Monday, April 14, 2014

Van Week 4/8 - 4/14

This week I drove south from Denver to Taos, Santa Fe & Los Alamos, New Mexico. Goal was to get in some good gravel/dirt road bike riding and a long hike. I'm simultaneously training for both the Almanzo 100 and hiking 1000 miles on the Pacific Crest Trail.

8th. Spent last night in the Wild Rivers Recreational Area outside of Taos, NM and pretty much had the run of the place. I realized that mornings are so much more beautiful when I’m not stressed about going off to a job I don’t like. I can watch the sunrise, meditate, slowly drink some tea, go for a little hike, enjoy a simple breakfast. Now that’s livin’.

Photo below is of my first night campsite at the recreation area. Just behind the van is a 500' deep gorge where one can hike down to the Rio Grande river...





9th. Yesterday I drove to Abiquiu, NM (home of Georgia O’Keefe) to bike 35 miles along the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route (aka Tour Divide). That’s the route that goes from Banff, AB to the Mexican border and follows dirt roads and forest service roads as close to the Continental Divide as possible. Today I rode a different section of dirt road 13 miles up a picturesque river canyon to a monastery. Gorgeous, glistening green river made for a couple enjoyable sits along its banks. Photo below is of 2nd night campsite on BLM land...




10th. Civilization day in Santa Fe today was capped by watching the Minnesota Gopher hockey team win their semifinal game in the NCAA tournament. Here's the free forest service campsite where I'll spend the next 4 nights...



11th. Was a little hungover today and took it easy in Santa Fe. I tried to nurse beers really slowly while watching two hockey games yesterday, but I think the celebratory shot of Jameson after the Gopher victory put me over the top.

12th. It’s a good thing rattlesnakes rattle, else I would have stepped on this fella and gotten the wrong end of his fangs. Fortunately, he made quite a racket as I absentmindedly approached to within about 2 feet. Saw him on a nice 15-mile hike just outside of Los Alamos, NM through a forest that was mostly destroyed by multiple recent fires. 

...and this is a cool burnt out tree a few miles before the rattler. The bark is still attached in this one area by the charred, but still intact, wood behind it.



13th. Last night I watched an excellent new documentary called “Mistaken for Strangers”. It was created by the metalhead brother who still lives with his parents of the singer of The National and chronicled his involvement with them on tour. Reminded me a little of all-time classic “American Movie”. 
Here's a photo of the van stovetop and tonight's dinner -- sausage, red pepper, orange pepper, garlic.




14th. Drive back to Denver. Beautiful country out here...

Monday, April 7, 2014

April 1-7


  1. In 1998 Neutral Milk Hotel recorded one of the best albums of the '90s. Soon after their talented frontman sheltered himself from the world and was barely heard from for more than a decade. Last night (3/31) I saw them play live in Denver and they lived up to all my expectations, a feat almost impossible to achieve. Fantastic show with trombones and accordions and musical saw that makes Grammy award winning Arcade Fire look like copycats.
  2. Had a positive meeting about SuperCuts on April 2 regarding hosting a Muslim Ladies Salon Night at the end of the month. That should be fun and I love the idea of providing services to a suppressed population. Later had a fun second date filled with thoughtful conversation, which I enjoy.
  3. Dating sucks.
  4. Saw an interesting documentary film today about the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva called "Particle Fever". It was fun to see a behind-the-scenes look at the global partnership of scientists who are smashing protons and trying to figure out the building blocks of the universe.
  5. In preparation for the Almanzo 100 mile gravel bike ride in mid-May I signed up to ride the Anti-Epic 50 mile ride outside of Monument, CO south of Denver and north of Colorado Springs. Here's me in the yellow courtesy of www.ridinggravel.com. The course was decent and I met some fine folks while helping to raise some money for www.kidsonbikes.net. Most importantly, it helped me realize that I have some more training to do if I'm going to survive a 100-miler in 6 weeks.
  6. My father's birthday is today so he and I had a nice chat. He's going to see the Gophers play in the Frozen Four NCAA hockey championship in Philadelphia later this week. Ski-U-Mah. Oh, and I bought a one-way plane ticket to San Diego for May 20th which will mark the start of my 1000-mile hike along the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mexican border to Yosemite. It's on.
  7. It's my forty-fourth birthday today and I'm hitting the road in the van for a week of biking and hiking in New Mexico. Today I'm planning on going to Taos via the scenic route and asking at bike shops there for recommendations on where to ride. I'll also pick up a New Mexico Gazetteer map book that lists all the BLM land and dirt roads and such. Goal for the week is to get in a 70-mile bike ride on dirt/gravel roads and a 15-mile hike with fully laden backpack since I'm in training for both the Almanzo and the PCT hike. 
later on.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Whitey Shakedown

If you've been following along you know that a couple months ago I quit my job and have embarked on the next phase of my life. Part of this involves transitioning from Bozeman, MT to Denver, CO where I have a friend and a passive income stream business opportunity.

So in January I bought a 1997 VW Eurovan camper van. She's all decked out for living in with a kitchenette (galley?) and sleeping arrangements.

This past weekend was our maiden voyage -- a chance for us to get to know each other and for me to learn how she works. 

The goal was to drive from Bozeman to Denver via the scenic route, because what's the rush in getting on the interstate. Might as well enjoy every moment, right? So Friday I took off from Bozeman and headed south via Big Sky and ended up in Evanston, WY where we camped in the parking lot of Big Box Store Whose Name I Will Not Mention.

This introductory video is from our second night out which was spent on BLM land just outside of Canyonlands National Park in southern Utah.

I call her Whitey and I'd like for you to meet her...



There are 3 key free locations where I expect to be camping with Whitey:
  1. Public land, like Bureau of Land Management (BLM) or national forests. BLM land is kind of a free-for-all where people can shoot their guns, ride their ATV or camp quietly on the side of the road.
  2. Stealth camping on neighborhood streets in towns or cities. I did this in Durango, CO on the 3rd night.
  3. Big box parking lots, et al.


Each of these is a free spot to spend the night, so very attractive in that regard. 


TRIP SUMMARY
The shakedown trip was great in that I learned how Whitey works and developed a couple rules of the road.

First of all, I became comfortable with the propane use. It's a little nerve-wracking driving around with an extra tank of combustibles hanging low beneath the vehicle, but I figured out how to work the stove and the heater (this is the secondary heater to be used when in camping mode and not driving). I even made myself a few kickass meals on the stove. As you know, meals taste way better when made in a camping environment then when made at home.

Second, I got to v1.1 of my storage arrangement and I expect this to continue to evolve and improve. There is a lot of storage space in the van for small things, but less so for big stuff. The process of figuring out the most efficient way to pack everything is ongoing, but I learned some key points and improved upon my original setup.

Third, I came up with two rules of the road:
  1. No junk food in the van. I want the vanlife to be a healthy experience and to ween myself off the habit of eating lots and lots of junk and comfort food while driving. Now that I have a fridge and kitchen there's no excuse for stopping at gas stations and grabbing candy all the time.
  2. Only exceed 70 mph when required. There is no rush in the vanlife. Vanlife is about chilling out and relaxing. It's also about conserving fuel and funds, so stick to the small highways whenever possible and just enjoy the ride.
That's where I'm at so far. It's very exciting for me to be on this new path and to be an example to others that it's possible to live differently. It's all about priorities.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

LoToMojo: Act III, Scene 1

I quit my job last week and Damn! does it feel good. My mind has been at a new peaceful place all week that I don't recall experiencing for so many (4) days before.

So what's next for me? Let's recap...

The Journey So Far

For at least five years I have been pretty intentional about being introspective and trying to figure out what I want out of life. One of the benefits of being a dork in high school is that the girls never talked to me and I never got into a relationship in my twenties. This led to my thirties full of online dating where I felt like I really wanted a relationship, but nothing worked out. I'm not sure exactly why it's been so hard for me to find a girlfriend, but I'm beginning to think that this wanderlust that I'm now raising high up my freak flagpole was always there and that (foundational?) part of me was hesitant to commit and settle down.

The journey led me to beautiful Bozeman, MT where I have enjoyed the last 2+ years. The move from St. Paul and the condo I had purchased and made my own was a huge step, for it is never easy to move out of a home that one has been a part of for a decade. It's so easy to stay in the current groove (rut?) and just allow inertia to pass the years.

The Goal

My goal is to live a life of greater freedom where I can fulfill my sense of wonder about the world. For many years I've had three parallel thoughts that I believe in and have shared, but have only acted upon in short two-week bursts:

  1. The world is an amazing place full of so many fascinating experiences -- and I don't want to die and leave them on the table, wondering what if.
  2. How cool would it be to live in New York for a year, Paris for a year, Mongolia for a year, etc. Each place is so full of richness and life!
  3. Get busy livin' or get busy dyin'.

The A-ha Moment

About 6 weeks ago I met with a client in my career as a financial advisor. He's in his upper 50s, has a few hundred grand in savings from when he was employed as an engineer, but has been mostly out of work for the past several years. He has been living on about $1000/month in subpar conditions and wanted to know if he could afford $1300/month to upgrade his housing situation.

When I did the analysis I realized that, if he wanted to, I could help him set it up so his savings could generate for him a paycheck for the rest of his life. That paycheck would be about $1500/month and would grow over time, guaranteed to never go down.

In the financial world we always discuss the question: how much money do you need to retire? This assumes that continuing the current lifestyle is the most important thing, and that we will work as long as we need to in order to stay at the current lifestyle.

But the idea of living on $1500/month shocked my system. It changed my thinking from how much do I need to retire to how little do I need to retire?

Aha! This changes the picture entirely.

So many of my daily expenses don't add any fulfillment to my life -- eating out because I'm too lazy to cook for myself, drinking at bars because it's the easiest form of social interaction, drinking at bars because I'm stressed out from a day at work, living in a place that is big enough for three people, driving my car when I could ride my bicycle, etc.

My goal has never been to work at an unfulfilling job until age 65 and then continue living on the same amount of income as I'd been accustomed to living on to that time. My goal has always been as indicated above, but I have been stuck in the rut worn by ill-mannered inertia.

The Future

So I have options and am looking for more freedom and less job-i-ness.

With the advent of the podcast and the growth of blogging I've been able to find kindred souls who are ahead of me on this path of freedom. They have helped me understand that it's okay for me to live my life the way I want to live it, and that it's possible to do so.

Fortunately, I've been a pretty good saver for the past 15 years so I do have a cushion of money. Is it enough to live on for the rest of my life? $1000/mo. ain't gonna cut it for me so probably not. For that reason I will seek out a more passive income stream. The idea is to generate an income stream (like rental income) that isn't directly tied to hours worked.

Frugality will play a larger part in my life, as will simply living with less stuff so I require less space in which to dwell. It's not so much about denying luxuries as it is about being wise with resources and eliminating the expenses that add little value. After all, where in life to we really receive the greatest joy?

As an example, right now I live in an 1100 sq. ft. apartment. 60% of my time there is spent in bed (queen size). 30% of my time is spent in my favorite chair. The other 10% is divided between bathroom, kitchen, etc. I really only use about 300 sq. ft. and another 200 sq. ft. is nice to have for moving around. I'm paying for 600 sq. ft. that is essentially waste.

Obviously there are some unanswered questions (primarily: where will that income stream come from), but living in some ambiguity can be an empowering thing. I'm thrilled to be on a new path heading in the right direction, but just can't quite see around the next bend yet.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

On Jobs and Freedom

Job
For most people the word "job" implies a kind of undesired servitude, for truly how many of us would continue to work in our current capacity for our current employer if we didn't need the money? Someone with more power than us in the hierarchy assigns us tasks or responsibilities and if we carry them out in an acceptable manner then we receive the benefit of a paycheck and the privilege of being assigned more tasks and more responsibility.

We agree to this social norm because we have expenses in our lives that require an income to support. We make 30-year financial commitments, 18-year financial commitments, 4-year financial commitments, 12-month financial commitments. We then attempt to balance those obligations with the hope of living a lifestyle that can allow us to take occasional vacations (to get away from the job and do things we actually enjoy) and to terminate the job phase of our life sometime before we die. Some of us never get the pleasure of experiencing (healthy, vibrant) living beyond the job phase.

Retirement
We are shocked when we calculate for ourselves how much money we will need to retire. Did you say I need to save millions of dollars?! But how am I supposed to save that much when I only make $X and I have to pay for this, that and the other thing!

Instead of asking how much we need to retire, what if we asked how little we need to retire? What if we could cut back on our expenses significantly without it negatively effecting our happiness. In fact, what if cutting back on expenses could actually make us happier?

And what if there were ways to create enough income to sustain us at this lower expense level without having to work a traditional job?

Financial Freedom
One definition of financial freedom is when passive income is greater than expenses. Passive income is income that we generate that doesn't strictly depend on the number of hours that we work  -- like rental income, royalties from publishing, profits from a business or interest income.

Of course, this concept of passive income also flies in the face of Great American Ideals like work ethic, diligence and perseverance.

But are those traits always most admirable? What about "work smarter, not harder"?


Resources
Thanks to the following resources for helping me to understand that a life I always hinted at, but didn't completely understand and wasn't able to articulate, is achievable.

In the rough order in which I encountered them...

Sunday, May 19, 2013

1982 Trek 720 Touring Bicycle 21" Reynolds 531

I'm selling this bike. It's a gorgeous vintage 1982 Trek 720 with Reynolds 531 steel frame -- a true classic American built touring bicycle.















Friday, January 25, 2013

I Dream of Gravel

My highlight of 2012 was the four day bike tour I took on gravel and dirt roads in and around Glacier National Park. I don't think I blogged about it, but it was an amazing 4 days of minimalist traveling amongst some of the most beautiful terrain in Montana. Even though its still the middle of the ski season, all I can think about is getting back out on the gravel backroads of this great state.

I did a little searching for some route options and found this awesome looking 860-mile loop that was pieced together by our dirt biker friends.




This loop is now my quest for 2013. 

If I take my time and stop at all the little cafes and saloons along the way, I figure 10-12 days should be plenty of time. There's no reason to be in a rush and I'd prefer to experience all the sights to their fullest.

Of course I need the right rig for the ride and today put in an order for a 2013 Salsa Fargo 2. The Fargo is highly regarded and one of the only bikes made specifically for the purpose of multi-day gravel bike touring. Since multi-day gravel bike touring is what I've been dreaming about for the past year, I figure it's worth the investment. I'll try tubeless tires for the first time and am hoping the Thudbuster seat post will live up to it name and keep the ride smooth.





Sound like fun?
I'm also taking applications for the position of Riding Buddy: 
  • No experience required
  • Must have senses of adventure and humor
  • Appreciation of rural saloons preferred

If you are interested, please get in touch. I'm thinking July.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Reason to Love the MT: #43

There aren't many places when one quickly has to consider the question:

 hunter or biathlete?




Last winter I had the pleasure of xc skiing in West Yellowstone and stumbled across a beginner biathlon class. As a longtime biathlon admirer I was thrilled when they asked me to join. I got to shoot the rifle, ski a lap, and shoot again. Each round I hit 4 out of 5 targets. Good times.

Yesterday I was xc skiing up Brackett Creek and into Bohart Ranch when a gentleman with a rifle slung over his shoulder, not unlike a biathlete, was walking down the groomed xc ski trail. He was wearing a blaze orange vest, showshoes, and an eye patch, so my keen mind was able to deduce that he was not a biathlete, but a hunter.



Friday, November 16, 2012

This Morning's Playlist

It's not even 10am and this morning I've already listened to these complete albums...


  • Nebraska by Springsteen
  • Dressed Up Like Nebraska by Josh Rouse
  • For Emma, Forever Ago by Bon Iver
  • Bee Thousand by Guided by Voices
First of all, I struggled with how to write the introductory sentence above in order to make sure that the reader understands that I still listen to albums in their entirety. I've ranted about this before, but to me the album is a piece of art and deserves to be heard in order and all the way through.

Got on a Springsteen kick recently because everyone is raving about his current tour, the first without legendary saxman Clarence Clemons who died last year. I understand how some people don't appreciate Springsteen because he does tend to write the same song over and over. But I'll tell you what: if you look back at his catalog and ignore the low points, he's got as impressive a resume as anyone in rock. All artists have low points and not enough have a point of view. Nebraska has always been a favorite of mine and takes me back to senior year in college when it was one of our go-to albums when winding down after a long day.

After I searched on iTunes for "Nebraska", it was only natural that Josh Rouse's album showed up in the search results. It builds on a similar mood/tone, but has a little more pep to it so I kept listening. I think I got this album for free somewhere in '98 or '99 and what a pleasant surprise it was. Not sure what he's doing today, but check out tracks "Dressed Up Like Nebraska" and "Late Night Conversation" for some twangy pop goodness.

Continuing the mood, I had to go on a search next to figure out what was appropriate. Alphabetically, Bon Iver was the first to emerge and so I ran with it. I still like this one more than his second album, especially the way the title track beautifully emerges near the end of the record. Ahhh....

Then I hit the shower and came out to a voicemail from my 1:00 appointment asking to reschedule. I'd just put on a respectable, tuck-in-able, button down white shirt so I did what any sane man would do and took it off, replacing it with a much less respectable, but much more comfortable plaid. 

I've started reading some of the 33 1/3 book series, each written about one iconic rock album. Page 24 of the Bee Thousand edition was sitting on the table next to me, so I picked it up. What a great read for a GBV fan. There's a huge chunk penned by charismatic frontman Bob Pollard and it's like candy. So of course I wanted to listen to the album as I was reading about it.

And then I wrote this.
And so here we are.

How's it goin'?

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Origin of Grunge

Ahh... Sweet, sweet, original vinyl pressing of Mudhoney's "Superfuzz Bigmuff", the album that begot grunge.

Now, you are mine.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

vs. The Greatest of All Time

Everyone has in their head a list of their favorite songs of all time. Previously I've posted Songs of the Day and my favorite bands of all time, so now its time for the songs.

For the past several years I've been telling people that "Gimme Shelter" by the Rolling Stones is the greatest song of all time. While this is obviously quite subjective, it's not a difficult one to defend as it has all the hallmarks:
  • sung by one of the bands widely recognized as an all-time great
  • lyrics that are open to interpretation, but vary between war and love
  • fantastic backing vocals
  • Keef Richards on guitar


But of course it's folly to try to say that any one song is The Best ever. The other day I started making a playlist of songs that I feel like I could make an argument for as the best of all time, allowing only one song per artist.

I was quite surprised when my list topped over 100 songs. So here they are without much explanation. Feel free to check 'em out for yourself if you care.

In alphabetical order by artist...



Artist
Name
AC/DC
Afghan Whigs
Alejandro Escovedo
Its a Long Way to the Top
Milez is Dead
Five Hearts Breaking
Arcade Fire
Wake Up
Archers Of Loaf
Harnessed In Slums
Arcwelder
Cranberry Sauce
Bad Brains
I Against I
The Band
The Weight
Battles
Atlas
Bauhaus
Bela Lugosi's Dead
The Beach Boys
Wouldn't It Be Nice
The Beastie Boys
Sabotage
The Beta Band
Dry The Rain
Big Star
September Gurls
Bob Dylan
Tangled Up In Blue
Bon Iver
For Emma
The Bottle Rockets
Welfare Music
Bruce Springsteen
The River
Buffalo Tom
Taillights Fade
Built To Spill
Good Ol' Boredom
The Byrds
Hickory Wind
Calexico
All Systems Red
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
The Skin of My Yellow Country Teeth
The Clash
Clampdown
Cows
Hitting The Wall
Dale Watson
Good Luck 'n' Good Truckin' Tonight
Damien Jurado
Go First
David Bowie
Suffragette City
De La Soul
Eye Know
Dead Kennedys
California Uber Alles
Dinosaur Jr
The Lung
The Doors
Break On Through
Drive-By Truckers
Outfit
Elvis Costello
Radio Radio
The Faces
Ooh La La
The Flaming Lips
Kim's Watermelon Gun
Fugazi
Repeater
Gone Out Gone
Pale Green Eyes
Gram Parsons
Return Of The Grievous Angel
Guided By Voices
Hot Freaks
Hammerhead
The Starline Locomotive
The Hold Steady
Slapped Actress
Hum
Pinch & Roll
Hüsker Dü
Celebrated Summer
Iffy
She's Got a Light
Ike Reilly
Hail! Hail!
Jack Logan
Optimist
The Jayhawks
Blue
The Jesus Lizard
Puss
Joe Ely
The Road Goes on Forever
Joe Henry
Good Fortune
Johnny Cash
Jackson
Joy Division
LCD Soundsystem
Ceremony
Daft Punk Is Playing At My House
Lifter Puller
Space Humping $19.99
Lou Reed
Perfect Day
Low
Starfire
Lucinda Williams
Car Wheels On A Gravel Road
The Magnolias
Pardon Me
Mark Mallman
The Red Bedroom
Mary Lou Lord
Lights Are Changing
Matt Wilson
Deep All the Way Down
Matthew Sweet
I've Been Waiting
Metallica
Master of Puppets
Miles Davis
Freddie Freeloader
Minutemen
History Lesson - Part II
Mission of Burma
Academy Fight Song
The Modern Lovers
Roadrunner
Modest Mouse
Convenient Parking
Morphine
Cure For Pain
Mudhoney
In 'n' Out Of Grace
My Bloody Valentine
Only Shallow
Neil Young
Revolution Blues
The New Pornographers
The Slow Descent Into Alcoholism
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!
Nick Drake
Pink Moon
Nirvana
About A Girl
Nova Mob
Evergreen Memorial Drive
Old 97's
W-I-F-E
Pavement
Summer Babe (Winter Version)
Pearl Jam
Evenflow
Pink Floyd
Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Parts I-V)
The Pogues
Fairytale Of New York
The Ramones
Sheena Is A Punk Rocker
The Replacements
I Will Dare
Rilo Kiley
Portions For Foxes
Robbie Fulks
Let's Kill Saturday Night
The Rolling Stones
Gimme Shelter
Run Westy Run
Flappers
Sebadoh
Willing To Wait
The Shins
New Slang
The Silos
All Falls Away
Slim Dunlap
Hate This Town
The Smiths
Panic
Son Volt
Tear Stained Eye
Sonic Youth
Teen Age Riot
Soul Asylum
Closer To The Stars
Spoon
The Underdog
Steve Earle
The Revolution Starts Now
The Stooges
1970
Suburbs
Macho Drunk
Suicide Commandos
Complicated Fun
Superchunk
Slack Motherfucker
Supersuckers
Coattail Rider
Tad
Jinx
Talking Heads
Once In A Lifetime
Teenage Fanclub
Star Sign
They Might Be Giants
Why Does The Sun Shine?
Tom Waits
Ol' 55
Townes Van Zandt
To Live Is To Fly
Trampled By Turtles
Duluth
TV On The Radio
Wolf Like Me
Uncle Tupelo
Moonshiner
Urge Overkill
Sister Havana
Van Halen
Unchained
The Velvet Underground
Femme Fatale
The Verve
Bitter Sweet Symphony
Vic Chesnutt
Gravity Of The Situation
Weezer
The Good Life
Whiskeytown
Faithless Street
The Who
Won't Get Fooled Again
Wilco
Via Chicago
Yo La Tengo
Tom Courtnenay