Videography

Bears, Bikes, and Denali

(Click on each photo to see a larger picture on a separate picture page.)

In May 2010, I took one of the funnest trips I logged during my six-year stay living and working in Alaska. I joined a group of some adventurous and fun outdoor-loving Alaskans for a mountain-bike day trip into Denali National Park.

Before the National Park Service opens the main park road to tourist buses, it allows cyclists to pedal up this mostly dirt road. On that trip, I went with a group of four other mountain bikers, getting as far as the Polychrome Overlook. I didn’t see Denali. Clouds will cover the majestic peak more than half the tourist season, so I didn’t expect to see it. I did expect wildlife, maybe some waking grizzly bears, other wild animals, and beautiful terrain. On that front, the trip was a stunning success.

Denali by Mountain Bike, the Only Way to Travel in Mid-May

The adventure began, as you can expect, around a campfire after all of us had driven up from Anchorage (amazing drive, by the way). We secured a camping spot at the Riley Creek Campground, near the main entrance. This is still a surprisingly wild and beautiful area. Staying up late in the arctic night, we talked story around a fire and planned for an early start on a Friday morning in mid-May.

The next morning, we drove as far as the park service allows, not far from the Savage River Campground. From here, you bike in,

A group of five of us cycled ahead of most of the other mountain bikers that day and reached the overlook, 31 miles from the Savage River parking area. It’s a beautiful stretch of road that climbs up 1,500 feet vertically, with a few long up and down hills. The terrain is mostly brown and still snow-covered that time of year. Along the way, we had to stop because of traffic, namely, a grizzly mother and her two cubs. We laughed a lot as she and her young one slowly walked down the hill, calmly crossed the road, and then ambled down the hillside. We saw another pair close to this group, of a mother and just one cub, on a ridge, framed against a mastic mountain backdrop. That’s five bears in less than one hour!

Respecting, Not Fearing, the Bears

For people who don’t live in Alaska or those who pack guns to kill wild critters, this would appear to be a terrifying moment. It was not, and is not.

Bears are relatively predictable, but still lethal. If you respect their space, don’t threaten their food source or young, and don’t startle them, they mostly will leave you alone. Mostly, respect them and their home. And I can say that having travelled hundreds of hours and many more miles in Alaska’s wild bear country, by bike and foot, not once having been threatened.

I have not published these shots on my websites before and forgot until I saw them again how amazingly breathtaking the “Great Land” (that’s what Alaskans call their state) is. I miss it, particularly this time of year, when the snow begins to melt and the big critters begin to explore, eat, hunt, fish, and be wild–the way they were meant to be.

Here’s the video I published almost exactly eight years ago today from that great trip.

Advertisements

Brewing a Winter Porter, Portland Style

I have made a few batches of porters the past couple years. I just finished my latest. I used a Black Butte style porter recipe from the Deschutes Brewery in Bend (their porter is among my favorite beers). I prepared the wort and bottled the fermented final keg, all at Portland U-Brew in January and February 2016. I enjoyed getting to work with the team there and meeting fellow brewers. The U-Brew crew did a nice job educating new brewers like me on the chemistry and techniques to ensure a tasty, properly fermented beer. Overall, it is pretty durn good, though I think they could have upped the carbonation. Skol!

The house on Stout Street

Relatives of mine lived on Stout Street, in northwest Detroit. It was once a middle-class neighborhood for working-class families. Now it has gone to hell. I have profiled the decay on this block before. I wanted to share how it looks with this short video. It still makes me want to cry every time I see it, because every house that used to be here is a story of lives come and now gone.

The footage was taken in September 2015.

 

Rueda flash mob hits downtown Portland, dancing ensues

Rueda de casino is a hypnotically cool dance from Cuba that uses Cuban partner dance patterns called casino to traditional Cuban rhythms that today we know mostly as “salsa,” with dancers moving around a circle and changing partners. You can dance to salsa, traditional older Cuban dance music, and even reggaetone. Fun beyond description, really. Today this is literally a global dance phenomenon, like so many dances that have originated in Latin America.

A great group of Portland-based rueda enthusiasts and instructors, who band under the name Portland Casino Fridays, organized a series of rueda flash mobs at Director Park and then a bit later (after we got kicked out) at the park strip near the Portland Art Museum on Saturday, March 28. Bet you did not know there is such as thing as Rueda de Casino Internationl Multi-Flashmob Day. Well I did not until I joined the fun.

If you have not tried rueda, look it up in your city and give yourself some time to pick up the moves. There are hundreds if not thousands of instructional videos on YouTube now. Oye, baila!

The ducks were made for walking

Seeing happy ducks in the muddy wetlands not far from my home on a rainy night this week made me think of other happy ducks. Here is some footage I shot in the rice paddies outside Ubud, Bali, way back in 2009. (Ouch, that is so long ago already.) Now tell me, do these ducks have moxie or do these ducks have moxie. You can see a larger version of these critters on YouTube too.

Extreme Nordic at Mt Hood’s Teacup ski trails

On the last day of 2014, Mt. Hood finally had great ski conditions. I headed up to Teacup Nordic, the closest groomed nordic trails near Portland and got my last good runs of the old year. To anyone out there who thinks Nordic is for geezers or losers, you should give skate skiing a try. It will kick your ass into shape on the flats and uphills and will have you grinning like a bear in a salmon stream when you rip down a groomed trail. Happy trails, skiers.

A long journey ends in La Jolla, on the Pacific’s golden shores

Some things take time … a long, long, long time. Timing requires great patience, and also knowing when to act. In life, lucky is the person who can be both patient and know when to act. I am very, very lucky.

In late September 2014, I celebrated, here, at La Jolla Beach, the place I had come 25 years earlier, when this chapter of my odyssey began. I will forever have an endearing attachment to this place. It was here where I finally felt what I had long wanted.

 

An evening with hundreds of onlookers at Seattle’s Kerry Park

On beautiful evenings, one should try to enjoy the moment and hopefully the outdoors, wherever you are. Here is the spot people love in Seattle, at Kerry Park, overlooking Elliott Bay and downtown.

Seattle’s 2014 Fremont Fair, getting ready for the solstice parade

The Fremont Fair is now an annual tradition in Seattle, made famous by nude bicyclists. No, I am not going to show photographs of nude bikers. If you want to see those, you can use Google images, and you can find plenty of them. Instead, I wanted to highlight a number of the groups who put on this show for free every year, including kids, dancers, and lots of really good horn players and drummers. It is not quite Carnival in Rio, but for this place, it is what the locals do to fly their exhibitionist and performing artists flags and welcome summer.

Getting around in Indonesia: trains, planes, bemos, buses, kecaks, and ferries

I posted this video online five years ago to highlight the often chaotic world of public transportation in Indonesia. As worried as I was about the large number of jet crashes and ferry sinkings there, the hazards of riding local public transportation gave me more concern. And, these concerns are well-justified.

Road injuries are ranked 10th of all contributors to the global burden of disease–more so in developing nations. In Indonesia, approximately 49,000 people die annually on the roads. Having seen in person several fatal road accidents there, usually involving small motorcycles and larger vehicles, I can say unequivocally that these are horrific ways to die. In fact, the United States Department of State offers this warning to would-be American visitors to my very much beloved Indonesia: “Air, ferry, and road accidents resulting in fatalities, injuries, and significant damage are common. … While all forms of transportation are ostensibly regulated in Indonesia, oversight is spotty, equipment tends to be less well maintained than that operated in the United States, amenities do not typically meet Western standards, and rescue/emergency response is notably lacking.”

However, it is cheap to move around. Train travel was super easy, as was hopping on a bus, or the smaller bemos. I just would not advise getting in a taxi late at night during the seasonal typhoons and have the driver then tell you that his headlights are not working, in broken English, as you navigate back roads in a city you know nothing about. Ah, the memories of travel. Priceless.

By all means, please do visit Indonesia, support the local businesses there with your money, and use a bit of common sense. Or your can stay at home, thinking you are safe and cozy, and never really understand how things work in places as dynamic and important as the largest Moslem-majority country in the entire world. For that is what corporate greenwashing campaigns like the Rainforest Alliance’s Follow the Frog want us to do: never ever leave home and never ever learn about the world first-hand. The choice is truly yours. I say, be curious, be friendly, and definitely be mobile.

See my picture gallery of Indonesia photos on my web site. (Ed. Note: I legally changed my name to Rudy Owens from Rudy Brueggemann after I had produced this film, so that is why you will see that name on the video.)