Category Archives: Videos

With This Ring.

Things move fast over here, kids. I’m not one to just sit around and let life pass me by – and to that end, I’ve been turbo-busy these first almost-three weeks of 2021.

I’m not quite as fat as my clothes of many layers make me look. Not *quite*.

Last weekend, a great hike – and reconnecting with one of my best hiking friends I haven’t seen in a long time – at McGill Creek and Graysville Mountain. It was cold, windy and gray, but still, a really good hike. I just recently read about the new bridge across the Creek, and any chance to go check out a deep woods bridge, I jump on. The plan was only to do about 5ish miles to the bridge and back, but you know me – it ended up being an 11-mile marathon. After the hike to the bridge, the decision was made to scale Graysville Mountain to find the waterfall and overlook, both of which were accomplished. It’s be a while since I did 11 miles in one shot, and it felt pretty good.

Sunday, reconnecting with someone else I haven’t seen in forever for some light trekking in North Chick Creek Gorge. After Saturday’s adventure, I didn’t really feel like doing a long one – plus, I had to go see my pals at Home Depot and flex that plastic a little bit (OK, a lot). Pretty good weekend – in fact, one the better weekends I’ve had in awhile. 2021 is treating me OK – so far.

I’m a lumberjack and something something…

Now, this weekend – well, your ol’ pal here very nearly went to sing with the choir eternal. You’ll recall I mentioned a couple of dangerous trees that needed to come down, right? Well, I decided to tackle one of them, in between my many other projects. Let me tell you, dudes and dudettes, I thought I had pressed my luck on this one – life flashed before my eyes and everything (and yeah, I was bored). To make a long story short, the Big Dead Tree didn’t want to come down. At all. I’ll spare you all the physics and safety lectures, and obviously I survived – but if that tree had been about 6 feet taller, it would have driven me into the ground like a plastic tent spike. That’s the downside of doing something like this without a spotter/little helper. One of these days, I’m definitely gonna get killed to death in the yard.

The upside is that I now have a big brush pile for burning, suitable for your finest vestal virgins, Viking funeral or whatever. And before I piled up all the brush, I shovelled out the fire pit – 3 big loads in my wagon, from years and years of burning. I’ve been burning a lot lately, and the next suitable day, I’ll be out there again. Until then, I guess I need to get out there with my mighty stump grinder; as many trees as I’ve taken down, I’m now flush with stumps that need to be removed (and I’ve already ground down probably 20 of them). Fingers crossed, that thing doesn’t try to kill me again.

Anyway, I now have a nearly clear view all the way down to the bottom of the driveway, which was the goal, because reasons. Even one of the Ring cameras can see down there now.

And speaking of the Ring cameras, well, I’ve kinda gone a little nuts with the Ring gear. Anything worth doing is worth overdoing, and to that end, I now have eight Ring floodlights scattered about, along with 6 Ring cameras (and more on the way). I’ve spent more Benjis than I care to think about, but I guess you gotta do what you gotta do. The Ring stuff is the bee’s knees – basically, if any camera detects motion, all the lights come on (and can probably be seen from space), and any adjacent cameras start recording (and boy, howdy – the things they’ve seen). Equally, if any light detects motion, all the lights come one, and the cameras in that area start recording. It is super, super cool. Installing all that stuff was a chore – especially single-handedly. Up and down the ladder, fetching tools, having one hand too few in some cases – seriously, I need a little helper. But I’m used to doing things on my own (or for others – there are people out there that treat me like God; that is, they ignore my existence unless they need something).

Hello, ladies.

That’s not all – I added 8 TP-Link Kasa smart plugs, to go with the half-dozen Kasa bulbs, exterior rope lights and my pimpalicious Kasa LEDs I put on the back of my headboard. Between the Ring stuff, Kasa stuff, numerous Alexas, smart fan, Logitech bridge, Roomba and my mastery of IFTTT, before long, I’ll never have to get up. Next on my list, to tie the Kasa plugs/bulbs into motion sensors, because why not? Oh, and I’ve decided I’m leaving my holiday lights up in perpetuity. I’m gonna be festive, dammit – and they actually look nice on my deck, especially with the rope lights (and yeah, I added rope lights to the barn, as promised – for reals, my yard looks like Las Vegas).

Not a bad view every morning.

Now, I can finally stop to catch my breath. For a minute. There’s a lot of other stuff going on right now – planning a paddle, hoping to return to the Dragon (maybe even on the BMW), thinking about heading south for some much needed beach time. Never a dull moment.

Tomorrow, the iPhone 12 Pro will be here, so I’ll be geeking out on that, I’m sure. Clearly, I dig the gadgets.

Oh, and admit it – when you saw the title of this post, you thought I got engaged or something, right? Yeah – I don’t see that happening. I think I’ve learned that lesson.

I’m Stumped.

Welp, here it is, December 1st. Again. And to kick off December, Mother Nature decided to tease the puppers with a little overnight snow.

Not enough to make a snowman, mind you (unless it’s a really small one), but it’s something, anyway – and makes for nice views on the Ring cameras.

Speaking of, I’ve added another new Ring camera, and I have yet another one on order, which I intend to do something…interesting with. You’d think having cameras all around the house, yard and barn would be sufficient, but evidently, it isn’t. I also added a Ring solar step light on the deck, and it’s awesome. It’s motion-activated, and when it detects motion, the cameras start recording. I dig this Ring stuff, and the new features they’ve added to the app makes it that much better.

I also added 4 strands of rope lights on the deck on my bedroom, controlled automagically (naturally) with a Kasa outdoor smart plug. Works great, just like all my other Kasa bulbs and plugs. When I have the time, I’ll need to get into IFTTT and make them do some really neat things.


OK, maybe not that neat.

In other shopping and chore-related news, I splurged and ordered…a stump grinder (you have my permission to swoon). If that doesn’t impress you, I don’t know what will. Hiring someone to grind stumps is stupidly expensive (trust me, I’ve done it before), so eventually, the cost-benefit analysis dictates just buying the tool versus renting the person, even if the tool is also stupidly expensive. I have at least a dozen stumps right now I need to deal with, and I suspect it’s going to be an awesome workout, as long as I don’t cut my leg off or something (the perils of working alone, I guess). One thing I’ll have to figure out is how to move it (it weighs close to 300 pounds). It has a hitch adapter, so I could tow it with the Jeep, but around the yard, the tractor should suffice, so I’ll need to see if a standard ball-hitch will fit the tractor bumper mount (and I suspect it will – but if not, I’m actually pretty smart). I have a spare ball hitch anyway; the old one from before I lifted the Jeep.

Of course, I’ve been looking for an excuse to buy an ATV, so there’s that. I mean, I was prepared to buy a dirt bike back in October for no reason (kinda), so buying an ATV when I have a reason – towing my fancy stump grinder – doesn’t seem that far-fetched. Plus, an ATV would make building my tentative campsite out in the woods much easier.

Anyway, I also bought a new gas-powered leaf blower-leaf vacuum combo over the weekend, because of course I did. I have an electric one (Addendum: Two electric ones; I found my other one – anyone want it? I certainly don’t need two of them.), which is better than nothing, and two old gas-powered ones. One of those is just Tango-Uniform, and the other kinda works, but weighs a ton (it’s probably 30 or more years old), and just not that great. The new one is powerful, lightweight, and can vacuum and mulch leaves or blow them. That’s some real Star Trek shit right there. Regardless, yay, chores, and Merry Christmas to me – I always get myself the best gifts. And that’s good, because it’s not like anyone else is going to. I completely understand why the Grinch wanted to live alone with his dog.

Speaking of Mr. Grinch, I did get my trees set up. My amazing Grinch tree from last year, and my Charlie Brown tree (see a theme here?). I had intended to get my projection lights done in the backyard as well, but I need long outdoor extension cords for that, and I…need to go buy some, I guess. It’s always something.

So, ramping up to Christmas and then NAMM. Ugh, holidays. Although for the first time in recent memory, my Thanksgiving wasn’t terrible. It was actually pretty good. Of course, it didn’t last; it never does. At least my life is consistent, and I’ve got Hulu (just resubscribed) and Ninja Sex Party to entertain me.

Empty.

Well, suddenly, I guess my Bucket List is empty. At least empty of the activities and adventures I wanted to accomplish before the inevitable march of time does its thing. Sure, there are still places I’d like to see, things I’d like to do, but nothing I’m going to regret not doing if my number gets called tomorrow. Of course, there are non-activities that I would like to accomplish, but I think it’s pretty safe to say that at this point, those things are…unlikely. That’s just something I’ll have to learn to accept.

Georgia Alabama State Line

So, the last bucket list item was like so many others: accomplished, but not the way I had hoped or expected. But accomplished, nonetheless. In this case, it was bicycling the entire 66-mile Chief Ladiga Trail, which completed my conquest of the Silver Comet Trail/Chief Ladiga Trail systems. Nearly 185 miles across Georgia and Alabama, spread over 4 rides. The Chief Ladiga ride took 2 days of riding, not to mention hours in the Jeep getting there and getting back. And, like so many of the other Bucket List Adventures, there was no brass band waiting at the end. It was just…done. And y’know, I don’t even really have much to say about it. I went, I rode, I tried to clear my head (which appears to have been wasted effort), came back to the same shitshow I left. Am I surprised? Not even a little bit.

Chief Ladiga Trail

This should have been a really big deal. Not that many people have biked the entire SCT/CLT, and it really takes a lot of deep digging to do it, even if it is spread over 4 rides (which, FYI, makes my average about 46.25 miles for each ride – do you know anyone that can ride 46 miles? Can you?). But I guess it wasn’t, and that was less about the ride, and more about the circumstances of the ride. Just like the recent Tail of the Dragon motorbike trip – I did it, I’m glad I did it, but it just wasn’t the way I hoped or expected it would be. That has been a recurring theme in my life over the past year or so.

So, I guess “done” will just have to do. I can’t see any reason I’ll ever go back, having done the complete trail system. Generally, once I scratch something off the list, I move on – but now, there’s nothing really to move on to. I do have one other thing I’ve been kicking around doing on the motorbike, and I might shoot for that this weekend, while I still can. Something dangerous (like most motorbike adventures), and something I definitely should NOT be doing alone, but hey, doing all these other things alone hasn’t killed me – there are plenty of other things trying to do that.

CLT

In any event, I’ve ridden the entire Silver Comet/Chief Ladiga Trail. Yay, me. No one really cares, but yay, me.

With that said, I feel like I kinda need to address something, since I probably won’t have much – if anything – to add here in the future, and the world is probably gonna end, anyway. I’ve made no secret about my opinion of how people are behaving during this whole pandemic. I stand by those statements. Furthermore, I would never, ever do something so careless, selfish and foolish that might jeopardize the health of people I care about. There was a concert I really wanted to go to last week, and another next month was just announced. Did I/will I? No. There have been people who’ve asked me to do things with them. Will I? No. I might do something if it was socially-distanced, and ONLY if I knew the health status of every single person involved (so, you can probably figure out the under/over on that). There’s too much on the line – those closest to me know what I’m referring to; the rest of you, trust me. And now, with things taking a turn for the (much) worse, this is even more important. So, I’m going to just settle in for a long winter by myself, just like last winter (although for different reasons). I spent the last Long, Lonely Winter doing stuff around the house, and there’s always house stuff to do. I’d also like to do some improvements in the barn, to see if I can squeeze 3 motorbikes in there (yeah, I came very, very close to buying another bike about 2 weeks ago – a pure dirt bike, because *cough* reasons. Found one I liked, went to look at it, had the cash in my hand, and [luckily] then backed out at the last second. Still doesn’t mean I won’t get a third bike at some point, though.). I’m sure I’ll find stuff to do to keep busy. Anyway, it’s better to be safe than dead (I think), and I’m not so selfish that I would even consider hurting anyone in my orbit. Or not in my orbit. Whether or not you believe me, those are the facts. The rest of you, go to Applebees or hang out with your friends or hook up or do whatever it is you think is more important than your health and the health of those around you. I have a completely clear conscious.

On a completely unrelated note, I was behind a young woman in the checkout line at WM the other day, and to make a long story short, she didn’t have enough money for her essentials and a bag of Halloween candy for (I assume) her kids. So, after giving it back to the cashier and completing her purchase, I asked her to wait a sec so I could pay for her candy. She cried. Now, I’m not telling you this to humblebrag (honest) – I was in kind of a dark place at the time (go figure), and I felt like I needed a little good karma. I know you’re wondering how that worked out for me – well, really, do you even need to ask? But you don’t do a good deed in hope of a reward, just like you don’t keep your promises in order to get a pat on the back. You do these things because they are the right things to do, and I do these things – good deeds, keep promises, stand up for the little guy – because contrary to some people’s opinions, I’m not an asshole. Imagine that.

Anyway, stay safe. I guess. Whatever. Meanwhile, Paul Young.



Link:
Chief Ladiga Trail Photo Album on Facebook

Dragon Slayer.

Welp, here we are, once more. It’s been a while since I added anything here, and – as usual – it’s been a tumultuous couple of months. Second verse, same as the first.

But there was Really Big News worth reporting, which is why I’m writing now. I’ve had a few adventures these past months; some good, some bad, some not worth thinking too much about. The Master Adventure Map is somewhat significantly updated, though. But the Really Big News is this: I finally rode the Tail of the Dragon.

Tail of the Dragon

And no, not just in the Jeep like I’ve done before. Although I did take the Jeep down the Dragon with the motorcycle in tow before making a run on the bike. I wanted the cool professional photos of the Jeep/trailer, but I also wanted to scout the road on 4 wheels before running it on 2, just so I’d have fresh in my mind anything I needed to be conscious of – potholes, oil, downed trees, etc.

Tail of the Dragon

Prior to the trip, significant work on the trailer was required. For one thing, since I lifted the Jeep last spring, I needed a new trailer hitch that dropped lower (so the trailer was level). And when I hooked it up, I found out that the lights were all squirrely. A real head-scratcher; they worked if the headlights were on, but the turn signals were backwards. They kinda worked on one side if the headlights were off. That kind of weirdness. To make a long story short, it was a combination of old bulbs in the trailer, and a short in the aftermarket LED bumper lights in the Jeep. A real pain to sort out single handedly, too – had to set up a mirror so I could see what the lights were doing when I hit the brakes and what-not. Have I mentioned I need a little helper? Feel free to drop me your resume and qualifications.

Tail of the Dragon

Anyway, after the test run in the cage, the real goal – getting out there on the motorbike. This is something I’ve been talking about for years (seriously), and it was exciting to finally be actually doing it, even if it was solo. For at least the past two years, I’ve been hoping to go, but something always got in the way – work, weather, mechanical stuff, life (ahem), but this time, the stars all lined up. Best of all, I didn’t die (OK, I guess that’s a matter of perspective). No real incidents of any kind. The run was fast and nice, and of course I mapped it using my fancy Suunto GPS watch – see the Movescount data right here. I started early enough that I missed the throng of afternoon riders (the road was just starting to get really crowded on my way back from the Deal’s Gap Motorcycle Resort), so I didn’t have to deal too much with the ricer racers or any of that. One of the best adventures I’ve had, and that’s saying something. There was so much about it that wasn’t the way I hoped or planned, but at least I can now say I did it. I guess I need to update the Motorcycle page now.

Tail of the Dragon

I had such a good time, I’m thinking seriously about going back up in the next couple of weeks with the BMW. The BMW is a fast bike, but I’m not sure how the off-road tires will handle those curves. I guess there’s one way to find out. However, before I do that, I have another pretty cool trip planned for the Bimmer, hopefully next weekend. Another one of those stupid, crazy, dangerous bucket list things – but hey, who wants to live forever? Not me, that’s for sure.

Lower Piney Falls Now, in addition to the Dragon, there have been other adventures in the kayak, on the motorbike, the mountain bike, and in the boots (including my new Merrell Moabs, because shoes). Worth mentioning, and in no particular order, a short but really awesome and challenging hike at Piney Falls (Movescount data) with its two waterfalls (that’s Lower Piney Falls in the photo at the left), kayaking at Mud Creek (Movescount data), Foshee Pass (Movescount data) and Watts Bar Lake (Movescount data), all of which have helped fill out the blueway portion of my master map. There was a return to mountain biking at Sterchi Farm (Movescount data) and a long-wanted bucket list MTB ride at the Chickamauga Battlefield (Movescount data). A whole bunch of random hikes, walks and treks in town and out, including a bucket list visit to Twin Arches (Movescount data), and a sentimental visit to historic Rugby (Movescount data). Several dual-sport rides in the woods on the BMW, including a return to Insurance Bluffs (Movescount data). Even got the Jeep in on the action a few times. Just lots of activities, and hey, only a few significant injuries, none of which were especially life-threatening (although with some of the things I’ve done lately, I’m really, really tempting the gods of broken bones and death by adventure).

Silver Comet Trail

But I’m not done yet. In the planning stages for the next good weekend is a return to the Silver Comet Trail. I never really talked about my last trip there, but it went kinda south and almost ended badly (Movescount data), in no small part because I was, as usual, alone. Doesn’t matter now, but luckily at the time I had a guardian angel get me back to the trailhead before I died to death. Anyway, the trip I’m planning now is going to be headed west, to complete the remainder of the entire SCT. By my math, it’ll be about 50 miles round-trip, and since I won’t be doing it in August like last year, I should be able to scratch this off the ever-shrinking bucket list. I’m pretty excited about it – watch this space.

Clean Deck!

There’s always other projects, too. Pressure-washed the deck (after cleaning the rest of the gunk out of the pressure washer carb – again). Planted some bamboo for what I intend to be an entire grove next spring. Ordered some pink pampas grass to put around the deck. Put pavers at the bottom of the steps on the deck that I built last spring. Installed an awesome Alexa-enabled smart ceiling fan in my bedroom, along with some new Alexa-enabled bulbs (I had bought all this for a different project, but welcome to my world). I like projects/cleaning/etc, and I’m good at that kind of thing – and one thing is for certain, no one can ever accuse me of being a slob. One day this week, I’m going to replace the bottom of the vanity in my bathroom. I did the kitchen over the winter, and the other bathroom vanity a couple years ago. It needs it – over the years, the particle board gets wet and sags and stuff, so I’m going to replace it with plywood I was saving for another similar project that I’m not doing now. The kitchen turned out really nice; I’m sure my bathroom will, as well (and again, I could use a little helper). After that, I’m thinking of ripping up the carpet in the bedroom and replacing it with hardwood – I’ve already got my square footages, and I think I’ve found a wood that I like. Additionally, the 4 inches of rain we got last week showed me that the leaky roof I mended in my garage is actually properly repaired – you don’t screw with a leaky roof, unless you want mold and a desire to gut the entire ceiling. I guess I can indeed fix anything – one of only two things I’m evidently useful for.

On the COVID front, no socializing to speak of – no trips to the mall, concerts, movies or anything like that (but the drive-in closes soon, so I still might make a trip there), and certainly no slinging my DNA around in a group of people, because I’m not a f*cking moron (Addendum, October 2nd: Today has clearly shown us that if you’re stupid enough to willingly and eagerly go somewhere – anywhere – in a group of people that you have no idea the health status of – mask or no mask – then you deserve exactly what you f*cking get. Do your thing, Darwin.). I’m keeping a low profile and staying safe, I guess. Not sure exactly why, but here I sit. Oh, and right as I was updating this, I got some *cough* new footage on my Ring camera network. That’s the whole reason I installed the things. My private YT channel is…something. Ask me for a link. Some real fremdschämen, that’s for true. With Prime Day coming up, I’m going to add a couple more cameras, just…because.

Tomorrow, I have to change the combinations to all my locks and stuff, because of course I do.

Did I mention I rode the Tail of the Dragon? And didn’t die? Sorry, maybe next time.


Links:
Piney Falls Photo Album on Facebook
Tail of the Dragon Professional Photo Album on Facebook
Tail of the Dragon Personal Photo Album on Facebook
Chickamauga Battlefield Mountain Biking Photo Album on Facebook
Twin Arches, Hazard Cave, Historic Rugby and Foshee Pass Photo Album on Facebook

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.

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

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

Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.

Well, I guess there’s been some adventure, because of course there has been. And there’s been the never-ending, ongoing shitshow, because of course there’s that, as well. Don’t care – it is what it is. In fact, I’d be surprised if it were any different.

First up, a paddle. The Nina and Pinta, replicas of Columbus’ ships, sailed into port last week, and I was out there in the kayak to meet them. When they were here a few years ago, I paddled around them after they were already here, but this time, my plan was to be on the water as they sailed in. Had to wait for hours to catch them, but the end result was worth it.


Unfortunately, no good photos of me with the boats, but that seems to be how it usually goes. The next morning, and then last night, I went to check out the boats at the pier. Not as impressive as the huge LST325 that was here last month, but still pretty cool.

bear print

click for larger

Then, real adventure. A supremely challenging hike up Big Frog Mountain in the Cherokee National Forest. This is a big mountain; there’s nothing taller to the west until you get to West Texas and the Black Hills in South Dakota. The trailhead is at about 2142 feet in elevation, but the trails dips down to 1929 feet before a miles-long ascent to the summit at 4325 feet (according to my Movescount data). A different kind of brutal that last week’s Connector Trail hike, which was only about 800 feet in ascent over a mile. This was almost 2500 feet in ascent, spread over about 5 miles. Not for the faint of heart or spirit.

And there were bears.

The area is known for human/ursine encounters, including a few gruesome maulings and deaths. Less than 1/2 mile in, bear prints right on the trail (and I realized I had dropped my bear spray, so I had to backtrack to find it). These were fresh bear prints, along with numerous other fresh signs of bears (and the answer to the age-old question of what bears do or don’t do in the woods). It was unnerving – the bears were there, and I’m sure they knew I was there. So, of course I’m going back.

Big Frog Mountain

click for larger, or Movescount data

Just getting to the trail was a chore. It was about 5 miles up a gravel road, after a long drive (following the gym, natch). But leaving – wow. I decided to take the same gravel road down the back of the mountain, because there was more exploring to do (more on that in a sec). At least 10 miles down a very, very rugged road that required the superpowers of the Jeep to navigate. Probably the most challenging driving the Adventure Buggy has had to deal with, and deal with it he did. Good little Adventure Buggy – but I think I see a winch in my future.

Worth it, though. Shortly after exiting the wilderness, the tiny town of Copperhill, which is right on the TN/GA border, and just a stone’s throw from North Carolina. I had been wanting to visit this town for years, since I saw it on How The States Got Their Shapes (video below – worth watching, and I’ve written about it before). I even had dinner at the restaurant featured in the video; the one that the state line runs directly through. Well, I kinda had dinner there – the restaurant, called Patrick’s in the video, has changed hands, and is now The Copper Grill. Still, really cool to be in a restaurant where the bathrooms are across the state line. The video also covers the area around the TGA (the official name is actually “The Tennessee Georgia Alabama Tripoint”), which I’ve visited numerous times in the past, including just a couple of weeks ago for some extensive hiking.


Following all of that, a stop at the Ocoee Whitewater Center, where the 1996 Olympic canoe slalom competition was held. Surprisingly, I had never been here before. It was late in the day, so I didn’t get to explore much, but there’s lots to see and do, so I’ll be back. Soon. Maybe on the motorbike, even. Anyway, a very long day, with bears, Jeep roads, a bucket list visit and more. Not a bad day, and everyone has to be somewhere.

Newton Kona

Oh, and there were new shoes, because of course there were. It’s been a long time since I bought new shoes (surprising, I know), but I couldn’t resist Newton’s Kona Ironman-themed limited edition kicks. Hopefully, it’ll make me faster.

This weekend, not sure. I seem to have an abundance of free time. Maybe I’ll be shaking my money-maker on stage somewhere, or maybe I’ll be stomping around in the woods, looking for bears to poke. Who knows?


Links:
Nina and Pinta Paddle Photo Album on Facebook
Big Frog Mountain Photo Album on Facebook
TGA/Nickajack/Cedar Mountain Photo Album on Facebook

Buckets and Lists

I know I said I was done here, and I still am. However, I also said if there was anything significant to report, I would. And there have been a number of significant bucket list items scratched off – basically, I’ve been on the go, non-stop. Like I have anything better to do? I don’t have the time or inclination to go into everything; just go look at the pretty pictures (or video) or whatever.

And with that said, here’s what I’ve done:

Tail of the Dragon (OK, in the Jeep, not the motorbike): Dragon Photo AlbumProfessional Drive-By Dragon Photo AlbumTail of the Dragon Video 1Tail of the Dragon Video 2Movescount Data [Inbound]Movescount Data [Outbound]

Bat Cave Paddle: Bat Cave Photo AlbumBat Cave VideoMovescount Data

Submerged Cemetery Paddle: Mullins Cove Submerged Cemetery Photo AlbumMovescount Data

Buggytop Cave Crawl-Through: Buggytop Cave Photo AlbumMovescount Data

Solomon’s Temple (mind the rattlesnake): Solomon’s Temple Cave Photo AlbumMovescount Data

Fiery Gizzard Through-Hike: Fiery Gizzard Photo AlbumMovescount Data

Silver Comet Bike Ride: Silver Comet Photo AlbumSilver Comet Trail VideoMovescount Data

Market Street Bridge Opening Paddle: Market Street Bridge Opening Photo AlbumMarket Street Bridge VideoMovescount Data

Whew. But I’m not done – I’m going to return to finish up the Silver Comet, I’m still planning on taking the motorbike to the Dragon, and I have a couple of other adventures lined up. Life is short, y’know, and time is running out.

As always, the Master Adventure Map has been updated – check it out, see how awesome I am.