Why I’m participating in the 2017 Great Cycle Challenge


All and sundry and in between,

I know many of you are wondering why I’m participating in this particular fundraiser. Once upon a time, I was a sick kid. No, not cancer, my issues were (and still are) neurological and orthopedic. But I remember all too well what it’s like to be one of those kids in the hospital. It was lonely. It was frightening. It hurt. Yet my experiences weren’t nearly as bad as it is for kids with cancer. These kids are facing down not only their pain and fears, but their very mortality EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. 

Cancer is the biggest killer of children from disease in the U.S.; 38 kids die from cancer every week. 

Because every kid deserves a childhood, because every kid deserves to be healthy, my overweight, gimpy, arthritic, Guillain-Barre, spinal-stroked, middle-aged arse will be on the bike to help raise money for children’s cancer research.

If you’re able, please donate on my page at www.GreatCycleChallenge.com/riders/MistyAdams

Also, please be patient with my posts for the next month. I’ll frequently be sharing and cross-posting across all of my social media accounts. 

THANK YOU!

John Muir Time in Ohio

It ain’t cheap.

Let’s get this out of the way, first and foremost. Missouri spoiled me. Thousands of Conservation Area acres and no fees? Mark Twain National Forest? State Forests? I have to admit, the opportunities to hike and camp, for free, were practically endless.

Now that we are in Ohio and things are…a bit different. State parks here, as I’ve thus far seen, have a LOT of infrastructure. Bike and canoe rentals, basketball courts, restaurants, interactive centers, you name it. In order to support these amenities, the camping costs an average of $20 per night. Hiking, of course, costs nothing (please note that I’ve yet to visit a site that imposes a day use fee).

What all this infrastructure and fees structure tells me is that these parks are pretty darn busy during the summer months. By ‘busy’ I mean ‘full of people’ and, for me, the entire point of hitting the woods is to get away from people.

To my ever-frugal mind, $20 a night to string up a tarp and use a fire ring is exorbitant. For now, until I’ve done a bit more digging around, I just deal with it.

The point is…

If you have kids, Ohio parks are great. There’re lots of things for them to do and interact with while there. But, if you’re out to experience nature in all its silence and cacophony, it’s difficult.

That’s my conundrum. I really don’t want to only be able to experience the out-of-doors here in winter to avoid the crowds (although I do love winter camping and hiking). Mind, by ‘crowds’ I mean pretty much anyone at all. I realize to some this sounds incredibly selfish–public lands are for everyone, after all–but the joy of wilderness, for me, is the absence of both human infrastructure and humans. And, okay, yes, trails and such are human infrastructure, I get that. Perhaps I should more accurately say modern infrastructure? Spaces designed for folks in RVs, with electric and such, just ain’t my speed. Hearing someone’s radio blaring and generator roaring into the night kinda kills my Muir buzz.

What the hell is “John Muir time”?

Who’s John Muir? Pretty much the absolute antithesis to John Galt (Google it, it’s an Ayn Rand thing). The simplest explanation is that he was the father of our public lands. More specifically, he was the father of public wilderness. An avid nature writer, he regaled us all with his tales of exploring flora and fauna on his travels across America, California, the Pacific Northwest, and Alaska. He thought of wilderness as Church, the closest humans could get to God’s creation–but he wasn’t a bible thumper. Part hermit, part theologian, part naturalist, he sought serenity in wilderness.

I, too, seek out the serenity in the wildest locales of God’s creation.

I go for the stillness of a sunrise as the birds slowly wake up and announce the day and the various critters either go to bed or start their morning routines. I go to listen to the trees, to see the fungi and mosses, observe the orb web weavers do their thing. I go to be a lightly treading part of that world–the world that is so different from the daily grind of traffic, work, technology, and too much noise.

Tar Hollow State Park, Laurelville, OH

As I’ve previously mentioned, winter camping and hiking are great because NO PEOPLE. The flip side of that is the weather can be problematic. The old saying, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only inadequate gear” is exceptionally apt in this instance. The fact is, going camping and hiking unprepared in winter is not only uncomfortable, it can kill you. God knows I’ve goofed a time or two myself. 

With the craziness of the past few months (buying a house, relocating all our belongings and our herd of six dogs and seven cats, unpacking, planning a renovation, etc.), I was beyond getting itchy for some outdoors time, I was about to crack. So, in January, I set a date for the weekend of February 17th to get outside–hell or high water, snow or ice, I was going camping for this three-day weekend.

And then, global warming stepped in. Highs in the mid-60s (F) and no rain in the forecast for my camping weekend.

What. The. Frak?

It’s terrifying that the current weather is so wonky but, hell, I’ll take it.

Sweet Pea the Hiking Dachsie and I loaded up into Maude the Mad Mazda Friday afternoon and headed East to the Appalachian foothills and Tar Hollow State Park.

Despite the Spring-like temps, there was but a single family camping in the lower campground. I, however, chose the walk-in sites high atop a ridge. The sun set shortly after I finished pitching the tarp and collecting deadfall for firewood. It was blissfully quiet, no other sound than the breeze in the pines and the occasional reminder from Sweet Pea that she hates being on a tie out.

As I unpacked the kitchen gear (I’d recently purchased a cheapy wood burning camp stove and was eager to test it out), it became obvious that my favorite orange lighter was NOT snuggled into the Ti camping mug where it was supposed to be. Really? A quick search through all the gear revealed that, yep, I had managed to hit the woods sans lighter. I did, however, have my emergency fire kit in my daypack that I’d left in the car. WIN! Matches and a LMF Swedish Firesteel. Leaving the matches for a true emergency, I used the firesteel for the weekend.

I whipped up a quick batch of Camping Fideo (brown SPAM (or any sausage, really), saute vermicelli (or any super thin noodle) in butter, combine and add Rotel or diced tomatoes, bring to a boil and eat when vermicelli is soft. NOM!) and settled down with my Kindle for the night.

 

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Of course, I’m going to play with the headlamp for a selfie.

 

Saturday morning dawned clear and cool, but clouded over as the temps warmed. In no time it was alternately dreary and sunny. But, a few clouds weren’t going to keep us out of the woods.

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The view from my rack Saturday morning.

 

After depositing our fee (self-register at THSP after December), the dachsie and I hit the Ross Trail–a “moderate” 3.5-mile loop. It was lovely. Quiet. No one else out there and so, for us, perfect. Until the last half mile.

Let’s back up here for a moment and fill you in on some background details:

  1. I’m currently out of shape and overweight
  2. I’m disabled (long story, just call me Gimpy)
  3. Getting into shape is challenging when you’re disabled
  4. I started my cube farm job 10 months ago
  5. No, I didn’t keep up the daily walking habit I’d gotten into with my previous job
  6. We recently bought a house and made multiple trips to move our belongings and critters
  7. Stress and the ready availability of delivery food, in addition to Shiner Bock, may have had a bit to do with the weight gain
  8. Working onsite (as opposed to the remote, work-from-home l did with my previous job) is exhausting for everyone–it’s debilitating when you’re disabled
  9. I hadn’t been hiking at all since last summer
  10. I recently restarted walking daily (or, as I call it, “walkwarding”, walking plus gimp-glorious awkwardness equals walkwarding)
  11. I am a slow walker–I’ve really only the one gear so I’m basically a human fixie
  12. Did I mention I’m out of shape?

As you’ve probably surmised by reading the list, hiking (much less walking) is…challenging. Factor in the weight gain, the sedentary months, the foothills topography, and you have a recipe for PAIN.

Frankly, I did really well pacing myself. We started the hike before noon, I guesstimated a four-hour window for the hike (hey! it only took three and a half!). I frequently stopped to rest, drank plenty of water, took my time navigating rough spots (trekking poles are absolute life savers, folks), and basically did everything the smart way.

Hover over or click on an image for its caption.

 

And then we came upon the last half mile of the trail.

Ross Trail went from a pleasant trek of good, packed trail up and down a few hollers to ankle- and knee-twisting terror. Invisible ankle- and knee-twisting terror because, while fallen leaves are beautiful and make that cool swoosh-swoosh sound as you hike along, they also covers things over: holes to lose a foot in, tree roots to slip on or fall over, and fist-sized rocks that roll as soon as you put any sort of weight on them.

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The trail from hell is barely visible on the left side of the image.

 

The last half mile of Ross Trail was my worst hiking nightmare. It transited a 45° hillside and was so narrow that I had to walk sideways. I’m fairly certain someone cleared every rock from the first three miles and deposited them all on this last bit of trail. It was rough enough that I had a few flashbacks to hiking in the Ozarks and even Sweet Pea was having a tough time. Seriously, when your dachshund, who’s three inches from the ground and has two more legs than you, is stopping and starting in order to navigate a trail, it ain’t good.

Fortunately, we made it off the hillside and down into the parking area without incident. I gotta tell ya, I was thrilled to see Maude the Mad Mazda.

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My bum of a sidekick snuggled into her coat and relaxing on my bed while I work to feed us.

 

We got back to our camp and, quite frankly, I was as ready as the dachsie for a nap. But I had deadfall to gather and dinner to cook and, since the dog is completely useless in the kitchen, I got busy.

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El cheapo wood-burning cook stove did a fine job.

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Since I was car camping, I brought along a cooler full of tasty nomz to cook rather than the more usual Freezer Bag Cooking technique dried options.

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It was a fine evening for a woodsmoke bath.

 

Your mind wanders, amusing thoughts…

I can tell you where, relative to the map of a given trail, I saw a piece of trash. But, I can’t remember the Latin name of a plant (much less the plant name half the time) to save my frakkin’ life.

Realized somewhere along the trail that Friday was Sweet Pea’s birthday. Happy 6th, my adorable pain in the ass! You’re getting a camping/hiking trip and then spayed!

Gear Notes

If you’ve made it this far through this post, you’re probably one of those folks who almost always asks me, “What do you carry with you?” I’ve included links to the products (or closest to) those I personally use. But, please understand that what I’ve linked are in no way the only places to find these items, nor are they representative of the amount of money you need to spend to get kitted up for camping. The majority of my gear I’ve purchased either used, dented, on clearance, or on closeout. And I researched, extensively, every item I own. Yes, I’m aware that sounds completely anal retentive. Thing is, I prefer to buy things once, and I most definitely opt to buy from companies with awesome warranties whenever I can. And, yes, I most definitely try and stick with the Made in America ideal.

This is not an exhaustive list of all the gear you ever need–it is a list of what I took with me for this particular jaunt taking into consideration the weather, location, and length of trip. For instance, in the summer I prefer to use a stupid cheap hammock stiffened up with a short piece of closed-cell foam, covering up with a silk sheet and/or RayWay quilt and putting a mosquito netting head cover over my bean.

Additionally, I brought a 3-gallon jug of water with me on this trip. Ohio’s parks site noted that some parks turn off their water in winter. When backpacking, cycling trips, or camping where water may be iffy, I haul around a Katadyn Hiker Pro water purifier. It’s heavier and bulkier than the straws but it’s reliable.

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Eno ProFly tarp

Light and waterproof and seriously easy to configure. Put it up high for good air flow, down low to minimize airflow and rain splash.

Eno Twilights

These are the pink/purple variety. They’re great because you can see enough to not break your neck but they don’t mess with your night vision.

Thermarest Ultralight cot

I’m on the fence about the usefulness of this particular item. It’s kind of a pain in the ass to assemble. For car camping, I’m debating just picking up a cheap, low-to-the-ground metal cot.

Big Agnes Q-Core sleeping pad

This is actually the wife’s sleeping pad. Mine is also a Big Agnes product but smaller (not as thick). I like hers for when I’m not worried about weight and packability.

Big Agnes Lulu sleeping bag

Got this in a trade with a friend. I’ve yet to have a truly comfortable night in it and so it’s about to go up for sale.

Black Diamond trekking poles

Best. Product. EVER. Really, these things have saved my ass so many times I’ve lost count. This pair is at least five years old at this point and show no signs of failing.

Osprey Aether Women’s hydration pack

I highly recommend Osprey packs. Great product, great company, great warranty. My first version of this pack took a header off a scooter at 60 mph. It didn’t fare well but Osprey replaced it, no problems.

Snow Peak 600 mL Ti cup

Scratch and dent special from Backcountry.com several years ago. If you want to boil water in your camping cup, you have to stick to single wall. I love this cup.

Snow Peak 1400 mL Ti pot and skillet

Like the cup, simply bulletproof quality.

Tobete Woodburning Camp stove

Stainless steel and not stupid heavy. It’s definitely going into my OhShit! kit.

Light My Fire Swedish Firesteel 2.0

Forget about those chunks of magnesium with a striker strip. For one thing, the US has been inundated with Chinese made ones that use lousy magnesium that doesn’t reliably ignite. Go for a firesteel, you won’t regret it.

Morakniv 4.1″ Carbon Steel knife

The only knife you really ever need. Really. Holds an edge, easy to sharpen, good grip, full tang. Mors Kochanski’s go-to blade.

Gerber Gator Combo axe

Always, always, always carry an axe (or something similar) in case you need to cut wood larger than what you can break by hand or baton through with your knife. ALWAYS.

Tyvek sheet

Literally a scrap of Tyvek (housewrap) from a construction site.

Sweet Pea’s wool coat

Pricey? Yup. Worth it? EVERY. PENNY. This dog coat is as indestructible as they come. The best part? It attaches like a horse blanket. If you’ve ever seen a horse roll on its back while wearing a good horse blanket, you’ll get why that’s a big deal.

 

Determination

Determination

The past few weeks have been rough, to say the least. But, I’ve determined to that I’ll not be using the blog to discuss politics. For one thing, the swirling tornado of constant bullshit is exhausting. For another, some folks are simply far, far better at it than I could ever be. I’ll leave the personal political commentary to Facebook.

I started blogging because I wanted to write about the things that bring me joy–scooters, the outdoors, redneck engineering, sustainable living, critters–and it gave me a reason to become a better writer. Practice makes perfect, right? Well, the intervening six years worth of education hasn’t hurt one bit, either.

Now that I’m well past being a middle-aged student, more of my time is my own. Having a regular 9-to-5 job is, of course, soul-sucking. But, it doesn’t suck quite as hard as having several hobbies and no money, which is pretty much what sidelined my adventuring the past several years. In turn, that lack of (what I call) adventuring left me with not much to say.

Either that or I was just vicariously living life via Facebook and the Discovery Channel. Haven’t quite put my finger on it, yet. Basically, the blog is so others get the chance to live vicariously through me again, should anyone actually care to do so.

It’s time to build upon the experiences of yesterday and start everything anew.

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Resuscitation

Resuscitation

Breathe.

C’mon. In for four, hold for four, out for four. In for four, hold for four, out for four.

I’m having to do this every damned day since the Tweeting Tyrannical Toddler with Tiny Hands was sworn in. Not that my anxiety hasn’t already been running at a record high but, yeah. The past few days have been crippling.

Those with abusive family members might recall the feeling–that waiting for the other shoe to drop, never knowing what will set them off, what the right answer is supposed to be. Just waiting for the eventual conniption fit that results in pain and humility.

I haven’t written anything for this blog in many moons. Mostly because I didn’t have much to say. Life, work, moves, the usual suspects, overtook everything like kudzu on a Mississippi hillside.

Now, I have to write.

Welcome to what I’ve taken to calling #Trumptopia.

I’m not writing this to offer up any great or insightful ideas. I don’t currently have any words of wisdom for dealing with the Orwellian or Rod Serling-esque world we suddenly find ourselves inhabiting. What I am doing is searching for my own way of dealing with the abject terror I find myself battling every day. Fear for myself and my wife, for our friends, for people of color, for immigrants, for the underinsured, for our veterans, our public lands, our wild spaces, our freedoms.

The first five days of #Trumptopia have done nothing to alleviate my worst fears. Quite the contrary. So, for myself, for my sanity, I will write whatever I damned well please. I will celebrate our 1st Amendment Rights by using them.

I will speak.

Image by Hayley Gilmore

Long Edits from Yesterday’s Fun

For those of you who prefer the fun of slipping, sliding, rolling, and tumbling, these are all of them from yesterday. In other words, the not groovily edited footage of our snow day. Just the skimming along at 15 mph and a few unintentional stops.

Snow-MO Snowpocalypse: 6 Jan 2014

12″ of snow has fallen in our little Ozark holler. The forecasted high is a whopping 2°F. Area schools and businesses are closed. It’s the first “snow day” of 2014–what to do?

Wait. Let’s drag one another around on our old boogie board! Behind the Civic! And film it with the GoPro you gave me for my birthday!

BRILLIANT.

*Note: This GoPro edit was created with an iMovie template. No, I’m not this good of a filmmaker. But, I am the main idiot at the end of the tow rope.

Intermittent and Merruh Chrimmus

Been a while since I’ve posted. But, since it’s Christmas and all, just making it known that I’ll have an adventure post up shortly–headed into the woods for a couple of days. And, with having received a GoPro cam for the big 4-0, I should have some video to go along with it. 

Until then, I’ve a house to clean (ugh) and gear to get together (yay!). But right now I have to get some sleep.