Wednesday, March 21, 2012


A February vacation certainly wouldn't be complete without a little snow.  

Nine years ago I started dating this cute girl who looked really good in cheap t-shirts and worn corduroys, laughed often at my bad jokes and possessed a light heart and ease about her that made me feel at home.  I knew in a short period of time that someday I would make this woman my wife.

70 degree sunny days and cold clear nights with campfires under a sea of stars, was my promise to Jenny the winter of 2004 as we raced my truck loaded with a week's worth of food and a crate of climbing gear south through the pitch dank February night of Washington into the desert of the Southwest.  Dirtbag climbing trips were the lives of my heros in 2004 and I wanted Jenny to fall in love with the lifestyle as well.

I grew up in Washington and I am no stranger to the rain; we get wet, we drink coffee & beer and deal with the nine month haze of moisture we call spring, winter and fall .  I know a good rain storm when I see one,  but nothing quite prepared me for the wettest February that Southern California had seen in nearly 100 years. When it rains hard in the desert, the landscape scars quickly.  Washed-out roads, flash floods, and a lakes where my coveted campsites once stood slowly began to chip away at my picture perfect fantasy of winter rock climbing in the high desert.  

We woke on the damp futon in the back of my truck our third day in Joshua Tree National Park to the sound of silence.  The absence of a continuous rain patter on the canopy that had persisted through the night ignited a renewed optimism within, Finally the storm has passed!,  I thought to myself with visions of stuffing my hands into warm and dry granite cracks.  I rolled over, snuggled close to Jenny and whispered,  It stopped raining Jen, I think it is going to be beautiful today.

Jenny tipped her head back and kissed my cheek,
It's snowing Matt, go back to sleep for a while.

And so went our ill fated mid-winter desert rock climbing escape of 2004.

I learned a couple of really valuable lessons on that trip.  First, it is exceedingly unwise to make promises that have anything to do with the weather;  even Cliff Mass isn't that good.  I also learned that Jenny was a really fun & easy person to be around when things don't go quite as planned.  We didn't any do any climbing that vacation, but we rode a lot of miles, drank plenty of tallboy PBR's and had a heck of a lot of fun getting to know each other.   I think this was also the point when I began to realize how bad it sucks to spend half of a vacation sitting on my ass burning gas all to reach some far off destination of "adventure". This trip was a seed that has led me to understand that adventure is not a destination; adventure is a state of mind. 

Many years have passed since Jen and I took that road trip and a lot has changed in both of our lives.  Despite my growing bald spot and perpetual bad smell, I managed to convince that cute girl in corduroys to be my wife.  Needless to say,  I also don't think driving 1000's of  miles for a few days of bluebird climbing is fun, nor socially or environmentally responsible.  

This February Jen and I loaded our bikes on the train and headed to Oregon for a winter vacation of exploring the southern end of the Amtrak Cascades route.  It rained on us plenty in Portland, and Eugene provided both 70 degree days of sun and sloppy late winter snow showers. But unlike our first February escape, the rain and snow didn't impact plenty of exercise, a fair amount of beer consumption and time spent catching up with old friends.  In fact, crappy weather was more or less part of the plan!

The train through Oregon afforded the luxury of reading time and I dug deeply into Bill McKibben's Eaarth, a wonderfully researched and well-written commentary that evidences how humans have fundamentally changed our planet, how that change will impact life as we know it, and what we collectively can do as a global society to preserve a reasonable quality of life for future generations to enjoy.  Despite the messages that we are constantly being fed by our consumer driven economy, world leaders, and a fossil fuel centric politically lobby, McKibben maintains that we must all start living smaller, and I agree.  China  opens up a new coal fired power plant on a weekly basis, yet we have no moral ground to criticize, as the average American still emits nearly five times the amount of CO2 into the atmosphere as their Chinese counterpart.  Despite our hybrid cars and Eco-tote bags, our insatiable thirst for resources and resultant production of waste (mainly in the form of greenhouse gases) is simply unsustainable.  If we decide that we want a reasonable standard of life for our children, we must all start living a little bit smaller. I am not anti-progress, but it is hard to argue that a little bit of frugality and conservation ever did a society harm.   I digress, as I often do and it is much more comfortable to believe that the economy will grow infinitely, that the polar caps aren't melting, and that the technological fix for all our problems is just around the corner;  no change in behavior required.

I have been called a cynic, but cynics don't strive to live the change they think possible in the world and spend lots of time writing about it.  The truth is I do believe change is required, and it starts with personal behavior.  I still have dreams of exploring the far corners of the world in my life and a plan to make it happen, but I have to approach this world in a manner that might leave a little for those who follow behind me.  Until the day comes when I lock my Front Door and set off to explore the world beyond my horizons, you will find me keeping things pretty close to home.  

Thats How I Roll,



Jenny has had unfortunate experiences with trains in the past, but as long as we have plenty of snacks she is pretty happy to get a few hours of uninterrupted reading in!

Rain rides and smiles in the Bridge City.

Portland Oregon is light years ahead of Seattle when it comes to bike infrastructure.  When cyclists are recognized as a legitimate part of traffic with designated lanes and traffic signals, drivers take notice and  treat users as such.

Both Jen and I are suckers for a hearty breakfast and seldom does a trip to Portland not involve a visit to the Tin Shed.  

While not quite wet enough to swim across the road, these geese felt quite at home crossing busy intersections in SE Portland

Jen scored us a tour and some beers at the the HUB in Portland.  These folks have a solid business with employee welfare, community, and the environment (aka sustainability) at the heart of their practice.

Hop Boil.

Dinner with Jesse and Ashley was definitely a highlight in Portland.  The fact that we were almost an hour late made them feel more comfortable.  

Jenny likes coffee on rainy days.

Jenny has gone to heaven.  We circled the open food market in Portland seventeen times before Jen decided on Indian Veggie Wraps and a Mango Lassi. 

My older sister got the braces.

The Amtrak station in Portland, OR.   The Amtrak Cascades runs twice daily between Vancouver, BC and Eugene, OR and is an excellent tool for the cycle tourist looking to cover big chunks of ground in a short period of time.

Without even having to promise, I delivered on the Sunshine in Eugene.  Tank tops in February!

Defazio Bike Bridge, Eugene OR.

Oakshire Brewing in Eugene, Or.  A relatively small operation making exceptional beer for the NW market.  Keep an eye out for their product.

Matt Van Wyk of Oakshire explains the operation.

Eugene is my type of town, and the Morning Glory Cafe is my type of joint.  Eugene also embraces the value of the bicycle as a mode of transportation, recreational pursuit, and economic stimulus tool.

Breakfast is by far my favorite meal to eat out, and Morning Glory in Eugene speaks my language!

Double crank recumbant cycle.  Awesome!

Kent Peterson over at Kent's Bike Blog posted an early release of Grant Peterson's book Just Ride a few weeks ago and I really agree with what Grant has to say about cycling as a means to fitness.  Cycling is wonderful for cardiorespiratory endurance, but does very little for muscular strength or overall body composition.  Pull-ups, push-up, and sit-ups are still solid exercises that can be performed almost anywhere.

Eugene is cool: exhibit A.

Eugene is cool:  exhibit B.

Eugene is cool:  exhibit C, The Center for Appropriate Transportation.

Ninkasi Brewing Company in Eugene is the epitome of the highly successful Oregon Craft Brew industry.  Great beer and a huge local contributor to the Eugene economy.

So many flavors, so little time.

Caleb gave us a full tour of the 100,000 barrel Ninkasi facility, but was especially proud of his German made bottling machine.

My fathers son.