Tag Archives: the open road

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.

 

Work-Camping. It Works for Me

I am two months into my first work-camp experience and thought it time for a report.  Kaye and I have been camping at Kenney Grove Park, a historical site established in 1888 and coinciding with the founding of the town of Fillmore, California.  The park is owned by the County of Ventura, but is under private lease.  It is used mostly for events by groups who lease the campground.

Kenney Grove Park is sheltered by massive old oak trees.
Kenney Grove Park is sheltered by a canopy of massive old oak trees.

The work-camp arrangement is growing in popularity and there is an abundance of listings online at sites like Workers on Wheels, The Sowers, and Work-Kamping and others.  The assortment of possible jobs ranges from camp hosting to maintenance to trail guiding and a lot more.  Most workers put in 20 or so hours per week in exchange for a campsite with hookups for their recreational vehicle.

Our campsite includes a storage shed and patio area.
Our campsite at Kenney Grove Park.

Our site includes a canopy over the RV and a storage shed and small patio surrounded by oak woods.  It sits on a small hill in the middle of the park at the foothills of the mountains and at the edge of Los Padres National Forest.  We are 30 miles from the Pacific beach.

My responsibilities include a wide range of tasks such as painting, repairing old equipment, felling trees and chipping them for mulch, washing picnic tables, and so on.

Kenney Grove Park is known for its canopy of ancient oak trees.
Kenney Grove Park is a beautiful and quiet place to work and the winter weather is mild.

I am not sure if I will pursue the same sort of plan for next winter, but it is really working well for me now.  The work pace is relaxed, the tasks are not back-breaking, and the manager is pleasant and flexible. And it helps that the location is in a quiet valley in southern California where the winter temperatures are mild and the sunshine abundant.  Well, honestly, the location is what attracted me to this spot in the first place.  Back home in Michigan, I would have been dealing with the harshest snowiest winter in recent history.

After work, Kaye and I enjoy relaxing on the patio between the camper and the storage shed.
After work, Kaye and I enjoy relaxing on our own private patio next to the camper.

Yep, this is working very well.

I have three more months to go here before we hitch up again to pursue our epic trip to Alaska for the summer.  Stay tuned!

Starting With Zero

Milepost Zero:  Kingston, Michigan, 12-29-13

 We’re leaving in the morning!  Yippee!  We have been working toward this for three years!  We’ve been downsizing from a 10-room house on 30 acres to a 29-foot fifth-wheel on the open road.  Tomorrow  morning I will set the odometer on the pickup at zero, and we will head out of snowy Michigan and into new territory.  The first leg of this epic journey takes us across the midwest and the southwest to California where we will be doing a work/camp thing to earn a free campsite at a small private campground called Kenney Grove Park north of Los Angeles.  It’s the first time for us to attempt this sort of thing.  From there, in June we head north to Alaska where some of our kids have spent their summers for the last eight years.  We might not return to Michigan until August.

It’s the time of year when a lot of folks are getting a fresh start, although not everybody is starting at zero.   lt’s a time of hope and resolve:  Lose some weight, exercise more, pay down debt, and so on.  Not everybody is actually taking to the open highway toward a new destination, but many are setting a new direction in other ways.

It can be a hopeful time, but can also be a bit depressing if your goals are born out a dissatisfaction with life and the way things are, especially if your hopes are deferred by burdensome obligation.

I like my daughter’s approach to a new year and a new beginning:

Stacy with another pina colada in Mexico.
Stacy enjoys another pina colada in Mexico.

Earlier today in a Facebook post Stacy announced, “Hey everyone; I’ve been putting a lot of thought into it in the last few months and I’ve decided to scrap my [weight loss goal] by my 40th birthday.  This is not a decision made from discouragement or laziness, but is a decision made from a place of immense freedom. It has been dawning on me lately that I am so very okay with the way I am NOW! I really like me and I don’t need to change at all. That said, I find happiness in the chase….the chase to be better, be stronger, live life more to the full. So THIS chase will be my focus. I want to hike more, climb more mountains, be healthier, see more places, try more exotic foods, feel more, taste more, challenge myself more, and kick ass more. THAT will be my focus for momentum this year!”

Sounds like Stacy is harking back to a Dr. Seuss book, Green Eggs and Ham, a children’s book about a guy named Sam who doesn’t like to try new things like…  well, green eggs and ham, but when he finally does, he finds them delicious.  Trying new things can be risky but fun.

There is security and comfort in staying put.  But not so much adventure.

To arrive in a new place you must first leave the old place, whether or not the old familiar place offers security and a sense of roots,  or whether it mostly offers monotony – and the roots feel more like a ball and chain.

A new direction,  a new destination

So anyway,  we are not really starting at zero when you consider all the adventures we have pulled off in the past.  Our direction was to the southeast last winter where we lived on the beach in the tropics.  But this time we are heading to Alaska, a place where we have never been, first by way of California and the coast highway, and we’re doing it with a heavy duty pickup and an RV.  This is something we haven’t attempted before.

Maybe we should name the rig “Green Eggs and Ham”.  Because we’re going to be trying something new.

In the next few days, watch for new posts from parts farther west.  I may not get to post every day – because I’ll be driving – but I’ll try to let you know where we are every little while.

What new things are you going to try in the coming year?