Tag Archives: Adventure

Live every day (every so often) like a lunatic.


Today’s Music: The Allman Brothers Band – Jessica
*Note on Today’s Music: I absolutely love this song. Hope you enjoy it too.
Days Til Spring: 16!!!

And if you can, please help out Merbear.===========================>>>

Live every day like it’s your last!
I’m not a big fan of that phrase. To me it always meant “Go out and accomplish every dream you have NOW!!!!”
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for accomplishing dreams (the more inane the better!), but do you have any idea how exhausting that would be???
I took a vacation once. Spent a day sailing on the Caribbean, two days scuba diving, drinking and wandering every night, then came home with just enough time to pick up a pair of tickets from someone and drive out to the beach for a concert.
Went back to work the next day, and called in sick the next day because I was beat. Plum tuckered out.
I needed a vacation to recover from my vacation.

I personally couldn’t imagine doing everything I want to do every single day.
But there’s one stunt that I could do say once a month.

Go rock climbing.
In scuba gear.
No, wait, stay with me here.
Strap the flippers to my back, and wear extra padding under the scuba tank. Which would be under the parachute. (If you’ve been reading me for a while, you know where this is going.)
Do a nice six or seven hundred foot climb up a cliff face. Drink a lot of water on the way (wetsuits are ridiculously warm). Get to the top, step away from the edge and enjoy the view.
Step a few feet further back from the edge.
Then run like hell…and…LEAP!!!

Like this, but from a cliff. In a wetsuit.

Like this, but from a cliff.
In a wetsuit.


Sail off the cliff cackling with only the piece of mind that barely-functional insanity can provide!
Clear the cliff and toss the pilot chute up, dragging the main chute out. (Do it fast. It takes four hundred feet for the canopy to open.)
At ten feet off the water, pull all of the chute harness’ quick release pulls. Arms crossed over the chest (still holding the flippers. You didn’t drop them, did you?), point your toes because you’re still moving pretty fast, and…SPLOOSH!
Fit on the mask and the flippers.
Swim at a leisurely pace underwater to the nearest unattended jetski.
Ditch the tank and vest (flippers too), climb on, and throttle up towards the nearest tropical beach.
Find one not too busy, with a thatched roof bar restaurant visible from the water.
Crank the throttle and ride that puppy right on to the beach. Extra points if there’s a boat ramp and you leap that sucker with a flying dismount towards the bar.
I can see the jail from here!

I can see the jail from here!


Pull the Hawaiian shirt out of your bag, put on the shades, and order the lobster for dinner. And a drink. With a lot of rum.

Could you imagine trying to do that daily???
But just once, wow, would it make a hell of a day!

And how are you spending your tuesday?

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A Very Surfing New Year


Today’s Music: The Ramones – Surfin Bird
Days Til Spring: 79
I’m generally the quiet type. I don’t talk a whole lot. Because when I do, it invariably gets me in trouble.
Despite the fact that it was below 30 degrees farenheit this morning with a water temp of maybe forty deg F, I’d been saying I was planning on surfing new years day for several weeks. Enough to the point that A Frank Angle, on his list of “national…” days listed wednesday as El Guapo Surfing Day. Enough to the point where my boss sent me a happy new year email, closing with “don’t drown.

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Wish I’d been wrapped in a blanket like my board…


So despite the frigidity of the weather forecast, and the fact the the surf forecast was one word – Flat – I’d backed myself into a corner.
To be honest I was still planning on going when I went to bed at 2 last night. I’d cut myself off after two (delicious) beers so I wouldn’t be hung over. I even packed my bag with gloves, booties and hood and pulled out my wetsuit.
I woke up bright and early at 8 am, but my wife (The Most Wonderful Girl in the Universe) was so warm and snuggly that I stayed curled up with her until 9. But then my innate “me”ness kicked in.
By 945, I was in my wetsuit at dunkin donuts getting coffee.
By 1015, I was on the beach, freezing my butt off, looking at an ocean surface only slightly rougher than glass.

Don’t let the ripple in that pic deceive you. That wave, and all the waves were breaking so close to the beach it was like surfing in sand.
But don’t let it be said that I am a victim of common sense!

My wetsuit-clad leg, ready for battle.

My wetsuit-clad leg, ready for battle.

The waves were so low, and breaking so late, that I stood a few yards from the beach. When I saw the few surfable waves roll in, I hopped n my board and rode them the five yards into the sand.
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Those drops of water on the board are good atlantic ocean drops.

So I stayed in the water about 45 minutes. When I first got in and the water trickled into my glove, it was so cold that it took about five minutes until the water warmed up and I could move my hand again.

The waves? Crap.
The weather? Freezing.
The surfing? Horrible.
But New Years Day, I spent the morning doing something I love – sitting on a surfboard in the ocean on a beautiful morning.
And if that ain’t worth it…well then, the crazies who ran into the water in bathing suits (and a tutu) 10 minutes after I got out was totally worth it.

And you thought I had problems???

And you thought I had problems???

Happy New Year to each and every one of you to your families, and to your loved ones.
And I hope every last one of you catches your wave, whatever it might be.

Faith and Fear…And Adventure. Part 1


Today’s Music: Blind Faith – Can’t Find My Way Home

Beginning

What do you see at the edge?

There’s a moment, right at the very beginning, where anything is possible. -high and low, win and lose, yes and no.
On any adventure, that time is fascinating to me.
It’s a metaphysical moment where, for me, time stretches. My whole life doesn’t flash before my eyes. The moment isn’t long, but it is deep, and it’s there that I gain a better understanding of who I am. And it’s where I simultaneously find my fears and my faith in myself. I also see how those things have changed.

Here’s an early example –
– A young Guapo standing at the edge of the high diving board. He looks over, takes a deep breath. Another boy is already starting up the ladder for his turn. He looks back over the edge and steels himself. He ignores his burning red face and climbs back down the ladder.
– An older Guap (late teens?) stands at the edge of a different diving board. It’s high, but the water is deep, he tells himself. Don’t panic and you’ll be fine, he tells himself.
He looks out over that edge, remembers how younger him wished he’d stepped off that board all those years ago. He sees his younger self at that moment, remembers the exhilaration of being up so high, the danger of that narrow plank with so much empty space below it, and the terror of what could go wrong outweighing the thrill of what could go right.
He looks at the present again, every detail burning into his memory. He squeezes his eyes as tight as possible. He feels his face turn red.
And he turns and

Steps…

Off…

The…

Edge…

He goes off the high diving board another 8 times that day. Most of them with his eyes open. All of them with a big grin on his face.

I know I can.

I know I can.

So what changed?
Plenty of people dive from the high board/jump from the plane/hang from the cliff/(you get the idea).
Some of them have hurt themselves, some have even died. But as with a great many things, the vast majority have been careful, taken precautions and lived to do it again and again.

And the thought of being red faced and angry that I didn’t try something makes me feel worse than any of the damage I’ve accumulated thanks to gravity over the years.

So stop thinking that jumping will lead to crashing. Go on, have a little faith.

An Adventure – The Broken Rib


Today’s Music: Warren Zevon – Poor Poor Pitiful Me

This probably takes place about 18 years ago, when I was still cooking for a living. On a Tuesday off, me and a few coworkers drove up to Hunter Mountain in my old standard transmission Explorer.
Hunter Mountain isn’t a great mountain. They have the largest snowmaking system in the world (at least, according to their commercials), because they don’t get enough natural snow reliably to open every year.
Another thing about Hunter: the main slope faces east. That means that the sun beats down on the slopes all day until noon, when the sun creeps over the peak and the temperature drops.
And all the melted snow refreezes.
Into sheets of ice.

Looks pretty. Until it's back in shadow...

Looks pretty. Until it’s back in shadow…

Hunter isn’t going to win any awards for quality of snow, length of runs, or even value of food at the lodge.
But if you want to learn to ski ice and crud like nobodies business, Hunter is the place for you.
The refrozen trails get so slick (unless they’re rutted), and so fast that the only way to ski them is to commit totally to your edges and turn fast on all the shaved ice on the trail edges.
I’ve seen my life flash before my eyes so many times in my learning days at Hunter that it’s more familiar to me than the opening of a Star Trek episode. Any of them. (Hey, I have pride. Just no shame.)

So It’s me and two or three coworkers. I’m the only one who’s skied there before, so after they get settled on their gear, I do a few runs with them (look out for ice), give them some tips (No really. look out for ice!), we set a time to meet later for lunch (At the bottom, past all the ice), and off I go.
I ski well. I’m moving at or above my comfort level, I’m nailing my turns (as far as I know – lessons were still in my future), and enjoying the feeling of my smooth, supple grace. Think Dorothy Hamill in fluffy padded pants.

The pixie-cut brings out my eyes.

The pixie-cut brings out my eyes.

I’m tearing down the hill. And here’s what happened from two perspectives.
What I think happened:
I’ve got my head tucked down as I tear into the bottom of the trail, which starts to flatten a bit near the bottom. My weight is forward over my skis, knees are bent and I’m flying. I look at the terrain up ahead. My weight shifts. I feel exhilaration as I feel my ski edges bite into the ice. My knees straighten and shift as I set up for my next turn.
My weight comes down.
The edges bite.
I duck my head lower as I pass through the cloud from a snow gun.
I shoot into a slighter sharper down grade.
My leg slips out from under me. The other ski chatters against the ice, tip skewing wildly from side to side…
And
*insert a moment of freedom from gravity, body arcing gracefully through the ether*
KABOOM!!!!!

Yard sale. Skis here…polls there…Guap all over the hill…

The loons, Wilbur. Can you hear the loons?

The loons, Wilbur. Can you hear the loons?

A few moments later, the ringing clears from my head. A small child skis to a perfect stop and asks if I need help.
Little bastard.
I finally regain my equipment and stand up, to feel a sharp pain in my lower chest. One of the mountain staff does a quick check.
Yep. Broken rib.

Now to remind you, I’m not a bad skier. Not great, but not bad. So I shuffle my butt down to the lodge, trying to figure out what just happened. I find my friends down there.
Me – Dude! I just got railed by the hill! Broke my damn rib.
Them – Ouch. What happened?
Me – It was the trail from hell! Chewed me up and spit me out.
Pause…
Me – You’ve gotta come down it with me!

So we trundle back to the top (pro tip – trundling is hard with a broken rib), and ski back down. For obvious reasons, I’m going much more slowly this time, and I can see the environment much more clearly. Which means I can see…
What Really Happened:

I’ve got my head tucked down as I tear into the bottom of the trail, which starts to flatten a bit near the bottom. My weight is forward over my skis, knees are bent and I’m flying. I look at the terrain up ahead. My weight shifts. I feel exhilaration as I feel my ski edges bite into the ice. My knees straighten and shift as i set up for my next turn.
My weight comes down.
The edges bite.
I duck my head lower as I pass through the cloud from a snow gun.
(slow it down, here it comes…)
I didn’t tuck my head low enough.
Tiny flecks of jet propelled ice stab at the exposed skin on my face. The stinging is shocking, as is the cold.
I tuck my head down further twisting it away from the pain.
And as so often happens, the body follows the head
I turn my head so far over that it pulls me off one ski and unbalances me so badly that there’s no way to stay up on the other.
Aaannnnd…
Yard sale.

Maybe I’m not such a good skier after all…

Grace like this can't be taught.

Style like this can’t be taught.

Postscript: Driving a standard transmission involves stepping heavily on the clutch frequently to shift gears. When driving to Hunter mountain from NYC in a standard transmission vehicle, bring friends who can drive a stick.
Otherwise it will be a very long and painful drive home.

Post Postcript: There is nothing that can be done for a broken rib other than binding the chest. It will heal in a few weeks, and the pain will lessen. The pain of your doctor laughing at you when you tell him the story will fade more slowly.

Post Post Postscript: After you survive the night at work, cooking, lifting, pushing, etc, you will be in even more pain. A beer will help (if you aren’t on medication). And if you tell any story other than the truth for what happened, you may even drink for free.
Otherwise, well, see about the pain of being laughed at above.

Why I Started a Blog: Raisins and Beans (Translated from the French!)


Today’s Music: Stevie Ray Vaughn and Double Trouble – If The House Is A’Rockin

Dude, “raison d’etre” translates loosely to “reason for being”, not “raisins and beans”.
Umm…no one likes the French.
Jackass.
quill-and-parchment
It seemed simple enough when I started. John Scalzi had his blog about 10 years and was a best selling author. Jenny, the Bloggess, had been online for a while and had a book deal, as well as being an in-demand speaker. The lady that cooked all of Julia Child’s recipes got a book and movie deal.
That was how it worked, I thought. Go online. Be brilliant. Make money. Live your dream.

Or not…

Let me be clear here, the money is not at all the dream. I have no interest in having money as an end to itself. I’d just like to have enough money to not have to worry about money. It’s been a long time since I took a job just for the money, instead of the opportunity to learn and do something interesting.
But that isn’t the dream either.
dollars
So, I figured, start a blog. Post fun stories about adventures. Find a sponsor.
Do the dream.

Jet ski across the Atlantic Ocean.

(I’ll wait wile you stop laughing.)
(Hey, it wasn’t that funny.)
(Don’t hurt yourself.)
(Breathe.)
(BREATHE!)

(All better now? Ok.)

Think about it – a guy who ran under a truck. A guy whose last words as he jumped off a bridge were “I WANT A PONY!!!)
A guy who would pick his friends up at 10 am for lunch because he was taking them to PA for philly cheese steaks.
Who better to pull off one of the stupidest stunts ever (short of running for elected office)?

I don’t have a death wish. The exact opposite in fact.
The thing I’ve done that I’ve enjoyed most is probably rock climbing. There are moments where your fate literally is in your hands. Where will your hand go? Which way will you lean?
The equipment doesn’t matter. It’s acknowledged, then dismissed.
No, I wouldn’t climb without a safety line or without a belayer who understood what they were doing. But that gets dismissed from thought.
And up there in the air, or hanging from the cliff face, for me, is the purest expression of “What can I do?”. What are my mind and body capable of when they are completely focused on one thing, to the exclusion of all else?
To me, that’s living.
Not the adrenaline high. Not the stories afterwards. Not being part of a small club that knows exactly what you mean when you describe grabbing a bomber hold, or stepping out of a plane, or pearling off a surfboard.

Just that one moment of focus and complete calm as you go for the next move.

And beyond that, what can be done? What is possible?

I think jet skiing across the Atlantic falls into that last question. Is it possible? to take a few pounds of fiberglass, an engine and a lunatic across 3000 miles of ocean? Some of it piled up 40 feet or higher?
Damned if I know.
But I’d love to find out.
JetSki
So I started to blog. I’ve told some stories that give a pretty good idea of who I am.
I’ve met some great people. I’ve been turned on to a whole universe here in the sphere.

Still no sponsors. But I’ve met a ton of great people.
People that will listen to the stories (and the music), maybe say something funny, or wise, or thought provoking.
And I’ve enjoyed their stories, and the back and forth in the comments as we meet on other sites.
And that’s worth even more than getting a book deal and a movie contract.

So listen up, sponsors. When you come by to set me up with the gear I need, you’re going to have to kick in a little extra for paint. Because the avatars of all the people I read and that stop by here are going on the side of the ski.

Wouldn’t be any point otherwise…

An Adventure – Bungee Jumping


Today’s Music: ZZTop – Double Back
Note on Today’s Music: The song fits, and yeah, I guess there was a rock n roll soundtrack kicked in as soon as I jumped.

Bungee jumping is an exercise in insanity whereby a moron tosses themselves off a bridge to bounce at the end of hyperelastic cords.

My name is El Guapo. And I’m a moron.

If I look like I’m about to poop myself, it’s probably because I am*.

From a technical point of view, the sport is quite simple. The jumper is strapped into a harness (in this case, a waist harness and auxilliary chest harness). The bungee cord was in fact five cords held together, with fittings at either end connecting them to the jumper via two carabiners – one at the waist and one at the chest.

And the view was magnificent.

So at this particular site, the process was
– Fill out the questionnaire (my favorite question: Do you prefer an open or closed casket?)
– Get weighed. This is important. They ask your weight on the questionnaire, then confirm it on a scale. (And mock you if it’s different.)
They have several bundles of cords, color coded, with different elasticities depending on the weight of the jumper.
After the weigh-in, they give you a color coded bracelet and you wait until they’re up to your weight class for jumping.
– Wait, watch other jumpers, admire how much your hand is shaking (seriously, I couldn’t hold it steady), ask the staff questions.
-When asking the staff questions, be prepared for at least two answers that will make you question the wisdom of jumping before you get a straight answer:
Guap: How often do you change the cords?
Jumpmaster: When they break…
Guap: How often do you guys jump?
JM: Are you out of your mind? This is dangerous!

The only question I asked that they didn’t have a one liner prepared for:
Guap: At what point should I throw up so I can bounce through it the most times?
JM: *blink* *grin* Oh yeah, you’re one of us!

The answer, by the way, is at the top of the first bounce. 2 to 3 splashes!

So after watching several others jump, including a girl that held on to the Jumpmaster for a few minutes before going (and shrieked through the whole thing) and a 14 year old boy who didn’t even hesitate, it’s your turn.

They strap you in.
You climb over a 4 foot rail onto a 2’x3′ platform.
They count to 3.
You hesitate. Swallow. Take a deep breath.
They start to count to 3 again.
You think “Well, this is what I came for”.
And in my case, with all the grace (and much of the appearance) of a spastic gazelle,
You…
step..
into…

n o t h i n g…

(Insert gazelle noise here)

I was really surprised. Leaving the platform was easy. And the drop (191′ from bridge deck to stream) was fast!

My hair is magnificent.

And then comes the part everyone knows about – the bouncing.
In all honesty, this was the part that got me.
Going off the bridge wasn’t bad – acceleration kicks in, you’re whipping down astounded at what you’ve just done. Maybe you’re screaming something inane.
But then the slack is gone, the cord stretches and you’re catapulted back up. You come closer and closer to the top of the arc, all your movement slows down, and that’s when your brain turns back on.
And as every single one of my internal organs prepare to crowd their way into my throat, I realize that I’m going to go back down again.
So to brace myself, I grab onto the nearest thing.
Which is the cushion at the end of the cord.
WHICH DOESN’T STOP ME FROM DROPPING!!!

The hands begin their death grip.

The hands begin their death grip…

DEATH GRIP ACHIEVED!

Truly, the scenery around me was spectacular!

An idiot in Eden

And now that I had a death grip, I could bounce…happily(?) through it.

DEATH GRIP!!! *boing*

Looking through the pictures, I see the advantage of having long hair is that I can tell whether I was going up or down in any picture.

or sideways…But still magnificent!

Until finally, it came to an end.

A Guapo at rest really wishes he’d stayed at rest.

At this point, they lower another line, you clip in, and they pull you back up. Nice and easy.
It takes a few minutes to climb back over the rail onto the safety of the bridge, partly because all your limbs are jelly, and partly because your brain is too, and you don’t realize the Jumpmaster is talking to you.

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Oh, and the inane thing you might scream while you’re jumping?
Well, you’ll just have to listen and find out yourselves.

*No pants were pooped in the completion of this jump.
With extreme thanks to the photographer perched under the bridge for the photos, and The Most Wonderful Girl In The Universe for the video.

And when in the greater Portland/Seattle area, check out http://www.bungee.com for your own chance to joing the ranks of the courageously foolish!

An Adventure – Learning to Skydive Part 2


Today’s Music: The Black Crowes – Go Faster

When last we left our intrepid adventurer, he had just let go of a tiny beer can with a propeller plane…
…is leaning out of the plane, peeling my fingers off, one by one.
And I think to myself that if my left hand lets go and my right one doesn’t, I am well and truly screwed.
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So I let go….

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…and I don’t know how much time passes…
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…if it’s 5 seconds,5 hours or 5 years.

But I don’t remember anything until I look up and see my canopy open above me.

Every skydiver I’ve spoken to tells me the same thing. None of us remembers the first moments of our first jump.
I think it’s because of the enormity of it, the stepping out into nothing. The brain has no frame of reference, no way to understand what’s going on. So there’s a gap.
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Modern parachutes are air-rams. There is a row of cells that hold air. Using the steering lines manipulates how much air is in the cells on the ends and gives the skydiver steering and speed control

The Air Ram Parachute


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After I come out of the confusion and see that my chute opened correctly (as shown in the classroom pictures. I have no idea what I’d have done if it wasn’t) I fit my hands into the loops on the control lines. Then the voice of the spotter comes over the one way radio.
The spotter is standing at the landing zone with a pair of binoculars, watching me and guiding me in by telling me when, how long, and in which direction to turn.
It’s a one-way radio because, as the instructor put it, they don’t want to listen to everyone screaming.

Oh yeah, I screamed! I was whooping it up and cheering and howling and laughing my head off like I’d just won the lottery. I was happier than the the first time I got laid, the first time I drove and the fist time I got high rolled into one.

Just like that. Well, maybe a bit more like a little girl...


I knew the spotter could see my reaction through his binoculars, because he was laughing along with me and cheering me one.
Then we moved on to tricks.

To steer an air ram parachute, one of the lines is pulled. That collapses some of the cells on the end, causing the chute to turn towards the collapsed cells. So the spotter tells me turn left. And hold it…and hold it…hold it…
And I start whipping around, centripetal force stretching me out from the canopy, almost parallel to the ground, faster and faster, the view below me blurring as I whooped it up. Talk about going around in circles!
That’s also the moment where you find out exactly how strong your stomach is.
Mine did fine, thanks.

WHEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Gravity does its thing, and I drift slowly towards the landing zone, making my turns and just enjoying the view.
My jump was from aobut 2,000 feet, and I was under canopy and floating along by about 1500 feet. Not so high for things to be unrecognizable, but high enough (and peaceful enough) to enjoy the big picture,that feeling of connectedness to everything. It was strange, feeling so serene with so much adrenaline flowing through me, but somehow, that just made it more perfect.
So I float in, making my turns as they’re called out to me.The ground gets closer.
When navigating in for the landing, ideally the diver moves into the wind, so that the wind will slow his speed as he comes in.
And I realize “slow” is a very relative term.
Unlike, say, “rushing”. The ground is rushing towards me.
And it’s surprising enough, as I close that last 100 ft stretch between me and earth, that it doesn’t even occur to me to rattle off some Hitchikers Guide on the the way down.

At about 20 feet, the spotter yells for me to flare.

Flaring is where the skydiver pulls both control cords all the way in towards their waist, arms fully extended.
This causes the parachute to curl all the way down, and for a moment, causes the diver to lose speed.
The problem is, once the air rushes out, the chute collapses. It takes 400 feet for a chute to re-expand.
Just keep that in mind, and don’t do this too early.

No. No, I didn't look anywhere near that good.. Even if I did have cooler colors.


I flare, and dump enough speed to keep from really really hurting myself when I land.
Instead, I only just really hurt myself.
Remember those practice landings jumping off the picnic table?
Those have nothing to do with real life.
Add in the fact that I had plenty of forward momentum, and the landing was just comical.
My feet hit the ground. I rolled forward, dragged by the parachute.
It yanked me over to my knees. Onto the rock.
Seriously, in a field that big, how did the guy guide me into a spot that guaranteed that my knee would smack into a rock at 15 miles per hour?
I have no idea, but it’s a skill.
And I was down.

A moment later, I open my eyes, and see the spotter standing over me, a big grin on his face.
And I let out a shot of joyous, elated pain!
He laughs and asks me what’s wrong.
I tell him and congratulate him on his aforementioned skill. He laughs again, and helps me up. We gather up my parachute and I set off, limping, back to the shed, a million square yards of nylon flapping around me.

Worth. Every. Penny.

There was only one downside. I had paid for them to take a picture of my exit – that moment when I let go of the wing strut.
The Jumpmaster didn’t snap it.
He was too busy peeling my fingers off the plane.
Bastard.

Fortunately,the experience is one I’ll never forget. And now I want to go and do it again.
😀

BASE jump anyone?