Upon my arrival at the Long Beach airport in LA, Nick picked me up and took me to the surgery center at Baldwin Park. Before long I was gowned and in a hospital bed. Much like my previous surgery, they were planning on putting a nerve block into my neck to prevent any pain from reaching my central nervous system. This time, however, they planned to put the nerve block in while I was still conscious. The procedure had been explained to me before by a Kaiser Anesthesiologist, but I was still a bit apprehensive about it. When the anesthesiologist at the surgery center was ready, they had me lie face down and they put a shroud over my neck area. They started by injecting me with some local anesthetic, and they injected me several times, progressively deeper into my neck/shoulder tissue. The nerve they wanted to block is about four inches deep, and the needle they were using is pretty large since it has a catheter in it. At this point they hooked me up to an ultrasound machine so that they could see where the catheter needle was in relation to my nerve. Once the started pushing the needle in is when the problems started. Although it was not terribly painful, it was pretty gross to feel the needle going in so deep. Once they got close to the nerve they started sending electrical impulses to the needletip. The idea was that when the needle was sufficiently close to the nerve, the shocks would cause involuntary movements of my arm. They ended up shocking me like ten times, and each one sucked. The anesthesiologist was very poor at communicating with her assistants and I know that most of these excessive shocks could have been avoided. I could also feel a decent amount of blood coming out of the needle hole onto my neck. Many times their movements of the needle was causing me significant pain. The procedure seemed to be taking way too long, and at one point I asked them when it was going to be over. The lady answered that they had deposited the catheter and all they had to do was bandage me up. At this point, the most intense pain of the whole thing occurred, and I was sure they had pushed the needle into my nerve. I was pretty pissed because she had just told me they were done. I made it known that I was upset, and they quickly finished and bandaged me up. I think that the procedure alone, done by a competent doctor, would not have been so bad. My experience, however, was horrible. I was glad they were done though and at this point they put me under with general anesthesia.
When I awoke a few hours later I was in a similar position as the last time. I had a sling on with a block on it, but this time it was on my right side. Apparently the surgery had taken a bit longer than expected, so Pru (my ride), had been waiting awhile for me. The doctor reported that they again had to do a labrum repair, but that he also repaired my torn rotator cuff. This meant that the surgery on this shoulder was actually more involved than on my left. Yippee. One interesting thing that was different this time was that they had left the catheter in my neck and attached a sack-o'-meds to it. This meant that my nerve block would supposedly stay active for two to three more days. Since the couple of days directly after surgery had been the most painful the previous time, I was happy that I would have the nerve block this time around. The one downside was that the nerve block made it so that my arm was completely numb. It literally felt like my arm wasn't there, and only through prolonged effort could I get my pinky finger to move slightly. This had a pretty negative psychological effect, and I had to make sure I was distracted so that I wouldn't fixate on my weird arm situation. Once Pru and I arrived back at Ryan's place, I got setup in his guest bedroom. We chatted for a brief bit before I went to sleep. Here's a picture of me in my sorry state:
As usual, staying comfortable after surgery is almost impossible. Since my leg/hip injury is on my left, and my surgery was now on my right, my only option was to sleep on my back, which has always been hard for me. Fortunately I had some Vicodin to help me out early on. For the first couple days after surgery I mostly kept to myself, although I had Ryan's dog Marley to keep me company. I played some Might and Magic on the computer and generally just tried to pass time. After a couple days I felt better getting up and moving around. I took Marley for a walk every day and we had several visitors who came to see how I was doing. In addition, Colin stopped by frequently and we worked on planning a Whistler trip for Rafaela's Winter break in February. A couple days after surgery I decided to take my bandages off to see how much my tattoo was impacted. When we did, I was surprised to find that one of the four surgery holes was not sutured, and was gaping open. I immediately called the nurse hotline and they told me to get some butterfly bandages to hold it closed. We went over to Walgreens and picked these up immediately (along with some skittles). In the end, there were a few cuts that infringed slightly on my tattoo, but generally I think the impact was minimal. The day before I left to go home for continued recovery, I took Marley up the ridge trail on Echo Mountain above Ryan's place, and we sat and watched the sunset. I knew this was going to be my last time in Southern California for a long time, so it was fitting to look upon it again before leaving.
Home for the Holidays
My flight home was pretty uneventful, in spite of my poor condition. I took quite a bit of Vicodin and even had a couple drinks to basically drug myself out of the pain of squeezing in a airplane seat for six hours. When I arrived in Rochester my mom and sister picked me up at the airport. This was the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, and Katie was on break for the time being. Life back home was generally very peaceful. Outside of the occasional intra-familial quibble, it was a very easy place for me to recuperate since my parents had everything I needed and my room was quiet and private. Zoe, our dog, had grown a bit older and was now about 10:
My sister and I broke out the Wii pretty soon after I returned and continued our Resident Evil adventure. Katie had to assist me more than normal since I was unable to do some of the controller manipulations. Since Thanksgiving was only a few days away, I decided to give Katie a crash-course in breadmaking so that we'd be able to enjoy some for the festivities. I don't have any pictures from this first bread-making experience, but Katie made an incredible set of loaves. We decided to make some Sun-dried Tomato Basil as well as the staple Rosemary Garlic. The loaves came out so well that they were the centerpiece at Thanksgiving dinner when our family friend's the Widgers came over. For the first time in my life, I said grace, and we enjoyed a wonderfully hearty meal.
For some reason, the day after Thanksgiving marks the start of 'Stop being thankful and start wanting as much crap as possible' season. It's also known as Black Friday, and the brick and mortar stores throw some of their largest sales all year on this date. Although I usually do not partake in this sort of consumerism, this year I had decided that it was about time to get my own digital camera, and the prices that I found in the paper for Black Friday were off the charts. In the end, I purchased a new Kodak digital camera for $129.99, marked down from $249.99. I also picked up an 8gb card for $10 and a 500gb external HDD for $60. This was fairly strong spurt of purchasing for me, but I knew that these items would get a lot of use, particularly when I started travelling.
After Thanksgiving weekend, Katie had to return to school, so Zoe and I had an opportunity to reconnect and spend some time together. Almost immediately we got our first snowstorm of the year, and about two feet fell on Rochester. In my hometown, this is not an excuse for everyone to go bonkers and put ridiculous titles on the news, then crash their 4WD into the nearest immutable object. In fact, the roads were sufficiently cleared by morning and everything was more or less business as usual. Zoe and I figured it was a great time to go play frisbee at the High School fields:
The next two weeks were a fully recuperative time for me. I spent time each day exercising on a stationary bike in our basement and starting some weight exercises with my left arm. I also focused on doing a lot of reading and started getting into a few books my dad had given me about whitewater paddling. In addition, my dad and I started playing somewhat regular chess matches in the evenings, which were really enjoyable. Finally, I started getting back into my meditative practices and trying to calm my mind and gain focus. On the occassional night I went out with friends that were still in the area. I was especially lucky that Jon Stover was currently staying at his parent's house. Here's a picture of me on one evening when we went to a bar:
On this particular evening Stover and I were hanging out with Nate Bank (also in town briefly), Elaine Hill (from our school days), and Dan Wong and his wife the mean-spirited dwarf. I mean this last comment literally. Somehow our old friend Dan had married a dwarf who was pretty mean. That's all I have to say about that subject. Anyway, here's a picture of Jon and Elaine:
And a picture of Nate and the Dwarf:
On the second weekend in December Katie returned in her car, Rogue. Almost immediately we set about making more bread. I had a couple of sourdough cultures going that we decided to use in making the Bourbon-soaked Raisin Pumpernickel that Jared had made. This time Stover also helped out and we made a whole-wheat walnut and onion dill loaves as well. Here's the finished product(s) just after baking:
And then cut and placed nicely on the dinner table:
My brother flew into Rochester on the 17th of December, and the next morning we all left to get a christmas tree. This is one of Zoe's favorite activities outside of camping because it involves running around the woods for a few hours and playing in the snow. Here's a picture of the Parker siblings after we found our tree:
And here's us again sleeping on the ride home :-):
The following week marked the beginning of the other season celebrated this time of year at the Parker house: Cookie Season!!!! As always, my mom was preparing to make an insane variety of yummy cookies, and this year Katie and I would be helping. Included in the list of cookies that we made are:
Candy Cane Cookies
Chocolate Bon Bons
Peanut Butter Blossoms
Cinnamon Oatmeal Cookies
Ginger/Molasses Crackle Tops
It took about two days of work to finished preparing all the cookies, and then we started working on the cookie trays that we pass out to friends. Here's Katie putting one together in the kitchen:
And here is my photo-still life of the finished product:
Wouldn't you love to get one of these around Christmas time? I think this photo would be in the running for most festive photo I've ever taken.
For Christmas Eve and Christmas dinner, Katie and I decided to bake one last batch of bread. We decided to go with the classic favorites: Sun-dried Tomato Basil and Rosemary Garlic. This time, however, we ran out of whole-wheat flour, so we substituted Rye Flour. This ended up having very little impact besides changing the color from being slightly brownish to slightly greyish. I did a good amount of the stirring and kneading this time, however, and because my arms were hurting I under-kneaded the bread pretty significantly. This caused the final product to be very spongie and moist. In spite of this, the bread got rave reviews at both dinners. Here's a look at the Rye loaves:
On Christmas day, the three of us kids collected on the stairs just like when we were kids. My mom, of course, required us to sit still while a picture was taken:
As usual, Santa Claus did an amazing job of getting gifts for everyone. The only difference between the Santa Claus of today and the Santa of our childhood years, is that now the kids do about half of the work! In fact, Katie and I have done a particularly good job of improving on Santa's methods. One way in which we do this is by wrapping presents with scraps of unused wrapping paper:
And here's our tree laden with its full bounty:
This year, everyone got a number of gifts that they really wanted. I got a new Osprey backpack and some swiss army knives. Plus, Katie and I got several new Wii games to play while we had some more downtime in Rochester. The member of the family who got the clearly most loved gift was Zoe. She was given a brand-new memory foam dog bed. Here she is experiencing its plushness for the first time in front of the fire:
Zoe would end up spending much of the remainder of my time at home on that bed :-) In fact, much of the remaining time for everyone was spent playing with the stuff they got for Christmas. That's the point, isn't it? For New Years this year, I wasn't in good enough shape to go anywhere, so Katie and I went to a small gathering thrown by my old friend Joe Halpern and his girlfriend. Here's a picture of Joe, Stover and myself enjoying ourselves at this gathering:
We stayed for about three or so hours before Katie's stomach started to get pretty upset. Just after midnight we decided to leave because it appeared she was getting sick. It was still plenty of time to celebrate the New Year, and generally, in my opinion, the holiday is overrated as it is.
After the new year, I had about six days remaining in Rochester before I left for Portland. Katie and I spent a lot of it playing Resident Evil and Mario Galaxy 2. Katie was going to be returning to her very last semester of college. I look forward to visiting her at UCONN in May for graduation. Sometime around here I finally was able to take off my sling and start my phyiscal therapy. The amount of pain in my shoulder was greater than the previous time, but I believe this is due to them operating on the rotator cuff as well. The only disconcerting thing was that I was experiencing additional pain and discoloration in my bicep, but hopefully this goes away and does not have any long term consequences.
Return to Portland and Vancouver
On the 6th I flew back into Portland. I decided to make a quick stop in Vancouver to celebrate the Coptic Christmas with Rafaela before fully settling back into Jared's place. I drove up on the morning of the 7th and once again got stopped at the border. This time, however, I had all of my documents ready and I was able to continue after waiting for only 10 minutes or so. Since I was pretty tired from all of the travel, I spent most of the first day resting, but Rafaela and I decided to go do a hike on Saturday the 8th. Since most of the mountains around Vancouver had a lot of snow on them, we settled on a more moderate hike near Lynn Canyon. Nonetheless, there was quite a bit of snow on the trail and we weren't able to make it to the very top. Here's a picture of us at our high point:
And here's what the trail looked like:
As we were descending, some of the clouds cleared a bit and we were able to get a better (albeit limited) view of the surrounding landscape:
On our way back to the car, we accidentally took a wrong turn which caused us to walk an extra four miles or so. One of the cool things we encountered on the way was a tall, narrow, bouncy bridge over some rapids:
When we returned to the car we found that it wouldn't start because the battery had run down from leaving the lights on. This would have been a pretty big issue if it weren't for the billion other cars and people in the parking lot that day. It only took us about fifteen minutes to get a jump. My time in Vancouver on this trip, although short, was very festive. Rafaela and I made some bread and butternut squash soup, along with lots of steamed veggies. I spent a lot of my free time running and reading some new books I had got on calorie restriction (more on this later). On one of the clearer days, I took my camera with me on my run and snapped a few good shots of Vancouver:
A couple days later (and after a mandatory dinner at Foundation), I returned to Portland.
Calorie Restriction and Brain Workshop
As I mentioned above, I had recently become interested in researching calorie restriction. In fact, I had long heard of the purported health benefits of it, but I had never found the time or focus to actually dive in and start getting the facts. Sometime in December, while I was still in Rochester, I started tracking several daily metrics, including calories, exercise, weight, blood pressure, and a few others. My goal originally was to try and find an optimal diet and exercise regime to maximize my energy level, which I feel is very important to maintain motivation, willpower, awareness and fitness. As I was doing this, I found myself unconsciously trending towards a lower calorie diet, and this got me thinking that perhaps the time was right to investigate the literature on the subject. I ordered a few books on amazon and had them sent to Portland. When I stopped there before heading up to Vancouver, I grabbed the books and then spent much of the next few weeks digesting the contents.
One of the most surprising things to me at first was the wealth of published literature dealing with animal studies on the subject. Currently there are over 2000 studies that have been performed on myriad species, from mice to chimpanzees. The results all conclusively reinforce the finding that calorie restriction leads to a healthier, longer life. I don't want to go into too much detail here, but I will mention that the number of biological markers (metrics) that are impacted by calorie restriction is truly astounding. And for those people that think that any regimen involving less food would be impossible, I will mention that calorie restriction does not necessarily involve eating less food so much as eating less energy-dense food. For example, if you were to substitute a one-pound hamburger for two pounds of steamed vegetables, you would be eating more, but consuming less than a third as many calories. Because fullness has more to do with food quantity and quality, your body would be satiated with less, and you would live longer and be healthier. Suffice it to say that I think it is worth everyone's time to do some independent investigation on this topic. For more information, I suggest you consult the following two volumes, which have been my two favorite out of the four I've read thus far. The first is less technical than the second: The Longevity Diet and Beyond the 120 Year Diet. Even if you are not interested in calorie restriction per se, I feel that these two books will provide a scientific approach to diet that is invaluable in a world so full of bogus fad diets.
After returning to Portland, I put my meditation/calorie restriction/exercise regime into full effect. I began eating 2100 calories per day along with approximately 500 calories per day of exercise. In addition, I was doing some light weightlifting (predominantly with my left-arm only at this time) and about an hour of meditation. I found that I began to lose weight at a rate of about a pound per week, which is just slow enough to be considered healthy. I expect the weight loss to stop once I am somewhere between 155 and 160 pounds. Considering the weight my body natural gravitates toward is around 180 pounds, this is significantly reduced, but I should still appear completely healthy and fit. After following the regime for a few weeks, I was already undergoing some pretty significant changes. For example, I found myself to have significantly more energy, the amount of sleep I needed dropped from around 8 hours to about 6.5 hours and my resting heart rate went from 65 bpm to around 45 bpm. Perhaps most importantly, as my body adjusted to the new diet, I found myself becoming less and less hungry. In fact, more recently I have been able to sneak around 300 calories of 'treats' into my diet per day without adding to my hunger.
The last item that I'll mention in this section is unrelated to diet, but has become part of my regimen nonetheless. One day when I was poking around on the internet I came across information about how some recent research has stumbled upon a method for increasing intelligence. Specifically, training in something called working memory (i.e. the amount of objects we can hold in short-term memory at once) can have a significant positive impact on our brain's function when problem solving and working with new information. The results have, as of early 2011, been replicated in three studies. The most easily accessible way of actually doing this training yourself is via some free software called Brain Workshop, found here. If you're interested in it, I suggest you download it and give it a try (make sure to read the instructions first). If you're like me, you will find the game extremely difficult and humbling at first, but I promise that with a small amount of effort each day or every few days, you will make rapid gains.
Looking for Land
During my first week back in Portland, Jared and I immediately started scouring the internet for plots of land. My criteria for selecting a plot are as follows:
- Size >5 Acres (Ideally >20)
- Forested (Ideally w/ Running Water)
- Good View of Surrounding Landscape
- Cost less than $150,000
- At least 2 acres of flat land
I started my search in the Mt. Hood region, which is a volcano close to Portland and surrounded by park land. Here's a picture of Mt. Hood from near downtown:
I immediately found that pickings were quite slim and expensive due to scarcity. As a result, I decided to contact some local realtors for assistance in my search. One realtor from the town of Hood River was noticably more responsive than the others, so we paired up and worked together. In my first pass, which was properties in the region of Sandy, OR thru Rhododendron, OR, I found about six properties that I felt were worth investigating. On the Saturday of January 15th, which was a very clear day, I decided to drive out there alone to see if I could check out the properties. The sky was really clear and I figured I could easily tell if the properties had a view of Mt. Hood. The first property that I stopped at was about 2 or 3 acres and was situated on the banks of the Sandy River. Being on a river was a huge plus, but the plot was adjescent to several houses and didn't have a remote feel at all. In addition, there was no view of Mt. Hood, and the cost was over $100,000. The second property was basically five acres of swamp. The other few were also pretty much worthless. In spite of this, it was a good first trip since I learned a lot about the area and I also got several awesome views of Mt. Hood. My general opinion was that the properties West of Mt. Hood were not nearly remote enough and were far too expensive for what was offered. On my way back to Portland, I passed an exit with a pretty funny name:
The following day, Jared joined me for another site visit, this time to some properties South of Hood River, on the Eastern slopes of Mt. Hood. There were two that, based on the internet ads, seemed like good candidates. The first we knew was going to be really remote, and it was about 20 acres for only 80 grand. This and it already had an A-frame cabin and running water on it. Our main hope was that it would have a view of Mt. Hood somewhere on the property and a decent amount of flat land. The drive out to the land took about 90 minutes and required us to do lots of sketchy driving on snowy back roads. This wasn't necessarily a bad thing, since it increased the feel of remoteness. On our way to the property we found ourselves confronted with awesome views of Mt. Hood and nearby Mt. Baker (another volcano). When we finally arrived at the property we checked out the cabin and were pretty excited about it. Next we decided to walk through the woods on the property and get a sense for it. We were immediately surprised by the lack of flat ground there. Basically the property consisted of two hills on either side of Mosier Creek. There was also a 4WD road running down one hill, over a bridge across the creek, and up the other hill. This road appeared to connect to roads in adjascent properties. We immediately headed for the tops of both hills to see if a view of Mt. Hood could be gained. Unfortunately, there was no such view to be had. In all, we probably spent three hours trekking around the land, but in the end we knew it wasn't going to fly. On the way back to Hood River we stopped at the second property, but it was located in a new development area and was definitely not what we were looking for. On the drive, we spotted many properties that looked perfect, but of course they were part of large tracks of land that belong to who knows, who is just sitting on them for an unknown reason.
On our way back through Hood River, Jared and I decided to stop at Double Mountain Brewery, which is a micro brewpub that Jared had heard about. Their offering list looked really excellent so we decided to get a taster's tray and split each 2oz taster. This was my first time doing a tasting course at a brewery in Oregon. It was incredibly enjoyable and I resolved that it was a great way to evaluate the beers at a new brewery. Double Mountain's beers generally were not standouts, but they certainly were solid. The last couple were a strong sour beer made with fresh cherries and a very dark beer. Although these final two were very good, I still felt their beer was about par for a microbrew. I decided to give them a grade of B-. After we were done at Double Mountain Jared and I were in very good spirits. As we pulled out to return to the highway, we noticed that the Full Sail Brewery was right across the street. Looking at each other, we decided while we were in town we should definitely check it out. Full Sail is obviously a much larger and more well-known brewery than Double Mountain, so I expected their beers to be less crafty and more mass-distributed. As it turned out, they did have their large-scale beers there, but in addition to them they had several brewery-only microbrews that looked amazing. Jared and I settled in for a tasting session involving about 14 different styles of beer. Going from lightest to darkest we enjoyed them all thoroughly. At the very end we were lucky enough to try the just-opened 2011 Black Gold, which was an imperial stout aged in bourbon barrels from Maker's Mark. This beer was unequivocally the best beer I've ever had. I had thought that by this point in my life, there wouldn't be any more beers that could convince me beyond a doubt of their superiority over all other's that I've tasted, but this beer achieved it. It is almost uncanny how much the bourbon notes come through and shine in this beer. Jared and I couldn't help ourselves, so we bought four bottles of it to take home. Anyway, in the end I decided to give Full Sail an A-, only because their mass-production beers were of middling quality, and sort of dragged down the average slightly.
After the trip to Hood River, the land search slowed down for a bit as we realized that finding the perfect property was going to take a lot longer than expected. I hope to start it up again in the late spring when the weather calms down and the more mountainous parts of Oregon can be more easily travelled. In the meantime, I expected to do a bit more exploration of Portland. As a city, it certainly is one of the more interesting I've visited. For example, here's Jared listening to some vinyl and Tyler browsing at a record-store slash bar:
I ended up finding a copy of Dire Strait's Brothers in Arms, which is a very nostalgic album for me, and it was only $3, so I bought it:
Since Portland is littered with interesting places like this, I knew that I was in for some fun urban adventures over the next several months.
By mid-January I hadn't put in much effort into CyPace for about three months. I was still drawing a salary from the company, but because we lost the Kaiser deal and were mired in a contract negotiation with Epic, there wasn't much for me to do. In mid-January a few things changed this. First, we finally reached terms of an agreement with Epic that were somewhat advantageous for CyPace. They would require a few months of programming for me to implement, but at least CyPace could do business in the industry with Epic's blessing. The second thing that changed was that my salary was going to end in February and since a new client for CyPace was likely awhile off, I needed to decide what I would do. By this point I had become somewhat adjusted to the lifestyle of a vagabond, but at the same time I felt that with the Epic agreement CyPace deserved one last chance. At the same time, I felt that it would be foolhardy to put all of my eggs in one basket. In the end, I decided that I would attempt to find work in my field as long as I was going to be working on CyPace anyway. This would provide me a hedge against CyPace's possible failure. The only issue was where to work. As it turned out, Oregon Health and Science University, which runs a major hospital in Portland, had just lost their Epic DBA and was desperate to hire a new one. I was able to snag the job within a week's time at a salary that was very favorable. My start date was set for February 6th. It's amazing how fast these things can happen, no? As an additional note, Hawaii Pacific Health, who CyPace had been in talks with for several months, finally decided to go ahead and purchase a license for our software. It's a minor deal, but it will help provide some income to grease the wheels. My goals then is to somehow support HPH while implementing the Epic agreement terms and working at OHSU at the same time, without detrimentally impacting my personal regimen. I know it sounds impossible, but I'm dedicated and determined to make it happen.
BMW and KTM
In my now semi-permanent relocation to Oregon there are several characteristics of this state that excite me. The first is the many rivers which should provide some incredible whitewater kayaking experiences. The second is the existence of several new rock climbing areas that I hope to try out once I am fully healed. Finally, I am looking forward to slowly getting back into off-road motorcycling at the many huge OHV areas near Portland. This final one may come as a surprise, but for many reasons it's something that I have to do for myself. It's possible that I may even get back into dual-sport biking assuming I achieve a degree of comfort and proficiency with it. The fact is that the amount of freedom that I experienced in my short trip was life-affirming, and it has stuck with me ever since, in spite of my accident. Of course I have learned a great deal as well about how even a cautious driver can be at serious risk, so if I ever do go on that path again, I will be even more careful about risk factors. For example, I have more or less decided that I will be getting a higher performance bike with anti-lock brakes. In addition, I will be less frugal when it comes to safety equipment and maintenance related to safety, such as replacing tires well before they're worn to the point that mine were that day. In practice, this means that the model bike I'll be looking for will be an F650GS from BMW. It will be about the same size as my old KLR, but generally safer and more manueverable. Before I ever get a dual-sport bike, however, I will need a dirt bike that is smaller, but still powerful and challenging, to prepare me for a switch to dual-sport if it comes.
I began searching for an appropriate dirt bike in late January. At first I was strongly considering the same bike that Colin bought, the Honda CRF230L:
I really liked how it still felt like a solid four-stroke despite its smaller size, and how easy it was to manage offroad. After considering it a bit more and looking at the available models, however, I decided that it would probably be more prudent to get a slightly larger bike that was dedicated for off-road. This would mean the bike would be taller and probably slightly harder to handle, but a closer match for the experience of the BMW, and thus more practical for learning. The bike that immediately struck my eye is the Honda CRF450X:
It's clearly a taller and more aggressive vehicle, and the fact that it's dedicated for off-road would ease the registration requirements and force me to focus my learning there. I set to work searching eBay and craigslist for the best deals I could find on the 450X, and I also spent a good deal of time reading about this model. I found that the going rate for a nearly new one was around $3000, which is a lot of money but I expected as much. After doing a bit more research I started learning that the bike expected quite a bit of maintenance from its owner, and I started reading about a few reliability concerns. Although the information I was getting wasn't damning, it convinced me to start looking at a few other models as well. At first I started looking at some Yamahas, but I was trying to be open minded and consider any model. The funny thing is that I wasn't really considering KTM an option because in the back of my mind, I figured the price would be prohibitive. A new KTM enduro or motocross bike is as expensive as the BMW F650GS dual-sport itself. Even though I had heard tons of amazing things about KTM, I never thought that I would ever own one for this reason. At some point, however, when I was getting tired of all the dead-end research I was doing, I quickly checked out the most analogous KTM model and checked craigslist for the prices on them nearby. The model that most similarly matched the Honda is the KTM 450 EXC:
In fact, KTM makes three models at the 450 size, an SX model for motocross racing, an MX-C model for less competitive motocross, and an EXC model for Enduro racing and trail riding. The last one suited me best. When I checked the prices for this model on craigslist I couldn't believe that they were priced so close to the Honda/Yamahas. It was pretty obviously a buyer's market thanks to the recent recession. Near-new KTM's were only slightly more than $3000. In the end, I settled on one located near Sisters, OR and dropped $3300 for it. The bike only had 20 hours on it, so was basically new! I was super excited about the bike, but of course there would be some logistical troubles with picking it up and moving it around. The way I solved this issue was much the same as Colin's solution for his bike. I got a hitch hauler for Jared's Honda Element. Mine wasn't hydraulic like Colin's, but it does the job as you will see. I planned on picking the bike up sometime later in February.
In the second week of February my work with OHSU started. My position is basically the exact same as what I did for Cedars Sinai. As I learned on the first day of work, however, my responsibilities would be even less. My office building is located in downtown Portland in the Market Square building at 5th and Market Street. This is about 1.5 miles from Jared's apartment and luckily there's a 24 Hr Fitness right nearby. This suited my regimen really well, since I could get up at around 6-6:30am, leave the house between 7 and 7:30, bike to work, workout from 7:30 to 8:45, and be ready for any potential meetings at 9am. The bike-friendly streets of Portland made me feel way more comfortable than I ever did in Pasadena, and OHSU went above and beyond to support me as a bike commuter. As an example, they provide a changing room at the office where I can leave all of my work clothes, and they also provide a $50 incentive for every 30 days that I bike to work!! There are even dedicated bike lockers that you can reserve, but unfortunately all the ones at my building are currently taken. Nonetheless, I really enjoy my bike commute now and basically subtract it from the longer cardio workout that I would otherwise do.
As for the work itself, I am already very comfortable with my team and with the responsibilities I've been given. The atmosphere at work is very relaxed, and OHSU has done a lot to make sure I am comfortable. Although it is taking quite a bit of time to get my system access sorted out, this is generally to be expected. Finally, in terms of gadgets, they've given me an iPhone 4 and a MacBook Pro. This struck me as really strange since I'd never seen an IT shop with so many Apple products, but I was able to get VMware Fusion and put Windows 7 on the MacBook right away. The only thing that remains to be seen is how long I end up staying with OHSU. If CyPace really takes off I might have to leave early, but otherwise I could see myself staying a year or possible a little more. To give you an idea of where my office is situated, here's a picture of Mt. Hood on a clear day from my office building:
The Legendary Whistler Trip
Before I started at OHSU, I explained that I had already planned a trip to Whistler for Valentine's Day weekend. They allowed me to take those three days as unpaid vacation. On Friday the 11th at 2pm, I biked home early and met Jared to pack the remainder of our snowboarding gear and leave for Sea-Tac airport where we'd be picking up Chris Bank. Jared and I were both really excited about the trip. The details are that we were renting two large cabins right next to the slopes of Whistler-Blackcomb. There would be about 11 Americans and 10 Canadians staying in the two cabins. Among them: Colin Loveness, Rafaela, Jared, Chris, Ivan, Felicia, Ryan, Pru, Colin's friend Niko, Niko's friend Gibson, Raf's friend Anna, Raf's housemate Laura, Raf's friend Adrienne, and several other canadians mostly from Rafaela's architecture program. The forecast called for massive amounts of snow, so we were eager to get on our way. We barely beat the rush hour out of Portland but we hit quite a bit of traffic in Tacoma. Nonetheless, we made it to the Sea-Tac airport at around 6ish and nabbed Chris. The original plan was to meet Colin there and go shopping at Costco, but we decided to push on and go to a Costco further up the coast where we could call Colin and coordinate our purchases.
At Costco we ended up dropping about $290 on communal dinner supplies. We got stuff for cheese fondu, pizza, spaghetti, and of course lots of alcohol. Miraculously, we made it out of the store in only about an hour and continued toward the border. For the first time in a long while, the Canadian border guards let me through without having to get out of the car. This was especially nice since we were smuggling about four times the legal limit of alcohol into the country. We arrived at Rafaela's place at around 10:30pm and she and her roommates were singing and enjoying a few drinks. We spent the next couple hours in-between enjoying ourselves and discussing logistical issues. Since the forecast was calling for really good snow on Saturday, we resolved to get up really early and try to make it to Whistler around the time the lifts opened. Some folks were okay with this plan but others were a bit unhappy with the thought of having to sleep less. I don't know what it is about me, but whenever I am offered the prospect of going to a new place, or doing something special like this Whistler trip, the creature comforts and other such considerations never really enter into the equation much for me. I try to be considerate of other's feelings on this matter, but sometimes I have trouble levelling with people and I especially try to avoid the group-think mentality. I was pleased that everyone eventually agreed on the same plan, and in fact we did a great job as a team getting everyone packed and ready to go. Here's a picture of Colin, Ryan, Niko and Gibson getting their car packed that night:
The Legendary Whistler Trip: Day 1
At around 5:45am I woke up and roused the group. By 7am we were on our way to Whistler! The roads heading North on the sea to sky highway were not great, but they were manageable. Jared's car has four-wheel drive which certainly helped. Colin had an SUV rental car stuffed with about six people. Both of our cars were absolutely stuffed full of gear. Colin even had to strap down a lot of it on his car's roof.
When we arrived in Whistler we were confronted with some unfortunate news. Because of high winds they had decided to close the top of the mountain. This presented a dilemma to our group. Since the lift tickets were so expensive, we had to decide if it was worth it to go up the mountain or just relax and settle into the cabins. After some deliberation the group unanimously agreed to take a slow day and get settled. I was happy with this decision since it was raining at the bottom of the mountain and I couldn't imagine the conditions being that great up there. We found out later that the snow was actually pretty amazing on mid-mountain, but in the end we really didn't miss out as you'll see. We spent the next couple hours walking around Whistler village, which was a pretty quaint place and typical of high-class resort towns. Since everyone was pretty hungry we decided to grab lunch at a restaurant called the Long Horn Saloon. Here's Niko, Pru, Jared, Colin and Ryan relaxing there:
I had some sweet potato soup and coffee since I wasn't feeling too hungry. By the way, I had decided in advance that because of the physical demands of snowboarding and the fact that this was a once-in-a-lifetime trip that I wouldn't be rigidly counting calories while on it. I was going to try and be as conscious as possible, but generally I was open to enjoying myself in food and drink. Anyway, after lunch we drove over the cabins, the first of which was ready for us to occupy it. When we entered we couldn't believe how nice it was. Not only was it a great location, view and lodging, but it was fully furnished beyond our expectations. Here's Adrienne and Laura welcoming folks as they arrived:
And here's a couple pictures of us chilling in the common room:
In the first picture you can see the painting above our fireplace. This painting ended up being the subject of many discussions over the course of the trip. Generally it seemed like a sort of neo-impressionist mountain scene; the twist was that several of the brush 'strokes' seemed really out of place, especially one massive irreverant one across the center of the canvas. In addition to this, the 'sun' reflection on the water seemed incredibly out of place as well. Anyhow, feel free to zoom in and make up your own mind. I was in the 'I like some parts but generally I find it pretty sloppy' camp. One of the really cool things about our place was the view from the balcony:
In addition to the common areas being really nice, the bedrooms were also very well furnished. Here's Rafaela and Laura enjoying one of the beds:
At around this time, the Canadian folks started arriving and filing into the other cabin down the way. The breakdown in occupancy was as follows:
Another friend of Raf's from Vancouver had come up, named Austin, but he wasn't planning on staying in one of the cabins. Instead, he decided to build himself an igloo to sleep in. At first I was incredulous, but then I saw him hard at work in the middle of the golf course outside our window:
After a few hours, he finished. Colin snapped this photo later of the completed igloo being passed by a horse-drawn carriage/sleigh:
That's not something you see every day!
Since everyone was really tired from getting up so early and the drive, many folks took a nap in the early afternoon, myself included. Afterwards, some of us decided to head up to one of the private ski runs that ends at our cabin complex. Some of the less experienced folks wanted a few practice runs, so we figured this might work out. I drove everyone in Colin's rental car to near the top of a short run and folks got some practice. Here's Jared and Laura ready to go:
Rafaela was sporting some new apparel this year, which matched my snowboard pretty well:
Even though Chris, who is a far more experienced snowboarder than I, came along on this mini-excursion, I gave a few tips to folks before they took off:
Chris and Adrienne invented an entirely new form of tandem snowboarding since she didn't have a board yet. Unfortunately this was only captured on video, but here's a screen capture from said video:
After doing a few runs on this short track, we returned to the house to get cleaned up and ready for the night's festivities. Once we got comfortable we broke out some wine and snacked a bit. Here's Raf and I enjoying ourselves by the fire:
After a short time, folks from the other cabin started to arrive and we started preparing for dinner. On this night we decided to have cheese fondu. Over the course of the trip, making the dinners was one of my favorite things because everyone was so happy and willing to help out and share in the process. Here's a few pics of everyone doing their part:
Of course you already knew that Jared wasn't really good for anything ;-) Once we were done, everyone immediately dove into the finished product, which was delicious!
As if the cheese fondu wasn't rich enough, we also made chocolate fondu for desert! Booya!
Over the course of the night folks got progressively more drunk, and thereby more joyous. Lots of good music was played:
Lots of good conversations were had (this is me and Guy):
And there was even a bit of foot licking:
In the end, I think the first night was a huge success, and really set the stage for the entire trip. Everyone went to bed pretty early because we were all planning on hitting up the mountain the next day!
The Legendary Whistler Trip: Day 2
On Sunday morning we all woke up together, prepared breakfast, and got ready for the slopes. I passed out some handwarmers that I had brought and we all went to the bus stop to catch the shuttle to the Whistler Gondola in the village. We somehow got separated from Colin, Niko and Gibson, but we all got our passes and boarded the gondola. Our group barely fit in, so it was standing-room only:
Colin, Niko and Gibson ended up getting to the base a bit later, and they went up the Blackcomb Gondola instead:
I figure it might be appropriate to provide a trail map so that you can get a sense for the layout of these two massive mountains. Unfortunately, it's so large that it exceeds the maximum file size for this hosting website. Thus, you'll have to follow this link.
Anyhoo, the gondola ride ended at the Round House Lodge:
Once everyone had gone to the bathroom and sufficiently readied themselves, we all secured ourselves to our boards:
Jared, as you can see here, was really ready to go! (that's Blackcomb mountain in the background, btw):
Rafaela wanted a bit more instruction, so I gave a mini-lesson on our first run. It's funny that I didn't notice TWO people photographing us:
That's Adrienne on the left in her all-out purple snowfit. Pretty unmistakable, huh? By the way, behind us is the Peak-2-Peak Gondola, which allows you to traverse between Whistler Peak and Blackcomb Mountain. It's pretty absurd (in a good way), but more on that later. Here's a couple nice pictures of Laura and Adrienne on our inaugural run:
After the first run, Chris and I split from the rest of the group to go explore the mountain. The first area we headed for (since the summit area was closed) was the Harmony lift. This is situated on the side of the mountain facing Blackcomb and features a beautiful view of the other mountain and the ones behind it:
To get some even better pictures, we hiked up a small outcropping near the top of the Harmony lift. This led us to a ridge with an antenna and a great view:
On our way down from this ridge, Chris and I found a 200 foot drop with nothing but fresh powder and a long runout (there were a couple of tracks cutting across it sideways, though). We decided to video-tape each other attempting to bomb it (meaning to attempt it without carving, thus at full speed). I went first (why?). It became immediately apparent that we underestimated the height of the drop. Nonetheless, I took a couple of turns and then went for it. I probably got close to 35 mph as I surfed down the powder. I hit the cross tracks, which gave me a bit of a wobble, but somehow I maintained my bearing. As the terrain rushed by, suddenly I became aware of a small tree directly in front of me. I had very little precise control, but I barely managed to avoid it, by perhaps five feet. Almost hitting it scared me quite a bit though, and I lost my concentration and crashed fantastically. I only scored one sumersault, though. Here's a screen capture of me mid-run with the tree identified:
After I regained my senses, I pulled out my camera and captured Chris's attempt. He took no turns at the start, and thus was going probably 5 mph faster. Here's him on his way down:
If you look closely you can see my track, which appears to head directly for the tree at the bottom left. Anyway, Chris wasn't as lucky as I was when he hit the cross track. His board dipped into the snow and with the speed and decline we was unable to get it to float back up. Here's him mid-cartwheel:
Fortunately, we both had soft landings and nobody got hurt. What fun! Chris and I were a bit frustrated with the long weekend lift lines, so towards the end of the day we decided to hit the runs that were the least crowded. Some fog moved in as well, so generally there was less picture taking, but here's Chris chilling mid run with some kewl light thru the clouds effect:
Sometime in the afternoon, they opened the lifts to the summit. Chris and I were both excited about the prospects of going up there, but the lines were incredibly long and it was nearing the end of day. Instead, we headed for the Peak 2 Peak Gondola to check out the Blackcomb side and board back to the cabins. In the meantime, though, Colin's group hit up the alpine areas. Here's the peak express that takes you to the summit of Whistler Peak:
These sorts of high-alpine areas were very foreign to me. Even Heavenly at Tahoe barely makes it above tree-line. I was very excited to try the alpine bowls and chutes that I had heard so much about. Although I didn't make it up on this day, there was much of this to be had later in the trip as you'll see. Here's a picture of Ivan near the summit, about to drop into a double-black of questionable safety (hence the sign):
When Chris and I boarded the Peak 2 Peak, there was nobody else in the queue, so we got a gondola to ourselves. Here's a pic of me as we embarked on the ride:
The ride was absolutely mind-blowing. The gondola achieves a height of 1500ft above the ground, and goes about two miles between spans. At first we were pretty comfortable, but as it distanced itself from the ground, I developed a slight bit of vertigo. I thought about how a contraption like that one represents our faith in technology in modern life. I mean, moving through the air in a metal and glass box suspended by cables is a pretty fantastic thing to do. Anyway, here's a shot of the landscape as you start:
And here's a picture of the valley below towards the middle:
Of course the picture can't convey what it feels like to ride it, but you get the idea. On our way down the mountain for the last run of the day, I hit a few bumps that were hard to see and took a spill. Although the fall was minor, I tweaked my right shoulder a bit and it hurt pretty bad. Here's me sprawled out post incident:
I was able to shake it off and continue down the mountain. The run back to our cabins was pretty fun at full speed. When we arrived, we shed our clothes, sprawled out, and relaxed. Before long, though, it was time to start dinner. This evening we were having Pizza from scratch. The party was being held in the other cabin and the theme was 80's. Since Colin had accidentally left the pizza dough in Vancouver, Jared stepped up and made some for us:
We had purchased 10 pounds of mozzarella cheese and a TON of pasta sauce from Costco, so were well on our way:
To make the pizza efficiently, we formed sort of an assembly line. Jared made the dough and placed it in the baking trays. I spread the pasta sauce upon the pizzas, Pru applied the mozzarella, Rafaela took care of the vegetable toppings:
Jared and I moderated the baking:
And everyone helped eat! We were surprised just how well the pizza turned out. We figured the toppings would be good, but the dough was a big question mark. Based on the way it looked, we thought it would be soggy, but in fact the dough turned out to be absolutely perfect. Here are some shots of the finished pizzas:
For refreshments, Jello shots were provided:
Here are a few shots of some of the most 80'd out folks that night:
And, of course, the topper:
There were several other great costumes, but unfortunately no solo pics of them. As the night went on everything got progressively more fun, as typically happens. By 11pm, the place was bumping, and everyone was dancing to the outlandish 80's tunes:
Before the end of the night we all got together for a group photo. This is definitely one of my favorite photos of all time:
The Legendary Whistler Trip: Day 3
On the third day of the trip (Valentine's Day!) we awoke to about 18 inches of fresh powder having fallen overnight:
Chris and I snuck out of the house early to capitalize on the conditions. The rest of the house made it out not long after. Here's a picture of the girls at the bus-stop on the way to the lifts:
And here's a really nice picture of Rafaela and Laura about to get on the lift:
Colin, Ryan, Niko and Gibson separated into their own mini-group and caught tons of fresh powder. Here's a picture of Ryan chilling in a drift:
And Colin also having fun in the ludicrous amounts of snow:
Chris and I spent the entire day on Blackcomb Mountain. Although they did not open the alpine areas, there was tons of area to explore and trees to navigate. We found the most incredible fresh powder by going through the board park early in the morning. In all, we got around 20 runs in, over three times as many as the previous day. This was exactly what I was hoping for on the Whistler trip, and there was still a whole day of boarding left! Anyway, Chris and I didn't really take any pictures on the mountain on Monday, but we took several long videos. Here's a few screen captures from them:
In this one Chris had a filter that turned my helmet gray.
Chris in nearly chest-high powder.
Jared's group was also doing really well. Anna had learned a ton in her lesson on her first day, and apparently was having little trouble keeping up with the rest of them. Here's a picture of Jared, Rafaela and Anna:
The second day was really tiring for everyone. Deep powder is a lot of fun but can be very difficult to dig your way out of if you fall... and you will. Once we got back to the cabin, everyone figured that a trip to the hot tub would be rejuvinating:
I suppose this wasn't enough for some of the guys, who figured that a near-naked dip in the snow would satiate them better:
Monday night's dinner party was themed for Valentine's day and moved back over to Cabin #1. Rafaela and Adrienne were designated cupids for the evening. Here's Rafaela brandishing her weapon:
For dinner we prepared pasta and salad, and I made my bourbon egg nog as the specialty drink of the evening. The pasta and salad were served buffet style:
After the standard fare had been served up, Nilou made a batch of premium pasta:
Preparing the Egg Nog took me longer than expected, but Loveness was keeping me company in the kitchen:
Eventually, the egg nog was ready and I served it up to the many expectant folks:
Notice my concentration, the hallmark of a good egg-nog chef. I think generally the egg-nog was really well received, and I do believe this batch lived up to the expectations. After serving up the egg-nog I changed into more appropriate attire and joined the party. At some point, Rafaela's friend Miranda, who she knew from Toronto, showed up. Here's her with some of the girls:
Much like the previous evenings, this one was full of music, and dancing, and general carryings-on:
At some point in the evening, Ryan and Colin were messing around with Colin's color-LED flashlight and some long exposure times to capture these two pictures:
And, of course, we had a nice group picture just before hitting the hay:
The Legenday Whistler Trip: Day 4
When we awoke on Tuesday morning, another 18 inches of snow had fallen. This brought the four day total to about 48 inches! The weather looked much clearer for the day, and everyone was really excited that they might open the alpine areas early. Once again, Chris and I stole out of the house early and hit the lifts. We did a few runs on mid-mountain Blackcomb before noticing that the 7th Heaven lift (one of the alpine ones) went on standby. We rushed over to the lift and phoned Colin. Colin and Ivan arrived soon thereafter and when the lift finally opened we rode it up together. They were planning on hitting the Couloir Extreme while Chris and I were going to get a few runs straight down 7th Heaven where there was unbelievably fresh powder between two and three feet deep. During the lift ride, I took some video of folks carving through the untouched fresh stuff. Here's some captures:
As you can see, the powder really is as deep as advertised. Once we got off the lift, we went over to a lookout above the Couloir extreme to take a look. Here's Ivan, Colin and I near the top of the peak:
Here's a capture from a video I took later of the Couloir Extreme that Ivan and Colin went to:
Instead of following them, Chris and I did a couple runs in the 7th Heaven area and made a bunch of fresh tracks. Here's what it looked like at the time we went down:
As you can see, only a handful of people had been through at this point! Here's a picture of the top area of 7th heaven taken by the girls:
After we had a couple of awesome runs here, Chris and I traversed over toward the Couloir Extreme. Instead of dipping in, we continued the traverse to a ridge where we got some awesome views of the surrounding landscape:
This was probably the most impressive vantage point we'd gotten the entire trip. The sheer amount of land that could be seen from here was staggering. After we finished running this ridge, we decided to head up the Glacier Express to see what the landscape was like over that way. It turned out to be pretty intense. Here's a shot of the land over near a run called 'Spanky's Ladder':
If you look really closely, you'll see someone in really sketchy terrain near the left shoulder of that rock outcropping. Eek! After getting off the lift, Chris and I decided to use the Showcase T-bar to access the Blackcomb Glacier on the backside of the peak. I figured I'd be good enough to use the T-bar, but I wasn't. At first, Chris and I tried to ride together, but we got totally messed up and they had to stop it so we could extricate ourselves from one another. We ended up riding alone. After about halfway, I thought I had gotten the hang of it, but all of a sudden about 90% of the way up my board got out of the track and I tipped over and fell. I tried to hold on and right myself but there was no hope. I ended up having to hike the rest of the way to the top. After another 20 minutes or so of hiking, Chris and I found ourselves at the top of the awesome Blackcomb glacier. It was about 1000 feet from the top to the bottom, and the entire thing was one giant bowl. Because of the white-out conditions, it was difficult to capture it in a picture, but here's one that Chris took that I've heavily filtered to give some depth:
The only thing that helps provide a sense of scale to the picture is the knowledge that each of those specks is a person. The ones that are really hard to see are at the bottom of the bowl, tiny tiny specks. I'd never seen anything like it. Riding down the bowl was really awesome, but the most thrilling part came when I realized that to exit the glacier you have to ride over a 100-200 foot hill. To do this I got an absolute ton of speed up. It was really exciting to ride so fast down the glacier and then surmount the hill. Awesome! After this, there was another section of glacier where you could weave in and out of rock outcroppings. This part was also really sweet, but past this it was a five mile trail back to a lift. The trail was slightly declined which allowed Chris and I to go pretty fast. It would have really sucked if we were to have stopped.
After the Blackcomb Glacier, Chris and I rode the Peak 2 Peak Gondola over to Whistler Peak to attempt to meet up with Colin, Niko, Ryan and Gibson. We met them towards the top of the Symphony/Harmony area and did a long run with them back to the Peak 2 Peak which we had to take again to descend to the cabin on the Blackcomb side. Loveness did a naughty thing in the Gondola but I wont mention it here. Our last descent down the mountain was a sad one because I knew this might be the last time I'd spend on this mountain in a long time. Here's a beautiful picture that Chris captured of the amazing tree terrain on the blackcomb side:
I would say this picture captures the flavor of the most common scenery that Chris and I enjoyed in Whistler. Tree runs are still my favorite type of terrain, but I was able to broaden my exposure and I've learned to enjoy the high alpine terrain as well. After we returned to the cabin we prepared for the final evening of food and festivities. The theme for the final evening was weddings, and for food we made macaroni and cheese and more pizza. The featured refreshment of the evening was champaign. Jared took the lead once again in the kitchen. Here's him and Pru workin' on the Mac noodles:
And here's another shot of the mac before it was baked in the oven:
I don't know where the recipe came from, but it came out amazing! The pizzas were (once again) spectacular. Here they are just coming out of the oven:
Here's Rafaela doling out portions, next to two large bottles of bubbly:
Because it was our last night in Whistler, I expected the final party to be the most outrageous and flamboyant. I was certainly in the mood for a final blowout. Surprisingly, it was definitely the most muted of the evenings. A bunch of people got sucked into a card game that sort of divided the room. I think it was also the fact that people were really tired from three or four straight days of snowboarding/skiiing. Nonetheless, it was a relaxing evening and everyone enjoyed themselves once again. At the end of the night we returned to our cabin via a well-travelled path that was now overloaded with snow:
The Legendary Whistler Trip: Day 5
The final day of the trip was entirely a cleanup and packing day. There's really nothing specific worth mentioning here, except that Colin and co. were in a huge rush due to Ivan having lost his passport. Oops! Anyway, in our total time in Whistler almost six feet of snow fell. The conditions were perfect, both socially and weather-wise. It was a fantastic success of a trip, and I hope that more like it are organized in the future. I am voting for a hybrid climbing/hiking trip to Squamish in the summer!!
The drive back to Vancouver was a bit tight with five people in Jared's car, but we managed it. Jared, Rafaela, Anna, Chris and I all got lunch (Rafaela and I went to Foundation, of course) before Jared, Chris and I departed for Portland. Originally Chris was going to be flying out of Sea-Tac that afternoon but he accidentally scheduled his flight for the following week. As a result, Jared and I offered to host him in Portland in the meantime.
Chris Bank in Portland. Say What?!
On Thursday and Friday I went to work and tried to get back into my routine. It wasn't easy after Whistler, especially with Chris around to entertain, but I managed. On Friday night, Jared, Chris and I attempted to go to a Yo La Tengo show on the East side but it was sold out. Instead, we went to a benefit concert featuring the Portland Cello Project and Ezza Rose. The Portland Cello Project is basically a group of cellists that play pop covers and some classical material. Here's a shot of them:
After the Cello Project was Ezza Rose, who Chris had mistakenly quasi-hit on at the bar about 10 minutes prior. Her music was really peaceful, low-key and well instrumented. She was clearly very talented. Here's a picture of her performing (on the right):
During one of the sets Chris and I discussed what we wanted to do for the long President's Day weekend. I still needed to pick up the KTM in Sisters, so I suggested to Chris that we make a trip through Central Oregon and stop at some breweries along the way. He was down with the idea, so we decided to leave at around 10am the next morning.
The next day Chris and I removed the back seats from Jared's car and put a mattress and other supplies in. We also loaded a hitch-hauler for the KTM. Once we had all of our stuff, we hit the road. I decided that we would do a Mt. Hood drive-by, so we headed East on the 84 and then the 26. As we approached Government Camp, Chris snapped this picture of the mountain on a semi-clear day:
The strange looking white ridge behind the peak is actually an odd cloud formation caused by the wind. As we passed the mountain, we noticed a sign for Timberline Lodge National Landmark. Given how unstructured this trip was, that was plenty of motivation for a 20 minute detour. Here's a picture of the lodge as we approached:
The weather was biting cold and super windy up there so we darted inside ASAP. There were some odd vintage posters and pieces of equipment hanging on the walls:
After checking out the lodge for a bit, we decided to continue toward Bend. On our way we passed through some reservation land that looked really interesting. There was lots of broken volcanic rock around. At one point we decided to park the car and investigate:
I'm still not sure what that strange mound was. A bit further along and the land started undulating a bit more. There were streams and valleys, and still plenty of volcanic rock. Here's a couple valley shots:
We parked Jared's car next to a blasted section of Basalt. You can see the strange tubelike shape of the basaltic rock:
After driving for another hour or so we started passing signs for Smith Rock. I had totally forgotten about it (somehow), despite it being a famous climbing area. I was really excited to check it out, even though it was clearly too cold to see much climbing activity. Here's a shot of one of the main walls:
And here is a shot looking along the Crooked River toward another beautiful rock outcropping:
Chris and I meandered around a bit and found several places that were chalked up. Here's me messing around on the lip moves of a boulder problem:
After that we hiked the climber's trail up to the bottom of the wall to get a closer look:
There were bolts all over the place, but most of the routes looked ridiculously hard. After poking around for a bit, Chris and I returned to the car as we were getting cold. We continued to drive into Bend, where there was a lot more snow than we expected. It was around 5pm, but we figured it was a great time to get started on our brewery tasting since we had three breweries to get to. The first one we went to was Silver Moon Brewing. Although this was probably the least lavish of the three, the beer was very consistently good. We got their tasting tray, consisting of around ten beers. As usual, we split each one and went lightest to darkest. The final beer was a Bourbon Chocolate Stout that was absolutely incredible. I must say that I was really impressed with Silver Moon, and their prices were really good. A-. After Silver Moon we went to Deschutes Brewing which is the largest and most popular brewing company in Bend. I had always liked the Deschutes beers but was excited to see what specialty beers they had on tap at their pub. Of course they did not disappoint. Here's a picture of some of the beers we tasted there:
We ended up tasting 15 beers at Deschutes, and most of them were really incredible. Unfortunately, their two strongest beers, the Black Butte XXII and the Giraffe on Ice Skates (at 13.4% the strongest I think I've ever had) did not live up to their billing. A-. The last brewery we visited was 10-Barrel. In order to get there without driving we had to walk for about 20 minutes. At one point we crossed a bridge over the Deschutes River:
10-Barrel is an aptly named brewery since they only have ten beers at a time. They focus on flexibility and quality. The place was really crowded, but we flagged a waitress, ordered our tasting tray, and headed outside to sit by the fire:
The smell of the cedar wood they were burning was intoxicating. We had a great time talking with the other patrons of the brewery. By the time the beer came, I was pretty distracted in a conversation, but I tried to give some attention to the beer. In the end I felt that the 10-barrel offering was the weakest of the three. They were out of a couple of beers that looked like they may have been my favorites, though, so I don't believe I can give them a fair valuation. I loved the layout of the brewery, especially the fire pit, but that can't influence the beer grade. In the end I decided not to give them a grade, but to visit again sometime and merge the new experience with a grade of B+ for this one to come up with a legitimized cumulative grade. Anyway, after we finished at 10-barrel, Chris and I walked all the way back to the car and drove a short distance to Tumalo State Park. We parked in the overflow lot and got our sleeping arrangements figured out in the back of Jared's car. We lit a candle for extra warmth in the cabin (this really works!) and settled in for sleepy time:
In the morning the weather had cleared substantially. Here's the road leading out of Tumalo State Park:
I had sort of randomly chosen to park at Tumalo, but it turned out to be a fortunate choice since it was very close to the turnoff for route 20, which heads to Sisters, where my bike was. Chris and I planned to visit some hot springs that day, sleep another night at another park, and then return to Sisters for the bike on Monday morning. As we were driving toward the hot springs, however, we hit some nasty weather and bad roads and decided that it would be a nightmare to have to make this trip another two times to get the bike. Instead, we turned around to get the bike immediately so that we would only have to make the passage through the mountains once. The drive to Sisters was really beautiful. Most of it was in a pine forest:
Unfortunately, Mt. Jefferson and Mt. Washington were covered in clouds so we weren't able to get pictures of them. It took Chris and I about two hours to get the bike since we had to build the hitch hauler and figure out how to use the crappy ratchet straps to secure it. I was pretty apprehensive about whether the bike would sit well on the back of the Honda, but once we got it secured I was pretty comfortable with the setup:
Once we got it sorted, Chris and I pushed on toward Cougar Hot Springs outside of Blue River, Oregon (near Eugene). The drive was really crappy and I wondered how much abuse the bike was taking from the gravel and snow being kicked up by the Honda's tires. The drive from route 126 to the Cougar Reservoir was especially bad, and unplowed. Even the Honda's clearance was not suitable for it, let alone with the KTM. Here's a look at the road (in a not-so-bad section):
Once we passed the Cougar Dam we spotted the reservoir (on the left):
On the right there was a 30 or 40-foot waterfall coming out of the forest:
Chris and I parked and inspected the bike. The Honda's tires had clearly kicked up a lot of gravel and snow onto it, and it was clear that I'd have to clean it thoroughly before it could be used:
Once we got our day-packs packed and paid the day-use fee, Chris and I set off on the trail toward the hot springs:
The springs themselves were arranged in five pools, starting with the hottest one at the top and going toward cooler ones below. This time of year the temperature in the hottest pool was only slightly over 100 degrees. In warmer months it could approach 105-108 degrees, which is generally too hot for continued exposure. Most of the people that visited while we were there stayed in the hottest or 2nd hottest pool. Chris and I spent the entire time in the hottest one:
The spring itself came from a small cave in the corner of the topmost pool:
This was my first time at any hot springs, so I was curious how the whole thing worked. I'm not sure how similar this is to others, but I thought it was really cool how the water was always flowing and stayed somewhat fresh. There was lots of warm mist rising from the spring into the surrounding forest, and this caused an increase in the growth of moss on the trees:
Chris and I spent about four hours at the hot springs. Lots of people came and went while we were there, including skinny-dippers, acid droppers, and hippies, among others. We had a good time chatting with everyone and felt very rejuvinated by the time we left. When we got out of the spring, we expected that we would have to be somewhat wet as we put our clothes back on. Instead, our towels did a great job getting us dry and we managed to get completely dry and comfortable. It was wonderful! Here's a picture of me passing underneath a funky tree on the way out:
As we drove out the crappy road, the sun started to set. Chris snapped this photo of the reservoir as the light faded:
As we continued on the 126 toward Eugene, we noticed some strange lights in a tall tree. It turned out to be Christmas tree lights at a year-round christmas store. How strange!
Chris and I decided to return to Portland that night so that we could take the bike out the next day. The drive home was about three hours from Eugene. When we arrived, we were exhausted, but we still needed to do one last thing before we could pack it in for the night:
With the bike cleaned, we could set about getting what we needed to take it off-road the next day. In the morning, Chris and I both took the online Oregon off-road safety courses and printed our temporary cards. Then I went to a nearby Land Rover dealership and got a Class III Off-Road Motorcycle Permit for $10. At that point we were free to take the bike to any of Oregons 40 or so free off-road areas. We put the bike back on the car and immediately headed for Tillamook Forest. When we arrived we found the place largely deserted. There was lots of snow and slush around and we figured this could be the cause. I gave Chris a few pointers and he immediately took to the bike. Here's him gaining a feel for it:
We took turns riding the bike on the trails in Tillamook. This worked since we got pretty tired after riding for 20 or 30 minutes at a time. We didn't have much equipment so we kept to the easier trails and took it slow. Here's a picture of me cruising toward a trailhead:
To give you an idea of what the trails were like, they were mostly single and double-track through the woods and along ridges and open spaces. It was really beautiful riding, but especially hard because of the slick conditions. Here's a couple pictures to show you how it looked:
At one point, while we were searching for other trailheads, we came across a parking lot where a bunch of guns were going off. I was surprised to find that folks had setup a seemingly makeshift gun range out of a ravine in the woods. There was no regulation or safety equipment like I was used to at the firing ranges I'd always gone to with my father. Instead, there were just a bunch of people firing handguns and automatics into the distance. Most of them were clearly uninterested in hitting anything in particular. A few times people turned to look at me and it was a scary sensation. I know that I was in no real danger but when people have guns and are using them in apparently careless ways, it changes the dynamic entirely. After sitting put for a couple minutes we left. Before going, Chris snapped this picture of the range:
After riding for a bit longer, Chris and I returned to Portland before dark. We decided to head over to the Cascade Brewing Company to give him a taste of Portland's best. Cascade brews predominantly sour beers, and is my favorite brewery of all time in terms of beer quality. On this visit we each got three full size beers, but the friendly waitstaff brought us small tastes of many of the others. Now that I have been to Cascade on three occassions, I feel qualified to rate them. They are the only brewery I am aware of that deserves Colin's signature A+ rating. If you're ever in Portland, you must stop here, whether you like beer or not. There is something for everyone at Cascade. Here's a shot of Chris's Sang Rouge next to their beer list:
And their taps:
On Tuesday, the day before Chris had to leave, we managed to meet up with an old high school friend, Annie Mancini, at Lompoc Brewery. After Lompoc, we went to Rogue and had a taster there:
Thus, in his short time in Oregon, Chris got properly introduced not only to the beauty of the landscape and the culture, but also to the incredible beer at six different breweries. I'd say I did a pretty good job with him for one week's time!
Back in Portland
After Chris left, I had the opportunity to get more settled in Portland. I got back to my workout routine and more focused on calorie restriction, and I pushed myself to read and meditate often. Things were going really well and I found myself with some extra free time despite my new job at OHSU. I decided that it would be nice to spend some of this time doing my typical activities such as riding, hiking, climbing and kayaking, but some of it should go towards giving back to the community. In this spirit Jared, Tyler and I signed up to volunteer with Habitat for Humanity one weekend in late February. The project they were working on was in North Portland, only ten minutes from Jared's place. We ended up working a full day. Jared did framing and Tyler and I worked together on putting down fabric to protect the floors and walls as the trim was being put down. I must say this was probably the least enjoyable task I've ever done with habitat. It wasn't acutely boring, it was just that I didn't learn a new skill that I felt was worthwhile. That being said, the work needed to be done, and someone had to do it. After about eight hours of work we were pretty tired and ready for a relaxing evening. Hopefully we'll have the opportunity to partake in further volunteer efforts around the Portland area.
On March 4th, Jared, Tyler and I attended a very interesting concert at the Crystal Ballroom. Apparently there is a rather large following of this Portland-based marching band called March Fourth and they play a gig in their hometown every year on their namesake day. Jared said it couldn't be missed so we went over to check it out. As anticipated, it was quite the spectacle. There were probably 3000 people, some costumed, some not, jumping up and down on the bouncy ballroom floor. People on stilts were walking through the crowd and all ages were well represented. Up on stage was a fancy display of musicians, instruments, and props. Because it was so dark my camera had trouble getting a good picture, but here's the best I captured:
We only hung around for about two hours but it was enough to get a good sense of the energy of the performance. It was certainly something that you'd only expect to see in Portland.
Mt. Hood Meadows
The following day Jared and I packed our snowboarding gear in his car and left for Mt. Hood Meadows. We had bought day passes in January with the intention of getting some practice in before Whistler, but the weather wasn't cooperating. Fortunately the snow returned on this occassion and the forecast looked really good so Jared and I took advantage. Jared's car had lost its sideview mirror to a sideswipe the previous day, and a rock put a small crack in his windshield on the way to the mountain, but he didn't let it get to him and we just let go for a fun time on the slopes. We started at the Hood River Base side of the mountain and took a couple of lifts up to the mid-mountain area. I was excited to see that there was a lot of tree-boarding in blue areas. I figured that I'd hit the black stuff while there was still powder but then settle into more relaxing tree-boarding later in the day. Right off the bat I wanted to get some good pictures since it was clear, and snapped this one on the shoulder of Heather Canyon, a double-black only area that is very steep:
Although I originally didn't want to drop into the canyon since it looked so steep:
I ended up going for it since I thought it would be cool to try and get enough speed up to go through the trees on the other side. As it turned out, it was too steep to reasonably 'bomb' given my skill level, so I had to focus on just turning without going to fast. The ride out through the canyon was really fun, though, but the chair was a low-speed two seater which was a bit of a buzz kill. After riding it, Jared and I met back up to head over to the other parts of the mountain. We first went toward the main entrance where there were two lifts going up the mountain. Here's the one that we took:
The ride up this lift took us significantly higher up the mountain and the views we were getting were pretty spectacular. Here's a shot of the summit from the lift:
As you can see, we were definitely starting to get above tree-line. I was very excited to board out in the wide open swaths of land, especially considering the views. I felt like the weather was really cooperating and I relaxed and had an incredible time on these near-summit runs. Towards the bottom of the run, I captured this shot of Jared with the summit framed by trees in the background:
Although you are probably getting tired of pictures of the same mountain over and over, it got even clearer towards the afternoon, so I have to show you this last one we took on one of our final runs near the top of the mountain:
Pretty swizzle, no? After doing about three or four runs on the terrain high up on the mountain, I decided to spend the rest of the day doing tree-runs back on the Hood River side. In the end, I probably got about 12 runs through the trees in, and I had a ball doing it. The slope of the mountain was just perfect to keep speed up but not go too fast through the trees. The trees themselves were very well spaced, and this, plus the fact that there were very few other people in the trees, made it seem very leisurely and adventurous.
After we finished snowboarding, Jared and I decided to head to a few breweries on our way back from Mt. Hood. The first was in White Salmon, Washington, which required us to cross the Columbia River on the 'Bridge of the Gods'. Once in this quaint town, we located the Everybody's Brewing Company pretty quickly and settled in for some beer-tasting, and in Jared's case, food. The place was really clean and nice with lots of hardwood. Here's a look at the bar area:
The menu looked absolutely delicious as well, so we were excited for the tasting. They did a great job with presentation, as you can see here:
Before diving in, I was in such a good mood and the expectations were so high that I was hoping to dole out a high B or perhaps an A to this brewery. They had everything stacked in their favor, but unfortunately it wasn't meant to be. The first thing that put me off was that none of their beers (literally, zero) had any nose to them. I really enjoy the aroma of a quality beer, and these offered nothing in that regard. As we worked through the beers we found that each one was a foil for its beer archetype. They had all of the standard varieties represented, Lager, ESB, Brown, IPA, Porter, etc, and each one was clean, yet unremarkable. They had zero non-standard varieties and none among their offering stood out compared to the beers I'd tasted before. In the end, we enjoyed the relaxing atmosphere (and Jared his food), more than the beer itself. That being said, I completely acknowledge being a harsh critic, and I think that most people would find their beers highly drinkable.
The next stop was another brewery in Washington, this time in the small town of Stevenson. The name of the brewery is Walking Man Brewing, and Jared had previously been there. Unfortunately I forgot about my camera until the tasting had already completed, but I managed to snap a shot of the damage we'd done:
The atmosphere in the bar was much more intimate than Everybody's brewing. It had sort of a 'brewing out of my garage' type feel that I really liked. The beer itself was pretty good, but it seemed like we had missed many of their seasonals and had to settle for the standard fare. Nonetheless, it was still a really great time. Here's a picture of the bar area, including their selection of old beer cans:
After Walking Man we returned to Portland. It was a long and thoroughly good day. Given that I had visited so many breweries in the past few weeks, I decided to create a new section on this website for my reviews of their various offerings. You can visit that page by clicking Here.
Forward to Spring 2011
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