Tags: adventure

In costume as Dread Pirate Roberts

Snow Adventure!

I'm officially awesome :)
Plan A failed - we got caught in a blizzard, in a sportscar. Adventure ensured right on cue!
With 4WD trucks sliding around (and off) the road, it wasn't safe.
After sensible backup plans were exhausted, it came down to spending the
night in the car under snow, or clear holes for the windows and trust my driving to
not only make up for not having a 4WD truck, but to succeed where the SUVs failed.


Vicky and I were going to a mountain / lake / hot springs resort for a getaway weekend.

Before we left, I checked the weather forecasts and the altitude of our route, and we weren't supposed to hit snow. But weather forecasting is a fuzzy thing, and as we approached Bellingham, snow had begun and was getting very thick. Then it was starting to stick. Then we were all but blind with all the snow swirling in the air. Then vehicles around us were sliding. The snow is compacting to ice as cars drive over it. Time to get off the road!
Within minutes of stopping, we were in a snow-cave - all the windows opaque with a growing layer of snow.

We had reservations at a resort, so spending the night in the car was not a very appealing alternative! (We would also be charged for the resort regardless of whether we made it)

We changed into boots, and headed off on foot, using phones and other people to find out if it was snowing for hundreds of miles, or if it was just localized, and also if we could acquire some chains... in the middle of the night... during snow... for a sportscar. By this time, there were no cars on the road, just trucks and SUVs. I located a place nearby that was open and seemed to have the odd-size chains I needed, but I checked the car manual just to be sure. The manual said "DO NOT USE TIRE CHAINS!", then went on to explain that there is insufficient clearance between tire and wheel-well on these sportscars for chains, and listed a range of catastrophic death-inducing things that happen if you use chains. So, no chains then. On the brighter side, it seemed like the snow was somewhat localized. I had planned for the possibility of getting trapped in the car, so we had all we needed, but... compared to a nice warm room in a resort? So... do I stay or do I go?

By now, the roads are deserted. That means less chance of another car sliding into mine if I drive. That's a good sign. Also, the locals clearly aren't braving the roads, that's a bad sign.

I'm going to try to make it. I get out, and shovel the snow off the windows. By the time I've cleared the last window, the first is covered in snow again. I decide to melt it off. Got back in and cranked up the heat. Eventually got the windows clear, and sliding a bit, I got back on the road.

Apparently it was only 3 inches of snow, but it seemed like more than that! But of course it was the ice under the snow that was the problem.

Working against me: Sportscar. Very low ground clearance, rear-wheel-drive (the worst for snow - you want 4WD or at least front wheel drive), wide tires (you want narrow tires that concentrate the weight and sink/cut through the snow to the ground beneath). No visibility (too much snow in the air). WAAAY too much power - in the low gears needed to go slowly, it can break traction on regular road, so on ice, even riding the clutch, it's very difficult to keep traction. The higher gears with less torque can't be used because to go fast enough to engage them would rule out stopping and turning, which you need! Our route has left the freeway for minor roads, so much more snow on them.

Working for me: Sportscar - active handling, stability control, limited-slip differential, the car is designed with the expectation of pushing traction envelopes. Nav system and HUD was fantastic for driving blind in the blizzard - on the nav map I can see the corners coming up in time to ease into them and stay on the road. (But the traction control isn't worth a damn because it's "sporty" and intentionally lets you spin a bit before kicking in. Yeah, thanks for that). Empty roads are a plus, and all-season tires.

I'm kinda awesome, but driving past trucks and SUVs crashed off the side of the road, hazard lights blinking, road flares, tow trucks, fire trucks attending, etc, I wondered if I was really up to succeeding where so many failed despite far more suitable vehicles.

We made it. And Vicky was impressed :) The car was still covered in snow when we pulled up to the resort. I had only just cleaned it the night before, it had been so pretty! Now it was a complete mess. A frozen slab of grit-laden snow and ice. :-(

Here is a pic, taken shortly before arriving. It's about fifty miles beyond the snow, but some of it is still clinging on!
Me at a Masquerade

Faraway ruins behind walls of bureaucracy

I am currently trying to navigate dense layers of red tape from multiple country's governments to get the necessary paperwork to be able to visit the creepiest place on Earth. But there is a deadline. Deadlines and red tape don't mix... this might not work. :-/

There are some pretty creepy places in the world, including
- The Catacombes de Paris, in France.
- Centralia (AKA Silent Hill), in the USA.
- Auschwitz, in Germany.
- The Sedlec Ossuary, in the Czech Republic.
- Unit 731, China.
But most of these places are creepy because of a past that has passed.
There is another place, where the past casts its reach into the present.

They call it Зона відчуження Чорнобильської АЕС.
It describes a circular area of land 60km wide. Near the centre of it lay a bustling modern city of 50,000. About 20 years ago, in one sudden exodus, all human inhabitants fled the city and the surrounding area - almost overnight - and they never returned. There is an energy in the air and ground that sickens, and it is all around, invisible and silent. If you go there, you don't stay long.

Meanwhile, in a land without people, the city is slowly being consumed by the earth:

Me at a Masquerade

Fashion show

It simply never occurred to me that one day I might end up being a ferris wheel operator. And indeed, operating a ferris wheel is something I have never done, and never expect to. Likewise, it absolutely never crossed my mind that I might end up on the runway of a fashion show. But weirdly, that just happened.

Seeing myself in runway-model makeup cracks me up without fail:

I'm pretty sure I'm not that gaunt. I think that's the make-up. Maybe runway models aren't really skinny, maybe it's all make-up!

I was expecting the event to be almost boring actually (and perhaps for more experienced models it was), like a dance competition without the dancing, so I was pretty blase, and instead it kind of knocked my socks off. In a good way :)

I also got Kora interested (for those out of the loop or overseas, she's a (MARRIED!) friend of mine, and is one of the instructors at a studio I go to), so here's Kora in one of the outfits she modelled, from an anime-style line:

Give that girl a ray gun :)

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Me at a Masquerade

In which Our Hero suddenly ages, and a bottle of champagne is decapitated with a rapier.

Liz was absently thinking my birthday was later in the week so when the day arrived she hadn't planned for it (we were going to get some food or something to mark the day). Perhaps she learned her lesson over this, because this meant that I had to make myself some last-minute plans, and dragged her along over her protests that these (outdoor) plans were NOT her idea of fun and she wasn't dressed for it and she was going to freeze to death (and then I'd have to tell her mother). But I had a car that does ~ Mach 0.3, a full tank of gas, a trunk full of everything needed for anything1, and enough food and snacks to get us to Mexico!
(And a rapier.)

But by then it was 11pm, so instead of Mexico, we only went as far as Kora and Simeon's place out at Snoqualmie. It was a great night - full moon, thick fog, barely below-freezing temperature, no cars on the road, heaters on, and a co-pilot to pass the snacks.

1. The trunk of a man's car should look like this.

Liz hadn't seen the Falls before, so I drove there, and forced her from the warm car out into the cruel cold night, to the gentle background soundtrack of Liz repeating that she hates cold, and that I'm crazy, and that she's only doing this because it's my birthday, and godamnit.

We walked to the lookout, the falls thundering, the spray wetting us, and then peering out over the railing, she was finally able to see... the same empty gray wall of fog as everywhere else and in all other directions. Except louder and wetter!

Liz also looked kind of cold, but I wasn't ready to get back into the car. So I took her into the forest and we walked down to the bottom of the gorge to see the falls from their base.
The full moon was shining through the trees, casting moon-rays in the fog, it was amazing. I so wished I hadn't left my camera in the car, there were so many incredible shots to take! But I was pretty sure that if I went back to get it, and then spent another 20 minutes standing still with a camera, I'd turn around to find Liz had become a small lifeless popsicle, and then I'd have to call her mum. So we walked on!

Clambering through huge wet rocks and uprooted trees in the freezing foggy dark is fun. It's obvious, right? Even just reading that sentence, you just know right away that that has got to be a good time. This wasn't immediately apparent to Liz for some reason, but she eventually had to concede that it was exceeding expectations. And eventually she even had to partly unzip one of the coats she was wearing, as movement started to defeat the cold.
Not everything was great - unfortunately I was wearing my good boots, which have no tread and so were quite slippery, and rocks cut and scuff the hell out of pristine leather, and they are now no-longer my good boots :-(

Onwards to Simeon and Kora's place. I had decided to open my birthday champagne with the rapier. I had never done this before, but I had done some research on the technique and was confident I could do it without a hitch. The others were.... not so confident.
Unfortunately, as we headed outside, the stairs were iced over, and my boots have no traction, and I had a bottle of champagne in one hand, and a sword in the other, so when I slipped, I had no hands available to grab the railing, so I fell down half a flight of stairs until I came to rest on the ground at the bottom. But during the fall, I managed to keep both the bottle and the sword from hitting anything, so all was good.

I lopped the top off the champagne with the rapier, poured us all a glass, and we had a birthday toast.

Liz is a bartender, and a very good one at that. I'm a total lightweight. She opens more bottles in a day than I open in a month. And she just got schooled. :-)

Here is the bottle after the cut!

Then we retired inside to warmth and comfort, and talked and talked for hours until it was almost time to get up and go to work. It was a good birthday.
Even if I didn't get my wish.
In costume as Dread Pirate Roberts


I've been so busy and getting so much stuff done this week that the density of my use of time has probably been on par with josienutter's :)

Among other things, some friends and I went kayaking on Saturday - through the most highly traffic-congested waterways in the area on perhaps the most congested day this year. So lots of kayaking through the wakes of larger boats passing only a few feet away, which was perhaps a bit ambitious considering that some people in the group were new to kayaks. In fact, around about this area of the shipping canal, we lost someone as the wakes tipped him out of his kayak, and he was having trouble getting back in with the constant waves from the wakes of all the traffic.
But with all that traffic, a boat quickly stopped to pick him up, and we towed his gear back. The water also gave him the excuse he was looking for to buy a new cellphone :-)

The road fleet in the greater Seattle area is pretty impressive - there is always some exotic limited edition car, or electric car, or lamborghini, or custom chopper, or other exotic things to see (the other day, I saw some kind of motorcycle/scooter with two front wheels), but I realised on Saturday that this applies to the water traffic too. (The air traffic likewise). There is clearly a lot of money in this area.
Me at a Masquerade

Web Awesome III

This is a place right out of Myst or Riven, but it's real.

In Myst and Riven, the player can't die. In the real world that restriction doesn't apply; this path was closed in 2000 after four people died.


rail trail pic-dump #1

On the trail, there wasn’t much to do during the evenings, and since I had my laptop with me (I carried it in one of the pannier bags) I doodled around and did this with some of the photos. (No, it doesn't make much sense, or tell a story. Sorry. I didn't have THAT much time on my hands :-))

Rail Trail photos

(It doesn’t really have anything to do with Calvin and Hobbes either, but once I had put the captions on, it vaguely reminded me of Spaceman Spiff, so I stoled some Calvin and Hobbes for a title :-)
Me at a Masquerade

the Rail Trail of Otago

The adventure: Travelling a hundred and fifty kilometres over three days, through the mountains and gullies of the old country of the Otago Rail Trail, deep in the South Island of New Zealand.
On a mountain bike.
Without using roads1.

Hence I haven't been online recently. So here I am - offline:

on top of the world

As you can see, I have photos, and I plan to write a bit about it later. But right now, dinner!

1. I'm probably making it sound harder than it is. I'll confess explain later :-)

Secret Adventures Under The Ground

I found another Real World example of an Adventure. But let's start with the treasure map:

Back in the 80's, a couple of guys heard an old rumour that there were secret tunnels in the Cashmere Hills, dug during the war, then sealed up shortly afterwards and forgotten. These rumours were unsupported by public records, but since these guys were Fucking Awesome, they decided to investigate - to try to find these mythical tunnels.

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In costume as Dread Pirate Roberts

Radical Weight Loss Plan

Oooooh. I just discovered something very interesting...

Apparently, for $1500, you can buy a ticket for one of those NASA planes that flies up massively high, then dives straight down into free fall, thus giving you 30 seconds of zero-g weightlessness.
(You've probably heard it called the Vomit Comet, awesome name :))

BUT... $1500 (not counting flights and accomodation to get there) is affordable! I could actually conceivably go do that!
Granted, this would involve boarding a plane that plumets towards the earth at the blazingly fast speed of fifty bucks per second, for a gut-churning thirty seconds, which is faster than I've ever bled money before - not even world class dance instructors charge that aggressively! (Hmmm, though an event's show couple can charge twenty bucks a second for the show, which is getting there). But it arguably beats experiencing weightlessness by a means that later requires you to do that whole orbital atmospheric re-entry oh-God-please-let-the-tiles-stay-on-I-want-to-live thing :)

Of course, it would suck to accidentally end up blowing $1500 on puking into a bag in zero-G, so...
Mental Note: Don't chuck :-D