Category: Travel

It’s In The Books

It’s done. I’ve been babbling about, prepping for, and anticipating this moment for quite a while now. The first official “summer of George” event. If you haven’t been following along, I made the decision a while ago that I wanted to explore, travel, and see small town America. I’ve been preparing for this for far too long. I purchased a ginormous new motorcycle and began outfitting it with the things needed for on and off road travel. I put in a thousand miles of short, local rides to get used to the bike and improve my riding skills. I sorted through navigation equipment issues, backordered equipment, and some challenging mechanical installation problems. Finally, everything was ready.

In my part of the world, we’ve had a vexing spring. Extremely windy, wet, and lingering snowmelt. This has delayed any sort of real trip. But the weather finally broke and summer arrived. As is customary in my state, we went from cold, wet, and windy to a hundred degrees overnight. Sigh. I’d managed to pick the week for my first trip with record high temps forecast. I was going to postpone until the following week and then saw a post on Instagram from David Goggins. If you don’t know who he is, it’s worth reading his book. Former SEAL, lost over a hundred pounds just to make the teams. Had to go through BUD’s/hell week three times due to injuries. He’s kinda crazy, but still manages to be very motivating. Anyway, out of the blue he posted this on the day I was contemplating postponing:

“Don’t be the person that looks at the weather report the night before to decide what you are going to do the next day. What that means is don’t be the person who sees if it is going to rain or snow or be too hot or cold and make your decision off of that forecast. Whatever Mother Nature puts in front of you, go out and attack it.”

Well damn. I guess I’m not much of an adventurer if I have to wait for the perfect forecast. So… the next day I kissed Mrs Troutdog goodbye and left. Now, it’s not like I was heading off into the wilderness for a week (that’s still to come). The purpose of the trip was twofold. First was to see if equipment worked, can I navigate without too much hassle (on a motorcycle it’s not like you can work a map/GPS while driving like you can with a car), and how will I do with hours in the saddle. The second, and perhaps more important, will I even like this sort of travel? Will I make the effort to stop and take pictures? Will multiple days on the road, alone, get to be too much? Did I just waste a crapload of money on something that I don’t even like?

In short, I didn’t know what to expect. I worried that I’d built all this up a bit too much in my head. I’ve watched many YouTube videos of cross country travelers who make it look easy. Riding from town to town, interacting with interesting locals, taking fabulous pictures, dining at quirky out of the way spots… what if this isn’t what I find? Enough with the suspense.. while my short trip wasn’t a soul-changing experience, I had a blast.

The equipment mostly all worked as expected. A few minor tweaks are still needed. I didn’t get lost. I saw almost all the sights I’d planned on seeing. Survived riding 700+ miles over three days in near 100 degree temps. Made it through 180 miles of high speed, brutal crosswinds and double (and triple!) trailer semi-trucks nearly blowing me out of my lane. Got a few pictures. Talked to a few people. Stopped and helped a guy stranded with a couple dogs and no water. Confirmed that I am able to travel alone and pushed through my introvert tendency to not make an effort to stop and see something or talk to someone because I’m by myself.

Not everything was a magical experience. It was hot. Traveling on a motorcycle can be a pain in the ass. See something you want to take a picture of? Find a place to stop and park the bike where it won’t fall over. Pull off sweaty gloves and helmet. Unplug the phone and or pull the camera out of the tank bag. Clomp around in heavy motorcycle boots, getting hotter and hotter because there’s now no airflow going through your riding suit. Take your picture. Put everything back on, reconnect things, get ridding again while unzipping to get air flowing again. Tiny little towns in the middle of nowhere aren’t always charming. Sometimes they’re just rundown spots on the road. When those little towns only have one motel for $40 a night… well, you can imagine that it’s not the Hyatt.

So all in all, was this the life changing experience I’d pictured? Maybe not life changing, but I loved it. I proved to myself that I can take off alone on an adventure, explore, and make the most of whatever I encounter. I feel like I accomplished something. I wished I’d make a video because there were moments on the road where I was seeing some jaw dropping beauty that is hard to describe. Early morning and come around a corner as the only vehicle on the road, to see a majestic mountain range lit up by the early morning sun is worth the price of admission. Images and experiences you won’t get sitting on the couch.

It’s amazing how inhibiting fear of the unknown is. Worries about weather, getting lost, what if I don’t like it, being by myself – all things that if you spend too much time thinking about, will stop you from doing the actual thing. But if you push past the worry about the unknown, you’ll find that most everything you worried about was no big deal. I’m left with excitement for whatever my next trip will be. It seems silly, but getting the first one out of the way was a big weight off my mind. Why oh why didn’t I do this sooner? As I’ve said many times – we’re only here once, so you may as well make the most of it.

A Sacrificial Offering

  • I’ve clearly managed to piss off someone, I’m just not sure who. We’ve had a pretty crappy spring, weather-wise. Cold, rain, and a ridiculous amount of wind. I hate the wind. It’s been windy virtually every day for what seems like months. And not just “breezy” wind, but 20-30 mile an hour winds in the afternoon. Being on a bike or motorcycle in that sort of wind just saps the fun out of everything. I spent too much time this morning trying to figure out what gods I need to appease. Being of Swedish heritage, naturally I first turned to the Norse god Njoror, but his background is really complicated and he leans towards providing wind for sailors. The Aztec god Cihuatecayotl is the god of the west wind, so he seems like a good candidate. Plus, the Aztecs were into the whole sacrifice thing. I haven’t looked into it extensively, but unfortunately I suspect sacrifices are frowned upon in our neighborhood covenants. Perhaps I can just go with a Sopranos style payoff. Meet some intermediary god at a park bench and slip him an envelope. Anyone know the going rate for 3-4 weeks with no wind?
  • I haven’t written much lately. My outrage reservoir overfilled and shorted out the main circuit board. I’ll read and watch the news, feel my outrage temperature rising, sit down to write (vent), and boom, it simply shuts off. I’ll be filled with an overwhelming feeling that there’s simply no point in writing or even thinking about the outrage of the day. I’m not sure if it’s apathy, sensory overload, or just interested in other things, but it’s been hard to figure out what, if anything, I want to write about. I think staying away from nonstop outrage and contrarian thinking may be a healthier choice. Life is too short to sacrifice many brain cycles to crap we can’t do anything about anyway.
  • The travel plans on the ginormous motorcycle have been stalled for multiple reasons. One is weather (see wind rant). Another has been parts outfitting. We’re almost done there. The last piece has been luggage. The bags I ordered were on backorder, but supposedly would be available again at the beginning of this month. I contacted them a week ago and they said another 7-10 days. Fingers crossed. The luggage delay did work out because the bike was due for it’s first service, and due to our massive influx in population, the shop was booked out a month. I finally got that done yesterday, so the bike is good to go. The delay also let me work on improving my riding skills confidence. I’ve spent some time in the dirt now and am really starting to feel better. Now I just have to actually commit to my first trip.
  • A myriad of health issues have plagued me lately, which I will detail for you in excruciating detail at another time. One of them however deserves a special mention because it illustrates how dorky I really am. I developed a neuroma on my foot, which causes a sharp, hot poker stabbing sensation when I run, play golf, etc… I got desperate enough to consult Dr’s Google and YouTube for my diagnosis and treatment. I believe that the root cause was years of shoes that were too small and had too narrow of a toe box. My toes are all janky, overlapping, and I have terrible bunions. The non-surgical solution is something called toe spreaders worn in shoes that look suspiciously like Ronald McDonald clown feet. I’ve been wearing them for a week and so far the neuroma seems to be a bit better. So my only real complaint is one of fashion. Google “natural toe box shoe” and see what comes up. Why do all minimalist and natural fitting shoes have to be so ungodly ugly? Sigh.
  • I got kicked at work the other day. We had a patient who went absolutely batshit crazy (drugs and untreated psych issues) and had to be restrained. We got the patient tied down and I went back to my patients. I got a call a while later to come help and sure enough this patient had managed to get out of all but one restraint. We had about eight people in the room waiting for security to arrive, while the patient frantically tried to get the remaining restraint off. I started getting worried what would happen if he got free and started running amuck in the room. So each time he reached over to try and undo the restraint I’d reach in and move his hand. Every time I did that he’d screech and try to bite me. We did that five or six times until the next time I started to reach in he gave a lightning fast roundhouse kick. I jumped back, but my cat-like reflexes have slowed a bit in my old age. He caught me on my upper thigh. Grrrr. Security arrived and we swarmed him, multiple people on each limb and got restraints reapplied. Funny, I don’t remember reading this chapter in school. I must have been out that day. I’m not sure what was worse, the kick or the amount of paperwork and interviews that had to be done afterwards.
  • An ode to trying new things.

Song of the day: R.E.M. – Shiny Happy People (Official Music Video) I never realized that Kate Pierson of the B-52’s collaborated on this.

The Ex Post Facto Study

  • As humans, we really like passing new laws, creating processes and procedures, and establishing new rules to solve the problems we’re experiencing. What we don’t do a very good job of is any sort of analysis of our newly created bureaucracy to see if it actually did anything useful. Laws and processes, once created, tend to stick around forever. For example at the start of the pandemic that shall not be named for fear of woke xenophobia, my hospital started a screening process for anyone entering. They purchased fancy stand alone scanners that let me scan my badge and take my temperature. I never use it because I have to log into it the night before (a software system the hospital had to purchase), answer the same stupid four questions, and then the next morning my temperature never registers with the automated machine because I just walked across the parking lot in 40 degree temps. The backup to the automated station is an employee who asks the questions, manually checks my temp (which still fails), and then gives me a sticker to put on my badge to “prove” I’ve been screened that day. When the ‘rona started everyone was panicking and I’m sure this process seemed reasonable at the time. It’s been in place for quite awhile now, so a retrospective study seems appropriate. Has this system actually “caught” any cases of Corona? I doubt it. How many people with 104 degree temps and difficulty breathing actually go to work or randomly show up to visit aunt Sally in the hospital? Or, they are asymptomatic and would have passed the screening anyway. Naturally the in-person screeners are only going through the motions at this point. I walk up say “no changes”, they try to scan my temp for 0.2 seconds, I grab my sticker and go. So in retrospective, is it worth continuing this? What made me think of this was something Grandpa Joe said during his weird state of the union speech last night. He dredged up the standard we need more gun laws rhetoric, saying we need to ban ghost guns and pass universal background checks. Ignoring what drivel that is for the moment, this seems like a prime opportunity for a retrospective study. We have tons of historical data in the form of crimes committed with guns. If we looked backwards and applied the new proposed laws, how many of those crimes would have been prevented? e.g. how many shootings have occurred with “ghost guns”? How many people went through some sort of firearm purchase at a flea market or gun show, bypassed a background check, and then went on to commit a crime? It seems pretty simple to look backwards to see if something would work moving forward. But that assumes you actually want the answer.
  • Spell check is a wonderous thing. Without it my writing would look like a five year old’s. Spell check elevates it to at least sixth or seventh grade. But the problem with spell check is you have to be roughly in the ballpark for it to give a suggestion. Take for example “bureaucracy”. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten it right first time. Unfortunately I never even get close enough for spell check to offer a helpful hint. I end up Googling things to stumble across the right spelling. Which brings me to my new phone. I like using the “swype” keyboard rather than entering in individual letters. The default swype implementation on the old Pixel phone was marvelous. I only had to get semi-close to the actual letters and it somehow knew what I was trying to type. It often had the correct contextual suggestions for the next word and the next word… magical. Samsung’s implementation on the other hand is very disappointing and more often than not I have to go back and type everything out. Sigh. I know you can download other swype keyboards, but that would take actual effort.
  • I violated my newly vowed rule to simply pay a professional to install things rather than me spending 10x the amount of time to do the same thing. I got some parts for the new ginormous motorcycle but the idea of waiting for an appointment and then paying someone $75 an hour to do what I should be able to do just killed me. And sure enough… two and a half full afternoons, many expletives, phone calls to customer support, and two new one-time use tools and everything is installed. But at least I feel good about my manliness. Cue Tim the toolman grunt.
  • This past weekend was very rainy and outdoor stuff wasn’t an option. I was bored and decided to conduct research and do an actual experiment. I’ve been needing a navigation solution (long story) for the backcountry while on the motorcycle. I wanted to use my phone rather than purchase a $600+ GPS device. I ended up spending the better part of a day researching options, downloading software, creating routes and maps, and really learning the systems. And the pièce de résistance, I created three custom routes and then went out and drove them to see which system performed the best. An actual experiment. I am a dork of huge proportions. But, at the end of the day I think I have a system that’s going to work.
  • I don’t think there’s much to say about the weird state of the union last night. Grandpa Joe is not a gifted orator. For all his flaws and ignoring content, Obama could deliver a good speech (as long as the teleprompter was working). Clinton too. For speechmaking ability I’d rank the presidents in the following order: Obama, Reagan, Clinton, Bush 43, Bush 41, Biden. As far as content goes, all SOTU speeches are stupid. They’re long whish lists of crap that never gets done. If you’re a fan of everything big government, you loved Biden’s speech. If you’re a minimalist government type, it was abhorrent. I don’t think there was much in the middle for this one.
  • I’m going to ride the ginormous motorcycle a fair number of hours north today, then come back on Saturday. Sort of a pre-travel trial run. I’m waiting for my soft luggage panniers to arrive and then all the pieces will be in place to hit the road! Interesting how much effort, planning, and research it’s taken to be able to experience the “freedom” of the road. LOL.

Song of the day: Sugar Ray Fly 1997

Just Wing It

  • Because I’ve been consumed with all things motorcycle lately, naturally I watch a ton of YouTube motorcycle travel content. I’ve noticed an interesting pattern that probably correlates to general life. There are two types of motorcycle travelers. The first is the planner. This traveler meticulously plans out every moment of the ride. Hotel reservations, the exact campground each night, fueling stops, everything is weighed, and the route and scenic attractions are meticulously marked on the GPS. This rider wants to be in control of the ride and minimize the chance of problems along the way. The other rider is the complete opposite. This adventurer decides, often spur of the moment, to ride to Yellowstone this weekend. They throw some stuff in a duffle bag, strap it to the back of the bike and go. They find food, hotels, or campgrounds whenever they get tired of riding that day. They see roads that look fun and are roughly going in the right direction, and randomly decide to see where they go. Neither approach is right or wrong and the way you go about things in your travels probably mirrors how you approach life. I don’t really know how I am as a traveler. Probably somewhere in the middle. I tend to like to know exactly the route I’m taking and what the conditions will be. For example, the fantastic ride I did the other day almost didn’t happen. I thought about taking a particular route over a mountain pass, but had no idea if it would be still covered in snow or what the road condition would be. I decided to simply ride to the base of the road and turn around and go back the way I came. As I drew closer to the road I passed several ranger stations and contemplated stopping and asking about current state of the road. I didn’t stop, so when I got to the starting point of the road I was terribly conflicted. Do I go into the unknown, or take the safe way home? I sat in the shade, ate some lunch, and tried surfing the internet for road conditions without luck. Eventually I decided, fuck it – what’s the worst thing that could happen? I’d have to turn around and it might add a couple hours to my return trip. So what? It ended up being one of the most enjoyable rides I’ve done and I felt silly that I spent so much time agonizing about it. It’s amazing how caught up in fear of the unknown we can get. I’ll probably always err towards the cautious side, but I’m really enjoying pushing myself to be more adventurous. I wish it was something I’d learned when I was much younger. I think I would have been far more successful socially and in my work life. But, as the old saying goes, it’s never too late!
  • Elon Musk’s Dragon crew module delivered astronauts to the space station again. It was another first as SpaceX demonstrated they could re-use a crew module. Which got me thinking… when Musk lands a crew on Mars, will he be able to claim it in the name of SpaceX? Can a corporation claim territory?
  • Grandpa Joe got on a Zoom call with world leaders to discuss the existential crisis of climate change. He was the only one wearing a mask. He wore a mask on a Zoom call. Sigh…
  • Continuing to demonstrate how utterly useless the UN is, they voted to allow Iran to join the UN women’s rights commission for the next four years. The goal of the Commission on the Status of Women is to promote gender equality and empower women worldwide. Iran. Seriously? You’d like to laugh, but we spend millions on supporting this nonsense.
  • I thought this was a super interesting article on “why is everything liberal?” If you look at voting, our society is mostly split right down the middle. The middle swings slightly left or right each election, but for the most part the country votes 50-50% democrat/republican. You’d then expect most of the countries infrastructure to reflect that 50/50 split. But in reality most everything is dominated by the left. Woke corporations, academia, the media, social media, technology, protests, marches, they’re virtually all completely left-leaning? Why? There’s no clear answer other than the left tends to be much more vocal, angry, less tolerant, and violent than the right. There were some studies done that asked voters how hard it would be to be friends with someone with the opposite political belief. 61% of Clinton voters said it would be hard to be friends with a Trump voter. Only 34% of Trump voters said it would be hard to be friends with Clinton voters. Similarly, 7 in 10 democratic daters said they would not be in a relationship with a Trump supporter. Gotta love the tolerant and compassionate liberal.

Song of the day: The Specials – A Message To You Rudy (Official Music Video)

I Got Lost

It was supposed to be a simple, short, day trip (Gilligan’s Island, a three hour tour plays in the background). If you haven’t been following along, I’ve declared this year as my “summer of George”. The plan is to travel, mostly by motorcycle, and visit as many off the beaten track sights as I can. Phase one was changing my work hours to make this possible, and purchasing the right motorcycle. With that done, it’s now time to start the actual adventures. I have a handful of rides on the new bike under my belt, so I felt ready to do a mini-adventure to test things out before I hit the road on a multi-day trip.

The plan was to ride to a quirky museum I’d found on-line called Cleo’s Ferry Museum on the banks of the Snake river. It was about an hour and a half away, traveling entirely on backcountry farm roads – no interstate travel. I also wanted to experiment with how to document the trip (and future adventures). Do I want to make YouTube videos or just photography? I’ve seen plenty of YouTube motorcycle travel videos and it looks pretty simple. A couple of GoPro cameras, chat about the scenery as you cruise through the countryside, then give insightful commentary once you arrive at your destination. I got the GoPro’s all set up and loaded up my tank bag with extra batteries, memory cards, various accessories, and my regular camera. Time to ride!

The ride out to farmland went great. I was busy chatting away to the camera and enjoying the first real warm day of spring. Discovery number one was that turning on/off cameras one handed while riding a motorcycle and wearing leather gloves is challenging. It’s impossible to see if they’re recording or not. I had multiple instances where I was babbling away like an idiot only to realize the cameras never started recording because I didn’t fully push the button. Or that I’d thought I’d turned them off and ended up recording another 15 minutes of nothing, draining the batteries. You think texting and driving is bad? I can easily see myself riding into a ditch as I stare intently at the GoPro and fumble with the on/off button with gloved fingers.

Discovery number two was a known issue that I thought I was prepared for, but failed miserably. As I’ve chronicled previously, I’ve had an issue with the USB connection on my phone, Android Auto, and the navigation display on the motorcycle. It’s been randomly shutting off leaving me without a map. I’m 90% certain the USB C connection on my phone is the problem as it connects/disconnects if I wiggle the cable around. No biggie, I’d looked at my route on the computer pretty carefully and felt like even if it cut out a few times I still had a good sense of where I was going. Almost on cue, as soon as I hit the winding backcountry roads the navigation display started cutting out. In person these roads looked nothing like they did on the computer. Remote, no signs or landmarks, and all kinds of random unmarked side roads everywhere. Pretty soon I’d made multiple turns and had zero idea where I was.

Not an issue except that every time the navigation cut out I’d have to stop the motorcycle, dig out my phone from the tank bag and wiggle the cord until the display came back. Stopping on a motorcycle is not the same as a car. You need a reasonably flat surface and many of these country roads have no shoulder, just a steep ditch on either side. By the time I’d stopped a half dozen times I was getting frustrated. I’d pull out the phone, try and memorize the next few turns, wiggle the cord, put everything back in the tank bag, put my gloves back on, then take off. Two minutes later the navigation would cut out, I’d forget the name of the next road and have stop and start the process all over. Multiple times I’d find myself on a dead end road and have to backtrack. My carefree ride was quickly losing the enjoyment factor.

After several hours of this I finally found my destination. I pulled into the gravel parking lot, found a shady spot and shut the bike down. I was tired and dripping with sweat. Fully armored riding gear is great when there’s airflow. The last several hours of stopping/starting in the increasing spring heat left me soaking wet. No matter, I was here and it was time to capture some fun video and pictures of my destination! Discovery number three – a motorcycle is not like a car. You can’t just take off your jacket and lock it in the vehicle. I have an expensive helmet and jacket I can’t just leave sitting on the bike. So even though it was getting ridiculously hot I kept the jacket on and lugged the helmet, a GoPro camera and my regular camera with me as I set off to explore the museum.

Turns out, the museum wasn’t really a museum and there weren’t any ferries to see. It was a mile and a half “nature” walk with some old buildings and an eclectic and bizarre collection of hundreds of lawn gnomes, sculptures, and wandering peacocks. I’m sure someone like Mike Rowe could have made an interesting video segment about this place, but I was hot and tired. I was fumbling with the GoPro, the heavy helmet, and my regular camera was hanging on its strap around my neck and bouncing around. Somehow in that jostling a button got pushed and the camera’s display turned off. Standing in the hot sun in a heavy motorcycle jacket, sweat running down my back, I couldn’t figure out how to get the camera display back on so I had to abandon taking any pictures. At this point I’d had enough of Cleo’s Ferry Museum and trudged back to the bike.

The batteries on the GoPro were all dead, so at this point I was ready to just get back home. I packed everything up, mounted the bike and headed out on the most direct route back. I hadn’t eaten anything since early morning and had no water. The prudent thing to do would have been to find a café or something and grab a bite to eat and some water. I didn’t want to deal with the navigation again and rationalized it was only an hour ride going the direct route home. I am not the sharpest crayon in the box sometimes and should have known that this trip was destined to not go well.

I hit construction zones that detoured me in circles. I got stuck in traffic that had the bike nearly overheating. I got briefly lost again navigating a downtown I’d only been in once before. I pulled into my garage just before dinner, tired, hot, hungry, and with an aching back and dull headache from dehydration. My several hour adventure turned had turned into an all day affair without food or water. Virtually nothing had gone as planned.

Clearly my path to YouTube stardom will be harder than I thought. On the bright side, I know what I need to address before my next adventure. Better to find out now I suppose. All in all, I still love the idea of what I’m doing. And I have to laugh at my level of ineptness sometimes. I’m sure this won’t be my last epic failure. But I’m looking forward to whatever ridiculousness comes my way on these future travels. Life is too short not to have these experiences.