Tuesday, November 17, 2009

True Tall Tales of Benjamin Johnson

(Luke and Ben, respectively)

All-man but I'd swear he had some machine parts in him that are fueled by that black oil-like liquid he soaks up in the mornings. To say that Ben, a great friend and Gunny guy, uses a 20 pound sledgehammer to grind his coffee in the morning is perhaps a little far fetched, but upon further inspection, you realize his graces - while huge in generosity and humbleness - often take on the form of simple life for him. The cardiac muscle residing in his strong chest is probably no larger than his hand when curled in a fist, but you'd swear it was twice that size. Often in human anatomy, generalities are made about certain organs; i.e., the small intestine is approximately 9 feet in length. A similar generality could be made about Ben. Sliced post-mortem, his heart would make enough Love & Care sandwiches to feed a small group of about 4 or 5 people, and perhaps have a tid bit left-over for bedtime snack. Who's hungry?

Along parallel lines, Ben's heart doubles as an engine - fueling a great machine. Knowing not where this voluminous power plant first beamed it's potential, I will start where I am in the know: My first experience with Ben was convoluted in that there were too many people to single out the strong riders; but I, being new to "mountain" biking in the literal sense, found that Ben was easily towards the front of the pack. A natural leader, as was to be discovered in subsequent rides alone with him - most notably at the favorite spot of the locals: Hartman's Rocks. One recent memory materializes. Riding up Bambi's to meet our good friend Luke Mehall (climber extraordinaire/philosopher/great friend), I easily had a 2-3 minute head start on Ben and he still managed to crush my lead within 5 minutes of my start. He seems to need little warm-up and even more limited notice that exercise/activity is about to commence.

Ahh, which brings to thought the experience of this past weekend. While on a short road trip to Ouray (read: Winter May Come, posted 11/16/09), Ben, Luke, and I decided that a run up into Box Canyon would be appropriate while the ladies of our party proceeded to "get their soak on" at the Orvis Hot Springs. After the short jaunt past the hot springs into Ouray and up the other side into the Canyon, we arrived at a reasonable point to park. Said parking completed and changes of clothes later, the 3 of us advanced up the seemingly steeper incline of the would-be climb. Being of an Exercise and Sport Science background, I knew that without a proper warm-up I'd be sluggish and depleted of available ATP in a short matter of time, and voiced my desire to start slow. Ben, being the Ever-Start battery of the group, saw no sense or potential excuses with the hill ahead and chirped along at his usual starting pace - which for some can be surprisingly fast. Luke, being brave and willing to try the unknown, attempted to maintain purchase with Ben, but soon found himself alongside me power hiking the remaining incline. Minutes later and with Ben well out of sight, Luke and I both commented to the effect of Ben being a machine and having this insatiable drive despite the conditions - which on this day were mid to low 30's, shaded and cooler alongside the cliffs we traversed, with a foot and a half of snow.

Where do the tall tales end and the real ones begin? With Benjamin Johnson, one may never know and it only seems tall tale-ish because he continues to peak after the good have plateaued. He is not limited by mortal thoughts of failure - though like any good human, he is only good for so long before he needs his black oil-like liquid, coolant of the clear oft blue-appearing sort, and a scrumptious treat of his own creation. Nonetheless, Ben appeared back to the car at the reasonable place we had parked only 10 or so minutes after he said he would. For him, that is a feat sometimes of atypical completion. With the 3 of us in complete company again, we proceeded down the canyon to the hot springs and into the memories of our minds.

While reading of one instance may not be sufficient for those unfamiliar with Ben, one instance with him in the flesh will positively indicate physically what he represents mentally; especially in my mind. Although, Ben may struggle to read sentences about his own self, I think it only appropriate that he receive an eulogy of his efforts in order to continue his humble approach to living. Keep on keepin' on Ben. You have influenced others undeniably and will continue to do so: mind over matter.

And so concludes the true tall tales of Benjamin Johnson...

...at least for this week. May humble be thy name.

Below is Luke's blog about Ben...(which was to overlap and approach the subject from his perspective)...enjoy:

The Leader, Ben Johnson

When I run with Ben Johnson I know he’s always going to be gone, like Forrest Gump running across that football field in Alabama. He was a state champion high school runner, two-time winner of the local 2.6 mile sprint up W Mountain in Gunnison, and probably has a list of victories I don’t even know about.

When I’m road biking with Ben there’s a couple tricks that ensure I can keep up with him. Well, one trick really with two outcomes. If I let him stay in the lead I can simply stay right behind him and draft, which basically means he does all the work and I can reap the benefits and use gravity to my advantage. This ensures that I stay with him while riding, and also enables me to save energy.

This past weekend, mid-November high in the Rockies, I had the good fortune to bike with Ben one day and run with him the next. Well it wasn’t just us, our good friend Al Smith, a bad-ass in his own right, was along for both adventures as well.

With outdoor adventures I typically both love and hate Ben, with the hate always being a short term emotion because Ben typically pushes me past my perceived limits, and the love always lasting.

I think I was probably hating Ben Saturday afternoon, when we were road biking up Taylor Canyon, with an hour of sunlight left, on icy roads on skinny tires and my fingers were so cold they were going numb. This was a leisurely workout for Ben, a 40 mile afternoon ride in winter-like conditions. Freezing and complaining he even offered up his warm pair of gloves and an extra jacket, which I gladly accepted.

Things really got epic as we rounded Almont, ten miles out from Gunnison, and Al got his second flat of the day. We didn’t have an extra tube between the three of us, so like any good Coloradoan Al stuck his thumb out and hitched a ride back to town. Four miles to go there was barely any day light as I looked over to see a buck running parallel to our bikes. The deer hopped with us as we rode till he made a dramatic dash across the road and then jumped over a fence to safety in a rancher’s field.

As the sun set and we still had four miles to go Ben turned on a light on the back of his bikes so that the passing vehicles would see us, at the same time the darkness fell it began to snow. I suffered through this as my feet froze up and felt like ice blocks. When I finally arrived home I could barely waddle up the flight of stairs to my house. I sat inside with a nice adrenaline rush, and felt incredibly alive (then I spent the next half an hour warming my feet up). If I didn’t have Ben Johnson in my life I probably would have stayed inside and been lazy that cold mid-November afternoon in the Rockies.

The next day we were headed to the Orvis Hot Springs to soak and recover from the ride. Ben suggested to me and Al that we should, “go for a little run before soaking.” We agreed and I pictured running for a little while around the town of Ouray.

Ben took us past the Box Canyon in Ouray up to a dirt road and then drove back for a few miles. He parked his car and I looked up the road. It was a steep hill, covered mostly in snow. Al remarked how steep it was and that it would be a shock to the system to start the run with such a dramatic incline. Ben shrugged it off, making a masculine comment inappropriate for the tone of this blog and just started running up. I tried to hang with him for about five minutes and then soon Al and I quickly lost him as he ran into the hills.

Al and I power-walked some of the sections and a couple miles into it the road became a small cross-country ski trail in a foot and a half of snow. Two hundred foot ice falls to the left on four hundred foot rock walls. Ice climbers dangled off an overhang to the right. We couldn’t see him, but we knew Ben was still running.

We headed back, running and walking for the hour time slot that we agreed upon. After an hour we knew Ben wouldn’t be back exactly on time, but ten minutes after the hour had passed he was there. “Good workout,” he said in his Colorado way of talking, a hybrid of Boulder and Gunnison in words.

Yes it was Ben, it always is with you.

Luke's blog can always be followed at http://lukemehall.blogspot.com/

Monday, November 16, 2009

Winter may come...

Winter may come but with it comes the beauty of experiencing new places, people, and liveliness. As words form on this page, I reflect back over the weekend and think of how blessed I am to live where I do. To clarify, this world has boundless places of breath-taking natural elegance, but to actually have the privilege to live in one of those areas is truly a blessing not given to everyone, sadly. The escape for some people from the daily grind is oft in the form of day-dreams of a tropical beach, a warm radiant sun, and a cold beverage; for others, the hour and half road trip to Ouray, Colorado suffices, and then some.

A place of profound natural awe, described by some as akin to Switzerland, Ouray finds berth among many unique rock formations on three separate sides. Known as an ice-climbing Mecca, would-be adventure enthusiasts or weary travelers alike can find repose after a stimulating afternoon of the outdoors-especially at Orvis Hot Springs; a 10 minute drive from downtown Ouray-not the only hot springs in the area, but assuredly the cleanest, most-comfortable bang for your buck. Orvis pampers guests with a handful of natural hot pools (steam included), a Sauna, and of course more than ample overnight quarters to sway even the finicky. Pore-exfoliation and the sight of the sun's departure make for a combination of the two no one could quite predict-notably when shared with another or friends of a close family-type sort.

Find yourself clothed and struggling for a comfortable position in the backseat of your friend's Subaru and sooner or later, after a flipped-bitch (the act of turning your car around, aka a U-Turn) or two, you end up at Asii for a delectable Thai feast in Montrose, Colorado. Over ice water, vegetable tempura, Thai ice tea, dumplings, and main courses of varying Pad Thai, Tofu, and chicken combinations, the concept of poop sandwich comes to fruition. If bread represents the good then let a positive about the day come to light, followed by a bad or poopy thought, finished out with a tasteful positive nugget for those partaking in the sandwich to ingest. Satiation of the mind and body makes for a mellow car ride home, despite the fact that your size 13 feet are still uncomfortable in the backseat of the Subaru. No worries though, considering roughly 12 hours later, 9 of which were spent sleeping, you find yourself reflecting back over thoughts of a stupendous Sunday spent with friends who identify and exemplify what it is to live humbly and morally-sound in a place of grand beauty, such as western Colorado.

Cheers and Love,


Thursday, November 12, 2009

Rambling on a Thursday

I've always imagined one day that I'll write a book and share stories from my epic [surpassing the ordinary] life. Is my goal to tout my past around like a prize-winning horse or perhaps am I just merely trying to demonstrate the lessons learned? I'd ere on the later but not everyone who might read it would think likewise.

Being adept at interpreting written word is a time-honored art [a superior skill that you can learn by study, practice, and observation]. Some writers make it very easy to understand what tone or attitude they are trying to convey; others, not so much. With the current state of books becoming more and more technologically advanced, I would not be surprised to find that books of the future will be read on devices such as Amazon's Kindle - very book-like but on a screen no larger than twice the size of current cell phones. Ahh technology...

...welcome to the death [end: a final state] of clear communication and widespread interpersonal skills in the young. With txting [read: texting] becoming increasingly popular and practical all across the age spectrum, it would come of no surprise that many people will lose practice of old-fashioned face to face communication skills [the learned capacity to carry out pre-determined results often with the minimum outlay of time, energy, or both]. If you are able to read this and say with blunt honesty [the value of speaking truth and creating trust in minds of others. This includes all varieties of communication, both verbal and non-verbal. Honesty implies a lack of deceit] that you have never encountered a miscommunication from technological devices; i.e. txting, email, etc., then keep up whatever you are doing. If you find yourself, however, being open and honest to the fact that technology has hindered [to obstruct: hinder or prevent the progress or accomplishment of] communication then pat yourself on the back because you've entered the first unofficial stage of self-help.

The longer I type on this subject, the more I find myself expressing freely on the matter. Perhaps random nights of conversation with friends has spurred this thought; or, perhaps current articles in news sources across the country have enlightened [to make free from confusion or ambiguity; make clear] my gradual acceptance of technological communication. I'd be a stone-cold liar if I said that I don't email, txt, etc.; moreover, I'd redeem myself though, by identifying my need to take an active role in technological communication discernment[discretion: the trait of judging wisely and objectively].

Sending the I had a good time txt after a date is not the same as calling the person and telling them with your tonal inflections and genuine [not fake or counterfeit] attitude. Perhaps it is here that we kick the tech crutch and rely on old-fashioned interpersonal [being, relating to, or involving relations between persons] communication [the activity of conveying information] like it's been done for years since Alexander Graham Bell's invention, or since cavemen turned grunts into sentences about feelings, emotions, and the latest town gossip.

Am I being to verbose [long-winded: using or containing too many words] to a population that already understands this dilemma [state of uncertainty or perplexity especially as requiring a choice between equally unfavorable options]? (Unfavorable in the sense that we can and cannot live without technology). If so, how do we reach the target audience, and what do they look like, dress like, and who are their parents? Question [challenge the accuracy of] the statement. Answer [be liable or accountable for] the statement. To all would-be or current parents out there: keep the I and U in communication; especially when my "I's" are on "U". Teach your children to communicate without their techy devices. Once a generation of great communicators dies, what lays in store for the remaining mortals? Food [anything that provides mental stimulus for thinking] for thought [the process of using your mind to consider something carefully]. Have a good day.

Brought to you by Alan's brain :)

Monday, November 9, 2009

New Format...

New Format...plus a juicy gem of a picture. Do you dare to find out more on the blog site? http://www.whatisaldoingfuntoday.blogspot.com/



Sunday, November 8, 2009

Winter? I think not...

Well, last week Denver got pummeled with snow while we here a little higher in the mountains were blessed with sweet sunshine and 50-60 degree weather. Now, while to many of you back East (or out West), that may seem mild and quite possibly cold; but, you have to imagine a) the dry climate and b) the higher altitude and proximity to the sun, and then of course c) that summertime highs don't go past 85ish. So to sum up, we have had some beautiful late fall/early winter weather that no one could have predicted but everyone can surely enjoy.

On that note, I have been quite busy inside but more so outside the last week. Last weekend (Halloween) was a blast. Raced in a bike race on Saturday (Halloween) and then had a killer time that evening with friends at the Wine Bar here in Gunny. We all were dressed in our Halloween-best...I as a cardboard box:) If you aren't on facebook, find someone who is and then you can see my costume. Quite original and highly unique, but most of all just fun.

The lab has been steady this past week...really just a busy day of testing and student research on Tuesday, otherwise I spent some of my hours researching potential graduate school programs for Student Affairs-my intended course of study. I've narrowed it down to 4 programs in which I'll apply to: Colorado State University in Fort Collins, CO; Penn State, Appalachian State in Boone, NC; and Michigan State University. I feel these 4 programs would be a best fit for me...the first 3 being my top choices over Michigan-which has an outstanding program nonetheless. For those of you who have been patiently waiting to see what direction Al would pursue, well I'd say you can breathe a little more easily now; I'm definitely pretty solid on this choice and am anxious and excited to get my application materials in. I have my letters or reference in the mail to me and/or scheduled for a finish date of Nov. 20th. Last thing to do besides applying is for me to write my letter of intent and double and triple check things.

In other news, I have been doing a lot of volunteer work lately. Partly because I think it would look good on my resume but mostly because I believe it is the right thing to do...guess it's my mother in me. For those that know her, she definitely gives her self whole-heartedly and asks for little in return. With a role model such as she, how can I begin to not want to mirror that? Also, I find the return feeling volunteering gives me satisfies much more than possessions, etc. So what kind of volunteering? Well Wednesday, Thursday and Friday evenings this week I spent helping my friend Luke set up climbing routes in the fitness center for a bouldering competition held on-campus Saturday. Being that I am an intermediate climber, if I could on-site (climb a route on the 1st try) then the route was deemed intermdediate or recreational in difficulty. Also, I helped carry and clean things up after the route setting was done late Friday night.

Before that on Friday afternoon I spent 3 or so hours helping my friends Tim and Mike (also ESS students) set up a Cyclocross course on campus for their race Saturday and Sunday. To cap off the weekend, I spent a few hours this morning doing a clean-up of some of the campground/climber areas out at Hartman's Rocks with my friend Luke and some fellow student climbers. Again, it was great to feel productive and communal in helping with all of these things. Obviously I don't deserve the volunteer award of the year for this, but I think it's an ideal example of how we can be good stewards, good friends, and all around self-less individuals by helping others without expecting anything in return. My one arguement about popular religion is that too many people are under the false pretense that you just give money and you "secure your spot to heaven," whereas others give what they can-their time or genuine self and feel rewards intrinsically that just a donation of money wouldn't do. Anyways not to blabber on and convolute the good things I've mentioned...I think volunteering is a great way to help others and be a good person and of course find out more about yourself. End of story.

Hope things are well elsewhere. Hard to believe it's November 8th already. 2 weeks and I'm on the road for home for Thanksgiving. Hope to see many or all of you over the holiday period (including the Christmas holiday as well). Hugs, kisses, and stuff.

Love yous guys.