Friday, June 29, 2007

Call of the Wild

I was reading the USA Today recently when I ran across a small blurb about a family who had been camping, and their small child ended up being mauled and killed by a bear. It was an unfortunate tragedy, one that should keep us all beware of the dangers of the wild. Once we head off into the wilderness, we enter someone else's territory.

However, the tragedy does not end here. In order to deal with the situtation, the bear was then tracked, hunted and killed. Murdered, more like it.

Heres a practice that I don't understand and that I don't agree with. People need to understand that when a bear or other wild animal gets hungry, it is possible that we may be a part of its diet. Though not likely, it should be an inherent danger in camping.

Unfortunately the wild animal is then treated as a criminal, as if it is now mentally defective and it is assumed that he will all of a sudden start wondering the midnight streets of downtown denver making a meal of every passerby.

NO, YOU infringed on HIS territory, HIS habitat, and being the hungry bear he was, he ate. He's got what is called ANIMAL INSTINCT, which is to LIVE. And we're not about to teach bears to go to the grocery store.

There was a story in the past year about a community in California that was slowly extending closer and closer to a mountain lion habitat. Suddenly, the big cats started showing up the resident's backyards. Seeing the danger, they arranged to have the Mountain Lions killed to keep their children safe. Pretty ridiculous if you ask me.

I'm really curious about who decides to kill off these animals and why they chose to do so, because it makes absolutely no sense to me. Does anyone agree? Or am I just sounding like a PETA member???


Monday, June 25, 2007

Beware Of The Chutes

Ever since I took the kayaking class back in april, my friends Trey and Danna have been itching to get me into a kayak.

But to be completely honest, I was horrified. I often walk down the river and watch the guys kayak in the local river, and I'm NOWHERE NEAR that good. I've rolled a kayak a pool!!! And now I'm supposed to hop in a raging river? HA...I don't think so.

I mentioned to them that I had the weekend off, and they immediately suggested kayaking. I used to excuse that I couldn't afford to rent one, and tried not to bring it up. We later decided that on saturday we would drive up to Deckers, find a place to hang out by the river, eat some watermelon, and goof around in the river. Nothing serious, nothing dangerous, but enough to feel comfortable in the river.

As we drove along the canyon, Trey wanted me to take a look at the river and see what I thought about running the whole thing. And HONESTLY, it didn't look bad. I could run that river in a canoe.

All of a sudden, out of nowhere, I had a newfound confidence in kayaking. I thought "absolutely I can do this!! Theres no way I'll turn over on this river!"

Then we passed the chutes. Trey told me that if I didn't want to run the chutes, I didn't have to. Tons of people portage their kayaks around that portion of the river, so its no big deal.

"I dont think so Trey. That mess looks nasty." I said to him.

So we pulled over, yanked the kayaks off the car, and shoved off. Danna was letting me borrow her kayak for the day, while she and Deanna laid out, read books, whatever it is that girls do while us guys did manly stuff.

The run was fantastic, water a perfect temperature for a 95 degree day. After 10 minutes I felt comfortable in the kayak, and even though I let Trey run that chute by himself, I still managed to run plenty of whitewater myself. And not once did I turn over.

After the run, I was tempted to try the chute. I didn't let Trey in on it since I was afraid he would force me into it, but I thought I could handle it.

Couple hours later we are back on the river, doing the same run. Now that I'm doing it again, I start to doubt myself about the chute. We pulled over to an eddy right before the chute, and I told Trey I couldn't do it. No way.

Heres a video I found on the exact section of the river that I'm talking about:

We sat there for 15 minutes with Trey trying to convince me.
"look, the worst thats gonna happen is your gonna tip over. You can get out of the boat. You don't have to roll it, just do a wet exit. Theres a big pool after the rapids. no big deal. And anyways, I've never seen anyone tip on this thing, you probably will be fine." And a million other motivational tactics.

Finally, I gave in. I was gonna do it. We kayaked around the last turn before the chute, then stopped again so he could give me tips.

"Stay to the left, its gonna try to pull you right, and KEEP PADDLING!

"You wanna sit for a minute?" he asked
"no, lets go, I'm just gonna get more nervous." I replied.

Trey went first, got about 2 waves into the run, and tipped over. I saw his head bobbing in the pool a few moments later. It was my turn.

I went for it, and let me tell you, I got rocked left, right, backwards forwards. There were a million different currents tugging at my boat, but I kept paddling stayed straight, and made it all the way to the ....

At the last moment a current smacked the left side of the boat and dumped me into the water. I did what I was supposed to do, head forward for a few seconds, then pulled the spray skirt off the boat, allowing me passage to the surface.

I wanted to do it again. It was a blast. As we sat on the bank, emptying our kayaks of water, I looked at Trey, and asked "hey man, wheres the paddle??"

In my escape, I had forgotten to hold on to the paddle. It was long gone. Oops. In the rush, that thing was the last thing on my mind.

Danna wasn't happy to lose a $700 paddle (she paid 100 used), but she was forgiving, (I blamed it on Trey omitting the whole "hold on to the paddle part" in his advice before we ran it.) and Trey allowed me to run it again using his paddle.

I tugged the kayak up river, set in, and attacked the rapids.

I'm happy to say that I avenged the loss of the paddle. I rode all 5...10...20..however many waves and currents that the chute through at me and successfully ran it.

Trey tried it once more, and again he ended up upside down. Heres some photos of his last run.
Not to make him look bad, he just had a couple of bad runs...he's still way better than I am.

Also, as a post note, I just read this blog on our own "nuts about southwest" about checking your luggage at the airport..and us losing them. I found it interesting, cuz i have no idea about that side of the biz.


Thursday, June 14, 2007


I've been on vacation, and after enjoying an extended visit with my folks down in the sweltering and formidable june heat of Louisiana, I was excited to depart for what was sure to be an adventure into some of the nations richest history: Nantucket, Massachusetts.

You see, we fly nowhere near Nantucket, so I was forced to hitch a ride on the Peter Pan bus. From the Providence T.G. Green airport it was a 3 hour bus ride down to hyannis, then another 2 hour ferry ride across the sound to Nantucket.

It was quite a feat, but I arrived in Nantucket, 10:30pm, merely 15 hours after I had left New Orleans. For real, I was lucky to get there that fast.

I was there to see my friend Tyler whom I went to ACU with...oh so many years ago. Ok, truth be told, we barely knew each other at ACU (and that is even pushing it), but we've re-connected recently through a mutual friend. Shes there for the summer working as a tour guide on the island.

And I'll apologize for the CRAPPY photos from this trip. I was truly disappointed with almost every single shot..even the ones I was excited about...sucked. I think I was intimidated by Tyler's photography talents. For real.

Moving on.

Since I was in the company of a real life Professional Nantucket tour guide, most of our time was spent touring the historical societies...historic...sites...and they were all historically fantastic. The whaling museum had great presentations on whale hunts (thanks Marsha!!) and the experience of the Essex, which inspired the novel Moby Dick. I ran right out and bought a 2 dollar copy at the local thrift store. We saw the Hadwin House, the original home of a whaling merchant, and also Tyler's home, then the oldest working corn mill, then the oldest house (built in 1686!...we we're still almost 100 years away from being a country!). I spent every morning assisting Tyler in opening the Old Gaol (a jail) and the hose cart house (a fire station). Ok, I take that back, I didn't really help..mostly just watched.

To be completely honest, it was all completely phenomenal. It's the only town where the locals have to four-wheel through downtown...since its all still cobblestoned.

I stayed at the hostel across the island, and on the first morning while I was beginning what was to be a 3 mile walk to Tyler's, a nice Ukranian lady offered me a ride downtown. I accepted, and other than the fleeting awkward moment when her husband drove past us and waved (I'm sure she got questioned when she got home) and the stop to pick up her Bolivian cronies, it was very pleasant. They actually told me that it was unusual to see a young American on the island. It's filled with foreigners, especially the Irish.

I told her I wanted coffee, and she dropped me off at the local downtown coffee shop. Btw, other than a Ralph Lauren shop, theres not a single chain store, including restaurants, on the entire island. Doesn't make it easy on the pocketbook, but it is refreshing on the senses.

Everyone there was superbly nice, people said good morning to me on the streets (well that person ended up being one of Tyler's roommates...shes from texas) but STILL everyone was nice.

Tyler reading a book in a super cool chair at the Library...I would have read a lot more as a child had I had a chair like this.
One of the bikes we rented for the 2 days..YES, that IS a basket on front...I had to have something to carry around Moby Dick.

This is the dog that hung out at the library..he had a Nantucket t-shirt on, and the librarian would occasionally give him a she is now.

Frolicking among the flowers

Tuesday afternoon I drug Tyler on a distance bike ride up to Great Point, the farthest northeast corner of Nantucket. It took us an hour to get out there, then we got harassed by the patrol guard about our bikes because apparently its a problem since we didn't have four-wheel drive on them. From here on out we had to hike the dunes. We never got to the point since it would have been a 5 1/2 mile hike, but we got to the beach, where we spotted a seal.

I wish I had a zoom!!!

That evening I decided I wasn't leaving town without some Cod (I'm in Cape Cod for goodness sakes!) and we hit up a local cafe with her roommate. It was fantastic. Then we watched a horrible movie in Georgia Rule. Okay, I have to explain. Nantucket has a theater that plays only 1 movie at a time. It a really neat theater, but for real..whoever decided Georgia Rule was better than everything else out there...has some issues. Lindsay Lohan basically played herself, if that gives you an clues.

I departed the next morning and began what ended up a 12 hour trip back to Chicago.

Vacation is now officially over. It's time to put my nose back to the grindstone!

P.S. I used that last saying because it comes from the guys back in the day...who grind the corn in the mill.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Picture Time

I've recently learned how to turn my photos into "Ansel Adams type" photos. I'm addicted to it. Above is an example.

I had something to say here, but I got called out to assist my dad with the car. It was kind of a Wonder Years moment. "Hey Jeremy, why don't you go help your father with the truck?" In all honesty, I'm only good for holding the light. And I'm really no good at that. Sad and pathetic I am. So I've forgotten what I had come here to say.

SO, I'm gonna do what I should have been doing ever since my nephew was born back in september: posting pictures of him. For those who don't know, his name is Austin and in New Jersey, just north of Atlantic City. So enjoy!

This one (above) is my personal favorite

Monday, June 04, 2007

Through Hell...THEN we had to go back

View along the Colorado River in Southern Utah

Tim and I had been planning this trip for quite some time, then his sister Hollie decided to fly up last minute from Dallas to join us. Actually, we use the word "planning" loosely since nothing was planned except that we were driving across the rocky mountains, into southern Utah, and into the small town of Moab; the mountain biking/off road mecca of the U.S.

We went to bike.

We set up camp at 11pm, Hollie and I set up the tents, while Tim settled into his hammock. We were gonna need the rest, only we didn't realize it yet.

Morning came, we took our time, had breakfast, and wandered up to the slickrock trailhead. Bikes assembled, we road off into the harsh desert sun, ready to face the glorious 15 mile ride.

If you read any reviews of the slickrock trail, it mentions words such as "difficult", "dangerous," and "advanced." Actually, I'm going to paste the whole thing here. And this is one of the first things that popped up in google:

"This trail is VERY difficult and dangerous. Do not ride alone, but do not bring along you family, your girlfriend, or anyone that you love who is not an advanced rider. Despite the fact that the trail is shown on the Discovery Channel for kids to drool over, it is extremely dangerous and parents should exercise extreme caution with children under 18 (or over) who want to ride here. You could get them into serious trouble."

None of this did we know. We went into it blindly. I just thought it was a world-famous- awesome-everyone-need-to-do-it-trail.

The ride was fantastic. Well, we took a while to get started, since I was riding with "fiddling freaks." In that I mean that Tim and Hollie both have engineering minds, so they are always tinkering with their bikes. No offense to them, because they are problem solving wizards, but if it weren't for the kindness of experienced bike shop mechanics, we would have spent a whole heck of a lot more time out there.

Bikes working, we took off. It was amazing. I was having the time of my life. The trail would climb steep, then drop, almost vertically. We commented later that none of us knew that our bikes could go down something like that. We never thought it possible. But we did it.

Hollie riding down a steep grade...this is after she'd already fallen and slid down a few feet.

An hour into the ride, it was say hot was an understatement. It was scorching. We took one our many rests underneath a shady tree.

Back on the trail, we were refreshed and feeling good. We were riding over a ridgeline that overlooked Moab. It was stunning.

We come to a fork in the road. Tim, beginning to go down a steep hill, second guesses about which way to go. Next thing I know, he is flipping completely over his handlebars. He and I are both using toe clips, so as his feet go over his head, as does his bike. As he and the bike come to a stop, I see that he is moving (conscious), he's not screaming in pain (no broken bones) and I see that his face is not bleeding. So I know he's not going to die. But he DID crack his helmet. Without the helmet, we would have had to call a chopper.

Now we have to get Tim out of there.

We decide to forge ahead, figuring we are about 2 miles from halfway, and the hardest part behind us.

It was slow moving, since Tim couldn't climb, and was cautious going downhill (as were Hollie and I after seeing that accident.) The sun was scorching us, and we all became weary. It became a desperate search for the end. About a mile from the end, we stopped for before the one last push to the end.

As we arose from our break, Tim threw his bike down. He was nautious and couldn't continue. He'd been a beast getting this far, and now heat exhaustion was setting in. Luckily there was a few people hiking around, and we asked for the quickest way out. Turns out that way was a 4-wheel drive route. They graciously gave Tim a ride out (lucky, got a free 4x4 tour) while Hollie and I made the final push. It was excruciating. My body began to tingle towards the end, but we made it, and we drove to pick Tim up at the Ranger station.

After a well deserved steak dinner at the Broken Oar, we set up camp, spent 10 minutes around the fire, and turned in.

The next day, wanting nothing to do with a bicycle after the previous days ordeal, we spent the day wandering around Arches national park, only 3 miles down the road.

After arches, we began the drive home, all just happy for simply surviving. We are definitely going to return to Moab next summer for a second attempt at the slickrock trail.

As a post note, I'd like to report that after riding 15 miles in "extreme" terrain in my good ole' pedal clips, not once did I fall over. NOT ONCE.

Next up, Tim and I are considering the feasibility of canoing the Colorado from....wherever it starts all the way to Moab.