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Tag Archives: Leisure

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10 ways to vacation lavishly during the pandemic

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As the world slowly starts to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, travelers are beginnings to set their eyes on luxury travel in 2021. After all, so many of us are overdue for lavish experiences and some much-deserved relaxation.

While luxury travel during the pandemic is possible, it is important to remember to follow CDC guidelines to ensure your health and safety. Experts continue to recommend social distancing, wearing masks, taking viral tests before and after traveling, and following local guidelines.

In our guide below, we have listed the top 10 travel tips during COVID to ensure you have the safe and lavish vacation you have been dreaming of.

1. Reserve a Pedigree Flight Experience

The first step in planning a regal vacation involves booking a private jet charter. When you fly on a private jet, you will experience a tailored flight that will exceed your every expectation.

Request the chef to whip up your favorite meal or hire a massage therapist to help you get into a vacation state of mind. Whatever you want, your flight crew is always one step ahead of you.

2. Pick Your Preferred Aircraft

When you fly on a private jet, you get to choose the aircraft with all the finest amenities you desire. Private jets provide the ultimate comfort and the latest in technology, ensuring your flight experience is out of this world.

Pick a jet with a private bedroom or tricked-out entertainment system and lounge area. Whether you want a small and intimate light aircraft or a spacious heavy jet, the choice is yours when you fly private.

3. Choose a Place Where You Can Socially Distance

When it comes to luxury travel in 2021, skip the crowded cityscapes. Instead, pick an inviting destination where you can indulge without interacting with the masses. Maybe that means an exclusive island or ritzy chateau in the mountains. Whether you go for a secluded ranch setting or a glitzy glamping experience, you are in for an epic treat.

4. Consider Eco-Tourism or Nature Escapes

Who said nature cannot be lavish? Not us! Book a nature-inspired retreat where you can revel in the great outdoors. Or, book a private eco-tour in the desert or reserve an elite meditation adventure in the jungle.

Nothing is more rejuvenating than some fresh air and sunshine. And the best part? You may learn something about the ecosystem and yourself along the way.

5. Look for Destinations with Low COVID Cases

Some destinations are more fortunate than others when it comes to their current COVID rates. When looking for a fantastic destination for your next grand vacation, look into places that have the lowest COVID cases.

For instance, destinations like Fiji, the British Virgin Islands, Laos, and The Solomon Islands are reporting far fewer cases than the rest of the world. That said, be sure to look into travel restrictions and guidelines, as some destinations may be limiting visitors at this time.

6. Reserve Your Own Space

Now is not the time to cram into an over-crowded hotel. And why would you want to? If you are really going for an opulent experience, pick a place to stay and avoid the masses all at once.

Look into a villa or spacious mansion where you have the entire place to yourself. Or choose a hotel where you can book the entire floor and use a private elevator. There are plenty of dazzling places to stay that you can make your safe haven.

7. Travel with a Small Pose

When it comes to planning your high-class getaway, skip the big entourage. While you may have loved traveling with your ten closest friends or your extended family in the past, now is the time to go small. Book a romantic retreat for two or plan a great adventure with your best friend. Better yet, take that solo vacation you have been dreaming of for years.

Health experts still recommend social distancing with people who are outside your household unit, so it is best to travel in groups with those who have already been tested for the virus or received their vaccinations.

8. Take Private Transportation

One major travel tip during COVID is to book private transportation during your extravagant travels. Hiring your own private SUV or limousine driver will provide you with a safer, fancier experience.

During your trip, you will want to avoid crowded situations, which includes city buses and trains. What is more, when you have your private driver, you can go wherever you want, whenever you want. Private transportation gives you the freedom to explore your vacation destination on your terms.

9. Focus on R&R

In the past, you may have wanted to see and be seen on your lavish vacations. Perhaps that meant getting access into the hottest clubs in Miami or scoring front-row tickets to a sold-out concert in Brazil.

However, luxury travel in 2021 may include more secluded activities and “me time.” That might mean booking outdoor facials and massages under a palm-tree canopy or booking a villa with a private hot tub for soaking. Given the stress of the last year, more travelers are turning toward vacations that are focused on rest and rejuvenation.

10. Enjoy Longer, Less Frequent Vacations

While many experts are still urging people to stay home during the pandemic, for those who do decide to travel, they’re choosing longer, more intimate vacations over shorter, more frequent trips. In fact, many believe this will be the new way of travel in 2021 and beyond.

If you plan to travel during the pandemic, consider booking one long vacation that may span a few weeks. Not only will this give you the opportunity to fully unwind and relax, but it will also allow you to get more familiar with the destination. After all, it can be tricky to see and do everything when you’re jamming everything into a few days.

Ready to jet set off your fabulous vacation? Start by reserving your private jet today.

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Here are the most oddly named towns in America

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Virtually every state in the union has one. We’re talking oddly named towns. Veteran road-trippers have probably come across some of them — like Chugwater, Wyoming, Intercourse, Pennsylvania or Waterproof, Louisiana. But these names are rather Bland (Missouri), even Boring (Oregon) or downright Dull (Ohio) compared to some of the truly nutty names we’ve uncovered.

Some towns are named for things we eat, like Chili (Wisconsin), Chicken (Alaska), Spuds and Two Egg (Florida), Fries (Virginia), Bacon (Texas) or Sandwich (Massachusetts). And we say Whynot (North Carolina)? That seems Okay (Oklahoma) to us. Surely better than eating Worms (Nebraska) or Chicken Bristle (Illinois). Strangely enough, there’s also a Whynot (Mississippi).

Image: Twoeggfla.com

Other town names seem sort of rude or insulting, like Big Bottom (Washington), Coward (South Carolina), Idiotville, (Oregon), Looneyville (Texas) or Jerkwater (Pennsylvania). Still others appear to be pleasant, inviting places, like Welcome (South Carolina), Happyland (Connecticut), Allgood (Alabama), Love (Arizona) and Little Heaven (Delaware). Quite the opposite of being told to go to Hell (Michigan) or Dismal (Tennessee).

To wrap up this essay on naming nonsense, here are some town names that are so Peculiar (Missouri) that they deserve special attention.

Take Zzyzx (California) for example — a one-time natural spring resort in the Mohave Desert, now a popular birding site. It was named by someone who thought he was creating the last word in the English language. He was wrong. That word is Zyzzyva, the name of a tropical South American weevil. But wait! There’s more.

Try to imagine why anyone would want to live in a town named Toad Suck (Arkansas), Scratch Ankle (Alabama), Slickpoo (Idaho), Foul Rift (New Jersey), Humptulips (Washington) or Ding Dong, (Texas).

Somehow, so far, Colorado has gotten left out of this weird name review. Reason why? No Name. It’s next door to Glenwood Springs.

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Making the switch to a pistol red dot instantly and effortlessly

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Red dot sights on pistols, also called micro red dots or micro red dot sights (MDRS), are all the rage right now for defensive use after proving their effectiveness in the shooting sports for the last several years.

They are almost as big of a game-changer on pistols as they were on long guns.

On most targets, you can keep your focus on your target, put the red dot where you want your bullet to go, and the bullet will go there (instead of lining up the front and rear sight and having to shift your focus to the front sight).

They negate many of the aiming advantages of a longer slide, make shooting easier for shooters with visual confusion (seeing ghost images when aiming with both eyes open) and they can be easier to track in recoil than iron sights.

When you just look at accuracy (and not speed), red dots make a huge difference. As long as you can press the trigger without disturbing the muzzle, it’s just ridiculously simple to shoot tight groups with a red dot and to shoot accurately at much longer distances.

But, when you add speed to the equation, the game changes… Red dots reward precise irons technique and add a severe time penalty for deviations from precise technique.

Red dots tend to help solid shooters shoot 10 to 20% better (speed/accuracy) but actually cause most novice to intermediate shooters to shoot slower. (I’m going to tell you how to fix that.)

I have used red dots on pistols for 5-6 years, but until recently it was primarily for plinking with fun guns with my boys and with brand new shooters who are touching a gun for the first time.

The first time that someone is shooting a gun, my priorities are that they are safe and have fun.

The sensory experience is so overwhelming that they’re not really going to create or retain any skills…I just want them to create a positive association with shooting and we’ll build skills later. I’ll get into why this is important in a minute.

Until recently, a red dot just didn’t have a place for me on a serious gun because of a few unique…almost prima donna…requirements that I had.

1. Red dots on pistols are notorious for having a steep learning curve. I wanted zero learning curve and to be able to take advantage of the highly refined draw stroke and presentation that I already had.

2. I didn’t want to lose any of my ability to do sighted shooting. In fact, this is a bigger deal than many people realize, and significant practice should be done with iron sights even if/after you switch to a red dot.

3. I wanted to be able to blindly draw any Glock, use the exact same presentation, and have the sights or dot come up into automatic alignment between my dominant eye and the target without any lag.

This can be a big deal if you have multiple pistols in the same family but don’t want to (or can’t afford) to get red dots for all of them at once. Switching to a red dot may mean that some of your holsters no longer work. Also, if you happen to carry muzzle down in a shoulder holster as a deep concealment method (as I do), the bump of a red dot is very visible from behind.

4. I wanted a red dot on my carry gun but couldn’t justify getting one on my SIRTs, airsoft trainers, paintball trainers, and CO2 trainers…so I needed a setup that would allow me to do the majority of my practice with irons and get 100% of the benefit when I shot my pistol with the red dot.

So, basically, I wanted all of the advantages of a red dot with zero learning curve and none of the drawbacks that are typical of switching from irons to a red dot.

When I see a skill where most people are failing/struggling and a few have no issues, my default is to reverse engineer the process, identify the critical factors, test hypotheses, and then roll stuff out that makes things easy/easier for “most.”

In this case, I identified the factors, stacked the odds in my favor, and went from not shooting a red dot to putting one on my carry gun on a Saturday, making sure I could hit steel with it for a few rounds, purposely NOT doing rapid fire or dry fire reps, and shooting a match the next day.

I was able to draw and engage quickly and shoot -0 body and head shots with .2-.25 splits on the move and around cover with my Glock 26.

Absolutely zero learning curve…but that’s because of what I did ahead of the switch and how I set up my optic.

For some people, this is going to be old news…for most, it will be very helpful and save a TON of wasted time and frustration.

The two key factors are:

  1. Co-witnessing
  2. Up + out presentation

Let’s start with co-witnessing.

Co-witnessing is simply having both your iron sights and your red dot visible and usable at the same time without needing to move your dominant eye or the gun.

With red dot sights on a pistol you’d carry, you can mount the red dot to the slide using the rear dovetail, or have a notch cut out of the slide that the red dot base goes into. These notches can be shallow or deep, depending on your preference.

You can also mount the red dot to the frame for sport shooting, but that’s another conversation.

Here I’ve got a Glock 19 with a dovetail mount on top (not co-witnessed) and a Glock 26 with a Lone Wolf slide cut on the bottom (co-witnessed).

With the dovetail mount, the dot ends up much higher than factory height sights…enough that you won’t be able to see the dot at all with a presentation that brings your sights into alignment. That means two different presentation methods depending on whether you’re using a pistol with irons or a red dot.

Again, if you can keep your presentation exactly the same, regardless of whether you’re using a red dot or irons, you’re going to build skill quicker and easier AND you’re going to have a more seamless transition from irons to red dot.

With a cut (or melted) slide and a dot that sits low, you can see and use either your factory height sights or the red dot at the exact same time.

A lot of people put suppressor height sights on their pistols so they can use both their red dot and irons…I have done that on my Sig P220, but won’t do it on my Glock.

Why?

Again, it’s because I want consistency in my presentation, regardless of which of my Glocks I’m drawing or whether I’m drawing one of my non-gun trainers. That means that I either switch the sights on every single one or I keep them all at factory sight height.

The second big factor has to do with the fact that a red dot rewards a presentation that automatically places the sights or dot between your dominant eye and the target and penalizes a non-perfect presentation.

With iron sights, when your sights are off, you can look at the front and rear sights and figure out which direction you need to move the gun to get them into alignment.

With a red dot, if you can’t see the red dot, you may have no idea which way you need to move the gun to make the red dot visible without switching to looking at the sights. Furthermore, you may not know whether your alignment is off or whether your red dot is turned off or not working.

Let’s look at a few types of presentations from the holster…

First, two bad ones…don’t do either of these:

  1. “Bowling,” which is swooping the gun out and up from the holster, like a pendulum on a grandfather clock.
  2. “Fishing/casting,” which is bringing the muzzle way above horizontal and then back down to our target.

Next are the more common ones:

  1. Diagonal, straight from the holster to the final shooting position. This is faster when it works, and slower when it’s not perfect. It takes a lot more practice to be consistently accurate with this technique, but several pro shooters use it because it can buy them .05-.10 seconds on their first hit times after they’ve maxed out every other factor. If you’re not one of the top 100 shooters in the world, there are easier, better, and more resilient ways to shave off .05-.10 seconds from your draw.
  2. Diagonal, straight from high compressed ready to the final shooting position…often called, “pushing it out or punching it out.” This is more forgiving than going diagonal out from the holster, but can leave you clueless if the red dot isn’t visible.
  3. From high compressed ready, move the gun up + out at a 45(ish)-degree angle until the sights are between your dominant eye and the target and then push out. Larry, Dusty, and Beau from Sealed Mindset termed this the “hockey stick” or upside-down hockey stick. You can also call it an “up + out.”

The hockey stick presentation gets the sights into your cone of vision (shown here) sooner and allows you to make fine adjustments as you’re pushing out to your final shooting position.

Most importantly, it’s MUCH more forgiving than going straight from the holster or punching out from high compressed ready…especially at off-angles.

What this means is that if you do your practice with iron sights in a way that AUTOMATICALLY puts your sights into alignment between your dominant eye and the target, and you use a co-witnessed red-dot, you’re going to have an effortless transition back and forth between irons and red dots.

How do you get a co-witnessed red dot with factory height sights?

It’s harder than you might think.

There are a ton of red dot systems available right now. The two gold standards are the Trijicon RMR 2 and the Leupold DeltaPoint…with Holosun picking up steam incredibly fast. It’s relatively easy to get these to co-witness with suppressor height sights, but incredibly difficult, if not impossible, to get them to co-witness with factory height sights.

As a result, I went with the JP/Shield JPoint 4 on a slide that I had cut by Lone Wolf Distributors.

Why?

The JPoint 4 sits INCREDIBLY low and the Lone Wolf slide cut is pretty deep. The combination of the two let me have a red dot that co-witnesses with my factory height iron sights.

It doesn’t have all of the bells and whistles that other micro red dots have…there’s no switches (it’s always on and you replace the battery every 6 months) and it’s not as resilient to being dunked in water, but it’s ridiculously easy to use and tough when mounted to the slide.

Regardless of what pistol red dot and mounting option you decide on, the big question is, what’s the best way to get your draw stroke dialed in so you can make a seamless transition from irons to a red dot?

Using traditional training methods, systems, and tools, it’s a hit-or-miss proposition that takes a lot more time, effort, and money than it should.

As you may have figured out, we are scratching the surface on red dots here. If you’re thinking about making the switch, what questions do you have? If you’ve already made the switch, what was your experience with transitioning from irons to red dots?

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What is the best way to simulate ‘stress shooting?’

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I got a great question recently: What is the best way to simulate “stress shooting?”

It’s an important question, and one that most people get wrong.

When most people think of stress shooting, they think of trying to shoot in high stress shooting conditions that are usually overwhelming. Force on force; a dark range with flashing lights and heavy metal or screaming; immersive scenarios and/or time constraints that are beyond the shooter’s ability.

This type of training does not help shooters improve quickly…it mainly serves to highlight shortcomings and gets the shooter to focus on what not to do. In many cases, they cause the shooter to focus on avoiding what caused pain in the past rather than what they should be doing.

This can create intense emotional memories and it can serve as a wake-up call to shooters who are overconfident, but it alters brain chemistry in such a way that it’s harder to learn or improve complex motor skills.

Fortunately, there are much more effective ways to do stress training, particularly at home with dry fire.

Stress training has two big parts:

1. Making your technique more and more resilient to higher and higher levels of stress.
2. Training your mind to remain calmer and clearer under higher and higher levels of stress.

When we think of stress shooting, we think of extreme stress shooting, but stress is anything that takes you outside of your comfort zone and that gives us a huge window of training opportunities … again, things we can do at home with dry fire.

So, how do we simulate stress shooting at home?

Like most skills, it’s a step-by-step or crawl-walk-run process.

Basically, we take fundamental shooting drills and alter them just enough that you’re out of your comfort zone, have to focus 100% on the drill, and can do the drill successfully most, but not all of the time.

You could call this increasing the stress level or increasing the cognitive load.

“Stress” shooting can be as easy as trying to do a dry fire course of fire while counting backwards from 100 by 7s out loud…or while standing on one leg…or while lunging in various directions.

The key is to apply a cognitive load or other perceived threat to the central nervous system that stretches skill vs. breaking the shooter.

Put another way, it’s like a small exposure to a virus that your body can adapt to vs. a large exposure that overwhelms the host.

A small exposure causes a positive adaptation. An over-exposure causes scarring.

We cover a step-by-step for doing this throughout Praxis.

Like I said, stress training is a two-part process…

First of all, we want to make our skill resilient so that whatever situation we encounter will be normal rather than novel.

One way you can think about this is that a life and death situation is stressful in and of itself, but that stress can be compounded if the situation is new and you have to figure out how to bridge the gap between what you trained and what you’re faced with.

When you encounter a real-world threat, we want your brain to say, “I recognize this…I’ve dealt with this before…I know what to do.” rather than “Oh, crap!…” and blanking and having significant lags while trying to figure things out to apply the flat-footed, linear skills that you did on the range.

There are a ton of examples of this:

  • The threat is at an angle but you’ve always practiced engaging targets straight ahead.
  • You’ve done all of your practice with a stance and reality dictates that you make the shot while off balance.
  • All of your training is from the holster, but your pistol is laying on the ground.

Regardless, you want to make your training as varied as possible so it’s as resilient as possible, but you want to add variety in a specific way for maximum effect.

Anyone can ramp up the complexity of a drill so that it makes shooters tank.

That doesn’t really do any good…the trick is to add complexity gradually so that the drills you’re doing are just beyond what you can currently do. This is one of the keys to the effectiveness of Praxis.

The second part of stress training is stress modulation.

When you experience stress, your brain can either amplify it or minimize it. It can overreact to it, or it can react with the optimal release of fight-or-flight hormones to maximize your chances of survival.

How you respond to sudden, surprise stress is a skill. Being able to shift your body back and forth from being primarily sympathetic to primarily parasympathetic is a skill…one that we work on.

Once you learn it, you can use events in your daily life as “target practice”…frustration with telemarketers and overseas phone support, kids and grandkids making bad choices, bad drivers, etc. Each of these situations will change from being an annoyance to an opportunity to practice your stress modulation skills.

How calm can you get when your natural desire is rage, and how quickly can you flip the switch?

The effect is life-changing…potentially life-SAVING…and everyone around you will appreciate it.

One of the really cool things about Praxis is that, after you’ve gone through it, you’ll get more out of any other live training you do in the future…concealed carry, advanced classes, force-on-force, and the lessons even carry over to carbine, defensive shotgun, and long range precision.

And, just to be clear, you definitely want to do force-on-force training as a method of stress training and/or stress testing your technique, but only after having gone through Praxis. Praxis will prime your brain and body so that you’ll get the most value out of that type of training and retain the lessons longer.

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Self-defense shooting with corrective lenses

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A lot of times, the techniques that we use for plinking and having fun with guns don’t necessarily carry over to self-defense shooting.

Take shooting with glasses or contacts as an example.

The fact is, we may or may not have our corrective lenses handy when we need to defend ourselves.

It may be bifocals, trifocals, correcting astigmatism, monovision, progressives or readers, but roughly three-quarters of Americans wear corrective lenses of one sort or another.

That can pose some interesting challenges with shooting … particularly self-defense shooting using traditional iron sights.

Of course, a laser or red dot make this easier, but the fact is that most non-competitors and non-professionals don’t use red-dots or lasers on their carry guns.

One thing that people do as it becomes more and more difficult to see their front sight is slack off on their acceptable group size … thinking that a flat footed, static group on a paper target somehow carries over to a real-world shooting situation.

That’s the wrong attitude to have. As you’ve heard me say, the bigger the difference between your training conditions and reality, the more disciplined you need to be and the tighter your groups should be.

Part of the problem is that a lot of people kind of over-buy into the whole “train like you fight because you’ll fight like you train” mantra.

It’s true to a point … but it’s also kind of a joke.

If it were true, we’d do all training without eye or ear protection and we’d only train against live targets who were in the process of attacking us. We don’t do this.

For people who wear corrective lenses to shoot, this is a big deal.

Take people who need to wear readers, bifocals, trifocals, or progressives to see their front sight.

It’s a royal PAIN to tip your head up far enough to see your front sight clearly.

For a portion of your training, it’s perfectly fine to use SSP “Top Focals” with the “reader” lens at the top instead of the bottom.

It’s also perfectly fine to use stick-on readers with your existing shooting glasses as a short-term solution.

Now, you may be wondering why you’d practice with either of those options when you’re not going to have them with you in a self-defense situation.

You’re also probably not going to have hearing protection, but you don’t hear people advocating for practicing much without hearing protection.

What the lenses are going to let you do is learn what perfect sight alignment feels like and how quickly you can run the trigger without disturbing sight alignment.

The lenses will let you see your front sight clearly and, at that point, if you aren’t drilling holes, you can’t blame your eyes or age … it’s your trigger press, and you can fix that!

What if you wear other types of corrective lenses … not “readers?”

The following concept holds true regardless of what kind of vision correction you need … so long as you can safely do the reps without vision correction.

When you (dry fire) practice, you want to start and end with clear vision and do some reps in the middle without any correction.

(Use safety glasses without correction if you’re using projectiles of any kind)

For the dry fire reps without correction, it really helps to use lasers as a feedback.

When you’ve got this foundation, it’s possible to make very accurate shots at common self-defense distances, even when your sights are mostly a blur and you’re mostly using the frame of the pistol to aim.

Is it ideal? No. It would be better to be able to see your sights clearly, have a laser sight, or red dot sight. Heck…it would really be better to have a long gun. But shooting with compromised vision is a reality for a lot of shooters and we’re much better off meshing our training with reality than trying to ignore it.

If you wear glasses or lenses of any kind and shoot, I want to strongly encourage you to watch the free automatic aiming presentation.

It will show you how you can be freakishly fast and accurate with a pistol with less time and effort than most experienced shooters believe is possible.

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World’s first African American music museum opens in Nashville

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The world’s first and only institution dedicated to preserving and celebrating African American music opened to the public Jan. 30, 2021, in Nashville.

Tennessee’s capital city has long attracted visitors to its throng of neon-lit honky-tonks, live music venues and songwriter’s cafes — and now “Music City,” as it is popularly known, is home to a monumental new attraction for music lovers — the National Museum of African American Music (NMAAM).

Located downtown at the corner of Fifth Avenue and Broadway, the new museum “walks through the history of American music as told through an African American prism,” says NMAAM’s President and CEO H. Beecher Hicks. In so doing, it traces African American music traditions from the 1600s to the present day, ranging from spiritual hymns to blues, gospel, jazz, R&B and hip-hop.

Once inside the 56,000-square-foot complex, visitors encounter seven interactive galleries — six of them permanent and one rotating — that tell the story of how a distinct group of people used their musical artistry to impact and change the world.

The journey begins in the Roots Theater with an introductory film that focuses on the evolution of African American music traditions, beginning with indigenous African music that survived slavery to become so much more. Each of the following galleries presents specific historical periods that influenced the creation of African American music. They include:

WADE IN THE WATER — The African American Religious Experience: Early 1600s to Present.

CROSSROADS — The Great Migration and the Emergence of Blues, Early 1900s.

A LOVE SUPREME — Harlem Renaissance and the Emergence of Jazz.

ONE NATION UNDER A GROOVE — Civil Rights Movement: 1940s to Present.

THE MESSAGE — Urban Renewal: 1970s to Present.

Particularly impressive is the gallery ONE NATION UNDER A GROOVE that documents the emergence of rhythm and blues following World War II and amid the Civil Rights Movement.

“I think Black music always represents culture and what’s happening,” said Grammy-winning R&B artist H.E.R., who contributed to the gallery’s history of R&B video. “Where were people’s minds and hearts, what were they feeling, what were they focused on, what was the overall culture and what was the racial tension? Music is the place that you go to better understand that. Music is the language everybody speaks.”

Museum curator Dina Bennett points out that the more than 1,600 artifacts and memorabilia on display help tell the story of Black trailblazers and innovators, and they include traditional African instruments, a sweater owned by Nat King Cole, a gown worn by singer Whitney Houston, a pair of diamond-studded boots worn by influential Miami rapper Trina and the bass guitar played by A Taste of Honey’s Janice-Marie Johnson.

“Johnson played that bass on her hit ‘Boogie Oogie Oogie,’ which went on to sell 10 million copies,” Bennett said.

“We have been preparing this collection for more than 20 years,” said CEO Hicks, “but this museum has actually been more than 400 years in the making. We look forward to welcoming music lovers from around the world to this magnificent cultural experience as we prepare to celebrate the history of African American music, which truly is the soundtrack of our nation.”

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the NMAAM will initially only allow a limited number of visitors for scheduled tours from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. Masks will be required for entrance. General admission costs $24.95 for adults; $18.75 for students, teachers and senior citizens, and $13.50 for guests 7-17 years old. Visitors 6 and younger enter for free.

www.nmaam.org, 615-301-8724

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Is your gun training perturbing enough?

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“I’m very perturbed about that” was a relatively common saying when I was growing up.

Today, when you say it, it elicits reminiscent smiles from those old enough to remember and confused scrunchy faces from most 20-somethings.

But did you know that perturbation is vital for effective self-defense firearms training?

Recovering your balance, realigning your muzzle after being bumped/struck, re-focusing after scanning your environment, re-aiming after glancing at the ground to avoid trip hazards, stabilizing vision when shifting focus between potential threats, and recoil management are all responses to perturbation.

How quickly we’re able to restabilize our balance, our vision, and our aim after being perturbed are some of the biggest differences between sterile range training and resilient self-defense training.

And it’s a huge difference between training to poke holes in paper vs. training to stop a lethal threat.

From a training efficiency perspective, perturbation will help you build skill quicker than sterile training.

How’s that?

Well, one of the key areas of the brain for high stress performance is the cerebellum.

One of the big things that the cerebellum does is error correction…or recovery from perturbation.

Put another way, if your practice isn’t challenging enough that you’re being perturbed and having to correct errors, there’s very little activation or skill building in the cerebellum.

Too much challenge, though, and training changes from building skill to creating emotional memories of the training.

The key is to keep the majority of your training 4% outside of your comfort zone.

That’s a ridiculously small amount, but 4% today, 4% tomorrow, and 4% the next day gets the cerebellum learning at full speed and skill, compounding quickly with minimal plateauing or yo-yoing.

So, how do you make it happen? How do you incorporate this into your training in a way that will give you optimal results…not too little and not too much, but just the right amount?

That’s a great question, and we go into the do-it-yourself option as well as a done-for-you, step-by-step option in this presentation.

Oh…and if you want to read up some more on the science behind this, you may want to check out these papers/studies. Fair warning…they’re pretty dense:

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Is the BMW M440i the best possible coupe?

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Image credit: BMW

Several months ago, I asked myself this question — is the 2021 BMW M440i the best coupe for the money? I was in the market to replace my warranty-expiring 718 Cayman, and I had to be able to at least pretend the replacement was worth the tradeoff regarding performance, comfort and a great design.

Now before you brand me a lunatic, I am aware these two cars are in somewhat different solar systems. But that was actually the point when I flipped the Cayman, our Honda HRV and a small chunk of savings for this surprisingly delightful sports coupe. I wanted the best blend of features in a single vehicle.

Having owned a BMW 325xi, this was certainly a brand to consider. I had pined for the previous generation M4, so targeting the BMW marque was obvious. I stumbled on the M440i when I was researching the M4 and the Audi RS3. I ended up configuring it on their website as soon as it became available, found an open allocation and then ordered it before I lost my nerve.

I had little interest in the fastest 0-60 time, the largest engine displacement or the best precision on the skid pad. And I won’t argue there could be other cars to consider in this category. This purchase needed to be all things to me — everything our 2020 Audi Q3 was not. I have only one other space in the garage and I don’t want anything left in the driveway.

For excruciating specifics, you can read my previous article on the acquisition itself, but we’re here to answer the question I just posed. Could the BMW M440i be the best overall sports coupe rational money can buy? Rather than get into a debate over technical specifics, I’ll provide a concise review and then tell you why I think that it is.

Appearance

Your first noticeable insight is when approaching the car. The M440i design is contentious — mostly to longtime BMW aficionados. Leading the list of controversy is the front grill. It is admittedly massive, and not reminiscent of its predecessor’s kidney-shaped trademark. You’ll either love it or hate it, and many won’t hide their distain. I think it adds to its aggressiveness.

Much like my Cayman was when it first released, the BMW M440i is a departure from former designs by the manufacturer. Yet there is no mistake that it is a BMW. Its assertive attitude is obvious — lower, wider and longer than the previous model. The lines are smooth and tapered until they abruptly drop or gash, just to let you know it’s breathing.

From a distance or sitting alone, this car is what I would term a sleeper. Not that you expect grandma to exit, but it’s a much more potent machine than looks might suggest. It can be initially passive. But give a glance back as you pass by any viewpoint – the transition will catch you off guard.

Comfort and amenities

Arguably, the Cayman gets the nod for overall handling ability. But the BMW M440i gains back what ground it might have lost with a more comfortable ride and a striking interior. The seats are infinitely adjustable and have just the right combination of bolster and support. You can drive for hours without thinking about a rest stop.

I haven’t owned it long enough to work out the various electronic features — the list is long and highly customizable. I opted for touchless delivery, so I also missed out on the delivery demo. The default settings are sometimes puzzling, but once you get the hang of the console controller, it’s easy enough to make changes. I’ve been assigned a BMW genius, so help is always available.

Quality

There’s something to be said for car quality. Doors that chunk shut like a bank vault sealing its passengers inside a crypt of quiet. Interior components are especially and understatedly tasteful. Plastics don’t appear inferior. The leather seats feel like a finely tailored jacket — sturdy but forgiving. Seams line up and the design flows nicely from one section to another.

There are no creaks or groans from the suspension. No rush of air around the window seals. When I direct the heat from the dash to the floor, the vents silently close and transfer warmth instantly. Buttons and controls provide positive feedback and are naturally placed. It’s a pampered experience.

Performance

You might imagine I would save the best feature for last. Many feel the BMW B58 engine is among the finest they’ve ever made. A straight-six turbocharged platform in varied configurations; the BMW M440i utilizes a 48-volt pseudo-hybrid to enhance performance. It relies on brake energy recuperation to achieve astounding response (eliminating turbo-lag by the way).

Though this system provides considerably to overall engine economy, the reason I am sighting the feature has less to do with frugality and everything to do with off-the-line acceleration. I was originally skeptical as I’m not a fan of hybrid drivability — I find the sudden shutdown of the engine to be psychologically disturbing.

But I’m willing to get used to a new perspective for innovative technologies, even when the thing cuts offas I coast to a stop. There is zero turbo-lag when you accelerate from a standstill, and a whole lotta launch when you roll your foot off the break and mash it onto the accelerator. Oh, you’ll hear the engine restart in a millisecond, but if I don’t care, you won’t either.

Power is the first thing any enthusiast talks about when it comes to vehicle performance. But in the very next breath they will query the cornering and overall handling capability. And it is excellent — balanced and surefooted because the M440i comes with xDrive four-wheel drive technology. Traction is abundantly available to all four corners.

I know, I traded in a Porsche and do not claim this coupe handles like a go-kart. But remember, I’m looking for the best balance of all features. Our SUV is used for utility — runs to the store and hauling of goods. It actually handles nicely, but this BMW M440i is the most dynamic cornering car I’ve ever driven in this class, and it’s not even close.

Criticisms

As near as this car comes, the BMW M440i is not perfect. For better or for worse, this is a heavy vehicle. Coming from a Porsche, I am used to flinging into a turn with effortless steering input. Oddly the BMW is steady in similar cornering, and the steering provides solid feedback. I won’t say that it’s sluggish, but just like its owner it could lose a few pounds.

This car also sits surprisingly low — and it’s not just the appearance. Getting in and out can be a challenge, especially in tight quarters. Not as bad as the Cayman tuck-and-roll technique, but unlike our Q3 there does have to be a plan. The doors are also big — nothing you can do about it, as that’s the nature of any car that needs access to a back seat.

Finally (yes, it’s a short list), I have a love-hate relationship with technology. I appreciate the customization aspects found in the console controller, but also long for the days of intuitive knobs and switches. I do like to monkey with the settings, but it’s something best done in the driveway since many of the selections are several screens deep.

Conclusion

My friends ask me if I’ll miss the Cayman — a fair question considering I’ve had two over the course of 10 years. My 718 and the Honda served as a deposit on the BMW M440i, so I certainly missed it while waiting for delivery. But for as long as I can drive this beast, I can’t say that I wish I had the Cayman back. Which is the best way I can answer that question.

The BMW M440i and Audi Q3 are the perfect pairing for our garage. There are no limits to where and when we can drive, and I can have a lot of fun getting there in this car. Did I answer my original question? I set out to find the finest performance coupe for the money, and it now sits now in my garage. So yes, I think I did

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Are you training too much at one time?

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There’s a natural assumption that if you want to get better at a skill, you should spend hours every day practicing it.

After all, we hear stories all the time about the best athletes in the world showing up an hour or two early for practice and being the best because they simply outwork everyone else.

But pros train different aspects of their skill than ordinary people.

Pros are able to spend so much time practicing because they’ve already mastered the fundamentals.

They’re not working on the fundamentals as much as working on brain and body endurance, and performing when exhausted.

I’ve used the example many times, but learning a skill is like sawing a board with a handsaw.

If you start slow and focus on precision early, you end up with speed and precision.

If you try to saw too quickly, too soon, you end up with lots of shallow cuts, no groove, and it takes longer to cut through the board or master the skill.

Speed is definitely the goal, but you don’t get high quality speed by forcing speed or focusing on speed…you get speed through paying close attention to what you’re doing and developing an efficient and consistent technique early on.

From a shooting perspective, when you push yourself too much mentally or physically while you’re trying to learn a skill, you’re not going to have as much mental bandwidth available for the actual skill.

With sawing, you get several sloppy cuts instead of a single, clean one. With shooting, it means shooting sloppy groups in sterile conditions instead of precision ones.

With sawing, if you start slowly, with a single cut, you end up with both speed and precision.

And, it’s the same with shooting.

Here’s the thing…when you’re working on learning or refining your shooting skills, it takes focus and attention.

A level of focus and attention that can’t be maintained for long periods of time.

And, if you train beyond when you’re able to focus and start getting sloppy, then you’ve switched from building skill to simply grinding out reps.

Here’s something that most people aren’t aware of yet…

When you practice with focus for 10-20 minutes and stop, the learning in your brain continues for 6-8 hours!

It’s pretty dense, but here’s a study that goes into more detail.

That’s a big deal, especially if you continue the training for three weeks. They’ve shown that if you do fast, short, focused bursts of training for three weeks, the skill — not just the head knowledge — will remain for up to eight weeks.

Now, when most people go to the range, there’s time and effort invested in getting packed up, driving, waiting, setting up, driving, cleaning, etc.

Since it takes so much effort to make training happen, it’s natural to want to do as much as possible while you’re there.

Same with dry fire that takes complicated setup.

If your dry fire takes 10-15 minutes of setup and 10-15 minutes of tear-down, it doesn’t make sense to only do 10 minutes of training. It’s understandable to want to do 30-60 minutes of training to make the setup and teardown worthwhile.

What about shooting as therapy, relaxation, and as a social activity?

Those are different than training for serious objectives like using a gun to save a life. Personally, I have guns that I train with for fighting, I have guns that I shoot for fun, and I reload and do precision rifle for relaxation. There’s carryover, but it’s a false economy to try to bundle them all together.

So, what’s the answer?

The science tells us that we should be doing a few minutes of focused training, a few times per week.

In order for that to make sense, we want our training to be deliberate, fun, have a LOT of variety, and take no more than a minute or two to set up and tear down.

So…when does it make sense to spend hours a day practicing a skill?

There are a couple of answers to that because of the fact that there are different stages of learning…there’s the initial learning phase, stress inoculation, contextual training, endurance, combining multiple skills, and more.

If you’re at a live training, you’re probably going to be spending all day practicing. Don’t think of that as skill building or practice. Think of that as learning head knowledge, an introduction to a skill, and a source of drills to do once you get home to build the actual skill you want to build.

If the skill involves mental or physical endurance, then practice obviously has to include endurance at some point…but you want to build that endurance on solid fundamentals and you don’t want to grind out meaningless reps for the sake of tick marks on a calendar.

Once you have a fundamental skill dialed in, you may be able to perform it at a high level in repeated spurts for hours at a time…the focus isn’t the underlying skill at that point, but contextual application of the skill, making the skill more resilient, and/or inoculating the skill to stress and progressively higher and higher cognitive loads.

An example of this is doing a few minutes a day of dry fire training…first static, then dynamic, and then with increasing cognitive load with the goal being able to do a multi-day force-on-force class where you execute all of the fundamentals automatically at a high level and are able to focus on tactics. Even in that force-on-force training, you may only really have 10-20 minutes of all-out execution of shooting skills over the course of an entire day of training.

Also, once you have the fundamental skill dialed in, some days you’re just going to be in the zone and don’t want to stop. On those days where the training is fun, easy, and high quality, sometimes you just want to let it ride and keep training. In these cases, you want to keep the challenge level so that you’re succeeding 80-90-ish percent of the time and make sure to switch to an easier activity and quit when your ability to practice at a high level drops off.

But it all starts with a solid foundation. Sometimes people are lucky enough to get to build a solid foundation from scratch. Other times, we need to jack up and shore up an existing foundation. Either way, this is the way to get ‘er done.

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Buying a new car in a COVID environment

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The Dilemma

If you appreciate an interesting predicament (or read my earlier article), I have been struggling with what to do when the warranty expires on my 2017 718 Cayman in July. I can’t possibly chance an uncovered Porsche, as the potential consequences can be fiscally catastrophic. So, I’ve been accustomed to flipping for a new one when it gets too close.

I’ve been leaning strongly toward the 718 Cayman GTS 4.0 — with that insanely delightful flat-six powerhouse producing nearly 400 ponies. I was raised on muscle cars, so I was also intrigued by the release of the mid-engine Corvette C8. And it wasn’t long before I was obsessed. But only one of these beauties could fit in my garage, or in my wallet.

Well, that all went sideways when the coronavirus arrived. And the lives of those of us fortunate enough to be spared a direct impact were nonetheless altered, affecting most aspects of daily reality. My perspective on almost everything was distorted rather abruptly, and transportation was no exception.

My wife and I are listed in more than one medical high-risk category, so we’ve been hunkered down and working from home since last February. We food shop at off-peak hours every other week, and doctor appointments are generally telemed. We haven’t seen any friends or family in person for almost a year — that’s just the way it is when you need to stay safe.

A New Strategy

A third car was added to our two-person family just prior to the pandemic — my wife graduating from a well-used Honda HRV to an Audi Q3. The plan was for me to drive the Honda to work and the 718 Cayman would be my first garage queen. But since last November I’d only put 200 miles on the Cayman, and not much more than that has been added to the other two.

It was initially a solid plan. Until I realized that we were dedicating space for three cars that could not be driven nearly as much as they once had. Even post-pandemic any driving meant vehicular dilution from a surplus of options. And although the Honda was now middle-aged, I hated for it to be slumbering in the driveway and blocking the exit for my 718.

When we went shopping for the Audi, we had first visited our local BMW dealer to check out the X1, 2 and 3. But like Goldilocks and The Three Bears, one was too this and the other was too that. Having been previous owners of a BMW 325xi that both of us enjoyed, we left a bit disappointed fully expected to drive home in one of them.

I did get a glimpse of a stunning late model M4 on the way out, so all was not completely lost. It was low, lean and meaner than a caged badger. I thought about that car all the way home and then into the next days and weeks. I started doing the math in my head and assessing alternatives. Google and YouTube only fueled this obsession.

The Hunt

Lost in online searches, I stumbled on the 2021 BMW M440i almost accidently. Unknown to me at that time, I studied the first renderings and I liked the aggressive design (including the controversial front grill). When the pre-production prototypes appeared, the Corvette and Cayman GTS began sharing the stage with an unlikely challenger.

No, this BMW is not a mid-engine design — an undeniable departure from my more recent fixations. But the all-wheel xDrive is rear-wheel bias and standard on the M440i coupe, making it seriously contending. It’s not classically a sports car, but it’s an athletic, purposeful coupe with attributes neither the Vette nor the Cayman can compete with.

Moreover, I needed this car to be a serious daily driver — without losing a mischievousness nature. And since the M440i comes standard with the exclusive BMW 48-volt hybrid assist, it satisfies not only a desire to move toward eco-friendly technologies and shrink our carbon footprint, but simultaneously increasing performance in all measurable categories.

Finally, an enormous upside of the M440i is its ability to play the part of an extremely fun to drive, potent (and dare I say) practical car. Where else can you cut a check for sixty grand and walk away with a fully optioned 4-seat coupe that produces nearly 400 horsepower — all with the infamous BMW maintenance-free warranty?

The Quest Begins

I checked the official BMW website every day for the new models to appear, but week after torturous week passed without a sniff. At long last, it suddenly appeared one morning, and I could now play around with the BMW configurator to create the perfect M440i just for me — a bit anticlimactic it turns out since it’s pretty well equipped right out of the box.

I saved my choices so I could go back and tweak particulars later, and during the closeout process a solicitation request appeared requesting a contact from my local dealer, BMW of Devon. Sure, how much risk is there in a phone call? Anyway, I would have bet no salesperson would even be aware of its release. And I would have lost that wager.

After a few email exchanges, I was directed to Hakim, a polite and quiet young man who impressed immediately — not just with his extensive knowledge of BMW, but his specific familiarity with this car. This purchase could be one of the last entertaining cars I’d ever own, so I appreciated someone who held a similar level of awareness to help me finalize the build.

As far as my intentions go, I was straight with him. The M440i would need to be a substitute for some of the utility and practicality of my Honda but challenge the spirit I’ve experienced in the Cayman. I also wanted to trade in both cars for a respectable price and have a touchless experience from sale to delivery — a tall order indeed.

My nature is to set expectations low, so I wasn’t really prepared to get a reasonable offer for both cars. But I did. Oh, I could perhaps have gotten a bit more for the Cayman if I sold it outright. But there’s an intrinsic cost of selling a car on your own, not to mention it’s a gigantic pain. Sight-unseen, they made a bid for the pair of them. And I accepted.

I was pleased so far. But remember that I haven’t even seen one in the wild at this point. The online build was perfect – Dravit grey with a mocha interior. Hakim persuaded me to select the Shadowline package, blacking out the grill and other trim components. He was dead on. Black wheels with all-season run-flats complimented the final product.

We arranged to drop off the trades the next day — a simple process pre-pandemic, but for us it required strategic planning. Completing the transaction outdoors minimized complications. We arrived and Hakim greeted us from a distance, masked as we were. Some signatures occurred over the hood of the Honda and we were on our way. So far, so good.

I admit I was taking a bit of a risk having not seen or driven this car. But having owned a BMW with xDrive (not to mention the research time I invested), I felt reasonably confident that we wouldn’t be disappointed. It was only the second time I’d have bought a vehicle without actually sitting in the driver seat. My very first car was the other, and it didn’t have one.

The Test Drive

Two interminable weeks passed, and I nearly forgot about it (I’m lying now for the sake of drama). But while taking our lunchtime walk through the neighborhood one afternoon, my cellphone buzzed. It was Hakim, and he wondered if I’d be interested in driving a demo model that had just arrived. Was that a rhetorical question? We hurried home.

Arriving at the dealership for the second time, the exchange was similar to the first — socially distanced and masked at all times. The M440i demo still had the protective sheeting on the hood and trunk, and it felt much like testing a pre-production stealth fighter. They sanitized the interior and off we went.

We only had 30 minutes or so as we were on our lunch break and both of us had afternoon meetings. I grew up in the area, so I knew the roads I wanted to play on. The first thing I noticed (with great relief) was zero turbo-lag. Whether it was the 48-volt hybrid assist or some other technical gizmo, this motor pulled alarmingly hard, smooth and strong.

Another surprise was the interior comfort. We deliberately kept the default settings so as not to be overly stimulated by any excessiveness. The seats had a snug grip with just the right amount of support and padding, and without the mushiness of a family room recliner. Things tighten up a bit in sport mode, but that’s no surprise.

Less than half an hour later, we exited the car and removed our driving gloves (of the medical nitrile variety), left the keys with Hakim and were on our way home. A completely contactless experience, this was definitely the weirdest but also the most exhilarating test drive I’ve ever completed — legally at any rate.

Anticipation

On the way home we discussed the raw power, road manners and cornering. There was a misty rain for the duration of our assessment. But perfect conditions are not desired for a test drive in a car like this. The BMW M440i proved itself to be the most balanced and surefooted car I’ve ever driven in the wet. My Cayman would not have managed as well.

So then now we would play the waiting game. There is nothing more interminably annoying than anticipation. The hourglass dropped grains of sand so slowly I could count them as they fell. I wandered aimlessly in my garage – the lingering echo conspicuously apparent, and the empty bay looked lonelier than a pointless punctuation.

I’ve been pestering Hakim for updates when the urge became too intense. And he has obliged with select milestones as he received them. But it’s all rather hollow when there is no context to a specific delivery timeframe. A recent text indicated my car was in the body shop and transport was pending from the factory. And then nothing more for what seemed an eternity.

Delivery

On Dec. 8 at 4 p.m. — 74 days and 10 minutes from my initial contact with the dealer, I got a call from Frank, the New Car Sales Manager. The vessel Manon was sailing into Port Bayonne harbor (New Jersey) and was scheduled to dock the following day. I logged onto VesselFinder.com and followed it for several hours until it reached the pier.

I had no idea how long the unloading and delivery process normally takes. I realize vehicle transportation is nothing like Amazon Prime and that there are customs, inspections and other logistics to contend with. Frank indicated this can take about two weeks — but I got a message from him late the next week indicating an imminent arrival.

There is no reason I should have expected the delivery to be that much more complicated than the first visits. Yes, there were several more sales related tasks to complete. The plan was to do as much of this activity ahead of time (dealer options, vehicle settings and such), so that there would be a minimum of contact.

We arrived as before and met in the transfer area outside — they are doing perhaps 50% no contact deliveries. The car was poised in seclusion, the black subdued wheels tucked inside the wells like the haunches of a panther straining to spring on its prey. We completed a visual inspection checking for imperfections. It was flawless, and my eyes watered.

The documents were prepared and reviewed on the phone with us that morning, and we signed off on them in the shadow of the coupe as the late afternoon sun faded. Less than an hour from arrival the process was complete. We parted and I drove home with my wife driving the Q3 in my rearview mirror.

Conclusion

I did not intend to provide a comprehensive review of my BMW M440i as part of this commentary — that is something I’ve promised for the early part of the New Year. I will need a chance to flog it around a bit under some diverse conditions. Initial impressions? It’s everything I expected it to be. Beautiful. Luxurious. Intoxicating.

I’ve appreciated every car I’ve owned for one reason or another, even some of our commuter clunkers. But I’ve truly treasured only a handful. The BMW M440i is such a car. I knew it would be the moment I configured it on the BMW website so many weeks ago. And it was well worth the wait.

Being a self-subscribed motor head has meant that I’m destined to pursue my next purchase. In the past my eyes have wandered to other tantalizing possibilities sometimes within months of a transaction. Perhaps that’s because I was always compromising for one reason or another. But now, just in time for the holidays, I have filled both the void in my garage and in my soul.

I will admit that I missed out on the typical car buying experience. This was the first, and I certainly hope the last time we have to complete a purchase in this way. The entire process was either remote or socially distanced. I agree that’s a bit peculiar, but given our relative health, we take this virus seriously. And we are thankful that BMW of Devon did as well.

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