Thursday, July 26, 2007

never in a bajillion years...

...did i think i'd be agreeing with pope benedict xvi on any of the controversial topics of the day. but here's one we agree on. until we have some sort of scientific theory more sound than "proteins came together in a primordial soup in a random way to spark First Life, and maybe lightning was involved" about how the whole process of evolution was kicked off, i'm happy to believe that there's room for the touch of a Maker in there. however, that's no reason to eschew the mounds of evidence that say favorable adaptations stick around and change whole species because those adaptations better equip individuals to thrive.

for the link-averse, the following is the salient excerpt from the article above. and to this i say, "Right on, Your Holiness."


In his talk with the priests, the Pope spoke of the current debate raging in some countries, particularly the United States and his native Germany, between creationism and evolution.

"They are presented as alternatives that exclude each other," the Pope said. "This clash is an absurdity because on one hand there is much scientific proof in favor of evolution, which appears as a reality that we must see and which enriches our understanding of life and being as such."

But he said evolution did not answer all the questions. "Above all it does not answer the great philosophical question 'where does everything come from?"'

Monday, July 16, 2007

San Francisco

once we had ridden across all the deserts, we then had to ride through the winds that keep them so dry. california has some un-freakin-believable winds. we didn't quite make it all the way over to the pacific coast highway (Highway 1) but we did ride the Historic Camino Real (Highway 101) which parallels the 1 on the eastern side of the Coast Range. it's not as twisty, or as pretty, but it's faster for it. as an added bonus and a surprise, one of our friends from bakersfield finagled a little time off from work and joined us in the morning for our ride out to the 101. we enjoyed a fantastic twisty ride with gorgeous and unique scenery, a local guide, good eats, and great company. here we are, taking pictures of each other taking pictures:

the winds made the 101 just as exciting as the pch, i promise! i've heard other people tell stories of riding down the freeway with the bike leaned over like it was in a turn just to balance out the wind. and really, deep down, i thought they were exaggerating. motorcyclists are just a skosh shy of fishermen for dramatizing things.

so there i was, riding my behemoth of a bike up the 101 freeway in california, and i had to lean her over to keep her flying straight. it was bizarre. my friend (in the pic just above) who was riding with us from phoenix to san francisco has half as much engine as i do, and with her passenger, she had twice the load. her engine was maxed out, so we slowed down a bit below the ambient speed. even then, the wind made handling the bike an electrifying experience. and i mean that literally, in the sense that every single one of my hairs was standing on end... and my senses were crackling with the sights and sounds and smells... and the hot, dry air made me feel baked and chilled at once... i was aware of every truck on both sides of the highway... and all the passenger cars jockeying to get past the trucks and each other... and the yawning golden valleys on either side of the road waiting to eat me up if i leaned too far or not far enough, misjudged the wind, or misread a car's intention. by the time we hit the traffic jam rolling into san jose, i was ready for a break.

we did just almost require a tow truck to get my girlfriend past the exit to Cupertino, CA, where her beloved mac HQ is located.

then, after about 10 minutes sitting still on the outskirts of san jose in our black safety gear... we decided that we'd had enough of a break from the wind and we began my initiation into the most simultaneously civilized and barbaric practice in motorcycling: Lane Sharing, aka: Lane Splitting. in california, while this practice is not specifically allowed by law, it's not illegal; and as a practical matter, if you want to get anywhere in the gridlocked traffic so common there, you have to do it. so basically, a 4 lane freeway becomes a 7-lane freeway, with bikes running between the cars. at very low speeds this is tolerably safe, even if it is white-knuckling to the biker. studies have shown that it actually improves cyclist safety because it cuts down on the oh-so-common rear end collision that occurs when a distracted rush-hour driver fails to see the bike because they're looking for something car-sized. ask anyone who has ridden long in california, and they'll tell you all about their personal safety rules (usually a speed above which they won't try it) and the number of mirrors they've dinked or the times they thought OMGIMGONNADIE! i had been leading up to that point, but i declined the privilege during this exercise. and, even with my behemoth of a bike, i made it. we stayed reasonably close together, went just a few miles an hour faster than traffic, and when the traffic started moving consistently, we just slid back into a gap in the regularly-scheduled lane space. i'm not sure whether i liked it or not. it was definitely a mixed experience, but that's what i said about snow-skiing before i learned how to stop. well, i knew one way to stop, but that was basically to throw myself into the snow, and the results made for a very MIXED experience of skiing. it was always exciting, but not always fun.

this was us in california, one of my favorite pictures from the trip:

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Alamogordo, Tucson, Phoenix, Bakersfield, and San Francisco

Three Day Route

for the next three days of our trip, we weren't tourists. we were riders. we just pounded out the interstate miles gettin' where we had to go. at our first gas stop out of New Mexico, we pulled off the freeway to get gas and gatorade (the staples of desert riding!) the convenience store operator was also a rider himself and had a fabulous route suggestion that would save us time and miles getting into Phoenix, it bypassed Tucson and covered some prettier miles on the old US highway route. ordinarily, we would both have leapt on the opportunity to get off the freeway, save time, save miles, and see Something Pretty. unfortunately, rose was experiencing an intermittent microphone problem with her CB, and that meant we couldn't take the cool route because we had to go to Tucson.

Tucson, you see, is the headquarters for J&M, the manufacturers of our CB units. so we glued our wheels to the interstate and pushed on into Tucson. it was hot as blazes, but the kind folks at J&M fixed the microphone free of charge and got us back on the road quickly. they even gave us good directions that bypassed the nasty interstate construction and traffic logjam attendant thereon. the directions were perfect, too. as we approached the freeway on-ramp from the city street, we could clearly see TRAFFIC NOT MOVING on the freeway. we figured we had been led astray. we'd have to sit in NOT MOVING TRAFFIC for a couple of miles until we got out of town and out of the construction. i'm not sure i can adequately express how miserable NOT MOVING TRAFFIC is when you're in the desert, straddling a 6-cylinder engine, wearing a black jacket, black gloves, black helmet, and deprived of any mechanism of air cooling aside from the hot exhaust coming out the tailpipes of the NOT MOVING TRAFFIC in front of you. but lo, as we accelerated up the ramp, it became clear to us that the on-ramp joined the freeway about 50 feet past the end of the construction zone. the traffic behind us was still NOT MOVING. we, on the other hand, were MOVING. yea!

we stayed over with friends in Maricopa, AZ which is just south of Phoenix. the next day we stopped off at a really unique little diner in Gila Bend, AZ for breakfast. The place was called "The Space Age Diner" and it was all decorated up to make you feel like you were in a space ship. Or, like you were in what people in the 50's thought space ships would be like, really. It paid tribute to all sorts of space stuff, both the historical and the fictional, the decor was fun and funky and the waitress kept the coffee coming. my girlfriend, the NASA groupie, loved it. i couldn't ask for more, especially at that hour of the morning. i'm literally rendered mute without coffee, and if i'm not i should be.

Sunrise in Alamogordoone of the other staples of desert riding is Getting Up At The Crack Of Dawn.
at that point in the day, the temps are relatively low but you can still see well enough to ride safely. so we did. those of you who know me know that i am more the Getting Up At The Crack Of Noon sort of girl. so mornings are all a little blurry in my head, but they mostly involve lots of coffee and me squinting at the horizon and asking "is that what sunrise looks like?"

sometimes the answer was "no, that's a power plant" or "no, that's a big truck with lots of yellow lights". eventually, i'd get it right. the sun would come up, and then it would be, as my friends in college liked to say "Africa Hot."

so, when you're powering out the miles on the interstate, there's not much to see. it goes like this: "oh, look! a... well, i'm not sure what it was. it went by so fast." but we played silly motorcycle games and we took pictures of each other. so for three days, the ride looked like this:
Riding with friends
Chelli and Drew

Me on the Valk

Africa Hot

Monday, July 09, 2007

hey, look! my new niece!

welcome, baby girl. just wait 'til you can reach the passenger pegs. you're gonna LOVE motorcycles. (sis: i'm just kidding!)

in other news, richmond is nice. by the time they were done delaying my flight last night and got me out of town, we were several hours off schedule. the plane was mostly full of boy scouts on their way home from philmont scout ranch in cimarron, nm. i have a soft spot for them because almost all of my uncles were boy scouts, rising to the top rank of eagle scout. my grandmother used to look on in amusement when my sisters and i pulled out the scout manuals for guidance on how to tie each other up with clotheslines. she did occasionally comment that the eagle scouts in question would probably be horrified to know that we had learned their secret code language and their special knots.

anyway, the practical implication of a plane full of boy scouts, instead of the usual sunday night road warriors, is that by the time the beverage cart gets back to you in row 28, the only drinks left are diet soda and bloody mary mix. if i'd had any cash on me, i'd have gotten the real thing. as it was, i made do with my virgin bloody mary. probably for the best, since i didn't get to my room until 2 am. if you're going to drink that late at night, you need to drink so much that you don't notice the tiredness. unfortunately, that usually disposes the rent car guy very poorly to handing you any of his precious stock of keys. it's not usually too bad, getting a cab to your hotel, but then you have to get up in the morning and figure out how to get to work.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

waiting on the weather

i was supposed to fly out for richmond tonight at 6:35. it is now 7:05, and my flight has been delayed a third time, to 8:00 PM. eventually, i'll get out of dfw tonight. (see, i'm still an optimist!) and then i've got a class to teach.

so i'm sitting at the airport waiting on the weather delays to clear out, so the regularly scheduled flights can resume. i wonder if the dudes responsible for scheduling these things ever get frustrated by such persistent rains. knowing that it's just going to rain and scramble these flights, i wonder if they have trouble motivating themselves to make up a schedule in the first place?

anyway, i had a marvelous weekend visiting my godsons, until the last hour and a half. the children took complete leave of their senses and abandoned all their usually publicly acceptable manners and acted like heathens at lunch. i've been out to eat with them about a bazillion times, and it's usually pleasant. the kids wheedle a bit about what and how much to eat, they struggle with the instruction to sit upright and mostly still, but they do it. i don't know what got into 'em today, but they weren't fun to hang out with at lunch. which was not a great way to wrap up the weekend, but that's what i got.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Carlsbad, NM

the roadtrip was originally scheduled to begin at o-dark-thirty on tuesday. but then i decided that i could work a crammed half-day on monday so that we could get a little closer to our tuesday goal (El Paso, or thereabouts) on our first day. Dallas to El Paso is a hella long day, so getting part of the way there on Monday would spare us a Hellacious Tuesday.

Hellacious Tuesday

so the new plan was to leave at noon on monday, ride as far as we could or until we lost the light, and then start at o-dark-thirty on tuesday from a better launching point (which ended up being Abilene). but then, since we our tuesday was going to be easy-peasy instead of hella-hard, we decided to add an extra stop into the trip. and thus, we set our GPS for a waypoint of carlsbad, nm.

Better Tuesday

carlsbad is an unreasonably hot place in the chihuahuan desert (where there are NO dogs, wtf?!?!?) that lets you enter an unreasonably cold place 750 ft below the floor of the chihuahuan desert.

when you arrive at carlsbad caverns national park in an air conditioned car, you have difficulty arriving in the appropriate clothing to enter the cave. when you arrive on a motorcycle, outfitted for riding across the desert, you have no chance.

rose had never been to the caverns, and i had only been once when i was about 12 years old. i remembered a lot of the more lurid details of the place (rocks that look like nekkid bits! teehee!)nekkid bit 1
  but did not remember how cold it was. and it's a deceptive cold, because it's wet. and of course, you enter it from the desert, which is the epitome of dry heat. so at first, it feels all welcoming and cool and refreshing and great. then you notice the goose bumps, then the shivering sets in, and then your jaw locks up and you die huddled on a bench trying to warm yourself on a fluorescent bulb just enough to call for help. srsly. rose claims that she had no such trouble with the atmosphere in the cave, but i think she was just playing tough. damn that butch-girl ethic!

still, once i got back to the surface and thawed out my jaw muscles, i was able to tell rose that i really enjoyed the cave and would love to go back some day for a tour of the parts we didn't get to see. but only if i get to bring my sweater. and lest i make it sound like a bad place to go, the cavern really was quite beautiful. it's a natural marvel and i would love to go back for more. in a sweater. Beautiful Cavern

i have a niece!

a new one, that is. she was born last night (and thus now shares a birthday with her two older sisters) and is named Rebecca Faith. she's 9 lbs and change. congrats to my sister and my brother-in-law and to the new big sisters. i'll get a picture up here as soon as one comes available.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

13 days, 7 states, 4500 miles, and my hiney hurts.

so, after i whacked off all my hair, i set off across all the deserts on my motorcycle, along with my girlfriend. we actually had a good deal of fun doing this. i'm going to try to make a series of short posts regarding the various legs of our trip, but this one is a starter and a summary:

Deserts we crossed: (see Desert USA for a basic map)

  • Chihuahuan Desert
    • Trans-Pecos Desert
  • Sonoran Desert
    • Arizona Upland
    • Borrego Desert
    • Colorado Desert (It's in California. WTF?)
  • Mojave Desert
    • Northern Mojave
    • Southern Mojave
  • Great Basin Desert
    • Sevier Desert
  • Painted Desert (by the broadest definition)

Mountain ranges we crossed*:
  • New Mexico
    • Antelope Ridge
    • Guadalupe Mts
    • Sacramento Mts
    • San Andreas Mts
    • Cedar Mts (as nearly as I can tell, this was the Continental Divide)
  • Arizona
    • Peloncillo Mts
    • Dos Cabezas Mts
    • Dragoon Mts
    • Picacho Mts
    • Maricopa Mts
    • Gila Bend Mts
    • Plomosa Mts
    • Dome Rock Mts
  • California
    • Chuckwalla Mts
    • Little San Bernardino Mts
    • San Gabriel Mts
    • Tehachapi Mts
    • Temblor Range
    • Caliente Range
    • Coast Ranges
    • Sierra Nevada
    • Cathedral Range
  • Nevada
    • White Mts
    • Silver Peak Range
    • Monte Cristo Range
    • Toquima Range
    • Monitor Range
    • Sulphur Spring Range
    • Pancake Range
    • Grant Range
    • Egan Range
    • Schell Creek Range
    • Snake Range
  • Utah
    • Mountain Home Range
    • Confusion Range
    • Fish Springs Range
    • Coal Cliffs
    • San Rafael Swell
    • Roan Cliffs
  • Colorado
    • Rocky Mountains (Continental Divide, again)
    • Sawatch Range
    • Sangre de Cristo Mts

This list format makes it seem like we crossed a lot more mountains in Nevada than we did in Colorado. The funny thing is, Colorado was ALL mountains and Nevada was mostly high-altitude desert with mountainous accents here and there. But since the whole of western Colorado is one gigantic mountain range, it collapses into "Rocky Mountains" and leaves Nevada looking like the Mountain Champion State. Not so. Hopefully, some of our pictures will bear that out, as I get them posted in the coming days. Oh, and we didn't cross any mountains in Texas. Texas has a few mountains, but they're only in the part that's south of New Mexico, and we didn't get there.

Miles we rode:
  • Day 1 - Dallas to Abilene, TX: 345
  • Day 2 - to Alamogordo, NM: 344
  • Day 3 - to Maricopa, AZ: 457
  • Day 4 - to Bakersfield, CA: 550
  • Day 5 - to San Francisco, CA: 336
  • Days 6-8 - farting around the Bay Area: 274
  • Day 8 - to Jamestown, CA: 138
  • Day 9 - to Ely, NV: 483
  • Day 10 - to Green River, UT: 333
  • Day 11 - to Salida, CO: 387
  • Day 12 - to Dalhart, TX: 347
  • Day 13 - back to Dallas: 467

National parks we visited:
  • Carlsbad Caverns
  • Yosemite
  • Great Basin
  • Arches

Other unusual sights/attractions:
  • San Francisco Gay Pride Festival and Parade
  • Space Age Cafe in Gila Bend, AZ
  • Artesa Winery in Napa, CA
  • Flying tour of Point Reyes National Seashore and San Andreas Fault, CA
  • Royal Gorge Bridge in Cañon City, CO
  • Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, TX

* As far as I can tell. Mountain ranges, especially as they're rendered on road maps, don't have crisply-defined boundaries.

Monday, July 02, 2007

i got a haircut!

every few years, i like to grow my hair out. i grow it out until it's as long as i can stand it to get, and then i whack it off short and start all over again. i usually start growing it out about the time the phrase "yes, i know this is the women's room" starts to roll off my tongue even before the woman coming through the door can try to tell me i'm in the wrong place. unusually short hair, unusually long legs... sometimes the first impression is wrong. and eventually, that gets old.
it takes me about two years to grow my hair out to 12 inches, and i know that because the last time i got my hair cut was when my nieces were in the NICU. they're turning two this month, so that's how long my hair's been growing. i wanted to cut it before my monster road trip because my mop of hair is NOT something one wants to deal with on a two week motorcycle adventure. it's especially not something one wants to wear in the desert, and as i already mentioned, i was crossing ALL of them. (seriously: the chihuahua, the sonora, the mojave, the great basin. ALL the deserts)

it's the second time i've done this and donated the hair, but probably the 4th time i've done the drastic hair-chopping thing. this time, instead of just taking a borrowed pet trimmer to my own head, i got rose's sister to cut my hair for me. she did a great job! i like the process, i like the way it makes me feel lighter in body and spirit, but i really like knowing that all that time in maintenance and upkeep isn't just going into the trash. so, since 1 pic = 1k words, i'll just say that i donated the hair to Locks of Love and let you read the story below...

before the cut!

a foot of hair...

i'm ready. are you?

cleanup. with STYLE...

ta-daaa! high speed, low drag, easy-maintenance hair for the desert...