Wednesday, December 10, 2014


A tired looking friend asked me the other day, 'how do you retire at 53 from a low paying job with mediocre benefits'?  Need less, was all I could reply.  Retirement is about supply and demand.  We tend to focus too much on maximizing supply and not enough on minimizing demand.

When we are working hard and we are making silly money we tend to spend silly money, to justify the singular focus and our time dedication to the working world.  We take extravagant vacations and drive in ostentatious cars, live in outlandish Mc Mansions, eat at trendy restaurants and send our kids to trophy schools.  If you desire that kind of lifestyle in retirement you will be working until you are 106.If you can scale back a bit to reasonable spending levels you can retire at half that age.

You can do all the calculations in the world to determine if there is enough money saved to last forever but when what you really need to calculate is how much do we really need.  Can you down size the house or turn the BMW in for a Hyundai?  Can the kids go to a state school or can you enjoy road trip camping vacations instead of the luxury cruise or the behemoth motor home.  Retirement is cheaper than real life.  There are no commuting fees, dry cleaning fees, fancy wardrobes, lunches, gifts, office pools or parties and other work expenses.  You don’t have to keep saving for retirement either, you are retired.  Earning less will put you into a different tax bracket so there are savings there too.

Saving for a semi minimalist retirement or pension is easy.  When asked what the greatest force in the universe was Einstein purportedly said ‘Compound interest’.  Save five dollars a day for thirty years, the price of a good cup of coffee.  This compounded and increased at a 10% annual rate will give you 1 million dollars.  Then you can withdraw 50,000 dollars a year, forever.  If you need more, save two cups of coffee.  More than 100,000 dollars a year and you are wasting silly money again.

The question becomes, do you really want to retire.  If you love your work, keep working.  If you don’t love your work, life is too short for bad jobs.   Family and friends, passions and hobbies are infinitely more important.  We have everything but time.  Time is money?  Time is equal to money times the speed of life squared.  Minimize, mobilize, monetize.  Retirement is not about money, it’s about choices. 

Choose to reconnect with old and new friends, your spouse and your children.  Retirement is a transition in life and like all transitions it takes time to get used to and enjoy and thrive.  Make it a slow transition if you like.  Maybe just work less.  Retirement does not have to be a hard break where you get the gold watch and go fishing every day.  It can be a gradual lifestyle change.  Phase out the 80 hour weeks and just consult and advise and let the young ambitious folks take care of the details. 

They say that free time is the burden of the lower and upper class but it is the indulgence of the middle class.  Make sure you have a plan and are comfortable with your free time.  Every day is a Saturday when you are retired.  What do you choose to do today?  Have a plan to stay busy, socially, physically, intellectually.  Reinvent yourself.  What do you really want to do?  Enjoy sleeping in, long breakfasts, chores and projects where you have the time to do it right and enjoy the process.  Look forward to things you used to dread because it was just one more thing on your busy to-do list.  Read.  Write.  Consult.  Teach.  Volunteer.  Nap.  Think.  Appreciate.  Need less.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

The only life he has ever known.

Part II – The Road Home

He cajoled his hippy chick kid sister Mary to drive him through the City in his hand me down VW, through the dingy, dark, dangerous and depressing sections of Harlem, and drop him off across the Hudson River at the iconic George Washington Bridge, his gateway to America and freedom.  Four years younger and the spoilt forgotten baby of the family, she had been an early and unending source of aggravation to him but had grown into a fun, funky and funny partner in crime.   She would eventually, accidentally burn up that VW and only lament for her skate board in the back seat with the ‘Grateful Dead’ and ‘Hot Fuckin Tuna’ bumper stickers.  They joyously swung a mad, high speed U-turn at the toll plaza, and as he jumped out she kissed him goodbye and told him to ‘have a great life’.  He was giddy with excitement and trepidation, tasting the freedom, the potential palatable. 

Crossing dreary, overcast and industrial New Jersey was his first challenge.  He found himself hitching with lost and confused soldiers and poor old black men.  They decided they looked too imposing together and that some of them should hide in the bushes.  When they didn't get a ride for an hour or two he came out of the bushes to realize they were all hiding and no one was hitching.   He spent the afternoon fending off drivers in modern convertibles that would rather take him to a motel than to the rolling hills of Pennsylvania.  By the time he broke out into brilliant Ohio sunshine he was bouncing down the freeway in the back of an old pickup, with a fledgling folk singer and his sharp clawed dog, on his deflated air mattress, with his inflated spirits. 

They all spent a hot night in his old college house in northern Indiana, and they split up the next afternoon somewhere between Chicago and the Quad cities, naively promising to stay in touch.  The rest of the trendy Midwest was a blur of heat and humidity, corn and flatness.  Somewhere in the cool of the Nebraska night he felt the imperceptible tug of gravity as they started rising slowly towards the high plains and the Rocky Mountains.  He woke up startled up as the semi he rode in slowed for some cows on the open range freeway.   This wasn’t pedestrian Long Island or the mediocre Midwest, it was the western wilderness.  Somewhere in Wyoming they broke down and he wandered to the fence on the edge of the right-of-way and sat looking out over and endless horizon of sage and sunshine, with nothing spreading out in every direction. 

He was recklessly driving a large panel truck in the early morning while the driver slept and as they rounded a long rolling rise, the Uinta Mountains spread out before him like a long lost friend.  When they popped out of the canyon west of Wanship Utah, the snow-capped Wasatch revealed themselves like a blushing bride, with dozens of peaks, canyons, bowls and resorts and he knew he had arrived. 
He detoured for a day in Park City and slept in the corner on the slanted floor of a little red house above town.   It was cold, clear and casual when he walked down to the bustling Main Street in the morning and gorged himself at a sunny, funky-friendly eatery.  No one was wearing a tie.  When he was done he caught a free, little white bus that drove all around town and he hiked in the woods on the hills like they were his western wilderness and his own backyard.

Eventually he made his way to the west coast beaches of sunny Hotel-California to start his traffic survey job of America.  He was a fledgling transportation engineer and with 20 million drivers, California was a good place to start studying traffic.  He discovered quickly that with so many people and despite its great geographical diversity, California had already been had. It was one endless traffic-jam society predicated on perfect climate and real estate, where people were defined by how they looked and what they drove.  With Proposition 13 freezing tax rates, Californian’s wondrous infrastructure and excellent educational system were already in a seedy decline.  It was a tawdry mimicry and a mockery of the modern American dream, complete with all its superficial excess and obliviousness.  He could not check out fast enough.

 In the late 70’s Disco was all but dead but the digital age had not yet been born.  A Deadhead by default to avoid Disco, he wandered up to Seattle before Bill Gates, Curt Cobain or Eddy Veder arrived and the place was a quaint northwestern backwater of flannel shirts and grungy music.  Chris-crossing the country again, this time in rental cars and jets, he was enchanted in Santa Fe by the native songs, disappointed in Dallas where they proudly played only country and western, and he discovered Punk in Austin with tattoos and piercings galore.  Colorado was majestic but had too much of that John Denver, Rocky Mountain High and contrived Mork and Mindy groovy-ness to be genuine.  Arizona had Winslow but no Flat-Bed-Fords, and the Grand Canyon, where he dashed around tourists and burros to the bottom one day in 120 degree heat.  He kept thinking of that little resort town in Utah that was playing his song.  

Temperatures dropped in the land of the wind-chill-factor as he explored the Lake Woebegone ambiance of Minneapolis and the damp and dirty, working class pubs of Milwaukie.  He felt a migratory urge to go back to school, but that ship had sailed so he wandered down to the sweaty south and Cajun New Orleans, the sordid underbelly of the country.   He spent a Jazzy but disillusioned Halloween there with frat boys puking on Bourbon Street and Sorority girls displaying their tawdry wares off bulging balconies to the adoring crowd below.  Finishing his trip in the raw weather of colonial and claustrophobic Boston before Thanksgiving, he felt disconnected from all the college kids there and the approaching overcast and overbearing New England winter.

 He turned down several grad school opportunities and lucrative engineering jobs back east, realizing that to be a traffic engineer you had to live where there is traffic, and he hated traffic.   He decided traffic flows like water and water is king out west, so west he would go, and become a western water guy.  Water was in his blood.  He finally had a plan.  He celebrated his last nostalgic family Thanksgiving back in the damp, heart wrenching cold of New York. Then he nervously loaded his old station wagon with his skis, stereo, a new suitcase and two old friends and headed back out west to that little ski town that shone in comparison to everything he had seen and experienced the past two seasons on the road.   

He didn’t know what he wanted but he knew what he didn’t want.  New York was old and dirty, the Midwest flat and boring.  Oregon was too ‘granola’, Washington too rainy, California too crowded, Colorado too cool, Wyoming too bleak, Montana too cold and Arizona too hot.  Utah was edgy, unknown, under the radar, unexploited, an unexplored wilderness.  When he rolled into Park City in late 1979, it was a sleepy town of endless potential and unlimited possibility about to explode, and it was snowing.  He quickly met an older, Mormon, Hippy Chick and the local engineering firm needed a water guy to help them build ski resorts in the woods.  No ties required.  His spirit soared.  Perfect, he thought,  Home. 

Home, that’s where I want to be,
But I guess I’m already there.

David Burn

Wednesday, November 19, 2014


He was born under Eisenhower skies,
by a Kerouac Stream.
Jack helped build the Pentagon,
Ike built the highways we drive on.

John Gorka

Part I – The Ties That Bind

Born in 1957 into the post-war prosperity of the late fifties and the Dr. Spock permissiveness of the sixties, as the forgotten middle child in an Irish, German, Romanian middle class family, it’s no wonder he grew up as an intoxicated, anal-retentive gypsy wanderer.  Blissfully located between sweltering New York City and the simmering Long Island bays and beaches, his safe suburban Ozzie and Harriet home allowed him to wander far and wide and experience everyone and everything he could, as long as he was home by six for dinner. 

At an early age, his school teacher mother Nancy would escort him across his busy suburban road and he would be gone for the day.  He would holler for her to cross him back when he returned or he would lay down and gaze at the puffy clouds and nap on the grass until she found him for dinner.  All the houses on his street looked the same but he had no problem finding his own since it was full of love and light, warmth, humor and family. 

When he came home from fishing the Great South Bay one day, he proudly showed his mom the three fish he caught for her, swimming lazy circles in his bucket.  After dinner he checked them out and they didn’t look good.  He woke in the middle of the night to find one fish belly up and the other two suffocating.  He woke his mom up crying and she put on her bathrobe and drove him to the Bay so he could put the fish back.  His brother called him a sissy but his mom called him brave.

To the joy of his mother, dismay of his dad, and aggravation of his teachers, he was a comedian, class clown and a smart ass.  He was bored with school and had more fun making his classmates laugh with his wit and couched wisdom.  He incurred the wrath of his teachers, brothers, nuns and priests and withstood their physical and mental abuse as part of the game.  He developed a manipulative, optimizing, faux respect for authority and did very well dealing with nuns, police, coaches, bullies and bums.  Leading with humor became a good way to diffuse, engage and befriend almost anyone.

When he comically refused to remove his clip-on Christmas tie for breakfast as instructed, and then proceeded to drip the traditional lamb kidney gravy all over it, his holiday–stressed mother ripped it from his neck and submerged it directly into the gravy boat.  The family all looked nervously at each other for a second and then broke into an empathetic howl.  They were a tight knit clan where humor ruled and independence was encouraged, but in the end they had some problems letting go.

His father, Arty the Smarty (the best daddy on the block) taught him how to work hard, ride a bike, ski and skate, throw and catch almost anything and to love water.  His dad was a public works director and a water guy.  He often took him to the beach and into the ocean surf.  Jones Beach, off Long Island’s Atlantic shore, was a huge public beach built in the Depression with bathhouses and swimming pools, which were served by elegant Parkways for the automotive-mobile middle class. 
At any one time it could be filled with half a million bathers from the suburbs or the BBQ borough city folks (Brooklyn, Bronx and Queens).  It was a huge expanse of fine sand and surf where it was sometimes difficult to find a spot to place a blanket or play on a wave.  It looked like a human ashtray with a million butts stuck in the sand.  Later he learned to ride his bike or hitch-hike to the beach and eventually drive his own car, but that wasn’t half as fun as going with the family. 

His dad taught him to ride the big waves and dive under them or flip out the back door when they got too big.  Despite the power and persistency of water, the wave would always let him up and the undertow would always release him.  He became so comfortable with water and the sea that one day he fell asleep on an inner tube and floated out to sea so far that they had to get a boat to go out and wake him up and bring him home.  He caught hell for that.  Water, like dad, was to be respected and revered but never feared.

His dad also took him to the burnt-out South Bronx, in the dead of winter, to witness the poverty and filth of the failed social-engineering of the neighborhoods around Yankee Stadium, and to watch the New York Football Giants.  New York seemed to him to be black and white in the 60’s and barely brown in the 70’s, sepia colored like an old photograph.  His father held his hand and slowed his pace so he could keep up in the mob-scene melee around the stadium before game time.  There is no place colder in the world than a steel and concrete stadium on a cold and damp December day but there is nothing warmer than a fathers ungloved hand, gentle guidance and unspoken understanding.  His sadness and fear of the city evaporated when they entered the arena and he saw the phosphorescent Technicolor of the players and playing field contrasted with the dark and gloomy New York Courthouse buildings overhanging the outfield bleachers.  The dichotomies and injustice of the world loomed equally strange.

One of his first and fondest memories of The City, as Manhattan is called, was when they dropped his grandparents off at the Queen Elizabeth luxury linear on the west side docks that lined all of Manhattan Island in those days.  He was barely 6 or 7 but he and his brother explored all of the ships nooks and crannies.  They contemplated stowing away in the lifeboats and going to Europe with grandma, wherever that was.  Then a serious sailor in a silly hat came around ringing a bell and yelling, ‘All ashore that’s going ashore’, whatever that meant.  They quickly found their parents, disembarked down a slippery gangplank over spooky, murky waters and waved goodbye to his grandparents and the sailing ship as it pulled away.

They headed home over the Brooklyn Bridge, a bridge older than grandma herself, and drove up the Belt Parkway towards the Verrazano Narrows in the pewter twilight.  He looked with childlike wonder across New York Harbor at Staten Island, the Statute of Liberty and a new giant bridge they were building, the largest bridge in the world.   The unfinished roadway decks reached for each other from the towers on opposite shores, across an impossible gap.  Just at that moment, sailing under the massive unfinished bridge was grandma’s boat, chugging out to sea.  My God, he thought to himself, this is a wild wonderful world we live in.

His older brother Mark was his sibling rival and they fought as relentlessly as bear cubs.  Irish twins, he was always known as the little one and had to prove himself constantly to the big boys.  When they sat their bikes on a big hill looking down at a steep slope and daring each other to ride it, he dropped in and center punched the thing, on his tricycle, without hesitation, crashing dramatically breaking his arm and smashing his balls ignominiously.  His proud older brother brought him home and held him while he cried on the back stoop until his father came home from work, since they dare not go inside and disturb his mother’s nap.  His conservative and dutiful older brother followed his father’s lead and advice, married his college sweetheart, had 2.5 children and grew to be a lifelong soldier.  They eventually grew to understand each other with their different outlooks on life and, after many years, made their peace.

With his friends on Long Island he would make forts from old refrigerator boxes, climb the snow plowed hills like it was the Antarctic and follow the garbage truck around, just to find out where they went.  He sought out the small pockets of woods and wildness where he would run and ride, build forts and clubhouses and rustle in the crunchy dry leaves when winter approached.  He ran around in the woods as his alter ego, Rojo the Indian boy, with his invisible dog Woody and they were friends to all the animals in the woods. 

School was social and easy and always full of good friends.  The guys and girlfriends were always his focus with the fear-of-anything being the furthest thing from his mind.  Summers were spent swimming and sailing on the coast and winters included short forays to The City and the woods of New England to ski and hike and experience the wilderness that called to him. 

Gina Sweeney and Willy Hooper, were his constant childhood summer companions.  They would laugh constantly and bounce endlessly on the diving boards, smoke cigarettes, drink stolen beer and make out in the woods behind the boats. They shared everything and when they tied in an important swim race, Willy tore the ribbon in half on the podium and gave him his share. 

Willy lived in a huge three story house with a baseball field in the front lawn, across the street from the famous Amityville Horror house where they used to ring the doorbell and run at night when they got bored.  One night they rang it three times in a row and ran and on the third ring the owner sprang out of the door and chased them around the lawn, all of them screaming bloody murder.

Willy went to Amityville high school, sometimes, and when asked one day on the boardwalk what his Varsity letter was for (meaning football, basketball or baseball), Willy replied that the “A” on his jacket stood for “Outstanding”.    When Willy got an old red Honda motorcycle they went home to see it.  After spending a night drinking warm beer on a log in the woods, they just sat on it in his garage.  When they tipped over and lay laughing hysterically on the floor of the garage, pinned under the bike, Willy’s father came down and asked them indignantly what the hell they thought they were doing.  They unabashedly answered “we are going for a ride.”  He said farewell to Willy the night before college when they waved goodbye at the light on Sunrise Highway and Willy made a right to go back to Amityville for good and he made a left towards the rest of the world. 

When Gina blossomed into a fine young woman, she became his first partner and lover, and they shared a mutual respect and attraction that remains today.  Gina loved gymnastic dancing, Winnie the Pooh and him, not necessarily in that order.  They spent several years rolling around in her basement listening to Cat Stevens and playing Heart and Soul duets on her piano.

 He dated other women, frequently long term and usually named Mary, who were generally way over his head but he could not ever commit.  You accept the love you think you deserve, they say, and he typically broke it off before it got ugly but they often remained lifelong friends.  To him, there is a thick line between love and hate.  He discovered sex early, passion shortly after and love eventually but the importance of partnership and companionship remained paramount in his choices and commitments.

He naturally adopted an east coast work ethic and in third grade he could not wait to bust out of class to deliver his newspapers like a real working man.  Raking leaves, shoveling snow, mowing lawns became his obsession but he never really paid any attention to the money.  It got deposited and recorded with a stamp in his little bankbook, savings for college.  He learned that the middle class was where the fun was and where he wanted to be.  Leisure time was the bane of the upper and lower classes. 

They belonged to Yacht Clubs, summered in the Hamptons and went to trophy private schools but they lived hand to mouth and loved it.  His sister used to claim that they were so poor they couldn't afford a can so for fun at night they played kick- tree.  He worked for a summer for his dad’s town water department for two dollars an hour, painting fire hydrants by walking around with a little wagon with a can of red and white paint.  At school he was a cook in the dining hall and worked in the engineering lab.  He moved up to lifeguard for a few years, the world’s best job, but became a victim of his own ambition and parental expectations, accepting a summer intern job, and an introduction to reality, as a traffic engineer in New York.

When he got his first Sting-Ray bike his horizons expanded over all of Long Island and when he got a car they stretched to the entire country.  When he got an education, the world was his oyster and he took a big bite.  No matter where you grow up, whatever climate or landscape, it becomes your norm, your base, from which you explore the rest of the world and judge the rest of your life.  The voice in your head, the narrator of your life, your conscience, your soul, grows and changes and matures with you but it is always consistently you.

High school was a blur of beers and books, buddies and Brothers so when he busted out and took off the uniform tie he wore for 12 years, he had the confidence of naive youth and the credentials of a successful slacker.  He had learned that even bullies and phonies, criminals and douche-bags look good in a tie so he swore to never wear one again to hide who he truly was. College was the same oppressive academically fueled bacchanalia and confirmed his dabbling nature as a reluctant enthusiast and the value of a noncommittal token effort.  

From the gritty Holden Caulfield prep schools of New York to the bucolic, ivy quads of Notre Dame, he developed the left and right sides of his personality.  The strict discipline and character building environments of home and school served him well without damaging his fragile ego, inflated self-esteem or his considerable false-confidence.  He found out how to learn in grammar school, how to think in prep school and how to solve in college, one step at a time.   

He did everything his parents expected of him, and more, but realized he would never make them completely happy.  A lover of writing, books and New England, he compliantly went to Notre Dame for his mother and majored in engineering for his father.  At his graduation he was berated by them, after an honor ceremony where he won a special prize for technical writing, for being the only person on the stage who was ‘not wearing a tie’.  They could almost appreciate the man he had become but not approve of it in their controlled generational, frame of reference.  Love was unconditional, approval had to be earned.

So he struck out on his own, to find happiness for himself.  He left his girlfriend standing at the curb with his best friend, in the soft summer rain, and returned to oppressive New York for three days after graduation to drop off most of his baggage.  The golden boy, turned black sheep, he couldn't even stay long enough for his own graduation party.  He was confused and lonely, in his old home and in the greatest city in the world.  So he hit the road to the west coast to start his first job, life adventure and an endless road trip. 

Part 2 - The Road Home...   Next week.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Put on your hat.

At a climate conference at USU last year it was explained that the traditional locations for the low and high pressure centers and the jet stream, during different seasons, are changing and these early cold blast are the results (as well as the California droughts, hurricanes and typhoons).  With wind chills below zero I thought I would share my Polar Vortex survival and fashion hints.

1     Raging breakfast fires.  Fireplaces are not just for night time, ambiance-snuggle fires.  Nothing starts the day like a blazing morning fire.   Keep it stoked all day.  It will keep you stoked.

2     Upgrade layering from the skin on up.  Use a long sleeve tee shirt to start your layering and then go to wool, fleece and down.  No cotton next to your skin.  Cotton cools.  Cotton kills.

3     Wear good socks.  Break out the ski socks.  Wear shoes or slippers indoors.  Warm feet = warm heart.  Wear good shoes and boots outside.  

4     Flannel Pants.  A friend turned me on to this years ago,  Nothing is colder than a thin pair of cotton blue jeans, nothing is warmer than double layered pants.  Also think about flannel sheets for your bed!

5     Inside hats.  You don't have to be a gangster, rapper or hipster to enjoy the benefit of a nice stylized wool hat around the house.   And you won't have to wash your hair as much.   60% of our heat is lost through the top of our head.  If your hands are cold, put on your hat.  Hats are cool too.  Join the trend.

6    Outside layering is critical too.   Pile it on.  Adjust to changing temps proactively.  Don't sweat, don't shiver.  Warmth is cumulative, take care of everything, neglect no parts.  Don't let it get away from you even for a short while because it can be hard to catch up if you have lost your core heat.  Your body will shut down extremities to protect the core and your critical organs.  KNow how long you will be out.  Know your vulnerable areas and take care of them.  Consider wind and humidity.  Being cold just means you don't have enough on.

7     Put gloves on and leave them on.  Mittens are warmer but you have to take them off to do anything.  Keep your wrists and ankles warm.

8  Consume warm fluids and foods.  Store fat.  It insulates, lubricates, protects and is the most efficient way to store energy.  Fat is underrated.  If you are too skinny and cold, have a hamburger.  

9     Embrace the climate and the cold, the drama of the extremes.  We can change climate, and we have, but in the mean time, go with it.  Half of life is our reaction to changes and adversity.  Think warm thoughts.  Relax.  Let the blood flow.  

10     Evolve, adjust, adapt and improvise to the weather.  Don't dress for yesterdays weather.  Dress for today.  It is what it is, the ultimate in 'take what we get'.  Pay attention.  Take care of the kids and pets, strangers, the homeless, your partners and yourselves.

If we all wore sensible clothes in the winter, inside and out, we could turn the heat down, save a million barrels of oil a day, burn less carbon, save the climate, establish energy independence, and realize world peace.  

Save the world, put your hat on.


Thursday, October 30, 2014

Transportation Planning

I went to the County Transportation open house the other day and pleasantly discovered that it was standing room only.  Traffic and water seem to be the major issues for the future of Park City and Summit County.   In a sense they are the same problem since traffic flows like water with pressures and friction, laminar and turbulent flow, supply and demand. Water, however, flows towards money and we have plenty of that.  Unfortunately you can’t buy your way out of a traffic jam. 

With exponential population growth predicted for the state and the county, it is good to see that the county has several creative ideas for the inevitable future traffic jam, rather than trying to pave our way out of it.   Much of these ideas involved fewer cars in Old Town and more bus, train and gondola usage by visitors, locals and day skiers alike.   Some of them even involved ameliorating general Old Town congestion and air pollution as well.  When Vail builds their model, walkable villages in the parking lots at PCMR and Canyons and charges 30 dollars a day for parking there, we will all be scrambling for the bus or the satellite and intercept parking lots.  Economics is the noxious planning stick here and the carrot incentive.  Look to Colorado if you want to see the future of Park City, with tons of busses, satellite lots, paid parking and endless roundabouts

The first step, however, is to take advantage of the existing infrastructure we have now.  Highway 224 is the critical collector artery for this area and should be fully actualized and computerized to coordinate and maximize traffic flow, in real time, for cars, busses, bikes and pedestrians.  Either UDOT is ignoring us or they are totally incompetent or malicious.  They have not put the money, time or effort into maximizing this highway despite the economic activity that depends on it and the taxes paid by its users. 

Consider a hypothetical example; The north bound left turn lane actuator from 224 to Payday Drive, has been broken for most of this year.  This is usually because of water infiltration into the actuator in the pavement and/or freeze thaw damage.  The broken presence detector therefore defaults to switching on the left turn light every cycle when no one is there and everyone heading south to Park City has to wait, for nothing. If an average of 5 people, paid 50 dollars an hour (these are plumbers and real estate agents damn it), and they wait unnecessarily for half a minute per 2 minute cycle, it amounts to over sixty dollars an hour, 1500 dollars per day and over half a million dollars per year of lost productivity and wasted time.  Now multiply that by the 10 lights between and I-80 and Deer Valley and you have some serious waste and incentive to invest to make this system the best it can possibly be. 

This is not rocket science.  I worked on a computerized traffic system for roads like this in New York in the mid 70’s with rooms full of large computers that have since been replaced with a chip the size of your phone.   California currently does the best job at signal timing and real time actualization in the world, because they have to.  Their methods and technology should be adopted here to maximize our infrastructure before we start building bus lanes, parking lots, trams and trains to solve this problem.  Let’s go for the low hanging fruit first. 

Finally, the most important component of a traffic system is the nut behind the wheel.   Let’s start proactively modifying our behavior as well, to cut waste and costs and to maintain our quality of life.  Let’s get on the busses, let’s put our kids on their busses.  Let’s carpool and consolidate trips, let’s walk and ride our bikes when we can.  Let’s reduce access to Old Town, and limit the events there.  Let’s give financial incentives to car pools and ride the busses to the resort and events.

Let’s all be our own traffic reduction and calming example with minimal, kinder, gentler usage and be an alternative model to our car crazy culture.  If we cannot solve this problem here, in our progressive microcosm with unlimited funding, what are the chances for Salt Lake, California and the entire country?  The future you save may be your own. 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Canyons Golf Corse Review

We went on a bike ride through Canyons the other day.  The new golf course, although controversial and probably unnecessary, looked amazing.  It appeared like someone photo-shopped Pebble Beach onto Park West.  What was a pile of rocks two months ago has been transformed into sweeping fairways, vertical tee boxes and expansive greens.  The 360 degree views were expansive and highlighted all the beauty of this area.

Most of the holes fit the landscape but some of them looked forced and contrived.  I rode up ten switchbacks to the tee for # 10 and it was steeper than Mojo - Puke Hill.  The hillside had been decimated for this signature hole when reasonable tea boxes would have fit the terrain much better and minimized the disturbance.   It looks tricky and quirky and hopefully not goofy. We do get a flush of red water in Silver Springs when it rains and Willow Creek flows but hopefully that will clear up as their re-vegetation takes hold.  Unfortunately the activity on #10 above the Silver Spring water source has possibly disturbed the flow quantities and water quality of the natural spring we depend upon.  For everything that we gain, there is something that we sacrifice.  You don’t get something for nothing.

Several holes encroach upon the highway and adjacent condos.  Unfortunately the holes were not designed to steer golfers away from these unnatural hazards.  Sand traps are erroneously placed that will consciously and sub consciously steer golfers towards the highways and condos and make the preferable landing zones small an unobtainable.  The solution may be some huge fences along 224.  This may make for a good golf course but not for a good neighbor.  Good sand traps make good neighbors.

They dumped enough water on it this summer for a small city and were helped by copious and timely rain, so the place looks like a phosphorescent Ireland.  Willow Creek has been re-plumbed, rebuilt and revegetated nicely to compliment the golf layout (anything would have been an improvement).

We do get a flush of red water in Silver Springs when it rains and Willow Creek flows but hopefully that will clear up as their re-vegetation takes hold.  Unfortunately the activity on #10 above the Silver Spring water source has possibly disturbed the flow quantities and water quality of the natural spring we depend upon.  For everything that we gain, there is something that we sacrifice.  You don’t get something for nothing.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Wild Life

We went on a leaf ride the other day above the Park City and looked down on our perfect little model town far below us.  The leaves were mostly muted with a few tremendous patches of lime, yellow, orange and red.  Conifers looked like Christmas trees with Aspen leaves as bulbs. The trail was carpeted yellow.  The woods were alive with wildlife, in full randy rut and anxiously anticipating the hunting season.  We couldn’t see much game but we could smell moose and elk and deer in wafting patches of musk as we rode through the woods.  It smelled like elephants.  We felt privilege to visit the multi-colored home of these majestic beasts, and to leave them in peace at the end of the day.  They are getting ready for winter, as we are, and need this time to fatten-up¸ raise their young and get healthy for the tough season ahead.  C’est la vie.

I heard about the guy in Summit Park who shot a moose for attacking his dog while they walked a trail, in woods, thru the leaves.  Who takes a gun on a walk with their dog on a designated trail?   I forgot my poop bag but I am packing.  Is there something they are afraid of or something we should be afraid of, besides them?  It is artificial leverage and paranoia.  ?  The dog was off leash and deserved to get chased, its evolution and it is only fair.   To shoot the moose for defending its home is cowardice and arrogance, 45 caliber ego.  I heard he was cited for having his dog off leash.  I can’t speak for our State Militia or Second Amendment Rights, but at least we have a well regulated leash law. 

Park City is an amazing place and a tough place to leave for almost anyplace else, especially this time of year.  I had been in California for a while and couldn’t get out fast enough.  I was pleasantly surprised when I came back at how cool, clear, dry and mellow this place really is.  We are the outliers, compared to the rest of the country, and this is a special place full of distinctive people, living a unique lifestyle, who really want to be here.  We have to remind ourselves and each other of how lucky we really are to live in our model little town in a beautiful, recreational and natural setting.  With new sensibilities moving in and taking over, it is important to uphold the old values we have developed together including civility, recreation, reverence and respect for each other and our natural surroundings.

Friday, August 1, 2014


The Tour de France is over.  Finally.  Thank God. The Nibali, Believe it or Not, Tour.  Nibali dominated from start to finish but we have learned with cycling that if something is too good to be true, it usually isn’t .  Fool me once shame on you.  Fool me seven times, shame on Lance.  So I will reserve judgment and wait for the testing and hope against hope.  Again.

Contador and Froome kept falling and eventually had to give up.   Talansky created a new word for courageous indefatigable stick-to-it-tive-ness.  He pulled a Talansky.  He didn’t quit.  He didn’t give up after falling three times.  He finished last, with class, style and heart.  Than he could not go on.  Sagan could not beat the huge German sprinter Krisstoff and never won a stage despite finishing second numerous times and winning the Green Jersey.  American T.J. Van Garderen would have had a podium if he ate correctly on the rest day and not bonked in the Pyrenees.  Ate what you might ask.  Kiwi Jack Bauer lead one stage for 200 km , only to be caught by the peloton and sprinters in the last 10 meters, as usually happens.  Big surprise.  At least he gave it his best shot and then broke down.

Not that I don’t love it.  Not that the sound of those two classy British chaps, flawlessly announcing the three week race, have not become the sound of July and defined my summers for years.  Not that the exploits of these athletes, riding 2000 miles in three weeks at 30 mph, does not continue to astound me. 

I am so astounded  that I tried to ride every day after the live morning broadcast, in simpatico and synchronicity, with sympathy and empathy.  I would watch their massive thighs churning up incredibly steep mountains, pushing gigantic gears with unbelievable accelerations.   I would imagine myself gliding with the pack, sucking along in the peloton as it transforms into a writhing snake, with a mind, heart and soul of its own. 

Then I would go out on my bikes and ride with inspired emulation of my heroes.   I’d ride the mountains, the roads or the trails in my orange jersey, the maillot l’orange, reserved for the oldest guy in the peloton.  I’d ride to the hardware store, to work and to lunch or thru the forest, mountains and back roads.  I would fearlessly short circuit traffic circles, bomb around blind turns and weather the cobblestones and ruts in the rain.  Not 100 miles a day but I would hammer for an hour or three, standing on the hills and tucking the descents. 

I got tired, it got old, I started dreading it and hating the bike.  I took a few rest days and rode my motorcycle around with people on the back, to mimic the impressive race officials and media bikes that keep up with the Tour while hauling a cameraman and camera over the entire circuit.  Finally on the last day I bonked and dragged my sorry ass around for a few hours and limped home like the last guy to finish on the Champs-Élysées.  It’s obsessive, it’s boring, it’s hard.  It is time to do something different, like golf, tennis or SUP.  

The Tour of Utah Starts next week and I have to be ready to ride.  Again.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014


I went out on a ride with my dog Cleo the other day.  Somewhere along the way she found a tennis ball and kept running with it in her mouth, even though it was inhibiting her breathing.  I eventually stopped and took it from her, so she could breathe, but she stared at it so intently I could not toss it away.  I had no pockets in my lycra so I stuck the ball in the spokes of my front tire, like we used to do when we were kids.  Cleo seemed content and we continued along the steep, raised banks of a local stream.

 I slowed at one point to take a look at the stream and as I slowed Cleo became transfixed by the rotating ball and started to try to grab it out of my spokes, with her mouth, because she is a dog.  Fearing she would shear her little face off when she grabbed it, I hit my breaks and pulled my left foot out of my pedal to stop.  Unfortunately I was leaning right, right towards the stream bank.  With no momentum I could not unclip my right foot and toppled over the bank, down the slope and into the stream.  

I was not underwater or drowning but I was upside down in the stream with my bike, watching the tennis ball float away.  Cleo came down the bank and grabbed the ball from the stream and looked at my quizzically.  ‘WTF’ she seemed to emote while smiling at me blamelessly, shamelessly, with the tennis ball in her mouth,’ you humans do the weirdest things’.  I had to laugh.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

A Very Large Array

Driving thru south central New Mexico, my wife and I happened on a spot on the map in a deserted high mountain valley that said VLA.  We were intrigued as we drove down into the valley and saw radio telescopes, equally spaced as far as the eye could see, in the shape of a Peace Sign.  We stopped at a giant one near the road to get a sense of the scale and followed the signs to the visitor center for the Very Large Array (VLA). 

The array was set up years ago, by the government, when it was discovered that the center of our galaxy emits a continuous 3 Watt radio wave.  Further research found that all black holes emit such a wave and mapping them reveals great secrets of the universe.  Jody Foster stared in a movie called Contact, set at the VLA, where she was listening for ET and heard from her deceased father.  There are other arrays, large and small, located across the country and around the world but this one is the Very Large one.  It contains 30-40 huge radio telescopes stretched across the valley with a 14 mile diameter.  They are coordinated and phased in a central operation building and the processed data is available on the internet for all to share.

We went inside the visitor center and were lucky to find that we were there on monthly tour day and the real scientists were running the tour that day to give the normal tour guides a break.  We had two Chilean astrophysicists lead us around and tell us the secrets of the array and of the universe.  One was studying a hole in the universe one billion light years wide with no galaxies or stars.  The other was looking for the 95% of the mass, or Dark Matter, that is missing from the universe from the original big bang.  What a job.

They took us into the control room where an operator was preparing to change the program and the focus of the array for the next research project on his long list.  At the proper time the entire array started to move in unison, like choreographed ballet dancers, towards another spot in the sky, except for one.  Far out on the plain a giant radio telescope went limp on its stand, refusing to move or refocus.  I pointed this slacker out to the operator and he became very agitated, pressed a lot of buttons and asked us to leave the room.  Our guides gave me the stink eye as I mouthed the words ‘I didn't touch anything”.

We continued our tour with discussions on anti-matter, black holes and the place where god lives.  I faded away from the group when the questions deteriorated to topics of the federal government, funding, furloughs, data sharing and immigrants. I focused my attention on the flaccid little telescope out on the plains.  It had finally woken up and was joining the others in their singular focus on the stars and other worlds.  Our guides suggested that I do the same.

Monday, February 3, 2014

The Emerald Mile - Review

The Emerald Mile
By Kevin Fedarko
Reviewed by Matt Lindon of the Friends of the Park City Library

Kevin Fedarko’s book The Emerald Mile was first published in the summer of 2013 and became an instant hit with river rats and water geeks alike.  It is basically the story of the spring of 1983 when the winter snow pack continued to build unexpectedly in the Rocky Mountains until Memorial Day weekend when it all started to melt all at once.  This snow melt runoff caused unprecedented flooding along the Colorado River systems that stressed the Bureau of Reclamation on-stream dams, their engineers and their operators.  From this adversity came an opportunity for a select, almost mythical, group of river runners and guides.  They seized the moment, as well as the high water, and attempted to break the fastest rowing record thru the Grand Canyon.  These stories are seamlessly woven together in this book to provide an enlightening and entertaining story of the various, often competing, special interest groups, and stakeholders of the rivers and the water in the west.

Kevin Fedarko was originally a staff writer for Time magazine and a contributor to Esquire and Outside as well as other magazines.  He is a part time river guide in the Grand Canyon which manifests as respect, almost reverence, for that place and the river that carved it.  This may contribute to his over-the-top storytelling and his fraternity to the culture of the river guides.  Every chapter is an adventure, and every subsequent chapter is an exciting opportunity that is not to be missed.  He also translates the complex hydrologic engineering concepts and numbers into layman terms that flow like water.  The book therefore reads itself and is impossible to put down. 

Along with his complete history of river running and the development of the culture of the western river guides, Fedarko does equally well in describing the operating engineers for the Bureau of Reclamation at Glen Canyon Dam.  They are first seen anxiously watching car sized sandstone boulders shooting from the spillway tunnels and then hopefully putting plywood on the dam’s spillway gates to hold back the relentlessly rising level of Lake Powell.  Only BOR dam operator Tom Gambel really knows how close we really came to losing the dam that year.  From this gripping true story we all become more aware of the power, persistence and patience of the Colorado River from this story.   As these competing cultures converge in a crescendo of crisis, Fedarko navigates the storylines like a well season river guide riding an invisible eddy line. 

The story starts benignly enough at the beginning, where most good stories start.  Don Garcia, a captain in the 1540 Coronado expedition sent to find the seven golden cities of Cibola, accidently stumbles upon the Grand Canyon and is relatively unimpressed.  From that inauspicious first sighting of the Canyon by a white men, to the courageous first navigation of the Canyon in 1869 by John Wesley Powell, the story proceeds systematically to the dam builders, conservationist and the river runners of modern times. 

Martin Linton is presented as the enlightened entrepreneur and environmentalist who perfects the method of running the river in elegant but fragile wooden Dory boats.  He also fights along side David Brower of the Sierra Club against the dam builders for the preservation of the canyon.  His Dorys are subsequently named after environmental tragedies and we are introduced to a beaten and battered boat called the Emerald Mile that is named after an old growth, Redwood clear cut in Northern California.  This bastard boat is adopted by guru guide Kenton Grua and meticulously repaired and rebuilt for its epic run. 

Along with his equally skillful and obsessive friends, Steve Reynolds and Rudi Petschek, Grua ignores the National Park Service closing of the flooded river and, on the night of June 25 1983, launches the Emerald Mile just below the dam into a river swollen to almost 100,000 cubic feet per second.  This book is unmistakably about this historic run but it is wrapped nicely in the other side stories of the canyon, the river, the dams, the conservationists, the guides, the bureaucrats and the competing interests for the American west. 

It could be the text book of a Western Water 101 course and stands among the great books in this category along with Cadillac Dessert by Mark Reisner and Beyond the 100th Meridian by Wallace Stegnar.  The Colorado River is the poster boy for the exploitation of the waters and the resources of the American West and this book is a revelation of the complex consequences that arise when you mess with mother nature, for thrills or for profit.

This is also the story of hubris and arrogance, confidence and adventure and the surprisingly counter-intuitive forces of nature on our unsustainable life style.   It is a rollicking ride full of the hyperbole and didactic exaggeration, courage and legend and the conquering of the gear and the fear that is the lexicon of the river culture.  Strap yourself in and prepare for a frantic and fantastic journey.  You will not be disappointed.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Size Matters

I went skiing the other day far from my home.  When I got there I realized that I had taken one of my boots and one of my wives boots.  Luckily one right and one left.  Unfortunately, she is a 6, I am an 11.  Nonetheless I painfully put them both on, as a penance for being a bone head, and went up skiing.

 It wasn't too bad but I had to adjust my binding to fit her boot and I could only Tele turn to one side on account of my scrunched toes.  I have skied with my boots on the wrong feet once, during my hung over college days,  when I thought it odd that my buckles were rubbing together like never before.   I often ski with my skis seemingly on the wrong feet but this was a new extreme experience.  The four hours of skiing were not bad but the two hours I spent waiting for a downloading tram in the après ski bars became excruciating, since I dared not take off my boots for fear of not getting them back on.   

When I finally stumbled to my car and took off my boots, I expected to see bloody toes and black toenails but found that my foot did not look bad and it felt real happy to get out of that boot.  By the next day my feet had completely recovered and I have determined that size really does not matter.  For ski boots, that is.