Friday, August 26, 2016

Nearly Legal Running Career

NOTE: Yes, I find it ironic that I am posting about this milestone as I transition out of a 7-month injury break from running.  However, I am deciding to focus more on the fact that twenty years in I still want to return to running and less that I had to take a break because running is deleterious.  {/NOTE}

Twenty years ago this month, August 1996, I became a runner.  I joined pre-season workouts for my high school cross country team and it all went downhill from there.

My dad will both hate and laugh at this story, but he either wasn't convinced this running thing would stick or he didn't really understand what this running thing meant.  My "running shoes" for that season were a white/blue, slightly higher-top, maybe-not-officially-work-shoe version of these, purchased from Famous Footwear (an upscale, WI version of PayLess).  My coach was flabbergasted and my shins were destroyed (so I've been acquainted with shin pain almost as many days as I've been a runner).  Let's not discuss my sports bra situation at the time.

I got real running shoes sometime over the winter, ran every day of the next summer's trip to England, and showed up my sophomore fall running my 4k races 5 minutes faster.  That was when everything really went downhill.

My sophomore winter I ran regularly with a member of the boys' team.  I still shudder at what we wore: cotton, almost to an item.  Cotton tube socks, ancient running tights that I inherited from my mother under !flannel! pajama pants (I have zero idea how I didn't start forest fires with my thighs), horrific sports bras, a cotton long sleeve under a cotton hoodie, with a fleece ear band.  Pretty much the only article of clothing that was similar to anything I wear running today was my thin gloves.  Marc and I would head out after school without a watch and just run, usually in the snow, returning 60? 90? mins later and about five pounds heavier in sweat and melted snow.  Those certainly were the ol' days.  No telling if they were good.

That was 1997 into 1998.  Running shoes were pretty much only available in white, blue, and occasionally red.  I didn't own my first technical material shirt until April 2002, which I didn't buy so much as pick up out of the gutter after it was discarded by another runner on the start line of a marathon.  This boon didn't save me though: I ran that marathon in soccer shorts and lost a lot of skin.  I received two technical shirts over the next two Christmases (2002 and 2003), and now I would only run in cotton if it was what I was wearing when I had zero warning to escape my burning house and/or zombies.

And here we are twenty years later.  I wear shoes made for running, which are mostly neon, and rotate 3 or 4 pairs of them at a time; wear supportive sports bras; and may have finally figured out how to avoid shin pain.  Next August I am going to take my running career out for a drink, but only one, because we will both be getting up early the next morning to run.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The Long Con

With that gut (literally) check and 7,249 miles behind us, The Best of the West Tour: Summer 2016 came to an end.

Nebraska faded into Iowa, which faded into Wisconsin, where my dad was waiting for Mom and me on the overpass we took to exit the last highway of the trip.

But really it was the end of The Best of the West Tour entire, begun two years ago almost to the day:

August 1, 2014 to July 27, 2016

13,882 miles

14 (or 15 or 16 or 17, depending on how you count) National Parks

Highlights of this second part (highlights from the first part):

* Beartooth Pass
* the Grand Tetons at dawn
* Glacier National Park
* British Columbia
* Cape Alava hike

But really, how do you choose the best parts of a space so vast and ever-changing?  Perhaps the highlights are that I feel I accomplished something meaningful; spent quality time with my Mom; and know my own country (and geography) so much better than I did two years ago.

My interest in exploring as much of the world as I possibly can might be the longest con of all.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Check Your Morals At The Border

Eastern Colorado looks like the classic Windows desktop.

Computer Generated

Colorado Generated
Exactly as was a goal, we passed the split in Western Nebraska that decides if you are going to see the northern portion of the West or the southern portion of the West.

Denver?  Cheyenne?  Bueller?
It brought a soothing symmetrical closure to this summer and two summers ago.  However it's the rest of Nebraska, east of the split, that has been on my mind since.

One of the first "sights" east of the split is a cattle feedlot.  Hundreds of acres hosting thousands of cattle in trampled pens, not a blade of grass or piece of hay or spot of shade on the premises.  Front loaders moving piles of literal shit, all a stones throw from the interstate.  Do they live there?  Where are they headed?  What will it be like there?  Where did they come from?  What was it like there?  

How much longer do they have to live like that?

Honestly, I can't say this sight isn't something I haven't seen out my front door.  We raised cattle until I was six years old, although far fewer (like 50, not 5,000) on much more humane land, and I swear that one of my oldest memories is of a slaughter-house.  

Nor can I say that the morals of feedlots have ever kept me up at night.  I'm not vegetarian or vegan.  I don't prioritize free-range or grass-fed.  I could very well consume one of those very animals and never know it.

But at least these cattle were robust, in the chemically-induced, improperly-over-nourished prime of their short lives.  A hundred miles later we passed two chicken transport trucks.  Those are the images that I will never get out of my head.

Have you ever seen pictures of those liberated from Auschwitz?  It was the chicken equivalent of that.  I'm going to guess 5,000, squeezed - there is no other word for it - into two 18-wheel trucks stacked with cages shorter than a chicken is tall, that hold probably 5 chickens each, if they are tossed in and don't expect to want to move after they land.  Totally open to the air; all sides of the cages were just chicken wire.  

And the kicker?  They were all essentially denuded of feathers.  Chickens are territorial, and they fight, stripping each other of feathers.  Chickens raised in such small confines fight constantly (not to mention break their feathers on the encroaching bars) until 5,000 of them streak down the highway, shivering naked in the wind.  Plus, the nutrition to increase their size isn't balanced enough to grow feathers that could withstand that torture.  

It's like a woman with brittle nails, hair, and bones trapped in a gladiator pit.

I hope they were headed to a processing plant, because I want the answer to "how much longer do they have to live like that?" to have been as short as possible.

Again, I don't have much of a moral leg to stand on.  I haven't really cut down on my chicken consumption.  Although it gives me pause to realize that my local Buffalo Wild Wings probably serves those two entire trucks to Bloomington residents on a 60-cent wing night.  I don't think I'll ever look at a 12-wing basket the same way again.

That's six lives that I had done nothing for, while I have housed three of these noodles in the last 10 days to keep them from being euthanized at the currently overwhelmed shelter.

Frank the angry teenager

bunny butt

Maxine and Lavosier
The math isn't fair.  In fact, the math is downright cruel, no matter what you don't eat and what you try to save.  I realized it before, but I didn't realize it before.  Rather than pretty pictures, I took away from Nebraska a dented conscience, a bruised heart, and more evidence that humans are the worst animals on this planet.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Elk ≠ Moose

I have an appointment scheduled for Monday in Boulder.  Our route was going to deliver us there a day early, so we hunted for diversions between Port Angeles, WA, and Boulder.  However, it stands to reason that that terrain was chosen as the Oregon Trail because it presented no diversions.  The most notable stops would have been Flaming Gorge and Hells Canyon - so now we know just how influential Dante was amongst the pioneer set -  but they were too far off the road.

Instead we arrived more than a day early and spent it in Rocky Mountain National Park, again.

The route to Estes Park from Fort Collins goes up Big Thompson Canyon, a 25-mile climb really popular with triathletes.




Rocky Mountain National Park is usually mountains everywhere you look.  Today, Rocky Mountain was mountains and elk everywhere we looked.






This view below represents as close as we came to our route from Walden to Fort Collins the night before, maybe about three miles as the crow flies.  Ain't no roads out there, little tour bus.







All the elk were nice looking, but still not moose :(



And then you descend off the Front Range through Ward and there sits Boulder.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

The Beauty Of Nowhere Special

Today was ultimately bulk driving, from Trementon, UT, to Walden, CO.  When there was no room in the inn, Walden, CO became Fort Collins and then Windsor, CO.  In between was just passing road and rocks, but it never really turns out to be just road and rocks, does it.

Just outside Vernal, UT...



And if you drove down the road just a ways more...


And then just a little ways more...



And then just a little ways back in time...


Then half a state further along, the road approached the Northwest corner of Rocky Mountain National Park, which is not a corner of the park with an entrance so almost no one approaches it that way.  They look tiny now, but tomorrow they'll be 13k ft mountains.





And then on the other side of the Front Range, which is the prism that turns almost all of Mother Nature into something either magical or ferocious...



Thankfully we got magical.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Suzy Died Of Dysentery - And Base-Jumping

A huge touchstone of my generation is the computer game Oregon Trail.  Mom had never even heard of it, so I regaled her with tails of being told "you have died from dysentery" during "computer class" in elementary school.  It was icing on the cake that I was telling her this while we were looking at REAL RUTS ON THE REAL OREGON TRAIL.



So many people, animals, and wagons traveled this route to Oregon's Willamette Valley in the years following 1843, that the tracks still remain in 2016.  For the next couple of days, Mom and I are driving the Interstate that effectively mirrors the Oregon Trail trail: west across southern Wyoming/northern Colorado, southern Idaho, and into Oregon.  Hopefully neither of us will contract cholera while doing so.

Route of the Oregon Trail

Later that day we stopped in Twin Falls, ID, to see...two falls in a big gorge, which is spanned by a big bridge.



It's one of the few places (maybe only place) where base jumpers can jump legally, so instead of even finding the falls, we watched a movie/TV production film a jump!

Stepping over a perfectly good railing
There they go (two people were strapped together)...







If anyone's contracting cholera, it's those people base jumping into green water...

On to Utah!

The Great Salt Lake at the very very far edge

Friday, July 22, 2016

Ge-I-Guess I'm Wrong

There's an awesome game on-line called GeoGuessr.  Given a StreetView picture, you have to guess where in the world that street is located - using only the information the picture provides.

If I had been given an image from today's drive, I would never have guessed Oregon.  I would have guessed someplace in Arizona that had just happened to maintain a river this late in summer.  

Oregon, is this!


Not this!


But oh ho! Neither would I have expected Washington State to be this:

Mt. Rainier

Mt. St. Helens
Ge-I-Guess I'm wrong.
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