May 30, 2009

Raging rivers, Sasquatch, Seeds, and War

I seem only to be able to post about a week after I come up with an idea.  And by idea I mean any weak notion of something even remotely blog worthy.

Last Friday I enjoyed a nice ride to work up north.  I don't get to make this trip very often so it was a privilege to ride through downtown and cross the river.


Looking east, upriver in the morning.


Looking west, down the falls in the evening.

I like the drama of the Spring runoff but rarely get a chance to just sit and watch the river.

Saturday I took in some music at the Gorge.  The Sasquatch festival has become a Memorial Day tradition and I've managed to make it there for one day of the weekend for 5 out of the past 6 years.  This year we had a babysitter all set up so Veep and I could go but Sal came down with a monster fever the night before and morning o,f so she decided to stay home (which was a good idea because he only got worse--ended up being strep which we got him antibiotics for Sunday morning).  My brother in law pinch hit and made a good concert going partner instead.

While there are many large music festivals around the country each Summer, I believe that Sasquatch consistently has the most interesting and extensive line up of bands (at least for my tastes) and is solidly placed on my list of reasons I love Spokane (even though one could effectively argue that the festival has nothing to do with Spokane and is probably located at the Gorge more for its proximity to Seattle.  To that argument I would say that while that may be true I still have easy access to a great music event and don't have to live in the crowded, unruly metropolis that is Seattle).  Each year that I have gone I've seen a band I already know and enjoy, I've discovered at least one band that I didn't know and end up really enjoying, and I've had some sort of strange experience.  For example, I've seen Wilco, Arcade Fire, Sufjan Stevens, the Flaming Lips, and M. Ward.  I've discovered the New Pornographers, Architecture in Helsinki, and Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band.  There have been hail storms for Neko Case, a streaker for The Shins, and a distraction that proved the Decemberists are seasoned professionals (JD knows what I'm talking about).  Anyway, Saturday I got to see some great music.  And at the end of the day, Bon Iver got the gold star for best performance with artistic depth and soul.  I was blown away by how loud they were with such a quiet album.  If you live within 300 miles of a place where they will be playing, you would be well advised to drive (or ride) that distance without a second thought and take in the show.  Even with "technical difficulties" on Saturday, they delivered.  I even captured a song with a new little flipHD camera I got last week:

Bon Iver, For Emma, Sasquatch 2009 from Corey Judd on Vimeo.

So then Sunday was plant day.  We had a family seed planting party and transferred tomato and cucumber plants to our new garden (more on that in another post--maybe in a week).  Feeling inspired we went up to Manito park (another reason I love Spokane--a classic city park with colorful, mature, well-tended gardens of all kinds) and perused the perrenial garden.  Veep took pictures and I took notes on different plants we may want to incorporate into our yard.  The kids rolled down the hill at the north end of the Duncan garden, something we haven't done in a while.  Not five minutes later there were literally 20 kids rolling down the hill, a great moment (I count myself as one of the kids).




 Then we strolled through the lilac garden which was bursting with blossoms and sweet smells (as usual, Veep led the way).  May in Spokane makes one rescind all the bad things you said about the weather in late March and early April.  It is all worth it if you end up with amazing weather like we've been having.




Monday we celebrated the holiday by watching the Civil War re-enactment out at Riverside state park.  It was the first time I had seen a reenactment.  It was a great way to remember those who have fought and died and a reminder of the many grave complexities of war (and a good way to see black powder rifles).  I was moved by their memorial service at the end of the battle.  Sal just wanted more cannon.




We capped the weekend with a fire on the back patio with roasted marshmallows and s'mores.  A satisfying and full 3 day weekend.  Until next year.

Untitled 00m 08s

May 14, 2009

Patience, Karma, and Head Tubes

Over the last 4 weeks I've been putting out some major karmic waves of patience waiting for my first custom bike frame to arrive.  During this struggle I've had plenty of time to daydream about what this bike will look like, feel like, ride like, smell like.  


Now, while I'm taller than average rider (probably in the 99th percentile of the bell curve of height), I give up 4 inches to the NBA legend Bill Walton pictured above (lengthy side note--Bill Walton, the big redhead, is not only an avid cyclist but a lover of the grateful dead.  A member of the Hall of Fame, and now a well known broadcaster, I'm struck by how, in so many ways, he is the antithesis of the present  day tattood-on-parole NBA).  Some of you may have seen this photo floating aroung bike blogs last fall.  While I anticipate an unusually long head tube (most definitely in the 99th percentile of the head tube height bell curve), I don't think it will be as long as that pictured above.  Given my concern about head tube length, it is interesting that the bike I've ordered is a Seven, given recent lampooning of Seven frames by BSNYC for just this tendency.  Of course I don't really care what the bike looks like so long as it performs the way I'm hoping, but having spent my life with a conspicuity of height, it would be nice to have the bike "blend in" with the norm a little more.

So yes, for those at all interested in bicycles, it is a Seven.  A Seven Muse made with straight-gauge Ti tubing.  The idea behind this particular bike is to build something I can use for touring and commuting.  The Ti is lighter so it will be a little faster and "zippy" for long commutes, while still being strong enough to handle loaded touring.  

Going custom made sense because of my size (plus I felt it my duty as a citizen/comrade to stimulate the economy while I still can.  Yet another lengthy side note--I've been getting interesting email from various companies asking for me to buy stuff simply because they've fallen on hard economic times--Xtracycle being one of them.  One company went so far as to ask for a donation.  This is a troubling new trend in marketing).  While my inseam allows me to fit a stock rear triangle, my torso length has never fit any bicycle.  In fact, my current road bike top tube length is 62 cm (an XXL Specialized Allez with a 14 cm stem) compared to 67 cm on the new frame (with a 13 cm stem).  That's a pretty big difference.  It will hopefully relieve the low back pain and hand neuropathy I get after 40 miles.


So this is sort of what it will look like (at lease this is the picture Seven provides on their site, which is pretty thin on photos).  I opted for no paint (to save weight, haha).  I did want the option for disc brakes though I initially plan on running canti brakes.  I've really come to appreciate the power of the discs on my Stumpjumper and the Big Dummy, and figure they'd be great on a loaded tourer as well.  I spent about 4 hours with Steve down at Two Wheel Transit discussing all these things and, with his insistence, got Seven to put the braze ons for the rear disc on the chainstay rather than the seat stay in order to allow the rack to set lower.  

The fork was also a bit of an issue.  Initially Steve recommended a Waterford steel fork that would have the right trail and rake with adequate clearance for fenders and a variety of tire sizes.  Weight was a factor here and he eventually tracked down a Vicious carbon fork with similar dimensions but no braze ons for a front rack.  I picture using the carbon fork for day to day commuting and riding, swapping it out for the Waterford for loaded touring (which, unfortunately, probably won't occur as often as I'd like).

The other new thing for me will be 180 mm cranks--longer for my long legs (all my other bikes have 175 mm cranks).  Again, finding a triple with the right chainring sizes and 180 mm cranks was an issue.  Steve again came through with a solution, recommending using a Surly "Mr. Whirly" crankset, which is kind of the swedish modular furniture of cranksets (plus you can't buy direct from Surly, so if they hit hard times I probably won't see an email asking for a contribution).


I'll be interested to see how the longer length affects leverage and power as well as cadence.  I wonder how much difference 5 mm can really make.

So I was excited to receive an email from Seven earlier this week saying they anticipated delivery next week, as soon as the fork arrives.  I'm feeling a little giddy, fingers crossed hoping those karmic waves float back to me in the form of a perfect ride.

May 11, 2009

How are you?


Our girls are at the stage where they like to fill out comment cards at restaurants and hotels with jokes saying the service or food was terrible.  They are also learning a little Spanish.  We suspect their negative comments (not shown) were the reason we didn't get extra towels today.  

May 10, 2009

Mother's Day 2009


On the Snow Creek trail, Northernmost slope of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, Northern Cascades.


Icicle creek.


Schmoopie on the trail.


Mountain Springs Lodge, Plain WA.

May 9, 2009

Colorado Prison

Last week Veep and I were in Colorado Springs for a conference (yawn). 

Veep convinced me (which required very little effort on her part) to skip an afternoon of the meeting and take a look around.  We headed to Cañon City, which is situated about an hour drive to the southwest.  We went to see the Royal Gorge suspension bridge which is apparently the highest suspension bridge in the world.  

Royal Gorge with the Arkansas river:


I was expecting some interesting Western history about difficult travel and frontier living that necessitated construction of a masterfully engineered bridge, but was disappointed that the bridge was built for no other reason than to be the highest suspension bridge in the world, ie it leads to nowhere but the other side of the gorge.



Ha ha.


So after walking the bridge, riding the nearby vertical train to the bottom of the gorge, and riding the gondola across the gorge, we headed back toward Colorado Springs.

The vertical train that goes to the bottom of the gorge:


The gondola that also crosses the gorge:


On the way back, Veep insisted we stop at an old abandoned brick building, which was really just a shack, at the side of the highway.  She likes to take pictures of old barns and decaying buildings.


The cornerstone:


Another nearby building:





We immediately noticed the cornerstone and my curiosity piqued.  Nearby Cañon City is known for it's many prisons--in fact that is its reason for existing.  Its economy relies on the 4 federal and 9 state prisons there.  They have an historic territorial prison with a prison museum and everything.  

We weren't sure what this little building was a few miles down the highway from town.  We scoured the area and found another larger brick shed, an old outhouse, and several piles of stone blocks and metal debris including several iron bar doors with key holes like in old movies.  We found several mangled spoons, some stacked rock walls, a frisbee golf course, and a snake (the latter two had nothing to do with the prison).  Veep snapped her pictures and I mentally made a note of the lay of the land and the name and date on the cornerstone:  Roy Best 1937.

That evening I did a little Interwebstigation.  

Roy best was an interesting character. I get the sense that he was a straight talking guy who was interested in getting things done.  I'm sure he had a good sized ego.  In fact, a year after an unsuccessful escape attempt by 12 prisoners, he agreed to play the role of himself in a film depicting the event.  Here is the prison marching band celebrating the world premier of the movie.


And here are the failed escapees enjoying the movie about themselves.  Kind of eerie.


But the most compelling thing about Roy Best was when he crossed paths with Joe Arridy.


Joe Arridy was a mentally handicapped man who made a questionable confession to a murder and rape of two young girls in nearby Pueblo.  Despite strong evidence that another man, who had already been apprehended, was the killer, Arridy was still convicted based on this confession.  Best befriended Arridy and gave him a small toy train for Christmas, which he played with while on death row.  He, among others in Cañon City, petitioned to have Arridy's death sentence overturned unsuccessfully and Arridy was put to death in the gas chamber.  This is the topic of a book by Robert Perske called Deadly Innocence?  Regardless of your view of capital punishment this seems tragic--either because he was mentally retarded, innocent, or both.


Here he is giving away his prized toy train right before his execution.

Arridy was buried in the prison cemetery on "Woodpecker Hill" (so named for the woodpeckers that chip away at the wooden gravestones).  Here's more info.   An excerpt from that website:

 Joe’s original execution date was October 16, 1937. But, thanks largely to the interest Warden Best took in Joe, there would be nine stays before he went to the gas chamber on January 6, 1938.

Best was a proponent not only of capital punishment but also of corporal punishment, including floggings, but he was a fair man capable of caring and kindness, as exemplified by his concern for Joe.

Best arranged to get Joe an appeals lawyer, Gail Ireland, who kept the case alive on the insanity issue. Ireland hoped to get the case transferred away from Pueblo County and Judge Leddy to a judge in Fremont County, where Cañon City and the penitentiary were located. He succeeded in getting a Fremont judge to assume jurisdiction, but the Colorado Supreme Court ruled the case belonged to Pueblo.

The year and a half Joe spent on death row was joyful for him. He polished the metal food plate he kept in his cell and used it as a mirror, talking into it and making faces. Best gave Joe some children’s books with pictures of funny faces, which Joe laughed at until the pages fell apart. Best got him scissors and Joe, humming, cut the pictures out.

But nothing delighted Joe more than the bright red wind-up car, with battery powered headlights, and the toy train, a model of a Union Pacific streamliner, given to him by Warden Best and his wife. With the tireless repetition of a child, Joe scooted the car around his cell, and if it smashed into something or tipped over he would shout, “Car wreck! Car wreck!” The train extended Joe’s field of play up and down the passageway in front of the death row cells. His nearest neighbors, all admitted killers, were patient, catching the train when he rolled it toward their cells.

Best made Joe available to the press, and reporters loved the story. “I want to live here with Warden Best,” Joe told one in December 1938. “Don’t you want to go back to the home in Grand Junction?” the reporter asked. “No, I want to get a life sentence and stay here with Warden Best. At the home the kids used to beat me…. I never get in trouble here.”

As execution day neared, a Cañon City reporter wrote that Joe was unaware of the tension building. “He sat in his cell making faces in his polished dinner plate.”

“He cannot comprehend that the state wants to take his life,” Best said.

On January 5, 1938, Best asked Joe what he wanted for his last meal.

“Ice cream,” said Joe.

That night Best brought Joe some cigars and a box of homemade candy. Joe ate so much candy his stomach got a little upset, and he gave the rest of it away.

He began the next day, the last day of his life, with a short visit from his mother and other relatives; his father had died eleven months earlier. The visit caused his mother to collapse in tears, but Joe, unbothered, went back to his cell. He spent the rest of the day smoking cigars, eating ice cream, and playing with his train, the happiest man on death row.

So, in the end it turns out that we were exploring an old prison ranch site that Warden Best had built, part of his "industiral complex" that employed prisoners.  It was essentially a prison farm where they raised pigs.  There were level areas below the building we were exploring that must have been fields and there was a quarry up the hill above.  

All in all, it was much more interesting than the real reason that took us to Colorado in the first place.