The greatest virtue of man is perhaps curiosity ~Anatole France~


Waiting for a Train


All around the water tank waiting for a train
A thousand miles away from home sleeping in the rain
I walked up to a brakeman gave him a line of talk
He said if you've got money boy I'll see that you don't walk
I haven't got a nickel not a penny can I show
Get off get off you railroad bum and he slammed the boxcar door

He put me off in Texas a state I dearly love
The wide open spaces all around me the moon and stars up above
Nobody seems to want me or to lend me a helping hand
I'm on my way from Frisco going back to Dixie Land
Though my pocketbook is empty and my heart is full of pain
I'm a thousand miles away from home just a waiting for a train

Jimmie Rodger


What is T.G.W.O.T.Y. you may ask. Well, T.G.W.O.T.Y is obviously an acronym meaning the greatest week of the year. Ambitious right? This acronym was first used when describing Powder Week prior to a fairly dismal curling match. 

What is Powder Week you may ask. Well, Powder Week is an annual migration of ski brands, ski bums, ski techs, ski nerds, and ski groupies to a predetermined ski destination. Hosted by Powder Magazine, the roots of Powder Week are steeped in skiing fast and taking chances to ascertain what skis and ski brands are leading the pack for the coming year. 

For the 18th annual Powder Week, Powder Magazine looked to our neighbors to the north; Canada, Red Mountain. 2.5 hours from Spokane, Washington, Red has a lot of everything; steeps, bumps, groomers, drops and poutine. 

"I think we will be like the Beverly Hillbillies in that place" - Aspen Extreme

In a stroke of good fortune, my ski partner, Ryan, and I were invited to this festival of fun. In a state of euphoria we packed the car with a legal amount of canned beer, denim, and clothes we would never wear. Having zero idea of what to expect, we arrived to find Powder Magazine staffers had created a skiers nirvana at the base of Red Mountain. White tents full of every dimension of ski imaginable. A locally owned brand brought in their arsenal of skis savagely harvested from the owners property, kilned and laid up in his shop with all kinds of space age materials. From big name brands to boutique, limited production, boards you could feel the stoke. As an outsider I felt as if I was watching a family reunion of juvenile delinquents. Bird calls and high fives were the call to arms for the opening ceremonies. 

It is not easy to plan a cocktail hour with your neighbors, but 130+ ski reps, pros, staffers, friends, party crashers, and testers seems like a nightmare, but Powder pulled it off with style and grace. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, and after parties were impeccably hosted. Apre beverages flowed at Rafters. For four days some 35+ testers throttled the Motherlode, Red and Grey chairs to determine what skis stood out from the cocky quiver. 

Each day of bell-to-bell skiing was followed by Rafters Lager and a legitimate debrief on the days skis. Each tester was given a list of skis, times, and intense notecards to complete for each brand and ski. Terms like torsional rigidity, poppy, planky, and graphene were thrown about like loonies and toonies. Although feeling a bit daunted by the fact of having to standup to pros, reps, and legit ski bums, after a few misfires, double ejections, and my first #assfart day*, everything seemed to fall into place. 

As I physically and emotionally re-enter society I find my face is sore from smiling, my quads muscles feel like beef jerky, and my voice is still hoarse. It is hard to find 130+ people with like minded interests, from diverse backgrounds, who can get along, doing what they love, together, with not bullshit, no assholes, and not too much 'peacocking'. 

I now find a bit more clarity in T.G.W.O.T.Y. Powder Week truly is the greatest week of the year.  

*a.s.s.f.a.r.t. - all ski something fast awesome rad together.....preferably in a costume. I was a cowboy, if you could not tell, Ricky was a red armed yeti. 

*a.s.s.f.a.r.t. - all ski something fast awesome rad together.....preferably in a costume. I was a cowboy, if you could not tell, Ricky was a red armed yeti. 




When one is able to see the world thought a child's eyes they are returned to the unadulterated wonderment of possibility. 

This was my feeling when I walked out onto the grass near Granite, Oregon on August 21, 2017 to witness my first total eclipse. The media had pumped the event. Proper eyewear was scares. Traffic jams were being projected. Our experience circumvented all that hype.

I was able to return to my old University, Eastern Oregon, for a quick tour on our way into the hills near Anthony Lakes Ski Resort. After finding a $14 camping spot near the lakeshore we settled in for a quick sleep before heading deeper into the valley below. We needed to be in the path of totality to be guaranteed the full eclipse experience. Near Granite we pulled into a nice field full of ranchers and diesel trucks. Overall clad families donned eclipse shades. We settled in for the long haul. Laying out blankets and pillows as the temperatures dropped. The moon traipsed its way across the sun, inch by inch, second by second until totality. We were able to take off our shades for 40ish seconds to see the blacked out sun. The world was still. Everyone was mesmerized. Bills forgotten. Work left to collect dust. Obligations were momentarily secondary to the power of the universe. We witnessed something that cannot be replicated. We witnessed something that could not be stopped. The eclipse was happening whether you liked it or not. That day the moon and the sun reminded us that mother nature does not take sides. 



Do it with Style

"Style is the answer to everything. A fresh way to approach a dull or dangerous thing. To do a dull thing with style is preferable to doing a dangerous thing without it. To do a dangerous thing with style is what I call art.. Boxing can be art. Loving can be art. Opening a can of sardines can be an art... Not many can keep style... Style is the difference, a way of doing, a way of being." 

-Charles Bukowski- 

A friend sent me this quote today. It was interesting because at that very moment I was thinking to myself, "fuck this sucks".

My achilles tendon ruptured a month ago today, I can't walk, the days are getting shorter, I am kinda bed ridden, my ski season is looking bleak... I took a solid breath, reminisced about all the Bukowski I have read over the years. Reflected on the fond memories of hiking the Selkirk range with the friend who sent the quote.  Daydreamed of when we can return to hike into Kent Lake, picking huckleberries as we scramble the boulder fields to one of the last sacred places. I finally felt inspired.

I got out of bed, put on some pants, went to the porch, parked my knee scooter in the corner, sat down, opened the computer and typed out what so urgently I needed to remind myself. 

I am gonna do this achilles things, this life deal, I am gonna do it in style.  I guess my buddies ear were burning because he then called me up and we chatted about all that is right in the world. 

A salute to friends, Bukowski, and Doing it with Style.........

Lake Style 

Brand New Vintage

Recently I attended a vintage snowmobile race. In the past I have attended vintage car races. Drank vintage wines, by vintage. Even collected a few vintage coins over the years, but nothing prepared me for vintage snowmobile racing. 

2-stroke motors have a certain smell, a specific pitch. Its ozone being torched to the soprano of killer bees on the rampage. Plumes of blue smoke billow upwards as the racers hang off the unsprung saddle.

2-stroke is nearly gone these days and for good reason, but sometimes it just feels right.

Blue jeans, banked walls, and the brand new vintage of '85.

What the Eye does not See

Sometimes what the eye cannot see the mind can create. In the case of long exposure photography it seems that the camera + lens marriage can capture what our eye + mind do not reveal. 

Ski the Moon

Intergalactic films seem to be all the rage. With that in mind, Casey Johnson and I went in search of our own space odyssey.  What we came away with...edging 60 grit sand glaciers, one lost Tecnica ski boot, learning the intricacies of skiing volcanic sand dunes, delicious martinis, mediocre goggle tans, and a shit load of laughter. 

Photo Credit - Casey Garrett Johnson ( and Nick Pontarolo 



Ryan Ricard waking up the neighbors at Clear Lake, Washington. 

I am a desk jockey. I am, generally, "working for the weekend". 

As an attorney, I arrive early in the morning. I do my work, which is similar to studying for finals. I return phone calls and then head home or to one of my other jobs. I like what I do more than I thought I would and I think this is because I have the opportunity to be a professional on my own terms (within reason of course). Wearing many hats helps my ability to stay motivated and to also develop relationships outside of my professional circles. However, the fact of the matter is, I am a lucky guy.  With a devoted crew of people who like to, in the beautiful prose of Ryan Ricard, "do rich guy sports on a poor guy's budget", I always seem to have something active to look forward too and someone to join in the mission. 

In the winter, #dawnpatrol. Each week we meet at 5:30am to cruise up the local ski hill for a tour and turns. Returning to the desk by 8:30am, coffee in hand, ready to switch gears.

In the summer, #waterskiwednesday. Each Wednesday we meet for a quick drive to Clear Lake for soft water turns, double americanos with steamed cream, I know fancy, and a mid week download.

As my Dad is always ranting, in the wise words of Uncle Virgil Criscola, "Variety is the spice of life". 

And that, my friends, is gospel. 

Here is to you #waterskiwednesday............



'I think a man working outdoors feels more like a man if he can have a bottle of suds. That's only my opinion.'                                               -Shawshank Redemption (1994)

We sat under the structure for hours drinking craft beers and discussing the days events. After 14 hours of toil in the blazing sun we had created a 22' x 18' x 10' pergola at our beloved watering hole, Perry Street Brewery (PSB), and phase two was finally complete.

The first phase of the PSB project included the design and build out of the bar, bar top, backbar, lighting, and signage. The second phase was the exterior pergola. 

Using reclaimed steel has always been our practice, not only for look, but also for sustainability and to create value for our clients. 

On Monday, June 22, 2015, Ryan Ricard and I raised 2200 pounds of structural steel from stacks in the shop into a pergola so that patrons of PSB can now enjoy a tasty craft beer in the comfort of the shade. 

As I reflect upon this project I am consumed by the fact that so much pleasure is gleaned by being artistically creative; being a craftsman. As a bonus I get to work with one of my best friends which transforms work into play, and play into satisfaction. 

After the last 22' beam was placed upon the uprights and welded into position, Ryan and I immediately realized that we had once again created something special and in doing so had created value for our client and a shady place for us, our friends, and PSB patrons to drink a delicious craft beverage. 

See you all under the biggest pergola in Spokane County for a beer and a game of connect four. And thanks to Perry Street Brewery for continuing to keep it real with great beers, creative events, and a dynamite staff!


The Last Stand - Photo Credit - Ryan Ricard

The Last Stand - Photo Credit - Ryan Ricard

"Bullshit" I said when Ryan exclaimed that he had just been stung by a bee.  

"Absolute bullshit! It is freezing in here man. Do you realize it is December? The beers are slushy. Bees can't survive up here..."

The kamper was known for far more than a heap of soggy particle board and host to unruly parking lot dance parties, but still the bees have always held my mind's eye. Not one rogue soldier bee but an entire nest of vicious, lethargic beasts ready to give their lives to sting the shit out of any half cocked parking lot poacher looking to vent the aroma of well worn ski gear, damp boots, and stale beer.

Seeing as the Kamper was retired after, what I am told, was a rowdy five day adventure to the Gorge I am reminded of how cool a soaking wet particle board box with a bed, kitchen, and horse shoe shaped breakfast nook can truly be when the right ingredients are added...

#kitkamperlivin Top 10

  1. Applying hundreds of dollars of industrial sealant to the roof of a mid 1970's soaking wet particle board kamper only to have it leak
  2. Watching your buddy get repeatedly stung by rabid bees who have been living in damp particle board fortress for an unknown amount of time
  3. Nearly losing a finger when the jack stands completely fails and hundreds of pounds of wet particle board come crashing to the earth 
  4. Praying that the gaps between the particle board panels are large enough to vent the unburnt propane from the heater
  5. Realizing that if one was required to make an emergency stop it would be impossible and the kamper would end up in a pile of particle board in the middle of the road requiring a front loader or many snow shovels
  6. Experiencing communal living in 200 square feet of wet, possibly moldy, particle board
  7. Watching a naked adult fall three feet to the frozen tundra of a parking lot from the rear of a rotten particle board camper only to arise victorious and laughing
  8. Lookin in awe from behind as the kamper is negotiated around hairpin turns at speed, forcing the wet particle board square to bounce from one bump stop to the next
  9. Knowing that the wet particle board shelter you call home is by far the biggest eye sore buy possibly the most fun to be on a drizzly night on the hill 
  10. Drinking beers through the night because it is too cold to sleep and realizing that life really gets no better and certainly no simpler than sitting in a particle board box playing cards, telling white lies, and thinking about the snow storm brewing just outside the door

Carpe Diem

“You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment...There is no other land; there is no other life but this.” 

-Henry David Thoreau-

15 years ago today one of the kindest young men I have known passed away. It has only been in recent months with the passing of two other close friends that I have, once again, been reminded that living in the present and living with intention is so very important.  It is not a threat from the grim reaper that should drive us, but the gift of the unknown.

Love often - live vulnerably - stay curious - be kind - and have FUN! 

Prom 1998 - Left to Right - Kris Marshall (2/20/79 - 2/23/15) w/ Megan Jankowski, Matt Lumburg w/ Lindsey Tatt, Nick Pontarolo w/ Heather Hawkins, Tim Kestell w/ Erin Quigley, Casey Johnson w/ Katie Hall, Teddy w/ Kelly Cochran, Jeff Parker (8/24/79 - 1/2/15) w/ Chelsey Hendrickson. 

Prom 1998 - Left to Right - Kris Marshall (2/20/79 - 2/23/15) w/ Megan Jankowski, Matt Lumburg w/ Lindsey Tatt, Nick Pontarolo w/ Heather Hawkins, Tim Kestell w/ Erin Quigley, Casey Johnson w/ Katie Hall, Teddy w/ Kelly Cochran, Jeff Parker (8/24/79 - 1/2/15) w/ Chelsey Hendrickson. 

Winter formal - Left to right - Josh Docherty (12/27/79 - 5/19/00) Tim Kestell, Casey Johnson, Nick Pontarolo, Ryan Ricard, Jeff Parker (8/24/79 - 1/2/15)

Winter formal - Left to right - Josh Docherty (12/27/79 - 5/19/00) Tim Kestell, Casey Johnson, Nick Pontarolo, Ryan Ricard, Jeff Parker (8/24/79 - 1/2/15)

Also in remeberance of Gunner Oprea and Bill Cresswell. 

Skiing the Emmon and Inner Glacier - Mt. Rainier National Park

After watching the weather for a month it was time to pull the trigger on Rainier's Emmons Glacier. SNOTEL, NOAA, and Mount Rainier Climbing were all showing good climbing conditions with low wind and fantastic visibility. The one variable was snow pack. There were no trip reports for the Emmons route but the White River campground road was opening nearly a month early thus eliminating an added 5 miles of walking. With limited ski reports on the glacier and a record low snow pack, usually there is between 5'-8' feet of snow at White River campground in early May, we hit the road. 

Rainier's East side from White River campground

Rainier's East side from White River campground

Leaving from Spokane around 3 p.m. we arrived at White River just in time to watch the alpenglow fall over the majestic mountain.  We had a enjoyable fire with two fellow climbers and hit the hay relatively early for a long, hot, day of glacier travel to follow. 

Brett preparing gear for the climb

Brett preparing gear for the climb

From White River to Glacier Peak campground it is about 3.1 miles of mostly dirt mixed with the occasional snow patch. Choosing to hike up the river drainage as opposed to hiking up into Glacier Basin required 4 river crossings each way, however with low snow pack and cool evening temperatures the river was easy to cross.  (Be aware that in the next month it could be impassable).

Crossing White River on the way out.

Crossing White River on the way out.

As we ascended onto the Inner Glacier the temperatures started to rise and our skins started to pick up snow. With climbing and camping gear our packs weighed around 40 pounds without our skis thus the going was slow but steady.  Thankfully a group of Seattle folks had put down a great skin track, albeit steep under pack weight, we weaved our way up the Inner Glacier to Emmons, passing Camp Curtis, and onto Steamboat Prow.


Some 6+ hours later we arrived at Steamboat Prow hoping to access Camp Schurman from above seeing as the Emmons Glacier route was far too crevassed out for late afternoon travel.  With the access to Schurman cliffed out from up top and a rappel in too sketchy with a short glacier rope we set up camp with beautiful views of Rainier, Little Tahoma, and Russel Cliffs.

Perched between Camp Curtis and Steamboat Prow

Perched between Camp Curtis and Steamboat Prow

As the sun set the alpenglow ignited Glacier Peak and Mt. Baker far in the distance.  We enjoyed our dehydrated dinner, Alpine Aire Chicken Gumbo is delicious by-the-way, and discussed the next days plans. Knowing that we were not going to make a summit bid but instead rip turns on 4,000ft of pristine spring corn from Steamboat Prow to Glacier Basin we watched the full moon rise over the plains and highlight Mt. Rainier. The next morning Brett did a little crevasse rescue training with a group of fellow mountaineers who were learning about glacier travel and I relaxed on a warm rock thinking about the turns we were about to make. 

After breaking down camp we loaded our bags, which seemingly felt heavier than the day prior, and clicked in. The top 600ft of Emmons was still frozen making for chatter but as we rolled over into the gut of the Inner Glacier we picked up speed and were able to connect tip-to-tail in the soft snow making for some of the best May turns I have ever had. As other mountaineers paraded up the glacier we raced pasts throwing up rooster tails of slush; smiles from ear-to-ear. 

We forged the river, without incident, back to where we had left our hiking boots and transitioned our skis and boots to our bags and stripped off our ski gear to summer hiking attire. As I hiked back to the car with beautiful views of Rainier at each switch-back  I thought about a quote by John Muir...

 "In every walk with nature one receives more than he seeks". 


Wisdom and Youth

"Mortality comes with the sad wisdom of age, when the sense of curiosity has withered."

-Graham Greene-

One year ago I stumbled upon this Afghan vendor in the Kabul market cooling his tea with a delicate breath. I reached for my camera only to be caught by his calm gaze and inquisitive eyes. I would like to think we were curious of the other.

As Graham Greene wisely stated, as long as we maintain a healthy, almost childish, curiosity of the world we maintain our youth. For when we quit being inquisitive and generally interested in what is happening around us, we forget why exactly we are here.


Dumptrucks and Bacon

Sometimes you will never know the the value of something until it becomes a memory. 

-Dr. Seuss

Wading through a sea of memories, photographer and friend Casey Garret Johnson (, came across this gem from Ketchikan, Alaska.

Captured in 35mm during a rare and well deserved break from the toils of cannery life we played amongst the machines left to be devoured by nature.

A few of the upsides of that summers manual labor; endless bacon in the canteen, lessons in Black Velvet, and the day this photo was taken.

Stay Curious  Photo by Casey Garret Johnson (



That was a Good Day


After near certain disaster on a patch of soggy leaves this past weekend and waking up to below freezing temperatures today I was inspired to tell this story.

If you have ever dumped a motorbike you know it can be a pants-shitting experience.

In July I was in the midst of attempting to ski 12 consecutive months on 12 different mountains and realized I was close to failure. Skis strapped to my backpack. Boots tucked in my saddle bag. I found myself riding, at speed, over a slash pile, completely lost, in the Selkirks of Northern Idaho looking for snow and a trailhead. Chasing the dirt and dodging the shrapnel of my more experienced partners, I knew I was pushing the limits of my skills. But July was month 9 of my 12 and I was not getting skunked, again, in my quest to ski-all-year.

As my front tire dug in I pulled the rip cord and thought to myself, 'i wonder if this is what an ejection seat feels like'. My ski tips hit first defusing a majority of the impact. Instinct kicked in and all I could do was flail my appendages. Landing on the dirt, shaken, bike sputtering, I looked for pooled blood and white meat. Nothing, not even a scratch or a dislocation. As I muscled the bike back to its merciless tires I rejoiced. Realizing I had lost precious ground to my two outlaw brethren I twisted the throttle and I am pretty sure closed my eyes in fear.

As I miraculously arrived at Mt. Roothaan trailhead I was greeted with high-fives, laughter, and warm coors light(s). I was not the only one to lose control on that poor excuse for a trail, but certainly the slowest to recover.  We spent the remainder of the day hiking the high country, baking in the July sun, and skiing pristine corn.

That was a good day.

Backyard Boondoggle: Hanford Nuclear Site


"There are two possible outcomes: if the result confirms the hypothesis, then you've made a measurement.  If the result is contrary to the hypothesis, then you've made a discovery."

Enrico Fermi

It is safe to assume that most stories of adventure do not begin in row F of a burgandy motor coach, exception being the 1994 blockbuster 'Speed' starring Keeanu Reeves. That being said, envision a well worn charter bus, me comfortably sitting in the tattered seats of row F eating peanuts, and then add a steady stream of retirees shuffling down the aisle to take their seats. Note one in particular, he is wearing a baby blue 'I heart Hanford' hat clutching a walker*. This sets the stage for the latest Backyard Boondoggle: Hanford Nuclear Site.

Nuclear power conjures up visuals of Chernobyl, The Cold War, Homer Simpson, the grand finale of WWII, Oppenheimer, Los Alamos, Trinity, and on-and-on, but who really knows where it all started? Well the residents of Washington State and more specifically the Tri-Cities are all too aware.

The Hanford Nuclear Site is 586 square miles of scrub brush that at one time was booming, like 50,000 employees on-site building top secret shit booming. Based on a 1942 experiment conducted by Enrico Fermi under the bleachers at Stagg Field on the University of Chicago campus, which clearly showed that humans could create and control a nuclear chain reaction. This experiment paved the way for the 'acquisition' or 'condemnation by eminent domain' by the Department of Defense of the land now know as Hanford. This displaced numerous settlers and copious Native Americans and was ultimately the home to B Reactor as well as some dangerously poisonous deer, water fowl, and fish.

B Reactor was built in an impressive 11 months and was completed in late 1944. It was so top-secret no one knew what was being built on the property. Workers were constantly shuffled about the massive construction site to ensure the secrecy of the project. Even the Vice President of the United States of America, Harry S. Truman, was not privy to what was taking place at Hanford until he was appointed as President upon Roosevelt's untimely death in April of 1945, nearly a year after B Reactor went active.  It is believed that B Reactor was built without blue prints, it was purely based on sketches and a hypothesis. In theory the reactor would produce plutonium 239 by irradiating uranium 238 by placing large uranium rods into 2004 holes in the face of the massive reactor core. This would knock off extra neutrons and create uranium 239, the end product after decay being plutonium. The graphite core, massive water cooling system, and 9 boron control rods allowed for the reactor to work at a constant state of fission. Using a staggering 75,000 gallons of river water per minute to cool the reactor, B Reactor soon was the work horse in creating the plutonium used to create both test and war time nuclear bombs.  B Reactor was also the template to which the other reactors on the Hanford site were built.

Currently Hanford is run by the Department of Energy and is the home to a massive clean-up effort.  Employing thousands of people, Hanford is still creating nuclear power from one small reactor.  The other reactors on the property are either entombed to allow the radiation to dissipate or are being taken apart and buried.  Nuclear energy, although clean when running, is a disaster when decommissioned.  Much of the waste created in the early years of Hanford was buried in undisclosed locations, with those persons in the know long passed on.  Today, Hanford is a nuclear recycling center, housing all the cores from decommissioned military vessels. Each 'cask' or nuclear power plant is placed in rows after being barged from the ocean to the Hanford property. Like a graveyard, these casks, are the size of small buildings, patiently awaiting future burial or decontamination.

With a 2 billion dollar vitrification plant underway at Hanford, the Tri-cities region continues to flourish in the nuclear age.  Time will tell, however, at what cost...

But if you have an interest in history and want to take a bad-ass tour in the middle of the week of a former double top-secret nuclear power plant that once produced the fuel for nuclear weapons, B Reactor is the spot, and its FREE!

Learn more at:

*The guy with the walker and Hanford hat, he and his brother were both operators of B Reactor for decades...

In Memory of Albert Pontarolo

"It was a time of timber and toil…with men as tough as their ax handles…and more mountains in every direction…that I would ever see again."

-Norman Maclean- 

Scan 32

Albert Pontarolo was born June 1, 1922 and passed away in peace surrounded by his family around 9:30pm on July 21, 2014.  He was 92 years of age.

As a young man his days were spent shoving coal for the Northern Pacific Railroad. As a railroad fireman he would shovel coal 16 hours a day and cool off with a swim across the Columbia river. Needless to say he was a man of unknown strength, with hands like a catchers mitt and a grip that of a bench vise.

As tensions grew in Europe Albert Pontarolo enlisted in the Navy and spent his time at Midway and Guam as a mechanic and seamen. Although he spoke little of his encounters at war, like most of his generation, it was clear that he made and lost friends who molded him into the man, father, husband, and grandfather be soon became. Upon his return from WWII Albert met and married Alice Fazzari in 1946 who he cherished for 67 years until his death. Albert and Alice had two sons and three daughters, raising them on a small farm in Walla Walla, Washington.

After returning from war he briefly returned to the railroad but ultimately found himself behind the bar with his brother-in-law, Arturo Fazzari, serving cold beers and 30 cent salami sandwiches to local patrons. Albert was consigliere to Art Fazzari and The McFeely Tavern - 'the biggest little tavern in town' for over 50 years. He stayed involved with the McFeely but ultimately he returned to his true vocation, being a railroad man.

After working as a fireman, brakemen and passing his railroad engineer test, Albert, rode the rails in the Pacific Northwest as an engineer until his retirement.  Always a tinkerer and mechanic he devoted his retirement to repairing anything that needed fixing and helped run the McFeely.  Albert, like many men of his generation, lived by the simple code, 'don't be afraid to get started'. Tearing into motors, radios, building homes, plowing fields, picking onions, and cracking walnuts with his bare hands, my Grandpa was a goddamn man.

He defined brawn and grit, but I could always see a tear well in his eye as I left after my frequent visits.

Albert Pontarolo 

June 1, 1922 thru July 21, 2014 

Scan 38

The Next Chapter

"All change, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another.

-Anatole France-

After four years at Cheney Farms it is time to pass the baton.  It has been a great run and I am so pleased to know that Douglas LaBar of the Mason Jar ( in Cheney, Washington will continue the tradition of farm to table sustainability as well as cultivating the Slow Food movement in Eastern Washington. Thus with a bittersweet good-bye from the Farm life I have taken residence in a single room and will follow my heart to the next chapter in the book of life.

A special grazie mille to Mike Pontarolo for all his hard work at Cheney Farms over the past four years.  I know this sale saddens him more than me, but there will be another Farm in my future where he can toil away in the soil, cultivating what Mother Earth provides. Thus it is fitting to release the farm on May Day, a celebration of Spring.

Thank you to all those who contributed to the Farm over the years: pasta dinners, Wednesday night volleyball, sausage making, basil harvest, canning;  these memories will always be cherished.

Dare Greatly,

Nick Pontarolo



Ski Boots On the Ground: Afghanistan

The wheels touched down at Kabul International Airport and the raspy voiced pilot announced that we had all safely arrived in Afghanistan, current time 1:15pm. He reiterated the obligatory "please stay in your seat until the fasten seatbelt sign has been turned off" but he must have been speaking a dead language.  It impacted no one. Everyone unbuckled and milled about the cabin collecting their military issue rucksacks or tattered parcels wrapped in bed sheets, secured with hemp rope, as the plane taxied to the shelled Kabul Airport. All were either elated to arrive home or devastated to be returning to duty.

Arriving in Kabul for many Afghan people is a return home from a long journey on business, to see family in Pakistan or Iran, or a homecoming from near exile due to the turbulent political and violent conflicts that have mired Afghanistan for decades. For westerners it is another unwanted tour of duty, high paying security contractor job, or middle aged adventure seeker, seeking to make a change in the war zone through one of the copious NGO's and government agencies established to stabilize this amazing land and its diverse and kind population.

For me, when Emirates 640 landed at 1:15pm I took the first breath of semi-fresh, stress free air is far too long.  I had arrived at a destination I had been dreaming about for years. My best friend had been living in Kabul and Kandahar the past 5 years working numerous jobs for NGO's and government agencies.  We had long talked about me visiting and skiing the north central region of the country called Bamiyan but it had never come to fruition until flight 640 landed.

With ski boots on the ground we were off for another adventure that would reinforce a bond between friends that is so rare in a world of social media, cell phones, text messages, and Skype.  We; friends, neighbors, hooligans since the 4th grade, ski buddies since 49 Degrees North had $49 season passes, hell we both received our first passport stamps years ago on the same day, and here we were, once again, on deck to see what the world had to offer us and what we could give in return.

Although it would take pages, maybe a book, at the very least a photo essay, and for the corporate type, an elaborate PowerPoint with Fiji water and gluten free muffins to explain what I saw, felt, and experienced in Afghanistan.  But I am resolute in saying Afghanistan, its people; the Pashtun, Hazara, Tajik, Uzbek, the expats, and so many others are kind, giving, fun, and full of grit.

I will return to Afghanistan for it was the best adventure I have ever been a part of and possibly the best month of my life.  I am a better person for the experience and a more compassionate individual for continuing to seek how we, humans, fit together on these floating tectonic plates that make up planet Earth.

So in the words of Matthew Broderick in Ferris Bueller's Day Off I leave you with this:

"Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."