If we were to paddle the Mississippi again, there a few things that I'd consider doing differently. First off would be to have more of a cash cushion to work with. Jess and I were both in the middle of our PhD programs at the time, and were your typical broke grad students. Having a little more cash to fall back on would have taken some pressure off many decisions, like whether or not to get a motel room when we probably could have used the rest.
I would have treated this more like a backpacking trip and carried less junk. We didn't have a cooler or dutch oven, but there were certainly things that we could have cut out or combined. There's a simplicity to cutting out almost everything and going lean that I've grown to appreciate.
The canoe worked out fine, but was larger than necessary from the headwaters down to Bemidji. Bemidji State University's Outdoor Program Center rents smaller (pre-scratched) canoes that would have been more appropriate for that first stretch.
We'll definitely have better rain gear along for the next trip. Paddling-specific clothing, with tighter cuffs and better design would have been great to have as it rained for the better part of the first month. My rain pants were marginal to begin with, and they failed completely about two weeks into the trip.
I was trying to get a newspaper article out once a week, sending out dispatches largely from libraries along the way. Next time I'd stretch that interval to every other week, and either carry a laptop or PDA / folding keyboard combination. Technology is changing rapidly, and there are already several products on the market that would make ideal small expedition computers for writing, sending photos, and getting info on the fly. Flash memory has gotten so inexpensive that we would probably just carry a few memory cards for the entire trip instead of juggling one card and burning cd's along the way.
We needed to have a firm ending date in order to get back to school, and that was a stress inducer for the entire trip for me. Next time around, we'll finish when we finish, ending dates be damned.
That's about it. Most of these are fairly minor, but collectively had a large enough impact on the trip to affect decisions along the way. Long trips are often a crap shoot as to whether they'll be successful or not, but it doesn't hurt to stack the cards in your favor whenever possible
I've just added an additional excerpt called Flash Floods and Cheese Curds to the Book Excerpt section of the website. As always, this is a work in progress and I'd love to hear any feedback anyone has to offer.
I'm going to keep this survey open until 8/29, but then it's on to the data analysis stage. This will take several months to do a full-blown workup, but I'll have rough results in time for the Gathering in October.
If you know of anyone has attempted a thru-hike that still might be interested in completing a survey, feel free to send them to http://www.surveymonkey.com/s.aspx?s...0y1rzzhw_3d_3d
Thank you again,
-John (Johnny Swank, MEGA 2000)
Get Busy Living, or Get Busy Dying
Been thinking about Dad today. He worked himself into the ground at the ripe old age of thirty-nine. I often wonder what he’d think about these kinds of trips I’ve been doing if he was still around. I wonder if I’d even be out doing these trips for that matter.
Sometimes I wonder just what I’m doing out here. Shouldn’t I be doing the respectable thing and be working at some job right instead of wondering down a river all summer? Wouldn't it be easier to just settle down and start going down the road that everyone else is travelling?
I feel as if I have a foot on two different trains going in opposite directions and I’m torn with which one to hop on to. If I continue with this PhD I’m probably going to end up with a decent job at a university with some time off to sneak outside every once in awhile. Then again, many professors seem to have abandoned that part of their life to chase tenure.
The other direction has me working some random jobs piecing together more of the things that really make me tick. An old friend of mine told me once that I’ll either be a graying professor somewhere or a chair maker. Right now I don’t know if I’d argue with that prediction.
I think that Dad's early passing affects how I look at all this. I could get run over by a bus tomorrow for all I know, but I spent years doing all kinds of stupid crap and I feel lucky just to be around right now. I feel like I wasted ten years of my life to finally get to this point, so now what am I supposed to be doing with myself?
I spent the better part of my twenties floundering around from school to school, job to job, and relationship to relationship. A decade lost to decadence and depression. I've always a tinge of regret to all those years, but I can't do anything about that now. Live and learn.
Now I'm here at the ripe age of thirty-five, winding my way down the Mississippi River with someone I'm passionately in love with. Not exactly sure how I ended up here, but I couldn't be happier. Jess has been a god-send, and I'm one lucky, lucky dude.
I don't think that just going through life based just on what feels good is any way to live. I’m not much into goal setting either, but it feels great to watch something that I’ve planned and worked hard for come together. I planned on being a professor, and now that what I've worked toward for the last five years gets closer I just don’t know if it’s worth it anymore.
I can’t obsess about this much more, and I’m not sure this trip is helping anything. Everyday is one hundred percent living. There’s not a moment that goes by that we’re not right in the middle of what’s going on around us. That’s a hard act to follow, and certainly harder to recreate back in the working world. I think about the Appalachian Trail every day even now, I’m sure this trip down the Mississippi is will be the same way. I swear it’s like a drug.
Do you go on some life-changing trip only to pine away for another for the rest of your life, or do you just work your way through and never really get to those super-high points? Those super-highs also come with some awfully low points in the end as well. I honestly can’t get my head around the whole thing.
If you have attempted a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail, regardless of the mileage completed, please take a few moments to complete this survey. Responses will be completely confidential. The survey is composed of eight pages, and pre-testers have indicated that takes about 30-45 minutes to complete. Feel free to "guess-timate" when you are prompted for numerical figures.
I anticipate that data collection will continue until August 2007. If you would like to receive results of the study, fill out the email address prompt on the last page of the survey. If you have any questions, concerns, or comments, please feel free to contact me at email@example.com.
That interview eventually found it's way to NPR's Morning Edition, which helped us get much more media exposure during the expedition and beyond. I'm incredibly grateful for Greta's time in helping us spread the news about the Audubon Society's Upper Mississippi River Campaign.
Here's the gist. Runners start at the NC State University Belltower, run 2 miles to the Krispy Kreme, eat a dozen donuts, then run back. In under an hour.
140 grams of fat
It takes a special kind of athlete to pull this off, but Auburn Staples won this year in an incredible 24:32!
Here's the blurb from Great Outdoor Provision Company's Event's Page
John Pugh (GOPC Staff) will be presenting a slideshow from his 2175 mile Southbound Thru-Hike of the Appalachian Trail in 2000. Slideshow will be followed by a AT Prep Overview (he will have his pack!) and Q/A session. This is a great event for aspiring Thru-Hikers, past AT hikers or those who love the outdoors!
Wed, Jan 31 - Greensboro Shop : 7pm
Thurs, Feb 8 - The Garage, Winston-Salem : 7pm
More Info from the GOPC Blog
I've posted a review of this thing on our Gear Reviews page. I had sold this jacket for years but never understood what all the fuss was about. Now I know, and I'm totally sold on it.
At one point in time, potential thru-hikers could budget about a dollar per mile to cover their expenses on the trail. That day has long since past, with the average thru-hike costing about $3,000 - $4,000 dollars for on-trail expenses. Add to that figure your travel costs to and from the trail, medical expenses, equipment both before the trip, and living expenses immediately after you return. While $4,000 sounds like a lot of money (and it is), consider that your living expenses for 5-6 months back in the "real world" are likely much higher and it becomes sort of relative. At least that's the way I justify it.
Where does all this money go? All you're doing is hiking for six months, right? Wrong.
Here's a few common things you'll need to buy on the trail.
Food: This will probably be your biggest expense on the trail, especially "town food." All that pizza, beer, and ice cream adds up quickly, and only the most determined can get in and out of town without eating a meal somewhere. I budget about $7 per day just for trail food.
Lodging: This probably the second largest expense. It only take a few overnight visits to town to see how quickly hostels, motels, and other lodging adds up.
Major Gear replacement
Shoes and socks
Phone cards/long distance charges
Postage for maildrops, letters, and equipment sent home.
Extra activities like movies or trips off-trail
Magazines and newspapers
I'll address some of these individually in future sections, but for now, I have another article that will give you head start on how to cut your expenses called Thru-hiking on the Cheap.
That trip wen fine for the most part, but If I were to do another thru-hike I'd change up several things. I've posted these in a longer article, Thru-hiking: What I'd do Differently in the Articles section.
I've carried a ziplock wallet on all my trips. Breaking out another bag reminds my of the Appalachian Trail thru-hike, Mississippi River trip, and tons of other activities done outside. When I finished the AT, I carried that same duck-taped bag for several months afterward as I just wasn't ready to jump back into the real world.
At some point I'm going to write a full article about this, but just for kicks here are a few town names I dug up recently.
Towns of Royal Distinction
And, ahem, OTHER towns
Here's the link to the Stocking Stuffers for Paddlers page.
2. Listening as about four hundred pelicans took off while we floated by. They sounded like a bunch of white-feathered helicopters.
3. Paddling and sailing with a great tailwind on Lake Winnibigosh for about thirty minutes. Nothing like being scared silly while making good time.
4. Full moons, quarter moons, and every moon in between.
5. Getting stared at by bald eagles. Staring back.
6. Watching a porcupine wander around camp trying not to stick itself.
7. Thinking. Lots and lots and lots of thinking.
8. Listening to the red-wing blackbirds serenade us.
9. Watching the loons dive underwater and pop up twenty yards away.
10. Meeting some great people. Real salt of the earth folks.
2) Portaging sort of sucks. It builds character though, I guess.
3) Portage wheels and carts are cool. I don't have a portage cart.
4) Feet are happier if warm.
5) So are hands.
6) Its good to just sit in the sun sometimes.
7) Canoes are easier to load and unload, but a kayak is better in the wind.
8) Pogies work better if not frozen solid.
9) I really, really hate when my tape recorder dies.
10) I'd spend the rest of my life doing these trips if I could.
The combined fermentative effects of sandals, feet, mud, water, heat, sweat, and god-only-knows what else is enough to knock you down. All those individual smells combine into a sort of toxic cocktail suitable for neither man nor beast.
Sometimes I just cringe when I'm about to pop the sprayskirt off. Knowing the noxious gasses about to be released is enough to give anyone pause.
I'm so doing this. The race is 2 miles to the Krispy Kreme store on Peace St in Raleigh, NC, eat 12 donuts, and run 2 miles back, in under an hour, without puking if possible.
Here's the "race" details Krispy Kreme Challenge 2007
I'm getting a team up, so if you're in the Raleigh, NC area or want to get in on this superior athletic endevour, give me a holler. Registration is $10, and all proceeds to the NC Children's Hospital.
For info on how Krispy Kreme makes those delicious little donuts from heaven, check out http://home.howstuffworks.com/krispy-kreme.htm . This segment of How Stuff Works was even filmed at the Raleigh store on Peace Street where the race is taking place!
A few special thanks need to go to the following folks. Thank you again for your continued support.
Jessica Robinson - the most patient fiancee' a guy could every wish for
Betty and Kelly Fields - my folks, who may think I'm nuts but rarely say anything about it.
Larry and Candice McGuire - future in-laws, who also may think I'm nuts but rarely say anything about it.
Donald and Britt Woolley - patience by the bucket
Great Outdoor Provision Company - long-time sponsor extraordinaire
Astral Buoyancy - keeping me afloat
Eagles Nest Outfitters - great hammock to get some rest
Level Six - our new Canadian friends. Awesome paddling jacket, eh?
Pacific Outdoor Equipment - keeping my gear dry
Native Eyewear - sunglasses permanently attached to my face
Wake County Department of Environmental Services
Cape Fear Riverwatch
Pine Environmental Services
Cape Fear River Assembly
Cambellton Landing and Riverside Sports Center
Greensboro News and Record
Just a quick post so the Technorati spiders can find me!
I've been intending to get our regular blog http://sourcetosea.net/Blog/Wanderings.html more in line with the rest of the world for about three months now. I think I'm getting closer.
I've fixed a couple of goofy links, learned about http://technorati.com/ Technorati Profile and a few other submission sites, and am going to commit to posting on a more regular basis. I WILL finish the book on our Mississippi River expedition done soon and I need to get my virtual act together.
I love learning about this stuff, but man it's a
pain wandering through the darkness sometimes.
If anyone has any suggestions on how to improve the blog, submission sites, adsense (or any other revenue), driving traffic, etc, I'd love to hear what you have to say.
The photos are at http://sourcetosea.net/CapeFear/Photos/Cape_Fear_Photos.html
Transcribing journals and waiting for my water quality folks to give me the word on the test results. Should have that together in the next week.
Still available to talk/email with any school classes that are interested. I'm also scheduling slideshows for the early spring for civic, scout, environmental, or other groups in the NC area.
Jess is a member of the Carolina Rollergirls, slamming down the competition under the name Lucy Lastkiss. Opponents fear her Shoulder Of Doom when she comes flying out at them. I volunteer with these folks, helping set up the track and do some of the always-needed gruntwork. My alter-ego there is Juan Fantastico.
The Carolina Rollergirl's website tells it like it is:
The Carolina Rollergirls' derby is NOT a wrasslin' style circus act. Staged fighting has been replaced with walloping take-outs. Our fast-dodging jammers are too hungry for points to slow down for silly acrobatics. But the hits keep getting harder every season, and we like to show off every chance we get!
Flat-track roller derby requires skill, strategy and a fearless defiance of good sense. Our game is a fierce competition, fired by a rock n' roll attitude & a free-wheeling spirit. We may be a mischievous crew of shenanigan-charged ladies, but when the whistle blows, playtime is over.
Hold the ones you love close.
At least 8 killed in Riegelwood, NC tornado on November 16, 2006
I'm kind of a numbers dork, and while I'm paddling for ten hours a day, I have nothing to do besides figure out all manner of minutia concerning the trip. Here's the facts, and nothing but the facts, about the Cape Fear River Expedition.
1) 160,000: the approximate number of paddle strokes taken.
2) 6: number of cans of chicken consumed.
3) 10: days spent paddling.
4) 4: AA batteries used for the GPS and tape recorder.
5) 8: number of days between showers.
6) 7: Aleve painkillers taken.
7) 16' 5": length of the Hurricane Tracer sea kayak used.
8) 48: approximate number of energy bars consumed.
9) 1: number of capsizes.
10) 1: number of hydration bladders lost as a result of said capsize.
11) 190: miles paddled
12) 4.75: miles walked (roundtrip) to a convenience store in Riegelwood, NC to buy a newspaper with the election results.
13) 5: approximate number of square inches with poison ivy as a result of the trip.
14) 8'x10': size of my tarp to go over the hammock.
15) 6: Gatoraide bottles purchased during the trip.
16) 1/2: tubes of sunscreen used
17) 3: nights below freezing.
18) 2: pogies that work better when they're not frozen to the paddle.
19) 4,500: average number of calories burned daily.
20) 48: approximate number of bottle of water consumed.
21) 11: water quality samples taken
22). 1: exceedingly patient fiancée' that stayed at home while I paddled the river.
Beyond the Cape Fear River itself, there are several North Carolina connections to this trip. The primary sponsor for this expedition will again be Great Outdoor Provision Company, based out of Raleigh. I will be paddling a kayak designed and manufactured by Hurricane Aqua Sports, a company out of Warsaw, NC. My life jacket is designed and constructed by Astral Designs, who are located in Asheville. The camping hammock I'll use is made by Eagles Nest Outfitters, also from Asheville.
Being a North Carolina kid from the big city of Climax, I think it's great to be associated with all these NC-based companies. It's like paddling a big southern-fried hug.
You can listen to a test recording I made last night. I'm going to be using a microcassette recorder for almost all my journals and will put up some after the trip is over.
To access the podcast page directly, go to the Source to Sea podcasting page. You can set up a RSS feed, or sign up for free email updates whenever a new podcast is added.
Here's what it looks like:
You can zoom in for a closer view.
I'll take some of the regular powerbar/clif bar things, and maybe pack a couple of freeze dried meals in case I get lazy and just want to shove down something, but most of my food is going to be from scratch.
I'm trying out some new stuff this time, based on the site Freezer Bag Cooking. There's some awesome recipes on there, and you can even buy the book for more ideas. Freezer bag cooking is based on pre-packaging you food in freezer bags, pouring hot water in the bag, then putting the bag in a "cozy" made out of insulating material to hold in the heat. You use less fuel because you don't have to simmer, there's not pot-stirring, and no pot to clean at the end of the day. Here's a recipe off their site.
Cranberry Chicken Rice:
In a quart freezer bag put:
1 cup instant rice
1 Tsp. Chicken bullion (low sodium)
1/4 Tsp. salt, if desired
1/2 Tsp. granulated garlic
1 Tsp. Parsley
1 Tsp. Dried Onion
2 Tbl. Dried veggie flakes or freeze dried mixed vegetables
2 Tbl.+2 Tsp. Craisins
Put all items in a quart freezer bag.
Also take a 3-5 oz. can of chicken with you.
In camp put the chicken and it's liquid into the freezer bag, and 1 1/4 cups boiling water. Stir well and put into a
cozy for 10 minutes. This is great with 2 cups water as a soup.
Tasty, tasty, tasty!
I'm also making up a big batch of Ultralight Joe's Moose Goo. The name sounds horrible, but this stuff is great. It's a combination of peanut butter, corn flour (masa), and honey, and you use it as a spead on tortillas, crackers, or straight from the jar like I usually do. Highly recommended.
I'm going to fix my recipe for the World's Easiest One-Pot Meal at least once, because it wouldn't be a trip if that wasn't on the menu. It brings back lots of good memories.
Give me a holler if you have any food ideas. I'll add a page to the site as they come in.
I'm also working with several science classes by giving class lectures on water quality in the Cape Fear Basin, interacting with students and teachers via email, and communicating throughout the trip about my experiences. If your group or class would like to participate in this unique experience, feel free to contact us.
Sponsorship is beginning to come together as well. Great Outdoor Provision Company is again acting as lead sponsor, Astral Buoyancy is providing a personal floatation device, and Eagle Nest Outfitters is supplying me with a camping hammock and related hardware. My utmost appreciation goes out to these companies for their support.
If any groups or classes would like to participate, please feel free to email us. The more the merrier.
Watch out world. I'm coming to kick your butt.
"A butt at rest will stay at rest unless acted upon by an outside force. A butt in motion will stay in motion if it just gets off the couch."
I’m a slothful individual. I can heat a house with burnt time. I slid just under the tax deduction wire by being born on December 31st. Odds are I’ll to be late to my own funeral. You get the picture.
That said, I think the only way to achieve anything is to just get off your butt and start. Just getting a goal and starting toward it is the big thing. Details work themselves out over time so don’t sweat the small stuff to begin with. Any progress is good progress. Just do something.
Tell people what your plans are. Parents, family, friends, strangers off the street, it doesn’t matter. Some will be supportive. Some will say you’re a fool. Listen to the former but don’t ignore the latter. It helps to have people to face up to when you’re scared out of your wits and want to quit. Peer pressure isn’t always bad.
Taking the chance of falling on your face occasionally is good for the soul. When I’m old and grey(er) I don’t want the regret of not trying something just because I was lazy or doing busy work. Life’s too short for that. My father passed away when I was four and I doubt if given the option he would have asked for more time in the office. This trip down the Mississippi was one of the hardest things I’ve done but also the most fulfilling.
I was a wreck for months before we started. Sleepless nights thinking about details, worries about failure, and nagging doubts about doing the right thing were all part of the process. Once the canoe hit the water everything fell into place. Of all the miles, the first one was the sweetest. Just getting out of the rat race and trying something else was its own reward.
I made a deal with myself at the end of my thru-hike to do something cool at least every five years. That could be hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, biking across the country, or building a house from scratch. Anything to get off my butt and do something besides watch the years go by. If nothing else, I’ll have some good stories to lie to my unconcieved grandkids about.
The first and hardest thing is to get off the couch and start. Once that butt inertia gets going, it’s all downhill from there.
I either need to get Rogaine or Nair for my face. I hate shaving, but it takes me awhile to get by beard together. Speaking of which, I've always dug this pic from the Mississippi River. It says it all about that period of our lives on the river.
Yeah - I'm a dork.
June 25, 2005
The End of the Sweet Tea Drought
I have not seen or heard about any sweet tea in 47 days from the time we left North Carolina to drive to the backwoods of Minnesota. It was a dark point in my life, and not to be repeated if at all possible. That black cloud of despair lifted yesterday.
We rode into Hannibal to take in the sights and eventually ended up at Bubba’s Catfish House for dinner. Looking over the menu, the first thing I skimmed over the entrees, side dishes, or desserts, and scanned their drink selection. Looking past the array of soft drinks, coffee, and beers, I found the Holy Grail. One simple, glorious statement—Tea: sweetened or unsweetened
The heavens parted and a soft ray of shimmering light shined on the menu. A choir of angels sang out the Alleluia Chorus.
We ordered a round of that precious nectar then asked them to just leave a pitcher at the table. After almost a month and a half without that delicious liquid, my thirst was finally quenched.
It’s the little things that make all the difference.
Rituals are important for Jess and I. Little things
make a world of difference when you're putting you head
down in a different place every night. We take an
inflatable pink flamingo along on every trip. Flo the
Guard Flamingo watches out for us when we’ stuck in the
middle of some kind of maelstrom or another. We haven’t
died yet so I guess she’s doing her job.
Another ritual is the unwrapping of a peppermint patty to finish the day. That’s not to say that I won't unwrap those tasty treats any other time-I’d eat the whole bag if I knew I wouldn’t be sick as a dog. During my thru-hike I'd have to ration the patties out carefully because I could only carry so many. I would sit on a cold log somewhere and gently peel back the wrapper, savoring the pepperminty scent as it wafted in the air. Slowly, I would eat away those delicious chocolaty edges then woof down the core. No matter how crappy things have been, everything's all right as long as there’s a patty waiting for me. There’s some serious mojo packed into those things.
Setting up the tent the same way each night is another
part of our routine. My watch and headlamp are always
wrapped around a water bottle. That bottle gets put
next to my sandals. Jess puts her book and glasses in
the gear loft and her headlamp stays in the mesh pocket
by her head. I sleep on the right side of the tent. She
sleeps on the left. This feels all nice and homey, but
more importantly it helps to know where your headlamp
is when you’ve got to pee in the middle of the
She asked what we were eating on the river among other things.
We ate much better on the river, and I credit Jess for that. I felt better and stronger as a result.
I can't help but get nostalgic every time I pass by the Twizzlers at the grocery store. They really bring back some good memories of paddling down Big Muddy. That's my excuse for buying them again and I'm sticking to it.
I'm not an addict. I can stop any time. Really.
Appalachian Trail thru-hiking
Appalachian Trail (AT) is a 2,175
mile trail down the Appalachain Mountain chain
running from Springer Mountain in Georgia to
Katahdin in Maine. It's within a day's drive of over
half the population of the United States, and about
6 million folks a year step foot on the AT.
In 2000, spent six months hiking the AT from Maine to Georgia. In many ways that time out on the trail changed everything for me.
first step was the sweetest of them all-just getting
everything together and taking a risk to do something
that had been festering around for a decade. It was the
hardest six months of my life, but I wouldn't trade
that experience for the world.
was finishing, I made a deal with myself to do
something cool every five years. I don't want to look
back and regret not doing something when I'm old and
grey. Besides, it gives me better stories to lie to the
a few links to some of the better Appalachian Trail and
backpacking resources. Feel free to give me a holler if
you have any questions about the AT or long-distance
World's Easiest One-pot Meal
This was the first meal I ever cooked for Jess. We were helping lead a school trip in the Okefenokee Swamp when I saw what she had in her foodbag. Nothing but packages of dried soup, pretzel sticks, wasibi peas, and other unmentionables. That wouldn't do, so I said I would just take care of the food. Since then we've probably eaten this a hundred times. We take this on every trip.
Eyeball measurements are fine. Most of the time I'm lucky if I can find my spoon much less measure anything.
World's Easiest One-pot Meal (serves two)
12 ounces of pasta (any kind, we like the tri-colored twist type)
4 ounces or so of Italian dressing (about half a small bottle)
3 ounces of cheese (whatever you have. We use cheddar and parmesan)
1 small onion
3-4 carrots, chopped
1 small can of pineapple chunks
salt and pepper to taste
Whatever else you want to throw in (nuts, spices, garlic, chicken, etc)
In a 2-liter or larger pot, boil the pasta until soft. Don’t overcook, and watch to make sure it doesn’t boil over. Drain the pasta and return to the pot. (Hint: cut the bottom four inches off a one-gallon milk jug and stab some holes into the bottom. Voila—Instant strainer!) Dice up the cheese, onion, carrots and dump in. Open the can of pineapple, drink the juice, and then stir in the chunks. Add whatever else you have on hand. Stir in the Italian dressing. Eat until you see the bottom of the pot. Burp. Go enjoy the sunset.
Selected excerpt from the book Source to Sea:A Journey down the Mississippi and Atchafalaya Rivers
Release date: October 2006
I wrote a series of newspaper articles during both my Appalachian Trail thru-hike and Mississippi River trips for the Greensboro News and Record. During those trips I was largely dependent on public libraries for their computers and Internet access to post articles and photos. While libraries are wonderful about letting me use their systems, this isn’t the most optimal set-up for many reasons. Hours of operation, distance from where I was staying, and just the issue having to go to one more place just to upload 1,000 words and a few photos. There’s got to be a better way. Maybe there is.
For the next trip I’m planning on using something like a Palm 680
with a folding keyboard for writing and photo management. As is stands now, I do most of my writing at home on an old Handspring Visor and folding keyboard that I can’t manage to kill. I love the convenience of just whipping out the PDA and hammering out a few words at the drop of a hat. For just getting words on paper, it’s hard to beat. The battery life on those old black and white units are incredible—I’ll go for about three weeks on a set of AA’s. The downside is that I don’t have WIFI or a card reader for the photos with that setup.
We did use a Pocketmail email device for much of our short emails on the river. It was very easy to upload and download text emails, but no provision for photos. There’s an audio modem on the back, so you just dial a toll-free number from any phone, hold the unit to the receiver, then get you emails. Very handy.
I’ve also demo-ed a unit from Alphasmart called a Dana. It’s a Palm-based unit that’s the size of a thin laptop, with a great keyboard and usable black and white screen. Batteries last about 40 hours, and it has built-in (but slow) WIFI. For just basic word processing, this is thing is great, and it’s built like a tank. But then there’s no real provision for photos...
What I want is a flash-based PDA with lots of memory, built-in WIFI, folding keyboard, and a battery life of at least 20 hours. That, and a benevolent benefactor to foot the bill for another long trip.
Rain and Heat
Rain can be a funny thing. Not necessarily funny - HA, HA, but funny “Oh this isn’t going to turn out good” Thirty-five degrees and raining is the worst combination. You can’t stop moving because you’ll promptly freeze. Freezing is bad. You can’t go too fast because you’re sealed up in a waterproof-breathable cocoon and would roast. All things considered, I'd rather stew in my own juices than get cold. There have been times I would have killed to have another layer of clothes add under my raingear just to stay warm. Even a gore-tex condom would have been appreciated.
Heat is another issue. I’m a dainty flower and start to wilt when it’s gets hotter than hell’s half-acre. Not really, but given my druthers I’d rather deal with the cold than the heat any day. Seeing as we’ll be rolling into Mississippi and Louisiana sometime in late July or early August, I probably need to get over this.
Actually, once you get acclimated to the heat it’s not that big of a deal. I try and tell myself this when I’m sweating my tail off and the mosquitoes are feasting on what’s left of my curdled blood. The power of positive, delusional, thinking.
Boredom can be the hardest thing to deal with while out tramping around for weeks at a time. I've heard all about this idealized view of constant inspiration of nature’s beauty. I’ve spent hours myself just looking at the clouds or some kind of gelatinous larvae rolling around in a blob of goo. Most of the time there’s plenty to think about and look at. Other times, however…
Part of long-distance traveling is dealing with sheer, unadulterated, boredom. Out of that boredom can come the creation of all kinds of mental and physical diversions to amuse yourself until the next neat thing lands in your lap. I’ve held conversations, mostly one-sided, with chipmunks, rocks, mud, trees, and the beforementioned gelatinous larvae rolling around in a blob of goo.
We played games of “throw the rock” and “jump over the creek” just to pass the time while on the river. I probably skipped two hundred pounds of rocks by the time we hit Morgan City. Anything to keep my brain from just melting from boredom and leaking out the ears. I might just need that thing someday.