Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Mow, mow, mow, mow

I need to mow

My backyard looks like this:

The front yard, is not much better.


I need to mow...........

but yeeeaaah, I'm not gonna mow.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Sunny Day

sweepin' the clouds away...

...can you tell me how to get, how to get to Hooray-my-grants-are-done Streeeet?
Yes, yes I can.

I'm going to take a nap.

The World Is A Vampire

sent to drain....

Ask me how the grant submissions are going....on second thought don't.

Its 1:00 in the morning. I've been trying to submit one since Friday night, plus a second one all day yesterday and today. That's 2 grants done, zero submitted successfully. I re-did the first one's whole form, because of a suspected glitch - it still won't take it. Uncle Sam thought it would be good to have 29 different Recovery Act grants due on the same day. They expect around 7,500 submissions. Turns out when you're giving out 200 million green, people are interested. The web is teeming with grouchy, stomach-acidy grant writers and sponsored program staff who are ready to burn down right now. Oh yeah, make everyone use the relatively new electronic submission and streamline things further by releasing a new software version a few weeks ago. I'm sure it won't be a problem that it invalidates many people's User Name and Password.

I don't know why I'm stressing, it's not a big deal if I can't get them in -- just a couple weeks worth of work for about 5 people, a big opportunity for a couple of aspiring researchers and around 2 million clams.

Whatev, meh.

"Despite all my rage I'm still just a rat in a cage."

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Time and Lack Thereof


Newton had his mathmatical, realist view of time as a flowing duration. Eistein had his special relativity view of space time fabric where past, present and future all exist simulataneously.

Then there's this thing, which just speaks for itself.

In their song "Time" the venerable Pink Floyd says,

"Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day,
you fritter and waste your days in a off hand way."

I have my own theory regarding a special condition of time, grant time. There's nothing realistic or especially relative about it.

E = do you know I have a deadline?! Please stop talking to me.

The past blurs, the present lingers breifly and the future looms. As deadlines approach the only thing flowing is angst. Conceptual differences boil, stomachs churn. Its quality time.

I think the most fitting circle of hell for grant writers is the 4th, which is dedicated to Hoarders and Wasters. Its very greed (remember grant writing is all about the Benjis) and squandering focused, which is all about - what? - time. The punishment here is heavy burdens, pushing boulders around for eternity. Nice. Reminds me of my main man, Sisyphus, pushing that rock up the hill. At least grant writers will be buff in the evermore.

Thanks Dante, I guess I'll be checking in for a few more days. Is a non-smoking room even an option in hell?

My boss is going to Spain. I went to Spain once, it was nice there. I didn't write a single grant during my visit. Hmmmm, Espana.

"And you run and you run to catch up with the sun but its sinking,
racing around to come up behind you again.
The sun is the same in a relative way but you're older,
shorter of breath and one day closer to death."

Well, that's a real pickmeup Pink, thanks.

What am I doing? I don't have time for this.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Trail Dog Rides Again

Dog, hike, Banner mountain bike trail, fun.


Thursday, April 16, 2009

Have You Run Over Anyone Today?

I think I'll run over a couple of people with my car on my way to work today.

I mean, why not? Since it only costs $35 dollars it is a relatively cheap stress reliever. I'm not sure if $35 exclusively covers running over cyclists or if walkers and people rolling those little motorized scooters would be more or less coin. Maybe I can get a group rate if I run over a bunch of people, or a 2-for-1 deal. I'd better find out where the deals are before I go all Mad Max, otherwise this hobby could get pretty expensive.

Since cyclists aren't really people, typically not having friends and family, I doubt anyone would miss them. As an added incentive, cyclists rarely make a positive contribution to society so picking a few off could be considered clearing out the dead weight.

I've started a fund to finance mowing down side of the road irritants and at this point I can afford to make up to 10 people my personal speed bumps. So, be warned - if I'm 5 minutes late and texting someone while changing the radio station or - you know what - even if I just don't like the look of you -

it's so on.

I've got the money, the car, the patience of a gnat on crack and the moral compass of a third world dictator.

Oh yeah, I'm pretty set. It's runnin' over time.

What do the cyclists have? Flimsy aluminum or carbon fiber, lycra (which just makes me want to run over them even more) and an occasional "share the road" sign.

No contest: Toot, toot, beep, beep Scumbag comin' though.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Loquacious Means Wordy

One time my boss said I was loquacious - it means "wordy" - do you see any irony in that?

I tell you this now because I have no time to run on-and-on-and-on-and-on being all redundant and saying the same things over-and-over. I am beginning a time when an economy of words will be highly necessary. I have two major grant applications due before the end of the month. So, you can see, I will need to conserve my words and any incidental wit and/or charm that is attached to them. I will need every bit of mojo, juju and Word Fu for the shameless pandering for money contest.

Pressed for time and mental energy I'll need to go more Ernest Hemmingway on ya. There was a man. He was old. He had a boat. The End.
I love Ernie, he keeps it real; really, real.

Maybe I can take a page out of Dennis' book. I did 4 blog entries on the Womble, intricately describing occurrences both ordinary and otherwise. Dennis, very adeptly and unloquaciously, posted 2 pictures and said, "that was fun, what's next?"

For the sake of concise, succinct, laconic and compendious communication I should probably just rely on the 1,000 words that have been symbolically ascribed to a picture.

Try this one; it says see, I told ya that it wasn't that big of a deal when I fell down the tight bit on the big "exposed" hill.

Blah, blah, blah, blah, words, words, words, words, stuff and things.

Sorry, just had to get those outta my system. I can't help it, I'm loquacious.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

All Good Things Must Come to an End

So here begins the final chapter. If you are joining us late you should stop now, go back and read from Day 1. Not to be a militant blogger or something but there's some things you just won't get otherwise.


Day 3 begins later than Days 1, 1.5 and 2.0. The group stirs with all the furvor of a pack of bears emerging from hibernation.

Dennis is on a different wave length than the rest of us - did I mention he slept on the porch in his ultrasweet bivy sack sleeping bag survival system? Dennis is a bike commando, its just that simple.

Since he was up before us he began loading bikes, sorting out gear and generally moving the bears along. This was good, Yogi, Boo Boo and the gang needed it.

Our plan was to drive to where we left off the Womble Day 1 and ride the rest of the way to the western end. We drove both cars and shuttled the van to the North Fork trailhead. If you think Squirrel and Dennis are fast on bikes, you should see them in a van (a MINIvan for Craig Christ sake) on twisty, hilly, potholey single lane fire road. When I was done with that trip I was ready to drive in a car commercial.

Giddy Up.

The flatline on the end of this elevation profile does not indicate that me or my bike were killed, dragged along way and thrown off a cliff. I turned Mr. Garmin off at the end of Womble and back on at Vista where he died, the flatline is Mr. G trying to connect the end of Womble with the beginning of Vista. I'm just too lazy to go into the program and fix it. For Vista I only have a mileage estimate based on the trail map and an elevation estimate based on my legs, lungs and achin' back.

We knew the Womble leg was not long, at about 13 miles, and that it ended with a nice long downhill. This stretch had numerous hairpins where the benchcut trail contoured from sidehill to sidehill. It reminded me of racing those electric slot cars. I used to have a pretty wicked slot car set up when I was a kid. Only this time I got to be the slot car. From my experience I know you don't fly into a corner too fast or you'll get smashed against the basement wall, or - in this case - go too fast and fly your bike off the side of the hill. Whoohooo, slot bike.

I think we all just settled into a nice groove and didn't stop to regroup until we were almost all the way through. When we did break it ended up being an extended rest, which I utilized to practice rock and sticking throwing for accuracy, distance and sheer style. Nick seemed to think this was somewhat juvenile.

Nick - shakes head, rolls eyes
Me - shut up
Nick - what? I'm not sayin' anything 'cept...... great job
Me - oh greeat job, you gotta say it like that?(throws another big rock, this time it clears the trees and crashes down the hill)
Nick - yeah, great
Me - that couldda killed ya

Matt also kilt time chewin' the cud with these ole' boys from Tennessee. At some point during his yarn Matt jokingly referred to himself as the "Encylopedia of Downhill"....That ole boy didn't seem to think so. All kidding aside, they were nice guys.

From there it was a bit of climbing before the nice long descent to North Fork lake.

Teri finishing the Womble, you can't tell from this angle but she's about to officially declare her Craigness to all those present.

After mowing down sammitches at the Mt Ida Subway we went to take on the Lake Oauchita Vista Trail, some of the newest singletrack in the area. Vista has 10-12 miles completed, but plans are for well over 40 miles. They really know how to build here, its impressive how just one trail goes for milezzzz.

Vista was waaay buffer than rocky Womble. It was more like the familiar hardpack of home sweet Denman's Woods in Ioway.

The hills were kinder than W, but there was still significant elevation with a couple of doozies. For every twisty uphill there was an unwinding down, it was flowy goodness. Corey got well out ahead of me when I stayed behind to help Nick with a broken chain. Soon enough Nick and I caught up to Teri and Sam chillin on a bench overlooking the lake. Nick decided to pull the plug with those two so I was left to reel in Corey (as I knew Matt, Dennis and Squirrel were probably long gone). I caught up to Corey at about the 5 mile mark in. Shortly after that we found a kiosk with a map.

"You are here" sometimes isn't as clear as it sounds. Corey and I debated and guessed and hypothesized. "We're here, heading this way, soooo we should go that way......right? Ah, yeah, right." "You mean left?" "No, right, right?" "Uhm, correct."

About this time Matt rolls up from the other direction. "Oh yeah, we should go back this way." "Uh, nooooo, we already done hypothesized all that Dude, we're going this way." Despite initial confidence in our orienteering skillz we allowed Matt to convince us his way was better. Turns out he was right technically but if we'd gone our way we would have ridden longer, so I guess we were both kinda right.

I think the first rule of oreinteering is to follow your kinda right gut instinct, sorta, or something.

Finishing out the Womble was 13 miles 2,458 ft. Vista approximately 12 miles and I'll guess 1,900 feet of climb for a total of 25 miles and 3,358.

Total stats for the group

87 miles*, 11,458 feet of elevation*
*add a few more miles and elev for Dennis and Squirrel

158.5 references to Craig

Number of actual Craigs on the trip - 0 (or was it more than that?)

one broken: chain, shoe, crank arm, and 4(ish) flat tires

80 frozen toes

approximately 1,300 miles driven

left with 8 bikes, returned with....8 bikes

zero injuries (yea for me - no, "what happened to you?")

6-7 minor crashes

an undisclosed number of adult beverages consumed

approximately 16 $5 Subway footlongs destroyed

all of that =

One ton of fun.

When can we do it again?

Monday, April 6, 2009

Womble Day 2, Early in the AM

Sam flips on the light and announces that, indeed, his cabinmates have slept long enough.

I’m not exactly sure about that.

The group commences to stirring, stretching and pointless meandering throughout the cabin. Some people are sniffing this and that determining if it’s too rank to wear again. The standard didn’t seem to be exceptionally high.

Squirrel whips up deer sausage and egg burritos for the gang. I get strange looks for downing a Fiber One bar while waiting for my McSquirrel Burrito. The consensus is I will surely soil myself during the day due to my judicious fiber intake. I’m not worried though (okay, maybe a little).

We pack copious amount of dry socks and wrap our shoes in duck tape in an admittedly lame (and largely futile) attempt at waterproofing. Dennis hands out toe warmer packs, just in case. We are clearly traumatized from yesterday’s little piggy freezefest.

We head out going east this time toward the section that is supposed to have a little more elevation and a couple of spots with semi-exposure. We plan to follow the Womble to its eastern terminus and then maybe loop a little of the Oauchita trail before following the Womble back from whence we came. The out-n-back format means every climb is a downhill and vice versa.

The morning is crisp, but holds the promise of a nice warm-up via bluebird clear skies.

Entering the singletrack the group is very mellow, everyone still bringing legs back to life. My ON or OFF brakes are still howling, announcing my every use of them even on the relatively flat, twisty terrain. I’m chastised for over braking and honestly, I deserve it. Warming up everyone is pretty vocal, with several people declaring “I’m F@$#% Craig!” Hubris – it is a good sign.

We get to the top of the first climb and take a proper Iowa 8 picture.

It’s not long before we arrive at the exposed climb. Its not too bad, I’m feeling pretty good and ride the first 1/4th of it, but seeing that it continues up and up and gets a little tricky I dismount and start the hike-a-bike. Matt, one of the stronger riders in the group, has somehow got himself behind me and asks to pass so he can try riding the climb. I say sure and move to the side but quickly realize I’m standing right next to the trickiest spot, a little rock step up. I make the decision to try and get a bit further up the trail to give him a better place to pass but in my effort to bolt up the trail I trip on the rock and head for no man’s land. I quite adeptly flatten myself to Mother Earth and slide down the embankment slightly. I don’t know what it looked like to others, but I didn’t see it as that big of a deal. Nick said if I had somehow freaked out and spun the other way it could’ve gotten ugly. He’s apparently got a picture of it. That should be interesting viewing. Anywho, I jumped back up and continued the hike, stopping to hop back on and peddle the last 1/4th of the climb just for kicks.

I'm not sure if this was the spot, but it did look like this narrow, sidehill bookshelf bit.

Unlike the previous days waterpark ride, the trail was dry with the exception of several smaller creek crossings. I took a moment to pose my new bike in one of them. Hey Dirt Rag, Mountain Bike Action and any other mountain bike magazines – call me.

Nick had his 2nd or 3rd flat of the trip somewhere around mid-day, giving the group a nice excuse to relax creekside and take in the scenery and remember how lucky we all are to be here doing this instead of almost anything else.

more great trail

Hey, somebody get that Squirrel off the fur-nature.

Ooo, ethereal.

Day 2: 32.21 miles, 4,320 feet of climbing, one continuous grin.

Later, by the campfire, Squirrel was messing with me. He kept trying his hand at close range flash photography. It wasn't working well for him, poor guy.

I got him back.

Tomorrow its finish the Womble and tackle the Lake Vista trail; hoots and hollers.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Womble, Craig, Et al: Day 1.5

As I was sayin'...

The Iowa Eight rubbed the sleep outta their eyes, rolled outta the cars and into the parking lot to set about gearing up for an early morning ride. I knew the dawnish ride was planned because we couldn't check in until late morning. We talked about it via email so I didn't think to mention it to my carmates. Eh, heh, heh, Corey and Nick were a bit surprised when everybody started gearing up - oops, my bad :)

Temps were in the high 30's and the wind was whipping wickedly off the lake. There was much discussion about "shrinkage" as we donned layers of cycling gear. I went to take a picture and realized I had forgot to load my camera's memory card.

Awesome, didn't want to take any pictures of this dull crap anyway.

I cleared all the old pictures off the internal memory and later bought a new card so it was all good. Squirrel took the first Iowa Eight group photo, too bad he isn't in the picture but there was no time for that tripod finding, timer setting business, we needed to roll.

Note - I borrowed several pictures from Squirrel because he has a good eye, nice camera and is always miles ahead and can stop to set up shots. So, thanks Squirrel.

I also realized the maps I printed off, like the one below, for everyone were back in my office, which was very helpful. Its the thought that counts fellas (and Teri).

Aaaaaanddddd we're off ---

We headed east on The Womble from the Highway 27 Fishing Village, it was very nice that the trail was basically just across the street. As you can see on the topo profile, it hits you with a big climb right outta the gate.

Here's my Garmin's GPS maps of the day.

I was feeling pretty good and was happy with how I was climbing but definitely hoping the grades were going to mellow out. When we got to the top there was a nice vista.

When the hill mellowed the puddles, bogs and creek crossings began. Sometimes there wasn't a so-much a crossing as the trail was basically just a creek.

One creek in particular was a challenge as the water was fast flowing.

Matt gettin' all Man Vs Wild. Hey Discovery Channel, call us.

As advertised, there was no real mud at all. Its a little bizarre to us rich farm soil types to have so much moisture with so little goo.

Despite the abundant creek crossings the trail was fast flowing and a blast to ride, as you climbed up the ridges the trail dried out and you were welcomed with narrow, bench cut, highly packed trail that rides just about perfectly. Arkansasers, Arkansasi, Arkansasians - whatever you call yourselves you are lucky to have this set up.

I'll do another post reviewing my new bike, but suffice to say I love it. The bigger wheels handle gnarly stuff much better and climbing is good, it will take some getting used to fitting through tight turns and negotiating downhill switchbacks, but that should come with time. The only complaint I have is my brakes weren't adjusted properly and there was some gawd awful hyena squealing coming from them and they weren't modulating, meaning they were sort all ON or all OFF, no real feathering possible. They were still dern powerful, but I had to take it easy on the downs to keep from getting out of control.

As we neared the halfway point to North Fork Lake the sleepless night, long drive, cold temps and wet feet meant thoughts turned to heading back. We decided to opt for a fire road route to Hwy 27 and then pavement back to the cabins. The fire road ride was pretty cool. It was everything Iowa gravel grinders should be; miles of smooth rollers mixed in with long ripping descents and leg burning climbs. I was feeling pretty spry and kept up a good pace through this section. The chilly creeks had soaked our feet and the fire road speed was cooling them down further. We tried not to think about how bad it would get on the Hwy while maintaining a higher speed and being in the open wind. Trying not to think about it is easier when someone (Nick) isn't constantly talking about all-things toes and feet. You wouldda thought this guy was a Podiatrist or something.

Me: Shut up about the feet
Nick: Ok (mumbles something about metatarsals)
Me: Good, let's change the subject
Nick: Ok, well my toes are cold

Unfortunately our toe-fears all came to fruition when we arrived at Hwy 27. It was a long 7-8 miles back to the cabin, but at least we had a wide, buttery smooth bikelane/shoulder. I wasn't really pressing it, but I was feeling good stamina-wise so I kept a good pace all the way back. I was really motivated to end the toefrost as soon as possible.

Note: Squirrel does not like to be passed by anyone for any reason - ever. He was on a singlespeed, so there's only going so fast, but he still whizzed by me on a couple of occasions, just to prove a point. This guy will definitely be racin' wheelchairs down the halls of the old folks home someday. Upon arrival I immediately got in the SUV and turned the heater up full blast, floor vents blazin'. Peeling the wet shoes and socks off clammy cold, "numb" feet was a below average experience. I think that's as cold as my feet have ever been.

Tell me something - when a body part, like feet, are "numb" from the cold why does it hurt? Isn't that the opposite of numb? They need to call that something else.

Squirrel told me he didn't appreciate the passing, in his own unique way. I told him I was f@#$! Craig, so he'd have to deal with it :) Day 1 in the books: 24.5 miles, 3,780 feet of climbing.

It was too cold and we were too drained for a campfire, so it was veg, veg, veg then sleep the rest of the day. We were in for a big day tomorrow.