My Favorite GPS Apps for Motorcycling

Riding season is here (if it will stop raining) and I will be heading on my first weekend trip coming up here in April. It has only been about two years since I have embraced using GPS for my motorcycle rides. I was initially very resistant to the idea, wanting to just enjoy the wandering of the ride, but I have come to appreciate the GPS not only for planning rides, but also for tracking where I have been, 

So let's talk about what I have used over the past couple of years. 


BMW Navigator Street (aka. Garmin Zumo 390)

The BMW Navigator Street is my go to device right now. It is a dedicated GPS device rebranded to BMW. I am a big fan of dedicated devices, espcially when it comes to rugged gear. A couple of years ago I planned a trip to Canada and I wanted to make sure I had a device that could reliably provide GPS maps in an area where I might not have a cell signal. 

The Navigator Street is basically a Garmin Zumo 390, with two basic tweaks. First, it does have a database built in for BMW Motorrad dealerships. Second, it has a dedicated cradle that connects to an accessory plug on BMW motorcycles. 

Overall I have had some good luck with the device. It gets the job done and does an excellent job of tracking my GPS routes as well. My only major qualm with it is that "curvy roads" setting does stay to highways a bit more than I would normally want it to. I really have to force to to reroute to get me to some real of the path places. 


Garmin Basecamp

So one of the great and sometimes awful things about the Garmin is a companion desktop application called Basecamp. Basecamp is meant to be a trip planning software. It is a really finicky piece of software and sometimes it is really confusing on how it wants to operate. 

Once you get your head around it though, the trip routing component is pretty nice. You can set waypoints, including gas stops right from the app. You can even distinguish what type of road you would like to ride on in between waypoints, such as a "curvy road" or just a highway. 

Bringing your trip routes back into the app after your trip is also very handy. 


Roadtrippers.com

While I do the trip routing in Basecamp, I do most of the actual trip planning in RoadTrippers. This site has become one of my favorite for any sort of road trip planning. Not only cane you plan your actual route in it, but it has an amazing database to find all of those quirky roadside attractions and oddities that you would expect for a road trip. I used this to plan a couple of road trips now and it is great for finding odd restaurants, road side stops and even the occasional inn or camping site. 

The recently changed the website and they now charge $30 if you want more than 7 waypoints in your trip. For road trip planning I think it would be worth it. 

They also have excellent guides for a lot of famous places around the US, which are a great place to start for a Roadtrippers as well. They also have an excellent iPhone app. 


Rever.com

Finally on my list is a website call Rever.co. I honestly haven't used this one very much since it is very app focused.Great if you want to use your phone for trip planning and GPS routing. Both the app and website have a very slick interface. The one really nice thing that they have going on for them though is the social features. In a lot of ways, this app is the motorcycle equivalent to Strava from the bicycling world. 

The social features allow you to setup groups where you can manage group rides, share data with friends, etc. I first got into this app because they seemed to have a partnership going with BMW Motorrad a year or two back. The web interface for planning routes is also very well done and I used it a little but a few years ago when planning some twist roads through the Adirondacks. 

Book Review: The Largesse of the Sea Maiden

The Largesse of the Sea Maiden by Denis Johnson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I am not quite sure how to review the book, because I am not entirely sure what I read. I enjoyed, immensely the five stories that were written by Denis Johnson, but having now finished the book, I have trouble recalling exactly what those stories were.

The five stories featured in this book all focus on the fairly mundane lives of the different protagonists. The topics covered cover drugs, lives, obsessions and other such topics. That being said none of the stories come across as dark as you might initially think. Instead they seem banal and the events that occur are told in a sort of matter of fact, "this is the way life is", sort of delivery. In a lot of ways, nothing happens in any of these stories. The characters tell us of these interludes in their lives, almost in a confessional way, and then that is it, the story is over.

For some reason though I was completely drawn into the stories. It was like a look behind the curtain in these people's lives, and the writing was so well done, that I felt like all of the stories were truly believable.

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D&D: Storm King's Thunder - Silence at the Table

A couple of weeks ago we had our regular Friday night D&D session with a new player coming to the table. Our group is still playing through Storm King's Thunder (nearly 3 years now), running around the countryside in chapter 3. They are in a home-brew session at this point, on assignment from the Harpers. 

Our party was working their way up to Termalaine looking for four other Harper agents. When they arrived in the city they found it to be eerily quiet, with the gates swung wide open. Our monk shadow stepped his way into the city to investigate and found a city that was in ruins from a recent attack by a war party. 

The usual D&D banter and roleplaying ensued from there with several of the NPC's. What happened next though caught everyone at the table by surprise, including myself. 

My Year in Books - 2018

My 2018 year in books. This was the first full year of our book club at work. Highlights from last year definitely were the City of Brass, Norse Mythology and the Fifth Season.There were at least two books that had good overall reviews on Goodreads, but I could not get into. Lies My Teacher Told Me and The Cuckoo's Calling both hit a flat note with me. 

You can find all of my reviews for those books linked above. 

Book Review: The Mysterious Affair at Styles

The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Road trips are great for audiobooks and I was able to listen to this one in the span of a single day. I discovered Hercule Poirot about a year ago while reading Murder on the Orient Express. I was completely in love with that book and I am obviously a fan of the old detective novels like this and Sherlock Holmes.

This is a solid entry in the series and is the first Poirot adventure. The story follows the similar formula, or perhaps establishes the formula for the Poirot series. Half the fun of these novels in my opinion is to try and catch the clues throughout the book to try and identify the murderer using the same methodology as the detective. There is a bit of narrative stretch that occurs sometimes. Characters seemingly pull out pieces of information from the world that you are not privy too, but overall Christie does put the pieces there for you as a read to draw upon.

I wasn't as enraptured as I was with Orient Express, but this was a solid and fun book in the series.

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Book Review: Sabriel


Sabriel by Garth Nix
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow. This books certainly came out of nowhere and surprised me. I started listening to this book a few weeks ago and it didn't catch me at first. I let the library rental expire and then I decided to give it another go a few weeks later. Once the story got going, it absolutely pulled me in.

This is labeled as a "Young Adult" book, but it is probably the most "adult" YA book I have read. The story is well put together. While it does cover many of the standard fantasy tropes, the world that Garth Nix has put together is incredibly well thought out. The magic system and world history is interesting. There are elements here that harken back to the John Carter or Narnia series in the way the world is constructed. It is tight and focused, keeping the world building isolated to the immediate land that the story is taking place in. We don't learn about the "whole planet", but that doesn't matter in the story telling.

I really liked the story arc that our main character, Sabriel went through. She was portrayed as a strong female lead character. She was capable where she needed to be, but knew that she was inexperienced. That inexperience was a primary plot device as it related to the Old Kingdom, but it was never used to victimize Sabriel. She didn't fall into the traps that are so commonly used with YA or genre fiction where her decisions were driven by teenage emotions. Sure, she is a young adult in this book, but her character showed the right amount of composure and emotion to make her believable. I really love that the other characters in the world held respect for her, for the Abhorsen, despite her age. It really showed a lot about the world.

Narratively I felt like this book was written as a result of Garth Nix playing D&D. Several of the plot points played out like D&D encounters in my opinion. They were satisfying though, nonetheless.

Overall, I loved the book. Any let me just put a final note in for that cover art. I absolutely love that artistic choice.

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Trying to Organize my D&D Notes

I have been DM'ing for almost three years now, playing the same campaign in Storm King's Thunder with my Friday night group. Through all of that period I have gone back and forth on trying to keep myself organized as the DM. I have admittedly struggled to keep a good track of my notes through the campaign and in general. 

I have wanted to approach D&D in as analog a way as possible. I spend so much time online and on the computer as it is, bringing that to the gaming table seems counter productive. That being said, there is an endless amount of functionality that a laptop or note taking software brings to the table, that it would be foolish to try to manage all of it in paper alone. I have finally over the past year or so begun to develop a system that works for me on keeping track of my notes, etc. 


Tracking the Game

Tūl Notebook

My first stop here is the use of a Tūl paper notebook. As I noted above I want to be as independent from the computer as possible at the gaming table and my quick reference notes during a gaming session are all being placed right into this paper notebook. I fund this Tūl system to be fascinating because of the ring bound sheets which allow you to remove pages and re-arrange them in any order. I have used spiral bound notebooks in the past and they have worked fine, but I have run into two primary limitations with them. 1) What to do when you have narrative or note changes that required you to re-arrange pages and 2) what do you do with the notebook if it is only partially filled and you are done with what you need with it? 

The Tūl notebook solved both of those problems for me and I picked up the smaller format size which works well for sitting at my side on the gaming table. The page size is exactly one half of a standard 11x8.5" page, so creating a few templates in Apple Pages is pretty easy and straight forward. 

Right now I have it divided into three basic sections. Story Summary, Current Adventure Notes, NPC's

I think I want to add some supplementary reference material to it as well, including some quick random tables along with a master index sheet for referencing back to the various books. 


Apple Notes

Apple Notes, and Evernote before that, are the cornerstone of where I keep track of all of my documents. In Notes, I have sub folders where I keep the text I write out along with .PDFs, images, and ideas for the campaign I am running. Up until recently, I was keeping a running campaign summary and NPC list in Notes, having that pinned to the top of my notes list. This worked well, but wasn't the best for quick reference during the middle of an active gaming session. 

I have moved more to a method of using Notes to capture my pre-session planning and ideas. What I have begun to do now is create a new note for each location or story plot and incorporate the relevant NPC's, and information needed for that section into that session.

 I am also using Apple notes to capture various D100 tables that I find online for adventure planning. 


Homebrew Planning

Over the next couple of months I hope to begin development on some home-brew adventure planning. I feel my Ebenere Nanowrimo story for a few years ago would make for an excellent setting to place a campaign in. 

Mind Maple

Mind mapping is one of those things that I can recognize the utility, but I haven't really taken full advantage of. I experimented with it a little bit for my current campaign, but I think it hasn't been successful because I didn't start using it from the beginning. The result is I haven't had a good amount of connecting ideas to develop with the narrative. You can see my poor mapping laid out below when I tried to pickup with our party in Gauntlgrym. 

When I begin a new home-brew campaign, I anticipate this will become critical for mapping out the overall story arc though

OmniOutliner

Omnioutliner is a great outlining and note taking app. I anticipate this will also become a core component for my future home-brew campaign as I chart out future NPCs, characters, etc. You can see below my failed attempt at trying to keep track of items in it for the SKT campaign. 




 

Book Review: Dust of Dreams

Dust of Dreams by Steven Erikson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It took me over a year of chipping away at this book to finally finish . Having spent the the past 7-8 years reading this series now I need to get through to the end. I would have to say that I do enjoy this series on the whole, but this book is the prime example of what is wrong with the series. This book clocks in at over eight hundred pages. We are 90% of our way through this series and Erickson continues to layer on an endless number of new characters and story arcs.

The book's structure is also quintessential of the series thus far, where the reader is dragged along for hundreds of pages with little concrete happening in terms of the story, only for a very impressive climax to finally occur in the last 150 pages or so. This book did have a fantastic ending battle, of which Erikson is known for, and I found myself emotionally distraught as we once again watched characters we came to love and enjoy get torn apart by the horrors of war. Truthfully, I don't know of many authors who can write large battle scenes as well as Erickson can. 

The difference for me this time around though is that the final battle felt a bit too "Deus Ex Machina". The enemy that our main characters encountered came from nowhere, and I did not have any pretense, as a reader, as to where they came from, why they were there or why they were attacking the Bonehunters. Because of this the weight of the scene was largely lost. To add to that whole feeling of "huh?", was the fact that Erikson threw another "Deus Ex Machina" element into the final scenes during a battle with the sky keeps. When we thought our heroe to be lost, a new player enters the field, seemingly out of nowhere. It all felt just a bit too convenient of a story telling mechanism for me with out the necessary guiding motivation for it to actually occur.

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Ridelog: 10-27-18


Probably the last ride of 2018. A nice long one up to the Galena are for lunch in New Diggings. Quite the offroad area up there. Lunch was at the Saloon. Basic brat burger with a can of coke. The parking lot was filled with ATV and offload vehicles. Weather was on the chilly side, but overall a good time.