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.
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: email@example.com / firstname.lastname@example.org
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!
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?
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.
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!
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."
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.
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.
New Zealand Adventures:
Remembering Dad...25 Years Later, A Life Remembered and a Legacy
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
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?”
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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