What is Sand Island?

I love motovlogs.  I love to see where people take their bikes, the way their local areas look compared to mine, and to hear their stories.  I wanted to do something similar to that because it’s cool, but different enough for me to satisfied with it.  I don’t want to copy for the sake of copying, but would prefer to offer something new and uniquely mine.

To date, I have two playlists on my channel: vlogs and real episodes of The Planet Grom where I travel someplace and learn a bit about it.  I think there’s promise here.

Do you have any questions about the islands?  Is there anything you would like to see?  Let me know in the comments here or on the videos:

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I recently started shifting from writing to recording videos in an effort to show Hawaii’s roads to people who like to see new places or live vicariously through scooter riders with GoPros and this is my first video in which I talk about the trials I’ve been having making the jump from scooters to motorcycles:

Enjoy!

 

The Planet Grom on YouTube

Aloha!  I just wanted to write quickly about YouTube:

My kids and I were talking about YouTube and they are under the impression that success on YouTube is easy, sudden, and lucrative.  It’s not that I aim to prove them wrong or anything, but I did say that they’re talking about the minority when it comes to the successful cases.

And, to prove my point, I’ll make a public channel, create videos to the best of my abilities, and monetize them (whenever the channel receives enough hours watched to make them eligible) and I’ll keep them in on the progress.

I have ideas for the videos, but the ones that are easiest to do (for now) are vlogs and opinion pieces.  I have one video up now so you can get a feel for how those ones will work and I’d appreciate the standard likes and subscribes.  You know the drill, I’m sure.

I like doing them because it’s an easy way for everyone to see Hawaii.  “It’s a cool way to get a sense of the neighborhood,” said one viewer in a message.  Check it out and see for yourself.

Motorcycle Souvenirs

I have a policy when it comes to counting where I’ve been: I have to either leave the airport I landed at or something really memorable needs to happen.  Basically if I can see the actual local area or at the very least get a story out of the destination then I’ll count it.

My friend, on the other hand, counts airports because his criteria is “if I died here, what would the report say?”  Would it say “Chuck died in the Chicago O’Hare International Airport?”  if so, then yes, he’s been to Chicago.

Yet another person I know doesn’t even need to touch the ground to count the stop.  He says he flew over the pyramids of Egypt and, since he saw them with his own eyes, he says he’s been to Egypt.

On road trips, my wife won’t say she visited a town unless she was going to that town specifically for a reason.  We stopped for gas in a ridiculously tiny town in Georgia that had – with no exaggeration – one gas station and about five houses, all within view of said gas station and she still wouldn’t count it.  Maybe if we had gone on a trip to visit the town specifically to get gas…

Everyone’s got their own criteria for where they’ve been.

This made me wonder what the criteria was for the adventure riders whose pictures I often see.  The ones with hard luggage usually have stickers of the places they’ve been and I just wanted to know what counts.

I posed the question to a Facebook adventure rider’s page and got some unexpected answers.  Some seemed to understand and gave their honest answers (“if I pooped or slept somewhere”) and some gave answers that were either meant for a different question (“I just make fun of Harleys”) or condescending (“no-one cares, work harder”).

To the ones who answered the question I actually asked, I followed-up with a question of how they commemorate the trip or stop.  Some said they don’t – they just tell stories – and others said they use maps and mark the routes.

This answer intrigued me.  Do they use different maps for different bikes, or is it the same map regardless?  They said that they used the same map regardless of bike.

Interesting.

Personally, I’m a huge fan of data and have thought about getting a great big globe and putting pins in for everywhere I’ve been, but there’s no way I would be satisfied with just one color pin.  I know this because I have an app where I track the places I’ve been and I have tons of different colors.  I have one color for places I’ve been before I met my wife, another for the places we’ve visited together, another color for places I’ve been on business, etc etc.  The result is a world map that has a ton of dots on it with a bunch of different colors, but I like knowing exactly what the context was for whatever dot.

Which brought me to souvenirs!  I come from a long line of pack-rats and hoarders and try to control it as much as I can, but the need to collect random stuff from my trips… it’s strong.

Whenever I travel on business, I always pick up a Starbucks mug for my wife and, in an effort to help mitigate clutter in the house, make postcards for my kids with pictures I take.

But what kind of souvenirs would be good for motorcycle trips?  They can’t be too big, bulky, cumbersome, or heavy.

I was thinking of finding some random gumball toy machine in each state and getting something, but I’m the kind of guy who likes a theme.

Similarly, I could send myself post cards of the places I’ve been, but you have to ask yourself where it will stop.  How many pretty pictures with a little map would you want printed at $3.00 a pop?  That would get expensive pretty quickly.

Then it hit me: Starbucks.

The joke of the ADV world is that people just get BMW GS bikes to go to Starbucks, but I genuinely like Starbucks and it makes for a handy meeting/rendezvous/break point.

And they also have distinctive gift cards for each place.

Yeah, that’s the ticket!  They’re small, easily packable, distinctive, themed, easily framed for a garage wall, and cheap enough that I could buy one each time I visit a place if I roll up on a different bike.  I mean, I could visit all 49 states in North America and every province in Canada and still have plenty of room in my bag for my essentials.

But why?  Why have souvenirs?  Aren’t the memories enough and isn’t this like bragging?

Well, yeah, it is.  But also, you forget stuff.  I’ve forgotten going to all sorts of places in my life which might mean they weren’t very significant to me or it could just mean that some stuff slips.  Too many penguins, not enough iceberg if you know what I mean.

So I’ll get a great big atlas and mark it up with my routes, days, and whatever other data I can think of and I’ll probably transpose those routes onto a big map in my garage or office, but I like the idea of bringing something home with me that doesn’t involve me taking anything natural from that place (like rocks) or filling my bag with inconsistent trinkets.  It’s even money that I would spend otherwise, so I might as well load a piece of plastic with $5.00, transfer that to my Starbucks app, get a coffee and get to keep the gift card!

And yeah, it is bragging and do you know what?  That’s fine.  If someone wants to think I’m bragging by going places, they should put me in my place by going to more places and not telling me about it (otherwise it could be considered bragging), but if I’m being honest with you, I don’t think I would take it as bragging anyway.  I’d love to ask people face-to-face about their adventures in different places and think that we should all get out a lot more than we currently do (I’m sure I’ll touch on this in a later post).

Besides, I’m not saying you should use it to hold over other people and make yourself feel better about going more places.  You should never try to make someone feel bad or inferior.  But maybe your travels would be considered inspirational rather than boastful.  You never know.  Perhaps you could make an Instagram channel of your own and post pictures of your mementos and amazing pictures from the road that may inspire someone to take up riding or at the very least go for a drive and see something new.

Also, it’s fun.  I’ll admit that not everyone collects random stuff like I do and some won’t see the appeal of loading yourself down with even more stuff, but to me this is just a bit of fun.  I’m not hurting anyone and I’m making myself happy, so there’s no harm.

Finally, I’d like to thank anyone that reads these or follows me on Instagram so whenever I do get these gift cards, I’ll post a picture of the code there and the first person to cash it in will get a coffee on me.  It’s a small way of saying thanks for paying attention to me.

See you out there!

Review: Icon Patrol 2 Boots

Runner’s HI is a cleverly-named running store in Hawaii. The owner, Raymond Woo, has been running marathons for over 30 years and the store is adorned with the shirts and matching medals from different races. Going in is pretty inspiring, even for the most novice of runners.

Their staff is incredibly knowledgable as well. I walked in for new shoes on recommendations from friends and brought along my old running shoes. Sometimes shops want to see the ones you’re retiring so they have a better idea of how you run based on the wear on the soles.

After greeting me and asking how I can be helped, the salesperson looked at my feet and the shoes in my hand and asked why I’m carrying normal shoes.

“Because… I have normal feet?” I asked. It seemed like a strange question.

“No, sir. I believe you have wide feet.”

I was thirty-two at the time and had gone my whole life without being told my feet are wide. I even went to a New Balance store in San Antonio, TX who measured my feet six ways from Sunday and had me walk around, the salesperson on all-fours to keep his eye level with the ground to see exactly how I walked and even they didn’t mention anything about my feet being wide.

“Okay,” the Runner’s HI salesperson said. “Not a problem.” He looked at my shoes and then asked if I had any inputs about them before getting new ones. Do I just want the same pair? Do I want the new version? Were these unsatisfactory in any way that would indicate a specific type of shoe for a replacement?

Then he disappeared and came back with a few different sets of shoes and the ones that were the most comfortable were – shockingly – sized wide.

It was an enlightening day.

I say all this not to bore you about my running habits, but to set the stage for the absolute bear that is finding motorcycle boots for wide feet. You can buy boots made for cruisers that have gigantic toe boxes that make it hard to shift on normal bikes or you can buy boots that are fashioned more in a European way where the toe boxes are svelte enough to easily get under the shifter, but it’s difficult to find them in a wide size.

Enter the Icon Patrol 2.

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When I was looking for my first pair of bonafide motorcycle boots, I was looking for a balance between protection, comfort, and it had to be fairly waterproof. Hawaii may be known as a tropical paradise, but nothing achieves that status without rain and Hawaii definitely has rain. It may not last for long, but it exists and you don’t want to get wet because it’s still hot outside so you become a weird mix of cold and hot, muggy and consistently wet, and smelly really fast. It’s best to avoid it when you can, but it tends to sneak up on you.

Scrolling through Revzilla, I found the Patrol 2s and liked the size of the boot. They don’t go up to your knee or anything, but they do cover quite a bit of my lower leg without even a peek of an ankle showing through.

And the protection seems pretty on-point with a solid feel and D30 armor incorporated in the boot.

The look works well. As a ridiculously-dressed youth, I would wear jeans that were far-too-tight, tucked in white tee-shirts, and Harley-Davidson boots. Big, clunky, black leather boots. It wasn’t my best time as far as fashion goes, and I’m still not entirely sure whether the boots broke in and became comfortable or if I just got used to them. My wife testifies though, that they never became attractive.

The Patrol 2s look more like shoes than boots, though there is a solidness to them. They won’t be mistaken for sneakers, but I also don’t look like Frankenstein walking around.

Side note: I know it’s popular for people to cry out “He never had a name! Frankenstein was the name of the doctor!” and you’d be partially right, but in the book, the Monster clearly states “At length the thought of you crossed my mind. I learned from your papers that you were my father, my creator; and to whom could I apply with more fitness than to him who had given me life?”

“The monster,” as you people so enthusiastically call him is saying here that he identifies as a Frankenstein (Victor’s last name) because Victor Frankenstein is basically his father. So seriously, folks: stop with the insanity of calling people out for being right.

*ahem* Moving on…

Today’s weather was absolute garbage here on the island. Puddles are deep and the rain seems like it’s never going to stop. I needed to run errands and knew I was going to be more damp than usual so I eschewed the usual flip-flops and put on my Patrols.

Getting them on is a breeze. You just grab the finger-hold on the back and in goes your foot, easy as pie. Then you snap down the BOA ring and start turning it, tightening up the wire laces, and you’re good to go! There’s a concern – a fear – that wearing laces means your boots will get ensnared by parts of your bike, which could happen, but it wasn’t such a huge concern that I was only looking at BOA systems on my boots.

But as a great big nerd for cool new stuff, I still really like it. I want it on all my shoes.

Today wasn’t a riding day because I had to go get random things and bring my daughter around on errands, but I did have to walk through a ton of rain and some pretty deep puddles and my feet were warm and dry while my daughter’s shoes are currently on our front porch (or lanai, if you please) drying out from the thorough soaking they received.

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The protection seems pretty substantial too, without adding all the technical hard shiny plastic parts that would surely increase the security while decreasing the comfort and blending-in aesthetics that these guys have.

Speaking of comfort, it’s the best. I’ve read all sorts of reviews for all sorts of boots and it always seems like you choose either comfort or protection but these feel great. I walked around all day these last few rainy days wearing these saying I was “breaking them in,” but there was no real break-in required. They felt great from the first time I stood up (though I did have to order a whole size larger than a Nike running shoe).

And, while they don’t specify “wide,” some people have expressed that they fit well enough for people with wide feet – something I can testify to as well. They feel great width-wise, they’re lightweight for the protection that is obvious, the fact they’re waterproof is very welcome to me, and the laces are just plain cool.

But how will they hold up? I’ll be sure to update this review later on down the road if they turn out to be different in the long-term, but I can’t see it shaking out that way. I’m totally satisfied and think they’re well worth the $190 (from Revzilla).

Road Trips, Kids, and Motorcycles

During a recent impulsive splurge, I subscribed to Iron & Air Magazine. It’s a pretty cool magazine that is obviously meant to be held onto instead of read and discarded with great photos, smart articles, and an actual spine (for binding). Included in one of the issues I got was a pretty large poster from Bell Helmets that on one side documented a road trip the company took through California and, on the other side, a massive picture from their adventure.

My daughter (10) loved it and hinted strongly that she wanted it (but nuts to that – it’s going to go up in the garage!) and asked what we would do on OUR road trip.

fullsizeoutput_58c5Growing up, I never particularly enjoyed road trips with the family and have been thinking about why for a while now and every reason I didn’t enjoy road trips as a kid boiled down to one thing:

The car.

My dad, a Navy man, lived all over the world and would take vacations and usually fly us to California (because it was easiest to get there on the cheap), where we would rent a car and drive to Indiana.

That’s a long drive.

My family consisted of my mom and dad, my brother, and me. For days, we would be on the road and some truths became evident in our travels:

Truth #1: You will be bored regardless of the amount of stuff you bring.

Truth #2: You have a lower expectation of being polite with the people around you because they’re family.

Truth #3: You know EXACTLY how to get under their skin because of your histories.

Truth #4: In an effort to stave off boredom, you begin to irritate each other.

My dad never planned on stopping for the night. He would always drive until he reached the junction of “I’m too exhausted to drive anymore,” and “I’m pretty sure I’ll murder at least one person if I have to stay in this car with these people much longer.” Then he would find a place to stay for the night, park in the back, go in and get a room “just for him,” and then sneak us in so he didn’t have to pay as much.

Good times.

With all this in mind, I started to think about what would make a road trip better. The first thing I thought was my own vehicle. Being able to control my own speed and go at my pace – actually driving the vehicle instead of being a passenger at the mercy of someone else’s driving – would be great.

Somehow being able to simultaneously be near someone and away from them if they annoy me would also be pretty swell.

But being able to enjoy the process would probably be the biggest draw.

And then it hit me: motorcycles.

Motorcycles tick all of the boxes and gets rid of all the annoying stuff. You control your own vehicle. You go at your own pace. You can pull off anywhere and take pictures, enjoy the scenery, or just take a break. If your other travelers are annoying you, speed up or slow down a bit and meet them at the next agreed-upon rendezvous point. If they’re too chatty, turn off comm.

As I thought about this more and more, even more benefits started to creep in. Riding bikes is FUN, pure and simple. If you’re in control of your own bike – simultaneously together but separate from the people you’re riding with – you have a higher likelihood of enjoying the trip. And if you enjoy the trip, you’ll want to do it more.

I had already decided that my kids will learn how to ride motorcycles because there’s a special breed of terrified that is suddenly there when you’re not surrounded by a cage and this level of fright means you pay more attention to the drivers around you. Pretend that every driver is actively trying to kill you and you’ll probably be a better driver. This is only helped when you take yourself out of the living-room-on-wheels mentality of today’s cars, SUVs, and trucks.

The plan was to enroll the kids in BRC at 15.5 years (the minimum for the course), do a lot of parking lot work with them, and begin taking short trips on progressively difficult roads before all the training culminates in something like an 8-10 day road trip with just me and that child. They would pick where we’re going to go and we would map out how we’re going to get there (all back and secondary roads – zero highway stuff). We would stop when they want to take a break or take pictures, and we would have an adventure.

And, if they like it, we can do it more. We can, as a family, take weekend trips somewhere. Overnighters, day trips, hell – even just riding to breakfast across town! Every ride would have them near me, monitoring their progress as a rider and both of us would be getting more comfortable with the idea of them on motorcycles.

These road trips wouldn’t have to stop when they leave the house, either. Personally, I don’t want to ride in the backseat of a car on another road trip. Ever. But I would totally be down for riding bikes with relatives somewhere. Maybe my kids will share the sentiment and when they come home on break from college, on vacation, or just to get away for a bit, we can go on road trips somewhere.

Anywhere.

I think this would strengthen the bond in the family and mitigate the sometimes-harsh separation that happens when kids leave the house. My rationale here is that as you (the parent) mentor your young rider, they become something of a peer rider-wise and you begin to shift roles on the road from “parent” to “riding buddy.” On the road, at least. This might be a bitter pill to swallow, but both of us are going to need that transition at some point and having something that we can do together that embodies a level of independence like motorcycling does… That’s a perfect vessel to switch roles from authority to mentor because you should want your kid to WANT to come to you for advice instead of trying to force your rules and outlook on them.

I mean, there’s definitely a time for that in a kid’s life. You have to teach them how to be a good person. But eventually you have to let them be the person they’re going to be and there’s a point where trying to force yourself is only going to result in them feeling frustrated and wanting to lash out or run away.

So all the reasons that motorcycles make great roadtrip vehicles is the same reason they will make great transitional metaphors for being an adult.

What are my daughter and I going to do on our first road trip? Hopefully make some great memories and start a (fingers-crossed) slow, smooth transition into adulthood.

That’s what we’re going to do!