Saturday, July 31, 2010

How Lazy Am I?

I listened to Scott Zesch's The Captured: A True Story of Abduction by Indians on the Texas Frontier. Meh. It's about nine different kids captured by Apaches or Comanches, and I could never keep them straight in my head. It did make me think of one interesting philosophical question, however--there's lots of mention in the book about Native American dislike for typical white European settler working life (which at the time obviously meant farming) and the children had trouble readjusting to settler life once their abduction ended and often never readjusted to the whole working/making money thing. So in what sense, if any, is that "laziness" (how it's referred to by settlers in the book), in what sense is it Native Americans being smarter and knowing that he who dies with the most toys definitely does not win, and when can I start living in a log cabin in a brutally cold place with no facilities and spend all day chopping firewood and growing my own vegetables during the two frost-free months of the year? Am I lazy with no ambition, or do suburban McMansions and the rest of the consumerism that goes along with them make me gag? Or is it that research is honestly difficult enough to warrant all the Internet surfing I do?

Regardless, even though I haven't read it, based on a decent Fresh Air interview, I'd suggest you read Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History instead if you're in the mood for Native American history.

Bike Links

Something else had changed up here, too. It takes nearly a day on these trips, John said later, but you always see it: Shoulders drop their tension. Eyes unpinch from their accountant’s squint. With every mile, the in-box and the BlackBerry retreat a little more in the rear-view mirror. People shed their daily worries, until their world reduces to the clean feeling of the right gear underfoot, and the blur of the gray road. As Mike put it: “I don’t have to think. I don’t have to do a damn thing, if I don’t want to. I get to ride my bike.”

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A Hundred?

Something didn't work out like I'd hoped today, so I listened to Rage's Killing in the Name of, then fueled by a fresh dose of self-loathing left the office for an awesome 3 hours in the hills--up to the top, down to Orinda, and back. It's been far too long since I've run there; I live too far west now, so I need to get back in the habit of going from school so I can hit the hills nearly every day. The run was fantastic, so I'm sort of thinking about running the Headlands Hundred in a week and a half. I haven't been training, but since when has that stopped me? The course has changed slightly since last year, but it's still 4x25-mile loops, which doesn't excite me, nor does the $200 entry fee (despite my interviewing today for a one-day GSI training gig in August that pays $200). We shall see. I've got an open weekend, so maybe I'll do a long run and see how I feel.

Today was also the last of my 5 REI presentations. They were a pretty good experience. By that I mean people laughed at most of my jokes. I didn't get any numbers from intelligent outdoorsy atheist liberal chicks, so in that sense they were a failure, but in that sense my whole life has been a failure, so I'm inured to that.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

What I Did This Week

Two REI Presentations: Pretty good reviews, with the inevitable exception from someone who clearly does not get my sense of humor. Three more this coming week.
Inception: I almost always disagree with David Edelstein, and thus I loved this movie.
Yojimbo: Badass
Capturing the Friedmans: Interesting.
American Splendor: Did I mention Harvey Pekar makes me happy?
Our Cancer Year: I really dislike the art, but the story is great.
An Unreasonable Man: Ralph Nader is cool. I wish I believed in something like he does.
Dead Weather live at the Warfield: Even from the nosebleeds, Jack White and his giant eyeball backdrop are phenomenal.
The Human Condition: Got disc 1 (of 4), haven't started yet.

Ran several times but wasn't really feeling it, gave my bike a decent post-trip cleaning, picked 12 pounds or so of wild blackberries, made two pectin boxes worth of freezer jam, baked fresh honey whole wheat bread, and will make a pie tomorrow.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

My Bicycle Trip

I rode my bike 770 miles or so from Salt Lake City, UT to Sacramento, CA. I started Sunday morning at 8:30 and finished Friday night a little after 11:00 PM.

As usual, all during the trip, I imagine the wonderful, informative blog posts that I will write when I get back, full of helpful gear lists and vivid descriptions. Now that I'm back, however, I'm already bored, suffering from post-adventure let-down, wishing I were still biking, and thinking the Internet is stupid, so I don't really want to write about it. However, I'll force myself to do it now, otherwise it will never happen.

So, what do I think of bicycle touring? I like it. I certainly still plan to do a longer trip someday (preferably with Marcus, since marriage is no excuse, buddy.) But do I like it as much as backpacking? It's different, that's for sure. It's more like hiking the Appalachian Trail than the CDT--it's a cultural experience, not a wilderness experience. I was on roads the entire time, and with skinny tires, I was on paved roads at that. So I was passing through towns the entire time. Thus it seemed the natural thing to do to chat it up at gas stations, to camp in RV lots or not-intended-for-camping public parks, and sort of soak up the small-town folksy Americana stuff that you don't get in the mountains. I really enjoyed getting breakfast from a deaf Mennonite lady at the Pony Express Deli in Eureka, NV or talking to an overweight biker chick wearing a hockey mask and reading a romance novel at a gas station in Austin, NV. However, I still need adventure. In my mind, the solution to this is to just go f---ing fast. If I ride across the country, I think it would be a great challenge to try and do it in under a month. That's pretty crazy given that scenic bike routes can be about 4,300 miles long, so maybe I'd be happy with doing at least 100 miles every day. Who knows, I've only done one short trip and things might be different on a long trip or one with friends.

RESUPPLY: You're passing through towns multiple times every day. It seems obvious to me that you should experience your locale and carry little food and instead eat at the greasy spoon diner with limited vegetarian options that makes you pine for the amazing cuisine that you take for granted in Berkeley while reading the crazy libertarian posters on the wall and admiring the slutty beer posters in the bathroom. Despite all-day rides, I did not get as hungry on this trip as I did while hiking. It's also more difficult to stop riding to take out food (or to take a picture) than it is while hiking. I think a bounce box or frequent post-office use on a bike trip would be completely superfluous. I think part of the adventure of a long bike trip would be not even having a resupply person at home and taking care of any issues by yourself along the way.

GEAR: Go light and fast. I carried a lot of tools and spare parts and stuff. Weight matters less since you're on wheels, and maybe I was lucky that I had zero flats and zero mechanical problems (well, the chain was getting gunky by the last day so I did have small issues), but I think I could pare this down a lot. For clothing tops I just wore a regular bike jersey and that worked out fine. I had a t-shirt, a long-sleeved jersey (overkill), and a wind-shirt as well. I brought flip-flops so I could get out of my bike shoes (good since you'll probably take hostel/RV showers and don't want to catch fungus). I had two bigger water bottles on my bike with two 2.5-liter platypus bladders in my saddlebags. Even for 80-mile no-services stretches on 100-degree days, filling all these up was overkill.

BUTTS: I assume that butts are to cycling as feet are to hiking. I got no rash whatsoever, thanks to liberal use of Chamois Butt'r. That didn't prevent my butt from getting really sore/bruised. But I was carrying both bib shorts and mountain biking shorts, both with chamois. I started out wearing the bib, and when they got dirty, I switched to the shorts and realized their padding was much better, so I wore the shorts the rest of the way.

MAPS/ROUTE: To the best of google's abilities, this was my route (I was actually on a bike trail for the final 25+ miles). My route was determined by where my friends live and where I live. That happened to coincide somewhat with Adventure Cycling's Western Express route, so I bought two of their maps. I like the idea that there's a company designing routes and selling maps and encouraging bike touring, but I thought the maps had major problems. There were typos in the narratives, the contour lines are only every 1000 feet (although they include a helpful elevation profile), conflicting elevations are listed for the same place on the same map, and there isn't much detail on resupply services. I think the value added of having a popular route predetermined is knowledge of local businesses. Which restaurant owner is cyclist-friendly? Are you allowed to camp in the public park? AC does have something called the Cyclists' Yellow Pages on the website, but long-distance hiker stuff is way better in this department.

Anyway, the next time I do a long bike trip, which would either be fast-as-I-could-go coast-to-coast along the northern part of the US or a mountain biking trip along the continental divide, I'll probably use AC's maps to get a general idea, but get a few regular road maps to figure out my own thing.

Which brings me to: What's next? If I had to predetermine my fate right now, I'd go on the job market this fall, graduate next spring, spend a month paddling the length of the Yukon River (BF, wanna go?), then do a long road-trip through the dirty south (JS, don't get famous too soon) then move to whatever dreamy mountainous liberal arts college I'll be teaching at and see how much adventure it's possible to have while still getting tenure. So it might be a while before I bike Cairo to Capetown. But I'm sure a shorter trip will pop up sometime. We'll see.
start, SLC


the shoetree

home state

from near Carson Pass

finish, Sacto

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Friday, July 16, 2010

All done. Rode 160 today despite diarrhea and heat and chain giving me grief, making me eat it a few times. Train home tomorrow from Sac.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Plus, can i maybe do state cap to state cap in one day? It would be big, not quite sure how big.
Super 8 in carson city. Don't know why i got another motel room, maybe it was the 109 degree temps and tons of traffic and sprawl. 112 for day.
Not far from fallon. Butt very bruised, have to switch btw saddle positions every 3 minutes and crank standing, which is less easy w saddlebags. Still ok tho

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

133, camped at the shoe tree! Hot and flat after austin.
Austin nevada. 70 or so done. Aiming for carson city tomorrow night. Think it will get a little lower and hotter till tahoe. Finally got whole bottle vitamin i.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Did 126 to get to eureka. Everything closed at 8 so i am still buying vitamin i by the 4 pack at gas station. Camping at rv park. Mennonite breakfast tomorrow.
Made 108 yesterday. 20 this morning. Would love 105 more to eureka. Slightly cloudy, which is nice, but burning off.

Monday, July 12, 2010

90 miles so far today, 100 degrees, one tree. Only one more state named nevada to ride through!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Why does my body crave processed nacho cheese after a long sweaty day? Did i sweat out all my mono and diglycerides with the sodium hexa meta phosphate?
120-plus miles from slc to delta on my first day, first long ride ever. Cheap hotel and ice in order if i want a chance to do it again tomorrow.
Crappy gas station microwave burritos in eureka utah, 65ish in. Damn i love the open road.
Elberta utah. Jct w hwy 6. Feeling good. Neck tired from holding head up.
45 minutes in, waiting out my first storm for a couple minutes.
Here goes nothing!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

start tomorrow am. Sent most stuff home with friend, will have to carry a few things to po on monday, no biggy. Delta tomorrow? I don't know how far that is.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Mile 0, Day -2

At Paul's in SLC. Him and Kate have all the tools I need and a bike stand, so that's a huge help. I tried to tune the front derailleur but I can't quite figure it out and I'm out of patience, so I'm just going to take it to REI where they said they can probably squeeze it in while I wait. I like to think that I'm somewhat competent with bike mechanics and that I enjoy it to some extent, but I'm definitely not an engineer/tinkerer type. I managed to fix my commuter's front derailleur last week just fine (except for the lack of tools at the place I was house-sitting), but my fancy new one with STI shifters is a whole new ball game. Other than that, I think I've got everything I need except for spare nuts/bolts for my rack. Now I just have to decide what I'm actually bringing with me and what I'm sending back with a friend.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

REI Presentations

I am doing 5 Bay Area REI Presentations in July. If you're able, please come to one or more and heckle me by shouting out embarrassing personal information from my past.

Here is the blurb the REI organizer wrote, along with dates.

The Sierra High Route & Beyond: A Thru-hiker’s Dream:

Since 2002, Garret Christensen has hiked the Appalachian Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail, the Continental Divide Trail (a yo-yo thru-hike), and more. Tonight, Garret will share slides and stories of his most recent adventure–a 450-mile summer traverse of the Sierra, from Olancha north to Tahoe City . Join Garret as he travels the spectacular Sierra High Route, a 195-mile route (half-cross country, half-trail) above 9,000 feet, which showcases the best of the Sierra. Then, follow him the rest of the way on the Tahoe-Yosemite and Tahoe Rim Trails. Come learn pointers on ultralight packing, route planning, route finding, and safe backcountry travel. Find out how this thru-hiker extraordinaire covers 20-30 miles each day, carrying a base pack weight of eight pounds.

7 pm–8:30 pm, Tuesday, July 20 at REI Berkeley
7 pm–8:30 pm, Wednesday, July 21 at REI San Carlos
7 pm–8:30 pm, Monday, July 26 at REI Saratoga
7 pm–8:30 pm, Tuesday, July 27 at REI Fremont
7 pm–8:30 pm, Wednesday, July 28 at REI Corte Madera


I'm packing for my trip. I've been buying some accessories and gear the last few days. If I can I'll try to buy a new digital camera tomorrow morning. Friday I hope to ride the Alpine Loop (around Mt. Timpanogas) with Marcus, preferably all loaded up as a test run.

Monday, July 05, 2010

The Runs

Marcus had a layover from 8PM to 6AM the next day, so we went on a long night trailrun through Tilden. Mostly my innards were trying to explode so I just sat and dry-heaved while M swam in Lake Anza at 3AM. M also provided a wonderful epiphany--since I'm a cynic and believe that all organizations are corrupt and the system is rigged and will always be so, my best chance for lasting happiness is to become evil and abuse the rigged system. Previously I'd thought my best option was to live in a remote cabin and chop my own firewood.

Yesterday I started to run all 136 sets of urban paths/stairs in the Berkeley hills. I got about 1/3 to 1/2 of the way through in 3 hours and realized it was pretty boring, so I bailed. Too much backtracking and pavement and stuff. Pretty great stair workout though.

I finished reading Ted Conover's Rolling Nowhere, about a college anthro major who rode the rails to see what it was like. Apparently all hobos are short-tempered violent racist toothless alcoholic thieving welfare mooches. Way to shatter my dreams, Ted.

Toy Story 3 is amazing. I cried, of course.

A decent Salon article about a family biking from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego.