Review: Elecom DEFT Wireless Trackball (M-DT2DRBK)

After I moved house, one of my goals in setting up a new workspace was to have a desk I actually used. I had tried the laptop-connected-to-a-monitor thing and it just didn’t work that well. So I found a small PC that could mount behind a monitor and then I hung the monitor on an arm so nothing would be on my desk except for a keyboard and mouse. This way I could have a clear desk that wasn’t taken up by computer stuff.

This also meant I needed a keyboard and mouse. Before setting up my writing desk, most of my work was done on the laptop’s built-in keyboard and trackpad. Now I had a nice mechanical keyboard and an average mouse.

Once I started putting in serious hours at the new desk, I started to notice a twinge of pain/soreness in my right wrist. The pain was mostly a dull ache in the outside of my wrist centered around the joint. This started not long after I began using a mouse again. Maybe it wouldn’t have been so bad if I had splashed out for a nicer mouse. Maybe not. The way the pain started up as soon as I picked up the mouse bothered me. It was like flipping a light switch.

Before diving into the ergo-mouse world I walked away from the desktop for a few days. I wanted to see exactly what I was dealing with and if it would clear up on its own. My writing came to a standstill during this time, but I needed to be sure about my wrist. Having a few days “off” was worth way more that doing more damage. I also realized that the type of work I was doing was contributing to the problem. I was heavily involved in getting a client project out the door. So I was outside of my usual Vim writing environment, and had to use the mouse a lot more. Had this not been the case, the sore wrist might not have happened right away.

The pain let up after a day’s rest and a good night’s sleep. After two days it was like I never had the problem. So I knew it would go away with rest if I stopped hurting it. The real test was so try the mouse again. With in a few hours at the computer the pain started to come back. Not good. But it did convince me that a “better” mouse might not exist for me.

So I started looking into trackballs.

Continue reading “Review: Elecom DEFT Wireless Trackball (M-DT2DRBK)”

Book Production the Hard Way

Over the past few weeks I’ve been working to put a large project to bed. What started when a potential client contacted me about producing an ebook ended with the development of a combined ebook and PDF build system that saved a bunch of time when last minute changes were needed.

This project built on what I learned from a previous project where I paired an overly-complicated makefile with Pandoc to generate an ebook in French. This time, the project was in English which made it much easier to tailor my build system to the project. Since final page count of the PDF (6″×9″ trim size) came to just over 400 pages, I needed every shortcut and hack I could come up with to keep the ePub and PDF versions in sync.

Along the way I managed to have Pandoc, Make, Sed, Ruby, and LuaLaTeX all playing nicely together when I gave the command to make all.

Continue reading “Book Production the Hard Way”

Clutter of the world spilling over into my mind

Warning: This is a therapy post.

I’m currently sitting in a mess. Literally. I estimate that I’m about 30% done with a move that will happen in a few days. The mess that surrounds me is the things that haven’t yet made it into a box or bag. And that’s the problem.

As I look around at this mess laid bare, I can help but think of how it’s weighed on my mind over the last four years that I’ve lived in this apartment. Most of it was out-of-sight but it wasn’t out-of-mind. I had thought I had done a pretty good job of keeping down the clutter, but now that I’m having to clean out all of my hiding places I have to face the mess.

Seeing it spread out causes a mild depression that seems to glue me to a comfy chair with my iPad. It’s much easier to mindlessly browse the web than to deal with sorting and cleaning up.

It doesn’t even help that I have a hard deadline. The movers are coming on Thursday no matter if I’m done or not.

I keep circling around the though “how did I manage to get so much stuff into one bedroom.”

I also realize that in the bigger scheme of things, it’s also not that much stuff. I’ve got all the clothes that are making the move into two suitcases and a duffel bag. The grab-and-go camera stuff is in one shoulder bag. The rest is in a plastic storage box. The laptop and tablet with needed accessories are in another backpack. The new mini-desktop computer and related stuff (monitor, keyboard, mouse, and monitor) will fit into another moving box. My desk and shelving unit will get moved as-is, so I don’t have to do much there.

It’s the stuff that has a use, but only gets used rarely that’s killing me. Things like a DVD writer that I took from an old desktop tower. I need to rip a disc every now and then, but this one needs an USB adapter. So that’s another thing that has to go with it. That’s the stuff that builds up into clutter. Things that are useful, but don’t get used that often.

Moving is when that stuff has to be dealt with.

So I write this as a way of procrastinating. It’s easier to sit at a a nice clicky keyboard than do the work of having to sort through this clutter.

One of the reasons I’m having this particular bout of paralysis is because of the contrast of how I lived on the Georgian trip.

There, I was living out of one bag. And I did so for three weeks. I was also able to write every day and wound up with 30,000 words to show for 21 days of writing. Being free from stuff helped a lot with that.

Once I was home, surrounded by my stuff, the words stopped.

The trip reports were easy as they were just recollections of the day. But they were also the beginning of daily writing habit that I had been looking for. I lost that when I came back home and fell into my old routines.

So now I’m not only faced with with having to move, I’m also having to deal with my feelings about the failure to continue the daily writing.

In a way, this move comes at a good time. The memories from the trip are still fresh, but I’ve also had enough time realize how this environment has affected me. For some reason, I’ve never been comfortable in this apartment. Maybe it’s how the rooms are laid out. Maybe it’s just that I haven’t been able to find a good place for my writing desk. Either way, it’s been a drain on my productivity.

Deep-down, I’ve known this. But there wasn’t much I could do about it without moving. Now with a move looming, I’ve noticed how much I’m looking forward to having a new place. It’s also clear that I could just as easily slip back into my old habits with a new location. The hard part will be fighting that urge.

I’m also hoping that by reducing the clutter, I can create new habits that match the new environment. To do so, there’s lot of stuff can’t make the move.

Even after the move as I empty the boxes, I’ll still be throwing stuff out. There’s just no way around it. There’s bound to be more blog posts about how I’m minimizing my stuff. Hopefully they won’t be written as procrastination.

As for the rest of the house, there’s only the kitchen that’s got a lot of “extra” that accumulated over the last four years. The rest is just a couple of recliners and a TV. I’ve worked to keep the common area furniture down to a minimum. This was because I feared I might be the one that had to load it on a truck.

Now that I’ve gotten some of this out of my system, I need to find a trash bag.

MVW Travels: Day 22, Tbilisi, Istanbul, Houston, Phoenix

Dateline: Phoenix, Arizona—07 Apr. 2017

The pull of old habits is strong. Once I was home, it was a simple matter of falling back into the same routine I had before the trip. So at long last, let me catch you up with how the trip home went. This is how March 21st went.

The best laid plans…

From the moment I woke up, all my plans for the day went out the window.

My host, Nataly, said she would drive me to the airport since I needed to leave at 4 a.m. to make my 5:50 a.m. flight. I didn’t sleep well, and was up before the alarm went off at 3:30 a.m. Packing was a simple matter of loading the packing cubes into my bag and getting dressed.

Just before four, a car pulled up but Nataly wasn’t driving. It was her friend Martin at the wheel. He spoke very little English, but with my little bit of Russian we were able to figure out what was going on. Something happened to Nataly’s car, and she couldn’t make it. Martin was filling in. As we were talking, I noticed a post-it note on my door from Nataly explaining why Martin was there. So I loaded up my bags and headed out into the dark morning.

This was better than getting left without a ride like I was in Kutaisi.

The only problem was that Martin expected to be paid. Since Nataly volunteered to drive me, I spent all of my lari the day before. Now I needed to change up some currency. Martin took me to one of the all-night currency exchanges on the way.

This one was literally a hole-in-the wall. It was a glass window that was cut into what looked like someone’s bedroom on the ground floor of a multistory building. There was a half-pulled privacy curtain that let me see a bed and TV behind it. After a few taps on the window a moderately disheveled woman came to the window. I slid my last twenty in and asked for 20 GEL with the rest back in dollars.

At least that what I thought I asked for. She counted her stash of dollars and and slid my twenty back out. She didn’t have enough to make the change. I headed back to the car and Martin wanted to try another place, but I insisted on going to the airport and using the currency exchange there. He shrugged and started driving. Later, I realized I used the wrong word and had asked for 10 GEL instead of twenty. Oops.

Along the way I found out he was Armenian, but he preferred to speak Russian. Within a couple of miles I had used up my vocabulary and we finished the ride in silence. At the airport I hopped out to use the currency exchange leaving Martin to circle the traffic loop. But I had forgotten about the metal detectors at the main entrance. Not wanting the hassle, I turned around and waited for the car to come back around. I grabbed my bags and handed Martin the Jackson.

All said, I was at the airport in time for my flight, and Martin had a nice bonus for having to get up so early. I’m going to call that win in both of our books.

So much for that flight…

Inside the airport something seemed off. I checked for my flight on the monitor and didn’t see it. There were also no clerks at the counters for Turkish Airlines. After a few minutes of aimless wandering, I heard a PA announcement—my flight had been canceled.

I wasn’t entirely surprised. The wind was howling outside strong enough to make walking difficult in some directions. In the city it wasn’t blowing like this. But the airport is quite a ways outside of town and there’s not much around that could block the wind.

I looked around for some way to reschedule my flight. After turning the corner around one of the escalators I saw the Turkish Airlines ticket window. It was also mobbed by my fellow stranded passengers. The line was about ten deep and fifteen wide as the idea of “line” was lost in the crush towards the window.

Behind the glass two harried clerks were working to get people rescheduled. It took almost an hour to get up to the counter. I also didn’t wait politely. I took my cuts and with no rolling bags I was able to press in when a space opened up. At one point during the wait the computers crashed and that delayed things even further.

I eventually got my turn and still had to wait. The re-booking was giving the clerk fits. For some reason the US leg of trip didn’t confirm until the fourth try. I also found out that I was being routed from Istanbul to Washington DC instead of New York. I really didn’t care, as the change had shortened what would’ve been a eight-hour layover into a mad dash between gates. With the long layover off my itinerary I decided to cash in my food vouched at the airport cafe.

The cafe was stingy with what I could get, so I settled on a piece of strawberry cheesecake and coffee. When asked what sort of coffee I wanted, my only answer was “the expensive one.” I was feeling a bit wobbly at this point and really wanted the airline to buy me a proper breakfast for my trouble. I ate the faux breakfast and headed out to smoke the last of my cigarettes.

With the wind still blowing strong enough to ground flights, I found out my light wasn’t up to the task. Fortunately I had packed my box of Stalin souvenir matches at the top of my photo bag. The sharp flare up of a match was enough to get the cigarette going. I hotboxed two of them before going back inside.

I was still tired, and fading fast. The expresso and nicotine speedball didn’t do much except make the crash come that much faster.

In the Tbilisi airport there are two escalators that lead up to the screening area on the second floor. The one on the right as a gift shop underneath it. The one on the left has the area below it turned into a garden with plastic trees and grass set into a raised planter with chairs and benches around it. I saw several men sleeping on the “grass” and decided that was the way to go. With a thirteen hour flight ahead of me, I’d have enough time to sleep in a chair.

I climbed over the short wall and found an unoccupied corner and curled up with my bags. I managed a few winks of sleep in between loud travelers and the occasional distressed cat. I got up around 8:30 a.m. to see if my new flight to Istanbul was on the board yet. It wasn’t.

I had three cigarettes left and decided it was a good time to burn another one. The Stalin matches came through for me again, and it seemed like the wind had died down a bit. The chances for a successful GTFO were improving.

Up, up, and away…

Once a gate number came up on the board, I headed upstairs for the security screening and a trip through the passport control booth. Nothing out of the ordinary happened, and I was at the gate in no time. This time I had my new boots with zippers and they started paying for themselves on the trip home.

I still had almost an hour to wait so I found a bar and burned the rest of my smokes. I also found another American, and we chatted away while in line to board.

The flight out was uneventful and the middle seat in my row was empty letting me stretch my legs in a sideways direction. It was also an older plane that didn’t have a screen for each seat. So I plugged in my earphones and caught up on a few podcasts.

The landing in Istanbul was the same as before. We were dumped out on the tarmac and loaded on a bus for the ride into the airport. I’m starting to wonder if any flight into Ataturk airport gets to exit via a gate.

The path to the international concourse was also the same, minus the stop to get a boarding pass. The desk agent in Tbilisi printed the three I needed there. This is when I also found out the ticket agent didn’t know American airport codes. I was actually headed from Istanbul to Houston. Not Washington DC.

This time there was no chance to enjoy the various distractions of the concourse. On the big board my flight’s status was “go to gate.” It also showed that my gate was 229A, which I remember was just up from the 230B gate that the Tbilisi-bound fight used three weeks ago. I also remembered that it was the farthest geographical point from where I was while still staying inside the airport. So I started walking.

I was expecting the walk to the gate to be about the same as the last time. That was a mistake. As I turned the final corner I was met by a crowd of several hundred people being stopped and searched.

The airport had moved in portable security stations and were directing the passengers first through screeners standing at podiums who were doing an initial check to make sure the name on the passport matched the boarding pass. The screener also asked the famous “has anyone given you anything to carry on this flight” question. From there we had to go through a proper passport scan at end of another line. So far, I suspected this might be just the normal you-have-to-do-this-to-get-into-America thing.

I did find this quite funny, as I had a lot less trouble getting into both Turkey and Georgia the first time around. And it was around nine months ago that someone blew up a portion of the airport I was standing in. But America is going to America and no body cavity is safe.

After the passport scan we were directed to another line that snaked back-and-forth twice before dumping us out at a explosive wipe down station. This was a bit more involved and included swabbing the back and front of my hands, my centerline from throat to crotch, and the soles of my shoes. The zippered boots came in handy again. They were also trying to get it done in a way so the plane could get into the air on time. Our dignity was the casualty of this rush.

The whole affair looked like it was thrown together at the last minute. I found out later that it had been. On March 20th the US had issued an order that banned laptops, cameras, and anything bigger than a cell phone from the cabin on flights into the US from certain airports. And Istanbul was one of them.

Due to the time difference, my flight (on March 21st) was one of the first affected by the order. This is why the extra screening was taking place. The order also had a 96-hour implementation window. So by being one of the first through, I didn’t have to check my bag with my iPad and camera in it.

I also didn’t find out about this order until I was home and catching up on the news.

Thirteen hours on a plane in an economy seat is thirteen hours in an economy seat. Not much to report other than a few leg cramps and some laughs with the retired Greek couple sitting next to me.

Landing in Houston meant running the US immigration gauntlet. I was expecting the worst where they’d want to dig though my iPad and photos. What I got was a customs agent that had been replaced by a robot.

The US passport holders were directed into a corral with about twenty kiosks. Once in front of one, I touched the start button on the screen and put my passport on the scanner. I answered the usual questions with a touch of the “no to all” button. It then asked to confirm the flight information it pulled up, took my picture and printed a receipt (which included the picture).

Then I walked to a bored-looking officer who asked if I had anything to declare. Another “no” and with a stamp on the receipt I was on my way through the baggage area. With no bags to pick up, I kept walking and another officer at the exit gate took the receipt stamped receipt and let me leave.

All said, the whole process was relatively painless. I can’t say the same for the foreign passport holders. After leaving the kiosk corral I glanced back to where the line had split. It looked like a nightmare crush of people crowding through the lanes and not enough officers on the night shift to handle them in a reasonable amount of time.

Almost home…

Once clear of the last checkpoint, I found myself in out in the “normal” part of the Houston airport. I must have been one of the first ones through. The international baggage area only had one carousel running and it was for my flight. So when the sliding doors opened, about two dozen heads swiveled in my direction and turned away in disappointment as I wasn’t the one they were waiting for.

Overall the Houston airport is pretty quiet at night. The cleaning crews were out, and all of the shops were closed. It was a short walk to another security checkpoint. Another pass through the micron scanner and I was looking for my gate. In what seems to be a trend, it was just about the longest distance from my location as it could get and still be in the airport.

I was ready to flag down one of the courtesy rides, but there were none to be had. As I walked up to my gate, I found it was already boarding. By the looks of the line left, there was good chance it was almost full. I handed over my Turkish Airlines boarding pass, and the gate agent almost did a spit-take. He ran off to print me one on United stationery and I was able to board. Just as I stepped through the gate, they announced there was no more room for carry on luggage.

Once on the plane, I found my seat—two rows from the tail. There was one spot left in the last overhead bin that fit my pack and jacket. For the first time on the trip I was in a middle seat. So I let the tired wash over me and slept most of the way.


In Phoenix we landed at the little terminal.

Of the four terminals at Sky Harbor Airport, One doesn’t exist (I mean that literally—Terminal One was torn down years ago), Three and Four carry most of the traffic and Two, the little one, is a one-story affair that reminds me of the Hilo airport on the Big Island of Hawaii.

Out of all the times I’ve landed in Phoenix, this was my first time seeing the inside of Terminal Two. It wasn’t much to look at, and the best part was the short walk to the outside.

I figured my best chance of finding a SuperShuttle was to walk towards the rest of the airport. I was rewarded after only having to cross one street. I gave the attendant my address home, and about fifteen minutes later I was in a van and on my way.

The next two days were pretty much a blur as I caught up on my sleep and kept my feet elevated. I saw a foot doctor the next week and had all the dead skin from the blisters cut away.

Then I got sucked back into the whirlwind of normal life as I had to get my taxes together and also start to prep for moving house at the end of April.

What’s next?

I’m busy at work on a novel, and hope to have it done soon. I also plan to get back on a regular blogging schedule after the move.

Stay tuned!

More MVW travel reports:

MVW Travels: Day 21, Last Day in Georgia

Dateline: Tbilisi, Georgia—20 Mar. 2017

I spent my last day here exploring parts of Tbilisi that I haven't been to. All my stuff is packed, and I'll be getting a ride to the airport at 4 a.m.

This morning I went back across the Dry Bridge to the Public Service Hall. This is the central government building that puts most things citizens might need in one place. I started out by checking on what's needed to establish permanent residency.

Since Americans get a one-year passport stamp, there's really not a need to apply. The clerk pretty much told me that the best way is to make a visa run every year to get a new stamp and then after five years worry about the paperwork. That's not really the answer the immigration books gives, but a lot can change over those five years. So for now, it's not a something I'm going to concern myself with. I'll get better answers if a permanent move comes into play later.

My next stop without leaving the building was the Bank of Georgia. I opened an interest-bearing account, but for some reason there's no option to transfer foreign money in. I guess that's because it's a Lari only account. The multi-currency accounts don't pay interest. I figured if I was going to lock up some money, I should get something for leaving it there. There's also a good chance I could open another account over the phone. So I'll just forget about this deposit, and let compound interest do its thing for a while. If I come back, I'll have a small nest egg. If not, well it's only the amount I would've spent on taxis and fancy restaurants anyways.

Then I wandered.

I made it to the top of one of the big hills, where a "funicular" train (one that goes up the side of a mountain on cogged tracks and a cable) goes up to the park on top. I didn't realize how much of a climb I was in for when I started. Once I figured it out, I was more than two-thirds there.

The only problem was that it was closed for maintenance.

So I started back down the hill. I was mostly lost at this point, but downhill was the best direction. Eventually I came out on a large street and found a neat underground bar. A cold beer later and I was ready to head back.

I basically took the long way around and got back to my neighborhood by way of the MacDonalds that got me sick. This time I kept walking.

My feet held up better than I thought they would. Only the last half mile really set them off.

Once back at the house, I found that most everyone was out. This gave me the perfect chance to get a long, hot shower. Afterwards, a short nap was in order.

The rest of the late afternoon/early evening involved me keeping my feet elevated and getting my bags packed.

What's next?

Travel! I'll be on a early flight to Istanbul and then onto New York, where my long layover is. I don't know if I'll get out into New York City. I'll have around six hours, but without a way to leave my bags somewhere I doubt I'll leave the airport.

I may or may not have a chance to get another report in from the road. So to all of you that have been following along, thanks for reading. I see your likes and page views, and in a silly way they've kept me company during the trip.

До свидания!

More MVW travel reports:

MVW Travels: Day 20, Barking Dogs

Dateline: Tbilisi, Georgia—19 Mar. 2017

My biggest accomplishment today was getting out of the house for food.

I woke up with swollen feet, and decided to stay off them as much as possible. I did venture out twice, both times to the market. Other than that, I stayed in and did language lessons and watched the Russian SciFi channel.

The rain cleared up, and it was a cool and sunny day. I felt bad for not doing much and wasting the day in bed. But I have to look out for my health. With my flight home coming up fast, I didn't want to make my feet any worse. I have no idea of how much airport walking I might have to do.

So that was my day. As uneventful as it was.

What's next?

Tomorrow I'm going to see about opening a Georgian bank account. The rest will depend on how well I can walk.

More MVW travel reports:

MVW Travels: Day 19, Tbilisi Shopping

Dateline: Tbilisi, Georgia—18 Mar. 2017

Today I did some inadvertent planning ahead. I also started out by looking for breakfast and made what might have been the biggest mistake of the trip so far.

The search for яйца

This morning I wanted a sit-down breakfast with eggs and sausage. I learned two things while searching: it’s good to want things, and that sort of breakfast restaurant doesn’t exist in the area I’m in.

I started out by heading back towards the metro station. That looked like a busy area the last time I was there. This morning it was just getting going when I walked by around 8:30. The street vendors were setting up, and the traffic was lighter than usual.

Across the intersection from the metro was the world’s largest breakfast joint. A MacDonalds. I noted the location, as a last resort sort of thing and headed down the street. I passed a Dunkin’ Donuts about a half block down. Again, location noted for future reference.

Then I started walking south-ish. After passing way too many non-restaurant businesses, I made it to the Old Town tourist restaurant row. I figured I’d overpay for table service, but it’d be worth it for once on the trip. Out of all the bars, cafes, and restaurants that line both sides of the street, not one was open.

Continue reading “MVW Travels: Day 19, Tbilisi Shopping”

MVW Travels: Day 18, Gori to Tbilisi

Dateline: Gori, Georgia—17 Mar. 2017

(Another day-late post, as I was too tired to write last night.)

I didn’t do my usual night before travel packing since I wasn’t taking scheduled transit to Tbilisi. So I planned on a lazy morning and it worked out perfectly.

My hosts brought down breakfast and we planned for Ilya to take me to the bus station around 11 a.m. After eating, I took my time packing and made sure my iPad was charged up. Then I waited. I was way ahead of my “schedule.”

A few minutes before 11 a.m., Ilya showed up and we went to the bus station. It wasn’t so much much a station as you might think of one. Mostly it was a parking lot with a mish-mash of taxis, minibuses, and cars waiting for fares.

On the ride over I found out that the minibus cost 4 GEL, while a shared taxi was 5 GEL. I opted to spend the extra as it would get me to Tbilisi faster and I hadn’t ridden in one yet.

The villages outside of Gori, as seen from the expressway.
The villages outside of Gori, as seen from the expressway.
Not far from where I was dropped off, a driver was hustling fares to fill his car. We confirmed the price and destination and I loaded myself into the back seat of a station wagon. One more rider piled in and we were off.
Continue reading “MVW Travels: Day 18, Gori to Tbilisi”

MVW Travels: Day 16, Poti and Gori

Dateline: Gori, Georgia—15 Mar. 2017

(Note: I'm writing this the following morning. I was too tired to write last evening.)

I woke up to another slow drizzle this morning. It may have rained most of the night, as the puddles were much bigger. I did most of my packing the night before. Upon waking up, it was just a matter of getting dressed and loading my cubes into the pack. Having spent four nights in the same room I had spread out my stuff a bit more than usual, but the cubes have earned their keep.

The anchor at the roundabout near the Poti harbor on the only sunny day I was in town.
The anchor at the roundabout near the Poti harbor on the only sunny day I was in town.

I was up at 6:30 a.m. and out of the room a bit after seven. The main door to the hotel was locked, and I had to knock on the manager's door to get him to let me out. I had planned to walk to the train station, but with the rain I decided to look for a taxi. The corner close to the hotel usually has one or two hanging out waiting for fares. But it was too early and wet for the locals.

After crossing the street, I found a cab just past the gas station. He didn't speak much English, and I didn't know how to say train station in either Russian or Georgian. So I just pointed across the bridge and repeated "station" at few times. We agreed on a price of 2 GEL and I hopped in. Once over the bridge and approaching the roundabout, he started to veer left, and made some screeching noises and wildly pointed at the train station to the right. He understood and took me right to the door. It was worth the two Lari, since I hadn't put on my rain shell before leaving the hotel and the rain was a bit heavier than I expected.

I was also one of the first passengers at the station. Being early is better than late, as I found out in Kutaisi.

As we boarded, the usual lack of any sort of line or queue came into play and I fell in with the crowd near the train car door. I did step away from the group when I saw the conductors checking ID. In Tbilisi there was no ID check when getting on the train. I guess in Poti, they want to make sure the name on the ticket matches. So I fished out my passport, and was able to board the train.

Once on board I found out how the trains signal the upcoming stations. There are TV monitors hanging from the ceiling, and they show a map of where the train is, along with the upcoming station.

Leaving Poti. It's an industrial town with just a thin sheen of city on top of it.
Leaving Poti. It's an industrial town with just a thin sheen of city on top of it.

On the train from Tbilisi to Kutaisi, our little compartment had a screen but it was blank. I guess since the train car on the Kutaisi run gets transferred to a new locomotive at the Rioni station everyone in that car goes to Kutaisi. The regular cars are the ones that will take on or let off passengers at the intermediate stops.

This time I had the window seat and didn't have to trade.

The ride was pleasant in the nice car, and the heater vents are where the bulkhead meets the floor—right near my feet. From the TV screen I was able to see the upcoming stations and learn the word for train station, სადგური. I did manage to sneak in a short nap, because once the train started the long climb over the central mountain range it was a smooth ride with no stops.

As we approached Gori I gathered my stuff and headed to the nearest door. From seeing how the other stops worked, I knew the train would be pulling away as soon as I had both feet on the ground. The entire process is without ceremony. The train pulls into a station, and if you're not ready to exit, you're not getting off. The conductor opened the door and held out a red flag letting the engineer know to hold up for a minute. I got off and the train was moving again before I even turned around. It's very much a self-service operation.

I took a seat in the Gori station and called the place where I'd be staying. That was mostly a waste of a call. Between the overall crappiness of my Chinese card phone and a lack of understanding, I didn't accomplish much other than letting the host know I was at the house. Which I wasn't, but that's what I think he got out of it.

On the map it didn't look like that far of a walk so I set out.

In the wrong direction.

After realizing my mistake, I went back to the station to reorient myself. South of the Gori station is a little pocket of town that's grown around it. It's cut off from the rest of the town by the river and train tracks. Overall, it seems like a nice quiet area with a minimum of traffic.

But I needed to get over the river into the main part of Gori.

From the map I saw a small line indicating a footpath that led to a bridge. I also saw an old man with a sack of groceries heading that direction. When in doubt, follow the locals.

I found the stairs to the bridge just west of the station. I could've walked directly there without taking a detour through the streets surrounding the station. Live and learn, all the while making sure you're reading the map correctly.

Once over the tracks and river, I saw the main road that runs through Gori, Stalin Avenue. It's also a full four lanes. Something I haven't seen since I left Tbilisi.

Walking north, I eventually came upon Stalin Park and knew I was close to where I was staying. I picked this particular booking as it was just a tad north of the Stalin Museum, and would minimize the walking I'd have to do in town.

Once I made it to the north end of the park and turned the corner, a car pulled up. It was my host. He had been looking for me since he realized I was at the station and not the house. That's twice on this trip that happened. I guess the pale blonde with a backpack is an easy spot on the streets of a Georgian town.

I was about a half-block away, but I was happy for the ride. On the walk there, the blisters that I thought were well behaved decided to get angry again.

The rest of the evening consisted of me gimping my way to the corner store for dinner, and cursing the bedsheets for rubbing at my feet as I tried to find a position that was both comfortable and didn't rub on a blister.

The bed though, was wonderful. It was the softest mattress I've slept on yet. I also turned in early, as the rain in Poti followed me to Gori. My rain shell came in handy during the search for dinner, but my pants were a little damp. This left me feeling a little chill, so I turned in early. The last thing I want for my final week here is a cold.

After a quick FaceTime home, I was out like a light.

What's next?

I'll go see the Stalin Museum and then see if I can find some insoles for my boots. Other than that, I'll see what my feet can take and plan accordingly.

More MVW travel reports: