Andrew Jones and the Blog of Doom

On Binging and Back Pain

Around mid-December of 2020, I was about to go on a roughly three week Christmas break. I’d been on a stressful project at work, and was looking forward to finally getting some workshop time and enjoying the holidays at home. And then, I hurt my back. Really badly.

While I’m not entirely sure exactly what happened, all clues point to a pinched nerve. I was fine one day and then as I was bending over doing something in the shop, a bolt of pain hit my lower back and travelled down my leg to my knee. It nearly put me on the floor, and I was just barely able to hobble upstairs to bed.

And so for the next two weeks, through Christmas, I was mostly confined to bed and the couch, unable to be on my feet more than a couple minutes. Even after a steroid shot and four prescriptions (steroids, muscle relaxers, etc), being on my feet any length of time meant certain agony in my leg once I got back to a lying position.

Unsurprisingly, I was pretty bummed. There went my vacation, and all the productivity I’d been looking forward to. And I felt like I was seeing first-hand my old age and no sir, I didn’t like it.

But on the flip side, it forced me to slow down, albeit against my will. Despite everything I thought I had to be doing, it was impossible, and I tried not to let the guilt get the better of me.

During those first couple painful weeks, I had a couple saviors. One was my wife, who waited on me, brought me coffee and pills and dinner, and put my shoes and socks on for my trip to the doctor. Couldn’t have gotten through it without her.

My other comfort through all this was Youtube. I mean, what else was I going to do on the couch for two weeks? I’m a big consumer of content on Youtube. I’m a visual learner, so any time I want to know something about a topic, that’s where I go. Most of what I’ve learned in woodworking has come from Youtube, and having it on the Roku is just like watching TV. I subscribe to a lot of channels, primarily those of “makers”, which could mean woodworkers, but also artists, photographers, sculptors, etc. I just love watching people make things and show their process.

During the pandemic, a lot of my regular channels have slowed their publishing schedules, so it can be slim pickin’s for new videos sometimes. But I ran across a new channel that totally energized me.

It’s called “Trent & Allie“, and it follows the adventures of a couple who explore the world in their camper van (Pamela Vanderson), along with their dog Frank. From their bio:

We’re Trent and Allie (and Frank the dog), a couple of DIY’ers who spent 3 years traveling around in a van before we decided to buy some land and start building our own little home in the mountains! Come along for the ride to see how much of a struggle it can be to build your own house in some crazy conditions.

I picked up their adventure at the point where they were forced to leave their van in Argentina and head back to the U.S. due to Coronavirus. Once they got back to Utah, they stayed with Trent’s mom, transforming her property into a working farm with goats and chickens. Before long, they’d moved into the mountains of Utah to start construction on a small cabin, living in a tiny camper they’d just renovated.

I’ve watched a total of 78 of their videos to date, almost all of them while laid up on the couch. I’m not sure what it is about them, but I just can’t get enough. Obviously, part of it is living vicariously through folks having an experience you really can’t have. And let’s be honest. As pretty as Utah obviously is, not sure I could convince my wife to brave those winters. Okay, I’m totally sure I couldn’t.

I’m also inspired by what they’re willing to learn and try. I’m still not exactly sure what each of them did in their previous lives before becoming full-time travelers and Youtubers. But Trent especially has no problem throwing himself into whatever needs done, whether that’s renovating a trailer, milking goats, framing a house or doing truck maintenance. As a fellow jack-of-all-trades, I really admire that. And as his motto goes, “Could be better. Could be worse. But I’m happy with it”. Wish I could say that more often.

As I write this, they’ve finished “drying in” their house, which means that the framing and roof is done, and all windows and doors are in place. Which is just in time, as winter has very much arrived. I’m really looking forward to seeing the rest of the house take shape and what they do with the property.

If this all sounds weird, I’m right there with you. When I watched the first video, I didn’t expect to get sucked in. But now I feel so invested in these two people’s lives. And it’s in no small part due to how well it’s produced. While it’s still just the two of them doing all the filming with a combination of DSLR’s and GoPro’s, the way they’re paced and edited feels just as polished as anything you’d see on HGTV. It’s just been so inspiring all around.

So much so, that it got me wanting to make video content again. I’ve already sold my old Nikon D3400 camera, and got a used Canon EOS M50 to allow me to do more “vlog” style videos. But more on all that in a later post.

Another nice find while I was immobilized is a show on Netflix called “The Repair Shop“, which features a group of multi-skilled craftspeople in the UK. Working from what’s essentially a big barn, in each episode three items are brought into the shop to be repaired and/or restored. Think of it as Antiques Roadshow, only they also restore each piece.

There’s no competition, no prize, no drama, just craftsmanship. It’s so fascinating hearing the story of each item and watching as the experts bring it back to life, using a combination of new and old techniques. Apparently there are six seasons of the show, but only season 3 is on Netflix so far. Really hope they add more.

As my back continues to heal, and I keep fingers and toes crossed that this won’t happen again, I’m trying to figure out where I want to go in terms of the stuff I make and how I share it. Way too much info for this post, but I hope to post some ideas and ask for some feedback soon.