Bike Camping, Battle Ground Lake, 27-28 January 2017

It’s been three months since I camped. Last time it was on Lopez Island as part of my Islands tour. Since then, the weather seemed either too wet, or too cold and snowy to pull off camping. But after all the rain in October and November, and the snow and cold in December and the first half of January, something amazing happened: The weather improved. We got back to a more normal high for January, mid 40’s. And high pressure has been keeping the rain at bay for the most part. Bike camping time.

Originally I had planned on camping on Tuesday and Wednesday with my friend Brad, as it were my days off and the weather was supposed to be okay. But I didn’t feel great Tuesday morning and called it off. It was for the best, as a heavy fog lingered for most of the day, keeping things colder and damper than preferred. Wednesday wasn’t much better.

But Brad told me that our friend James was organizing two nights (two nights!) of bike camping over the weekend, Friday night at Battle Ground Lake, Saturday at Oxbow. And man, I really wanted to go. Yeah, work interfered, but I managed to finagle leaving early (1 pm) on Friday and working Saturday night. So I could go camping at Battle Ground Lake! In the winter! With people!

And man, it was glorious outside when I left work on Friday at 1 pm: brightly sunny, and in the upper 40’s F (about 8 C). I took the MAX light rail to near the airport and got a bit of food. Mount Hood and Saint Helens were beaming, clear as a bell and glistening with snow. Even the slog over the I-205 (Glenn Jackson) Bridge didn’t seem too bad.

Going up via 205 is not my preferred option, but it was the easiest option from work. Plus it’s a bit faster and more direct. The first half through outer Vancouver (Washington) suburbia, then the exurban ruralness. I was unfortunately hitting this all right at rush hour, and most of the exurban roads lack shoulders or bike lanes. Thankfully, things weren’t that bad. I managed to get to the campground at 5:30 pm, right when the last good light of day was waning. I’m glad I got out of work two hours early, as it wouldn’t have been fun to ride out here in the dark.

There were four other folks on the trip, already there: Brad, James, Nate, and Chris. (There were rumors of other folks possibly joining on Saturday night.) They all rode as a group from Portland in the late morning. I quickly set up my tent, made some food, and got in the serious business of hanging out with folks. And I was really glad that it was a social outing with other people, because the nights are still long. There was a classic moment where someone thought it must be past nine, and it was just seven. I’ve been out here solo a couple times in the winter. The first time was more lonely than I hoped (esp. since I was going out with April and she was home), however the second time was much better.

The temperature dropped to around freezing overnight. I was pretty warm in my 32F/0C down bag with vapor barrier liner. I brought along my lightweight bivy sack in case it got really cold, but didn’t need it this time. If it was much colder, I could see using the bivy inside the tent, but I had enough clothes, a good bag, and the vapor barrier liner.

Morning was pretty perfunctory: make coffee and pancakes, pack up. I left a little after 9:30 am. Everyone else was still in camp, but they had a bit more time than I. I had to ride about 25 miles back to home, drop off stuff, shower and change, and get to work by 3 pm! So no lollygagging. I took my preferred “bucolic” way back towards downtown Vancouver and the Interstate (I-5) Bridge, stopping briefly for coffee and then food. The weather was decent again, though cooler (low 40’s) and high clouds diffused the sunlight. I managed to do all I needed, and got to work just a little late. Whew.

Man, bike camping was just what the doctor ordered. It was fun to be outside again overnight, and to hang out with folks. And Battle Ground Lake is one of my favorite close-by camping destinations. I’m glad I managed to make it all work, but it was definitely a rushed trip due to circumstances. I barely took any photos. Next time I go camping, I hope to have a little more breathing room.

And since I successfully got a camping trip in during January, does this mean I’ll be part of the Bike Overnight A Month club? We shall see. I have plans to camp at Stub Stewart in February with folks. And this time, we got cabins, which are so nice for the off season!

Alternate commutes.

I’ve lived at my current house in Woodlawn for three years. The distance to work is just a little under 6 miles (10 km.) Over the three years I’ve refined my morning bike commute into the most efficient and fastest route possible. I’m generally okay with it, as it sticks mostly to low traffic streets. It isn’t particularly scenic, but it has its moments.

And I’m bored of it.

Every once in awhile I tell myself I need to change it up, try out a different (read: longer) way. That’s great in theory, but this would require waking up earlier. I’m no morning person; I can barely get to work on time as it is. So the familiar route stays for the most part, and I stay frustrated.

But I can change up my route a bit on the days I DON’T need to be there by 8 am. I usually work at least one shift a week that starts at 3 pm. While I’ve done my regular commute route even then (esp. if I realize I need to get going), lately I’ve been trying to go the longer, more scenic way in. This generally means aiming closer to the Willamette River. This is especially useful if I want to check my PO Box at East Portland Station on the way in and/or get a quick lunch.

img_20170126_171523_089.jpg img_20170126_171547_643.jpgThis “alternate” commute happened on Thursday. On the way southward, I’ve been choosing NE Rodney Ave vs the faster and more popular NE Vancouver Ave. While I am guaranteed to see cyclists on Vancouver,* I’m guaranteed to see the goats of ZZZ Ranch on Rodney. Urban goats! I’ve known about the former Belmont Goats for years, but didn’t realize that there were three goats on Rodney until December! I try to stop by for five to ten minutes. And lucky for the goats, I have quarters, so I can feed them from the “goat food dispenser”, an old candy machine.

img_20170126_180523_304.jpgFrom there, I cruised further down Rodney, got over to Vancouver to get through the Rose Quarter, and paused at the overlook by the Steel Bridge where you can take the path down to the Eastbank Esplanade. I love stopping here because the view of the Willamette River and the city is great, and the Steel Bridge is my favorite bridge. I’ll usually see a couple MAX light rail trains crossing the span on the upper deck, but I often see some train action on the lower deck, too. Sometimes I catch the turning around of Amtrak’s Empire Builder,** the train I have taken eastward to Minneapolis and Chicago many a time. I didn’t see the Builder today, but maybe the next time I come down this way?

From this point, I could cruise down the Eastbank Esplanade for a nice waterside ride of a mile or so. I decided to take the quicker way inland to get to the SE Industrial District and pick up my mail and a bite to eat. Maybe next time, when I have more time.

It feels good to shake up the commute a bit from time to time. And the added bonus of feeding goats doesn’t hurt!

*And gravel. They take a long time to clean the gravel out of the bike lane after a snowstorm.

**When the Builder comes into Portland, it’s pointing southward. In order to get it pointing northward to go back towards Chicago,*** the train must cross the Steel Bridge where it can turn around via a wye on the east side of the river.

***Yes, yes, Chicago is east, I know. But the train has to head north across the Columbia first.

The return of the Crested Butte, an almost new bike?

Oh, the Raleigh Crested Butte has had such a long and strange saga. When I got it in October 2012. It was a garage queen, everything original and hardly used. I did some minor tweaks and adjustments over the years, like racks, handlebars/stem, and tires, but for the most part the “bones” of the bike have remained surprisingly unchanged. Before now, the only real parts changes besides maintenance based stuff like brake pads and cable was the freewheel and shifters. The bones of the Crested Butte were good: high quality components (mostly Shimano Deore) from the dawn of the mountain bike era.

But late last year, I realized that the bike was going to need a major overhaul and update to keep it going for another four years. I realized that it was going to cost me A LOT of money, but I like this bike so much, and I didn’t want to go with “whatever” componentry, I wanted stuff that would be good and that I would not mind looking at. So before the New Year holiday I dropped it off at Velo Cult. And three weeks later (delays mainly due to getting parts and some weird issues) I picked up the bike!

And what did I have done?

  • Brakes: While the high profile circa 1984 Deore cantis looked cool and provided great stopping power when they worked, they came out of adjustment easily and were uneasy to adjust. I decided to go for some (mostly) no muss/no fuss V-brakes, Tektro M530s, which work good and look nice. The only issue was due to springs and the posts on my bike (oh, early mountain bikes) which was averted by Jeremiah at Velo Cult basically making custom springs.
  • Brake levers: V-brakes mean new levers (or travel agents). I went with Tektro CL740 levers, which look A LOT better than those standard Shimano ones (you know what I’m talking about!) I originally wanted silver, but the distributor sent black instead. Since they looked fine and I didn’t want to wait even longer, I went with them.
  • Deraileur: Yeah, the Deore “deerhead” rear deraileur looked cool, but was worn out. I got a Shimano Acera which looks appropriate but not as cool. (The front deraileur has not been changed.)
  • Freewheel: The Suntour Perfect was no longer perfect, so I got one of those inexpensive Shimano 6 speed megarange freewheels (TZ30) with 14, 16, 18, 21, 24, and 34 teeth cogs. (The pie plate finally got removed!)
  • Crankset: While I didn’t really need to replace this, I did it to give the bike a better chainline, since when the chain was in the small ring on the triple, it came within a couple millimeters of the tire. (And I had to make sure that the tire was never wider than 52 mm, or it WOULD rub.) Originally I had hoped to just convert the nice extant Takagi Tourney triple crankset to a double to alleviate this issue (and to finally give appropriate space for a twin-legged kickstand), but it wasn’t enough. The only way to provide enough clearance would be a new crankset. Though I REALLY didn’t want to spend the additional money, I also REALLY wanted to make this all work. So I went with a Sugino XD2 double (40-26), which while not cheap, looks really nice (I had the triple version on the Long Haul Trucker) and also has the bonus feature of a chainring guard. (Chain won’t come off in front! Less chance to get a nice chainring tattoo!) And yep, the new crankset provides the needed clearance, so…
  • Kickstand: I had them install my Pletscher twin leg on there, which makes this “porteur” bike more functional.
  • Wheel stabilizer: I also had them install the VO stabilizer for added stability while parked, though I should also carry a strap so I can “lock” the front wheel for extended periods.
  • Other: New chain, bottom bracket, and cables/housing were all needed as part of the process. Also, I had them overhaul the wheels. I guess the only thing that didn’t get overhauled was the headset!

So it’s almost like it’s a new bike! The last time I so thoroughly overhauled a bike was the Long Haul Trucker back in 2012. And man, when I gave them my credit card it almost felt like I was buying a new bike. The grand total for all parts and labor? A whopping $486, and that’s after a substantial discount.* I must admit, there was that tiny moment of regret when it all came together, and wondered if it was really worth it.

img_20170122_122340.jpgBut over the years, the Crested Butte has become the “go-to” commuter and utility bike. While it’s originally a mountain bike (and a top of the line production one for its era), the slack “Excelsior” geometry was on the verge of being outdated even in 1984. Shorter wheelbases and tighter angles are better for “real” mountain biking. But these “issues” make it a great around-town riding bike, a “Cadillac” ride that may be comparable to some roadsters. And I have set it up with all the bells and whistles of a city bike: fenders, dynamo lighting, wheel lock, porteur rack, swept back bars, comfy saddle. It works great for that, which along with how nice it looks, makes me love this bike. So it is worth it to throw a bunch of money at it from time to time, so long as I don’t have to do it all again for a couple more years!

And here’s the real heart of the matter: In the four years of owning the Crested Butte, through trial and error, I’ve really made the bike “mine”. While I could find another vintage mountain bike or early hybrid or even similar modern bike (like a Rivendell Clem Smith Jr.) it would still be a process of “getting it right”. Why dump a bike that I love and love to ride to start the process again? (Well, I guess “because it’s fun”, but I really need to stop starting bike projects.) And I’ve done the “dump the bike” process before, after I spend a good amount of time, money, and energy to “get it right”, like with the Bridgestone XO-3. While I did get something better in the process (my long-suffering Bantam), I should have held onto that bike for at least another year (at least until the Bantam was ready). Live and learn.

And thankfully, thankfully, all the time and money invested into the redo of the Crested Butte seem to be worth it! Riding it home from Velo Cult on Saturday, it rode like a dream. It shifted and braked beautifully, and all the noises and squeaks that were present before the work were mercilessly gone. It definitely feels faster and less clunky. The 40-26 double is taking a little bit to get used to, and I do lose a bit of the “high”, but it’s plenty good for the style of riding I do on this bike. I used to do a good deal of shifting between middle and large chainrings, now I can just keep it in the big ring for the most part. So I am happy that I did all the stuff to it.

Now I just need to work on the Bantam…

*If I went and purchased parts on my own, I probably could have saved some money there, but since I wasn’t going to do the labor, I figure it’s always best to let the shop do any ordering, unless for some reason they can’t.

The thaw occurs.

32210084022_30447fc05c_oIt was bound to happen. Portland can’t stay that cold that long (usually). The much promised thaw began to happen, despite the snow’s best efforts to stick around until May.

It started with whimper on Tuesday. It started to rain (some areas got freezing rain) but the temp was in the mid-to-upper 30’s. There was still plenty of snow about, but when I walked to the pub in the neighborhood, I noticed that the sidewalks weren’t really icy, they were slushy.

32244931392_8eaea08bd6_oWednesday brought more rain and more above freezing temps. My street looked clear enough, so I decided to get out on the bike. That wasn’t the best idea, as most of the side roads still had their share of icy/slushy ruts. True, there was a lot more bare pavement showing, but it was still too treacherous to be fun. On the way home, I said screw it and rode the major streets since they were clean and traffic was lower. That mostly worked, though crossing the MAX tracks on N Interstate Ave was still sketchy, since there was still ice around it–and a car right on my back.

31598941943_6cc5dca858_oBut Thursday? Finally, the thaw has really happened. The temp rose into the mid-40’s over Wednesday night, and when I left the house Thursday afternoon it was a practically a tropical 50F/10C! Yeah, the south wind was stiff and I was heading south, and there were still a few random icy/slushy spots, but it was 90% fine. It was such a thrill to ride a bike in over a week, a bike ride where I didn’t feel like I might fall at any time.

And hopefully that’s the last of it for 2017. Never say never, but I don’t really want to see any more snow this year that isn’t on a distant mountaintop. (And if it does manage to snow again, hopefully it’s minor and quick.) I think this has become the view of most people in Portland. The snow was fun for the first couple days, and then when it became a chore to get around…

I really hate dissing snowy winters, so those of you who live in snowy winters and love it, I apologize. But there is a reason why many of us ended up here, and it’s because of the lack of snowy winters. And since snow is unusual here, the city doesn’t know how to deal with it. The strategy is to “let it melt”. When snow lasts for a day or two, that’s fine. But when it sticks around for over a week, it’s just not fun anymore.

Now maybe I can go camping next week!

32036675230_ff6cbffc2a_o

Snow, begone.

31484852293_381631f34c_oUgh.

As I write this on Sunday, the snow from our surprise (and surprisingly epic) snowstorm on Tuesday night is still around. Things were supposed to start thawing on Saturday, but that hasn’t happened, since the temps are still at or below freezing. We’re looking at The Great Thaw starting on Tuesday, when daytime highs bounce back to about 50F/10C. We’re also going to get a good rain on Tuesday, so we’ll probably have a Great Flood as well, ugh. So we’ll have snow and ice stick around for nearly a week. Normally, we get one, maybe two snowfalls a season, usually two inches or less, usually sticking around for two days max. To have two snows last almost a week each is a big deal. We’re looking at the coldest winter in 20 years, and the snowiest in awhile: more than 2014 but less than 2008-9.

And if you haven’t guessed yet, I’m sick of it. (If you hadn’t guessed, you probably didn’t read this post from last week.) I don’t mind a couple snows a year. But we’ve had four so far. (And I got five when I went to Vancouver for New Years. It stayed dry in Portland. Lucky me!) The weather is reminding me a bit too much of New England winter, and I moved away from that for a reason. I know that the standard damp Cascadian winter is not everybody’s cup o’ mossy tea (and even I get a bit sick of it by season’s end) but I do appreciate it, and enjoy it more than a cold and snowy winter right now.

But what is really getting me down is my diminished mobility. I’m not one of those lucky folks who don’t have to go to work when it snows. The hostel is open every day regardless of weather, and I need to be there. I didn’t set up any of my bikes to deal with the snow (we’ll get into that in a minute), so I’ve been relying on foot and bus. Now I do appreciate Portland’s public transit system, since it is pretty good when it works. But on our unplowed streets, buses can only go so fast (they need to be chained). They are slow and the schedules have been unreliable. There’s already been a couple times where I had to wait over a half-hour for a bus (they typically are on 15 minutes or less headways). And the sidewalks are still an icy mess. I’m lucky that I have a pair of ice grippers that go on my boots, but still I wish I didn’t have to use them.

And I realize what’s really bringing my mood down is not being able to ride a bike. Bicycling is my default transportation mode, and I usually ride every day. Since the New Year I’ve only ridden a bike maybe four times due to the snow and being sick. I did ride my Heavy Duti around Northeast on Wednesday when the snow was fresh. But that bike only has a rear coaster brake (and no studded tires) so I wouldn’t want to rely on that for any real commuting in these conditions. Before the winter started, I thought about finally switching out the front fork so I could put a brake on there. If I did, I would have set the bike up for icy commuting with studded tires. But other bike projects took precedence and while I’ll probably get around to improving it at some point, it’s going to be too late for this winter. Coulda shoulda woulda.

As for other bikes, the Raleigh Superbe is okay for a little bit of snow, not this. I could have swapped tires on the Bantam, but the front wheel is still an issue so I didn’t bother. The Crested Butte is a good commuter and would be okay for some of this (though studs would be good). But it’s been sitting in the shop since before New Years, getting a bunch of stuff done to it. It’s been waiting on some parts and the project has become more expensive than I thought it would be. Ugh.

While I’m sick of this weather and am chomping at the bit for the return of regular Portland winter, I still sometimes think about moving to a place with real winter! I don’t know why. Maybe the idea of the snow just being there for the winter, and you have to adapt yourself and your bikes to it? Maybe the idea of cities that are designed to deal with snow? Maybe the notion of becoming a “Real Winter Biker?” I don’t know. I don’t always make sense. All I know is that here the snow is a fun thing for a day or two and then becomes a major annoyance if it makes the mistake of sticking around too long. All I can do is think of warmer days. And the only snow I want to see until next winter is the stuff on the mountains in the distance.

Snow. No, we really mean it this time.

Last time I saw you fine folks I said it was snowing. But little did I realize at the time how much it would snow! And granted, it doesn’t take much to shut down this city (an inch!) but this time, it was waaaay more than that.

The forecast for Tuesday night called for some snow, but it was 1-4 inches. That means maybe two at best. At 8 pm on Tuesday night, I went outside. There was already two inches on the ground, and it had only started at 6. An inch an hour. This rate is A LOT more than we typically see, and the snow did not show any signs of slowing anytime soon. When I went back in the house I checked the NOAA forecast and all the sudden the snowfall prediction switched to 8-13 inches! This was going to be something different…

Overnight, it snowed and snowed. I even saw some lightning (thundersnow!) When the morning came, much of Portland was under a foot of snow. This is the most I have seen from a single snow event in town. While Snowpocalypse 2008 had greater overall snow, it was spread over a couple weeks. A foot is a big deal in most parts of the country, and even more so in Portland.

While in my last post I mentioned how sick I had become of this weather, a good, GOOD snow is something different. Since I had the day off and no obligations, it was time to enjoy this rare and record snowfall. And how would I enjoy it? On a bike of course!

The Heavy Duti was pressed into snow biking duty. While the lack of a front brake is not ideal, its fat tires (60 mm)* would be the best for this snow. (The Crested Butte is still in the shop, and the Bantam still has slick Compass tires on it.) I lowered the pressure to about 15 psi and got out there.

While the “fresh” snow would be too much for anything short of a fat bike, the ruts in the streets were fine for the Heavy Duti, once I got used to the handling. And what was originally thought of as just a quick jaunt around the neighborhood became a multiple hour event through Northeast Portland. I rode south to Alberta Street to the cusp of the Alameda Ridge so I could get a view of the city. I found a Mexican spot (La Bonita) open so I got lunch. I went as far east as NE 42nd until I turned around to head back, spending a couple hours at the Kennedy School for libations.

Many people were out enjoying the snow, since the city was for all intents and purposes shut down. While there was plenty of snow people being built (which happens any snow), I did see an impressive amount of snow forts being built. Lots of people tramping through the snow, whether by foot, snowshoe, or ski. I did see a few other cyclists, but they were few.

But sledding, yeah! There were kids doing their thing on the side streets, but the parks were where it was at. I heard reports about Tabor and Overlook Park, but I checked out Fernhill Park, since it was on my circuit. Man, there was at least a hundred people having fun on the slopes there.

I really had fun checking out the snow today. This storm was a once in a decade or so event. It was real. But after it melts over the weekend, I will be happy to not see snow again until next winter!

*yeah, I know. Not a true fat bike nor even “plus”.  But ya gotta run what ya got!

Sick and ice. (And sick of ice?)

It’s shaping up to becoming “one of those winters”. While those with a short attention span (or haven’t been here that long) are saying this is the “snowiest winter ever”, it has seen its share of snow. And it’s not exactly about quantity of snow, as most of the snows have been fairly small (see my last sentence), it’s about the frequency of snow. As I write this, we are seeing our fourth snow event since about December 8 when it all started. And the last event was just on Saturday and Sunday, so we really haven’t had any relief.

While I do like some snow from time to time, this is not the type of “real winter” I like. I like having some snow that you can do something with, not a light layer that lingers for far too long. And the worst part of it all is the ice. Ice is no fun, unless its a frozen lake you can walk across. Sure, you can bike on ice if you have studded tires. But I don’t hear people wax poetically about biking on ice in the same way that they do about fat biking across snow. That’s because ice biking is tolerable at best, downright dangerous at worst.

So it hasn’t been a helluva lot of fun around here since I got back from Vancouver. While it was cold but dry upon my homecoming, I promptly got sick with a good cold. I was layed up at home for two days. Then the snow/ice storm hit. The ice didn’t thaw until Monday afternoon. So since Thursday night I have been off the bike.

Tuesday was fairly okay, damp and cold but no snow and ice. So I decided to get out there for a moment on the Raleigh Superbe. While the ride itself was nothing epic or spectacular (pretty much my standard cruise through North Portland) it did feel good to get on a bike after being off for the better part of a week.

And even though it had been barely 24 hours since the snow/ice had melted, it seemed like a lifetime ago. Portland’s perma-green was present everywhere. This is why I like Portland’s typical winter. While the damp and grey gets to some people (and even me after awhile), we do live in pretty damn temperate climate, where freezing temps aren’t generally the norm in the winter. To lift up my mood a bit, I passed by some palms, magnolias, eucalyptus, and of course madronas, our native broadleaf evergreen.

But that was just for today. Now it’s snowing again, and it looks like this will really be a good snow…

Looking ahead 2017

wp-1483845600929.jpgHello friends, yeah I know that the “rule” is to write these “goals” types of posts before the New Year, but I’m always a little late with these things. All apologies! And I’m not writing a year end wrap up for 2016 either. While there were some good moments, it’s a year I don’t want to repeat anytime soon. (Or ever.)

So, what will I try to pull off in 2017? In general:

  • More bike riding. Yes, this is something I pretty much say EVERY year. But 2016 has felt like such a low point. Even with a fancy new bike, I didn’t have as many bike adventures to note. I do ride pretty much every day (about a 12 mile roundtrip commute to work) but that’s not enough. And I always feel better when I go on a ride. But sometimes I jinx myself and psyche myself out of rides, not into them. This self-destructive thinking has got to stop.
  • More camping and touring. Again, 2016 didn’t have as much bike camping as I had hoped. Again, I tended to psyche myself out of more camping opportunities than into them. This has also got to stop. As for touring, I did only one real tour last year, the Islands/Sounds adventure in Sept/Oct. That was good, but not enough. While I do want to do a “big” trip again, I know that 2017 is not the year, as I need to save up some cash for that and think about some other things. But one tour in a year is definitely not enough, so I need to figure out ways around that.
  • Explore new places. While the Islands/Sounds Tour was good, it featured a lot of spots that I’ve hit before. I realize that there are several parts of Oregon that I have rarely to never hit up, and I should tour these places too.
  • Do more creative things. Yeah, I always need to draw more, but there is other stuff beyond blogging and posting pictures on the internet. I’ve been meaning to update my Cycle Touring Primer for YEARS, so I should definitely work on that soon!

And for some more concrete plans:

  • I hope to spend a couple weeks in California in March. It’s been three years since I’ve been to the Bay Area, and eight since I’ve been to Southern California!
  • I plan on heading out to the Lake Pepin Three Speed Tour as well. Maybe you’ll join me this time?
  • As for big tours, like stated earlier, I’d like to do some explorations in the “untapped” areas of the state, namely Eastern Oregon. Southern Oregon would also be a good spot too!

And a more personal goal: Last year, I got into a brief relationship with someone. It was good while it lasted, but was too brief and not meant to last. This was the first time I went out with someone since breaking up with April three years previous. That breakup was harder on me than I thought it should. Having the idea of love in my life again was great and then it was gone. It was nice having that validation because I didn’t feel that without someone else.

And that made me realize that I need to learn how to like myself, with or without someone else in the picture. Y’see, I’m pretty much estranged from my family, and while I have a decent amount of friends, I’ve never had a “best friend”. I’ve been a loner more by default than by choice. You’d think I’d be able to get used to myself after 41 years on the planet, but I still haven’t reached that point to feel good about myself. I didn’t realize that until I got into a long-term relationship with April. My idea of self-worth improved because I had someone who loved me, and someone to love. With her gone, there was a hole in my life. I was hoping new love would plug it up, but I need to learn how to plug it up myself.

I need to realize my self-worth and not be so damn hard on myself all the time. I need to be okay when things don’t work out as planned. I need to learn to take care of myself. I’m not saying I’m not looking for someone else, but I need to realize that someone else is not going to figure out these things for me.

And on a more positive note, there should be some changes at my work this year, namely a new schedule. For the past several years I’ve been working a Thursday through Monday schedule. While having weekdays off can be nice for some things, it’s getting old since most people I know want to do things on a weekend. If I have enough advance notice I can get a weekend day off, but that’s the key: advance notice. It would be nice to have a bit of the weekend off automatically so I could do things. And that will happening come February, where I should be transitioning to Sunday and Monday off. It’s not a true weekend, I know, but having at least Sunday off means more opportunities to do things with others will open up. It also means that it could be possible to do close-by camping with folks on a Saturday night. And I would still have a weekday off, and that would be nice too!

I hope you all have a good 2017.