Monday, November 28, 2005


My mother is currently stranded in the middle of a blizzard in the midwest. Well...not really stranded... she's in a hotel waiting out the storm. All the businesses around her are closed and the interstate is shut down. But alas, the Internet is still alive and well on the great plains. As a result, we've been receiving regular updates. She's almost finished her book, and has nearly run out of yarn for her knitting project. I think she's getting bored. I decided to write some poetry to cheer her up:

Attempt #1:

I rode my motorcycle to work today.
I'm wearing a short-sleeved shirt.
Last night, I watered the lawn.
Keep the tundra...I'm fine.

Maybe this would be better expressed in Haiku:

Haiku Attempt #1:

Rode the bike today
The weather here is so nice
You can have the cold.

Haiku Attempt #2:

The wind in my face
as I cruise along the road
is better than snow

Haiku Attempt #3:

Mom sees the cold road
I see warm sun and green grass
She runs out of yarn.

ah well... better not quit my day job...

Sunday, November 20, 2005

There's more of me to love

Lately there has been more of me to love. I'm coming to terms with the fact that I am overweight. My wife is a really good cook and I happen to also have a penchant for ice cream and a desk job that encourages me to be sedentary. The result is that after 6 and a half years of marriage, I've gained almost 30 pounds.

This situation creates a bit of a paradox for me. When I started backpacking a few years ago, I carried almost 50 pounds of junk with me. I've been working very hard to reduce my pack weight (See previous posts about making my own gear.) On my last trip, my pack weighed less than 20 lbs including food and water. The problem is that I've worked really hard to reduce my pack weight while my body has continued to grow horizontally.

Well... I've decided to fight back. I'm on a plan to win my body back over this Holiday Season. I thought about purchasing a BowFlex, a TotalGym, or some other "miracle" fitness machine guaranteed to make me look like Chuck Norris, or Heaven forbid, Christie Brinkley. I thought about joining the local gym. In the end, I decided that the local gym was inconvenient, and the machines were over-priced and beyond what I need at this stage of the game. Simple (Free or Low Cost) exercises would have to do it.

Since the bulk of my weight has landed in my core (Gut, Love Handles, etc) and I've had some lower back issues in the last few years, I've decided to focus my workouts on core exercises, at least initially. A simple Google search has paid off big dividends. I'm now running through some hard-core exercises for 30 minutes 3 times a week. These things are brutal.

In addition, I've put myself on a common sense, healthy step-down reduced calorie diet. 1700 calories for the first two weeks, 1600 calories for the next two, on down to 1300 calories for the final two weeks. This is provided that I can function at the lower calorie levels. So far, 1700 is going pretty good. After a week, I'm starting to see the first signs of results.


Tuesday, November 15, 2005

More Homemade gear

Here's another picture of some home made gear:

This is a Ray-Way tarp and net-tent. This really was the project that started it all for me. I had a great time putting it together. Admittedly, there was frustration along the way, but I think it turned out very well. My last trip on the Superior Hiking Trail was the inaugural journey for my tarp. This picture was taken at the Indian Creek multi-group campsite. After walking 12 miles and arriving at our camp, it began to rain. I got a lot of satisfaction out of sitting under my tarp and watching the rain come down around me knowing that my shelter was something that I had crafted with my own two hands (OK, and a sewing machine too).

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Homemade gear

Most of you probably don't know that I've been making my own backpacking gear. It's difficult to find ultra-lite equipment at most stores.... even specialty stores like REI don't have a huge selection. When you do find stuff, it's generally very expensive for what you get. There are companies that sell kits you can use to make your own gear. So, I've picked up some sewing skills and have been making my own gear. Here's a picture of a backpack I made:

The picture was taken at Afton State Park in Afton, MN.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Texas Style Shave

I recently went to a place down here in Brownwood to get a haircut. After the gal finished cutting my hair she asked me if I wanted her to clean up my neckline because there was a lot of hair growing down the back of my neck. Wanting to look groomed and professional I said, "Sure, go ahead."

So, she reaches over to this little machine on her counter and all of this foamy lather comes out of it. She proceeds to place this on the back of my neck, which I thought was a little odd, but hey, it felt good. This must be some new-fangled way to soften up the hair on the back of my neck before hitting it with the clippers. She wiped off her hands and reached over towards her clippers, but instead of grabbing the clippers, she picks up an-honest-to-goodness 6 inch "John Wayne" STRAIGHT RAZOR! SHOCK! AWE! HORROR!


The male ego is a fragile thing. Not wanting to be seen as a wimp, I meekly commented, "Nice razor." She proceeded to deftly shave the back of my neck. It actually kinda felt pretty good and didn't hurt at all or pull my hair like a clipper often does. When she finished, she asked, "Do you want me to get your face too?" Since she hadn't killed me yet, I said, "Sure, go ahead." It's the closest shave I've ever had.

When she finished, she wiped off my face, reached over to her counter and grabbed the largest bottle of after-shave I've ever seen in my life. She poured about a cup of the stuff into her hands and slapped it all over my neck and face. ZING! BURN! NAPALM! She looked at me and said, "Does that burn?"

"No. Not too much." My reply came out about 3 octaves higher than normal.

I smelled like old-man after-shave for several days after this experience. Once I got over the initial fear (and mind-numbing after-shave pain), I decided that it really was about the best shave I've ever had and one that I'll certainly remember for a long time.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005


We recently attended the Brownwood Reunion, which is an interesting festival, get-together sort of thing down here. Anyway, one of the shows they had at the reunion was the Kachunga The Alligator show. This guy comes out and "wrestles" an alligator. Along the way he teaches the crowd a bunch of facts about alligators, demonstrates how strong they are, etc. It's really kind of a neat deal. Did you know that an alligator's jaws are capable of producing 2000 lbs/sq inch of pressure? As you can imagine, you have to be pretty buff to try to wrestle with one of these. Check out this guy's pipes:

Monday, November 07, 2005

The Texas Pass

Texans amaze me. Sometimes they come up with the coolest ideas. Take the "Texas Pass" for example. Rural roads around here generally have a speed limit of 70 MPH during the day and 65 MPH at night, which is really nice. Occasionally people drive less than the speed limit, and at other times, some of us tend to drive 5 - 7 MPH over the limit.. (but only once in a while). A lot of times rural roads are windy and are full of no passing zones which makes passing difficult. This could quickly become very frustrating. Enter the "Texas Pass".

Let's say you're driving down the highway and you come up behind someone going 5 - 10 MPH slower in a no passing zone. As a courtesy down here, the slower driver is expected to pull over to the shoulder (while maintaining his/her current speed) allowing you to quickly pass in the main lane without inconveniencing the other driver. It actually makes you feel like an important dignitary. You set the cruise on 75 or so and traffic generally moves out of your way. It's not uncommon to go 50 miles without having to tap the brakes to slow down for someone else. Very nice. I'm told the "Texas Pass" is officially illegal, but practiced by just about everyone.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Air Conditioning

There really is something empowering about running your air conditioner on November 3rd. One thing that has really suprised me since moving to Texas is the daily temperature swing. It's not uncommon down here for it to be 40 degrees in the morning and mid-80's by afternoon. The challenge is adjusting your thermostat. Having a brick home makes this difficult since the bricks retain heat. It's a problem I'm willing to have.