Archive for the ‘Road trips’ Category

Spring broken

March 1, 2021

There’s the signpost up ahead … you’re about to enter the McDowell Zone.

Can you be both stuck and unstuck, at the same time?

Dern tootin’, podnah.

Case in point: Last year, I had planned a March trip to McDowell Mountain Regional Park, to (a) get the hell out of here, and (2) get the hell out of here.

Well sir, God, He got wind of those plans and had Himself a good old hee, and also a haw. And the next thing you know I had a broken ankle, a dead cat, and a strongly worded suggestion from the State that I (and everyone else) stay put while the Plague sorted itself out.

So I was what you call stuck.

Now, a year later, we have a vaccine. And by “we,” I mean … well, what I mean is that there is a vaccine, and some other people have gotten it. But I haven’t. And I don’t know when I will get it.

Thus I am, you might say, unstuck. Which means I’m stuck.

Which in turn means that you get the needle. Because yes, yes, yes, it’s time for another medicinal episode of Radio Free Dogpatch.

P L A Y    R A D I O    F R E E    D O G P A T C H

• Technical notes: Once again we go to the Comedy Closet for this one, using a Shure MV7 mic and Zoom H5 Handy Recorder. Editing was in Apple’s GarageBand, with a sonic bump from Auphonic. Music and sound effects courtesy of Zapsplat with an Apple loop or two from iMovie and GarageBand. House call by kindly old Doc Firesign. Now just turn your head and cough.

Empowering the nomads

February 28, 2021

Ryan Pohl building batteries in the boonies.
Photo: Nina Riggio | The Washington Post

Here’s an interesting story: We’ve wondered from time to time about what we’re going to do with all the batteries from these cool new toys everyone thinks will save us from ourselves. Ryan Pohl has a few ideas on that subject.

Pohl is repurposing depleted electric-car batteries to power the off-the grid wanderers who winter at Quartzsite, billed as “the RV boondocking capital of the world.”

There are no plug-ins out there, so the nomads mostly power their rigs using fossil-fueled generators. What there is is plenty of sun. And with solar panels, some used Nissan Leaf batteries, plus an assist from Pohl and his mobile workshop, these wanderers can get a little greener.

How?

December 11, 2020

An image of U.S. 95 lifted from Google Maps.
Not exactly the Highway to Hell, is it? But it was on Thursday.

I hate flying. Not because it scares me, but because it annoys me. Maybe I was a steer in a feedlot during some previous life, plodding toward my next incarnation as a series of fast-food meals.

“Moo … mooooo … moo?”

Anyway, if the trip is under 2,000 miles and doesn’t cross a body of water with the word “ocean” attached, I drive. Air Subaru, baby. The flight leaves whenever, I can bring my own eats aboard, and all the mechanicals occur at ground level.

Interbike in Las Vegas was an easy drive from Bibleburg. Even more so from the Duke City. Early on I developed the habit of taking the scenic route through Flagstaff, Kingman, Bullhead City-Laughlin, and Searchlight. I was never in a hurry, and I liked having a touch of the desert and its sharktooth mountains before descending into the neon canyons of Sin City.

So I know U.S. Highway 95 pretty well for a tourist.

Headed home from Interbike 2015 on U.S. Highway 95.

Barring the speed limit (75 mph, except in Searchlight, a notorious speed trap) it seems one of the safest highways you could ride on a bicycle, especially if you had a bunch of colorfully clad companions and a support vehicle. Smooth pavement, wide shoulders, and incredible visibility. A long sightline. You can see company coming a long way off.

So how does a box truck drive into an organized ride like this?

From The New York Times:

The Highway Patrol said investigators did not know why the truck had plowed into the group but said the driver had left the roadway, hit the group from behind and then struck a Subaru hatchback that was accompanying the cyclists and another group of cyclists that was in front of the Subaru.

Off the top of my head I can think of just three ways a thing like this happens. One, the driver was impaired, which doesn’t seem to be the case here. Two, the vehicle had some sort of catastrophic mechanical failure. Three, dude was dicking around with something — his phone, his infotainment system, a Thermos full of java, whatever — instead of managing his vehicle and keeping his eyes on the road.

Being a cynic, I’m inclined to Door No. 3. Let’s add speeding to our list of options, because during my trips back and forth on U.S. 95 I was pretty much the only motorist doing the speed limit. Now that I think of it, the ever-popular pulling out to pass and whoops, big ol’ Buick Lardass dead ahead pulling back in might be another possibility, especially if mixed with speeding and a certain lack of focus.

We’ll learn more if the press keeps its eye on this thing, which it might, though the world is chock-full of tragedies at the moment. A former cop is involved here, which has to help, if anything can.

One thing we already know, and it applies to everything, not just cycling through the desert: Keep your eyes and ears open, regardless of where you are and what you’re doing, especially if you’re overly familiar with your surroundings. Familiarity breeds complacency, not just contempt.

And Satchel Paige notwithstanding, look over one shoulder occasionally. Something may be gaining on you.

The victims, from the Las Vegas Review-Journal:

• Michael Murray

• Gerrard Nieva

• Erin Ray

• Tom Trauger

• Aksoy Ahmet

Cast off, matey

September 20, 2020

The New Albion Privateer, in matte black.

There’s a new ship in the harbor: a New Albion Privateer.

The temptation is to load it down, saddle up, and sail away. But to where?

Lacking a passport, I’m restricted to the lower 48 states, Alaska and Hawaii being something of a long bunny-hop by bike. I don’t think Hans Rey could make either in one go, even if he started with a bean feast, a lit fart, and a tailwind.

Unfortunately, several of my preferred bolt holes are either hot as blazes or actually on fire. And if I leave New Mexico, I face a 14-day quarantine when I return.

Plus, Herself would have to rassle up her own grub in my absence, in addition to working for our living, catering to Miss Mia Sopaipilla, and assisting the assisted-living place with Herself the Elder, who recently took another digger, this time breaking her right wrist.

HtE is issued a fresh 14-day quarantine every time she leaves assisted living to see a sawbones, which is not nearly as much fun as seeing the road unfold before you from the saddle of a brand-new bicycle.

This is a review bike, of course. Merry Sales provided frame, fork, and a big box of bits, but the Great Parts Shortage of 2020 being more or less ongoing, I had to contribute a few items from my personal collection, among them a wheelset, inner tubes, saddle, and brakes.

Between us it made for a pretty tasty build, and I can’t say much more than that until the paying customers get theirs. In the meantime, I’m getting mine.

Still sticking pretty close to home, though. I’m not getting too far away from the mailbox until our ballots show up. That’s a review I can’t wait to write.

Holiday travel gets Bug-gered

May 23, 2020

We’re rocking out this holiday weekend.

The Bug® has put AAA’s Memorial Day travel forecast up on blocks.

It’s the first time in two decades that AAA hasn’t had a stab at guessing how many Americans might be traveling over the holiday weekend, according to PR manager Jim Stratton.

No worries, Jimbo. I haven’t been big on holiday travel since, well, forever.

If Tony Stark had been a cat, Iron Man might look something like this.

When I was still a newspaperman it was possible (and pleasurable) for a single fella to piss off for points unknown while the breeders were juggling work, school, and the juvenile justice system.

My shift was generally something like 4 p.m. to 1 a.m., with oddball days off like Tuesday and Wednesday, and I got spoiled by not having to deal with crowds whenever I wasn’t on the clock and wished to make a nuisance of myself without billing someone for it.

After mutating into a cycling scribe I often frequented Durango on Memorial Day weekend, getting my ass handed to me en route to Silverton, in the crit at Fort Lewis College, or on whichever stretch of hilly, rocky dirt Ed Zink was using for a mountain-bike course that year.

But holy hell, a long haul to an ass-whuppin’ loses its appeal faster than a kissing booth at the state fair in a plague year. So I decided that if I ever craved a beating I could sass the wife, save myself all that driving time and gas money.

We’ve had the ingredients for this bench lying around the rancheroo for the better part of quite some time.

This time around, as it happens, it is a plague year. So we kicked off the long weekend with a short road ride and some light landscaping.

Parts of the back yard were looking like that part of your neck you always miss with the razor because at age 66 you’ve taken to shaving in the dark to avoid panic attacks, myocardial infarctions, and suicidal impulses, and the whole concept of shaving at all has become meaningless since nobody gives a shit about that part of your neck because mostly they are not looking at it or any other part of you, unless they think you may have wandered away from a nursing home or insane asylum and are wondering whether there might be a cash reward for your return, dead or alive.

But I digress.

So we pulled weeds and dug up junk elms, laid down weed block and river rock, and bagged up unsightly piles of this, that, and the other. There will be more of this sort of thing as the holiday weekend progresses. Or so I am told, anyway.

If Herself posts any FaceButt pix of a new “flower bed” that’s 6 by 6 by 3, you’ll know I’ve given up shaving and yard work for good.

A reconnaissance

November 25, 2019

“A Reconnaissance,” by Frederic Remington,
liberated from the National Gallery of Art.

Saddle up, buckaroos. We’re fixin’ to mosey into the heart of the Holiday Roundup.

As is often the case, the weather seems likely to suck come Eat the Bird. Some big-ass storm is poised to gallop from Californy right through Fort Fun, taking a giant dump on many a carefully devised travel plan. Why, we may even get a dash of the white stuff here in the Duke City.

Happily, we ain’t goin’ nowhere. The mom-in-law will be joining us here at El Rancho Pendejo for the holiday feast, but this will entail a round trip of about eight miles tops. Not like those 260-mile, stop-and-go death marches we used to endure between Bibleburg and Fort Fun, watching our fellow travelers take high-speed diggers in the median and/or ditches and then clog the breakdown lanes and/or frontage roads trying to find a workaround.

Mind you, this was on dry roads. If the weather were turble bad, why, then we might really see something.

Where are all y’all bound?

Going nowhere fast

October 19, 2019

The leaves are changing faster than what remains of Il Douche’s mind.

Ever been stuck in the mud, or the snow?

You get out of your rig to evaluate the situation, consider your options, and compute the probabilities. Eventually you arrive at a conclusion.

“Well, shit.”

Everyone else is motoring gaily along and yet here you are, mired to the hubs in a mess of your own making.

“Well, hell.”

And, no, I’m not talking about our national political quagmire, though, yeah, that too.

“Well, fuck.”

This was simply a matter of me taking my eye off the seasonal ball for a second, and suddenly, boom, here it is, half past October and I haven’t ventured beyond the city limits more than a couple of times all year.

Thus there was something of a piling on, envy-wise, this week.

Old Town Bike Shop’s John Crandall and his wife, Kathy, rolled through town on a short motor tour of the Southwest. The neighbors headed north for a weekend in Taos. And Herself, a confirmed non-camper, sallied forth with a friend to overnight with the Sierra Club at Chaco Culture National Historical Park before Il Douche’s pals decide to strip-mine, drill, or otherwise frack the place all to hell and gone.

“Well, goddamnit all anyway.”

This last was particularly irksome. The Chaco junket had come up in casual conversation some time back, but I have the memory of a Mac 128K and some data gets overwritten in fairly short order.

Suddenly the trip got scrawled on the calendar in the kitchen and I found myself pressed into service as quartermaster officer, furiously inspecting, rejecting, and selecting neglected bits of this, that and the other. Camp stoves and cookware; sleeping pads and bags; and various creature comforts of our modern age (the BioLite PowerLight is a charming little torch/lantern/charger combo, particularly so when paired with SiteLights.)

All for a trip that I was not taking.

You know how your dog looks at you when you’re loading up for a car trip? Imagine my expression as we muscled all this gear into the companion’s Honda CR-V. Things they thought they needed and things I thought they needed — including two bicycles, because of course they were taking bicycles too and there was no bike carrier on this auto.

Like Rufo’s little black box in Heinlein’s “Glory Road,” the thing had to be bigger on the inside than the outside. I should’ve taken a picture. Sardines in a can have more elbow room.

The spartan Camp Dog, featuring the North Face Expedition-25, at McDowell Mountain Regional Park, circa 2016.

I was not consulted as regards the tent, and when I caught a glimpse of the companion’s eight-person (!) tent in its sack, I knew immediately what Private Pyle’s body bag must have looked like. Especially if they stuffed Gunny Hartmann in there with him.

There was no time to dig out the old North Face Expedition-25 and provide instruction on setup and takedown, so I kept my lips zipped. But I’ll bet that cavernous sonofabitch got cold last night.

Me, I was toasty in the old king-size with a couple of unauthorized cats. Today is shaping up to be sunny and warm, and I have a new review bike to ride, a Cannondale Topstone 105.

But I’ll be riding it on the same old roads, and you what they say about familiarity.

 

The Element of surprise

February 27, 2019

’83 in stereo.

Keep on truckin’? Nope.

I had four of them once, up in Weirdcliffe, all Toyotas — two 1983 longbeds, a 1998 Tacoma and a 1978 Chinook pop-top camper.

But I gradually untrucked myself and now my only four-wheeler is the Fearsome Furster, a 2005 Subaru Forester XS with 134,000 miles on the odometer.

It’s a midget SUV, reliable, unremarkable, anonymous. Decent fuel economy. Easy to lose in a parking lot full of trucks. Hard to sleep in.

That’s why the Honda Element caught my eye, and kept it. It’s a car, it’s a truck, it’s an RV for people who don’t like RVs (even a 1978 Toyota Chinook pop-top).

And I almost bought one once. OK, twice.

I talk about this and other things on this week’s edition of Radio Free Dogpatch. A tip of the Mad Dog trucker’s cap goes out to Ursa Minor Vehicles and Ralph Spoilsport Motors, the world’s largest new used and used new automobile dealership, Ralph Spoilsport Motors, here in the City of Emphysema. I can’t wait to get away from it all.

P L A Y    R A D I O    F R E E    D O G P A T C H

• Technical notes: This episode was recorded with an Audio-Technica AT2035 microphone and a Zoom H5 Handy Recorder. I edited using Apple’s GarageBand on a 2014 MacBook Pro, adding audio acquired via Rogue Amoeba’s Audio Hijack (no profit was taken in a casual approach to copyright). Speaking of which, that’s the late Chris Farley as motivational speaker Matt Foley saving some kids from winding up 35 years old, thrice divorced, and streaming “Saturday Night Live” in a van down by the river. The barking dog, speeding auto and background music were liberated from Apple’s iMovie audio library. The atomic wedgie is courtesy of cognitu perceptu at Freesound.org. That car starting is the Fearsome Furster its own bad self; the radio is tuned to KUNM-FM and “Performance Today,” specifically “The Lark Ascending,” by Ralph Vaughan Williams, as performed by Nurit Bar-Josef. And finally, “Ka-Ching” is performed by the one and only Herself.

White-line fever

February 20, 2019

Base camp at the overflow area in McDowell Mountain Regional Park, circa 2004.

It’s been a chilly, damp winter in Albuquerque, which isn’t saying much.

Still, it grates after a while, and never more so than during February, a month that is simultaneously too short and too long.

Herself has been to Costa Rica, the neighbors just fled to Mexico, and some other friends beat feet all the way to France.

And yet here I sit (no, this is not a poem, and it is specifically not that poem), rattling the bars on my window of opportunity and losing arguments with the voices in my head.

I’ve written often and at length about my irrational hatred for February, and I was getting set to do it again when I realized, “Hey, I’ve written often and at length about my irrational hatred for February. Why don’t I turn it into a podcast?”

Which I did. This is it. You’re welcome. Now hand me the snow shovel on your way out, would you? I want to smack myself in the head with it.

P L A Y    R A D I O    F R E E    D O G P A T C H

• Editorial notes: The “Mad Dog Unleashed” column headlined “On the Road Again: Frown Lines Search for a Few Tan Lines,” which is my onion at the bottom of this bitter pot of bitch stew, first appeared in the February 2004 issue of Bicycle Retailer and Industry News. My line about February having roots in the French “febrile” is, as you may already know, complete and utter bullshit. The Cactus Cup has returned to McDowell Mountain Regional Park since that 2004 column — this year’s edition is slated for March 8-10. And finally, did you know that Peter “Sneaky Pete” Kleinow, pedal steel player for The Flying Burrito Brothers, was also a visual-effects artist and stop-motion animator who worked on “Gumby?” Neither did I.

• Technical notes: This episode was recorded with an Audio-Technica AT2035 microphone and a Zoom H5 Handy Recorder. I edited in Apple’s GarageBand on a 2014 MacBook Pro, adding audio acquired through fair means and foul via Rogue Amoeba’s Audio Hijack (no profit was taken in an admittedly casual approach to various copyrights). Speaking of which, the pedal steel riff that closes the episode is from Merle Haggard’s “White Line Fever,” as performed by The Flying Burrito Brothers on their eponymous 1971 album. The background music is “Trapped” from Zapsplat.com. And the rewind sound is courtesy of TasmanianPower at Freesound.org.

Quaddammit

February 16, 2019

The 36th Mount Taylor Winter Quadradthlon is today.

Don’t look for me in results — it’s been years since I raced the Quad, but I was pretty OK at it a time or two. The bike and run legs, anyway.

Hal’s wife, Mary, and I used to race it as a mixed pair, and we won in 1990, 1992 and 1993.

I was usually in decent shape, being tanned, rested and ready following a long cyclocross season. And Mary was always tip-top, living at altitude up Weirdcliffe way and running around with jackasses, some of them four-legged (ho, ho).

Quadware included Nambé medals and platters.

Hal, of course, did the whole thing solo, which always looked a bit too much like work to me. I was only so-so on snowshoes and an outright hazard on cross-country skis.

This was and remains a toy-heavy pasatiempo, and Hal’s truck would be stuffed to the topper with bikes, wheels, tires, skis, shoes, snowshoes and a ridiculous amount of clothing suited to any and all weather conditions.

Running shoes were augmented with sheet-metal screws in the soles for traction, in case there was ice on the run leg (there usually was).

Clip-on aero bars? Sometimes. Once I used a set of Scott Rakes to good effect, aero bars giving me The Fear on the descent back to Grants.

The bike was usually standard road. In 1990 I was rocking an aluminum Trek 1500 with 53/39 rings and a 13-24 freewheel.

I know I’ve written about the Quad before, but whatever I cranked out is squirreled away on a Zip disk somewhere or in an actual magazine, and I don’t feel like diving down those rabbit holes this morning.

However, I did find a reference to my first Quad in my 1990 training diary, and that reads as follows:

“Big-time pain. I don’t think I’ve felt this bad since I got the shit kicked out of me at Alamogordo last year. Bike leg was slower than I’d hoped for … and my uphill run was fucking awful. Downhill run was better — but not much — and the downhill bike was spiked by the Headwind from Hell.”

Yeah, good times. The Quad will never be the new golf.

• Editor’s note: Hal “Mr. Awesome” Walter notes that I lifted his faux curse “Quadammit” from one of his own works. This explains why a Spotlight search failed to turn it up on any of my hard drives; that, and an admittedly casual approach to petty theft. Give it a read.