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Outward Bound – Boundary Waters Dog Sledding

Boundary Waters – Day 1: Great Team/Group

Boundary Waters Veteran Dog Sledding Group – March 2020

Our instructors seem nice and genuinely happy to be here. The veterans all seem very laid back and, surprisingly, there does not seem to be an overbearing alpha personality in the groupSteve 2 and I volunteered to get into the river as part of a hypothermia training scenario. I only lowered down to my stomach but the water did not seem that cold despite the ice and snow. I actually felt warm afterward as the other members worked to keep us warm. We shuffled inside and changed into dry clothes.

Steve getting wrapped up after our plunge

The instructors issued us gear for the rest of the night and did their best to ensure we would have everything needed for the upcoming trip. We are all nervous about life after class as COVID-19 continues to spread and our lives change on a daily basis. I know it sounds a bit entitled since we all essentially chose to be here (over paying for cancellation of everything that was purchased for us), but the idea of the world becoming unrecognizable to us by the time we are done with this class and having no real contact to the outside world until then, is a little terrifying. I thought of how expedition leaders hundreds of years ago must have felt the same when leaving for multi-year explorations with little to no communication. We all slept out on the porch as our last dry-run with our new gear before heading out tomorrow.

Notes:

  • Darick – Collects first copy prints of books, like $30k for an original print Walden.
  • Bill (part of original Duluth crew) – Likeable, screwed up his back in a Humvee wreck, was hit by a drunk driver recently and is afraid his back will not allow him to finish the class.
  • Steve (part of original Duluth crew) – Is into marketing, the first person to talk to me on this trip, while we were waiting for a shuttle in Minneapolis.
  • Steve 2 – Goat farmer … loves dogs, interested in climbing Rainier.

Boundary Waters – Day 2: Skiing

Not a long day today, picked out our dogs, drove to drop-off site, rigged up sleds and dogs, and skied about 6 miles. I pulled a pulk with weird plastic bindings that caused my heel to constantly pop out of the binding (kind of looked like a plastic Kinder binding where boot get strapped down). Skis were wax-less and immediately I could tell they were going to be sticky. It was very difficult to get any glide due to the warm temps. I would shuffle and try to kick off the 1 inch of snow that frequently accumulated on my skis but that only allowed me to barely glide for about 20 feet or so before the problem began all over again. My bindings came undone about a dozen or so times until Neal, one of our instructors rigged a bungee cord on them to keep them on. Combination of the snow conditions causing me to randomly stick to snow on downhills, pulk pushing me around, and weird binding put me on my ass a few times. Everyone gave up skiing before we reached camp and either walked in skis or undid their skis and carried them while walking through snow. It was a very frustrating day.

Neal looking back to see if I have fallen on my ass again

On the positive side the day was short, and we arrived into camp around 1PM, which allowed us plenty of time to get all of our work done prior to dinner. We all immediately went to work gathering and processing wood, caring for the dogs, and setting up shelters. Camp is on the North side of a moderate sized lake (August Lake perhaps) that we crossed. Weather is nice, spent most of the day only wearing 2 layers. Getting some alone time with Steve, Bill and Darick.

Bill and I processing wood

I spent a lot of time with a dog named Fleetwood who is black, quiet and very sweet. She is an Alaskan Inuit and one of the 2 dogs that I helped load into the truck-kennel. Her demeanor sets her apart from most of the other dogs. Darick, Bill, Steve and I all slept with “Fry Pan” one of the lead dogs, and ended up laughing our asses off for a good 5-10 minutes prior to falling asleep.

Meeting Fleetwood

Post note: I did not know it then but Darick, Bill, Steve and I had already established our little group and would do most everything together for the rest of the trip.

Boundary Waters – Day 3: Dog Sledding

I finally got to dog sled! It seemed fairly straight forward to control speed and stop. The dogs are unbelievably eager to get to pulling. It seems that the only things they care about in the world are eating and pulling. I have to shout to my two lead dogs “Sunbeam … Fry Pan … ready dogs … let’s go” and they immediately take off. It’s worth noting that for some reason the “let’s go” has to be in a high pitch voice, which evolved to become more and more ridiculous each time I say it. There is a dog-fight early on while we are harnessing dogs that leads to “Grey Jay” getting a nasty gash on his nose and bleeding everywhere. “Fry Pan” was also involved and though it looked like she was okay she began limping heavily midway through the day (a long 8-10 mile day in thick snow with sleds full), and she began stopping altogether which caused the other dogs to quit. I brought this to the attention of Neal, who discussed the situation with Nora (most dog-savvy instructor) and they decided to strap her to the back sled and replace her with another dog. There were 4-6 other dog fights and for some reason Fleetwood was often involved as the aggressor. Steve and I had to push the sled quite a bit as the dogs were getting gassed and the trail was rutted out with sharp uphills and little run-offs. I even drove the sled over Steve a little when I was trying to get it back on the trail by applying the brake (in powder) while telling to dogs to pull. Lesson learned there. We learned toward the end of the day would could keep from running off course a little on the sharp downhills by stomping down on one side of the drag brake and standing on the inside skid and leaning. Funny that it took us this long to figure this out. Part of the reason why we were experimenting with steering was because our strongest pull-dog, “Papa” in the back was consistently pulling us off and to the right even if the low and easy path was left, possibly just by his strength and position on the rope.

Beautiful sledding across a frozen lake to begin the day

Once we arrive to camp I spend a little time setting up shelters and then process wood with Bill and eventually Steve. The instructors have gone out their way to get to know many of the students so far.

We set up a large expedition style canvas tent with a wood stove and that is where the cooking is done. Once dinner is ready we all piled into the smokey, steaming hot tent and eat, and then the typical, nightly, why are you here questions came out. Today’s question was what three things are going great back home and what three things aren’t. The smoke is burning my eyes so I just close them and kind of sit and listen quietly as everyone takes turns talking about things they are struggling with. Steven (non-Ukrainian) puts himself out there by talking about some of the post war things he is dealing with and how it is causing distance between him and his immediate family. He says he has difficulty with nit-picking imperfections at home. Sadly I can relate to most of this. It is very honest moment and no one really knows what to say. After a moment of silence I offer my answers:

Three things going well:

  1. I am at a position at work now, due to tenure where I pretty much get to choose what I want to work on
  2. Small things like a wonderful bouldering trip with Jade last summer up in New England. For some reason a couple of particular moments from this trip are replayed heavily.
  3. My wife and I have been married a long, long time and I pretty much get to do anything I want to when many of my friends do not have any such freedom.

Three things not going well:

  1. I need a better relationship with Logan. I talk about how fun our Boston trip was.
  2. I miss riding my motorcycles, like really miss riding them.
  3. I am not sure I am happy in my job. I know it sounds cliche but sitting down all day really does not make me happy. I often dream about working for forest services or as a ranger if pay was not a concern. I even stare out of my window at the construction workers building shit in the snow and get jealous, which is just ridiculous.

Notes: Darick, Bill, Steve and I are getting along great. I have had little to no communication with Ashley or the twins. Today Logan had to step outside the canvas tent to drop second pant layer to dry out/cool down and he came back in with his outer pants around his ankles and said “Don’t look at me … I’m hideous”.  The way he said this was pretty damn funny. Logan skied out with “Grey Jay” and “Fry Pan” so they can be evacuated and in “Grey Jay’s” case, retired (I think). 2 new dogs (“Wednesday” and another are brought it)

At one point of time one of the instructors whipped out the surprise of the night, a jar of salsa to throw on our dinner. Everyone spontaneously erupted to a loud cheer of “SALSAAAAAAA” which kind of caught the instructors off guard. The told us that they cannot recall such an animated reaction to any of the treats they have offered in the past, let alone salsa. I was just glad it wasn’t just me who broke the silence by shouting.

Boundary Waters – Day 4: Solo

It is finally solo day. We gathered around early and the instructors did everything they can do to make sure we wouldn’t kill ourselves, and remind us half a dozen times not to blow our whistles unless life, limb, or eyes are in jeopardy. Many of the vets are pretty nervous about setting off on their own. I know Darick and I have been looking forward to it and are completely at ease. I imagine Ashley is as well. I grabbed a bunch of birch bark (we were told this is great kindling) to use as fire-starter and showed a few others where they can find some.

Weather was still great, probably in the 20’s with small flakes falling from time to time. Very peaceful. We headed out and I got dropped off in an alcove on the lake Southeast of where we slept the night before (I am on the North shore of Omaday Lake). Wolf tracks ran right through my camp and the silence was deafening. I had not realized how loud 16 dogs and 11 people have been over the last 3-4 days.

Wolf tracks

First thing I did was shit. I know, not something you want to hear about but I could write an entire blog post about the tranquility of that shit. I farmed a bunch of snowballs and stashed them by my “shitter” in case I needed them in the future. This turned out to be a great idea. After I did my business I built my shelter using a tarp, some twine, 2 poles and truckers hitches. It was a pretty simply setup off under some pine trees. We were told it is going to snow/sleet so I wanted to take advantage of the trees. Kind of funny for some reason a bowline was easier for me to tie than a trucker hitch.

Home for the night

It is good to be alone. No, it is GREAT to be alone. We have had little to no time to ourselves since the trip began because there is always something to do and somewhere to go. The work and movement itself is not hard, but the breakneck go-go-go pace of everything really makes me appreciate me not having to do a damn thing now. I am confident in my shelter, confident in my skills, and I can spend the next 18-20 hours or so doing whatever I damn well please.

Songs rang through my head in the silence. I gathered firewood for a while and decided to lay down in my shelter. I ended up taking a short nap. It dawns on me that today we are the dogs. Each night we chain the dogs up wherever we camp using ice screws and metal guy wire. I noticed the first night that they are chained so that they are just out of reach of each other and find that a little odd. I wonder if they would not like to lay together in the cold. Now we (the vets) are all out of reach of each other and I totally get it and no longer feel sorry for the dogs at night.

I woke up from my nap and sat around a bit before eating the 3 Jolly Ranchers given to me by our instructors. I laid on my back in the snow while eating my last Jolly Rancher and began to doze off again. This was not the best idea. I was so utterly comfortable, content, and relaxed I damn near choked to death. When I woke up in a panic from said choking, I thought of how funny (okay morbidly funny) it would be for the OB crew to have to explain to my family that I had choked on something when I was out by myself and died. I figured they would issue an Outward Bound policy to all instructors that participants would only be allowed life savers in the future. This made me laugh to myself a little.

I spent more time processing wood and building a fire platform. After a little while I headed over to my shelter to pass out for a proper nap. This was one of the best naps I have had in a long, long time. I awoke around 16:00 to the sound of Logan asking me how I was doing and if I wanted a dog. I told him that I wasgreat and that I would like Fleetwood if possible since she was so bitchy yesterday.

Firewood processed, and fire roaring

I fought the urge to begin a to-do list. I am not exaggerating when I write that. I can’t help but to think something must be wrong with me. We haven’t had any time to ourselves until today, and my thoughts raced uncontrollably from topic to topic. I am afraid of not being “in the moment” again. I think about the end of the trip and how I am just going to blink and it will all be over, and I will be sitting on a bus, shuttling to the Minneapolis airport wearing my “I came, I saw, I OB’d shirt”. I always have a tendency to look ahead to the end of whatever I am doing. I am in the process of re-reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and Pirsig really hammers home the folly of not being attentive to the now. In short the journey really is the destination. These thoughts made me want to write more to preserve my thoughts and feelings throughout the trip.

I also thought about COVID-19 and what is happening to the world while we are all off-grid. It presents an “I think I left the stove on” feeling that just does not go away. I never know when the thought will pop up during the trip but it does so, repeatedly without warning. I take a little comfort in knowing that everyone else is coping with this too.

I headed to the lake to get my fire going. It was ridiculously easy to start with Birch bark. Right before I put my food on Logan appeared with Fleetwood. I took a video of her arrival and tied her to a tree. I boiled my pots of water and cook the Ramen, veggies, and sausage that was provided to us and relaxed a little while eating and drinking my tea. I had saved about half of my firewood to put back for future Outward Bounders but about 10 minutes into relaxing I convince myself that we are probably the last winter group that will come through here until late next year, and that there is more than enough downfall and dead branches to sustain campers for years to come. A poem pops into my head …

“Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

I did my very best to burn a hole to the bottom of the lake. I ended up with a 5 foot wide 30″ deep crater I would have to fill in the morning. The following day I was told by a handful of people that they could see my fire from across the lake.

After tending to my fire, I cleaned up, brushed my teeth, fed Fleetwood her lard, and led her over to the shelter area. I was able to tie her up so she could sleep right next to me without any risk of her peeing on my gear. This day was everything I imagined the trip to be. I closed my eyes and fell asleep to the gentle sound of snowflakes on my tarp.

Boundary Waters – Day 5: Last Night Out

I slept pretty well last night, only occasionally waking up to see Fleetwood starring at me. It took me about 30 minutes to pack up and head over to the group campsite where we had a big breakfast waiting on us.

Fleetwood and I heading back to camp

After eating I was treated to skijoring for the first time, which was absolutely wonderful. The snow that had fallen over the last couple of days had made the ski conditions much more favorable. It felt a little foreign to fight keeping my balance as a sled dog pulled me along but I started getting a feel for it and relaxed a little toward the end of my 5 minute run.

I could get used to this

I knew we were looking at a short, last night out and was looking forward to getting another shot at skiing, perhaps with better conditions. We packed up camp and headed out and immediately I felt the kick and glide I had grown accustomed to in Colorado. I was not pulling a sled this time around so I really got to hang back and take pictures when I wanted to, and just glide along through the wonderful, peaceful Minnesota woods. This was one of the 2-3 ah-ha this is what I signed up for moments. I was on cloud 9. I was so happy that I paused for a short while for my only selfie of the trip. I wanted to remember that moment, and being in that moment.

Wonderful ski day

The rest of our last ski day was fun, quiet, and relatively uneventful. I did get to talk to Ashley briefly and to no surprise, beneath the guarded exterior was a very intelligent and ridiculously capable person. I think most everyone knew this already. She was a Hahvahd grad would had recently summited Denali, and I think Aconcagua in the past. She had been waist deep in adventure for quite a while.

We eventually made our way to a little alcove on a river a few miles from base camp. The center (moving) portion of the river was not frozen. It was a quiet little spot, shielded from the wind with a good view across the ice. We didn’t need to concern ourselves as much with firewood gathering and processing since we had amassed and pulled quite a load on one of the dog sleds. We still had to tend to our dogs, make sure they were happy, chained, fed, and healthy, and setup our shelters. I volunteered to help cook for the first time which meant I could sit around the fire and prepare food. For the life of me I cannot recall what I cooked but I recall it being with Darick.

Cooking duty aint bad

We gathered around the fire when the food was ready, ate, answered our question of the day and laughed and conversed. I recall Neal busting out some form of snack/dessert and all of us getting a little excited. The sun set across the river in dramatic fashion and the temperature lowered quickly. I took my watch off and hung it on one of the tent guy-lines for a reading. After dinner we ran around camp to warm up prior to jumping into our sleeping bags. Typically routine.

Fire and a sunset

Boundary Waters – Day 6: Heading Back to Base Camp

When I awoke the next morning my watch read 6 degrees F. Not insanely cold by any shake of the stick, but colder than anything we had experienced thus far. We all quickly huddled around the fire for breakfast and fed our dogs. I think we all were very conscious that we would be back to base camp within a few hours, with beds, bathrooms, running water, and technology. We were told the travel for the day would be about 3 miles.

It was my last day dog sledding. I had learned a little, gotten better at steering for sure. Steve was joyfully running along and filming everything. As we approached base camp we turned onto a packed, snowy road. This is where it became somewhat hard to stop the dogs, okay actually impossible to stop them alone. Up until this point Steve would jump off and go take pictures and I could dig my arms under the sled frame to shove the brake teeth into the snow and stop them easily. The first time Steve stepped away on this road the dogs, probably sensing they too were close to home, took off. I stood and pulled up as hard as I could on the brake and even tried applying another foot on the drag brake, and they just drug me along like it was nothing. Steve was able to jump on and help me stopped them before things got out of hand.

Approaching the kennels

Once we reached the Kennels we had to secure the dogs, provide one last health and welfare check for each of them, and then take them back to their spot in the yard. This was an oddly sentimental moment since we all knew we would not see them again. After dropping off the dogs we headed over to base camp to turn in all of our gear, and to dry out everything we had taken, which was a lengthy and involved process.

Base Camp

We all had a few minutes to check with family on our phones. Laura and the kids were doing fine. I really didn’t have a lot of time to catch up with them. I am not sure if I learned then or later that Steve had a friend who had died of COVID-19 while we were out. Apparently his last words were, “I just don’t want to die”.

Eventually we made our way back down to the river and sauna, where we would jump into the icy cold river wearing wool socks, and then shiver and shuffle our way over to the sauna for about 30 minutes before repeating the process. This was a surprisingly comfortable evolution, and it was quite relaxing. We all did about 5 round prior to heading back to base camp for a shower. On the last round I challenged myself and others to stay under for about 10 seconds (head and everything), which sound insanely easy. After playing with Wim Hoff stuff for a while I was able to hold my breath for about 3 minutes last year, which is good for me. The second your head went under that cold water though you could just feel the air being sucked out of you as every muscle in your body tensed up. Add to that the unsettling feeling of drifting down the river a little, and it was genuinely hard to stay under just 10 seconds.

Wish my mother was here for this

The shower and dinner that followed were nothing short of heavenly. I was pretty dingy after 5 days of smoke, sweat, and grit. Having a hot meal and dessert was great too. After eating we were introduced to a couple of other teams who had just returned from being out in the sticks, including a group of teenagers who had been out for about 60 days I think. We were tasked with doing dishes for everyone, and it was kind of funny to see how effortlessly we self-organized to knock that out.

At some point of time we returned to the dog yard for our final ceremony. We were asked what we took away from the course, told that we all passed, and asked if we would award ourselves with an pin symbolizing excellence. We were all told to close our eyes and hold out our hands if we thought we were deserving. After this we were told to explain our decision to either take or turn down the pin. A couple of people shared a similar answer with me, that excellence is really the best of the best, statistical outliers, etc. I believed I came in with a wealth of experience yet even with that experience only performed adequately. It was an interesting question. To this day I do not know if I grasp the philosophical depths of our answers. Maybe people like me are just destined to wander through life thinking we have not achieved excellence in anything? Have I achieved excellence in anything (volleyball)? I know I am good at a lot of things, but good cannot hold a candle to excellent. I snuck out to take a picture of some of the dogs and of the shack we huddled in. Right then and there I was struck by the realization that we would be back in our airport shuttles en route to returning to family and COVID-19 tomorrow.

The dog shack

Boundary Waters – Day 7: Returning Home

The shuttle ride back to the airport was similar to the shuttle ride in. We all had our own conversation groups and I spent most of my time trying to replay the whole experience while soaking in the Minnesota scenery as it whizzed by. I had no idea when I would be back.

Once we arrived at the Duluth airport I raced off to charge my phone so I would have some sort of entertainment as I traveled all day. I kind of liked the Duluth airport, even though is was incredibly tiny.

I see what you did there MN

Once through security I purchased a couple of things and hung out briefly with Martin, a straggler from one of the other groups. He told me he was from San Fransisco and that his mother was worried. A few days later we would get call from the Outward Bound director so he could inform us that Martin was presumptive positive and that we should all self isolate/quarantine as if we were too. It turned out Martin did not have COVID-19 but it gave me a little bit of a scare since I had minor cold-like symptoms.

I split once and for all from everyone at the Minneapolis Airport. There the Buffalo Wild Wings employees were so happy to see me (they were all just sitting in the dining area at a table without customers, cooks and all) that they gave me a bunch of free food and sat around me and talked about the trip and Coranavirus. Salt Lake City and Colorado Springs airports were equally desolate. I wore a handkerchief over my mouth and nose and received some funny looks through my travel that day. A couple of weeks later and my handkerchief/mask look would be required by Colorado for leaving the house.

Colorado Hiking/Backpacking Plans

Looking across the Dune Field toward Zapata Falls

Sun setting near Star Dune

Since subscribing to Backpacker (http://com-sub.info/Backpacker/Welcome), I have fallen in love with the whole mountaineering/hiking/peak-bagging scene. I had always envied those that had the time and resources to hike weeks or months at a time across varying landscapes. Out of boredom I climbed Cameron Cone last summer but other than that I had not set aside the time to explore the beautiful terrain that surrounded me here in Colorado. I eventually grew envious enough of all stories and personal accounts that I heard or read about daily and began planning a week of hiking where I would climb the Manitou incline, the two tallest sand dunes in North America at Great Sand Dunes National Preserve, and Pikes Peak.  My father had informed me that he planned on flying up for a visit late August so I planned on attempting my three treks then … weather permitting.

Preparation:

The three hikes I planned were relatively tame but I am a better safe than sorry guy so I began looking at personal beacon/gps/messaging devices sometime in May. I felt that I needed something available other than my phone since battery life and coverage are hardly a given. A coworker of mine told me about SPOT GPS messenger. I looked around for some alternatives but decided in the end that SPOT could do just about everything I needed it to. I purchased the annual service for $100 and was able to get the tracking service for free. The messaging service allows me to send out 4 different message types, check-ins to multiple email or SMS addresses, help messages to friends and family, a single custom message to friends and family (like “I made it”) and finally an SOS message that will notify rangers or authorities of my position when in distress. The SPOT tracking service also allows me to share a tracking page using Google maps to various email addresses so that can keep track of my progress NRT. Additionally the SPOT will allow me to download my tracks in several formats (I use GPX).

Post-note 1: My Spot 2 tracking mode only updates waypoints every 10 minutes. I later found out that this can really skew distances when a route zig-zags. For instance my Pikes Peak climb reported a total distance of 7 miles, when in fact it was 13.
Post-note 2: Spot Gen 3 allows one to choose from several waypoint intervals.
Post-note 3: Google’s My Tracks is actually much easier on my phones battery than SportyPal and other tracking apps. I was able to run it for 6 hours one day so I will likely use it for shorter hikes, or if and when I purchase a solar charger.

More information: http://www.findmespot.com/en/

I also spent some time looking around for one-stop-shop website that would allow me to post images, GPXs, trip reports, as well as log my hikes and look for maps, routes and advice from previous climbers. I originally used the Sportypal app exclusively for my outdoor activities but it’s a bit of a battery hog and I as intend to use my SPOT (mostly) on future hikes. I ended up creating profiles at:

In addition to those I am still using my SportyPal web portal. Hopefully ease of use or overall usability will steer me toward using one of those exclusively. Until then I will just have to upload my trek multiple times.

Incline:

My 10 year old daughter and I climbed the incline before my dad even arrived so that was out of the way. I have seen the incline from a far almost daily but being up close and looking up the 2700+ stairs (and 40%-68% incline) is something to behold. Jade acted like she was dying the second half of the way up, so we had to resort to counting steps. As soon as we reached the top she got her second, third, and fourth winds all at once and wanted to bomb down the 2100 feet we had climbed (literally running) to our car via Barr Trail.

Pikes Peak:

Shortly after my father arrived we discussed our plans and decided to scout out the Pike Peak route. We drove up to the top of the peak and I showed him on a map where my planned egress point would be provided I could not make it up or down the mountain, due to injury etc. Unfortunately on the way down I became sick and later had issues sleeping. I did wake up at 4am but I felt like crap and decided I would not attempt Pikes Peak that weekend. I really wanted my dad to be the one to pick me up because I have been trying to get him out hiking and exploring, but it didn’t work out that way.

Post-note 4: I was able to climb Pikes Peak by myself a few weeks later. The weather was magnificent. I began around 5:30 and used my head lamp to make it up Barr trail. I made it to the top of the first climb (near the top of the incline) just in time to watch the sun rise to my east. It was incredibly tranquil. I ended up packing pretty well. I took my Camelbak M.U.L.E. NV and a few snacks. I think my total pack weight was just at 18 pounds or so, with the bladder full. The only gear issues I had was that my shell did not ventilate very well so I literally took it off to let the sweat dry only to put it back on because the wind was cold dozens of times. I stopped at Barr Camp to eat for about 30 minutes before heading out to finish the last 6 miles. The last few hundred vertical feet were pretty brutal. I had expected as much from reading other blogs. When I got to the top there were literally hundred of people milling around. There were about 10-15 or so people that I had seen on the trail earlier. I gave them a nod and fought through the crowd in the gift shop to buy some fudge. The crowd was a bit much so I decided to sit on a wall and watch other hikers reach the summit as I ate my fudge lunch. The timing of the hike could not have been more perfect. The very next day the temperature plummeted 25 degrees or so and several inches of snow fell on the peak.

Great Sand Dunes:

The Great Sand Dunes trip with my father ended up being the sleeper of the group. We planned on visiting one of my favorite aunts down in Albuquerque first and foremost so anything else we wanted to try to see or do was contingent about the amount of time we spent with her and when we were able to get out of Albuquerque. After having dinner with her and visiting for several hours we pulled into a hotel around midnight on the New Mexico/Colorado border. We awoke around 8 the next day and drove the 2 or so hours up to the Dunes. When we arrived the sky was cluttered with little moonsoonal squalls so we took the opportunity to pick our camp area (we decided on the Zapata Falls campground at about 9000 feet) and get set up. After setting up we took the short hike to the falls. It was cool to see my dad wade through the ridiculously cold water to get back to the falls area. The hike took the wind out of him at times (he lives about 900 feet above sea level) but he seemed to enjoy the hike.

I had read somewhere that hiking the dunes at night is pretty amazing. While eating at the little diner outside the park I decided that I could begin my hike in the late afternoon, arrive at the Star Dune right as the sun was setting, which would allow me to return in the dark. I had a descent head lamp on me with a charge, but in my haste I had forgotten to pack a small pack (Only had my Kelty Red Cloud 5600 with me). I looked through the car and somehow stumbled across the little leaflet for the Kelty, which pointed out that the top part of the pack detaches to form a fanny pack. I figured I would be the first person to climb the dunes with a fanny pack on in about 20 years (excluding east European tourists).

I headed out for my hike and the dunes were … well … dunes. Extremely sandy and steep. The hike to the high dune was a little annoying. There were people all around and at some point I ended up following a litter of parent-less kids who were aimlessly walking up and down dunes for a ways. We had that awkward “is this guy following us, where is mom”/”no I promise I am not following you for bad reasons” thing going on, until they decided they had enough of me and went barreling down one of the dunes. Once I reached the top of the high dune it seemed that everyone else had headed back toward the park to get to wherever they were going before the sun set. This began the most memorable hiking leg I think I will ever have. Even though I was only about 4-5 miles from the sandy creek bed, it instantly seemed as if I was completely isolated. There was absolutely no sound out there whatsoever. I do not think I can even describe it really. 15 minutes earlier all I could here were children discussing children things, and voices echoing up the dunes from the creek. Now I could hear my heartbeat. It was the quietest place I have ever been. No wind, no birds, no cars, nothing.

I ended up following another hikers footprints from the top of the High Dune over toward the Star Dune. That essentially was the only evidence I had that I was not on some alien uninhabited planet. I had to scramble and bear-crawl a bit ascend the last 50 or so vertical feet of the dune. When I reached the top and was a bit out of breath and absolutely giddy from the scenery that laid below me. As the sun was setting I could see the entire valley from my little perch and the towering mountains to my East and North, and even 50 miles or so to my West. The valley was absolutely covered in sun flowers which seemed to glow a bright yellow in the suns diminishing rays. The sky was a dark blue from the moisture and storm clouds off to my south so the flowers seemed even brighter. I sat there for about 10 minutes snacking, taking pictures, and enjoying the scenery before I decided to head back via a different route.

My dad and I had come up with some sort of crazy signaling scheme that we would use between us during my return. It essentially consisted of him turning a flashlight on and off 3 times in several series. I would reply by running my hand back and forth in front of my headlamp in the same fashion, blinding myself in the process. I had gotten back down to the southern side of the creek in about an hour, and I had seen his signal a handful of times, but it seemed like I wasn’t getting any closer. I assumed he was using the high beams on our car, and that somehow one was obscured by something. So this went on for perhaps another hour or so, signals coming and going, before I finally stumbled upon him out in the middle of the creek. That was the end of that …

We made our way back up to the Zapata Falls Campground as I told him all about the hike. We both had a long day so we just went straight to bed without even lighting a fire. I awoke what seemed like 30 minutes later to find him sitting upright in the tent, peering out. He said that a bear was rummaging through our stuff about 20 feet away and I laid there listening for a while before falling back asleep. The next time I awoke, he was again sitting upright holding his chest, shivering. I figured he was cold so I set him up in the car and turned on the heater. He then started throwing up or at least attempting to. I’m not sure if it was 2,3, or 4 AM but it was early and I didn’t know what to do. At some point of time I realized he was pretty damn sick and what little common sense I had made an appearance and I finally set out to get him down as low as possibly could (about 1000 feet or so) by heading into Alamosa. Once in Alamosa we kind of sat around for awhile in a parking lot not knowing what to do, me sneaking naps in with my seat back, him in absolute agony, and throwing up every 10 minutes. Eventually we made our way to the ER where they pumped him full of fluids and ran a few tests. I think the doctors got a kick out of both of us, him for not hydrating and traveling from basically sea-level to sleep at 9000 feet, and me for coming up with the damn idea. After hydrating for a few hours and giving him some pills they told him he was suffering from Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) and we were checked out and on our way home.

Obviously the trip could have ended better but I was very happy to be able to spend time with him out in the country and of course, we will both have stories to tell (good, bad, humorous, and otherwise) as long as we live.

Future Hikes/Climbs:

  • Oneonta, Multnomah, OR
  • Blanca Peak, CO
  • Mount Washington, NH
  • Machu Pichu, Peru
  • Rocky Mountain National Park, CO
  • Badlands, SD
  • Crag, CO
  • Redwoods, CA
  • Glacier National Park, MT
  • Narrows@Zion National Park, UT
  • Arches & Canyonlands, UT
  • Maroon Bells, CO

hanger1

Do want

4 Sporks in 7 Years

I must say much has changed in my life in the last several months. I suffered through a drama-packed job situation which is still settling and I had many opportunities to learn and do new things. Below are the details of some of the more interesting events of the last few months :

  • *I have changed jobs on 2 occasions with the possibility of a third coming
  • *I achieved Security+ and Network+ certifications (to get bonuses and add resume filler, currently prepping for CISSP & CEH), and a Cloudshield Certified Developer Certification
  • *I lost my fourth spork in recent memory at work (probably stolen again)
  • *I took a Christmas vacation to Colorado with my immediate family where I learned how to … quickly … put on snow chains and of the value of owning a Subaru in snowy conditions
  • *My motorcycle has broken down to an extent
  • *I have been prepping for the whole grad school routine again
  • *I finally finished Jades Robot Costume only to have her declare that she will no longer be known as Pickle
  • *I ran Warrior Dash as Lt. Dangle, and lost the keys to the cruiser (this one must be told verbally. I could spend all day writing about it)
  • *I may have determined what the hell is wrong with my weather station
  • *And finally Laura got a job … just kidding

Jerb Drama
The biggest life changer in the last few months was without a doubt, my job situation. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the DoD contracting process, a contract and its allocated positions and financial resources are usually reassessed or bid on annually. I worked with a small company developing software for a NIDS/NIPS system deployed by the Air Force. Most of my coworkers were rather unconcerned about losing the contract since our company had it for many years and since the government was relatively happy with our products. In fact when the negotiations for the contract were being made the contracting office and people affiliated with our work requested that bidders provide a detailed and technically specific development plan consisting of several hundred pages of information … in like 15 days in an apparent attempt to ward off bidders. Despite all of this, I was still pessimistic. I just had a weird gut feeling about it all and several small signs popped up as we closed in on D-Day. On the last day of our work we still hadn’t received an answer as to our future. Only then did I begin to see a shift in the moods of many of my coworkers. We all had to pack our stuff to avoid having to be escorted back onto the premises in the event of losing our jobs. The next night we finally received an email from our interim team leader who was rather shocked himself when saying “we did not get the contract”.

So like that I went from being the happily and gainfully employed breadwinner of my family to an unemployed software engineer (yeah think Office Space again). The good news when these things happen is that the company who wins the contract typically hires several of the old employees to fill gaps in technical skills specific to the project. This was also the case this time however the winning company grossly underbid on the contract resulting in all of the former employees having to walk the fine line between taking care of themselves and taking care of friends and former coworkers. In a way it resembled the shittiest game of musical chairs ever played, where those left standing when the music stopped playing had to drastically alter the lifestyle etc. For whatever reason I happened to land in the lap of L-3 Communications which was subcontracted by the winning company to provide developers, and for what it is worth I consider myself very lucky that I did. They are a very large established company who take good care of their employees, and they provide a $5000 bonus to me if I can get somebody hired … *wink*. That being said I do miss Meritec and my old coworkers. I was wonderful working with all of them.

I have since settled in again and though I still feel rather stressed concerning my new more senior role with the project, I have learned a great deal and can honestly see myself leading a development team in the near future. The biggest setback so far with the new company is that I lost my friggin spork AGAIN! I don’t know how or why but the damned things keep disappearing from my desk drawers. I know how asinine it might seem to think that someone is walking around stealing sporks, but we have caught no less than 3 people in the act of tossing our drawers late at night for CDs/DVDs/Pens etc. I will be the first to admit that one of them was almost entirely my fault since I probably left it in the break room. The others just walked off mysteriously. I am thinking about installing an alarm and/or booby traps. A bunch of crap it is.

Professional Development
So now that I am with L-3 (which offers certification bonuses) and since I have witnessed first-hand how quickly I can be out of a job, I decided to go certification crazy. I pretty much spent all of December reading Security+ and Network+ books to prepare for examinations. I learned earlier in the year that CompTIA had decided as of 2011 their A+, Security+, and Network+ certifications would expire every 3 years or so, unless a bridge examination was paid for and passed. Since I took both of mine in December I am certified for life (with the completion of CPEs).

I decided to use a Prometric testing center to take my first test, Security+. I had been studying for about 10 days or so, and had the material down pretty damn well sans some of the specifics regarding digital cryptography methods. The nearest testing site with an available date was located by the airport. I assumed that each test site would be fairly similar and quickly purchase my voucher to take the test at 2pm.

I woke up early on the morning of the test and rifled through my note cards and practice exams. Sometime around 10am I received a call from the test proctor who asked if I was taking the test at 2:00. When I informed him that I was, he asked if I would rather take it at noon or even 1pm. I told him I did not want to move it up because I was driving to San Marcos after the test and moving it up would require me wandering around somewhere for an hour or two. He then had the nerve to inform me that he was there until I finished my test and that he wanted to get out of there by 1pm to do something. He kept pushing his case on the phone, and eventually as I became more and more pissed, I gritted my teeth and told him I will be in at 1pm.

I arrived at 1pm and he immediately quipped that he could have been home by now. Again I was left rather speechless. I figured I would just go in, knock out the test and be on my merry way. I sat down and began the 100 question test. The first 10 or so questions were alien to me. It was crazy. I had studied very hard, I knew my way around my study material and could pass any assortment of 100 questions out of their 500 or so question test bank with a 98% average. The actual test however asked oddly worded questions that were either tricky or outdated. Often times the questions concerned subject or acronyms I had never even heard of. I was about halfway through the test when my little panic alarm went off in my head. I sat there dumbfounded and embarrassed, finding it hard to swallow that I was going to fail a friggin Security+ exam when my job was to develop secure software for the friggin DoD. I actually contemplated walking out and saving Joe Gotztago his hour or so and returning home to study for a test retake. After a few minutes of starring at the screen I became a bit more rational and thought; F-it you are here, you spent 2 weeks studying this shit, if you fail you are going to crash and burn not walk out.

So on with the test. Another 10 questions down, another 2-3 marked for review. It was about this time that Joe Gotztago apparently retreated to his little Civic and began BOOMING baselines through the wall. I really couldn’t believe it. Being a Kramer I quickly deployed our famous “I can fuck with you worse than you can fuck with me” game plan and made it a point to sit there and review every friggin question to the last second of my time limit. Honestly I was done reviewing at about the 1 hour mark but I wanted to stay there, stare at the wall, stare at the camera, pick my nose, and doodle on my scratchpad. At that point I didn’t care if Joe Gotztago was missing the birth of his first born child, my ass was planted like a Chia Donkey. I pressed the submit button about 20 seconds before my time expired and prepared myself to receive a proverbial kick in the sack. To my absolute surprise I was informed that I had passed with a score of 860 or some such, with 750 out of 900 being passing. Don’t ask me how. So on the way out Joe Gotztago was pissed off and kept commenting that he wanted to be home, and that next time I should sign up for an earlier test. I just smiled and nodded and walked out the door knowing damn well I would never take a test there again, and that I would be able to look forward to a couple of study free nights.

I wish I had an awesome story for the Network+ exam. I really don’t. I studied hard again, picked a Prometric testing site in Austin, and passed it rather easily with an 880 or something (90%).

Currently I am studying for my CEH exam next month at a much more leisurely pace.

Halloween
Alright so on to Halloween. I wanted to do something over the top this year but I could not figure out what. I wanted to hit one our costumes out of the park, but was afraid time constraints would lead to 3 ground outs (there Laura are you happy? … I used a baseball reference). I spent some time looking around at Electro-Luminescent lighting. You can buy it fairly cheap and sew it into jackets, etc. I thought about sewing some into my motorcycle jackets so that when I give my bike gas the sound of the engine would cause it to glow more (they sell audio sensors). I really wished I had the time to make something like this. Oh well maybe next year. While searching around for Daft Punk patterns and pictures I stumbled across a guy who created a friggin Daft Punk replica helmet. <-- I am still amazed by that. That served to remind me that I am no artist and that I should stick to simple shit. So for me I only had to visit one costume site to fall in love with the Lt. Dangle getup. I spent a couple of months growing out my wannstache. Logan’s costume was not an issue since she inherited Jades from last year. I had asked jade 8-10 weeks before Halloween what she wanted to be and for some reason or another I drew a sketch of a robot and she was sold. I had a pretty good idea how everything would look and fit together, but I could not figure out how I was going to create the flashing panel buttons on her chest. Originally I figure I would just buy stain glass tiles and wire some Christmas lights behind them, however the light would not diffuse correctly and it frankly looked horrible. I then though I would purchase an old Simon game off of Amazon or EBay and mount that sucker to her chest box. Do you have any idea how expensive those things are nowadays? Like 100 bucks! I ended up going to cheap and shitty route of just cutting rectangles out of rubber mats we bought. It took a few weekends to finish everything. It all came out rather well except for the stupid buttons … oh yeah and except for the fact that I made her eye holes too high and that the lights mounted on her shoulders prevented her from turning her head too much. Most of our neighbors were in fact impressed and requested to get pictures of her etc. I suppose the costume would have been less glamorous to them if they would have stayed on the porch long enough to realize poor Jade had to remove her robot head entirely between houses just to be able to see and move. Oh well. Simple fixes for Logan’s robot next year right?

Christmas
This was the first Christmas I spent back in San Antonio where I was comfortable enough financially to take a vacation. Since I like an 80 degree Christmas about as much as I would like rooming with Glenn Beck, we decided to head up to the southwestern corner of Colorado. Of course since everyone else in the Northern Hemisphere were had to make out arrangements a few months ahead of the trip. After calling no less than 20 places we decided to stay two nights at the Elk Point Cabins on Vallecito Lake, about 30 minutes Northeast of Durango. We also had to make reservations for 2 nights in Cloudcroft, 1 night going up, and 1 driving back.

Once we knew the trip was on, we began looking around for stuff to do. I found out Santa was going to give Jade and Logan Polar Express tickets to the Silverton train, so that took care of one evening. The hostess of elk Point Cabins suggested a horse pulled sleigh ride around the mountain as another fixture in the trip. we figured we would leave the rest of our trip unplanned since we might want to split up or do something else etc.

About two weeks before Christmas I woke up early to begin studying for my Network+ exam. I glanced at my phone as I typically do early in the morning and noticed something wrong. I have a pseudo-live image of Cloudcroft (up to 30 minutes old) as my phone wallpaper. That morning when I looked I saw a huge pile of something and a bunch of chaos. I quickly went to the upstairs computer and logged on to pull up the high resolution feed and looked in amazement as I realized a large portion of the historic downtown district (3 shops) had burnt down. It was a very sad scene since it was approaching their most profitable tourist season, and since the shops were nearly 100 years old, and since we would be visiting that very place in 14 days or so.

So on to the trip. there wasn’t really any excitement until we reached Colorado (except for Laura forgetting all of the girls snow clothes for whatever reason). I had checked the Durango weather for the last week and was actually afraid we would get up there and not see any snow. There was about 4 inches or less of packed melted/refrozen ice/snow at our cabin when we got there, but as we headed down into town that quickly disappeared. We went shopping in Durango and hung around town waiting for the Polar Express ride at 6PM. Weatherbug had changed their forecast to 100% chance of snow that night and the entire area was put under a Winter Storm Warning. Naturally my mother and father were a bit nervous about this since they came up in her Chevy Malibu, and since they aren’t accustomed to dealing with snow. We all decided to buy groceries in town in case we ended up snowed in at the cabin.

That night after the polar express ride we drove to the cabin together, played a few gamed and prepared for our winter storm. The owner of the cabins randomly gave us a nice set of snow chains that had been left behind by a previous renter. We moved my father’s car up to the top of the culd-a-sac so that he would not have to drive it up a steep embankment in snow and ice. I went to sleep that night very excited. Every time I would wake up I would roll over and try to peak outside to see if the snow had started. Around 4AM I finally fell into a deep sleep.

I woke up cold at 6:30AM or so. I shuffled out to the main room to see my dad fighting with the fire place. He immediately informed me that it was snowing. It wasn’t coming down very hard though. My dad and I decided to drop my mom’s car off at the local one-stop stop about 2 miles up the road and directly across the lake from our cabin. We figured the plows would operate more regularly there and that we would have a better chance of finding help etc if we needed it. Before taking it there I had to put on those damned snow chains. Wow that was quite the adventure. The gloves on they were too bulky for me to put on the chains, however if I took them off my hands would freeze and literally not work. It probably took us an hour or so to get them on. By the time we were done the snow was coming down like angel shit. We returned back to the cabin tired and dirty. We spent the rest of the day sledding, fighting, eating, and playing games. It was one of the best days I had in years.

ForrsterFor the next 24 hours it snowed and snowed and uh … yeah snowed some more. The place looked like Michael Irvin’s coffee table. There was about 20-26 inches on the ground the next morning and I started to wonder how much the Forrester could handle. We had to head up a semi-steep hill with about an inch of ice underneath it, and my ground clearance is only 9inches or so. As we assessed the situation the snow actually stopped falling. We took advantage of the weather and quickly hopped into the car to drive to the Malibu to dig it out and bring it back to the cabin. It took several attempts to make it up the hill since the plows left a rather nasty 3 foot embankment. The depth of the snow and the ice on the hills gave me fits even with all-wheel drive. After using about half of my clutch plate I blasted through the wall of snow and onto the cud-a-sac. From there it was smooth sailing to the general store.

Thankfully the snow was very lightweight and made for some easy shoveling. We had the Malibu out in no time and were heading back to the cabin. I already mentioned that both of my parents were petrified of getting snowed in. Honestly when I woke up that morning and saw that 2 feet had fallen I was beginning to wonder too. The plows did a good job with the roads, and the snow chains and all-wheel drive did the rest. It only took us about 2-3 hours to pack both vehicles and begin our trip back home. By the time we made it down to Durango the roads were in a condition that warranted removing the snow chains. We did run into more snow showers on the way home and the road was packed with snow for a hundred miles or so. Other than that and our stop at Ruidoso, the trip home was quiet and uneventful.

All 4 of my girls don’t work now
So my two daughter are much too young to work. My wife hasn’t worked since my oldest was less than a year old (approaching 7 years now). However my motorcycle at 37 years old has always worked, that is until a ride home from work mid-December. I was approaching a stop light and as I down shifted it shut off entirely, almost as if I had hit the kill switch. Due to its age the bike often acts in peculiar ways. I had become familiar with its eccentricities through riding it frequently. THIS though was new. I know I did not stall it. Once I came to a stop I put it in neutral and hit the start button; nothing. It wouldn’t even turn over. Normally this would be a battery issue except that my head lamp was on full blast and that I had no issues starting the bike only 3 minutes or so earlier. So there I was in the dark on a bike that wouldn’t start, in a rather remote are about 11 miles from my house. I looked around to see if I could determine an obvious culprit, which I couldn’t. Since the area was flat it would not be that easy to jump it. The only option I had was kick starting the thing.

Now I had read in a book or two about the difficulty of kick starting a bike, even when it is warm. I had never tried it though. The situation I found myself in was such that I had no other options than to see if I could make it work. I sat upright pulled out the kick start pedal and went to town. Stomp – right foot rest pedal to the shin – Lift – repeat. This went on a good 25 times until to my utter delight the bike started. Of course by then my shin was bruised to hell and back but I couldn’t care less. I had kick started my bike, something other cyclist that have never ridden a bike older than 1979 or so have never experienced.

So once I got home I tinkered around with it again. I charged the battery up and tried to start it and got the same results. I suspected a short, but tracing the starting switch the starter motor, I found none. I originally suspected the starter motor, but that wouldn’t explain why it just randomly shut down in the first place. In fact, I still don’t have an explanation for that. I did order a battery from O Reilly which I will pick up on Tuesday. I am keeping my fingers crossed that one of the cells was bad in the old one. With luck she’ll be working again soon.

Belated Gallery Update
Below are the galleries I recently updated, including our Christmas adventures.

Travel->Colorado Christmas Trip 2010
Travel->Colorado Christmas Trip 2010->Road Shots
Travel->Colorado Christmas Trip 2010->New Mexico
Travel->Colorado Christmas Trip 2010->New Mexico->Cloudcroft/Ruidoso
Travel->Colorado Christmas Trip 2010->New Mexico->Carlsbad Caverns
Travel->Colorado Christmas Trip 2010->Colorado
Travel->Colorado Christmas Trip 2010->Colorado->Polar Express
Travel->Colorado Christmas Trip 2010->Colorado->Durango
Travel->Colorado Christmas Trip 2010->Colorado->Vallecito Cabin

Holidays->Christmas 2010
Holidays->Halloween 2010

Time=(Time^Time)

Time seems to be moving along quite quickly as of late. I have settled into a routine of riding my bike to work, working out, riding home, working on my house, and sleeping. A few months ago I bought, installed, and configured my weatherstation. Also, I started playing tennis again, or I suppose I should say I plan to resume playing competitive tennis again.

Last weekend I finally had time to do some long awaited Ahuiz Gallery maintenance. I dusted off some old volleyball photos from 1872 and posted them. Hopefully I will find someone with more photos of 2010 NIRSA Nationals. Apparently I was just too busy to take any. Anyhow the additions are as follows:

Volleyball
Volleyball->NIRSA Nationals 2010
Volleyball->NIRSA Nationals 2005
Volleyball->NIRSA Nationals 2003
Volleyball->Camp Phoenix Volleyball
Volleyball->Dale, Texas
Volleyball->All-Navy Volleyball

Holidays->Christmas 2009

Family->Mom and Dad
Family->Tanyas Bunch
Family->Mathews Bunch
Family->Mathews Bunch->Wang Woody Johnson

Miscellaneous->Weather
Miscellaneous->Weather->Weather Station
Miscellaneous->Weather->Hurricane Alex

Mountain Biking->Bluff Creek Ranch pt 1+2

Travel-Texas
Travel->Texas->Los Maples State Park pt 1+2
Travel->Texas->New Diana (Tanya’s House)
Travel->Texas->South Padre
Travel->Texas->South Padre->South Padre 2010
Travel->Texas->South Padre->South Padre 2010

Motorcycles->My CB500

Shanoh Dorso

Gallery Update … Again

Hello all,

Since I last wrote I was officially awarded my masters, ended my enlisted career with the Navy, have lived without work for a month, moved into a hotel across the country, and bought a motorcycle. Presently I do not have time to write about all of that. However I have uploaded pretty pictures for you to look at.

Leaving Texas for San Diego
Leaving Texas for San Diego->Our New Temp Home
Leaving Texas for San Diego->Arizona Sandstorm
Leaving Texas for San Diego->Big Bear
Leaving Texas for San Diego->Goodbye Sandy Eggo
Leaving Texas for San Diego->New Mexico
Leaving Texas for San Diego->New Mexico->Albuquerque/Sandia Peak
Leaving Texas for San Diego->New Mexico->Valley of Fires

Travel ->Concan Texas

Family ->Jade ->Sixth Birthday

Residence ->San Diego ->Sandra Visits San Diego

TTFM
–Shane

Blog Bundling on Volleyball

Men’s All-Navy Volleyball Team

Volleyball has come and gone. It didn’t seem like it was too long ago when I was stressing out each night in my barracks room about being cut from the team due to my poor camp performance. With about 10 days left in the camp I found myself on the starting team, and was getting increasingly comfortable with our setter. My progress however was painfully slow. It seemed that every time I would dust off an old cobweb, I would uncover another. By the time we arrived in North Carolina for the Armed Forces Tournament I was feeling a tad more confident.

Our first match was against the Marines. I was quickly reminded how fickle sports could be. Physically we were prepared, but mentally we were all somewhere else. I don’t really know how to describe it. It was if hold music was playing in our heads. Some of us, myself included, had deer in headlights looks the entire match. We lined up on the court with our 6 starters, me playing OH, and in a blink of an eye we lost the first game 25-17. The next two games followed suit. This was one of those matches that went by so fast that we didn’t even have time to adjust. Instead of seeing the entire game from a bird’s eye view, each of us seemed focused at a micro level on a few individual things. We weren’t really outclassed; we just mentally took a crap. Not having a coach there hurt us a lot. Worse still we faced the problem that would haunt us for the rest of the tournament, finding an emotional floor leader.

Our veteran player John arranged to have the girls coach act as our head coach while we were playing. The next match against the Air force went a little better, but again, we lost in 3 games. Each subsequent match got a little closer and a little better until we finally beat the Army in our 5th match. By then it was too little too late. I was reminded 138139 times by our coach and various female Navy players that I needed to get excited and pumped up after each point despite the outcome of the point. I suppose I used to be an excitable guy however long ago. When it comes to volleyball, I just like to play. I think the only time I can “ManRa” as they call it, is when the other team is talking trash, or when they are a bunch of @$$holes. Each branch was pretty cool to us, so I just did my thing, smiled and prepared for the next point, to the dismay of many of our girls. Since I am a huge San Antonio Spurs fan (25 years strong) I might attempt to blame my new-found stoicism on Tim Duncan. Yeah … I think that’s what I will do.

Apparently several other members of our team had also been counseled. Some of the Navy girl’s parents who were watching asked them if we (the guy’s team) even liked playing. It was a very weird situation. We all knew how to play, but no one could really bring the ManRa. It wasn’t that we were playing bad, but that we weren’t a bunch of cheerleaders. The two games that we did get emotionally involved in we kicked ass. All 6 starters interacted at on even keel, taking turns attempting non-chalantly to motivate the team. I spent many nights analyzing the matches in an attempt to figure out what I could do (sigh *mentally*) to help.

Physically, my play was on and off. I had a bad first match against the Marines, a descent second match against the Air Force where I logged 15-19 on kills, and a bad third match against the Army, when I decided passing was not very important to win. My last 3 matches where we played each branch again were a bit more consistent. I typically got about 15 kills, and passed at or around a 2.1, whereas in the first three games, I would either pass perfect, or horrendous. After about the 3rd match I spoke to our setter Aaron about running 32s on the outside when I was in transition. We did it by chance and quickly noticed that the other branches had a very hard time dealing with the quick inside sets when our middle was also going for a well-passed quick. I believe we even had two matches were I was perfect from 32s hitting 10+. It was funny watching each team we faced adjust to it by stacking their setter or opposite way inside. Due to my shoulder being all jacked up, I still had tons of angle hitting room. Eventually they stacked so far inside on the last match that I had about half the court to turn to when swinging line. That, and sporadic good digging, were my only real successes. Despite everything, two other Navy guys (our Opposite Carlon, and setter Aaron) and I were selected to represent the Navy in the CISM world games (*read below for how that went comically wrong*).

It took me a while to warm up to all the Navy guys, but I already miss them. We had a very cool team. Everyone was easy to get along with. I am slated to be out of the service soon, and have been researching reserve jobs. Personally, I would prefer to join the Air Force Reserves. Knowing that if I did, I would never play with any of the guys again, I have since swayed toward joining the Coast Guard. If I am lucky enough, I will line up again with many of the same guys as a Coast Guard reservist and offer a little payback to the other branches.

The Navy Strikes Again
As I write this, I have an 8 week old travel claim that has not been paid, an 8 week old Tuition Assistance Request that has not been approved, and my ship is forcing me to take an early out by threatening to blow off navadmin 273/06 and deploy me despite the fact that I have not been back from Afghanistan for 6 months. I also received a sub-par eval while I was in Afghanistan (a 3.1) despite earning a Meritorious Service Medal, which by the way is about the highest medal any of our 300 crew members CO included, have received themselves. I should also mention that it is taking an act of God to get any progress on resolving my ankle issue. Apparently the GOOD medical care is reserved for the military members dependents, as they are the only ones that get to see real doctors. We get the expertise of quacks that may have an associates, score in the middle range of the ASVAB, and who like to use silver nitrate incorrectly to cauterize a toenail (future story). All that being said, my dealing with the organization or lack thereof of the sports office took the cake.

I first need to mention that everyone I spoke to was very nice, and that they all attempted to be helpful. In fact, I am not quite sure why it is all broken. We weren’t even told that camp was postponed. We each had to call and find out. We also did not receive valuable information, including what we need to bring and have done prior to arriving to camp, until about a day before we left. Needless to say that most of our team arrived to Jacksonville unprepared. Ironically the three guys that would end up being selected for the CISM team after the tournament (Carlon, Aaron, and I) all took it upon ourselves in camp to fight tooth and nail to ensure that we got our passports in time, (one of the things that was not passed down to us). We each filled out all the form, got everything signed, and went out of our way to rectify that situation.

It was a month or so later, at the All-Armed Services Tournament, where we (three of us) anxiously sat awaiting our names to be called to the CISM team that we learned of our Shakespearian fate. We were each told under the table to make preparations to travel to Rio De Janero for a month. So when the last name was called, and all three of us were still sitting, it was quite a punch in the stomach. Afterward, the Navy Sports Representative informed me that I had been selected, but that our passports had not come in yet, and that they would not take any of us. I cannot tell you the last time the Navy did not send anyone to represent men’s volleyball. All I know is that we each moped back to our barracks and sat around feeling kind of shell-shocked. The morning rolled around soon enough, and as we were boarding the plane, we were each presented with one last little kick in the groin when we simultaneously received text messages indicating that our passports had arrived. ARRGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGG! The US team placed ninth and even won a match against Venezuela. I frequently checked up on them, and felt sick with envy daily. None-the-less I should be thankful I played at all. I could have spent the time on the ship.

Gallery Update

Hello all,

Once again I have updated the gallery and attempted to fight the gallery2 embed-video plugin demons. I succeeded on the first account, and failed on the latter. Galleries that have been updated are:

Family
Family->Laura
Family->Logan
Family->Jade

Holidays->Christmas

Augmentation->Phoenix
Augmentation->Panoramics

As I said earlier embed-video is still crapping all over the place and there does not seem to be any end in sight. I have now spent about 18 hours working on it. As such, I resign to linking to each and every video I upload to Google Video. The most recent additions are shown below:

Christmas Presents
Christmas Presents II
Christmas Presents III
Christmas Presents IV

Jade Dancing II

Logan Playing Guitar I
Logan Playing Guitar 1I
Logan Playing Guitar III

Sledding I
Sledding II
Sledding III
Sledding IV
Sledding V
Sledding VI
Sledding VII

Doogle Soccer

Well, that is it for now. I will post more as they are taken.

Shane

Gallery Update

It has been a while since I have written anything. In addition to work, working out, and the wonderful Afghanistan night life, I have been spending time exercising the demons of a creative bug I have recently been bitten by. It may be a genetic thing as I have bared witness to my father, grandfather, and two sisters past sufferings with the same issue. In short, I feel I have too many ideas and not enough time to chase them. Presently I have about 12 projects queued up and prioritizing or completing any of them is practically impossible since I prefer things to be organized in a linear stack, and since I am rarely happy with the current state of a project and thus never consider it to be complete. In a way I suppose I should be grateful that I am not more artistically gifted since I would likely never get anything done. Be that as it may, I am putting forth an honest effort to put my ideas, no matter how insignificant, to work. I must periodically remind myself the pursuit of expression is just as important and defining as admiring ones completed work.

However, I had time to update my gallery. I was playing around in my photo library and noticed that for whatever reason, I had neglected to upload Chunk and Doogle’s birthday pictures, this years Halloween and Easter pictures, more Afghanistan pictures, my friend’s Dubai trip pictures, and Jade’s Swimming and Soccer pictures. I also posted pictures (mostly panoramics) of the first mountain snowfall here, only to bear witness to one of life’s quirky little ironies, a seeming endless high-altitude snowfall as I type these very words. I plan on waking up in the morning and snapping more shots to be posted within the next couple of days. Below are direct links to the new content. *Enjoy*

<--Holidays-->
Easter 2008
Halloween 2008

<--Chunk and Doogle-->
Chunk’s Second Birthday
Doogle’s Fifth Birthday
Doogle’s Swimming Lessons
Doogle; Soccer Hooligan

<--Travel-->
Friend’s Trip to Dubai

<--Afghanistan-->
Phoenix Panoramics
Phoenix Pictures

A cold front approaches hell

I am back home now from my adventure up North. The trip back was relatively uneventful with the exception being when a 10-ish year old Afghani kid pointed a rifle with a laser attachment right at my forehead as our convoy made its was through a choke point. I was looking out the window keeping a watchful eye on the street vendors when I noticed the kid raise the weapon and walk the mounted laser from the front of our Humvee to my forehead. Granted I did not feel threated at the time, as I was wearing every kind of armor imaginable in an up-armored Humvee. Honestly, I am glad that the driver, passenger and gunner did not hear my report on the matter, as each confessed later that they would have shot and killed the kid. I kind of chuckle to think the only time I have ever had a gun pulled on me was by a kid.

In other news I have been sick lately. Being sick here really isn’t that bad. In between all the wonderful things that come with having the flu I have been updating my gallery. I am happy to say it is now entirely up to date. There are a ton of additional pictures from Afghanistan. On the down side, EmbedVideo is still taking a crap on me so I was not able to upload the videos into my Gallery2 from Google Video despite spending a good 3 hours reading up on the problem tonight. Nonetheless they are viewable via Google Video.

The following are some of the more notable additions:

In addition the following videos are now available:




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