Monthly Archives: January 2020

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