Saturday, December 30, 2006

It's a man's world, unfortunately

Let me get this straight. Tara Conner, Miss USA, gets caught drinking while under age, an activity that is not only illegal, but could be deadly, especially if she gets behind the wheel of a car. But everybody deserves a second chance, right? Nobody's perfect and all is forgiven.


Katie Rees, former Miss Nevada, shows her boobs, an activity that harms no one, and gets the boot -- from an organization whose sole purpose is capitalizing on the sex appeal of attractive women.

Wow. To quote Big Daddy in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, "Didn't you notice the powerful and obnoxious odor of mendacity in this room?"

It truly is a man's world, as the late, great James Brown said. The women can't take over soon enough as far as I'm concerned.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Coop de ville!

At long last, the coop she is finished.

Our handy dude did a really nice job with it, too. The coop at the former house was built on an existing dog run. Essentially all that needed to be done was to put a roof of chicken wire on top of it. Not a small job, but not terribly a complicated one, either.

Not so the current coop. Since no previous containment structure existed, this one had to be built. It is still using the side of the house as one wall (allowing the kitties access to it from a basement window) and the opposite wall is formed by the existing wooden fence. But the ends (including a handy gate) and the roof had to be constructed.

Our handy dude also outfitted the entryway with a kitty-cat cupola that allows them a high vantage point from which they can view all the tasty woodland creatures that visit our backyard, and a nice series of raised platform that allow them to hop up to the "viewing deck."

Here's a shot of Buster looking down on the almost completed coop from our bedroom window. "When the hell can I go out there?" he is obviously kvetching. Note the cupola in the background.

Here's a shot of the interior and two of the three raised platforms.

And finally, here's the triumphant Buster enjoying his stately perch.

Quite deluxe! "But Frinky!," you cry. "How do the cats get into the coop in the first place!?"

The answer, another series of platforms mounted on the basement wall. The basement window has now been outfitted with a pet door:

Yes, it's very nearly perfect for the kitties, except for the one squirrel who has learned to stand over the coop and hurl insults at the poor caged predators below. All I can say is, he'd better not get too close!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Mary Cheney toon

I just thought this was funny...

Cooped up

The new cat coop is nearly complete...outside is done. Now we just have to add the series of platforms that will allow the kitties to access it through the basement window. I will post photos when the whole thing is done, but for now I can just say, "not a moment too soon." First, Buster is very much contemplating hurling himself through the window at passing wildlife:

And now he's getting a martyr complex!

Better get that thing done quick before he gets stigmata!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Furry pants

Argotnaut and I continue to settle into the new residence and make it our own. Or to be more accurate, make it our pets' own. We have had ramps installed from the back deck down to the back yard, and along the two sets of steps that lead down to the front sidewalk. Buddy and Pepe have been pretty good about using the ramps and they too are settling into a nice rut. They were treated to an unusual sight in Portland last week, however: a dusting of snow:

That on top of the wettest November in the history of Portland, 12 inches of rain in 30 days. Fortunately, this is about all the snow Portland usually gets.

Meanwhile, the cats are making do until the new cat coop is built:

Where's our cat coop, dammit?!

The handy dude who built our doggy ramps is now in the process of constructing a new coop, which the boys will, I'm sure, disdainfully enjoy.

I guess you can see who wears the pants in this family.

Until the coop is completed, the kitties have to be content with the window box. Buster has accepted this for the time being. Grudgingly.

The humans, meanwhile, are also settling in. Or at least I am. Argotnaut has been so busy with finals that she has yet to make friends with our new abode. But after a trip to the Midwest next week, she should have the last couple of weeks of December and the first week of January to sit in front of the fireplace and also soak in the hot tub. Speaking of the latter, I've been trying to get up to speed with all the chemicals and such that one needs to enjoy a spa. What with all the Ph balancing, alkalinity, calcium levels and bromine concentrations, I feel like I'm back in high school chemistry class. I can hear the guy down at the spa supply place now: "Well, you got the basics down, but to really do it up right, you'll need some ear of foxglove (which you gotta dissolve in rose water), six types of powdered tree frog and some eye of newt, and then you'll be set."

Mmmmm...human cauldron.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Tofurky day in the new digs

I am still getting used to doing things with my Apple iBook G4, but I did manage to e-mail a couple of photos from my phone to my e-mail, and find/download an Apple-oriented ftp program with which to upload them to the frinky server. So here's a look at the back garden during an EXTREMELY rare dry moment, with the sun streaming through the bamboo by the tea house:

And does Tofurky have tryptophan in it? Possibly, but these guys are sacked because they got a T-day feast of chicken cold cuts and are now enjoying our gas fireplace (note Pepe in far upper right-hand corner):

We are slowly settling in and the house is great. Even with the record-setting amount of rain we've had this month, the house's relatively high vantage point and lots of southern exposure have meant we're getting much more light that the old house. And for those seasonally-affected disorderly types in the household, that's a very big deal.

Friday, November 24, 2006

NaNoWriMo DOA, et. al.

The move into the new house, she is accomplished.

Overall it went fairly smoothly, but still took so much of my time to organize that "Tipping Point" will have to wait for a while. Unless I write 40,000 words in the next week. Which ain't gonna happen.

No photos, I'm afraid, because my mighty laptop , Gigantor, is on the fritz. This just as I had decided that, rather than get a new TV to replace the ailing one we just donated, I would get a little gadget that allows one to watch TV on one's computer. Since Gigantor has a 17" screen, I thought, "that'll work for my purposes." Of course, as soon as I installed the gadget, the video card on Gigantor died. Do'h! I installed the same gadget on Lisa's little Fujitsu notebook, and it works fine. So at least I had access to football on Thanksgiving -- not that the games were worthy of much time.

So now I have to figure out what to do about Gigantor: fix it (for a hefty fee but much less than a new, comparable notebook) or sell it as is and buy something new. I have techy data to gather to make that decision and won't bore readers with the details. The upshot is that it's a huge pain in the ass to get photos from my phone to my little Apple iBook G4. So my posts will be prose-only for a little while. But at least I'm still able to surf and get e-mail and such.

Better news is that it looks like the old house has already sold! We accepted an offer last Wednesday and as long as the buyers' financing doesn't fall through, they will close on December 7. Hooray! Appreciation since we bought the house will allow us to pay off Lisa's student loans, do a few upgrades to the new house, and pump the rest back into our investments. Now I see why so many rich folks are real estate developers. The house gained about 40% in value during the 2.5 years we owned it. It's all timing and luck, though. Timing in that we bought before a big rise housing prices. Luck in that Portland's market remains strong as other cities have seen a marked decline recently. But if you have enough good timing and good luck, a person can grow assets real quick. Or lose 'em in a big hurry. But such is also true if you bet on the Miami Dolphins to go to the Super Bowl this year.

Well. Enough boring crap. More pithy posts to come, I promise!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

"Tipping Point" excerpt

For anyone interested (Hi Mom!), I've posted an excerpt from my "National Novel Writing Month" effort. The novel is entitled "Tipping Point."

Click here to go to the NaNoWriMo Authors page where the excerpt appears.

The excerpt is only about 1,000 words, but if I chose a good passage from what I've written so far, after you've read it you'll want to read the rest of the novel. Too bad it won't be finished for another three weeks! (If then!)

Can I buy a vowel?

On her site, Argotnaut has a little question as to how one might pronounce "abo." Screw that. I want to know how to pronounce THIS guy's last name:

"USOC vice president Bob Ctvrtlik, who is overseeing the bid process, said the USOC would leave it up to San Francisco to decide what second options it might have."

That's almost as bad as this guy:

Mr. Myxlplyx

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Riding the Storm Out

I bet you thought the title of this post had to do with the 60 mph winds and six inches of rain we had here the first week of November. Not so! I am, of course, referring to the election results, and more specifically to the resignation of the accursed Rumsfeld. No need to bash the old boy in this space more than I already have. I'm confident that history will do the job more thoroughly than I ever could. So: So long, you arrogant, American seviceman-killing, civilian-bombing, surplus-spending, goodwill-squandering, prevaricating babble-monkey! OK. One last ode to Rummy, famous for answering his own questions: "Did I do an exemplary job as Secretary of Defense? No. Do I wish I'd done things differently, like provide enough troops in Iraq to do the job I was entrusted with and provide the poor bastards with enough armor to protect themselves? Yes. Will I let the door hit me in the ass on the way out? No."

In other bright news, we will close on our new house this Friday, and Argotnaut and I hope to spend Thanksgiving eating Tofurky in the hot tub, just like our puritanical ancestors would have done. Well, actually, I guess they would have denounced and perhaps hanged us for such blasphemous sloth. But we'll drink a toast to them just the same.

Which is the real turkey? You decide.

And also, my new novel, "Tipping Point," continues apace. I got a late start, which means instead of having to pound out 1800 words a day, I have to manage 2000. But actually I'm on a 2200 word-per-day pace right now. I think it'll be a good story, but it will also be pretty grim. However, given the good news today, maybe I'll give my beleaguered heroes a happy ending. I'll be sure to post an excerpt when I get a chance.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

NaNoWriMo Weather

It's November in Portland, and that means two things: the return of the Monsoon, and National Novel Writing Month.

The Monsoon has arrived right on schedule. Following a spectacular Autumn, Mother nature appears to have been watching the calendar and has delivered the rains right at the turn of the month:

And we in Portland can expect the Doppler radar to look like this for the next 4-5 months:

So. It looks like it's time to hunker down inside with a cup of tea and a novel -- a novel to write, that is. Unlike last year's effort, I don't have any idea what I'm going to write this year. But as it's already 2 November, I have to start today whether I have an idea or not. I've been giving it some thought the last few days, but all my ideas are more fit for short stories than a 50,000 word novel. However, NaNoWriMo waits for no author! If I don't have a rudimentary plot and some hastily sketched characters by about 4pm today, I'm just going to sit in front of the blank computer screen and start typing and see what streams (or plops or squeezes) out. Perhaps I'll do an embellished, roman a' clef about The Calamity. Hey, it worked for this guy.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006


For the second year in a row, Lisa and I had a Halloween party to go to, which made me very happy. For several years prior to last year, we had no H-Parties to attend, and that always makes me feel like a loser. Halloween is by far the most fun holiday and I hate to miss out by sitting at home, watching reruns of "Star Trek: The Next Generation" and waiting for trick-or-treaters who never show up.

This year we went to a soiree chucked by one of A's linguistic professors. He and his partner put out quite a spread and it was a very fun and interesting crew to hang out with. I guess I just like nerdy, academic types.

Argotnaut decided to go as "a dude." The result was half biker, half "Derek Smalls."

I had several ideas, including shaving my head again, wearing my Bears jersey, putting some electrical tape beneath my eyes and VOILA! Brian Urlacher:

But in the end I went for the tried-and-true invisible man theme, which was easy because I still had a bunch of gauze left over from my hip operation:

...although the young son of one of the partygoers assumed I was a victim of bad plastic surgery. I could go with that, too. But as I was making myself up, A noted that the bandages brought back vague and unwelcome memories of The Calamity. Truth be told, I hadn't even thought of that, which I take as a good sign.

Next year, I think Argotnaut and Pepe should go as the Madonna and Child:

In other news, Buddy had a follow-up with our vet today, who bent and twisted him and did all sorts of other wince-inducing tests on the poor boy, and he's doing much better. He's even been cleared for five-minute walks rather than being banished to the back yard to do his doggy business. As you might expect, that has made Buddy extremely happy, and I think there's therapeutic value in happiness. With luck we can VERY slowly increase his walks back to something approaching normal.

No further word on the house yet, but we expect to hear more later this week. But now, I must hand out candy to little sharks, fairies, supermen, princesses, and just recently two little kids dressed in black cloaks, "Scream" masks and carrying nunchuks. Kids are kinda creepy.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Vicarious money pit

Progress in moving into our new house has screeched to a halt, or perhaps more accurately, skidded to a halt, as the problem is a suspect sewer line.

As a standard practice when selling older homes, our heroic Realtor suggests all potential buyers have a "sewer-scope" done, which involves the insertion of a camera into the sewer line to inspect the pipes. (I'd like to have that footage for a goth music video! "This is the pathway to my soul, dark, cold, encrusted with filth...") According to the findings on our prospective home, "concrete pipe broken with holes and missing pipe at 14' on the counter. Unable to proceed past this point."

Now if we already owned the home, this would be very bad news. But now it could actually work in our favor. We have already put an offer in on the house and that offer cannot be modified. So the trust that is selling the house has two choices: spend the $10-15 thousand it will take to fix the problem and still sell it to us at the agreed upon price, or back out of the deal. This second option is not very likely because now that the trust knows about it, the problem would have to be disclosed to any other potential buyers. And it's unlikely that other potential buyers would be as attractive as us due to our sparkling credit and available assets.

For US, the possible outcomes are backing out of the deal, thus avoiding a white elephant (or is it a brown elephant in this case?), or simply wait the two weeks or so it will take to resolve the problem. I'm hoping the latter, because I'd really like to have this backyard and Lisa would really like to have the "tea house" in which to do yoga:

We haven't gotten out completely unscathed, however, because we've started sprucing up the current homestead in advance of putting it on the market. Some landscapers came over yesterday and did a bang-up job on our hillbilly yard. Here are some before and after pics:


So for now, Lisa will have to keep doing yoga in the "Buddy Studio" here at home. But that has its rewards as well:

"You call that 'downward facing dog?' THIS is how you do 'downward facing dog!'"

Thursday, October 19, 2006

A whiter shade of pale

Several months ago, I requested information about the Queen Mary 2.
This was in response to a request by Argotnaut to find out how, if we were going to move to Europe in 2008, we could get there without flying, so that we wouldn't have to put Buddy in a cargo hold. A's belief is that, if you wouldn't stuff your infant in a breadbox and stow him/her down in the cargo hold where temperatures can fluctuate between freezing and halfway to boiling and Jesus-God-only-knows if there's any light down there, then you shouldn't have to stow your doggy down there, either. Tough to argue with that logic.

As is my custom, I decided to make a game of this could we not only NOT fly, but make the trip really cool. Enter the QM2. It makes the trip from New York to Southampton in six days, and NY to Hamburg, Germany, in eight. The ship has a kennel on board, which is kind of akin to the poshest doggy prison one can imagine, but still better than a 10-hour Auschwitz-like boxcar ride in the hold of a jet aircraft bookended by one's pet carrier being long-tossed by baggage handlers who may or may not be aware that there's a live (and scared poop-less) animal in there!

"There is no reason to be alarmed little dog! It is merely a de-lousing chamber!"

So now I occasionally receive in the mail brochures about the QM2. And they are a riot. Being a recovering marketing puke myself, I can see what Cunard's market analysis has revealed: that everybody traveling aboard the QM2 either ARE Thurston Howell and Lovey from Gilligan's Island, or fancies themselves as much.

You've never seen so many photos of picture-perfect, natty, wealthy Caucasian retirees in your life. Not a person of color to be seen. Even the waitstaff is a bunch of honkies! (Well, there might be a wog in there, but it's hard to tell in the lighting of the photos.)

Now I'm sure that there are wealthy (or, like us, just unwisely profligate fun-seeking) minority types on the boat. But it wouldn't do to indicate such in the brochure.

I'm not making a judgment against Cunard on this score. I just think it's kind of funny. Just wait til the Howells get a load of the Heckmans in their Homestar Runner t-shirts accompanied by their hillbilly dog.
Just one more reason (besides the jettisoning of the despised W. Bush) to look forward to 2008!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

It's Been 2 Years, Time to Move!

I pity all of you who have tried to keep track of our address over the years. Argotnaut and I seem to pick up and move about every 20 months or so for various reasons. And now we're doing it again!

For much of our time in Portland, we lived in the Southeast part of the city, near the Hawthorne Street district which apparently was originally named "Asylum Street." That remains appropriate because its denizens are a largely unconventional lot of artists, hippies, slackers and non-conformists.

When Argotnaut and I bought the place we live in now, I was working in Vancouver, WA, and so we looked on the northeast part of the city in order to reduce my commute time. But during our time here, we've both had the distinct feeling that the neighbors regarded us as unwelcome intruders, what with our non-very-manicured lawn, our lack of window treatments, our sidewalk which remains stubbornly festooned with pine needles and our dogs who occasionally dare to bark three or four times when we let them out in the back yard.

Now, the Beaumont-Wilshire 'hood where we are now is a very nice, quiet place, but it's just not "us." When A and I almost accidentally discovered that we both felt the same way, we discussed it for all of five minutes and decided, "let's move back south."

So I called the wonderful Realtor that we used when we found our current place and BAM! we found the perfect house the first day. It's in the Southeast (naturally), a two-bedroom ranch with a basement and French doors on the tuck-under garage so we can ride in and out on our bikes in style! Best of all, it has a very low maintenance yard of raised beds and bamboo, complete with a little "tea house" in which A can do her yoga and I might do some writing, a koi pond and hot tub (!). Here's some pics:

Wow! I feel now as if I must dress like Kwai Chang Caine!

Things have gone quickly and it looks like we'll close as soon as next week and be in the new place in time to celebrate Thanksgiving there. But first, we must install a new cat coop for Buster because he's not getting his claws on those koi!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Da Bears

That last post was pretty depressing, so I'm going to do a quick post about something that I'm really enjoying right now -- my mighty Chicago Bears! (That clanking sound you just heard is the metal "sports baffles" slamming down over my wife's ears. Argotnaut and I have a shared vision, which is a 1930s black-and-white cartoon of a cow and a pig dancing and playing fiddles to "Turkey In the Straw" -- this cartoon plays in her mind whenever I talk to her about sports and in my mind whenever she talks to me about technical linguistic jargon.)

Anyway, I've been a Bears fan since about 1979. Before that, I was a Pittsburgh Steelers fan purely due to their wild success in the 1970s. Being a free safety myself, I idolized Mel Blount, the Steelers defensive back who is now in the Hall of Fame. During that time, the Bears pretty much sucked dryer lint, despite having a running back you might have heard of: Walter Payton.

When I went to college at Northern Illinois University in 1980, I began to follow the Bears exclusively because all my dorm mates were from Chicago and were rabid Bears fans (and also because the Steelers, as was inevitable, finally dried up and blew away like the hair on Terry Bradshaw's head).

Much has transpired since those fateful days in 1980 when I embraced the Bears. Mostly the Bears have sucked. And when they haven't sucked, they've lost in the first round of the playoffs, thus breaking your heart while sucking. But they did enjoy one unforgettable season in 1985, culminating in winning the Super Bowl in January 1986. This begat much chest-thumping and, of course, a cultural phenomenon that I personally despise: "Da Bears" made popular by the "Superfans" sketches on Saturday Night Live.

The whole "Da Bears" thing to me seems disrespectful, like boiling down the uplifting story of the movie "Rocky" to the catchphrases "Yo, Adrian" and "Hey, I ain't no bum!" If you see someone walking down the street wearing Bears paraphernalia (which might become more common as the Bears are good this year and the fair-weather fans are crawling out of their slimy holes), do not shout "Da Bears!" We true long-suffering Bears fans will smile and wave but inside we will want to slap you upside the head. Acceptable forms of cliched solidarity include "How 'bout those Bears!" or "Bears, baby!" And if you're not in solidarity, just ignore the Bears gear, which is hard I know because it's navy blue and orange and invariably ugly, unless the Bears fan him/her self is cute.

Currently the Bears are undefeated (5-0) and look to remain that way through at least the first eight games of the season. Thus, they have been bringing much joy into my currently annoying life, and for that, I thank them. Bear down, Chicago Bears!

Wednesday, October 11, 2006


I haven't been posting lately because there hasn't been much to post about. At least not much positive. My back continues to be a bit problematic. Due to my stays in the hospital, I became quite familiar with this handy chart:

My back has moved from "3-4" to "1-2." Better, but still enough for me to stay off the bike, because recumbent bikes tend to place a bit more stress on the back than upright bikes do. It's been really tough because, as usual, we've had an absolutely spectacular October in Portland, with sunny skies, light winds and highs in the low 70s -- the best bike riding weather imaginable. Had my back behaved, I probably could have managed the Larch Mountain ride by now, but I don't want to make things worse -- "3-4" was bad enough and I don't want to try for "5-6" or higher.

Unfortunately, "5-6" is probably close to the pain Buddy's been feeling in HIS back for the last 10 days or so. He's had his worst back episode yet and I finally took him to a specialist to whom our vet referred us. Buddy's scheduled for an MRI this Monday to see exactly where the problem resides. Preliminary findings suggest a compressed disk between his shoulder blades that's pinching a nerve, causing a lot of discomfort and a tendency to favor his left front leg. Poor boy! It's heartbreaking to see him want to do his usual things but struggle and hobble. I feel your pain, my friend.

So I've been staying close to home and making sure the boy is well drugged up and resting, and we both have been looking wistfully out the window at the glorious sunshine and sniffing the autumnal, crackly-leafed breeze and feeling sorry for ourselves.

At least I had the nice break of my birthday earlier this month. My wife and some friends had a nice dinner and few hundred pints at Horse Brass Pub, where I enjoyed some welcome company and some fantastic Walking Man Black Cherry Stout. Awesome! And also, my lovely wife got for me the Toshiro Mifune Ultimate Collection.

What a good wife!

So Buddy and I will watch some classic samurai flicks and probably be healed up just in time for the monsoon to hit. Such is life. But we both like the rain and if all goes well we'll be in good enough shape to take some nice walks in it.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Thoughts in the mind of my back

I've been spending a lot of time prone lately as my back slowly gets better, which has given me time to think. Never a good thing.

What struck me today is that the crappy design of the human back dictates many of the castes in our society. Think about it. Bending over a lot sucks because the physiology of our backs makes it tiring and painful. Therefore, any job that requires a lot of crouching and stooping is delegated to the lower rungs of our workforce. Picking crops for example. Much of the agriculture in the country is borne on the backs of immigrants -- literally -- because they're willing to assume the postures that Americans won't. When a job involves wretchedly difficult labor, one doesn't say "foot-breaking" or "nostril-breaking" or "earlobe-breaking" -- it's "back-breaking" and for good reason. Back pain is easy to come by and it totally, totally sucks. If our backs were such that bending over constantly made one feel really great, only the rich would be allowed to bow all day, I guarantee it.

I've also realized that humans have designed their indoor spaces stupidly. Taking something out of the oven, loading and unloading a dishwasher/washer/dryer, fetching or putting away one's cleaning supplies, sweeping the floor -- all involve contorting into uncomfortable positions, and, not coincidentally in my opinion, are jobs done by low wage earners. We should design our spaces so that everything is above knee height. Granted, we'd have to give up some window space, but it'd be worth it! Only chiropractors could be against such a sensible plan! Well, them and conservative Republicans, who WANT to see their laborers suffer.

The only good thing about the universality of back pain is that Argotnaut has frequently dealt with it herself, so she's been a sweetie as the house has gotten progressively more disgusting. She knows the only way to get better is to rest. But if my back doesn't get better soon, there will be only one solution: call some illegal immigrants to come clean our house! But I'd be sure to tip them well.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

But I want to be a lion tamer!

I had my third and final meeting with my...sing it with me now, Monty Python fans...Vocational Guidance Counsellorrrrrrrrrrr on Thursday, and the results were no surprise. God has called me to be a chartered accountant.

Actually, I had the right idea all along. In college, my plan was to be a science writer for a newspaper or magazine, or, perhaps more realistically, a marketing or technical writer for a scientific products company. Thus, I majored in Journalism and got minors in English and Physics. (Actually, the PLAN was to double-major in Journalism AND physics, but I was too busy working and too lazy partying to study enough to get through the necessary math courses.)

After all the fancy surveys and worksheets, it turns out I test very highly in "Investigative" (that's fancy-talk for sciency/researchy stuff), "Creative" (creating and enjoying art); middling in "Social" (helping, instructing) and "Realistic" (building, repairing) and low on "Conventional" (accounting, processing data) and "Enterprising" (selling, managing).

So I was initially on the right track, but was derailed a bit when I got into the financial marketing thing. My writing and research skills enabled me to do well, but it was still "just a job" at which I never really excelled and I went part time as soon as I was able so I could take piano lessons. (It's all so clear to me now!)

The challenge now, of course, is to find something more up my alley. My counsellor seemed keen on my becoming a teacher and Argotnaut seems to feel I'd be good at that, but I'm not so sure. "Learn that algebra or I'll give you something to cry about!"

But at least now I've got validation for what I thought all along. Now I just need to find something that will involve a lot of my "high interests" and few of my "low interests." I'm thinking something along the line of audio or video production, which would be technical but also creative. Or maybe I'll do marketing and educational materials for an artificial hip manufacturer. "Not only do I write about them, I'm also a client!"

Back D'oh! Man

Last week was rainy and cold around here, so I took my bike in for its 500-mile free tune up in anticipation of continuing training for my Larch Mountain ride. Just as the weather man predicted, the weather cleared yesterday and it's scheduled to be beautiful for the next week. Just enough time to get in a few more warm up rides and then go for the big one. And then, of course, my back went out. D'oh!

Now, I rarely have problems with my back. And this twinge was triggered not by doing anything spectacular, but by reaching down to the coffee table for the salt and pepper shakers. So now I'm walking around like Mr. Tudball on the old Carol Burnett Show..."Mrs. Ha-Wiggins!"

My wife has been chastising me like a little kid: "Keep still!" but it's hard for me to do. But if I'm going to make it to the top of Larch Mountain before the snows come, I'd better do what she says. Now where's my icy-hot? Missus Ha-Wiggins!"

Saturday, September 09, 2006

The Ride of Sisyphus

Those who know me know that I don't do anything without a plan. (The plan may not always WORK, and I often don't stick to it, but there IS a plan). Anyway, my cycling plan this summer is to ride to the top of Larch Mountain, a trek of about 60 miles and 4000 feet of elevation gain. From the top, one can see Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, Mt. Adams, Mt. Hood, and the top of Mt. Jefferson. Worth the trip, I'd say.

I tried to do the ride in late May of 2002, but the summit was still closed by snow. I still remember loading some of the snow in a water bottle, and then hitting Argotnaut with a snowball when I got back home. Keep in mind, this was May.

As you might expect, one doesn't just jump on one's bike and ride to the top of Larch Mountain. Well, you could, but if you survived, you'd feel like the wife of a friend of mine who gave birth after less than 90 minutes of labor; she likened it to "running a marathon without training and finishing."

Because that doesn't sound like much fun to me, I've been slowly working up to my goal. Today's ride was truly epic: The Sandy River Gorge. Details: 40 miles, 2700 ft. of elevation gain, 4 hours, 1500 calories. The topography of the ride, as related in the awesome book "Bicycling the Backroads of Northwest Oregon," looks like this:

As you can see, the ride is downright Sisyphian: 45 seconds of harrowing descent, followed by 45 minutes of grinding uphill. Then you roll to the bottom again. You do this about five times, the killer being a 1000 ft+ haul from the Sandy River.

The positives: Awesome scenery. Here are two shots, the first from the shore of the Sandy River, the second looking down on the river from the town of Sandy (noted on the above chart):

At the highest point of the ride, I stopped to recover a bit. These guys came to see what all the gasping and coughing was about. Apparently, I smelled bah-ah-ah-ah-ad.

After the biggest descent, I stopped to gather my wits (I hit my fastest speed I've ever ridden on a bike: 46 mph) and admire the Bull Run River, which is formed by runoff from nearby Mt. Hood and supplies much of Portland's drinking water.

The negatives: Lots of farmer traffic, the favored vehicle being those Ford 350 monster extended cab pickups with dual wheels on each side of the rear axle. Some of these also have bumper stickers like "This Vet Supports President Bush." I'm glad I didn't have some snippy placard on the back of my seat, especially because the roads were often twisty and there was never much room. (For this reason, I don't think it would be wise to do the ride again. Usually on my rides in area, I see a few other cyclists even in the more remote parts. Today, none, and I think the relative unsafeness of the route is the reason.)

Oh and the other negative? Pain. Lots and lots of pain. On a couple of the ascents, I had to actually get off the bike and push for a 100 feet or so. I've NEVER had to do that before. But that's why I'm doing this. To get stronger.

Actually, I'm feeling better after this ride than the 50 mile marathon of a few days ago. I don't know if I'm up to Larch Mountain yet, but I'm getting closer. I had just better get there by the end of September, or the snow will thwart me once again!