Children are Barbarians

If you’re not a ¬†parent, you can skip this one. You probably won’t get it and you’ll likely sneer at me through your computer. After today, I don’t need any more sneers, so feel free to move along. If you’re a parent, the kind of person that gave birth or participated in the birth giving process, please stick around. Below you will find self-deprecating admissions that will probably amuse you just a very little.

Fisher Towers, Onion Creek on the right

Yesterday, I must have been high on fumes from cleaners or something, because I loaded up my truck, my son, and my dog and headed west toward Utah. My intent was to drive to the land of the Utards and play in their warm, dry sand and beneath their sheer cliffs. Aral sat in the back seemingly stoked and ready to play too. It was awesome!

As I drove along I-70 I kept imagining us further afield. Maybe after Fisher Towers we’d get a back country pass for Canyon Lands, jeep the White Rim. And man, I sure could use a soak. I could just tootle up to Idaho and soak my tootsies in a hot springs or two. Who knows after that, the Earth is big and round and just waiting.

We arrived, and I poked around for a bit before deciding I wanted to take a run up Onion Creek. Aral’s mood had soured in the nearly two hours of driving from Grand Junction and my stomach seemed to be keeping up with his mood (never eat at that Denny’s again). But eventually I got him into the Chariot and we took off, Pepper trotting along behind.

“Daddy, move those rocks. They don’t belong there.”

The run went okay, but Aral turned into a little dictator telling me how he wanted to cross each and every stream bed crossing. There were many, many crossings. By the time I climbed up the canyon, well above the creek bed, I had had enough. My stomach was turning over, I was sweating like a pig in training, and Aral wouldn’t shut up about all the things I was doing wrong. “Not so close to that side of the road Daddy!” and “I don’t like turns Daddy.” He needed a nap, I gritted my teeth and carried on.

Near the end of the run, mere paces from the truck, he zonked. I parked him in the shade and stretched for a good long while thanking my lucky stars he had gone to sleep.

The rest of the afternoon went well enough. Eventually, after much playing with trucks in the dirt, we set out and found a camp site. Again nearing his tiredness threshold he turned into a bit of a turd. I cooked dinner and we ate, then we took a walk around the campground and eventually he wanted to climb up into the roof top tent. I cleaned him up and let him climb the ladder, making sure he knew that he wasn’t coming down until the following morning. Then, maybe five minuets later while I finished cleaning up dishes from dinner, the whining started up in ernest. Teeth gritted, I finished the work at hand and then climbed up to calm my toddler supreme.

Bed time cometh

Two chapters of The Hobbit later he passed out. Full crash. I spent some time making sure everything was tidy and tried to take some night pictures and then joined him. The cleaner fumes completely spent, and zero words, I was wondering if I shouldn’t pack up and high tail it back to the apartment, but sleep seemed the better option.

This morning, we woke and Aral was in an excellent mood. I was in need of bandwidth so we drove down river to Moab and found a Cafe with free wifi. Soon enough we had breakfast, coffee, and network. I spent all my time sorting out little problems with moving and administrative issues surrounding writing. Aral made several trips to the potty. And we even got a FaceTime call in with Mommy. The morning was awesome. And again, the bottle of ammonia must have had the cap off, because I was seriously considering that backcountry pass.

The ranger station wasn’t open until 12:30 and Aral was already showing signs of tiredness. Eventually they let us in. I talked to the ranger behind the counter, she was making arrangements for our pass and had even commented that Aral was such a cute kid, when I turned around and found, much to my horror and shame, that my child was licking the glass-pane door of the office building. He left a slug-ish trail of goldfish enriched saliva all over the door from about hip height to the kick board.

I was mortified, embraced, and frantically trying to rub it off with the sleeve of my running sweater when the ranger I needed to talk to in order to get the permit came out from the back.

Let’s just say things went down hill from there. Not with the Parks Rangers, they were very understanding and even accommodating, but it was clear to me, that my excursions are necessarily going to be limited for a while. My son is a barbarian. Aral of the hill people, he roams the world campaigning for nap time and a predictable schedule. Despite all the other things I can offer him by making forays into the wide world, he very much *needs* consistency in his life. Without it he charges right across any boundary in sight.

Parenting is a learning process. I should know this stuff, he’s my second. Seriously, they’re different kids. Justin was never like this. Sure he needed a schedule, but it had a certain amount of flexibility. Or maybe I was just oblivious and happily pranced by his blunders holding onto my ignorance for deer life? Man I can’t even recall any more.

We’re back above GJ again, showered and clean. I still feel the shame. My son licked the door of the ranger station, but as soon as I can get him to bed I’m going to start drinking. Making civilization is a painful, painful process.

Colorado Summer Weekend

Aral in the tundra below Engineer Pass

Sometimes I need to be reminded of what a lucky guy I am. This weekend, the family and I took a free-form trip around my home state and were both challenged and rewarded.

I spent most of last Friday cleaning and packing. Trying to organize my truck (while juggling a two year old) so that I could comfortable fit four people and two dogs is an undertaking. Around four in the afternoon we departed the house to go sit in traffic for a while. I picked up Tess along the way and we headed up into the Rockies for some needed rest and relaxation.

Night one was spent in pouring rain just below the summit of Boreas Pass along the Breckenridge Divide. Despite the rain and the late camp everyone slept well and we woke up to sunshine. We headed over the pass to Camp Como and stopped periodically to check out land parcels for sale.

The original plan was to take Georgia pass back toward Breckenridge, but as we started up the road it felt like were just another car in a long line of vehicles headed over this part of the divide. I kept on thinking of a verse from John Denver’s “Colorado Rocky Mountain High”.

Now his life is full of wonder but his heart still knows some fear
Of a simple thing he cannot comprehend
Why they try to tear the mountains down to bring in a couple more
More people, more scars upon the land

And rather than continuing up and over while sucking RZR fumes and Chevy dust I decided that we should head toward the San Juans for night two. We drove across South Park and then over Monarch Pass before stopping in Gunnison for a brief visit with old friends at The Bean. It was rodeo weekend so town was jam packed with great beasts of trucks and RVs so we headed toward quieter high country up above Lake City.

We took a short walk around town and fueled up and then headed up Engineer Pass knowing that both limited access from that side of the Alpine Loop and expected thundershowers would keep crowds to a minimum.

Back in the high country we pitched camp just shy of 12,000 feet. We mulled around the tundra exploring, watching and listening. Pika came out and marmots barked from their porches. Soon enough dinner was done and we made for bed while swimming in the rose glow of setting sun.

Sunday we completed the drive over Engineer Pass and down the way past Animas to Silverton. We poked around Silverton for a while, but like all good things this trip needed to end. Back up and over Hwy 50 I detoured over Cottonwood pass and then across South Park and Kenosha pass.

Atop Engineer Pass

The Future of Overland Travel

There have been a couple of good sci-fi stories that have come out in the last few years which at least touch on the idea of long distance, self-supported overland travel. For instance, in Tobias Buckell’s 2008 contribution to the collective effort META-tropolis near the end of Stochasti-city his hero leaves the city of Detroit headed west in a velomobile-like device as he searches for the woman who he believes is responsible for a positive transformation.

I love this idea, that humanity in a post-fossil fuel society, does not become insular and prosaic, stuck in place without the potential for travel. We have, at a glance, many technologies that earlier versions of mankind lacked completely in addition to the productive employment of our own two feet.

Today I found an example of what future overland travel might look like. Its not big and spacious, but its capable, independent, and given the right amount of care could take its crew a very long way.

A team of 22 students at the Eindhoven University of Technology have built a sedan (room for four passengers and a trunk) which is completely solar powered. They’re entering it in the World Solar Challenge as one of 10 or so entries in the new Michelin Cruiser Class.

I have, for years now, dreamt of planning some sort of long distance tour in nothing more audacious than a Twike. Owners of these human-electric hybrids have been touring parts of Europe for years. But this vehicle has a limited range and requires dedicated charging stations even with the addition of a pair of generator cranks for the pilot and navigator to turn along the way.

The examples of vehicles in the Michelin Cruiser Class may be template for those interested in this sort of feat to base future platforms and imaginary descriptions. Pretty amazing engineering, attention will need to be focused on light-weight solutions to make truly independent versions of this work over long distances.