Thursday, March 31, 2005

Joan of Arcadia on the bubble?

I admit it, I'm a sap for teenage dramas. In the mid nineties I was one of the only kids faithfully tuning into My So Called Life every week. I think I related quite a bit to Brian, the geeky photographer neighbor of Angela Chase, Claire Danes character. I got interested in the show because as opposed to Beverly Hills 90210 it was more than simulacrum... it tried to be a fairly real drama. I was a bit sad when the show got cancelled in mid-run.

Last year, I watched with interest as Joan of Arcadia came on the air. The early reviews I read seemed to think that it was a worthwhile show and Ang and I tuned in to see what the fuss was about. We dug it immensely.

I've blogged quite a bit about Joan, most recently in this Oddcoupling. I think it's captivating TV (though I've wanted to smack Joan's boyfriend Adam recently for being so pretntious and obnoxious about his graphic design) and it bums me out that there's a good chance it could get cancelled after this season. It's been on hiatus for March Madness, but starting tomorrow night and for the next three Fridays after that there will be four new episodes. There's a box set of the first season coming out in the first part of May and maybe that will give it a boost, but it's engaging spiritually relevant (MAN I HATE THAT WORD) drama that asks as many questions as it offers answers. I wouldn't be nearly as supportive of the show if it were trying to pass itself off as "Christian Programming". I have a broadcast background.. the company I work for used to operate a major television station in the upper midwest. At one point in their existence they tried to do 'Christian TV" and found that not even Christians watch Christian TV. Christians talk about how much they want to watch Christian TV but at the end of the day their viewing habits tend to be like everyone else. Joan is a well written teen-angst drama on top of its spiritual connotations. Give it a shot if you haven't seen it or haven't watched in a while... and maybe we can get the ratings up and allow it to continue to build an audience.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

the benefit of the trails

I used to be a roadie prick...

I admit it.

I thought road biking was the end all be all of the bicycling world.

I still am partial to the joy of flying down the road on my speed demon of a road bike, but I'm learning to appreciate some of what mountain biking has to offer and what it can offer my road biking.

That main gift that mountain biking gives back to the roadie is bike handling.

I first started to really learn how to handle my road bike after I bought a pair of rollers for winter training. If you're not familiar with rollers, they're devilish little devices sort of like a self powered 'bike treadmill'. You balance on the cylinders and pedal... centrifugal force wants to push you out to the left or right so you learn balancing skills very, VERY quickly lest you fly off your rollers and crash into a wall.

When I first got my trail bike (I'm hesitant to call it a mountain bike because while it's got knobby tires, they're not the kind that I'd dare take on an adventurous trail... but maybe that's a bonus for what I'm talking about here) I bought it because sometimes the easiest way to get around the springs is to hop onto the local trail system. I thought it would be nice to ride the trail that heads north towards my office in the morning instead of braving the beaten down utility path that followed I-25 or climb into the hills and come back down again.

For a while, everything was fine... it was a slight grade uphill that made me work the entire way to the office, but coming home was always a joy. Then, one day in checking my tire pressure I pumped my tires beyond where they were supposed to be. Being a roadie, I was used to inflating my bikes tires up to and beyond 100 psi. I don't remember what I pumped those trail tires to, but it was well beyond where they should have been. How was I to know that less rolling resistance sometimes really IS better.

That day I had my first 'handling' experience on a ride towards downtown. I hit a patch of loose gravel on the trail and all of a sudden my wheels were going in every direction but straight. Somehow, I was able to correct and compensate before wiping out and a new exercise was born... staying upright.

There have been other incidences since then... ruts that appear seemingly out of nowhere, snow patches and most recently (as of yesterday actually) mud. I'd had the mud experience before, but not with my trail bike and not for some time. My first major mud experience was on the 2002 Paul Bunyan double century ride... traversing several miles of sandy muddy under construction road with a wheel with broken spokes was not fun. I remember calling it a death march and that's what it felt like. Road tires on snow had the same slippery effect and effectively got me out of the winter riding business after my first experience with it. But I was surprised at how much like snow the mud was on my trail bike. Maybe it was that my tires were completely coated thus creating a skating layer between mud and rubber, but all of a sudden my bike was sliding through the mud like it had on loose gravel and ice.

I was a bit proud that I managed to not wipe out, but it did get me back to thinking that roadies could have something to learn from figuring out how to control what's underneath you. Road is too forgiving... there isn't generally very much you have to do to stay upright on your bike, but learning to navigate these sliding situations and getting comfortable not falling off when you're climbing a steep incline have made me a better roadie.

Am I going to permanently trade in my lovely Fuji Team? NOT ON YOUR LIFE. It's too sleek and fast to toss it out the window, but I can appreciate her more after putting away my steadfast but heavy and slow mountain bike. The mountain bike will never win any speed awards... she'll never win best in class for the performance that she does have. But, day in and day out when I do need her, she's a workhorse that gets me from point a to point b and I've learned things because of her... and she makes me appreciate everything else that much more.

moments from Moab pt 1...

Maybe it wasn't the best sign when after crossing the Utah border. In the distance, what we thought looked like a road started bending and undulating just like a tornado... realizing it wasn't a road, but an ACTUAL tornado, we also weren't happy when we saw another tornado spinning right next to it.

The tornados dissolved as quickly as they appeared, but it set precedent.

Not that the morning had started out much better...

On the way home from work on Thursday night there were whiteout snow conditions... not unusual for this time of year in Colorado, but still enough to make me paranoid about driving through the western I-70 corridor. When we got up at 4am the next morning, the parking lot had frozen over. Once again, I'm paranoid about the trip.

Roads were completely crappy on the way up to Denver. One could drive, but they were wet, sloppy and in some parts icy. Knowing that I was about as low elevation wise as I would be for the next few hours, I continued my pessimism.

That pessimism continued as we climbed 70 to begin the process of crossing the Rockies. Somehow though, about 30 miles in, the roads cleared up and the sky broke open to reveal a sunny day.

But all good things must come to pass.

After the Utah tornados, we continued on towards Moab, dodging intermittent rain showers. Getting to our campground, the sun was back out. We got set up as quickly as we could and headed out for our first hike at Arches National Park.

If you ever get the chance to visit Moab for anything other than mountain biking, you MUST go to Arches. It was a little daunting to see the entrance roadway that immediately climbed up a mesa, but as soon as you reach the crest you turn a corner and see the weirdest valley you'll ever imagine. Petrified sand dunes dot the horizon along with the Lasalle mountains and the first of the rock formations, Park Avenue (see the panorama a few posts down) We parked and started our hike.

The hike down into the canyon was quiet and uneventful, but as soon as we reached our turnaround point, the clouds flew back in and within seemingly instantaneously the temperature dropped and the wind picked up. Just after this, we started getting pelted by what we first thought was snow, but was actually hail. I was proud of Ang for keeping up with us as we hiked as quickly as possible back up the mile of canyon trail.

If this were the end of the story, it would be fine, but the hail switched over into what could only be defined as a deluge. Did I mention we were camping? I needed a little bit of oil to sautee the vegetables we were having for dinner with our soft tacos and a stop at Central Market allowed us to postpone the slog back to our soggy and now dark campsite.

Ingenuity on our part discovered that we could move our cookstove underneath the neighboring campsite, and this helped, but we were wet and the temperature was hovering around 35 degrees... freezing our hands and making all of our cooking preparations an exercise in moving in slow motion. Somehow, with the aid of battery powered lanterns, our food was heated and tacos were assembled. Everything tasted fairly wonderful, but my misery was to be taken up a notch.


All day I had been carefully cutting my food with a fork and knife to avoid having to bit into anything that would disturb the two temporary crowns to the left and right of my two front teeth. I had, for the most part been successful in this, but to my dismay a mouthful of mushy soft taco had managed to dislodge one of the temps. I quietly turned away from my camping compatriots and dug my finger around in my mushy soft taco filled mouth until I found the temporary crown. At this point, I also realized that this tooth was going to be sensitive to air as I breathed in and felt a sharp pain in my tooth. I quickly put the crown back into place and finished eating dinner as carefully as I could.

After dinner, I went to the shower and bathroom facility of the campground to assess the damage.

Cold and wet. Check.
Stomach full. Check.
Feet soggy. Check.
Temp intact. check.
Fixadent in hand. check.

I carefully removed the crown and looked at the ghastly remnants of my tooth staring back at me like one of the heroin chic Calvin Klein parody ads of a few years back. Feeling the sensation of the air sensitivity again, I as quickly as I could squirted the geriatric denture adhesive (thank God for self-checkout at WalMart) and put the crown back into place. The temp stuck and for that I was thankful. Upon stepping out of the bathroom, I proceeded to step right into a big pool of cold muddy water and walked back to the tent ready for what I thought would be a cold, wet night.

Ang and I are car campers. I appreciate hiking, but I don't think I'd ever want to 'hike in' somewhere with all my camping equipment. I really appreciate bringing all the camping gadgets and crap because as a geek, camping is just one more thing that allows you to have TOYS! One of our more recent camping toys was an elevated air mattress from WalMart that we bought before Cornerstone last year. This, along with two layers of sleeping bags, a regular sheet set, a queen size blanket and a down throw for each of us kept us warmer than I ever thought possible... and while the air mattress itself was no Select Comfort, it was still nicer than the ground. If it hadn't been for the constant rain sound (which in moderation is great, but when it's cranked up to 11 on the guitar amp scale of life it's a bit much) I'd have slept the whole night.

The next morning would bring birds, diesel engines and cycling... but that's another story.

My poor mountain bike...

muddybaby, originally uploaded by bthemn.

My poor bike! The things that I put it through sometimes are more than I should probably ask of it. I decided that since it was Tuesday, I needed to ride down to church no matter what... call it combating common man syndrom (tm) if you will, but even though it had been raining all day I decided I should head out.

I thought the trails might be wet, but I didn't realize the added rolling resistance that trail would have. Talk about a workout! No coasting or you stopped... pedal, pedal, pedal, pedal, pedal... heh.

Crossing one of the main trail junctions, I ran into some water. This is fine in and of itself, (though it does have a tendency to make my feet freeze) but this time the water was followed by mud that joyously stuck to every willing surface of my mountain bike. Tires, post, derailleur, etc... because I was constantly pedaling, the centrifugal force on the wheels started shooting mud EVERYWHERE. Suddenly I looked like a monochromatic (brown) Jackson Pollock painting.

My baby needs a bath but I wasn't even kind enough to take it off it's rack when I got home... so it spent all day outside my office pining for me to take it for a ride and I didn't give it any satisfaction. I'm a mean bike owner I guess, but then again, it's work.. you can't take off ALL the time.

Moab stories to come. I'm stuck between finishing projects that have to be delivered at work and a mexican youth ministry textbook I agreed to help a friend out with. Muy, muy exciting (and what's been driving me crazy).

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

A Picture Share!

A Picture Share!

E.J. and Matt in an epic Chess battle while Kim busies herself drawing in the background.

Monday, March 28, 2005

more photos...

Panoramas from Moab

More in the morning. Between my temporary crown falling off and just general malaise, I think I need a long sleep.

Back in the morning, I promise!

Moab pt 3

Moab pt 3, originally uploaded by bthemn.

After the all night rainstorm on Friday night, warmth was called for. You can see our reflection in the source of that warmth.

Moab pt 2

Moab pt 2, originally uploaded by bthemn.

I shall call him... MINI RUSS.

Park Avenue

parkavenue, originally uploaded by bthemn.

This was the view at the first hike Ang and I did at Arches last Friday. Park Avenue is the formation on the right and just around the corner off in the distance are the three gossips.

Good morning!

To quote a song title off of the last Pet Shop Boys album... we're 'home and dry'. I'll post more about our Moab trip, but it was what I needed. It was so nice to get out of town for the weekend, even if the trip coincided with Moab's 'Easter Jeep Safari' with motorheads ALL over the town. Our road bikes were probably the safest they will ever be last weekend as there wasn't anyone in the town who would even deign to look upon one because it doesn't have an engine. Anyway, I have to run to work, but I'll post something longer later. In the meantime, a couple photos...