Saturday, September 07, 2013

Only an hour and 15 minutes to SLC.

Already this is a much nicer flight. It's quiet, I am in a row of empty seats (yay!) and the views are nice from the window. No screaming kids. (Note to self, look into recommendation of Bose noise canceling headphones). We're flying over the desert now, not like eastern Oregon but a much more uniform, homogenized, nondescript desert. 


Why are planes so goddamn filthy? It's bad enough they smell like BO and that bright antibacterial lavatory scent. My seat, tray table and windows are a crumby, smeary, schmutzy mess. These airlines should really be embarrassed.

From what I've noticed today, I'd have to say that the cabin crew on the flight seem very nice and accommodating. This might be partially due to sharing a close proximity with us cattlepassengers for an unspecified length of time. Ground crew and ticket agents, on the other hand, can all eat a bag of dicks. I have never had to resist such a strong urge to tell people to sit and spin. And those TSA assholes--don't even get me started.

I've had a very eventful day that started about 4:30 this morning. I opted not to bring my laptop and instead bring my iPad. I hope I don't regret that decision. I've brought a myriad of activities to keep me busy throughout my traveling adventure. Right now I'm listening to God Lives Underwater's "Life in the So-Called SpaceAge." I think it is a good album, even if it isn't metal. \m/

I refuse to go to the bathroom on a plane. After one of my brothers confessed that he only urinates in lavatory sinks, I decided that he was admitting something to me that sadly, something that many people will not. On travel days, I limit my fluid intake and hold my pee until I'm doubled over and toxic. Once we touch down, I have no shame and will literally push people aside to get to terminal bathroom. 

I'm on my way to New Orleans, or "Nawahlans" as many people have corrected me. I started this journey in Portland on a plane that was supposed to leave at 7. We were delayed until 8:45 by a "strike plate" issue. Thanks to the magic of google, I learned that the strike plate keeps the cabin door secure while in flight. Sooo yeah, kind of important. The ground crew gave us vague updates and unrealistic delay times, and mentioned on several occasions that the paperwork was the hold up and the strike plate was a non-issue. Does non-issue mean they fixed it?? I'm hearing these intercom updates and beginning to think that I will be cutting my connection very close. When we finally boarded, the ground staff insisted that I check my carry on due to "a lack of space." I explain I have a tight connection and prefer to have it with me. They explain that I can't take it on and sincerely lied that it would be quick and no problem to retrieve at LAX. 

The flight finally takes off and my seat is encircled by screaming, unhappy, bored little kids with loud, repetitive and noisy toys. Fuck me! I tried to sleep through the world's longest 2-hour flight. After we touch down, an interesting dilemma unfolded: my connecting flight, which was due to take off in 14 minutes, was parked at the gate where our plane needed to park. To add insult to injury, the captain came over the speakers and announced that we had to wait about 25 minutes on the Tarmac before we could deplane. I frantically called Delta customer service for my seat and proceeded to lay out my whole situation. 

It turns out they rebooked me--onto a third connecting flight. I would have never known if I didn't email, no voicemail, just a big travel mystery. So this new connection also has a narrow window to get from gate A to gate B. I charge out to grab my checked carry on and what do you know, it's not anywhere to be seen. A couple of bitchy ticket agents snarkily told me that I needed to be patient when I attempted to explain my urgency. Me and a pile of other people who were on my flight watched a lackadaisical ground crew bring the carry-on bags to where we were one at a time. Oh how hard it was to fight the urge to help them speed things along! After an eternity, I grabbed my bag and booked it to...aargh! I don't know where I'm going! I'm in airport hell!

I emerge from the gate into a bright, unfamiliar airport. I have only visited LAX a handful of times and was pretty sure I'd never been in this terminal. I ask a few Delta staff where my next gate was and after 3 conflicting answers, I made it to my gate just I time. I swear, it was like a scene out of a movie, I literally ran down the thruway and as the flight attendants were in mid-shut, they saw me and opened the door back up to let me in. 

The flight to Salt Lake City was pretty good for the most part. Towards the end we encountered some wicked turbulence and I almost lost my cookies. I'm on the ground now, killing time before my *third* flight down to New Orleans. I wish I could have skipped PDX to LAX and just came straight to SLC to pick up a connection to NOLA. 

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Vista Ridge, Carin Basin, and McNeil Point

We went on an incredible hike last weekend on Mt. Hood. The trailhead was really remotely located--it took us about an hour and a half from the highway turnoff of navigating steep gravel back roads.

We started by taking the Vista Ridge Trail #626 up to the Timberline Trail #600. The Timberline Trail is a nice and sometimes challenging 38-mile hike around the mountain. It climbs and dips around alpine meadows, forests, rock formations, and across streams. This trail offers awesome views of the mountain top and also can be accessed from a variety of trail heads on all sides of the mountain.

The Vista Ridge hike passes through many areas that were affected by the Dollar Lake Fire in 2011. It was pretty interesting moving through both scorched and untouched areas in the same hike. The scorched areas were a little spooky and Halloweeny, and at the same time, there was (is) evidence of life coming back all over--many young trees poking up through the blackened earth, bright green ground cover and purple flowers starting to dot the brown and black landscape. 

I found this great map on a website called InciWeb. They also have information about how the fire started (lightning strike) and the progression of the fire over time.
Click here to see a larger picture of this map.
I was really interested in how the fire-scorched landscape had such a dramatic vibe. And from the bright blue skies to the periods of cloudiness--this charred forest took on an etherial mood.  

See the difference between the above and below photos? They were taken minutes apart. It was a partly cloudy day on the mountain and from moment to moment clouds of different size and density would blow up into and over/around the mountain. 

And here's some more burnt woods detail:

At one point, the fire was so hot it became propelled by thermal gusts and tore up Vista Ridge. As it did, the heat created a situation where the bark just fell off of the tree. There were piles of blackened bark all throughout the affected Dollar Lake fire area. 

And then, just like emerged from the burnt forest into an untouched wood, protected by one of the glacial streams running down the mountain. 

And our buddy Mount Adams was out! Notice the lenticular cloud on top. The Vista  Ridge hike offered great views and nice scenery, and I feel the burnt forest adds character and fun to the hike. 

Trail Junction: at the Timberline. 
From the Timberline Trail, we hiked south over to Eden Park (turning off on Eden Park #600H). We also hiked over to Cairn Basin, stopping at Carin Shelter along the way. We continued south on the Timberline Trail and headed up the mountain again at the McNeil Point turnoff. 

Stand of dead trees bordering a lush meadow.

Then the mist started to roll in.

When a low cloud's movement through the sky was impeded by the mountain, the sun became a silvery disk. 

Ladd Creek

Carin Shelter

Here we turned up and began the climb up to McNeil Point and McNeil Shelter. There were a lot of people on the mountain the day we went, and most notably were a group of about five women, all smelling heavily of crappy scented perfume and wearing bright teal and magenta sweats. They were all eating lunch, sitting on a bunch of large boulders that look like they had rolled down the mountain haphazardly and stopped right at that spot. The leader of the group looked like Jerry Seinfeld's mom, and stopped us to thoroughly question us.

"You two look like you know where you are going. Are we on McNeil Point? Or is it up there?" She indicated at a ridge, visible above our heads and accessible by a trail down near the shelter. We explained that they are sitting on what we thought to be McNeil Point.

"I don't think this is it," she insisted, "it has to be up there." Again, she's pointing at the ridge above, and that ridge was quickly becoming obscured by a super large incoming cloud.

We explained that we didn't know for sure, we could be wrong, and that trail might be worth checking out. After al, if it isn't McNeil Point, at least it's a cool climb that brings us closer to the mountain. Jerry Seinfeld's mom continued to question us a little more about our hiking plans, then we bid them farewell and good luck.
McNeil Shelter, and some random weird dude taking a nap against the outside wall. 
The weird thing about random dude taking a nap at the shelter is that it took us about 5 hours to get here, up grueling hills, down steep embankments, across swift moving streams, and through less-then-optimal visibility conditions. And here is this guy, like he's at the local city park, just taking a nap!

Se we began our hike up the ridge that Seinfeld's mom pointed out and were greeted by a thick mist. Our ability to see not only the mountain, but also the trail ahead and landmarks were significantly diminished. Before we knew it we passed up Seinfeld's mom's group and turned off to a flat area near the trail to break for lunch.

Seinfeld's mom caught up with us and seemed a little annoyed with the weather. "I don't think we're going to see anymore of the mountain," she lamented. "It's gone, we should just turn back."

"The mountain's not gone, it's just behind a cloud. If you wait a little it will emerge," we reassured her.

"What time did you guys start hiking? Where did you come from?" Seinfeld's mom's questioning seemed to be getting a little more defensive. We explained that we started about 9:30 at the Vista Ridge trailhead. *On a side note, 9:30 is wayyy to late to start a hike. We didn't realize that once we turned off into the national forest that it would take about an hour and a half to get to the trailhead.

"Well how long are YOU going to stay here?" Seinfeld's mom's question sounded more like an accusation then an inquiry.

"I don't even know how to answer that..." I reflexively replied. Simultaneously, my hiking partner said, "none of your fucking business!" To that, she just shrugged, said nothing and just continued on.

Glisan Glacier!
We kept hiking up and had incredibly limited visibility. Before we knew it we were hiking up a knife-edge ridge alongside Glisan Glacier. We realized at that point that we were on a secondary climbing route and no longer on the McNeil Point trail. 

We were totally socked in coming back down the mountain. Check out what McNeil Shelter looks like now!

We didn't see a whole lot of wildlife on our hike, but we did happen upon a flock of grouse.

And finding the right trails back became a much more significant challenge...

But we made it through, no problem. We recognized landmarks and moved along at a good pace. 

Yay Ladd Creek again!
On our return, we re-entered the etherial forest. This area seriously transmitted such an intensely haunted, melancholy feeling. While it was a bit of a bummer we didn't get more views of the mountain, I did really like that we got a chance to hike through the shrouded forest. 

And at the end of the day, the clouds cleared and the mountain showed itself. I can't believe how incredibly awesome this mountain is, it looks more like a beautiful painting rather then a gigantic volcanic rock formation covered in glaciers. 

It took us forever to hike out back to the trailhead, and then it took a while to drive out of the woods. When we finally got back onto 26, dusk was in full effect and the sunset was a fiery orb on the bottom of our windshield. 

I took a ton of pictures on this hike, if you are interested in seeing more photos you can view them here on my Flickr account

Saturday, August 17, 2013

I get a lot of spam email but don't realize it

Gmail has this feature where junk mail just goes to this spam box and automatically deletes after 30 or so days. I checked this spam box today and didn't realize the amount of crap email that comes my way. Part of me wonders if it is some kind of deal where gmail sells your email address out to weird clearing houses who in turn give your email out to all sorts of crazy marketing scams. You wouldn't believe the wide variety and high volume of marketing for hot lonely housewives, christian singles, all sorts of for-profit bullshit education and degree programs, fortune telling and/or tarot card readings, diet pills, erection and other penis enhancement pills, free estimates for jacuzzi tubs, various fast food restaurant surveys, Lasik, credit card offers, work from home proposals, life insurance, warnings that my computer security is outdated, asian porn, lottery type of games and more.

Outside of these basic spam categories, I also receive very interesting letters offering me large sums of money. The marketing strategies in the letters vary somewhat, but they all share the same end result: they want me to correspond to learn more about how to get the large sum of money they are offering. Here are some of the more creative:

Michelle Obama's foundation AND the United Nations? Well, of course this is legit! 

You notice gmail is helpful with their "Be careful with this message" posted above the email. I think when they initiated the spam onslaught, they didn't realize what they were unleashing and felt obligated to reduce the amount of people being taken advantage of.

...Why am I entitled to this?

I like how this one apologizes for invading my privacy and then calls upon god to bless me.

You are writing me on behalf of who?

Notice the opposite angles: intense gmail warning and the paragraph starting with "hello friend"

Hi, I'm fine, not looking for an Asian bride either. 

I am always fascinated with these emails. What's with the last sentence? 

Wow, the Google Management Team submitted my name to you and your wife? This has to be real!

Michelle Obama and United Nations, again!

I wonder what kind of godly project Mrs. Batovich has in mind? 

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Upping the Tour de France Ante

Every July, I look forward to the Tour de France. I started watching the Tour de France about 10 years ago, I had heard about this amazing guy named Lance Armstrong and decided to see what the hype was all about. I quickly learned that the Tour de France is definitely the tip of the competitive international cycling iceberg; one could plan an entire year around the many different competitions. Some of the more popular races include the Giro d’Italia (May), the Vuelta a EspaƱa (September), and Tour Down Under (January).

I like how the direction and evolution filming bike races has advanced; the stage broadcasts alternate between a battalion of motorbike videographers, keeping pace along with the peloton, and helicopter filming, taking in sweeping countryside views of ancient chateaus, forest, farmland and villages. Another interesting phenomena that occur during the Tour de France is some of the field art created by devoted countrymen and farmers. These people go to tremendous lengths to create a large-scale depiction of something they want viewers of the Tour de France to see.

Of course it’s too bad about that whole Lance Armstrong thing. Watching that drama had it’s own sort of sad appeal to it, and like you, I watched the Oprah interview in disbelief. Believe it or not, the whole Lance debacle hasn’t deterred me from watching the tour and seeing how everything all plays out. I am, however, a little more skeptical now when someone does exceptionally well. Over time, I have also found myself scanning cycling articles year round to find out information about drug testing, doping and cover-ups by the organizations that manage competitive international cycling.

This year, like every year, I found the tour to be interesting and exciting. There were grueling mountain stages, sporadic rainstorms during treacherous downhill races, powerful sprints, massive accidents and painful injuries; strategic team attacks occurring over several hours and several kilometers. The areas that the different stages are scenic and majestic, and having never visited France, I feel like I’ve been there. I’ve received a 21-day history lesson from Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwin, dishing on both details behind the amazing landscape and details past and present about the cyclists who have participated in the Tour de France.

I thought it’d be funny if we upped the Tour de France ante and added some next-level appeal ala The Running Man to each stage. It’s be great if while cycling through the alps, the peloton also had to dodge projectiles that came from snipers in tree tops. Or maybe there were a bunch of AT-ATs and AT-STs set loose throughout the course, chasing and closing in on the cyclists racing to the finish. Another exciting scenario could be to insert a team of “bad guys” to try to affect the performance of the cyclists. I imagine the bad guy team to be wearing tattered leather Mad Max uniforms, and instead of power bars and bananas in their jersey pockets, they have tacks, grease, string, and other performance deterrents.

Imagine these two chasing after the peloton, hurling Molotov cocktails and screaming like a banshee. 

Imagine if the TdF had a stage where all the competitors had to drop acid and compete on BMX bikes.

Chris Froome from South Africa on Team Sky won the yellow jersey this year. I’m kind of indifferent about his win, I hope he isn’t on drugs but you never know. He seems to be pretty adamant that he is clean so I’m hoping for the best. I think there’s been a perpetual history of cyclists trying to figure out ways to get an undetectable advantage. I am pretty glad Alberto Contdor didn’t win; I do not particularly care for him. He placed 4th in the final standings. The winner I am very excited about in this year’s TdF is Nairo Quintana from Columbia, he ended up winning 2nd place overall, and he also won the Best Mountain Climber Jersey and the Best Young Rider (24 and under classification).