Tooth the Nightmare Before Christmas

The resort manager had barely finished extolling the virtues of our room -- "the best in the lodge," he promised -- before Kristin began what would be a brief obsession with the concierge, Floyd. He was taller than me. He was darker than me. And try as I might, I have to admit Floyd is even a much better listener. And we all know how important that is to the ladies. Lucky for me, Floyd also outweighed me by nearly two thousand pounds and was quite hairy. And dead. Floyd was a stuffed bison on display in the main lobby that, according to Kristin, was just oh-so-cute. Whether or not he performed concierge duties we don't know for sure. We never saw anyone at the desk adjacent him, yet the reservations were always well taken care of.

As for our room, it was every bit as fantastic as we were assured. We entered to the sound of classical music playing on a stereo, a ready-made wood fire waiting to be lit in the fireplace, and a view looking out to an endless winter snowscape every bit as pillowy as the down-clad bedding. The four and one-half hour drive went smoothly with clear roads over both mountain passes, yet we were anxious to commence with the relaxing. Armed with a couple bottles of pinot noir, a favorite single malt, some books and a backgammon board, we embraced the lack of a television in the room and set about putting the stress of the preceding weeks behind us. Back home in Snoqualmie I'm neck-deep in one of the most frustrating and difficult projects I've been a part of in years and Kristin, well, she just got laid off two weeks prior. But here at Sun Mountain Lodge, none of that mattered. All we had to remember was that our couples massage was scheduled for three o'clock on Friday and we had a dinner reservation for seven on Christmas day. It would be four days of blissful relaxation.

We settled into a pair of leather armchairs near one of the two massive fireplaces in the lobby, just feet from a towering two-story artificial Christmas tree, to do some reading while the local Cascadia Choral group filled the room with a harmonious hour of Christmas carols. Kristin sat working her way through one of my favorites, "The River of Doubt" by Candice Millard, while I read Colin Thubron's "Shadow of the Silk Road." The choir was explaining the finer points of miming along to the reindeer song as I came upon the following passage:

Fargo: It's a Wrap!

Finally received delivery of the gel padding that I wanted to include under the leather handlebar tape (and red anodized Salsa skewers to match the headset!) and was able to finish up the build. Had a request for some close-ups of the cockpit so I'm attaching a couple extra down below. I admit this is a pretty unorthodox setup. Butterfly trekking bar, disc brakes, grip shifters, and leather Brooks bar tape... wha-wha-what?

The orange gel padding that was holding up the show. Looks ugly now, but should add some
comfort for the hands during those long days in the saddle.

Head-on view of the control arrangement. Installed the brake levers on the edge of the bars and the grip shifts just inside of them. It gets tight underneath with the brake and shifter cables dueling it out in close-proximity, but it works well!

The Fargo Build

There's something really magical about building up a bike that was purchased for the express purpose of being ridden around the world (although it's maiden tour will be a slightly more modest 500 mile trip around the Olympic Peninsula next summer). I hemmed and hawed over each part like never before. Weighing the pros and cons of frame materials, disc brakes versus rim brakes, standard 26 inch wheels or 29er, drop bars versus flat bars versus trekking bars. The list goes on...

Bike parts galore, spread out like a buffet for our building pleasure!

Behold the "Funguy Green" Fargo by Salsa... and its family of future stablemates in the background.

Crossing the Congo in a Toyota

I just spent the better part of the day reading what may be one of the most entertaining and exciting trip reports I've ever seen on the Internet (thanks to the Dubious Quality set of Friday Links). It's a trip report about a Belgian couple's crossing of the Democratic Republic of Congo in their Toyota Landcruiser. They spent 40+ days driving through jungle and savanna, along many of the worst roads in the world, if you can even call them roads (they were little more single-track trails at many points). And that doesn't even begin to touch on the hostility of the people they encountered.

Frederick's trip report was posted over time on a message board here. It's filled with incredible photos and lots of questions, answers, and criticism from other readers. Don't be intimidated by the length of the thread. Just scroll ahead for posts made by Frederick, aka "RadioBaobab". You'll be glad you did. Note ahead of time that this was just a small part of their 2-year long trip. They had already been on the road for over a year before embarking on this leg of the journey.

There were several comments that Frederick made in his report that I felt were particularly wise and offered some good advice for folks planning a trip like Kristin and I are. One was his saying that "It's better to be sorry for what you did do, than be sorry over what you didn't do." Let that one sink in.

The other came up at the end of his telling of a particularly harrowing ordeal.
"As agreed before we would not try to convince each other to push on. She contemplated the situation for half an hour with a warm tea. She is no quitter, she wanted to continue!"
Trips even less ambitious than theirs will always have their tough times. And sometimes the stress can be too much. I think promising one another ahead of time to not try and convince the other to push on is a great idea, as that can only lead to resentment and greater problems down the road.

Return of the Guidebook Giveaway

Twas the last day of rest, and all through the house
boxes of books stacked high, many edited by a man we call Haus
The guides I've written, stored away with care
In hopes they would one day see eyes in a pair

Taking advantage of this final day off today to tackle some of the things I've been meaning to do since I sent in my last bit of text for the Splatterhouse strategy guide back on October 29th. Boring stuff like backing up files and cleaning the closet. It took four trips up and down the stairs, but I've finally recycled the mountain of boxes and user's manuals I was holding onto for some inexplicable reason. We don't even own half the stuff that originally came in those boxes anymore.

The other big task was pairing down the volume of strategy guides I have stacked in my closet. I used to receive 10 author's copies for every guide I'd write, but that number has fortunately shrunk to 5 as the books grew in size and paper/shipping costs increased. I was fine with this as I was literally running out of space to store them. And now that the blog is back up, it means it's time to revive the Guidebook Giveaway!

My copies of our guide for Halo: Reach were spoken for long before the book was even printed, but I do have copies of a few of my other recent titles, namely Fable III, Splatterhouse, and Darksiders.

Need the guidebook? Reply to this post!

Post a comment in response to this thread with the name of the guide you're interested in -- one per person please -- and tell us what single game you are most looking forward to in 2011? Mentioning a game I end up writing the guidebook for will win you a copy of the book once it's published!

Kinecting With Friends

I just cancelled my gym membership.

It was a nice place, only a half mile from my house and never crowded when I went. It had everything I wanted in a gym, but it turns out so does my living room. Ever since buying EA Sports Active 2 for the Xbox Kinect, that is. But more about that later...

We arrived home from my sister's wedding in New Jersey to find the Kinect bundle on the front porch and a copy of Harmonix's Dance Central in the mailbox. Yes, the same Harmonix that birthed the Guitar Hero and Rock Band franchises. Nevermind the lingering hangover, the cross-country flight, and onset of one of the worst head colds I've had in years, I rushed downstairs the following morning like a child on Christmas morning and immediately connected the Kinect sensor and booted up the packed-in Kinect Adventures title.

Setting the sensor up was a breeze. I had read plenty of tips in the weeks leading up to the Kinect launch about lighting conditions and space requirements and was ever thankful for our house's large open floorplan. I shoved the couch back about 6 feet towards the kitchen, turned on all the lights behind me and was immediately detected in the "best" position for Kinect enjoyment. Kinect Adventures delivers a wonderful first impression of the technology. The disc includes a half-dozen different mini-games that seem designed to show off the Kinect's ability to track your skeleton in three-dimensional space. The games themselves lose their appeal quickly (only Achievement hunters and small children need apply), but as a tech-demo, it does its job admirably. I was at once impressed with the sensor's ability to not only track my hands and feet forward, but my head as well. And the game's ability to take random snapshots of you while playing and then upload (with your permission) Polaroid-like memories to a central website is a bit of genius.

Yours truly jumping for coins during the river rafting game.

RG Lives On

Randomly Generated is back online. My ego can only hope this hiatus was that much harder for you than me.

As you can see, I've given the ol' blog a pretty drastic makeover with the help of Blogspot's new (and occasionally maddening) controls. For starters, I've created a handful of standalone pages linked directly below my mugshot that I will update when necessary. These are to give the blog a more informative touch and to make it easier to show essays or photos or whathaveyou that I'm particularly fond of. There's some other cosmetic changes as well, but the biggest change from the old RG to the new one will the be in the type and quantity of posts that I'll be making. I was averaging over 35 posts per month for quite a while, a pace that is not only too time-consuming to maintain, but one that doesn't allow for much selectivity. I'll be ratcheting back the posting frequency to just one or two entries per week, hopefully of substance. No promises though.

Be sure to leave a comment and let me know what you think of the new look. And, as always, thanks for reading.

The Big Trip... By Bikes?

I wrote three years ago that Kristin and I had made a handshake agreement about seriously, honestly, beginning the process of planning and saving for a trip around the world. A mid-life gap year, if you will. The plan was rather humble at first, at least as far as these round-the-world (RTW) trips tend to go. We'd beg for sabbaticals from work, lease our house, sell one of our cars. And we'd head off on a ferry to Alaska, then train and plane our way eastward around the world. At least that was the initial plan the morning after that talk when I posted this.

The plan has grown since then. Three years have passed since we promised each other that we would not allow our years to bleed into one another in an endless series of indistinguishable workweeks. Three years and rarely has a week gone by that we haven't talked about the trip; nary a day that I hadn't daydreamed about it, or a night spent researching and planning our route. We're still several years away, but much progress has been made towards making our shared dream a reality. Since the online journals and blogs of those who've gone before us have proven to be an invaluable source of inspiration and information, I want to dedicate this page to our own efforts and plans in hopes that it may provide a small amount of assistance to those curious enough to read this entry.

Next Summer's Bike Trip

Had a little fun with Google Maps over the weekend laying out the route and proposed camping sites for a 10 day, 450 mile trip around the Olympic Peninsula starting/finishing at our house in Snoqualmie. We'll take a day off from riding in Copalis Beach, but will ride the other 9 days, for a nice even average of 50 miles per day.

View Olympic Peninsula Bicycle Tour in a larger map