Where I'm At.: 29, Not-Quite-Broke, and Climbing...

I've gotten so caught up in the quest to stack cash through the motherfuckin' service industry (augmented by a smidgen of writing for pay) that I've neglected to say anything worth two shits for quite a while.

Correction: I've gotten so caught up in the quest to retain my sanity through kinda-sorta scary interactions with Mother Nature that I've neglected to say anything worth two shits.  The snow is melting, the shed is locked, I'm doing work I'd rather not, and my nostalgic little honeymoon with Americana has flipped hellish: food too rich, drink too strong, fun too fun,(?), and that Old Catholic Guilt is back in my sack.  I've regressed to biting my tongue and pulling snarled hair because just about everything just about everyone does seems so misguided and wasteful that I'm perpetually piss-yer-pants antsy.

Me?  At the moment, just one more American Cow-Boy caught up in the act of overgrazing.  This once pristine land is long since overrun... by us.

When Whitey showed up  in North America there were approximately 30,000,000 Natives living here.  Despite 20,000+ years of occupancy, they left the place about like they found it, with scarcely a scar on the landscape. In fact, all they really left behind were beautiful reminders of the many cultures ours destroyed.

Petroglyphs, Utah Desert
Big Horn Medicine Wheel, Wyoming
Cliff Dwellings of the Southwest
Ancient Totem Poles of the Northwest
Great Serpent Mound, Ohio
But hey, our ancestors needed more space so they shot all the buffalo, spread disease, killed, raped, lied, stole, and blah blah blah.  Now less than 150 years after "conquering" the West we've indubitably trashed the place and -- regardless of whether we get are act together or not -- will leave some dandy artifacts all our own.

The occassional work of art, but mostly this kind of shit:

You reap what you sow.

I should probably discontinue quoting barnyard wisdom as most people these daze won't catch it.  Boo fuckin' hoo the hell cares. Enough digression...
I've moved from Doorman to Bartender at the SDB&G and have picked up another job as Bellman at a newer motel that proclaims itself "Rustic" and thus charges $300 a night for shitty little cabins stacked wall to wall atop a sea of blacktop. Since they charge so much, it's no big deal for clients to drop $5s and $10s on a self-depreciating, wise-crackerin' Bellman.  If I carry enough luggage and pour enough drinks, sooner than later I'll have funds enough to get my hands on a more seaworthy boat.

Cadillac Escalade Complimentary Shuttle Vehicle is to Yours Truly as Squatty, Three-Legged Wooden Stool is to...

 a)Volunpov Philosopher.
b) Farmer Milking Some Fat Fucking Cows.
c) Lion Getting Whipped By a Ringmaster
d) All of the Above.

The correct answer is "d".
Between both jobs, I'm in the midst of a 2+ week-long stint and can feel that old Greed creeping up alongside the Guilt.  The more I've got the more I want, and if you think you're immune to similar flaws you need to analyze the feathering you've done to your own nest.

In the harshest of conditions in the harshest of climates, all a human really needs to survive is food, water, and shelter.  If all you could afford is a coffin-like box to lay down in at night, you'd get by.

Now I'm living out of a van I picked up for $1000 a few months ago.  I try not too drive it too much, but like the Greed and Guilt the old impulse to Go-Go-Go is also resurfacing.

My financial goal for the summer is to spend under $200 a week and squirrel away (ideally) a couple grand every month.  If all goes according to plan, in less than a year, I'll get this show off the road once again.

Maestra (my dog) is loving life and, following her example, so am I.  You may as well do the same, regardless of whatever confusion, contradictions, and compromising circumstances you encounter.

Fuck it?  Nah.  Fuck Yeah?  Ohhh Yaaaah, you betcha.

Boomin' Granny

I just caught shit from a wealthy-looking older lady at the grocery store because I asked the Checkout for a plastic bag.  Actual conversation follows here...

HER: You REALLY shouldn't use plastic bags... for the planet's sake.
ME:  Do you buy garbage bags?
HER: Uhhh.. YEAH?!  Yes, I do.
ME:  Well, I get em' for free. (showcasing plastic bag full of groceries)
HER: (Puzzled stare)
ME: Garbage bags are plastic too, ya'know... and they come in a frivolous paper box.
HER: Well, I use the eco-friendly, bio-degradable trashbags.
ME: What?! (pointing at all her typical, overpackaged rich old lady items) You throw out eco-friendly, biodegradable trash?!
HER: You just don't get it, see....
ME: Bitch, I live in a van.  Roll back to the mansion and shit on your hubby.

Be the Change.  A healthy disrespect of most of your elders is a good first step.

Do not, however, diss the Boomin' Grannies...


Regarding Gear Sluts and Acquiring Outdoorsy Crap...

Don't be this guy.
Generally speaking, the more passionate you become about outdoor activities, the more specialized gear you need.  The further you push yourself out into the backcountry the more important lightweight, reliable, and, unfortunately, EXPENSIVE equipment becomes.

If you're not careful you can end up working like a dog to support a nasty GEAR HABIT as your short life trickles by.  Eventually, you find yourself needing an entire garage to accommodate loads of outdoorsy crap a lack of free time never allows you to use.

GEAR ADDICTION is as real as any other made-up modern medical condition, and it can be just as lethal to your "Overall Level of Radness" as Internet Addiction, Chronic Masturbation, Smoking-Way-Too-Much-Dope, Following Fashions, and Enjoying Motorsports.  I've seen it too many times:  once-free lovers of the outdoors reduced to turning tricks in the alley behind REI or sucking corporate cock in a backasswards attempt to woo Mother Nature.  These unfortunate souls have earned their degrading moniker: GEAR SLUTS.

Round these parts, our goal is to do more with less: striving to life the good life outside with less cost, less environmental impact, and, ultimately, less hassle.  Save money and spend more time out playing by following these 10 simple scraps of advice:

1.  Make a Gear Wish List.
Decide what activities you're truly passionate about and figure out what gear you actually need to pursue them.  Stick to the list and avoid impulse buys on big ticket items.  Share the list with friends and family: stuff will find it's way to you at  little or no cost.  Also, you'll be more apt to pull the trigger when you spot a deal since you know it's something you've decided you actually need.

2.  Make Due and Score Free Gear.
Get out there with what you've got though woefully under-equipped and/or way out of fashion.  Folks will take pity on you and give you their old gear.  For example, I began this winter  in some ridiculously shitty old ski pants.  Within a few weeks, three different friends had gifted me gently used pairs: now I'm set up for years!  ***For obvious reasons, this approach is not recommended for basic safety gear like climbing harnesses, avalanche beacons, bike helmets, etc.  It's great for scoring outerwear and accessories, though.***

3.  Check the Thrift Store Regularly.
Especially in ski/college/wealthier towns, it's amazing what people give away to charity.  Make a habit of checking the your local thrift shop and you'll find much of what you need at 90+% off retail.  Since it's all been discarded, you've geared up on stuff that would have otherwise ended up at the landfill.  Make friends with those interesting thrift store employees and they'll start hooking you up with even deeper deals.

4.  Settle For Affordable Substitutions.
Don't buy overpriced name brand stuff if there's a cheaper option out there.  Snowseal $7.00 Kinco gloves instead of buying $100+ ski gloves.  Get $10 polarized sunglasses at any gas station  instead of spending $100+ on name brand shades.  An old wool sweater can insulate better than a $200 fleece jacket.  Be creative.

5.  Bargain On Used Gear.
Make low ball offers on used gear.  When responding to an ad or haggling at a garage sale, if the price seems high, offer them 60% of what they're asking.  If they're not open to haggling, walk away.  A better deal always comes along eventually.

6.  Shop the Off-Season Sales.
Never pay full price.  Especially in this economy, most local shops and online retailers have seasonal blowout sales.  Buy ski gear in the spring.  Buy bike gear in the fall.  Remember that generally the store paid about half what they set their retail prices to: they've got inventory to burn through and are often willing to let it go at substantially less than sale price.  Be polite but do a little prodding.

7.  Settle For Last Year's (Or Earlier) Products.
Getting hung up on outdoor fashions is a slippery slope towards GEAR SLUTTNESS.  In most cases, the equipment from 2+ years ago was just as good as what they're coming out with now: all that's really changed is the style.  Remember that part of the fun of the backcountry is getting away from all the flash of modern civilization.  Only tourists and trust-funders strut around in this year's duds.  Don't dress like a tourist or trust-funder: you're too good for that.

8.  Warranty That Shit.
If something you spent serious money on breaks, send it back to the manufacturer with a nice little letter explaining how shitty and unreliable their product proved.  Get in the habit of keeping receipts: most companies will think you're a trustable anal retentive and will throw you apologies and free replacements.

9.  Sell Your Used Gear.
If you stop using something because your passions shift or you upgrade to new gear, get rid of it!  Generally, the longer you hold onto an unused piece of gear, the lower it's resale value drops.  List it on CleanSnipe Classifieds, Craigslist, and anywhere else potential buyers would check.  If all else fails, EBay it. If it's not worth your while to sell it, pass it along at the local thrift shop.

10.  Check CleanSnipe Regularly.
Monitor 30+ ever-changing DOD (Deal Of the Day) products through the CleanSnipe Homepage.  Search hundreds of online retailers quickly and easily with a more specific CleanSnipe Search.  You'll save 40-90% off retail on most items you find through CleanSnipe.  In a roundabout way, you'll also be supporting yours truly.



Pothole Magazine #4: Baja California

Mack and I expected some sort of military fanfare as we sailed our shitty little boat into Mexico -- a strafing by US fighter jets, getting searched by the Coast Guard, anything to make us feel a little bit outlaw -- but nothing  happened.  It was kinda foggy, and at some point we entered Mexican waters.  I guess you could smuggle just about anything into Mexico: worth knowing!

Mack reaping benefits from a lobster trap we found washed up on a remote and rugged shore in Baja.
This was when the whole Tijuana Border "Drug War" domestic-terror-propaganda was in full swing so we decided to head as far South as possible before checking out the coast.  We kited San Quintin for a few days and then continued onward to Bahia Tortugas -- about halfway down the peninsula -- and the only convenient port to get fuel on the West Coast of Baja.

A better name for this polluted bay would be Bahia Pelicanos.  We didn't see a single turtle but 20,000+ pelicans were shitting all over the place. As retaliation for a business deal gone bad, a big Mexican fishing boat had recently dumped TONS of rotten sardines just off the town of Tortugas.  Little stinkers were washed up all over the place and it seems every pelican within 100 miles had caught wind of the stank.  There were so many  in such a feeding frenzy that Mack caught only pelicans while trying to fish.  We got sick from kiting the poop-flavored waters here.

We also traded a blow up doll and tube of lube for laundry service: double teaming the doll just didn't appeal to us so we pawned her off.

One very stoked resident of Tortugas, Baja.
Huge Gringo sportfishing yachts were taking on barrels of diesel, cases of Pacifico, and, ironically, fresh locally-caught fish.  The Mexicanos at the Muelle laughed at me for needing a mere seven gallons of gas, so I led them in a rousing rendition of Daddy Yankee's "Gasolina" to assure them my manhood was intact despite burning so little.  Me encanta la gasolina!  Sorta.

The first tree we saw in desolate Baja... atop a mountain near Magdalena Bay.
We spent a few weeks around gorgeous Magdalena Bay, snagging some bitchin' waves and occasional kiting.  Running low on supplies and completely out of cash we had to get going. A few days later at sunset, we found ourselves rounding Baja's tip and that long line of lights called Cabo San Lucas.  Apparently about 30 years too late, we didn't even consider stopping.  We'd heard it was too expensive, too hideous: a paradise lost because way too many people found it.

As we entered the Sea of Cortez at the onset of winter, we had to watch out for El Norte, fierce winds from the North that kick up steep seas bad for sailing but great for kitsurfing.  Just after dawn we made it to the remote anchorage at Roca Frailles as a stiff wind built from the North.  Here we spent five days waiting for the wind to subside and had our best kiting since hitting Mexico, made friends with some great yachties, discovered phenomenal bouldering and snorkeling, and had a damn good (though hungry) time.

Our destination, windsurf and kiteboard mecca La Ventana lay a mere 60 miles north -- about a 10 hour sail in ideal conditions.  We were exhausted, starving, and filthy after a month of exploring the remoter stretches of Baja.  All that remained in our pantry were raisins and rice. A dozen friends awaited us in La Ventana, and  we could hardly wait to clean up, drink some beers, catch up with friends, chase tail, sleep on land, and look for winter jobs.

La Ventana is great for kitesurfing in steep wind swell which makes it a horrible place to anchor a boat.  As such, our plan was to anchor at a small bay called Ensenada Muertos and then walk/hitchhike/kiteboard the ~12 miles to La Ventana.  We had no idea what to do with the boat while based in La Ventana and hoped an option would materialize.  The most ridiculous option imaginable materialized.

Running out of food, we made a go despite El Norte, and after a rough night battling upwind we found ourselves anchoring in the pristine waters of Ensenada Muertos.  The Bombay Sapphire blue waters were so clear one could see the anchor 35 feet down and 200 feet away.  A few tasteful mansions were tucked away in the gorgeous mountains rimming the bay, and a huge palapa sat on the hillside over a pefect beach..  We'd heard the palapa housed a restaurant so we quickly got our kitegear together, dinghied to shore, and went in search of breakfast.
El Cardon Tequila Bar and Grill, Ensenada Muertos, Bahia De Los Suenos, Baja
Suprisingly modern, this seemingly-deserted palapa restaurant offered free coffee, WiFi, an ATM, and had a menu you'd expect at a nice sports bar stateside.  A few framed football jerseys alluded to owners who'd come through the NFL.  We pulled our limits from the ATM and ordered a few breakfasts each.  As we were gorging ourselves, a few GIGANTIC Gringos showed up and asked if those were our kiteboards outside  We shot some shit, hit it off, and so began the strangest chapter in El Viaje...

Twenty minutes later we were piling into a pimped out monster truck bound for La Ventana.  Our 6'5", 280 pound, heavily-tattooed driver -- a true renaissance man and the owner of that palapa restaurant -- had recently retired from a nine year career as an all-pro NFL offensive lineman.  Though you've probably never heard of him you are doubtless familiar with his handiwork: for years he bashed exceptionally huge holes in the defense through which star running backs Marshall Faulk and Reggie Bush ran through for record yardages.  I speak of Kyle Turley, one hell of a football player, surfer, artist, musician, businessman, and now activist in the fight to properly treat head injuries in professional sports.

After kiting our faces off for a week in La Ventana, Mack and I headed back to Ensenada Muertos.  Kyle offered us the guest house in his mansion, free food at his restaurant, use of a whole fleet of boats and vehicles, and jobs.  Our goal was to develop watersports in the bay and to help promote the area.  My title?  Director of Fun.
Sunrise as viewed form the balcony at the guest house.
Mack and I went from camping aboard a $5,000 boat to sharing a $500,000 guest house behind a $5,000,000 mansion.  We started eating good again and gained back a lot of the weight we'd lost over the trip.  I realized that my current boat, the 27 foot Sin Fin, wasn't ideal for sailing to Patagonian Chile, so I made it my new goal to work as hard as I could in hopes of earning enough to buy a solid boat within a few years time.

Mack and I got the ball rolling on our own kiteboard business, threw some kick ass parties at the restaurant, drove around in the gas-guzzlingest roofless truck imaginable, kited almost ever day, made countless new friends, and gained a very interesting perspective on the lives of the rich and pseudo-famous.
Hypocrisy can be a damn good time!
Like all things too good to be true, it was.  Forty strange and stressful days later I  fell out from that crew and -- even broker than I'd been before, and now at odds with my once friend Mack -- I set sail for La Paz...alone.


Slack Hard. Play Harder.

Slacklining With A View...


Formatted properly and the movies actually work HERE... don't bother reading it here... too busy to reformat it for this blog.

Regardless of your sport, age, or ability level, you could benefit from learning to walk a slackline.  There's nothing better for improving your balance, coordination and concentration. Also, slacklining strengthens your core muscles and all the little doodads in your hips, knees, ankles and feet that are so crucial to skiing, snowboarding, surfing, skating, rock climbing, mountain biking, dancing drunk, sticking it to the Man, running from the Law, etc.  In addition, walking the slack improves your overall reaction time and teaches you to fall gracefully, making you less prone to injury and more likely to land well regardless of how you find yourself airborne.

Clearly Impressed.  Get Some.

Not only is slacklining good for you, but it's fun as well.  All you need are a few cheap 'biners, some tubular webbing, and a few trees for a ridiculously good time.  Set up your line in a park and odds are you'll impress (or amuse) some ladies (or gents).  Get good enough and people might start throwing change in your hat.  Get really good and before you know it you'll be a tight-roping, back-flipping carnival freak  sharing a trailer with the Bearded Lady and wiping your ass with W2 Forms.  Mother Earth would approve.
Slacklining is also a great way to clear your mind.  The focus necessary to merely stand atop one forces thoughts out of your head.  If you're feeling Eastern, you can meditate on the slack.  Some folks even go so far as to do Yoga on a slackline.  Whatever floats yer boat and gets ya laid...
I learned to slackline over the course of a few months in Patagonian Argentina.  In the now-banned Campamento Madsen my now-dead Argentine Friend El Chino (R.I.P.) had three lines set up in the wind-tortured trees: a low shorty for beginners, a 40 foot line for tricks, and a 65 foot highline for expert recreation and testicular mutilation.  The weather was perpetually shitty and the mountains (when the clouds rarely parted) too terrifying to actually climb.  As such, $2 bottles of wine, ditch weed spliffs, chicken fried steaks, and walking the slack filled our days.  Life could be worse...

Learning to stay on the thing took a few days and a few hundred falls.  Here are a few tips to get you started:
  • Make sure you've got flat ground with minimal pokey things in the area.  Clean up any sticks, dogshit, loose rocks, etc. that you could potentially fall on.
  • The tighter the line the quicker it will wobble.  The looser the line the bigger those wobbles will be.  If you paid atttention in high school physics, you can relate this to WAVELENGTH and PERIOD... but don't ask me how.  Just start off with a tight line and tiny wobbles.
  • By holding onto someone's shoulder or a tree branch, it's easy to walk slack.  Learning with a spotter to fall onto is highly recommended
  • Don't look down.  If you look at your feet or the line you will fall.  Focus your eyes and attention on a point at about eye level.  Find a special little piece of tree to stare at and it'll do wonders for your learning curve.
  • Don't think  Just do.  If you're thinking about anything unrelated, worried about falling, or trying to impress people you're more likely to eat shit.  Clear your mind, smile, and let your body do the thinking.
  • Fall wisely.  Try to stay on your feet when you fall but if you're going ass-over-teakettle do not try to catch yourself as you risk breaking a wrist.  It's far better to catch the line or protect the family jewels with your hands.  Think like a professional stuntman and "roll with it".
Once you've mastered walking a short line (15-25 feet), you can work your way to longer and longer lines.  Eventually you'll find a line length you prefer and will catch yourself eye-fucking perfectly spaced trees.  No trees?  No problem: set up a line off between two trucks, boulders, buildings, NASCAR fans, or any other heavy, immovable objects.

Cheapo Idiot-Proof 25m Slackline Kit: $99

Super Baller Mammut Slackline Kit: $170.

Setting up a line is easy, especially if you have aslackline kit.  Numerous manufacturers offer kits priced between $75 and $170.  I recommend getting a 20+ meter kit so you're not limited to short setups.  Longer lines are more intimidating at first but ultimately more fun.  Plus, the  higher the heights the funnier the falls.
If you're strapped for cash or more of a do-it yourselfer, make your own slackline from scratch for under $50.  All you need is the following:
Watch the following video and practice the knots recommended in it.  Other knots work but since the slackline is under high tension and your stomping around on it puts it under high loads, most other knots become almost impossible to undo.  Once you've set up your line a few times, it will become automatic and easy.
And, of course, here's some slackline porn.  First, some Euros with gorgeous mountains but questionable taste in music:
A bunch of little kids going crazy....
Bonafied Badass Dean Potter Highlining Lost Arrow Spire in Yoesmite National Park...
And of course, a beginner getting NUTTED...
Like I said, grab the line or guard the family jewels.  Above all else, have fun!