Monday, August 31, 2009

LA is Burning, We are Leaving

The Los Angeles area is on fire. Something (doesn't really matter what) finally ignited all the dead brush just waiting top burn up in the foothills.

It's eerie down here. Those same foothills glow red at night and look like active volcanos. Very apocalyptic.

Hot temperatures (105-110F highs), low humidity and no wind has exacerbated the situation, resulting in unbreathable smoky air in the basin. El Prieto Canyon is a scorched ruin and given the poor erosive state it was already in will most likely not survive the winter runoff. Next year I will probably have to ride in the Santa Monicas because the local trails will all be gone. At present, though, what is more important is I have a 100 mile mountain bike race in two weeks and am unable to ride because of hazardous air. Wow, that paragraph really ties the last two months together!

Anyway, to combat worsening conditions in LA Carie and I did what we always do: get the hell out. We're now on our favorite island refuge. It's temperate (80F degree highs!), the air is sweet, there's swimming, and I can mountain bike as far as I want. Tomorrow I'll put in a 50-60 mile day and hopefully not die. This is all in addition to being able to work without distractions in a nice environment! Carie is studying for quals and I'm reading about emission spectroscopy (which is very interesting despite what you may think).

On the boat trip out this morning we crossed paths with a school of 50 or 60 very playful and friendly dolphins that proceeded to come right up to us and surf our wake. Adorable. Enjoy!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

We went to the Zoo, Zoo, Zoo!

For my birthday (and her pre-quals de-stresser) Carie took me to the San Diego Zoo. There were lots of cute and cool animals, but I didn't take very many pictures of them. I did get a good picture of a red-haired primate mocking me:

They're just like us!

By far the best parts were at dusk and dark (the zoo stayed open until 9pm). At dusk we watched the otters play and once it got dark we wandered over to the big cats, who were much more active than one usually gets to see. Even the snow leopards were up and moving! We watched two cougars from four feet away size us up for dinner. Those are some powerful, scary cats. It's unnerving to think that they live in the wild where we play.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Fishy Fishy!

To those who say that fish cannot be cute, I present the following evidence from the Monterey Bay Aquarium:

Sea horses!

They're so cute when they're perched.

Wee little one (1.5" long)

The cutest camouflage ever!

Of course, seahorses aren't the only thing they have on offer there. There's also the beautiful and graceful:

Luminescent Comb Jellies (they really do glow in rainbow patterns, and the patterns cycle along their sides like disco lights; so cool!)

Black Sea Nettles, who don't really know what's going on, nor do they care. They just go on doin' their thing, man.

The fearsome:

Sharks are always cool.

That tuna in the upper right behind the school of mackerel is nearly 6' long and 2' across. Monstrous.

And the so-cute-someone-really-ought-to-make-a-law-against-it cute:

Sea Otters are among the cutest things ever. What else sleeps in such adorable poses?

No shame at all.

Hello, there!

I am loving the new camera! See if you can spot which pictures I imported from RAW instead of using the plain jpg.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Deer in the...Sunlights?

It's official: I can climb as fast as a deer. Now I just need to find a mountain goat to race.

This lovely lady was sitting in the middle of the trail on the climb to El Prieto today.

She took off when she saw me and started trotting up the trail.

I was able to whip the camera out and get some pictures as I gave chase.

I was gaining but didn't want to get too close and really freak her out. Eventually she figured out it was easier to evade me if she left the trail and we parted ways.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Splitboard for Carie

As a surprise when Carie was gone, I converted her board into a splitboard. I documented the process, but haven't posted it until now because I didn't want Carie to see it. Note to snowboarders: I'm pretty sure it's actually easier to learn how to ski than to convert a board to a splitboard. You should just go do that. In the end it turned out very nicely, though. I found this forum post to be extremely helpful. Oddly enough he's also a skier making a splitboard for the missus. Funny how that works out. If you ever want to do this, check his photo essay out: it's much better than the directions or my post.

Also, I must plug The skins are superior to my Black Diamond Ascensions in nearly every way and way cheaper. 130mm skins (plenty wide for a splitboard) were $99.

Finally, I need to thank Jeannie for her moral support throughout this (and David for making fun of me, which is his own form of moral support). Without them to blab to about this I wouldn't have been able to do it, nor would I have been able to keep it a secret from Carie for so long. so without further ado, the pictures:

Carie's board measured and ready to cut. I hacksawed the tip and tail to prevent the table saw from ripping the edge out.

For reasons unclear to everyone (including herself), our friend Alyssa owns a table saw despite living in an urban studio apartment. Handy to borrow, though.

A long breathless cut later...

I sealed the inside edges with marine epoxy for longevity.

A closer look at the sealed edge. It's funny how easily rocks eat up your bases, but damn is that stuff hard to file or cut. I spent forever cleaning the edge of the ptex to a nice bevel.

Countersunk holes for the clips...

...and the bolts in and sealed with marine epoxy. I went through a tube and a half of the stuff on this project. Great stuff, though.

And the pivoting clips are mounted.

Mounting the climbing bracket. I actually didn't take many pics of what I had to do to the base of the board here in order to protect the innocent. If you must see, I refer to you the forum post. It's ugly.

Climbing posts as well, same evil process.

And there's a board ready for the slider rails to be mounted.

Measure several times, drill once. I used some tape as a drill stop; very effective. I'll have to remember that next time I mount some skis.

Add the tip clips, and it's done!

Touring mode.

Skins are trimmed, bases are waxed, and this thing is ready to go. Too bad it's summer in LA right now. It'll get use this winter.

Since this was Carie's
only board, I though it necessary that I get her a replacement for her in-bounds activities . At the REI used gear sale, in addition to picking up up AT bindings for ultra cheap (which I'll sell to supplant the cost of the splitboard), I also picked up an Arbor Push board for a very nice price. It had been returned after a single use because there was 1/2" of minor delamination on the tail; a little bit of epoxy later and it's good as new. The base and edges are pristine. I mounted it with some Drake bindings from brociety and it's ready to rip.

So purdy (for a snowboard, that is)!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Kit Fox?

Last summer I took pictures in our backyard of what I thought was a coyote:

I've seen it a few more times and tonight I got a very close look at it as I was driving up the hill. It sat in my headlights when I stopped and we started at each other for a while. Unfortunately when I got the camera out it darted into the dark, but then stood still. It is definitely too small and skinny to be a coyote. It's only about a foot tall at the shoulder and two and a half foot long, including. Its ears are also too big and wide for a coyote. On top of all of this, it has been solitairy every time I've seen it, something I've never experienced with coyotes. I think it may be a kit fox, which would be pretty cool: