Friday, February 28

If the Road Was a Song

As I attempted to clean up this post to get it out to you, after sitting dormant for a few weeks in my unpublished folder, I decided to throw a little technology at the problem and created a GIS map showing the Mountain Parkway corridor and the percentage of people below poverty level in Census Block Groups along the corridor.  The result was interesting, but I didn’t want to rewrite the whole post to incorporate my educated guesses as to what the map meant.  I have included it at the end of the post for your viewing enjoyment.


The Mountain Parkway was built as a tool for economic development for Eastern Kentucky fifty years ago.  Before it was built there were really no good roads into Eastern Kentuckyfrom the north or west.  I’ve heard a lot of anecdotal accounts from people of my parents’ generation about trips that take a half hour today taking an hour or more.  Eastern Kentucky was cut off from the rest of the state by a lack of good roads.  Roadway standards at the time were much different than they are today, and the Mountain Parkway doesn’t even meet a modern standard.  It has significantly reduced travel times in certain parts of the region.

You’ve heard the talk now to extend the four lane section beyond Campton again for economic development.  But, as one articlesuggested, why not look to the communities—Clay City, Stanton, Slade, Pine Ridge, and Campton—that already benefit from four lanes of pavement to see how the road has increased economic benefit to the region?  It seems to me that some people think the Midas touch of fresh asphalt will leapfrog over Powell and Wolfe Countiesand coat everything in Eastern Kentucky with a thin veneer of glittering gold.

KY 114 (extension of the Parkway)
between Salyersville and Prestonsburg

I’m not sure what, in combination with a wider road, they think is going to generate wealth beyond the current terminus of four-lane glory in the region.  The land has been logged out, relogged, and effectively coaled out from a human justice perspective.  There’s not good flat land for industry.  The region would have to import goods to add value.  It just doesn’t make good economic sense considering that we don’t have an already robust transportation system to move those goods. 

Industrial potential isn’t a reality.  We don’t have hydropower to power factories like the Pacific Northwest did during WWII or the Tennessee Valley had in the post-war years. 

Tourism becomes the panacea as far as everyone is concerned.  But what I see is that the tourism industry—Big Tourism as I’m going to refer to it henceforth, that’s what it’s going to become—will not solve the region’s problems.  We don’t need big retail outlet malls.  We don’t need a couple dozen Gatlinburgs to satisfy the shopping urges of well-to-do northerners.  They can shop at Walmart in their own communities if they want cheap Chinese-made crap. 

If you think going to Gatlinburg to shop for your vacation, at the foot of the Great Smokey Mountains, is an authentic experience then there’s something deeply wrong with your perspective.  People were going to visit the Smokies because of its natural grandeur and business people saw there was a need.  Visitors needed something to do at night when they couldn’t be hiking in the mountains or driving to scenic overlooks.  Enter the outlet mall.  And as Americans were evolving into the bean bag shaped blobs that we’ve become we gladly embraced this new paradigm of vacation destinations because we’re just fine and dandy with getting cheap crap handed to use through the windows of our cars.

Yay, we went to the Smokies.

My fear is that this is exactly what will happen in Eastern Kentuckyas the talk of building a tourism industry ramps up.  The difference is that Eastern Kentucky doesn’t have quite the grandeur that the Great Smokey Mountains do.  Or other places in the east.  Pine Mountain? Yes.  Cumberland Gaparea? Yes.  Red River Gorge? Sure.  The Cumberland Plateau is kinda mundane.  You’ve seen one part of it you’ve seen the rest of it.  We’ve got real mountains in the Southeast.  Or, we did until we blew them up and sent them west on trains, barges, and in coal trucks to be converted into gold for someone else to polish.

So what fills the economic gaps?  We need tourism!  Build an outlet mall!

KY 114 from the Dawkins Line Rail Trail

The problem is our tourism commissions aren’t made up of people who are outdoor enthusiasts.  Rock climbers, cyclists, long-distance backpackers…they’re not the ones who sit on the local tourism boards.  Its bankers, cabin owners, real estate agents…but not the people who have an interest in seeing sustainable activities developed in rural areas in a responsible and respectable manner.  People who become interested in these boards are those who would exploit the local resources to make a little money for themselves.  Small town corruption has a stranglehold on Eastern Kentucky.

They’re people who want to erect “attractions” but who don’t care about preserving the existing landscape or creating socially just environments.  They love easy money and the romanticized ideal of a beautiful natural area.  They’re the kind of people who put out brochures that say “Welcome to Kentucky’s Rocky Mountains.”  They cheapen not only the actual Rocky Mountains with that assertion, but also the local landscape by trying to elevate it to something it’s not.  There’s no connection between the Cumberland Plateau and the Rocky Mountain range.  People see through the cheap marketing scheme.  If it’s not an authentic experience people lose interest real fast. 

The people who are charged with development don’t know jack about the true sustainable potential of the areas they represent.  They look at other areas that have developed successful tourism-based environments and they don’t understand the first thing about how those places created the ambiance and atmosphere that draws visitors to their area.  They don’t have a clue because they lack imagination and respect for the local culture.

They don't understand what makes the area beautiful, and in their ignorance they're a threat to the very things that make the place attractive.  Because they don't seek to understand they can never recreate or preserve that which has abiding value.

Those are the same people who think it’s quaint that people come to their area to rock climb from all over the world, but they don’t do the first thing to try and understand what truly interests the visitors or what their needs might be visiting an area away from their homes.  When there’s no high speed internet, it’s a dry county, there are poor development regulations, there’s no local recreational community, and the atmosphere is not friendly to “Buckeyes” then all of those tourism dollars choose to go somewhere else.

A quick aside: tourism commissions have the potential to become as exploitative as Big Coal.  We must guard against that mentality as we try to develop a new economy in Eastern Kentucky.  I don’t believe development should focus on the concentration of wealth, but in improving the quality of life for as many people as possible.  And to be clear, I don’t think “wealth” automatically equates to “quality of life.”

Recently I was perusing my town’s comprehensive plan—some light reading—and it hit me square in the chest.  We have one hotel.  But if you stay in that hotel there really aren’t good sidewalks to get you from the hotel to the restaurants around town.  And actually, unless you want fast food you don’t have many cuisinal choices.  And there are no museums, theaters, coffee shops, ice cream shops or the like to walk to.  Even if there were adequate hotels in the Nada/Slade area (there are tons of vacation cabins) there is NO NIGHT LIFE.  You can hike through the day, but at night you’re stuck in your cabin or tent awaiting the sunrise.  Yep, we roll up the sidewalks at 9pm sharp through the summer.

We don’t do much to attract artists, writers, photographers, and musicians.  There are a few, but not a lot.  We need more people who create culture and beauty.  We need people with a vision beyond what lies just under the surface of the earth that can be easily dug up and traded for fool’s gold.  We need local destinations beyond the post office, grocery store, bank and suboxyclean clinic.

Twenty years ago we should have already been developing a sustainable plan for a tourism economy.  Fifty years ago people were fighting to save the Red River Gorge because of its inherent value and so it could be enjoyed for generations to come.  It’s a resource that’s there for us to responsibly use as an economic tool. 

We’re smart people.  We can figure this out.

Recently I met with the Judge-Exec for the county I live in.  He was surprised to learn that in 2006 a group took grant money and completed a Tourism and Marketing Plan for the county.  He was very interested in seeing it, but had never been aware of its existence.  In his defense, he has been doing a lot to proactively create tourism opportunity, but it’s an uphill battle.  We can figure this out, but sometimes it seems like it might take a millennia.

The Mountain Parkway has been great for the region. It has been a bridge from the East Kentucky Coal Fields to the Bluegrass and beyond. Unfortunately it has also enslaved us to itself. Without the road we are lost. We depend on it so much that talk of a toll puts the fear of God in us. I’ll have to pay a toll every day? How will I get to work? How will I be inconvenienced?

And in trying to answer those questions I realize once again that without the road we’re isolated by time and the cost of fossil fuels. There are no viable alternatives for connectivity. To participate in even the regional economy we need the road for efficiency of movement. And yet it has not brought the prosperity once promised. I’m convinced without a drastic change of thinking in Eastern Kentucky that adding a couple of lanes, flattening some hills, and straightening some curves won’t do much to improve the stagnated economies of the communities that overlook the Mountain Parkway.

 


Thursday, February 27

The Misunderstood Wildebeest

Part of me just wants to confer the entire text exchange between an Inquisitive Reader and myself.  But I’ll sum it up with one word: concise.

But maybe some of you have your interest piqued at this point and the one word explanation isn’t enough.  You’re shouting: “But Chainring! What of my daily dose of rambling, near-incoherent, quasi-cyclo-bloggature?!?!”  And you’re shouting it at your computer screen.

Face it, you need help.

But in the mean time I will appease the demons that are clawing away at the backs of your eyeballs.  I’ll deaden the noises echoing off the walls of your padded room.  I’ll continue with my daily blattitudes for your benefit, Dear Reader.

I’ve decided to include the Reader’s Digest version of the text exchange that prompted this post:


Inquisitive Reader: Do you have any interest in briefly speaking to the blarble blarble youth blarble sometime?
Chainring: They're not going to throw the book at me are they?  Can I wear a bear suit?  Do any of them have special considerations such as a sign language interpreter?

IR: Nope. Just basically telling a tiny group of kids that there are options for their future that don't involve government assistance and toxic relationships.  And that such options are not incredibly difficult to pursue, but do involve some planning and determination. And ambition.

Chainring: I'm not sure I'm qualified.  Sure you don't want me in a bear suit?  When is this gig and how much suboxyclean* will I get in payment?

IR: Bear suit might be a good idea.
IR: You're very qualified.
IR: Compared to others from the county our age.
IR: You will get 3 metric tons of suboxyclean to use at your leisure.

Chainring: Should I call you "Heisenberg?" 3 metric tonnes?!
Chainring: Our age?  So of all 26-40 year old in the county I'm the most successful? 
IR: You rode really far on a mountain bike in another state! You LIVED in another state.
IR: Both your kids come from the same mother!
IR: You probably don't eat hot and ready pizza most nights.
IR: I'm starting to think you're just fishing for compliments now.
IR: And my bad about assuming both your kids come from the same mother. I'm not sure if that's true or not and I'm sorry for any awkwardness that may have resulted from that statement. [ed: I ain’t tellin’ ‘em!]
IR: Unless you want me to publish all the details of your [redacted] in the paper or on Facebook you might want to consider this opportunity.

Chainring: Alright, you don't have to send in the goon squad.  I'll do it. 

Chainring: Back to the original request: you said "tiny group of kids."  Does that mean a group of miniature children, or not very many regular-sized children?
IR: Not very many regularly sized children.

Chainring: No there are not.
IR: You're on fire this morning.

IR: Ok. So it will hopefully be more than one teenager that might or might not be height/weight proportionate.

Chainring: Now we're getting somewhere!

IR: Also. When is the final wildebeest post coming?

Chainring: Well, I'm not a wildebeest expert per se.  Let me get back to you on that one.
 
So that about sums it up.  My readers want more wildebeest...ses.  Wildebi?  Wildebeesten? Wildebeestses.  Oddly enough, this was the second request I’ve received in the past week to speak at young people.  If only I had some words of wisdom to convey to them.  But then again, the Inquisitive Reader basically wrote my speech for me:

“There are options for your future that don’t involve gubment ‘sistance and goin’ on Jurry Spranger.  Them options are easy to click on, but you gotta think ahead.  And get up early in the mornin’.”

I’m not dumbing it down for the local hope for the future.  Nope.  They’re the smart ones.  It’s us older folk, set in our ways, polishin’ the status quo all the live long day that are screwed up.  I’m dumbing it up for us.  But hindsight is 20/20 it’n it?

What legacy are we leaving behind?  Who are we waiting on to lead us out of the wildebeest and into the promised land?

And be assured, Dear Readers, be completely assured...there will be more Misunderstood Wildebeest...ses.

 
*My hometown is going through a controversial battle over a suboxone clinic.  Yeah, I’d never heard of it either.

Wednesday, February 26

The Sheeple Look Up

I’m going to say right up front that this post is based on a piece I heard on NPR this past Monday.  Now, I could wait until a transcript comes out to verify what I remember about the story, but in lieu of presenting you that level of journalistic professionalism I will resort to flying by the seat of my pants and going on pure memory.  Another caveat is that I have a horrible memory for conversations and dialogues.  I remember geographic spaces better than anyone, but I shy away from arguments about who said what.

Anyway, the premise of the story was that Facebook recently bought WhatsApp for a cool $19 billion and WhatsApp had a staggering 55 employees.  The question asked was: if we have a shortage of jobs, and 55 people can operate a business worth $19 billion (versus 145,000 jobs that Kodak boasted at one time in ancient history) then what’s going to happen to jobs in the future as technology replaces more and more workers?

One of the ding-a-lings actually had the audacity to say that in the future we’re going to actually have more wealth to go around and people (in a general sense) won’t have to work as much.  His point was that everyonewould be rich.  I don’t know where he thinks we’re going to get all of our food and energy from, and which rich nations are going to relinquish their disproportionate shares of wealth willingly.*

But then as the piece went on and none of those involved in the discussion seemed to be hitting the rightrelevant topics I had a wonderful but horrific premonition: society will collapse, but technology and the energy infrastructure will remain.  As long as there are a few smart cookies that can band together and put together a mini-energy grid, then a society of technophiles could be able to rise from the ashes and quite possibly thrive in a post-apocalyptic utopia.



My daydreams kept being muddled by ripples of the original impetus—the NPR story—and the diatribe that spouted from my car stereo speakers just added more and more fuel to the smoldering fire of my discouragement.  These smart guys were arguing sci-fi concepts that don’t jive with real-world physics. 

There’s no way that the entire planet can live like Americans.  We don’t have the Terran carrying-capacity.  There’s no way that the Developed world will ever share wealth without what it considers fair compensation.  And the Developing world will never afford that rate because the system is stacked in such a way that it can’t. 

The fact is: world population continues to grow.

The fact is: wealth continues to be concentrated in places where it already exists.

The fact is: modern wealth is based on a fossil fuel economy.

The fact is: fossil fuels, while not necessarily finite in the broader sense, will decline in availability compounding the problem of population growth.

I’m in a strange camp in that I believe the endowment of oil, natural gas, coal, and other non-renewables are the result of the Noahic flood.  All of the sediment that would have been put down on top of the recently dead organic material can easily explain fossil fuel deposits.  Combine that with scientific evidence that it doesn’t take millions of years for nature to create new pockets of fossil fuels and you have another conundrum.

While fossil fuels can be created in shorter periods of time than had long ago been concluded, it still takes a tremendous amount of energy (in the form of gravitationally generated pressure) to make it.  Ultimately fossil fuels are simply nature’s batteries.  Humanity cannot cost-effectively make fossil fuel equivalents.  Cannot.  We have to put more energy into any process to “create” energy than we can get out of it.  Thermodynamics.  A simple understanding of thermodynamics will reveal all you need to know about why humanity is headed for an energy cliff.

People we have now + more people = more energy demand.

Energy supply – energy usage = less energy available.

Less energy available ≠ future energy demand.

What this means is simply that we need to do two things: 1) stop making more people than we can feed, clothe, warm, and entertain, and 2) find ways to use energy sources that are truly renewable.  What that boils down to (LOVE THE PUNS!) is that we have to look to the sun. Right at it.  Burn your retinas to a crisp.  It’s the sun, stupid.  Instead of “Friends of Coal” we need “Friends of Sol.”

Wind is a product of solar warming.  It counts.  Hydro-electric energy is a product of solar energy (evaporation) and gravity (precipitation and flow).  Geothermal energy is somewhat a product of solar energy as well.  We need to get away from nature’s batteries and move to nature’s energy sources.

And we need to stop putting such a huge demand on the earth’s built infrastructure by reducing the overall increase in population.  We could still fulfill the divine mandate to “be fruitful and multiply” by focusing on smaller families in Third World countries, and on families in the Developed world being no more than five (total) in size.  I'm not an expert on this, but there are viable strategies out there.

My view is probably not popular, but despite my inadequacies in articulating it, there is a lot of rational basis for it (I've gone back and added some links).  I apologize for my lack of citation, but only justify it because my knowledge base spans so many different writings and other media sources and is mainly an amalgamation of them all that I find it hard to pin down specific sources.  And I’m a bit lazy.  This is my blog and no one’s paying me for the quality of research employed.  In fact, I need to go and give my research team a few good lashes to get them in gear.
 

*The thing that really scares me about the notion that we already have the technology to feed the entire world is that I believe the technology being referred to is what is employed by the likes of Monsanto and it’s (few) contemporaries.  I don’t think they mean “technology” in the sense that robots will pick the organic vegetables growing in your garden in the future, but that vast monocultures which are “designed” for better yield and which demand huge fossil fuel inputs will reduce the need for human energy to harvest and will “create more wealth” to spread around.

In a related vein, I’ve been reading The Sheep Look Up by John BrunnerWow!  It was first published in 1972 but it really paints a vibrant picture that looks like our own washed out version of reality.  While things aren’t as dire as Brunner portrays (but only by degrees as it is definitely the same flavor of slow catastrophe we’re experiencing), it still seems like a prophetic imagining of our modern world. 

If you're confused about my politics...don't be.  I don't align myself with the Right or the Left.  I believe in God but I also believe in common sense.  That means I can't abide the Right-wing agenda to co-op my religious beliefs in order to rob the masses of their life-energy.  In like manner, I don't buy into what is a very distinct liberal agenda to mandate that everyone's views should align with the Left.  Freedom is the freedom to choose what to believe.


"Most had come by bus, and a few among these had brought folding cycles that fitted in a bus's baggage compartment, but the majority were on foot." ~The Sheep Look Up by John Brunner

"STOP, YOU'RE KILLING ME!" (message etched on cars by protestors in The Sheep Look Up)

"...these people believed their way of life was the best in the world and were prepared to export it at the point of a gun." ~The Sheep Look Up

Tuesday, February 25

Running Yourself Rugged

I love to run Whittleton Trail in the rain.  Don’t ask me why.  I don’t know why.  There’s just something about running that particular trail in a good steady downpour that appeals to a primitive place in my brain.  It doesn’t matter why.  It just makes me happy.  I’ll shuffle to a stop next to my car, splattered in mud, clung to by wet leaves, shoes oozing water and mud…and wearing a big stupid grin somewhere under all the muck.

Along Whittleton Trail

I discovered my love for trail running in the late 1990s when I lived in Slade.  My beater car kept me from zipping 15 miles to Stanton to run at the track; and why would I want to?  The city park was okay then (fantastic these days), but I had access to the entire Red River Gorge trail system. 

Being in my early twenties I was young enough scoff at the notion that there was risk associated with running the trails alone.  I’d been hiking them alone for a few years by then and was comfortable heading out on long jaunts with only my thoughts for company.  Since then I’ve run hundreds of miles with only one twisted ankle.  It was enough to make me more aware of notifying my loved ones of where I’d be running and trying to go with a partner whenever I could, but even after all these years I still feel the pull of an empty trail and will take off regardless of whether or not I can get someone else to go with me.

Oops!  But it got better.

My first real trail running experience was magical.  The first time I visited Courthouse Rock I was near the end of Auxier Ridge and getting a little antsy to see the big rock formation so I picked up the pace a little.  As I jogged easily along in my hiking boots I noticed some kind of bird of prey gliding along parallel to the ridge and my path.  I paced it, running faster to try and keep up with the majestic bird as the ridge itself narrowed around me.  I remember having the distinct feeling that the ridge was going to come to an abrupt end and I wouldn’t be able to fly on along with the bird.  And I was right.  I stood at the overlook for Courthouse, chest heaving with shortened breaths as the raptor continued on over the valley below.

In later years the Auxier Ridge to Auxier Branch to Tunnel Ridge Road loop has been my go-to trail running destination.  Only recently have I been comfortable running four miles, and at just over four the loop is tough considering you descend from the top of Auxier Ridge into Auxier Branch and then climb steeply out of the drainage back to Tunnel Ridge.  I confess I do end up walking a lot on the climb out.  Someday I’ll be able to run the entire loop without stopping. 

If you know me, you know I don’t look like an Olympic marathon runner.  I’m not skinny.  I am not a gazelle.  I’m more like an old nag horse.  Oh, I can run.  It’s just ain’t pretty.  To enjoy running you don’t have to be fast.  You don’t have to be in peak physical shape.  You just have to condition yourself to run. 

I love mountain biking, but you can’t mountain bike on the trails in the Red River Gorge.  This past fall, as I was trying to get in shape for my first half marathon—the Iron Horse in Midway—I started at the suspension bridge on the Sheltowee Trace Trail below Chimney Top and ran north on the Sheltowee.  As I ran along the tricky section of trail west of Cloudsplitter I began to experience the same kind of sensory input I get from mountain biking.  It took a little finesse to surmount some short rocky and rooty sections of trail.  And as I ran on along the Sheltowee toward the Bison Way Trail—which connects back over to the main paved road in the Gorge—I started to see running on the trails as a fair substitute for mountain biking.  That sparked new interest in me for my home trails. 

The day I ran that part of the Sheltowee Trace an unofficial run was going on just a little later in the day along the same section of trail.  It was the inaugural SheltoweeChallenge 50k and half marathon.  The Sheltowee Challenge was put on as a fund-raiser for the Sheltowee TraceAssociation which is a non-profit group dedicated to maintaining and improving the 307 mile trail across its entire length through the Daniel Boone National Forest.  I opted not to do the run because by the time I heard about it I didn’t have time to train for a 50k trail run.  “K” is kilometers.  What that means in American is 31 miles.

I only ran eight miles the day of the Sheltowee Challenge, but I vowed that in 2014 I would get in shape and do the full 50 kilometer run.  A few weeks later I participated in the Iron Horse and finished in two hours and fourteen minutes.  It wasn’t earth-shattering, but I was happy considering it was my first-ever long run.

The Sheltowee Trace in winter

Not too long after that I heard about The Rugged Red.  Joe Bowen told me about plans to put on a trail half marathon in the Red River Gorge.  I said “count me in.”  How could I not participate in the first official half marathon on the trails of the Gorge?  I’ve got a few months to get ready.  The Rugged Red will be run on September 6th, 2014. 

Running in the rain keeps me cool.  My engine burns pretty hot. I get overheated easily.  The other thing about running in the rain is going out knowing I’m going to get soaked to the bone and not caring.  On a rainy trail you stomp along, splitting puddles with the same joy you felt as a kid stomping in them.  It’s a way to reclaim lost moments of childhood, playing in the dirt and mud, running for the fun of it, tromping through the woods, and loving each moment of movement as if it were a lifetime unto itself.  

Maybe I do know why I love to run Whittleton Trail in the rain.  All I know for sure is that as long as I can keep picking ‘em up and putting ‘em down I’ll be a trail runner.

Somewhere down the trail


 

Monday, February 24

SAG Me, Oh SAG Me

It's February.  I don't have to defend myself to you.  Yeah, I bailed at 70 miles and called SAG.  What of it?

Some people would say it's too early in the "season."  Well, I don't truck with recreational seasons.  I'm out of shape solely because Winterpocalypse 2014 has kept me off the bike.  Trainer?  Rollers?  I got little use for them either.  I like outdoor activities. 

But I'm ready to throw up my hands and start cranking the trainer while watching the damnable television.  It hurts that I'm at my heftiest.  It hurts that I'm slow.  It hurts that I mentally bonked only eight miles from home.  It hurts that I have all the tools to pull it off and yet I don’t do night rides, or early morning rides, or cold weather rides.  My wussification nears completeness.

Not to tell tales on anyone else, but darn it all if the very next day my lovely wife didn't SAG out on her first long ride of the year as well.  In her defense the sun disappeared while she was out and the evil headwind that lurked all day when I rode snarled and growled in her face all day.

By the time I pulled alongside her about eight miles from home her scicles had popped.  Another 45 minutes in it and she'd have been on the wrong side of borderline hypothermic. 

In response to Jeff's text that he'd meet me at the end of Cat Creek at 8:15 I sent back:

I'll be the fat one in the tight jersey.

I'll be the one wheezing and gulping said he.

Jeff and I met early on Saturday east of Stanton.  I was looking for an easy distance to ease back into road riding.  For Jeff any distance is an easy distance.  He recommended BigAndy Ridge in Wolfe and Lee Counties, and since I'm easily influenced when it comes to riding farther than is prudent—and had never ridden Big Andy—I agreed.

Turning off KY 715 onto Big Andy Ridge


My weather app had shown it was 44°F when I left home, but I knew that was malarkey when I rode past a car with thick frost obscuring most of its windshield.  I was dressed for 44°F.

Jeff was dressed for about 4°F.  He stood slack-jawed with awe that I was so scantily clad with just my bib shorts, a short-sleeved jersey, and arm-warmers.  Well, I assume it was slack-jawed awe because I couldn't see his face under the thick balaclava and his body language was hard to read under the parka he was wearing.

The tables would turn later in the day when it warmed up to almost 60°F and Jeff was trying to hire a Sherpa in rural Lee County to carry his expedition gear.  The closest he came to getting help was riding past Hershey's house.  That's his real name and he used to work for my father-in-law.  I almost called out his name as we rode past, but he wouldn't have recognized me, and it may have caused extreme psychological damage.

It's NOT a Sherpa den, Jeff!


Before the inferno ramped up we rode Big Andy though.  It's my new favorite road to ride.  For 12 miles it provides nice smooth pavement, low traffic, and rural vistas.  It ends with a bomb run down to the Kentucky River followed immediately by a stout climb out over another small ridge.

It's NOT a Strava segment (yet), Jeff!


Later in the ride Jeff joked about riding Cobhill.  I was not amused.  I'd dressed for 40°F weather and had taken food for a 40 mile ride.  Jeff had to keep buying me food to keep me moving down the road.  Eventually I had just exceeded my mental and nutritional limits.  I wasn’t in bonkville, but I knew I’d pass through it somewhere between the bottom of Cobhill and home.  So instead of gaining the 700 feet of elevation over ¾ of a mile on Cobhill we stretched it out over the 2 mile climb of Tipton Ridge.  I’m not sure that was the best decision either, because by the time I turned toward home on KY 213 I was done.  Finito.  Cooked.  De-feated.

(Ineffectively) Refueling in Beattyville


I tapped my wife’s name on the screen of my smarty-smart phone.

“You need me to come get you?  Where do you want me to meet you?”

She. Is. The. Best.

“Three way at Furnace,” was my reply.

“I’ll be right there,” and she hung up.  My salvation was coming.

I caught up with Jeff a little ways further down the road.

“I made the SAG call,” I confessed.

“What?!”

“Yep.  I’m done.”

“You gonna ride ‘til you meet her?”

“Yeah,” which was a lie.  Jeff made as if to pedal on at Furnace proper and I said I was going to wait.

“I’ll give you a push!” he called, whipping a u-ie in the middle of the road.  I made a deft u-turn myself and we both laughed as I added:

“I will NOT be seen being pushed by you!”

And so I planted myself at the stop sign and waited as Jeff rode off toward Stanton.  While I waited a foreigner (probably from Indiana or Ohio) pulled up in a side-by-side quad.

“Where you headed?” he said with a big grin.

“Stanton,” I replied tiredly.

“Where you coming from?”

“Stanton,” I repeated.  “By way of Beattyville,” I added but he cut me off as he pointed north on 213:

“The Clay City food court is down that road.”

I corrected him: “The Stantonfood court.”

“Yeah, the Clay City food court,” he replied with a glance away, telling me he didn’t care much for me trying to play know-it-all.

Then he noticed he’d lost the yin to his yang.  There was a second quad stopped in the road a few hundred yards behind him.

“Must’ve run out of gas.”  He mumbled, and then completely failed to make a three-point turn around in the 50 foot wide intersection.  His wife/girlfriend gave me an apologetic grin as they sped away to escape my awkward presence.

While I sat waiting for Mandy two cars passed; both with Ohio plates.

So when she called me yesterday at 5:30 I couldn’t hesitate to make a SAG run for her.  She actually made quite a bit of distance after she called me as I sped east to her.  She and Casey had ridden their go-to Gorge loop but as the day moved on the skies became heavy with iron gray clouds and rain threatened.  A front was moving in, and pushing the itinerant cyclist out of its way as it came.

As I said earlier: her scicle had popped.  She was shivering and her toes were numb.  As the blast of hot air from the floor vents hit them and blood returned she exhibited some vocalized pain.

It was a good weekend to ride though.  So we’re all out of practice a little bit.  One uncomfortable long ride always seems to bring it all back into focus and its much easier to go forth with better clothes, more food, and a keener mental resolve to finish.

And there’s always that SAG call if not.

Friday, February 21

Hauled

Hauled on a Cargo Bike #41:  Chainsaws

I've been considering this for a while.  I have an Xtracycle built on an old mountain bike donor.  Recently I replaced the worn commuter/touring tires for knobbies.  It follows that the Cannonball is now an off-road bike.  With its carry capacity it also follows that it would make a good trail building/maintaining bike.  My bike can haul tools.

Over the past year I've seen quite a few bikeable places that would benefit from the indiscriminate wielding of a chainsaw.  Or is it discriminate?  Either way.  Until yesterday I had not put a chainsaw in my FreeLoaders.  But yesterday I put not one, but TWO chainsaws on my bike and took them up to Papaw Chainring.  I've semi-inherited three chainsaws from my dad, and the smaller of the two I took up to my grampa is for him to use.  I took the other one for him to get sharpened when he takes his to the saw guy for repairs.

When I get it back I'll be ready for some serious trail work.  Large deadfalls will be no match for me and the Cannonball.  It won't be a question of can I bunny hop over obstacles, but can I saw them into small pieces and just ride over them like a bulldozer over an environmentalist.

Ha ha.  I so funny.

It only took me a month to go back and post it


Hauled on a Cargo Bike #42:  Whole Bean

I’ve been riding the Cannonball mostly.  I haven’t ridden much, but since the roads have been cruddy I’ve went astride the Xtracycle because it has the wide tires and fenders, plus the big bonus of being able to take coffee along on long rides makes the bike choice easy.  There’s nothing like pulling over during a cold ride and whetting your whistle with some gourmet coffee sipped from your Klean Kanteen.  Have I mentioned lately how much I love my KK? 

Okay, so owning 16 oz. and 20 oz. insulated Klean Kanteens deepened my caffeine addiction.  I’ll freely admit that.  Since Christmas I’ve been brewing 36 oz. of coffee each morning and then heading out the door with a KK of joe under each arm.  You just can’t carry that much coffee in jersey pockets.  So when I’ve gone out riding my bicycle I’ve chosen the X because I need it to portage my habit.

So what if I’ve been averaging 5 hours of broken sleep a night since before the first of the year?  Me and Tyler Durden got this plan, you see?

 
Hauled by Cargo Bike #43:  Manuscripted
Wednesday I was home a little early due to a late meeting (it’s complicated), the weather was fan freakin’-tastic, and my wife insisted I go for a bike ride.  I’d promised Joe some printed materials, and he’d been interested in reading the draft of my Leadville book, so I decided I’d ride up to Bowen Farm and drop it all off.  Again, it’s difficult to transport printed materials in jersey pockets.  And while I would have love to have gone blazing across the county on the sporty-sport bike I opted for a t-shirt, jeans, and the cargo bike.

Of course Joe was out running the roads and not at home when I rolled up to his porch.  So I left my ream of papers under a rock on a bench by his door and turned the longtail bike back toward the main road.

I decided that instead of returning via the rush hour busy main road that I’d jog over to North Fork and head back toward town that way.  It was a nice reprieve from the Tour de Rat I’m used to at that time of day and it was an enjoyable ride all around. 

Spring is trying to climb into the moving train car that is 2014.  Winter keeps kicking her in the face, wanting to keep it all to himself, but inevitably time will move on.  My goal for the Mohican is to get in base miles on the road, and then hopefully get on trails hot and heavy in May.  Of course you know May could be rainy and muddy.  Trails could be sticky soup.  My plan may blow up in my face.  But it’s all I got.  And if I can’t get on the trail I’ll just go harder on the road.
Anyway, that’s all the news that fit to be published on this crumbling retaining wall of the internet.   
Will update with photos this evening weeks later.

Thursday, February 20

Been Crankin'

This is going to be a quick post as I am getting ready to run out the door for a meeting.  Like I alluded to yesterday, there are many things afoot and awheel.  But one I failed to mention, and which I will now go into in a little depth, is my wife’s sudden full-time bike commuting status.

I wasn’t going to go into it, but very quickly here is the rub: we’ve still not transferred the tags on The Auld Gumpster from Colorado to Kentucky.  When Mandy went in to the county clerk a while back to get it done they wanted a title from Colorado. 



Long story short the minor complication of getting a title from 1,200 miles away relegated the whole affair to the back burner. A couple of weeks ago I remarked that one of us was going to get pulled over because the renewal stick for Colorado shows the year, with the month written small beneath it where the Kentucky tags have the number of the month and the year is signified by the color of the sticker.  Right?

Anyway, I was certain no law enforcement professional would easily overlook our out-of-date status now because there is no 13th month.  I did not know I was a prophet.  Mandy got pulled over.  And the nice local police officer told her he understood, but the next time he saw her out he was going to give her a ticket.

So my wife, while we try to get this sorted out, has easily changed gears (pun fully intended) to riding her bike everywhere.  Thankfully this happened in the winterim (winter + interim = winterim), but I fear a relapse in the Winterpocalypse (you can figure this one out) of 2014.

From our house to town is 3 miles.  It’s not an easy three miles. There are significant hills no matter which of the three ways out of our Creek you choose.  But over in town it’s pretty flat, so once you get off the creek and are running around the big city of Stanton the biking is pretty easy.  But then when you go trying to haul a week’s groceries over Steamshovel Hill it gets real.

Now, I say she has been doing this in the winterim, but the first few days it was still pretty cold and she nearly became a mandy-scicle.  I was afraid we were going to have to use a blowtorch to thaw her from her bike the first day.  But it’s all good.

Anyway, she’s comfortable doing this because we were dedicated to choosing the bike when we lived in Colorado.  We rode greater distances.  We went out in bad weather, good weather, and uncertain weather.  We hauled groceries and kids through the suburban wastelands.  We plied traffic.  We sparred with moto-fascists.

Trekking from rural Powell County to the more urban parts is kind of kiddie stuff compared to where we were a couple of years ago.  But, and I know she would agree, it’s still pretty satisfying to use the bike to replace the car and find the time and energy trade-off is pretty close to being equal.  Especially once you factor in all the benefits of riding a bike.

NOT taken during Winterpocalypse 2014 or the winterim


 

Wednesday, February 19

Just a Random Assemblage of Thoughts

[Updated 2/20/14 at the behest of my in-house editor]

There was a public meeting in my community about a road widening project.  I’m a transportation planner—albeit for the region, not specifically for my community—and I haven’t really delved too deeply into the matter yet.  Whassupwiddat?

Statewide news is blabbering about the major improvement of the four lane highway I can hear humming from the end of my driveway and will be implementing a toll system for the entire road, including the portion I drive daily.  And I haven’t written much about it.  Whassupwiddat?

Promotion for the Rugged Red Trail half Marathon is open and I've not blathered about it as you would expect.  Whassupwiddat?

Night before last we had a meeting at the Chainring stronghold to discuss the organization of an organized bicycle-type ride within the watershed where we drink and I didn’t jump right on that low-hanging blog-fodder.  Whassupwiddat?

There is the ongoing formation of a statewide advocacy organization in Kentucky and I've not breathed a word.  Whassupwiddat?

A gazillion acres of forested land sits fallow, awaiting the plow of mountain bike trail development…and you hear nothing from me.  Whassupwiddat?

My wife has become a full-time bike commuter since Winterpocalypse 2014 went into idle.  She's ridden her bike two days a week to work the past two weeks, and the days she's not worked she's ridden all over town running errands and cranking miles.  Whassupwiddat?

I started a series on the misunderstood wilderness and kind of left you hanging, not delivering—as promised—on a grand finale.  WASS.  UP.  WID.  DAT!

I wish I could afford to hire Keenan Thompson to recite all of that on video for an SNL skit.  Anyway.

I’ve got a lot to say and not so much time to say it in these days.  The kids have been out of school and are just transitioning back after the Winterpocalypse of 2014.  That’s been a routine buster.  I’ve had much to do at work and—contrary to popular belief—I can be productive.  I have two (or three hundred) writing projects that need my immediate attention.  Plus, at the local library they have been trying to burn all of the books.  It’s been exhausting trying to fight them and their torches off from the piles of books like the Computer Repair Manual (1983 publication date), Facts and Statistics for the 20th Century, DIY Carpeting for Quasi-Governmental Institutions, and the second edition of John Bronaugh’s Red River Gorge Climbs.  These are important pieces of literature.

It’s a long way down to the creek for our sparse bucket brigade.  And I suspect that nefarious Crash Test Librarian has been sabotaging our efforts in the darkness.  We found the tire tracks of a singlespeed bike leading away from our buckets only to discover a plethora of holes in them.  The buckets, not the tires.  And I learned the term “plethora” from reading a book you fascist!

Anyway, there’s just been a lot going on and my synapses have been lit up light the Mythbusters’ Christmas tree.  In fact, the other night I put my head on my pillow, closed my eyes, and I was treated to quite the light show behind my eyelids.  Synapses.

My brain goes 900 miles a minute all the time.  Speaking of exhausting…

I’ve known for quite some time that what I really need to do is simplify my life.  I need to trim off all the extraneous fat.  Unfortunately I’m compelled too often to just grab more fat to try and juggle.  I put down one unnecessary thing and pick up five more to replace it.  It’s exhausting being me.

What this means for the blog is that, despite my best intentions, I really can’t focus on singular topics right now and need to let the regularity of the blog go for a short time.  I have complete confidence that I will soon find a block of time that I am compelled to fill with the composition of pointless ramblings about things that nobody wants to read about, and once I’m finished I’ll staple them up on this ragged telephone pole of the internet.

For now, please bear with me as I try to maintain the spectre of a semblance stability here on the Pavement’s Edge.


Monday, February 17

Removing Barriers: The Electric Bike Theory

Saw this last week at Pedal the Planet:


I actually rode it around the store at the behest of the bike shop guy.  He's a good salesman, but I can't justify a $4,200 pricetag.  It was a cool ride.  I gotta say it was pretty fun to feel the bike surge forward with only minimal force applied to the pedals.

I believe the brand is Stromer.  Supposedly it can maintain 30 mph for 25 miles.  It weighs more than a baby elephant, but isn't as unwieldy as it looks.

Electric bikes and electric assist bikes have never appealed to me.  When I was cargo bike crazy back in 2011 I typically shied from EA cargo bikes, but I did look into them a little bit.  My concern is that any EA contraption has a limited range, and once you exceed that range you're shackled with a bike that is much heavier than the heaviest 1980s era BSO.  Case in point: the above image.

For city living they may be the answer.  A bike than can cavort through urban landscapes at 30 mph is pretty significant.  That bike would have made my 20 mile round trip commute in Colorado a piece of cake.  When we lived there I could have justified the pricetag too.  But the thing is, I would also want a decent non-electric bike.  That thing just doesn't do it all.  It's a niche vehicle.  It's good for commuting, hauling groceries (with rack and panniers obviously), and saving human energy.

Ha!  Fascists.


But, and this is a big but, from the standpoint of sustainability this seems to fail to me.  It requires a large input of electricity.  And unless you're charging it from direct sun or wind power it seems like it would have a big carbon footprint for a bike.  It does have regenerative braking, but we all know perpetual motion machines are a myth.

In my mind if you're riding a bike to save the planet then you should just pedal the derned thing.  A bike is a bike.  If you can't ride a bike and do the things you want and need to do on a bike then get a moped.  Or a car.  If you're really committed to living a green lifestyle then you're not going to need this stepping stone to get you there.

Maybe this would help a very few people get into cycling who otherwise would not.  But the pricetag becomes prohibitive for the populations that might be on the fence.  Personally, this bike doesn't do it for me.  That doesn't mean it doesn't solve all the right problems for someone else.  I still think the longtail cargo bike is the stepping stone a lot of people need.



I think what would better enable those who are on the cusp of trying lifestyle cycling are fenders, lights, functional and reliable bikes, and an encouraging local bike culture.  That's what we need to focus on.

I was impressed at the array of commuter accessories that PtP has in stock.  They have the best fender selection I've ever seen.  They've got lots of stuff to outfit an army of bike commuters in Lexington.  They just need more recruits.

Friday, February 14

Weekend Update

In other Powell County News:  Mandy Chainring rode her bike a third day during the waning days of the Winterpocalypse of 2014.  It’s getting kind of crazy folks, how hard core she is compared to her flab-tastic husband, and it looks like there’s no turning back.

There have been recent “guy-on-a-bike” sightings, but one was actually pretty far from the drive-thru tobacco emporium or the post office.  Actually, both recent sightings were far from civilization.  Tom and I passed a guy out near Rosslyn the other day on our ride.  Hoodie, ripped up jeans, no gloves and riding a single speed cruiser bike toward town.

“Well, he’s been somewhere?”  Tom muttered.

“To a crime scene,” I added.

A day or so before that I saw a young adult standing up on his pedals as he struggled to crank a BSO through the flat straightaway in front of my house.  He had maybe 5 psi in each tire, and it warn’t no fatbike.



Last night there was a public meeting concerning KY 213 from Stanton north to the Montgomery County line.  There was a lot of good discussion on what was an acceptable level of bike-ped oppression to include within the project.  While I don’t feel I have conquered The Man, I do feel that there were open minds listening to what was being said.  Unfortunately some of what we said to them might have been gobble-de-gook.  But that’s okay, I’m going to write a letter on organizational letterhead which will address the issues and define terms.

Sorry today’s post has come so late.  I’m playing catch up after staying home with the kids yesterday.  It was another Non-snow day.  I need to go on a rant about that but the blockage in my carotid artery is making it difficult to think.  I may only be partly joking.  I have a distinct pain in my neck that is causing a headache.  Perhaps I pulled a neck muscle.  Perhaps all those cheeseburgers have caught up with me.  Dangit!  And I thought I was metabolizing and burning all that fat!

Anyway, perhaps tomorrow I’ll begin rambling again at my normal pace.  Wait, tomorrow’s Saturday.  Hurrah!  No typing to the grind until Monday!

Wednesday, February 12

Winter of 2014 Bike Commuter of the Season Award

 
…goes to:

Mandy Chainring!



You win a bike!  Once it thaws you can claim your award.

(image courtesy of
http://www.bike198.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/frozen-2.jpg)
 
My wife rode her bike three miles (one way) to work yesterday morning in 10°F temps!  She’s already beat my February commuting mileage…and on one of the coldest days of the year!
Also, today is her birthday, and even though she doesn’t want to be reminded it’s notable to note that she is not as old as me.  Won an award AND had a birthday.  Can’t beat that.
The Crash Test Librarian pointed out he commuted by bike to work yesterday as well, but his ROUND TRIP commute is a mere 6,019.2 feet.  I mean…my crack research team can hardly calculate his commute in miles!
[Don’t worry Mark, you came in a close second]
Anyway, I was startled when I received a digital image via textular communication which showed my wife aged drastically, well beyond her years, but then when I looked closer I saw her hair had not turned white.  It had, in fact, frosted over along with her eyelashes!  Sha-ZAAM!  My wife is a rock star!
 
 
Bow to her greatness.  Bow.  Now.  Do it.  She earned it.
As I drove to work in my toasty warm car I couldn’t help think about how cold I used to get riding back and forth to work in Colorado.  Then I remembered I had the better gloves in the car with me.  I carefully pulled over and composed a text with instructions to the secret hiding place of my primo winter gloves and fired it back over my shoulder toward home.  But even as I beamed those electrons in her direction I knew she’d figure it out and do just fine.  My wife, as I mentioned only two paragraphs ago, is a rock star!  She made it to work and returned home a few hours later without popping a single scicle.
And she is out now, as I fling this accolade out into the electronic cloud that envelops us all, riding her bike on errands.  It’s slightly warmer today...but still winter.
I won’t go into the details of why she’s riding her bike instead of driving in this weather.  But I will make one point: sometimes your car drives you to ride.  Sometimes the universe reminds us that we don’t need our cars to survive.  I’m proud of my wife for being willing to choose her bike when it makes more sense.  There have been many times when she was the strong one and I wanted to drive.
She and I are in the middle of a super-secret training program to get fit for our cycling and climbing schemes this year.  Shhh!  Mark!  Don’t tell!

I'm stoked that we're doing it together.  I so often try to go at things alone, but I've found out the hard way that working with others makes it so much easier.  And she is my best friend and companion and it makes sense that we'd tackle a serious fitness effort together.
Anyway, it’s looking like this year is going to be a good one.

Tuesday, February 11

The Misunderstood Wilderness: On the Right Path

In the previous two (or three or four) posts I got into what it means to seek adventure and what is meant by “wilderness.”  These two things are inextricably tied together for me because when I go seeking adventure I most often do so in areas that are segregated from the flow of human traffic.
 
I alluded to the reason in the next to last paragraph of the second post when I said:
“…wilderness is simply land that isn’t easily accessible to the masses.” 

Looking toward the Continental Divide and Indian Peaks Wilderness from Thorodin Mountain
 
In recent months all the discussion around the Chainring family table has been about how I’m not really as anti-social and introverted as has always been advertised.  I get on with people okay once I open up.  It’s that initial icebreaking moment that I tend to avoid.  And historically I’ve avoided it by escaping into the woods or mountains and staying gone for hours or days.
As I mentioned in the first post in this series, I don’t feel fulfilled until I’ve been able to share my experiences with others—either through written or photographic expression or by “guiding” others to similar experiences—and therefore my experiences of wilderness are rarely solitary in my mind.  I always think of how my experience will translate into some kind of communication with others.  Many times while I’m hiking or mountain biking on some solo jaunt I am also fantasizing about bringing others back into the place.  Most often I think of how I can share with my wife, children and close friends the amazing places I get myself to.
The conundrum then becomes: what if the people I take to the wild places I love most go back and damage them in some way?  This actually happened.  I took a cousin to visit one of the coolest (but off-the-beaten-path) waterfalls in the Red River Gorge area.  We’d been there fifteen minutes or so taking pictures and each of us wandering independently when I noticed he was carving his name in the soft sandstone of the rock shelter behind the waterfall.  I went berserk.  As far as I can tell no one has ever found the body.
However, most often I go alone because I have time to take solo-adventures where trying to coordinate group adventures involves too much forethought and schedule warping.  I’m pretty impulsive and way too opportunistic to be able to plan very far ahead.  Ironic that I’ve chosen a career path in planning.
A long time ago my mom got onto me because I spent so much time hiking alone.  And without thinking about why I answered: “If I wait until I’ve got somebody to go with me I’ll never get to go.”  Looking back on twenty years of adventures I can attest that I would have seen far less, and done far less, if I’d heeded conventional wisdom and waited for a partner.  I can also say with some certainty that I wouldn’t be as self-reliant, I wouldn’t have the level of confidence in my own abilities (something I lack in other realms of life), and I wouldn’t have all the amazing memories and experiences I gained during all those opportunistic adventures. 

 
And so I wonder why I am compelled to go into the woods or mountains to recreate.  Why do I feel my adventures have to be undertaken in uninhabited places?  I’m never content just to go walk around the block.  Since moving back to Kentucky I’ve taken to road cycling, but mainly because we have so many lonely rural backroads that it appeals to the side of me that loves the earth divorced from human influence.
I’m sure it’s related to my post-apocalyptic fantasies.  Being alone in the woods gives you the feeling of being in that sort of world.  It’s easy to sink deeper into the fantasy when you can’t see any built environments.  Ultimately, for me anyway, it goes back to my unique quirks.  And I think that’s why I’m okay with tossing everyone else’s definition or expectations of wilderness out the window.
Miles from the trailhead there are no societal expectations.  Oh, of course there is the expectation to Leave No Trace.  There’s the expectation to obey the rules of the land managers wherever you happen to be roaming assuming you’re not trespassing or already breaking the rules with your mere presence.  What I’ve found is that I follow “the rules” instinctively.  I don’t have the urge to destroy plants or rock formation.  I’ve always had an aversion to carving messages in the stone.  I’ve never been inspired to cut down a live tree for firewood or fun.  And so “the rules” are almost offensive to me, as if I can’t police myself.  But then I see the damage others inflict.  I see the garbage discarded miles from the trailheads or washed in from further upstream. 
Ages ago I came up with the mantra: “I must be on the right path” when out exploring for obscure places.  Too many times I found myself following an intermittent trail of empty beer cans.  I came to the ironic conclusion that if I were seeking solitude and a unique experience then I was bound to be afflicted by evidence to the contrary.  And who would have gone before me to find the secret places of the woods?  Someone crass enough to leave their empties behind.  My common dream of exploration was shared with the invisible frat boy always a few steps ahead of me.

From a frontier tailgating party
 
But what do we do?  Do we exclude everyone but those who deeply appreciate wild places?  How do we make that kind of determination?  And what if I don’t make the cut?
That’s just more regulation.  That’s more of the kind of stuff I can’t stand.  Rules in the woods.  Bah!  I don’t go into the outdoors to live by rules.  I go to escape from them.  I go into the undeveloped places of the world to practice my harmless anarchism.  The best form of regulation truly is peer pressure.  Be the example.  Show your distaste for poor behavior.  Clean up after others and encourage everyone to do so.  Shame will keep people from doing things.  This is one instance where more of the right kind of people in the wilderness is a good thing.
I don’t think its right to “protect” the environment from human impacts by excluding people from the places we mean to protect.  People cannot appreciate intangible things easily.  If I see the rock art in its proper context I can better imagine what its creator must have been thinking.  Photographs frame out so much.  Landscapes never occur in 2D.  Wind cannot be felt through a painting.  And how do we convey the scent of a beautiful place?  In this digital age when you can explore the world remotely via Google Earth it is incredibly important to get people to reconnect with the actual natural environment.  We have to live viscerally.  It’s not healthy to be an armchair Magellan.  If you completely ban people from sensitive places long enough they’ll stop supporting the protection thereof.
Socially we are encouraged to value expedience and convenience.  For ages I’ve been appalled by the proliferation of drive-thru establishments.  Drive-thru Hot-n-Ready™ pizza, drive-thru tobacco outlets, drive-thru liquor stores (still don’t understand how that’s okay), and…we translate the drive-thru experience to all other aspects of life.  Sometimes we take it too far though.  Like when the USFS closes a forest road to vehicular traffic for some kind of maintenance and the masses get up in arms because they can’t drive to their favorite camp site or overlook. 

Or mountain bike on their favorite trail
 
Gated forest roads only increase our supply of “wilderness.”  That’s a good thing.  I’ve written about this before, but back when I was a rock climbing guide I had an experienced climber from New England hire me as his vacation climbing partner.  He was looking to climb only classic traditional routes in the Red River Gorge.  One route I really wanted him to do was a two pitch 5.9 called Minas Tirith on a free standing pinnacle of the same name.  At the time the road that provides close vehicular access was closed due to a landslide.  It was easy enough to bike the two and a half miles past the locked gate to the approach trail.  My client was thrilled to get such an adventure while the frequent car-camping party-crowd were busy lighting up online forums and bashing the Forest Service for denying them access to their favorite spot. But no one had denied them access, only their cars.
Ultimately my escape into the wild is an escape from the expectations of what I feel is an oppressive society.  We are oppressed by the capitalist mandate that we exist as little more than industrious perpetually spending consumers. 
If we can escape via contrived adventures in pretend wildernesses that is still a good thing.  We need greenspaces and undeveloped lands in which to throw ourselves and our suppressed post-apocalyptic fantasies.  Even the most dedicated urbanite needs some open space every once in a while.  Even the most die-hard car camper can gain something from going off-trail. 
I just wish they’d leave their garbage in the car.  Or at home.  Or not generate it in the first place.