Friday, February 26, 2016

Ramming Speed Friday: Hot Irons Edition

Remember I said I had forty two irons in the fire?  It’s like instead of just having a few too many irons in the fire I’m also trying to juggle them to mix analogies.
And it’s funny how things seem to come together all at once.
The Clay City Park boat access project is ‘round the horn.  We need to apply for permits.  Fish & Wildlife has a design for us.
The Judy Creek Trail public meeting is on March 3rd and I’m trying to promote it at this point.  Things are looking up on that too.  I’m still sort of mind boggled that this trail idea might come to fruition.  If it does I think it may just be the beginning of a long career of building trails for me.
The weather might be starting to come around and I’m getting antsy to get the Flat Hollow Arch Trail loop finished.  We need to have a trail day or two so my own lower back doesn’t bear the brunt of trail construction.  And so I am trying to logisticize that. 
I haven’t been riding, I haven’t been riding, I haven’t been riding. 
That’s all that needs to be said about that.
On the other hand, we are actually in the process of hiring my replacement so I can move into the Planner/Trails - Bike-Ped Coordinator position.  And those first two projects I mentioned are directly related to my job and that impending position.  For me, that’s huge.  I’ve been able to somehow trick the universe into letting me create the position I wanted to have.  I hope I can have a few big successes before someone realizes what’s going on and points and says: “Who is that guy and why are we letting him have so much fun?”
I firmly believe that by creating the position that we are going to stimulate demand for more bike-ped and trails infrastructure in the region and that the position will end up justifying itself in the long run.  We all see the potential value, but it’s hard to quantify it so early in the game.
But that’s my quick and dirty Ramming Speed Friday post.  Hope you have a speedy weekend with lots to carry on about.  I intend to try and garner some blog fodder myself.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

If Not You Then Who?

I’m a busy guy.  Some day—years from now—I hope I can look back on my efforts with some satisfaction and pride at what I accomplished.  But ultimately I’m not looking for name recognition or kudos or even monetary compensation.  All would be nice, but my motivation is simply to see things get done that just need to be done.
Mountain bike trails.  I am working hard to get legal purpose-built bike-optimized trails built in my neighborhood.  When I say “my neighborhood” I mean locations within thirty minutes of my house.  This is taking a surprisingly yuge amount of effort and energy.  I do recognize that at some point critical mass will be achieved and there will be more backs to distribute the load, but until then I am the Quixotic champion of Red River Gorge area mountain bike trails.
A bike friendly Powell County.  Again, working hard to make this happen.  I have a scheme for the long term.  I’m working toward making it happen.  But again, this is something that someone should have been doing twenty years ago.  If I wait around for someone else to do it then it may never get done.  And it’s important.

So I could be out riding my bike, running, rock climbing, or maybe even working on my house.  But I can’t stomach the idea of another year, another month, another week or day or hour going by while nothing gets done. 
Some day—maybe next year—I hope that I will just be able to think about going and riding my mountain bike and not worry about building a place for the activity to occur.  I really don’t want to be building trails.  I really don’t want to be writing grants.  I really don’t care to attend public meetings, to call and track down public officials and land managers, to explain why we need more access to trails and the outdoors, to make the case for these things that will result in better health, better tourism opportunities, and a better quality of life for residents and visitors to our community alike.
I don’t want to do all of those things.  What I really want to do is ride my bike.
And I’d like for there to be enough people walking, running, and riding bikes on the roads for motorists to pay more attention and give cyclists and pedestrians more consideration.
It would be really easy to give up.  I could grow fat and lazy and stop giving a damn.  For a little while.  But then I'd get restless and frustrated.  I’d go out and ride my road bike and get pissed off at inattentive and aggressive drivers.  I’d bemoan the fact that there’s absolutely no developed off-road cycling opportunities in my community.  I’d bemoan the fact that no one cares.
The truth is…a lot of people care.  The truth is that what I want is what a lot of people want.  And the reasons no one is actively pursuing these things are the normal reasons people don’t become activists and advocates: lack of time, lack of understanding of how the decision making process works, lack of organization, lack of community energy and momentum.
And because people care and because nothing is currently going on in the bike-ped realm in my community I feel compelled to act.  I have the background, the experience, and the knowledge to make things happen.  I’m not really an expert on these things, but I know enough to be dangerous and perhaps to get things done.  Give me a year and I’ll let you call me an expert.
The easy thing to do would be to find a community that already has all of the amenities that I want to enjoy in my daily life and move there.  But the easy thing isn’t always the right thing.  And the easy thing isn’t always the best thing.
I want more people to have the opportunity to enjoy trails, the outdoors, better health, and a culture of daily activity.  And who better to benefit from those things than my family and life long friends?

Friday, February 19, 2016

Ramming Speed Friday: Quick and Dirty Edition

I don't have a substantive post today.  But I did ride the Sporty Sport Bike across the city to pick up the Sag Wagon earlier today.  It's a long story, and I don't have time to get into it before quitting time on a Friday afternoon.

I missed my turn.  I ended up going almost a mile out of my way.  But it was all good, as I got to ride in a relatively nice day (if not windy anyway), and I'm itching to get out on the SpSpB (not to be confused with the Simply Simple Bike) again soon.

The other day I finally test rode a Marin Pine Mountain 1.  I agree with Bike Snob that if I ever get my hands on one (again) Marin will have to hunt me down to pry it out of my cold dead hands.  I took it over curb and snow and slush and dodged pedestrians in downtown Richmond.  It was awesome.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Caveat Emptor: A Political Uncloseting?

This was originally written as a Facebook note.  I'm not changing anything grammatically or in reference to Facebook or my Facebook "friends."  When it was said and done it seemed like a fair summation of my thinking these days about politics.  I have disabled comments on this post because I just don't want to argue with people.  This is my blog.  These are my thoughts.  And like I say in the body: I've made my position clear, I don't need to defend it in the comments. 

I will entertain sitting down over a cup of coffee, but it has to fit into my schedule and travel patterns.

Okay, y'know what, I'm going to come clean.

My whole life I was a political independent. When I first registered to vote I didn't know what it meant to be a republican or a democrat and I wasn't comfortable making that kind of uninformed decision. Well, I've finally made the decision.

I grew up in the church. I believe that we should love everyone, do good to those that persecute us, and to help those who are in need. My understanding of Christianity is that is a religion of selflessness, doing good works, and living a life that is better than ordinary.  This is not what I learned from the mouths of men who stand in front of a group of people and interpret scripture to the masses.  These are the things that have permeated my mind and heart from the words written in scripture despite all of those sermons.
I’ve spent over four decades marinating in the word of God. 
Nowhere have I heard anything about the right to bear arms.  I reject the notion that I am somehow obligated as a Christian to arm myself to the teeth to protect my family.  You can proof text until the day is done, but that doesn’t gel with scripture.  Nowhere have I read anything about creating value for shareholders in black or red ink.  Nowhere have I read anything about upholding the constitution or that the constitution is some kind of appendix to the Bible.  Nowhere have I read anything about the United States of America as being the chosen country of God. 
Nowhere have I read a stipulation that you should help the poor UNLESS they don’t deserve it.  Nowhere have a read a clause that frees me from the commandment to love everyone regardless of race, color, or creed.  You show me where Jesus says to pick and choose where to show my love.  Nowhere have I read that it is okay to call my political opponents names, insult their intelligence, damn them to hell, and pronounce my own superiority. 
I see this all the time from so-called Christians who have drunk the kool-aid of the political Right.  I am not saying that being a democrat is the right choice for Christians.  But I am saying most definitely that if you think the GOP is any better you’re fooling yourself. 
I have read verses that say you should respect the leaders of the land because they have been put there and ordained by God.  Yes, even Obama.  I have read verses that say to render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s.  Y’know what I took away from that verse?  Money should have little value and hold little sway over the hearts of Christians.  A friend of mine who I grew up with in the church once told me that “what’s mine is mine and I will decide who to give it to.”  I don’t take that away from scripture.  I seem to remember reading a lot about selling all you have and giving to the poor.  That doesn’t sound like “what’s mine is mine.” 
Since I’ve been dragged into caring about politics (I did not before 9/11/01) I have been frustrated that I can’t participate in primary elections because of my independence.  As things began getting underway for the upcoming presidential election I decided I needed to choose a party simply so I could vote in the primary.  I thought long and hard.  See, a few years ago I took it upon myself to do a deep study of different political parties.  I looked the Green Party, the Tea Party (maybe there should be a Green Tea Party), and some Centrist organizations.  I looked into Democratic Socialism, Christian Socialism, I read about communism and even anarchism. 
In the end I realized that only a republican or democratic vote mattered.  That was depressing.  I’ve forever railed against the necessity of choosing between two evils.  I even argued with that friend from church who said that despite it being a choice of evils it was still LESS evil to vote for a republican. 
I registered as a democrat.  I wasn’t happy with the choice.  But when I had to decide I absolutely could not stomach the thought of being associated with the GOP.  To me it represents all that is wrong with the country.  ALL…on both sides of the aisle.  But because the Right has co-opted my religion and has twisted it into something profane and distinctively unchristian I cannot attach my name to it. 
That doesn’t mean I am pro-abortion.  I am pro-choice in the sense that it is not my choice to make for someone else (I believe on the Right they call that “Limited Government”).  I am not pro-gay marriage.  But again, I don’t believe that is my choice to make for someone else.  Those two issues aside, I have no qualms with calling myself a democrat.  In fact, if those two issues weren’t so mangled and twisted into the wreckage of modern politics I don’t think I would ever have cared one way or the other which party I was part of.  And I don’t mean to say that either of those issues matter much at all to me.  They’ve been used to force me to choose in a way that I abhor.
Growing up in the church I was led to believe that if I was a democrat then I was supporting things that were sin and evil.  What I have realized over time is that there is nothing about being a republican that is different.  When we blindly follow one party or the other we are contributing to the decline of our civilization.  Full stop.
Republicans are not the chosen people of God.  Don’t fool yourself.  Think for yourself.  You don’t have to vote one way or the other to be a good Christian.  But if it doesn’t sound right then don’t believe it.  The entire system is rigged to keep us from thinking for ourselves.  It’s a marketing tool.  It’s a form of control designed to maximize votes along polarized lines.  Two parties polarize and force decisions when what we really need is more constructive dialogue and more political options.  But clear political options—not like the current GOP primary race. 
While protesters wave signs for or against abortion and gay marriage in all fifty states legislators pass laws that contradict every campaign promise they ever made to the masses to satisfy those with the real power: the extremely rich. 
The ugly truth is that money is power in our world today.  And that power is so strong is can twist the truth.  It can convince us that black is white, up is down, and wrong is right.  We believe what flashes before our eyes because we never have time to stop and think about the real underlying issues of our times. 
As a Christian I don’t think I should care so much about upholding the constitution.  At least not in the sense that somehow the constitution contributes to my salvation in any way.  American Freedom is not the same thing as the freedom that Jesus teaches.  American Freedom is also not the freedom to whatever the hell you want regardless of how it impacts other people.  That’s not freedom.  That’s chaos.  And when chaos reigns then survival of the fittest becomes the law of the land.  We’re moving dangerously into that realm.
And while many Christians don’t think that God will allow humanity to destroy the world again (and I agree) I do not believe that God will protect our civilization from its own willful stupidity.  God’s will can persist with only a remnant of humanity surviving an apocalyptic collapse of society.  Other great civilizations have fallen.  Nothing makes ours immune to the conditions that contribute to a fall.  We won’t destroy our planet, but we may destroy the current economic, political, and social structures that inhabit it.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Slow News Day

Chainring news has been slow.  So yeah, you’re getting the puff piece this morning.
I did take the kids hiking over the weekend.  And I did do a little trail work in Flat Hollow.  And we did have a Super Bowl party at the house (my wife is a YUGE Broncos fan). 
The trail work was not worth delving into.  It wasn’t a bad day in the woods.  Saw dirt bike tracks on the trail we’re working on.  Something to deal with in the future.  Anyway…
Mandy wanted to get the house cleaned up for the #SB50 par-tay.  Sometimes it’s easier if the rest of us just get out of her way.  I had moved the TV from the bedroom to the living room and we had signal.  That was the crucial bit.  The cooking I’m no help with.  Cleaning I can do, but a lot of times I just wander aimlessly instead of being helpful.  And the kids…
Anyway, I told them I was taking them hiking.  Boone grumbled and Bean acted like she was ecstatic just to annoy her brother.  My plan was to take them to do the Courthouse Rock loop.  Y’know, hike out Auxier Ridge to Courthouse and return via Auxier Branch and Tunnel Ridge Road?  I don’t think they’ve done that one.  Well, Boone rode on my back once on a hike out there, but other than that neither of them have been there.  Perfect.
Except, I forgot that the Forest Service has closed all of the gravel roads in the area to prevent damage from vehicular traffic during the wet season.  I agree with that decision.  We got to Tunnel Ridge Road and as we approached the turn I knew my plan was shot.  Cars were parked all along KY 15.
“That’s okay, we’ll go to Princess Arch,” I conceded.  So we drove toward Pine Ridge.  As we turned on Sky Bridge Road heading for Chimney Top Road I remembered that…you guessed it!  Chimney Top Road is currently closed too.  Headsmack.
We opted for Angel Windows.  Boone had also been there, but it was before his sister was born so there was little chance he’d remember it.  The hike is relatively short and easy, and my plan was to combine it with Whistling Arch, Sky Bridge, and whatever else we could find that was close to the road.  Maximum bang for our buck.
The kids had a blast at Angel Windows despite their earlier reluctance.  At one point Boone exclaimed: “This is cool!” and I asked if he was glad I had dragged him out of his room to go hiking.  He said yes.  Headsmack.
The night before I had stood transfixed by the night sky in our driveway after the rest of my family had gone inside.  I vowed that we would start doing more camping and back/bikepacking.  As we hiked back from Angel Windows I mentioned to Boone that I wanted to take him and Ty backpacking again, or—probing—we could try bikepacking.  He said he would rather go bikepacking.  My forehead was starting to sting.
My kids have both been bikepacking once.  We took an overnight trip from our home in Coloradoto the Medicine Bow rail trail in Wyoming.  I pulled Boone’s bike with a towbar and Lily’s trailer with all of our camping gear was hitched to his bike.  We had quite the train.  That was a fun adventure that we have not recreated.  It’s maybe time to try it again.
After Angel Windows we discovered the trailhead for Whistling Arch was packed.  We drove on down to Tower Rock and took a leisurely walk around it, playing on boulders, and basically just hanging out.  It was a really nice change of pace for me, and the kids seemed to have a really good time.

We live too close to all that public land not to take advantage of it.  And I don’t mean just day hikes.  We need to be camping out, exploring more deeply, and keeping ourselves happy and healthy with some sun and tree therapy.
The party was good.  We had a few friends show up and hang for the duration.  There was lots of good food.  LOTS.  And today I begin trying to change the makeup of my body.  Seriously.


Monday, February 1, 2016

Gym Rat Trap

Its funny how quickly the rock climbing landscape changes in these parts.  I imagine it’s similar in other locales, but I’ve had the unique experience of watching the fabric of Red River Gorge climbing grow in size and change in patterns from year to year.
There’s something that’s curious to me.  A new safety concern is of ropes being severed on fixed quickdraws (“draws” hereafter).  Typically ropes are being cut during short falls close to the ground by the first or second bolt fixed gear. 
The cause seems to be that as climbers repeatedly climb the route the rope runs in exactly the same location through the fixed gear with each ascent.  We know ropes harbor pesky sand and grit in its fibers—especially in sandstone climbing areas—and these abrasives quickly wear away the soft aluminum (and apparently steel as well, but not as fast) carabiners until a sharp edge forms.  The ‘biners don’t fail, they simply sever the rope.
Don't. Cut. The rope.  Matt Damon.
A positive side effect of this is that most of the related falls are short or the rope isn’t completely severed.  But nylon ropes under tension can sever completely on relatively dull edges.  And it is possible that the rope could sever on the first bolt while the climber is higher on the route, though this is unlikely as the rope stretches more and absorbs more of the force of the fall, whereas low falls put a lot of force on the worn edge of the ‘biner and cause the failure.
When I went on hiatus from rock climbing a few years ago fixed draws were not common.  I knew of less than half a dozen routes that had fixed draws or other fixed gear and those were typically more difficult and excessively overhanging routes.  The first quickdraw on a route was different every time unless you intentionally used the same one each time you climbed, but the angles and patterns changed regardless because each route was different with different angles.
These days apparently the masses have grown even lazier than they used to be and convenience gear is becoming more and more the norm.  With this (at least) one disturbing result.
Compounding the sudden and stark danger of fixed draws is the sheer number of gym noobs that are bungling around in the woods looking for bolts to clip.  It was bad in the late Nineties and early Aughts.  I remember giving impromptu anchor cleaning clinics more often than I sent routes.  It seemed then that every time you turned around you were bailing someone out of a predicament that they had no business being in.  Climbers were partly to blame for being too egotistical and impatient to take on apprentices as had been done in Ye Olden Dayes and urban climbing gyms were feeding constant streams of fresh new and na├»ve bodies to be beaten and broken against the rocks of the Red River Gorge.
I know that sounds dramatic, but I witnessed an insane number of instances where strong climber did utterly stupid things that could have killed themselves and the people around them because they didn’t have good sense and experience in the outdoors or with real world climbing situations.
Counterintuitive maybe, but this could be a safer place than the sport crag
These days there are ravening hordes of gym climbers who can’t even find their way to trailheads and approach trails with smartphone apps.  I know, because I’ve been giving directions to crags I’ve never been to all this past summer and fall as we worked on mountain bike trails in the PMRP.  It blows my mind.
The simple solution to the fixed gear dilemma would be for climbers to stop being lazy.  Hang your own draws.  If you can’t climb the route without fixed gear then maybe you need to go back to the gym and hit the campus board until next weekend and try it again.  I used to fuss at dainty sport climbers who complained about “heavy” quickdraws.  “Do some freakin’ pullups!” I’d holler.
What used to be the norm was a cleaning ‘biner low on the route that would keep you from swinging wildly away from the wall as you tried to retrieve your own gear off the route.  I blame some of my friends from high school who would boulder up and steal those ‘biners.  But that system worked as long as everyone understood what those pieces of fixed gear were for and how they were to be used. 
Which takes us back to my first point about what the problems are in rock climbing today: no one mentors new climbers.  Gyms learn ‘em how to be dangerous and turn ‘em loose on the world and other, wiser climbers shy away because they’re afraid of getting blood on their shoes.
I realize a lot of gyms and advocacy organizations have learned and they try to offer gym to outdoor transition classes.  But I think the damage has been done, and I think too many people either ignore those classes or the classes aren’t comprehensive or intense enough to convey the crucial thinking skills needed to survive as a rock climber.
I learned to climb through books and magazines.  Because it was all I had I would consume the monthly climbing magazines and any books about climbing I could get my hands on.  It was a scary trial and error process that left me very well rounded and very well capable of identifying and avoiding precarious situations. 
Our new Millennial-minded culture doesn’t have time to consume a magazine cover to cover or even read directions from the guidebook to get to a trailhead or crag, much less a whole book on mountaineering or on a specialized skill like anchor building.  What creates even more problems is that sport climbing is not regarded as the same kind of discipline as trad climbing or mountaineering and therefore less emphasis is put on ropework and self-rescue.  Those skills would better train young rock climbers’ awareness of potentially dangerous situations.
Maybe I’m not the guy that should be saying all this.  This past winter I got a whole new trad rack after nearly ten years of not being a “climber.”  I feel like I’ll be the gumby on the wall come spring when I go out trying to scratch and claw my way up some easy and moderate routes.
My rack was old five years ago.
Vedauwoo 2010