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Project 602 - Activities
 
Project 602
(Food, fun, and the bizzare in Arizona)
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Idiotarod 2015
Posted - Feb 9th, 2015 6:16pm
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In the same way that farmers in previous eras must have measured the seasons by their fields - I feel like I'm almost able to measure the flow of time by the building of the annual idiotarod cart.

Idiotarod season came a little late this year.  The entry-forms became 'Officially' available only 2 weeks before the race for some reason.  I also have a mini-me on the way.  Yet such things seem to have little or no effect on my ambition and imagination.  For some reason I believed that 2 weeks was plenty of time to turn a shopping cart into a fully functional ice-cream truck: music, freezer, and all.

Naiveté and achievement pair well though, and so despite McCoy being sidelined with a cyborg hip, and Cupp deciding he wasn't injured enough and thus needed to go snowboarding, Amy, Jon, Billy, Nemo and myself painted, taped, glued, and birthed the Nice Dreams truck into a cold misunderstanding world in just about 2 weeks time.

My neighbors continue to be baffled by my hobbies, but I feel like this year our fellow idiots truly appreciated for our contribution.  There were at least a few other great carts - the far too soon Robin Williams coffin, and the insanely good lego movie kitty, but there was only one team handing out drumsticks and fudgesicles.  I suspect at some point in the future that an ice-cream truck will be instrumental in binding the disparate faiths of humanity.  A profound love of popsicles seems to be bound in our genetic makeup.

And what did we do with this newfound good will of our fellow racers you ask?  We turned right around and drowned it in a sea of hot fudge and strawberry syrup.

We always have a great time doing this race.  The AZ Cacauphony Society really deserves props for anything that can entertain me for the best part of a decade.  What was different this year was our prior decision to avoid the quest for 1st place.  This almost always goes to the Hash House Harriers anyway.  Its hard to beat folks who practice drinking and running on a weekly basis after all.  Instead, we just wanted to have fun and spread chaos.... and chaos we did spread.

From the time we got our first clue (your next destination is always a mystery until you complete a challenge there) - anyone within 20 feet of us got hosed down with sunday toppings and then coated with sprinkles.  I'm sorry to admit that even a few bystanders took friendly fire, but thats all part of the experience! Theres a odd satisfaction to assaulting your opponents with non-lethal deterrents, and it draws a weird kind of honorary animosity.  I suppose this is why we got rammed, tackled, cart-jacked, and I even got pie-faced Bill Gates style (check that off the bucket list).

If that doesn't sound fun, I totally understand, but when combined with potato guns, warm beer, and cups of snot-like alcohol laden gummy bear sludge - its kind of magical... either that or more likely it causes some sort of addictive PTSD.  Either way, it was another super fun Idiotarod, and I was happy to share one of my most favorite activities with my brother-n-law Billy and my friend Nemo who will almost certainly never speak to me again.

The word is that we won some kind of award but after about an hour at the finish line party we were full of tacos and ready for a nap/shower/delousing.  Hopefully I can add an update to this once we find out who won what.  I'll also include some of the build pics below as I always think its fun to see how these things come together.
 Highly detailed architectural drawing - CHECK! I decided to go with a pvc frame this year... not sure why we didnt think of this before as it worked great and gave us a rectangular shape to start with. A little more PVC, some cross-braces, and the frame was all set.  A closeup of the cooler.  I think we should include one of these in all our carts from now on. With the frame complete we hung cardboard to fill out the shape.  I added some retractable handles made from wooden dowels and larger PVC to make lifting the fully loaded cart easier.  A little cardboard and some more tape cleaned up the inside lines.  White basecoat and the start of a giant ice-cream cone - done and done.  Ive always wanted to use this stuff.  Who knew it was so good at making ice-cream. A close-up of the finished cone.  Thats parchment paper under it so it didn't stick to the top and could be removed for transport.  After a full night of painting/gluing and decorating with the help of Billy and Tara the cart was finally complete.  Idiots assemmmbllllee! As usual - folks are amazingly creative for this race.  I hadnt seen anyone try a looney toons cart before.  This was one of my favorites. The Care Bears made a showing.  As did a team in turd costume.  Another one I can't believe people ran in all day.  The wizard of oz was present. It took me until right now realize this was an animal house cart.  This one played pac-man music all day. I didnt get the theme at first but once it hits you its brilliant....and kinda sad.  The Dukes had about 47 team members for some reason. Of course this was the team of the day.  Amazing costumes. Everyone lined up at the starting line and we were off! After only a few minutes Jon began to look like a character out of a Hunter S. Thompson novel This is Karl - We drafted him during the race.  Huge props to him for providing some much needed horsepower and cart-protection. I think we stopped for this pic at the end of the race... I don't have much from the start until this  This was supposed to cure my nearly fatal case of hiccups.  It just kinda made me upside down.  Someday this trophy shall be ours.  I think Im happy though with how this year turned out.  Another great day in the sun.
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Wild N Woody Beerfest
Posted - Jul 28th, 2014 8:13pm
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I recently survived a local beer festival at the Tempe Center for the Arts.  It was something my beer guru Tylar suggested- 'Real, Wild, and Woody'.  You do have a beer guru right?

Real, Wild, and Woody is all about casked beers and specially conditioned ales of any sort.  Fairly common things like stouts aged in Jack Daniels barrels, and less common things like Farmhouse Sours that have rested in oak or old port barrels.  Generally the kind of beer that you will either want to make love to or burn with fire.... or both...beer is complicated like that.

Anyway, this was the first time Tara and I had a chance to use Uber.  If you haven't heard of it yet, its like a taxi only cheaper and with nicer drivers because they are normal people like you and... well like you.  If you haven't signed up yet, use this link and I'll get a free ride just for you signing up.  Either way it was really fantastic.  You select your pickup spot and destination in their phone app, select the kind of car you want (Uber-X is the cheap one) and then you can actually watch the car on the map as it drives to you.  When you get to your destination you just exit the car.  The payment is done automatically and tip is included in the price of the fare.

So with tickets in hand and Pretzel Necklaces all ready to go, Tara and I were Uber'd off to the festival.  We got there just a little before it opened.  This was great as we got in before everyone else, but not so great as it was about 300 degrees outside and there was no shade.  Why we don't build everything in phoenix under giant umbrellas is beyond me?

Once inside, we received a badge with numbers for each beer you use up (you were supposed to get 20 3oz samples), and a small glass to drink out of.  Everyone used the glass - absolutely no one used the badge.  This seemed like a dream at first but despite my best efforts there was simply no way to choke down more than a dozen samples even if you wanted to.   Nothing there was what you might call 'easy drinking' so no one bothered marking anything off.

Between Tara and I we tried a ton of different stuff.  My favorites were a Four Peaks Peach Ale that had been aged in oak and a Pale Ale from Papago Brewing that was so good it gave me goosebumps.  She found a Peach Ale from Hess/Huss? that was equally good but completely different and a wonderful lager from Flagstaff Brewing.  All in all just fantastic stuff with a few exceptions like 'Breakfast Hash' - which actually did taste a lot like someone put luke warm eggs and bacon in your beer.  No clue why someone would want that...

We stayed about 2 hours and had a really great time overall.  The only issue was that it was absurdly crowded in there.  It was billed originally as an 'Intimate' affair and only so many tickets were supposed to be sold.  Intimate my left buttock - there was no elbow room in the main area, and upstairs near the casks it was sardine city.  Still, it was air-conditioned which is a huge step up from the sun-burn fests that we normally get here.

I'm hoping they find a bigger venue for next year as I'd love to go again but don't think I'd attend there.  Simply unreal how many great brewers have sprung up in the Valley over the last few years.  Props to all of them and hopefully I'll be able to get cask aged Four Peaks Peach one of these days at the bar :)
I took this when we first got in - it only got more crowded from there. An inebriated photo of my glass, badge, and the remains of my pretzel necklace.
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A Return to Havasupai Falls
Posted - Jul 14th, 2014 8:13pm
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I remember a few years ago talking about the trip to Havasupai with my wife Tara.  The conversation went something like: 'No way in hell!'.

So it was with some surprise and with utter gratitude to our friend Veronica who really provided the final push, that last week I found myself driving once again to the edge of the Grand Canyon to make the long hike down to Havasupai Falls.

To her credit, Tara has been preparing for this both physically and mentally since about March.  We've been going on longer and longer hikes, buying supplies, and reading up on the trip since I had apparently forgotten much of what I learned to get there the first time.

We decided to stay the night before in Peach Springs at the Supai Lodge.  Long story short - big mistake.  Between the stench of lysol, the constant trains, and the early morning game of "dodge the elk" on the drive to the hilltop, we arrived pretty wiped out.  Fortunately we were in good company.  McCoy, Verionica, Hunter, Cupp, and our latest addition PJ were all just getting up when we got there ~5am.

I know Tara was tired and nervous, but she really handled the trip down well.  Its a long hike and if you haven't been before, its really hard to know what to expect.  Havasupai Falls is not like any other place I've been.  Theres no roads, no cars, mail comes in on a mule, and while they have a helicopter, it doesn't always run and theres a 10 mile hike between you and the nearest air-conditioner.  Pretty rough when its 100 degrees out every afternoon.

It was every bit as beautiful as I remembered though, and getting to share that with my wife was one of the best experiences of my life.  Sure - I didn't sleep for crap for a week, and yes it was hot and humid every single night.  It was worth it though - just to get to swim with her in the falls and hike down the river together.  Its so remote, and unhindered by so much as a guardrail that it feels like your the first person to find this place.  Every hipsters dream ;)

We found a wonderful campsite just north of Mooney Falls and were joined by Scott, Julie, her dad Rudy and their friend Kelly.  It was a wonderful group and for four days we explored, swam, ate, and hiked until we basically collapsed each night.  It rained a little which was fun, and we were warned of a flash flood which wasn't so fun - we had to haul ass back up Mooney falls only to find out hours later that it was just a little muddy water to come.

I don't know if this will be our only/last trip there.  I can't imagine getting Tara to hike down Mooney falls again but I suppose I couldn't imagine being there a few years ago.  I'm just really glad that we made it there and back again and that I finally got to share it with her.

Thanks to everyone for making it such a wonderful journey - lots of pics below and I'll hopefully post a few videos from McCoys new GoPro soon.  Oh and in case I'm reading this a few years from now: Bring extra water on the way up - at least 100oz per person.  If it wasn't for the enterprising lady in the parking lot selling ice-cold drinks we may have simply turned to sand when we finally got back to the car.
The ritual 5am group photo.  Tara started off all fresh and excited.  I was pretty exicted too - though you'll notice how small that backpack is this time :)  We begin the long hike after the initial descent.  McCoy sees his first solid proof that aliens exist. And we dodge some donkeys.  Hunter asks 'Are we there yet?' Ummm.... maybe? Wohoo - we reach the village!  Which hasn't changed much despite apparently being nearly washed away in late 2010. We exit the village and round the corner to get our first 2014 glimpse of Lower Navajo Falls.  So much greener than just a few years before! Heres a similar shot from my 2009 trip. I all but skip across the bridge to the campground and Havasupai falls.  Cold water here I come!!!  Tara and I stop for a much needed break at the top of the campgrounds overlooking Havasu falls.  We stopped for some water before setting up camp.  They've changed the spring a little bit - much easier to use now. We decided to call this home for the next few days.  Er... well some folks decided to call it a yoga studio for the next few days.  And I kinda called this my dog for the next few days.  Havasupai is actually full of critters. This is your friendly neighborhood skink. These are the rare river cats of Havasupai.  I tied an apple to some string and invented a new sport. It really wiped me out. We all hung out at camp each night. McCoy provided the musical entertainment. Julie and Kelly proved to be entertaining. As did the frogs that kept raining down on our tents from the trees above.   This is why we came though -tremendously beautiful waterfalls.  Actually its all tremendously beautiful.  This was taken on our hike down from Havasu falls to our campsite.  Brian was of course excited to jump off things.  The girls were just excited to hang out in the cool water.  Ok... Brian might have given them a few ideas. This lookout over Mooney falls was about 500 feet from our campsite.  Tara was really excited about the hike down there. As was Veronica.  Tara enters one of the caves on the way down.  This is what it looks like staring up from there. I think this is even more treacherous than before.  Notice the stretcher at the bottom - fun stuff!  The view from the bottom is worth it though.  And of course you get to cool off. We found this rope swing just below Mooney. And Hunter found this cave a little further down.  Tara and I stopped for a photo op in the cave. Then Hunter got the bad news - flash flood - time to go.  So we headed back to tent city for a nap.  The next day we hiked back up towards the village to Lower Navajo (aka Rock) falls.  Brian found more things to jump off of. Hunter joined him.  They even got Tara into the game of 'Jump off Things'.  Of course no trip is complete these days without a selfie.  Or more group photos... From Lower Navajo you can follow a path to get here - Upper Navajo Falls.  I was really surprised to see so many fish there.  Upper Navajo was full of surprises. This was my favorite moment of the trip.  Soon it was time to pack it all in and drop off our bags for the mules.  Tara was very excited to finally get back to the car.  Time for one last picture before we headed home.  See you next time Havasupai.
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The Dunes Incident
Posted - Jun 26th, 2014 9:00am
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I started writing this post nearly 4 years ago...  At that time, a title and a url were all that I could get down on the computer before a sort of full body and mind cringe would cause my fingers to lock up.  For whatever reason though, I think its important for me to keep a record of that weekend.  Maybe if your reading this you can tell me.  Either way, here goes.

A few years back I talked a small group of friends into traveling out to the sand dunes near Yuma.  I had seen a ton of pictures and videos of folks rip-roaring around the hills, and it looked like a blast.  It was also easy enough to rent quads and small trailer for a few days.  So with motorcycles in-tow, Tara, Brian, Mccoy, Veronica, and myself headed off for another AZ weekend adventure!

The dunes themselves are a neat area.  30 minutes outside of yuma, just south of the freeway they have a big flat sandy section where folks park, camp out, and load/unload all manner of sand-capable contraption.  Theres some food and facilities nearby, and an ice-cream truck goes barreling through once in a while.  In general though, it feels like your out in the middle of nowhere.  All you can see is sand, sand, and more sand.

Brian and I had both ridden before but everyone else was new to this.  I seem to remember Tara and McCoy reading the actual instruction manuals for the quads after we unloaded them and got geared up.   Probably should have been a good indicator that this was a bad idea.  We proceeded forward anyway, fearlessly taking our turns, learning the basics of shifting, turning, stopping, and before long we were doing all those things that looked so much fun on youtube.  Then Brian went missing.

Theres not much you can do out there when someone from your group doesn't come back.  Its a big area, everyone on a quad looks alike, and the dunes prevent you from seeing beyond the next hill.   So its unsurprising that our search for him didn't go very well.  Fortunately, after an hour or so he wandered back into camp.  He was a little beat up, and his pants were torn down each leg from crotch to toe, but he was ok.  Apparently he had gone over a dune that was concave on the other side and when he realized he was in trouble - pushed himself away from the bike.  His pants caught on the handlebars, but he got far enough away to avoid the bike landing on him.  When we went to look at where he bailed - there were 2 craters nearly 30 feet away from the dune.  I'm still not sure how he avoided getting seriously hurt.

Things seemed like they were going to be ok after that.  We had our accident for the trip, and now we could all have fun! We took turns riding (3 quads, 5 people), and in general had a great time following each other up and down the hills and watching high powered sand-rails scream across the sand.  Then Tara disappeared.

I had stopped to watch everyone and she was right there cruising around, but when she didn't come out from the dune in front of me for a few minutes I figured she stalled or got stuck or something.

It still bothers me to think of her lying there underneath an overturned quad.  Its a frozen and sickening image and I remember thinking as I crested the dune that it had to be a joke.  She was messing with me.  She couldn't be hurt....  People say time stands still at a moment like that, but I don't think it did for me.  Its all fast-forward from there.

I remember yelling, tearing off my helmet and running down the hill to her.  I started to lift the bike off her, but had apparently grabbed the exhaust pipe and heard my hand sizzle.  Not wanting to drop it back on her, and not able to use my right hand, I sort of rolled/pushed the quad over and found that she was breathing.  I thought - maybe she's ok?

I don't know if its normal or not, but over the next few minutes my brain began to try and de-escalate the problem.  Not fatal, check.  Not paralyzed, check.  Not bleeding, check.  Says arm hurts but is able to move it, check.  To the point where you try and hope that maybe nothing major just happened - like in a few minutes you'll be limping back with her to camp and her parents won't hate you, and she won't think you screwed up her life, like your not an irresponsible idiot who took a group full of unexperienced riders out into the middle of the desert and got one of them mangled.   Then I realized she kept asking me over and over what happened and couldn't understand where she was or who I was....

Eventually people came over to help, and a sand-rail ambulance (sandbulance?) took Tara to the emergency room in Yuma.  We followed shortly thereafter.  There were papers to fill out, and my hand was screaming.  It didn't matter though.  The only thought in my head was - "is she ok?" I'm nearly in tears thinking about that even now.  I was so grateful when they told me it was just a moderate concussion.  Then so heartbroken when they told me that her shoulder was busted up inside.  I felt like a shameful dog when they finally let me in to see her...

I fully believed it was my fault Tara got hurt, but she didn't blame me.  She was just as worried about my stupid hand as I was her shoulder/brain.  So we moved on.

We bandaged all the things, got pizza, and headed home.  I drove to keep my mind off the pain/guilt.  There were weeks that followed involving hospitals, surgeries, more bandages, and a lot of retelling of the same tale.  Tara was eventually ok.  My hand eventually healed.  I hope someday I can forget about it all.  For now at least the cringing is manageable.

I can't say this slowed either of us down, but I doubt we'll be back to the dunes.  A little research since then has led me to believe this type of accident is not only common, but happens to a huge percent of folks who go down there.  I think Yuma is primarily a care facility for quad accidents, and a home for injury lawyers.

This is a part of our history though.  Who knows if we would still be together if this didn't happen?  If I hadn't stayed with her in the hospital while she recovered?  If it hadn't shown me how important she was to me?  I think I'll say I'm just glad we squeaked by on this one, and try to be a little more careful next time I have an idea for a weekend adventure.
 We visited the date shake place on the way there.  Always wanted to try it.  I thought it was funky but Tara loved it. Apparently you need a permit to quad/camp there?  Don't remember this at all!  A small store/restaurant on-site.  Wonder if we were going to eat there?  A nice view of the dunes.  Was colder out there than it looks.  Tara all excited and ready to go.  One of several ice-cream trucks cruisin around.  Another ice-cream truck with a fantastic paint-job. McCoy starts things off easy.  Brian sporting his new breathable pants. My hander after getting burned.  Doesn't look to bad from this pic but burned like fire for a few days.
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Halloween 2013
Posted - Nov 2nd, 2013 6:26pm
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The biggest problem I have after this years Halloween party is what to do next year.  There's a point at which you've far exceeded anyone's expectations, and you just gotta drop the mic and walk off stage.  I fear it may be my time...

I mostly blame my friends Eric and Hunter.  Without their special brand of mad science it would have just been a great party.  Sure there was a liquid nitrogen ice cream stand and a shopping cart full of four peaks beer.  Yes... there was a psychic in the office and there might have even been a contest that ended with a gallon of wine and a wine glass to match.

But it was the Tesla coil... the damn Tesla coil that really did me in.

In case you haven't had the privilege of seeing one of these things in action, they are creepy little devices that shoot out bolts of electricity.  They are kinda loud, and they are a little dangerous if not grounded correctly.  They are usually about a foot tall and make a neat little science project.  The thing Hunter and Eric brought over was just like that only 10 feet tall and full of hate.

It ate every ounce of electricity my house could supply over a 220 line.  It could shoot lightning from my garage door to the cars parked on the street, and for something with no moving parts it was absolutely deafening.  Its one major redemption there being that the noise could be modulated in time to music - making sort of a mad scientists pipe organ.  It was freakin awesome.

The party guests tried it, the neighbors tried it, even the police stopped by and politely asked us what kind of sciencing this was.  It was the whipped cream and meth on top of the sunday and I couldn't have been more grateful or terrified if they had brought a jaguar... hmmm maybe next yea...anyway.. Its going to be hard to top.

Fortunately I now have an awesome beer sign and a fabulous zoot suit as a result of this years fiesta.  Huge props to Julie for having the imagination and the balls to dress up as a human thong and to Tara for making sure the Psychic thing happened.  Best idea ever!

If anyone has any ideas for what to do next year add a comment.  Personally, I'm hoping for some sort of anti-gravity development between then and now.
We began this years party with traditional Halloween fare... well I assume vampire donuts are traditional somewhere? Julie brought deviled eggs that put my effort last year to shame I was super happy with some new decor (including the shopping cart beer cooler and sign to help the inebriated) The giant (don't run into me) sign was put on the glass door (which failed to deter folks btw) and the party was off! It was another year of amazing costumes.  We had doctors and pirates Cow-folk and some dapper folks in their finest 40's gear Sheldon showed up as did kick ass (he dislikes the press) and then there was um.... mccoy... yeah... This domo costume won 2nd place that night. Julie took home first though for having the most original and most brave costume ever. Getting together with good friends is really what the night is all about. This year we found a psychic to entertain. She was super nice and yes... freakishly accurate. Eric with his coil.  Thats the look of a man who enjoys terrifying others... The monstrosity was controlled from the garage.  The dials made it go from scary to terrifying. Curious folks my friends are....  Very curious and very brave... Speaking of curious - McCoy rocking the coil. After we drained all the electricity from the house - the drinks started getting weird. There may or may not have been some gnome abduction. And we all basically passed out
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Saguaro Man 2013
Posted - May 29th, 2013 12:50am
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A while back I made my second sojourn to Snowflake Arizona and the strange amalgamation of humanity that makes up Saguaro Man.  I think I needed a break to both appreciate the experience and to rest up enough to write about it without just complaining about exhausted I was.

Looking back I'm glad I went.  Sure - I was wiped out from the wedding/honeymoon/idiotarod/voodoo doll/etc, but I also have really fond memories of flying kites in the middle of the day, dancing in the frozen night air in a lizard costume, and once again meeting some of the most interesting people on the planet.  I'd give shout outs to them but their names are long since lost.  Not that it would really matter.  In addition to taking on "burner" names, folks seem to find a side of themselves that only exists out there, and this side tends to be strangely disassociated from who they are amongst the cubes and freeways that make up our everyday life.

My wife Tara and her brother once again braved the trip with me, as did Denny, Stephanie, Hunter, Laura, Kevin, Kellie and McCoy.  We fit in about as well as we do anywhere.  Not quite funky enough for the hippie crowd, not quite stoned enough to be wanderers, not quite intense enough to be artists.  Instead, we did as we have done in the past.  Take joy in our own company, befriend those who drop by our camp, and wander about taking in the sites and sounds.

McCoy was the real star in our little troupe.  Apparently the one thing that all desert fester's can agree on is their love of free massages.  He set out his table and tent the first day, and there was waiting list every moment thereafter.  Maybe like Descartes, I can divine all the answers we seek from that single indisputable fact.  Though I fear my own conclusions far too much to do this.

In retrospect, it seems like it went by all too fast.  I'm slowly learning that it takes me a couple days to detach from my routines and live by my own whims(when such things are possible).  I guess there is a part of me that has to accept that its ok to have tequila at 3pm or hungrily down grilled cheese at 3am.  Its the same side that secretly likes the predictability of my drive to work or the simplicity of a corporate job.

Ever since we left I have been wondering if we will be back.  I guess we'll see - there's so much that Tara and I want to do this year.  Then again there's only so many places you can go bicycle jousting, down a lifetime supply of free margaritas and then earnestly debate the feasibility of artificial intelligence around a campfire.
After setting up camp for 5 hours - I was toast. The yurt looked pretty good though! No camp of mine shall ever be complete again without a giant voodoo doll. McCoy puts out the word  Everthing a massage therapist needs to get down to business.  And the people arrive!  This was one of our neighbors.  Nicest person ever.  Fashion is whatever you make it in the desert. But like all places, owners eventually begin looking like their pets.  I believe there was dancing... or maybe just vogue-ing?  There was definitely partying.  Laura and Kevin are natural born burners. 'Your tripping balls aren't you' Kellie did her best to be serious.  I did my best to be silly Tara did her best to be an art installation.  Some of the art there is fascinating.  and some of it just creeps you out. of course some of it defies categorization.  Most of it is beautiful though. After dark theres a whole new set of things to check out. Even a camp can become art.  Or it can be built as art. I found this flame thrower both artistic and handy! Of course the big art pieces must meet their fiery demise. The temple this year was subtle but very cool. I like this photo - it does a wonderful job of describing what its like to watch this stuff burn in the middle of the night. This makes me smile every time I look at it. Till next time... hopefully it won't be too long.
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Idiotarod 2013
Posted - Feb 1st, 2013 5:18pm
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I think the Idiotarod is my favorite yearly activity.  Its become a season in my life kind of like spring or fall... neither of which really exist here in phoenix.

I've actually taken part in it the last 2 years although I haven't posted about it.  Both because I've been a bit busy and because the band wasn't quite together either time.  Last year I was out of town for race-day and the year before our prime passenger Amy had to be replaced by 2nd Amy due to a severe case of pregnancy.

This year though the whole crew was present once again, and we got started a little earlier on the construction side (aka more than a weekend before).  I think the result was our best cart yet.  We managed to take a beleaguered shopping cart from the depraved ditches of Gilbert and turn her into a Hollywood style X-Wing that would make George Lucas digitally edit it into his last grocery store trip.

Before I get to how the actual race went, let me rehash the basics for those who haven't been reading this site for 2 years (shame on you whoever you are).  The Idiotarod is a race held in downtown Phoenix each year. 4 people push 1 passenger in a shopping cart from secret destination to secret destination until you reach the finish line somewhere between 2 and 3 miles away.  There's a challenge at each destination that usually involves drinking some sort of terrible alcoholic beverage (aka a jar full of vodka and habanero soaked tampons).  Completing the challenge gets you the location of the next stop.  The shopping carts are decorated/turned into art pieces and the teams dress up to match.  Awards are given out for best cart/costume and occasionally the team that wins the race... though often that is hard to determine.  Sabotage is encouraged - as is throwing various forms of filth at other teams (pudding, saw dust, brownie mix etc..).  Its kind of the greatest thing ever.

As for our performance this year - we had a little trouble and actually finished towards the back of the pack.  In fact, we got stuck so long at one event that we staged a revolt and overran the judges.  It was basically my proudest moment ever.  We also got stuck along with about half of the other teams at a parking garage.  There were supposed to be 2 people on the top floor handing out the next location, but they didn't show up.  This left 20 teams pushing shopping carts up and down the parking garage ramps looking for them until one team cheated their way to the location of the next stop.  The other thing that was nuts this year was the length - I'm pretty sure we pushed that cart nearly 5 miles before it was all said and done.  A feat I'm proud of all on its own.

Like always though we had an amazing time.  There's few joys in this life like turning a pile of junk and a shopping cart into an urban dogsled/art piece and there's nothing better than actually finding and crossing the finish line of the idiotarod with your friends covered head to toe in filth.  Thanks McCoy, Cupp, Jon, and Amy for being the best damn psychopaths in the business.
It always begins with the trusty target cart - these things are indestructible. we went high tech this year and employed lightweight insulation board for the wings. A little PVC, some ducting cut in half, a pound of nuts and bolts and viola - a wing is born... now we just have to make 4 more. McCoy in the background duct taping like a madman. That pipe in front was our internal battering ram support - very important for a sturdy assault cart. We learned from previous years that  a big styrofoam nosecone is a wonderful thing. We also learned from previous years that you need storage.  Check and Check! We decided to skip the paint job and just cover the entire thing with duct-tape Heres the final result - an x-wing fit for a bunch of mal-adjusted post adolescent drunkards.  Definitely our best work to date. We added a little decoration on race-day Wrong color makeup make McCoy angry! A little adjustment and.... thats more like it Jedi Mind F*ck assemble! As always - the other teams pulled out all the stops as well. This southpark cart was so good it hurt... and hurt more when they ran over you in their bus. These guys pushed around a whole nacho bar all day. These guys were apparently from some movie. Their princess leia was.... slightly more accurate The Despicable Us team was trully despicable The flash gordon cart really stole the show though. They had a huge turnout. The race got off to a crazy start. There was dancing There was mayhem Things got weird Really weird at some points Theres nothing like having a beer with your friends though. Course theres nothing like good friends to begin with. And most importantly... the cart survived to race another day.
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The Triathalon Project
Posted - Sep 15th, 2012 8:23pm
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If you asked me a few years ago if I would ever even consider participating in a triathalon - I probably would have thought you were nuts.... rubber room, arguing with coffee grinds kinda nuts.  But my friends McCoy and Nemo have been slowly etching away at my sanity.  So, when Nemo said he would be doing a triathalon this year as training for his "final" Iron Man.  I said I'd support and join him.  Of course, the very next words out of my mouth were: "So whats a triathalon?"

I can now answer that question - intimately.  Its a 3 month long training period which culminates at 5am on a Saturday morning when you and two of your best friends chat nervously at the starting line and watch the sunrise before swimming, biking and running your heart out for somewhere between 2 and 4 hours depending on your level of fitness, your ability to grit your teeth, and the amount of cartilage in your knees.

More specifically - the race we participated in was what they call an Olympic Triathalon.  This starts off with a 1500 meter swim, followed by a 40k bike ride, and then a 10k run.  There are shorter and longer versions, but if you want to know what its all about - the olympic version is what your interested in.

When someone says they did a race like this - what they really mean is that their friends and family put up with them for several months while they woke up early to go biking, fell asleep snoring on the couch at 8pm every night, ate every single bite of food in the house, spent 6 hours every Saturday exercising followed by 6 hours every Sunday complaining about their legs, and then unceremoniously asked them to get up at 5am and wait around for 5 hours on race day so that they could cheer them on for 30 seconds as they cross the finish line.  As the one racing - I think I had the easy job.

Like a lot of experiences, this one is hard to describe.  Its... emotional, and physical in the absurd.  Things like swimming with 200 other people look good from a distance but up close its all noses and elbows.  You have to worry about mechanical failure during the biking portion, and while I could have pounded out a 10k in my sleep before raceday - after 2 hours of biking and swimming, running is just about the last thing your body wants to do.  Movements that seem so natural on their own become awkward and forced as you get off of the bike.

I did... ok.  Here are my times:
Swim: 36 min
Bike: 1hr 26min
Run: 1hr 15min

I was about mid pack when I exited the water - just behind McCoy.  Biking though didn't go so well and then the sun came out and things got hot.  An hour and fifteen may seem horrible for a 10k but that day it wasn't so bad.  I managed to catch up with McCoy and finished somewhere near the end of my group.  When I did cross the finish line Tara and her family were there.  Seeing them and stumbling though the timing gate was an insane experience.  One minute I couldn't stop smiling, the next I was ready to break down and cry.  There were hugs, tears, about 20 gallons of gatorade and oh yeah - Tara's cousin won second place in the sprint!

I'm not sure its an experience that I'll repeat, but its something I'm infinitely glad I did.  Thank you Nemo for instigating this idiocy - thank you Tara for being my support crew and thank you McCoy for joining me in yet another adventure.
My cheering squad Tara snapped this as I was riding by the first loop of the bike course. The finish line awaits! Good friends will help you move.  Great friends will help you move a body.  Only truly epic friends will do this madness with you. Victorious!   (Steven much more so than I) McCoy learns that we were both beaten by nearly every senior citizen in the race
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Shifter Carts at Bon Durant Raceway
Posted - Feb 16th, 2012 5:08pm
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I dig go-karts.  About 10 years ago they started these indoor go-kart tracks in phoenix that they seem to have all over now.  I'm not talking about the ones at the mini-golf place they had when we were kids which you kept floored all the time.  I'm talking about nimble little contraptions where you oscillate between the break and the accelerator in an effort to keep from spinning out as you zoom around the track for the best lap time.  They go just fast enough on the straight parts to make you pay attention, but not so fast you can really get hurt.  Enter The Bondurant Shifter Cart!

I had heard about Bondurant a while back - its a rather expensive driving school out by Firebird lake which has all sorts of tracks and cars and whatnot.  What I didn't know is that for around $300 you can get a whole afternoon to learn about and then race around their 125cc shifter carts.  5 gears, no seatbelt, and 0 to 100 in 3 seconds!

I tried to get a few more folks involved but only Vince and Dan were willing to put up the scratch this time - its pricey but what an experience.  They spend an hour or so getting you all firesuited up and educated, then another hour showing you when/where to shift (including a ride in a ghetto van at breakneck speeds around the kart course), then your off on your own to go as fast as you can handle before loading your pants.

I did this a while back, but I just ran across the pictures and whatnot so thought I'd use my newly rekindled powers of posting to write this up.  Hope to do it again sometime soon - anyone feel like a race :)
You can find this place out by Firebird lake and Wild Horse Pass Vince and Dan get decked out in their fireproof head-sacks Our shifter cart!  Notice the lack of seatbelts... I was surprised how small the engines were but the cart is just an aluminum skeleton and weighs nothing. Here I am ready to go - pants fully loaded up.
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The Spartan Project
Posted - Feb 12th, 2012 11:11pm
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So apparently I took a few months off from blogging?  I never know when these bouts of web-posting-angst are going to show up or how long they are going to last.  In my absence I've traveled across the country for a chilly wedding in the middle of the night, survived my annual Halloween affair (something I hope to post about eventually) and celebrated one of my favorite new years eve's ever with a small but very very good group of friends.  Apparently though, whats driven me to post yet again is something I don't usually write about - a complete and total failure.  The spartan project.

In search of the next great adventure, and looking for an alternative to the sleep deprivation joyride that is the Ragnar - I stumbled upon the Spartan Race.  An 8 mile obstacle run that occurs every February in Chandler at Rawhide.  Its a full 8 miles of running interspersed with things like javelin throwing, carrying cement bags for hundreds of yards, swimming across rivers and climbing up ropes - very cool stuff.  This was sometime around October.

Over the next several months I started trying to get back into running shape, but things just weren't taking hold.  I skipped the phoenix 10k in November because I wasn't ready.  Then over-trained and gave myself a world class case of shin-splints and missed the PF Changs half marathon.  I took up biking to fill the void of running, but that wasn't really cutting it.  My luck started to turn a bit when my friend Kellie very gratuitously loaned me her elliptical machine and I was given a pair of compression socks and instructions from the foot doc that got me back running occasionally, only to be thwarted a few days ago by a cold (and a fever... and a little tonsillitis)

So this Saturday I did the only thing I could.  Put on my running shoes, my rattiest shirt and some sunblock and cheered my friends on from the sidelines while they took up the gauntlet that I threw down for everyone a few months back.  The race was brutal - that 8 miles took nearly 2 hours and everyone paid a physical toll, but all crossed with a smile... ok maybe not Nemo - he kinda stumbled across then threw up... but he was smiling a few minutes later.

Brian, Alek, Nemo - you guys are my freakin heros for being willing to do this crazy sh*t with me, for going it alone when I couldn't join up and for keeping me training no matter the mishap.  McCoy - you and I still need our badge of honor or ribbon of idiocy?  Theres more where this came from - so maybe we'll get our soon :) Heres some pics and whatnot from the day.
Alek, Brian and Nemo do their best to man up before the race. This was so much tricker than it looks because everyone who does it is soaking wet! Even with all the obstacles - people managed some pretty interesting outfits. A shot of the rope climb If your arms arent jelly from the climbing you might get lucky with the spear. Everyone had their own idea of how to raise a cement filled bucket to the top of this beam. The token fire obstacle - they hose you down before you cross just in case. They actually soap this down every so often to keep it slick. And for failing your reward is... 30 mud burpees! Make it up and over this net and your almost home. The gladiators at the finish werent too rough, but people still did their best to rush them in groups to avoid getting Nemo-d Finish and you get to write your name on the wall of valor. Get injured and you get a free ice-pack. As for these guys - they made it across the finish line more or less in one piece.
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