Showing posts with label adventure. Show all posts
Showing posts with label adventure. Show all posts

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Chasing a Balloon Across a Red Rock Sky

How do they do it? Although it is easy to find the places where balloon-ride companies launch from -- in fact I've camped right there a couple times -- but how do they ever retrieve their balloons and customers after a ride?  I suppose there is more of a serious business to it than what first appears to a customer, or even to new employees.

Coffee Girl and I were returning from a mountain bike ride, when we crossed paths with three young buckaroos in retrieval mode. We made a game out of using them as our pace car. Notice the rectangular openings in the wicker basket. Are those meant to be peepholes for munchkin customers?

At one point we caught the three balloon wranglers, which I'm guessing consisted of a pickup driver and two balloon pilots. They looked just like you would guess: young men, 25-30, healthy and vivacious, who are postponing real employment in the rat race for a brief stint at a "fun" job in a glamorous location. 

It must be easy for the company to find such fellows. Presumably they are barely making a living. But they certainly seemed happy enough. Eventually he will meet some gal who likes him for his virile glamour and sense of freedom. She will then, of course, begin the process of domesticating him, finally culminating in complete regression to a normal life in the suburbs. Ah well, so goeth the way of all flesh...

At one point, the driver had to bring the truck and balloon trailer across a sandy and wet creek crossing. An overhanging branch from a cottonwood tree just missed the propane burners by inches. I wonder what the customers would have thought if they had visualized that, before going on their first ride?

I've never taken a balloon ride. Blame cheapness. But is that so bad? Would it really be that great to consume one more bar-coded delight of the mass-tourism industry? Instead, my dog and I got a kick out of pedalling down the sandy road, pretending that we were chasing the balloon across the sky.

Recall the movie version of Jane Austen's "Sense and Sensibility."  The romantic sister and her kid sister went traipsing off across the soggy downs. And Marianne exclaimed, "There is some blue sky. Let us chase it!"

Friday, March 20, 2015

Are Extreme Sports an Answer to Shackleton?

Is it crazy to read about Ernest Shackleton's adventures when our modern world lacks real adventure? Everything on earth has been seen. If you were to sign up for XYZ Adventure Tours, they would have you sign legal disclaimers, despite nothing genuinely dangerous being permitted. And you would be encased in safety equipment.

In the world of travel, people who might see themselves as "adventurers" are actually like a lazy student who looks up the answers in the back of the book, rather than attempting to work the problem out on his own. With Benchmark and DeLorme atlases, Wikipedia, websites, blogs, and Google Earth, everything is known.

So are we just looking back at the good old days of Shackleton, when men were made of iron and ships were made of wood, with romantic nostalgia?

But there is still this thing called extreme sports in the modern world; marathon running, peak bagging, bicycle racing, etc. These don't offer the glamor of the unknown, nor are they particularly dangerous. But, as with Shackleton, they do give people a chance to climb way out of their comfort zone.

Actually, when you go outside the comfort zone, you are going into an 'undiscovered country', in a sense. It isn't "undiscovered" in the same sense as it was for Magellan or Shackleton, but it still counts.

I experience "extreme" sports a little bit, when acting like a pseudo-racer in the winter bicycle club in Yuma. There is something of value there. Ordinarily, I would be repelled by the repetition needed to get physically fit. Recall my standard stump speech in favor of not going past the point of diminishing marginal utility. Endurance athletes and racers go way beyond this point.

Perhaps that is the real value of a snowbird winter: to take a vacation from our usual way of thinking even if we like our usual way of thinking.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

What Would Shackleton Think of Modern "Adventurers?"

It was time for a rematch with a slot canyon that I love. Well, it isn't exactly a slot canyon in the Utah red-rock sense of the word. Actually, it's creepier because it is a steep gash in packed dirt, with layers of gravel every couple feet; except that it seems too hard for dirt, and too soft for rock.

The gash is only about 75 feet high. It seemed to be cleaned out -- deepened -- compared to last time.

Believe it or not, the photograph shows my limit of penetration. Physically it was possible to walk another hundred feet, and I would have done so if it had been real rock. But the idea of the "angle of repose" kept spooking me out.

Ah well, I walked out of there and had a good chuckle about myself. It accomplished a little something. It seems that any time nature affects you in something other than the standard scenery-tourist way, you have experienced something real, non-trivial, and memorable.

But it is humbling to the extreme to look at a little experience like this with historical perspective. I am currently reading "Shackleton," by Roland Huntford. Bad timing! It is a biography of his entire life, not just the famous "Endurance" debacle. 

On his second trip to reach the South Pole, a few years before the Endurance debacle, Shackleton and his men were the first to use the route up the Beardmore Glacier.
"Glacier" hardly conveyed the feeling. This was a monstrous estuary of ice, 30 miles wide and over 100 miles long.

The headwaters of this monster were hard to conceive. There was a sense of irresistible, pent-up power behind its forms, like a tide caught in a moment of full surge.

The first day on the glacier they began to feel like true discoverers. Nothing had prepared them for the sensations by which they now were overwhelmed.

Without crampons, each step was an essay in uncertainty... 

Worse still was the mystery of what lay ahead. One thing at least was clear. The sheer size of the glacier hinted at the mass on which it fed. Shackleton was heading for a vast ice cap [over 10,000 feet in altitude] on which the Pole would probably be found.

The blue ice of the days before had given way to snow in one of its most treacherous forms; a thin, brittle wind crust that looked solid to the eye. It masked the crevasses, so that day after day everyone repeatedly broke through, saved only by their harnesses from falling into the fathomless pits below.

They did this without knowing the cause of scurvy or the word, vitamin. Unlike us, there was no
  • GPS coordinates, wireless, or weather forecasts. 
  • hooded parkas or good boots.
  • goretex, polartec fleece, nylon and polyester.
  • modern pain-killers, aspirin, or penicillin. 
  • quickie, dehydrated "backpacker" foods.
They didn't even have skiis, dogs, or dogsleds! They tried to use ponies.

And yet they were the first men to discover the glacier, climb it with no fatalities, and trudge halfway to the pole on the high polar ice cap. 

Where does that put you and me? We're still a little higher than an earthworm, I suppose. Although it is almost too bleak to contemplate, let's honestly confront our puniness these days; not for the sake of wallowing in self-criticism and unworthiness, but for the sake of seeing the Big Picture of what we are and where we could go.

I would rather focus on 'where we could go' than 'should', since the latter might be impossibly long-winded.

I really can't get any further tonight. I am too weak and puny against a vastness of a different type than what a person usually thinks about.