Monday, March 30, 2009

McClellan Butte...

Another flashback from last August's 50-mile hike-a-thon to benefit Washington Trails Association. I'll be touching the top this year!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

On getting lost...

The current Outside Magazine gives readers a paragraph from each of several dozen adventurers on why they do what they do. Flipping through the oft-predictable variations on "because it's there", I stopped on page 82, which I read several times. Doug Peacock, American wild man and author of "Grizzly Years" offered this bit of wisdom:
"Don't just bang down the trail thinking about your girlfriend or your stock portfolio. Go like another animal. All of a sudden you're part of an ancient system again. And after four or five days, something happens. You're part of the original landscape, a far older, more faded world."
This got me thinking about my own reasons for exploring. About the day I tried hiking with my mp3 player, then quickly put it away. It felt strange to be shutting-out. I wanted to hear the birds scattering, to get lost in the rhythm of my boots on the soft carpet of the trail. Peacock continues:
"If you're comfortable with yourself, go solo. Solitude is the deepest well I know, and it's your right to drink from it. And no GPS devices; the opportunity to get lost on today's planet is a privilege."
Ironic that the page opposite this quote displays a glossy ad for the DeLorme Earthmate, and compels adventurers to "get serious".

I would never suggest that everyday adventurers travel the backcountry without the knowledge and skills to survive. And it's tough to defend hikers whose irresponsible actions require costly and troublesome search-and-rescue.

But do we need trekking poles, $300 boots, and the latest GPS device every time we step out the door? Or are all these doo-dads and gadgets just getting in the way of a deeper relationship with our planet, and preventing us from losing ourselves in a more "ancient system"? And what of all the cast-off plastic and electronic detritus?

I realize there are no "right" answers.

As for me, I don't run with a watch or bike with a computer. The charts and graphs of my small adventures are secondary to the sights, sounds, and feelings. Doug Peacock's idea of "being connected" is far more appealing to me than the modern, technological definition.

How about you?

Monday, March 23, 2009

Ride Report - The McClinchy Mile...

Lisa was so nervous Saturday morning. It was her first "organized" bike ride, and I can still remember the doubts those kind of milestones engender. How do I register? Do I have the right gear? Am I in good enough shape? What if I get a flat? Poor girl couldn't even finish her breakfast.

She paced around for the better part of an hour, as my Dad and I tried to keep up with the questions and allay the fear. With some reluctance, I headed out with Dad (we were riding a longer distance and wanted to coordinate our finish times), leaving my Lisa to sweat it out. She'd be riding with friends, but the waiting would have to be done alone.

We hit the start about 8am, and gol'durn it was chilly... just north of 30-degrees. Dad's friend Mona met us there. She's training for tri this summer, and an eventual Ironman. I once told him I thought that with enough training I could be a decent triathlete. To which he deadpanned, "Nope. Hahns can't swim. You'll sink like a rock."

Another dream crushed.

It was tough to get warmed up, but a couple big hills took care of that. Soon, we were enjoying one of the most beautiful mornings I can remember seeing from the seat of a bicycle. The fog was hanging low in the Arlington valleys, dancing through the trees and pulling apart like cotton to reveal green farms and weathered barns. Big, snow-covered peaks revealed themselves through the gaps in lesser hills.

You might appreciate a photograph or two. Yeah, sorry 'bout that.

Somewhere around midway, maybe 25 miles in, the sun was high enough in the sky to give some warmth. We stopped, shedded a layer, and I tried calling Lisa a couple times. I knew she was ok... my girl's purdy tough. But still, I worry. No answer. *gulp*

The next leg was 15 miles on the Centennial Trail, one of Washington's great rail-trails. It was here I discovered the rumors of my Dad's decline have been greatly exaggerated. As if there was ever a question :) The old man took great joy in repeatedly sprinting away from me like I was standing still. Usually I make a decent cat to his mouse, but on this day he seemed driven by some greater purpose.

To put it another way, he kicked my butt.

We rolled into the finish and immediately started prepping for the reward phase. You know... beers. Beers are the carrots we dangle in front of each other when the legs start complaining. I was so excited when my phone rang not 10 minutes later. Lisa had finished, too! So proud.

We met the girls at the (not really) stunning White Horse Tavern in (not at all) majestic downtown Arlington. A couple beers and a round of cheap tequila later, and the (exaggerated) stories of suffering and triumph on the road were flowing.

For me, this was not just another day on the bike. Given my dad's recent health diagnoses, every pedal stroke seemed to carry new significance. Hope, even. And with Lisa riding now, too... the idea that we can share all these great memories as a family is encouraging indeed.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

What can you do when you can't do anything?

I'm a stereotypical guy when it comes to problem solving. Throw some spackle on it. Whether at work or home, I'm pretty good at finding patches to cover up the rough spots.

Bad news about my dad today. His cancer is on the move, into the bones at his very core. As he said it, "this is going to really affect my ability to do the active things with you."

But, wait... we just did a 5-mile run in the snow on Sunday. Joking, stomping through the slush like kids with the same, easy cadence.

Shit. Reality returns.

I had swept these feelings of frustration under the rug for a few months, but now they're back. What can you do when you can't do anything? What do you say when words don't mean anything? How are you supposed to fight when you can't see the bully?

More waiting. More hollow, helpless waiting.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Another run...

I get 40 minutes a day to let loose on the roads. My lunchtime run. Another day looking for a little divine energy amongst the failing businesses and empty warehouses. Poetic contrasts... a beautiful riverfront road, littered with the waste of a thousand high school keggers. Turn up the music and run faster. Stomp it. Leave each step in the past, planted in the sand. Know that the sunshine is coming. Another run.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Miracle on 130th Street...

The blogosphere is awash with negativity. Snark and whine run amok in this world (and I cannot exclude myself from the pack of complainers).

So here is a quick story of hope, fresh from the "real world".

I strongly dislike grocery shopping (that's what we tell our kids to say instead of "hate"). Our closest store is a depressing microcosm of everything I think is wrong with America.

But this is a positive story :)

So, I'm in the soda aisle, moving quickly, lest I prolong the agony of shopping. I'm entirely conscious of the two pre-teen kids walking my way and joking loudly with one another. As soon as I grab the 12-pack of Duo (budget shoppers will relate), it breaks, sending cans of store-brand beverage scattering all over the floor.

First thought... these kids are either going to mock me openly, or ridicule the whole scene in whisper, just loud enough for me to hear. As I scramble to gather up the cans, and the miscreants get closer, I brace for the inevitable. Here they are. I can hear what they're saying now.

"Do you need any help with that, sir?"

I'm sorry, what?

A combination of surprise and embarrassment made me belch out, "No." And a second later, "no thanks."

I'm still completely stunned. And still smiling. Never mind the fact that I'm apparently now old (and bald) enough to be called "sir". These kids actually offered to help me. It seems that the death of manners has been greatly exaggerated.

I looked everywhere for a mom or dad to congratulate. But the little time-travelers, and any attendant motherfatherfigures, were gone.

Hey, you kids want some bacon?

Sunday, March 8, 2009

The day we were bacon...

This evening, our friends at Bacon Salt needed two giant strips of meat candy to work the room at a swanky pork-centric culinary event. Lisa and I were delighted to answer the call. Most of the attendees showered us with adoration. A few despised us. One especially feisty ol' gal insisted on punching me repeatedly. But regardless of where they fell on the love/hate scale, nobody could ignore our delicious and salty presence in the room.

Fame is ours. Can fortune be far behind? The Bacon Salt Blog
More fame: Gastrolust

Saturday, March 7, 2009

What's in a name?

Gearcheep was never quite the right name for the website Lisa and I have been kicking around. In fact, the name was handcuffing us.

First of all, when it comes to outdoors stuff, we're not really "gearheads". Until last year, I never rode a bike that cost more than $100 (love you, craigslist).

Yes, we appreciate a well-designed piece of equipment. But we're much more into experiences than shiny bits and pieces. Something about the notion of a "shopping portal" was also not sitting right. Uh, we don't shop all that much. And I imagine there are a lot of folks out there like us who focus on doing things more than on buying things.

So, Gearcheep is dead. Please welcome Get Out Northwest.

The core idea is the same: Share our experiences with biking, hiking, camping, running, and travel... and allow other "everday adventurers" to connect with one another. We'll do interviews, share tips and trip reports, and maybe even review the occasional shiny bit :)

The handcuffs are off. Thanks for riding along. Now let's get out!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Behind the Music: Bjorn Turock....

Nothing says rock 'n roll like sensible shoes and short shorts. With this in mind, I've set my sights on the Seattle Rock 'n Roll Marathon in June.

With just a few months to prepare, I've gotta say I'm a little nervous. The running part is no problem. Build base miles, add in some tempo runs and speed work, increase mileage, taper. Got it.

What I'm wondering is, can I really hope to hang with a bunch of bad-ass rockers for 26 miles? I mean, the bright lights, the groupies, the piles of coke. It's not my typical Saturday.

My wife is making a much more reasonable decision and doing the half-marathon. But again I worry... will we grow apart because of all my extra time on the road? And if we do make it, are we ready to live in the spotlight of rock 'n roll superstardom?

Stay tuned...

Thursday, March 5, 2009

A giveaway to feel good about...

Counting to Three is giving away a very special necklace. Wish I would've picked this up earlier... time's running out to enter! The necklace is handmade in Nepal, and is just one of the things my cousin Erika offers through her fair-trade business, Global Daughter. Enter the giveaway, then spread the word, yo!

Read about the necklace and enter the giveaway
Learn more about Global Daughter

UPDATE: Contest is closed. But Global Daughter is still open :)

Running through "one of those" days...

Poor, tortured Alexander. Several generations of kids have found solace in his suffering.

Today, I am Alexander. The dogs ate my couch, I got a bad haircut, my neighbor is an asshole, and there were lima beans for breakfast. And I hate lima beans.

My lunchtime run, usually a nice mid-day endorphine cocktail, only deepened the mire of this interminable Thursday. My shoes are pinching, my headphones stopped working, and I'll be damned if I wasn't running into a headwind both directions. How does that even happen? My feet felt heavy, I got a rock in my shoe, and somebody dumped a bunch of garbage on the trail. And I hate garbage on the trail.

Tomorrow, I'll lace-up again and give it another try. For now... I'd like a beer and my railroad train pajamas, please.