Monday, May 30, 2011

Fixing broken stuff (my bike and my skin)

I took today off from hiking because of the amount of snow still here. Given the amount of time it took for the hike yesterday, any of the other ones I had planned would've taken probably 14 hours or more. I'd have to either start or finish after dark, and given the difficulty in seeing the trails even in the daylight, that just didn't seem safe. I'll hike Massive and Harvard some other time I'm in Colorado, when it's later in the season, or when I'm not traveling alone. Instead, tomorrow I'm going to motorcycle over to the top of Pike's Peak, and Tuesday, well, I'll figure out something to do on Tuesday.
Today, as a result of both some tough offroad-ish riding yesterday and the long ride tomorrow, I needed to improve the fix on the motorcycle. Here's what it looked like initially, in its very ghetto form (about a thousand miles after it was initially applied):

Now, after being replaced with hopefully better materials, here is its current form:

Note that there aren't soda markings anymore, because this was actually done with real sheet metal and not the scraps from what I drank along the way. Apart from that it's pretty much the same, admittedly, but this metal is thicker, and hopefully the new design of how I put the pieces on will do a better job of keeping everything securely sealed and in place.  It's still aluminum, though, so it'll burn away eventually.  I have a steel can of refried beans that I can use to patch it (once I eat the contents, of course), but they're still sitting unopened on the desk.

After that, I read a fair amount more (I'm now done with Invisible Cities and three chapters into Under the Black Flag) and went for a run (3.8 miles at an embarrassingly slow pace). After that, it was nearing sundown, so I biked up into the hills northeast of Leadville to try to get some good pictures of the sunset. Had there been a good sunset I'd have gotten some good shots, as I found an excellent vantage point, but there were too many clouds to the west and the sky just gradually darkened without much excitement. Here's a picture of where it would've been, though:

Now, as some of you may know, I kinda majored in physics (it's really weird to put that in the past tense). One of the things that I studied in my last physics class was radiation, its reflectivity off different materials, its effects on bodily tissue, and how its intensity changes when it travels through different substances. Somehow, yesterday I completely forgot all of this when hiking. I neglected to think about the fact that UV radiation 1) is more intense at higher altitudes, because there's 14,000 fewer feet of air to block it, 2) reflects extremely well off snow, and 3) has nasty effects on skin. As a result of forgetting all this and just thinking, it's cold, you can't get sunburned when it's cold, I neglected to put on sunscreen (despite bringing it with me from home, the thought of using it yesterday never even crossed my mind). Now, I have a nice, rather impressive sunburn over almost all of my face, the exceptions being where my hat and sunglasses covered the skin (on a side note, I simply do not know how I used to survive in the midday light without sunglasses). It's the first time I've had a second-degree sunburn, which is cool, but it makes it a bit painful to have anything touch my face (such as the shirts I'm wearing or my motorcycle helmet) because the skin's started to blister away in two places (none of this wimpy drying and flaking off a week later nonsense).
However, it's not all bad. There aren't many times in your life that you get to say that you've got a sunburn on the bottom of your nose (thank you, reflective snow), and the hair that wasn't under my hat or my jacket is now bleached as close to pure white as my hair's ever been, so I get to make women even more jealous of how my hair acquires excellent highlights without any work on my part.
Even stupidity can have its benefits sometimes, it would seem.

On an unrelated note to all the rest (except partially the mention of physics), here's an illustration of the effect of different altitudes on air pressure. Once I reached the summit yesterday I refilled the water bladder in my backpack from one of my water bottles, and here's the bottle after returning to 10,150 feet from the 14,440 at which it was sealed:

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