Monday, March 29, 2004

Passion of the Sliced: VisonKwest 4.0

VisionKwest 4.0: "Passion of the Sliced"
Joshua Tree National Park
31 miles


The Fourth Annual VisionKwest Invitational was held this past Saturday, Mar 27 at Joshua Tree. This annual 31 mile run across the rugged, stony landscape of the unique environment had many rewards and surprises for all the participants.

The VisionKwest appeared as simultaneous revelation to the two unindicted co-originators, Casino Bingo and Draw Poker in 1999. The then-upcoming Millenium was stimuli to deep thinking on the subject. After consulting sacred texts [Morrison:1967, Page & Plant:1971], and channelling bardic entities, the VisionKwest was born.

The course has had many starts, and several finishes, usually a dusty matte. The main route has always involved The California Riding and Hiking Trail. Play your cards right, and there will never be enough shade. There is no freely occurring water on the course.

The rewards for this run vary from year to year, but are consistently proportional to the quality of the participants.


This year's start featured new talent. In addition to the canonical Bingo and Poker, we were joined by Micah "218-KOI" White and Jana "Miss Miwok '02" Gustman. Once again, Ian Torrence was the celebrity no-show, which opened up at least one place for the entrants.

As the implacable rosy-fingered dawn rose over the wine-dork sea, the tight-clustered "Fo-Pak" [Halkowski:2000], exited the Indian Cove campground like tightly-clustered umlauts shot out of Nigel Tuffnel's love-gun. The pack did the traditional trooping of the Barking Ducks in the Missing Gerbil Formation [Krull:2003] at a brisk pace to the trailhead, leaving a wake of perfumed wonderment.

Once on the trail, the pack thundered northwards and downhill for a mile to the cryptic turn-off, then veering cross-country to pick up the Boy Scout Trail as it proceded uphill and in a southwesterly course up another wash.

As the morning was young, and all involved were feeling their oats. The Testosteroni became so thick at times that La Biskera herself would have whipped out her Zippo and flared off 3/4 of the pack. But in Homeric wisdom, she stayed her hand, and the runners continued their climbing up and out of the canyons on to the plateau towards the Keys West water drop.

We were now less than two hours in. The sun was up, but the breeze was holding the temperatures down. It was not going to be as heinously hot as in previous years. It looked as though we were not going to require the usual head-gear.


From Keys West we did necessary road work in the form of high knees and surges--first on blacktop and then down a dirt road to Lost Horse, all on record-setting pace. From there we once again picked up a sketchy trail, passing over Joshua Tree's equivalent of the Grassy Knoll on the way to Juniper Flats. The flowers were out in force, and Joshua Tree was literally Hibernian compared to the last two years.

At this point Bingo and Jana began to pull ahead, with Micah a few paces behind. Draw Poker was having a different time of it, feeling his flexors begin to emit high-pitched whining sounds. Within a half-mile as the tail lights faded, there wasn't a dry eye in the house, Draw Poker was left alone with his genetically-modified thoughts. And therein he crossed into the Western Approaches of Giraffic Park.

Giraffic Park was first noted in a laconic conversation with the correspondent "Notorious D*A*N". His observations indicated that there was an ecological isolate in a remote setting where two competing species acted out their respective destinies with little outside interference.

One half of this equation is the Mutant Mojave Tofurkey, a flightless albino ground-dwelling bird. They migrate across the landscape foraging for date-expired PowerBars. In its small addled brain, it has no natural enemies. However, Attention Deficit Disorder is pandemic in the species. It forgets that it is preyed on by the savagely predatory Dwarf Giraffe, a pack-hunting quadriped whose average height is about 1.5m, and is covered in a beguiling orange and purple plush pile fur.

Today, Draw Poker was to witness a typical ambush. The Tofurkeys had been rooting at the base of a Cholla cactus, a scene of bucolic and pastoral harmony. They failed to notice the ominous thundering that began to rise, and then exploded in a crescendo of fuzzy hoofbeats. The Dwarf Giraffe pack numbered about 29, falling on the Tofurkeys with razor-sharp incisors, disembowelling the hapless birds as their back-up beepers bleated ineffectually. Sprays of white cubes and slabs were speared by indifferent spiny cactii. The Giraffes tore into the Tofurkeys, spitting out the pieces when they realized that they didn't taste like chicken.

The attack ended as suddenly as it began. The Dwarf Giraffes thundered off in a cloud of dust and settling entrails. Even the flies that were drawn by the promise of a free dinner lazily drifted off to the remote dumpsters at Jumbo Rocks. The air was still.


Draw Poker drew himself up to his full 4'9", aimed his fuzzy slippers down the trail, and began to make way again. About a mile from the Geology Tour Road, he met up with Micah "218-Koi" White, who was also having a less-than-fabulous day. They concluded their day on the California Shuffling and Trudging Trail with about 21 miles in the bag. Casino Bingo and Miss Miwok 02 were long gone on the long and winding road that would take them back to Pine City, through the Desert Queen Mine, up over Split Rock, Babeland then down to their epic finish at Twin Tanks.


In the end, it was as the Elders had prophesied a while back..."You don't know anything, do you...Mr Jones?" The epic struggle to maintain the planet on an even keel had been decided. And thus it will be until the next Gathering of the VisionKwest, sometime next year.


That night all gathered around the fire for an episode of CaveMan TV, save for Miss Miwok 02, who beat feet back to the Great Satan. There was mention of the premier of Jackass 2: The Early Years, but this could not be confirmed.

Dr Boyd, Miss MP, Geri K all made full use of the hammered remains of the primary participants to whack them with pig-bladders and !Boiiing!!! devices, with nary a complaint. In addition, Darla would have checked all of them into an evidence locker, but as this was her day off she joined right in.

All in all it was a swell day, and they all went home, tired but happy.

Bone Regards,
Mr Trail Safety

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Grab A Cadaver

A satiric comment on the current body-part scandal at UCLA.

Grab A Cadaver
[with no apologies to the Steve Miller Band]

I heat up, I can't cool down
You got me chopping
'round and 'round
'round and 'round, and 'round it goes
At UCLA, with these donated bones

Every time I get the call,
I pack my bag, I'm roaming the halls
Bodies donated--to science and more,
There's green to be had--deep in the gore!

Grab a Cadaver
I wanna reach out and slab ya
Slab-a Grab a Cadaver
Grab a Cadaver

I drive on campus, a monkey paw
Sack of tools, a power saw
Dead people wait to feel my love
I get a grip with a rubber glove.

Grab a Cadaver
I wanna reach out and slab ya
Slab-a Grab a Cadaver
Grab a Cadaver

I start work, I make a mess
I hate working under duress
Muscle and tendon, gristle and bone
Get paid by the piece by working alone

There's magic and romance in those eyes
Each one of them goin--to different guys
What the hell! the heart is blue
Buy the whole set and the liver goes too!

Grab a Cadaver
I wanna reach out and slab ya
Slab-a Grab a Cadaver
Grab a Cadaver

I work a chop shop, call it by name
Makin' my rent by the midnight flame
Burnin flame, like my van's bald tires
I'll be through any minute, I'm old and I'm tired.

Choppin bodies, at UCLA
Partin out parts, that's how it goes
Choppin bodies, at UCLA
Partin out parts, that's how it goes
Choppin bodies, at UCLA
Partin out parts, that's how it goes

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Tipping mountain bikers

Dearest Phillip S:

On the subject of manners and mannerisms I will endeavour to elucidate the answer least appropriate to the strictures of time, space and convention.

The Valley Forge trail is not popular with mountain bikers, which limits recreational tipping opportunities for the trail runner. There is something inherently satisfying about the sound of the wind in the trees, birds and squirrels having running feuds, and the fading shrieks of a mountain-biker going over the side of a trail after they've tried to run you down. It's times like these when I feel very close to Nature.
How much does one tip mountain bikers? 15%, 20%? Or does one try to tip them all?

The percentages refer to the leading-edge velocity [analogous to a helo-rotor] of a Powerbar, rattan cane, or 15" Braunschweiger sausage at the maximum hitting point. Top speeds vary from 125mp to 600mph. Therefore even 15% of either of these speeds striking a witless MTB'er will cause a trajectory dislocation. If it jars loose the MP3 player, all the better.

Does it depend on how rapidly they try to run you down?
The variable is if they use non-TSA approved language while crowding you.

The price of their equipment?
Expensive equipment always looks better going over, and as wreckage. Please see related study "Glittery Dens: Leveraged Breeding Patterns By California Gray Squirrels Utilizing Shiny Debris to Attract More Mates" [BINKSTER, 2003]

What constitutes good service from mountain bikers?
Those with long ListMemories will remember Rrrrron's aphorisms on what constituted a good friend on shore leave.

Ringing their little bells and yelling "on your left?"
Man-bra trainees all, no matter what the cry.

The amount of mud sprayed in their wake?
negligible in the overall calculations, at the discretion of the runner.

May one tip them with trail money?
Ideal, and desired for later recognition.

If so, should one use uncirculated bills, or is "dirty money" OK?
As Bill Bennett is my probable witness [20 to 1]: "Never waste good drugs on bad people"

I'm about to write to Miss Manners, but I thought I'd ask you first. Enquiring minds want to know...
Thanks always. Sign up now for the following online seminars:
"Post-Mortem Muscle-Testing And Galvanic ATM Response Strategies"
"Verifiable Methane Flashpoint Calibration At The Spandex-Afterburner Interface"

I am and remain,
yr Humboldt Obliviant idiom Savant
Erasmus Binkster
Chancellor Emeritii
Hellmouth Amalgamated PolySci
Hellmouth CA

Saturday, March 06, 2004

A Seasonal Prelude to Probable Magnificence

A Seasonal Prelude to Probable Magnificence

While 22,000 Road Gerbils were getting their multi-figured money's worth out of the XIX Bill Burkathon here in the Great Satan By The Sea, I was a wee scampering Karma Squirrel skittering over the bosky flanks of Mt Wilson Phillips. Alone. Nearly naked. Cougar bait. And nary a Barking Duck [Torrence, Bingo, 1999] in sight.

I have raised my sights to being a Sunday ultra-trail pest this summer. Not that I'm interesting in running ultras, but tagging along as a whoopie-cushion while others are training strikes me as worthy. It's like watching a slo-mo circus train wreck, where clowns are ejected from overturned box-cars, only with dorky hats and hairy butts. But I get ahead of myself.

The weather had shifted from winter to spring in a few short days. Last week's chill and damp had given way to festive tendrils of happily buzzing flies, outriders to the hordes that will rise up and greet the rosy-fingered dawn a few weeks hence.

Mt Wilson-Phillip's crown of late-season snow was melting off, although snow in the north and west facing hollows were still covering the Rim Trail at the higher elevations. This would ensure a swift and eventful plunge into the abyss. Since my membership in the Sierra Club lapsed in 1988, and I was never a section-head, my ticket was not going to get punched yesterday. Leaving the lot, I hopped the 10' fence, avoiding impalement and disemboweling on the fence spikes, thus depriving carrion crows a full-spectrum non-GMO snack.

Running down the Mt Wilson Road the vistas to the east were stunning--snow-capped Baldy and lesser San Gabriel Mtn peaks were etched in crystalline white. I could only imagine how many round-faced snowboarders were lost in the ravines so far away. It was a Cheetoh for the imagination.

The Mt Lowe Saddle parking lot was crowded with round-bottomed Sierra Club hikers outnumbered by multi-colored body-armored mountain-bikers. I am grateful my sport does not require me to wear body armor. I gather it makes uphill running more challenging.

The descent down the Valley Forge Trail was truly enchanting. A full-on eastern exposure guaranteed a low-80's experience, lacking only the Thompson Twins and Wham! to round out the picture. This stretch is much warmer later, and I shiver with perverse anticipation imagining an August transit.

The trail drops steadily through scrub oak, canyon oak, but not black oak [Arkansas] towards the Gabrielino Trail at the bottom of the West Fork of the San Gabriel, intermittent with sun-blasted sections.

The Valley Forge trail is not popular with mountain bikers, which limits recreational tipping opportunities for the trail runner. There is something inherently satisfying about the sound of the wind in the trees, birds and squirrels having running feuds, and the fading shrieks of a mountain-biker going over the side of a trail after they've tried to run you down. It's times like these when I feel very close to Nature.

The West Fork Campground was empty of human activity. The preponderance of winged insect life again offered a small clue. I elected to continue via the Rincon-Red Box Road, rather than wrassle with the Gabrielino Trail which was probably overgrown entirely with poison oak. Think of it as an emerald-green car wash as the poison oak vines, bushes and shrubs caress you lovingly.

Any benefits of conditional virtue gained during the downhill were sternly and inexorably extracted on the continual uphill to Newcomb Saddle. I passed the Gabrielino Trail where it junctioned with the road. Keeping pure thoughts in mind, I renounced Satan and Temptation, opting for the Schlong and Winding Road to the Saddle. Those who've run Angeles Crest probably have Golden Memories of that aid station, where the Full Rubber Glove awaits the Initiate. The magic phrase is "my precioussssssss".

Newcomb Saddle offers clear vistas of the mountains to the north and east, the Santa Anita Race track to the south, and tucked into the eastern side of Mt Wilson-Phillips, Chantry Flats, Shipwreck of Hopes for many during Angeles Crest.

The trail was rejoined for the fat mile down to Newcomb Pass. Confused? Don't be. You sat through "Lord of the Rings" and you remembered Aragorn, Arathorn, Karamel Korn; and they all had bad '60s hair.

Now it was 6.9 miles back to Chantry. Dropping down through stands of incense cedar, spruce, canyon oak, mairsy doats, poison oak, manzanita [ABBA, 1975] and other misc green and grey shrub items. The streams are in full rip right now, and cold enough to make the Manly Parts Retract If So Desired.

The run finished up as it usually does--the vertically-bracing, searing .6 mile stroll out of the canyon straight up the black top, passing day hikers and stumbling children wondering how their ever going to make it all the way to Sturtevant Falls, 1.5 miles from the parking lot.

But that is another story altogether.