Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Wolves in Sheep's Clothing

Two wolves were killed in Utah this week. Both were considered "legal" kills by ranchers after the wolves harrassed or killed livestock.

Aren't wolves endangered? Should we be allowed to kill an animal when it is doing what it is genetically engineered to do and not threatening humans? Should we really protect a single industry over a species?

These are the first reports of wolves killed in Utah since 1930 (the implication is that there were very few wolves in Utah in the past 80 years because there certainly weren't a lack of cattle or sheep). The justification was to protect the sheep, a $17 million dollar industry annually in Utah. That is a lot of money to me but as far as industries go it seems very small.

The rancher's advocate (I don't know what organization he was from) said "if we want to see a wolf, go to Montana". That approach is short sighted and dismissive of a natural balance and all to prevelent in the west.

This weekend I rode through farm country along my trip to Capitol Reef National Park. The valleys are lush with green crops in a desert because of the water drawn from local streams and rivers. The irrigation pumps were going full blast during the hottest time of the day. Lots of water wasted.

I also saw the coal mines in the central Utah mountains. This industry takes the coal out of the mountain without regard to human safety and environmental effect. This is not entirely true but it is more true than not.

When are we going to start seeing the impact we are having on our environment and doing something about it. We need to eat and be warm and illuminated but there is a better way.

We need to see these resources as finite and not for profit of just a few. We need to see ourselves as custodians and use best practices to get the most out of our resources. In my opinion this goes for logging and mineral extraction as well.

This brings me back to the wolf. In the west they are seen as menaces because they kill a few head of cattle or sheep a year. This should be a cost of doing business, not a reason to shoot them. We should see them as a necessary part of the environment and use best practices to allow them to co-exist with the ranchers and farmers.

I think I'll put on my hemp sandals, take a cup of herb tea and walk to the fair trade farmer's market.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

2010 Tour de France

I didn't mean to leave you hanging, but I was out of town over the weekend and I didn't see the alst few stages of the Tour.

It wasn't much of a loss. Stage 18 (Friday July 23) is a flat uninteresting ride where the sprinters showed their stuff but as long as Alberto Contador stayed with Andy Schleck nothing would change - and it didn't. Andy Schleck remained 8 seconds behind Contador in the overall standings. Mark Cavandish won the stage, his third this year.

Stage 19 (Saturday July 24) was an individual time trial. Alberto Contador is very good at this event and Andy Schleck figured he needed 1:30 on Alberto to be in contention to win. He didn't get it. Andy did manage to loose only 31 seconds to Contador on this stage for a total deficit of 39 seconds at the end of this stage.

The last stage is mostly a show stage. Under the "gentlemen's agreement" the leader at the last stage shouldn't be shown up in the last run along the Champs Elysees so they let him win at this point. Alberto Contador won by 39 seconds over Andy Schleck, Dennis Menchov of Russia came in third. Team Radioshack won the team honors. Their rider Chris Horner came in 10th as the highest placing American.

The other jerseys are up for grabs on this last stage and Mark Cavendish showed his prowess in the sprint by winning this last stage for his 4th stage win this year. Alassendro Petacchi (an Italian - go red, white and green) won the overall points championship and Andy Schleck won the white jersey signifying the best rider under 25 years old.

All in all it was a very interesting Tour. If you want to look up any of the stats or see the stages go to www.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Ah, the Wind in my Hair

This weekend I rode with the Utah British Bike Club (the UBBC) to Torrey, Utah. 650 miles through some of the most spectacular country in the world. Just for the record, the title "Wind in My Hair" is a euphemism, I had my protective gear, including my helmet, on at all times.

We went up through Kamas to Duschesne over Wolf Creek Pass (although I caught up to them at Scofield because in my haste to pack I forgot my wallet and had to go back for it). Then over the Skyline Drive, down Huntington Canyon, south along highway 10 (the worst part of the trip), under I-70 and then over the mountain to Loa.

The first picture is my KLR at camp just outside Torrey, Utah. We stayed at the Thousand Lakes Campground. Not bad as far as private camp grounds go, lots of seniors and Germans.

The next day we got up and rode to Escalante via the Hell's Backbone road. It is a very narrow road that goes over a ridge with very little shoulder with steep cliffs on both sides. It would be harrowing in an RV but it was fun on a motorcycle.

The next picture is us parked at the overlook just before the descent into Escalante and the last picture is from the same place looking east at the road we came up. That big blob on the left is my finger.

Yesterday we rode home through Salina, Gunnison, Nephi and along the west side of Utah lake into the Salt Lake Valley along Redwood Road.

Although I am sore, there is something fundamentally enjoyable about motoring along Utah back roads on a motorcycle. I often thought back to what it might have been like to be the first person to lay eyes on these areas. What sorts of lives people had lived in this country before the machine made these areas accessable to everyone.
I had a feeling of the vastness and beauty of the country, something we don't experience enough in today's over stimulated world. I got a lot of "helmet time" where I could think about what I wanted to think about without the TV or my cell diverting my attention. It was good for my soul.

It helped that the weather was beautiful the whole weekend and that I didn't have any major scares or mechanical breakdowns.

Thanks to my wife and brothers for letting me do this instead of the familial duties I had committed to prior to this opportunity coming up. I wish I could tell you how much I appreciated this.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Controversy at the Tour

The riders are now in the Pyrenees, the mountains between Spain and France. These are their last hill climbs before the Tour heads north toward Paris.

The yellow jersey (overall leader) is held by Andy Schleck of Luxembourg. His nearest rival is last year's winner, Alberto Contador. As of the day before yesterday, Andy Schleck held the yellow jersey by 30 seconds. They both raced side by, side not really challenging each other, content to stay close.

Yesterday Andy Schleck saw his opportunity to break away on a steep climb. As he was churning up the hill, away from Contador, he looked like he was going to put some distance between them.

Then Andy's chain slipped off. You couldn't really see any reason, just that he had to get off the bike and put the chain back on. Contador, who had doubled his efforts in response to Andy's break, sped past Andy as he was fiddling with his chain. They reckon Andy lost about 45 seconds putting his chain back on.

The problem was that the whole pack had passed Andy as he was repairing his bike and Contador has assumed the lead at the front of the group.

Andy tried valiantly to catch up but he summitted 40 seconds behind Alberto Contador and on the descent to the finish line was only able to make up 2 seconds, giving Contador the yellow jersey at the end of the day by 8 seconds.

The controversy was in whether Contador, seeing that Andy Schleck had mechanical troubles, should have scaled back his attack on the assent until Andy was back on his bike.

The Tour de France is filled with gentleman's agreements and self imposed fair play conduct. When the pack crashed during Stage 2, the leaders slowed and allowed them to catch up, not taking advantage of a situation out of the control of the crashees.

I think it isn't a race if you wait for the guy behind you. They didn't wait for Lance Armstrong or others who were in contention when they had bad days and crashed. I think as long as the disadvantage isn't intentional these things are part of the race and shouldn't be compensated for.

Good luck Alberto, 8 seconds isn't much but you are ahead. Ride that yellow jersey into Paris!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Que Pasa?

Sorry about the length of this post. I got onto a subject and couldn't get off the merry-go-round until the ride was over. I do have the distinct disability of both having been raised by hippies in the 60's and taken a constitutional law course in law school. Read on at your own peril.

First Point: The small town of Hyrum, Utah (south of Logan, about 50 years it turns out) tried to help a nervous pastor with the closing prayer at their 4th of July Celebration. It only got them in trouble.

The pastor who was asked to say the closing prayer at the celebration requested to say the pray in Spanish because she was afraid she would not say it correctly in English. This decision to change the prayer into Spanish was criticized as "unpatriotic" and one do-gooder said the council should be "impeached and sent to Mexico".

Aside from the obvious racism does anyone else see the constitutional conflict with saying a prayer at a government celebration? I am not against prayer, just one person imposing their viewpoints on another. Sort of ironic, huh?

Second Point: We now have Listgate here in Utah.

It seems a few underachievers at the Department of Workforce Services (a Utah governmental department charged with helping Utahns get jobs) took it upon themselves to compile a list (on their own time of course) of 1300 alleged undocumented aliens in the state of Utah. The list contained private information of these individuals and was distributed, unsigned by the creators, to government officials.

The creation and dissemination of the list is being condemned as a "despicable act", the perpetrators have been identified (they can trace things like that from your work computer you know) and the Utah Attorney General is considering criminal charges.

The uproar over the list is not universal. The Utah Minutemen (a group formed to fight immigration reform) is calling the list creators "patriots". They are trying to publicly embarrass their founder and former president who was seen on TV next to a Latino community leader condemning the list. They want this interloper drummed out of their ranks.

Fear and paranoia has taken over. The Utah Minutemen have morphed into a group of racists. Have they ever heard of the Right to Privacy?

The unifying concept I see in both of these circumstances is that reasonableness has left the building. It is good to be active in community, social and spiritual issues. It is good to speak out about injustices you perceive. It is not good to do it by trampling on other's rights.

In the movie My Blue Heaven, Steve Martin plays a mob guy exiled to the Midwest in the witness protection program. He has a philosophical discussion with a local attorney about the Equal Protection Clause of the US Constitution. He, as a petty thief and mob guy, says "I'm the reason Thomas Jefferson put that clause in the Constitution" and he is exactly correct. If we can't protect everyone, even those who we aren't comfortable with, we risk not protecting anyone.

An often repeated quote goes "I don't agree with what you are saying, but I will defend to the death your right to say it".

The Constitution is a sacred document granting us all liberties that we need to protect. As a side note, beware of people using words like "unpatriotic" to cover their racist feelings. It is dangerous to use personnel attacks to further a political issue.

This is how it starts. People who don't believe the way a small faction does are called names or their patriotism is called into question. Not wanting to rock the boat, those being called names don't fight back. Some hearing the name calling are also angry at the object of the small faction's disapproval. The group grows. The small faction and its beliefs become commonplace and accepted. Before you know it people who see the ideas of this group as wrong can't speak out. (You can insert the name of any dictatorship or oligarchy of your choice).

Someone in leadership needs to speak up about immigration reform. We do need to protect our resources and not allow everyone into the US that runs across the border. We also need to treat those here as humans and give them the due respect that reflects their contributions that make up a significant part of our culture and population.

We need to not allow criminals into the US. This means from everywhere. We need to protect those who are here legitimately or who are follow the rules by going through the system so they don't get pushed aside by those who feel entitled. We need a comprehensive immigration policy and enforcement that fits today's requirements.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The End of the Gulf Disaster Maybe

Yesterday BP announced they finally capped the well gushing oil in the Gulf of Mexico on day 87. That is good news. The bad news is that the Gulf region is far from over the effects of this spill.

Here is SLC we had an oil delivery pipe burst last month and send 800 barrels into a stream that wound its way through the valley. The effect was devastating. The stream emptied into the pond at Liberty Park, a natural refuge for birds. The birds and fish in the pond were covered with oil. All along the stream wildlife and the natural habitat were disrupted or destroyed. It took a mammoth effort by the oil company, Chevron, nearly a month to clean up most of the oil. The effects will be long lasting and in some cases permanent.

There are 42 gallons in a barrel of oil. The Gulf of Mexico BP spill was releasing 35,000 to 60,000 barrels, or 1,470,000 to 2,520,000 gallons per day for 87 days. That means there are potentially 220 million gallons of oil in the Gulf. In light of the damage done by the 800 barrels released in SLC the impact on the Gulf of Mexico by the BP spill are almost incomprehensible.

I believe it will take a generation of humans (20-50 years) for the Gulf of Mexico to return to the level of production of seafood and clean beaches of just a few months ago. The clean up effort can capture only so much of the oil and the natural process of digestion and dispersion will take care of some more. The rest will have to be absorbed by the landscape and wildlife. The oil will have to work its way through the food chain until it is dispersed around the world in small enough quantities to not be noticeable.

Unfortunately it will take a few disasters like this for us to see the devastation we are wreaking on this planet. We have to do a better job of taking care of our environment. We have to stop postulating about what is going on and see that no matter what it is, 6.6 billion people on a planet this size doing what they do each day will have a negative impact on the resources.

The sad reality is that when the resources are taxed to death and civilization is significantly diminished or obliterated (it has happened before) the earth will return to its natural state and all our efforts at empire building will amount to a mere 3 inch layer in the geologic record.

Have a great day.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Tour Video

Not much going on at the Tour de France. The riders have left the Alps and are heading west across France. I thought you would enjoy one of the commercials they are running.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

It Ain't Over Until the Fat Lady Climbs the Mountains

I thought that was it. The Tour was over for Lance Armstrong. He fell behind by 13 minutes by literally falling during three crashes and it looked like his prospects for winning the 2010 Tour de Francewere over.

Then I turned on Versus (Channel 603 out here - known as Tour Central in our house) last night and since it was a rest day they had on a retrospective of a past stage in the Tour. That's what you do when there is nothing going on with the biggest draw event you have.

They were playing the 11th stage of the 2001 Tour de France. You ask, why is this significant? Well Lance was 35 minutes behind the leader at that point (do you see the ending yet?). That would seem an insurmountable deficit, particularly in light of his measly 13 minute deficit in this year's tour after stage 8.

Well they don't call him Lance for nothing. He clawed back over 10 minutes on this stage alone. And yes, he went on to win the 2001 Tour de France, the third of his seven wins.

So I guess those who are counting him out at this point have to wait until the end. I am still rooting for Alberto Contador.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Sad Day for Lance Fans

Well the elder statesman of cycling, Lance Armstrong, does not appear invincible. He has fallen far enough behind in the overall standings at the 2010 Tour de France that the comentators have formally declared him no longer in the running.

At 6 km he had to veer into the grass to avoid a crash. At the bottom of the first really big climb he was the center of a crash that saw him fall off his bike and do a complete roll and at the top of one of the last climbs of the day he didn't technically crash but someone in front of him did, so he had to get off his bike. After the roll crash he fought to get back into the race by making up a whole minute, but alas after the last incident he knew all he could do was finish the day. He came in 10 minutes after the leaders. At this stage (8 of 21) this is almost insurmountable, even for Lance.

It was sad to see him struggle to the finish line knowing he had all but lost his chance at Tour victory number 8. He truly is a fierce competitor and I believe he will not drop out, but will work through the rest of the race either helping his teammates or working to get himself a stage win or points advantages. He hasn't won the Tour de France 7 times because he was just lucky.

So to Lance Armstrong I say thank you for bringing cycling to us. Thank you for the heart pounding stages where you showed courage, finesse and athletic ability beyond what we as mere mortals could imagine. You have helped us all feel proud to be Americans in a sport dominated by Europeans. We salute you and all you have done for the sport.

I'm still going to get up at 6:30 am each morning to see what the next day brings, and who knows, maybe a miracle for the elder statesman of the Tour de France.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Its NOT the Tour de Lance

We stayed up really late last night to watch the replay of the 3rd stage of the Tour de France. There were a lot of things going on with 7 sections of cobbles they had to ride over ranging from 350 m to 3400 m (that's about 2 miles riding over the equivelent of a broken road with potholes) . Lots of spills, one even on flat, straight, dry road. Frank Schleck was out with a broken collar bone (in three places). Thor Hushovd eventually won the stage. Sylvain Chavanel regained the yellow jersey (the leader that day) as he finished in a pack just behind Hushovd (riders finishing in a pack all get the same time).

All this going on and what was the headline in the "Greatest Newspaper Ever"? Lance has Blowout. It appears Lance Armstrong had a flat (he wasn't the only one) on the cobbles and wasn't able to keep up with the pack. He made a valiant effort but wasn't able to gain enough time to stay with the leaders.

Now I know Lance Armstrong is the face of cycling in the US and has done a lot to bring the sport into the American consciousness. Oh yea he did win the Tour de France 7 times.

But Lance is not the only thing going on in the race. There are a lot of world class cyclists that are as interesting to watch. To this point Lance has not been a factor. Don't get me wrong I am rooting for him, but I am not rooting for him at the exclusion of others. I think he is just one of the many facets of this sport and event that make it worth getting up at 6 am each morning to watch.

Maybe that is why I like baseball. Like baseball, the Tour has a lot of strategy and lots of things to consider. The comentators do a good job of keeping you informed while entertaining, even for the novice.

The really amazing thing is that these guys average 30-40 mph on these bikes. Try going 30 mph on a bicycle. I ride a lot and 35-40 is my top speed downhill. It takes a lot of conditioning to be able to go that fast for that long over that many days.

And to do it better than anyone in the world 7 times is worthy of the accolades heaped on Lance Armstrong. I'm just saying there are other reasons to watch the Tour than just to see what Lance is doing. Good luck Alberto Contador.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Le Tour de Crashes

Yesterday was a wild day for cyclists in the Tour de France. The left Brussels for a small town at the top of a hill in SE Belguim. The course was a typical 138 miles long and, oh yea, did I mention it was raining?

About half way, the group (what is it called? That's right - a Peleton) was descending a winding mountain road when someone hit a slick spot and went down. They all went down, even the chase motorcycles.

As they collected themselves and got back on their bikes I was reminded of one commentator said a few years ago about crashing in the Tour de France. You see they're going about 30-40 mph and they are wearing very little protection. He said to experience the same thing yourself get a friend to drive along a deserted stretch of road at 30 mph. Strip your close off down to your skivvies (underwear) and jump out of the car. Not so fun? That's what it's like to crash in competitive cycling.

They made it to the finish line in a bunch in protest of the dangerous conditions. The governing body will have to sort out who wins what but for the time being all I can think of is how much it would hurt this morning to have been in that crash and then ridden to the finish line 60 miles away.

In a few days the real fun begins, the mountain assents.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Le Tour

The Tour de France started today. Three weeks covering 3642 kms (that's 2263 miles for you anglocentrics) in 20 stages where the elite road bicycle racers of the world vie for individual, team and country honors.

Can you imagine cycling an average of 113 miles each day for 21 days in a row? That is what they do. And for the most part it isn't a nice easy flat course. There are 6 montain stages and 3 summit finishes (yes, that is where after riding over one hundred miles you have to climb a mountain being chased by the likes of Lance Armstrong, Alberto Contador and the Schleck brothers).

The fun of the Tour is that almost anything can and does happen when world class athletes vie for the greatest prize in their sport for such a long period of time. Today we watched the first stage, a gentle saunter over 138 miles from Rotterdam in the Netherlands to Brussels in Belgium. I say easy because the terrain was mostly flat for this stage.

This being the first stage there was some nervousness and most of the riders stayed together in a pack (called a "Peleton" french for "bunch"). In the first few kms a dog wandered into the Peleton and a few riders went down trying to avoid the dog. Toward the end of the day's race (the stage) there is always jockeying for position. Teams try to get their man up front so he has a chance to win the day. Today the last few kms of the race included a tight hairpin turn and 6 or 8 riders went down. Then about 400 meters from the finish a huge crash occured at the front of the Peleton and only those in the lead were able to avoid the mass pileup that ensued.

Some riders are known for their strength in the sprint and some for mountain climbing. Leaders in each category are awarded the right to wear a particular color riding shirt the next day if they finish first in that category. Yellow for the first overall, green for the total points leader and white with red polka-dots for the best mountain climber that day.

Also riders are riding for teams and for their countries. For instance a Belgain rider was in the lead for about 100 of the 138 miles today. He had no hope of winning the stage or of being in contention for the overall points but he struggled mightly just so his countrymen and women could see him in front. It was a glorious day for Begium.

All in all there is a lot going on. If you are interested you can go to and see the standings, the route and the leaders in each category. They list the riders by standing, country and team so you can pick your favorites and follow them through the Tour. Salt Lake native David Zabriskie is riding in 25th place overall on the Garmin-Transitions team and will be a contender in the mountain stages.

If this has gotten you excited you can get up at 6 am like we do and watch each stage as it happens (6:30 MDT, 8:30 EDT) or at least for the first showing on Versus. They recap the stage events in a 2 hour format several times during the day but they always comment on what is going to happen, so if you want the feeling of being there see it at 6:30 am. I can't wait for tomorrow.