Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Cat Fat

I signed up in the Clydesdale division because it might be the only way my weight would ever be an advantage for me.  At two hundred pounds curb weight I was just heavy enough. 
Unfortunately for me at two hundred pounds I’m in about my worst shape.  That’s thirty pounds more than my “ideal” weight.  I’ve not been riding a lot or running much at all.  In short, I’m out of shape.
Eleven guys signed up as Clydesdales for the Kentucky Point Series/Bluegrass State Games mountain bike race at Capitol View in Frankfort on Sunday.  Troy Hearn warned me that there were sandbaggers in the mix.  And at the start someone pointed out that a Cat 1 racer could sign up as a Clydesdale.  Oh well, I hadn’t expected to win really.
It was freakin’ hot.  Face of the sun.  If it hadn’t been race day I would have found a better activity.  Like monitoring the outflow of my AC at home.  You see why I’m fat.
I’ve become lazy this year.  I need to get off my butt more and sweat.  I need to race more.  Scrap it out with faster people.  I need to fall down and get back up.  I’ve started back into a lifestyle of being active.  My wife and I did the Wildcat Mountain Challenge recently.  I raced in the singlespeed category at the Cave Run Kentucky Point Series race.  I’ve now got my sights set on the 12 Hours of Capitol View and the final race in the KPS: the six hour race at Laurel Lake on August 28th. 
Even though I’m not a Cat 1 racer I still enjoy mountain bike racing.  I like riding my bike fast through the woods, but I’m only Cat 3 fast. Or Clydesdale fast.  Duking it out with strangers to see who can get out of the woods first adds to the experience.  Except if you do it enough they stop being strangers. And I’m not even Clydesdale fast.
Now when I show up at these things I see old friends and new and add to the list of people I can count as friends outside of social media.  It’s fun to linger and laugh and commiserate about experiences out on the course.  That’s what I truly loved about the dysfunctional climbing community I was part of for so many years—meeting up with friends and sharing adventures.
But the social aspects aside—because let’s face it, I could just go hang out at a bar if I wanted to make friends out of strangers—why do I put myself through the suffering of a mountain bike race at my age/weight? 
The short answer is that I love to ride my mountain bike, and the reasons I love to ride in general also compel me to race my mountain bike.  That’s sort of the reason, but then there is something about the added urgency and pressure of holding off that guy/girl behind you and desperately trying to hang on the wheel of the rider in front of you that enhances the experience of mountain biking beyond a simple fun ride on the trails.   
The race compels strategy and tactical thinking.  It’s more than having a good time.  It’s about focus and determination and endurance.  Racing changes you.  It fuels your passion and drive.  It can inspire you or shame you to greater things. 
Nothing feels as good as finding that pace that you can sustain for miles and spinning the pedals as you fly through the dappled forest floor surfing up and down with the undulations of the trail.  Those are the moments I strive for, when I have reached a state of flow and time ceases to exist, heat cease to exist, resistance ceases to exist.  That is life.  That is my motivation to ride my mountain bike.
When I started out trying to race my bike I aimed for hundred mile sufferfests.  But I’m finding I kinda like the shorter races almost as much.  I gotta admit the two KPS races I’ve done have been a blast.  After the CVP race this past Sunday I’ve even decided it might be fun to do the upcoming 12 hour race there as part of a team.
Gasp!  I know!  That, coming from the guy whose personal motto is: There is no 'team' in 'I.'

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Wildcat Mountain Chronicles: Couch Jockey No More

I'd like to start this second part with "Go!" Or something exciting about the starting gun.  And while that would be accurate it's not appropriate.  

When the 9:00am start didn't happen I sort of assumed it would bump to 9:30 or 10:00.  There were still people gone dropping off boats and bikes.  I knew Kris and his son Andy were still out.  So when Steve of the Sheltowee Trace Association called for everyone to gather 'round at 9:15 or so I guessed it was to announce when we would be starting.  He did a quick roll call, told us to line up on the cross walk, and in short order someone called "Go!"

Kris and Andy (and presumably others) had not returned to town.

The online race description states that the sprint/run from the start to the boats was only a tenth of a mile.  Memory told me it was longer (I've been to Livingston before and even visited the put in once) but I trusted in the local organizers to have a more accurate reckoning than my aging brain could muster.  The run was seven tenths of a mile as a matter of fact which was closer to my memory than the advertised distance.

If I had trusted my own judgement I may have chosen running shoes instead of mtb shoes, but who's to say it would have been a better choice.  Some would say training for the race would have been a better choice.  My wife's position is that our training-plan-of-no-training just proves people who do train are wasting their time.

Anyway, fashion choices aside, I got into the water probably 2/3 back from the leaders.  Over the four mile paddle I passed between five and ten other racers which—as far as I could tell—put me squarely into the middle or upper 2/3 of the twenty-six person field.  I passed one strong looking racer paddling a tandem kayak by himself.  He was pirouetting all over the river and I dropped him like a rock.

I felt really good about my showing on the river but was happy to be on the bike.  There was a sloppy slog up from the river to the road with my boat, but it was a small price to pay to move on down the course.

I took off from the transition sure that I was going to get passed by a lot of people on the bike.  I was riding a single speed mountain bike on what ended up being an entire bike segment on pavement.  Instead right off the bat I passed two people on the first climb up US 25.  I was passed by two different racers at the same time, but I wasn't dropping off the back.  At the bottom of the descent from 25 Andy passed me and disappeared on down the road.  Andy?

And on the long climb up from Hazel Patch I passed and dropped three while only losing ground to two.  One of those two was Kris.  Kris?!

"How did you catch up?" I called after him.

"It was hard!" He called back.  He offered to let me draft him up the hill.  I'm friends with too many comedians.

While Andy, Kris, and the tandem kayaker passed me on the Hazel Patch climb I passed at least that many myself on the SSB.  By the top of the climb I had legitimately dropped a handful of racers.  I was happy to see the transition point simply because it meant I was progressing and moving on down the course.

I've not been running or riding much lately.  I've ran less than I've ridden.  My best effort of late were a couple of flat, slow and easy two mile runs at the city park.  Six miles on a rolling ridge was going to test my off the couch abilities.

I settled into about an 11:30/mile pace. It was steady and felt sustainable.  I wanted to run as much as I could.  A couple of runners passed me and again, I passed as many as passed me.

Once I settled into a rhythm I pondered the course.  It was a great course.  The race has huge potential.  And I had been having fun along the way.  What concerned me was the absolute lack of course markings.  There were no painted arrows on the paved sections.  There were no signs.  There were no colored ribbons marking the way.  There were no corner marshals.  Nothing.  Nada.  Negatory.

I knew Mandy would blow a gasket if she got lost.  I knew she would be pissed if she simply wasn't sure of the right route.  And I imagine many others would be mad too.  I'm very comfortable following my nose.  I can navigate on the fly instinctively.  It's one of my solid talents in life.  But I was still unsure if I was on the right path.

Then I came to a confusing split in the road.  Thankfully before I had to decide left or right Kris came running back from the left and called: "Don't go that way!"

Apparently more than a few people had.  I turned right and fell in step with Kris and we ran most of the rest of the race together though he had to adjust his pace to match my slow and steady.  Turns out he had missed the start as he was still coming back from dropping off their bikes so he had to really hoof it to catch back up.  And was crushing it at that.

I knew we were still a ways out from town and saw that I had been running for six miles.  I had a sinking suspicion that the six miles trail run was BS.  And with all of the unmarked turns, splits, and side roads I was convinced I needed to beat feet back up to Wildcat Mountain after I finished to track down my wife before she could find a race organizer to murder.

Then a small pickup approached Kris and I from ahead.  I assumed it was just some local driving around until I saw my bike in the bed of the truck.  I stopped short.

“Hey baby!” came a familiar call from inside the cab.  Turns out Mandy had been advised to take last year’s route and once she realized she was lost she asked her advisor—a local volunteer fireman who had been told the course was the same as the previous year—if he would give her a ride back to town.  He obliged, and was upset that he had led her astray, though in his defense…

Somewhere along the way I decided I wanted to finish in less than three hours.  That was when I thought the race was a total of fifteen miles.  I didn’t keep up with my time, but I did keep checking the distance.  Sixteen miles. Seventeen miles.  Kris and I finally, after what seemed like nearly a half marathon of running, reached the Rockcastle River.  Wading across in the strong current I felt somewhat reinvigorated, but there was still nearly a mile to go on pavement.  I decided I was going to finish strong.

Until the cramps started.  I was within sight of the finish and my right calf started to knot up.  I walked.  And all of the previous finishers called out for me to run.  So I loped a few steps until the muscle knotted again.  I was so close…

“C’mon, you can do it!  Run!” someone called.

I ran a few more steps.  Big knots.  I feared a complete failure of the calf muscle if I ran the last dozen steps.  And people kept yelling for me to run.  I didn’t.

The race had been fun.  There were a lot of frustrating things that should not have happened.  The course should have been marked.  I won’t say “better,” it just should have been marked period.  There should have been more volunteers on the course.  It was a semi-remote race in the middle of July in Kentucky.  There should have been at least one aid station along the run and more SAR/EMT presence.  There should have been more SAR/EMT presence along the paddling section.

I’m not one to make a big deal about safety stuff.  I don’t like sanitized experiences, but if I pay money and go to a strange place I expect a modicum of safety netting.  When I plan my own adventures I have a different expectation and a different experience.

I know why the event was a disaster and this post has gone too long to delve into it.  Suffice it to say I hope the locals grab ahold of the reins and make the event great next year.

Oh, I finished in three hours and eight minutes.  Eighteen miles.  Off the couch.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Wildcat Mountain Chronicles: Couch Jockey Retires

I've let too much time go by.  I've been too lazy.

At the constant and infernal behest of my mountain biking friend Kris I convinced Mandy to sign us up for the Wildcat Mountain Challenge in Rockcastle County.  The three stage race was scheduled to take place the day after our sixteenth wedding anniversary so it was kind of our gifts to each other.  Maybe that wasn't the best idea.

The race was broken down into three stages...well, three and a pre-stage.  The first leg started in "downtown" Livingston and participants ran south on US 25 for about a mile to a transition at the Rockcastle River into kayaks. The first full stage was a four mile paddle downstream to another transition on bikes for six miles on the paved road. The final leg was an off road run back to town advertised as five miles but eight in reality.

I'm not going to go into the harsh critique of the event as I am wont to do. Instead I'm going to stick to a simple race report and you can infer from my wicked prose how the whole thing was put together.

Firstly, I did not train.  Let's make sure we're all on the same page here.  I've not "trained" for so long that most of my chronic injury pain is gone.  Cured.  Healed.  Miraculously cleansed.  My knees haven't felt so good in years.  Even my back is slowly sorting itself out.  I'm at nearly my heaviest weight, and presumably some chainsmokers are more cardiovascularly fit than I.  Well, that might be a stretch.

So why did I sign up for this race?  Ugh, it's a Monday morning.  I hardly have the mental energy to try and unpack yet another dubiously motivated fee-assessed adventure.

But here goes...

Kris kept posting up on social media the link to the Wildcat Mountain Challenge on various Facebook groups we're both members of.  Prod, prod, prod.  It sounded interesting and fun and the cost was effective: $20.  Our 16th wedding anniversary was Friday—Mandy and I; Kris and I are not married—and it sounded like something we might both enjoy.

Now, for all of you guys out there that have been married long enough to have made this mistake let me assure you that I approached this subject with caution.  If I heard any of you uttering those words (“signed us up for an off-road race for our anniversary”) I would probably smash your kneecaps for your own future well-being. 

The reason I felt comfortable broaching such a subject with my amazing and beautiful wife of sixteen years is that she really digs kayaking, cycling, and running.  Now, she’s never had a strong affinity for mountain biking or trail running, but…close enough, right?

The problems started when we couldn’t figure out from the website if we needed to take our road bikes or mountain bikes.  It seemed as if road bikes would do, but the wording said something about mountain bikes being appropriate.  To further complicate things the wording changed while we were pondering this matter over a couple of days.  A point blank Facebook question by another participant seemed to settle the matter and we took our mountain bikes.  Acctually, we took my mountain bikes as Mandy does not have one of her own these days.  We discovered that she can ride The One so when we’ve gone off road I’ve ridden the Slutty Single Speed*.

Since I had no real expectations or aspirations of victory I figured “what the heck!”  I’m just going to have fun anyway.  Why worry about gears?

We had our boats, we had our bikes, and we wrestled with footwear for the entire event leading up to the five (eight) mile finishing trail run.  I decided to start off wearing my bike shoes, do the paddle, do the bike, and change into running shoes at the bike to run transition.  I would take a small day pack through the entire race.  Mandy rides my bike with flat pedals** so she was decided to wear her old running shoes for the entire event.  Oddly enough, our choices of footwear would become the least of the myriad concerns by the time the race started.

We arrived bright and early in Livingston.  Nothing was really going on.  There weren’t even signs pointing us to the registration area yet.  We had to ask around before finding out that it was in the tourism office.  At 8:00am (as it had been advertised) registration had NOT begun.  People were starting to show up.  The online instructions stated that as soon as you were registered you should take your boats to the put-in and your bikes to the transition location or you could let the organizers shuttle your bike(s) to the spot.  We opted to do our own transporting, but when registration lagged we were worried.

After finally getting our numbers (but no safety pins) we scrambled out to drop off our things.  We were the first to drop boats and bikes and when we got back to town to the start it was ten minutes before the race was supposed to begin.  Everyone assumed there would be a delayed start, but there was no official announcement to this effect.  In fact, there were no official announcements to any effect. 

I just realized this post is going to go long.  How about I split it into a two parter?  We’ll pick up tomorrow with the start of the race…

*The meaning of this nickname will be the topic of a future blawg post.

**I recently put the new Crank Brothers Double Shot pedals on my bike so we could easily switch between the two of us as she does not ride clipless off pavement.  I will also do a guerilla review of these in a near future post.  

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The Leadville Chronicles: Leadville or Bust or Bust

I'm a procrastinator and a slacker.  For my day job I just pretend that I'm not.  This dual life that I live has me in constant internal conflict.  To cope I attempt copious amounts of outdoor therapy but often fail miserably at that even.

*Big heaving sigh*

About a year ago I resolved to self-edit and then self-publish my first book: Leadville or Bust.  Without realizing so much time had passed I sat down about a week ago to make some progress, basically starting at the beginning.  Then I realized my proclamation from a year ago to get it out was hollow and failed.

*Big heaving sigh*

I'm halfway through my most recent reading.  Edits are mostly minor with some rewriting to incorporate previous footnotes into the text for easier formatting.  The Crash Test Librarian had recommended I include footnotes, and when I did I felt it helped tell the story but maintain the flow of my original writing (mostly blog posts), though now I find that the technical aspects of doing an ebook with footnotes is just going to become another barrier to publication.

As I go back through the book--and I'm sure this has also been a significant barrier--I realize that if I publish it now there is a final chapter that cannot be written at this time.  The journey is not complete, and therefore the book does not seem complete.  I've not gotten a belt buckle.  I still feel like I need at least one more shot at a sub-twelve hour finish.  This year is out.  And who knows what will happen next year?

I am inclined to revamp the ending I have now indicating that a conclusion is coming.  But I have no idea how far out that might be.  Or if I will ever conclude the personal journey.  I may have diverged too far from that path to ever get back.  The miles are many.

Here is my final proclamation on this book: I will publish it as an ebook on August 13, 2016 or I will shelve it indefinitely.

Why August 13?  Well, that's one calendar month from today.  That should be enough time for me to work through whatever technical hang ups I might find if I get down to it right now today and crank through.  And...

And...August 13 is the date of the 2016 Leadville Trail 100 mountain bike race.

At the very least I will publish to Kindle.  I can't promise other ebook formats just yet.  I will do my best to be all inclusive.

My intent--but no promises--is that if I can get it out and it is moderately successful after the race then I'll plan on attending the 2017 race as a vendor with printed books and merchandise in hand.  And maybe after the expo I'll be able to toe up to the starting line.  Right now I can't make a sure proclamation to that effect, but who knows what will happen over the course of the next year?

I need to close out this chapter.  I think I can't move on as a writer because I'm still tied up to this book which is firmly anchored in a past I have moved on from.  I need to sever the cord that holds me or deal with it.  This is me saying I am doing just that.  The book is going to meet its destiny thirty days from now.  

I'm forty two years old.  While I hope I can remain active for many years to come, I am too old to hang onto some idling dream of becoming a mountain bike racer.  That ship really sailed a long time ago before I was the person I am now.  I either need to accept that or resolve the (at least) two competing aspects of my life.  

The book was written when I was chasing this now outdated dream of getting fit and winning a big old silver belt buckle.  But it wasn't finished.  I let myself down and have been carrying around that regret for too long now.  It's time to cleanse and purge.  I've given myself more than enough time so now is the moment of truth.

Leadville or Bust here I come!

Monday, July 11, 2016


In 1994 I bought a Perception creek boat.  What is a creek boat?  Well, at that time whitewater kayaking was benefitting from changes in technology.  Plastics were replacing the traditional fiberglass materials used to construct old school whitewater kayaks.  Boats were getting shorter, stronger, and cheaper.  I think I still paid around $800 for my boat and all the accessories.

When I walked into Phillip Gall’s in Lexington I had in mind a short sea kayak.  I wasn’t looking to get into whitewater boating.  I wanted to explore rivers but not necessarily Class V nightmare runs.  The salesman sold me a whitewater boat.

I’ve since learned that I’m my own best salesman and tend to completely ignore the “advice” of in store retailers.  If I have questions I’ll seek you out.  What clinched it was the time I went to the same store to buy climbing shoes and could not identify a single employee in the store.  Finally I sat down in front of the climbing shoe section and started trying them on.  About three minutes into my fitting session a hip young man came quickly up beside me and asked in a perturbed voice: “Can I help you?”

“Nope,” I replied, and kept trying on shoes.

Anyway, I ended up with a boat I didn’t want.  But I tried to make the best of it.  Unfortunately most people I knew at the time either weren’t interested in whitewater paddling or couldn’t afford the boat and gear.  I tried diligently for a year or so but the realities of paddling rough water with myopia and the fact that Kentucky is a seasonal whitewater state finally drove me to sell my boat at considerable financial loss.

Fast forward twenty-some-odd years…

For Mother’s/Father’s Day this year Mandy and I got each other kayaks.  We had also forgone big Christmas gifts for each other anticipating boats later in the year.  We added a couple of cheapo ‘yaks from Rural King a little while later, so we have boats for the family now. 

What has changed both for us and in general with boating in the area is that now you can get these flatwater recreational kayaks on the cheap.  The Rural King boats were only $179 each, and while they are definitely a step or two below our first boats in quality they’re really not that much cheapo.  They do the job.  For only slightly more than I paid for my first whitewater boat we took home four kayaks and gear. 

This has also changed the local paddling scene.  There was no local whitewater scene in the mid-nineties.  There were maybe half a dozen people in the county who had dedicated whitewater boats, and even then they were mostly older fiberglass jobs.  Obviously more people had canoes, but the Red River is finicky and very seasonal meaning it’s hardly worth it to keep a boat around just to paddle the Red.

When my family rented boats it was fantasy that we were able to operate a livery like most people are used to seeing in other places.  People would rent our boats, but they didn’t always get to paddle them down the river.  A lot of time people paid us for the privilege of taking our canoes and kayaks for a hike.

With the wider appeal of modern rec kayaks and their lower cost there has been a surge in local kayak ownership and a lot of individuals and even families are taking to the water in the low cost boats.  And because kayaks have a shallower draft (how deep they sit in the water) the paddling season is much longer than when canoes were the boat of choice for most Red River goers.  

These days I see kayaks everywhere and all the time.

Saturday afternoon Boone and I paddled the three-ish miles around Clay City.  Recent rains raised water levels.  I was concerned too much, and my backup plan was to go over to Beech Fork Reservoir if the river was too high.  But when we got to this river at Clay City Park we found it to be at a good and comfortable level.  

While it wasn't a totally clean run (we hit bottom a few times) it was a mostly enjoyable jaunt with little hassle.  We were about two hours door to door from home.  You just can't beat that.

I've submitted permits to the Army Corps of Engineers and the state Division of Water for construction of two access points in Clay City.  Funny enough, we were talking to some friends while out and about and heard the rumor that we were getting new boat access in Clay City.  They were unaware that I was involved in the process.  I had to chuckle.

Mandy and I have been seeing interesting photos coming back from Grayson Lake.  We're thinking its time to go check it out.

Boone approaching a private takeout in Clay City

Friday, July 8, 2016

Ramming Speed Friday: Hurry Up, the Handbasket is Departing Edition

Trump.  Egad, there is just too much!  I can’t even begin to go down that road.  If he gets elected then John Brunner’s Prexy character from The Sheep Look Up will come to life.  Or Mussolini’s restless spirit will have a body to possess.  What worries me about Trump is that if (please Lord no) he gets elected then the bullies, racists, and misogynists will become even more empowered in their hate and discrimination than they are now during Trump’s campaign.
You likely will already have heard that last night in Dallas during a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest/rally snipers shot and killed a number of police officers, wounded more including a civilian, and are in custody.  As of early Friday the news media has not talked about the racial or socio-political makeup of the attackers.  On one hand it really doesn’t matter.
It seems like this attack is in direct response to the two recent killing of black men by police officers.  I’ve watched the video of both and neither seemed remotely justified.  Race issues or not, the killings reveal a true dysfunction in our relationships with guns in America.  There was a third story that may get lost in the next twenty four hour news cycle.  A black man was found hanging dead in a tree in Atlanta. As much as I absolutely hate to say it; I hope it was a suicide and not a lynching.
The fact that we have a candidate for president that will likely sidestep the issue and refuse to soundly condemn these acts or pledge to do anything to change the racially charged atmosphere we live in in this country today is deplorable.  The fact that he has so much public support is disturbing and disheartening. 
I’m not going to go on and on about these issues.  I’m not nearly qualified enough to assuage people’s grief or fears.  I don’t have the background or experience in comforting those who are mourning or reassuring those who are uncertain about the future.  The best I can do is pray, hug my children close, and try to teach them to be good people.
In closing I will simply say: stop the hate.  Stop the racism.  Stop the madness.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Godwin Would Be Proud

'Cuz 'Murica.

While I agree that we live in a (sort of) free society and people have the RIGHT to whatever beliefs they want I am saddened that so many choose to expend their freedoms in ideologies of hate.  I'm also disappointed in my species for encouraging and participating in the worship of internal combustion vehicles as gods of Transportation, Recreation, and Convenience.  These ideas are related.  I promise.

I have never felt much patriotism.  To be a patriot you have to have pride in your country.  I've never seen much in the US to be proud of.  I was born as the dust settled after the Vietnam war.  The oil embargo had just occurred.  Nixon was on his way out of the White House.  My early years were populated with news stories of Iran-Contra hearings, the Cold War, and constant trouble in the Middle East.

As I got older I became informed about dysfunctional politics, corrupt economics, and a divided society.  I think as my understanding of domestic and world events and environments has grown so has the deep socio-political divide in our country and apparently around the world.  At times it seemed to me that it was only my broader view of the world that was growing, but I'm now convinced that the vista is just more crowded with turmoil than when my experience of it began.

I'm not saying the US doesn't do good things.  Let me be straight about that.  We're not just a vile and evil nation.  But it's hard to be proud of a group of people who act and interact spitefully along lines of religious and and economic divides and yet consider ourselves an advanced culture.  And often times it feels like for every morally sound thing we do there are three shady deals and a blatant lie to balance it out.

We camped at Zilpo at Cave Run Lake this past weekend.  It's a time honored tradition in the US.  Celebrate lives lost by getting stupid drunk and play near the water with explosives. Again, something to be proud of.  Stay with me here...

At the lake just before sunset

I tend to avoid this type of situation.  For a sensory defensive person public campgrounds on holiday weekends are hell on earth.  Throw in summer heat and humidity and rampant hordes of insects and you have the perfect mix to drive me bonkers.

It was too good a deal to pass up, and it would provide my family the opportunity to spend time at the lake with our kayaks and swimming and fishing.  We wouldn't have to get on the interstate, but Cave Run is an hour from home so it would feel like a mini-road trip.

Getting ready to head to the lake

Dirty Harry arranged the campsite and we ended up situated across from him.  He's doing volunteer trail work around the campground this summer so he's staked down in a good spot and has all of his creature comforts.  

We got to the campground Friday afternoon.  After setting up camp we drove back out to Farmers and had dinner at Pop's Bar-B-Q.  Oh, and did I mention on the way in the Boyfriend-In-Law's trailer had a flat tire?  We were going around a sharp curve and the tire peeled off the rim.  I should have checked the tire pressure before we left.  Thankfully Mandy was following and she took the wheel into Morehead and got it fixed.

Anyway, we hung out with Harry after we got back to camp.  The kids enjoyed making friends and we stayed up far later than my normal bedtime. 

After a fitful night fighting alternating stretches of silence and lake noise we woke to a fine morning.  Harry came over with a cup of coffee and news that my camp neighbors were white supremacists.  Sure enough they were flying three flags: American, the confederate battle flag, and a white Celtic cross on a black field.  I needed to brush up on my hate symbols, but after a very quick internet search learned that the flag they were flying is in fact a white power symbol typically used by European Nazis.



The group was a family with young kids.  I didn't feel threatened by their white/hate pride.  That sentence makes sense.  But I wondered how I would have felt if I were a member of a minority group.  Would I have been able to sleep with nothing more than thin nylon and a few yards of air between me and a neo-Nazi flag?  I've slept in bear prone areas.  But bears don't discriminate based on who you are and there are proven methods you can employ to reduce the risk of a potential bear encounter.  How do you be Nazi aware?  You can't hang up your color in a Nazi-proof container while you sleep.

In the end only the flag was significant to our holiday weekend experience.  The white supremacist family behaved better than a lot of other folks out at the lake on Saturday.  They were more pleasant than the party raft crowd who were cussing, smoking pot at the beach and throwing red solo cups full of beer into the water.  I'm not saying I prefer the company of white supremacists to the drunken revelers--I don't.  But that's such a tricky statement.  Oh well.

Why hate?  Used to I couldn't understand why so many motorist absolutely loathed the idea of sharing the roads with cyclists.  It didn't compute.  What's the big deal over a few second delay?  Isn't another human life worth slowing down and waiting until it's safe to pass?  And then Trump.  Now I realize there is just a lot of hate in the world. More than I ever imagined.  There's a lot of hardcore self interest and disdain for "others."  We do truly live in an Us vs Them society with "Us" being a lot of small circles.

As seen on the internet--a 4th of July Day parade somewhere in America
The sign on the door reads:

We had a good weekend.  A borrowed tow car and a small trailer allowed us to haul the kayaks to the lake.  I was going to take the bikes too, but the logistics were too complicated and we left them.  It's okay, we had a lot of fun.  On Monday I found a 4'x8' trailer on sale wicked cheap so I got it and a hitch so we can do more of that kind of thing in the future.  While I hate the shift in my life to motorized convenience I also see my recent vehicular choices (also just bought a new Jeep) as eliminating the barriers to adventure.  My family and I need to get back to being more active.

Saturday morning before the deluge of Independence Day revelers

Saturday morning breakfast after a sunrise paddle

Obligat'ry fireworks shot from Sunday night's festivities on the creek