Tuesday, November 10, 2009

End of the Blog

Hello -

For the sake of consolidation, all future posts will be at This Rugged Life



Tuesday, October 20, 2009

6. Camping trip to "the spot" in Big Sur

The first time that I really hung out with Will and Steve was on a camping trip up to Big Sur in Northern California. I had already been good friends with Onn, and knew Lina from work. Other close friends like Mike, Kalvin, Audrey, and Aleida have joined for some of the road-trips. Will had found the place by word of mouth while surfing along the Northern California coastline. It is not a campsite, and it is illegal to have fires. The few people who know about it camp there often, and what’s camping without a campfire? Local authorities seem to look the other way about it, and we have never been bothered. From that first initial trip, we have been back up there several times, and close friendships were made stronger for the adventures.


This last trip was at the end of September. Lisa and I drove South from San Francisco and met up with Will, Lina, Kalvin, Audrey, and Aleida in San Luis Obispo. We had our customary sandwiches and beers at the local grocery store, and then debated whether or not to make our hike to the top of the SLO Hill. We always have this debate. The beers are cold and the weather is hot, and trail hiking just seems like too much work. But we always go.


Aleida and Audrey set a land-speed record, finishing the hike in approximately 18 seconds. The rest of us mere mortals followed in the wake of their dust and mocking laughter. Lina was a good sport this time, and didn’t kick dirt in my face. Lisa made her first summit without kicking or screaming at me. We all lounged at the top, drinking the finest of warm, Mexican piss-beer and enjoying the view.


A stop for refreshments, candy, and more beer later, and we were back on the road. We found the spot, which is always a bit tricky, and started bringing our stuff into the forest. I have noticed that bringing women on the camping trips causes the overall volume of supplies to quadruple. I have also noticed that bringing women on the camping trips ensures that dinners don’t consist of beef jerky and trail mix, or God Forbid, Steve’s “coffee.”

We set up tents, and then Kal, Will and I went down to the shore to get driftwood for the fire. Kal jumped into the ocean like a fucking lunatic. Apparently, he doesn’t watch Shark Week, since Nor-Cal is the site for approximately 87% of the world’s Great White Shark attacks. Feeling like a complete Nancy, I stripped and jumped in too. Will doesn’t feel peer pressure, so he just watched and laughed at us.



We hauled the wood back up the cliff to the campsite, and Kalvin and I decided to show off our Bear Grylls fire-making skills. This took about 4 hours, due to the driftwood being driftwood, and hence, completely damp. Everyone else was too polite to ask us to hurry the hell up.



We drank beer, ate carne asada, and laughed at Kal’s complete recitation of “Nacho Libre.” Aleida vouched for the authenticity of his accent. When we ran out of beer and jokes, everyone retreated to their sleeping bags and tents.

The next morning, we had a breakfast of I-don’t-remember-what, and then headed out for a last hike. Aleida and Audrey popped in their Ipod ear-buds, and sprinted up a sheer cliff wall. The rest of us followed, shuffling slowly like we were patients at a geriatric ward. When stopping to take pictures, we could see the ash and scorch marks that A&A’s hiking boots had left in their mad dash for the top.


We got to the top, and our two track stars didn’t act impatient with us at all. The view at the top sucked though, so we spent just a few minutes to see how many mosquito bites we could collect, and then turned back.

Lisa and I said our good-byes to the SoCal group, and too quickly, the trip was over.


Friday, September 25, 2009

Friday, September 25th

Now that most of the easy tasks have been knocked out, more planning and prepping is needed for the remainder of the 101. I also need to come up with new goals for all of the goals that are for finishing an individual book. Since one of the goals is to read and write a summary for each book I finish, all of those are a bit redundant.

In the works for planning a way to visit Bryan and Brittany in Thailand. They are leaving for New Zealand by the end of December though, so I need to get cracking.

In other news, I have a fight on October 2nd in San Francisco, Ca. I have been training hard and should come home with a win. After that, I will probably take a bit of time off from competing in order to put off moving up to "Open Class" before the next Golden Gloves. I'd like to give myself one legitimate shot at winning the Golden Gloves trophy.

Heading out this weekend to Big Sur to see my buddies from Southern California. It's not quite a yearly event, but it's a good excuse to keep in touch and see how everyone is holding up to the weathering that comes with age. As much as anything, I am looking forward to getting out of the concrete jungle for a few days. San Francisco is awesome, but I need to see, like, a tree every now and again. Kind of makes me feel like moon-walking...


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

#93 - A Few More

"Blink," by Malcom Gladwell

One of the more interesting books I've read in a while. Discusses how we make split decisions, and when and how this is useful. Worth a good read.

"Strong Boys and Buttercups," by William Plummer

An inside look at amateur boxing along the same vein as "The Gloves." Maybe even more readable and gritty.

Monday, September 7, 2009

#93 Progress - Finish all books on shelf

I have 3 shelves worth of books that I have bought and paid for, but haven't read. This goal recognizes how ridiculous that is. Here's my progress:

1. "The Old Man and the Sea," by Ernest Hemingway

Notes: Hemingway writes the books that I wish I had written. There is not a single extra word used in the entire book, and he is probably the best I have ever read at saying as much as possible with as little as possible. Great book dealing with Man's resistance and acceptance of hardship.

Favorite Quotes/Lines:

"Let him think I am more man than I am, and I will be so."
"...And pain does not matter to a man."
"I must hold his pain where it is, he thought. Mine does not matter. I can control mine. But his could drive him mad."

2. "In a Sunburned Country," by Bill Bryson

Notes: Witty and charming humor, like all of Bryson's books. A bit more fact-heavy than some of his stories that I liked better, which is why it sat unfinished on my shelf for so long.

3. "Cities of the Plain," by Cormac McCarthy

Notes: 3rd part of McCarthy's "The Border Trilogy," and it was the best of the 3. Understated writing, with brutality, violence and dark humor. GREAT book.

Favorite Lines/Quotes:

"What is wrong with this story is that it is not a true story. Men have in their minds a picture of how the world will be. How they will be in that world. The world may be many different things for them but there is one world that will never be and that is the world they dream of. Do you believe that?"

"You didn't answer [my question.]"
"Ask it again."
"Let me ask you this instead."
"All right."
"He's in trouble, aint he?"
Eduardo smiled. He blew cigar smoke across the glass top of his desk. "That is not a question," he said.

4. "This Bloody Mary is the Last Thing I Own," by Jonathon Rendell

Notes: A journey to the end of boxing. Jonathon was a sports writer, enamored of boxing, and ends up managing the career of an aspiring contender. As they climb the ranks, Jonathon ends up encountering all the seedier sides of boxing's underbelly. Good story, but a bit depressing as the author finds the "bad" of boxing to eventually overwhelm any "good" in the sport.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

#34 - Track Finances Daily for 3 Months

This goal came about after reading "Your Money or Your Life." While the book managed to stretch about 20 pages of useful info into over 400, there were a few valuable tips that I managed to pick up. The book's authors put a huge priority on knowing exactly where every penny that comes into or out of your life goes. To do this, I now keep a small notebook with me all the time to track my expenses. The point of this is to know exactly where you stand in regards to your spending habits.

The second useful tip I picked up is to put all of these expenditures into monthly categories to be analyzed at the end of each month. The goal here to is to review and determine if I am getting satisfaction or fulfillment out of where my money is going. If I am, then I need to make the decision on whether I should put the same amount of money into that category or if it is ok as/is. If I am NOT getting fulfillment out of a category, then I need to make the decision to scale back on expenses in that area.

Examples here would be money spent on meals with friends versus money spent on meals by myself. The former helps build up my social life and is a way to spend time with friends and family. The latter usually comes about when I was too lazy to pack a lunch for work and need to buy something from a local restaurant. The one I get satisfaction from, the other, not so much.

The final tip I got from the book was to make a wall chart tracking my expenses, income, savings and debt from month to month. Having this visual reminder has made a big difference in getting control of my finances.

Monday, August 24, 2009

#7 - High Sierra Camping Trip with Bryan and Dad

Of all the 101 goals, I was looking forward to this one as much as any. I picked up Bryan from Santa Cruz on Thursday, and we went on a mad tour of San Francisco's "outdoorsy" type of stores. We needed small cups, hot chocolate, and ever more beef jerky. We got the cups and the jerky, but sadly, no hot chocolate.

Dad flew into SFO later that night. Bryan and I were there early, and had spent the last few hours getting dinner ready for the Papa. Starved and teased by the proximity to food without release, we spent the time waiting in a heated debate about whether we should combine our total cash value of $4 to indulge in a box of french fries. Deciding that $4 is too much to pay, regardless of the quality of the fried goodiness, we pouted our way back to the waiting area. Dad came through with his Hawaiian shirt and shorts, and we headed off.

We had a "last supper" of hamburgers, fries, and mountain dew at the Yosemite Grill before heading off into the wilderness. We made sure to take pictures of everybody prior to loading the packs in order to ensure respectable levels of good cheer and heartiness. Hefting our packs, we swayed and considered the fact that there was still time to back out. There was some trouble finding the trail...all while the paved road was still visible. True mountain men, us.


The first day of hiking was fairly uneventful. The trail was clearly marked and covered flat terrain. 5-6 miles from the Toulomne Meadows entrance, we stopped for the night.


As we did not have a permit, we decided to go without a fire the first night, with the goal being to avoid any attention of a overly competent wilderness ranger. Dad had mentioned that whiskey would have been a good thing to bring a few times, and Bryan and I were able to present his gift. A pewter flask full of Jameson Irish Whiskey, engraved with "High Sierra Hiking Trip, 2009, To Dad, from Martin and Bryan." He liked it.

We went to bed when the sun went down and saw some shooting stars. The sky was lit up like a Christmas tree with all of the stars, and it was really a beautiful thing. Bryan and Dad fell asleep first, leaving me to the tender mercies of mountain lines, chortling mountain men, and monsters. I considered this for a while before starting to drift off to dreamland myself. A crash of a large creature through the trees and into our camp roused me. Confident that it was a monster, I screamed girlishly to my family, "Guys, there's something out there!" Fumbling for our weapons, pants, head lamps and glasses, we turned the lights towards the pitch black of the far edge of camp. Two yellow eyes gleamed back at us. Hefting our flimsy pocket knives, Bryan and I inched forward. Hefting his massive Rambo knife, Dad inched forward as well. I picked up a large stick by which to club the beast.

We found the massive, gigantic, colossal beast attempting to use blunt force to open our bear-safe canister. Grasping onto our previously rehearsed plan of how to deal with such creatures, we gave a tentative yell, and I smashed my stick against the nearest tree. My "club" broke off at the handle, and the bear looked up at the mild noise disturbance. With a roar that sounded much like a sexually frustrated cow, the bear took one last whiff of the pungent goodies hidden in the canister, and ambled off, grumbling about "tourists" all the while.


After the encounter, Bryan and Dad went back to sleep. I stayed up and thought about massive fangs, blood-stained claws, and a sneak attack by which the bear climbed the tree above me before jumping off and descending upon us in a kamikaze fashion.

The next morning over breakfast, we came to the conclusion that the bear was slightly bigger than a cub, and it was actually "kinda cute." Bryan pointed out that I had bear drool on my backpack. Sweet.

We had a leisurely breakfast in bed, consisting of beef jerky, power bars and water, and then strolled back onto the trail around 10am. Feeling proud of our early start, we started heading uphill for what would be the hardest day (physically) of the trip. Climbing nearly 2000 feet in elevation in just under 3 miles was like being held captive by a sadistic stair master. We took lots of breaks.

We hit the highest mountain pass of the journey in the early afternoon, and the views from above the timberline were worth the struggle.


We found an awesome mountain lake somewhere around 9600 feet up in the high country, and it allowed for a nice, fresh water shower. The water was cold enough to wring a few shrieks from all parties involved.


After a few hours of lolling about in the sun, we retrieved our backpacks without a whole lot of enthusiasm, and trudged on. Our campsite the second night was amazing. With access to a free-flowing stream, a nice meadow to rest our heads, and a large stone table for a fire pit, we felt like we should pay someone. More whiskey was drunk, more stories were told, and Bryan managed to beat me at Jin Rummy for the first time in, well, ever. At some point, a spirited debate rose about whether flies aim for people's ears, or if they just get in there randomly. Those vicious bastards do it on purpose, and this website proves it. Bryan, I win.


The night passed without attacks by bears, mountain lions, or marmots. The third day took us by several more lakes, mountains, the Vogelsang high camp, and groups of cowboys leading their pack horses on high, rocky terrain. We camped the last night in a dry riverbed, which is most likely illegal.


It was at this point that we had all decided that we hoped to never even SEE another piece of beef jerky again, and started discussing what kind of food sounded best. After hours of debate, we came to a consensus of chili dogs, hot dogs with ketchup and relish and onions, and sushi. Bryan and I stayed up a bit later that night, talking about his upcoming trip to Thailand and life in general. More than anything, we all just sat and stared into the fire. Hoping to make it through the night without being disturbed by giant predators, we stored the food several hundred feet away from our camp. It worked, although it didnt keep me from imaging a million deaths by creature through the night. If possible, the night sky was even more clear than before on the last night, and we counted meteorites and satellites whizzing by above us.


We woke up the next morning and drank some tea. The thought of eating any more jerky, trail mix or power bars nearly brought us to tears, so we headed down the home stretch with empty stomachs. Dad set the lead like a rock star, and we made really good time over the last 4 miles of the journey. There was one no-so-funny stretch where we thought we missed the trail, but we regained our bearings due to Bryan's superior map-reading skills.


We stumbled into camp looking tired, beat-up, dirty, and relieved. (We could not quite summon "triumphant.") Heading directly to a restaurant, we each had both a chili dog and a regular hot dog with fixin's, and a beer.

And just like that, the trip was done almost as quickly as it started.