Sleep? Who Needs Sleep!, Sunday, August 20, 2018

When last we spoke it was Wednesday, and I was in Utah waiting for Kerry Ward and his intrepid band of canyoneers–Sam Edwards, Sam’s 13 year old son Max, and Kerry Sherman–to make the most challenging slot canyon descent in Zion Canyon National Park.

At the Trailhead
At Lava Point–Kerry Sherman, Max and Sam Edwards, and Kerry Ward

The target was Heaps Canyon. Heaps feeds the Emerald Pools, one of the most accessible and popular features of the canyon. It is so challenging that the first descent of the canyon was not even made until 1982. It is a full-featured canyoneering expedition requiring serious gear–wetsuits, long ropes, harnesses, slings, and rappelling hardware–and features numerous rappels, deep potholes that turn into keepers when not full of water, and culminates in a 280 foot free rappel to the upper Emerald Pool.

Entry to Heaps
The approach to Heaps Canyon

I had dropped off the canyon crew at Lava Point at about 8 am. Sam told me that I could expect them to finish between 4 and 6 pm, which was more than a little bit optimistic given that the guide to Heaps says that the descent can take from 12-20 hours. The expedition began with an 8 mile hike just to get into the canyon, and I had heard from Kerry Ward about 10:30 that they had reached the mouth of the canyon in very good time.

Later that afternoon I explored the park a bit and found that the trail up to Emerald Pools was closed, so around 5 I headed down to the Visitor Center where I would wait for them. As the day wore on I noticed some serious cloud buildup north of the canyon. This was a cause for great concern as one of the dangers of any slot canyon trip is the possibility of flash flooding. Sure enough, by around 6 the skies had darkened, thunder and lightning had commenced, and light rain was falling at the Visitor Center.

EUP by www78 on Flickr Edit
Final rappel sequence for Heaps Canyon. The second rappel is 280 feet. Image from Flickr www78.

As 8 pm and darkness approached I began to worry in earnest. There are a lot of things that can go wrong in a descent like this, and I had visions of them dropping their long rope and not being able to make the final descent. That would not be a huge problem under normal circumstances as there would be a lot of visitors to the Emerald Pools who could be notified and seek help. The trail closure nixed that possibility!

I was waiting at the shuttle stop as shuttle after shuttle appeared with no canyoneers. I noticed a very worried looking gentleman who was also anxiously watching shuttles. I found out that he and his wife and daughter had been hiking in the Narrows, had become separated, and they had been unable to locate the daughter. The gathering storms were also feeding his anxiety.

Sam Takes a Leap
Entering the canyon. Most folks rappel down, but that’s too slow for Sam.

Finally, just before 8 I received a text from Kerry W.  They had successfully exited the canyon, were hiking down the closed trail, and would soon be on a shuttle heading down to the VC! About 5 minutes later my co-worrier got a call from the rangers that his daughter had been located at the last shuttle stop before the Narrows (the Temple of Sinawava) and was on a shuttle down to the VC.

Heaps Narrows
In the narrows.

When she arrived she was very angry with her parents, and I wondered why. After becoming separated the parents had come out of the Narrows. They didn’t find the daughter at the shuttle stop, assumed that the daughter (who had been behind them in the Narrows) had gotten on a shuttle and gone back to their prearranged rendezvous at their car at the VC.

Finders Keepers
My fears of them losing a rope proved unfounded. They actually returned with about 600 feet of rope that had been lost/abandoned by other groups.

They took the shuttle down, didn’t find her, and made a fatal mistake–they got in the car and went looking for her, moving the car to a different location. My guess is that the daughter had come down after they moved the car, didn’t find it, and took the shuttle back up to where she had last seen her parents and where she had been waiting anxiously for them until the rangers canvassed the location. Kind of a comedy of errors!!

Final Rap Setup
Sam setting up the last rappel. Getting late, but still light out!

The shuttle with the canyon crew finally arrived about 9, and we all headed to Springdale for a well-earned dinner. Then it was back to St. George, where we arrived at Sam’s at 10:30. No rest, however, when hanging with Ward, as Kerry and I were headed back to LA! I drove the first leg to Primm, Nevada, Kerry took over until Barstow, and then I drove the last leg to the Morgan Castle in the Hollywood Hills. I dropped Kerry there, headed back to Long Beach, and got home at 5 am, which is when I usually get up!

My Costume
Me in costume at Versailles with a couple of new friends.

I had a lot to do, so after I slept for a couple of hours I got up, went to my 11 am Pilates class at Pilates X, and then it was off to my costume fitting at Bianca’s Historic Costuming! I had been invited to a costume party Friday at the Morgan Castle. The theme was “Let them Eat Cake Party at Versailles”. The Morgan’s are serious costume partiers, and I am costume challenged so had decided to seek professional help. Bianca and her husband Peter expeditiously fitted me with a great period costume.

I had a decent nights sleep, was up at 5 as usual, worked out, took a Pilates class, had a nap, and then drove up to the Morgan Castle in the Hollywood Hills for the epic costume party. A little after 1 am I managed to extricate Kerry Ward from the party–not a trivial task as he is traditionally the life of any party he goes to–and I drove him up to Big Bear where he planned to rendezvous with his friend Dax Orion Hock.

Party scene by Baxter Zappa
Dancers at the party–photo by Baxter Zappa

Dax, along with his wife Sarah, is a world champion swing dancer, and they are the owners of the Lindy Loft in downtown Los Angeles. About a year ago he expressed an interest in doing an ultra marathon. Since then Kerry has been mentoring him in that endeavor, and he finally felt that he was ready for his first 100 miler. Dax had started the Kodiak Big Bear 100 ultra at 8 am on Friday, and Kerry wanted to meet him at the Sugarloaf aid station to pace him through the last 30 miles.

Dax was faster than expected, and we left the party a little later than planned, so we missed Dax on his first pass through Sugarloaf. Kerry grabbed a bit of sleep in my car while I watched for Dax. When Dax arrived just about at dawn they were off for the last 20 miles of the race. Dax finished at about 11 am for a total time of 27 hours and was first among all male non-professional runners, a pretty spectacular result for a first timer!

Then it was the long slow drive home. Mid day traffic on I-10 was a whole lot worse than middle of the night traffic, but eventually I dropped off Kerry at the Morgan Castle and made it back to Long Beach just after 5 pm. Between Tuesday morning at 5 am when I got up and Saturday at 5 pm, a span of 108 hours, I had gotten a total of 13 hours of sleep. I will be getting some needed rest over the next few day. No rest for Ward, though. He was off today for a job Monday in Charlotte, NC, then back to Vancouver where he will gear up for the long drive to Burning Man!

Gretchen’s Automotive, August 11, 2016

Back in the spring of 2002 I had gotten myself out of debt and had accumulated enough cash that I could actually think of making a down payment on a house. I drove my car up to the Mt. Baldy ski area for a day hike, and when I returned to my car it would not start. Having no other options available I had it towed in to the nearest Pep Boys. They checked it, said the timing belt had failed, and replaced that. Since they were already working on the car (1995 Dodge Neon Sport Coupe) I also had them do a tune-up on the car.

Fast forward a couple of days, and on my way home from work there was a loud bang and a lot of smoke from the engine compartment. On investigation it turned out that one of the spark plugs had blown out of the engine, an event that ruined the engine and required me to spend almost $3000 to have it replaced. That both set me back a bit on my plan to move to Long Beach and highlighted the importance of having a mechanic and a repair shop that one can trust.

Happily, just a few months after I moved to Long Beach one of my good friends, Todd Kelm, opened up a repair shop in town and I was his very first customer. Since then I have had an easy answer to any question about where to go for automobile service, and that answer is Gretchen’s Automotive. Yesterday I needed to take my car in for routine servicing. I arrived at 7:30, had to wait about 10 minutes until the service writer appeared, left the car, went for a walk, and got a call just after 10 letting me know that my car was finished; that kind of service turnaround is par for the course at Gretchen’s. When I was still working I would drop my car in the morning and would be given a ride to work on the other side of town, and when it was done I would be picked up and delivered back to the shop. That kind of service makes life much easier!


When Todd’s not out tooling around in the Gretchen’s racing boat, a boat which has done quite well over the years in the Catalina Ski Race with Todd at the helm, he runs a very tight ship at Gretchen’s. The shop is thriving, and the reason for that success is the repeat business generated by the friendly and reliable service it provides. It’s great to have a master mechanic in the family!


My Body Mechanic, August 3, 2016

My body is very different than it was 5 years ago, or even from where it was 6 months ago. I have shed 60 pounds, remediated a foot problem that had hobbled me for more than 10 years, and made tremendous advances in core strength, flexibility, and stability. I have not accomplished all of that alone, and in fact all along the way I have availed myself of the services of experts in various fitness regimens. In short, I have assembled a team, known henceforth as “John’s Team”, and one of the purposes of my blog is to highlight those individuals who both currently and in the past have made valuable contributions to my progress.



I was looking forward to an appointment that I had with one of those team members, my body mechanic Donna Place from Long Beach Gyrotonic, for this past Monday, but she had gotten overbooked. Fortunately, though, she was able to squeeze me in for an appointment today. Donna knows the body inside and out; she knows what’s in there, how it all hooks together, and things that can be done to correct existing problems and prevent future issues. Donna has certifications in Pilates, Dance, and Gyrotonics. She teaches Kinesiology at Orange Coast College and also is a trainer of prospective Gyrotonic practitioners. Donna is a master of all things fascial, and I don’t mean cosmetics, but that stuff that holds your muscles together. Most importantly, though, she has the requisite “thumbs of steel”. And elbows, knees, or whatever it take to make an impression on stubborn tissues.


Long Beach Gyrotonic itself is a space shared by several lovely ladies who practice a variety of healthy arts, Gyrotonics, Pilates, and Rolfing among them; it is a full service body shop, well equipped with Pilates, Gyrotonic, and sundry other equipment. My philosophy about keeping fit is that it is important to invest in yourself. All too often I hear people balk at doing something like yoga classes because “it’s too expensive!”, but I think that  money spent on fixing myself is money well spent. It is well worth the investment to develop relationships with professionals who can get to know your body with all of its quirks to help you work out all the kinks!


Sunday Morning, July 31, 2016

As usual, my Sunday routine started with riding my bike to George’s 50’s Diner for breakfast. It is another of the places where I am known and welcomed. I have a usual spot at the end of the counter, and on at least one occasion I saw Helen, the waitress, actually reseat someone who had had the nerve to sit in my place when she saw me coming! The cooks are already making up my mushroom and cheese omelet before I even take my seat. There was a minor crisis, however, as my Kryptonite bike lock was refusing to unlock, but an application of WD-40 provided by the staff solved that problem, at least for now.


I am now at another of my coffee shop regular stops, DRNK Coffee House in Bixby Knolls, where I get my Sunday morning caffeine fix. It’s a big day for the DRNK family as the wedding of DRNK manager Mildred and her girlfriend Michelle will be happening later this afternoon. That is an event that has been eagerly awaited for months by DRNK staff and friends!


In a little bit I will ride back home, shower, and then it is off to the highlight of the day, class with my yoga muse, Ramona Magnolia Tamulinas at Yoga World Studio!


Raven Cafe, July 9, 2016

It is almost 9 pm, and Jeremiah and the Red Eyes just finished their first set at the Raven Cafe. As expected the sound here is awesome, thanks to the efforts of Jacob the sound man extraordinaire. The band (only Jeremiah and Matthew Magener, the drummer, made the trip) is ripping it up. In the featured image above you can see Jeremiah and his flying fingers captured, and you can see some videos that I have posted on my Facebook page.

Above on the left is Jacob, and on the right you can see the sound booth above and the stairs that Jacob has been running up and down dialing in the sound. Jacob does have a complaint–he also has to do gaffer’s duty using the special tool, the BFS2.0** (a replacement for the BFS1.0 which snapped), and the management will not spring for any gaffer’s tape for him. C’mon, Raven, he works hard, so make his life a bit easier!


Tomorrow I will be taking a morning yoga class, and then it is off to Albuquerque on the next leg of the trip.

** Big Fucking Stick 2.0


Starbucks, Prescott, July 9, 2016

I am now at Starbucks in Prescott, rehydrating with a Passion Fruit iced tea after taking yet another class at Sutras Yoga. Today’s class was a donation class taught by rotating teachers, and today’s instructor was Jason. A couple of the questions I had yesterday have been answered. First, the extensive preparation for class (setting out mats, blocks, bolsters, blankets, etc.) that I saw in both Cristina and Jason’s classes are indeed idiosyncratic to those two. As Jason put it, he and Cristina are kindred souls, and he knew that when he found out that she practices at home on a pink mat, just like he does. I also found out what services are available in the dedicated Healing Room…


Last night I had dinner and entertainment at the Raven Cafe. Dinner consisted of their salmon dinner along with a pint of porter, and the entertainment was an outstanding blues performance by the R. D. Olson band as this was the occasion for their CD release party. I was pretty close to the action as the piano (and saxophone) player was practically sitting at my table. The food and beer were good, the music was great, and I was particularly impressed by the sound man at the venue. One of the places I used to like to go in LA when I got out more was Genghis Cohen, and one of the reasons I liked it so much was the sound was always great due to the efforts of their sound man, Terry. At the Raven the sound booth is upstairs, and to get from the booth to the front requires going to the back of the store, down the stairs, and then up to the front, and the Raven’s guy was literally running back and forth in order to work out some problems with the console next to the stage.


Tonight I am looking forward to returning to the Raven to see one of my favorite LA area bands, Jeremiah and the Red Eyes. Jeremiah is back on the road following a rather nightmarish solo tour last month that left him stranded in Flagstaff. I guess he never learns, but that’s all to the good as far as I am concerned.

Sutras Yoga, July 8, 2016

1:43 pm, and I am at Starbucks in Prescott. I really like the atmosphere at Wild Iris, but as the wi-fi was not working I decided to move it up the road a bit. I took the Yoga Bliss Yin class at 10:45 with Cristina Hunt at Sutras Yoga. Sutras is a small and very welcoming studio in the heart of Prescott just a block west of the Courthouse Square. One of the notable features of the class schedule are the “Yoga Bliss” classes, and I believe that this term is both the trademark of the owner of the studio, Amber Aten, and an indicator of one of her guiding philosophies.


Entrance to the studio

The interior of the studio is very nicely appointed, comfortable, and very conducive to a calm and meditative practice. There is also a dedicated “Healing Room”, and I am very much interested in finding out more about what kind of healing services and practitioners are available there. The art work on the back wall of that room is pictured above in the featured image.


Interior view, with Jason prepping for class, and Cristina preparing to leave

Above you can see the interior view of the studio. On the left you can see Jason prepping for his Happy Hour Flow class. Both classes I have taken here have made extensive use of props (and picking up props afterwards), and both teachers have spent time before class laying out mats and props for the students. I don’t know at this point whether that behavior is idiosyncratic for Cristina and Jason, or if that is the modus operandi for the studio as a whole. My guess is it is the latter and that is part and parcel of the Yoga Bliss package.

On the left above is the Om Mandala, which is very nicely executed, and on the right is good old Ganesha in all his glory.


Wild Iris, July 8, 2016, 10:00 am

At the Wild Iris Coffee House in Prescott, located conveniently next to my yoga destination, Sutras Yoga. For all my coffee shop aficionados, this is a great place! Spacious, comfortable and loaded with food and drink options, both of the sweet and savory variety.


They also have a macchiato that meets my requirements by not drowning the espresso in milk. Not as cute as the cortado at Steelhead, but still very good. Pictured below you will see a slice of frittata and my macchiato.


The only downside for now is that the wi-if is not working, so this post will be a bit shorter than usual as I am now relying on my wireless access :-(. Not as fast, and potentially expensive…


Steelhead, July 6, 2016

It’s 10:03, and I am at SteelHead Coffee. I just finished my usual breakfast, the cortado and eggs and toast, and had a chat with the folks above. Against the wall you can see Sarvat and Bemmy. Sarvat is a management consultant, and he is today doing some work to support a non-profit, Ocean Discovery, that works to provide students with ocean-based science experiences. Bemmy is a doctoral student in Public Policy at UC Irvine studying urban environmental policy. Across the table is Aziz, Sarvat’s nephew, who is visiting from Azerbaijan. When I asked Sarvat if I could take a picture of him he jokingly said that he was a bit hesitant because he thought that he “looked a bit dangerous”, which is, of course, code for “looks like a Muslim”. It is a sad state of affairs when beautiful people like Sarvat and Bemmy need to have those kinds of concerns weighing on them. They are, by the way, expecting their second child.

As for me, I am getting ready to hit the road. Looks like my first stop will be Prescott, AZ. I was there a couple of years ago and had some very nice yoga experiences that left me hungry for more! I am planning on saturating myself in the environment of Om Sutras School in Prescott. My favorite experience of my last trip was the Sunday morning Yoga Bliss class with Amber Aten, and I see that she is teaching it again this coming Sunday. I need to tie up a few details here and will probably hit the road tomorrow.

Right now it is time to continue my walk over to LA Fitness. My trouble spots (currently left shoulder and right hip) are both feeling much better following my massage therapy with Teresa and my session with Donna Place. It’s kind of hard to categorize what Donna does as she is totally eclectic in her approach; it’s a mixture of gyrotonics, Pilates, deep-tissue massage, and anything else that she knows. Whatever it is, it has been invaluable to me. Yesterday in passing I met another of Donna’s long-time clients and was very envious that she has been seeing Donna on a weekly basis for over ten years. My advice to all of you out there is to find yourself a “Donna”, meaning a skilled and knowledgeable practitioner with thumbs of steel and a wide array of knowledge and skills who will work tirelessly to build you a better body!

Not my typical day…

It’s now 11:28, and I’ve got a lot crammed into one day! Did the usual morning routine, followed by a bike ride to Steelhead for breakfast and then onto LA Fitness for a yoga class with JR. JR does great yoga, and has the vocal quality, intonation, and attention to make the class almost a hypnotic experience. He is a good role model for me at my current stage of development. Most of my teachers to date have been rather willowy and lithe younger women, and the physical constraints on their range of motion and mobility are very different from mine, as in the mythical “easy seated pose”. I most highly recommend that any of you more mature individuals seek out older and more experienced teachers who specialize in making sure you don’t get hurt.

imageBut I diverge! I am now at one of my daily hangouts, the DRNK Coffee House in Bixby Knolls. In top image you see manager Mildred training new employee Gary, while Nieya (like papaya) and Curtis cavort behind the espresso machine. This is a great hydration station for me between LA Fitness, with the added benefit that before I had actually completed my transaction my drink was in my hand. Great to have places where your name is known!

I will now ride home to get ready for a 2 hr massage with my masseuse, Teresa. Our usual is 1 hour, but Teresa has been out of action since April and I had 3 left on my package and both needed and wanted some extra time. Changing my gait has been VERY challenging to my body and I have accumulated barrels of that “insult and injury”, and I find massage to be a very helpful tool in the “dealing with it” phase. I am planning on hitting the road for a few weeks and didn’t want to wait until August to get that attention.

Then it will be off to Long Beach Gyrotonics in Naples where I will be seeing my body mechanic, Donna Place. Our usual day would have been yesterday, but for the 4th, but she managed to squeeze me in for a last minute tune-up. I didn’t get to where I am now alone. I have a team of practitioners who I contract with to help me achieve my goals, and Donna is a key member of that team. There will be more about her in the future.