“Of All The Paths You Take In Life, Make Sure Some Of Them Are Dirt.”

A few friends and I heeded John Muir’s advice this weekend.

Saturday we wondered for a wee bit on the Wonderland Trail where it intersects with the White River. Sunday we went long, looping the Burroughs Mountain Trail from Sunrise. If you’ve never done it, add it to your list. I felt very fortunate to live where we do. And to be alive.

Bonus picture from the niece’s July wedding in Colorado. Taken by Jeanette Byrnes of Jeanette Byrnes photography fame. If you’re looking for a photog, better hire her before she gets too expensive.

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West facing valley

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Peak-a-boo 1

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Peak-a-boo 2

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Peak-a-boo 3

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Meandering meadow which may be snow covered by now

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Purple haze

 

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Best Wife, Dutiful Blogger, Eldest

Blessed Light

Living in the Upper Lefthand Corner of the United States requires a tradeoff that is difficult at times. You must endure dampness and darkness for eight months of the year in exchange for four months of supernatural light and unparalleled beauty. Right now we’re in the sweet spot of the four months meaning there’s no other place on the planet I’d rather be.

During this morning’s run in Priest Point Park I was intermittently blanketed by the sun’s brilliant radiance as I moved steadily through the forest. Shirtless and sweaty at 7a,  I was profoundly appreciative of July. More so than I ever would be if it wasn’t for the damp and dark runs during the eight contrasting months. The contrast is key.

Mid-day, on Mount Rainier with family, the sun ricocheted off the snow surrounding Snow Lake.

Tonight, transfixed by the fading sun on the western horizon, I will sit on the deck eating popcorn and drinking a recovery beer with family. Sunset is at 9:08p.m., but it won’t get dark until 9:45-10p.m. Must store as much Vitamin D as possible.

As a visitor you probably wouldn’t get it, you’d probably say, “Yeah sure, the weather, the trees, the water, they’re all nice, but really, no need to get all worked up about it.” To which I’d say, “I’m selling it short. I can’t do justice to the blessed light that gives me an unspeakable joy and sustains me through the dark.” At which point you’d just slowly back away not knowing what to make of me. Which I would understand and not hold against you. At all.

Addendum: For those keeping score at home, the “find the spelling errors in the initial draft” scorecard currently reads, Cal Lutheran 1, St. Olaf 1, Carleton 0.

 

 

 

US Open Postscript

Sunday’s 6-11a shift was my favorite. Left the house at 4:52a and walked onto the grounds at 5:51a. The sunrise was spectacular and it was nice watching the course slowly come to life under overcast skies and cool temps in the mid 50’s.

A lot of disabled spectators had either tired and turned to their televisions or simply slept in so I ate my annual donut, shot the breeze with fellow volunteers, walked a bit of the course, and made occasional runs around the course.

The Cowboy will be pleased to know there was a brief Holly Saunders sighting. She sped by in the passenger seat of another cart. On a related note, her post round interviews were goofy. Sane people know Fox isn’t fair or balanced, but we have to acknowledge that they are consistent when it comes to their television “talent”. Their coverage more generally was flawed relative to the much more experienced network teams. Norman’s bromance for Day was over the top, the lack of yardage, Pavin awkwardly overreacting to a Faxon dig, “What do we want to go here, best career?”, etc. However, the microphone in the hole was genius and almost compensated for all the other shortcomings.

The highlight of the day was my penultimate trip, from Central Meadows to the top of the 18th hole grandstand. A man flagged me down and said, “I had a hip replacement, and it hurts, and I need to get up to the 18th grandstand for a picture, can you take me?” I looked at his tournament pass everyone wears around their neck and it said, “Robert Trent Jones, Jr.” The course architect and his wife hopped on and we we’re off.

“I heard you interviewed on the radio a few days ago. It was a nice interview.” Phone call with someone involved with the picture and then, “The pros are really savaging the greens aren’t they?” What do you say to that? “Yeah, but everyone has to putt the same greens.” Weak I know, but I was working with 5 hours sleep. Then I said, “You should be proud of the fact that this is a spectacular event.” He shook my hand appreciatively. And told me he had an article in the Sunday Seattle Times about his dad for whom “I wouldn’t be here personally or professionally.”

The locals are too damn defensive about all the criticism of the greens, Jones’s design, noisy trains, and the spectators’ many challenges. I don’t understand why people take it so personally. Given the leaderboard and dramatic ending*, the early word from Tim Rosaforte is that all the greens will be completely redone (much less undulation, much more consistent grass) and the “footprint” will be altered to be more fan-friendly and the USGA will return in 10+ years.

How many majors will Spieth have by then?

After finishing work at 11a, I picked up a Thai Chicken Wrap, banana, and water**, and headed to the practice range. It was strange that more people weren’t there because it was the best place to see the most players up close putting, chipping, hitting balls. I watched Rose, Kopeka, Poults, HMarayauma, Mcllroy, Na, Senden, the Duf who wins the “best shoes” and “most weight lost since divorcing” competitions. At 11:45a, Spieth walked onto the practice range a few feet in front of me and headed to the putting green, exactly three hours before teeing off.

Having gotten too much sun, I headed home at noon, tired from a long week. I’m lucky my vagabond daughters are both home. The Girls Club was wanting to hike Mount Rainier sometime this week before the Eldest returns to the shadows of Wrigley Field. I suggested we take advantage of the Summer Solstice and head to Rainier and the fam proved spontaneous enough.

A glorious hike on the Deadhorse Creek trail was cappped with a picnic dinner a mile above the Paradise Visitor’s Center. After returning home, I watched the tournament which I had recorded.

A full and fun day. I’m appreciative of my health and my daughters who gave me cards with touching messages. I’m also grateful for nature, in particular the Sound that frames Chambers Bay and Mount Rainier which frames large swaths of Western Washington.

Postscript: To the golf averse, I have one more golf post in me and then it will be on to new subjects.

* One take-away from tournament week. America is seriously overweight. One culprit has to be beer. Everyone began drinking beer at around 10a and didn’t stop.

** Would have been even more dramatic if the tournament had been decided by a made putt.

12th hole. Driveable par 4. For them, not us.

12th hole. Driveable par 4. For them, not us.

This is why they're better than me. They warmup with the same balls they play.

This is why they’re better than me. They warmup with the same balls they play.

The wildflowers are in full bloom a month earlier than normal.

The wildflowers are in full bloom a month earlier than normal.

A Plea to Drivers—Let Us Live

Happy to report that I’m running, cycling, and swimming mostly pain free. Some low level tendonitis, but nothing ice can’t remedy.

I’m hiking from the North Rim of the Grand Canyon to the South, on May 23rd. Twenty-four miles in a leisurely 12 hours, assuming a rattle snake doesn’t get me. Then, to the top of Mount Humphrey, the highest peak in AZ, the next day.

A five day cycling camp in and around Bend, Oregon the first week of June.

In late June/mid July, I’m considering entering a shortish local triathlon and/or a nearby half iron.

And thanks to lottery success this year, on July 31st, the always epic Ride Around Mount Rainier in One Day. Here’s another RAMROD write-up. And here’s more course info.

Runners and cyclists have an obligation to follow the rules of the road and run and cycle defensively. Among other things, that means wearing bright colored clothes; using flashing lights early and late in the day; and following the rules of the road, including stopping for stop signs and red lights whenever anyone is within view; and always running behind any car with tinted windows.

Drivers also have an obligation to follow the rules of the road including stopping at stop signs, looking both ways before pulling onto a roadway, adhering to the speed limit, and respecting bike lanes.

I’ve had a scary number of close calls this spring. I don’t know why, but lots of drivers in my community are in a BIG hurry. That means they routinely brake 10-15 feet beyond white stop sign lines. Which can mean broken bones if not worse. Then, the same hurried drivers glance one way and quickly speed away.

Another common occurrence is what I think the police should write up as an “out of sight, out of mind fuck up.” This is when you, the driver, pass me, the faster than you realize cyclist, and immediately forget I’m right behind you in the bike lane. Then, you suddenly turn right, right in front of me. Recently, I locked my brakes up, swerved, and somehow managed to avoid contact with you.

Even worse, recently, a guy buzzed our bike team by passing closely by us at about 65mph and then immediately swerving into the bike lane. Then yesterday, Mark and I were riding side-by-side in a bike lane when a hulking SUV edged towards the line and gunned it. The message, “I could kill you, if I wanted.” As happens on occasion, we caught the offending SUV at a red light 200 meters later. The driver immediately looked down at her cell phone to avoid eye contact with us. Like driving a drone, she didn’t want to see the individual people on the bicycles.

I imagined her chuckling with her husband about her feat at dinner. If her window was down, and I had a chance to collect myself, I would’ve said to her what I want to say to you:

You’ve got about three tons on us, so if you want, you can easily kill us. But we have wives, children, and sometime soon, grandchildren. They would be sad. So please share the road peacefully and let us live. Thank you.

 

Beautiful, Powerful, Markedly Different End-of-Life Celebrations

The on-line description of Mount Rainier Ranger Margaret Anderson’s memorial service was moving. As was the on-line retelling of Southern California surf-tech pioneer Sean Collins‘s recent memorial service.

Pictures of Anderson’s memorial are here. And here are more from Collins’s service.

One regimented, formal, set in a university auditorium, steeped in tradition. The other, free-flowing, informal, set in the ocean.

Notably different, yet equally beautiful and powerful celebrations of life.

The True Costs of War

Sorry if you were wanting to ease into the weekend with a new girl scout cookie review.

In a chapter titled “Economics Confronts the Earth,” Juliet Schor, the author of True Wealth, writes about a group of economists, natural scientists, engineers, systems dynamic researchers, and other who came together twenty-five years ago around the view that ecosystems should be at the core of economic analysis.

“They were especially interested in what conventional economics wasn’t measuring or studying,” Schor explains. “These dissenters recognized a fundamental point about how our system has been operating. If the market economy gets large, and nature remains external to it, threats to basic ecosystem functioning will arise.” “Ecological economics,” she notes, “has mostly been ignored by the mainstream.” 

And she adds, “Environmental economics has also been closely intertwined with energy economics, which in turn has ties to energy companies and interests. And in the last few decades, special interests acting against environmental protection, often from the energy sector, have enlisted economics to water down regulations and forestall action.”

Put most simply, mainstream economists, by ignoring ecosystems, underestimate the true costs of production and consumption. Similarly, we grossly underestimate the true costs of war by slighting the devastation inflicted both upon civilians in the war zone and upon our surviving soldiers and their families following their return from combat. This MIT-based “The Human Cost of the War” website touches upon unaccounted for domestic costs, but is an especially good place to start to learn about the war’s devastating impact on Iraqis.

When economists total up the costs of the Iraqi war, they calculate the costs of the planes, artillery, food, energy, equipment, training, salaries, and Veteran Administration hospital costs. But they don’t factor in a litany of qualitative, post traumatic stress-related costs including substance abuse, depression, conflict-filled marriages, separated families, violent crimes including murder, and suicides.

More specifically, they don’t factor in Benjamin Colton Barnes and vets like him who can’t shake the violence of their war experience. They don’t factor in the loss of Margaret Anderson, the Mount Rainier park ranger that Barnes recently shot to death before fleeing and dying himself. They don’t factor in what Eric Anderson’s life is like, Margaret’s husband, also a Rainier ranger. And they don’t factor in what Eric Anderson’s 1 and 3 year old daughters lives are like now without their mother.

Just as many special interests that don’t want environmental economists to highlight economic costs to ecosystems, many others don’t want a full accounting of war’s costs. The tragedy of this failed accounting is aptly described on the MIT “The True Cost of War” website—”. . . if there is no accountability for the human toll of war, the urge to deploy military assets will remain powerful.”

The Most Popular Posts of 2011

Dear Readers,

I enjoyed sharing a lot of what I learned in 2011 with you. Here were the most popular posts from the year:

1) School Principal Shortage

2) Is On-line Learning a Good or Bad Thing?

3) The Public School Budget Crisis and the Dilemma of Professional Development

4) 2011 RAMROP—Ride Around Mount Rainier in One Piece

5) The Life Changing iPhone 4S

6) Young, Devout, Maligned

7) Home Schooling is Hip. . . and Selfish

I appreciate your reading, subscribing, and forwarding posts to others. A special thanks to those who took the time to comment during the year. Recent new subscribers, a kind comment from a former student, a thoughtful email from my mom, and support from a friend at a holiday party have me ready to roll in the new year. Seemingly small gestures add up.

I’ll continue trying to provide meaningful content. I could use your help in two ways—by jumping in the water sometime this year and agreeing or disagreeing with me about something and by sending questions and/or links of things you’d like me to write about.

In appreciation,

Ron

2011 RAMROP—Ride Around Mount Rainier In One Piece

After five hours of sleep, woke at 3:28a, drove about as far as I hit a driver down the hill to Danos at 4:00a, and arrived at Enumclaw High an hour later.

Cloudless and weirdly light given the sliver of a moon. High 40’s, maybe 50. End of life turtle neck base layer under the jersey, $5 full-fingered running gloves. Dano, who claims he’s from Minnesota, was sporting girly shoe covers.

Lathered my bits(1) with the poor man’s chamois creme, ten year old Noxzema, and was off at 5:47a.

Some context. Lance’s ex, showing no concern for my well-being, pulled a last minute legal stunt and so we were a man down. I knew Gordon was going to be way too fast for us mortals, so it was Dano, me, and the masses. Among other things, Dano is also know as Supplement. Dude had plastic bag after plastic bag of pills of every size, shape, and color.

Supplement is relatively new to cycling. Said he may “have gone a hundred once as a teenager”. Performed admirably on an 80 mile mountain training ride a few weeks back. Learned how to draft. Gained fitness. And confidence. Coupled with the pills, and my stellar coaching, piece of cake.

I knew he had the necessary mental make up. An experienced marathoner, he disappeared one weekend four years ago. Decided to celebrate his 50th with a 50 mile run. In serious heat.

The goal was to make like Malcolm X and help Dan around the mountain by any means necessary. The plan was to ride the flats together and regroup at the top of the three climbs.

I was a firm taskmaster. Let’s bridge up to that group. Pull for no more than half a mile. Don’t forget to drink. I insisted he holler if the pace got too quick. He never hollered. Long story short, he surprised me by riding very steadily all day long. My mountain top waits were shorter than expected. Didn’t even fade over the last 25 miles. Maybe there’s something to the pills.

We rode out of town with Gordon and enjoyed his company for about 5-6 miles until he launched. Beforehand, I predicted he’d finish a few hours before us. Climbed nearly 10,000′, over 152 miles, at 20mph. 7:58 total time, 7:35 ride time. He joked it was a “recovery ride” after last week’s stage race. Sick. Look for him to turn some heads in the Leadville 100 on August 14th.

For the first hour we gradually descend, through fog-strewn farmland, and it was flat out cold. At mile 16 I decided I needed to warm up, so I went to the front of the slowish pace-line we were in and settled in. Sixteen miles later we reached a T-intersection. I was aware of two shadows behind me, but cracked up when I realized my train was about 15 people long. I was not going fast, but still a personal record “pull” nonetheless. At the 33 mile food stop I did some press and signed some autographs.

Then Dan and I took turns gently working some rollers. The early morning cold coupled with my enlarged prostrate (2), made for a bad combo. Despite whizzing at mile 33, at 40 I told Dan I had to take a quick nature break. We were facing 15 miles of a 1-2% grade to the park’s entrance. We were being disciplined about spinning easily, but as I was relieving myself on the side of the road, a beautiful 20 person pace-line materialized out of thin air. “Go! Catch on! I’ll catch up!”

Doing his best Tony Martin impersonation, Dan bolted right by the peloton and then sat 100 meters in front in no man’s land. I had to go get him and drag him back. The people on the front were perplexed. “We’re drifting to the back.” In no time at all, we were nearly at the park. A few pills, peanut butter and honey bagels, cookies, and bananas later, and were ready to begin the ride in earnest.

We climbed together to Longmire, regrouped at the top of Paradise, and descended together. Well, until Dan got stuck behind a slow swerving, human impediment disguised as a rider. Road is pretty sketchy so my top speed was only 40.8 before the Garmin quit at mile 94. I felt great all day and climbed well leap frogging from rider to rider.

One wanker had the nerve to pass me near the top of Cayuse. But he was tatted up and so was obviously more of a bad ass.  Mountain was at its most beautiful, mid-50’s, to maybe lower 60’s in the p.m. Breeze coming off the snow, natural air-conditioning. Ditched the turtle neck base layer at mile 88.

The last 30 miles can be a slog. The key is to leave the last food stop with as many other people as possible. We failed, leaving nearly alone. Turkey sandwich charged, Dan caught onto one guy and the three of us settled in for 3-4 miles. I saw three people about three-fourths of a mile ahead and decided to bridge up. Yes a large gap to make up at that point in the day, but I did it over the next 4-5 miles.

After finally making contact, I signaled Dan forward, and sat in back and recovered. 3-4 miles later we were passed by about 15 guys. I didn’t think our lead rider would hook on, but fortunately she did. After sitting in the back for about 10 miles, I was getting annoyed that only about three guys were doing all the work. Feeling the best I’ve ever felt after 130 miles, I went to the front. They wouldn’t get on my wheel despite my slowing down and then passed me shortly afterwards.

Whatever. When the road turned up and the headwind picked up a bit, I went forward again. After realizing I was stronger than all of them, I said screw it, and rode away. That was serious fun. Riding away from about 16 guys after nearly eight hours in the saddle. I waited for Dan at the Mud Mountain turnoff and four of us rode in together. I pushed the pace over the last few miles to get us in under ten hours (9:57, ride time probably 8:50-9:00).

(1) Learned recently that the British sometimes use “bits” to describe male privates. I’d appreciate it if someone from the other side of the pond could explain if “bits” translates more as “balls” or “genitals”. If genitals, I should not have used it in that context.

(2) TMI?