Epic Dream Trip Snow Skiing In Chile – With Terrible Weather, Part 2

I finally figured out which line to get into to check in with Customs.

After I spent 30 minutes trying to figure out where to go to pick up my luggage.  I was low energy due to the long travel, but excited to start my Chilean adventure.

It was finally my turn to go talk to the Customs officer.  He was perched in a glass box the size of a cubicle.  He asked me something in Spanish, which I didn’t understand, so I handed him my passpost.

I told him, “No, hablo Espanol.”

He looked at my passport said something in Spanish, handed me a small receipt, that was written in Spanish, then looked away.

I said, “Can I go?”

He motioned to the exit and nodded in agreement.

So I walked out towards the exit.

Immediately the pace of life picked up.  Transportation vendors were looking at me trying to sell me luxury taxi rides somewhere.

I went up to the desk of a bus company called Turbus.  I recognized this as one of the big bus brands from my googling.

I pulled out my phone and opened Google Translate and asked to buy a bus ticket to Terminal Alameda Santiago.  She sold me the ticket and told me where to find the bus, which I didn’t understand because Spanish.

Then I walked out the doors of the airport.

Chaos.

Selling tourists various forms of transportation is big business at the Santiago airport.  I was immediately bombarded by guys trying to sell me transport and trying to help me carry my big ass ski bag.

I was an obvious target because I looked like a gringo and was laden with tons of tourist luggage.

And these guys pitching me transport services, which were not cheap, could all speak English.  Which was smart.

But I kept saying no and looked for the bus.  It wasn’t too hard to find the Turbus because they’re buses are painted green.  They are obvious.

It was a short ride to Terminal Alameda.  I got out of the bus and it was a bit overwhelming.

Terminal Alameda in Santiago de Chile

There were a lot of different bus companies to choose from.  This is why I didn’t buy a ticket ahead of time, because I knew I could just get one once I got to the terminal.

Instead of hoping on a bus, I looked for a bathroom or bano.  I couldn’t believe it but they charge for the public bathroom.  There was a line at the cashier to pay for the bathroom, then you go through a turnstile to get in.

I’d never paid to go to the bathroom before, but there’s a first time for everything I guess.  It doesn’t cost much, less than a $1 USD.  Then I it was a pain in the ass trying to get my long ski bag through the turnstile.

The bathroom wasn’t that clean, but it was manageable.  And they had large trashcans in every stall.  I guess that they sewer system didn’t accept the toilet paper and you were supposed to throw your toilet paper in the trash.  That’s how it was the last time I visited Mexico.

I got outta the bathroom as quick as I could.

Instead of comparing the prices, options, and departure times of the different bus companies, I just went back to Turbus and ask for a ticket on the next bus to Chillan, which I was told was departing in about 15 minutes.

When we were boarding the bus to Chillan, I was told I had to pay for my luggage, because it was so big.  It’s always difficult in these situations because I don’t speak the language, there is a line of people waiting behind me, I don’t know the currency, and I couldn’t tell how much I was paying and if I was getting ripped of.

I ended up paying more than half the cost of the bus ticket, just so I could load my ski bag.  Whatever.

Green double decker Turbus in Chile

My bus for a 6 hour drive to Chillan.

The large bus has 2 levels and I was on the top level.  I was seated next to a quite man, about my age on the bus.

As we started to head south out of Santiago, I got my first views of Chile and in the distance the Andes.

The first thing I noticed is that the mountains are huge.  The way I know that mountains are huge, is if they look huge, and you know you are a long distance away.

The dry mountains were the tallest I’d ever seen.

On the long slow ride to Chillan, I got to know my seat neighbor Oscar.  He lived in Chillan and spoke a little English, which was more that I spoke of Spanish.  We mostly communicated through Google Translate on our phones.

I informed him this was my first time in South America and that I was excited to be in Chile because of my love of mountains and wine.

During our trip, Oscar realized that I was not going to make my connection to the bus that would take me from the city of Chillan, to the ski mountain 1 1/2 hours away.  Oscar was such a nice dude that he started calling around and arrange a private transport that the hotel I was staying at recommended, to get me to the mountain.

Not only that, once we got to Chillan, he spoke to the driver and informed him that I wanted to go to the grocery store and buy some Chilean wine.  We hopped in the small van, went around the corner to the grocery store and Oscar helped me buy 4 bottles of wine, while the driver waited outside.

Oscar was the man and I gave him $20 just for helping me out.

When I tried to checkout of the grocery store, the clerk asked me for my passport.  I was shocked.  Why the heck would I have to show my passport, just to buy wine?

Chilean Taxes and Payments

Turns out, the store needed to see my passport to make sure that I wasn’t a Chilean citizen.  Chilean’s have to pay a 19% tax on just about everything, but foreigners don’t have to pay the tax.

The same thing happened when I would pay for my hotel rooms.  If I was a foreigner, I didn’t have to pay the tax.

Kind of a weird setup, but I was glad not to have to pay the excessive tax.

Another thing I noticed is that prices almost always worked out better for me if I paid on my Visa credit card.  This was partly because I wasn’t good at quickly converting amounts of pesos to dollars, even though I had an app on my phone that would do it.  And partly because I don’t know why, it just worked out better.

Even with the 3% foreign transaction fee (tax) that Visa put on every transaction, it was usually cheaper for me to pay with my card.

Nevados de Chillan

By the time I got into my hotel room at it had been 28 hours of non-stop traveling.  I was shot.  I had purchased 4 bottles of Chillan wine at the market and wanted to drink.  I opened the only bottle I bought that had a screw top, a Pinot Noir, and drank the whole bottle.

Interesting thing about Chile, for me living in the East Coast of the USA, is that they are the same timezone even though Chile is on the West Coast of South America.  Even though my trip was long, I didn’t have that jet lag from crossing time zones.

It had rained a bit the night I got there, but the next day was spring like and the sun was out.  I got on my gear and headed out to the chair lift.

The mountain Nevado de Chillan has somewhere between 2,300 -3,000 vertical feet of skiing.  The bottom part of the mountain is low elevation, below 6,000ft.  It takes a while to ride the antiquated lift system to get to the top of the mountian.

The lift that takes you to the top is a rickety old 2 seater chair.  As you go the mountain just opens up and the views are wide.  Most of the terrain that you actually want to ski is above treeline.

Nevados de Chillan ski resort

Starting from the bottom of Nevados de Chillan ski resort

skiing in Chile

View from the top of Nevados de Chillan

I was impressed with the vastness of the terrain.  You’re basically skiing on an active volcano and the sides of 2 dormant volcanoes.

As you can see, once your up there, it’s all alpine terrain, no trees.

I knew I’d made the right decision to travel far south of Santiago, in search of snow.  Nevados de Chillan had full coverage and I had 9 days of skiing there.

I was hoping I’d catch a day or two of fresh snow.  Looking around the open terrain, I couldn’t help but to compare Nevados to Kirkwood.  I compare every place I ski to Kirkwood because that’s my home mountain where I have a lifetime ski pass.  It’s unfair to compare other ski resorts to Kirkwood, because Kirkwood is just that good, but I can’t help myself.

Nevados de Chillan – A Skier’s Perspective

Nevados is an active volcano.  The volcanic rock made me feel right at home, because that’s what Kirkwood is.  Except Kirkwood is not active, it’s dormant.

The terrain at Nevados is wide open.  You can ski just about anywhere.   The terrain is not that steep.  There are a few steep looking lines that are outside of the ski resort, but I couldn’t figure out how to get there.  The stuff in-bounds is nice, but not challenging.  Nothing on the level of a Kirkwood.  You don’t have to worry about skiing off a run an possibly find yourself stuck above a cliff.

These mountains are almost always windy, which is not unusual.  The lifts often have to shut down because of wind.  It’s not bad because there is a decent t-bar system that can keep operating during the high winds, while accessing most of the mountain.

These mountains are volcanoes and they’re beautiful.  They are not the big crazy Andes mountains of my dreams.  The are not big jagged peaks.  The mountains outside of Santiago are like that.

The volcanoes of Nevados de Chillan are much lower in elevation.  The base of the ski area starts at under 6,000 ft. above sea level.  The ski resort tops out somewhere around 8,000 ft, but you can keep hiking higher, if the conditions permit.

There is a shit ton of terrain at Nevados.

I was interested to understand how the ski patrol approaches snow safety.  If there was a large snowfall, the mountain would be very interesting.

Would ski patrol close all parts of the mountain, then only open the sections that had be bombed and inspected?  Looking at the mountain, it seemed that if they got a large snowfall, vast sections of the inbounds terrain was possible to avalanche.

Looking at the ski patrol, I was guessing that they didn’t have the man power or the resources, to approach snow safety in the comprehensive way that North American ski resorts do.

How much are you on your own, in terms of staying out of avalanches inbounds, when there is a big snow?

These are questions I wondered on my first day skiing in Nevados de Chillan, Chile.  I had 9 days of skiing to find out.

I never got those questions answered.

A Bad Weather Window

The very first night I spent at Nevados de Chillan it rained.  The next day, my first day skiing, it was overcast and warm and the snow was springy and soft.

My second day of skiing, it was overcast, the temperature cooled a few degrees and the snow was hard. So skiing off trail was teeth chattering and not fun.

The third day it dumped rain all day.

I was bored trapped in the hotel and sat around and got drunk.

I was hoping it had snowed up at the top of the volcano.

I went out the next day and discovered it had not.  The winds were ripping.  The snow got bombed by the rain, then the screaming winds came and sucked a lot of moisture out of the snow and left this super weird, soft, untracked, kinda goopy, I-don’t-know-what-to-call-it snow behind.

I woke up the next day at it was dumping rain again!

My hotel package included a lift ticket, so whether I used it or not I paid for it.

I was bored and it was 37 degrees farenheight and I figured it had to be snowing up top.  I put on my gear and rode the chairlifts in the pouring rain for 25 minutes to the top of the mountain.

I looked around and could see that it was dumping rain to the very highest points of the volcano.

After the 2nd day of rain, the weather forecast for my last 3 days was for sun and higher temps.

This was good.  At this point my best chance of decent skiing was for warm weather to soften the snow.

My first day skiing after the rain, was great because I was out of the hotel skiing.  It wasn’t perfect because it just didn’t warm that much and the entire mountain was still covered in snow, but the snow was rock hard.

I stuck to skiing groomers.

My second to last day looked like it would be a nice warm spring day.  When I got to the top of the mountain there were some high clouds and a light wind.  This was keeping the snow cool and hard.  I needed warm and soft.

I waited and waited.  The clouds eventually went away and at 1pm I decided to give it a shot and hike off the back of the ski resort for the first time.

It felt great to put on my gear and hike up a mountain and workout a bit.

But the temp’s stayed cool.  The snow never softened.  At all.

I wanted to hike up the other, dormant volcano, lookers left of the ski resort.  I hiked up to the ridge and got a good idea of how I could get out there, but it was so late in the day that I didn’t attempt to make the volcano.

I’d try on my last day, now that I had a decent idea of the terrain and how to get out there.

As I skied back to the resort, on untracked rock hard snow, my feet began to hurt from all the hard chattering of my skis sliding on the snow.

On my last day, the sun was out, it was beautiful, there was a slight wind, and instead of warming like it was supposed to, it cooled off.

The snow stayed rock hard.

I decided to just give up and not even think of an attempt to hike off the mountain, and just to cruise groomers and enjoy my last day skiing in Chile.

I’ve been in the mountains long enough to understand weather windows.  Sometimes you get lucky and the weather works out and you think that were you are has the best skiing in the world.

Sometimes your at the best place to ski in the world and it doesn’t snow all winter.

Sometimes it’s in between.

Basically, for my epic ski trip to Chile for my 40th birthday, the skiing was terrible.

Actually it wasn’t that bad, skiing is only terrible if you get hurt.  What I should say is the ski conditions were not great.

But in it’s entirety, the trip was awesome.

I really enjoyed Chile.  I’d like to spend some time there with a rental car so I could move around easily.  I’d like to get to a vineyard and I’d like to get into the big crazy parts of the Andes and ski some cool shit.

It was my first time off North America, first time in Chile, and first time in the Andes.

I got to do ski in the Andes in the summertime which I’ve dreamed about doing since I was a kid.  It’s just another of the amazing things in life I’ve been able to experience that I never thought I would have the chance to.

For this I am forever grateful.  And there is no way I could have pulled this epic trip off without a ton of help from my family and friends.

And this all just reinforces my believe that I am the luckiest guy in the world.

Epic Dream Trip Snow Skiing In Chile – With Terrible Weather

I remember being a teenager and reading in ski magazines about how you can ski in South America in the summertime.  Well, it’s summertime where I live, in Durham, North Carolina, USA, but in South America, it’s winter.

The seasons are flipped.

In North America in August it’s the middle of summer, in South America, the middle of winter.

My birthday is in August and I always thought it would be cool to snow ski in August in South America.

Not only that, but once I moved to Lake Tahoe, in California, I caught the wine bug.  I’ve traveled the vineyards and worked in the wine business for 10 years.

So a exotic land with huge Andes mountain, the opposite seasons, and lots of vineyards in Chile and Argentina, that a powerful recipe for me.

My 40th Birthday

I’m very close with my Mom’s brother.  He’s always been the favorite Uncle.  Uncle Rob.  Uncle Rob was the first person to visit me when I moved to Lake Tahoe after college, when I didn’t know anyone east of the Mississippi.

Uncle Rob came out to ski and he brought his old friend and business partner Jim Allen, the founder and winemaker of Sequoia Grove vineyards in Rutherford, Napa Valley, California.  Uncle Rob and Jim Allen introduced me to Napa Cab, and I got hooked and that changed the entire trajectory of my life.

Anyway, Uncle Rob asked me what I was going to do for my 40th birthday.  He asked if I wanted to travel anywhere.  He said he’d buy me a plane ticket.

I told him how I always wanted to go to South America to go snow skiing.  I had dreams of skiing powder on my birthday, August 4th.

Uncle Rob offered to buy my plane ticket.

I thought, holy shit!  This might actually happen.  It’s hard to think something is really going to happen, when you’ve been thinking about it for 25 years or so, and not thinking it was very realistic.

That was sometime early in 2019 and even though I thought I had a chance to go down to South America, I put it in the back of my mind and just went about my business.

Then the summer came.

I started to think more about what I was going to do for my birthday.  Next thing I knew it was July.  I tried to reach my Uncle and ask if he was going to be able to buy my ticket.  If he wasn’t, I’d probably just go to the beach in North Carolina for a few days.

Problem was Uncle Robert was traveling to England.  He went to watch the Wimbledon tennis tournament.  I couldn’t get a hold of him while he was over there.  I finally spoke to Uncle Rob when he got back. My birthday was only a couple weeks away.

He said it’s amazing how much champagne the spectators drink at Wimbledon.  Apparently you can walk in with your own champagne bottles.  He said you can hear the spectators popping corks right there inside the stadium.  And he said he was going to buy the plane ticket to Santiago, Chile.

My plane ticket was for a departure to Santiago de Chile on August 22nd.

Holy shit, I thought, I’m actually going.

Then I flew out to the middle of nowhere to my sister’s house on the Fall River in south eastern Idaho and hung out with her family for a week.

While I was in Idaho, I needed to start planning my Chile trip.  I’d never been of the North American continent.  I’m not a savvy international traveler.  I don’t speak Spanish.  And I hadn’t done any research on Chile. And I was going solo.

I knew the Andes where there and they have a lot of vineyards.

One of the most interesting facts I learned is, even though Chile is on the west coast of South America, Santiago, and I’m guessing most if not all of the country, is in the same time zone as the East Coast of the US.  I live on the east coast in Durham, North Carolina.  So that meant no jet lag.

Growing up reading ski magazines, I’d hear about this ski resort in Chile called Portillo.  It’s the most famous ski resort in Chile and it has a large yellow hotel that is surrounded by tall mountains.

I figured I’d go there.  It turns out Portillo is expensive.  But they have these 2 lodges, next to the main hotel, that have shared rooms, that are much cheaper than getting a regular room in the main hotel.

I figured I’d stay in the cheap lodge.  I didn’t care about luxury bullshit.  I wanted to ski big mountains and steep terrain.

Portillo is also great in terms of logistics.  The hotel is only 1.5-2 hour bus ride out of Santiago.  They even have a bus that can pick you up at the airport.

So it seemed pretty easy.  Fly to Santiago, pick up the bus to the hotel.  Ski for the week, take hotel bus back to Santiago and fly home.

Just one problem.

Portillo didn’t have any snow.  It was mid-August, which as far as I can tell is equal to February in North America.  The Andes were experiencing a drought and Portillo had 2 runs open.

This is famous Portillo.  In August famous world class skiers come to Portillo and hold steep ski camps.  But this year they didn’t have snow and many of those skiers cancelled their trips.

I confirmed this by searching on social media, and particularly Instagram, for photos of Portillo.  Yup they didn’t have snow.

And that’s a Pro Tip.  If you want to know current weather conditions for somewhere, do some searches on social media, and you’ll get a pretty good idea.

No Snow In The Andes

What the fuck?

I didn’t know what to do.  I’ve spent a lot of time in the mountains.  I understand droughts and low snow years.  Timing is huge and you just can’t plan perfect weather.

My main goal for traveling to South America and Chile in the summer was to go snow skiing.  I’m sure it would have been nice to tour Chile and do sightseeing, but that’s not the cool shit I’ve dreamed about since I was a kid.

I dream about adventure and skiing big mountains.

I reached out to my childhood friend Adam.  Adam lived in South America after college and has traveled the continent extensively.  Adam put me in touch with his friend, Ian who runs a snowboard tour company in Chile.

I got super lucky with Adam making that connection.  Ian turned out to be a great source of information.  When I told him my situation, he said to go south to Nevados de Chillan or El Coralco.

The southern Andes had snow.

That’s where I’d have to go, to the snow.  Problem was I didn’t know anything about how to operate on my own in Chile.

Planning Transportation in Chile

Nevados de Chillan is a 6 hour drive south of Santiago.  The mountain doesn’t have it’s own convenient bus that will pick me up at the airport in Santiago.

So I started research how to get down there.  It wasn’t easy because most of the websites for things like buses and trains and hotels were in Spanish, and I don’t speak Spanish.

My family was a bit concerned about me going on a solo ski trip to Chile because I didn’t do any planning, I hadn’t traveled much internationally, I was going solo, I didn’t speak Spanish, and I was going skiing.

The skiing part was hard on my Mom and my sister due to my previous experience dying in an avalanche in the Sierra Nevada.  I’m a very conservative guy when I’m traveling in the mountains, and that avalanche was a rare occurrence, but it did happen, so I can understand that my Mom and sister would be unreasonably worried about this.

I decided that I’d go to the ski resort Nevados de Chillan.  It had snow and it looked big.

Now that I’d made that decision, I had to figure out how to get down there.

There were 3 options to get to the mountain from Santiago, which was 6-8 hours of travel away.  I could fly into Concepcion and take a private transport to the mountain, which was 2.5 hour drive from Concepcion.  Or I could take a bus to Chillan, and then another hour long bus ride to the mountain.  Or I could take a train to Chillan, and then another hour long bus ride to the mountain.

The plane was out because I wouldn’t see Chile, it was super expensive, and it seemed like it would not save any time.  So what was the point?  No plane.

I wanted to take the train because I thought I’d see the country and I like trains.  The problem with the train was, it only had 2 trips to Chillan the day I was arriving. One in the morning, which I wasn’t going to make in time, another at 5:30 pm, which required me to wait around Santiago all day.

So I went with the bus option.  Chile has a bus culture.  Chile is the longest nation in the world and to move folks around in a reasonably priced manner, a bus industry developed.  Once I landed at the airport in Santiago, I’d need to get myself to the Terminal Alameda Santiago.  At the bus terminal there are many different bus companies and lots of routes, every day, down to Chillan.

There were so many options, that I didn’t even try to buy a ticket ahead of time.  I’d just arrive at the terminal and pick the bus that was leaving the soonest.

Once I got to Chillan, there was another bus that would take me to the ski mountain.

I’d also decided to stay at the Hotel Nevados, which is at the bottom of the ski resort.  The stay included the room, 3 meals a day, and lift tickets.  It was the expensive option, but the easiest one considering I wasn’t renting a car and had limited options due to mobility.

Catching a Plane to Santiago

I got confirmation of the hotel stay a few hours before I was headed to the Raleigh Durham airport.

I was at the airport with 3 pieces of luggage.  My ski bag, my ski boots, and my large red ski/climbing backpack.

Ski gear for Chile

I would learn very quickly, that traveling with my large 195 centimeter long ski bag, in a country where I didn’t have a car and didn’t speak the language, would be a huge pain in the ass.

I was surprised that American Airlines didn’t charge me for checking my ski bag.  I thought it was a mistake, because when I fly in the states, I always have to pay for checking my luggage.

The airlines make a lot of money charging for this.

I later found out, on international flights to many South American countries on American Airlines, you get to check 2 bags for free.  I recommend checking with the airline before you fly to see what the checked bag policy is.

I didn’t check my ski boot bag because you never check your ski boots going to a ski destination.  If you ski boots get lost, you are screwed.  Boots are the most important part of your gear.  You can rent skis, but you can’t rent custom fitted ski boots. Never check them on the way to your destination.

I did check the boots on the way back home, which was nice.

My Uncle Was Sick

While I was waiting to board the plain in RDU, I called my Uncle to say Thanks for the plane ticket again.  He didn’t answer so I left a voice message.

My Aunt called me shortly after.  Aunt Carmen said that Uncle Rob had just had open heart surgery the week before and he was in the hospital recovering.  He didn’t tell me because he didn’t want me to cancel my trip.

He didn’t tell anyone about his surgery and he wouldn’t let anyone see him, except my Aunt, in the hospital.  He’s a very private guy.

My Aunt told me not to worry and that my Uncle wanted me to have fun.

I started getting nervous.

It was a short flight from RDU to Miami.

Once in Miami, I found out that the flight was delayed.  It was supposed to leave at 10:30 pm, instead it would leave at 11:30pm.

I tried to get a little bit of work done on the computer while I waited.

Finally the plane arrived and we got boarded.  I am impressed with these big ass planes that do the longer flights.  This thing was huge and decently comfortable.  I didn’t have one of the nice seats, just one in the main cabin, but I was comfortable enough.

The flight took 7 hours to Santiago.

I was sitting next to this nice woman from the States that spoke English and Spanish.  Since the flight was a redeye flight, after they served dinner all the lights went out.

The woman I was sitting next to offered me a melatonin pill to help me sleep.  I usually don’t like to take any pills, especially to help sleep.  But melatonin is pretty benign.  Your body naturally makes melatonin to help you sleep.  It’s not a hard core drug like Ambien.

So I took her up on the offer.  The melatonin started working quickly.  And it worked.  I passed out for 4-5 hours of the flight.

I actually liked it.  I recommend trying a melatonin if you are on a redeye flight.  It worked so well that I decided to take a melatonin on the flight back home to the states.

When we landed in Santiago, I thought, “Oh shit, here we go.”

I got of the plane and saw a bathroom.  I went in and washed off a bit.

Then I looked around and couldn’t figure out where the customs office to check my passport was.

It sucks not being able to read or speak Spanish, in a Spanish speaking country.

The End…..

Definitely not the end of the story, but 2,300 words, this is long for a blog post.  So I’ll break this up into 2 parts.

 

 

 

 

A Long Nautical and Historical Adventure in Reading

It started almost two years ago.  I was staying at my sisters place in Gulf Breeze, Florida. The house is right on the water, on the Pensacola Bay side, not on the Gulf of Mexico side.

I needed something to read.  I found this book:

Empire of Blue Water

by Stephan Talty.

empire-of-blue-water

Since I was in Florida, on the water (as you should be), and the book was about the famous pirate Capt. Henry Morgan, I decided to give it a read.  And the cover had a sword on it, and that’s cool.

Well, turns out I knew nothing of Capt. Morgan.  He wasn’t a pirate.  He was a privateer.  I had no idea what a privateer was.  A privateer does basically the same thing as a pirate, but they have the blessings, or a license, I think the technical term is a “charter”, from a government.  In Capt. Morgan’s case, he had a charter from England.

This true story takes place around the 1650’s, during a 70 or so years of the height of piracy in the Caribbean.

This was during the height of Spain’s domination of the New World.  England had little to no influence in the valuable New World.  England turned to the privateers to “slow down” Spain’s economic engine.  By “slow down” I mean England used privateers like Morgan to steal ships, valuables, and to ransack cities and forts, important to the Spanish Crown.

Capt. Morgan is the most famous privateer (and pirate) of all time.  This book goes in depth in his adventures.  It’s gruesome and fascinating.

The major hub for all this privateer activity back then was Port Royal, Jamaica.  Port Royal was the richest city in the world.  It was home all the pirates and they’d blow all their loot on whores, drinking, and gambling.  It was a crazy place.

Then, not long after Capt. Morgan passed away, and the English had a treaty with Spain, and banned privateering, the city experience an epic earthquake and sunk into the sea.

I’m not exaggerating.  This really happened.  It’s a crazy story.  You should read this book.

Over The Edge of The World: Magellan’s Terrifying Circumnavigation of the Globe

by Laurence Bergreen

over the edge of the world

After the book about pirates, I read this book about Magellan.  Holy shit this is a crazy story.

This book is where I learned that the Pope in Italy decided to split the world between Portugal and Spain.  This jackass thought that he had the power to do this.  The crazy thing is, most of the world (the Western world) believed him.  There was some treaty declaring this to be so, so that Spain and Portugal wouldn’t keep warring with each other.

This decision has a dramatic impact on history and the world.  This decision left a huge mark on places as far away as China and Japan, and would impact the world in odd ways for hundreds of years.

Magellan’s whole life was caught up in this nonsense.  He was Portuguese sailor and wanted to sail around the world, I think it was specifically to find a quicker route to the Spice Islands.  He wanted to do this for his home, Portugal, but the king got pissed off at Magellan for some reason and he fled the country.

Magellan fled to the hated rival Spain.  He eventually convinced the Spanish King to let him sail for the Spice Islands.  This is kind of amazing because the whole time they didn’t trust him and thought he was a spy for Portugal.

Because Spain backed Magellan against all odds, Magellan was super grateful and fiercely loyal to the Spanish Crown.  Of course this would come back to bite him, because Spain thought he was a traitor.

Magellan sailed into unknown waters and eventually stumbled into South America.  They were lost.  It was 1519 and technology sucked.  The sailors were getting scurvy and dying and scared.  Most of the crew were Spanish, and they mutinied on the Portuguese enemy, who was the leader of the expedition.

These pussies that mutinied fled back to Spain and talked shit about Magellan, said he was a Portuguese spy, and hated God, etc.  They made up a bunch of bullshit, and of course the Spanish Crown believed these losers.  Then the Spanish Crown went after Magellan’s family.

The whole time Magellan is far away and insanely loyal to the Spanish Crown.  Then the expedition crosses through South America and into the great unknown, the Pacific Ocean.

This is where they are really fucked.

It turns out scurvy was real problem at sea back in the day.  No one knew why you got.  And it was weird cause some people on the boat didn’t get it.  Survey is a nutrition problem and can be dealt with by consuming fruit, which you don’t have on a sea voyage with no refrigeration.

Magellan didn’t get scurvy because he kept a jar of jam or jelly made of fruit.  He thought his immunity had something do with religion.

Anyway… the miraculous made it to some islands and were the first (known) Western explorers to sail across the Pacific.

Magellan went crazy and decided to convert all the islanders he found to Christianity.  It was during this process, on one of the islands that he got killed.  After going most of the way around the world.

A handful of the crew on just one of the boats made it back to Portugal and the rest is history.

It’s a crazy true story.  You should read this book.

Pirate Hunters: Treasure, Obsession, and the Search for a Legendary Pirate Ship

by Robert Kurson

nautical adventure book

Do you see the trend here?  Another nautical sea adventure, and this time were back on the topic of pirates.

This adventure takes place in modern times.  This is a story of highly skilled divers that are searching for a pirate ship, which turns out to be one of the hardest artifacts to find.

In particular, these guys are looking for the pirate Bannister’s ship.  He was a legend.  He left England in charge of this beautiful ship, got to the Caribbean, and decided to turn pirate.  A very rare story.

And this book documents how hard it was to find something like this.

This book helped fill in the details to me, of what life was like hundreds of years ago, and at sea.

A book about treasure hunters, diving in the sea, to find long lost pirate ships.  It’s a fun read.

Shogun

by James Clavell

epic novel about japan

I have a Kindle.  My Kindle is connected to my brother-in-law’s (Keith) Amazon account where there are hundreds of books.  Keith is a smart dude that I respect, so when I see books that I know nothing about, but might be interesting, I’ll start reading them, because they are already “approved” as being good, because they’re in Keith’s library.

I was looking for a book to read and I saw the cover image above.  I saw the big sword and the word Shogun, so I opened the book and started reading.

Unlike the other books I’ve mention, Shogun is a novel.

I was confused at first because the book starts out in 1580 on an English ship that is lost sailing in the Pacific ocean.  It seemed more like the Magellan book than a novel about Shoguns.

And the main character was a white dude from England.  I was confused.

And everyone is getting scurvy again.  So it seemed legit.

The boat gets in a bad storm and luckily they get shipwrecked.  The shipwreck is great because at least the crew is finally on land.  Once the sun rises the next day, the story starts to make sense because the crew finds themselves in Japan and they can’t understand anyone, and the local’s think the Englishman are crazy.

Immediately heads start getting chopped off and folks start getting murdered.

The first head to get chopped off was a Japanese peasant, who didn’t act respectful enough to the local samurai.

For hundreds and maybe thousands of years Japan had a feudal system.  Where your birth placed you on that hierarchy controlled every aspect of your life and how you were to behave.

A samurai was a high class person and those below had to be respectful or the samurai had the right to kill the person.

There was lots of killing going on.

I could tell that the author of the book knew history.  And the author knew the history of the Japanese culture.  The book discusses the importance of how the world is divided up between Spain and Portugal, that I first learned about in the Magellan book.

The Japanese are incredulous when they find out that some magician in a far away land (the Pope), decided that the Land of the Gods (Japan) was property of Spain or Portugal (I can’t remember which one).

The author, Clavell, goes in to detail on the customs of Japan during that time.  It’s easy to learn because the main character, the ship captain John Blackthorne, has to learn the Japanese ways or he and his crew will perish.

Clavell’s ability to tell a story is superb.  He makes you feel like you are really in the characters thoughts.  One of the main characters is a woman, and it seemed like Clavell really nailed the woman’s thoughts.

I’ve wondered how a man can get place himself in a woman’s head and articulate those thoughts and feelings in a way that is authentic, at least to me.  And the same is true with a female author being able to pull off the same feat with a male character.

I learned the most about the Japanese culture from the female lead character.  She was a samurai.  She was also very smart and tasked with teaching Blackthorne, to become more Japanese.

This book is long.  It is epic storytelling.  I could write thousands of words about my thoughts on this book.  But I won’t do that here.

What’s important is the awesomeness of this book.  It is the second best novel I’ve read after the Count of Monte Cristo.

While I recommend you read this book, it will help if you have knowledge of the history of that time period.  This is how I got lucky.  I read this book after I’d already read the 3 history books I mentioned.

I think, having that background knowledge, made for a much better experience once I got around to reading Shogun.

Gai-Jin

Gai-Jin book by James Clavell

After reading Shogun, I learned that James Clavell wrote a whole series of books called the Asian Saga.  It took him 31 years to write the series.

Gai-Jin was the last book in the series he wrote (1993), but it’s the third book in the internal chronology of the series.  It’s also as close as Clavell gets to a sequel to Shogun, so I read this book next.

Gai-Jin takes place 200 plus years after Shogun.  It takes place in 1800’s Japan, right at the beginning of Japan being opened up to the world for trade.

It still has all the Japanese mindset stuff, and sex and violence like Shogun.  Not quite as good as Shogun, but I still think it’s really good.

This is how crazy Gai-Jin is: I never figured out who the main character was.  Didn’t figure out who the main bad guy was either.  Never read a book quite like this.  Still loved it.

Now do I recommend you read Shogun first, then Gai-Jin?  Probably not.

I’d stick to the internal chronology of the series starting with Shogun, then Tai-Pan, then Gai-Jin.

Tai Pan

by James Clavell

tai-pan

The last book I’ve read was Tai-Pan.  It was excellent.  The Tai Pan is the name given to the top guy/owner of the top trading firm or “house”.

In this story the top trading firm is “The Noble House” and the owner/founder is named Dirk Straun who is The Tai-Pan.  This is a very honorable position and everyone wants it and everyone wants to take him down.

This story is about the founding of Hong Kong.  It continues the nautical theme, as all these books do, with the trading firm sailing all over the world trading goods in and out of China.

The main trading goods are tea and opium.

Again, reading the non-fiction books I mentioned earlier, especially the Magellan book, helped me to understand the times that this story takes place.

This is another epic story with a hell of an ending.

Each one of Clavell’s books has a crazy ending.  The build up in excitement he is able to create in the reader is incredible.  I usually have anxiety when I get to the end of his books.  He’s that good.

A theme I’ve noticed is there are so many story lines going on, that when you get to the end, they don’t all tie up.  The important ones do, but I’m left wondering about all the other smaller characters.

So that’s it.  Every book here had a nautical theme.  I learned a lot.  Before this I’d never heard of James Clavell or the Asian Saga.  Now I will read all the books (King Rat is next).

I didn’t know about Magallen, that is a crazy story and I’m glad I know that now.  The stories of Henry Morgan were fascinating and I didn’t know about that either.  And I didn’t know the difference between a privateer and a pirate (no much).

I recommend every book on this list and if you have any questions about them, just let me know.

Just Another Day Battling My Excuses

body weight workout

The Floor is Always there to Battle Your Excuses.

I did not want to workout today.  Why?  No reason.  I was just being lazy and coming up with all these excuses about why I didn’t need to workout.

Not a big deal but over time, if you talk yourself out of thing you think or know you should be doing.  Well.  That shit adds up.  That shit can turn into a pattern or a groove.  And we love patterns and grooves because they are easy, the are familiar, and they feel good.

I did some good work this morning for a client for my SEO business and I felt I’d accomplished something.  Next I felt I should accomplish something for my body, and that meant putting in the sweat equity and working out.

Now, I don’t have a gym at my house.  All I have is one 30 lb. dumbbell.  And the floor.

That’s all I needed.

Pushup Routine

I started with a condensed version of Mike Rashid’s warrior pushup routine (check out his YouTube channel).  Cause I’m weak I only did 6 pushups and a total of 4 different variations.  Pushups are a lot harder when you go to full extension.  Form is everything.

Leg Raises

After that I laid on my back and did single leg, leg raises.  This exercise is hard to describe so I won’t even try.  The purpose of this exercise is to build strength in my butt (I think this muscles is called the glutes, but I’m not sure) and hips.

I always do 3/4 the amount of reps on my right leg because my right leg is way stronger.  I’m right handed and my right side has always been more dominant, then I severed the ACL in my left knee in the avalanche and ever since then my right side has taken over.

So I try to get more reps in on my weak side.

Bent Over Rows

Next I pick up the 30lb. dumbbell and do 1 arm rows.  I pay attention to form on this.  It’s easy to use bad form and just let your bicep do all the work.  When you do this your back doesn’t work and the whole point of this exercise it to work my back.

Form matters.

I also keep both legs on the ground.  I learned the importance of keeping both legs on the ground for a bent over row from Jeff Cavalier (definitely check out his YouTube channel).

Squats

I finished off the circuit with squats holding my 30lb dumbbell.  I pay attention to bending at the hips, getting past 90 degrees on the way down, keeping weight off my toes, and having my chest rise at the same time as my hips on the way up.

You might think that 30 lbs isn’t much weight.  You are correct.  But, I’m still trying to get my form dialed on squats, and I did 20 reps.

I did this circuit 3 times.  By the start of the 3rd circuit I was sweating and huffing and puffing.  It was a solid, efficient workout.

I’m glad I did it.  I really wasn’t feeling like it.  I just wanted to eat food.

Instead, I summoned the strength to get a workout it.  And it made me feel better.

It’s not easy.  I often talk myself out of exercising.  But I know I can win the mental battle and get to work, if I really try.

This Applies to Everything

In this example I’m talking about working out.  But, I have these battles in my head all day ‘er day.

I have this same battle with writing for this blog.  I tell myself I want to write on this blog more, but then I find reasons not to.

I’ll wait to write until I have the motivation.  Or I start writing.  Wait a day to edit what I wrote.  Then that day, ends up becoming a week or two.  Then when I go to edit it, I don’t want to, so I just post it.

With this technique I can manage to post an article a month.  Which is pathetic.

Done is better than perfect.  Perfection is the enemy of action.

I struggle with this, especially with this blog.  I want to put out good ideas and thoughts, because I appreciate the fact that you, dear reader, took time out of your day to read this.

But, if I try to make it the best I can, then I won’t make much.

One of my favorite blogs has no editing.  It’s written by a finance guy, and there’s not even spell check.  Sometimes, it’s so bad, that I can’t figure out what the author is talking about.  But most of the time I can, and the blog has really good insights.

So what do you think?  How do you overcome the reasons you come up with to not get shit done?

I default to done is better than perfect.  I didn’t have the greatest workout today, but I got it done.

 

 

Don’t Give Advice

Don’t give advice.  Just don’t do it.  I know you want to, but just stop it.

It took me a long time to figure this out.  Once I’d spent a great deal of time thinking about this, and deciding the best thing to do is to NOT give advice, I still found myself giving advice.

I find it difficult to NOT give advice.

After trying hard for 2 years now, I’m starting to NOT give advice.  But I’m still slipping up and offering advice.  This is a difficult habit to change.

Why You Should NOT Give Advice:

The main reason you should not give advice is because NO ONE ASKED YOU FOR ADVICE.

I found that it’s not just me that wants to give advice to everyone, even though no one asks for it, it’s almost everyone I know that has this same problem.  People are always giving advice to other people, even though they weren’t asked to give advice in the first place.

The problem starts with, most of the time the person who is talking (giving the advice), doesn’t realize what they are doing.  They don’t realize that they are giving advice.  They are just giving their opinion of what someone else should do.

It seems like a built in human thing to do.  It’s natural.  I think it’s a weakness.  Giving (unwanted and un-asked for) advice is a natural weakness.

You see, no one ever asks you for your advice.  No one is asking for your opinion.  But we feel compelled to give it anyway.  We think we’re helping the person that we are giving advice to, but we’re probably just feeding our need to feel good about ourselves.

It is so freaking hard to keep my mouth shut.  It’s so easy for me to tell someone what to do.

And our fellow humans don’t make this any easier on us to not give advice, because sometimes people do ask for your opinion.  Sometimes people do ask for advice.

It’s rare, but this does happen.

And here’s why this just makes the problem harder.

The vast majority of the times that someone is asking for advice, they are not really asking for advice.  They’re really just asking you to tell them everything is ok.  They’re really asking you to help justify that they made the right decision.  Especially if they just made a bad decision.

I’m sure if you think about this, you’ll recall many conversations in your life where you’ve experienced this.

The best example of this that I can think of is with MONEY.  Let me explain.  Some of my friends know that I have an interest in finance, saving, and investing money.  I’ve gotten decent at investing my own savings.

One of my friends asked me what they should do with some of their money.  So what did I do?  I fucked up and gave advice.

You see, my friend wasn’t really asking for advice on how to save or invest money.  My friend wanted me to produce magic.

https://imgur.com/YsbKHg1

My friend wanted me to say a few words and magically the money that he had saved would magically turn into a lot more money.  I think specifically the question was about which stock is a good stock to buy.  This is a black hole question and one to always avoid.  Why?  The reason is because there is no right answer, only wrong answers.

Investing money is intensely personal.  Everyone is different and everyone has to learn this skill on their own.  There are 186 ways to make money investing and over 1,000,000 ways to lose it.  Most “investors” lose money.

My friend didn’t really want to know what stock to buy, he wanted me to do magic.  How would I know what stock will go up or down?  And how would I know what stock would go up or down in a specific period of time?  A stock can be up one day and down the next.

Investing is intensely personal.  2 people can buy the same stock at the same time and 1 person can make money and the other loose money.  It all depends on psychology.  If you don’t know what your doing, if you don’t have a plan before you ever buy a stock, then you’re screwed.

Now, if my friend really wanted to learn how to make money investing in stocks, he would have asked me, “How do I learn to make good decisions?” or “How do I learn about emotions and psychology?” or “How can I learn how to get better at learning?”

I could have recommended books like “The Art of Learning” by Josh Waitzkin or “What I Learned Losing a Million Dollars” by Jim Paul, or any of Warren Buffett’s Annual Letter to Shareholders.  Best to just go ahead and read all of Buffett’s Annual Letters.

What my friend really said was, “Hey, can you magically fix my savings?”

This doesn’t just happen with money.  This happens almost every time you are asked for your opinion or to give advice.  Big red flags are if someone asks you about health, weightlifting/building strength, building a business, dating, politics, earning more money, writing, and basically anything related to performing better at a skill.

You’ll recognize these questions with experience.

Here’s how you’ll know they are not really asking for your advice: Now matter what you tell them, they are not going to do it.

They weren’t asking for your advice or opinion.  They were asking you to make them feel better or justify they decision they already made.

It’s crazy but this is reality.

Now, there are a few times in your life where someone will genuinely ask for your advice.  Here’s how to tell.  Their actions will back up their words.

Here’s an example.  I’m good at snow skiing.  If I meet someone that is a beginner at skiing and they are trying to get better, I’ll pay attention to them.  If I see that they are consistently out there trying to improve, I will notice.  If this beginner skier asks me how they can improve their turns or how they can fall down less or move better on steep terrain, then I’ll try to help them out.

Here’s the catch, you can’t give them advice unless they ask for it first.  Also, and this is just as important, you need to see that they take action on your advice.  They have to apply your advice.  Even if it doesn’t work for them, they have to try to do what you recommended.

Actions are important.  Watch what people do.  That will show you what they’re really thinking.  Words are just noise.

Now I just fucked up because I just gave you, dear reader, advice.

It’s Not a Ski Vacation, it’s an Adventure

skiing Lake Tahoe

Kirkwood Ski Resort

I just arrived back in North Carolina from spending 2 1/2 weeks in Nevada and California.

I go to Lake Tahoe for 2 weeks, then head down to Napa Valley for 2 days, then fly home to North Carolina.  I take this same trip every year in the second half of March.

This is a very important trip to me.  I take it seriously.  Yes, I go off and visit some of the most beautiful places in the world, but I don’t treat it like a vacation.  I treat it like an adventure.  And all good adventures take a fair amount of work and preparation.

You might disagree and think that an extended trip to visit world class ski areas and vineyards is a the definition of an epic vacation.  But, it’s really just me visiting my old homes.

You see, I lived for 3 years in South Lake Tahoe, specifically, I lived on the Nevada side of South Lake in Zephyr Cove, Nevada.  And I also lived in the town of Napa for 6 years.  During my time in Napa, I’d drive up to Tahoe every weekend for 6 months of the winter and spring to go skiing.

I’ve been fortunate to have lived in some of the world’s great vacation destinations.

Because I’ve so much history in these areas, I put in the proper amount of work in preparation for this trip.  Since most of my time on this trip is dedicated to snow skiing, I start training for the trip as soon as it ends.  For this years trip, I started weight training the day after I left in 2018.

Here’s my first deadlift session after last years trip:

Why do I work so hard for a vacation? 

Well, it’s not a vacation, it’s adventure, and if you want to have a great adventure, you need to be prepared.  I have a lifetime ski pass to Kirkwood, CA.  It is a big crazy mountain with challenging and potentially dangerous terrain.  I also like to climb up and ski down mountains in the Lake Tahoe area, as well as other mountains on the East Side of the Sierra Nevada.  These mountains are not ski areas, they are just big mountains.  It takes a lot of work to get up and ski down these mountains, safely.

To navigate these mountains takes skill, muscle, and endurance.  So I train all-year-long.  Seriously.

You might ask, “Why?”  Good question.

I’m drawn to skiing in a  way that is out of my control.  I think about skiing everyday of my life, even those hot sticky days in the middle of the North Carolina summer.  And not just any type of skiing, I dream about the fun, adventurous, challenging type of skiing.

I work to build and maintain strength all year long.  I also have the challenge of living at sea level.  It’s much harder to perform athletically at 6,000 – 11,000 feet, where most of my skiing happens.

Also, I like to ski with friends, for both enjoyment and safety.  All my friends are better riders than I am.  And all of them live at altitude and ski regularly.  I also have many friends on the Kirkwood Ski Patrol (I highly recommend following @kirkwoodrescueavalanchedogs on Instagram).  As you can imagine, the Kirkwood Ski Patrol is filled with talented skiers.  If I want to keep up with these folks and not seem like a complete tourist, then I have to work extra hard, just to have somewhat acceptable “on mountain” abilities.

So for 11 1/2 months of the year, I put in the work.  This is a way of life for me now.  I’m grateful for this trip.  I value this experience so much, that I’m willing to put in the work to make sure my body can handle it.  This is also how I want to live for the rest of my life.  Constantly putting in the work, to be ready at any moment for adventure.

But, there is only so much that I can do.  There is no substitute for “mountain fitness”.  There is nothing I’ve ever found that can replicate how your muscles are strained and activated from the odd bumps, angles, and accelerating and decelerating that comes from snow skiing.

The first 2 days of my trip are always the same.  I struggle.

The first day on skis I focus on not getting hurt.  I usually try to get as many runs and turns in as I can.  This wakes up my muscles or activates my muscle memory, and lets my body know what will be required of it for the next 2 weeks.  I end the day tired and in desperate need of a couch and a beer.

The second day on skis is usually similar to the first, except I try to work harder.  This year, I hiked up the 99 Steps on the backside of Kirkwood.  It’s about a 20 minute hike to the top of the mountain.  I do this hike, not because of the awesome skiing or the views.  The views are great, the skiing is ok.  The real reason I do this hike is for fitness and exercise.  And again to let my body know that there will be more of this work in the coming days. strength

K2 backcountry snow skis

Hiking 99 Steps at Kirkwood

On this trip, on the second day, I randomly found my friend Isaac, and his fiance Geneva, at the top of Chair 10, also known as The Wall, at the top of Kirkwood.  It was great to see Isaac and Geneva.  I stay in touch with him and try to visit on every single one of these trips.

Isaac and Greg were the first ski patrolers (after Chewy the avalanche rescue dog) to find me when I was caught in the avalanche.  It’s important to me to spend time with folks like Isaac and Greg when I’m in town.

I ran into Isaac and Geneva on what I thought was going to be my last run of the day.  But, since I ran into my friends, I wanted to ski some runs with them.  Both Isaac and Geneva are better skiers than I am.  It was difficult to keep up with them.  After 3 runs, my legs were weak and my turns were wobbly.  This is a good recipe for injury.

I told Isaac and Geneva, “My legs are so tired I can’t see straight.”  We said our goodbyes and I headed for the car.

Again, I end the day tired and in desperate need of a couch and a beer and as many calories as I can stuff in my face before passing out.

By the 3rd day, I’m pretty much good to go.  The first 2 days are about getting acclimated to the altitude, drinking tons of water, and waking up my muscles.  Then, I’m ready as I’ll get.

I skied for all 16 days I was in Tahoe.

At the beginning of my trip, one of the Kirkwood patrolers asked me what I was I was going to do for my 2 weeks in town.  I said I was going to ski, everyday.

Ski everyday if the weather permits.  I’m there for the skiing.

I was having dinner at bbq joint in South Lake with my buddy Brandon.  I told him about the skiing conditions at Kirkwood and he asked me if I’d been chasing any Cougars.

“Ha! No.”, I replied.

I wake up early, ski till I’m tired, and then go back to my buddy Mike’s house, open a beer, and start stuffing calories.  There are no women in that routine.

I’m all for chasing women, but I can do that anywhere.  I can only ski the goods, when I’m in Tahoe.  So no, there were no Cougars.  In the mountains where I hangout, you mostly see sweaty hairy dudes.  Not pretty.

Then, as always, my time was up.  I’d skied 16 days in a row.  No injuries thank goodness.  But, I never know.  Injuries have happened before and will likely happen again.

This is another reason for the continuous strength training.  The muscle will protect you, and help you recover faster from injury.  It gives you a “margin of safety.”

Skiing, and Adventure, motivate me to push myself all year long.  If I want to have a good time in the mountains, I need to train and build strength to travel in the mountains.

If I want to spend time with my friends who are all great riders, then I need to put in the work to keep up with them.

If I don’t, then I’m just like any tourist that flies in, skies an hour or so, goes to the bar to get a few drinks and just looks at the mountains.  Then they get off work and look for a good apres ski scene.  Then they look for a party at night.  Then they wake up hung over and still don’t have energy to ski anything fun.

Fuck that shit.  That’s not what I’m into.  That’s not what I’ve been dreaming about since I was a little kid.  NO.

I’ve been dreaming about ski adventures.  I’ve been dreaming about skiing what I’d look at the posters on my wall of Scot Schmidt, Glen Plake, and Doug Coombs skiing.

If I want to follow in the footstep of my heroes, if I want to ski the dream, then I have to put in the work.  I’m willing to put in the work all year round just for a short 2 week window of adventure.

It is always worth it.

 

 

 

2013 Seghesio Vineyards Sangiovese that I dug up from my cold dirt cellar.

I went into the basement.

It’s not fancy.  I have to go outside the house.

A twist of the lock and the thin bare door opens. There are no stairs, just a small step ladder with some pieces of wood shoved under some of the legs to keep it stable.

Sketchy.

The floor is b…  There is no floor.  It’s under the house.  There is dirt.  It’s a dirt floor.  There is a light but it struggles.  My wines are in various card board boxes in the corner.

It is not insulated.  It stays damp and cold down here.  Even in the summer.

The wine is happy.

As I search through the boxes I have the same old problem.  The problem hate.  And love even more.  I have no cheap wines.  I have no average wines.

I’m too poor and can’t afford to purchase those at the grocery store.

Years of love and working in Napa Valley have left me with my favorite problem: I don’t have any wine that’s ok to drink by myself, in the middle of the week.  My stash is mostly just great Napa Cab’s, some with age, and a few great zinfandels from Seghesio.

Not really wine you should drink by yourself.  But, life is tough.

After searching, I pulled the 2013 Seghesio Sangiovese (if you like great wine go here: http://www.seghesio.com/) .  This is a wine I definitely shouldn’t drink by myself.  This is a wine I should share with friends that want to learn more about wine.

Why?

Because Sangiovese, the great Italian grape that is the foundation of Chianti, has not done well in California and North America in both popularity and quality.

This Seghesio example, is the exception.  In terms of quality.  This is a wonderful wine.

I should drink this with my friends that don’t have access to wines like this because I could tell them that Seghesio is an old Italian family that has been making wine in Sonoma County for 150 years.

I could tell folks that this is a special wine because it was grown in a harsh environment.  You see, sangiovese is quite a vigorous grape and if it’s grown in happy fertile soils, the grapes will grow too big, the wines will taste green.  Not what you want in a silky red wine.

I don’t know the exact vineyards these grapes came from.  But, I’ve been to Seghesio’s  rocky, steep, epic Rattlesnake Vineyard.  This is the home where Venom is grown.  Venom is the best of the best Seghesio sangiovese.  It’s a beautiful wine.  If it was a cabernet sauvignon, it would cost at least $100 a bottle more.

Anyway, Rattlesnake Vineyard is a steep rocky hillside.  I can’t believe it’s a vineyard.  It’s the perfect place to grow sangiovese.  The soil retains no water.  The summer time temperatures scorch the earth.  The angle of the slope catching the maximum hours of the summer time rays.  Nothing else grows or lives there.  Except rattlesnakes.

The perfect place to tame that Sangiovese grape.

So that’s the home of Venom.  This wine is not Venom.  But, I’d wager that some of the grapes that didn’t make the cut for Venom, made it into this wine.  And any sensible place to grow sangiovese is going to be pretty rough.

You have to put this grape near death, for it to feel the need to produce the highest quality offspring, which a skilled winemaker can turn into… something to write about.

P.S. Who remembers Niebaum-Coppola?

 

What is up folks? Long time no see. I’m back!

It’s been a long time, since I left you.

I’d been avoiding my website for several years.  I didn’t know what to think of it.

I’d intentionally not type in the url bar bruceworkinprogress.com.  Then I felt bad I neglected this site, so I didn’t check on it some more.  I wasn’t even sure if I still have the domain name (I need to check about renewing this).

Why did I neglect this site?  And why am I back?

Well, I started this site as a way to help me write more and therefor write better.  I was doing this because I wrote a book about getting crushed by an avalanche.  I eventually finished the manuscript, I think it was somewhere in the neighborhood of 175,000 words, give or take.

The book was terrible because I didn’t know what I was doing and I definitely didn’t follow the “hero’s journey” which is the basic outline every story follows.

Anyway, I put a lot of time and effort into the “book” manuscript, did the best I could, sort of, then saved it to a hard drive.  Then forgot about it as well as this website.

What has happened in the meantime:

When I started this website, I had no idea what I was doing.  I could write an email and barely compose a tweet.  I had my neighbor help me set up this website.  She basically did it for me.

I bought the domain, then hosted it on WordPress.com because it was the lowest cost way to do things.

When I stopped writing, I started a pressure washing business for the sole purpose of writing direct response ad copy.  I wanted to write copy, but I couldn’t get anyone to hire me to write copy because I had no experience (this sounds familiar, right?), so I was looking at my pressure washer and I thought, hell, I’ll make some flyers and mail them and see if I can get some work.

Well that worked, then the next thing I knew I had a full time business on my hands.  Problem was I wasn’t writing much copy, because of all the other aspects of the business.  I was a full time, one man show.  It was a lot of work.

In the process of learning how to market my pressure washing business, I started learning search engine optimization.  When I started pressure washing, I didn’t have a website.

After a while the SEO was going so well, I started doing it for friends and family to help their businesses.  Since I never wanted to be a pressure washer in the first place, I quit and started an SEO agency, basically just doing for clients what I’d done for myself.  If you find that stuff interesting you can google “Determined Solutions SEO” and you’ll see my website.

Long story short, now I’m really good with websites, especially WordPress, which is what bruceworkinprogress.com is.  I’m not a  web designer, so making a website look pretty isn’t my strong suit, but I know some stuff.

When I started this website, I new nothing.  I couldn’t find my website in Google and I wondered why the hell not?  Well, the bruceworkinprogress.com wasn’t “Indexed” in Google.  If you are not in Google’s index, the you can’t be found it Google.

And of course I had no idea how to get indexed in Google.

The only way folks saw my site is from this being a WordPress.com site and it would but me in some category or something on WordPress that folks could find.  And I’m grateful for that because I’d get excited when someone would read my stuff and leave a comment.

What the Future Holds:

So I finally checked this website last night, and I saw that it was still up.  Yea!

Then I saw that not only was it indexed in Google, almost all of my articles were indexed.  I had a lot of content in Google.

Because I work in SEO, my wheels started turning instantly.  The possibilities were flooding in.

So here’s the thing.  I’m going to build this site out a bit.  It will still be my personal blog, so I’ll say shit on here that I won’t say on my more professional locations online.  I’ll still be focused on my favorite topics like Adversity, health, mindset, reading, and now search engine optimization.

Right now the site is still on WordPress.com, that’s why you see ads on my site.  All those ads are because I’m not paying for hosting.  All that ad money goes to WordPress.  Zero goes to me.   Just a head’s up.

I’ll be moving this website off WordPress.com, to it’s own hosting.  Then the ads will stop.  Of course, I’ll be optimizing this website for search.  But I’ll just be focusing on the “on-page” SEO.  I won’t be building links.

Here’s how many links have been built to this site in 5 years:

Bruceworkinprogress.com

See? Basically no backlinks.

This is how I see the internet now.  I look at every website as a business.  I’m a builder.  I build stuff online.  So of course I’m going to start building this site out.

Right now it’s structure is complete shit.

So am I just going to start writing sales pitches for every article?

Don’t worry, I’m not going to overwhelm you with marketing.

But I will, if I come across something that is interesting, write about it and there will be occasional affiliate links at some point.  An affiliate link just means that if you buy something through my link, then I get a small percentage of the sale, but it doesn’t cost you any extra money at all.

That way, this site can generate enough money to pay for itself.  Right now I have no idea what I’d promote, but if I come across something that makes sense, then I’d be ok with that.

Also, this is obviously not going to be my full time job.  Just a hobby.  My full time job is my digital marketing agency, Determined Solutions, which has nothing to do with this blog.

Also, this blog is horrible for SEO.  Why?

Google likes sites to have a niche.  What niche is bruceworkinprogress?  It could be anything.  And I like to write about my interests and hobbies like skiing, health, fasting, cooking, weight lifting, and SEO.  None of this stuff is related to the same niche.

My stuff won’t rank well on search.  But, it can still get traffic from social media, so if something interests you, I’d be grateful for a share, a like, a tweet, etc.

If I was bruceplumbing.com and I talked about plumbing and pipes and water and shit like that (see what I did there?), then yes, I could rank this site for plumbing related terms, and make money from it.  It would all be in the same niche.

SEO will not be my focus on this site.

I will explore my thoughts, my writing skills, and ways to add value to my readers.

So, In Conclusion:

I’m back.  I’ll be putting out content.  But this is a hobby and I’m busy, so it won’t be a ton.  At least at first.

My first tasks will be to move this site off WordPress.com.  Don’t worry, you, the reader, won’t be able to tell, except that the ads will go away once I have my own hosting.

Then I’ll be working on the structure of the website to optimize it for search engines.  I will keep this look of this site simple by using a free WordPress theme.

And that’s about it.  After that, who knows?

If you want, you can say hello to me on Instagram and Twitter (see the embeds below?  I had no idea how to do that last time I wrote on this site.)  And if you leave a comment here on the website, I’ll respond.:

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I like to post stuff I'm reading on Twitter. #Gai-jin

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I don’t know shit about Adversity.

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Adversity

What is adversity?

I thought I knew.

Getting crushed by an avalanche gained me a ticket into the Survivors Club. The snow broke my ribs, collapsed my lung, broke every bone in my face, including the ones I didn’t know existed behind my eyeballs, severed my ACL and left me spilling blood and gasping for air on the side of a mountain.

I thought I knew what adversity was because of the searing pain I experienced. It felt like someone was stabbing me in the back every time I hit a bump while being carried in the rescue sled down mountain.

I thought I knew about hard times because the ambulance ride took 3 ½ hours to get to the hospital. I was spitting blood all over the place, bitching, moaning, crying, and begging for random strangers to save my life.

I thought I knew about adversity because of waking up in the hospital on life support. I was unable to speak because I had a hole with a tube sticking down my throat and into my lung. My jaw was wired shut and I couldn’t scream out for help.

Three facial surgeries in seven days left eight titanium plates in my face.
Several months and several surgeries later I found myself battling depression, anger, and the worst of all—self pity.

All this led me to believe that I knew something about adversity. That I was something of an expert on the topic.

Now I don’t think I know shit about adversity.

I just got news that my friend (I’ll call him Jon) was admitted to Hospice care. Jon is transitioning to the next experience.

Jon has been battling brain cancer for 4 years. Jon knows about Adversity.

Jon is the most charismatic dude I’ve ever met. The guy had flair that came from a mixture of confidence, competence, and personality.

When I first met Jon he was a gourmet chef in Napa Valley. He was a showman. A food showman. I never gave a shit about food, but when Jon would talk, I found myself paying attention to every little detail about food that he rapped on about.

He had great showmanship with food, but one of the things that made him so interesting, is that he was also a great teacher. He made a subject I found boring, cooking, into something interesting. I loved hearing Jon talk about food (Use grapeseed oil, not olive oil! – when cooking steaks).

He taught a food and wine class every weekend.

I took my Mom to one of his classes for Mother’s Day one year. It was the best Mother’s Day gift I’ve ever gotten Mom. Maybe the best gift I ever got her. It was such a cool thing to see this guy so in his element.

I met Jon through work, we were employed at the same winery. Eventually Jon moved on to other employment. I expected to see him become a famous Chef, like the ones on the TV. I imagined he’d have his own restaurants and cookware and pots with his name on it.

Life had other plans.

Jon was diagnosed with brain cancer several months after my accident. One day my buddy showed me a picture on Facebook of this guy in a hospital bed with a horseshoe sized scar on top of his shaved head.

The guy in the picture looked lost. My buddy said, “That’s Jon.”

The look on Jon’s face reminded me of what I felt like when I was in the hospital. I visited him in the hospital the next day. He was surprised to see me. We hadn’t spoken since he left the winery. It had been two years.

I hung out with Jon and tried to listen as best I could. He was going through serious Adversity. The good news was, the doctors had caught the cancer early. They had successfully removed a golf ball sized tumor from his head. His future looked bright.

I attempted to impart some of the thoughts that had helped me during my struggle. I encouraged him to start writing. I dunno. Maybe I shouldn’t have said anything and just shut up and listened. I couldn’t fathom the battle that Jon was in.

I visited him a few days later and this time I brought him a box of See’s chocolate candies. He seemed to like them. Jon was stronger than when I’d seen him before. I could see Jon’s charisma attempting to burst through the trauma of the surgery.

Unfortunately I never spoke with Jon again. I meant to but I didn’t.

Time passed. Jon left the hospital, then eventually returned to work part time. I kept up with him through a few texts and word on the grapevine. He worked when his health would permit him to.

I’m sure his work provided a welcomed distraction.  He loved cooking.  I doubt he ever thought of it as work.

But the news always returned that Jon was back in the hospital having another surgery or round of cancer treatment. It was brutal just to get the news of his struggle. I couldn’t imagine being the guy going through it.

Everyone was pulling for Jon. I remember there was a charity dinner held at the winery he worked at when he got diagnosed with cancer. The winery was raising money to help pay for Jon’s medical expenses.

I didn’t want to go to the dinner because it was on the weekend and it was wintertime. I wanted to go skiing.

I called up the phone number where the tickets to the dinner were being sold and I asked if I could just give them some money instead of buying a ticket. The woman on the phone was relieved that I just wanted to send money. She said the dinner was sold out but people kept trying to buy tickets.

I heard later that the charity dinner was so over sold that they were worried about getting shut down by the fire department. Apparently the fire department let them slide because they knew purpose of the event.

That’s the kind of impact Jon had on anyone that met him. There weren’t a shit ton of people at the event because Jon had cancer. There were a shit ton of people at the event because Jon had this magnetic personality that people couldn’t help but be attracted to.

Jon battled cancer. He didn’t give up.

He married his long time girlfriend, which I know made him immensely happy.

And, he taught people. There isn’t anyone that knows him, that can’t use him as motivation. If anyone that knows Jon is battling Adversity, they can pause for a moment, think of Jon, and realize that their situation isn’t as bad as they think it is, and they must persevere.

I often think of Jon when I’m bitching and moaning and life is difficult. I think of Jon and I think that I need to shut up and stop complaining. I think of Jon and I am reminded of how grateful I am to take a simple walk with my dog and enjoy the breeze.

I think of Jon and I think about how I’ve got a lot of work to do to be a better human being.
I’m sad I won’t be able to visit Jon in Hospice. I moved away from Napa to the East Coast and cannot make the trip.

I love that dude. He’s an inspiration.

I will miss Jon. I know he is going to a good place.

Be well brother.

Year End Book Review for my homies.

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Hello Wonderful People of the Internet!

How are you? Did you survive all the holiday treats? I did not. All I have been eating is cake and chocolate and sugar…

But I have also been working. Not much but a little. I promised you, my dear reader, that I’d publish my year end book review… ON TIME for once. And here it is…

The Serpent of Venice – Christopher Moore – fiction

Christopher Moore is a great literary re-cycler. He takes old stories, puts his comedic spin on it, and repackages it as a new story. Serpent is a blend of Othello and The Merchant of Venice and Moore mixes in some of his favorite characters from his fantastic book Fool. I enjoy Moore’s style. The dialogue in his books is always great.

Moore also has the rare talent of comedic writing. It’s hard to be funny in writing. It’s even more difficult to switch from comedy to drama, then back again. This is something Moore does well. I enjoyed this book.

Red Notice: A True Story of High Finance, Murder, and One Man’s Fight for Justice – Bill Browder – non

I took an unexpected detour into the subject of modern Russia. This book by Bill Browder, tells the fascinating story of how a guy from the Midwest United States goes on to become the largest foreign investor in Russia.

With great risks come great rewards. At first, Browder’s Hermitage Fund made huge gains investing during the time that Russia’s economy took its first steps from communism to capitalism. Then Browder found himself on the wrong side of Putin’s graces. Going against Putin is not a fun endeavor. Browder had to shut down his fund. He was banned from Russia. Innocent people were killed.

Putin is a gangster and this is one of the many tales that illuminate the power of the man who controls Russia

Once Upon A Time In Russia – Ben Mezrich – non

Mezrich tells the story of the rise and fall of Boris Berezovsky, and a few of the other Russian Oligarchs. When Russia changed from communism to capitalism, the vast majority of the country’s wealth fell into the hands of a few people, the Oligarchs. Life was swell for Berezovsky during the Yeltsin years when he had the government on his side.

Once Putin came to power, Berezovsky, a former Kremlin insider, found himself on the outside looking in. Then he started publicly criticizing Putin. Needless to say, that’s not a smart move. Berezovsky quickly fell from power, fortune, and had to flee Russia.

This is another sad story that portrays the wildness following the Soviet Union’s collapse and another example of someone going against Putin—and losing.

Born To Run – Christopher McDougall – non

This book is fantastic. It read more like a novel than a non-fiction. McDougall tells the story of the Tarahumara of Northern Mexico, the world’s greatest endurance runners. The Tarahumara live in the Copper Canyons which are similar to the Grand Canyon. The terrain is rugged, vast, and unforgiving. The Tarahumara thrive there and run vast distances as a part of daily life.

McDougall also weaves in many stories of endurance running throughout the ages. He argues that humans were born to run. That is what makes us so unique. He convinced me.

My favorite line is “We don’t stop running because we get old. We get old because we stop running.”

This is a wonderful book.

The Martian – Andy Weir – fiction

The story of how The Martian was written is almost as interesting as the book itself. Weir went to great lengths to get the science of the book correct. You can listen to James Altucher’s podcast with Weir where they discuss this in more detail. In short, he’d post chapters of the book on his website and his readers would correct him if he messed up a particular physics problem… or whatever.

So, here’s the idea: Astronaut gets stranded on Mars through unfortunate events. He uses his smarts to stay alive. Then all of Earth bands together to try and save stranded astronaut.

Weir writing style is entertaining and informative. His main character uses comedy and sarcasm in between the drama of staying alive. This is a wonderful and original story.

Of A Happy Life – Seneca – non

This was my first time reading Seneca. I wouldn’t even call Of A Happy Life a book. It’s more of an essay. It had zero impact on me. It wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t good. I can’t really remember much about it. I guess there is reason why, when people talk about Seneca, they usually mention his other works.

When Things Fall Apart – Pema Chodron – non

A friend of mine, a guy a greatly respect, sort of a mentor, recommended this book to me. At the time he was going through tremendous adversity. He’s a smart and determined guy. I knew he’d handle the adversity and be a better person for it.

My friend is also a good person to talk to about books. He’s the one that gave me one of my favorite books Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing. When he mentions books he likes I pay attention.

I found When Things Fall Apart to be kinda slow and wishy washy. There were some good parts about making meditation accessible for the average person, which I liked. But in general I didn’t get much out of the book.

Sometimes the way a book impacts you depends a lot on where you are in your life, at the moment you read it. Maybe that’s why this book didn’t do much for me.

Fooled By Randomness – Nassim Taleb – non

I’ve been meaning to read some of Taleb’s work for a while. I’ve followed him on Twitter for a few years and I listened to the podcast he did with James Altucher.

Fooled By Randomness has some brilliant ideas. Some of which I couldn’t follow because I’m not smart enough. Some of them I got. It gave me a new way of looking at things. You can navigate life safely if you understand how to deal with probabilities. Most people don’t. It wasn’t the easiest to read. The writing doesn’t flow like a great novel. It’s more academic.

I liked the book and I recommend it. I’ll be reading more of Taleb’s work. If you’re interested in finance you need to read this book. If not, then it’s ok if you don’t, but you probably should.

The Ultimate Sales Letter – Dan Kennedy – non

I think it’s important for everyone to have some level of sales skills. We all need to be our own mini-brands. It makes sense doesn’t it? Of course it does. Corporations are downsizing and no should work for the government. So we all need to learn how to work for ourselves—in whatever capacity we can find.

And to work for yourself you need to learn to sell. Dan Kennedy will teach you how. Listen to what this guy has to say. He is one of the smartest marketers around. Kennedy breaks it down in an easy to understand language. He spent his entire career educating people on marketing and sales.

You’ll learn a lot from reading this book. But, you’ll learn a lot from reading any of Kennedy’s books. So pick up the first one you can find.

Market Wizards – Jack Schwager – non

If you study finance for more than three days, you will here at least five people suggest that you read Market Wizards. Market Wizards is a series of interviews Schwager conducts with the top financial traders of the day. Which is sometime in the late 1980’s.

Some of the interviews are dry and kinda boring. But if you like investing and finance you’ll love ‘em. A few of the interviews are deep and insightful. The ideas in these few interviews are applicable to many areas of life outside of finance.

It’s a thick book, but I blew threw it faster than I thought I would. I also read it just after I read Fooled By Randomness and I began to think that maybe, many of these successful traders were simply lucky.

The Ultimate Marketing Plan – Dan Kennedy – non

Remember how I told you a little higher on the page how you can learn a lot from Dan Kennedy? Yes? Good.

Well, I learned a lot from reading The Ultimate Sales Letter so I decided to read some more Kennedy. This book is also jam-packed with useful information. I recommend reading books like this over going to business school.

You’ll get a better education and a real ROI for Kennedy’s ideas. I got the book, when I signed up for his offer at the end of The Ultimate Sales Letter. It only cost $20 and I got a ton of useful information and this book. I recommend it if you ever have aspirations of working for yourself.

And so…

That wraps up my Reading List for 2015. I think I read about 25 books or so. I hope to do better next year.

I attempted to read The Essays of Montaigne. I’m still working on it. It’s slow going. I’ll let you know if I finish it.

And naturally, I want to know what you think. Have you read any of the books on my Reading List? If so what did you think? Did you read a book that rocked your world? If so, what was it?

I’m always looking for that book that will make me shake when I read it.

Have a Happy New Year. And thanks for reading my blog!