Ride It or Lose It – Bellingham, Galbraith

Post by WildSnow.com blogger | June 23, 2011      
Riding Galbraith is good training for backcountry skiing.

Riding Galbraith yesterday.

Up here in Bellingham, Washington, mountain cyclists have over the years developed an incredible riding area that is “in town” but world class. Known as Galbraith Mountain, the area is private land owned by a timber company.

In its infancy years ago, locals tell me use of Galbraith lands for wheeled recreation was under the radar. (Similar to our situations in Colorado and other western states where recreators cross or use private land for years and sometimes are not even aware of ownership issues). Use of the area shifted to the more legit side of the equation as the original local Bellingham owners tolerated public use for some years. That recently changed when ownership of Galbraith shifted and the potential for permanent closure became all too real. Public activism with government support ensued, Bellingham’s backyard remains open for business with a truly amazing network of mountain bike trails that from what I’ve heard are some of the best in the nation.

According to my reading of newspaper articles, negotiations for permanent public Galbraith easements are ongoing, and will involve compensating the land owner with something like $5 million. To us that sounds cheap, with a huge return that will pay forward through generations.

That said, one would hope that not only bicycles would be the focus of an expenditure of public funds, but that a few trails could be designated for foot travel only, while perhaps a few others could be set up for motorized use. More, if money is an issue, I’m wondering if anyone is considering a user fee system. That would seem quite reasonable considering that a concentrated network of trails is going to require ongoing upkeep.

Trailhead signs at Galbraith.

Trailhead signs at Galbraith.

Take away here is that sometimes a large vociferous group of people (mountain bikers), along with responsive government and land trusts, can make a difference in working with private land owners to enable recreation. Something to consider when you whine about seeing more than two cars at a backcountry skiing trailhead, or figure placing hate stickers on your car is a solution to land use issues. More, it is fascinating to see logging and recreation coexist.

Build your house and ride your bicycle in the woods your 2x4s came from. Interesting concept. As in, if you don’t mine it, you have to grow it? What is more, we are weary of the constant ranting from certain groups and individuals about how we must have ever more legal Wilderness to support backcountry recreation. Here at Galbraith they have backcountry recreation in a privately owned logging area that appears quite robust. Fascinating to ride through the regrowth areas and see how nature rules.

View from Galbraith westerly towards San Juan Islands.

Yesterday evening, sunset view from Galbraith westerly towards San Juan Islands. A wee bit of backcountry... Click to enlarge.

Comments on, Bellingham local’s insights appreciated.


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52 Responses to “Ride It or Lose It – Bellingham, Galbraith”

  1. brian h June 23rd, 2011 11:20 am

    Good ideas from the progressive North West. It seems there is a solid mix of active citizens in that part of our always changing nation. What I took from this is that a large “entity” like a timber corporation has public relations to think about and that motivates them to work with the user groups. Down here in s.w. Colorado, Trout Unlimited is spearheading an initiative (Alpine Triangle conservation area) that is trying to unite all current user groups in an effort to maintain the “status quo” in the upper Animas, Rio Grande, and Gunnision river watersheds. It is an effort to recognize multiple recreation and economic uses of a vulnerable eco-system and create a working environment of shared care-taking. The issues of public vs private is not the overriding mission but I bring it up to show how “wilderness” as it has been regulated to us by the big, fat Fed can be avoided if people who live in/by it stand together. As far as the gorilla in the corner (or is he a Bear?) I guess a timber company would be easier to work with than a “development” corporation, but we won’t know ’til we try. 😉

  2. Chris June 23rd, 2011 12:43 pm

    I think one of the best parts of Galbraith is the lack of motorized use, I go mountain biking to get awayfrom cars and motorcycles. The trail system has been built by volunteers, the people that use and care and take care of it. I’d like to see it stay that way. Enforcement of a trail fee would be difficult but would certainly be a good way to make revenue back from the people that use it.

  3. Lou June 23rd, 2011 1:20 pm

    Seemed like there was enough room up there for a few more trails, jeez, give the motorcycle riders one or two…

  4. Chris June 23rd, 2011 1:39 pm

    Walker Valley in Skagit County is huge for ORV’s, granola crunching mountain bikers from bellingham don’t venture down there much. I’ve used the mixed use trails of Tahuya in Belfair and the users coexist fine except when the dirt bikers come ripping around turns and run you off the trail, or rap the bike up through the knee deep puddles to splash you as they speed by. Just sayin… twisting a throttle for your jollies has a different mindset than people who earn their turns, wheelies, and summits.

  5. Lou June 23rd, 2011 2:17 pm

    Chris, when there are many users, segregating use can most certainly be appropriate. Problem is that he who divides the pie can sometimes receive the smallest share. So it’s dangerous for human powered recreators to get too sticky about dividing things up… this especially true out west where vast tracts of legal Wilderness and totally unroaded areas are pretty much OHV free any way… when we whine about the whine of 2-strokes, it sometimes sounds like a 2 year old crying for another glass of chocolate milk when they’ve already got one sitting there in front of them.

  6. Carl June 23rd, 2011 2:46 pm

    Wilderness is off limits to mountain bikes as laws are currently written. I agree with Chris on the segregation, motos are not only loud but rip up carefully maintained trails. The trails at galbrith were built by mtbers for mtbing and would be quickly destroyed by motos.

  7. Lou June 23rd, 2011 3:11 pm

    Carl, thanks for chiming in, I of course know that and just mis-wrote what I was trying to say… flub! My point being that if public funds are being used for recreation, there is an issue of fairness to all taxpayers.

    As for motos, I of course defer to the locals who have the place figured out and know what’s appropriate. Correct me if I’m wrong, but from reading on web I got the impression that the first very early trails on Galbraith were actually created by motorcycling? Not that that’s a big deal, but good to be accurate.

  8. John Gloor June 23rd, 2011 8:57 pm

    Lou, a lot of trails everywhere have been made by motos, only to be excluded once mtn bikers found and enjoyed them. If the gradients are set responsibly, erosion really is not always an issue. More of an issue on well set trails might be the whoops which can form. I do not know the Galbraith trails to offer any insight. Many of the freeride trails I have seen are at least four times the width of our moto trails through the woods.

    There are rude riders in all camps. I talked to an older gent on a trail last fall who politely turned off his bike when he saw three mtn bikers approaching. He said the last one to pass lifted his cheek and let loose a wet one in his direction. Kind of humorous, but not too polite or respectful.

    Chris, I tour, mountain bike, and twist it. The closest analogy I can come up with comparing these sports is that ski touring is to alpine skiing as mountain biking is to moto riding. In each case one is human powered, and in the other a motor propels you or gives you potential energy. In no case can I say one sport is superior to another. It all boils down to personal preference. I have tried and like them all. In fact, I got into moto riding twelve years ago when I bought a used Honda XR400 to access our plowed but gated roads in the spring for backcountry ski touring access. I’d bet I have a similar “mindset” to you. Just guessing though

  9. Gregg Cronn June 23rd, 2011 11:12 pm

    I started taking my son up to Galbraith when he was just a little guy and I rode the steep sections pushing on his back to help him along. There were bikers and motorcycle riders up there then. That was in the early 90’s. When he hit his teenage years he turned into a little ripper and it was no longer safe for me to try and keep up with him on the down.
    Despite having a total greenie as a dad he went over to the dark side and got into motorcross soon after. He continues to ride and enters endurance races. Right now he is in Southern Oregon riding for a week at an ORV park. He has expressed lots of frustration over the loss of riding terrain around Whatcom Co over the years.
    So Lou is making an important point. Through my sons eyes I have come to understand how motorized recreation can be really satisfying and require a very high skill level. Those folks do enjoy getting out as much as we do and practicing their craft/hobby. Motorcross trails will probably never happen on Galbriath, but try and keep an open attitude about what others do for fun.
    Perhaps including them as part of the solution will result in a better outcome for everyone.

  10. Andrew June 24th, 2011 9:54 am

    I’m one of those ranting, cry baby More Wilderness people. Why? Because land use and ownership, especially with public lands is constantly shifting and by designating it Wilderness, it is still possible, although much harder to drill, develop, pave, etc.. Look at the Arctic Refuge Wilderness – if that area had been generic BLM land it would have been developed and drilled in a second. As is, it still may be developed and drilled, but it is going to require much more thought, public input and most importantly, concessions from the oil companies.

    Wilderness can be paved, but pavement can’t be turned back into wilderness.

  11. Lou June 24th, 2011 10:17 am

    Andrew, I understand your point, but if we really started running out of oil we’d be drilling Wilderness areas in two seconds. Making land into legal Wilderness just delays the process. It’s like having one big petroleum and gas preserve (not to mention minerals). Wilderness areas are created by an act of Congress, and a simple vote by all those bozos can easily take it back to multi-use. Like it or not, the vast majority of Americans just want cheap food and gas, and could care less about some drill rigs on land in Alaska. They can give feel-good lip service to keeping those rigs out, but once they can’t afford to buy gas, they’ll be singing a high falsetto with lyrics “I’m voting, and you’re OUT unless you give me gasoline.”

    As for Wilderness not being turned back into Wilderness, that is downright untrue. Vast tracts of legal Wilderness in Colorado are former mining and logging areas, and they easily have all the qualifications for Wilderness designation. Even the town of Aspen itself, now considered one of the more beautiful and desirable mountain towns in the U.S., was once a completely denuded and raped industrial mining district. Ditto for roads. I can easily think of several decommissioned roads in legal Wilderness that are nicely grown in and have easily become part of the land to either side. That process only took a few decades. What’s that, the equivalent of one nanosecond in geological time?

    Rip up a parking lot, give it 75 years, and nature will do its thing.

    As I’ve repeated here a million times, I like the legal Wilderness we have, but I just don’t see the need for more. And I’m not trying to be cynical or play devils advocate, just trying to cut through the flower child BS that seems to surround the concept of legal Wilderness.

  12. Omr June 24th, 2011 11:46 am

    Sadly, the model for privatization of land does NOT work for public use. The Wasatch is a prime example where way too many historical trailheads have been erased by privatization. Basically, if I choose to access the Wasatch BC by said trailheads I am subject to arrest and full prosecution.
    I’m with Andrew, wilderness baby wilderness! Giving up motorized access is a minor cost to pay.

  13. Dan June 24th, 2011 11:51 am

    I live in Bellingham and have been riding Galbraith trails for 11 years. I am able to easily bike from my house to Galbraith and would be willing to do whatever it takes to continue to have access there, even if that means sharing with certain potential user groups. I also frequently ride on the “East Side” of the Cascades. where many of the trails are used by motorcyclists too. When we ride in those areas, similar to skiing in areas with sleds, we know beforehand the situation and “it is what it is”. Generally, the “motorheads” are are pretty good lot, many are highly skilled and I have never had a problem with them. BTW: many mountain bikers are former motocross riders. However, motorcycles are devastating on uphill “singletrack”, at least with respect to subsequent use by us “earthmuffins” on our mountain bikes…and that is on the “DRY” side of the Cascades. Granted, motorcyclists likely built the first trails on Galbraith years ago. However, the vast majority of current Galbraith singletrack is really only suitable for pedal powered bikes. If motors were allowed, it would take a single season to have Galbraith sindletrack “transformed” into something quite different than it is at this time. Of course, at this time, much of Galbraith singletrack is not available due to the timber harvesting. And, assuming we can strike a deal with the owner, a lot of work (volunteer) will be required to put the trail system back in shape. If I were King, I would not permit motors on Galbraith. That said, it is possible, that in order to keep Galbraith open, the various user groups and potential user groups may have to work together and “COMPRIMISE”. A piece of the pie is much better than nothing. The fact that the property in question is privately owned makes the potential for agreement to be reached in a reasonable amount of time somewhat realistic. As an aside, I am personally willing to pay some sort of user fee, as are most of my riding partners.

    A great thing about singletrack MTBing is that, unlike back-country skiing, where there is competition for the fresh POW, large numbers of bikers can use the same trail w/o that competitive edge that one frequently encounters when several ski parties are heading for the same POW stash. I certainly would not want to loose such a wonderful recreational resource as Galbraith.

    Lastly, singletrack mountain biking and motorcycles on the same trails are not similar to back-country skiing and downhill skiing. IMHO, the mountain bikes/ motorcyles comparison is closer to back-country skiing and sleds using the same trails.

  14. Andrew June 24th, 2011 12:06 pm

    Yes, that flower child BS stuff has been the bane of many good causes and great men, like Richard Nixon. When it comes to getting voted out of office (or never getting voted in in the first place) over AWAR, Bush, McCain and Palin all come to mind, so apparently there are a lot of those falsetto hippies out there.

    All Wilderness does is give the environment an upper hand in negotiations with developers. It can still be drilled, paved and tracked up in the future, but the onus is on the developers to prove that it is really necessary. If damming Yosemite Valley became a matter of national urgency, it could be done and would probably get a lot of support, but not if the urgent need is grass lawns in LA. Wilderness forces people to conserve, or at least think about conserving natural resources, which is a good thing.

  15. Lou June 24th, 2011 12:09 pm

    Totally with you on the combined uses Dan. It seems to me, as an outsider with limited knowledge, that the thing to do would be to designate a few trails as OHV only. That would get the huge OHV community involved, but keep the bicycle single track from getting messed up, as yes, the uphills on motorized route generally turn into sand gravel or mud bogs from the churning effect of motor powered driving wheels, unless they’re rocky and dry, which is not the situation you guys generally have. Just thinking out loud, am fascinated by these recreational land use issue wherever they occur.

  16. Lou June 24th, 2011 12:20 pm

    Andrew, sure, when everyone can afford their gasoline and food they have the luxury of being Wilderness advocates, cracking Edward Abby quotes to each other and lecturing the rest of us on how we should recreate. It is wonderful our society supports that. So long as it lasts, great, and I actually think our situation is easily sustainable by virtue of renewables combined with bridge fuels such as, gods forbid, nuclear.. As for Nixon, I’m no big fan but you might want to look at his environmental record. He created the EPA, for example. But yeah, he was the devil to us children of the flower,

  17. Randonnee June 24th, 2011 2:31 pm

    Are the issues of noise and power that rips up the ground being addressed here? I own and use a motorcycle and Jeep for USFS (legal) trail, as well as a snowmobile. I actually spend more time self-powered on skis, foot, and mountain bike. Dirt bikes are appropriate in certain places, but are incompatible due to noise with self-powered sports similar to snowmobile riding on the same terrain used for skiing.

    Having ridden dirt bikes since 1971, I find it striking the amount of deep rutting now occurring on legal trails with dirt bike traffic. This is not to say ‘shut ’em down’, but system trails need to be hardened for today’s horsepower, if the big HP is to be allowed on trails. When I started riding, we rode 100 cc to 250 cc dirt bikes mostly, now small sporty bikes are 450 cc and my local KTM dealer claimed to ride the local USFS trails on his 990 cc adventure bike! There is some similarity with snowmobiles and impacts. At one time snomos with under 40 HP compacted limited amounts of terrain. Now snow-covered terrain gets deeply rutted and acres are ridden quite completely over an area, all types and angles of terrain and in the trees- by stock 160HP snomos and modified up to 350 HP!

    We have a beautiful motorcycle trail system in our sunny east side mountains that was quite enjoyable in the 1980’s, I let go of my big 490 race bike and got a quiet 200 cc trials bike- quiet and hardly spins a wheel, fun on tight mountain trails. In the meantime, with the KTM (and other) advances in technology, that nice 25 miles or so of high trails has become mostly whoop de dos on the mellow parts and gnarly deep ruts on any climbs because guys do what any of us would, twist the throttle and have fun. In the meantime, the enviros sued and prevented the rebuilding of the nice motorcycle trail system, so it now remains a shambles for everyone.

    Solid management of these impacts, starting with pre-planning is needed- I think of Europe and the orderly trails and pavement. I so believe that ORV and dirt bike riders would pay the $$ to fund hardened trails, but it just gets so messed up with enviro lawsuits, and with silliness like a local trail in my home area built with ORV fee funds to wheelchair standards, but closed to mountain bikes or motorcycles!

    There is now renewed debate n Congress about roadless areas on public lands. The same old polarized rhetoric has evolved such as “Republicans want more motorized access on public land”, and the other side wants to save all of the roadless for non-motorized. Too bad that we cannot sensibly manage this stuff, it tends to often to go to one or the other extreme!

  18. Andrew June 24th, 2011 2:43 pm

    I thought luxuries were things like Porsches, Gulfstreams and 5th houses in Vail, not undeveloped public land. Personally, I am all for higher gas and food prices.

  19. John June 24th, 2011 3:00 pm

    Lou – What’s with the cynical, mocking attitude toward environmentalists and the environmental protection movement? Sure, every movement has its knuckleheads who can oversimplify and be self-righteous but that says nothing about the substantive issues at hand. Confusing the messenger and the message risks losing a lot.

    I also think you miss Andrew’s point (I think it was him) about it being hard for Wilderness to revert to healthy wildness once it’s been developed. It’s possible of course, but a lot harder (and more expensive) when the development is more than just pavement or a mine of the old variety – which you use as examples.

    Why don’t you see the need for more federal wilderness designations? Just curious.

  20. Mark June 24th, 2011 4:07 pm

    “All Wilderness does is give the environment an upper hand in negotiations with developers. It can still be drilled, paved and tracked up in the future, but the onus is on the developers to prove that it is really necessary.”

    This is a misrepresentation of what wilderness designation does. It does not merely provide the “upper hand” with developers, it expressly prohibits roads and structures and motorized transport except for the minimum administrative requirement for managing areas as wilderness. It cannot be drilled, tracked, or paved in the future unless by act of Congress to remove the area from the wilderness system or provide for an otherwise prohibited use. Under such a circumstance Congress would hardly look to a “developer” for proof that some prohibited use is necessary because only a unique national security concern (there is draft legislation out there now regarding border security that would exempt DHS from a variety of environmental laws) would spur congress to action. The wilderness act provides much more complete protection than Andres suggests in his post.

  21. Omr June 24th, 2011 7:27 pm

    Lou, you’ve done great things in you life, and I thank you for sharing, but on this point you are way off. When it comes to wilderness vs. development, the developer will always win. I’m not elitist, rich or a granola-touting-hippy. Just a fifty-ish working stiff that likes untouched mountains, and I’ve skied the wasatch bc for over 3 decades. The trend I’ve seen is singular in removing good old natural terrain. The kids today have no idea what they are missing when they hike 30 yards out of bounds and call it pristine. Does that attitude really make me an elitist? No, i just remember what it was like to ski cardiac bowl sans moguls. I now go further afield only to find helicopters in previously untouched terrain. And that is where development begins. For all your proselyting of huge descents, do you really want your great-grandkids to go without?

  22. JCoates June 24th, 2011 7:38 pm

    Since this has become a forum on the development of wildrness areas:

    I think the question is how are our tax dollars best spent? I love riding dirt-bikes (motorcycles) and snowmachines as much as the next red-blooded male, but please tell me how using taxpayer dollars to create areas to ride motorized vehicles benefits anyone but those individuals (and the oil companies)?

    We have a HUGE obesity problem in America, and anyone who says otherwise hasn’t left the US in the last 5 years. We have become a nation of “fat guys in big trucks.” I’m all for expanding wilderness areas where people can enjoy nature, and maybe…just maybe…get some exercise.

    As Randonee said, I think we can learn a lot from how Europe and Canada have managed their trail/hut systems. By providing easy access, their systems actually encourage more people to get out and do things. And before anyone responds…Of course this would mean more people in the backcountry, but I would swallow my elitist “I’m the first one ever to rip this gnarly line” attitude to see more people having fun and being healthy in the backcountry.

  23. See June 25th, 2011 9:01 am

    “Making land into legal Wilderness… (is) like having one big petroleum and gas preserve.” You say that like it’s a bad thing.

    “(T)he vast majority of Americans just want cheap food and gas.” That is not giving us much credit, and what’s right or wrong is not determined by majority vote.

    “Rip up a parking lot, give it 75 years, and nature will do its thing.” So it takes generations to heal the damage done in a few months.

    “(J)ust trying to cut through the flower child BS.” Stereotyping people usually doesn’t accurately represent their views or encourage productive dialog.

    “(W)hen everyone can afford their gasoline and food they have the luxury of being Wilderness advocates.” It has not been my experience that wealth correlates with caring for the natural world.

    I hope I haven’t misunderstood or misrepresented your position, but I am trying to be clear and specific in my response.

  24. Lou June 25th, 2011 9:33 am

    See, I’m busted! I was trying to make light of the flower child idealism of which I’ve enjoyed my share, but in a blog comment that was probably too much stereotyping.

    As for wealth correlating with Wilderness advocacy, that’s why we have legal Wilderness in North America where laws are fairly strictly enforced and we have the luxury of designating lands as our personal private natural playground, and they don’t have a Wilderness Act in Somalia. More, I’ll guarantee that for the most part the very poor and underprivileged in our country really could care less about how much more legal Wilderness we create in Colorado. They’ve got other things on their agendas.

    Advocates of legal Wilderness like to take the moral high ground, and in some cases in my opinion most certainly have the right to do so. But not always. Moral behavior of our society involves much more than how much land we can designate for preservation. Growing food and giving it away, for example…

  25. See June 25th, 2011 9:59 am

    Thanks for the response, Lou.

    You bring up an interesting point regarding growing food and giving it away– U.S. agricultural subsidies lead to artificially low prices in the global market. While this could be characterized as charitable, I believe it keeps poor countries that have little in the way of industrial capabilities besides agriculture from developing economically.

    (Also, BD Factors currently “Cheap.”)

  26. John Gloor June 25th, 2011 6:46 pm

    Dan “Lastly, singletrack mountain biking and motorcycles on the same trails are not similar to back-country skiing and downhill skiing. IMHO, the mountain bikes/ motorcyles comparison is closer to back-country skiing and sleds using the same trails”.

    When I made the comparison of mtn bikes to motos being similar to ski touring to alpine sking, I was comparing motorized versions of the same sports to human powered versions. Don’t kid yourself, lift served skiing is a motorized activity. some big electric or diesel motors propel you to the top and supply your ride. The work out of alpine skiing is almost identical to moto riding also. If you do not ride dirtbikes, you probably have no idea how physical it is, but not necessarily from an aerobic standpoint. Sorry about going off on a tangent. The Galbraith trail networks seem awesome, and I hope they can be retained.

  27. Dan June 27th, 2011 2:56 pm

    John G.

    Tangents are OK. My ski/sled comparison was intended to compare the impacts to the medium and experience, not the physical effort. I guess I could have done a better job of that. The idea of loosing Galbraith muddles my thinking. Imagine , say, loosing Eldorado Canyon for rock-climbing. As a teenager (long time ago), I did ride “dirtbikes”…I recall having trashed hands/forearms for sometime after a long/hard ride. I also once trashed my quads to the point where I was unable to complete a high school 440 race the next day. It was a race I should have won, we lost that track meet by 2 points. Those days had been reduced to a mere blip in my “Data Base”. Thanks for the reminder, its providing me with some grins.

  28. gringo June 28th, 2011 4:22 am

    Lou, I find it interesting that you added cost of gasoline to your argument. …WTF does that have to do with the price of tea in China?

    Wilderness designation should have nothing to do with whether or not you feel comfortable about the fact it costs you 130 bucks to fill up your big rig when you pull your sled to some trailhead. Thats your choice to drive such a vehicle and you should be prepared to pay fair market price for its’ fuel, and NOT complain about wilderness designation in the same breath!

    As for the poor and underpriveleged commet…another WTF.
    I never went to college, and earn accordingly, I drive a shitbox with 435,000 on the clock. I feel it would be rather short sighted of me to use gasoline price as an argument against any plot of land that has not already been pillaged. US gas prices are finally approaching European prices and its about time.

    I will leave your ‘Nuclear as bridge fuel’ statement to speak for itself….

    I too, am a bit suprised by some of your statements on this one.

  29. Lou June 28th, 2011 7:13 am

    Gringo, voluntary poverty is a noble endeavor (been there, done that), but it doesn’t make a person morally superior. In my opinion, neither does the type or quality of the car one drives. And I’ll complain about the price of gasoline even when I fill our Nissan Versa, and my MSR stove.

  30. Lou June 28th, 2011 7:22 am

    Andrew, if you go back and read my comment, you took a reach with my term “falsetto.” I was referring to a guy with something being squeezed, tightly; as it may feel when one purchases anything one feels is too expensive. I was not referring to the speech style of flower children, who most certainly speak with all sorts of different styles and tones. (grin). Whatever our disagreements and discussion here, let’s try to be true to what the other person wrote when we fire back. Thanks, Lou

  31. Lou June 28th, 2011 7:52 am

    Gringo, why would it be better if our fuel prices were close to those of Europe? If you feel that we’d use less fuel, perhaps we would to some degree (as we did when prices went up to around 5 bucks not long ago), but have you ever been to EU and seen how much they drive, and how bad the pollution is in certain areas? Solutions to our problems are much more complex than just pricing fuel so eventually only wealthy people can afford it… that view seems rather sophomoric. In fact, you appear to be a good example of that. You don’t have much money, but you were able and motivated to buy enough fuel to drive your rig more than 400,000 miles! That is not exactly peanuts, even though you may have had to eat peanut butter for three meals a day to buy the gasoline you needed (grin).

    Like it or not, the freedom and utility of having our own wheels, rather than using mass transport, is incredibly attractive across cultures and nationalities. It is worth a lot of money to people. In fact, so long as a person isn’t starving they’ll skip meals to keep that tank full. Thus, we could attempt social engineering by jacking up the price of fuel using taxes or whatever, but doing so would mainly just become a regressive form of taxation that would discriminate against those who are less fortunate, and enrich either the government or the oil companies. I’d prefer to just keep my money in my own pocket and spend it or donated it to causes as I wish, rather than giving it to either the gov or an oil company.

    As for bridge fuels, I’d suggest studying just what it would take to power everything in the modern world using wind/solar/hydro. Doing so is a massive and complex undertaking on the scale of the industrial revolution, not just some fun engineering science project. (E.g., it is coal powered China that’s making most of the solar panels Germany is installing, isn’t it?). Thus, what fuels we use while we make the transition is an incredibly important issue. Thus, question, should we keep using fuels that produce massive amounts of carbon? Or should we increase are already significant and nearly zero carbon nuclear power percentage so it takes the place of huge amounts of coal and oil? Or should we build more Lake Powells?

    P.S., glad you find this all interesting (grin).

  32. Mark June 28th, 2011 9:38 am

    Warning: Tangent) “Thus, we could attempt social engineering by jacking up the price of fuel using taxes or whatever, but doing so would mainly just become a regressive form of taxation that would discriminate against those who are less fortunate, and enrich either the government or the oil companies. ”

    I would argue that we have ALREADY engaged in social engineering by failing to account in the price of gas for the many externalities – environmental, public health, and security – that represent the true cost of the fuel.The problem is that the externalities are so diverse, complex, and high cost that it is hard to monetize them. So you see conditions ranging from Venezuela, where gas is so subsidized there is no incentive to get more than 8mpg, to the US, where I think we are effectively subsidizing gas, to Europe, where they have taken greater steps to capture those costs through taxes – but the right price? I don’t know. I just know that to have economic equilibrium those externalities in some way need to be captured in the price. And if they were, I guess we would all drive less and/or drive higher mpg vehicles.

  33. Lou June 28th, 2011 9:55 am

    Mark, thanks for the astute points.Reality seems to be that people will drive as much as they think they need to, and drive quite a bit, so long as they can one way or another afford to do so. It’s just too good a thing to be able to cruise around in your own vehicle, doing your own thing. This applies whether you’re a Congolese teen warrior racing around in a Tacoma with a 50 cal mounted in back, all the way to if you’ are Al Gore or you or me tooling around doing our daily business.

    As for driving higher mileage autos, so much the better. But once everyone is doing that (actually, we are, because they get better every year) they’ll still be burning fuel of some sort, even if it is coal when they charge their plug-in. If everyone in the world switched to hybrid automobiles tomorrow, we’d still be producing a boat load of CO2 both in driving those cars and making them. Even manufacturing a bicycle produces CO2…

  34. Lou June 28th, 2011 10:03 am

    Regarding the price of tea in China, it’s pretty important to pay attention to the second largest oil consumer in the world, some of which goes towards, yes, tea farming.


  35. brian h June 28th, 2011 10:09 am

    How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie pop? The world may never know. Is capitalism and the free market economy sustainable? We may soon find out..I had a discussion the other day about what a grocery store would look like if the true costs of shipping were added to the price of food. One shelf of chips instead of an isle…

  36. Lou June 28th, 2011 10:15 am

    Well, so far we’ve proved to be remarkably resilient and lots of folks seem to want to live here. Many predictions of our demise have floated around, none have come true yet. Eschatology is fun whether you’re going Biblical or Malthus, but how much negativity do you want to wallow in? As for our pop economics (me included), the whole deal will never be perfect, but so far we get a lot out of it, though I like those vacations month long vacations those Italians get to take… we work too hard around here!

  37. SB June 28th, 2011 10:35 am

    Lou, if you want to continue the env/energy discussion (I know, big IF), you should install a personal wind turbine and blog about it. I saw one the other day near Estes and it was definately generating electricy.

  38. brian h June 28th, 2011 11:06 am

    What gets in my head is the sheer scale of the lifestyle we’ve created. While many of us have benefited greatly from this grand mission of social/ economic Darwinism, the very nature of that “law” will ultimately bring us into another age. There will be winners and losers just like there is now. I don’t think there is any specific timetable on humanity, just this fat butted, “not my problem”, use it or lose it, culture we’ve perfected in the last 50 years.

  39. Lou June 28th, 2011 11:15 am

    So, tell that to China… they’ll be way ahead of us pretty soon. We’ll look like saints, with all our green technology, sitting here watching the air fill with C02 from their industry as we worry about what light bulbs we rock.

  40. brian h June 28th, 2011 11:52 am

    Well, that where the tipping point may be, right? We’ve created the model lifestyle that a lot people wish to participate in (and who wouldn’t). How many people can the lifestyle support? Two cars and a suburban home for every person in the world? What about one car and an apartment? We insist (by our actions) that we are somehow entitled (manifest destiny anyone?) to the choice and comfort that we enjoy and yet get edgy when China, Brazil, and India start grabbing their share. It brings into question the whole point in changing things over here. How can we expect to shove the “greens” into mouths that have tasted the cheeseburger. Yes this is pessimistic. The whole of human history makes me this way. The beauty of life is seen the small picture, not the big one.

  41. Lou June 28th, 2011 11:58 am

    Lots of tipping points, like perhaps the killer London smog of 1952? Or life expectancy and health during the Dark Ages in Europe?

  42. gringo June 29th, 2011 1:41 am

    Tell it to china indeed!
    Your argument is childish Lou, ‘ He’s not improving, so why should I??’ Is that what you taught Louie when he was a little guy?

    Take a look at Germany, a few weeks ago Germans voted to put all of their Nuke plants out of commission in the nest 12 years. They voted to go through with the expense of replacing that power source. Not because China did first, but because sometimes you should do the right thing.

    Earlier you compared replacing nuke power to a ‘second industrial revolution’.
    I ask you now: What exactly is wrong with that?

    In replacing Nuke power there would be hundreds of thousands of jobs created at all levels. Don’t you think it makes more sense that some venture capitalist puts his 25 million into an ‘X energy’ start-up instead of giving it to some guy who has the idea for the next greatest i.phone app? Have you had a look lately an the state of the union? Things ain’t lookin’ so rosy…. The dollar is pushing towards its all time low angainst the Euro, unemployment pushing 10%, massive debt problems. Sounds like the perfect time for another industrial revolution. Not everyone is sposored to write a blog.

    To answer a few of your points: no ‘volutary poverty’ here, I would love more cash, but like I said, no school and earn accordingly. And why is wanting to pay true market price a sophomoric view? I think that govt. subsidies and support on an imported and non-renewable resouce are certainly short sighted if not sophomoric.

    After 8 years and counting I know first hand the pollution probs in europe and know ‘how much they drive’. I also know people don’t complain about the price of gas, cuz it is what it is here: a valuable, non subsidized, non-renewable resource. It also costs more per liter that a bottle of water, which is certainly not the case is many parts of the US. Don’t you find it strange that something that needs to be located, drilled, pumped, shipped, refined, shipped and pumped one final time cost LESS than a bottle of water or milk……?

    Anyway, I do agree that moto and mtb can share the same trails and as well agree that many of the great mtb trails in the western US are thanks to motos. Its just a shame that its usually the riders’ preconcieved political biases that lead to many so called confrontations in the hills.

  43. See June 29th, 2011 8:26 am

    I’m not sure we can assume that the Chinese aren’t aware of environmental issues and actively pursuing technical and other solutions. We don’t have a lock on “green technology,” and they lend us money so that we can buy the products we pay them to make.

    Looking to others for leadership is a good way to delay action or get left behind.

  44. Mark June 29th, 2011 8:52 am

    More tangent: “As for driving higher mileage autos, so much the better. But once everyone is doing that (actually, we are, because they get better every year) they’ll still be burning fuel of some sort, even if it is coal when they charge their plug-in. If everyone in the world switched to hybrid automobiles tomorrow, we’d still be producing a boat load of CO2 both in driving those cars and making them.”

    Another curious economic truth is that all things being equal, people who switch to higher mileage vehicles will drive more miles after the switch, even if they use less total fuel. Why? Because what we REALLY buy at the pumps is miles, and higher mileage vehicles lower the unit price per mile, therefore causing higher consumption. You can see that this would factor in at the margin, where you are, for example, choosing between two trips destinations (one closer, one farther), between flying or doing a long road trip, or the total number of days per year you bike commute versus hop in the car (mpg could affect your weather tolerance, for instance). The effect may not seem huge, but if everyone’s mpg was suddenly doubled, more miles would be driven.

    And yeah, I bike commute but can’t imagine living without the mobility of a car.

  45. Lou June 29th, 2011 10:13 am

    Mark, thanks, that’s the point of what I was saying about the huge crowds of people you see driving around in enlightened Europe, as well as the trend in China, Mexico, whereever… human nature strikes, and again, it is an amazing thing to be able to tool around on your own wheels and do whatever for your work, family, recreation, etc…

    As for China, when they’re done shooting their own citizens and running over them with tanks, I expect they’ll demonstrate great concern about the air they breath. But don’t hold your breath. Study their culture and political system, read bio of Mao, then get back to me on that (grin).

  46. Lou June 29th, 2011 10:15 am

    Gringo, did I say there was anything wrong with a second industrial revolution?

  47. Lou June 29th, 2011 10:47 am

    Regarding the German solar power and non-nuke initiative. More power to them. They have an amazing amount of solar already, according to Wiki they nearly doubled their solar capacity from around 1 % to 2% in 2010, and are building fast. The whole thing will be very interesting to watch, but what I’m more interested in is a couple of things. 1., Solar doesn’t work at night, so if solar is going to provide a great percentage of power (90 % is a LOT different than 2%, for example), that power has to be stored somehow, which will require some fairly massive engineering projects, such as pump-in and drain reservoirs. 2. The central European grid is compact and serves very population dense areas. My understanding is that this makes any sort of sea change to energy generation much easier than if things are spread out, as they can install large solar farms that don’t have to transmit power over big distances. 3., Their economic and tax system is different than ours, and they are experiencing big economic growth rates, which in turn can support expensive things like changeover to renewables. 4. They, like we, have China to burn coal and make the solar panels.

    I really do believe we’ll follow along and gradually end up with a great percent of our North American power coming from all sorts of renewables. But getting there is, again, in incredibly massive and expensive undertaking. I’ve read on it extensively, and it is stunning and a bit intimidating when you realize what we get from conventional power sources, and how much solar and wind we’d need to replace that stuff. Really, just amazing.

    BTW, I’m sitting here in our camper, with a solar panel on the roof so I don’t have to idle the truck to charge the battery that’s powering this computer. Me be green, baby! (grin). Now, if I can just hook this thing into the grid and start getting checks in the mail, life will be good.


  48. See June 29th, 2011 10:53 am
  49. Lou June 29th, 2011 10:58 am

    See, I can’t seem to access that WSJ article, as it’s not on the free side of their website? We were getting around to renewing our subscription but haven’t done so yet. Really like the WSJ these days.

    When you share links, please use tiny URL if possible. The long links throw some browser off when they try to display the website homepage. I’ll convert yours for you.

    Thanks for contributing!


  50. Lou June 29th, 2011 11:02 am

    Was able to access the WSJ article. Knew that China was doing some green stuff. What they really accomplish, however, is in my view an open question. Also, how long it lasts and what is myth vs reality is also something to keep in mind. Again, their country and culture are so different than ours is stunning. I take it all with a grain of salt.

  51. stephen July 7th, 2011 8:25 am

    Well, I’m not American and don’t want to argue about politics or energy use.

    However, what I will say is that:
    1. Bicycles are not necessarily incompatible with wilderness areas and IMHO shouldn’t be lumped in with motorised users
    2. Multi-use trails of all kinds suck since everyone hates everyone else and shows zero consideration. Doesn’t matter if it’s walkers/cyclists/motorised/horses/whatever – nobody gets along or wants to try to do so.

    It’s perhaps better to segregate users, as this means lower blood pressure for all. Funnily enough, MTBs and motorbikes generally get on better than walkers and MTBs – or walkers and anyone else. IME, walkers have zero tolerance for anybody else being within 10km combined with maximum self-righteousness, and I’m a walker too so don’t usually see them as the enemy – unless I’m on my MTB. 👿

  52. Lou July 7th, 2011 8:36 am

    Stephen, in my opinion what you’re saying is frequently true, but I see many exceptions to your take on multi-use trails. If such trails are constructed well, and a culture of politeness in inculcated through education and rule enforcement, such trails can work. My take is that the pie should be divided on occasion, but multi-use should be tried first and given a good effort.

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