Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Wait

I have 3 days of work left.  Then I get to go to Peru for 2 months of eating guinea pig, running, drinking pisco sours, running, struggling with my Spanish, running, eating ceviche, and sleeping long and hard with no alarm to wake me.  Oh, and a decent amount of time spent marvelling at the Incan architecture.  I was looking back at some photos of our journeys, and I am amazed at how many miles we have travelled, how many countries we've visited, how many incredible meals in random places we've enjoyed immensely. 
Steak (a lo pobre) in Argentina- maybe 2000 calories on the plate, tender grass-fed beef, fried onions, french fries, and topped off with a fried egg.  Hot. Damn.  Anything with rice or rice noodles in Thailand, served from a roadside stand, the smaller and more rustic the better.  It is more flavorful when you order thirds, and the poor lady cooking looks at you like you are not only way foreign, but solidly mad.  Yup, and hungry.  The tortillas asadas as we biked up the coast of Mexico, made by a grandma with few teeth and served up with fried eggs, sometimes after biking for hours.  Along with that, the Jamaica, not the country, but the beverage.  Karinne and I arrived at a restaurant in a dusty, hot little town in Mexico, and the waitress took one look at us, and slammed down a big pitcher of Jamaica on the table.  It was heaven.  A pink, frosty heaven.  The seafood stew that arrived boiling in thick ceramic pots in Chile, only to be followed by a bunch of bananas (gratis!) that the proprietor thought would fuel us to the next town.  Procrastinating through a foggy morning at a tiny restaurant in the highlands of Laos over multiple cups of coffee and bowls of soup with another bike tourer, swapping tales of the road. 
It seems like bad weather makes good food attain an aura of gourmet- if getting into a restaurant gets us off a wet, windy, soggy road, we are primed to fall in love with the food.  And if the food is something we would never, ever encounter in the USA, well, that helps too.  Stout ice cream in Jamaica, fried cockroaches in Bangkok, grilled kidneys in Argentina.  That last one was particularly exciting- we sat next to the grill, and it threw sparks at us all through the meal, burning holes in the carpet and tablecloth. 
And don't even get me going on drinks, or I'll go all Anthony Bourdain on y'all. 

Saturday, November 17, 2012


As I type this, heavy rain is falling, keeping the dogs (one ours, one our friend's) glued to their beds in front of the woodstove.  The 2012 fire season is done, and it wasn't a good one for a variety of reasons.  The Reading fire scorched a significant chunk of Lassen NP, and tied us down for most of the season.  Some days were good, but many were spent doing rehab and cleaning up the mess that suppressing such a large fire inevitably creates.  While that was going on, the Ponderosa fire started moving towards our homes, prompting a lot of worry and stress for many folks living in Mineral.  One of my crewmembers was killed in a car crash, and several others were not very good employees. 
But in just a couple weeks, we are getting back on the road for another winter trip, this time to Peru.  We'll be running the Incan trails, eating guinea pigs, drinking chicha fuerte, trying to remember our rusty Spanish.  A fairly surprising development over the last couple years is how much Karinne and I are enjoying trail running.  When I was really into mountain biking, it seemed tedious and slow, but now I find myself loving it.  Karinne ran her first marathon this fall, and I ran a couple 50k trail races.  I'm looking to do a couple 50 mile trail races next year, and part of the agenda for Peru is altitude training along with tourism. 

Monday, February 06, 2012

Long time gone

I've been bad about any sort of update on here. What can I say? Life hates a void, and fills it with stuff. Sometimes fun stuff, sometimes hard stuff, sometimes simply pain in the ass stuff, but it always gets filled. Mine has been filled with:

Running- more miles per week, longer runs too. And in minimalist shoes, so I'm changing my stride, and it is good.

Working on my Toyota- replaced the entire exhaust system with parts salvaged from junked 4runners. It was a shockingly involved process, took way more time than seemed reasonable, yet somehow it all worked out and my car is CA legal.

Firewood but no fire- well, some fire, but it has been really warm, so with just a couple days of cutting this winter I've maintained my stockpile of wood, and should have quite a bit for next winter leftover.

Paperwork- hiring the fire crew for the 2012 season. It is a complicated process, to say the least.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Dar la vuelta....

Which means, more or less, make the loop, do the round-trip, return home.

I've done a bunch of vueltas in the past couple decades. The office I've worked out of for the past two years was actually my bedroom back in 1996, odd as that sounds. The same mottled vinyl fold-out couch is still there, but now it is surrounded with filing cabinets and desks. We just did a loop that took us from South Dakota to Washington to Arizona and back to South Dakota. A subset of that vuelta was a vuelta in Costa Rica, five weeks making a loop that brought us across the continental divide a few times, along the Pacific coast, and back to the airport. Some fire assignments are endless with loop after loop- mapping the edge of a fire, patrolling the edge to make sure it hasn't slopped out, round and round, day after day.

Now we are "home", though how long the Whitney Preserve will have that designation is up in the air. It is good to be here now, and with a little more time to live before the all-consuming fire season cranks up.

In retrospect, the Costa Rica trip was fine, but the difficult riding made it less enjoyable than some previous trips. I still love bike touring, and think it is a great way to see and really experience a country, but am very aware that it isn't ideal for all countries. Still, considering Costa Rica was Plan C, it went fine.

I keep thinking of putting pics on here, but not right now, got to take advantage of the day's final dose of caffeine coursing through my veins to clean up stuff left chaotic by the unpacking. Well, ok, just one.
"Happiness is different from pleasure. Happiness has something to do with struggling and enduring and accomplishing." George Sheenan

Friday, January 21, 2011

The stuff that works

We are done, and have been in Tucson for a week. Smooth travel from Costa Rica home, even considering a late flight that caused us to miss our connection in DFW. American Airlines staff were prompt and helpful with getting us on a slightly later flight, which was fine, actually allowed us to have some good bbq for lunch. Anyway, good to be back in the USA.
Riding up Mt. Lemmon today, I was thinking about how great it is to have really good gear that doesn't let us down. White Industries hubs are indestructible, so far, and easily serviced. Schwalbe Marathon XR tires have long had a legendary status for their durability, and based on the beating we gave them in Costa Rica, it is entirely valid. Our '90s vintage Specialized Deja-2 frame has survived thousands of miles of rough riding, along with more abusive forms of travel- in boats, under buses, on top of buses, in airplanes, on top of tiny taxis. Avid BB7 brakes are flawless, they always work well (as long as you don't melt them down with ultra-steep, long hills), and never break. I could go on, but those are the real superstars of the parts list.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


It is hard to not like Costa Rica. But somehow I´m doing it. You hear it over and over, how great it is, how beautiful, how sustainable, blah blah. It is flat-out not good for bike touring. Unless you like pushing your bike up wickedly steep hills, with trucks and motor bikes regularly dusting you out. If the road isn´t like that, it is crazy busy and scary with buses and trucks. Have only had a couple days where the riding was actually enjoyable, which is sad. It is also expensive. I guess travelling in SE Asia has spoiled me forever. I see the $90 a night bungalows here and think, ¨wow, those would´ve been maybe $15 in Thailand¨. The food is not great, not terrible, but moderately expensive, too. I haven´t had one memorable meal yet, really, and that is a sad thing, since enjoyment of food is a big motivator for bike touring for me. Massive steaks in Argentina, wonderful seafood stew in Chile, everything in Thailand, those are burned in my memory, and all I can say here is that I´m not going to eat any peanut butter or rice & beans for quite a while after we get home.
That complaining aside, we are having as good of a time as we can. Hard to be too disappointed with spending the holidays on beautiful beaches, even if the rides to said beaches are wiping us out. Our interactions with everyone have been friendly, never any hassles or harassment. I´m not really sure what I´m looking for with travel these days, but I feel like we are not really finding it on this trip. Am I jaded, grumpy, or just getting too old to fully embrace serious physical suffering? I´ll think about it, and let you know. And pics to follow, too.