Monday, December 31, 2007

Honeymoon Road Trip Part III - Eastern Sierras

Our visit to the bright lights, bouldering and mountain biking of Las Vegas would not last long, our desire to head West would overcome all desires for gambling and the familiar terrain. We headed West toward the rock-solid Eastern Sierra mountains, more bouldering and mostly SKIING!

The drive to Bishop, CA from Las Vegas, NV is incredible. We traveled deep into the Mojave desert. Aided by the desert winds, our packed car passed great basins of desert depressions. Animal life was extremely sparse, but the views immense. After the desert flat lands, we climbed into the the Sierras. The passes were intense. The steep winding roads were like none I've experienced in Colorado. Finally, we reached Bishop.

The snow was falling in Bishop and instead of heading up in to the Sierras, we had to stop at an auto parts store to buy tire chains. It is a law in California that during snowfall and on the mountain passes that you carry tire chains. One might also be required to actually put them on. We were fortunate that we did not have to put on tire chains in a snow storm. Instead we took in the powerful Sierras.

The rocky ridges of the Sierras are granite mixed with volcanic rock. In fact, the land has undergone some serious changes throughout Earth's evolution. Millions of years ago the Sierras were covered in Ice. As the Ice pulled away, the water flowed. Instead of the Mojave desert a great sea covered the land. The land is a mix of opposites. In the Sierras, you can hike to the top of the contiguous United States at Mount Whitney (15,000 feet above sea level) and 80 nautical miles away visit the lowest at Death Valley (- 280 feet below sea level). So it was this environment in which we were to play.

We reached our destination, which was a small cabin between Mammoth Lakes, CA and June, CA. The town isn't much of a town, instead more of a halfway point. We parked our car on the side of the road, strapped on our snowshoes and hiked the 1.5 miles to our cabin nestled deep in the woods. Hiking to our cabin was dramatic. The snow was lightly falling and the light was slowly starting to change to the amber so loved by photographers. It was beautiful. However, we couldn't bask in the beauty for long. We had work to do, which included hauling our gear to the cabin and warming ourselves. After our gear was safely stored and our food hiding from the mice, we set to opening some wine and then falling asleep.

We woke to bright sun and quickly strapped on our skis to head to June Mountain, a ski resort famed for cheap prices and cool terrain. At June we were rewarded with no crowds and the famed affordable lift tickets. Pumpkin Pants did an amazing job on her turns. I would've preferred more powder for my telemarks, but loved getting in some skiing. We skied the whole day and had a blast. The next day, would be more suffering - Walker style.

Again we woke to beautiful sunshine. The air was crisp and seemed to awaken every sense of your body. We loaded up our gear for a cross country ski trip. On the map, we figured our round-trip to be something more like two hours. Instead, after seeing the Inyo Craters, the backside of Mammoth ski resort and Deer mountain, we clocked our trip at five hours! It was off to bed immediately after a trip like that. In the morning, we would head to Bishop, CA and more bouldering.

The Happy Boulders in Bishop, CA are volcanic formations atop a ridge which looks as if no boulder could stay for long. The steepness of the ridge side is wild, but as you crest the top, one is rewarded with an amazing array of boulder problems. Ranging from V-easy to V-super hard to V-super hard and super scary, the bouldering is awesome! For over three hours we pulled on the super cool rock formations and topped out some of the three-star boulder problems. With beat hands, we descended the mountain and headed back to Las Vegas, for, you guessed it, RED ROCKS!!!

More on Red Rocks in part IV...

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Honeymoon Road Trip: Part II

We didn't stay long in Sedona, because of our many previous trips. Yeah, we know about the petting zoo and the secret waterfall. Oh, and don't tell us about the spiritual vortex, because I'm part of the Matrix! So, we left Sedona and traveled I-40 for some more adventure. Our goal was Boulder City, NV one of the best desert Mountain biking locations - EVER!

We arrived around 7:00, which was just in time for happy hour, Boulder City style. We unpacked quickly and headed over to the Moroccan restaurant called The Bighorn; odd name for a Moroccan joint, but it gets rave reviews. Our meal couldn't have been more delightful. The portions were big and the wine was cheap. Next, we headed over to Milo's bar and had a few to settle accommodate our desire for sleep. The next morning was bright with no wind to speak of. We loaded up the bikes and hit Bootleg Canyon.

Bootleg Canyon is an obvious place to ride. You'll see a huge "BC" outlined in white paint as you drive through Boulder City, NV. To access the trail head, drive on Main street and head North on Yucca street. The entire way to the rides are marked for you by very convenient city signs. So, we get to the trail head and notice the abundance of potential "easy" to "medium" to "advanced" rides. I quickly remember that this a honeymoon trip and decide to take it easy with Pumpkin Pants.

On our ride up to the top of the BC mountain, we run into Josh Bender. It was crazy to see him! We talk for a few and, in classic Bender fashion, he gives us the goods on where/what to ride. Instantly, we are back on the trail with renewed vigor because of our advanced trail knowledge. We have a blast riding the following: Caldera (yes, all the way out there), Girl Scout, Boy Scout, IMBA, Mother, Westloop and Snakebite. Almost four hours later, we are beat and ready to clean up. But where to stay...

When you're in Las Vegas, act like you're in Las Vegas, right? So we head to the Red Rock Casino. Off of the strip, the Red Rock Casino is more of my kind of place and it was the perfect compromise. Pumpkin Pants was sure of her gambling skills and I was more than willing to support her habits - hell, what if she did win... The casino is also 10 minutes from Red Rock park; I'll tell you more about that visit in part IV. We crash for the night after Christina loses $20 and wake rested and ready for our drive to the Eastern Sierra's and SKIING!!!

Monday, December 24, 2007

More Walker Fiction: The Holy Hitchhiker

Where I live, hitchhiking is safe. Moreover, it is an efficient means of travel. During a 10 mile drive to the grocery store, you might see five or six people “thumbing it”. No big deal out here. So, it was when I decided to pick up a hiker on Christmas Eve.

The sun was setting; almost cutting through the low clouds to force a bleeding red and orange sky. I couldn’t help but become mesmerized as I turned on to the county road right outside our driveway. A few minutes later, I was in a trance-like state. Sunsets like these are rare. Christmas Eve couldn’t have started out more spiritual then this, I thought to myself. At the point in my drive to town, I was surprised in not having encountered a single hiker; then again, it was Christmas. Maybe they’re sitting on their front porches watching the day cross into night. I thought about this scene and was relaxed even further; a peace fell upon my mind. No sooner had I considered the hikers, when I saw a hunched over Navajo raise his thumb in to the air. I wasn’t planning on picking anyone up because of my time crunch, but I couldn’t resist, it was Christmas.

Immediately, I stopped and pulled to the side of the road. As the hiker approached the window, I noticed the small, old Navajo man had a Denver Broncos sweatshirt over a large turquoise necklace. When he opened the door to get in, his hands were covered in turquoise and silver rings. His face was kind. He sat down, smiled in a Navajo-kind-of-way and closed the door.

“Where to?” I asked. Instead of answering the Navajo pointed straight ahead towards the sun. “So, to town, right?” The Navajo nodded. “OK, well, welcome aboard.” We drove for about 10 minutes in total silence. I assumed he was captured by the setting sun, as I was. When we reached town, I pulled the car to the side of the road and said, “is this OK for you? I’m sorry, I guess I should’ve asked where you wanted to go in particular.” The Navajo looked at me confused and pointed left. Almost without thinking otherwise, I did what I was told.

A few minutes later and after seeing my anxiety about how far we were heading left, the Navajo said, “we are picking up some things.”

“What things? I’ve got to get to a Christmas party, so how far? And what things, again?” I was slurring as I said this. I almost felt light headed. The old Navajo looked at me as I spoke.

“Some small things. Don’t worry, real quick.” His voice was calming and seemed to resonate in my head. It was as if his voice was in my head. He smiled.

A few minutes later we were at a small Hogan, which serves as a traditional dwelling for the Navajo people. The old man got out of the car and went inside. What am I doing? I thought out loud to myself. I’ve got to get to the party. I seemed to think this as though breaking from a trance. Almost immediately the Navajo appeared from the Hogan carrying a tattered sheepskin bag. He smiled.

We left the Hogan and drove two or so miles down the road to a tribal gas station. Another old man walked to the car and handed my passenger a carton of cigarettes. They exchanged nods and next we drove to a roadside stand. The old Navajo got out my car and disappeared behind the stand.

I thought. Where is this all going? I’ve got to get to the party. How much longer is this going to take? Again, I seemed to break some kind of a trance. I even noticed that my mouth was open. Just then, the Navajo man returned with a large wool rug. He smiled.

“Last stop.” He said pointing East.

“OK, but I’ve got to get to a party, this has to be the last one. Hey, what’s your name?” I didn’t expect an answer to my question as Navajos aren’t usually the most talkative people.

“Frank. Just a few miles up the road.” The old man said while organizing his blanket, sheepskin bag and cigarettes into a neat little pile on his lap.

We arrived at an old single-wide trailer next to a large Cottonwood tree. There were five cars outside and the lights were on. A few dogs ran up to my car as we pulled up. Another man opened the front door and waved. Instinctually, I waved back. The old man smiled.

“Well, here you go. Merry Christmas.” I said thinking this was the end of our lengthy and strange encounter.

“You should come in too.” The old man said and smiled.

The trance-like state hit me again and I obliged. “OK, but this, um, has to be it.” I seemed to be fighting some weird force. It was curiosity mixed with a mental haze that I couldn’t quite place.

The trailer was packed with people. We could barely open the door to get into the main living room. However, when the occupants saw the old man, they all seemed to mold into the side of the walls. Immediately, the people cleared and in the middle of the room was a small baby carriage, a mother and father by its side. The old man looked at the mother and father and smiled. Then, he passed the carton of cigarettes to another old Navajo in the room. They both nodded to each other in some form of communication I could almost understand. They were paying respects. This was more than an old man, I figured. He was a holy man. The Navajo knelt down near the baby carriage. He opened his sheepskin bag and took out a some jewelry, some stones and what appeared to be a small woven object. Then he rolled out the blanket, reached into the carriage and placed the baby on the soft decorative wool.

All the other Navajos in the trailer were looking at the old man and the baby. No one seemed to be concerned that there was a white man in the trailer. I felt incredibly uncomfortable. Should I leave? What am I doing here? What about the party? I thought about leaving. Just then, the old man turned to me and smiled.

I couldn’t help but think about the nativity scenes I’d grown up with. Mary, Joseph, the shepherds and the holy men would be awestruck by the baby Jesus. As I looked around the room, I saw almost the exact same thing. My former passenger was cradling the baby and singing softly. The mother and father were watching intensely. They looked to the old man and then smiled at each other. After a few minutes, another old man tapped me on the shoulder and threw his head to the front door.

“Let’s go outside and smoke. You can’t see the next part.” He said opening the door so I could leave first.

I whispered back to the old man, “OK, but…”

The new old man, not the one I had driven around town, interrupted me and said, “come one, let’s smoke.”

We walked outside. The old man took out one of the packets of cigarettes and passed me one. I didn’t really care to smoke, but I wouldn’t give up the chance to calm my nerves after this weird evening. We stood on the front porch, lit the cigarettes and stared at the moon which was very bright.

“You’re wondering what you’re doing here, huh?” The old man said while exhaling after a long drag from his cigarette.

“Yeah, I am. I’ve got to go actually. Seriously, thanks for the smoke, but I got to.” I was getting more anxious and really wanted to leave.

“Ah, you’ll be OK. Listen, that old fart you drove around today is my brother. He’s a holy man and here to bless my new Grandson. Kind of Christian, ain’t it?”

“You can say that again. Is the child special or something?”

“Isn’t every child special?”

“Well, I meant…”

“You meant is he some kind of Indian savior. Naw, he’s just a regular old Grandson, but who knows, maybe he’ll grow up to be the next Denver Bronco’s quarterback. That would be a pretty cool miracle.”

I laughed and so did my new friend. We talked for a few more minutes. Then Frank, the holy man, opened the door and stepped out on to the patio. He and his brother exchanged handshakes and spoke some brief Navajo. I figured this was part of the ritual I had experienced in the trailer earlier. They looked at each other with compassion and respect. Frank’s brother looked at me and said, “thanks for the smoke, take care.” He left and I was alone with the holy man, Frank.

I wasn’t sure if I should just leave, break the awkward night-time silence between Frank and me or just continue smoking. I really needed to get going. Then, Frank turned to me and said, “thanks for the ride. This child just may make one helluva Bronco’s quarterback, if you believe in miracles.”

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Super Road Trip: Part I

Folks, the travel has been good. We've covered a lot of honeymoon ground here as well as snow and dirt. Let me be the first to say that playing, working and honeymooning from the road is my cup of tea! Shall we begin...???

Part I:

Our first stop got us into the Oak Creek Brewery in Sedona, AZ where we feasted after six hours of driving. Call us weak on the car time, but we like to break things up. After some tasty brews and some crappy Christmas music we headed back to our the Best Western in Sedona - actually a very fine place. A good nights rest and a Best Western continental breakfast and we were on our way to the trails!

I've ridden in Sedona many times, but this ride would be my favorite. We hit the Bell Rock Pathway to Lama trail and then road out on this spur back to the car. Yep, simple and very cool 1.5 hour ride. Christina (AKA: Pumpkin Pants) did an amazing job riding the semi-technical trails in Sedona. Having just recovered from a broken arm on Porcupine Rim in Moab, UT, she handled herself beautifully. We decided that Walker would need a bit more of the scenery, so Pumpkin Pants took to the town, while I headed out for Templeton Trail.

I couldn't have been happier! New views, cool rock and an awesome array of Singletrack awaited my wheels and I was happy to oblige. Templeton Trail leads you to the East side of Sedona. Then, I connected with Chapel trail and finally Baldwin trail, which led me to the far side of Sedona - a side I've never seen before. An hour of road/pathway riding and I'm back at the car much later than I expected.

Four hours of riding later and we're back in the car heading for Boulder City and Bootleg Canyon. But that story is for Part II, so stay tuned...

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

I HATE HUNTING SHOWS!!!

I hate hunting shows! Being a little hungover from the wine last night and watching hunters shoot a black bear has only increased my attitude about these shows! What constitutes their existence? Do advertisers really care about these shows? Who is paying for them? I'd love to know more about the appeal of watching an animal die; especially a wild animal. If you have an opinion, please post a comment after you read mine.

I'm putting my opinions out here, because I'm appalled at this kind of activity! Farming birds and/or deer and setting aside private hunting land is one thing, but killing animals on TV for "sport" is another. Hunting should be all about the food and not the trophy!

Animals have it rough in Southwestern Colorado, especially Bobcats, Wolves, Foxes, Bears, Lynx and Mountain Lions. We need these predators to keep the deer and small animal population in check; hell we even need hunters to manage their growth. What we don't need are hunters destroying our natural environment with four-wheeled ATV's - WILDERNESS WHEELCHAIRS - and their 50 caliber machine guns.

The hunters I saw on the TV show were more concerned with the size of the bear than they were with its meat and/or the loss of a predator. It was a strange mix of homo eroticism and the need to express one's manhood; I even saw a post-kill pat on the butt!!!

OK, my opinion has been stated. Go ahead and attack! I know some people may find offense to this post, but if you're hunting wild animals for sport - ONLY - then keep your stories (show) to yourself!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Fear Of Trading Stocks Got You Down?

The stock market has got me baffled, too. Lately, I've been doing some reading and some watching about the stock market. Let me tell you the knowledge it takes to understand stocks, futures, options, funds and, well, the general market space is tremendous. It isn't one of those things you can just pick up and DO. I mean, could you tell me more about this stock chart other than the obvious "uptrend"...

I'm not discouraged. In fact, I'm more interested in learning about the stock market than ever before. But one thing has got my goose: losing money!

I'm not a millionaire and I really don't plan on being one (unless a miracle happens), but I do plan on investing and trading a little to get my gee$e to lay some golden egg$. Currently, I have stockbroker at Merrill Lynch. I am fortunate that my family invested for me at a young age. Mostly my equity centers on mutual funds; we're the low-risk type. However, after 10-plus years of investing, we've done really well. However, trading is a different story altogether.

You have to know the markets and what they're up to. Understanding charts and speculative reviews by seasoned stock sizers is also important. As far as I'm concerned, it is a mix between fortune teller and analyst. Here's what I've been reading/watching to get up to speed:

1. Trading for Dummies...
2. Wallstrip
3. Howard Lindzon's blog
4. Stockcharts.com
5. The Intelligent Investor

And that's just this week!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Politics As Usual

Last Sunday's Meet the Press broadcast contained one key discussion thread that I'd like to discuss today.

First a little background about the show. Journalists David Brody, Senior National Correspondent, Christian Broadcasting Network; David Gregory, Chief White House Correspondent, NBC News; Michelle Norris, Moderator, Iowa Brown & Black Presidential Forum Host, NPR's All Things Considered and Eugene Robinson, Washington Post Columnist discussed the upcoming primary votes in Iowa and New Hampshire. As usual, the Meet the Press guests were dead-on with their analysis and commentary. But then they turned to Oprah's support of Obama. Recently, Oprah, during a Larry King interview, reinforced her support of Obama. As long time friends this wasn't a shocker, but what does this recent announcement mean?

If you're a political junkie, then you might look to the following:

According to BloggingStocks.com, the support should...
benefit Obama several ways. It will certainly help with fund raising, both from Oprah's audience and those bandwagon riders who see her endorsement as legitimizing his prospects.
Time Magazine kind of sees it a different way. According to the article...
A more important event for his chances of winning might actually be taking place on Tuesday of this week, when he appears in Portsmouth, New Hampshire with some of his top foreign policy advisers for a forum with local residents.
In my opinion endorsements from celebrities carries little to no weight. It isn't that I'm against their opinion, but I find the hype distracting and unnecessary. It reminds me of office politics. Having just watched another season of The Office, I'm tuned into the play of office politics.

Just because you have favor with someone or an idea doesn't mean it is right. As for me, it is all about commitments, tactical and strategic planning, quality leadership and VERY clear communication. Then, you have to PROVE the value of what you're saying. It isn't necessarily up to history to be the judge, you have to constantly fill the minds of your constituents with data.

1. Is living up to your commitments a core value?
2. Do you have a tactical mind to get through the mud of implementation (PS: the hardest part of business; the details)?
3. What about your strategic mind? Do you REALLY know left from right and when to take those turns?
4. CAN YOU WRITE DOWN A PLAN?
5. Is thoughtful and mindful communication important to you? If so, the constituents will hear it.

Prove those and that you have the intelligence and you win!

Monday, December 03, 2007

First Backcountry Ski Day

OH MY GOD! After 40 inches in the backcountry, one must put on the skins, get out the workgloves and head to the backcountry for some skiing. I'm not the guy to not take the 40-inch rule for granted, so I obligde and hit the slopes. The Deer Creek backcountry tree skiing area is not to be missed. The North facing tree lines had a soft bounce to them and tight turns were mandatory and so were the dog treats!

Yep, I took Baxter with me. The little brown dog did well for his first backcountry with Walker day. He did the "swimming-through-snow-thing"; pushing his back feet down so his chest hits the top of the snow and repeat. It looks funny, but honestly, dogs got this perfected. Little Baxter tried really hard to keep up. I think after lap five he was out of it. I saw some red eyes back there, or maybe it was the red covering my eyes. So, we left after 4.5 hours of pure telemark turns.

Now, Baxter is relaxing by the fire and I'm writing blogs - who's the dog now?