Saturday, June 02, 2007

A Million Stories: Salamander

Originally uploaded by donXfive.
I took this photo on my recent trip. These tiny little salamanders look just like fluorescent gummy bears, and there are times when they are literally everywhere.

About ten years ago or so, a friend and I did the Wild 100, an orienteering-style mountain bike race at Slatyfork. We were riding together, but got a late start (my fault) and then took a less traveled route to the first checkpoint, so wildlife had not yet been spooked by the race passing by. Riding up the USFS road, I couldn't get over how many of these guys were out sunning themselves in the gravel.

My friend said, "You don't see that every day."

And I replied with, "Yeah, it's amazing how many of them there are, they're everywhere you look. With that fluorescent orange color, they look almost edible."

He looked at me for a second like I'd totally lost it, and said, "You do know that I'm talking about the bear that ran across the road, not ten feet in front of us, right?"


Thursday, May 31, 2007

Levez Vos Skinny Fists Comme Antennas to Heaven

I've been listening to Godspeed You! Black Emperor's "Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven" obsessively and almost exclusively since the return trip from West Virginia. Especially the first movement, which is the ultimate driving song for cruising serious mountain roads. I was listening to it on the drive from Judy Gap to Harrisonburg, probably the coolest road I know, and it felt like I had died and was driving towards Heaven, sort of like Doc Melhorne or maybe the couple in The Robe (or whatever) who walk off into the clouds at the end. Sad, very "parting is such sweet sorrow" at the start, but building toward a triumphant end.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

No Country For Old Men

Morning weigh-in: 177.5#, 8% BF

I'm back, had a great time. Many things to say...

By the way, I re-read Cormac McCarthy's No Country for Old Men while I was down there. It's the story, circa 1980, of an aging small-town Texas sheriff caught up in the middle of a drug war: a botched heroin deal leaves a dozen bodies in the desert, where a local finds them and takes off with $2.2 million, chased by the sheriff and an army of drug-cartel hit men. It was an interesting juxtaposition to The Reverend Horton Heat's "Low Flying Plane:" I like to listen to him whenever I'm down in Slatyfork, and that's his song about a farmer who becomes a millionaire drug dealer after finding bales of cocaine in his fields. Two sides of a coin...

Kind of funny analogy, I did a lot of my riding on the Gauley Mountain trail system, but I've always considered the singletrack at Snowshoe to be superior. On Sunday I went over to Snowshoe, but found that things had changed...

The top of the mountain -- which once was empty, but now looked a bit like Disneyworld -- was where the action was, and that was where I finally found a bike shop. (I expected that I'd have to pay, or at least sign a waiver, before riding on their land, so I was looking for the official bike scene.) The place was packed to the gills with downhill bikers in full armor, and there were (packed) shuttles constantly running from the bottom of the hill back to the trailheads up top. Average age was 20 years younger than me.

I was told that if I wasn't going to use the lifts or shuttles I didn't need to pay, just hop on the trails and have fun, but once I got going I found their once-awesome XC trail system to be almost gone: overgrown, covered with debris, and generally suffering from neglect. Sad, actually. Sunday turned out to be my shortest ride day; I was disappointed and bailed early, which actually turned out to be a good thing because I managed to avoid the only bad weather of the whole trip (thunderstorms).

I left Snowshoe feeling like that superannuated sheriff. Luckily, the hippie-granola cross-country trails were still fine at Gauley...