Backcountry, motorcycling, hiking, biking and most all other outdoor activities in the Vail Valley
March 26, 2009 —
“He stole my balloons!”
-The Joker, after Batman steals his balloons. (Batman, 1989)
Batman, please come to Vail! We have a balloon problem. Or at least we appear to, ever since a new business in Vail recently dared fly balloons to celebrate its grand opening.
The owner, ignorant of Vail’s omnipotent sign and business promotion restrictions, was reprimanded by code enforcement officers apparently twice in one day for these most egregious balloon-related violations.
As a result, Vail is now discussing banning the use of balloons. Vail’s zoning board discussed the topic this week; the conversation struck me as just a fundamentally silly topic.
I also am a libertarian who believes in individual and personal property rights. But beyond that, I felt alarmed by the willingness of the town and some commissioners to consider banning balloons.
It seemed a direct, real-life testament in my mind of how with just a little peer pressure, citizens will easily reject respect for liberty and social freedoms.
Big brother knows best, apparently. As the discussion about balloons went along at the zoning board, I thought that we might look to Saudi Arabia as an example to find a mechanism for the enforcement of the new balloon ban, if it is imposed.
Saudi Arabia has a behavioral manipulation division called the Department for the Protection of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice (DPVPV). These are the guys who arrest women for driving or for congregating with men they are not related to.
I was thinking that when the balloon ban is imposed, a division like that might help the Town of Vail enforce the balloon ban!
What seemed particularly disappointing as well was a subsequent zoning discussion about the use of signs in business’s windows that followed the discussion about balloons.
Again, the discussion was fundamentally about liberty and social freedoms, and again, proposals to regulate the use of signs and graphics in windows abounded.
No one has a more vested interest in the success of a business than that business’s owner. Vail doesn’t seem to understand that, and instead seems to feel that it cares more about the business, and knows more about how to successfully run the business, than the owner does.
In my opinion, businesses ought to be able to brainstorm, innovate, and try many different strategies to be successful. Ultimately, consumers are the only proper judge of those strategies’ effectiveness, and consumers will reward or punish the businesses by voting with their wallets.
In Vail this is apparently not how the economy should work. Instead, the government ought to have a heavy hand in influencing the type of innovation and brainstorming a business is allowed to consider. Never mind that the government is unqualified to be the arbiter of what business strategies are acceptable or not.
I understand the argument in favor of banning balloons and regulating posters in windows: we need to work together to maintain a dignified and upscale atmosphere in Vail, and posters and balloons are contrary to that atmosphere. I disagree.
First of all, it’s up to consumers, and not up to Vail, whether “dignified” and “upscale” businesses will succeed in Vail. “If you build it” does not necessarily imply that “they will come.”
Secondly, and I suppose most importantly, Vail needs to start taking itself a lot less seriously. One of the zoning board members asked “are we seriously discussing this?” during the discussion about banning balloons. He definitely had a point.
March 9, 2009 —
I have spring fever. I doubt I will ski again unless it's an 8-inch-plus powder day.
For me, this means getting outside and riding my road bike and my motorcycle. My regular road bike loop is from West Vail to the dead end on Bighorn Road in East Vail and back.
I am also doing the Triple Bypass (again) this year, and the sooner I get to training, the better. I do have rollers for training inside, but I have always felt like a hamster when I train indoors. I didn't move to Colorado to spend time exercising indoors.
I can't go west of West Vail easily until much later this year, because the bike path from Intermountain to Eagle-Vail is closed until mid-June (or so?) due to elk migration.
Bighorn Road is a great bet, because the shoulder is huge and there isn't much traffic out there. This is a pretty simple loop, with the biggest risks being unaware, cell-phone chatting metal cage pilots, and that unique remnant of winter, gravel.
The roundabouts are also tricky, but they seldom have much gravel, because it all gets kicked to the outside. There are just the occasional tourists who don't understand roundabouts.
On my road bike, I wear a flashing strobe light and bright clothing, but that hardly makes me invincible. Colorado folks (and Eagle County folks in particular) seem to be very aware of cyclists and always give me lots of room.
I have ridden in areas of the country where rednecks think it's funny to buzz you with their pickup truck or throw a can of Coors at you. Based upon my experience, that kind of stuff is unheard of here in Colorado. Yay, fittest state in the country!
Gravel is another problem, especially because here in Vail it's not just sand, it's big, fat, blueberry-sized grains of lava rock, also knows as cinders. These things can take you out easily; my road bike does not tend to stay upright when I ride on blueberry-sized ball bearings.
The best strategy here is to go slow (and take the mountain bike instead of the road bike?) on the first few rides to identify where the cinders are. They tend to generally congregate in certain areas and they don't move until the town sucks them all up with the street sweeper later on this spring.
In the roundabouts, I do my best to make myself as large and as conspicuous as possible. When exiting the roundabout, I always point in the direction I am going. When I am going right, I point with my right arm and hand.
Also, beware your direction at dusk. The blinding light from a sunset means drivers who are headed west cannot see you, or much of anything else, for that matter. For experienced riders, I imagine this is all common sense stuff.
For my motorcycle, gravel is hands down the biggest factor. I stick to I-70 until much later in the spring, because the ceaseless traffic helps toss the cinders to the shoulders.
I have Widder electric clothing, so I can ride comfortably as long as it's above 20 degrees. My motorcycle also has a large windscreen, heated grips, and a heated seat.
I have made an occasional early spring trip over to Loveland Pass. It's stunning, and backcountry skiers and riders looking for a ride back to the top seem to enjoy the novelty of hopping onto the passenger seat of my bike.
The second biggest factor is wildlife. A friend of mine once spotted an elk in the middle of his lane on 131 south of State Bridge just in time to brake hard enough so he "bumped" the elk. It was startled and ran off.
My friend was fine, his bike was fine, but talk about a close call. He actually had elk fur stuck in a seam of his front fender! That sure beats hitting an elk at 50 mph and turning it, and yourself, into bologonese sauce.
I trickle-charge my battery though the winter and always start my season with a review of the systems of my motorcycle. I also read my motorcycling books to get my head back in the right place for riding. These are:
1. The Motorcycle Safety Foundation's "Motorcycling Excellence"
2. David L Hough's "Proficient Motorcycling"
3. David L Hough's "More Proficient Motorcycling"
See you on the road. Please, start seeing cyclists and motorcyclists.
February 6, 2009 —
It seems to me that it's becoming harder and harder to find any semblance of order in lift lines.
Let's preface this blog post with some perspective, though. Lift line Tetris, in the grand scheme of life, is no big deal. If I wind up on the chair a few minutes later than I might have been if I had gone out of my way to optimize lift line utility, well, who cares. Except on a powder day. Just kidding.
However, there are three specific behavior patterns that I feel I come upon with much more regularity than in the past, and I think they are reflective of bad manners at best and are dangerous at worst.
These are much more subtle than things like cutting in line. Cutting in line is simply juvenile. I still see it happen plenty, particularly by belligerent young males. This blog entry is about the more refined, Grey Poupon echelon violations.
The first is the person who gets in the lift line without his entire party. He's almost to the chair and yells "Scott, come on up here and join me!" as if it's OK for me to cut off the 60 people in the maze between me and him. I personally don't respond to these kind of invitations and just get in the singles line instead.
I appear to be an outlier, though, because I regularly see the invitee simply romp through maze, catching a ski tip here or there on someone. That is stupid.
These situations get even dumber when the buddy waits is almost next in line for the chair. The buddy does his best to step out of the way and wait for the invitee. Inevitably, the buddy can't get quite enough out of the way, and is a giant, selfish roadblock until the invitee can join him.
The tendency of the average person to do basically everything imaginable to avoid confrontation (haven't you seen Fight Club?!)
generally seems to prevent annoyed people from calling out the
roadblock, or pointing out to the invitee that he's cutting in line. However, that doesn't make it right.
The second issue is when people ski at or near full speed all the way up into the maze and then stop at the last second. It's just a matter of time until some 5-year-old gets mowed down and killed by some person who can't stop fast enough, or who crashes.
There are too many ruts and other obstacles in the way in the actual maze to safely ski fast into it and then stop at the last second. The appropriate and courteous thing to do is to come to a full stop before the maze, and then manually make one's way on in through the maze and onto the chairlift. Downward-sloping mazes, such as the notorious Blue Sky Express maze, complicate things even more.
The last issue is when people poach the ski school line. While I
despise the "do you mind if we alternate in?" euphemism (talk straight, call it like it is, and say "do you mind if we cut in front of you", and I'd appreciate your honesty!) used by ski school instructors, I am fine with yielding. I get the idea; it's like yielding to an ambulance. Somebody will do me the same favor someday.
However, when folks simply treat the ski school line as if it were any other line, well that's cutting in line (aka juvenile). Again, the theme that people will do their best to avoid confrontation usually plays out when I see this happen, and the line cutters are simply allowed in, perhaps awkwardly, but ultimately without issue.
Every once in a while, though, I am in the right spot in line when this happens, and I don't hesitate to ask the person what he thinks he is doing. Once, a guy responded, "I'm with ski school, but I'm off duty." I asked him his name, and he decided to excuse himself from the line without answering.
Usually, the person in line behind me simply lets the ski school line cutter in, which totally undermines the time and energy I spent to reject the ski school line poacher. So why bother?
Like I said, ultimately, who cares? More time to enjoy the view and smell the pine trees. Especially at Chair 11. On a sunny day, the forest smells absolutely fantastic there.
January 23, 2009 —
I am more psyched about riding the chairlift this season than I have ever been. The reason? Burton's new “Love” snowboard line!
Burton's new line features large graphics of vintage, nude Playboy centerfolds. Nipples and genitalia are strategically placed or cropped out of view.
When the line was introduced, there was some whining amongst soccer moms, prudes, and puritans. Or, more likely, there wasn't, but the press has just decided to grab onto it and present it as if it's a big deal because they were tired of reporting the financial meltdown.
Some consider the snowboards offensive, blah, blah, blah. Well I, like most men, dig looking at hot chicks. More importantly, I think that the tolerance of violence but disgust towards nudity in the United States is stupid.
Don't get me wrong, I was instilled with the mindless perspective that sex is bad and secret, and that nudity is shameful. Thanks for that, misinterpreted Christianity. I am glad to have overcome it.
I lived in Germany as an exchange student for a year when I was in high school. There, I had the privilege of answering questions such as, “Why are Americans such prudes about nudity and sex, but they embrace violence so much?”
That is a good question. While watching soft porn one evening on public TV in Germany, I realized that being naked and having sex is natural and something everyone does. Shooting or stabbing someone is not natural and is something very few do. And when those select few do it, they wind up with PTSD. Yet what gets you the PG-13 rating? Blood and gore? Heck, no! Showing a little too much skin is what gets you it.
Cheers to Burton for having the guts to come out with this line of snowboards and then stick to it amidst the emotional responses by sexually repressed puritans. Burton appears to be the biggest winner amidst the controversy, because they have gotten many millions worth of public relations exposure.
Folks who don't like the images on these snowboards, do yourself a favor and simply look away. There you go, that wasn't that hard, now, was it? Getting all riled up achieves nothing but an end that is the opposite of what you seek.
More importantly, looking away will help ensure that you are not in the way when I want to sneak a quick glance. Nothing more than that, though, because anything more would be shameful.