Friday, February 28, 2014

Mayor John Engen is making me lose my faith what was supposed to be a liberal Missoula City Council.

Missoula has all the trappings of a smug little progressive city. We have more bike shops than car dealers, more breweries than McDonalds, and snowy city streets that can go an entire winter without seeing a snowplow. Why, then, does this city continue to put its stamp of approval on new construction that looks like shit?

 photo e2ba7162-0653-4999-bb11-5949d8fb8ade.jpg

Towns that give a crap about how they look hardly hesitate to form boards whose sole function is to meddle in architectural drawings. In Biltmore Forest, which is about ten times richer than Missoula but not even half as liberal, I once sat through a design review committee meeting where appointees debated for a half-hour if a renovated home’s back doors should be French, French Provincial, or French Country. That’s what I’m talking about!

Fred Van Valkenburg no longer has the moral authority serve as county attorney.

There was a time when Van Valkenburg could have deftly maneuvered the current crisis to appease critics and build a better attorney’s office. That time is long gone . When presented with a 20-page federal report on his office’s shortcomings, he called the contents lies and said the Department of Justice had no constitutional authority to investigate him. He cajoled the county commission into granting him $50,000 to sue the feds – a black mark on an otherwise decent commission. He then went on vacation. Being on vacation made him unavailable to the press, but did not prevent him from personally confronting his critics at home and abroad.

Missoula has enough crap to deal with these days. It ought not to have to put up with an attorney who is causing problems rather than solving them.

And after all that, who doesn’t need a good pancake recipe?

Pancakes for dinner, Southwestern style:

2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 cups milk
2 eggs
4 Tbs. vegetable oil
1 can chopped roasted green chilis
2/3 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Mix until incorporated, then cook on a griddle. Serve with a sauce -- I mix 1 cup of sour cream with a generous dollop of hot sauce.

 photo DSC02632.jpg

Oh yeah!

And finally, the blizzard update you’ve all been waiting for.

Missoulia has been host to a historic and record-setting bout of snowfall for the past several weeks, culminating in a real-life blizzard which began early this morning. This storm caused the cancellation of classes not only for Missoula County Public Schools and the University of Utah, but also a host of other public and private institutions – including Hellgate Elementary, which had only closed its doors to a storm once prior to this in the past 30 years. People outside Montana might not immediately appreciate the sort of winter we’ve had lately, but I think you can safely assume that when things are so heavy that even Montanans take notice, then they are pretty freaking heavy. National Weather Service Missoula summed things up nicely this morning in their forecast discussion: ‘The weather will not be fit for either man or beast.’

Montana, it’s so … colorful:

 photo NWScolor.jpg

The map shows the state from border to border covered in watches and warnings of one form or another, but actually many spots in Montana currently have two warnings simultaneously.

The slate of storms has left the mountains with their deepest snowpacks in years, and made possible legitimate backcountry skiing options leaving literally from town. I’ll end this post with some pictures I took skiing University Mountain this week after work:

 photo DSC02575.jpg

 photo DSC02590-1.jpg

 photo DSC02578.jpg

 photo DSC02625.jpg

Friday, February 21, 2014

The four horsemen of the apocalyptic Chinook.

Things are looking good.

 photo DSC02382.jpg

Better if you go up a few feet.

 photo DSC02375.jpg

Some things are so close but so far away.

 photo DSC02463.jpg

How deep is the snow? Ask California Creek.

 photo DSC02481.jpg

I hate to see that sun go down.

 photo DSC02492.jpg

At Maverick, the party is in the bar, where the ski patrol band was playing "Wagon Wheel" and we were invited to the baked potato potluck fundraiser.

 photo DSC02430-1.jpg

The baby, however, finds the party out on the ski rack.

 photo DSC02450.jpg

The state highway over the Continental Divide roughly from Anaconda to Wise River is never short on adventure. This year the north side of the pass featured the largest frost heave I've ever seen (and that includes the Alaska Highway). Last week the south side was featuring an ice dam which had forced French Creek across the road. For more than 100 yards we had thick hard ice, running water, and deep ruts. We traveled the entire route without seeing pavement, and often having to power through drifts crossing the road.

 photo DSC02466.jpg

Technically, "chinook" referns to a wind that is warmed by the downward rush of air from a mountain. Colloquially, it's used to refer to almost any spell of warm weather. We had the colloquial version last week, which sent the temperature from -23 to 44 in four days, and removed about a foot from the valley's snowpack in seven.

Thankfully, it's snowing again.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Single speed, single digits, single lanes

Fresh studs work wonders on hardpacked streets – and are ungainly and awkward on dry pavement.

 photo DSC02348.jpg

Somehow I wound up with a bunch of Kenda tubes for these 26 inch wheels. Kendas are nice and cheap but I’ve been troubled by the seams cracking and splitting, especially when the temperature dips toward minus 10. Seam cracks are impossible to really fix.

 photo DSC02351-1.jpg

Single speeds are not that bad for winter biking. Given enough slush, mud, grit, and grime, most geared bikes will eventually go single speed on you anyway. The downside is that the Cannondale’s single speed is cogged for city riding, so deep snow, icy hills, and strong headwinds make for a spicy commute.

 photo DSC02347.jpg

Missoula’s legendarily lax street plowing routine, and a recent spate of high-test weather events have produced some memorable biking and Chariot pulling.

Whoa – lookie there. The Clark Fork, totally frozen. (I heard people are ice skating on McDonald Lake.)

 photo DSC02363.jpg

A deep day on Lockwood, looking out to Potomac and Montana 200.

 photo DSC02379.jpg

An after-work run up to the tippy top of Marshall. If you could stand the fact that it was -20, it was actually pretty nice.

 photo DSC02369.jpg

Everybody jump!

 photo DSC02395.jpg