Wikipedia picture of the day

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Friday, December 31, 2010

Bathtub Meditation

About 3 years ago I spent a cold winter afternoon surfing YouTube; I stumbled across the YouTube channel of a man in Hastings, East Sussex, UK that uses the moniker "AndyMooseMan". I subscribed to his channel because I like his beach vlog videos and the fact he isn't railing on about politics or conspiracy theories or religion; he just talks about what he's been doing and what's going on with him. He has also gotten into Blogging, Tweeting and Podcasting. In early October Andy Tweeted that the Hastings Pier had burned down. A few weeks later he announced he and a few other people were compiling a music CD featuring local musicians and the proceeds would go to the "Save the Pier" fund. Having followed Andy's YouTube videos for 3 years, and being all for saving historical landmarks, I ordered one when they went on sale.
I have an Anglo-Saxon name. My ancestors migrated to the New World during the colonial period more than a hundred years before the American revolution. A member of the family tree that stayed behind later became the Bishop of Winchester and is buried in Winchester Cathedral - Hampshire. I understand he was a bit of a heretic. For someone who has clergy in his ancestry I am not particularly religious. I find my spirituality in nature. I think the winter constellation Orion is the most beautiful constellation in the northern hemisphere, and there is nothing more spiritual and awesome than a ripping good thunderstorm. Still, over the past few years I have engaged in a peculiar approach/avoidance dance with the propositions of Unitarian Universalism (UU). I frequently listen UU sermons via podcast. A few weeks ago I listened to a sermon by Rev. Mike Morran titled "The Space Between The Stars" [Listen (24m)]. My brief abstract cannot do his sermon justice. In the first half of the sermon he talks about the vastness of the universe and how we seem to vanish into the ever expanding emptiness of space; he concludes with the Monty Python Galaxy song. He is more poetic in the second half of the sermon. He contrasts our aloneness in the universe, to our being bound-up in the universe and to each other. The space that separates us is also the space that connects us. It is our relationships, chosen and accidental, that fill the space between us. He concludes with the proposition "there is a unity that makes us one and binds us forever together in spite of time and death and space between the stars." After listening to the sermon I drew a hot bath and took my iPod with me. I noticed that AndyMooseMan had posted a couple of new podcasts. Try to imagine this: I'm sitting in my bathtub with this sermon fresh in my mind, I have a dead relative buried in Winchester Cathedral, I'm listening to a podcast from the United Kingdom some 370 years after my ancestors came to the New World when I hear AndyMooseMan , who I met by accident on YouTube, announce he just mailed two "Not The End of The Pier" CD's to the United States - one to Wisconsin and one to Colorado.

I paused while I pondered the relevance of Mike's sermon and the sequence of events, over time and distance, that led to that moment in my bathtub.

How's that for the space between the stars?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

lazy Sunday afternoon

I and two other motorcyclists rode our bikes to Breckenridge over the weekend; one of the riders has access to a condominium there. The weekend was cut short by one day because the condo wasn’t available until Saturday afternoon. We rode up on Saturday and came back on Monday. We had an easy ride from Denver to Breckenridge Saturday though the traffic on I-70 was awful - it was slow-n-go in many places.

We dropped our gear off at the condo then went to Dillon for a late lunch. We took Swan Mountain road over to US-6. The road has a few fun little twists and curves but is not particularly challenging. Dillon’s annual Barbecue festival was that weekend so we didn’t have any trouble finding a place to eat but we did have a little difficulty finding a place to park the bikes.

The removable touring pack I ordered for the Road King arrived earlier in the week so this was the first time I’ve used it. It worked great! We picked up groceries on the way back to the condo. I was able to carry all of the groceries and a 6-pack of beer on my bike with room left over.

We were joined by a fourth Saturday night and had a late supper. The original plan was to ride to Leadville on Sunday for their annual Boom Days, take a ride around Turquoise lake, then loop around through Red Cliff and Vail, but by Sunday the sky had turned gray with intermittent rain and the tops of the mountains were hidden in clouds. We all felt lazy and not interested in doing anything Sunday so we just hung out at the condo.

We fixed breakfast burritos Monday morning, did laundry and cleaned & vacuumed the condo, before heading back to Denver.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

It could have been worse, and it almost was.

My buddies and I set out on a motorcycle trip from Denver, CO to Liberal, KS Saturday morning. It didn't take long for us to run into trouble.

The weather forecast had been pretty iffy all week; at one time they were calling for 14 inches of snow but by Friday afternoon they were forecasting an inch of snow on grassy areas and the storm would be gone by morning. We prepared for rain and wet roads but expected to be on dry roads by the time we reached Limon Colorado. We didn't make it that far.

It was dry with clear skys when we left Denver but we ran into light rain as we went south to Parker. We encountered snow as we rode into Franktown. As we turned east onto CO-86 the snow was starting to stick to the road, our windscreens and face shields. Within a minute of turning onto CO-86 I couldn't see the road in front of me. I was able to reach my hand out and wipe a small patch of snow and ice off one corner of the windscreen to see through.

I was between the lead rider and the tail gunner. I was able to keep up with the lead rider for a short while but I slowed down when the motorcycle started fish tailing. I had already lost sight of the tail gunner and I lost sight of the lead rider a few minutes later.

I was on my own now and I knew I had to get off the road. I thought I saw a tractor plowing a driveway on my right and snow piled up next to the driveway. I tried to slow for the turn but the rear tire came around front and passed me by. The bike and I went down and skated along the road several feet before stopping. Fortunately there was three inches of slush on the pavement to cushion the fall (I had all my gear on too.) All traffic on CO-86 came to a stop while I, and the guy in the SUV behind me, picked up the bike and pushed it into the driveway. The guy on the tractor came down to help too.

The tail gunner caught up with me about the time traffic started moving again. He had pulled off the road a mile back. He had already decided to abort his trip and had been trying to signal me for several miles to pull off. He came on down when he saw the traffic stop. While we were discussing what we should do, we saw the lead rider pass us by heading back to Franktown. He didn't see us because his eyes were glued to the road - I'm not sure he would have been able to stop anyway.

We were offered a ride into Elizabeth or we could stay at the farm house. We opted to wrestle the bikes up to the farm house and call a friend in Denver to come and get us; we left the bikes at the farm house. Assuming they don't get any more snow, we will go out on Sunday or Monday and ride them back (getting out of the muddy driveway could be a problem).

Lessons learned:
  • Everyone is responsible for their own decisions. No one forced me to go on the trip. I knew the weather was questionable; another rider had already opted out. We all share a degree of responsibility for each other but each of us is ultimately responsible for our own skin. Ride your own ride.

    This wasn't a weather or planning issue - it was a safety issue. I rode into an unsafe situation and didn't react quickly enough. I had ample opportunity to react. I could have opted not to go, I could have backed out at Parker, or I could have pulled off at Franktown when we got into snow.
  • Know your limits and ride within your limits. I know someone who rides his motorcycles the year around; it's his only mode of transportation. He has ridden motorcycles his whole life - he rode mini-bikes and dirt bikes when he was a kid. His skills and reflexes are in top shape - my skills and reflexes are nothing compared to his. He is able to ride a motorcycle on snow packed streets in sub-zero weather - I can not.
  • Be prepared and have a plan. I had the right gear, but I don't have towing insurance or road side assistance for the motorcycle - I need to get some.
  • Get off the road at the first sign of trouble, if only to wait it out.

We might have missed the snow if we had delayed our start by two hours. The storm has already left Colorado and is now over Kansas City, Kansas. We might try again later in the summer.