Epilog - Friday August 24, 2001
When we wrap these things up, I experience a flurry of mixed emotions. I'm delighted to be home, but I know I will miss these unique moments combining so many activities that I enjoy.
Mark and I started this in 1997, when we rode from Seattle to Michigan and back. I wanted to combine capturing a journal account of the trip with staying in touch with friends and family. As we started to receive feedback from our daily postings, something emerged that felt like a combination of journalism, adventure, silliness and newsletter. Each year it evolves a bit, and your participation has become the driving force.
After a long day of riding, there's a temptation to just drop the bags on the floor and hit the bar. It takes a minimum of two hours per night to review the pictures, crop and shrink those that make the cut, figure out what's worth talking about, review the mailbag, and evaluate the contest entries.. There is an overwhelming drive to meet a self-imposed deadline every day. I wish I could find a way to find that same urgency at home with my other projects. The reward for us: We can feel your presence as we ride along. Your replies, encouragement, and recommendations are a constant source of inspiration. Thank you!
Early in this year's outing, we received this correspondence from Jamie Engen:
I am glad to see that you are back in God's country, land of the colourful money, the promised land ... ah Canada.
Ancestral village to one of our loyal readers
My six year old son asked me last night what a "wannabe" was. Thanks to your second trip to Canada in the last 14 months I had a perfect explanation. You are henceforth known in our home as wannabe Canadians. If you need any help with interpreting the Canadian way of life let me know.
We chose Canada because it's close, it's huge, and it was the quickest way to get to Alaska. Canada is a truly beautiful country, and even though we have fun with the money, the exchange rate, the dialects, and the fact that they have only two kinds of bread, it's a great place. We actually passed through Jamie's ancestral village on the way up to Stewart. Oddly, there didn't seem to be anyone around. I think they've all moved south. Would I go back? In a heartbeat, eh!
Marty Levin asked for a description of how we do the real-time reporting and posting. Here's a quick overview:
First, you need a website. Most ISPs will give you a few megabytes, but one MPEG of a bear eats up a lot of disk space! You need to configure and test publishing to your website before you leave and become dependent upon hotel room connections. Work with your ISP to learn how to dial in and log on. Getting online while you're out in the real world can be challenging, so make sure to have local dial-up numbers available. I prefer 800# dialups because configuring the dialing is much easier. Test the whole setup by using your modem to call in and post a web page, then access it from a different computer to make sure it's really all there.
You need a suite of software with you. At a minimum, you need an HTML editor (we use FrontPage), an image editor (we use Adobe PhotoShop and PhotoDeluxe), and a mapping program (we use DeLorme products and Microsoft Streets & Trips). It helps to be familiar with the basic workhorse programs before you leave for your trip.
Each day, I begin the process by reviewing the photos I shot to help me remember what we experienced. We both use Canon digital cameras with compact flash memory cards that can be inserted into the laptop PC card slot. This sidesteps moving images via USB or serial, and it's much faster. The compact flash card is mounted by the OS and appears as a another hard drive. Then, it's a quick and simple process to move images into your image editor to crop and resize.
When editing pictures, we always compress them as much as possible. Regardless of the original resolution, we rescale images to 300-400 pixels wide. This seems to be a good compromise.
Since there are two people contributing, we need a way to move files back and forth between our laptops. By far, the easiest way to do this is with a built-in infrared link.
After publishing the web site, we check it to make sure everything made it. We often find nitty little problems with links, so there's always one final pass through the site after publishing.
Once the site is posted, we then mail to the list as a BCC recipient. Using a blind list seems to be the socially acceptable way to maintain a large list of recipients who don't know each other.
Just after publishing, there's always a sense of remorse that you could have done better. My rationalization is that unless you post every day, you're not going to capture the flow. My sense is that the folks who are following your adventure are more interested in the real-time nature of the commentary.
We have discussed the idea of having a third Izmo back at the ranch, acting as an editor. It would be so much easier for us to just mail someone the pictures, the commentary and the features, and let them do the assembly and fine-tuning. We would end up with much more attractive pages. But there's something intriguing about the immediacy of our postings having to fight through crummy connections, and the mental commitment to publishing the day's events is a powerful one.
Speaking of connections, we typically connect at 24000 bps through a motel switchboard. Sometimes we get faster connections. Occasionally we get slower. Regardless, that's pretty slow compared to what we're used to at home. I get online and download all my incoming mail each day, which often takes 30 minutes or more. When people are sending you a megabyte or more of web clippings as an entry to a contest -- you know who you are -- you gulp.
If you decide to share your adventure online, please include us! We'd love to steal your best ideas.
Gizmo likes gadgets and I have a few as well. Most of our gadgets have been mentioned in these reports and they all have batteries. So here is the challenge:
How many separate batteries were Gizmo and I carrying on this particular trip?
Your total should include every separate battery, both disposable and rechargeable, small or large, and include any batteries that might be "embedded" in vehicles, gadgets, and any carried as spares. For example, if you think one of us is carrying a flashlight with two AA batteries and has two spare batteries, then this would contribute four batteries to the total. Neither of us bought or threw away a battery on the trip, so the number was constant.
Here's the actual inventory of our battery-equipped devices along for the ride:
The total is 31 batteries, and the closest guess of 32 came from the Brady Family of Wading River, followed by Joe Dolan in Second Place, guessing 28, and Evelyn Mackay in Third Place with a guess of 35. Wow! Congratulations! As you might expect, Gizmo had a slightly higher percentage of the total battery inventory, with 59.375% of the battery inventory under his control.
On Day 6, Joe Eiffert asked so many questions, and Whizmo had so many answers. But Whizmo deferred the music questions to me:
Q: What chord does Jimmy Page hit at the beginning of the guitar solo in Stairway To Heaven? Bonus points if you know whether he was playing his Gibson or Telecaster. What are the answers to Chicago's Questions #67 & 68?
A: I'm pretty sure the first chord is an A minor, possibly with the 3rd omitted. (Are you referring to the bit just before the "and as we wind on down the road" part?) The progression in the bridge before the solo is D9 (no 3rd)/ D / Dsus, which is repeated 3 times in the following rhythmic pattern: (4)+a 1 (2)+a 3 (4)+a 1, etc. This pattern is repeated twice, and then he launches into the solo proper. Solo progression is Am/G/FMaj7.
My highly trained ear tells me that it might be the Tele, but I can't offer a definite opinion. The last lick was double tracked, however, and there is most definitely a 12 string electric rhythm guitar during the solo - probably the Gibson Double neck.
I'm confident that the answers to Chicago's Questions #67 & 68 are included in the Beatles' Revolution #9. The specifics are left as an exercise to the reader.
We couldn't do this unless we had the complete support of our respective families. Thanks to Janis and Susan for letting boys be boys.
We're both on BMW motorcycles, which once again performed flawlessly. As noted in an early log, this is the first time that we've both been on the same bikes two years in a row. That says a lot.
The only reason that we could ride through inclement conditions and 50° temperature swings is due to superior riding wear. Aerostich riding suits (www.aerostich.com) are the best. Just check with your roommate before buying that glow-in-the-dark model.
In spite of Whizmo's feelings about RVs, I can say from personal experience that Newell motorhomes (www.newellcoach.com) are the best darned Volkstanklastzug on the road.
Many folks contributed in unexpected ways to this year's outing. The most rewarding part of each day was mail call. Thanks to each and every one of you who sent us mail along the way. It was truly, deeply, sincerely appreciated.
Special thanks to ...
Congratulations to ...
#1 (Flowers on the Wall) - Robert Eiffert
#2 (Photo Caption) - Dan Newell and Steve Ellis
#3 (Marked Regular) - Pierre DeVries and Tim Mott
#4 (Best name for RVs) - Steve Ellis
#5 (Ghoti = fish) - Josh Brown
#6 (Hyderizing) - John Helms
#7 ('North to Alaska') - Chris Banks
#8 (Most voluminous 'Ask the Izmos' question) - Joe Eiffert
#9 (Fog Nozzle) - The Brady Family from Wading River
#10 (Battery count) - The Brady Family from Wading River
Winners - send email with your mailing address so we can start feeling guilty about not sending your prize.
And finally, I must offer my gratitude to Whizmo.
It's pretty challenging for a couple of aging boomers to willingly pool their fates for these adventures. The fact that we've been friends since high school helps enormously. We've done enough of these adventures now that certain aspects have become second nature, but there are always new challenges and new opportunities. We were better prepared this year than we've ever been. In addition to being a seriously skilled motorcyclist (he's a Motorcycle Safety Foundation instructor), he's also a worldly fellow and companion who makes any adventure ever-so-much-more so. Thanks, Whiz.
So, it looks like we must finally bid a fond, bittersweet farewell to this edition of Whizmo and Gizmo in the Great Northwest.
Thanks for riding with us!