Hic Sunt Dracones

Mobile Mappers
Mobile Mappers

I’m here to talk about John Fabian. That’s him sitting on my right (light blue shirt). He was something of an inspiration. He did a number of things that, well, I would like to do. And what’s more, he seemed to do them right.

As you may have guessed by my use of the past tense, he passed away recently, and that (in my opinion) makes the world a little darker.

A coworker of ours made the point that it seems like  a lot of folks tend to hyper romanticize the dead. I’m inclined to agree, and (from what I know of him) I don’t think that John would want that, so here we go.

What I Know

John was a Mobile Mapper like myself. He too seemed to be doing the job because of a sense of adventure and a desire to roam. In fact, he was on a leave of absence to go exploring New Zealand when he died.

He worked a job where he traveled non stop and took his leave so that he could… travel more.

He wrote a lot. He road a motorcycle and wrote about his travels. He took photos while he did his mobile mapping work and wrote about that via his blog. He even started a second blog for his trek to land of the Kiwis.

His photography skills make me want to work harder at taking photos when I’m out in the world.

horse-meeting-bc

He wrote in a simple and understandable way. There’s a sense of zen to it. I find it delightful.

He liked to help. He made great efforts to bring his fellow mappers together socially via an online forum that he set up and maintained for us. Our job can get very lonely, and he provided a means to reach out to each other in a less formal than “this is for work” way.

He also wrote a number of other religion focused books (also available on Amazon) though it would appear that most (all?) were simply translations of existing texts. I’m unsure if his efforts were faith based, based on a desire to help others, or simply a business. I kinda like that I don’t know.

What I Don’t Know

Honestly? Most anything about the man. I only recently met him. In fact, the first photo in this post is from the first time I ever met him face to face just before Thanksgiving 2014, and we only got to visit for a few more days before we both left town.

He seems a bit of a mystery. Like the sense of adventure – of discovery – fits him perfectly.

Sure – my vantage point (as the guy who hardly even met him) colors this perspective heavily. I’m ok with that.

Mountain Reflection

Was he a religious man himself? What other businesses did he create? (Aside from the writing – he hinted at other businesses when we talked, but we didn’t have time to go into it.) Who were his friends? Was he ever married?

This would (and possibly does) sound creepy if it wasn’t for the fact that he’s gone. If I do some online digging, I can find out more about him, and perhaps I will. If he was alive that would be weird. Since he’s gone, I almost feel like it’s a kind of obligation.

Picking Up the Torch

Partly in honor of John, I’m going to do my best to spend more time here on this blog. Photos and writing. Bringing the things I find back to those of you who don’t get the chance to roam quite like I do.

I probably won’t write as eloquently as John did, and my photos will likely not be as impressive, but it’s something.

My hope is that it will get me to think more about the amazing adventures I’m having. That it will help me to burn it into my brain and not overlook these fine experiences. I don’t want to take them for granted.

John didn’t seem to.

Self portrait reflected in ship's window.

So What are You Doing Now?

The TomTom Mobile Mapper Car - looking out over the Northern Rockies in British Columbia

It’s time I explain what the new job is that was intriguing enough that I left the idea of The Big Ride behind.

I’m now a mobile mapper for TomTom.

What’s a Mobile Mapper?

What’s a ‘mobile mapper’ you ask? Well, the way I usually describe it, for the sake of brevity is “Think Google Street View”.

It’s actually a pretty accurate description of what I do, even if I don’t work for Google. Side note: even the Google Street View mobile mappers don’t work for Google – they hire contractors to do the work. I assume that there are large numbers of folks who do work for Google that are working on Google Street View – just not the mobile mappers.

A slightly longer version: I drive a car around collecting updated map data for the purposes of quality control for TomTom’s maps. The car has a wide array of data collection sensors. Two dimensional (wide angle and high def) photos, distance to obstructions (overpasses, buildings, and road surface for example), and GPS data all get collected while I’m working.

The fine folks at the TomTom Mothership can then take that data, compare it to our existing maps data and make any corrections that might need to be done based on the new information.

The Difference

There are some significant differences between what I do and Google Street View, but the primary one is very simple: The information I collect is never made directly public.

What’s that mean? Well, if I drive down the street past you, and you’re in the act of picking that wedgie, you don’t have to worry – no one outside of TomTom will see that photo. We’re just using it for quality control. If your street name changes? We have a photo to show us the spelling. That photo of the on ramp is a great way to cross reference the GPS data and double check our work. That kind of thing. Your friends won’t be able to post a blown up copy of your wedgie indiscretion.

One minor disclaimer: I don’t speak for TomTom as a whole. I’m one guy doing one facet of one division. TomTom is a big company, and yes, sure – they might one day use the data differently. I promise – as far as I’m aware, this is the only way we use or will use it, but I’m not everyone at the company, I don’t work under all branches, and I’m not omniscient. Well, at least not that I’m willing to admit to…

If you have questions for me, please feel free to leave a comment below and I’ll answer as best I’m able. Think of this post as a TomTom Mobile Mapper AMA. 🙂

(Note: This post was created on 20160905 but was backdated to show up as being posted on my one year anniversary on the job. The photo was taken more recently when I was working in British Columbia earlier this year.)

What Happened to The Big Ride?

Soaring

I’m glad you asked.

I’ve started a new job. Well, I suppose ‘new’ is a bit subjective here. I’m coming up on my one year anniversary.

The Long and Short of It

I was planning The Big Ride and was hurriedly getting rid of all my personal belongings.

A good friend called and let me know that, while she recognized that it’s not the same as riding my motorcycle, she knew of a job opportunity where someone would be willing to pay to have me roam the country.

It didn’t take long. A few phone calls, an emailed resume, and before I knew it, I was working in the new position.

Update: Want to know more about what I’m doing now? See this post.

What Does This Mean for the Site

Not terribly much. I still think that I will take that same ride one day. Just not today. In the meantime, I’m really enjoying my new position, and will have plenty to share here.

What’s more, this position gives me a bit of flexibility with regards to my down time. It works on a seven week cycle. Six of those weeks I’m working, and the seventh I’m off. During off weeks, the company is willing to fly me home, or (if I prefer) somewhere in the US within reason. Of course that means I can’t (easily) bring my motorcycle, but this seems quite the gift, and I intend to enjoy it as such.

It’s time to start adventuring.

Coming Up

I’m currently planning my first ‘adventure break’. The plan is to do that in a fairly public fashion here and to post information regarding the plans, media that I collect while on the trip, and occasionally a traditional blog post or two as the mood strikes with regards to travel and adventure.

I would love to hear from you if you have any items on your Bucket List that fall into these categories:

  • Locations / Events that I could go to in order to help a charity. Know of an event that is looking for walkers/hikers/a pair of strong hands? Please let me know. If I could do something to help people out while living a bit more adventure in my life? That would make me exceedingly happy.
  • Hiking trips that you don’t have the time / freedom to take yourself. Perhaps I can get there and take the hike for you. I realize it’s not the same, but it’s better than nothing.
  • Someplace that is just so cool, you have to tell someone. What’s your favorite place to go hiking?

Leave your thoughts in the comments below. I look forward to sharing the road with you.

 

Fun with a First Time Passenger

Leela on the BikeOne More from Her Bucket List

A friend of mine said that she had never ridden on a motorcycle before and that the experience was something that was on her bucket list. She really wanted to go, and I was flattered when she asked if I would take her as she trusted me to not be the sort to hot rod or pull stupid stunts while riding.

Of course I said sure!

The Route

I didn’t think through the route too much. I wanted to give her that experience that most of us have had while on the bike – just going where the wind takes you. Now that I’ve gone back and plotted out the route we took, I’ve found that there were a lot of significant inefficiencies in the path we took.

I’m completely okay with that.

20130504_Ride

Getting Off the Bike

We had a time limit thanks to previous commitments, but towards the end of the ride, we stumbled on Mt. Cuba and decided it was time to stretch our legs.

Unfortunately, we got there about 15 minutes before they were closing up for the day, but I’m here to tell you – it was a gorgeous 15 minutes. I’d also like to say that the staff that we encountered were really delightful, helpful, and informative.

If you ride in the Northern Delaware  area, I highly recommend a visit. The roads surrounding Mt. Cuba are great for riding (low lying, lush green in all directions, and plenty of twists and turns) and you couldn’t ask for a better place to stop, get off the bike, and out into the land.

Leela at Mt. Cuba

New FAQ page!

Frequently Asked QuestionsI get a lot of questions about the trip and as you might expect sometimes I get variations on a theme. I’ve created a quick FAQ page to cover the most common of these questions. Check it out and let me know what you think!

As always, I welcome new questions via the Contact page.

Great Kid. Don’t Get Cocky!

Han said it best.

But I didn’t listen. I was doing some work on props for City Theater Company and I needed a piece of wood from the hardware store. I was behind schedule and didn’t want to go pick up my car because it was a gorgeous day out.

“I’m sure I can make it work on the bike.” I thought.

The piece of lumber in question? A 1″x2″x6′. I needed it to build up/extend the framework on a mythological creature I was working on.

Yup. I got cocky.
As you may be able to see from the photo to the left, things didn’t turn out quite the way I planned. I was fine while roaming through town. The wood rose to a maximum height of 8′ or maybe 9′ and that didn’t seem to be an issue.

Then I hit the highway.

It didn’t take long before I heard the sound of something tumbling to a stop behind me. Reaching behind myself (without taking my eyes off the road) I felt the snapped top of what was now a 3′-4′ section of lumber.

Turns out there was a knot in the wood which weakened it enough to cause it to snap in the higher winds of highway speeds.

I’m happy to report that no one was hurt and the car closest behind me was giving me a little extra room, so there was no issues there.

The downside? Pretty much a wasted trip to the hardware store when I didn’t have time to waste, and I basically thew away a couple dollars. It could have been far worse.

Lesson learned. I’ve said it before, but this little life experience refreshed the concept for me: Always use the right tool for the job.

You may think that you can save some time “because I’ve already got this tool right here” or “I’ll take this little shortcut…” but sooner or later, it will bite you in the ass.

Ever had something happen like that when you’re riding? Ever done something just a little stupid like that? Let us know in the comments. (It’s ok – you can tell us it was your buddy that did it…)

One Possible Route Across the Country

Getting Things Wrapped Up

As I go about tying up loose ends, I’m reminded that departure day is creeping steadily closer. I need to get my route figured out – at least the rough route. Why hello there Google Maps!

Taking My Time

One thing I don’t want to do is rush this experience. Obviously there are time/financial constraints, but I want to do as much ‘stopping to smell the roses’ as I can. Who knows when (if ever) I’ll have an opportunity like this again? I want to make sure that I don’t lessen the experience by rushing. Besides – it’s not really my style.

Events

One of the bits of planning that I most need to wrap my head around – sooner rather than later – are the events that I might be able to enjoy while I’m roaming. Motorcycle, art, and technology events all need to be reviewed to see what I can catch as I’m passing through. Noting the route above (though it may or even likely will change) do you know of something that I might enjoy? Feel free to comment below!

Trip to a Local Park

Had a great brunch the other morning (on the 5th). The sun was shining, and I just couldn’t resist, so I took ‘the long way home’ and stopped by Brandywine Creek State Park to walk along the creek for a bit. Nice day, and a great time to roll down some of those scenic country roads.

This is me – not complaining.

Snow in the Air

Spring huh? Mother Nature seems to have other ideas. We’re still getting snow flurries here on the East Coast. Here’s a quick pic of my trusty steed shrugging off the most recent batch. As I’m looking at this photo I could swear she’s chomping at the bit.

It won’t be long baby. Not long at all.

Welcome to Ride Off Into the Sunset!

Welcome!

This little vanity site is my way to keep a record of my adventures surrounding an upcoming trip across the country on my motorcycle and to keep those who are interested up to date on what I’m doing – before, during, and possibly even after the run.

So What’s the Run?

Well, the details are still a bit on the fuzzy side, but the short version is this: I’m going to get rid of all my worldly possessions and ride my motorcycle from my current apartment on the East Coast to someplace on the West Coast, where I will stop (or at least pause) and set up v.2.0 of my life.

Where on the West Coast?

That’s one of the parts that’s still up in the air. Current front runners are (in no particular order) Los Angeles, the Bay Area (Oakland / east side more likely than the west side), Portland Oregon, and Seattle Washington. Portland and Seattle area are edging out slightly in front of the others mostly because I would miss the color green too much if I went much further south.

What Inspired This?

A lot of different things all coalesced to create the foundation of this little adventure of mine, but at its most simplistic: I will never have a better time in my life in which to do this. I have little to no responsibilities here. No kids, no significant other, and no mortgage all allow me a level of freedom that many are (justifiably) jealous of. It’s the plus side to that argument that folks always dismiss when they ask me “Yeah, but don’t you want to have kids some day?!”

Why Get Rid of All Your Stuff?

Remember what I was just saying about freedom? Without sounding too flighty, I feel like the nouns we collect in our everyday lives have a way of weighing us down – tethering us. I’m a bit of a minimalist in my everyday life, but now that I have this opportunity, it seemed like the perfect time to lighten that load.

I always loved wilderness survival camping when I was a kid in the Boy Scouts, and this is just the equivalent move for my life. I want to rely on my intellect and resourcefulness to find what I need to get by when I need to – not a closet/apartment/house loaded with stuff just waiting for an opportunity to be useful.

How Can I be In the Know?

  1. I’m happy to have you come here to this website. My intent is to make this a worthwhile place to visit for a variety of reasons – not the least of which is the blog which will contain all of my daily updates.
  2. Currently, I’ve set up an RSS feed you can use in your favorite RSS Reader. (*sniff* – Sorry to see you go Google Reader.)

More to Come

I’ll wrap up this post, but rest assured there’s more on the way. In the meantime, I welcome any feedback / thoughts you might have. Just send me your thoughts via the contact page.