Friday, November 15, 2013

Batkid Saves City

  Batkid Saves City
View image on Twitter

November is Diabetes month and a couple days ago the planet acknowledged World Diabetes Day on November 14th.  I will touch base on diabetes a little later, but first we have a super hero in our midst and he is Batkid, otherwise known as Miles Scott.  While I spent the day behind my desk pushing papers and computer keys,  the pint sized 5 year old rescued a damsel in distress, saved "Gotham" (San Francisco) from the Penguin and the Riddler and rescued the San Francisco Giants mascot.  Also on his batkid itinerary was a stop for a hamburger and some cruising around in a sweet lamborghini (aka the Batmobile).
For anyone who may not already know him, this is Batkid also known as Miles. (Courtesy: Make-a-Wish)

Nearly 12,000 volunteers and adoring fans holding signs crowded streets for the full-on transformation of the city so Miles, who has been battling lymphoblastic leukemia since he was 20 months old, could spend the day with Batman at his side.  This was coordinated by the Make-A-Wish Foundation.  Miles' cancer is in remission.

Batkid's adventures captured the hearts of residents and transfixed the nation on social media.  He has also captured the hearts of many who are dealing with a wide variety of different medical conditions.  Sometimes we need our hearts stirred.  Sometimes we need encouragement and sometimes we need the right mindset, the right attitude.  While she is not donning a comic book hero custom (that I am aware of), Anne Marie Hospod recently shared, "I did not choose diabetes.  But I can choose life". She shares that life changing attitude in her blog. Well worth the read!


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Fort Rousseau Causeway, Matt Hunter and 'the Mermaid'

Fort Rousseau Causeway, Matt Hunter and 'the Mermaid'

Military construction in Sitka commenced at break-neck in September 1939 to ensure that the Alaskan coast would be defensible if and when the Japanese arrived.  The Sitka Naval Air Station, located on Japonski Island in Sitka Sound became operational. When the U.S. recaptured Attu and Kiska (in the Aleutian Islands, Alaska) in the summer of 1943, the U.S. Army decided to close its Sitka establishment (including Fort Rousseau).  On August 15, 1944, the Sitka Naval Operating Base on Japonski Island was decommissioned. 

On April 2, 2008, the Fort Rousseau Causeway State Historical Park was created.  6 tiny islands scattered off the end of the Sitka Rocky Gutierrez Airport form the Causeway.  The 8,100 foot causeway was mostly finished by the end of 1942, at a cost of approximately two million dollars.

In 2012 State Parks completed a management plan for the site.  Through Sitka Trail works, the State Parks and the community the work has begun. 

The Allen Marine Boat slowly nudged the shoreline and the walkway was dropped for our small group to scramble onto Makhnati Island.  The area lacks a dock for easier exploration.  We didn't have a dock, but we did bring along a 'Matt Hunter'. 

While only 31 years old, Hunter is gifted at wearing hats.  He is a school teacher at Mt. Edgecumbe High School, a state of Alaska-run public boarding school in Sitka.  The school was actually begun in a deserted WWII building.   He is a life-long Sitkan, Sitka Assembly Member and EMS volunteer.
I had met Matt during my time involved with Sitka Mountain Rescue.  If you get into a tough spot with nature (my hand is raised), you fail on your 50 foot snowboard jump, you meet Mr. Grizzly, etc., he is a great person to have nearby.  If you decide to visit the Causeway, Matt Hunter is beyond great.  He is a walking text book.  No, more like a walking Google. 

 My video inside the building above (Battery 292) 

Matt would take us into a number of buildings, including the impressive Battery 292.  This was the main headquarters building.  Matt would lead our 'tour' with details on how most of the rooms were used.

Would have been an ideal post for Halloween!

Hunter estimates that up to 8,000 soldiers, sailors and aviators were stationed in Sitka, along with a few hundred private contractors and a contingent of Marines.  This in a town of only 2,000.

 New Archangel Dancer, Angela McGraw, enjoying the "Dancer Explosives" sign

"The Mermaid"

He would even lead us to the "The Mermaid".  I had heard stories of her existence.  She actually does exist and spends her time under a disco ball.  The Causeway is cram full of history with some stories thrown in.  We all learned so much about the Causeway, Sitka on the brink of war, the many lives lost during the construction of this facility and that Matt, surprisingly, does not even teach history.    

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Fort Rousseau Causeway teaser

'Halloween' photo taken at the Fort Rousseau Causeway State Historical Park(Sitka, Alaska).  The fort was developed in response to military threats to U.S. soil from the Pacific just before World War II.  Looking beyond this graffiti, the Causeway is very historic and is an amazing place to explore.  Story to follow with photos and video.  

Sunday, October 20, 2013

R.I.P. Mario Richard

R.I.P. Mario Richard
I am guessing that if I said "Mario Richard" the response of almost everyone would be "who?"  I would have said "who" not long ago, but my friend google would share with me that Mario might help me scratch off another empty box on my adventure tick list. I found Moab Base Adventures and thought that I would email Mario regarding a new airborne challenge, off the canyon cliffs of Moab, Utah. 
Mario Richard - Photo by Hunter Imagery
Moab Base Adventures is one of only two companies I know of that offer tandem base jumps.  I have jumped with Tandem Base (Twin Falls, Idaho).  Rather crazy to step off of the platform on the Perrine Bridge in Twin Falls, Idaho (486 feet).  Leaping with out a back up parachute does take a different mind set. 
A couple of emails gravited into phone calls to possibly set up a jump date in October.  October was approaching, but a date was not set........or would ever be set.  On August 18, Richard and his wife, rock climber and base jumper, Steph Davis took a cable car to Sasso Pordoi in the Dolomites of Italy.  They would be making wingsuit flights and had made the same jump three times the day before.  Something went wrong in-flight, and Richard hit a cliff close to the Piccolo Pordoi towers .  Davis would land, alone. 
Mario Richard in a tandem base jump near Moab, Utah - Photo by Hunter Imagery

On the fatal jump, the Alpine rescue service believe that he miscalulated by only three meters.  He was 47.

Richard had 20 years of B.A.S.E jumping experience and over 2000 B.A.S.E jumps all over the world.  Richard moved to Moab in 2007 and soon met Davis.  They married in 2011, atop the majestic Parriott Mesa outside Moab, and celebrated by running and leaping off the meas and gliding to earth with parachutes.

I am sorry to hear of the passing of Mario Richard.  I am inspired by the life he chose to live and I regret not having made a cliff reservation, for earlier on the calendar.  Take full advantage of life and the opportunities that you have.  Life can change in the blink of an eye. 

Friday, August 30, 2013

The Toughest Bicycle Race on the Planet

The Toughest Bicycle Race on the Planet

If you love to travel, can deal with seriously rough levels of sleep deprivation, and enjoy serving, then you are open for amazingly unique opportunities.  Although I do not see myself classifying with all of the above mentioned traits, I seem to get myself aboard with the unique opportunity to ride along with the Race Across America (RAAM) almost yearly! 

Outside magazine voted RAAM the most difficult athletic event.  While the debate could rage on, it certainly is sheer madness!  A very special kind of madness that covers 3000 miles, 170,000 feet of climbing, and crossing 12 states.  There is no other race in the world like it.  RAAM is a nonstop blur!  Once the timer starts, the clock doesn’t stop until racers reach the finish line. 

 Rick Schultze dealing with the Mojave Desert

Many tasks for the crew.  Andre Richison crossing one off the list, above Sedona, AZ

By the time 2013 rolled around, I was on my 5th tour with the RAAM parade.  This year I was on the crew for Team ON/ABB.  A crew is made up of a number of positions, or roles that assist the team rider(s) to cross the country in speedy fashion  The racer just rides, but the crew makes most of the decisions, and must constantly improvise, adjust, and adapt.  It is an adventure that unfolds minute-by-minute, hour-by-hour and mile-by-mile. 

Dave Preston in the magnificant Monument Valley, Utah

The Crew Chief is the CEO, the boss and leader of the team.  They provide the overall direction for the crew and have to be ready to make decisions, even unpopular ones.  They must always think of the racer, and balance with that the crew needs.

The Team ON/ABB crew worked hard to keep Rick Shulze and Dave Preston rolling east.  We started the race in Oceanside, California with 10 crew members.  By the sunrise of the second day, no one was a ‘rookie’ crew member anymore.  Our team consisted of drivers, navigators, a crew chief, a photographer and a bike mechanic.  The note-so-popular roles included sandwich making, fetching water, scrubbing dishes, scurrying to peg requests on the racer’s list, tracking down route changes, were done by any available crew member, at any hour.   

  Matt Hoffman at the base of the dreaded Yarnell Pass, AZ

America the beautiful, is also America with the often searing Mojave Desert, the mountainous Rockies, the wind-swept plains and the steep and rather wicked hills of the Appalachians.

 L to R:  Manny Casillas (crew chief), Rick Schultze (rider), John Wood, Andre Richison and Matt Hoffman

After a tough series of events, Team ON/ABB lost one of its 2 riders, due to possible heat exhaustion.  Through grit, determination, encouragement and dedicated support from the remaining crew, Dave Preston rode the last 450 or so miles solo to the finish line in Annapolis, Maryland.   

  Rolling into a distant gas station in Kansas

Dave generously shared, “Much of RAAM’s spotlight is usually on the racers, but the lion’s share of the heavy lifting to get a racer or team across the finish line is in the hands of the crew.  I am certainly humbled by the dedication the crew had to get our team across the finish.  So thank you crew – you truly taught me some valuable life lessons.”

 Most of the crew at the finish line in Annapolis, MD.  L to R:  John Foote, Adot White, Joe Felder, Manny Casillas, Alan Low, Dave Preston, Denny Preston, Rick Schultze, John Wood.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

The Edge of Night

The Edge of Night

I turned off the jeep headlights and was immediately immersed in darkness.  My eyes tried to adjust and make sense of my new surroundings.  My head tried to make some sense of what I was about to do.  Fail.......
Above me dangled a lone source of human connection.  The source was a glow stick suspended off of a fairly tall bridge.  I marveled at what a unique, rather cool sight it was, also at the amazing opportunities I have had to live life and take on different adventures. The list would grow this evening.

I flipped on a headlight and prepared myself for what was next. Just a few
hours ago I had received a short phone call inviting me to join the adventurous group for the evening,
at a bridge,
on a catwalk,
to do a bungee jump

in the dark.  Not really the kind of 'invitation' you get every day.

My bungee partner, Matt and I were on our way-

to the bridge,
to spend a long evening,
on a rather freaky, narrow catwalk
in order to leap into the world of blackness

                                                                                                                                Catwalk and River

  stellar jump during the day!

The catwalk, far above the churning Snake River, is one of my favorite spots on the planet! While it is understandably frightening for some to even imagine standing on a small ledge overlooking a rushing river, this type of adventure feeds my spirit and defines the crazy adventure seeker that I am....sorry Mom and Dad! 

A click of the carabiner and a screw of the gate and I was hooked into the bungee cord.  Since bungee jumping is not a totally new adventure for me, I decided to explore a new challenge for this jump.  Instead of the carabiner locked in front of me, I had it secured at my back instead.  As I climbed the beam, high above the flowing river below, I hung before I let go and 5,4,3, 2, 1 dropped into the darkness of the night. 

Luckily, because there were only a few night time dare devils, we all got to take multiple jumps.  We had glow sticks attached at the end of the retrieval rope. 

You can barely make out the glow sticks below
 The evening was one of those rare experiences that makes me who I am: a seeker of new challenges, new adventures and learning to live life to the fullest (and sometimes scariest)! Wonder what crazy adventure will top this! 

Monday, February 4, 2013

Sightseeing in the Tortolita Mountains via running shoes

Sightseeing in the Tortolita Mountains
 via running shoes

Rail X Ranch sign with the Tortolita Mountains in the background

 I emerged from my dad’s pick up with a Nathan running vest in hand, an ipod cranking out some inspirational, but mainly  butt kicking tunes to keep me in motion, and a goal that looked, well, distant.  The sun-fried, tiled  sign in the parking lot, decorated with a hummingbird, mountains, cactus and a rather unique, ugly looking gila monster, welcomed me to Catalina, Arizona.  A nearby dirt track etched into the desert landscape,  the Rail X Ranch Road,  rolls west to the faraway Tortolita Mountains. 

Windmill with the Catalina Mountains in the distance

Not your typical tourist, I was here to site see via my own transportation.  A pair of running shoes.  I had a gnarmous (healthy chunk of dirt real estate) amount of miles to slowly take in the sights of the desert landscape sprawled out before me.  The Arizona desert  is a world away from my rainforest environment in  Alaska.  Oh, and its 75 degrees on this cloudless day in November.  It will be a day of contrasts.

A small herd of perhaps 15 horses (feral horses) roam the rugged ridges and canyons of the Tortolita Mountains NW of Tucson.  Not expected on the edge of the sprawling Tucson Metropolitan area.

According to officials and people who once operated ranches in the area, that the feral herd originated sometime in the first half of the last century when horses escaped or were released by ranchers.  I was not expecting to see wild horses today.  I would gladly settle for javelina, jaguars, mountain lions, tarantula or rattle snakes.
White Rock Mine

About an hour and 1/2 of slow, steady motion and the ipod blasting, takes me to the end of the Rail X Ranch Road and a gate.  Beyond the gate is the White Rock Mine, opened in 1958. Posted on the rolling gate is 'Attention Security Guard on Duty'.  Hmmm.  Guessing that this sign is the actual guard on duty. A much cheaper option. 

Sunset in the Tortolita's 

Did I mention that at the turn around point the sun was minutes away from setting?  That setting orb on my right, makes for a beautiful sight, and some beautiful photos, but the run, which has taken longer than anticipated, has become a lot more interesting.  My ultra-mini pinch light and I are now best friends.

 Tucson in the distance

The view of the twinkling lights in the distant world of concrete, stoplights, Big Macs and lots of human beings is a closing reminder of why I am making tracks on this lonely dirt road in the desert and not 25 miles south.  The lights of Tucson, become more apparent as the sun dips behind the lofty spine of the Tortolita range. My current world consists of cactus, agave, dirt and a rare windmill, clicking as it spins in the light breeze.  The lights of Catalina slowly come into view and the traffic whines along Oracle Road.  I slide into the truck, flip on the lights, and head north.