Travel Mug

I have a favorite mentor, Jim Rohn, who recently passed away. He was a premier motivational speaker, and had a wonderful philosophy on life. Well, one of his favorite words, which I have adopted, is “fascinating”. The trials in life are fascinating. The person who cuts you off on the highway is fascinating. You get the idea; turn a negative into a positive or take the glass half full idea.

So, yesterday I spent about 30 minutes stressing about the type of travel mug I should take on my hikes. Fascinating! This is all about counting ounces/grams, vs functionality. Being analytical (anal!), I developed a massive decision tree to come up with the perfect mug. Purpose vs size vs weight vs cost; how would I pack it; would it be just for drinking, or would I eat my oatmeal from it; should it be metal so I could heat water in it; you see my problem?

Fortunately, there must be many like me, for when I showed up at REI, I had an entire rack to choose from! I was in my glory! Titanium, plastic with a cozy, handle or no (extra weight now!), 8 ounces or 16, so many choices and so little time! Did I mention the lid???

The good news in my life is the word experimentation. I have a year to prepare for my hike of the Appalachian Trail, so I will have lots of opportunity to try out my new mug(s)! I do like a hot drink to start my day, whether coffee or tea, so I chose 2 mugs, one with handle, one without, both with lids.


Appalachian TRIALS

I just finished reading Zach Davis’ “Appalachian Trials”. A good read, different than many AT books, as it deals with the psychological aspects of hiking the trail. Zach addresses everything from goal setting, to meditation, to physical issues such as tiredness and heat rashes. To me, this is one book that I will go back and read again for the advise. Not bad, for a 30ish kid!

I find that I like reading about different gear. The gear “expert” in Zach’s book is Ian Mangiardi. He devotes a short chapter to gear selection, but in its simplest terms; big picture stuff. I do like that he comes right out and says your pack will end up costing up to $3000, so get over it. Light and techy is good. However, choose comfort over crazy. Take the 3 pound tent over the 2 pound tarp. Bring a quality backpack.

Ian chooses canisters to alcohol stoves. Hmmmm. I spent close to $200 for my setup; well, that is what this year is all about. Zach said the most used system was what I have, though I would go out and buy the lighter one. We’ll see. I will have to see how I end up cooking and eating when I am out for a few days.

6 Mile Hike

Today was a brisk, 35 degree and windy day in Rhode Island. It was a great test for layering some of my new clothes.

Base Layer: North Face Flash Dry thermals, top and bottom

Intermediate Layer: EMS Ascent hoodie

Top Layer: Arc’Teryx wind shirt

Pants: Jeans (will upgrade for the AT)

So, I started out using all the layers, and my body was warm. After about 20 minutes, I noticed a bit of sweat on my back, and decided to take the windshirt off. This worked fine in the protection of the woods. I also tried the hoodie over my watch cap, and that warmed me up as well. Thanks to the EMS staff with their knowledge and recommendations!

During the hike, I cam across many of these cairns. They are a bit of a mystery. Do they date back 200 years, 1000 years, or more?


Training Complete!


I am not a smoker. However…on a given special occasion, I have been known to enjoy a cigar and a Scotch. This is that moment!
737 Simulator

737 Simulator

I just got home from training. My training sim went fine, and then yesterday, I successfully passed my 2 hour oral and 4 hour simulator check ride. This was hopefully my last time in a simulator, and my last check ride. If so, it was also my best! Usually, just surviving all the problems presented is considered a good job. This time, I aced all the challenges, and greased all the landings, which in the simulator is pretty special. There are times when that special prayer works… DONE!


Day One in my 9 Month Training Cycle

10 hours in the schoolhouse today, and I am tired!

We have some excellent instructors. First off, was a 5 hour review of aircraft systems. Unlike driving a car, where if you have a problem, you just pull over to the side of the road and call AAA, we have to wear several hats as pilots. If we have a problem at 39,000 feet, we have to first figure out what’s up, how significant is the issue, what we can or should do to fix it, and finally, whether to continue on. We are pilot, engineer, mechanic, and seer, all in one.

Next is a review of threats, be they people, mechanical, weather, or unforeseen. Psychology 101, 202, and more; we need to take our steed safely to the destination all the while considering the 150 passengers’ welfare, and still hoping to make the company a profit on this particular leg of or trip. Safety is always first (my wife thanks me), followed by the myriad of pressures to accomplish the mission.

The rest of the day was a series of mandatory FAA briefings on the latest trends in the industry. Mostly repetitive, but refreshers of government policies, all to make us safer and wiser…

Back to the hotel, a meal in my room, and a call to Dad and my wife. So ends the glorious day in the life of an an airline pilot!

Thanks for reading!

A Humbling Experience (Or how I lost an eBay auction)

I learned a $22 lesson on bidding on eBay yesterday. Ouch!

First, the item. My goal is to sleep in a hammock for most of my overnights on the Appalachian Trail, or AT. I will discuss my reasoning as I get some experience using the hammock. However, I also intend to stay in some of the many shelters on a hard floor, so I need a pad to sleep on. The pad can also be used in my hammock when cold.

For this item, weight vs. comfort were the major criteria. The lightest 20″x72″ inflatable pad at the moment is the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xlite, at 12 ounces. It wins by a bunch in weight. A close competitor is the new Big Agnes Insulated Q-Core SL, at 18 ounces for the same size. The Therm-a-Rest has one big issue for me when I tried it: it’s noisy! The high tech material used makes a crinkling noise whenever you move on it. The 18 ounce Big Agnes is still pretty light, has a higher insulation value, and is more comfortable (and quiet!). So, I am looking to buy the Big Agnes.

Now, Being new, the retail stores have yet to offer it for discount, so I decided to check eBay. Sure enough, there was an auction going on. This is for me!

eBay bidding: I rarely buy here, but know enough not to show my hand until the last few seconds. Part of the art of bidding…

HOWEVER… The price was about 40% off retail, so I was pretty excited. What a deal. I placed my bid, hit the send, and instead of entering it immediately, eBay comes back with a “Confirm your bid of $xxx”. In the couple of seconds it took for me to register the statement and hit the “Yes” button, the auction ended, and I missed out. I could not believe it!

This was a very humbling experience for me. Small, but intense failure to perform… The good news? About an hour later, the same dealer started another auction, for the same pad. Today, I won that auction, but for another $22. A cheap lesson.

I know that my hike of the AT will have many of these humbling experiences, and this is but one of the many reasons I need to go on this hike.

Thanks for reading!

Studying; added a new piece of gear


Interesting day, today.

I am going to flight training in 2 days, and spent much of today studying. In my company, the FAA has approved a 9 month training cycle. Every nine months, we spend 4-5 days going through refresher training, where we attend academic classes, and then 2 simulator missions which put us through the wringer.

These simulators are state of the art, have full visuals, and move on all 3 axes, to simulate flight. Each of these 2 missions consists of 2 hours of briefings and questions, followed by 4 hours actually in the simulator, going through all the problems you can imagine a broken airplane may sustain. We usually come out of these sessions worn out and frequently wringing wet; the idea is to test us in an academic situation so that in the real world, any problems we encounter we have already dealt with and solved. Hard work, but satisfying…
During a break, I took time to order another piece of my equipment puzzle, this time on the clothing side. It seems that in hiking, like many outdoor sports, one has to layer his clothes to stay warm, but not too warm. The goal is to keep from sweating too much, so that when you stop to rest, or at the end of the day, you do not quickly get cold from the perspiration on your body.
I have done some research on the subject, both online, and at my local REI and EMS (Eastern Mountain Sports) stores. I could write pages on layering; for today, I bought a windshirt.
Lots of tradeoffs here. Weight is first; I wanted warmth first, followed closely by lightweight. Water resistance is nice, but waterproof adds a bunch of weight, and I have a rain jacket to take care of that.
I plan a wearing this windshirt a lot. For layering, I plan on a T-shirt or long sleeve lightweight top, perhaps a second layer, followed by this windshirt. That’s it, down to about 20 degrees F.
So…lots of information on the internet, and does some nice reviews. For this particular genre, their top 2 picks were the Arc’teryx Squamish hoodie jacket and the Patagonia Houdini.
One big issue I am finding, is that most of the state of the art gear is hard to find at a retail store. I was not able to try either of these products. The Houdini was cheaper and 1 ounce lighter, and I was leaning that direction, but several recent reviews of the new model said that it did not stuff properly into its own pocket, an issue when packing it up. I chose the more expensive Squamish to avoid returns. I don’t mind paying a premium on something I will use frequently.
Buying online is also about the bargains. REI is good for this. Their latest incentives: a $20 gift card for purchases today over $100. Done. Also, through the end of March, if you get their credit card, you get an additional $100 gift card. So… this $150 jacket is really only $30 (rationalizing…), but of course I have to spend the gift cards at REI. Not a problem; it’s my adult toy store!!!

A Short Walk

Flew BOS to JFK this morning, drove home, and went for a 2 hour hike in the woods to clear the brain and body. Good stuff.

I often hike in two Audubon Society wildlife refuges, a short drive from where I live. I am amazed at the generosity of those who donated these tracts of land for us to enjoy, as well as all the volunteers who keep up the forests and trails. Thank you!

The high temperature for the past week has only been 40 degrees, and freezing at night, but most of the snow has melted. The woods are alive with sound! Just in the area that I walked today, the snow melt has created hundreds of small rivulets. They meander down to a larger system of streams, that create a whitewater as they pass over large boulders and rocks. The noise downstream is tremendous and exciting – Spring is coming!
The walking is often on soggy ground, both challenging to find the right spot to put a foot without sinking into some muck. Here is New England much of the path is rocky, so finding good footing is usually not a problem.
All this, in 2 hours and 4 miles of a simple walk, yet refreshing.