Monday, September 1, 2014

A More Sane Approach to Holidays

Little Texas #3, CO. Let's get one thing out of the way: I like Texans. All it took was spending my first winter as a full-time RVer in the Texas Hill Country. I left wondering why so many Yankees have a prejudice against such friendly people. At least I did, at one time.

Furthermore, I do not hate motorized recreational sports. There are just too many of them, that is all.

Aren't there better alternatives to the weekend/holiday warrior pattern? Just think of the expense families suffer when they own motorized toys, one for every family member over age 6, and then use those toys a couple days per year. And then there is the toy hauler or flat-bed trailer, and a $65000 King Ranch F350 pickup truck to pull all that crap. They are pissing money away so fast. They should save it for double digit inflation in healthcare, college, and food.

Let's try to come up with some constructive alternatives. Wouldn't it cost less to give their little darlin' 6-year-old girl lessons with an Uzi machine gun? And stay home. Keep the money in the local economy. (e.g., the Uzi instructor or the local gun shop.)

Seriously folks, wouldn't it be advantageous to take under-utilized public facilities, such as the county fairgrounds (or the county landfill for that matter), and build a dirt obstacle course? There could be a kiddie track next to the adult track. Public safety would be enhanced. Think of the ski industry.

At my dispersed camp this weekend there was a bit of excitement. An ambulance circled through my camping area, with all lights flashing. A sheriff followed. Then they left. What was that all about it?

The next day I returned to camp to find a flat-bed toy trailer loading up ATVs, with the supervision of a Law Enforcement officer of the U.S. Forest Disservice. I must have given the father a dirty look for blocking my campsite, because he began apologizing. One of the ATVs was pretty banged up. He said his son had driven off into a ravine the previous day, had broken his shoulder blades (?), and was now in a Denver hospital. That was what the ambulance and sheriff's car were all about the previous night. I wonder what the kid's age was.

Besides safety and expense, dirt tracks with obstacles at the county fairgrounds would create a festive atmosphere every weekend: country-western bands, barbecues, antique car or tractor shows, arts and crafts. People could camp in the infield of the racetrack and whoop it up all night. Nobody has to drive anywhere that night -- all the fun is right there! And that county fairground is un-used most of the year.

You might say that this would hurt the tourist economy in Colorado. Yea well, so what? The economy of this state depends on retirement McMansions as far as I can tell. The money not spent in Colorado would be spent more efficiently and safely back in Texas.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Holidays as a Chance to Re-assess Your Sports

With the hordes coming out for one last fling (Labor Day) I made sure to get one last mountain bike ride in. Hiking works better on a holiday weekend because it is easier to escape the motor-crazed yahoos.

At first the slope was perfect (semi-steep) and the road was smooth. When it got rougher I got a bit discouraged, but then gradually got used to it and learned to like it. It does take some effort to see the benefits of rough roads.

But let's back up a step. I once had an outdoorsy friend who acknowledged that aerobic-exercise sports (e.g., hiking, bicycling, running, swimming) might be "good for you", but were dull and repetitive. He preferred sports, such as technical climbing, that emphasized skill and risk. He had a point that would probably help me if I would work harder on developing more technical mountain biking skills.

But there were times when it seemed like buying crap for his sport was the main attraction. There are many sports like that: they have their own glossy magazine that features an exotic and picturesque locale where one "needs" to go, once a year, to pursue a high-ranked version of the sport. (It would dishonor all that specialized equipment to go somewhere mediocre, you see.) A scuba-diver told me that the average enthusiast in his sport spent the whole year looking at glossy magazines, planning his annual trip, and trying to save enough money.

I experienced the same thing with sea kayaking, and gave it up before becoming a full time RVer. I didn't want the burden of carrying a kayak on the roof, nor did I want to be pinned down in the specialized locations that one needs to go to pursue an overly-specialized sport. And all that equipment! 

Now you might say that I should have switched to whitewater kayaking. But once again, it pins you down in a few specialized locations. I was a full-time RVer, and wanted to pursue my sport just about anywhere. And how does a single individual spot a car at the take-out point?

What about kayaking small lakes? There is some interesting wildlife in the marshy edges of small lakes. But kayaking small lakes is slow, unexciting, and takes little skill.

What this is aiming towards is the issue of choosing the right sports and pursuing them in the right way in order for your full-time RVing lifestyle to be genuinely interesting. From the examples above, and many more that could be given, let's see if we can educe the main principles:

1. The sport should contain a balance of physical conditioning, great scenery, and ever-increasing skills. If the sport is about nothing more than physical conditioning, how is it going to stay interesting when you reach the physiological limits of your body, age, and health? Furthermore, a human being isn't just a body. They need something to do with their brain in their outdoor sports.

2. Although just about any sport is more fun with other people, you should be able to pursue it as an individual. Let's face it, if you are always negotiating with somebody else about Where and When, you will give up. The vast majority of men are not the masters of their own time and calendar.

3. Get a dog. Rather than pursue your sport in solitude, share it with a dog. If you haven't been infected with the enthusiasm of a dog on the loose, you have missed one of Life's great pleasures. (So then, why are so many hikers cat-owners? It's a mystery.)

"I love this lifestyle, Pops!"

4. Many locations should be good for the sport, and these locations need to be compatible with your camping. The sport shouldn't pin you down to places with crowds, fees, and camping restrictions.

5. A certain amount of speed, and therefore risk, is needed to keep the sport interesting. But the risk should be manageable. The excitement of taking risks should not become a drug addiction.

It is non-trivial to choose land that lends itself to your outdoor sports. If you fail, the results can be over-crowding, accidents, or just plain boredom.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Sun Winds Down

It was better than a colorful sunset. Surprisingly I had never done this before: drive out of my way to a spot where the mountains didn't block the last hour of the sun. Then I made a cup of tea and sat on the front step of the RV and watched the sun set. What did I think? That if I sipped the tea slowly the sun would slow in its descent, and I could suck out another five minutes of daylight?

But the leisurely sipping seemed to honor the sun and season. It is that time of year again, when I always getting a funny feeling in the stomach and a lump in the throat. It is time to retreat from the highest altitudes. No matter how many times I have done this, it still seems significant and dramatic.

But why does this funny feeling only come at the beginning of autumn? It never feels this way in the spring. Shouldn't it be symmetric?

My best guess is that we gringo/palefaces have a tribal memory of winter: winter is dangerous, winter is suffering. To escape winter by heading downhill and southward is a very dramatic thing.

This ritual had been so pleasant and satisfying, I couldn't help but think about how informal and inconsistent rituals of any kind have become. In 19th century novels, rituals are mentioned so often. Were they really considered that important by folks back then, or was the novelist just filling the page with ink in an easy way?

The decline of ritual might be a part of the decline of Formality, in general. There is no distinction between people any more. The Young do not honor the Old by calling them 'Uncle' or 'Mister.' Men do not honor women with little gallantries of daily behavior. Everybody is on a first-name basis with everybody else. A gentleman and a peasant wear the same slob-clothing. Everybody listens to the same ghetto music.

Formality is undemocratic, I guess. We keep extending the French Revolution to more and more categories. When do we get bored with this endless leveling?

This slouching in the standards of civilization has been going on all during my life. But civilization can't just slouch into informality forever, or it would have ceased to exist millennia ago. When does civilization take a spike upward? Are those rare and rapid events in human history, followed by many generations of slouching?

Yes, I know. Grouchy old men have always had that point of view. I was rereading the beginning of Boswell's "Life of Johnson" the other day. Even back in the late 1700s Boswell, a genuine Scottish laird after all, was complaining how meaningless the term 'gentleman' had become in degenerate modern times.
[Samuel Johnson's] father is there stiled Gentleman, a circumstance of which an ignorant panegyrist has praised him for not being proud; when the truth is, that the appellation of Gentleman, though now lost in the indiscriminate assumption of Esquire, was commonly taken by those who could not boast of gentility.
This topic is too long and difficult for this morning, and I am too lazy. The only thing that is certain is that there is no better place to think of these issues than a land delineated by orogeny and erosion, a land of mountain and canyon, of lifting up and wearing away.

Extra credit to any reader who can identify this peak in the Tucson area where I play out the spring equinox ritual. In a couple weeks it will be time for the Autumn Equinox ritual of camping with the sun setting or rising on some fine topographic feature.