Trains and Motorcycles, Oh My!
Last week, I had the opportunity to take an Amtrack train from St. Paul (Minnesota) to Pasco Washington. My father-in-law was purchasing a motorcycle from his daughter, and I volunteered to go out and ride the motorcycle back to the Twin Cities.
The Amtrack ride was about 36 hours, and was unfortunately about four hours late. As a result, we went through Glacier National Park in the dark–something I wanted to see from the train (I have ridden through Glacier on my motorcycle in the past). I was housed in an extremely smelly coach car–none of the other cars were stinky–so I spent as much time out of the car (in the observation car, mostly) as I could. Train travel hasn’t changed very much through the years–it takes time, cell coverage is better but not rock solid, and you meet all kinds of interesting people.
The ride back from Pasco was intense. I was originally going to spend some time looking at things, but it turns out that the motorcycle–a 1992 Suzuki Intruder 1400–just wasn’t comfortable. It has an extremely low seat height, so when I sit on the bike (and I’m 5′ 10″ tall) my knees are nearly at 90º and flat-footed on the ground. Additionally, the bike only had a small windshield–exposing most of me to the elements. My goal was to simply get back to the Twin Cities as quickly as possible. Thursday featured a leisurely ride to Missoula, Montana (about 330 miles), Friday I dodged rain showers in the mountains and managed to make it to Gillete, Wyoming (about 525 miles). Saturday, going through some of my favorite places in the United States (the Black Hills of South Dakota), I was riding in heavy rain and cold temperatures. My rain gear, about 10 years old, completely failed me and I was soaked through. I had to stop along the way and buy new (warm) clothes for the ride when the rain let up. After a cold, wet morning, I caught up to the weather front in Wall, South Dakota, and then faced brutal side winds (from my left) until Mitchell, South Dakota. At Mitchell, the skies cleared and the winds calmed, and I had a wonderful ride to the Minnesota border. In Minnesota, I caught up with the next storm system, and faced brutal winds from my right, making it all the way to the Twin Cities before the heavens opened up again, where I rode in the dark, pouring rain, basically swimming all the way home for the last fifteen miles. By the time Saturday was done, I had ridden in five varied riding conditions, covering just over 735 miles that day.
I learned a number of things on this trip, and believe it or not, there are connections to technology.
- You need to choose the right machine. My 2000 Victory V92C is a bike that I chose, that fits me. It offers unlimited seating positions, and the handlebars are custom bars that I chose. Although I would argue that the Suzuki Intruder 1400 might be a better “runner” than my own motorcycle (the Suzuki only has four speeds, but really drove well at 75 mph), the Victory is just a better fit for me. Likewise, if you are using technology, it is important to choose the technology that fits you.
- I am an iPad apologist. I think the iPad is the best device for music education. If you are reading my blogs or interacting with me on Twitter, you have to be okay with that. It is hard when you come across people that aren’t okay with that. I don’t like conflict, I don’t like making people angry, and really am one of the most easy going people (professionally, at least–we’re all a bit different with our families) that you will ever meet. Here’s a story where my pro-iPad stance blew up:
- I recently had an exchange on Twitter where a Pro-Google and Chromebook person blew up at me. He was complaining about his iPhone, and I suggested that I haven’t had any problems since iOS 7.1. I reminded him that he had helped me through problems I had been experiencing with my Chromebook, and he tweeted (tweets connected), “I’m sorry I talked about your precious Apple. Logical fallacies are a sign of weakness and desperation. Your continued fight to prove Apple over Google is painful to watch. It wasn’t even about that, but you so can’t help yourself. Have fun and enjoy what you love. I really don’t care. My phone sucks right now. It happens to be an Apple phone. Sorry. You troll to protect and go after anything negative with a redirect back to Google. #tiring. I never claimed either perfect.” I wasn’t trying to attack him or Google…and it is important to note that this is a tech director for a Chromebook 1:1/GAFE school district. I did not block him, but I stopped following him, because clearly, he isn’t interested in conversation or even discussing different strategies–and whatever I respond to clearly makes him angry. Almost all of his tweets are about how great Google is, or Chicago Sports (nothing wrong about either, by the way. I just mention this because we ALL write about what matters to us). I suggested that we meet to have lunch someday so that he could learn who I really am…his response? “mabye” Since that time, that person replaced their iPhone, and I expect and hope they are happy!
- Don’t be dissuaded from using Twitter based on that experience. The only other person that I have had such a negative experience with on Twitter was Sean Junkins, a respected ADE and education blogger/tweeter. Some of his tweets (and posters that he creates) oversimplify issues and some statements would hurt the feelings/motivations of non-technologists (e.g. “If you don’t begin integrating, then get retiring”). He also has some specific techniques on Twitter: if you unfollow him, he tweets about you and what a great person you are. This guilts you into re-following him. After I blogged about my thoughts, he blocked me on Twitter. I had favorited a few of his tweets in the past, and because he blocked me, I cannot even “unfavorite” those Tweets! Don’t get me wrong…I have been told that he is a great guy–and I have no reason to not believe that. I was using his work as an example that you won’t agree with everyone on Twitter, and that you can always unfollow them. Clearly my thoughts rubbed him the wrong way enough that he blocked me, and I feel bad about that.
- Simply selling one point of view is not my goal with technology, and in fact, I work hard to support people with every type of technology roll out. I’m convinced that the iPad is the best tool for music education, and that most of the other platforms just don’t fit our subject very well (Android is improving, but there is no growth in educational adoption of Android…it is all iPad or Chromebook for the most part). And I have gone through my own technology journey, and as such, I realize that something better than the iPad may eventually come along. That is why I follow people who support all kinds of technology–that way, I can see what is out there beyond my own experience, broadening my own knowledge and expectations for technology.
- So…back to the original motorcycle story…choose the bike that fits you and your purposes. That $100,000 custom OCC chopper isn’t a cross-country bike. That Goldwing probably isn’t going to impress your buddies or make you “hip.” So…choose your technology as well…iPad, Chromebook, Android, Mac, Windows, Linux, whatever. If you can use it and use it effectively, that’s what it is all about.
- The failure of my rain gear reinforced my belief in the need for good accessories. A good accessory can help you adapt for various conditions that your motorcycle was probably not intended for. A good rain suit can make the difference between riding in true discomfort or just under the annoyance of weather. There’s a difference. Boot and glove over-covers can also be a help. Bluetooth helmets can provide audio on your trip (if your bike doesn’t have a stereo–most don’t). A cup holder can keep hydration at hand. An Airhawk seat cushion can save your butt (literally) on a long journey. Crash bars can save your bike in a crash, as well as serve as a mounting point for highway pegs. There are various kinds of bags–leather and fiberglass–that can help you haul items safe and dry!
- In a similar way, the accessories you buy for your technology can impact your use of that device. A good case can help keep your device safe from drops (falling) or even water damage! A stylus can change how you use the device (based on the apps you use). Apps themselves can change the very functionality of your device. I am looking forward to the JamStik (guitar device) and C.24 (keyboard case), both which have the potential to change how I will use my iPad, just as my Zagg case (I no longer use the case, but just the keyboard when I have to do a lot of typing, such as this post) changes how functional my iPad can be. Many of these items–cases, keyboards, and styluses are available for many platforms (not just iPad). Make sure to customize “your ride” with the accessories that will make your device a better fit for you. You might find yourself using that device for more than you ever thought you would!
At any rate, those are my thoughts, post-motorcycle journey. I would definitely take the trip again–but hopefully on my own bike, with some new rain gear. I don’t know what the rest of the summer holds–I am still working in my basement (hanging drywall in the main part) and I have a few presentations this summer. I will certainly continue to blog as there are developments in the tech world that impact music education, and as other odd thoughts pop into my head! Enjoy the summer!