Archive for June, 2006

Well, we made it. Our flight to Redding was delayed and we didn’t get off the ground until more than an hour later, but we touched down and cabbed over to the nearest motel and this morning we were up and away in our rental with our first stop to be the unfinished business of Castle Crags State Park.

Back in November of 2004 when we were up there for Thanksgiving, Susan and I got a late start hiking up the Castle Crags trail and were force to turn back about a mile in because of the falling of the night. Ever since I’ve been looking forward to the day we could return and finish the job and today was it.

It’s breathtakingly beautiful but it ain’t no easy stroll. At approximately three miles one way with an elevation gain of more than 2,000 feet you certainly have to work for it, but the gorgeous views of Mt. Shasta in the distance and the crags themselves upclose are well worth the effort. We even detoured to a side spot called Indian Springs where the mountain spring water literally comes pouring out of a fissure in this huge granite boulder. Amazing.

Anyway, here we are somewhere about 4,000 feet up in the crags:

[large version here]

We didn’t go absolutely positively all the way to the top, but where we turned around was fine with me in large part because it was hot and we were tired, but more importantly because we still had to drive hundreds of miles up to our destination tonight of Redmond in Oregon, which is where we are now safely ensconsed in our third-floor Motel 6 room that pleasantly surprised us a beautiful view of the sun setting over the Cascades — not to mention righteous and free high-speed wi-fi (thus this post).

Tomorrow, no hiking, but we are getting all backroady and expecting (fingers crossed) to end up in historic Baker City. Hopefully I’ll be able to find some internet with which to file my next report from there.

Over the years, I’ve compiled a quartet of trinkets that have become the charms I take with me wherever I may roam, and with us leaving tonight for a flight up to Redding followed by a whole bunch of driving through various states of the union and consciousness, they’ll certainly be coming along for the ride:


In reverse chronological order, the first one I got is that blurry block of stone on the right. It was given to me in the city of Salvador in the state of Bahia in the country of Brazil back in 1995 back when I worked for a trade magazine that covered the stone industry. There was a stone trade show down there and I’d been sent to report on it and believe it or not that little square of Blue Bahia granite was one of the most coveted pieces of shwag one could get. The head of the sole company down there that quarried and manufactured the stuff was notoriously diligent in who who found deserving and even though I wasn’t, I guess since I was a representative of the press he dropped one into my palm to curry a little positive copy. It worked, and I’ve brought it with me in all my international travels since.

I’ve had that dog tag for around eight years and it’s more of a local mojo, worn pretty much whenever I’m riding my bike around L.A. So far so good.

The pendant of the bear with the lightning bolt inlay is my Death Valley mojo, purchased during my first trip there in 2002. And it’s come with me every visit to the place since. I paired it with the dog tag in 2003 when I was training for and doing my eight-day, 475-mile Biking For The Birds fundraiser ride from San Francisco to Santa Clarita.

Last but certainly most important is the beaded bracelet, which Susan purchased for us from some shop in the Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi during our trip to Africa last year. After we got home I later installed it on The Phoenix (every bike should have a dedicated mojo), but I’m detaching it and bringing it with me (as is Susan bringing her’s).

Anyway, we and our mojos leave this eve. Since we’re driving back into L.A. at the other end of this trip we’ll be catching the LAX flyaway bus from Union Station. And while I’m hoping to be able to post as we go, our tempremental laptop and unknown internet connectivity along the way through Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Arizona and back here to Cali might leave me relegated to tossing up the occasional phonecam pix onto Flickr. Guess we’ll find out, won’t we?

If not, we’ll catch you up on the other side somewhere around mid-July.

Sure I had other pre-trip things that were more important to do, but I didn’t let that stop me from joining my fellow IAAL•MAF’ers on last night’s river ride, which by the time I returned home left my bike’s odometer showing 708.8 miles and whose last bit of physical exertion (despite that Foster’s Freeze cone I had before the ride!), had the scale showing me at 210 pounds this morning.

Two goals achieved: 700 miles on The Phoenix and 50 pounds lost — both ahead of schedule. But no time for celebration. Now my goal is to get my ass packed. Fortunately our flight to Redding’s not until this evening so I should be able to achieve that, too.

It’s simple really. Formulaic as a+b=c even. Here, allow me to illustrate with today’s example:

Inconsiderate Lazy Jerktard (a) + Vehicle Said Jerktard Left Blocking My Driveway (b)

= Parking Ticket (c)

UPDATE (4:02 p.m.): And here’s a couple more, just for fun:

I can only wonder if the occupants even bothered to check how much of their asswagon was jutting into my ingress/egress space…


And here’s the prize-winning POV from inside my truck looking out the driver’s side mirror. For those who doubt the impact these asshats have on my ability to enter and exit the garage, see how close I am to the wall and how much little wiggle room I have?


Just so it’s clear I’m no levelheaded sumbitch… when I returned home from my errands and the vehicle was still there I hopped up dramatically atop the Assburban’s rear bumper and after glaring at every window and doorway that had the potential to be framing whoever the flaming buttthead is that owns this global killer, I proudly and loudly hawked up one heckuva spitball and splattered it all down its tinted rear window where it dried almost immediately in this excessive heat. Then I took my time looking around again to see if that had brought about any reaction. Seeing none, I disembarked and adjourned inside.

Wasn’t as motivated this morn as I have been when getting up at 5 a.m. to go meet my fellow IAAL•MAF‘ers for our regular Tuesday post-dawn tour around the Silver Lake Reservoir, but as one of the more important items on my pre-trip To Do List is to top 700 miles on The Phoenix’s odometer (which stood at 675.7 after yesterday’s rounds), I managed to drag myself out of bed and get a move on at 6 a.m. for some solo spinning chaperoned by a gorgeous sunrise over the glassy smoooth still waters of the man-made lake.

Four vigorous nonstop times around later and back home the odie showed 687.3 and if I manage to take care of the bulk of my remaining pre-trip business today (which must now include having to haul my Mac’s suddenly W-less and 2-less keyboard to the nearest Apple Store; I’m using my old eMac’s) I’ll be able to join the gang for what’s become our weekly evening river ride, which will definitely put me very near or over the 700-mile year-to-date mark.

Before my beloved The Phoenix had come along, if anyone had told me I’d ride 70 percent of a thousand recreational and commuting miles in six months on a 53/17* single-gear cycle I’d’ve laughed. Loud.

* 53/17 represents the number of teeth on the front chain ring
and the rear gear, respectively, which from what I understand
is relatively badass.

Right out of the gate let me just say that you can put Robert Duvall in a cowboy hat and situate him anywhere on a wide open plain under a big sky and I’ll watch him do just about the most mundane of anythings. Lonesome Dove is just about some of the most awesomest television ever made and I’m terribly ashamed to admit I’ve never seen his Oscar-winning turn in Tender Mercies (I know, I know… I’ll remedy that soon).

duvall.jpgSo when I read last weekend all these glowing reviews that he was starring as an ornery old cowpoke in the two-part Broken Trail on AMC beginning Sunday I skedaddled over to the TiVo and programmed her on in there youbethca — hell I would’ve done so even if the reviews had been bad. Duvall in a western illicits something of a Pavlovian response. I even allowed it precedence over Deadwood, which I have most definitely become enamored with this season.

Well, I watched the first 105 minutes with limited commercial interruption and I have to amend my above statement about my willingness to watch Duvall watch paint dry as long as he’s sitting in a saddle somewhere in the latter half of the 19th century. I’ll sit in love with Duvall in a cowboy hat doing just about anything other than starring in a crap western where whoever wrote and produced the thing obviously missed the crucial ass/elbow life lesson because they clearly cannot differentiate betwixt the two and certainly demonstrate a failure a tell a tale that isn’t as by-the-numbers remedial as it gets.

Cases in point:

In the opening after the rather graphic exhibition of how bulls are turned into steers and then burned with brands — not a bad start — we have Duvall (Print) riding up out of nowhere to confront his nephew played by Thomas Haden-Church (Tom) to tell him he’s sorry but his momma died and he’s even sorrier to report that she done deeded him everything but this letter that essentially tells her only boy he can go fuck himself. Again, all’s good so far.

But Print’s got a plan, see. He tells Tom that he’s gonna put the momma’s property up as collateral for a loan so he can buy a heckload of horseflesh to drive on up to Wyoming to sell to some representative of her majesty the queen of England who’s advertising for them, and he urges the boy to come with him for a 25-percent cut.

Of course Tom does, but this is where the first red flag comes up, albeit a minor one. It would’ve been nice if the nephew had done a liiiiittle bit more than just basically thought about his uncle’s proposition for 1.9 seconds before saying m’kay and upending his life. Would it have killed the storytellers to stretch out the nephew’s disgruntlement and doubt so that maybe a scene could’ve been worked in where he has to come to his stubborn old uncle’s aid — maybe a fight or something — and thereafter decides he can’t live with himself if he let’s this old dude just go off and get himself killed?

Guess so, because next thing we see is they’ve got the bazillion horses and just the two of themselves are gonna transport them all the hell up to Wyoming. Just the two of them. With a bazillion horses. Riiiiiggggght.

Next we’re shown the bad guy played by James Russo somewhere buying five Chinese slave girls that he’s gonna sell to a madam somewhere. So there’s your set up. You got Duvall and Haden-Church moving horses across the prairie and Russo doing the same with some future whores. Think they’ll meet? Of course they will, but not before Tom has to tangent into a town for supplies, which is just a weak-ass excuse for the writers to put Tom in a bar where he kicks the ass of a bartender who — shock! — objects to some guy playing a fiddle and panhandling in his establishment.

Let me get this straight. The best the writers could give me is a bartender who has the audacity to not want a freeloader bothering his customers? And wait… you want me to like Tom for opening a can of whoop-ass on this poor sap?


To make it even more implausible, Tom shows up back at camp with the supplies and the fiddle player with some lame excuse about how they need the help, which Print readily says m’kay to. Well hell, why didn’t they get a hand before setting out? And why hire a guy whose shown he knows his way around a violin and panhandling but not herding horses? Can’t you at least give me a scene where fiddler shows he knows his way around a lasso?
Nah, because it’s crap writing people — and there’s pa-lenty more.

Despite it being the wild wide open West, it isn’t long before Russo’s evil captain and his fivesome of winsome Chinese lasses end up on the same very trail going in the same very direction as Print,Tom and Itzhak Perlman. Coincidence? Lemme guess the guys who wrote Crash wrote this, didn’t they?

What follows is some serious grade school-level scribing. At the releuctant invite of Print the captain is invited to join them for dinner. In response he brings a bottle of whiskey — that he’s drugged, of course… but why we don’t know specifically. Then over the meal by the campfire and while Print and Tom and Fiddleboy drink up and the five young ladies cower in the background, the captain explains where the girls are headed what they’re to become and offers them pokes at a buck a piece. All decline. Next morning? Oh yeah, our trio wakes up groggy and way late from the drugging to find four of the five ladies still there and still terrified, but the captain and the bazillion horses and all their money are long gone. Poof!

What the hell?

So of course Tom has to set out solo for the pimpthief and when he finds the bastard pronto with the one girl and all the horses — this is my favorite part — does he shoot the bastard? Nah, he sneaks up on him with a rifle while he’s sleeping, wakes him up so that he can hang him. Hang him? One moment the captain’s waking up with he biz end of a Winchester repeater pressed against his cheek and the next Tom’s riding off with the gal and the horses while the captain swings from a tree.

So pop quiz hotshot: Assuming you’re writing a scene about basically a descent nonsadistic cowboy who’s got a schedule to keep and a cantankerous uncle back wherever waiting with the fiddler and the four other whining hookers-to-be, would you…

A) Have him just blow the thieving bastard’s head off and get on ’bout his business?
B) Have him take all that extra time to tie the captain up and then make a hangman’s noose and then find a tree strong enough to support the baddie’s weight and then struggle to get that guy who I think would be rather unwilling to get up onto his horse and be hung and finally enjoy watching the guy slowly choke to death if his neck didn’t break right off. But then don’t show any of that stuff.

And pardon me, but how exactly does one guy get a bazillion horses and a scared girl back to Uncle Print? Oh well, if the captain could get ’em away, it shouldn’t be too hard, right?


Back to the quiz. The answer’s C, which is better yet howsabout you rewind and give up that whole drug-the-booze bullshit and create a more plausible conflict in the first place and one that isn’t resolved right away. Maybe the captain kills the fiddler and has to bail on the gals and then later on takes Tom hostage to get the girls back and then Print kills him. Something. Anything!

But by then, hope is gone and I’m at the point where I’m talking to the TV as the plot continues downhill from there and all the iconic images of Duvall in his hat don’t mean shit. One of the horses breaks its leg and Tom’s gotta put it down much to the shock of the girls. Print takes a liking to all the five gals, teaching them to ride and such. One dies from tick fever. We’re introduced to the madam whose bordello is in a lawless town and who’s upset that the captain hasn’t arrived with her new merchandise. Greta Scacchi shows up in a supporting role somewhere. Then back on the plain there’s a flat-out odd confrontation where Print up and shoots two travelers dead in the belief that one is a fellow named Smallpox Bob who tours around purposely infecting the natives. Then they burn the bodies and the horses.

By far the most inane cheaply written twist comes at the end. All of sudden kind-hearted grandfatherly Print just doesn’t want to have a cotton-pickin’ thing to do with them orientals no more and basically ordains that Tom and the fiddler (who by the way has not once played the instrument since the bar scene way back) take them to town and it just so happens the very town they begrudingly go to just coincidentally happens to be where the perturbed madam is. Of course she finds out and the first part ends with Tom blowing the thumbs off a would-be rapist (guess there wasn’t time to hang the creep up by them) and they make their escape (with Greta for some unknown reason) past the cursing rock-throwing madam who vows vengeance as strongly as Tom and fiddleboy vow not to desert those girls.

Good grief. It’s enough to put me off my feed. And needless to say I will not be returning for the conclusion.

I’ve written before about my long connection with the Daily Word, and though I comport myself as so godless a heathen on so many occasions it might come as a contradiction that I maintain — however tenuous — the conceit of a spiritual connection to the Lord.

But I do.

The last several days that I’ve been reading my Daily Words I’ve been doing so with my friend Joz in mind for her and her father, who sustained a brain hemorrhage Saturday morning. I want to share today’s with you and ask that however you put positive into the world be it with prayer or ritual or thought, do so for her and her daddy.

— • —

God is my guide, my comfort, and my strength.

A wise woman once offered this comfort: Imagine your life as a staircase — each step is a part of your journey. Some steps are smooth and unobstructed. Some steps have cracks or loose stones. Now picture a strong and secure handrail alongside each step of the staircase; that handrail represents the strength and security we have in God.

Along our journey through life, God is with us. We meet each day with assurance because God is ever present as our guide, our comfort, and our strength in every situation.

We are supported by God’s assuring presence throughout our journey in life. God never fails us. No matter what the circumstance may be, God is within us — guiding, comforting, and strengthening us. God is surrounding us — uplifting and steadying us.

“On the day I called, you answered me, you increased my strength of soul.” —Psalm 138:3

— • —

God bless Joz and her family and her father.