If you’ve ever wanted to hit the open (dirt) road, here’s an article on Tips for the TAT I wrote for Expedition Portal.
It’s that time of year when the 20Booksto50K conference takes place in Las Vegas, and I’ll be there again. As with last year, I’ll have a table set up in Bally’s in the afternoon of November 18th, so if you want to come by and get a signed copy of any of my novels, or just to meet me and chat, come on by.
I saw a recent review that called Surveyor “Far Right/Libertarian Propoganda.” I had to wonder at the reviewers political knowledge level, as the two political entities are miles apart.
As a refresher, Libertarians believe you, the owner of your own body, have complete and total control over it. Any external control without your consent violates the non-aggression principle, which states: aggression, defined as initiating or threatening any forceful interference against either an individual, their property or against promises for which the aggressor is liable and in which the individual is a counterparty, is inherently wrong (sourced from Wikipedia).
That’s pretty much it. Libertarians want to be left alone to pursue their dreams of life without some authority pushing laws onto them. Some libertarians want to go full on “no government at all” and scream “taxation is theft”. I believe the Libertarian motto goes something like “diligently plotting to take over the world and leave you alone.” To those who know little about libertarianism, I recommend reading more (as a primer) at Libertarianism.org.
The Far Right, on the other hand, is the opposite of libertarian, just as is the Far Left. Both the Far Right and the Far Left want to push their ideals on others (which violates the libertarian non-aggression principle). Those on the Far Right are usually nationalists (which isn’t necessarily a bad or good thing), while those on the Far Left push for a more “diverse” society (one that embraces diversity of color/culture/sexual orientation, but not political thought or opinion). More importantly, and the defining trait that separates them from libertarians, is that they are authoritarian. Some examples of far right are Fascists (think Mussolini’s Fascist Italy, Hitler’s Nazi – National Socialists – Germany, or Franko’s Spain) and the KKK. Examples of Far Left include anything communist (Soviet Union, China, North Korea). Basically, those places that killed millions to support their political ideology. If you have to kill people to make your ideology work, it’s not really a good ideology, is it?
You can read more about the Far Right in Wikipedia, but in the US, it boils down to nationalists who are also prone to be white supremacist racists. You will also see the Far Right pushing their version of Christianity on others, and being anti-Semitic, anti-Islam, anti-immigration, anti-gay, anti-transgender, anti-anyone other than them.
So, the key points are: libertarians support freedom through the non-aggression principle; the Far Right believes in authoritarianism that pushes their nationalist racist agenda. Know the difference.
Hard to believe I just rode 9,739.6 miles in the past 49 days on a 411 cc Royal Enfield Himalayan motorcycle, but I did. A lot of it was pavement, but several thousand miles was dirt roads, gravel roads, and 4×4 paths.
Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway was wonderful – cool temps, nice curves, and good campgrounds. At the end of the Blue Ridge Parkway, I hopped on the Tail of the Dragon, a stretch of road that is 11 miles long and has 318 curves. Lots of accidents there (but not your’s truly).
Once complete with the Dragon, I then proceeded into Tellico Plains, TN, where I hopped on the Trans-America Trail (TAT). For the next 22 days I rode mainly dirt roads, gravel roads, and 4×4 trails across Tennessee, North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, Idaho, and Oregon. The final destination – Port Orford, OR.
Along the way I managed to dump my bike several times, took one tuck-and-roll fall (in the mud), took many pictures, stayed in many good (and bad) hotels/motels, camped out a lot, and lost about 8 pounds. I also had some minor mishaps with the bike. At one point, the gas tank gasket was leaking gas onto my hot engine. Another time I lost my spare gas can, and the next day my spare water can. I also lost the nut to one of my turn signals – fortuitously, I found it wedged into the space between the spare gas can and the can holder. I also lost my homemade sign that I had dangling off the back of the bike, I’m giving it all she’s got, Captain. I think somebody took it, but no proof.
I found out how to stand on pegs for greater riding stability (I knew it before, but it was reinforced along the ride), how important good tires are, and how to properly lube a chain (something I didn’t do with the first chain, apparently).
On three occasions, I had the opportunity to ride with people from my past – a guy I knew in high school in Bangkok, Thailand, a guy from my college ROTC days, and a guy I knew from my elementary school days in Vientiane, Laos (he was in high school at the time). I also got to see some old friends from Bangkok and Laos along the way. All in all, a good trip.
If you ever plan on doing the TAT, here are some tips: take a dirt bike training course (I did); go for several hundred miles of training rides (I did not); take a tumbling class (I did not – it was all OJT); ride with a buddy, or ride a lighter bike. More tips in an article I’m writing.
TAT on and Buen TAT
Here it is, Day 12 of James’s Great American Adventure (or GAA as I call it on Facebook – read more about it at my Facebook Author Page. So far, the trip has been relatively uneventful, but lots of saddle time – between 7 and 10 hours in the saddle each day (except the last two days, which I’ve only put in a couple of hours as I’ve reached my New England destination). Only one truly scary incident, and that was when I smelled gas. Turns out, my tank was leaking onto the engine (clearly identified after I had just spent an hour on the bike at 60 mph). Luckily, no flames, and I was able to fix the problem (turns out the bolts to the tank gasket had loosened enough that the gasket was leaking – easy fix, but required removing the tank first.).
If you haven’t traveled across America yet, I highly recommend doing so (I’ve done it a number of time – this is my third time on a motorcycle). The scenery is fantastic, especially if you stay off the interestates.
One thing about the Royal Enfield Himalayan (411 cc) is that it does not like highways, so the back roads have been my main transport links. 50 mph is a good speed for the Himi. It handled the curves through the Idaho and Montana mountains well, along with the curves of the Green Mountains in Vermont (although on some of those roads I worried, due to the poor quality of the roads).
In New Hampshire for a couple of days (family matter), then off to Shenandoah National Park where I’ll ride Skyline Drive and then the Blue Ridge Parkway to the Great Smokey Mountains National Park. From there, dirt-road city baby – the Trans-America Trail to Oregon, then back home.
Happy Independence Day (for as long as we can keep it, to paraphrase Benjamin Franklin).
In other news, I’ll be taking a road trip to the East Coast (and then back to the West Coast). If you live anywhere along the route between Enumclaw, WA, and Concord, NH, then contact me. I might be able to stop (or not). The best way to find my route is by doing a Googlemaps search for directions between the two locations, but use “Avoid Highways” as an option.
Once I get done in NH, I’ll be taking the southern route home, to include a ride along Shenandoah National Park’s Skyline Drive (the first National Park I was ever a NPS Ranger) and the Blue Ridge Parkway to Great Smokey Mountain NP (which I’ve never been to). After that, it’s dirt road city, schweetheart! I’ll be hopping on the Trans-America Trail and riding my (overladen) Royal Enfield Himalayan motorcycle to Port Orford, OR, then back up to Enumclaw (red line on map below to Idaho, then green line to Pacific Ocean).
Part of the trip will entail scattering some of the ashes of best bud Dave Jeschke into the Atlantic Ocean. Dave had started out on his around-the-world trip in his little West Sail sailboat, and made it to Cabo San Lucas when he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He never made the hop from Mexico to the South Pacific, nor continued across the Indian to the Mediterranean, then across the Atlantic to the Caribbean, then back into the Pacific. Guess I’m helping a bit. This year, the Atlantic. Next year, the South Pacific, and maybe the Mediterranean the following year.
Anyhow, I will have a laptop and will do some writing, but if you’re interested in hooking up, hit the “Contact me” button and send a message. You can also follow my adventures on Facebook.
Well, that was fun. Literally. I took my Royal Enfield Himalayan motorcycle out to the greater Plain metropolitan area and took part in an off-road motorcycle rally. Ostensibly, I was there on business (remember the Simple Shower from Surveyor? Well, it’s real and I was selling it). I also got some trail time on the bike, taking it out for it’s first real forest roads (and mine in 30 years). Glad I took a motorcycle training class for off-roading a couple of weeks ago.
Did I do any writing? No, but I did swing by a restaurant on the east side of Mount Rainier National Park (MoRa) to verify some stuff for my upcoming novel, Reset. Yep, glad I did – I was mistaken about some features, but now I’m not.
Back to motorcycling. If you’ve done street biking (like I did many moons ago), it’s completely different than riding off-road (which includes trails and gravel roads – they really should just call it off-pavement or off-asphalt, but it’s off-road). On the street, you sit and lean with the bike. Pretty basic. With off-road, you stand and salsa (lean on the outside peg, hip out, and outside shoulder/elbow up). My trainer had me do the salsa to learn it (literally, we stood on the ground and did the salsa!). So, now, as I’m cruising up and down the logging roads and trails (and my 3/4 mile gravel driveway), I’m moving about on the pegs, standing, with da-da-da-da-da-da going through my brain.
If you’re into adventure biking or off-road riding, check out the Touratech Rally. It takes place every June in the little town (thriving metropolis) of Plain, WA (which is just, plain beautiful), just a mere half-hour north of Leavenworth (Washington State’s faux Bavaria).
So, I just got back from a vacation. What makes that so special? Everyone goes on vacations. Most people do one or two a year. Well….
What made this vacation special for me was the fact that A) it was my first vacation in four years and 2) it was the first vacation in about 20 years I didn’t work. Yep, you heard that right – I didn’t work (for the first time in about 20 years – did I mention that already?). It’s not that I’m type A (well, I guess a little – okay, maybe a lot), but for the past 20 years I’ve either been teaching (mostly online) or working fraud cases.
My family has usually elected to take vacations while I still had to teach (it worked mostly for my wife’s work schedule and the kid’s school schedule), so I had to drag the laptop along and teach while on vacation (logging in daily and grading, mostly). Even while walking across Spain on the Camino de Santiago I had to drag my laptop along to complete a fraud case (that pesky time-sensitive thing most fraud cases involve).
What made this non-working vacation possible? First, I quit teaching online (sorry students). Second, I let all the clients and attorneys know – I’m on vacation. I will not be working or responding to emails or working on any cases or answering any phone calls. And I didn’t! And it was great!
I know what most of you are thinking – who cares that you didn’t teach or work on any fraud cases while you were on vacation. How many words did you write?
Honestly, not many. Although I did haul along my little laptop (more a tablet – an Asus Mini-Transformer), I actually didn’t sit down and do too much writing. I got a little done on a couple of mornings, and some on the flight back to the mainland, but that was it. At most, a couple of thousand words (on a YA novel set in the CoD/HC timeline which I’ve been working on piece by piece over the past two years), but nothing on Reset or the next in the CoD series (which I still don’t have a name for).
Here’s a special shout-out to Shawn Inmon, who took some of his valuable time away from writing to talk a little publishing business (while I sipped Kona coffee on the lanai one morning, watching the waves of the tropical ocean, smelling the scent of tropical flowers wafting up while bird sang and screeched in the trees). I would say between that 20-30 minute conversation and the probably one hour spent writing, that was the most actual work I did (and I don’t consider writing or talking writing to be business – so there!).
Back to writing!
That was the subject matter of a recent email to fellow novelist, Shawn Inmon. What on Earth did Shawn do to get blamed for? Simple – his writing took away from mine!
Let me explain. No, that would take too long. Let me sum up. Shawn and I (along with aspiring crime/thriller writer Ken W.) hooked up for lunch last week while I was in Olympia having my motorcycle go through its 300 mile tune-up. The upshot is, I wound up buying A Door into Time: An Alex Hawk Time Travel Adventure. So, on a recent, long flight, where I had planned to spend time writing, I spent the time reading instead. Damn you, Shawn Inmon 🙂 I blame you.
If you’re interested in reading this book (which I highly recommend), you can get it on Amazon or through Shawn’s page (I recommend going through his website).
If you’d like to order a signed paperback, let me know by shooting me an email. I will be ordering a bunch and will personalize each signed copy with your name (if you want your name in it). Payment can be made through PayPal. It’ll take a while for me to get the paperback copies, but shoot me an email now if you’d like one.