Tag: Travel

Alone In My Head

While I was on my motorcycle trip last week, a friend texted me and said, “I think it’s really cool you’re comfortable traveling alone”. The truth is it’s not always by choice. It’s often a matter of sit home and watch the grass grow, or go pursue activities by myself. I’m in a very fortunate position in that I’m able to be free most weekday days. I don’t have to deal with the weekend crowds or traffic. Unfortunately, especially at my age, it’s hard to find other people who also have their mid-week free on a consistent basis. So it’s either go out and do it alone, or wait until the stars line up with other people’s schedules.

To be honest, I’d certainly rather do stuff with other people. I’m a, what’s the term… “introverted extrovert”. I’m somewhat shy and am horrible with initiating things in social settings. But I do like being around other people. Activities are almost always better with a group. I know there are motorcycle groups and mountain bike groups in my area I could join. I just find those initial social interactions painful. I probably will reach out at some point. Hopefully I’ll convince a friend to join with me so the first few meetings aren’t so awkward. Being the new guy sucks.

The other issue is not even a social thing, it’s finding others that match your skill level. A few years ago I did join a group mountain bike ride with a bunch of folks I didn’t know. It ended up being a horrible experience. There were a handful of young guys who were determined to ride everyone into the ground. The rest of the group were total beginners. There were crashes, blood, and some unhappy folks. No thanks. It’s comfortable to ride with the guys I normal ride with when they’re available. We’re all roughly the same fitness level (or lack thereof), no competitive egos to deal with, etc… How do you find that perfect mix in a group where someone is a bit better than you so you learn, and you’re comfortably in the middle skill-wise with everyone else? The motorcycle is even harder to find folks. It’s a much less common sport, so the community is smaller. It also seems like the skill gap is greater. You have people who’ve been riding forever and folks who are brand new. Not much in-between.

Yes, I know the answer is to keep putting yourself out there and eventually you’ll find the right group. It sounds sorta like dating advice, except for old guys with limited social skills. Maybe there’s an app for that? Middle aged guy, slightly overweight with questionable fitness and skill level, looking for like minded folks who are just as happy riding as abandoning halfway to eat nachos and drink beer. Must be free most Wednesdays and Thursdays. Meanwhile, while I continue to contemplate dropping into a social group meeting, trail maintenance day, or joining a group ride, I’ll keep on going out and getting my adventure on by myself. Because sitting at home is not an option.

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)

You’re A Horrible Person

  • I don’t know you, but you are an awful human being. You’re killing the environment. You spew CO2, use plastic, and consume fossil fuels without a care in the world. The earth is dying. We have less than ten years to change course and you clearly don’t care. You’re a racist, entitled, SOB who continually marginalizes the emotions and the past and current lived experiences of people who look different than you. You’re clearly happy that racist cops are mowing people of color down in the street for sport. You earn an unfair amount of money and happily repress people less fortunate because it makes it easier to step on them as you rise higher on the privilege ladder. Clearly you don’t care that people are dying on the border because they don’t look like you. Schools have been teaching outdated historical concepts rooted in systemic racism and oppression. Hiring practices, university admissions, and promotions based upon merit are racist and it doesn’t bother you in the slightest that it’s hurtful and discriminatory. This country is an awful place and it needs to change now. Every single thing about this country is terrible and needs be overturned. The evil, racist, fascist, Nazi, oppressors that occupy this country are done. The constitution is an ancient document written by elite slave owners. The system will be overthrown and clearly violence is the only thing you listen to. If you object, it only proves you’re part of the problem. Get woke, or we’re coming for you. You’ll be doxed, outed, lose your job, and treated like the closet racist you probably are. You will be chased out of restaurants, harassed while in your car, and we will get in your face on the street. If you know what’s good for you, you’ll bend the knee to the church of Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity if you expect to survive in the new and improved America.

    This is the daily onslaught that bombards our brains. It’s an avalanche of nonstop outrages being rammed into our consciousnesses by the news, media, social media, your workplace, and huckster politicians 24×7. Outrage sells. Voters turn out for outrage, not library bond issues. Is it any wonder that everyone is angry at everyone else? It’s nationwide confirmation bias. People are prone to believe what they want to believe. Keep feeding them the right cues and of course they’ll believe the latest and greatest outrage. We’re sheep being led by politicians and corporations to a brand new, reimagined country. Will it be an improvement over what we had? I’m skeptical. Is it too late? I’m reminded of the story of the frog in a pot of slowly boiling water. It’s happening by mob rule, public shaming, intimidation, and violence. Any significant pushback will be ugly and I don’t see the nation going down the road of civil war again. Hopefully I’m wrong. But I don’t think so.
  • I needed to get away from the avalanche of negativity so I took the ginormous motorcycle out for a ride yesterday. It was probably the best ride I’ve had on it so far. Snow has cleared on the roads in the high mountain passes, so I spent a good chunk of the day on twisty roads alongside rivers flowing with new snowmelt, and gazing at spectacular snow covered mountain peaks. It was the middle of the week so I only saw a handful of people all day. It was a much needed mental vacation. And the best news? The new phone solved the navigation problems! We’re back in business.
  • Continuing with the motorcycle theme, Mrs Troutdog’s new bike finally arrived. I’ve done a brief ride on it and I think it will be just the right bike for a new rider to get comfortable with longer distance touring. It makes me happy when we have hobbies we can do together.
  • I purchased a wireless charger for the new phone off of Amazon. Pulled it out of the box and it was DOA. I had little expectation of any sort of help and assumed I’d just have to buy another one. To my surprise the company asked for a video showing what it the unit was doing and then a new one showed up on my doorstep two days later. It works as advertised. I’m not sure what it says when I’m surprised by good customer service.
  • I had a very strange YouTube experience the other day. There’s a couple who’s channel I’ve been following for a while. They sold everything, bought motorcycles and were planning an around the world type trip. I followed them as they figured out gear and practiced with the new bikes getting ready for their trip. They started out on the TET (Trans Euro Trail). Unfortunately several days into the trip the boyfriend had a bizarre, freak accident that left him severely injured. I followed for a few more episodes as they chronicled his hospital stay and recovery, then the episodes trailed off and I forgot about them. Then the other day a new, strangely titled, episode popped up in my feed. I wasn’t going to watch it as I was bored with the hospital/recovery theme. Eventually I clicked on it. Sadly it was the boyfriend announcing that the girlfriend unexpectedly committed suicide. Just awful. It was such a weird feeling. Obviously you feel terrible for them. But, I don’t know them. It’s a random YouTube channel I occasionally follow. It’s not like they were well known celebrities. I guess it’s a reminder that what you see on the screen isn’t real. Meaning, images of happiness, fantastic places, and amazing travels may be manufactured. Of course enjoy the escapism, but don’t try to compare your life to what you see. An apparent amazing life on the screen may not capture the reality behind the scenes. Don’t fall into feelings of inadequacy or fear of missing out based upon what you see on social media.

Song of the day: Matisyahu – One Day (Official Video)

Research Paralysis

  • We live in a wonderous time. We have the entirety of human knowledge instantly available with one mouse click. This is a blessing and a curse. The kids of today have no idea what it was like to “comparison shop” back in the old days. Pre-internet if you wanted to do some research your choices were 1) Read magazine articles (yes, printed on actual paper that you had to purchase) 2) Talk to your neighbor Bob who used something similar twenty years ago 3) Go to the store and talk to a salesperson. Of course we also didn’t have 37 different choices for the same product either, so it was a little simpler. Today is different. I’m currently researching a reasonably high dollar purchase and the information is overwhelming. Step one is the casual search to figure out who the possible manufacturers and models are in the space. Step two is going to the manufacture web sites to get a sense of price and features. At this point I’ve narrowed things down to a handful of possibilities. Now comes the fun part. The user reviews. Using a combination of review sites and activity specific forums, I’ll spend countless hours reading user reviews. What you typically find is; 5 reviews saying it’s the best product ever invented; 7 reviews stating the product disintegrated thirty seconds after opening the box; 2 reviews of a completely different product; 3 reviews of the first version of the product from seven years ago; and 18 posts asking to click this link for free pre-paid phone cards. The next step is the dark hole of YouTube videos about the product. Those also fall into several distinct categories; Slick, professionally produced, manufacturer videos; Generic reseller companies that talk about the products but never offer opinions for fear of offending suppliers; Internet influencers paid to promote a product; And Joe-Bob from Nebraska who recorded a “review” video with his cell phone in the garage, with audio so bad you can’t hear anything but dogs barking and lawnmowers in the background. My final research step is to stumble upon a product I hadn’t heard of yet that looks absolutely perfect and has great reviews. I get all excited and then realize that it’s a European product not available in the US. Sigh… back to step one. It can literally take me weeks (months on occasion) of paralysis to make a decision for fear of choosing the wrong thing. While I appreciate all the new choices we have today, in hindsight I might have been better off in the old days with a salesperson just telling me what I need.
  • Speaking of purchase decisions, for those of you keeping track at home, I did get a new phone. I made a last second audible (audible. phones. see what I did there? gosh I’m clever) and went with the Samsung S21. I ended up liking the camera better and it was in stock. I’m all about instant gratification. So far so good. And the best part… it looks like my navigation issues with the phone and ginormous motorcycle may be mostly solved. My first test ride and it worked great. Mostly. Now the headset on the helmet is having trouble with a Bluetooth connection to the phone. How come things just aren’t easy?
  • I got an email today from United Airlines updating me on their role in the “global fight against climate change”. I guess they’ve made some commitment to becoming 100% green and reducing carbon emissions by 100% by 2050. I’m not sure that’s even possible unless they’re using battery operated planes using electricity only from wind farms… but whatever. This email was announcing their groundbreaking “Eco-Skies Alliance” and the commitment to SAF – Sustainable Aviation Fuel. What is SAF you might ask? Evil oil companies use things like used cooking oil in a chemical process to make it similar to standard jet fuel. They blend it with regular Jet-A and supposedly achieve lower carbon emissions. Sounds great, right? The problem is that it’s massively more expensive than regular Jet-A. So they’ve formed this group soliciting corporations to voluntarily contribute money to a fund to help airlines purchase the stuff. Oh, and to lobby congress to provide massive funding and subsidies to lower the price. So, as you end up paying the additional “SAF tax” on your airline ticket do you honestly think you’re preventing global climate disaster? I guess it doesn’t matter. At least United is woke and cares about the environment and the poor polar bears who are running out of ice and tasty seals to snack on.
  • Oh, by the way all that sorting of your recyclables you’ve been doing… China’s not buying our garbage any more, so in most cities all that stuff just ends up in the same landfill. So does that mean I still have to wash out my mayonnaise jars before throwing them away or not?
  • I’m not entirely sure why, but some scientists had a debate about who would win in a fight between King Kong and Godzilla. It astounds me that paleontologists actually had enough time to seriously think about this. I’m even more amazed that I read the entire article.

Song of the day: The Clash – Train in Vain (Live at the Lewisham Odeon)

Give Me A Call

  • The year was 2017. The number one song on the Billboard 100 was Slide by Calvin Harris. The best picture that year was Moonlight. The bad orange man was sworn in to office. And Google (don’t be evil) released the Pixel 2. That was a different decade and I was determined not to get sucked into the iPhone cult, so I switched from my crank operated flip phone to the Pixel. Actually, my only reason for going with the Google phone was the camera. I’m all about the Instagram selfies. I’ve been pretty happy with it (the phone, not the selfies). I’ve had zero issues other than a loose USB-C port that’s been the source of some charging and connectivity problems. But, technology marches on and it’s time to upgrade. Well, I don’t want to upgrade but I have to solve the navigation problems with the ginormous motorcycle and this is step one. So which phone? I pulled up a comparison list of specs for the top sellers and after 30 seconds my eyes glazed over. I don’t care about specs. I’m not in the corporate world any more, so I’m not trying to do Zoom meetings on my mobile. I only do a few things with my phone. I send text messages so I don’t have to actually speak to humans. I take pictures. I attempt to use navigation/maps. I look up random facts on the internet while waiting for the coffee to brew. Oh, and once every month or so I actually make a phone call. That’s it. I don’t need a 1.21 Jiggawatt processor to send text messages. So, which phone to buy? Between the latest Samsung, Pixel, and iPhone models the cameras seem roughly equal. I’m not taking pics for museum quality prints… I don’t need an f 1.7, wide angle, super view, dark mode, lidar enhanced, espresso capable, quad lens. I take pictures of the dog for Instagram (he’s very popular). Mrs Troutdog is a faithful citizen of the Apple ecosystem and has been putting out some heavy pressure to switch over. I wouldn’t necessarily be opposed, but I’m a Microsoft guy and I’m just not ready to switch to iCloud to try and get cross-device syncing to work. So it’s between the Samsung s21 and the Pixel 5. Samsung’s camera is probably a touch better, but I’m not a fan of how they over sharpen their images. I’d rather ruin images by over saturating them myself. Besides, I’d have to sell off some Bitcoin to afford the latest Samsung. Looks like I’m staying with team Pixel. I’m heading to the store this afternoon so stay tuned. I’m extremely gullible and susceptible to salespeople, so who knows what I’ll actually come home with. I might be sporting a fancy new Xiaomi Redmi, featuring background data sync with China’s office of state telecom security cloud service. Free cloud storage!
  • If you haven’t been following along, the Chauvin trial doesn’t appear to be going well for the state. The possibility of a finding other than murder is looking more likely. And as I’ve said before, Minneapolis will burn if that happens. I wouldn’t schedule a vacation trip to catch a Minnesota Twins game anytime soon.
  • 60 Minutes was once the pillar of investigative journalism. After their hit piece on Florida gov DeSantis, it’ll be hard to trust anything they publish moving forward. If you haven’t seen it, here’s what 60 Minutes aired vs what his full answer to the question was. I don’t care if you like the governor or not, you can’t watch that and still say it was unbiased reporting.
  • A baby elephant trying to be fierce. Because who doesn’t like baby elephants?
  • Today is the official end of winter. Well, for me. I had fully intended to get a couple of last days of skiing in this week before the resort and ski trails close this weekend. Life got in the way and I’m not able to go. So that’s it. Done. Winter 20/21 is over. Now starts the countdown to full snow melt and summer activities. Around these parts it’s known as “mud season”. I’m not a fan. Guess I’ll just have to ride the motorcycle for the next month.

Song of the day: Bush – Swallowed – 7/23/1999 – Woodstock 99 East Stage

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.

Mob Justice

  • I’m sure Minneapolis is a lovely place. I know nothing about it other than what I saw in Fargo. What I do know is that in about a month it will devolve into anarchy. Portions of Minneapolis will burn, people will be hurt, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if someone is killed. The degree of pending violence will depend on what verdict the jury in the Chauvin case returns. Anything that doesn’t have the word “murder” in the jury decision and the city will implode. Realistically, even if he’s found guilty of murder in the first degree the city will still erupt in “celebration”. At least one prospective juror backed out, citing fear of violence towards his family if the “right” verdict wasn’t reached. This is the true definition of mob justice. Do what we say or there will be violence, rioting, and burning. I am not passing judgement on Chauvin’s guilt or innocence. Personally I think he’s certainly guilty of something, I just don’t know what the right charge is. There was zero need to keep a knee on him for that long. Did it contribute to his death? Maybe. The significant amounts of meth, fentanyl, and cannabis in his system combined with heart disease and blocked arteries in a highly psychotic state of mind probably was a much bigger contributor. Drug use that day and then committing a crime, fighting and resisting the police is what put Mr. Floyd in that position. It’s a terrible when anyone dies. But Mr. Floyd made multiple bad choices that day that sent him on that trajectory. And now the mob has made him a martyr and mob justice will be served one way or another. I don’t envy the city leaders. What do you do? You know the violence and riots are coming. The George Floyd “memorial” area is already an autonomous zone where police (or white folks) are not allowed. Do you let it happen and hope it blows over quickly? Do you crack down with an iron fist and risk further resistance and on-going violence? It’s a no-win scenario. What I do know is that you cannot tolerate mob justice. Look no further than the lynching’s that happened in America or the unspeakable horrors of many regions of Africa to see what unchecked mob rule is capable of. I’m very glad I’m not making those decisions. The authorities will be wrong no matter what they do. You may want to put off those vacation plans to Minneapolis for a little bit.
  • Speaking of insurrection, the boogaloo bois and MAGA white nationalists jumped out of the bushes and set fire to the Portland federal courthouse last night. Biden and Pelosi ordered in the national guard and set up a green zone, surrounded by razor wire, similar to Washington DC. Just kidding. It was those whacky Antifa kids. Move along, nothing to see here.
  • Biden had his first address to the nation last night. Two things struck me. The first was a review of the various news sites this morning showed virtually no reaction. For the most part all I saw was a few passing mentions of the speech. No fawning rhetoric about how inspirational it was or how substantive the speech was. Crickets. The man is truly a puppet, wheeled out once in a while to read from the teleprompter, then sent back to his room. The second thought I had was that they need better speechwriters. I don’t know what tone they were hoping for, but it came across as dark and not terribly inspirational. Take that with a grain of salt because I realize I’m predisposed to view it harshly. Maybe some folks did see it as a ray of hope? But I’m sorry, when the “ray of hope” that was put forth is “If we do our part… by July 4, there’s a good chance you, your families, and friends will be able to get together in your backyard or in your neighborhood and have a cookout or a barbecue and celebrate Independence Day… Small groups will be able to get together”. Really? By July 4th maybe, just maybe if we all behave and follow the rules, the government will “allow” us to get together in small groups? I’m reminded of the great movie Argo. There’s a line that was one of the central themes that seems appropriate in this situation – “Argo Fuck Yourself”.
  • Went on another ride of the ginormous motorcycle. I think I sorted out the Android Auto issue. It seems like it shuts off if it isn’t in use, e.g. either in navigation mode or playing music. I just had it on the map but not actually navigating to a destination. I need to do more investigation. It’s interesting, I’ve ridden motorcycles for a long time but I find my confidence is very low with this bike. Probably due to the size and weight. Plus that fact that it’s brand new and I’m petrified I’m going to drop it. I’ve had a few shaky moments at intersections that have gotten in my head. I mentioned it to Mrs. Troutdog and she grinned and said, “so now you know what it’s like to be a beginner”. Touché.

Song of the day: Cake – Short Skirt / Long Jacket