YouTube

I started a YouTube page a long time ago (not about motorcycles) and it’s accumulated a few subscribers over the year.  Nothing brag-worthy, less than 200 subs, but I’ve had the channel for so long that I was able to see YouTube go through changes ranging from being able to monetize based on the performance of one video rather than a channel to getting custom URLs.

Recently, YouTube went through a major shift due to advertiser complaints.  The result was a change to the rules for content creators.  You have to have 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 watch hours in the last twelve months, for instance.

But I’m not looking to monetize.  At least, that’s not the goal.  I mean, it would be fun to get to the point where I could monetize and then put every dime earned from making videos featuring motorcycles into a savings account to see how large it could possibly grow before an arbitrary date, but it would be more “fun in an experimental, novel,” way than “this plan is going to pay off my house,” way if that makes sense.

The thing that irked me about YouTube’s shift is that, in order to get a custom URL (that isn’t a string of random characters) you have to have a channel that is at least 30 days old (which is fine), have an uploaded photo as a channel icon (makes sense), have uploaded channel art (obviously), and have 100 subscribers.

That last part is what I don’t like.

I don’t know how the popular YouTube channels are able to unveil their channel to an audience of none and then have a hundred thousand subscribers by the end of the month.  I don’t even know how someone could gain one HUNDRED subscribers in a month!

I did the research, watched, just, so many videos about tagging and key words, responding to comments to build emotional connections between viewer and channel, and how you too can become a YouTube Millionaire, but it was largely a waste of time.  Even YouTube’s own hints about making the best videos you can and having a consistent schedule so people can get excited about watching doesn’t work.

And if I’m being honest with you, I care a little more than I care to admit.

For one thing, it’s kind of like a race to get to the custom URL.  There is no The Planet Grom channel on YouTube outside of my own but there could be and I get a bit anxious when I think about someone else swooping in and taking the name, especially considering all the videos I’ve made with the name in them.

So on one hand, it’s a race to legitimacy.  Once I get the URL, I could make stickers or business cards so when I go out on group rides I can hand them out to the other participants so they know exactly where to go to see their bikes being ridden around me.  It would make everything else easier if it didn’t look like I just started the channel.

But I will admit that I also like seeing the numbers rise.  Subscribers, watch minutes, totals – I’m a sucker for data and numbers and it’s fun to see numbers associated with things that I made.

And it’s a ton of fun interacting with the audience.  It might be an ego boost, but a little validation never hurt anyone.

Anyway, like I said, I don’t know how the bigger channels do it.  Most of my subscribers are friends or members of Team Follow-Back.  One YouTuber said he needed to get around a hundred of his friends and family to subscribe to his channel before he started getting new folks he didn’t know subscribing and you can’t help but remember that you need 100 subscribers to get a real URL, making it easier for anyone to find you and build your base.

It’s a frustrating thing.

Currently I’m at 62 subscribers.  Why not come on over and subscribe yourself?  Go ahead and share the channel on whatever social media you want and let’s get my channel anxiety to go down and we can see where we can take this channel?

I’d appreciate it.

Here’s a link to my YouTube page that’s shorter than the channel’s URL now!

Missing Post

I’m sorry to say there won’t be a new video this Sunday.  I’ve been trying to make a consistent schedule recently with new scripted videos every other week (and, recently, a video just covering a large chunk of just riding through the streets of Oahu to fill in the weeks between).

The issue that I’ve run into isn’t a lack of ideas for the scripts, videos to run audio over, or even recorded video.  The issue is that I want to make the best videos that I can and the video that was supposed to be posted this week, covering sexism in motorcycling, needed an extra paragraph or two in the end to tie everything together.  I know sometimes I rant and go off on tangents and believe that it’s fine to do so, but you have to bring it all together in the end so it doesn’t sound like a mess.

And, unfortunately, that’s what this script felt like.  There were too many sub-topics and nothing pulling everything into a coherent piece at the end and, with a topic I care so much about, it was worth holding off on the release until I can get some time to record again.

I’ll get it, though, and I think it will be one of my best.

Stalled Pt 2

My son made his first New Year’s Resolution this year.  I asked if the kids had any more or less as a goof.  They’re kids, what kind of changes would they really want to make in their lives?

But my son said he wanted to run a 5K.

He’s never shown any interest in running and I’m not one of those parents that force their own activities on the kids.  I mean, sometimes I try to influence them, sure, but I don’t think I force anything.

Anyway, yeah.  He wanted to run a 5K.

I downloaded a Couch to 5K app that I used when I was going through physical therapy with good success and we started going out three times a week.

The structure of the program is very simple for about half of the eight weeks you’re supposed to take to finish it.  There are breaks in between the runs and you’re only increasing your running duration minimally.  Make no mistake: you are making progress.  It’s just easy to look down on it since there are walking breaks between.

Until week 5, that is.  Then you have to do a run with no breaks.  Twenty minutes.

My son did the twenty minutes with no problem, but then he started to waiver and started to think about what else he could be doing with his time.  He could be playing video games or playing with action figures or something.  He could be climbing trees with his friends.  But instead, he’s out here with me sweating and trying to keep a good form and breathing pattern so he doesn’t cramp up.

And he thought about quitting.

We had a big talk about it.  He’s the kind of kid that really feels things out.  He takes in information, asks his questions, and then he disappears.  He might come back if he has more questions.  But eventually he emerges from wherever it is that he hides and declares his decision.

We talked about how everything in life requires practice and even those with talent only get a head start – they still have to develop that talent and shape it to carry them further.  And because everything requires work, there will always be a moment where you have to ask yourself whether what you’re doing is worth working on.  If it is, you continue on your way and you try your best and eventually build an accomplishment that is forever yours and no-one can take that away from you.

Or you can quit.  You can wait for something that is worth pushing through the hard work to get to.

But, I said, running is a pretty easy one to do because it only takes up a sliver of your day.  Forty-five minutes at most of your whole day spent running and, in return, you get stronger legs, lungs, heart, and maybe even a rush of endorphins and a runner’s high.  You build to a 5K and you’ll be the only kid on the block who runs 5Ks.  You’ll get medals and the work will be worth it because you’ll have this thing.

He decided to stick with it.

Through the year I’ve been gone a lot and, since I’m his running buddy, he couldn’t run alone and there were also times when he tripped on runs and had to take breaks or got sick.  For various reasons, it was only yesterday that we were on the last week.  We had one more prescribed run and then the next one should be a 5K.

We were taking it easy on the pace, making sure that he had the stamina to complete the prescribed 28 minutes of straight running.  We hit about 1.7 miles and he called out that he was feeling good.

Great.

Then he said we should just finish the 5K.

In my parental brain, I thought “why not?” I figured we could run until he couldn’t run anymore.  The furthest he had ever run was 2.4 miles so I braced myself for the eventual point where he says he can’t run anymore and started building up reassuring comments about trying your hardest and doing your best and that’s what really makes me proud.

But he did finish it.  We ran the whole 5K.  The distance even accommodated a quarter-mile warm-up walk so the total distance was 3.36 miles so he legitimately ran 3.11 miles on his own.

I couldn’t be more proud of him for sticking with it and doing this.  You could go on any Couch to 5K’s Facebook page and see adults asking people to motivate them to continue running because they’ve hit that point where it stops being easy and starts being work and here’s my son, eight years old, finishing his first 5K.

I was thinking about that a lot when I was stuck at a stop sign that I always seem to stall at, thinking about how cool Vespas are.  They’ve got great lines, built in storage, a USB charger and closed compartment for your phone, and a history that’s beyond awesome.

And they’re automatic, which means I would never have to worry about stalling at a stop sign again.

The stop sign in question is right down the road from my house.  For whatever miracle of a reason, I’m always able to get there and I think it’s because I don’t want my neighbors to see me struggling with the stupid clutch and this somehow triggers the instinct or repressed memories for the MSF Basic RiderCourse in my brain and allows me to get moving with minimal stalling.

It’s still embarrassing, though.  Nobody says they struggle with the clutch and part of my brain says this must be because they’re lying and trying to save face.  After all, you have a mostly male base in the motorcycle community which is already heavy on machismo and posturing in general with its vests, beards, loud pipes, or ridiculous top speeds.  It’s bro if there were ever bros to bro.

I’m not saying there aren’t women or anything – I’m just saying that there doesn’t seem to be much room to be… a little more open and honest.

But I’m way too punk rock to care about that in the motorcycle community and tell anyone who asks that yeah, I’m having a hell of a time.  If I’m right and in any way an example, someone will later be able to say they too were having issues with the clutch or at LEAST they could feel better knowing they aren’t alone.

Still.  There I was at the stop sign on stall number eight or whatever, wondering how many times a bike can take being stalled and restarted before it exploded and how likely it would be to get a straight trade for a 150cc Vespa if I offered the Grom.

But then I thought of my son and how bad I would feel if I gave up now.  My love of motorcycles is now well-established in the house.  My son made me a Lego Vespa for Christmas and my daughter likes to talk about how excited she is about getting a Honda Rebel and going on road trips with me.

So to get the Grom home and give up on it – to give up on all of this in its infancy… seemed wrong.

I just had to do it.  Maybe my mind would be changed after some success.  So I started being more deliberate with the controls and eventually was able to take off.  I turned around, went back to the same stop sign, stopped, and tried again.

And took off.

I went around and did it again and stalled.

And stalled again.

But then I took off successfully.

For three hours I did this loop and got to the point where I was taking off WAY more than I was stalling.  I tried to make a game of it.  I would take off successfully from the dreaded stop sign of doom five times in a row and then I would ride around the neighborhood.

I took off successfully four times and then stalled on the fifth.  But I said screw it and went around the neighborhood anyway.  There’s a busy intersection and I stalled a bunch trying to get going from a stop there, but chalked it up to nerves and relaxed.  I was way more calm than I had been on previous attempts at riding and it worked pretty well.  I stalled rarely.  I began to run into the weirdos in the neighborhood.  You know the types: the ones that know it’s still early in the morning and the roads are fairly deserted so if they needed to find a CD or something, it would be perfectly acceptable to stop their van in the middle of a tun in an intersection to look for it.  Or the two vans parked in the road so the drivers could talk to each other.

I even came to a stop sign to see my neighbors across from me.  Recognition flashed across their face and I pulled away nicely with no stalling.

Eventually I figured out that my left hand needs to be loose THIS much for the clutch to grab and then I can accelerate.

I had achieved some level of success.

I was feeling good about this.

I rode home and came inside feeling victorious and told my family that I almost had it.  I was almost to the point where I was comfortable to ride on the real roads.  Maybe one day of early morning riding on the weekend when nobody’s on the road so I can get used to lane changes, traffic lights, the feel of the road under these different tires, etc. etc.

And then I can go out and get more footage for my YouTube channel and all the videos I plan on putting up.

They reacted… well, they didn’t react very much.  I guess they either expected this or I took too long for this to be applause-worthy.  Such as life, I suppose.

Still.  I feel good about the accomplishment.  It’s mine and nobody can take that away from me.

Stalled

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!

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!