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Downhill Skateboarding

This is an article I just wrote for CoolTools, the best thing since the Whole Earth Catalog.

Downhill skating is like surfing; carving back and forth on long downhills. Note: you guys who skated as kids and have quit. The technology is way advanced these days. Decks, trucks, wheels, designs. It's a different skating world. If you've ever skated, you've got the motor skills (due to "muscle memory"), and you'll be surprised at how much fun you can have skating downhill with today's boards. Here are three unique skateboards meant for downhill, as opposed to acrobatic street and ramp skating.

Loaded Carving Systems

This is my board of choice, after maybe 20 boards. The decks are made of 1/2 cm strips of vertically laminated bamboo (with the grain running truck to truck,) sandwiched between layers of fiberglass. The decks are convex (from end to end) and you can pump to accelerate, gaining speed from the flex of the deck and rebound from the truck bushings and wheels. They produce a graceful and flowing ride. I've got a Dervish model with Orangatang wheels. Check out the film clips on their website.

Dervish complete board w/wheels
Available from Loaded Boards


This is a whole other animal. Surfers love them. They're heavy, have adjustable air pneumatic tires, and the deck tilts off springs so you can carve insanely tight angles. I use one with tires deflated to about 10 lbs. pressure to be able to skate a steep local hill that I can't handle on any other board.

43" Carveboard
Available from Carve USA

Landyachtz Evo 2008

From British Columbia, land of heavy-duty mountain bike riders and downhill skaters, come these downhill racing boards. The drop-down decks give you a lower center of gravity and great stability at high speeds. Being closer to the ground makes it easier for skaters to get a padded glove on the ground for sliding (to slow down).

Evo 2008 w/Gumball wheels
Available from Landyachtz

Safety Gear

1) Loaded sliding gloves -- best ones available. When you fall face down, these save the skin on the palm of your hand. They are also used for sliding.

2) TSG Force 2 knee pads.Top of the line; you can put these on over long pants.

Small House

This little farm building is at a winery near Philo, Calif., and is nicely proportioned for a tiny house plan.

Trips Festival Movie is Good!

There is a blizzard of stuff out about the '60s right now; extraordinary. Last night I watched The Trips Festival Movie, put together by Eric Christensen, and it was right-on. A welcome take after so many years of media-bashing of the '60s.

Interviews with Stewart Brand, Bill Graham, Roland Jacopetti, Jerry Mander, Mountain Girl, Bob Wier, Ben van Meter about not only the 3-day festival in San Francisco in 1966, but about everything else that was going on in SF at that time.
Everyone interviewed is articulate, and there are a number of insights that made me say, "Hey, yeah…" Someone said that in the early years of the Fillmore and Avalon dances, the performers and spectators were one, and that when the performers later became stars and the bands got successful, all that changed.
Ben van Meter told a story: A young long-haired kid in Kansas is ostracized in his high school, gets beaten up by the football team every so often, hears about Haight Ashbury, and hitches across the country. Gets to the Haight, and it's Nirvana. He meets a pretty girl, they smoke pot, take acid, sleep together, and wander around the neighborhood when it was still wonderful (before the Summer of Love). They go to the Avalon and are dancing under the strobe lights, and the kid extends his hand, looks at his fingers, and wonders where his hand ends and the rest of the world begins.

"It wasn't sex, drugs, and rock and roll," says Mountain Girl, "it was about consciousness expansion, increasing awareness."

"Through a series of informative and entertaining interviews, Christensen’s film explains why a crazed event with 10,000 folks on LSD was able to work: it was organized and run by some very bright and innovative people. Indeed, the alumni from the Trips Festival would go on to play vital roles in communes, be responsible for a surge in growth in the Sierra Club and other like-minded ecological movements, develop the Whole Earth Catalog, create the influential online group, THE WELL, and much, much more.…"

From Jason Buchanan, All Movie Guide, New York Times:
The Summer of Love was still eighteen months away when a collective of San Francisco-based filmmakers, musicians, performance artists, entrepreneurs, and futurists planted the seed of the counterculture movement, and that seed was called the Trips Festival. For three full days, attendees at the Trips Festival were treated to a non-stop multimedia rock show comprised of guerilla theater, psychedelic light shows, and Grateful Dead music. Of course the LSD-spiked ice cream didn't hurt in creating a transformative vibe that would resonate throughout the culture in the coming months. In addition to highlighting how the Trips Festival would ultimately become the blueprint for Burning Man, director Peter Christensen and narrator Peter Coyote trace the careers of festival presenter Bill Graham (who forever altered music history by booking the very first rock show at the Fillmore Auditorium), and festival producer Stewart Brand (who not only created the Whole Earth Catalog, but also pioneered the online community the Well).

Tiny House in Remote West Virginia Hills

Lew sent me this link to an elegant little cabin on a remote West Virginia hillside. In many parts of the country you can legally construct a building of under 150 sq. ft. No building inspectors!


"Architect Jeffery S. Broadhurst designed and built this 140sf retreat for his family on a very remote 27-acre mountaintop property in West Virginia, accessible only by off-road vehicle. Built by himself, friends and neighbors, using off-the-shelf materials. Board-and-batten siding and a standing-seam, terne-coated steel roof sit atop a wood platform. A ladder unhitches and swings down, providing access to the entry door. Oil lamps provide light and a woodstove heats the space. Hand-powered, gravity-fed plumbing system, and water is heated using the woodstove. Rainwater from the roof supplies the outdoor shower. The front wall is an overhead-acting aluminum and glass garage door, opening to a cantilevered deck..."


Shallow Leach Fields for Septic Systems/Orenco's Advantek System

(This will only be of interest to people installing or repairing septic systems.)

I retired from publishing info on onsite wastewater disposal with a recent article in Mother Earth News, but I'm still interested in the state of the art. Today I talked to Simon Cartwright, who works for Orenco (at an adjacent booth), the country's foremost manufacturer of septic tank pumps, tanks, and related hardware. He says that typically, in 80% of cases, the soil takes care of pathogens and nitrates, meaning that a conventional gravity-powered tank and leachfield will suffice. But for the other 20%, a more advanced system is necessary. Most commonly in recent years, this has consisted of the "mound system," an expensive and ecologically disruptive method of treatment. Simon adds that with respect to the 80/20 ratio, soil differs from one county to another and you need to check with local officials.

Orenco has come up with the Advantex system, which replaces the the mound with a treatment box with a footprint smaller than a 4 x 8 sheet of plywood. From the box (adjacent to the tank), Orenco prefers that the treated effluent flow into a shallow gravel-less leachfield. Simon: "10-12" of soil is where all the action happens." You dig a 10-12" ditch with a shovel, lay a piece of pressure pipe (with 1/8" holes drilled every 2 feet) on the ground. You cover the pressure pipe with a 6" chamber of half-pipe (created by band-sawing a 12" piece of plastic pipe in half); this provides an air chamber above the pressure pipe. Then you backfill with soil. You can check out details on Orenco's website http://www.orenco.com/

The Advantex system has by now been approved in many parts of the country, but for some strange reason, health officials in certain areas have OK'd dispersal via drip systems (great as long as they don't eventually clog), but not dispersal in shallow gravel-less leachfields. Doesn't make sense to me, since the nitrates and pathogens of the effluent have already been treated to a very high level.

Rattlesnakes and Llamas

Sunday morning, our 2nd day at the solar energy festival in Northern California. Last night I had dinner at the bar of the Ukiah Brewing Company and was having a conversation with the guy sitting next to me about wild foods, mushrooms, fishing, and road kill barbecue. Ross Burkhardt, one of the pioneers of small-scale water-driven electric generators, and who I've known for years, was sitting nearby and joined in the conversation. "I just killed a rattlesnake that was harassing our goats," he said. "If you want to come out to my place, you can have it." (He'd skinned it and put it in the frig.) I picked up some ice and followed Ross and his wife out to their place in the hills, where I picked up the snake (going to marinate and barbecue it), saw Ross's latest experiments with generating electricity, and took this shot of llamas silhouetted against the full-moon cloudy night sky.

Middle pic: filet of rattlesnake; bottom pic: church in Hopland, Calif.

Two More Driftwood Shacks at Navarro Yesterday

SolFest Solar Festival/Driftwood Houses

I drove up the Mendocino coast to Navarro yesterday on my way to SolFest and went to the beach, a rivermouth with tons of driftwood.

When I got to Hopland to meet Lew and put up our booth (we're selling books), it was 110 degrees. It's cooler today. More to follow later today.

Cover of Builders Book Off to Printers on Day of Great Good Fortune!

Cover finished at last minute


We did — no kidding — 37 versions of the cover before we got it right. Paring over 1000 photos down to 6 for the cover has been maddeningly difficult. I'm thrilled with this.

We only got the back cover finished 2 days ago. Seat-of-the-pants last-minute publishing. Going off electronically to the printers today, 8-08-08 — the day of Great Good Fortune.

I'm embarrassed to have taken so long and to have been so overdue with this book, but I think the results are worth it. It will be in bookstores by late October. The farm is being bet on this one.

SolFest Solar Energy Festival Aug. 16-17th

I'm heading up to Mendocino county early Wed morning for some post-production R&R, leaving before dawn, to hang out with my friend Louie, swim in the river, and skateboard on a long downhill with little traffic. Then on Friday over the mountains to Hopland, headquarters of Real Goods, for the annual SolFest gathering. We'll have a booth and be selling books. The festival is a great event: lesser-polluting sources of energy, natural building materials, lots of good food, good music, good vibes. It's a rendezvous with old friends, for one thing. I look forward to it each year. The weather is warm and I've got a secret spot staked out on the banks of the Russian River to sleep at night.

Builders of Pacific Coast Book Off to Printer/Hail Rock and Roll

Erin the FedEx guy came in Friday around 2 and we handed him a package containing 3 DVDs of our book, Builders of the Pacific Coast, along with inkjet proofs of the 256 pages. We've gone through a long, complex production process; the book contains over 1200 images, and we were changing and adding things right up to the last few hours.

These days I listen mostly to blues, real country, bluegrass, KPIG FM, the KPFA (Berkeley FM) station's great Sunday lineup. But I was just reminded last week that there's a special place in my heart of hearts for rock and roll. Heading home around midnight a week ago, I passed by the 4th Street Tavern in San Rafael and heard the music out in the street. Whoa! This was good, whatever it was. It turned out to be Honey Dust, a local Marin County band, and true rock and roll, and reminded me of Marin bands of the '60s like The Quicksilver Messenger Service, Big Brother, The Sons of Champlin, etc.

I love music but have a hard time these days knowing who's hot, what bands are in the zone…so I randomly venture out and sometimes strike gold. I just got reminded of the power of rock and roll. I went back to see the band Friday night and there were moments in their music when the room lit up, when the connection of musicians and audience was complete. If you live in the Bay Area, check out Honey Dust. Another local band: Swamp Thang.

More Music:
CD: Legends of Falsetto: lovely singing, going back to the '20s, remastered an restored. I wonder if the cowboys got their steel guitars and yodeling from Hawaii.

The Last Waltz: In the rock n roll mood I put on an old VHS of this film while working on the book's cover. It holds up well, it's a masterpiece (which Scorcese's latest on the Stones isn't). After Robbie Robertson telling a story about the band meeting blues legend Sonny Boy Williamson and his death, we're back at the Fillmore, with Paul Butterfield and Levon Helm singing:
Train train
rollin round the bend
Well it took my baby
away from me again

Next an interview with Levon Helm:
Levon: "Memphis, you know, cotton and rice…Carl Perkins, Muddy Waters, Elvis, Johnny Cash, Bo Diddley. That's kind of the middle of the country, you know, and when blue grass and country come down to that area, they mix there with rhythm and it dances, then you've got a combination of country, blue grass, blues music…"
Interviewer: "The melting pot."
Levon:"…show music."
Interviewer: "What's it called?"
Levon: with a big smile: "Rock 'n roll!"

Cut to the stage and Muddy Waters, "When I was young boy at the age of 5…" A beautiful performance, the band is delirious to be playing with him; Robbie is in heaven. The band's perfect, Muddy's regal. Man!

Great new blues album: Eden Brent: Mississippi Number One.

Cosmic event of the week: As I typed the word "Mississippi," the song playing on The Last Waltz was The Band and Emmylu Dickinson doing "Evangeline," ("…cursing the soul of a Mississippi queen:"… and as I typed in Mississippi, Emmylu sang the word "Mississippi."

Shining Darkness, new CD by The Crooked Jades, a wonderful and unique band