Homer's Travels: May 2022

Monday, May 30, 2022

Happy Birthday Mom!

 I am very lucky to have such a well seasoned Mother.  😄

Happy Birthday Mom !!!

Another Type Of Retirement

When I returned from my 2019 Appalachian Trail hike I was a bit adrift.  A few weeks after returning I stumbled on a game.  I started playing.  The Game was a dungeon crawler with different solo and group events. You gained gold, gems, and gear grinding dungeons.  Before long I was hooked.

I played every day.  I even played while we were on vacation in Patagonia.  The game gives rewards for everyday you logged in.  I never missed a single one.  Not a single one over the next nine-hundred and fifty-five days.

Six or seven months ago I started losing interest in the grind.  I was now an endgamer.  I had mythic gear, mythic mount, mythic runes, and mythic enchants.  I grinded dungeons until I had two fully stabled mythic familiars.   I even managed to make my first piece of ancient gear.  I still had a long way to progress - there was always something new to chase - but it was no longer fun and it was feeling more and more like a chore.

The Game keeps track of how long you were logged into the game and I ended up with two-hundred fifty-four days and seven hours of gameplay.  Doing some sad mathematics I discovered that since 15 October, 2019 I'd spent 26.62% of my time playing the game.  I can't say I was proud of that number.

What kept me going for so long, besides the fun of the early, pre-endgame grind, was the players I would chat with while playing.  Over the past couple of years I gained friendships in the game chatrooms.  The game devs decided to drop the chatrooms this year but, seeing the writing on the wall, one of my friends, VagabondZebra247, set up a chatroom server on Discord nearly a year before.  Our little corner of the gaming universe has since accumulated, what a recent addition described as, an eclectic group.  Just how we all like it.

With a way to stay connected with friends outside of the Game and with the Wife retiring, I decided it was time to retire from the Game. So last Thursday was my last day. It feels weird at times.  The feels were not as hard as the Infernal Game most likely because I was still connected to my friends.  There is definitely a great sense of freedom as I no longer have to plan my days around resource regeneration.  My attention feels less divided and more focused.  Once again I am free to enjoy the Real World distraction free.

Sunday, May 29, 2022

Weekly Ephemera #20

  • On Friday the Wife officially retired.  Mom and I attended the Wife's going away party and school Mass.  It was obvious how liked the Wife was at her place of work.

    As a surprise parting gift, the school athletic department renamed the school mascot "Sherri Skyhawk".  I think she was happy. 😊
  • This weekend being Memorial Day, Mom and I went to put flowers on the family graves on Saturday.  We enjoyed having lunch with my favorite Uncle and Aunt.  It was a beautiful day to be out and about.
  • This week was a rainy one and, between that and my laziness, I only did one 4.7 mile (7.6 km) hike up at Hitchcock.  I've been skipping hikes a lot lately and it can't continue.   Not if I want to get stronger and make my Appalachian Trail hike less painful.

Friday, May 27, 2022

Huzzah!!! The Wife Is Officially Retired!

Today is the Wife's last day at her workplace after a steady wind down of official duties.  Today, after Mass at school, some official speechifying, and a goodbye brunch, the next stage of life begins for the Wife: Retirement.

We are both looking forward to more travel, both planned and spontaneous, for as long as our bodies hold out.

I'm guessing retirement won't sink in until August when She would normally be preparing to return to school.

You have devoted your life to guiding multiple generations into their futures.  It is time you devote the rest of your life to yourself.  I can't wait to be there with you and to see where we go together.

Congratulations Honey Bunny!!!  Happy Retirement!!!  You've earned it!!!

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Planning: Appalachian Trail Resupply Or ... What The Heck Is A Bounce Box?

When I did my planning for my 2019 attempt I noticed several stops where there were few places to resupply food.  To resupply I had the Wife mail pre-packed food boxes to a few locations along the way.  On the trail I learned about how other people handled this situation using a Bounce Box.

A Bounce Box is a box of resupply that is mailed to yourself farther ahead on the trail.  If you don't use all the supplies in the box you can bounce the box farther ahead where the supplies could be used, the box refilled, and bounced ahead.

I used bounce boxes twice, once in Fontana Dam in Georgia and again Killington, VT.  I met many people using them including one couple using a five gallon bucket as their box.  They told me it was cheaper to ship the bucket than it would a regular box.

I will be using one (or two) this time around since resupply along this sections seems a bit limited and the reduced carbohydrate food I am interested in packing is not that easy to find in smaller stores. 

Sunday, May 22, 2022

Weekly Ephemera #19

  •  I changed up my walking slightly.  I decided to do shorter, more strenuous, hikes up at Hitchcock and other parks with hills.  When I'm on these rural trails I carry a 25 lb (11 kg) pack and hiking poles which strengthen my legs more than flat city walking does.
    Hitchcock flowers.
    This week I hiked twice at Hitchcock and did one city walk for a total of 18.2 miles (29.3 km).  It seems to be doing something since my legs feel like toast.
  • I'm continuing to plan my July-August Appalachian Trail hike.  I suppose that's obvious based on the posts I've written lately.  I have a good handle on the stages and the gear.  I have a weaker grip on the food.  It is not easy to switch out carbohydrates for fat and protein.  This is especially true if you want food that tastes good.
    Hmmm ... Nice pairing.
    I put my tent up in the basement and cleaned it up, inflated my sleeping pad, and generally checked to see what I had and what I needed to replace/refill.
  • I did some spring cleaning and took old paint to the hazardous material disposal place and took old electronics (both mine and my Mom's) to be donated at the Goodwill Goodbytes place.
  • I noticed some white flies on our hibiscus so in a lark I ordered some Ladybugs to combat them.  I spread them on the two plants and ... like the other times I have bought ladybugs to combat insects, they all disappeared in twenty-four hours (the ladybugs that is).  You would think I would learn.

Friday, May 20, 2022

Planning: Appalachian Trail Gear

Most of my major gear that I used during my 2019 Appalachian Trail (AT) thru-hike attempt is still in pretty good shape.   Here is the gear I will be using when I return to the AT.

  • I am reusing my Hyperlite Southwest backpack.  There is some wear on the bottom of the bag so I put a layer of tenacious tape on the bottom to reinforce it.  It probably would have lasted the thirty days but it's better to be safe than sorry.
    The before and after of my reinforced backpack bottom.
  • I am reusing my Nemo Hornet 2P tent (including my homemade Tyvek footprint).  I am not a good gear owner since I didn't clean it after my last camp on the AT back on September 11, 2019.  I put it up in the basement and vacuumed the New Hampshire dirt and tree needles out of the tent.  The stuff sack for the tent poles is worn a bit so I contacted the tent manufacturer and they will be sending me a new one.
  • I am reusing my Western Mountaineering Highlite sleeping bag.  It looks as good as new and held up well.  I will also reuse the Reactor sleeping bag liner.  They both will have to be cleaned tho.
  • I am reusing my Thermalite Xlite inflatable sleeping pad.  A lot of people had issues with their inflatable sleeping pads springing leaks.  I was careful to use my tent footprint to protect the sleeping pad from splinters, nail heads, and other sharp items when I used it in a shelter and never had any issues.
  • I purchased a new stove.  I'm using the same cheap no-name brand that I used last time.  I threw my last one away since it was starting to wear out when I quit the AT.

    My titanium pot set is still pristine so it will be reused.

    I did purchase a new long handled spork (I left my other one at a hostel in West Virginia)
  • I purchased a Sawyer Squeeze water filter, the same one I used last time.  It worked great so no need to change it.

    To go with my filter I purchased a CNOC Outdoors VECTO 2L Water bladder to use as a dirty bag.  Last time I used this bottle and twice the bottle sprung a leak and had to be replaced.  The convenience of being able to open the bottom of the bottle to fill it easier outways the potential issues.  Just in case I also purchased a Sawyer soft side bottle with a large mouth cap at one end and a small mouth cap at the other that can be used with the filter.  This bottle is not as convenient as the CNOC so it will be in my bounce box in case I need it (More about the bounce box - including what a bounce box is - in a future post).

    To round out my water purification gear I purchased a mesh bag to hold the filter and dirty water bottle.  The mesh allows them to dry between uses to prevent mildew.
  • I purchased a new Ferrino Trekker Hiking Rain Coat.  I left my other one at the last hostel I stayed at and didn't realize it until I'd been home several months.  It was still in perfect shape so the quality of this rain coat is not in doubt.
  • I purchased new hiking clothes including a couple pairs of quick dry, zip off, cargo hiking pants.  Usually I wear North Face but they didn't have what I wanted so I'm trying another brand.

    I purchased a couple Merino Wool t-shirts.  Again, these are not Icebreakers but they seem to be of the same quality.  Merino wool dries fast and the lanolin in the cloth is antibacterial and reduces the funk that accumulates while you hike.

    I bought new merino wool blend socks and toe liner socks.  This two sock combo resulted in an extremely low number of blisters.  I am sticking with the same brands as last time: Omniwool and Injinji.
  • During my 2019 attempt I wore two different models of shoes from Salomon.  I wore the X Crest and the Odyssey Triple Crowns.  (The X Crests were not available at the time so I bought the Triple Crowns.)  Of the two, the X Crest were the best despite the Odyssey Triple Crowns being specifically designed for long hikes like the AT.  The Triple Crowns' uppers were so thin (to reduce shoe weight) that four of my toes wore through the fabric on both feet.  This may explain why the Odyssey Triple Crowns are no longer listed on the Salomon website.

    When it was time to replace my shoes I was delighted to see that the X Crests were back in Salomon's inventory.  The shoes are heavier than the Triple Crowns but they are also more durable.  I ordered a pair for the AT and one for everyday.  Unfortunately I accidentally bought the goretex versions.  Goretex is a waterproofing system that essentially turns the shoe into a plastic bag.  This is great when dealing with small puddles or wet mud but in heavy rain or deep water the shoes will fill up with water that does not drain away.  I discovered this the hard way on my second Camino when I walked several miles with bags of water attached to my feet during a particularly rainy day. 

    I was going to just ignore the goretex issue and hope for little rain but, during my stage planning, I saw that at least once I will be fording a river at least knee deep.  I ordered a pair of non-goretex X Crest shoes.  My experience from the 2019 attempt shows these shoes drain water quickly and dry quickly which is exactly what you want.
  • Finally I purchased a few odds and ends such as a new camp towel (I got some juice on it in Shenandoah National Park, was careless, and gave a mouse a tasty snack).
I will probably have to buy a few more things but most of them will be small things like mini-lighters, first aid supplies, and other things like that.  The fact that I don't have to replace any major gear tells me that I chose well last time.  Proud of that.

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Planning: Updated Appalachian Trail Stages

Before I can work out what resupply I need to complete my Appalachian Trail (AT) hike, I need to figure out how long I'll be on the trail and how long the stages will be.

I sat down with the 2022 A.T. Guide, the updated version of the guide I used to plan my original thru-hike attempt.  I changed things up a little from last time.  I originally started out short and increased the miles per day over several months.  It turns out I will be doing this over thirty days which doesn't give me time to build up the distance.  I decided to aim for a 10 mile (16 km) average per day to complete the 298 miles (480 km) I have left of the AT.

I'm starting at the same hostel where I quit last time near Gorham, NH.  It is located across the street from the AT.  It turns out that, walking ten miles a day, you pass near a town every four days (more or less).  By 'pass near' I mean within a shuttle ride (only one or two of the towns are actually within walking distance from the trail).  These towns will be my supply points.  Not all of these towns look great for resupply but they all have post offices.  A lot of my resupply will thus be done by mail.  More about this in a later post.

Speaking of towns, during my 2019 attempt I took a lot of zero days (days in towns when I walked zero miles).  I will not be doing this as often this time.  Of the five towns I will be visiting, two will be Nearo-Zero combinations and three will be Nearos.  A 'Nearo' is a day when you walk nearly zero miles into a town and stay one night in a hotel or hostel.  The Nearo-Zero combos are a short hike into town with a  two night stay in a hotel or hostel.  In hindsight I should have done a mix of Nearo and Nearo-Zero stops on my first attempt.  It would have saved time and money.

Another lesson I learned during my 2019 attempt was that I was fixated on staying in shelters.  I talked about this here.  When I set up these new stages I also aimed for shelters but I hope I will apply my lessons learned and let these shelters just be brief stops before I continue a bit farther each day.

Now, I said each stage was going to be around four days long.  This is good since it means I don't have to carry as much food.  There is one caveat tho.  The northernmost part of the AT is known as the 100 Mile Wilderness (it is actually 110 miles ... details, details).  There are no close towns or main roads in this long stretch.  In the old days most hikers had to carry enough food to do all 110 miles.  In more recent times there are services which will do food drops on some of the back roads.  I am waiting for one such service to confirm they can do this.  If this can be done, I will be able to do the wilderness in two four day stages.  If not, I would have to do six very long days.  'Six' because that is the maximum number of days worth of food I can fit in my pack.  'Very long' because I would have to hike 18+ miles (29+ km) per day.

I have updated the Appalachian Trail tab above with the new, updated stages.  You will have to scroll down to the last thirty days to see the new stages.

Sunday, May 15, 2022

Weekly Ephemera #18

  • On Friday the Wife's seniors were done making her one step closer to being retired.  Her school has a tradition of having the senior class stampede out of the school on their last day.  The Wife joined them by sitting in a wheeled bin and being pushed out with the running seniors (The Twitter link to the video can be found here).

    The Wife has started to take her class apart in anticipation of retirement.  From her desk drawer she brought a bag of weird junk that she thought I would like.  The Wife has assigned students to make games to play to help them with vocabulary or literature study.  The stuff appears to be game pieces the students used for the games.  By the way, I love it.
Desk drawer accumulation of junk.
  • While the Wife was celebrating the end of the seniors, I was cleaning out the tornado room.  This room, located in the basement, is a combination workshop/storage area which is also, probably, the safest place to be during a tornado ... hence the name.  On Friday morning the room lived up to its name as it looked like a tornado had blown through it.  I spent a few hours Friday afternoon pulling stuff out of the room, cleaning up messes on the floor, rearranging stored stuff more efficiently, and making it useful as a tornado shelter once more.

    As I was cleaning the tornado room I removed all my hiking and camping gear and piled it in the she-shed.  I will be going through everything and replacing/replenishing anything I need when I go back to finish the Appalachian Trail this July.
  • On Tuesday Mom and I went plant shopping.  We went to a local nursery (Mulhalls - which I picked due to its big selection of plants and because of its size so Mom would get needed exercise) to peruse the plants.  I was looking for flowering plants to go between the mums planted in my corner of the backyard.  I was going to buy four or five identical plants but there were too many good choices so I ended up with five different ones.  Nothing wrong with variety.
  • I didn't walk this week due to the high temperature and humidity we had last week ... and because I am a wimp.  The temperatures will be lower this week so I will be back out walking.
  • I went to Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness in IMAX on Monday.  I swear I'm still having nightmares about how Black Bolt died.

My Eleventh Caminoversary

Today marks the eleventh anniversary of the start of my first Camino de Santiago.  This journey was the first long hike for me and the inspiration for doing the Appalachian Trail.  I started the journey thinking I would never make it but perseverance proved me wrong and I am better for it.

Along the Camino on the first day.
The Wife has suggested she would like to walk the Camino.  The jury is still out if we walk it together.  I would love to see the Camino through new eyes but I know I may be a drag on her experience.  If I don't walk with her I will likely walk another route, perhaps the Camino del Norte.  That way I won't ruin her experience, I will have my own new adventure, and we will reunite a few days before Santiago de Compostela and we can enter the city together.

Monday, May 09, 2022

Book: Colin Thubron's "The Amur River: Between Russia And China"

I have always been a fan of travel logs.  I have read two other travel logs written by Colin Thubron - one I really liked, one not so much.  My latest read, Colin Thubron's "The Amur River: Between Russia and China" falls somewhere in between.

The book follows the author's travels along the Amur river that separates Russia and China.  The river has changes names a few times before becoming the Amur.  The journey starts in Mongolia where swampy water comes together to form the headwaters of the river. The travels continues to the Russian side, to the Chinese side, before returning to the Russian side.

On the Russian side life is bleak, stuck between Stalinist Soviet Union, Putin's modern Russia, and national neglect.  On the Chinese side life seems full of progress and hope for the future.  On both sides mistrust for the other side abounds.  Several times he thought his travels would end when encountering Russian police.  Frankly, it seemed he was constantly on edge while travelling in Russia.

I am used to travel writing full of awe and respect for what the travel sees and the people they meet.  Thubron's writing is a bit dreary which I think is a result of traveling in Russia (he has traveled there many times).  Other people I know who have traveled to Russia have commented to me about how rough and dower the people feel.  This explains a lot about the atmosphere of the book.

The Wife and I once wanted to take the Trans-Siberian train across Russia.  I'm not sure how likely that will ever be.  With the war and the condition Russia is in, it is very unlikely we will ever see it.

Despite the dreariness of it all, I liked the book.  The people of Siberia have been neglected by Russia but they still scrape by and there is still some looking to make something of themselves.  I gave this book four stars out of five on Goodreads.  I might have given it a three and a half if it let me.  Thubron came across tired but he still brought the people he met on his travels to life.

Sunday, May 08, 2022

Weekly Ephemera #17

  • I took mom out to lunch on Thursday and did a little shopping while we were out.  It appears the Social Security ordeal is over.  We will know for sure later this month.  Next week we are going plant shopping at the local nurseries.
  • I hiked twice this week.  I ended up doing 24.9 miles (40.1 km).  It is going to be warm this coming week so we'll see how I do.

    One thing to mention.  On my Friday walk I saw a fire truck turn into a grocery store parking lot.  Before they turned they ran their siren briefly.  I passed the truck and not far ahead I passed a guy laying half on the sidewalk.  He was using a small bag/backpack as a pillow.  He appeared to be asleep.  The siren had been sounded to try to wake him up.  I crossed the street and looked back to see the firemen around the man trying to see if he was ok.  He never sat up but I think I may have seen him lift an arm up.  I continued on my walk once an ambulance showed up.
  • I also started to purchase gear for my Appalachian Trail (AT) completion hike I am planning for July/August.  Most of my gear from my 2019 attempt is still usable but a few things need to be replaced.  I will talk about the gear in a future post.

    Included with the gear, I ordered the 2022 edition of the AT Guide.  I will be using this to plan the hiking stages between Gorham, NH (where I quit last time) and the end of the AT at Mt Katahdin, ME.  While I had stages planned in my 2019 plan, they turned out to be too aggressive so I will be redoing the stage planning.  When I finish I will be updating the Appalachian Trail tab of Homer's Travels.

Happy Mother's Day!

 Happy Mother's Day to my wonderful Mom !!!

Don't forget to wish the mothers in your life a happy day!

Wednesday, May 04, 2022

Happy Star Wars Day

 May the 4th be with you.

P.S. Happy Anniversary to the Wife's niece and her husband!

Monday, May 02, 2022

The Last Poetry Out Loud ... Regional Finals Edition

The Wife has been involved in the Poetry Out Loud recitation competition for over a decade.  She started in her last California school, assisted in her first Nebraska school, and introduced and ran competitions for the last eleven years at her current school.  This year is her last year before she retires.

On Sunday the regional finals were held virtually and her student came in second for the region (there are three regions).  She will be one of nine who compete in the national finals in June.  Congratulations!!!

The regional and national competition used to be in Washington DC and held over several days.  This year everything is virtual and spread out over several days.  It's unfortunate that for her last competition the Wife won't be going to DC in person.  It would have been a nice cherry on top of her retirement cake.

Heiku time:

Graduating student - Their last competition
Streaming poetry recitation nationwide via iPhone
The Wife and her poet - Approaching success

If you are interested in watching talented kids reciting poetry, the finals will be on Sunday, 5 June at arts.gov

Sunday, May 01, 2022

Weekly Ephemera #16

  • It was a good walking week with a return to the Wabash Trace.  Back in 2009 - 2010 I section hiked the sixty-two mile Wabash Trace over 10 stages.  I returned there once again in 2013 for a Camino training hike.  I was surprised it took nine years for me to return to the repurposed railroad trace.  The Wabash hike was an attempt to get out of the urban walks I've been doing and it felt good to be out among the trees (even if the trees only lined the trail one or two rows deep on each side).  The trace is very flat. so, on the way back to the car, I switched over to the horse/mountain bike trail that parallels the walking/biking trail.  This narrower trail reminded me of the Appalachian Trail (AT) and there was some up and down on the horse trail but they were very little hills.  I guess that is an exact match for my AT trail name ... Little Hill.
A return to the Wabash Trace.
For the week I hiked three times - twice in the city and once in nature - totalling 33.8 miles (54.4 km).  The rain this coming week will make walking a challenge.
Seen on a city walk:  A hearse with a "Never Give Up" sign in the window.
  • On Saturday we drove up to Sioux City to attend the Wife's Niece's son's second birthday.  The Wife's brother took the opportunity to give her an awesome retirement gift - nun stuff from the Late Nite Catechism Sisters (including a crucifix whistle!), letters of congratulation from schools she taught at, and a framed mounting of the school varsity letters from each of her schools including one earned by her father in high school.  Not sure I've ever seen the Wife so moved.

    We both ate too much at the party.  It will take a few days to get my blood sugar back down to where I want it.
  • I fertilized the lawn this week just in time for the rain to soak it into the ground.  Today I overseeded the lawn just before the rain returns tomorrow.  The Wife is taking over mowing the whole lawn - we used to split the work, me doing the backyard and the Wife doing the front.  Now that she is retiring she will be in charge of the lawns and gardens.  This is fine with me.