Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Find Adventure 2012

Snowshoeing on Mt. Washington.

This post is a couple days shy of the New Year, I thought that this might be the best chance I would have to get this down. As I stated in the "365" post my slogan for '12 is "Find Adventure". I have always had the urge to explore but the thirst has grown and is making me want to take action. I am not talking about climbing Kilimanjaro or doing the Appalachian trail. It's more about prioritizing getting out into nature. Feeling the cold rain or hot sun. Getting bug bites and cold toes. And seeing what kind of adventure I can find close to our home in the beautiful Comox Valley with an 8 year old.

Our first Geo-Cache

Natalie and I sat down today and made a list. It ranges from geo-caching and snowshoeing, to exploring rivers, lakes and islands. Our plan is to get out and "Find Adventure" once a week, normally on a Sunday, since I have her with me that day. It is great that 2012 begins on a Sunday so we can get off on to a strong start. 27 ideas found their way onto that piece of paper. It has been carefully stuck on the refrigerator with chewing gum magnets. This list will give us inspiration if we are not feeling creative, and we can check them off once they have been completed. I will get material to keep on writing this blog, Natalie will learn many things about nature and we will have some great memories and shared moments. I am sure there will be tough days. Our trips don't have to be epic, most of them won't. We will do things we have done before, and also some brand new experiences. What they will have in common is that they are free(aside from transportation and food),being outside, at most a few hours drive from home, and we do them together. We will welcome other guests with us, family and friends. Plus Marshall will be tagging along for most of these voyages. I will get lots of candid pictures and funny quotes. I hope that I will be able to remember them all.

An Admirable Bolete(maybe?)

For 2012 this blog is going to be less focused on negative things, politics, and environmental rants. It is going to be less about me, more about family, friends, pictures, nature and "Finding Adventure" Please follow along for  the next 52 weeks and see where we get to. And if you would like to join us some exploring, please contact me.

Happy New Year to all the readers of "thecynicalcyclist"

Monday, December 26, 2011

New Snowshoes

Instead of getting up early, drinking coffee and unwrapping presents, My girlfriend, her brother and I, along with Marshall, got in the Element and drove up Mt.Washington. About half way up the rain that had started to fall upon leaving the beach in Merville, turned to snow. We pulled into a parking lot off the side of the road. This parking lot is outside of the Mt. Washington boundary. It is free to use this land with out buying a ticket from the resort. This spot is popular with snowmobiles, snowshoer's and tobogganers. Fortunately for us the lot was empty and we had the place to ourselves. The previous day I rented two pairs of M.S.R. snowshoes from Valhalla Pure Outfitters in Courtenay. They lent me the EVO and Lightning model. I was able to try out both of these shoes on out 2.25k trek. We walked on a compacted road and also on some undisturbed snow. I was super happy with the binding. They didn't loosen off at all, and were very easy to secure. I could have used more float on some of the fresh snow, as I sunk a little more than I would have liked. The traction was without a doubt the best out there, bar none. 360 degrees of traction around the shoe frame versus just the toe crampon on most tubular aluminum shoes.

I went into Valhalla today and brought the rented ones back. I ended up purchasing a pair of M.S.R. Lightning Axis shoes, with the 5 inch add on tail. This system is designed to allow for less float on packed or wet snow but the freedom of having a smaller shoe. When the snow gets deeper the tool free installation of the tail allows for more float and an easier time. The Axis also has the Speedlock binding for quicker on/off. This was the main selling feature for me on these shoes.

I look forward to testing these new shoes on and taking my daughter out with me. She also has a new pair of M.S.R. snowshoes under the Christmas tree.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

My Dog

Puppy in a pizza box (photo by Danica Prowse)

Sitting here thinking about how I have nothing intelligent to write about, and nothing very exciting happening in my recreational pursuits to report, but I haven't dedicated a post to my best friend.

I adopted Marshall in the summer of 2010. My daughters mom had originally fell in love with Marshall when she was accompanying a friend who was looking at adopting a puppy. Marshall was the runt, an adorable little fella. His parents were a combination of Blue Tick Coonhound, Great Dane and some breed of Mastif. I am not sure the exact paternal/maternal mix. I remember him as a pup. He was very friendly, too friendly sometimes. He loves to give open mouth kisses still to this day, as my step dad found out last weekend. He liked to jump up to greet new people(new being someone he hadn't seen for a few minutes). He chewed and messed in the house. He managed to chew the steering wheel in the car he was sitting in waiting to go for a walk. I offered to take Marshall to the beach with Natalie one day, while her mom was busy. I thought he was a little bit of a nightmare, but I could see potential in him. He loved to chase a ball and swim. Two traits I love in a dog. It didn't hurt that he has the cutest face and hangy ears. He didn't listen to me at all, and I had a really hard time getting him back in the house, after running through the neighbors house soaking wet.

The bluffs at Comox Lake

 Shortly after this meeting, I found out that Natalie's mom had to move, and wouldn't be able to keep Marshall. Earlier in 2010 I had to put my other dog down. He had bone cancer and there wasn't much that could be done. Poor Jackson, he was a good one too. A great guard dog. I couldn't let Natalie lose two dogs in one year, so I agreed to take on Marshall. 

Basically my first experience with Marshall as my dog was almost my last. We had taken him up to Raft Cove for a weekend trip in mid-August. He traveled well in the vehicle, quiet, didn't get into trouble. We arrived at the trail head at dusk and had to hurry to get down to the beach before dark. Marshall got out of the Landcruiser and proceeded to find some human feces and roll in it. He was coated in it. So gross. We hiked to the beach trying to keep him away from us, smelling the shit the whole way. Unable to wash him that night I tied him up away from us. He wouldn't settle and whined and cried all night. I might have slept for about 3 hours. I layed there, so angry, wanting to throw my shoe at him. I refrained for fear of my boot being eaten. Once he was washed and not smelly the rest of the weekend was great. Since that first trip he has found other bit of poo and rolled. Now he gets tossed in the tub and is given a bath. I am much less mad at him.

Raft Cove the day after the smelly incident

Marshall has been a great addition to my house. With two separate sessions of obedience training he has become such an awesome dog. Marsh is great with Natalie, my girlfriend loves him, he is company for my dad during daily walks in the woods. He is a partner for us on mountain bike rides, trail runs, mushroom picking, swimming, and cuddling on the couch. He loves to lay on the floor in front of my wood stove, the granite his pillow. He is the most brilliant swimmer. Not only in stamina, but in love. He will go in the water and swim without being encouraged in with a stick. He will swim in circles just because he loves it so much. He travels well in a vehicle, only squeaking when he recognizes where we are, and knows it is a walking spot. Marshall will eat anything, his food, vegetables, fruit. The only thing he won't eat is mushrooms. But not when he is offered it, he never eats off the counter. Never anymore that is....

In action

I can say that Marshall was a great decision for me. I love having a dog home to greet me on nights when I am home alone. I look forward to him waking again when a black bear in getting in the garbage, and taking him to "Find Adventure" with me and my family in the coming years. I love that beast:)

Monday, December 19, 2011


Tonight is 365 days since I last drank alcohol. I remember the party well. It was an annual Christmas party at my friends house, where Santa Clause would show up and hand out gifts to the children and the grown-ups would have a drink or two. Well in my case it was a drink or 15. It was a fun time, solving all the worlds problems with my best friends. Of course I stayed too late and didn't leave until the fridge was emptied of all the various cans of beer. I stumbled home and fell into bed. Did I mention it was a Sunday and I had to work the next morning. Waking up still drunk, with a pounding head and a sour stomach, I drove into work to spend the day banging sheet metal in a low crawlspace. It was one of the worse days I had ever had at work. That was the last straw.

I had been having to deal with these horrific hangovers for years. It never stopped me from carrying on for most of my adult life. Alcoholism has been an issue on both sides of my family, and seeing it during my youth, it just seemed like that is what someone did when they grew up and being drunk was acceptable. I was often the drunk guy at the house party when everyone else was socially drinking. I had to bring a dozen beer to a gathering, and consume them all, or it felt like a waste of time. I thought that everyone was drinking like me, but more often than not, it was just me. I would encourage others to over do it, we were having fun.

I had previously taken breaks from drinking for up to a year, but it was for different reasons. I thought removing alcohol would changemy life to the better. I have now found out that alcohol wasn't the cause of the problems, but a result of trying to deal with things that were not good in my situation. A big change happened and I found myself single and free. Party time. I was having an great time socializing and meeting new people. I was constantly looking to connect with someone special, hoping that drinking would give me the charisma and confidence to make that happen. Guess what, I never found what I was looking for. I made some good friends, but that was less to do with the booze and more with me just getting out more.

A horrible incident happened where I was assaulted one night after being out at the bar, not eating dinner and just drinking myself stupid. Stumbling out of the bar I was assaulted by a group of young thugs. I was left with a broken tooth, broken nose and a concussion. The mental wounds still haven't healed and it is something that I have to deal with everyday. It messed up my confidence and my perceived ability to offer protection to my family. I had almost given in to the depression and thought about becoming a hermit. Sit at home, alone, every night and hide from what was bothering me. As fate would have it, I met a girl a two months after the assault. I was smitten by her. She wasn't someone who drank very much, and I slowed my consumption down considerably. I did hid my drinking from her when she wasn't around, or not saying how much I actually would drink. Slowly it go back to drinking when she was around, and encouraging her to also imbibe more as well. I began to feel like sometimes I would rather be by-myself and have a party, rather that be with her. It shames me to admit this, but it did feel that way. The alcohol was going to ruin such a good thing I had with her. I couldn't let that happen.

My life has become much calmer, fulfilling, loving, richer, and adventurous. I cannot even contemplate the idea of alcohol, or being hung over and being that guy again. I love my daughter so much and she is my focus on keeping my strength. My urges are gone and now I find being dry easy. Writing this blog has helped to allow me a forum to rant when I need to, rather than taking center stage during a gathering. The hard part is keeping friendships with people that I saw all the time when I was drinking. It is so amazing to have a partner who loves me and is very happy to spend time together. My heart swells, and I thank her with all of it for all the great stuff that she has introduced me to, and adventure she has accompanied me on. I also want to thank my great friend, Russ, who had the courage to make the choice of sobriety a few months before I did. It helped give me the strength to make the change as well. My life is so amazing now and I look forward to the next 365 and all the new things that will present themselves to me.Time to "Find Adventure", my new slogan for 2012.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Venerable Tech Top

Anyone who reads this blog knows, I am a Merino wool fanatic. It is an undiagnosed addiction. The only thing that quenches the desire is to purchase more wool and add to my collection. I am realizing that I have gone from one piece a year and a half ago to more than 20, a variety of socks, underwear, performance apparel and casual clothes. It is quite an investment in my comfort and I am quite happy with the returns.

One piece in particular that I look to for a majority of my activities is my Tech Top, by Icebreaker. With its long sleeves, thumb loops, drop tail hem, zip neck collar and cuddly soft mid weight Merino fabric, it has the best of all worlds. This top isn't flashy. It has been around for a very long time, dating back to the early years of Icebreaker. It is available in mens, womens and kids. Icebreaker offers the top in several colors. None of the colors are flashy. This is a no nonsense piece of apparel. Don't expect people to comment on the shirt, unless the person also owns one. The conversation will inevitably turn to how great this garment is.

My Tech Top has followed me on bike tours, back packing, hikes, wild mushroom picking, shopping, and casual dinners out. It is cut in such a way that it is form fitting, but without the "gut sucking" that I would have to do with some other athletic apparel. Stuff it into a backpack for an emergency layer and it will not take up to many liters of capacity and come out looking great, thanks to Merinos ability to resist wrinkles. Worried about sparks while lighting a beach fire in a remote bay on Northern Vancouver Island melting your fleece. Get rid of that dinosaur DNA and wear Icebreaker. It naturally will snuff sparks. If your cautious about hiking and sweating while on a backpacking trip, this garment will keep you warm while wet, and drys in a hurry. Plastic clothes will make you sweat and make you smell. Synthetic fibers have no place in the outdoors, wear what the high mountain sheep of New Zealand wear. Wear a Tech Top. It will keep you warm, cool, wick sweat, and safe.

I know that Icebreaker isn't the most affordable clothing in the world. It will never be sold in a box store. Please consider the true cost of more traditional synthetic fibers. The base ingredient in these synthetics is oil. Yes the same stuff we put in our engines. It is manufactured with chemicals, heat, pollution, and destruction. It leaves little plastic fibers in the environment just from a person wearing it, potentially killing fish and amphibians. Icebreaker Merino wool is natural, bio-degradable, produces little pollution(except sheep droppings).

If you can have one Icebreaker garment I would suggest the venerable Tech Top. Not flashy, but it gets the job done, and you can feel good about it.

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Vegetarian Myth: A book review

While listening to the back catalog of the Peak Moments TV podcast a while back, I was surprised by an episode called "The Vegetarian Myth" The author, Lierre Keith, is a "recovering" vegan. She didn't eat animal products for 20 years. She suffered through many, many health problems during this time including Degenerative Disc Disease, hypoglycemia, ceased menstruating, depression, anxiety, exhaustion, skin problems, and gastroparesis(a stomach ailment in which the stomach is unable to completely empty, causing near constant nausea.)

After all the years of promoting the vegan diet, feeling proud that her diet didn't harm a living creature, she had an epiphany. She visited a Chi Gong master who, upon feeling her pulse, declared that she had no Chi, her life was not there. She joked about being dead, and he didn't laugh. She had been going to doctor after doctor trying to find out what was wrong with her, and the Chi master told her that she needed to eat animals. She left and purchased a can of tuna. It took her all her strength to eat the fish, and her body came to life. The animal protein and fat awoke her cells. It is amazing the transformation. I can not describe the event with justice. She now eats meat and other animal products, she avoids carbohydrates and grains. The belief is that human beings get all they need from animal products, vegetables and fruit as this was our traditional diet dating back thousands of years.

My eyes were opened by reading this book. I have been interested in diet and proper nutrition for many years. I have read numerous books on sustainability and local eating from Pollan and Weber and Spurlock. I know how bad industrial food production, Big Agriculture, mono culture, fossil fuel fertilizer, and globalization of the food industry. I know that grass fed beef, free range chickens and wild fish is very good. The big difference to me, what I learned the most, is that we don't absolutely need to eat vegetables, grains, seeds, roots, or greens. Everything we need nutritionally is in an animal. That means organs, bones, blood and fat. I know it isn't something for everyones palate. Agriculture is horrible for the environment with mono culture crops, top soil loss, and run off that kills estuarys and pollutes fresh water. Free ranged animals eat green plants, build topsoil with manure, and cut down green house gas emissions. No fossil fuels are needed to fertilize the ground to grow the natural browse of ruminants.

This book isn't too preachy. It is chock full of information on nutrition and explains how the body uses what we put in it. I would recommend this read if you are interested in learning about what makes the human body tick. If you are considering going vegetarian or vegan, read this work first. You may change your mind. I know I did........