Sunday, December 27, 2009


Well, we've been together 8 years. Crazy! It doesn't seem that long. Tania and I come from two different worlds, but we both have a good sense of humor, so that's probably helped along the way. She is also very resolute, and driven. She has done what she can to improve her life along the way. I am proud her. She's a wonderful person, and a terrific wife. I did good.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas

Today there was a light dusting of dirt. [Had a good Christmas Eve morning ride.] Tomorrow we are headed to the beach for Christmas day.

Happy Holidays everyone!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Happy Solstice!

Happy Solstice!
Saw these kids petting an iguana in Plaza Bolivar. Very cool!
Now we are decorating the apartment and listening to Venezuelan Christmas songs.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Vacation: Recreation, Projects, and Leisure (winter break 2009)

Currently on winter break and taking advantage of the days off...

First off, went fishing (see post below) and been riding my bike nearly every morning. When I worked here in Lecheria, I was able to ride my bike everyday, but now working in El Tigre, my bike is left here, and is only ridden on weekends (arrgh!).

Friend/colleague, Daniel, also lives in Lecheria. We car pool during the week. His wife has to give up on riding her bike because of back problems so he has inherited her bike. The frame is a little small for him, it looks like a 17 inch and he probably needs a 19 inch. I gave him a long 150 mm stem to compensate for the short top-tube. Anyway, Daniel is getting into it.

Here he is climbing "The Acuario" trail. He dabbed the first try, but cleaned it on his second attempt and cleaned it again the following day.
A triumphant Daniel.
Ran into Fabricio today on his new Yeti AS-R.
He made a special trip to California to buy this bike and bring it down. A bit too much bike for me, but he's into the free-ride full-suspension thing.

Seeing the word Gila down here in Venezuela is always a bit strange.
I try to explain to people that I am from the Gila...a region in New Mexico. They never get it.

As far as projects go...

We finally pulled the trigger on some Roman shades. We've been pricing them at speciality shops and the quotes we were getting were way high...about $600 per window! One lady recommended we go to EPA (our equivalant to Home Depot) . We found some cloth shades for about $45 each. We bought two for the master bedroom to see how we liked it. The installation was straightforward. I had to drill through brick and use inserts, but other than that it was fairly simple.
We really like the shades. It seems to be helping with the air conditioning.

Yesterday we went back to EPA and bought two more for the other bedroom and I installed them today. We will probably use a similiar window treatment for the living room.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Header Photo

I took the header photo a couple of years ago. That is the sunrise from my bedroom window. I happened to wake up early one morning when Mercury was rising. The planet is visible in the left part of the sky about a halfway up.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Me, a Bank Robber?

It is mid-December and I am heading down “the 405” from Marina del Rey to a 10:00 AM appointment at Hoffman Fabrics in Mission Viejo. Halfway there, I realize that it was my “new” birthday; a year to the day I was nearly killed when I crashed on my mountain bike and I hit my head hard, but today, I am happy, relaxed, and confident driving on the southern California freeway system.

I make the proper exit into Mission Viejo and make my appointment right on time. I leave Hoffman Fabrics and Mission Viejo at 10:45 AM and head a few miles south on “the 5” to San Juan Capistrano for a lunch appointment with the guys at Bike magazine.
Bike is part of Surfer Publications. Their offices are in a low warehouse-looking building on a cul-de-sac in an industrial park and I am glad to see a parking spot right in front of the building. Pulling into the space, I notice a champagne colored Toyota Corolla has pulled in behind me. Thinking to myself, “Maybe those guys have an appointment too.”
With the driver’s door side mirror, I see the driver, a white guy wearing sunglasses and a windbreaker, walk towards my car…in his right hand is a black semi-automatic handgun. At first this doesn’t register…then think… “I am being car-jacked!”
The man walks up to me quickly and points his gun at my head and says, “Orange County Sheriff’s Department! Put your hands where I can see them, or I am going to shoot you! I will shoot you right now!” He repeats this several times…he keeps telling me he is going to shoot me if I don’t do what he says.
Shocked, I keep my hands at 10 O’clock and 2 O’clock on the steering wheel. I look down the gun’s bore and then look straight ahead through the windshield.
Holy cow! What did I do? I know I have some parking tickets in Los Angeles, but would they come after me with guns? Maybe I did something illegal on the freeway?
The detective tells me to get out of the car…I still need to unbuckle my seatbelt…the officer tells me how to do it. He instructs me to get out of the car with my hands raised so he can see them. He keeps telling me he is going to shoot me.
Slowly and awkwardly I get out of my Honda Civic while the plain clothes officer has his gun pointed at me. When I stand up, it is then I see his partner on the other side of my car. He also has his gun drawn ready to shoot me.
Out of the car, I say I don’t understand what I did… “I didn’t do anything.” The sheriff detectives look at each other and smirk, they frisk me and handcuff me and begin asking me questions; What is my name? Where am I from? What was I doing there? Where have I been? Do you have any bandages on my fingers? Do I have a baseball cap? Do I have a gun? When I say that there might be a gun in the car because it is really my dad’s car and I just borrowed it for this trip and sometimes he carries a gun with him, the detectives go nuts! What kind of gun? What color is it?
Sometime during this confusion, I am informed that I am being held as bank robbery suspect.
Excited about the possibility of a gun, they ask if they can search the car. I feel I don’t have a choice and would rather them treat the car nicely instead of upsetting them and destroy the car after getting a search warrant so I grant them permission.
It is about this time a couple of black and white Orange County sheriff’s squad cars show up. An officer in a dark blue or black uniform with sergeant strips on his sleeve comes over to talk to the detectives while I, with my hands bound behind me, is put into the backseat of the first squad car.
In the next few minutes, more and more cars show up. Also about this time, people inside Surfer Publications notice the commotion outside. Several come outside including Rob, editor of Bike, who recognizes my car, and sees me in the back of the deputy’s car. He approaches the officers and tries to vouch for me, but the officers threaten to arrest him if he interferes.
From the backseat, I see the officers and agents go through my car. They go through the passenger compartment looking for any evidence. They open the trunk and pull out my bicycle. They think they hit paydirt when they pull out my backpack full of cycling gear; shorts, Mimbres Man jerseys, shoes, a helmet, and gloves.
Eventually the uniformed sergeant pulls me out of the car and say, “First of all, if you’re not the guy I’m going to apologize right now…but if you are the guy, YOU’RE GOING TO PAY THE PIPER!” He asks me the same series of questions as before...
Finally he adds, “You’re shaking pretty good there Skippy!”
“This has never happened to me before…” I reply.
“You’ve never been arrested?” he says unbelievingly!
“Get back in the car!”
While in the backseat, I can overhear the detectives and officers talk among themselves. I overhear the detective who arrested me say, “This is the guy! His story is not believable! I’ve been here six years, and I can count the number of New Mexico plates on one hand! This is the guy! We got him!”
Meanwhile, the guys from Bike magazine are having a field day. Dave, the photo editor, comes out and takes photos of the circus. I make sure I smile for him when he takes my photo in the back of the deputy’s car.
A few minutes turns into more than one and half hours.
An FBI agent (with a ridiculous Christmas tie…everything you’ve heard about how FBI agents dress is true) informs me that they are bringing a special car with tinted windows for the bank employees to come and identify me.
About 30 minutes later, now about two hours since being arrested, the witness car is ready and the FBI agent takes me out of the car. Still handcuffed, my thumbs have gone numb. The FBI agent puts a baseball cap on my head, and I stand next to the squad car while the car drives by. After it passes, I am shoved back into the squad car.
I sit in the car for another 20 minutes when, the FBI guy pulls me out of the car for the last time and says, “I have some good news and some bad news. The good news is…you’re about to be un-arrested. The bad news is…you look like a bank robber to us. Can we take your picture?”
At this point, I am relieved but still handcuffed and very uncomfortable…, “I don’t care!” I reply, “Go ahead, take my picture!”
Still bound, they walk me over to the white wall of the building where the FBI agent takes several photos with a Polaroid camera. Only after he is done do they release me from the cuffs.
The police still did not have their man, and had wasted more than 2 ½ hours on me. I would have to guess that the real bank robber made a clean get-away.
Rob, Dave, and several of the other guys from Bike took me to lunch afterwards, but I didn’t have much of an appetite.
Note: You can see a photo of me in deputy’s car and read Rob’s account of the incident in the April 1997 issue of Bike.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Gear for Payara Fishing

I am not much of a fisherman and I was pretty clueless when we went out fishing for payara the other day. Turns out they are extremely aggressive and lots of fun. While my friends were struggling with their gear, my set-up worked perfectly. The only change I would make would be a slightly larger reel to hold more line. I only had about 100 yds or so...not much to work with.

Rod: Shakespeare Ugly Stik, 7 ft, medium action.
Reel: Shakespeare Agility open face. I had the drag set fairly firm/loose to let the fish run a bit when they first hit.
Line: Stren mono-filament, 14 lbs test. I probably only had about 80 yds on the small reel.
Tackle: Diving Rapala, about 4" long, silver, black, red with 2 large treble hooks. Caught all 8 payara on this lure. We used steel leaders as well...a necessity for the big teeth of this fish. I made sure I had strong knots on my line. I used an improved cinch knot to tie my swivels to the line.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Payara Fishing on the Orinoco River

After school on Friday, Daniel, Matthew, Michael, and I headed to the river village of Mapire (Venezuela). Here is a pictoral essay of the trip.

Our guide Rafael arrives with his boat.

On our way, about 8:00 AM. Beer me!

Mike (F.M.) Beer him!

Daniel was the expert net handler.

My second payara.


My catch for Saturday; 5 payara.

Matthew hooked a monster which he fought for about 20 minutes. We were unable to land it.

Rafael, our skipper.

My lure is beat-up and a battle scarred. It has teeth embedded in it.

The tropical sun cooked us.

Exotic birds...the place was thick with birds, including at least one pair of osprey. I hooked a cormorant when it ran into my line. Fortunately it was able to work itself free. The interesting thing was that its mate and other friends flew back to help it.
We don't give animals much credit when it comes to some kinds of intelligence.

Our final count (minus 2 we ate): 9 payara; Me - 8, Daniel - 2; 3 sardinata; Daniel - 2, Matthew - 1.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

About 29 Years Ago...

It is an overcast snowy day in southern Idaho. I working at the top shack of a chairlift; bored, cold and homesick. I want to go back to New Mexico.

At the end of the day, I go to my boss and tell her I am quitting; I was tired of being cold…snow and ice wasn’t for me.

It was dark and lightly snowing when I walked out of the lodge. I got into the unheated rag-top half-cab of my 1964 CJ-5 and buckled the frozen lap-belt.

I head out of the parking lot and onto the snow cover mountain road…6 inches of fresh snow. A few miles down from the lodge I enter an S-curve too fast. The jeep’s rear end whips out. I steer into the slide, but there is little or no response. The second part of the S is coming and I am helpless…the CJ is still perpendicular to the road and heading straight. I brace myself.

The jeep hits the soft shoulder, left wheels dig in and immediately starts rolling! I watch the headlights do a slow motion counter clockwise roll. The driver’s side hits the dirt/snow hard with a loud crash!

Momentum carries me around; upside down…passenger’s side…on the wheels...driver’s side…upside down… passenger side…on the wheels…driver’s side…upside down…finally coming to rest on the passenger’s side.

I dangle from the driver’s seat. Assessment time; I’m okay, I’m not bleeding and everything works.

Electric fuel pump buzzing; turn off ignition. Lights on; turn off lights.

Hanging for a moment, I unlatch the seatbelt, fall into the passenger seat, pick myself up, and open the canvas driver’s door like the hatch on a tank.

Once outside, I look things over. There is about 12 inches of snow on the ground and it is still coming down. The jeep looks drivable if I can get it back on its wheels. I want to solve this problem myself and I certainly don’t want any law enforcement involvement.

I find my HiLift jack in the snow a few feet from the wreck. Jack under the roll bar, I lift until it tops out. Now at the tipping point, I use the roll bar and I rock the CJ-5 back and forth. The HiLift slips and the jeep crashes back on its side. DARN!

I start over and get the wheels on the ground on the second try. Now working as fast as I possible, I checked the battery and the fluid levels (oil and water). I find most of my stuff in the snow and pile it into the jeep. The ragtop supports are bent so I put the top in the back as well. Back in the driver’s seat, I push the accelerator pedal and it goes unresponsively to the floor; the throttle linkage has come apart because of a broken cotter pin. I fix it by making a new pin from some tie wire from the nearby barbed wire fence.

Ready: engine start, engage low range 4-wheel drive, reverse, and power onto the snowy pavement.


I am without a top or heater, but I am safe and alive and head back to my studio apartment in Twin Falls.

I am not sure if I almost died that night...

• My seatbelt kept me from being ejected and probably crushed and or decapitated (you hear horror stories with Jeeps).

• On the drive to Twin Falls, I discovered I could touch the roll bar with my head if I tilted my head back a little. It did its job and kept me from being crushed.

• I probably would not have frozen since other people were still up at the ski lodge.

Of the 5 years of being with that jeep, this was the most serious mis-adventure we had together. I suppose we both could have died.

Two days later, the day John Lennon died, I left Idaho in my wounded Jeep and headed to New Mexico.

Link to Red Ravine (earlier draft)

Monday, December 07, 2009

Happy Birthday Dad

Today would have been my dad's 77th birthday. I sometimes think what he'd think of today's world.

I did my first post dengue fever rides this weekend. On Saturday I had no snap in the legs. Probably partly due to fatigue and recover, but also partly due to lack of fuel. Friday night I had a small plate of shrimp-fried rice for dinner, then no breakfast in the morning before riding. Made for weak legs.

Sunday was better. I ate better Saturday night, then had breakfast on Sunday morning before riding. I had one minor dizzy spell after the Fausto Trail. I stood in the shade for a minute or two, drank more water, and I was okay for the rest of the ride. Did a lot more climbing. Legs had more power.

Looking forward to the Christmas break.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Dengue Fever

I caught dengue fever last week. It is a totally sucky tropical disease that just zaps everything out of you. I had a sustained fever of about 39*C (102.2* F) for about 48 hours. Horrible stuff! I am one of the lucky ones who never gets headaches, but with dengue, it felt as if someone had driven spikes into my head. Not super painful, but painful enough.
Fortunately I have a wonderful wife who makes sure I recovered by resting, drinking plenty of fluids (including lots of homemade chicken broth), and forcing me to take tons of vitamins. I was a terrible patient btw.
Hopefully I will be recovered enough this week (today is day 10) to go for a short bike ride. I just want to get back in the groove.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Outside Magazine, November 2009 issue

Hey I'm in Outside magazine! Finally Mark Levine's article got published. Here's a link: Here's some additional pics from that trip.

At the start in Strontian: Guenter, John, and me.
The author: Mark Levine The infamous: Guenter The Brazilian: Andres in the lead on a road section leading towards the monro. The Crocodile Run: Guenter and John.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


I rode the Acuario trail on Sunday. I gave my friend my camera and he captured this pic.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

At the Lecheria Fish Market

We went to the fish market yesterday about 11:30 AM to get something for lunch. While Tania was dealing with fish (she knows what to buy better than I do...I just make suggestions) I played with my camera. I got a few neat pics. BTW, the fish we bought; a couple of mullet (very tasty) and some dorado fillets.

Here's a very nice dorado. Has some nice color.

Someone's fish drying in the sun.

Fishing lancha that doubles as a pelican roost.

Waiting for scraps.

A nice looking mature pelican.

Saltwater catfish.

Transportation. You'll always see beater bikes at the fish markets.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 30, 2009

A Day on the Tour Divide 2009

On June 30, 2009 Matthew Lee rode to his forth 1st place finish of the Tour Divide race. I first met Matthew at his 2005 finish.

I spent the afternoon and night of the 29th, and the morning of the 30th chasing Matthew, trying to get some decent photos worthy of publishing. I don't know if any of these photos are good, but here's a photo essay of my favorite pics of that 24 hours.

Tracks north of Pie Town, NM

Matthew's arrival into Silver City, NM The Grinder Mill, Silver City Separ, NM (Continental Divide on I-10) at 4:00 AM Big Hatchet Mtn. Sunrise, Hatchita, NM Arrive at Hatchita. Breakfast in Hatchita. 45 miles to the Finish. Focused. Arrival at Antelope Wells. Podium The real finish...lunch at El Charro in Lordsburg.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A Bicycle Race at Paso Colon, Puerto la Cruz, VE

Last Sunday, Tania and I were in downtown PLC and came across a bicycle race. I took a few pics. These aren't in any order. I just posted the pics I liked the best. Not too bad for a tiny point-and-shoot (Canon SD1200 IS)