Monday, June 9, 2008

Rocky Mountain Randoms - The Finally Summer Edition

Things I have experienced for the first time since moving here to live in the shadow of the Continental Divide:

- Cows stretched on the grass, grooming themselves like cats. Really.

- The weather phenomenon called "virga," defined as snowfall that evaporates before it hits the ground (defined here not by Wikipedia, but by Bill the server when I asked him "what's this virga thing I keep hearing about?" one day at the restaurant. Chef overheard us and, the next day, told me to hurry up onto the deck. "Look! That's virga!" he said excitedly, pointing at some mist hanging between us and the Divide. "I dunno. It looks like mist to me." "No, no, it's virga." "How can you tell?" "I know virga." "It looks like mist to me." "It's virga.").

- Guys wearing cowboy hats and boots standing in line at the local supermarket in pairs, each guy pushing or pulling a cart piled high with frozen pizzas, beer and canned goods. After eavesdropping on a few of them, I realized they were actual cowboys stocking up on provisions to take back to the summer ranch now that the herds had relocated for the warmer months.

And I still say "Actual Cowboy" is an excellent name for a band.

- Driving in bright sunshine and 70 degrees, noticing a car coming toward you covered in snow, a hint of what's about two miles ahead.

- Rain and hail storms that last about 30 seconds but, as they track eastward, catch on the tips of the mountains and gather over Boulder and Denver, just on the other side. I've been trying to capture this with my camera, because it is So. Cool. The storm clouds bunch up and turn black right on top of the mountains, while where I am, it's cloudless and bright sun, even though it's only a couple miles away. It's like being in Minas Tirith and looking across the fields of Pelennor to Mordor.

- Swimming in the indoor pool of the Y of the Rockies, where the wall nearest the lap swim lane is solid glass, and being able to look out the window and see nothing but clouds that are noticeably closer than they are at sea level. It's like swimming in the indoor pool of the Y of Bespin.

- Swimming anywhere at 8500 feet above sea level is it's own special experience. When you come up for air, your lungs fill, but not with anything useful. It's like thinking you're drinking heavy cream but instead you get a mouthful of skim milk, only instead of butterfat you're missing it's oxygen.

- Planning a hike up around the cool igneous tertiary dyke rock formation I found a couple months ago, I was thwarted by a rushing stream between me and the rock. It was too deep and too swift not just for me, but definitely for AdventureDog. So instead we wandered off into the woods of the Never Summer Wilderness Area, found an old, old logging road (so old that the saplings springing up between the wheel ruts were twice as tall as me) and, after following moose and mountain lion tracks, found another, more eroded igneous dyke caused by a lava flow (the Never Summer Mountains are the only volcanic range in the Rockies).

Pretty cool.

A shot of my geologic obsession (torrent of snowmelt at its feet not visible):

The second wall we found:

AdventureDog, with the wall in the background. His hindquarters are wet because he fell into a stream while drinking water and couldn't get out. Good thing I was wearing my waterproof pants, because I had to go in to get him out. But he still seemed to enjoy himself.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Post(s) of The Month... and they ain't even mine!

Dr. Virago has been going gangbusters the past few weeks digging up hilarious YouTube videos. First she dug up a brilliant spoof of one of my favorite songs, "O Fortuna." I will spare you the many in-jokes she and I have about the song and just say that, if you know what's good for you, you'll go to her post and experience it for yourself.

Then yesterday she posted both the original and a bizarre cover of "Wuthering Heights." She and I have a long history with that song, too, but even if you've never heard of Kate Bush, I urge you to indulge in watching both videos, as well as a related Monty Python clip. When you're watching the original Kate Bush video, just remember that she was on a major record label at the time... then ask yourself if that song, and especially that video, would ever see the light of day in today's music industry.

In any case, "Wuthering Heights" remains one of the creepiest pop songs ever, and I just wish that Rammstein would cover it with Bjork on guest vocals. I really believe that would work.

Oh, and also, I decided long ago that if I were ever kidnapped I would feign a breakdown and sing "Wuthering Heights" over and over until my captors couldn't take it anymore and let me go. I think about these things a lot.

Also, if anyone ever forced me to karaoke, that's the song I'd pick. I'd have the bar emptied in seconds.

Enjoy the posts.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Rocky Mountain High

Wiley and I took the long way to the Boulder Target today... usually it's a two-hour drive (each way), but this time we made a bigger loop by driving through Rocky Mountain National Park... its famous Timber Line Road, the highest continuously paved road in North America, was finally open. It cuts across the Divide topping out at more than 12,000 feet, and although it opened officially for the season on Memorial Day weekend, it was closed soon after.

"We've got blowing snow, hurricane-force winds and visibility of less than 20 feet," said the friendly ranger when I called last Monday to see if the road was open.

Today, however, the only obstacles between us and Timber Line were the carloads of other tourists who freaked out at the sight of a moose 100 yards off the road and slammed on their brakes to take pictures and gawk. Sigh.

I did get to see my first elk up close. He was lounging by the side of the road, in shade under a tree, apparently camouflaged from most of the tourist traffic, since I was the only one who slowed down as I passed (slowed, not stopped to take pictures and gawk... I was more concerned that he would get up and dart in front of my car).

Wiley had his own wildlife experience... While we were stopped at a scenic overlook, three very sassy Lesser Chipmunks (actual name) came up to get a closer look at him. One was particularly cheeky and had a bit of a staring contest with Smalls.

Here's a shot of my long-suffering Focus, Kali, parked near the highest point of Timber Line Road with the Never Summer Mountains (my favorite mountain range name ever) in the background. You may also notice the tall pole behind my car... They're stuck all over the side of the road and parking lots to guide the plows clearing the road for the summer season because yes, the snow does get that high. Up to 35 feet, I've heard.

Right about at the highest point of Timber Line Road... Look at that tundra! Pretty dang cool. Literally. It was very windy and about 40 degrees cooler than it would be in Boulder a couple hours later.

More tundra (foreground), more mountains (background, the Gore Range, I believe)... there's something exhilarating about looking across to mountain tops instead of up at them, you know?

Beep Beep

I thought of titling this post with the more obvious "Who Do You Love?" but, since "Roadrunner" was always my favorite Bo Diddley song, and it seems like a proper send-off for the guitar great, I'm going with the "Beep Beep" instead.

Hearing today that Diddley had died wasn't surprising (the last time I saw him was years, years ago, and he looked a little shaky then), but it put me in a reflective mood. I first learned of Bo Diddley reading an interview with Joe Strummer, who cited him as a big influence. A little later, I got a double live album of Diddley (yes, vinyl... this really was back in the day) from my brother as a birthday gift, if memory serves. Or maybe I just stole it from him, like I stole his London Calling album. Remembering the specifics of ownership are a little fuzzy in my middle-aged head, but my reaction to hearing those primal, perfect guitar riffs was not. Wow.

"Roadrunner" was one of the first songs I learned to play on the guitar by ear. Unfortunately, it was also a song I attempted to sing, and I'm sure the neighborhood dogs' ears never recovered from a teenaged girl's shriek of "I'm a roooooooadrunnah, babeee! Beep beep!"

In any case, I don't mean to sound old, but thinking back on Strummer's comments leading me to discover Diddley made me feel that most kids today are getting cheated. With all the interviews I've read in the last decade, I can't think of many rock stars and rappers and pop idols who really reach back and reference someone as an influence, unless that individual is appearing on their new album, has just died or is on the same label and said interviewee has been told to shill for them. It's unfortunate to think about all the great music being lost because its maker doesn't have a Facebook page.

So thanks, Joe. Introducing me to Bo Diddley is something else I have to thank you for. And thanks, Bo, for your music. Maybe you and Joe are jamming together up there in that Great Gig in the Sky along with Layne Staley, Syd Barret, Pete Farndon, James Honeyman-Scott and Keith Moon. Oh, wait a minute. That would sound horrible. But wherever you are, I owe you one.