Sunday, November 18, 2012

Reason to Love the MT: #43

There aren't many places when one quickly has to consider the question:

 hunter or biathlete?

Last winter I had the pleasure of xc skiing in West Yellowstone and stumbled across a beginner biathlon class. As a longtime biathlon admirer I was thrilled when they asked me to join. I got to shoot the rifle, ski a lap, and shoot again. Each round I hit 4 out of 5 targets. Good times.

Yesterday I was xc skiing up Brackett Creek and into Bohart Ranch when a gentleman with a rifle slung over his shoulder, not unlike a biathlete, was walking down the groomed xc ski trail. He was wearing a blaze orange vest, showshoes, and an eye patch, so my keen mind was able to deduce that he was not a biathlete, but a hunter.

Friday, November 16, 2012

This Morning's Playlist

It's not even 10am and this morning I've already listened to these complete albums...

  • Nebraska by Springsteen
  • Dressed Up Like Nebraska by Josh Rouse
  • For Emma, Forever Ago by Bon Iver
  • Bee Thousand by Guided by Voices
First of all, I struggled with how to write the introductory sentence above in order to make sure that the reader understands that I still listen to albums in their entirety. I've ranted about this before, but to me the album is a piece of art and deserves to be heard in order and all the way through.

Got on a Springsteen kick recently because everyone is raving about his current tour, the first without legendary saxman Clarence Clemons who died last year. I understand how some people don't appreciate Springsteen because he does tend to write the same song over and over. But I'll tell you what: if you look back at his catalog and ignore the low points, he's got as impressive a resume as anyone in rock. All artists have low points and not enough have a point of view. Nebraska has always been a favorite of mine and takes me back to senior year in college when it was one of our go-to albums when winding down after a long day.

After I searched on iTunes for "Nebraska", it was only natural that Josh Rouse's album showed up in the search results. It builds on a similar mood/tone, but has a little more pep to it so I kept listening. I think I got this album for free somewhere in '98 or '99 and what a pleasant surprise it was. Not sure what he's doing today, but check out tracks "Dressed Up Like Nebraska" and "Late Night Conversation" for some twangy pop goodness.

Continuing the mood, I had to go on a search next to figure out what was appropriate. Alphabetically, Bon Iver was the first to emerge and so I ran with it. I still like this one more than his second album, especially the way the title track beautifully emerges near the end of the record. Ahhh....

Then I hit the shower and came out to a voicemail from my 1:00 appointment asking to reschedule. I'd just put on a respectable, tuck-in-able, button down white shirt so I did what any sane man would do and took it off, replacing it with a much less respectable, but much more comfortable plaid. 

I've started reading some of the 33 1/3 book series, each written about one iconic rock album. Page 24 of the Bee Thousand edition was sitting on the table next to me, so I picked it up. What a great read for a GBV fan. There's a huge chunk penned by charismatic frontman Bob Pollard and it's like candy. So of course I wanted to listen to the album as I was reading about it.

And then I wrote this.
And so here we are.

How's it goin'?

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Origin of Grunge

Ahh... Sweet, sweet, original vinyl pressing of Mudhoney's "Superfuzz Bigmuff", the album that begot grunge.

Now, you are mine.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

vs. The Greatest of All Time

Everyone has in their head a list of their favorite songs of all time. Previously I've posted Songs of the Day and my favorite bands of all time, so now its time for the songs.

For the past several years I've been telling people that "Gimme Shelter" by the Rolling Stones is the greatest song of all time. While this is obviously quite subjective, it's not a difficult one to defend as it has all the hallmarks:
  • sung by one of the bands widely recognized as an all-time great
  • lyrics that are open to interpretation, but vary between war and love
  • fantastic backing vocals
  • Keef Richards on guitar

But of course it's folly to try to say that any one song is The Best ever. The other day I started making a playlist of songs that I feel like I could make an argument for as the best of all time, allowing only one song per artist.

I was quite surprised when my list topped over 100 songs. So here they are without much explanation. Feel free to check 'em out for yourself if you care.

In alphabetical order by artist...

Afghan Whigs
Alejandro Escovedo
Its a Long Way to the Top
Milez is Dead
Five Hearts Breaking
Arcade Fire
Wake Up
Archers Of Loaf
Harnessed In Slums
Cranberry Sauce
Bad Brains
I Against I
The Band
The Weight
Bela Lugosi's Dead
The Beach Boys
Wouldn't It Be Nice
The Beastie Boys
The Beta Band
Dry The Rain
Big Star
September Gurls
Bob Dylan
Tangled Up In Blue
Bon Iver
For Emma
The Bottle Rockets
Welfare Music
Bruce Springsteen
The River
Buffalo Tom
Taillights Fade
Built To Spill
Good Ol' Boredom
The Byrds
Hickory Wind
All Systems Red
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
The Skin of My Yellow Country Teeth
The Clash
Hitting The Wall
Dale Watson
Good Luck 'n' Good Truckin' Tonight
Damien Jurado
Go First
David Bowie
Suffragette City
De La Soul
Eye Know
Dead Kennedys
California Uber Alles
Dinosaur Jr
The Lung
The Doors
Break On Through
Drive-By Truckers
Elvis Costello
Radio Radio
The Faces
Ooh La La
The Flaming Lips
Kim's Watermelon Gun
Gone Out Gone
Pale Green Eyes
Gram Parsons
Return Of The Grievous Angel
Guided By Voices
Hot Freaks
The Starline Locomotive
The Hold Steady
Slapped Actress
Pinch & Roll
Hüsker Dü
Celebrated Summer
She's Got a Light
Ike Reilly
Hail! Hail!
Jack Logan
The Jayhawks
The Jesus Lizard
Joe Ely
The Road Goes on Forever
Joe Henry
Good Fortune
Johnny Cash
Joy Division
LCD Soundsystem
Daft Punk Is Playing At My House
Lifter Puller
Space Humping $19.99
Lou Reed
Perfect Day
Lucinda Williams
Car Wheels On A Gravel Road
The Magnolias
Pardon Me
Mark Mallman
The Red Bedroom
Mary Lou Lord
Lights Are Changing
Matt Wilson
Deep All the Way Down
Matthew Sweet
I've Been Waiting
Master of Puppets
Miles Davis
Freddie Freeloader
History Lesson - Part II
Mission of Burma
Academy Fight Song
The Modern Lovers
Modest Mouse
Convenient Parking
Cure For Pain
In 'n' Out Of Grace
My Bloody Valentine
Only Shallow
Neil Young
Revolution Blues
The New Pornographers
The Slow Descent Into Alcoholism
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!
Nick Drake
Pink Moon
About A Girl
Nova Mob
Evergreen Memorial Drive
Old 97's
Summer Babe (Winter Version)
Pearl Jam
Pink Floyd
Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Parts I-V)
The Pogues
Fairytale Of New York
The Ramones
Sheena Is A Punk Rocker
The Replacements
I Will Dare
Rilo Kiley
Portions For Foxes
Robbie Fulks
Let's Kill Saturday Night
The Rolling Stones
Gimme Shelter
Run Westy Run
Willing To Wait
The Shins
New Slang
The Silos
All Falls Away
Slim Dunlap
Hate This Town
The Smiths
Son Volt
Tear Stained Eye
Sonic Youth
Teen Age Riot
Soul Asylum
Closer To The Stars
The Underdog
Steve Earle
The Revolution Starts Now
The Stooges
Macho Drunk
Suicide Commandos
Complicated Fun
Slack Motherfucker
Coattail Rider
Talking Heads
Once In A Lifetime
Teenage Fanclub
Star Sign
They Might Be Giants
Why Does The Sun Shine?
Tom Waits
Ol' 55
Townes Van Zandt
To Live Is To Fly
Trampled By Turtles
TV On The Radio
Wolf Like Me
Uncle Tupelo
Urge Overkill
Sister Havana
Van Halen
The Velvet Underground
Femme Fatale
The Verve
Bitter Sweet Symphony
Vic Chesnutt
Gravity Of The Situation
The Good Life
Faithless Street
The Who
Won't Get Fooled Again
Via Chicago
Yo La Tengo
Tom Courtnenay

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Rapelje Wrap-up

Last weekend I had the pleasure of participating in the 24 Hours of Rapelje (RAP-el-jay) mountain bike race. Twenty people raced it solo, but I was not one of them. Instead, I was on a team of four that braved the 97-degree heat trading off laps on the 11.6 mile course from 11am Saturday to 11am Sunday.

The inception of this event is a great story of American ingenuity. You see, Rapelje, MT has a population of 60 people, not enough to fully support the Stockman Cafe which is the only joint in town. Even within a 20 mile radius there can't be more than several hundred folks living on the great plains of Big Sky Country.

Elevators in Rapelje, MT

About ten years ago the Stockman was in danger of going out of business so they turned it into a community run co-op. It's open mostly for lunch and is the town's only gathering place besides the church. But even with volunteer help they needed a revenue boost to keep it going, so that's where the idea for a 24-hour bike race came in.

Stockman Cafe in Rapelje, MT

24-hour bike races are becoming more common, but a decade ago this was the first of its kind in Montana. This year 150 racers paid $65 to race, knowing that their money was going to support rural life at a time when rural life in America needs a bit of a boost.

I took the first lap for my team and felt a bit overmatched by the other first-lappers all decked out in their team racing gear and all. None of us really knew what to expect of the course so the first lap was about learning the turns and the terrain. There were a couple sections that were fairly technical for me and I quickly resolved for my goal to be: stay safe in the darkness of night and don't try to ride over your head.

But the second lap was phenomenal, even in the blistering heat. It felt great to know the course and to know where I could push it and where to take it easy. The second lap was my fastest of the event, clocking in at just under an hour.

After each lap our team of four had about three hours to kill before riding again. My team included two married couples (one of whom was sidelined by a concussion) who brought their three kids along. The kids had a blast, except for the movie shown at the church at 8pm that turned out to be a Christianity conversion attempt. They just took their free popcorn and walked out after ten minutes.

On my third lap I started having some mechanical difficulties -- what appeared to be derailleur issues. They slowed me down a bit, but didn't seem serious. It wasn't until my fourth lap at midnight that the issues came to a head and turned out to be more serious than I thought.

The temperature at midnight was finally comfortable and I was just getting into the nighttime riding with my new $120 headlight when my chain broke. Upon further inspection, the reason my chain broke was because it became derailed due to an issue with the rear hub -- something not readily fixable out "in the field". After consulting with a couple other riders who stopped to offer their assistance, it was determined that I'd have to get an ATV ride back to camp. I was bummed, but it was a beautiful night with the stars as visible as I've ever seen. I'd be quite content hanging out and stargazing for a bit.

It turned out I was stargazing for 90 minutes as it took awhile for word to get back and for help to be sent.

At 2am I arrived back in town holding my bike while sitting backwards on the rear of a four-wheeler. Fortunately, they'd started serving pancakes at the Stockman at midnight and a tall stack was waiting for me when I arrived. Teammate Jeff took the opportunity to do 2 late night laps, keeping our momentum even though we were not in contention for the podium.

After grabbing about 3 hours of sleep, I awoke to teammate Mark heading out for a dawn lap, followed by his wife Tamera. This would allow me to get one final lap in before the cut-off.

My final lap was glorious, in part because I brought along a can of Blue Ribbon beer, made by Pabst Brewing Co., and enjoyed it upon a perch of rock atop the highest ridge on the course. Man, do I wish I had my camera along to share the view with you, though there's now way I could have captured it. It was gorgeous and a highlight of the weekend. I'd been borrowing Mark's bike for this final lap as mine was out of commission (see above), and it was a pleasure to ride. I tore up the steepest hills and felt great. Too bad it was almost over.

Thank you to Rapelje, MT and to my teammates for a great time. I look forward to riding it again next year.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Double Nickels on the Grime

There's been a surge the past few years of semi-organized gravel bicycle rides, at least across the Midwest. I first heard about the Almanzo a few years ago and appreciate the independent spirit and grassroots vibe of the ride/race. The Trans Iowa is another one I'd love to ride one day.

Part of the gravel spirit is a reaction against the ridiculously high entry fees that are now being charged for bicycle and running races of all kinds. The Leadville 100 wants $275 this year just to participate and many marathons charge over $100. Of course, that type of coin does get you a t-shirt.

There is no entry fee in these rides and there is also no support -- riders are on their own for food, water, mechanicals, etc. Sponsors are typically enlisted to help defray the costs of the organizer and volunteers make it all happen.

Last December I went for a hike in the northern part of the Bridger range and was intrigued by the network of gravel/dirt roads on the western side south of the ghost town of Maudlow. I began driving around and noting the non-paved roads on my map and was excited to see that a nice bike route could probably be created.

After a couple more scouting missions, both in car and on bike, I've come up with a 55-mile route that I'm excited to invite a few friends to ride with me this summer. I've biked the entire route on my scouting missions, but not all at once. It's hilly and beautiful and should be a good challenge riding in the shadow of the Bridger range.


Double Nickels on the Grime
The Morganzo 55

The name Morganzo came as a nod to Almanzo and because the Morgan family has quite a bit of ranch property in this area. I don't know the Morgans, but I'm assuming they encompass a decent chunk of the regional history.

Double Nickels on the Grime refers to one of the greatest albums of all time, Double Nickels on the Dime by The Minutemen. Never has there been a more beautiful collaboration between jazz and punk rock.

The ride starts about 20 miles north of Bozeman, MT and runs clockwise in a windy north-south loop. The entire ride is on gravel except for about 100 yards near the beginning. It gains 3000 feet of elevation in mostly rolling hills with an extended downhill near the finish. Parts of the ride can get muddy but I think in a Montana summer it'll be mostly dry riding.

I can't wait to put the entire loop together in one ride when I get back from California in a few weeks.