Wednesday, September 26, 2007


I'm working in Vermont this week, and... maybe I'm slow on the uptick... but did any of the rest of you know that Vermont has a BUNCH of COWS?!?!? Yeah, it had plumb evaded me, this bit of knowledge. I know I had to know this in the back of my mind somewhere, because I've had Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream and I'm a compulsive reader, and I know they buy their milk from a local co-op of dairy farmers who don't squirt rBGH into the cows. And I've had Vermont Cheddar cheese, I'm sure. Still, nobody was more stunned than I was to walk into my suite at the Comfort Inn and find a bucolic landscape photo featuring COWS on the wall of my room. I associate that sort of stuff with home, and well, Vermont is about as far from "just like home" as I can imagine, at least east of San Francisco.

So while I'm in Vermont, I took the factory tour at Ben & Jerry's up in Stowe and drove up the mountain to Smuggler's Notch for some scenery. I ate ice cream for supper and enjoyed the gnarly road immensely. It is debatable whether I'd have enjoyed the road up the mountain more on my bike. I think I would have, except that tonight the fog had fallen on the valleys and the air itself was wet in a singularly rain foresty way. That meant the asphalt was wet, and with the foliage turning and dropping here, that would have made for a slick and scary road to ride in the dark on a motorcycle. I'd just concluded that even with all the negative factors I'd still rather be riding when the road got so narrow there was no center stripe and the turns got so tight that cars from opposite directions couldn't navigate them at the same time. That made me very glad for the rented cage I was driving, even in light of a glorious near-full moon.

Yeah. Fall foliage, fog in the valley, full moon, view from the mountain, belly full of (free) ice cream. Travel sucks, don't it?

In conclusion, I leave you with a picture from the Ben & Jerry's flavor graveyard. Something I did NOT know is that Ben & Jerry debut about 10 new flavors a year, meaning that 10 old flavors get the boot. Flavors that were really dismal sellers and have no hope of resurrection get a bad epitaph and go in the flavor graveyard. Others are simply put in the deep freeze. People can vote on the website to resurrect them, but so far none of the resurrected flavors have passed the test of the open market and they've all been re-retired. Here was my favorite "gravestone"

i also bought my new little niece a tie-dyed onesie, because i'm a hippie freak and i think every kid needs tie-dye in their closet. it has "ben and jerry's" printed across the chest which is a whopping big irony, because the kid is so lactose intolerant that her sisters can't touch her until they wash all milk/cheese residue from their hands and faces with hot, soapy water. still, this has introduced her mother (my sister) to the goodness that is sorbet. poor thing. fruit ice cream was never her thing. we used to go to the ice cream shop down the way when we were wee kids, and she ALWAYS got some uber-creamy chocolate-enhanced flavor. me? the sherbet. so tonight, in her honor, i ate TWO SCOOPS of Half-Baked, which is itself a blend of Chocolate Chip Cooke Dough and Brownie Batter Ice Cream. because she's back home eating my piece of the world's sorbet allotment.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Thank you, Mr. Mayor

THIS is the reason for Coming Out. When gay people have the courage to explain their orientation to those near and dear to them, the dear ones see the human face of gay people. We are not monsters. We are not depraved beasts intent on destroying the moral fabric of or the family unit in America. My gay agenda mostly consists of getting paid for doing my job, spending my free time with family and friends, and remembering to pour out the milk when it goes sour, y'know?

The quick summary for the link averse: Jerry Sanders, the mayor of San Diego has tearfully confirmed that he will support gay marriage, as opposed to civil union, in San Diego. Part of his decision was based on his recognition that he couldn't sanction unequal treatment for his gay daughter.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Dallas Pride Parade 2007

Dallas has their gay pride celebration in September. Most cities have theirs in June, to commemorate the Stonewall Riots of 1969. But in Dallas, nominally to honor the first reversal of the Texas sodomy statutes by Judge Barefoot Sanders (I am not making this up! That's his name!) and realistically in deference to the blistering heat of June weather in Texas, we hold our parade in September. Even then, it's pretty doggone hot. The good thing about this is that I was able to attend San Francisco Pride this year in cool, comfortable temperatures in June, and then Dallas Pride in relatively comfortable (relative to June in Dallas) temperatures in September. Double my fun!

Hot or not, we were out with our Big Girl Britches on, braving the crowds and the drama and the deadly strings of flying Mardi Gras beads, and having fun. Here are some pictures! The black bike in the foreground is the next evolution of design for my bike. It's called a Valkyrie Rune. It's not my idea of a replacement for the fantastic tourer I ride, primarily because it doesn't have a stock passenger seat or saddlebags. Mine is the red one behind, with the Texas flag hanging from it. Rose's is just behind mine with the US flag on hers. We mount flagpoles on our luggage racks for this parade and it looks pretty sharp, if I do say so. You can see for yourself... It's not that I'm a queer aesthetic snob or anything, but I really like the appurtenances to my bike to look nice and DUCT TAPING a 1x2 to my passenger seat doesn't fit my snobby queer aesthetic standards. :) That said, the overall effect was very nice from a distance, as you can see. A long line of open-minded motorcyclists stretching off to the horizon! Muahahahaha! My gay agenda plan for world domination is nearly complete!

The girl on the back of my bike is Rose's ex. The girl on the back of Rose's bike is said ex's current girlfriend. They found us along the parade route and hopped on board. In accordance with the age-old adage that 'nobody rides for free', they bought us a beer after the ride was over. It was great fun! I'd be lying if I said it wasn't a little weird, but either they're as drama free as we are, or they were on their best behavior. Either way, it was All Good and we had fun hanging out. Here's another photo of me with my passenger. It has been suggested that Rose has a "thing" for tall brunettes, but I'll let you be the judge of that.

Once the parade was over, we pulled in near the park and sat in the shade to hear the fabulous Anton Shaw sing us some tunes. Pretty soon, I couldn't sit still any more, and I got up to play catch with the Diablos who were out tossing the rugby ball around. No, they're not actual demons. Just a bunch of guys who are mostly gay and play rugby. Thanks for letting me play, boys! And let me close by saying that there is absolutely nothing in my long years playing women's rugby that prepared me for seeing a drag queen in silver lamé miniskirt, bolero jacket and knee-high boots running down the field to receive a pass. Just nothing. I don't even know if a picture could adequately express how weird that was.

And that's the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade 2007. Weird, but good. But for all the sights of the parade, nothing was as weird as seeing myself from behind, playing rugby in jeans.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Nevada, Great Basin National Park

Hot and Dry
Well, Nevada is just as hot and dry as you imagine it to be. However, if you get to a high enough elevation, it cools off. Also, traveling early or late helps. I know all of these things. Did I do them when I was in Nevada? Not so much, no. In fact, not at all, really. I'm not what you'd call a "morning person". In fact, the only way you could call me a morning person while maintaining your poker face would be to declare it Opposite Day first. So we didn't get out of our hotel room much before 8 in Nevada, and we rode a short distance to Great Basin National Park, where we dorked around for most of the day.

We did get up to some elevation there, and I dragged my girlfriend on a short hike. It's not particularly comfortable to hike in motorcycle boots, just in case you were planning to try it. The elevation made the midday heat more bearable, and we saw some neat sights and took some good photos up there. We even met an interesting gentleman who learned the international sign language for "Holy Crap! Check out the deer up there on the shoulder!" while trying to pass us as we stopped in the middle of the park road to take pictures. See? Deer! In all fairness, doing the hand motions from "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer" that I learned in third grade might not count as International Sign Language. But the gentleman spied the deer before he spooked it and let his car roll quietly back down the mountain a few score feet so we could finish our photography. We all pulled into the next scenic turnout together and had a nice chat. If my girlfriend can find his business card, I'll add a link to his travel blog here. He's retired and touring the country, blogging his adventures. I was a little jealous.

Too Far!Unfortunately, the time spent in the park meant we were stuck at Stateline through an afternoon power outage that crippled the gas pumps in every town we had enough gas to reach. Stateline is a fascinating place: a gas station and diner on the Utah side where taxes are low, and a casino on the Nevada side where gambling is legal. We took pictures of the old manual gas pump (how cool would it have been if it had contained actual gasoline!?!?!) and tried to decide what to order from the greasy spoon diner there, since they were cooking with gas. We ate some very greasy food and browsed in the gift shop and eventually the electricity came back on. This allowed us to press into Utah, where we rode through the sunset and into Green River.

One final note on Nevada, before parting: their Cattle Crossing signs are ... special. They were special enough that Rose and I both noticed and commented on them when we drove past them. Maybe it's the free-range law in Nevada that gives cattle the right-of-way. Maybe it's male chauvinism. Either way, in most states I've visited, the cattle crossing sign looks approximately like the one here on the left. Cattle Crossing Not so in Nevada! They have very fancy cattle crossing signs that look like this one on the right. It makes me want to write a lame joke about Steers and Queers. Or Steers That Are Queers. Or something. Maybe the critter depicted on the sign is just a very happy, free range steer. Either way, I leave you to ponder the question, since neither Rose nor I could answer it.

Now, as you may know from viewing my "Words I Like" section over there in the right-hand border of this blog, I have a pretty dim view of the Interstate Highway system as a means of tourism. As an engineer, I'm well aware of its purpose (Ike ordered it built out of the frustration he felt trying to marshal armies across Europe in WWII) and as a dedicated, lifelong roadtripper, I'm aware of its usefulness. Still, as a motorcyclist, I tend to look down on the "Superslab" as it's known among us two-wheelers. It is, as Charles Kuralt noted, a great way to get from one end of the country to another without seeing anything along the way. The exception to that rule, however, is I-70 through Utah. In ordinary daylight, the scenery is breathtaking. In the cool gloaming, as the night replaces the day, the soft light reflected by the jewelled earth tones of the landscape are achingly beautiful in a way that my words cannot touch. So I'll shut up now and let you see it, with a note that credit goes, as always, to Rose for the photos. Magical Utah

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

rain fell on alabama

in alabama, there's this big cultural thing about how "stars fell on alabama". every little municipality here has its name on the city limits in a star-shaped sign, it's all over the license plates and bumper stickers. i am here to tell you, brothers and sisters, that the song got it WRONG. meteors may have graced the atmosphere here once or twice, but what FELL on alabama was RAIN. in buckets. in sheets. in giant waves pushed by the tires of semi-trucks coursing down i-85 in the dark of night. thus, i feel nothing but unlove for the rain that fell on alabama last night.

i tried to be prepared. i saw clouds overhead, so i checked the weather radio before i went roaring off into the hills to find this little restaurant by the lake, just to be sure. yes, i have a weather band radio. it came in the CB unit for the bike. this does NOT make me a geezer.

the weather radio said that we had a weather front in birmingham moving EAST. for those playing along at home, montgomery is SOUTH of birmingham. it is not EAST. east of birmingham you find such exciting destinations as atlanta. i, gentle readers, am SOUTH of birmingham. naturally, all my brilliant geographical knowledge did not avail me dryness yesterday.

luckily, i was able to kick up my feet and watch the weather channel for a couple of hours at the restaurant where i ate dinner. unluckily, i had to drink coke instead of the delightful $1 beers that the bartender was serving up. had i known how long i was going to be stranded, however, i might've had a beer or two. as it is, i'm an optimist, so i kept drinking coke and looking for the sky to clear.

luckily, the busboy gave me good directions home that did NOT involve the twisty, hilly road i'd ridden out there on. twisty, hilly roads are BIG! FUN! when you're in dryness and light. they are sucky, anxiety-riddled death when you are in dark wetness. unluckily, i hit another cell of the storm about 10 miles from my hotel. i had to pull over under a freeway overpass to sit it out.

luckily, the overpass loomed almost immediately after the hard rain started and was relatively safe and dry. unluckily, i sat there for 30 minutes looking at the dry, comfortable gas station on the far side that i couldn't get to because i had passed up the exit while i was so fixated on JUST. MAKING. THE. OVERPASS.

bonus fun: my leather gloves were apparently dyed black on the cheap. when i came home, all of my fingers and a ring around my palm were stained dark black. i looked like i'd been very thoroughly fingerprinted!