Friday, April 18, 2014

Living in Dinetah

Spring in the Mountains
I have to tell you all that I am happy and healthy - March and most of April have been constant snow and wind.  I have only been able to ride my bike to work and back.   That's okay as my studded snow tires have served me well!   I want to get out on the road bike soon!

Campus Spring Snow Storm
But as soon as the snow comes, it melts - and a then a thin layer of new green begins to creep into the county-side.  Even with another snow, the green grows bolder.

Tsaile Peak, an ancient volcano core
Navajo friends tell me a lot of different things about Tsaile Peak, which I am wanting to hike and climb too the top.  Everyone agrees that you get up from the North side - but there will be deep snow until Summer.  Some tell me you walk right to the top, others say there's a rope you will find and it helps you reach the top.  One of the Facilities Men tells me he was up there when he was about 15 years old - now that he is in his 60's he says the way to get up there, the rocks have fallen off so now you can't get up.  I am happy to report that everyone says there are no spirits or gods that would be upset should I explore, so that's good.

The Blue Birds have arrived and we have this couple building a nest
The Big Murder of Crows, and I must tell you Gentle Readers of This Blog that they are Big and Black and a Tough Bunch - they have built a huge nest, full of large twigs and branches, in the eaves of the library's roof.  But now Blue Birds - I call Little Friends - have arrived.  They are busy and curious and just seems that they are waiting for the right moment to build their nests.  No one will really tell me, but they have a symbolic part to play in the Navajo Religion.  I will leave it at that -

Last Bull Ride
My Navajo friends from work invited me to go to the Inter-Collegiate Rodeo a few weeks ago.  I have never been to a rodeo, and it was fun - at the Fairgrounds in Window Rock.  Navajo Cowboys are much respected - my colleague's son is a Bull Rider.  He's about to ride and she's going to try and capture the few seconds he will be on that beast's back. 

I actually met the Rodeo Clown - he was from Tulsa like me - and he explained to me what was going on and how things worked.  These men and women were young college students.  He told me that a lot of the cowboys in the pros are ex-football players.  If some of these guys don't play pro football, they become pro rodeo cowboys.  You have to be that athletic to do what they do.  I saw many a young man and young woman get slammed into the dirt and mud - the broncs and bulls were huge and ferocious. 

I rooted for The College, but there was a young Cowboy from University of Arizona, and ranked 5th in the College Rodeo Circut as a Bronc Rider - I have to tell you that the horse he drew slammed him face-first into the ground in half a second.  It was a tough night for everyone.

Luckily, it was a warm night and I didn't freeze.  The best part of going to the rodeo really was that since I drove us down to Window Rock with my car, my boss bought us dinner

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Ride In Beauty - Visitor Center Canyon de Chelly

A cold and windy ride this weekend
I'm learning that although temps are reported in the mid-50s to almost 60, it does not really feel that way!  Ha ha ha ha - the sun is intense and bright like my Tucson Days, but I'm at 7200 feet elevation - so it's not actually that warm.  

I miscalculated the distance from TS - 39 (my spot in the college trailer park) to the Visitor Center - I thought it would be a 60 mile round-trip ride, when in fact it's just under 50.  Oh yeah, it's Visitor Center not Visitor's Center - kind of how the weekend went for me, Gentle Readers of This Blog.

As my riding progressed this month, I went out and rode down to the first pull-outs, Mummy Cave and Massacre Cave.  That went well.  For the Birthday I went a little further down to Antelope House - so now this past weekend I got all the way to the Visitor Center.

All week long I looked at weather reports - and the report was warm weather.  Late in the week, there was a massive dust storm with the sky turning red - dust everywhere - and wind blowing like 60 MPH! The Library has a maintenance hatch - a ladder that leads to the hatch, and then onto the roof.  The wind ripped the hatch off roof with a shriek!  When I went to check it out, I saw the red sky above and the door gone.  Facilities guys came right away - found the hatch out on the grounds, and then strapped it down from the inside.  Finally I was glad it was Friday - it was a long week.

Saturday morning was very cold, but started to warm up as the sun came out.  I got everything ready to go, and expected to head down the mountain at around 50 degrees, and then enjoy 60 degrees plus part way down and all the way back.

I took my camera, but this time out I wanted to spin at a good steady clip, and try to get my average speed up.  Well, it was simply a powerful head wind all the way down and cold too.  I still tried to pedal steady, and not stop for photos.  Pretty much I was in the drops and trying to stay upright on the bike.  I could just not get any speed on the down hills - the wind was blasting me - and the climbs were so slow too.  I felt I needed to tough it out, keep going like a brevet rider would, and get to the Visitor Center!

The pullouts I'd ridden to the last few weeks went by, and I started to speed down the road closer to Chinle and the Monument.  Even with a full-on head wind, I was riding fast - just wanting to get there - because you know, Gentle Reader of This Blog - with these fast descents, comes climbing when you're coming home!  I felt okay because I knew that I would have a 15 to 20 MPH tailwind to help me climb back out of here.

So then there I was, the final three or four miles shooting down to the Monument entrance - which by car is okay because the speed limit slows to 45 MPH, but on a bike - you are really gaining speed and the road narrows - then no shoulder.  Lucky for me there was no traffic behind me - I was riding into a strong headwind at 35 MPH and the road curved and banked, like you're favorite set of fast rollers, except this is a very busy intersection - and suddenly you stop.

There I was at the entrance to Canyon de Chelly Nat'l Monument - I did it!  Numb from the cold.  Yes it was actually getting colder, mes amis!  So I stopped in, got out of the wind and sat on a bench in front of the entrance to building and got warmed by the sun.  The sun felt great - and the roar of the wind in my ears was gone much to my relief too.

I went inside to fill my water bottles.  Probably best to get back on the road and get home.  I'd ridden about 25 miles in exactly two hours - not very fast.  And you know what I was thinking - it will be a long haul back.  I could see the two choices for a restaurant but I'll save that adventure for a better ride - one where I start out early and not so damn cold.

Inside the Visitor Center there are a few foreign tourists, and folks from back East.  I receive many perplexing looks - and a guys asks me, kind of as an aside, "Where did you come from?"  He asks this because my friends, we are in the middle of nowhere - practically.  I tell him I live and work up at the college, and then show him on the big park map.  "It's up here, about 25 miles - a pretty good road for riding."  The other tourists look to and are satisfied that I'm not some crazy man.

I begin the climb back - right out of the Visitor Center is it steep and grueling.  I have the help of a strong tail wind, Gentler Reader of This Blog - but it is now frigid cold.  Instead of a roaring blast  of air through my ears that's deafening, it is now so silent and still - the tail wind is pushing me, adding about 3 MPH to my already super slow speed of about 5 MPH (yes it is steep!) and I can now hear my breathing and the tires on the road, and every strain the frame and the wheels take over the rough pavement.

I have to tell you that I caught a glimpse of the canyon from one of the tight turns, that was spectacular - one you would never see from a car, but only by foot or by bike.  I almost stopped, but thought I better just keep pedaling...  I'd say for at least 9 miles I crawled up and out of the lowlands of the edge of Chinle.  Finally I got to Antelope House, where I had been the weekend before, and tackled two more big climbs - then finally a downhill and with tail wind.  I flew like a rocket toward the Chuska Mountains ahead.   Again, it was eerie quiet because the wind is pushing me and not roaring in my ears.  I hear birds - thousands of them - on the wind.  The call out warnings as I make my way past on the road.  Again, I hear the sounds of my bike melding into the sounds of my breathing - it doesn't last long but I stay in the drops, pedal as steady as I can to take as much advantage as I can from the wind and slight descent.

Even with the tail wind - and with about 8 or 9 miles to go of these 50 miles - I was cooked and feeling like I had nothing left.  The last descent, where it seemed I was descending anyway, I could only reach a top speed of 12 MPH.  Finally I made the one last climb to the highest point in my ride - the one where from the top I can see Tsaile, and Dine College spread out below.  Next is four miles of very fast descent - and I pull into the trailer park.

Good God - what a tough ride.  I was frozen and stiff.  I was also starving.  I'd only had a Cliff Bar at the turn-around.  I should have had more calories...  Wow I did it - what a ride!

So I know I can do it - I did do it in just over four hours.  My average speed was 12.8 miles per hour.  To me that seems very slow.  I would not be able to finish a moderately difficult brevet - a 200 - if I rode so slow.

I guess I can just get better, right?

Okay thanks for coming along!  Cheers!  Bruce

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Road Biking Around Canyon de Chelly

Antelope House Pullout 
This past weekend, for my Birthday, I went out for a pretty good ride, Gentle Readers of This Blog.  The weather has been nice - in the mid 50's but just for a small window of time during the day.  Even though it's a bit cold up at The College - and still some snow left melting away - there seems to be this invisible snow-line when the temperature is like 15 degrees warmer - suddenly the hills don't feel so big and bad after all!.  I'm 52 now and think that this is the time to do things head-on.  For instance, if the opportunity arises to put in some miles (good weather, clear roads, etc) well then mes amis - let's go!

I've ridden down to the first pullouts on Hwy 64, which runs North-South along the boundary of the Monument - those were Mummy Cave and Massacre Cave.  There and back to Dine College is just at 30 miles.  For a Birthday Jones, I wanted to ride down to the next pullout, which would be Antelope House, roughly 7 more miles down from those first pullouts.

Like the other pullouts, you go it about a mile or so, then you're in the Park.  There are fast rollers but as always, be careful for cattle, horses, and donkeys.   Maybe when it gets warmer they'll be more slow driving tourists - which I don't mind, but back at Saguaro Nat'l Park in Tucson, sometimes a visitor would be standing in the middle of the road with a camera - to get that perfect shot - then suddenly you're zipping around a curve and you just miss hitting them!  Be careful, mes amis!

I made it to Antelope House, but just the parking lot.  To go see the view, you have to walk about a quarter of a mile on a path.  I might do it sometime when I drive down - just too hard to walk in the bike shoes.  But there was on old Navajo Woman with her hand-made jewelry spread out on the hood of her car there waiting for tourists.  I should have stopped and got me something for my Birthday - I waved at Grandma and she laughed and waved back - I was on my way home.  I would have some climbing to do, and the weather changes quickly.

Chuska Mountains and a Friend
I tend to stop and look while I ride, if the mood strikes me - certainly now since a lot of this is new scenery.  I'd probably have a better average speed, but I need to slow down a bit and get out the camera.  Click to see a bigger image of this if you want, but it's the Chuska Mtn Range up where I live.  To the right is Tsaile Peak and about eight miles Northeast of The College.

I've just pulled out of the Park and now I'm here at Hwy 64.  It was a very pleasant ride down, and landmarks help me find the Antelope House Pullout because the sign going down South is missing.  I told the Park Ranger at the Visitor's Center a few weeks ago and they were like "Again?"

Anyway, I liked how the cloud and the mountain seem to be having a lazy afternoon together.  So much snow up here, and then temps in the 50's!  Up in higher elevation, the road had been plowed, so the snow was melted and the road, and the shoulder very clean!

Even though the Sun is bright and warm, I still need to dress in some layers.  If you keep moving you're okay, but if you stop, you'll get cold quickly.

Tsaile Peak and the Invisible Line
At some point, what some people have told me is "The Invisible Line" the temp, the light, the plants, and the air change - and then there's snow.  I will discover for us, Gentle Reader of This Blog, the exact location!  But I have to say, I enjoy the route and the traffic is low.  There is a silence that is big here - mostly the clouds start to move in - and most importantly - I get a boost from an awesome tailwind!  The best thing about this ride is going home - a tailwind that makes most of the ride effortless!

There is a long straight-away, probably about two miles, where I'm up in the High Country for sure.  Snow blankets the landscape.  Around here I am pretty sure it was an Elk that came out of the trees, stopped in the middle of the road - took a bewildered look at me - them gracefully bound up into the trees on the other side.  I say Elk because it was big - was black - and I have seen lots of deer in my time and this was not built like those.  It had no rack so maybe a female?  

As always with deer, or Elk (I don't know about Elk) you wait for the rest to follow - but just this one is all I saw. I told some people about it, and they asked where - they say it could have been an Elk but was probably a big deer.  A long-time Dine College friend told me they introduced a herd of Elk up around The College, "Years ago," which means before I was born maybe.  "Yeah, could have seen an Elk on your bike... Probably not though...  But it's happened..."

Tsaile below, The College just off to the right.
From here I'll have a very fast descent down to Dine College Trailer Park, which is great to have at the end of a long ride.  Of course, coming up this pass, first thing out the door, is a killer, mes amis.  When I look at my Garmin download right here is where my heart-rate hits the max!  Going home is okay and really I'm ready to just take it easy.  The descent is one of those where you quickly gain a lot of speed, and then you have two very sharp turns that are blind.  

The Mighty Trek
About 40 miles, and they were good ones.  I was dressed right, but maybe could have had more water. I noticed that I quickly used up two bottle this time out.  I should probably have a third in the back of the jersey when I'm out for a longer ride. 

I feel that I can easily now ride all the way down to The Visitor's Center - 30 miles - and back with not so much trouble.  That will be a good goal.  Then I'll not bore you with the little details of this road so much, and concentrate on getting the ride done at a good pace, and then try to continually improve.

Probably what I will do is ride down to The Visitor's Center, and then stop in at the Lodge for breakfast!  That is a blog post I'm looking forward too!

Cheers!  Bruce

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Don't Fence Me In

At Hubble Trading Post
For some R&R I drove out to Flagstaff, Arizona and stayed the weekend by myself.  I mostly went for a change of pace, and to see if I could get my cross-country skis set up with boots and binders.  It was, for the most part, a long four hour drive.  On the way back, I spent a bit more time at Hubble Trading Post Nal't Historic Site.

Little Egypt grew up in Flag, and lived not far from here, and went to Catholic School around the corner.  This church is in old Historic Flagstaff, just right along Old Historic Hwy 66.

I ate at one of my favorite spots in Flag, the Dara Thai Restaurant - the tower is right across the street so that's how I know how to find it - it has been many years since I was here and always with Little E - not the same without her!

Beer is not allowed on the Rez - and not allowed on Campus.  I was brought a 21 once bottle of Guinness, mes amis!  Enough to last me a month!  The Pad Thai I ate was also more calories I've consumed at dinner than I have in one week living out here in Tsaile.  I was in a food coma most of the evening.  

Bunk House for the Hired Hands at Hubble
Flag was okay - cold and slushy as the sun was out and melting the snow in the streets.  But it was kind of empty as not many tourists around.  Flagstaff was always a blue-collar city on Route 66 - a mountain town.  Lots of up-scale and over-priced shops and stuff for the wealthy tourists and skiers today - not too many around the weekend I was there.  Hubble Trading Post was much more fun, and the Rangers and staff at the Post remembered me from my short stop over MLK Holiday.  I took a ton of photos and had a tour of the Hubble Home.  If you ever can stop in Ganado, it's really worth checking out the place.

The waitress at the diner where I had breakfast gave me directions to the Safeway there in East Flag - and I got supplies to bring back up here.  Best thing was that they had a Safeway gas station, and I got 20 cents off my gas!  So I filled up with higher octane (does better up here) and still have half a tank in the car for the next trip!

Snow blew through and it was cold.  Back to work.  My trip to Flagstaff was expensive Gentle Readers of This Blog!  Mostly gas and food and stuff!  I'm better off going down to Tucson as there I can stay with friends to save a little money (actually a lot of money) and it's warm...

I did better than most cars and trucks with the bike.  The snow came in and then the sun warmed and melted some of it - but then it got very windy and cold so things got very icy!  The studded snow tires work great for these conditions!  They grip the snow and ice like claws!  Really worth buying if you can...

Chuska Mountains
Riding home this particular evening from work, the Sun on the mtns made them really shine - but just briefly - glad I saw it!

Cheers!  Bruce

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

The Power of Words

Monument to Navajo Code Talkers at Window Rock
You may have heard of the 29 - the 29 Navajo Marines that were the original Code Talkers that created the radio or communications code that was then used in the Pacific Theatre of World War II.  They created a code in a few weeks that was unbreakable - it could not be translated or deciphered or de-coded, and it provided instantaneous communication between parties.  When you put that in context of real-time combat on the ground, it was a superior and deadly advantage for you should you possess that ability.

Basically before the Navajo Code, if you were being shot at by an enemy from point A, and you wanted to aim and then shoot your artillery at point A to get the bastards off your back, you would send a message by what ever means, courier, by radio, etc - and it could take up to two hours for that message to be received and then your artillery guns given that information to aim and shoot.

By that time, if you weren't dead, the enemy on point A could have moved off, or reinforced, etc.  If the enemy intercepted your message and decoded it (which the Japanese at times could do) they knew your  move before you were going to make it.  This is a logistic that all armies, ours and the armies we have fought, struggled with during wartime.

With the Code Talkers, they could send and receive messages in REAL TIME - instant messaging if you will.  You could know instantly what was going on on the battlefield, and react and possibly - and hopefully turn things in your favor.  What it did was save many an American soldier and sailor's ass.

You also may or may not have seen the war movie with Nick Cage.  Like any movie, it's entertainment / fantasy - so I suggest you read a book by Chester Nez, one of the original 29 Navajo Code Talkers, and from reading that book - which is from the voice of a modest and dignified man, you will get a sense of how important and how fascinating the Code was, and what it did for the United States Military in combat.

One thing I liked about his book, is his experience and frankness about attending boarding school.  For one, most if not all of Indian Children that went to boarding schools went voluntarily - it was pretty clear, at least in Mr. Nez's time, that having an education, and being able to speak English and deal with an increasingly modern world - would be a necessity.  His father certainly knew this, and with his family's support, he did go to boarding school.  It was not easy for him, and it was not easy for other kids like him.

Many Pseudo-intellectuals - primarily Native American Pseudo-scholars will rant, if and when given the platform, will spread misinformation about boarding schools.  They do about Haskell all the time.  Mostly it's anecdotal - or what the Indians would say "Gossip." 99 per cent of this so-called boarding school abuse is bullshit.  When ever there was cruelty, it was always Indian Staff working at the schools being cruel to Indian students - but they never tell you that.

When this issue comes up - the unread and uneducated folks are somehow given the opportunity to keep this crap going - usually they are somewhat connected to Haskell - maybe they went to school there.  They just repeat what they've heard, and what they have heard is not accurate - at all.

People don't do their research anymore, they "data mine" for some statement and then twist it.  I was the fucking librarian there at Haskell and it was easy to fact-check what these assholes were saying (yeah there are Native People who are uneducated assholes)  I had the books right there, and Gentle Readers of This Blog - I was amazed, then shocked - the offended at what these people were claiming  was historical truth.   They hadn't done their homework.  They hadn't done their research.  It makes me sick.

The fucktard Governor of Kansas, Gov Brownback, in late 2013 apologized to "The Native Americans" for the ill treatment of Indian Kids at boarding schools - what a bunch of shit!!!  All Indian Children that went to boarding schools in the entire country?  That is what the Pseudo-scholars will tell you is the truth.   At least Brownback did not mention, to my knowledge, Haskell in particular, because there was no ill treatment of Indians student there - no documents and no evidence.  By default, that was the only historically accurate thing the Governor said by not mentioning Haskell specifically.

So, you may think you know something about the Navajo Code Talkers but do you really know why the code was so powerful? or important.  Most Native People I know, and many Navajo People I know, do not understand what these guys did.

Because this kid from the Navajo Reservation was forced to speak flawless English in boarding school - reading, writing, speaking - he could instantly take a spoken or written statement in English and speak in Navajo (using the code spoken in Navajo) to the other Code Talker on the ground (usually in combat) and the power of what he spoke made bombs fall and shells rain in on the enemy.

That is pretty heavy to think about when you're 19 or 20 years old- that your words can vaporize other people.  So after reading about this young Navajo Marine, and how the code worked, I can see how these modest guys down-played the power of the code.   I also believe any person, Japanese, Russian, German, American with that kind of experience would do the same - it's just that the War Machine found the most effective means, and that was the Navajo.

I was driving back up to The College from Gallup, and I thought I would actually see for myself the Window Rock.  Here it is - The People don't attach any spiritual or any other significance to the rock formation - it just appears a good place to camp.  Everybody knew that, and the place - so having the Capital there makes some sense.

I wanted to get out on the road bike again, but it was just too cold.   Instead I took the Desert San Campus bike down to Tsaile Lake.  The air was clean and crisp, mes amis!  And most of the heavy snow we've had looks like it melted.

I want to tell you that as the snow melts, the ground turns to mud!  the mud is thick and oozy and like warm wet peanut butter!  It sticks on everything!  Those rocks in the pic are some sort of boat ramp to get closer to the lake - get off these rocks and sink in the muck!

I have seen people out here ice fishing.   I'll wait awhile before I go try to fish.  I hear that the trout are awesome, and I plan to catch some for dinner this Spring and Summer!

The Sun is intense out here - like Tucson.  Years ago I should have worn a broad rim hat - Tucson Sun has damaged my skin - Also, the Sun on the snow is blinding!   If I stay out too long and there's bright sunshine and lots of snow, I will get a sunburn...

There are roads like this that lead everywhere across this country.  You can't tell, but it is a muddy muddy mess!  Actually on a bike, it's okay.  But driving on these kinds of roads beats your vehicle to pieces...  Still many students I know, and my colleagues at work have to use roads like this from where they live to get to the jobsite...

You can't really tell, but mud was caked on the bike.  Again, it's like wet red sticky gooey peanut butter, but seems to dry hard and thick when on your tires or your boots.  If you step in the mud, and then try to get out - your shoe or boot sticks and your foot slips out!

So here's the inside of my little place.  I have the new couch and the new table and chairs I brought up from Tucson.  So now I feel like I have a retreat from the Dine World back into my world.   The remoteness and striking vastness of this county can get to me.  Also sometimes the Navajo, especially the students can get on my nerves.  Cell phones and tossing cigarette butts - shit young college students do everywhere pushes my buttons.

There's this big Indian named Tom who comes into the library every afternoon.  He's kind of fat and does not dress well - and he smells really really bad.  But he has a lot of charm and he makes it a point to speak with me in a cordial way- he calls me Cowboy.  I told him I was not a cowboy by any means - Drugstore Cowboy, he says.  That works for me and we have a laugh.  You know - I like this guy...

He is a bit loud, and his English broken.  He appears to be not very bright - he's in college up here, and he's not a young Navajo - he's like in his late 50's.  I've tried to help him with computer things and and some reading - he struggles, and I struggle because his B.O is over-powering.

Today he came up to the front desk to speak to Mary, my colleague.  I was in my office but I could hear Tom speaking...

Speaking in Navajo - I have never heard him speak Navajo, nor Mary either for that matter.  

In Navajo, Tom speaks like a regal statesman.  So eloquent, so articulate, so poetic - it sounds like a song - the way a Summer Storm would sing it's song.

Cheers!  Bruce

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Home on the Range

Hogan behind Hubble Trading Post
One thing about being a cyclist, and a long-distant cyclist like a Randonneur, is that often you find yourself melding into the landscape rather than fighting it.  So many hours and miles in the saddle, you just have to give in - and let the miles come to you.  For me, I start to get a sense of the lay-out of the land.  I know, it sound kind of blah - but driving by things in a car, you don't seem to understand the why; why is a road here?  Why is this field farmed this way?  Who lives here?  Riding, you start to understand - your perspective changes and you sometimes get a glimpse of how people adapted to the surroundings.

I don't know why, by Hubble Trading Post in Ganado, Arizona is one of most favorite places in the world.  There is something about the spot, something that brought people here, even before John Lorenzo Hubble in the 1870's.

This time I was here, and for the first time, I noticed what seemed out of no-where - this Hogan in the back of the Store.  This is white man's version of a Navajo Hogan - and it is awesome!  You can tell that the occupants had money too.  I'm not sure the whole story, but probably was a family member of the Hubble family.  Anyway, I must tell you, Gentle Readers of This Blog, that I could be quite comfortable living in a cozy place like that!

Inside TS - 39
The Navajo Nation has provided me with a very nice one-room trailer, which I am grateful for - as you can see, it's mostly empty.  Well, that changed after a quick trip down to Tucson mes amis!

I stopped in and got some postcards and candy bars - the big draw for me is the feel of the place on the inside!  Still a store where you can buy what you need.  Pretty much, if you haven't figured this out already, that a Trading Post is convenience store from 100 years ago.  A lot of Trading Posts out here morphed into gas stations.  So when you pull into your favorite gas station in your neighborhood, you could think of it as your Trading Post.  Now you just swipe your debit card at the pump, you don't go inside the store and interact with people, or see the cheap shit you don't need anyway.

Hubble still sells some of that same shit, but mostly its stuff that you would need - like often what I need - to live in this country.  No photography is allowed inside, so no photos for you...  I'm glad there are no gas pumps here at Hubble Trading Post - no oil stains, no trash, no morons pouring out their cold coffee on the ground at the pump as they're leaving, etc.  It's really is worth stopping by.

The Indians there helped me out with my drive back down to Tucson; we discussed the best routes, Dine College, the Clans Little Egypt comes from (Redhouse and Footracer), and how to pull a trailer out of the mud or snow if I were to get stuck on the way back.

We are in the final stages of selling our place in Dog Mtn.  Little Egypt and I have mulled over selling or keeping it - I spent the summer fixing up things and making it look shinny and new.  It was still in the same condition when I left it back in October.  A modest home in an area where, as I said in my last post, that is being built up (like wild fire) to meet the tastes of the people that got rich off the Wars and the Spoils of the economic downturn.  Well, if the buyer bails, we will rent again...

My next-door neighbor and good friend in Dog Mtn loaned me a small trailer.  For the long weekend, I went down and I'd bring back a couch, some furniture - and in the meantime, bring some hay and dog food up to Aunt Mae - Little Egypt's aunt that still lives up on the Rez near Wide Ruins.  Since I'd be going past her place on the way back from Dog Mtn up to Tsaile, I would surprise her with some supplies!

All I can say is that when it came time to load the hay, the big bales where bigger than I figured - I could only get two of the big 100 pound bales on the trailer and not the four that I wanted.  The young cowboys at the feed store tried to get them on but I didn't think it would be safe driving through the mountains - and I certainly didn't want to get stuck out on top of the mesa where Aunt Mae lives - so two bales would have to do.

What I bought in supplies was not that much in terms of money for me- things cost tons more on the Rez, and a lot of Navajo friends at The College say sometimes the hay is not that great.  The hay I bought was very good - and much less expensive if I were to buy up there.  

So Aunt Mae was happy to see me.  We talked for awhile - but I needed to get on the road.  What I bought just for her sheep and dogs would have cost her entire Social Security Check - so it was good that when the end of the month comes around, she has a little more this time.

Our Lady of Randonneuring
Years ago when Steve, Star of the Blog and I would train for Brevets, we'd ride up to Mammoth, AZ to the Circle K Store (Trading Post) which was the turn-around for our ride - but if you go up a bit further,  you came to this Shrine built by the Miners to keep them safe.  

So I stopped in to say hello to the Old Girl and ask that I get home with dog food, hay, and furniture with no problems.   Steve and I liked to think of her as Our Lady of Randonneuring because going home, we had to climb up and over a mountain.  Any help you can get you take, right? 

I brought back some patio furniture that my neighbor kept in his garage for us.  It's perfect for TS -39.  Little Egypt was also very happy I got this stuff as it was very expensive - but she bought it on sale and got a good price.  So even though I didn't want to at first, I hauled it back up here to The College.  Now I'm glad I did because it works well.

Got me a very comfortable couch.  So, Gentle Reader of This Blog - if by chance you find yourself up this way, I have a couch for you to crash on...

Bring you bike!

Cheers!  Bruce

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

How Does It Feel?

Mt. Lemmon Money Shot from the West
I was able to have four days off as part of MLK Holiday, so one day on Friday to drive down from the Rez to Dog Mtn, Saturday to run errands, visits with friends, check on the house - Sunday to ride with Le Tigre, my old college chum, and personal curator and librarian for a very wealthy collector (who shall remain un-named) and then Monday to drive back up into the High Country.

The difference between the Navajo Nation and Anglo Arizona starts to show up as you drive down in Show Low, AZ - Jaguars, mes amis.  Show Low is a place where wealthy folks have built homes (maybe a second or third) and automobiles which serve no other purpose than to impress upon you or I, how much money we don't have that sure came in loud and clear as I drove through, stopped to fill the tank, pee, eat a cheese burger at McD's.

Where I live, it is expensive, cars are beat up, and cars are the difference between having a decent job, getting to work, and getting food and things to survive in the mountains.  In the other Mountain Town, cars are a sign of disposable wealth.  A convertible Jag or Audi for a quick dash to the espresso bar.

I'm just saying that the Wealthy, the 1 per cent - sure got a lot richer.  This is very evident in Tucson and the surrounding out-skirts.  Seems like they got richer off of us fighting a few wars, extracting our wealth (banks targeting spouses of veterans, knowing that on their return from deployments, soldiers would find no work) fuck they even (in Arizona anyway) changed the bankruptcy laws to protect themselves from all the financial woes we would have.

People that have to live and work, even in these small mountain towns, don't have much income, so their trucks are older, rusted, and besides being the main tool to produce income, are what get you to the store for food and supplies.  Like the Navajo, what little money left goes for fuel

Only the wealthy can afford to live up here, not work, and have a car for the sake of it being an errand to the malt shop mode of transportation.

So back in Tucson/Marana/Oro Valley - business as usual - over-building of homes aimed at the entitlement-minded retired wealthy snowbirds.

Le Tigre and I went out for a ride, and I just have to tell you that it was busy, bumper-to-bumper traffic the likes I have never seen.  I have not lived in the Tucson area since 2010 - and I have to say in only a few years thing have really built up.  In about 12 years since we bought our place in Dog Mtn - it has gone from almost no traffic, to uncontrollable congestion - and the only cure is more construction to build roads - which slows the pace of everywhere you need to go to a stand-still.

Oracle Rd this time was deafening.  Just so much traffic.  Used to be fair amount of traffic as it was primarily local people (ranchers) and blue collar types coming in from the smaller mining towns on the weekends.  But mega-planned retirement communities are now up, and amid the local trailer trash - wealthy retirees with lots of disposable cash ride around in their Land Yachts.  They have a disdain for cyclist - that's why we have to stick together!

On the West side of the Catalinas, is Catalina State Park - mountains and desert.  Pretty peaceful and clean and I'm glad it's there.  Tucson area is growing so much!  People have to pay big money to see these mountains from their new homes.  But I've known them from years - and miles on the bike, and always with good friends!

Steve, Star of the Blog - climbing and suffering, training for Brevets...
Boss Man, who taught me how to make fast descents while flying down to Mammoth, AZ.
Gerry Goode, Saddlebrook resident who always met me at Espresso Drini for coffee
Susan, Beloved RBA
John, Cathy, and Eagle Wing - heading to Bio Sphere
Dave Glasgow, the Leprechaun
and Le Tigre!  The Cat of Foothills!

Le Tige on Oracle Rd, heading down into Tucson

It felt good to be in 70 degrees instead of 40 and 50 degrees like up in Tsaile.  Still, with a little cloud cover and some wind, we were a bit cold going out, mes amis.  As we came back to Dog Mtn, it finally got warm.  Le Tigre was a good sport to drive up to where I was staying with my old next door neighbor - we would have ridden further, but dang, time was passing quickly and I still had a ton of stuff to do before my all-day drive back up to The College.

We put in almost 50 miles round trip.  It was fun telling Le T about my life up on the Rez.  I sure hope he can come up and see me like he promised.  I will sure scout all he good roads to ride on, and find the choice routes up and around Canyon de Chelly.

So - how does it feel?  Little Egypt and I are close to selling our house up in Dog Mtn.  She has not lived there since 2009.  Jobs took us away from Tucson, and as you may know, Gentle Reader of This Blog, I tried for over a year to find a new job - I applied for almost every job in Tucson with no luck.  I would have applied for dish-washer, but 1, I have little experience, and 2 I'm over-qualified.  We tried renting as you know, but just had a worthless fuck for a tenant.

We've been paying rent in KS and mortgage in AZ, so it has been a drain on us.  One of the main reasons I took this job up in Tsaile is because the Navajo Nation gives me a free place to live - to which I am very grateful... and well, great places to ride!

I have to say that my walks, rides, and drives up here in this country have grown on me.  The solitude and absence of masspeople masshouses massautomobiles massconsumerism has cleared my mind - I reflect on my purpose, and my place in the world.  The World is a tough place and really, even if we're doing good, we are a lot of us on the verge of ruin.

How do we keep going?

I was fortunate, I think, to have had a good education - able to get okay jobs.  Now I have a professional job (librarian - yeah I know a stretch)

I gained a sense of my ancestors through my Grandmother Chandler (nee Wardlaw) who would spend hours with me, explaining and describing the people in the old black and white family photo albums that I was so fascinated with as a kid.  My Grandfather, Robert "Bobby" Chandler, was an artist (painter) and loved photography.  I have hundreds of pictures he took of Pairs and on-board ship while he was in the US Navy in WW I.

My Grandmother laid out for me like a big streaming book all those photos, telling me stories of the people, in such detail, such that over many years they seemed alive and close by.  I know and saw family in photos with objects - usually their personal and favorite objects, and those objects were in my grandparent's house such that I could hold them, wear them, sit on them, etc.  Being able to do that, in some ways, I became my ancestors...  It's been a big influence on how I see the world.

I have a few of those objects with me even now up here in the Dine College Trailer Park.

Navajo people I have met have a certain modesty and resiliency; traits of character I saw in my family created from pictures and stories from my Grandmother.

That resiliency is surely to be tried living up here.

Cheers!  Bruce