About Me

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Las Vegas, Nevada, United States
"No, really!"

My Favorite Bit of Paper Cup Philosophy

The Way I See It #76

The irony of commitment is that it's deeply liberating - in work, in play, in love. The act frees you from the tyranny of your internal critic, from the fear that likes to dress itself up and parade around as rational hesitation. To commit is to remove your head as the barrier to your life.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Skull Valley Redux ~ We're Ba-a-ck

The Badger didn't get behind on his writing, so he's long since posted his telling of the Skull Valley Race 2009. I'm going to take just a slightly different approach, because - after all - for me, it's not about the bike.

I have had the good fortune to take many road trips in the company of the Badger. This is something we do well, whether our destination is a campsite in the desert, Daughter Badger's wedding, Mother Badger's home, a vacation at the beach . . . it simply doesn't matter. When you put the two of us in a car, there's going to be some fun. Yes, he always forgets at least one important thing. Yes, I always overpack. Yes, the car inevitably groans from the weight of its contents and looks like adolescents have taken over in a coup. And we have fun! We solve the world's problems in the ways we know would work. We laugh irreverently at some things that probably should remain sacred in the view of most decent folks. We rail at the things that outrage our sensibilities. And suddenly, we're just there. We can while away some miles.

Last year's drive through hell to Prescott with no air conditioning was a dim, grim memory as we set out under gray skies, looking forward to temperatures 20 degrees lower than what we "enjoy" at home. Because we set out early in the morning, we served no sentence in stopped-dead traffic over the Hoover Dam. Soon we were in Arizona. "Bathroom needed in Kingman, Badger!" "OK!" It was after Kingman that he spotted the dead badger in the road - the first badger in any condition of health that he'd seen since leaving Wyoming. After he commented on it, we both got a little hinky about that omen, brown eyes looking into blue, a little alarmed. Then the rains came. And came. And came. The Prius has a perky little icon that lights up to say "We're hydroplaning and I'm trying to correct it!" I didn't care for that icon much. It rained so long, so hard, from a sky so gray that we missed the turnoff to Skull Valley and went far out of our way (which we didn't know until later on). The Badger, not known for tolerating nonsense, began to get crabby about not being able to ride the course that afternoon. There were pools and rivulets of rain all across the desert floor. Surely the course would be in bad shape, too.

When we exited the highway, we were stunned to see a small, old settlement of houses and a few tiny businesses. What the heezy? Last year there was nothing between the highway and Skull Valley. How could an old settlement spring up in a year's time? We're pretty quick on our feet, though, and soon realized we'd become not lost, but diverted. "Limes, what did you do about feeding us lunch?" "Not a thing, Badger. This is your rodeo." Uh-oh. We were on our way to a l-o-n-g, strenuous ride and breakfast was a l-o-n-g time gone. "I have one Clif bar in the car, Limes." "You eat it, Badger. You'll need it more than . . . general store on the right, Badger!" We walked through a creaking wooden door into the oddest emporium. An ancient commercial business space was outlined with some 50 small coolers one might expect to dispense soft drinks. There seemed to be a little tiny bit of everything imaginable for sale in the place, from ant poison to diapers and white bread to Kraft mac 'n cheese. Except that we couldn't find anything we were willing to eat. Not one diet anything in the place. Coke and Pepsi have a sure market if they over-produce their fully sugared concoctions. No produce. Not a fruit or vegetable to be found. We finally landed on a meager meal: turkey jerky for the Badger, string cheese for me. The clerk had me go back to one particular cooler to determine the price of the string cheese for him. He was unfamiliar with putting a purchase on a debit card, but came through with flying colors. As we walked out the door, the Badger and I snapped our heads to look at one another. "Did you see . . . . ," we said over the top of each other. For behind the wooden counter of that store was the oddest sight. If the local citizens want to buy Tylenol there, or Advil, it is purchased in tiny packets of two tablets. Toiletries and sundries are available in small, hotel-freebie-sized containers. But also behind that counter were about 5 gallons of really bad, cheap wine for every man, woman and child in the county. More wine than the law allows . . . as they say.

We arrived at the race course to sunshine, dry roads, pleasant temperatures. The Badger needed to ride part of the course, imprinting that sharp, fast descent to the turn-around point. I needed to drive the course to remind myself of the landmarks and check out where I'd hand up his water. "I'm off, Limes." "No. The Prius does things I don't understand. I need a primer." He taught me the ropes and pushed off for 29 miles. I drove to the turn-around point and a little beyond. It's a tight, narrow space to manage a pack of cyclists. Narrower than I recalled, even. I drove back to the place where we'd agreed to meet after his ride.

I had choices. I could read. I could listen to music. I could take a nap. I could put some extra miles on my feet for the day. Hmmmm . . . extra miles. I was in the mountains with some steep rollies at hand. I walk on flat ground every day of life. Walking hills would be different. There's only one highway with no turnoffs nearby. I'm wearing the red Nike shirt - he can't possibly miss me if I'm walking between the car and the direction from which he'll approach. The decision was easily made. There were even mile markers on the highway for me to measure my progress. The shoulder isn't very wide, but neither am I. I set out on foot with plenty of water and the car keys. What happened in the next hour is interesting to me. I am not sure I think it would happen where I live. No fewer than four vehicles stopped and the drivers asked me if I needed assistance. It amused me a little. I think I look like someone who walks on purpose. I wear the cool girl pants and very serious shoes, and - hey! - I'm just out for my walk. Why couldn't these people figure out I'm doing my walk? Of course, it probably seemed an odd location to find a lone woman hoofing it fast in the heat. I'm not sure I'd experience the same thing if I were walking, say, in Red Rock. I think drivers there might just plow me down and not notice the bump as they ran over my body. I enjoyed scoping all the roadside debris and found an interesting bleached bone that still had some sinew and hide attached. I did not enjoy seeing rabbit roadkill.

The Badger pulled up minutes after I completed 5 strenuous miles on foot. "How'd you do, Badge?" "Good! I'm really ready for it. I felt good enough to ride a little longer than I'd planned." Out near the crossroads to Bagdad (Arizona, not Iraq), he'd been treated to the sight of a large flock of buzzards. "They probably heard there's a race tomorrow, Badger. Mmm . . . cyclist! A little stringy, but the bones are good to peck." We jumped into the car and headed for Prescott . . . . .

which turned out to be infinitely easier to get around in than last year. Maybe simply because we'd been there once before, but whereas we'd had a terrible time navigating it in 2008, now we were like natives. I'd Googled a different place for us to stay than the official race motel and it was certainly a cut above the typical race weekend dive. It had faux art deco furniture! And a fully loaded kitchenette so we could dine in if we chose to do that. It was clean and more than serviceable and cost about what was paid for the dive last summer. The Badger soaked his bones in epsom salts for awhile. Then, "Limes, didn't you say you wanted some shops?" Yep. Limes always wants the shops! And the Badger's always good enough to do that for awhile. We went to pick up his racing packet at the dive that was last year's and this year's official race motel. Yep, my little faux art deco place was a way better deal. We headed for Prescott's historic Whiskey Row.

Whiskey Row is old, kind of charming, picturesque. Courthouse Square had live music playing across the street and the Row itself is a mish-mash of crappy souvenir shops, rather serious art and artisan offerings, coffee houses, and saloons. Lots of saloons. Many saloons with lots of alcohol being served. The streets teemed with people ranging from tourists to children to locals to faux cowboys to patrons of those lots and lots of salooons. We first encountered a young woman sitting on a bench, sobbing and screaming into her cell phone at someone. People were giving her wide berth. Yow. From her vicinity we veered sharply into an indoor collection of lovely little art shops and a wonderful used book store. Moving on down the row, we spotted the souvenir shop that housed the badger who had met with taxidermy. I saw this one, folks! He looked a little bleary. A little worse for wear and tear. Trip treasures were found in that shop and carefully carried home. We finally landed in a most interesting artists' co-op displaying the creations of only local artists. As we are launching a line of the Badger's photos for sale, we carefully studied how other artists present their wares. The place was a find - paintings, decorative gourds, every manner of jewelry, woven articles, cards and more. We had a good time.

Strolling back to the car, he spotted a likely looking Mexican restaurant. "Limes?" Yes to Mexican food, any time! We enjoyed a good meal. He had wine. I had iced tea. I felt a little funny. I felt a little bad. I felt really bad. I needed to put my head down on the table. "Oh, no, Badger - was that real sugar I put in my tea?" It wasn't. "Oh, Badger, I'm going to get sick right here." He asked if I could get to the restroom. I couldn't. "How can I help you?" The color was draining out of my face and I was feeling awfully low. It was about to get embarrassing. And the good man stayed with me. Some would have bolted. Just as quickly, the spell passed. "Let's go, Badger. I'm OK." Not sure what that was about, but I wouldn't like to go through it again in a public place. We made a grocery market stop and headed to our home for the night.

Just to prove we really do know how to have a good time, we ended the day with a bang. One begins operating the Prius by inserting a chunky black object (that resembles everyone else's car remote) into the dash. Embedded within this remote is a small, oddly shaped key. The key is removable, but it takes purpose. It does not easily slip out of the remote. In fact, he has never removed it from the remote since he owned the car. One just doesn't. He'd left something out in the car and I offered to go after it. I went down the stairs to the car I'd operated all day long and now understood, reached out to open the door . . . no remote. Funny little key, but no remote. Back up the stairs. "Badger, where's the remote?" Keystone Kops comes to mind. Down the stairs into the black night in the pines, looking for a black remote on blacktop. He had a weak little flashlight. Nothing. Back up the stairs. Tear into the room and everything we'd brought into it. It was found with relief, finally. When he carried his bike upstairs, he must have jostled the key loose because his hands were so full of things. We each allowed it had entered our heads, although neither had uttered it: "How many days might it take to get the necessary item to Prescott, Arizona?" Because that car can be entered, but not driven, without the clunky black object.

Our neighbors arrived at the room next door about the time our heads hit the pillows. They were not partying or behaving objectionably. They were simply talking. Four of them. We could hear every word, and I swear, I could hear them exhale. My sweet lord, the acoustics! I turned our A/C down to 60 and we suddenly had white noise. It would be a frosty night, but no voices in our heads. Damn, there's a race tomorrow. Be at peace. The charlie horses hit my feet and legs about the time I stumbled on the white noise solution. For I am not used to walking 5 miles fast in mountainous terrain. Damn, there's a race tomorrow. Be at peace. I only got up about 14 times to do stretches. And then we slept.

In my ears right now: Emmylou Harris singing Lucinda Williams' "Crescent City". It's a favorite. Emmylou nails it better than Lucinda does.

Something that charmed me: Four drivers stopping to see if I needed assistance. I don't think that's so common any more. One man took pains to say, "This is my wife right here beside me." Taking care not to alarm me. There are still good people in the world who would help a stranger.


  1. And a good time was had by all. And yes, there still are some good people left in the world; it's just getting harder to find them.

  2. At the risk of repeating myself, you surely have mastered the skill of spinning a fascinating yarn. I could see that little ole general store and imagine the wonderful art shops and even a little about your art deco room.

    I love the part about the concerned drivers who stopped to check on you. This happens to me too when I am walking somewhere where people are rarely seen on foot- even in some urban areas. It is wonderful of people to still care enough to stop but I find it a disturbing sign of the times that people think of walking as being a sign of trouble or hardship. They say: "are you sure you don't want a ride to the meeting", or back to your car or to the hotel, wherever I am walking to or from. They seem to not be able to conceive of the pleasure of walking for walking's sake.

    Recently, when I happen to be walking home carrying heavy-looking grocery bags from Trader Joe's, people ask me if they can carry my bags. This is alarming to me because I imagine that I look too old or frail to handle 10 pounds of groceries. I run 5 miles or so a day and I am not weak. But, rather than being concerned about how I look, I have decided to be grateful that in my loud, rushy-rush city of 3 million, there is still a bit of civility.


  3. @ Badge ~ Ha! Yep, it was a fun, fun weekend. Notwithstanding the trio of slatterns, large and loud.

    @TR ~ You got my point perfectly! A piece of me feels like, "I'm WALKIN'! This is what I DO! Why are you stopping me?" But a more tender piece of me feels like, "OK, if I WERE in distress, maybe some kind soul would come forward." I don't think anyone's offered to carry my bags yet. In fact, I often have to ask for assistance when I buy something very large or heavy. The first time someone makes the offer to carry my bags, I will have to work hard to hold my sharp tongue.

  4. ....... You are younger than I am, dearie, so you have time to practice visualizing being a sweet old thing,


  5. I'll practice for sure. I don't know if I could EVER land on sweet. I'm not sure that's in me.