Week 22 - Graham, Hadley

Things I Did

  • Talked to my friend NS in Los Angeles to give him some advice on a movie script he's writing about a software developer who stumbles into a crazy sci-fi action romp. It was nice catching up and I look forward to eventually making my way down there for a visit.
  • Took a day trip to the garage on Saturday and improved the handlebar attachment, installed a cigarette lighter socket for phone chargers and other accessories, and organized all my stuff to fit in a bin so the "fun table" in the shop can be used for other projects. I also installed a multitool in a holster on Punkin's downtube and it's already come in handy a time or two.
  • Figured out the solution to a mechanical issue while riding back to Graham and fixed it in a gas station parking lot with my toolkit. I'm feeling a lot more confident about doing repairs on the road.
  • Finished reading Blue Highways and really enjoyed it. I love the way the author is so present: curious and observant, drawing out the stories of the people around him, but never trying to erase himself from the picture. A lot of his adventures start with a silly thing like driving to a town with an interesting name and asking everyone how it came to be called that. The philosophical guiding lights of the book are Black Elk (who I'd like to read) and Walt Whitman (who I'm already a big fan of). While thinking about why I love Whitman, it occurred to me that while Heat-Moon is often critical of hamburger chains and obese tourists, I can't remember a single instance of Whitman disparaging someone or something in a poem. Well, in a eulogy to Lincoln he refers to "the foulest crime in history known in any land or age", which is a fair moral judgement, but his aesthetics and love of people seem to be all-embracing. He covered the march of industry and the carnage of the Civil War so it's not like he just ignored difficult topics and wrote about trees and flowers. I need to keep reading more poems to find out if my impression is correct, and if so figure out and absorb the secret of his disposition.
  • Practiced for my upcoming motorcycle skills test by weaving around bottles of water in a parking lot. Back when I first started riding Kiddo I was so bad at this that I rode over and smashed most of the bottles, but this time I only knocked them over with the footpegs now and then. So I think I've become a better motorcyclist in general, but also I'm gaining more and more confidence riding Punkin, which is surprisingly nimble and stable at slow speeds. I think the engine is performing about like it should now, and once I customize the gearing it's going to be perfect for me.
  • Extended my stay in Graham by a week. But after that I hope to hit the road and head south for a while. I've been looking at maps and doing some trip planning, and Florida seems mighty inviting in this cold weather.

Things I Learned

  • There's a new movie technology called LED wall virtual production, where scenes are shot in front of a massive screen displaying a 3D modeled background that's updated dynamically as the camera moves so it always looks correct from that perspective. It's all driven by consumer-grade gaming hardware, and one huge advantage is that the location can be changed in a matter of minutes just by adjusting the lighting and swapping out props in the foreground. Some advantages over green screens are that video comes out of the camera already composited, there are no artifacts around the edges, costumes can use any color, and actors feel a little more like they're in the scene.
  • Honda just came out with the 2021 CT125, which is a reboot of the CT90 model series Punkin is in. The looks are retro, with a sturdy cargo rack and everything, but it's got modern parts: a computer, fuel injection, antilock disc brakes. It's a bit funny, since I've essentially just built a 125cc Trail Cub, half codger, half infant. But I'm pretty happy with what I've got, and although it's made with a lot of Chinese ATV parts, they're at least repairable, cheap, and ubiquitous. If anything goes wrong, it's the kind of stuff that should be available in any rural motorcycle shop, or from Amazon if needed.
  • Some pazzo Italians have invented a sport called Vespacross, which consists of modifying vintage two-stroke Vespas to produce 17 horsepower, installing knobby tires, and racing them on dirt tracks. It looks ridiculous and terrifying and fun.

Wonderful Things

  • Scoring some very comfy new sweatpants at Family Dollar, which were marked down from $12.50 to $9.95, but when rung up at the register were actually only $1! I'm starting to really appreciate dollar stores.
  • Finding a Salvadorean restaurant with delicious pupusas and tasting the juice of the cashew fruit (marañon) for the first time. It's kind of like guanabana, but with some darker and more caramely notes.
  • Trying something difficult and getting better at it little by little.
  • Enjoying a few minutes of full sun, barefooted on the rooftop outside my room.

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