Thursday, December 8, 2016

Voxer: Journaling Lifesavers

After a long day of riding, I don't usually have the energy or interest to log the day's activities into a journal.  The energy part is easy to understand, as a lot of the times that I arrive to a campsite or motel, I'm dead tired and just want to be lazy.  On top of that, my mind doesn't always work that well when I'm exhausted, so the harder I try to remember something, the more difficult it becomes to wrangle those memories.  Then the other problem, the lack of interest, comes from the fact that when I'm done riding, the last thing I really want to do is reflect on the day I only just finished.  I want to bask in its completion, not reminisce on all of its individual moments.  If I wrote things down right after completing a ride, my journal entries would probably end up looking like this:

Very long day.  Tired.  Butt hurts.  Not butt-hurt, just sore.  Disgustingly hot and humid.  I need a tent with air conditioning.  I need to hire an assistant that rides one day ahead of me to set up my air conditioned tent.  Or a swamp cooler.  That probably wouldn't work in this humidity.  Ok, I'm taking a hard stance on A/C.  Why am I writing this down?  Nothing important happened today.  Ok, let's try to do this for real... Rode to Winchester today, no Natural Chimneys.  Too hot and humid.  Stopped at a place near the WV/VA border just before I was about to die of heat exhaustion.  Didn't die.  Yet.  Really hating this tour, not sure why I'm on it anymore.  Switching to nights.  Ugh, I don't care, I'm going to eat.  Peace!

You see?  I forced myself to write a journal entry and it's a pile of hot garbage.  If I looked back at that entry a few weeks from now, I'd have no remembrance of middle fingers fired my way, adult children drinking coffee at night, or why I picked Winchester of all places.  And that's what journaling is really about, right?  Creating a record of memories?  A record of memories that when read activates bigger and brighter memories that you get to live over again?  With no recorded memories, no matter how good or bad a day is, eventually it's just going to fade away.

That is something I don't think about, though, right after I finish for the day.  I don't have the foresight required to think of my future self enjoying a ride down memory lane, so I don't write anything down.  Having nothing in the way of written memories makes for very poor documentation of an experience and all but guarantees that a lot of the memories will be completely gone within the next few years.  An unfortunate way to treat myself.

Fortunately for the future me that's going to care more about memories than the exhausted post-ride me that just wants to rest, I have Voxer.  As much as I say that all I want to do after a long ride is rest and forget about the day, the truth is that I also want to catch some people up on the day's events.  At the end of the day, no matter how tired I am, I usually have energy enough and reason enough to send someone a message about what happened during the day.  Maybe I climbed a monster hill and want to share that with a cycling friend.  Maybe I saw a really cool animal, like an armadillo, and want to share that with a really cool animal liking friend.  Maybe I just want to vent about some minor bullshit that's weighing on my mind, in which case nobody is safe.  For these things, I use Voxer.

For those who haven't used Voxer, it's basically an app that's part walkie-talkie and part voicemail, or more simply audible text messaging.  Open the app, find a contact, and then record a message for them the same way you'd leave them a voicemail.  They'll be notified of the message can listen to it when they want as many times as they want.  It's theirs forever.  One of the nicest parts of Voxer is that, just like text messaging, both sides of the conversation are available to both participants ("both" is misleading as Voxer can be used for group conversations as well).  This means that I can go back a month or two into Voxer and listen to all the messages that I'd left for people while on tour.  It's a verbal journal that also acts as a line of communication with the outside world!  People get to know I'm still alive and I get to have a record of my travels!  We all win!

Without a corresponding Vox, I would have had no memory that I took this photo the very same day that I slept in a trailer park. 
And Voxer isn't just good for recording memories at the end of the day, it's also great for recording memories right as they happen.  If I see a badger, you had better believe I'll be sending a Vox about it in a few moments.  Those are some of the best messages to go back and listen to later, as I often forget how excited I can get about happenings and I don't often get to experience my level of excitement from someone else's perspective.  Come to think of it, most of my mid-ride Voxes are about animals and I'm always excited.

Once time has passed and I'm ready to revisit old memories and write them down, I'll pull up my old Voxer messages, any photos I may have taken (although those are less reliable for real info as they may just be signs for Peepytown Rd.), and my daily Strava maps.  The bulk of my information then comes from Voxer (both what I say and how I say it), with the fine details filled in by my maps and photos (my maps are how I know the name and location of the Black Dog Coffee Company).  Since my memory is not always the best, future me is always thankful that past me used Voxer, as listening to those old messages causes a flood of memories to rush over my previously dammed up brain.  There's even a ripple effect caused by the unlocking of so many memories at once that floats unVoxed memories up from the murky depths of forgetfulness.

Without Voxer, I would likely have a lot of vague memories from days on the road, and they would all eventually blend together into a blurry mush that resulted in stop-n-go stories full of half-truths.  I know this is true because I've never Voxed while riding in Alaska, and those stories have the tendency to change.  Thankfully, Voxer let's me quickly record the things I want to remember and be done with them until I'm ready to revisit them at a later date when I'm feeling more up to it.  Which is usually after I've shaken off all my aches, pains, and lingering complaints.

In any case, even if strolling down memory lane isn't something you do, Voxer lets you easily keep in touch with people, and its asynchronous nature affords you time between responses, getting you off the hook for expedient communication.  Who doesn't like the ability to avoid people on the road without leaving any evidence to prove that you're actually avoiding them?

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