Strolling Amok

Pops goes on tour.

Rock Cut State Park

Picturesque.

Due to the 14-day limit at Chain o’ Lakes State Park, Rock Cut, out near Rockford Illinois, is the only viable alternative for a short stay. But with all the necessary activities and need to get out and about most days, I haven’t seen much of either of these parks, actually. Between that, the heat, and the frequent fronts of rain moving in, taking care of business is usually the order of the day. “Business” that has included seeing good friends, my beloved chilluns and grandchilluns, annual medical checks, and registering a home address change with the entities that I do actual business with.

The drivers license change will have to wait until next year, since they want me to produce mail with the new address on it, which is not easy when you just moved and you’ve selected “paperless” as your preferred receiving mode. I’ll have to remember to turn on the “paper spigots” next February or April at the latest, in order to accumulate mailings from the “proper” kinds of outfits in time for my next arrival. Pity my poor son, who will have to use a laundry basket to store my mail instead of a handy little envelope-sized bin.

Of necessity, life here more resembles a continuation of the cross-country commute than it does anything else, but these last two days finally mean staying put. Staying put while cooler, sunnier air moves in. That should hopefully allow taking care of minor storage, mod installation, and maintenance needs on the Intrepid.

Rock Cut State Park is a cut above Chain o’ Lakes, though the lack of surrounding bodies of water also means less wildlife to stumble upon. But it also means far fewer mosquitoes and biting flies. Like the Chain, the only option allowed for vehicle-based campers is electrified sites, which cost twice as much as non-electric tenter’s sites. Oh, well. Rock Cut is nicer overall, with more functional showers and larger campsites. The only caveat is that only some camping area loops offer open choices when making site choices on the Internet. For those, any open site is still a good, usable site. Other loops include sites which have enough tilt to make them either less desirable or downright unworkable. For those, online reservations are very risky and it’s best to just roll in, tour those loops, and then fight out at the check-in cabin just what sites are still available, unreserved for the length and timing of your stay.

One unrelated joy is that I noticed Verizon’s offer of unlimited date on their “New Verizon Plan”, which as of this moment is finally less costly than their legacy plan. I naturally checked out the loopholes to figure out whether this was just sucker bait to ultimately line their pockets at my expense, but it’s legit. They cut their line access fees as well, with the end result being that I could make payments on a new, obsolete iPhone SE to replace my 4S, and still cut my monthly total. The SE model is based on the old iPhone 5, the main changes over the 4S being its ability to act as a hotspot using faster LTE 4 (instead of 3G, all while being able to receive or make a phone call without breaking an existing data connection, such as an Internet connection or its GPS/guidance instructions). Now the only question remaining is whether its reception in the boonies is the equal of my Jetpack cellular modem when out in the boonies. I suspect not, but if it is, that would allow me the option of deactivating my Jetpack and saving another $20/month.

The caveat on the unlimited data plan is that after you’ve pulled down 10GB of data usage, you’re kicked back down to 3G speed. For me, that’s a minor issue, since where I go, all that’s available is 3G, anyway. Downloading big files can be a pain that way, but simply viewing the tripe on YouTube and such isn’t affected. You might be seeing a lower resolution of video because of the throttling, but on a laptop, it’s no big deal. Naturally, once I sealed the deal and made it effective immediately, I went nuts playing Expedition Overland videos on YouTube and popped over the 10GB transition on a few days. No penance needed – they still pull down and play just fine. As far as I can tell, there is no further cutoff point and no kickdown to 2G. You can keep doing your voodoo on 3G until the end of the billing month, when 4G kicks back in for more abuse.

The other handy aspect is that Siri (Apple’s voice interface) can now be used at will without helping to trash a limited data account. Siri looks up things and interprets what you’re saying by using the data account while it relays stuff to Apple’s servers. Thus I can avoid fumbling with the microscopic onscreen keyboard quite a bit, and arrogantly order Siri about while avoiding many challenges to my motor skills. Whenever an issue involves the ability to inject more laziness, I’m quite adaptable to that. I now use data intensive tasks with impunity. The circus stops when you go out of cellular range of course, but that’s no surprise.

The SE’s slightly taller screen and updates to Maps have improved type legibility and contrast as well, so although verbal guidance is still paramount, I can now usually squint and make out route names and ETA without putting on reading glasses for a moment. I like that.

I could have had a bigger-screen iPhone 6 for the same outlay, but at the cost of less internal memory. Having suffered the hardships of my old 4S’ 8GB of memory and its inability to take more than 15 seconds of video before a forced stop, I had a knee-jerk reaction when I saw the option to pack in 128MB on the SE, since I’d like to be able to video impromptu and over-the-hood shots at will. Cellphones and videocams without dedicated optical viewers still make for a miserable way to capture footage in bright sunlight, but they still have their place. But, since unpacking and setting up my bulky turn-of-the-century Canon GL1 is a bit of an ordeal and not practical for over-the-hood shots, the improved flexibility of choice is appreciated. Will I actually capture and present more video here on the blog? Hard to say. Thanks to the Unlimited Data Plan, I can now upload in a crisis-free manner. But I’m not a big fan of unedited video or of pumping out videos merely because I can. Editing takes a lot of time, and there are times when time is at a premium, time-wise. There’s that laziness thing as well. But the prime excuses of being hesitant to unpack a real camera outfit or of being near my monthly data quotient are now invalid. All hail progress! …even if it’s merely to a newer form of obsolescence.

Obsolescence is not all bad. When I wandered into a Verizon shoppe to donate my 4S to be re-purposed to charity (which was not a tough choice since Verizon’s trade-in value was two dollars and fifty cents), the naughty sales associate there pointed out that the new lowest-cost iPad was $200 off until the end of the month. He seemed very impressed that I was still hand-cranking my original Model 1 iPad, which is now nearly unusable for surfing the Internet due to website coding changes that it can’t deal with. At $250, the new iPad is a fab deal, but now that I have a laptop, all I use my iPad for these days is downloading and displaying Avenza interactive PDF maps for guiding me while in BLM and National Forest trails. That’s it. It’s still stellar at that. Since I don’t overland and have no need of sophisticated software to traverse long distances on backcountry trails, even the bargain cost of the new unit would be a waste, and I just can’t justify it.

By the time I tarted up the big Intrepid with guidance and recovery equipment to mimic a rotund version of an overlanding rig, that new iPad would be about where my Model 1 is now, for usability. Plus, my body would be even less suited to the tasks and inherent risks of overlanding solo. Sometimes, you just have to let idle dreams go, in the interests of self-preservation. When it’s a wise decision, that’s a very good thing. I’m sticking with “Campsploring” (and saving the cash)! Truth to tell, the more true overlanding videos I see, the more I appreciate both what they persist through and what I’m still able and willing to deal with myself. As Squint Eastwood sez in one of his old flicks, “A man’s got to know his limitations.” So I have to admit that I’m pretty pumped to still be able to travel and camp in remote vistas astride the Mighty Furd. That is no small thing, as many of you can appreciate!

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