Thursday, July 26, 2012

Vacation time

G had to go to a conference in Vegas this week, so I took the opportunity to take Dixie and Cersei on a vacation. We went to Clark Fork horse campground, in Stanislaus National Forest - it's just to the north of Yosemite, so very similar terrain. I asked around and got a few good ideas for where to go, but honestly I ended up kind of looking at the map and saying "yes, that's how far I want to drive."

All the pics and video are from MY NEW WEE CAMERA, bought for TEVIS NEXT WEEKEND. I'm gonna go do the social media volunteering thing again, and I'm so excited!

Unbelievably blue sky:

Getting there was pretty easy. It's 200 miles from SF, so it's a pretty easy haul. I stopped at a Tractor Supply in Sonora and asked about that certified weed-free hay, but they were out (and don't carry straight grass anyway) so Dixie had a neverending buffet of EGM Stable Mix, which she loves. Nobody checked, but she loves Stable Mix so it's an easy enough rule to follow.

Road in camp:

The campground was easy enough to find, and I had it all to myself. There's two (or three?) people campgrounds and one horse campground, all near each other. There was a huge crowd of kids and adults - I think it was an organized event - at the campground across the river, and a few campers in the people campground next to mine. I wasn't ~all alone~ in the wilderness, but I had all the solitude I wanted.


I was a little worried that Dixie would be unhappy all alone, with no other horses nearby, but I figured if she hated it we'd leave after the first night. She was surprisingly ok. Pretty alert when deer came through, and she watched for me when I'd disappear out of site to the toilet, but she spent her free time dozing and eating. She rolled in the night the second night, but I made myself listen to the weird noises before I went exploding out of the tent to see what was going on.

Wednesday we dinked around most of the day. I think I went six miles in five hours. We went from grassy spot to grassy spot down a short trail, then back to camp, then back out across the Clark Fork river. I tried to keep us out of the way of the kids and parents, but I couldn't find a good way around the other campground, so I leashed up Cersei and led the horse and dog through camp to the north.

We crossed a paved road into a clearing where the FS had been logging, and wandered through it further north. Eventually we found a stream and crossed that and ended up in a meadow - cue ominous music - with COWS!


Those black shapes? Bovine monsters.

Dixie never lets a Defcon 2 state interfere with grass consumption.

Then we went back through the logged area to the west, to try to find Arnot Creek, which had a proper trail on the other side. We found the creek, but there was no decent way down.

We followed the creek south back to the road and got across it again. It was low traffic, but the traffic that did go by was absolutely flying. I knew from the map that if we crossed the creek on the paved bridge, the trail I was kinda looking for was just to the west of the bridge, but I didn't want to get halfway across it holding a dog and pony and have some crazed minivan driver mow us down. So we worked our way back east along the Clark Fork.

I didn't really want to go back into the kid camp, and I didn't want to try that paved road again, so eventually I found the best spot and took Dixie across the river again. I didn't film that one - I had to get off to lead her down a nasty slope to the river, then I'd have to lead her up the far side through some downed trees, so I just waded through.

She was such a rockstar. She crossed the creeks and rivers maybe five times that day, and she'd never crossed that type of river before in her life - fast moving water over fist-sized rocks. She's turned into such a point-and-shoot horse.

Anyway, she waited pretty patiently for me to break some pointy branches and clear a path up the other side, then she surged on past me to get up the hill so I grabbed her tail and let her tow me up. Yes, I tailed my horse with no preparation at all. I don't think she "knows how to tail" or anything, but at least I know she's fine with the theory.

(I think it's just an endurance thing - we call it tailing when we get off, send the horse up the hill at a walk, and grab the horse's tail for a "power assist" to walk up the hill behind. Ideally, she'd wait for me to get behind her, then go on voice command, then woah on voice command. All we did was the "tow the human up the hill" part.)

Back at camp, I changed into my clean jeans and sandals and spent the afternoon writing and walking Dixie out to graze. Cersei snored nonstop, except for when I'd get up and unhook the horse, when she'd spring to life and charge out with us.

Last night, Cersei was too tired and sore to sleep on her perfectly nice Thermarest camping dog bed, and she insisted on the comfort of my cot. Somehow we worked it out to where I had my legs bent and she got to sleep on my feet and in the bend of my knees. Also, she stepped on my Kindle and broke it. Dogs are the best pets. DOGS ARE THE BEST PETS. Keep repeating this until it's true. ;)


I had one more meandering walk this morning, down the short dead-end trail out of camp, then we headed back to the city. The house is too quiet, but I'm pretty Zen anyway. :)

Dixie really is the horse of my dreams now. It took a lot of work, on both of our parts, but I wouldn't sell her for any amount of money. So laid back, such a super athlete. We can go do hard fifty mile rides or we can go off totally alone into the wilderness. What more could I possibly want?

I know many of my readers are cat fans, or at least fans of Banders. Banders was very glad to see me - he loves me with all his soul. The Kitten was way too cool to come up to see me; she waited til I called her before she sauntered out of hiding. They were both quite displeased with the dry rations and empty house they'd been left with. Woe, woe is cat.

Monday, July 16, 2012

GC analysis

So how did I end up with only an hour left to cover seven miles? It's all in the vet checks. Most of the 50s I've done have had only two vet checks - the loops are 20/15/15 (or some combination thereof.) Gold Country was 12/12/18/7. Instead of stopping and pulsing my horse down twice, I had to pulse her down three times. Instead of losing an hour and a half to mandatory hold times, I lost two hours. If Dixie had pulsed down the second she walked in to each check, and I had crew to shove me back in the saddle and back out the gate the second I could leave, I would've had exactly 10 hours to cover 50 miles. But I lost another 45 minutes to pulsing my big thick-skinned horse down, and probably 15 more to me getting my shit together to get out the gate again. I only had 9 hours to ride 50 miles. I had to sustain 5.5 mph to get it done.

That's not prima facie unreasonable, even in July, but it wasn't foremost on my mind. I've never cut it that close before, not even at our first 50. It just never occurred to me that we'd get so out of time - especially when the vet-check cutoff times were so encouraging. Of course I didn't take a single picture of my vet card, but I want to say that the first vet check, 12.5 miles from camp, had a cutoff time of 10 am? I got there at 8:30. I stayed an hour to an hour and a half ahead of the cutoff times. I'd have done better to completely ignore the cutoffs AND my GPS and just go by the mileage points listed on the map + the time on my phone to figure out how I was doing.

I was going to shake my fist at the heavens and say "Well I'll just not do rides that have three vet checks," but you know what? The ride flyer (for this year, no less) says it's a two-check 15/15/20 ride.

I dunno. I know my horse is marginal at this sport, but she's not dangerously marginal. She had good vet scores all day, and I rode her pretty intelligently. Maybe her recoveries will continue to improve like they have for the last couple of years. Maybe she'll pulse down faster.

It was a tough ride. It definitely didn't feel that hilly, but the GPS says it's the hilliest 50 we've ever done. It was very hot, and I suspect the shitty smoky air didn't help things. I'm super proud of Dixie for finding fifth gear at the very end, but I'm upset with myself that she had to find fifth. That's not how I like to ride.

Stuff! Now that I'm really getting the hang of endurance camping, I'm getting way more lassiez-faire about everything.

I didn't even bring the truck tent. I just threw a tarp in the back of the horse trailer and tossed my cot back there. It was fine. I brought plenty of food and ate enough of it I suppose. Some powerbar things (gross) and some nut-and-fruit trail mix (boring), plus tons of fruit at the VC's and steak and chocolate milk at lunch. I really kinda thought the chocolate milk might make me hurl, but it looked SO GOOD when I opened the cooler and it went down GREAT.

Usually, I mix powdered electrolytes for my camelbak. Hot salty lemonade is pretty gross but I drink the hell out of it. This time, I did the whole ride with water in my camelback and electrolyte pills in my bag. I ate a handful of pills whenever I thought about it - I honestly have no idea how many or when. I did not drink as much water as usual. It didn't seem to do me any harm. I kinda missed my hot lemon water though.

Still rockin' that same long sleeve runner's shirt. It totally regulates my temperature - it keeps me slightly cooler in the heat and slightly warmer in the cold. I loves it. Still rockin' the barefoot shoes. I laced them pretty tight to hopefully prevent blisters, but I still popped a blister on one foot. I didn't notice til I got home so I guess that's almost success. I've been going commando and not getting the panty-line chafing.

The participation award was a Cooltie, and they gave it out at sign in. It does, in fact, work. It feels kinda disgusting - it's a warm slimy wet thing tied around your neck - but I felt cooler than I otherwise would've.

Last week, I got a Fitbit. It's a little pedometer, smaller than a cigarette lighter, that clips onto your body somewhere. It tells you how many steps you walk in a day, then extrapolates how many calories you've burned, miles you've walked, etc. The hard-but-not-impossible goal for most desk job people is to walk 10,000 steps in one day. Would you care to guess how many steps the Fitbit thinks I took on Saturday? And how many calories I burned, even after I went back and told it I'd been Riding Horseback (Trotting) for 12 hours?

My quads are KILLING ME. Gonna bike a lot more around town and try to get in better shape for Tahoe Rim.

Sticking your helmet in every water trough is definitely the way to fly.

Horse stuff!!
Used Gloves again. I've gotta be getting near 200 miles on that set, and they're noticeably easier to put on. I only taped the fronts - her front feet look way better, but the Gloves' V still doesn't stretch like it should. I actually lost a rear boot, but the gaiter kept it on. Will probably tape all four for Tahoe Rim.

So Easyboot people, is this the point where I put the powerstraps on? Now that the boots are ~easy to apply~?

My Renegade friends have been giving me vague disapproving vibes about my boot disloyalty, but the Gloves really do fit better right now. Shrug!

Totally forgot to buy applesauce. I only had four single-serves of applesauce, so I rationed them out. Turns out Dixie eats hay-and-BP mash with a half oz of Enduramax mixed in, yay! She ate a lot of her elytes and I only syringed at the first two checks.

She didn't drink til 16 miles. She drank great all the way back to camp, then after lunch she was pissy and wouldn't drink again til the trough at about 39 miles - but again, she drank heavily at that trough, the trough 2 miles from the last VC, the last VC, and the trailer. I have finally started to relax and trust that she's taking care of herself. Her hydration scores were consistently good.

And speaking of that - this was the first ride where I assumed she was ok. Every AERC ride we've done, I have been assuming that she's about to die and hopefully the vets would notice before she fell over. This ride, I just assumed she was ok, mechanically and metabolically, and hoped the vets would notice if I was wrong. YAY.

Dixie looked good after the ride. Her flanks got a little tucked in from the inevitable dehydration (endurance athletes, equine or human, can't replenish their fluids completely during an event - they always finish a couple % dehydrated), but they'd improved the next morning.

All four legs had a tiny bit of fill overnight. I need to walk her more often before bed and before we load up to go home. Do poultices work, or do they just make the humans feel better about things? What about wrapping, does that work and how would I learn how to do it? Is it just disguising the problem, or does it actually help prevent future lameness?

Of course nothing rubbed her. This is the up side to having a thick skinned horse that takes 10 minutes and 10 gallons of water to pulse down. :)

2012 Gold Country 50: Easier and harder than I thought

When I pick rides, I look at the main things most people look at, I suppose. How many weeks is it after my last ride? How far is the haul? How many of my friends say they'll be there? Have I heard any particularly relevant gossip about the RMs or listed vets? I don't consider piddling technicalities like "bus plunge road to camp" or "trail may combust."

So three weeks ago I sent in my entry for Gold Country. Then on Wednesday a raging wildfire broke out north of Foresthill, but it was in a totally different valley, so I packed up my junk and away we went on Friday. It was actually the easiest packing I've ever done. I just sort of threw a bunch of food in the cooler, slung the cooler and a box of camping gear and a bale of hay in the truck, and hit the road. The drive up really wasn't bad, except for the bus-plunge Highway 49.

I gotta admit something, yall: I cried when I saw No Hands Bridge. The Sierras are the most beautiful place I've ever been in my life, even with the terrifying roads and nonstop fires. I cannot wait for Tevis and then the Tahoe Rim ride!

I got safely to camp outside of Georgetown. Highway 49 was horrifying, especially when I crawled around one hairpin turn and came upon a wreck in the other lane. One car had gone off the road entirely and only the trunk was visible in the trees, and the other had slipped off the road and was canted off the edge at a 45 degree angle. The fire trucks had just made their way up the enormous backed-up line of traffic and were still evaluating the scene. But we did not plunge to our deaths, and my truck did great.

Bird summed up the ride meeting: "long, sometimes painfully confusing as 8 people ask the same question at different times and occasionally get different answers ... by the end I was cold and hungry and had concluded that my ride strategy was much the same as it had been before the meeting: Ignore Babble, Follow Ribbons." By the end of the meeting, I was sleepy instead of cold, but otherwise I had the same impression. All pink-and-black ribbons, all on the right. Walk your horse across the paved roads, dammit.

Ride meeting

The 50s left at 6 am. We rode 12.5 miles out to a teeny weeny little Piper Cub airport for a vet check and hold, then the same back to camp for a vc/hold, then off on another loop for 18 miles and a vc/hold, then 7 miles back to camp. The weather wasn't quite as hot as the earlier predictions, but it was still in the 90s.

I wore my snazzy new helmet cam for the first loop. It made my head surprisingly hot - I think it pushed the helmet down onto my scalp - and when we started going under low hanging branches it got dangerous so I took it off.

Gaiting down the trail on Dixie at the Gold Country 50 mile ride from Funder on Vimeo.

We came plinking on in to the first vet check at 8:30 or so and pulsed down in 10 minutes, which is about normal for us. It was SO SMOKY. The whole trip, I never got a view of the high Sierras, just the up-close foothills.

We headed back, and I happened to look at my phone and I had four bars of 3G reception in the absolute middle of nowhere, so I put a picture on Facebook.

We made it back to lunch in good time, still running an hour or so ahead of cutoff, and again I got Dixie pulsed down in about 10 minutes. I was hot and grumpy when we rolled in, but I drank some chocolate milk and ate a fist-sized chunk of cold steak and recovered my good spirits. Dixie vetted through well and ate pan after pan of hay pellet / beet pulp mash.

I left right on time after the lunch hold, but I'd only gone 50 feet down the trail when I realized I'd forgotten to put my camelback back on. Back to camp, jump off, find the camelback, remount, leave again.

Dixie clearly felt that 25 miles was long enough on Saturday and she did not want to go back out again, but she was doing great metabolically so I insisted that we go on. There was quite a bit of shade and good footing.


We were mostly alone for that third loop. We'd been mostly alone all day - there were plenty of people in the back part of the pack with me, but Dixie didn't pace with their horses and I don't try to force it. She goes faster than most on downhills, slow and steady on the flattish bits, and bogs down going up hills. All day, I leapfrogged with some people I really liked and some people who grated on my nerves like fingernails on chalkboard.

Shady road and a creek on Gold Country 50 from Funder on Vimeo.

(She drank at the next set of tanks. I did not drop my phone in the water all day.)

Dixie and I had kept up a 5.5-6 mph pace since lunch, just toddling on down the trail at our usual slower-than-dirt yet steady pace, but we hit the Big Hill and she just quit on me mentally. It was only about a 700' climb over 5 miles, but it was unrelentingly sunny and hot. We'd given up on the idea of trotting that stupid hill, and we were just plodding along achingly slowly. I'd been running an hour+ ahead of cutoff times, it was hot as hell, I knew we could make time on the downhill side and the shady flats, and I just wasn't worried about time. (I had no idea where we reeeeally were on the trail because my GPS was having a hard time staying locked on the satellites and I kept bumping it and turning it off and on.)

Eventually, we made it over the hill. Some obnoxiously chipper people had passed us on the climb up (Things you really don't need to say: "Wow, you sure are taking it easy! We stayed an extra half hour at lunch and we still caught you, ha ha!") and Dixie recovered from her funk and chased them on in to the last vet check.

I got Dixie pulsed down in 10-12 minutes and presented her to the vets. Melissa Ribley vetted me that time, with mostly all A's, and she said Dixie looked good but warned me that we'd have to hustle to make it back in time. Our out time was 4:48 and the ride cutoff was 6 pm, and the VC was 7 miles from camp. Shit.

Two riders I'd leapfrogged with all day (not the Extra Half Hour people) came in just behind me, and I asked if I could ride in with them. They said sure, and their out times ended up being 4:50. By that time the reality of "seven miles in an hour and ten minutes" had sunk in and I didn't think there was a chance in hell that we'd make cutoff, so I figured another 2 minutes wouldn't matter!

When we came in, the volunteers had two lameness pulls and two rider option pulls waiting to get a trailer back to camp. The three of us were the last riders out of that check - there were four more people on the trail behind us somewhere, but they would get pulled for overtime at the check and they'd have to get a ride back to camp too. The trailer showed up while we were there and loaded the two lame horses for the trip back to camp. So I looked at the two-horse trailer that was shuttling horses back to camp, I looked at the two RO's waiting for a ride and (metaphorically looked at) the four riders behind us, and I figured if I pulled and waited for a trailer ride it'd take me longer to get back to camp than if I rode, even if I went overtime.

So we went. I was sure we were going to go overtime, but by god we'd go down fighting. I didn't want to let Dixie hurt herself, but she had looked really good at the vet check, with a nice CRI and good hydration and gut sounds. We might as well try.

I felt pretty dumb for getting so far behind. How could I have fucked up my time so badly? But both the horses I was with had finished Tevis, and Les and Jill Carr were somewhere behind me. (Les's Tulip currently has 22,000+ miles, and Jill's Walker The Mule has an entirely respectable 3,200.) It wasn't, like, a bunch of newbies on unfit horses going overtime.

E led the way on her perky chestnut gelding. Dixie tucked in right behind. S's experienced older grey fellow had been tripping on the downhills, so she yo-yo'd behind us, falling way back as we barreled down hills and catching us up on the flats and uphills. My GPS battery gave up the ghost a couple miles out of the vet check. None of us could remember how far any particular landmark was from camp. But E's gelding recognized the trail and he just flew down it to get back to camp, and Dixie was NOT going to let him get out of sight. We crossed the paved road for the last time and BAM popped out at camp. I whooped when I saw the glint of trucks through the trees, and E whooped too, and we both rode in, arms over our heads, yelling. Somehow we'd done it at 5:49 pm.

(Thanks for the pic, Lucy!)

I let Dixie eat and drink for 30 minutes, then vetted out. She got a 48/50something CRI and a very charitable B for attitude and impulsion, with A's for everything else. I think. When the vet came up to me at the check I said "please take it real slow with me, I'm extremely dumb at this point in the ride!" So I might be misremembering vet scores!

Dixie got a well-deserved roll in the dirt, then more mash and hay.

I got a huge fresh strawberry crepe!!! and a plate of fresh corn salad, salmon, pork loin, and chicken drumsticks. I had a wonderful time talking to friends at dinner and after. And I slept like a freakin' log overnight.

I taped the helmet cam to my dashboard and got a 15 minute video of the delightful Highway 49 between Cool and Auburn, but it's HD so it's 1.3 gigs. That vastly exceeds my Vimeo limit, so I'm putting it on Youtube, but it'll probably take fourteen years to process. Anyway, I'll post when it's up - skip ahead to the end, you will not believe how smoky the American River ravine is.

edit well that didn't take years at all.

Next: what went wrong? (Well, we completed, so nothing went TOO wrong, but 11 minutes from the time limit is cutting it too close!)

My flaky little GPS clocked 44.1 miles and 7,661' of elevation gain in just over 8 hours of moving time. The tracker info:

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Completed at Gold Country

We finished! Next-to-last place, with 11 minutes to spare. Too tired to put words in order tonight. More later.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Forty degrees hotter

Look, yall, I try not to rub it in about the weather here. Nobody wants to hear my first-world Pacific coast weather problems. But I do live where it's about 60 degrees 24/7, and I did just get home (58F) from Almaden Quicksilver (96F) and let me tell you buddy it totally sucked.

Here is my Strava:

Long rides, for me, are a microcosm of all the emotions. In four hours, I ran through feeling proud, smug, bored, elated, resigned, despairing, and back to triumphant. The tl;dr version:

It was so hot. I drank all my water. I didn't electrolyte Dixie enough and she ran out of go-juice at 16 miles, so I got off and walked the last two miles in. I let her graze, and she wasn't in any distress, and when we finally got back to the trailer she dove into her mash and drank a couple gallons of water and pulsed right down. I got blisters on the bottoms of both my heels and a heatstroke-headache.


Before the last two miles, it was quite a bit of fun. Dixie was a perfect angel to meet a random kid in the parking lot. She plugged on up the hills and trotted/gaited the flats and the downhills. Bikes and hikers and dogs didn't phase her, but she had to stop and stare HARD at a kid with a butterfly net. I had him wave it around and she eventually decided it was ok.

I have got to get my shit together and ride with people. I do great on solo 10 mile rides, and I do ok on 15 mile rides, but 20 miles all alone is just so hard mentally. And it's not like I don't have any choice - I have at least four endurance people I could email and meet up with! I just didn't get around to talking to them this week and then last night I was like "must go ride 20 miles tomorrow." Ugh.

I took a bunch of little videos on my phone but splicing them together and uploading them is WAY MORE EFFORT than I can put forth tonight. Here's some conformation shots of my incredibly ripped horse. I think I'd be happy if she was a little fatter, actually. Thoughts/feelings?

That face. <3 that horse.

Shameful dirty.

Oh my god, Becky, look at her butt. It's so muscular and veiny. Wait, that's not how it goes at all...

I just hope Gold Country has troughs every five miles for me to stick my head in. I do ok if I can stick my head in a trough.

Friday, July 6, 2012

We're "improving" Street View for Google.

edit: new stuff at the bottom of the post
At least, I think we are.

Yall know what Street View is, right? If you look up an address on Google Maps, then click on the little person icon, you get a photograph of that address taken by a SV van that rolled through the neighborhood at some point. Here's a Street View of the 99 Ranch in Daly City.

And here's a house that sits just across the street from 99 Ranch. (At least they don't have to worry about parking!)

Ok, so Google has all these pictures of houses.

Have you noticed how the captcha words have changed? Remember how it was just one gibberish word for a long time, then they went to a two-word system with one scanned-in word from a book and one totally incomprehensible gibberish word, and we all hated it? But then the scanned-in word disappeared, and we started getting numbers instead.

They are cropped-out pictures of house numbers. From Street View. I have absolutely no evidence, except that it looks pretty fucking obvious to me. I have no good theory for why Google is doing this. I'm totally creeped out, but I know that's just a kneejerk reaction. What do you think?


It's not some anti-spam measure, it's Google using us as mechanical turks. I did a little testing, and it looks like you can fill in any number or letter (I tried up to 7 letters) for the "number picture" part of the capcha.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Badass crowd-sourced fireworks

I know that this is a totally uncool statement, especially among pet/horse owners, but I love fireworks. I deeply, truly, madly adore fireworks. I put aside all my cynical grownup ways and just stare at the sky going "oooooohhh lookit that blue one." When I was in my 20s, I made a point of catching every fireworks show I possibly could - I remember once, G and I saw fireworks in Heber Springs Arkansas, then drove back to Memphis in time to see the fireworks over the river.

Gradually my hatred for crowds and traffic began to conquer my love of big-city firework displays. I think we skipped them in '09, saw them in '10, skipped them in '11, and were skipping them this year too. Except, as it turns out, I saw plenty of fireworks from my back yard.

So last week, when I went to visit Laura, I drove home up the Pacific Coast Highway. It's possibly the most beautiful road in California: a two-lane highway, twisting along the rocky Pacific coast. The breathtaking scenery is nonstop - and right before you pop back into civilization, you go through the quaint little town of Pacifica. Apparently that's where everybody else in the whole metro area goes to buy fireworks, because one of those construction signs sat right outside of town, flashing NOT WORTH IT | $1000 FINE | ILLEGAL FIREWORKS.

When I saw that, I was like "Holy shit, and I thought the $336 red light cameras in Palo Alto were ridiculous. Screw you, California." And I thought no more of it, until last night.

It's a big-deal thousand-dollar fine that appears to be completely ignored by all 7 million Bay Area residents. Everybody shot off fireworks last night. And I don't mean bottle rockets - I mean I saw, from my backyard, at least 20 homes in my little valley shooting off commercial-grade fireworks. Five of them were really over the top and shot off shells for TWO HOURS. It was totally spectacular.

The cats disliked the whole thing, and I was very careful to keep them inside. Cers hates random booms from idiots setting off M80s in the afternoon, but once it got dark and the actual fireworks started, she settled down and watched them with me. She really was kind of interested in the different noises and the colored lights in the sky. It was pretty cool :)

And because I'm a pretty nerdy nerd, the whole experience made me think of this recent Freakonomics podcast. (If you don't want to listen, you can scroll to the bottom of the post and click on the yellow "audio transcript" button.) Clearly a construction sign warning of the $1000 fine isn't doing much to dissuade people, and I did watch those fireworks go off all night and think "well shit, everybody else is shooting off shells, I could totally get away with it too."

Tomorrow I'm going to do a long ride, our last big one before Gold Country next weekend.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Tunnel cat lives in tunnels

You may remember this photo from last month. It's Bambers, the psychotic fluffy cat, inhabiting/wearing a crinkly collapsible cat tunnel.

He still spends most of his time in the tunnel. We bought two more sections, so he has more tunnel to choose from.

He is not to be disturbed.

He ain't right.

He can FLY!

Or stare very creepily at you.

Every now and then, he comes out to sleep on the Flying Saucer Thing.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Don't stop!

Whatever you do, don't stop blogging while you're changing everything else in your life. You will be unable to start again, with each little daily anecdote accumulating in the backlog of Stuff You'll Never Actually Post. Or maybe that's just me - because that is, in fact, what's happened to me.

The Drafts folder of my blog might as well be the Siberian Exile folder. I'll try to bring some stuff back from there but no promises! I'm just going to try to post (or have scheduled to post) something every day for the rest of the month. Not necessarily horse related, no promises of quality, just some blather to get me back on track.

So here's a story about grocery stores.

Shortly after we moved out here, I discovered 99 Ranch, the Asian supermarket in Daly City. We made a few "touristy" scouting trips out there, staring in awe at the live fish and vast selection of mochi ball ice creams and honey-chrysanthemum drinks and black-skinned head-on chickens. I bought some food at Safeway and Costco. I kept thinking about 99 Ranch, and I pulled out this Thai cookbook I've had since 2005. I went on another scouting trip to 99 Ranch and yes, for the first time in my life, I could purchase EVERY ingredient for almost any recipe in the book. So I bought a wok and a rice cooker and started cooking Asian stuff almost every night.

But it was scary. You know how there's signs in the checkout islands reminding the checkers to do (or not do) certain things, like "CHECK BOTTOM OF CART" or "NO HOT FOOD ON WIC CARD"? The ones at 99 Ranch say "GREET | EYE CONTACT | SMILE." Because nobody wants to look you in the eye, smile, or say a word.

It was weird as fuck for a month. I admit, I took it personal at first, complaining to G about how they all hated me at the grocery store, but he pointed out, quite correctly, that nobody talked to anybody if they could help it. They weren't ignoring ME, it's just some Asian big-city protective adaptation.

The food was SO good and SO cheap and I kept going back, and eventually I got used to the people. (Limes for $.20 each. A huge bundle of Thai basil for $2. Like 75 tiny Thai bird chilis for under $2. I could go on forever!)

I didn't realize how used to the people I'd gotten until last week. I went and rode Dixie, and I had a hankering for something from Whole Foods - yogurt, I think - and I went to the Palo Alto Whole Foods. I wandered around and bought a few things. I was a little confused at the Asian food section - one brand of curry paste? one brand of fish sauce? One brand of coconut milk? - but it wasn't really weird til I got to the checkout.

I put my stuff down and handed my reusable bag to the bagger. Then the cashier started talking to me! Nonstop! She asked me what kind of eggplants I'd gotten (is this not your job, to know the produce?) and singlehandedly segued into a monologue about fruits and veggies and coffee and the weather. It was bizarre.

And that's when I realized I'd acclimated to 99 Ranch. Greet, eye contact, smile - totally optional.