Friday, May 30, 2014

2014 trans-sylvania epic, stage 6

Yay.  It finally came together.  Third in the 40+.

Here's your proof:

Aaron said I wasn't smiling.  I thought I was smiling.  I was happy, anyway.

Fun day today.  Forty some miles.  Lots of trail.  Some pretty rough trail, but I rode it ok.  Not awesome, but ok.  And I had a lot of fun, so an all-around cool day.

Was craving a salty snack today like you wouldn't believe...

Won some cool socks from Freeze Thaw Cycles in State College.

One trail in particular, Tussey Mountain Trail, is worth noting.  It was billed as one of the 10 best mountain biking trails in Pennsylvania.  And I think it lived up to the billing.  It's a fun trail to ride, lots of variety, but the thing that make the trail stand out is that it runs along at the northern end of Rothrock State Forest, about 2000' feet above sea level.  (Which, in this part of the country, is high.)  Really cool views on either side of the trail.  It reminded me a bit of the Great Western Trail north of Guardsman Pass.  A bit.  Obviously the majesty of the surrounding terrain pales in comparison to that, but in the Pennsylvania mountains there are so few vista opportunities, and fewer still ridge line trails, that this one really stands out.  There was even that sort of windswept wildness to the flora and terrain along the trail that any Rocky Mountain hiker would recognize, which left this one with a vague sense of deja vu, even though I'm quite positive I've never been anywhere near that trail before.

Another notable section of the course rode along the John Wert Trail.  This section stands in stark contrast to the Tussey Mountain Trail; while the Tussey pretends to alpine grandeur, riding the John Wert felt like a jungle expedition.  Lush greenery brushing your elbows as you attempt to navigate wet and slippery roots and rock gardens.  (I actually passed people through this section.  Proud.)

Anyway, most hiking trails in Pennsylvania I find less than inspiring.  But I would like to hike back and forth on the Tussey Mountain Trail.  We'll add that to the family itinerary when we come up to camp in R. B. Winter SP.

When I was perusing my Facebook feed during lunch, I saw that Valerie (my wife) commented on one of those Facebook pages set up to support a sick someone.  From what I could gather, in this case the sick someone was a kid, and the kind of sick was cancer.  She commented on a picture of the little boy getting his transfusion.  All of the comments--except Valerie's--were of the kind you would expect, thinking of you, we're praying for you, give him our best, be strong, etc.  Valerie's comment?  A conversational nostalgic fondness for the days when she took her kids to get transfusions.  They go in all pale and tired, come out rosy-cheeked and full of life.  The wonder of blood.  (It takes a parent who's been-there-done-that, twice, to make comments like that.  We feel ownership of the sick kid terrain.)

Islands of joy among seas of pain.  Because cancer sucks.  It does.  It isn't something to triumph over.  And having cancer isn't a fight or battle, implying that those who win are strong and those who don't are weak.  Cancer is your body betraying you.  It's your body killing itself.  And cancer sucks.

Today I read a piece Ed Abbey wrote in 1978 about the Rocky Flats Truth Force, a group protesting the Rocky Flats Plant near Golden, Colorado.  The Rocky Flats Plant, built in the 1950s, produced the plutonium triggers used to ignite hydrogen bombs.  "Triggers," they're called, yet each apparently has the explosive power equal to the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The plant was apparently an environmental disaster from the beginning (I'm drawing on Wikipedia research here).  All sorts of leaked waste, in the water, in the air, and of course the ground.  In the late 1980s, the FBI began an investigation of their environmental crimes and, in an episode that should really be made into a movie, served search warrants to corporate executives of Rockwell International, the DOE contractor that ran the site, and DOE officials as well at a meeting disguised as a briefing for a potential terrorist threat.  Simultaneously, FBI agents raided the facility itself, which must have been quite an undertaking, given its intense security and the shoot-to-kill directives of the guards.  (Part of the facility's security included ground-to-air missiles.)

So, yeah, cancer...  Cancer is your body betraying you.  And when you get cancer as a down-winder, well, that's your government betraying you.  In the name of security.  In the name of protecting your liberty.  In the name of patriotism.  Which can be a kind of cancer.  The kind of cancer that Samuel Johnson must of had in mind when critiquing what he considered false patriotism, "Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel."  And Dick Cheney.  But Oscar Wilde (Reuben's namesake) probably said it better: "Patriotism is the virtue of the vicious."  And isn't it?

It's easy to whip up a righteous fury in light of such things.  Easy as whipping cream.  But to whom do we direct the fury?  To whom should we yell and scream and point our indignant fingers?

Can we go back to Wendell Berry?  "Bosses are everywhere and all the bosses are underlings."  Ah, the safety and insanity of bureaucracies!  Robert Jackall, in his seminal "Moral Mazes," describes the moral two-facedness that corporate bureaucracies demand of their managers.  Things that would be unquestionably wrong in the private sphere become matters of cost-benefit analysis in the business sphere.  Moral reasoning is replaced with rational decision-making models, and the only ethic worth pursing is self-interest.

Who makes the decision that results in radioactive material leaking from storage barrels?  The answer is no one.  The answer is everyone.

Who makes the decision to live in a world tied in the suicidal knot of nuclear Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD)?  The answer is no one.  The answer is everyone.

Well...  Here's to the kid who got a blood transfusion today.  May his cheeks be rosy, his spirits lifted, and his dreams full of cool dinosaurs or legos or pirates or cowboys or clone troopers or whatever coolness the kid is into.  And hopefully tomorrow there will be less cancer.  Both the literal and the metaphorical, so that we can all live healthier lives.


MTN said...

Podium Finish. Strava should have a medal for PF in addition to their PRs. After the flats and derailleur hangars and deserve a "nice vanilla Coke."

Regarding bureaucracies, it reminds me of this part of Grapes of Wrath:

MULEY: You mean get off my own land?

THE MAN: Now don’t go blaming me. It ain’t my fault.

MULEY’S SON: Whose fault is it?

THE MAN: You know who owns the land — the Shawnee Land and Cattle Company.

MULEY: Who’s the Shawnee Land and Cattle Comp’ny?

THE MAN: It ain’t nobody. It’s a company.

SON: They got a pres’dent, ain’t they? They got somebody that knows what a shotgun’s for, ain’t they?

THE MAN: But it ain’t his fault, because the bank tells him what to do.

SON: All right. Where’s the bank?

THE MAN: Tulsa. But what’s the use of picking on him? He ain’t anything but the manager, and half crazy hisself, trying to keep up with his orders from the east!

MULEY: (bewildered) Then who do we shoot?

goat said...

That's a great link. Thanks for posting.