Ken's Thoughts...
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Fri, 07 Oct 2005

Shutting off the tube
Yesterday I read a
speech given by Al Gore about the declining intellectualism in America, Television, and the media. The speech struck a chord with me because, as anyone who has read through this blog probably sees, for awhile I have felt that mass media in this country is dishing up garbage while leaving the recipients intellectually bankrupt.

Case in point, some of the "big stories" of the past week included:

Each of these stories was featured prominantly at the top of CNN's web-site on different days during the week. Meanwhile, not seen on CNN's top-stories section, but available elsewhere, Scientists believe they have a clue as to why the arctic ice cap is melting, The US Military appears to be involved in another pattern of abuse in Iraq, The Bush Whitehouse is blocking a $9 billion health care package for evacuees of hurricanes Katrina and Rita and a guy from Gainesville was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

If I were to pull up the stories on the broadcast news over the past week, especially the evening news on ABC, CBS, or NBC, I'd probably have an equally meaningless set of stories.

Gores' thesis is that as television popularity has soared, because the cost of entry as a media publisher (read: putting on your own television program) is so much higher than the cost of traditional methods of information dissemination (press), only the wealthy can afford to get their message out. Because information and ideas are now being presented in a uni-directional stream, they have reached the lowest common denominator.

If one were to take his thesis and expand upon it, there is no free exchange of thought in the new conglomerate controlled mass media. As we have become a less literate society, our ability to critically look at the world around us has waned.

Is Gore correct?

A person would be hard pressed to argue against his thesis.

Instead of being concerned with stamping out poverty, or illiteracy, or any of the other social ills in the world, we have become a society focused on acquiring new ipods, or the next sale at the Super Walmart.

Instead of being a literate society, we have become a dumb society. In spite of scientifically sound research that establishes the plausibility of theories like "evolution" or "erosional geology" we are teaching the next generation that we exist because of "intelligent design" and that the Grand Canyon was created during the biblical flood.

Instead of respecting an individuals right, and some would argue duty, to question authority, we are told "why do you hate America so?" and are expected to keep the status quo.

Instead of rallying to support our troops by bringing them home safe and sound, we are told that failure to unconditionally support the "War in Iraq" will erode our troops morale and jeopardize their safety.

And people buy this shit up.

Back to Gore

Gore continues by stating that one of the reasons why this is happening is the amount of time Americans spend in front of the idiot box. According to Gore, Americans spend nearly five hours a day in front of the tube. While shocking, it's certainly not surprising because for years several other studies have said the same thing.

What I find scary is that this is the AVERAGE amount of time Americans spend watching the Tellie.

So I started thinking about it, and analyzing how much time I spend watching the box... And then I became concerned.

I've always loved television. As a child, constantly on the move, Television became my best friend. A different city each year meant the embarrasment of trying to make new friends, which for a slightly shy and introverted child who felt starved for affection from his parents, was difficult at best.

But ooh Television was always my friend. Although the channels may have differed from one location to the next, the shows were the same. And how those shows comforted me.

My friends included Mork and Spock, both Aliens from another world but as different from each other as night and day. My friends included Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd. My friends included Superman, the 1950s version in the original black and white, and Batman, the 1960s version "now in technicolor!" On Saturdays I would go with Admiral Nelson on a Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, or take a ride with Michael Knight and KIT.

As a child, the only time that TeeVee was not a part of my life was that solitary period of time when we lived in Grand Cayman while I was in the fifth grade. Lacking a Television station on the island, there was no need to have a TV.

During this period I came out of my shell and made lots of friends. I swam and played every day. I read lots of books, probably forty or fifty during the six month period I lived on the island, maybe more; I knew the Georgetown Librarian on a first name basis. I read Stevenson, Carrol, Dahl, and Dixon. My thirsty mind was insatiable, and I did my best to quench the thirst.

And then we moved back to the states, and I renewed my relationship with the Television. Although I continued to read, the frequency was diminished; while I read 1984 and Brave New World without any prodding from my eighth grade english teacher (Hi Mrs. Porter), I still read less and watched more Tellie.

Sure, there were the occasional trips to Xanth with Piers Anthony, or the ride in Christine with Stephen King, but I still watched more Toob than I read.

As an adult, Television has been a constant companion. Although I engage in external activities, we still watch a fair amount of TV at night.

It's simple - press a button and it's on.

There's no wasted thought to determine what I'm going to watch.

With sixty channels to choose from, there's bound to be something to anesthetize the mind.

And that's the key -- television anethestizes us.

If you don't like what is on channel A, turn to channel B.

B sucks? Go to C.

Why you don't even have to expend an ounce of energy, just press the little button on the remote with your thumb.

And just what is the stuff we're watching? Inside Edition? Entertainment Tonight? Survivor?

One of the most talked about shows among my peers has been "My Name's Earl" about a redneck who discovers "Karma" by watching Carson Daily.

What the hell have we become??? How shallow and vapid are we really??

Television has become such an ingrained part of our culture that catch phrases from TV shows, and even commercials, become a part of our working vocabulary.

"You're fired!"

"That's my final answer."

"Wazzzup!"

If something as trite as a commercial for a cheap American beer can create new phrases in our lexicon, we, as a society, have a problem. Maybe even a mental problem.

Although I still watch a fair chunk of the tube, I've been trying my best to read more and watch less. The web helps because it increases my access to printed media -- as a news junkie I find myself constantly scanning mainstream newspapers including the New York Times, the Washington Post, our local fish wrapper, as well as other media sources including mefi, K5, /., and wired.

I'm also trying to read more books, mostly literature, science, philosophy, dimestore fiction, and history. Maybe a little bit of political commentary and travelogues as well.

I've set a personal goal of one book a week -- last year I managed to read fifty books, ranging from ideology (Guevera) to dimestore fiction (Dan Brown, oh wait, The Davinci Code is really history, right) to philosophy (Kuhn) and even a travelogue or two (Blue Highways). Although I did that while working full time and taking classes, compared to some of my friends, I am just an amateur.

This year hasn't been so good, when I kicked my scholastic endeavors into high gear I sort of burned myself out. Although I read close to thirty books by July 1, most of them were for school and by the time I graduated I felt brain dead. During the summer, and my last two semesters, I only managed to read four books (a historiograph on the Korean War, a book on the overthrow of the Prime Minister of Iran by Kermit Roosevelt and the CIA in the 1950s, a biography of Jimmy Carter, and a travelogue about riding a motorcycle around South America and being captured by the EZLN).

Usually the first few weeks of the fall semester are a real bear, and I worked a number of twelve hour days, which meant that by the time I got home, I just wanted to crawl into bed and watch the idiot box.

Two weeks ago it finally eased up, and I have been able to resume my reading. I've finished a book by Nelson DeMille (Word of Honor), a collection of oral histories with interviews of journalists and newspaper publishers throughout Florida (Orange Journalism), Enola Gay, The Cuba Diaries, a book by Dean Koontz, and I'm currently re-reading A Farewell to Arms (I'll probably finish it today). I'm currently debating about shutting off the cable, which would save us about $600 a year, but I'm not sure if I'm ready to cut the cord all of the way, yet.

Maybe more Americans will eventually wake up, smell the coffee, and realize that the Tube is not really our friend, but probably our biggest adversary.

Hopefully the intellegentsia proletariat can be inspired and will awake from their forty year slumber.

Posted at: 14:55 on 07/10/2005   [ /diary ] #


Tue, 04 Oct 2005

A night on the town
Jazz music played in the back ground. Although the band is swedish, the music is still unmistakably jazz; all of the beats and passion that Count Bassey could have dreamed of making were produced by Koop.

I took a sip of the drink. Ice cold, the martini warmed my insides. Skyy and Rossi went down in a delictable bit.

I flipped the pages of the book. 70 pages over the past hour, I'll be done by midnight.

Posted at: 01:23 on 04/10/2005   [ /diary ] #


Wed, 21 Sep 2005

Do it for the boobies!
If you're still on the fence about helping with Katrina relief, think about
doing it for the boobies.

Posted at: 22:38 on 21/09/2005   [ /diary ] #


Sun, 18 Sep 2005

4:42 and UT is driving
There's 4 minutes and 42 seconds to go, and Tennessee is driving for a score.

For fifty-five minutes the two teams have battled on the gridiron. Sports writers had said it would be an offensive battle, but those sports writers were wrong.

Tonights battle has been a defensive battle. A gladiatorial contest between two teams that are among the best in the nation. Neither team giving the other much quarter.

There have been casualties along the way.

5 seconds into the start of the second half, Bubba Caldwell was carried off on a stretcher, his leg broken.

His season is over, but the Gators season is just beginning.

The Gators are in the lead, 16 to 7, but they've been down this path before. In 1994 they saw a 28 point lead evaporate and had to settle for a tie against their most hated in state rivals. The "Choke in Doak" is still considered by many fans one of the worst moments in Florida football.

Tennessee has also been in this situation before. Last year, in a contest against this same Florida team, they were behind in the fourth quarter. But that Tennessee team was able achieve victory as the Gator defense collapsed.

Tennessee had won the previous three encounters, and twice they were behind in the fourth quarter but still managed to emerge victorious.

Would tonight be a repeat? Would this Gator Defense crumble and fold in the final few moments of the game like Gator Defenses of years past?

This drive could make all of the difference between redemption for the gators, or salvation for the volunteers.

But something is different.

A long forgotten scent is in the air wafting through the stands.

It is a scent that tickles a part of the reptilian brain.

The Gator Nation stirs with recognition of the scent.

It is the smell of blood. Tennessee blood.

90,716 fans smell it, and it drives them into a frenzy.

Exhausted fans drenched in the sweat from a hot and humid evening are driven into an orgiastic moving mass of bodies; the stadium erupts as the fans unite as one.

The Gators Growl.

The Tennessee quarterback can't communicate with his players. He can't gather his concentration. He can't even hear himself think.

The noise is unbearable.

My ears feel as if they are about to burst from the sound, yet caught up in the frenetic energy around me, I ignore the pain and shout with all of my might until my voice is hoarse. Fans are stomping up and down on the bleachers, shouting, screaming, singing, and crying with joy.

The stadium is transformed into an ancient colliseum with the fans shouting for their triumphant Cesar.

Feeding on the raw energy from the stands, the Gator Defense holds on, stops the drive, and hands the ball back to the offense.

Five minutes later the entire city erupts as the streak is broken.

The Swamp is reborn. Only the Gators Get Out Alive.

As I walk back to my bike to head home, I get caught up in the moment and shout with my fellow fans "It's Great to be a Florida Gator!"

Posted at: 19:33 on 18/09/2005   [ /diary ] #


Sat, 17 Sep 2005

The Circus
Your humble reporter arrived on campus around 9am to begin participating in the celebration that is the annual battle of the grid-iron between the Tennessee Volunteers and the Florida Gators. Already, the smell of BBQ permeated the air as grills were lit, drinks were mixed, and the party was beginning to ramp up. The fans have been tailgating in full force. This humble reporter had to do his best and consume beer as quickly as it was offered to him by fellow thankful fans.

The Volunteers are in town, the eyes of these poor folk reflecting the dim glow that reflects their intellect. Sadness is also reflected in their demeaner; they know that with Ron Zooks departure, their hope of owning the swamp one last time is probably gone. Dreams of lost glory, when Peyton Manning held the mantle as the top player of the "orange crush" fill the air; in their hearts they know their biggest fear is about to be realized.

They fear that Rocky Top will not be played by the UT band this evening, but rather by the Gator Band, mocking their loss.

Your humble reporter stopped and sat next to a nice elderly couple with UT shirts on. Although they have been married for forty years, they have been brother and sister for fifty-five. The reporter made sure to ask if they were enjoying their stay in Gainesville, and wished them the best of luck. Knowing it would be in poor taste to wish the humiliation of their football team on national television, the reporter lied to them and said he hoped it'd be a close game for their sake, but not too close. They confirmed the suspicion of your reporter, that most of the volunteer faithful believe tonights crusade is a lost cause before it has even begun. They informed your reporter that they believe the recent change in coaching staff at the University of Florida will make a huge impact on the outcome of tonights battle.

Gator fans on the other hand have been jubilant. They know that URBAN MAYER is the real deal. This new era is filled with promise from a talented coaching staff and an incredibly talented roster which is about to meet their biggest challenge of the year. There is no question: Tonight will set the stage for the young team for the rest of the year. Will this be the team that finally answers the call of "Wait until next year?" The conventional wisdom around Gainesville says it is.

As your reporter wandered among the crowd, a band played at a charity benefit for hurricane relief right across the street from Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. The lead singer declared that tonight the Volunteers would have their two front teeth kicked in, but your reporter felt that was a little harsh.

Maybe just one tooth and a noogie.

Besides being one of the greatest battles on the gridiron, tonight will also set a milestone in Florida history. For tonight, a state record for the most people to ever attend a sporting event will be set. One of the Universities Finest mentioned to your humble reporter that the campus police department were expecting approximately 92,000 screaming fans to take to the stadium right before the 8PM kick-off. Ken

Posted at: 21:15 on 17/09/2005   [ /essays ] #


Sun, 04 Sep 2005

Aaron Broussard
Because the Aaron Broussard video is extremely powerful and I think everyone should watch it, I've mirrored it
at this location.

Posted at: 21:08 on 04/09/2005   [ /diary ] #


I can't believe this is America.
I didn't mention this when I updated my blog last week, mostly because it's been fairly painful to accept and everything that has happened since then has been utterly surreal.

In case you've been living under a rock for the past week, the city of New Orleans has been all but destroyed due to a failed levee system which was damaged by the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Katrina hit Florida a few days before, pounding the shit out of Miami, before bouncing into the gulf and picking up steam. It then made a bee-line for New Orleans, but veered due east at the last minute, destroying Gulf Port Mississippi.

The destruction of New Orleans happened the next morning, when the levees which protected the city from the waters of Lake Ponchetrain, failed and the city flooded. Since then there has been incomprehensible chaos and utter failure in our governments ability to respond to this incident.

The death toll is well into the thousands. Reporters from CNN, FOX, and other news organizations who have covered war zones in Africa and Latin America are stunned by what they are seeing first hand. They are comparing the situation in NOLA with that of Somalia or Sierra Leone.

New Orleans Louisiana has become a war zone.

Armed thugs have looted stores and rioted in the streets.

Police officers have been shot & killed by these thugs.

Order has failed.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, our lovely commander in chief decided this tragedy warrented cutting his five week vacation short by one day.

That's really thoughtful of him, but, he's been slow on getting FEMA to move in with emergency relief and aid.

People are DYING because they have not received any food or water.

I can't help but think that if this had happened in the Hamptons the response would have been quick and strong.

But letting a city full of darkies die, well that's no big deal because they probably wouldn't have voted for you anyway.

I can't believe this is America.

It took them six days to evacuate the last of the refugees that sought shelter in the superdome. A girl showed a reporter where the people were pissing all over the astroturf in the dome because the plumbing had failed. A guy showed another reporter where they were stacking up the bodies on the second level of the superdome as people dropped dead.

I can't believe this is America.

And FEMA was nowhere to be found. The head of FEMA told everyone he only heard about the people stuck in the NOLA convention center by watching the news.

I can't believe this is America.

Talking heads are trying to put the blame for the disaster on the local and state government, rather than trying to RESPOND TO THE DISASTER. They are engaged in CYA big time.

I can't believe this is America (well, politicians only thinking about their next election, maybe).

The Red Cross isn't even allowed to get into New Orleans to aid the victims!

I can't believe this is America.

This link is extremely distressing because it clearly shows that FEMA went out of their way to disrupt communications. A sherrif in Jefferson Parish had to reconnect the lines of communication and guard them from FEMA.

I can't believe this is America.

But that's not the worst of it. It clearly shows how the federal gov't has failed it's citizenry and let people die.

If the role of a government is not to provide law & order, structure, and aid to its people, then what is the role of a government?

Outraged in Florida.

ps - If you can, please donate blood and cash. Blood can be donated at most local blood banks, and you can donate cash to the American Red Cross by calling 1-800-HELP-NOW (1-800-435-7669). Sandy and I have agreed that we'll be making $200 cash donations from each paycheck over the next few months.

Posted at: 20:56 on 04/09/2005   [ /diary ] #


Thu, 01 Sep 2005

Oh my lord, what have I done??
The past week and a half I have jumped head first into some serious new stuff at work. I've been writing perl since 1998, and wrote my first cgi back in 1994 (it was in pascal, on a windows 3.1 box running a version of the cern httpd that was ported to windows), but I've never done anything with SQL (any of them), and I haven't played much with interactive cgi's.

Until I returned from vacation..

Step 1: Learn SQL. Because we have some major projects that need to be finished that will require, or at least will benefit, from rdbms interaction, and the flamingos group has all of their work stored in a database and I'm supposed to be the dba (their guy moved back to England in 2003 and I've been puttering along maintaining it since), I figured it'd be a good time to learn SQL. I won't claim to be a whiz, but my years of database programming while at JenMar (and BBS programming) got me way past the basic concepts (data normalization, why foreign keys are good, and the like) and I have been able to ramp up very quickly. SQL syntax is very simple and straightforward, and working with multiple tables is so intuitive that I'm surprised people command high dollars for the work.

Last week I could barely accomplish a "select * from blah" statement. This week I've developed a print auditing system which parses my printer logs and dumps them into MySQL. With a simple perl script I can produce a few decent reports based on the data, including how much each user is spending and how much each printer is costing.

My users will be so happy.

Step 2: Extend my CGI programming abilities. AJAX and DHTML are the future, and they must be embraced for web-applications to be successful. One of the problems though is I'm a perl muench, and am not a big fan of the many insecurity holes frequently found in PHP. So, I need to start developing a framework where AJAX applications can be rapidly prototyped and developed in a perl environment.

I looked at WDDX, but it seemed a bit buggy. However, after plugging away I was able to come up with some simple code to do a few basic operations. The code should be able to be generalized enough that in the future I can make a library out of it..

Oh yeah, I need to sleep sometime now too.

Posted at: 22:49 on 01/09/2005   [ /diary ] #


Sun, 21 Aug 2005

Road Trip to Maine, part 3

Friday, August 12, 2005

I woke up around 7AM and had the bike loaded and packed within an hour. After checking out of the hotel, I went and grabbed a quick breakfast and then proceeded to Street Cycles in Falmouth.

The service manager, Katie, and the parts guy, Ian, took really good care of me and had me in and out within in an hour. On top of being efficient and quick, their price for the new front tire and labor to swap cylinders on the saddle bags was a bargain; new tire, mounting, and labor for the cylinders was only $167! If you're near Portland Maine, and need work done on a BMW, Triumph, or Suzuki, you should stop by Street Cycles.

When I left Street Cycles my plan was to head into New Hampshire, grab an R, and possibly meet up with a friend of mine from Gainesville who was supposed to be camping in the area. I took US-1 north into Yarmuth for some gas, then 115 into Gray. From there I popped over to US-202 to North Windham, and then picked up US-302 which I took into New Hampshire.

Just outside of Conway I jumped onto 113/16 south bound, and stopped for lunch at a little pub called "Almost There" for a blue cheeseburger. The weekender traffic was backed up heading into Conway, but I was heading out, hopefully away from it all.

A buddy of mine and his dad were doing a weird two-stage trip while I was on the road. The first part had them in Nova Scotia, hiking and camping for a week, and then they flew back home to Gainesville. After spending 24 hours at home, they were going to fly back into New Hampshire and camp in the white mountains.

Allen and I played phone tag for much of the week while I was on Mt. Desert and he was in Nova Scotia, but while I was at lunch I finally tracked him down. It turned out that he was in Gainesville, getting ready to fly to New Hampshire; with the weekend crowd coming in, I decided not to spend an extra day just to have a beer with a guy I see almost every day at work anyway, so I proceeded to make my way out of Dodge.

From the Almost There, I took 113 south to 25. I followed 25 through a number of small towns until I made it to Rumney, NH, and picked up an R. 25 is a decent road, which is well paved in some sections, and cuts through some gorgeous scenary while making its way across New Hampshire, including a few covered bridges.

Eventually I picked up Route 25A, the Governor Meldrim Thomson Scenic Highway, which is a very fun road that runs past campgrounds with names like Lollipippicnic, which is Algonquin for "Silly White Man try to pick good Indian name for camp," on it's way to I-91 in Vermont.

Once pickup up I-91, I made my way south to Massachusetts route 116, which leads into Amherst, and hopefully the final letter of my quest. I stopped for gas and when I pulled into the pump it was $2.75 per gallon, but by the time I left, the price had gone up to $2.84.

I made my way through the town, past the University of Massachusetts campus, until I finally found the post office. Unfortunately, the post office in Amherst, at 141 N. Pleasant Street, lists neither the city or state on the exterio of the building. Not sure if a "University of Massachussets, Amherst" sign would work or not, I decided I would need to find another "A" on the way home, with the worst case scenario being a visit to "Anderson, South Carolina".

Leaving Amherst, I took 116 through the Holyoke state park. The road was a little curvy, but there was a lot of traffic with people heading back to school. Eventually I picked US-202 back up and followed that back to I-91.

I continued on 91 south to I-95 in Connecticut. The night sky started to fill with lightning the closer I got to New York. Deciding that stopping might be the better part of valor, I found a Doubletree in Darien, where for $99 I was treated to royal hospitality.

While I was unloading the bike, Noah's flood erupted around me. Stopping was the wise choice.

Mileage: 415/3284.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Before going to bed the night before, I pulled out my atlas and started scanning for A's up and down the eastern seaboard. When I got near Atlantic City, I picked a town that looked big enough to have a post office, but small enough that it should be easy to find; Absecon, New Jersey.

I checked out of the hotel and was on the road by 7AM. My planned route followed I-95 to the Garden State Parkway, following that all the way down to the Cape May ferry. When I got to the first toll booth on the GSP, I asked the toll maid how far I was from Atlantic City.

"Oh, it's about 75 minutes from here, but being on a bike, you should be there within 30 minutes."

I guess she thought I must look like Nicky Hayden, or something.

While making my way south on the GSP, I noticed two things: 1. The heat was already in the upper 90s, 2. for no apparent reason traffic would come to a dead stop and I lost quite a bit of time.

Eventually, about two hours after hitting that first toll, I made it to exit 40 in Absecon. I stopped into a gas station and asked to borrow the phone book. Sure enough, I was able to find "US Postal Service" under U in the white pages, and I was headed off for my final A.

Once again discovering that left turns are verboten in New Jersey, I struggled to make my way back onto the Garden State Parkway heading southbound towards the fery.

I eventually managed to pull it off, and promptly queued up for a spot on the boat.

What is it with that state and left turns anyway??

After paying my $22, I was told that because I didn't have a reservation, I wouldn't be able to leave until the 2:30 crossing. However, when it came time to board the 1:45 ferry, they managed to find enough room to squeeze me and my little bike on board.

The ferry ride was mostly a non-event, for the most part I stayed next to my bike, working on my tan, finishing up Two Wheels Through Terror, and talking with one or two other people also headed to Delaware.

One of the people I chatted with mentioned that it was supposedly 101F in Atlantic City, egads when would this heat wave break?

After landing, I had one last mission to accomplish. And that was a visit to the Dogfish Head Brewery in Rehobeth Beach.

I followed 1 to 1A, into Rehobeth. Even without a GPS, or decent map, I managed to find the Dogfish Head Brewery without too much of a problem.

I stopped in for lunch, a MahiMahi Ceasar Salad, with a pint of the 60 Minute IPA, followed by three or four pints of ice water with lemon. I also picked up some momentos (hat, t-shirt), and then continued on my way south.

I followed 1, and the traffic, south into Bethany, and took 362 to 54. 54 was a nice little road that took me through rural farmland as it worked towards US-113. On US-113 I continued south towards the Pocomokos, where it merges with US-13.

I followed US-13 south into Maryland and Virginia, trying to make it to the Chesapeake Bridge and Tunnel before the sun set. Because the sun was starting to set, I knew it was going to be close.

Opening the throttle up, I managed to make it to the bridge just before the sun set. I paid my $12 toll and proceeded to follow the bridge.

The Chesapeake Bridge and Tunnel spans 21 miles across the mouth where the Atlantic meets the Chesapeake Bay. It provides a direct link to Virginia Beach and the Delmarva Peninsula, and opened for operation 41 years ago in 1964. It is truly a wonder of engineering, taking the traveler both over the bay and under it.

The sun setting on the Chesapeake Bay was a gorgeous site to witness, but because there was no place to pull over, I didn't get a picture.

When I arrived in Virginia Beach, I found a room at the only hotel available, a Motel 6. It cost me as much as the Doubletree had the night before, but was nowhere near as nice.

Mileage: 385/3669

Sunday, August 14, 2005

BEEEP - BEEEP - BEEEP - BEEEP - BEEEP

Here I am, standing in the shower covered head to toe with lather, when the stupid fire alarm starts going off.

Lovely.

How would MacGyver handle this? He'd probably come up with some idea of using the lather as a fire retardant material, and storm the gates with his swiss army knife in hand.

Of course, I'm not MacGyver. Instead, I opt to rinse off real quick and run to the window to see what my neighbors were doing.

Seeing no one in the hallway, I decide to call the front desk and ask if there is a fire. The clerk, being as helpful as you can possibly hope for, told me there was no fire and that they had been having problems with the fire alarms because they hadn't been changing the batteries.

Say what?? I'm not entirely sure how I feel about staying in a hotel that doesn't properly maintain their fire alarms..

Deciding that there was nothing to worry about, I ignore the bleeting of the alarm and finish my shower.

With the excitement out of the way, I dried off, got dressed, and loaded up the bike before stopping for a nutritious meal at the local Awful House. I had a healthy meal of a pecan waffle and two eggs over medium. The wife and doctor would kill me if they knew how shot my diet had been over the past 10 days.

When I was ready to roll, I hopeed on US-13 south to US-58. While working my way around the Virginia Beach area I was surprised by how big the military and shipping complex was.

When I picked up 58, I followed it west. The section of US-58, west of Suffolk, has been the beneficiary of upgrades made to many of the older US highways over the past five years. As a result, it's a modern four lane road with smooth asphalt, bypassing most towns, with 65mph speed limits.

Having very little traffic, I made pretty good time heading towards Emporia on US-58, and proceeded on I-95 south towards Florida.

Although it warmed up as the day wore on, it never quite got as hot as yesterday in New Jersey had been, and the further south I travelled, the cooler it got. What's up with that?

With the temperatures cooling down, I was able to ride for two hours at a clip without having to stop and soak my shirt in water. This worked out to a gas stop every 150 miles, and I made pretty good time, arriving home 11 hours after I left that morning without any major incidents.

Mileage: 686/4355

Monday, August 15, 2005

Although I was home from my trip, I had one final task. That was to crawl out of bed, and grab a Highway 21 sign.

Florida Highway 21 runs through the bursting metropolis of Melrose, Florida, about 15 miles from my house. I had previously asked the TeamStrange folks if I could just ride my bicycle, but they insisted I ride a motorcycle.

Around 9:30 I left the house, rode to Melrose, and took the final photos for my Grand Tour.

My trip was done.

Posted at: 18:04 on 21/08/2005   [ /travel ] #


Fri, 19 Aug 2005

Road Trip to Maine, Part 2

Tuesday, August 9, 2005

I stayed up until around midnight the night before reading "Two Wheels Through Terror" by Glen Heggstad. It's his personal account of a journey down to the tip of Tierra del Fuego and back, which included a brief five week stint as a hostage of the ELN in Colombia. Considering I've always wanted to do that ride, I found the book an incredibly compelling read. Even with the late bed-time, I woke up about 6AM ready to get a start on the day.

My itinerary consisted of one piece of business I had to take care of, and then several things I wanted to do. After cleaning up I made my way into Bar Harbor to find a café where I could have a suitable breakfast. It was cool this morning, and I took the scenic route down through NorthEast Harbor in to town.

Within five minutes of arriving in town, I found a little bakery on Cottage Street which advertised that they had "Wild Blueberry Pancakes." Although I'm not really a huge blueberry fan, I had intended to enjoy many of the local flavors while on this trip, and blueberries seem to be a major ingredient in everything.

The pancakes were absolutely first class, and relatively cheap. After breakfast I wandered downtown to an ATM for some cash, and then because my cell phone did not work in Bar Harbor, I went looking for a pay phone.

Finding a pay phone, I put in a call to Street Cycles in Falmouth, Maine. I had already scheduled an appointment with them for a new tire before I went home, and I wanted to see if they could order a replacement saddlebag and have it ready by the time I got there on Friday. Ian, the guy in the parts department, said it would be no problem, and even with the express freight it only cost $369.

After taking care of that, it was time to do the other things on my list. I left Bar Harbor heading south on 3 until I saw a sign for "Otter Cliff Road." This road took me into Acadia, and brought me to a hiking trail on the coast. I hiked the trail, which brought me over a cliff along the shore, and shot a roll or two of film while overlooking the Atlantic.

After that I continued on the Loop Road into the welcome center to pay my entrance fee. Cars normally pay a $20 fee, but us motorcylists get to pay the discounted hiking fee of only $5 per person in most of the national parks, as long as you let the ranger know you're on a bike.

I then continued on the loop road down towards NorthEast Harbor, passing Cadillac Mountain, but getting a pretty good view of it.

I continued down on 3 and had lunch at the Light House Inn in Seal Harbor. The lobster roll was excellent, and inexpensive.

With a full tummy, I decided to head north into Ellsworth to stop at the Honawazaki shop. There was a pretty major scratch in my face shield which had been bothering me, and I hoped I could find a replacement Nolan shield there. Unfortunately, they were unable to help, and so I made my way back onto Mt. Desert and down to the SouthWest Harbor.

A brief aside. Mt. Desert Island is really two land masses, shaped more like two individual lungs, or kidneys, joined together at one strip on the northern side. This map shows what I mean. The "NorthEast" harbor is really on the southern end, but eastern side, of the eastern "lobe," while the "SouthWest" harbor is on the eastern side of the southern end on the western "lobe".

So, SouthWest is really SouthCentral, and NorthEast is really SouthEast. Are we confused yet?

SouthWest Harbor is another small touristy town, but nowhere near as built up as Bar Harbor. I continued on 102 through the SW harbor down to the natural sea wall where I stopped and hiked for a bit.

While taking photos, I ran into a couple riding two up on a Suzuki Boulevard with Florida plates. They looked like they might have been retired, and the bike looked too small to travel two up from Florida, but I asked them anyway.

"Hey, don't tell me you guys rode two up on that thing from Florida, did you?"

"Oh god no, we strap it on the back of the RV."

"Ahhh, OK, where are you all from?"

"Ocala."

"Oh, I'm from Gainesville. What are the odds of riding 2000 miles to meet someone who lives less than 40 miles from you?"

They told me that they were retired, and spent their summers traveling around the country in the RV and that this was their first trip to Mt. Desert Island.

I continued on 102A down into Bass Harbor and the Bass Harbor Lighthouse, and stopped for some more pictures.

BTW, to get the shots of the light house, I had to crawl out over the ocean to where these folks are standing:

After working up a pretty good sweat and sunburn at the lighthouse, I went back to the campground and cleaned up.

After getting cleaned up I went to the Bar Harbor Bewing Company for their openhouse tour and beer tasting. I was suckered into stocking up on supplies which I had shipped back to the house, but I found the beers to be yummy and the tour interesting.

I then made my way back into Bar Harbor and had dinner at "Rupununi" on Main Street. Once again I had crab cakes, and they were incredible.

With dinner completed, I walked into the town square and enjoyed watching everyone interact and play. I felt inspired, and wrote a brief fictional sketch of the scene.

This day turned out to be fantastic, the riding was good, the scenary was incredible and everyone I met was friendly. It more than made up for the mishap yesterday.

Mileage: 162/2558.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

4:45AM.

Whaaa! Whaaa! Whaaa! Whaaa!

Damn, there's a baby in a neighboring camp-site and the parents aren't doing anything about it. Hell, my friends got kicked out of a state park for making 1/4th the racket that kid's making.

Ugh, put ear plugs back in, go back to sleep.

Woke up again at 6:30. My sleeping bag was a bit damp from the humidity, so I took it out and hung it up while I showered and got ready for the day.

I was on the road by 9:15AM.

This time, I took 102 south to "Pretty Marsh Road." I stopped along the way and shot half of a roll of film, and then continued to the launching point for the Pretty Marsh Lake.

After that, I followed PMR to the west side of the island, where I joined back up with 102. I followed 102 through West Trenton, and went back down to the Seawall.

Although it was only around 10:30 in the morning, the western side of the island was already in the upper 80s. When I got to the Seawall, the cool atlantic air lowered the temperature to a more palpable 50, or so.

I hiked along the coast for a solid hour, shooting film and watching two gulls fight for a lone rock outcropping. The cold salt air cooled my bones, and the sound of the waves crashing against the shore eased my soul.

After my hike, I continued on 102A to 102. Between Bass Harbor and West Trention is a small turnoff for the Bass Harbor itself. I went into Bass Harbor and stopped at Island Astronomy, however they were closed.

Although Island Astronomy was closed, I was fascinated because Bass Harbor was more of what I expected to find in the various harbors around Mt. Desert Island. The harbor was loaded with rusty old ships stacked with lobster pots.

This was the sort of harbor I had been hoping to photograph, and both camera bodies came out. Unfortunately, I didn't think to pull out the digital camera...

When I had shot several rolls of film, I continued on 102 north until I came across "Beech Mountain Road." I followed the road to the parking lot, and saw that there was a 1.6 mile hiking trail.

Having learned from yesterday, I packed a pair of shoes today in my saddle bags and traded my riding boots in for more suitable hiking shoes. I started working my way up the trail, stopping for the occasional photo.

The Beech Mountain trail was amazing because it started out very warm and humid, but when you turned a corner that left you with a stunning view, the cool atlantic air covered you with the best air conditioning money could buy.

For the most part, the trail was fairly isolated and I only ran into one or two other hikers until I got to the top of the mountain. At the top, there was an observation tower with several hikers relaxing before making the trek back to the parking lot.

When I was done with the hike, I worked my way into the SouthWest Harbor, which is really on the SouthCentral part of the island, for lunch. I decided to break from the seafood theme and went to "The Downeast House of Dogs," and although the food was good, the service was terrible.

With lunch done, I decided to go to the local internet café, "The Mouse Pad," (isn't that cute?), and fire off a few quick emails. I sent a note to Sandy, telling her how great Maine was, and then another one to the geeks and bikers back in Gainesville. When that was done, I decided it was time to go visit Cadillac Mountain.

According to legend, if you hike to the top of Cadillac Mountain right before the sun rises, you can be the first person in the United States to see the mornings light.

I don't know about that, but I do know that it is one of the biggest tourist destinations for visitors to Acadia. Because of this, it was packed to the gills with people and buses, definately not what I had in mind.

There was a little 1/4 mile hiking trail from the top, which I did, bumping and pushing everyone out of the way in an effort to find a piece of privacy. Unfortunately, this trail was not the place to find it.

When I got back to the parking lot, I saw a sign pointing out another 2.2 mile hiking trail. Well, if nothing else, maybe it would be a little less crowded.

This particular trail was on the North East side of the mountain, and afforded a pretty good view of Bar Harbor below.

I found a lone outcropping, and sat down for awhile and collected my thoughts. Here was a place I was able to find peace and quiet, away from everyone and everything.

Work was 2,000 miles away.

School was behind me.

Even the cracks in the bike were not an issue.

I found peace.

After the hike, I went up to Ellsworth to visit the Wallymart and see if I could get something that might buff the scratch in the face shield out.

While in the parking lot, one of the straps for my tankbag broke. Aye, what else could go wrong on this trip??

I repaired it with a zip tie, then continued on into town. Although it was annoying, I had been shopping for a replacement bag anyway, and this just gave me the opportunity to get off my cheap-skate ass and get a new one.

After my visit to Wallymart, I stopped for dinner at Lunts Lobster Pound, which is on 230 in Trenton, right between Ellsworth and Mt. Desert Island.

Lunts is an amazing place. It was built in 1930, and really has that small town, everyone knows your name, kind of atmosphere. There is a communal sink to wash up after you're gorged yourself on shellfish out back, and there were picnic tables where families and friends could gather for a meal under the shade of a tree.

I ordered the Lobster Dinner, and it was $14 with two sides. One tip, they don't give refills on sodas, but they will for tea. Like most places north of Virginia, they don't know what sweet tea is.

The total bill, with tip, the soda, and tax, was less than $18. And I was stuffed.

After dinner, I went back into Bar Harbor and walked around for a bit. Knowing that it was my last night on the island, I decided to find a café and have a piece of blueberry pie.

I stopped at Donohue's, which is also on Cottage Street, and for about $10 I had a slice of yummie pie a-la-mode and a Bar Harbor Real Ale. The hostess was incredibly friendly, as most of the people I met in Maine were, and she didn't act like "oh god, I've only heard that question a gajillion times" when I asked her about living with the winters.

On my way back to the camp-site, I caught one of the most spectacular sunsets I had seen on the trip.

It was a fitting end to my stay on Mt. Desert Island.

Mileage: 122/2680.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

The kid woke me up early again, but I guess someone must have complained to the camp staff because within five minutes I heard their car leave and then silence. I got up at 6:00AM, broke camp, and was on the road by 6:40.

My planned route would take me into the interior of Maine, and then back to the coast by Portland, where I had a service scheduled for Friday.

This morning was different from the others I had experienced so far on my trip; US-1 was fogged in and the temperatures were cold. Now, this is more of what I expected from Maine..

I took US-1 into the town of Belfast, where I then hopped on 137. 137 was a pretty decent road, and the fog broke while I was riding it. I made my way to Albion, where I jumped onto US-202.

When I got to Augusta, although I had planned to pick up an A in Auburn, I thought about stopping at the post office and grabbing it there. Unfortunately, the post office in Augusta only says that it is the "Edmund Muskie Federal Building," so I continued with my original plan.

On the way to Auburn I stopped at a large Harley shop and looked around. I was really surprised at how well stocked they were, especially considering that the riding season in the interior of Maine has got to be very short.

Once I got into Auburn I realized that it was a bigger town than I was expecting, and without my GPS (which died, remember?), I wasn't entirely sure how I would find the post office.

But, being the resourceful guy I am (and bashful and modest too), I stopped at a gas station for directions. Asking directions is a novel concept, but I found that although the attendant did not have a clue where to go, he had a map on the wall which showed me the way.

With fresh directions in my head, I made my way to the post office and the mighty A.

After completing that order of business, I continued on 202 into Gray, where I jumped on 100 towards Portland.

Having skipped breakfast, and 11:30, I was pretty hungry when I drove past Allen's, a place that's truly different. It's a gas station. Convenience store. Restaurant. And gardening supply place, all rolled into one.

You can even buy a real officially licensed Larry the Cable Guy "Git-R-Done" hat at Allen's.

I went ahead and stopped in for lunch, and ordered a burger and fries.

Let me warn you, if you ever stop there for lunch, be prepared to share the fries with a small country because they are anything but stingy. They brought me an entire plate packed with the things, and then the burger.

I tried my best, but I could barely dent all of the food, and I reluctantly had to throw it out.

After the lunch, I continued on 100 into Portland, and went downtown to get my bearings. My appointment was in Falmouth, which was about 10 miles north of where I was. Additionally, my cell phone started working and I had a message from Ian saying that he had received the saddle bag and it was ready for me.

I went ahead and went north on US-1 into Falmouth, where I found a hotel. I checked in and proceeded to do some laundry and then went out for a one hour hike around the area.

After my hike, I made a few phone calls to family, then had dinner at "Ricettos". I enjoyed a Harpoon IPA draft, and then walked back to the hotel.

Shortly after getting back, I got a call from Tim saying that sport-touring.net was down, and that the site owner was trying to track me down because I had been playing the role of sysadmin there for the last six months or so. I told Tim I was in Maine, nowhere near a computer, but to have Neal call me if he still needed help. I also recommended contacting Mike L. from Salt Lake, since he probably had access to a computer and could help.

After the call, I met and started talking to another lone traveler. His name is Don Estes, and he's from Long Island and was riding a Wingding. We chatted for a bit about riding, he was heading up to Nova Scotia, and I was about to head home.

Finally, it was time for him to go to lunch, and I went into the room and continued to read Glen's book.

Mileage: 189/2869.

Posted at: 20:15 on 19/08/2005   [ /travel ] #


The Town Square, a sketch written in Bar Harbor
The setting; a town square at dusk.

A woman is staring at a light pole, her hands are covering her eyes, and she counts, "One!"

A little boy is tossing a ball up in the air and catching it, while his dad is tossing his baby sister up in the air and catching her.

"Two!"

A college aged kid who flunked out of school is walking around with a mandolin, looking to earn enough money tonight to buy some beer or score dope.

"Three!"

A little boy is riding his bicycle - thrilled that a month ago his training wheels came off forever. His father beams at him, proud that his boy is able to master the bicycle.

"Four!"

A little girl, not more than four years of age, pushes a stroller which holds her six-week old baby brother.

"Five!"

Two lovers are stretched out on the soft grass, basking in the suns warmth. Tonight she plans on telling him they will be having a baby. He will ask her to marry him.

"Six!"

A nuclear family, Mother, Father, two boys and a sister, have spread out a blanket to enjoy a picnic. They pull out of the blanket boxes of fried chicken, corn, and mashed potatos. For dessert, they will have blueberry pie.

"Seven!"

The college drop-out starts playing his mandolin. Although he has only been playing the mandolin for about six months, he has learned two songs well enough that he can earn enough money to survive. He starts playing a gaellic tune.

"Eight!"

A group of elderly menonite ladies, who are on tour to visit this town, frump their way through the square, disapproving of almost everything they see.

"Nine!"

A mother spins her daughter in circles. The girl laughs hysterically after she loses her balance and falls down on her bottom.

"Ten!"

Two high school aged girls, looking for adventure, are sitting under a tree. One is chewing gum, the other is smoking a cigarette but coughs like someone who is not used to smoking. Both are wearing halter-tops and mini-skirts. Both look bored.

"Ready or not, here I come!"

The woman finds her son hiding behind some bushes and the chase begins again.

Posted at: 19:03 on 19/08/2005   [ /essays ] #


ESTN 2005, part 1
In May I signed up for the
Team Strange 21st Anniversary Grand Tour. According to the rules of the tour, I must visit individual towns that start with letters which could be used to spell the phrase "TEAMSTRANGE AIRHEADS" and then a route 21. Each town could only be used once, and I had to provide photographic documentation that my bike had actually made the trip. Not being satisfied with taking the easy way for anything, I also decided to tackle the Dave McQueeney challenge, which requires that each town visited be in a unique state; each town and state could be used only one time.

In June I visited the Sport-Touring.Net national rally, which allowed me to rack up a number of states. However, I still needed a few final letters, and I used the idea of a ten day trip to Maine to celebrate graduating college as an excuse to finish the tour. During the trip I burned my buns, met up with some friends for a rally, finished the tour, drank some beer and fine scotch, and ate some bugs (crustaceans).

This is the story of that trip.

Thursday, August 4, 2005

The plan was to meet up with various members of sport-touring.net in Fairmont, WV, and then we would all ride to Stowe, Vermont for the Eastern Sport-Touring.Net rally as a group on Friday. My last final was scheduled for 9:30AM on Thursday, August 4th. I showed up to work with all of my gear loaded on the bike, took the final, and was ready to leave Gainesville an hour after the final began.

My route took me up to US-301 through the speed traps of Waldo, Starke, and Lawtey. I hit I-10 close to 11:30, and the temperature was already approaching the high 90s, but considering I had just finished school I was feeling pretty good. The Eagles came on channel 46, and I launched onto the on-ramp just as Don Henley began crooning about living life in the fast lane.

I continued on I-10 east to Jacksonville, where I took I-295 north to 95. It started to rain a little bit on I-95 just south of Savannah, but I was happy for the chance to cool down from the heat. In South Carolina I jumped onto I-26, then I-77 through Columbia.

Although I was making decent time, I managed to hit Charlotte right at rush hour. With the construction on I-77, traffic slowed to a crawl and I easily lost 30 minutes from my pace. On top of the traffic, it was easily 98 or 99 degrees, and even with my camelbak I felt the heat ripping me to shreds.

As I was crossing into Virginia, my phone started to ring. It was a buddy of mine who is currently looking for a Honda 919, and he wanted to ask me some questions about one he found. He asked where I was, and I explained that I was doing 70 on the interstate crossing the NC/VA state line.. I guess the starcom was acting up because he mentioned it was making a little background noise.

Thankfully, the Virginia mountains were substantially cooler, and it helped bring my core temperature back down.

In Beckley, WV, I got off of the interslab and took US-19. US-19 in West Virginia is a decent four laned highway which takes you over the New River Gorge. As the sun was falling, I got a splended view of the Appalachians at sunset.

I continued on US-19 to I-79, and then took 79 North. This stretch of 79 is surprisingly twisty, and I had to keep checking my speed to make sure I didn't out drive the lights on this road.

I pulled into Fairmont around 10:45PM, and was told by the front desk clerk that the others had already arrived and left me a key while they went to dinner. Five minutes after my arrival, Allen, Mark, and Tim arrived bearing gifts of beer. Sean was not in yet, but Allen received a voice mail saying he was on his way and was caught in construction on the western side of WV (I-79).

After having a few beers, we decided to call it an early night. We requested a 5:30AM wake-up call, and left the door unlocked and slightly ajar so Sean could stumble in when he arrived. It was midnight, and for the day I had ridden 806 miles.

Friday, August 5, 2005

Beep-Beep-Beep-Beep-Beep-Beep

The alarm clock was going off. Damn, I didn't remember setting it, neither did Allen. I looked down at it and said to myself, "WTF?!" as I saw it blinking 4:30AM. Apparently some cruel and unusual person left the alarm clock set for oh dark 30 when he had inhabited this room.

After figuring out how to turn off the alarm, I went back to sleep.

5:50AM, my circadian rhythm kicked into gear and woke me up. Wait a second, weren't we supposed to get a 5:30AM wake-up call??

I woke up Allen who promptly uttered an expletive to describe his dismay at the time. He took it upon himself to wake everyone else up, and explain that we must get on the road ASAP -- we had to arrive at the Smugglers Notch State Park by 8PM, or we would be unable to check in for the evening. We had fourteen hours to go 750 miles, with a group of five riders; the mileage wouldn't be so bad for one or two, but group rides are always difficult to keep on track for a decent pace.

We tracked down Sean, who had checked himself into another room so he wouldn't disturb us, and started working on packing everyone up. We were able to hit the road by 6:40AM, which left us with just a little over thirteen hours to go. The front desk guy apologized for forgetting to turn on the wake-up call, but what was done was done.

Tim was volunteered to lead the way, and he punched the destination into his GPS and let it handle the routing. We took I-79 to I-81, then 81 into Maryland and Pennsylvania. We stopped in Cumberland for breakfast around 9:30, and while pulling into the parking lot I realized I had just finished a saddlesore 1000 (1007 miles in 23 hours). After breakfast we continued on I-81 through the town of Carlisle, up to 78 and ultimately Allentown.

We continued on 78 into New Joisey, and stopped in Bloomsbury to get gas. Surprisingly, the legislators in New Joisey must have no faith in their constituants because it is impossible to take a left turn, or pump your own gas. Instead, the rule is that you must take a right turn, then perform a u-turn, if you wanted a right. It took us 10 minutes to figure this out, and then we lost additional time when the station attendant wouldn't let us fill our own bikes. The guys on the ST1300's mentioned that it was already 98F, damn when would I finally be away from the heat?? I was starting to feel heat related edema and a little bit of a headache after the last two days of baking in the sun.

All told, the New Joisey gas stop took us about 45 minutes. None of us were impressed with the state.

We continued north on 78 up to 287, and then took the NY Turnpike (87) up to Albany. Along the way to Albany, we got sucked into a horrible rainstorm. Although it only lasted about 15 minutes, visibility was dropped to near zero and my "waterproof" GPS leaked water and stopped working. At least the rain cooled down the roads..

We arrived in Albany around 5PM, but found ourselves stuck in rush hour traffic. On top of that, there was a car broken down up ahead and one lane was shut down.

It didn't look good, but I called the campground and pleaded our case. They agreed to let us check in up to around 8:15PM, but we still had a ways to go and quite a bit of traffic to contend with.

Once we got past the airport, we were able to break free from the pack and Tim set a blistering pace to make up for lost time. We continued up 87 to the Schroom Lake exit, and went up to Crown Point where were crossed Lake Champlain into Vermont. We continued through Burlington to VT-128, then 104, and finally 108. Coming from the north, we rode through the Smugglers Notch, which considering it becomes a one lane road with no room for a car and a bike to pass head on, makes it a pretty interesting section of road. We arrived at the state park at 8:15PM; I had just completed a little over 1550 miles in the 34 hours since leaving Gainesville.

After setting up tent, we went into Stowe to grab dinner. The restaurant we choose was extremely expensive, and the meal was not worth mentioning. Discouraged, Tim, Mark, and I went back to the campground while Sean went to meet everyone else at the official lodge.

Once arriving at the campground we met up with the Canadian crew (Corbeau, Richard, and Ben), along with Troy, the guy I was sharing my camp-site with. Troy related an amusing story about trying to check in before my arrival, and explaining how he had never met me, knew what I looked like, or knew my last name. However, because I had already let the park know I would be sharing the camp-site, they let him check in without too many troubles.

That evening we stayed up until a little past midnight, enjoying the fine company, plus the libations of single malt, port, or beer, depending on the preference of the individual. Many lies were told about various exploits, but we all still went to bed pretty early.

Saturday, August 6, 2005

My body told me to get out of bed at 6:30 and go take a shower. I fought the urge as much as possible, arguing with myself while explaining that I was on vacation (damnit), and did not need to wake up early. I eventually lost the argument, and got out of bed at 7 to take a shower.

Although I felt we were pretty quiet, apparently we made so much ruckuss that no one camping next to our sites heard us, but the ranger still asked the Canadians and the group I had ridden up with to leave within 20 minutes, all while I was taking a shower.

The ranger claimed he had received "over seven" complaints about the noise made from bikes running up and down all night long, as well as the laughing and carrying on. He even claimed to be sitting outside the camp-site, listening to us make noise well past 1AM.

Yeah, those ST1300's really do make an awful lot of noise, and why would he sit and listen while a "rowdy bunch of bikers" disturbed everyone else, rather than just come up to us and ask us to tone it down .. Besides, we all went to bed by 12:30 from exhaustion, so I wasn't buying the "1AM" story.

Regardless, although my camp-site was not evicted, I believe in solidarity, and these were the guys I had come up to hang out with, so I decided to leave too. While packing up my site, I asked some of the neighboring campers if they heard any noise, and they all denied it. Only one person said he heard a noise, and he happily admitted he complained about it. Considering the manner in which he extolled how proud he was of his achievment, I suspect he embellished a bit to the ranger.

We wound up moving to a campground just south of Stowe on 100, but they didn't open until 9. We used the opportunity to grab breakfast at a little café downtown, which is when I discovered how good blueberry scones can be. These things were not scones in the traditional sense; they were clumbs of blueberries held together with just enough dough to shape them into a clump, and boy were they yummie.

After breakfast, we got checked into the new site. Some of the guys wanted to go to Maine, others wanted to go to the Kankamagus in New Hampshire. Because I had the rest of my trip planned on my SP3, I really wanted to see if I could revive it.

Tim hung out with me while I disassembled it with my leatherman. Sure enough, there was about a table spoon of water in the unit, but I was unable to make it fire up again. This really bothered me because I had my final four destinations for the grand tour, plus a number of breweries and lobster pounds plugged into it for the Maine portion of my trip. Although I lost the waypoints, I had printed out the addresses for the four post offices I intended to visit, and the first one was near Stowe.

Tim decided to tag along with me, and we headed off to Essex, Vermont. Unfortunately, the post office in Essex does not list the state. When I asked the lone postal employee working in the center about this, she went above and beyond the duty of any government employee and told me, "so?".

But, she did say there might be another post office down the road, and proceeded to give me directions to a UPS store. That wouldn't have worked, but on the way I found a municipal office sign which should.

With the E out of the way, we took 116 south to 17, then 17 through Sugarbush. 17 is a pretty nice road, with some decent curves, but one thing I quickly learned is that many north eastern roads have little furrows in them, called frost heaves, which can make travel on two wheels entertaining. But the telelever absorbed it all, and life was good..

After riding 17, we took 107 to 110, and worked our way back to Stowe. Tim and I went to dinner at a decent little sports-bar, and one of the waiters came by to talk with us about our bikes. He kept talking about his Aprilla, and how much fun he has riding it three months a year, and he clued us in on some of the better roads in the area off the beaten track.

After dinner we went back to the campground and met up with the rest of the gang. Corbeau's wife came down from Ottawa, bringing Cadbury the wonder dog, along with very important camping supplies (beer, scotch, and ice). This night we stayed up well past 2:00AM, discussing issues of serious importance like the application of Kantian theory towards the war on terror, and the rising price of gasoline.

Total mileage: 221 for the day, 1767 for the trip.

Sunday, August 7, 2005

Most of the people in our group decided to boogie home Sunday morning, but we all went out for breakfast first. Afterwards, Tim, Sean, Guy, and myself decided to ride over to New Hampshire and ride the Kankamagus in the White Mountain region.

Following the directions the waiter had given us the night before, we took 100 north to the town of Eden Mills, where we hopped on "North Road" (or "Eden Mills Road," depending on who you ask). This road turned out to be a gem, with some nice gentle sweepers, and fresh asphalt lacking frost heaves. We followed it north to 58, which put us near the Vermont/Canadian border, a place where most tourists seem not to dwell. Then we took 58 to 5A. We took 5A to 105, which we followed to US 3, southbound.

While heading south on US 3, we stopped in Groveton for an overpriced lunch of burgers and fries before popping onto 110. 110 in New Hampshire is a great little road, it crosses over the northern portion of the White Mountains, but is far enough north of Conway that there is zero traffic on it. Once we crossed the range, we headed south on 16 through the rolling parking lot.

When we met up with 112, we took it over the Kancamagus Pass to I-93. Because we were running short on time, and Sean had to pack up his stuff and leave Stowe that afternoon, we took the fastest route and followed 93 past the "Old Man of the Mountain," who has recently lost his nose, to US-2, then 2 to 15 and 100.

When we got back to Stowe we had dinner at "Pie in the Sky," which turned out to be the best, and least expensive, meal for the entire time we stayed in Vermont.

Although the Kancamagus had potential to be a fun road, it was so backed up with the weekend yuppie traffic that trying to avoid being creamed by a guy in a SUV chatting on his cell phone really detracted from the ride. Personally, I preferred route 110 quite a bit.

Mileage: 311 for the day, 2078 for the trip

Monday, August 8, 2005

Sean had left the night before, so at this point it was just Guy, Tim, and myself hanging out in Stowe. Tim had to return to work, Guy was supposed to go to Portland to visit his relatives, and I was headed to Mt. Desert.

We all went to the Green House and grabbed a quick bite. During breakfast, Guy and I decided to ride together into Maine, and when we were finished, we wished Tim a safe ride back to Michigan and proceeded east.

Our plan to get into Maine was to ride north of the traffic jam in New Hampshire, and shoot across US-2. From there, we would split up somewhere in Maine, with myself going Downeast and Guy going south.

We left Stowe heading north on 100 to 15A, and took that to 15. We continued east on 15 to US-2 and shot across Vermont into New Hampshire. In Jefferson we stopped at the world famous Santas Village to take pictures of the utter weirdness.

We continued on into Maine, and were promptly greeted with 20 miles of mud road the minute we crossed the state line. Not being one to shy away from a little off-road, we continued east bound, but my reserve light came on within a mile of crossing the state line.

This stretch of US-2 was very remote, and passing through the town of Gilead I began to wonder if I would be able to find a gas station before running dry, but Bethel proved big enough to have a station and we filled up there.

We stopped for lunch at a little place called "On Top of the Hill" just outside of New Sharon, and when I came out I found my bike lying on its side. Some of the right side fairing was cracked, and the right side saddlebag wound up getting destroyed because it was dislodged from the mountaing brackets and rubbed into the rear tire. Guy split off to go to Portland, and I decided I needed to call my insurance company, so I made my way towards Bangor, where my cell phone would work.

Although I was annoyed about the damage to the bike, the ride towards I-95 kept taking me through beautiful forests and soft rolling hills. The geography of the region is interesting; the mountainous regions were formed from block uplifting of the underlying strata when two continental shelfs collided, but then over several millenia, glaciers scrubbed down the ridges as they pushed moraines through the region. As the glaciers melted, the moraines were deposited as large smooth boulders scattered throughout the region.

From New Sharon I took 137, which turned out to be quite a decent little road with zero traffic, to 95. I followed I-95 north to Bangor, where I filed a claim with my insurance company. They wanted me to get a quote on the repairs as soon as possible, so I cancelled part of the trip which would have had me working for a day in Vermont so that I could get home a few days earlier.

After that unpleasantness was done, I continued on 1A into Ellsville. The sun was blazing and according to several signs I saw on the way, the weather was between 95-100F.

Once arriving in Ellsville, I bopped onto 3 and made my way to the Mt. Desert campground where I had reserved the last available spot two weeks prior to heading north. After setting up my tent, I hopped in the shower and cleaned up before heading into Bar Harbor for dinner and site seeing.

Bar Harbor survives because of the tourism industry, however it's not annoying in the presentation. There are a number of gift shops, outfitters, restaurants, and the like surrounding the bay. I walked around the harbor and shot a roll of film, focusing mostly on the ships in the bay.

I had dinner at the Fish House Grill, which is right on the corner of the pier. Although it was probably one of the most expensive places in Bar Harbor, it was substantially cheaper than anything I had in Stowe.

My waiter was not a particularly jovial fellow, and he reminded me quite a bit of Kathy Bates' character in the film Misery. However, at his suggestion, I enjoyed two local brews, the Bar Harbor Real Ale and the Bar Harbor Blueberry Ale, along with my dinner of crab cakes.

After dinner, I meandered around the downtown zocalo, watching the families with kids playing in the park. Several of them were enjoying ice cream, and it looked quite good, so I fought my way into the line at the shop and ordered a scoop of the soft serve blueberry. It was divine.

Mileage: 318/2396

Posted at: 13:27 on 19/08/2005   [ /travel ] #


Tue, 16 Aug 2005

Home
My trip to Maine was great, but eventful (negative way)..

The people are very friendly, and the place is beautiful. Unfortunately, my bike got knocked over in a parking lot and about $2400 worth of damage was done to it. Also, a few days before, my GPS got flooded with water and stopped functioning..

After disassembling the GPS and drying it out, it wouldn't work anymore and required a master reset. The procedure for a Streetpilot 3 master reset is as follows:

Press and hold the following buttons at the same time:

  1. Quit, Up (on the 4-way button), & Route buttons.
  2. While doing this, press and release the Power button.
  3. Let go of the Up button (on the 4-way button). The unit will start blinking.
  4. Wait 15 seconds, then release all other buttons.

After doing the master reset, the unit started working again. Also, during my inspection of the unit I figured out how rain water got in -- during factory assembly, it appears that the gasket got pinched and water leaked in through there. It probably wouldn't have been an issue, except that the rain storm (noah's flood) came in at just the right angle..

I'm currently stretching the gasket back into the proper shape, then I'll use some silicone grease and re-seal the whole unit back up.

As for the bike, the right side fairing needs to be replaced, along with both brake levers, front cowling fairing, and I replaced a saddle bag in Maine. Total damage will be around $2400 after it's all done. Right now I'm playing phone tag with the insurance guys...

At least I don't also need to buy a new GPS after the trip; I was sweating the cost of a new 276C, which although I want one, I can wait a year until my finances are in better shape.

Posted at: 21:04 on 16/08/2005   [ /diary ] #


Wed, 03 Aug 2005

la escuela es finis
Not entirely yet, but close enough. I just received a grade for one of my last two classes, and have one final to complete. I only need 15% on that final to graduate with honors; basically I can show up and select "A" as my final answer and I'm done.

It's hard to explain the feeling. Euphoria is definately one of the many things I'm feeling. Relief is another. A bit of sadness, but honestly the past few years of school have sucked because with work I have not been able to really apply myself academically.

There are books I want to re-read. I'll probably start with Thomas Kuhn.

Ciao!

Posted at: 01:06 on 03/08/2005   [ /diary ] #


Tue, 05 Jul 2005

What's wrong with our media?
Last week Newsweek broke
the story about who 'outed' Valerie Plame..

For those of you who don't know, Val Plame was a CIA operative whose identity was compromised strictly for political payback against her husband, Joe Wilson.

Knowingly revealing the identity of an undercover operative is considered a treasonous act under federal law, and George H.W. Bush (41) has previous decried it as one of the most heinous acts a person could do.

So it looks like Dubya's bestest buddy, the one who was personally responsible for orchestrating the big win last year, is the loud mouth who committed an act of treason.

And where has our media been on reporting this?

A top aide to the president of the United States committed an act of treason, jeopardized an intelligence asset and compromised her network at a time when we need the best possible foreign intelligence, and no one is reporting it.

If this had happened in the Clinton Whitehouse there'd be a GOP lynch-mob standing at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue calling for Rove's head right now.

The silence is deafening. Overwhelming really.

I'm stunned.

Posted at: 14:10 on 05/07/2005   [ /essays ] #


Mon, 27 Jun 2005

My trip to the 2005 Sport-Touring.Net National
Since its inception, I have attended every
sport-touring.net national rally that has been held.

On top of being the computer operations manager for my department, I am also a student finishing up a B.A. at the University of Florida. I am supposed to graduate this summer, but in order to do that I need to take courses in both summer A and B. This years rally was held in Montrose, Colorado on June 22nd and 23rd, which fell smack dab in the middle of the break between the summer A and B terms, and I was not going to make this year the first year I missed the meet.

My last final for the summer A term was held on Friday the 17th at high noon, so my departure would be delayed until after the exam was completed. Because I knew there would be some high mileage days needed to make the round-trip within my alloted time frame, I decided I needed to break up the monotony of the road with a diversion. The Team Strange 21st Anniversary World Tour provided a perfect diversion.

The basic rules for the Grand Tour are that I must stop at various different cities, one per state, and the first letter of the city should help spell the phrase TEAM-STRANGE AIRHEADS, and then find a Highway 21 in an unused state.

Highway 21 in Florida is about 15 miles from my house, so that was one of the first ones I knocked off the list. I've also gotten letters in Kentucky, Tennessee, and Georgia from a previous weekend excursion. That left me with 16 or so letters, and until October to complete the phrase, and the route I planned would allow me to pick up thirteen cities towards the Dave McQueeney award. Besides, I figured as hectic as my work and school schedule have been, I'll need someone to come to my house and mow the yard.

June 17, 2005

I left Gainesville after completing my final around 12:30. My route took me along I-75 up to the I-10 junction just north of Lake City, then I-10 to exit 130, U.S. 231. Once on 231 I took it up to Montgomery, where I promptly discovered why I really didn't want to get stuck in Friday night rush hour traffic in Montgomery. Heat, humidity, and gridlock were the name of the day. A sign said it was 95F, and I believed it.

After getting through Montgomery, I worked my over to Selma along US-80. Selma was one of the crucial locations during the civil rights movement in the 1960s. In 1965 some 600 civil rights marchers headed east out of Selma, towards Montgomery along the same route I had taken. The civil rights marchers barely crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge, which leads into Selma, before they were beaten and attacked by the local "lawmen".

My journey over the Edmund Pettus was quite a bit less controversial, but I found the ride along U.S. 80 to be interesting nonetheless.

At Selma I got an S, but unfortunately the Selma Post Office makes it difficult to prove the location by only listing the city and state on the door of the building. I got creative though, and used the reflection in the door to prove my bike was there without the use of a trailer.

I don't own a car (or truck, or van), but even if I did, I couldn't understand why someone would trailer their bike in a scavenger hunt.

After grabbing the photo in Selma, I headed into Missississississippi (hey cue a Fish Called Wanda and my name is K-k-k-k-ken). I took I-20 to the bustling metropolis of Newton, MS where I promptly got an N.

As soon as I hopped off the bike to grab the photo, I threw away the hookup cord which connects my starcom to my helmet. I'm not really sure what I was thinking at the moment, but in retrospect it probably meant it was time to call it a night, and that's what I did. I figured for the rest of the trip I could just use the PS-2 extension cable I routed in the bike to extend the socket anyway.

With my N in hand, I went and checked myself into the nearest hotel and called it a night. It was 9:30PM EST (all future times will be in EST), and I had just finished 537 miles and two letters.

A lot of negative stuff had been piling up in my life, and I could feel it starting to slip away. The road is good that way.

Saturday, June 18

During the Memorial Day Weekend a friend of mine was in a real bad head-on collision with another rider on the Cherohala Skyway. His pelvis was shattered in many places, and the other rider lost part of his leg. My friend lives in Jackson, MS, and had been flown into a rehab center there from Asheville on Thursday the 16th.

When I first started planning the route, my plan was to stay with him in Jackson, but after the accident, while he was convalescing in Asheville, I forgot about it. When I realized that he was going to be in Jackson while I was riding through, I decided to pay him a visit at the rehab center.

The only problem was when I left Gainesville, I still hadn't found out where he had been moved into. However, I had the phone number for a friend of his who also lives in Jackson named Mark, and I made arrangements to meet up with Mark for breakfast at the Pearl Cafe in Pearl, MS.

The Pearl Cafe is one of those small town southern diners that are just a jewel when you find them. It's one of those places where the good old boys gather around for coffee and jawing on any given Saturday morning. There were about seven or eight guys sitting around a table talking about politics, or whatever, but when I walked in decked out head to toe looking like a First Gear advertisement, they became very quiet and began to eye me suspiciously.

After the waitress came out and took my order, they seemed to loosen up a bit and resumed their conversation. Mark showed up while I was enjoying my eggs, and after we both finished he took me to the rehab center.

I spent an hour or so visiting with Mac, and his spirits seemed pretty good. He's going to be in rehab for awhile, but he wants to ride again so he's motivated to get working on it.

I left Jackson around 9:30AM and continued on I-20 West towards Ruston, LA for an R. While leaving Jackson I hit a bump on I-20 and the starcom power lead jiggled loose. When I stopped for a break I was able to fix it again, but it was still intermittent until Sunday morning when I was able to do a better fix on it.

From Ruston I took 273 into Arkansas, and I stopped in Hope for an H.

As you probably know, Hope is the hometown of Bill Clinton, who if nothing else was one of the most interesting presidents we've had in the last fifty years. People either love him, or hate him, and I'd bet if he could run again he'd probably get elected to a third term.

Hope seems like a pretty friendly place. The gentleman who took my photo apologized to me for the heat wave, as if he had any real control over the weather. I appreciated his sentiments though, but I explained that living in N. Central Florida heat becomes one of those constants you get used to.

After leaving Hope I went into Oklahoma and caught the Oklahoma Turnpike up towards I-40. I then continued west on I-40 until I got to the exit for Tecumseh where I picked up a T.

After I left Tecumseh, I made my way to Oklahoma City and managed to negotiate my way through traffic to the site of the Oklahoma City Memorial right as the sun was beginning to set. I pulled out my 35MM camera and took a few photos of the memorial before hopping on my bike and making a run to a Days Inn on the west side of town.

While at the hotel I checked with a friend of mine, Sean, who was also headed to the national with his father. They were about a day behind me in Missouri, but we made tentative plans to get together somewhere out west.

I went to sleep with 738 miles for the day and 1275 for the trip. There were lane closures on I-40 around MM 170 which slowed down traffic, but I had a pretty good day for only about twelve hours of riding.

Sunday, June 19

When I woke up I felt like absolute hell. My sinuses were blocked up and my throat was sore, and to top it off my ears were plugged and hurting.

I actually had a moment or two of doubt about whether I would be able to complete the trip, but I popped a few Advil and drank some coffee. I also spent ten minutes fixing the electrical short in the power lead to the starcom.

While enjoying the continental breakfast I struck up a conversation with a guy named Dan from Nashville. He and his wife were just starting a five week trip, beginning in Santa Fe, which is supposed to end at the BMW MOA rally in Lima, OH. He was on a KLR, and his wife is on an F650GS, and it sounds like they're going to have a ball.

Since they mentioned they were heading to the Colorado area anyway, I invited them to the national in Montrose.

After a nutritious breakfast of a donut, two cups of coffee, a glass of OJ, and a bagel, I hopped on I-40 and worked my way west towards Albuquerque, with a planned stop in Adrian,TX. Once I started moving my sinuses cleared up and I started feeling better.

The weather in Oklahoma was pretty lousy. Even though it was only 8:30, or so, when I got on the road, Oklahoma was hot, humid, and windy. I really began to appreciate the effort it must have taken to live in a sod house on the plains of Oklahoma before the invention of air conditioning..

About seventy miles east of Amarillo, I stopped at a rest area to answer a call of nature. When I got off the bike I noticed several signs which said, "watch out for snakes." I've never seen a sign like that before... The scenery at the rest area was pretty, so I broke out the 35MM and shot some photos of the prairie.

Texas is an odd place. In Groom, TX, they're proud of the largest cross in this hemisphere, but I was more impressed with their DQ sign. In Conway, they have gift shops which advertise that they have live rattlesnakes you can play with.

Odd place indeed.

I made it to Amarillo around noon, and it was really starting to bake. I grabbed a large Gatorade and water, poured some down my gullet and the rest into my camelbak.

Ten miles, or so, west of Amarillo is a monument to Americana, the Cadillac Ranch. I had no idea I would be passing it on this trip, but because it's always been in my "if I get the chance to see it" file, I pulled over when I caught a glimpse of it from the interstate.

The Cadillac Ranch has ten cars planted in the ground in the middle of nowhere. It is one of those "whacky things" that only a few people could appreciate.

I am one of those people.

I stopped at the ranch and pulled out the 35MM camera and shot about half of a roll of film at the ranch. A visitor to the ranch who was tagging one of the cars allowed me to get a photo of him doing his work. After about thirty minutes, I was ready to hit the road.

In what is really a tragedy to American Nostalgia, the old Route 66 (U.S. 66) has been absorbed into I-40 through Texas and New Mexico. But it still exist for little stretches, mostly for only a few miles at a time, entering and leaving small towns. I decided to go ahead and get my kicks, and I stopped in Vega for lunch. After lunch, I continued on to Adrian,TX where I got an A.

When I crossed into New Mexico I began thinking about some of the great American literature. More specifically I started thinking about the Grapes of Wrath. I suppose the combination of wind, dust, and heading west on Route 66 made it happen. In an amusing coincidence, someone else who made it to the rally mentioned thinking about the same book.

In my case, I started thinking about the Joad Grandmother, who died of exposure. Thank god for Gatorade...

I stopped in Santa Rosa, NM for gas, and met a guy riding a 2005 FJR. Those blue ones sure are pretty.

At any rate, he was on his way home to Houston from a rally in Las Vegas, NM. We chatted for about fifteen minutes before going our separate ways.

While riding along I-40, Eastern New Mexico is a lot like Western Texas, boring and scrubby. However around MM 250 the scenery starts getting better. Mesas, red rocks, and vermilion outcroppings dot the landscape. But they're still few and far between..

I made it into Albuquerque around 5PM, and worked my way to the University Post Office where I got another A.

Right next to the post office was a used book store, and they had a table with books for $1. I picked up two, but the shop was closed with a sign saying they'd be back by 3:30. So, I slid $2 under the door, and one of my business cards with a note explaining which books I'd taken and to email me if I owed more, then hopped back on the bike and took off.

I had some time to kill, and I knew that Monday would be a "down day" so that Sean and his father could catch up. I rode over to the Petroglyph National Monument, and then found a Super 8. When I checked into the hotel I had ridden 558 miles for the day, 1833 for the trip. The road closures on I-40 were in New Mexico between MM 305-300 and 275-265.

Monday, June 20

Since I knew my friend Sean was on his way, I decided to use Monday to see some local sites I've always wanted to visit, and give them an opportunity to arrive in Albuquerque. That meant Monday would be the day I'd visit Chaco Canyon.

I left the hotel bright and early, around 7:30AM. I took I-25 north to Bernalilo, and stopped for breakfast at the worlds most efficient Mickey Dicks. After breakfast I continued on 550 towards Durango, CO where I got a D.

The morning air was quite cold in the desert, and I was pissed at myself for not wearing my heavy gloves. However, I knew it would be warmer in the afternoon, and catching the sunrise in the Zia reservation more than made up for the discomfort of the cold. The red mesas glowed as they were struck by the first light of the day.

After gassing up in Aztec, I continued onto Durango and got my D. I then worked my way west on 160 to 140 South, and followed that to 574 back to Aztec.

When I returned to Aztec, I stopped at the Aztec ruins, which are really Anasazi ruins. I hiked the trail then made my way back to 550 headed towards Chaco.

There are two entrances into Chaco, a northern entrance off of 550, and a southern entrance off of 57. I took the northern entrance, which consists of 5 miles of asphalt and then 16 miles of dirt.

The dirt road (7950) was heavily rutted in some parts, and quite sandy in others. I started out doing between 35 and 40 until I hit the first very loose sand patch, and then decided going slower was better.

When I was half-way through the road I came across a guy using a plow to smooth out the road. The problem was that in order to pass him, I had to cross over a furrow of sand he left in the center that was about 18" deep. I worked my way through the sand, got around him, then worked my way through only getting caught in the loose sand once.

Even with the road conditions, I still managed to make it to the park about 45 minutes after pulling off of 550. Not bad, but I was starting to feel a little tired and my bike was close to over-heating. I checked into the visitors center, and took off for a little hike in the ruins. However, the combination of the head cold, the heat, and the altitude got the better of me and I decided to sit down and rest for a few minutes.

While getting ready to leave I ran into two guys on enduros who had come in from the southern exit. By their description, it sounds like that is the better way to enter and leave the park, but I decided to exit via the way I came. After running the loop through the park, I hopped back on 7950 and made my way towards 550. This time it took me 45 minutes just for the dirt, but I was proud that I made it back onto terra firma without spilling the bike once.

I refilled my camelbak with more water and Gatorade, then stopped in Cuba for gas. When I arrived back in Albuquerque at 6:15 it was 102F. Sean and his father arrived fifteen minutes later.

Total mileage: 508/2341.

My journal has this one note at the end: "Although I'm not really religious, anyone who doubts the existence of God needs to spend time in red rock country."

Tuesday, June 21

I woke up very sick with a hard time breathing. It seems that the exertion from the previous day moved my head cold into my chest.

Not good.

We got a late start and left Albuquerque around 9:00AM. We took I-40 west to Gallup then US-491 north to 264. US-491 used to be known as US-666, but about two or three years ago someone got their shorts in a wad over having a highway with "the devils number" so we renumbered it.

Once on 264 we continued west to Ganado, Arizona where I got a G. 264 was interesting, running us up to about 6500' through some forests. I saw a coyote running along the side of the road..

After our photo op, we hopped on 191 north to Arizona 59. 191 ran along the top of a ledge and was very windy. 59 ran through the middle of nowhere, but parts were quite pretty as we passed through red canyons and cliffs.

We took 59 all the way to the end, and then continued on into Kayenta where we stopped for lunch at The Blue Coffee Pot. We were pretty much the only tourists in TBCP, but the chicken salad sandwich was delic.

After lunch we went through Monument Valley, where Sean and I played a round of dueling cameras. With temperatures over 100F, it was really hot, but just when we felt like complaining we came across a group of bicyclists who were riding from San Diego to Atlantic City as part of the Race Across America. Heck, I figured if they could continue to sit there and peddle, the least I could do is work the throttle.

After Monument Valley we continued on 191 up towards Monticello. Just south of there we were stuck in traffic as there is road construction at the "Devil Overpass". While in traffic we met two guys from Arizona, Rodge and George, who were also headed to Montrose for the ST.N national. Rodge was on an ST3 and George a K1100RS.

We chatted a bit, and then when traffic opened up we stayed as group. However, in Monticello they pulled off to get a room while we worked our way up the Abajo mountains to the Canyonlands Overlook.

After the Abajo, we worked our way to Moab. When we arrived in Moab I decided I needed to find a drug store and get something for my chest cold. I also wanted to make an appointment at a clinic to make sure I was healthy enough to continue the trip.

I picked up some Robitussin caplets because I wanted the expectorant, and made an appointment at the clinic for 8:40AM local time the next morning.

We managed to get the last rooms at a Super 8, and I picked up an M before we had dinner at the Poplar Place. I had the lasagna and a Guinness, and it was as good as I remembered from the last time I breezed through Moab.

Mileage: 485/2826.

Wednesday, June 22

I woke up feeling better than I had in two days. Although the Robitussin seemed to be working, I still wanted to get a professional opinion.

Because we had time to kill, we decided to hit 128 as the sun was rising. I rode with Sean and Pat (his dad) for the first 25 miles, then I turned back so I would catch my appointment while they followed it to I-70.

I arrived at the clinic a few minutes early, but I used the opportunity to fill out the various forms that doctors invariably have for you. I explained to the doc that I was about 2000 miles from home, on a motorcycle, and that I intended to be home by Saturday.

She said that my chest sounded clear, and that it seemed like the Robitussin had done some good. She offered to write me a prescription for a steroid, but that in her opinion I was probably over the worst of it and as long as I paid attention to myself I'd be fine for the return trip.

She also recommended taking Wednesday off, just to give me a day to catch some rest, and she warned me that I may have a relapse shortly after arriving home just from the exertion. I told her we were only heading to Montrose, and then I would take the rest of the day off, and she said good.

We left Moab around 11:30AM (EST), and headed south to 46, which we took to 90, then 141 to 145 to 62 and finally 550. The 46/90 combination was really fun, with some nice switchbacks around the state line. 141-145 were OK, but it rained on us for about ten minutes. 62 was absolutely gorgeous, and we stopped to get a few photos. Once we were on 550, we got stuck in traffic, but we still managed to make it into Montrose by about 3:30 (EST).

I got to meet up with some old friends, and make some new ones. I put some faces together with screen names, and had a beer. I had dinner again with Mary and Mike, and made plans to have dinner with them next year in Virginia. Then, I sat in the hot tub in my room for fifteen minutes, then went to bed.

Total mileage: 220/3046.

Thursday, June 23

The gods were smiling on me this morning, because when I woke up bright and early I felt better than I had in a week. Because of how good I felt, I decided to skip the Robitussin, which would also give me a better gauge of how my body was doing. I packed up the bike, checked out of the hotel, and hit the road by 7:10AM (EST).

I headed east on US-50 towards Gunnison. Aside from a brief stretch where 50 is now a dirt road, approximately 5 miles east of Montrose, the route was perfect. I passed through the Blue Mesa area as the sun was rising and caught one of those perfect sunrises you're lucky to see.

In Gunnison I stopped for breakfast and talked with a few people who were doing Ride the Rockies. After breakfast I spoke briefly with one of the staff and asked if it was a tour, or a race.

"Well, it's a tour. But some people just can't help themselves, and to them it's a race."

Because it was getting cool, I decided to put my jacket liner on and continued west on 50 over Monarch Crest. The elevation might have been high, but the view was perfect.

Before I got to Canon City, I saw a woman painting landscapes along the Arkansas River. I stopped and asked her if she minded being a subject for me, and she agreed, so I shot about half of a roll of film.

The canyon which she had turned into a studio was stunning, red rock walls with green vegetation covering everything. Afterwards, I continued on 50 east towards Canon City.

By this point in my trip I had forgotten about how some people can be assholes, but while I was getting gas I was reminded that not everyone is pleasant. Oh well, I wasn't going to let a dickhead ruin my trip, and I shrugged his comments off as I continued towards Salida and Pueblo.

The route from Montrose to Salida is quite pretty and hilly, but from Salida to Pueblo Colorado becomes a prairie. There were lots of deer along the prairie, and in Pueblo I saw military jets performing maneuvers.

Outside of Pueblo I hopped on 96, which crosses from Colorado into Great Bend, Kansas. Within fifteen miles of Pueblo there were four or five prisons on 96, but after that not a heck of lot else. There was very little traffic on the road, and I started playing a game of counting how many minutes it took before I saw another vehicle.

Most of the time I saw a car within three minutes, but I hit ten minutes at one point.

In Colorado I also saw a large number of cyclists with their bikes fitted with panniers and/or trailers. They looked like they were doing a cross country trek, but they were spread out too far to be part of the same group.

While riding through this region my mind was able to visualize how the prairie must have looked, with bison running free, even just 150 years ago.

Crossing into Kansas was a night and day experience for me because although eastern Colorado had the same flat grasslands, it lacked the wind that Kansas had. The wind was horrendous, it blew my face shield up several times, and kicked up dirt and dust from all of the farms reducing visibility.

I stayed on 96 into Great Bend, then hopped on US-56 to 150, and eventually made my way back onto US-50. I took US-50 into Emporia, where I got an E.

I stopped for dinner, then called my wife Sandy, then Sean and Pat to let them know I was alive, and then my friend Josh to confirm our plans to get together Friday night. After dinner I took I-35 to Ottawa, Kansas where I got a room.

Although I still felt great, I decided to get to bed early because I knew I had a long day ahead of me.

Mileage: 751/3797.

Friday, June 24

I once again got an early start. After checking the tires, and finding the rear down about 2psi, I topped it off and started on my way to Independence, MO. Just like Hope, I was going to add another president to my list.

I followed 35 up to 435 to 70, and pulled into the Post Office around 8:30AM (EST). I then hopped back onto I-70 headed towards St. Louis, and what would be my last post office of the trip.

On the trip east, the sky was incredibly hazy and bright. There was quite a bit of dust, which helped increase the glare and even with my sunglasses my eyes hurt.

Due to lane closures on I-70 in Missouri (MM 50-54, 62-64, 190-195), it took me about four hours to arrive in East Saint Louis, IL. I got my E, and while packing my bike back up a very well dressed gentleman asked if I was lost and needed help.

He told me, "Whenever I see anyone like you, I make sure they know where they're going and not lost."

I appreciated the gesture, and explained what I was up to. I showed him the pictures I had already taken, along with my flag, and he found it amusing. He then wanted to know I knew how to get back to I-64, and I showed him the GPS and explained it had good auto-routing.

He wished me luck, and I took off following the GPS as it took me on a tour through the neighborhoods of East Saint Louis. Everyone was exceptionally friendly, including the many women I met on the street corners who kept asking if I knew what I wanted.

However, they seemed to have me confused with someone named John.

"Hey John, do you know what you're looking for honey?"

At any rate, I made it back onto I-64 safe and sound, and started heading to Atlanta. It was about 12:30 (EST), and I had nothing to do with the fire.

About ten miles east of ESL, I-64 had a few lane closures which slowed traffic down. In the town of Mt. Vernon I hopped on I-57 headed south-bound to I-24. It had been four years since the last time I had ridden through Mt. Vernon, and I swear it's grown by a magnitude since then.

It was a very hot day, and the weather channel later informed me it was near record heat throughout rural Illinois. At the Illinois/Kentucky border I stopped in Metropolis for lunch. Damn, if I was two weeks early I would have caught the Superman Celebration too.

I-24 in Kentucky is longer than I remembered, but it still went by pretty quickly. Amazingly enough, I-24 in Tennessee looked more like Kentucky is supposed to than Kentucky did.

My timing, as always, was impeccable and I managed to arrive in Nashville at 5PM EST, on a Friday. I managed to enjoy rush hour, and then lane closures on I-24 headed to the Noog slowed me down even more.

I stopped for gas about 20 miles West of the Noog, and asked the gas station attendant about how long it took to get to Atlanta. She informed me about three hours, and I believed her rather than my GPS, which turned out to be a big mistake. I called my buddy Josh and told him that I would be in an hour later than originally planned, and well that decision screwed up my plans because when I arrived an hour earlier than expected, he was busy at Stone Mountain with his in-laws while I was sitting in the Cycle Gear parking lot with my thumb up my behind.

Rather than waiting for them to return for a few hours, and rather than trying to get directions to his wife's work, which involved riding into downtown Atlanta, going through eight stop-lights, passing a dozen shops, and taking about 3 lefts and two rights, to pick up a key to their place, I decided to check into a hotel and get dinner.

I found a Holiday Inn Express, which made me smarter by Saturday. And then I enjoyed a nice dinner at a Carrabas. My waitress was Sage, and she was very nice.

I ordered the steak and a beer, and it was good.

Mileage: 850/4647.

Saturday, June 25

One of my wife's friends was celebrating her 30th birthday on Saturday, and I wanted to make it home in time to go to the party. I left Atlanta around 7:30AM, ready to finally head home.

As I made my way along I-75, the sound of my tires spinning against the asphalt made a melody.

Instead of my riding pants, I opted just for jeans today. Around Cordele a light rain started to sprinkle. Rather than stopping to don my rain gear, I let the water soak my clothes, cleansing me of the last bit of muck that had been bottled inside before I went on my trip.

As I crossed the state line, for once, Florida lived up to its namesake -- the clouds broke, the sun shone bright, and the sky was a brilliant blue. I arrived home shortly after 1PM, 4988 miles and 8 days after leaving the week before.

My ride was done.

Posted at: 22:38 on 27/06/2005   [ /travel ] #


Fri, 17 Jun 2005

weird dreams
I had one of the most vivid dreams of my life last night.. I was back at the house in Miami, working in the darkroom, developing negatives and prints. Something I haven't done in nearly twenty years.

Then, I found myself in a darkroom in Gainesville, on a little extension to the back of my house, still developing film.

We don't have an extension like that.. So I wonder what it means.

I take my last final for my core course work today. As soon as that's done I'm taking a week break and going out to the four corners area. Then I come back and finish the last two classes..

Posted at: 11:16 on 17/06/2005   [ /diary ] #


Thu, 09 Jun 2005

News just in from the department of Homeland Security
This is just in from Ottawa, and shows that our national security is in the most competent hands.

Man with bloodied chain saw let into U.S.


They took his bloody chainsaw, and sent him on his way

Gary Dimmock and Chuck Brown
The Ottawa Citizen

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Gregory Despres turned up at the U.S. border toting brass knuckles, a homemade sword and a chain saw that appeared to be bloodstained. Guards let him into the country.

Gregory Allan Despres was supposed to be going to jail the morning folks spotted him hitchhiking to the U.S. border with a bloody chainsaw. His trousers were spattered with blood. Inside his backpack he had a homemade sword, a hatchet, a knife and brass knuckles. He was also packing pepper spray and wearing a bullet-proof vest.

The 22-year-old man with the Mohawk haircut and bugged-out eyes still got rides in friendly New Brunswick. And incredibly, in this dawn of intense border security, he still made it through customs. After customs officers fingerprinted him and seized his arsenal, including the chainsaw, they let him go.

According to police, Mr. Despres, believed to be a naturalized American citizen, told the border guards he was in the U.S military.

They didn't know he was running from the law, let alone linked to the killings of his elderly next-door neighbours in Minto, an old coal mining town in central New Brunswick -- killings that ended a years-long, violent feud.

The Mounties didn't find the bodies of Frederick Fulton, 74, and his wife Veronica Decarie, 70, until the next day. They had been stabbed in their bedroom.

Police found the body of Mr. Fulton, a country singer, on the kitchen floor, just a few feet from his head, which had been stuffed in a pillow case and shoved under the breakfast table.

According to a U.S Attorney's complaint, filed by the U.S. Attorney's office as part of the extradition case and obtained by the Citizen, after he was stopped at the border Canadian and American authorities consented to his release into the United States.

At the time he crossed the border he was free on bail. That morning -- April 25 -- he was to have been sentenced for threatening to kill his neighbour's son-in-law. Mr. Fulton and Ms. Decarie had just been slain.

Mr. Despres changed his trousers, which were spattered in blood, behind a shop in St. Stephen, N.B, and then walked up to the U.S. Customs booth on foot, with the bloodied chainsaw strapped to his backpack. He made it to the border crossing at 10 a.m., just hours after the double homicide.

Eddie Young, a 38-year-old fish-plant worker, sat next to Mr. Despres in the customs office at Calais, Maine, while the agents processed them. Mr. Young was on his way to catch a flight to Mexico with friends, but was detained when the officers noticed on his file a 20-year-old drug conviction in Ottawa.

"When he come in, they opened his bag up and they took out," Mr. Young said in an interview. "It looked like large bayonets to me, but they could have been a little bit longer for swords, and then two pairs of brass knuckles fastened to his bag, a chainsaw and what looked like a flak jacket."

Mr. Young said the U.S. customs agents appeared to be joking around.

"I watched the customs guys fling the swords around in the back room," he said. "I mean, wouldn't the evidence be ruined with their fingerprints?"

Mr. Young said Mr. Despres was treated better than he was.

"When I come back in (to the room) they were giving him a coffee," he said. "He got processed faster than I did."

Mr. Despres, who has a 10-inch swastika tattooed on his lower back, set off on foot into the United States. He was picked up by U.S. police two days later, on April 27, the day police issued a North America-wide warrant. Mr. Despres, arrested in Massachusetts, is now facing an extradition hearing, to be held next month.

So how did a Canadian, at large for skipping a sentencing hearing, simply walk through U.S. customs -- with a bloody chainsaw, no less?

"Nobody asked us to detain him," said Bill Anthony, a spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

"Being bizarre is not a reason to keep somebody out of this country or lock them up. We're governed by laws and regulations, and he did not violate any regulations," Mr. Anthony told the Associated Press.

None of Mr. Despres' weapons are prohibited by law in the United States. The customs spokesman conceded it "sounds stupid" that a man carrying a bloody chainsaw couldn't be detained. "Our people don't have a crime lab up there. They can't look at a chainsaw and decide if it's blood or rust or red paint," he said.

In a New Brunswick court hearing earlier this year, Mr. Despres' father was sentenced for beating his live-in girlfriend. High on cocaine, court heard, his father used to rev up his own chainsaw and use it on appliances and the ceiling. Another time, his live-in girlfriend woke up with him standing over her bed with a chainsaw.

The killings of the elderly couple in the small New Brunswick town has left many devastated. Days after the killings, councillors called a town meeting to help the citizens cope.

According to the police complaint, the RCMP believe Mr. Despres, bent on settling accounts with his neighbours, broke down their door some time in the morning of April 25, then started stabbing them in their bedroom. The Mounties believe Mr. Fulton ran into the bathroom and used its door as a shield. He was then stabbed to death and decapitated. They found his car in a gravel pit on a highway leading to the U.S. border, on the other side of the St. Croix River, which runs along the southwest corner of New Brunswick.

end of story

So what does that mean when our border patrol is more interested in checking out the background of someone who had a 20 year old drug conviction, rather than the guy who comes up to the gates splattered in blood wielding a chain-saw?

Hmmmm.

Posted at: 17:42 on 09/06/2005   [ /diary ] #


vacation coming soon!
Whoo hoo!

I'm going on a one week trip. It's a short one, but it's all I can take between semesters. I'm leaving in 9 days. There's two parts of this trip:

I'm going to put about 5000 miles on the bike, and visit the following cities: Selma, AL; Newton, MS; Ruston, LA; Hope, AR; Tecumseh, OK; Adrian, TX; Albuquerque, NM; Ganado, AZ; Moab, UT; Durango, CO; Emporia, KS; Independence, MO; East St. Louis, IL; Richmond, KY.

Three have historical significance (hope, independence, and of course selma).

On top of that, I'll be in Montrose, CO for the rally, will ride through Monument Valley on the AZ/UT border, and will head through Gunnison on the start of the leg home.

I'm not going to fool myself, it's going to be a long trip (500mi per day average), but I think it'll be what the doctor ordered after Spring 2005.

I'm almost finished packing, even though I won't be able to leave until my final exam is done next Friday.

Posted at: 01:53 on 09/06/2005   [ /diary ] #


Tue, 07 Jun 2005

end in sight
I finished my final scholastic paper this evening.

It felt good. Five and a half years of busting my butt, and the light at the end of the tunnel is starting to shine bright. Eight weeks from now I will be done, and can then live my life again.

Posted at: 00:44 on 07/06/2005   [ /diary ] #


Mon, 23 May 2005

update
I finally got around to posting photos for the first time in six months.. The group of photos include photos from my trip to D.C. with Dallas and Keith during Veterans Day weekend last November, my lunch at the Stagecoach VIII RTE in December, making Sandy's heated vest, and a trip to Suches with some friends right before finals last semester...

As for now, I'm exhausted. I have a mid-term this Friday, and then Sandy and I will be going to the mountains for the weekend. I haven't been able to sleep much lately because of insomnia.

On another note, I recently read the book All the Shah's Men, which is an interesting read. It's about how the Dulles boys overthrew the duly elected prime minister of Iran back in 1953, and the ramifications of that event.

Posted at: 23:58 on 23/05/2005   [ /diary ] #


Sun, 15 May 2005

the cat
meow meow, hiss, scratch.

shake shake shake. spasm.

bump bump, (as the head bangs the wall)

Posted at: 13:36 on 15/05/2005   [ /essays ] #


Fri, 29 Apr 2005

Estoy consado
For those of you who don't understand Spanish, it means I'm tired..

I just finished a full time semester while working full time. It was 13 hours while at the same time working 40-50 hours a week. The positive is that I'm down to just 3 classes to finish school. The downside is I literally spent every free moment over the past 4 months either at work, reading texts, or writing papers.

I'm wiped out. I need to write back to a bunch of people, but right now I just need to relax. If I've been ignoring you, I apologize, but I'll be in touch soon...

Posted at: 01:38 on 29/04/2005   [ /diary ] #


Sun, 20 Mar 2005

Irony
I'm a bit busy, but I found
this to be one of the most ironic things I've seen in a long time. I'm sure the Commandante would be rolling over in his grave if he realized that he has become a commercial success.

Posted at: 21:59 on 20/03/2005   [ /diary ] #


Fri, 28 Jan 2005

When the children scream
I apologize for the following graphic image.

That child just watched his parents gunned down by the United States Military. He is covered with the blood that spurted from them as the bullets straifed their bodies.

Do you think this child loves America and values how much we're helping to bring freedom to his country?

Or do you think he just wishes he could be embraced and consoled by his mother, something which will never happen now that her body has gone cold.

Posted at: 21:08 on 28/01/2005   [ /diary ] #


Thu, 06 Jan 2005

Fox News Wins Appeal
Hooray for media and journalistic integrity in Amerika! Fox News has
won, on appeal, the right to willingly and knowingly lie on air!

Posted at: 13:06 on 06/01/2005   [ /essays ] #


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Presentations and Papers

SAP Filtering 1998
Border Manager 1999
Astronomy Status 2002
Astronomy Update 2003
Linux on a CTX FC2A300
Honeynet Challenge entry