Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Being assimilated

I've been travelling now for almost two weeks and it's beginning to show. Bar soap has long been forgotten, as have been wash cloths. Soccer has become football. And I have even managed to turn water into beer (as a main source of hydration)! Call me Jesus.

But the ultimate in assimilation occurred last night when I attended my first ever cricket match. Or as people here would say: I attended the cricket. Now I'm sure everyone is on the edge of their seats waiting to hear my opinion on the sport, so here you go.

I'm sorry to disappoint, but I don't have one. I was lucky enough to go with some Brits who understand and were able to explain the game so I understand it. Mostly. But like baseball it's a bit too boring to warrant a real opinion. And I should clarify that I went to the exciting version of cricket called twenty20 which only takes a couple hours to complete, rather than the 5 day long test matches that can easily end in an anti-climactic draw. I'm including a crappy picture on the right to show you the big open field where the match was played.

One of the things I did notice during the match, however, is how popular it is. The stadium isn't huge and probably only holds a couple thousand people at full capacity. But as you can see below it was nowhere near full capacity. In fact the stands were quite sparse. In cricket's defense it was a bit on the cold side, but no rain was threatening so it wasn't that bad. It seems to be even the people of the world who supposedly love cricket don't.

The sport really is a lot like baseball except there is a lot more focus on scoring and less on defense. They don't wear gloves, the field has no direction and a 6er (home run) can be scored by hitting the ball in any direction. A ground rule double is called a 4 (and is quite common). An out is a wicket, and you get 10 wickets per inning instead of 3, except you don't have to use all 10 wickets (don't ask because it will begin to get confusing).

And my moment of immense pride and the only moment of mild heightened emotion for the evening occurred toward the end of the match when I asked if the game would be over (finally) if the second team passed the first team's score (they only play 1 extremely long inning in twenty20). The answer was yes. And I immediately began thinking of how much fun walk off home runs are, so I then began rooting for a "walk off 6er." The Brits of the group quickly understood what I meant and thought it was a cool term. And now I imagine the whole of the cricket world will be using my newly coined term. As John Hodgman would say: You're Welcome.

Monday, June 18, 2012

English cycling

My first weekend in England has been nice so far despite the weather. A friend from work is putting me up in his place in Southern England, and our big plan for the weekend was to do a cycling tour of the area. The weather forecast was spotty rain, largely overcast and "gale force winds." We got lucky and the spotty rain didn't show up until the very very end of the ride. On the other hand the route was planned one way and ended up being the wrong way, meaning into the wind all the way.

The start of the ride involved a quick tour of Poole to get down to the ferry. A lot of it was on curvy trails and was a good warm up for me since I was on a new bike (to me) and don't really mountain bike much anyway. I didn't crash although there were a couple somewhat close calls.

After the ferry ride a quick shot down the road and we were able to get off road. We stopped momentarily to get ready and made the random comment about the upcoming puddles that you can never tell until you go into them how deep, sloppy, or rocky they are. Then we got going and discovered the first set of puddles were knee deep and our shoes were no longer dry. The rest of the trail was fun and easy enough for me to enjoy. I've only mountain biked a handful of times so my skills are a bit lacking.

After a few miles on the trails we shot back onto the roads to get over to the next village (pub). The village was a tiny little thing with just a handful of stone-built and thatched roof houses that looked like they had been built a couple hundred years ago. And they probably had. Of course one of the buildings was an old pub, so we ducked inside, ordered an ale, then sat outside and drank. We had to be a bit careful with the beers once they got about half empty because a number of times the wind tried to blow them across and off the table. But the view of the ocean was nice.

After the quick half pint we got back on our bikes and headed off again. We followed the road a short way until a narrow trail crossed the road and we turned onto that. Very shortly the path began to climb, and it was apparently climbing up "Old Harry." Even now I'm not sure what exactly Old Harry was. Maybe the trail, maybe the hill, maybe one of the cliffs, but it doesn't matter. What does matter is that we had to start at sea level and make it to the top of this thing going directly into the 30mph headwinds that would occasionally hit us sideways and blow us off the trail into the grass. Fortunately we weren't riding right along the edge of the cliff with the wind blowing off the edge.

Of course we had to stop a bit to take a look around here for the view, then it was onward along the cliff edge. Not right on the edge, but about 50-100 feet from it and the wind blowing directly sideways from the cliff over to us. I guess that was better than a headwind, but it made the continued climb (yes it kept going up) a little annoying because we couldn't stay in any sort of a straight line.

Eventually we got to the top of the hill we were going up and got to head back down. We chose the steep, narrow and partly sketchy route despite my lack of skill or confidence on the mountain bike and lost all the potential energy we had just worked so hard to store up in less than a minute. That loss was somewhat sad but honestly at the time I was just happy to have not fallen and broken anything. Feeling good we figured it was about time to hit the next pub and grab some food.

Not too much farther along some rural roads and sort of out in the middle of nowhere we found the next main stop on the tour for the day. It was some incredibly old and tiny place with quite a few people sitting outside. As we walked in to the place I saw someone's lunch get picked up by the wind and get thrown into the next table over where it landed on someone else's back. We opted to eat inside.

A nice gourmet meal of pastys (soft A) and ales and a bit of a rest were a nice break. There was also randomly a little museum in the back of the pub of artifacts that had been excavated nearby. Most of it was your boring sea creatures that you've seen a million times and others were also boring farm implements from years past. But one exhibit (if you can call it that) was actually pretty cool. There was a display of pipes from hundreds of years ago that appeared to be carved out of white limestone. I had never seen anything like that and thought it was neat.

We finished our food and drink and realized it was getting on in the day and we still had quite a long ways to go. It's apparently somewhat difficult to make good headway when you're cycling into 30mph winds the whole way. And I should clarify. I'm not exaggerating when I say 30mph winds. And they weren't gusts to 30mph.

The rest of the ride was a bit of a blur. It was mostly on road and up and down small hills. At one point we climbed up another big hill and at the top our route was blocked due to a military firing range, so we were forced to adjust the planned path and headed into the next town, which had a train stop that could get us home. As we rolled into this last town it was getting very cloudy and cool. Rather than going to the train station we figured there was plenty of time to check out yet another pub so we did. Pint number three went down smoothly and was nicely accented by some "Jelly Babies" (gum drops formed into shapes).

While at the pub with our food and drink a quick check of the train scheduled showed us we had limited time to get back to the train unless we wanted to waste another hour. So we quickened the pace of consumption and once finished got back on our bikes in a slight drizzle and headed across town for the train station.

A quick 15 minute train ride and we were back where we started. I found out after the fact that we rode something like 25 or 30 miles, largely off road and into the wind, all to end up just about 7 miles from where we started. It seems sort of silly, but that was the fun route with good pubs and interesting scenery along the southern coast of England.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Germany in Germany!

For those of you who don't already know, I'm in the middle of some travels for work.  Germany and England.  All this week was spent in Stuttgart where some fun was had.  

The downside of these work travels is that we usually end up staying out too late, drinking too much, then having to get up early to go get some work done to justify the trip.  The upside is that it's fun for the first few days before I really start to lag.

This trip is looking to be even more fun than normal.  Since most of my readers are US citizens, you may not know this, but the Euro 2012 Futball (soccer) tourney is going on in Poland/Ukraine.  Being in Germany we all got to enjoy two soccer matches a night watched outside while eating and drinking.  This is apparently a big thing in Stuttgart.  Every restaurant and bar had outdoor seating and a nice big TV.

And what was even more fun was when Germany's game came up.  Watching that game whilst being surrounded by local Germans going crazy and cheering and yelling at the refs was quite an experience.  Then after the big win and everyone was done hugging and singing their soccer anthems they all rushed out into the streets and blocked them off.  This is apparently another custom for after a big win.  Everyone must do one of two things.  Choice one is to block off the streets, beer in hand.  The second choice is what cracked me up knowing what the first choice is.  The second is to get in your car (I'll let you guess how many of them are sober) and have your friends hang out the windows waving flags and screaming while you drive all around downtown where the streets are all blocked off.  I felt mildly sorry for any locals who weren't into sport and needed to get somewhere.  But if you're not into soccer/Futball, maybe you shouldn't live anywhere other than in the US or maybe Canada.

And on the menu for tonight:  England v Sweden in a pub in southern England.  I've already been forewarned that British spectators are not nearly as entertaining as zee Germans.  They will be sitting with face in mug and when they lose to Sweden as they apparently always do, they will all mope home mumbling and stumbling the whole way.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Comments on whiskey

Yes this is a pretty random post, but I need to blow some time in an airport bar before my flight.

I quite often find myself scoping out the whiskey selection in any bar I go to. It tells me a little something about the bar and the clientele. What it says I'm not totally sure but here I go passing judgement anyways.

What do I notice about the whiskey here in the PDX airport bar? A couple interesting general details: both the brands and the content levels. For bourbon the selection is fairly standard. They have, however, committed a cardinal sin of putting Crown amidst the standard bourbons. I don't mean alongside, I mean in the middle. Sacrilege! Crown is not whiskey, nor should it be drank in any form for any reason. Period.

Outside that monstrosity I'm happy to observe the bottle of Bulleit is near empty while Makers is nearly full. I'm probably incorrectly assuming that means Bulleit is more popular but I don't care. Then again Bulleit costs just as much as Makers these days so maybe I shouldn't be surprised people are respecting it more. Bakers is also near empty and they don't carry the perpetually overpriced Knob.

My conclusions? The clientele know what they're drinking and the establishment largely does too, save for one idiot employee who put the Crown back in the wrong place. Of course that suggests that someone ordered Crown, so I suppose there is at least one r-word patron.

The shelf above the bourbon hosts my preferred embodiment of Whiskey: Scotch. Insert best anchorman here. This one is a bit more disappointing. Of course they have McCallan 12 and of course it's nearly empty. There's nothing wrong with McCallan other than its horrifically boring and drinking it tells me you know nothing about whiskey. They have Oban, which is a plus, but it looks like a grand total of one shot has been poured from it, same for one of my faves, Glenmorangie (rhymes with orange-E). I just wish they carried the much better versions not just the Plain-o original. Dalwhinnie strikes my curiosity since I've never tried that one. It looks like another of my faves, Ardbeg, is near empty, but my guess is that it has been in that state for weeks. I love it but I've heard it described as scotch with strong peat and smoke, hints of the sea, tobacco, and used bandaids. Not for everyone.

No comment on the near empty Dewers and Walker red.

Bighorn River Post #1

Everyone remembers that I just went fishing in Montana, right? Well, now you remember and I can tell you all about it.

I really wasn't sure am not sure how to go about this/these posts. It was a nine day expedition with different people coming and going at different times and not easily broken into multiple readable short stories. I could section it according to the weather since that definitely broke the trip in two or three distinguishable segments. I could try and break it into people groups (and probably will). I could write a post for each day, but that would probably be too many posts. Or I could just start writing and see where it takes me.

Well, I don't like to think ahead, but prefer to just go with the flow so here we go.

Upon leaving Portland I checked the weather in Montana and was irked to see a forecast of 50 degrees, and rainy for the first couple days. Typical Portland weather but in Montana. And what was more irksome was the forecast in Portland was 70s and sunny. Of course the weather is what the weather is and after being mildly irked I got over it.

The flight into Denver was fun as always and pretty bumpy on the way down. Chad and Brady picked me up from the airport and we drove eight hours north to meet up with Eric, Tyler, Frank, other Tim, and Dave. We didn't get in till around midnight at which point we confiscated Eric's Tent and went to sleep to the pitter patter of rain on the rainfly. Then we woke up to a river of water running across the entrance to the tent, damp sleeping bags, and water not quite everywhere but everywhere. This river inside the tent wasn't large enough to fish so we grabbed all our stuff, threw it in a car to dry (we hoped) and headed to the real river, got in the boat, and started fishing. This was also the maiden voyage of Dave, Frank, and other Tim's drift boat which I don't seem to have a picture of.

The other five of us had a bit of a dilemma. Five people do not break up nicely into drift boats. They are meant to be fished with three people, one rowing and people fishing from the front and back. Of course with five people you either double your cost and have to few people in one boat, or you drop your cost significantly and squeeze five people into one boat. Being fanatical fly anglers who like to waste their money on gear rather than renting boats we opted for the overloaded boat. That configuration left us still one person to row, two people to fish, and two additional people to watch where they sit/stand to simultaneously keep the boat from capsizing and avoid getting hooked by flies flailing wildly above. We got a number of looks and stares on the river as well as some funny comments. Yes, we were "those guys." But hey, we saved a few bucks and had fun doing so.

The river was a little like a scene out of Hitchcock's The Birds. Swallows were everywhere.

And it wasn't long before the first one was caught...before any fish and literally a few minutes into the float. It flew into my leader mid cast and was instantly tangled. Thanks to Tyler for filming after the tangle up. After the initial screams the bird was pretty docile although it had completely mangled my leader and flies.

We continued fishing and floating in the cold and rain and caught some fish of course. But the river was quite a bit different than previous trips here so we struggled a bit. Late May and early June is usually during the runoff and flows are beginning to get high. This year, however, the flows were Winteresque and the lowest any of us had ever fished the Bighorn at 1800cfs. To put things in perspective, the first couple years the flows were around 4000-5000cfs and a couple years ago it got up to 15000 (note the extra zero) during our trip. Needless to say the river fished massively differently.

It took a little time to really figure things out, but we managed to catch a few the first day. Some of our usual key spots didn't produce like before, but we discovered some others that did. And to give us credit when I say we caught a few I still mean quite a few. I have in my logbook something like 10-15 for the first day, which isn't a particularly good day for this river, but not bad considering. Here are some pics.

 Tyler garbed in his hi-tech rain jacket with a nice fish

 Me with a taste of what was to come

 First whitefish of the trip

 One of chad's fishes

Brady the fish killer.  

Yes, yes, I know. Catch and release and all that jazz. My personal rule is catch and release unless I'm camping. Then I keep what I need to eat and that's what we did. We caught a few to keep then released the rest. Or to be precise, we released everything then in the afternoon realized we hadn't kept any fish and should probably start so we panicked a little, and fished hard to keep a few.

That night we smarted up and got a cabin rather than sleeping in a wet tent in wet sleeping bags in 30 degree cold. It was nice. But it's not quite the same cooking fish and taters over an electric stove rather than a campfire. We also discovered that cooking cajun breaded fish with no oil on high and extra breading vaporizes some toxic chemicals in the breading giving everyone in the room coughing fits and probably lung cancer in a couple years. That was also the last time Frank was allowed to try cooking.

That was pretty much the end of day one and not much different happened on day two. The weather was the same dose of cold and overcast with occasional rain as day one but with some added spice of gale force winds. Good for catching fish! I suffered a serious downgrade in fish count, but most of the others did better. Regardless it was fun and I personally wasn't concerned about my performance since I still had seven more days to fish!

The big bonus of the first couple days was that we more or less discovered what the fish were and were not biting on. Scuds and sowbugs are the usual grub here but pretty much no one caught on those patterns and the action was largely all on midge and baetis nymphs and emergers. We also realized, as I already mentioned, that our usual spots weren't quite as good but that the fish seemed to still be in winter mode and in the deeper pools and eddy's. These sinkholes and eddy's ended up providing a ton of fun and constant catch rates later in the week

The accounts of those later days will eventually follow...

PS - the following accounts may be a little delayed. I'm about to do some travelling and it might be tough to find time to write up these experiences. So what I'll do is wait until I forget everything that happened and completely fabricate the entire experience. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012


Sure.  It makes sense.  Trust me.  I just got back from a 9 day trout fishing expedition in Montana and now I'm posting a video teaser of things to come.  And this teaser includes Brady catching a carp.  Trust me, it's worth it.  Impressive, funny, and completely unedited because I just last night downloaded some new video editting software and have not yet had a chance to play with it.

Enjoy.  We did.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Weird feelings

For the first time ever I am heading home from a fishing trip completely content, happy, and actually a little glad to be going back. Content because everyone caught tons of fish. Happy because it was one of the best trips yet with good fishing, good company, and an extended duration. And glad to be going home because I am, honestly, completely beat.

I'm tired from lack of quality sleep. My brain hurts from working overtime to outsmart some of the dumber fish. My liver is mashed from a diet of coffee, beer, and whiskey. My skin is sore from UV-a and UV-b radiation. And my fish-fighting arm is sore from so many epic battles.

Now if only my flight home would stop getting delayed, I could get some much needed rest soon.

Plenty of exciting posts to follow. I have loads of vids and pics to sort through so it might take some time.

Stay tuned...