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.
Jody Sue Ashbaugh Furtney
A picture tribute set to music that I made for you:
Bikepacking…I fondly remember snuggling with Jody one cold night in the mountains of Idaho on our two week bikepacking trip this fall. We’d just finished eating our five star meal of noodles. The best ramen noodles that money can buy. I’m dozing off when Jody rolls over and grazes my scratched and bleeding legs. Ouch! Fully awake now, I painfully recall the day’s nightmare.
Jody had convinced me that the road, reportedly washed out by a spring flood, was actually passable by bicyclists. Accordingly, we confidently pedaled to the end of the road. Past the official sign proclaiming, “Danger – No Way Across.” Then the road ended. Completely. At a river. The other end of the road barely visible ¼ mile further ahead. A path snaked tenuously up the eroded hillside with foot impressions careening precariously across the nearly vertical face. Goats, maybe. Loaded bikes, no way! A hand scrawled sign at the start of the path read…”Sucker.”
I look over to Jody with a pained expression. The sensible thing is to “retreat.” But this is NOT an option with Jody and I know it. Turning back would mean three days of biking to the reroute that Jody didn’t want to take in the first place. Predictably, she is already devising Plan B. The river is still high from the recent rains, but Jody points to a possible route across the river rapids. She thinks that I can “probably” get the bikes across to the other side. The other shore presents an invitingly smooth track that disappears around the bend. There is no point arguing.
I am indeed able to port across our bikes and packs without drowning and briefly think that, just maybe, this is going to be easier than I thought. That’s about when the ‘inviting’ shoreline becomes quicksand. After floundering around like pigs in mud for a half hour, we fortunately discover that we are able to trudge upriver sinking only to our knees on the river’s edge. Unfortunately this is where the sticker bushes live which snag any exposed skin. Pretty soon, I feel like a pincushion and am bleeding freely.
Then I hear a frightful scream – not my own. Jody has just spotted the biggest bear track we’ve ever seen. Huge fresh imprints in the oozing mud. In the back of my mind, I absently wonder if bears are attracted to blood like sharks. We quicken our pace as much as can be quickened considering the quicksand.
After two hours and a distance of about ¼ mile, we find another shallow section of the river where we can re-cross and reclaim the other end of the road. I sigh my relief with the end of the ordeal in sight. I look over to Jody and see her beaming. She enthuses, “Isn’t this the best trip ever?” I pull a sharp thorn out of my shoulder and reply dutifully “Yes Dear”. As I settle back into a doze, I hold her tight and smile. The memory of her cry “Hey Bear, Get Away Bear” softly ringing in my ears.
Family… I’ve come to believe that my 21 year old niece Maria STILL holds some bitterness over the results of a family water fight in her mom’s house many years ago. Doesn’t a youthful grudge ever expire? Heck she was only 8. I may have been a bit overzealous when I brought the garden hose into the living room but I was simply adhering to my strong belief that kids these days need a good walloping while they’re young to be better prepared for the challenges they’ll encounter later in life. I was able to dry the house in a few short days, but Maria’s grudge apparently endures. Please note, and certainly related to the topic at hand, I’m taking credit for Maria being accepted to Cornell University with a full scholarship to pursue her master’s degree in geophysics. Her achievement is a direct result of how I honed her mettle while she was growing up. She’d probably be flipping burgers otherwise.
This past winter and to my surprise, Maria eagerly accepted my offer to enjoy a ride on my new snowmobile near Molas Pass. We are heading up a steep hill when the machine unexpectedly skews off course and tosses us both downhill. When everything comes to rest, I am buried deep in the snow with the 500 lb. machine upside down on top of me. Maria stands confidently on top of the machine peering down at me with exaggerated concern. After a pause and a smirk, she climbs down to help me out. She exhibits earnest effort, but the machine doesn’t budge a millimeter. Under her breath, I hear her mutter “Sucker”. It is then that I realize that this is just another extension of the water fight. She now has the upper hand and is going to savor every last moment of my discomfort. Maybe this is now my lot in life as our nieces and nephews get older. I suspect there are many family grudges that remain unresolved. You may be sure I won’t be taking any of these family members on snowmobile rides.
We’re Famous… After a lifetime of scrapes, sunburn, mud, and grit, we’re famous. Bikepacker Magazine interviewed us in October 2014 and the author and our friend, Michael Ackerman wrote a glowing and beautiful profile of our biking calamities achievements over the years. Though we’re happy to accept applause, we caution anyone trying to become famous in this manner to be prepared for many hardships. By way of example, on a planned 20 mile ride down the Hermosa Creek Trail, Jody was responsible for packing our riding gear. On the drive to the trailhead, I was relaxing in the passenger seat in my bathrobe & ‘furry crocs’. When we exit the truck, I can’t find any bike gear whatsoever. As she rides off, Jody hollers that I am responsible for my own gear. I’m relegated to riding after Jody…in my bathrobe and furry crocs. Let’s not even discuss undergarments. I’ve tried to forget the derogatory calls made by the many hunters we passed.
Another example is my 30 mile birthday bike ride on the Colorado Trail from Stony Pass to Lake City. The route is a gorgeous high altitude ride which means slow travel and lots of pictures. Afternoon brings lightning and rain… and then predictably night. Jody and I make it to Lake City near midnight. And then only because our friend, Luke Angel and my dear niece, Maria, awaited our arrival at the trail end 20 miles from town.
It later turns out Maria’s birthday present was to have me buy a new clutch for my truck. I swear that clutch was in mint condition when she started out that morning at Stony Pass, but after she got done with it in Lake City, it was clutch toast. I’m convinced she is still recollecting that water fight.
Last but not least (sound the trumpets) Jody is royalty. After ruthless research at the Salt Lake City genealogy center and “Ancestry.com,” Jody discovered that she’s a 37th generation granddaughter of Charlemagne, the 7th century A.D. Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. Jody has claimed the title “Queen Buttercup of Durango” and anointed Thomas the Tom Kat “His Royal Kittiness”. I put the kybosh on the need for curtsies in their rarefied presence.
Lynx vs Bunny… One would think that a PHD of Biology, especially one with published articles in esteemed scientific journals & the New York Times would be able to discriminate between the local creatures. But for reasons unknown, this phenomenally trained scientist and professor quickly discounts Jody and Lisa’s joint exclamation in sighting a “bunny hopper” crossing the road during a summer camping trip. Erin academically explains that they had just sighted a rare white tailed lynx outside of his normal habitat. Lisa and Jody (mere mortals & admittedly not distinguished biologists), look at each other in quizzical silence. As Erin is just completing her lecture, the “lynx” hops back towards the three of them, stands on his rear legs and wrinkles his nose in a most bunny like manner. In the ensuing silence Jody tentatively ventures, “Maybe lynx have learned how to hop”. With a sinking sensation, Erin realizes she is wrong. Knowing the potential to be featured in this forum, she immediately directs “That CAN’T go in the Christmas letter”. Oh yeah? :)
Biker Bar Pull Up Contest... Imagine a biker bar all pumped up for the annual Snowdown celebration pull-up contest. It takes a certain amount of chutzpah to simply enter such a bar to buy a drink in a teeming landscape of tattoos on a swarthy mass of well-muscled arms. Now dismiss all rationality and imagine a lanky professional with nary a tattoo entering the pull-up contest… dressed in nothing but his wife’s slinky black lace panties and a ski helmet. The women in the crowd were still whistling their appreciation before the ensuing brawl developed. Thankfully the exit to the fire escape was clear. I was there and I still can’t believe it. It wasn’t me! I have pictures to prove it that I’m prepared to sell at a reasonable price. :)
Yard Art… I thought I crossed the line with Bullwinkle, Puff and Ellie. For those of you not in the neighborhood, these creatures are life size to scale replicas of a moose, a dragon and an elephant. But when Jody suggested the idea of a mounting a big black buzzard in our cottonwood tree…I couldn’t resist. Using ropes, I somehow managed to affix an 8’ wide red headed buzzard above our driveway. Our friend Carrie, visiting from Moab this fall, drives up, shakes her head and while rolling her eyes, shouts “OK you even have a buzzard.” Yes indeed. When I told her my next project was to paint a dead Wile E Coyote on the pavement below the buzzard, she drove away. The good thing is now we have no friends who don’t think we are crazy.
Wanda’s Wedding… Jody was invited to Wanda’s wedding to be her sister’s bridesmaid. As brother-in-law, I figured I’d get to sit around and drink free beer. Instead I was tasked to be the primary wedding photographer. I have no experience in this arena but game for nearly anything, I tried to prepare by watching You Tube videos on how to compose wedding pictures. I cringe to admit that most of that time I spent viewing funny kitty cat videos. All in all the wedding was beautiful…the bride glowing, the food and wine plentiful. Much to the bride’s dismay, I presented her many excellent compositions of the local cat population.
Nevertheless, the audience had its biggest collective chuckle at the reception when JP, Wanda’s 16 year old son, offered his mother a toast “To the best Mom ever! You’ve been with me from the very beginning!” Ha Ha. Ya think? :)
Ashbaugh Aches… Jody’s mom, Donna, figured that as long as we’re in town for the wedding, we could spend a few days with her and Norvell at her ranch. With wedding glow on our minds, we gladly accepted. Once our guard was down, we were trapped. Helping Donna and Norvell paint their barn last year may have been a bad idea. This year Donna had her list ready: paint a couple houses, replace a deck, cut & chip several dozen trees, and “whatever else you have time for.” She also added, if you don’t mind, please also bring your Espresso maker to brew some latte’s. We had two days. Given the time constraint, Donna was somewhat less concerned about non-essentials…like sleep and sustenance. When midnight rolled around each day, I’d croak out my request. “food & water please?”
Outpost… Jody has cut my hair for years and years. We’ve got a professional quality trimmer and she takes the task very seriously. Over the years she’s had to adjust the trimmer length. A few years ago, it was 2 (medium) & 1 (short). Now she is just down to using 2 because if she only uses 1, I’d look like a Bruce Willis stunt man knockoff. But what gives me great pain is the death of ‘Outpost’. Let me explain. After each trimming for the past decade, there would be one proud hair low down on my forehead (where my hairline used to be) that grew in without fail in defiance of the surrounding desertification. Sort of like when you see a healthy tree growing out of a small crack in a huge boulder and think that this is “just not possible”. Anyway, last week, Jody was trimming my hair and inexplicably ‘Outpost’ was gone. We were devastated. Outpost has been with us for years and we considered him part of the family. It is truly the passing of an era. To console ourselves, we held a funeral and wished him well in hair heaven.
Screwy Thingy… I’ve somehow become the “Fix it guy” for all the neighborhood professor geeks. I rather enjoy the role, so no worries. But I had to shake my head in exasperation when PHD Brian asked, “Can you bring that ‘screwy thingy’ to help me install some racks in my garage?” Did he mean a drill, a screwdriver, screws??? To give him a hard time, I dropped some Twizzlers off at his house. How do these nerdy academics survive?
Jane Fonda Workouts… Jody is embracing her internal iron woman. She is on a mission to be in the best shape possible for our upcoming two month bikepacking trip around New Zealand starting March 2015. And she is dragging me along on the trip …and also to her workouts. I was a bit startled when we arrived at a new class at our local gym. We arrived late to find the room filled with 30 beautiful women in their cute little Jane Fonda workout clothes down to the matching legwarmers. I was the only dirt bag guy. I hadn’t received the memo about proper dress & so arrived in my typical worn sweats, stained t-shirt & mismatching socks. The teacher, with apparent mischievousness, proceeded to set up my equipment…in the front…the only space available.
Adventures… It’s true. Jody has spent hundreds of hours developing a 25 page detailed itinerary for our upcoming suffer fest trip to New Zealand. A self-supported bike ride covering 1,500 miles, chock full of sand flies, rain, head winds and uncertainty. Because two months simply isn’t enough time, Jody has done away with any rest days to make sure we “experience everything”. We’ll see how that goes. What’s more astonishing is we’ve convinced four other intrepid souls to join us. One of whom is Dan Read, our companion on the Great Divide bike trip a couple years ago. We were having breakfast with a friend just the other day who had met our friend Dan Read shortly after completing the Great Divide bikepacking trip. He remembers Dan’s sorrowful gaze and haggard features. We excitedly said that Dan had agreed to join us again. Without missing a beat and with a completely straight face, our friend asked, “Does he have dementia?”
ENJOY OUR SMILEBOX SLIDESHOW LINKS BELOW:
BIKEPACKER MAGAZINE AND BIKEOVERNIGHTS ARTICLE LINKS
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Queen Buttercup, His Royal Kittiness and Seth Furtney
11 Molas Drive, Durango, CO 81301
Jody Cell Phone: 970-385-5567 / Seth Cell Phone: 970-385-5547
Black Bear Pass:I know better. I really do. Jody has schemed up a plan to ride our mountain bikes over Black Bear Pass from Silverton to Telluride in late fall. I’ve been on this 4WD road before and am prepared for the sign which reads: “YOU DON'T HAVE TO BE CRAZY TO DRIVE THIS ROAD - BUT IT HELPS.” Then again, crazy would convert to foolhardy if there had been an early snowfall. Which is the case this year… of course. As we’re driving to Silverton, Jody looks at the peaks draped in a blanket of white snow and says, “It doesn’t look so bad. It’s likely to melt by the time we get there!” As I start bawling, she swears to me that if we encounter unsuitable riding conditions, she’ll be sensible and turn back.
I stop crying, but deep in my heart I know better. Jody hates to back track. We ride our bikes to Black Bear Road at 11,000’ near the top of Red Mountain Pass. Whereas the road over Red Mountain Pass is considered dangerous, Black Bear Pass is justifiably notorious. It crests at 12,840” on a twisty 12 mile 4WD road.
We’ve ridden our bikes for only two miles when we see a hairpin turn where the vehicle tracks stop. At this point, the most aggressive 4WD vehicle tucked tail and got the hell out of Dodge. The snow has become too deep to drive further. There are still ten miles to go. With a pleading expression, I look over to Jody. As expected, she abandons her pledge and hoists her bike on her shoulder. Thus begins our 6 hour journey through deep snow…wearing bike shoes. The snow grows to several feet thick and we get lost when the roadway becomes invisible under the deep snow. We limp into Telluride at dusk, wet, tired and hungry. We spend over an hour thawing ourselves in a hot tub before we stop shivering. Jody gushes about this being the best trip ever. One wonders if I will ever learn.
Rowan: What is it about ‘parents’ that make them unable to accurately see the qualities of their pet? Our dear friend Erin seems to believe her big black 150 pound wooly mammoth Newfoundland is sweet, well behaved, and unintimidating. And this is true but only when our sweet, well behaved and unintimidating kitty is nearby. Thomas the Tom Kat (TTTK) may be only 10 pounds of kitten, but he doesn’t tolerate miscreants in his house. Exhibit 1 to my case is when Erin visits our home with Rowan and Rowan nonchalantly plods downstairs to TTTKs kitchen where she promptly inhales his entire meal. TTTK can’t seem to prevent the theft, but does then block the doorway to trap Rowan inside. After being imprisoned for an hour, Rowan will whine until a human arrives to release her from kitty captivity.
Though I might forgive Rowan’s routine assault on TTTK, I can’t so casually dismiss the “Godzilla Episode” as it has come to be known around town. This is Exhibit 2 in my case so let me paint the picture. Jody and Erin are walking along the popular river trail in town. Erin holds her 10 pound pug-nose dog, Indie (Rowan’s sister) and hands Jody the leash to walk Rowan. They are passing by a group picnic at a park when Rowan embraces her inner monster. Rowan launches at the picnic fixings. She gallops through the gathering, swallowing hotdogs, snapping up chips, inhaling burgers, quaffing beer, knocking people down. She’s having the time of her life! Standing there in shock, holding the broken leash, Jody is clearly responsible for the chaos. Uninjured picnickers give Jody the stink-eye. Rowan is finally stopped when two police officers arrive to dive tackle and cuff her. Jody is taken to the station for questioning on a charge of public picnic disruption. You may ask, what about Erin? Erin is hiding behind a tree the entire time. What are best friends for? At least she posted bail! :)
Bike Trip from Vietnam to Thailand: Lasting impressions from our bike ride starting in southern Vietnam, through Cambodia to Thailand: Scooters everywhere carrying anything and everything (including a 500 pound live pig); Feeling like a parade marshal as hundreds of kids run out with cheerful cries of “Hello, Hello, Hello” to watch the foreigners bike past; Fresh market vegetables and seafood; The grandeur of ancient Angkor Wat; The cool rush of jumping in a pool after biking all day in the heat and jungle humidity, Seeing Nemo while snorkeling in Southern Thailand, The vibrancy and bustle of Bangkok.
We hired local guides for this trip and were very glad we had someone who knew the ropes and could speak the language. The primary reason we hired the guide is because, as best we can determine, he had the entire route memorized. There wasn’t any other way to tell where we were. Without apparent reason he would simply turn off the road onto an unmarked dirt path. We’d follow him without hesitation, not certain if he just needed to stop to pee. Instead, we would continue some distance on the jungle trail to arrive at another junction…and do it again…and again. For several days we hop-scotched across the network of embankments separating miles upon miles of rice fields and jungle landscapes.
Though I cringe to admit it, I came to most appreciate our guide when I needed his help to extricate myself from a difficult position after I (apparently) ordered a “happy ending’ massage. This wasn’t my intent. Really truly. Don’t let your imagination get ahead of you and try not to misinterpret, but I was in a bind. Though I still had my tighty whities firmly in place, the masseuse was demanding payment for the full suite of services. I didn’t have that much cash with me…and she had my pants. Let me cut this short and caution you (based on my extremely personal experience) to be very careful about what you agree to buy when you are in a foreign country and communicating without a common language. Though I’ll admit that the overall experience wasn’t bad (that may sound worse than it should), I’ll stop now as I can’t seem to climb out of this hole I’ve dug. :)
Friends and Follies: I was prepared to accept the disappointment when Dan (our ride partner on the Continental Divide) rejected our invitation to ride in Asia. His excuse was an appointment for a root canal. Though this be a solid excuse for Dan, I had to reflect when nobody – not one single person - accepted our invitation. Possibly one of these stories holds a clue:
In July some friends (memorialized in our Christmas picture) from the Front Range stayed with us in Durango. Captain Jode scheduled three days of trail riding to deliver Durango in all its beauty. The weather was glorious. There was plenty of food and drink. Regardless, everyone mutinied on the third day under the rally call of “Durango Rollers”. As her husband, I must defend Jody, but she did describe the ride series as “mostly flat with rollers.” Our first ride was the final 22 miles of the Colorado Trail from Kennebec Pass to town. Most guidebooks use terms like “epic” and “unrelenting”. We broke our first bike that day. The next day started with a 3,000’ foot climb and went up from there. Can you really fault the group for rebelling on the third day with a choice to instead float down the Animas River with a case of Budweiser and 2 water cannons?
In August, we agreed to mountain bike a 20 mile trail above Coal Bank Pass with two young whippersnappers Amanda and Ben. About 1/3rd of the way into the ride, we were devastated by a severe high-altitude hail storm. The deluge was awesome. I was carrying not just one but two space blankets and we were able to huddle together under a tree during the onslaught. In less than an hour, the storm passed, but with the trail full of hail stones, we decided retreat was our best option. Amanda then shared what she intended as a compliment, but nonetheless hurts. “My friends think it’s really bizarre that I ride with middle age folks, but this was great.” I didn’t hear a thing beyond “middle age folks”. Heck, we can’t be middle aged? Jody talks to our garden plants in baby voice. When we join friends with kids at the park, I jump around on the jungle gym like all the six year olds. To support our self-delusion, we’ve decided that Amanda was really remarking upon our “mature” level of preparation. I’ve since bought a dozen space blankets and will be giving them out for Xmas.
Yard Art: I must make another admission. In addition to having trouble communicating in Vietnamese, I’ve become an addict to yard art. I hoped my binge would end after I installed three dozen colorful windows along our fence. But then I found that I could affix animal silhouettes on top of the fence. There was plenty of room to fasten: a bunch of green turtles (“Herd of Turtles”), several orange kitty cats (“Pride of Kittys”), a couple blue squirrels (“Rocky 1 & 2”), some purple jays (“Birdies”), a 12’ red dragon (“Puff”), an 8’ grey elephant (“Ellie”) & a full-size moose (“Bullwinkle”). We are one big happy family! I enjoy seeing people young and old smile and point at our house as they pass. I may have crossed the line however when I presented “Big Bird” to Joel for his birthday. Yes ‘that’ Big Bird. Joel is a tall guy. Big Bird is quite a bit taller. With a lot more yellow. I hear through the grapevine that Joel now uses Big Bird to scare away potential burglars and unruly neighbors. Hmmm, I’ve been wondering why we don’t get invited to any of our friend’s birthday parties anymore???
White Trash: What is it about America that makes instantly recognizable the amalgamation of Pabst Blue Ribbon, Chewing Tobacco, Wife beater T-Shirts, and Firearms? I ask you because our neighbors (ostensibly sophisticated, PHD educated, Prius driving folks) have embraced this ensemble. I need guidance on how to respond when invited by this couple to join them for drinks… and a round of shooting. Like them, I recycle religiously and compost my eggshells. I think I can refuse a few more times before they get suspicious. The undeniable problem is that I’m jealous. I can’t stop visualizing a target on the front of that old refrigerator. The line of bottles sing me a sirens song. I’m tired of resisting my natural impulses. The next time they ask, I plan to pop a Bud and chamber my first round.
Handyman: This summer I helped my brother Dave & his wife Sue prepare their Boulder, CO home for sale. We spent an entire week repairing, drilling, replacing, painting, cleaning, cutting, caulking, etc. The effort appears to have been worth it as they had a solid purchase contract just days after listing the house for sale. Immediately thereafter I travelled over to Jody’s mom’s ranch to help Donna and Norvell with a couple chores. Remember this is a ranch so a chore is really a CHORE. The first day, we stained the huge barn, corral, and two sheds - with Norvell driving the tractor to serve as mobile scaffolding. The next day we re-built the chimneys with new mortar. Thereafter was a blur. Donna was an incredible effective leader. She enforced discipline by withholding any food until the chores were finished. Whew! It was a busy (and hungry :)) couple of weeks! I’ve gained a reputation as a “fix-it” kind of guy. Friends in the neighborhood routinely drop off things for repair and I can’t stop myself until they are screwed, glued, snapped, riveted, or whatever. Jody calls me a freak, yet she also routinely avails herself of the “fix pile”.
CAREER: Jody has been working for Bank of America implementing new systems for regulations established by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. She has been glued to the phone for months with barely an opportunity to eat. I have become chief cook and bottle washer, fix-it guy and artist since I was laid off by SAIC. I hope to return to contract management / preparing price proposals once that market picks back up. We’re planning a new adventure for when Jody’s gig ends. To be safe, I’ll be sure to study the local language, particularly surrounding massages!
We’ve created a musical slideshow for most our recent adventure in Asia. Enjoy!
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Jody and Seth Furtney & Thomas the Tom Kat
11 Molas Drive, Durango, CO 81301
Jody Phone: 970-385-5567 / Seth Phone: 970-385-5547
The Continental Divide Trail (CDT) Ride:
Our picture for this year shows Jody and me jumping for joy in the San Juan Mountains after successfully finishing our mountain bike trip on the Continental Divide Trail (CDT). We’d recently completed our self-supported 1,000+ mile trip from Banff Canada to Jackson Hole, Wyoming and we are thrilled to be off the bikes. Off to the right, you’ll also see our friend Dan Read. He was also on the bike trip.
Let me introduce Dan. You may correctly perceive that Dan is trying desperately to maintain an aloof & reserved public image, though our antics did manage to get him to crack a smile. To his defense, he normally resides at sea level, and thus at >12,000 feet he is seriously oxygen deprived. In any case, my opinion is that he’s “uptight” and trying to mask that under a “reserved demeanor”. My opinion is based on the routine behaviors he displayed on the trip (i.e. cantankerous, irritable, grouchy) all to which I find my head nodding in the affirmative.
Nevertheless, it caused me a moment’s pause when, just before engaging in flogging him for the countless insults and discomforts that I experienced during our CDT ride, he sent Jody and I (what appeared on its face to be) a thoughtful and appreciative letter thanking us for inviting him on the trip. Not a tweet, not an email, but a real 20th century letter sent via US Post on bond paper. I’m a sucker for age old graces like this. Fortunately he threw down the gauntlet:
“Let's face it, you both have lots to give thanks, not the least of which is your great friend Dan Read who immeasurably enhanced the quality of your CDT ride this year. One has to wonder if the two of you would even have made it home safely without me.”
I’m pleased to respond to this insult in this forum since he’s unable to retaliate. :)
Let’s start with the beginning. Jody and I spent most of 2012 preparing & planning for our “Ride the Divide” adventure. Nearly a year ago, we’d invited Dan to come along, but despite that he didn’t have any schedule conflicts, he wouldn’t commit until a short sixty days before the ride. Along with his last minute declaration that he would like to join us, he admits to not having a lot of experience with long distance self-supported mountain bike travel. Who does? But in this case his inexperience is breathtaking. Let me put this in perspective. Our first recommendation to him is “Buy a bike.” Our second is “Learn to ride the bike.”
Imagine, if you will, a California city slicker clicking his heals and dropping magically into Canada to ride 1,000+ miles on a dirt path to Wyoming. Now realize that Dan didn’t have anything to start this trip. No bike. No tent. No sleeping bag. No outdoor clothing. Nada.
We had to explain to him that it was not wise to bring any of the “camping” things that he expected. Do NOT bring your: pistol, hiking boots, nor your cast iron Dutch oven. We’re planning to travel light, so he’s well behind the curve. Jody and I have lightweight gear that we’ve acquired over past years. Some loved & some unloved, but appropriate enough that we can’t defend leaving it behind and purchasing expensive new stuff. No such hurdle for Dan. He starts out by purchasing an absolutely gorgeous lightweight carbon fiber full suspension bike. He concludes a few weeks later with the purchase of a $15 titanium spork. Truly.
Seeing his list of brand new gear, I begin hoping that Dan will collapse on the trail, thereby granting me a complete 21st century gear upgrade at no expense. Unfortunately my hopes fade somewhat when he hires a fitness instructor to develop his training program. He dedicates himself and trains daily. A couple weeks before the start, he asks “When are you tapering?” We found this so funny that we nearly spilled the beer we were drinking.
Though we never “train” in the traditional sense for any of our trips, we do embrace the practice of “packing light.” We first encountered this movement 20 years ago when a lightweight packer asked if we could help him repair a rip in his pack. I did have a sewing kit to offer but (to give him a little grief) told him I only had heavyweight thread. He was alarmed and actually hesitated before performing the sewing repair. We now embrace the lightweight ethic (though not as zealously) knowing that packing light does introduce certain realities. When it gets cold outside…you’ll be chilly. Meals won’t be gourmet… rather rehydrating the food that you’re cooking. If you misplace something…it will be a critical loss. This leads us to the knife. What knife you ask? Let me explain.
Despite 20 years of faithful service, my well used camp knife disappears part way through our month long ride. Mourning the loss, I gratefully accept Dan’s offer to use his modern new knife. Imagine my horror when his knife also disappears suddenly after I borrow it. We’re packing light, so from this point, we have no knife. I’m using sticks and rocks to cut things. But then, on our final day of riding, what do I find in a pocket of my backpack? Dan’s knife, pretty as you please. Although my misery of having to replace his knife ends, in its place grows distrust & suspicion. Was the knife just hiding in my pack the entire time? Not a chance. On the other hand, could Dan have been so wicked as to have “retrieved and then returned” his knife in order to cause me this despair? Oh yes. After substantial thought, disturbingly likely. It seems that our travelling partner is both a thief and a sadist. I lay plans to set the rascal to task.
Stick with me here. Jody isn’t fond of bears. Actually, she’s terrified of them and especially the dangerous GRIZZLY bears you find up in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. On our first day riding, we pass a group travelling in the opposite direction that had just seen a massive male grizzly and counsel us to be very careful. We maintain vigilant attention on the surrounding woods and make lots of noise when approaching any blind turn. Jody’s continuous yell of “Hey Bear…Get Away Bear” rings in my ears until her vocal chords fail entirely. Jody has also prepared in advance by purchasing a canister of “bear mace”. According the canister directions, a quick response can be important and she has mounted the canister on her handlebars for easy reach. Nevertheless, the ranger in Banff said it’s mostly a placebo because who can aim straight when a 1,000 pound grizzly is bearing down on you???
About three days into the ride, Jody complains that there’s something wrong with her eyes & her breathing is restricted. Dan and I aren’t experiencing any such effects and imagine she’s just tired and voicing an excuse to rest. Typical males. After riding another fifteen minutes, Jody insists we stop. We investigate and immediately see that Jody’s bike headset has worn a hole through her canister of bear mace and the contents have completely emptied themselves into our tent mounted under her handlebars. We realize now that Jody has shown extraordinary resolve in riding directly into a fog of bear mace. Just for your information, Scoville Heat Units (SHU) rates the intensity of different products. A Jalapeno pepper is rated at 7,500 SHU. Pepper spray is 25,000 SHU. Bear mace is 2,000,000 SHU! Ouch!
As the noxious fluid starts to evaporate, I notice the bear mace can has a cautionary note stating, “Do not proactively apply bear pepper spray to clothing, tents, etc. as it then may become an attractant.” Great, I think. While sleeping in our pepper spray soaked tent, Jody and I are now going to smell like a nicely seasoned bear morsel. I don’t mention this to Jody. If we are going to be bear pizza, it is better she not know about it. I mount a stuffed surrogate Kitty Kat on Jody’s handle bar to give her a small sense of comfort. We continue our ride through bear country without any remaining weaponry. Still retaining hope for a gear upgrade, I slow down to grant Dan our lead rider position. I figure the rascal deserves it.
I think that the bear mace may have addled Jody’s brain a bit. Jody’s been planning backcountry trips like this for over 20 years. She planned this trip thoroughly. She has every map of the area, knows all the campsites, grocery stores & bike shops and is good with numbers. Over the first week, we’ve travelling at a luxurious pace with plenty of time to set up camp, skinny dip in mountain lakes, cook “gourmet” ramen noodles and cuddle in our sleeping bags through the night. The weather has been sunny and mild with light tail winds. The riding has been absolutely flawless. We’ve been averaging 25 miles per day.
I NEVER look at a map. Our rule is Jody plans…I pack the bags. However, in a weak moment, I take a peak. I know that we have to ride 1,000 miles in 25 days. As these numbers come into focus, I start to feel queasy. We should have been averaging…40 miles per day! At the rate we are going, we will end up 400 miles short of our destination. Furthermore, to add insult to injury, we now need to average 50 miles a day to make up for “Miss Calculation’s” error. Still, a spark of hope goes off in my cerebral cortex. I remember that Dan was adamant before the trip that there was NO WAY he would be able to average 50 miles per day. “Ah Ha” I think to myself, Jody’s miscalculation presents the perfect way by which I can acquire Dan’s shiny new bicycle and his titanium spork to boot! I approach Dan and tell him he should sit down. He takes the news in stride. Not a word. He just gets on his bike and starts pedaling.
The man is a thief, a sadist and, now come to find out, he is also a masochist. I suspect he even knew how to ride a bike before he came on this trip. I didn’t acquire a single piece of gear despite what I would have thought were pretty decent odds. We all arrive home triumphantly to Durango, but I’m disappointed. Given my moping, a friend recently told me I should evaluate why no one ever seems to want to go on a “second trip” with us. :)
I’ve embraced my inner child. Whereas some people take up dancing or painting, I’ve embraced “tagging”. It all started when I saw a stuffed rag doll on the hood of a car - an epiphany event for me. As a result, my inner child performed his first tagging job, mounting a Tasmanian Devil on the grill of our truck. The smiles I saw from passers-by fueled his antics. He surreptitiously started collecting stuffed animals…chosen for their suitability for tagging. He proceeded to tag the cars of the neighbors. Although satisfying, that wasn’t enough. His behavior has grown out of control though I’ll admit that the carpet cleaner’s van looked great with an Elmo doll and my doctor’s car was very fashionable with a fluffy Big Bird. I recently saw the Fed-ex delivery guy drop off some deliveries at a dead run. Most recently the trash truck refuses to stop at our house. All good things come to an end.
Fortunately, my inner child has found a substitute by decorating the 300’ long tall privacy fence surrounding the back yard. Until recently, the fence was very long and very boring. He started modestly, installing a few ‘metal suns’ found at the nursery store. This didn’t satisfy his ambitious impulse, so he painted an old window frame bright yellow, and mounted it. The audacious colors were much more gratifying. So he did it again…and again…in bright orange, yellow, blue, green, purple, red. With 30 colorful windows mounted there are only a few spots left. Jody caught the bug and declared that she intends to mount window planters on the windows and run a drip system. I’m in full support. We are past being “eclectic” and accept that neighbors nod in our direction and whisper that we are “one of those” kinds of people.
Thomas the Tom Kat (TTTK) is as spoiled as a cat can be. We have a bird feeder on our porch and there are often a dozen birds flocking around without any mind to their own safety. TTTK sits immediately below the flock, mouth chattering and tail a thwacking in anticipation. He doesn’t seem to understand that the birds aren’t going to land in his mouth. He sits for hours. We realize that he’s bird challenged, but don’t say anything since we like watching the birds. Jody investigated sending him to hunting school but we searched the net and no dice…
Thomas also doesn’t like drinking ‘stale’ water from a bowl, so Jody adopted the role of cat servant by holding her hand under a running faucet to “drink him”. This became quite a burden since TTTK would jump into every sink that she approached. She spent many hours standing at sinks quenching his thirst. Don’t laugh. It was getting serious. Thankfully she found a solution. Our guests find it unusual to see our cat sitting in the kitchen sink licking at the drip-spout water bottle hanging from our dish drying rack, but we shush them and ask that they act casual. We don’t want to have to take Thomas to a kitty psychologist to remedy a potential hamster complex!
I finally proclaim our Silverton cabin a “completed” effort. The cabin is now a quiet retreat, rather than a mountain of unfinished work. Our final project was constructing an outside shower platform with an instant-on hot water heater. There is something magical in standing buck-naked high in the mountains looking over Colorado’s grand San Juan range with hot water showering down on you.
CAREER: Jody was interested in spending this past winter as a ski bum, but it was not to be. She found a great opportunity consulting for Bank of America helping to correct the excesses of the mortgage meltdown. I continue working as a consulting employee for SAIC as needed helping them with proposal development & contract management. We both love the work, the people, and largely get to work from our home offices.
IN SUMMARY: We were camped just outside of Glacier National Park when for a brief few minutes we witnessed one of the prettiest alpenglow displays we’ve ever experienced. The mountains lit up like fire as the sun set. The river quietly rustled in passing. The wind blew softly through the trees. It is for days like this that we are thankful to be alive, healthy and happy. We know that one’s life can change in an instant and we feel immense satisfaction being in this place, in this world, surrounded by friends, family and beauty. If you live outside the region and find yourself in the Durango area, please be sure to give us a ring.
We’ve created a musical slideshows for for our Continental Divide Trail Ride. Enjoy!
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Jody and Seth Furtney & Thomas the Tom Kat
11 Molas Drive, Durango, CO 81301
Jody Phone: 970-385-5567 / Seth Phone: 970-385-5547