Breaking the habit

For the past few days, I have habitually opened my web browser and gone to facebook. It’s only when I get there that my fingers catch up with my brain and I remember I disabled that account, remember?

Facebook is evil. It always has been, of course. This isn’t new. But the thing is, facebook is a special kind of evil. It’s the kind of evil that makes friends into ex-friends, because even while you are not anonymous there, you do get empowered by the cult of like-minded thinking. It doesn’t really matter which side of a spectrum you are on, the cult thinking pervades.

Over the past few months, I had essentially stopped posting there and started lurking only. It was occasionally worth it.

I’m sure I’ll miss a lot of the social side of social networking, but frankly, I’m excited to re-invest in other networks. I’ll go back to using flickr again. I’ll try to post more here. I’ll still be around, I just won’t be there.

Making use of my passport

My friend Trevor has invited me to join him on a motorcycle road trip he has been taking for the past several years. For various reasons, I’ve not been able to take up the call until this year. I’ve been missing out.


Pullman to Wenatchee – 200 miles

Because the starting point was in Wenatchee on a Friday morning, we left Pullman on Thursday evening. Unfortunately, I had a full day of work, and wasn’t able to leave the office until about 5. We managed to be on the road by about 5:30 and took a reasonably sedate trip west to our staging point at his brother-in-law’s house. There’s really nothing much to say about this section. US-195 and WA-26 to Washtucna are well known to every WSU student from Western Washington. We know every intersection, every curve, and where the deer “should be.” I-90 from Ritzville to George is a pair of 2-lane ribbons of concrete with hardly a corner to break up the monotony. Between those boring roads is WA-261. 261 starts well, with some tight climbing corners, but after a scant number of miles, it turns into the roads that the central part of Washington are known for: straight, efficient, and boring.

Still, we were chasing the sun, which turned a vivid red while setting as we passed Moses Lake. By the time we got to Wenatchee, it was dark. It wasn’t a day for twisty roads, those would be coming soon enough.


Pullman to Nelson – 291 miles

The first 120 or so miles were as tedious as the day before. US-97 is a busy 2 lane road hugging the Columbia. While the bikes ahead of me had little trouble weaving through traffic, it seemed that every RV clogging the road had a timid vehicle behind it, creating a very effective rolling road block. For the most part, I kept up, but at one point near Omak, I completely lost the group. Fortunately, some had pulled off the highway and were watching out for me as I obliviously passed them by. Once the order of travel was re-established with familiar jackets in front of me, we continued at a healthy pace to breakfast.

Tonasket marked the transition from miserable highway to joyous road. After a lovely breakfast and a stop at a bathroom that ingeniously used a jug of water and some rope as a self-closing mechanism, it was time to continue. Quick splash of fuel, and we were off!

Or not. A mile later, I see Todd nursing a bike up the hill. I pull over to discover the issue. The bike isn’t running and the fuel pump is hot to the touch. Shortly after, Don comes back to us, making our group of 2 stragglers three. Fortunately, this is an older carbureted bike, so the pump isn’t integrated into the tank and is a simple affair to fix. $75 for a new universal 12V low pressure fuel pump, some clever work with some vent pipe as a hose adapter, and a couple wire splices over the next hour and we’re good to go. I send off an update to Trevor by text and we head off towards Nelson on WA-20, turning north near Waucunda. The rest of the group had gone to Molson for a look around, so with luck, we’d not be too far behind them.

A mile into the climb out of Tonasket, Todd stops again. I pull in behind, but the bike is running fine. Just a bee in the helmet. We’re off! For sure this time. Unfortunately, we get caught behind another RV. RV’s trapping me in the curves has already become a theme. It took a while, but I eventually pass and realize that as I expected before the trip started, as long as I can keep up to get to the curves, I can keep up in the curves. Washington 20 is a joy of a road. In the North Cascades, the mountains are stunning. Here, the scenery is less spectacular, but the road winds along tight canyons, more than making up for it.

Don has ideas. We’re going to take the 1-lane Forest Service Road north past Bonaparte Lake to Chesaw Road. Unfortunately, he didn’t tell Todd or I this, and when the road appeared suddenly on the left, he took it without a lot of warning. Todd missed the turn entirely and came to a sudden halt on the gravel side of WA-20 and was fortunate to not end up on his side. I made the turn, but my tires let me know that I was pushing it. What’s a little adrenaline on a road trip, anyway? Winding along, we find pot-holes, cows, and a road that rapidly narrows with forests on both sides. Fortunately, I have bikes with brake lights in front of me to let me know what’s coming; they have a lot more space in the single lane than I did.

a car and bikes on the side of the roadAt Cheesaw Road, we stop for a while and enjoy the nearby lake views, before heading on to Midway. At this point, we still assume we are behind the main group. At the border, we stop. There are two bikes ahead of us, nobody behind. While we wait, we hear a very distinctive sound of pipes behind us. Reunion at the border! After being processed by a friendly Canadian customs agent (“1 bottle of whisky. no firearms. No maam, I’m not carrying stuff for them”), we’re in. And off. Another RV, and I’m quickly dropped again. This section of Hwy 3 isn’t all that great anyway, so I don’t mind. We eventually regroup at the next gas stop, where the human scenery was slightly disturbing. Torn shorts might have looked good on a fit 20 year old, but were distinctly out of place where we saw them.

I got stuck in traffic again, so I was alone for the rest of the drive to Nelson. Fortunately, I was able to get into a zone as I travelled over Bonanza Pass. At 5036′, the Miata was surprisingly strong and happy. I knew I was never going to catch up before Nelson, so while I travelled at a rapid pace, I didn’t try to set any records. Just enjoy the road.

At Nelson, I couldn’t find parking for a while. I eventually found a set of “commuter” meters that allowed 12 hour parking (for $5 a day, using canadian coins). I had no such coins, so I had to drive back to the center of town, take advantage of parking where the meters were covered, go to a bank to get cash, then go to a salon to get the $20 note converted to loonies and toonies, then go back to the edge of town again so I could finally park. Trevor, who was waiting for me at the Hotel was look very nervous by the time I re-appeared with my bag of clothes and a bottle of Whisky. He gave me the choice of bunk, so I made him sleep up top.


Nelson to Vernon – 220 miles

Nelson holds a car show every year, and the trip is timed to take advantage of it. We walked the street for an hour or so, looking at the classics and a few modern cars as well. There were MGs, the 60s muscle car era was well represented, many hot rods from even earlier. There were fords with Chevy 350s in them, some E-type Jags, even a tiny pre-war Morris sedan of some sort. As we walked along, a Citroen DS drove past, nearly silently and floating on its air suspension.

After getting our car fix, it was time to go. The direct route to Vernon is to go back the way we came along the Crowsnest highway, then go north through Kelowna. That’s the direct route, so of course we went north-east to Kaslo.

Shortly after leaving Nelson, I saw a 60s Ferrari going the other way. I figured it was late to the car show. Soon after arriving in Kaslo for breakfast, I saw an E-type drive by. Then a GT350 Mustang. Another E-type. Porsche 356. They all had round stickers on the side. “Going to the Sun Rally 2018”. They all were coming from the West. Highway 31A

The reason this drive goes to Kaslo is Highway 31A. Trevor has been talking up this road for the past two days, so my expectations were high. Those expectations were surpassed. The road surface is very good (there were a few frost heaves, but not much). The corners are well banked and well marked. It may be the most spectacular 30 miles of road I’ve ever driven. Aside from a solitary RAV4, there was no traffic to pass and open road in front of me. There wasn’t a lot of oncoming traffic either, and what there was just added to the joy. Millions of dollars in cars drove past me, and they weren’t static displays. These cars were in the wild, being driven.

From New Denver to the ferry crossing at Fauquier, the road straightened and lost some charm, but the day wasn’t done yet. After Fauquier, I once again was dropped by most of the group. I managed to keep up with Don as we traversed corners marked at 20kph, as we passed road signs that invitingly read “narrow winding road, next 4 km”, and as we climb up and down some rather inviting mountains. Eventually he pulls over to put on warmer clothes and I blast ahead, now alone. 30 miles or so from Vernon, the road opens up and traffic flow increases such that the fun is mostly over.

I eventually arrive at the Tiki, where the group is gathered. Interesting place, the Tiki. It’s a block from the homeless mission and clearly in a seedy part of town. By next year, it may be gone. There were tents under the nearby creek bridge. I was panhandled as I parked. But the company was good, and the beer flowed. No regrets.


Vernon to Pullman – 352 miles

Trevor and I had already decided that we would be going directly home to Pullman rather than go back to Wenatchee on Sunday. Dave would be joining us, but head to the Tri-Cities instead. The idea of Hwy 97 again didn’t thrill us and the idea of sleeping in our own beds was very appealing. We’d stay together as a group through Kelowna, then take Hwy 33 to Rock Creek together, before splitting and going separate ways.

Until a badly timed stop light in Kelowna held me back, I was keeping up. Unfortunately, after that light, I never saw our group again until reaching Rock Creek. I had to rely on Carplay and my fortunate choice in wireless carriers to get me there, as I really didn’t know which turns to take. Apple didn’t lead me wrong. It was cold, but I was wearing a jacket and gloves. The heat worked. The road was twisty, the deer stayed away, and I took advantage of the mostly empty road.

Eventually, I reached the intersection with the Crowsnest highway, where the group had been apparently waiting for me for “some time.” It was the only time I really felt like my 4 wheeled transportation really slowed them down.

Trevor and I headed to Midway, crossed, and headed south. Just a the Canadian border agent held up Canada’s friendly reputation, the US agent was as surly as we expected. Back on US soil, the three of us headed south on WA-21 to Republic for fuel (both for bikes and for us). One massive breakfast later and off to Wilbur.

Between Republic and the Keller ferry, WA-21 winds along a narrow canyon-like valley with high cliff walls and beautiful flora. This is very fortunate, because we had plenty of time to look at it—the entire length of the road was recently chip-sealed and our speed was limited.

After Keller, the road climbs up using several tight switchbacks before straightening and diving due south to Wilber. I was really looking forward to this bit of road, but unfortunate timing meant I was stuck behind a Hyundai for the climb. The Hyundai made a go of it, so it could have been worse, but the end result was still a disappointment.

From there it was goodbyes to Dave and US-2, WA-23, and US-195 to home. Green Hollow Road, a small winding road that parallels US-195 between Tekoa and Colfax called out to me, but by that point I was tired enough that the siren-song of that particular road wasn’t quite loud enough.

If the chance is offered, I’d do this trip again in a heartbeat. But perhaps next Sunburned metime, I’ll remember to put on the sunscreen, even when it’s cloudy and 48°.


Dream a dream of dad

I dreamed about dad last night. In my dream, he was a football coach, walking around a high school, looking at the last tree on a playground, evaluating it as a use for a football field. I was sitting on a bench, and I lit into him and two others. If you take this grass away for football, where am I going to play?

You’d play football.

But where do all the kids that don’t want to play football going to play?

I got a look of “why wouldn’t you want to play football.?” So I repeated. At this point, mom and Corey showed up, and he looked to them for help. They asked the same question. Deflated, he realized they too would be opposed to taking away the last field.

That’s where I woke up. Initially, I smiled on waking because I haven’t had a vivid dream in a while, and this one involved dad. But then a bit of melancholy crept in; this’s version of dad is wrong. He didn’t care about football, and he certainly wouldn’t be the type to take away general playground to do it. So at 4:30 am, I now wonder what the dream was supposed to be, and why me head went there.

But still, dad.. I smile. And I go back to sleep.

Thank you Dad

Ronald William Whiteman – April 4, 1949 – March 26, 2018

Dad (left), celebrating the completion of the arena at home, something my Mom had wanted for many years, and finally had. Photo Credit Megan Whiteman

Over the years, Dad had many roles for many people. Educator. Enforcer. Competitor. Confidant. Friend. Storyteller. I was lucky enough that he was all of this to me. For almost 69 years, he was always there in some way. I may not have appreciated it at the time, but I knew I could always trust him to do right by me.

Life is defined by memories, for it is memories that tell the stories of our lives. With dad, the memories are many and vivid. They shape my past. I learned to drive with dad. I learned about what it means to put just a little too much gravel in the back of a pickup with dad. I went hunting with dad, learned to shoot with him, and learned that I don’t really enjoy walking around in the cold, wet, woods, attempting to find the deer that was there the week before, but certainly not there now.

My love of sports car was developed by spending hours with dad, working out how to keep an old unreliable British car on  the road. It was dad that gave me a working mechanical knowledge, something that still helps me every day. We went on a long road trip in his old MG when I was young, and I’m very happy that we got the chance to go on another trip in my not-so-old Mazda once I was older.

I learned to SCUBA dive because of Dad. We never dove together, but we did snorkel a few times when I was young. We always wanted to get together and dive again, but just never quite got together to do it. I think we would have enjoyed it.

I took dad out mountain biking once, and while I never got him to ride the trails again, I know from the way he told the stories of that trip, he enjoyed it. If not at the time, certainly in hindsight. We shared a sense of adventure and love of the outdoors.

Dad loved to fish. I can’t say I picked it up as strongly as he liked, but I enjoyed fishing with dad too. One late-night trip in an open boat on an empty river, fishing for sturgeon was especially memorable. It was cold and wet, but we were happy, sitting on aluminum benches, waiting for the fish that never bit. Salmon fishing was more adventurous—out on the big ocean waves, sometimes so big that they registered as on the fish-finder. I never failed to “feed the chum,” but I loved it anyway. I just wish we could have caught more salmon and less shark over the years.

I wasn’t able to get home fast enough to say goodby to Dad in the end. As somebody that has never been religious or one that believes strongly in the afterlife, I’ve felt for a long time that a person lives on in the memories of others. If the afterlife is indeed defined in memories, then Dad will be around for a long time to come, and we can all smile each time one of those memories resurfaces.

Thank you Dad, I’ll miss you, and I love you. Forever and always.

I will fly 400 miles…

… and I will fly 400 more.

When I visited Salt Lake City during the summer of 2016, I was invited to return the following winter to see what the fuss was about regarding Utah snow. By invited, I mean “you will be coming, figure it out.” OK then. Plans didn’t really come together until January, but in mid February, I found myself driving to Lewiston one Friday morning to start my weekend.

Two days on snow, one powder, one packed down groomers. One hill, both days very enjoyable. Wait, no. They were terrible. There were wolves. Don’t go to Snowbasin, I’m told, I really should just go to Snowbird instead.

Or at least, that is the story to be told. Despite the price tag, the accommodations, and the connections to Sun Valley, Snowbasin is a local hill and the locals like to pretend they can keep it that way. That isn’t to say the place isn’t friendly; I was welcomed and spent two days happily bombing along on genuine Costello skies, caring only about what the next run would bring.

I am very privileged to have the ability to run off for a weekend of skiing like this, and fortunate to be able to ignore most of the world, even for a little while. Reality could wait a day or two, this was a vacation. I have good friends, a good job, and a good life. For that, I am grateful.

Never under-appreciate the value of a comfortable life—most people don’t get one.

Broken Peace

I have been spending the last couple months writing down my memories of the big road trip I took last summer, as well as the shorter ski trip I took last winter. The journal starts with this undated entry, which I believe was written last August, somewhere near Lewis River.

I arrived to a full campground at around 7. I set up my tent in a gravel parking area.

After a quiet meal, I enjoyed an In-tents Lager, in my tent. Then I slept.

I slept well, waking with the sun. I wasn’t ready to start the day, but I wasn’t exhausted either. I read a little. Had a small breakfast. Read a little more. I just enjoyed the solitude, really.

The sun rises further and to the south of me, signs of life begin. A dog barks. A toddler cries. No worries.

It wasn’t until the generator started that I started hating other people again.

Post Park Travels

I had to leave Yellowstone on the last day relatively early; I had a phone interview later that day and wanted to be sure my cell phone would work when they called me. Once the play time was over, I dried myself off, got in the trusty Mazda, and headed north as rapidly as Montana highways allowed (quite rapidly indeed). At I-90, I refueled and headed west. Destination: Bozeman.

This is not Buzz.

I last saw Buzz at Bloomsday, and before that when he left Pullman after finishing his degree here. Like Scott, Buzz is one of those people that am very sad to see gone, but also happy that he’s close enough I can make excuses to visit. Unlike Scott, Buzz moved to Montana, where the taps can carry the good stuff.

The beer in Bozeman is lovely. The mountains are too. I was only here for a few days, so everything blurred together, but I remember good food, great beer, another 10 miles of amazing biking (even if Buzz called it the “easy” trail). Fortunately, he was tapering for a race the very next day, so I was able to keep up with him.

Then it was down to Big Sky, where more beer, more mountains, and more friends awaited—Scott was also running, and we had a grand reunion of sorts. Long time, no see!

Sunday morning, we go back down to America’s largest ski area; it’s race day. I have no desire to run this kind of race, but Buzz and Scott seem to enjoy it. I’m ok with that, their desire to run great distances over formidable terrain took me to Scotland.  Twice. The weather was foul—visibility was poor enough to eliminate the run to the top and snow was falling in the village. In August. Annie and I slept inside while Buzz and Scott suffered.

Post race, we settled for pizza, beer, and company, before retiring back to Bozeman for the last night.

The next morning, I woke to a weather report of snow and 34° weather over the continental divide near Butte. My Miata, with her summer tires had to travel west over that pass to get home. I waited. An hour later, the temperatures had dropped to 33. Now or never, I thought, so I got in the car before anybody else was awake (or at least before anybody was moving outside their own room), quietly backed out, and onward.

I only had 400 miles to go and I’d be home.

Leaving Bozeman, the conditions were not too bad. The temperatures were warm and it was raining lightly. But as I moved west and gained elevation, the weather turned on me. By the time I was climbing homestake pass, I was following semi trucks, just to ensure I’d have clear road. The temperature gauge in the Miata had long ago flashed ‘ICE’ and now just shows the temperature. 33 degrees. I drove a bit slower.

And then it was over. I reach the top and drop down. By the time I reach Butte, it’s raining again. Several hours later, I’m in Missoula and it’s almost sunny for a moment, before it rains again. This wasn’t my dream crossing of Lolo Pass, but again, you take the road you have, not the road you want.

Let the twisties begin!

In the end, this trip took 24 days. I travelled close to 3500 miles, visited 7 states, 2 national parks, 1 national volcanic monument, and rode just over 100 miles of trail. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

The Park

Growing up, visits to the National Parks were not a regular event. I don’t remember more than few visits; almost all of them were within Washington.

I know Mount Rainier was a core part of my young life, including a stuffed bear that I still have today. But I’ve never been to Yellowstone before this trip.

Concerned I would crash during the long August days, I gave myself a day to arrive, three to visit, and another half day beyond that before I had any commitments. I used every moment of that time.

In a perfect world, I would have felt confident camping in the park and spent the nights where I had spent the days. I live in a world with bears, so instead I shied just outside the park, staying inside and crossing state lines twice a day.

Initially, I had planned to spend half a day in Grand Teton, but summer fires closed the road and the southern entrance, so I changed plans and drove directly  to West Yellowstone instead. The town is about what I expected—expensive and touristy. However, I was now in Montana, not Utah. The beer was good and contained enough ethanol to be satisfying. The local playhouse was active and tickets were cheap, so I watched “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.” The grocery store was well stocked and accessible. But once the sun set, the nights were quiet, and my bed, while firm, was comfortable.

After a long day of traveling from Salt Lake City, a quiet night in a comfortable bed was perfect.

The following morning, I woke early and headed east. “Aren’t you cold?” asked the Ranger as I handed over my pass that first morning, just after dawn. It was about 40 degrees, and I was dressed in layers, but even with the heat running, driving my car without a roof will evoke skepticism. “Nah,” I replied, “I’m layered. I’ve got a hat!”

“… OK . Have a nice day!”

“Thanks, ” I replied before putting the car into gear and driving on.

It is hard to write of new and grand experiences. It is not just “I saw this. I saw that. Then I saw this other thing too!” But I did see this, and that, and also this other thing. Forest Fires burning down to the road as you slip past, bison blocking the boardwalks you walk along, waterfalls, steam, geysers, colors. These are the anchors of experience.

Yellowstone was a nearly three day adventure, but the memories—myriad wildlife, sulfer, riding a bike down an abandoned road and running into a herd of Elk, soaking in the edge of the Boiling River, the many hours of solitude, they are difficult to express. The Worlds’ first National Park is a wonder, and attempting to describe it just seems to come up wanting.


Consider just my last day: I woke up at dawn just outside Gardiner, drove south and quickly gained elevation as I moved back into Wyoming. I continued past Mammoth and found a place to park along the Grand Loop, near the upper tier of the Mammoth geysers. Then it was time to ride. All good trails require a little bit of work for the reward, and my work was ahead of me now. I climbed from Mammoth to the top of the Silver Gate before I finally reached the trailhead I had found the day before in the map.  Mountain Biking! In The Park! Sure, it was a smooth old jeep trail and not double track, but this is an opportunity I didn’t realize I would have, so I had to take it. Along the way up, I passed Elk grazing along the side of the road—elk that had no problems with cars, but quickly ran away when they saw me huffing along on a bike. On the way down, I would discovery that my noisemaking was inadequate, as I rode directly into a herd of about 20 Elk in the woods. At least I didn’t spook a bear.

I had just enough time after I finished to take a soak in a hot river (another unexpected surprise—I got to sit in a thermal feature in Yellowstone), and my park visit ended.

Half-way pause

I spent four days in Salt Lake City, and only one of them involved me doing something on my own. After multiple days of solitude, doing things with other people was a welcomed change.

On a hazy Thursday morning, I sat down in the drivers’ seat and headed north to Antelope Island. I saw no antelope, but I saw plenty of bison. I also saw plenty of sand. Under the high summer sun, my grand plans to ride twenty or so miles shrunk to just eight. It still counts, so the ride counter for the trip can be incremented to 5.


The day wasn’t over though. After fighting SLC traffic home and nearly being run over as I did, I rested a bit before Scott came home and we headed out on a short trail near the edge of the city.

75 minutes after starting, winded, gasping for air, we stood on Grandeur Peak looking down on the city and took in the setting sun. It was worth every step. The run back down took 30 minutes less time, but we still lost the race to the setting sun and returned home in the twilight.

The next day, Scott got the morning off and we travelled to the nearby Heber Valley, so we could travel on of Scott’s favorite trails. The coyote loop winds around a local prominence near the Jordanelle Reservoir, providing 20 miles of mildly rocky, twisting trail with spectacular views of the Wasatch mountains to the west. Riding with Scott reminded me of former times when we would go out on Moscow Mountain; like then, Scott beats me up the hill. Another ride in the book.

With just two days left before it was time to move on, we focused the weekend on  other important things in our life. It may be August, but at Snowbird, Oktoberfest starts early and the timing was right. It was a Beer Chasers Reunion—John, Darcie, Quinn, Avery, Scott, Annie, Alex, and I gathered at a table and celebrated friendship with beer. It was here that I was told that I would be returning in the winter. Together, we drank our low alcohol beer and caught up. I will happily admit Utah’s ridiculous beer laws make for good Oktoberfest beers—you can drink all afternoon and still be walking at the end of the day.

I slept well that night.

Snowbird tops out at 11000 feet. For most people, visiting the top of the mountain is as simple as standing up as the tram hauls you from the base. Sunday morning, we walked. We were rewarded with a few scrambles up knife-like ridges, a bit of vertigo, and a stunning high elevation view once we arrived. Then we walked back down and drove home.

Thus ended four days in Salt Lake City. Monday morning, it was time to pack up, turn the car north, and drive. Next destination: The Park.

Some times you take the road you want, some times you take the road you have

On this trip, I’ve avoided the freeways and kept to the two-lane back roads whenever I could. Roads with corners were my preference, of course. From Winnemucca to Salt Lake City, this wasn’t going to happen. There’s really only one way to get there from here, so a day on I-80 it is.

Nevada’s speed limit is 75. At the Utah state line, the limit crept up slightly to 80. In both cases, I set the cruise control to 78 and moved along; any faster and the bike hanging off the back of the car would start to oscillate in the wind.

I stopped for lunch at Bonneville and briefly considered making a run into the famed speedway salt flats, but then though about how Miatas love to rust. I don’t want to encourage that behavior, so I kept to the wide and straight road east. I made two other stops for fuel as I travelled. At the last one, near SLC international, the roof returned to its natural stowed position. A few more miles of frantic traffic and I’m there.

For the next five days, Scott, Annie, and Olliver’s home would also be mine.