Sunday, August 29, 2010

Snookersearch 2010 - Part 1: "Slimed" or "Two the hard way and one the easy way"

First hard way:
My leg was wedged in between the platform and the train as the subway doors closed on my torso. At this point I realized my job was getting to me. I yanked my leg out and clawed my way through the doors, which finally opened up. The conductor came out and tore me a well-deserved new one.
Just another day going to work, trying to hit a deadline on a project which seemed to be have been planned by consultation with Tarot cards. I was having insomnia and anxiety attacks. I had let everything else in my life go and was getting burnt-out fast.
When I finished I got ready for Snookersearch 2010: the plan was to ride my scooter (MP3 400 3-wheeler) to Savannah GA and back and visit pool halls with snooker tables along the way. I had just purchased an iPad with 3G service and GPS, this would help me navigate and let me do blog entries along the way.
I'm of mixed feelings about Bill Job's iPad. I love the size, cool UX features and battery life; I hate the lack of a file system, the absence of Flash (just let us turn it off if we don't want it), the lack of USB, the walled garden of the app store. the tiny keyboard, and the requirement of buying an Apple doohickey to do almost anything, like upload photos. And anyone who thinks restricting porn is going to be a factor which will lead to growth hasn't studied the history of technology. I think the second thing that came off the Gutenburg press was a Tijuana bible.
The second hard way:. So I bought the camera kit and was set to blog using the iPad. It turns out I needed to upgrade my Wordpress blog in order for it to work with the iPad. No problem, I follow the instructions to back-up my database, then wipe my files and do a clean install. I then restore the database only to find I don't have any content. It turns out that "backing up a database" doesn't mean backing up the data, just saving the file that contains all the rules and pointers to the data. Of course I didn't have any other backup so I had to pay GoDaddy to restore my files from their daily tape backup. A $150 dollar lesson.
The easy way:. Getting my scooter ready wasn't that bad. I ordered custom footpeg brackets from RjeffB on the Modern Vespa forum. I bought some 1/8 inch clevises that fit with foot pegs I bought last year and the whole thing mounted up pretty easy. I removed my evaporation canister. I "slimed" the tires, which means I shot them full up with a liquid concoction that is supposed to make them self-heal with hit with a minor puncture.
It turns out that tire valves can be removed from the tire
stems simply by unscrewing them. It's amazing to me that something can stay put by simply screwing it in when it's rotating at a bazillion rpm when the tires are rolling. It was fun to squirt green goo into my tires.
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Snookersearch 2010 - Part 2: "The Walkup"

The day I left I got underway later than I wanted to. I first made a quick trip over to the FDNY store to get some police and fire stickers to put on the bike to show my patriotism and so Southern State troopers would be less likely to make a human barbecue of me ("To Serve Man").
Packing the scoot took a long time because I live in a 5th floor walkup and had to make trips up and down the stairs, praying each time that the guys at the Sockman store (Hey Jeff) and the tattoo shop downstairs would stop passers-by from removing my belongings from the bike.
When I install anything I try to make it so things will last 1000 years (see William Burroughs "Old Bull" character in "On the Road") and I didn't like how the saddlebags were secured only be a small contact patch of velcro, so I used the cinching straps that came with the bags to instead attach them to the handles of the MP3 400. Last year I took the saddlebags to a shoe repair place and had them attach extra straps to the top to tie down my sleeping bag and tent.

The straps are reflective so that goes along with my "hi-viz" philosophy of life.
I packed soft stuff like clothes and my Big Agnes pad in an American Eagle mid-sized duffle which I secured to the bike using carabiner bungees.

I'm categorically against the use of open-hook bungee cords, I think they are an Isadora Duncan accident waiting to happen. If something slips you know they are going to take out an eye.
I like American Eagle bags because they have rugged zippers and hardware. The "D" rings are metal. I used a quick-release strap to attach the D-ring to the mounting brackets I had installed on my Givi top-case. The mounting brackets are really drawer-pulls from Home Depot, with fender washers underneath and on top to add strength. I doubled the strap around a braided wire tie-down I had installed, that way there was a little "give" which would protect the brackets.

It took a long time to get out of NYC because it's NYC. I decided to take Route 22 West through NJ and into Pennsylvania. This turned out to be a mistake because Route 22 iin New Jersey is a giant strip mall with tons of traffic lights. For navigation I initially tried to use my iPad in a clear waterproof case attached to my tunnel bag, like a living map case, but it was impossible to see it with the glare, and I wasn't crazy about the constant risk of fiery instant death from looking down at the thing. Later I switched to my trusty way-overpriced Garmin Zumo which has a mind of it's own.
I finally got up to speed in Pennsylvania. At this point I was fairly drained. The sun was setting and I was behind schedule. I don't like to ride at night because I see "flares" when I look at lights due to LASIK surgery (which I still recommend). It started getting colder, even with the liner installed in my mesh jacket, especially where the road would dip down into valleys. I knew I wasn't going to make it to my destination, so I pulled off the road near Hershey and stayed at a "Main Stay" in. It was around 9:30 and the only food I could rustle up was take-out pizza. Everything closes early in Hershey so the Oompa Loompas can get some rest I was glad to warm up and turn off my "executive function" for awhile. I had had crippling nsomnia the night before and was tired.
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Snookersearch 2010 - Part 3: "Rustic Social Anxiety"

Hershey PA to Arlington, VA via Gettysburg
Before the advent of Starbucks excellent "Via" instant coffee packets I purchased a bunch of packets of Java Juice, an organic liquid instant coffee. Fortunately I don't think it goes bad, so I was able to forego figuring out the tiny in-room hotel coffeemaker in favor of Java Juice.

I got some milk at the Contental breakfast thing and made oatmeal, which I had brought with me. Down by the hotel bar was a framed "Mr. Goodbar" wrapper from days gone by:

That was from the days before they used big seams in the packaging to shrink down the actual size of the contents. Probably cost a nickel too...
The night before I was hoping that there would be an NBA Finals game on t.v. but it was a night off for them. It's a very good series that could go either way and Rajman Rondo guy is exciting to watch.
I set out in search of Gilleys bar, not the one from Urban Cowboy, but a bowling alley near Gettysburg that features duckpin bowling. On the way I hit a stretch of road that had almost no gas stations. Because the scooter has a 3-gallon tank I have to be vigilant. For almost 30 miles I could find no gas stations. WTF?
I finally pulled into a garage on a side road and asked a guy who had his head under a car hood. He didn't raise his head, and barely replied that there were no nearby gas stations nearby and I would have to get back on the highway going the other way. I secretly wondered if he had social anxiety. In my mind I walked up to him and poked him in the chest while saying "Hey Bub, if anybody's gonna have social anxiety around here it's going to be ME!"
I wandered back to the scooter and took some pictures of a wrecked school bus in the lot:

The interior:

Apparently in Gettysburg kids like to play tennis and Boggle while using the microwave on their way to school.
I finally got gas and found Gilley's but they were CLOSED. Suckers.
I continued on to the Lincoln Diner in Gettysburg where I had desiccated pork loin and paper mâché green beans for lunch. I was nervous because I had to park where I could not see the Crazy Frog Machine (scooter) and was worried the local inhabitants might not be as honest as Abe.
I made it down to Rockville MD which seemed like suburban sprawl.

Made it to Jim's house and scootered up his steep driveway. Had an IPA beer at his house and went to a Thai restaurant, which was great, particularly the dessert of mango and sticky rice. I ate a lot. I think I am burning a lot of calories on the scooter. On high-speed two-lane freeways I am often in mortal terror as I come up to blind turns with semis hurtling past me in the other direction. I concentrate on "riding my own ride" which makes sense, especially since the scoot is loaded down and has a higher center of gravity than it would without all the stuff in the top case. I rely on the integrated lighting in the top case to give me better visibility. A driver behind me should be able to see my top case running lights and just above that my yellow helmet with a reflective bee decal. Safety first!. Bring 'em home alive..blah blah blah..super nerd-mobile.
After dinner we went to Atomic Billiards in Washington, DC, which looked very cool from their website but turned out to be a tavern with 5 crappy drink-stained tables and dirty pool balls. I didn't play long.
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Snookersearch 2010 - Part 4: "Pool Kino"

Arlington, VA to Arlington, VA
When I woke up it was raining so I decided to stay off the scooter for the day. Before I left on my trip I had tried a yoga class and it was. super-tough. Try doing a pushup and then lifting an arm and a leg while you are holding the position. I've got a C6 disc injury in my neck and it seems like my neck and shoulder are always hurting when I'm riding. So I tried a sort of yoga-lite, just doing some stretches and calisthenics.
After doing that I went for a jog in the rain. I thought I went about 4.5 miles - it turned out to be 2, dammit, but with a lot of hills. Still not bad for someone who hasn't jogged for years.
It was good to see Jim, he is doing well but working too much.

At night I went to Hi Cue" billiards in Arlington. It's located in a Hispanic neighborhood and has two 12" snooker tables. Snookerscore!

It was like a mecca, with high ceilings and good equipment. Not many people were playing. They had the iconic poster of Jeannette Lee which is also at Amsterdam Billiards in NYC.

Check out that big-azz snooker table in the foreground.
Some Hispanic guys where gambling at the table next to me. I also saw a type of pool I had never seen before, called "Pool Kino". It involves shooting pool balls up onto a wooden platform that has indentations that are worth different points. You can barely see it in the background towards the right of the photo above I didn't want to be too aggressive taking pictures because of the gambling going on.
I talked to the manager, he grew up playing Snooker in Hong Kong. He said that the local economy was very bad and they were hoping to get a liquor license so they could make money.
My motto for Snooker is "an education in every shot" because there are so few "gimees" in snooker. When you are shooting a corner-to-corner straight shot you can be looking at 14 feet of green. If you aren't careful you can miss badly. Sometimes you hit the wrong side of the ball that you were aiming at. If you shoot too hard you lose all chance of making the ball on the next shot so it's good training for speed control too.

That's me about to pot the red :-)
Got back to Jim's late and then tossed and turned all night. I have been having a problem with insomnia. At 6 a.m. I took half a Xanax and got a couple of hours of sleep.
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Snookersearch 2010 - Part 5: "Tenting tonight"

Arlington, VA to Natural Bridge, VA
It takes some time in traffic to get out of these suburban sprawl areas. I made some good time and stopped off of the highway in a little area near a storage unit. It looked pretty empty, so I got off my bike and sat down on a wooden trailer that was resting in the shade. I was able to rest my helmet and my tunnel bag on it, eat some raisins and nuts, drink water. Then out of nowhere a pickup truck comes by and backs up to that exact trailer, the only one in the whole neighborhood and starts hitching it up. In the truck were two twentysomething men and a woman, and they didn't say a thing to me. I just got up and gathered my stuff up.
One of the limiting factors in long riding is butt pain. Even with the Airhawk cushion, after a couple of hours there is no comfortable position. Fortunately taking a break and walking around a little solves this. I might stop and get a pair of bike shorts with a gel insert. Sometimes it seems like long-distance riding is a matter of balancing out things that hurt. Your feet can hurt on the footpegs if they are in the same position for too long, your butt can hurt, your back can hurt. My neck and shoulder hurt all the time so I stretch to the side while I'm riding. Sometimes everything is fine and you reach a wonderful flow state: beautiful scenery, a kinesthetic feeling from leaning the bike in and out of turns, nice smells from being out in the country.
Towards the end of the day I found a campground, um, that is a Kampground, a KOA. It was actually very nice. I had set my tent up once in my apartment and was glad that I did because the diagram for how to set it up was slightly wrong. The area where you are supposed to pitch a tent was covered in coarse gravel so I was glad to have a "footprint" for the tent. At night I felt a very sharp object poking up from the tent floor. It turned out to be a tent peg that had been set in the gravel and broken off. I reached under the footprint and put a small canvas bag between it and the tent floor.
I was also glad to be using a 3-person tent rather than a one-person tent, it make it much easier to stow my gear.

I used these hanging baskets to keep track of my wallet, keys, iPhone, et. al.

I ate dinner at the Pink Cadillac Diner, which was Elvis-themed but had this weird Humpty-Dumpty statue.

Despite this I had a good dinner of "prime rib" and I enjoyed the North Carolina twilight on my ride back to the campsite. The site cost $25/night, seems like a lot but the Comfort Inn had been $99.
In the middle of the night I heard what sounded like a bear in the woods near my tent. I got up and moved any foodstuffs into my top-case. I used an Off Clip-On gizmo to keep bugs away when I was doing stuff like this. However in my tent I had two spiders, a cricket and a pillbug. There were bugs everywhere. I felt particularly bad killing the bigger spider - I woke with something crawling on my though and I just reacted.
Thankfully I didn't have insomnia, despite the bugs and imagined bears.
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Snookersearch 2010 - Part 6: "It's Shorter Than You Think"

Natural Bridge, VA to Marion, NC
Breaking camp took me awhile. I made some Java Juice and hit the road. Later I ate lunch at the Palmer Seafood House which is a Southern Style seafood house, very nice.
The founders:

A sign in the bathroom:

I wish things were like"On the Road" where the farther South you go the bigger the slices of pie become and the friendlier the waitresses are. Instead, I see chain stores with kind-looking big women in company polo shirts.
I jumped onto 80S for awhile to make time, it's just not fun to be on a big interstate with tractor-trailer rigs blowing by you at 80 mph. The fastest I got the MP# up to was 83 as measured by the GPS. Most days I spend some time on the Interstate and some time on mountain twisties.
On 80S my temperature gauge read 100 degrees F. I don't know how accurate that is but it might not be too far off on a sun-baked roadway. I started to feel a little "off" so I stopped and got gas and rehydrated. I bought two quarts of Powerade, drank one, then part of the next and put the rest in my water bottle. I also put on an evaporative vest which I had soaked in water from the restroom. That helped. It's amazing how heat can debilitate you, you start to get slow and make bad decisions.
After about an hour in the evaporative vest I ran into a downpour. It was on a fast hilly twisty two-lane highway and this really brought on the adrenaline. I know when it first rains the roads become slick from the accumulated oils rising to the surface. I am still not that great at twists, and with the bike loaded down, I had to pay attention all the time. Rain was coming down in sheets and I was finally able to get off the road and take refuge in a small lumberyard. Fortunately no one was there:

This is the kind of serendipitous stuff that I love. I wouldn't have seen this except for the thunderstorm that seemed like it would kill me.
I wanted to make it to Asheville but had to stop at Marion because of darkness. I stayed at a Comfort Inn.
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Snookersearch 2010 - Part 7: "I Enter 'The Palace"

Marion,  NC to Greenville, SC. The hotel manager took this photo of me about to leave in the morning.

It's sort of comical, I'm in full storm-trooper gear for this little nerd-mobile. Actually it's big nerd-mobile. Most of the motorcycles I see on the road are Harley's or Honda Gold-Wings ridden by people with t-shirts and skid lids. I'm in full gear on this loaded down little scoot. But it's a blast to ride.
I made it to Asheville, NC which had been described to me as "The jewel of North Carolina" but I didn't like it. It was just another college town with no parking,. and throngs of pedestrians going in and out of cafe's with names like "The Cosmic Chameleon" . Not the South I was after so I kept going. I plugged "Greenville, NC" into my GPS, and later found out that I should have entered "Greenville, SC". Google maps isn't great with the state boundaries.
I corrected myself after about an hour. I stopped at a McDonalds and took a photo of this remarkable woman:

You can barely see her in the photo, it's the woman standing behind the woman with white hair.
She had curlers in and what seemed to be pajamas on and seemed perfectly comfortable. She spoke nicely with an elderly lady at the next table. I suppose this happens in NYC, but it seemed so neighborly and relaxed.
The gas station there (Old Bridge, NC) was run by a Moslem couple, the woman was wearing a headscarf. I wondered how much crap they had to put up with, or if on the other hand, they were accepted as community members. I wondered what they thought of the people coming in
I ended up on the right path and took Rte. 9 south. What a great ride, up and over a mountain, with canopies of trees, a river, lots of twists and turns. I practice counter steering and leaning in the opposite directions on turns. The scooter is a bit top-heavy because of the stuff in the top-case, but I do my best and it's fun to twist the throttle coming out of a turn.
Made it to Greenville SC and went for a walk. I saw this creepy bridal store

And next to it a store called "Halloween Highway" with these weird kid-in-a-rock-band mannequins:

I ate a a sushi restaurant and had some tempura-battered bananas with chocolate sauce for dessert. Yeehaw! Rebel yell.
At the sushi restaurant they had an entire room for kids to draw in:

Hey man, cart that thing off to the MOMA. Nobody would know the difference.
After watching a little Nascar on the hotel t.v., I made my way over to "The Palace Billiards" (56 Airview Drive, Greenville, SC 29607, 864-234-0428).

This was like pool Mecca to me. Around 12 9 foot "Gandy" tables, a brand I had never heard of before, $3 hr/person with discounts for groups, nice people, good music from the sound system. At Amsterdam Billiards in NYC where I often play, the music is a constant rehash of Bob Seger, the Allman Brothers, Bruce Springsteen, et. al. Great stuff but the same tunes over and over again. If I hear "Night Moves" again I'm going to kill myself. At "The Palace" they played a mixture of Southern Rap, Mexican music, country, rock, hard rock. Beers were cheap although I wasn't drinking.
I played 2 games of "Fargo" and scored a 48 and a 56. When I was done, the owner, Mike Sijon, showed me the Gandy tables, including the "Big G". They had a special "silent ball return" system that cost $900 way back when they were made, which was 40 years ago or 60 years ago or something, I forgot. Gandy tables were made in Macon GA and built like brick shit-houses. Fast Larry later told me that Gandy didn't like retailers carrying other manufacturers tables, it was a regional thing.
Gandy rules the South! Here's their signature "Big G" table:

People were friendly from the moment I walked in and I had a great time.

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