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I know that title borrows a bit from a great George Thorogood song and a well-known Brue Willis movie line, but they both fit this story like a comfortable pair of walking shoes for a trip that combined bourbon and a bucolic walkabout in the beautiful Texas countryside.

           IMG_3634

If you think the phrase “Yippie-ki-yay” as spoken by Bruce Willis doesn’t shout Texas clearly enough, well, consider the phrase was

“from the 1936 hit song ‘I’m an Old Cow Hand from the Rio Grande’ about a 20th-century cowboy who has little in common with cowpunchers of old and sung by Bing Crosby in the film ‘Rhythm on the Range’ (also sung later by Roy Rogers and Frank Sinatra) and considered one of the Top 100 Western songs of all time.”

That modicum of trivia thanks to a lil’ ol’ outfit that happens to bottle a bourbon by that moniker.

Texas and bourbon make sense. But, what’s with the walk?

It was the wife-person who found the south-central Texas event that promised three drinks with a 5K.

Three Drinks logo

As shown from these pages on many occasions, I have been a longtime fan of combining exercise with alcohol, which can be viewed as a pain reduction strategy from doing the former by use of the latter, or a method of countering the calories of the latter by doing the former, or just for the purpose—as our Prez is wont to say, of “other things.”

This included cross county bike rides where I obeyed the old adage to stay hydrated during the ride,

guinessandwater

…to cross town running events, along with 60,000 of my best friends, where, in the tradition of the world-renowned Hash Hound Harriers, I managed to hit a few pubs between the S.F. Bay to the Pacific Ocean Breakers.

I might have gotten an even earlier start had I caught on with the concept of the—now outlawed—pre-race warm-up exercise of doing keg stands.

For those unfamiliar with the practice, it’s kind of like doing a yoga handstand while “pre-hydrating.”

As to our Texas outing, the microbrewery, neighborhood winery, and micro-distillery promised macro headaches should you opt for multiples of the wonderful three local offerings.

FullSizeRender (1)

But, what was advertised as Three Drinks, 5K, should have read, you get Three Drinks after the 5K. 

By the time I got to the finish line I was more than ready to profusely imbibe, I mean, get properly re-hydrated.

IMG_3669

“Will someone please hand that man a drink.”

Whether it was the early morning 5K of moderate exercise or multiples of the Three Drinks, by noon I ended up pretty dog-tired.

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River stories are kind of like college parties. You might just as soon not have your dirty laundry from it aired out in public, years later…assuming you were even wearing any at the time…for either.

While I respect the concept of discretion in telling tales out of school, so to speak, if everyone abided by that doctrine, we’d never see stories of the entertaining buffoonery, and sometimes bad behavior that we might question as hyperbole.

That truth seems to go doubly when it comes to running rivers in rafts, and other mobile delivery sources of adult beverages and other disinhibitors of common sense and good behavior.

   cheers

While my chronicling over the years on these pages has been limited by a lack of writing acumen, and even less of audience, compilation of comic tales in books such as Halfway To Halfway gives you a glimpse of life in those remote canyons, away from the constraints of daily routine, and possibly good conscience.

Of course, not all of these river stories end well.

The iconic outdoor adventure writer—and well known subject of my major man-crush, Tim Cahill, wrote a story after he died while rafting the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon in 2014. (Yes, I realize I said he wrote “after” he died.)

 

The common theme of these trips are typically about almost indescribably beautiful scenery, amazing canyons, exhilarating rapids, good friends, if you’re lucky, fantastic food, and often those aforementioned disinhibitors.

Some people follow a minimalist example, taking only what they absolutely need, while others of us suffer from what Jimmy Buffet blamed on Lord Baden-Powell, where we take anything and everything we might possibly need should a four-day trip somehow morph into a four-month long adventure.

While I have enjoyed—and others have endured (mostly my company) adventures on numerous, so called, self-guided river trips, as of late I have become a real fan of the commercially guided trips, where someone else prepares me gourmet meals and deals with my personal crap (literally, as in the “river groover.” Google it.).

I did so a “few” years back, when I turned six decades ancient on the storied Middle Fork of the Salmon River in Idaho, and did so again last year, on the Rogue River in southwestern Oregon.

After a comfortable night at the Galice Resort, under the great guidance of  Finkel, Frank, and Luscher (who may or may not be a law firm in the off season) we rafted 40 miles, spent a couple of nights in cozy tents and cushy sleeping bags, which those accommodating river guides set up for us, and finally a pampered night at the remote Marial Lodge.

For many, the real attraction of these trips is the excitement and beauty of the river runs, from Class I—”wake me when we get to camp”—to Class V+ —”holy shit, we’re all going to die.” Our trip included the running of the rapids in the rugged Mule Creek Canyon, which was a happy survival medium of thrills and spills.

watch that hole

Speaking of spills, sometimes getting out of the raft is easier than getting back in, which provides some upper body exercise for the guide pulling us back in the boat, and some belly laughs for those who happened to stay onboard…this time.

    getting in aint easy

Although I have nothing to brag about when it comes to grace while negotiating bumpy boats, or even while walking along the shore, for that matter, given that I am about as nimble as a rock.

 

These trips include the the standard wilderness river practice to pee in the water (hint: dilution is the solution) and poop in a metal box (that infamous groover). 

   grover view

The former is often accomplished during shore breaks, with the boys going in one direction, and the girls going in the other, behind a bit of modest cover provided by the riverside rafted rafts. My method is to look straight into the water while doing my business, looking away from the women, as a sense of decency, and away from the men, for a fear of jealousy.

The need for these stops is increased dependent on the amount of liquid consumed during the trip, such when a cold one, or two, is appreciated when we camp along picturesque creeks.

   FG creek beer

Of course, that doesn’t mean you can go just anywhere.

In some cases, exposing yourself could have serious consequences.

        rattlesnake rock

The nice thing about the commercial trips, the company typically provides a bit of beer or a whittle of wine at camp.

For some, the difference between a good river experience, and a great one, is a matter of proof, so the guides are willing to schlep a bottle of your own personal higher octane adult libation.

And, for some, the difference is more a matter of sheer volume.

I began this tale addressing assumed hyperbolic river stories, assumed if only because of the staggering scale as they are told.

I once heard about this river outing with the cryptic caption of Manifest Grand Canyon MGC15. Thestory” goes, for a group of 16 people for a 21 day float, they allegedly packed 21 gallons of Tanqueray gin, which according to the legend, I mean the trip log, was served out of some form of pony keg, or possibly something called a corny keg. 

   gin no tonic

But, the real voluminous nature of the beverages was that the same group, on the same trip, allegedly packed 75 cases of beer!

I would say, color me skeptical about all this, but then again…have you ever been around a bunch of river guides when they’re around their own kind and on the river? It is what legends are made of…and books like mentioned above, which for MGC15 could have been More Than Halfway to Liver Problems.

   riverside relaxation

On the commercial trips, afternoons are spent laid back, while the wonderful guides set up tents, prepare meals, and lay out the path to the groover.

River tip: a paddle across the trail means the all important metal box is ocupado.

       grover not available

Evenings are spent in camps along the river, often no more than a sandbar, where meals are shared among your fellow floaters, and sometimes, uninvited guests that go bzzz, bzzz, bite, bzzz, bzzz. sting.

(Note: technically, yellow jackets bite AND sting.)

Look closely. They are all over poor Emily’s (a.k.a. Reg’s) meat.

              yellowjacket dinner

Well, this is my story and I’m sticking to it. Everything I claimed might be true. Of course, there was that funny looking plant at one of our camps.

   datura

I did look it up later and the description said something about’

“It is a powerful hallucinogen and deliriant, which is used for the intense visions it produces.”

Datura intoxication typically produces delirium and bizarre behavior that can last several days.”

“These symptoms generally last from 24 to 48 hours, but have been reported in some cases to last as long as two weeks.”

I do remember getting kind of mesmerized and staring at the moving water for hours.

creek flow

Or, it could have been weeks…

Maybe what happens on the river should stay on the river…

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I never expected that I would turn into a zombie two days before the much-ballyhooed Great American Eclipse of 2017.

 

Having a self-induced, pre-eclipse hangover was an all together different matter.

EclipsesOfTheSun

I had been preparing for the celestial celebration for months:

planning optimal viewing locations,

determining travel routes,

and, of course,

obtaining the necessary specialized optical equipment, namely,

the $2.00 eclipse viewing glasses.

Was everything about this event connected to 2’s… as one friend (yes you Steve) put it… I was overthinking this stuff way 2 much?

In the meantime, other buddy Bob mapped our route and viewing spot to be very close to the center of the 70-mile wide path of totality, which was totally cool, as in literally totally cool when the sun disappeard for two-minutes.

We had a great spot in a broad, grass-covered open area, with more cows than people nearby.

           IMG_3542

I even spent…yes, you guessed it…a whopping 2 bucks on a fantastic app that would confirm our location and event times, and provide a, only slightly, nagging voice,

“Put glasses on…put glasses on…

…you idiot, unless you are the president…

……..PUT THE GLASSES ON NOW!”

app screens

Other than for Neil deGrasse Tyson, the astrophysics of this event was anything but simple. There were countless websites that explained the details, some claimed to tell everything you needed to know.

I certainly had questions. Many questions.

First off, I did not know where best to place my viewing chair; face west? face east? So, after walking all over the hillside schlepping my chair, I finally decided to be next to the pickup with the table of ale and ice chest, and just look up.

I wondered, why was there no moon the night before, but now a full moon was covering the sun?

And, if the eclipse crosses the country at about 2,000 miles per hour, why does it take approximately 2 hours, from “first contact” to “fourth contact” to get by us?

   

Moreover, once the eclipse was over, where did the moon go until later that night?

The only answer I seem to remember is that the moon would completely blanket the sun, leaving only the corona light remaining to be seen.

Hmmm. I may have misunderstood.

solar corona

I will say, that even with just the light of the corona remaining, it really does not get as dark as night.

More like dark as dusk, which don’t get me wrong, was pretty cool…just not dark, dark.

At least we were packing a good supply of refreshing adult beverages, because when the sun was not covered for those two minutes, it was plenty warm.

IMG_3555

The problem was, while we were wearing those funky 2-buck, pitch black, glasses, we couldn’t find our beers, almost knocking them off the table.

Thankfully, once the moon went off to who-knows-where, I could safely sit with my beloved Bombay Sapphire in hand, sans black-out shades, and toast our bearing witness to an amazing sight.

        IMG_3559

 

Apparently, Steve and Bob had more sober mind numbing activities to return to.

              IMG_3558

“Speaking of sober, or lack thereof, the hangover I mentioned above was post my birthday dinner the night before my zombie-like, 2,000-mile drive across four states (but, only completely through…yes… 2 of them).

There were some magazine reports of other types of eclipse hangovers, such as sharing the roads to get home with thousands, and thousands of people with the same idea.

To ease my drive home, my buddies strongly suggested I stop on my way at the Rock House in Jordan Valley, Oregon, for an espresso milkshake. Not to question their local knowledge, I did grab that drink as my breakfast beverage for my long haul home.

No more hangover to suffer, just a bit of a brain freeze.

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There’s an old cliché that when you get to a certain age, you never pass up a place to pee.

This has something to do with the fact that when you reach your golden years, you have something in common with your earliest years. I’ll say no more, except the term “golden” years may be a hint.

The countdown to the much ballyhooed Great American Eclipse is now down to one month from today, on August 21st.

The path of what is called the totality—as in, it will be totally dark—is a swath about 70 miles wide, “traveling” from the Pacific northwest, diagonally to the southeast region of the U.S.


Countless news stories have explained the big event, from exactly what it is, to where and when to best to see it.


Actually, “seeing” a total solar eclipse is kind of an oxymoron.

The whole point is that it will be totally dark. In other words, you won’t be able to see shit.

Committed solar eclipse chasers have been planning their travel to various viewing sites for years. Lodging options have been fully booked for some time and in many cases, at greatly inflated prices. I called around one state and found some people who were renting out space in their backyards for hundreds of dollars for people willing to camp out.

Committed, indeed. (Or, maybe, should be.)

One location mentioned in that linked story is an eclectic spot, called Carhenge® that I’m sure will be overrun with many of those eclipse chasers.

carhenge clouds

 

Some stories even mention expected animal reactions to it getting dark (or you can just see what happens to them EVERY night) and some folks are even thinking of possible protection for their critters. (See the safety disclosure, below.)

I must admit, I have found it ironic that people are going to so much time and expense for what will amount to a whopping two minutes, of what one friend of mine said he can recreate by walking into his windowless pantry and closing the door.

While many articles have addressed the expected gridlock on local roads, one story had an even more pressing concern, especially for us old farts,

“What we’re worried about is … there won’t be a place to go to the bathroom.”

“Andrew Fraknoi is an eclipse expert, has a plan for where he’ll go to the bathroom Aug. 21 during the solar eclipse.”

“All of the porta-potties in the zone have been spoken for,” Fraknoi said.”

“…small towns have planned ahead, renting as many porta-potties for that day as they can get their hands on, Fraknoi said. But they likely still won’t have enough.”

Before you ask, yes, I am one of them planning on finding my way to the dark.

I’m heading out with two long-time friends to a secluded, high mountain, undisclosed location. Bathroom options will be limited, but I’ve already got my spot picked out.

mountain potty

Of course, no matter where you end up not viewing the sun, remember for about two minutes, you can pretty much go anywhere and no one will see a thing.

(Note: that was the big travel secret. Shhh, you didn’t hear it from me.)

FULL DISCLOSURE: so that I can avoid being sued, I better state the SAFETY WARNING you will read in every eclipse story until you are blind, or will become if you don’t pay attention to it:

Looking directly at the sun, even when it is partially covered by the moon, can cause serious eye damage or blindness. NEVER look at a partial solar eclipse without proper eye protection.

O.K. you’ve got a month to scour Google Earth to find your place to go in the sun…I mean, the dark.

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The recent Wall Street Journal article claimed that hard liquor is making a revival, which certainly puts me in good spirits. (pun obviously intended)

 

The story started with, 

“The world’s drinkers are turning to the hard stuff.”

 
My first thought upon reading this in the Journal’s Business News section was, what do you mean “are turning?”
 
In the parlance of you kids, you might say my personal consumption of the so-called hard stuff has been a trending topic for years.
 
But, the article was simply providing a comparison of spirits sales to that of beer and wine as of late.
 
The bar graphs (can I take credit of a visual pun by the newspaper’ staff?) show that the biggest worldwide increase in hard liquor use is in the United States.
 
Hmmm, could it be the politics of the last six months has driven all of us to drink the more mind numbing substances. 
 
On a recent weekend in Portland (the one on the “left coast”), which is known to have maybe three microbreweries per resident of drinking age, I had a couple of noteworthy opportunities to add to the statistics of spirit imbibing.
 
The first was for brunch at a great place known as the Southland Whiskey Kitchen
 
Needless to say, they had me at “whiskey kitchen.”
 
Almost before I checked the list of brunch libations–I said, almost before–I saw they offered beignets, which while I have some difficulty both spelling and pronouncing, I have no problem swallowing whole.
 
In my quest to eat healthily as often as possible, I ordered a Smokehouse Mary, their version of the iconic vodka-based breakfast cocktail, which is loaded with various healthily to consume vegetables.
 
You might even call it farm-to-under the table (if you drink enough of them).
 
They also add their own smoked bacon and rim the glass with smoked salt. 
 
O.K. Now for the true confession (no, not that I’m responsible for fully 1% of the world increase in liquor consumption); the Southland Whiskey Kitchen serves their Bloody Mary with a beer side as kind of a palate cleanser.
 
The confession is that I actually drank a Coors Light, which is what they serve with their cocktail.
 
Those who know me, have heard me oft repeat, I don’t drink beer I can see through. 
 
Hell, I’m not even sure there is beer in a Coors Light beer.
 
But, maybe the cleansing effect also counters the deleterious effects of the smoked bacon and the smoked salt. 

What do you mean, it doesn’t work that way?



 




To quote the world famous, multiple land speed record holder, salt flat car racer, Craig Breedlove,

“For my next act, I am going to set myself on fire.”

 
I still remember reading about him in the May 1972 edition of Playboy Magazine. 
 
(Gee, if I confess I actually read the articles in Playboy will my Official Manly Man Club card be revoked?)
 
But, in the case of my recent trip to Portland (the Portlandia one), it was only my coffee that caught on fire.
 
The source of ignition was my rum–well it is called Frank Rum–that, being 135 proof, burns quite nicely, thank you. 
 
Frank High Proof (which kind of goes without saying at 135 octane) Rum is the local product of the Cornelius Pass Roadhouse Distillery.
 
At the McMenamins Kennedy School (no, it’s not that kind of school), one of the most visually enjoyable uses of that product is a coffee of ethnic origin, where one might be heard to say,

“Mi cafe es en fuego!!!”

I say visually enjoyable, because it is a fact of alcohol pyrotechnics that once ignited, the good stuff pretty much gets burned off.
 
But, I think I’m still entitled to take credit for my consumption of  yet more (very) hard alcohol, albeit, it went up in flames.
 
 
 
 
 

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The Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour, which presents absolutely amazing global adventures, has nothing compared to what you are about to see.

And, by “nothing compared” I mean that my well crafted, beautifully illustrated, and carefully choreographed offerings are nothing if incomparable to anything professionally published, or even from “somebody sitting on their bed who weighs 400 pounds,” ostensibly in his mother’s basement.

My long history of floating various rivers, creeks, and lakes dates back decades, going back to when I was a twitchy tyke sitting in the bathtub among the bobbing rubber duckies and self-generated bubbling water.

            float channel

Sorry, daguerreotype photographic records were not located dating that far back.

As has been documented over years of my posts, my inspirations include the aforementioned Banff films, decades of Outside Magazine, and my major man-crush, the storied author Tim Cahill.

Thanks to a number of current and ex-commercial river guide friends, my family has enjoyed many memorable river trips, including lottery luck of a permit on the Main Fork of the Salmon River.

Now that I have aged past the point I am willing to be packing my own poop down the river in the infamous “groover,” I have paid to participate in commercial trips, which are, cost-wise, well worth their weight in the aforesaid human detritus.

 

The common factor in these river treks, whether self-guided or commercial, is often the long distances to drive to get there, plus the appurtenant trip logistics.

The details can be staggering on the self-guided floats, which includes packing enough of your choice of adult beverages/recreational pharmaceuticals to guarantee adequate evening staggering.

Then there are the considerable expenses, esp. if you expect someone else to cook your food, schlep you gear, set up your tent, plus handle those other doo-doo duties.

float armarda

Thanks to a colossal dumpage of rain and snow this winter, the opportunity—like the water level in the oft-dry creek, literally in my backyard—arose to sufficient flows to kayak last weekend. I joined a small group to navigate what nature offered us.

Logistics first; let’s see, how many beers per river mile will that take?

Seven of us floated down the lower Cache Creek in a flotilla of sit-in, sit-on-top, and inflatable kayaks for a memorable day of sun, moving water, and surprisingly scenic setting for an agricultural valley.

That does not mean we spent the whole day in a pancake-flat setting. While not quite the Grand Canyon, there was plenty of variety of topography to view.

           cliff3

For those interested in the specifics, the flow above our put-in (which was the Yolo County Capay Open Space Park) was 100+ cfs (cubic feet per second), and roughly 500 cfs below our take-out (at the Cache Creek Conservancy).

Granted, to seasoned river rats these numbers are truly underwhelming; nevertheless, we enjoyed a fun float on what is commonly categorized as Class I “rapids” (which means relatively flat moving water, plus, what might generously be considered, an occasional Class II. (O.K. Class II—)

      float downstream

There were a few shallow riffles that required “attention,” meaning jumping out of your watercraft for a bit of African Queen action.

                    African Queen scene

There is an inflatable dam (no, really) above the county park, which makes river floats problematic, typically, after May 1st, given the ag use of the river water. You can check the flows by clicking on “latest,” on the links I provided above, or by going to the NOAA predictive site for each gauging station.

Almost all of the lower Cache Creek that is above the high water mark is on private land. The county park is open to the public, and you can park at the Conservancy, but make sure to check their hours. At the Conservancy you cannot drive to the water’s edge, so will have to carry your boat, maybe a couple hundred+ yards, so make sure you finish those cases of beer before you get there.

Since this is not a Disneyland ride, given the changes in the river channel that occur over the winter, you need to know what “strainers” and “sweepers” are, and scout ahead as “necessary.”

Unless you wish to become a candidate for the next Darwin Awards, wearing a life jacket is de rigueur.

 

Beyond that, what you wear or pack along is a matter of personal preference. As you can see, I tend to go big when it comes to covering up.

         float PPE

On the other hand, our lone female team member was wearing a bikini part of the time. I would have posted her picture, too, but her husband was along, and he has the stature of an NFL linebacker.

We had only one “portage,” meaning we wished to avoid becoming one with a massive beaver dam, which simply required that we walk the boats about 100’ along the shoreline.

             beaver dam1

float portage

We were blessed to see multiple soaring hawks, great blue herons, ma and pa mallards, a bashful river otter, and jumping fish.

Also, I got a glimpse of an elusive creature that was “documented” in the movie Tremors, which apparently no one witnessed other than me.

     tremors worm

Our first wildlife sighting showed up before we even put in on the creek when this little guy crawled by my kayak.

Worry not; he (she?) was not being one-sided. Her (his?) right appendages were just tucked under its belly.

                  turtle

While I would not drink the water directly from this creek, I really don’t know of too many deleterious effects that might be picked up on your person by exposure to a creek flowing through a heavily farmed area.

personal inspection

 

Funny thing is, they weren’t looking at the turtle at the time.

 

 

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when pigs can fly

I have yet to make money in my longstanding attempt to break into the travel writing business.

 

I’ve attended numerous travel writing seminars.

If you search this site for “travel writing” posts, you will see I have talked about the topic countless times.

Then I saw Sue’s story online and I realized I must be really bad at it.

Sue had me at her title with,

“…Become A Travel Writer In A Couple Of Weeks.”

Her story began,

Six months ago, I was a backpacker who didn’t even own a laptop.

Now I am a professional travel writer.”

 

Sue obviously found her new career as easy money,

I never dreamed I would make the transition so easily. Within a couple of weeks, I had received a commission from a major travel website to write.”

I’m assuming Sue is better at travel writing than she is at math, given that I don’t think the six months she mentions is the same thing as a couple of weeks in her story’s title.

What the hell, I’ll give it the extra 22 weeks to do what I have been attempting over the course of almost ten years and 600 blog posts.

But, I think I may have found my problem. Sue confessed,

“To be totally honest, I don’t see myself as a great writer, or even a particularly good one.”

I guess I’m just too good and those publishers are not willing to pay what I deserve.

Or apparently, maybe they have been.

 

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