Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Matthew Lee wins Tour Divide 2009

Matthew Lee is the greatest cyclist you've never heard of.

My story today with the Tour Divide...
It was a surreal time out in the desert.

I slept in the car while waiting for Matthew at Separ. At 4:00 AM Matthew is banging on the window of the car yelling, "You can't sleep here!". At 4:30 he heads off towards Hatchita. I drove the dirt frontage road to Hwy 146, then headed south down to Hatchita. I had an hour or so to pass so I took several pics of things in the desert.

At 6:30 Matthew shows up in Hatchita, wakes up the store owner (who is living in a beat-up travel trailer next to the store) to buy some food.

He heads out of Hatchita at 7:00 for the last 45 miles of pavement to the border/finish line. While milling around on Hwy 81, looking for good places to to take pics from, a U.S. Border Patrol vehicle turns around and starts following me. My car looks suspicious. It is a white rental from with Texas plates and covered with mud from driving on the Georgetown road yesterday. I pull over and stop and the Border Patrol agent stops. He spends some time in the car radioing in information. Finally he approaches the car. I make sure that my hands are where he can see them and I ask if its okay if I can stand up (my door was open). He says okay, and I immediately explain I am with the bicyclist. He asks if I am from Canada too. I say no, Silver City, but I am helping him out, taking photos, trying to get an angle on a story. The special agent relaxes and explains that it was dangerous out where we were and that we should be careful. After we exchanged pleasantries, he gets back in his truck and heads back the direction he was heading in the first place. I wait for Matthew to get some pics.

I drive farther down the road, wait again for another 45 minutes to an hour to get more pics. No harassment from law enforcement now.

I drive into the Antelope Wells US Port of Entry and one officer immediately comes over to me with his hand on this wand. I quickly explain what I am doing and ask if its okay to take photos. I get permission as long as I don't photograph the US Customs building. So I got this pic as he rolled in.They have really ramped up and militarized the border. Now there is a huge barrier fence, the US Customs are heavily armed and very curt and short (they warmed up to us after Matthew arrived explaining the whole thing).

Matthew arrives to the border. I get a few pics. We go to the "podium" to get a few more pics. Soon Matthew is just milling around getting chummy with the customs agents (one was still very cold and all business...the other two relaxed a bit).

Note: Just over the hill, about 40 air miles away, is the 1970's-built copper smelter town of Playas, NM. This town was sold to the Dept. of Homeland Security for training purposes. Part of this training are F-16s!

If you got to the Tour Divide website and listen to Matthew's audio, you'll hear the F-16 scream over. I was outside when it came over...less than 100 ft over head...less than 200 ft from the international border. It had vapor trails being generated by its wingtips, missiles (it was fully armed) and a white cone-shaped shockwave coming off the afterburner. It was loud! Of course my camera was in my pocket at the moment.

The F-16 flew out a ways...probably to the border where New Mexico's border with Mexico turns due north. The jet pulled a vertical turn and comes back over Antelope Wells. This time I have have camera ready and aimed. The pilot, again about 100 ft off the ground banks side-to-side, left to right, saluting the Customs agents as he blasted past.

A few minutes later the F-16 came back again just under supersonic. We did not hear it until it was nearly passed us.

We packed the car with Matthew's bike and drove up to Lordsburg for lunch.

Now Matthew is passed out on the living room floor, feet elevated on a chair. He pedaled for 29 hours from NM Hwy 12 crossing to Antelope Wells.

Matthew Lee is the greatest cyclist you've never heard of.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Tour Divide at Silver City, NM

I went out and looked for Matthew Lee today. I drove the Georgetown Road which proved to be too slippery for my rental car. I thought I was going to put it into the ditch a couple of times.

Gave up on driving in the slippery mud, so turned around and went out to the Mimbres to look for him, but again, no luck. Came back into town, looked at the Tour Divide website a while later and saw he was on his way into town. I went out to see what he was up to and what he wanted me to do about picking him up in Antelope Wells.
We met at the Grinder Mill, a local-local restaurant where he rode in and had that 2700 mile stare. He ordered a combo burrito, smothered with green chile. Some other cyclists were there, and were asking him all sorts of questions.
You can see the 2700 miles of fatigue in his face. Beat!

Later we went across the street to Jeff's house so Matthew could use the Internet. I will leave in a few hours to meet up with Matthew at the Continental Divide at Separ and I-10. From there he will continue on to Antelope Wells where I will pick him up.

Tour Divide at Pie Town, NM

I drove up to Gallup Saturday afternoon and drove back Sunday afternoon. On the way back, I decided to see if I could intercept Tour Divide ride leader, Matthew Lee. The last fix I had on him was he was halfway down NM 117 at 1:30 PM. By the time I got down there, it was 6:30 and he was well past Pie Town. I did see his track however!

Also I may have driven right past his camping spot. It seems he is camping near Old Horse Springs. I drove right by there but it was dark. I expect to see him tomorrow evening.

Here is a pic of the mountains near Pie Town just north of US 60. I had forgotten how beautiful of place this part of NM is.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

More Riding

This morning did the Continental Divide Trail South in a clock-wise direction. It is such a great trail because it is very diverse;
1.) once on the single track, there is this open grassy country. Very scenic. I like the cairns along this section.

2.) The finger gate; things start changing here. More trees, including ponderosa pines.

2a)Not too far away from the finger gate, there is an unusual patch of soil. It seems to be covered with something that looks like lichen. I looked a little closer and it looks like the lichen seems to be covering a crust of cryptobiotic soil. Cryptobiotic soil is more common in the 4-corners area and this is the only patch of the stuff I've seen or know about in this area. Like I posted earlier, this patch has been there for a long while.

3.) Gomez peak area, is a mix of vegetation including agave and alligator bark juniper.

I had reached the road and met up with Nathan and Mike. We rode the Gomez Peak Trail System, then headed back into town.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Sound of Summer

Just heard then saw my first slurry bomber of the summer...a converted Lockheed PV-2 Neptune. Looked like the same plane as the photo above.

When I was a kid in the 70's the bombers were badass WWII vintage B-17 bombers complete with the radial piston engines. They didn't have the horsepower of these modern turbo prop engines and therefore never got a lot of altitude by the time they'd fly over town.

Photo credit: this website: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Fox-firebase-aero_union-N716AU-030724-01adj.jpg

Navel of the Universe (part II)

Got up this morning and rode the Continental Divide Trail again. Still struggling with altitude here, but gawd, do I love riding in the Gila! The trails were in perfect condition after our light rain yesterday.
Took a few pics with my "back-up camera", a Canon A530.

After pedaling out from town (5 miles of steady climbing), I started out on the Gomez Peak Trail system.

This is a typical trail in the Gomez Peak system. Nice swoopy turns, and rock outcroppings to make it interesting.

Fresh coyote (?) scat. Probably shat in the last 12 hours or so.

Prickly pear flower providing food and moisture for all sorts of critters.

This is an interesting patch of ground approaching the "finger gate" On the right side of the pic the ground is covered with lichen. Usually lichen grows on rocks. This patch has been there since I first rode this trail back in the early 90's.

The Gila! Looking north-northwest toward the wilderness area. The knob in the center is a Preacher's Point. It is a waypoint when riding "Horseshoe Bend" on Bear Creek. It is a mini-epic jeep road type ride that I haven't done in 15 years. I first explored that area with my old Jeep CJ-5 when in high school. I used to drive all around that country alone...without telling anyone where I was going...of course that back-in-the-days before cell phones. There is some wild country out there!

Right about here, I scared up two mule deer, then a little further down the trail, I came across 5 adult wild turkey and 3 "turklets".

Cholla are in bloom as well.

Typical trail conditions for the "Hill of Death" part of the CDT. Lots of golf ball-sized rocks.

Large critters spotted:
- mule deer
- raven
- wild turkey
- turkey vulture
- numerous pinon jays
- javelina

The CDT "South" is always great ride!

"Navel of the Universe: this place and Easter Island"

Sliding back into Silver City, the Navel of the Universe. This place is such a surreal place. Growing up here, you kind of take things for granted but when you grow up and move away, see other parts of the world, you realized how unique of place it really is. Sure, places like Sedona, Durango, and Santa Fe get all the press, but the Gila is the true Navel of the Universe...this place and Easter Island.

Yesterday did a euphoric ride on the trail system on the north side of Gomez Peak and then finished up by riding back into town via the Continental Divide Trail "South". Its really an interesting thing to straddle the continental divide. For portions of the ride we are on the Pacific drainage and on other parts of the ride were are on the Atlantic side. I've done these trails dozens of times, but I've never gotten tired or bored of them. They are so fun to ride. (sorry no pics right now...waiting for a new camera.) Total distance ridden was about 25 miles with 15 of it on genuine single track!!! Nice!

Today I milled around town on my trusty Univega Gran Turismo (1981). This is the bicycle I rode from Mexico to Canada in 1981. It is still a great riding bike. In the afternoon I ended up at Dave's were we walked down to the brew-pub and quaffed 3 pints each. I.P.A....aaaaaah! Tasty!

Dave, the Swami.

More later...

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

R.I.P. SD 1000

I took my Canon SD1000 scuba diving on Thursday. I used a vinyl waterproof camera bag that was rated to 33 ft (10 m) which is 1 additional atmosphere. Everything was fine to that depth, we we soon swam down to 40 ft and hit somewhere around 49 ft at our low point. At this point, I noticed the bag taking on water. Soon the camera was immersed in sea water and was fried. This is really unfortunate because I was getting some spectacular shots underwater. We saw all sorts of cool sea creatures.

I've decided I am finally going to invest in a real underwater housing unit for the next camera...probably a SD1200IS.

PS: Posting this from the USA. I arrived today. Tania is very upset that I came.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Iguana Pics

I've been on vacation since Saturday afternoon. Mainly just getting up, riding my bike, vegging out. No Internet connection at home, so I had to come down to a local coffee house with WiFi to make this post. I will be posting more when I get to the USA.

I've taken a few interesting photos of iguanas I took yesterday while out on the bike. This guy was bold and didn't mind me hanging around to take his pic. The other two hid in the rocks. After owning a parrot, I am sure that wild animals are just like dogs and other domestic animals. They all have distinct personalities...bold, shy, smart, dumb, whatever. This guy was pretty bold.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Tour Divide

The Tour Divide Race starts Friday, 12 June. Silver City's Jamie Thomson will be lining up with the rest of them in Banff. I'll be tracking Jamie's progress the best I can...depending on my Internet connection.

Allez! Allez!

Monday, June 08, 2009

The Legacy of Sally Hefley

This past weekend was not what I expected. Everything will be okay though. Sally will be missed. She did leave behind quite the legacy. The former students who where there on Saturday proved it.

Agata: Class of 2005: fledgling business woman. Her father was killed in a horrific car crash on Monday and will be taking over the business with her mother. Enrique (her father) was a great guy as well.
Ricardo: transferred to the other HS: All around nice guy...not sure what his plans are. I didn't really talk to him much.
Robert: Class of 2007 Sally's "project". Robert is Sally's house keeper's son. From a lower-income home, Robert did not know any English when he was enrolled in ELA as a 5th grader. Since graduation Robert has since worked in the oil industry at the refineries, and on board oil tankers (he didn't like that job). Because of his mastery of English, his options in Venezuela are many.
Andres: Class of 2007 A double major at University of Miami. Art History and something else. He says Art History is really hard. We were surprised with that major. We never took Andres as a student interested in Art.
Emily: Class of 2005 Dental school, learning to be an orthodontist.
Adam: Class of 2009 (had to finish his senior year at our rival high school since Betty destroyed our old school). Adam attended ELA from Kindergarten to the 11th grade. I was his science teacher from 7th grade to 10th grade. I wasn't his science teacher for his 11th grade because Betty made me an elementary teacher (5th/6th graders). Adam will be returning to his native Argentina and study Electro-Mechanical Engineering! Whoooow! This makes me proud. I would like to think that Miguel Rengifo (ELA's math teacher/mechanical engineer) and myself had some influence on him.
CJ: Class of 200(?). CJ moved back to Houston around 2002 or 2003, but his Venezuelan roots brings him back. Not sure what he's doing now...but Sally was definitely a positive influence on him. Probably saved him from a life of crime.

We (the former staff) have other students attending universities around the world, and of course they couldn't be there.

I was proud of each one of them Saturday. Sally would have been.

One last note on this matter: I got word that "Betty" and "Randal" (Betty's husband) were livid this morning, from our triple play. ;-) They have a problem: 1.) it shows how intolerant and how little they are. 2.)Their self-esteem must be near zero.

Ultimate score: Their legacy is zero. They accomplished nothing other than negative. They have not left a positive mark in the local community, the country of Venezuela, or the international education community. I hope to God that they never darken the hallways of an education institution ever again. Good riddance!

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Diesel Power

Check this place out! This business belongs to one of our parents. Hundreds of diesel engines! Smelled like grease and diesel fuel. Brought back memories of my old CJ-5.

The warehouse.

Big engines: V-12, turbocharged, 1700 horsepower, $20,000+

Big gearboxes: the one in the foreground is for a Mack.

Dealing with Death (updated...photo added)

The core of this was first written as a e-mail to a friend. I liked it.

Today Sally's body was cremated. Daniel and I did a last tribute/joke/FU "Betty" today. "Betty" is the bitch who took over the school and basically ran it into the ground through her indifference and incompetence. ("Betty" was put in place by the school's new owners). "Betty" was equally disliked by teachers, students, parents, and Sally. Betty is an incompetent buffoon.

Back to the story...

We followed the hearse/van to the cemetery where the the crematorium is located. While Daniel took care of paperwork, the van driver gave me all the flowers that were at the viewing of the body yesterday. I had a large wreath of roses and ferns, a cross of chrysanthemums, and a couple of other bundles of flowers; more roses, some daisies, etc. After one last viewing and crying session, the body was taken into the crematorium, I asked Daniel what he wanted to do with the flowers since I had a trunk full of them. "Lets take them to the school!" he said.

So in a final tribute to Sally, Escuela de las Americas, and a big "F**k You 'Betty'", we wired the crucifix which was a top the casket to the front gate along with the huge (1m in diameter) flower wreath ,and the flower cross (about 75 cm long 50 cm wide). I am sure Sally was smiling down.

I had to leave to go back to work, so Tania drove by afterward and said it looks great! She said people were slowing down and checking it out. I'd love to see "Betty's" reaction in the morning.

As Nelson on The Simpsons would say, "Ha HA!"

Its been a wild weekend. Here, they don't give you much time to prepare and plan when it comes to death. When it happens, it's like, "drop everything and deal with death" time.

Saturday, June 06, 2009


Sally Hefley passed away on the morning of June 6, 2009. She died as she lived; at peace, surrounded by people whose lives she touched, both Venezuelan and ex-patriot Americans. She is survived by her sons Daniel Hefley, granddaughter Dania, both of Lecheria, Venezuela, David Hefley of Omaha, Nebraska, and her stepdaughters…, and her whole extended ELA family (more on that later).

She was born August 3, 1938, in Houston, TX. She was a graduate of Lamar H.S., and later Wellesley College.

The adventurous part of her life began when she married the-love-of-her-life, Riley Hefley in 1963. Riley had three daughters from a previous marriage, and they raised two sons of their own.

In 1966 Riley and Sally immigrated to Venezuela where they farmed and raised cattle on the western llanos. When they first arrived, they lived in an adobe mud hut, where they heated their bathwater on the exhaust manifold of their gasoline-powered electric generator. Living the romantic life on the Venezuelan plains, husband Riley would return from supply runs to Barinas with fresh lettuce, cheese, and ice. These where moments of celebration…fresh salad and cold drinks!

After a few years, Riley got a job in the Venezuelan oil industry in Anaco and Maracaibo where Sally followed. They enjoyed life in the oil camps but farming was still Riley’s first love according to Sally, so they returned to the farm on the llanos of Barinas.

They eventually returned to Texas where they had a goat farm in Wharton. It was there, Sally worked as a high school math teacher and she found her calling as an educator. It was a profession where she could use her altruistic nature to help nurture the potential in others.

Eventually it was decided to return to Venezuela with their two sons where Riley once again worked in the petroleum business in eastern Venezuela. Of course they also had a farm, so when they weren’t in the oil fields, they were in their own fields growing a variety vegetables and mangos for market.

It was at this time, while in Anaco, Sally once again became involved in education. She was on the advisory board at Escuela Anaco, an international school.

After relocating to Barcelona in the early/mid-1990s, she saw the potential and the need for an international school in the Caribbean city of Puerto la Cruz. Partnering up with Dr. William McWhorter, who already had founded schools in the cities El Tigre and Maturin, she co-founded and co-owned Escuela de las Americas-PLC, in Puerto la Cruz. It opened its doors in 1997 with 10 students in an unused section of an old hotel.

By 2000, ELA-PLC had grown to nearly 100 students, ranging from prekindergarten to 12th grade, both from the local Venezuelan community as well as the global ex-patriot community. They moved into a new building in the satellite community of Lecheria.

It was also about this time when Sally tragically lost the-love-of-her-life, Riley, who was unjustly killed in a dispute at their farm. Instead of giving up, Sally put forth 100 percent of her energy into the school. She gathered the “dream-team” in teachers, and enrollment continued to grow.

At ELA, she gave students who would not normally be able to afford a high-caliber education, the opportunity to attend. She emphasized the family of ELA. All students, teachers, and staff, where part of the ELA family.

The first half of her adult life was dedicated to her husband Riley, whom she helped 110 percent. She and Riley were partners for life and in life. After Riley’s death, she channeled that same dedication into her family at Escuela de las Americas.

Because of her guidance and generosity, and forthright personality, she allowed many people to rise beyond their own expectations. Through tough love, and understanding, she brought the best out of people. Sally Hefley was a great woman and mom to everyone. She was the momma bear.

Today, the global education community has lost a great leader.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Box and Whiskers

Two characters I came up with today when teaching box and whiskers plots for data analysis to 8th graders. I probably confused them even more.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Mom #2

Sally, my "mom #2", went into the hospital Monday. Her son, Daniel called me tonight she has slipped into septic shock. Her chances of recovery are grim.

Sally and her husband, Riley, immigrated to Venezuela from Texas in the 60's. They loved Venezuela. Its was a paradise to them. They built a life here; farmed, drilled for oil, and raised their two boys. Unfortunately I never got to met Riley before his passing in 2000. He sounds like he was a real character. As Daniel has told me, his father died like he lived; tough as nails. Sally loved him like no one else.

Sally hired me in 2001. She was the part-owner and director of Escuela de las Americas - PLC. As director, she gave me free rein as ELA's new science teacher. She was supportive and encouraged me to be creative and innovative. She allowed me to experiment with my own curriculum...my own projects. She just wanted the students at ELA to learn science!

Like a mom, though she was 100% supportive and protective, but she could also be scolding. If I messed up (like teachers do from time to time), she let me know about it. But also like a mom, she protected us like a mother bear with her cubs. And that's what she did at ELA...she built a family. She was the best boss I've ever had and ELA was the best school ever because of that family atmosphere. She loved the school! The students loved the school, and we teachers loved the school.

ELA was sold in 2005, The loss was devastating to her soul.

Now school formerly known as ELA will close its doors forever next week. The new owners could not make a go of it. With the passing of the school, so probably will Sally. That school's heart and soul was also her's.

Say a prayer for Sally tonight.

ELA is dead...Long live ELA!