Sponsorship Announcement

Strategy Guide Author to Race Famed TransRockies Course

Snoqualmie, Washington, March 5, 2007: Doug Walsh, author of more than 50 official videogame strategy guides, has secured sponsorship from publisher BradyGames for the 2007 endurance mountain bike racing season. Doug will be promoting the industry-leading strategy guide publisher throughout the year as he prepares for an arduous 350-mile mountain bike race through the Canadian Rockies. Through this sponsorship he seeks to increase awareness that playing videogames can compliment a healthy, active lifestyle.

Doug has authored for BradyGames since the spring of 2000 and has recently written strategy guides for hit games like Gears of War, Lost Planet, and Okami to name a few. He is proud to promote BradyGames, but also looks forward to showing that videogame enjoyment and physical fitness are not mutually exclusive pursuits. “I’ve been an avid gamer since the early 1980’s, yet have tried to always maintain a high level of fitness,” says Walsh who earned his way through college on a track & field scholarship. “Videogame addiction is a serious issue and I imagine it can lead to childhood obesity, but it doesn’t have to. I want to show those who demonize videogames that even a ‘professional gamer’ like me who makes his living playing and writing about games can still lead a healthy, active lifestyle. It doesn’t have to be one or the other.” Doug hopes his BradyGames racing uniform will inspire conversation on this matter.

Doug’s 2007 racing schedule includes a number of events in the Pacific Northwest, including a 24-hour mountain bike race in Spokane, a 200-mile race from Seattle to Portland, and several others. His primary focus this year, however, is the 7-day TransRockies stage race that takes place in the mountains of British Columbia and Alberta. The race, considered one of North America’s toughest mountain bike events, contains over 40,000 feet of elevation gain and will likely require up to ten hours of riding each day. Walsh elaborated, “Between the difficulty of the trail conditions, the fickle weather, and the very real risk of injury, mechanical failure, and grizzly bear encounter, this is sure to be a week I won’t ever forget.”


Posted Earlier:

I am very excited to announce that I have received sponsorship for my upcoming 2007 racing season from videogame strategy guide publisher BradyGames as well as from local real estate office, Re/Max On the Ridge. I look forward to wearing the colors of these fine businesses while on my bike training and racing throughout the year. And I hope that as readers, friends, and family that you help support these businesses if given the opportunity.

As many of you know, I have been authoring strategy guides for BradyGames since the spring of 2000 and have over 50 books to my credit. I'm obviously quite a bit biased, but I have to say that I'm honestly very proud to write for them not only for the hard work and creativity they put into their guidebooks, but also because of the people behind the scenes. People who aren't afraid to try something new. It's exciting for me as a gamer/athlete to see a videogame-related company take an interest in a fringe sport like endurance mountain bike racing and prove that they are supportive of a healthy lifestyle. The videogame industry take a lot of blame these days for a host of society's ills and one of the things I aim to do this year through my cycling is to provide proof that physical fitness and videogame enjoyment aren't mutually exclusive pursuits. I fully intend to let everyone who will listen know that yes, I am a "professional videogame player" and that yes, I am also a serious cyclist who, by late August, hopes to have completed one of the toughest stage races the continent has to offer. And yes, a videogame company did help make it happen.

Re/Max On the Ridge
A few years ago, when Kristin and I were looking to buy our first house, we were looking at new-construction in the Snoqualmie Ridge development. We knew which model we'd like to have built, and the builder put us in contact with a realtor by the name of Scott Friedman who would represent us. We met with Scott a week later and told him what we were looking for in a home and he promptly took us on a tour of pre-existing homes that fit our needs. We had heard so many horror stories about realtors from friends, that we feel really lucky to have met Scott. He only showed us the houses that matched our needs and wants, was very helpful and knowledgeable about the area, and helped us get a contract signed for the house we wanted in no time at all. Scott has since moved to Snoqualmie Ridge and opened a Re/Max office of his own in the community retail village. I've been recommending him to friends ever since we moved into our home, so you can be sure that this recommendation is an earnest one. If you're looking to buy or sell your house and live near the I-90 corridor east of Bellevue, then definitely give Scott a call.

Alien Hominid HD

If you're like me, you've looked at the Alien Hominid game box in the store countless times, forever wondering if it was worth buying, but never really taking the chance to find out. You may have even overlooked the game while simultaneously bemoaning the lack of worthwhile software for the Nintendo Gamecube. I know I did. And I don't feel guilty about it, either. After all, just look at the box. What exactly is going in there, anyway? And what exactly is a hominid? I know what a homonym is, but a hominid? And, umm, how do I put this gently... am I the only one who thinks game's "artistic vision" consisted of allowing the designer's kids to doodle on the back of a McDonald's tray liner? There's no way I was buying this game for $20, $30, or $40.

But for $10? Hell yeah, I'll give it a try. And today I will. Alien Hominid is the newest game available for download on Xbox Live Arcade and at 800 points, it's a steal. I hope. After all, unlike most of the other Live Arcade releases of late this one isn't a cash-grab upchucking of another cabinet classic. No, this is an actual full-scale retail game of recent times. And one that most people never played. Until now. Pardon me while I go download the game...

*By the way, a hominid is apparently a member of the family Hominidae which contains all of the great apes. Thank you Wikipedia.

Although now I can't stop saying, "A forty-foot purple Gorillallallalla!!!"

MotoGP 06 & Forza Motorsport Showdown

Been a while since I posted about games. I've had a couple things that I wanted to discuss, but not enough to warrant a full post, so here it is in rapid-fire succesion.

MotoGP 06
This is what I've been playing lately and I have to say that if you've played any of the previous MotoGP games then you know exactly what to expect. It's a very capable motorcycle racing simulation with real-world tracks, bikes, racers, and liveries. I'm not sure what liveries are, but the game uses the term so I figured I would too. MotoGP 06 does bring a rather neat new (to me) feature in that in addition to the standard 17-race season, there are also 17 additional "Extreme" tracks with three other classes of "Extreme" bikes for you to buy. The game plays a bit more arcadey in Extreme mode and there are parts to upgrade and money to win, and a bunch of peculiar bikes to purchase.

Those looking to snag some easy Achievement points better look elsewhere, as this game does not give them up easily. I've so far finished a championship season on rookie difficulty, another on pro difficulty, completed 50 challenges, and have ranked up to seed 68 and have only earned 80 of the 1000 available Gamer Points so far. I love the challenge of playing this game and unteaching yourself all of the habits of car racing, but I'm not a fan of the lengthy load times, and truth be told, if you've played the earlier games in this series then you've effectively played this one too. It's a very solid game, and while I appreciate the addition of the Extreme championships, there needs to be something new done in the way you improve your stats or upgrade your ride. Something needs to be done to shake it up. It's due.

Forza Motorsport Showdown
If you get the Speed channel then you really ought to tune in on Saturday night and check out the Microsoft-sponsored show, "Forza Motorsport Showdown". The show is a driving challenge between 6 teams in a host of different auto events (drag, road, drift, oval, autocross, etc.,) that plays out like a reality show, but it's based on videogame concepts (ripped from the game of the same name) such as earning credits and upgrading your parts. The six teams consist of two Nissan 350-Z's, a 2007 Corvette Z06, a Mustang, and a pair of old Camaro and Challenger muscle cars. Six amateur drivers were each paired with a crew and a car and duke it out on the asphalt to win credits to improve their rides. So far, a teenager in the Corvette is winning, followed close behind by a pretty attractive 20-something blonde woman in the Mustang. Both muscle cars have been suffering major mechanical problems.

Aside from the fact that the show is actually very entertaining to watch -- moreso than that NASCAR reality tryout show on ESPN last year -- but it's a tremendous marketing concept for Microsoft. There is a world of racing afficionados out there who associate videogame driving games with the Playstation and the Gran Turismo franchise. Many of these people, I'm guessing, didn't buy an Xbox or play the original Forza Motorsport videogame. Microsoft is beaming this television show directly at them on the Speed network and lacing the show with trailers and advertisements for their upcoming Xbox 360 racing game, Forza Motorsport 2. The game not only looks incredible and features a highly developed online racing and auctioning experience (not to mention a much deeper car detail system than Gran Turismo), but it also features a collision model and better physics and car handling over its Playstation counterpart. Forza Motorsport 2 is one of my most anticipated titles of the year and I expect that I'm not alone. Between the exorbitant price of the PS3, the disappointing lack of online functionality with GT4 and the a la carte version of GT-HD which as of now has no release date, I imagine there are a lot of folks who will be tiring of waiting on Sony and making the switch as many of us did two years ago.

For those who missed the first episode of the show, you can download team profile videos from the Xbox Live Marketplace for free. Check your local listings for show times, and be sure to catch the next episode.

Strategy Guide Updates
I meant to post this a week ago, but my copies of my strategy guide for Lost Planet finally arrived. If you are playing Lost Planet and need help with the game or want to know where every last Target Marker is, then shoot me an email at the address at hgi_doug@yahoo.com requesting a guidebook and I'll send one out to you.

I also recently authored the guidebook for MLB 2K7 which I'm very excited about. There are all sorts of neat features in this book (not to mention, thanks to the player stats and ratings chapters the manuscript exceeded 800 pages!) and the game is definitely the best baseball videogame to date. One of the features I'm most excited about is the ability to set up a custom league over Xbox Live and play a tournament with friends. I'll be buying the game tomorrow -- look for me online. I'll also have copies of the strategy guide to give away once my shipment arrives. I have no ETA on that yet, however.

In other news, my current project is for a PS2 game and, just as my two personal PS2's died last year, so did the one I'm using for work. So now I'm in a holding pattern waiting on another debug PS2 to arrive. Which is part of the reason why I have been able to play as much MotoGP 06 as I have of late.

Brake Pads

Ah, the joy of racing in the mud. I was reading on the Indie Series message boards about a guy who put a new set of brake pads on his bike the night before the Valentine Challenge and had worn them down to the bare metal during the race. While cleaning my bike today, I decided to give the bike a proper once-over. I finally replaced my well-worn and oft-broken chain with a new one only to learn that my rear derailleur hanger is bent. While adjusting the derailleur, I noticed the sound of metal-on-metal emanating from my rear brake. I took the wheel off and a piece of the spring clip that holds the brake pads in place fell to the ground.

Not a good sign.

Behold the disc pads... what's left of them, that is:

You shouldn't be able to ever see those holes.

Suffice to say, my maiden voyage with my Garmin Edge 305 will have to wait until I get a new set of brake pads. The seat on my Giant is also cracked and the foam getting crumbly, time for a new seat too. I can't complain though, I got a solid 2 years of riding out of that one.

Guess I'll be riding the trainer today after all.

TR Training: Week #14 Numbers

Total Saddle Time: 10 hours, 19 minutes
Total Mileage: 110.8 miles
Total Elevation Gain: 5980 feet

Had a good week, culminating in a very sloppy short-course race on Saturday. Was on the bike 6 of 7 days (spent Sunday running errands and never got a proper recovery ride in after the race) and racked up quite a bit of elevation gain thanks to Monday's "Tiger Mountain Peak Baggers" ride with Craig. Also worth noting this week was that I began working on my core strength exercises more regularly. I hate lifting and calisthenics and I always have -- even when running track in college I avoided the weight room whenever possible -- but I have seen the need and am heeding the call of my lower back. So I'm trying to get in the habit of spending a bit of time each night to do crunches, planks, and some pushups. Also, Kristin and I are going to start using the half-wall upstairs to do back extensions (we need one another to hold our feet so we don't fall down the stairs). Hopefully all of this helps.

In other news, two of my four potential replacements for Ken took the weekend to mull it over and said "no". That leaves two who are interested, but we haven't shook on it yet. I'm hoping to ride with one on Friday and continue talking her (yes, her, and she's easily as fast as me, if not faster) out of doing a different stage race she's currently looking for a teammate for and to join me in August at TR instead. I'll ride with the other one, a guy from Vancouver, BC on Sunday.

All of this teammate-hunting made me nearly forget that my new frame should be coming in within the next 1-2 weeks. I'm hoping it gets here by next weekend, as I'd really like my brother to help me build it and he'll be staying with me for a few days while he's in town for business. I emailed with Fabien at Ti-Cycles again today and he got me the price on the headset and is tracking down the fork I want. He's going to call Moots tomorrow and get an ETA on my frame and then order the parts I still need. I can't wait!

Lastly, I am hoping to share some very exciting news later this week concerning sponsorship for my upcoming race year. I'm not going to let the cat out of the bag yet, as it's not definite, but I should have enough details by the end of the week. Cross your fingers for me.

Did I say, lastly? Scratch that. One more thing: If you're going to be in western Washington on 3/17 and are ready for a moderate-paced 60-70 mile mountain bike ride that will utilize area regional tails to access some really fun singletrack, go ahead and sign up here. It's going to be awesome! And guaranteed to hurt!

Race Report: Valentine Challenge

My head finally hit the pillow around 1am last night, but the sound of driving sleet and howling wind kept me awake far deeper into the night. I tried telling myself that the wintery mix of precipitation would end by the time the race started; that the course wouldn't be one giant wading pool of muddy water; and that it would even warm up a bit by early afternoon. The problem with lying to yourself though is that, well, you already know the truth. The weather was going to be absolutely miserable. The race would be one of attrition. There would be a multitude of DNF's. I finally got myself settled with the fact that I can't control the weather, so I might as well just sleep and be rested for whatever morning brings.

Kristin and I left the house at 10am for the nearly two-hour drive to Tahuya State Forest, the site of the first race in the Indie Series, the Valentine Challenge. This would be my first stand-alone mountain bike race in about seven years and I had the best combat for the butterflies one normally gets on race morning -- I didn't care how I finished. I just wanted to get a good fast workout in, hopefully not suffer any mechanical or bodily injuries, and get back to the truck before I turned hypothermic.

Following another racer into Tahuya State Forest.
February isn't exactly the best time of year to race in Washington.

We arrived a good bit before my 1:30 start time so we hung out in the truck, got some reading done, and basically tried to stay dry. The rain was drenching and the temperature was hovering around 36-degrees Fahrenheit. What to wear? I settled on 3/4 length bib shorts, my winter cycling boots, a long-sleeve heavy jersey and my trusty orange Marmot rainjacket. But despite all of the clothing, I felt naked without my Camelbak. I had a water bottle on the bike and figured that I would simply shoulder the bike and run the remainder of the course if I had a flat or other mechanical problem. Between the weather and the short 10.4 mile distance of the race, there was no way I would be out there operating on the bike in the freezing muck.

Strapping the helmet on, it's almost go-time!

A quick warm-up cruise before the race starts.

There were about 30 racers in my category (Sport , age 30-39) and since I had heard how fast a lot of these guys were, I took a spot about three rows into the field -- I didn't want to get caught up going out too fast or be one of the guys slowing down the group. Turns out that was my one big mistake of the day. I seemed to have underestimated my own level of fitness while simultaneously giving everyone else too much credit. I went out slow, but quickly found that there were a lot of slow riders in front of me. I was shocked by the abilities of the guys who lined up in the front of the pack, some belonged there for sure, but many did not. I was stuck in a muddy, wet, cold, train of people with little room to pass.

Fortunately I took the attitude that this was just a big friendly group ride, but one that I was free to yell "On your left!" and barrel past whenever I wanted to. So that's what I did. The conditions made the course a lot more technical than it probably has any right being, but I kept the rubber-side down and passed at will. Unfortunately, roughly halfway through the first of the two laps, my chain was sticking to the chainring and locking up my cranks. I would pedal for two strokes, the chain would snag, and I'd have to backpedal to free it. This went on for a minute or two then I finally got off the bike and knocked the glob of sandy slush from my drivetrain -- problem solved! Too bad a few of the folks I worked so hard to pass, passed me by while I was on the side of the trail tending to my bike.

As we neared the fourth mile of the 5.2 mile lap, the conditions went from very wet and slick to beyond anything I ever dared imagine I would ride through. There were no puddles on the trail: there were water-filled, hub-deep, wading pools that stretched forever. There was no mud: instead there was expansive sections of trail comrpised of a 6-inch layer of peanut butter. Chunky. One particularly memorable section of trail featured a dozen or so moto-cross style whoops. These rollercoaster-like features are terribly fun to ride when they're dry. Today each miniature crest was promptly followed by what amounts to a kiddie-pool of brown, muddy water. Water that was so muddy, it easily hid the occasional rock and/or root that was lurking beneath the surface. The only protection from the unknown was a loose grip on the handlebars and the ability to react quickly.

I told Kristin before the race to not be surprised if I step off the course after the first lap. I knew it would be extremely cold and wet and I have no desire to suffer for no reason. Like I said, this race meant little to me. A funny thing happend as we neared the end of the first lap though, I realized I felt good and was making up ground on a lot of folks. I didn't even consider ending the race and taking the DNF. Quite the opposite actually.

Finishing up the first lap.

As I headed out for a second lap, I noticed that Joe Martin of BBTC had snuck in front of me as we came through the start/finish line. Joe is one of the fastest riders I know and, being in the 40-49 age group, started 1:00 after me. I recognized his bike, said hi, and told him my goal was to hang onto his rear wheel as long as I could. Together we passed a few riders, but it wasn't long before my lower back started hurting pretty fiercely. I lost sight of Joe about halfway through the second lap, but I continued to pass other riders and am pleased to say that not one person passed me during the second lap.

Heading for the finish line on one of the
drier portions of the course.

I ended up placing 8th in my category (out of roughly 30 people) and negative split the race which I was proud of. Also, I finished feeling pretty good. Other than my back really hurting me and my feet being blocks of ice, I definitely felt good enough to do another lap. The next race in the series is April 1st and I can tell you right now I will not be taking a spot in the third row of the starting grid. I'm going to be right up front and going hard from the start. I imagine there might be a bunch more people there if the weather is nice, but I'll be ready. I know I have to focus on increasing my core strength and, especially my lower-back muscles. But I also know I have to get more aggressive early in the race. I have the stamina to hold on and continue pushing during the second lap when others are tiring. I just need to avoid getting caught in traffic earlier in the race. It was seven years, but I'm back. And it's good to be back.

Two Laps: 5.2 miles each
Total Distance: 10.4 miles with 800 feet of total elevation gain
Lap #1 - 40 minutes
Lap #2 - 37 minutes

Times are approximate as my it was too cold for my wireless cyclocomputer to work and I forgot to look at my altimeter watch at the end of Lap 1.

Special Thanks to Kristin for braving the weather and taking the photos shown in this post. She's the best crew leader a guy can have!

Hexic Dominance!

I finally did it. I finally got the "Big Cheese of the South Seas" Achievement on the puzzle game Hexic and, in doing so, staked out a commanding lead on my Friends Leaderboard for that game. Truth be told, one of the guys from BradyGames had a high score that exceeded my own by nearly 100,000 points and I have been playing the game on and off for months trying to better his mark. And I couldn't even come close until today. I had the perfect game going and finally got three Black Pearls clustered together and rocketed past his score almost two-fold! I'm now ranked about 6,000 out of the 1,000,000+ people who have posted scores to the Xbox Live Leaderboards for Hexic.

Yeah, I'm bad. You know it.

The only problem is that getting a cluster of three Black Pearls together effectively wins the game and causes all other pieces to disappear and the game to end. I didn't know this beforehand and was actually kind of annoyed because I was in no danger of losing the game and had other star pieces still active. I'm not saying I could have scored a million points, but I could have done a lot better than the 650,000 or so I did get.

Oh well... at least I finally got one of the three Achievements I've been struggling to get for months. One of them requires you to get six Black Pearls and make a ring out of them -- that's not going to happen -- but the other merely requires you to play 100 games. Kristin and I play Hexic constantly and I find it really odd that we haven't gotten that Achievement yet. The counter might be broken.

Race Face

So I'm planning on heading down to Belfair, Washington this Saturday to race in the Valentine's Challenge, my first pure-mountain biking race in several years. I'm looking forward to it. Or, i was up until I just checked Accuweather's website and found this:

The Pacific Northwest and British Columbia often have great quantities of precipitation during the winter. There is probably a solid scientific explanation for that, but the simple fact of the matter is that is where storms want to go this time of year. Sometimes they detour farther north or south, but more often than not, storms head straight into British Columbia and bring vast quantities of moisture into Washington and Oregon. This scenario will pan out this weekend as another storm slams the region. Coastal locations can expect high winds and heavy rain late Friday night and Saturday while 1 to 2 feet of snow falls in the mountains.

Sounds lovely. This is precisely why I want two bikes. One for crap conditions like this and another for good days.

Teammate Needed

My TransRockies partner just bailed on me.

I saw it coming, and he gave me some tentative warning last week, but this really throws a wrench into the works.

I have a few prospective teammates in mind, two of whom I can ride with semi-regularly but this definitely complicates things. Oh well, better he quit now than after the deadline in May.

Penny Arcade's "A Rare Opportunity"

You may have heard about the teenagers in Wisconsin who beat a homeless man to death and are saying how it was "just like playing a videogame". You may be of the mind that videogames and television can lead to violent behavior. Or perhaps you, like me, thought that the parents were obviously ineffective and that they are to blame.

Well, Gabe at Penny Arcade received a very lengthy, highly-detailed letter about this from the woman who is essentially the step-mother to the boy who commited this heinous act. Everyone should read it, especially the media.

Click to read.

Running the Sahara

Two running-related posts in a single day. This must be some kind of record.

Speaking of records, three men recently completed a 4,000 mile run across the Sahara Desert in 111 consecutive days. That's an average of 36 miles a day for almost four months straight, without a day off. They ran across the world's largest desert and through six countries from Senegal to Egypt.

Typically, the three began each day with a 4 a.m. wake-up call. About an hour later, they started running. Around noon, they took a lunch break at a makeshift camp, devouring pasta, tuna and vegetables.

A short nap in a tent usually preceded the second leg of their day's run, which ended at about 9:30 p.m. They ate a protein-and-carbohydrate-packed dinner before calling it a night.

Read the full Seattle Times article here.

Nookachamps Half Marathon

I've been meaning to go through the photos I shot of Kristin at this half marathon she ran last month, up in northern Washington. It was a pretty cold day with periodic snow, a slight breeze, and temps in the upper 20's. I drove around the course taking photos where I could, but I spent so much time dialing in the exposure that I forgot to compensate for the speed of the runners and, unfortunately, a lot of the shots were a bit blurry. Some of the shots I took of random runners came out really cool, but for the most part I'm not impressed. Then again, I'm my toughest critic when it comes to photography. And that's the way it has to be.
As for the race, it was the first time Kristin broke the 2-hour mark in a half-marathon and we were both excited -- her for the fact that she's getting faster, and me because it validates my coaching ability. Nevertheless, I must say that it was really, really weird to be a spectator at a road race. Part of me was so glad to have finally put running behind me and moved on to other things, but there was also a big part of me that wanted to lace em up one more time and give it a go. Instead, I helped pick up countless empty Dixie cups at the aid station and spent the time cheering for the runners. Even the slow ones (but not the walkers, screw them). After all, I was the one getting cheered in hundreds of races, might as well give back a little right?

Of course, my foray into spectating wasn't without incident. I think I might be the first spectator to openly heckle and challenge a racer. Although I don't really feel like it was my fault. I was sitting on the street taking photos just past the aid station and this guy comes running by with a cup of water and made a gesture like he was going to dump it on me. Or so I thought. I was sure that's what he was pretending to do, and I wasn't too happy. So I heckled him, "You're not that fast you know. I'll put this camera down and catch your ass!" I saw him at the finish line an hour later and he explained that what he wanted to do was dump the water over his head to ham it up for the camera. Ohhhh.... Um, sorry about that whole you're not that fast bit. Gulp. Oh well, no harm no foul. It was kind of funny though.
Anyway, here's a couple of the photos I took that I think came out okay.

Noticed an awesome sunrise as we were driving down our street
and just had to stop for a photo.

Kristin about 8 miles into the race and between snow showers.

Photographic evidence that she broke the 2:00 mark.
Nothing like a finishing sprint on an icy track!

TR Training: Week #13 Numbers

Total Saddle Time: 9 hours, 25 minutes
Total Mileage: 121.7 miles
Total Elevation Gain: 2880 feet

First things first, Week #12 died a strange and unpleasant death at the hands of a house guest and crazy work schedule. I got one good long ride on the mountain bike in that week and that's about it. It happens. But I have to keep it to a minimum.

On to Week #13...

Monday: Day off due to a second visit to the endodontist for my root canal.

Tuesday: Rode the mountain bike up to Rattlesnake Lake and tacked on some trails near the house afterwards. 30 miles and a scant 1200 feet of climbing.

Wednesday: On the trainer, reminding myself why I need to stop skipping days by watching the TransRockies DVD again. Just rode for 1:15.

Thursday: Did the Spinervals "Tough Love" video again. Nothing like doing 3 hours of interval training in the garage. Really. There's nothing quite as bad.

Friday: Kristin took the day off to take the GMAT and I spent the rest of the day with her. Never got my recovery ride in and was not happy about it.

Saturday: Attended the "Harmonic Convergence" ride down in Longview, WA as posted on the MTBR forums. Rode about 20 miles of tight, twisty, muddy, singletrack with 75 of my newest friends. We stopped halfway through the ride to down the hoppy contents of a few well-hidden coolers. I struggled to keep up with the "fast group" and was really feeling the effects of having not done a recovery ride after Thursday's gruel-fest.

Sunday: Spent the day running all sorts of errands with Kristin and never got my ride in.

One Hobby Bankrolls Another

I'm down to a dozen or so Xbox 360 games, a small handful for the PSP, two for the Nintendo DS, and my various PC games (many of which are not long for my house). This time last year I had a collection totalling nearly 400 videogames and a dozen various gaming consoles. Now I have almost nothing. I've sold everything.

And I couldn't be happier about it.

I was a very busy Ebayer this week, but my hard work (it's not really that hard) and reasonable pricing did manage to turn an entire bookcase worth of dust-collecting gaming paraphernalia into $1000 (in addition to the $1500 I got for selling much of this stuff last summer). These were games and consoles that I haven't played in years, that were of no value to me emotionally, and that I was sick of cluttering up my office with.

And thanks to online bike shops like Universalcycles.com that take Paypal, I was able to essentially trade some of these games straight up for bike parts. For example, I used the money from selling my PS2 games to buy a new pair of Time ATAC XS pedals and Ergon grips. I knew I was selling the games rather cheaply, but being able to use Paypal to shop online made it seem like I was essentially trading unplayed videogames for much-needed bike parts. Bartering is fun! I also decided that my upcoming adventures would benefit from having a GPS meter and after reading rave review after review on the Garmin Edge 305, I found an online shop on Ebay selling the model with the heart rate monitor and wireless cadence meter for about $150 below retail price. I actually paid less for it than my wife paid for the altimeter watch she got me for Christmas in 2005. And, despite these purchases, I was also able to put about $500 back into our checking account to help pay for the other stuff I've already ordered for the new bike. Speaking of which, it should only be one or two more weeks before I'm rockin the 29er!

Tiger Mountain Peak Baggers

Late Sunday night, Craig sent out an email to the BBTC Listserve detailing his President's Day plan to do a lot of forest road climbing on nearby Tiger Mountain. He'd hike to Middle Tiger Summit and ride to West Tiger 1 and West Tiger 2. I knew the weather would suck but I was having trouble coming up with an idea for my own ride for Monday so I thought I'd join him. Misery loves company, right. Anyway, rather than duplicate his efforts in posting a ride report, I'm just going to repost the one he has already written.

The following is from fellow BBTC member, Craig Beaver:

Although excited already to get out and ride, I was excited even more so to realize another sadistic BBTC’er would be joining me. Thanks to Doug Walsh for bearing the elements and getting out on this experimental ride with me.

We met at the Tiger Summit parking area, each clad in our own versions of neoprene socks, winter riding shoes and shells. It was pissing rain the whole drive there, but eased up a bit after we set out pedaling. The road up to the Preston Trail was well graded and eased our travels during the rough span between being in a comfortable car to actually being warmed up. Doug has been training for the TransRockies and let me know it by always having a bitof a lead on the grind up. We passed the Preston Trail and soon after theroad began a descent for aways until we found our gated turnout on the left. One sign said no bikes, the other said non-motorized use welcome; Needless to say we heeded the latter sign. A short grind up from here led us to the short trail that would grant access to the summit of Middle Tiger Mtn. We ditched the bikes and continued on foot a short, steep distance up the trail to the wooded summit. Got a couple pics and down we went.

Back at the bikes we descended back to the Main Tiger Rd and followed it downhill for another ½ mile or so then across 15 Mile Pass, taking a left about ¼ mile later. This was an undulating road, but was mostly up from what I remember. Finally the road came to a “T” at the saddle between West Tiger1 and 2. We opted first for West Tiger 1, with Doug doing some impressive climbing up the first and last 3rd of the climb. Up near the top we brokeout of the trees and were hammered by the wind. Thankfully, Tiger 1 sports a“Hikers Hut” (as well as signs claiming dangerous amounts of radiation.) We hunkered down in the hut and downed some grub while donning dry gloves andother essentials. Leaving the comforts of the hut was hard, but we did and descended the wind-swept ridge, being blown around by strong gusts and dealing with pretty loose traction.

Back at the saddle, time to climb again. This time to West Tiger 2. The road grade was much more appealing this time around and soon enough we were at the communication towers of Tiger 2. We saw signs of a trail leading to West Tiger 3, and quickly both agreed that we might as well do it, since we are up here anyway. We locked up the bikes and took off on foot for the ½ mile hike to Tiger 3. Some good ups and downs; Hard hiking in slippery bike shoes. No hikers on top of West Tiger 3.

Back at Tiger 2, I unlocked the bikes after I joked about forgetting the lock combination. Haha, sorry Doug!

We had some good downs on the way back, but also some good ups from Fifteen Mile Pass back to near the Preston Trail. From here on, we reaped our sweetrewards and smoked the fire-road descent back to the parking lot. My only hesitation was when passing by East Tiger, but I had had enough and I’m sure Doug wasn’t interested either! All in all, a great training ride for when the trails are closed, or heck,even when the trails are open. On a better day I bet the views would be a worthy addition to the incentives already gained on a ride like this.

West Tiger 1, 2, 3 and Middle Tiger Stats:15.6 miles RT, 3500’ gain, 2 hrs of actual riding time, 3.5 hrs car-to-car, 6 significant climbs/descents.

Me having to push to stabilize against the
severe wind on West Tiger 1.

Craig at the top of West Tiger 1.

Me outside the Hiker's Hut atop West Tiger 1.
Time to go inside and get warm.

Nothing like Peanut Butter & Apple Butter burritos
to refuel the body!

Four summits later... can we please descend now?

Ripped From the Headlines

The following headlines all appear in Friday's Seattle Times:
  • "A Word of Warning from Urinals"
  • "Polo-Playing Elephant Run Amok, Hurts 2"
  • "Rhino on Loan for Love"

These headlines not only were all in the same paper, but on the same page. I could be wrong, but I'm sure I heard a faint popping sound emanating from within my brain. Thinking that this was my chance to flip the page before my head exploded, I quickly grabbed for the sports section and was relieved to find an article about homophobic athletes and their recent gay-bashing. It's good to know that as crazy as somethings get in this world, we can always rely on professional athletes to help maintain the status quo.

The Name of the Game

Doug Walsh.

It's just two syllables: Doug and Walsh.

It doesn't so much as roll off the tongue as much as it just sort of plops out. And once it's out, it just sits there, on the floor, practically begging to be ignored. It has no style. No substance. It's just, well, it's just two stinking syllables man! I've never liked this name I was given. I certainly didn't ask for it, and I must admit that I enjoy signing the somewhat pretentious-sounding Douglas Joseph Walsh even less than the abridged version. The last name is fine. I wasn't really ever briefed on the family background or the origin of the name, but plenty of people seem to think it's Irish so I use it to get the occasional free pint on St. Patrick's Day. At least it's good for that.

But about that first name. That's got to go. Doug. What an ordinary, nondescript name. I used to believe my parents chose it because it was a popular name back in the 1970's, but I've only ever met two other Dougs my entire life. Lucky them. I swear if Doug and plain rhymed, all those Janes out there would be off the hook. Then again, at least those women never get called Dougie Fresh. There's so much wrong with that one, I don't even know where to begin. But I digress, as usual. Doug stinks, but Douglas is far too formal. Look at me: I work from home -- and not always fully clothed -- and I'm forever mountain biking and playing videogames. When would I use Douglas? Never, that's when. Then there's the Joseph part. Far too biblical for my liking, but it is my father's name and I can at least thank him for waiting to name a son after himself until my younger brother came along. I'd have killed myself if I had been a Junior.

I used to think about changing my name. Something like Hunter, or Donovan, or Holden (yes, after the kid in the book). I always told Kristin (middle name Heidi -- very cool) that I would want to name our son Holden but she resisted. So I refused to have kids. I couldn't very well risk having a boy with no name, could I?

But getting back to me, I came to the realization that I'm simply far too lazy to change my name. That's a lot of paperwork, folks. Driver's license, passport, credit cards, mortgage documents, Social Security, etc., etc. Screw that. Doug sucks, but at least I don't have to work for it.

Unlike Kristin and all the other married women out there who take on their husband's last name. What a hassle that has to be! Put aside the paperwork headache, changing one's identity spawns a number of complexities, not the least of which is how odd it must be for the wive's parents to now see their daughter using a different surname. I remember shortly after we got married, Kristin's father called the company she was working at and asked the receptionist for Kristin Nahm. The receptionist promptly told him nobody by that name worked there and hung up the phone on him. Ouch! Fortunately, he was able to simply call back and ask for her using her new name, but what about old friends who you fall out of touch with? They can scour the Internet using her maiden name all they want, but they're not going to find anything. Unless they step into one of life's peculiar coincidences such as I.

Sometime last month I was online, reading something unimportant, and noticed an advertisement for the TheKnot.com. It's a site that people use to promote their weddings. Or so I gather. I wondered if it might have anybody featured on it that I might recognize. I thought it might be neat to click over and see if some of the people I went to high school with were getting married. So I go to the site and select Central NJ from the drop-down list to see a gallery of recent wedding photos.

You know where this is going, don't you?

If you expect me to say that my high school girlfriend's wedding photo would be staring back at me from the page, then either you are a psychic or I am a far worse suspense builder than I thought. Yes, that's exactly what I saw. Smack dab in the center of the page was Sonya's wedding photo (she kept her alliterative name in tact through marriage... a good move). We met at a road race the spring of our Junior year. We knew of one another as we were both big track stars, but lived in different towns and had never met. We dated for a year or so and then split up as we headed to college. I'm sure it was my fault. It's been 13 years. Maybe 14. I tried to look her up a couple years ago but couldn't find anything. But now, thanks to this 21st century-aided serendipitous moment, I knew her new last name.

A quick Google search found me a way to contact her through a running club. But I hesitated. I really just wanted to write and say hi and tell her that I saw her wedding photo and that I hope she's doing well, but I was afraid. I didn't want to be John Cusack in "High Fidelity". I didn't want to be that creepy ex-boyfriend writing from out of the blue and, as Catherine Zeta-Jones' (killer name, by the way) character so rightfully feared, I didn't want to be seen as the guy "wanting to find out what it all means". I just wanted to say hi.

So I had Kristin inspect the email before I hit send. She didn't mind me writing to her, but did think it was weird. I expected this reaction from her though. She's a woman. And she also couldn't relate, as we had drastically different high school experiences. But she did say that it wasn't creepy. That was what I wanted to hear. Weird I can handle. I just didn't want to be creepy. So I sent the letter. And it was well received. And the reply even included a photo of her new baby boy (can't remember his name, oops).

I was glad to get the reply and I immediately tore through a lengthy reply of my own bringing her up to speed with me, my life with Kristin, why we live in Washington, etc. Basically all the shit you guys read about on this blog. Which I appreciate, by the way. Anyway, a few weeks went by without a response. I didn't give it any thought. I did make a few joking references to things that, well, that's between she and I, but I figured 1) I either scared her off, 2) her husband asked her not to write me back, or 3) she's just really busy and maybe not much of an emailer.

Which brings me to the co-inspiration for this essay. Tonight she wrote me back, only I didn't realize it at first. It's that damn name change, I tell you. I nearly deleted the email without reading it thanks to the unrecognizable last name. And that made me laugh. Here it was complete chance that I learned the name and was able to use it to contact her, and then when she writes me back I don't recognize it and nearly ignore it. Oh, and if you're curious, the reason for the delay was hidden behind curtain number three. Hopefully I don't inadvertently delete the lengthier email she says will come soon.

A month ago my sister Jessica (extremely common for girls born in the mid 80's) left me a message saying that she had big news she wanted to share with me. My big-brother instincts kicked in and I immediately got excited. She had to be calling to tell me she got engaged. Which made me happy. I really like her boyfriend. He's a good guy. His name is Mike. And if there's anyone out there who can feel my pain regarding the whole Dougie Fresh thing, it's got to be all the Mikeys out there who don't really like it when you drop that Life Cereal crap on them. Turns out he didn't propose, though. She was going back to school and got accepted to Rutgers. But it made me wonder nonetheless, "What the hell is Mike's last name anyway?" My sister is very traditional and I just know she'll take her man's last name when she gets married. Will I be able to remember it? Will I accidentally delete her emails? Will I address the Christmas cards accordingly? It's bad enough remembering that my mom doesn't have the same last name as me (it's been 18 years and I still forget -- or refuse to learn?) but what about my little sister? Damn, that's going to be hard!

Earlier I said that Sonya's email tonight was the co-inspiration for this thread. A better writer than I might be able to seque into the other half of that inspiration cleanly, but I cannot. It's about SEEDS. Another name change, this one from a game company.

By far the worst news I had last year professionally was that Clover Studios was closing shop. This small game studio was financed by mega-corp Capcom and contained the minds behind my vote and many others' for game of the year, Okami. Over the past few years I had the privilige of authoring the guidebooks for all of Clover's big games. And I loved doing so. And none moreso than Okami. But for as magical as these games were, especially Okami, they failed to sell to an American audience that is, shall we say, lacking in taste? So Capcom gave them the boot. Or something like that. It was really one of the great tragedies of the industry, and more than likely would serve as a harbinger of events to come. Go mainstream or die, was the message.

Fortunately, the incredible artists and visionaries (those of you who read this blog know I never use these words so yes, this is special) behind Okami and Viewtiful Joe have gathered forces with the creators behind Resident Evil and Devil May Cry and formed a new company, dubbed SEEDS. Their reasoning behind the new name is that the company is a gathering of the seeds who gave birth to the wonderful flowers that were the above-mentioned games. I love this. It means something and, although perhaps a bit contrived, it completely fits the image I always had of these guys.

I'll buy anything they make sight unseen. Chances are, I won't have to as hopefully I'll continue writing guidebooks for everything they make. But what if I don't? Will I remember that SEEDS is really Clover Studios? I probably will, after all here I am writing a freaking tome about them and my ex-girlfriend and wanting to change my name to that of the kid from "Catcher in the Rye", but what about everyone else? Will they know that this newfound company is not really that new and, actually, among the very best there are?

I worry for them. Name recognition means a lot today. We see names we recognize and we open to them. Those we don't we turn away, recycle, and delete. I thought about this a lot the other day when the news of Clover Studios' rebirth was announced. But then I remembered why they're in this predicament in the first place. For as important as a name is, looks are even moreso. When I saw that wedding photo I knew who it was before seeing the name (which I wouldn't have recognized anyway) and the reaction was positive. It was a face that I associate with good memories. But in SEEDS' case, the name may be different and unknown but if the looks are the same then the public's reaction may be too. Sadly, if SEEDS' upcoming games resemble the style and design of Okami then it too will likely be ignored by a populace with an inability to learn from past mistakes. The screenshots will merely be faces that mean nothing to them and the name will be just another one-syllable utterance that is so easily forgotten.

The Colony

I have a book recommendation for you today. It's John Tayman's "The Colony" and it's an excellently-written account of the Hawaiian leprosy exiles that were banished to a fortress-like peninsula on the island of Molokai. This took place starting in 1866 and continued for over a century. Over eight thousand men, women, and children left to fend for themselves -- or die -- with no law, little shelter, and far too little food. Forty-five percent of the exiles died within the first 5 years of being on the island. And did I mention many of those sent to the colony didn't even have leprosy?

Publisher's Description:
The Colony reveals the untold history of the infamous American leprosy colony on Molokai and of the extraordinary people who struggled to survive under the most horrific circumstances. John Tayman tells the fantastic saga of this horrible and hopeful place--at one time the most famous community in the world--and of the individuals involved. The result is a searing tale of survival and bravery,
and a testament to the power of faith, compassion, and heroism.

One of the things that has really made reading this book particularly powerful for me is my familliarity with Hawaii and, especially how it relates to the opening story of a man and his family fleeing the government to the Kalalau Valley on Kauai. Having hiked on the narrow ledges alongside the Na Pali cliffs; tented amongst the trees near the Kalalau beach; and showered beneath the waterfalls in this valley, the story of this family came alive for me in ways that I imagine most readers won't be able to feel. I know too well how incredibly rugged that part of Kauai is and how dangerous hiking on those cliffs can be. And I was equally amazed and heartbroken by what I was reading about this family. And that was only the first 20 or so pages.

The books is like that though. You'll be amazed at the tenacity of the exiles and their willingness to push on and eke out any existence they could, but you'll be tremendously saddened as well. And, I expect, shocked and ashamed of this dark little nugget in American history. And it didn't end until 1969.

Link to Reviews and Purchase info at BN.com.

Dead Blowfish, New Hammerheads, and Elk Galore!

It was time.

The Camelbak Blowfish hydration pack that I have taken with me nearly every time I threw a leg over a mountain bike for the past 8 years is dead. The Blowfish was laid to rest in a stainless steel cylindrical garbage can at approximately 1:30pm yesterday afternoon. It awaits final internment Friday morning. The ushers expected in attendance are the fine men of Allied Waste Management.

The Blowfish was a great pack. Compact enough to snugly store the essentials one needs for a short local ride, but easily expandable with the capacity to swallow a rain jacket, first-aid kit, and extra food and/or camera that are so desirable on an all-day epic. I've resisted replacing the Blowfish for the past two years on account of a distaste for the new design Camelbak came out with. It lacks the mesh outer pocket that was so perfect for wet gloves, Cliff bars, and -- especially during this time of year -- the oversized NiMH battery to my headlamp.

But alas, it was time. I needed to buy a new 100oz bladder for the bag and at $30 just for the bladder, I decided I might as well finally replace the entire pack. After all, it had tears, a thick film of aged sweat and dirt, and had a scent that was beyond Febreeze's abilities to resuscitate. So I replaced it with the North Face Hammerhead. I felt a bit odd buying a hydration pack not made by Camelbak -- it just seemed so unnatural since Camelbak has one of those brand/product/noun things going for it not unlike what Xerox and Nintendo used to have. Remember when you used to just refer to playing videogames as "playing Nintendo" even if you were playing a Sega or Atari product? Or when you would be making "Xeroxes" on a Canon photocopier? Yeah, something like that. Times change and now "wearing a Camelbak" doesn't necessarily mean you're wearing a Camelbak. But I digress... horribly.

The North Face Hammerhead is superior in every way to my older Blowfish. It fits a 100oz bladder, but also contains an inner hook to hang it on so the bladder won't jumble up in the bottom of your bag when its nearly emptied. It has a much larger outer mesh pocket complete with bungie cords to lash things too and to ensure your items are held snugly. The large inner compartment can be filled without intruding on the space needed for the bladder (kept in a separate seemingly insulated compartment) and the smaller innner comparment has many pouches and zippered pockets to facillitate organization.

Externally, the pack looks sharp and has comfortable and easily adjustable straps and belts. The bladder hose can be routed out either the left or right shoulder and features a powerful magnet clip that keeps the bite-valve firmly in place on the sternum strap. The hose on the North Face bladder is a larger diameter than the standard Camelbak hose and, I'm hoping, this prevents freezing as my Camelbak hose froze up on me in the first 4 miles of a ride two weeks ago. Lastly, I should point out that the bite-valve on the North Face bladder has a very effective on/off design and, based on my 2.5 hours with it yesterday, doesn't so much as drip a single drop. Not to mention that it's also much easier to drink from than the Platypus brand bladder/valve that Kristin lent me this past weekend. I'd rather lick from a puddle than try to drink out of that thing while biking.

Two species down, one to go!

I was out biking yesterday and just as I was heading out of Snoqualmie and about to hop onto the Snoqualmie Valley Trail near the golf course, I noticed about 50 elk grazing in a meadow. It was an awesome sight. They were everywhere. And huge too! The elk were probably about 150 yards away, not straying too far from the treeline, but knowing that this herd of elk is lurking about within the town limits is pretty cool. There were only about 30 or so when I passed by an hour later on my return trip, but a few of them were standing atop large mulch piles and staring out at people photographing them from afar. What a regal sight! Definitely the highlight of my day yesterday.

Games Auctions

The continued purging of my older games and systems is underway. For those who might be interested, here's some links to several Ebay auctions I have going.

Newly added auctions (three different sets of games).

The 6th Food Group

Perhaps if I was a bit more experienced in endurance racing the following sentence wouldn't have seemed so funny. Then again, this sort of thing will probably always make me laugh.

From a post on MTBR about the "Cascade Creampuff 100" race in Oregon. My italics.

Aid stations are spread so you should be able to get from one to the next with 1-2 bottles depending on your speed. Most people still carry a camel back though. [Aid stations] are stocked with energy drink, gel, bars as well as real food like animal crackers, fruit, etc...

"You Dumb Bastard. It's not a Schooner... it's a Sailboat!"

About those Old-Spice Gamer Pics. These Gamer Pics, for those who aren't up to speed with the Xbox Live parlance, are the avatar images we all use to identify ourselves online. Mine is the abstract surfer image you see to the right on my blog.

The fact that MS thinks so little of us gamers that we would want -- scratch that, compete -- for the privilige of providing free advertising for Old-Spice is insulting. Oh sure, the guys with the red Old-Spice logos would have some bragging rights over those who only earned the green, but really now? It's a friggin Old-Spice logo. That's it. Nothing that says "Level 3 Reward" or a label declaring you a winner. It's just the logo. Even an "I'm an Achievement Whore" sticker would be more desirable.

To call this Old-Spice branded Gamer Pics a "prize" is simply pathetic. And I pity anyone that thinks that having one of these Gamer Pics will score you some bragging rights. It doesn't. It only proves that you have no shame and can be used very, very, easily.

PS: Speaking of winning a prize, can anyone tell me what movie the title of this post is from?

Live Gamers Rewarded With Disappointment

Earn Achievements, win prizes. That was the plan. And it sounded phenomenal. In theory.

The Microsoft Xbox Live Rewards program kicked off this afternoon and, by all accounts, was DOA.

Aside from the simple fact that the servers were instantly crushed by gamers looking to register but couldn't, the Rewards program wound up being little more than creative co-branding with Old Spice. Yes, that Old Spice. The cologne/aftershave/deodorant you associate with grandfathers and deceased uncles.

This really bugs me on a number of levels. For starters: the need to register on the Xbox.com website. Why? The contest is only for Xbox Live users (in the USA, age 13 or older) and MS already has systems in place to track every little thing we do when we log into Xbox Live. Why the need to register? Why not just automatically register all accounts, automatically mark everyone's starting GamerScore as of today, and then track who gains the necessary 1500 points first? There was no need for anybody to have to register. It should have been automatic.

Secondly, the prizes. Being that I had in the ballpark of 8400 GamerScore at the time I started trying to register for this stupid contest (I gave up after a half hour of trying), I would have qualified for Level 2 prizes. Which meant that if I earned 1500 more Gamer Points between now and April 12th, I would have won the following.
  • Contra Live Arcade game.
  • 100 Microsoft Points (valued at $1.25)
  • Level 2 Old Spice Gamer Pic

That's it.

Those who already have over 10,000 GamerScore would win Contra, 200 Microsoft Points, a Level 3 Old Spice Gamer Pic, an Old Spice "clipper" t-shirt, and a copy of Fusion Frenzy 2.

Now I'm all for giving away free games. That's great. And although they are being surprisingly stingy with the Microsoft Points, giving away the equivalent of cash is also always welcome.

But an Old-Spice branded Gamer Pic (avatar) and Old-Spice t-shirt? Are you kidding me? We gamers spend hundreds, if not thousands of dollars a year supporting our Xbox-playing habits and, if that wasn't enough, many gamers seemingly spend half their free time posting online about how marvelous it is and, essentially, serving as unpaid spokespeople on MS's behalf. And this is the "rewards" program MS comes up with? Old-Spice swag?

I don't even want to rant about this anymore, I thought having the second phase of a root canal today was going to be the lowpoint of my day, but no. This certainly takes the cake. If this is how Microsoft says thanks to loyal customers, I'd hate to see how they react to their detractors.

Now where did I put my Speed Stick?

Outside the Realm of the Possible

One more Mike Curiak post and then I'll try and put a halt to this man-crush I'm developing for the guy.

Here's an article from last week's "Grand Junction Free Press" about Mike's upcoming self-supported trip across the 1100 mile Iditarod Trail in Alaska.

Click to read.

He isn’t officially racing this year since he will be riding without support. He will be pulling a 90 pound trailer while the official participants will be using assistance from race organizers, shelters, and food drops to complete the course as quickly as possible. His goal is not speed, just proving that a bike rider can ride the entire trail without any support. He is also determined to be more reflective and soak up the experience.

“In years past, I would be pedaling through these incredible valleys, but I couldn’t really stop to enjoy it because I was worried about the racers behind. This year I plan to take 22 to 25 days to finish the course rather than 16.”

If you're curious about the bike and trailer he is planning to use check the discussion and photos in this thread at MTBR.com. It'll blow your mind.

Utah Multisport Trip, May 2007 Itinerary

This trip is a long time in the making and, if you could see me right now, I am grinning from ear to ear knowing that we've finally found time to sit down and fine-tune the itinerary. It's going to happen. Finally. I can remember back in my high school days, paging through various photography books by guys like David Muench and thinking that I too would one day make the pilgrimage to Canyonlands and Arches National Parks. The images on those pages were so otherworldly from my New Jersey surroundings that it was as if I refused to believe they even existed unless I saw them with my own eyes. In a way, I never stopped feeling that way. Kristin and I weren't married for even a year before I started accumulating maps and guidebooks to various Utah and Arizona destinations. As time went by and my love of photography and mountain biking grew, this desire to plot a worthwhile trip to the region only intensified. After all, smack dab between the aforementioned National Parks sits the Utah town of Moab, the Mecca of mountain biking. Now, as we near our ten year wedding anniversary; as I continue to prepare for a serious foray into endurance mountain bike racing; and as Kristin prepares to submerge herself into the Executive MBA program at the UW (hopefully!) later this year, we find ourselves with multiple reasons to finally put this trip together. And none not to.

Wednesday, May 2nd

  • Kennel dogs, load the truck with camping gear, kayaks, and mountain bike. Depart Snoqualmie, WA for Moab, UT by 9pm. Drive through the night.

Thursday, May 3rd

  • Arrive in Moab, check into motel, and collect our bearings. Rest.

Friday, May 4th

  • Meet up with Kenobonn (arriving separately) and mountain bike the Slickrock Trail for a warmup.

  • Gather gear and combine equipment for Kokopelli's Trail multi-day ride. Get a good night's rest.

Saturday, May 5th

  • Mountain biking the 142-mile Kokopelli's Trail with Kenobonn. Kristin will take support vehicle and meet us at Castle Valley Road for camp #1. Roughly 25 miles, mostly uphill. Camp at Rock Castle campground.

We're travelling from right-to-left as shown on the profile.
Day 1 is gonna suck!

Sunday, May 6th

  • Day #2 on Kokopelli's Trail. Riding from Castle Valley Road to Cisco Landing. Kristin will meet us at Dewey Bridge for water refills and food. Roughly 62 miles. Camp near Cisco Landing.

Monday, May 7th

  • Day #3 on Kokopelli's Trail. Riding from Cisco Landing to the trail's terminus near Loma, CO. Kristin will meet us at Rabbit Valley for water refills and food. Roughly 57 miles.

  • Return to Moab, UT for dinner, drinks, and to check back into motel. Bid Ken farewell.

Tuesday, May 8th

  • Full day whitewater rafting on the Colorado River with Adrift Adventures guide service. One more night in a Moab motel. Going to find a bike shop to store my mountain bike for several days.

Wednesday, May 9th

  • Sunrise start for hiking Arches National Park in the morning.
  • Check out of motel, lunch in Moab, start driving south.
  • Evening hiking in Canyonlands National Park and camp the night at Willow Flat Campground near Green River Overlook. Sunset hike.

Thursday, May 10th

Friday, May 11th

  • Load up kayaks with camping gear and paddle upstream in Lake Powell towards Moqui Canyon for some canyon hiking.
  • Spend the day paddling the lake. Will camp on an isolated beach.

Saturday, May 12th

  • Day #2 on Lake Powell. Paddle kayaks back to Hall's Crossing and, if time permits, head downstream to Lost Eden Canyon for additional photo-ops.
  • Return to the car at Hall's Crossing and make the drive back to Moab to retrieve my mountain bike.
  • Begin drive back home. Drive through the night and arrive home Sunday afternoon.


People ask me all the time what my favorite game of 2006 was and although I am fond of Gears of War and think Oblivion is everything people say it is, I have to give the nod to Okami. It was a fantastic, beautiful, heart-warming game that, as I said last summer, out-Zeldas Zelda.

If you haven't played this gem of a game and are still on the fence about it, then click over to Eurogamer.net to read this review. The writers at Eurogamer do a superb job with their reviews and, in my opinion, are the best of the Internet bunch. And this is definitely one of their better-written reviews. If they can't convince you try this game then nothing will.

Caste Away

BBTC member Kevin sent this along via the club's listserve and I just had to post a link to it. It's appearing on Outside Magazine's website, written by Marc Peruzzi.

It's about the equipment-based divisiveness that exists among outdoor recreationists and how ridiculous it is that sports like mountain biking, kayaking, climbing, etc., are so heavily segmented within their own communities. I don't often see the rudeness to the level that the author describes but I know it exists, and I do admit to being irritated at times by the holier-than-thou preaching that often emanates from single-speeders. Anyway, if you are into any outdoor sports, then definitely give the article a read. It's definitely worth it.

There I was, a mountain biker surrounded by mountain bikers—with no one to talk to. I was invisible, excommunicated, estranged, and in dire need of a hefeweizen. It wasn't always so (except for the hefeweizen part). When I started mountain biking, in 1987, it felt like I knew just about every rider in northern New Hampshire. The sport was a community. Now it's a caste system determined by tire width and wardrobe. And the stratification isn't true only of mountain bikers. As core participants pursue ever more obscure niches and subsets of their respective sports, the social fabric that once tied us all together under the broad header of "outdoor athlete" is unweaving.

Now All I Need Is a Frame

My custom wheels from Mike Curiak arrived on Monday and are even sharper than I thought they'd be. The mango colored Chris King hubs are really eye-catching and will be a nice accent on what will otherwise be an all black and titanium bike (aside from mango headset and stem-cap). They're also pretty light -- definitely moreso than the cheapie training wheels I bought to take the brunt of the mileage I put on this new bike. I emailed Mike to ask him if he by any chance weighed them once they were built. He hadn't and told me not to worry about it -- that the wheels were plenty light "for you!"

Unlike the sales guy down the road who just wants to sell you the lightest and most expensive set of wheels he can, Mike took my weight, riding style and anticipated terrain into consideration and built me a set that, in his expertise, fits those variables. I can't wait to ride them. And knowing they were built specifically for my needs will be nice piece of mind when I take them deep into the backcountry in the coming months.

29er Bontrager Mustang OSB Disc 32-spoke rim,
DT Swiss Comp spokes, Chris King Iso hub.

Drooling is perfectly acceptable.

Oh, and by the way, if you're wondering who this Mike guy is and why I trust his word so much, be sure to read the background info on this page. Pretty impressive, eh?


Want to know what I'm looking forward to playing 2007? If so, click right here and be sure to click on the screenshots on the right side of the page.

Catan places the player in the role of colonists on the newly discovered imaginary island of the same name. Through strategy and trading, 3-4 players vie for control over the valuable territory and resources of this uncharted wilderness. With ten million copies already sold, Settlers of Catan is the rare board game that appeals to casual players as much as hardcore enthusiasts.

Catan for Xbox Live! Arcade continues the tradition of great gameplay and easy accessibility. Players compete online with their friends from around the world or choose from up to 6 dynamic computer personalities. The game features a robust AI developed in a landmark collaboration between Klaus Teuber and Brian Reynolds, designer of Civilization II and Rise of Nations.

The game is due out in the first quarter of 2007 and already has the Achievements list posted on its website. I'm expecting it to sell for $15 and if it is anywhere near as good as I'm hoping it is, then this could be the best $15 I spend all year long. I used to love the Age of Empires series and enjoyed BHG's Rise of Nations but ever since playing Culdcept (completely different) I've had a thing board-game style strategy games. My fingers are crossed.

Microsoft Rewards Points

I thought we would have seen this come into play last fall, but Microsoft is finally set to release their long-expected Gamerscore Rewards Program on February 12th. TGdaily has a nice article about the new program with plenty of details which you can read here. For those who'd rather just view the box score of sorts, here's the details.

Beginning February 12, any Xbox 360 user over the age of 13 with an Xbox Live account can register online for a chance to get Microsoft Points, Xbox Live Arcade games, and other Xbox gear in a pool of $500,000 worth of prizes. All registered users who can increase their Gamerscore by at least 1500 points before April 12 will win some digital swag, with prize values on a sliding scale depending on how many Gamerscore points the user has already accrued prior to February 12.

Prizes are said to based on how many Gamerscore points you have on February 12th at the start of registration. The more points you have and the more you earn in the next 60 days, the better the prizes you'll get. Prizes include Microsoft Points (good for Marketplace purchases), special themes and gamer pics, collectible t-shirts, and even copies of Fusion Frenzy 2.

With the total value of available prizes said to be $500,000 it could quite possibly be the best half-million dollars Microsoft ever spends out of their marketing budget. The Achievements and Gamerscore system implemented in the Xbox 360 has already given countless gamers a loyalty to the system never before seen. Speaking from my own experience, I am hardly the Achievement whore many people seem to be and I always make a point of earning my Achievements legitimately (i.e. I don't boost or cheat), but I've completely stopped playing all other consoles -- including my SLI-equipped gaming PC -- because of the continuity the Xbox 360 gives me not only with Achievements, but with my Friends list. Knowing that all of my gaming time can be used on a single console and actually help earn me prizes is just another reason to continue my console monogamy. Especially if the prizes include Microsoft Points (as good as cash as far as I'm concerned) and games. There's little to no chance of me wearing an Xbox t-shirt out in public, but if they establish certain tiers and offer t-shirts that proclaim, as Epic's Cliffy B once said, your individual level of "Nerd Cred" on them then I can see thousands of gamers binging on Bawls and Doritos just to stay up a little later, to earn a few more points, to get that uber-geek level shirt.

Well played, Microsoft.

A Bad Day of Snowboarding is Not Always Better than a Good Day of Work

Brian has the snow-jinx. He says he's had it for a long time and now I believe it. I flew him out here from NJ Monday morning to help me with a guidebook I was working on and to also do a little snowboarding. It hadn't really snowed in the Cascades in nearly three or four weeks on account of unseasonably warm weather, but before the warm spell, Washington ski resorts were boasting the deepest bases in the world. I figured between the thick snow base and the possibility for at least an inch or two of fresh snow, that Steven's Pass wouldn't be that bad. I mean, really, it would still have to be better than the conditions in New Jersey, right?

I wish.

I hadn't ever seen a mountain in such wretched conditions save for when I drove 7 hours to Snowshoe Mountain in West Virginia. I mean, sure Steven's Pass did still have plenty of coverage, the only problem was that the entire mountain was one frosted-over ice cube. If you dared venture off the groomers for even a second your snowboard would just chatter across the surface of the crusty ice and snow with little to no hope of even digging an edge in to turn. Factor in the permanent grooves and dips from tracks laid in softer conditions and you had an unfriendly, unforgiving, slope. If you think I'm exaggerating, just keep reading.

We knew it would probably be sucky -- and Brian was not comfortable with the Washington fog we often board in -- but we drove nearly 2 hours, not to mention the 3000 miles he'd already come, so we gave it a go. My rekindled love affair with mountain biking has kept me off the slopes this year and yesterday was my first time back on the board so I led us down a groomer just to warm up. It was your basic corduroy blue-square trail, but the muscles hadn't forgotten and I felt fine. Brian instructs inner-city youth for Burton's "Chill" program back in NJ and has been riding every week this winter and didn't need the warmup so after that quick run, we headed up a pair of lifts to hit the backside of Steven's Pass.

Of all the areas I've snowboarded, the Mill Valley side of Steven's Pass is my favorite. There's tons of glades, some pretty steep terrain, and aside from one looping connector trail it's never groomed. Just drop into the bowl and find your way down through the trees. I love this area.

We slid over to the edge where I usually drop into Corona Bowl and saw that it was looking pretty icy. I suggested we take the groomer down and see how the conditions are on the sides of the trail first before we hit the bowl -- I was ignorantly hopeful that I still might be able to show him some good terrain. Everything was fine on the groomer except for the visibility issues from the clouds that rolled in until we hit a couple steeper sections under the powerlines.

Brian was out of sight behind me and as I came over one pitch, I went to turn off my heel-side edge and the board slid out from under me. When I first started to slide I thought it was kind of funny. Then I realized there was no stopping. At all. My efforts to kick the board into the ice and self-arrest were futile and only caused me to spin around. Now I was sliding down the trail on a slab of ice, backwards, on my back. The more I slid, the faster I went. I was easily sliding at 25 to 30 mph for over 100 yards. I noticed I was heading on an angle across the trail and was on a collision course with a rather large tree. And not some flimsy evergreen, but a hardwood. I somehow managed to spin myself back around at the last moment and kicked into a pile of snow near the edge of the trail. Since I was travelling too fast to just come to a stop -- which is fortunate as my knees would have been shot if I had -- but rather bounced into the air and crashed down on a pile of ice and snow. Thankfully I had my helmet on.

Brian came over the rise shortly after I came to a stop, but I was too shaken up to get much of a warning yell out to him. He made it through the first twenty yards or so of the hill and just as I was beginning to think he was going to make it safely down this crazy iced-over hill, he fell. Like me, he at first thought it was kind of funny but upon realizing he was out of control in an unstoppable slide, he too began to worry. He didn't even notice me on the side of the hill near the trees as he slid past but I could see the terror in his eyes. Sliding on your back at 30mph towards the trees is not a sensation I ever wish to feel again. Brian said he began to see the trees and somehow used his butt to push himself just enough back towards the center of the trail to make it past the treeline to a trail merger about twenty yards past where I stopped.

I walked the rest of the way over to him and in unison we both said we needed to go home before someone seriously got hurt. We slowly made our way to the lift at the bottom and took it back up to the top of the mountain. From there we had a gentle corduroy cruise back to the base and went inside and turned in our lift tickets. Our excursion down the Mill Valley side of the mountain took us past the one-hour limit you have to get a voucher for another day, but when we explained what happened, they decided to give us a break. We got vouchers to come back another day this season.

If you're the type of skiier or boarder who simply must ride no matter the conditions and don't mind sticking to the groomers then yesterday would have been okay. I'd rather not ride at all than stay on the corduroy. And when going off the groomers even on gentle hills that normally wouldn't be worth mentioning can result in such near-disastrous slides, then there is no reason to ride at all. Brian agreed. Despite having flown 3000 miles he wanted to leave whether we got vouchers or not.

We salvaged the day by having a good lunch in Seattle with Kristin and then going home and finishing up the guidebook I was working on. I never thought I'd say it, but I actually enjoyed working last night a hell of a lot more than I did being on the slopes.


Thanks to Randomly Generated reader Jeremy for sending me a link to the following article at The Onion (my italics).

Area Man Needs Two More Trips To Best Buy To Beat Xbox 360 Game

MONROEVILLE, PA—Local resident Ronald Franks could be as little as two Best Buy visits away from completing the Xbox 360 video game Gears of War, Franks said Tuesday. "I told [wife] Susan not to expect me for dinner tonight, because right now I'm at the Train Wreck and I'm about to take on a Berserker," said Franks, 35, who has been playing the game daily for nearly three weeks and brings his own memory card from home. "I'm thinking I can get through that pretty quickly because I'll use my sniper rifle. Then it's right to Troika Central to get to the main boss, General RAAM. I'll probably take a personal day to defeat RAAM." According to Susan Franks, he also spends several hours each weekend at a nearby Barnes & Noble copying the Gears of War Official Strategy Guide onto a legal pad he brings along with him.

Ah, if only poor Ronald Franks had known about my strategy guide giveaway last fall I could have at least saved him a few trips to Barnes & Noble. I may have even autographed the book for him.

TR Training: Week #11 Numbers

Total Saddle Time: 3 hours, 34 minutes
Total Mileage: 39.1 miles
Total Elevation Gain: 4220 feet

Life happens, right? Every week can't be a six or seven day cycling experience and I just have to accept it. This past week saw me get a root canal on Monday, spend Tuesday and Wednesday playing catch-up with work while feeling a little woozy from the painkillers.

I got back out on the bike Thursday for a weekly mountain bike training ride that leaves the Redhook Brewery in Woodinville at 6pm every week. Did it pretty fast too. Knocked a few more minutes of my best time on the course, but still have a ways to go before I can come close to the times some of the guys post during the mid-summer time trials. Anyway, Friday was a workday marathon and although I did get a 15 mile hill training ride in on Saturday at Poo-Poo Point, it was hardly the endurance training I had planned. And, well, Sunday was the Super Bowl and I had a party to prepare for... and then recover from.

3rd Annual Super Bowl Party

Well, another Walsh Super Bowl Party has come and gone and I think that everyone had a great time. We had 22 hungry and thirsty friends over to watch the game and I was really happy to see so many people enjoying themselves at our place. Everyone who came over was either one of my mountain biking friends or a co-worker of Kristin's (or the significant other thereof). We had one late cancellation on account of a friend being called into work, but most everyone who was invited showed up and we had many repeat attendees from the past two years.

The game is about to start!

When I was at the grocery store on Friday, the cashier mentioned that I must have the biggest tv in my group of friends. I commented that it was probably my willingness to buy the best beer. But I think what keeps everyone coming back is the food, the beer, and the games and prizes. And, yeah, the 48" HDTV doesn't hurt.

We upped the interest level this year by adding a third game/door prize to the mix. I overhead one of Kristin's friends comment that they "didn't know she married Van Wilder" which I thought was a pretty damn cool compliment for a host to receive. Anyway, here's what we do to keep things interesting if you're looking for ideas to spice up your Super Bowl Party.

1) Box Pool: We keep it simple and just do $1 boxes and despite the low entry fee, we still rarely fill the entire sheet. This year we only had $50 in the pool. Tara won $30 at the end of the third quarter, as the first two quarters came up empty and the money carried over. The house (me) won $20 after the fourth quarter came up empty. Anyway, you draw a 10x10 grid and have people pick squares and write their names in. Then, once the game begins and all squares have been sold, you randomly draw numbers 0-9 and run them down the left and top of the grid. Label the rows one team and the column the other and match up the last digit in the score for each team at the conclusion of each quarter. Whoever has the square that matches that score wins the money.

2) Trading Card Wagers: Everyone gets handed 7 football cards upon arrival and are encouraged to make wagers with one another throughout the game on anything they can think of. Some people bet on penalties and scoring, others bet on commercials, coin flips, or whether or not Prince will sing "When Doves Cry". At the end of the game, the person with the most cards wins the prize (provided by hosts). Dawn ended up winning the prize although Nate almost stole it had Archie Manning have shown up on the field to hug Peyton within two minutes of the game being over. This year's prize was a video-casino gaming system that hooks up to your tv. Yes, we got stuck with it as a Secret Santa gift in December.

3) MVP Drawing: New this year was the MVP Drawing game. Upon arrival, guests are each instructed to pick a name from a bowl of random Colts players or random Bears players. I made sure that both bowls had the same number of possible MVP candidates in it beforehand. Also, I made sure to keep the teams separate so Colts fans don't have to cheer for a Bears player or vice-versa. Anyway, I record the player each person draws and remove that name from the bowl. At the end of the game, the person who drew the eventual Super Bowl MVP wins the prize (provided by hosts). This year's MVP was Peyton Manning and the very first guest to arrive drew it from the bowl. He won a growler of Snoqualmie Brewery's Spring Fever ale, which is a terrific beer. A growler is a glass 1/2 gallon jug that can be refilled for about $7.

Kristin showing me we need more beer from the garage. Stat!

In addition to the games, we had tons of food and drink including plenty of Fat Tire, Labatt Blue, Weinhard's IPA, Mirror Pond Pale Ale, Redhook Winterhook, and Moose Drool. For food we had the typical assortment of chips, dips, veggies, and snacks to start with then brought out an awesome macaroni salad (with jalapennos!), a giant thing of sweet & sour meatballs, a huge tray of a three-cheese spaghetti bake I like to make, and Kristin made an incredible fresh tomato, basil, and mozzarella salad that disappeared faster than I could have ever guessed. And she made an enormous amount of it. Also, Kari and her sister Brianna made a couple trays of the most delicious spring rolls ever that were bulging with rice noodles, tofu, and all sorts of veggies. The homemade peanut sauce was like a candy topping.

Purple Rain, Purple Rain...

So yeah, it was a good time. And we had ballons, everybody likes balloons right? Well, that and the tequila and whiskey shots and the beer and the brownies and the awesome pork & cheese dip I made and the...

You get the idea.

My condolences to my readers who root for the Bears. We Seahawk fans know how you feel all too well.

You name it, we drank it. So long as it doesn't suck.
This is a Bud, Miller, and Coors-free zone.

Oh, and lest I forget, huge thanks to Kari and Brianna for sticking around to clean up afterwards! Kristin and I wouldn't have known where to begin, but you guys helped us bang it out in minutes! You're awesome!