Monthly Archives: October 2011

Occupy Beer Run!

I don’t usually do Halloween costumes. I lack the creativity to come up with one, the skill to create one, and the determination to take the time to make anything. About the only burst of creativity I ever had involved dressing like normal and carrying around a box of Cheerios with a knife through it. But the “cereal killer” thing is overdone now.

Fortunately, there’s Amazon. While I don’t recommend going to that website while drunk (which is what I did, but we already know I’m a Bad Influence), I didn’t spend a fortune and got a current-events relevant costume.

Okay, so I'm not Hugo Weaving.

Clearly, I still need to make adjustments to the costume. The hat doesn’t fit too well. I’ll be around drunk people, though, so it probably won’t matter. Tough to drink beer through the mask, but I’ll manage.

I don’t care one way or the other about the Occupy protests or the Anonymous group. I just like movies made from Alan Moore comics, and I wasn’t about to go as Dr. Manhattan from Watchmen. People would run screaming in terror.

Pour Forters

…er, um, I mean, four porters.

Tröegs, Ballast Point, Founders, and Fuller's

Porter, porter everywhere and lots of drops to drink

Don’t worry; I won’t always post pictures of every beer I sample. It was just very interesting to compare four very different takes on the same style of beer. The first three are American (and I might be able to visit at least two of those breweries on my trip); the one on the right is imported from England, and it made me miss the excellent beers I had in England, even if they do serve them at cellar temperature instead of cold.

While I was at Market Street Wineshop doing the beer tasting, a younger couple was already there with their dog, Mazey or Maisie or Maisy or something of that sort (I didn’t ask them to spell it, but it rhymes with “daisy”), who apparently also enjoys beer. As I’m still playing with my new smartphone, I took a picture of the dog, too.

Fight Terrierism!

Also, showing off my mad punning and MS Paint skillz.

In travel news, it seems there are a few breweries on my route to Maine for the first leg of my trip. I may not get to visit them all on this trip. Plus, two of them are the same company in two different locations, and I haven’t yet decided if that means I have to visit them both to meet my eventual “every microbrewery in the country” goal. One of the sites I do want to visit is Tröegs, mentioned above; another is Yuengling. I don’t care for Yuengling’s beer, but to visit the oldest brewery in the US would be interesting.

Speaking of visiting places… if I didn’t have computers and a smartphone, here’s what I would want to do: I’d want to make up index cards of every place I plan to visit along the way, with address and phone number and hours and such, and arrange the cards in the order in which I want to visit them. Then when I found another place I wanted to visit, I could insert the card in the correct place in order. Or if I decided not to visit a place, I could just take the card out. The result would be a stack of cards that would form an itinerary of sorts.

Thing is, I do have a computer and a smartphone, so you’d think there would be a way to do this with a program or the cloud or an app or whatever it’s called these days. I tried using Evernote, which came with my computer and has a handy Android app. It doesn’t work the way I want it to. Oh, I can add all my planned destinations, but I can’t sort them dynamically. I have to title each one like 100 and 200 and 300 and so forth to allow for future resorting, like I used to do back in the 80s with Basic. Clunky. I’d rather have something I can dynamically resort and rearrange. (Evernote seems good for lots of other things, however; for instance, it claims to have text recognition so if I put in the pic of the porters, I can later search “porter” and that pic would come up. Theoretically.)

A friend suggested Google Notebook, but a quick look at Google’s offerings didn’t reveal that. I’ll search for it, but I’m still soliciting other ideas for a “virtual index card” thing. Perhaps something that is designed for travel itineraries? Cheap would be good. Free would be better. If you know of one, leave me a comment! (Or, well, leave a comment if you want to anyway.)

The Time of Avoiding Stores

It’s getting to that time of the year… the Time of Avoiding Stores.

I actually went out today – not only for a wine & beer tasting, but because I wanted to get an emergency cold-weather sleeping bag now, rather than in November. November is the second worst month to go shopping, of course, second only to December.

I fear I was too late. It is already too close to November. The place was already crowded. The popular Charlottesville, Virginia shopping center, Barracks Road, has few parking spaces available during the Season of Greed.

More like FAILacks road, amirite?

Those cars in the foreground? Looking for a spot. Good luck, suckers!

And what does this shopping center do every year, knowing full well that it becomes impossible to find parking there in the late fall? Why, it tears up parking spots and puts up more stores, of course!

Worse, some of these stores start preparing for the holiday season in, like, June. While I can usually avoid such stores (fortunately, there is the internet), they proliferate and get harder to avoid starting around September and October. It’s bad enough they start stocking cheap plastic Halloween crap right after the Back-to-School specials; do they really have to load up on reindeer on Labor Day? Really?

I created a handy flow chart to help with this problem. Please feel free to show it to any store owners and managers you know.

And I'm being generous. If it were up to me, I'd make 'em wait until after Thanksgiving.

The sleeping bag purchase was easy, despite having to park in Michigan. There’s an outdoors store in Barracks Road. Now, I’m not an outdoorsman; I don’t even play one on TV. I am, in fact, a dedicated indoorsman, and I’m sure that’s obvious when people see me. So walking into the outdoors store was like walking in on a Santeria ritual: You know vaguely what one is, you’re pretty sure it involves chickens, and you have just enough knowledge about it that you’re sure you’re going to say something embarrassing that they’ll laugh about after you leave.

Still, being a man, shopping is easy. I found the High Priest and told him I wanted a sleeping bag that would keep me from dying of hypothermia in North Dakota. He sacrificed a chicken and told me that nothing can stop you from dying of hypothermia in North Dakota, though the far greater danger there is boredom. But he showed me a sleeping bag that wouldn’t cost me an arm and a leg (I’d neglected to collect body parts prior to shopping, anyway), and out I went.

But then came the real challenge of the day: I had two empty propane tanks to refill. I suppose I could have driven to another shopping center, one where I could have parked closer to the grocery store, but I was feeling stubborn. So I schlepped those empties to the Kroger store, dropped them off, went in, bought a few other necessities (no, not beer – I have a fridge full of beer) and purchased the hydrocarbon exchange.

Which is when I remembered that now I had to schlep two full tanks of propane back to my car.

Well. At least I got my exercise today.

Friday Night near Halloween

Ah, Beer… what would we do without you?

 

A lot less of this, unfortunately.

 

Beer Run is always good around Halloween. I look forward to Monday when all the costumes show up.

Theme Demotivator

The site Very Demotivational presents one of my favorite concepts on the internet: the Demotivator. Long ago, some company put out “motivational” posters in a very specific format: black border around an inspirational photograph, two sizes of text at the bottom containing, at the top in big letters, a desired quality or characteristic; and below it, in smaller letters, some further inspiration on that quality or characteristic. It wasn’t long, of course, before that got parodied, and rightly so, into Demotivation. Now, it’s a public activity, much like captioning cats. Today, it delivered to me what is destined to become this blog’s theme demotivator:

Don't look back - something might be gaining on you.

Other than that, I haven’t made much progress toward the trip lately. I keep meaning to make up a to-do list of things I need to get done before I leave, but I don’t have a to-do list to put that on, so I keep putting it off.

Plus, I keep looking at pictures of captioned cats.

Googly

I’ve been marking the locations of microbreweries and other interesting places in Google Earth so that I can tell how close these things are to my expected route. This will, in theory, keep me mostly on track and yet able to visit places that are relevant to my interests. All you have to do in Earth is look at the map and see which markers are close to the route that Earth conveniently generates between any two points.

That's when it doesn't send you here.

Problem is, Earth only generates the (in theory) most direct, efficient route between those two points – and I want to be indirect and inefficient, avoiding highways wherever possible. One way to do this is take the route from Earth and send it to Google Maps, via an option available in Earth. Maps then enables you to change route settings for avoiding highways and tolls; plus, if you still don’t like the route, you can move it around interactively. But then what often happens is you have a route that’s very different from the Earth-generated route, and it’s on a different platform from your place markers, so you can’t tell how close the place markers are without moving the route back to Earth.

And there’s no way to do that.

Oh, wait, yes there is – but I had to search for it, and it’s a non-Google link.

With that website, if you follow the directions, you can get your modified route, including any highway-avoiding options and user revisions, and export it as a .kml file that Earth will read.

I’ve only done this with one part of my route so far, but it worked like a hooker at a bankers’ convention – fast, easy, and cheap.

So I put the link here in case someone else might find this obscure workaround useful – though with my luck, Google will soon update Earth and/or Maps to do it directly and I won’t get to feel quite so accomplished.

Biding

I have a few more things to do to prepare, but nothing urgent – my date of departure, by the way, is tentatively Saturday, November 19. I say tentatively because there are a few things up in the air, like making sure I have someone to take care of my cats while I’m away.

Ghost Cat

Yeah... good luck with that.

Leaving on that day would give me three weeks to get up to Maine, across to Washington, and down to the San Francisco area to attend the party my friends are planning. Under perfect conditions, that would be more than enough time, even with stopping at interesting places along the way.

I’m not expecting perfect conditions at all. That’s part of the point of this, for me. At least it’ll keep me out of retail establishments during the worst of the Season of Greed. I’d rather drive across the country in a blizzard than go to Wal-Mart in late November.

So, biding my time, I figured I could do another beer tasting.

Now, my memory isn’t the greatest. No, it’s not because of the beer. At least, if it is, I don’t remember. It’s just that if it’s not a joke, I won’t remember it. The only reason I remember anything about college is I used to make jokes and puns about the stuff they taught me, and it helped me get through exams. Hey, everyone needs a hobby.

Point is, I don’t remember the names of the beers I tried today (except for Bell’s Special Double Cream Stout, which I only remember because I ended up buying some). That’s just as well, because they were pretty forgettable, and some of them had gimmicks.

What’s up with gimmick beers anyway? I had three “Scottish-style” ales: one with heather, another one with frakking pine needles and another with gooseberry. I never knew what gooseberry tasted like. Oh, wait, I still don’t know what gooseberry tastes like, because the beer tasted like watered-down beer with a strong hint of watered-down beer and overtones of watered-down beer. Neither goose nor berry to be found.

There’s a reason Germany instituted those beer purity laws.

Now that I have my smartphone, I suppose I could start snapping pics of the beverages I taste, keeping records of them along with some sort of scale, from “Excellent, would drink again,” all the way to “WTF is this piss?”

Hell, there’s probably already an app for that, right?

Hey, it looks like Bell’s Brewery is in Kalamazoo, Michigan. And oh, look, my most likely route takes me within a few miles of that amusingly-named city. Scratch that – my new most likely route takes me through that city.

See, I knew I’d find a way to relate this to the trip!

Got Smart

Today, I took another important step toward world dominationcross-country driving.

smart phone, dumb user

Of course, it took me an hour just to figure out how to upload pictures from it, and I’m still convinced there’s an easier way.

“But Waltz,” some of you might say, “That’s not an iPhone! Why didn’t you get an iPhone?”

Answer: AT&T and Verizon both suck, and even if I were inclined to jailbreak one, I mean, come on – I could barely figure out how to email myself a picture I took with the damn thing; how am I supposed to figure out how to reprogram one?

Anyway, that’s my new link to the world: wi-fi hotspot, data center, camera and GPS all in one. More computing capacity than a Saturn V (but a whole lot less explosive material).

Naturally, I fully expect it to break on my first day out.

Tire-ing

Had to take a little trip to the Subaru dealer today for some recall work. It turns out that the windshield wiper motor cover on the 2011 Legacy has a tendency to overheat and catch on fire.

This really doesn't look anything at all like my car, but it's on fire.

Well, it’s fixed now, supposedly. This is the second recall I’ve had to deal with, though. Watch: two days after I leave (less than a month away, now), they’ll discover that this model blows up as soon as it’s driven below zero degrees Fahrenheit, and I won’t find out until I’m driving through northern Wisconsin, when I’ll suddenly be warm for the rest of my life.

Whilst I was there, I asked about tire chains for winter driving conditions.

The repair dude told me that usually, the awesome all-wheel-drive feature of a Subaru (one of the main reasons I got one) is enough to deal with snow situations – and that with chains or not, you’re going to get stuck if you try to drive in snow deeper than the axles, which as it happens I already knew; contrary to popular belief, it does snow in Virginia, at least once or twice a season, and when it does, the highway department freaks the hell out but doesn’t actually do anything, so snow tends to stay on the roads longer than in, say, Michigan. So Virginia drivers either learn real quick what they can and can’t do in the snow, or they stay at home (or they’re from Michigan and laugh at all the school closings).

Subaru, the repair dude said, doesn’t even make chains for their cars, and I’d have to find a set elsewhere. And the set would have to work on my car’s specific tires, or risk damage to the wheel wells.

On the theory that I’d rather have ’em and not need ’em than need ’em but not have ’em, I’m inclined to get ’em – except that it would suck to spend all that money and then get into snow on the road and discover that I’m hosed, with or without the chains. I can handle being stuck; if I wanted to be safe, I’d stay cowering at home. I just don’t want a false sense of security.

I mean, I’ve never had a problem driving through snow, even back when I had 2wd vehicles. But then, I’ve never been in a North Dakota snowstorm, or trying to climb the Rockies.

East

Although I acquired a few more emergency-kit provisions today, that’s boring, so I’m going to talk about the first objective of this upcoming trip: the easternmost point of the continental U.S.

Now, according to the Great Oracle, that point is West Quoddy Head, Maine.

If you’re not into clicking links, here’s a pic of the lighthouse at that spot:

Yes, that's land even further east. But it's an island, and besides, it's Canada.

So hey, that’s pretty cool. The lighthouse is, I believe, the easternmost structure on the US mainland.

Another thing about Quoddy Head: it’s right at the Canadian border, a border that I’ll be sticking pretty close to throughout most of the journey west. As I said in my first entry, I’ll be staying within the US not out of any dislike of Canada but simply because my goal this trip is to see the US.

Maybe I’ll do a similar thing in Canada one day, but if so, it’ll be during the summer.

Anyway… I thought I might stay there two nights, just so I can spend the day around the lighthouse and the nearby town of Lubec, which seems pretty cool. (I’m just sad that I’m not going to be able to see the International Hat Exhibit at the Lubec Memorial Library.) Only problem is that while the town boasts a tourism industry, smart tourists only visit there during the summer, so many of the lodgings are closed in November. Dumb tourists like me might have trouble finding a place to stay. Of course, I could try to make reservations, but once I do that, my time schedule is locked in. That would be a commitment, and I can’t have that.

This, I suspect, will be the case through most of my trip – the fun of finding places to crash. Hey, that’s part of the challenge!