One thing leads to another

August 31, 2020 § 14 Comments

It’s the end of August as I write this. I’m not big on anniversaries. They are mostly fake, ways to make you remember and fixate on something that may have been important then but really might be not be important at all now.

There’s one date that I like to celebrate, however, it’s August 17, 2019. That was the last day in my life that I ever drove a car. It is hard to believe the changes that has led to. I have conversations about it with strangers sometimes and the exchange is for me often surreal.

I was talking to a lady in an RV park. “I don’t drive anymore,” I said.

“Really? Why?”

“Because cars are ugly and uncomfortable and expensive and horrible for the earth and they kill people and they are inimical to the well-being of bicyclists.”

“Oh. Is that all?”


“I would never do that.”


“Because I love my car.”


“Yes. I mean, I actually love it. I really, really love it. I love the way it looks and the way it feels. It gives me freedom and happiness. It takes me places. It’s like magic. My car is so special to me.” Her eyes were shining with a certain intensity that you only see when people talk about their pets, and rarely their children.

I’ve seen people feel that way about their bikes, too. To me, it’s just a thing. I enjoy it and my lifestyle revolves around it, but the bike is fungible. I don’t love it or care about it any more or less than any other roughly equivalent bike that operates mostly the same way for mostly the same amount of money.

A few nights later I’d bivouacked along the river, then set out for White’s Pass, a roughly 25 mile climb. A few miles from the top I saw a couple of small waterfalls and stopped to refill my bottle and empty the peanut butter jar.

The water was amazing. I thought about all the microbes and syphilis that were probably in it but you know, the taste was astonishing. I wondered why it tasted so good. Sure it was pure (except for the gangrene), and sure it was ice cold, and sure it was free, three things that usually add up to yum. But why was it SO yum?

I thought about wine and about how blind taste tests show that Two Buck Chuck meets or exceeds the palate of $100+ bottle of fine Napa wine for the great majority of educated wine drinkers. Then I considered that even though Two Buck Chuck tastes better, it only does so in a blind taste test, and few people drink wine blindfolded unless a dare is involved.

No, the reason that people pay a couple thousand bucks to weekend in Napa and drink great wine is because the esthetic makes the wine taste better. The view, the knowledge that you are at a great chateau, the specifics of the vintner, the vineyard, and the setting sun all create a panorama of knowledge and sensory perception that make the wine taste a thousand times better than Two Buck Chuck.

All of this made me feel sorry for the wine folks, not because there was something missing in the esthetic, but because the water I was drinking tasted far, far better than their most fabulous wine. Why? Because my esthetic was so vastly superior.

My esthetic was a glacier perched on the side of a vast mountain, set beneath brilliant blue skies. My esthetic was the trickle, then the rivulet, then the stream of translucence tumbling down the face of a cliff for thousands of years, scoring it, marking it, carving it into a unique stone face that was broad and vast and more impressive than all the vineyards in Sonoma put together.

My esthetic was the combined effect of hundreds of millions of years of natural processes, not the half-century efforts of a few farmers to cultivate and ferment a grape. On this canvas, the esthetic of the pure glacier melt pouring into my humble water bottle or spraying across my salt-stained face was so grand and all encompassing that it explained perfectly why a simple drink of water was grander than all the grand crus ever vinted.

I finished my glorious lunch of peanut butter and water and pedaled on. It took over three hours to get to the top, and after that I bombed the descent, tearing around a corner only to be smacked in the face with an astounding view of Mt. Rainer.

The road kept falling and eventually led through a small town, where I lunched in earnest on milk and ice cream. From there I pedaled on to a beautiful RV camp site under giant firs. Tent up. Dinner cooked.

The next day was supposed to be easy. All I’d have to do is go over “some gravel” on a “forest road.”

Should … be … fun!


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§ 14 Responses to One thing leads to another

  • Brian Keller says:

    Wonderful stuff, Wanky! Thanks.

  • I can’t say I know all that much about wine, but there is more to it than simply the grape. What makes the grape? It is the climate, and the soil, and the location, and one more thing. The sun. Sonoma, and Napa bring all those things together such that when you add the grape, you get magic. There are magical places elsewhere, and to each it is the location and the soil, and the climate that make the different. Two buck Chuck is good because there is a lot of over-production of decent grapes, and good ole Chuck does a great job blending that over-production into perfection.

    Two years ago, we stood at the melting edge of a vast snow field descending from Glacier Pass in the Eagle Cap Wilderness, and there flowing out of it was the cleanest freshest coldest water you could drink from. I threw caution to the wind and filled my bottle and drank direct. The aesthetic was delicious!!

  • Funny, you described what you saw so well, that when I scrolled up to look at the pictures again, I saw there weren’t any.

  • Richard Robinson says:

    If you get into Mt Shasta the park at the north end of town is where the Sacramento river begins. As a large stream is just flows out of the ground. People come from all over to fill their containers.

    • darelldd says:

      Whole groups go there to light candles and chant about the magical place. And of course there is an enormous bottling plant that takes the clear nectar and runs with it as our capitalistic society requires.

      I have to agree that it is fabulous water!

  • …if you could only bottle that…

  • Vlad Luskin says:

    Gangrene in water is a new one on me, but I’ll take your word about its excellent taste. Personally, I prefer giardia in my spring water.

  • downwinder says:

    I walked to Home Depot today and carried back a gallon of paint in my backpack. I may have been the only customer who walked there today.

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