Giving Thanks Ride

I haven't blogged in a while. Here's the recent high(low)lights:

  • Headed out for a ride Saturday, chain broke, no tools, coasted home.
  • Took the remote control airplane out, crashed it.
  • Ate lots of good food for Thanksgiving.
This afternoon Jolene and I head up into the foothills for a ride. The hillsides look dead with all the leaves gone and the grass brown, but the different look has it's charm.

We thought we'd have to stay low, but conditions were surprisingly good so up we went. Betty then Upper Belt (Buckle?), then 051 over to Dry Canyon.

There was still some snow on Upper Belt, but it was still OK to ride. It was warm enough (low 50s) that I was comfy in shorts.

Nice view today.

Coming down into Dry Canyon was mostly good, but the steeps spots were a bit slippery with ice and mud.

Zipped down Dry Canyon then took BST back. Felt good to get out for a ride.

Freak Family

Meet the Freaks:



Oldest daughter

Middle daughter

Youngest daughter

The boy

This all started last week when a co-worker showed me a distorted picture of himself.

With Jolene gone to Moab, the kids and I got silly tweaking photos of ourselves.

I used Paint.NET (free!), but most any image editor will work. I used only one tool, Bulge.

Negative Bulge makes a squeeze. Clicking on the thumbnail image chooses the center (or use the sliders or enter a number).

Most of the images above have more than one Bulge operation. For instance, my image had a bulge for each eye and a squeeze for my mouth/chin.

We spent an hour or so distorting images and laughing at each iteration. A silly good time with the kids.

What's your favorite?

Winter Wonder Lunch Ride

I've been denying it, but I may have to admit it's Winter.

But it was so sunny at noon and the ground around work was dry. When I stepped outside the temperature reminded me it's November, but high 40s isn't bad. I knew I'd be able to ride something in Corner Canyon so off I went.

The lower trails were fine, but even then I'd see some snow and wet spots.

Heading to Ghost Falls, down in the shade, the ground was covered in snow, but only a couple of inches. It was actually fun to ride. There were icy spots but mostly it was just packed snow and I had good traction.

Then I headed up Canyon Hollow. As I went higher the snow got deeper. 3 inches. 4 inches. I had to work to keep my balance as I went in and out of the existing tracks. And the resistance caused by the snow made me work harder. Plus I had to pedal smooth so I would maintain traction and not spin out. I dabbed 4 times. I estimate it was 90% snow covered.

I went down the road. Started off snow then got a bit muddy, but not bad.

I figured Ghost Falls would be good since it gets more sun. It was, at first. Then some snow and more mud, but not deep. I felt bad riding the trail in these conditions. I wasn't making deep ruts, but was squishing a half inch or so into the goop. I tried to avoid the wettest spots.

North Ghost Falls was mostly dry and fun to ride down.

Even the BST (in the shade) had snow.

A more interesting lunch ride than I'd planned on, but obviously my expectations were off. It felt good to be on the bike.

If I had known the trail conditions I would have gone up South Ghost Falls then over and down North Ghost Falls. All the higher trails up higher are a mess right now. The snow was kind of fun to ride and it protected the trail, but there were also muddy spots.

One option would be to ride when the ground is frozen - morning would work. But I like the sun at lunch. I'll just have to confine myself to the lower trails.

In With In-N-Out

The company I work for has a connection with In-N-Out. A few days ago we received an invitation to attend the Pre-Grand Opening of the Draper restaurant.

We went early, and good thing because it got crowded fast.

Looks just like every other In-N-Out. And that's a good thing.

I let the free hat go to my head.

Animal style cheeseburger combo with a chocolate shake. Delicious.

Here's where the magic happens.

On our quickie, impromptu tour we saw the big, red, ripe tomatoes, the sponge dough buns with good old sugar (no high fructose corn syrup) and no preservatives, giant onions carefully prepared then sliced and diced, and of course the potatoes loving turned into golden fries.

My co-worker's son took a turn at the fry slicer - slammed the handle down so hard his hat went over his eyes.

The grand opening is tomorrow starting at 10:30 and I predict it will be a zoo.

The guy who gave us the tour said the Orem restaurant is also opening tomorrow. I didn't even know about this and I live in Orem. Be aware the map is wrong but the address is correct. It's near the intersection of State by Mimi's Cafe and The Outback.

The West Jordan In-N-Out will open next (in 2-3 weeks) followed by American Fork. I took this photo of the AF restaurant two days ago:

For the Wasatch Front In-N-Out faithful, the day of deliverance is at hand.

Charleston Chew Vindicated

After reviling the Mini Charleston Chews in my last post the comments were unanimously in support of the candy.

I've been wrong exactly three times in my life, could this be #4? (My wife will get a good laugh from the preceding statement.)

I have no desire to wrongly malign anyone or any candy so on my way home I bought a chocolate and vanilla Charleston Chew.

The ingredient list wasn't inspiring: Corn syrup, Sugar, Vegetable oil, Non-fat dry milk, Cocoa, Lactose, Milk Protein, Egg albumen (?), Artificial flavor, Soya lecithin (?), Soya protein (?), Salt. But this is candy, not health food, so I continued the experiment.

The wrapper suggests they are good cold so I cut each bar in half and put a half in the fridge.

I tried the chocolate first. The chocolate coating tasted about the same but a bit better. The nougat still had the compressed marshmallow texture but it tasted better. And no icky after taste. Remarkably better than the Minis from yesterday.

Next up was vanilla. I was hesitant because the Minis were also vanilla. I was pleasantly surprised to find the vanilla chew to also be pretty good with no weird chemical flavor and nasty after taste like the Minis.

Both flavors were also good chilled as the nougat was now brittle and snapped off when bitten. Indeed they did taste a little better cold.

Charleston Chews did not make it into my top tier candies (that's reserved for Snickers, Kit-Kat, Butterfinger and Twixt), but they've been salvaged from the "never eat this again" category. And I could see myself eating a Chew now and then when the hankering hit me.

The minor mystery that remains is: Why were the Mini Chews so awful? Perhaps the Minis are just made different and not as good. But the sad theory I'm leaning toward is that the Minis were not fresh. Could they have been from Halloween 2008, or even earlier? It's probably a good thing I can't recall which neighbor handed out the Minis. I think it's best if I just close this case and move on.

Nails on a Chalkboard

The kids were watching So You Think You Can Dance, a show I find repulsive. Not because of the dancers, most of whom are talented. The format of the show is annoying, with it's meager content stretched over a full hour, but that's not the worst.

It's Mary Murphy's voice. (Listen, if you dare.)

I would rather endure a car alarm or nails down a chalkboard than listen to her hideous mouth noises. She gushes in the worst possible way - loud and obnoxious.

But the nightmare is her laugh, which makes me want to shove something in my ears, say ice picks, to make it stop. It's some sort of evil cackle tragically combined with a belly laugh.

If I do something really bad, like suicide bomb an elementary school that's also a children's hospital and a church, I would fully expect to wake up in hell married to Mary Murphy. In a one-room apartment. And my arms removed so I can't plug my ears.

When the show came on I retreated to my room. I can't repel firepower of that magnitude.

Awful Candy

My son shared some of his Halloween candy with me this year (some he offered, some I appropriated - for his own good, you know; I helped him get that candy by walking with him so I deserve a cut).

A few weeks ago he gave me a small box of mini Charleston Chews, which had been opened. I should have known something was up. A 7 year-old giving away hard-earned Halloween candy? I unwittingly thought he was just being generous.

So I pop one of the harmless-looking balls into my mouth and chew. At first it's OK, the passable chocolate coating numbs my taste buds like the topical anesthetic the dentist uses.

Then the "nougat" center hits me. It's nasty. Calling it nougat is beyond the leeway I grudgingly afford to product marketing. The texture is marshmallow-ish, like foam rubber, and the flavor is distinctly petrochemical. Valvoline 10W40, if I'm not mistaken. And it left a bitter after-taste that would not die.

How can something this awful come from the same company that makes Tootsie Rolls? I suspect Charleston Chews are made from Tootsie Roll by-products. Probably cheaper to make industrial waste into Charleston Chews than to have the hazardous substances properly incinerated.

After taking the photo, the Chews went in the garbage. I hope the EPA doesn't find them and charge me for illegally dumping toxic chemicals or I might be a misdemean.

Peeps used to be my most reviled candy, but Charleston Chews has taken the crown from the repulsive fluorescent baby birds. You have been warned.

Update: Charleston Chews were vindicated after trying full-size bars.

Recent Happenings

I haven't blogged in a while, and I know you're anxious to hear what I've been doing, so here's the summary:

Wednesday - Good lunch ride up Corner Canyon. Started at the EQ, climbed up Canyon Hollow then came down Ghost Falls.

Thursday - Another lunch ride since the weather was still warm and a storm was coming. Started at the Coyote Hollow trail head this time. Climbed up Clarks. Wanted to go down Jamie's trail, but it was closed for resurfacing. So I went down Canyon Hollow then up and down Ghost Falls. The dark clouds threatened, but not a drop fell on me.

Friday - Picked up 50 pounds of chocolate chips from our dealer. Then went to Simply Sushi and gorged ourselves. We had 3 plates of Spicy Upside Down Shrimp nigiri, and I wanted to hurt myself by eating more, but Jolene talked me down. My favorite was the Playboy roll. I tried my first hand roll - pretty good, but the stronger nori taste and texture was kinda weird.

Saturday - The bad weather bummed me out so I vegged out watching a few movies.

Sometime during the week I finished Angels & Demons. It was pretty good, but the ending was weird and seemed forced. Several people told me they liked it better than Da Vinci Code, I say no way.

Jolene picked up two books for me at the library. James Michener's Hawaii, and Bill Bryson's In A Sunburned Country. I was surprised to see how thick Hawaii was. I flipped to the end - 1130 pages! Not sure I want an epic right now. I read the first 10 pages as Michener waxed on about the island growing from a crack in the earth until it finally broke through the waves of the mighty Pacific - uh, I think this guy is too long-winded for my taste. The last long book I read was The Pillars Of The Earth, and it was fairly good but wore me out. I can read 3-4 books in the time it would take to read Hawaii and I'd rather have the variety. I'd consider listening to it as an audiobook, but the library doesn't have it and that would be at least 2 months of commuting.

A Sunburned Country has been delightful. I thoroughly enjoyed Bryson's writing in A Short History Of Nearly Everything and he's even better with the more casual subject of traveling in Australia. I've already laughed out loud a few times.

I may have something interesting to blog about on Wednesday.

Video: Fall Moab - Fruita

I didn't get the best footage, but here's what I did with it:

I was amazed Bob tried the rock drop on a fully rigid bike. And he almost landed it.

I enjoyed watching the guys try stuff over and over. Like a playground.

Laid-back mood for every ride. No hurry, even though all these guys are fast. Regrouped frequently. Help with mechanicals. Encouragement to try stunts, but no pressure. Just a good time out with the boys.

Fall Moab - Fruita Edition

This weekend I was in Fruita mountain biking with the brethren. It was an excellent trip with sunny days in the 60s - hard to believe it's November.

Friday afternoon was a quick ride of the Horsethief loop. The drop in is rough. Eric and Erik give it a go.

Bob gave it a run.

Saturday we rode the Tabeguache (Lunch Loops) area. Up Eagle's Wing and made our way over and down Gunny then back up and down Holy Cross then back to the parking lot.

Regrouping on Eagle's Wing.

Our fearless (quite literally!) leader, Rocky.

Bob and Nick flew in from Seattle. The abundant sunshine was too much and they sought out a darker spot to remind them of home.

Fruita is rugged, so you get your share of hike-a-bikes.

We finished off Saturday with a quick run out to the 18 Road area. A moderate climb up Prime Cut then flying down the whoop-dee-doos and banked turns of Kessel Run.

Sunday we went back out to the Kokopelli area and took Mary's out to Steve's Loop then on the way back we took Wrangler.

Good riding and nice views out on Steve's.

On the way back home we stopped at Ray's Tavern for burgers and ate outside. (It is the place for everyone.)

Yes, this is an abbreviated report. After days of riding with fast guys through rugged terrain, I'm tired. Didn't have it in me to tell the tale.

I enjoyed the company. Thanks to all who made this happen.

I've got some good video I'll put together and post tomorrow.

Lunch Ride Gift

68 degrees + 11 month + 12 PM = lunch ride

Not riding yesterday was a sin (warm, sunny, trails mostly dry). Fortunately I was given a second chance today.

I've been riding Corner Canyon a lot lately so I mixed it up by riding up Oak Hollow. The trail was in good shape and I even made the tight switchback (on the 2nd attempt).

I headed up Maple Hollow through the culvert. The deep pea gravel in the lower half had me pumping the pedals to churn through it. The upper half has a deep washed out channel but there is room to ride on the sides.

I chugged up the trail and made the tight switchback on the ridge/hillside (1st try this time). The climb was fantastic with dry trail and some good views (except for the smog in the valley).

At the place where the trail ended last time I rode it, I found it continued in a roughed-in state. I was able to ride some, but more often pushed or carried the bike.

I was surprised to see snow lurking in the shadows. The trail was muddy in places, but nothing bad.

I arrived at the downhill trail, Crack at this stunt (which I rode for kicks).

Which is right above the half pipe trench. The Mapple Hollow trail is visible on the other side. The roughed in section begins not far past the left edge of the photo. I was hike-a-biking for 150 yards or so.

I was looking forward to the downhill trail, but it was pretty muddy and chewed up. I was off the bike several times. But the lower stuff down in the gully was dry so I got some DH fun.

I finished off the ride by going back down Oak Hollow. A good ride on a sunny, warm gift of a day in November.

(And the frightening Halloween post gets pushed farther down, yeah.)

Recent Books

Before I get to the books ... Tonight my wife said something she thought she'd never say: "Please do a blog post." What prompted this? The hideous photo of me dressed up for Halloween. I must admit, while it seemed funny at the time, post-Halloween it's disturbing. My chubby, pasty, hairy gut is an affront to all that is good and decent. (I can't believe I didn't get razzed in the comments for it.) The purpose of this post is to push the Halloween post down where it won't be seen.

Now to the books. I've read a few recently. Here are my reviews:

Founding Brothers - First a story. Last Fall I yearned for something new to read, so at lunch I stopped by a bookstore and asked a 50-something guy there what he recommended. Those of you who are more literary will probably view this as a rookie mistake. He showed me several books and I selected Founding Brothers. I immediately discovered this is not a light read. It's dense and precise. It's obvious the author knows this subject deeply and he works hard to craft each long sentence to convey the exact meaning and tone he intends. But this level of exactness is tiring and I put this book aside 4 times for other books. A less stubborn person would have dumped the book, but this book was my choice, and I paid money for it - not like some library loaner. So my pride compelled me to finish it. Well last week I finished it and I felt pleased I'd stuck with it. No, that's not true, I felt relieved to be done with it.
My twisted motivations aside, I'll try to give an impartial review. The author is obvious an expert in Revolutionary history. His ample command of language allows him to accurately convey his assembled picture of the scenes and the people involved. His insights into the events, motives, and personalities is fascinating. Consequently I gained a deeper understanding of a handful of key Revolutionary events. But the reading is slow going with long sentences filled with big words. Often I got to the end of a sentence only to realize I'd read the words but not soaked in the meaning, so I'd read it again. A good book, but it made me work and sometimes I resented that. Dug listened to the audiobook - that's the way to go as it would be a stimulating lecture.

Big Bang - From the title you'd expect this book to be a long, dry explanation of the big bang theory. But it's really a fascinating history of astronomy, cosmology, physics and other sciences that led to the theory of the big bang. I thoroughly enjoyed this book (disclaimer: I dig science), although the epilogue was a bit too philosophical. Also, some of the examples were not needed as the explanation was enough (but they are easy to skip).

The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Good writing, good story - I liked this book for what it is. Tough to do this kind of story without it being too sappy, sentimental, preachy - he mostly pulls it off. Some good ideas and food for thought.

We watched the made-for-TV movie based on this book with Jon Voight and it was pretty good.

The Book Thief - I liked the staccato writing style, the Nazi Germany setting and the unconventional 3rd person storytelling. Is kindness all that really matters in life? Possibly.

It was a freezer book for dug, and I agree with that.

Now I'm reading Angels And Demons. Everyone I asked liked it. So far it's a roller coaster ride like The Da Vinci Code. I'll finish it in a month - yeah, I'm a slow reader. I need to try some audiobooks for the commute, as dug and Mark have recommended.

Halloween 2009

Meet my Halloween persona - Wyatt Rash.

When I was in costume I tried to kiss my wife but she recoiled and pushed me away. Evidently this is NOT her type.

She was even less pleased by the influence I'm having on my son.

For the Hell-o-Ween night ride with the guys I'd prepared a few red-neck accessories. The old Trek helmet with lycra cover and a $1 flashlight was good for lighting up a full 2 feet ahead. And the camALEbak took care of my "hydration" needs. (I didn't wear these on the ride.)

Here's the sign I came up with for the ride. I found the pumpkin along the road on the way home from work - it was fate. I did the carving.

I only had time for these two photos before the ride started. I was impressed by all the good costumes.

For the race up the Water Tank road climb I pushed it, but not too hard - didn't want to be blown for the rest of the ride. (That's the story I'm sticking too.) I couldn't believe how fast the lead guys shot up the hill.

At the top I volunteered to run sweep, in honor of Dug, who some people said was there, but others said he wasn't.

Heading up the Belt trail was an awesome sight with all the lights marching up the hillside.

At the Altar a few riders decided to cut it short so they went down and I took off trying to catch the group, whose lights had just gone over the ride to the west.

It was a little eerie going solo. The clouds were moving across the sky alternately hiding and revealing the nearly full moon. There were occasionally sounds off in the brush. And at the ridge a purple ghost decoration was hanging from a tree. It was a perfect Halloween night.

At the puddle I saw the group, but couldn't catch them. Up on top I was surprised to see Kenny coming the other way - he was going back to look for his lost glasses.

On the downhill I settled into a good rhythm and enjoyed the nearly effortless flow. Certainly it helped that these are my home trails.

On the hillside above Dry Canyon I could see the group's lights down in the canyon. I made it down in time to catch the tail end of the group and Rick taking video.

The ride down Dry Canyon was sweet. The darkness makes the edges look more ominous. I heard a few people rode the pipe - I did not. The lead group went down the stairs, but I took the cutoff and joined the pack about ready to ride the final leg - the BST back to the parking lot.

I asked Rick if he wanted to lead out, he told me to go for it. I love this section of trail and my home court advantage allowed me to ride it pretty fast. I was still in a good groove and it flowed so smooth - I had a big grin on my face the whole time. And Rick was right behind me, motivating me to keep the pace up.

Many of us headed to Denny's for breakfast. I enjoyed the food and spending time laughing and talking. Then, well after midnight, we all went our separate ways in the dark - back home.

Halloween day I went out to mow the lawn and it was so nice I decided I HAD to go for a ride.

I went up the Water Tank road, up Betty and Belt, down Frank then out the road and down Dragon's Back, up the pipeline then down to Nunn's Park and over to the BST by Bridal Veil and took it up and out the canyon.

After crossing Squaw Peak road I usually go up, but this time I stayed on the old double-track looking for a trail I'd heard people mention. I found it and took it down to a little trail head park near the mouth of the canyon. It was a fun ride, but the switchbacks are tight and didn't make any of them. I'm still finding new trail, how sweet is that?

Here's the family dressed up for Halloween.

I took the ninja boy out trick-or-treating.

Here are our jack-o-lanterns. I did the flaming one. Soak a roll of toilet paper in kerosene and light. It's supposed to last an hour, but mine only lasted 20 minutes. Perhaps cheap toilet paper isn't even good for burning.