Hollywood fixed gear frenzy!

It sure took awhile be we finally get this generations bike movie.  Premium Rush a fixed gear frenzy of silliness.  This is going to be so much fun...

Can Premium Rush top Quicksilver?  I doubt it.  
"Messenger" bicycle dancing awesomeness.

And let us not forget the master.  Waaay baaack in 1986 he taught us all how to get laid with a fixie.   Bacon forever!


A Song of Ice and Fire, a book review.

Why would a seemingly sane person read fantasy you might ask? Yes I wonder that same question as I plow through the George RR Martin series A Song of Ice and Fire.  It is a monster of it's own at 4,200 pages of super dense, vastly complicated, absolute crap.  Unfortunately I feel compelled to finish what I started.  This entire misadventure in reading is the fault of my friend MJ.  I wound up trapped in my tent for a stormy weekend during a bike tour and all I had was the first novel of the series.  You might think, ohh.. that sounds grim and you would be right.  What a miserable couple of days.  
Here is what this series boils down to; Ye old medieval place, aristocracy soap opera with a bunch of ridiculous names and silly outfits.  Anyway I am writing this to plead with everyone to NOT start this series.

Winter is coming... you bet it is!

An example of how one dimensional and utterly boring this series is.  One of the main families, the Starks live in the far north a "winter-land."  Get it?, a Stark landscape.  Ah ha ha... I'm warning you!

A review that mirrors my sentiments exactly here

One and only one concession to this brain drain. 
Eddard Stark you are missed.  RIP brother...

The Lost City of Z a book review

The explorer Percy Fawcett is most likely the toughest man to ever live.  His powers of suffering  in the darkest jungles of the Amazon reach epic proportions.  Lost, starving with half his party dead from disease, wild animals, and angry natives is only the beginning. 

Fawcett explored parts of the Amazon for the Royal Geographical Society in an age where many parts of the globe were still unknown.  Indeed after reading The Lost City of Z I felt as if our own age had somehow shrunk compared to the larger than life exploits of Fawcett.  

The author David Grann describes Fawcett as “the last of the great Victorian explorers who ventured into uncharted realms with little more than a machete, a compass and an almost divine sense of purpose.”

Fawcett chases vapors from native indian and early Spanish exploreers stories of a lost civilization deep within the jungle.  His obsession leads to one of todays most curious mysteries, Fawcett's disappearance during an in-fated "last push" to find the Lost City of Z.  One of the most fascinating parts of the book comes at the end where Gramm visits with the archaeologist Michael Heckenberger.  Heckenberger has uncovered evidence of a large, well organized city buried beneath the jungle near where Fawcett disappeared.  It seems that Fawcett in the end was on to something and it is even possible had found his lost city before he died.  Oh... it just kills me!  I would love to know what really happened and we never will.  Maybe that's what makes it such a good read.  A fantastic story, decently written and I say read it you won't be disappointed. 

Much more in-depth review by the NYT's Michiko Kakutani here

Percy Fawcett... a bad ass to the core.

The Author David Grann info here

Cover shot for help while exploring the shelves of your local used book store.

Gossip attack: Word is the actor Brad Pitt bought the movie rights to the book and plans to play Percy Fawcett in an upcoming production.  Ugghh...

How to Check Out and Read a Library Book on the iPad

No shit!  You can finally check out and read library books on your iPad.  This is just a fantastic development for readers everywhere.  **Note to everyone reading this**  I'm sure there is a sinister plot by Amazon but as far as I can tell (so far!) you don't have to spend any money to use the service.  You need a library card from your local library, and an iPad running the Kindle app.  Coolness.

A short video explaining the service.  A text version with instructions here.

Oh... you do need a valid Amazon account to use this service as well.  Maybe that's the evil empire way they auger in.  I'll report back once I get the hang of it.  If you have used this service please post a comment with your experience so far.  Thx!

Dragon Tattoo American version coming soon...

Wow I really hope this doesn't suck.  The Swedish movie adaptation of the Stieg Larsson novels is just so fantastic.  From watching the preview the American version at the very least looks thrilling.  The director David Fincher was responsible for one of my favorite movies, The Game, so who knows it could be awesome.

Lisbeth Salander Swedish version, Noomi Rapace.

Lisbeth Salander American version, Rooney Mara.

In Theaters late December.

Totally not relevant at all but thought I'd throw it in.  The Game was an fantastic movie directed by David Fincher and starring Michael Douglas.  A noir thriller set in my favorite town, San Francisco, the movie is kinda scary and messes with you.  In a good way...

Burning vans, graffiti, internet weirdness...

Below is Christine Hewitt recently her van with all her belongings went up in flames.  I imagine this is an awful experience, she is a photographer and lost her hard drives with all her work.

I bumped into her blog, Me Van Bike, while wandering around lost on the internet.  I'm not sure about her adventures but her last post was such a fantastic idea I just had to repeat it here.  All natural graffiti, imagine if all that ugly, spray painted, tagging/blight was instead carefully curated messages made of moss.  I know it is kind of an insane dream but I love it.  

Me, Van, Bike, posts about this fabulous idea here.  I bumped into her blog from this other dude who I suspect is a hipster camper person.  It turns out an entire eco system full of nostalgia for old Danner boots and 70's camping equipment catalogs exists. Who knew..?  It seems pretty cool check it out.  Cold Splinters.  You can even buy a new (made in Portland) pair of shorts modeled after the old Boy Scouts shorts.  That has hipster written all over it. 

Danny Macaskill Latest... Amazing!

Danny Macaskill's latest video is simply amazing.  Industrial revolutions does it have a message as well?  The music and old iron works factory are sad in a way or at least thats how I felt.  The riding... WOW!

The junk I schlep into the woods

In a few days I'll be taking off for my summer adventure series.

1. A family backpacking trip in the North Cascades
2. A bicycle touring dirt lap in OR and WA.
3. A hike in the Southern Sierra wilderness.  

I've been checking my kit, repairing bits that need help,  and packing food for the last two days.  My buddy Pat M. was curious as to what I'm lugging around so I thought these pictures might be interesting.

For the last few years I have been using the FBC method for backcountry "cooking."  It is fabulous because their is no mess to clean up.  It's all neat and tidy!  But... eating out of a ziplock bag gets kind of gross for many reasons.  So I'm turning over a new leaf and changing it up once again.  To help myself not totally blow it I followed the recipes from my hiking partner Casy B.  Check out his informative post on food from our journey last summer.  His post is here.

Breakfast.  Enough oatmeal, coffee and/or tea for 7 days on the trail.  You see tea in this picture because I enjoy a afternoon tea on the trail.  The hot chocolate is because every now and then I'll make a mocha instead of straight coffee.  
Oatmeal for One
3/4 cup oatmeal (225 calories) On the trail, bring 1 1/2 cups water to boil, add mix, stir, bring mix to boil, remove from heat and let sit for 5 minutes in cozy with lid.  
3 scoops whole dried milk or enough to make 1 1/2 cups milk (210 calories)
1 tablespoon brown sugar (48 calories)
1/8 teaspoon salt (0 calories)
1 tablespoon butter (102 calories) *omitted this*
1/8 cup raisins (65 calories)

Lunch.  I have always found lunch to be the hardest to pack for.  I'm trying to get away from preparing anything and just eating as I walk.  Soon I can see myself just doing bars and sweet snacks for the entire day.  The Cliff Bar Shot Bloks I will most likely get rid of, too heavy.  I'll replace those calories with regular Cliff Bars.  What you don't see here is the drink mix.  I'll usually have enough for 1 liter of Gatorade during the day.  I'm not really a fan of sugary drink mixes but I need something to wash this boring food down.  Except for the chocolate almond butter, yum!

Dinner.  I'm one of those dudes who can eat the same thing day in and day out.  Simple to make, easy to eat and tasty to boot.  Small bottles are hot sauce, salt, and olive oil.  Bottom right bag holds nightly fiber  drink mix, gotta keep it regular out in the hills!  Small bags contain enough advil to stay hopped up for the entire 7 days, and electrolyte tabs and multivitamins.  

Chili Mac for One
1/2 cup Pinto Bean Mix* (260 calories)At home, put pasta and bean mix into separate Ziploc sandwich bags and oil, salt and Tabasco into separate containers.  On the trail, add pasta to 1 1/4 cup cold water, bring water/pasta to boil, add bean mix and oil, stir and bring to boil again, remove from heat and let sit 10 minutes in cozy with lid.  Add salt and Tabasco to taste.  To make it even better, add a 2.5 ounce packet of tuna (or crumbled bacon) at the same time you add the beans and oil.  
1/2 cup elbow pasta (210 calories)
2 tablespoons olive oil (240 calories)
Salt and Tabasco to taste

Toiletries.  Tylenol PM and the ear plugs ensure a restful sleep without interruptions.  I always use drugs for the first few nights, it helps with recovery for the next days effort.  Everything else is just the usual stuff.  Sunscreen is Dermatone, excellent for the mountains and high altitude when it really counts.  I don't need much since I stay covered up these days.  

Fist Aid kit.  My philosophy runs towards BandAid or a helicoptor.  Over the years my First Aid kit has gotten smaller and smaller.  I used to carry a Sam Splint and a suture kit, crazy!  This kit can handle small cuts, abrasions/blisters, and headaches.  Yep thats about it.  I could use a few more meds for sure but this has worked well for the last few years.  The paper you see folded up on the upper right is probably the most important part of the entire kit.  It is two copies of a incident report form for backcountry emergencies.  One for the people hiking out for help and one for the people taking care of whoever gets hurt.  Very, very, important that you have good info for the people who respond to your emergency.  You can get the same reporting sheet I use here.  Don't forget to include a writing utensil in your kit.  

Repair kit.  Extra junk I "think" is important enough to drag around with me.  In all the years I have been carrying this stuff I have only used the batteries.  Once when my headlamp ran out of power and once when my SteriPen batteries needed to be replaced in the field.  Ok this year I pledge to at least get rid of the signal mirror (lower right), ghezz...  If you have any suggestions as to what I should be carrying instead that might actually help me out of a jam by all means leave a comment.  

Essentials all bundled up.  

Backpacking is awesome!

Big Red Shakedown Ride

Pigeoned up and took Big Red for a shakedown ride this week.  I wound up stealth camping on the West peak of Mt Tam.  What a fantastic view I heartily recommend it.  When climbing Railroad Grade from Mill Valley I always stop for water and to enjoy the view from the West Point Inn.  They have small cabins you can rent and stay the night and 6 times a year they have a pancake breakfast that is spectacular.  Check out the info for cabins and such here.

Photo by Leor Pantilat
The view just keeps getting better!
Photo by Leor Pantilat
Bid Red on Railroad Grade just above West Point Inn.  This set up is the way I'll be traveling on my upcoming tour with Mike J. minus the fenders.  I'll probably change out the tires as well they are really heavy and I can feel them robbing me of momentum.

I arrived just after sunset and settled in for the night.  Looking North from West peak of Mt Tam. 

A warm and quiet night with owls hooting and the city lights off in the distance.  Part of me was hoping that I'd be devoured by raccoon's so I wouldn't have to do my upcoming tour with Mike J.  Now that he subsists on hobbit dingleberries and thinks Grant Peterson is God I'm hesitant to go out into the woods with him.  Below is from a few years ago (on West Peak of Tam) before he moved to Portland and got weird.
Inevitable equipment discussion.  I have completely changed my sleeping setup.  This is the fist test of it and I think it's going to be good.  Montbell pillow, NeoAir pad, and Montbell #3 UL Super Stretch bag. I'm curious how this equipment holds up during my coming adventures.  

In the morning I dropped down into Fairfax and had breakfast with my buddy Mark.  We are attending the same nursing school and have become friends.  I headed out towards the coast and it was so HOT that I wound up jumping in at the Inkwells swimming hole. 

A random sign sighted when leaving Fairfax.  Cute!

Hwy 1 was all time with clear skies and a decent tailwind.  Randomly on the way home I bumped in to Daniel and Bruce who had been out camping as well.  Both are very friendly and interesting people we stopped for a celebratory drink once we got back into the city.  Daniel has been on some epic tours and he leaves for another one in three weeks.  Check him out at Pushing The Pedals

Daniel the big guy with the huge bike. 

Bruce from Oakland country. 


Big Red by Rick Hunter

Rick Hunter crafts magnificent riding equipment. His bicycles are finely wrought and imbued with powers far beyond what one can imagine.  When I first rode Big Red I recalled a chapter from the Iliad where Achillies receives his new set of amour from Hephaestus.  Achilles goes on to destroy the Trojan army, I plan on riding a ton of remote dirt roads and trails.  Big Red is an awesome dirt touring machine. Thank you Rick!

Big Red X 2

Natural Habitat

Big Reds new neighborhood

A few close up shots of Big Red at Daniel's blog:
Pushing The Pedals

To see more of Rick Hunter's craftsmanship and the best damm bicycles on earth check him out at:
Hunter Cycles

Stars and Bars

What a great country we live in.  Enjoy the 4th everyone.

Photo by Brian Vernor 
See more of Brian's photographic excellence:
Brian Vernor Making Blog

Backcountry Boiler 2.0

The Backcountry Boiler is an amazing backpacking device!  I have version 1.0 and it's awesome, boils water super fast and is really fun to use.  The first run of BCB's was a limited production run and currently Devin Montgomery is using Kickstarter to fund his second and much more ambitious run of BCB's.  Check out the video below and/or the offical website The Boilerwerks.  Ready to go for it..?  Head over to Devin's Kickstarter site to purchase a bit of backcountry fantastic.

The Big Short, a book review

THE BIG SHORT Inside The Doomsday Machine by Michael Lewis.  You could alternately call it The 2008 Recession Explained.  Remember how everything kind of fell apart in 2008?  Lewis tells us how the subprime morgatge crisis was created, the players in that giant house of cards, and the handful of people who saw it coming.  A brave (and brilliant) few saw the mess for what it is and shorted the entire market to the tune of billions.  

Michiko Kakutani when reviewing Lewis' books says,  
"No one writes with more narrative panache about money and finance than Mr. Lewis.  His entertaining new book does not attempt a macro view of the financial crisis, but instead proposes to open a small window on the calamities by recounting the stories of some savvy renegades who cashed in on their conviction that the system was rotten."

I had fun reading this book.  A few times I even yelled out at a particularly incredulous portion of the story.  I really wish Obama and his entire cabinet would read this and then take the criminals who cheated us all to task!  Like how about putting a few of them behind bars and changing the way we regulate these crooks so it won't happen again.  We got burned folks... 

Michiko Kakutani review for the New York Times here

Steven Pearlstein review for the Washington Post here

The author Michael Lewis

More about Michael Lewis at Wikipeida

Edit:  This is the first book I have read on my new Kindle.  Loving it!

Lara Stone "Lara en rêve"

Nan Goldin is one of the contributing photographers for French Vogue February 2009.  Goldin does not normally shoot fashion but I thought her photos were the best for the entire issue. 

I think Goldin's work is amazing, the pictures of Lara above are somewhat representative of her work. You can check out more of Goldin's photography here.  Also an interview with Goldin here. Just a heads up, much of her work involves nudity, drug use, and abusive photographs so be prepared. 

A Self Portrait 


Often I dream of a seriously epic backpacking trip.  A lifetime achievement, a trip where you can lean back put your feet up and with confidence know you had meet the ultimate challenge.  Well this is such a trip and more... Never have I seen such an amazing journey.  The idea, the execution, and general badassery is off the charts!  Prepare for awesomeness defined.  Below is a sampler with a link at the end.  I recommend having at least a half hour and a good cup of coffee when you click thru at the end.  This is the best you'll ever see...

The dudes

The route, thats right alaska baby!

Deep in the wilderness.

They walked untouched valleys

Crossed unnamed glaciers

Floated the wildest rivers imaginable. 

By the numbers:
Size of Wrangell St Elias NP and Preserve: 13,200,000 acres or 20,587 square miles
Distance traveled: 430 miles: ~220 miles on land and ~210 floating
Time: 33 days: 25 on foot / 8 paddling
Distance on-trail: 0 
Resupplies: 3
Bears: 14 
Other park visitors: 0
Jars Nutella eaten: 5
Gallons olive oil used: 0.7
Hours of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) performed: 1.2
Width of tent space space, per individual: 15”
Width of foam sleeping pads: 20”

Check out the journey here, not a single thing sucks.  It's pure mind, muscle, and magic. You guys are my heros!

The Wave, a book review

Recently I read "The Wave" by Susan Casey.  I liked it, being a surfer helps but this is a good read.  Casey easily weaves the story of big wave riders and their search for huge ridable waves into a larger picture of what makes gigantic waves.  Interesting science, dudes doing really crazy shit and surviving, a compelling story for sure.  I loved the part about this sketchy spot in Alaska that gets pounded by 300 foot waves.  I say read it.

Dropping in to this?  WOW!

The main big wave rider Casey writes about is Laird Hamilton.  Watch the wave he catch's it is INSANE!

Author Photo + Website



I hope all users of these de-drm tools will be sensible enough to realise that de-drmed ebooks should not be uploaded to open servers, torrents, or other methods of mass distribution. It is illegal and phony.
Authors, bookshops and publishers all need to make a living, so that they can continue to produce books for us to read. Don’t be a parasite.

I trust the the above message is clear enough.  Lets proceed... 

Is this the feeling you got when you downloaded your first e-book on to your new Kindle?

I think when you buy an e-book you should have control over it.  If you buy something it's yours, right?  Not so in the shady world of e-book publishing.  Now that I have a Kindle this bullshit concerns me.  Below are a few tips in how you can free your e-books of publishers Digital Rights Management software (DRM).

1. Go and get the amazing program called Calibre.  This program can take any format of e-book and convert it to any other format with just a mouse click.  It is also a fantastic way to organize your e-books on your computer and integrates seamlessly with your e-reader of choice.  Oh... did I mention it is FREE, yes thats right the program doesn't cost anything.  Of course if you like it and use it please throw some bucks towards the developer he is a very generous fellow. 

Calibre is available here

This is the introduction video you watch when first going to their website.  

2. Most books are DRM protected so you'll have to remove the DRM before converting with Calibre.  Apprentice Alf was kind enough to explain what DRM is and provide the instructions on how to get rid of it. 

DRM and how to strip it, instructions here.

For MAC users who are not using Calibre go here.

3. Once you have done the two steps above your ready to go!  I suggest checking out MobileRead Forums for info and questions that might pop up.  

MobileRead Forum home page here

Edit: A comprehensive article by a man named John Schember, a member of the Calibre team, on e-book DRM and how to deal with it here.  Don't forget all the free books available over at the totally awesome Project Gutenberg



Into The Wild, a book review

You might have already seen the movie, I have not.  Either way I think this is a superb book and I recommend it.  I'm a huge fan of Jon Krakauer - In To Thin Air,  Under The Banner Of Heaven, and I think, Into The Wild might be his best.  

Krakauer tells the compelling story of Chris McCandless aka Alexander Supertramp in his journey of self discovery from his comfortable and safe middle class upbringing to his death as a lonely and desperate young man starving in the Alaskan wilderness.  

Alexander Supertramp a few months before his death.

The story is about McCandless and his travels as a modern day hobo prior to his death but Krakauer weaves in much more.  He investigates why some people risk it all for adventure including himself.  Indeed I found one of the most riveting chapters to be when Krakauer tells a story from his own reckless youth as a climbing bum.  He discovers much about his own sprit while attempting a solo climb of the Devils Thumb deep in the mountains of Alaska.  

The author John Krakauer

I found this to be a haunting story, one that I think of often.  Below are the words of the last known correspondence from McCandless. 

“Greetings from Fairbanks!
This is the last you shall hear from me Wayne.  Arrived here 2 days ago. It was very difficult to catch rides in the Yukon Territory.  But I finally got here.  Please return all mail I receive to the sender.  It might be a very long time before I return South.  If this adventure proves fatal and you don’t ever hear from me again, I want you to know your a great man.  I now walk into the wild.
— Chris McCandless, in postcard sent to Wayne Westerberg in Carthage, South Dakota, from Alaska

I now walk into the wild...  This is inspiring to me and a lesson.  If nothing else when you read this you will be better prepared before you embark on your next journey. 

McCandless waves goodbye in a final self portrait. 

Below is a rough scan of the message he is holding.  The message was found pinned to the doorway of the shelter where his body was discovered. 

Posted by his family where Chris McCandless was found in Alaska.  R.I.P man...

Read it it's worth it.