Archive | February, 2012

Horsetail Falls on Fire

21 Feb

Every February Yosemite waterfall turns to lava

February 19, 2012|Tracie Cone, Associated Press
A window of time just opened in Yosemite National Park when nature photographers wait, as if for an eclipse, until the moment when the sun and earth align to create a fleeting phenomenon.This marvel of celestial configuration happens in a flash at sunset in mid-February — if the winter weather cooperates. On those days the setting sun illuminates one of the park’s lesser-known waterfalls so precisely that it resembles molten lava as it flows over the sheer granite face of the imposing El Capitan.

Every year growing numbers of photographers converge on the park, their necks craned toward the ephemeral Horsetail Fall, hoping the sky will be clear so they can duplicate the spectacle first recorded in color in 1973 by the late renowned outdoors photographer Galen Rowell.

“Horsetail is so uniquely situated that I don’t know of any other waterfall on earth that gets that kind of light,’’ said Michael Frye, who wrote the book “The Photographer’s Guide to Yosemite.’’

“How many are perched on a high open cliff? Most are in an alcove or canyon and won’t get the sun setting behind it. Yosemite’s special geography makes this fall distinctive,’’ he said.

Four decades ago, photographers had only to point and shoot to capture another famous Yosemite firefall — a man-made cascade of embers pushed from a bonfire on summer nights from Glacier Point.

But photographing Horsetail is a lesson in astronomy, physics and geometry as hopefuls consider the azimuth degrees and minutes of the earth’s orbit relative to the sun to determine the optimal day to experience it. They are looking for the lowest angle of light that will paint Horsetail the colors of an iridescent sunset as rays reflect off granite behind the water. It materializes in varying degrees of intensity for the same two weeks every year.

“If you hit it at just the right time, it turns this amazing color of gold or red-orange,’’ said Frye, a photo instructor with the Ansel Adams Gallery in the park.

Adams photographed the fall, but his iconic black and white images do not capture its fiery quality, and it’s unclear whether he ever noted it.

To be successful in photographing the watery firefall, it takes luck and timing, and the cooperation of nature. Horsetail Fall drains a small area on the eastern summit of El Capitan and flows only in the winter and spring in years with adequate rain and snow, which is scarce this year. Experts say it doesn’t take a lot of water for the fall to light up.

Most important, the southwestern horizon must be clear, and February is the time of year when storm clouds often obscure the setting sun.

When conditions come together, the scrawny Horsetail Fall is the shining star of a park famed for its other waterfalls — raging Yosemite Fall and Bridalveil Fall. But Horsetail is the longest free-falling one, with a drop of 1,500 feet before it hits granite and spills another 500.

The fire lights up around dusk and lasts for about two minutes. The best views are east of El Capitan along the main roads into and out of Yosemite Valley. Most photographers gather at the El Capitan picnic area, a small pullout marked only by a sign with a table etched on it. But park officials say the inexperienced can look for the hordes of tripods and cameras to find a vantage point.

 Recent storms and snowfall mean the finicky fall is flowing again, and park officials are hopeful it will last through February 24, which is generally the last day of the year it can be seen. Once an obscure event, park officials say that Internet discussions have made it more popular in recent years.

The popularity is reminiscent of an actual fiery fall that entertained guests in the park from 1930 to 1968. Each summer evening as the sun set, employees of the park concessionaire would build a huge red fir bark fire atop Glacier Point. At 9 p.m., as the fire burned down to embers and the Indian Love Song waned, someone would yell, “Let the fire fall!’’

With long rakes men pushed glowing coals over the 3,200-foot cliff.

Had visitors looked in the opposite direction at a different time of year they would have seen the watery fire-fall of nature.

“There’s no comparison, and I’ve seen both,’’ said park spokesman Scott Gediman. “The natural activities and occurrences in Yosemite are far more amazing and more valuable than the human-made ones — everything from a sunset to wildlife to rainbows at Vernal Fall. There are a lot of amazing things, and they’re here year after year.’’


How to fail at ice fishing

15 Feb

Went to the “Chain o’ Lakes” on Fox river (Lake Catherine, to be specific) in Antioch, IL for an ice fishing derby and failed miserably.

While it was -7*F Saturday morning it has not been overly cold all winter up there and there were still some spots of open water ~500yds out. Combine that with some environmental crap (local gov killing off a species of plant in the water) and we caught absolutely nothing this year.

I’m not sure I’ve ever been this cold. I’ve seen colder on a thermometer but it was always while doing active things. Standing still in a 20+mph wind is retarded. I’m not sure why people do this.

I had a canned beer start to freeze and get slushy before I could drink all of it, and the red solo cups of keg beer… well even a high ABV IPA cant resist the freezing power of that damn wind.


What do you do when you don’t catch shit? Play games.


We even had a camera to look under the ice… and didnt see shit.


Wait, I lied. We did see a fish. It was dead and frozen under 6″ of ice.



Did I mention it was freezing cold out there with zero payoff?

Freediving or as I like to call it… “omgwtfbbqinsanity…why”

9 Feb

Start with this… a little video of Guillaume Nery freediving Dean’s Blue Hole.


And now for some light reading:


Outside Magazine, March 2012
Wednesday, January 25, 2012 4


Open Your Mouth and You’re Dead

The freediving world championships occur at the outer limits of competitive risk. ­During the 2011 event, held off the coast of Greece, more than 130 athletes assembled to swim hundreds of feet straight down on a single breath—without (they hoped) ­passing out, freaking out, or drowning. JAMES NESTOR reports on the amazingly fit, unques­tionably brave, and possibly crazy people who line up for the ultimate plunge.



JUNKO KITAHAMA’S FACE is pale blue, her mouth agape, her head craned back like a dead bird’s. Through her swim mask, her eyes are wide and unblinking, staring at the sun. She isn’t breathing.

“Blow on her face!” yells a man swimming next to her. Another man grabs her head from behind and pushes her chin out of the water. “Breathe!” he yells. Someone from the deck of a boat yells for oxygen. “Breathe!” the man repeats. But Kitahama, who just surfaced from a breath-hold dive 180 feet below the surface of the ocean, doesn’t breathe. She doesn’t move. Kitahama looks dead. 

Moments later, she coughs, jerks, twitches her shoulders, flutters her lips. Her face softens as she comes to. “I was swimming and…” She laughs and continues. “Then I just started dreaming!” Two men slowly float her over to an oxygen tank sitting on a raft. While she recovers behind a surgical mask, another freediver takes her place and prepares to plunge even deeper.

Kitahama, a female competitor from Japan, is one of more than 130 freedivers from 31 countries who have gathered here—one mile off the coast of Kalamata, Greece, in the deep, mouthwash blue waters of Messinian Bay—for the 2011 Individual Freediving Depth World Championships, the largest competition ever held for the sport. Over the next week, in an event organized by the International Association for the Development of Apnea (AIDA), they’ll test themselves and each other to see who can swim the deepest on a single lungful of air without passing out, losing muscle control, or drowning. The winners get a medal.

How deep can they go? Nobody knows. Competitive freediving is a relatively new sport, and since the first world championships were held in 1996, records have been broken every year, sometimes every few months. Fifty years ago, scientists believed that the deepest a human could freedive was about 160 feet. Recently, freedivers have routinely doubled and tripled that mark. In 2007, Herbert Nitsch, a 41-year-old Austrian, dove more than 700 feet—assisted by a watersled on the way down and an air bladder to pull him to the surface—to claim a new world record for absolute depth. Nitsch, who didn’t compete in Greece, plans to dive 800 feet in June, deeper than two football fields are long.

Nobody has ever drowned at an organized freediving event, but enough people have died outside of competition that freediving ranks as the second-most-dangerous adventure sport, right after BASE jumping. The statistics are a bit murky: some deaths go unreported, and the numbers that are kept include people who freedive as part of other activities, like spearfishing. But one estimate of worldwide freediving-related fatalities revealed a nearly threefold increase, from 21 deaths in 2005 to 60 in 2008.

Only a few of these fatalities have been widely publicized. The famed French freediver Audrey Mestre—wife of freediving pioneer Francisco “Pipin” Ferreras—died in 2002 during a weight-aided descent to 561 feet, leading to controversy that continues still about whether Ferreras, who managed safety for the attempt, did his job properly. More recently, just three months before the 2011 world championships, Adel Abu Haliqa, a 40-year-old founding member of a freediving club in the United Arab Emirates, drowned in Santorini, Greece, during a 230-foot attempt. His body still hasn’t been found. A month later, Patrick Musimu, a former world-record holder from Belgium, drowned while training alone in a pool in Brussels.

Competitive freedivers blame such deaths on carelessness, arguing that each dead diver was going it alone or relying on machines to assist the dives—both very high-risk pursuits. “Competitive freediving is a safe sport. It’s all very regulated, very controlled,” says William Trubridge, a 31-year-old world-record freediver from New Zealand. “I would never do it if it wasn’t.” He points out that, during some 39,000 competition freedives over the past 12 years, there has never been a fatality.

Through events like the world championships, Trubridge and others hope to change freediving’s shaky image and bring it closer to the mainstream. City officials in Kalamata, a freediving hub, are trying to help. To that end, they hosted an opening ceremony for the event on a Saturday night along a crowded boardwalk. There, hundreds of competitors, coaches, and crew members in matching T-shirts and tracksuits waved national flags and screamed their countries’ anthems from an enormous stage—a scene that looked like a low-rent Olympics. Behind them, a 40-piece marching band played a ragged version of the Rocky theme as grainy video highlights from past freedives were projected onto a 30-foot screen. 

“You ask me, this all looks crazy,” said Xaris Vgenis, a Kalamatan who runs a watersports shop near the beach. A video of a 300-foot dive appeared on the screen, and Vgenis shook his head. “You’ll never get me to do it!”

Then the lights of the stage darkened, the video screen dimmed, and the PA system went silent. Moments later, strobe lights flashed and streams of fireworks exploded in the night sky. The participants cheered while a few hundred locals scratched their heads. The 2011 freediving world championships were on.

TWO DAYS AFTER THE OPENING CEREMONY, on a windless and hot Monday morning, I head for the Kalamata Marina, where a scruffy Quebecois expat named Yanis Georgoulis is waiting on a 27-foot boat to carry me to the first event. For all its mainstream hopes, freediving has a built-in problem: it’s almost impossible to watch. The playing field is underwater, there are no video feeds beamed back to land, and it’s a logistical challenge even to get near the action. Today’s staging area is a sketchy-looking 20-by-20-foot flotilla of boats, platforms, and gear that looks like it was swiped from the set of Waterworld.

While we motor out in the shadow of toothy coastal mountains, I use the time to brush up on freediving’s complicated rules. The competition officially starts the night before a dive, when divers secretly submit the proposed depths of the next day’s dive attempts to a panel of judges. It’s basically a bid, and there’s gamesmanship involved as each diver tries to guess what the other divers will do. “It’s like playing poker,” Trubridge told me. “You are playing the other divers as much as you are playing yourself.” The hope is that your foes will choose a shallower dive than you can do, or that they’ll choose a deeper dive than they can do and end up “busting.” 

In freediving, you bust either by flubbing one of dozens of technical requirements during and after the dive or by blacking out before you reach the surface, grounds for immediate disqualification. While not common in competitions (I’m told), blackouts happen often enough that layers of safety precautions are put in place, including rescue divers who monitor each dive, sonar tracking from the flotilla, and a lanyard guide attached to divers’ ankles that keeps them from drifting off course—a potentially fatal hazard, I’ll later learn.

A few minutes before each dive, a metal plate covered in white Velcro is attached to a rope and sunk to the depth the competitor submitted the night before. An official counts down, and the diver submerges and follows the rope to the plate, grabs any of dozens of tags affixed to it, and follows the rope back to the surface. About 60 feet down or lower, the competitor is met by rescue divers who are there to assist in the event of a blackout. If he passes out so deep that the safety divers can’t see him, that will be detected by the sonar. The rope will then be hoisted up and the diver’s unconscious body dragged to the surface, rag-doll style. 

Divers who successfully resurface are put through a battery of tests known as the surface protocol. This gauges their coherence and motor skills by requiring them, among other things, to remove their face masks, quickly flash a sign to a judge, and say “I’m OK.” If you pass, you get a white card, validating the dive.

“The rules are there to make freediving safe, measurable, and comparable,” says CarlaSue Hanson, the media spokesperson for AIDA. “They are set up to ensure that, through the whole dive, the diver is in full control. That’s what competitive freediving is all about: control.” As long as you’re in control, it’s all right if (as sometimes happens) blood vessels burst in your nose and you come out looking like Sissy Spacek in Carrie. “The judges don’t care how someone looks,” Hanson says. “Blood? That’s nothing. As far as the rules go, blood is OK.”

AFTER AN HOUR, Georgoulis ties up to the flotilla. In the distance, a motorboat cuts a white line from the shore to deliver the first competitors to the site. There are no fans present. Only officials, divers, coaches, and a handful of staff are allowed out here, a group numbering about 15 today.

The divers show up wearing hooded wetsuits and insectoid goggles, each moving with syrupy-slow steps as they warm up on the sailboat, staring with wide, lucid eyes lost in meditation. One, two, three—they slide like otters into the sea, then lie back, looking semi-comatose as their coaches slowly float them over to one of three lines dangling from the flotilla. A judge issues a one-minute warning, and then the competition begins.

Freediving is broken down into multiple disciplines: today’s is called constant weight no fins, abbreviated as CNF. In CNF, divers go down using their lungs, bodies, and an optional weight that, if used, must be brought back to the surface. Of the six areas in competitive freediving—which include everything from depth disciplines like free immersion (the diver can use the guide rope to propel himself up and down) to pool disciplines like static apnea (simple breath holding)—CNF is considered the purest. Its reigning king is Trubridge, who broke the world record in December 2010 with a 331-foot dive. Today he’s trying for 305 feet, a conservative figure for him but the deepest attempt on the schedule. Before he arrives, a dozen other divers kick things off.

An official on line one counts down from ten, announces “official top,” and begins counting up: “One, two, three, four, five…” The first diver, Wendy Timmermans of the Netherlands, has until 30 to go. She inhales a few last mouthfuls of air, ducks her head beneath the water, and descends. As her body sinks into the shadows of the Mediterranean, the monitoring official announces her depth every few seconds. Two minutes later, after reaching 171 feet, Timmermans emerges and passes the surface protocol, setting a new national record. Another diver goes down on line two; another preps on three.

The diver on three takes one last breath, descends 200 feet, touches down, and, after three painfully long minutes, resurfaces. “Breathe!” his coach yells. He smiles, gulps, then breathes. His face is white. He tries to take off his mask, but his hands are cramped and shaking. Lack of oxygen has sapped his muscle control, and he just floats there, with blank eyes and an idiotic grin on his face, probably with no idea where he is.

Behind him another diver resurfaces. “Breathe! Breathe!” a safety diver yells. The man’s face is blue, and he isn’t breathing. “Breathe!” another yells. Finally he coughs, jiggles his head, and makes a tiny squeaking sound like a dolphin. 

For the next half-hour, as divers come and go, these scenes repeat. I stand in the sailboat with my stomach tightening, wondering if this is the norm—and if it is, how the hell any of it could be allowed. All the competitors sign waivers acknowledging that heart attacks, blackouts, oxygen toxicity, and drowning may be part of the price. But I have a feeling that competitive freediving’s continued existence has more to do with the fact that the local authorities don’t know what really goes on out here.

Trubridge arrives, wearing sunglasses and headphones, his lean spider limbs dangling from the oversize thorax that is his chest. I can see his gargantuan lungs heaving in and out from 30 feet away. He’s so lost in a meditative haze that he looks half dead by the time he enters the water, latches his ankle to the lanyard, and gets set to go. 

“Five, four, three, two, one,” the official says. Trubridge dives, kicking with bare feet, descending rapidly. The official announces “twenty meters,” and I watch through the clear blue water. Trubridge places his arms at his sides and floats down effortlessly until he’s out of sight, drifting barefoot into the shadows of the deep. The image is both beautiful and spooky. I try to hold my breath along with him and give up after 30 seconds.

Trubridge passes 100 feet, 150 feet, 200 feet. Almost two minutes into the dive, the sonar-monitoring official announces “touchdown”—at 305 feet—and begins monitoring Trubridge’s progress on the way back up. After a total of 3 minutes and 43 seconds, I see Trubridge rematerialize from the shadows. A few more strokes and he surfaces, exhales, removes his goggles, gives the high sign, and says in his crisp New Zealand accent, “I’m OK.” He looks bored, his body and brain seemingly unaffected by the fact that he just swam—without fins, without anything—30 stories down.

THE NEXT TWO DAYS ARE rest days. By midmorning on Tuesday, the courtyard at the Messinian Bay Hotel is buzzing with the chatter of a dozen languages as teams gather around patio tables to sip bottled water, talk strategy, and e-mail worried relatives. The group here is largely male, mostly over 30, and generally skinny. Some are short, a few are pudgy, and most have shaved heads and wear sleeveless T-shirts, action-strap Teva sandals, and baggy shorts. They hardly look like extreme athletes. 

“Freediving is as much a mental game as a physical one,” says Trubridge, who, in his wraparound dark glasses, cropped hair, and worn-out T-shirt, fits right in. He pulls up a seat beside me at the swimming pool. “It’s a sport that’s open to everybody.”

Well, maybe. You still have to be able to hold your breath an incredibly long time, exert yourself tremendously, and not freak out—something I find extremely challenging, even though I spend most of my spare time surfing. Recreational freediving is one of the fastest-growing watersports—a trend that will accelerate this year when Scuba Schools International expands its freediving courses to dozens of locations worldwide—but it’s hard to imagine competitive freediving in the Olympics anytime soon. It just seems too damned dangerous. I ask Trubridge to walk me through the physics and physiology of what he endures. Before long my stomach is tightening again.

In the first 30 or so feet underwater, the lungs, full of air, buoy your body to the surface, requiring strenuous paddling and constant equalization of the middle-ear cavities to gain depth. “This is where you use up to 15 percent of your energy,” Trubridge says. And you’ve still got 600 feet of swimming to go.

As you dive past 30 feet, you feel the pressure on your body double, compressing your lungs to about half their normal size. You suddenly feel weightless, your body suspended in a gravityless state called neutral buoyancy. Then something amazing happens: as you keep diving, the ocean no longer pushes your body toward the surface but instead pulls you relentlessly toward the seafloor below. You place your arms at your sides in a skydiver pose and effortlessly go deeper.

At 100 feet, the pressure has quadrupled, the ocean’s surface is barely visible, and you close your eyes and prepare for the deep water’s tightening clutch. 

Further still, at 150 feet, you enter a dream state caused by the high levels of carbon dioxide and nitrogen gas in your bloodstream: for a moment, you can forget where you are and why. At 300 feet, the pressure is so extreme that your lungs shrink to the size of oranges and your heart beats at less than half its normal rate to conserve oxygen. You lose some motor control. Most of the blood in your arms and legs has flooded to your body’s core as the vessels in your extremities constrict. Vessels in your lungs swell to several times their normal size so they won’t be crushed by the incredible pressure.

Then comes the really hard part. You open your eyes, struggle to force your semiparalyzed hand to grab a ticket from the plate, and head back up. With the ocean’s weight working against you, you tap your meager energy reserves to swim toward the surface. Ascending to 200 feet, 150 feet, 100 feet, your lungs ache with an almost unbearable desire to breathe, your vision fades, and your chest convulses from the buildup of carbon dioxide in your bloodstream. You need to hurry before you black out. Above you, the haze of blue water transforms into a sheen of sunlight on the water’s surface. You’re going to make it.

You resurface, the world spins, people are yelling at you to breathe. Is this just another altered-state dream? It’s hard to tell. So you sit there, whacked out, trying to come to quickly enough to complete the surface protocol. You take off your goggles, flick a sign, say “I’m OK”—then you get out of the way and make room for the next diver.

HOW DO YOU DECIDE THIS IS something you want to do? That you can do?

“I was always drawn to the ocean,” Trubridge shrugs when I ask him how he got into freediving. “My first memories were of the sea.” Born near the small village of Haltwhistle, Scotland, Trubridge was 20 months old when his parents, seeking adventure, sold their house, bought a 45-foot sailboat, loaded up Trubridge and his brother, Sam, and took off. For the next nine years they lived on the boat, sailing west. For fun, William and Sam would challenge each other to breath-holding dives. “We probably made it to 25 or 30 feet,” he says, then laughs. “Which, you know, in retrospect was all pretty dangerous.”

By the time Trubridge was 12, the family had settled in Havelock, a tiny town near New Zealand’s east coast. He studied genetic biology at the University of Auckland, where he tested himself one day to see if he could swim 80 feet underwater on one breath. One lap soon became two. Trubridge was slowly drawn into the sport.

After a stint in London as a bellhop in his early twenties, Trubridge took off for Honduras to explore freediving. “I remember diving one day, to maybe 60 feet, and lying down in a sea garden, relaxing, meditating, watching all the life and just being part of the environment,” he says. “Not having to breathe for a minute or two. It was just the most amazing and peaceful feeling you can imagine.”

For the next few years, Trubridge dropped out and dedicated himself full-time to freediving, honing his body into a machine built for undersea performance. He trained for hours a day, every day, swimming, doing yoga and breathing exercises. A rower and junior chess champion, Trubridge found that the combination of mental and physical training came naturally to him. “Freediving requires body, mind, and even spirit to be aligned and directed toward a common intent,” he says. “I’m the sort of person who requires a challenge.” When not diving, he translated freediving manuals, taught, and studied videotapes. At the end of a two-year stint bouncing around Central America, the Bahamas, and Europe, he hit the freediving scene as one of the best in the world.

“Here’s a guy who spent two years sitting on a mountain alone, just waiting,” says Sebastian Näslund, a Swedish freediver. “And when he came down, he was just kind of unstoppable.”

Between 2007 and 2010, Trubridge broke 14 world records (mostly his own) in the disciplines of constant weight no fins and free immersion, which allows divers to pull on the rope to gain depth and to ascend. Today he and his wife of two years, Brittany, live mostly out of suitcases, wintering in the Bahamas and summering in Europe. They teach courses between competitions to help make ends meet.

I wonder what keeps Trubridge bound to the sport. It can’t be the money: at the world championships, competitors pay about $700 to dive, plus accommodations, and win nothing but a medal. He makes a pittance through sponsorships. It’s not the fame, either. Few people outside freediving know who he is.

“To me, I don’t really have a choice,” he says in a soft voice. “There is an immortal peace confronting the underwater world on its own terms, with your breath at your breast. The ocean is just where I am meant to be.”

IT’S THURSDAY, AND THE GLASSY blue waters of Messinian Bay are gray and wind-chopped from a storm that came through yesterday. It’s not raining now but clouds loom overhead, and subsurface visibility has diminished to about 40 feet. By 9 a.m. the first divers are in the water.

This time they’re using monofins—three-foot-wide wedges of plastic attached to neoprene boots. Compared with traditional fins (one on each foot), a monofin gives a diver more thrust with less effort. As a result, today’s dives will be about 25 percent deeper than the no-fins dives on Monday. The current world record in this category (called constant weight with fins, or CWT) is 124 meters—more than 400 feet—set in 2010 by Herbert Nitsch. Until 2009, only ten freedivers in the world had reached that mark. Today, 15 competitors will be attempting 100 meters, an almost unheard-of number.

British diver David King is one of them. King surprised everyone last night by announcing that he would try a 102-meter dive (335 feet), which would be a new UK national record. According to his teammates, he hasn’t gone deeper than 80 meters in the past twelve months.

The judge counts down. King wets his head, upends, and goes. I watch from the sailboat as his silhouette fades into the gray water below like a headlight disappearing in fog.

“My God, he is flying down,” says Hanli Prinsloo, a South African freediver who has joined me on the prow of the boat. Speed isn’t necessarily a good thing in freediving, she reminds me. The faster King goes, the more energy he burns and the less oxygen he’ll have for his ascent. 

“Eighty meters, ninety meters,” the dive official says. “Touchdown,” he announces, and King starts coming back up.

“Ninety meters, eighty meters.” Then the official pauses. King is coming up at about half the speed of his descent. At 60 meters, the updates come slower. At 40 meters they stop altogether. 

Five seconds pass. King has been underwater for more than two minutes. “Forty meters,” the official repeats. Pause. “Forty meters.”

A sickening anticipation sets in. I look around the sailboat. The officials, divers, and crews all stare at the choppy water and wait. And wait.

“Thirty meters.”

King appears to be moving, but too slowly. Five more seconds. He should have surfaced by now, but he’s still 100 feet down. Five more seconds. “Thirty meters,” the official repeats.

“Oh God,” says Prinsloo, holding her hand over her mouth. Five more seconds. In the water we see nothing—no sign of King, no ripples at the surface, no movement.

“Thirty meters.” Silence. “Thirty meters.”

“Blackout!” a safety diver yells. King is unconscious ten stories below the surface. The divers kick down into the water.

“Safety!” the judge on line three yells. About 30 seconds later, the water around the line explodes in a cauldron of white wash. The wetsuit-covered heads of two safety divers reappear. Between them is King. His face is bright blue, and he’s not moving. His neck is stiff.

The divers push his face out of the water. His cheeks, mouth, and chin are slicked with blood. “Breathe! Breathe!” the divers yell. No response. Bright drops of blood drip from King’s chin into the ocean.

“CPR! CPR!” the judge yells. A diver puts his mouth over King’s blood-covered mouth and blows. “CPR now!” the judge yells. King’s coach, Dave Kent, is yelling into King’s ear: “Dave! Dave!” No response. Ten seconds pass and still nothing. Someone yells for oxygen. Someone else for CPR. Georgoulis screams, “Why isn’t anyone calling a medic? Get a helicopter!” Everyone is yelling.

Behind us, on line one, another diver heads down. Then another surfaces, blacked out. The safety divers move King’s stick-figure form to the flotilla and punch an oxygen mask to his face. Still no response. His facial muscles are frozen into a sickly smile, his eyes wide and lost, staring out at the open sea.

The consensus on the sailboat is that King has died. But we’re 40 feet away from him now, and nobody can really tell what’s happening. The safety crew keep pumping his chest, tapping his face, yelling. “Dave! Dave!”

Then, miraculously, King’s fingers quiver, his lips flutter, and he breathes. Color returns to his face; his eyes open, then softly close again. He is breathing deeply, tapping his coach’s leg to let him know he’s OK.

In the wake of all this, Trubridge attempts a 118-meter dive on line one, but he turns around early and fails his surface protocol. British freediver Sara Campbell turns back after just 22 meters on a world-record attempt. “I couldn’t do it,” she says, hopping back on the sailboat. She was too shaken by King, who’s now being taken by motorboat to a hospital. As it races back to shore, there’s another blackout on line two. Then another on three.

“My God, this is getting messy,” says Campbell. The west winds are up now, chopping the ocean, fluttering the sail above us. “It’s like dominoes. Everything’s falling apart. This is the worst I’ve ever seen.”

The competition goes on for three more hours. On the last dive of the day, a Ukrainian, new to the sport, attempts a beginning descent of 40 meters. He surfaces and removes his mask to flash the OK sign, and a stream of blood gushes from his nose. Then he completes the surface protocol and is awarded a white card. The dive is accepted. Blood is OK.

THAT NIGHT AT THE HOTEL the divers cavort, some laugh, others casually shake their heads at all the drama. Of the day’s 93 competitors, 15 attempted dives of 100 meters or more. Of those, two were disqualified, three came up short, and four blacked out—a 60 percent failure rate. King is in the hospital. Nobody knows for sure, but the rumor is that the pressure tore his larynx, which is fairly common on deep dives. A minor injury, they say.

“This kind of thing never happens,” the divers repeat over and over, rolling their eyes. But I think this kind of thing happens all the time: it’s just that nobody here wants to admit it. The challenge now is to see who can move beyond today’s “messy” events, erase them from their minds, and dive to even greater depths on the final day of competition.

One person who seems unfazed is Guillaume Néry, a 29-year-old French freediver and the winner of yesterday’s CWT competition. The day after King’s near-death episode, I meet him midmorning at a table crowded with other members of the French team.

“I was not there, so don’t know exactly,” he says in a thick accent. “But I think the main mistake is not for Dave King but for all freedivers. They were focused on this 100-meter number and not on their feelings, not what they really want to do.” Néry, who started freediving at 14, gained international fame last year with the release of “Free Fall,” a short film that follows him on a 13-story freedive in the Bahamas. The clip has been viewed on YouTube more than 10 million times.

“I learned long ago that patience is the key to success in freediving,” he says. “You have to forget the target, to enjoy and relax in the water.” Néry smiles and runs his fingers through his mop of sandy hair, mentioning that he hasn’t blacked out in more than five years of steady freediving. “What is important now is trying to do the dive, surface, and have a smile on my face. That’s what I did.”

Not everybody is so philosophical. “Blacking out is like shitting yourself,” Sebastian Näslund tells me. “It’s an embarrassment to you and everyone else around you.” Fred Buyle, who became one of the first competitive freedivers in the 1990s and is now retired, echoes Näslund. “Honestly, I think the guy is a fucking idiot,” he says of King. “I thought he was dead. His coach thought he was dead. I’ve been freediving since 1990, and that’s the worst I’ve ever seen.”

Months later, King tells me by e-mail that he is aware of the criticism he received and offers his own perspective on what happened. “I am not a reckless diver,” he writes, noting that the blackout in Greece was his only one in ten years of freediving. He argues that his work schedule doesn’t allow him to train as much as other elite divers and that he had time for only three dives before the competition. “I got to 102 meters, equalizing easily,” he says. “I just had problems as I reached the surface.”

SATURDAY, THE FINAL DAY OF COMPETITION, brings scalding sunshine, still air, and clear, calm waters—perfect conditions. The discipline today is free immersion, where divers are allowed to pull themselves down the line to reach their target depth. Free-immersion dives are a little shallower than CWT, but they can take a while, sometimes more than four minutes, making them excruciating to watch. The divers got a wrist slap last night from event director Stavros Kastrinakis, who told them, “Dive your limits.” The announced dives today appear to be more conservative. Still, there are a number of world- and national-record attempts planned. 

As the morning unfolds, more blackouts occur, but today they don’t look so bad. Or maybe I’m just getting used to the sight of inert bodies and blue faces. Most competitors recover quickly, then swim back to the boat in silence, ashamed to have, again, pushed beyond their limits.

I keep watching as the next dozen athletes make their dives. Then the elite divers begin: Malina Mateusz of Poland breaks a national record with a dive of 106 meters. The women’s world champion, Russian Natalia Molchanova, sets a world record of 88 meters. Anton Koderman dives 105 meters to set a new Slovenian mark. Néry breaks the French record with 103. Trubridge does 112, almost effortlessly. Seven national records are broken in an hour. Everyone is in control. The sport, again, is awe inspiring and beautiful.

Then, at line two, a commotion breaks out. The safety divers have lost a Czech diver named Michal Risian. Literally lost him. He’s at least 200 feet underwater, but the sonar is no longer picking him up. He has somehow drifted away from the rope.

“Safety! Safety!” yells the judge. The safety divers go down but come up a minute later with nothing. “Safety! Safety! Now!” Thirty seconds pass. No sign of Risian anywhere.

On line one, Sara Campbell is preparing to dive. From below her, three and a half minutes after he went down on line two, Risian emerges—40 feet away from the line he was first attached to.

There’s confusion. Campbell jerks away, frightened. Risian snaps off his goggles, saying, “Don’t touch me. I’m OK.” Then he swims back to the sailboat under his own steam. He plops down on a seat beside me on the hull, laughs, and says, “Wow, that was a weird dive.”

Yeah, that’s one way of putting it. Before Risian’s dive and per the usual routine, his coach attached the lanyard on Risian’s right ankle to the line. As Risian turned and plummeted, the Velcro securing the lanyard came loose and fell off. The safety divers saw it floating, unattached, and rushed down to stop Risian, but he was already gone, 100 feet deep. Risian, unaware, closed his eyes, meditated, and drifted downward. But he wasn’t going straight down—he was angling 45 degrees away from the line, into open ocean. 

Risian’s coach, realizing that death was the likely outcome of this screwup, floated motionless at the surface, gazing at the safety divers, who were too stunned to blink. “I’ll remember their looks for a long time,” he said later. “Terror, awe, fear, and sadness.”

Meanwhile, 250 feet below, Risian was diving farther down and farther away, oblivious to the problem. At 272 feet, he reached out to grab the metal plate, but there was no plate. “I couldn’t see any tickets, any plate, any rope, nothing,” he said. “I was completely lost. Even when I turned up and looked around, I saw only blue.”

At 29 stories down, even in the clearest water, all directions look the same. And all directions feel the same—the water pressure makes it impossible to gauge whether you’re swimming up or down, east or west. 

For a moment, Risian panicked. Then he calmed himself, knowing that panic would only kill him faster. “In one direction there was a bit more light,” he told me. “I figured that this is where the surface was.” He figured wrong. Risian was swimming horizontally. But as he swam, trying to remain conscious and calm, he saw a white rope. “I knew if I could find the rope, I would be OK,” he said.

The chances of Risian finding a line 250 feet down—especially one so far from his original line of descent—were, I would estimate, about the same as hitting a particular number on a roulette wheel. Twice. But there it was, the line Sara Campbell was about to descend, some 40 feet away from where he had first gone down. Risian grabbed it, aimed for the surface, and somehow made it up before he drowned.

ON THE FINAL NIGHT, THE DIVERS, coaches, and judges gather on the beach for closing ceremonies. Strobes and spotlights glare from an enormous stage, Euro pop blasts from a DJ booth, and a crowd of a few hundred dance and drink beneath a night sky sequined with stars. Behind the stage a bonfire rages, heating the bare, wet bodies of those who couldn’t resist one last splash.

The winners are announced. All told, the divers broke two world and 48 national records. Competitors also suffered 19 blackouts. Trubridge won gold in both constant weight no fins and free immersion.

“Risian is the real winner here,” says Trubridge, sipping a beer beside his wife, Brittany. Behind us, every 20 minutes or so, an enormous video screen shows the chilling footage of Risian’s tetherless dive, which was recorded on underwater cameras. At the end of the video, the crowd cheers and Risian, who’s had a few, rushes to the stage to take a bow. Dave King, the diver who suffered the horrific blackout just two days ago, walks through the crowd with the British team, smiling and seemingly in perfect health. Néry, in quintessential French style, is smoking a cigarette. 

“There is such a strong community here,” says Hanli Prinsloo, drinking a cocktail by the bonfire. “It’s like all of us, we have no choice. We have to be in the water, we’ve chosen to live our lives in it, and by doing that we accept its risks.” She takes a sip. “But we also reap its rewards.”

I begin to understand her point. Freedivers have access to a world that the rest of us see only from the surface—from boats, surfboards, and airplanes 36,000 feet up. It’s safe, where most of us are, but it’s also isolating: we can never know the ocean’s true wonder, power, strength, or beauty. The real mysteries of nature are revealed to those who reach farther, push harder, and go deeper. 

For freedivers, access to the hidden universe that covers 70 percent of the planet is worth the price of admission—blackouts, ripped larynxes, and all. And blood? What’s a little blood when you’ve made it to the other side?


The world’s last WWI veteran – It’s only in history books now

7 Feb



This is Harry Patch, he was born June 17th 1898 and he died July 25th 2009 at the age of 111.

Harry was the last living man to have fought in the trenches in the First World War, the last living man to have been wounded during WW1, the last living man to have fired a gun in WW1…..

92 years before his death, on his 19th birthday Harry was in the trenches in France and was later badly wounded by artillery fire during the Battle of Passchendaele where over 500,000 died over a period of less than 4 months. The shelling was so intense that it is estimated there were over 1,000,000 shell holes to a square mile.




This is the village of Passchendaele before and after the battle:









Here are Harry’s own words about what he experienced:

A rude awakening
I had a brother who was a regular soldier. He was in Africa when the war broke out. He was a sergeant major in the Royal Engineers, who fought and was wounded at Mons. And they kept him in England after that, as an instructor. He never went back and he used to tell me what the trenches were like. I didn’t want to go. I knew what I was going to. A lot of people didn’t and when they got to France they had a rude awakening.
The trenches were about six feet deep, about three feet wide – mud, water, a duckboard if you were lucky. You slept on the firing step, if you could, shells bursting all around you. Filthy.
Infected by lice
From the time I went to France – the second week in June 1917 – until I left 23rd December 1917, injured by shellfire, I never had a bath. I never had any clean clothes. And when we got to Rouen on the way home they took every stitch of clothing off us: vest, shirt, pants, everything and they burnt it all. It was the only way to get rid of the lice. For each lousy louse, he had his own particular bite, and his own itch and he’d drive you mad. We used to turn our vests inside out to get a little relief. And you’d go down all the seams, if you dared show a light, with a candle, and burn them out. And those little devils who’d laid their eggs in the seam, you’d turn your vest inside out and tomorrow you’d be just as lousy as you were today. And that was the trenches.
Fighting for their lives
You daren’t show above otherwise a sniper would have you. You used to look between the fire and apertures and all you could see was a couple of stray dogs out there, fighting over a biscuit that they’d found. They were fighting for their lives. And the thought came to me – well, there they are, two animals out there fighting over dog biscuit, the same as we get to live. They were fighting for their lives. I said, ‘We are two civilised nations – British and German – and what were we doing? We were in a lousy, dirty trench fighting for our lives? For what? For eighteen pence a flipping day.’
Life in the trenches
You got tots of rum.There were many a man who didn’t like rum, didn’t drink it. It used to warm you up. Life in the trenches, well…can you imagine now, going out from this room along the corridor and there is a trench dug across the lawn. Six feet deep and three feet wide. There is water and mud in the bottom. You sit on a trench at the side to sleep, don’t matter whether it is wet, fine, hot or cold. Four days you are there and you got to stick it. That was the conditions.
If any man tells you he went into the front line and he wasn’t scared – he’s a liar. You were scared from the moment you got there. You never knew. I mean, in the trench you were all right. If you kept down, a sniper couldn’t get you. But you never knew if the artillery had a shell that burst above you and you caught the shrapnel. That was it.
Shell shock
You were in that trench. That was your front line. You had to keep an eye on the German front line. You daren’t leave. No. I suppose if you left, and some of them did, they were shot as cowards. That is another thing with shell shock – I never saw anyone with it, never experienced it – but it seemed you stood at the bottom of the ladder and you just could not move. Shellshock took all the nervous power out of you.
An officer would come down and very often shoot them as a coward. That man was no more a coward than you or I. He just could not move. That’s shell shock. Towards the end of war they recognised it as an illness. The early part of the war – they didn’t. If you were there you were shot. And that was it. And there’s a good many men who were shot for cowardice and they are asking now … that verdict be taken away. They were not cowards.
Sleep in the trenches
Rats as big as cats. Anything they could gnaw, they would – to live. If you didn’t watch it, they’d gnaw your shoe laces. Anything leather, they would nibble that. As you went to sleep, you would cover your face with a blanket and you could hear the damn things run over you.
As you to sat on the firing step, you could have a doze. Not much more. Half-past seven in the morning, stand-to and you’d have an inspection. Last thing at night, you’d have an inspection. You had to sleep in between.
No Man’s Land
Probably you’d hear something in No Man’s Land. It might have been a working party. You reported it. The officer would have a look through his field glasses. If it was any good and it wasn’t British, give them a burst. Number One would give them a shot or two out of the Lewis gun, and after firing that Lewis gun from one aperture, we would always move down the trench. This was because, if it was spotted by a German observer there, the range was sent back to their artillery. Staying put was an invitation for half a dozen rockets. If you stayed where you were, you chanced it.
Going ‘over the top’
Never forget it. We crawled, couldn’t stand up – a sniper would have you. I came across a Cornishman, he must have been from ‘A’ or ‘B’ companies who were the assault companies when we went over. ‘C’ and ‘D’, we were support. I came across a Cornishman, he was ripped from his shoulder to his waist – shrapnel.
Now a bullet wound is clean, shrapnel will tear you all to pieces. He was laying there in a pool of blood. As we got to him, he said, ‘Shoot me.’ He was beyond all human aid. Before we would pull out the revolver to shoot him, he died. I was with him in the last seconds of his life. hen he went from this life, to whatever is beyond.
Now what I saw in the way of sights at Passchendaele and at Pilkem – the wounded lying about asking you for help – we didn’t have the knowledge, the equipment or the time to spend with them. I lost all my faith in the Church of England.
And when that fellah died, he just said one word: ‘Mother.’ It wasn’t a cry of despair. It was a cry or surprise and joy. I think – although I wasn’t allowed to see her – I am sure his mother was in the next world to welcome him. And he knew it. I was just allowed to see that much and no more. And from that day until today – and now I’m nearly 106 years old – I shall always remember that cry and I shall always remember that death is not the end.
You’ve got a memory. You’ve got a brain about the size of a tea cup. I’ve got a memory that goes back for 80 or 90 years and I think that memory goes on with you when you die. And that’s my opinion. Death is not the end.
Shooting to kill
I never knew Bob [Harry’s friend and gunner] to use that [Lewis] gun to kill. If he used that gun at all, it was about two feet off the ground and he would wound them in the legs. He wouldn’t kill them if he could help it.
[A German soldier] came to me with a rifle and a fixed bayonet. He had no ammunition, otherwise he could have shot us. He came towards us. I had to bring him down. First of all, I shot him in the right shoulder. He dropped the rifle and the bayonet. He came on. His idea, I suppose, was to kick the gun if he could into the mud, so making it useless. But anyway, he came on and for our own safety, I had to bring him down. I couldn’t kill him. He was a man I didn’t know. I didn’t know his language. I couldn’t talk to him. I shot him above the ankle, above the knee. He said something to me in German. God knows what it was. But for him the war was over.
He would be picked up by a stretcher bearer. He would have his wounds treated. He would be put into a prisoner-of-war camp. At the end of the war, he would go back to his family. Now, six weeks after that, a fellow countryman of his pulled the lever of the gun that fired the rocket that killed my three mates, and wounded me. If I had met that German soldier after my three mates had been killed, I’d have no trouble at all in killing him.
Losing friends
The night we caught it, we were in the front line and we were going back. We had taken the German front line, the German support line and we were coming back from the German support through the German old front line. We had to cross what was the old No Man’s Land. It was crossing there that a rocket burst amongst us. It killed my three mates, it wounded me. We were on open ground.
September 22nd, half-past ten at night. That’s when I lost them. That’s my Remembrance Day. Armistice Day, you remember the thousands of others who died. For what? For nothing. And today you would never get another trench warfare. Never. Today, you got the internal combustion engine, the one like you drive your car and improvement on that. It’s entitled a man to fly, and today a trench is no good. He simply goes down the trench with his machine gun – that’s it. You’ll never get another trench war.
Being wounded
You didn’t know you were hit. You never heard the bullet or the shell that hit you. All I can remember was a flash, I went down, blew me down. I suppose I had enough sense, I saw the blood, I had a field dressing on. I must have passed out. How long I lay there I don’t know.
Next thing I found I was in a dressing station. The field bandage had gone, the wound had been cleaned and a clean bandage on it. Around about it was a disinfectant of some sort, to keep the blinking lice away from the blood.
I lay there all the next day and the doctor came to me. ‘You can see the shrapnel – it must have been a ricochet.’ It was just buried in. He said to me, ‘Would you like me to take that out?’ I said, ‘How long will you be?’ He said, ‘Before you answer yes. With no anaesthetic in the camp at all, we’d used it on all the people more seriously wounded than you are.’ He said, ‘If I take that shrapnel out it will be as you are now.’ Pain from it was terrific. I said, ‘Alright carry on.’ Four fellahs held me down, one on each arm, one on each leg, and I can feel the cut of that scalpel now as he went through and pulled it out.
The doctor came to me some hours later. He said, ‘You want this shrapnel as a souvenir?’ I said, ‘Throw it away,’ and I never saw it again. I met his son, who was also a doctor, at Buckingham Palace eighty years later. He told me that if the shrapnel was a quarter inch deeper, it would have cut a main artery and that was it.
Going home
The fellah in the next bed said to me, ‘If he writes anything in that book on the table, a green book, you’re for Blighty.’ Well I didn’t believe him, and then some hours later somebody came in, they called my name, my number. I was out on the Red Cross truck down to Rouen … And there we had a bath, got rid of the lice, they burnt our clothing. We could see the hospital ship. We were out on the hospital ship, but never sailed that night. There was a rumour of a submarine in the Channel. We sailed the next night and came to Southampton. I think if I had gone to the field dressing main station, I don’t think I ever would [have sailed]. It was the fact that it was the advanced dressing station and they wanted the beds. Get rid of him.
‘E’ company were about a thousand strong. We had an officer we didn’t like. He used to take us out route marches. We didn’t like it. That afternoon he wanted the ‘E’ company on parade for bayonet practice. The war had been over for months. The sergeant major opened the door. Somebody threw a boot at him. He went back, reported it.
The officer came and they told him flat that they weren’t going out on parade. Well, he went back to the company office and about thirty of the men followed him and they asked for him. He came out, he pulled his revolver out and he clicked the hammer back. Nobody said anything. We had all been on the range. I was on fatigue that morning so I wasn’t on parade. Nobody said anything.
They all went back to their huts and they rounded up what ammunition they could and went back and they asked for the officer again. He was a captain, risen from the ranks. He came out and he clicked the hammer back on his revolver. He said, ‘The first man who says he is not going on parade, I’ll shoot him.’ No sooner had he said that, when thirty bolts went back and somebody shouted, ‘Now shoot you bugger if you like.’ He threw the revolver down, disappeared. We were all run up for a mutiny.
We had a brigadier come over from the mainland to hear the officer’s side of it. Then he said, ‘I want to hear the men.’ Twenty or thirty of the men went behind a screen and they told him. They said, ‘We don’t want bayonet practice. We’ve had the real bloody thing. Some of us are wounded by bayonets.’ The outcome was that there were no parades except just to clear the camp, just fatigues. The officer was moved to a different command. We never saw him again. It’s a damn good job we didn’t.
The price of war
It wasn’t worth it. No war is worth it. No war is worth the loss of a couple of lives let alone thousands. T’isn’t worth it … the First World War, if you boil it down, what was it? Nothing but a family row. That’s what caused it. The Second World War – Hitler wanted to govern Europe, nothing to it. I would have taken the Kaiser, his son, Hitler and the people on his side … and bloody shot them. Out the way and saved millions of lives. T’isn’t worth it.
Breaking the silence

Opposite my bedroom there is a window and there is a light over the top. Now [when the staff go into that room] they put the light on. If I was half asleep – the light coming on was the flash of a bomb. That flash brought it all back. For eighty years I’ve never watched a war film, I never spoke of it, not to my wife. For six years, I’ve been here [in the nursing home]. Six years it’s been nothing but World War One. As I say, World War One is history, it isn’t news. Forget it.

And here is Harry upon his return to the battlefield at age 109:



from:  MarkNH @

Street robberies and you – The Basics

7 Feb

Reposting from a thread on ar15.

Street robberies and you – The Basics

While many say it is better to be lucky than good, no one is lucky every time. In this post I am going to attempt to provide some insight into street encounters. Other may have different viewpoints. I am not here to argue. I will say some of the comments I have seen posted in the threads about this sort of matter make me realize that while some us are clearly street veterans others are not. This is really for those who are not.


First, my info. I worked in the street of one of America’s most violent, dangerous cities for 15 years. I usually worked in the worst part of that city. I spent 15 years in patrol. I liked patrol. It was wild. Most of the time I worked in areas covered in ghetto. By that I mean large housing projects combined with run down slum housing. I have worked all shifts. Later I became an investigator including a robbery investigator. I have spent countless hours in interrogation rooms talking to hold up men. I know them. I am still an investigator but have quit playing the Robbery game because my family was starting to forget what I looked like.

The Enemy

Some may object to me calling hold up men “the enemy”. You can call them whatever you like. I can assure you however they are as deadly an enemy as you will find anywhere but the battlefield. Even many soldiers probably lack the viciousness and utter disregard for life most hold up men possess.

No one wakes up in the morning one day and decides to become an armed robber. It is a gradual process that requires some experience and desensitizing. Before a man will pick up a gun and threaten to kill people who have done him no harm in order to get their usually meager possessions he has to get comfortable with some things.

He has to get used to seeing others as objects for him to exploit. He has to accept he may be killed while robbing. He has to accept the felony conviction for Robbery will haunt him all his life. He has to accept he may need to kill a completely innocent person to get away with his crime.

This is a process that starts with stealing candy at the corner store as a child. It progresses through bigger property crimes that may also involve violence. But one day G gets tired of selling his stolen property for nothing and decides it would be better to steal cash. Cut out all that tiresome sales stuff.

Keep in mind many petty thieves, auto burglars, residential and commercial burglars, paper thieves, and hustlers will get to that point and decide not to become armed robbers. Most will. It is a special group of outliers who decide threatening to kill people for a few dollars is the way to go.

Once a man starts armed robbing he has crossed a line most won’t. Don’t forget that when you are looking these bastards in the eye. Their decision to kill you is already made. Your life means nothing to him. Only his does. His sole motivation for not killing you is he doesn’t want a murder case. He has already accepted he may pick one up though.

We hunt hold up men around the clock once they are identified. We send teams of fire breathing fence jumper/door kickers to find them. We will bring their mother to the office and convince her she is going to jail if we don’t have Junior in our office in an hour. We have her call her son crying hysterically for him to turn himself in before she is arrested and held without bond as a material witness and her home seized for harboring him. Most of the time they won’t. Fuck their own momma.

We will hit all Juniors friends and family’s houses. We make it so no one will harbor him. He is so hot no one will let him in their house or even talk on the phone with him. We put money on him so he knows he is right to be betrayed and set up. We do this because of one thing.

That thing is they WILL kill someone if they keep robbing. That is why the city is willing to pay all the overtime. They don’t want the murders. Think about that when you see Junior coming. The more robberies he does the closer he is to killing someone. Maybe you.

The guys who hit you on the street are gang members. They are Gangster Disciples, Vice Lords, Crips, Sureonos, many others. They do not see themselves as part of society. The street is all they know. They don’t expect to live long or stay out of prison. They take a delight in your fear and suffering. They are warped individuals for the most part. They can be extremely dangerous.

One time we were locking up a hold up man and having a conversation about how they target their victims. I was saying they pick easy ones, another guy was saying they preferred easy ones but would take anybody.

I pointed out a uniform Officer there was an NFL size guy to that hold up man. Frankly the dude was a monster. I asked hold up man if he would rob him. He said “If I needed the money”.



Chances are good you are a law abiding person except for maybe a little light weed smoking and maybe driving a little drunk every once in a while. Most of your life you have been taught to be nice and don’t point guns at people. You are the exact opposite of your enemy who was taught just the opposite. Remember a lot of street life is like prison life. Who’s the man is everything. Violence is the currency of the street.

You do not possess total disregard for the lives of others and do not want to kill anyone. You are concerned about the ramifications of shooting someone. Your family, your possessions and finances on the line. Your enemy has none of these concerns.

The laws that keep you from carrying your gun in bars or where ever mean nothing to your enemy. Your reluctance to shoot someone works to is advantage. His greater experience in street violence and the element of surprise is on his side.

Everyone should call their local FBI office and get a copy of Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted. When it first came out it was ground breaking because it demonstrated to academics and other elites what street police knew all along. What did it show in interviews with cop killers? Nice guys finish dead. That’s right. Most of those offenders commented that the Officer they killed set himself up to be killed because of reluctance to use force early in the encounter.

You can probably find it on line now. A lot of the victim Officers were a lot like a lot of other people, normal people. They were the opposite of their enemy.

Am I advocating becoming the enemy? No. I am saying the person who is robbing you has certain traits, attitudes, and background. That is all.

Dynamics of Encounters

Hold up men target victims on the street in an impulsive, opportunistic manner. They see someone and make a quick judgment call on whether to rob them. The time between when you are targeted and they are on you isn’t long. Therefore, situational awareness is everything.

If you see G coming you are in good shape. If you don’t you will be the victim who says “He came out of nowhere”. No he didn’t. There are many tricks to watching out but simply watching your back is the main thing. Watch your back. If you do it enough it becomes second nature and you won’t even realize you are doing it.

Watching out is great but unfortunately many self defense courses stop there. You have parked you car in a well lit area, are aware of your surroundings, and looky here, here comes three guys across the parking lot and they start to kind of fan out.

When you lock eyes with G the very first thing you need to do it indicate you have a weapon. It doesn’t matter if you do or not. If you are a woman put your gun hand in your purse and keep it there. If you are a man fan your shirt or coat tail with your gun hand. Make it clear to dude you are mentally prepared to draw and making sure your gun is clear. This will many times result in an about face by dude. It is the single best robbery avoidance tactic IMHO.

Not long ago I was walking down the sidewalk in my town to go get my car. I was holding a folding chair in my gun hand. A car slow rolled past me with 4 heads in it. The guys in the back seat turned around as they went by looking at me. They went a little farther and U turned in the street.

Here they come back. As they started to slow down I looked at them with as contemptuous a look as I could muster and switched the chair to my left hand and flicked my shirt tail with my right hand. They just drove on mad dogging me.

In another case I was at a Christmas party and walked a girl to her car about 3 am. As we said our good-byes two guys were walking across the parking lot. One went behind a dumpster. I though he was peeing. He came out from behind the dumpster with a bottle.

As they got closer I stepped clear of that girl and unzipped my jacket at those two guys. When I did the guy threw down the bottle and they walked by cussing at me. If someone challenges you after you indicate you are armed say “I don’t have a gun”. Then they will know you do.

Here is an opposite story. A girl my brother knows was walking her dog when a guy approached her. She was polite. Mistake. He talked to her about the dog and said she had pretty hair and reached out and touched her hair. She did not slap his hand down or aggressively object. Mistake. He asked her if her dog bit and she said “No”. At that time he slapped the shit out of her, drug her into a wooded area, and raped her.

The answer in the street is always “No”. Can I ask you something? No. Do you have a cigarette? No. Can you tell me what time it is? No. The answer is always “No”. Don’t be nice. Stop the encounter as soon as it starts.


When to draw

Despite warnings I often see on the Net I have yet to encounter an instance in which a hold up man called the police to report his intended victim threatened to shoot him. Thugs do not want to come into contact with the police. They may already be wanted or realize chances are good they have been identified in a recent robbery. Or what ever. They are not going to call the police if you draw on them.

Supposed two guys are approaching you in a parking lot and do the classic fan out maneuver. You indicate you have a weapon by clearing your gun hand and fanning your jacket at them. They are not discouraged. DRAW!

I am not saying you should pull your gun out, assume a Weaver stance, and scream “That’s close enough motherfuckers!” What I am saying is draw your gun and hold it beside your leg as you start to move to cover. I am very fond of telephone poles. Anything will do though. They will see this. They will remember they have to be somewhere else. They will not call the police.

Then you can just put your gun back in the holster and go back to whatever you were doing like nothing happened. Why? Because nothing did happen. A happening is when shots are fired.

Do not hesitate to draw. If you are somewhere you are supposed to be and someone appears who is not supposed to be there like a closed business show him the end of your gun. Could it be Mother Teresa looking for her lost cat behind your closed business? No it is some motherfucker up to no good. He won’t call the police to report he was prowling a location when a guy ran him off.

When to shoot

The time to shoot is immediately upon seeing his weapon. You are not a police man who has to try to arrest the guy. No need to scream at him. No exposure while you yell for him to drop the gun.

In deer hunting the experienced hunter takes the first good shot. May not be the perfect shot but it never is. Novices pass up a doable shot waiting for a better shot and then the deer is gone. Take the first good shot you are offered. Hopefully your alertness and hostile cues will prevent you ever having to fire. But once you see his weapon, shoot.

If a guy is coming at you with a gun in his hand shoot him. Shoot him right then. If you don’t shoot first you may not shoot at all. I have known more than one person who was shot and received life changing injuries and also shot their attacker. Their only regret was not shooting sooner. Like Bill Jordan said “Nothing disturbs your enemy’s aim like a slug delivered to the belt buckle area”.

Guns and weapons

The handgun is the best weapon you can carry easily. I understand it is not always possible to have one due to laws, restrictions, whatever. I am not telling anyone to disregard laws about carrying weapons. Each person has to decide for themselves what they are comfortable with. I will say there is no substitute for a pistol when you need one.

Also if you can not be trusted with a pistol after a few drinks you can’t be trusted with a pistol period. Booze is liquid bad judgment no doubt but it shouldn’t make you into a damn moron. If you are a moron sober I don’t know what to tell you.

Types of guns and ammo are always debated and probably always will be. I have seen people shot with all common calibers. My conclusion is if you hit someone between the collar bone and the tip of their ribs three times with anything, they are handled. Bigger is better but something is better than nothing. Get your front sight on his shirt and stay on him as long as he is standing with whatever gun you have.

Just have a gun with sure fire ammo. Draw early and fire immediately upon seeing his weapon. That course of action is about all you can do to up your odds of ending things favorably. Guns like the Ruger LC9, SIG 239, Glock 26/27 are examples of guns small enough to carry but with enough power and capacity to be useful. Do not be afraid to use a French Lebelle if that is the only gun you have. A gun is a gun. I like a Glock 19.


We all want the best training. It can be expensive if you are having to pay for it and it can be hard to find the time to do it. There is a whole lot of BS out there. What can you do? First, pistol handling is not rocket surgery. If you will learn the basics and practice on your own you can be fine. Smooth draw, quick pairs, reload. If you know those things well you can be OK.

I know a young man who shot down two hold up men in 2010 at very close range while he and his GF were walking home from the store. He in Wyatt Earp like fashion ignored the fire coming from the gunman and killed him and wounded his accomplice. He nor his GF were injured. He like many was willing to give them the money until he picked up on nonverbal cues that because of his GF they were not quite satisfied with the money. He had a Glock 27.

He had only the most basic of training in gun handling but did do some draws and some dry fire a couple times a week and live fired maybe once a month. That basic skill combined with knowing what to do was enough. He shot at the first possible moment despite having let the guys get the drop on them. When the gunman turned his head because a car drove by that was the opening. A split second is a long time sometimes.

Work on some one hand shooting at close range. That is a skill not as popular as it once was and you want to use two hands when you can. Often you can find yourself doing something with your off hand though so be able to shoot with one hand out to 5 yards or so.



If it comes to pass you are forced to shoot someone do not feel bad. When the police come just tell them a guy threatened you with deadly force and you were forced to fire. I know there are bad police out there in some parts of the country who don’t support self defense. I can’t help you with that.

Do not talk to them until you have your attorney present. Now most young guys don’t have an attorney on retainer and you may have no idea who to call. That is OK. You will figure it out but in the mean time don’t talk about what happened other than to say you were forced to fire. You don’t have to be an asshole just remember wait for your attorney.

Hopefully you will not give a statement for a couple days. Remember if you are put in jail that doesn’t mean you are charged. Most places can hold you 48 or 72 hours on a felony before charging you or letting you go. Breath deep and get an attorney.

Expect to never get your gun back. You may get it back one day but maybe not. Do not buy expensive guns for the street. Buy yourself a nice sporting gun if you want a nice gun. Keep your street guns basic. The factory Model 10 Smith and the GI 45 have done a lot of work over the years and aren’t fancy.


We all live in different worlds. My world is filled with felons and gang members. Violence is common place. No one would be surprised if one of their friends called and said they shot a hold up man at a place of business or parking lot. In the past when I made calls the fact that the guy who is beating his GF is also on parole for 2nd degree murder flavored my world.

You may live in a smaller, less violent place where shootings seldom occur and it would be a rare to shoot a hold up man. I envy you and will be moving to a place like your town as soon as I can.

But be advised no matter where you are a hold man is going to be about the same. Whether he is a home boy or a guy who just exited the interstate into your town and needs some quick money. He is going to have a vicious streak and no regard for your life. Treat him like he treats you.

Giving them the money, doing what they say, all that may work but there is no guarantee. If you have never read Jeff Cooper’s book The Principles of Personal Defense I suggest you order a copy immediately. It is a short book but summarizes a lot of important things.

Last year we had a trial here regarding an armed robbery that occurred. Three or four guys took a young couple from a parking garage near a college out by some railroad tracks where they raped, shot, and beat them. Their lives will never be the same.

The lesser thugs all turned on the trigger man at trial. The trigger man’s statement in the paper was after all that had happened he felt like he was a victim. Think about that. That is the mindset you are up against.


This may sound a bit paranoid to some, but judging by some of the responses from people who have been there it’s spot-on.


 I will +1 on the “don’t hesitate to draw.”

We are conditioned not to draw. We are conditioned to make double dog god damned certain that when we skin that roscoe that it is going to go bang. My experience mirrors your advice…that in that split fraction of a second in the OODA loop between DRAW and FIRE, there is a recognizable epiphany that takes place in the aggressor. I have witnessed it first hand with both man and dog.

In 2004 a dude came running up behind me in a mall parking lot with a screw driver. I heard him running. I drew my J Frame before I even turned around to see Shitavious hitting the brakes and apologizing. No shit…he started apologizing during his exit. I never pointed it at him, but I was ready to kill that motherfucker and anyone with him.

To your point on victim selection….I was alone in the employee parking area of a mall. On my own, I do not come across as meek or an easy target. I’m 6’0″ and 240 lbs. and barrel chested. I wouldn’t fuck with me. This Ethiopian looking mother fucker had no issues with that until he saw steel.



And another:


You can’t understand the way they think because they aren’t human. I say that with every ounce of sincerity I can muster. They are not human. They are best thought of as an alien species. They do not share or appreciate anything approaching a value system you or I would recognize. Their formative years were spent in an environment that was utterly alien to anything you or I ever lived in. As an example, yesterday I attended a lecture by William Aprill that dealt with what he termed “Violent Criminal Actors”, essentially the people who would be classified as sociopaths. He told the story of a 15 year old boy who got in a fight on a basketball court and lost. When the boy’s mother found out that he lost, she handed him a pistol and told him “WE don’t go out like that!”…and the boy returned to the basketball court and killed the other kid that beat him up. When Aprill did social work he would often stop and take a look at a neighborhood before a visit to a home. On one visit he was in an urban area and he noticed a group of young kids (8-10 years old) that were playing on a basketball court that didn’t have any hoops or backboards. The game they were playing involved grabbing one kid by the scruff of the neck, forcing him to his knees, then making the finger gun to the back of his head and mocking blowing his brains out execution style. After each repetition of this game the kids laughed hysterically and did it again.

Would your mother hand you a gun and direct you to go kill someone? When you were running around in your Tom Sawyer/Huck Finn years were you basically rehearsing street executions? I’m going to guess the answer to that is a big “No.”

That’s why you don’t understand criminals…because you’re thinking of them as human. Think of them as an alien species that just happens to be vulnerable to gunfire. They don’t think like you. They’ll become highly insulted if you don’t instantly cooperate in a robbery and feel that they are perfectly justified in killing you because…and I am not making this up…you’re the one who fucked up. They were minding their own business pulling off a perfectly routine robbery and you fucked it all up by not doing what you were told. That means it’s your fault, and you’re the one who was evil. Sociopaths consider themselves to be a breed apart from the rest of humanity. The rest of the people on this planet are nothing more than livestock to them. They have no more appreciation for human life than we have for the life of a bug when we stomp on it. In fact, they actually enjoy victimizing other people. They’ve done surveys of these guys and asked them about motivations for committing crimes and the answers range from giving them a sensation of power to actually giving them a feeling of accomplishment. You know how you felt when you graduated high-school or when you managed to get a raise? That’s how these guys feel when they cave somebody’s head in with a shovel.



More oilfield carnage – this time in Texas

3 Feb

What happens when the drivers moving your SCR sets don’t pay attention to big light up electronic low bridge signs?

You end up with two Cat 3512 drill rig power modules strewn across the highway and a third hanging off the trailer.

For anyone familiar with the DFW area this is northbound hwy 360 in Arlington and they hit the railroad bridge at Division St. 360 is now closed in both directions… for at least 6 hours according to TxDOT.

Looks like the first jackass didn’t see the low bridge signs and smashed the SCR set into it then off the trailer, and the second jackass followed suit. Jackass #3 didn’t quite make it, but he made sure to crash into the second genset that landed on the road.

One rig’s worth of powergen (ie. these three gensets) is about $1MM. Suuuuuuuuucks!



After looking at the pics again and pulling up a datasheet on that unit they probalby alllllllmost made it. With a genset height of ~116″ (base skid + radiator), plus the drop deck trailer height (42″ avg ?) and a bit for the roof on the genset they were actually probably very close to the 13’6″ height of the bridge (bridge height from TxDOT).

It looks like the first unit made it under but had the roof torn off… the second, judging by the marks on the pavement, got thrown off the trailer as he tried to slam it to a stop before going under and never actually touched the bridge.


EDIT #2:

pics from a TxDOT employe on-scene


“equipment has no brain you must use your own”



Video from TxDOT on site:


“To my old master…” – A Letter From a Former Slave

2 Feb


Random history for the week. The last line is greatness.



A Letter From a Former Slave
By Letters of Note
01 February 12

In August of 1865, a Colonel P.H. Anderson of Big Spring, Tennessee, wrote to his former slave, Jourdan Anderson, and requested that he come back to work on his farm. Jourdan – who, since being emancipated, had moved to Ohio, found paid work, and was now supporting his family – responded spectacularly by way of the letter seen below (a letter which, according to newspapers at the time, he dictated).


Dayton, Ohio,

August 7, 1865

To My Old Master, Colonel P.H. Anderson, Big Spring, Tennessee
Sir: I got your letter, and was glad to find that you had not forgotten Jourdon, and that you wanted me to come back and live with you again, promising to do better for me than anybody else can. I have often felt uneasy about you. I thought the Yankees would have hung you long before this, for harboring Rebs they found at your house. I suppose they never heard about your going to Colonel Martin’s to kill the Union soldier that was left by his company in their stable. Although you shot at me twice before I left you, I did not want to hear of your being hurt, and am glad you are still living. It would do me good to go back to the dear old home again, and see Miss Mary and Miss Martha and Allen, Esther, Green, and Lee. Give my love to them all, and tell them I hope we will meet in the better world, if not in this. I would have gone back to see you all when I was working in the Nashville Hospital, but one of the neighbors told me that Henry intended to shoot me if he ever got a chance.

I want to know particularly what the good chance is you propose to give me. I am doing tolerably well here. I get twenty-five dollars a month, with victuals and clothing; have a comfortable home for Mandy, – the folks call her Mrs. Anderson, – and the children – Milly, Jane, and Grundy – go to school and are learning well. The teacher says Grundy has a head for a preacher. They go to Sunday school, and Mandy and me attend church regularly. We are kindly treated. Sometimes we overhear others saying, “Them colored people were slaves” down in Tennessee. The children feel hurt when they hear such remarks; but I tell them it was no disgrace in Tennessee to belong to Colonel Anderson. Many darkeys would have been proud, as I used to be, to call you master. Now if you will write and say what wages you will give me, I will be better able to decide whether it would be to my advantage to move back again.

As to my freedom, which you say I can have, there is nothing to be gained on that score, as I got my free papers in 1864 from the Provost-Marshal-General of the Department of Nashville. Mandy says she would be afraid to go back without some proof that you were disposed to treat us justly and kindly; and we have concluded to test your sincerity by asking you to send us our wages for the time we served you. This will make us forget and forgive old scores, and rely on your justice and friendship in the future. I served you faithfully for thirty-two years, and Mandy twenty years. At twenty-five dollars a month for me, and two dollars a week for Mandy, our earnings would amount to eleven thousand six hundred and eighty dollars. Add to this the interest for the time our wages have been kept back, and deduct what you paid for our clothing, and three doctor’s visits to me, and pulling a tooth for Mandy, and the balance will show what we are in justice entitled to. Please send the money by Adams’s Express, in care of V. Winters, Esq., Dayton, Ohio. If you fail to pay us for faithful labors in the past, we can have little faith in your promises in the future. We trust the good Maker has opened your eyes to the wrongs which you and your fathers have done to me and my fathers, in making us toil for you for generations without recompense. Here I draw my wages every Saturday night; but in Tennessee there was never any pay-day for the negroes any more than for the horses and cows. Surely there will be a day of reckoning for those who defraud the laborer of his hire.

In answering this letter, please state if there would be any safety for my Milly and Jane, who are now grown up, and both good-looking girls. You know how it was with poor Matilda and Catherine. I would rather stay here and starve – and die, if it come to that – than have my girls brought to shame by the violence and wickedness of their young masters. You will also please state if there has been any schools opened for the colored children in your neighborhood. The great desire of my life now is to give my children an education, and have them form virtuous habits.

Say howdy to George Carter, and thank him for taking the pistol from you when you were shooting at me.

From your old servant,

Jourdon Anderson.


Take care of your ticker while you still can!

1 Feb


Get out there and do some damn cardio, you bastards!



Start Early To Curb Heart Risks For A Lifetime

05:35 pm

January 25, 2012

A stethoscope rests on top of a puzzle shaped like a heart.

Heart disease remains the leading cause of death in the U.S. But who’s at the most risk?

A study in the lastest New England Journal of Medicine offers a simple way to predict the risk of a fatal or debilitating heart attack or stroke for a middle-aged person over the rest of his or her life.

“If at age 45 you have two or more of either elevated blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes or smoking, and you’re a man, then there’s a 50-50 proposition that you will have a heart attack or a stroke during your remaining lifespan,” cardiologist Donald Lloyd-Jones, who headed the study at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. Women with two risk factors have about a 30 percent chance.

Having even one risk factor dramatically increases the risk of heart disease. And 95 percent of middle-aged Americans (ages 45-55) have at least one risk factor for heart disease.

In this study, Lloyd-Jones and his colleagues tallied the results of 18 long-term studies conducted over the past 50 years. The studies included men and women, African-Americans and whites. All told, there was information on more than 250,000 adults.

The specific risk factors were most important, regardless of age or race.

If you’ve got some of these risk factors, don’t despair, though. You may not be able to get down to zero, but you can reduce the odds for cardiovascular trouble with exercise, a better diet and treatment for the conditions.

Indeed, Lloyd-Jones says talking about lifetime risks may help motivate patients do that sooner rather than later.

He says he worries that patients won’t take action on diet or exercise when they hear they have just a 3 or 4 percent risk of suffering a debilitating heart attack or stroke over the next five or 10 years. If, on the other hand, he provides a clearer picture about what is in store for them over a lifetime, they’ll be more likely to adhere to a healthful lifestyle.

There was some heartening information in the study, according to Lloyd-Jones. Nonsmokers who make it to middle age with normal blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar have almost no risk of heart disease. “Our data suggested that for a 45-year-old man the likelihood that he would have a heart attack or stroke by 80 was only 1.4 percent,” Lloyd-Jones says.

If more people could get to middle age without the usual risks, it could make a big difference. That means patients and doctors should start tracking blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar starting early in adulthood.

Cardiologist Gordon Tomaselli, president of the American Heart Association, says young adults without a doctor should measure their blood pressure on their own with one of the automated blood pressure cuffs common at pharmacies and grocery stores. If the reading is high, get to a doctor.

If there’s a family history for high cholesterol or diabetes, get that checked early too.

Diet, exercise and drugs can be highly effective when people have these health problems, Tomaselli says. And while they can’t wipe out heart disease risk entirely, they can keep it under control.

What Would Jens Voigt Do?

1 Feb


reposting from:

By Jens Voigt

I am always surprised when people come up to me wearing a T-shirt that says, “Shut up legs!” It was just something I said once, long ago, to a journalist who’d asked how I could dig so deep in races. But even today people who see me say, “Come on, Jens. Tell us! You know what we want to hear!”

“Shut up legs,” I say, and they love it. They laugh. They tell me it inspires them.

This is never annoying. It’s flattering, this whole idea that I have somehow become a racer who means something to people. I would say I was a promising but not spectacular racer when I turned professional in 1997. It was two years before I got a really big win, the Criterium International, then two more before I won a stage of the Tour de France and got to wear the yellow jersey for a day. I would win two more Tour stages over the years (and wear yellow for another day in 2005), plus a stage of the Giro d’Italia, and four more titles at the Criterium International–respectable, but certainly not the sort of career that inspires T-shirts.

Somehow, I became known more for the way I race than the races I’ve won. I never imagined that, either. Whenever I got into a long and exhausting breakaway after I’d tried the same tactic just the day before, or when I attacked over and over in a race, or got up after a crash that had ruined my bicycle and finished the race on a loaner so small it made me look like a bear riding a circus bike, I was just always trying to do my job. I was just riding the only way I knew how.

I was just being myself. Maybe that appeals to cycling fans, too. People see what they get with me and they get what they see. I don’t have brilliant earrings. I don’t have tattoos. I don’t have a Porsche or Ferrari in my garage. (And let’s not forget my funny German accent–that helps as well!)



There is so much crisis in our world (and our sport) that maybe people also see and appreciate the stability in me. You know–Jens is this rock in the ocean. The waves are crashing against him, but he just stands there. Maybe a plain-talking guy who is the same every race and tries hard every chance he gets, maybe that connects, I don’t know.

I think I will never understand fully why so many people seem to like me as a racer, but it is a nice feeling. It is also a great motivation. Okay, I’m not winning 10 races a year or anything, but I am still there to win one or two for myself, and I am still able to help my captains and friends win. There is a lot of satisfaction knowing that a tiny piece of someone’s success is yours, and maybe the way I have been supported by all of you, now some of my success can be yours. And there is satisfaction, too, in pushing back against the hands of time. In many races, at 39, I’m the oldest rider out there.

I don’t know how much longer I will be able to win this fight against the clock. But for however long that is, I will refuse to let myself ride in a comfort zone, as if I have nothing more to prove and I can go ahead and slow down on a difficult descent or, when the race becomes truly difficult, go ahead and ease up because I don’t need to worry about my contract for the next year.

Every time I race, I will race so fiercely my legs cry, and when I can’t do that anymore, that’s when I will know it’s time for myself to shut up and leave.



And on that note:    Jens Voigt prepares for the Tour de Suisse by reassuring scientists at the Large Hadron Collider that he means no harm.


The Legend of Jens

21 July 2010 —

I challenge you not to love Jens Voigt. This man is made out of chiseled granite and railway spikes. He is truly the stuff of legend.

For the second year in a row a bad crash threatened to take Jens out of the Tour de France.

After a front-tire blow-out, shattering his bike, tearing open his elbow and being covered in road rash at the start of a 25km descent, Jens had some choice words for the Broom Wagon.


That stage pretty much got off on the wrong foot. For starters, we just went out so hard. We started out climbing up the Peyresourde Pass and everybody came out with their guns smoking.

I came over the top only 20 seconds down on the front group, but about 2 kilometers into the descent my front tire blew and I thought, “Oh God,” and I went down. Just one year after my horrible crash, and there I was tumbling on another mountain descent. And let me tell you, about the only place that feels good right now is my right ankle. The rest of me is all road rash. Plus I’ve got five stitches in my left elbow and then there are some ribs that are not in the right place! I may have to get x-rays, but I hate x-rays (the radiation), and plus, if I’ve got a fractured rib, what can anyone do about it?

The worst thing of all was that I almost got forced out of the Tour for a second year in a row. The problem was that the first team car was behind Andy Schleck, and the second had decided to go up ahead to hand out water bottles at the foot of the next climb. As a result I had no bike, because mine was shattered.

Jens Voigt on his 'junior' bike (note the toe clips ;-)Jens Voigt on his ‘junior’ bike (note the toe clips 😉

So then the broom wagon pulled up and was like, “Do you want to just get in?” And I said, “Oh no, I don’t need YOU!” But there I am with blood spurting out my left elbow and no bike. Finally, the race organizers got me a bike, but it was this little yellow junior bike. It was way too small for me and even had old-fashioned toe-clip pedals. But that is the only way I could get down the mountain, so I had to ride it for like 15-20 kilometers until I finally got to a team car with my bike.

Then, I still had to get up to the grupetto. All I can say is that that desperate times need desperate measures, but I got up there. And once I did it was grupetto all day long.

Needless to say, I had plenty of time to come up with a fitting book of the day. It’s from the Disk World series by Terry Pratchett. In it, the protagonist is Conan the Barbarian, who is a 70-year-old who has just survived everything. At one point he, and his other old warrior friends capture this village, but then they find that they are surrounded by an army of tens of thousands, and his only reaction is, “Oh man, it’s going to take days to kill all these people!” And that’s the way I was today when I was lying on the ground. I just thought, “Oh no, I’m going to Paris this year, I’m going to Paris. There’s just no way you are going to get me out of this race for the second year in a row!”

I wanna be like Jens.


The Most Terrifying Five Minutes of Singletrack on Earth

1 Feb


I think I just crapped my pants a little.


Seriously… cold sweat here at my desk.




Typically the gravity set looks at folks on shorter travel bikes and yawns. Anyone who yawns at what this crew rides in Austria is either blind or stoned. Speaking of which, we’d have to be seriously medicated to attempt anything like this. If you have acrophobia we recommend you change the channel or hold on tightly to your computer monitor. By the way, the location near as we can tell is in a canyon called the Oetschergraeben, at the northern edge of the Ybbstaler Alps.


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