Time for Fall Camping

Yes, I realize that it’s still over 9 months before we leave on the real journey but I’m someone who can’t sit still. If I could, I’d get us on the bike and head out now. Instead I have to be content with looking at maps, gathering info about how to do longer unsupported bike tours, and getting the word out more about our trip. Which, realistically speaking, is really what we need to be doing.

This hasn’t stopped us, though, from riding the tandem around town, sometimes with Dae, sometimes with Sage. Yesterday, though, I took the plunge and booked a campsite for a place a few hours ride from here. It’s far enough away to be relatively rural and give us a decent challenge, but close enough that if we need something we’re not terribly far from home and can manage to get back if we were to make a bad planning error – I don’t know, like forgetting a tent.

A friend of a friend heard of our plans and now not only do we have the two waterproof panniers we had planned on but a Bob Yak trailer to try as well. This is our first idea for how to carry all the extra gear we’ll need to camp along the way. If it works out we’ll go looking for one of our own for some of the future trips.

I have to admit, I’m a little nervous about camping. Folks who know me might be surprised that I don’t feel completely comfortable because they know that our family lived in a yurt in the woods for 2 years without electricity and running water. Of course while I know how to start and cook on a fire pretty well (even in the pouring rain). But the combination of doing all of that plus keeping the weight down to a minimum is a bit overwhelming. Of course if there’s one thing that I did learn from living in the woods for two years, it’s that it isn’t hard to pick up the skills you need along the way. And so, we’re going to start picking up those skills really soon. And of course you all will hear all about it (and if you’re lucky there’ll be photos and possibly video as well!)

Even Vikings…

A week or so ago, I followed @indeedemma on twitter with my personal account and as I happened to be her 500th follower, she offered to draw anything I asked. I had a hard time thinking of just what I would ask for – particularly knowing that many of the artistic folks I know prefer to create based on their inspiration. Finally, though, I came across the answer. I would give her the suggestion “Kindness” and see where it led. I’m glad I made that suggestion as I love the result!

Even a Viking warrior knows how to be kind on the subway

Even a Viking warrior knows how to be kind on the subway

Event: Knit a Square for AIDS Orphans

Knit A Square Event

This past weekend, my partner Sage held an event to make squares for Knit-A-Square to help make blankets for orphans with AIDS. She said of the event: Really lovely turnout at the Knit A Square gathering at Lettuce Knit. Great conversation, friendly people, and when we found out one woman was heading to a nearby open mic storytelling night, we all trooped along and continued the evening with knishes and smoked meat sandwiches. I asked the owner of Lettuce Knit if she’d be willing to host another event, and she loved the idea. So: a success all around.

A Life-Changing Act of Kindness

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Ozarks Yurt
A few people have been posting stories of acts of kindness they’ve been on the receiving end of over on the Facebook page for this project and I’ve been trying to think of a story to share, somehow missing the most obvious one of all.

Thirteen years ago, Sage and I were living in Bethlehem, PA. I had a job where I would drive hours to work, work long hours and then come home only to do it all over again. I enjoyed the work, and didn’t mind the drive, but once we knew our son was on the way, that changed pretty quickly. I knew I didn’t want to be the kind of dad that peeked in at a sleeping baby when he left for work, and then peeked back in at him when he got home from work. And so I looked for a job locally and took a 25% pay cut that gave me a relatively steady 8-4 job and a 15 minute car commute (and soon, I found, a 30 min bus commute) to work. When my son arrived, I could see how bad it would’ve been to be in my previous job. But it took a 5 day business trip out of town when he was 2 months old to show me that I still had things that I wanted to change. The trip itself was fine. Sage’s mom was staying with us so she had support at home. However, when I got home, it was clear I’d made a mistake. 2 month old Daegan was upset that I had left and didn’t really want to be held by me for several days after I returned. Unsurprsing, looking back, as I’d spent 8% of his ENTIRE LIFE away from him. To do that now, I’d have to go on a year long business trip without being in contact with him.

The experience got me thinking about what my priorities in life were. I’d recently read a lot about voluntary simplicity, and some of Helen and Scott Nearing’s writing. I’d also spent some time visiting Sage’s mom, Kite, on the land where she lived, with several other women in various simple buildings with only the barest of needs and lots of time to spend how they wanted because they didn’t have to work all the time to pay for the things they lived without: cable television, new car payments (to get them to work), high rents (to live near work). I figured someday I would break the cycle and quit my job, buy some land outright, and live as simply as I could and work only when I needed. I figured if I worked really hard in 5-10 years (read: right about now), I would be able to live simply and independently and have whole days to spend with my family. Kite, then living in a tipi when she was back home in Missouri asked what I was waiting for. I told her I had to pay off my car loan, save up money to buy some land outright and build a shelter with, pay off the little credit card debt I had, and otherwise get everything perfectly in order financially before heading out. Her response was simple: “There’s a whole community of people who want you to be happy.”

Over the next few weeks we figured out just how true that was. First off, a friend of ours who had just moved to a home on 40 acres in the woods there said we could live on their land. Then, another friend of Kite’s drove up in a van, helped us pack and clean the house and then drove with Sage’s mom and our then, 8 cats to Missouri while me, Sage, and 5 month old Daegan took the train to our new home in Missouri.

Within a few months our 401k money had bought us a yurt that we put up in the woods on our friend’s land. Kite helped us out financially when we first lived there while we figured out what we’d do to support ourselves. Kite and her friends helped us learn how to do what it took to live without electricity and running water – how to gather and heat with wood, how to deal with our waste, how to cook on a fire, and then how to install a gas stove so we could cook inside the yurt. We ended up spending the first two years of Daegan’s life living in the yurt and were able, during that time, to get by comfortably on as little as $300/month. That meant for those two years, neither Sage nor I ever had to do more than 10 hours/week of work (web design for Sage, tech writing for me), and sometimes quite a bit less.

For a number of reasons, we eventually moved from the yurt to a home in the nearby village. We were able to maintain our lifestyle the same way there, spending most of our time parenting, and working enough to meet our basic needs (and, admittedly, a few luxuries like trips to the ‘big city’ of 60,000 people where we could use a large library or have a sushi dinner as a treat).

Sadly, the economic climate changed for us as independent web developers and I ended up having to work more and more back in my old industry of pharmaceutical regulatory compliance. Eventually, I ended up having to go back to work full time. However, that was only after we’d had four years to ourselves as a family with not one, but two at-home, parents, and time to spend with our friends and family as well. And I couldn’t have done it without the kindness of my mother in law, Kite, encouraging us to take a leap into the unknown and promising to help us once we did, for our friend, also named Daegan, who helped us land on our feet in a life completely alien to us, and to the community that adopted us once we got there, making sure we didn’t starve, freeze, or die of our own sheer incompetence in our first few months in a whole new situation. This not only changed my life, making me a very different person than who I was before I started that experience, it helped in great part to make Daegan the boy who he is today.

(For more info about our time in the yurt, including blog entries from the entire experience, you can go here.)

Family Photo

Pledge #2: Lunch is on me!

Thanks to the mailman

This morning, a pledge came in from Teresa who said: “I like to get mail. I’m part of a couple of projects which allow me to receive great mail from all over the world. I correspond with a lot of friends. I sometimes get packages that won’t fit in my mailbox and have to be walked up to my porch. I appreciate the gentleman that delivers my mail and thought I’d let him know….with a little mail of his own today. I left a card in the mailbox with a Subway gift card taped to it. I told him I appreciate what he does and that lunch is on me today. I think he’ll be surprised.”

Maps shall be my undoing

I swear I can look at road maps before a trip like this in much the same way as someone else might look at a novel. Or maybe instead of a novel, it would be more accurate to describe them as Choose Your Own Adventure books. So as you might imagine with almost a year to plan, I’m seeing all sorts of possibilities.

The first set of possibilities came from Dae who looked at the map and suggested that we could just head back home instead of taking a bus. Why not, I say? We’ll have to see how we feel along the way but I’ve updated the route page to include that possibility.

The other one might take a couple days longer and require just a bit more vacation than I have banked at this time (but perhaps I’ll just take time off without pay). That one would involve a bit more scenery. This new route would give us a bit more time in Canada, taking us to Ottawa and Montreal before heading down through Vermont, where I lived when I was Dae’s age. It actually looks pretty interesting and the general route would look like this. This would then replace “Part One” on the route page and day to day it would likely look something like this:

Day One: Toronto, ON to Port Perry, ON – 83 KM
Day Two: Port Perry, ON to Nassau, ON – 88 KM
Day Three: Nassau, ON to Madoc, ON – 72 KM
Day Four: Madoc, ON to Ungava, ON – 83 KM
Day Five: Ungava, ON to Carleton Place, ON – 64 KM
Day Six: Carleton Place, ON to Ottawa, ON – 51 KM
Day Seven: Ottawa, ON to Breadalbane, ON – 105 KM
Day Eight: Breadalbane, ON to Montreal, QC – 100 KM
Day Nine: Rest Day
Day Ten: Montreal, QC to Swanton, VT – 103 KM
Day Eleven: Swanton, VT to Montpelier, VT – 108 KM
Day Twelve: Montpelier, VT to Lebanon, NH – 89 KM
Day Thirteen: Lebanon, NH to Manchester, NH – 114 KM
Day Fourteen: Manchester, NH to Boston, MA – 97 KM

It’s a long time but what an interesting and varied route. Looking at the first few days, though, I think this route would pretty much ensure that we had to bring a tent.

I think perhaps I should be banned from looking at maps for a few more months, now lest I end up on a trip like Nancy and her family did.

More on the Value of Kindness

Lynn, a friend of several friends here in Toronto (but whom I have yet to meet myself) is not just a participant here. Following a breast cancer diagnosis, she was on the receiving end of many acts of kindness. In this entry she talks about them all and the impact they had.

This is particularly timely as it seems that a number of folks around me are in various stages from initial diagnosis to mid-treatment, and sometimes feel at a loss for how to be helpful and end up more in my head wondering “is this the right thing?” than actually doing something.

It also inspired me to do something I’d been waffling on for a few months now. I’ve gone back on my word a bit and am going to be fundraising again. This time, I’ve registered for the Ride to Conquer Cancer. This ride which benefits cancer research at the Princess Margaret Hospital, takes a 200 km route from Toronto to Niagara Falls and is on June 9-10, 2012. Why did I change my mind about fundraising? Easy: The ride is a challenge but definitely completely do-able. And in reality the fundraising is the same. And even were I not to be able to make the minimum fundraising amount of $2,500 (which I am pretty certain I can), I still remember about the starfish. With so many friends, family, neighbours, and strangers affected by cancer, doing this ride is the right thing for me to do.

If you’re moved to make a pledge for that ride, you can make your pledge here.