29 July 2008

Puppy Malaise, Part 4

A dog thinks, "Hey, these people I live with feed me, love me, 
provide me with a nice warm, dry house, pet me, and take good care of me. They must be Gods."
A cat thinks, "Hey, these people I live with feed me, love me, 
provide me with a nice warm, dry house, pet me, and take good care of me. I must be a God!"
- Unknown

Kaiser continues on the roller coaster of health he's been riding for the last six weeks or so. He hasn't had a fever in over a week now, and even his hind leg seems to be getting much better. He can walk fairly normally on it, and once again jump up on the couches and beds (yes, we spoil the animals rotten...) without too much trouble. You can still tell the leg is weak when he climbs the stairs. The new problem (will this ever end?) seems to be gastro-intestinal. He's been throwing up daily, and what comes out of the other end is, well, let's just say it's the consistency of soft-serve ice cream, at best. We've tried going to a strict diet of white rice and boiled chicken, with little results. Now, per vet instruction, we're attempting to medicate with Pepcid. The saga continues...
I'm not sure I've mentioned the fifth member of the family, the crotchety, old cat "Mick Jagger." He's of indeterminate age, but we're guessing near 18 or 19 years. He's now quite skinny, bitchy, and constantly goes outside, eats grass, comes in and throws up on the carpet. So it's a joyous time in the house, with the cat and dog competing for most spectacular, or appropriately-placed vomit. 
The wonders of 'parenthood'...
KJT - Seattle (2008) Kaiser & Mick Jagger

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25 July 2008

Swiss Miss

"Each friend represents a world in us, 
a world not possibly born until they arrive, 
and it is only by this meeting that this new world is born."
- Anäis Nin, Cuban-French writer/Bohemian (1903-1977)

A re-connection with an old friend, whom I hadn't heard from in quite some time. Nicole was studying at La Sorbonne during the same summer session as myself in Paris, 2000. She was an important cog in the machinery of friendship that was born of the lunacy of that time. She recently emailed me, saying she is back across the pond, traveling and tasting some of the nectar that Europe has to offer. 

Whilst in Switzerland, she went bungee jumping and hang gliding in the majesty of the Alps. She sent some pretty amazing pictures, and here are a few. She said she's conquering her fear of heights, but I suspect she's a bit of an adrenaline junky, as I know she's also enjoyed the thrill of sky-diving.

That last shot is of us, from Paris in 2000. A night out on the town, at a restaurant called (I believe) Coq au Vin, but that may be what we had for dinner. That's my roomie, P, in the background.
KJT - Stockhorn & Interlaken, Switzerland via Nicole (2008), and Paris (2000)

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22 July 2008

Pillars of Hercules

"Gibraltar is a place which Englishmen ought to know and revere. 
It affords at once a monument of her past deeds 
and a proof of her present power."
- Lord St. Vincent's biographer (1838)

I was going to be on my own for the day, as the lady was feeling under the weather. We were tucked away in the quaint, little Andalucían mountain village of Ronda, España, and would be there a few more days. I quickly decided on a mad dash south to the sea. I left her snoozing at the inn, grabbed a quick café solo and a pincho de tortilla, and caught the first train south. A few hours later I stepped from the train into La Línea de la Concepión - the Spanish border town that abuts the English-controlled territory of Gibraltar. "Gibraltar" is from the Arabic "Jebel Tariq" meaning Mountain of Tariq, after the Berber general that led the Moorish conquest of the Iberian Peninsula in 711. Ceded by Spain to the British in 1713, the Spanish have been petitioning for Gibraltar's return ever since. This has led to various skirmishes, blockades, temporary border closings, and general feelings of animosity over the years. At the time I arrived the border was open to foot traffic or autos, but the train could not cross the frontier. Once through passport control it was a few kilometers walk along Winston Churchill Avenue to get to the main part of town.

I hailed a cab and went to the far end of the territory, Europa Point, to dip my feet in the Mediterranean. I noted with interest that the cars drove on the right side of the road even though it was English territory. The cab driver told me in a thick Cockney accent that this was because they shared the land border with Spain. There was a new, white mosque standing guard at the land's end. A modern nod back to the nearly 750 years of Moorish control over Gibraltar, which ended in 1462 during the tail end of the Reconquista. I then decided it was time to go up to "The Rock" - the colossal limestone mountain, from which on a clear day one could view North Africa a mere eight miles across the Straits of Gibraltar. The Rock of Gibraltar was known in the past as one of the Pillars of Hercules, along with Jebel Musa on the African side. The two marked the limit of the known world in ancient times. I took a cable car up to the top of the Rock and wandered around for a while. I gazed out across the Mediterranean, barely spotting the hazy shadow of Morocco in the far distance. I hiked around for a while, past the old English batteries and cannons, waiting to be called upon again, should the need arise. I hoped it wouldn't.

The Barbary Macaques (the only wild monkeys in Europe) seemed at ease, lounging on the steep staircases, nosing in the brush, sitting in the trees, and begging food from tourists. Legend said that if the macaques left the Rock, the English would lose control over Gibraltar. I decided to skip the cable car and make the long walk back down to the town. It took me quite a bit longer than I anticipated, and I didn't have much time to make it back across the border to catch the last train back to Ronda. I quickly stepped into a fish & chips shop and placed an order to go. The proprietor didn't have many people asking for take away and had no containers. He asked me if he could wrap it up in newspaper like he used to do in England. I laughed and told him that would be perfect. I had a pint of Fuller's ESB while I waited. He had the BBC news on the TV in the corner. I felt like I was back in Earl's Court in London, waiting for a night on the town. I finished my beer, grabbed the food and ran for the border. Luckily the crossing going back into Spain was quick and uneventful. I got to the train with a few minutes to spare. I settled back in an empty coach, unfolded the paper, and bit into the crisp, moist fish. A bit of oil ran down my chin. The fries (chips) were hot and salty. I opened the rest of the package and laughed out loud - he had wrapped some peas in another pocket of newsprint. I enjoyed a fantastic English meal as the train rumbled back up through the darkening Andalucían countryside. Outside the window pinpoints of light shown out, marking the small houses that were enveloped in the deepening night. I fell into a comfortable trance as the train rocked me gently back north to where my love was waiting.
KJT - Gibraltar, British Overseas Territory, Iberian Peninsula (2002)

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19 July 2008

Puppy Malaise, Part 3
(Some Good News)

"Can I see another's woe, and not be in sorrow, too?
Can I see another's grief, and not seek for kind relief?"
- William Blake, English poet/painter (1757-1827)

Finally a little good news to report, although it began with high anxiety. On Thursday Stacie had to rush Kaiser to the hospital in the morning. He had a fever over 105° and he couldn't stand up. He hadn't eaten much in three days. On arrival at the hospital he weighed 32lbs. In mid-June he had weighed 43lbs. The hospital put him on intraveneous fluids, and started him on a new drug, Prednisone. I was terrified all day that they were going to call us to come in and put him down. 

Within a few hours his fever was down to 103°, and by the time we picked up him at 7:00pm his fever was right around 101°, which is in the normal range for dogs. He seemed to have some pep and was limping around, but moving under his own power. When we got home he ate a huge bowl of food and a couple cups of whole milk. An hour or so later he ate another big bowl of food, to which we added cottage cheese and roast beef. He also downed another cup of milk. Before we went to bed we took his temperature again and it was still hovering right around 101°.

He slept quite well that night, getting up a couple times to go to the bathroom. The next morning he had two breakfasts (very Hobbit-like, that) and some more milk. His hind leg is still limp and he hobbles on it, but he definitely seems to be responding to the Prednisone. That evening his temp was 100.8°. He doesn't seem to be in distress like he had been.

It's quite a relief to have his fever down and to see him eat again. They think that if it had been cancer, the Prednisone would not have had such an immediate impact - but they still won't rule it out. Now the consensus seems to be some kind of joint inflammation combined with possible auto-immune issues. We'll keep him on the Prednisone for another week and a half, and if his fever stays down and he regains some weight we might be able to finally figure out what really is going on with his leg/joint.

It seems strange to look back on the post from June 14 (Friday Farmer's Market) when we walked down the hill with him, and there were no real red flags.

Happy for small miracles. It was a stressful week.
KJT - Seattle (2008) Photo by Stacie

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17 July 2008

Your Soul is Melting

"The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quiet, alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be and that God wishes to see people happy, amidst the simple beauty of nature."
- Anne Frank, German Jewish writer/humanist (1929-1945)

Three friends, a few tents, large quantities of beer, and some of nature's northwest bounty.

One of the great things about Seattle is the close proximity to lots of interesting things to do. Within a half hour drive there is great camping, hiking, skiing, many lakes, the Puget Sound, beaches, parks and trails. A little further out and you can really get away. 

We loaded up RJ's van with tents, stoves, coolers, and chairs and set off for a quick camping excursion. We took the ferry across the Sound to Bainbridge Island and hopped across to the Olympic Peninsula and headed north. After a couple hours we found ourselves a great camping area a little way off the beaten path. It was high up in the Olympics above the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The weather was a bit chilly and foggy, but we didn't mind. It was just good to be away.

We woke up in the foggy, grey dawn and I boiled water for French press coffee. Sitting in the stillness of the morning, the enormity of the wild, the hot coffee warming the hands as the birdsong welcomed the new day was invigorating. We hiked through quiet, lush forests and up steep, rocky trails above the tree line. Skirted snow fields and tightroped along narrow ridges overlooking deep, wide valleys on either side. Deer Park to Obstruction Point and back - 15 miles round trip. On a clear day you could see across the Strait, past the shipping lanes, all the way to Vancouver Island, Canada. Vertigo and exaltation. The fog shrouded the mountains and gave the area a feeling of quiet solitude, of generations past, of forgotten times.

The nights were spent around the campfire. Cheap beer and expensive tequila were passed around. We talked of politics and of philosophy. We discussed passion, sex, art, music, and food. We spoke of books and movies and thoughts and dreams. We stared, mesmerized, at the fire until the logs burned down and the coals glowed hot. I noticed that P's shoes were too close to the heat and were beginning to soften. "Your sole is melting," I said to him. He stared dreamily into the radiant coals and nodded, "Yeah, man. My soul is melting." I began to laugh, and pointed at his smoking shoes. "No, your SOLE is MELTING!" I cackled. He jumped up and shuffled his feet in the dirt. We laughed until the tears ran. 

Long into the night we waited for the occasional break in the clouds to give us a glimpse of the myriad kaleidoscope of stars and planets. The heavens high above and the tall trees encircling us relaxed and cheered our hearts. A shooting star painted the night sky. Our souls were rejuvenated and our spirits cleansed.
KJT - The Olympic Peninsula, WA (2006)

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15 July 2008

Puppy Malaise, continued

"They fancied themselves free, and no one will ever be free 
so long as there are pestilences."
- Albert Camus, "The Plague" (1947)

Still a mystery as to what ails poor Kaiser. We've taken him in for acupuncture treatments and chiropractic treatments. They seem to make him feel better, but only for a while. He's had several rounds of x-rays and physicals and he's been on one antibiotic or another for over a month and still has a fever. He's even taking pills to help 
his Qi ("Chee") — I shit you not. He can hardly use his left hind leg at all now, it just hangs limp. He doesn't have much interest in eating and he's lost quite a bit of weight. He hobbles around and mostly lies under the coffee table and sighs occasionally. Our doctor is going to consult with a specialist and we will probably then take him to one here in Seattle, or one in Pullman in eastern Washington. Although nothing has shown up so far on the x-rays, we're beginning to worry about cancer. So far the doctors are as baffled as we are.
KJT - Seattle (2008) Kaiser getting acupuncture, notice needles in lower picture

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14 July 2008

Bastille Day

"Any law that violates the inalienable rights of man is essentially unjust and tyrannical; it is not a law at all."
- Maximilien Robespierre, French politician/lawyer (1758-1794)

Happy Bastille Day. The French National Holiday (Fête Nationale), celebrating the storming of the Parisian prison on 14 July 1789. 
This act was seen as the symbol of the idea of the people over the monarchy and the uprising of the modern French nation. Just six weeks later, on 26 August, the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen were proclaimed - putting forth the idea of sovereignty of the people, rather than the law of divine right of kings.
KJT - View toward the Seine from my apartment in Paris (2000)

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11 July 2008

Baltic Unease

"Poor, poor ghost," she murmured; 
"have you no place where you can sleep?"
"Far away beyond the pinewoods," he answered, in a low dreamy voice, "there is a garden. There the grass grows long and deep, 
there are the great white stars of the hemlock flower, there the nightingale sings all night long. All night long he sings, and the cold, crystal moon looks down, and the yew-tree spreads out its giant arms over the sleepers."
Viginia's eyes grew dim with tears, and she hid her face in her hands.
"You mean the Garden of Death," she whispered.
Found scrawled on a door in Tallinn, Estonia
- From Oscar Wilde, "The Canterville Ghost" (1887)

We had trekked by train and ferry through Scandinavia and eventually found ourselves in Helsinki, Finland - the Jewel of the Baltic. In the train station we marveled at the exotic destinations on the enormous schedule board - Turka, Lahti, St. Petersburg, Moscow. Russia was so close. We explored the old city, reveling in the Art Nouveau and neo-classical architecture. Particularly the gigantic, white Helsinki Cathedral, helping lend the city it's epithet, "The White City of the North." We dined on reindeer, cold smoked perch, pea soup, and cloudberries. We also enjoyed some particularly hearty beers and a wicked vodka-like drink called Koskenkorva on a roving bar. It was an old trolley converted into a pub and it made it's way around the downtown area, people jumping on and off to imbibe. While perusing the harbor area, we stumbled across a fast ferry launch with trips to Tallinn, Estonia. We made a spur-of-the-moment decision and bought tickets for early the next morning.

We arrived on time and made the quick hour-and-a-half jaunt across the Gulf of Finland to the capital city of the old Soviet buffer state. The morning was grey and dreary and oddly quiet. The ferry dock was utilitarian and foreboding. Imposing guards with sub-machine guns stood at attention. We had a disquieting feeling, and thought back to those old Cold War movies depicting the harsh life behind the Iron Curtain. We made our way through the dense fog. We had to march through a cold, lonely industrial area to reach the medieval old town. We passed a gated iron door on which someone had scribbled a melancholy quote from Oscar Wilde. This added to our growing anxiety. Sounds were muted, and the occasional slam of a door was over-harsh and was like an attack on the quiet. It made us jump. We passed an old, bullet-pocked building. Burn marks and the scars of explosions etched it's surface. There seemed to be no one on the streets, and we felt as if we were intruding, or had missed the message to clear out of the area. 

After some time the fog finally began to lift and the grey landscape regained some color. The sun began to shine down and suddenly people began appearing on the sidewalks, coming in and out of shops, talking in the lanes. We turned a corner and arrived at the central square to find cafés putting tables out on the sidewalks, waiters in starched collars laying out linen and flatware. Old people sat together gossiping and laughing. Young couples were shopping and smiling. In a matter of minutes our mood and outlook went from one of unease and nervousness to feelings of warmth, hospitality, and some relief. We ended up having a grand time in Tallinn.
KJT - Helsinki, Finland & Tallinn, Estonia (1998)

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07 July 2008

Rolling on the (Rhône) River

"Sur le pont d'Avignon
L'on y danse, l'on y danse
Sur le pont d'Avignon
L'on y danse tous en rond"

"On the bridge of Avignon
They are dancing, they are dancing
On the bridge of Avignon
They are dancing all around"
- Chorus from Sur le Pont d'Avignon, 15th century French chanson, traditional

Another weekend during my summer of study in Paris and I found myself once again without plans. I decided to head south on another solo journey. This time to my favorite part of France: Provence
After getting out the map and train schedule I saw that the TGV Méditerranée line (southern high speed rail) could take me from 
Paris Gare-de-Lyon to Avignon in just over 2-1/2 hours. Not bad for covering 465 miles. I had never been to Avignon, and was excited to spend an entire weekend alongside the Rhône river.

After class on Friday afternoon I took the métro to the train station and bought a round trip ticket. I was in Avignon before evening. As I didn't have a reservation I decided the first thing to do was find a place to stay. From the train station I walked into the old town and began to poke around for a hostel. The first few that I stopped in were full. I stopped in at a tourist information kiosk and found out that the Festival d'Avignon was taking place that weekend - one of the oldest and biggest arts and music festivals in all of France. Hmmm... not the best time to be there without a reservation. I inquired further and was told that there might be room at a youth hostel/campground outside the city on an island in the river. Being outside the city was not what I wanted, but the idea of being on an island in the river was intriguing. It was a hot trek in the late afternoon/early evening sun to get out of the city and across a bridge to the island. The hostel wasn't open yet and I had to wait a while, as more and more travelers contiued to show up. Eventually they unlocked the doors, and I was lucky enough to get a bed in a dorm style room. Many of the people that arrived after me had to continue their search elsewhere.

Once I got my pack settled in and paid the fee, I had a look around the Ile de la Barthelasse. It was a long island that followed the bend of the Rhône across from the mainland. It had magnificent views of the city just across the water. The medieval city walls rose up from the far bank and to the north was the broken remnant of the Pont d'Avignon - the famous medieval bridge that now only spanned halfway across the river. Behind the walls towered the imposing Palais des Papes - the palace of the Popes, home of the head of the Catholic church after Pope Clement V moved the papacy from Rome to Avignon in 1309. Off in the distance, the "Giant of Provence" - Mont Ventoux, rose into the sky, it's bald crown reaching for the heavens. I decided this had been a very opportune find.

As the sun was setting I made my way back across the modern bridge and into town. I found a small, out-of-the-way bistro that had an empty table in the corner. I started off with a Lillet apértif and a cold tomato-melon soup seasoned with olive oil and basil. I then had an excellent dinner of roast lamb scented with lavender, lentils, and fresh baked bread with olive oil. Since the vinery was just up the road, I splurged and ordered a bottle of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. After dinner I wandered the twisted lanes and small alleys of the old town. It was ancient and breathtakingly beautiful. It was July and after the hot day the warm summer evening felt inviting. The sky was a deep midnight blue and the stars shown out like diamonds. The moon was just beginning to rise behind the timeworn city walls. Art exhibits, painters, jugglers, acrobats, and impromptu musical performances were around ever corner. People were out strolling, holding hands and laughing. I ached for my fiancé. I stopped at a small bar to enjoy a Ricard pastis. I leaned against the bar rail and watched the human theater unwind before me. I ordered a simple bottle of Côtes du Rhône to take with me. Once back across on the island I didn't feel like turning in just yet. I walked down to the water's edge and sat down on the soft grass under an old, gnarled Willow tree. Now that it was full dark the walls and towers of Avignon were lit up across the river. I laid there on the grass with the fragrant night enveloping me in a warm embrace and sipped the dry red wine. The crooked and delicate branches hung down to frame the spectacle of the slow-moving river, the old city, and the moon and the stars. Lulled into a sense of serenity and peace, I drifted off to sleep...
KJT - Avignon, France (2000)

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05 July 2008

Hot Dogs & Apple Pie? I Think Not...

"Americans can eat garbage, provided you sprinkle it liberally with ketchup, mustard, chili sauce, Tabasco sauce, cayenne pepper, or any other condiment which destroys the original flavor of the dish."
- Henry Miller, American writer (1891-1980)

First off, let me say that my sister is awesome, for more ways than I care to list here. Thursday when I got home from work a package was waiting for me with the mail. In it were two wonderful presents from her: a bag of imported German Spaetzle, and the classic 1956 French short film "The Red Balloon" on DVD. She rocks.

Fast forward to the evening of the Fourth of July. Classic American holiday meal? Burger, hot dog, apple pie? Mais non, not at Chez Kevin. I made the Spaetzle with sautéed Chanterelle mushrooms, onions, and garlic. Then I added shredded Butterkäse (a mild German cheese) and a bit of cream cheese & real butter. Along with that I grilled a marinated Flat Iron steak (I had wanted to make Veal Milanese, but the local boucherie was out), and sautéed an eggplant in olive oil with herbs & garlic. Whilst cooking I had a Beck's beer and with the dinner a simple bottle of red table wine. Stacie made a lemon custard pie, of which I felt the need to have three pieces. We then watched Seattle's dueling fireworks shows from our back deck. Hands down, the South Lake Union fireworks owned the Space Needle's display. Happy Birthday America.
(I feel I must add a brief caveat here, regarding Miller's quote above. While I can't stand ketchup, and don't care much for yellow mustard, I must admit that I love Dijon or ground mustard, any kind of spicy chili sauce, and any kinds of peppers - but they need to be applied infrequently and in the correct amount.)
KJT - Seattle (2008)

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04 July 2008

Remembrance of Things Past

"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness."
- Mark Twain, American humorist/writer (1835-1910)

This being Independence Day sparked a particularly strong memory of times past...

During the summer of 2000 I lived in Paris for a period of several months, studying the French language at La Sorbonne. I lived on the 5th floor of an apartment in the 5th arrondissement, a few blocks from Notre Dame - the famed Left Bank. The building was just around the corner from Place Maubert. I was quite a bit older than most of the students in my classes. Most were just out of high school or in their first few years of college while I had already earned my bachelor's degree. My roommate, P, was a nutty man and very much shared my world view of bohemianism, hedonism, and wanderlust.
On this particular day (that happened to be July the 4th), we were all standing around outside the classroom building in Montparnasse. We were trying to decide where we should go to dinner that evening. One young lady spoke up that we should call first to make sure the restaurant would be open. P and I looked at each other somewhat confused, and asked her why they wouldn't be open? She replied that some things might be closed because it was the Fourth of July. We laughed and asked her why the French would feel it necessary to close for an American holiday that, while they had helped to bring about, they certainly didn't celebrate. She didn't understand, and we had to patiently explain to her that while certain holidays were truly world-wide events, such as Christmas, Easter, Yom Kippur and Ramadan, others that we celebrated in the states such as Independence Day and Thanksgiving were not celebrated or even known in most "foreign" countries. It took a while of explaining, but eventually you could see the dawn of comprehension in her eyes. It was kind of a cool moment. She had just shaken off the veil of ignorance that we all wear from time to time, but that is most permanent on those who haven't ventured from their home shores, or even home towns. She really began to look at things differently after that day. It may have been one of the best lessons she learned during that whole summer.
KJT - Paris, France (2000)

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03 July 2008

Another Clown Down

"It is meat and drink to me to see a clown."
- William Shakespeare, English poet & playwright (1546-1616)

Bozo has left the building...
This sad story just in over the wires, courtesy of the AP: Larry Harmon, who turned the character Bozo the Clown into a show business staple that delighted children for more than a half-century, died Thursday of congestive heart failure. He was 83.
R.I.P. Bozo...
KJT - Seattle (2008) Photo from AP Photo/File

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Soaked to the Bone

"Be careful what you wish for, you may receive it."
- Anonymous, cited in "The Monkey's Paw" by W. W. Jacobs (1903)

Well, I'm certainly no longer in a "state of inelegance" from the heat. Now I'm inelegant because I resemble a drowned rat. This morning might have been the second hardest rain I've ever ridden in. 

Thinking ahead, I rode my "rain bike" (the one with fenders) home last night, because the weather reports said we might have isolated thunderstorms today. 

For once they were right on the money. Thunder, lightning, and it was pissing rain. The ride from the house to the train station downtown takes all of 10 or 11 minutes. In that time I was thoroughly drenched. After drip-drying a bit during the 15-minute trip south to my stop in Tukwila, it was then back on the bike. The rain was just a gentle sprinkle as I started the ride from the station to the Raleigh offices. Two blocks into it, and the skies opened up. It dumped, and then dumped some more. It was actually pretty comical - the trail looked like a creek. At the office I had to wring my gloves out. Twice. Now I'm just hoping everything dries by 5pm.

Oh yeah, fenders and rain gear are a joke in that kind of downpour.
KJT - Seattle to Kent, WA (2008)

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