business

Category: business

The last day before turning home

It is literally crazy to start lamenting the end of this trip… we’re on the other side of the country, and we have a ton of great adventures ahead of us.

But still…

Tomorrow we turn east for the first time since September 11th. After 7,616 miles of highways, freeways, toll roads, country roads and dirt roads we are beginning the long ride back to DC. We have just shy of 4 weeks scheduled and there are 5 more events following tonight’s San Diego event. No doubt there will be memories ahead, but it’s definitely a different feeling as every mile brings us closer to the starting point rather than taking us further away.

Pacific

Lots of new ideas on the horizon… I was flirting with the Bike RV idea a few weeks ago, but now with the roaring success of my AirBnB cabin rental, I’m looking into the possibility of adding another rental property to the mix. I’m really enamored with tiny houses and I think Portland would be the perfect place for one. There are tons of issues in the way, the biggest being where to plant one… most zoning and housing codes, even in tiny-house friendly-ish Portland won’t allow a tiny house to be the sole house on a piece of property. That was my ideal, particularly since there are some cool places in upper NW Portland where a small plot of land is (relatively) inexpensive and a tiny house would fit spectacularly.

The idea (after all that yammering) is to have a tiny house situated in a cool spot, preferably Portland, that I can live in from time-to-time as I find myself in the NW. When not there, I’d rent it out on AirBnb as a supplementary income source.

surf-shack-1
Tiny house built for a surfer and parked along the Pacific Ocean. Photo and build by Molecule Tiny Homes. H/T to tinyhouseswoon.com.

So, as I focus on some of the logistics (and practicality) of getting a tiny house, I’ll keep my mind open to other opportunities like house boats on the Willamette as another alternative. I have a lot to learn but I have a strong desire to have a presence in Portland after over a decade away, plus I know a tiny house rental has a strong chance to succeed when I’m not using it.

Last thought before bailing… I like my dog. Here he is dropping his ball at my feet as we were playing fetch on the Pacific Ocean today…

louis playing fetch

Oil is good for engines, Les Schwab is Wegmans and my appreciation for biking

Hey, it’s another installment of the Tranquilty Tour “DVD extras”… As always, you can learn more about Tranquility Tour at tranquilitytour.com, follow us at  #tranquiltytour on Twitter, Like Tranquility Tour on Facebook, and come back here to An Uncommonly Silly Blog anytime for the extras.

oil

Public service announcement: look, if you drive an older vehicle, you need to check your oil. I drive a newer car (well, newish…) and I haven’t pulled the dipstick once in 7 years. Not once. Oil systems in newer vehicles just don’t need the maintenance like older ones do, and now I have learned my lesson.

So, in Banff we started seeing the oil light blink on and off periodically. I chalked it up to the cold. That may have been true partially… the big thing was the camper had burnt off a substantial amount of the oil put into it during its oil change in Western NY, many thousands of miles earlier. Worse, because the guys put in a lighter weight oil thinking I was sticking around the frozen tundra for a few months, the oil burnt off faster. Burning oil is a regular thing… you lose a little bit just from driving. Again, newer cars, a lot less. Older RVs (for instance) running a lighter weight of oil (for instance) means you could hypothetically burn MOST of it off. Most is bad… engines like oil to keep pistons lubricated. If you don’t keep those parts lubricated you get BAD THINGS.

Bad things begin to manifest with the gentle clicking of metal on metal. Clicking like a clock is a bad thing for an engine. So, by the time we got to Seattle our engine was just starting to manifest this clock-like sound. I was literally unaware of the situation until this point…again, I thought eh sensor was giving a false reading in the cold. Turns out, we had burnt off well over half of our oil over the weeks of driving, and only adding a full quart stopped the sound. Turned out we needed much more.

At the oil change place today, I got a full monty package (insert joke here) – flushed the engine twice, got the oil conditioner and the viscosity booster and a higher weight oil. Basically, Lillie purrs like a kitten now and all is good. I will be checking the oil every morning now… no way we let this happen again!

tires

Speaking of bad things… let’s rap a bit about bad design. Back in the late 80s – as I have learned – Chevy decided to hell with convention, let’s put unconventionally sized tires on our vans! Standard size tires are 16 or 17 inches. They did 16 1/2. Then they failed. Then they stopped making them. Problem is, RVs like ours still had 16.5″ tires and finding replacements became hard and expensive. I learned all this at Les Schwab tires in Portland, literally the best place in the world to deal with tires. And because of this, I give them my highest rating… they are the Wegmans of tires. If you know nothing of Wegmans, it’s only the best grocery store on the planet… family owned, amazing service, among the best businesses to work for, and very good prices. Top notch. A+. Highest rating possible. Les Schwab gets that form me now, because within ONE HOUR they were able to replace not only the very old and failing tires on our RV (PS this was expected when we started) but also get us new wheels so we could now roll on standard sized tires. To replace the nonstandard tires alone would have cost almost as much… instead, we future proofed our RV and have seriously sweet looking chrome wheels.

So, Les Schwab… remember them.

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bikeerrand

With all of this driving around close in Portland with a small RV (which is still a big effing van)… I get a new appreciation for how much better it is to bike to places within 1-3 miles of where you’re at. The time to get there is a little more, but marginally not significant. Your ability to maneuver is much higher, and parking is rarely an issue. I love living in cities where services are easier to get to under human power… it feels more natural than hopping in a vehicle.

Quick mileage update… the shock of the trip is mountain mileage is higher (maybe from long downhills?) and when you have tires at the end of their life… mileage goes way down. Check out Mileage Keeper… good app. I like that we can track overall cost and ebbs and flow of mileage.

mileage 10.16

Listen to the most recent batch of Tranquility Tour podcasts featuring Kimberly and yours truly…

Portland

Seattle

Calgary

What to do with that old iPhone

Today, I finally justified saving my old iPhone 4 by making it into a true international phone. If you travel outside your home country and find yourself tethered to your phone’s data plan like I am, crossing a border can either be (a) beyond expensive from the roaming rates or (b) beyond frustrating as you realize how much you rely on cellular data to do… everything.

Crossing into Canada for the first time on Tranquility Tour meant my trusty iPhone 5 and it’s fancy turn by turn directions would go away… with International roaming turned off (as anyone without a huge bank account and desire to spend frivolously should do), your iPhone turns into a glorified iPod touch upon crossing a border from your home country. But I had a plan. But before that, a surprise. A nice one.

If you use the app Waze, apparently the app preloads the entire map with turn by turn before you cross the border… that was great, because it meant I didn’t need my copilot to read from a PDF’d version of the directions. You know… old school style. Instead, Waze behaved exactly the same as it would have had it been guzzling down data. Very cool… good to know when you cross a border. I only tried this once, so your effectiveness may vary.

On to the plan. Today, I walked into a Rogers store to pick up a SIM card for my old iPhone 4. I had previously worked with AT&T to “unlock” it (see info here on that). This means it isn’t usable only on AT&T. Once that’s done, any compatible network SIM card in any country that runs on the same system can work on your phone. In Canada, I decided Rogers was my best bet. For the next month, I have 1GB of data I can rock over cellular, plus a Montreal number and unlimited texts for about 70 bucks. Granted, not cheap, but WAY cheaper than roaming on my iPhone 5. This will come in super handy next week in Toronto and for the week or so we’ll be in Alberta and BC. I typical burn 2GB per month in the States, so 1GB ought to be more than enough. In tribute to my old phone becoming Canadian, it’s sporting a new look:

image

So, now I have two iPhones that work… I’ll just switch back and forth as I hop across borders. Plus my Canadian one gives me street cred with my friends north of the border…

Five takeaways from WDS2013

Another year, another batch of inspiration from World Domination Summit. Check out some of the pics from day 1 and day 2. Here are five of the things I’m taking away from this year:

Size matters… One of the first things past attendees seemed to mention was how much bigger WDS has become. From about 500 in Year 1 to 1000 in year 2 to nearly 3000 this year… it’s bigger. I overheard many people lament the size, and I suspect those comments worked their way up the food chain to Chris Guillebeau, because he addressed it on the second day.  At the yoga studio we hear comments from some yogis that classes are too crowded, and some suggest it’s a clever ploy to earn more profit at their expense. That couldn’t be further from the truth. We do it to minimize the chance we have to say, “sorry we can’t let you in because we’re sold out.” In my experience that level of disappointment is far higher. I think Chris sees that and has acted.

Just do it… No, there was no Nike sloganeering at WDS (in fact, it is proudly and deliberately sponsor-free). One of the great themes (intentionally or not) amongst all of the great presenters is a variation on carpe diem. Seize the day. There is nothing to stop you… even fear of rejection is less of an issue than you’d think. Seriously, check out Jia Jang’s attempt to learn from rejection… and learning how little one actually gets rejected! One of my favorite speakers (he also got the elusive full standing O).

Tell better stories... the key to connecting with people is tell your story in a way that resonates. Don’t be afraid to share the low points on the path to the high points and aspirations. One of the best speakers was the first one: Nancy Duarte. She charted famous speeches throughout history and showed how there was literally a resonance curve that can be plotted from the telling of how things are now and how they should be. Check out her TEDTalk – the secret structure of great talks. In fact, just watch it now. What’s stoppin ya?

Amazing, right?

Rock 9 holes of glow in the dark mini golf when given the chance… seriously. Don’t pass that up. What the hell else are you doing for 30 minutes that’s more important?

glowing mini golf

Once you get a taste of unconventional life, you won’t want to go back… Having lived a less-than-conventional life of an entrepreneur (my stuff and Kimberly’s incredibly scaled up compared to mine stuff), I literally cannot conceive going back to a traditional 40 hour work week with expectations of cubicle sitting and meetings for the sake of having meetings. WDS reinforces that because there are thousands of others at different points on the same path, and seeing that makes you realize that while Kimberly and I may be amongst a handful of “those crazy people” in DC, there’s a lot more out there. and in that way, there’s a sense of community to reinforce my feelings.

Big thanks to Chris Guilliebeau and his team of volunteers and staff that make WDS happen. They offered the pioneer ticket rate again for next year, and I didn’t hesitate. I’ll be back next July.

WDS 2013 sketchnotes and the trip in by Mike Rhode. Amazing work!
WDS 2013 sketchnotes and the trip in by Mike Rhode. Amazing work!

 

Thoughts going into WDS 2013

WDS-2013

We’re about an hour away from our scheduled pickup to the airport, for a trip about a year in the making. Last year, Kimberly and I attended our first World Domination Summit and came away inspired enough to commit to tickets to this year’s affair.

WDS is difficult to describe, but I’ll give it (yet another) whirl. The heart of the conference is entrepreneurialism, but not necessarily sticking to just that. It’s the melding of living your life on your own terms through lifestyle choices that include how you work and how you play. Chris Guillebeau organized the first WDS two years ago and it’s doubled each year. Clearly the message resonates! I definitely recommend checking out his book The $100 Startup… it’s one of the few business startup books that have resonated with me. Maybe it was the bike on the cover 😉

 100startup

Last year’s WDS gave me the germ of an idea that is eventually going to become PedalShift, a bike touring lifestyle site that I’ve been working on in fits and starts for the last few months. I hope to launch it later this summer, and I suspect this year’s WDS will fuel some inspiration.

So… off to Portland!

Three things to stay on top of when planning a big tour

With Tranquility Tour, I’m learning a lot about how to organize big events. It just so happens there’s about 20 of them, and they’re spread out over 11,000 miles…

Stay organized – I’ve been using Google Forms to keep all of the city organizers’ submissions in a single spot, and their responses to my questions dump into a single spreadsheet. I may not trust you Google, but I thank you.

Stay simple – every time there’s an instinct to make something complicated, I ask, “can we achieve the same things with a simpler format?” This keeps me sane.

Stay focused – it’s so easy to spiral into the details of each city, the route, the RV… everything. However, staying focused on the steps that need to get done now allow me to complete every step so I can be less attenuated for the details that will come later (I’m looking at you British Columbia ferry schedule! Do not beguile me with your times and your temporal limitations on my island hopping… yet.).

What things do you stay on top of when you plan a big event?

Lillie update: I spent about a half day cleaning the camper up, assessing electrical systems and (most importantly) sealing up the roof. If you’re ever into a camper/RV/etc. the first thing you want to check is the condition of the roof. The second you get a leak, you start into problems that include structural issues. These are things you don’t want on a house that hurtles at 55 mph+ down the highway.

We just bought some LED light bulbs to replace the incandescents in the camper. They consume 8x less energy, which means we can run off of batteries (“dry docked” or “boondocked” in RVese) that much longer. As soon as I get my battery meter installed I intend to run the lights and charge up some the computers off the batteries and see how long we can go. That will inform the decision to go with a solar system or not. After consulting with my father (an electrical engineer) the best bet may be to do a solar system that charges just the electronics rather than hook yet another charging mechanism into the camper batteries… that would be a third method (the alternator charges the batteries as we roll and when we plug into electric at a campsite or home, they charge). Apparently cleaner systems are more efficient. Go figure.

Here are some “before redesign” interior shots and I’m out:

IMG_3268 IMG_3270