Friday, December 30, 2011

Happy Trails 2011

Almost the end of the year. Its been an interesting one. Hope to make it back to the USA in early 2012. Though I like Venezuela, I really don't want to be here any more. Got to move forward. 
My biggest deal in 2011 has been the birth of my son in January. He is growing fast and is a great little guy.

                                                                       He's expressive...

and casually cool!

Looking forward to 2012!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Pandion haliaetus

This osprey (Pandion haliaetus) has been hanging out lately. According to Wikipedia, the osprey here in South America are non-breeding migrants.

So I guess he is just here for vacation. 
Link: Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Clouds on the Sea

Always when I ride my bike, I try and take time to really appreciate where I am. Now carrying a camera all the time, gives me the opportunity to try and capture some of the things I see and experience when riding. Yesterday I was doing usual ride, and noticed the cloud reflections on the sea. I thought that was pretty cool. 

Friday, November 18, 2011

Shadow and Light

Was walking my son this morning when we walked past this. It stopped me in my tracks and had to go back and take a few photos. I like the contrasting shapes in light and shadow is somewhat of a brain-teaser.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Coragyps atratus brasiliensis

a.k.a. zamuro (Venezuela) or black vulture (USA). Not as big as its cousin the turkey vulture, these are quite common on El Morro here in Anzoategui, Venezuela. Their wings are also shorter and broader than turkey vulture, therefore they don't soar as gracefully as a TV; there is a lot more flapping of wings and more perching.
Saw these guys at my usual spot on El Morro while mountain biking this morning.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Happy Nigel Tufnel Day 11/11/11


Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Isla Borracha

In 2000, I had been in Venezuela for about two weeks when I took my first trip to Puerto la Cruz. It is when I first saw Isla Borracha looking like this; late afternoon shadows highlighting the valleys, drainages, and sea-cliffs. Very striking in my opinion.
About 2 blocks from our condo, I took this the other day while walking Benjamin. 
(click on the pic to make it larger)

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Nova no va!

 This is a common sight here. These guys will rebuild the car on the street.

Lecheria Bike Path

Shot from the hip while walking Benjamin.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

El Morro Fun

Did a fun bicycle ride this morning. Rode to the top of El Morro via "La Pared" ("The Wall"), which is very steep as the name implies. I rode to this ridgeline and paused for a few minutes. This is a SE view from El Morro. 

Lecheria and its high-rise condos. The long coastline is mostly Playa Lido (our condo is one block off of Playa Lido), and the beach on the other side of the causeway is Playa Muerta (named because it doesn't get much wave action).

Monday, October 31, 2011

Cathartes aura

Nice turkey vulture, Cathartes aura, this morning. Not sure if these are permanent residents of El Morro or migrating transients. I see them all the time when riding my bike. 

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Gymnomystax mexicanus

Saw this oriole blackbird, Gymnomystax mexicanus, at Parque Gen. Francisco Miranda (formerly called Parque de Este) in Caracas yesterday.

Be Happy

Back in Caracas and back at SAIME trying to solve my visa mess. No progress yet, but made progress on Benjamin's VE passport. Took a few pics this afternoon. My favorite is this one. Saw this statue while riding in a taxi. It is of Gen. Francico Miranda and his base is saying, "Be Happy" and "Infinite Love". Nice message from the generalissimo. 
Be Happy!

Monday, October 24, 2011

My Family

I love my wife and son!

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Baby Blanco is Back

I bought Baby Blanco new for about $7000 cash in Nov. of 2003. She's been a great car and she is the car I've owned the longest. Recently I spent of bit of money getting her fixed; brakes, clutch adjustment, new ignition wires/tune-up, etc. Shortly after that, she stopped working due to an electrical failure of some kind. I took it to a battery place and the guy said it was a bad alternator, so not wanting to spend more money I let her sit for about 6 weeks. 

Finally, yesterday, I had contacted a one of our old ELA families who has an electric auto shop. They came over with a technician and he determined it was simply a bad battery. Doh! We got her started, drove it to the shop where they tested the electrical system (okay), and put in a new battery, cleaned the cables, etc. 

So now Baby Blanco is running great! We've ridden in a lot of taxis over the weeks and some have been really uncomfortable. I find Baby Blanco, as basic as she is, a very comfortable car. No weird vibrations, fairly smooth ride (for a car in its class) and kind of peppy (fun). 
She's a little rough around the edges.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Ride Pic of the Day

Ride pic of the day: assessing the morning's catch.

Pelecanus occidentalis

These are brown pelicans, Pelecanus occidentalis, which were shadowing a couple of fishing boats in Bahia Barcelona. Though they don't look like it, these guys are some of the most graceful birds in the sky!

Friday, October 07, 2011

Icterus nigrogularis

South American yellow oriole Icterus nigrogularis seen on this morning's ride. 


Team Mutant founder.
photo credit: Team Mutant (circa 1988)
Coconino master builder
Mimbres Man copyright 2010

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

The Mockingbird and The Ship

Took this pic yesterday when riding. Cropped it, and it turned out okay.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Leucippus fallax richmondi

On my morning ride came across this little buffy hummingbird, Leucippus fallax richmondi, just sitting on this bush. I was able to get a bit closer and get a decent shot (considering the camera).

Friday, September 23, 2011

Utility Riding

Car needs a new alternator or something so I've been using the bike more for utility riding. Fun stuff!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Sicalis flaveola

These birds, the saffron finch (Sicalis flaveola),  are very common. I see them all the time and always want to get a photo of one. Saw a mating pair as I rode today. They were picking gravel and stayed fairly close to the trail and I was able to get a few shots. Was wishing I had the G11 instead of my usual SD1200IS.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Torre America

Torre America in Caracas.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Signs and Lettering around Caracas

Caracas had its heyday in the 60s and 70s. Its architecture and sign lettering reflect this period. Its all very interesting.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Caracas Hell

Inspectoria de Servicios, is where I was ordered to report too on Monday morning (this morning) or I'd be in trouble. 

Go back 5 years, when I was issued a Venezuela residency visa. I thought I was a lucky guy. No worries for 5 years. The visa got me in and out of the country without problem. So when it was set to expire on Sept. 20, I figured I better get a new one. 

Tania and I went to the SAIME office in Puerto la Cruz, did the proper application, left my passports (old and new) and after 5 days, went back expecting things would be okay. Turns out things were NOT okay. Turns out the visa which Quality Schools International (QSI) got me was bogus, a fake, fraudulent. So now I am on the Venezuelan government's radar and was told that I better be honest and in Caracas on September 5 or I'd be in trouble. 

Before Benjamin, travel to Caracas was no big with Benjamin, everything is a big deal. We decided to go by bus to Caracas. After an air conditioning failure in the first bus, then switching the second bus, Benjamin did pretty good the first 3 hours of the trip. The second 3 hours were not so good. Its hard enough for an adult to keep their patience on a long bus ride...but Benjamin wasn't whiney, but he was not comfortable. 

After a night in a decent hotel, we make our way to the proper SAIME building in Caracas. A Hollywood set-designer couldn't think of anything more hellish. An 8 story government office building with no working elevators. Plenty of security and red-shirted workers everywhere. Tania, insisting on wearing heels this morning, up the stairs, carried the front of the stroller, while I controlled the back part while Benjamin was still seated. The office we needed was on the 3rd floor, but the stairwell we chose goes from the bottom floor, to the 2nd floor, to the 5th floor. We didn't know this until we got to the 5th floor, asked someone there, and had to use a second stairwell to go back down to the 3rd floor to find the proper office. 

Glock cutaway view
The 3rd floor office door was barred, but there was a little barred window off to the side and Tania showed the document we got from the SAIME office in Puerto la Cruz. We were let inside to the waiting room/foyer kind of place and it is truly bizarre! On one end is a red wall that says "Chain of Command" (in Spanish). Arranged in a descending diagonal is a photo of the president of Venezuela, then the minister of interior, and finally the vice minister, and there was a long broad sword as part of this arrangement. That was a strange wall, but the most weird was the "art" on the walls of this waiting room; near the door leading into the interior office was small plaque of a map of Lebanon, the kind you'd buy at a tourist shop. Then on that same wall were 2 framed posters of cut-away views of a Glock automatic handgun. I looked behind me and there was a framed poster for Beretta handguns, but with patches of the branches of the US armed forces; US Navy, US Marines, US Army, US Air Force, and US Coast Guard. It was really strange because the United States is the sworn enemy of President Hugo Chavez. I wanted to take pics of all this, really thought about it, even got my camera out (hidden from view) and was going to try to take a few, but then decided I better not. I put the camera away. 

Tania talked to the guy...of course the documents from Puerto la Cruz hadn't gotten there, and they told us to come back Wednesday or Thursday...and here I was expecting to be detained and put on a plane back to the USA today. Pffft! These guys can't even catch an illegal alien when he walks through their door!

Friday, September 02, 2011

Tropidurus hispidus

On my birthday bike ride this morning. Saw this little guy catching some sun. My friend Gunnar Berg did a web-search and identified it as a Tropidurus hispidus also known as a "lava lizard". This is the closest I've ever been allowed to get to one.  Very cool!

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Riding in Big Bend National Park, Texas; 1997 & 1998

 Back in 1997, 1998, and 1999 for Christmas and New Years, I toured the Big Bend region solo. In 1997 I went out of desperation and sadness, 1998 I went for jubilation, and 1999 I went for Y2K. Big Bend is one of my favorite spots in the world and these trips confirmed that. I have a special bond with the place. I haven't been there in post 9-11 America and I'm sure its changed some.

Today we were cleaning out the file cabinet, purging old papers that didn't need to be in there any more and I came across these photos. I took these on my 1998 trip, a completion of the 1997 trip. 

I took a similar pic in 1997 at the Black Gap road junction and I wanted to repeat to see how I changed in one year. In 1997 I was still mourning the death of my dad and failure of my business. I was fed up with everyone in my family, especially after a fiasco during the Thankgiving holiday, so when I got my Christmas break (I was teaching again) I drove the 6 hours to Silver City, still had the key to my brother's house, so I got in and got my camping gear stored there, made a sandwich, got a Coke, and left without seeing anyone.

It was cold; a arctic cold front had settled in the Southwest and I was still in my mucks when I left Silver City. I didn't take off my cold weather gear until I got to Las Cruces. Its a 12 hour drive from Silver City to Terlingua and I got there right when Desert Sports was closing. My friend Mike Long was surprised to see me and invited me for Christmas dinner (it was Dec. 24) with his parents. They were full-time RVers and we drove down to Lajitas and 7 people were crammed into a 5th wheel travel trailer. It was cozy but really good!

The next day, Christmas day, I headed to the park. I got to the visitor's center 5 minutes before closing (at 12:00 noon) and got my back country permits, loaded my bike with gear and took off. Each day was something different. Riding was cold. It was spitting snow a lot, and I did not have a tent to hunker down in. All I had was a bivy sac and my sleeping bag. Anyway I met all sorts of characters and people in the desert. It was really therapeutic and I feel I was healed of my funk while riding my bike.

On the last day, I rode up the Black Gap road to get back to the VC and my car. When riding up the Black Gap road, it kept climbing and getting into more and more remote country. I starting thinking of "The Heart of Darkness". This thought just kept coming to me and I kind of started freaking a bit. Finally I reached a pass made a turn and got off the Black Gap road and headed back to the highway where I could ride to the VC.

When I got back to Desert Sports, I told Mike of my trip. I told him about "The Heart of Darkness" and his jaw just dropped. He said something like, "Boy if there's anyone who needs to live down here, its you! You're tuned into this place. That is exactly was we call that place, "The Heart of Darkness". Trippy!

I finished up that 1997 trip across the border in Mexico where I camped and in the morning met a little girl named Marina and her little sister Serina. In 1998, I met them again, took them Christmas gifts in my panniers and was invited to stay with the family for a couple of days and nights. It was really neat. They heated their home with a tiny stove made from car rims. They were proud they had running water.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

My First Attempt at Rock Balancing

...Or in my case, rock stacking. I finally met the artist (or one of them) that builds the rock towers at El Morro. I was riding yesterday and decided to pause and try one myself. Not exactly what I had in mind, but my riding companion was supervising (interfering). 

My next attempt will be more balancing-like instead of stacking-like.

Saturday, August 13, 2011


Back in the day, there were so few mountain bikers, we could track each others movements by our tread because all had favorites (still do). I still like looking at tread on the ground.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Benjamin takes a stand

Benjamin has taught himself how to stand the last two days. He is able to pull himself up and hold on to the rails of his corral. Crazy!

Tuesday, August 02, 2011


Last night I was up late and happened to look out the window and saw a planet. I hardly ever look at the night sky here, because 1.) I live is a city with lots lights. 2.) I spend more time indoors 3.) it is usually cloudy. Anyway I went to the first bedroom where I have a Celestron reflecting telescope and checked it out. Turned out to be Jupiter with its bands of clouds and Galilean moons all in a row. Very cool!

Unfortunately I couldn't get my Canon SD1200 to take decent picture of what I was seeing through the eyepiece and this is the one of the "better" shots. Jupiter is over exposed, but the moons show up nicely. You get the general idea.

I miss the dry desert air! Great for viewing the sky...

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Tour Divide 2011: The Gila to Antelope Wells Recap

My recap...(I originally posted this as a comment on a friend's blog).

It was a great finish! The Gila my home turf, and I can imagine what these guys experienced riding through there. Matthew Lee, 5-time winner and race director/creator, says New Mexico is the most beautiful and the toughest part of the race. I'd have to agree with him.

The western part of New Mexico is sparsely populated and there are not many places to resupply. We are talking places like El Rito (pop. ~1100), Abiquiu (pop. ~1,300), Cuba (pop. ~550), Milan/Grants (pop. ~11,200), Pie Town (pop. ~190), Pinos Altos (pop. <100), Silver City [my hometown] (pop. ~10,500), and Hatchita (pop. ~90). It you combined the population of those places, you might come up with 25,000 people. Only Grants and Silver City have 24 hour services.

The Gila is very tough territory. Hilly forest, but hot and dry. This year there was a reroute after the North Star road (Beaverhead to the Mimbres) that takes the riders up the Continental Divide Trail from Sapillio Creek to Meadow Creek (climbing all along a ridge). From Meadow Creek, riders took a USFS road that climbs to the NM 15. NM 15 is mostly downhill, but there is a steep climb into the village of Pinos Altos. After P.A. is a climb over the continental divide then a 1000 ft drop in 6 miles to Silver City. Apparently Kurt and Jefe both ran out of water and food on the CDT and they were able to make to Pinos Altos where they recharged at the icecream parlor.

From Silver City there is about 15 miles of pavement of US 90 to the Separ Rd. The Separ Road is the last section of dirt of the TD route. This road is notorious with sand traps and washboard sections. It has claimed more than one rider over the years and this year it was Jefe who lost. One of his fork-mounted waterbottle cages broke and fell into his front wheel breaking two spokes and causing a flat. It probably set him back at least an hour.

Kurt rolled into Antelope Wells around 5:00 AM according to his call-in. I am estimating Jefe rolled in about 8:00 AM, so it was close. Definitely the closest finish that I can recall.

Big hats off to all the riders who started and to those who finish.

Again, big thanks to Matthew Lee!

Just Riding Along

Today I did a good ride despite my creaking bottom bracket. Kind of the same as putting electrical tape over a warning light, the sound of crushing gravel masks the creaking noise. Taking the Merlin to the shop tomorrow.

From a new section of "La Falla" trail. This section goes along the rim for ways and gives a pretty good view. 

Had a pinch flat shortly afterwards. I knew I had too little air in the rear tire. 

I was riding on a flat section and evaluating my position on the bike (I do that still) and thought this would make a neat photo. In my left hand in the camera case. Also I've discovered that same thing that ranchers have; long sleeves keep you cooler. 

Finally, lately I've been wrapping up my rides at Panino's bakery where I get a post-ride coffee and breakfast pastry. Today's pastry was a 'cachito', which is a bread roll with ham and cheese baked inside. Cheap! About a $1.00 USD.