Monday, August 15, 2022

Subcultures



I follow a bunch of storm chaser people on social media, as well as a few actual meteorologists. They are an odd, geeky bunch, united by the adrenaline of mostly violent weather and academic inclinations. Clear weather is boring to such people. When I was a child I was taught that a desire for action and academic proclivities were contradictory impulses, but when I grew up I realized they are not mutually exclusive.

When I was into running whitewater, there were some common traits among the people who participated in that particular subculture: free weekends, disposable income, and a taste for adrenaline. It's a time consuming hobby and once you find the friends you spend a lot of time with them.

There were also an unusual disproportion of former college athletes who checked both boxes but I never figured out exactly why that was the case, other than to mention that many people are mistaken about paddling being a "low impact" sport. Not on whitewater it isn't. Maybe on a lake. This led to people like me (un-athletic geeks) mingling with college athlete types. Strange bedfellows but it worked.

The point being that there are hobbies that are more than hobbies. They are subcultures that bring diverse people together. When I lived in the Chattanooga area, all my friends were from whitewater. Even when I did other things like hiking or mountain biking or even going to a museum or sampling a new restaurant, I did them with the same whitewater people. The storm chasers seem to be the same way.

I haven't found a subculture in Flagstaff to hang with in several years living here. I'm not sure why exactly but Flagstaff is notorious for difficulty putting down roots. It's hard to make friends or find a mate here. It would help if I got out more and found a subculture. It's a good way to make friends.

Sunday, August 14, 2022

Cycling the Mormon Lake Loop

Mormon Mountain beyond the mostly grassy lakebed of Mormon Lake. There are elk in this photo but they are too far for the iPhone camera to resolve.

 

I meant to ride my bicycle around Mormon Lake since about the first year I moved to Flagstaff, but for some reason I never got around to it. It's about a 40 to 45 minute drive south of Flagstaff along Lake Mary Road, and I've never been in good enough shape to simply ride from my various domiciles all the way there, around the lake, and back.

I finally made time for it last Saturday. I parked at the Mormon Lake overlook and immediately the day promised a great experience. I started early enough to avoid the thunderstorms but was unsure about riding the entire distance. I committed only to a clockwise route with the potential of turning around if I got out about 5 or 6 miles and things were not going well. Fortunately things went well.

The view back towards Flagstaff under gathering monsoon clouds. It's sunflower season!


The monsoon has been extra rainy this year and everything was green. The lake still has not filled up as much as I've seen it in the past but there were areas of open water and a huge herd of elk were enjoying it. Unfortunately I don't have a camera with enough range to capture that so you'll have to take my word for it.

This incredible view was from the southerly edge of the lake.


The route is rolling with a net downhill to the south and I arrived in pretty good order at the turnoff for Mormon Lake Road. I made the turn and enjoyed the excellent pavement and scenery along the quick two miles to Mormon Lake Lodge. The views were incredible!

Approaching the Mormon Lake community. I would imagine it's a happy place to live but far beyond my means.


The day was perfect and I stopped a few times to take photos. I startled a deer at one point. There were many bicyclists out and most were friendly. Since I was on a mountain bike, I had little hope of passing anyone, and indeed I passed no one and was passed several times. The road winds along the base of Mormon Mountain and the skies were beautiful.

A panorama with Mormon Mountain along the road. It's quiet and high quality bicycling.

I looped back to my car with plenty of time to spare before the arrival of ferocious thunderstorms. It's one of the best bicycle rides I've ever done! I fully recommend it.

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Western Ambient

 

The Granite Dells of Prescott, Arizona with late monsoon clouds in September 2015.

The afternoon was pleasant with light rain and distant thunder. I sat working with my cats around me and the air cooled. Ambient western music played from my laptop. It established the perfect tone for sitting in my screen door garage with the monsoon rains falling just outside. My mood has been changeable lately but this afternoon I found a measure of peace in work and things seemed effortless today.

I'm pecking away at my novel. My creative output continues to be high, and I like where it's leading, though I don't know if it will be commercially viable or not. My prose improved over the last decade.

I've been organizing my personal library and it serves as a source of inspiration.

I have the urge to paint again.

Monday, August 8, 2022

Post-race Analysis

 




I finished the 5k run on Saturday. It wasn't a great race for me but not as bad as it could have been. I hadn't realized until shortly before the race that it was actually a trail run. After I heard that I knew I would record a slow time. Trail races are more difficult and slower than flat road races. In particular, the route ascended a moderate hill that I am familiar with. I knew it would be difficult to keep running.

When I was in shape back in 2017 and 2018 I probably could have run the entire distance for a respectable time, but reviewing the GPS track from my Garmin watch indicates I walked about 1 km of the 5 km distance. As many have said, trail running always includes walking at some point for everyone. It's just a question of how steep it has to be before you have to walk.

My time was slow but in line with recent training runs with slightly more elevation so I'll take it and hope to be in better shape next year. I'm built more for sprinting than distance. Also, my right "bad" knee hurts. That said, I again enjoyed the positive vibes of the race and saw a handful of people I knew.

Positive vibes in front of the start line, which was also the finish line, at Fort Tuthill County Park. The grandstand in the background is where the Flagstaff Pro Rodeo is held every summer.


I don't think I'll do another race this year and instead just spend the rest of summer and fall enjoying bicycling, hiking, and the occasional casual run. I like fall here in Flagstaff, but dread the reduction in daylight. It's the main thing I don't like about fall and winter. I'm just glad I don't live in Alaska, where the sunlight completely disappears for many weeks.

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Open Space

 

The peaks are green behind airport instrumentation in this monsoon season. This large bit of national forest land features a network of single and double track.

I spent most of my life living "east of the Mississippi." There are substantial differences between living in the eastern United States and the western United States. One of those differences is the relative absence of development in the west. Consequently, it's possible to go for a hike or bicycle ride in the woods without having to travel in a car for a long time to get off pavement and into wildlife habitat. This is probably what I like most about living in Flagstaff.

I've been aware of an area of open space near the airport for several years. I also rode my bike around the area a few times without going into the patch of forest and meadow, but a recent news item stoked my interest. There is a parkway that is currently disconnected and will soon be connected by cutting through this particular green space. It was time to go have a look at it before the road construction begins.

Decorative vehicle blocking . . . blocks. These were obviously positioned at one end of J.W. Powell Blvd. to prevent people from driving motorized vehicles into this bit of forest and prairie. You can see it was used as informal campgrounds in the past.


The area isn't pristine. There are some aviation instruments installed, I suspect related to the Instrument Landing System for the airport. It's also an area that used to be frequented by people free camping - it's US Forest Service land. The entrances for vehicles are now blocked with boulders and logs and signage forbids camping and motor vehicles. That said, it's a lovely bit of pine forest and prairie that offers sweeping views of the inner core of the San Francisco Peaks as well as more distant views of Woody Mountain and possibly some other peaks. The monsoon has been healthy this year and the wildflowers were blooming, although I found it strange there were no sunflowers. I also saw a variety of birds and some lizards.

Mount Elden from the gated maintenance road that leads to the airport instruments.

Wildflowers were blooming!


I looped around the area, trying to fully explore it as much as possible. The double and single track lead throughout the property. Being unfamiliar with the area, I didn't follow every available path. If/when I go back, I will follows paths to try to get a clear view of the airport runway.


Thursday, July 21, 2022

5K

I went for a training run this afternoon, well . . . more like a walk. The skies were spectacular with scattered monsoon showers. I ran earlier this week but I was sore and afraid to push too hard leading up to a race.


I decided to sign up for a 5 km run in August. I haven't done one since I moved to Arizona in 2015. It's a charity event for the Children's Health Center and my entry was sponsored by our major software vendor, Oracle Cerner. As a consequence, I added a donation to the cause.

I'm not in great shape for running this year, but I signed up for the 5 km distance, so I should be able to trot through it. Over the last couple of years I got somewhat out of shape but I've made progress and I'm down about 8 to 10 pounds.

I miss the positive atmosphere of an organized race. Since I haven't emphasized running this year, I won't record a good time, but that doesn't matter. What matters is the participation and the cause and the motivation just to get out there. I know I will enjoy it.

Thursday, July 14, 2022

Writer's Block



Despite a previous update stating that I'd found a way forward with my latest novel, I actually didn't act much on it after that. Months passed. Today I made a breakthrough and wrote about a thousand words. If a novelist can write a thousand words a day for a hundred days, they have a short novel. Or at least a novella. If they can do that for a year, they will have a massive novel.

I'm currently outlining the plot. I read Stephen King's On Writing, where he expresses utter contempt for outlines. For this reason, I tried writing this novel following the seat-of-the-pants method, but it wasn't working for me. I've written several short stories that way, but it isn't necessarily the only way to go about things. Anyway my outlines are not detailed. They are about as loose as it gets. It's easy to move away from the outline if necessary.

I value Stephen King's advice, especially since he has been so commercially successful, but I also think that he is slightly overrated. I find his protagonists unlikeable, which is the main reason I haven't read more of his material. Also, as many people point out, his dialog is anachronistic. His characters speak and think as if it is 1970. He doesn't seem to be able to adapt to contemporary society. Since he is a seat-of-the-pants writer, his plots sometimes wander, and include unnecessary episodes. This is a hallmark of an author who achieves radioactive levels of success. People are afraid to tell him no or that something needs cut.

Most of King's advice is still good. I'm just not going to follow all of it.