Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Blast from the past

Hot damn.  I am working part time at West Arete Computing as does my friend, Eric.  He is in the process of learning new computer programming techniques.  Most of his time is spent working with textbooks and creating new webpages himself.  Looking to spice things up a little bit, Eric somehow remembered that I created a crappy website about 8 years ago that I used to do writeups of our various climbing trips.

 The page began as some assignment for a Penn State computing class where I had to post my resume and a picture on a site hosted by the university.  That was a pretty lame page as you could imagine.  So I decided to start making a whole site and forced myself to learn basic, basic html.  This kept my friends and I amused for a while.  That is until yours truly dropped out of school and Penn State stopped hosting my site faster than you can say "Penn State stopped hosting Tom's site".  During the academic void in my life (which continues to this day), I didn't think about the web site at all.

That is until today.  Eric had me dig up the old files for the site and threw them up on the web again. He wants to alter my site as a project of sorts to learn more about web development.  At the very least Eric can look at my shoddy work and have an example of what NOT to do.  Though he may end up making some stylistic changes, the writing is and will continue to be mine.  It's like a goddamn time capsule since I haven't seen this for the better part of a decade.  It's pretty funny too because although I don't climb with all of the same people or in the same places, some things don't change.  My stupid sense of humor.  Getting into trouble with Eric and Jeff.  Enough of this, just go check out

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Planning for success

I've got ideas.  Man, do I have ideas.  And plans.  So many ideas and plans, it makes my head spin.  Enough to keep me up at night.  My ideas are so grandiose that I don't share them with people.  I don't even want to say them out loud or write them down because maybe even then I will acknowledge how ridiculous they are.  And let's face it, if you don't act upon an idea or plan, then it ain't worth shit.  To me, the trips I have tried to take lately have seemed to be largely failures.  On a smaller scale though, I do follow through and act upon my ideas and usually have successes.
Greg: A model for all outdoorsmen
A couple of years ago, I bought a canoe on a whim.  Something in the back of my head told me that I should do some paddling.  After a couple of training laps on the Spring Creek whitewater course, I deemed myself fit for surviving some easier whitewater.  My older brother, Greg, required little convincing to join me on an early spring foray.  We chose the Pine Creek Gorge or "Pennsylvania Grand Canyon" as our objective.  Neither of us had ever even seen this gorge before and had little idea what was in store.  Just to ensure that we were ready for all possible contingencies, Greg and I watched Deliverance the night before.  Burt Reynolds does a wonderful job demonstrating the J-stroke and shooting hillbillies with a bow and arrow.  Regardless, we had an absolute blast paddling the 18 odd mile section of the gorge.  Upon takeout, we had a local outfitter pick us up and give the two of us and our boat a lift back to our car.
Recipe for awesome
A month later, I was painting my toenails or tending to my camel herd when a new idea popped into my head.  How can one be a little more self-sufficient and do that same route by oneself?  (A similar and related question would be "How can one with no friends and no money to pay for a shuttle do this same route?")  The wheels in my skull got to turning and I came up with a fun plan.  I stashed my mountain bike at the takeout in Blackwell and then drove upstream.  After putting in up in Ansonia, I paddled the gorge by myself.  Upon taking out, I hopped on my mountain bike and rode a path that parallels the creek 18 miles back to my car.  Then I just had to pick up my boat and drive home.
Alone on the water
Which brings us to present day.  Removing the car entirely from the equation makes the next logical step.  More than likely, I will find myself living in State College at the beginning of next year.  As soon as conditions permit, I will ride to Ansonia on a bike, boat the Pine Creek Gorge, run back up to where I left my bike, and then bike home.  For the boating portion, I will either rent a canoe and leave it for the outfitter to pick up (less desireable) or buy a packable whitewater raft and haul it with me (more desireable).  Of course anyone who would be interested in joining me on this voyage is wholeheartedly welcome.  I thought through the different components in my head.  I have definitely paddled the section of the gorge from Ansonia to Blackwell before.  Check.  I have run 18 miles before.  Check.  I hadn't biked 100 miles in a single day before which is the distance from State College to Ansonia.  So yesterday, Eric, Jeff and I biked a 100 mile loop.  I incurred no big difficulties.  Actually it was rather anticlimactic.  So..."check".

So is this my Plan?  No.  It is just a small trial that would let me know if I'm ready to move on to bigger things.  I may even be hoping that it will introduce me to someone who wouldn't laugh at my Plan.  It will be fun and cool as hell I'm sure.  But in all honesty, it is a known quantity.  I don't want to ever predict success because I think that brings bad luck, but I know that I can do this.  With that realization brings another: that I'm not facing up to the real challenges.  The Plan.  I'm just delaying.  I have a myriad of excuses or diversions to keep myself from getting on with it.  And that realization is a bitter pill to swallow.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Approaching in style

My friend Ieva once commented that I give less attention to my intended activity, but focus on the approach rather.  And that I like to approach "in style".  Typically this means I come up with a more difficult than necessary means to go climbing, fishing, skiing or narcoleptic paragliding.  Fortunately, my friend Eric enjoys manufacturing hardship for himself as well.  Yesterday was such an experience.
Fresh apple donuts: Energy food of champions
Eric was interested in riding in a mountain bike race at Black Moshannon State Park yesterday.  The park (in)conveniently is located approximately 15 miles away from his house.  Also, whereas his house lies in the bottom of Bald Eagle Valley, Black Mo sits atop the Allegheny Plateau.  Eric and I agree that a journey should not be merely a means to an end, but part of the end itself.  The plan that shook out was that Eric would ride to the start of the race, race it, and ride home afterwards.  I volunteered to be his race manager, escort him to the race, and try to make sure he eats something.

Jeef and I rolled out from his house at 7am.  I think that Jeef had volunteered to be cheerleader for Eric... at least that's what I thought when I saw him stuffing some pom-poms, airhorn and a skirt into his panniers.  Regardless, we made it to Way Fruit Farm where Jeef acquired some much needed provisions: fresh apple donuts and peaches.  The rendezvous with Eric was made in Port Matilda at Lyken's Market, where three dudes in lycra shorts surely made everyone's morning.  Then we put on our serious faces and started riding towards the race.  We maintained a fairly brisk pace along the flat valley floor, riding about 10 miles effortlessly.
Eric says, "I don't need no stinkin' car."
From the valley floor, there is a sustained climb to the top of the plateau where the park and the race lie.  We picked a slow but maintainable 6mph pace to ride the last 4 miles.  The best part of the ride was watching cars drive uphill past us with mountain bikes on them.  The passengers would look at the three of us with first a look of confusion and then a sense of disbelief when it dawned upon them what we were doing.  Arriving at the race, Eric went over to get registered while Jeef and I were volunteered to be course marshals.  A course marshal stands at an important turn on the race course to ensure that riders don't get lost.

It was great to watch Eric riding strong through our checkpoint a while later.  He was hooting and hollering as he passed.  When Jeef and I eventually got back to the end of the race, we found Eric still smiling, but decidedly more tired when we last saw him.  About halfway through the race, he ran out of steam from not eating enough.  He finished the race and had a ball doing it.  And really that's all that matters.  I would venture to say that he had more fun and fuller experience than all the folks who drove to the race.  But we didn't dwell on this too much.  Eric had a 15 mile ride home.  Jeef and I had a 25 mile ride home with a wicked ridge in the way... and we were all out of apple donuts.