Calm Before the Storm

I’ve been primarily incognito, wallowing in filth, and sniffing all kinds of volatile compounds. We’ve been laying down serious hours in the garage, getting Vanessa in tip-top shape for the first leg of our honeymoon.

A few days ago, we were paid a visit by Colin. He is a wandering VW ninja of sorts, the type that converts mere key-holders into full fledged owners of an air-cooled machine. And in a span of 9 hours, Kat and I found ourselves completely transformed, stepping into the enlightened role of Volkswagen owners, taking over the basics of maintenance and tuning onto our own hands. This has been, by far, the greatest preparation we have undertaken for this trip.

Why learn ourselves, you ask? While I certainly agreed in the past that certain things should be left to experts (i.e. hire a damn mechanic), I have come to accept that owning an air cooled VW in this day and age simply cannot be (to a certain degree) entrusted to the supposed experts. With the type of travel we choose, and the situations we typically find ourselves in, there is no substitute for knowing to diagnose and having a basic understanding of your vehicle, when you find yourself stranded on the side of the highway in the middle of the night with no one to call.

Another pertinent example, Colin pointed out that whoever had rebuilt my engine – I had pistons replaced a few years ago – had not bothered to warn me that two very important pieces of cooling tin were missing in the engine, one of which provides air to the oil cooler. If you want it done right, you really have to know, and do it yourself.

I’ve taken Vanessa over several thousand miles since we got her in 2007, and while it’s always a blast taking her on the road, there is a constant fear and worry that sits in the back of my mind the entire time. Is the engine making weird noises? Am I smelling gas? Am I going to get stranded soon? This fear, was really just compounded by the lack of understanding.

And so here we are, with thousands upon thousands of miles of pavement ahead of us. We took notes, tightened our bolts, and did our homework. Let’s do this.

Adjusting ValvesPoints on DistributorBad Vacuum connectorsChloe the 1970 BusGreasing out the Front SuspensionCracked and danger-mouseAssembled Fuel line rail

Simple Voyages

The hardships and poverty of my youth had been a good apprenticeship for this form of travel. I had been brought up to understand that material possessions and physical comfort should never be confused with success, achievement and security.
– Dervla Murphy

Such an important lesson to learn. Not only in your youth, but each day you wakeup.. With a heart swollen with ambition, and the day pregnant with opportunity.

Happy Birthday Lovell

To the bestest, cutest, fattest brother anyone could ever ask for. Happy Birthday Bro! I love you!!!

PS I hope this GIF goes viral. Hehe.

Thoughts from the Saddle

Scooter Morning

Before and after each and every ride, I always give my prayers and thanks to the world – first and foremost, for keeping me and my passengers safe. When you choose to travel on two wheels, you subject yourself to many risks that can very easily compound out of your control. So you try to keep hyper-aware of all your surroundings and environment, which is really part of the trance when you hop into the saddle, and ride off into the horizon.

We pulled 420+ miles this weekend, in a long awaited scooter camping exodus that led us to the fringes of Lake Isabella, and up into the Sequioa National Forest. Our buddy Gerry took his 50cc Honda Ruckus for its furthest journey yet, and marks the second time that Kat and I rode quite a distance fully-loaded. Apart from my sore ass and a very very hot ride home, it was a great weekend full of spectacular views and lonely sweeping pavement.

Gassing Up
Did you kiss your passenger yet? All day, every day.

The best part is when you lie down on your mat inside the tent after a long day of riding hard. Through the mesh, you can see countless stars peeking through the branches of the trees, and the fatigue from mental and physical exhaustion sets in. The ground swallows you whole into a deep dreamless slumber.

The road travels fast, without sound, underneath your feet. Your concentration is flush, the past and the future are forgotten. You are in the pocket, and eventually nothing will exist. And soon enough, you quietly sink, into the sunset.

Mobile

Testing from a mobile device. I usually prefer the tactile of a keyboard, and am wary of spontaneous outbursts that get immediately pushed to the intarweb. But with the current gravitation towards posting images instead of words, this might come in handy.

Desert Stars

Hello, Milky Way

Oh hello, Milky Way.

Fantastic view from our campsite last weekend, as seen from Cottonwood Canyon in Death Valley NP.
Highly suggest viewing a larger version here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/lovine/7120745483/in/photostream/lightbox/

This is one of the many reasons why I look forward to isolation. There exists several worlds apart from the one we are accustomed to, and the moment we choose to open our eyes, we begin to pick up the hazy edges of our own existence and realise that we are both insignificant and therefore extremely special at the same time.

It makes more sense at the edges. Listen to the silence. Look into the darkness. Give your thanks.

Cetaceans are NOT Pets

I am a generally peaceful guy, but there are a few things that I find very bothersome. One of which, is the systematic exploitation of intelligent animals. To add salt to injury, this is done through seeding misinformation and exploiting the pockets of hard working families in the guise of conservation and education in a fun-filled family weekend.


Am I entertaining you enough?

I cannot fathom ANY educational merit to keeping these large magnificent animals in small holding pens and making them work for food. Are the sparse infographics scattered around the park enough to really impart any depth of knowledge to anyone who reads them? Does 98% of the guests who filter through the park depart with a greater respect and understanding of cetaceans? When they jump out of the water, do kids realize that these are highly sophisticated social animals that communicate in their own dialects, and swim hundreds of miles in the open sea? That their lives are greatly shortened in captivity? That some of them were taken forcefully from their parents in the wild? When a parent buys a plush Shamu ™ for her kids, all it does is cheapen their soul and commoditize our disrespect for the world in general.

Kat and I joined the rest of our family on an outing to SeaWorld, and expected the worst. She does not want me to disclose this, but she wept openly as soon as the orcas entered the waters of the show. I am never taking my children to a place like that. The only time I will be back, is to protest outside their gates and get handcuffed while wearing a Shamu outfit.

Teach children the truth, because that is the least that they deserve. Go to the Monterey Bay Aquarium instead – that’s where real people go.

More information here:

  • http://www.savethewhales.org/captivity.html
  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Captive_killer_whales#Dorsal_fin_collapse
  • http://theorcaproject.wordpress.com/2011/03/14/exclusive-interview-former-seaworld-trainer-samantha-berg-2/
  • http://theorcaproject.wordpress.com/2011/10/13/video-captivity-vs-wild/#more-3322
  • My Morning Commute

    Hello, Alaska

    This is categorically the most amazing view I’ve ever had outside a plane window – second only to that green wisp of Aurora Borealis I met for the first time, on a solo trip in 2003. This trip of course, came with a price to pay in the form of a 12-hour delayed connecting flight. I would do it again only if I had the rest of my team with me.

    Tired, but I need to keep prepping myself that the mission has yet to begin. Bring it on.