Thursday, October 29, 2009

Five Perfect Things - Albums That Remind Me of Colorado

Most albums bring back strong memories of a certain time and place for me. And with Colorado's Front Range in the news this week due to a whopping snowstorm (the largest October snowstorm since we lived there back in '97), I've thought a lot about our time in Boulder. Here are the albums that are inextricable from my memories of living in the Centennial State. Granted, none of these are Colorado-based artists, but all of these albums came out during our five year stint.

Billy Bragg & Wilco - Mermaid Avenue

The Verve - Urban Hymns

Grant Lee Buffalo - Jubilee

Spiritualized - Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space

Tarnation - Mirador

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Down on the Street (or work parking lot)

Here's the second interesting rig I've found in the parking lot at work. In fact it's the second gloss orange vehicle I've found at work, and just in time for Halloween.
What is it? A fourth-generation International Harvester Scout. I've always had a soft spot in my heart for Scouts - likely because my grandpa was an exec for IH back in the 60s through the 70s. And because of that he painted his Green Lake homes a similar shade of red to IH's corporate color. I'm surprised that he didn't have one of these, but he was always an Oldsmobile man.
This one lives at the high-end custom bi-fold door company that Electra shares a building with. And all it seems to move is from inside the shop to the parking lot every day. My guess is that it's a restoration-in-progress that isn't quite ready (or safe) for the open road. I've never seen it leave the lot. The paint, although dirty, is relatively fresh.

One of the best things about this Scout is it's pure truckiness.
No cupholders, leather upholstery, power windows, climate control or front wheel drive. Heck, no door panels at the moment. Amenities? A heater, aftermarket stereo and a cigarette lighter. What more does a truck need? If only all SUVs (Stupid Useless Vehicles) were this pure. Perfect for exploring the mountain roads on Palomar Mountain or the Anza Borrego Desert State Park.

And though I like this rig a lot - there are a couple of things that'd make it better, like the Nissan diesel engine that was available towards the end of the Scout's life cycle, or, better yet, if it was an early Scout. I'll take any one of these 1969 models shown below:
use the slide-out spare tire to cram all the kids in the back, seat belts be damned!
I'll take this one - and the dog too

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Lazy Sunday Afternoon Road Ride

After a busy Saturday spent manhandling a Rug Doctor, I was happy to learn that I'd have a few hours of Sunday afternoon freedom. And not wanting to blow it by sticking around at home, likely spending time examining the insides of my eyelids or tuning up yet another bike from the fleet (or worse - sitting around as I am now - on teh innernets), a bike ride naturally was on the top of my list of things to do.

Normally I would never put my bike on the car for a road ride. Something is inherently wrong with that scenario to me. One of the best aspects of road riding is the fact that there's a road right in front of my house. Which in turn connects to many other roads in the area, plenty of which offer fantastic riding opportunities. But I can ride out of my house any old day - heck, I do it virtually every weekday morning on my commute to work, mixing up the route on a daily basis to keep it fresh. So the plastic bike was affixed to the van's Yakima bike mount and I headed northeast to the base of Palomar Mountain.

Palomar Mountain lies about an hour away and is mostly within the Cleveland National Forest in San Diego County. The drive to Palomar is a nice 2-lane road that winds through citrus and avocado groves, along with many nursery plant wholesalers. (*advance apology - all pix are crummy-looking cameraPhone shots)
I chose to hit the mountain on South Grade Road.
Winding back and forth up the mountain, South Grade rises about 2500' over 7 winding miles of back-to-back hairpin turns, decreasing radius corners and smooth pavement. But first I had to climb the mostly 7% - 9% grade.
I settled into my 39 x 23 gear for a short distance before realizing I'd become intimately familiar with my 39 x 26 - the lowest gear the plastic bike has to offer. Cruising along at a steady 8-10 MPH with the ticker pumping at 160-165 BPM, I was passed by a steady stream of sport bikes - buzzy high-strung Japanese bikes flirting with their 14,000 RPM redlines and throaty Italian Ducatis producing angelic exhaust notes. Descending bikes peppered the air with the pungent smell of overheating brakes.

When riding that slowly, I really start to take in the environment - litter and other debris. This bit of debris shows just how unforgiving the road can be.
After a few miles of steady climbing, I found myself reaching for a non-existent lower gear. Finally I just dealt with it and enjoyed the ascent.

up, up, up...

Around the 5,000' level lies the remains of a forest scorched by a fire. 2007?
Although my speed dropped slightly in the thinner air, I didn't notice the altitude as a hindrance. If anything the lower temps made for a more pleasant climb as I reached the top.

One curiosity spotted along the way are some defunct Palomar Artesian Springs vending taps.
According to a sign posted, you could get a gallon for a quarter at one point. I can't find out when the taps were removed. Would have been great for topping up the bottles (if I would have had a quarter on me).
Another curiosity was this sign:
No chance of getting smacked with a snowball today (but I would have really appreciated it - the temp at the base of the hill was 92 and it only cooled off into the low-70s by the summit). Yep, San Diego County does get snow from time to time. I'm told that the road is a zoo when the first snowfall comes with all sorts of SD residents bringing their kids up to experience a winter wonderland.

Anyway, I reached the summit and crossed S-7, destination - Palomar Observatory. Continuing on S-6 (and enjoying some respite from the climb), I spied what was previously thought to be an urban-only thing:
S-6 ends at the observatory... I took this time for a break. Topped up the bottles, drained the bladder and walked around the grounds.
the plastic bike in front of a whole mess of artfully-crafted concrete, steel and aluminum

I didn't take the tour - I want to do that with the grrrls as a field trip this winter, but from what I saw I can report that it's quite an impressive structure. Housing the 200" Hale Telescope with a lens that took 13 years to grind, the telescope has been used every clear night since 1949. Definitely looking forward to a return trip.

Okay, time to let gravity work with me. I had a few small climbs before the true fun stuff started, just west of the intersection of S-7. At that point I laid my eyes on this sight for sore legs:
But first one more view from the top.
Popped the plastic bike into the 53 x 12 and had a blast carving the corners.
A few motorcycles startled approached from behind with the wind limiting my hearing as I was averaging speeds of 30-40 MPH. On the descent I did manage to pass one vehicle - a truck towing an auto trailer. At the end I was able to descend in 12 minutes what had taken me 50 to climb, and now the bike's brakes had a fine coating of black rubber powder that had formerly been my brake pads. I Loaded the plastic bike on Klaus, killed off the remains of my water bottles and a Coke and inhaled a Clif bar.
ride time - 1:47:10
distance - 23.42 miles
average speed - 13.1 MPH
max speed - 46.5 MPH
elevation gain - 3,829'
max elevation - 5,531'
avg heart rate - 151 BPM
calories burned - 1,935
Maybe next time I'll make a loop of it and pedal east on S-7 and back on down to west 76. Hmm...

Addendum - photographer Rick Clemson caught me right about at 3,000' elevation. He's up there most Saturdays and Sundays shooting motorcyclists and bicyclists and sells the shots on his website (without the watermark of course).

Not-So-Lazy Saturday

I'm still whipped (and hungry) from a busy Saturday. Starting with a fun 75 minute mountain bike ride on trails that follow the north shore of Lake Hodges...
...followed by shampooing all of the carpets in the house...
...then shampooing the couch as well as all of the upholstery and carpet in the cars...
...after which I gave the van a much-needed bath as it had been a while since it was last moved.
Finished up the night with dinner at a neighbor's and then a late run to return the Rug Doctor. Whew.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Whirlybirds & Other Flying Things

I've always been fascinated by flying machines. If I'm out washing the car and I hear any sort of aircraft, I'll point my eyeballs skyward to check out the equipment. Prop-driven fixed wing, jet, helicopter, ultralight, whatever. If it's buzzing around I have to see it - even if it involves walking out into the street for a clear view.

But I guess it's in my DNA as my dad was a pilot in the USMC.
dad and a TH-34 Sea Horse

He trained first on fixed wings first T-34 Mentors...
...then advancing to T-28 Trojans...
...and then on to helicopter training.

Here's his first solo flight in an TH-13 Sioux in 1967 (dad, correct me if I'm wrong):

From the looks of the old Super 8 and the lack of original editing, he and mom checked out the next bird he'd be learning to fly - a TH-34 Sea Horse, the training version of the UH-34 utility helicopter.

The old Super 8s had a nice little snippet of him flying a training mission over Southern California in '67-'68..

He'd later fly 34s for a tour in Vietnam. He wanted to continue flying after leaving the Marines, but at the time the airlines had more than enough pilots who were fresh from the service, so he used his valuable training to go into the retail sector and start working at Sears Roebuck & Co.

Once I was old enough to (loosely) fit into his flight suit and helmet, I'd dress up as a pilot for Halloween.
dad and an H-34 Seabat on the deck of the USS Midway, April '09

I'm proud of my dad's flying career and only hope that I someday have the time (and more importantly, the money) to learn how to fly. Until then I'll continue to look up when I hear aircraft overhead - especially for military helicopters. In fact there's one flying down the coast as I type this.

Vintage Spring Green, WI Postcard

Okay, another trifecta of things I love - Frank Lloyd Wright architecture, Wisconsin and vintage postcards of places I've visited.
This example shows the Hillside Home School on the grounds of Taliesin, just outside of Spring Green, Wisconsin. Click on the card for a larger image - I dig the three schoolboys looking at the camera.

Allie and I toured the School back in the mid-1990s while camping at Tower Hill State Park and cycling around the Spring Green area. I don't remember exactly why we didn't take a tour of Taliesin itself - it was likely a combination of not having enough time and not having enough money. Still, we thoroughly enjoyed walking the grounds and seeing the school. Okay, on to the card.

This card is postmarked August 30, 1906 - three years after the school opened.
I tried doing a little Googling of Miss Hatz - no luck, although I did discover a number of Hatzes who settled the Prairie du Sac and Baraboo area.

Thankfully the School is still standing proud 106 years after it's construction. I wonder what people thought of it back then. You can see some recent images of it here.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Five (plus five) Perfect Things - Midwestern Albums

I am a Midwesterner. There, I said it (not as if I was hiding it). No doubt there, having spent over 30 years of my life living in Wisconsin and Illinoying. And along with being a Midwesterner I'm also a music lover - especially American indie rock and post-punk.

What the hell is a "Midwestern" album? Well, first of all it's obviously one from Midwestern-based artists, the second part is more of the feeling I get from listening to these gems. I can't exactly express what that feeling is - but the feeling entails a mix of lakes, hardwood forests, rolling hills, seasons, good people and, in many cases, Chicago.

And since I simply could not pare down my list to a measly five, this time the list entails ten classic albums (and it was a chore narrowing it down from about 30 original picks). In no particular order...

Guided By Voices - Bee Thousand (Dayton, Ohio-based)
His Name Is Alive - Mouth by Mouth (Livonia, Michigan-based)
Wilco - Being There (Chicago-based)
Hüsker Dü - New Day Rising (Minneapois-based)
Uncle Tupelo - Anodyne (Belleville, IL-based)

Liz Phair - Exile in Guyville (Chicago/Winnetka-based)

Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago (Lacrosse, WI-based)

The Jayhawks - Hollywood Town Hall (Minneapolis-based)

Tortoise - Millions Now Living Will Never Die (Chicago-based)

The Replacements - Let It Be (Minneapolis-based)
What are YOUR favorite Midwestern albums?