Friday, March 5, 2010

Making a deal with Mother Nature

There's been a bit of a conflict going on between me and Mother Nature. She messed with my Vapor Trail. She locked down my local trails at least a month early this past fall. And she's been giving me an in yo' face winter to deal with.

On February 22nd I knew that I would be starting my new 40 hour/week gig, so I had two weeks to enjoy my weekday freedom. I wanted to take a day trip to Pueblo to ride the Lake Pueblo Trails. Not terribly ambitious, just a day riding singletrack without needing to make a drive all the way to St. George or southern Arizona. I had things that I needed to wrap up for the shop, so all I really wanted to do was enjoy some of the ordinary things about having time flexibility on weekdays.

Turns out there was a layer of wet snow about 3" deep all over the Lake Pueblo Trails that had been left behind by the weekend's weather. So I started watching the melt and dryout process through the interweb.

Mother Nature kept things cool, she kept her sun behind her clouds. She clearly did this to slow down the drying of the trails because she wanted to frustrate me. I tried to hide my resentment and avoided shaking my fist at her. But I think she knew she was getting to me.

Yesterday I went down there, ready to take my chances. A little mud? Fine. Hopefully not fields and fields of mud.

Turns out that there was some goo, but it was mostly no problem.

I rode The Duke to Rodeo/Rodeo Ridge. On Rodeo I encountered my first mud, on a short hike-a-bike. Not sticking. Good. Then I rode Cuatro Sinko. A couple pretty nasty bogs, splattering but not sticking (of course I rode through the middle of them, because it's the right thing to do).

I encountered a minor mud bog on Outer Limits, just past Pedro's Point. No biggie.

About mid-way through Outer Limits I saw a pair of bald eagles over the reservoir inlet between the Outer Limits and Voodoo peninsulas. There was ice on the water up in the inlet, and it looked like one of the eagles had picked something off the ice and was flying it to a probable nest in a cliff face over there. I stopped and pulled off my backpack, got my camera out, turned it on and looked for the eagles.

Gone. Can't see them anywhere. OK, I'll try to get them from over on the Voodoo side.

Looked like everything was going to be just fine, mud-wise. I was having fun. It wasn't terribly warm, but it was warm enough. Warmer than Salida! And it was the singletrack I craved desperately.

Then way out on Voodoo I rolled into a pretty bad mud bog, then another. I was going through the middle of each bog. Then I hit one that had the sticky mud, and it started to snowball onto the bike. I hate that; when the stays, fork and front derailleur all get clogged up with adobe clay.

Hate it.

At least it was short. I used a stick to carve the mud out of the fork arch, the stays, and off the tires to the extent possible. After I got under way I encountered several other bogs. Some had standing water in them. I started getting off the bike and carrying it around the bogs, trying to walk on rocks and not disturb vegetation. Eventually I cleared the thick juniper, which was keeping the trail shaded and therefore muddy, and continued on. Once I past out of those junipers I never again encountered mud so bad. Some of the bogs I'd passed on the way in were clearly dryer on the way out just a few hours later.

As I got to the edge of the cliffs over the inlet where I'd seen the eagles, I kept my eyes and ears open. I peeked over the edge a few times looking to see if there was a nest. Nope. So I just enjoyed the singletrack.

Then, as I rounded a corner, I heard a startle noise. I looked toward the noise and saw a huge bald eagle trying to hurriedly get into the air off the top of a juniper bush he had been perched on. It was perhaps 75 feet from me. I jumped off the bike, clawed the backpack off my back, yanked out the camera and spun around as I turned it on. I saw the eagle for just an instant as it flew below the cliff edge, out of site. Gah!

Oh well. I put the camera away, again, and got back on the bike.

I was starting to get tired as I finished up Voodoo. I'd been out for quite a while.

As I climbed out of the Voodoo trail toward the highway, I ran into Cannon and a friend both wearing the distinctive green of the Tennessee Pass Cookhouse Team jerseys. We chatted for a while, I warned them about the adobe mud, we talked about the last of the Leadville Winter Mountain Bike Race Series, the Mineral Belt Mayhem. Then we headed our separate ways.

Cannon and his friend riding out onto Voodoo

As I rode back onto Outer Limits for the return journey, I saw my eagle sitting on the ice. Haha! I will photograph him, yes I will!

He was probably 300 yards away, but I knew I could get a pretty clear shot with my camera's zoom. He was far enough away that I hoped he wouldn't be spooked by my movement. Once again, I leaped off my bike, peeled off my backpack, pulled out the camera, stood and looked--he was gone! Where? I looked left, I looked right. I could not believe it really, how could he get out of site so quickly?

Mother Nature! Has to be--it's her doing. She realizes that I'd like to get a harmless photo of this creature, and she's messing with me by using magic to make an eagle disappear repeatedly! What did I ever do to piss her off like this??

As for Mr Eagle, I'm thinking I'll vote for the Wild Turkey next time it comes up for a vote.

I made my way a little farther up Outer Limits, and after about 10 minutes, guess what I saw? The fuggin' eagle! Standing on the ice again.

I did the whole Houdini routine with my backpack, this time keeping one eye on the eagle. He immediately jumped into the air and started flying up into the head of the inlet. With little bits of spittle forming in the corners of my mouth and veins bulging, I pointed my camera at the fleeing bird and got the following grainy photo:

Ha! I think you'll agree, I won this little skirmish with Mother N. Maybe next time she'll know better than to mess with me.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Life Taking a Turn

I've got a new job. I start Monday.

Lots of reasons--other than just paychecks.

It's been just shy of 10 years since I got away from working a 40 hour week in an office. At first it was telecommuting. Full time, but at home. And a home up in a little mountain town.

Then came the great outsourcing plague of the early aughts. In 2003 I was set free from full time work, and freed from the tyranny of regular paychecks.

I started to work for Absolute Bikes, the best job you'll ever love. And I house-sat. And started a web programming business that brought in a tiny trickle of income once in a while. I tried returning to the food service industry for the first time since the late 80's (huge failure).

Now I'm going back to white collar IT. Salary. Five 8 hour days per week of clean office work (no bike shop dust or the smell of rubber--god I'll miss that!).

But it's up here, in the upper Arkansas Valley! Where going to work usually means making espresso!

I've gotten used to being able to pick a weekday to take an all day ride in the mountains. Or leave town for a week or three to travel the southwest.

And I've gotten used to living in a state of frugality even as I nibbled away at my savings.

But the lack of structure, order, regularity--this has been one of the greatest downsides of my life after the layoff, as ironic as that seems even to me. I'm going back to a job that uses my education and training. I'm going to be an IT problem-solver again. Not just now and then when a project comes my way, but as a staff programmer. And that feels good.

I can still go to the shop and smell the rubber, talk bikes, hang with my peeps (as Kathy would say). And I'll wake up here in Salida every morning. I can take big rides, but now it will call for a bit of planning.

It's a big change for me, and that makes me nervous. But it's a damned good thing.