Saturday, June 25, 2016

Friday, December 27, 2013

After three years of searching, the photo is finally here. Thanks to a Senior Patrol Leader from my old scout troop the Bigfoot Trail sign has been documented. This snapshot is a few years before my time, but rest assured I stood there quite a few times a handful of years later.

Monday, December 16, 2013

I always look forward to getting a hold of some Jingles cookies each holiday season, but it looks like the  monsters at Keebler have taken their ball and gone home this year.

Monday, November 04, 2013

I have a new uptown problem.

Way back in 2003 I plucked a copy of Walking Dead #1 from the shelves of Tenth Planet in Oak Lawn, IL. I buy comics every week, love horror comics, and thus give every new horror comic a spin. I ended up not enjoying the WD, but I dutifully stored it properly after reading it. Years ticked by, the series kept trucking along every month, and the tv show boomed. The comic series has been reprinted many times so it is very easy and cheap to get a hold of the old stories and enjoy them. I believed this made the original book have (like every other comic printed in the last 20 years) minimal value.

Boy was I incorrect. I realized last year that since there were only 7500 copies of #1 printed, the demand is pretty high to have a true copy of #1. So I dug it out of the basement in Indiana and sent it off to CGC to have it professionally graded and preserved. In short, it came back a 9.8/10. There are (0) 10s and (18) 9.9s out there. Granted, there are a pile of 9.8s in the mix, but not too many. I believe a 9.8 is worth a great deal (about $1500 right now) and also represents the last affordable step before insane prices kick in. (A 9.9 went for $10k last year).

I have a mild itch to sell it while the show is still hot, given that I have zero emotional attachment to the thing. But I am struck by the fact that it is so easy to store and forget about, and that Henry might grow up and find himself in love with zombies.When to cash in on a $3 investment? Or not at all?

IMG_3186 (Large)

Friday, October 11, 2013

IMG_3086 (Large)

I'm trying to remember the crazy rules we used when we played football in grammar school. It all made sense at the time and was probably the best set of rules given the parameters at hand.

The field was about a third of the length of a city block and went tackle-touch-tackle. We were allowed to use all of the land from the street up to the staircase of the bungalow or edge of somebody's bushes. The first patch of grass next to the street was tackle. The sidewalk in the middle was tag, and the chunk of grass from the sidewalk to the staircases and bushes was tackle. If you were on the cement and someone wrapped you up you were technically down, though you could expect to be pulled down into the neighboring grass for good measure. If you were tackled near the bushes, you were probably going to get shoved into the bushes. John Martin's house was set back and had twice the front grass as the rest of the block. It was a great place to expand your passing lanes, though his dad always rumbled outside and complained that our running was shaking the house inside. I have no clue what was going on in there, though I doubt it was watchmaking.

The rule for first downs was two completions. Completions were successful passes. The yardage did not matter, only that it was caught. There were quite a few screen passes on 3rd down that ended up in losses. First down regardless.

We were free to run the ball, but it didn't contribute to first downs so who cared. The quarterback was allowed to run a sneak if they yelled, "Sneak!" That rule puzzles me now.

The rusher stood in front of the QB with arms raised as they counted "One-onethousand" up to ten, at which point they were free to blitz. They could also blitz immediately if they yelled, "Blitz!" at any time.

It is my hazy memory that you could only sneak and blitz once per possession. I guess this kept the game one of short passes where everyone was in play every down. Wise plan.

I may be remembering it incorrectly, but I doubt it, having played it everyday for about 5 years. As we grew older and braver in our abilities to ride our bikes farther away we dabbled in playing on large grass fields, but it was never the same. It always seemed more fun on a tight Chicago street bordered by parked cars and bungalows, even if you'd get tattooed by a tree in the middle of the grass now and then.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Winter is a growing wisp in the air here in Southcentral Alaska. Couple that with work and a plethora of other commitments, and you have a recipe for time drifting away all too quickly before the snow flies.

We decided to carve out a weekend moose hunt before the time disappeared. Maps were studied, boat fuel needs were sketched out, tags were picked up, and off we roared towards the confluence of the Susitna and Yentna rivers. The area had not been scouted, but all information showed reasonable moose habitat and river access. We know all too well the success rate of unscouted hunts, but spending a few nights in the Alaskan wilderness was more than enough of a siren song to lure us away from work and town for a few days.

IMG_4107 (Large)

The habitat was indeed adequate, but thanks to several weeks of steady rain we found ourselves standing in knee deep water alongside the marsh like clearings. We stood quietly in the crisp darkness, performed cow and bull calls, and watched as the morning sun rose and slowly crept across the clearing, eventually bringing warmth to our position at 9:30 am. The evening hunt found our hip waders in the same wet depths as the sun dipped through the clearing leaving us with the fall chill yet again.

IMG_4112 (Large)

While we did not encounter any moose, stoically observing a little postage stamp of Alaska yielded playful ravens and a lone wolf stalking the river bank. The northern skies exploded with stars each night as we slept soundly in the crisp air.

There was no harvest that weekend, but the time was undeniably well spent.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The snow will be coming sooner than we'd like up here, and the weekends available for trips are running short. We decided to hike the crow pass trail from Girdwood to Eagle River, but the weather seemed nasty, our backpacking legs were rusty, and shuttling the cars from A to B seemed like a hassle (especially given that we both have toddlers). So we chose door #2 -- a shorter trip where we would not need to move the truck from the trailhead. Also, if the weather was atrocious or our gear choices were unwise, we could easily pull the escape hatch and head back to the truck. Hanging Valley in Eagle River here we come!

IMG_4092 (Large)

99% of the folks at the trailhead walk all the way out to Symphony Lake, rather than take the almost hidden trail to the left that heads up, up, up into Hanging Valley. The flat trail to Symphony Lake is a powerful siren song, but we wanted the challenge and isolation of the tougher trail. It wasn't much tougher, but it was a definite climb.

And it was most certainly worth it. Across the valley we were treated to a perfect campsite next to the lake, a moose a good distance away that lingered all weekend, a wolf that tracked us a bit as we explored the valley, and a dozen or so goats that greeted us when we crested the north edge of the valley. It rained all Saturday night and all Sunday on our hike back, so our choice of an abbreviated hike was wise. A great time and a strong hunger now exists for a longer trip sooner rather than later.

IMG_4091 (Large)

Full photo set here.

Monday, August 05, 2013

As I prepared for the Fireweed 200 mile solo ride across some gorgeous Alaskan scenery, my mind was scattered uneasily across various concerns. Thanks to my excellent coach Jason Boynton, I knew my physical preparation was more than adequate - I had faith in my legs.

But what about my nutrition? Would my preparation and testing of foods during longer rides translate to what my body needed on those last 100 miles? My training had pushed me to peak for this 200 miles, as it's just not practical to train doing 200 mile rides over and over with an eye towards speed. This isn't training for a fast 60 miler, therefore the nutrition remains a bit of a question mark for that second 100 miles.

Where would my mind go? I had originally thought about loading up an ipod and zoning out, but decided against it. With all the scenery, riders from across the world, and solitude available, it seemed wise to just embrace what was given. Don't box it out and also enjoy the fact that it's one fewer thing to carry. So I decided on letting my mind drift into any rabbit hole of thought it desired. Find the bottom, remember that distant past, think about that guy from grade school on facebook I ought to email, compose the email, and then drift to the next idea. I had over 12 hours of pedaling to swallow. Let the mind run free.

Picture 967 (Large)

What about the weather? 13 hours of Alaskan weather means anything is on the table. Coupled with the fact that I would be starting at 6 am, I needed to dress for a crisp morning, a potentially hot afternoon, and random rain whenever Alaska feels like it. What to choose to wear, and where to pack it?

As the ride approached people would ask me if I was excited. "Not really, though I know I'll enjoy it when I get going." The nerves and stakes were high. What about a crazy mechanical in the middle? What about the mental defeat if I had to withdraw? As in everything in life, just worry about what you can control and do your best.


I awoke in my tent at Sheep Mountain at 5 am, greeted the blaring sunlight that was there at midnight when I closed my book, and began swallowing my PBJ on wheat. Nutrition plan #1 was to have easy, good food that would have some time to digest before my legs started spinning. Very few riders were stirring across the sea of tents, bikes, and vehicles that littered the gravel airstrip. I had elected (almost embraced) the option of leaving in the first wave at 6 am rather than the slated 8 am start. Better to just wake and get it on. I slowly took my time dressing, filling water bottles, checking the bike again, and making final choices about what to wear. The sunny 50 degree blue skies made it easy -- arm warmers, knee warmers, short sleeve wool jersey, and a balled up rain jacked in my jersey pockets. I crammed some gel packs, a second spare tube, and a few cliff bars into the other pockets and shoved my dew glistened tent into my truck bed to dry. With each of my three jersey pockets bursting I walked over to the starting line happy that I was not rushed. I mingled with the 30 other early birds, readjusted the velcro on my shoes a few more times, and pedaled off at 6:02 under a waving Alaskan flag.

Thankfully the hills began by simply rolling and the wind was at my back, giving me the chance to set a smooth, swift pace which found me whispering a mantra inside my mind. "I'm doing it. I prepared properly and I am doing it. Exhale." I soon relaxed, began digesting the mountains, tundra, and glaciers, and realized that most of the people on the course doing the 200 mile ride were members of a team. I watched them swap riders every 2 miles or so and quickly embraced the fact that they would be passing me with their multiple, fresh legs. I was in the minority -- 200 miles solo without a support car. The food stations every 30 miles would be enough. I am ready.

The nutrition concerns ended up being moot. I ate conservatively, drank HEED, and never took more than a few minutes break at each rest stop. My body was ready to roar and I gave it no opportunities to take any detours.

We were instructed that at the 80 mile point there was a 17 mile stretch of intermittent construction, concluding with a 2 mile stretch of severe construction. We were also told that because 24 hours earlier a rider on the 400 mile solo (what!?) ride had taken a header on a bridge within that 17 mile stretch, we were allowed and encouraged to simply load into our support cars and drive that 17 miles. A wise choice to be sure by the ride officials, but in my case it was not an option. If a ride was not available, we were told to keep it safe and pedal up to those final 2 miles where we could throw our bikes in the construction crew's pilot car, which is what happened for me. So I added 15 miles of pedaling to my time that many folks did not, chatted with the Palmer girl that was driving the truck for the road crew, and swallowed the fact that my legs were ready for a longer ride than everyone else. I did the work and could happily handle doing it the longer way.

This ended up being the sunniest and hottest day on record for this ride, and by noon I had rolled off my arm warmers. My legs felt great, 100 miles were down, and it felt like a hot Wisconsin ride. My mental game plan ended up being foolish though. I spent my thoughts planning the next time I should drink, the next time to have a gel shot, monitoring my heart rate, and marking how many miles away the next food stop was. I realized a few times I was drinking too often or not enough, so a schedule seemed wise. Fixating my mind of the next 3 tasks within the next 20 minutes was more than enough to chip away at this long day.

Upon mile 125 or so I realized that I was quickly running out of water, the sun was high and hot, and the next rest stop was 14 miles away. This was the kind of nutritional blunder that could derail the next 6 hours. Thankfully there are random support cars every 10 minutes on the road awaiting their riders so I picked a friendly looking one and stopped with  a request for water. Out came a smile and 2 chilled water bottles from a large cooler in the back of his Subaru. I thanked him again and again, and he told me he knows exactly how it goes some days. It was all my body needed as I made it over the hump and soon hit that rest stop 14 miles later.

While scarfing down watermelon slices at the support tent at mile 140 a rider asked the staff if they could sell him a tube. They told him they had none. He had used his spare and while running fine now, he was nervous without an extra tube.

I reached into my jersey. "Here you go, take this one."

"Are you sure? I don't want to take your spare."

"No problem. This is my second spare," as I motioned to the small bag under my seat.

This event is filled with nothing but great folks with great attitudes, and I hope I did a little to keep that going.

As the miles ticked over 150 and the slow climb to Thompson Pass began, the wind shifted into an endless punch in the face. Information at support stops told of clouds drifting across the surface of the road at the top of the pass along with the still present snow drifts. Becky, Lesley, and Henry gave me a quick, happy rest and water stop before I hit that final 50 miles.

Picture 962 (Large)

The climb was a beast, I wished I had a triple for a 60 minute window, and all the rumors were true. The pass had blotches of snow across the landscape, clouds nipped across my grinding legs, and Worthington Glacier was out in all of its glory. I pulled out my rain jacket for the first time of the day in anticipation of the wind on the descent, and quickly zipped down the mountain. The jacket fluttered in the 42 mph speeds and it sank in that I would be finishing this ride and that my nutrition and mind were everything they needed to be today.

Picture 974 (Large)

One hour later I arrived in Valdez, inhaled a Caribou sausage and Silver Salmon fillet, and took the greatest shower I have had in long time. In the end I pedaled for 12 hours and 45 minutes, had no mechanical problems, and realized a sense of accomplishment that you just can't explain until you are standing in it.

Picture 992 (Large)

(Full photo set here)

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

I started by mounting my bike at 6 am at Sheep Mountain.


12 hours, 45 minutes, and 200 miles later, I finished in Valdez. More details later.


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The older I get, the more I am driven into the past towards a fascination with older country music. With Henry toddling around our household we have made a specific effort to limit the amount of television that is on as well as keep any music reasonable (translation: much of my metal and hardcore is not the best choice).

Fast forward a bit and you end up with lots of old country music in the air thanks to many WW2 era radio shows on the mp3 player (all out of copyright and thus free). (There is also plenty of doom metal as well, particularly of the plodding, psychedelic variety.) My favorite show these days is Melody Roundup, which was on the armed forces radio network during the war. The comments about shortages, dedications to soldiers, and rationing is fascinating. The music is wonderful and the cultural snapshot is charming.

The Sons of the Pioneers played most of the show's songs and I now consider myself a huge fan. I can't speak to their later stuff yet, but the 1940's tracks are a delight. They've written and recorded a plethora of songs, which makes it all the more frustrating that I cannot track down a specific song that I heard on the show. The internet and google has failed me completely. The lyrics are plain as day:

Open Country is calling me...Just let me live where there's plenty of room...Let me live and die in that Open Country

Thankfully, I didn't have any trouble tracking this one down.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

I truly love The War by Ken Burns, and this is one of my favorite snippets. I hope to have a story half this cool when I'm an old man.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

My cousin's wife Stephanie Zimmerman (yes, The Fixer) was on Katie Couric's show.  It's always excellent to see good people moving ahead. And proud we are of all of them.


I have been training hard under the tutelage of Coach Jason for some summer bike events.  My legs are getting faster and sorer each passing day. I'm fairly confident that I will have the proper gas in the tank for the Fireweed 200 and the Eagle River Triathlon. 

C'mon summer!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Summer plans are shaping into focus and I'm attempting to carve my plans and goals into that time of seemingly endless sunlight. It might not be bright and sunny, but it will not be dark.

Halibut fishing (the freezer only has 3 lbs of filets left!)
Crow Pass Trail
 Eagle River Triathlon?
Fireweed bike race?

The last 2 need planning and specific gym goals.  Given that we just received a bunch of snow, cross country skiing is back in prime form, so cycling specific training is at hand yet again.

Friday, January 11, 2013

This has been a brutally, worthless winter. It started out with minimal snow followed by -15 temps for several weeks. I don't mind the cold, but we were stuck with too little snow to get out on skis and enjoy the trails. So we waited.

Finally it warmed up and good snow came. I was able to xc ski for 2 weeks before we ended up with 5 days of 40 degree temps. So now the snow is back down to its non-fun level.

There still has been no new snow and we are facing a weekend of rain. It's just odd. The temperatures have been plenty cold for a legit Alaskan winter, but the snow has not come.

Running on the treadmill everyday is not enough to keep my legs where I want them for the 2013 bike season.

Yes, I know I own a bike trainer. I have never enjoyed it, and there is just isn't enough room for it in our townhouse while an 18 month old Henry tears around.

C'mon snow.