The Great Adventure

Introducing The Giant

I’m safe! I’m well! And I’m happy to be on the road.

Last week I said genius inventor Ben would gift me a bike to start off my trip. He came through. Big time. Here’s us (me and the bike, not me and Ben, who is camera shy) together:

When we picked up the bike he needed some tender loving care. Ben showed me how to remove, clean, and re-install the bearings. We got new tubes and a spare for the road. We cleaned him off and I tested him out. I’ve never used toe clips before, and they scared me. Toe clips are basically torture devices that hold your feet firmly to the pedals even if you’re wiping out and wish you could bail. But they let you deal with hills a lot better (you can put strength into the up-stroke as well as the down-stroke) and Ben convinced me I wanted them. He says I’ll be happy with them. Okay.

After we got the bike all set, Ben and I drove up to his parents’ cabin for a relaxing evening. His two nephews were in the car, too. I told Ben I had a favor to ask.

“Okay…”

“Well, since you got me this bike… you have to name it.”

From a nephew up front: “Oh shit.” It could be seen as an honor, but it’s kind of a big responsibility and all. Ben’s family are the type who, like me, take that stuff seriously.

“You’re a bastard,” Ben told me.

He didn’t start throwing out options. He began reviewing them in his head. It would be nearly 24 hours later, just moments before the final departure, that he’d decide.

We were walking the shore of Lake Itasca. I was in my trunks. Before starting the Adventure I had a plan: swim to the center of Lake Itasca, which is the source of the ‘Sippi, and place an offering there. As we walked, I told a story.

The story involved fomhóraigh, the titans of Irish folklore.

“That’s it!” he yelled.

“What’s it?”

“That… whatever you just said. That’s your bike’s name.”

I was taken back. I couldn’t refuse it. The duty was given to Ben and he fulfilled it perfectly. But the titans of Irish tradition are not exactly loving beings: they’re selfish, cunning and dangerous. Enemies of the gods. In a sense, Ben had just cursed me.

(I managed to hold back “You’re a bastard,” in reply.)

But with some thought, I like the name. There are stories of heroes who safely employed the fomhóraigh, bonded in chains. (Well, just one story, but still.) I can handle that, right? Right?

And so my bike is named the Fomhor (pronounced like foe + or) or, to make it easier, The Giant.

“I’ll travel with giants,” I mused.

“You’ll be carried by a giant,” Ben corrected.

The Giant is a Miyata 1024. He’s almost as old as I am. The years treat us both the same: battered but ready to take the world. Loaded with over 40 pounds of gear, he handles like a large shark—agile, but give him room. The gears run smooth and he chugs halfway up a hill before I have to pedal.

Ben and I gave him panniers we built out of $10 tote bags. (The engineering was all Ben; I was just extra hands. Like I said, inventor.) At first opportunity I’ll decorate him with something suitably Fomorian. Perhaps a single eye in the middle of his frame.

The Giant and I do well together. I got a late start on Day 1, but made 33 miles in 4 hours before setting up camp. I hung my hammock in a stand of red pines near an abandoned shed in the country. The following day I began troubleshooting strange noises from The Giant’s belly and made another 46 miles. I camped in a forest owned by an Ojibwe family near Ball Club, Minnesota. (Yes, Minnesota has a town named Ball Club. And that entire town is three houses of Ojibwe families. Population 171 my ass.)

The Giant taking a break. That’s all my worldly belongings hanging off of him.

Today I put in 20 miles to Grand Rapids where I’m using wi-fi at a cafe. The barista volunteers at her church and I’m hopeful she’ll find a place for me to crash tonight. If not, it’s me in a hammock somewhere off of US Highway 2.

Thanks for all your great, encouraging comments last week everyone. It means the world. Adventure on.

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Adventure, The Great Adventure

Where the Hell Are You?

In case you’re wondering, here’s my current situation and the best and latest plan for the Great Adventure.

I’m in Wisconsin

That’s exactly as unexciting as it sounds. I’m in rural Wisconsin visiting my parents, and I’m sick of it. I love them both dearly but it’s time for me to get on the road again. I’d love to meet up with my mom for drinks every Thursday afternoon if I could, but I’d rather be wrestling bulls in between or learning to ride tigers or something. Sitting on the porch writing articles is not quite the same.

I’ve Been Kayaking

About a week ago I went on a trip to Duluth, MN where I kayaked for the first time (on Lake Superior!). Kayaking is like crack. It’s more fun than even a motorbike, at least when you hit big waves. A lot of people would only go kayaking if it’s calm weather… myself, I would pay extra if someone could start up a lesser squall while I’m out there. Playing with waves makes me giggle. Even if I did twist my knee.

The reason I was kayaking was to see if it would be a good way to go through Mexico. Yes, if I haven’t announced this before, I’m thinking of kayaking down the Gulf coast next year. The original reason was so I wouldn’t have to walk down lonely roads in dangerous areas of Mexico. The new reason is because kayaking is fucking awesome.

And please remember: the stated plan of my Adventure is to power it all under my own muscles, which means walking, biking or paddling. Not just walking, even though it often gets shorthanded that way.

I Should Start June 21…

That’s the planned start date. I’ll start from Itasca, MN which is the source of the Mississippi River. I’ll swim in Lake Itasca that day so I literally start at the source… like in the source.

I start off biking, with a wonderful touring bike an adventurer friend has gifted to me. See also: not always walking.

…But I Might Not

A minor injury is healing, but it’s a slow process. My knee is shaping up too. But it would be stupid to push myself and go if I’m not 100% recovered.

I should know by the end of the week whether I’m good to go or not. If not, I’m considering alternate start dates of July 4 or, at latest, Aug 1.

First Stop: Head South

From Itasca I’ll head south more-or-less along the Mississippi River. I’ll pass through the Twin Cities in July or August, and reach New Orleans by October. That’s at a leisurely pace and meandering route.

If you live somewhere between Minnesota and New Orleans and want to meet up you should let me know. Bear in mind that one day of biking will only take me 40-60 miles. So if you live 200 miles away from the Mississippi River and are excited I’ll be coming “near you,” let’s meet halfway.

There Will Be Goodies

I plan to release my second book, The Adventurer’s Way, in the next 30-60 days. It will be a much more in-depth look at adventure as a real way of life, a tool for making the world excellent.

Rogue Priest: Confessions, the pay-what-you-will serial, will also appear soon. The final kinks are worked out (fingers crossed) in terms of the back end, and the digital issues are in production. So in case you were wondering what exactly a Thai schoolgirl does with her hips when she sees an attractive priest, or wanted to know whether Harvard lawyers make good beer pong partners (hint: choose Cornell), hold your breath just a little longer and Confessions will hook you up.

That’s where the Hell I am. Where the Hell are you?

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Adventure

Could Boring Be Good Enough?

I feel complacent. The days just run together here—it’s me, my parents, my laptop. Next thing you know it’s dark again.

People ask where I am. It always catches me off guard. For some reason I assume that everyone who knows me, from my ex-fiancée from college to coworkers I haven’t seen in a year, must follow my every move. The plan is the center of my life and I forget others don’t follow it so closely. How is South America? Are you still in Thailand? Where are you?

Right now I’m in Wisconsin. Where in Wisconsin? You wouldn’t know it. But it’s near other towns that, likewise, you wouldn’t know.

I like it here. I didn’t think I would. When I left Mexico I was nervous. I planned to spend two months visiting family and I wondered if that might be about seven weeks too many.

We live on a small farm. Neither of my parents grew up farmers, but it’s my dad’s retirement dream. For the first month I was here, Zangmo joined us. I’ve made a few jaunts to the Cities to see various friends and Beth. But mostly it’s been me and the two people who gave me life, in the middle of nowhere.

Zangmo and I went canoeing.

Dad doesn’t talk much. Mom does, sometimes. A lot of the time it’s just quiet (never when I’m trying to write). They have two cats who will run away if you try to pet them, so there may actually be a negative amount of socialization happening in the house.

The hours slip by this way. Somehow it’s March, April, June—what happened? I wake up early each morning, intention to write a lot; write some. I’m making dinner. Then they’re in their beds and it’s just me, the wine, the computer, the music.

I could just stay here. Mom sure would like the company. Dad’d love the help. Two years, ten years. Help with chores in the morning, write nights. No rent, no hole in my heart, meet a local girl.

Nobody would fault me for settling down, and I’m tempted every chance.

Sometimes comfort is the enemy of adventure. I’ve been so complacent I wanted to turn down a kayaking trip. Co-adventurer Mitch and I might take sea kayaks down the Gulf of Mexico when I get that far. We have a chance to take lessons together in Duluth, Minnesota.

For two weeks I’ve wondered if I can cancel.

I don’t actually want to cancel. I’ll actually be much happier if I go do something new, with a man I hardly know who might paddle across the world with me. I thrill at that very idea: if I didn’t, I should take adventurer off my business card.

But I get this way sometimes. When I have a comfortable daily life I convince myself I have lots of writing to do. It gives me a reason to go nowhere and, if I let myself, I would grow old this way and regret it.

Are you the kind of person who’s tempted to adventure, but would rather stay home? Or are you the kind of person who’s tempted to stay home, but would rather adventure?

Support the Great Adventure! If you enjoy reading Rogue Priest, believe in my journey, or just love seeing a spirited adventurer on the road, please consider making a donation to the cause. Your gift will help fund professional-quality equipment for the Great Adventure. It’ll keep me safe and help every step of the way.

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