Monthly Archives: April 2012

Five for Fighting

One of the times I felt the most complete in life and that I was making a difference in my community was from about 2000 to 2004. This is when I ran a hockey outreach in San Antonio, Texas.

You wouldn’t think hockey in Texas is a big deal. You wouldn’t think hockey could be used to teach anger management to at-risk kids. You wouldn’t think a night club notorious for drugs and alcohol would turn a blind eye to the good things we were doing. I can’t explain it…it just happened.

It started pretty small. I noticed this empty parking lot, really abandoned tennis courts in what used to be one of the premier neighborhoods in San Antonio. At one point the Turtle Creek Club had swimming pools, tennis courts, and a multi-level entertainment complex. Is was the place to meet if you had the wealth. Fast forward to the fall of 1999 and as I drove by I noted it had all fallen into disrepair.

The tennis courts were littered with broken beer bottles, the hedges had grown up, pulling into the lot and looking in a cubby hole in the concrete wall I found a crack pipe. But it was the perfect size for outdoor roller hockey.

I was lucky. My dad took me to Phoenix Roadrunner games back when they were in the WHA. I saw Robby Ftorek, Gordie Howe, and many other greats play in Phoenix. My dad got me involved in playing roller hockey after seeing my first game at 7 years old. This is back when you were on roller skates and not blades. My friends and I played in driveways, basketball courts, and pick up games at the roller rink. We skated to school, all of us sneaky our sticks out of the house in the morning and playing at lunch. We formed our own neighborhood leagues. It was like the movie “Mystery Alaska” but with sunburns and decent acting.

The kids I would soon be working with were not so lucky. Many were from fatherless homes, had a history of abuse, often left alone to their own ideas of entertainment, and a majority had a family member incarcerated.

I started that first day by bringing out a bag full of hockey sticks. I set up a goal and threw on my skates and gloves. It was good practice for me. I was playing with a pick-up/travel team at the time. Being the oldest guy on the squad, I need as much stick time as possible. At first I just skated alone, dribbling the ball, flicking it at (not always in) the net. A couple of kids wandered over. After a few minutes we had our first game going. In a few weeks I would randomly get between 5-8 kids. Some had skates, others we provided them for them. Not loaners…their own skates.

I became pretty clever in getting equipment. I would show up at garage sales with a flyer about what we were doing and how we were reaching out to the community. If someone had skates, I would ask them if they would be willing to donate them IF they didn’t sell by the end of the day…most of the time they gave them to me anyway. I would ask for old hockey equipment at the ice rink, from my team mates, from the local pro team. The San Antonio Iguanas gave me practice jerseys from their defunct roller hockey camp. They provided game tickets to any kid who could come out to the games.

We had a regular schedule going soon. I would show up at the parking lot every Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday. Like clockwork (and after a little training) my new hockey team would be waiting for me when I showed up, pull brooms out of the truck and begin sweeping all the broken glass out of the way, set up the goals, and layout pads, helmets, sticks, and other gear.

The format was simple. Throw your stick in the pile, mix them up, that’s the team you were on. We would play till one team got to 5. No cussing, no fighting, no checking. Between games we talked about stuff going on in their lives, after the game we would do homework with them. If you came to play and you were high or if you broke the rules, you were suspended. Most of my players were users, only one ever came high.

I had an awesome crew of volunteers. I never asked for cash, just for people to do two things for me:

1) Show up with sandwiches or a cooler full of sports drinks. We would have “fans” sitting in the back of pick-up trucks, hoods of cars, even lawn chairs to cheer the guys on. These were kids from a rough section of town, living in rough houses, and rarely heard good things about themselves.

2) Find and buy gear for my team. I would have my “boosters” find and buy skates, sticks, pads, etc. I wanted them to shop for these kids as if they were their own. Its amazing what a woman with a weekend of garage sales in her sites can find and my lady boosters were fantastic.

I also had a great contingent of guys come out to teach skills. Guys from my parking lot team, many who had grown up in similar situations quickly answered the call. We even had a few visits from the Iguanas. My guys were pumped.

I eventually took over the coaching role for several YMCA teams just getting started and not only navigated the start of a cool program, but also lobbied hard to not let it fall into the “we don’t keep score” ideology. At the time I served on the board, it was the only YMCA sport that not only kept score, but also had a scoreboard and a championship play-off.

In 2003, we were recognized as a Sears Hometown Hero and were given $1000 to put towards our program. Knowing that all our needs were met, I wanted the money to go towards scholarships for any of my hockey guys to play in any sport the YMCA offered.

At the end of 2004, I merged my program with the YMCA’s hockey program. I grew from three kids in tennis shoes and a home-made net to thirty-four regular attendees, enough sticks, pads, skates, and goals to field four complete teams, and an active roller hockey community. I transferred all equipment and players to the YMCA in November with two conditions:

1) My players receive transportation to the YMCA

2) My players be brought in on scholarship to any YMCA activity

Not only was this a time I felt like I made a difference, it was also a time I found out who was willing to get behind me and my vision. Organizations that I hoped would help, like the three churches within a ½ mile of the parking lot not only would not lend a hand, but one even stated “we don’t have the infrastructure to support those kids”.

My real support came from co-workers, friends, the manager at Taco Bell, even the night club owner who’s property we were on. (He was told by his attorney that we were a risk and he should have us removed for trespassing, instead he thanked us for picking up the glass and trash). Gang-bangers who knew what I stood for, and when there was an imminent threat of a drive by, stood by and protected our game. The police officer who was an ex-college hockey player that would park his car at the end of the lot and hit the siren when a goal was made was a huge hit for everyone and we appreciated his presence. The school teacher who would call us because one of my guys was skipping class and his mother told her to call me. She and I worked to get him though the 8th grade.

I never had any fights break-out, my five for fighting were really five kids that I really fought for. They were the ones in the worst situations. Not sure where they are today, but at least for a brief period of time, they knew that they were valued.




Firepuck Demo and Review

As many of you know—I have been burned (no pun intended) by survival products I have purchased in the past. Sometimes the concept is great, works well in the lab, works well in limited field testing, fails when you really need it.

I am also conscious of where I spend my hard-earned dollars. Sometimes though I have to be aware that there are guys out there that may not have the same experience as me, so I have to think about the guy or gal who is new to the woods, is cold in the woods, or the person who pulls up to a camp site and has to get it quickly situated.

Okay, enough of the prelude, let me tell you about a product we strongly endorse… Firepuck.

This is by far one of the coolest things (there is that pun thing again) we have tested in a long time. I can start fires with everything from shotgun shells to belly button lint. If you have been to one of my seminars we do just that. I will still carry a couple of these. This is a great way to get a fire started whether you are a survival expert or the guy who has to start the fire pit in the backyard.

Starting with the stats, this thing burns at 1400 degrees.  To get a fire going you need oxygen, fuel, and heat. If your fuel source is wet it is going to be difficult to light. Put yourself in a situation where you are hypothermic and all sources are wet, you are in deep trouble if you can’t get a fire going. I won’t matter how many cotton balls you can light with flint and steel, wet fuel source means trouble. The advantage of the hot temps produced by the Firepuck is that not only does it provide quick ignition of your fuel source, it actually dries your source.

For our test I soaked seasoned pine in a 5 gallon bucket for approximately 60 hours. (I had intended to do it for only 48 hours, but got side- tracked so the wood stayed submerged and extra day.) I then used a modified Tee-Pee build for the fire with no other kindling. Please check out the video for more perspective.

The Firepuck is easy to use. It has a friction based ignition system integrated into the cap. It took me three attempts in the video to light it…this is because I was a pansy and was over-cautious. In reality, like all of you laughing at my failure in the video.  I was impressed with how concentrated the flame source was, a feature you want in high wind conditions. Unlike all those cotton balls I fill with petroleum jelly, this product is petroleum free.

One of the points made about the product is that it is not water proof. Honestly, there are not a lot of products that are truly waterproof that are this easy to use when it comes to fire starting. This can be made water proof though by using either a Mylar bag also sold by Firepuck or a Zipper style baggie. I am currently testing one in a zipper baggie with two small moisture tabs (designed to pull moisture out) and will test that next week. They are sitting in a backpack in the downpour we have been receiving off-and-on the past few days. They show no signs of taking on moisture at all.

What I like about this product is that you don’t have to be an expert to use it. It takes the guess-work out of staying alive. I would ensure that I don’t use it at the back end of my jeep, in doors as a gag, or substitute it for birthday candles. I also like that it does not leave residue like a road flare would, and for the same size of a flare, I can carry six of these.

I will be carrying these in my EMT/ Wilderness Rescue bag, survival bag, and in my vehicles. If you buy anything new to go into your survival or camping kit, this should be first on the list. I would also include this on a list of something to keep on hand for those back yard parties where you have a firepit. This is a no hassle way to get a fire going for your guest.

Checkout the video on YouTube

 Be sure to check out Firepuck at their website for more info.

Desert Rat

Over the next few weeks you will see a shift on the Facebook page, the trip reports on the blog, and maybe a video of two on youtube with a concentrated effort on the desert. Honestly this is nothing new. We live in and on the border of some of the most facsinating deserts, I grew up in Arizona and then Texas- both famous for its deserts, I am drawn to notional parks like Big Bend, Zion, Canyon Lands, and other places where water is scarce, navigation can be difficult, and help is out of cell phone reach. Early on in my military careerI focused on desert survival and warfare when the trend was Soviet invasion in Europe. I love the desert for its beauty,its harshness, and its complexity.

For me, of all the environments, the desert is the most unforgiving. Here you better know your stuff and keep your head together. You may go out for a day, but should be ready to spend three. I have dirt biked and ATV’d in remote locations on hot days, only to have a sudden thunderstorm come in and make the trails home impossible. Blown radiator hoses, flat tires, and sink holes can extend your stay. Its difficult to navigate and at times possible to communicate. If you go out on Sunday, make sure your boss knows that if you don’t show up for work on Monday, you are in a jam somewhere. On the kitchen pass from your spouse, be sure to list where you are going and stick to the plan.

This last weekend we had the opportunity to visit Winter Camp. Thijs was a small homestead in the Bruneau Desert. After a 30-mile trip down a gravel road and then a few miles in on a not likely to ever be improved road, we were met by the land owners.

Many of the pristine homesteads still sit on working ranches and are only available through the cooperation of land owners. We went out with the Owyhee County Historical Society and the trip was led by Steve Silva. Steve has written a few books on the Owyhee area and is not only an expert in the history, but is an avid biker and knows every little trail from Eastern Oregon to Western Idaho, and for kicks, throw in Nevada as well.

I will do a more indepth trip report on Winter Camp after I have a chance to double check and verify my notes. I mainly wanted to point out the availability of these adventures as an opportunity to get out and explore….safety in numbers. I also wanted to provide some guidance before you venture out on what to take along.

Water. Those little bottles you picked up at the store are not enough. Don’t think in terms of ounces, think in terms of gallons.

Fuel. Even with a group going to a known destination I carry two 5 gallons cans of fuel plus I top off at the last known stop.

Small tool kit with extra parts. I worked with Carl from the local ATV club who has extensive experience on extended range travel in this area. Last month when we changed belts and hoses, I kept the old parts as spares. I also have two gallons of coolant and two quarts of oil with me. Jumper cables and tow lines are also their weight in gold.

Communication. Cell phones rarely work. I have a ham radio, cb radio, and aircraft radio. Be properly registered and qualified. In fact I highly recommend a ham certification.

Keep survival pack in the rig. As a rule I look at how many people (and pups) you rig will hold. Since I know I will max out at 3 people and two dogs, my kit will work for all of us for three days. I also carry my own personal survival bag in case I need to start walking and others have to stay put. Know how to use the stuff and train with it. In the next few weeks I will include this in one of my postings.

GPS is great but know how to read a map.

I keep two first aid kits, well three if you count the small one in my personal survival kit. Let’s focus on the two in the rig. The first sits behind the passenger seat. Its small and made for those little cuts and abrasions. Easy to get to and doesn’t require a medical degree beyond what mom’s do to take care off boo-boos. The second is a full blown EMT bag. Everything short of a heart by-pass is included in it. In addition, we are trained to use everything in the bag. I highly recommend the NOLS Wilderness Medic Course. This will train you to keep someone stabalized until either help arrives or you have to transport. I sent a few of us through both the NOLS course and the Red Cross course a few years ago. The Red Cross version was pathetic at best. Go with NOLS, theyare used to sending people into the back country on a regular basis….including third world countries where you just might be the best medic. Stay current on CPR and other courses, and check your kits. I do mine everytime we bounce between daylight savings and standard time.

That is probably just the start of it. As I set here in the desert, one of those storms is moving in and its starting to pour on me. I left this morning with a 20% chance of rain, and most of the day it has been in the 90s.

The last thing is join and participate in forums such as Expo Portal

There is so much to see out there. Remember to tread lightly which keeps the outdoors in good condition for all of us. If you get opportunities to visit private lands, be sure to thank the owners, respect their property, leave stuff alone. Never venture on to land you are not sure of.





Scooter’s Youth Hunting Camp

Imagine a place where a kid can safely learn respect for the outdoors, conservation, archery, shot gun, riffle, black poweder, and caring for their equipment.

Imagine a kid learning about rules, regulations, ethics, and preservation of hunting. A one-day event that has reached close to two-thousand kids and has been responsible for first time hunters legaly and ethically harvesting game.

Finally a camp that introduces common sense survival skills taught at a “kids perspective” that have been used by participants in real world dire situations….and have come out alive.

This is Scooter’s Youth Hunting Camp and we have been fortunate to teach a seminar there since 2006. Scott established this camp eleven years ago as an outreach to kids of single moms who otherwise would not have the opportunity to learn about the outdoors.

Scott’s army of volunteers brings in hunters and non-hunters alike to work together to provide a free day camp each year in Emmett, Idaho. That’s right, the entire camp is supported through volunteers and donations …. and is 100% free. The camp has grown from a small band of helpers into a legitimate non-profit organization and lures some of the industrie’s top names for both its seminars as well as corporate sponsorships.

Not only do kids get a day of great outdoor education, each participant is fed a lunch, kept hydrated, and leaves the camp with a gift. We’re not talking small gifts, in some cases prizes have included (with parental permission and control) custom made knives, back country airplane rides, guided hunts, and in a few cases their very first hunting rifle or bow.

This has been one of the coolest camps we have ever been involved with and look forward to teaching our seminar (6-8 times a day). We have thought about stepping back a few times, but the rewards we get each year of a kid learning fire craft or using the skills we teach them keep us coming back.

Take a moment to listen to my interview with Scott. If you are interested in supporting Scott or the work of Adventure IQ (specifically for this camp) please drop me an email.


Blinded By The Light

This one boils my skin. The stupidity of the action. The seemingly whimsical act that could have cost me my life. I take risk. I love adventure. I understand that there are things I do could have dire consequences in spite of what I do to reduce the risk. This is who I am and to take that from me is to take away the things that make me who I am. But when someone else introduces that risk, it’s a whole new world for me. One that I will seek justice.
Tuesday evening I was flying in the Nampa, Idaho area. I was doing my night time proficiency training. The FAA requires that I make 3 nighttime take-offs and landing every 90 days prior to carrying passengers. I was flying more out of my passion to do night flights and not so much for the reason I often carry friends around to see the lights at night.
At about 845 pm (2045 hours local) I departed the runway to do a “left closed pattern” or in other words, I left the runway, would make four precise left turns in the landing patter, land, bring the aircraft to a full stop, exit the runway to the taxiway, leave the taxiway to the take-off spot on the runway, and execute the maneuver all over again.
After my take off I executed my first two left turns and was now headed “downwind”. Aircraft take-off into the wind or “up wind”, I was flying the opposite direction of take-offs and landings. I was at the point where I have to begin my approach to landing sequence. This required me to reduce the throttle and allow the plane to slow down and begin my decent towards earth. Eventually making another two left turns that would bring me onto the smooth service of the runway.
It was just after I pulled the throttle back that I caught the first two flickers of a bright light in my eyes. It was green. It was a laser.
There are over 2000 incidents each year of pilots getting “lit up” or “tagged” with lasers. Ranging from simple hand-held pens to the kind used on rifle scopes and on occasion the ones you see at music concerts. They are extremely dangerous to a pilot. It can cause a pilot to be blinded and not able to fly. It can kill a pilot, his passengers, and people on the ground. I got hit with the kind of laser you find at a rock concert.
I immediately banked the plane out of the pattern. I threw the throttle to the fire wall and made a highly aggressive climbing right turn out of the pattern. I had to take a moment to make sure I was okay and that nothing was wrong with the aircraft. I also needed time to think.
I looked at several options. Fly back into the pattern as normal, bring the aircraft in from a different point and land, or leave the airport and proceed to another airport and land.
I knew I could not land the opposite direction because of the strong winds on the airfield already. The wind was only 10 knots, but it was blowing strait down the runway. I really didn’t want a 10-knot wind at my back while landing at night. I also knew there were no other aircraft in the pattern. I pretty much owned the skies. Instead I flew an evasive pattern away from the spot I had been tagged at and was able to land with the laser behind me. It was a little dicey, but completely safe.
I was overjoyed to know that I caught the incident on video. I was disappointed that I didn’t get the entire attack or replicate the intensity, but it did show that I had come in contact with a laser. If you want to see the attack, check it out on my youtube page
Please don’t be one of these morons. This is extremely dangerous to pilots and carries stiff criminal and civil liabilities. I was lucky that I took immediate evasive action. According to officials in some of my interviews with the FAA, the common mistake is the pilot fixates on the light source. I attribute my reflex to years of military training and operations. Once a soldier is shot at, he never thinks about ducking.

Spinning Wheels


Bike Racing in Texas

From 1998 to 2007 I was a bike commuter. I did everything by bike. At one point I commuted 36 miles round trip to work. As a family we did our grocery shopping by bike. Riding 5 miles to the store with panniers, and bike trailers, we took care of our dietary needs. One trailer held Abby, the other a huge ice chest. We attended hockey and football games, the Fat Tire Festival, and took in some great movies- all a 30 mile round trip. I have hunted bear by bike, planned entire vacations, and even moved across the country to be in better biking conditions.

Riding in Ojanaga, Mexico...the crossing was...interesting

Bikes are simple and efficient. I believe in so many situations bikes are better than cars. Traveling around the world I have found that where more people have used bikes instead of cars, the environment seems to be a much better place for it. I have found that people are healthier in spite of other contributing factors to bad health. They are without a doubt more physically fit, and with the exception of the stress placed on them by cars, are mentally healthier.  

I often hear about cars complaining about bikes.  Not going to start a rant, but the fact is everyone benefits from fewer cars. Fewer cars mean less traffic, less pollution, and fewer  traffic deaths . Since I enjoy hunting, the pollution in my city has an effect on the woods I roam. I enjoy the beauty of the landscape and know I am doing my part to preserve it. If you don’t believe the effect pollution has on the woods, check out recent pictures of Shenandoah National Park now and what it looked like 30 years ago. Devastating.  To be a hunter means I am a conservationist, which means I care about the environment.

My journey through biking began like most, that first bike as a kid. This granted freedom, adventure, and independence. Later in high school I began commuting 15 miles each way. In between that commute I also participated in track, cross-country, and football. I wasn’t out to become a super athlete, I only wanted to avoid trouble on the school bus.

When stationed in Germany, my bike was often the most reliable means of getting to work each day. 12 KM back and forth with a 45lb ruck with all my gear for the day tucked in home-made panniers. My cars (yes plural) were always breaking down so I became proficient on the bike.

Several years later I was introduced into mountain biking by a boss and I instantly fell in love with it. I devoted hours to weeknight rides, weekend trips, and vacations that would include several weeklong treks in some of the most remote regions of the south and southwest.

 I took bikes with me on business travel so I could explore areas like Mobile, Tucson, Chicago, and other cites and country sides. I shipped my bike ahead of me and it was ready when I got to the hotel. For me it was much better to do some exploring along the Gulf of Mexico than hanging out and drinking in a bar.

The other advantage, I could eat whatever I wanted. I tipped the scales at a consistent 155, a weight I would love to be back to again.

In 2005 we moved to Boise to get closer to biking. The first year I commuted by bike for the majority of my work and week days. I was also really big into restoring old bikes, including a 1953 Columbia and a 1968 Raleigh. I was also building bikes for people who for one reason or another lost the ability to commute by car. I was in great shape and felt very complete. I also completed a season of bear hunting all by bicycle. With my longbow mounted to my handlebars and gear pulled behind me in a trailer, I peddled my way through April to June in search of a big brownie. I also hunted a deer season as well, at least until both bike and hunter were snowed in.

 I think it was during this time though I began to lose focus….and gain weight. I went through some staggering depression in 2006-2007 and after the initial weight loss gained 55 unwanted pounds. I lost motivation to build, repair, or ride any bike.

This last weekend, the desire to bike has returned. Once I get a rack built on my Jeep, I plan to trek across some of the most remote regions of Idaho. Already feeling better and dropping 20 lbs through swimming, going back to the bike is a natural step for me.

I Got Some Fab

When I picked up my Jeep Wrangler one of the first things I sought out was a rear swing bumper for spare tire, gas cans, and tools such as an off road jack. I bought my Jeep completely bumper-less. I am an inexperienced welder with equipment that really isn’t up to par with what is required for a solid build. Fabricating mounts for lights, tool racks for a trailer, even mounting hardware for the on-board info systems…sure. A good set of bumpers and hardware to carry gas cans and other off road tools…well no.

I first went to a local fabricator listing his services on Craigslist. My first clue to the quality should have been that he was 30 minutes late meeting me at his “fab shop”. The dirt floored shop behind his house littered with tools, his air wrench was a 3 gallon electric compressor that had to be constantly recharged with air (I literally used a hand powered socket set on a set of screws faster than he did with his air powered tools), and he wasn’t using washers on any of the bolts when he put the bumper on.

In a few weeks the bumper through all the vibration started tearing out of the frame. My buddy Greg and I welded in support plates, but it never really stopped the vibration issue. In the end, I wound up putting my old tire carrier on and using just the bumper.

Using my bumper as a base, they rebuilt everything, increasing strenght and durability

I then took my project Jeep into the guys at Get Some Fabrication in Boise, Idaho. They quickly diagnosed the problems, pointed out the flaws in the design of the swing gate set up, and we set out together to build a new swing gate.

Finished project--- just needs paint

They used my existing bumper for the build, in which they reinforced it. You want a good solid platform on the bumper, not only for the tire and gas cans to be supported, but this is what another rig is going to hook into when you get YANKED out of a ditch at some point. Using larger section of steel they modified my current bumper.

After that, and through some back and forth decision making, they built a new tire carrier for me and made custom gas can holders. We opted to not place the hi-lift jack on the back since I travel allot of washboard trails. It’s not that they can’t build for that, it was more of a “why put it there” when I have plenty of space on my hood for it, which is really where I intended to move it. They also pre-built a space for a rear safari rack above the tire.

I am very pleased with the work that they have done and through a week of testing with full gas cans up and down the trails (all are washboard as a minimum right now) there is almost no vibration or excessive noise.

I highly recommend these guys and so glad they stepped up for this project. Going back to them to have a front bumper built, an overhead safari rack, rock sliders, and suspension work done. Located on Franklin Road in Boise, they can be reached at (208) 888-3565. You can also check out some of the cool stuff they have built on their website.