Monthly Archives: January 2012

Wretching About Wrenching

I am the world’s worst mechanic. I can do something if shown how- but to sit and figure out how something works is not in my skill set. I have taken apart countless motors from lawn mowers to motorcycles in effort to teach myself, and not once have I ever put one back together. It doesn’t matter if it is a tune up or replacing a timing chain….I suck at working on rigs. My school didn’t offer auto shop class and my Dad who is an awesome DIY guy- was just too busy keeping us in a good house with food on the table.

Just hooking up lights to my rig took over half the evening...yes I am a pathetic mechanic

With that said, I enjoy working on a vehicle under the right conditions. I am there to assist, I am getting trained, the garage is warm, and there are good tunes in the background. There are a few people I have jelled with when working on a vehicle. I enjoy those times.

I currently have three rigs right now that need attention:

1987 Jeep Cherokee (XJ)

  • Won’t start- period
  • New transmission
  • New slave cylinder
  • Doors replaced
  • Dash replacement
  • Armor (roll cage, front and read bumper, tire rack)
  • Other “too many to mentions”

1994 Jeep Wrangler

  • Gas line leak
  • Front differential leak
  • Rear differential leak
  • Front bumper build
  • Roll bar
  • Rear bumper modification
  • more “too many to mentions”

2003 Nissan XTerra

  • Tune up
  • not so many- too many to mentions- but it has 170K on the odometer

So this year I’m aiming at improving my mechanical skills and bringing guys together that are in the same lack of skill set category I reside in. My hope is to get 3-4 guys who suck at car repair with 1-2 mechanics  over the summer that will walk us through the process of learning how to swap our own brakes, water pumps, and maybe a transmission.

I figure these skills will allow me to save some cash, make me more secure in the back country, and teach me to enjoy the wrenching process.

I have been thankful for the guys who have stepped in to help out– and I really do pull more than my share once we dive into the project. Once I do learn how to do stuff I can take over. I admit there is allot of it that is a confidence issue. Sometimes just having someone there to look over my should to let me know I am turning the bolts the right way is all I need.

I would be interested to know of other guys in this same situation and would appreciate feedback either here or on the AIQ facebook page.

My Time as a Diver

When I was stationed in New Jersey at the Air Base Ground Defense course as an instructor, there were some major changes that took place in my life.  It was a period of  transition that I desperately needed. I was recently divorced, I was at a crossroads in my career, and I was starving for new adventure.

With a fist full of dollars I walked into a tour guides office on post, also known as Morale, Welfare, and Recreation (MWR) and asked what there was to do in the local area. The manager (Tina) directed me towards SCUBA diving since I had just finished the Army’s Underwater Infiltration Course enroute to my new station. (Yes the Army and Air Force have divers who focus on special tactics leveraging the aquatic world.

I loved the diving community in New Jersey and soon found myself taking more advanced classes all the way up to becoming a Dive Master and working for the local dive shop on various dive boats. I loved the technical part of diving deep ship wrecks from WWI and WWII, exploring local rivers and inlets for old bottles, and diving the dangerous jetties for lobster.

My experience in New Jersey eventually led me to becoming a contract evidence diver for several law enforcement departments, a scientific diver for the State of Texas, an Instructor (NAUI, SSI, PADI), and an underwater gardener.

Last night as I was swimming laps I remember that first initial freedom I felt underwater. I remember volunteering to clean the pool at McGuire AFB in exchange to get my air tanks filled and access.  I could spend hours in that pool and it gave me an opportunity to work on my skills in a semi-controlled environment. I also loved the time I spent in local lakes and rivers while living in Texas. At one point in my life I was in the water everyday.

Diving holds a special spot in my heart and it was one of the greatest adventure periods in my life. I even proposed to Melissa under water. I have not donned a tank in five or six years, still I love the adventure of diving. I was fully consumed by it in so many ways. It is not currently the focus in my life but it gave me so many wonderful memories, friends, and opportunities in life.

Building a Kids Survival Pack (part 1)

This has been a long but needed process.

Many of you know I teach a special session on survival for kids at places like Scooter’s Youth Hunting Camp as well as other venues. This is a course that is scaled down to the abilities and mind set of kids from 10-16 years of age. We keep it interactive and the kids get hands on experience with fire craft, water purification, and other skills. I also pass on specific advice of what to put in a kids pack as well as what not to place in there.

On the outside it may be buttons, bows, and puppy dog tails...on the inside are the skills that would put most Boy Scouts to shame

As a parent of a soon to be 11-year old who has grown up with the advantage of not only seeing her dad use these skills in the real world, but has also been a student of mine. But instead of the abbreviated session I do for Scott’s camp, I get a more in-depth opportunity to ensure she masters various skills.

My approach has been simple, and also teaches her responsibility with the tools she is given. Let’s face it- most people cringe when you tell them your kiddo has a knife and knows how to start a fire. Each tool is thoroughly trained and mastered and even monitored for proper use. The last thing I want is her cutting herself or starting a wildfire. So let me walk you through the tools and the methodology I have used along the way.

Hydration Pack

This is the building block of her survival training. If I can keep her drinking water then she will always increase her odds of living should she get separated from us. This started out with a small Camelback designed specifically for kids and did not hold any items in it- it was just a water bladder with straps. Since she was 4 or 5 her responsibility was to make sure it was always full when we went out. As she grew more responsible we added a name tape for her on it as a symbol of getting wiser on trips. She was also keeping her “Junior Ranger” badges on it that she earned at various national parks. She has out grown that pack and tonight she got a new Camelback (Scout) in hot pink. Great color for girls and noticeable in the woods. (There is a blue one for boys). It will hold her other basic tools she has earned to this point as well as rain jacket, gloves, wool hat, and flashlight.

Flashlight/ Headlamp

When Abby was four she started earning a headlamp of her own. This was done by turning her borrowed lamp off when not in use, not pointing it in people’s eyes in camp, and knowing how to change both battery and bulb. She received her very own lamp when she was seven or eight.

Flint and Steel Fire Starter

I still do not believe in matches- specifically for a kiddo. Through practice and increasing responsibility she earned her own flint and steel fire striker. Along with a bag full of dryer lint and bits of pencil shavings she is ready for the woods. I have given her the job of starting family bon fires in the backyard and campfires when we are in the woods. She does everything from prep phase to extinguish. She did get it taken away from her at one point and had to earn it back. Smokey Bear would be proud of her.

Pocket Knife

Many of us had knives early in life but it is such a different world. I remember carrying a 300 series Buck Knife to school in a black case on my belt and no one cared at all. Not the world we live in today. In addition, the last thing I need is for her to make a bad situation worse. The knife has been a hard fought process for her. Just when I would think she was ready she would do something to make me think twice. But she has finally earned the privilege to carry a folding pocket knife. Tonight inside her new pack was a Swiss Army knife.

I have tried to make each stage important for her and I will continue this series as she earns other tools such as a compass, signal devices, purification tablets, etc. It is my belief that anything you put into a kids pack should be limited to ONLY the tools they know how to use and have demonstrated the proper use and car of.

I would encourage you to get you and your family trained in survival. I offer this as free service to anyone who request it (based on schedule availability). I also invite you to sign your kiddo up for camps such as Scooter’s. It is a first rate camp and we have had many success stories come out of it from both the hunting as well as the survival perceptive.

Learning water purification at survival seminar at Scooter's

Getting Back Into Shape

I never realized the toll that Nachos, Burgers, more Nachos, IHOP, and more Nachos would take on my ability to adventure.

I grew up having to work to keep weight on. I remember eating hard to meet the 70 lbs needed to play Pop Warner football when I was trying to make the Mighty-Mites weight requirements. In basic training at 21 years old I was given a meal card for extra food so I could become a cop. I had to put on extra poundage before going to Pre-Ranger and Ranger Indoctrination because they knew I would have more than average weight loss. In Dive school I persevered through hypothermia because I had no fat.

I always loved running, swimming, biking, and hiking all through childhood and well into my middle-aged years. I naturally stayed in great, not good, but great shape. I even continued to bike 36 round trip miles to work when the mood felt like it. I never trained for marathons, century bike rides, or two weeks on a trail….I just did it.

Then I hit 45.  That was the magic number.

Black magic. Voodoo. A curse.

Suddenly gone were the days of a quick metabolism. I grew a gut. I huffed up and down hills. My bike sat neatly posted on the wall like a decoration. I blew up to a horrible weight. My waist expanded…Size 30 to 36 and working past 38. I was a diet Coke short of “duex-hundred”…I felt 50 years old.

Right now I am on the road to recovery. With the exception of a cheat day here and there I have been religious about getting back in shape. My main workout is swimming. At least once- and in some cases twice a day I can be found knocking out anywhere from 1000 to 2300 yard swims, participating in deep water aerobic classes, or joining in with a competitive stroke class.

My diet has changed as well. Gone are the 4-6 sodas (a day), 1-2 candy bars (a day), and the weekend full of eating out. I no longer knock out a bag of chips and a jar of nacho cheese sauce, I have grown to love almonds, carrots, and other healthy alternatives.

I love the fact I have dropped from 198lbs to 185lbs in a few weeks and feel 40 again. I love that on the past few hikes I am charging up the hills with a pack on. I like the good moods I am in.

Its sad in one respect because AIQ was built around getting people off the couch and into adventure. I had become the audience I have reached out to for so long. But I now have a better understanding of what its like to be that person on the couch and why it can be so intimidating to make a change.

I still have a long way to go but I am motivated. I know everything step I take gets me back to the adventure guy I used to be, and maybe a better ambassador to those less inclined. I have my cheat days that I enjoy. I went out today with a buddy for a bacon-cheese burger, fries, and a coke. It was good company, good food, and GREAT atmosphere…but it was a treat not a staple. I just understand that tonight I have to work off the 1500 (extra) calories that were not in my budget.

Now its off to the gym….

Living the Overlanding Life

OK this is probably nothing new…but I am an “Overlander”. I never knew or even tried to apply a name for it. I just thought it was a weekend adventure when we loaded one of our rigs with enough food, equipment, and people to conduct a small invasion. But the adventure “industry” seems to have painted me into a box of sorts so that I feel the need to label the process of traveling countless back roads for days at a time as “Overlanding”.

For me it is hard to fully describe what it really is- and at the same time I like the label. I think it may finally define more of what I am not about rather than what I am. For example, I am not into “rock crawling” and have no desire to place any of my rigs or family members in precarious situations as I slide along boulders. I have no problem with this and enjoy not only watching but also being a passenger in someone’s vehicle that is at risk. I am not a “mud-bogger” and in fact find I get irritated when someone has torn up a trail for the sake of slinging mud on a road or in the landscape. I can’t always clasify myself as a “Jeeper” since 2/3rds of my fleet are jeeps but them I have the XTERRA. The XTERRA precludes us from the “Off-Road” and “4-Wheeler” labels as well. Besides, “Car-Camping” sounds so lame…

Here is how I see our history and return to Overlanding:

A trip in one of our vehicles to a distant location where we have the capability to be self sufficient (within reason) that qualifies as some type of adventure (camping, hiking, travel, tourism, sight-seeing, hunting, geocaching, etc), using electronic or other navigational method, using various road surfaces. It may include overnight camping, meal preparation, and sanitation.

We have Overlanded as a family from the beginning. Including trips to New Jersey, Texas, Oregon and our shorter weekend trips up and down Forrest Service and National Park back roads. These trips have ranged from weekend day trips to a few weeks. We have camped under the stars, slept in our rig, spent sleepless nights in questionable motels, and wined and dined in some of the most beautiful retreats.

Our trips have given us breath-taking views, brought us into contact with Monks in a remote and now abandoned Monastery, provided access to awesome hiking and biking, and given us the chance to grow closer as a family.

Adventure IQ has been and always will be about getting off the couch to adventure. For us it is not so much about the label, but another avenue to try something new. For many this is a perfect portal to adventure. Sure, it may not be about hanging off a cliff, rocketing down a mountain on skis, or biking a hundred miles…but it is a great activity that is so accessible.