Sunday, September 6, 2009


Recently I bought an iMac and I have to say that I am impressed with it. It is very simple to use and takes little time getting use to the switch from PC to Mac OS. What does this have to do with the move? Well, there is an application called iWeb that I just recently found and it allows one to create personal websites quite easily and also link them together. One of the many different sites available is a blog template that I have found to be much more user friendly than blogger. And so without further adieu I will cease to update this blog and from now on be doing all my blogging update at this site...

I hope that this won't be an inconvenience for those who do follow the blog.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

"One nation under God, DIVISIBLE?"

While reading through the Drudge Report I came across the above video about a town hall meeting with Senator Tim Bishop of NY. Now there are a few topics discussed in the video but the main ones are about universal health care and cap and trade. While watching the video and listening to the angry crowd and the responses Senator Bishop gave a few thoughts ran through my mind about the state our nation is in.

1) "We Want our Country Back!" screamed one woman before the town hall meeting begins. What does that mean? To her and many other Americans it might mean that the people we elected into office are not representing our values and representing our voice. The senator, in one of his little speeches, talked about what his beliefs were and what his stance on certain issues were but is that why he was elected? Was he elected to represent his beliefs or was he elected to represent his constituents beliefs? And, as one can tell by this video, his beliefs didn't reflect his constituents beliefs. OK, so there is a belief among Americans that our voices are not being represented by our congressmen.
However, one must ask the question how we lost our country in the first place? Why are these men who don't represent the majority holding office? If you look at the voter turnout for federal elections from 1960-2008 we find a startling fact. One, only about 50% of the country turns out to vote for presidential elections (the bold numbered years, every four years) and a dismal 36-40% for congressional elections (every two years). And from what we've seen in past and current years, the majority voice does not speak up, and now we see that the majority voice does not vote. So the majority of Americans are asleep at the wheel and those who are speaking up are those who we see as more liberal or progressive, hence the more liberal congressmen and liberal bills being proposed.
Can we not say then that we brought this upon ourselves? Is it not our fault that we did not step up to the plate and take action when it needed to be taken? I include myself in this realm because I am one of those 60% who have not voted in congressional elections. I have been one of those people who didn't take much interest in the political realm because I was complacent and didn't see much of a problem, until now when the majority of our leaders have views that are contrary to mine. But I didn't do anything about it when I had the chance. So yes, it is partially my fault, as it is everyone who does not participate in voting. Democracy only works when the people participate. Hopefully this situation will awaken the majority at the next elections. Let us take more interest in our local leaders and those we send to Washington. Let the majority speak! Remember the words of king Mosiah when he said "it is not common that the voice of the people desireth anything contrary to that which is right; but it is common for the lesser part of the people to desire that which is not right...and if the time comes that the voice of the people doth choose iniquity, then is the time that the judgments of God will come upon you..." (Mosiah 29:26-27)

2) A note to senators and congressmen: Listen to the people. If the majority of your veterans say that they are disappointed with VA services because they've had personal experience there you shouldn't respond by saying "I'm proud of our VA services," especially if you've never had to use them. If more military families are being forced to seek medical service off base because they cannot get into seeing their primary care provider than I see a problem. That's just two examples of government run healthcare, we need not discuss other failed government programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, Tricare, Social Security, Cash for Clunkers, Digital TV, etc. Again I repeat, listen to your constituents.

3) Remember that we still need to act in a civilized matter. Yes you might be upset but don't let that anger turn to irrationality. Things need to be done in an organized manner. Everyone has the right to voice their opinion and be heard, even if you disagree with it. I heard a commentator yesterday talk about the importance of remaining calm and organized. It only takes one screw ball fanatic to ruin it for everyone else. "The government won't hesitate to use the excuse of EMERGENCY," this commentator says. We need to be bold but not overbearing, forceful but not violent.

4) One thing that really disappoints me is the divided parties in our government. Democrats are fighting against Republicans because of party affiliation. Democrats say that they will push health care reform with or without Republican support. By doing this they want to push a reform upon millions of Americans who don't want it. In the past we've seen Republicans do the same thing. Fellow Americans, "UNITED WE STAND, DIVIDED WE FALL." Our country is continuing to be divided by these so called parties and eventually it will affect the country. It's time that we step out of the realm of political parties and make decisions based on the good of the country, not the good of the party.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Paiute ATV Trail 4th of July Weekend

So this past weekend I had the great pleasure to celebrate the 4th of July by taking a little trip down south and four wheeling the Paiute ATV trail in south/central Utah with my father. While driving through Utah you wouldn’t expect to find much in the south/central area, but if you get out of the car and onto a four wheeler there is so much to experience. The main trail loop is estimated to be about 250 miles long with dozens of little side trails. Exploring this whole trail system could take weeks, and since we only had four days we had to get in as much as we could.


The trip started out on Thursday morning. We met up at Hill Air Force Base in Clearfield because we were actually going with their outdoor recreation program. So we all met there at 7:00 am. Upon arriving we saw that the bikes were already loaded onto the trailers and all we had to do was jump inside the vans and we were off. The trip down wasn’t that long actually, it only took about three hours. We ended up in a little town called Salina, which is where the loop begins. From there we unloaded the bikes from the trailer and packed them with our equipment. And thus the four wheeling begins! The first part is riding through the town of Salina until you come to a service dirt road that takes you to the trail head. After passing under I-70 we met up with the trailhead and the adventure begins.

The trail at this point is rated as easy because it doesn’t have many technical parts to it and instead of steep climbs we had some rolling hills. We entered what is known as Soldier Canyon and followed a creek bed. It was always interesting to look back occasionally and see a line of four wheelers, and the dust rising up behind them, following in unison every turn and curve. There came a point in the trail where we had to cross a river which was somewhat deep. I kicked my legs up on the front wheel wells and sloshed on through. We made it about 15-20 miles in when someone from our group started to have a little medical issue that made us cut our first day short so we could attend to her and get her back into town (that story will be posted next). So after attending to her it was getting kind of late and so we made camp along the river bed at the base of a formation known as Squaw Ledge. At various times during the day, when the sun hits it just right, the ledge glows a brilliant reddish/orange color that is absolutely captivating. That afternoon and night we had some light rain showers that not only kept us cool but also helped keep the dust down while on the trail. It also brought a beautiful rainbow that graced the sky as we set up camp. I’ve become a big fan of Adobe Photoshop over the past year because it allows me to merge many photos together to come out with one big one, and that’s how I captured this rainbow, took many shots from different positions and put them all together. Dad and I set up camp next to a small grove of trees. After setting up camp we wandered back into this grove and found that it offered some good protection from the light rain that was falling and would be a perfect kitchen to start making dinner (freeze dried chicken alfredo with pink salmon). Other took notice to our little kitchen and decided to join us with their culinary creations. So we all enjoyed a good dinner under this canopy of green. Afterwards, we found some dry wood and started our self a little fire. As the sun set and the fire continued on we sat around it telling stories of past experiences and roasted marshmallows (seriously, what’s a fire without marshmallows?). Then as the fire died down and the stories became boring we all decided it was time to get a little shut eye. Because the day was cut short we only rode a grand total of about 25 miles, and that includes the double backing we had to do.


The day started out with the sun basking Squaw Ledge in its magnificent light. There were a few light clouds in the sky but nothing that appeared to bring rain with them. We expected this day to be a hot, sunny day. And that’s how it turned out. We made breakfast (oatmeal) lazied around camp while waiting for equipment to dry out a little before packing all up and then eventually broke camp and got back on the trail. We followed the trail as it meandered alongside a stream known as Lost Creek. This trail also cut through a beautiful canyon that offered some great turns and sights. Eventually we emerged from the canyon and were back onto open, flat ground. This part of the ride gets a little monotonous because it’s pretty much a couple of long, straight dirt service roads. The good part about these roads is that they let you open up the bike and see what you can top out at. OK, so it’s hard to see what you can top out at if you don’t have a speedometer, but when you have a GPS device you will find that we got up to about 40 mph, which for a mountain/hunting type 4 speed four wheeler it’s not that bad. Of course, with it being as hot and dry riding behind someone that fast does kick up a lot of dust and so goggles and a bandana are suggested. Also, don’t expect your white shirt to stay white for very long (or ever again) after riding in dust that long. This service road is part of the trail and it takes you around Koosharem Reservoir, which is named after the small town that it supplies, Koosharem.

There we stopped to gas up the bikes and get a quick bite to eat. Now there were two options, go to a little park and eat whatever you might have brought for lunch, or, go sit in an air conditioned restaurant and have a home cooked meal. I’m pretty sure everyone can guess where we decided to eat.

From Koosharem we headed east towards the mountains for some more hill climbing adventure. In fact, this is where the real hill climbing begins. This trail weaves in and out of different kinds of trees (if I was a botanist I could tell you which ones they were) as it ascends up the mountain until you come to the level of the aspens. There are a couple of steep climbs where it’s best to keep the bike in first gear until you make it to the top. Two reasons why, 1) you shift at just the wrong point and you’ll do a wheelie up the hill, and if you’re bike is back heavy then it ups the risk of tipping over and 2) at some points in second gear there’s not enough power to get you up so you’ll be stopping to downshift anyway.

After riding through some more aspen groves we dropped down upon a small body of water known as Upper Box Creek Reservoir. Here we drove out onto a little peninsula where we set up camp.

There were quite a few people there already who just came for a day of fishing so we had to share the area for a while, until night came and then everyone cleared out except for us. It had been a pretty hot and dusty day so when I saw that lake I knew it wouldn’t be long before I was in it. Once the tent was set up I was off and in the water. I had forgotten that at higher altitudes the water would be a little colder than one would think, but it didn’t take long to remind me. That first initial dive in was one of those that takes your breath away. But it still felt good to cool and wash off. Once I was clean and dried off we sent out to gather some firewood for the night. A couple guys took the bikes and hauled back some fallen trees from the hills above. Luckily one of the leaders but a couple of hand saws so another rider and I started cutting down these trunks so they would fit in the pit. It kind of felt like we were back in the pioneer days, me on one end of the saw and another guy on the other while we worked the blades back and forth through the wood. After that it was time to relax and unwind. A couple guys went off to fish while the rest of us sat around the fire for dinner and some more story telling. It wasn’t long after dusk when we saw a local beaver out swimming in the lake. If you walked around the lake you would notice some fresh cut aspens that the beavers had fallen. The moon had risen high above the lake by now and provided great illumination that night. Overall I believe we rode around 45 miles that day.


Happy 4th of July! There really is no better way to celebrate the independence of our nation than by exploring the great back country that we call home. It makes you grateful for the freedoms that we have and for those men and women that fought, fight, and died for them. I awoke to the noise of people rustling outside and as I unzipped my tent door I could see the rising sun bounce of a pristine glass lake (yes I immediately wished my boat there to go skiing). It was a leisurely morning of eating breakfast and breaking camp. We still had plenty of terrain to cover but also plenty of time to do it as well so there was no rush.

With camp broken we headed back out onto the trail. Once again we found ourselves weaving through groves of aspens, crossing boardwalks that have been placed to protect some marshes, and climbing until we left the aspens and entered the pines. There’s always a certain sent to a pine forest that makes you realize how beautiful this world really is and how small we really are in comparison.

Once we reached the peak it was time to come down the other side of the mountain. We descended through what is known as Dry Creek Canyon which has a different scenery to it than other parts of the trail so far. It reminds me of hiking through the canyons on southern Utah in the Zion area. The dust was a plenty coming down this trail so the bandanas and goggles were back on to offer some sort of protection.

We made it down the canyon and rode through the small town of Marysvale and then stopped off at a little restaurant named Hoovers. There motto is “It’s Hoovers, not Hooters.” I had an excellent hickory burger from this place that I know would pretty much keep me held over until dinner.

After dinner it was back on the bikes and up another mountain side. This is a pretty popular part of the trail and so we passed many people going up and down the trail on their machines. At some parts the trail gets a little narrow and so passing became a little more challenging. There are also a few more first gear climbs along this trail. Getting close to the peak we came to an old, abandoned mine known as the Silver King Mine which was established back in 1894. That’s about all I know of it because there wasn’t much information around. So we walked through the little cabin that was there, saw the gated off entrance to the mine, and that was about it. It was a quick ten minute break while we rested our rear ends from the bikes. Then it was back to more fun. We reached the top and it was time to come back down, a little farther north though. Coming down was just as steep as going up and so that meant a couple of first gear descents as well. There were many times this trail crossed the stream so it also met some good mud flinging if you hit the stream just right, and we did.

Coming off the mountain meant that we had to ride through some more little towns so we could gas up and make it to the next section of the trail. We rode through Joseph, Monroe, and finally fueled up in Elsinore. From there it was back up the mountain. It was about five when we started back up and by then the sky had some overcast to it and a storm wasn’t far away and we were riding towards it. So of course we put on the rain gear and covered up the packs to keep things relatively dry. We weaved in and out of the canyon as we keep heading up the mountain. We passed a lot of cattle grazing in this area and chased a few calves off the trail. At one point I thought momma cow was about to take on the leader of our grouped because he was chasing her calves off the trail. She hesitated thought once she saw the rest of us ride around the corner. We finally made it to a place where were could set up camp and got it up before the rest of the storm hit. However, the storm had pretty much died down and made for a quite, clear evening. Again we gathered some fire wood to start a fire and had dinner. We sat around the fire listening to and telling more stories. It’s amazing how the stories never really ended and they just keep adding to one another. Again, the full moon came out and lit up the surrounding area very nicely. Once the fire had died down and we decided it was starting to get cold it was time for bed. Total mileage for today was about 85 miles.


That night another good storm came through and soaked the camp. Fortunately this time we had remembered to bring the rain fly for the tent (not like our Havasupai trip last year) and I also covered up my bike with a poncho so I knew my stuff would be dry in the morning. Morning came and was colder than the others. We struggled getting a fire going at first because the wood we had stocked up was nice and damp from the previous storm but with some perseverance we were able to get the blaze going. I had packed up everything before getting out of the tent that morning so I was able to stay close to the fire and keep warm while everyone else finished packing up. We decided to wait for the sun to come up all the way before we left so it could dry out the tents and the bikes. No one knows why but that morning the sun was particularly slow coming over the mountain and down into the canyon. It didn’t matter though; we had a short distance to travel and plenty of time to do it so we enjoyed the warmth of the fire and continued with the stories. The sun finally broke over, dried up the tents and we broke camp. We all lined up for one final picture of the group before heading down the mountain. We double backed along the trail we came up until coming to a fork in the road where we took a different trail to a town called Richfield. We came down off the mountain through the switchbacks of the canyon and entered Richfield. From here we cut through the town and followed a canal all the way to Salina where the four wheeling adventure came to an end. That day we rode about 35 miles and the GPS gave an overall mileage of 195 for the loop.

We loaded the bikes back onto the trailers, jumped into the vans and we were off. We made it back to Hill Air Force Base around 3:30, hosed off the bikes so they were clean for the next group to use them and then headed back home for a long awaited shower.

I’ve been on some good backpacking and hiking trips before and all though they have all been different and difficult to compare to one another I would half to say that this has been one of my favorite trips. The variety of scenery that we passed through and the company new friends made this one of the more enjoyable trips. If you ever have the opportunity to take a trip like this I would strongly suggest that you do so. You won’t regret it.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

President Obama's Speech to the AMA

Yesterday President Obama delivered a speech to the American Medical Association (AMA) in Chicago. When viewed it looks like his message was relatively well received, except for his comment on medical malpractice lawsuit caps, and that this reform appears logical to many of the doctors who were present during his speech. However, the media reports a mixed response being supported by some and skeptical by others. I read some comments by other providers and also watched some interviews from doctors who attended and it seemed that many of them have some of the same doubts that I had while reading, and then later watching this speech. The biggest concern I believe was that of a socialistic health care system.
Before addressing the concern of socialized medicine I want to point out one concern that I had with his speech and a concern I know many of my colleagues have as well. He addressed Doctors and Nurse Practitioners yet left out Physician Assistants as providers of health care. Maybe it was an oversight of the president but not recognizing the importance of PA's (who fall under AMA jurisdiction) as providers the president has alienated over 76,000 providers of medicine, a majority who fill the role of primary care providers, in this nation. Is it a bias on my part? Maybe, but still, this is my profession and his changes for reform will affect how I practice in the future and thus I, and every other PA, should be considered in his decisions. Not addressing us in his speech might suggest the contrary. For those PA's out there reading this blog who wish to let the president know of our importance in this nations health care system visit this site.
In his speech President Obama did all he could to assure the AMA that his goal was not a socialistic government, or a single-payer plan. He said, "If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor, period. If you like your plan, you will be able to keep your plan, period." He then goes on to say that his vision is to create a public plan (run by the government) that will provide fair competition to private insurance companies, but will still be able to cover those who have little to no insurance. This will ensure that every American has health coverage. He calls this Health Insurance Exchange but many skeptics are saying that he's just using semantics to cover up an eventual single-payer, socialized health care. What the fear is that with this new Exchange it will eventually drive the other insurance companies out of business and leave Americans with only one option for health care, this Exchange. The next fear is that with one company calling the shots decisions for medical treatment will then be made by bureaucrats rather than by doctors. Now, even though I see this as a problem with a socialized health care system I also see this already happening in our current system. The insurance companies decide to pay for what they want to pay for and use terms like "pre-existing condition," or,"prior authorization," to limit what they will pay for. I have seen this in my own practice. When having to choose between the two proton pump inhibitors Omeprazole (Prilosec) and Esomeprazole (Nexium) I have to weigh what my patients insurance will cover as first line treatment. Most companies will use Prilosec as first line treatment not because it has been shown to be more effective than Nexium (on the contrary, Nexium has been shown to be superior to Prilosec) but because it has gone generic and is now an over the counter (OTC) medication. In simple terms, Prilosec is first choice because it's cheaper, not better.
Ironically it's the government run system of Medicare and Medicaid that I have to deal with when getting prior authorizations for medications such as Prilosec and Nexium. It's Medicaid that chooses to use the cheaper as first line. This is another part of Obama's speech that I had trouble with. He cited an instance where a doctor spends 20% of his time filling out these prior authorizations forms or dealing with insurance companies rather than taking care of his patients. In my experience, that 20% of my time has been used dealing with similar circumstances...80% being Medicare and Medicaid problems that require prior authorization. Later on in his speech he states how doctors need to practice based off of Evidence Based Medicine (EBM) rather than what insurance companies are willing to pay for. I again will have you reference my Prilosec/Nexium example. EBM shows me that Nexium should be used, but government run Medicaid tells me I should use Prilosec first because it's cheaper. In fact, many of the providers I listened to or read comments from had similar concerns. They are concerned with the way Medicare and Medicaid have been running and see this only an insight to what the new reform will bring, and this scares us. We fear that these problems will only continue to exist in the new reform.
Much of what President Obama said in his discourse was nothing new to providers. We already know that electronic medical records saves not only time and money but also improves patient care. We know that preventing a problem is cheaper than fixing a problem and that preventative health will cut medical costs (it's my belief that preventative health care will not only put just a dent in the problem as the president addressed, but will blast a hole through it. He gave examples of five chronic problems that scourge our health care system which account for most of the cost. If we prevented the majority of these problems will it not then cut a majority of what we spend on health care? Preventative care will not just be a dent people in the system people.) Many of the things the president addressed we already knew, yet he spent a good amount of time discussing them. One of those points, however, I would like to address rapidly because I'm weary at how the president will bring about the change of preventative medicine. How will he get Americans to live healthier without forcing it upon them? I read an article about some of his goals (some I agree with, others I don't) and this change. But again, how will he make this change without forcing it upon Americans? Increase taxing of certain foods, alcohol, tobacco only makes Americans not consume them not because of health benefits, but because of costs.
Now comes the point of paying for all of this. We are a country already in debt and now we're looking to reform our health care by putting $1 trillion over the next 10 years into it. He states that this will be debt neutral and proposes a system of cuts and taxes to pay for it. He states that over the next 10 years he can cut $950 billion from our spending, thus almost covering the $1 trillion needed for reform. I don't know how all of that will play out, if it will work or not. But one thing that I'm concerned with is that this will take 10 years. At most he will only spend the next 7 years in office, maybe only 3. So what happens down the road when the next guy, or Congress decides to reform the reform? One of his proposed cuts was the amount of government money hospitals will receive for treating uninsured patients. He states that as the number of the uninsured go down so will the need for hospital reimbursement. The question at hand is which will come first? Will the number of uninsured go down first or hospital reimbursement? How can you pay for the one without affecting the other?
President Obama was openly opposed, even booed by some, when he said that he didn't support putting a cap on malpractice insurance lawsuits. However, he did recognize that the fear of a lawsuit did affect how providers practiced and that this increased costs. This is true, we do get that extra test just to be sure, even though we're 99% positive in the first place, so as to not be caught off guard by that disease that has an prevalence of 1%. All though he said he understood this as a concern, he gave no alternative or plan of action of how to address this problem, other than stating that he opposes caps. Now, in certain cases I agree, but the majority of malpractice lawsuits are frivolous and cause a huge strain on our system. I don't know how to fix it either, but then again I'm not the one bringing up the issue and then not having a solution for it. One thing the president must know is that providers will continue to practice defensive medicine while the threat of frivolous lawsuits still exist, and this will ultimately raise the cost of medicine.
I was pleased when the president addressed the problem with many insurance companies about "pre-existing conditions" and other hassles they give us as providers. I was also pleased to hear that insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies were willing to discuss what they can do to help stem the rising of health care. Personally I believe that there are some problems with insurance company policies that need changed and I'm glad to see the president take a stand on it. However, again it falls back on the concept of Big Brother stepping in and that worries me to a degree.
Overall I am skeptical of the reform laid out by the president. I agree with the need for electronic based medical records and preventative care, but question the Health Insurance Exchange program he announced. A change needs to be made, but I still maintain the belief that I don't think our government is capable of doing it. I believe that if we want a change then we need to make the change. Americans need to learn to practice preventative medicine and stop being so eager to sue. Insurance companies need to have a major overhaul in their policies about what they will and will not pay for (one theory of mine is that if the policy will not pay for a particular aspect of care then I should be refunded what I've paid to them over the years. At least I can use that to make a dent in my medical costs.) Pharmaceuticals need to change their spending policies so when their new drugs do come out they don't have to charge $200/month for them (spending policies: advertisement, luncheons, etc) I also believe that patents for medications should be shorter thus allowing generics to be made available earlier on. I believe that we in medicine could take a cut in our pay to serve the greater good or, if we are not willing to take a cut, then donate to our communities a generous offering, being money or time. Change is needed, we must be willing to work for it and not have Big Brother bail us out. Comments, opinions?

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Church and State

Today I read an online article that touched on the subject of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and Proposition 8 that was passed. The main emphasis of the article, to me as a reader anyway, was a protest to religious supported laws, or laws that are enacted not based on "civil rights" but a matter of what particular voters consider as being moral or not. In his argument, the author expresses his belief that laws cannot and should not be passed based on their considered morality but rather on civil rights and then uses examples of other such instances (i.e. beliefs during the civil right movement in the 50's-60's) to further his opinion. While reading this article some questions came to my mind.
The first thing I thought about was the old statement "separation of church and state". This was instituted in the days of our fore fathers. The concept behind it was that no church could have Constitutional power to impose it's beliefs on any person. However, many of the laws that organized and enacted had basis on some religious belief. Laws enacted then and laws existent now are based on a principle of right versus wrong, good versus evil, protection of the innocent and justice for all. We have laws against murder, stealing, rape, abuse, kidnapping, extortion, and a plethora of other laws that, one can look at it this way, limit what we can and cannot do. My question now is where did these laws come from? Or where does the concept of good and bad come from to perpetuate the need for such laws?
Who are we to say what is right and wrong? Does not enacting a law against murder take away the freedom I have to chose to take the life of another? Yes I might be infringing upon the right of another and the Constitution grants us the right to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness (originally property), but who decided that we have those rights in the first place? Who decided that humans have a right to anything? Are we not just another organism belonging to the animal kingdom? Does not the gazelle have a right to life? If so, then why is there not a law in the animal kingdom that prohibits the lion from killing the gazelle for the lion's personal gain? If this is a world inhabited by the product of evolution then "survival of the fittest" is our adage and rights be damned!
Yet, we do have rights. Our founding fathers outlined a system of laws based on what they believed our rights to be...those beliefs stemming from what their own personal, religious beliefs were. They were Christians who followed the 10 commandments, and thus implemented many of those commandments as law (murder, stealing, etc). Again, the laws they enacted were based on what they considered to be good or bad. And thus even though there was a call for separation of church and state we see that the original laws of this land were taken from the religious beliefs of it's organizers.
So today we have laws being written, proposed and voted upon by the people. Those who feel strongly opposed to certain laws because of religious beliefs are ridiculed and labeled as bigots, racists, closed minded along with an innumerable amount of other terms. Those who support laws that are widely opposed by the majority are seen as heroes, visionaries, free thinkers, progresivists and other highly acclaimed accolades. They use terms like "civil rights" as their swords and "racism, sexism, and oppression" as their shields when it suits their needs. I would like to see these people argue for civil rights when the pedophiles of America argue that it is their "civil right" to sexually assault young children because "it's who I am, I was born that way" or when serial killers argue that because they have a psychiatric condition (antisocial personality disorder, conduct disorder, borderline personality disorder, narcissistic personality disorder) they have a "civil right" to carry out their acts of violence. My question is where is the call for civil rights when a doctor in Kansas is allowed to perform more than 60,000 late term abortions for reasons other than medically necessary? We have laws and activists that protect against animal cruelty and yet proponents who believe that a woman has the right to chose to keep or terminate a creature that that looks human, has human tissue, and genetic material that establish it as human because it's her body, her life and her right. Where are the rights of the fetus?
In other words, civil rights are based upon what we consider to be good or bad. You cannot establish laws that protect the rights of others without first establishing the concept of what is good and what is bad. Where do you get your sense of good or bad? For me, I get it from what I believe to be a true religion and so I will be guided by those beliefs. If I believe gay marriage to be bad then I will vote against a law that looks to allow it. If I believe murder to be bad then I will vote for any law that punishes murder. Men and women are entitled to their separate opinions and beliefs and they will vote based on the beliefs, and seeing how there will always be separate beliefs there will continue to be a never ending struggle about, that's right folks you guessed it, what's RIGHT and WRONG.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Boundary Trail - FAIL!

This week our journey through the hills of Idaho takes us to the eastern part of Caribou National Forrest and along the west slope just down from Pebble Creek Ski Resort. This trail is known as the Boundary Trail and is an 18 mile double track ride from Pebble Resort, along the ridge of the mountain, back behind Crystal Springs and then comes out just north of Lava Hot Springs. It is rated at a difficult to very difficult level as compared to most of the other trails around the Pocatello area. This is due to the constant change in elevation and the terrain that you must traverse. The trail is covered, and I do mean covered in rocks, and not just your little pebbles or the occasional golf ball sized rocks, I'm talking rocks the size of large watermelons. And these rocks are evenly disbursed throughout the trail or organized to make for a smooth ride. No, at times these rocks covered the trail like sprinkles on a doughnut, just not as tasty. There are sections of the trail where it's pure rocks for 100 yards or more. Now, the rocks are one thing...but add in rain and mud and the trail becomes absolutely unbearable (hence the FAIL in the title). This is the first time we've had to turn around because there was no way that we were going the full 18 miles alive. In fact, I believe we got 2.5 miles into the ride before we decided to turn back, and we probably should have turned back sooner...or maybe postponed the trip all together.
So this ride started out in planning the night before. Looking at the terrain on Google Earth and checking the profile with Mapsource. I also checked the weather report because it has been cloudy and rainy in Pocatello for much of the week, and Friday wasn't looking any better. The report said that there was a 40% chance of rain during the day with a higher chance at night. With that we still decided to go tackle this beast. So Friday morning rolls in and the sky is cloudy with a mixture of white, grey, and black clouds; no rain however. We load the bikes up and head down to Lava to drop off the Jeep. Heading back towards the start of the trail head we run into some rain along I-15. I check the weather report again and notice that the storm is just rolling over us, moving in a north-eastern pattern with more storms off the the west and south that look to be intensifying. One would think that with the current rain, future weather report, and current Doppler radar we would have scrubbed the adventure in the first place. Well as someone once put it, "common sense isn't so common." No this information didn't deter us at all. We continued to head up the mountain to the Pebble Creek Ski Resort. Once arriving there the rain had disappeared but plenty of clouds still covered the sky, many of them heading towards us. And yet, we still decided to hit the trail, knowing that we would probably get wet and ride straight into those storms. A little rain never hurt anybody, right?
So we started out on the trail. Immediately hit mud and had a good time trying to keep up enough speed so as to not get mud everywhere and also keep the back tires from slipping out beneath us. The mud wasn't that bad at this time and we were able to push through. The scenery from this altitude was absolutely beautiful. I was able to appreciate this part of the valley from a whole new perspective. I've driven through it every time I go between Ogden and Pocatello and its part of the plain where the original Lake Bonneville drained into the Snake River Valley Plain. From here you can see as far as Malad Summit (if the clouds aren't covering it) and over to the West Caribou National Forrest. It was an awesome sight to see Scout Mountain and Old Tom Mountain with there peaks covered as low flying clouds sat on top of them.
We continued on pedaling through rock, rivers, and mud...plenty of mud. About 2 miles into the ride I took this picture where you can see the rain coming.

That didn't stop us though, oh no. Another 0.5 miles and the we hit the front of the storm. It was a light rain to begin with and we were prepared for it. Yes, we had bought a box of Western Family garbage sacks to use for ponchos at a gas station just before the trail head. Dressed in trash we thought about heading forward, but the rain starting coming down harder. Also, the GPS calculated that we had a moving average of 5.0 mph but an overall average (moving + stopped time) of 2.5 mph...thanks to rock and mud. So with 15 miles still left and only moving at 2.5 mph we decided to turn back around (yes it wasn't the fact that it was raining but the fact that we were just going too slow is why we decided to turn back.) Of course, I don't think we would have made it much farther because of what this heavier rain did.
With the ever increasing and never ending rain our trail got to a point of pure unrideability (word?). The mud was so thick and expansive that trying to push through it was almost impossible. It caked everything it touched: forks, spokes, cogs, crankshafts, derailleurs, and chain. Instead of falling off it just kept growing. Most of the time I spent trying not to let my back tire slip out from under me. Eventually, and unfortunately, after 0.25 miles of this Stella had enough. Yes, while trying to push through the pure cake batter that was this mud all of a sudden I heard a pop and felt no resistance while I pedaled. I looked down to see Stella wounded in battle, her chain hanging limp and transected from the cogs. Now I have spare tires, patches, a multi tool, and a chain tool, but what I didn't have was an extra chain or at least a couple of extra links. There I was, stranded in the rain and mud. With only a 1/4 of a mile down that meant I had 2.25 left to hike-a-bike back through that horrible mud of Satan! Just going another 1/4 of a mile probably took 30 mins of pushing, pulling, carrying and everything short of cursing and abandoning my bike. A little under a mile (0.8 miles to be exact) from where we had to turn back we had reached a point where a Jeep trail had crossed ours and looked like it headed back down to the valley. Once we got back to this point I told my buddy that I was going to coast down the mountain until I got to a main road then I'd call him to let him know where I was at so he could come pick me up. There was absolutely no way I was making it back to the trail head in this mud and without a chain. After looking at the map and GPS he decided to come with me down the trail and get back to his Land Cruiser along the main roads. Even though it was longer in mileage wise it might go faster because he would be able to ride instead of push his bike through the mud, seeing how it was that thick and deep that he couldn't pedal either.
So we head down the Jeep trail. It wasn't much different in its mud consistency than the trail we were just on. The difference was now we are sliding down a mountain side trying to just keep the bikes under us and not get thrown into the foliage. The rain had picked up and was now falling harder, colder, and sideways with the wind. As the speed increased on this descent my buddy soon realized that regular bike clamp breaks do absolutely nothing in the mud. My disc breaks help out a lot, but only to an extent. They at least slow down the wheel rotation. My friend didn't have that luxury as he is sliding down the mountain and then loses control of his rear tire. As it fish tails behind him the trail eventually just slides out from under him all together and he is thrown from the biking and goes sliding down the mud mountain with his bike coming in a close second. It was just like a giant slip'n'slide we all use to play on as kids (and still do as adults). Eventually the two stopped, he regained his composure, picked up the bike, jumped back on and started the ordeal again. My laughing didn't help my cause at all because the same thing happened to me just a little way down the mountain. I don't think Stella was too happy with me at this point.

Eventually we made it down to an old highway that would take us back to his Land Cruiser. This was pretty much a dirt road as well, but a kept dirt road so it wasn't too muddy. My buddy started riding but soon realized his chain was too caked in mud and debris that if he kept pedaling it would eventually snap. So we both ended up riding the bikes like those push razor scooters that were popular a few years back. We came to the intersection that would take us back up the Land Cruiser. There was a stream near by so we stopped to wash off, well, what we could. Oh, as a little side note the weather had improved and was now sunny and warm (I swear mother nature was toying with me that day). The final stretch back up to the Land Cruiser was all uphill and my friend really didn't want to push his bike up it. The consensus was that I would stay at the creek with the bikes while he ran up to get the Land Cruiser. According to his story that ran quickly turned into a tiring walk up the switchbacks that lead to the ski resort. He said that the whole time he could see the ski lifts and radio towers at the resort and they looked close, but never seemed to get closer because of all the switchbacks. When he got back we then calculated that distance from the creek to the trail head and it was a good 1.5 miles. Oh well, hindsight is 20/20 isn't in.
As tortuous as this day has been, I'm still glad I did it. There's something to be said about experience gained, be it good or bad (see my other blog for further discussion). The scenery was breathtaking, parts of the ride were fun, and I now know what to expect when I go to tackle that trail again. I only got 2.5 miles into an 18 mile ride so yes, I will ride that trail again. It will not beat me. Next time I'll take a different approach to it, a dry one!

Here are a few other shots from the day. Remember you can see these along with the rest of the unpublished photos, as well as all the photos taken from my other rides at

Until we meet again Boundary...

Monday, May 25, 2009

China Peak

So today's ride was a grueling, 2204 feet in four miles accent up what is known as China Peak on the east bench of Pocatello. This trail is a double track trail that wides it's way up the mountain side until you come to the top where many different radio towers are present. This is a trail that is accessible by Jeep, and I have come up here a couple of times in the Jeep, but I thought I'd give it a go on the bike. Let's just say that I'll be taking the Jeep up it next time I decided to conquer that peak.
I started out from the house where I'm staying at while I'm here in Pocatello and rode along the roads for about two miles until I came to the road that eventually takes you up China Peak. The road starts out as a paved road but eventually turns into that double track dirt road. Because this is the side of the mountain that is constantly in the sun the vegetation is mainly just shrubs and tumbleweeds with very limited trees to provide shade. Did I mention the grueling four mile climb? If not let me repeat was grueling! It's basically a switch-back ride up to the top. Not much more I can say about it. Seeing Scout Mountain off in the distance and knowing that last summer I was able to make it to the top of that on my bike kept me going along this horrible ride up. And yes, hike-a-bike was in play for some of the trail.
Once at the top the view of the valley is pretty spectacular. You can pretty much take in the whole city of Pocatello and Chubbuck from this height. The backside of the mountain looks to be full of green lush pockets of trees and flowers which should make for a nice ride later on (but I'll be Jeeping the bike up to the top next time). I think it took a little over an hour and a half just to drag myself up that mountain.

I didn't spend much time at the top because I was planning on taking a different route back that I was told would make for some fun downhill and I was anxious to get to that. This trail follows the crest line from China peak to the north and goes up and over a couple other little peaks. From China to the first peak it was a fun little ride with a few quick turns and some rolly polly type trails. Then came the first peak. I stopped and talked with a guy who had just hiked over the first peak on his way up to China and he asked me if I was planning on going down the peak on my bike (yes I held my tongue, but a little Bill Engvall came to mind). He then told me that it was pretty steep and rocky and made for a hard hike up. He said it might be better to walk the bike down part of it. I said thanks for the advice and continued to climb the peak. The dude wasn't kidding at all! I got to the peak and just looked down thinking holy crap! It was steeper than I had expected and also much rockier too. So I took his advice and walked down the more treacherous parts. I then jumped back on and headed up the next little peak only to find that it looked pretty tricky as well (however, not as bad as the first one). I decided to give this one a whirl on the bike and see how the two of us do. What I can say is this, my hands and legs were killing me at the bottom because of how much pressure I was putting on the breaks and how much leaning back I had to do to keep from going end over all the way down. I probably fished tailed down half that hill because of the loose gravel and rocks. But it was fun. You'll be able to see those hills on the profile picture at the bottom. They're the ones that seem to drop off.
After tackling that little descent it was all downhill from there. Again the trail was pretty much dirt and rolly polly that made for some good jumps and a smooth ride with the full suspension.
Overall I think I did about eleven miles in a little over two hours for the round trip.