Autumn, leaves

September 25, 2021

The third and best season is upon us.

The autumnal equinox seemed an auspicious occasion for the flushing out of headgear.

I hadn’t left the confines of Bernalillo County since October 2019, and the walls of El Rancho Pendejo had passed the time by slowly creeping inward. Most people wouldn’t notice. But I am a Professional Journalist and know a hoodoo when I see one (our mantra is hoodoo, what, when, where, and why).

So I got out of Dodge. Threw too much camping gear into Sue Baroo the Fearsome Furster, left the MacBook Pro where it sat, and sputtered off to see if all my long-neglected outdoorsy stuff still worked. Just in case something didn’t, I planned to be gone for not too long, to nowhere too remote, and not too far away. I favor multiple redundancy systems, but still, just because you’re paranoid, etc., et al., and so on and so forth.

Hoodat?

The great thing about car camping is you can overpack without flattening your tires, feet, and/or spinal column. So I took two sleeping pads (Therm-a-Rest BaseCamp and ProLite Plus), and I layered them sumbitches between me, the tent floor, and the ground, just because I could.

You wouldn’t want to backpack that BaseCamp, which goes about 3.6 elbees in the large model, but it is the shit for car camping.

I didn’t double up on tents, going with one Big Agnes Fly Creek UL2. Big Agnes says you can fit two people in there, but not if one of them is me. The voices in my head take up a lot of square footage when they come out at night. But what a great one-person tent. Sets up fast, comes down even faster. Just the thing for that third season, which is my favorite.

The bag was a Marmot Elite 30, which is plenty toasty for a hot sleeper like Your Humble Narrator, but a tad on the snug side. It’s kind of like wearing a puffy coat with a hood, but in a duster length.

For a backpack, I chose the Gregory Stout 45. If I need to carry any more gear than fits in a Stout 45, I ain’t going. I may be a jackass, but I ain’t no burro. This is one comfortable pack for traveling fast and light (or for fetching your gear from the car to the campsite to minimize the back-and-forth).

However, since I was car camping, not backpacking, I brought along two items that didn’t fit in the Gregory: a camp chair from L.L. Bean and my elderly Coleman two-burner propane stove.

Now, I have had more than a few camp stoves over the years, from an MSR RapidFire isobutane burner that for years was my main road-trip rest-area stove, to itty-bitty bikepacking boogers like the Soto Micro Regulator, which fits with its canister in a Snow Peak Trek 700 titanium pot. But man, that old Coleman does the business. It was our backup cooker for when the utilities went south up Weirdcliffe way.

Like everything and everyone else, the Coleman two-burner has been through some changes over the years — my old model has a piezo igniter — but it’s still getting rave reviews, and it’s still as cheap as the dirt you’ll sleep on.

And the Subie? Glad you asked. Seventeen years old and she’s still kickin’. If I don’t drive like the Road Warrior, she won’t set me afoot in the desert. That’s the deal we struck, and so far so good. But sometimes I take a bicycle along just in case (see paranoid, above).

An ominous rattle developed on the return trip, but it turned out to be coming from the plastic garage-door opener clipped to the driver’s side visor.

They say you can’t go home again, but it opened the door for me just like always, so in I went.

Hello, sunshine.

Buzzworm Crossing?

September 18, 2021

Certainly seems serpentine. …

I don’t think so, but maybe we need a few of ’em around here.

Herself and I saw three defunct snakes at roadside during yesterday’s ride. At speed it was impossible to tell whether these were buzzworms or bull snakes, and since “at speed” is the way I prefer to view snakes, whether alive or dead, we’ll just have to content ourselves with blissful ignorance as regards species.

Speaking of vipers in the collective bosom, I understand today’s Justice for Jagoffs rally is starting to look like a tailgate party for a tank-town JV field-hockey match. Seems the paranoia strikes deep:

Users in far-right Internet forums and groups have claimed without evidence that the rally is a “trap,” created by the federal government to lure demonstrators to Washington, where federal officials will arrest them. Users also allege without evidence that the event will be infiltrated by left-wing activists who will disguise themselves as Trump supporters and deliberately cause trouble to make the rallygoers look unlawful.

Hee, and also haw, etc. Like The State needs to corral all these selfie-snapping shitheads in one place to snatch ’em up instead of picking them off one by one using their own social-media postings as a virtual breadcrumb trail to their various holes in the wall.

“I couldn’t do that. Could you do that? How can they do that? Who are those guys?”

Just a couple federales with a laptop, Butch. You and Sundance ever consider relocating to Bolivia? They love a good demonstration.

Wot’s all this then?

September 16, 2021

Officer Friendly is here to rifle through your Google user data.

“Probable cause? We ain’t got no probable cause. We don’t need no probable cause. I don’t have to show you any steenkeeng probable cause!”

Zachary McCoy was Just Riding Along™, not unlike thee and me, when the John Laws came calling for his Google user data. According to The Guardian:

McCoy later found out the request was part of an investigation into the burglary of a nearby home the year before. The evidence that cast him as a suspect was his location during his bike ride – information the police obtained from Google through what is called a geofence warrant. For simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time, McCoy was being investigated and, as a result, his Google data was at risk of being handed over to the police.

No thank you, please, and fuck right off with that noise, Officer Friendly. How’s the song go? “Let me ride through the wide open country that I love / Don’t geofence me in.”

These kids today

September 14, 2021

All tired out.

So there I was, just riding along, when the rear tire started going softer than Brett Kavanaugh’s FBI background check.

I was already heading home, so I figured I’d just head there faster. But first I stopped to pump the tire up a bit because cornering on the rim at speed is always iffy.

That worked, for a while, but it was clear I would have to stop to give the ol’ Zéfal another workout if I wanted to ride this mess home, where the floor pump, workstand, and air conditioning reside.

So there I was, just pumping along, when a couple young women on mountain bikes rolled up.

“Do you need any help?” one asked brightly.

“No, thanks, I’m good,” I replied. And off they went.

Wasn’t that nice of the younguns, to offer aid and comfort to the auld fella? Lucky for them I wasn’t a Supreme Court justice.

Something might be gaining on you

September 11, 2021

It’s been a long, long road.

While they continued to write and talk, we saw the wounded and the dying.Erich Maria Remarque, “All Quiet on the Western Front”

I didn’t have much to say on the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, and a decade further on down the road I feel even less inclined to hold forth on the topic. A bunch of people got dead, maimed, or insane; another bunch got rich, famous, and powerful; and the rest of us went shopping.

Did we learn anything from the attacks and what Charlie Pierce calls “our blind, feral response?” Doubtful. We check the rear view every 10 years or so, but that’s just reflexive, like glancing at a TV as you pass.

Anything good on? Nahhhhhhh. Same ol’, same ol’. Hey, who wants to go to the mall?

Benched

September 9, 2021

Looking NNW from the Candelaria Bench Trail after ascending from the southern end.

Since I didn’t seem to be suffering overmuch from Tuesday’s eight-mile hike, I decided I’d do ’er again Wednesday.

Not the same exact hike, of course. This time I paid a call on the Candelaria Bench Loop, which is right here in the ’hood.

I thought I’d get right down to business by tackling the steep and sketchy middle route up, which starts pretty much right from the northern trailhead, where Comanche dead-ends.

That’s the big city down there.

And then I thought again. Nossir, let’s have ourselves a little warmup first. Break loose a few of those old adhesions, see if the sludge will soften enough to lube the moving parts. The southern ascent will do.

It’s amazing how much a little weather will change the character of a trail, particularly one that wobbles upward like an errant bottle rocket. It was crisscrossed with ruts from runoff, grasses and cacti had closed in, and at one point about halfway up I wondered whether I had managed to wander off the trail entirely.

Nope. I arrived without incident and the Bench was as you see it. Pretty green still, especially for September, and I was the only two-legged beast in evidence, though if you linger near the Tramway side of things Albuquerque’s car culture manages to make its presence known (zoom, honk, roar, beep, crash, bang, boom, whoop whoop whoop, etc).

Up top some of the dirt was still dark with moisture, and so was I, because it was 80-something and practically windless. I cooled down by wandering around for a bit, appreciating the dearth of retail and rooftops, and then descended cautiously through the stair-stepped Valley of Boulders to Hidden Valley Road and headed for the barn.

The loss of flexibility that accompanies advancing age, buttressed by a pigheaded indifference to stretching, yoga, and resistance training, makes the descents interesting, especially when they’ve been rearranged by cascading water. At intervals I used my hickory stick like the safety rails found in certain toilet stalls, the ones with a wheelchair emblem.

Despite myself I made it down hat side up and celebrated with a delicious batch of chipotle-honey chicken tacos in the old Crock-Pot. If you ever find yourself both fatigued and famished after a hike in the hills this sumbitch is a culinary walk in the park.

Horsing around

September 7, 2021

A horse bypass leads to a saddle. Irony scratches her mosquito bites.

The day after a national holiday weekend is generally top notch for riding trail, if the weather permits. Everyone who hasn’t tripped the Bug-O-Meter® or gotten arrested for fleeing the fuzz is back to work, or school, and a fella has a little elbow room out there among the cacti and buzzworms.

But for some inexplicable reason I decided to take a hike instead. Go figure.

I got the traditional late start (O’Grady Standard Time), so with the sun up, the wind at my back, and a steady uphill trudge for most of the first hour or so, I was sweating like a sausage in a skillet, doffing my hat at intervals to mop the brain-case with a bandana.

Slouching up Trail 365 I turned for no good reason onto the Embudo Trail Horse Bypass, mainly because I’d never used it and was idly curious. Generally I loop around on 365A and head back down to El Rancho Pendejo.

The bypass wound upward to a ridge that overlooks Embudo Trail 193, and so did I. Thought briefly about following it down to where the two trails merge, but I didn’t know exactly where that was, or what the footing might be like after the monsoons. Plus I’d been out for 90 minutes already, probably sweated off all the sunscreen, and was down to about a half liter of water and a half tube of Clif Blox.

Hey, it was a trail for horses, not a horse’s ass. I turned around, whinnied, and hoofed it home.

A workin’ man can’t get nowhere today

September 6, 2021

Luck of the draw.

Happy Labor Day, comrades.

I’m barely a worker these days; my paying chores have dwindled to one “Shop Talk” cartoon per month for Bicycle Retailer and Industry News.

Of course, now that BRAIN is a part of the Greater Outside Globe-Spanning Vertically Integrated Paywalled Conglomerate, I find myself negotiating a contract to keep my faded Levi’s up and buckled while I continue to do what I’ve been doing for nigh on to 30 years. So it goes.

Thus, in solidarity with all y’all still on The Man’s clock, here a few random tales culled from our workaday world:

• Hotel workers serve as an unsung pit crew for the firefighters battling the Caldor blaze.

• Job openings outnumber the unemployed. But a gulf between the jobs available and what workers want has led to a “Great Reassessment.”

• Speaking of assessments, are the bots trying to upend the MeatWorld JobMart or are we just stumbling around in the dark as per usual? Kevin Drum has some brief thoughts on the topic.

• Is the boss watching, even when you’re working from home? Maybe. Say hello to “tattleware.”

• Can a workin’ man get somewhere today? He surely couldn’t back in 1978, according to Merle Haggard.

For a minute there I was all aTwitter

September 4, 2021

This is not a buzzworm. It is, however, his office.

Touting this week’s installment of Desert Oracle Radio, Ken Layne notes:

Portents and signs, everywhere we look. But signs of what? Oh, the usual: plague, disaster, but at least we have social media to make it all worse.

On my hike this morning I saw two snakes, a buzzworm at the beginning and a bull at the turnaround point.

Surely this must have been a sign of something? Probably that I had seen two snakes in the actual grass instead of on Twitter.

Your call is important to us

September 3, 2021

“Please continue to hold. And hold. Annnnnnd. …”

It’s my considered opinion that Texas (and the Supremes, and many other jurisdictions, institutions, and individuals) could benefit from the occasional kick up the hole.

That said, this tale about the Austin indie chamber-music group Montopolis and the Texas Workforce Commission Hold Music should remind us that hope remains. Even in Texas.