Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Hair Loss and Residual Self Image

I needed a haircut, or at least I thought that I did. Normally, I keep my hair really short because it gets all poofy and ya’know like totally unmanageable and stuff. It could even get so long and unruly it might actually take on a life of its own and I’ll be combing it in the morning and it will purr or gnaw on the comb or something.

I mentioned this fact to my wife during dinner last night (the fact about needing a haircut not the thought that my hair might start to purr or something equally horrifying). At that moment she made a comment involving the length of my hair and how having my hair cut professionally instead of doing it myself might hide my bald spot.

The last two words took a second to sink in…

Bald Spot…Bald spotBald Spot… echo echo echo

WHAT?? I laughed at the ridiculous nature of what she had said and blew it off as best I could. All the while, those words rattled around in my head. “BALD SPOT??? What bald spot? What the heck is she talking about? I don’t have any such thing… I’m only 38, brilliantly handsome, witty, athletic and pretty much super-cool in every way… People like that don’t have bald spots… Unheard of…

I must have looked a little shocked, so she deftly pounded the topic home with a verbal pile driver by saying, “It’s not so bad, really. You are tall enough that most people don’t see it.”

Ack! Oh yeah, that reeeally helps assuage my fears.” I thought. (Although I may have actually voiced the “Ack!” part.) Her “You’re tall” theory didn’t help at all, especially since I know that I spend 99.9% of my time sitting at a desk behind a computer where all the people that walk in are naturally taller than me!” Crap! I was shaken to the core…

Everyone has an image of what they look like in their head, and that is how everyone assumes everyone else sees them. I think Morpheus called it “Residual Self Image” as he explained the computer world to Neo in the first Matrix movie…uh…I’ll move on now…

Sooo, I had this image in my head, and it wasn’t too far off the one I see in the mirror every morning. Well the reflection wasn’t too different except for the parts where my mental image was more handsome, less scruffy, less bleary eyed, somehow younger, and exuded an aura of sheer-mega-awesomeness as compared to the skinny, goofy looking guy staring back at me from mirror.

Even after last night’s comments about bald spots, I went about cutting my hair this morning and pulled out a mirror to look at the back of my head to make sure I didn’t miss anything or accidentially shave a Nike Swoosh back there. That’s when I finally noticed a version of me that…uh… everyoneelsesees

There it was in all its unflattering glory. Good Lord! There is this great thinning patch on the top of my head! What the heck is going on here? I’m sure it’s never been there before!!! It’s like a miniature version of the deforested Amazon river basin…without the Toucans and Howler Monkeys… Which, by the way, just might just take up residence if I let my hair get too long. How long has this follicly-challenged patch been there??? How could this have happened? What’s next? Am I going to wake up one morning and discover a second face on the back of my head or something? Like the evil Voldemort that appeared on the back of the head of the Dark Arts professor in one of the Harry Potter movies.

*Side note* Ok, the super-cool and witty part of my super-extra-mega-awesome-self-image is a little tarnished now that I realize I have referenced both a Sci-Fi movie and something from a Harry Potter movie in the same post. Crap… I’m about 2 seconds from realizing that I am a serious mega-geek.

Nope…I’ve repressed all that now. I’m like totally waaay cool again.

My reaction to the previously unknown/unrecognized balding was quite calm, reserved, and most assuredly dignified… In other words, I don’t think I sobbed too loudly at the shattered remains of my self-image scattered on the floor.

In hindsight (i.e. now that I have stopped pitifully moaning about it) I guess I knew about the euphemistically “thinning hair” since I have been cutting my own hair for a decade or more. I had always managed to explain it away as yet another bad self haircut that I convinced myself I would get right the next time.

Man, sometimes life sneaks up on you I guess, or maybe I really will try letting someone else cut my hair…

Thursday, September 30, 2010

6 gap - levels of acceptable?

The rain started early. That's one way to put it. When I rolled into the parking lot of the Dahlonega high school to attempt my 5th Six Gap ride, the heavens opened up and became a downpour complete with flashes of lightning that would make any Miami photo-shoot pale in comparison. It was only 6am. I had a long day ahead of me. I hadn't slept well knowing that I hadn't trained quite as well as I have in the past, and a rain soaked starting line didn't help to ease my fears of how quickly this ride could become un-fun. Riding bikes is all about fun, right?

The more times I have done this ride, the more I have dreaded the endless hours of preparation that are required simply to make sure that one can complete the distance. I trained all right, because I have experienced what poor preparation can do to a person out on the steep inclines of north Georgia. It ain't pretty people. Trust me on that one. This year, I had done the work, all to make this challenge as enjoyable as one can. It's supposed to be a difficult task, and by doing it I find a purpose to keep fit and keep myself from becoming completely consumed by the office and all the other difficulties that life throws at you.

As the rain came down and battered the car windows, I was still happy to be there and happy to be able to face some of the hardest roads that the south has to offer.

I don't have many pictures of this soggy several hours, and I have had less time to actually load them, but I figured I would offer up a teaser entry to the blog. I'll write more tomorrow and post a couple of shots of the rain soaked splendor that was Six Gap 2010.

Friday, August 20, 2010

We are all just M.A.M.I.L.s?

Dang. One of the fun activities I personally identifiy with as being great fun, somewhat unusual, and kind of Out-of-the-Mainstream-Edgy is actually just another typical mainstream commercialized un-original joke.

I remember thinking that skydiving was like that during the decade I spent in that sport, until the X games started. Then it turned out that everybody and his brother seemed to have become “Jumpers” even though they had only done a tandem once and threw up on themselves in the process. Now cycling is just another of the activities pushed off as standard fare for the mid life crisis crew.

M.A.M.I.L. = Middle Aged Men In Lycra.

They even cheapen the thrill I had on the recent cycling vacation saying that the typical "Fred" has to make a spiritual cycling journey to the mountains. It’s not unusual, or a way to differentiate one's self, it's just another average and predictable thing that mid-life people do.

Oh well, here’s to just being one of the masses that our youth oriented culture laughs at while rolling their eyes. To paraphrase the article (because I’m too lazy to find the line and copy it), It’s better than finding mid-life-mediocrity at the bottom of a pint glass… (My version is better anyway.)

Friday, August 13, 2010

Sleep Talking

Aiden has been on a roll recently. He may talk all the time in his sleep, but recently he has ended up in our bed somehow, so I get to hear his nightly commentary. Each time he does it, I think that he has woken, but when I look, his eyes remain closed. Sometimes he will sit up and laugh with his eyes closed and then flop back down on the pillow that he manages to pilfer when he sneaks into our bed.

Here are my favorites quotes so far:
  1. Following some loud laughing he yelled "MIIIISSSSED MEEEE!" in the typical sing song style you would hear on a playground.
  2. "That's the Ferris wheel for all of us to ride on..."
  3. "Mine! MINE!"
I wonder if his dreams are any more real to him than daily life. It certainly doesn't sound any different from what I can tell.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


Another summer of fun and vacations comes to a close as the kids head back to school. I look at these pictures and realize how much changes in the space of a year. I got a picture of Bryce and Ansley on the first day of school last year, and the differences are really quite remarkable. Bryce is excited about Second Grade, and Ansley is already a First Grader.

I'm glad I have photos to freeze these moments because they are so different looking and their personalities change so much in such a short period of time.

Friday, June 25, 2010

A day of opposites - Hot and Cold / Desert and Alpine climates

Extremes, while most humans seek to avoid them, sometimes they find us anyway. Nathan and I had planned on doing a really long and difficult ride at one point during the trip, and since we managed to survive the first day without injury, we thought it best to attempt one of the more spectacular journeys before we had an accident and couldn't experience it. There was certainly a game of balancing fun and riding hard with worry about crashing out and not being able to enjoy the rest of the trip.

Moab has a lot to offer in the sense of mountain biking trails, but none of them, aside from White Rim and Kokopelli, both over 100 miles of trails and jeep road, are extremely long. I'm sure there are some other "Moses Rides" (i.e. 40 years wandering the wilderness) that I don't know about, but those are the two big rides that I know of out there. The relatively short distances make sense now that we have been out there to experience it. It's a difficult place to ride with the heat, sand, rock and wind. Plus, so many of the rides are literally "right there" in relation to town, you can find plenty of places to scare yourself silly on a bike without spending hours reaching them. I'll equate a 15 mile ride in Moab to about a 25 mile ride at home for levels of exhaustion and soreness meted out on the body, so riding a big 25 mile trail loaded with trees, rocks, sand pits, and cliffside exposure was going to be all we would feel like doing in a day.

Varying climates

Brenna wisely opted out of coming on this particular ride and gave us a lift from town to the trail head. I know I just said that so many of the rides were very close to town, well what was surprising, this one was too. The drive was long, an hour or so, but we really were only 12 miles from town. In that short distance we went from arid desert and a cool morning at 4,000 feet above sea level to 38 degrees, howling wind, and 8,500 feet. (I have jumped from quite a few planes at lower altitudes than that.) The contrast was dramatic. Red sandstone and blowing sand gave way to snowcapped mountains and the white trunks of Aspen trees that had just begun to show the pale green leaves of spring in late May.

From Moab Mountain Biking Trip

From Moab Mountain Biking Trip

We stopped at the trailhead for the Kokopelli trail and opened the doors to find a harshly cold wind, especially when one is used to 80 degrees from the day before. I was seriously under dressed for this ride and was shivering almost immediately. Nathan had prepared better and wore long sleeves, but after a few minutes, the wind had cut through his light layers as well. I only had a jersey and shorts on, and that was all that had been required in the past day's riding, so I had unwisely assumed that today wouldn't be much different. Brenna had tucked herself in the shelter of of the Jeep with the heater on full blast as Nathan and I put our bikes together, and she would give us nasty looks (lovingly nasty of course) when we would invade her shelter and open a door letting the cold wind whip through and pull the heat out with it. I decided, at the suggestion of my compatriots, to wear my fleece on the ride. Brenna even suggested that it was only a 20 dollar one from Costco (no North Face stuff for me), and I could leave it for another hiker to keep if it got too hot during the ride. Of course, that item has some history behind it now, so I never would have left it. I just decided that being warm-ish at the top would be worth the trouble of finding some way to carry it the rest of the ride once it got hot.

From Moab Mountain Biking Trip

We were ready, and we set off down the last leg of the much longer Kokopelli trail rolling and hopping over mud and loose dirt as the trail cut through alpine meadows and scrub. It was obvious that this area got a great deal more moisture than the desert canyon only a few miles away.

We felt like we were on motocross bikes with the effortless speed the downhills produced, and we covered ground at a really quick pace. Soon we came to the LPS/UPS junction of the trail. (Lower/Upper Porcupine Singletrack) That slowed us down enough to notice that the dark fertile looking soil exposed on the Kokopelli had transitioned back into the red tinged sand and tan slickrock that we had been used to. The trail had become significantly more rocky, and we were surrounded by really gnarled evergreen trees that I had assumed were Pinyon trees but wikipedia helped me identify as Utah Juniper. In reality, there was probably an abundant mix of both of these types of plants, but the Juniper's twisted and half dead looking trunks caught my eye on so many trails in the area, so I remember more of them.

The trail would wind in and out of these trees and would send us up and over rocks that would climb abruptly and then turn into a 20 foot descent down a piece of slickrock where we would have to put the seat in front of our stomachs and have our rear ends nearly brushing the rear wheel to keep from falling over the handlebars as we skidded in a semi-controlled slide down the face of the rock.

Prior to coming on this downhill slugfest of a ride, we had discussed the trail with some of the local riders at the shop, and they had mentioned part of the ride. "Um, yeah, there is this one section... Yeah, dude, it's pretty steep and all walk it." I'm glad I am writing all this down now (Well, I may be glad, but you guys are probably pretty tired of it by now...too bad...It's my blog. pfft...)

As I was saying, I'm glad I'm writing this now because even after this short time I can't exactly recall where on the trail this section was, but I'll remember what it looked like for quite a while. I was in the lead and noticed two large sandstone rocks. The trail that should have continued between them seemed to just disappear. I slowed and yelled back to Nathan to slow down. When we rolled to a stop and looked down at where the trail had gone, we both gave each other the look of "This is where they expect us to ride?" It was a narrow slot of rock a few feet wide with jutting rocks that was so steep you had to climb down. It was un-rideable. Of course I'm sure that some goofball rides it, but had we tried, the best we could have hoped for would be a compound fracture. I climbed down part way and Nathan handed me the bikes. We continued this process to a level spot at the bottom and naturally had to stage fake crash pictures. This shot does not do justice to how steep and long this section was. I'm not sure why cameras take some of the perspective out of images like this, but you will have to take my word for it.

From Moab Mountain Biking Trip

We tried to continue on and found that the steep section hadn't ended yet. There was another 20 foot high smooth slickrock face with a drop off at the end. This didn't seem to be a good spot to try to hop back on the bikes, so I started to shuffle down holding the bike's seat tube with my left hand. Soon shuffling became sliding, and suddenly I was on my rear end skidding down the slope with one hand still on the bike and the other grasping for anything that would slow me down before I went off the trail. I remember Nathan yelling from the top, "Dig in your heels!" It's funny now because that tactic probably wouldn't have made any difference. I picked a tree at the end of the slope to grab onto to end my forward movement before I went off the edge of the trail at the bottom. Merely to "grab onto" the tree may have been somewhat hopeful at that point, crash into and cling to for dear life would have been a more apt description of what I was planning. Instead the end of this slide turned out beautifully. In a rare moment of coordination, I planted my feet perfectly and somehow ended up at the bottom of the rock standing perfectly balanced and still next to the tree with the bike in hand. It was almost like I had planned it, but of course, I have said too much already and you know the truth of the event. I looked back up the rock at Nathan and said "Be careful". He shook his head with a "Well DU-UH" expression and using his far superior balance and coordination, proceeded to come down the rock without the least bit of trouble. I wish that I could have done that. I could have used a bit less drama on my descent, but I will stick with my version that I practically needed a parachute to slow down because it makes for better storytelling.

The trail was "relatively" more sane looking after getting through all that, so we climbed back on our bikes and started racing through the trees again. We really couldn't see more than a small section of the trail in front of us due to all the turns, rocks, and trees. Then the trail came to an open section and began to skirt along the edge of Castle Valley. The views were spectacular and the trail at times would shoot out onto rocky ledges with the cliff face dropping away hundreds of feet to our right. The the trail would repeatedly dart back into the trees and then re-appear on the cliff edge. If we didn't have our wits about us and we missed a turn or took a bad line, we would have had time to think about the mistake before our ill-equipped BASE jump came to an abrupt end. Nathan and I took turns leading from time to time and whoever was in the front would yell "Death on the right" when the trail would re-appear at the cliff. Not quite the normal announcement while mountain biking. Normal comments would be something "Rock" or "Tree" or "Drop off" every so often. You know, things in the trail that might cause you trouble and toss you off the bike, not kill you.

From Moab Mountain Biking Trip

This view was part of the trail, and the morning after this ride was done, I woke struggling and flailing a couple of times after nightmares about falling off cliffs. I though that the comment in the Rider Mel's Guidebook about this trail resulting in some required therapy sessions was a joke. I guess you can believe some stuff you read.

We had come a long way from the cold start of the day up in the La Sal mountains.

From Moab Mountain Biking Trip

We pedaled on mile after mile and the fleece I was wearing was getting pretty hot, but there was no time for stopping as every turn presented another view or obstacle to ride over or climb. Nathan was in the lead around one turn, and as I approached the turn I heard the distinct clatter of a bike that had departed from its rider. That sound was accompanied by the OOOF! of Nathan using a rock and his chin to stop his fall. (Personally I'm a fan of putting my hands and arms in jeopardy before my chin, but what do I know.) He was moaning and twisted on the ground, and I used my extensive knowledge of mountain bike etiquette by first asking, "Are you okay?" and then asking "Should I help you up or get a camera?" He mumbled something about "Get the camera." That moment, in the mountain biking with friends section of the etiquette manual, allowed for full on laughter and the ensuing embellishment of the crash story to commence.

From Moab Mountain Biking Trip

By the time we finished the ride the rock he hit had grown from a foot across to a few feet and the ledge he fell off went from a foot high to 5-6 feet. In 15 years, I'm sure this story will have morphed into him hitting a bajillion ton boulder with jagged knife edges and then falling off the cliff into Castle Valley itself ending with him narrowly avoiding death by impalement on the rocks below and miraculously only gashing his chin.

We approached the end of the mesa and the trail became very narrow and very technical with rocks so close that they would hit both legs as we rode between them. We had run out of room and had to descend down to the river by skirting the along the edge of the trail cut into the cliff. We slowly rode down the twists and turns following the edge of the mesa and again the trail disappeared down an impossible section that we had to dismount and climb down. We discussed how the trail designers ever expected people to ride this section as Nathan handed the bikes down to me once I climbed down. Then another rider appeared. He made a hard right well before where we were doing our rock climbing with bikes. We watched as he paused and expertly rode down the face of a boulder to the bottom. Ah! There was a trick to it! Now, the next time, I will be able to show some local knowledge to the tourist hacks wearing fleece in 80+ degree temperatures.

Nathan before handing his bike down to me on yet another difficult section of trail.

From Moab Mountain Biking Trip

With the campground in sight at the base of the mesa we knew we were home. It was hot and we were really tired. I stopped, rolled up my fleece and stuffed it between my Camelbak and my back for the ride back to town. Ah, much cooler, but that wasn't really an option on the trail because it would have bounced out on every other turn.

Once back in town we met up with Brenna and went over to the Moab Brewery for a seriously late lunch. There, we re-told our story of the ride to Brenna and she was knowingly nodding her head at our outlandish account of the events. Nathan also discovered that even eating Hummus is difficult when one uses one's chin to stop a fall. Even so, we were planning out the next day's rides before the end of lunch.

Slickrock trail, attack of Cactisaurus-Rex (we didn't really plan that part), and hiking were on the list for the next day's adventures. I may or may not get around to writing about it as long as this post has been, but we will see if I get some time to think before the memory fades into nothing.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Mountain Biking Moab - Can I come up with enough adjectives?

Ok, on yet another rainy day in Alabama, I think it's time to get down some of my thoughts on riding out in Moab. (read: I'm not going mountain biking in that rain-soaked slop outside, so I'll write about it instead.)

An adjective list to describe all the different experiences and sights of riding the trails in Utah is perhaps a bit too long, so I'll stick with just a few that relate to some of our rides specifically.

Day 1: Klondike Bluffs & Gemini Bridges

Relevant adjectives: Dusty, Windy, Dry, Rainy, Remarkable, Tiring, and Fun!

We rolled out of bed and ate breakfast on our first day. I'll have to say that having eggs, homemade waffles, endless coffee and fresh fruit prepared for you every day really does help one's riding. In fact we would eat and 7am and then forget lunch until after we had finished riding at 2-3pm.

We picked up our bikes at Moab Cyclery and headed out to Klondike Bluffs. This was Brenna's first real mountain bike experience, and she had a nice full suspension Cannondale with disk brakes which was an infinitely better bike than her 25$ garage sale junker that I fixed up for her. "Cool, it actually stops when I squeeze the brakes!", she said. I never said that I knew HOW to fix up a bike when I said that I "fixed up" a bike for her.

From Moab Mountain Biking Trip

Klondike Bluffs was advertised somewhere as a beginner ride with some slickrock. You know the kind of ride with pictures of kids and families happily riding along. I would not advertise it as a total beginner ride after experiencing it, the first miles were all on a light tan sandstone slick rock, and were ALL uphill. Uphill means climbing 800 or more feet to the Arches National Park overlook where we had to walk.

From Moab Mountain Biking Trip

I told you it was steep!

The rolling ancient sand dunes were a great first experience to get all of us to ride together as a group. Nathan and I could play around and find more technical areas to ride while Brenna was able to find a workable path for her skill level. There was something for everyone. This was certainly an eye opener if they consider that a beginner ride out in Moab. Brenna gave me the look of, "Uh, this is steep and I'm a little over my head here." Even with something quite a bit more difficult than her normal training trails, she rode very well and I think she enjoyed the ride. If this was beginner, Nathan and I certainly found out what the locals consider intermediate and advanced later on in the trip.

At the top of the slickrock climb, we dismounted the bikes and hiked up a half mile of steep trail to the bluffs overlook. That was our first experience of "Holy cow, that's a long way down." The first experience of many that is. We clamored over the large rocks that made up the top of the overlook, and Nathan made his way down to another rock overlook. As a side note, climbing around on rock with mountain bike shoes doesn't work so well.

From Moab Mountain Biking Trip

There is Nathan, who is much more of a mountain climber than I would be in a lousy pair of cycling shoes that have traction equivalents of wet tile. He found that he couldn't make it back over without taking said shoes off, and tossed one to me without realizing how close it came to plummeting down the cliff. I had to dive a bit to save it, but I certainly wasn't going to sacrifice myself for a 60 buck pair of riding shoes. Riding home on one shoe would have seriously put an element of NOT FUN on his ride, but fortunately I snagged it and he was able to climb up.

On the way back to the truck, Nathan and I looped around the Baby Steps trail which was an offshoot from the Klondike Bluffs trail as Brenna rolled back down the slickrock at a decidedly faster pace than we had on the way up.

From Moab Mountain Biking Trip

Here I am under a balanced rock on the Baby steps trail. I'm sure the enormous size of my helmet would protect me though. There are quite a few rocks perched on spires and ledges like this in the area, and quite a few are flat out spectacular. The softer rock around the base erodes away and leaves these over-sized rocks resting on something that doesn't look like it could possibly hold it up. I guess in the enormity of geologic time, it doesn't hold up, and these rocks only sit on these precarious ledges for a moment and then fall.

During this first day of riding the clouds muted the sun periodically, and towards the end of the Klondike ride, the winds went from 10mph to 30mph and just stayed at that speed. We went for lunch and decided to do another ride while Brenna went hiking. After the first ride, and her longest ride to date, she was cooked and bruised enough for one day.

There were clouds of reddish brown dust that shrouded the cliff faces around town as the winds kicked up a pretty decent dust storm, and to add to that, there were also scattered rain showers that we could see as we rolled out of town to the second ride of the day.

Gemini Bridges was mainly downhill, or so we thought. It started on top of a mesa near Canyonlands National Park, and descended past the bridges to the canyon floor. What we didn't realize was that we had to climb several hundred feet back out of the canyon and then skirt along a jeep trail that was cut into a cliff side.

Here is Nathan sitting on top of one of the bridges, and as the name describes, there are actually two bridges separated by a gap a few feet wide that either collapsed or eroded away.

From Moab Mountain Biking Trip

We could see for miles and could watch all the gray columns of rain swirling around the area, but on the ride, we managed to only get wet briefly, and in the desert humidity, we were dry again in minutes as we rocketed down hill into the canyon. The canyon floor was littered with boulders the size of cars and some the size of my first house that had tumbled down from the sheer cliff faces on either side of us. I'm glad the trail wasn't too difficult to ride during this section because we spent most of the time looking up.

We were looking up for a couple of reasons: One, to marvel at the natural beauty, and Two, to not be crushed by any falling "natural beauty" that was in evidence all around us.

From Moab Mountain Biking Trip

Here Nathan and I took a break mid way through the canyon floor section of the trail.

Once we got to the end of the canyon, we had to ride back up a trail that would lead us back out onto the highway, and back to Moab for some food! This climb was rewarded by topping out on the side of the mesa that lined town. The views of the road from several hundred feet up were good, and rattling and banging down the winding dirt and rock to reach the road and the end of the trail was great.

From Moab Mountain Biking Trip

You can see the dust kick up in the wind behind Nathan as he navigates the trail.

From Moab Mountain Biking Trip

Here I am just before the descent, and you can see the dust storm blowing through the background. It was a big haze like a fog, but it made you cough. Good thing we were only spending all our day huffing and puffing on bikes.

We were flat out tired by the time we rode back into town.

Not too bad for a first day of riding, and then off to Brenna's and my anniversary celebration.

Warning! Serious Mush Ahead : If you don't like it, skip to the next paragraph or something...
It has been a happy 12 years, and I know that her willingness to spend our anniversary in a desert being beaten up by rocks while riding bikes is yet another reason I love her.
Mush Warning are safe now...

Next Post: When the guy at the bike shop said stuff like "This trail will scare you." and "There is this one section...uh...Yeah, it's a little steep and we all walk it.", he wasn't kidding.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Moab Utah the supermodel of landscapes?

Have you ever known "that person" that couldn't take a bad picture? Someone so photogenic that they could fall into a trash dump in the dark, get covered in mud, and still end up looking good? Well, when it comes to landscapes, Moab is "that place". I'm sure that there are loads of places that you could be blind with a finger over part of the camera lens and still fire off good looking pictures. I took so many pictures of the place while we were there, and aside from me being in some of the photos, many turned out really well. I mean it was really difficult to sort through and actually decide which shots were better than others. From a photography perspective, that's a pretty good problem to have.

From Moab Mountain Biking Trip

Postcard country anyone? The collection of professional and amateur photographers were lined up as the sun set on these amazing natural structures, and all were respectful to allow a quick shot and to get out of the way in order for the next guy to have a clear view. These arches, more than 2000 in the Arches National Park, are so striking and unusual that you simply must see it to believe it. Delicate Arch is probably the most photographed arch in the place, and even after seeing it on a zillion postcards, when we climbed up to the sandstone overlook, it was simply awe inspiring when it came to view. It is monstrously large, and we were able to shuffle down the steep sandstone bowl to get to it's base. The next shot is of me laying down under the arch to shoot upwards, and then there is one with Brenna and myself at it's base to give some perspective of size.

From Moab Mountain Biking Trip

From Moab Mountain Biking Trip

We look like ants under it. Strangely, Nathan (taking the picture) kept telling Brenna to stay put and for me to "back up another step". I wonder why when there was this big cliff back there? I'll ask him sometime... just kidding

The geology of the area is quite amazing. What produced all these arches, the massive sandstone cliffs, all the different types of sandstone, and why are these features where they are in relation to town? Well, it wasn't what I had expected. Initially, I assumed that all the area had been ocean floor at some point to create the sandstone (which it had, twice actually over the past 300 million years), and I thought that the Colorado river and the Green River had carved out the landscapes. Naturally the rivers did do some of the carving, but the really strange features were created more by what was left behind by the ancient oceans. Salt. Loads of salt. There was, and is, a massive quantity of salt under the whole area. Potash salt is a product mined from the area, and there are vast evaporation ponds out on one of the rides that cast a strange conflict of blue water against the desert cliffs surrounding the ponds.

When you put huge amounts of salt under tremendous pressure, it takes on a strange property. It behaves something like a semi-solid goo. It is able to squeeze around and shift. This shifting salt is what produced the Moab that we see in the movies today. Millions of years ago, the weight of the rock above a large deposit of salt eventually collapsed downward creating a depression in the middle, this in turn, squeezed the salt out to the sides and forced the sandstone cliffs upward nearly a thousand feet up on either side of the town. The rivers cut through the rising sandstone and the rain and wind eroded the soft rock over time leaving these amazing structures of arches and thin fins of rock that stand alone in the desert.

This is one of the potash evaporation ponds. They dye the water blue to speed the evaporation process and it looks really cool against the background.

From Moab Mountain Biking Trip

To show you an example of how much salt is in the area, look at the top of the rocks in the picture below.

From Moab Mountain Biking Trip

I noticed these rocks in a stream crossing out on the Amasa Back trail that I rode on my last ride in the area. That is salt dried on the tops of the rocks. I'm glad that I didn't run out of water because the creeks would have afforded me no relief apparently.

Thanks for humoring me on my poor attempt at a geology lesson. I only left out about a million things that happened over a couple hundred million years. Deserts like the Sahara producing sand dunes and other nifty geologic happenings that forced up the La Sal Mountain range you see behind the arch in the first picture. All that stuff fascinates me, but probably not everyone. I really will get around to writing about the bike rides and other adventures. This was just a piece of natural history that I thought was worthy of passing along to my throngs of avid readers... Now that I think about it, I hope I didn't lose too many readers by doing this post. It would stink not to be recognized as I walk down the streets anymore by my adoring fans.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Moab Utah - Part 1 of...well...who knows if I'll get to 2

Summer has hit and hit in a big way. All I want to do is stay outside and ride my bike around on the trails. In years past, I would have been heavily into my road bike by now, but the waning of my cycling desire has left me more inclined to see the natural beauty that trails have to offer. Subsequently, I'm much slower and heavier than normal for this time of year. I actually was worried (somewhat) about my conditioning and additional pudgy baggage making life difficult on perhaps the most anticipated trip of my life. Thankfully, my padding didn't hurt me any on the uphills and perhaps gave me a little better gravitational attraction for the insanity that was and is Moab Utah.

The third time is the charm, right?

Anticipation? We are talking anticipation on a grand scale. To give you perspective, It's hard to live up the the buildup and hype of a Christmas morning. Now imagine you are 8 years old, and the coolest toy you can imagine is coming to you in Santa's sleigh. Then imagine that after waiting for 6 months, Christmas was delayed for 6 more months thanks to a thing called W-O-R-K. grrr. AND THEN you wait another 6 months with all the additional buildup that waiting a whole year for this uber-cool toy could pile on only to find that Christmas was delayed for another 12 months by a thing called a C-L-A-V-I-C-L-E. You would have cried...had you been 8 and all. I didn't cry but I thought I might..sniff...and I'm 37....sometimes.

Finally, 2 full years after the gift was given (Moab was my 10th wedding anniversary gift) we boarded a plane to spend our 12th anniversary in some of the most spectacular settings the world has to offer. Could this place possibly be cool enough to live up to 2 years worth of anticipation? We would see.

From Moab Mountain Biking Trip

Nathan, Brenna and I landed in Denver at the end of the plains where the Rocky Mountain range juts up from the flat grassy world of Mid-America. We decided to drive over the mountains on our way to Moab. I had never seen the Rockies aside from a plane window once, and since our options of landing in Salt Lake, UT were more expensive and still 5 hours drive away, landing in Denver and driving 6 hours seemed like the logical and rather more scenic choice.

Out of our element.

On thing I noticed is that growing up in the deep south gives you a few dry days where the sky is deep blue and the humidity drops all the way to the 40% range. (It's 67% out there right now) Out west the sky is deep blue because you are at least a mile up in the sky compared to the deep south and the humidity ran no higher than 10% the whole time we were there.

Another thing is that in the deep south, we get winter, but we spend those cold-ish weeks bundling up (inadequately most of the time) to try to continue to do our normal summer sports in the cold sloppy rain and mud. In the Rockies, late May still had people packing snowskis on the roof of their ubiquitous SUV's and Subarus. Honestly, I have never seen so many Subarus with all manner of stickers on the windows and racks on the roofs. The snow was deep still on the mountains but you could tell it was the end of the season because dust storms had blown a fine brown powder layer over much of the normal white. I'm sure the dark colored dust is going to accelerate the melting process the way that soot is speeding the melting of Greenland's ice sheet, but that is the subject for another post. There were also loads of hikers and mountain bikers. It would seem that the Rockies and the land beyond is filled with fit and tanned people that do everything they can outside. I'm sure things get back to semi-normality for activity levels once one arrives in the big cities of California, but maybe not.

We climbed up and over the highest mountain passes I have ever seen, topping out around 11,500 feet on I-70. I could tell the air was thin up there. The altitude in Moab is at the lowest around 4,000 feet, so relatively thin air was going to play a role in most of our mountain biking during the coming days.

We rumbled into Utah over open range cattle grates, with 40 mph winds buffeting the car all over the road and stopped at an overlook to do the usual touristy photo-op things. We also discovered that outdoor potties at rest stops have a sometimes unnerving windy-ness to them. I'm not sure how they built them, or what caused it, but there is a wind induced suction on the pots and...well...I'll just let the description stop there... No, we weren't making the wind...come on, that's disgusting people...why would you think that? Bathroom humor is or something...giggle...hee hee...


From Moab Mountain Biking Trip

Nice pose Nathan.

From Moab Mountain Biking Trip

Once off the interstate, we discovered that driving in Utah is a little more wild west than back at home. You find yourself driving down the middle of the road (being tourists gawking at every bluff, overlook, cattle crossing, and prairie dog) we inadvertently did a bunch of this. Everyone was in the middle of the road and when we encountered another vehicle we would simply slide over, make room, and then resume driving down the centerline. Fortunately, we couldn't travel fast because of the 85 octane gas and altitude making the car incapable of going over 75mph, so we weren't in much danger of peaking a hill and pounding into a stray cow in the road.

From Moab Mountain Biking Trip

Highway 128 being named a "scenic highway" is possibly the biggest understatement I have encountered. The Colorado river has carved out towering red cliffs and canyons from the sandstone as the land was pushed up over the past 100 million years or so. Calling this thing "scenic" is like calling St. Peters Basilica in the Vatican, somewhat ornate and kinda big for a church. With an entryway like this, Moab was already impressing us even with all the hype of the past couple of years.

From Moab Mountain Biking Trip

Fisher Towers on Hwy 128.

From Moab Mountain Biking Trip

We arrived in Moab to surprisingly little fanfare. Didn't they know I was coming? We had been planning this for 2 freaking years! Jeez...I'm going to have to call someone. Well, since there was a distinct lack of a parade and adoring fans we decided to get dinner and watch the sun set from a guys house perched hundreds of feet up a cliff. Charlie Steen had built this house overlooking the town and the red cliffs after he had made millions prospecting Uranium of all things. After his strike, the town of Moab then experienced a boom much like the gold rush, growing from 1,200 to a population of 5k or so before falling back to present day levels of around 4k people. The restaurant was listed in the Moab food guide as "fine dining". Which apparently in Moab means, dust off your hiking boots and put on a clean tee-shirt. Awesome. After spending a couple of days in town, I understand why. There isn't enough time to do all the cool things during the day and also take time to totally clean up your stuff before going out at night.

A view from the restaurant of downtown Moab.

From Moab Mountain Biking Trip

We ate, marveled at the landscape, and then headed for the Bed and Breakfast where we would set up camp for the next week. We were so excited about picking up the bikes and getting on the trails to explore this sandstone constructed area it was difficult to sleep that first night.

I am out of time for blabbering about the trip for the moment, so I will close up this post and get to all the trail riding and hiking in another one.

Friday, April 30, 2010

The new bike, a script, and a question

From Leesburg Bikefest -- 2010

As referenced in the last post, I spent the past weekend in Tampa/Leesburg/Ocala Florida at the Leesburg Bikefest. I had intended to blog and put up snarky comments and pictures on a regular basis during the event, but all the riding, eating, and gawking at people that should never wear tight clothing (and some who should only wear tight clothing) I didn't quite get around to it.

The first order of business on this trip was to pick up the new motorbike that was also referenced in the last post. I did manage leave Bob (my attention span impaired alternate personality) at home. I didn't want him around because I had already spent all my money because of him, and besides, he was perfectly content staring at SpongeBob cartoons with a box of fruit loops and some Tab soda in the living room. I really do need to thank my alternate personality though, because what I spent my last remaining fun dime on is totally AWESOME.

The red howling beast in the picture above is pretty spectacular in most every way. Brenna, my understanding and ever-so-perfect wife, even has taken a few rides on it with me. She said, "This bike leans a lot more than the other one, and it's LOUD!" after making a trip up winding roads to one of the local ridge overlooks at lunch this week. Yeah, it's a veritable plethora of fun.

Here is a brief script of our lunchtime ride:

Prior to starting the bike:

Brenna -- I have the sandwiches and a backpack, so lets go!

Brad -- Ok, Wait till you hear this thing! It's AWESOME!



Brad -- revving the motor with childlike delight and a demonic glint in his eye. WHAT?!?


Brad -- Still revving the motor as the vibration has set off every car alarm within a quarter mile and chunks of concrete begin to fall from the parking deck walls. WHAT?!?


I know you are simply riveted by this example of my literary prowess, but Bob (the personality with the short attention span if you forgot) has taken over again and is tired of the script format and all the format changing...


I was looking for some really creative way to write up the stories from this trip, but I am somewhat caught between simply posting pictures and making comments...which I have already done once...HERE. Or I thought of making up some alternate format where all the participants (Rod, Brad, & and the GhostRider) take on superhero personas and I could describe the events with a fictional subplot of our endeavors to capture (or at least really annoy) the Evil Dr. Squid von Rev-Limiter. Yes, I do think of these stories while I am sitting on a bicycle for hours...welcome to my spastic mind...

Since I am stuck between lazy and creative, could you guys pick the format? I'm sure that out of the vast number of my readers (vast in my dictionary means a number less than 12 or something there abouts) one of you may have an opinion. That means, if you actually pick how you want the posts to go, you will probably be the only person voting, hence, you win and get the story your way...Like a Whopper or whatever...

I can't promise to post anything regularly because it's too nice outside, I have a new Motorcycle, and mountain biking in MOAB is coming in a few weeks. All these items seem to keep me away from my creative and chatty time in front of a computer. I'll try to post something once or twice a week until I run out of family oriented topics related to the Bikefest. Now that I say "Family Oriented", the list of posts may be quite short...Heh heh...

Happy Friday everyone and have a fun weekend!

From Leesburg Bikefest -- 2010

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Mid-Life Crisis part...uh...what were we talking about?

I think, that as of late, I have completely lost my mind. Much like I lost my liver once in New Orleans, but that is another story...ahem

The inspiration behind this post comes from a friend on a certain social networking site that rhymes with macebook, spacebook, or lacebook...hmmm the last one sounds kinda sexy...whatever.

This friend commented when I posted an ad about selling my relatively recently acquired motorcycle, "Wow, that was a short lived mid-life crisis." Of course it wasn't short fact the only thing short about it was my attention span. This alternate attention span (I think we should name Bard, or Darb...or Bob...or...uh...Hey look a squirrel!)

Oops...I appear to be off topic again. Sorry...

Well, "Bob" took over my brain one evening, called up a friend and made the decision to buy yet another motorcycle. A Honda Interceptor VFR, and I am really excited about picking it up this weekend and riding around Florida for the second time this year. Unfortunately, Bob (Mr. Short Attention span if you are like me and forget things you just read) hadn't noticed that Brad (the actual owner of this body) hadn't sold the first bike yet. This total disregard of financial logistics or cash flows puzzled me greatly (and got Brenna to roll her eyes so dramatically that I thought they would get stuck up there...again) Eventually, I made peace with Bob and got around to the fun part about being really excited about the new bike.

The next few posts will be my absurdly entertaining (or at least just absurd) recounts of this week's trip to Tampa to purchase this new bike along with stories about riding with my Dad and the Ghostrider to Leesburg to go to a Harley Rally. The Ghostrider and I will be bringing down the average age of the attendees of the Leesburg Bikefest by quite a bit, but our wives think that our maturity levels should pretty much match up though...

In the meantime, anybody need a motorcycle?

Monday, April 12, 2010

Indy Grand Prix Alabama

Life has been pretty slow it seems recently. The repetitive nature of things doesn't lend itself to posting much. Why would anyone want to hear stories about getting up early, making the kids lunches, running around trying to figure out why they only put ONE shoe in the basket by the front door as the bus is pulling up in all it's yellow glory. "Grrr!!! WHERE IS THE MATCHING SHOE? THE BUS IS HERE!!!" That's excitement I tell ya! But you still don't want me to blog about it as regularly as it happens...

Fortunately, this past weekend has presented me with some interesting stuff to report. The family went out camping on Saturday night at Rickwood Caverns State park after visiting Oak Mountain State park and finding that there were NO tent sites available in the whole place. As a side bit of commentary, I inquired why there were no sites since from personal experience there are always some. "Why is the place so busy?", I inquired. The ranger informed me with the kind of tone that says, (WELL DUUUUH) -- "It's spring break." As I walked back to the car contemplating this tidbit of knowledge, I wondered, who the heck goes camping for a week when it's spring break? Who wants to spend a week somewhat less than well showered, reeking of campfire smoke, and eating ash sprinkled cookies and hotdogs? Wow...I love the outdoors, but if I'm off of work/school for a week on spring break, I'm not going to stop at Oak Mountain. Anyway, we did find a campsite at Rickwood, another of the local state parks, and had a ball biking at night among other activities, which will probably be part of another post.

Now for the well executed segue into the real reason for the post as you might have inferred from the title. On the drive home from camping (Hey, speaking of driving...yep there's the segue), I got a call from a friend of mine that, for some unfathomable reason, had 5 tickets to the first Indy Grand Prix out at Barber Motorsports and could get nobody to go with him. Bryce and I jumped at the chance to go and see these amazing machines race around while enjoying vendor supplied food and drink from covered seating. PERFECT!

Holy cow those cars are loud, and really really fast. That part was amazing, but even more so is the dye they put in those $5 slushies. Will their tongues stay that way??

I was truly impressed at the quality of the pictures I got with the Canon once I started editing. I don't have a zoom lens, but having a 15 mega pixel image allowed me to crop down these pictures and still have them fairly clear. The cars were going by so fast that I couldn't freeze them without a shutter speed of 1/640th of a second or faster. You can click on the images to get a larger view of them.

Here is Brenna's favorite car...for sure. (At least it's not Versace or something)

Below is Danica Patrick in the green Go Daddy car flying through the turns at over 130mph and accelerating to over 150mph by the time they passed us only a few hundred yards later. How do I know this? The Versus channel had in-car telemetry displayed for the race, and it was enlightening to say the least. I guess the speeds are relative, and the brain fails to put good guestamate on the how fast they are actually travelling. The cars look like they are fast, but without a normal comparison (e.g. a mini-van driven by Brenna being chased by Ninjas) it was impossible to figure out just how fast they were going until the numbers started appearing on the telecast of the event. 75mph through a hairpin turn and just seconds later over twice that pace was mind boggling to imagine.

My lone action shot of a guy going off the course chasing Danica... Yeah, I'm a victim of marketing. Go Daddy...

Marco Andretti in the Venom Energy Drink car. I guess if Daddy and Granddad (love the hair in this link picture) have quite a racing pedigree and you grow up stumbling over the bags of money just to get to the door in the morning, you have a shot at becoming good at most anything.

Unfortunately, Marco had to pit after leading quite a while and Helio Castroneves, in the Team Penske car, came away with the victory. He even stopped the car and climbed the fence close to us. I had bagged my camera by that point so here are the fruits of my frenetic struggle to get it back out of the backpack. Alas...too late.

The 90 lap race was just the right length for the overly-sugared up kids and we didn't have to run around as is normal for most sporting events. As a parent, for those of you that don't know yet, you don't get to actually watch games/races that the kids attend with you. You make laps to the concession stand and potty over and over. This event had a great setup with food and such right there next to us. I have to give a big thanks to John for having Bryce and myself along.
I do wonder how Brenna would have fared racing the Mini-Van...

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Living Out West? Would it be fun in the cold winter?

The thought has crossed my mind to move. Again... Naturally I get this urge every winter to some extent, and when living in a place for more than 5 years, the urge calls even more powerfully with each ensuing winter.

Winter in the south, while only moderately cold, is basically useless. Too nasty and gray to really entice one out of the house regularly, but alternately, not cold enough to provide interesting things to do that are winter related. You end up doing the same summer sports in junky conditions for 3 months a year. There must be something to fix this.

1. Move back to Florida and get rid of winter altogether. (Not a bad thought but "been there done that".
2. Live in a new place with new experiences. Life is short and I know I'm smart/marketable enough to get a job anywhere I set my sights. The job is the same anywhere, so the real deciding factor is life experience and good schools/environments for the kids.

In all this inner turmoil of dealing with winter and knowing that all finance P&A jobs are the same no matter where one lives, I also wonder how the kids would deal with the change? What would a southern boy do if he ended up out west in Denver or Salt Lake?

Well, I now have a good feel for what winter weekends would entail based on this video courtesy of "dug". He took his recently-turned-15-year-old and some friends out to goof off for a weekend, and took this 4 minute video. This is exactly what a useful winter looks like in my mind. Mountain biking may not be open for another month or two out there, but hey, when you can do stuff like this? So what?

I'm sure I would only be watching the kids if my family was doing stuff like this on weekends...riiiiight....

Ian's Birthday Bash in American Fork Canyon from Doug Anderson on Vimeo.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Honda - The opposite of a Toyota

It seems, when watching the news these days, that the world is filled with thousands of poor souls in Toyotas being flung along roadways at life threatening speeds, but in the case of our Honda, we have something of the opposite problem.

The old and ragged-out Honda Odyssey that we have had since the beginning of time (or the beginning of our parenting lives) seemed to develop a case of unintended and uncontrolled stopping rather than the alleged acceleration issues that Toyotas are dealing with. And while stopping would seem to be a better issue to have than having one's vehicle race off of it's own volition, it does cost some serious money to fix; a point that I will explain in more detail later. In this particular case, it wasn't a stuck brake pedal that produced the unintended stoppage. The unintended stoppage was caused by the other vehicle, MY VEHICLE, that I left parked further down the driveway.

Now hold on there... Before you jump to conclusions and start saying that there may be some issues with a certain driver not looking while driving, DON'T. I'm not pointing fingers. Nay! I will now attempt to re-construct the events of that evening using my vast experience in forensic accident analysis and disaster reconstruction, and don't doubt my qualifications, I am quite versed in accident reconstruction. I have accidentally destroyed loads of things in my life, and sometimes I have even been able to put them back together! Never mind that none of these things were cars...pfft...

1. The lead up.

The kids were out playing in the driveway when I got home, so I left the truck, that would soon make it's debut as a large tool used to stop minivans while simultaneously re-shaping the van's rear doors, at the end of the driveway. The Minivan that experienced the "unintended stoppage" was parked 30 feet away at the other end of the driveway near the house.

2. The conditions.

It was dark, and raining. The Honda, has a set of Miami-tinted windows that are practically opaque when its anything other than broad daylight. They were great when living in FL would produce seat belt buckles that could permanently sear marks on your hands, but they're not so useful now.

Here is an example of looking out the rear window of the van at night.
This simulated view is actually quite accurate

3. There were distractions.

I'm going to guess with my quite enviable set of guessing skills as to what these distractions may have been. You may vote in the comments section on your favorite if you wish. I'm sure that thousands of you will...

  • The driver was suddenly made violently ill by driving the van for the billionth trip to the store, which for some reason made her shut her eyes tightly and stomp on the accelerator.

  • Acid Rain got in the drivers eyes and made her squeeze them tight while stomping on the accelerator.

  • A meteor or UFO flashed through the night and startled the driver causing her to squeeze her eyes tightly while stomping on the accelerator.

  • Ninjas, obviously mistaking the driver for someone else, jumped from the hedge and in very poorly dubbed English threatened her -- "You kill my master! Now you die!" To which the driver squeezed her eyes shut and stomped on the accelerator.

  • Kids toys were strewn all around the driveway like a pink and purple plastic laden minefield, and the driver was looking for these items that retail for $19.99 while backing up with her foot stomping on the accelerator.
In my mind, all these are perfectly plausible candidates for what actually happened that fateful night. You decide...

4. The aftermath

To lend even more credence to my forensic accident analysis you needed any. I used high-tech satellite image technology to come up with these very technical accident scenes for you. They unequivocally show where the incident occurred and what happened.

In this first image you can see that the minivan accelerated from the tree shrouded garage area. It achieved a speed of precisely 327mph (27,000 kph) prior to the impact with my car which is conveniently noted with the orange spiky looking thing...

I wish it had been as sunny as these images. I wouldn't be writing all this absurd stuff now had it been...

There was also a google street view image that shows some evidence of what happened. How lucky the google van was driving by!
I think the skid marks were from my truck being pushed along the driveway while slowing down the van. The reddish spot may help prove my theory on the presence of Ninjas on the night in question...

And Presto! A new door that resembles modern art done by a drunken punk band!

She looks waaaaaay too happy in this picture. Whatever could cause that?

Fortunately, there were no injuries other than to pride in this accident, and my truck looked like it weathered the beating pretty well. We looked at the option of insurance...briefly...briefly like for .28 milliseconds. The total value of the car (prior to the attractively re-shaped door) was 1,800 bucks. The 1,000 dollar deductible pretty much totalled it. Then something really weird happened.

We went right out and bought a new car for her! See I told you it was weird.

It's not every day that you crash a car and then get rewarded with a new one with all the goodies you ever wanted on it.

Honestly, my wife has driven that old van forever. We put 181,000 miles on it and carried our family everywhere in the 8 years we have had it. Yeah, we drive a lot. She has put up with it for a lot longer than most people would have kept a car, and we got our money's worth out of it. It was time, and I had saved up for a car, so this wasn't totally out of the blue. Especially when the former van's transmission failed at the state line and she was stranded there until someone could come get her and the kids. A really funny thing, and a testament to how good these vans are, no matter how un-cool and un-desirable they may be, is that she picked the same car again! It's a charcoal gray Honda Odyssey, but with a whole lot of good stuff in it. If I didn't know better, I might surmise that this may have been a pre-meditated plan? If it were, couldn't she have at least hit the tree instead of my truck? sheesh...

Brenna with her new wheels!

Behind the wheel and enjoying it!

And the kids doing what they do best. Not posing for the picture. I think that Aiden's face says it all...

Thanks Brenna and I really hope you enjoy the van. You deserve it.

Also, Please forgive my snarky/silly commentary on how you arrived at getting this new car. It makes for a fun story.

Oh, and watch out for Ninjas when backing up, you might hit something...

Monday, March 8, 2010

Kids, Cosby, and a Whole Lotta Soap

I was seriously tired after my ride around Oak Mountain yesterday. So tired in fact, that I got home after the 30 miles of bouncing off trees, rocks, and getting covered in sweat and mud, that I showered, made a PB&J, and hung up the hammock in the back yard. That, my friends is when this story commenced to unfold.

It was a great day, and we in the south are seriously desperate for a weather change. A change for the warmer and drier that is. Now, the temperature was only about 65, which is what my Mom would refer to as "You still need a jacket weather." Instead, we were all out in the yard in shorts and tee shirts. I guess not much changes...

But my kids, being kids, and apparently unable to perceive cold temperatures decided to go a step further. Now, I mentioned I was tired. That said, I was still in the hammock, and as a result, have no pictures of what transpired, but as Bill Cosby mentioned in his famous "Himself" performance, kids have no clue that sound travels due to some universal childhood brain damage.

I would venture to say they can feel cold even less than they realize that sound travels. As I listened and lazily swung in the hammock, I let this whole thing happen without lifting a finger. This says absolutely squat about my parenting skills. I figured, that if it got really bad, they would have learned a lesson, but I doubt it.

Turn the hose off!

First I heard them talking excitedly from around the corner of the house. Next I heard a vague mention of the hose in the front yard. To which I yelled, "Don't get the hose out! It's cold!" Giggles ensued and shortly I heard the spray of the hose. Now, I have to mention a strange paradox here, we all recognize that kids don't realize that sound travels when it actually does, BUT a sound emanating from a parent actually DOESN'T travel AT ALL, unless it is repeated exactly 27 times at a progressively louder volume. Strange...

For about 10 minutes, intermittent, spraying and giggling, were interrupted only briefly by my "Turn the hose off!" requests from the hammock . Then I heard the word, swimsuits, and the driveway went silent for a time.


The kids laughing returned to the front yard, and I guessed that they had gone inside for the aforementioned swimsuits even though the sun was only warm when you were sitting directly in it. Then there was a loud rustling of plastic or something that distinctly sounded like my older son dragging one of those blue tarps out of the garage and into the front yard. I wondered what was up, but I didn't have to wonder long. I heard, "We need to make this slippery." With that tiny clue, a gigantic slip n' slide came to mind. "Cool idea", I thought...if I were young and impervious to cold temperatures....brrr.

I heard the hose spraying on the tarp, and at this point, I was just listening to hear what would happen next. Yeah, I'm a lousy parent, but I was tired...honestly. Then there was the sound of a child sliding. The slide wasn't followed by excitement, and I figured that the idea was going to be put to bed because it was finally plain to the wet little people that it was too cold to continue. Instead, I heard, "It's not slick enough...mumble mumble...giggle...SOAP! WE NEED SOAP!"

Silence again.

Then a door slammed and the squeals of, "Yeah, pour it all on there!" Then the sound of the hose was heard again. And finally the sliding swish of a kid on the tarp. Followed by "AWESOME!" Then there were more hose sounds and kids repeatedly sliding were heard. They had worked so hard at getting this thing set up, that I wasn't about to stop them. Why buck the trend of swinging in the hammock anyway? I was still tired...really...

This whole process had taken about a hour or so, and with that, my strong parenting skills really kicked in and I seem to have fallen asleep in the last sunny minutes of the day. When I woke, the kids were inside showering to warm up and I found the enormous tarp in the neighbors yard along with a large empty jug of bubble bath. After seeing this set up, I'm sure not going to buy one of the slip'n'slides this year, we are going with the industrial (and cheaper) tarp version.

I really wish I had taken pictures though. It would have made this post perfect.

Monday, March 1, 2010

The Best Day Ever

I knew that this day would eventually come around, but my question was WHEN?
Bryce had shown more than a little resistance to the idea of riding a bike without training wheels. I'm not sure why since there is more than enough exposure to the fun stuff related to riding bikes with me constantly on them in one form or another.

Of course, me being on bikes all the time may be the reason? Perhaps this was the potential equation in Bryce's head?

Dad is inherently a little goofy and un-cool + Dad Rides bikes + I don't want to be goofy and un-cool = Avoid clutzy Dad proves that you can get hurt on them...

Nah, that couldn't be it. He's waaaay too young to have recognized that I may not be the best thing on the planet yet.

Bryce had been on training wheels up until last year when he had become brave enough and competent enough to start trying to rip around high(ish) speed turns. Making turns at speed is never a good idea on training wheels because as he leaned into the turns the real rear wheel would come off the ground and the bike would be careening along with only one training wheel and the front tire touching the ground. That scenario wasn't a good way to get anything done and also was a quick way to end up with a big crash, so I took the training wheels off. We tried a few attempts at riding without the training wheels as I would run while holding his seat so he wouldn't fall through a grassy area of the neighbors yard. That was a year, ago and when he stopped riding that day, he never got back on the bike. He really didn't want to ride for whatever reason. I was more than a little disappointed, but I didn't say anything to him about it. I decided to be patient and assumed that the day would finally come when he would decide to learn to ride.
This past weekend, I was watching the kids while the ladies were out shopping, and to try to make the afternoon more fun, I pulled the bikes out and all the kids were rolling around the driveway on a chalk drawn race course. Bryce was happily on his scooter.

I asked Bryce if he would like to try out riding his bike with me running with him to keep him from crashing. I had asked this question a million times and he always said no, but this time, much to my delight, he said "Ok, if you won't let me fall."

The process of teaching him was rather anticlimactic. There was no great swelling of a John Williams soundtrack. I knew he was much more coordinated and much stronger than even six months ago. Brenna and I had discussed that we both knew he could already ride most likely. He just needed to try it. And that's just how it went.

I ran behind him with a hand on the bike seat. I told him I would let the bike wiggle and lean, but I wouldn't let him crash. He accepted this with a nervous look on his face.

I started him off in the driveway and across the neighbors yard. I really appreciate the neighbor being kind enough for us to run through his yard. I didn't really have control over where Bryce pointed the bike, and I wasn't going to stop him in his attempts at riding to simply avoid making tracks in his dormant grass anyway.

From the moment we started going, Bryce had it. I was barely touching the seat and he had very few problems steering and braking the bike. I looked for cars and told him to keep going. I moved from keeping a hand on the seat to running beside him. Bryce realized that he was doing all of the work and he hadn't crashed. His confidence was apparent, because he gave me "The Look", leaned over the bike bars, and took off sprinting. I was running as fast as I possibly could just to keep up.
An example of "The Look"

Perhaps, a more famous example of "The Look"...Yep, the end result was similar. Bryce dropped me like Lance dropped Ullrich back in '01. Except, for us, we both won. Bryce could finally ride a bike, and I finally had a chance to go ride with him. Actually, I needed to get on a bike, because I certainly couldn't run wind sprints behind him for another loop around the neighborhood...whew...

In case you wanted to waste your time with a movie loosely (very loosely) representing how quickly Bryce dropped me...
As a side note, If you don't like Fat Boy Slim, turn down the volume...

I took Bryce over to Heardmont park and we rode around the trails for more than an hour. It was one of those perfect days. In fact for February 21st, that description isn't an embellishment. It was 70 degrees outside and there were people everywhere. I can't wait for spring, and this morning is cold and gray again. Winter is still here and it still stinks. Bleh...
Bryce's $9 youth helmet doesn't really fit, and it kept falling down over his eyes, which honestly doesn't help one's riding abilities. Instead, I let him wear the only other option in the garage that came close to fitting him, my really expensive road helmet. Go figure, you get what you pay for.

That water was still cold even if the air was warm!

I'm not sure really which one of us liked this day more. I know I had one of the best times ever on a bicycle, but Bryce also was so excited that he rode for hours. The next morning, after he had gone down to ride his bike again before breakfast, he came back up saying, "My bum hurts from riding."