.  One summer, though, I took some summer school classes in my hometown.  Perhaps out of boredom, I decided to pull the old Fuji out, clean it up and return it to its once former glory.  

I ordered new parts, cleaned it and painted it, slapped new derailleurs and tires and brakes on it...pretty much an entire rebuild.  I tightened everything up, lubed the chain, wrapped the handle bars and took my baby out for a ride.

In my hometown there is only one real hill.  At the top of this hill sits the a small college (where I attended summer school) and a decent view.  For my inaugural ride, then, I headed up towards the college to tool around a bit.  Once done, I began to ride back down the hill.  Here's where things got a bit gnarly.  As I began to pedal furiously down the hill, I made the decision to blast through the four-way stop sign at the crest.  No problem so far.  As I cranked through the intersection and picked up speed, I assumed the classic bikers tuck: standing up a bit on the pedals, head down, butt up, nose practically on the handlebars.  As I picked up more and more speed - I must of been going darn near 35 mph - I entered that zone of intense, high focus us extreme athletes sometimes achieve.


Except for the fact that I heard an odd noise, a sort of metallic, single "ping" noise.  Still moving very fast, I glanced down towards my front tire, moving my eyes ever so slightly.  In the brief millisecond before my world exploded, I caught just a glimpse of my right-side brake lever, still attached to the brake cable, somehow free from its mooring on the handle bar.  The brake lever wasn't just sitting there, though.  No, no, it was swinging, swinging in towards the rapidly spinning front wheel.  And there was nothing I could do about it.

The last thing I remember seeing was a single movie frame of black road top, then it was just pain.  Black, hot crazy pain.  In the span of about 1/2 second, the brake lever wrapped itself into the front wheel, the front wheel came to a stop, the bike rotated up and around the front wheel, and the rider was thrown - face first - into the pavement.  I tumbled, a slid, I rolled, I slid some more, and I crashed.  I think, I THINK, I just had time to tuck my head to the side, absorbing most of the impact with my left shoulder.  Thus the broken collarbone.  I also was not wearing shirt.  Thus the unbelievable case of road rash I suffered all along my back and side.  Finally, I also was not wearing a helmet.  Thus, God once again reached down and saved me from my own foolish self.

After I stopped tumbling and sliding, and after my now destroyed Fuji came to rest, I rose to my feet (a bit unsteadily), my left arm hanging from its busted collar bone, blood running down my back and legs, and I pondered what to do next.  Obviously I needed help, so I began to walk from house to house, knocking on doors.  Not surprisingly, people weren't all too eager to assist a crazy looking guy, covered in scrapes and blood, wearing no shirt, staggering around from house to house.  Finally though, a very nice man saw me and gave me a lift to the local hospital.  The nurses spent a couple of hours picking the debris and rocks and gravel out of my back, treated my raw scraped back and busted collar bone, and called my parents.  I spent the next few weeks of summer school wearing a shirt draped over my back, gauze and padding covering my flayed back, my arm in a sling.  I was quite a sight, I'm sure.

That was the last time I pedaled a road bike, until recently, and this unforgettable moment of glory always comes to mind when I zip down any hill.  And believe me, I always wear a helmet and I check my brake levers before every ride.


Just Call Me Jeremiah

I recently went on vacation, 2 weeks even.  It was glorious.  I headed to Colorado to enjoy the fall, but instead I wound up enjoying the arrival of an early winter.  The first week I spent in Estes Park, just outside Rocky Mountain National Park.  I had never been there before and was looking forward to some hiking and biking.  Due to the cold temperatures (dropped to 10 degrees one night), biking was out.  However I did do some hiking.  In particular, I took a 5 hour hike to a mountain lake who's name I forget.  As I hiked higher into the mountains, the snow kept piling up and the people around me kept dropping off.  Finally, I ended up alone at the little mountain lake: barren, frozen, cold, isolated.  Here's a picture:


I felt a little bit like Jeremiah Johnson:

This was my first experience hiking any real distance in the snow.  Although I don't particularly like the cold, I really enjoyed it.  Something about the quiet, the solitude, the barren landscape.  Perhaps I'll try it again.


Houston, Interrupted

A bit back, my job took me to Houston for 3 weeks to work on some video projects.  I didn't want to go to Houston, but it was probably best for everyone else involved.  But the fact remains, I don't like Houston and I didn't like being there. Having lived there for a year, I am well acquainted with Houston and it's ways, ways that constantly convince me it's one of the nastiest cities in America.  (At least for me.  I realize there are millions of people in the Houston area, most of whom probably like living there well enough.  If you're one of these people, let's just agree to disagree and move on.)

The "Houston office," where I was spending my time, is exactly the kind of generic, bland semi-high rise office building I've always hoped to avoid.  Complete with cubicles and an HVAC system beyond the control of the occupants, the Houston office depresses me.  To access the building (since I was working very long hours), I obtained two things: a standard metal key, for the office door, and a magnetic key card, for opening the parking lot gate and main lobby doors.  So, armed with my keys, my 15 passenger van, and a steely resolve to put my head down, get my work done and leave as quickly as possible, I went to work.

Two things happened shortly after my arrival, things that served to further cement my already dim view of Houston.  To set the stage, though, let me explain my work hours during my stay in Houston:  Roll in to work around 8:00 am or so, work till lunch, come back from lunch, work till dinner, eat dinner, come back to work, work till midnight, 1:00 am, 2:00 am or worse.  Drive to the place I was sleeping, get a few hours of sleep, get up and do it again.  Every day.  For three weeks.  Bleh.   (Full disclosure: I did take two days off while in Houston.)

Back to the story.  On day three, I left the office for a late dinner, around 7:00 pm or so.  I walked out the door and to the aforementioned 15 passenger van.  As I settled into the driver's seat, I thought I heard something in the back of the van, something that sounded a bit like paper being crumpled.  It was a very soft sound, and it quickly went away, so I dismissed it.  As I turned the key and started the van though, the sound resumed, much louder this time.  This time I thought, "What the heck?"  I was convinced something or someone was in the van with me.  I was looking in the rearview mirror, and turning around  to look, but I couldn't see anything.  So, I crawled out of the drivers seat and began making my way towards the back, preparing myself to deal with the raccoon or possum or murderer.  However, all I found were little bits of black glass.  Lots of black glass.  Black glass that, at one time, used to be a part of the large rear panel window of the van.  

How I missed the fact that the huge rear panel window had been punched out, as I walked right by it to get into the van, I'll never know.  But the fact remained: At some point prior to 7:00 pm, someone walked up to the van, knocked a huge hole in the big window of the van, and, I guess, just looked around.  There wasn't anything in the van to steal, luckily, but I guess you never know until you look.

Truth be told, though, I wasn't all THAT upset about the van window.  It didn't even strike me as odd someone would bust out the window and root around, in full view of the building in early evening.  I mean, it IS Houston.  Plus, it could have been worse.  I could have happened the night previous, which would have been bad.  Why, you might ask?  Because....

After my second night of work (the night before), I left the office very late, sometime around 1:30 or so.  I gathered my backpack, locked the office door behind me, rode the elevator down, and went out to the van.  However, this being only my second night in Houston, I had not yet received my keys to the building.  Since I was leaving, going home, you might think, "what's the big deal?"  Well, the big deal comes from the fact that a person must have the magnetic key to both enter and EXIT the parking lot.  So, when I got in the van and began to drive off, it suddenly dawned on me there was no way for to leave the parking lot...I couldn't open the gate!  Stuck.

Well, I parked, got out and walked around, probing the perimeter for weakness, any weakness.  There was none.  No way to get out.  Since it was so late, and since I am such a nice, empathetic person, I decided it was too late to call for help.  So...

I crawled into the back seat, stretched out and spent the night in the 15 passenger van.  Spent my time waking up every 20 minutes or so, alternating between Houston muggy heat and chill from the air conditioner.  Plus, the van isn't very comfortable.  Finally, at about 7:00 am, a building manager showed up to unlock some doors.  I was ready for him.  I immediately jumped in the driver's seat, zoomed out of the accursed parking lot, went to my friend Kyle's house and went to bed.  For 2 hours.

At least no one broke into the van while I was sleeping inside.


Hey, wait a minute...

Yes, I've changed my blog.  I became weary of trying to keep up with Wordpress and all its plugins, updates, etc.  Honestly, although Wordpress is a fine blog platform, it was probably more than I needed.  So I switched.

I've been using Squarespace for work and found it powerful but fairly easy.  Additionally, it's a very well put-together platform.  So, here it is, my new blog in rough form.  I plan on tweaking and playing around with it in the future but would love to hear your thoughts.