Monday, January 20, 2020

Chilean Patagonia: Day One - On The Way ... Via Santiago, Chile

I'm a bit late at documenting our winter travels to Chilean Patagonia.  I haven't been much in the mood to write lately.  But this needs to get done so here goes.

Our dog/house sitter drove us to the airport mid-afternoon on the day after Christmas.  All our flights on this trip were at great times - mid-morning, mid-afternoon, or evening flights.

We flew from Omaha to Dallas then on to Santiago, Chile.  Our connecting flight gate in Dallas was changed twice.  The first change took us to another terminal and the skytrain, which would have made it easy, was out of service.  Fortunately we had lots of time to walk to the new gate.  It's interesting that the stores in the international terminal are so much more upscale than those in domestic.  Hmmm ...

In Santa Lucia Park.
We arrived in Santiago an hour late.  Customs went smoothly and we were picked up by a guide.  We knew we would have the afternoon to ourselves and had planned to see if we could set up a tour of the city.  This turned out not to be necessary as our guide had anticipated this and had already setup an afternoon tour.

We got to our room some five hours before check in time and had a half hour to freshen up before our city guide picked us up.  We started with a list of places the Wife and I had visited the last time we were in Santiago so the guide could change his plans a bit to add things we hadn't seen.

Santiago had changed a bit since the last time we were here.  Every wall we saw was covered in graffiti related to the recent ... and continuing ... protests.  A lot of the graffiti was violent against Paco, a nickname for the police.  Our guide took us to a church, past the historical district, and  a small hole-in-the-wall sandwich shop when we mentioned we hadn't had anything to eat for nearly twelve hours.  The restaurant served the local favorite: Chacarero.  The sandwich was good but a bit too spicy for my tastes.  I only finished half of it.

Black Neck Swans.
We visit San Francisco Church with it's connected colonial museum, several parks including Santa Lucía Hill.  We visited with the black neck swans and flamingos.  We took a gondola ride up to the top of San Cristóbal Hill (we visited here before but last time we took the funicular).  In between the stops the Wife talked to our guide about politics.  Based on his comments about the protesters, we decided our city guide was a fascist. In general, despite being a bit tired, I enjoyed the tour.

Words are not necessary in this example of protest graffiti.  The 'nose' through
the eye represents a protester injured when a rubber bullet hit his eye.
After they dropped us off at our hotel we walked to our favorite ice cream place (Cafe de Opera).  Our hotel was not far from the one we stayed at last time so we roughly knew the area.  The ice cream was just like we remembered it - delicious.

Resist ... with a heart.
As we were returning to our hotel, protesters began to gather in a park a few blocks from our hotel.  We knew something was coming when we saw people calmly strolling down the street carrying gas masks.  Next came the police vehicles (water cannons).  As it got darker the protesters began banging pots and pans (the Casseroles).  While I would have loved to take pictures of the protest, I was a bit over-cautious.  We had a meal of tapas in the rooftop bar before the Wife and I retired to our room on the eighth floor.  We opened our balcony door and listened to the well coordinated banging of pots.  Occasionally there were explosions - either tear gas or fireworks, hard to tell.  You could see smoke in the distance.  I wondered if we should be experiencing this in our nation's capital as well.

I think we are becoming birders.
Our flight to Puerto Natales left late next morning.  We had breakfast, were picked up by our airport guide, and we took the flight south.  Patagonia ... here we come.

Pictures can be found in my 2019-2020 Chilean Patagonia Google Photos album.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Thursday, January 09, 2020

Time To Say Goodbye To Facebook

I opened a Facebook account nearly eleven years ago. I was reluctant at first but, like a bad fungus, it grew on me and it soon connected me with family, internet friends, Camino friends, ex-coworkers, and high school classmates around the world.  But over the past three years or so I have visited Facebook less and less.

I just found less and less interesting things on Facebook and more drivel and propaganda.  Facebook mismanagement of people's information didn't help.  I started to wonder if I should walk away.

I'd been thinking about quitting Facebook for awhile.  On the Camino, Facebook was how we kept in touch.  On the Appalachian Trail (AT) Facebook was never mentioned.  The AT hikers ran away from Facebook and followed each other's Instagram instead.  Kind of ironic since Instagram is owned by Facebook.

Lately, the only reason I go to Facebook is to check out the memories page to see what I posted years in the past.  In a way Facebook kept me from moving on.

So I've made a decision.  I will be deleting my Facebook account on the second of February - eleven years after I opened the account.

For those who still want to keep in touch, there are a couple of options.  You can visit Homer's Travels directly to see what I've been doing.  I have added a link in the sidebar that allows you to sign up for email updates when I post.  The second way is to follow me on Twitter (@homerstravels).

Yes, I'm still on some social media.  I have come to prefer Twitter over Facebook.  Twitter seems less cluttered with junk and they have decided not to take Political campaign money ... a plus in my book.

P.S. Happy Birthday Gv!

Wednesday, January 01, 2020

Best Photos Of 2019

Continuing my annual tradition of posting my favorite picture of the year, I am ending up with the same situation I was in last year.  Last Year we were in Iceland and, since I wrote the post before leaving, I could not predict if my best picture would be one I took in Iceland.  This year I once again am writing a post over a week before the end of the year and once again it is because of travel.

The Wife and I are spending the last week of 2019 (and a few days beyond) in Chilean Patagonia.  Obviously I can't predict if my favorite picture of 2019 will be taken there so I will only consider photos taken upto Christmas Day.  I will include Patagonia pictures when I select my best picture of 2020.

This year I am posting three pictures: My best picture, my best Iceland picture, and an honorable mention.  My best picture of 2019, in my opinion, was a picture of snow on the Appalachian Trail outside of Franklin, NC.  The trees and ground are white with snow except for the trail itself.

"Trail through the white"
by Bruce H.
(Taken on the 20th of April, 2019)
My favorite picture from Iceland shows waterfall Faxafoss with the sun low on the horizon.  The river winds its way to the horizon chasing the sunset.

"Chasing the Sunset (Faxafoss)"
by Bruce H.
(Taken on the 31st of December, 2018)
The last picture would have been my favorite picture of the year if I'd taken it.  The picture was taken by an anonymous hiker who was kind enough to take my picture that day.  The picture is me sitting on the edge on McAfee Knob.  The day had started of cloudy but the skies cleared before I reached the overlook.  A friendly hiker asked if I wanted my picture taken and I said yes.

"Contemplation of Things"
by Anonymous Hiker
(Taken on the 13th of June, 2019)
I hope you all had a safe and fun New Year's Eve with family and friends.  Onward into the new year, 2020.

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

A Homer's Travels Look Back At 2019

2019 was the year of my Appalation Trail (AT) adventure.  When I added the At to my plan I had a set of expectations based on my experiences on the Camino. The trail turned out to be more solitary and anti-social than I expected, at least near the end.  Some of this was the nature of the AT and some of it was me.  Looking back with 20-20 hindsight there were splashes of positivity all along the trail.  Sadly, in the end, the last half of the trail cast a shadow on my entire adventure on the Appalachian Trail leaving my expectations unfulfilled.

Let's look back at 2019, shall we:

  • January: We started the year overseas in Iceland watching the fireworks explode over Reykjavik. The trip, which was mostly in the last week of December, was documented in Homer's Travels in January when I got home.  My documenting was delayed as I was fighting a nasty bug.  Back home I visited snowmen and we announced our next overseas trip.
  • February: February was a mix of hiking and snowshoeing as Winter decided it was finally ready to snow for reals.  I went to my annual Oscar Shorts viewing.
  • March: I had my last snowshoe as the weather was warming up.  Good thing too since my boots breathed their last gasp on that snowshoe.  The Internet turned thirty years old which I discussed in length.
  • April: This was the month my great adventure started.  I didn't advertise it much since I was afraid to jinx myself.  I started my Appalachian Trail hike.  I had my tablet with me so I could post everytime I took a zero day (a day with zero hiking miles) in town.  In April I hiked from Springer Mountain, GA to Fontana Dam, GA.  Along the way I got my trail name, Little Hill.
  • May: This month I hiked from Fontana Dam, GA to Damascus, VA.  Along the way the Wife's niece got married.  I passed my first Camino distance in the same month I celebrated my Caminoversary.  I left Georgia, Tennessee, and North Carolina behind.
  • June: This month I hiked from Damascus, VA to Waynesboro, VA.  I passed multiple distance records, including my second Camino distance and longest day ever, making my AT hike my longest ever both time and distance wise.  I celebrated Hike Naked Day in a rundown hotel room in Buena Vista, VA.
  • July: This month I hiked from Waynesboro, VA to Port Clinton, PA.  I crossed the one thousand mile milestone.  The Wife met me in Harper's Ferry and approved of the beard.  I celebrated my fifty-sixth birthday alone in a hot room in Duncannon, PA.
  • August: This month I hiked from Port Clinton, PA to Bennington, VT.  I had my first major accident on the AT, tripping and cutting my forehead.  This is where my forward progress began to slow down.  The rocky trails in Rocksylvania was the beginning of the slowdown.
  • September: This month I hiked from Bennington, VT to Gorham, NH.  After a few long hiking days, I continued the slow down.  While the slow down started before Bennington, it accelerated from this point on.  The White Mountains, while being the most beautiful part of the AT that I saw, was the most difficult hike I have ever done.  At the end of the month I decided to end my AT hike due to my body, and mind, not recovering enough at the end of my hiking days.  My body and mind were just tired and so I came home.  The trail gave me the parting gift of a Moose and a thru-hiker friend I hadn't seen in a couple months.
  • October: This month was a time for recovery from the aches and pains of my adventure.
  • November: I was a bit quiet in November.  Still letting my AT experience soak in.  Near the end of the month things began to look clearer.
  • December: The anticipation for our Patagonia trip dominated this month.  The trip will start this year and end in the next.  I will post about that adventure next month.
  • Walking: When it comes to walking, I think you know what dominated this year.  I hiked 1,952.8 miles (3,142.7 km) on the AT.  This is more than the 1,893.7 miles (3047.6 km) that the AT Guide says but my number includes hiking off the AT to shelters and water sources.  The total millage for the year, which includes hikes before and after the AT is 2083.7 miles (3353.4 km).  This is the most I've ever done in a year.  I hiked one hundred and sixty times averaging 13.02 miles per hike.  This is a year of hiking that I will never, ever, be able to match again.  I will also never, ever, forget my experience on the AT.  As an aside, I also snowshoed this spring before I left.  I added 19.7 miles (31.8 km) over five snowshoe outings.
  • Biking: This year I didn't ride my bike at all.  This was mainly due to the fact that I was on the AT during the prime biking months.
  • Books: Since I was going to be away for six months in a situation where carrying a book or keeping a tablet charged for ebook reading was not convenient, I set a more modest goal of ten books to read this year.  I managed to meet my goal with six days to spare.  Here are my Goodreads stats for 2019.  I didn't read any real clunkers this year nor did I find a gem.  Most of my books were in the four star range with only a handful of three star 'MEH' reads.  We'll see if I can up the number in 2020.
  • Concerts & Shows:  Again, due to the my AT adventure, we went to very few shows in 2019.  The only one was the live Moth podcast event we attended before I left for the AT.
  • I posted 99 times this year - the lowest since I started Homer's Travels in 2006.  The AT, while giving me a lot to write about, limited how many posts I could write.  Having said this, I am surprised how much I actually posted along the trail.
2019 was quite an adventure.  I'm not sure what 2020 will bring.  Politics ... naturally ... but where will I go?  What will I see?  What will I do?  The AT was the last thing on the plan I made in 2012.  Now I move forward into the relative unknown and I think I may just have to sit down and make a new plan.

Here's to a Happy and Prosperous New Year for all.
May all your dreams come true in 2020.

Friday, December 27, 2019

Book: William Gibson's "Neuromancer"

My last read of the year was a new classic.  William Gibson's "Neuromancer" introduced the world to cyberspace back on 1986.  The book holds up surprisingly well thirty-three years later.

The book touches on artificial intelligence, body modification, uploading of the brain into the network, and many other things we take for granted in sci fi today.

I really enjoyed this book.  I was not expecting it to hold up so we'll and I am not a fan of stories that feel obsolete.  This is not an obsolete book.

I have this book four stars out of five on Goodreads because ... it's a good read.

Monday, December 23, 2019

Book: Tim Maughan's "Infinite Detail"

I saw this book recommended on a top ten list somewhere so I asked my library to get it.  Tim Maughan's "Infinite Detail" is a dystopian vision that, of all things, lacks detail.

The book chapters alternate between before and after a catastrophic network virus attack that bricks every network attached device in the connected world.  Maughan's after is a world in turmoil and collapse of society.

My main problem is that I remember a time before the internet and connected systems and, guess what, everything worked and civilization flourished.  Would there be chaos after such a network disaster?  Yes.  Would it last long and result in social collapse? No.  I found this premise to not be realistic.

There also was very little conflict in the book.  It was just like a day in the life story and it was hard to get into the story without some conflict.

I gave this book three stars out of five on Goodreads.  It missed in a few ways for me.

Monday, December 16, 2019

Book: Lindsey Hilsum's "In Extremis: The Life And Death Of The War Correspondent Marie Colvin"

My latest read is a biography of war correspondent, Marie Colvin. The book, "In Extremis: The Life and Death of the War Correspondent Marie Colvin", was written my a fellow journalist, and friend, of Marie Colvin, Lindsey Hilsum.

Marie Colvin lived an interesting, but somewhat tragic life, before her untimely death in Syria.  She struggled with alcohol, bad relationships, and PTSD while reporting on the Middle East, East Timor, Sri Lanka, Serbia, and Chechnya.  She died doing what she liked best, telling the stories of the civilians caught in the crossfire of unending brutal war.

The story is basted on her diaries and the memories of all the people she touched throughout her life.  The result feels a bit superficial, more a recollection than a biography.  The writing feels very news article-y at times which makes sense since the author is a journalist.

I enjoyed reading about Marie Colvin's extraordinary life but I wish the story was written with the depth such a life deserves.  I gave this book four stars out of five on Goodreads because, despite the books technical flaws, the story it tried to tell came through and an interesting story it was.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Appalachian Trail: The Stories A Little Hiking Speed Chart Can Tell

I was thinking about how I was feeling while I was on the Appalachian Trail (AT).  Looking back with the benefit of hindsight, most of my memories were positive before Harper's Ferry, WV.  I started wondering if I could link my feelings with how I felt physically.  I decided to look at a plot of my average speed figuring the better I felt physically, the faster I moved.  This, of course, is not perfect since terrain also affects hiking speed.  Below is a chart of my average speed on the AT.
The first twelve hundred miles of my hike my average remained fairly steady between 1.5 and 2.5 MPH (2.4 to 4.0 km/hr).  There is even a slight upward trend between the third week of June and the third week of July.  Then the bottom drops out.

The left blue line is when I arrive at Port Clinton, PA.  It's after port Clinton when the rocks really became bad and Rocksylvania earned it's name.  I expected this drop since the terrain really slowed me down but I never expected the drop to last.  I kept waiting for the terrain to get easier and my hiking speed to go back up.  This chart tells me it never did.

I think the left blue line is also when I started to lose my enthusiasm.  The difficulty of the terrain and the time I'd spent on the trail began wearing on me emotionally.  Several things happened in this section that hurt my morale.  I got separated from people I liked.  A reunion with someone I'd met in my first week fell through and never happened.  A reunion with a Camino friend never materialized. I began making bad decisions about where I should stop. This, combined with the damn rocks, slowed me down and made for some darker feelings.

The right blue line is when I reached Lincoln, NH.  The White Mountains caused my speed to drop once again.  This was mostly terrain but I was also feeling my body not recovering.  My legs often felt just as bad in the morning as they'd felt the night before.  I didn't expect the terrain to get better for at least one hundred and fifty miles into Maine and I doubt my speed would have ever recovered to what I was doing before Port Clinton.

So there you have it.  To the left of the left blue line I have happy memories.  To the right of the left blue line my memories grow darker and more dreary.  To the right of the right blue line my dreariness combined with a more physical breakdown.  Love what a good chart can do to explain things.

One last thing.  Below is a picture of my custom insoles.  The left is one I wore on the AT, the right one is a new one for comparison.  While the worn out insoles didn't cause me any problems, I think I should have gotten new insoles in Harper's Ferry.

AT insole on the left, new one on the right.