A Big Colorado Hello from Seth, Jode and TTTK - 2017

This entire year was gentle. We relished in calmness, sanctuary, and contentment.  Agreeable weather, tailwinds while travelling, a bountiful garden and plentiful wine. Believe it? Perhaps I should start over…

Snap, Crackle, Pop

Kids under age 6 should wear a neon sign announcing “Danger” to everyone in their proximity. Their parents should be sworn to serve as an active safety patrol. Instead they conspire. The Parnigoni family (Schmel & Stink who brought Jack & John David upon the world) are an operative team.  I meet the two little rascals during a ski weekend in Crested Butte. Schmel encourages me to have a few drinks…I now realize in order to impair my ability to sense menace.  I did indeed find it remarkable to see children leap off the counter top and swing off the chandelier to perform a double back flip… onto the couch where I lay as the unsuspecting human trampoline. The Parnigoni team found this hilarious.  Me…not so much. 

The next morning, while skiing towards the lift, I am spellbound by a beautiful snowflake floating along in the breeze.  Unexpectedly the snowflake lands softly on my chest…causing me to collapse into a wretched heap, gasping for air.  Witness accounts may vary but I believe the boys’ trampoline frolic was a disguised assault carefully planned to generate a web of hairline cracks throughout my carcass.  Ribs meet snowflake! 

I decide I’ll just rest for a while, lying face down in the snow, because I can’t seem to get up anyway.  I wake to a frantic phone call from Jody where I croak “Can’t breathe.”  She begins marshalling a search and rescue effort, but in the background I also hear her resolutely declare that “This doesn’t get that bugger out of bicycling across Africa.”  I figure that since I’m soon going to be lion food, I might as well ski down to the medical center.  I hope they can fix me up a bit so that at least there is some sport in it for the lion.  It turns out I have nine breaks across my ribcage and a punctured lung.

The doc gives me some pain medication and asks the attending ski patroller what happened. In my delirium, I interrupt his recounting of a spectacular head over heels crash and adamantly proclaim that I’m the latest victim of (queue up the announcer voice from the first Spiderman movie cage match) the “Boooooonnneee Saw Boys”, vividly recalling the image of two child sized cannonballs in mid-air with me on the couch below.  I try to announce this exactly like the guy did in the movie. The doc laughs nervously while frantically motioning to the nurse to cut the pain meds.

I am (unfortunately) familiar with traumatic injuries and thus not much disturbed by the plethora of tubes and wires and blinking lights.  I want to go home and refuse to stay overnight in Crested Butte. The doctor insists on inserting a tube into my chest cavity to reduce the chance of me expiring from a collapsed lung as we travel over several high mountain passes on our way back to Durango.  I find his recommendation persuasive…until I see him fondle his drill whispering “My Precious”. 

A few days later, I’m in Durango and the chest tube has served its purpose. But I can’t find anyone to remove it. The typical interrogatory “How did you get out of the hospital with a hose sticking out of your chest???”  Thankfully I am able to find a seamstress, who for $20 bucks, cuts the stitches and pulls out the tube with a satisfying “pop”. 

Africa  

I can’t get over the elephants.  There are wide-ranging meadows in the jungle where elephants have knocked over a broad field of trees simply because they prefer to eat the leaves found on the highest branches. My rule for admiring elephants is now entirely based on distance. At 100 yards they are impressive.  At 50 yards they are arresting.  At 20 yards they are f…king scary (especially on a bike with partially healed ribs!).  We see an elephant bluff charge a vehicle and we all pucker up tight.  Wild elephants are not the slow moving tame creatures we’ve all seen in a zoo. 

Victoria Falls (aka “The Smoke that Thunders”) fully deserves its designation as one of World’s Greatest Wonders.  You can’t not be impressed.  The Zambezi River holds as much water as twenty Colorado Rivers.  Downriver, the mist reconstitutes into a torrential rain storm. The deluge of water lands with so much impact that the thunder overwhelms all five of your senses.  We naively flew an ultralight through the spray above the falls and were tossed about like a feather.  After the flight, I realized we had been looking down on crocodile infested water while high above a massive waterfall, with nothing but a lawn mower engine between us and the almighty.  Yikes!

Tired from a hard days ride, we are camped “snug as a bug in a rug” in our zipped together sleeping bags.  We are dozing off when I feel a little tickle on my leg.  Jody then feels a little tickle on her leg…followed by a little nibble.  She screams!  We scramble out of our bag faster than greased lightning.  Breathing hard from fear, we watch something creep about in the depths. Not something little…After a minute, a bug the size of my hand crawls out…his antennae twitching all around.  He seems to be wondering what all the hub bub is about especially because, as we come to learn, in African bug language, “snug as a bug in a rug” is an invitation!  You can be sure we checked our bags, clothes, and shoes more thoroughly from then on out. Everything seems to be bigger in Africa. 

Don’t ask us about running away from the inquisitive baby rhino (Mama was less curious and more protective), the flying snake, the ostrich that tried to eat Jody’s fingers for breakfast, or our ancient support bus that limped out of the vast Kalahari Desert only because our guide diligently poured in 200 liters of engine oil...about 1 liter every 30 kilometers.  You often hear the phrase “This is Africa” which is a helpful mantra to adjust your expectations.  Things just don't operate the way Americans think they should. When the proverbial ‘sh.t hits the fan’, you just have to muster through.

On our return flight, we’re seated in the cramped rear of the plane.  This is expected and we routinely joke that my plane tickets must be stamped “SOS” (“Sit Seth Outside Shitter”).  Africa obliges with a few sprinkles on top.  Just prior to departure, Jody spills a plate of falafel all over her shirt. With no clean clothes to change into, it is admittedly quite “fragrant”.  As expected, we are seated in our toilet side seats. Behind us is a plus sized couple so large as to make it impossible to recline. Beside us is a sick traveler coughing uncontrollably.  In front of us is a family with two bawling babies.  Even Ambien didn’t help us through this misery.  We suffer for 24 hours.  Let it be said however that someone else from that plane is unquestionably writing in their Christmas letter about the boneheads who smelled like falafel. This is Africa! 

Just Get Lost

When in the backcountry, Jody prefers to use an old fashioned map.  This would be fine if either of us were good at reading maps.  We’re not.  This year was a doozy as we found ourselves lost on several different outings.  Dear readers, you are familiar with the narrative. We’re lost. It’s raining.  I’m shivering. Darkness is falling. Jody is having the time of her life. Blah. Blah. Blah. 

Nevertheless, one event in particular stands out. We are deep in the mountains biking on a barely used trail. We thought we were on the “Don’t Get Lost” trail, but the steep cliff in front of us isn’t on the map.  It starts to hail. Again?  Really?  I turn the map around once more and propose that perhaps the geology has changed since the map was made.  Jody rolls her eyes. As darkness falls, we don’t think we can find our way back along the trail from whence we came.  Jody timidly inquires, “Please tell me you brought a space blanket.”  Holy Smokes! Jody has never asked me that before!   

Then a surreal form appears in the darkness.  In my hypothermic fog, I imagine it to be the Bone Saw Boys inviting me out to play. I scream and huddle into a ball to protect my fragile bones.  Instead, it turns out to be salvation in the form of two camouflaged bow hunters appearing out of the mist.  Ivan and Marcel, on a hunting trip from Croatia, show us where we “really” are using the power of GPS technology.  We gratefully accept their offer to help us get to the real “Don’t Get Lost Trail.”

We are forced to carry our bikes a mile up a steep slippery tree choked slope to get out.  As the moon rises, I declare to nobody that I’m finished being lost and cold and hungry. The Croatians don’t understand what I’m saying and my wife isn’t paying attention.  As I think things through, I realize that for well over a quarter century, I’ve found it essential to carry basic survival gear: a space blanket; lighter; fire starter.  I mutter to myself, “Of course, I have a dad gum space blanket”.  But then I ask myself why?  Because I’ve been surviving misadventures for nearly 25 years.  I am the poster child for Stockholm Syndrome.  When I get home, I hide all of Jody’s maps. I research the best GPS device on the market. I gift her a GPS training course figuring that she can’t refuse a present.  The thought does cross my mind that I could learn to read a map, but I prefer this approach.  Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Wish me luck!

No water…no problem

My niece, Maria, recently planned a hiking trip in the Grand Canyon to visit some very old rocks.  I agree to join her with one admonishment. In the desert the ONLY thing that matters is water.  I really thought she was listening.  Night falls after our third day of hiking. We’ve been trekking nearly 12 hours and water is still another five miles away.  Despite rationing aggressively, we only have a few sips remaining.  Since all we have is dehydrated food that needs “rehydrating”, we go to bed without eating and in the morning depart without breakfast.  In an hour, we cross a dry gulch that reportedly should contain water. Maria shrugs explaining, “It’s been a very dry summer.  What did you expect?” As a ‘cup half full’ optimist, I think to myself, “At least we aren’t lost!” But then I realize, I don’t even have a cup.  Why do the women in my life want to torture me? 

Grif Dog

I have a new hero.  He has a thriving business selling rocks to the tourists offloading the train in Silverton. He uses his dough to finance the expansion of his extensive Legos collection. He’s learned that sales skyrocket when he rubs dirt on his face and keeps his parents out of site.  After last visiting our cabin far above Silverton, he calmly straddled his dad’s bike top tube (because he can’t reach the seat), placed his feet on the top of the front forks (because he can’t reach the pedals) and gripped the headset (because he can’t reach the handlebars) before he and Cliff plunged down 2,000 vertical feet of jagged unmaintained road into town. He’s a successful salesman and a talented athlete.  Pretty impressive for a 5 year old kid.

Mona Lisa with a twist

Our friends Carrie and Steven invited us over to their new house in Moab. An occasion such as this requires…in my humble opinion…a momentous housewarming gift.  I spend weeks creating a masterpiece worthy of da Vinci. We load it onto our truck with a crane and double strap it for security. Carrie joyfully prances out to welcome us when we arrive at their new home.  Then she stops cold.  Into the growing silence she utters two syllables …”Uh oh”.  Have you ever carefully crafted a gift for someone special and received “Uh oh” as the response?  Mercifully she appears to warm up to it as we trailer it into her back yard. The next morning, we even see her polishing her “Life is Good with TTTK” statue. Who knows, she’ll probably sell it for $450 million when I expire of a collapsed lung on a high mountain pass someday.  We particularly like friends who participate in our kind of crazy.

Careers and the Kat

Jody flew straight from Africa to Dallas to start working on a big project the next day.  She fell exhausted onto the bed. At 2 a.m., she awoke jet lagged.  Still smelling like falafel.  At that moment, I think even she realized that a month biking in Africa was more adventure than vacation.  Nevertheless, feel no sympathy.  By her hand, I’ve been cold and wet and hungry too many times to count. 

I’m busy managing our commercial property in Pagosa Springs, a board member on Durango’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, and crew leader for the Trails 2000 group.  All this, on top of being the next art sensation.  As you might imagine, after the public unveiling of my virtuoso for Carrie and Steven, I was inundated with orders for custom pieces. OK maybe not so many orders.  I empathize with the Maytag repairman in the old advertisements where, since the washers are so dependable, the repairman is a bit lonely. 

I’m prepared to admit that TTTK is among one of the most spoiled Kats on the planet…and Jody, among one of the most demanding humans.  The other day, Jody prepared a four page treatise for a new sitter with particulars about how to hold him, how many treats in the morning, how to fill his water bowl… important things like that.  I wasn’t particularly surprised when the sitter called me (not Jody) to ask anxiously if it would be OK to leave TTTK to go to a movie.  This is my life. This isn’t even Africa!

Smilebox Slideshow of Africa

http://play.smilebox.com/SpreadMoreHappy/4e4455304e6a677a4e4452384d6a51794d6a55324e7a453d0d0a

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Jody and Seth Furtney & Thomas the Tom Kat

11 Molas Drive, Durango, CO 81301

Jody Cell Phone: 970-385-5567 / Seth Cell Phone: 970-385-5547 

Email:  jodyfurtney@hotmail.com / sethfurtney@hotmail.com 

Posted on Wednesday, November 29, 2017 at 08:12AM by Registered CommenterJody | CommentsPost a Comment

A 2016 Howdy from Seth -n- Jode and TTTK

MAZE MISADVENTURES 

After glimpsing a tattered old map buried in the attic of Kent & Shawna’s 100 year old home (a river map showing secret campsites and an uncharted slot canyon) Jody is irresistibly drawn to replicate this quest through the Maze region in the badlands of Utah.  She pleads with me to embark on this exploration together, but I adamantly refuse.  The Maze presents some of the most attractive yet remote country in America.  It is wildly beautiful, but with rock falls, flash floods, dead end canyons, and a host of other dangers.  Furthermore Jody has a reputation of getting lost.  Undeterred, Jody begins planning and then persuades a cast of willing miscreants to join her.  With so many souls at risk, I am compelled to join.  Someone needs to pack a compass.  

Our slapdash team assembles.  Seb and Lizzie from New Zealand. Dan, Scott, Keith, Janet from California. Kristie from Denver. Pate, Miko, Ashley from Durango.  We are literally deserting civilization in order to explore some of the most inhospitable and uncharted territory in the country.  Nobody beyond Jody (and arguably not even Jody) has a clue where we are going.   Dan sardonically asks the Park Ranger what we should do if someone were to die and without pause he responds, “Pack it In, Pack it Out.”  He whistles the Gilligan’s Island theme song as we launch our canoes.  We start paddling with an abundance of apprehensive energy and soon find ourselves deep in the badlands.  Days later we’ve seen nothing but unending vistas of cactus and stunning rock formations when Jody pulls to shore.  She intuits a slot canyon nearby and decides that we should camp. 

We depart the shore facing an endless windswept expanse of desert jumbled slickrock. We are looking for a secret hidden canyon with neither trail nor precise directions to follow.  I think we won’t discover anything out here except bleached bones.  Hopefully not our own.  Somehow we discover the entrance to a crevice after a few hours of searching and Jody leads us down into the fissure.  And admittedly the slot canyon is mesmerizing.  It undulates through the rock, narrow then flaring and then tapering again. Colorful rippled rock beautifully sculpted by the flash floods that created it.  The vertical walls get taller as we continue deeper into the gorge.  Did I mention that overhead the skies are dark and ominous?  As the canyon descends, the cliff drops get taller making a return course impossible.  I start thinking the unspoken question, “Is this the right slot canyon?”  

Seb is a tall mountain goat who descends cliffs as if by magic and then helps everyone down climb.  Seb levitates to the bottom of a ten foot cliff and reaches upward to assist Pate, when she earns her river name by choosing a more thrilling approach.  

With her unique training, she leaps out to straddle Seb’s arm and then spins around his body in two full rotations throwing the audience dramatic kisses.  Seb is visibly startled…he’s just met Pate.  Hereafter her river name is “Polecat Pate.”

The next obstacle we encounter is a dark pool of water.  Our assault team considers whether to attempt walking through or swimming across the pool when Kristie makes her decision.  She tightens her sandals, sheds every stitch of her clothing and ventures into the unknown depth. She holds her bundled clothing high over her dreadlocks while disappearing around the corner.  Unbeknownst to everyone else, she makes it to the other shore and dons only her still dry shirt to continue exploring, since there are certain to be more pools ahead. We catch up to her a few minutes later and when Jody finds herself behind Kristie climbing over a large boulder, she bumps into Kristie’s bare butt.  Startled but nonplussed she declares “Kristie, you might-oughtta get some britches on.”  Her river name “Reggae Commando” is a natural fit. 

There are other well-deserved river names and this story would be much more compelling if I were to share how Dan is anointed “C.S. Shoeless” but this story is too disreputable to convey in this tame tome.  Even I occasionally abide by the unspoken rule that “what happens on the river stays on the river.”  However, if you buy me a beer sometime, my tongue might become somewhat looser. 

SNOWMOBILING IN CHINA

On a trip to our cabin this past winter, I snowmobiled all the way up to our cabin driveway without mishap.  Given my copious experience with snowmobile calamity, I was ecstatic.  But my elation was brief, for as I neared the cabin my snowmobile began to sink.  I sank and sank and sank.  Ultimately I found myself speaking Mandarin to some locals.  They were surprised by my unexpected intrusion into their kitchen, but we warmed up to one another after exchanging fried rice recipes.  

Then I began thinking through my options. I was buried under an infinite depth of fluffy dry powder snow.  I didn’t have a set of snowshoes.  The snowmobile wasn’t going anywhere.  What is a man (a guy occasionally called MacGyver for his innovativeness) to do when faced with such circumstances?  

I call Jody.   In my most masculine voice I ask her to prepare for some bad news.  Jody waits patiently.  “I’m stuck! Stuck! Stuck!” and start crying.   I’m all cried out after an hour when Jody finally asks, “So what are you going to do?”  Between sobs I tell her that I’m abandoning the damn machine, digging a tunnel to the cabin to get some rest, and will attempt to walk out the next morning.  She offers her reassuring support and prepares to hang up the phone….when I serve up the worse news.  We are babysitting our neighbor’s 125 lb. Newfoundland “Rowan” and she is in the back of our truck at the bottom of the mountain. 

Have I mentioned that I’m 50 miles from Durango over two high mountain passes? Did I forget to mention that there is a winter storm warning?  Jody satirically asks if I’ve installed winter tires on our scooter…. our only other “car”.  As you might imagine this saga continues well into the entire next day.  Other than my bruised ego, everyone thankfully survives.     

After returning home, friends offer me condolences for the loss of my snowmobile and I begin rebuilding my inner strength with daily counseling.  A week later, I am inspired with new hope when Ben and Amanda (our young whippersnapper friends) convince me they can retrieve the machine.  I ask my spiritual counselor about this new goal and she agrees that this mission could be emotionally helpful. With a rekindled sense of hope we venture forth up the mountain on our skis, with a hand pulley and 10,906 miles of steel cable.  No kidding, foot by foot we drag that sled all the way back from China.  It takes forever and I am so psychically traumatized that I can’t bear to even look at the damn machine when it emerges from the earth.  I wave to Ben and Amanda as they sled down the mountain on their new snowmobile.  

PERILS IN PATAGONIA

Mike accompanied us on fantastic two week bikepacking trip this summer across the Colorado Great Divide.  He’s our latest convert to lightweight bike packing and learned that you can indeed use a single toothbrush to; detail your bike, comb your hair, scrub your clothes, and brush your teeth.  He is much needed inspiration since Dan has abandoned us for the dark side with a new tricycle outfitted with enough carrying capacity to be a backup for Santa Claus.   However we did run into some trouble on our most recent bike trip with Mike and his wife Betty in Patagonia.  

No, not Patagonia the region in South America, Patagonia Inc. the clothing company.  We were riding trails around Telluride when my bike broke…again.  We planned to ride some ‘downhill trails’ the next day and everything about that plan sounds great, except the part about having no brakes.  We stop by a bike shop to evaluate the situation. While the mechanic is investigating the problem, Jody spies the Patagonia store across the street and rockets over there without even saying goodbye.  Within seconds I see her through the window carrying piles of clothes to the dressing room.  Even though it’s cool, I start perspiring profusely.  Telluride is a swanky resort town that parades all the latest ritzy gear - and Patagonia is expensive.  I lean close to the mechanic and urge, “Can you do this quickly? This is costing me about $20 every minute.”  He looks up confused and responds, “Hey buddy, it looks like I only need to bleed your brakes and it won’t cost much.”  I point across the street and proclaim, “My wife’s in that store.”  He smiles knowingly and promises to get me out of there in a jiffy.  

DRINKING THE JUICE

It starts innocently.  Sarah, yoga instructor and nutritional coach, delivers a presentation on healthy eating.  She provides sensible guidance like minimizing junk food in one’s diet.  Jody (always one to take things slowly) jumps aboard the train.  She soon forsakes using sugar in any of its forms and shortly thereafter abandons eating any processed foods whatsoever.  At present she will only eat raw kale.  Carried by the tide, I find myself drinking vegetable smoothies each morning and competing with other tie-died locals to grab bundles of nutrition rich plants at the local farmers market.  But, in my heart, I still crave treats.  

Thankfully, a hero has emerged in this battle.  Jody decided that Thomas the Tom Kat (“TTTK”) should also eat “pure” food and thus purchased him organic cat chow with all ingredients certified to be treated with “kumbaya” love and kindness.   TTTK sniffs distastefully at this new organic fare and pukes up a hairball.  For three solid day he sulks and starves.  Finally Jody can’t bear his misery and buys him some good old fashion Friskies with double helping of salmon delicacies.  TTTK is happy again.  I’m jealous and will tell you a secret. During waking hours I stomach Jody’s new “organic rules” of the house, but in the dead of night I sneak downstairs to munch on the Oreo cookies that I’ve hidden under the couch.  I often wonder if I cough up a lung and starve for three days, will I be allowed to eat some ‘old fashioned’ food. 

LIVING & WORKING IN DURANGO 

This year Jody was hired by Nationstar Mortgage as a Vice President while I’ve been consulting for ABM Government Services on some compliance efforts.  We’ve both been on the road a lot and cherish our weekends here at home in Durango.  We wake up, brew fresh coffee, and walk through our yard trying to locate yet another spot to place some more yard art.  We’ve already filled up the trees with masterpieces and are now looking seriously at the roof.  TTTK saunters with us and streeetttchhhes on the sun warmed stone path as we scratch his belly.  A lovely way to start each day.  

SMILEBOX SLIDESHOWS:  

The Maze Canoe Trip - April

Colorado Great Divide Bikepacking Trip - July

Capital Reef to the Swell Bike Trip - April

JP's Graduation - May

MERRY CHRISTMAS & HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Jody and Seth Furtney & Thomas the Tom Kat

11 Molas Drive, Durango, CO 81301

Jody Cell Phone: 970-385-5567 / Seth Cell Phone: 970-385-5547

Email:  jodyfurtney@hotmail.com / sethfurtney@hotmail.com

Posted on Sunday, December 4, 2016 at 07:32PM by Registered CommenterJody | CommentsPost a Comment | References3 References

Seth–n-Jode 2015 Recollections

Adventuring in New Zealand
 

It started as all good stories begin…with a chance meeting.  Our scenic narrative about a bike trip down the Continental Divide.  Their description of a Magical Land beyond.  Mystical rainforests hosting hobbits & dragons.  Snow covered mountains erupting from deep blue fjords.  Amazing new bike trails strategically sprinkled from hill to dale. We were spellbound!

In the 27 years I’ve known Jody, I’ve learned that no trip of ours will ever be relaxing.  But even I was aghast when I saw her plan.  An 18 page spreadsheet. Two months to ride 1,000 miles of bike tracks; sea kayaking; scaling glaciers; tramping the Milford Track; bungee jumping.  That was just the first 5 pages.  My mouth was dry & my old bones start to ache right then and there.  I meekly ask about the number of rest days.  Exasperated, Jody agrees that in her zeal she may have overlooked that.  She obliges to add “a rest day” as long as we agree to bike a bit longer on the other days.  I see no means of escape.

Knowing that no sane person would want to deploy on a two month long bike trip - without rest or medical support - we extend an invitation to our friends.  Inconceivably, Dan and Scott immediately accept.  We’ve traveled with these characters before so you think they would know better.  I remember once deserting Scott as he careened over the top of an unrunnable waterfall. I suspect he now only remembers being pulled from the recirculating eddy under the falls endeavoring to drown him. Dan christened Jody “Miss Calculation” after experiencing the pain of Jody’s “arithmetic issues” on our bike ride down the Great Divide.  At his advanced age, he has apparently forgotten this memory and now only fondly recalls the savory steaming stew pot meals I prepared at camp. 

However, it gets even more troubling.  Dan and Scott have two friends that also want to join.  Neither of them has ever bikepacked.  These retired people multiply like the NZ sandflies!  Janet and Keith turn out to be model students. They study the bikepacking bible daily and tuck it safely under their pillow at night. They buy bikes & new lightweight gear.  They agree to share a toothbrush to shave ounces off their load.  But Janet springs from Italian blood and, if there is cooking to be done, by God she is going to have some olive oil with which to chef. She simply won’t abandon her bottle of olive oil. Sixteen ounces for goodness sake. This clashes with all lightweight packing sensibility.  Like packing Ramen noodles along with a cast iron pot to boil water. To my utter amazement, Jody acquiesces.  She must really love good pasta! 

Still, we start the trip with an untested team.  As the trip unfolds, thankfully, the group bonds tightly. According to the gospel of Jody, bonds develop when people survive hardship together.  More hardship = more bonding.  The hardships begin early. Scott presents our first hardship before we’ve even mounted the bikes.  For some unplumbed reason, Scott is petrified of running out of water.  Even in a country where there is up to 300” of rain a year.  Noah’s ark could float off without difficulty.  Scott is nonetheless obsessed and outfits his bike to hold two gallons of water.  His water load makes Janet’s olive oil seem quaint by comparison. 

After 24 hours of planes, trains and automobiles we arrive in Wellington NZ. Scott stays up late to install his water system infrastructure.  When he presents his restructured bike, we are appalled to see that he has simply attached two huge water bottle cages to his forks with plastic zip ties.  The outfit looks like auxiliary fuel tanks strapped to an airplane.  Jody declares it “the most ghetto outfit” she’s ever seen.  He brushes aside her criticism, proud of his engineering design. He presents his calculations proving that the cage system is strong enough to handle the maximum stresses he will experience during the 1,000 mile bike trip. 

We make it two miles before actuality overwhelms hypothetical. ‘Ghetto Boy’ is barreling down the Queen Charlotte track, smug in his water gluttony calculations.  Mother Nature then introduces a bit of illogical unpredictability into his structured analysis.  I was there when he miraculously launched skyward.  This does happen when a loose water bottle cage radically stops your front wheel when traveling 20 mph.  I hear Scott fervently recalculating his formula as he takes wing.  Though the flying looks fun, the landing is definitely rough.  I rush over to find him dazed and missing his front teeth.  Thankfully he remembers his name & his water bottles are safe…securely lodged in his spokes.  To further demonstrate her contempt for human engineering, Mother Nature continues to malign Scott on the way to the dentist.  First his chain breaks. Then a bee stings him.  Finally a troop of mice invade his camp. Scott takes it all in stride, confident that one more zip tie will solve the problem. 

Another event that adds to our bonding experience.  We are on top of a mountain, sea on both sides, when my bike dies.  This is the third bike frame that has literally split in half under me.  I do seem to have a talent at breaking bikes.  I try to exercise my warranty, but the GBMC (‘global bike manufacturer conglomerate’) rejects me outright.  I protest that I only ride flat roads to church on Sunday’s, but they nonetheless sentence me a “Certified Bike Abuser.”  From this date forth I am required to: (a) register at a local courthouse wherever I travel and (b) avoid lingering within 1,000 feet of any bike shop. I intend to appeal on grounds that the GBMC should accommodate disabilities like mine… a skeleton with lots of weighty adamantium parts. 

Some days later, we arrive for an evening at a fine old lodge overlooking a beautiful lake.  Everyone enjoys a pleasant soak in the hot tub.  We commence a casual game of Ping Pong to whittle away the hours until the dinner bell.  Dan & Scott naturally align themselves against Jody & me.  We lose the first two games where after Dan calls for a third game, deftly proposing that the losing team pay for wine at dinner…with the wine to be selected by the victor.  A bolt of lightning strikes.  A crack of thunder shakes. Birds stop singing.  Jody & I get anxious betting anything more than $.25 cents. Dan just toured the underground wine cellar with the sommelier.  If there is a preposterously expensive bottle of wine, he would know it.  Just such a bottle has now become table stakes.  This game just became deadly serious. 

Jokes…cease.  Banter…stops.  Stances…grow rigid.  Dan & Scott take an early lead, but point by sweaty point we battle until we are tied at 20.  Perspiration drips.  Dan takes over the serve and unfurls his sneaky hooking backhand rear spin.  The ball thankfully misses the edge of the table and, for the first time, we are ahead.  We take our first deep breath since the contest began.  Dan then unleashes his trustworthy speedy forehand. The ball smokes as it rockets towards us and our eyes tear up from the heat. We have no time to react…but the ball overshoots the table.   We realize with incredulity that we’ve won the match.  We drop to our knees thankful that we can afford our next mortgage payment.  Boy did that wine taste good!

Selling Slowly 

Jody has taken ‘Slow Selling” to a whole new level.  She knew this New Zealand trip might be the final straw for our intrepid group.  Beyond replacing the pearly whites for one crew member, we endured mechanical breakdowns, driving rain, and an over indulgence of olive oil.  For the final week of the trip, she plans a luxurious ‘cleansing’ ride from the top of the Southern Alps to the Ocean.  The jaunt is downhill with leisurely daily distance.  The views spectacular.  Sunshine & tailwinds prevail.   We appreciate restful evenings at five star accommodations.  We soak in hot tubs.  We enjoy sumptuous meals.  We finish the trip on the western seashore when our toes touch the sea.  We sing “Kumbaya” together. Jody writes a moving tribute that sums up our trip: 

“As has always been my nature, I measure all things in superlative. It wasn't the sheer beauty, the kiwi friendliness, nor the biking that tops that list.  Though it is certainly true that the bike tracks are unrivaled. What I found best of all in New Zealand was the camaraderie of our crew. Laughter. The inside jokes that only we will forever know and truly understand. A tribe united. As the plane lifts off to fly across the sea, back to my home, my mountains, my gardens & my kitty, I rejoice as never before. My bag is overweight with memories. In this magical land, I came to bike & returned with amazing friends!”

Before the plane even lands in Durango, Jody has prepared the outline for the next trip…a Bike Safari in Africa. And sure enough, she has five takers.  I realize we’ve just been bamboozled by an epic “Slow Sell”.  When will we ever learn?

Newfie Factor  

We’ve long accepted the “Newfie Factor” in any game.  This unstated rule decrees that any ‘uncontrollable factor” (e.g. an enormous furry slobbering dog) is a permissible variable in any competition.  By way of example, when playing Bocce Ball, if after hitting the ball, the Newfie picks it up and brings it back to you, then that becomes your play.  After years of effort, I had hoped that my endless shenanigans would be acknowledged as a ‘Newfie Factor’ by the NFRC (“Newfie Factor Rules Committee”).  

Durango is a competitive town.  This competitive character pervades even the most sanguine events. In this town, a baby shower wouldn’t be complete without a “teddy bear” baby stroller relay race.  Ribbons and medals await the winning team.  Four competing teams preview the obstacle course, tighten their shoe laces, stretch muscles, and lubricate the baby carriage wheels.  Three races go off without a hitch. The fourth team takes the starting line.  Joel is point racer.  He’s lean. He’s mean.  He’s ready. He explodes from the starting line like a bullet.  He rounds the first corner and is horrified when the “baby” pitches from the stroller.  How could a belted baby take wing?  The official Baby Stroller Relay Race (BSRR) rules decree that a team is immediately disqualified for losing their baby.  The BSRR officials are reviewing the instant replay video footage when there is a low rumbling through the crowd. Somehow it has come to be known that I unbuckled the baby. The crowd grumbles and gives me the stink-eye. I appeal to the BSRR for reprieve as a “Newfie Factor,” but they are having none of it.  Now, in addition to avoiding bike stores I must also stay 1,000 feet away from baby showers.      

Just Frugal?

I patch jeans until there is nothing left to patch & absolutely love old T-shirts.  You know the ones that you’ve worn forever with that ultra-soft frayed cotton that you can only truly appreciate after years of wear. I’ll admit that I may look a bit rough around the edges.  Recent events suggest I may have taken this a bit too far.  It’s a nice spring morning and Jody & I are enjoying our walk into town. Despite being banned by the GBMC and the BSRR, I still consider myself a good citizen. We discover an abandoned empty shopping cart and start pushing it back to the grocery store.  We live in a tourist town so when a motorist slows down nearby, I walk over towards the car anticipating the driver needs help with directions.  But before I can offer assistance, the driver hands me a couple of oranges.  Jody is mortified. We’ve just been mistook for homeless people!

Ducky Tussles

Jody & I boated down the lower Animas River with Eric & Erin this spring.  Eric regales us with tales of his river prowess.  We are all laughing and full of good cheer…until we approach the roar of Smelter Rapids.  Erin is in front digging hard.  Eric is in back steering as oarsman…until he’s not. Without an oarsman, the ducky immediately turns sideways and flips like a pancake.  In river language, we call this a “yard sale”.  Everything flies everywhere. The beer, cooler, and water canon all head for Lake Powell.  Erin bubbles up after being tumbled in the rapids.  She swims to the nearest river bank and crawls out looking like Tom Hanks in Castaway.  Eric rushes to her aid proclaiming that he had been “bucked off” the boat. Powerless against river forces far beyond his control. Erin is too hypothermic to say anything.  Later that night, after a drink, Jody pronounces that Eric’s narrative needs embellishment.  She now distinctly recalls hearing Eric yell “Saaaaave Yourselves!” just before making a perfect swan dive off the ducky.  After another drink, Erin cottons to this story.  As do I.  With three witnesses, we now proclaim this the true accounting of the timeless yarn about "Down a Creek without a Paddler."

Biker Attitude

There is a Harley festival in Durango every year with lots of big, beautiful, powerful, motorcycles gleaming along Main Street.  We have a cream colored little scooter with horn that goes “toot toot”, and yet Jody somehow fantasizes herself a “Mini HOG” rider.  You can correctly conjure up the image of a kitten seeing a lion reflection in the mirror. Jody signals other HOG riders like she’s one of the tribe.  But this HOG brotherhood thing may have gone too far.  We are stopped at a traffic light when a massive, leather decked, tattooed, bloke on a Harley pulls alongside us…a beautiful buxom blond behind him.  Jody catches his attention and gestures behind her to unmistakably convey the message “I’ve got my bitch on back too!” The Harley dude guffaws and guns his engine leaving us in a cloud of blue smoke.  Jody waves and gives him a “toot toot” while my tresses toss in the wind.

Shared Firsts

Jody and I have shared a number of “firsts” in the past nearly 30 years together.  We’ve climbed up mountains & boated down waterfalls.  Our most recent “first” however is less audacious.  We’re both sharing our first set of reading glasses.  Still in denial, Jody excuses herself from the restaurant table, menu in hand and reading glasses in pocket, to sit on the toilet and decide what she will order.  I still forget to bring my reading glasses and thus just select the chef’s recommendation.  I’d like to believe that reading glasses are just an outlier event, but then I reflect on last week.  The proprietor of a liquor store just offered me a “senior discount” and I came home to find an AARP invitation in the mail. This aging thing is relentless.

SMILEBOX SLIDESHOWS

New Zealand Adventures:

http://play.smilebox.com/SpreadMoreHappy/4e4451334e4463314e6a5a384f4463774d4463314f44673d0d0a

Remembering Dad...25 Years Later, A Life Remembered and a Legacy

http://play.smilebox.com/SpreadMoreHappy/4e444d774e4441774d4446384d6a51794d6a55324e7a453d0d0a

 

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!

Jody and Seth Furtney & Thomas the Tom Kat

11 Molas Drive, Durango, CO 81301

Jody Cell Phone: 970-385-5567 / Seth Cell Phone: 970-385-5547 

Email:  jodyfurtney@hotmail.com / sethfurtney@hotmail.com 

Posted on Thursday, December 10, 2015 at 11:25PM by Registered CommenterJody | CommentsPost a Comment | References5 References

A Life Remembered...and a Legacy, 25 Years Later

Dear Dad

There is rarely a day gone by in the past 25 years that I haven't thought of you. Some say time heals. But it doesn't or perhaps I won't let it. My world view is bifurcated into time before September 30, 1990 and that which came after, a rift in my soul like the Grand Canyon.

The pictures are fading. The letters you wrote to me are yellowed and brittle. And yet the seasons, the memories, the sounds, the smells are still so vivid. 

Winter…"Troops!" - I can still hear your call to wake up Wanda and me to milk the cows.  I didn't want to go out into the darkness & bitter cold. But then all bundled up, I would walk out into a crystal wonderland. Moon glow gleaming on every facet of snow.  Steaming haunch of the milk cow warming my cold cheeks.  Walking back to the house and smelling Mom’s delicious breakfast.  Feeling so alive!

Spring brings ducks flying north. Their honking always brings me back to the ranch. That sound was a welcome sign that we were on the downhill side of the long winter. The lambs and calves running and jumping and kicking at dusk. Their playfulness would fill my soul that all was right in the world.

Summer and the sweet smell of a newly cut hay field always reminds me of you. Although I didn't think it fun at the time, I remember the heat and dust while hand stacking hay. In all my travels around this world, I've never again seen haystacks that rival yours. Perfectly square, green side out, with slough hay mounded on top. You were a perfectionist – an artist - in everything you did. I work to emulate you in my own professional career.

And then the fall....the season of change. I remember you driving me to start college in Boulder in 1986. A nervous energy in the air.  A sea change in the life I had lived and the future. I remember saying goodbye with us both fighting back tears. I had never seen you cry..... And then a dreadful call on a brisk day four years later.  We spread your ashes in the mountains with the trees in full fall blaze. A fitting tribute to an irreconcilable event.

What I would give to have another day with you.  To tell you about my wonderful 27 year relationship with Seth. How Mom has worked so hard to keep the ranch as perfect as when you were here. How Wanda blossomed as a nurse and now plays a mean game of hockey for fun. How her son - your grandson - JP has become a handsome young man with a bright future ahead of him. You would be proud.

God saw fit to take you before your time. But you still exist. I hear you in the call of a bird at first light. I see you in sun soaked rainbows. I feel your presence when the wind blows…and I still only miss you when I’m breathing.

Your daughter,

Jody Sue Ashbaugh Furtney

A picture tribute set to music that I made for you:

http://play.smilebox.com/SpreadMoreHappy/4e444d774e4441774d4446384d6a51794d6a55324e7a453d0d0a

Posted on Sunday, September 27, 2015 at 11:18AM by Registered CommenterJody | CommentsPost a Comment | References3 References

Anniversary Ramblings - The Ring

An acquaintance asked me the other day why I don't wear my wedding ring.  It brought back a flood of memories, a literal ring of remembrances.
I had wanted the big fancy ring back then in February 1993. This was the time where I was just starting my career and the clothes, the house, the car had an outsized import on my life. We bought this beautiful pear carat from someone advertising in the newspaper. On the outside it was bright and shiny but under the microscope, the jeweler pointed out some flaws. No matter. It was the right price. I liked that it had character uniquely its own. Seth, ever more practical and never in need of any status symbol, bought a modest gold ring. Prior to our wedding, we had the symbol for infinity + 1 engraved on both bands.
We wore them for about a year. But whitewater kayaking isn't conducive to ring bearers. While my ring was kept safe in a drawer at home, Seth would put his in his life jacket pocket. And then, one day, it was gone. Forever claimed by the river.
How do you replace a ring engraved with infinity + 1, exchanged in a mountain celebration before our tribe, blessed by the earth, sun, moon and stars? It's not possible. To me, the ring is now a symbol of the eddies, the rapids, the exhilaration, the catastrophes, and the concentric circle of friends and family that ebb and flow through our lives.
I imagine Seth's ring being washed and rolled by the river. The glint of the engraving occasionally catching the sun. Maybe it's lodged under a rock. Maybe it has reached the ocean by now. Maybe somebody else found it and used it in their own special ceremony.
Sometimes I bring my ring out and marvel at its beauty and remember it's flaws. Similiar to when I wake up next to Seth in the mornings. In the quiet light, I like to gently trace his scars which hint at the narrative that put us in this place and this time. I listen to the rise and fall of his steady breathing and revel in infinity + 1.
 
It is our 22nd wedding anniversary today. We are celebrating with a set of old kayak friends who we adventured with back in the boating years in California in the early 90s. Over the years our lives have rippled in different directions but we have always stayed connected by the river. And then last year, a bike packing  invitation to New Zealand brings us all back together again.
To laugh. Maybe even to cry some. To make more memories. Like the concentric rings of water from a thrown rock. Like a ring sacrificed to the river....for infinity + 1.
Posted on Friday, February 27, 2015 at 11:26AM by Registered CommenterJody | Comments1 Comment | References6 References
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