Saturday, June 02, 2007

That's a Moose

So I decided to push the envelope a little further on my mountain bike ride this afternoon. I rode out on the North Fork Trail well beyond where I turned back yesterday. This took me higher and higher up the mountain...to keep going, I had to continually remind myself how much fun it would be coming back!

There were some definite payoffs to all of this extra effort. More incredible scenery, of course. In addition, I eventually got high enough where all of the snow hasn't yet melted. Too bad there was no one to throw a snowball at! And then, as I was winging around a corner, there was a moose, grazing right at the edge of the trail.

As I rode up, the moose picked up its head and stared at me. I was both in awe and kinda terrified. I mean, here is this huge animal, and it's just me and him (her?), miles from civilization. After what seemed like a few minutes, but was probably only a matter of seconds, the moose turned around and went walking into the woods. It was then that I recovered my wits enough to snap this picture. So yes, that's a moose that I had a beautiful close encounter with high up in Gallatin National Forest.

~Steve

Friday, June 01, 2007

Altitude Matters

So here's the post-script on that early morning run. Turns out my running partner is a marathoner (just did Boston this spring). Luckily, he willingly indulged me as I huffed and puffed my way around Big Sky, because he really could have left me in his dust. I have a feeling that my fellow triathletes won't be so accommodating!

The big thing out here is the altitude and how it changes, in terms of impacting one's performance. It's, of course, what makes the area so stunningly beautiful. But it's also the natural feature that makes aerobic activity so much more difficult than "back East" in the flatlands.

I really learned this (again!) on a mountain bike ride I just finished. I don't know what the elevation climb was, but at times I felt like I was riding in the Tour de France, trying to drag my sorry rear end up the Pyrenees or Alps. Plus, the ride itself started at something like 6600 feet elevation, already taxing my limited strength capabilities.

So here's what I've resolved to do. Stay here until the triathlon! I figure that if I jet back to the low lands right before the race, all of this altitude training will make a real difference in my results. So come on out and join me Ballas!

~Steve

Liberty and the Lone Mountain Ranch

Well, here I am, sitting outside the saloon at the Lone Mountain Ranch, here in Big Sky, Montana. How did I get here? That's the easy part to explain. I hopped on a plane at Dulles, switched to a smaller plane in Denver (hello Hammonds!), flew into Bozeman, and was the driven the last hour or so to Big Sky.

Why am I here, though? There's this group called the Liberty Fund. (No, it's not an insurance company!) The Liberty Fund is a non-profit devoted to pie-in-the-sky stuff like conversation and the exchange of ideas. Me and a dozen-plus others have been invited to talk, over the course of several days and nights, about the topic of "bureaucracy, democracy, and judicial review." Scintillating, I'm sure you're (not) thinking. Essentially, the Liberty Fund is all about liberty (uh, yeah) and responsibility. Free market, libertarian, you get the point. Anyways, much of our lives and livelihoods are regulated by government bureaucracies, so you can see why they might be interested in the topic. What this means for me is that I get to talk with some fellow geeks who think this is all way, way cool.

In the meantime, we get our afternoons off. So who knows what awaits me? I've already talked to the staff about mountain biking, plus there's horseback riding, hiking, whitewater rafting, you name it. No skiing, although I'm looking at snow covered peaks and they had snow here as recently as two days ago. Right now, it's a very crisp, mountain air 40 degrees. My little fingers are freezing!

I'm off in a few minutes to warm myself up, by going for a run with a guy who's a professor at UNC. I guess we won't be talking about college hoops! There's more I could say, but I'll just provide some quick parting shots, about how much the ranch costs (about 10 grand for a family of four for one week), the food (should I order the elk tonight?), and my cabin (where I had a roaring fire going last night).

Stay tuned...

~Steve

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

(Z)Mannin' the Grill

My inner cave man is not loving life these days. You see, it's barbecue season, time to cook some meat over the raging open fire (especially since I ditched that propane grill a few years back, in favor of an old school charcoal set up). Normally, the fun's all mine...but here's what happened the other day...

We were on a biking excursion through the woods along the C&O Canal towpath, from Point of Rocks, MD to Harper's Ferry, WV. We each were carrying a backpack filled with barbecue supplies--one with meat, one with paper products and condiments, one with drinks, one with veggies. (With a small bag of Match Light briquets thrown in somewhere.)

Ready to chow down, we pulled off the trail in Brunswick, MD, where there's a picnic table and grill alongside the Potomac River. Who stacked the charcoal into a pyramid? Z-man. Who lit the fire? Z-man. Who cleaned the grill top? Z-man. Who cooked the dogs and veggies? Z-man.

What's a poor cave man dad to do? I insisted on cooking the burgers myself. It takes a keen eye to get the meat right to ba fen like Desi must have it. Or at least that's how I justified my incursion into Z's grill-fest.

Z-man, may it be the first of many! Ai ni!

~Steve


Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Gravelly Point

For my money, one of the coolest places in the DC area is Gravelly Point. Gravelly Point is a little park located on the banks of the Potomac River in Virginia, just north of Reagan National Airport. This location brings with it two main benefits:

1. Great views. From Gravelly Point, you can see, across the river, the Capitol Building, Library of Congress, Old Post Office Building, Washington Monument, Jefferson Memorial, and assorted other DC landmarks. It really is quite spectacular.

2. Airplanes! Depending on which way the wind is blowing, planes are either winging down the river right over your head as they land, or coming straight at you as they take off. Either way, it is quite a sight to see (and hear!).

All in all, a unique place that we have really enjoyed over the years...

~Steve