A hiking story

Nobody reminded me, but luckily for y’all I remembered on my own. If you don’t feel like clicking through to the AITA, here’s the gist: an avid, experienced hiker wants to take a bunch of his (athletic, hiker-adjacent) friends on a rather difficult 8-mile hike. He prepares these friends in advance for what they’re about to get into and makes sure everyone has proper footwear, water, snacks, hats, that sort of thing. And then one of them drags along a friend who in every available way is unprepared for the hike– and, after pointing out that the person is genuinely endangering herself if she tries this and getting nowhere, he bails on the hike entirely. Later in the day, one of his friends sends him pictures from the ER that two members of the group, including the girl, ended up in, because basically everything went wrong that dude said would go wrong.

This is a not-the-asshole situation for me, and it got me thinking about something that happened when I was in Israel just after graduating college. I was there for a dig at Tel Beth Shemesh, which is a Bronze Age site just west of Jerusalem. We were there for a month, and two of the weekends featured preprogrammed touristy stuff on a rented bus with a guide. The first weekend we were supposed to go to the northern part of the country, and for the second weekend we were supposed to head south. Now, if you know anything about Israel, you might be aware that there is a staggering climate difference between the lovely, temperate, Mediterranean northern half of the country and the fucking Negev desert that occupies most of the southern half. Staggering enough that you dress significantly differently depending on which way you’re going.

We were all rather surprised when we realized which direction the bus was headed, and where our tour guide took us. South. To the desert. To the hot.

Oh, and there was going to be a hike. A three-mile hike, roughly, at Ein Avdat, which is Hebrew for “one motherfucker.” Ein Avdat is beautiful! It looks like this:

I don’t know if the place has gotten more popular since 1998 or what, but I remember it being deserted (heh) when we were there. But it’s gorgeous! Seriously!

There are parts of the hike that are like this, though:

Those are steps carved into the side of the canyon. I don’t know for sure that we carved these specific ones, because I remember there being handholds, but you get the idea.

Going back, by the way, is not an option, because once they drop you off the other side of the hike is … well, three miles away, and your bus drops you off and heads tot he other side. So when we got to the very last part of the hike, I took one look at what they expected me to do to get out of this hot-ass canyon that I didn’t know I was going to be fucking hiking in (and I was not in much better shape in college than I am now) and declared that somebody was sending me a fucking helicopter. Because this is the last part of the hike. After three miles. With no water:

Yeah. That’s a metal ladder. Again, I’m not 100% sure that’s our actual ladder– I remember the rungs being more rebar-y, but again, you get the idea. Nah. Send me a damn helicopter. I ain’t doing it.

I did, eventually, make it out of the canyon. And I forced everyone on the trip with me to take a picture giving the canyon the finger. I didn’t go find that picture today, but when I checked my 22-year-old memories (Christ, literally half my life ago) with a friend of mine who was with me on the trip, she sent me this one. Look at our shoes:

That’s the Dead Sea behind us, so this wasn’t immediately after the hike, but it was the same weekend, and it was definitely the same fucking Birkenstocks. A three mile hike in a box canyon in the desert in Israel in June, with insufficient water and fucking Birks on my feet, because the trip organizers fucked up what weekend we were heading north.

The next day after the hike, we went to Masada, which by rights should have been one of the highlights of the fucking trip. Masada is a Jewish fortress on the top of a mountain. There are two ways to get to it: through what basically amounts to a ski lift, and by climbing the earthen ramp the Romans built while they were laying siege to the place so that they could kill everyone there. It’s called the Snake Path.

This is the fucking Snake Path:

Now, again, each of these two things is on different sides of the complex. There was a small riot on the bus when we pulled up to the Snake Path side of the mountain, and after some debate everyone got off the bus and got ready to hike some more.

Not me. Nope. I took one look at that entirely uphill climb, the day after an unscheduled three-mile desert canyon hell trek, and noped right the fuck out. There are certain things I simply cannot be manipulated into doing, and that bullshit was definitely on that list. I stayed on the bus, and as it ended up had a fascinating conversation with our Palestinian bus driver while everyone else nearly died trying to hike straight up. So I went to Israel and went to Masada, but I have never been inside Masada … but on the other hand, I’m still alive, and I can to this day recite this guy’s explanation of the Arab-Israeli conflict, complete with broken English and the map that he drew a bunch of lines on to indicate which parts of Israel should be given back.

And that’s why I’m not about to get angry with somebody for telling someone he doesn’t think it’s a good idea for her to go on a hike.

In which I am sweaty

I did not ride the bike today. I got back on yesterday, going a different direction that (I hoped) would not force me into a heart attack, only to be stopped dead by a truck doing a 180 degree, three-point turn in the middle of the damn road on the one part of the trek that was mildly uphill. Getting the bike moving again from a complete stop while going uphill was probably responsible for 80% of my pulse spike for the trip, but at least I didn’t fall or have to walk the damn thing this time. I’ll take it.

Today, I mowed the back yard, cut down what I think was a sapling but could have been some species of aggressive bush, and removed the ancient, rotting free-standing basketball hoop that our neighbors donated to us several years ago. It was old when they gave it to us and since then one of the support rods has completely rusted through, so it’s moved from “infrequently used eyesore” to “infrequently used, moderately dangerous eyesore” and it was time for it to go. I have moved it to the center of the cul-de-sac, which is where my entire neighborhood puts things that they want to go away. And it will! It is ridiculously heavy and large, but someone will take it away before the garbage truck needs to be called. It’s virtually guaranteed.

In addition to occasionally trying to get exercise on purpose I have also sort of started Weight Watchers this week. I am, so far, at least partially convinced that Weight Watchers is expensive voodoo; my wife and I have discovered that certain foods vary in points when she eats them versus when I do, and I discovered to my chagrin today that a single fucking can of Pepsi was ten goddamned points. A bottle of Gatorade is nine, and thank God I already like unsweetened tea because I’m sure sweet tea is a mess too. I get 60 points for a day and I am given to believe that that is a pretty high number. I am sure there is some sort of at least attempt at science behind it, and sooner or later I’ll do some reading and figure out what that is, but right now? There’s seven more cans of Pepsi in my beverage fridge and I’m drinking each and every one of them before switching over to Coke Zero or whateverthefuck. I’m happy to cut out/down sugar but you gotta let me burn through my stores first.

(Sidenote: this has been true for basically my entire life, but I’ve never really thought about it in these terms until recently: I drink all of my sugar. I almost never eat sweet snacks. I’ll get a craving for ice cream maybe once every couple of months, but a pint of ice cream can last me a week.)

Unrelated, but: I really need to cultivate at least a group of people on Twitter or something who are into video games, because I need to talk to someone about The Last of Us 2. Right now I feel like I don’t want to play it, which is a damn shame considering how amazing I thought the original was, but a couple of the reviews I’ve seen feel like they’ve got how I’ll react dialed in pretty well. Unfortunately, a bunch of other reviews are calling this the best game of this entire console generation. Now, I’m over 200 hours into Nioh 2, so I may have some things to say about that idea, but that’s still pretty fucking high praise. I just don’t need game stress right now on top of everything else, y’know?


7:58 PM, Saturday June 13: 2,071,782 confirmed cases and 115,347 Americans dead. Meanwhile, the WaPo has the number of reported cases today as the highest single-day total since May 14, and passing that date and becoming the highest single-day reported cases since May 8 is not impossible. This is getting worse again, folks.

Hahaha lol no

My neighborhood– please don’t use this information to stalk me– is full of cul-de-sacs. I live on one of them, not pictured in the above photo. Over the last several days since acquiring the bike I have managed to either learn or relearn riding a bike to the point where I could go down my driveway, circle my cul-de-sac a couple of times, and then return to my driveway without incident. We’re talking literal one-minute bike rides. But I could do it!

I take my improvements where I can get them.

Tonight, I resolved that I was going to Take a Bike Ride. I was going to put my helmet on my giant head and ride far enough away from my house that I couldn’t see it any longer.

It did not go well.

Now, it didn’t go as comically poorly as the diagram above seems to indicate– at no point was I off the road, and I certainly did not drive my Goddamned bike right through anyone’s houses, as the orange line seems to imply. There was no corner-cutting through lawns or anything like that. I don’t know why the line isn’t smoother, but it does more or less represent the route.

I learned something about my neighborhood tonight that, after nine years of living in this house, I was not aware of: I live at the top of a fucking hill. I swear to you, I didn’t know this. So I turned out of my cul-de-sac heading roughly eastward expecting more or less a level, pleasant ride, and a few moments later I was hurtling toward death at, the app tells me, a max speed of fifteen miles an hour.

I am not sure what counts as fast to someone who is used to riding a bike. I can tell you that when you have not been on one in thirty years, fifteen miles an hour is motherfucking terrifying. I was going fast enough that I didn’t need to pedal, and at one point on the way down the thought I’m going to die and I’m not even getting any exercise out of it floated through my head. I still don’t quite get how the gearing system works, so chances are I could have adjusted the gears and done … something, but hell if I knew what.

That said, I did not die, and I managed to slow myself down without flipping over the front of the bike and decided to turn off and turn around, figuring I’d been far enough that it counted as progress. And I did! I also learned that I don’t really know how to turn around and look behind me, so right now left turns are out of the question until I get a mirror or something like that. Luckily the one turn I had to make coming out of the turnaround was nice and clear in both directions so I didn’t have to negotiate slowing down too much or stopping before turning back toward home.

Which was uphill.

I realized very quickly that I was in trouble.

See that spot in the upper left of the image where it looks like a toddler scribbled on the screen for a moment? That’s where I had to stop and rest. That’s how far I made it, pedaling uphill on what was a mild enough grade that in nine years I had never noticed it before. I stopped the bike for a second, intending to catch my breath and then continue. Turns out the house on that corner has three kids! None over ten! They’re cute. One of them told me she liked my bike. I thanked her. Then I tried to get the bike moving again.

And failed.

And I tried again.

And failed.

And then I decided that, pride be damned, I was going to have to push the motherfucker up the damn hill, because unless I wanted to turn around and go back downhill again to build up some speed I wasn’t going to get my 45-pound bike and my 318-pound ass (yep) moving up that damn hill.

And as soon as I tried to get off the bike, my legs went to jelly and I fell. I’ve never experienced that before; my legs basically just decided to stop being legs. Lucky for me, I was getting off lawn-side (no sidewalks in my neighborhood) so I fell onto grass and wasn’t hurt, but it didn’t go well. And, of course, the kids were still there. They asked if I was ok. I said I was.

And then I tried to stand up, and my legs weren’t having that either, so I got to sit there for a minute or two until actually standing the fuck up was possible, and then I had to push the bike the rest of the way home. I managed to make it without further embarrassment (other than the other guy on a bike who rode past me and gave me a hell of a confused look) and staggered into my house and collapsed into a chair, so out of breath I couldn’t talk.

(Entertaining sidenote: the app I’m using asks you to rate how difficult you think any given ride was, and one of the guidelines it gives you for a “max effort” ride is that you can no longer remember your name. That’s not a joke. I can’t find it right now, but I will screenshot it next time. I wasn’t quite that bad, but I filed it as max effort anyway.)

It took about fifteen minutes for my heart rate to subside from what my watch tells me was a peak of 149 BPM to something approaching normal, and for at least part of that I was actually trying to move my legs and wasn’t able to. I’m damned glad I made it back; my wife still has a broken foot, remember, so if it had been much worse than it was I’m not sure what the merry fuck I would have been able to do about it.

And once I was recovered enough to describe to my wife what had happened, she says to me, I swear to God, “Oh, I’d have told you about the hill if you’d asked.”

Anybody want a bike?


This is the data I was given about the ride that almost killed me. I swear to you that despite how ridiculously nothing this looks, nothing in this post is hyperbole. This doesn’t include the walk back pushing that heavy-ass thing, though, because I ended the “recording” session once I decided I wasn’t getting back on the bike.

Y’all are lucky I have no shame at all or this place would be a lot less entertaining.


8:11 PM, Thursday June 11: 2,021,900 confirmed infections and 113,774 Americans dead.

And now I’m going to die

Giant box! 55-pound giant box!

My first look inside the box and HOLY CRAP THOSE WHEELS:

The contents of the box, removed and placed next to the box. I give Mongoose an A for packaging, as someone who became an aficionado of that little aspect of the universe while selling furniture.

If you thought this was a wheel for a motorcycle, it would not be the dumbest mistake you had ever made. Seriously, I knew what I was buying and I was still not prepared:

Several of the reviews from professional Bike People suggested that the Mongoose Dolomite would be a good bike if you replaced about half a dozen parts. The one place where I took that seriously was the seat. On the left, a seat for my ample ass. On the right, the stock seat. I think this was a good call:

The red on the new seat doesn’t quite match the red on the bike, which is a terrible disappointment. (Not really.) I decided to put everything on finger-tight first, going very, very slowly and trying to make sue I knew what I was doing at any given time. Note that putting a front tire with disc brakes into the fork on a 50-pound bike is… kinda tricky! But I think it’s okay.

And, finally: a bike.

Another positive development: the helmet (which also showed up today) fits, and I even got lucky enough to find one that had that red streak, which matches the bike pretty nicely. It is difficult to convey just how beefy this thing looks in person; the pictures don’t do the sheer size of the tires justice. It’s freakin’ gorgeous, though. I will probably not be riding it today, as I do have several things to do before that happens:

  • Figure out what the proper tire pressure is and inflate the tires. Note that this will require an electric pump, as these tires laugh at piddly little hand pumps.
  • The seat is in the lowest possible spot, which means that the rear reflector is actually obscured by the tire if you’re directly behind the bike. I should probably get some actual lights. This isn’t a serious priority right now, though, as my night riding is going to be minimal for a while and I may end up adjusting the seat once I get more used to getting on and off the bike.
  • I do not especially trust the gearshift, which was another thing people were griping about; it feels kind of flimsy, and it was changing gears while I was tightening the handle in place. I may end up taking this to a bike place and asking them to specifically check out the brakes, the gearshift, and the derailleur.
  • I need to learn how to pronounce “derailleur.” I think it’s just de-rail-er, but it looks like you’re supposed to say it fancy-like.
  • Also I have literally never ridden a bike where shifting gears was even an option and I need to figure out how to do that.

And then, after I do all that, I can put the bike in the garage and never ride it, because terror! We’re set for the summer!

On alternate universes

I have spent the last couple of days working on the graduation video– or, at least, the “celebration” video, since technically we’re not supposed to call it a graduation (or use Pomp and Circumstance) if it’s not high school. One way or another, though, I’ve been working on it. The final project is going to end up being somewhere in the 35-minute range.

I used to do quite a lot of this type of work at a previous school, when I was one of the folks responsible for the morning announcements. The announcements themselves were no big deal, but we’d shoot commercials and little skits and stuff like that all the time to keep the kids paying attention, and it turned out that I wasn’t terrible at video editing, or at least the type of video editing you can do with a cheap camera (or, now, a smartphone) and iMovie. In an entirely alternate world, I can see a version of me that does this sort of thing for a living. There’s something very satisfying about it, honestly. There’s no world where I’m contemplating a career change or anything like that– if for no better reason than I don’t actually have any idea how you break into that field, and “I’m good at iMovie” probably isn’t going to be enough to get me any interviews.


The bike has finally shipped, and is currently slated to arrive on Tuesday, although I suspect it might arrive a bit quicker. This means that I now get to start obsessing about bike helmets, which is going to be extra special fun because I have an enormous head– seriously, I can’t ever find hats that fit– and therefore bike helmets that 1) fit me 2) I can afford and 3) I am willing to wear are going to, simultaneously, not exist and be sold out everywhere.

My wife’s foot remains in a boot, and I’ll need her to go with me the first time I ride anywhere so she can call the police when I crash and die, so I’ve got time to … I dunno, build one, I guess.

(Oh, also: bike helmets are not built for bald dudes? I have done a little looking around and I feel like any helmet that has actual holes in it is going to be fodder for the weirdest sunburn of all time, and I am not looking forward to that.)


I am beginning to be concerned about this fall. If we are back in class, we, or at least the adults, are probably going to be mandated to wear masks. I have not, to date, been able to spend more than about fifteen minutes in a mask without panic attacks becoming a real problem, so eight hours— to say nothing of eight hours where I’m expected to do something other than curl up into a fetal position and concentrate on not thinking about my breathing– is gonna be … let’s say troublesome.

I have a couple of surgical masks on hand, and I’m going to try one of those the next time I have to go anywhere, because getting cat food at Target (which, apparently, doesn’t actually sell pet supplies any longer, or at least ours doesn’t, or at least they’ve hidden them well enough that I couldn’t find them anywhere?) damn near killed me tonight. It was bad, y’all.


It still, despite the video and despite the fact that I haven’t actually been in my classroom since the middle of March, not quite hit me that the school year is basically over. I finished my grading today; I will finish my actual grades this weekend at some point, and Monday is some staff meeting types of things, and … that’s it. I’ll have survived (more or less) my first year back in the classroom in a while. More thoughts on this later, I imagine, once it actually manages to wash over me and it feels like it means something.


8:05 PM, Friday, May 29: 1,745,606 confirmed cases and 102,798 dead Americans.