Gone Fishin'


I'm not actively blogging here anymore. But if you got here because you were searching for something about bikes, you might want to check out my latest project, Vermont Goldsprints. In summer of 2014, I bought a used goldsprints racing setup and have made it a mission to get more bikes in more people's faces by putting on fun races in unexpected places. Come join me!


Snowbowl 2007

Kate and I did indeed ski at the Montana Snowbowl yesterday. There wasn't any really fresh snow, but what was there was pretty soft and nice. Other than the skiing in the video below, the highlight of the day was having a raven fly over, not making the traditional croaking sound, but instead, the odd, metallic cl-clunk sound that was kind of other-worldly. A ride up the summit lift revealed that the raven was almost perfectly imitating a creaky wheel on one of the chairlift towers! Ravens have been known to pick up sounds around them, but this was my first time hearing it for myself. Anyway, here's the video: video


Pre-Christmas Festivities

Saturday has come and nearly gone, and with it a grinding 9-hour retail shift at REI among the frantic masses.  Still, all is not lost, for I have come home to Kate's culinary specialty, Coq au Vin (Julia Child version, of course), with homemade cream of asparagus soup as an entree.  Tomorrow, we ski Snowbowl!



2007 will not be the first calendar year of my life that I don't go skiing at all (last winter was my first non-skiing winter, which is saying something when you live 20 minutes away from a 2600 vertical foot ski area). Courtesy one of Kate's employers, I spent my Monday afternoon up at Lolo Pass, my first time on freeheel gear of any kind since a college trip to Gatineau Park in Ottawa during my freshman year. It was cold and sunny and still and wonderful to glide along the new snow up there. It sure beat fighting with ArcMap, which is what I would have been doing at the office. Kate's work does a trip like this once every six months (summer was a "float" down the Blackfoot River). Following our ski, there was a drive back and an attempt to visit a local bar, thwarted by the fact that it was closed, and remedied by a visit to another local place, which had an excellent plate of fried gizzards (dip in ranch, chew for a few minutes, swallow with beer, repeat as soon as you forget how bad it was) and one of the largest collections of dead animals and guns I've ever seen, as well as a NASCAR tribute room. A plywood cake with hinged top for jumping out of sat in the corner, unused. Kate and I played our worst game of pool ever. Then it was back home to shower out the smoke of a hundred Dorals, change into dinner clothes, and head off to the Depot for steak and the very best white elephant/ Yankee swap gift exchange I have ever been to. At various times, I was in possession of: a framed painting of a man smoking a cigarette and wearing a Mexican poncho, a small women's Christmas sweater, a set of slightly damaged remote-controlled boxing robots, and a set of potted fake flowers that smelled like basement. I got the flowers, and my slobby neighbors down the street are going to love them/ not notice them until spring when the snow melts. It was a great day and felt like several days worth of skiing, food and drink by the time it was all over. Now, I just need that weekend to get here...


First Snow

Well, it has snowed here before today, but didn't really stick.  Last night we got about six inches in the Missoula Valley and a bit more up high.  It was great fun to run in this morning before it got all slushy.   Here's what it looked like out the bathroom window this morning.


Stuff Going On

I have had stuff going on.  That's my excuse for not posting in so long and I'm sticking to it. I've been working at both jobs of course, and that has sucked up a huge amount of time recently, but I've also been running in earnest.  The wrist-GPS is a cruel taskmaster, and it revealed after I got back from Vermont this summer that when I just run and don't have a mileage goal, I run about 13 miles a week.  So, I've been working on a goal of 36 miles a week, and next week will be my tenth week of meeting that goal. I'm starting to lift weights a bit again as well after a long hiatus- so anyway, those are a couple of things that have been taking up time since I last posted.  What else?

Kate and I went as Dwight and Angela from The Office for Halloween, and we went to a pretty good party in the basement of the Wilma, a local historic theater.  We hosted dinner for some friends a couple of times, and we walked (I rode the unicycle, actually) in the Day of the Dead Parade here in Missoula. We haven't done any traveling at all since summer. We hope to get back east in either January or February, but most likely won't make it back for the Holidays.

I cleaned out the garage and finally got all of our camping and hiking stuff organized into one place and have nearly created a workbench where I can set up small projects and such. I attached a set of donated chrome fenders to the fixie and flipped the bars back over, cruiser style.  I installed a rear caliper brake on the blue bike and a front caliper brake on the fixie.  Lights, too, since a bunch of my commuting is now done in the dark.  I haven't put the studded tires back on the Trek yet, but will as soon as we see some snow in the valley.  At least it is raining this weekend, which means maybe it'll get cold and turn to snow sometime soon.

I have made a few changes to the blog, mostly just adding a feed to my starred items in Reader, so you can see the posts I've highlighted form the feeds I skim most every day.

The Flickr account is also woefully un-updated, but I'll try to get some pictures on there soon. We haven't taken many recently, but I think I have a few to share. Time to dust off the real cameras again soon, I think.

Finally, I'm testing out the "posting via email" function in Blogger with this post. Let's see how it goes.


Another Bike Project

So here's another bike project, actually one I did earlier this spring when Ben left for Massachusetts and left behind a perfectly thrashed old late-80's ATB: This was originally stripped and painted flat black, fitted with slicks and chain shortened as an around-town single speed for Ben. When he left, I decided that the best use for it would be a dedicated single speed mountain bike, since my Trek 930 has been fully commuterized at this point(another photoset and post for another time). So, I filed off all the unnecessary cable bosses, repainted over the black primer, ditched the eccentric ring up front for a 36, and turned a donated wheelset with a dead rear rim into a new rear wheel, lacing the rear hub and spokes to the front rim. A stack of spacers and a 20T cog later, and this baby was ready to roll. The final step was a transfer of these giant IRC tires (which claim on the sidewall to be 2.1, but feel like 2.3 at least). I'm thinking of either adding a BMX caliper to the rear or installing a Surly Fixxer in the rear hub.



Kate and I have arrived back from a little over a week of vacation in Vermont and on the Cape. The purpose of the trip (other than a well-deserved break from work) was to attend my sister Nicole's wedding this last Saturday, but of course our first time home also presented the opportunity to catch up with friends and make some new ones.

Leaving Missoula:
We left Missoula on a Thursday afternoon in a cloud of smoke. Ash has been falling from the sky for a few weeks now and the valley has been largely shrouded in smoke. We climbed up through the yellow, turbulent soup and topped out in clear air in enough time for our Missoula-Denver pilot to point ot Jackson Lake and the Tetons.

Impressions of Denver:
Denver International is nowhere near Denver. Looking out the window as we landed, I could see nothing but farm country, with square-mile blocks of roads laid out along Government Land Office section lines. Surprisingly, there were a great deal of streams visible that curved among the fields and that had not been straightened out at the turn of the century. This is often the case in Montana, where watercourses were moved wholesale to suit human boundaries. In the distant haze, the skyline of Denver peeked through. There were no mountains visible from the airport.

Boston and Northampton:
We arrived in Boston at 1:30 AM local time and picked up our rental car. We had signed on for the smallest compact we could get, for gas savings and simplicity-of-driving reasons- this was not to be. We were offered some sort of Pontiac (like a re-skinned Saturn Vue) and our please for a “small car” resulted in the offer of a Chevy Impala LX. Oh well, it was comfortable. The beast gets 24 MPG by shutting off half of its cylinders half of the time.

We headed out of the airport and onto the Mass Pike. State troopers were everywhere, checking speeds, looking for drunks and protecting construction sites. I think I've seen one Montana Highway Patrol car in the last two years. Boston and Northampton both were foggy and humid, and to my dried-out self, the air felt clingy and thick. We stayed for a short night in our friend Katie's apartment there and the the three of us drove north to Burlington. Katie was on her way to a yoga retreat somewhere in northern Vermont. Before parting ways, we had a look around Church Street, a wrap at New World Tortilla, and a long walk down to the Burlington Waterfront. It was cool and moist out, still a shock to our human-jerky bodies.

We arrived in Monkton late on Friday afternoon. It was great to see my parents again after nearly a year and a half and to be home again after almost two years. Dad of course immediately wanted to show me his new toy, the culmination of a lifetime of longing for him and for me a lifetime of trips to back corners of the state, dusty barns and British car shows. Dad has gone and bought himself a 1959 Austin-Healey Bugeye Sprite. Cream white, burgundy interior. After climbing in, (no small feat for either of us) we take off down the road, past my old elementary school, and back home. Just a short ride this time, just to hear the little motor growl, to feel the stiff suspension (no perceivable body roll in the corners) and to get the wind in our hair and smiles on our faces.

Next, it's back into Burlington to catch dinner at Three Tomatoes with Nicole and her fiancée Hans. Everybody is excited and a porcelain chicken full of wine helps the mood along. After an excellent dinner, we head along to see their new home (It's all new to Kate and I, the last time we saw Nicole and Hans they weren't even engaged yet). The house is coming along just great and Denali, their dog is happy to see us as well. We eat birthday cake and Ben and Jerry's to celebrate my upcoming 30th birthday. Kate mentions she'd like to take me on a picnic for said birthday the next afternoon.

Saturday in Monkton
Kate and I take off in the mid-morning, headed to Vergennes to shop for my birthday picnic. We buy a bottle of wine, some cake, about 50 cups and 20 sets of plastic silverware, the smallest package they have. We head to Kingsland Bay State Park- I've never been and neither has she, but it sounds nice. The weather is cool, clear and windy, and whitecaps from the lake shatter on the marble banks. As we walk down to claim a picnic table, I notice a group at the table I would have liked to take, if it wasn't already occupied. Then I notice who is at the table. Travis, Frank, Jesse, Ryan, Nick, Deanna, Chris, Jake, Katie, my parents, Zita, Elek, Nicole and Hans, Even Alannah the cross-country runner from our high school days that Frank is now living with. I'm sure I left some people out there, but the effect was overwhelming. They've stocked a table with food and a cooler with cans of Genessee Cream Ale, an inside joke from college. We play Bocce and lawn darts. Katie wasn't going to a Yoga retreat at all, she was coming up for the party- so dogged was her commitment to coming to the party she spent the night at Travis' place, even went out to a party that night where she didn't know anyone. Jesse's mom arrives, Jack and his new wife and baby come down to the water.

Then, the next surprise- Fran, Jesse, Ryan, Trav and Devon are heading to spend the night at Coolee Glen, and I'm invited and encouraged to attend. Kate and Katie will go home to Monkton. We spend the night around the campfire, drinking beer and roasting Italian sausages in the fire. Stories are told and old nicknames revived. By the time we retire at 2:00 AM, our faces hurt from laughing. I head home the next morning, there is more breakfast and a run, and by late afternoon Sunday, Kate and Katie and I are on the road for the Cape.

We stop by at the Brisson residence on our way back to congratulate Brookie on her engagement to Josh. There's horseshoes and other yard games, a Bloody Mary bar and the prettiest spread of homemade stuff I've ever seen, ranging from blueberry bread pudding to fresh-shucked corn salad to Bristol Bakery bagels and crisp bacon. Of course, we run into more people from home. Scott Pellegrini, Brooke and Josh of course, the Erwin sisters, my AP English teacher from High School, and many, many others. Then, it's off through the mountains and down the highway to Boston and beyond to the Cape. We stop briefly north of Boston to meet Kate's Aunt Debby and then whisk through the fading light to drop Katie off at her mom's house in Brewster.

Home Again
Then we are with Kate's parents and brother Ben. Of course, there's another huge spread, with home-made sauce, lasagna, fried eggplant. We fall asleep tired from the road and full of home cooking. The next morning is a lazy one, though we do get out for our five miler on Setucket Road, the same route we ran most of the summer in in fact the morning that we were married. Later in the week, we'll run at our customary early time and encounter some of the same people we used to see two summers ago. We gather Ben and head into Hyannis to eat cheap Chinese food at the Dragon Lite. This may sound unremarkable to most, but there simply is no such thing as good, basic Chinese takeout in Missoula. The egg rolls are undersized and soggy, the sweet and sour chicken uses gristly bits of dark meat, and most damningly, nobody has ever heard of proper duck sauce. Not so at the Dragon Lite, where the egg rolls are crisp and full, the chicken white, and the duck sauce plentiful and available for mixing with hot mustard and ample application to egg roll and crab rangoon alike.

At some point during the day, I pause to realize that I really, truly am now 30 years old. I've been getting ready for this since I turned 29, I think, so it isn't much of a blow. Being on vacation on the Cape only softens that blow further. Kate, Katie and I head out to Truro and Wellfleet to climb the Truro Highlands and walk the bay side beaches in Wellfleet. We skip stones and comb the wrack for treasures. Kate and I spend time at high tide on Mayflower Beach, gleefully ignoring the “No Trespassing” signs and thankful for the coastal access laws established in Massachusetts in the 1600's. We think of the miles of beach available at low tide, but don't see them. Kate's mom sends us off to see some theater. We take in “Barefoot in the Park” on the stage in the upstairs of the former Orleans Town Hall, and “Steel Pier” at the Cape Rep Theater. Kate's parents buy lobster one night and we boil and eat them with little accompaniment beyond drawn butter. Another night, they take us to dinner at the Wayside Inn, where we had our wedding reception.

Nauset Beach
The afternoon we spent at Nauset Beach gets its own section because I like being at Nauset more than I like anything else on the Cape. Kate's dad has graciously stored the various skimboards I manufactured in his shop over the years, so I pick a favorite and head out to challenge the waves while Kate and Katie gather clams and onion rings at Liam's, beachside. I found a decent little bit of shorebreak just outside the no surf/no skim area protected by the lifeguards. I rode for hours, alternating with short swimming sessions. The surf wasn't quite head-high, but the timing of the waves made any real swimming difficult. Kate and Katie both got in toward the end as well. I took the only photos of the entire trip at Nauset.

Nauset Beach is a sensory overload. The waves generate a constant miss, the sand is a little coarser, and the roar of the surf is constant. Many have perhaps had the experience of being on a boat all day and returning home to dry land only to find upon going to bed that the feeling of bobbing up and down persisted- I have had days at Nauset where closing my eyes at the end of the night caused me to see the relentless pattern of approaching breakers. I could spend all summer there.

Back to Vermont and the Wedding
We returned to Vermont on Friday afternoon in time to make a celebratory dinner at Halvorson's. There were toasts, speeches and slide shows. We got to meet a lot of Hans' family and catch up with a lot of my family as well. In our 30-year-old-ness, Kate and I did not join the wedding party for karaoke at JP's or for the 7:45 AM run the next morning. Saturday morning, Dad took my mom into Burlington in the morning to do spa stuff with Nicole and her bridesmaids while Dad and Kate and I tried to pass the time and make weather predictions. Big clouds loomed in heat and humidity fairly reminiscent of my own wedding.

The ceremony was beautiful, and could not be marred by my own off-key contribution as the whole congregation sang “Annie's Song” to the bride and groom. My only defense for my pitch is that the words were sung through a very choked-up throat. Everything was perfect. We all went out onto the church steps and salute the bride and groom with bubbles from tiny plastic champagne glasses. Just as the bride and groom made their way to the end of the line, when we were all standing, waiting to see who would lead out the procession to the reception, the answer came from the sky in the form of fat raindrops. The shower lasted all of 15 minutes, just enough time to make it to the reception site.

What can I say? There were more toasts, dancing, there were jokes and even more family than the night before. We left around 11:00. Hans and Nicole left the next morning for a honeymoon in Belize, which we all can't wait to hear about they called from Houston on their way. We had the day Sunday to pack and get organized. We got into Burlington to pick up a few souvenirs and gifts. We picked up groceries but conveniently forgot the milk, giving Dad and I an excuse to take the Sprite to Hinesburg. I got to drive back. It's quite an experience driving a car 20 years older than me and six inches off the ground. You can't take your eyes from the road or hands from the wheel for even a moment and every input you give it comes back instantaneously, whether that input is steering, clutch, or gas. I could get used to it, but it's scary driving a work of art. My arms felt shaky and I smelled like gas when we got back. The ear to ear grin didn't go away for quite a while.

And here I am, on the plane on my way to Denver and from there back to Missoula. We left Vermont at 3:30 AM, and we'll be in Missoula at 4:45 local time.



Well, the bike is finished and off to its new owner, a very appreciative co-worker of Kate's. We had to make a house call last night to replace the rear tube. The fact that I should have gone ahead and done that when it was all apart is one of serveral lessons learned on this build. Here are a few others:

1. Standard Shimano 3-speed shift levers rely on a ball bearing trapped between two pieces of metal inside the unit. When you take the unit apart, this bearing has approximately the motility of the Golden Snitch. It will escape and you will lose it.
2. You will not find the bearing until you have reassembled the entire bike and resigned yourself to "hold the lever back for the easiest gear" mode.
3. Upon finding and attempting to reinstall this bearing, you will lose it at least three more tmes, and at least one of these times will be due to your bullheaded insistence that the repairs take place where the bike is parked in tall grass.
4. The paint is never really dry. Looking at it the wrong way during reassembly will cause it to chip.
5. Tightening the cable stop for the shifter onto the down tube will put a ding in the paint. This is fine, because the ding in the paint is covered by the cable stop. Except that you will never get the stop in the correct place to apply the correct tension to the hub the first time.
6. You will probably swear off another project for at least twice the amount of time it took to do the last one. So, the garage remains clean for at least three weeks hence.


Bike Update

Well, I've run and otherwise recreated strenuously when it was pretty smoky here in Missoula, but today there was ash falling from the sky. This gave me a good excuse to spend time on the bike project.

Here's the parts after one round of chemical paint stripper:

There's always a point in a project like this where you get the last little bit of old paint off and think "Maybe I'll just clearcoat it."

Maybe someday I'll do that- to an aluminum bike.

Here's all the parts that weren't getting painted today. The wheels have been repacked with new grease and tires cleaned and inflated.

Here's the final coat of paint:


Because Marci Asked

Here are some photos of the flowers and plants we have put in around our apartment:



Another break from Yellowstone. Kate and her friend Angela and I went canoing down at Lake Como last Sunday. The trip was fun, if smoky and surreal and inhumanly windy by the time we drove back. On the way out of the access road to the lake, we noticed a pile of free stuff at the bottom of somebody's driveway. Three people, PFD's and paddles in the car already: was there really room for a junky free bike? There was, after some wrangling and a few looks from Kate. I give her a lot of credit for putting up with both my bike habit and my tinkering habit. So, it stood on its wobbly little kickstand until tonight, when a free hour and a half gave me a chance to do the initial disassembly:

The first thing to do was get rid of the hunk of chain that had been wrapped around the seatpost and locked (though mercifully not through the frame)

I managed to get the lock off by wrestling the seatpost out of the frame. It had been installed without any grease:

Next, I took a look at the stem and handlebars. I decided for now that I would remove the whole business together. The headlight, brakes, shifter, and cables will all be somewhat separate projects:

Next came the chain guard:

And the rear wheel.

The oil inside this three-speed hub was probably pretty gummed up, so I dripped in a little tri-flow. Pocketa-pocketa went the freewheel, and your repairman imagined a Mitty-esque fantasy world where he kept the entire bike fleet of the Swiss army rolling.... No, not really, but the freewheel settled into a pretty steady tick after a few spins. It sounds pretty solid. Next came the rear fender, now the front fork, with fender and wheel attached at first. They all came apart pretty well. The rust pattern on this fork suggests that the bike was leaned over against some material (possibly hay in a barn) that got wet from time to time.

A note on the wheels. They seem pretty decent. This bike wasn't ridden much. I hope to be able to true the wheels up a bit, but the threads on the spokes are probably corroded the worst of any part of the bike. Also, I didn't take the tires off tonight, but they are in good shape, suggesting storage out of the sun. Who knows- the tubes may still be OK in there. Also, the tires are 26X1 3/8. You would think that that means the rims might take any old MTB tire, and you, like me, would be wrong. The bead diameter is slightly different. Such tires are a little harder to come by, but can sometimes be found at K-Mart or several of the other various Marts.

Lastly, the pedals come off the Ashtabula cranks (named for the town in Ohio where they were produced) and the cranks come out of the bottom bracket:

And there it all is. The headset cups and outer bearing races in the bottom bracket are still attached, but the frame is ready for stripping and paint. I'll do that, along with paint removal on the fenders, chain guard, and fork next time. The nice thing is I'll have lots of time to wait while the stripper works that I can spend getting the handlebar stuff apart. Ideally, I'm hoping to repaint this bike and reassemble it into working order as a decent three-speed. I'd really like to refurbish the classic looking headlight to take a Luxeon LED or a halogen and rechargeable battery pack. I've set myself some rules for this build as well. Mostly, no new components. Everything I took off the bike will probably go back on, save the cheesy reflectors (as long as I fit it with decent lights. Elbow grease, Phil Grease, stripper, and paint are all acceptable inputs, as are mods to the headlight, because it is just so dang cool looking. I've also sworn myself not to paint any metallic/chrome parts metallic colors. A little rust here and there will just have to be lived with. A liberal coating of oil and good care will keep it from spreading.


Kick Out the Jam

I need to take a break from procrastinating on the Yellowstone posts for a bit and mention that Kate and I and her friends Sarah, Amalia and Angela took a trip up to Arlee, about 35 minutes north of Missoula, to participate in the first annual Raspberry Jam at Common Ground Farm. The idea is simple: pay at the gate, pick all you want, enjoy the bluegrass band at the edge of the berry patch. Here's what the whole scene looked like, but there was a bigger crowd than in the picture. They are all on their hands and knees between the rows of bushes:

I picked a near-heroic (by my own estimate) 2 gallons of berries, which have now been secreted through the house and await donation to friends and conversion into all sorts of raspberry recipes. I don't even know where to start. Amalia brought a really nice fruit soup and cheese and baguettes, and Kate was even kind enough to go buy me a raspberry lemonade and bring it out to me as I slaved among the thorns.

It was hot, but the picking didn't start until 6:00, which made it better. The bushes were totally loaded with berries, and I don't think the few hundred pickers that showed up made much of a dent.

Arlee is a beautiful place. The Mission Mountains rise up out of the Jocko Valley and I'm sure I could spend a day just staring at them from the fields, hiking them in my mind. Much of the mountainous country here is sacred tribal land, though, so I'm unlikely to ever go there.

So now comes the fun and I'm not sure where to start: Sorbet? Pie? Liquor? Tonight, it's going to have to be fresh raspberries by the handful and a beer on the side.


Yellowstone Part II: Cardwell to West Yellowstone

When we turned off in Cardwell, we gassed up at the small station/casino/R.V. Park that was the only thing off the exit and took a picture of the billboard at the end of the last post.

There are two ways to get from Cardwell to West Yellowstone, and the choice between these was one made hastily as we were underway from the gas stop. The map I printed a few days before had slipped between the car seats, so I took the route with the most convincing signs for Yellowstone (Route 2 to 287 instead of Route 359 (to the same road, 287, just a few miles south). I think Google Maps had us going the other way, probably in pursuit of some small mileage savings that would become meaningless over a day of driving anyway. We followed along the highway for a mile or so and then turned south along Willow Creek and past the Lewis and Clark Caverns.

High canyon walls surrounded us and the 70MPH speed limit was a cruel joke in light of the twisty road. We made 55 and were thankful for it, with my eyes mostly on the road. I remember a big bird in the river, maybe a heron, then two of three vanloads of University of Texas geology students stopped at some roadside outcrop.

We met 287 and the landscape flattened a bit. Of course, the road flattened but huge mountains formed the horizon out the drivers' side window. This was farm country, Montana- style. &0 miles an hour and a straight road as far as you can see with a high plateau on the right leading to alpine meadows, forests, and rocky peaks. I'm used to knowing the names of my mountains, that was easy in Vermont. Here, I was hard-pressed to keep the names of the ranges straight. There is no lifetime big enough to see all the hummocks, high valleys, talus fields and peaks that caught my eye on the way down. Straight ahead, there was the road, fields, the occasional pickup. To the left, a long bench, a few "ranchettes" perched on its edge, then downslope, a river, a few fly fishermen, lots of real estate signs.

Then, the speed limit drops and you're in Ennis, with western saloon-style storefronts, t-shirt shops, and blink and it's gone and you've turned east into the mountains. You start climbing. More RVs on the road now, more beat-up 15-passenger vans pulling dories, more fishermen in the river. By now, some have pulled into a shady bend while their guides prepare and serve lunch, right on the boat. A few lodges and outfitters along the side of the road now.

The road climbs through broken rock and pine trees. Quake Lake, younger than Alaska's statehood, passes on the left. The fields are gone. Every few miles we see a loaded cycling tourist headed the other way. The air is cooler and drier.

Next is Hebgen Lake (which spilled to form Quake Lake in the 1959 earthquake), also off to the left. Houses in the west don't rot and fall down, they dry out and get hollow, then blow away into dust:

After Hebgen Lake, there's a right angle intersection with 191 South, which comes straight down out of Bozeman. You stop, and turn right onto a pine-lined four lane highway that is perfectly straight for several miles right into the heart of West Yellowstone, the gateway town to the Northwestern entrance to Yellowstone National Park. Only the federal government or a paper company could set a road this straight. I felt like I was in Maine headed from Millinocket up to Baxter State Park.


Yellowstone Part I

By 8:30 last Saturday morning we were in the car and headed South and East down I-90 toward Butte. Kate made room reservations at the Old Faithful Inn inside Yellowstone for that night, so we had about 300 miles ahead of us. Missoula disappeared in the rear-view mirror in minutes, and by 9:00 we were out past Rock Creek (have a ball at the annual "Testicle Festival"). This is the first time either of us have been that far down I-90 since September 2005, when we moved to Missoula from Cape Cod.

In a little over 100 miles, we came to Butte, where homes and businesses mingle with mine shafts on the side of a massive hill. Rumor/history has it that miners of old tunneled their way into the basements of the brothels and saloons in town. After Butte, you eventually start to climb over Homestake Pass and wind your way down toward Bozeman. There are amazing rock formations around the pass area, what look like (from the road at 75 mph) sandstone spires rising out of the pines. Good bouldering and sport climbing, I'm sure.

We didn't go all the way to Bozeman. We turned off the highway at the town of Cardwell:


Road Trip!

Kate and I just got back last night from a whirlwind long weekend to Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park. There's a lot of photos to edit and put up on Flickr, a lot of scenery and experiences to digest, and not time to do it all in a single or even a couple of posts. So I'll take my time, and you'll probably notice photos showing up first on Flickr, then a few photos here and hopefully lots of descriptions, observations and such. Stay tuned...


Catching Up

Well, the haircut I got in Seattle has gone shaggy, I went and discovered Google Reader, got busy in other ways, and went and neglected this blog for the most part. So what's been going on? Well, let's start where we left off, with the rest of the Seattle trip. If you click on the Flickr slideshow on your right, you'll notice a few more photos in the stream from Seattle, including the Space Needle, some shots from the sculpture park (giant neon ampersand), and a picture of the spinning globe atop the Seattle P-I headquarters. It was a great trip and an uneventful drive back.

If you keep looking through Flickr, you'll see a slightly more recent photo of me in a yellow shirt, messenger bag and unicycle- that was the creative commute I put together for Missoula's Bike Walk Bus week, which garnered me an award at work.

Blink and you'll miss the following photo, of a massive cedar forest in Idaho. Kate and I spent Memorial Day over in Idaho around Jerry Johnson Hot Springs. After the aggressive naked people left the biggest pool there, we enjoyed a long soak in natural 104-degree water.

You may see a few pictures of some snowy mountains: those would be the Mission Mountains in the Swan Valley, in the northeastern part of our county, about a 1 hour and 45 minute drive from Missoula proper. Work took me there on Friday. Imagine, you arrive at the meeting place, a small plane lifts from the grass strip next to the highway. You make the turn into the old USFS ranger station. People in green pants and yellow shirts mill around. You see the back of an open moving truck, stuffed with duffel bags and old Schwinn industrial bicycles. Then you see the guys with beards, wearing canvas-colored flight suits with high collars, carrying helmets with chicken-wire face masks. Smokejumpers, apparently training here today, practicing water landings in some high mountain lakes. The site visit up in the woods and the views of the Missions weren't half-bad either.

There will be a Google Earth picture that shows Missoula and Mount Sentinel traced with a rainbow line- that'd be my GPS track from the 5-mile race I did on Saturday, part of the Pengelly Double Dip. I kept my miles under ten minutes, and was happy to do so, considering the climb to the "M" at the start.

That about wraps it up for pictures. There's an off-road single speed bicycle project to photograph and document, and some pictures of my Dad with his new car purchase to show as well, but those will have to wait for me to take and scan the pictures, and to come up with the words to go with them.


Weekend Update
It was a short weekend, occasioned by a long shift on Saturday at REI, made interesting primarily by my use of the unicycle to get there, thus winning the store's "creative commuter" prize for Bike Walk Bus week here in Missoula. After work, Kate and I went to she a friend who is moving away soon and spent the evening eating the bread and olives and marinated mozzarella balls we brought over to consume among the boxes. Ben is moving as well. He left Missoula behind on Sunday morning, headed back to the Cape with no definite plans to return here again.

But, the weekend rolls on and I spent the rest of Sunday setting up our hammock in the back yard and fiddling with various bike-related projects.


Seattle, Part II

Our first full day in Seattle found us taking a walk up along the waterfront past Pike Place, and to a nearby salon to get haircuts to cut down on our bumpkin-esque looks. Well, Kate anyway is convinced that every haircut she's ever gotten in Missoula has made her look like a country singer. For my part, I just hadn't had a haircut since January and was feeling conspicuous among the well dressed and coiffed of downtown Seattle.

Feeling refreshed, we walked the long-sh trudge out to the Washington Park Arboretum. I'd like to say I'm some sort of botanist, but truthfully, it was just a nice sunny day and lots of things were in bloom, like this cherry tree:
The sun trickled through the trees and it was very quiet. We passed by a group of watercolor painters, plenty of ducks, and lots of joggers, photographers and dog walkers. Cyclists zipped along the parkway that runs through the property.

We spent a few hours walking through the arboretum and eventually took a bus back into town. We walked from Pike Place back to the hotel, had a soak in the hot tub, and headed across the street to the Pyramid Brewing Alehouse for dinner. They had excellent fish and burgers and good beer. Although we did not have any on this trip. my mother has in the past expressed an affinity for their Apricot offering. I prefer the Thunderhead IPA. After a day spent mostly walking, we retired to the hotel.


Seattle, Part I

On the occasion of Kate's 30th, she and her brother and I took off for Seattle on Thursday. I'll probably split the trip report into a couple of posts. It's about a seven and a half hour drive that crosses Lookout Pass, Fourth of July Pass, the flats of Eastern Washington, the Columbia River, and Snoqualmie Pass. I didn't take any pictures of those places because I was driving. It's interesting country, and you go from hot and dry to alpine to flat and irrigated to near-desert, then to fertile farmland, alpine again, and finally cool, green Seattle with sea breezes and flowers everywhere. We used Hotwire for our hotel reservation and ended up at the Silver Cloud at Safeco Field. It's a brand new hotel, a short walk to Pike Place and a shorter walk to Pioneer Square and a walk across the street to the Pyramid Brewery and Alehouse. More on that later. We scored a room on the 9th floor, the top floor, which also housed the rooftop hot tub and the reakfast room we availed ourselves of each morning. The view from the roof: We had time upon our arrival to relax and then head downtown, where fish and chips at Ivar's served for dinner. We walked around a bit, went back for a soak on the roof at sunset, and retired for the night.


In the Mid-Week-end

So much going on this week. Work, late night meetings and late night shifts at the ever-present- credit-card-debt-inspired second job at REI- also where I spent my day today. Retail tests your faith in humanity, but I work with great people and that makes it easy. Between time before work and all of my breaks throughout the day I managed to get the studded tires off my bike, the slick tires on, fix the same flat twice because I rushed the job the first time, and get the big 46-tooth ring onto my crankset replacing the 34 I have spun on through the winter. It's all about macrodrive, baby. The bike flies now, and I fly on it. I got out a little early on Friday and managed a 6.7 mile uni ride, which took me through the UM campus quad, home to the youthful and tanned citizens of Missoula whose lives are subsidized by a student loan program that surely funds itself elsewhere. I don't like being conspicuous on the uni, but the sometimes I do. Kate would say it is my astrological destiny as a Leo to like attention. The chant of "uni-u-ni" from the frisbee-playing kids on the quad was fun, I have to admit.

I miss college sometimes, even now, almost eight years after graduation. I miss being carefree, although I certainly didn't think of myself as such at the time. I miss six hours in the library working to get a poem just right, I miss the Java House, I miss conversations that spiraled out into nowhere and terminated in decisions to order pizza or head downtown. I miss the totality of the experience. I wonder if those of use who care about writing and Lit owe it to ourselves to pursue those things at our own financial peril. I wonder if I'm really saving the world through land-use planning, or if I simply serve as handmaiden to the developer.

I've been reading about Charles Olson again, about my professor Al Glover (still stinging for the time he asked if I got "anything at all" out of Lisa Jarnot's work, and i KNEW I hadn't), about Moby Dick and King Lear and wishing I had the momentum to get one of those projects in the right margin started for real, taken beyond the status of placeholder. Collaborative poetry- Blue Hero- is it worth it? When I started it years ago I asked for poems by mail only and actually got a few, which sit in a folder in my office, refugees from when I lived in Vermont and knew I was leaving law school and had a yard sale and put tons of other stuff in the dumpster in anticipation of traveling light for the next few years. I have the poems. I have the schedule for Anatomy of a Critic, started in the first weeks of my AmeriCorps experience in 1999, fresh out of college after spending my post-degree
summer digging holes and planting trees on the campus of Middlebury and going home to write, fighting the alienation from academia that had already become so palpable. Time is such a critical resource, so critical that nearly every moment needs to be evaluated for its usefulness.

What will I do tomorrow? I have two sides, two minds, or maybe just a mind and a soul. The utilitarian side wants to clean out the garage, put the tools away,taking pleasure in the wonderful physicality of WORK, of cooking and cleaning and organizing. Some part of me wants to get the gigantic hammock (big enough for four!) I wove the winter before law school and hang it out in the yard and read all day, or tune up the guitar, play the harmonica like nobody can hear, like I'm not bitter. Like I'm not clinging to the past or to something unattainable. Like I'm Sonny Terry, whooping between the musical phrases for the sheer joy of it, or maybe just to get out the last of the breath that couldn't be used in music.



Call me late to the geek party, but I just got done watching the last episodes of Firefly. Nothing has made me want to boycott Fox more than the fact that they canceled this show. Kate was reluctant to watch at first, despite my pleas that this was Joss "Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which you liked a lot, right?" Whedon. Spaceships, horses, wild west hijinks and not an alien in sight made for one of the most creative shows I've ever seen, and it didn't even make it through the first season? George Lucas produces three phenomenal turds in the form of the Star Wars prequels, and a show with a budget that wouldn't have even animated Jar-Jar Binks' little toe gets cut? The world just isn't fair. Ben picked up Serenity last night, so we'll watch that tomorrow.


Early Spring and Welcome Creek

Kate and I have spent our last two Sundays hiking up Welcome Creek off of Rock Creek in the southeastern corner of Missoula County. Getting to the trailhead involves a 30-mile drive out of Missoula along the Clark Fork River and a 14-mile drive off the highway up Rock Creek to where Welcome Creek joins it. Rock Creek is a blue-ribbon trout stream and thus the drive is peppered with Brad Pitt- esque views of fishermen rolling their lines out in gorgeus arcs, though few seemed to have ventured more than a few hundred yards from where their pickups were parked on the side of the road. Today, we hiked up Welcome Creek to Cinnabar Cabin. The cabin is half-collapsed but I was able to get in to shoot a panorama of the remaining interior: Not visible in my photo is the shredded sleeping bag, broken cutlery, and meticulously zip-locked pamphlet titled: "The Gospel of John" that had been left in the cabin. Somebody also tore up the floor on one corner and dropped in a fire ring. Ben climbed in and took a look. Here is the outside of the cabin. It was a great hike and a nice time outside. The walk began and ended with a pretty bouncy traverse over a high suspension bridge. I put a couple of apples on ice in a small cooler in the Jeep, which tasted better than anything when we got back to the trailhead. Spring is truly upon us here in Missoula. I went to take out the garbage tonight and took in the stars. I noticed something moving up high, ghostly as it reflected the orange streetlight back at me, right at the edge of vision. It seemed like a silent helicopter at first, no lights, no whoof of the blades. Then, is started to change shape like a collapsing hot-air balloon. As I stared harder, the fading mass took the form of a V, and I heard the honking. Geese, heading north. The trash bag was low-slung by my side as they finally faded from sight completely.


Weekend Travels

Kate's parents visited for the weekend. We got up to Glacier on Friday, though there isn't much to do there this time of year unless you are on skis or snowshoes. They had the gates closed at Lake MacDonald Lodge, which is where I shot this panorama. Blogger wants to compress it down an aweful lot, so shoot on over to my flickr page by clicking on the little photos on the right to see a better version.

The scenery on the way up to the park was obscured by heavy clouds, but those gave way to more or less blue skies on the way back, and the Mission Mountains were all white with tufts of cloud around their summits. We didn't stop on the way back so i didn't take any good pictures there at all.

Yesterday, I had to work at REI at 11 but we were able to get out early in the morning for a croissant at Bernice's and a five-mile round trip walk up along the Rattlesnake before I had to be back in town for my shift. While I worked, Kate and Ben and their parents took a drive down the Bitterroot Valley for more sightseeing and a massive burger lunch at Nap's in Hamilton. Kate and Alyssa and I ate there back over the summer after our day of biking and swimming at Como Lake. The burgers truly are legendary and worth the trip.

In town, we spent a lot of time walking the UM campus and down along the river, showing Bernie and Marci around town, such as it is. It seems like there's never enough time, and certainly another visit's worth of activities for sometime in the future.

Today, we snuck in brunch at the Montana Club before they had to be on their way. The rain that was predicted all weekend started to fall just as they left.


Raymond G. Boulanger

A little over a month ago, my grandfather, Ray Boulanger died. I've been away from this blog since then, communicating with family, feeling regret over not being able to get back east for the funeral, feeling guilty for not calling my grandmother, and writing this post over and over in my head. I'll start with a re-post of the obituary, as published in Foster's Daily Democrat in Dover, New Hampshire:

Raymond G. Boulanger

1925 - 2007
Dover – Raymond G. Boulanger, 81, formerly of Tolend Road, died Sunday February 18th at Riverside Rest Home.

Born in Dover on November 25, 1925 the son of Aremys and Anna (Labonte) Boulanger. He attended Dover schools and has lived here all of his lifetime. He was a member of the Dover Lodge of Elks, The Over 70 Ski Club, Teamsters, and the International Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees. Prior to his retirement he was a trackman for the Boston & Maine Railroad. In his retirement he was employed by Tri-City Dodge in Somersworth for several years. He was a member of St. Joseph Church.

He is survived by his wife of 60 years, Elizabeth T. (Pray) Boulanger, whom he married in 1946. Son David R. Boulanger and his wife Andrea of Monkton, VT. Two grandchildren; Matthew D. Boulanger of Missoula, MT and Nicole J. Boulanger of Burlington, VT. Brother Charles Boulanger of Dover. Two sisters; Eva Buzzell and Anna Hanagan, both of Dover. Several nieces and nephews also survive him. He was pre-deceased by two sisters; Florence Daniels and Edmee Boulanger as well as three brothers; Paul Boulanger, Maurice Boulanger and Clement Boulanger.

Relatives and friends are invited to calling hours on Thursday February 22nd from 9:45 – 10:45 AM at Tasker Funeral Home 621 Central Ave Dover. A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated on Thursday February 22nd at 11:00 AM at St. Joseph’s Church in Dover with burial to follow in St. Charles Cemetery in Dover.

This was the eulogy my father gave at the funeral:
Thank you all for being here and thank you all for the support you’ve given my Mother and Dad over the past few years. Thanks especially for the help you’ve given Andrea and me over the last few days. As I’ve told some of you in the past it’s easy being an only child when you come from such a big and loving family. In saying that, I certainly include friends as family as well.

It’s appropriate that we meet here to say goodbye to my Dad, who came to St. Joseph’s as his parish before this building was even here. Dad liked nothing better than a good sermon and he enjoyed his time in the Holy Name Society here and attended missions and retreats here, often with his friend Sonny Sheehy and others in the crowd from Tolend Road. I have great memories of that crowd at communion breakfasts where our table of fathers and sons set some records for blueberry muffin eating that must still stand today.

My father loved a good time. He was always ready to go and do almost anything…as a kid, it might have been sliding on a double runner sled he built big enough for eight or nine, complete with a steering wheel, or skiing on home-made skis. Later on, it was nights at the Rockingham Ballroom dancing to big band music, a fifty mile round trip for an ice cream cone, a trip up to the lake, a ride around the mountains, and skiing of course, skiing almost anywhere, but especially at Bretton Woods where the very old and the very young ski together, and Black Mountain where the lifts are low and it’s never as windy and cold as at Wildcat, on the other side of the mountain.

Dad knew that stuff. He knew where the slopes were sheltered from the wind, where there was a diner that had “two eggs, home fries, toast and coffee” for a dollar and a quarter, where there were sweetest oysters in Great Bay, and where just about every dirt road in New Hampshire went. He could tune-up your car, paper your walls, upholster your chair and if they didn’t have them, he’d even put steel edges on your skis.

He loved to work and he worked hard, hard enough with his hands to wear through his wedding ring, but here’s the thing: for the most part, he whistled while he worked, because he enjoyed what he was doing. Even so, he always told me that he wanted me to make my living with my head and not my hands, and I’ve done that mostly, but not without knowing just how hard real work is. How could you not learn from a man who laid railroad track in the summer sun and put chains on tractor trailer trucks in the middle of a blizzard? I live and work every day guided by what he taught me with his kind of work and his lessons.

One winter day we were shoveling out our mailbox on Tolend Road. For me, a couple of feet either side of the mailbox was just fine, for Dad, nothing would do but a fine tapering, three foot deep indentation that extended about fifteen feet either side of the mailbox. “Always leave the job a little easier for the next man to come along.” That was Dad’s lesson and that was his life: he always worked hard to make the job easier for the next man to come along. Last week I shoveled out my mailbox just that way.

His lesson was also to always take time to have a good time. In the aftermath of another snowstorm, on that same blind hill by the mailbox, he and I rode straight down the middle of the road on a jackjumper that we’d just made that afternoon we were snowed in. We could’ve been killed by a snowplow, but we weren’t. I’m sure I laughed like a fool and I’m sure he was thinking about flying down Portland Avenue on his old double runner…big enough for the whole gang!

So, after today’s sadness here’s how to remember my father: work hard, but whistle while you’re at it…preferably “In the Mood” or “One O’clock Jump”, and don’t be afraid to take a long ride just to see where the road goes, and of course, stop for ice cream.

I'd like to thank my dad for the eulogy he gave, even though I wasn't there in person to hear it. Pa's death is the first death of an immediate family member for me, and I've never been good at dealing with these types of emotions. But reading that eulogy brought some good and productive tears out, and focused my thoughts a little more in the days the followed the funeral. Pa worked hard, he taught Dad to work hard, and they both taught me the same thing.

Pardon me for fumbling through the rest of this:

I started thinking about how friends, co-workers and my wife and her family have all probably seen me get persistent to a fault in pursuit of fixing some trivial thing that probably ought to be thrown out or abandoned. I never thought about where that tenacity came from. I didn't know Pa very much when he was working, but I know he still got up before down after he retired. I know we could bring him a boat motor, a piece of woodworking, a bicycle, anything, and he'd fix it, better than new.

As I sit at my desk at work, with ArcGIS up and running, a program I have no formal training in, there I am, scouring the Internet and finding just the piece of code I need to drop in to recalculate the acres of some parcels of land, for some report I'm working on. Kate has called twice, wondering where I am. I'm in the garage tightening the headset on a junked bike Ben found somewhere in Missoula, a bike that I had reduced to all of its pieces that morning and reassembled that afternoon, oblivious to lunch or cold or the long shadows racing up Mount Sentinel. I'm driving though my life with total faith that there's always a solution waiting if I just work hard enough to find it. I'm happy in this sort of effort if not whistling, and now I know why.

The work thing is just the beginning. Like my father and grandfather, I love diners and the culture of the rural open road. I love old ski areas and the the culture of riding the rope tow and running gates with the high school team on half-hay half-ice at Cochran's. I love taking drives, like the one I took with Kate last spring along the Blackfoot when the ruts in the snow were so deep the Escort hit bottom a couple of times. I love talking to old guys. Pa and Dad and I all went to the same barber shop once and I, eight years old or something, listened and watched as Pa and Dad talked with the other guys at the shop about some truck that had rolled over on the highway the night before, and it was like I was part of this big adult thing, just because I could nod and grunt along with Pa and Dad as the story unfolded.

Those are things I have carried with me, not knowing where they came from, but there are also plenty of memories. Driving with Pa and Dad in Pa's old truck. Pa letting the local kids sled on the hill behind his house. Pa making sure Nicole and I got the extra-large ice cream cones at some roadside place so we could be kids and eat ourselves silly and ruin our suppers. Pa on the same trip pretending to fall asleep at the wheel just to get Grammie's goat. Pa and Dad and Nicole and I all skiing at Sunapee. Pa taking me to a bike shop to get a new shifter for my bike when it broke while we were visiting. Pa and Dad and I always going for a drive together in Pa's or Dad's new car whenever we got together. Pa and dad and I tarring the roof of Pa's house. The three of us walking Pa's back 40 so he could show us where he sunk some railroad ties on a muddy part of the trail. Hitting golf balls in Pa's backyard in the spring. The silver dollars he always gave us, the folding circular change purse he carried and how he had one replicated for me one Christmas. Later, the endless pocket of loose change he kept. Pa's basement with the steep narrow stairs and the wonderful oil smell and boxes of old Popular Mechanics magazines. Pa mowing the grass on a riding mower with a Granby Zoo bumper sticker.

I'm not sure who this message is for, or if it's just something I want to make sure is said, but when I was growing up, older people scared me. Going into the nursing home to see my great grandmother scared me. Pa's gruff way with kids scared me a little, too. As I've spent the last month mulling over Pa's death, thinking about the ways his life and mine intersected, I've come to the realization that there have been times I let that irrational fear of the different overwhelm me and influence my actions. But those fears are short-lived and are never what remains when the person is gone, or even just when the moment is gone. Beyond the good memories and the discovery of the roots of some of who I am, what I am taking away from this experience is that I never should be afraid of connecting someone just because I perceive a gap between us. The human experience is universal and the sooner we all get over that, the better.


Late Night Wind

It has been a couple of tough weeks for sleep. Full moon, being sick, stressed, whatever. Tonight it's the wind. We are on the same side of the jet stream as the deep south and far west right now, the warm, moist side that means it is above freezing here with brown grass all around while my folks in Vermont have three feet of snow and are on their third week of a single-digit cold snap. I'll be tired tomorrow but late-night clarity and time to write, to listen to music, actually listen, as opposed to putting it on for a few minutes in the car. Time to put on the good headphones. I'm bouncing all over my collection, as shown by the "Now Playing" feed I've added over on the left side.

It's all Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs: The bills are paid for another month, I can breathe through my nose again and I'm not dog-tired, so music creeps in, I think of the resonator guitar in the case upstairs, spared the eBay squall I went through more than a year ago when we were really broke. Needs strings, I'm sure, and I need practice. I can make the chords but don't remember the names or the songs right now. And after the music comes back? Any number of blank books with poems written into the first five or so pages. Harmonicas get the dust blown out of them. Conversations with Kate turn to the literary and the theoretical.

But tonight it's the wind keeping me up. It bent the screen door open again and the streetlights flicker in the bare branches. I'd stay up all night if it wasn't for work, but Kate is restless upstairs, half asleep knowing I'll come to bed eventually and toss and turn for an hour. Ishmael is curled on the futon. The dishes are done but putting them away would be too noisy right now. I've read all the news I care to for now. Good night until tomorrow, then.


Slushy Sunday

Kate and Ben and I got out for an afternoon in the woods today. We were going to go up the Ravine Trail from Grant Creek Road, but we got a half mile in and it became apparent that the entire trail was sheer ice, a result of its popularity and the fact that any snow on the trail had been packed down by a winter's worth of footsteps. We headed down the highway and up into the Rattlesnake, up to the Sawmill Gulch trailhead. Sawmill Gulch must have been the site of an old ranch. There are a few foundations and drinking troughs in the old meadow. There were no fresh tracks on the trail we took, and only one other car at the trailhead. Of course, this might have been because the last mile to the trailhead was all ice, with rivers of meltwater coursing over the ice all the way up. We hiked through the old meadows and up the side to the top of the ridge, where we could have looked back down into the Grant Creek drainage had there not been so much fog coming up out of the trees. The snow was sublimating, evaporating right into the air without melting first. It was fairly warm but not sunny. Mostly, it was nice to get outside at all. I had been pretty sick the whole week before, and Kate was sick for the week and a half before that. The weather has been pretty crappy, and my workload has increased substantially since Christmas. In part, that is a blessing. I'm working harder and enjoying that work more than I ever have. But it takes a toll on my free time and ability to do other creative projects. I hope as the weather and my health improve I'll be able to get more done. This upcoming week will be another great one. I'll be up in Seeley Lake, a rural community about 55 miles from here, on Monday, I'll be working hard all week for the county, and I'll be at REI Wednesday and Friday nights, as well as all day Saturday. With any hope, we'll be back out hiking next Sunday.


On Good Friends

I got a call from Jesse the other night and it was the first time we've spoken since June, and when we spoke in June it was for 30 seconds because I was at work when he called. Before that, it was at the wedding a year and a half ago. The last time I saw him, he wasn't a father yet, and now he's father to a 15-month old son. Ryan (pictured 11 years ago here along with Jesse and I) will be a father soon too, if he isn't already, and has also married since the last time I saw him. I dug up this photo for Aaron, whose wife is collecting photos from our track days. Yeah, his wife who I've never met and his child I've never met either, both new things since I last saw him. Peter and Lance? Fathers as well. Nick and Deanna? Parents. Who knows how many other significant events in the lives of my good friends I've missed. Like all calls from good friends, though, the call from Jesse was as if we saw each other yesterday. We talked about running, about sailing, about getting out and up and about the chance we could see each other when they come out to Yellowstone next summer. We talked about doing some hiking. We fell into the conversation as easily as it was every time we got on a boat together, where there never even needed to be words at all. We read the wind and the sails the same way and I remember an early evening on the Comet in Shelburne Bay when probably five words passed between us for two hours. So thanks, Buddy, for reaching out and for calling me back even though I missed your call two days before. I get into work, into life, into paying the bills and taking care of the stuff in front of my nose, and it is so intuitive and easy to do that. To all my friends out there: I know I haven't called, I barely write, and I haven't been home and I've missed a couple of births and weddings and times when some of us were back in Vermont. I kind of flung Kate and I out here a year and a half ago and it has had some unintended consequences. I'll be home this summer for sure, for my sister's wedding. I hope to see everybody I can. I hope to get myself into the financial position where a cross-country flight between two third-tier airports isn't so prohibitive. I miss all of you. I look at my wedding photos and realize I never had any idea moving out here meant that was the last time I'd see people in such a long time. This place has been so good for me in so many ways, and so terribly challenging in others. I haven't made the return to poetry and music I predicted, yet. I'm getting there, getting toward so many things, or back to them. Yet, that same returning concept has changed for me. You can't go back. You can go there physically, you can go in up to your chest at Circle Current on the New Haven River, but the water isn't the same water that cooled a case of beer five years ago, it isn't the same water you plunged into in the middle of the night, it isn't the same water that shocked you awake in May and barely cooled you at all in August, but it runs the same courses. It isn't just that I can't write the poems or listen to the music or be with the friends and community I once had again- they are the water that ran down valley, into Lake Champlain, north to the Saint Lawrence Seaway and out into the Atlantic and across to England and Denmark. They, like that water from a decade ago, are in innumerable places, coursing in new stream beds and blowing away in clouds that formed yesterday and will disappear tomorrow. But there's something else, a sub-atomic memory the water carries of that river channel on that one day that we all carry with us as well, that can be brought back at the sound of a voice or the turning of a photo or the chance meeting again anywhere in the world. That's what the phone calls and emails and all of that are- it isn't sentimentality or nostalgia, it is a incremental awakening of quantum parts of who we all are and of what we value. I miss you guys, and we'll never be the same again, not even between today and tomorrow, but I'd get on a boat with any one of you tomorrow knowing that nothing in particular would have to be said.



I'll admit it. I am a nerd. Case in point- this post on my blog (first nerd clue) is being drafted in Linux (second nerd clue) which is installed on a partition of the hard drive on my laptop, which I can dual boot into either Linux Mint or XP (third nerd clue). With that out of the way, I have to say, I like Mint quite a lot. You can download it and burn it to a bootable disk and run it live off the disk to see if it will work for you, then install it if you like it- it walks you through the partition process and comes with mp3 and dvd codecs out of the box, which most other Linux distros do not do, as those codecs are technically proprietary. It's based on Ubuntu, another popular distro out there. In short, for anybody who has an old laptop or desktop, Mint seems like a great way to get going with email, DVD and music play, internet access, etc.