By Matt Ord
Last winter, I went to Death Valley and saw about 25 people, but this year, with the wildflowers blooming, the place was a zoo. Hundreds of people parked on the side of the road, trampling into the desert to take selfies, occasionally throwing up the peace sign/duck face combo. To escape the madness, I had planned ahead: We would drive 4x4 trucks to some remote sand dunes. But I hadn’t planned on the weather.
While filling up at the Furnace Creek gas station, we leached their WiFi to check the weather. It called for 50 to 70 MPH winds with a 45 percent chance of rain in the evening. Storms in Death Valley can be very severe, especially when rain is involved, but they’re also beautiful for photos. We said screw it and hit the trail, starting our drive over brain-rattling washboard roads. After an hour, we hit a huge dust storm. We got out and ran into the dust cloud hooting and hollering like kids. After a few minutes of getting pelted by gravel, we got back in the truck to drive through the mountains. Slowly we made our way through the pass on a narrow road skirted by a sheer cliff. The truck’s back end slid out on some of the turns, which made things tense. Once out of the mountains, it was a straight shot to the dunes.
Seeing the dunes in the distance was insane. The wind whipped through the basin so fast it created whiteout conditions. The mountains of sand dwarfed us and the wind licked the top of them, throwing sand like off-shore winds throw water on a wave—they were dancing. When you go out into the wild, there are certain moments when the elements all come together to create magical conditions; this was one of them. We covered ourselves head-to-toe in preparation for the sandblasting we were about to endure. We set out into the dunes dressed like a band of Tusken Raiders. The dune field was upwind, which meant we had to walk straight into the 60 MPH wind. After a few hundred feet up the dunes, I turned around to see if our tracks had been erased, and sure enough, it was like we had never been there. Reaching the apex of each dune was tough, with every step up the dune we slid back half a step. What should have taken seconds took minutes.
While hiking, I had been snapping photos on a dinky little 35mm point-and-shoot. I finished a roll of film right before it died on me. (I don’t recommend changing film rolls in gale-force winds.) That’s when the storm clouds came in. Luckily, my other camera is weather-sealed. We stayed on the dunes for a few hours and tried to capture the rare beauty around us. I was able to snap a photo I had pre-visualized and was pretty stoked about the results.
Just before the sun set, the wind died and the rain clouds moved in. We had been hunkered in the truck for an hour or two to wait out the wind. Sand was everywhere. It got through the vents and cracks in the car and there was a layer of dust on everything. My buddies, tired from driving, fell asleep and I went back outside. I kicked off my shoes and walked back into the dune field, which was oddly silent after the windstorm.
I laid in the middle of the dunes, feeling the cool sand on my back as I sunk into it. I stared at the twilit storm clouds circling above me, hypnotizing me into a limbo state between sleep and consciousness. I would’ve fallen asleep but a raindrop hit my cheek, snapping me back to reality. I sat up to see the last bit of light fade along the horizon. Hues of pink and red lit up the clouds, and I stayed there, watching, as the colors faded to the blues and blacks of night. Walking back to camp, I reflected on the epic day we’d just had. We took a risk heading off-road knowing a bad storm was coming, but with most risks come rewards.
Delivering the magazine around town with BIKETOWN
I used Portland’s new bike share program called BIKETOWN to deliver magazines downtown. Everywhere I went people came up to ask about the bike.
Here’s what they said:
“How heavy is it?”
One old man insisted on picking it up to confirm that it’s super freaking heavy. These bike are designed to hold up like public transportation. They are built solid like tanks.
“How many people can we get on it?”
Two large guys borrowed it to ride down the sidewalk. One sat on the seat the other on the back fender’s solar panel. I bet you could get at least 4 people on one of these. The basket is heavy duty and would make a great place to rest your ass.
“Is it better than having your own bike?”
BIKETOWN is a great alternative to using a taxi, Smart Car, or any sort of oil-powered contraption to get around the city. No parking trouble. No traffic trouble. Heck, it’s faster than the buss. Is it better than my bike? No freaking way broh! My vintage 10-speed with the rainbow stripe and burger-shaped bell is the only bike I will ever love.
“How do you get the bike?”
It’s super easy. Just download the BIKETOWN app on your phone. It took me 5 minutes to set up my account and 5 minutes to walk to the nearest bike rack. See for yourself >>>
“The bright orange makes the bikes more visible on the road.”
Totally, it’s like a silent protest for bike commuters.
“Too bad about the logo”
Yeah, but I can’t think of a bike logo that I love. But then again, I don’t love any logos.
“I heard they designed the bike after a Nike shoe box.”
Oh, yeah. I guess so. I just thought it was orange.
“How do you like the NIKE bike? Swooooosh….”
Oh my gawd! I really don’t give a shit about the big company that helped fund this awesome project. People. Can we please go beyond the superficial look of the bike and look at what this bike program does for the environment and for the general health of the community?
“How much does it cost”
$2.50 for a half hour. $12 for 24 hours, but you only get 180 minutes with each bike. (I rode a bike for longer and got charged a small fee.) $12 a month for a year (90 minutes a day).
"Are there gears?"
Yeah, there are 8 speeds that shift from the handle grip. Lot's of feature are built into the bike like the lights and a friendly bell. Heck, even the part that turns the wheel is built in, so you'll never have to mess with the chain derailing.
“They don’t supply helmets?”
Nope. And sidewalks don’t supply shoes either. I brought my own helmet, but haven’t seen anyone else ride a BIKETOWN bike with a helmet. So it’s totally your call.
“Want to trade?”
BIKETOWN is really cool. You should take one for a ride. But be prepared to talk to random people about the bike. Sign up today >>>
Walking & Talking with Ginew to Ponytail Falls
Photos & Words by Justin "Scrappers" Morrison
The corn bread was dark blue like indigo denim. The corn was personally picked up from the Colorado mill it was made at and brought to this Portland kitchen to bake and eat with friends and family. Erik & Amanda’s brand Ginew is a lot like that cornbread; locally & personally sourced ingredients, intentionally made well, fulfilling, and tasty.
A buffalo skull hangs in their living room. It’s from their wedding in Wisconsin. “We ate that buffalo” Erik tells me as Amanda describes the traditional wild rice and other dishes they made. Their wedding buffalo did more than feed their friends and family though, it helped launch their brand by providing the leather they made their first line of belts from.
Once the hide was prepared, tanned, and hand dried, Erik took it to a leather workshop. “You’re making real buffalo belts? I’ll give you $200 for one right now”, said a guy passing through. And with that a business was born.
Since Ginew’s beginning in 2010 their line has grown beyond leather belts. Their jackets and vests are American made of wax canvas, selvedge denim, and Pendleton wool. Each piece has a strong story holding it up. The rider jacket I wear pays respect to Amanda’s grandfather who commuted weekly from the Mohican reservation to weld for Harley Davidson during the 1950's and 1960's.
Erik is Minnesota Chippewa. Amanda is Oneida & Stockbridge-Munsee. The oak leaf in their brand’s logo is from the tree they were married under. Their cultural heritage influences everything they do. Maybe that’s why the goods Ginew makes are made so well?
Before leaving for work today I told my son that someday he will inherit my jacket. Right then I understood it was built for generations.