Saturday, July 23, 2011

Season Of the Ditch

"Life", some past sage opined "Is what happens while you're making other plans"  my plans revolved around a sunny afternoon, three hours of freeway driving, my camera and Boreal's mountain and chairlift. CalTrans, it turns out, played Life in my little drama.

Though I usually avoid Trans-Sierra travel on Fridays, the travel window opened Friday, and up the hill I went. I enjoyed smooth sailing all across the Big Valley despite the Friday traffic. A few minutes of crawling around a fender bender on Three Mile Grade out of Colfax, and I was back up to speed.

Cresting the top of Whitmore Grade, I found a forest of orange highway construction signs preparing motorists for a detour ahead. Coming out of Nayak, all eastbound traffic was split, trucks, buses, and those wanting to exit the freeway stayed on the existing eastbound roadbed, the rest of the thru traffic was funneled onto the westbound roadway, leaving the eastbound side clear for road construction.

Interstate 80 is close to 50 years old, and it's showing it's age. Fixing the failing roadbed has been an ongoing project for at least the last twenty years. America has grown a bit in 50 years, so extra lanes and widened bridges are part of the ongoing project.

My view of the eastbound construction was fleeting, but I could see the contractors already had the old pavement removed and they were doing the sub-grade work, and it looked like one lane of concrete was finished. It looked like one really long two lane ditch.

Eastbound traffic returned to normal east of Yuba Gap, and by normal I mean awful! The pavement from HWY 20 east to Rainbow Road is some of the last to be replaced, I'm sure it's still the original concrete laid in the early sixties, and it features twin grooves a couple of inches deep, ground by seasons and seasons of chain controls. The exposed aggregate really roars as your tires roll over it at have to turn up the radio and close any open windows.

From Rainbow Road to Kingvale things quiet down...this pavement was new last year and hasn't been ground to oblivion just yet.

What's this? At Soda Springs we detoured again, again to the westbound side, again with the Jersey Wall separating us from the westbound traffic. Not much time to take in the sights of construction until the summit flats, where I could look across the eastbound lanes at Boreal's parking lot where there was even more construction.

Most of Boreal's parking acreage  has been turned into a construction site. They're grading a building pad at the slopeside edge of the parking lot near the bottom terminal of the lift they're turning today.

The building will become a year-round  Action Sports Training Center opening in Summer 2012.

Here's where my plans met Life. I had planned to get off the freeway and snap a few photos of Boreal's grooming crew while they put the finishing touches on the hill. I would have parked where the building pad is being excavated. So much for the best laid plans...

Friday, July 22, 2011

Will the Wonders Never Cease?

Summer Shred is back for a second season! July 23rd from 9am - 2pm. Screamed the tweet from @borealmtn announcing yet another mid-summer chance to strap on the skis or snowboards and make some turns on the remaining remnants of the Tahoe Sierra's big 2010/2011 La Niña-Powered Winter snowpack.

Plucky Boreal Mountain Resort is making a habit of opening their top to bottom chairlift in mid July! Last summer they turned the lift the weekend of July 11th and 12th. CorduroyPlanet covered it with "Ski Season Ends" on Wednesday July 14th.

Thursday afternoon at Boreal. Looks like most of the pushing is done.
This year by contrast, four Tahoe Sierra resorts turned chairlifts over the Independence Day Weekend, as well as Mammoth Mountain in the Southern Sierra.

A look at Truckee's local newspaper features stories saying the big snowpack is still up on the ridgetops causing the streams and rivers to resemble May runoff conditions...high and cold.

The last time there was organized rain in the Tahoe Basin...maybe two weeks ago?..Lake Tahoe's level rose another foot. Tahoe is at a level not seen since 2006, after an even wetter Winter than 2010/2011

Across the pond, the Tour de France avoided snow on Thursday's Stage 18, and fans worldwide were treated to an iconic performance by Luxembourger Andy Schleck who broke away from the peloton on the day's second climb, the hors catégorie Col d’Izoard, to run away for 60Km, and win the Mountaintop finish on the Col du Galibier

Defending Champion, Alberto Contador was unable to catch Schleck and ceded another 3:50 to him. After the stage, he admitted his chances for victory had escaped him.

The unlikely Frenchman Thomas Voekler retained the maillot jaune by :15, and thrilled French cycling fans by wearing the yellow jersey for another day...his 10th.

One more heroic day climbing the Alps, this time to the storied L'Alpe d'Huez. Three more huge climbs, including the Col du Galibier again...this time the hard way...should Andy Schleck recover from his super-human effort today to compete tomorrow and keep his gap over the remaining Heads Of State, he should have enough time in hand to hold the lead over Australian Cadel Evans and his brother and teammate Fränk Schleck.

It took two weeks and 18 days of racing, but finally we had some drama...and some history too.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Curiouser and Curiouser

Nothing Serious
Even in the absence of a sustained run of hot weather, the Dog Days are here for real.

Monday night the SF Giants opened a new home stand against the LA Dodgers. The first thing I noticed on the telecast was the low layer of fog pouring over the San Francisco Hills and out onto the Bay...both dougouts had fully bundled-up players sporting long sleeves and hoodies. Unlike the past series in San Diego, there wasn't much skin showing in the stands either.

The Giants looked like World Champions and trounced the hapless Dodgers. Baseball when it's right is just plain awesome to see. Giants pitcher Ryan Vogelsong had full command of all his stuff, and put on a pitching clinic before the Giants' bats came to life for four runs in the 6th inning. No torture for Giants fans, just a nice comfortable win to watch and enjoy.

It's the second rest day in France. The Tour de France racers are girding their loins for a difficult third week in their saddles. Tuesday the race heads into the Alps, and they'll climb the Haute Alps until Saturday's final Individual Time Trial. After two weeks, there's no obvious strong man, but I suspect that all the favorites are keeping their cards close to their vests...there's four very tough days of mountain climbing ahead...the riders rested Monday, but they stayed focused.

Focused is something I can't claim to be this week...I thought I had a great idea for a fun, fluffy blog this weekend. I started writing during the ball game, and damn, if I couldn't recall the many punchlines I'd mused over on Sunday. I assume they'll come back the next time I go goofy Dog Days-Style...stay tuned...just don't hold your'll turn blue or something...

Now It's Serious
Formula One and IndyCar had the weekend off, and I'm part of the "Giant Sucking Sound" that is NASCAR racing 2011. This week's stock car race was a night race, and I heard on the Motorsports News Wrap-Up Show that the stands weren't full, and in fact they dimmed the lights over the empty stands so not to broadcast it on TV! My how the mighty have fallen...Hint to the Good Ol' Southern Boys...the new cars, the double row restarts,  the green/white/checker, and "The Chase" playoff format are boring, boring, boring, and boring...even at it's least, racing should be exciting, n'est-ce pas?

I did get to see the MotoGP from Germany's Saxony Region. It was the first "Dry Race" I've seen from Europe in a month! Dry Race means it didn't rain on raceday.

During the pre-race features, they looked at the tires. Saxony's Sachsenring is pretty tough on tires, it's an (as the Brits say) anti-clockwise course. Ten left hand turns with only three right handers, makes the tire engineer's job pretty tough.

They interviewed the Bridgestone engineer who said: "for the extreme conditions here at the Sachsenring, we designed a dual compound tyre" (he's British, hence the Queen's spelling) "Soft compound on the left shoulder of the tyre, and softer on the right shoulder"

"Because of the unusually cool, wet summer in Europe this year, we've stepped down to the next softer compound on both sides of the tyre"

Race tires operate in a fairly narrow temperature range. This summer the European weather is one compound lower than the past several summers apparently.

Did I mention there's 15 to 20 cm (6" to 8") of snow forecast for the Col du Galibier Tuesday?? The bulletin I saw said the sun should thaw things out by the time the Tour de France passes through Thursday and Friday...what the hell is going on?

Just over the Col du Galibier summit Tuesday. Mark Johnson Photo/VeloNews
VeloNews has a whole gallery full of Galibier in Tuesday's snow photos.

It's still months before I can make my prediction for the 2011/2012 Winter. Normally, the thought wouldn't even cross my mind until I saw the first autumnal light in mid-September at the Reno Air Races.

Clearly we have another abnormal summer on our hands this year, so I'm happy that I have a potential new tool to help get an idea about the severity of the coming North American Winter.

Regular readers may recall my June 25, 2011 blog "Foot Dragging" where I cited a study that claims: "It turns out that snow piling up over a band of frozen tundra from Siberia to far-northern Europe may have as much effect on the climate of the U.S. as the much-better-known El Niño and La Niña."

Not to put too fine a point on it, but if it keeps snowing in Europe every month all summer long, the "band of frozen tundra from Siberia to far-northern Europe" will most likely have a good amount of snow already piled up come prediction time!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Planets Align

You know the old saying..."You gotta keep all your ducks in a row"? Well this weekend I was thinking it's high time to get my ducks in a row, so to speak...

It was "serendipity that killed the cat", to butcher another old saw...OK, I'm just fooling around now...sure we're having another cool summer all across the Northern Hemisphere, but it has less than nothing to do with the alignment of the planets in our Solar System.

Sometimes I'm a rational, old fashioned Linear Thinker...If "A" is + (positive) and "B" is + (positive), then I'm Positive that I'm Right again! Ha! or on the right track anyway...and so on, and so on, right through the nauseum...

Other after a long hard weekend, or during The Dog Days of Summer, my Right Brain takes a powder (OK, a vacation if you like...or a 'stay-cation' if you must) and I become a more "relational" or horizontal thinker...leaps of faith, tangents, long lost ideas...all are welcome and orbit my consciousness like heavenly bodies in a deep space star system.

Call it fuzzy it whatever...sometimes serendipitous thinking reaps tons of fun, and the occasional comedic gem...alas, this time my thought wanderings did not reveal comedy gold. Just a slightly bemused move of my mug in the direction of a wry smile...the corners of my mouth didn't exactly lift in a smile, rather they widened a little, like they were getting ready to smile, but couldn't make up their mind whether to smile or smirk...

When I wrote the blog on bears and wild boar, it all started when I saw a tweet from @PlanetSki that touted the first article in the chain of stories.

It dawned on me that all us planets should stick together...then it dawned on me that on the internet, the concept of friends is truly skewed...even "friends" are often not even acquaintances, but a strangely choreographed string of "clicks" leading to... *DING* ..."Friend Request Accepted" I guess it's a funny way to run a virtual railroad?

So I guess that "getting my ducks in a row" should really be phrased "getting my planets to align" in CorduroyPlanetSpeak...or maybe "getting my planets in align" OK, I lost it all for a nanosecond there...

Getting My Planets In Align
Twitter is the micro-blogging service that is finally coming of age. Once derided as the online hangout of the famous (and famously deluded and self-unaware) who think their every thought and deed are of interest to the world, Twitter seems to have matured.

TV actor Ashton Kutcher, @aplusk (That 70's Show) was the first tweeter to reach the one million followers mark in April 2010. @charliesheen, famous TV Train Wreck hit a million followers in under 24 hours about a year later, also the first to complete the feat. President @BarackObama participated in the first "Whitehouse Twitter Townhall" in July 2011. During the FIFA Women's World Cup soccer finale, twitterers world wide sent 7196 tweets per second, another record!

@secupp the author and journalist said today: "Twitter has democratized the delivery of the news"

I think it's fair to say that Twitter has arrived...or matured...or found it's of March 2011 there are now 200 million Twitter users worldwide.

Twitter's first "Twitter Republican Presidential Debate" takes place Wednesday July 20th at noon PDT, moderated on Twitter by @secupp

Tune into the debate by following @140townhall on Twitter, or online at

I've found Twitter to be very valuable when I'm grooming My Mountain. As the Graveyard Guru, I need to know when it's going to stop snowing so I can formulate my gameplan so as to be ready with the most corduroy on the trails when we turn the lifts at 9AM for our skiers and snowboarders.

I've tried several Radar Apps on my iPod Touch, free apps and paid apps, and while they are pretty to look at, they seem to be quite a bit behind real-time info...hence not as useful as I'd like.

I've found that Twitter gives me the most up-to-the-minute info, and the Twitter App is free.

I follow @MagnifeyeRoads who tweet the CalTrans Interstate 80 electronic signs every time the message changes. On storm nights, I can infer when it will stop snowing on my mountain by watching these tweets as they follow chain controls' march up the hill...good enough for me!

@MangifeyeRoads' website has all the Trans-Sierra Webcams too.

See what I mean with the Dog Daze? I ran my virtual railroad into the Twitter Ditch before I lined up my planets! Here they are so far (I'm like a wandering planet looking to orbit a friendly star in a nice neighborhood), I haven't found a PlanetBaseball, or PlanetGiants...yet...

Twitter exceeds at coverage of LIVE events, be they politics, revolutions, or sporting events. @CorduroyPlanet  follows:

The Europe based All Things Skiing, Snowboarding, and Alpine Living Around the World website

This is the home of cycling on Eurosport, the French Sports TV Network that's available in 59 countries and 20 languages.

All things Formula One, brought to you by Sky Sports Network the British Satellite Broadcaster.

These are just "the planets"...I also follow several of the bike racers, directeurs sportif, and teams on Twitter. I blame @lancearmstrong I started following Lance during his comeback TdF in 2009. At the time he was the only rider on Twitter, and he tweeted every morning and after each was but a glimpse of the riches to come, Thanks Lance!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Weekend Wrapup

Baseball in America,  and bicycle racing plus Formula One in Europe, speak July like nothing else to me. I'm enjoying another lazy Saturday. I didn't even try to get up at 0330 to follow today's big Pyrenean Stage 14, opting instead to set the alarm to catch the final climb to Plateau de Beille.

Three times the TdF has finished atop the Plateau de Beille, and all three times the winner that day went on to win the Tour. Marco Pantani (1998), Lance Armstrong (2002) and Alberto Contador (2007) all stood atop the podium in Paris after their triumphs on the Plateau de Beille.

It turns out I was psychic, there were no fireworks in the Pyrénées today. Getting my beauty sleep was priceless.

Remembering a theme from earlier this week, there was a bear sighting along the Tour de France route in the second week of Le Tour.

OK, I'm kinda in a goofy mood today.

I found myself listening to Sports Talk Radio today...well, SF Giants Talk Radio really...I can't stand sports Talk Radio...everybody who calls in are religious in their fandom, so it's not a real conversation, but serial speechifying...and talk radio's Number One's boring!

So, how come I was listening today? Lazy...mostly...I didn't have the motivation to hunt around for something to listen to...Saturdays in Summertime can be a talk radio many hosts and shows take their vacations in July...programming changes happen mid-summer too.

Normally I'd be listening to the Kim Komando Show. "America's Digital Goddess" does three hours of computer and tech talk, but the station I hear her on in the Inland Valley has another pay-as-they-go Investment Show on in Kim's time slot now. I listened to a couple of TdF Podcasts before the Giants Pre-Game Talkfest aired.

So why Giants Talk? Well, the Giants have been playing very satisfying ball, they've been a ton of fun to watch, and they're on a four game winning streak. Plus I missed 'em during the All Star Break.

Last night's game in San Diego was good...I didn't notice so many Giants fans in opponents' parks last year...last night you could hear them chanting in the first inning! Here-We-Go Gi-ants Here-We-Go! Later in the game you could hear the Cody-Cody-Cody chant for outfielder Cody Ross as he stood in the batter's box. That's got to be a little demoralizing for the Home Team...

Pablo Sandoval's hitting streak ended at 22 last night, though his at bats were productive. His first at bat he hit a sacrifice fly to drive in a run. In his last at bat, they pitched around him for three balls and no strikes before intentionally walking him. Boy oh boy, you could really hear the Giants' fans booing big time!

I remembered how the Giants fans at home would hang rubber chickens on the outfield wall every time opposing pitchers walked Barry Bonds intentionally. I looked it up, not only did Bonds hit the most home runs in baseball history, he's the all-time career leader in walks, too with 2558 BB's.

In tonight's game at Petco Park, you can hear the Giants fans again...only this time they were booing Giants' starter, Barry Zito who gave up 8 runs on 7 hits (including 2 HR's) and 4 walks in 3.2 innings. Not so fun to's 11-2 in the 8th joy in Mudville...

Before the gab and game, I was fortunate to catch that most rare 1943 Cary Grant movie, "Mr Lucky" on TV.

Grant, playing against type, is a grifter and cad who makes the luminous Laraine Day his mark for a swindle...swindling charity funds from Day's Refugee Charity Drive. (This movie was made during World War Two, and Grant's portrayal was wicked and smarmy...and a gamble for Grant)  Grant's Joe Adams / Joe Bascopolous is a fully realized sociopath, cold and amoral. In the end, love conquers all, but it is a very uncomfortable journey.

"Mr Lucky" has been on my wishlist forever, but I gather that there isn't a good DVD transfer on the market's copy was really scratched, and in need of restoration. I don't know if Cary Grant's Estate is wild about this role, Grant's only A-hole on film. I'd love a total restoration ala the 50th Anniversary Edition of Alfred Hitchcock's brilliant collaboration with Grant, "North By Northwest" The Blu-ray NXNW restoration is absolutely beautiful!

I guess I've had Cary Grant on my mind all week...I want to see "Father Goose" again too.

In "Father Goose" Grant wears his role like a comfortable old t-shirt, but mostly I want to hear tipsy Leslie Caron slur: "You think I'm a Picture Straightener, Mr Eckland" in frustration again! "Father Goose" is a warm, good hearted comedy set in  WW2's Pacific Theater. "Father Goose" is warm, optimistic, and confident, made almost 20 years after the war ended. It debuted in 1964 before the Vietnam War turned Hollywood cynical and anti-war.

In contrast to "Father Goose", "Mr Lucky" was filmed when the outcome of the war was still unknown and unknowable, you can feel the undercurrents of desperation and uncertainty throughout the movie, and it makes Grant's character seem much more abhorrent and icy. The satisfying ending comes well after the war ends, after Day's character pines away the war years and beyond, and after Grant's character makes amends for the duration and more. 

They truly don't make movies like that anymore. Beautifully rendered in Black & White, and true to the heart and mind.