Pale Thunder

Adventures of a Day-Walking Warrior Poet

Friday Night

It’s late, but not that late. My friend texts, wanting me to hit the town with her. We just got a big storm, shutting down the roads. There’s no way out, and for some reason that means drinking. I’m not opposed, I love a good night out. “Go where the bender takes you,” as a wise man once said. But I’m usually about more.

I revel in the party. I’m damned good at it, if you don’t mind me saying so. Booze makes me better at people. Makes me connect faster, laugh harder, and deliver jokes with less hesitation. But it’s never truly been my thing.

From the outside, it appear to be me. A friend even calls me Party Boy. I have a set of friends from Boulder who know me as “Scuba Steve” because I spent Halloween 2012 on Pearl Street in flippers. All. Night.

But when I go out, I’m not proud of myself. I love the moment, but I’m usually ashamed the next day.  

I didn’t get anything done last night.

And today I’m going to be useless.

Maybe other people feel this way. I hope so. But my ever present hubris insists I’m the only one. That they are somehow immune to the self loathing of a hangover. I don’t know.

Some nights it’s not like that. I make a real friend, have a good conversation, meet a girl I might like to see again, and I think the night is worth it. But usually I just end up wondering “Why?”

Sometimes I’m able to overcome the night before, and crush the day. I wake up, plowing through the headache, oblivious to anything other than seizing the carp. But that’s getting less common with age. The tale of years impairing my ability to overcome last nights questionable decisions.

It wasn’t always this way. And sometimes I wish it wasn’t now. It would be nice to have that joy of the moment, so potent, so alcoholically present, and remember it without revulsion. But that love of conquering the next day is one of the definitions of Joe.

So here I sit on a Friday night. Friends blowing up my phone, and me nursing a glass of wine, determined to get a few more words on paper. I might go out and have a beer or two. I’m not opposed. But tonight, at least, I’m focused on writing now and skiing tomorrow, and knowing how good it feels to conquer both the night and the morning.


Be a Good Person

I’ve never been religious. My parents, due to their devout upbringings, never forced anything on us. If we wanted to go to a church, they would take us, not attempting to sway us in any direction. The first time I went to church was chasing a girl. I was 13. Her father was the preacher. He scared the shit out of me, not just as a father, but also because it was my first view of hellfire and damnation as a public speaking style.

In high-school, I had friends in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA). They would always invite me on trips, and once I even accepted. They paid for a Jackson Hole lift ticket, and all I had to do was travel with them and participate in the weekends activities. I was 17, and this was the first time I remember religion making me uncomfortable. I liked the people. Hell, I even liked many of the messages they espoused. But the reasoning felt forced and disingenuous.

“Be a good person.”


“But you are incapable of being a good person without God. So you need God”


I understand religion as a weapon with which to fight the fear of death. The idea of not BEING is terrifying, and my atheism doesn’t have an answer to that. Believing that your consciousness will continue infinitely must be comforting. But the idea that this reward is somehow the only anchor to moral behavior has always grated on me.

Maybe I’ve been lucky. Maybe I grew up in a house that valued treatment of people over everything else. But I don’t feel like I need the reward of an eternally euphoric afterlife to not be an asshole. Hell, I don’t even need a cookie. For me the reward of good behavior is good behavior in others. Treat others as they want to be treated, and generally, they will treat you as you want to be treated.

Sure, every once in a while someone will be an asshole. Every once in a while I will be an asshole. It’s hard to react perfectly to every situation. And yes, there ARE people out there that are broken and just want to watch the world burn. But I’ve seen enough to believe that the vast majority of us are inherently good, and have good intentions.

 So go out and be nice to a stranger today. Don’t do it because you fear eternal damnation. Don’t do it because you want the big man in the sky to think you’re cool enough to put on his list. Do it because life isn’t always easy and that stranger is sharing your struggle.  Do it because your kindness might make their day/week/month. But mostly, do it because that power is YOURS and no one else’s.  

Camp War Pony Day Seven: The First Cold Night

True to prediction, the mercury dropped pretty hard last night. According to my thermometer, the low was 3 degrees Fahrenheit. As can be expected, I was a little worried about exactly how my gear would handle the temps. Up until this point I’ve just been sleeping in a pair of boxerbriefs. Last night I added some long underwear, ski socks, put a comforter on top of my bag, and got in with my down coat. Within 5 minutes the down coat was off, and I woke up in the middle of the night to take my ski socks off because I was sweating. The setup worked GREAT, and I woke quite comfortably to a bitterly cold sunny day. This was a big confidence builder. 3F is the average low in Breck in December, and I know I have several options to make everything warmer.

My view in the morning. Frozen condensation from my breath on my comforter.

My view in the morning. Frozen condensation from my breath on my comforter.


The only downside is that it appears that my heater setup doesn’t like to light in the cold. I have some thoughts as to why, and some ideas for fixes, but honestly even at 3F, not having a heater was an inconvenience at worst.


Ok, so here’s the scoop on the heater.


I bought a Mr. Heater “Little Buddy” catalytic heater. A catalytic heater takes a fuel (usually natural gas or propane), and introduces it to heated platinum and oxygen. This causes an oxidation-reduction reaction, the byproducts of which are carbon dioxide, small amounts of water, and heat. These heaters are optimal for small spaces because any non-catalytic gas combustion will fill a camper or truck with carbon monoxide in a short time, which is, shall we say, less than optimal.

The only problem with the Little Buddy is that it is designed to run on a 1-pound disposable propane tank.

While it will produce 3800 BTU’s for 5.5 hours in this configuration,  you then throw the canister away, and buy a new one for $4-$5. A better long-term solution, in my eyes, was to buy a 2.5 gallon (11.5 pounds of propane) tank for $50. This tank costs $4-$5 to refill, and will last basically forever.

Mr. Heater makes and sells a hose to connect the Little Buddy to a regular tank with a POL fitting. However, the design of the Little Buddy requires that 1-pound bottle to stand upright, which makes this hose preeeetty much useless.


To solve this problem, I worked with the lady at the propane store and made a custom fitting which will let the Little Buddy sit on the 2.5 gallon tank. I also put a second valve on the adapter so that I can run a cook stove off the same propane tank. Looks pretty slick if I do say so myself.

Camp War Pony Day Six: Winter is Here.

Last night I got off work and drove south. Drove up to about 11,000 feet and parked the War Pony on a dirt road in the middle of nowhere. It was snowing HARD. The roads were terrible, a mix of snow, slush, and ice. But I couldn't have been more excited. This was going to be a fairly significant test of all systems, and I was going to wake up in the snow. 




Woke up to four new inches of snow. Enough to cover up all my tracks of driving into the spot. It got down to 19 degrees. I left one of my bottles outside of my "cooler" (which I use to keep things warm) just for curiosity's sake. Below is the picture of the frozen water. 


Even at 19 degrees, I was toasty warm in my bag. I woke up sweating once and had to unzip the bag a little. Today I'm going to finish my propane heater set-up. Yesterday the woman at the propane store built me most of an awesome little custom mount/valve for my heater. I'll show the finished product and chat about it tomorrow, along with a review of how it works in tonights predicted single digits. 

This was the first night that felt like true freedom. Before this, I'd been parking fairly close to town in "safe" places. Last night was real, and I couldn't have enjoyed it more.

Paleo Thunder

“Wait, you’re fuckin’ WHAT?!?!”

As an endurance athlete, “Going Paleo” is the equivalent to announcing that your weekend hobby is killing puppies with a butter knife. An enduronerds relationship with carbs is a like a Arkansas marriage: Filled with religious conviction, and with all the instant gratification of fucking your cousin. It usually starts (the carbs, not the cousin-fucking) in highschool when our coach/priests told us to worship the CarbGod with metric shit tons of pasta the night before a race. The next day our adolescent zealot bodies galloped down the course, swearing our new personal record was all because of the nine-bajillion calories of Italian food we’d shoveled down the night before.

But now I’m 32, with a bum knee and a temporarily limited training schedule. How the hell am I supposed to not get crushed in race season? Sell my soul to the prehistoric gods, and eat some goddamn nuts, that’s how. Because that’s what “The Cavemen did.”

First,  it’ll drop your weight. Now, this is a tricky subject, because some stupid fuck is going to read that and think “Damn, if I could just lose ALL MY WEIGHT, I would be SOOO fast.” Don’t be an idiot. You have a nice middle ground where your weight is all functional. And that weight is probably something less than you are now, but more than you weighed in high school.

Second, if you cut out the carbs, you get your calories from fat. “But Pale Thunder, I’ve been taught by the gospel of CarbGod that I should avoid fat by eating fat free yogurt and diet coke?!?!?!” Great, enjoy your cancer, idiot. Fat is great for you, it’s what you use to fuel 90% of your exercise. The beauty of fat, is that you’ll get leaner on a high fat diet, because your body doesn’t feel like it’s starving all the time, AND if you eat mostly fat, your body gets better at burning it, which means extra VO2 points immediately.

Now, can you ignore the CarbGod and hope to race well? Of course not. He’ll smite your ass with some good old fashioned suck and lethargy. But in the off season, or during an injury, carbs are a little unnecessary. By avoiding processed food and sugar/starch, mostly you just figure out that you have to EAT REAL food. Which is, like, totally good for you. So eat your fucking bacon wrapped avocado and work on those abs. It’s what your prehistoric ancestors would have wanted. 

Life is About Seasons

“Life is about seasons,” she said.

We were talking about pain, and fear. Her husband had a very traumatic brain injury a few years ago and almost died. And it still haunts her.

“I just never want to lose him. And no one can fucking promise me I won’t.”

We’re never told life is fair. In fact, we’re told so frequently that it isn’t that it should be burnt into our psyche. But we don’t work like that. We have good lives. If you’re reading this, you have an internet connection, which suggests a roof over your head and food in your stomach. This softens us, and feeds our naturally optimistic souls. But life isn’t fair. Nor is it unfair. It just is.

Some people seem to spend life in the summer. Sure there are storms, but generally they live in the sun of good fortune. Some people spend life in the winter, an existence of darkness, hunger, violence, and strife. Most of us spend it drifting through a mix. We have summers, winters, springs. But what is hardest is that we rarely get fall. We aren’t characters in the Game of Thrones, with warnings of “Winter is coming.” It just happens.

Her husband was out for a bike ride with his team. As he had done literally thousands of times before. And then he was in a hospital fighting to keep his life and personality.

He survived. And is kicking ass today. But the impending nature of our winters leaves her scarred and scared.

It’s easy to look at her, as I did during that conversation and say: “But he didn’t die. You have a normal life, he’s fine!” But now she knows. She knows better than any of us can, how quickly the seasons change.