Harrison Farm

for now, the only thing we're growing on this farm is kids - not the goat variety

Month: March 2016

100 Miles + Haunted Tunnel

Last Sunday I rode my first “century” (100 miles).

It was an out-and-back ride up the Maipo canyon (there were flatter, less scenic routes I could have taken instead).

I made myself take it easy, knowing that that was the only way I could make it back under my own power. The whole ride took nearly ten hours (including about 40 mins of breaks).


I made it to within about 15 miles of Argentina!

At the farthest point of the ride, I was in a “Volcano danger zone”. This is roughly where I turned around… this is the kind of scenery that makes it worth riding this far:

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Now for the “Haunted Tunnel” part you’ve all been waiting for.

On my way up the canyon I came upon this:

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See that tunnel going into the mountainside?

I rode my bike up to the mouth and walked in a ways.  It disappeared into complete darkness.

My curiosity sparked, but a little disappointed that I didn’t know what was in there or where it went, I rode back down to the pavement and continued up the canyon.

A little further up I found the other side of the tunnel:

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On my way back home, I stopped at this end of the tunnel.

Knowing that it couldn’t be much more than a quarter mile long, I wanted to see if I could walk all the way through.

There was a man sitting next to the mouth of the tunnel. He seemed to be working on some metal device.

Normally, I wouldn’t ask permission or approval from a Chilean before doing something dangerous or “unofficial”, because they’re usually risk-averse and prone to blind obedience.

But in this case, I was doubtful enough that I was willing to do what this man recommended.

He told me that it was safe, and to go ahead.

I pulled off my sunglasses and started to put them on my helmet, but he told me to leave them on until I couldn’t see anything, then remove them. It would help my eyes adjust.

I started off riding, but the road was dangerously uneven so I dismounted and walked. It was getting really dark… I took off my sunglasses and got temporary relief. The tunnel got darker and darker until I could barely see anything.

I was about to turn around when I saw the light at the other side. The tunnel has a slight bend in it that keeps you from being able to see one side from the other.

I walked straight towards the light. I was now completely blind to what was around me, because I was facing the primary light source, instead of it being behind me. I almost bumped into one of the tunnel walls at one point.

It was a bit creepy, but I’m glad I did it. I want to go back there and do it again sometime.

I did a bit of research on the tunnel when I got home.

It’s called the Tinoco tunnel.

It was built in 1903 as a railroad tunnel and was used up until the 80’s.

Since then it’s been used by tourists and locals who want to take a shortcut.

It’s a little over 600 meters long.

In the 90’s a teenager committed suicide in the tunnel, and since then there’s been a rumor that his ghost is in the tunnel.

Here’s a picture of the inside:

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A Smoggy City … of Opportunity

7436757736_79a9d7dc49_m{This is for all the 14-30 year-olds out there who are feeling suffocated by a lack of opportunity in their world. (possibly aka “a job with a future”)}

The smog in Santiago is a downer.

Smoggy Santioggy.

We don’t really know how harmful it is, but we big folks try to work around it with our exercise.

But … kids gotta play. Every day.

It certainly brings a smile to all faces when someone announces, “It’s super clear right now!” That’s typically after a rain or a sustained wind — both of which are rare as hens teeth here.

It’s also hard to tell the difference between real “esmog” and the “fog” that often comes over the city.  This is a complex topic that I will discuss later if enough people bother me about it; we have a unique vantage point when it comes to air-quality watching.

But my thoughts about the smog have matured recently as I’ve watched Carman’s life unfold. He is now five months into an opportunity that US minimum wage laws would have denied him, had he been there. He is scrambling and stressing every day, trying to please his superhero-seeming (when it comes to all things digital) Chilean boss.

And that’s right where he needs to be.

It is good for a man to bear the yoke when he is young.

So, what does that have to do with the smog?

I am coming to see the smog as an indicator of opportunity. It represents the option of taking a risk. It represents immaturity, wildness, unregulated-ness.

London was a very smoggy, smoky place during the golden age of opportunity there. Likewise New York City.

Opportunity, like smog, can be dangerous.

Opportunity implies the freedom to fail and often comes without a safety net, harness, and airbag.

So, if you’re looking for opportunity, consider following the smog: Santiago, Mexico City, Beijing…?

Thanks to Flickr’s Bilobicles Bag for the image.

UPS in-store packaging costs (and related hidden costs)

Yesterday, 10mar16, I had a need for a fairly typical size box so that I could ship a custom drawer insert (26x20x4, 6.5lbs) from the Santa Barbara, CA area to Portland, OR.

I didn’t want to go hunting for the right sized box, so it seemed convenient to use the in-store packaging service of UPS. Together with the hidden costs involved, the total cost of their packaging service came to a whopping $85.

I declined. More details of how it transpired:

The rep with whom I spoke first went hunting in the storage room for a box that would work. He found a “32” box and said he would cut it down to make it work.

Based on the weight of the drawer insert, he initially mentioned a price of $40. Then he asked how well it needed to be packaged.

I said, “Well enough that it would meet the rules for a UPS insurance claim if there was damage.”

Him: “How delicate is the item?”

I said it was pretty tough — essentially a hardwood box.

He eventually decided on a packaging price of $59 (including tax).

When I expressed some surprise, he said that he was figuring it as about halfway between the minimum packaging and something very fragile.

Then I asked what total package weight and dimensions I should expect when the package was complete. He said 10lbs and 31x31x11.

I took a little timeout at that point and conferred with my shipping experts (who are available for consultation by the way — contact me below if interested). They found that our commercially-discounted UPS shipping for that package would be $XX (not sure if we’re allowed to publish that number to the public).

Anyway, based on our experience of something like 1,000 similar package shipments, we estimate that the difference in shipping for that excessive packaging was $26, bringing the total cost of their service to $85.

We’ve also found it better to self-insure than to buy the UPS insurance. I guess we believe in them more than they do. Or it could be they have problems with fraudulent claims.

It’s too bad that UPS can’t find a way to cut the fat on this. They should be uniquely positioned to offer crazy-cheap packaging, but instead it’s the other way around: this is probably one of the places where they pick up significant profits.

I’m determined to find a better way because I’m going to be doing a lot of this. Since the shipment isn’t urgent, I’m going to try ordering a stout custom box to be sent to Santa Barbara. We’ll see how that goes.

Update on 12April2016: The custom box ordering went well. I was able to get a box of about 26x20x4″ made from double-wall cardboard and sent to Santa Barbara for about $30. All who saw the box were impressed by its quality.

But dude … they need competition!

At the time I ordered the box, they were saying on their web site that, if you place your order before 10AM or something like that, the order would ship out the same day. So, I got my order in well before their deadline. That was on a Friday.

On Monday, I received a shipping notification. So I wrote them :

“That was unexpected. I sent in the order in early Friday morning. Shouldn’t this have shipped Friday?”

Their response was simply:

“Going out today due to the production load.”


No apology or even acknowledgement that they broke their promise.

So, for all you folks considering getting into the custom box business, I say PLEASE DO! There’s a heavy “production load” to the point where the current providers are swaggering around like they have a monopoly.

Worried about building a web site that can support this? Worry not. If need be, I will build it for you at a sweetheart price. I want to see this happen.

If you do decide to go live with offering this service, please contact me!



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