Adventure Time

Posted on May 29, 2016 in Vacation | 0 comments

Every year I head to DC to run in the Race for Hope to benefit brain cancer. This was our second year running in memory rather than celebration. It was a rainy day and a lot of folks had conflicts, but we were still out in force and will continue to be so. On the running front, I’d injured myself on my bike a month or so prior and was walking with a limp – no sub-19 (the usual goal) this year – was a nice walk, though.

Prior to the race, Dad informed me that he’d like to get rid of Mom’s car. He was no longer using it, but couldn’t bring himself to sell it. As my first cross-country trip was a bit abbreviated due to weather and park closures (NPS strike), I was eager to cross the country again. We only had a single car and I sometimes disappear for weekends for biking things. While I drive maybe once a week, it couldn’t hurt to have a second vehicle so I committed to taking it.

The nature of my work allows me to be just about anywhere in the world as long as I have a laptop, a handful of devices, and internet. The original goal was to camp the whole way to save a few bucks and work in coffee shops. Due to the work and traveling necessary, and camping rates, that didn’t really work out too well. I’d get to campsites by dark, which is no fun – part of the camping experience is to enjoy the place. Setting up in the dark, eating in the dark, etc., and then waking up to work and figure out your day… It was less than ideal. Besides, campsites in the western half of the country are mostly still closed for the season. It simply wasn’t meant to be. Instead, with hotels.com I was able to find enclosed spaces with internet everywhere I wanted to be for roughly $55/night. Versus the $20-$40 to tent camp? It was a no-brainer.

Before leaving, I made a rough plan of where I wanted to go. That gave me a route, which I built on roadtrippers.com. I followed that for the most part, but the real planning was done day by day as I figured out how tired I was, how much work I had, when that work had to be completed by, what there was to see, and what I could realistically drive without killing myself. The site was super awesome, works on computers and mobile, and integrates with Waze. I couldn’t have asked for much more from a free service.

I won’t bore you with the details of each stop, but you’re welcome to browse the daily schedules.

Day 1 – DC to Baltimore – Race for Hope, spending night w/ Dad and Sis on business trip.
Day 2 – Baltimore to Pittsburgh – Breakfast w/ Dad and Sis, Washington Monument (MD), Giant Quarter, Log Church, Fort Ligonier, Keystone State Park.
Day 3 – Pittsburgh to Cleveland – Primanti Brothers and Heinz History Museum.
Day 4 – Cleveland to Detroit – Cuyahoga Valley National Park, A Christmas Story House, Lake View Cemetery, and Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge.
Day 5 – Detroit to “Chicago” – Heidelberg Project, Belle Isle, Elmwood Cemetery, Eastern Market, Shinola, Indiana Dunes.
Day 6 – “Chicago” to Minneapolis – Michael Jackson Home, Robie House, Cloud Gate, Lakefront Trail, The Old Fashioned, WI Capitol, Babcock Hall Dairy, Pink Elephant, Orange Moose.
Day 7 – Minneapolis (rest day) – Grand Rounds Trail, Minnehaha Falls.
Day 8 – Minneapolis to Badlands – Jolly Green Giant, Sioux Falls, Corn Palace, Al’s Oasis.
Day 9 – Badlands to Custer – Minuteman Visitor Center, Badlands National Park, Minuteman Missile Silo, Wall Drug, Chapel in the Hills, Mount Rushmore.
Day 10 – Custer to Greybull – Black Hills National Forest, Devil’s Tower, Bighorn National Forest.
Day 11 – Greybull to West Yellowstone – Buffalo Bill Dam, Yellowstone National Park.
Day 12 – West Yellowstone to Portland – USS Hawkbill, Craters of the Moon, Mural of Pennies.

The car itself was a trooper. It didn’t drink any fluids, did pop on O2 sensor around 1/3 of the way (can be ignored, but since fixed), the oil looks perfectly clean, and I got about 22mpg. I was expecting better, but I did have luggage, a bike on the roof (I did bike a lot of places), the O2 sensor could have hurt efficiency a bit, and let’s face it, the car had 135k miles.

It was an awesome trip, I’m so thankful that I was able to do it, and I can’t wait to do more.

Miscellaneous thoughts:

  • Maryland is the worst. East coast mentality is so east coast. Seems to altogether disappear once you hit Western PA.
  • Pittsburgh is a pretty cool place. Lots of history, a tough demeanor, but everyone was really pleasant. Was surprised to see how much was invented there and how responsible the city was for the growth of our nation.
  • Cleveland had nothing going for it. It was cheap so that was cool. Had lunch and a pretty serious bike repair done for a combined $8.50.
  • Detroit is a very cool town. I know we all joked about buying blocks back when they were for sale for nothing, but we really should have. It’s still mostly a ghost town, but the infrastructure is there, those blocks are now all gone, the people were super friendly (folks in “the hood” would say hello to me from their stoops as I passed, clad in spandex). Young people are flocking. I’m not sure the jobs are there yet, but for someone who telecommutes it’s got a lot of draw if they could do something about those winters.
  • Indiana could go away. My second time passing through it and it’s really got nothing going on.
  • Chicago is always a nice stop. I think I’ve seen the Cloud Gate a half dozen times now. Never gets old. And that lake shore… So nice.
  • There might not be a more friendly place than Wisconsin. It’s almost painful. Mmm cheese and ice cream.
  • I’d been to Minneapolis before, but this was my first time actually seeing it. It’s got a lot going for it. No wonder it ranks really high on all those internet lists, but similar to Detroit – that winter.
  • Not much to say about South Dakota. The woman were all oddly attractive. Young and old.
  • Wyoming is cold. Unexpected. Apparently it’s the second highest state so that makes sense. I’m talking 20 degrees at night. I stayed in a super cool historic hotel in Greybull. Basically had a full apartment for like $50.
  • Idaho is amazingly beautiful no matter where you cross it, but so darned empty. I didn’t know they had volcanic fields there and didn’t expect to see the backside of the Tetons.
  • Oregon is home so I blasted through it in the dark. I’ve got plenty of time to see all it offers.
  • You can make it from Yellowstone to Portland in a day.
  • REI is the bomb. Apparently they used a faulty glue on my 10 year old tent for a totally unimportant piece. I took it in to see if they could reglue it, but instead they gave me a brand new tent. Not what I was looking for, but that’s their policy and why they deserve all your camping business.
  • This country is large. There’s so damned much to see. I’ve now crossed it twice. One of the more difficult things in planning is making those choices that eliminate other possibilities. You simply can’t hit it all. I could easily see needing maybe another six crossings to see all I’d want to see. Time to get planning!
  • I’ve now seen where Trump supporters live.

Shiny new fingerprint collector

Posted on Apr 29, 2016 in General, House | 1 comment

Sometimes it’s better  to cut your losses. Our existing stove had a quirky computer. It’d somewhat randomly read a sensor error and not work for hours. I took it apart last year, cleaned up connections, tested all the obvious items (it all checked out), and the issue was resolved for about six months without having actually fixed anything. And then it came back… And I wasn’t going to attempt to fix what I couldn’t figure out again so we went shopping. Behold the newness! We got a monster deal at Sears with a price match and applying for their credit card (to be paid off and closed immediately) – something like $800 for a $1300 stove delivered and installed. Hoping this will take my daily fried eggs to the next level 😉

Would ya look at that!?

Would ya look at that!? Just look at it.

Farewell, Shreddette

Posted on Apr 28, 2016 in Cycling, General | 0 comments

Awaiting pickup.

Awaiting pickup.

I really dig indoor park riding. So much so that I went out and bought a bike for it. Unfortunately, it’s hard to learn at this age and hitting the ground at my size or really any adult size hurts. About half the time I go riding I return home with something to mend (screw digging through my elbow, crushed shins, a limp for weeks, etc). I’m currently dealing with a hip pointer that’s more than a month old and not getting too much better (hip flexor is still OW). Last week I did some soul-searching and put the bike up for sale and it sold yesterday for my asking price. It’s not often that I sell a bike without it being an upgrade so this is a big deal. We had a good run and I learned some techniques that will help me in my other cycling, but my days jumping things and getting rad are now over. The new owner will be traveling the US in a Eurovan so the bike is sure to see some great sights and I’m glad somebody will be using her better than I could ever hope to.

Adventure Time Planning

Posted on Apr 26, 2016 in Vacation | 7 comments

This time next week I’ll be heading home from DC. I’m inheriting my mother’s car (early 2000s Toyota RAV4) and rather than pay to ship it, why not use it as a chance to see the US again?  Heck, it’s been almost three years since I made the 3000 mile trek; I’m totally due.

My father will be delivering the car to the annual 5k we run (I’ll be walking this year – injuries… bummer) in my mom’s honor/in support of brain cancer. He’ll be bringing it packed with the road bike I had purchased for his place following my mother’s passing (I need to sell it and the Portland Craigslist will do a much better job). I’ll combine the car and bike with a bunch of stuff that I’m bringing and be ready to spend a week or two on the road – camping, working, riding, driving.

Camping

This bit worries me the most. Will I find camping along the way? Will it be warm enough if I take the route I had originally planned (northern through the Yellowstone)? Is camping a dumb idea I should bail on and instead stick to cheap motels? Should I go for a more southern route?

Working

Free wifi has got to be pretty abundant across America. If I plan my days appropriately this shouldn’t be too much of a problem. Mobile hotspot + libraries are always a good fallback. I’ve scheduled some vacation anyway just in case I need it, but I’m hopeful I won’t. I have pretty regular meetings three days a week so those days my schedule will be pretty fixed to traditional hours and I’ll need a reliable connection so motels are looking good there. Other than that, anything goes – my work can be done pretty much at any time of the day.

Riding

Thanks to the internet I should be able to find some pretty solid rides everywhere I go. If nothing is published for wherever I may find myself, a quick look at a map should give me an idea of what’s possible. I picked up a Garmin Varia for a little added safety since I’m sure to be on roads that are less cycling friendly than I’m used to (hopefully lower traffic though).

Driving

I’m not sure how I’ll combine the above with managing to drive across the country, but that’ll be part of the fun. Every day will be an adventure. Ride now? Drive now? Work now? Drive to where? Where will I sleep? Where can I get a shower? Do I need a shower? Where will I work? Laundry day? I theoretically have until June 1st to get home, but I certainly don’t want to live on the road that long and if it proves to not be as fun as expected I can always hightail it back. My estimate is 10ish days.

Tips? Advice? Comments? Things I must see? Things I must avoid?

Oh yeah, my chalazion

Posted on Mar 28, 2016 in General | 3 comments

Hopefully this is the last post of my busted face for awhile. A few weeks back I had my chalazion removed. It had grown enough that it was affecting my vision and it was clear the non-surgical treatment options weren’t working. Due to some clerical errors, I had about four exams before finally getting scheduled for surgery. Heather took me in, they warned me I might die (typical doctor disclaimer stuff), popped some needles in my eye (the worst part, by far), made a little cut, squeezed the junk out, and I was done within minutes. The surgery itself was painless, but the needles kind of sucked. The intern was actually there to hold me down because I guess it’s a pretty dangerous bit of work. It was funny how they were clearly trained to small talk the entire time to ease my nerves. We talked about the silliest of BS, but it was entertaining. I did ask to see the output – a small little pebble of solidified oil roughly the size of a coriander seed.

I was warned that I would likely look like I got punched in the eye pretty good and my vision would be murky for a few days. No bruising, but it did feel like I had been scratched in the eye for about a week and a half. My vision is perfectly back to normal now, you’d never know I had the bump, and the loss of those few oil glands has had no noticeable affect on my eye comfort (the procedure takes out maybe 10% of the glands on that eye). I’m going to have to be pretty serious about eye washing from now on because apparently I’m predisposed to these blockages because my pores are actually hooded (genetic defect) – more surgeries would mean less and less glands and eventually that becomes really bad.

Preop/postop

Preop/postop and now there’s nothing to be seen

Closing out on the face

Posted on Mar 28, 2016 in General | 0 comments

Long overdue for the 2nd to last check-in (six months will be the final), but this is how the healing has gone. It’s pretty noticeable in the right light when I’m freshly shaven, but I’m rarely freshly shaven so it’s hardly noticeable 99% of the time. Still numb and a bit bumpy, but it is what it is. No more pain in the cold or anything.

Face

Face

New Roof

Posted on Feb 13, 2016 in House | 1 comment

One of the items flagged on the initial inspection of our house was that the roof had to go. We eked another two years out of her, but the company we had received a proposal from had an opening (we had been procrastinating otherwise) so we jumped at the chance. New roof in Portland winter? Crazy? These guys work year round so it’s part of the gig. Besides, it was going to be a two day job and the forecast gave us that window clear.

Step one was to tear the old shingles off. We could have put new shingles on top, but we opted to do he job right, get a good look at the base layer, and replace felting and rotted wood. Good thing for that. The Saturday morning of the tear-off, while we’re sitting on the couch enjoy some warm beverages, we receive a knock on the door. It turns out that one half of the house had not been plywooded and was instead 100+ year old cedar shingles underneath the tar ones. Welcome to having bought a rental property. There had clearly been a patch job or two, but nobody went to the trouble of doing the job 100% right. So there was an extra 25% to the cost. It was an option to leave it, but not when we’re doing the job right. Hopefully that value comes out when we sell down the line.

Anyway, that adds a day to the project. A lot more removal labor and then tacking on new plywood. The weather didn’t give us an extra day. With no roof on the house, the skies open up. The fellows put down weatherproof fabric and tarps, but in the middle of the weeklong string of rainy days, I was awoken to water dripping on my face. Yes, literally right on my face (pic below). Of all the spots on the roof, it leaked directly above where I slept. It turns out that the high winds had caused our sewer line vent to rub through the tarp and create a channel in the tarp that funneled a stream of water right to it. Without flashing, the water poured right down the outside of the pipe to the basement. Apparently our bedroom wall/ceiling touches the pipe on its way, saturated, and then caused that 4am drip. Despite living an hour away and the fact that a storm was howling, the owner of the roofing company came out and remedied it. After the job they also patched the wall.

After another weather delay or two, the job was finally completed and it looks pretty good. I don’t know squat about roofs, but I chose these guys because they really took pride in their work and it was a small/personal operation.

In case you were wondering, the color of our shingles is “Heather.”