Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Vogue la galère.

Sitting at work all day I look directly at the summer’s to-do list, and see a long list of things that I swore I would do this summer but as of today are left undone. What happened to my goal to ski the Salamander Glacier? What about the plan to bike to Saskatchewan? Or do 1,000 push-ups in an hour (the second consecutive summer I’ve failed on this goal)? Visit the Crazy Mountains? Paddle the Bull River? Read Fugitive Days? Become a drummer in a punk band? Plan a beach holiday to Ghana? WHAT HAVE I BEEN DOING?

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(Leaving the truck on Fleecer Ridge.)

Miles biked (since June 1): 1,326
Miles hiked: 153
Nights camped: 29
Bagels consumed at breakfast while camping: 37
“Mandatory Watercraft Inspection Checkpoint” stops: 15
Times chased down by DWR officer for running an aforementioned checkpoint: 1
Lakes kayaked: 9
Mountains climbed: 8
Bald eagles sighted: 14

Apparently I’ve been spending a lot of time idling at “Mandatory Watercraft Inspection Checkpoint” stops, which for someone with a kayak are about as annoying as border checkpoints. I think I went through that one at Clearwater Junction eight times. It was probably on the eighth time, then, that I said – with Laura’s silent though implicit blessing – Oh screw this!, and did not stop, only to look in my rearview mirror 100 yards later and see a wildlife officer (yes they have such things here) gaining on me, fast, with lights flashing. Well, I told him the baby had just fallen asleep, which he seemed to buy.

As the French say, “Keep on rowing”.

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(View from Fleecer)

Cannondale: the saga continues

So when this story finished last my poor dear 22-year old M1000 was laying in two distinct pieces and not what you would technically call in a state where it could logically be “ridden”. So in September I put it up on Craigslist, asking $100, and made clear that though the picture in the ad showed a bike that looked perfectly decent, if not pretty, the reality was somewhat different. I had a number of interested parties call who apparently looked hard at the picture and ignored the witty yet honest the sales copy. Finally, a college kid wearing a shirt that said “I is Idaho” offered me $80 for it. I declined and the next day took it to Hellgate Cyclery.

I’m not sure where I got the idea that it would be fun to ride a single-speed bike, but converting the Cannondale to a single speed had some plusses on its side: (a) since the front derailleur was seized up and the shifting barely worked to begin with, not having no gears to shift none at all would seem to be a fine solution to the problem, and (b) the bike was 24.5 pounds to begin with, so shedding some superfluous shifting thingies and assorted whatnots should make it even lighter, and (c) all the cool kids are riding single speed bikes these days.

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(Humbug Spires on a wet Sunday)

Hellgate charged me $133 for the work, which included the conversion kit, labor, new brake pads, and a full tune up. It occurred to me as I was handing over the Visa card that $133 (conversion price) + $80 (high bid from “I is Idaho”) = $213, or about $87 less than you can get a hip-looking-though-heavy-made-in-China single speed replete with back-pedal brakes and a cool name (one bike is actually called – this is so rad! – “Torker”). Unfortunately, because of the Cannondale’s dropout I could not get the coveted back-pedal brakes. Anyway, at that point it was basically too late to call back “I is Idaho” and accept the offer. I took the new/ancient Cannondale home and biked around the block. MIND = BLOWN! Well, not really, but it’s pretty fun anyway. And it now weighs 22.5 pounds.

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(Rainbow Pass, Pintler Mountains)

Mountain Hardware: case closed!

When I left this story off last my (well, our) poor dear Mountain Hardware two-person tent that was dragged all over Australia had been sent back to the manufacturer with what even I would admit was a dubious warranty claim. Since this is America and all I expected that not only would the warranty claim be denied but that I would be sued, too. Imagine my surprise, then, when less than week later I got a personal phone call from Mountain Hardware Central telling me that while they wanted to replace my broken poles they could not since that tent was years out of production, and since the tents were out of production they could not give me a replacement tent, and because of those two factors I could have the equivalent value of the tent in company credit. I believe his actual words were “Take a look at our web site and see what you want. Just try to keep it less than about $250.” I did, and four days later a spiffy new Mountain Hardware Drifter 2 tent was leaning against my front door. SCORE!

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(Baby with his tummy hanging out, Yaak River)

Triple J? How about Zimnet?

I listen to Internet radio at work (ooops – was I supposed to admit that?) and for a long time listened to Australia’s Triple J. Recently I switched to Zimnet Radio, from Harare. The DJs are so chipper (well it sounds chipper, although they mostly speak in Shona so I have no clue what they are saying really) I half wonder if Mugabe is holding a pistol to their heads while they make announcements. I spent a bit of time in Zimbabwe in the 1990s and it’s hard to reconcile the happy country of then with the trainwreck of a country today. (Mugabe was in power when I was there, too, but either he was not as ghoulish as he is today or he was just as ghoulish then but no one cared.) Anyway, Zimbabwean pop music today is basically unchanged from when I visited the country in the 1990s, and so listening to this station brings back a lot of memories of bouncy bus rides and late-night bar scenes.

Anyway, here’s a video of one of the best musicians in the country (although it is clearly one of the worst music videos of all time).

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(Humbug Spires Wilderness Study Area)

While I’m partial to the lilting melodies of Zimbabwe, to me the Congo-Zaireans will always be the kings of kwassa-kwassa. Here is one of the masters, though things really don’t make sense until about 10 minutes in (and again, ignore the bizarre video itself).

Speaking of Africa, here’s a wonderful video showing some of the great, important work the NRA is doing to rid Botswana of elephants.

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(This NRA moment was brought to you by a beer can hidden in a log. Nice work guys!)

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Deep in the outYaak.

The spectacular Yaak River.

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Spar Lake -- never would have known about it had Tabitha and Thomas not recommended it.

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Cedar forest in the Yaak.

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Lunch time!

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Kilbrennan Lake -- another recommendation.

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I swear, most of the trash in America is associated with Bud Light. You never see a can of Cold Smoke tossed onto a highway shoulder.

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Fall in the morning air. And a bit of haze.

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"Yaak", I believe, means arrowhead. Just another valley 3.5 hours from home.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The god of big things.

Afloat on the Clark Fork:

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Afloat on Lower Miner Lake:

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'Afloat' in the Big Hole:

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Keeping clean in the Beaverhead:

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Breakfast time at Divide Bridge:

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Rainy day on Petty Mountain:

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And this, along the Wise River:

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In The God of Small Things, the small things are brightly illuminated: betrayal, discrimination, cultural tensions, and of course Indian history. The small things get a lot of attention, and the big things never get fixed.

Who drives down the road and does such a thing?

Here's a picture of a baby drinking from a puddle:

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Wednesday, September 4, 2013


While flipping through photos from last weekend's trip to the Big Hole, I noticed my camera had built a new image folder. This stumped me until I realized why: the image tagging numbering had to roll over since I had taken 9999 pictures.

Here is the first photo of the new folder -- or, stated in a more interesting way, image 10,000:

Though Laura has a flashy new camera, this Sony DSC-WX9, bought as a refurbished unit from for about $140, has been pretty sturdy. Two weeks ago it appeared that the motor drive to push the lens out of the body had failed, but a bit of shaking got it functioning again.

I bought this camera in June, 2012 and had to send it back in November for a similar problem; Sony fixed it for free. It's past the warranty period, so hopefully that won't happen again.

The image counter is now on 10,011; math says I've taken an average of nearly 22 photos a day since the day I got this camera.

Lucky picture 10,000 was a shot south along the Wise River Valley in the Pioneer Mountains on a smoky Sunday morning.