Homer's Travels: June 2022

Thursday, June 30, 2022

Book: Lea Ypi's "Free: A Child And A Country At The End Of History

What a good book.  The eleventh book I read this year is the biography of a young girl growing up in Albania before and after the fall of the iron curtain.   Lea Ypi's "Free: A Child and a Country at the End of History" follows Ypi's life in communist Albania, after the fall of socialism, through a civil war, and out the other end.

I didn't know much about Albania.  I didn't realize that it had left the Warsaw Pact after the Soviet invasion of Hungry.  I never realized how backwards and isolated it was.  The fact that the author had never seen or heard of plastic until she was a teenager in the early 1990s says a lot.  Learning how empty Coca Cola cans were displayed on mantles as a status symbol (even if the owner bought the can already empty) was just another example of the isolation of this eastern european country.

The family dynamics takes center stage.  The adults are secretly anti-socialist while the youth are being indoctrinated in school to be hard core, cult of personality, socialists.  As history changes the author learns her parents were lying to her and her whole system of belief transforms.

This book was very engaging and I gave it four stars out of five on Goodreads.  I think I would have given it 4.5 stars if it let me.  A surprising story that I did not expect and which taught me a little more of the hidden history all around us.

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

In The Eye Of The [Appalachian Trail] Storm

The past week or so has been crazy ... mostly in my head.  Before all my long hikes I've done - Camino I, Camino II, Appalachian Trail (AT) I, AT II - my anxiety levels have gone through the roof and AT III has not been any different.  Being sick for the past week hasn't helped that at all.

Yesterday some of the anxiety was alleviated when I went to the post office and mailed my three resupply boxes.  All three will get to their destinations before I even leave Omaha.  One less worry.  I spent the rest of the day not thinking about the AT at all or at least not very much.

I only have a couple things to do before I go.  I need to make a shuttle reservation to take me from my hotel to the trailhead.  The other is to put together a list of stuff I need in my carry on so I don't forget something important.

My next worry is getting to my starting point in Gorham, NH.  I'm flying to Boston with a two hour layover in Chicago.  I am scheduled to arrive in Boston a little more than two hours before the bus taking me to Gorham leaves from the airport.  In the past, two hour cushions have been enough but ... all the news about flight cancellations and delays are bolstering the remaining anxiety I have smoldering in the background.   The only thing I can do is not to check any luggage to help me get on and off the plane and to the bus stop as quickly as possible.  Without any food and only minimal gear (most of my gear is in one of my resupply boxes) My pack will be easy to carry on.  If I miss connections, it isn't a disaster.  Being a day or two is not a disaster but it will be inconvenient.  I have to stop worrying about stuff I have no control over.

Fingers crossed everyone 🤞

Sunday, June 26, 2022

Weekly Ephemera #24

What a week
  • On Wednesday I went out to lunch with Mom.  We used a gift card the Wife got from one of her parents as a gift. 
  • A couple hours after I got home I started feeling strange.  Later feeling strange became feeling sick.  I had a mild fever and body aches.  My strength went up and down like a roller coaster for the next three days.  Saturday I started to feel much better.  Not 100% but closer.   Since I was only two weeks away from going back to the Appalachian Trail (AT) I was really hoping I didn't have anything that would linger too long.
  • I didn't sleep well Wednesday night.  I woke up in the middle of the night not feeling well and I realized that the AT was only two weeks away and I kind of had a mini-panic attack.  I realized I had to get my resupply boxes ready and in the mail by next Tuesday to guarantee they would be waiting for me.  So the next morning, for the limited hours when I felt ok, I packed my boxes.  I soon realized that two boxes would not be enough so I changed my resupply plan slightly and added a third box so they wouldn't be over full.

    Besides food I went through all the other things (such as first aid gear, water purification, food preparation, etc.) and found a few things I need to replace or replenish.  Some of the things I'll be carrying will have some serious mileage on them.

    I treated my hiking clothes and shoes with permethrin.  Permethrin is a long lasting insecticide for clothing.  It usually lasts four to six weeks so should last my entire AT hike and should help keep the ticks away.

    The last thing I looked at was my third stop on the trail.  Before I could mail my boxes I had to make a choice between Kingfield which had good services but was 18 miles (29 km) away from the trailhead or Stratton which was only 5 miles (8km) away but was smaller.  The issue is cell service.  If I had no cell service I could walk to Stratton but Kingfield would be out of my walking range.  I checked out the cell coverage in the area for my carrier and contacted a hostel owner about the cell coverage in the area.  She didn't have the same cell company that I do but she said coverage was usually good there and suggested trying from the top of the hill before going down to the trailhead.  I decided to go with Kingfield.  I will be spending two nights there and a bigger town would be nicer.

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Watching The Irish At The College World Series

On Sunday we went down to the newly minted Charles Schwab Field to watch Notre Dame Fighting Irish battle the Oklahoma Sooners at the College World Series (CWS).   This was Notre Dame's third appearance at the CWS, the last time being twenty years ago.  They beat the number one seed Tennessee to get to Omaha.

A packed stadium in downtown Omaha.
(Most hotels in Omaha make their profits during CWS.)
It was a hot evening with the heat index hovering around 100℉ (37.8℃) but there was a breeze that helped and the broiling ended once the sun went down.  The Wife indulged with peanuts in the shell while I went for the Cookie Dough Dippin' Dots.  While I was hot and sweaty it was not nearly as bad as i expected it to be.

We had a good time even tho, in the end, Notre Dame didn't come through.  This was their second game during the CWS and their first loss.  It is a double elimination series so they have a chance of continuing.  Their next game, against Texas A&M, is today.

Happy Summer Solstice!

Wishing everyone a happy astronomical first day of summer in the northern hemisphere.

To all the hikers out there, happy hike naked day!  Shed you clothes and feel the wind blow through your ... hair.  Most importantly, don't forget to be more thorough with your sunscreen. 

Monday, June 20, 2022

Music: America W/ Matt Whipkey At The Holland Center

On Saturday the Wife and I went downtown to the Holland center to see another 50th anniversary concert which would be kind of depressing if the music wasn't so good.

The concert warmed up with a local singer, Matt Whipkey.  He came out with only a keyboardist to support his guitar and harmonica.  His stuff was ok.  Not great but not bad either.  His songs were written based on his life, friends, and family.

He was in good humor and commented that this was his first time in the larger Holland Center venue.  I could tell he felt more comfortable on smaller stages.

America took the stage and after a few songs I realized there was a lot of America's library that I'd never heard of.  My experience was with their greatest hit album, which I liked very much, but there is so much more.  Having said this, when they performed their greatest hits they really came alive on stage.  They played every song I was hoping to hear.  When they played "Ventura Highway" the screen above the stage showed scenes along the namesake highway and the Wife and I were smiling as we recognized many of the scenes from our ol' stomping grounds.

America performing "Sister Golden Hair".
One of the songs, "I Need You", was a song I played after the death of my brother.  For decades I couldn't play that song.  I avoided it.  It wasn't until I was on the Appalachian Trail, in some small hotel without air conditioning on a hot summer's day, that I listened to it again (it was an accident ... I guess Spotify decided it was time).  Time had smoothed out the hurt.  It no longer made me sad.  America playing this song on Saturday brought back some feels but they were all good.

This was their, slightly delayed, fiftieth anniversary tour and they sound just as good as they did back then.  A few photos I took can be found in my 2022-06-18 America w/ Matt Whipkey, Holland Center, Omaha, NE Google Photos album.

P.S. Both Matt Whipkey and America covered Beatles songs to honor Sir Paul McCartney's eightieth birthday.  We saw Sir Paul back in July 2017.  He was seventy-five at the time and performed non-stop.  It was amazing.

Sunday, June 19, 2022

Weekly Ephemera #23

  •  The Wife was on a service trip all week.  The house felt empty and I was bored most of the time.  When she got home on Friday everything felt right again.
  • On Wednesday I talked to my doctor about my high PSA test numbers.  After some discussion I decided to postpone my biopsy until the first of November.  The doctor agreed it would not significantly change the risk to me to do so.
  • On Thursday I took my car in to be serviced.  It has been nearly eleven months since my last one.  I really don't drive my car very often and when I do it's only short distances.
  • On Saturday we went to  America's fiftieth anniversary concert.  I will post more about that next week sometime.
  • Today the Wife and I are going to watch Notre Dame in the College World Series.  It's going to be hot but it's going to be a good game so it's worth a little sweat.  Go Irish!
  • I didn't do any walking/hiking this week.  The weather was hot and muggy.  During my Appalachian Trail (AT) attempt in 2019 I hiked a lot in hot and muggy weather but the thought of walking around here in those conditions is a non-starter for me.  I have no doubt that I will be hiking in hot and muggy weather when I go back next month to finish the AT but I feel no need to experience that any earlier.  This coming week looks just as bad as last week so I'm not sure if I'll be hiking this week either.

Thursday, June 16, 2022

Book: Kari Byron's "Crash Test Girl"

After my last book I wanted to read something lighter.  I'd spent the month of May rewatching the entire run of Mythbusters (including the ill fated seventeenth season attempted reboot with new hosts).  While I was watching I got curious about where the hosts were now.  During that search I discovered that Kari Byron had written a book so, Kari Byron's "Crash Test Girl" was my tenth book of the year.

First off, this book was not necessarily written for my demographic.  It was written for girls and young women interested in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics).  Having said this, the book often dipped into behind the scenes look at Mythbusters which interested me and, to be frank, the author has lived a very interesting life.

The book shines a light on how women are disadvantaged by the male dominated world and it inspires by showing how the author overcame many of those disadvantages.  If you are a parent of a teenage girl interested in STEAM they should encourage her to read "Crash Test Girl".

Despite not being in the target demographic, I enjoyed this book.  I gave it four out of five stars on Goodreads.  Many things she wrote made me smile and many others made me think and that is what makes a book good.

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Planning: Appalachian Trail Food

When I came back from my 2019 AT attempt I was diagnosed as Diabetic.  I suspect this may explain why my body didn't feel like it was recovering each day.  I also suspect the carbohydrate heavy diet I ate on the trail contributed to the high blood sugar, high insulin resistant state I came home with.  When I planned my food then I only looked at the calories, if it could survive in my pack, and if I liked it.  Now I have to be more careful where those calories are coming from and this means I need to replace carbs with fat and protein.

I started by looking at what I was eating in 2019 which I posted about here.  I replaced the Clif bars and builder bars, Belvita Breakfast biscuits, and Snicker bars which are all high in carbs.  I replaced these with Keto friendly (i.e. high fat, adequate protein, low net carbs) to help reduce the number of carbs in my daily diet.  These include the Quest protein bars and peanut butter cups, caramel fat bombs (love the name), and beef jerky.  I have kept other high carb items including the honey buns (for a breakfast high carb boost), the tortillas (for a base for the peanut butter and they were my favorite on the trail last time - yummy), and the trail mix.  Here is a list of the typical days worth of food: 



Total Calories


Protein (gms)

Net Carbs (gms)

Mountain House Dehydrated Meal




Quest Protein Bars




Beef Jerky

4 Snack Bags



Caramel Fat Bombs




Quest Peanut Butter Cups




Honey Bun




Trail Mix

159 grams




2 Pouches







Peanut Butter

4 Tbsp






After the substitutions I ended with a 35% Fat, 30% Protein, 35% Carbohydrate split (compared to the roughly 31%, 19%, 50% split I had in 2019). I'm hoping this will work better for me.

So my meal breakdown will be a Quest protein bar and a Honey Bun for breakfast; two tortillas with peanut butter, a Quest protein bar, and a pouch of chicken for lunch; the Mountain House meal and a pouch of chicken for dinner; and the remaining eaten as snacks throughout the day.  My issue usually is not eating enough while hiking.  I will have to try harder to eat everything allocated for the day.
One day of AT 'food'.
During my 2019 attempt I pretty much grazed throughout the day.  Stopping to rest becomes an opportunity to eat a snack and eating a snack forces you to take a more substantial rest break.  I learned this on the Camino, if I didn't eat a snack I would just stop for a minute or two at most before I moved on which was never enough.  Eating slowed me down and gave me a better rest.

My friends on Discord include several foodies.  I'm sure they are cringing reading this list of overly processed junk food.  Multi-day hikes have limitations when it comes to food.  Anything that requires refrigeration is a no-go.  Everything in my food list is shelf stable and, in some cases, will last forever.  The food has to survive being crammed into a food bag.  Anything that would crumble is a no-go. Also, at the end of the day I'm usually very tired and I don't want to spend too much energy preparing a 'real' meal.  In 2019 there were days I was too tired to boil the water for the dehydrated meal.  I have ideas for fighting that issue as well.  More about that when I actually get on the trail and try it out.

Sunday, June 12, 2022

Weekly Ephemera #22

This weekend my anxiety level has started to go up.  Between unwanted medical numbers to finalizing my Appalachian Trail (AT) transportation (thus making it 'Real') I've been on edge. 
  • Hitchcock Butterfly.
    I took another PSA test this week in preparation for a trip to the urologist on Friday.  My PSA number went up since my last test in April.  On Friday, while I sat in the doctor's waiting room, I was told he couldn't meet with me and had to reschedule so ... I will be talking to him next week. *sigh*
  • I'd been holding off buying my AT travel and hotels until after the Doctor's appointment (just in case) but I decided to go ahead after the appointment was rescheduled.  Airline ticket from Omaha to Boston on 7 July ✔  Bus ticket from Boston Logan airport to Gorham, NH on 7 July ✔  Cheap motor inn in Gorham, NH not too far from the post office ✔  This last part was not on my original plan.  I was hoping to stay at the Rattle River Lodges & Hostel where I'd ended my 2019 AT attempt.  The hostel was right across the street from the AT and would have been very convenient.  Sadly Rattle River is permanently closed (A few weeks ago I visited their website ... on Friday the URL was unused and I could buy it if I wanted to).  I will have to hire a shuttle or Uber/Lyft to take me to the trailhead.
    Hail on our deck.
  • We had some weird weather on Tuesday.  We had a significant hail storm.  Our house only got mass quantities of pea sized hail but some places got ping pong ball sized that damaged siding and window.
  • I watched the 1/6 prime time hearings on Thursday.  It was very well organized and put together well but there was nothing there I hadn't already heard.  It was a coup attempt then and it is still a coup attempt.  Sadly I believe that those who watched already knew this and those who needed to know this didn't watch.
  • I hiked twice this week.  The first was a city walk.  The parking app said that the parking spot I was in was not available (actually all spots were unavailable) so as I walked I was all paranoid that I would get a ticket or, worse, have my car towed.  As a result I cut my walk short.  Turns out no meters were taking money so I didn't really have to worry.

    My second hike was at Hitchcock.  I was hoping to get over seven miles going up and down the hills with my pack but I pooped out near the end and cut the hike short.
    What appears to be tiny moths on coyote scat.
    For the week I hiked 13 miles (20.9 km).  Next week I have my rescheduled doctor's appointment and temperatures above 90℉ (32℃) getting in the way.  We'll see how much I can hike.
  • Last Sunday was the Poetry Out Loud finals.  Unfortunately the Wife's student didn't make the top three (tho she was in the top nine out of thousands of students who participated).  The Wife and I really didn't agree with the judging.  Judging poetry recitation can be so subjective.
  • This coming week the Wife is doing a service trip to Rosebud Indian Reservation.  She will be chaperoning students from her [former] school.  I dropped her off this morning and will be holding down the fort while she's gone.

Wednesday, June 08, 2022

Book: David Graeber And David Wengrow's "The Dawn Of Everything: A New History Of Humanity"

I am a fan of science.  My latest read was in a field of science that I wasn't too familiar with, anthropology.  I never realized there was so much tension in what I thought was a rather sedate branch of inquiry.

David Graeber and David Wengrow's "The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity" starts off like the authors are ready to pick a fight.  The book goes on to call out many experts in the field by name for errors or erroneous assumptions on the way to trying to upend all the accepted principles of the field.

I am not knowledgeable enough to come down on either side of the arguments included in the book.  Is the path hunter/gatherers - farmers - cities - states the correct one or is that an overgeneralization?  Are there multiple paths to modern civilization?  Were early pre-agriculture groups egalitarian or are there other options?  I have no idea but the authors definitely do.

One thing I liked about this book were all the cultures used as examples.  Native American, Aztec, Maya, Inca, Mesopotamian, Far-Eastern Europe, Egyptian, and many more.   I learned enough that I now know I have a lot to learn about past cultures.

One interesting take away I had was how prehistoric civilizations, despite being physically adjacent, were often so different.  Some of these pairs - one male dominated, slavery practising, warfare worshipping, competition driven culture, the other a pacifistic, egalitarian, gender equal, freedom promoting, almost democratic culture - remind me of the current American Republican/Democratic Split.  It was a bit disconcerting since it implies the current schisms in our political system have been around in some form for at least the past seven or eight millennia.  Makes the possibility of progress look a lot less likely.

I gave this book four stars out of five on Goodreads.  I would have gotten more out of it if I were more current on the field of Anthropology but I still managed to get some benefit from it and it opened up directions for future explorations.

Sunday, June 05, 2022

Weekly Ephemera #21

  • I managed to hike three times this week.  I did a city hike on Monday, I returned to Hitchcock on Wednesday, and drove down to Indian Cave State Park on Friday.

    It's been a while since I've been to Indian Cave.  The last time I camped there was in 2016 after the elections (I let out a few screams into the void on that camp).  I went back to train there for my 2019 Appalachian Trail attempt in October 2018 three and a half years ago. I wore myself out going up and down the hills which made the ninety minute drive back home seem like it took forever.

    Note to self: Don't wear shorts while hiking.  It was not pleasant, when I had to go off trail to walk around a fallen tree, to walk through stinging nettles with bare calves.  I also didn't like the four ticks I found on my bare legs nor the bites that are making me itch in the middle of the night.  I always hike in long pants.  Not sure why I hiked in shorts on Friday but that won't be repeated any time soon.

    For the week I hiked 20.8 miles (33.5 km).
  • This week we contacted a healthcare broker and signed up for health, dental, and eye care for when the Wife's work coverage ends.  It was surprisingly easy.  It seems a bit expensive but it is cheaper than what we were paying through her work and we will be getting the maximum subsidy so it won't be anything we can't afford.  Our coverage will pretty much remain the same as what we currently have.  Thank you Obama.
  • We had a guy come out and check our air conditioner.  It's all ready for the summer.  That service was also more than I expected but I expect it will be worth the peace of mind.  Bring on Summer!