Tag Archives: adventure

Another Side of Adventure (Kaye)

Milepost 3-21-14   Fillmore, California

(Kaye writes)

Adventure, huh?

If you have read Bob’s latest blog post about risk and adventure… AND if you know me very well, you may be wondering how I feel about all that. You may be thinking that I am not quite the adventurer he is. And you would be right.

I’m the cautious one. The one who likes safety and security. The one who doesn’t much enjoy driving on mountain roads or going out in a boat. I’m pretty much a wimp when it comes to scary adventures. I guess I’ve always been cautious – both by natural temperament and by family upbringing. I was raised to be careful and conservative. Calculated planning was valued. Dependability, faithfulness, responsibility and wisdom were the highest virtues. Risk-taking, irresponsibility, and recklessness were flat out wrong.

I don’t like to take risks. I like to make wise choices. I like predictability and routine. I love to have a schedule and a map in hand that show exactly where we are and where we are going. My idea of adventure might be to order something new from the menu, to take a different route home, maybe even to go red-lining. You know… getting off the interstate and exploring those red lines on the map and maybe even the gray ones. Ooh, scary stuff. We don’t know what we might find back there on those roads – or even worse – what we won’t find.

But I married an adventurer.  How reckless of me.

Oh, I had done adventures of my own. Well, one anyway, that I can think of. During college I went to a foreign country all by myself – well, along with a bunch of classmates and our professors. But I did it by myself – meaning that I stepped out and made the decision – even though decisions often paralyze me.  So yah, it was a dramatic step for me to do something this big on my own initiative without my family, without anyone leading me or holding my hand. That might be my only big adventure on my own, but I did have that one. I had stepped out of my comfort zone – and made a choice that felt scary and risky. And I had the reward of a wonderful experience, one that I would forever cherish.

A seed was planted.

Risky adventure does not have to mean dangerous or extreme sports. You can choose to take big risks in other ways. Like selling your home of 40 years. That was a biggie for me. Besides being cautious, I am also sentimental. Letting go of security and stability was a huge leap. Trading them in for an unknown life on the road filled with risks of all kinds became an adventure for me that was definitely scary.

Leaving the home place was a monumental move.
Leaving our life-long home was a monumental move for us.

But we realized that we wanted to go, that we wanted the freedom to move. We made the choice. We took the leap. We weighed the risks and the rewards and made the best decision we knew how to make. Yes, we took the risk, but not recklessly.

We moved from a 10-room house to a one-room log cabin.
We moved from a 10-room house to a one-room log cabin.

In his article, Bob spoke of the risk-reward ratio – partly because I’ve been thinking out loud about that idea lately. As I deal with scary mountain roads and other risky adventures, I am trying to learn how to find a balance that works for me. For us. At this point my formula is pretty simple. The reward has to be big enough to be worth taking the risk. In other words, I won’t choose to go on “those” mountain roads unless it’s for a really good reason.

As for the big picture…

Our work-camp site in California.
Our work-camp site for the winter and spring in California.

On this big wild and crazy journey we are traveling, we try to be patient with ourselves and each other as we weigh the risks and rewards of this new life. I must admit that there have been some scary days, when it seemed like the very things I feared were coming true. That too many things were going wrong or the sadness was too great. But there have also been the days when the rewards have been wonderfully sweet.

And so the adventure continues. There will be risk and there will be rewards – hopefully with some balance between them that is healthy and good – even if not always fun.

Read more of Kaye’s stuff at her blog, Wondering Journey.

Too Much Adventure Can be Deadly

Milepost 3-18-14   Fillmore, California

“I can’t move my legs,” my friend whispered in the pitch black darkness as he slipped into unconsciousness.  We were teetering on the face of a steep mountain in the Sierra Madres of Mexico where Marc had just tumbled head over heels 90 feet down a rough slope, his balance thrown off by the overloaded backpack.  It didn’t help that there were only three flashlights for 15 hikers; because of delays, we had been caught on the mountain after dark, something that our guide hadn’t prepared us for.  Our efforts for the next hour proved to make the difference between life and death;  not to worry, Marc lived.   And he recovered quickly over the next few days, having no broken bones and no lasting injuries.

Hiking in the Sierra Madre Mountains in Mexico.
Hiking in the Sierra Madre Mountains, Mexico.

That was a bit more adventure than I had counted on when I organized this trek for a group of young summer missionaries.  Marc’s fall caused him no small amount of trauma and an equal amount of stress for me and the rest of the trekkers.

And that’s the risk one takes when he signs on for an adventure.

Most Americans never have such a scary experience, because most do not sign on for much adventure at all.  For many, their most risky experience is the morning commute to the job in the city.  Mind you, it can be stressful too, but is hardly ever an adventure.

The American dream is a comfortable one and not very adventurous.  Most of us spend our summer weekends on the backyard patio with a steak on the grill and a cold drink in hand.  We don’t paddle any whitewater or jump off any cliffs.   And that’s how we like it.   No adventure, no risk, and no worries.  Mind you, for some, that is the best thing.

Here I'm rappelling into the 30-foot pit entrance of Coon's Cave.
Here I’m rappelling into the 30-foot pit entrance of Coon’s Cave.

But there are others who become restless if they haven’t had the crap scared out of them a time or two within the last six months.  They get cabin fever when the winter is too long, and they start dreaming of tents, sleeping bags and the latest climbing gear.

Dad took us to the narrows at Zion Canyon Nat'l Park when we were kids.
Dad took us to the narrows at Zion Canyon Nat’l Park in Utah when we were kids.

I’m not sure if it is personality that makes the difference, or if family history is a more profound ingredient in the adventure quotient.  My dad was a camper and loved to take the family on an adventure every summer.  Some of his kids are the same way, but not all  of us.

On the other hand, my three kids are all adventurers and world travelers.  I give partial credit to an extended adventure that I took the family on in the middle of my small-town teaching career.  Taking a one-year leave-of-absence, we moved to an underdeveloped country in the Caribbean where Kaye and I taught in an international school.  We lived in an indigenous neighborhood where we were isolated from other Americans.  This experience changed our family forever.  The adventure factor has run strong in all of us ever since.

Our girls posed with the neighbors in Santiago, Dominican Republic.
Our girls posed with the neighbors in Santiago, Dominican Republic.
Kaye visits with neighbors in Santiago.
Kaye visits with neighbors in Santiago.

Are you a restless adventurer?  Do you get frustrated when you spend more time punching a time clock than kicking through the gears on a motorcycle?  Do you live for the weekends?   Have you applied the risk-reward ratio to your financial portfolio but never to the balance of comfort and adventure in your life?

Maybe it’s time for a change –  If you feel that you need more excitement in your life.  If you are young, you might want to take this into consideration when you are choosing your career.  At 17 years old, I chose teaching partly because of the long summer vacations.  I knew myself well enough to know that I would not be happy with only the two weeks off every year that my friends who went to the auto assembly plant would get.  They made a lot more money – I had a lot more fun.

Our three girls explored the ghost town of Red Mountain, Colorado.
Our three girls explored the ghost town of Red Mountain, Colorado.

And it was a wise decision, because I eventually became the adventure trips planner for our local church youth group and found myself in all kinds of exciting locations over the next 35 years.

Kids climbed and jumped off the shipwreck at South Manitou Island, Michigan.
Kids climbed and jumped off the shipwreck at South Manitou Island, Michigan.

 I had teams of 13-year-olds squeezing through wild caves in southern Indiana, groups of boys lost at night on the sand dunes by Lake Michigan (just because their group leader was an Eagle scout didn’t mean he had earned the badge for orienteering).

Hikers at the Pictured Rocks, Michigan.
Hikers at the Pictured Rocks, Michigan.

 I have been skinny-dipping with friends in the middle of the nighttime bioluminescence of the Indian Ocean – green sparks exploding in the water with every movement.  I’ve crashed a motorcycle on the most winding two-lane road in Michigan (my only broken bone ever), and rafted the whitewater of the Ocoee River in the mountains of Tennessee – the same river used for the kayak races in the 1996 summer olympics.

And now I’m living on the road in an RV with my life-long companion as we explore the backroads of America.  And Kaye and I are gearing up for the ultimate road trip this summer, the Alaska Highway, with a pickup and a fifth-wheel.

Life on the open road takes us... just about wherever we want!
Life on the open road takes us…  well,  just about anywhere we want!

When our appetite for risk and adventure is satisfied, we pull into an RV park or a friend’s backyard, and we stay a while.  We fuel up our comfort-and-safety quotient for a while until we start to get restless again and long for the open road.  A couple of months is just about the perfect duration for us to stay in one place.

Bob's ven burst bckgrnd _0001
Too much comfort may result in boredom – and too much risk may bring on stress.  You need to know yourself and discover what level of adventure you require to keep a satisfying balance.

The adventure appetite runs pretty strong with us right now.  Age and failing health will park us someday, but for now we plan to git while the gittin’s good.

How about you?  Do you have your summer planned full of adventures yet?  What about the rest of your life?  Are you assigning enough risk to satisfy your adventure quotient?

Don’t get me wrong, adventure is not for everybody.  It depends on your appetite for risk.  If you don’t have it, you are fine to enjoy the security of a comfortable and stress-free life in America.

But, if you are increasingly restless and keep gazing out the window of your office or your kitchen, it’s possible that the adrenaline runs stronger in your veins than you thought.  And maybe you should do something about it.  Increase the risk factor.  Dive into the next adventure.Tony dives in

Okay, so maybe too much adventure can be deadly, but a more common tragedy is the slow death of dreams and bucket lists while we safely watch the grass grow in our comfortable back yards, the regretful long-term product of too much comfort and security.

For your own well-being, maybe you should get some adrenaline going on this summer.  Have fun.  And be safe.

Where the Robert Leaves the Road – a day in the National Forest

Today  I spent some time exploring a section of Los Padres National Forest nearby.  The border is only about three miles from my current campsite near Fillmore, California, so I didn’t need to travel far.  The terrain is extreme, very mountainous and with no developed campgrounds in this section of the park.  Camping is permitted just about anywhere, but good luck finding a level spot of ground for setting up a tent or a camper.

The road into Los Padres National Forest isn't for the timid.
The drive is beautiful but can be rather intimidating.  A few feet in front of my pickup is a thousand-foot drop if you miss the hard left turn!
The road into the national forest is one lane and steep most of the way.  Not a good drive for the timid driver.
The road into the national forest is only one lane and steep most of the way with no guardrails anywhere. Not a pleasant walk-in-the-park for the timid driver.
There are a couple of fords above Sespe Creek.  Here's a Ford fording a ford.
There are a couple of fords above Sespe Creek. Here’s a Ford fording a ford.

The weather was comfortable at 68 degrees and mostly sunny – really nice for early March for me, but it’s normal here in southern California.  When you are driving or hiking to higher elevations remember this rule of thumb:  The temp drops 3-1/2 degrees for every thousand feet of elevation.  Take this into account and you’ll be ready for changes in the weather.  Also, campers and hikers are used to layering, adding or removing clothing as the day – or the exertion level – warms up or cools off.

A steep climb up a dry creek bed offered a nice spot for a picnic lunch and a rest.
A steep climb up an almost dry creek bed offered a nice spot for a picnic lunch and a rest.

Los Padres is a beautiful but challenging destination for the intrepid hiker or camper.  A bit of research will be invaluable before you leave civilization and head into the mountains.  And it’s all mountains.

There's no straight or level section of this road into the wilderness.
There’s no straight or level section of this road near the “California Condor Sanctuary”.

Oh, a footnote is in order here.  If you do a Google Maps search of this area, you’ll see a spot named the “Sespe Condor Sanctuary”.   Don’t get excited; there are no condors out here.  There used to be a few of the giant birds, due to the efforts of a few scientists and nature lovers, but their efforts proved futile.  It’s a long story.

 

We Came, We Saw, We Camped.

Milepost 2540:  Fillmore, CA.   Elev. 469 ft.  30 miles from the ocean.

  We have safely arrived in our winter home at Fillmore, California, where I have signed on to a work-camp assignment for the next five months, earning a free campsite.  We have been out and about exploring this old railroad town where the Mexican restaurants and markets outnumber all others combined.

The mountains loom over the town in this shot taken a half mile from our park.
The mountains loom over the town in this shot taken a half mile from our park.

It is a pleasant little town with palm-lined streets, occupying the floor of a wide and verdant valley surrounded by parched mountains – they are in their fourth year of drought here.  The valley is irrigated and the orange groves are full of fruit right now, spilling windfalls into the ditches.

The orange groves are loaded with the current crop of fruit near our camp.
The orange groves are loaded with the current crop of fruit near our camp.
The central park in Fillmore is lined with palm trees and backed by old railroad trains.
The central park in Fillmore is lined with palm trees and backed by old railroad trains.
Fillmore boast a large railroad museum with train cars and locomotives from several eras.
Fillmore boasts a large railroad museum with train cars and locomotives from several eras.

Upon setting up the RV, we found our sewer line too short and had to run to the store to buy another section.  The nearest Walmart was over the mountain ridge in Simi Valley.  Our satellite maps did not prepare us for the topography on this quick jaunt.  The mountain road was a tangle of switchbacks and hairpin turns climbing steeply – and populated with double-bottom gravel trucks heading to and from the quarry.  It left our nerves an equally tangled mess.

A quick trip to Walmart requires both hands on the wheel and eyes on the road at all times.
A quick trip to Walmart requires both hands on the wheel and eyes on the road at all times.

Kenney Grove Park is a scenic garden of eucalyptus, sycamore, palm, pine, oak and cactus.

Kenney Grove is a sprawling park with a nestled in the valley below 4,000-foot peaks.
Kenney Grove is a sprawling park nestled in the valley below 4,000-foot peaks.

I’ve already had a lengthy orientation into my job as handyman and part-time camp host.  I consider it a privilege to add my effort and attention to such a picturesque slice of the world.  It helps that I am missing the blizzards back home in Michigan while I work in short sleeves in southern California where it is 70 degrees and sunny every day.

There are three beautiful foot bridges spanning a dry creek bed in the park.
My first task here is to re-coat this foot bridge, one of three spanning a dry creek bed in the park.
One of a half-dozen kinds, the prickly pear cactus grows 14-feet tall here.

This afternoon I got my bike out and took off to the explore the local bike trails, my first ride since October in Michigan.  There are paved trails here, some following the old railroad grade and some following the levee along Sespe Creek (which is totally dry right now) upstream toward the condor sanctuary a few miles into the national forest to the north of us.

The bike trail along the dry Sespe Creek bed reveals the mountains behind the camp.
The bike trail along the dry Sespe Creek bed reveals the mountains behind the camp.

Tomorrow we get to head up to Santa Barbara along the coast highway to visit our kids who work and study there in the winter.  I wonder what marvels await us there.