Archive | September, 2010

Day 2: Hart’s Pass

30 Sep

Hello God, it’s me, Surlylad.

Yes, that’s right… last time we talked you admonished me about that joke concerning the Flaming Lips’ In a Priest Driven Ambulance album title. I was hoping we could forg… right, forgive works too. I know that’s yr speciality…

Anyhoo, I was wanting to ask: What say you find it written, so to speak, or I mean, so to write, that I was meant to move to the Methow Valley to start an organic biking farm? I could sweeten the deal. What’s that, oh no, that wasn’t a bribe… hah! Such a misunderstanding. You knew I was going to say that, didn’t you? And that. And that. And… this? Yes? D’oh.

The sun is downing here in Lost River, WA, situated as we are, rimmed by mountains. I’m sitting at a picnic table in the middle of a field, gorging on Juanita’s tortilla chips (made in Seattle, thay’re the tortilla-bomb!) and scorfing down the world’s best salsa, from Hot Mamma’s in Twisp. Oy this is good stuff. And very blue collar.

Today was awesome. Woke up and rolled out, straight from the cabin, for Hart’s Pass. I figure it wound up being something like a 26-mile round trip. I had slept like a baby until I think a logging truck rumbled by and then, boom, I had to get going I was so excited! Opened the door, hopped on the bike, spun the cranks, stopped the bike, threw it down, ran back inside to put some warmer clothes on. Holy crap it was chilly. And then two miles later when the sun came up I had to take off the jacket, sweater, arm and leg warmers and bundle them into the backpack for the rest of the day. Figures. It was warmer at the top in September then when we went there in the height of summer. The road up to Hart’s Pass is something else:

Trees, oh the trees...

 

Ever since driving it a few months ago I’d put it on my bucket list. It’s quite a grind… maybe 6000 feet total elevation gain, and most of that in 10 miles. In terms of the ride, it was like Iron Horse/John Wayne, maybe 2x-3x as hard, and five times as scenic. Basically double track with cars. I don’t think ‘true’ mountain bikers would like this, unless they are attracted to the idea of spinning for several hours. For someone like me, who enjoys hill climbs on a road bike, this is climbing nirvana, with the challenge, length and scenery. Near this spot I came across a couple of deer who, like most of the local dear, appear charmingly entitled to the road. As I approached they slowly started working away from me. I felt like giving a big ‘hallooooo’ and going after them with Adelaide and Cooper at my side, and instead of a proper bugle using my iPhone’s Li’l Jeezy MC ringtone… ah I miss them, and the ‘Lady!

There weren’t that many cars today. I’m sure a sunny weekend would have been worse for traffic. Everyone was so nice: “Now, I am impressed” and “You can do it, you’re almost there!”. The road has got some major elevation in spots, almost to the point of despairing, or worse walking, but I made it all the way up, visions of PB&J floating before my eyes the whole way:

PBJ Panda

 

What is it about peanut butter & jelly and mountain biking or hiking? I feel like a little kid again. And, yes, this whole thing is a bit of a midlife crisis but in my case, it’s more of a reclamation project – trying to fit in all the things I didn’t do over the last 20 years.

At the top, a nice little camping area, with a branch off to the Meadows camping spot, with its astronomy pad for telescope set up, a branch of the Pacific Crest Trail, and then the road continues on to Slate Peak, another 3 miles of hellish hill climbing.

Darn, can you read that? It's my proof of purchase.

 

I was sorely, sorely tempted to continue on to Slate Peak. But… I have a lot of riding to do still. Instead I wandered down to see what the Pacific Crest Trail looked like (it crosses the road to Chancellor)… as soon as my wheel crossed the line an invisible alarm must have gone off because suddenly a bunch of hikers showed up, tapping their Vasques in barely suppressed anger. I did the only thing possible under the circumstances: I pretended to be from a different country, and lost. Shameless, I know.

Overall it took about 3 hours to get to Hart’s Pass from my cabin, with pee and photo stops. The return trip, closer to one hour!

Next came the downhill. Suddenly I was noticing all of the large rocks, mogul washboards, cliff nearnessity and outright potholes. But it was a blast! 10 miles downhill bubba, you can’t beat it. There was usually a line you could pick between the obstacles. Toward the bottom, due to the shaking, however, I noticed my front wheel QR had come loose… yikes. That’s the second time in as many weeks. I may need to look into what’s going on with that.

Money shot.

 

There’s one stretch, about a mile long and clearly marked with warning signs, that to me captures the heart of the Hart’s Pass run. This pic is from that stretch. It’s a very narrow section, with a precipe view. Just gorgeous! I kept talking to myself, saying “Beep I can’t believe I’m here and it’s so beeping perfect.” I get pretty dirty when all by myself. Hey, no jokies!

So, I’m done with the first goal, and the legs aren’t really that sore. I made it back to the cabin, showered up, and then drove to Winthrop. What a charming town! I love it. I stopped at the Rocking Horse bakery to get some dinner (broccoli salad, a big can of V8, and a marionberry sour cream coffee cake… the first two because after just a day I was already feeling scurvy-ish). I stopped into the Methow Cycle & Sport, where they’re having a clearance sale. If anyone is interested in a Bianchi (they have steel Imola’s! sweeet looking) or Kona cross bike or hard tail, they’re 30% off at this store. So that means, an entry-level 2010 Jake for $630, a Jake the Snake for $1050. Oh boy I’m so tempted!!! Surlylady, don’t get apoplectic! I didn’t get one. Still, that’s a really good deal.

I did buy a hydration pack (on sale) and a bunch of socks (also). I really like that store. Very nice fellows. I discussed some ideas with him: I want, I said, to put together a mixed surface century, mixing in gravel, dirt and road. Any suggestions? And boy did he give me some good ‘uns. I may have to nix my plans for the Tour de Okanogan Saturday in favor of exploring some alternate loops. We’ll see.

Then, on the way out of town I stopped to get the ‘Lady some bottles of Lost River Winery’s Community Red, at their tasting store. We got some last time and she raved about it. In Mazama I stopped at the store there (love that place!) and picked up some goat cheese and local organic pluots.

Back at the cabin I put everything away and then raced off to go for a hike… only to arrive there and realize I’d left our NW Forest pass in the other car. So, turned back around and loaded up all the mountain bike gear again and biked off to the Yellowjacket sno-park, to follow that trail for a few miles. But it was just all uphill and I figured I’d better save my legs for tomorrow’s run at Washington Pass. That is going to be a freaking doozy of an uphill.

Again, a perfect day. 80 degree afternoon… hot truck, hot vinyl, creaky door, dusty windshield, butterflies, grasshoppers, little graygreen lizards everywhere. The smell of hot sun on old window shades…

Lost River… I love this place! There’s no TV in my cabin, so it’s been all Beethoven, writing on the laptop, yoga and yogurt in the mornings, reading Calvino at night. I could seriously get used to this shiznit. Back home, even though we got rid of cable, I’ve become even more addicted to TV than before, due to the streaming Netflix. At least with basic cable there was literally ‘nothing on’ – with Netflix, there’s always a low-rent zombie movie to watch. I’ve got to cut it out!

Finding myself in Lost River...

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West Fork Methow Trail

29 Sep

I have been planning a bike adventure trip for some weeks now, and am so glad to be here in the Methow Valley and kicking it off! I wanted to raise some dough for an organization that’s been on my mind (and heart) a lot lately: the HopeFirst Foundation, headquarters located on Whidbey Island. Please follow the link and donate a couple of bucks… all it takes is about $114 and that covers the cost of a new Kona AfricaBike! You can also donate money to Kona’s Basic Needs program; they saved the day by offering to pay for the shipping of HopeFirst’s latest round of bikes to The Gambia, after the original sponsor fell through.

Or, if you’re in West Seattle, pick up a Bikes for Africa t-shirt at Alki Bike & Board! All proceeds go to Kona’s Basic Needs program. I got one recently, it’s on American Apparel and super soft. Well worth it!

So, connecting the Methow Valley and HopeFirst. Well, it’s tenuous, and frankly very selfish. I will ride over three passes this week to help inspire others and, maybe, even inspire future themed/schemed rides to support HopeFirst. I’m also going to take some money I’ve saved up and, instead of getting some new part for my bikes (everyone roll your eyes)(in this case Honjo fenders; my plastic ones will do just fine for the nonce) I’m going to donate enough to cover a new bike. I’m not very good at writing this up, I sense. It feels awkward.

Instead, check this CNN story out… this is part of what inspired me!

What a lovely ride over the pass(es) today:

Fall Blond in Concrete

 

The trees are just at that perfect moment for Fall colors; about 60% or so turning; so that there’s lots of orange, yellow, red and green, and all full, no threadbare trunks yet.

I love the Skagit River, and seeing it in a perfectly sunny day in September was exactly what I hoped for:

Time keeps on slipping, slipping, slipping...

 

Once I got to my rental cabin in Mazama (fairly nice place, but in a duplex/four-plex; thankfully I’m the only one here so far) I was greeted by the resident chicken. I spent a very interesting 15 minutes shooing out all of the yellowjackets from inside the cabin, while keeping Mrs. Curious out of the cabin:

Hey, where ya from, say that's a nice bike, hey what you got in that bag?

 

(Unfortunately, while typing this, some guy pulled up at the main house (to visit?) and his dog, while running free in spite of the guy’s earnest efforts of feebly calling out the dog’s name, proceeded to chase, corner, kill, and then eat a different chicken. Eventually, when the dog for some reason wanted to tear the chicken into pieces near where I was sitting I asked the guy “Is it okay if your dog eats all of that chicken?” and the guy responded “Well there’s not much any of us can do to control him.” Huh.)

So I unpacked and in a frenzy got all my mountain bike gear together in 5 minutes and then hit the nearby West Fork Methow Trail and at first it sucked and then it didn’t suck, and now I’m drinking beer and feeling blue collar.

This trail is seriously awesome, seriously:

Singular Track

 

The hills are alive with the sound of biking...

 

More...

 

This trail is 8 miles out and then 8 back. It’s a ton of fun. I should warn you, however, to heed the suggestions on the websites about wearing long sleeves and leggings due to overbrush. They ain’t kidding. Also, this trail is very slatey and rocky. I recommend a bigger, knobbier climbing tire, and let out a lot of the air, but not too much to invite pinch flats. There are some hairy scary moments on this trail where your front wheel can hit even a small rock then bob to the side and – whooot – off the cliff you go. I was sweating during many sections. Probably a good trail to take a buddy on.

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to do the whole thing and had to turn back due to the sun going down. However, I will return (corncob, resolutely striding from the landing craft) and do the full loop because it’s just plain gorgeous. Next up: Hart’s Pass.

Just a boy and his panda...

Bicycle Magazine Comparisons

28 Sep

A happy coincidence in articles within the latest Bicycle Quarterly and Bicycling, both on the Dursley Pedersen bike, led me to dream up some comparative notes, in case you were wondering how to spend your recession-proof subscription dollars.

Bicycle Quarterly used to be known as Vintage Bicycle Quarterly, giving some idea of its orientation. It is a completely black-and-white magazine. Photographs are generally of an amateur level (for the incidental, in-article ones), extreme museum quality (for certain staged pictures) and then carefully curated historical pictures that, personally, I find fascinating. There is a near-total focus on the demographic and topic of the “performance amateur” and especially the sport of randonneurring. It seems to be a labor of love from one fellow, Jan Heine, who is heavily involved in the local Seattle International Randonneurs group. He brings a curious blend of art and science, wrapped up in personal and relatively objective observations. I find his style exceedingly enjoyable. I could see how some might not.

I believe there is some beef with Editor and chief writer Heine in that he sells some of the products that are reviewed. Considering he probably sells a relatively small amount of these items (how big is the market for 650b tires, really?) I find this complaint to be ridiculous, and his efforts to be almost charming. How much worse is this than to have Bicycling run a two-page review of a Pinarello in the same issue where there’s a four-page advert? If anything, I think his obvious role as official spokesman for the Wide and Supple Tire Industry is the only questionable ethics issue (ha!). Seriously though, he’s championing something which, through lots of empirical testing and anecdotal mileage, he believes in. This is small taters when we’re all inured to watching cable news channels features some ex-general or ex-industry titan or other, paid handsomely in yearly ‘consultant’ stipends that run in the hundreds of thousands if not more (what a bargain that must seem to their masters!), say in one week “This is the WORST recession ever!” and follow up the next week with “What recession?” to perpetuate the sit-and-spin ‘cycle’.

Two recent intersections between Bicycling and Bicycle Quarterly: BQ published a (very amusing) article on a field test of a Trek Madone, and the aforementioned Dursley Pedersen (part of an ‘oddball bike geometry’ general issue). For the Trek Madone, unsurprisingly, BQ found that it wasn’t a whole lot faster than a very lightweight, steel, planing old-school bike. Many readers seemed, somehow, surprised at the conclusions, as voiced in the Reader’s Forum. On the one hand, and from experience, I do honestly feel a 19 pound steel bike with a lively vibe isn’t necessarily slower on the flats or hills than a 16-lb carbon wonder. Those three pounds make up only a fraction of the weight differential when factoring in the rider and water bottles etc. Would I want to race a criterium on a 19-lb steel bike? Would I sprint on one? If you’re sprinting, and your livelihood depends on it, then yes you’ll want to ‘spring’ for the fancy carbon bike. On the other hand, what pleases me the most about BQ’s treatment of the notion is that, simply, they have the guts to bring it up. I get so sick of the ‘understood’ logic in mags like Bicycling where they compare the 2011 Madone to the 2010 Madone and talk about how much more (fill in the vaguely physics/mechanical adjective) it is. Seriously? You buy a $6000 bike one year and you MUST get a $7000 version of the same thing the next year because the shifting is ‘crisper’ and it ‘glides through corners’?

Bicycling’s reviews of such high-end bikes tend to be oriented from the perspective of the ‘gentleman racer’ i.e. from a land of bullshit the majority of us can only pretend to aspire to. It’s not so smarmy as the Rapha stuff, but it does feel as if written from one dentist to the other. “Oh, now, this Pinarello, this is the one you want.” As evidence, the amount of column inches spent on the ‘comfort’ features. Sorry, but that’s dentist-level stuff.

Bicycle Quarterly’s reviews, in stark B&W contrast, literally start with a Summary section. The paragraph is labeled, in bold, Summary. Then he (usually Jan Heine) proceeds on a predetermined vector of seemingly scrupulous testing methodology. At least six times he’ll throw in the phrase ‘wide, supple tires’ such as “if equipped with wide, supple tires, this bike would no doubt have handled the (gravel, road, dirt, curves, bumps, life) much better.” The article is then peppered with and followed by a column inch or two of footnotes. Footnotes! In 2010! Seriously, footnotes. He actually ties back to other articles he’s written, or to other sources of information. I rather doubt that anyone involved with any of the other modern magazines even vaguely remembers what footnotes are, or the idea of a collaborative circularity. His footnotes run to the order and level of the Adobe Illustrator graphics in Bicycling; where they have dozens of layers in that Illustrator file, he’ll have dozens of traceable references.

The last two issues of these mags showcased the other intersection. In BQ’s article on the Dursley Pedersen, he actually reviews one built in the 80s, with an inclusion of pictures of an historical 1910 version. I say ‘actually’ because he talks about the ride quality, the fact you have to completely dismount at stoplights, etc. Ultimately he was impressed: “If the original Dursley Pedersen rode like this 1980s reproduction, they offered a spirited ride and very good comfort.” There are six pictures of the Pedersen, pulled mostly from Heine’s book The Competition Bicycle (hence the museum-quality images).

In Bicycling, you have in contrast the journalistic equivalent of a blog entry. [Ahem.] It’s an awkward editorial mess, a disjointed narrative about one person’s attempt to purchase a Pedersen replica, entitled ‘A Strange and Not Unpleasant Experience.’ The author apparently falls in love with the idea of riding a Pedersen around Boulder CO; she ‘did some research’ and learned there were exactly two Pedersens in Boulder. They look like the Eiffel Tower! But trouble in B-town: since they start at “a couple of thousand dollars and I had recently brought home another town bike from an earlier trip to Holland. My husband was worried this would become an expensive habit.”

She researched more and scanned the Danish equivalent of Craigslist and then, feeling lucky, flew to Copenhagen on ‘cheap tickets’ having found one for a considerably low price, around $700, about half of all the others she’d seen listed. Met the sheepish guy, took the bike out, bought it. But then later, when she ‘pedaled into the light Copenhagen evening’ for a chance to ‘nod to each other knowingly’ with other Pedersen drivers while she practiced her ‘Danish, throw-back-my-hair-and-laugh posture’ came: disaster! She noticed a ‘slight dent’ in a rod. Also, that the bike wasn’t as tall as advertised.

So, to recap: article starts off with meeting a stoned Norwegian in Denmark’s Cristiana neighborhood; bit of history about the Pedersen cycle; a bit of history about Cristiana and the guy who lived there who built the replica bikes; backstory about how the author had seen one and wanted one so badly; and the Craigslist drama. Where’s the connection, you wonder? Here it comes: because her cheapo Craiglist bike find is not what she had hoped it would be, she calls around, finds the guy who originally built the bike, and tracks him down to a shop in Cristiana. Where he offers her tea, suggests her bike had maybe been stolen at one point and welds on new rods to fix the seatpost height issue; he does leave the bent rods alone. That’s it. Author gets pictures of the welder, a guy who several times it was mentioned never made enough money from his work, and we’re all left wondering if she had just gone ahead and spent the ‘reasonable’ $1400 on a Pedersen replica instead of $700 if there would ever have been a ‘story’.

I do like Bicycling. It has a different purpose. I tend to enjoy the accessory reviews, and the menu suggestions. The general health/stretching advice articles always inspire me. Stories about people who are truly inspiring inspire me. I like Bike Snob (hope this post isn’t too much shading into that territory). Yes, I skim through the reviews of the $1000 aluminum bikes and the $8000 carbon bikes because, really, they’re just rehashing the same thing over and over… and that gets to the heart of Bicycle Quarterly’s latest couple of issues: bike science really hasn’t changed that much in 100 years. Bicycling is part of the Z Generation (or is that AA Generation by now?) social-media experiential, OMG I’m So Actually Here, first-person blog-like narrative, always ‘geared’ to future bikes, purchases, rides. Bicycle Quarterly is more of a museum piece, looking at the past to orient the way we approach our present.

In comparing the respective treatments of the Pedersen between Bicycling and Bicycle Quarterly, nowhere is the difference in magazine titles more apparent. BQ is all about the Bicycle. For a one-man show, it purports to be and usually comes across as an objective approach focused on the bike itself. Bicycling is all about the gerund, the act of Bicycling. How are you (primary) while on the bike (secondary). Depending on your cup of tea, you’ll prefer one to the other. I guess it’s pretty clear where my admiration lands, but I will continue reading both.

For a faux blue-collar contrast, check out Bike magazine. I definitely only read that for the photographs. The articles are almost nauseating. Far too many of them run along the same meme: Hey you, I’m a paid professional mountain biker. I’m either taking the pictures myself or riding with a pro photographer. We’re here at (dream riding location) slogging through the mud and it’s just so HARD, whimper. But by the end of the ride I’ll hit a mountain view and realize JUST HOW LUCKY I AM AND HOW LIFE AFFIRMING THIS WHOLE MOUNTAIN BIKING THING IS AND SO YOU SHOULD CONTINUE RIDING. Even though, sorry, you’ll never ever ride the Swiss Alps or England’s Lake District on a dream carbon 6-inch travel bike. Those are the long articles. The shorter ones are along the lines of “tough day, threw everything together in 5 minutes to hit the trail, everything sucked, and then suddenly everything didn’t suck, then we drank a bunch of beer and, hiccup, I’m so blue collar about this it’s funny.”

In conclusion, Bike and Bicycling struggle to max out the emotional and often neglect the technical. Sure, they may review (as in repeat high-level sales brochure points) the latest electric Shimano Dura-Ace gruppo or 26-lb all-mountain wunderbike… but seriously, who’s going to buy that stuff? Those who are, are they really being influenced by a shoddy and short article? On the other hand, BQ is obesessive in just the reverse: it emphasizes the technical, allows the reader to fill in the blanks or read between the lines to supply the emotive imaginings. BQ goes to pains to formulate the equations underlying adventure riding so you can go out and do the adventure riding; they tend to not harp on their own personal adventures (there’s a little of that reportage, but not much). Bike and Bicycling are experiential, more concerned with capturing that photo of the one dude jumping off some cliff 10 seconds before sunset (which sure is cool) but… how was it to get up to that mountain? How was the rest of that day? How did their equipment handle? Any lessons learned to pass on to other riders who aspire to similar heights/sights?

Okay. Gonna go read Bicycle Times. That always cheers me up!

Rainy Day Hike

27 Sep

I have the week off from work. As such I wanted to go on an adventure today, with the dogs. It started out glorious, like the opening of a movie set in New Hampshire, well, a movie set in New Hampshire featuring a movie that is set in New Hampshire, with a jaunty woodwind-driven score, maybe the kind of movie where the score is playing while a main character is driving along, on their way to a relation’s house, or to a B&B where they’re going to meet a funny couple from Florida and a… gasp… mysterious stranger.

Anyway, I mention New Hampshire due to all the yellowbrownorange leaves seesawing down to the ground, and the bit of a bite in the early morning mountain air. The pups and I were heading up the Mountain Loop Highway to take the Independence and North Lake hike.

me likey

The first part of the day started out fantastic, requiring hat and sunscreen. There’s a little bit of climbing up to Independence Lake:

Lake in the woods...

But then the elevation pain really starts after this spot, as you go nearly straight up.

ascending pups

The three of us formed a nice little paceline. Mostly they drafted off me, but now and then they took the lead. I love watching them go up switchbacks, the way they come to the turn and crank their heads to see what’s on the next switch.

Unfortunately, the clouds had started to move in, obscuring most of the views. Then it started drizzling. Nothing too bad. Us Northwesterners are hardy types. Then it started raining. Then pouring. We came across an old guy who was snoring. Or, maybe that was just a waterfall:

I prefer agile.

Up toward the top as we neared the flanking scenic shelf over North Lake, near the larger of the tarns, as we slogged through the rain, all three of us soaked to the skin, I said, “Okay, enough’s enough. Let’s go home.” I get really stubborn sometimes and insist on finishing things, but it was getting dangerous out there. I slipped and fell a couple of times, and at one point, heading back down, Adelaide slipped and hurt her rear leg.

Safe and mostly sound if mostly drowned, we made it back to the car, parked next to another car, a newish Mercedes, that had the engine running, and a teenage girl behind the wheel, smoking. Okaaay.

I cleaned up the pups and gave them some water. Then I said, “So who wants a treat for not mentioning exactly how much of an adventure this was to Mrs. Surly?” Their smiles were answer, and collusion, enough, but Cooper said, “What adventure?”

I mark the trail every 50 feet!

Two treats, and she won't hear a word.

the other side of the fence

26 Sep

All last summer as I rode my bike through Snohomish county, past all the rolling pastures full of sun-loving, slow-moving livestock, I quietly squeed on numerous occasions. A tail-flicking horse – squee! a knock-kneed cow baby – squee!! Smiley-face goats! Squee squee! So I started volunteering at a goat farm to see what they’re like up close. Turns out, they are relentlessly cute, curious, smart and friendly. This farm is also a rescue, so the goats usually have a sad story — horns burned off, hooves untrimmed to the point where it’s amazing they can even walk, bb gun pellet lodged in the belly for what looks like a couple of years. It’s so sad what people think it’s okay to do to an animal. But somehow most of the goats maintain their trust, and they’ll just walk over, lean against you and look up with the sweetest faces you can imagine. And then poop. Because that’s what they do.

The neatest thing about this farm is that it’s on a road that’s somewhat popular with cyclists, so while I’m there I usually see 5-10 people ride by. Of those, maybe 2 or 3 look over, see the goats chomping lazily on the grass, and smile. I like to think they’re sqeeing a little inside.

Far North

21 Sep

Some sci fi can start like this:

Young Cyrus emerged from the Tube and automatically pulled down his sh’trithra to guard against the perishing gamma deflection from Cygnos XI’s sister sun; as perishing as the glare of the Old Mistress if I’m late to the education factory, on GuyFawlke3000 Day no less, he thought.

Some western fi can start like this:

Young Cyrus carefully closed the cabin door so as not to wake the sleeping baby brother and stepped onto the porch, pulling down the brim of his hat, it being a bright morning in the Barefoot Hills of Montana. Unless he lit out of there he knew he’d face the wrath of Miss Crabtree, followed by the smothered laughter of the other kids, already likely to be riled because tomorrow was to be the 4th of July.

While in the bookstore the other day, I thumbed through a book and within two lines was hooked on what (eventually) turned out to be an intriguing blending of the two:

Every day I buckle on my guns and go out to patrol this dingy city.
I’ve been doing it so long that I’m shaped to it, like a hand that’s been carrying buckets in the cold.

This is a great read. If you love stories in the Survivalist, Post-Environmento-Apocalyptic, Western/Sci-Fi, Little House on the Prairie/Prison Camp genre, you’re gonna love Far North. I like the anthropological aspect to it. It’s like reverse engineering sci fi, picking up the archeological artifacts and making the connection going back over time.

In addition to the main character’s treatment (and treatment), the other great character is never named but is obviously known as WHAT EXACTLY HAPPENED? If I ever have a kid, that’ll be his middle name. If it’s a her, the middle name will be TOLT YOU SO PIPELINE.

WHAT EXACTLY HAPPENED? is, again, never seen, only hinted at, but is omnipresent, on all the minds of the characters and on every page. Makepeace Hatfield, the sheriff and central actor, is a tour de force. I won’t ruin the details, but the details are amazing: when it comes to the plane, I picture something like an Antonov 12, some classic Russian cargo transport, but this sort of thing is never spelled out specifically and in such terms, just hinted at through the interpretive lens of a post-interpretive mindset: curvatures, smells, bouncing, g-force sensation, the shine of the metallic skin. It’s a masterful story both in what’s included but almost even more so by what’s not included.

I highly recommend this book to y’all. At work, on a Friday afternoon, one of the chaps on my team came up and said, I’m about to fly to Florida for a three-day weekend and need a book. You wouldn’t happen to have any thing?

I had just finished Far North and handed it over. He apparently read it in one go. It’s that kind of book.

And, if you like it, I highly recommend Marcel Theroux’s Confessions of Mycroft Holmes: A Paper Chase (or also known as The Paperchase). It’s chock full of the most pithy simile/metaphor suggestions… I remember one passage, describing a kitchen oven that apparently was never used by its late owner, as having an ‘aura to it like an abandoned car in the middle of a forest’ or something to that effect. His father Paul Theroux is famous of course, and I have tried on several occasions to get past the first 100 pages of his uncle’s book Laura Warholic, published by Seattle’s own Fantagraphics (I worked there one summer! a long, long time ago…).

the crankosaurus is extinct! for now.

20 Sep

This weekend the lad had a wonderful idea. What if, he said, we started going into work later? And so today we did, sleeping in a whole extra hour and waking up refreshed and ready to ride. This shouldn’t be a new feeling, but it is. I can’t remember the last time I slept for 8 hours straight, and combined with a ridiculous couple of weeks at work, my demeanor has definitely taken a turn for the crankypants. But today! I went a whole day without seething even once. Lovely.

I was worried about how my sensitive little cattle dog would take the change to a later schedule, but lo and behold he didn’t eat anything! He did make a creepy nest out of my clothes in the living room, but he didn’t eat them. So, progress? Yes indeed. Good cheer, restored. Trusty Surly, appreciated all over again. The Burke? Beautiful, with leaves crunching under tires and orange-yellow pine needles everywhere and grey-blue clouds speeding us along with their threat of rain. I think fall is my favorite season.