ouray

ouray
It's me doing a little posing while taking a break at the Ouray, Colorado Jeep Jamboree in 1995.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Wasting Away in TV Land, or A Few Shows to Watch in Your Spare Time


I'm not the kind of guy who pretends to be a highbrow. That's not to say I might not like the opera or ballet, if exposed to live performances on a regular basis. I do appreciate classical music when hearing it live. Sure, I could see myself sipping on a glass of Weller 12 Year bourbon, surrounded by $10,000 of audio gear blasting out a little Tchaikovsky as I pondered the world and my place in it. But, in truth, there are other things, sadly quite pedestrian in nature, that I'd rather do in my spare time.

I find myself in the midst of a three-week run at home. Not only that, but paying work has become alarmingly scarce. In other words, I have some time on my hands. I am catching up on editing just3things videos and work around the house. Typically, by 4 p.m. or so, I am settled into my recliner in front of the TV.

Not a huge expenditure in my annual budget, but one that I could transform into some needed cash for the aforementioned home-improvement projects, is the $200 per year I shovel at Netflix and Amazon Prime. Amazon Prime does have some added value, of which I make good use as I order lots of stuff from Amazon, taking advantage of Prime's free two-day shipping. Each month Prime also allows me to download a free book from a selection of six to eight novels its editors assemble. I also, however, make good use of Amazon's selection of movies and TV series that are free to watch through Amazon Prime. This, of course, is Netflix's core business.

From the time I hop into my recliner around 4:00, until I prepare dinner around 6:30 or 7:00, I'll binge watch three or four episodes of some TV series provided by one of these two content services. Some are Netflix or Amazon originals, some are recently aired series I just missed on regular cable or network TV, and some air on channels I can't find or are unfamiliar with.

Both download-viewing services now allow members to download certain TV series and movies to a device for future viewing. I usually have four or five episodes of some TV series that I can watch on airplanes when traveling.

Here are a few of the series I keep up with on Netflix and Amazon:

Bosch (Amazon) – Based on the series of novels with Bosch as the protagonist, each season is a collection of eight or so episodes based on one of the books. Well structured, written and acted, its a great way to get through a rainy Saturday.

The Man in the High Castle (Amazon) – To be honest, I have no clue what this series is about and I've watched two seasons. The premise is that the Germans and Japanese won WWII. Japan controls everything west of the Rockies, while the Nazis control the rest of what was the U.S. But, this is some sort of alternate universe among other universes of which we are aware because some guy (the man in the high castle) has canisters of films revealing the other realities. Admittedly, this is something I only watch because I can. I am so confused by what's going on, I find it almost unwatchable at times.

Patriot (Amazon) – I was turned on to this quirky series involving a CIA operative with his father as his direct supervisor by some of the PR guys at Honda. He is a reluctant agent undercover with some sort of provider of oil pipeline materials. Two oddities about the series that are fun are the fact that the agent composes and sings songs about his spy work, as well as whenever someone in the pipeline supply company talks about anything work related, it's just double talk. Some of this is simply hysterical.
The core clones of Orphan Black. My favorite: Helena on far right.
Orphan Black (Amazon) – This is the one show I always try to convince people with Amazon Prime to watch when the topic of TV watching surfaces in conversation. The premise is that as babies, several female clones were released into the population in different locations and into different situations. All are unaware they are clones. They begin stumbling across one another and linking up to save themselves and defeat the corporation that made them. The writing and acting is brilliant. Thanks to modern computer tech, several of these clones can appear on camera at the same time and interact with one another. You would never know you are watching the same actor assume all of the clone identities. My favorite of the clones: the Ukrainian assassin.

Goliath (Amazon) – This is a Billy Bob Thornton vehicle and it is an excellent drama. There is only one season (so far), but the stage is set for more to follow. The premise of the first season is a disgraced, down-on-his-luck attorney assembles a rag-tag staff to take on a big corp in a wrongful-death suit. It's gritty, gripping and good.
She can eat my brain and solve my murder any time.
iZombie (Netflix) – This is a series originally airing on the CW network. The premise is that some combination of a tainted recreational drug and an energy drink was consumed by a bunch of people attending a party on a yacht, turning them into zombies. The show's protagonist was turned into a zombie by one of the party goers and wakes up on shore the next morning craving brains. Long story short: She parlays her medical school experience into a job at the county morgue, where she dines on the brains of murder victims then assumes their personalities. Her morgue boss is aware and supportive of her situation. She partners with a homicide detective to help solve the murders. It's nothing short of escapist fun.

Iron Fist (Netflix) – A Netflix project, this Marvel production is everything we've come to expect from Marvel. I'm not a comic-book fan boy. I never spent much time with comic books as a kid and, certainly not as an adult. I don't know how closely the TV series follows the mythology of the comic-book series, but the show is entertaining and the resident hottie is a Japanese martial arts master. It doesn't get much better than that!

Monday, May 15, 2017

Offroading in Paradise: The 2017 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Struts Its Stuff in Gateway Canyons, Colorado

2017 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2
I'm not the kind of guy who complains about the number of stops required to get me from point A to point B. Sure, I'd like a direct flight from Greenville-Spartanburg Airport (GSP) to Podunk, USA, but that's just not possible. With only one or two exceptions, direct flights out of GSP to places I actually want to go simply don't exist. And, if they do exist, they are on airlines on which I refuse to fly.

Delta, American, Southwest, United and Allegiant all service GSP. Although I constantly hear good things about Southwest, I have no interest in its cattle-call boarding nor its first-come-first-served seating. I fly way too much to elbow my way onto every flight. Not to mention, Atlanta is its only nonstop destination from GSP. Allegiant has sporadic non-stops to four Florida cities. Ft. Lauderdale is the only one of the four that I would have any reason to take. Allegiant, however, doesn't fly there every day. Since United began beating up paying passengers and dragging them off the plane to make room for employees it wants to fly somewhere, I have vowed never to fly United again.

I am left with Delta and American. Delta has been my airline of choice for more than 30 years. Having racked up more than 1.8 million miles on Delta, I'm not about to switch carriers now. In a pinch, though, I will fly American, if Delta can't get me where I need to go. From GSP, Delta only flies non-stop to Atlanta, Detroit and NYC. American has a few direct flights to cities like Chicago, Dallas and Philadelphia. 

It just doesn't get much prettier than this.
Recently, a client asked me to attend the 2017 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 truck event near Grand Junction, Colorado. Grand Junction is one of those you-can't-get-there-from-here locations. Well, you can, obviously, but regardless of the airline, it means at least two connections from GSP.

Chevy's travel planners were desperate to book me on United. Conceived as a one-night program, this truck event began the afternoon of the first day and finished early afternoon of day 2. Because of my home base and the distance, I couldn't leave Grand Junction any later than noon and still make it back to GSP on the second day. A second night in Grand Junction was always figured into my schedule. Even at that, the flight bookers wanted me to fly United because it had flights allowing me to arrive in Grand Junction two hours earlier than anything Delta offers. Once in Grand Junction, media attending the event still had nearly a 90-minute drive to the Gateway Canyons Resort near the Colorado/Utah border. 


Digging in my heels, I refused to fly United. Despite my connecting flight from Detroit back to GSP being two hours late taking off – putting me into GSP at 1 a.m. on day 3 – I would make the same choice again. I'm not rewarding United's poor behavior by adding to its revenue stream. Jerks.

I arrived at Gateway Canyons Resort around 4 p.m. on the first day. I was too late to participate in the afternoon's activities. I wasn't upset. Chevy had almost a full day of on-road and off-road driving scheduled for day 2.

Upon arriving at the resort, I had just enough time to settle into my room, change for cocktails at 6:00, and wander around the grounds a bit. Resting on roughly 2,000 acres, Gateway Canyon Resort is everything most of us imagine a luxury resort to be and more. It includes a cattle ranch, spa, helicopter tours, fishing, ATVs and even a car museum. Surrounded on all sides by towering red-rock cliffs and mesas, its beauty is nothing short of stunning.

Although I had driven a Colorado pickup from the airport to the resort – during which I had an impromptu dialog with Officer Friendly, who allowed me to carry on my journey unmolested with nothing more than a stern talking to – day 2 was my first encounter with the Colorado ZR2 package. 


If you haven't guessed, ZR2 is an off-road package. There is much more to it than some badging, and wheels and tires. Immediately, its enhanced front-end styling captures one's attention and fires up the imagination. Functionally, the fresh front-end teams with the ZR2's suspension, lifted 2 inches, to dramatically increase ground clearance and angle of approach. The rear bumper has been reworked, eliminating the step, and the spare tire moved into the cargo bed to increase the angle of departure. Adding 3.5 inches between the wheels on both front and rear axles increases the track, giving the ZR2 a more aggressive and stable stance. 
The Multimatic DSSV damper.
Adding to ZR2's off-roading resume, Chevy installed the first-in-class front and rear electronic-locking differentials. Also segment exclusive are the revolutionary Dynamic Suspensions Spool Valve (DSSV) dampers supplied by Multimatic. In addition to supplying the dampers for the Camaro Z28, Multimatic is known for making dampers for Formula One race cars. Different than the shocks found on most cars and trucks, the specially designed DSSV dampers on the ZR2 allow for on-pavement comfort, as well as the increased wheel travel required when off roading. 

When opting for the ZR2 package, consumers have the choice of a 186-horsepower 2.8-liter 4-cylinder Duramax Diesel or a 308-horsepower 3.6-liter gasoline engine. Chevy mates the V6 with an 8-speed automatic transmission and the Duramax diesel with a 6-speed automatic tranny. 

Our wheel time included highway, as well as some fairly gnarly off-roading. We even did a little rock crawling. The Colorado ZR2 performed brilliantly across the board. My drive partner and I found the diesel a bit slow to answer the throttle, but it was a real go-getter on the rock-crawl event. 
Palisade Ranch of the Gateway Canyons Resort foreman Brian Redmond throwing a rope.
I managed to shoot three just3things videos on this trip. One was with GM's mid-size-trucks chief engineer. I also caught up with the resorts marketing manager, who provided the 411 on the Gateway Canyons area. Finally, despite an airport shuttle leaving about the same time I needed to, Chevy allowed me to drive a Colorado back to Grand Junction, which gave me the opportunity to stop at the resort's ranch to grab a video with its foreman on the art of roping.

A pain in the caboose to get to, the Colorado ZR2 event proved to be well worth the trouble.