Half Ass Expedition Guide
As Blanteev and Markus made the Half-Assed Camps of 1997-1998 ready, Tim, and his publicity websites, and JB's Mom, waited in Framingham, for the arrival of the team. Checking in also was Fife, an HAE climbing partner and close friend of Novak's, who was located at the Seattle office of HAE. He was planning to go hiking but he had to sandbag out at the last minute. And Novak was tied down at home, so he was hiking in cybor-space this year. In the months before, Novak had been aggressively pursuing public relations work on Fredulous Q. Mount Gomery's behalf and had been successful in negotiating a top inventor position for HAE, a position that included doubling as HAE's spin-doctored correspondent for the OutHouse page of www.haeadventure.com, a Boston based provider of on-line spoofs and feature packages directed toward computer operators looking for adventure stories. Not a division of www.skateluge.com any longer, and morphed into a large site at the www.haeadventure.com domain, it did reserve the rights to publish selected HAE logos and other selected content for network distribution.
For Novak and Blanteev, who was eager to publish in the e-adventure industry, the emergence of www.haeadventure.com provided opportunity. There was no guarantee of how Blanteev would cover the expedition on the HAE Internet site to which he was reporting, no control over content, no determination as to deadline. Blanteev, loyally taken to hacking Novak's html, could be counted on to maintain the outrageously bloated story line. But there was only one slight problem. Without extensive electronic resources, which included a cellular telephone, Blanteev could hardly compete with other live on-line sites. Once they hopped onto the snowbound trail and left the technology of the modern world to somebody else, he was off the air, out of luck. So, prior to departing from Redwood City, he struck up the idea of what THE CLAMB should be instead; an epic multi-year tale of snowshoe survival adventure, thus sending all the day-to-day what's-new hitters surfing elsewhere. "The agreement was to not to bother with any cellular phones, gps receivers and JB's walkie-talkies because anybody who has ever carried useless crap up a mountain would veto a highly mobile two-man team carrying stupid gizmos... I had talked to Novak, the webmaster, saying. ' I don't need no steenkin phone! Is thairh a prahblem with that?'"
Blanteev works the keyboard
One of Blanteev's first reports filed years ago for OutHouse from Framingham was an on-line interview with Novak and the HAE crew in which he described his climbing buddies. In his responses to Blanteev's questions Novak later emphasized the "good mix" of this years choice of expeditionaries, saying that, in combination with abundant snow it was "very good for chuffing" Niermeyer, he said, was "hurried to step on the top of Maine in January" and that he [Novak] would feel comfortable, if problems arose, to take the calls from the Staties on summit day, "to inquire if the Staties would go calm down the horrified locals, who saw the team enter the woods," wondering about Mark's car still parked at the trailhead a week later in one of the most destructivly brutal storm patterns ever to hit northern New England and Canada.
Blanteev, Novak has introduced as the "head-climber guy" and extolled his achievements as a high-attitude climber who had summited several 4000 foot mountains in Maine without beer. He went on to say about Blanteev's role on this expedition, "Vincentoli I know will not be using beer. Vincentoli is an animal, a conquest monster blaster, that's great!" Novak went on to explain that, as a safety precaution, an emergency reserve of beer would be provided on summit day in the event that Blanteev returned on Sunday and choose to draw upon it.
After the standard crew meetings and introductions were made, Blanteev, after leaving Redwood City, filed a number of e-mails detailing some challenges immediately in front of the HAE expedition, including the possibility of some of the deep winter snow conditions, the type of delays on the trekking trail that the HAE team had already encountered.
"From Kingfield we've learned that gomers just can't get anywhere near a Half-Assed Mountain Camp. Anybody sensible adventurers planning an expedition to the region would delay departure until after bug and mud season, that's in August. There must be like ten expeditons a day walking by here during the summer!"
"Because of this, the team would have to double it's hiking, going from 3 to 6 hours per day for the trip. The hiking takes longer because of the much harder work in the deep snow and we needed to be carrying less equipment under these conditions."
That problem, the booze delivery problems, the missing tent problem were standard half-assed action in the launching days of an expedition, and, according to Blanteev, Novak was "ignoring the details" once again as soon as he logged on-line. "The moment Tim logged on-line his phone could not ring. The logistics of this years complex expedition effort boggle the mind!"
One of the details that Novak had to handle tactfully was professionally personally troublesome. The West Coast Division of HAE had contacted him from Seattle. Jim Fife was telling him that Blanteev, according to the version Fife was claiming about the Bigelow Classic, definitely owed him $20 for pizza and beer over a bet. The actual photo records, Fife maintained, if hypothetically they could be found, would show that Fife summitted in front of Blanteev. "I told Fife the check was in the mail a while back when I was on the west coast," I claim at that point. "But Fife was insisting, 'Either he coughs up the twenty bucks...that was the bet, or... don't let him go, Tim, get my 20 bucks from that cheapskate! Don't let that gomer out of Framingham without my 20 bucks!'"
The proven itinerary cooked up for this years Half-Assed Expedition called for flying into Logan, spend some time in Framingham, and then on Dec 28th or 29th, drive to Northern New England, stopping at several fast food joints. It was a proven and conservative itinerary, designed specifically to get the team to the hike while avoiding Acute Motoring Stupidity (AMS), more commonly described as Fast Food Barfness, which is brought on by driving north too fast, making large increases in the consumption of fast food before allowing the body to metabolize the earlier levels of intake that are still available while driving up the highway.
By planning on taking the Maine Turnpike, the team was holding to a commonly held axiom: start with Mac's in town and then watch out for the King on 95. This routine is widely recommended by hae-climbing specialists and has been incorporated in every single popularly known Expedition into the northern Appalachians.
But Novak, just before the expedition began, announced a way to change plans. Instead of that first highway King, he knew of an optional cut over to Wendy's at the Kittery exit. He also announced that since he was not going on this years expedition that he didn't care where Blanteev and Niermeyer stopped, but if he was going, his vote would be to go with the option play.
Kittery was the same town to which Blanteev and the HAE crew had stopped on occasion during previous years expeditions. For them this years quick stop north of the border was not that all troublesome, but on expeditions past the team stop resulted in endless wasted time checking out the new outdoorsy looking trading post built there. "Almost everyone complained that we stayed there too long. We were totally zoned out just walking around looking at all that stuff." It was only a matter of time before some retailer found this location. Why, for the past few decades, should tourists drive all the way to LL's in Freeport, when all that type kind of stuff can be put in a store right here at the border? Additionally several of the crew members were stricken with upset stomachs and nasty-assed smelling farts after snarfing fast food, possibly a casualty from a Kittery stop.
From the Turnpike, as Blanteev and Niermeyer had done before, the Half-Assed team drives over increasingly rolling snow covered surface-roads to Kingfield, where they spend the next few days recovering while taking difficult hiking along the trail, trying to vaporize from civilization. For some, AMS symptoms continue to linger, normal enough for first day or two, but persisting symptoms indicative that backpacking food is no better than fast food.
Many of the team members resort to taking Maalox tablets, a magnesium-drug derivative that helps them metabolize more fast food. Used by HAE climbers for over twenty years now, the drug has proven record, but most team members recommend that it be taken only to address symptoms of AMS and not for the more insidious bottleflu. It doesn't prevent rude smelling farts, something the drug's manufacturer fails to mention on the label. Gradual travel, with time to stop at a real place, is desirable to avoid Activating Muffled Stenches (AMS). If rapid travel is undertaken and Maalox is used; it should be noted that such use does not obviate the need for prompt chuffing to the nearest OutHouse if severe forms of gaseous states occur.
Internet trekkers, thanks to HAE's low budget approach, were not about to find out any instant news on the Half-Assed web site as the team progressed toward the summit. Curiously, for those who had found the teamís site when it first went up in 1997, they wanted to know if the haeadventure.site was going to be quiet about threading on top of skateluge.com. What they want to know about is what's happening on the mountain right now. "So we get lost up there looking for a good spot to base camp,, somewhere on the way to the summit, and then later I'm kicking back bored around base camp, being very, very uptight with myself...and then I starting saying....'You didn't even bother to carry a cellular phone up here...hae...left it in the car because it cost too much money?. Why didn't we go find more competitive rates!'"
Tim had sent word through the internet (by means of e-mail) that the expedition would be arriving in Maine, and I was eager to see what mountian chuffing would be going down. But at the moment I'm hopelessly lost, circumnavigating several frozen streams and snowmobile tracks, hiking endlessly in a pitched monotonic white and grey landscape. My thoughts drift off with the hypnotic crunching of ice coated snow.
Suddenly I was back to an early autumn, I had just finished a difficult road season. The searing sound of tearing metal and screaming lives cracking open in the endless, quiet hum of polished athletic competition had left me dazed and lost in a world that never will understand anything outside their own little universe. Quickly I was there...suddenly, where there is nothing between you and a one way ticket to oblivion except some smelly Lycra stamped with semi-obsolete sponsor's logos. It's not a big name ride today. But it will be fast. Deadly fast and my fellow racers are there to kick some butt, upholding long standing local rivalries. Looking around I realize that I'm in way over my neck on this one. Under the misconception that the internet directions way-layed me in a huge bridge toll traffic jam, thus missing an easy race at 8am, I somehow had the presumption to register for a race full of semi-pro looking riders, going off just before lunch. So early on in this earnest race a poor pack rat like me is looking for an easy way out of this howling raging mass of spandex coated mutant road attackers. After a few laps I'm seeing double with pain on the hill, loosing places on a nerve racking high speed corkscrew downhill, and look out if that ain't Sunchase and them U.S. Postal Service Master riders mixing it up directly in front of me in a narrow high-speed haybaled corridor. The course is not wide enough at the corner before the finish, due to the negligent hay bale dudes, who have deemed it necessary to allow for a massive traffic jam just on the other side of this critical corner. Next lap I'm a only few wheels off the action up front when a mix up involving a USPS rider sends the Sunchase rider for a real hard slam. The resulting stack-up unleashes an ear-bending shock wave of metallic-acoustic crashing noise pressure, and completely blocks the narrow lane. I put down so much rubber that the rider behind me crashes hard off my rear wheel, it sounds like he is taking a few of his asphalt magnet friends along for some road rash too. Time to bail.
"Uh oh, asphalt magnets ahead!" John Bellantoni (Webcor/Alto Velo Racing Club) at the 2004 edition of the Burlingame Criterium.
My high-speed sidewalk ride out of this mayhem is pure improvisation. I do a nasty curb hop right through some homeowner's flower bed. Wham! Gardenias are shredded and I don't have time to be delighted about not tacoing my rear wheel before I'm on the lawn avoiding a collision with unattentive spectators. A bunch of other riders seem to have the same general idea. Around some more racing fans, the bike rocking hard under me, I bounce off a rider who heads right for a big tree. I am realizing that the world on the other side of the barricades has no idea of the daily difficulty and danger faced by the racers pouring around them. They seem not to be paying attention, going about their business much like in a baseball game. But rest assured someone is paying attention, at the worst possible moment, which is just as I am about to slam a sewer grating off a curb drop. I'm pretending to myself that I can't get back on the course, but an astute corner marshal notices. He pulls the tape up and waves me right back on the course, right back into a high-speed chase group. Obviously he wasn't going for my unconvincing sandbagging routine, and he was yelling 'Go AV!' at me. I realized during the ensuing acceleration to catch back on that the dude at the tape was an ex-teamate I trained with a few years ago. More intense suffering in a blur of high-speed pain and draining awareness until mercifully the announcer pulls us, several laps later with the race approaching our rear wheels. Delighted with the honorable discharge, relieved, I split from that weekends road racing scene. Another day in the saddle, another day riding the thin line between entertainment and chaos.
As my thoughts drift back to cold reality, endless frozen landscape in every direction, the only chance of staying alive strapped to my back, I focus on the feeling of relief from surviving that hellacious race. When I walked away, all bones still intact, to race again another day. I know it is the same feeling I will have if, and when, I can walk off this mountain. When backpacks are finally in the car, after an exhaustive, difficult and dangerous summit, once again I know that I have pushed the fragile envelope of life to the limit. But now a calm, wondering confidence, the fleeting smile of a tightrope walker after a flawless performance, has pervaded. I feel unsuited for the boring life of a urban dweller. I have committed myself to the winter summits I'd yet to climb, and I had to continue. And so I did, placing on foot tiredly and slowly in front of the other, my thoughts wandering with the snow blown continuioum of cold, blustering wind. The endless trail and fractal expanded woods in all directions slowly pulling me forward, one foot, tiredly dragging the other one onward.