Monday, November 26, 2012

Graeagle and Lost Sierra

A few weeks ago, Ethel and I multi-tasked and spent less than 24 hours just over the evil California border.  We had two missions: first was celebrating Megan's birthday in Graeagle, and second was volunteering at the inaugural running of the Lost Sierra 50k/22k, organized in part by our friend DFunk.

We arrived in Graeagle when Megan's party was well underway; they'd be going late into the night and we'd be getting up long before their toxins got metabolized.  No worries though, we shared some laughs around the firepit before we turned into our tent for a few hours of fitful sleep.

Murphy stays warm in her alien pod (gets cold quick in the woods!)

The firepit does its thing

Oreo emerges from the shadows

Out of the house without disturbing the sleeping hangovers, we found the start line of the 50k right in Graeagle and spent a few minutes kicking around in the cold before heading out on the course.  Our goal was to find a couple cool spots on the trail to photograph the racers.  We didn't really know where to go ahead of time, but we figured it out, and all was well.

Without pontificating too much, I'll just say that I'm generally displeased with the photos that are offered to racers, so I wanted to do better.

Assembling for a safety meeting

Eventual women's winner SBR is just a few miles into a long morning here

Murphy gathers rays

In between our photo sessions, we stopped in at the ~halfway aid station; it was a quick stop the first time through, but we stayed longer after we came back in from the next photo spot.

Cheerful forest gnomes (this aid station had margarita sno-cones)

DFunk in da house!

Rough duty at the aid station...anyone seen Tammy?  I heard she was missing...

Finished with our official duties for the day, we found the finish line and just missed DFunk's arrival there.  However, we did get to watch SBR come across as first woman; so stoked to see her first ultra win!

Tuukka wonders where he's goin' next...

...and settles for a beer

The racers had loads of good things to say about the difficulty of the course, and there's a good chance that this race will be very well-attended in years to come.  Sign up early!  We hung out for a couple hours in the shade at the finish expo before retreating back to Reno and taking a well-deserved nap.

I'm about to hop on a plane for Sweden for work.  Only be gone a week, and I'm oh-so-curious to experience the 6 hours of daylight we'll be graced with.  Stockholm is roughly 0.99 degree of latitude away from being my furthest point north ever, but certainly the coldest and darkest trip to the north I've ever had...brrrrrrr.

Be well.


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Hunter Creek

OK.  Whew.  That whole slew of posts from Europe is done, and I needed a little break from writing.  Life has been a bit nuts, too, so a breather was in order.  Fortunately, I've kept shooting a bit, so I've still got fresh material for you vultures.

A few weeks ago, Chase and Lauren came to Reno for a friend's wedding, so we took advantage of an opportunity to go for a hike on a lovely late summer afternoon.  We hiked up Hunter Creek to the waterfall, and while it's an oft-photographed Reno feature, I'd never been to it in my short 32 years.  So please accept my apologies if you've seen enough of this spot, but here's my take on it.

Main attraction (top bit reminds me of a hairdo)

The way the water flowed around and through the big log fascinated me, so I played with that a bit.



And then I decided to take a closer look at things that perhaps other people charged right past on their way to the main attraction.

Detail I

Detail II

For the 2 of you faithful 7 readers who care about how these photos are made, all but "Fast" and "Slow" are the product of me standing in frigid water and turning the dials on some tilt-shift lenses.  If I recall correctly, "Main Attraction" and "Detail I" are with the 17, and "Detail II" is with the 90.  And this time, tilt-shift is used for good and not evil, making more things in focus instead of less.

Anyhow, I've got a good backlog to work through now, which is just as well, because I continue to be more busy than I'm comfortable with.  Enough bitching from me; enjoy your day!


Friday, November 9, 2012

Belgian Grand Prix

I've got a soft spot for Formula 1.

To me, it represents the pinnacle of both motorsport and engineering.  I'm willing to concede that World Rally drivers meet or exceed the skills of F1 drivers, but an F1 Grand Prix is nonetheless a spectacle to behold.  I had been to the US Grand Prix twice in Indy, but it had been a dream for a long time to go to Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium and watch these carbon fiber rocketships carve up that hallowed ground.  When we were planning this trip, it was going to be shorter, right up until we saw that the race in Belgium was only a few days after we were planning to go home.  Done deal!

Thus, we took our side trip from Amsterdam, rented the most awful car I've ever piloted (Opel Agila, if you're curious), and made tracks for Aachen, where it was both cheaper and easier to find lodging than it was anywhere near Spa.

Most awful car ever, not even worth steering

If you've never heard F1 cars in person...bring earplugs.  Walking to the track from our parking spot ~3km away, the songs of the F1 cars' engines started to sound as though they were nearby.  I knew better; when one is actually nearby, it's eardrum-splitting, a mechanical shriek that threatens to tear the space-time continuum.  In short, it's fantastic.

Rife for pillaging

We wandered around the track to find some good viewing spots; Saturday was practice and qualifying, which we were stoked to watch.  We also wanted to find a good spot to watch the race Sunday.  Unfortunately, for photographing F1, access is everything, and while we could get close to the track, there's no substitute for the angles the actual photographers are able to get.  As such, most of my photos look largely the same; I had to work hard to get things to look different without being able to be at track level or high above etc etc.

Eau Rouge, awesomest corner in all of motorsport

It was special to me to see Eau Rouge; it's a downhill-uphill right-left corner complex that they go through at about 170mph.  What's hard to see from in-car footage or normal broadcast footage is just how much elevation gain there is and just how blind the sightlines are.  Slamming the car into the track surface at the bottom of the complex and aiming it in hopefully the right direction under 4G of cornering force has got to be a puckering moment no matter how many times you've done it.

Forza Ferrari!

Red Bull approaches corner

Toro Rosso accelerates away

Corner entry lockup

Lotus mid-corner


Come race day, it turns out we had vastly underestimated how much bigger the crowds would be, as well as how early they'd show up for good spots to sit.  To put it bluntly: we got hosed.  In hindsight, it would have absolutely been worth the extra 200Euro for awesome grandstand seats.

Misty morning on race day

High class

The amount of transport and logistics required to put on an F1 race is mind-boggling; it's not called a traveling circus for nothing.  When they fly away to races, they fill 3 cargo 747s to the brim with their containers; it's NUTS.

Line of trucks

I nearly got arrested for getting myself to this vantage point

When an F1 car is at race pace, its speed through corners is staggering.  It's only after viewing slower cars going through the same corners that it's readily apparent just how fast they are; accelerating, braking, cornering, and changing direction with forces that would pluck our heads clean off our shoulders.  And the SOUND!!!

Our prison view

There's no doubt that our vantage points were better on qualifying day than on race day.  That's OK, though, F1 is an experience worthy of some discomfort.  Even if that means standing for 5 hours at the only unoccupied spot at the chainlink fence to have a shot at seeing the race.


Ed drinks again

Murphy spectates

Slicing through

Tired and dehydrated from our long day in the sun, we shuffled back to the Agila with our ~100k compatriots and retreated back to Amsterdam.  Sadly, after only another day there, our trip came to an end and we departed back to the good ol' US of A.  A month is a good long while to be away from home, and I can only hope to be able to travel on these timelines more in the future.

Thanks for sticking through these incessant posts from Europe.  It's fun for me to look back through them; memories fade fast as life keeps charging ahead.  We will now return to our regularly-scheduled programming, whatever the hell that actually is.


Wednesday, November 7, 2012


Murphy, Ed, and I took a 2-day break from Amsterdam and all its glory for an excursion to Germany and Belgium.  This was a focused break; Belgium was hosting the Formula 1 race that weekend, and lodging was both cheaper and more available across the border in Germany.

We pretty randomly ended up choosing Aachen, Germany, as our home base, and we were expecting little more than a stern German town with affordable hotels...boy, were we wrong!  There was all sorts of cool stuff, which included (and may have been limited to) ornate churches, excellent beer, and traditional German food.

Our main focus of the F1 race didn't leave us with too much time in Aachen, but we were pleasantly surprised to find just enough to whet our appetites in the time we did have.

Church ceiling mosaic

More church ceiling details

The awesome part of Aachen was less than a 10-minute walk from our hotel, which incidentally felt like a hospital, prompting us to spend as little time there as possible.  Two of my favorite things about Germany are the preponderance and proximity of really excellent beer.  I believe the only ones who do it finer are the Belgians, and we were mere kilometers away from the Belgian border.  BEER HEAVEN!!!

Oh Kwak, how do I love thee!

We posted up at a biergarten in the shadow of the church and got down to business, which sounds important, but really just means dinner and beer.  And sniping people with the camera.

Young couple

Less-young couple

Properly fueled for the long trek back to the hotel, we forged off into the night and stopped every time I saw something photo-worthy.  Very ADD-like of me but Ethel and Ed were very patient.

Fountain near the church

Ride your bike here on this slippery paint

Old gate into the city

Bathed in pink light

Aachen was really a nice surprise for us; I don't know why I was so surprised as I've enjoyed every little German town and city I've ever been to, but I still dug the place.

The next post will be the last one of the trip (!) and will cover some very shiny things that go VERY fast.  Belgian Grand Prix here we come!


Monday, November 5, 2012


As warned, the prior post was the last from Italy.  We geared up for our big travel day to Amsterdam (not close to the ALL), enjoyed our last moments in Alleghe, and pushed out at about 6am.

It took us about 8 hours to drive across both Italy and France, and once again, we tithed heavily in the form of tolls; easily 120Euro, which included 39Euro to drive through a single tunnel under the Alps.  When we rolled into Lyon, we fueled the rental car one last time, returned it, gathered our stuff, and headed to the train station inside the airport.  We thought we'd done really well to time our 8-hour drive to land us there with a whopping 10 minutes to spare, but a mixup with our tickets eroded that 10 minutes to about 60 seconds.  With a lot of ground left to cover, this near-disaster-turned-victory was obvious reason to have a beer, immediately.

We transferred trains in Paris; this time with a couple hours instead of 10 minutes.  We got to the Paris Nord station and wandered off for a nearby dinner.  Our train ended up being late, so we were exceedingly glad about not cutting it so close, right up until I got waylaid by a gang of undercover customs officers, whose dog happened to be particularly interested in my bag.  Unfortunately for them, there was nothing to find (BAD DOG!) and we caught that train by approximately 3 seconds.

With yet another near-disaster dispatched, we elected to not further tempt fate and just sat quietly until we got to Amsterdam.  We were lucky enough to have a berth at our friend Nico's house, excellently located and quite upscale.  Well done, Nico!  We'd have several days to explore the awesome city and we had the perfect home base for it.

Nico holds court

-Epic- macarons

Due to a ridiculously fortuitous coincidence, my college buddy Disco was passing through Amsterdam the day after we got there on his way to Oman, so we got to catch up over a late breakfast and a beer.  It turned out that we didn't really have a plan for our time in A'dam; with no agenda, we were perfectly comfortable to wander about and see what each day would bring.

Fashionably waiting

One awesome thing about Amsterdam (wait, the MOST awesome thing) is that it's a very un-cityish city.  Most of this is due to a heavy emphasis on the bicycle as a form of transportation.  In a city of 750k people, there are 750k bikes; this bike-to-resident ratio doesn't exist outside of Burning Man (well, it probably does, but it seemed poignant to us).  Most of the cyclists are very fashionable, too.  Tall chicks in business suits, txting, riding all about the city.  Some form of heaven!  The huge emphasis on biking means few cars, no traffic, no smog, no honking, healthy people...on and on.

Primary form of transport

More bikes

One evening, we went and caught the latest Batman movie at a theater that's easily the coolest I've ever seen.

Inside the Pathe cinema

Pathe again

On another day, we visited the Van Gogh Museum, and I must say that it was quite inspiring to see those paintings up close.  They were...alive...and that was cool.

Ed and Ethel transport me through the canals.  Faster!

We went with Nico to a rather fantastic tapas restaurant one evening.  Dark, loud, and packed to the gills, we relied on Nico to navigate ordering for us, which really just amounted to making sure there was always food on the way.  The restaurant got its name from the special ham they served; hard to get and delectable, pata negra was a force to be reckoned with!

Please park your bike ANYWHERE but here

Ham hangs from the ceiling of Pata Negra

The canals are lined with houseboats; some unimpressive, and some truly stellar.  Many of them looked to have been moored for decades; this is certainly a viable housing option for some!

Houseboat flies the flag

We spent several of our days simply wandering around from breakfast to coffee to lunch to market to beer to dinner.  The winding streets and canals had secrets around every corner, and we were highly amused all the while by the seamless blend of Dutch culture and peerless American English.

Cafe kitten

Fish counter

Orange stand

The buildings there are almost without exception very narrow, and they also seem to be on the verge of toppling over at any given moment.  I didn't do any research to find out what particular construction method led to this, but I can't imagine that being essentially built on water does them any favors.

No square lines

Royal palace

As night fell, the endless streams of business suits faded into the distance and the throngs of tourists became more apparent.  There was never a dull moment, but we never made it late enough into the night to really get ourselves into trouble.

Crowds never seem to ebb

Shimmery canal

We rounded out our trip in Amsterdam, but not before a two-and-a-half day trip to Germany and Belgium for a must-make addition to an already stunning time.  Next post will take us to Germany, and then we'll hit Belgium last.  However, I must say that Amsterdam is the most livable city I've ever come by.  I'd do it in a second, but I hear the winters are long and wet...


Past Detritus