I May Have Restarted Winter

Much of the US is currently experiencing what experts like to call “winter”. Cold temperatures, wind, and frozen precipitation known as “snow”. Much of the northern hemisphere is engulfed in this same phenomenon. The 2018 Olympics may go down as the coldest on record. Here in the west we have not seen this same weather pgisstriattern. Locally we saw one snowstorm on Christmas day… and nothing since. After writing this, I’m preparing to go play golf. In FEBURARY. I may or may not wear shorts.

I am a little worried that I may have inadvertently restarted winter though. Yesterday I washed and cleaned the truck and we all know what happens when you wash the car. I also took my mountain bike in to the shop. I went for a ride the other day (in FEBURARY) and had a minor issue with the front brakes rubbing.

The bro at the shop seemed like a good guy. He had all the lingo down. “Hey bruther, how ya doing?” “Ah, that’s just righteous dude!” “Oh, such a buzzkill when you can’t get your flow on.” I think I understood most of it. He seemed genuinely sad for me that my ride wasn’t working. He put my bike up on the stand and starting giving it the once over. Like a doctor doing a proctology exam he pushed and measured, occasionally shaking his head and muttering to himself. Finally he looked up with sad puppy dog eyes and said, “bro, you’ve got some stuff we need to take care of”.

I am such a sucker. You do not want me negotiating anything for you. Apparently I have issues with my forks, fork seals, drive train, pistons, pads, badly designed first generation brakes, chain stretch… my eyes glazed over at that point. My aggressive, no nonsense response was “uhm, ok”.

I suspect the only original thing I’ll get back is my seat. The shop called shortly after I got home and said they’d have to order parts. It’ll be next week before it’s ready. Did I want to take advantage of the 12 month no interest financing plan?

Wait a week to hit the trails again? No problem. Check the weather to ensure we can still ride and… cold and active weather pattern is developing for next week.

If you’re not a fan of winter, I’m sorry. I may have jinxed this early spring for you. I guess I’ll get the ski gear ready to go. Will probably have to take stuff in to the shop for a tune up. Wonder how much that will cost me?

On Maturity

Watching the violent snowflake outrage in Berkley over thoughts that don’t match their group-think, I was reminded of a recent conversation Mrs. Troutdog and I had about maturity. We were talking about kids being able to safely walk/ride their bikes to school and she said “…but he’s only in middle school”.

I’m not a parent, which of course makes me perfectly qualified to pass judgement on parenting styles. I’m also not the most adventurous person in the world and tend to be pretty cautious most of the time. But this one time way back in the stone age I was twelve, about to turn thirteen. I wrote a letter (gasp, no email?) and applied to a summer camp I found in the back of Sunset magazine. I got the job, got on a Greyhound bus in Northern California and traveled down to San Diego alone. Spent the entire summer as a camp counselor and lifeguard.

Now this was not particularly extreme and I’m sure many of you who grew up in the mid-west were probably even more independent. I think most of today’s younger generation parents would be horrified at the idea of putting a twelve year old on a bus to travel 800 miles away, alone. Practically grounds for a child abuse lawsuit. (9 year old on the subway ) A year later at thirteen, a friend and I loaded up backpacks and rode our bikes 30+ miles to a lake and camped for three days. No cell phones, no way for our parents to know if we were alive or had been snatched by an evil clown. Today, a child of thirteen walking (or Uber) to the store to pick up a gallon of milk will be required to check in by phone three times and the parents will be monitoring their real-time progress via an app.

Ignoring “extreme” travel, how many parents today would be comfortable with their twelve year old riding their bike around at 4am every day delivering newspapers in the dark?  (what’s a newspaper?) How else was I supposed to afford baseball cards and movies? Today’s kids get allowance for backbreaking chores like “keeping their room clean” or “taking out the trash”.

We’re raising a generation that isn’t particularly rugged and is frightened of everything. Is it any surprise that people in the U.S. are outraged at everything today? Give your kids the chance to be more self-reliant and independent – they’ll thank you for it in the long run.

On Pooping. And Snakes.

The following information may be considered… oversharing. Should I ever run for political office, I’m sure this will be used as part of a vicious smear campaign. That being said, I find it interesting that something we’ve managed to do for thousands of years has become so complicated. That something is pooping. Specifically, pooping in the woods. The modern outhouse and toilet paper (or “bathroom tissue” as it’s known so as not to offend anyone) is a relatively modern invention. In a short span of time, modern society has become horrified at the idea of dropping trou in the outdoors and letting ‘er rip. I know people that when confronted this situation will become instant poop camels and hold it in for the better part of a week to avoid exposing one’s buttocks to the breeze.

This is not me. My intestines run like the German train system. Orderly, on-time, and on a precise schedule. It’s all good unless that schedule is interrupted. If the trains get backed up, anarchy and chaos soon follow. The unhappy commuters rapidly begin to send more and more urgent messages that the trains need to get back on schedule ASAP. Trust me, we like to keep the trains running on time.

Which brings me to the woods. I’m not one of those folks opposed to pooping in the kiltwoods. It can be downright peaceful at times. There are of course the positional challenges. Leaning against a tree, lean back holding on to a tree, sitting over a log, or the traditional squat and hope your aim avoids the trousers bunched up around the ankles. There are times the Scottish kilt in the backcountry has its advantages. As fascinating as all this may be, it is not my point. My point is snakes.

If you know me, you’d know that I have an unnatural fear and adversarial relationship with snakes. This wouldn’t be a problem if I was a librarian, but unfortunately I like the outdoors. Snakes have a tendency to live in the outdoors. This is an issue. Which brings me to my latest encounter. I recently got back from a long river trip to a remote area that, coincidently, is infested with rattlesnakes. Even though snake fears kept me from getting out of the boat unless absolutely necessary, I was having a great time until midway through the trip. After unloading all the gear and getting camp ready, I sat down in my chair to enjoy an adult beverage when I heard something in the grass. A large snake slithered by, not six inches from my foot. My river mates commented that I have an impressive vertical leap for someone my age. A little girl scream may or may not have been uttered, but that detail will stay on the river.

Which brings me back to my original point. As I sat in my tent that night, refusing to come out for dinner, it dawned on me that if I wanted to keep the trains on schedule I was going to have to wander through the snake infested grass and rocks first thing in the morning. absFaced with two undesirable choices, keeping the trains on schedule or being chased by snakes, there was little sleep that night. I made the only choice a rational person would make – I went into camel mode. No coffee, no breakfast, little water. Thank god I’ve been diligent with the ab machine. The cramping became bearable after a while. Major fist-bump to the ladies if this is what the monthly visitor is like.

The fatal mistake came on the second evening of operation anhalten der Deutsche Bahn. Succumbing to hunger pangs, I ate one of those freeze-dried backpacker meals. While they may be tasty going down, they impart a certain… urgency to the train schedule. Early that next morning, with a pounding heart and clenched cheeks, I made my way into the woods to perform a ritual our ancestors have done for thousands of years. Who knew my heart rate could sustain 200 bpm for so long? Fortunately for me this story has a happy ending. Like a Christmas morning miracle there were no snakes and the trains were back on schedule. It’s rumored I may have had a skip to my step when exiting the woods.

My point? As usual, I’ve forgotten. Maybe it’s that snake chaps are a real thing. And that I own a pair. Now to figure out how to wear them with the outdoor kilt. Under or over?


[Upon opening the Well of the Souls and peering down]
Sallah: Indy, why does the floor move?
Indiana: Give me your torch.
[Indy takes the torch and drops it in]
Indiana: Snakes. Why’d it have to be snakes?
Sallah: Asps… very dangerous. You go first.


Neville Flynn: ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!
[the terrified passengers on the plane turn to Neville]
Neville Flynn: I HAVE HAD IT WITH THESE MOTHERFUCKING SNAKES ON THIS MOTHERFUCKING PLANE!

On Camping. And Totes.

Last weekend I went car camping. It’s been awhile. The last number of years have been more focused on river trips, backpacking, and a mega land-yacht RV. All of which arguably have components of camping, but are not exactly the same. To me, “campintrucksterg” is loading up the family truckster, driving to a designated forest service campground and unloading a mountain of gear at a designated “site”. Said site shall contain one rickety picnic bench, one fire ring, tent sites that are on a mandatory slope of at least 30 degrees, and easy access to a standard forest service toilet that contains horrors that shall not be mentioned.

While all of those items are worthy of discussion, it’s the mountain of gear that befuddled me. With backpacking and river trips you have clear space limitations, so you’d think that I would be good at packing efficiently. Apparently those rules don’t apply when car camping. I looked at the volume of space I had in the pickup truck and lost my mind. I packed gear for every possible contingency. Enough clothing to cover temperature ranges from  Death Valley to the top of Everest. I brought enough lighting products to perform neurosurgery at midnight. Small, medium, and large flashlights. A 5 pound lantern powered by 6 D-cell batteries. A headlamp. And a backup headlamp just in case. What did I actually use? The 2 inch mini flashlight one time, while digging around in the cooler for another beer. I had approximately 2,000 feet of utility cord, mosquito nets, shaving mirrors (but no shaving kit), tools, zip ties, plastic zip lock bags, a compass (we never left the campground), a broom, and at least four different drinking cups. All told I think I had three full duffle bags, a backpack, a cardboard box, a cooler, a half cord of firewood, an air mattress that was too big to fit in the tent, and a ten pound folding chair. I briefly considered renting a trailer but that would have been… excessive.

Within the first half hour at camp all this gear somehow exploded, covering the camp site. And when it rained – it all came into my little tent. I slept surrounded by mountains of stuff. The contents of every duffle bag had been pulled out and strewn everywhere, looking for the extra pair of socks I was sure I had. When it came time to leave there was no careful packing and organizing. Everything got stuffed into one giant pile into the back seat of the truck, which is now spread across the garage, the basement, and the kitchen. I plan on cleaning and putting it all away any day now. Promise.

I vowed never again. I will become the Martha Stewart of camping organization. I’ve spent approximately 45 hours researching camping organization web sites. I have visions of campkitchencolor coded plastic totes, camp kitchen boxes, and gear organizers. In my mind I’ve been crafting plans for adding a camper shell to the truck and building fantastic storage options so I’m ready to camp at a moments notice. I will craft laminated efficiency checklists and pare all equipment down to the bare minimum.

And then I stumbled across the Sprinter van. I am now officially obsessed. This is the ultimate car camping vehicle. Small enough you can drive it sprinteranywhere. Big enough you can comfortably sleep and have all your gear available. There’s whole community dedicated to van life. I could be ready to go fishing, to faraway hikes, climbing, escape the zombie apocalypse, a horrific nuclear accident, or just plain old camping at a moments notice. It works for campsites, boondocking, sleeping at truck stops, or Walmart parking lots. Never mind that I average about two camp trips a year. The point is that I could if I wanted to.

Now I just have to convince Mrs. troutdog. Or I could just buy more totes.

—————————–
Clark: I think you’re all fucked in the head. We’re ten hours from the fucking fun park and you want to bail out. Well I’ll tell you something. This is no longer a vacation. It’s a quest. It’s a quest for fun. You’re gonna have fun, and I’m gonna have fun… We’re all gonna have so much fucking fun we’re gonna need plastic surgery to remove our goddamn smiles! You’ll be whistling ‘Zip-A-Dee Doo-Dah’ out of your assholes! I must be crazy! I’m on a pilgrimage to see a moose. Praise Marty Moose! Holy Shit!

On Travel And Whatnot

I done visited me some places in my life. More than some, considerably less than many. I seen me the Rooster Days parade in Broken Arrow Oklahoma. I drove past that big arch thingy in St. Louis. I spent a day once in Mendota California. On purpose. I spent a drunken afternoon betting on Jai Alai in Tijuana once. Y’all may want to put those on your bucket lists.

Mrs. Trout and I got to talking and the subject of travel came up. She asked where would I want to go for a big bucket list vacation? Interestingly it turns out, I don’t know. I’ve never actually put any real thought into it. Trips, vacations, countries, and adventures have just sorta happened… I don’t have a big list that I’m checking things off of. So I decided it’s time to create that master list and start working through it before I get run over by a cement truck.

Turns out, making that list is harder than I thought it would be. I actually got somewhat overwhelmed. Are we talking about big budget, six months of planning, once in a lifetime trips? Maybe it’s the quick weekend dash to see the Myrtle Beach Elvis fetouriststival? Worldwide or U.S. only? Lazy sit on a secluded beach (would have to get in banana hammock shape for that one) or trek the Himalayas? Pampered all-inclusive resort or someplace that might not be so safe for a camo baseball hat, Bermuda shorts, fanny pack wearing U.S. of A good ‘ole boy? Culture and museums or party my brains out (well, until 10pm, I go to bed early) on a beach somewhere in Phuket?

Once you pick a place, how do you see it? Organized tour? Frantically hit every tourist spot you can since you’ll never be back? Ignore the tourism and stay in one spot like a local?

There’s just too much out there. I’m paralyzed. What if I choose wrong? What if I can’t find a Taco Bell? I may have to binge-watch No Reservations for ideas. Or Bear Grylls. Nah, too scary. I may just stick to every season of Diners, Drive-in’s, and Dives. Eating my way across the country seems like a worthy bucket list goal. I’m going to keep working on this list. Check back with me in a while to see how it’s going. Odd’s are I’ll still be staring at a screen with approximately 1,232 browser tabs open, all pointing to various top-50, must-see lists. Or I’ll have been sidetracked with epic dog fail videos.

On Adventure. Or Lack Thereof.

I am a fraud. To use the vernacular of my 80’s upbringing – I’m a total poser, dude. I’m an armchair adventurer. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not fully in the Walter Mitty category. I do occasionally go outside and do stuff. But it’s happening less and less often. What’s more telling is that I’m starting to feel more apprehension about activities than I ever did before. My fear of getting hurt, or failing, and the unknown are starting to creep into my head far too frequently lately.

What I’m discovering about myself is that I really, really, like the idea of being adventurous. It’s the doing part that I don’t follow up with. The other day over dinner with some friends we talked about all the things we’d like to do this summer. I was happy to jabber on about road trips, backcountry motorcycle expeditions, climbing and mountaineering, and spur of the moment mountain bike rides. After the drinks wear off, I know that the possibility of my actually doing any of those things isn’t super high.

I’m not sure why that is. Some of it is just laziness. A rolling stone and moss and whatnot. I’ve been gathering a fair amount of moss these days. A lot of it is just caution. I’ve noticed that at the climbing gym, once I’m five or six feet in the air I’m very reluctant to try a move because of a fear of falling. It’s not like I’m going to get hurt. I’d be falling on a soft crash pad. Worse case I get the wind knocked out of me. So why am I so afraid? It must be a facet of getting old.

What gets into my head is that I really want to do these adventures. I can easily spend all day reading about adventure trips and free spirited folks who just do things. Americans have always been enamored with the antihero. The folks who just get stuff done and go out and make adventures happen. Shane McConkey, Jimmy Chin, Cheryl Strayed, Alastair Humphreys, Hank Patterson. These folks decide to do something and just go make it happen. Granted it didn’t always turn out so well for all of them, but they did what they wanted to do. I fear I’m turning into that kid in the commercial who calls his grandma on the phone in the next room for another grape soda.

I’ll spend two hours on the ADV forum following some guy’s two week motorcycle trip across the backcountry dirt roads of Idaho and tell myself, dammit I’m doing that. But that would mean getting the motorcycle running again and buying some more gear. And it’s kinda cold out right now. And I’m directionally challenged so what if I got really lost, or what if the bike stopped running and I got stuck? Besides there’s a couple of episodes of Walking Dead I haven’t caught up on and there’s some yardwork that needs doing. Maybe in a few weeks I’ll think about it again.

I think I’m one of those people who always needs a guide. Someone who takes me by the hand and says we’re going to go do this, and here’s what you need, and here’s how it’s going to work. Once I do it I’m golden. I’ve skied for years at my local mountain without exploring some areas that I knew were there, but didn’t know if they were above my ability or if I’d get lost. This season I finally put on my big boy pants and followed a friend to these places. Now that I’ve seen them and they’re not the unknown I’m happily exploring every off-piste area I can find. Why was I so worried about exploring them before?

Is there a moral to this rambling? Doubtful. I think it’s mostly an internal pep-talk to convince myself to go do stuff and that I don’t always need a “guide”. Besides, what’s the worst that could happen? I’ll end up with a good story to tell. Then again there’s a bag of chips in the cupboard and 24 hours of political coverage to watch. And I hear there’s a threat of rain today. Time to catch up on my Instagram feed of adventurers and amazing photos.