Monday, July 09, 2007

A Motorcycle

After many years of half-heartedly lusting after a motorbike, this May I finally took the trouble to earn my endorsement. Since I didn't own a bike at the time my options were rather limited, either the written DOL and borrow a bike for the skills portion, or a course. In the end, I took a motorcycle safety course over Memorial Day weekend, passed the written and skills portions of the class, and changed my drivers license to reflect my new status - that of a two-wheeled hellion (sans wheels). The instructors provided the bikes (Honda CB125) and the closed course track was located next to an airfield - it felt a little strange riding around in circles for hours on end, but you should see my left-hand turn!

The endorsement was burning a hole in my pocket, waiting to be used, but a bike just didn't seem to be a realistic possibility. Kari Ann and I are looking for a house, working, and mountaineering - these activities were thought to preclude any further expenditures. As it turns out through a series of random conversations, I have become the new owner of a 1984 BMW R65. The previous owner (Ben), a friend through the Mountaineers, had recently purchased a newer K-Series bike, and agreed to send his old ride off to a good home! I've been happily tinkering away at it ever since, and hope to have it back together before too long - given that I can find a reliable source for parts!

Thus far the R65 has been easy to work on (as the carburetor and sundry other parts are neatly piled across the living room floor), and seems to be in good shape under all the road grime. Ben rode the bike for many years, clocking in around 90K, and obviously had great affection for the machine. Both he and his wife have good memories of many trips taken across the country through the years. I'm glad to have found a motorcycle through such circumstances, and look forward to riding it for years to come. There is a great network of BMW riders around the country, and people seem genuinely excited to keep these bikes on the road.
Here's where things are so far:

All that needs to happen to have things back together at this point is to rebuild the carbs and get them dialed in. Much more cleaning and replacement of various parts (mostly rubber fittings that have begun to rot) is to be done, but that can wait for the winter!

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Mt. Lincoln 6.3.07

Originally we had thought that our first foray into the Olympics this season should be to Cruiser, the highest and baddest point in the Sawtooth range, but decided to try something a little less epic instead. Lincoln seemed to be a good alternative to a one day attempt at Cruiser, but it was definitely no slouch! Kevin, Eric, Wayne, and myself pushed up loose hillsides and perfect snow slopes to arrive at the point where this shot was taken.

We had wonderful views of pretty much the entire Olympic Range, the most exciting being the remaining Sawtooth peaks. The weather couldn't have been better, and despite a tough brush beat on the way in (and out), the climb went smoothly and enjoyably. We didn't see much wildlife, aside from one goat, but lots of track. The high alpine traverse of the resident elk population was most impressive.

Here we are, a few moments before beginning our decent. Thanks to Kevin for the picture!

Monday, July 25, 2005

Recent Happenings

1. Spent and enjoyable evening with some Gig Harbor locals discussing ovens, the nature of worthy labor, and wondering why "expect more, pay less" has usurped the National Anthem.

2. Attempted to bottle an amber ale, bake bread, and brew an IPA all in one evening. Success!

3. Acquired a junker motorcycle. If or not it can be revived has yet to be determined, but the prognosis is bleak.

4. Began taking a yoga class at the Morgan YMCA. There is something strange, yet fun, about stretching in a dark room full of women.

5. Circled the names of bars with "open-mic" nights in a local paper. The first step towards playing out has been taken.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Here We Be

Well, much time has passed - too much to try and rehash - since my last entry. I suppose this sort of opening line officially initiates me into the "blog-o-sphere" and is also an extension of a proclivity towards beginning projects that never really end. As this open journal has been helpful in the past my guess is that it will continue to be so. The funny thing about useful things is that one must actually use them from time to time - disuse tends to mitigate their beneficial nature.

Work continues to go well. I find that my facilities position is positively challenging and continually provides new avenues for learning. How much of this new learning will become permanent remains in question, but enough has stuck to keep me going. As summer camp is moving in full swing, mostly we attempt to keep up. Fix things that break, meet the regular needs of the facilities (garbage and recycling pick up, pool maintenance, et cetera), and keep our eyes open for other items that may arise is the order of the day.

However, I am most excited by the possibilities for projects and other fun things that come with the fall. The Outdoor Education season tends to leave a smaller, more easily managed, footprint on camp than the intensity of summer. Fewer staff and fewer programs leave room for improvements to be made around camp . There are several ideas that I would like to pursue, but these will have to await their proper time. In the Fall.
The time and mental space occupied by work is significant. I have always understood this to be the case, but am now acutely aware of this fact. In returning from the Philippines and beginning a job, basically right away, my priorities in both time and effort have changed dramatically. I go through bouts of guilt and confusion when considering the near complete drop in correspondence precipitated by coming to America. These are promptly forgotten when the next cool project enters my field of vision - and there are so many cool projects to do! The irony of the situation is that when I finally have access to resources that would allow me to undertake these projects, I am without the time to manage them. The task that seems to lie ahead is to bring these two worlds into harmony with one another: 1). meeting the needs of society by being a employed, solvent citizen, and 2). doing whatever I want, whenever I want, with the degree of enthusiasm I think appropriate. This may prove to be an interesting journey.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Conversing with Myself

After over a month, what can one say?

"A month has passed? Where have I been?"

Well, Mr. Elling, let's see:

You lived with your cousins as they prepared to leave for their cross-country photographic journey. Kari Ann, who for so long had been so far, graciously agreed to share house-sitting duties in their absence. The standard American kitchen became a familiar and welcome change; your bread baking madness was met with the same loving aversion as too much ripe zucchini or fruitcake. As if the ease of a conventional convection oven wasn't enough to satisfy your carbohydrate cravings, you decided to try homebrewing. And what do you have to show for it? A plastic jug slowly passing CO2? Uncomfortable and awkward moments were spent at a large church, though each subsequent entrance became a little easier. You've seen concerts in Seattle and hiked in the Olympic National Park. Something like running was attempted, beginning and ending prematurely. You've eaten Mexican, Thai, and microwaved food, drank beer both good and bad. You've called friends and family, mostly forgetting how to write. A position with the Y maintenance crew was offered and accepted, you learned how to correctly anesthetize the pool, and became acquainted with a number of interesting and dedicated people in the process.

"Sounds good. But...?"

Ah, what have we missed?

Mr. Elling, one can hardly see where they are having forgotten where they have been. While a certain degree of forgetfulness must, in your case, be allowed, there is a reasonable point where it must end. Rare are the moments when thoughts of the past two years enter your mind; perhaps the suddenness of your assimilation to the US is partly to blame, but then would not a conscious effort to remember seem appropriate? Your journal, both public and private, which was maintained with relative diligence throughout your service has seen a precipitous decline in use. Does the absence of internal reflection choke the drive to write, or is it the other way around? And what about this peculiar aversion to sharing your time abroad with those here now? Why do you tense up, assuming a sarcastic and critical air, whenever someone expresses interest in your service? Is that a valid response, regardless of the sincerity of the inquiry? While you have managed to find time in your busy schedule to contact some people, what of those who remain on the list? When will you reopen the lines of communication there?

"It looks like some things need to change."

You may become a detective yet, Elling. Once again you've been handed a mixed bag; how then will you sort things out?

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

A Week In

Just eight short days ago my flight from Taiwan landed painlessly in Seattle, WA. The customs process was a breeze - no searches, no complications with baggage, nothing. Aside from forgetting a few directional details related to my pickup (I waited outside, Kari Ann waited inside) everything went as smoothly as could be hoped for.

Already things have moved much more quickly than expected. While I had allowed for time to acclimate to the temperature of spring, the rising of the sun, the pace of traffic, and the peculiar penchant for most Americans to place their trash in the proper receptacle, little thought was given to the situations in which I now find myself. Thankfully enough, none of these situations are unexpected in a negative way. That I may already have a full-time job, money in the bank, and a beautiful place in which to live and work are on the contrary, positively exciting - unexpected things, whether good or bad, both require a bit of getting used to. Rather than dealing immediately with all the crap I had expected, I'm enjoying the newness and possibility of life near loved ones, with activities to edify both mind and body. In many ways I am able to count myself among the lucky.

My mind has continually turned towards the Philippines in this last week. It is difficult to wake from sleep in a soft bed or eat food easily procured without remembering those who lack such comforts. I do not believe that it is my duty to give such things to those who have not, but rather it is to not forget that these conveniences and comforts are privileges, that they are exceptions, and should not be taken for granted. Remembering alone is not enough, but it is a beginning down the path of appropriate action. What appropriate action may be, time and concerted thought will dictate.

As part of my active remembering, I've added a new component to this page. Under the links section, click on Personal Photos to view pictures from the Philippines in general, and at this point, ovens in particular.

So long, and thanks for all the fishes.

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Taipei Dispatch

The flight from Manila to Taipei was short and sweet. Leaving the country had fewer glitches than expected, yet more than appreciated (like the bank who's hours are from 9oo-1330; how very obvious they are). My Manila days were relatively uneventful; a few last minute visits, purchases, affordable movies, and schwarma plates. The days of cheap Mediterranean food have come to a close.

My intention in delaying departure by two weeks was to spend time decompressing, reflecting, and resorting my thoughts before landing on American soil. I've had a hard time deciding if or not my intentions were fully met. Yes, I was able to relax and reflect, in a manner of speaking, but not to the extent planned. Life, it would seem, occurs too fast to adequately process any given experience before flinging the next upon us. We are effectively unable to remove ourselves from the flow of events and view them, understand them, or catalogue them with any pretense of objectivity. Every moment is colored by every moment that follows; coming to any comprehensive conclusions about experience is little more than hyperbole.

This is not to say that one cannot speak about events in their life and experience without meaning or import. Experience simply cannot be understood in a vacuum, sans the context provided by what occured before and after any given moment. My thoughts on the Peace Corps will be affected by these few days in Taiwan, by my emotions the moment I step from the plane in Seattle, and by every moment thereafter (as those moments will in turn be affected by the others that will hopefully follow).

I'm glad that the decision to delay departure from the Philippines was made. For many reasons, most of which I am unable to articulate, returning state-side directly would have been too shocking, too jarring. Being away from home forced me to consider long and hard what it is about America I love, what it is I distrust; my conclusions about those catagories are less important than the overpowering sense that America is home. And yet the place I am most called to be had to wait, for just a little while, before accepting my offer of return. If or not the wait has better prepared me for all that will come, I do not know, but it may soften the blow.

Taipei is a very metropolitan city. This morning it's off to the National Palace Museum. Tomorrow, something else.