Sunday, January 25, 2009

Quick trip to the Midwest

This is a personal blog, but most often just "lightly" personal - not a "tell-all." This one is a little more personal. Over the past 3 days, I've reconnected with both sides of my family under some trying circumstances and came away bouyed by the experience.

My sister Jody is embroiled in a divorce of epic, ugly proportions that threatens to rip the fragile rug of her life out from underfoot. No matter the outcome of the custody battle, it will be vital for her to center herself and regain her footing and not permit this melee to define her life or Motherhood.

I'm confident she will recover with the help of a stable job caring for the elderly, the love of her current man (a H.S. flame I also knew back in the day), and the family support she can rely on from the La Rue clan.

At the same time, as hard as it may be, Jody must find a way to not let hatred thoughts consume her. IMHO. The kid's childhoods HAVE been damaged & compromised. Two promising young girls and a vibrant formerly loving young son completely turning their backs on their mother is unthinkable. BUT to get thru this I think she needs to stay focused on her health & sanity and, to a great extent keep moving forward as best she can. Look, as we saw in court, the power in this whole menagerie has been with the kids *choosing* - and being allowed to choose -to whom they want to throw their love. With no consequences when they act like horrible little urchins.

Jody has to -in my opinion - stop appearing dependent on the kid's overt love for her definition; for her self-worth. I said hi to (and was acknowledged by) Maggie at her ball game. I had a short conversation with Mollie about cell phones & texting. The yummy chewy loving center of those kids ARE under their hard shells; however, they have to realize the power they've enjoyed and abused over the last year will not be tolerated or effective anymore. Jody can't control the Ex and what he does, but can certainly continue to take the high road and maintain an outward posture of love and acceptance of the kids.when they come around/wake-up/whatever, they need to know the she's there for them. The bashing of the Ex needs to slow too. Again, in my opinion. That feeds a festering psychological wound.

The custody trial has two more days of gut-wrenching testimony and cross-examination. Neither my father, step-mom (who was a rock) or I will be there in person but our spirits will be reaching out across the distance. Jody - if you're reading this, take heart! Be strong sis!

On the way home I stayed briefly in the home of Tamara & Justin in Dallas, TX (Copell to be accurate). Tamara is my niece - Pam my step-sister's daughter. Justin is a woodworker by hobby and an ace physical therapist by trade. Great guy, smart, and a loving hubby. Killer new garage he's just built too. Tam works for the Gov't - a DEA chemist. Two sons. I truly enjoyed their hospitality, and a very comfy spare bed!

I really hope Jody can get back to that happy, comfortable place in life that we all strive to be in.

Jerry and Jody, sitting on an old tractor feeling the 2 degree chill!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

On the Road to Cold

Thought I would see if I could blog from my Blackberry - turns out I can, but you gentle reader shall be the judge!

Heading to Des Moines, IA which regularly sees "zero" degrees. Ouch! That's hurtful, or if you prefer WTF??!!

Jody - my dear Sis - has been embroiled in a caustic split with her 2nd husband that is nothing short of a horror film on rails, sprinting for a landmine field. Really about as non-amicable as one could imagine. Toss in a "parental alienation" chaser and you have a cocktail of devastating proportions.

The losers in all this are the kids - deep down they are supremely confused but love both parents. However, it's my belief the Ex has manipulated the kids into thinking they must make a choice. Plying them w/ gifts and a permissive atmosphere and lie after lie made the choice of allegiance easy for their impressionable lives.

Regardless, they have made the choice to make their Mom "persona non grata" and everyone suffers short & long-term trauma. Their child counselor has stated repeatedly that the children are deeply hurt and angry; that it's the worst case he's seen in 28 years of practice. Well, that's a record nobody should want.

So I sit on the tarmac in Dallas, I'm not thinking of the chilly temperatures ahead, but rather the cold, dark Winter Jody's kids face as they struggle everyday with the weight of their hateful decisions and with trying to understand what went so wrong.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The "Gem" Next Door

Not only is San Diego enjoying record warm temperatures this Winter, unlike most of the rest of the country (ummm... it was in the upper 70's this afternoon and I washed Kim's car as well as my F800GS), but we live in an incredibly beautiful area.  I was inspired by my friend Kevin Carmony, who wrote recently of running in the Rancho Santa Fe area, to remark briefly on Los Penasquitos Canyon.  It's truly a "gem next door" - about a 5 minute walk from my front door.

PQ Canyon is an urban canyon stretching some 5-7 miles from basically Highway 15 to Highway 805 sandwiched between the communities of Mira Mesa and Rancho Penasquitos.  I've hiked, mountain biked, run, cavorted with the dogs and kids, Geocached, and basically enjoyed this ecological wonder since I bought the Covina house in the early 90's.

Heck, Alex Tosheff and I almost killed our dogs Romeo & River one twilight hike in the rain a decade ago.  We were trying to figure out how to cross the raging stream near the waterfall in the middle of the canyon when of course both dogs decided to go "wading" in the water. Which, of course, promptly proceeded to sweep them down towards the aforementioned waterfall.  Luckily, their mighty and desperate dog-paddling delayed the inevitable long enough for us to grab their collars and cheat the Devil again.  The wives were NOT happy.  ;-)

Lately, PQ Canyon has been a willing photographic subject, as I explore my new passion and continue to experiment with the Nik Software photographic filters.  Here are some of my favorites...

(Silver Efex Pro)

(Silver Efex Pro)

(Viveza & Color Efex Pro 3.0)
(Viveza & Color Efex Pro 3.0)
 (Color Efex Pro 3.0)
(Color Efex Pro)
 (Color Efex Pro 3.0)
(Viveza & Color Efex Pro 3.0)

What a lovely spot on the planet...

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

F800GS Bar Risers Install

I ordered the "Ultimate" compact toolkit for an F800GS and a pair of ROX Pro offset "bar risers" from Adventure Designs a couple of weeks ago - my Christmas present to myself!  The toolkit was needed because it was a fast, convenient way to assemble ALL the various wrenches, Torx bits, etc. needed to deal with every fastener on the bike.  Plus, it's supposed to fit under the seat, although I haven't tried it yet.  The YouTube video makes it look easy, but I'm sure it will be a challenge.

Bar risers are good for riding while standing on the pegs. Riding in this position helps cushion the back and body when traveling over bumpy roads.  Without the risers, it's uncomfortable and a bit unnatural to hunch over and reach for the bars.  DR650 Mark and I have been practicing standing up on every dirt road we come to; after all, practice makes perfect.  By raising them an inch or more, I'm finding it more comfortable to stand and the bike handles better.  On paved road, the bike feels taller, but I'm re-learning lean angles again - not a big deal.

Installation was a bit funny.  At first I thought I'd try the recommended configuration for "adventure bikes."  Unfortunately, when spinning the wheel "lock-to-lock", the riser block hit my ignition protector (see below).  So, I had to switch 'em.  Mark, who happened by during installation, concurred.

Here is a picture of them installed, giving me more height.  I tilted the bars back towards the seat a bit to make it even easier to ride.  I've felt some ache in my shoulders on the ride, but again I think that's just re-learning...

One thing I thought was odd was that at the recommended torque spec for an 8mm aluminum bolt, the top of the risers didn't completely seat to the bottom half.  I'm keeping my eye on it though...  Onward!

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Wind Caves Trek

When you've visited the glorious Anza-Borrego desert enough, it calls to you even more, a dusty kindred spirit eager to show you dry wonders. It is with this backdrop that 4 intrepid familys left on a foggy San Diego morning recently heading Eastward through Julian, down Banner Grade to points beyond. Steve Koenig had suggested the trip just after our last 4x4 adventure, and I'd gladly taken the bait. Dave Foster and his family, as well as my motorcycling buddy Thuy joined in the fun.

The kids excitement rose considerably as we entered Ocotillo Wells, with off-road vehicles of all shapes and sizes hauled dusty butt along trails real or imagined. The desert was alive with critters! Our caravan took a right turn at Split Mountain road and, after about 5-6 miles, turned into Fish Creek Wash and stopped to stretch our legs and take a group shot.

The goal was to hike the Wind Caves, then if time and energy permitted head up the Wash and take a finger called Sandstone Canyon where the walls of the canyon stretch upwards blocking out the sun on the fringes of the day. We cruised up Fish Creek, stopping briefly to check out a spectacular formation that Steve dubbed "horseshoe" (for obvious reasons). Pretty amazing geologic scenery.

It had been well over a decade since I'd been to the Caves, carved out of the sandstone by a millenia of blasting wind, which was mercifully light as we climbed up the trail. The kids were troopers, leading the way and giddy about what lay ahead. Ethan was admittedly a little nervous about "crawling down into caves" but I assured him they were mostly above ground.

They are pretty spectacular and thankfully mostly graffitti-free. We hiked around a bit, the kids dodging and exploring the crevasses; the parents mostly took pictures! We ate lunch hunkered down inside of a particularly large "cave", sheltered from the sun which beat down about 70 degrees worth.

After lunch we all agreed that we were not at all done and decided to continue the drive. Dust and more dust and yet fantastic formations greeted us at almost every turn.

The striations of this canyon wall were very cool - for you photo buffs, I used a light blue-ish desaturating filter on the sand and warmed up the wall a little bit. I used the Nik Software Color Efex Pro 3.0 "Duplex" filter on the dusty roads image.

"Artsy" H3 entering Sandstone Canyon - Midnight filter

It wasn't long before we reached Sandstone Canyon. It starts out with a sharp right-hander, but then meanders back a mile or so, sometimes with the canyon walls squeezing the trucks within a few feet on either side. Eventually, as it narrowed too far, we turned back (Steve's H3 making it further than the others). A short respite for the kids to play and for the Dads to take more pictures, and we were off again.

The kids of course didn't want to leave - I recall my son Ethan saying this was "the best day ever, could we do it again tomorrow?" and that warmed my heart a lot. At the mature age of 10-ish, those tender moments seem to be fewer and fewer. We pretty much hot-footed it out of the wash back to Split Mountain road, but did decide to grab a bite to eat in Wynola. There was a pizza joint next to a red barn I wanted to try out and the kids were "starving" as always. Seemed like a dandy idea.

We rolled back into San Diego just after dark and, at least in our household, everyone headed for the showers to try and peel back the second skin of dust that we all sported!

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Mother Grundy Calls

To properly celebrate the New Year, my buddy Mark and I headed Southward to take in the delicious scenery and delightful roads around Otay Lake near the Mexican border. I had enjoyed the highways and byways around Otay Lake in years past on my venerable '87 K75S, so I knew it was a ride worth taking. Besides, I was anxious to see the airstrip at the end of the lake where Gary Poppitz and I took sky-diving lessons so many years ago.

Mark rolled up to Buckwheat Manor around 8am, and the air was crisp as we examined some of the cool modifications he's made, as described in a new DR650 website he's started. As we departed, I marveled at the fact that it's the first day of a new year and while most of the country is either iced, snowed, or rained on, we're blessed with near 70 degrees... Of course, my thermometer was only registering 44.1 as we hit Highway 15, but it would warm up. ;-)

We sped down the 805 and took Telegraph Canyon road East to the Lake. I wanted to stop and stretch from the ride on the super-slab, so we detoured on a lake frontage road that took us past the Olympic Training Center down there, dubbed "ARCO." Very picturesque and quiet at that time of the morning.

Mark took off in the lead as we continued on the windy road East, past a very nice Thousand Trails RV park I might need to check out with the RV soon, onward to Highway 94. I had read good things about a road called "Honey Springs" and noted on Google Maps there were some interesting dirt side roads vectoring off Honey Springs.

We took a left at 94 and an immediate right on to a honey of a road. I took lead and we hightailed it down a very nice 2-lane road with some amazing (and expensive-looking) ranch houses on our left and right. I was looking for the turn-off to a dirt road that had caught my eye when researching the ride: Mother Grundy Truck Trail. That one had our names all over it.

Image credit: Jack Brandais, Union Tribune

It had twice rained pretty hard in the last couple of weeks, so I wasn't sure what the local conditions would bring. Other than a few ruts, the road was pretty hard-packed; wet on the edges, but no mud to speak of. The trickiest part for me on the heavier F800GS was negotiating some fresh-graded dirt past a working Bobcat dozer. Both legs were down as "outriggers" but the bike totally handled it easily. Throttle control and a straight line, baby!

So, where did the name Mother Grundy come from? Well, according to a story by Jack Brandais in the Union Tribune from 2006 in which he credited Leland Fetzer and his "San Diego County Place Names A-To-Z", there wasn't actually a Mother Grundy! However, there is a peak nearby called "Madre Grande", named by early settlers because there are rocks that look like a woman's face. Apparently, 40+ years ago a local resident name Claire Hagenbuck said the "Madre Grande looks more like Mother Grundy to me" and the name stuck.

F800GS meet Rusty Tractor

Regardless, there were soaring vistas to the South and West greeting us as we clamored up the mountains - Mexico calling... As we neared the end of the trail, houses became more prevalent and we even saw a little ranch corral with 3 llamas playing. Really nice, very rural scenery throughout.

Heading home via the awesome sweeping twisties of Honey Springs road, then Highway 94 on to Highways 125 & 52, I couldn't help but be thankful for another great New Year's Day ride, just like the old days on the K-bike.