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A Setback Along the Trail to Internet Addiction Recovery

The other day Coffee Girl and I were mountain biking on some fine land near Grants NM at the border of BLM and national forest. Even if huffing and puffing didn't inform you that you were climbing, altitude leaves a track by transitioning from high grasslands (with desert characteristics) to juniper shrubs to pinyon trees to ponderosas. One area was spider webbed with old two-tracks that went into a firewood-cutting area.

Naturally all of this exploring was free of silly encumbrances such as maps and gadgets. Trial and error. After many dead ends it was time to ask why I wasn't better at finding my own tracks: mountain bike tire tracks are easy to see.

Why was reading tracks so interesting and important? It sounds like a boring topic. But I experienced such a strange near-obsession over it.  As always, it is fun to stand somewhat apart from yourself and wonder what the heck was going on, and then explain it. 

Having free time lets the mind become interested in topics that would have seemed unimportant back in some ghastly metropolitan hellhole, living the usual hamster-wheel lifestyle.
(Thanks to the Mobile Kodger for using that phrase recently.) Therefore the mind expands to fill all available space, a la Parkinson's Law. Obsessions don't have the negative connotations that they would in that other world. Obsessions are just desires that have room to run.

The situation made me think of the DVD that I own, Last of the Mohicans (early 1990s). It's about the only movie I know of that emphasizes "Indian-style tracking" and high speed motion through the forest. I wanted to channel this obsession in a direction that would help me beat my internet addiction, so I seized this opportunity to download the book by James Fenimore Cooper from Gutenberg.org.

There was a pleasant surprise. I opted to download the (free) book in Kindle format and used the (free) Kindle-for-PC software for reading it. How easy it was on the eyes, especially at night! You can keep tweeking the screen color, font size, etc. It also helps that modern PC screens have at least 1366 X 768 resolution. (Why do people think they need an iPad or a single-use eReader to pleasantly read a book?)

One night I was actually in a real forest service campground. (Except that it was a freebie and didn't have an officious busybody host.) Inside the RV I was reading "Last of the Mohicans". Outside the RV some neighbors (a repulsive term) were enjoying a huge "white man's fire." The juxtaposition seemed quite comical.

A few days later I was trying to get camped on land near Magdalena NM that I have studied for years, but never camped on. Would there be a Verizon signal -- oops, I'm supposed to stop thinking about that. All of the issues that I care about -- biking, semi-open scenery, the BLM/Forest Service boundary, unpopularity with noisy yahoos, services in a nearby town, etc. -- turned out positive. 

How satisfying it is to go into a doubtful and unknown location and make it all work! Topography, cell towers, dirt roads, and land categories are the modern equivalent of Indian-style tracking to me, and, like Hawkeye in the book, I take pride in being good at it. No matter how much I preach against the internet, finding the electromagnetic trail is just too much fun to give up.

And yet year after year, newbie after newbie will make comments on blogs or RV forums begging for a "list" of places where they can camp. They want GPS coordinates, how big a rig can it hold, how easy is it to get level, what's the temperature, etc. Somehow, they've missed the whole point.

Comments

XXXXX said…
Good post, Boonie. More than a good post, really, it is such a beautiful place to be.
To me, it's like walking with one foot in raw undisturbed nature and the other foot in the comforts and inventions of mankind which ease the inevitable stress and risk of living totally in nature. As I mentioned earlier, Mother Nature is a cruel mistress who does give a second thought to the collateral damage created by her ways.
A delicate balance, one foot in each place. Especially in the mind which is programmed to survive and is so very tempted by the satisfactions and physical longevity promised by the inventions.
It is the deeply imbedded instinct of being a hunter which allows you to look upon a cell tower as prey and so to feel that spontaneous superb satisfaction in finding it.
Why do we feel such a deep satisfaction when we walk in pure nature for awhile? We are free to fully engage our animal instincts....to smell, to feel, to explore, etc., to linger, to stop, to go, all at our whim. In other words, we can truly be the animals which we are, no longer worrying about consequences, illness, injury, death....all worries associated with what the future might bring, fears which came with the advanced development of the human brain.
Bob Giddings said…
I like your metaphor there, Natty Bumppo. The idea of tracking the elusive spoor of the perfect campsite through the wilderness, like a subtle sifting of invisible Verizon signals, absence of yahoos wanting to rock the desert, just the right angle of light, shelter from the wind, the inattention of officious bureaucrats, all that...

It's so much more romantic than my method, which is to blunder around until Serendipity raises her lovely head and whispers "C'mon, big boy".

Andy Baird said…
"Why do people think they need an iPad or a single-use eReader to pleasantly read a book?"

My Kindle weighs 9 ounces, fits in my jacket pocket, can be read with ease in any light from pitch darkness to midday sun, and has batteries that last two to three weeks between charges. I think most folks would agree that those are all important advantages when it comes to reading books.

None of those things can be said about a PC or Mac. Even the full-sized iPad is too big and heavy for long-term book reading, in my humble opinion. And smaller iPad or Android tablets are limited by battery life that's measured in hours rather than weeks, and screens that wash out in direct sunlight.

A laptop computer can do a lot of things, but that doesn't mean it's the best choice for all tasks. You can make Skype calls with it, but most people prefer a cell phone in their shirt pocket or purse. You can listen to music with it, but an iPod clipped to your jacket is a lot more practical when you're on the go.

If you read as much as I do, a dedicated ereader amply repays its modest cost with hours of pleasant reading. Single-use? Yes, but there's nothing wrong with that when it's superbly suited to that single, very important use.
Randy said…
Bingo Boonie: So much better to teach a newbie to hunt than to feed him from your supply. Truth is---there are millions of free, beautiful places to camp.
George, "looking on the cell tower as prey." I'm glad you approve of hunting instincts being natural in men. It's politically incorrect of course.

Bob Giddings, thanks for bringing the word, spoor, to my notice. I too appreciate Serendipity, but being concerned with it isn't active like deliberate hunting, so I just don't think about Serendipity that much.

Andy, you are talking about reading outdoors. Good for you if you actually enjoy that. I was talking about reading at night, at a desk indoors.

Randy, the spoon-feeding that some campers want is the same sort of behavior that a vacationer shows. The latter wants to know where the motels are, and whether he can get a reservation. Many newbie RVers think like that with camping, even when camping outside RV parks.

They think they must know everything in advance before going there.

Bob Giddings said…
The Kindle Paperwhite has a soft lit screen, and is eminently readable anywhere. Outdoors, indoors, anywhere. It isn't harsh like an LED screen, doesn't make your eyes tired. As I told you once before, it is just about the perfect reader. You don't have to sit at a desk, or in good light, or anything. You just pick it up and read. It is the culmination of a long line of brave attempts in what has to be called... success.

One of the best things about it is it's cheerful limitation. It is only a reader. No distractions. I figure it can't last. I want one before they screw it up with bells and whistles.

Let me say just this: You have to see it to really understand the attraction. If you are a reader, and you try it, you'll want it.

Unfortunately, they sold out in days after it's introduction in October, and there won't be any more until Christmas.

That's my 2 cents.