Who the Hell is maadjurguer?

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I like to ski, mountain bike, drink beer, cook and listen to any jam band I can get my hands on; all while making a complete ass of myself. Hopefully this catharsis is as interesting to others as it is to me.

Monday, November 24, 2008

glove review

Here are the results of the glove fitting test I conducted the last 2 weeks. I’ve been slow to respond back due to the Turkey Holiday, but I’ve had time to filter my impressions down into this review. As a disclaimer, my grading factors were influenced by what I deem to be important in a glove given my style of skiing (even mix of backcountry and lift accessed terrain), general locale of skiing (4 corners region) how my hands like to work (I love to take my gloves on and off to work with things), and what makes me comfortable in a glove (hatred for drafts at the wrist, wet liners and crappy construction). During the ordering process, I also deviated from my exclusive search for a gauntlet style glove to include a work-style glove which by default, would not have much of a gauntlet and no removable liner. So off the bat, these work-style gloves get a bad rap in my grading scheme because of this. However, I wanted to try them on to see how I thought they would manage given my hatred for cold wrists vs. their easy-on- easy-off and dexterity considerations. I ultimately chose a gauntlet style glove, yet have a secret desire to have a work-glove in the pack. In fact, if I was given the funds to pick two gloves, the highest rated work-style glove would have been my trusty number 2. Here is the criteria:

-Dexterity (can I easily grip and manipulate things with the gloves on, are they easy to get on and off even with wet hands)
-Removable Liner (need for drying after multiple wet days, potential to utilize just the liner for skinning on warmer days)
-Wrist Fit (wrist straps or tight elastic to eliminate drafts and snow infiltration)
-Palm Material (leather or pleather, component of dexterity, tackiness)
-Overall construction (overall thoughts on utility)
-Verdict (average of scores)

0 Turns – Least desirable for what I wanted
1 Turns – Below average for class
2 Turns – Average for class
3 Turns – Above average for class
4 Turns – Best in class for tested subjects
***only one 4-turn grade assigned per criteria

As a summary in case you don’t want to read the individual grades below, I picked the Black Diamond Prodigy glove for its best in class palm material and overall construction. I also found that in general, the Black Diamond gloves to be very well put together and consistent with respect to material construction, sheer burl factor and their dexterity given the ample insulation levels. Other gloves fell short as a whole in these areas. However, there were a few stand-outs with respect to individual features such as the superior wrist strap design of the Hestra, the novel but ingenious idiot strap design found on the Cloudveil Gauntlet and Hestra and the outstanding utility of the liner within the Marmot Ultimate Guide gloves. Nonetheless, I will be heading to my local craft store to fabricate an idiot strap similar to the ones found on the standouts mentioned since I tend to be an giddy forgetful idiot when facing down thousands of feet of powder. Lastly, it is ironic that the very type gloves that I am replacing and have loved so much scored very low in this test. The newer construction and material choice in the Marmot Ultimate line was disappointing, again; this is based upon my personal preferences which I have outlined.

Black Diamond Guide Guide:

-Dexterity: 1 turn. This should not be construed as being a "bad rating". Given that this was the warmest glove with the most insulation within the class, dexterity should not be a factor when requiring something this warm. Given skiing in the 4 corners region, it is overkill and warrants the low rating for me.

-Removable liner: 2 turns. The liner is basic, but not really usable outside the shell.

-Wrist fit: 3 turns. Elastic, no wrist strap, but firm and tight.

-Palm material: 3 turns. Heavy duty leather, great doubling of leather in key areas, tacky and soft.

-Overall Construction: 3 turns. Well designed and fits great, but lacks idiot strap which I would add as a modification.

-Verdict: 2.4 turns. If I were looking for a very warm/hot glove, the dexterity and removable liner points would have been higher, rendering this the overall winner. Minus points only for this reason. Great glove and decent dexterity for amount of insulation material to include wool.

Black Diamond Prodigy:

-Dexterity: 3 turns. Not as dexterous as work gloves, as good as it gets for a gauntlet glove.

-Removable liner: 2 turns. Not very usable outside of glove, the same as the other BD glove reviewed.

-Wrist fit: 3 turns. Great fit at wrist, elastic, no strap.

-Palm material: 4 turns. Heavy duty leather, great doubling of leather in key areas, tacky and soft. Same construction as other BD glove reviewed.

-Overall Construction: 4 turns. Nice balance of warmth, dexterity and burly construction. No idiot strap, but an easy mod.

-Verdict: 3.2 turns. BD makes some burly gloves overall. This is my winner for skiing the SW. I would have picked the BD Guide if I needed a much colder weather glove, but I already have a pair of these which don't get much use. I will be making my own idiot strap for these based after the Hestra design (below).

BD Patrol:

-Dexterity: 3 turns. A true work glove.

-Removable liner: 0 turns. It’s a work glove…that’s what you get, not neceserrily a bad thing, just not what I need.

-Wrist fit: 3 turns. Great tight fit with elastic, I was surprised by a drawcord strap for a small gauntlet on this glove.

-Palm material: 3 turns. Typical BD burly construction, nicest leather of them all.

-Overall Construction: 3 turns.

-Verdict: 2.4 turns. This comes in 2nd place in the work glove category...granted, I only sampled 2 in this category.

Cloudveil Tramline:

-Dexterity: 4 turns. Best tested, very easy on and off.

-Removable liner: 0 turns. It’s a work glove, so may not be fair criteria.

-Wrist fit: 1 turn. Questionable baffle wrist sleeve may not keep out snow or drafts. I would love to get some feedback on this glove from someone with a season in them.

-Palm material: 3 turns. Great soft leather.

-Overall Construction: 3 turns. Would be 4 if not for the questionable wrist baffle….still intrigued to try these though.

-Verdict: 2.2 turns. I would have picked these gambling that the wrist baffle worked as intended thus increasing it's score. If I was a two glove kind of guy, this would be #2.

Cloudveil Serendepity:

-Dexterity: 0 turns. Very stiff, somewhat uncomfortable

-Removable liner: 2 turns. Very thick and warm liner with grippy palm…could be used separately

-Wrist fit: 2 turns. A little on the loose side

-Palm material: 1 turns. Not too tacky and very stiff.

-Overall Construction: 1 turn. Not XTR fabric on outside which in my humble opinion not only gives you the benefits of GoreTex, but holds up well to abrasion which is a big issue for any skier trying to find weeks old powder in the thickest of forests. I felt like this glove would rip upon first contact with any stray branch I should try try to shield my face from.

-Verdict: 1.2 turns. Lowest rating, yet it had one of the best idiot straps I’ve ever seen; eliminating the cinching piece of plastic and opting instead for an easy on, easy off elastic cuff. It also had a zipper pouch for a heat chem pack if you’re into that sort of thing.

Mountain Hardware Habenero:

-Dexterity: 2 turns. Lots of space in the glove, felt large for the size, would have sized down.

-Removable liner: 0 turns. The insulation felt thin in addition to the fit.

-Wrist fit: 1 turn. Again, minus points as a factor of the insulation issue and no wrist strap

-Palm material: 3 turns. Decent leather, but not as good as BD.

-Overall Construction: 3 turns. The materials were fine, just a bit big for me in a size Medium.

-Verdict: 1.8 turns. Minus points for thin insulation and loose fit…if sized down, would have been higher, but insulation still a factor.

Hestra Army Leather Gore-Tex XCR Glove:

-Dexterity: 3 turns. Very soft leather construction, easily manipulated.

-Removable liner: 0 turns. No liner

-Wrist fit: 4 turns. Great wrist strap, found on underside of glove instead of on top, wider material. Best in class

-Palm material: 3 turns. Great leather construction

-Overall Construction: 3 turns. great idiot strap similar to the Cloudveil….a model to follow.

-Verdict: 2.6 turns. Minus points for lack of a liner.

Marmot Ultimate Ski Glove (The incumbent):

-Dexterity: 1 turn. Very rigid, in part because of weird treated leather on palm and fingers.

-Removable liner: 0 turns

-Wrist fit: 3 turns. 2nd best wrist strap of them all with tacky grip for tightening with the other glove on

-Palm material: 0 turns. Weird, rigid, hard feeling, not tacky grip material

-Overall Construction: 2 turns.

-Verdict: 1.2 turns. Kudos for great wrist strap….glove tested only came with one idiot strap on left glove....guess there is an extra strap without a glove somewhere in China.

Marmot Ultimate Guide Glove:

-Dexterity: 1 turn. Very rigid

-Removable liner: 4 turn. Best of breed….truly 3 gloves in one. I would pay money to have just the liner (windstopper Goretex fleece with very usable tacky grip…great for skinning.

-Wrist fit: 3 turns. 2nd best wrist strap of them all.

-Palm material: 0 turns.

-Overall Construction: 3 turns. Great glove even without the liner, very usable as a stand alone….I just could not see the palm material working out as planned.

-Verdict: 2 turns.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Dream Haiku

in sleep I see snow
long drive to peaks I ski down
lost in heat of fall

Monday, November 17, 2008

Caption This

A friend sent this to me, reminds me of going back to work (the chairlift)after a nice long weekend (nice long ski run). You've had your fun, but now it's time for a long grueling, boring period of time where you will be held captive; sometimes with folks you'd rather not be with (SPORS). As in life and in the picture....you're clearly about to get the shaft until you're released on Friday (the top of the mountain) again to do it all over again and celebrate life away from work (another run) where everything will be perfect for a short fleeting period of time. So go ahead, button up that jacket and crank the tunes up on your ipod....it's gonna be a long cold ride to the top before you're free to feel the wind in your face....again.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

BCT and Cramps

I'm not prone to cramping, but they hit full force on Friday out on the Black Canyon Trail (BCT). Having the capacity to go on, but the sheer lack of energy in your legs because of debilitating cramps in your toes, calfs, quads and......gasp.....horror...your hamstrings is downright rude. Having your body fail on so many levels as to leave you no option but to dismount from your bike and walk uphill defies common decency. Damn you magnesium imbalance!

With that being said, it was not all bad, take this picture as an example. It was shot after I started cramping but was still managing. The photog credit goes to Monkeybutt....proving that "you don't have to be having fun, to have fun." There were signs along the way that my body was not right. I did not uber-hydrate the night before or the morning pre-ride, I conserved my electrolyte drink during the 1st half of the ride....and I was trying to impress folks. There....I've said it, now I'm stickin' with it.

Having joined up with 4 folks off of the MTBR Arizona forum, I proceeded to hammer myself on the 1st half of the ride. Stupid is as stupid does. I am left humbled by the experience, wanting more....I will return. In hindsight, I'll start hydrating for the long rides like I hydrate for backcountry days. I'll drink more fluids early in the day rather than sipping to conserve early. Once the cramps start....all the fluids, electrolytes, saliditos in the world will not get you out of the cramp zone anytime soon. Sure, they'll subside faster with the remedies in hand....but to quote Walter Sobchak, "you're about to enter a world of pain".....guaranteed. Lesson learned....moving on.

The BCT was absolutely stunning. Most of the trail system is pretty new, but the portion we started out on was very new...as in unconsolidated, soft dirt new. Of course, there were some rock gardens where things had yet to fill in from the rains; but overall, this was one sweet piece of singletrack. The amount of work going into these sections is amazing, well thought out, graded appropriately and with a strong eye to sustainability. I can't say enough good things about this trail. As for the scenery, it too was stunning. Flanked by the Bradshaw Mountains on the west and the Agua Fria river on the east; we traversed and crossed several mountain ridges, dropping down to the river twice to cross and in general having a flowy good time. There were some sustained climbs, but the grade was very reasonable. This grade was made possible by quite a few switchbacks which required some finesse to navigate. Lets just say I had more finesse for the first 70% of the ride. The last 30% of the ride the finesse was replaced by desires to be at Rock Springs drinking a cold one.

Last, but certainly not least; my riding companions for the day started out as strangers and ended up all being great folks with whom I look forward to riding with again soon. Overall, we rode 25.6 miles with 4108 ft vertical gained on the day. I neglected to start my GPS until we had rolled down the trail a bit, so the profile is incomplete.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The last ski season for a friend

The ski season is rapidly approaching us….or me. I don’t mind being selfish….it’s approaching ME. Given that last year started with a bunch of face shots in Wolf Creek, I am hoping for a similar start this year. Those selfish face shots while seared in my memory are also accompanied by the realization that I was not alone. I was in the presence of another which made that enjoyment possible. I’m talking about my beloved Marmot Ultimate’s. When I first purchased these as a college student, forking over more than a c-note for them; I was making a financial commitment for sure given my hourly and part time salary. But I failed to foresee the other commitment I was making.

Over the last 10 years, these gloves have handled it all. From my 1st day on the job teaching kids from Sonora, Mexico how to ski and grab the dreaded rope tow at Mt. Lemmon; to my final year at Ski Valley teaching privates to UofA professors and their children. The $20 tips these gloves accepted at the end of a 2-hr lesson paid for the gloves many times over. How many 3-year old kids these friends have lifted up, brushed off and encouraged to give it another try I’ll never know. Even after a long day teaching, they kept with me by helping out a short-handed patrol perform final sweep on darkening runs which had long iced up. When other gloves would have been sweat soaked and chilling the hands within them, they kept me comfortable enough to enjoy the lengthening shadows of the pines and the silence of an empty run save the occasional call of my own voice, searching for any lost or hurt skiers left on the mountain. Their only reward was to be shucked and thrown into the back of the truck while I spent my tip money on 1’st beers and tequila at the Alpine in Summerhaven with the ski-school and patrol.

Of course, they’ve seen their share of powder days with me; protecting my wrists and palms from spindrift and wet powder alike. I can’t count how many tree limbs these guys have brushed aside and shielded me so I could pass relatively unscathed to enjoy more powder turns in the trees weeks after a storm passed. But a friendship is not defined by the good times; rather, they are tested and given opportunity to shine in adversity. More often than not, they hung it out with me on the less than nicer days; sweating in the early spring sun while skiing hockey-rink hard-pack, waiting in line for last chair just so I could get one more run in before the season ended. They’ve been there for me at 5 in the morning in late January with the wind-howling, the sky puking and the temp plummeting. These are the times when they kept me warm enough to head out when all common sense told me to go back to bed or quit early and drink a beer. They’ve been with me through my two ski injuries: hyper-extension of my left thumb from a stupid fall on a groomer of all places and a tree hit in the backcountry while skiing powder. Both times, I was unable to grip a beer in my left hand for several months. I’m talkin’ major trauma here folks.

They’ve also been with me through many changes: Graduation from College, buying my first house, OU winning a national championship, a move to DC, engagement, death of a family member, marriage, selling my first house, a move back to Arizona, buying my second house, two fiesta bowl losses by OU…in a row, buying my first new car. Quite simply, they’ve seen it all. They’ve seen me change both as a person and as a skier. They’ve gripped the steering wheel of three different vehicles clawing their way up an icy mountain road. They’ve been pinched, dirtied and cussed at while applying chains to these vehicles so that we could continue on. They’ve been abraded by freshly sharpened edges on no less than 6 pairs of my own skis, not to mention friends, family and student skis which I’ve carried. In every instance, they have never let me down. They’ve seen me transition from long and skinny skis, to short and shapely skis, to fat and floaty skis. Quite literally, they’ve lived through a revolution in ski design and have made turns through it all with nary a gripe.

Unfortunately, they have also skied their last season. The insulation just does not hold heat like it used to and all attempts at water-proofing the UV-battered gore-tex and brittle leather palms have not given me the reprieve I was hoping for. What was once black XCR fabric is now a sun-bleached purple. I was able to eke out one final season with them last year…..snif….please give me a moment here….I’m sorry to get like this….but the time has come to buy another pair. I feel horrible for letting my friend go since we’ve had so many good times together. I feel like Tom Hanks saying goodbye to Wilson while lost on the ocean….crying out, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry”.

To finally let go, I will be conducting a wake of sort’s, with the participants to be the 8 friends with whom I hope to choose just one to see me through this tough time and the coming years. I am inviting these friends from Backcountry.com over for a short stay at my house so that I may talk with them, get to know them and ultimately choose one to spend the next segment of my life with. I just hope one of them is up to the task. 10 years is a long time to ask of any one thing. I doubt the next pair will last me this long, however they need to understand what is expected of them. The other 6 will return via UPS back to Utah, at my expense of course, to wait for another soul searching for a soul-mate.

Rest assured, I will be sure to share with you photos and comments regarding the pro’s and con’s of each potential mate in case any of you are looking for a pal too. Here are the participants:

Hestra Army Leather Gore-Tex XCR Glove

Marmot Ultimate Guide Glove - Men's

Cloudveil Serendipity Glove

Cloudveil Tram Line Glove

Black Diamond Guide Glove

Mountain Hardwear Habanero Glove

Black Diamond Prodigy Glove

Marmot Ultimate Ski Glove

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Epiphany and Flow

I have not written in a while, lamenting to the wife about how lame my blog has been lately (no photos, no adventures); but I’ve been riding just as much, I just have not been talking about it. Mrs. Maadjurguer countered that if my blog is lame, it’s just a reflection of me……fair enough. Granted, I’ve had a few distractions such as the new car and the state of OU’s faltering linebacker corps; but in general nothing has changed except for a few subtle things which manifest themselves into flow and epiphanies. I can honestly say that my skills have progressed to a level where I no longer feel good riding form is luck, but habit. The way I used to struggle to move my body around my bike in turns and whoop-dee-do’s is gone. The way I confidently rail turns, anticipating drift off of my tires is no longer feared, but reassuring. The way my handlebars seem to come alive in my hands, moving up and down with dips, rolls and drops as my body soaks up the feedback automatically feels right.

I’ve also started to occasionally listen to music while riding and it has taken me to a new level. I’ve always eschewed diluting the outdoor experience, whether it being skiing, hiking or biking; focusing instead on sensations of sound, feel, taste and the mental drift culminating in the unanticipated and surprising focus which usually accompanies any physical endeavor outside. That is, until now. On a whim, I rolled out to do the Hawes loop with my newly bought iPod. My inaugural tunes for the ride: My very first moe. show – 10-29-2004, DAR Constitution Hall – Washington D.C. I can’t explain the details except to say that I rode the entire loop including mudflaps without stopping….and I only dabbed twice. This is several orders of magnitude better than I’ve ever done before. For starters, stopping after riding up mudflaps has usually been mandatory to catch my breath…guess the moe. took the pain out of my mind. As for the dabs, one was on the only switchback I still struggle with and the other was when I washed out on a sandy corner carrying waaaaaaaay too much speed because moe. was kickin’ ass and takin’ names. After finishing the loop, I was so inspired as to repeat some of the loop in another order by taking a shortcut and reversing my direction.

moe. transformed me that night back in 2004 with their rendition of “Crab Eyes” and “Puttin the Boy Down”….I can even be heard on the recording of the show yelling “Chili Dawg!” from the crowd. However moe. did it again this week by giving me flow on the bike I thought was still months away. It’s taken me almost 7 months of 4-6 rides per week to get to this point. Tire pressures and seatpost height, angle and position are finally synched and optimized for my geometry. The skills are starting to build and as a consequence, so are the flow of confidence to try new things and challenges. However, I still occasionally prefer to ride with just me and the sound of the wind.

Just yesterday after a long day at the office, I hit the trail after doing some weights at the gym. I was a little behind schedule and the sun was beginning the twilight hour. I normally look for transformative experiences on my days off when I have time for a long ride; not when I’m rushing to cram a ride in between work, weights and dinner. But right off the bat something seemed different about this ride. Perhaps it was the cold front that came through and dropped the temps to the low 70’s while still daylight. Perhaps it was the crimson, vermilion and mauve illuminated low clouds contrasting against the rapidly darkening sky. As I rode on, I stopped to take it in; no longer spurred on by a pounding guitar riff or baseline, I was clearly on a different ride. Looking at those clouds perched above the eternally-present granite canyons and saguaro studded ridges, I saw the movement of perhaps a hundred mourning doves gliding down slope, all illuminated in the fading but focused last rays from the sun. Appearing as bright white streaks, they swooped down from the highlands towards the bajada below. It was then that my admiration turned from the clouds to the beautiful palate behind the birds. The ridgeline and canyon were beginning to glow with the fading light that can only be described as electric. I peddled on and began thinking of those doves. I’m sure I’ve seen the movement of as many doves in flight before in the desert, but tonight was especially striking. I’m wondering to myself if they do that every night, returning from their highland roost during the day down to the washes below at night. As I peddled up a rise towards another intersection, I began to hear a high-pitched squealing coming from the blood orange ridgeline in front of me. As I rolled to a stop, doves in flight still firmly etched in my mind; a slow earthy movement in the direction of the squealing on the ridgeline ahead of me snapped my focus away from the doves and to this new stimulus. Descending the ridge up contour from me were about 10-15 javalina with several babies. The squealing was coming from the babies, doing what fury baby peccaries do: squeal. I stopped for a minute to watch them descend towards me; blindly ignorant of my presence now that I was motionless, they continued grazing on mesquite pods and herding the wayward babies along. I mused they too must be heading towards the lowlands which surround the main wash. Moving onward and passing the herd, I noticed the clouds were now gray, the color gone for the day in my little slice of geography; always marching westward to inspire swaths of humanity; returning every 12 hours or so in a different guise to the same spot but only if we’re lucky enough to see it.

The rest of the ride was spent in diminishing light and intensifying thoughts of light, time and space. Rolling home I realized that I probably have more time to appreciate the subtle things now that my mind is not completely focused on every turn and every pedal stroke. The minutia of skill and technique which previously consumed me is now automatic, the detailed subtleties of my surroundings more accessible and my enjoyment more profound. I always knew that riding a bike was fun on an elementary level, however I’m just coming to learn the deeper enjoyment and inner-peace found when exploring a new trail or even a new time of day. I’ve felt this very thing through skiing for nearly two decades; but am pleasantly surprised to experience this awakening all over again. Strange and inviting, I’m taken to places rarely visited in everyday life.