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Sunset

11 Mar

The first star appeared well before sundown. A big, bright mama star with a toddler tight at her heels. Two stars and a washed out light blue sky that faded toward the horizon to almost white. Dragonflies darted about on the breeze. The ever present surf pounded the timeless reef with waves that had begun their journey in a far-off land. The man thought of his time in the Far East, far to the west where the waves had started their trip. It was nearing the socially acceptable time for end-of-day cocktails, but the heat created a preference for chilled white wine. “That is what she will want,” thought the man to himself. Moving from the lounge chair to open the bottle required more energy than he currently possessed. The heat had overstayed its welcome and intensified in defiance of its imminent eviction.

The man heard the first grackle before he saw it. A loud inelegant squawk. The bird landed in the palm trees that ringed the pool and lined the path to the beach. And then came another and started an argument with the first. The sun quickened its pace as it headed for a swim. The man heard the waves, the buzzing of the dragonflies, and the harsh cry of the grackles. Soon the sky was filled with the big, black birds and their shrilly protests. There seemed to be some giant quarrel among them as to the proper social order and their relative position in the trees. The uninvited happy hour guests created a cacophonous commotion. Nothing else could be heard. Even thoughts in the man’s head could not compete with the raucous cries of this unwelcome crowd. Time to get the wine.

He returned to the patio and the clamor with a chilled bottle wrapped in a towel. It was time to toast the end of day. The woman joined him just in time to see the sun extinguish itself in the ocean. “Did you see the green flash?” she asked. He thought briefly about lying to her once again, but chose to merely shake his head slowly from side to side as he sipped his chardonnay. The setting of the sun marked the beginning of the end of the grackle’s riot. They each appeared to recognize that they had been rude and intrusive and settled quietly into their perches among the palm trees. Quiet returned to the yard and the sound of the surf once more reached the man’s ears. He thought again of the waves and sipped his wine. More stars appeared as the evening breeze chased away the heat. He had a good life and a good woman next to him and he was content.

It was a good day.

Vitamin I

24 Feb

Canadian heli-skiing is for expert skiers – or those that have a natural deficiency of fear or sense.

I survived six days of it with a group of five non-expert skiers aged 45 to 70. As the baby of the group I was one of two survivors that made it injury free to the final day (my seventy year old companion, Dick, was the other.) We lost a person a day for the first three days with injuries to a hamstring (Mike), back (Bill G.) and knee (Steve) respectively. The damage I sustained was less obvious. I leave Canada with a massively bruised ego and a liver that has had to process massive doses of Vitamin I. If beaten paths are for beaten men, consider me battered but not beaten.

Heli-skiing is one of those once-in-a-lifetime, bucket list activities that can hardly be described with words. Flying in a helicopter through the mountains on a sunny day is an experience in itself. Learning to do the heli-ski huddle as you get blasted with snow multiple times per day is imperative, as is learning how to find your buddy buried under the snow. I was fortunate enough to ski through an avalanche that I created and do a perfect nose dive into the debris pile at the bottom of the pitch. Call me a newly certified powder pig.

The folks at Great Canadian Heli-Skiing are the best and the memories created at the lodge will last a lifetime. The small group there was a virtual UN of ski crazies. There were Italians, Belgians, Australians, Swedes, English ladies, sorted Americans, and then, or course, there were the Canadians, “eh”. Love them all.

Vitamin I is my new friend. Get enough of it in your system and you can forget the pain for a few more hours on the slopes. I was told that I can buy it in bulk at any drug store. Apparently it is also known as ibuprofen.

Beaten Paths

20 Feb

Beaten paths are for beaten men.

My team is undefeated. These mountains are here to be conquered. We are in the backcountry of British Columbia accessing pristine slopes covered with a foot of fresh powder by helicopter. No lift lines, no boundary ropes, no signs of humanity. Unlimited vertical is our mantra. We are making new tracks with every run. Testing ourselves against the wide open spaces of our friendly northern neighbor. Total exhaustion never felt better.

We are making our own paths and remain unbeaten.

More to come.

El Paso

30 Jan

Injury, apathy and potentially misplaced priorities prevented me from completing my virtual run across the state of Texas last year. I made it from the far western border to somewhere east of San Antonio before bingeing over the holidays. This year I have vowed to complete the journey and, after a somewhat slow start, am picking up the pace. I’ll check in from time to time with updates from points of interest along the trail. Starting to the west of El Paso, the town is now behind me, but since there is nothing too interesting out here in the middle of the Chihuahuan Desert, I am going to tell you about the city.

The home of Rose’s Cantina exists in most people’s minds as a place in a song with whirling Mexican maidens and jealous cowboys. Or it is often pointed out by informative pilots while cruising at 35,000 feet on your way to somewhere more important. But El Paso has character and history. Nicknamed “The Sun City,” it is the fourth sunniest city in the US and Franklin Peak at 7,192 feet above sea level can be seen for sixty miles in all directions. Largely ignoring history, culture, and geography, El Paso was officially ceded to Texas by the US Senate in the Compromise of 1850. The city is closer to Arizona’s capital of Phoenix than its own in Austin, almost 600 miles to the east.

I like having El Paso in Texas. It allows us to claim Stevie Nicks, who first joined Fleetwood Mac in the city in 1975. It is also where Billy Joe and Molly Sue “ran into a great big hassle” before they decided to “take the money and run.” This is exactly what this Billy Joe intends to do now. Next stop is Van Horn, Texas, population 2,435.

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