Tag: Motivation

I’m A Cheater

It’s not something you really want to admit. But confession is good for the soul, or something like that. So here goes… I’ve been cheating. Now in my defense, I didn’t realize I’d been cheating. Let me explain. If you haven’t been breathlessly following my every post, I’d recently written about a life altering change – I switched from clip-in pedals to flat pedals on the mountain bike.

TL;DR – I love them and don’t know why I didn’t switch earlier. But it has exposed one flaw. You have to constantly keep more pressure, or force, on the pedals otherwise your foot will slide off. So now I’m generally pushing a harder gear than I’m used to. What I’ve discovered is that with the clip-in pedals I was able to “relax” quite a bit when pedaling. While my legs were going around, I was essentially coasting far more than I realized. If I try that now, my feet come off the pedals.

So I was cheating at the effort I was putting in and didn’t know it. I could never figure out why my climbing speed never seemed to improve. Now that I have no choice but to push hard, presto, my speed and power output are much greater than before. Crazy how that works.

We all cheat, we just don’t like to admit it. I’ve never had much upper body strength, my shoulder is kinda jacked up, so I suck at things like push-ups. So what do I do? I ignore doing push-ups because I don’t like them and can’t do very many. Unfortunately, push-ups are exactly what I should be doing. How many of you are avoiding doing the things you know, deep down, you should be doing?

Confronting our flaws and weak points is hard. If it was easy, we’d already be doing them. But the older I get, the more I wish I’d been stronger about conquering my weaknesses when I was younger. But you’re never too old to start. Deep down, you know what your weak points are.

So pick one. Resolve today that you’re going to start working on it. You’ll thank yourself later. So now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to see if I can do a push-up. Don’t laugh. I’m pretty sure this will look like the Bill Murry push-up scene from the movie Stripes. But you’ve gotta start somewhere, right?

An Unexpected Lesson From Tragedy

The other day I was surfing through YouTube before I went to bed. It was getting late and I was looking for just one more video to watch before retiring. A thumbnail came up that I’d seen several times the past few days but had ignored because it was almost two hours in length, and I just wasn’t terribly interested in it. It was an analysis of what went wrong at the Uvalde school shooting by a guy named Mike Glover.

If you’re not familiar with him or his YouTube channels, Mike Glover is a former Green Baret with 18 combat deployments. He’s clearly been there, done that. He now provides tactical training to law enforcement. The failure of law enforcement in this scenario was horrific. Here’s a link to that analysis if you’re interested. I ended up watching the entire thing and going to bed way too late.

Out of everything he said, one thing towards the end really struck me. He was commenting on all the sexy “kit” the officers had on. We’ve dumped truckloads of money on police departments so they can outfit themselves as quasi-military units. They’ve got the ballistic helmets, plate carriers, ballistic shields, even wearing military style fatigues and boots. But in this case, none of them did anything with their fancy equipment while kids were being shot and left to die. They stood around, checking phones, getting hand sanitizer, and waiting for someone to tell them what to do. Mike’s comment was:

“Everyone wants to be an operator until it comes time to do operator shit”

That lesson is so true and can be applied to almost everything. Everyone wants to lose weight and look better (myself included), but very few want to put in the time in the weight room and or do serious cardio. You want to be a writer? Are you getting up and cranking out 1000 words every day? You want to be a YouTube star? How many hours a day do you spend learning and perfecting the filming, editing, and storytelling? You want to climb the corporate ladder? What are you doing to improve your skills and value daily?

We all want to be or do something. Only a small percentage of our society actually wants to do the work to achieve those things. I get it. I’m in that same boat. I kinda half-ass things. Sometimes I’m motivated, sometimes I’m not. Shockingly, it’s when I’m motivated that I get/achieve what I want. Crazy how that works.

Buying fancy gear, joining the latest fitness or diet fad, or subscribing to the killer new app is all great… but it doesn’t do diddly-squat if you don’t do the work. Another great example comes from David Goggins, who’s a crazy over the top, type-A overachiever. But he didn’t start out that way. He was a fat, lazy pest exterminator working nights and eating doughnuts. He had an epiphany one night, quit his job, went to a navy recruiter and said, “I want to be a navy seal”. The recruiter laughed and said you’re 100 pounds overweight. He’d have a very short few months to lose it if he wanted to actually attempt to qualify.

Spoiler alert – he did and went on to a successful career as a navy seal. When asked what program he used and what diet he followed to lose all the weight, he said “I stopped eating so fucking much and ran every day until I collapsed”. Simplicity. But the real reason was that he was willing to put in the work.

We all want something. How many of us are actually willing to do what it takes to get it? Very few. It’s a metaphor that struck home for me. Hopefully it’ll light a spark under my butt to get after it. Even at my advanced age, there are still things I want to achieve. But how bad do I really want them?

Everyone wants to be an operator until it comes time to do operator shit.

What’s Your Habit, Dude?

So, the other day I stumbled upon a YouTube channel. It’s a middle-aged guy who lost a hundred pounds and now competes in all kinds of running, cycling, and general fitness events. He’s articulate, funny, and doles out some pretty good, motivational advice. I’m not sure why, but I gravitate to those types of channels. Probably because in my head, any day now I’m going to go run an ultramarathon. Never mind that I’m struggling with 3 miles at the moment. The training is really going to kick in soon.

Anyway, in one of his videos he mentioned creating habits. He referenced a book that he says completely changed the way he thinks about this sort of thing. It’s called Atomic Habits by James Clear. Well, if it’s good enough for this guy it’s good enough for me. I jumped on to Amazon’s book site, found the book, and… it said I’d already downloaded it. I checked my Kindle and sure enough, there it was. I’d even read it. And I had absolutely zero memory of it. Clearly it didn’t make much of an impression on me.

But maybe I was taking too much cold medication that week? I decided to give it another go. Sure enough, something jumped out at me several chapters in. Something that further proved, once again, that Mrs. Troutdog is the smarter one in our marriage. She didn’t like my post from the other day, saying she hates when I talk negatively about myself. I agree that I tend to be very self-effacing when I write. Sometimes it’s for brilliant comedic effect. Sometimes it’s authentic voice. The truth is that I’m not much of a self-promoter. Besides, it’s hard to fail if you set the bar ridiculously low to begin with. Right?

So, what does this have to do with habits? One of the things that the author said about creating a habit is the importance of creating a positive affirmation. It’s a subtle thing, but one that makes a difference in how you view the habit you’re trying to start. Rather than saying, “I’m going to go for a run because I’d like to be considered a runner one day”, you need to tell yourself that you ARE a runner. It doesn’t matter that you can barely go three blocks… you ARE a runner and therefore you need to train. That subtle shift in mindset makes a huge difference in motivation to continue a habit.

I realized that this is exactly what I’ve been doing to myself, for years, and why it probably drives Mrs. Troutdog crazy. While a pure beginner may not know the difference, someone who’s participated in a sport or activity for a while can recognize the difference between an amateur and someone who’s actually good. For many of my activities I can tell when someone really knows what they’re doing. In my head, those are the people who can call themselves a cyclist, skier, runner, writer, etc… I’ve never viewed myself as one of those people. For anything. In my head I always see myself as a beginner. Not worthy of a higher rank.

I need to go for a run this morning because I’m a runner. That’s what I do. And runners need to train. Boom! Mind blown. It’s weird how such a small change in thinking, can influence your motivation to do something.

The other nugget that was in the book is about quantity vs. quality. I’ve always struggled with habits because when starting out, it’s hard. Your form is bad. You don’t have the coordination. Endurance and strength limits what you can do. You watch videos that tout “do this one exercise for 20 reps to make major changes!”. I can’t even to 10 reps, let alone 20. Guess I won’t be doing that one.

As the old saying goes, perfect is the enemy of good. Habits are formed by repetition, regardless of the quality of what you do. The author suggests that if you want to run every morning, start by getting up every day, lacing up your running shoes, and walk around the block. That’s it. Do just that for three weeks. Every single day. It makes no difference that all you did was go around the block. You’re creating a mental cue. Rewiring your brain to change what your morning routine is. It takes hundreds of repetitions to create a lasting habit. It doesn’t matter what your running form is, if you get better, how far you went, or how fast you go. What matters is a hundred times you reinforced that cue – get up, put your shoes on, and step out the door. It’s a habit.

I am a runner. I am a mountain biker. I am a skier. I am a motorcyclist. I am a fisherman. I am a photographer. I am a writer. Now please excuse me, I need to go train.

I’m Sick Of Diet And Food

I’m frustrated. I’m depressed. I’m angry. I’m absolutely sick and tired of thinking about diet and food. Here’s why…

In the last 7 days my activities have been as follows:

  • 3.7 mile run
  • Initial meeting with personal trainer, mobility, and strength assessment
  • A day of alpine skiing, 13 runs, 9.7 miles
  • A day of cross-country skate skiing, hills, 4.2 miles
  • Two 13-hour workdays, on my feet, walking an ungodly number of steps

My diet during this time:

  • Only two meals a day
  • One meal a day on the workdays
  • Out to dinner with friends but had only a salad
  • Had a burger one night but did salad instead of fries
  • Three total beers during the week
  • My only snacks were almonds and parmesan crips

Not bad, right? I jumped on the scale this morning and… I gained a pound and a half. Fuck!

It’s so demoralizing. Don’t get me wrong, I know exactly why. The meals were pretty high calorie. I ate a LOT of the snacks. Salad is not low calorie when you add gobs of blue cheese dressing. Beer is 200+ calories each. I know I ate too many calories. But I thought for sure that amount of activity I did would at least keep me at break-even. It’s a horrible feeling to be thinking about calories non-stop, to worry all week about getting enough activity in – and still gain weight. I’m tired of thinking about and dwelling over the number on the scale. It’s enough to want to just give up and eat whatever the hell I want. I’m getting old. It’s not like I’m trying to be on the cover of Vogue magazine or become a competitive cyclist. Why should I care anymore?

I’m so sick of thinking and stressing over food. I’m tired of keto. I want to be able to have a beer from time to time. Or a burger. Not every day, but once in a while without feeling guilty about it. I want to be active and exercise so I feel good about my long-term health. I want to maintain my balance and mobility so that I’m not afraid to stand on a stepstool when I’m in my 70’s. But constant worrying about exercise in terms of “did I burn enough calories today?”, is making it a chore that I have to do – not something I want to do.

Having to maintain a diet is not enjoyable. Having to move to the XL side of the clothing rack and skipping fun water activities with friends because you’re embarrassed at how you look isn’t fun either. Both things suck. I keep telling myself, a bit of short-term pain to get to someplace I’m comfortable is worth the effort. Then I can work on a maintenance level of calories rather than a constant deficit. But the daily grind and internal analysis just gets old.

At my age it’s clear that the only way to lose weight is extremely strict calorie restriction. There are no “cheat meals” allowed. I need to track every bit of food I consume. I can ramp up my activity a bit more, but not enough to compensate for the calories I ate this week. Every single thing I put in my mouth has to be weighed, measured, and counted against the daily and weekly calorie budget. I know this. And it pisses me off. Like the national debt clock, I need a continually running calorie clock so I can make appropriate decisions about food intake. I need to stop ruining reasonable food choices by tripling the portion sizes.

I know myself. I struggle with choice. When forced to choose, I often make bad decisions. I’m the type of person that needs to eat the same thing every day. The same breakfast, the same snacks, the same dinner. A known set of calories that doesn’t waver. And once in a while when out with friends, have a burger. But eat only half. I don’t need to consume the entire two pounds of burger, bun, and condiments. Eat enough to satisfy the taste craving and be done. And yes, I can up the activity intensity a bit. I know I’m capable of more than I actually do.

I know what the answer is. I know how this week happened. I know what to do. I just needed to vent a bit. To have a bit of a pity party. Now I need to pick myself up off the floor, dust myself off, and get back after it. I will keep the XXL velour track suit with the elastic waistband and the “all you can eat” buffet at bay.

The In-Between Doldrums

doldrums [ˈdōldrəmz, ˈdäldrəmz]
NOUN
(the doldrums) a state or period of inactivity, stagnation, or depression.

While we’re on the topic of definitions, here’s another one that’s often misunderstood/misused:
Inertia
a property of matter by which it continues in its existing state of rest or uniform motion in a straight line, unless that state is changed by an external force.

My default state of inertia can best be described as… sloth. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m usually a pretty active guy. Once I start doing stuff, that feeds on itself and the next thing I know there isn’t enough time in the week to do everything I want. Once enough force is applied and I get going, my inertia is a healthy level of continuous movement.

The problem is that if anything derails that inertia, I default back to sloth mode. This is where I introduce you to the doldrums. In my part of the world, this happens twice a year. Right now, we’re in the winter doldrums. Fall is over. It’s cold. It’s rained enough that the trails are a muddy, torn up mess. You can’t run on ’em or mountain bike. Did I mention the cold? This makes a motorcycle ride an extremely unpleasant experience. There’s no snow yet, so my standard winter activities haven’t started yet. Finding outdoor activities this time of year, while not impossible, are exponentially harder.

Day by day my motivation and inertia wanes. Adding to that, it’s the holidays which means food. There’s just food everywhere. At the hospital, well-meaning families of patients are constantly bringing cookies, cakes, and candy. The staff break room is a never-ending cornucopia of calories.

It doesn’t take many days of this, and I get into a bit of a funk. I didn’t go completely stationary… I managed to play golf a few times and did a couple of home repairs. But my default state the last few weeks has been couch-bound. And the more I sit the more my inertia starts resetting to sloth mode. It gets harder and harder to want to get up and do anything.

It needs to snow soon so I can resume my skiing activities. Otherwise, I might bust out the video games that have been in a closet for the last five or so years. If that happens, you probably won’t hear from me until spring. Unfortunately, what happens in spring? Doldrums part deux. The snow melts and we have a long period known as “the mud season”. You can see that this is a dangerous cycle.

Overcoming the moment of inertia – the force required to overpower the current mass and velocity of an object can be a complicated mathematical formula. The longer I stay still the greater the mass and friction coefficients become, and the required force becomes exponentially greater.

As Lewis Carroll wrote in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, ‘The time has come,’ the walrus said, ‘to talk of many things: of shoes and ships – and sealing wax – of cabbages and kings.’ The time has come to apply some force and bust out of the funk of the doldrums.

The Secret Is To Be Still

I’ve made a decision to play more golf. As I’ve mentioned before, golf has been the one sport I simply can’t seem to get comfortable with. So, I’m going to make the commitment and put in the effort to become average. While becoming “average” doesn’t seem like much of a goal, it is when you’re struggling to get past awful. I’m not looking to shoot par, or join the senior tour. My desire is to be able to be paired up with any group and feel comfortable that I’m not going to embarrass myself.

So with this new plan to get better at golf, I made a little resolution to challenge myself and play golf three days in a row. What’s the big deal with that? Well, it meant going out as a single and probably being placed with a group of strangers. No only does that challenge my awkward social skills, it means embarrassing myself in front of strangers with my lack of golf skills. For you extroverts maybe that doesn’t seem like a big deal. For us introverts, trust me it is.

Day one and I forced myself to go to the course. I thought about just going to the driving range, but made myself go into the pro shop and say the dreaded words… “do you have any slots open for a single?” Oh, happy days – not only did they have room, the course wasn’t busy and I was able to go out by myself! It worked out perfectly. I forced myself to overcome social anxiety and got to relax and play without anyone watching. It was a very enjoyable experience and I actually played ok. Probably because I wasn’t in my head and simply enjoyed the course.

Day two and I was much less anxious. I drove to the course and… the parking lot was packed. I nearly turned around and left. But to my credit, I forced myself to head to the pro shop and say the magic words. There wasn’t going to be any solo golf this time. I was paired with a couple of young guys. They were laughing and joking around. The pro clearly knew them. He said, “I know these two look like knuckleheads, but they’re good guys”.

As we went out to the first tee, they certainly didn’t look like golfers. Late twenties, early thirties maybe. Both looked like ratty skater dudes. Flat billed ball caps. T-shirts. Baggy shorts. Lots of tattoos. I thought to myself that they couldn’t be very serious about golf, so at least I won’t be too embarrassed. As we were waiting to tee off I noticed they were both wearing flip-flops. How committed a player could you be in flip-flops? The group in front of us moved on to the green so I stepped up to tee off. I actually managed to hit a decent shot. Not terribly far but dead center in the fairway. One of the guys yells “Steady Eddy, that what I want to see all day!” I was quite pleased with myself.

Now this first hole was a par 4, slight dog leg to the right, 300 some odd yards. I’m waiting for my two partners to tee off, but they’re just chatting away. I’m waiting. And waiting. Finally the group ahead clears the green. Skater guy number one steps up in his flip-flops and crushes a massive drive that lands on the green. Skater guy number two steps up in his flip-flops and also crushes his drive, landing just a few feet short of the green. I was speechless. Whatever stereotype I had of what a golfer looks like was blown away. I’ve never seen, in person, someone hit a golf ball like that. It’s one thing to see a massive drive from the pros on TV. But you have no appreciation for how far 300+ yards is until you see it in person. And these freaking guys did it in flip-flops. Why am I so obsessed over the footwear? Because I just bought a pair of fancy new golf shoes. Nothing like feeling foolish standing there in my shiny, brand new, fancy shoes while these guys crush it looking like they’re on their way to a beach party.

I did ok on the second hole, and then the nerves of playing with these guys got to me and the wheels came off. They were super nice and very supportive. I realized they would normally play back on the pro tees, but were playing up on the closer tees for me. They gave plenty of encouragement, but it was clear I was holding them back from their normal pace of play. Eventually they asked if I would mind if they jumped ahead a hole to play a bit faster. Of course I didn’t mind as it worked out well for me and them.

Before they left we shook hands and said the standard pleasantries. But one of the skater dudes did leave me with a bit of advice. He was quiet for a bit and then said, “You know, I think most problems with the golf swing can be fixed by just being more still”. And off they went.

I don’t know if that’s good golf advice or not… but it certainly felt right. It was an interesting experience. A wise, tatted up skater dude who crushes 300 yard drives in flip-flops. The next day I got rained out, so we’ll have to wait to see what the next round brings and if stillness is the secret. One thing is certain. I’m clearly trying too hard. Maybe I’ll put the new shoes on eBay.

Discipline Equals Freedom

If you’re not familiar with Jocko Willink, he’s worth following. He’s a very frightening former navy seal commander who’s written a number of books, has a very popular podcast, and famously posts a picture of his watch on Instagram at 0430 every morning as he starts his daily workout. His mantra is discipline equals freedom. The more disciplined you are at getting your shit done, the more freedom you’ll have at the end of day. Admiral William H McRaven gave a very popular speech saying something similar – “Want to change world? Start by making your bed”. Life coach Jordon Peterson says to clean up your life, start by cleaning your room. They’re all advocating for some derivative of adding structure to your life.

Exactly seven months ago we made the decision to begin divesting from work and starting the move towards retirement. And exactly seven months ago I wrote a post lamenting that I needed more structure in my life. And how has that gone? Well, I, uhm, errr, ahem… haven’t done anything different. I wake up every day with exactly zero plan for the day. Of course there’s always the random appointment you need to keep, or a trip that was set up, or a social get-together. But my plan for the week is never anything more than a vague thought in the back of my head. I know it’s going to get hot later in the week so I’ll mountain bike Monday and Tuesday. I should probably mow the lawn before the weekend. It looks like Wednesday is going to be a powder day, so I’ll go cross country skiing today. We’re out of salad dressing, so maybe I’ll go to the store on the way home. Or maybe tomorrow. That’s it. That’s the sum total of my structure and planning, week in and week out.

It’s pretty hard to complain about that. I truly have a blessed life. It feels like I’ve been pretty damn busy the last seven months. I certainly haven’t had any shortage of things to fill my days. I think it’s clear I won’t be one of those guys who retires and then has no idea what to do with himself every day. But what have I actually done? I’m not actually sure what I’ve been doing all this time. There’s been some focus around the new ginormous motorcycle, but the rest of my time has been a bit of a blur. I know I’ve kept myself occupied, but doing what?

I had grand visions of making gourmet meals most nights and being on top of all the shopping and various household errands. There’s a number of household repair and yard maintenance things that need to be done. Getting back in the swing of a regular workout routine was high on the list of things to do. Being more focused on hobbies was also something I wrote about seven months ago. None of that has happened.

With a complete lack of structure, I’ve drifted along with whatever random thought came into my head on any given day. And like a spoiled child, most of my thoughts have been about playing and not necessarily taking care of business first. While it seems idyllic, I think the edges are starting to fray a bit. My weight has gone out of control without any sense of routine. Free feeding is not a recipe for success. The less I take care of business (home repair, cooking, yard work, etc…) the harder it is to be motivated to do those things. It’s hard to think about long term plans, like travel for Mrs Troutdog and I or even the next trip on the ginormous motorcycle when I don’t even have a plan for tomorrow. Even my copious playtime is starting to simply repeat the same things over and over. What happened to rediscovering some of my other hobbies that have been back-shelved for a while?

This is an incredibly fortunate and first world problem to have. But nonetheless, one I suspect I need to sort out before too long. As Jack Torrance said in The Shining, “all play and no work makes Jack a dull boy”. Ok, maybe that wasn’t exactly what he wrote but you get the gist. I still don’t see myself restarting a bullet journal or getting up at 0430 each day. But adding some level of structure to my week is looking more and more important. Maybe it’s just committing tasks to the calendar at the beginning of each week? Wait, that’s sort of the bullet journal isn’t it? Sigh… I don’t know. It’s terribly hard to become disciplined if that hasn’t been your nature. Maybe I’ll invent a new planning/tracking/goal setting methodology for newly retired folks. Become a retirement life-coach. This blog has been searching for a focus ever since I started writing it, maybe that’s what it should be? Can I practice what I’d preach? Hmm. Check back in six months and see if my new best selling “Life goals for retirement” book is underway. Meanwhile, I’m going mountain biking today. I’ll look at the calendar later. I promise.

What’s Your Risk Tolerance?

  • I just got back from a four day road trip on the ginormous motorcycle. It was a fantastic trip with a couple of “bucket list” rides. I mentioned in my last post that I almost cancelled due to a threat of inclement weather. Sure enough, day one I got caught in a pretty severe rain and hailstorm. Let’s just say that large hail at 60 mph on a motorcycle hurts! The important part is that I survived and it wasn’t nearly as scary as I’d built it up to be in my head. I rode a few other sections that were high speed highway (70 and 80 mph speed limits) with plenty of large semi’s and some high winds. Serious white knuckle time in the beginning, but I wasn’t thinking about it much towards the end of the day. The point is that the unknown is scary and it’s easy to let that fear get the better of you when try to visualize what it’s going to be like. I guarantee that most of the time reality will prove to be nothing like the horrible scenarios you let run away in your imagination.
  • Which leads me to my question on risk tolerance. Pushing through fear is all well and good, but you still need to do a reasonable risk assessment of the situation. A brand new motorcycle rider attempting a busy freeway on his first day is stupid. The lack of skill makes the risk factor way too high. So how do you evaluate risk? When it comes to hiking, backpacking, mountain biking, I have a reasonable amount of life experience. I’m an RN, was a member of a search and rescue team for years, comfortable with navigation, and feel pretty comfortable with knowing my physical limits. My risk tolerance for hiking in the backcountry is pretty high. Barring serious injury, I’m not terribly worried about surviving a few days if something went wrong. I’m reasonably confident I could put myself in a position to be found or self-rescue. More importantly, I feel like I’m less likely to put myself in a bad position in the first place. Most of our rescues on the SAR team were for people who had no idea they were even putting themselves at risk until it was too late.
  • Which brings me back to the ginormous motorcycle. I have many years of riding experience. Unfortunately most of it was simply commuting back and forth to work. The long road trips are new to me, but I feel like I still have enough overall street experience in those scenarios to make good risk assessments. But what I really want to do is spend more time riding in the backcountry. I have no dirt experience. At what point, when riding by myself, am I being stupid? Most of my fears revolve around being stranded. A crash or other mechanical issue that disables the bike. Dropping the bike and not being able to pick it up. A navigation error and running out of fuel or getting into a scenario I’m not capable of riding. Now what? With the motorcycle it’s easy to go distances beyond a simple hike out.
  • So, do I not go out by myself? Do I simply start slowly and go a little further each time? Do I spend days beforehand making a battle plan with every possible scenario for each ride? At some point that’s no longer fun. On one hand, what’s the worst that could happen? Again, assuming no serious injury, the bike breaks down and I’m stuck. A few days of hiking or until someone finds me. While it would suck, very survivable. It’s extremely rare that someone goes missing and perishes before being found. But that’s not a fair burden to put on loved ones waiting at home, thinking the worst.
  • At what point are you being so cautious you’re limiting activities due to fear of the unknown? At what point are you placing yourself needlessly at risk because you failed to adequately prepare and didn’t recognize that you were in over your head? For me I think the answer will be to go slow and over-prepare initially. Of course I’ll seek out more experienced riding partners… but I don’t want to sit at home waiting for that to happen. The other option is to sign up for one of the various riding schools and learn/improve my dirt skills. I suppose I should do that regardless. How do you evaluate risk? Pro’s/con’s on a spreadsheet? Avoid it at all costs? Just do it and whatever happens, happens? I’m honestly curious how others evaluate risk?

Song of the day: Lily Allen | The Fear

I Feel Kinda Guilty

  • Our hospital is in the midst of a horrible staffing shortage. Every day I receive texts from unit supervisors pleading for folks to come in because the floor is short staffed. They offer overtime, premium pay, Covid pay, any combination of hours you want. I delete the texts immediately. Yesterday, while at work, the floor unit coordinator came to me and asked if there was any way I could work tomorrow? I actually would have said yes, but I’m leaving on a trip today on the ginormous motorcycle. I felt a little bad telling her no, but I did have a legitimate reason. Later that night I got an SOS text message from the hospital. They were so short staffed, patients were being treated in ambulances parked in the emergency room bays because there were no beds or staff available to bring them into the hospital. Supervisors were pleading for anyone available to come into work. I felt pretty guilty after reading that. My coworkers are going to have a horrible shitshow of a day today and I’ll be off playing. I don’t feel bad for the hospital, but I don’t like feeling as if I’ve let my coworkers down.
  • In my previous life as an engineer for mega-corp software company, I fully embraced the do or die for the company attitude. I never took time off. There was always some project that, if we just worked really hard for another few months, we’d deliver to the customer and then everyone can relax and take time off. And then we’d miss that deadline. And another. I had hundreds of hours of accumulated vacation time, never used. It was so bad Mrs Troutdog and I actually bought a time-share in Mexico thinking that at least that will force us to take a vacation once a year. We went quite a few years with that warped sense of priorities. Slowly it began to dawn on me that the corporation doesn’t care about you. Oh sure, they pay lip service to “our employees are our strongest link” and other such happy horseshit. Eventually you realize that you’re just a cog in the wheel. I don’t care how important you think you are to the company, if you leave you’ll be forgotten within the week and someone else will take your place. Work hard, do a good job, but realize that any company exists to make a profit and it’s their job to extract every last ounce of work and time from the employees. You can be replaced at any moment. Take all of your vacation time. Stay at a company only as long as it’s benefiting you. If another opportunity comes up, take it. Life is too short to waste it thinking the corporation actually cares about you. I know that sounds terribly negative. Yes, there are companies out there that treat their employees fantastically. Just don’t lose sight of that fact that you are still just an employee and your life is not work.
  • Today I leave for another multi-day trip on the ginormous motorcycle. And sure enough, all of a sudden the forecast is now calling for strong winds and a chance of thunderstorms this afternoon. My brain immediately thought, oh I should probably cancel and go another time. I have to continually remind myself not to be that guy anymore. Don’t let fears get in the way of experiences. If it rains, then I’ll get a little wet. So what? Am I really going to postpone a trip because conditions may not be perfect? I always thought I was a semi-adventurous person. Looking back, my “adventures” were only well within my comfort zone and with activities and places I knew well. On my own I’d rarely try something new or go someplace completely unknown. The “new” things and adventures I’d do were with friends who were experienced and able to lead and plan the activity. It’s amazing how ingrained worry about the unknown can be if you you’ve spent a lifetime being cautious. So, I’m going to hop on the bike and go. Maybe I’ll get wet and the ride might be miserable. Maybe I won’t find much sightseeing and this will end up being days spent being bored in crappy motels. Maybe the bike will break down and I’ll get stuck on the side of the road with no cell service. All of that may happen. But I’ll never know if I don’t try.
  • The interesting balance that I need to learn to strike is at what point is a “just do it” mentality crossing the line into a stupid risk scenario? This weeks adventure is just a road trip to a handful of smaller towns. Probably a few areas with limited cell coverage. Very little risk, other than being on a motorcycle. The other type of riding I really enjoy is dirt and getting into the backcountry. I did a ride a few days ago where I ventured a ways into the forest. Nothing dramatic, but far enough away from civilization that a breakdown or a crash starts having more potential for bad outcomes. On this ride I still saw a few vehicles and if I had to I could have hiked out pretty easily. But the trips I really want to do are much further in the backcountry. At what point is doing a ride like that by myself becoming too risky? At the moment, those fears of the unknown are overcoming the “just do it” attitude. I suppose time and more experience on the bike will dictate how far I’ll push my risk scenarios.
  • My last trip (which was also my first one) on the ginormous motorcycle went mostly undocumented. Just a few pics from my phone. I didn’t want to deal with cameras, video, or more electronics than necessary. I wanted to concentrate on riding and just absorbing the experience. This time I think I’ll try to make a video. I’m not entirely sure how to go about it. I’m no Ken Burns. Most of my video footage ends up being two hours of nothing but a view of the gas tank because I didn’t realize the camera moved. We’ll see how this goes.

Song of the day: The Big Push – These boots are made for walking’ / Satisfaction / Everybody

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.