Aa (BIG A, LITTLE A)
I’m grinning with excitement about the slew of amazing discs that are awaiting your reading eyes below. By far, the best lineup we’ve had in one issue… ever. This is a great lead off to this collection (not only because it’s alphabetically unavoidable!). Aa have been getting so much buzz in the NYC/Brooklyn area as of late, playing their hearts out to the DIY-all ages crowd. Beeps and blurps abound, along with vocals characteristic of the above description–oft-wailed, always charming, ala folks like Matt & Kim. I’m in love, but just keep reading…
Pocket Symphony (Astralwerks)
I’ve always let the bland hipster types dissuade me from paying any attention to Air. Those are the only people I know that know of this band or listen to it. While truthfully I couldn’t spend a whole lot of time with this music (it’s a little too atmospheric-y and elevator-y for my taste), the time I can spend would be well-justified. It’s undeniably powerful music; layered yet dainty, catchy yet overwhelmingly unique.
Here again, not for every occasion. And certainly not for the bland hipsters. But Gipsy Kings are absolutely fantastic. It’s inevitable that Gipsy Kings make me feel like going to my parents’ favorite Mexican restaurant up in Deer Park for a quick bite, or make me feel like visiting Mexico for the first time in my life. In large part that’s what it’s after. It’s quite undeniable, though, that it’s also completely listenable while just sitting in your desk chair in your Jimi Hendrix t-shirt while putting the finishing touches on some reviews. Enjoyable, enjoyable.
CALVIN JOHNSON & THE SONS OF THE SOIL
Calvin Johnson & the Sons of the Soil (K)
Somehow while I’ve existed in the Northwest my entire life (except for approximately two shifts of 9 months in Los Angeles), I’ve managed to maintain a complete ignorance of Calvin Johnson. The guy is seriously everywhere. Still unaware of Johnson’s past efforts, this disc is quirky crooning at its best (imagine Adam Green, a little deeper, with lyrics that make more sense). It sounds promising and it is, and more than promising even. Interested, I am.
We Must Obey (Century Media Records)
With a bang, a fuzz, a crunch, and a wallop this album trundles in to 2007. But, for those already versed in the ancient art of Fu Manchu and its tuned-down buzz, this album also brings something new-clang. As in, Fu Manchu’s getting in touch with their punk rock roots: Clang! However, unlike chocolate and peanut butter, or the Melvins and Jello Biafra, fuzz and clang don’t go that well together. Punk rock and stoner rock are really very polemic art forms and they just shouldn’t be mushed together. Can’t we all just agree to not get along?
New Erections (Epitaph)
Grown men who dress up in costumes for their live gigs might come off a bit goofy, but if you’re at all familiar with the Locust, you’re aware that’s not the case here. These are four hardcore dudes from San Diego that have, quite honestly, maintained the status quo for hardcore (if we can be irked enough to call it that) for the years they’ve been in existence. There’s screamin’ and wailin’ a-plenty on this disc, of course, but don’t forget to really listen.
Lonely, Noir (SubPop)
Aside from the Thermals, the SubPop roster holds little excitement for me as of late. The Shins bore me to tears and Low, well, okay, Low bores me to tears and the Shins just bore me. At any rate, there’s excitement to be had in this little upstart. Hardly an upstart, Sweden’s Emil Svanängen, multi-instrumentalist and vocalist, is the gent behind this creation, having self-created and self-released 4 albums prior in 3 years-all recorded on CD-Rs (sold into the thousands). Emil makes a stop at the Sasquatch! festival this year, undoubtedly on one of the little stages-so pay attention and make sure to schedule it in.
THE MINT CHICKS
Crazy? Yes! Dumb? No! (Flying Nun)
I’m not sure I have ever connected with a band as immediately as I did with the Mint Chicks. Last Monday they played to a nearly completely empty house at Seattle’s Comet Tavern, but lead singer Kody Nielsen had barely gotten a word out and I was a puddle on the floor. This four piece from New Zealand is the catchiest, most lovable band I think I’ve ever seen live, ever heard on disc, ever encountered, period, in alllll my years as a music lover. I’m pretty sure they won’t be headed to Spokaloo any time soon, but HUNT DOWN this disc and sample the songs on their MySpace. And pay extra attention to the title track, along with “Walking Off a Cliff Again” and “Welcome to Nowhere,” for frickin’ amazingness.
We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank (Epic)
Last month I made the somber confession that I’d never paid attention to the Arcade Fire’s first album, Funeral. Get ready for a bigger, somber-er confession this time around. Ready? The only Modest Mouse song I’ve ever heard is “Float On,” and I heard it on VH1. I RULE! Somewhat surprisingly, I have two Modest Mouse supah-fans in my life-one is my boss, and one is the lead singer of a much-loved Spokane band. Either they’ve never pushed hard enough, or I unwillingly pushed back harder. So anyway, I don’t know what the hell I’m talking about on this one, that’s true (admittedly, this time), but the good word is that it’s pretty good, mhmm.
God Save the Prayers (Art Fag)
If there were two bands I could recommend to everyone on the planet right now, they would be the Prayers and the Mint Chicks. I caught the Prayers for the first time during my last week in LA, and they completely blew me away. Two of the four members were in jazz-punk, crazy-great The Plot to Blow Up the Eiffel Tower and while there’s not a frickin’ trace of that here, it maintains the buzzworthiness. The Prayers make SoCal-inspired, loose, laid back pop tunes that have boasted reference in more than one review to the Beach Boys. That’s a hefty comparison, but not unwarranted. This EP is available exclusively through the fellas’ imprint, Art Fag, and via their MySpace page, but watch for a full-length out shortly. And, seriously, do watch out.
New Moon (Kill Rock Stars)
On Sunday morning, for the first time since October 21, 2003, I heard Elliott Smith’s voice. As the guitar trailed in on the first track of this album, the second posthumous Smith release, Elliott’s voice overwhelmed me and immediately brought me to tears. I had no idea the impact his departure had had on me until that moment. I bought his last disc, From a Basement on a Hill, on the day of its release and have never listened to it. Something about acceptance that I couldn’t quite handle. While I absolutely hate it when it takes someone’s death to bring their body of work to the forefront, Elliott’s work deserves attention, whether then, or now, whether on this album, or those previous.
Magazine Article, Music Reviews |
Breaking Trail: A Climbing Life
Harvest Books, 2007, 400 pages.
I’m one of those readers who has three books going at one time, often losing interest before completing them all. However, Arlene Blum’s book, Breaking Trail: A Climbing Life captured and maintained my interest from beginning to end. There are few books written by, or about, women climbers, so it is wonderful to have a female author who is able to provide vivid recollections of decades of high altitude climbing around the world. What makes this book even more fascinating is Blum’s technique of weaving together significant threads of her life through each chapter-her difficult childhood, her professional career as a biophysical chemist, her personal life and her climbing career.
Throughout her stories, Blum exemplifies the type of person who is able to overcome the most daunting obstacles. During a period in history of profound gender discrimination, she obtained her doctorate in biophysical chemistry and was instrumental in conducting and publishing the seminal research leading to the ban of fire retardants in children’s clothing. She also met with blatant gender discrimination throughout her early years climbing some of the world’s most dangerous peaks. Blum surmounted these difficulties and provided leadership on over thirty mountain expeditions including Annapurna I, Everest and Denali. She eventually found her life’s greatest adventure and deepest meaning in motherhood, a beautiful complement to her life’s great accomplishments in the high mountains. This is a book to be read and enjoyed.
Fermenting Revolution: How to Drink Beer and Save the World
Christopher Mark O’Brien
New Society Publishers, 2006, 288 pages.
You might expect that a book claiming that drinking beer has the power to save the world might fail to convince, and so long as we’re talking about the book titled Fermenting Revolution: How to Drink Beer and Save the World by Christopher Mark O’Brien, you would be right.
But hold on. At the very least, this is a book about drinking beer. And maybe, if the author’s gifts of rhetoric are extremely strong, by the end of the book I’ll be able to stop leafleting my neighbors and writing my congress-persons because all I really gotta do is drink more beer and peace will be had, starvation will cease, congress will hold hands and sing Kumbaya.
Sorry if I sound flip. But Fermenting Revolution is flip. It takes care to tell us that choosing, drinking and making beer is serious business, while at the same time sounding a little bit like your college roomate who still calls you “dooood.” And spells it that way too.
Perhaps a larger problem is that the book has no identity and never really gets to the point of convincing me of anything except “beer is good, and small-batch beer (especially if made and/or drunk by women) is better.” Beginning with a religious history of beer, the book manages to offend even the most stalwart of religious sensibilities (namely, mine). That isn’t a good place to start, poorly equating beer with God, and the books rhetorical prowess only grows slightly beyond that. The continuing chapters just barely hang together, and rather than attempt to make a point more profound than “drink beer!”-Mr. O’Brien settles into a kind of blog-entry style better for periodic guzzling than prolonged sipping. Furthermore, the buzz is short-lived-if there is one at all-and leaves me wondering where I left my coat.
Blog-entry tidbits of beer trivia hardly make for a book worth buying. I suppose Fermenting Revolution would make a decent gift for the un-enlightened, but then again, so would a case of mixed microbrews. Me? I recommend the latter.
The Better World Shopping Guide: Every Dollar Makes a Difference
New Society Publishers, 2006, 169 pages.
Sometimes I forget how attached I can become to my favorite products. When I was a kid, there was always a strange stigma attached to my friends’ families that used Miracle Whip instead of Best Foods, or AquaFresh instead of Crest. While reading Ellis Jones’ book, The Better World Shopping Guide, fears that my favorite chewing gum, Trident, might be responsible for some unspoken horrors across the globe, or that my favorite sneakers are produced in sweatshops kept surfacing.
Designed as a sustainable version of Consumer Reports, Ellis Jones’ book categorizes most everything that we consumers, enjoy purchasing on a regular basis-everything from airline tickets and computers to cookies and breath mints. Jones ranks companies against their policies on the environment, human rights, community involvement, animal protection, corporate crime, discrimination, employee treatment and philanthropy. Companies listed in a category are given a score or grade, ranging from A to F. Companies listed in the A range are the shining stars, often created to provide socially and repsonsible alternatives for consumers. Those ranked ‘F’ are, “actively participating in the rapid destruction of the planet,” writes Jones.
According to Jones, we consumers, have much greater power than we seem to give ourselves credit for. As a family, we spend, on average $18,000 a year on goods and services. Jones sees this as our opportunity to cast 18,000 votes toward the “the kind of world you want to live in.”
A sociology professor from UC Davis, Jones has spent the last five years filtering through data from a vast array of sources related to corporate behavior. He has looked to private, government and non-profit sources that go back as far as 20 years.
While the charts in the book are simplistic, more detailed charts are being released regularly at www.betterworldshopper.org. Jones admits that his system is “far from perfect” but hopes that the more detailed charts will clarify any questions readers might have.
In looking at the four detailed charts that are posted online to date, it seems a bit subjective as to whether a company receives a D- ranking versus an F, but the more general scores-going from a A- to D are quickly apparent. A video version for your iPod of the general rankings can also be downloaded from the website.
The book is physically small and is meant to be easily portable. It is also easy to maneuver through while standing in the aisle at the grocery store, or shopping mall. So, next holiday season, when it comes time to buy that case of microbrews that Terry Bain mentions above, just make sure it has a lot of Sierra Nevada.
Book Reveiws, Magazine Article |
According to the National Bike Dealers Association, in 2005, 19.8 million bikes were sold in the U.S. Only about 12% of those bikes were sold from independent locally owned bike shops. The vast majority (over 75%) came from “big box” stores, the same places you buy a waffle iron, hair dye and, in some cases, your weekly groceries. If you are buying a bicycle from a big retailer that doesn’t have an in-store, full bike shop, you’re buying from a big boxer. Traditionally, these big-box bikes are known as “department store” bikes. Don’t buy a department store bike.
Why? Because department-store bikes are made from the cheapest of the cheap materials and components. How cheap? Consider this: the total sales of the department store bikes in 2005 came to about $1 billion. The sales of bikes sold at locally owned bike shops totaled almost $900 million. You do the math: Those department store bikes are cheap.
And you get what you pay for. Very few of the components on a department-store bike are serviceable. That means when something breaks, you can’t fix it. You have to replace it. So practically speaking, most of these department store bikes are disposable, because the cost of replacing many of the parts exceeds the value of the bike very quickly. If you keep an eye out as you ride around town, you’ll see many of these bikes abandoned in alley ways, at the bottom of local ponds, behind dumpsters, and in trash heaps.
If you’re not convinced, buy one for yourself. But please don’t buy a department store bike for your kid. Often these bikes aren’t safe.
On top of the cheap craftsmanship, the folks assembling the bicycles at these big box stores aren’t likely to be trained bike mechanics. Typically, the big box store bikes are often cheap replicas of fully-suspended downhill mountain bikes that have a lot of components to adjust: shocks, gears, brakes, and headsets. Obviously, poorly adjusted brakes are dangerous. But so are loose headsets, which take skill to adjust properly. The same goes for front and rear derailleurs and properly built and tensioned wheels.
When your local bike shop (LBS) receives a bike from the manufacturer, it is mostly assembled. During final assembly at the local shop, the mechanic goes through a list of checks to make sure all components are installed properly and torqued to specification. When you buy a bike from a LBS, you know that a professional mechanic has checked it out and it’s safe for you or your kids to ride. That alone should be the reason to buy from a local shop. In addition, most local shops provide a 30- or 60-day service, where you can bring the bike back in for tuning and adjustment after you’ve broken it in.
I’ve heard some folks say that bike shops are intimidating places, where tough looking, racer-guys size you up when you walk in the door. My answer to that: if that’s the vibe, walk out and find another shop. Spokane has a number of great shops; if you don’t like one, try another. You can find a list of all the local bike shops in Spokane on the Spokane Bicycle Advisory Board website listed below.
And finally, some etiquette. For some reason, some people get into used-car-buying-mode when they buy stuff at a bike shop. I see this a lot when I’m loitering around shops. I don’t understand this; bike shops are retail shops where people are just trying to make a living just like at any other store.
Something to keep in mind is that because of the high cost of labor in the final assembly of the bike, the LBS barely breaks even when they sell you a bike. A 3% margin on a new bike sale is considered good. I can’t believe how many folks I’ve witnessed badgering bike shop employees and owners for some kind of deal or freebee when they purchase a bike. See the side bar for some LBS etiquette tips.
Now that I’ve pledged my allegiance to the LBS, in the future, I hope to write a column suggesting how our local shops may be able to better serve the more utilitarian and urban-minded cyclists in Spokane.
For more information on the environmental and sustainable trade-offs of buying locally versus buying at online bicycle retailers visit Alex Wetmore’s blog at http://blogs.phred.org/shoplocal.
For a listing of local bike shops visit http://www.bikespokane.com/links.html
Local Bike Shop Etiquette
- Don’t go and get advice from the LBS, and then march of to a big box store or go online to some giant distributor and buy the stuff that the LBS told you to buy.
- Don’t ask the LBS to install a component for free just because you bought it from them.
- Don’t expect a discount if the bike shop has to special order something for you and you have to wait for it to arrive.
- Don’t buy some components at an online price-diver or a big box store and then go ask the LBS to install it.
John Speare grew up in Spokane and bikes everywhere.
Don’t miss his blog:
Everyday Cyclist, Magazine Article |
Parents, are you tired of letting your kids run/ride/paddle circles around you? Then take a hint from Doug Minor, two-time State Masters Champion in downhill mountain biking, and get back on the bike yourself.
When Minor’s son got into mountain biking a few years ago, the former motorcycle racer decided to try to keep up. Today, his son is in college, and Minor is cultivating sponsor relationships and dominating local downhill races.
“I have a bit of a competitive bug,” says Minor, who is the reigning champion in Washington’s 50+ Expert class, and also competed at the 2006 UCI Masters World Championship race in Sun Peaks, B.C. His race performance and dedication to the sport have won him several sponsorships, and he’s currently working on two projects: coordinating the upcoming Bicycle Butler Beacon Blowout and putting together his new bike. What’s the gear that’s going to get this 51-year-old through his next decade of racing?
Bike: Minor just received his new Transition bike frame. “I haven’t even got it put together yet,” he says. In fact, he doesn’t even have all the parts, but he expects the seat, handlebars, stem and other parts to be furnished by one of his sponsors, Syncros or Sunline. The suspension, though, will come from RST. “It’s a brand that doesn’t get a whole lot of respect in the U.S., but they’ve been providing me with lots of quality hardware and I provide them with a lot of feedback.”
According to Minor, the norm in downhill mountain bike racing is full suspension in the neighborhood of seven inches of travel (the amount the suspension compresses), but Minor says, “I’m not as smooth as I used to be, so I figure the bigger the better.” He’ll be riding with 8 inches of travel when he rolls his new bike out this spring.
Gear system: “I’m old school with an 8-speed cassette, because of the simplicity and durability,” says Minor. “I tend to be a little harder on my gear so I go with durability over lightweight.” Most people don’t realize that even though downhill mountain bikers are going, well, downhill, there’s a lot of pedaling involved. “It’s a full sprint, you’re either pedaling or carrying speed through the places you can’t pedal.”
Pedals: Minor prefers not to go clip-less, using the Syncros Mental pedals. “I like to be able to tweak my feet around,” he says, so he uses a platform pedal with aggressive treading and sticky soled shoes. “I love my SixSixOne Dually Takis-those things really grip. It’s the next best thing to being clipped in, they really do hang on tenaciously.
Eyewear: Dirty Dog.
Helmet: The SixSixOne Hurricane Flight helmet. It’s a Snell-approved motocross helmet, important for racing in what he calls the “old and brittle class.”
Body Armor: The SixSixOne Pressure suit, with a chest plate, elbow and forearm covers, shoulder cups, and “armadillo-type articulated spinal protection, so there’s a lot of great protection in something you just throw on. You can just throw a jersey over it and still have a billboard for all your sponsors.” Minor also wears the Race knee and shin guards by SixSixOne. In downhill racing, he says, “protection is the name of the game.”
Gloves: The SixSixOne Cedric gloves. “They’re the mountain biking equivalent of brass knuckles.”
Jersey: Preferably something moisture-wicking and short enough not to get caught on the seat while maneuvering. However, “I haven’t had a lot of choice-it’s dictated by your sponsors and what they provide for you,” says Minor.
Shorts: Minor wears the SixSixOne Race shorts with removable hip pads for warmer days, and the Royal Racing Future Combat pants for colder weather.
Minor’s absolute must-have gear? “My helmet,” he says, and he’s also a fan of head-sweats, which come in handy for keeping his hair in and the sunburns out between races. And there you have it, you young athletes coveting sponsors, and you parents who would kill to keep up.
Magazine Article, What's Your Gear? |
It is perhaps appropriate that the geographical center of the State of Washington sits just a few miles from Wenatchee.
Because when you talk rafting for the masses, many will consider the Wenatchee as “the river” for Washington whitewater. Sure there’s many other great rivers from which to choose in the state-the Skykomish, White Salmon and Tieton immediately come to mind-but when you add it all up, the Wenatchee offers something for everyone.
Just as many people associate the Salmon or Lochsa with Idaho and the Rogue or Deschutes in Oregon, so too do Washingtonians with the Wenatchee.And despite having maybe a dozen more rivers from which to choose where a commercial outfitter can guide you down the rapids, the combination of weather, location and rapids most likely put the Wenatchee at the top of the list for the number of trips it sees in a season.
The City of Cashmere, which charges commercial outfitters a per-person fee to exit the river at the city’s Riverside Park, estimated some 6,400 people rafted the river in 2006. This figure does not include private rafters, but one can figure that the number might be close, making the Wenatchee one of the most-if not the most popular raft runs in the state.
Drive up Highway 2 on any day from May through July and you’ll see the popularity of the river by the dozens of colorful rafts that bob down the river with guides shouting instructions and paddlers trying to follow those orders. In all of its four distinctive sections, the Wenatchee serves up nearly 60 miles of every conceivable level of difficulty. From tame Class I and II runs at both top and bottom that are perfect for beginners; the fun Class III water from Leavenworth to Cashmere or the suicidal Class V to VI churning washing machine that is tumultuous Tumwater Canyon. U.S. rivers are ranked on a scale of Class I being tame to insane at Class VI.
The Wenatchee is just one of a number of raft-able rivers within a relatively short drive. The only other commercially-run river that is easy to reach is the Methow to the north outside of Twisp. The Stehekin River at the end of Lake Chelan has offered some commercial trips in the past.
What makes the Wenatchee so popular is that it has everything for everyone, according to Terri Sarver of Seattle-based Blue Sky Outfitters. “It is located just on the East side of the Cascade Mountains. So it’s not to far for the folks who are coming from the Seattle area (right around 2.5 hours) and equal distance for the folks coming from Spokane,” Sarver says. An added bonus Sarver says is “For the west-siders it’s nice to be in the nice dry hot weather.”
And it’s not just all rafting. “Leavenworth is great outdoor paradise,” says Sarver. You have white water rafting, hiking, rock climbing and anything else you want to do in the great outdoors.”
Of course, Leavenworth offers that unique taste of Bavaria with dining and shopping for those post-rafting activities.
Sarver said most companies start running the Wenatchee in March and run the river until August. Traditional high water flows happen between the last couple of weeks of May and the first couple weeks of June.
Because of its width and the presence of few big rocks, the Leavenworth to Cashmere portion of the Wenatchee rarely gets more than a Class III+ rating. That doesn’t mean, however, that it’s by any means tame. “It has some of the tallest rapids in the entire state,” Sarver says. “Some can be as tall as 10 to 14 feet.” One of those waves is at Drunkard’s Drop. It’s HUGE at high flows and routinely pitch passengers into the drink. To add insult to injury-or in some cases bragging rights-a commercial photographer is stationed in a tower on the right side of the river snapping lots of photos of every boat.
Rod Amundson of Wildwater River Tours based in Federal Way,WA quits rafting the Wenatchee when flows drop to 1,700 cfs. “We raft it up to 25,000 cfs at high water in May and June.” Amundson cautions that below 1,700 cfs cubic feet/second) the Wenatchee is pretty much a Class II rock garden. The White Salmon River and the Upper Skagit River are better whitewater rafting trips in late July and August according to Amundson.
Amundson, like many of those who run the Wenatchee, loves the BIG water it serves up at certain levels. “I like big water volume on the Wenatchee, Skykomish or any challenging river,” he says. The Wenatchee between 6,000 cfs to 18,000+ cfs is the perfect flow range.
The Wenatchee is suitable for most folks between age 10 and 85. At low river levels in July/August younger kids down to 6 years would be okay on trips, Amundson says. The bulk of those runs take place from Leavenworth to Cashmere, one of the prime apple producing areas in the world.
THE LEAVENWORTH TO CASHMERE RUN. The Wenatchee is just as popular with the private rafters as it is with commercial operators. Trips on the Leavenworth to Cashmere section begin at a developed launch site just upstream from the Highway 2 bridge that crosses the river on the outskirts of town.
Turn left before crossing the bridge and follow East Leavenworth Road for approximately .06 of a mile according to Jeff Bennett’s A Guide to the Whitewater River of Washington. Look for a fishing access to the right. The launch has a boat ramp that can accommodate large rafts.
The fun comes right within the first mile with Boulder Bend, a sweeping right curve in the river that at higher flows if chock full of boat-eating holes. One of those, according to Coeur d’Alene rafter Larry Gaddis, is called O’Geary’s hole. He flipped there a few years ago and had a long and memorable swim at 15 to 16,000 cfs. Not only was Gaddis, a 25-year rafting vet trying to survive in the cold Memorial Weekend water but trying to keep his swim trunks up and his life jacket attached to his body. He was successful on both challenges. The river mellows for the next 3.5 miles before reaching Peshastin. A mile and a half downstream from Peshastin comes the next set of rapids, Rock and Roll, a big and lively wave-train. According to Bennett, the best-and safest-run is along river left, avoiding Satan’s Eyeball, a gigantic hole that develops at center-right.
It isn’t long until you see Peshastin Creek entering from the right. Peshastin Creek itself a challenging expert run in kayaks and small catarafts when the Wenatchee is at 10,000 cfs. “Fresh Squeezed” is the perfect name for one of the key rapids on the run.
Just down from Peshastin Creek exit the river in order to portage the diversion dam. The L-shaped structure is sometimes run on the left but it is really not recommended. There is a surprisingly powerful reversal on the right side or main face of the dam. According to Larry Gaddis he’s watched a commercial paddle raft portage the dam, yet get pulled back into the dangerous water and flip, spilling its passengers for a long down-stream swim. A dolly is available to help wheel heavy rafts across the parking lot and back to the water.
It is possible to sometimes put in at the dam but never count on it. The Wenatchee’s best water really lies ahead with the rapid to river mile ratio increasing greatly.
Gorilla Falls just under the Highway 2 bridge below the dam is the first notable rapid, found amidst the tangle of bridge piers. Next up is one of the Wenatchee’s most popular spots, a surf wave that is routinely populated by dozens of kayakers. That population increases significantly at Wenatchee River Fest, a kayaking and rafting competition this year set for June 9 – 10. The wave that forms here grows with the flow, reaching three feet when the river hits 14,000 cfs.
Not far below the play wave is Drunkards Drop. You’ll notice it as the river makes a sweeping right bend before breaking back left as it scrapes past a large dirt cliff. The rapid can be skirted to the right if you are not into tempting fate with a run down the gut. Mellow water follows until you begin to approach Cashmere. Then the Wenatchee finishes with a big bang.
Snowblind is appropriately named. In higher water it is a series of mesmerizing waves and holes. If you’re rowing you’ve got to be on your toes and ready to move quickly. As a paddle captain, you’re just as likely to be dragging swimmers into your boat as well as barking out commands to keep the boat upright. If you’re swimming here, you might be in the water ’til the end as Granny’s Rapid, a string of big waves-and at high flows some flipper waves-follows Snowblind. Just past the Cashmere bridge comes the take-out ramp on river right. This can be a real traffic jam as it is the only place to exit the river unless you flow on down a few miles to Monitor, which you don’t want to do because it costs to use the ramp.
The Cashmere’s Riverside Park is a great place to get the gear sorted out and relax while you await your shuttle. Inside the park pavilion you will find refreshments and souvenirs, including those photos that were snapped as you ran, swam or were catapulted through Drunkard’s Drop.
This is also the place where much of the activity takes place at the Wenatchee River Festival.
The park is reached by taking the Cashmere/Division Street exit off of Highway 2. Turn left onto Pleasant after crossing the river, right on Woodring and left on Riverside with the park just ahead.
With the city of Wenatchee ten or so miles downstream, and the Bavarian clone of Leavenworth 13 miles upstream, the area boasts accommodations for every taste and budget. In addition, camping is both plentiful-and beautiful-up along Icicle Creek, west of Leavenworth. Icicle Creek rivals, and in some ways surpasses the run in Tumwater Canyon. It contains steep, car-size boulder-choked drops that should only be attempted by the best of the best in the boating community.
The Wenatchee as noted is just one of many notable rafting rivers in Washington State. And then there’s Idaho, and that’s another story.
Paul Delaney has been an avid whitewater rafter since 1980. Paul helped found and is currently president of the Northwest Whitewater Association (www.northwestwhitewater.org), a Spokane-based club for self-outfitted river
rafters. He runs river all over the northwest, including the Wenatchee.
For further information on Washington whitewater: http://www.gonorthwest.com/Washington/Activities/rafting/rafting.htm.
Following are commercial outfitters that run rafting trips on the Wenatchee River:
BLUE SKY OUTFITTERS:
P.O. Box 717, Peshastin, WA 98847. Info: (800) 228-RAFT or email@example.com
OSPREY RAFTING COMPANY:
4342 Icicle Road, P. O. Box 668, Leavenworth, WA 98826. Info: (800) 743-6269 or
894 US Highway 2, P.O. Box 253, Leavenworth, WA 98826. Info: (800) 926-7238.
ENCHANTED WATER TOURS:
P.O. Box 611, Leavenworth, WA 98826. Info: (888) 723-8987 or
GO BIG WHITEWATER, LLC:
P.O. Box 365, Leavenworth, WA 98826. Info: (888) 979-9600 or firstname.lastname@example.org
LEAVENWORTH OUTFITTERS OUTDOOR CENTER:
21312 Hwy 207, Leavenworth, WA 98826. Info: (800) 347-7934.
NORTH CASCADES RIVER EXPEDITIONS:
P. O. Box 116, Arlington, WA 98223. Info: (800) 634-8433 or email@example.com
P.O. Box 2124, Bothell, WA 98041. (800) 464-5899 or firstname.lastname@example.org
P.O. Box 666, Leavenworth, WA 98826. Info: (800) 448-RAFT or email@example.com
ORION EXPEDITIONS, INC.
12681 Wilson Street, Leavenworth, WA 98826. Info: (800) 553-7466 or firstname.lastname@example.org
WAVE TREK, INC:
P.O. Box 236, Index, WA 98256. Info: (800) 543-7971 or email@example.com
WILDWATER RIVER TOURS, INC:
P.O. Box 3623, Federal Way, WA 98063-3623. Info: (800) 522-WILD (9453) or
Other NW Rivers
The commercially rafted part of the river is a Class III to IV section, usually the last 15 miles or so of the river before it flows into the Columbia River at Patreos. It’s a great stretch for beginning to intermediate rafters. Most trips start off in calmer water with mostly Class I and II rapids, making for a good warm up. The real action starts with Engle’s Slide, a Class III rapid. The most challenging section of the river is next, a Class IV drop named Black Canyon. Here Black Canyon Creek flows into the Methow and the river narrows within the canyon while dropping quickly in elevation, creating fantastic waves and The Black Hole. Directly following is the ledges of Staircase with its powerful waves. The action continues with Corner Rapids and Another Roadside Attraction.
Just an hour from Seattle, the Skykomish River is considered the most challenging commercially run river in Washington State. The “Sky,” as it’s called by those that frequent this river, provides plenty of heart-pumping action for even the most seasoned rafting pro.
While most of this river is Class III to III+, the highlight of the trip and the draw for adrenaline-seekers, Boulder Drop, a Class IV+ rapid. This rapid contains house-sized boulders and requires intricate and precise maneuvering to navigate and make it through. While there are many other rivers in the state where rafters wear helmets for safety, this is the only one that the State of Washington steps in and requires helmets by law.
The Tieton River is located on the east side of White Pass, near Naches, just 45 minutes from Yakima. Rimrock Lake Reservoir is the main source for the Tieton’s water. The Tieton has very little water for most of the year, but once September comes around, the gates to Rimrock Dam are opened and, for the month of September, the Tieton has the best whitewater in the state. And, to make this river even better, the water from Rimrock Lake has spent the entire summer warming up, making the Tieton’s water the warmest in Washington.
With an average drop in elevation of 55 feet per mile, the Tieton also claims the “fastest” whitewater in Washington State. Volcanic basalt cliffs surround the river making for awesome rock climbing among elite climbers.
This river is considered the last “official” trip of the rafting season and rafters from all over Washington make their annual pilgrimage to the Tieton in September.
Federally protected as a Wild & Scenic River, the White Salmon River is one of the most beautiful rivers in Washington State. The water in this river is provided by melting glaciers and underground springs, supplying the White Salmon with some of the cleanest water in the country. Lush greenery and trees complete this picturesque river.
Most trips start out in BZ Corner, a little town whose recognition is known for its access to the White Salmon River. The excitement of the White Salmon begins right away as the BZ Corner put in is actually in the middle of Top Drop, a Class IV rapid! The river continues in a “pool and drop” pattern, with exciting rapids that drop down into calm pools, like Corkscrew and Waterspout. Stairsteps is a favorite, with a series of one to three-foot ledges like a set of long, wide stairs.
About two thirds into the trip is Class IV+ Husum Falls, a 14-foot waterfall. On most trips, rafters get out here to stretch their legs, view the falls, and watch the boats as they’re “lined” (floated empty at the end of a long line of rope) over the falls. Only a few outfitters are permitted to actually run the falls and for rafters on those trips, running the falls is an unforgettable thrill. From the bottom of the falls, the river finishes its journey to Northwestern Lake with Class II and III rapids.
(Courtesy of Blue Sky Outfitters)
Magazine Article |
An average of 5.5 million drivers speed past the intersection of I-90 and Hwy 395 each year, oblivious to the charms of Ritzville, the quiet German farming community anchored in a cluster of trees just beyond the crossroads.
We zoom by the century-old brick buildings punctuated with metal sculptures tastefully placed for our enjoyment and miss the historic railroad museum with working telegraph, the funky Flying Arts Ranch, refreshing Water Park and shops brimming with collectibles.
“How do you get people to stop and come downtown?” asks a frustrated John Marshall, who owns Landcraft Repair, Research and Development, an auto body shop decorated with vintage signs.
Other merchants wonder the same thing as their efforts at hospitality go unnoticed by throngs of commuters in a frenzied rush to someplace else. It’s enough to give a businessman the blues.
But instead of crying in their beers a group of tenacious Ritzville volunteers began giving the blues to us 14 years ago. They do it in award-winning style every second Saturday in July, when famous musicians, regional talent and thousands of music lovers arrive for one of the most successful blues festivals in the Northwest. Blues, Brews & BBQs has been inducted into the Inland Empire Blues Society’s Hall of Fame twice.
“The whole town becomes a big blues venue,” says Sandy Hansberry, the event’s coordinator.
Officially a one-day bash, it has grown into a weekend-long celebration with visitors streaming in Friday to enjoy early performances by regional artists in bars downtown, and lingering through Sunday morning breakfast at the fairgrounds.
On Saturday, a stage for national headliners is set up on Main Street under the turret of the 100 year-old Victorian Gothic G.E. Gritman building, where music starts at high noon. This year’s lineup features harp superstars Magic Dick and Lee Oskar of Mark Hummel’s Blues Harmonica Blowout, as well as Tinsley Ellis, and T-Broussard and the Zydeco Steppers.
Dick was the original harp man for the J. Geils Band and Oskar was a founding member of the soul-funk-rock group WAR with Eric Burdon. He also started the Lee Oskar Harmonica Company, which is growing at a phenomenal pace.
World traveling guitarist-vocalist-songwriter Tinsley Ellis has shared stages with the Allman Brothers, Robert Cray, Koko Taylor and Widespread Panic; and Bryant Keith “T” Broussard’s mastery of the traditional Creole accordion has made the energetic performer a sought after act at major festivals.
“We try to get national acts unique to the Northwest for our headliners,” Hansberry explains, and she strives for fresh talent each year. Now in its 14th season, past performers include Bo Didley, Taj Majal and Junior Wells.
Acoustic artists perform free at intimate nooks on the outskirts of town, like Spike’s Deli & Pizza and Starbucks along I-90, and premier regional musicians appear in bars and lounges downtown. The acclaimed Becki Sue and Her Big Rockin’ Daddies, the soulful Randy Oxford Band, and Swamp Rockers Kelly Thibodeaux and the Etouffee Band are among 18 Northwest acts that start Friday night and play Saturday until 2 AM.
With its stellar line-up, tempting food booths, and rollicking beer gardens, accommodations are hard to find.
“Don’t wait until Friday,” Hansberry cautions. There might be a few tent and RV sites left at the fairgrounds but they fill up fast. People with motor homes can spend the night curbside if they’re lucky enough to find a spot.
Adam’s Automotive provides free shuttle service between downtown and the fairgrounds, and from motels along the Interstate. The event is also biker-friendly, with dedicated motorcycle parking by the movie theater.
There is a cover charge for the downtown entertainment and minors are welcome to the main stage performances. Contact the Ritzville Area Chamber of Commerce for tickets and lodging information.
Along with the obvious attraction of a major blues fest, Ritzville is a good place to turn off the freeway and chill for a few hours. It conceals delights for a variety of tastes, from its Queen Anne architecture and collection of German pioneer history at the Carnegie Library (call first), to Killian’s Creamery with designer ice-cream cones, one-way ladies room mirror, and old-time photo booth. The city boosters recommend a round of golf, historic walking tour with the 26-point guidebook in hand; or a stroll on the two-mile paved trail that loops from the corner of Main and Division through the fairgrounds and up the hill along the south edge of town.
It’s also a good base from which to explore treasures hidden in the hypnotic wheat fields and channeled scablands of eastern Washington; like the John Wayne Pioneer Trail, a non-motorized, unpaved Rails-to-Trails being developed from North Bend to Tekoa with a crossing near Ritzville in Ralston on Hwy 261, and spectacular Palouse Falls 35 miles further down the road. PJ Jacobson’s “church of nursing bras” is a surreal sight in Lind. The Seattle transplant is a Doula-one who helps physically and emotionally with birth and postpartum. The certified lactation consultant bought the church for a steal on e-Bay and provides support and supplies to nursing moms around the country from her office next to the showroom www.birthandbabyorders.com.
For Blues, Brews & BBQs tickets, lodging and information call the Chamber of Commerce at 509-659-1936 or go to http://www.ritzvilleblues.com.
When You Go:
From Spokane Head West on I-90. Go 57.9 miles. Take Exit #221/WA-261 South toward Washtucna/Ritzville. Go .2 miles. Turn right on Division Street, go .9 miles. Arrive at the center of Ritzville.
Magazine Article |
Spokane Home Builders Association (SHBA) is going green-quickly. The group, that represents eight counties in Eastern Washington, plans to launch BuiltGreenWA this year, a green building rating program developed by Puget Sound area builders and consultants.
“The buyers are asking for it. Fifty percent of Spokane’s expected growth in the next ten years is expected to come from Seattle, Portland, Boise, San Francisco-these people are moving here and they want green construction. That is the reason it is moving so quickly for us-the demand is exploding,” says Paul Warfield, Community Affairs Director with the Spokane Home Builders Association.
BuiltGreenWA was initially adopted in 1997 by Washington State. The program is based on a system developed in Denver, Colorado, BuiltGreen-Metro. Currently, there are eight active programs within the state of Washington with other home builder groups pursuing active status. O’Brien & Company, sustainability consultants in Kitsap County oversaw the development of the program.
“The beauty of the [BuiltGreenWA] system is it is easily adapted to single-family, remodel projects or small commercial, it is designed to be easily implemented,” says Warfield.
BuiltGreenWA incorporates a star rating system that determines a project’s “shades of green,” according to Warfield. Homes are assigned anywhere from one to five stars. “You can go green as you can get-alternative methods of construction, solar panels, or you can simply recycle on the building site, use recycled materials and use energy efficient windows,” says Warfield.
At the national level, two percent of homes built last year were green construction with an expected growth to 50 percent by 2010. Washington State is far ahead of the national curve with 15 to 20 percent green construction being built in the Puget Sound area, and 20 to 30 percent in King County.
While the non-profit, U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards are used nationwide, their program, currently, is designed around commercial projects. The National Home Builders (NAHB) along with the International Code Council is now in the process of developing the first national green building standard. According to a recent report published by the NAHB, “The NAHB Research Center received more than 270 applications from building industry representatives to sit on the ANSI National Green Building Standard Committee.
It takes six to eight months to formally launch a BuiltGreenWA program. SHBA is currently working with Pierce County to certify builders. Currently, three local builders, Sullivan Homes, Greenstone Homes and Craftsman Homes, have become certified, with many more expressing interest.
“The handbook alone is 200 to 300 pages. It takes a long time to generate a document of that size. We involve everyone from water quality experts to suppliers and vendors,” says Warfield.
The first green home to be built by Condron Homes is the “Children Miracle Network Home” located in the Spokane area Eagle Ridge development. All the proceeds from the sale will go to the Children’s Miracle Network. Spokane Home Builders hopes to also have a couple of homes certified in the Fall Festival of Homes Tour around the same time that they launch BuiltGreenWA.
For more information on BuiltGreenWA please visit: www.builtgreen.net or contact Paul Warfield at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Want more green building info? Go Green Business is a local monthly email newsletter for the building trade, and it’s free. To register send a request email with your name and company or organization to: email@example.com.
Magazine Article |
News reports often leave me with more questions than answers. A perfect example: When Peter J. DuPerron was killed in a head-on collision with a truck on a road near the Liberty Lake ORV park on April 5.
Speaking to the Bicycle Alliance of Washington I learned that sometimes a cyclist is just assumed to be at fault in accident even if they aren’t. Eileen Hyatt, Spokane’s bicycle education guru, told me that one of the biggest causes of bicycle accidents is a cyclist riding against traffic where cars aren’t expecting them. Theo Probst at Cycle Sports in Liberty Lake said that road near the ORV park is quiet and virtually shoulderless. “You don’t expect to see many cars out there,” says Probst.
Sgt. Dave Reagan gave me the results of the Spokane County Sheriff’s investigation of the crash. According to Reagan, the cyclist was at fault for the accident. “The rider was unable to maintain control of his bicycle coming down a hill and entered the oncoming lane and hit the truck with fatal results,” says Sgt. Reagan. “The truck driver had pulled over and had completely stopped when the crash occurred.” DuPerron was wearing a helmet, but died of internal injuries.
John Abernathy at Wheelsport East in Spokane Valley, had just met DuPerron when the 27-year-old transplant from Redlands, California, recently came into his shop. DuPerron was buying some BMX and single-speed parts. “He wasn’t just a roadie. He seemed to be interested in everything about bicycles,” says Abernathy. “A true cyclist.”
“I’ve done that myself,” says Abernathy, hearing my description of the downhill corner-cutting that the Sherrif’s Department determined caused the crash.
Is that the moral of the story? Watch your ass on semi-rural roads that don’t seem to have much traffic? Don’t ride faster than you can control and don’t cut corners on curves? Don’t expect a helmet to always save you? All good advice, but DuPerron was also the victim of really bad luck. Even the most conscientious riders may have a momentary safety lapse-but that doesn’t always mean a head-on with a truck.
I’m terribly saddened by DuPerron’s death. I hope knowing the circumstance can help more riders be safe. If DuPerron loved cycling as much as Abernathy seemed to think he did I hope that his spirit lives on and we get ten new folks on bikes to replace the one we just lost.
Check out: http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/mapsdata/tdo/accidentbicycle.htm
Editorial, Magazine Article |