On the road again

Just a quick update…

The last week+ has been pretty crazy. We finished packing my stuff into storage on Wednesday, which was preceded by a few days of 8am-10pm days of sorting, boxing, shredding, packing, hauling, donating, and storaging. Combined with the unusual (for this time of year) 90F weather, and it had us pretty beat. But that was just the beginning. After handing in my keys, we hit the road, and are on our way to Chicago. We spent the first night near Shasta Lake, just East of Redding in Northern California. On the 2nd day, we made a slight detour to check out a piece of property, then headed North into Eastern Oregon. After spending a frigid night at what appeared to be a closed campground at 5000ft elevation, we shook the ice (literally) off our tent and headed North East into Idaho. We’re staying at a motel in Grangeville, ID for the night, then continuing our Easterly voyage into Montana tomorrow, weather permitting. We expect to be in Chicago some time later next week.

Back from Coalinga

My 3 day shooting & camping trip was a blast. I’d get up at the crack of dawn, cook some oatmeal on the camping stove in our tent, make some sandwiches to bring for lunch, and head out for squadding (target and relay assignment). We’d head out to the shooting line not long after 8, spend a whole day shooting, then return to camp. I’d clean my rifle and eat dinner before sunset, then crawl into my sleeping bag not long after dark. It was a simple life, and a good life. Everything I needed and wanted was there, and nothing to worry about.

I’ll go into the details of the shooting in a separate post in my gun blog, but it was an extremely humbling yet inspiring experience for me. It deepened my appreciation and love for the sport, but also made me realize how much more room for improvement I have, and I came out with a strong resolve to do better. I’ve decided that I need to switch to shooting left handed, so that I can look through those sights with my dominant (and much better) left eye. Making that switch and improving my skills will require a nontrivial investment in time and money, but fortunately, those are two things I have right now.

This strong urge to improve my skills in a sport is new to me. I’ve never been competitive, or much of an athlete. I used to joke that basketball players must be really dumb; they keep throwing balls into baskets not realizing there’s a hole at the bottom. The rational and utilitarian part of me has a hard time rationalizing athletic achievements. What’s the point? Why should I improve my skills? Will it help anyone? Will it make the world a better place? Why bother if the best I could realistically hope for is to be yet another Master class shooter? Why waste time and money on such an endeavor? Maybe I’ve given up on making the world a better place, but I haven’t given up on doing something I could be proud of. Or maybe I’m going to do it because I want to, and because I can. Instead of questioning myself, maybe I should just be grateful that unlike many people in this world, I am fortunate enough to be able to pursue my passions.

Off to Coalinga, for 3 days of shootin’ ‘n campin’

Nikki and I are about to head to Coalinga, for the California State Service Rifle Championships. The past week has been pretty busy, with lots of preparation to do. Since I’ll be shooting at a full 600 yard range for the first time, I had to make new ammo using heavier bullets that perform better at long ranges. That meant multiple trips to the ranges to try different loads (to measure bullet velocities and check for signs of excessive pressures), then finally when I thought I had a good recipe, we had to make 300 rounds. Nikki and I were up until midnight reloading last night.

The competition takes place over 3 days, and we’ll be camping at the range the whole time. Planning and packing for a 3 day shooting competition and camping trip was a logistical nightmare. It’s been a long standing goal of mine to shoot at a big competition, so I want to make sure I’m well prepared. So I’m taking a spare rifle, and another 200 rounds of ammo for that gun. Additionally, I’m packing a wide assortment of cleaning supplies and tools, and spare parts to make sure my rifle works, and works reliably. I didn’t get around to even thinking about the camping aspect until the last minute, but we just threw a bunch of stuff in the car, and hopefully we have everything we need.

The last thing on my check list is to update my iPhone firmware from 1.x to 2.x (finally), so I can install some ballistics programs. I’ll need them to figure out how to adjust my sights for the different distances I’ll be shooting at, and to compensate for wind. Anyway, once that’s done, we’re off.

Traveling Ryo Problem

Nikki and I are sitting at the dining table, trying to figure out how we’re going to get where, when. We’re going to Chicago in early May, Japan in late May, Europe in early August, Nevada in late August, and we’ll be homeless (i.e. couch surfing or camping) in between. We can fly places, but then we have to leave the car, which is non-trivial (or trivial and expensive). Then there’s also the question of “packing.” If we drive to Chicago for Scav Hunt, then fly to Japan, I’ll need to pack for a road trip to Chicago (camping gear), for Scav Hunt (power tools), and for an international trip which will include a wedding (nice clothes?). NP Complete? Definitely.

Speaking of which, I should get back to talking to Nikki about this instead of blogging.

Leaving a mark

snowshoeing

snowshoeing

We’re in the Rockies with some friends (2 from Chicago, 4 of us from SF), staying in a cabin and going snow shoeing. We’ve gotten some fresh snow up in the mountains, and snowshoeing is a perfect way to enjoy the fresh snowy wintery forests.

There’s something oddly satisfying about leaving a track on fresh virgin snow. I suspect this stems from some primal urge to leave a mark on this world, to say “I wuz here,” to give ourselves the illusion that our existence matters. It reminded me of what Kara admitted to Lee in the Battlestar Galactica finale, that her greatest fear was not death, but being forgotten. When I was a kid, I read a lot of biographies of (mostly Japanese) historical figures, and I too once aspired to be someone who wouldn’t be forgotten. I spent years stressing over accomplishing something great enough to deserve (or reserve?) a place in the hallowed halls of The Unforgotten. It is probably no accident that many religions promise an eternal (or at least another) life after this one to appease this common fear.

animals pee to leave a mark

animals pee to leave a mark

Recently, I realized that this quest for immortality, if not in flesh then in name, was an ultimately futile exercise. Some people are remembered longer than others, but civilizations crumble, written records are lost, memories forgotten, species driven to extinction, and planets incinerated by expanding stars that they orbit. No matter what you do, no matter how famous you become, you will be forgotten eventually, if not sooner, then later.

That is not to say that life is meaningless, or that it is pointless to strive to achieve great things. Rather, it is my belief that we should value our lives and the lives of others, regardless of the ultimate outcome. Even if the end result is death, anonymity, extinction, annihilation, incineration and atomic decay, we possess the ability to value life, fleeting as it may be. In other words, while many religions teach that we should be good in this life so that we could deserve a better spot in the next life, we could just as easily choose to be good in this life, even if this is the one and only life we live. In fact, if this is the one and only life we get, it should be more reason to treat it well, live it fully, and help ensure others can do the same.

we broke free on a Saturday morning…

I broke free on a Saturday morning
I put the pedal to the floor
Headed north on Mills Avenue
And listened to the engine roar

–from “This Year” by the Mountain Goats

Nikki and I left town on Saturday morning, and headed North towards Seattle. This is our first post-funemployment trip, timed to coincide with her birthday next week. Why Seattle? Well, we were here last year and we liked it. That’s why.

The drive up was pretty familiar to us, since we’re taking the same route we took last summer when we drove to Portland. Except, we had to cover the extra 250 miles to Seattle in the same time period (2 days), so we pushed ourselves a little harder. Nikki even put her day-old learner’s permit to good use and drove for a bit in California.

On long days on the road where you’re just pushing to cover mileage, the highlights are of course, those few precious meal breaks. We were pretty lucky on the way up, and managed to avoid gas station food or chain restaurants.

For dinner last night, we took the first exit after surprisingly noticing a low fuel gauge, which happened to be exit 76, Wolf Creek. After having an attendant fill up our tank (silly Oregonians), we decided to try the only decent looking eatery in town, at the Wolf Creek Inn. Apparently this inn used to be a coach stop on the Portland-Sacramento route or some such, and is on the National Registry of Historic Places. We were seated right next to a warm crackling wood fire, and served warm home-baked bread. The entrees weren’t exceptional but decent for the price, and I enjoyed the old fashioned all-wood decor and general atmosphere, especially after a full day on the road and rainy weather outside. Seeing how the only options are either fast food or chain restaurants for that stretch of the I5, I would recommend the Wolf Creek Tavern if you happen to pass by the area and are looking for food and warmth.

We crashed for the night in Roseburg, OR, only because that was the first town we came upon after I decided it was too dark and rainy to continue. For breakfast, I did a local search for “diner” on my iPhone, and picked Digger Don’s Diner, the only real diner in the result set. Located at the edge of town in Sutherlin, Nikki’s first response was “I hope we don’t get shot in there.” In spite of the conspicuously large American flag outside and the lack of parking space, we braved on into Don’s domain. DDD turned out to be the kind of local diner you don’t see very often any more. Most of the clientele appeared to have roamed the earth around the time of the dinosaurs, and one particularly old fella snoozed contentedly in a pool of biscuits and gravy. The waitress –a true-blood diner waitress who calls everybody “hon”– seemed to know everyone else by first name except for us, but that seemed to have no discernable negative impact on the friendly service we received. Nikki had some tasty oatmeal, and I decided to prepare myself for another long day of driving with a 3-egg veggie scramble on hash browns with a giant pancake as a “side”. The scamble had lots of chunky broccoli, and the pancake had a perfect spongy texture. Combined with the Sunday issue of the Oregonian, we had ourselves a quite satisfactory breakfast that lasted us basically until Seattle.

Finally, as the title of this blog includes the word “rifle” in it, I am obliged to report that a random Wal-Mart we stopped in had .22LR ammo in stock, unlike the one in Mountain View I frequent. I purchased 2 boxes (650 rounds) of Federal Automatch, and a box of Federal Bulk Pack (550 rounds).