Category Archives : Misadventures


Nothing, Arizona, Here, to See

Nothing, Arizona

I’ve written the actual text for the blog post regarding my most recent long drive, but I haven’t had time to edit and resize all the pretty pictures that are going to go in it yet. So for now, there’s Nothing to see here. Literally. I went romping through West/Central AZ last week, and it was really a surprisingly nice drive. Lots of weird stuff, which you’ll find out about in later blogs. For the moment, I’m still visiting family in Las Vegas–hitting up the Bay Area next week–although I’ve been told I shouldn’t refer to Travis AFB as part of the Bay Area by locals.



Nothing-AZ-Arizona

Nothing to see here.

There’s a cell tower.

g nothing az for sale

Nothing for sale.

 

Nothing is technically a ghost town. Though it’s really just a convenience store . . . so it’s a ghost station, is all.

nothing at all

Nothing at all.

There used to be another sign here, that said:

Town of Nothing Arizona. Founded 1977. Elevation 3269ft.
The staunch citizens of Nothing are full of Hope, Faith, and Believe in the work ethic. Thru-the-years-these dedicated people had faith in Nothing, hoped for Nothing, worked at Nothing, for Nothing.

But no sign of it remains.

Nothing, nevermore.

Nothing, nevermore.

This raven watched me walk around, croaking and cawing. Apparently, Nothing is good enough for him.


Red Rocking It

This is going to be a short one. It’s getting late, and it’s almost dinner time. I am hungry and tired. I was going to put something together from either my fun time at Burro Creek on the drive from PHX to LV, or from the drive itself, but I spent all morning working on switching the theme over on my professional blog, and then, this afternoon, instead of writing about adventures, I decided to go on one.

f Siblings

My sister and I did a trip out to Red Rock, west of town. We hiked Calico Tanks. I took a lot of pictures, but you only get the few I’ve had time to cut down to blog page size as of now. It was a fun hike. Aside from the sibling thing, and despite way more people than I like to share a trail with, there was cool weather, and pretty much everything that does bloom was.

Including these trees which had always seemed quite lackluster the rest of the year.

f pretty purple large f pretty purple tree

 

 

The end of the trail has a really nice view of the Las Vegas Valley. On a clear day you can stand on the sheer red cliffs and see clear to Lake Mead.

f las vegas view

And of course one of the perks of having an archaeologist for a sister is that she knows where all the cool hidden stuff is.

f petroglyph

 


A Valentine: Lauren & Connor take a couples’ selfie

The All-Important Couple Selfie

All relationships face challenges, even the good ones–maybe especially the good ones–and some of those challenges are big, important, things. Others are . . . less so, but they still exist. Lauren and I, when we do things together, often forget the all-important couples ritual of taking a selfie together to prove we do things together, so the internet can tell we love each other.

The Challenge

Here’s the thing, though, I’m 8-10 inches taller than her, depending on footwear. This, coupled with our lack of practice, can make things, well, difficult. I have to look like I’m comfortable and relaxed while standing like I’m doing a squat, or she has to be on tip toes, or the camera has to be at some ridiculous angle. . . . and on, and on. It doesn’t help that we both reflexively make funny faces at cameras. We did remember take a couples’ photo on the last hike, but it wasn’t easy. I got a good laugh while I was putting together the hike post last week, so I thought I’d share the reject piles (we each had a camera) today.

My Camera

Another Note

Not a big country fan, but I’m enjoying the hell out of this song. Every song’s always, “Our love is perfect, it’s all so easy,” or “I’m sexually liberated, excuse me while I screw him, and her, and this lamp, and that poptart, if you’re done with it,” or, “Well, yeah, I cheated, sup dude? Blame it on the {something that isn’t me}.”

It was a really cool surprise to hear one on the radio that’s like, “Yeah, I have a life, I meet attractive people and enjoy their company, I could totally be out sleeping with strangers, and I’m human so sometimes that idea has some allure, but, hey, I walk the line because I’ve got somebody I come home to.”

 


The John Muir Record Attempt 1

The Overview

So I have a good friend who wants to set a record. The record he wants to set is actually the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), but we’ve decided to start with the John Muir Trail. We’ve done the math, done the research, and we think we can do it. We’d be making the attempt (if we win the lottery for it) this summer.

The John Muir Trail (which I’ve already hiked part of) runs from Mount Whitney, the highest peak in the Lower 48, through the Sierras, including King’s Canyon and Sequoia, and into Yosemite. It’s actual part of the PCT, so it will be a good test run, no matter what happens.

 

 

You can find out more about both trails here.

 

The Hike

This isn’t an easy hike. It’s 211-ish miles through altitudes as high as 14,505′. And we need to do it in less than 78 hours. This is back country, wilderness .  .  . the trail is clearly marked, but you share it with deer and bears. That sort of place.

It’s also a hike through the parts of the country that inspired the national park system. Some of the most beautiful country on the planet. It’s a place out of dreams.

 

The Campaign

We are planning to go all the way with this record attempt. We’ll be filming it; Matt’s even got a camera drone. We’re going on an adventure, and we want you to come along for the ride. We’re also planning on grabbing as wide an audience as we can. We’re planning on a social media campaign, maybe some crowdfunding, definitely sponsors if we can get some.

 

The Training

Here’s the truth: We should have been training for this all year. Instead we’ve go six months. I think we can do it, but that means we’re going to be training hard. I’ve been hitting the gym almost daily since the end of January. I’m even doing cardio.

I hate cardio.

But I’m doing cardio, because in six months I’ll need pistons for legs and gas tanks where my guts go. I can already keep up the pace we need to keep up easily, I just need to be able to do it with a 50-100 pound pack above the treeline for 70-something hours.

We’re also, starting a month before our hike, going to switch to the Uberman sleep schedule.

 

What You Can Expect

Well, the journey starts here and now, not six months from. We don’t know for sure if we’ll be able to go, or when, yet, because there’s a lottery system for selecting backcountry permits. Still, we need to start training last year, so that’s going to be happening. We’ll be logging progress, looking at the things we need to do, and so on.

I’ll be saving up for a decent pair of boots.

Our thinking is that, worst case, we have to settle for being in awesome shape and walking through one of the most beautiful places on the planet. I think we’ll do a bit more than that, though.

 

More to come,

Connor Rickett

 


The Super Bowl Hike 1

MNiC Feature SB Hike 2

Super Bowl Hike

Super Bowl Sunday was a weird one in Phoenix. Seattle brought a heavy fog I’ve never seen here before, and a drizzle. Boston brought traffic and a nice orange blanket of smog. As Lauren suggested, they were both probably due to the an atmospheric inversion–the fog and smog, not the traffic.

SB Lauren and I

 

We Don’t Share Well

We thought we’d take advantage of a rare opportunity to hike Piestewa Peak, on a weekend of low traffic. Lauren thought we should go in the morning to check out the fog. We ended up going in the evening, when I thought we might get some fun views of endless waves of ruby break lights in Glendale. Fog is cool, but I wanted to actually be able to see something if I was climbing a mountain. She may have been right, given that we couldn’t see anything later, either.

The Super Bowl is happening in that brown smudge just a bit right of center.

The Super Bowl is happening in that brown smudge just a bit right of center.

Normally, you can see the White Tank mountains fairly clearly, and the stadium is clearly visible. That day it was only discernible through the haze by the reflecting sun off its southern side.

The smog, fog, dust, and general haziness of the day did make for an oddly diffusely lit day and brilliant sunset. The trail was even emptier than we expected. We did, at least, get to watch the opening show flyby.

If you ever wondered what it would be like to visit a distant world with a bigger, brighter, sun . . .

If you ever wondered what it would be like to visit a distant world with a bigger, brighter, sun . . .

 

The sun really was odd, like I said, but we got to the top just as it was sinking low enough to put the North Mountain park (the largest urban park in the world) in relief.

 

 

 


Traveling: The Places We Can’t Go Again

English: View atop High Dune, Great Sand Dunes...

English: View atop High Dune, Great Sand Dunes National Park. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I left grad school, and just drove, traveling, I had destinations, but no route to speak of. I wandered, and, looking back, the things I remember often aren’t the things I thought they’d be.

Sure, there was the thunder of Niagara, and somber majesty of Rushmore, but it was those strange little moments between places. It was waking up to the lumbering of a harvester in the pale light before dawn on a foggy morning. It was a perfect little Main Street town in Oklahoma, where every shop, home, and business was a boarded-up husk. It was the rusting hulks of the iron ore ship along Superior’s cold shores. Seals in the moonlight in the Bay of Fundy. I could go on, and on, and on, but everywhere civilization was as full of decay and new growth as any forest. It was so alive. The highways and the rails the veins and arteries of a breathing, growing, hungering continent.

The world is strange and wild, and we are, whatever we think, made in its image. We have changed it, are changing it, but we reflect it in spite of ourselves.

It’s a strange thought, then, how many things I have left to see, if I have the wherewithal to get to them, and how many I would like to see once more, but never will again. I couldn’t even trace the route I drove anymore, and–if I did–everything would be different.

You can’t drive the same road twice; that’s just the way of the world.

So here I am, looking back, and I see that my life is full of things I’ve already done for the last time. Some of that is good. I might go back to Great Sand Dunes National Park, but I’ll know the sand will form up around me, and render my down sleeping bag useless. The older wiser me would also probably pause to wonder why I was the only who applied for a back country permit that day, but to take that from my younger self would be a form of cruel robbery. I wouldn’t trade it.

Look at that guy who has no idea how cold he’s about to be!

Not for the world.

Camping on a sand dune in a sandstorm on a cold windy night is miserable in such a myriad of strange and creative ways that it’s not really worth describing. You just have to be there. Besides, it was when I woke, if waking is what you do from five hours of gray shivering haze of minute-long catnaps, that this story finds itself.

There was something primordial about waking up chilled, shivering, aching with the cold, before the first light of dawn, feeling the insidious creep of dew and the surprising weight of the blowing sand which had half buried me. I was glad for it, it defanged the wind. There I was only living person for miles, beneath a sky full of stars–no matter how many times I visit somewhere far from the city lights, I find myself thinking, I forgot there were so many! Memory is simply not up to that task.

Rising, shaking off the sand that enveloped me as entirely as the useless sleeping bag, I felt almost staggeringly alive, like something emerging from a grave, or perhaps just a past long buried. As I set about shaking off the sand, packing up, and moving, my body shook the chill and my limbs banished the ache, and some deep part of me was certain this was how I meant to wake up; cold, hungry, aching, damp, and before the sun.

The air had gone still, and the light of those stars, reflected off the dunes, was enough to see by. It was too cold to be still. So I had put in a mile on soft sand before the first lightening of the eastern sky. Miles are a long way on sand, cresting dunes and then running and sliding down them like waves.

Then the sun rose.

It’s one of life’s purest truths that at some moments we are more alive than others, and I have rarely been so alive as I was when the sun rose over me, and my shadow stretched back along the trail of my passage, the only footprints on the dunes, already vanishing.

It was extraordinary. A place I can’t go back to, and a place I’ll never leave.

Next time, I’ll bring a sleeping pad and some sort of polar fleece lining.

 


A Sequentially Good Day

One of my friends noted that yesterday (12/13/14)  was the last consecutive-numbered date we’d likely live to see. Being a General Killjoy (recently promoted from Colonel), I pointed out that I did plan to live until April 3, 2021 if I could manage it. I’m actually even optimistic about Star Wars Day, 2032.

Be warned, this isn’t a particularly deep post, or anything. We’re not talking about the ethics of torture, torturing ourselves, immigration, flat tires, or even the challenge staying put poses me, but every once in awhile the world throws you just a spectacular day. Yesterday was one of them, and it deserves to be acknowledged.

In spite of my location here in the warm deserts of the Southwest, I’m a weather person. I like cold, and storms, and snow, and the stuff that comes along with all that wet. Like trees. Technically, I a sat out the early hours of the morning eating cold pizza and listening to the sound of rain on the tin roof of our patio, while the cool wind blew, then I slept, and woke up to head in and get some work done.

And I did. And, really, a cool day with hot coffee, where I get a lot of writing done is already a really good day. And look at these clouds!

From there, I left home to meet my little sister at a work event she was attending at the zoo with the rest of her Las Vegas office. The drive, though! Obviously, I couldn’t really take pictures, but I snapped a couple. Not that pictures are much good for this sort of thing. The only life after death for a sunset is in recesses of human memory.

And this one was worth remembering! Dark heavy rain cloud, in a patchwork with clear sky of shifting color,  rain falling, set alight by the setting sun, all shot through with gold-tinted rainbows against the backdrop of the Valley’s peaks, red-lit against the blue of the fading eastern light. All as the living light of the city herself awoke. I have seen a lot of sunsets in a great many places, and very, very, few like this.

After that, it was on to the zoo, where Zoo Lights is ongoing. It’s the first Saturday of Winter Break, so it might be safe to say it was thronged. My sister went and got herself a rather, uh, daring haircut, which entertained everyone who knew her, and we had a good time wandering around, talking to people, and eating some surprisingly delicious catered food! Pulled pork is almost always a win in my book. Most the animals were either asleep or hiding from the throngs of screaming neon-lit children, but it was a spectacle in and of itself.

Protip: If you don’t want to end up on the internet, don’t walk into my shot.

To top it all of, I spotted a couple of shooting stars from the ongoing meteor shower during the drive home. Where I live with my girlfriend, who is also pretty cool.

Good work, good weather, good scenery, good times with family; this is pretty much what life is about.

So, yeah, good day.


Pain Tolerance Test w/ Special Guest 1

MNiC Feature Pain Test 1Tolerating Pain

 

I was looking up pain tolerance a couple weeks ago, because my back’s been hurting, because I am old, and it’s been preventing me from working out as much as  I’d like. I’m poor, so not using my gym membership is like pulling teeth. As you can see, it’s just painful all around.

And that’s just no good. Since it doesn’t seem to be getting better from resting it (I think it has more to do with posture and spending too much time staring at a computer, I got to wondering about just working through pain. I’m not really concerned with the pain itself, I just don’t want to seriously injure anything. And that got me wondering about pain tolerance. I came across an interesting article on Runner’s World‘s website, regarding pain tolerance and thresholds; more intriguing, the testing method they used was simple to replicate.

The test was simply to plunge the individual’s hand into a bucket of ice water and see how long they could hold it there (up to a 3 minute limit) and then ask to rate the pain on a 1-10 scale. According to the article:

The runners–all of whom lasted the full three minutes–rated the pain an average of 6 on a scale of 1 to 10. Most of the nonrunners in a control group, by contrast, gave up halfway through the test and rated the pain as 10.

So I thought, I wonder how I would do on that? Note they don’t say anything about sample size, and it seems to me this measures cold tolerance rather than general pain tolerance. Also, there’s a bit of a chicken-and-egg question going on here: Are athletes tougher or are tougher people more likely to be athletes? As it turns out, a bit of both.

Lauren volunteered to help out with the testing, because she’ll do what needs to be done In the Name of Science, because she’s awesome. The results were pretty entertaining. We didn’t film my first run, but I didn’t think it was too bad. So out went the camera, with Lauren volunteering for the filmed version.

 

The Test

 

Lauren had, as you can see, a rough first round, but she stepped it up on the second round to go the full three minutes. I noticed it hurt less the second time, too. I’d rate it about 5, the first time, maybe 4 the second. I may have a slightly warped scale. My family has a documented weird reaction to several pain medications, which has caused a few problems. I remember when I had my wisdom teeth removed, whatever was supposed to knock me out the first time didn’t (the second worked juuusssst fine), and let’s just say, I know what it feels like to have a cavity filled without much in the way of numbing from Novocaine.

The first time she let me go for almost five minutes, which wasn’t very nice.

We hypothesize this divergence is due to various painkiller-type chemicals being released by our bodies after/during the first go. It seems possible that my higher tolerance might have something to do with my own body being more used to pain, and therefore more inclined to churn out the chemicals needed to tone things down. Sort of like how people sweat more if they’re in shape. Working out regularly, even moderate exercise, apparently increases pain tolerance by up to 20%, so that does make a certain sort of sense.

In the meantime, I’m searching out a few more possible tests to do, just to see, as I get back into working out, how much, if at all, my pain tolerance changes.

 

Possible Complications

 

Researching this, I did find a few interesting things, and they might cause disruption and ruin the already dubious scientific rigor of these tests. First off, regularly experiences pain can actually increase sensitivity, according to Wikipedia . . . apparently through strengthening neural connections. That makes sense, really, when you think about it. I mean, using your fingers for dexterous tasks increases dexterity, right?

Second, less surprisingly, pain tolerance is partially physical, and partly mental. I suspect much more the latter than the former, not that they’re truly as separate as we like to pretend they are. Any kind of endurance is rooted in the ability to disconnect the mind from the stimuli telling us we’re bored, tired, in pain, etc.

Third, I don’t want to actually cause harm to myself. So I went and found some scientifically accepted methods of pain tolerance.

 

Methods

 

Cold Water Immersion Test – I’ve already done this, so I won’t describe it, but I will do a follow-up in the next month or so.

Hot Water Immersion Test – Exactly what it sounds like. The literature I found for it used a 47*C/116*F temperature, which should be easy to reach since our hot water tap releases water that might be more accurately described as “steam”.  Some time in the next couple days I’ll try this one.

Electrical – This one’s a little more iffy. I’m not sure there’s an easy/safe/cheap way to do this, so I probably won’t. And I doubt I can afford to rent one of the army’s experimental pain rays.

 


The Birthday Cake Oreo Heresy 1

So, I was in the store, and I saw a deal where you basically got a package of Oreos for free with the purchase of a gallon of milk. Since I was there for milk, this was a no-brainer.

That’s when I noticed the colorful packaging of this variant:

cake oreo

 

I bought them because I wanted to see if the sprinkles would make the milk change colors. I’d defend my decision, but I suspect most the people who read this blog will understand my decision.

I say decision. I mean mistake. See, I figured when they said “Birthday Cake” they meant, “Look, regular Oreos with colorful sprinkles! That makes it CAKE!”

No.

No.

Nonono.

See, in one of the most peculiar overlaps of loving care and what can only be described as calculated and intentional evil, some food chemist captured in loving and astounding detail — absolute and perfect fidelity — the scent and the flavor of cheap store-bought white cardboard birthday cake. From the first almost bitter shock of super-refined bottom-shelf ingredients, to the secondary shock of overly sweet sugar-substitute that induces instant queasiness, to the lingering aftertaste of staleness, it caresses and them degrades your tastebuds, taking your tongue gently and leading it through every unspeakable stage of the experience.

It is at once terrible and impressive, in the same way that Nazis were terrible, but it’s still kind of impressive that they managed to conquer as much of Europe as they did.

Also, they don’t change the color of the milk.

This isn’t a food blog. I don’t rate food. But if I did these Oreos would get enough negative stars to start a whole new antimatter universe.

Anyone can make something bad. Making things bad is easy. But to take a great idea, built upon something that is already wonderful, and, with the absolute pinnacle of human science and ability, pervert that into something truly awful, with no redeeming features, well, that is a true accomplishment.


A Busy Week and Purest Terror 1

Busy Week

This week I moved out of the closet. My roommates hosted a small “Connor’s coming out of the closet party” for that which barely anyone attended, it was also a send off my current roommate heading off into the Air Force. To be honest, I was happy it was small; I’ve been busy and exhausted and sick all week. I didn’t even have time to go to my writing group. Being out of printer ink, anyway, this was okay. The busy-ness is good, the sick is less so. Today I decided to sleep in instead of going to ComiCon and it was one of my best decisions in recent memory. I spent a bit over twelve hours yesterday writing and assisting with a huge project that I can’t talk about but was completely outside my normal wheelhouse and loads of fun.

I did find time to accidentally experience the best alarm clock of all time, however.

A Wake Up Call

I have a room and a bed as of this week, but up until this week, and still sometimes, I slept on the floor. You have to know that for this to make sense. Also, my girlfriend has wavy hair that may or may not be a sentient parasite that forms clumps and hides and evades all attempts at eradication, and just generally never leaves once it’s found a home. Every time she spends the night her hair colonizes the closet where I live a little more completely. It especially loves my face, but it finds its way into just about everything.

Oh, right, you should also know there’s a lot of cockroaches and black widows around. Not in the house, so much, but the outside environs. At night the flying roaches hit the kitchen window like the Mongol hoards. Inside, we’ve been invaded several times by stinging black ants.

So when I awoke to a slight tickling on my leg, it was the full-fledged ejector-seat rocket-to-consciousness sort of awake. You know, one of those situation where your animal brain is way, way, ahead of the part of your brain in charge of thinking. So there I was, heart pounding, eyes wide open, I tore back my covers, and — yeah, you guessed it — a clumped of Foliculus laurensis diabolicus (Lauren’s diabolical hair) just chilling out. Laughing, I pulled the clump off my pajamas and tossed it away. . .

. . . An action which panicked whatever was also climbing my leg, inside my pajama pants. After an impromptu interpretive dance strip routine, I discovered the culprit to be a large and harmless (and very shaken) cricket, who was unceremoniously ejected from the premises. By that point, I was very awake.

I can’t say I’m too disappointed in the new situation where I sleep in a bed, or the work situation improving to the point where I can probably afford to.