Cast, Away.

Buckle up, I’m feeling chatty. I should – I mean, it’s been months since I’ve written anything here. With the current global shitshow, I just haven’t really felt like it, plus, my adventures have been somewhat limited, therefore, not much to say. So, let’s start with the state of the world.

Are you people fucking insane, or just stupid? I have learned alot about people these past three months (well, really, the past year, but that’s another story for later), and I guess the big takeaway is that, by and large, people are indeed selfish, self-centered and just dumb. Evil? Maybe. Horrible? Absolutely. Choose your adjective. Really, is going to Applebees or hanging out with your friends that important? Important enough that you’d put your family or your loved ones at risk of actual sickness and/or death (not to mention yourself – but hey, if you want to kill yourself, I guess that’s your business)? I mean, for realsies – I’m appalled at the behavior I’ve seen. Appalled and profoundly disappointed. I’ve been doing my part as best as I can, but some of you – sheesh, karma is going to smack you right in the ass, and I say “good riddance”. Do your good work, Darwin. But at least you get to hang out with your pals, right? Inconsiderate, arrogant assholes, the lot of you. You deserve exactly what you get.

Moving on.

Run, fat boy, run.

I whipped out my credit card this morning to order a treadmill. I’ve only been going to the gym very, very sporadically (maybe 6 or 8 times in 3 months), and only in the middle of the night when no one is there (and wearing the Speedo last weekend made it clear that I need to be going more)(much, much more). It’s just not safe, though – between the pandemic, the assorted weirdos out in the middle of the night, and the occasional high-speed car chases, I just don’t enjoy it as much as I used to. So, it’s been more of the Bowflex Max and SelectTech weights at home, but I want to add a Bowflex treadmill; specifically, the BXT216. Therefore, it’s out of stock, because of course it is – but I’m on the waiting list.

I finally painted the barn, too.

Speaking of whipping out the credit card, more Jeep stuff. I found out the skid plates I had been toying with adding to the Adventure Buggy have been discontinued and were getting harder to find, so I went ahead and ordered them all – the two underbody ones, and the fuel tank one, which was two pieces (and these were/are to supplement the two front plates I installed back in March). I installed them last week (by myself, natch, as usual – I really need a dependable helper; the operative word being “dependable“), with no major screw-ups, but it was a chore – hence the need for an occasional helper. I also got the 3 Cherokee-specific storage bags for the cargo area storage system that’s built-in to the back of the Jeep. Expensive, but nice. So, the Jeep is just about done, although I may go ahead and order a set of rock sliders – what’s another $1000 in the scheme of things?

If the question is, ‘How goofy can you look?’, well, here’s the answer. This was on an island in the middle of Rhea Springs.

Now, adventures. I’ve had a few decent ones (and a couple of crappy ones). My kayaking trips have been pretty good, and I’ve filled in spots on my map (and speaking of the Master Adventure Map, I’ve had to significantly expand the area covered as I’ve moved farther and farther away from home base – check it out). Two great trips to Dallas Bay/Lake Chickamauga (Movescount 1, Movescount 2) and an amazing trip exploring islands in Rhea Springs (Movescount). Still lots to explore around Rhea Springs, including going through the locks at Watts Bar – I think I’ll be going back there for a little while (time permitting).

I also have something super-exciting penciled in for this weekend in that vicinity. Watch this space to see just how cool I can be. Or dead, depending on how it goes. Nah, cool. I know my way around…stuff.

Bald River Falls (left) and Ozone Falls (right)

Anyway, there were some bucket list waterfall adventures, which were primarily Jeep/motorcycle road trips combined with a little hiking, a little climbing, a little you-get-the-idea. Bald River Falls (Movescount) and Ozone Falls (Movescount) were both amazing. Not a great deal of hiking to get to either one, but definitely worth the drive. Coming up, a trip to Twin Arches, which is supposed to be spectacular. Maybe a day trip, or I might take my camping gear and make it an overnighter. Regardless, nothing like a little holoholo ka’a.

There’s been a few other things over the past months – a nice bike ride on the Riverwalk (Movescount), a little roundball, several motorbike trips (on and off-road). I guess I haven’t mentioned it, but I also replaced my trusty Suunto Ambit 3 Peak with a new Suunto Spartan Baro. It’s an amazing piece of tech, and because it’s newer than the Ambit, it integrates better with my iPhone, has a better battery life, has a touchscreen, and many other cool features. Pricey, but oh-so worth it. Tracking/mapping my adventures is important to me; I’ve done hundreds and hundreds of treks, and it’s nice to be able to refer back to a specific adventure to answer questions for others, or to remember certain details like trailheads, put-ins, campsites and so on. The Suunto watch(es) have probably been the best investment I’ve made in my go-go-go Dangerboy lifestyle. I’ve never had to use it to get un-lost, but you never know.

Say ‘Cheese’.

Oh, and that’s not the only shopping. A couple months ago, I (seriously) splurged on a new camera. A Canon EOS T7i, to be specific. And not just the camera, but a massive EF 70-200mm zoom lens, extra batteries, a tripod that doubles as a hiking stick, and some other gear. There are reasons I’m not gonna get into, but the thing is seriously awesome, and I’ve only scratched the surface of what it can do. The above photo of Bald River Falls was taken with it, and there will be much more to come. Of course, it’s gonna go with me to the Dragon in a couple weeks. Watch this space.

Want. This. This color, these wheels, this everything. 115 horsepower of bliss.

I came very close to buying my dream bike, as well. Got a line on one exactly like I wanted, pretty good price, low miles – almost sounded too good to be true. Turned out, it was. It had a salvage title (meaning it had been wrecked, totalled by the insurance company, then repaired by some yahoo), making it pretty much worthless. Even a 10 grand Harley with a salvage title isn’t worth having, and I’d never be stupid enough to throw that much money at something I’d never be able to recoup. I’m not dying to have a new bike – I love mine, and it’s taken me years to get it where I want it. However, I’m not riding the BMW much, so I’ve been thinking about letting it go so I can justify a V-Rod (the pictured Harley). The V-Rod was never really popular amongst the Harley crowd (probably why I like it), and it was discontinued a couple years back. Not too difficult to find with a proper title; I guess if I’m serious about it, I need to start shopping the BMW around first. The BMW is an awesome bike, but you can only ride around in the woods so much (it’s street legal, but on the street, Thing 1 is the bike to ride). We’ll see.

Addendum: I just now took the BMW out for a very quick ride, since I tightened up the chain and lubed it (yeah, kids, if you own a motorbike, you need to know how to tend to it). So, who am I kidding? That thing is awesome. It’s fast, capable, and I’ve spent a ton of money getting it where I want it. New off-road tires, crash bars, aux lighting, tail rack and bag, headlight guard, better pegs, tank pad – I’ve spent a decent amount making it a great off-road machine, and that authentic BMW stuff isn’t cheap. Maybe I’ll just be a guy with 3 motorbikes. Why not, right? Can’t take that fat cash with you, after all.

Plus, chick magnet.

Nonetheless, that reminds me, I need to order a new helmet. I ordered a comms system that’s compatible with my Bluetooth helmet so I could communicate with a passenger without yelling over my shoulder, but it eventually came back as “no longer available”. So, I think I’m just gonna order an entire helmet with the comms built-in. Less complicated than those janky, stick-on affairs, and you never know when I’ll have a rear seat cover that I actually want to talk to (and sorry if your retinas just detached from rolling your eyes so hard).

Lastly, I’m a little annoyed (I know what you’re thinking: “You’re not a little anything.”). I was watching one of my favorite films for what turned out to be the last time, because reasons. Cast Away. What an awesome film. However, the more I started to think about it, the more annoyed it made me. Not the film itself, mind you. It was Chuck’s significant other (who shall remain nameless; also reasons). Chuck, our hero, was on the island for 4 years – and if it had been me, I would have been happy to just stay there. Anyway, in that time, his fiancee – love of his life, and allegedly vice-versa – married her dentist, and had a kid with said dentist that was a toddler by the time Chuck was rescued; again, after only 4 years. So, that means she waited, what, 6 whole months before she was doing the Horizontal Monster Mash with Big from Sex and the City? I feel you, Chuck. People suck. People really, really suck. So, for future reference, if you’re my significant other, and your FedEx plane crashes in the South Pacific, I’ll wait for you as long as it takes. Forever, even. And screw you, Ms. Frears – you suck. You’re probably one of those aforementioned people that just must go hang out with your friends right at the peak of a global pandemic with no regard for anyone or anything besides yourself.

Still, I’m bummed that I’ll never watch that film again. What’s next, my other favorite film? That one is a little hard to watch, also. Too much infidelity and stuff. And seriously, who the hell cheats on George Clooney? I wouldn’t – if he’d ever answer my letters, that is. But in all seriousness, I feel for Matt King as much as I do for Chuck Noland. Sure, it’s fiction – but I know what I’m talking about. I coulda been in either of those. Well, if I wasn’t so ugly. Furthermore, because I’m stupid, I had to watch the trailer, and now I’m sad. My usual condition.

George Clooney in The Descendants

All that babbling aside, I do still love you, Helen Hunt. No hard feelings. And Wilson – you’ll always rock. Maybe things will get better, and I’ll see you again someday.

Wilson the Volleyball from Cast Away

It’s the End of the World Yadda Yadda.

Well, maybe, anyway. Who knows? But I’m not gonna dwell on that right now – I’ll just say that I hope all my people are well, and doing what they should be doing. Specifically, keeping your DNA to yourself. Of course, if you’re one of those people who’s always out there slinging your DNA around anyway, me telling you to cut it out isn’t going to make any difference (trust me, I’ve been down that road before it was the end of the world). So, you know, whatever. Gross.

Moving on.

Jeep Cherokee Tow Hooks

I have been keeping busy. Back in February, you’ll recall I ordered skid plates and tow hooks for the Jeep. Well, they finally showed up, and then I finally had time to actually install them. Let me tell you, that was a chore. Had to take apart the entire front-end of the Jeep, and had to deal with the inevitable unforeseen issues that always pop up. Especially difficult to do single-handedly. Well, not difficult, exactly, but time-consuming. Crawling under the Jeep, realizing I needed a different tool, crawling back out, blah blah. I could use a little helper. Regardless, I got it done, and I’m pleased with the results. I’d like to get the remaining skid plates for the chassis and gas tank, but that will have to wait until this uncertainty is past. I’ve spent probably $1000 on groceries and supplies in the past 10 days, and that’s a better use of my money right now (and for what it’s worth, I’m stocked up for at least the next 3 months, if it comes down to that).

Raccoon Mountain

Obviously, under current circumstances, there hasn’t been much adventuring, but I did decide to get out on the mountain bike for a little bit. That and kayaking are reasonably safe pursuits, because there’s no close contact with other people (and none of the aforementioned slinging of DNA). So, I went back up to Raccoon Mountain and rode around up there – not too much; I have to get my bike legs back in shape, since all I’ve been doing for the past year is hiking (mostly). I guess hiking season is done, though, so now it’s going to just be cycling and kayaking (plus riding the motorbikes, natch). I didn’t really hit the actual MTB trails too much; this was mostly a pavement ride, just to get back into the swing. That’s probably going to be how I spend the next several weekends until it gets a little warmer. Still, nice to get out of the house, and it’s been almost 3 years since the last time I rode RM, so going back was a nice diversion from the global shitshow.

Raccoon Mountain Map

I’ll probably hop on the Kestrel this week. I put new tires on it over the winter, and haven’t been on it since. I’ve come up with a few interesting places to ride besides the typical Riverwalk, so in the interest of keeping things fresh, I’m gonna go explore. Everybody has to be somewhere, right?

Well, Blow Me Down. Or Up. Whichever.

So, to get right to it, a tire blew up in my pretty, pretty face, and it was more unpleasant than that sentence sounds. I’m telling you this so if you see me in the real world – which, in itself is unlikely – please ignore the cuts and abrasions and stuff on my face.

To make a long stupid story short but still stupid, I’ve been working on my big driveway gate, because reasons. Ugh. Anyway, the thing has two wheels, like wheelbarrow wheel-size that it uses to roll across the driveway when it’s closing. Those tires needed to be inflated and you can see where this is going, right? So, my face, maybe a foot away from a tire filled with nasty-ass water, and unbeknownst to me, dryrotted. Trust me, it’s beknownst to me now. When I started inflating it, it exploded, giving me a face, eyes and mouthful of shrapnel and the aforementioned nasty-ass water – all under high pressure. I’m sure that watching blinded-me trying to drive the tractor back up the driveway to take a Chernobyl-like shower was entertaining to my neighbors.

Anyway, mending the gate. And putting up the pictured “No Trespassing” signs, because lawyers said that’s what I should do. Did I say “because reasons” already? Because. Reasons. I’ve spent no small fortune in Ring cameras, motion-sensing flood lights and stupid signs. This is what my life has become. I will say this, though – dear eight pound, six ounce newborn baby Jesus, thank you for inventing the Garmin dashcam. Next, I need to talk to John Frankenheimer. Wait, he’s dead? OK, Hal Needham. He’s dead, too? Frick.

I guess it hasn’t been all bad, though. Mostly, but not all. I did have a nice bonfire in the backyard, where I not only got rid of downed brush, but I also danced around naked in hopes of changing my fortunes. Spoiler alert: didn’t work. Obviously.

There’s been a little adventure. A return trip to Sewanee, and the Templeton Library, Natural Bridge, Green’s View and other points. That’s always a nice drive, and one of my favorite get-out-of-town road trips. Surprisingly, a lot to see and do for such a small town. Plus, coeds. Hello, ladies.

And speaking of aimless driving in the Wee Small Hours, Lookout Mountain. A great place to just go wander and clear the ol’ squirrel factory when sitting at home for another day is too depressing to think about. Plus, they have a Starbucks. OK, there’s more than Starbucks, but that’s a big friggin’ bonus. Especially one that I can relax at in peace.

In other news, the skid plates for the Jeep will be here tomorrow, and the front tow hooks are shipping today – but that means I doubt they’ll be here in time for me to tinker over the weekend. No matter; I honestly don’t think I can be trapped in the house this weekend. I need to be away. Far, far away. So, that’ll just have to wait until another weekend; not too long, though – the Dragon is officially open for the season, and I need to be there.

Did I say “ugh” already? OK, I stand by it.

Passion & Warfare.

Van Halen may have been Hot For Teacher first, but Little Stevie Vai did it better. This was always a favorite – both the song and the video – and I’m glad it finally showed up on the YT.


That Steve Vai, what a nice little boy.

This weekend, chores. Spring cleaning. Something. Trees to prune, scrap lumber to gather (from the steps project), and tinkering. Had to get the old tractor running so I can get rid of it (I bought a new tractor last summer; and had to take the mounting brackets for the bulldozer blade off the old one to put on the new one, and just finally got around to that). Cleaned out the garage a little, straightened up the barn, blah blah. It’s always something, and now I have a big pile of brush in my firepit to burn. Need to get some marshmallows.


But Sunday, a little leisure time. A visit to Blowing Wind Falls on the Ritchie Hollow Trail (Movescount data) – I haven’t been here in forever, and I wanted to get the Jeep and its new shoes in the woods; that, and I’m scouting places to camp as soon as Mother Nature settles down. Anyway, something new at the falls – scaled the bluff face adjacent to the falls to explore a cave (yeah, I know, shut up). Somewhat dangerous, but you know me. The view was worth it, at least.

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The Jeep did well in the mud and dirt and whatnot, but I really didn’t push it much. The front tow hooks and the skid plates I ordered should be here in the next week or so; once I get those, then I can see what the Buggy can really do in the woods. Still, just driving around in the forest is nice, even if it’s on the less-than-challenging roads.

Additionally, I had to discharge my responsibilities and put up a new flag at the cemetery. I installed a 30′ pole there years ago, so I periodically have to replace the flag. It’s pretty deep in the woods, but right on the main trail, so people do see it. Next, I need to replace the pole itself – it’s starting to show its age.

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Following the hike to Blowing Wind Falls, a required stop at Snooper’s Rock, and the work at the cemetery, a side hike to the Indian Rock House on the Cumberland Trail. It’s an easy hike; only about 1.5 miles round trip. This place has a little significance to me – when I first started hiking, this was one of my go-to spots to train. It’s not extremely difficult, although the last little bit through the “fat man squeeze” is somewhat challenging (and surprisingly, I fit). Because I was doing different things, I decided to scale the bluff to get back to the top, versus just going up the steps. No major screw ups (obviously).

Following that, the last stop was at Middle Creek. The last time I was here was kinda a train wreck, so it was nice to come back and enjoy the triple waterfall and other features. My intention is to boulder all the way to the top of the mountain, and after the limited bouldering I did here to get to the falls, it’s clear I need more leg days at the gym. Bouldering to the top is going to be incredibly dangerous, and if I’m going to attempt it, I need to do it soon, before Mother Nature unleashes the rattlesnakes and copperheads. Fingers crossed.

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So, I guess all things being equal, not a terrible weekend. But I’m ready for warmer weather. I need some motorcycle time, as well as some kayaking time. Soon. I’ve got my eye on you, Mother Nature.

Yesterday Was a Good Day.

A very good day, in fact. Today – Saturday – not so much. But I’ll power through it like I always do. Like I’m always forced to. And do you know what helps?

Journey. Journey helps. One of the few bands I’ve never seen (ditto Pretenders), and all it took was a tiny prod to give Ticketmaster and the boys (and Chrissie) 300 of my American dollars. So, assuming I don’t step in front of a bus before August, there’s that. That’s so far away, I can’t even think about it right now. Nonetheless, as it is written in the Albums, Departure 1:1 – Any way you want it, that’s the way you need it. Devotional meditation: Do I love to move? Do I love to groove? Do I love the lovin’ things?

What I can think about is my deck project. So, after driving around all night (again, which is a story of its own – let’s just say I’ve seen some sh*t; and over the past 9 months or so, I’ve logged a stunning amount of time just driving around aimlessly in the Wee Small Hours), I finally made it to the hardware store to get the lumber to finish up the steps. I’ve been wanting to get on this for weeks, but life kinda gets in the way of projects sometimes. But, now, done. Well, mostly done, anyway – I need enough lumber for a couple more steps and the banister. I’ll probably pick that up tomorrow, after a road trip, or Monday, after my home-away-from home time. (Monday addendum: except for a little sanding, the steps are done. So, would-be burglars, murderers, stalkers, whatever, you’re welcome for the much easier access – but be sure and smile for the camera.)

Steps are challenging. Lots of math and geometry, and very little margin for error. But I did it, without a single screw-up, nor a drop of blood spilled. Now, after, that’s another story – inexplicably, I got a really bad nosebleed. No idea why. Probably stress. Maybe it’s a tumor. Anyway, if I can build steps on less than an hour sleep, image the projects I could accomplish if I was well rested? I had debated hiring someone to do this, but why pay someone to do something I can do (probably better)? You just wind up with a shady contractor that does a half-assed job and it becomes a hassle. Do it right, do it yourself. Like me. Use your whole ass.

Now I just need to get my mighty pressure washer out and clean the deck. It’s always something, right? Right. Speaking of, I’ve ordered new sinks and faucets for my bathroom. No one sees it but me, but I still want it to be nice. Can’t stand a sloppy bathroom (or a sloppy house in general – I’m somewhat fastidious about my cleaning). I mean, come on. One thing I’ll never be accused of is being a slob.

Of course, I will pay my guy to work on the Jeep. Not because I can’t do it, but because I don’t have a car lift, and if you’re going to tear the suspension apart, a car lift helps move things along. Oh, right – I tore the suspension on the Jeep apart. Intentionally. I think I mentioned a while back that I ordered a lift kit and wheel spacers – well, all that finally came in, and because if a project is worth doing, it’s worth over-doing, so I went ahead and bought big new tires to go with it. In a word, it’s awesome. It looks so much better, and I’m sure will perform better off-road. Between the lift, wheel spacers, new tires, and the recently-added winch, I believe I’m ready to take my adventuring to the next level. Of course, it’s never done – next on the list is skid plates, and I’m having some custom tow hooks made for the front. Basically, to put the skid plates on, you have to take the whole front end off, and if I’m going to do that anyway, I might as well add the tow hooks, because that also requires dismantling the front. Gonna get them in yellow, to match the caliper covers. I’ve taken the back apart to install the tow package; the front should be basically the same. Being handy is awesome. And if you’re wondering, the inside of the Jeep is pretty spotless, as well. I’ll make someone a good wife someday.


I have also continued to add to my Ring camera network. I’m completely sold on it. I now have cameras covering all sides of the yard, the dog area, the barn, the Jeep and a few other spots I’m not going to divulge. Plus, of course, the Jeep itself is always recording – and I do mean always – it sees (and hears) everything, and I have a whole folder just full of…stuff. So, if you’re thinking about murdering me to death – or anything else – you better lure me away from the house, the Jeep and the motorbikes (I would suggest tasty, tasty donuts as bait). And keep in mind that I have Liam Neeson on speed-dial, and he has a very particular set of skills.

It’s that time of year again. My sweet Blackjack turned 8 years old. I can’t wrap my head around that. His birthday coincides with The Great Unpleasantness, so that means it’s been 8 years since that fiasco, as well. Yeah, there’s always some fiasco with me – but I’m working on it. I made it through the holiday season (officially, now), and I haven’t really celebrated a single holiday in a year – not Independence Day, Labor Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Year’s. Not even flippin’ Arbor Day. Because reasons. Oh, I wanted to, but like every year, it just didn’t happen. All that’s left is that thing of which we do not speak in April – although, truth be told, I’m trying to look forward to it this year. Probably spend it on the Dragon. Now that the Jeep is all souped up, I’ll have to get new photos up there – and, of course, gotta get the bike up there. Sorry, kinda wandered off-topic. So, BJ turned 8, and he had cake, as always. He’s doing really well – he had some hip issues last year, but the daily Cosequin really seems to be helping. Great advice from my vet. I don’t understand people who have pets and never take them for basic veterinary care. Pets are a responsibility; not just something to dump off when it conflicts with your social schedule or are too self-centered to provide basic health needs. Grr. Some people just don’t have a heart. Or a soul. More specifically, some people just suuuuuuck.

And good news for the puppers, there was snow. Unexpected, of course. At least we got one snowfall for the pups to play in. And the Jeep (but that was prior to the mods) and the BMW. I’ll take it. It was the best kind of snow; a lot in the morning, and gone by the end of the day.

Of course, now that the Jeep is all souped up, it’ll probably never snow again. But at least I got out on the bike. That’s something.

There’s been a little adventure, as well. Not much, but a little. I went back to Falling Water Falls, which is always awesome, and then returned to Signal Point/Rainbow Lake and Edwards Point. These are some of my favorite places. The hiking is amazing, the scenery is spectacular, and wrapping up at River Drifters is always a bonus (OK, not Hot Chocolatier bonus, but a bonus all the same). However, tomorrow, there will be adventure. Much needed adventure. Watch this space.

Now, I need to go wash all my hoodies. Because of course I do.

Links:
Falling Water/Rainbow Lake/Edwards Point Photo Album on Facebook

Poof.

There was a bad car crash near where I live last night. Van crossed the centerline, hit a car head-on, no survivors. Those people were just going about their day, maybe looking forward to some future plans for the evening or weekend, and then…poof. Gone. In the blink of an eye. Senseless. Now, I tempt the Grim Reaper all the time – I’m pretty sure he and Mother Nature have been comparing notes via WhatsApp to see where I am and what I’m doing. Dying doesn’t scare me, if it’s in one of my pursuits – that is, if I get bitten by a rattlesnake, run over by a speedboat in the kayak, fall off a mountain, or take a curve with a little too much gusto on the motorbike, well, at least I’m doing something I enjoy. But just driving along in my car, minding my own business? Nope. In that split-second before impact, I’d wonder who would know? Who would care? The world would just keep on spinning. Point is – and it’s a point I’ve made before – if you have something to say, don’t put it off. If there’s something you want, get it. Or at least try. Life is short and fragile, and there’s no guarantee that there’s a tomorrow for any of us.

You’ll recall I ordered wheel spacers for the Adventure Buggy last week. Well, in a moment of “f*ck it”, I decided to go ahead and order a lift kit for the thing as well. I want better ground clearance, and I want the biggest tires I can get, if I’m gonna buy new ones, anyway. The MFC lift is supposed to be the gold standard, and Jesse at MFC is a great guy. So, why not? I’ve already talked to my mechanic, and he can install it, no prob. I could do it myself in the driveway, but it would be sloooow. Lift one corner, do that corner, lift the next corner, do that corner, blah, blah. With a car lift, my guy can knock it out in no time, and presumably, he can get the tires, so I’ll just do it all at once, and then add the wheel spacers when they (eventually) show up.

The weather has been lousy. If it’s not-sub-freezing temps, it’s raining. One or the other – but never both at the same time. Grr. But it’s got me missing a few things. Missing riding the motorbike. Missing being in the kayak. Missing a hot day on a trail in the middle of nowhere. Other things I’m missing, as well, but you get the idea. I’m so ready for this winter to be over – this has truly been the winter of my discontent. I have things to do, and not much time to do them in. This past year has been…not great, and I’m really hoping 2020 will be better. Yeah, I know hoping isn’t gonna make it happen – but I’m still ever the optimist, despite all appearances. I guess we’ll see what happens. Or what doesn’t happen. Whichever.

My newfangled weather station just sent me an alert that the rain has started. That’s the only upside to this weather – the forecast indicates I’ll get to see some action on the weather station over the next 24 hours. Roomba is puttering around right now, doing it’s thing. The Ring camera network caught a coyote – a coyote! – wandering around in the driveway after I left for the gym this morning. All the gadgets are doing exactly what they’re supposed to be doing, and so far, no Terminator-like uprising. Roomba has been looking at me funny, but I think that’s just because I put googly eyes on it. Seriously.

Meh.

So, it’s been awhile since I added anything here. Like, two months. Not surprisingly, not much has changed in two months, but I guess the upside is that I made it through the holidays without jumping in front of a bus (well, there’s still MLK to get through)(and some other holiday in February, of which we do not speak). I think it’s safe to say I’ve hit rock-bottom with the holidays, so nowhere to go but up, right? Right? Anyway, I’m not sure i want to keep writing here, but I do kinda miss it, and I get lots of emails asking me what’s going on, or where the latest adventure has taken me. So, here we are.

I have been super, super busy, and not just with work (but yeah, work is nuts – NAMM; say what you will about She Who Shall Not Be Named, but she was always super-supportive during NAMM, and I really appreciate/miss that kind of support this time of year). Anyway, I’ve been finding things to occupy my mind, and been trying to forget/ignore that I have steered waaaaay off the ol’ diet. I didn’t fall off the diet wagon – I parkoured that shit, stuck the landing, and got a 9.9 from the Romanian judge. Damn you, on-sale Boo Berry, tasty donuts and Chinese buffet. Next week, I’ll get back on track. Promise.

I had a ton of stuff to do around the house – new furniture, remodeled/freshened the kitchen, other new accoutrements. In the kitchen, I did some pretty awesome work with AirStone, which turned out amazing (when I wasn’t taking a break to fall off of a mountain, that is). However, the stone work completely shredded my hands, and while I was cutting the synthetic blocks (on a tile saw), a chunk flew off and impaled me in the eye, but it just wouldn’t be a good project if no blood was spilled. I also added a faux hammered pewter backsplash, which also turned out quite nice. Oh, and what kicked off the kitchen work was re-framing the above-sink window, and adding a sill for plants and what-not. Anyway, I needed a good project – being handy is a privilege, not a right. I’ll make somebody a good wife someday. Yeah, I know what you’re thinking – not likely.

The stone work turned out so good, I’m thinking about doing some additional work with it. It really makes a big, boring wall come alive, and relatively speaking, it wasn’t that hard. Same with the backsplash – changed the whole tone of the room, but wasn’t really that difficult. Total for the re-kitchening was only around $500. Worth it.

Ambient Weather WS-2902ABut playing Bob Vila isn’t even close to everything I’ve been dipping my toes into. I’ve been getting into home automation. I bought a Roomba (which the puppers just love, and the thing is seriously awesome), and tied it into my Alexa system (I think I’m up to 3 Echo Shows, 3 Dots, and the big Alexa), along with 3 Ring outdoor cameras (a doorbell on the house, a doorbell on the barn, and one awesomely-hidden solar-powered one). I can view all of the cameras from anywhere in the world, or even talk to people that are “on film”, just like the commercials. Finally, I’ll know which pup is digging holes in the back yard – but I’m looking at you, Tonka. Anyway, there’s also the Nest thermostat, a Firestick (so I can see the Ring cameras on my TV via a Harmony hub) and a few other gadgets, including several TP-Link Kasa bulbs and a couple of Tiles. It’s elaborate and complicated to set up, but so was the Starship Enterprise. It all works like a charm – but I can’t imagine a layperson trying to make it work the way I have; I just have a knack for this type of thing.


So, now I can control practically everything, just by yelling into the air like a crazy person. Roomba does it’s thing every morning in the Wee Small Hours, I get notifications (and recordings) if anything is going on outside, and I can adjust the temperature, lights, TV and other stuff without moving a muscle – kinda like the people in Wall-E, which I guess is my goal. Oh, and I set up a weather station (Ambient Weather WS2902-A, to be exact), which also works via my Alexa network, and it’s broadcasting to the WeatherUnderground (my station ID is KTNCHATT180, if you want to see if it’s raining on my head or whatever; and you’ll note there’s a WU icon in the top menu icon bar now). Stunningly, I did not fall off the roof or the mast that the solar-powered weather sensor array (pictured) is mounted on. And it’s way up there. I’m using IFTTT, so I’ve got all kinds of nifty things happening – for example, if there are wind gusts over 30 MPH, my inside lights blink. If it starts to rain, I get an alert on my phone so I can put the motorbikes in the barn if necessary. If there’s a severe weather warning, the TV switches to the Weather Channel. If the doorbell rings and Roomba is running, it goes back to its base until I tell it (via Alexa) to resume. IFTTT is cool stuff – and clearly, I have too much free time and/or disposable income.

Speaking of too much of things, I now have an official drone fleet. That is, two drones. Two drones that were hit by a global GPS outage when the calendar flipped to 2020 (now fixed). Why two drones, you ask? Why not? So, I spent the better part of a day updating the software and firmware in both of them to correct the GPS issue, and had to update my FAA license to reflect the addition of the second one – and if that doesn’t impress you, I don’t know what will. The big plus to adding the second one was that I now have 8 batteries (and they aren’t cheap – about 100 schmeckles/each). So, I have several hours of flight time at my disposal now (plus, since I have an inverter in the Jeep, I can charge them on the road).

Oh, and the Jeep. Yeah, there’s always tinkering there. This time, major tinkering. First of all, I finally broke down and bought a big-ass winch. It’s actually pretty cool – unlike those front-mounted winches you’ve probably seen, mine mounts in the trailer hitch on the rear (had to buy the cradle to hold it, as well), so I only have to put it on if I get stuck. Installing it was a chore – it didn’t work out of the box; I found there was an intermittent short in the control housing where two wires were making contact, but I was able to fix that (because I can mend anything), but with that part of the job done now, it’s pretty cool. Crawling around under the Jeep to run the wiring harness (which I also had to buy) was a pain, but the install looks very professional. The whole package wasn’t cheap, but I don’t go cheap, because cheap doesn’t work in the woods – it has a 10,000 lb capacity, so I guess, technically, I could pull two vehicles at once out of the muck. Now, I don’t intend to do that – I just don’t want to get stuck myself. Or, y’know, if I come across a cute girl stuck in the mud or something. Any opportunity to be chivalrous and/or a show-off, because that’s worked out for me so well thus far.


But there’s more to come on the Jeep. I ordered a set of Bora wheel spacers, which are exactly what they sound like – spacers to to push the wheels/tires farther out from the axle so that bigger tires can be installed. As soon as they arrive (in a week or two), then bigger tires. I love the All-Terrain T/A tires I have now – despite how stupidly expensive they are – so I’ll be getting those in a bigger size. The bigger tires and winch are going to allow me to get to even more remote trailheads and kayak put-ins, which is what it’s all about.

And, of course, there’s been adventure. Over the past two months, I’ve seen some very cool stuff, and travelled all over. Without a doubt, the most interesting thing I saw was the almost-unknown Templeton Library in Sewanee:

Templeton Library

I kinda accidentally found out about this place, and after reading about it on Atlas Obscura, I had to visit. Made a nice hike out of it, as well. I have a feeling many of my adventures for the next couple of months will be ones like this – the 20-mile hikes and similar activities are gonna take a little hiatus. Because reasons.

Hemlock Falls, Denny CoveThere’s been so much more. I’m not even sure where to start or where I left off. I guess I must’ve left off with the first trip to Sparta. Since then, I’ve been back to Sparta 3 other times. Virgin Falls from the Virgin Falls trailhead (Movescount data), Lost Creek Falls (Movescount data) and Something-or-Other (let’s just call it the “C” word, of which we do not speak), and Virgin Falls from the Lost Creek Trailhead (Movescount data), followed by a return visit to Fall Creek Falls (Movescount data).

Then, there was South Cumberland on Christmas Day, covering Sherwood Forest (Movescount data), Grundy Lakes (Movescount data), Denny Cove, the town of Cowan; and New Year’s Day at the aforementioned Templeton Library (Movescount data), and St. Mary’s Convent (seriously), plus some Jeepin’ in Franklin State Forest. In between, Middle Creek, where I fell off a mountain, and a return for a full hike at Denny Cove (Movescount data) and Hemlock Falls (pictured). Lots of miles in the boots, and many miles in the Jeep. There have been other adventures – holiday lights at the Zoo, bowling, a couple of bike rides – but that’s the bulk of the activities, and really, and all I want to get into right now. Of course, the Master Adventure Map has been updated to reflect all these new trails, and even if I can’t do a bunch of miles for a bit, I’m planning. I just got an email that Punkin Center opens on March 7th, so I’ll be taking the motorbike up to the Dragon for some adventure there (which bike? Haven’t decided.), and I’m sure I’ll get into some things between now and then. I’ve decided this year is (finally) going to be my year – I’m going to cut off the dead weight, and make some drastic and significant changes. If you want to be a part of it, say so now, or forever shut up.

There we go. All caught up.

Links:
Virgin Falls 1 Photo Album on Facebook
Lost Creek Photo Album on Facebook
Virgin Falls 2 Photo Album on Facebook
South Cumberland Photo Album on Facebook
Middle Creek Photo Album on Facebook
Templeton Library and St. Mary’s Photo Album on Facebook
Denny Cove Photo Album on Facebook

All Good Things…

Well, kids, I guess this is it. It’s been obvious to the trained observer that for the past couple of months, I’ve been toying with shutting all this down, and I guess I’ve made that decision. Probably – although I’ve been told that I shouldn’t. Life has just been too much…life lately, and I don’t have the motivation to continue documenting my adventures. And fitness/diet? Forget it – I will tell you diet fans, though, that stress-eating is a real thing, and stress will absolutely wreck you. I mean, like, really wreck you – so, if you read between those lines, yeah, I’m wrecked right now. But I’ll get my mojo back, eventually.

Anyway, because I’ve put so much effort into this stupid thing, I just can’t bring myself to pull the plug entirely. There’s too much valuable info here for you guys – trail maps, links to gear, my incessant babbling and that kind of thing. I’ve tried just closing up shop a couple of times (including the past few days as well as right now), but it makes me queasy. So, I’ll leave the light on, but don’t expect any updates. Oh, sure, if something interesting happens – I get creamed on the motorbike or something – I may toss a pic up, but don’t count on it (although I will always continue to update the Master Adventure Map). All that said, snaps to all of you for the great messages and other cool stuff I’ve gotten over the years from you lot. And whatever your journey is – weight-loss, getting in shape, exploring the world around you, or just needing the occasional chuckle, just keep at it. Whatever your goals are, you can do it. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise, and don’t let anyone stand in your way of what you want. And when you’re at the end of whatever rope you happen to be on, just hang in there, and surround yourself with your fans. Surround yourself with people that make your life better, and that want to be a part of your life, and make you a priority in theirs. Surround yourself with people who will be there for you when you need them, and are counting on you to be there for them. Surround yourself with the love and support of people who are genuinely interested in your journey, all the time – not just when it’s convenient or when they’re bored. Surround yourself with people that want to walk with you, not on you. You probably have more people around you like this than you realize. Maybe I do, as well.

End of speech.

OK, let’s get into it, one last time.

THIS…IS…SPARTA!

Saturday, after more than 48 hours awake, I jumped in the Jeep, and hit the road. The first stop, the small town of Sparta (Movescount data), a good hour north of me. The town is very quaint, with interesting little shops, great old architecture, a compelling centuries-old cemetery, and – don’t judge me – an awesome donut shop. It’s a small town – only a couple miles wandering around, but very pleasant.

Nice to be back.

Next, on up the road to Burgess Falls (Movescount data). This is one of the most spectacular waterfalls in the area, and with a little bit of fall color still on display, this was a perfect time to visit. Practically no one there, either, which was awesome. The water was a little low, so the waterfall wasn’t on full display, but it’s still amazing. I also got to explore a little more than the last time I was here. Not a huge amount of steps, but still, well worth the drive. For better or for worse (and that’s a poor choice of words), Burgess will always be a special place to me.

Spectacular.

The last major stop of the day was at the hang-gliding flight park up on the mountain. I’ve ridden my motorbike up here before, and it’s one of my favorite places, as the views cannot be beaten. There was no one flying, and no one at the park at all. Very peaceful place to watch the sun begin to set. I may come back some day when people are flying, but based on various things I’ve read, the people that congregate here are kinda…obnoxious. I’ll never understand why people get obsessive about their hobbies, and act like they’re better than everyone else because of their leisure activities. I mean, I ride on road and off road motorbikes, I’ve done a century ride on my MTB, I’ve hiked an actual marathon (and hiked thousands of miles in general), and I’ve paddled hundreds of miles across 3 states; plus drone flying, surfing, juggling, unicycling, and playing the hell out of a good guitar. But I don’t think – or act – like I’m superior to people who haven’t done these things. My preference is to include people in my adventures and activities, regardless of their skill level, not look down on them. But that’s just me. I try not to be an asshole.

I know I look like hell. Don’t judge.

So, after all of that, some exploring on top of the mountain, and then the long way back to town, because everybody has to be somewhere. Not many miles actually walking/hiking, but close to 200 miles driving. For a day that started out terribly, it wound up being not too bad, and “not too bad” is about the best I dare hope for.

Closed for the season. The Harley Shop, not me. OK, me, too.

Now, Sunday was a much-needed epic Grand Prix of an adventure. See, I had intentions of going away this weekend, but as is always the case, that fell apart – but Sunday definitely made up for it, with a triumphant return to the Tail and the Dragon, and new exploring on the Cherohala Skyway. More than 300 miles from the starting point in town and back, plus another 30 or 40 miles to the Casa de Me. Up with the Dawn Patrol, and back late into the night, but an amazing adventure to close out things here.

I need this in my yard.

The Dragon is quickly becoming on of my favorite places, but I really need to get the motorbike up here. I guess that’ll be in the spring, as the Deal’s Gap Motorcycle Resort and all of the ancillary shops are closed for the season. I tried to go this year, but it just didn’t happen – by spring, hopefully, my weekends of expecting to do something and then being let down will be a distant memory in the rear-view mirror, so once things start turning green again, I can start making my plans. For now, though, a day spent exploring the mountains along the TN/NC border was just what the doctor ordered what I needed.

I finally got my rain guards installed, but my passenger window is still screwed up. I see a very expensive visit to the dealership in my near future.

This was my second time on the Dragon, but my first trip ever on the Skyway, and it did not disappoint. Lots of pull-offs and trails to explore, with a stunning elevation peak of 5240 feet. All together, about 97 miles from the Highway 129 Harley shop at the head of the Dragon, to the Cherohala Harley shop at the tail end of the Skyway. Hundreds of twists and turns, amazing scenery in the Cherokee and Nantahala National Forests, and lots of pins of places to explore in the spring. Maybe this will be enough to get me through the long, long winter.

So long, North Carolina.

Beyond the Dragon and Skyway, lots of additional exploring, including the Tapoco Lodge, the Cherohala Biker Gear shop (and a great chat with a guy who has a Phantom like mine, and a girl on a Yamaha FZ), the Blue Water Resort campground, the Dayton boat ramp, the town of Robbinsville in North Carolina, and really, just about anything that looked interesting. This is how to road trip properly – a loose agenda, with no real plan. I’m normally a planner, but not having a specific itinerary was just the break my brain needed.

click for larger, or Movescount data

Unfortunately, after the desperately-needed mental health weekend, now, it’s back to reality, and my reality is nothing to envy. At least, not right now. I have a ton of stuff I’m giving away (seriously, how hard should it be to give stuff away for free?), I must get back on track with my diet after a weekend of culinary debauchery, work is…work, and the never-ending shitshow continues. There’s other stuff, as well, but nothing worth getting into. It is what it is, right?

So, with all of that, this is your ol’ pal Kevio, signing off. Hopefully, I’ll see you somewhere out on the long and lonesome road, or maybe at the Starbucks or something. “The amusement park is closed, folks. The moose out front should have told you.”

Handy, man.

I have a pile of lumber sitting in my yard. Yeah, I’ve gone a little nuts on the shopping, again. I have contractors coming today to install a new French door (‘freedom door’?), but the lumber is for another project. I’m gonna build steps off the deck on my bedroom, to make it easier on potential murderers and stuff to creep in in the middle of the night and do what they do. Actually, it’ll also be so I can pop right out when I go to the gym without waking the puppers at 3 AM. I need a project – but not installing a French door single-handedly; it’s a two-person job, and I don’t know anyone who’d make the time to take me to the hospital if I had a spear through my head, much less take a few hours to help me install a door (ironically, though, I know plenty of people who’d want me to install a door or something for them). I miss having projects. I was thinking about the house remodel I did just prior to the Great Unpleasantness, and that really was good times. Gutted and expanded a bathroom (jacuzzi – noice), remodeled the kitchen, my office – really, the entire house, including all the landscaping. I learned how to do slate tile, plumbing, hardwood flooring, HVAC, cabinetry, electrical, lighting and ceiling fans, foundations, plants – really, everything you’d need to know (and I already knew quite a bit). It turned out amazing. I guess I’m handy to have around, just ask – well, just take my word for it. Maybe someday, I’ll take on another major remodel, because it really was a great time, not to mention an awesome team-building exercise (if you know what I mean). Say what you will about *ahem* that person and what she did; she was an awesome remodel partner, and did a great job helping. Maybe that’s what I actually miss – the camaraderie of tackling a project as a team. Dunno. Perhaps I should start looking at buying a project house? Wouldn’t be any “team”, though, unless me and a box of doughnuts counts as a team. Team Fatass. Yeah, that works. Anyway, I’m looking forward to my little step project, although that won’t be a big deal. Just gotta find the time – I’m planning on going away this weekend, so maybe next week.

Now is the winter of our discount tent.

And that’s not all the shopping I’ve done. I finally got around to ordering the tent I’ve had my eye on, along with appropriate camping accessories. It’s nice – it’s a “blackout tent”, meaning it blocks out most of the sunlight during the day, and people can’t see in (because no one wants to see that). So, I’ve got to plan a camping trip – maybe that’ll be next weekend. Maclellan Island or Williams Island, via kayak, perhaps. That’s one of my bucket list items, anyway.

There was other shopping, but stuff I’ll probably just end up pitching. I’ve tossed almost as much stuff as I’ve bought in the past couple of months. You know how much personalized carabiners cost? Here’s a hint: a lot. Grr.

“Alexa, make my life not suck and order some Cap’n Crunch.”

Oh, I also got the new Echo Show – it’s the newer Alexa device with a screen. I have a bunch of these now – I ordered one as an ungiven gift last month, plus I already had several other Alexa devices. The beauty of the Show is I’ll be able to pair it with external cameras, so I can see what’s going on outside. I already have outdoor security cameras (and, boy, the things they’ve seen) plus cameras on the Jeep and Thing 1 (ditto – they’ve really seen some shit), so it’ll be cool to tie them all together. I’d really like to try the video chat functionality, but I don’t know anyone else that has one – besides, I’m pretty sure I have a face for radio.

I have also continued to dramatically downsize. I have too much junk. I think my sentimental days may be (finally) coming to a close. Not much point in that, really.

Hello, ladies.

As if all that wasn’t enough, it’s also that time of year again – pup pics with Santa at the mall. I think this year, I’ll forego being in the pics myself, and just let the puppers be with Santa. I know what I look like, and honestly, two fat guys and two dogs is just kinda sad. I’ve always hoped that it would be different, but it never is. Meh. Still, I can let the boys have their fun – and they are always a huge hit at the mall (yeah, we have to walk a couple of laps, mostly so the goths at Hot Topic can ask, “Are those wolves”?). The mall is doing the photo shoots 5 times this year, so at least I’ll have time for a do-over if I don’t like the final result.

Yeah, like you didn’t know.

I guess that means I need to get the “Naughty” Chuck Taylors out, as well. So, there’s one good thing about the holidays.

Oh, and someone sent me this: Stay Single Until You Find Someone Who Puts Effort Into Pursuing You Every Day. That’s a 12-piece bucket of truth right there (although the pronouns should be gender-neutral; I could easily replace “his” with “hers” and “boyfriend” with “girlfriend” and still have a good read).

My current jam:

Roll With the Changes.

I am still on my self-imposed social media hiatus – kinda – but that hasn’t stopped me from actively trying to kill myself in every way possible out in Mother Nature. So far, no luck. I was, however, beaten on a trail for only the 3rd time ever (and the other two I subsequently conquered). No matter – I’ll just go back and take a different tack at some point in the future.

That said, there’s been some of this…

Stevenson Branch

click for larger, or Movescount data

…a little bit of this…

North Chick Creek Gorge

click for larger, or Movescount data

…and some balloons, just to keep things festive.

Balloons

click for larger, or Movescount data

Oh, and this.

Do these jeans make me look fat? No, but the Cinnabon cinnamon swirl cheesecake does.

Oh, sure, I have plenty to say about all of that, as well as other things, but time (as always) isn’t on my side right now. For today, the biggest adventure ever. Not dangerous, except to my credit card balances. Hey, you can’t take it with you, right?