Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

The foggy dew

September 23, 2018

Uh oh, look out, it’s clouding up over the Sandias.

And boom! That’s it. Summer’s a goner.

I could feel it yesterday. The day was sunny but cool, and nobody would have sneered if I’d started my ride with arm warmers, even knee warmers. The hairy legs might have drawn a few hoots back in the day, but that was … well, back in the day.

“Yes indeed, this will do nicely,” says Miss Mia Sopaipilla.

Miss Mia Sopaipilla was inspecting the Winter Bunker on behalf of His Excellency, Field Marshal Turkish von Turkenstein (commander, 1st Feline Home Defense Regiment).

Spike the Terrorist Deer has slipped inside the wire a time or two in recent days and The Leader often feels it wise to devise strategy far from the distractions of frontline combat.

Today seemed a day to boil the breakfast earlyMcCann’s Irish Oatmeal, Twining’s Irish Breakfast tea, and like that there.

Why, yes, funny you should ask, Herself is still a-roving around County Sligo with her younger sister, inspecting waterfalls and poets’ graves, quaffing pints of the black, and shooting iPhone video of a harpist playing “The Foggy Dew,” one of the tunes collected from the Belfast Harp Festival of 1792 by Edward Bunting, a 19-year-old organist from Armagh.

When I was 19 the only Harp I knew came in bottles. You don’t want to know what I was doing with me organ.

Make travel great again!

March 19, 2018

Such a bargain!

Now this is amusing: Jason Wilson visits five Trump-branded properties to get a squint at Il Douche, “promiser of luxury experiences, through the eyes of a travel writer.”

And what did the travel writer perceive, luxury-experience-wise? A profoundly unsettling boredom, “a relentless, insistent, in-your-face mediocrity,” even for a pro “who has stayed in many soulless hotels and eaten in many overpriced restaurants in many disappointing places.”

“Nothing was bad, and much of what I was experiencing was even pleasurable,” Wilson writes. “But these were not great places. These places didn’t even seem like they were trying to be great.”

What Wilson experienced was not exactly a reverse Midas Touch, but something very much like it. With Trump, what you get is not the Warhol, but the actual can of soup (and not at Campbell’s prices, mind you). And now this half-assed hotelier has laid his tiny little hands on our country.

Forget bang. Think whimper.

Two wheels good, four wheels bad

October 17, 2016
Some people call this "morning." They are misinformed.

Some people call this “morning.” They are misinformed.

It was four wheels this morning. Bad.

Herself is off to Tennessee for a combo business/pleasure trip (a lab-librarians’ powwow in tandem with a visit to Herself the Elder), and then she’s zigzagging home via Colorado and Utah (running a half-marathon and maybe camping with a gal pal).

The leaves may be falling, but the roses are hanging on.

The leaves may be falling, but the roses are hanging on.

Thus Your Humble Narrator was required to rise at dark-thirty to chauffeur ‘Er Ladyship to the Duke City airport.

I dislike driving anymore. I particularly dislike driving before the second cup of coffee, in the dark, surrounded by deranged ‘Burqueños who thought “the “Fast & Furious” flicks were drivers’ ed.

Still, we got there, and I got back, and there was this lovely rose waiting for me just outside the kitchen window.

It ain’t all bad, this early-morning stuff.

 

For everything there is a season

January 28, 2014

Herself almost made it home last night, if you will concede that Denver International Airport qualifies as “almost home.”

The weather was moderately evil, and Herself’s flight from Chicago to Bibleburg was rerouted to Denver, a change of schedule about which I was blissfully ignorant until hanging a left off Powers onto the airport road after a very slow drive on icy, snow-covered streets.

“Where are you?” asks Herself, and I figure I’m about to get an earful for being late picking her up.

“Coming up on the airport,” sez I. “Where are you?”

“In Denver,” sez she.

And that’s the way things stayed. I hung out in the cellphone lot for an hour or so, waiting to see if the situation would resolve itself. United was waffling on whether the 15-minute flight was go or no-go, saying the Bibleburg airport was closed (the airport’s website proved useless on the iPhone, The Gazette had nothing about it, and I was feeling cantankerous and forbade myself to investigate in person).

Anyway, long story short, I motored back to Chez Dog to await instructions, United finally canceled that DIA-COS flight altogether, and I arranged a hotel room for Herself, who — having been scheduled to touch down in Bibleburg at 8:03 p.m. Monday — finally hit the hay at two-ish Tuesday in Saudi Aurora. Now she’s due in at 3:15 this afternoon. So it goes.

While awaiting dispatches from the front I learned of Pete Seeger’s passing, and this morning, in his honor, I decided not to go a-tilting at the windmills of customer service. It was late, the weather sucked, and the harried minions who seem like knee-jerk shitheels at first glance are just working stiffs, like us. They probably don’t like being United employees any more than we like being United customers.

Pete, that unreconstructed old commie, would have sung them a song.

Remembrances

• “Pete Seeger: This Man Surrounded Hate and Forced it To Surrender,” John Nichols, The Nation

• “R.I.P., Pete Seeger,” Charles P. Pierce, The Politics Blog

• “Pete Seeger, Songwriter and Champion of Folk Music, Dies at 94,” Jon Pareles, The New York Times

• “I simply wanted him to know that I loved him dearly,” Arlo Guthrie

Nothing out of the ORDinary

January 27, 2014

united-flightYou know you’re fucked when United gives you an estimated date for your flight home.

Herself is wheels up, jetting from Philly to Bibleburg via Chicago’s O’Hell International Campground, and on a whim I checked her flight status on the United website. The result of my inquiry is posted above. Seems the Soviet-surplus Aeroflot PS-84 inbound from Duluth ran out of bathtub vodka (for either the windshield washers or the flight crew) and is at least 90 minutes behind schedule.

A charging station in O'Hell. Has USB and everything. Hi, Uncle Sammy, it's your trusty taxpayer Herself, just keeping the iPad full of electrons.

A charging station in O’Hell. Has USB and everything. Hi, Uncle Sammy, it’s your trusty taxpayer Herself, just keeping the iPad full of electrons.

Happily, knowing through bitter experience that O’Hell is the aviation equivalent of the Bermuda Triangle (or perhaps the Hotel California), Herself has all her must-have items in her carry-on bag in case she has to kip in a plastic chair at Mickey D’s.

When reached for comment, Herself replied succinctly, “Shit.”

On the bright side, O’Hell apparently has these nifty little charging stations to keep one’s personal electronics ticking along like Chinese watches. All the better for the NSA to keep its files up to date, don’t you know.

• Late update: Well, she got onto that delayed flight, but now the Bibleburg airport is closed due to inclement weather and the sucker was rerouted to DIA. And after such a fun drive too. Funny, everything seemed to be on schedule right before I left Rancho del Perro Loco. The guy with the shovel must’ve knocked off early.

• Extremely late update: After dithering a bit, and herding people off and on and off the plane, United finally canceled Herself’s flight from DIA to Bibleburg, leaving her stuck at DIA around midnight, and from the sound of it their minions were none too helpful in (a) booking a Tuesday flight or (2) helping her find a place to lay her head for the evening. I may have to shout at some folks.

Chain of fools

November 18, 2013
Hobo crossing

Riding the Rock Island Trail east, I found this sign, and the temptation proved overwhelming.

New bicycles are like strange dogs. Most are friendly, but occasionally you meet one that wants to bite you in the ass. Or worse.

While planning a minor expedition to inspect the flood-damaged southern end of the Pikes Peak Greenway, as a prelude to logging what the Adventure Cycling Association folks call a “bike overnight” before the snow flies, I put the Bootleg Hobo into the workstand for a quick chain-lube yesterday morning.

Imagine my surprise when I found a link ready to pop. I could’ve broken the chain right there in the stand using the ol’ opposable thumbs and a finger or two, no chain tool required.

I thought I’d heard an occasional clicking sound while riding the Hobo the day before, when I snapped this photo. But the thing was a demo bike that arrived with shifting issues, and I’d been dicking around with the barrel adjuster in hopes of shutting it the fuck up, so I figured it was probably a tight link somewhere. Thus the workstand, and the chain lube.

Washout

One of the washouts left over from the summer’s flooding.

So, yeah, duh. Good thing I didn’t pop that bad boy while standing to climb a hill, as I had been doing. I rarely carry a chain tool on rides, and almost never pack an extra set of testicles.

Long story short, back in the garage went the Hobo and out came the Co-Motion Divide Rohloff, which doesn’t have a chain to break. And the ride was swell, though the trail was in pretty poor repair in spots, as you can see in the other photo.

But my nuts are just fine. Thanks for asking.

Industrial tourism

June 21, 2013
Eat me

I dined at the exclusive Vitamin Cottage in Dillon, selecting a delicious potato salad and San Pellegrino from the extensive menu of shit one can eat in one’s car.

Yesterday I visited, briefly, what the late, lamented Ed Quillen once called the Interstate 70 Industrial Tourism Sacrifice Zone. Nothing wrong with the place that Peak Oil can’t cure.

It had been several years since my last visit to the Zone, and peer as I might between the rare gaps in  traffic I could detect no signs of intelligent life.

There was existence, of a sort — the Breckenridge-Frisco-Silverthorne-Dillon clusterplex remained as relentlessly active as an anthill, busily raising a bumper crop of orange road-construction cones with one pincer and separating rubes from their rubles with the other.

I was in the Zone to meet a shooter from Steamboat Springs, whose current project required the Co-Motion Divide Rohloff I’ve been evaluating for Adventure Cyclist. Time was of the essence, and shop mechanics are crushed this time of year, so we didn’t care to wait for the lengthy disassembly-shipping-reassembly process, which can involve brown-suited gorillas using the box as a trampoline in between ZIP codes.

So I drove north from Bibleburg, and Doug drove south from Steamboat, and we met in the parking lot of a Silverthorne Wendy’s, as seemed appropriate, given the locale.

We were clearly members of the same tribe — Doug was driving a black Subaru with a bike on the roof, and I was driving a silver Subaru with a bike in the back — and neither of us was overjoyed to be in the Zone, though in its defense I will note that it was not on fire at the moment.

We discussed the Divide Rohloff, cycling and our own communities’ respective revenue-enhancement models — his, a vastly enhanced network of cycling trails (Welcome to Steamboat 2013!); mine, a downtown stadium for the Colorado Rockies’ farm club and a U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame (Welcome to Bibleburg 1913!).

Then we shook hands, jumped into our respective Subarus, and off we went.

Having taken the scenic route north, through Woodland Park, Hartsel, Fairplay and Breck’, I decided I owed it to science to take the interstates home. It being seven-ish I enjoyed mostly smooth sailing despite the $160 million Twin Tunnels expansion project until I approached the Air Force Academy, where I began a 40-minute crawl through three more road “improvement” projects to Chez Dog.

Those should do wonders for tourism. It certainly made me want to go somewhere. Take me out to the ball game. …

BRAIN Farts: I want to be a Lono

March 10, 2013
Palms at the Place of Refuge

Pu’uhonua O Honaunau (“Place of Refuge”) was one of the spots that took a beating from the tsunami. Hunter S. Thompson wrote of it in “The Curse of Lono,” describing another of his “Fear and Loathing” outings.

Editor’s note: In honor of Daylight Saving Time, something that serves no useful purpose, here’s a column that never ran. It wasn’t rejected, exactly; I gave the editor two choices and he picked the other one. Maybe he didn’t get the Klingon gag in the second subhed.

Son of a beach! Why am I not in Hawaii?

I am no day at the beach. — Richard Pryor, “Richard Pryor: Live On the Sunset Strip”

At the first cold snap of autumn 2012 my wife fled to Hawaii, tormenting me with photos of snorkeling, videos of playing bikini-clad footsie with the Pacific, and audio recollections of the freshest of fish, guacamole descended from homegrown avocados, and — oh, the unspeakable agony — free drinks.

Confined to the mainland, packed like a pallid sequence of overstuffed Irish bangers into sweatpants, socks and long-sleeved T-shirt, I passed the chilly days wrangling our critters, burning my brand onto some wandering word count and pushing a passel of pixels in the service of what passes for bicycle journalism along the Front Strange.

Here there were deadlines, dreary weather and other irritants that make sand in your Speedo feel like a quick pat on the pistol pocket from Rosario Dawson. There was little time for splashing about in the deep blue ocean that does not surround Colorado or for the consumption of delicacies that the Centennial State does not produce.

And the only person picking up my bar tabs was me.

I don’t need this … well, you know. This wouldn’t be so much of a much, were it not that whenever my wife gets a hankering for an ocean view, she tends to leave a wake around the dock upon departure.

Last year Herself’s vacations coincided with bowel disorders afflicting two-thirds of the family herd. The first struck down Bouncing Buddy Boo the Spinning Japanese Wonder Chin; the second, Field Marshal Turkish von Turkenstein (commander, 1st Feline Home Defense Regiment). Only Miss Mia Sopaipilla, an unruffled Russian blue, remained blessedly continent.

The Boo is a fragile flower of an alleged dog, yet bore up without complaint under post-poop cleanups. The Turk, on the other hand — well, let’s just say that scrubbing the hind end of an outraged 16-pound male cat, with fangs Nosferatu would have envied and paws like tennis balls studded with surgical implements, is right up there with trying to squeegee buzzard guts off a turbofan jet engine while the sumbitch is running. At 30,000 feet. Over the Big Island.

Qu’vatlh! Dor’sho’gha! Herself’s final holiday excursion of the year provided the occasion for the demise of our 10-year-old audio-video receiver, which snuffed it with a home-theatrical snap, crackle and pop just moments after wheels up.

I dashed out to buy a replacement only to discover that the setup instructions were in the original Klingon, which is not one of my languages (I am fluent only in American and Gutter).

Nevertheless, after spending a maddeningly unproductive day or two staring blankly at the Klingon-English dictionary on my iPad, fists full of HDMI, PC and audio cables like some feeble-minded snake-handler flunking out of Elmer Gantry Elementary, my increasingly profane prayers finally caused this unholy trinity — Sony, Toshiba and Yamaha — to smile beatifically upon me in all its high-definition glory.

It was only then, of course, that I remembered there was nothing I really wanted to watch.

Ain’t nothing to it but a Job. “Why does the Lord want me to serve him in this way?” That’s novelist Thomas McGuane, speaking through a leathery 60-year-old rancher in his novel “Nothing But Blue Skies.”

The answer is, as always: Who knows? The Lord works in mysterious ways, or so I’m told. So do I, although the mystery lies mostly in why any sane person would offer me a position as a cycling journalist—or as a husband, for that matter. Like the late, lamented Richard Pryor, I am no day at the beach, especially when the beach is there and I am here.

There is sand in the immediate vicinity, however. And before I reapply nose to grindstone this morning I will go out and run on it, or ride in it.

You needn’t fear that I’ll be doing this in a Speedo, either. I’m not a triathlete, and this definitely isn’t Hawaii. The only body of water within eyeshot is surrounded by porcelain. It has a seat, a lid and a handle, and I consider it fit only for an extremely limited range of water sports.

Oh, to be a son of a beach instead of the other thing.

What do you mean ‘we,’ white man?

February 27, 2013

One of the downsides of spending 22 years working solo in a home office, besides not being able to get a gig at Yahoo!, is that one tends to take on attributes of those lost tribes National Geographic is forever un-losing, or the Japanese soldiers jungled up on various Pacific islands who never got the word about the emperor’s surrender.

Outsiders are suspicious characters, their fabulous tales not to be given credence. And should they drag you from your village or spider hole toward what they deem “civilization,” you may expect to contract smallpox, TB or the clap. Better to make pincushions of the foreigners with blowgun darts and shrink their heads, or fillet them with a katana and get back about your business.

Boo Glissando

The Boo Glissando is a concept townie that marries a bamboo laminate with titanium.

Which is the long way around to saying, yes, I was compelled to attend the North American Handmade Bicycle Show in Denver, where I was put on display by the white devils, and all I came away with was a massive tab for docking my Subaru Outrigger and a medium-heavy case of Snotlocker Surprise.

In all fairness, I wasn’t exactly dragged. Having missed last year’s NAHBS, I was determined to take in the Denver edition, if only because I wouldn’t have to depend on United Airlines to get me there.

But I was planning to attend mostly for kicks. I didn’t count on being shanghaied into helping judge the 2013 NAHBS Awards, filling in for the absent Patrick Brady of Red Kite Prayer. This was not unlike inviting a Jivaro headhunter to stand in for Len Goodman on “Dancing With the Stars.”

So I had to get there way too early for a daylong refresher course on how little I know about the velocipede, and if you were one of the losers who came away empty-handed, award-wise, well, I can only say that it wasn’t my fault. It was those other guys. My judicial pronouncements were limited to the usual half-witticisms, like “I’d ride the shit out of that one if someone gave it to me,” “That belongs on a wall with a frame around it,” or “I can see taking that thing into your average shop for a tuneup and finding out afterward that the mechanics all hanged themselves.”

Being simpleminded, I gravitated toward simplicity, as exemplified by the Level keirin bike, the Boo Glissando and the English Cycles time-trial bike, which we named best in show shortly after noon on Saturday.

This last really has to be seen up close to be believed, as photos don’t do it justice. Rob English is a time trialist, a two-time winner of the Oregon state championship, and his considerable talent and ingenuity were clearly focused by his love for the discipline.

Once we’d wrapped up the awards, I took another refresher course, this one in bullshitting. It’s easy to bullshit over the Innertubes or in a magazine column, but improvising chin music on the fly takes practice, which I was out of. So I spent the rest of the show chatting up a number of old friends and colleagues, and that’s probably how I contracted the Snotlocker Surprise.

Damn the white man anyway.

United sucks (No. 162,376,201 in a series)

October 9, 2012
Lost: The Story of Flight 1200

The United Airlines flight that vanished without a trace. We were told Herself was booked on this one, but subsequent inquiry revealed that UA, as usual, was completely full of shit.

If humans were meant to fly, we would have wings, plus pouches for carrying those itty-bitty bottles of in-flight hooch.

And thus we would have even less use for United Airlines, which yesterday managed to disrupt the travel plans of yet another O’Grady. Back in March the bastards got me, but this time they discomfited Herself, who managed to fly all the way from Kailua-Kona to Honolulu despite having booked a flight to Bibleburg via Los Angeles. (Editor’s note: They got her in March 2007, too.)

Pigasus, circa 2007

I Photoshopped this image after Herself took a beating from United in 2007, en route from Bibleburg to Knoxville, Tennessee.

I can’t fault United for the original problem, some class of mechanical that required diversion to Honolulu for repairs.

I can and do fault the anonymous fuckwit in Honolulu who told Herself that she had been rebooked onto a flight leaving at 11 a.m. local time Tuesday — a flight that vanished mysteriously shortly after I confirmed this reservation with United customer service, which as you will recall is operated out of Spaminacanistan, Lower Intestinopolis, or some other exotic locale in which the native tongue is Squinch and the English competency limited to the phrase “I am sorry for the inconvenience, sir.”

During a follow-up call I was told that Herself had in fact been rebooked on a flight due to leave not at 11 a.m., but at 7 a.m. By this time, of course, there was no way she could make it a few hours earlier United had shipped her off to a hotel 10 miles from the airport and that 7 o’clock bird was practically taxiing as customer service and I chatted so enjoyably at the top of my lungs.

We discussed a variety of alternatives, some merely whimsical, others outrageous and physically improbable, to say nothing of deleterious to various internal organs should one prove successful, before I finally got Herself a seat on a 7:28 p.m. flight that should put her in Houston — Houston! — around 8:13 a.m. on Wednesday, and have her home by 10:40 a.m., a mere 24 hours behind schedule.

It goes without saying that Big Tex could have triathloned it faster. But then Herself gets around and about on nothing stronger than the occasional beer or glass of wine.

And of course, if you’re to be stranded somewhere, there are worse places than a Waikiki Beach Marriott. And I plan to suggest that United customer service go there directly, just as soon as Herself has the wheels down in Bibleburg.

• Late update: After double-checking the latest arrangements, I found that thanks to a late incoming plane out of San Francisco, Herself was now looking at a 90-minute delay exiting Honolulu. This meant she would miss her connector from Houston to Bibleburg and would have a tough time beating Jesus here, even if she drafted Big Tex. After a little more rooting around online I found a late-night Honolulu-Denver-Bibleburg deal, but trying to book it over the phone as The Boss cabbed it to the airport proved impossible (“I am sorry for the inconvenience, sir. …”). And thus I threw up my hands, told Herself to get a chokehold on the first English-speaking United agent she found in corpus and book that fucking flight. And lo and behold: The agent was helpful, if slightly uninformed, and once she had the 411 she even laid an aisle seat on Herself without any pressure applied to her carotid artery.