Thursday, August 25, 2016

Look What Came In The Mail ... Camino Flashbacks

I received something in the mail today.  I'd ordered it so it wasn't a surprise but it gave me Camino flashbacks nevertheless.

Just like the Camino in Spain, several places along the Appalachian Trail (AT) provide stamps to mark your progress. "The A.T. Guide" that I'm using to plan my AT hike has locations that provide stamps marked in the book.  This passport is a place to collect your stamps along the way just as the pilgrim's passport marked your way along the Camino de Santiago.  There is room for ninety-six stamps in the AT passport or about three per week.  Since most of the stamps will be collected in towns along the way, this should be plenty I think.

When I look back at my Camino souvenirs, it's not my compostela (certificate of completion) that I look at most.  It is the pilgrim's passport that I cherish.  It brings back the most memories and the accompanying smiles.  I hope this AT passport will do the same, collect reminders of my happiest recollections along the trail and remind me of the people I meet along the way.

P.S. If you look on the AT passport page there is an awesome picture of a pilgrims credential.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Wow ... Ten Years

Today is the tenth anniversary of Homer's Travels.  I'm not sure if I thought I would be writing this blog that long when I started.  I still find it hard to believe.

1,616 posts.  An average of thirteen posts per month.  This is a bit lower than the first few years when I was posting around nineteen posts per month.  Something happened in 2010 that slowed down my blogging.  I don't know what it was but I suspect it was the opening of my Facebook account.

I've almost quit several times over the years.  Periods of writer's block discouraged me ... and still do to some extent.  But I have persevered and kept at it.  I have watched all my blog friends dwindle.  Only a couple post nowadays.  Several have moved to Facebook and Twitter pretty much full time so at least I'm still connected with these friends.

I will continue posting about planning my adventures and actually experiencing them.  Blogging the Appalachian Trail will be interesting - though it will probably drop my posting rate to about four per month.  I will try to inject some humor every now and then ... if for anything else but to pick up my own mood when I need it.  I will carry on.

No one knows what the next ten years have in store for Homer's Travels.  That's what makes it so darn exciting.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Appalachian Trail Preparation Update ... Or Is It A Mental Health Update?


DOUBTS!

Boy, do I have doubts.  Every now and then, over the past few months, I have wondered just what the heck am I doing?  I can't really say that I've been preparing.

Due to the vacation, the family issues, the hot and humid summer weather, and the bug I've been fighting for the past week or two, I have hardly gone out on a bike ride or on a walk.  Since the end of May I've walked only twice and biked only three times - not much of a training regime.

I am doing stuff to prepare but I am doing it in fits and starts.  I seem to be having problems concentrating on what I need to do and what I need to get done by the start of next year.  Part of me is in denial I think.  I'm at that anxiety stage I always get before doing something big - like scuba and both Caminos.  I know I will get over it once I'm flying to Georgia and starting on the Appalachian Trail (AT).

Then there are the bouts of guilt.  Hiking the AT is a selfish thing for me to do.  While I'm out proving to myself that I am capable walking over two thousand miles, the Wife will be back home alone.  The Wife is being very supportive but she has acknowledged that she is not keen on being alone for six months.  Do I even have the right to ask this of her?  AAAHHH!

Despite all my angst and doubt I am continuing to prepare.  I seam sealed my new tent.  I bought a groundsheet for the tent and a bear bag for my food.  I've received a new backpack that is lighter than my Osprey by about a pound.  I purchased the latest copy (2016) of the A.T. Guide - I will be going over my planned itinerary with the new book to verify the planning work I did last year.  I still have a lot more to plan and prepare for.

I will get over this hump.  I will regain my focus.  I will prepare myself for the AT.  I will keep telling myself this until it's true.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Book: Becky Chambers' "A Long Way To A Small, Angry Planet"

My fifth book book this year was Becky Chambers' "A Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet".  This is another book one of a series - this one being the Wayfarer series.  I seem to be starting many series of books ... probably in an attempt to keep my reading queue full.

The book follows a young lady escaping the shadow of her criminal father by joining the crew of a long haul space tunneling ship.  The small ship with a crew of seven (humans and aliens) open new tunnels through space to make traveling between systems easier.

The book reads like several episodes of a television show.  Each chapter introduces another crew member, expanding on their history and personality, while, at the same time, filling in pieces of how the universe is put together.  Each chapter is nearly self contained like a Star Trek episode but there is an underlying thread throughout the book that keeps the story moving forward.

The climax of the book (the 'angry planet' of the title) is rather anticlimactic really.  It sort of feels like a midseason cliffhanger (without any real cliffhanger) of a TV show.

Did I like it?  Yes I did.  I'm not sure why though.  The overarching story was a bit weak but the individual stories are interesting and did a great job introducing the characters and the locations.  If you take the book for what it is, an introduction to a much larger story, then you will come away satisfied and ready for the next chapter.

I gave the book four stars on Goodreads.  Can't wait for the next book from Becky Chambers.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Music: Journey With Doobie Brothers and Special Guest Dave Mason

On Saturday night we went to a concert at the Centurylink Center.  The headliner was Journey who I've seen in concert two times before - both times in the early 1980s.

The tickets said that the show started at 7:00PM but did not have a doors-open-at time.  I assumed 7:00PM was the door open time so it was a surprise when we got there at 6:40PM that the doors were open and the line through security was already huge.

It took us an hour to get through the security line and get to our seats.  We got there just in time to hear Dave Mason say "Thank you, Omaha!" and the lights in the arena go up.  Therefore, I have no review for Dave Mason.

I was surprised again when the transition from the opening act to the Doobie Brothers took less than fifteen minutes.  A pleasant surprise.  The Doobie Brothers gave us a pretty good set.  I'm not a huge fan but I do like some of their music so I enjoyed them.

After the Doobie Brothers left the stage, Journey came on stage after a short twenty-five minute transition.  The roadies were really on their A game tonight.  The lead singer of Journey, Steve Perry, hasn't toured with Journey for quite a while.  A young filipino named Arnel Pineda joined the band in 2007 as lead singer.  I have to admit he was pretty good.  Having said this, I was a bit biased against him.  The other two times I saw Journey it was with Steve Perry.  Arnel wasn't Steve.  He was close but I would still describe it as good karaoke.

My perspective was also skewed by the fact that I was exhausted.  I'd done my first two certification dives that morning and the two hour nap I took wasn't quite enough to recuperate.  It started hitting me right when Journey came on stage.

I still had a good time.  Not the best time but it was in the top half of my concert going experiences.

Sunday, August 07, 2016

Certified Open Water Diver

After two postponements, I finally completed my open water scuba diver certification this weekend.  I did two dives at a quarry in Atlantic, Iowa yesterday and two more today satisfying the minimum requirements for open water diving certification.
My Open Water Diver card.
The postponements ended up being good as the water temperature was comfortable at 79ºF (26ºC).  The dives went relatively smoothly and the skills tested were relatively simple.

The quarry is full of fish which are surprisingly tame.  Mostly bluegill.  There is a thermocline at around twenty feet where the temperature drops five to ten degrees.  You can actually see the two layers of differing temperature water.  The layers don't mix (similar to how the Rio Negro and the Amazon rivers didn't mix) so you can see if one layer is clearer than the other.  I ended up diving down to around 30 feet (9 meters) where is was surprisingly colder.

The four short dives (each about 30 minutes long) were tiring.  I returned home yesterday and today totally exhausted.  I also pulled a muscle putting my tank on for the first dive.  I can feel my right arm stiffening up and it will be sore for a while.

Will I use the classes?  Who knows.  I'm giving myself a ten percent chance of ever scuba diving again.  Ten percent ain't nothing so who knows what adventures this will open up.

I'm glad my certification is finally done.  It feels like it became a psychological barrier that stopped me from starting other projects.  It really shouldn't have stopped me from doing anything but ... it did.  Now that it's done I feel a bit freer.

Thank you to the Mother-in-Law.  Your Christmas/Birthday money paid for most of the classes and certification.  It is appreciated.

Friday, August 05, 2016

Book: Sylvain Neuvel's "Sleeping Giants"

I've been pretty slow with my reading this year, having read only four books so far.  I doubt I will make my target of thirteen books frankly though I will try.

My fourth book of the year was an interesting science fiction book by Sylvain Neuvel: "Sleeping Giants".  The book is a first book of a series.  I don't know how long as the second book isn't expected to be published until spring 2017.

The book is written in its entirety as a series of interview transcripts and personal journal entries.  As you read the book you learn about things after they happen.  While I have read several books written in similar memoire style, this one, so far anyway, does not have the beginning and ending bookends that tell you it is a memoire.  It just lays things out like you discovered an archive and started reading.

The book follows the discovery of giant body parts buried around the world - pieces of a massive machine.  We learn somethings about the machine and why it was built but the sources of the information are kept somewhat mysterious.  The story has enough information to follow but still leaves enough missing to keep you reading.  The ending is intriguing enough to leave you wanting for more.  I'm looking forward to the second book.

The book is very easy to read.  I finished it in three days which, for me, is blazing fast for a three hundred and twenty page book.  I gave it four stars on Goodreads because I liked it even though some suspension of belief was necessary at times.