A Moment of Opportunity

I think I mentioned that on Thursday, I’m doing this 160-mile (give or take) bike ride, Ride Around Mt. Rainier in One Day (RAMROD). That’s why my family took off for the beach this week: Because on Wednesday I’ll be getting ready for this ride, and then on Thursday Dad and I will get up about 3:00 am (!) to drive down to Enumclaw to start riding at 5:30 am.

In preparation for this insanity, I’ve started getting up slightly earlier every morning. Yesterday it was 5:00 am; this morning, 4:30; tomorrow, 4:00 am (!!!!!! I try not to think about it too much). The theory is that I’ll be able to go to bed earlier each night, and that maybe it’ll make 3:00 am feel a little less like the middle of the night. A month ago, it actually wouldn’t have been so middle-of-the-night-ish, because the sun started rising about 4:00 am. But alas, we’re down from 16 to a measly 15 or so hours of daylight, and it’s definitely quite dark even at 4:30 am.

Anyway, getting up this early gives me some time, and I’ve spent a bit of it reading meta-analyses and discussions about the current global political situation. Many people I know have noticed it’s depressing, alarming, intolerable… but these couple articles I’ve been reading go farther than that, into interesting (and, yes, alarming) 10,000-foot views.

In the first one, titled “History tells us what may happen next with Brexit and Trump,” the author argues that people periodically inflict chaos upon themselves, but because we–all people–are short-term thinkers, we don’t remember that we’ve done this before. The academics who do notice are dismissed by the masses as “academic elites” who know nothing about the real world. The author suggests that

based on history we are due another period of destruction, and based on history all the indicators are that we are entering one. …It will come in ways we can’t see coming, and will spin out of control so fast people won’t be able to stop it.

He argues that things are likely to get really bad, possibly for many people, and cites a number of historical examples (think: Communist uprisings; World War I) where really horrendous numbers of people died from self-inflicted choices. Of course, nobody saw it coming, because we don’t look back at the past. But it’s there.

…it’s all inevitable. I don’t know what it will be, but we are entering a bad phase. It will be unpleasant for those living through it, maybe even will unravel into being hellish and beyond imagination. Humans will come out the other side, recover, and move on. The human race will be fine, changed, maybe better. But for those at the sharp end?… this will be their Somme.

I find this conclusion particularly interesting. He begins his article arguing that the Black Death may have actually strengthened and improved humans in the long run (see article for full argument), and perhaps this will be our Black Death/Communist revolution/Archduke Ferdinand moment. But taking this period in the broader view of history as one of many similar events, which will eventually be overcome and perhaps even strengthen us–this is not an easy view to take, because today, right now, we have to face the reality of the possible misery we’re inflicting on ourselves. But maybe it’s a little bit hopeful for the long-term.

Also, it would sure be great if we didn’t inflict this on ourselves. If we could learn from those past mistakes. History didn’t have the kind of global communication network we enjoy today; it’s easier than ever to communicate with thousands, millions, perhaps even billions of people around the world. Unfortunately, it’s also easier than ever to live in an echo chamber, continually hearing our own views and thinking they’re the only truth. This is how people come to believe that everything is worse than ever before, and the world is falling apart: Now we can instantly receive news of every bad event happening around the world, and then our chosen voices reinforce the fearful belief of spiraling insanity. Even though we can communicate more easily than ever before, this may not actually be good for us.

In the second article, written at the beginning of May before Trump sealed the nomination, is titled “Democracies end when they are too democratic.” In it, the author compares Plato’s “Republic” to today. Now, I can’t claim to have read it (my classical education was woefully neglected; my parents have so much to answer for!), but fortunately the author assumes we’ve all missed our classical educations, and he summarizes for us:

And it is when a democracy has ripened as fully as this, Plato argues, that a would-be tyrant will often seize his moment.

[Plato describes the tyrant this way:] He is usually of the elite but has a nature in tune with the time — given over to random pleasures and whims, feasting on plenty of food and sex, and reveling in the nonjudgment that is democracy’s civil religion. He makes his move by “taking over a particularly obedient mob” and attacking his wealthy peers as corrupt. If not stopped quickly, his appetite for attacking the rich on behalf of the people swells further. He is a traitor to his class — and soon, his elite enemies, shorn of popular legitimacy, find a way to appease him or are forced to flee. Eventually, he stands alone, promising to cut through the paralysis of democratic incoherence. It’s as if he were offering the addled, distracted, and self-indulgent citizens a kind of relief from democracy’s endless choices and insecurities. He rides a backlash to excess—“too much freedom seems to change into nothing but too much slavery” — and offers himself as the personified answer to the internal conflicts of the democratic mess. He pledges, above all, to take on the increasingly despised elites. And as the people thrill to him as a kind of solution, a democracy willingly, even impetuously, repeals itself.

The article goes on to discuss the fragility of democracy against tyrants, how our amazing freedom literally allows us to choose our own downfall:

I think we must confront this dread and be clear about what this election has already revealed about the fragility of our way of life and the threat late-stage democracy is beginning to pose to itself. …[American democracy] is not immortal, nor should we assume it is immune to the forces that have endangered democracy so many times in human history. …It is precisely because of the great accomplishments of our democracy that we should be vigilant about its specific, unique vulnerability: its susceptibility, in stressful times, to the appeal of a shameless demagogue.

This goes back to the previous article I mentioned, how people forget the bad choices of the past and will repeatedly pick options not in their best interest. With democracy as democratic as we have it — and the article argues that it’s more democratic than ever before — people literally do have the power to choose harmful leaders, with increasingly weak checks that can no longer serve to protect people from their own bad decisions.

It also goes into how the rise of the Internet media and the decline of, well, mediated media has exacerbated the situation, as I noted above in my own thoughts:

The web’s algorithms all but removed any editorial judgment, and the effect soon had cable news abandoning even the pretense of asking “Is this relevant?” or “Do we really need to cover this live?” in the rush toward ratings bonanzas. In the end, all these categories were reduced to one thing: traffic, measured far more accurately than any other medium had ever done before. …And what mainly fuels this is precisely what the Founders feared about democratic culture: feeling, emotion, and narcissism, rather than reason, empiricism, and public-spiritedness. Online debates become personal, emotional, and irresolvable almost as soon as they begin. Godwin’s Law — it’s only a matter of time before a comments section brings up Hitler — is a reflection of the collapse of the reasoned deliberation the Founders saw as indispensable to a functioning republic.

Then, of course, the stage is set for Trump:

  • We’ve got people who don’t know history and aren’t aware of the many precedents of masses choosing catastrophic options;
  • We’ve got the loudest voice being heard the most, and traditional media tossing out editorial quality in favor of pursuing higher ratings and more traffic;
  • We’ve allowed the power to transfer to all of us, giving great power to ignorance and foolishness, with no balance or check to prevent the most compelling foolish choices (the article says, “The vital and valid lesson of the Trump phenomenon is that if the elites cannot govern by compromise, someone outside will eventually try to govern by popular passion and brute force”);
  • We love to be entertained! Let the most entertaining person win.

I’ll let you all read the whole article, which then proceeds to evaluate why Trump is, in fact, winning–and why he may actually win it big. The long and short of it is that people, collectively, aren’t able to look beyond their own little moments to see a bigger picture.

This is why the Republicans couldn’t unite to defeat Trump in the primaries, and I greatly fear that “never Hillary” holdouts may win their battle but loose us all the war: Individuals aren’t willing to hold their noses and vote against something terrible (Trump) when it means voting for something less ideal (Hillary). Perhaps this time, Democrats can at least learn from the recent history of the Republicans’ failure to stop Trump, and die-hard Bernie supporters can vote for Hillary even though they don’t love her. Surely, if you’re starving, you might prefer cake, but you’d still eat Brussels sprouts over a pile of poop.

The appeal of Trump is compelling and understandable: A promise to instantly “win” for people who suddenly, unexpectedly started losing after a lifetime of winning themselves. The global picture of terror at every turn, combined with the uneven economic recovery that has left many folks in a tough spot, makes for potent motivation to seek out the loudest, strongest voice. He’s the choice that absolves you from ever having to make another choice again. Overwhelmed and terrified with how things seem to be going? Of course you’ll seek the blustering strongman who promises protection and stability, even while engendering destruction and danger.

To call this fascism doesn’t do justice to fascism. Fascism had, in some measure, an ideology and occasional coherence that Trump utterly lacks. But his movement is clearly fascistic in its demonization of foreigners, its hyping of a threat by a domestic minority (Muslims and Mexicans are the new Jews), its focus on a single supreme leader of what can only be called a cult, and its deep belief in violence and coercion in a democracy that has heretofore relied on debate and persuasion. …our paralyzed, emotional hyperdemocracy leads the stumbling, frustrated, angry voter toward the chimerical panacea of Trump.

We probably don’t need to be told this, but the article finishes by reminding us the danger of picking the bully to protect us.

Like all tyrants, he is utterly lacking in self-control. Sleeping a handful of hours a night, impulsively tweeting in the early hours, improvising madly on subjects he knows nothing about, Trump rants and raves as he surfs an entirely reactive media landscape. Once again, Plato had his temperament down: A tyrant is a man “not having control of himself [who] attempts to rule others”; a man flooded with fear and love and passion, while having little or no ability to restrain or moderate them; a “real slave to the greatest fawning,” a man who “throughout his entire life … is full of fear, overflowing with convulsions and pains.”

When we choose the biggest, loudest, meanest guy to protect us–a person totally unable to govern his own words, let alone an entire country–we will certainly suffer consequences. At best, that might mean four years of chaos and disrupted international relations, but at worst…I don’t know. The article closes rather alarmingly:

In terms of our liberal democracy and constitutional order, Trump is an extinction-level event. It’s long past time we started treating him as such.

But going back again to that first discussion, when you take the broader view, what do you see? Maybe this is the first drop in a thunderstorm of global chaos, or maybe it’s just some bird poop from a random passing crow. Even if it’s the former, what will happen in the very long-term? No system of government lasts forever. Either we take this as a warning shot across the bow and deliberately choose to reevaluate our way of governing to better fit with today’s culture, technology, and needs… or the same thing will happen, but after a lot more misery, loss, and bloodshed.

People, as people, will continue. Hopefully we will learn from this (although history suggests we won’t), build on the good and leave behind the bad from this time. It’s not all as dark as these articles paint it, because with every risk comes a reward. With people shaken out of their complacency, this is an opportunity to redeem and renew our system of government. It’s an opportunity to rise above the petty, selfish, hateful rhetoric and show what democracy is really good for–bringing our best and brightest to the top to lead us all. Maybe we don’t need the elites to be our checks and balances anymore; maybe we can use our technology to come together to make better choices than ever before.

Maybe.

Strangely Quiet

My life is suddenly very, very quiet.

I tidied up the house, and it stayed that way. I made dinner, and nobody lost their minds over how they don’t like beets. I went for a bike ride to do some errands, and it didn’t matter how long my errands took. I baked cookies with Christy, and we had a complete conversation with no interruptions. Janice is coming to clean, and it’ll stay just as she leaves it for days.

…Because the other 2/3 of my family are in (unexpectedly sunny) Seaside!

They drove down yesterday morning, pretty much first thing, leaving me to quietly pick up the house and then read my book until church. Bizarre. My bike ride to church was easier than normal (no extra 50 pounds, I guess), but it was odd attending alone. Coming home, no worrying about nap time; just get some lunch and mosey on down to Redmond with Dad to pick up our RAMROD ride packets.

It all seems delightfully calm, except I really didn’t sleep well last night. That’s how I know I’m feeling disturbed about something, even subconsciously. It’s great to have the time to get everything done, and I’m enjoying it — and it’ll be really helpful on Wednesday and Thursday, as I prep for and then do RAMROD — but I’ll be happy to have the family back too.

Meanwhile, I’m going to try to enjoy the peace and quiet, and being able to do what I want (or need) to do whenever I like.

Superhero Camp

Benji has really taken a shine to these “Captain Awesome” books lately. They’re short chapter books for approximately second-grade readers, so while Benji usually understands all the words, he doesn’t always get the nuances. But he gets the gist, which is that this second grade boy has a secret superhero identity as Captain Awesome, and the Captain fights “evil” when he sees it (which is frequently). In one of the Captain Awesome books, the boy goes to superhero camp, and since we read that book, Benji has been wanting to do his own superhero camp.

Which proved not only possible, but quite fun, with some planning. I brainstormed ideas with Mom, and we invited our friends Colin and Wendy McCurley (oh, and their chauffeur and chef Jane) over to join us. In the end, I put together a scavenger hunt, with the kids having to do different activities at each station in order to achieve the final goal. Oh, and did I mention the McCurleys came in costume? It was perfect! Benji was thrilled, and of course donned and wore his superhero cape the entire time.

Clue 1

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This clue, which is a map to the park where the rest of the activities occurred, I cut into puzzle pieces. Their first activity was to put the pieces back together and follow the map to the location marked with an X. This was fun because it also involved a lot of tape, which is popular with the McCurleys right now.

I had also drawn arrows on the sidewalk for the kids to follow, and it was pretty delightful watching them go dashing down the sidewalk shouting, “There’s a clue! There’s another clue!” I had to dash ahead to make sure everything else was ready to go. Fortunately, Mom camped out at the park and had kept everything ready.
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Clue 2

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For the second activity, I had seeded the sandbox with 45 shiny pennies, just sort of tossing them around so they really glittered in the sun — but were partly buried. I gave Wendy the second clue, which they figured out meant that they needed to collect the pennies. Fortunately, Colin had worn his “accessory pants” and was prepared with many pockets.

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Benji got to dig up the third clue, which was buried with the pennies, and he immediately recognized the location of the next activity.
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Clue 3

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This clue had the kids build a tower to reach a bag dangling from the play structure, and they had to build a tower out of blocks to touch the bag to open it up. Each block cost 3 pennies. In the bag was the next clue and a bunch of marbles. I had built a tower and calibrated the bag height accordingly, but interestingly, Colin evolved a different tower design that required more blocks than I anticipated. Fortunately, I’d provided enough pennies for 15 blocks, which proved ample.

Building the tower, it was good to have Colin there because it took him quite a while of interating the design and the buying blocks. It did take a long time for Colin to fish pennies out of pocket, however, and Benji did have to go back and mine a few more pennies at the end. Wendy, meanwhile, simply went up to where the bag was tied and suggested letting it down from there. I’m pretty sure she’ll be ruler of the world one day.

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Clue 4

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For this activity, the kids had to build a marble maze across the blue balance mushrooms and get the marble into a bowl containing the fifth clue. Mom provided the big bin of marble maze pieces and some blue tape for stabilization. We ended up shortening the run, but it still worked out quite well.

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Clue 5

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At last, we get to eat something! We all went back home for s’mores (made in our toaster oven! It actually works amazingly well) while Mom kindly cleaned up and brought all the stuff back home. These were more fun to make than eat, evidently. Benji managed to consume many “raw” marshmallows but declined to make a s’more; Wendy made hers and admired it but didn’t eat it; Colin actually ate one and all his chocolate vanished; and Jane and I each ate one.

And that was superhero camp!
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The kids all got prizes at the end, which included beautiful glittery stickers ($1 each at Michael’s), a tiny book of post-it notes (free swag from Mom’s work), and a miscellaneous prize supplied by Jane (leftover from a church event) — Benji selected magnetic ABCs.

Benji is already asking when he gets to do superhero camp again. I definitely deem it a success.

If you give a mommy a data set

Too bad they don’t have this T-shirt in kid sizes, because today science just got real here.

If you give a kid a car, he’s gonna race it down the slide.

This morning we started sliding Matchbox cars down our outdoor slide. It didn’t take long for us to start racing them, and comparing which one went farthest.
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And if he slides cars down the slide, he’ll want to measure how far they go.

Naturally (at least, for us) it wasn’t long before we pulled out our 100′ tape measure and started actually measuring how far the cars went, compared to each other. Benji quickly learned how to read the tape measure, and it wasn’t long before he accurately reported the distances himself.
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And if he measures how far they’re going, mommy will want to write it down.

Of course, we then started recording the distances each car went…
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And finally, 57 cars later, we had a full data set. (Although, in reviewing it, I suspect we may have done one car twice. Noooo!) I should mention that this took a long time, but our interest never wavered. We even took an hour-long break to do errands, but immediately resumed when we got back home.
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And if you give a mommy a data set, she’s going to turn it into a bar graph.

This step tested Benji’s patience, since I had to measure and draw little lines very meticulously, and I had to uniquely number each car’s data. I could’ve done it in Excel, but I felt like seeing me graph it by hand would help him understand the process better.
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By the time I was 10 cars into drawing the graph, Benji was learning how to read the graph. By the time I reached Car 30, he was getting pretty good, and easily understood the longer line = car went farther. He also immediately, without my telling him, figured out that the two dots right on the X-axis were the two bulldozers that didn’t even get off the slide.

Unfortunately, lacking graph paper the size of butcher paper, I had to keep the Y-axis increments to every 3″. That made it tough for him unless the bar actually touched a Y-axis line, but he’s getting the concept of reading the graph as “it’s close to X feet.” This is tough since he’s the kid who, when told “It’s almost 6:00,” will retort, “No, it’s 5:58.”

Next up: Plotting the data in Excel and seeing if we have a normal distribution. Also, I want to borrow a fairly delicate scale and weigh each vehicle to see if weight correlated with distance traveled. Having observed all these vehicles, however, I noticed that the very farthest distance — 9’1″! — actually involved the car bouncing perhaps a dozen times after hitting the ground the first time. We measured where each vehicle came to rest, not where it first struck. For the farthest-traveling vehicles, the final stop spot usually involved at least a couple extra feet of bounces, so while a heavier vehicle might come off the slide first, it didn’t always end up landing farthest away.

This is all normal summertime activity, right?

Friday Photos

These are all from today, since we already shared our amazing planet extravaganza. Today we went to Matthews Beach Park for the first time, meeting our friends the McCurleys there.

Benji said: “Mommy, look, big ducks!”
Me: “Those are geese.”
Benji: “I’m going to go pet the geese!”
"Mommy, I'm going to pet the geese!"

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Later, after failing to pet geese but succeeding at getting super wet in the lake, then rinsing off and changing into entirely new clothes, we played at the playground. At first there were a zillion kids there — at least two separate day camps had staked out areas, one near the water and one by the play toys — but for a brief interval the two camps cleared out and left some room for other kids to play.

Benji fell off the merry-go-round the first time, which is why he looks so cautious this time.
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Benji found this and said, “This is a while blood cell and I’m a germ!” …but later it just evolved into Benji and the McCurleys just taking turns going through it and landing on each other.
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Wahoo Elemnt Review 

This post is more for me to coalesce my thoughts about this Garmin GPS alternative. I’ll start by saying that I’ve used a Garmin GPS since at least 2008, and 5 of those years I’ve used a Garmin 800 with few of the problems many of my riding buddies have struggled with. I’ve been able to accurately navigate; upload data to various sites (with only the annoying hiccup of Garmin Communicator vanishing, mandating manual uploads); and I’ve only very rarely had data issues. Perhaps a lukewarm review for a $500 device, but hey, at least I can say honestly, It performed as advertised – again, more than many Garmin users I know!

Overall, then, I’m one of Garmin’s few satisfied customers. Even so, I heard in fall of 2015 about a potential Garmin GPS competitor coming out in 2016 that piqued my interest: the Wahoo Elemnt

I had heard good things about Wahoo’s other products, and in pre-release reviews, the device sounded like it had potential. So I got on the mailing list, and occasionally checked to see if any new, more comprehensive reviews were available. Months went by; the product release was delayed (not surprisingly); and finally reviews of the real product started appearing.

Disappointing reviews. I really wanted this to replace the Garmin, and from what I heard, it has a lot of potential… But still a long way to go. Many bugs and glitches plagued early adopters. I opted to wait – perhaps indefinitely, as my Garmin did work just fine, after all.

Then, on some long rides, I got a low battery warning on my Garmin, even though I had started the day fully charged. Finally, on one long ride, the battery died entirely about 35 miles from home. 

That wouldn’t do; aside from losing data (I worked hard for that!), I rely on the map to follow the route, since many 100+ mile days go on roads I’m not familiar with.
That evening, I ordered the Wahoo, mediocre reviews be darned. Then I got excited and compulsively checked the tracking information until it arrived. Dang, still in Memphis!

This story is going long, and I haven’t even gotten to the review. Let’s go there now.

First, a caveat: There are lots of good online reviews describing all the features and workings of the Wahoo. I don’t have a Kickr, which is Wahoo’s trainer that integrates with the Elemnt for some cool features; I don’t have sensors; and I won’t be using all the features. So this is really just what stood out to me as I used it.

Setup

Easy. Way easier than a Garmin, because it’s 95% on my phone. So, downside #1: If you don’t have a smartphone, you can’t use this device. Fortunately, I do, and it’s simple to pair with the Elemnt. 

The setup took a little changing of mindset, because you can set a certain number of fields to display on the screen in order of priority, and they appear with the first priority one at the top and the lowest at bottom. But then you can change on the fly how many data fields show up by zooming in and out using buttons while on the ride. This is actually pretty neat, because the remaining fields resize to fit the page, letting you focus on only certain stats exclusively or see more different data types, depending on need.

You can fully customize all the pages, and add more if you want them. 
You can also very easily configure stock pages, such as map and elevation pages, to show fields you want. 
All this is way nicer that the Garmin, because changing settings on the Garmin requires going a zillion sub-menus deep.

Routes and Navigation

This was a big deal for me, because, as mentioned before, that’s the main reason I got a GPS. 

First off, the Elemnt automatically syncs with your online Strata/RideWithGPS/etc. account. You log in once, and thereafter it syncs all your routes from those sites. Then you simply select that route and run it – no worrying about TCX versus GPX, or accidentally saving the route into the wrong folder (both common frustrations with Garmin users).

The map is meh, even plain bad. It comes pre-loaded with Open Street maps, but the quality isn’t good and you can’t read road names (I’m not sure they’re even included). It’s hard to make out details on the b&w screen, and just following breadcrumbs would be nearly impossible. Not only that, but there seems to be some bug where part of the map around my house is blanked out in the shape of an X when I look at it while stationary at home, but that seems to go away on the road.

Now, on the one hand, Garmins don’t come with any maps at all, and you have to buy them for extra – a bit harsh when you’ve just shelled out $500 already. But, on the other hand, the maps are decent, and I have always followed breadcrumbs that way, with good success.

Fortunately, the turn-by-turn directions on the Wahoo are excellent. They tell you well in advance-the exact time varies by speed, it seems, but least 700 feet ahead-when a turn is coming, and then as you approach, a little line of LEDs at the top of the screen start running along in the direction of your turn. Very cool. Then, when you complete the turn, it flashes up your next turn and how far away it is.

Also, this navigation doesn’t block your ride data at all: it simply zooms your screen out to accommodate the turn notice, then returns you to normal viewing when the turn is done.

Rerouting needs work. The Wahoo is dumb if you turn around, and keeps telling you to turn right when you need to go left. Then again, I’ve gone way off course, and once I get back on, it seamlessly picks up where I left off. Those are both ongoing problems with Garmin.

I have yet to test how it does on complicated routes that cross over themselves, a common Garmin foible.

But the rides I’ve done following routes, it’s easy to anticipate and take the correct turns, and if lost, I could use the rudimentary map to make my way back to the route.

Riding

First off, I have to say I have no sensors of any kind. No heart rate, no power, no cadence or speed sensors. So I don’t know how all that works, whether it’s smooth or not. But based on my experience using the device, I expect those would be easy to install and would work well when installed.

Speaking of installing, you can use the same mounts as a Garmin, only rotated 90 degrees. It’s a bit of a tight squeeze; the Wahoo isn’t actually supposed to work with the Garmin mounts, although they made the mounting system nearly identical and that can’t be coincidence.

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Riding on the road, I found the screen much easier to read than the Garmin (I actually did a side-by-side ride with both devices on my handlebars at the same time). Navigation between screens using the buttons is fine, but I do miss the touch screen of the Garmin…except when the Wahoo is in my pocket. The Garmin always ended up on some random sub-menu 27 clicks deep when carried in my pocket.

Anyway, clicking between screens and reading metrics is easy. When following a route, you get the elevation profile provided on a separate screen, and when using laps, there’s a lap screen that appears. As with all the other screens, data fields are fully customizable, including how many fields and where they appear.

When riding, there are LEDs on the left-hand side that indicate performance. They show one LED lit up to indicate average, and then the LEDs above or below light up more or less depending how far above or below average you currently are. “Average what?” you may ask. Well, you can choose. I chose speed, since I don’t have sensors, but you can also do heart rate or cadence… possibly also power, but I’m not sure. For someone training hard or with a goal of maintaining a certain average, this would be great. Since I ride up a lot of hills, I spend a substantial amount of time in the “below average” region; also, if I’m out for a gentle cruise or a commute, I don’t exactly need to continually be egged on to ride faster. But I could always turn them off, and I haven’t, so there’s that.

Of course, it has auto-pause, although I haven’t figured out if you can set it to auto-pause at a certain speed like you can with a Garmin. It uses the LEDs to flash and indicate you’re paused or resumed, as well as a notification on the screen.

Like the Garmin 1000, you can receive text messages and phone call alerts on the Wahoo. This works just fine. You can dismiss the alert or say “DND” to alerts, and you choose the DND duration.

I’m not sure if Garmin has a tracking feature, but the Wahoo also has a feature where you can share a link with friends/family who want to know where you are on the road, and they use it to look at where you are on a map. I believe that’s a work in progress, as it literally just shows you as a dot, with no back trail or route or any other information.

Finishing a Ride

This may be my favorite part of the Wahoo… although I’m not sure. I really like it a lot for various other features. When I get home, it connects to my WiFi and automatically uploads my rides to the selected sites I linked up with initially. No more finding time to sit down at my computer, digging out the cable, and then hunting down the correct ride data to upload. Nope. Just appears, like magic, on my RideWithGPS and Strava sites. I’ve been going back and renaming the rides, but that’s all the manual work I have to do. Pretty phenomenal.

The Bottom Line

I have only done one very long ride with the Wahoo so far, and a number of shorter rides, so I haven’t pushed the battery life to the max. It’s advertised as 17 hours (I turned the backlight off entirely), which I certainly hope is true. We’ll see.

That said, I have cautiously come to the conclusion that I like the Wahoo much better than my old Garmin 800. Once I have confirmed the battery life works for all-day rides, I’m going to sell or give away my old Garmin and never look back.

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Easy to read data fields.
Easy to change data fields on the fly.
Phenomenal turn-by-turn directions.
Excellent site integration both downloading and uploading.
Easy to set up, easy to change settings.
Overall excellent performance and use.
Garmin 1000 features for a $300 price tag and better, more reliable performance.

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Maps stink.
No touch screen.
B&W screen.
Meh screen resolution. (We are pretty spoiled for amazing, crisp, gorgeous resolution these days.)

Did I mention planets?

First a silly story. Benji and Ian have been looking at Wikipedia entries for bodies in the Solar System. While doing this, they encountered the term trans-Neptunian objects, which Ian explained and Benji understood as “anything out past Neptune.”

Later, we learned that there’s a new dwarf planet out in the Kuiper Belt (currently euphoneously named 2015RR245), and Benji’s comment was classic: “OH! Daddy! This must be a trans-Neptunian object!” 

After that, most of our morning was devoted to planets.

When coloring planets, we have had to break out reference guides to make sure to use the correct colors.

Benji’s pen-opening technique results in ink all over his face. Good thing it’s washable.
Team effort Solar System: I drew the planets (not real taxing) and Benji colored them. He picked the colors, too, with some discussion and consultation of his big planet book. He enjoyed making the far-away dwarf planets and Kuiper Belt objects all silly colors, since we don’t have good pictures to guide us. 

Later in the morning, we also made two sets of proportional planets with sidewalk chalk.

The sun is the arc to the left, while you can barely make out Pluto to the far right on the sidewalk. Distances definitely not to scale.

One, in the driveway, assumed the sun was 15 feet in diameter, and all the planets went from there. Pluto was, as expected, a speck. This really bothered Benji, who wanted to color them in. But most were too small to color.

So I made a bigger version in the street, where Mercury is 12″ in diameter. For the record, that made Jupiter 30′ in diameter and Saturn 24′. The sun was so big I just drew a straight line across the street to start.

I used our 100′ tape measure as a compass to make those big circles. When I finished Jupiter, Benji tab over and exclaimed, “Holy moly, that is big!” So perhaps we have a slightly better understanding of planet sizes relative to each other now.