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June 29, 2011

Graffiti Veins

Agapanthus and Fortnight Lilies

When I got back to San Francisco last week, it had finally warmed up to a nearly tolerable temperature. Finally, the Agapanthus began to bloom properly. That was the problem with them all year. It was too cold. That's why they look so much better in San Diego. They need a warmer climate.

On Van Ness, the median exploded with miles of Fortnight Lilies.

At work, the Wisteria bloomed a second time. Again, I think that when the Wisteria bloomed earlier this year, it was too cold for them and the blooms faded quickly.

The magnolias are stunning.The resilient Bottle Brush and Red Gum/Honkey Nut trees (Corymbia Ficifolia) continue to bloom like mad.

Other flowers began to bloom in the Mission that I'd never seen before. I'll have to inspect them more closely.

At work, in some mundane meeting in a small conference room, I pull out a pair of scissors and start slicing into the power cord of my Sony Vaio. It's been the Achilles' Heel of this old laptop. A constant source of irritation, I've repaired it countless times. The entire length marred by splices, welds, and Gordian knots of black electrical tape.

There's yet another short in it, which I've finally isolated, so in the middle of this meeting, I begin carving away at the power cord with the scissors like I know what I'm doing. I'm using scissors only because the airlines won't let me carry an exacto knife.

"Who is the expert on Manager Self Service," they ask my boss. And he points to me. Most people had, I think, assumed that I was the janitor. Or a security guard or something. Unkempt. Unshaven. Jeans. T-shirt. Long hair. Basically, I look like a meth addict coming off a bender.

They all turn to me, and I smile back at them, as I smartly sever my power cord with the scissors. Probably, a smarter person would have unplugged it, but somehow I missed that trick. Sparks fly. Smoke. Light. Somehow I'm still alive. But sort of stunned, like a bird that smacks into a closed window.

Undeterred, I unplug the laptop, plug in my soldering iron, and begin to solder the cord back together. All while the meeting is going on in this small closed room, I'm soldering the cord together. The stench of melting lead solder fills the room and I start to grow dizzy, like a bad science fiction book.

Eventually, the repair work is finished, and I plug in my power cord to demonstrate how clever I am everyone, but it doesn't work. Meeting adjourned.

Whores and Rumors of Whores

Recently, my ex-girlfriend ran off with my friend, not that I was surprised. She was never a very faithful cur. Dumb as a bag of hammers with a face like a wilted lettuce and the hands of an cornhusker.

She's as mean as a coon in a leg trap and will argue till she's blue in the face about any topic you're careless enough to bring up.

I say 'good riddance'.

It doesn't help any that the last two books I read end up with the main characters confined to asylums. The overall result of all of this is not exactly uplifting, as it were.

Hopefully, the next book I'm re-reading ("A Confederacy of Dunces") won't leave me feeling suicidal.

Isolated and Despondent

In the morning, cleaning crews wash down the streets with enormous trucks. Replicants pick up the litter, but it's a constant battle, and after a while, it's hard to think of the city as a "clean" place to be.

The sky is crowded with helicopters. Some guy fired at the police on the corner of Ellis and Gough. The cops returned fire. He missed. They didn't.

This city carves you up like a Thanksgiving turkey. It turns you from what you are into something you're not. Something less than you want to be. Isolated and despondent.

"Please help me. Please help me." A woman croaks into a voice modulator box she holds to her throat. These people live hand to mouth, so very close yet so far away.

"Spare some change? Can you help me out here buddy? God bless."

Woolly and wild. Weathered and worn. The soiled, tattered homeless stagger down filthy sidewalks. Shoes unmatched. Fists clenched to defend against that which might come. The evil that lurks in hearts of the strangers I've seen, but never met.

It's so hard to be here. To be strolling through this afternoon nightmare of spray-painted poverty. Graffiti and razor wire. Crime and confusion.

The Left Koast

Most of my formal education has little bearing on what I do on a daily basis. I apply some things we learned, but in a tangential way.

The state of California is about 800 miles long, as measured from the northern most point to the southern most point. Give or take a few miles.

A reasonable person might assume the coast to be roughly the same, but the truth is not so simple. If you start measuring the actual length of the coast, and begin to consider as part of the coast, every inlet and every bay and every sound, you begin also to see that the length of the coast increases. It ends up being much longer than initially expected.

In fact, the length of the coast depends almost entirely on the length of the tool you use to measure it. As the degree of precision increases, so increases the length of the coast.

Theoretically, the length of the coast approaches infinity, as your unit of measure goes to zero. At some point, you're reduced to measuring the circumference of each grain of sand, wherein the length of the coast is essentially infinite.

This, we learned in Calculus. So, twenty seven years ago, I tucked that little gem away. I doubt I've brought it up since then. It's not something you can discuss with everyone. It's counter intuitive. It's not something I would try to explain to women, as the ones I see are mostly concerned with their makeup, perfume, and how they look in the new "skinny jeans".

Grid Searching The Loin

I'm grid searching the loin and the mission and SOMA for a reason. There's a method to my madness. I'm looking for graffiti because, long ago, I realized that I'd probably photographed all of the graffiti in San Francisco. The city is, after all, fairly small as cities go. It's all encompassed within a 7 mile by 7 mile grid.

So, I imagined myself going on to the next project and bragging about how I'd shot all of the graffiti in San Francisco. Surely, I'd shot it all by now. Or certainly, all of the major works. Or all the major works that I wanted to shoot. As a general rule, I don't shoot commercial murals, as I consider them more ads or billboards than true art. Also, I tend to steer away from the multi-culturalism murals with everyone holding hands in the "can't we all just get along" dystopian vision for my own reasons. But, basically, I'd shot all of the important murals in the city that I was interested in. Or so I thought.

As an exercise, to test my hypothesis, I started grid-searching the city. Ritualisitically driving down each city block, running the wrong way down one way streets. Driving down sidewalks.

What I found shocked me. What I found was that, on the same route that I've taken to work every day for months, there are seemingly countless murals that I'd never seen before. Why? Because they're on short streets that don't run but a block or two. Or because I'm going down a one way street and the only way to see them is to look back as you pass them (not a good idea on a motorcycle). Or because they were new. Or because they were on garage doors. Or inside of businesses and were only exposed part of the time.

Also, I noticed that a lot of new murals were going up on a seeming perpetual basis. Everywhere I looked, people were sketching out new murals, armed with more paint than you could imagine.

I was stunned, and, in a matter of days, my vision of the city's graffiti scene changed entirely. No longer did I view the murals as something static to be captured and stored in an encyclopedic edition of a graffiti coffee-table book. I now view the city as a dynamic canvas, with murals that are constantly being erased and recreated, as the tides sculpt the beaches.

Only now do I begin to appreciate the complexity of the city's dynamic graffiti scene. It's nothing like I'd initially imagined it to be.

Photographing the city's murals seems a lot like trying to measure the length of the coast. The closer you look, the more you find. And because the art is constantly changing, shooting it all is an impossibility. A Quixotean quest.

With this new understanding of the city, I began to do mad grid searches of massive sections of the city after work. The tenderloin, SOMA, the financial district, the Mission. Chinatown. North Beach.

Now, it's like the blinders have been removed and I can see the city much better than before. Instead of assuming I've seen it all, I assume it's all constantly changing and there's no way of predicting what I'll see in Clarion Alley on any given day.

Graffiti Veins

This new approach has led to some unexpected observations, primarily that the murals, wheatpaste, and graffiti art seem to be more prevalent in areas where the nicer neighborhoods intersect with the seedier neighborhoods. I've discovered concentrated veins of graffiti that run through the city, delineating the interface between the rich and the poor.

In the very nicest neighborhoods, there is no graffiti because they don't want to see it and anything put up is promptly removed or repainted. This was expected, of course.

But surprisingly, when you go into the very worst neighborhoods, the graffiti disappears also. When you're surrounded by razor wire and construction zones, empty lots and abandoned buildings, It just goes away. In the truly neglected areas of the city where no one walks down the sidewalks, there isn't a lot of art or graffiti or wheatpasted images, or anything.

This was surprising to me as I'd assumed that undefended areas like this would be ripe for the surreptitious artists to ply their trades. But I think that the people painting the murals and wheatpasting bizarre prints onto buildings do truly want people to appreciate their efforts. It's not like it's hanging in a prestigious gallery, but they do want their work to be seen and appreciated. These artists are presumably looking for a balance between the risk to display their art and the number of eyes that will view it.

Only now do I realize that the clandestine art follows clearly defined lines through the city, like the seaweed delineates the tidelines on the beach. As veins of gold run through the hills. The term I've coined for this phenomenon is "Graffiti Veins".

Above: Restoration of iconic mural by Belgian street artist ROA of mother rat with babies at 411 Valencia Street in San Francisco's Mission District.

Above: Dan Plasma reclaims the space for his mural at 15th and Valencia in San Francisco's Mission District.

Above: Mark Bode piece on Caledonia Street between 15th and 16th in San Francisco's Mission District.

Above: A joint effort by Dan Plasma and Mike Giant on Caledonia Street between 15th and 16th in San Francisco's Mission District.

Above: Caledonia Street between 15th and 16th in San Francisco's Mission District. Update: This piece in Caledonia Alley is by Irvine, CA based artist Michael Kershnar.

Above: Caledonia Street between 15th and 16th in San Francisco's Mission District.

Above: Mural in Clarion Alley in San Francisco's Mission District. Update: According to Amandas Aorta, this piece is by Cuba.

Above: Mural in Clarion Alley in San Francisco's Mission District. Update: According to Amandas Aorta, this piece is a memorial mural for artist Jeff Jones, created by Mark Bode and James o'Barr.

Above: Mural in Clarion Alley in San Francisco's Mission District by Mars-1.

Above: Mural in Clarion Alley in San Francisco's Mission District.

Above: Mural in Clarion Alley in San Francisco's Mission District.

Posted by Rob Kiser on June 29, 2011 at 9:47 PM : Comments (0) | Permalink

June 28, 2011

Kurt Vonnegut quote

"We are put here on this world to mess around.
Don't let anyone tell you anything different."
~ Kurt Vonnegut

Posted by Rob Kiser on June 28, 2011 at 12:37 PM : Comments (0) | Permalink

The South Indian Monkey Trap

Monday morning finds me at 30,000 feet on a plane to nowhere. Trying to forget the weekend. Trying to paint that nightmare out of my mind.

When I went to board the plane, the guy tried to scan my boarding pass but it's a complete fabrication. Just a poorly fabricated photoshop printed in the small hours of the morning. To the casual observer, it looks fairly good but Southwests' scanner is giving it a big fat 'F'.

"Hmmmm," he warns. "It says that you're not flying today. Also, your number is A8, and the girl in front of you was A8 also...that's odd...hmmmmm."

But I have an ace in the hole. I did, in fact, purchase a ticket to fly today. So what if I don't have a valid boarding pass. It's no skin off of my back. I'm getting on the plane, I figure. Come hell or high water.

Eventually, he waves me aboard, but before I walk away, I reach over and gingerly retrieve my fabricated boarding pass.

"I have to turn this in to get reimbursed," I explain. "It's a company policy."

This little trick is something I learned from brother. Not the boarding pass fabrication. The "company policy" ruse. People are always telling you what there policy is, so you turn it around on them and tell them what your policy is. Works like a charm.

But where were we?

Oh yes....I'm on a plane, painting a broad white contrail across the Great American Desert, from Denver to Orange County because, well because. And I'm trying to forget about this weekend but it's not working. Can't push this nightmare into the closet. For some reason, it keeps popping back out and I may as well lay it out because nothing can save me at this point, I'm afraid.

First of all, you should know that there's a reason I'm working on the road. It's because I don't have a lot going on in Colorado. My neighbors avoid me like the plague, planning weekly dinner parties, but somehow managing to never include me in their plans. So there is that.

And then, I broke up with the chick that I was banging like a screen door in a hurricane for the last two years. Her Christian name is 'Lurch'. She's not much too look at, and she's as dumb as a bag of hammers. Long in the tooth with hands like a lumberjack, but she was, at the end of the day, willing to put up with me for long stretches of time. And the two of us work less than any people you've ever met, so we did have some good times together driving around the mountains of Colorado, the canyons of Moab, and the forests of New Mexico. So, she was good for that. Always up for a road trip when I never really felt like getting out of bed.

But at the end, she was just using me for my body. And, you would think, maybe that's what guys want, but it's not really. It's so not. This is actually the second time in my life that I've had a woman use me for my body and it's every bit as depressing as you could imagine. When there's no love in a relationship, it's just so unhealthy I don't know where to begin.

And now she's gone and that's why I'm on the road of course. Because I just don't want to think about it and it's so easy to backslide because, well just because it is really.

The Trailerpark Mockingbird

Lurch's neighborhood is guarded by a malevolent scold named Janet, a talented and accomplished gossip monger. A short, trollish looking wench that attends church religiously every Sunday not to glorify Him, but to make certain she doesn't miss out on any malicious tongue wagging.

She patrols the neighborhood from the safety a collapsing, single-wide trailer she parked at the mouth to the neighborhood to keep an eye on other people's business, as she has no business of her own.

Or if it can be said that she has a trade, her trade is gossip and business is good.

Although not officially assigned to defend the trailer park by any homeowners association, but she gladly assumes the duties. As the quasi-official trailerpark mockingbird, she takes in every story, every snippet from every liar, every rube, every tattletale and chews these delicate bits diligently, eventually working it around to her own advantage. She fans the flames of discord between neighbors, eventually breaking apart solid marriages.

In the process, neglecting her own finances, she eventually drove her own family to the brink of financial ruin.

The final straw was when the neighbors, married for 32 years, divorced over some scandalous rumors she'd fabricated or exaggerated. By coincidence, on the same day, the bank came to repossess the family trailer.

Thinking swiftly, the scold begged them off by selling the axles out from under the trailer. They lowered the trailer onto the ground. They were so poor they couldn't afford to purchase concrete blocks beneath the frame, as the other neighbors had. (The divorced family dealt in cinder blocks, but weren't feeling overly generous for reasons mentioned previously.)

To avoid her evil wrath, I took to riding my motorcycle up the hiking trails up the side of the mountain. It was illegal, of course, but I only had to drive down the hiking trails for about a mile or so and I never got caught doing it and it drove the scold mad. When I left, I'd drive right by her trailer and tach the motorcycle's engine up so loud that it shook her windows. So she new when I left, but she could never be sure when I had arrived and this drove her nearly insane.

I would say it drove her to drink or it drove her to smoke, or to swear. But she already did all of those things, as I think I've mentioned before. She was a wretched little sooty troll of a woman. Everyone that knew her loathed her, and the truth was not in her.

And Then There Were None

My saving grace in all of this was that there was one person fairly close to my neighborhood that I could hang out with. He and I would go fly fishing in Colorado summers and he had a daughter my daughter's age, and we got along reasonably well.

When the neighbors were throwing parties that I wasn't invited to, it was a place I could go to get away from the jackasses that hold me pinned to my little property like a dusty butterfly in a museum collection.

I could go to his house and drink beer and let the kids play. We drove down to the zoo in Colorado Springs. We did some things together with the kids. It was a relief valve for the long summers.

So, on Friday, I was over there with my daughter and the kids were celebrating a birthday party or two, my buddy and I were out back drinking beer and I'm talking to him like I would a true friend. You know how it is. You don't hold back around your close friends. Your close friends have your back when it all goes down. When you don't know which way is up, they're the ones you turn to.

So, we're chewing the fat and then he brings up that he's now going out with my ex-girlfriend. And, let's be clear. By "ex-girlfriend", it means that I've not been over to her trailer on my dirt bike in a few weeks. It means that, when she sent me an email on Monday (5 days ago) saying "Where are you?" I figured we were in pretty good shape.

But now, my buddy is telling me that he's got her all dialed in and I'm like "Oh wow. Check please?" I chugged my beer and excused myself.

"Don't you want to stay for another beer," he cheerily offered?

I'm like "I think I'm good, thanks," and I blew out of there. Like seriously? Seriously? WTF?

I spent the rest of the weekend trying to keep the pointy end of the pistol out of my mouth.

The weekend was tough because, I don't know what to do. I want to get out, but I don't know where to go. I tell Jennifer, "Let's go somewhere. Georgetown. Boulder. Anywhere." But no. Nothing is truly contemplated. All that is seen is the cost. Time spent in the car.

So I surrender to her apathy and I don't do anything and she doesn't do anything and the only neighbors that speak to me are out of the country and even the cat doesn't seem to be inclined to hang around and this won't go down as one of my best weekends.

The South Indian Monkey Trap

As we take off, I can literally look down and see the scold out in her trailer park. She's trying to lure a donkey into her garage with a carrot. Why? I can only guess. She's got nine kids and, even from here, it's clear she's pregnant again.

As I think back on it, I see now that this was all planned. All orchestrated. He'd planned all along that he would tell me he was going out with my ex. He was waiting for the right moment in the conversation. A time to mention that which he knew would be an issue. I walked blindly into an ambush. I feel stupid and maligned.

I try to push the shattered fragments of this thing I call a life into the furthest corners of my mind.

I pull out "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" and start reading it. I told all my friends in California to read it, but they all summarily dismissed the suggestion. They don't talk to me anymore either. Sister tells me not to play "connect the dots with the low points" of my life. But this is where I am.

I love the book, and I'm thumbing through it. Some of the more didactic parts, I just sort of skim. I don't agree with Robert Pirsig on his fanatical views of Quality and Gumption Traps. But there are little gems in the book that make it priceless, to wit, the South Indian Monkey Trap.

"The South Indian Monkey trap...consists of a hollowed-out coconut chained to a stake. The coconut has some rice inside which can be grabbed through a small hole. The hole is big enough so that th emonkey's hand can go in, but too small for his fist with rice in it to come out. The monkey reaches in and is suddenly trapped - by nothing more than his own value rigidity. He can't revalue the rice. He cannot see that freedom without rice is more valuable than capture with it."

Maybe that's me. Maybe I'm the monkey, and I need to revalue the rice. There's nothing particularly special about her. She's got a face like a cantaloupe and the brains of blinded moth. She cheated on me so often that I didn't even ask who she'd been with any more. You just sort of give up hope after a while. It's just sort of "shut up and take your clothes off. I don't want to know."

We land in Orange County, and everyone starts to deboard but there's some holdup. The guy in 1C is having issues. I'm not clear what. People are handing him luggage. He stands up slowly, unfolding a cane as he does. He's blind.

"Here. Let's make sure you've got everything. I put your suitcase right beside you," someone offers. "Do you feel it there...on your right?"

And I think...seriously? This guy can't even see and I'm all depressed out my situation? Seriously? WTF am I doing feeling sorry for myself? What do I care about these two dimwits want to shag each other rotten in an un-air-conditioned trailer? It's no skin off of my back.

We play a high-stakes game of musical chairs in Orange County. I'm sitting on the other side of the plane today because I want to see Big Sur and the Santa Rosa islands. Pismo Beach and San Luis O'bispo.

A girl sits down beside me and we take off for San Francisco.

"What's that you're reading?" she asks.

"Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Mainenance," I reply.

"Is it good?"

"Oh, you just can't know," I reply.

The villagers are coming. I think it's time cut my losses.

Editor's Note: The above story is entirely fictional. All characters in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

Above: Mural on Berwick Place wall near Harrison Street.

Above: Mural on Berwick Place wall near Harrison Street.

Above: Mural on Berwick Place wall near Harrison Street.

Above: Mural on Berwick Place wall near Harrison Street by Chad Hasegawa.

Above: Mural on Berwick Place wall near Harrison Street.

Above: Wheatpaste on Geary east of Leavenworth.

Above: Wheatpaste on Geary east of Leavenworth.

Posted by Rob Kiser on June 28, 2011 at 12:01 AM : Comments (1) | Permalink

June 27, 2011

Berm Collapses at Fort Calhoun Nuclear Reactor in Nebraska

I've said before that I don't understand why the nuclear crisis at Fort Calhoun isn't getting any attention. This nuclear plant is 8 miles from the Omaha metropolitan area. WTF were they thinking? Seriously?


Posted by Rob Kiser on June 27, 2011 at 1:13 AM : Comments (0) | Permalink

June 26, 2011

Bay Bridge Construction

I had no clue that they were building a new Bay Bridge in San Francisco. This week, I drove over there and saw some work in progress, but from my vantage point, I still didn't grasp the scope of the work.


Posted by Rob Kiser on June 26, 2011 at 4:13 PM : Comments (0) | Permalink

Obama is Chauncey Gardiner


Posted by Rob Kiser on June 26, 2011 at 11:16 AM : Comments (0) | Permalink

2 Bombs go off in Denver bookstore

Wow. This mall is near my house. This is insanity.


(AFP) - 13 hours ago

LOS ANGELES -- Two small bombs partially detonated in a bookstore in Denver, Colorado early Saturday causing minor damage but no injuries, the Federal Bureau of Investigation said.

Bomb squad officers were dispatched along with police and FBI agents after the two "crude" bombs were located inside the Borders store, which had been broken into in the Colorado Mills Mall in Lakewood, Colorado.

"The two small crude devices partially functioned in a nominal manner causing no damage to the Mall and only minimal damage to a small area of the interior of the Borders Bookstore," said an FBI statement.

"No injuries were reported and no threats have been communicated to Borders Bookstore or the Mall," it added, saying the mall was open for business although police were still working in the area where the blasts occurred.

Borders, until recently the second-largest US bookstore chain, filed for bankruptcy in February, announcing the closure of 30 percent of its over 640 stores in the United States.

The chain, which had 6,100 full-time and 11,400 part-time employees before the closure announcements, has lost millions of dollars in recent years as the book industry faces online competition and transitions to digital products.

Posted by Rob Kiser on June 26, 2011 at 4:56 AM : Comments (0) | Permalink

June 25, 2011

Digital Rearview Mirror

I'm thinking of putting together a digital rearview mirror on the XR650L. I do currently have two rear view mirrors, but you sort of have to adjust them based on the traffic conditions, your speed, the road conditions, and how far up in the saddle you're riding at any point in time. I'm thinking that I'll put a digital camera on the bike facing backwards and display the results in realtime on my new digital dashboard rearview mirror. I've been thinking about setting this up for some time. Today, I saw a tablet pc and it started me to thinking that the technology is probably out that would allow me to cobble something together fairly easily.

Right now, I'm sort of leaning toward the Asus 10" tablet computer.

Posted by Rob Kiser on June 25, 2011 at 10:09 PM : Comments (0) | Permalink

The Catcher in the Rye

I just finished re-reading "The Catcher in the Rye" by J. D. Salinger. This book is just too good for words, of course. I makes me feel like I was back in New Orleans in 1984 all over again. We even had a guy jump out of the dorm window to his death, just like what happened in the book. The book captures perfectly, I think, the angst of youth. It's difficult to imagine how Salinger captured the emotions so brilliantly. It seems the book was divinely inspired.

Posted by Rob Kiser on June 25, 2011 at 12:02 AM : Comments (0) | Permalink

June 24, 2011

XR650L Saddlebag Mounts

XR650L Saddlebag Mounts

Posted by Rob Kiser on June 24, 2011 at 1:51 PM : Comments (0) | Permalink

Vigilante Vigilante: The Battle for Expression

Today, I saw some wheatpaste graffiti advertisements for something called "Vigilante Vigilante: The Battle for Expression" in the mission district in San Francisco.

I'm not 100% clear what their point is. Apparently, some people are going around and spraypainting over the graffiti which mars the city, and they have a problem with this for whatever reason. Sort of odd, to me, when you see how bad the mission really looks. I mean, it's basically a war zone with police standing around in broad daylight with bright yellow tasers, ready to tase anyone that moves. Countless homeless, drug addicts, losers just loafing around in the middle of the day. Everything that isn't nailed down is spray painted or broken. Trash in the streets. Metal grates over every window. People defecating on the sidewalks. Just disgusting, really. So, I'm sort of surprised that these people have a problem with vigilantes that want to stop the random tagging. But to each his own, I guess.

Posted by Rob Kiser on June 24, 2011 at 1:31 AM : Comments (0) | Permalink

June 23, 2011

The California Burrito

I dunno how I've missed this for so long, but there exists such a thing as a "California Burrito". Basically, it's a burrito with carne asada, cheese, sour cream, guacamole, salsa fresca and french fries in it. OMG it is so good. I had one today at "Los Coyotes Taqueria" on 16th near Mission.

The general vicinity (16th and mission) is sort of sketchy. There's a subterranean BART station that constantly regurgitates homeless people from points unknown and they come blinking out of these from the belly of the earth, spilling into the sunshine where they loaf like grasshoppers in the sun. They imbibe and smoke weed with impunity and the police stand around lest anyone start acting out, with their hands resting on yellow tasers.

But this the burrito is amazing. Seriously. You should try one.

Posted by Rob Kiser on June 23, 2011 at 7:14 PM : Comments (0) | Permalink

June 22, 2011

Southwest Pilot With Stuck Microphone

I can't believe Southwest didn't fire this pilot. His microphone was stuck and his comments accidentally were broadcast over the air. Ouch.


Language: NSFW!

Posted by Rob Kiser on June 22, 2011 at 11:40 PM : Comments (0) | Permalink

Tomales Bay

I get off work and I'm heading across the Golden Gate toward Bodega Bay. The plan is to cut over from the US 101 to Point Reyes Station on Lucas Valley Road and head north. But as I head toward the golden gate, the sun is low in the sky and the winds are ripping across the bridge. The Marin County headlands and painted in a thick fog mayonnaise and these winds on this bridge just feel like they're going to push me into oncoming traffic any second now and this is the part I don't like. I don't like.

I dunno why I'm even going up this way. Not enough light to make the trip worth while, probably. But it's better than sitting at home in the flat, I figure. This is all that there is. I'd rather be out shooting the sunset than watching tv alone, so this is where we are. We are here.

Lucas Valley Road west through the rolling hills and then the redwood forests, emerging at Nicassio. Dogleg at Nicasio, past the Nicasio Reservoirs and now following the signs to Point Reyes Station. Now following CA 1 north along the section known as the "Redwood Highway" toward Jenner, apparently.

Once I get past Point Reyes Station, I roll downhill and come along this spectacular grassy marsh in the low angle reddish sun and it takes me a bit to grasp where I am, but as I look west, slowly it dawns on me...I'm on the east shore of the Tomales Bay, heading north. And oh my it's just spectacular. Breathtaking. The winds are pushing that mayonnaise thick fog into the crevices of Point Reyes National Seashore and who knew it would be like this? Who would have known?

Sun setting now and I'm just rolling down this little two-lane black-topped dream in Marin County. The deer are coming out now and bounding across the road hither and yon and I've never hit one but if I did, I swear it'd be the end of me. That's for certain. And they're bouncing this way and that and why on earth don't they put up Deer Crossing signs here? They're crossing at clearly defined game trails. But this is where we are.

Yerba Buena

At lunch, I made a break for the Bay Bridge just because I've never been across it on my motorcycle. No real reason except for that, really. And I'm off, heading East on I 80 toward the Bay Bridge, but I don't feel confident. Something's got inside my head and nothing's right. Nothing's right at all and I'm scared, for reasons that are not clear to me. I have no idea why I'm scared, but I'm afraid of the bike and the bridge and I don't know why I'm going across the bridge. Everything tells me not to go, but I can't think of a logical reason not to go. Only my instincts, which I ignore of course.

A motorcycle is like a woman...they're born to sense fear and I'm afraid of the bike and the bike knows this, but be that as it may, I head out across the Bay Bridge and there are no tolls when you're leaving the city. Only when you're coming in. So I'm rolling east on the Bay Bridge and I'm on the lower deck. You always get the best views when you're coming into the city. This is true of the Fort Pitt Tunnel bridge going into the Pittsburgh and the Bay Bridge going into San Francisco. The people going into the city get the view. The people leaving the city, well too bad. OK? Deal with it.

I exit at the Yerba Buena Island in the middle of the bay and this island is so large you just can't imagine. It used to be a military post, but at some point, the city of San Francisco took it over and I think a city can ruin more land than you can imagine because this place is dilapidated, run down. Just rotting and rusting away in the salt air. Endless neighborhoods of boarded up barracks and buildings and what would a city do with them anyway? To them commerce is something to be raped and pillaged. Creating value is not something that comes naturally to the public sector.

I roll around and take some photos before heading back into the city.

They have a big farmer's market every Tuesday and I'm sort of rolling through this madness, checking it out and I end up on Market Street because...well...because I'm suicidal I suppose.

Market Street

Now Market Street is easily the most dangerous surface street in the city. Every intersection is an intersection of 3 streets instead of two. Plus, there are more pedestrians than you can imagine. And the trolleys run down Market also...not the Cable Cars, mind you...the trolleys, like the ones in New Orleans. And scads of buses. So, you've got trolleys, taxis, pedestrians, buses, and six ways to go at each intersection. A boulevard to the gates of hell.

So, I'm rolling down this nightmare and ...wait for it...I hear sirens. Now, a firetruck is coming up behind me. I pull over to let it go by and then try to catch up to it. He's running the red lights, which kinda surprises me because you'd have figured that the fire trucks could control the red lights, but they can't apparently. So, he's blowing through the red lights and I'm trying to catch him, but I'm losing him and as he gets away from me, now I'm just running red lights, dodging cars and pedestrians and just acting foolish, really.

Because, if I was right in behind him, maybe it would work, but I'm far enough behind him, that it's not working at all really. Actually, what I'm doing is borderline suicidal. I'm running red lights well behind the fire truck, weaving between cars, dodging pedestrians, and not doing such a good job of it. Like, I've not hit anyone yet, but only by the grace of God and now, up from behind me comes a cop and he turns his lights on.

Now, Market Street is parsed out into separate lanes at each intersection for reasons that escape me, but it's divided in odd ways, and he's on the left and I'm on the right, and he gets about 2-3 cars in front of me, and turns perpendicular to cut off all the traffic in my lane. My assumption is that he's after me in a big way. He's seen me nearly running red lights and nearly killing pedestrians for long enough and he's furious and he's about to put an end to my little rampage.

To avoid his little trap, I do a U-turn on the sidewalk and do a quick left-right-left-right and race back to work, my heart pounding like mad.

And, it occurs to me that, I can make it here. I'll survive the project, if I just settle down and try not to draw attention to myself. But, pulling stunts like this isn't going to cut it. I'll be lucky to live another day if I keep driving like this.

But that was lunch and now it's after work and I'm heading up towards Bodega Bay because someone told me how nice it was and I'm rolling up the east side of Tomales Bay and it's just magical. Just stunning, watching the sun set and this whip cream fog rolling in and obscuring the sunset and oh...how have I not been here before, and I think I haven't. I think I have not been on CA 1 north of Point Reyes Station. This is all still the Marin coast. I want to see the Sonoma coast, but it doesn't begin until up around Bodega Bay and I'm not sure if I'll make it there before dark.

Eventually, I make it to where Walker Creek empties into Tomales Bay and the road now turns inland to follow this tributary and this creek is just stunning. Long before I make it to Bodega Bay, the sun sets and I pull over and stow my cameras and zip up my riding gear so that I'm solidly protected from wrists to ankles.

I'll have to put off the discovery of Bodega Bay and the Sonoma coast for another day and I follow the signs east toward Petaluma.

When I make it back to the US 101, I'm 40 miles north of the city and I turn south back toward the city. By the time I get back to the Golden Gate, it's freezing cold again and the city is plagued by a soaking wet fog and I feel like a rock star for wearing my full riding gear tonight. When I get home, my odometer will say I've driven 121 miles on this little trip and I feel tired and thin and I think how sad I'll be when I finally have to leave this city behind me.

Posted by Rob Kiser on June 22, 2011 at 8:45 AM : Comments (0) | Permalink

June 20, 2011

Don't Look Down

Madison > Dallas > Denver > Los Angeles > San Francisco.

This morning, some guy sat next to me and he stunk so bad I thought I was going to hurl. Then, he sniffeled halfway across the country and finally, I found the strength to turn to him and say "Do you need a kleenex?" Like, seriously? Did your mom not teach you any manners? You need to bathe and blow your nose. Now get out of my space.

He did quit sniffing, but he was so stupid that, when I had to get up, he stayed in his seat, making me crawl over him. He's probably 18 years old I'd guess. So, when I came back, he tried to pull the same stunt and I was like..."Bullsht1. Get your @ss up so I don't have to crawl over you."

I didn't say this, I just gestured with my hand that he should vacate the seat. Then, when he stood up, he nearly broke his neck on the overhead bin which made me so happy I was about to start jumping up and down in the aisle.

We land in Orange County and they tell everyone to sit tight if they're continuing on to San Francisco so I turn to this idiot and I'm like "let me guess. You're going to SF, right?"


So I get up and move, even though they've given us direct orders to sit tight. I'm like...I'll be damned if I'm going to sit by this sniveling, stinking retard for another minute. So I move up two rows and I don't say boo to him except "get the fvck out of my way."

We land at SFO and my back is killing me. From Saturday to today (Monday), I took off and landed 4 times. By the time I get to San Francisco, my back hurts so bad I can't begin to say.

I get to my motorcycle in covered parking but it's hotter than hades in SF. The hottest it's been this year, at least since I've been out here. And I crawl into my motorcycle riding suit and I'm sweating like a whore in church. By the time I get to work, I look like I've been run over by a train.

After work, I run by the flat at Russian Hill and dump some of the motorcycle riding gear I won't need for the evening. It's finally warmed up in this city to the point where I don't think I'll freeze to death if I ride across the Golden Gate Bridge.

Oddly, I notice that all of the old dilapidated motorcycles that had been chained forever to the city's poles have all been removed from around my flat. I mean, these locks were massive, which was why the bikes remained, long after their owners had fled the city for whatever reason. I think that maybe this is a sign that the city is paying closer attention to these little things, the way they pulled over that homeless guy on a bicycle back at the end of May. That one really shocked me. These two cops in an unmarked car pulled over a homeless guy for running a stop sign on a bicycle and that one threw me for a loop, because my whole m.o. is that the cops won't mess with me because they've got too much crime on their hands. But here they are cutting abandoned motorcycles off the sign posts and shaking down homeless people on a bikes, and now I've got to rethink my whole paradigm.

If they've got time to hassle him, they've got time to hassle me. Granted, I did go ahead and get my license renewed, but now I'm thinking about getting the bike plated in my name, just for grins. H3ll I may even get insurance on the thing.

I head up to the GGNRA and when I get to the one-lane tunnel to Hawk Hill with the "5 minute red light". There's a couple of motorcycles and cars queued up at the red light and I just stand it up on one wheel and walk it past them, through the red light, and ride away into the tunnel so that, from their vantage point, all they see is some lunatic riding a wheelie through a red light down a mile-long one-lane tunnel into oncoming traffic.

But what they don't know is that the red light is just stupid. There's no one coming either way because the idiots that timed the light were overly cautious. Also, there are bike lanes on both sides of the tunnel, so if someone was coming, I could always duck into the bike lanes anyway.

I access the trail system from the same place I did last time, but this time I cut left and then right, intending to get onto the Bobcat Trail, but I ended up on the Miwok trail, and I figured..."good enough" and I start picking my way up the spine of the Marin County Headlands in the GGNRA, heading north toward the Tennessee Valley.

I pass a few people along the way...joggers, hikers, bicyclists...none of them are thrilled to see me, but they don't "bum rush" me either, so I just continue on my way, heading up the Gerbode Valley, across Wolf Ridge, and then down to the Marincello Trail, which leads me down into the Tennessee Valley.

Some woman motions for me to slow down, even though I'm only going about 4 mph because she had a stupid horse with her and those dumb beasts are the only thing on earth denser than liberal democrats, I think.

From the Tennessee Valley, I take the Fox trail north toward Muir beach, avoiding the Coastal Trail where I nearly died last time. Eventually, I think that I ended up coming down the Middle Green Gulch Trail to Muir Beach. The hippies were all building bonfires for some pagan celebration of the summer solstice.

I shot some photos of the beach and then I headed north, past Stinson Beach, the Bolinas Lagoon, and up through the Olema Valley. I stopped at that miserable little sh1thole bar in Olema...I've stopped there before, and the people that work there are Royal Jack@sses. Royal. And, I thought, surely it can't be that way. Surely it was me. I"ll give them another chance.

So I stop in again...it's called the Farm House Restaurant. And I stop in again and the same thing happens. You try to be cool to the bartender...you read the taps to see what they have instead of asking her "what beer do y'all have" and making her recite the list. You try to be cool. To be considerate. Try to hand her something to like about you. Try to pull it all together...

"Ah...let's see...Anchor Porter?"

But she just looks at me like I've got ten heads. Like, the coolest guy on 2 wheels just walked into your bar with a helmet and a zillion stories and she looks at me like a leper.

"Do you want a cold glass with that?"


And the wench disappears to parts unknown.

I turn to the guy beside me at the bar and say "how's it going, cool?" and he just stares at me like I've got ten heads.

I'm nice and friendly to the people at the bar, on both sides, and again, same thing. The people working there are @ssholes. The people sitting at the bar are @ssholes. You just can't know.

I take two sips of the beer, and then just get up and walk out because, seriously...fvck these people. Who do they think they are? I'll never go back. God as my witness.

And now back through Samuel P. Taylor state park, threading my way through the redwoods. I swear I could go through that place blindfolded. And back into the city.

Posted by Rob Kiser on June 20, 2011 at 11:50 PM : Comments (0) | Permalink

June 19, 2011

1940s WWII Era Ball (Part 3)


Below are some more pictures I took from last night's 1940s World War II Era Ball at Boulder Airport.

Part 1 of this photo series can be seen here, and Part 2 can be seen here.

Continue reading "1940s WWII Era Ball (Part 3)"

Posted by Robert Racansky on June 19, 2011 at 11:07 PM : Comments (0) | Permalink

1940s WWII Era Ball (Part 2)

Below are some more photos from last night's 1940s World War II Era Ball.

Part 1 can be viewed here. Part 3 can be viewed here.


Continue reading "1940s WWII Era Ball (Part 2)"

Posted by Robert Racansky on June 19, 2011 at 10:26 PM : Comments (0) | Permalink

1940s WWII Era Ball


Last night was the 3rd Annual 1940s World War II Era Ball, at Boulder Airport (Colorado, USA).

Figuring this would be a good opportunity to photograph people in spontaneous situations (as opposed to models posing for the camera), which is something I haven't really done since the Democratic National Convention three years ago, I dusted off my camera and headed out to the airport.

Below are some of the pictures I took (click on the "Extended Entry" link below).

Except for shrinking the pictures from 3888 x 2592 to 800 x 600 resolution, and cropping some of the photos, the images have not been altered in any way. Even if I knew how to use Photoshop, Lightroom, Aperture, and/or GIMP, which I don't, I haven't had time to process them. I took a total of 415 photos last night, of which about 80 are worth publishing. To avoid loading all of the photos in one web page (which would be about 8 MB), I am breaking this into 3 separate posts.

More pictures can be seen in Part 2 and Part 3.

UPDATE: More photos on the 1940s Ball web site.

Continue reading "1940s WWII Era Ball"

Posted by Robert Racansky on June 19, 2011 at 9:07 PM : Comments (0) | Permalink

Nuclear Incident in Nebraska

Well, at least we won't have any "global warming". We'll just glow in the dark instead.


I solidly don't understand why this story is not on the news. It's not being covered by CNN, Fox News, or MSNBC. They have plenty of stories about the nuclear meltdown in Japan, but nothing on nuclear situation in Nebraska. WTF?

Posted by Rob Kiser on June 19, 2011 at 10:50 AM : Comments (0) | Permalink

Timmy Trax

Posted by Rob Kiser on June 19, 2011 at 9:44 AM : Comments (0) | Permalink

Ban Job-Killing ATM Machines


Posted by Rob Kiser on June 19, 2011 at 9:37 AM : Comments (0) | Permalink

Postcards From Nowhere: Madison

This is a slideshow of some shots Jennifer and I took over the last week in Madison.

The images were all captured on one of these frames [Canon 40D or 50D] and one of these lenses [Canon image-stabilized, ultra-sonic telescopic zoom lens (EF-S 17-85mm f/4.0-5.6 IS USM) or (EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM)].

This slideshow features a song that Sarah was learning to play on her acoustic guitar. The soundtrack is 'Kids' by MGMT.

The images are compiled into a 7 Meg (4:32 Adobe Flash slideshow (2011_ms.swf) that you should be able to open and view with any browser (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, etc.). To view the slideshow, just click on the photo above. If you want to view the slideshow as a Windows executable, you can play this version (2011_ms.exe), and it allows you to play, pause, skip forward, backwards, etc.

Image post-processing was done in Adobe Photoshop CS5 Extended. The slideshow was created using Imagematics Stillmotion Pro.

Lyrics in the extended entry.

Click here to view the other slideshows.

Continue reading "Postcards From Nowhere: Madison"

Posted by Rob Kiser on June 19, 2011 at 1:47 AM : Comments (1) | Permalink

June 18, 2011

Conquistador: Hernan Cortes, King Montezuma, and the Last Stand of the Aztecs

I read "Conquistador: Hernan Cortes, King Montezuma, and the Last Stand of the Aztecs" at Mark and Molly's house this week. This is an awesome book. I'd actually read a book about Cortez conquering the Aztecs before (History of the Conquest of Mexico by William H. Prescott), but the story is just so compelling, that when I found Mark reading this book, I took it away from him and blew through it in a few days. A very good read.


Posted by Rob Kiser on June 18, 2011 at 10:01 PM : Comments (1) | Permalink

PW Outtage - Beer on the servers

Well, we spilled beer on the servers again. But it looks like everything is straightened out now. Hopefully we won't see any more problems in the immediate future.

Posted by Rob Kiser on June 18, 2011 at 9:55 PM : Comments (0) | Permalink

June 13, 2011


Posted by Rob Kiser on June 13, 2011 at 12:14 PM : Comments (1) | Permalink

June 9, 2011

Timmy Rides Again

Timmy was here for a while. Took a little cat nap, and then headed out. Then, as silently as he disappeared, he reappears and plops down on the carpet. I was like...come here you little rascal...lemme see where you're been off to...

Posted by Rob Kiser on June 9, 2011 at 10:39 PM : Comments (0) | Permalink

SNL Skits

Some of these are pretty funny.

Posted by Rob Kiser on June 9, 2011 at 8:32 PM : Comments (0) | Permalink

June 8, 2011

Timmy Trax

Timmy hasn't been spending a lot of time around the house, so I put his CatTraq on him to see where he's been going.

Posted by Rob Kiser on June 8, 2011 at 6:55 PM : Comments (0) | Permalink

June 6, 2011

Postcards From Nowhere: Fog City

The photo above is the last photo that miserable Canon EOS 40D ever took. The camera had a nasty habit of freezing up when it should have been shooting 8 frames-per-second. This male house finch turned to the right, gave me a perfect shot with a nice profile with red-head-on-green-background with the smoothest bokeh you've ever seen. It was a beautiful shot. Or it would have been. But when he turned, the 40D froze up and he flew away. I decided I'd had enough. In about a tenth of a second I removed the lens and the cf card, stepped out of the parked truck, and smashed the camera onto the asphalt twice, as hard as I could. So, the good news is, that 40D will never screw up any more of my shots. The bad news is, I'm down a frame.

This issue aside, my run of bad luck with cameras has not abated. My with ET-83C hood fell off while I was driving down Larkin Street in SF and a truck ran over it. Canon refused to repair my 7D under warranty. Just got this back today and it cost me a grand to get it back in action. Canon has not been able to successfully repair the 40D after several tries and yesterday, that camera pissed me off for the last time.

This slideshow features a song is a song I heard last night on an Asics commercial. The song really pulled me in so I decided to try to cobble together a slideshow. Ostensibly, it's my SF photos from May, but it also contains photos from Colorado from the first week of June. Some of the photos are of geese and goslings. Some photos show Jennifer and Katarina dressed as hoboes in the canoe with their paddles raised. These were separate incidents. The girls fed the ducks and geese lots of bread. They were just screwing around with the paddles, posing, at the other end of the lake.

The images were all captured on one of these frames [Canon 40D or 50D] and one of these lenses [Canon image-stabilized, ultra-sonic telescopic zoom lens (EF-S 17-85mm f/4.0-5.6 IS USM) or (EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM)].

The soundtrack is 'Ten Thousand Lines' by Electric President.

Parental Warning: There is one swear-word (g0d@m1t) in the soundtrack at 2:55.

The images are compiled into a 10 Meg (5:38 Adobe Flash slideshow (lines.swf) that you should be able to open and view with any browser (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, etc.). To view the slideshow, just click on the photo above. If you want to view the slideshow as a Windows executable, you can play this version (lines.exe), and it allows you to play, pause, skip forward, backwards, etc.

Image post-processing was done in Adobe Photoshop CS5 Extended. The slideshow was created using Imagematics Stillmotion Pro.

Lyrics in the extended entry.

Click here to view the other slideshows.

Continue reading "Postcards From Nowhere: Fog City"

Posted by Rob Kiser on June 6, 2011 at 7:01 PM : Comments (0) | Permalink

June 5, 2011

Commuter Photos

Above: San Leandro Bay/Oakland Airport

Above: Upper San Leandro Reservoir.

Above: Lake Chabot and Lake Chabot Road.

Above: Discovery Bay in the Central Valley

Above: Lake Tahoe.

Above: Walker Lake, Nevada.

Posted by Rob Kiser on June 5, 2011 at 9:59 PM : Comments (0) | Permalink

Goodbye Canon EOS 40D

My Canon EOS 40D has not been shooting right for some time. I've sent it back to those imbeciles at Canon so many times I've lost count and today, I finally decided I'd had enough.

I'd thought about returning it again, but I know they can't fix it or they'd have fixed it by now. I thought about eBay'ing it, but I honestly don't want to sell someone a camera that I know isn't working right. Today, I shot it all day at the lake and it's just such a piece of junk...it can't focus and won't shoot and I wanted to toss it in the lake. But then, when I was driving Jen down the hill with Katarina, I stopped on the shoulder to shoot this beautiful bird on a wire. He was just there, on the barbed wire fence. The background bokeh was just amazing. This soft green background, exact opposite side of the color wheel from the bird's red head. I had the perfect shot. I pushed the button, and the bird looked at me, and flew away. The camera never took a shot. And that was it. I pulled out the memory card, removed the camera from the 400mm lens, and smashed it into the pavement in a fit of rage. And it felt good.

That camera will never take another photo, but for me, that's a win. It's a win because I don't have to deal with the thing any more. It was so aggravating I can't begin to say. It did the same thing when we were in Hawaii. But not any more. No sir. That camera will trouble me no more.

Posted by Rob Kiser on June 5, 2011 at 7:39 PM : Comments (1) | Permalink

Two Contacts Folders in Outlook

OMG I hate Outlook so much I can't say. I was fiddling with my multiple contacts folder nightmare just now in Outlook and the problem I faced last time that I couldn't figure out was this...If I right-clicked on the Contacts folder on the left of my screen, the option to "Delete 'Contacts'" folder wasn't enabled. So, I couldn't delete it. And it had no contacts in it.

The other Contacts folder (which I'd renamed Contacts2) would allow me to delete it when I right-clicked on it, but it had all of my contacts on it. And there's no way (that I can figure) to export and import contacts.

So, I swear to God I'd kill Bill Gates if I could. I'd strangle him until his eyes popped out of his head for this and many other transgressions. But I'll never be in the same room with him I'm reasonably sure. So, just now, out of desperation, I tried something. I dragged a contact from Contacts2 to Contacts and it moved it. :) Then, I drug all of my contacts from Contacts2 to Contacts. Then I deleted my Contacts2 folder. Then, for my third contacts folder, I chose a different option which said "Remove from My Contacts". And now, believe it or not, I'm back to just one Contacts folder woohoo!

(Bill Gates I pray you drown in a lake as your mother runs up and down the shore, barking for help in vain.)

Posted by Rob Kiser on June 5, 2011 at 3:52 PM : Comments (2) | Permalink

June 4, 2011

Heinlein Quote

"Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded- here and there, now and then- are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty. This is known as bad luck." - Robert A.Heinlein

Posted by Rob Kiser on June 4, 2011 at 12:22 PM : Comments (0) | Permalink

June 2, 2011

The Shortcut to Muir Beach

Critically White Zombies

At lunch, I wander around the building. Sometimes, I cross the street to get lunch at the "Foods Co." grocery store, but there are never any white people in there. As in "none". Not that this matters, mind you. But it is noticeable. Everyone there is short and dark. Black. Hispanic. Oriental. Whatever.

But today, I accidentally stumble across another grocery store I'd never seen before. Some "Rainbow" grocery store and here are all of the white people. I'd assumed there were none in this neighborhood, but I was just in the wrong store, apparently.

This stranger comes up to me as I'm standing outside of this Rainbow grocery store...this total stranger approaches me and strikes up a conversation with me....it goes like this:

"Do you...do you understand how Jesus walked on water?" he asks.

I just stare at him. Like "do I know you?"

But he can't be put off. He dives in deep. "I mean, I understand about hydraulics and atomic pressure and the...um...the weight ratios and relative densities of the molecules...but ...back then...I mean...before they had this understanding of atoms and molecules...before that...back then...when he was walking on water...I mean...I understand how boats float but this is like...different...because some people say the water was almost frozen and it's like he was...um...surfing on his feet...like...you know how a hovercraft floats across the waves...but they didn't have hovercraft then....so like..."

And this guy just goes on and on. I mean...I'm standing here wishing that I was recording this because he's the craziest person I've ever talked to. He's as crazy as they come.

I want to sit down, light a cigar, and just start recording this guy. It's hilarious.

He's clearly strung out on something. Probably meth or ice or crack. Who can tell. But I don't want to challenge him. I just want him to keep talking. You could make a youtube video that would have a trillion hits by dawn if you could just record this guy's insane babbling.

I listen to him for several minutes, but eventually I grow tired of his drug-crazed lunacy and walk into the white-people grocery store and it only gets weirder. They sell all of this organic crap in there. Just the biggest bunch of phonies you've ever seen. Critically white people....all of the craziest, most uber-liberal white people you can imagine are milling around in that place and I'm walking through this tangerine dream and it feels like a bad acid trip. I'm having flashbacks. A very surreal experience, and finally when I can stand it no more I leave without even considering buying anything.

The Shortcut to Muir Beach

First of all, it should be mentioned that, if you're driving to Muir Beach, there is no "shortcut". Or, more accurately, no shortcut exists that it's legal to drive a motorized vehicle down. So let's begin with that.

But I've seen paths on Google Earth that appear to connect Point Bonita Lighthouse with Muir Beach. And I'm sort of trying to ferret out the connection. Trying to punch through from the Nike Missile Site to Muir Beach, on-road, off-road, whatever it takes.

So today, I try to punch through by heading up a promising trailhead (the "Coastal Trail") above the "Townsley" WWII battery above Fort Cronkhite.

When I get to the trailhead, however, I notice a hiker studying me very closely. He's watching me like a hawk and I think about what my options are. I could turn around and leave the way I came in easily enough. But I'm here for a reason and I don't really care what he does. What can he do? Call the Rangers down on me? If I can punch through, I'll be in Muir Beach in a few minutes and then they'll never see me again. I decide to go for it and start rolling up the steep trail toward Wolf Ridge.

After a few switchbacks, it turns into an impassable staircase of stones and handrails, so I turn around. I'm not suicidal after all.

The man is watching me closely. Studying my progress. As I descend, I decide to ride by him, so I just roll up to him and kill the bike.

"Nice day, huh?" I offer.

Like, this guy has been watching me like a hawk for eleven minutes and I'm reasonably sure he's furious, but I'm not letting on that anything's amiss.

"If they catch you up here they're gonna skin you alive," he replies.

"For what?" I ask stupidly.

"You can't be riding this thing up here. We used to ride dirt bikes up here all the time when we were kids. But not any more. No sir. They'll skin you alive."

"You used to ride a dirt bike up here?" I clarify.

"Oh sure. We had a ball up there. But not any more. The tree-huggers got this stuff all locked down tighter than a frog's ass."

"No sir. Don't let they rangers catch you," he continues. "Lord God they would crucify you here. You have no idea."

I was glad to not have him cursing at me and hating me. I felt bad enough that I couldn't make it up the trail any further than I did.

He seemed to understand what I was doing. Exploring, tentatively, in a sort of quasi-legal way. In my mind anyway. I see it as harmless exploration. He seemed to be willing to let the whole thing slide. No harsh words this time. A welcome relief.

Author's Note: Some may well and justifiably question my driving through the Golden Gate National Recreational Areas and Muir Beach. After all, Muir Beach and Muir Woods were named after the legendary John Muir, founder of the Sierra Club, revered as the father of the environmentalist movement. (I'm not clear that John Muir ever visited the beach and woods named, but we'll leave that for now.) Muir's biographer, Steven J. Holmes, states that Muir has become "one of the patron saints of twentieth-century American environmental activity..." That may be true, but keep in mind, there were no motorcycles when John Muir was living in the Yosemite valley. My thought is that, if someone had ever put him on the seat of an XR650L and started him down a trail, that he'd have been the "patron saint of the National Dirt-bike Trail System." It's just that motorcycles weren't around at the time.

My problem lies not with the goal of protecting the GGNRA, in particular, and the planet, in general. My problem lies with where they draw the line. My motorcycle doesn't do any more damage to the trails than a horse or a mountain bike. Everyone wants to keep out the motorcycles. The hikers want the bicyclists out. Well I say then, keep the hikers out. You should see the damage the hikers do.

I am careful not to damage the trails I ride on. I don't litter. I take only photos and leave only tiretracks.

I bid him farewell and head back out the way I came in. Watching all the time for a missed trailhead. I seem to recall seeing more than one on Google Maps.

Sure enough, I see a well marked road/trail on my left on the way out and turn down it. It dead-ends into a well-maintained horse/bike/hiking trail named Rodeo trail. No motorized vehicles allowed, of course. So I start down this new trail and it's much more promising. Wide and groomed dirt path with signs a truck has been down it recently. I'm rolling slowly up into the headlands on this wide groomed road. I pass a bicyclist and a hiker. I'm always afraid that one of them will snap and just tackle me as I pass. But they never do. I just wave as I pass and they seldom wave back, but this is what I do.

The trail climbs and forks and the trails are marked fairly well, but I'm not clear where they lead. I end up on this mountain pass with clear views of Marin City, Sausalito, Tiburon, and points beyond. The trails are well marked, but I can only guess at where they might end up. I switch onto another trail (Alta Trail) that appears to lead north and slightly downhill.

I pass a few hikers, a woman with her dog off leash, and another cyclist. No one tackles me though and eventually I emerge from the Golden Gate National Recreation Area in a little zillionaire subdivision in the hills above Sausalito.

So, this isn't great, but it is something. There are navigable trails in the GGNRA. Now, it's just a matter of mapping them out better. I roll North on US 101 for one exit and then get off, following signs for Muir Woods, Muir Beach, Mount Tamalpais, Stinson Beach, and CA 1.

Always I like retracing my steps. The left turn at the red light brings back memories from the first time I ever came up here, so long ago. Winding down CA 1 towards the coast. This is what I like about California. What it does to you. The feeling I get from this is just indescribable. The view and the turns and winding down this road to the coast. This is my drug. I am an addict and this is my drug. This motorcycle scrolling down this winding road. This is what I live for. Without this, I don't exist. Or I'm something less than optimal, in any event.

I'm an addict and the motorcycle is my crack pipe. I dunno why this is, but I need the bike and I need these roads and scrolling through these twisting hills is the best feeling in the world to me.

Eventually, I find myself at Muir Beach, and now I start trying to work back the other way. Trying to connect back to the GGNRA from Muir Beach, by heading south, essentially. But I can't get started. Can't find the trail head. I backtrack a few times until finally I stumble across a well defined trailhead again, for horses, bicyclists, and hikers. No motorized vehicles allowed. I'm starting to see a pattern here.

So I start up this trailhead and it indicates that I should be able, in theory, to punch through to the Tennessee Valley, which would be nice. It'd be a big piece of the puzzle, anyway. Gets me one valley closer to my destination, as it were.

So I start out heading south, climbing up this trail, and it's fairly well marked. Signs indicate that I'll be in the Tennessee Valley in something like 2 miles or so. But this trail is a fairly dangerous one, as it turns out. Sure...if you were hiking, it wouldn't be a big deal. But on a dirt bike, it's a pretty difficult trail. It's a "single track", of course. And I don't do a lot of "single track" riding, in California or Colorado or anywhere, for that matter. And it's sort of dicey, shall we say.

Like, lets say that I lost my balance and fell. Well, in places you'd fall and the coast is so steep, that you'd probably end up tumbling down a 60 degree slope into the ocean, or being dashed upon the rocks below. No joke.

So, I'm sort of gingerly picking my way down this "Coastal Trail" and each valley has a footbridge I have to cross and each ridge has switchbacks up and down and the trail gets worse and worse and about a mile down the trail, I find myself in over my head. I make a series of difficult switchbacks, drop down several steep drops where I nearly dump the bike a couple of times, and finally I get to a point where I decide it's too risky to continue going any further. I know now, from checking the map, that I was above "Pirate's Cove" on the "Coastal Trail".

This is not easy for me. To turn back. And now, it's getting dark. I'm not sure than I can make it back up the steep trail I've come down. This is going to suck. I may need a helicopter to get this bike out of here. Sun setting. Temperature dropping. Who knew this trail would be so difficult. They should put up a sign that says "not safe for motorcycles" instead of "no motorbikes allowed". It's a completely different message.

To give you an idea of how technical the trail is, I've passed no one. Not one person. No hikers. No bicyclists. No horseback rider people.

And now, I've got to somehow get back out of here, or I'm royally screwed. Royally screwed.

I stow all of my cameras in my backpack, as there's a good chance I'll go down trying to get out of this nightmare. I get the bike turned around, with some difficulty. And now I start rolling back uphill.

The shocks on the bike a slamming into the top of the forks, cuz there's too much air in them. On the highway, I'd never noticed this, but now they're slamming into the tops of the triple clamps but I'm not going to adjust them now. Not here.

I have to stop a few times, and each switchback uphill is a nightmare of adrenaline. Climbing uphill is an art...a delicate balance of momentum and acceleration. Every time I open the throttle too much, the front end comes off the ground but not enough throttle and you fall over or roll backwards or fall off the face of the cliff.

So I'm hanging on for dear life, leaning and praying, and spinning up the slopes on one wheel and somehow...by the grace of God, I get past the worst of it and I realize that, in all probability, I'm going to live.

And I think about that crack-addict explaining how Jesus walked on water and probably that's how I sound trying to say how I scaled the cliffs above Pirate's Cove on a dirt bike. The truth is I'm not sure how Jesus walked on water and I'm not sure how I made it back from those cliffs above Pirate's Cove. Probably 'divine intervention' is the best explanation we'll ever know.

But I did make escape that trap somehow and I did it without laying down my bike and I'm through off-roading for the day and so happy to be alive.

Ae the sun drops down into the Bolinas Lagoon, I think about a path I passed on the way out and wonder if it wouldn't have dropped me down into the verdant Tennessee valley.

I don't know why, but this is my drug. This is what works for me. I'm not better than the junkie in the Mission babbling about how Jesus walked on water. I may function on a higher level than he does, but we're not that different he and I.

I am an outlaw. A rebel without a clue. No one with any sense would be riding an "Enduro" through the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. But this is my cross to bear. I didn't choose this life. It was forced upon me. I'm just playing the hand I was dealt.

The Road Ahead

The sun is setting in the North and I still have a little light left so I make a run at the Bolinas Lagoon. I point myself north on CA 1 and drive into the sunset, past Stinson Beach and up toward the Bolinas Lagoon.

This section of California State Highway 1 is designated the "Shoreline Highway". Different sections of CA-1 are designated different names, including the "Pacific Coast Highway", "Cabrillo Highway", "Shoreline Highway", or the "Coast Highway".

There is a trick to driving the Shoreline Highway, however. This road will eat you alive if you're not careful. This two-lane black-top twisting river of madness is as beautiful and breathtaking as it is dangerous. You have to settle down and take each turn one turn at a time. I'm sure there are countless wrecks out here. I've seen bikes go down myself on this road.

The trick is to take each turn as it comes to you. This is not easy when you're looking down the road at 14 hairpins in a road. You can lose your mind if you don't get a grip on yourself. One turn at a time Brake into the turn. Throttle out. This road is a beauty, but parts of it are very difficult. Lots of sections are washed out and the road crews just put up stop signs to control the flow.

Somewhere north of Stinson beach, it's too dark to continue and I turn and retrace my steps down CA-1.

Each outing is an improvement over my last outing as I tinker with the bike and my gear. I'm not cold when I ride any more, thanks to my new riding gear. The bike doesn't run out of gas, due to the new 4.7 gallon "desert" tank. The headlight points closer to the right location than it ever has, though still a little too high.

I'll need to replace the chain, sprockets, and tires before I leave for Alaska. May also need to install some saddlebags. I've been watching the other bikes to see what they have. But each ride is a little better than the last and I think I'll be in good shape by the time I have to leave.

Above: The Gerbode Valley.

Above: Marin City, Sausalito, Richardson Bay, the Tiburon Peninsula, and in the far background, the Napa Valley.

Above: Entrance to Muir Woods.

Above: The "Coastal Trail" above Muir Beach, looking south toward the Golden Gate.

Above: Muir Beach at sunset.

Above: The Coastal Trail above Muir Beach with Mount Tamalpais in the background.

Above: Pirate's cove.

Above: Looking north, into the setting sun between Muir Beach and Stinson Beach from the stretch of CA-1 designated "Shoreline Highway".

Posted by Rob Kiser on June 2, 2011 at 11:50 PM : Comments (0) | Permalink