Monday, May 30, 2011

Been There, Got the Picture

Today I finally got around to photographing Hawksbill Crag, the most over-photographed geological feature in Arkansas. The hike in was unremarkable at best. Really a lousy trail with lousy views of what I know intellectually to be the Buffalo River Gorge. With hillsides so high and so long on both sides, and with the usual precipitation we experience in Arkansas, it would not be possible to not have a significant stream at the bottom. I could not see said stream, though, because the otherwise featureless landscape was choked with vegetation. I could not see the water. Still, the view was good even if it was nothing but trees. The drive in was cool. All the gradient on Cave Mountain Road came in the first two miles before it leveled out coming from Boxley. I opened the windows and blasted the heater which kept the engine from overheating too severely. Not wanting to warp my cylinder head on the drive in and my brake rotors on the way out, I asked several people at the trail head whether they came from the east like me or the west, offering that my map showed what looked like a sneak line to hwy 16 if you kept west. All of them said they thought the road from the east was the only way in and that the road didn't even show up on their GPS devices. Only one confessed to not having a map, which is fair because I did not confess to not having a GPS. Anyway, I went west hoping that the road indicated on my map was actually a road on the earth. If it was, I could see from my map, which I had, that the gradient would be much more manageable, and so I went west. The road was a road and the gradient was more manageable. If there was any shortcoming to my strategy, it is that I arrived at hwy 16 about six miles east of Boston which is a nothing stretch of road if I've ever seen one. Fitting I guess to follow up a nothing hike with a nothing drive home. It sure was fun, though, and I GOT MY PICTURE!

The dog in the photo is named Jasper. Jasper gave me a little pinch on the leg for no apparent reason about five minutes after snapping this picture. It didn't break the skin and the owner was extremely apologetic, so no hard feelings. No dogs had to have a flying lesson.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Appropriately Priced Product Pick of the Week

Tilley hat. I never thought I would ever buy a Tilley hat. I'd seen them in stores before but never looked at the price. They were always situated, say, between Orvis fly rods, which I did know the price of, and woolen dog mattresses, which I also knew the price of because I looked at the tags. I could interpolate from that the price of the Tilley hats, and I would no way in hell ever pay that much for a hat. And so it was a process. I was aware that another company, Outdoor Research, made hats out of Gore-tex which were quite spendy. Well, a friend of mine, about the most non-pretentious, down-to-earth person in the world, was wearing one at Canoe School this year. "Nice hat!" I said to him. "Thanks, it works great!" was his answer, explaining perfectly how this humble man could spend so much on a hat; he valued the functionality of the hat as much as some others value the brand prestige, and he was willing to pay for that functionality. That was a month ago. Yesterday I was at Pack Rat looking at hats, and I actually tried on an Outdoor Research Gore-tex hat. I was really looking for something more lightweight and breathable; I just wanted to see what a $55 hat felt like on my head. And let me tell you, it felt damn comfortable! But not for me. I tried on about ten other hats and none of them were any better than the sun hat I already had, a Patagonia that was just tight enough I had to wet the nylon headband and stretch it over my knee to get it to fit without pinching my forehead. The next size larger was too large and the adjustable hats are all bothersome because they can never be adjusted exactly right. If I had an adjustable hat, I would need to stop five or six times every mile of hiking to adjust my hat, just like I adjust my shoelaces. My urgent, existential need to constantly adjust things is no doubt related to my recently discovered autism, which has become my new excuse for everything. It explains every shortcoming. Like no doubt it is a sensory issue related to my autism that causes me so much discomfort when I wear a hat that doesn't fit exactly right. Anyway, at least I broke through the barrier which had in the past always prevented me from even trying on a $55 hat. That was yesterday. Today I went to Lewis and Clark, which is another semi-upscale outdoor retailer, a notch down from the Pack Rat because they generally stay away from the really exclusive brands and carry some quality, functional products of less expensive branding. That's why I was surprised to see a rack of Tilley hats by the door. You won't find an Orvis fly rod or a wollen dog mattress within twenty miles of the place! But there were some Tilley hats. I looked at the price of one of them. Having just tried on a $55 hat the previous day, I was prepared to at least try on a $76 hat today, just to see what a $76 hat felt like on my head. Looking at the rack of hats, I quickly realized they are sized in eighth-inch intervals instead of the typical small-medium-large scheme used by lesser brands like Outdoor Research. The 7 3/8 size felt damn good! It felt good enough that I actually untied the sting meant to go beneath the chin and the occipital bone to secure the hat in strong winds. The winds here, save the odd tornado, do not blow strongly. Removing the string is something I ordinarily would not do unless I felt it was at least somewhere within the realm of possibility that I would buy the item. Without the string it felt really damn good! Not ready to make the purchase yet, I removed the four-page owner's manual and the eight brag-tags (more later) from the pocket of what I learned was called the crown of the hat. I then looped the string such that it would fit the periphery of the pocket and stuffed it neatly into the pocket so it would ball up in the middle. I tried the hat on again with the emergency wind string stowed away and it still fit great and was very comfortable. Still not ready to make the purchase, I stepped outside along with a sales attendant so that I could experience wearing the hat in direct sun, not that I would ever go out into the bright sun but I was trying to maintain the illusion of being an outdoorsy person to the salesperson who obviously was one; I was in an outdoor retailer, after all. After that, I was sold! And the hat was sold, too! Notice, though, that I have not commented on the appearance of the hat. This is, of course, because of the lesson I learned from my humble friend who had bought the less expensive Outdoor Research hat, that the underlying justification for such a purchase was the functionality of the item rather than the looks of it, or worse yet, the empty, unsatisfying, and false feeling of brand prestige, as if its value comes from other people rather than from the item itself. That said, I think the hat looks damn good on me! I'll tell you one thing for sure, though: I will not undermine the functionality of my new hat by reinserting the plastic baggie containing the eight "brag tags" back into the pocket in the crown. That means whenever someone compliments me on my hat I won't be able to pull out a brag tag showing some customer testimonial about Tilley hats on one side and the contact information for Tilley hats in ten languages on the other. Instead I'll just say, "Thanks, it works great!"

I don't go outside much but I love to wear my very functional Tilley hat while I'm reading on the internet about people who do. With my new hat on it feels like I'm really out there!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Dave Mows Grass on Playing Hooky

05:49 Wake up from restless, unrestorative sleep. Nagging stress fracture in foot makes walking painful. Dress and pack lunch.

06:33 Depart for work. Sun just above horizon triggers headache and makes driving difficult.

07:16 Clock in. Headache becomes more caustic. Back pain and muscle cramps related to sustained overtime with little leisure activity.

08:05 Overcome with fatigue and sense of hopelessness. Co-worker expresses concern.

08:12 Have first inkling that I might leave early.

08:47 Turn in schedule change request to leave before first break. Back feeling better.

09:30 Clock out. Headache nearly gone.

10:06 Arrive North Shore Disk Golf Course. Make best-ever drives on holes 4,7,8,and 10 plus several good putts.

11:32 Go home to retrieve current book, Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson. Feeling more in-control than I have in at least a year.

11:49 Surprise wife at son's therapy. Read book and BS with therapist.

13:10 Fire grill. Eat pork chops with rice. Take break. All pain completely gone.

14:56 Depart for Bella Vista with wife and son.

15:33 Completely explore Tanyard Creek Recreation Area and Trail. Foot pain returning but not restricting activity.

18:02 Change into dry cloths. Depart for Springdale McDonald's with play area.

18:38 Son freaked out by chicken mascot at Zaxby's Chicken across street. Not able to enjoy play area. Head for home.

19:10 Turn on Boston/Tampa Bay game. Boston ties series with 6 to 5 win. Go Kaberle!

21:21 Take narcotic pain pill left over from 2010 car wreck. Back pain not severe but hey, why not!

22:10 Put tired kid to bed. Watch Denzel Washington movie, Unstoppable, about runaway train. Acknowledge life metaphor.

00:15 Enjoy glass of wine with wife. Blog about fantastic day of spontaneous fun.

00:36 Slide into bed. Start next chapter of Three Cups of Tea.

01:10 None of your business!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Recondite Quips and Hockey Fight Clips

"If all the pieces of code that created autism were removed, I predict the children would be yak-yak social airheads, and probably pretty unintelligent."

--Temple Grandin

Editorial note: The author of this blog has had a change of heart regarding fighting in the NHL following the untimely death of Derek Boogaard last Friday. I don't know if post-concussion syndrome played a part in his death, but I know that no worker in any trade should have to regard multiple concussions as "just part of the job." I offer this last installment of Recondite Quips and Hockey Fight Clips as a small tribute to a big man, one who in six years as an NHL enforcer never threw a single cheap shot. He was a hockey player and a gentleman. God bless you Derek Boogaard.