Monthly Archives: January 2013

Safari Shirts

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I love safari shirts. They go great with cargo pants and hiking boots or shorts and flip-flops. I can be found most days wearing the above…except for the occassional kilt…but still with a safari shirt. It causes my wife and many of my co-workers grief.

Specifically with work, I have tried jackets and ties, sports shirts and slacks, even dockers as a bridge between GQ and Alan Quartemain…doesn’t quite do it for me. Date nights, well an excuse to wear a nice shirt with polished boots.

The super synthetics that are put out by Columbia and ExOfficio are great, and this is what I pack for most of my back country travel, but the old heavy cotton shirt is what I love. No less than three ounces per inch, tan, with large buttons and pockets on the chest….

I have plenty of the synthetics, but lately I have been looking for a shirt to replace my favorite…. An old Eddie Bauer bush shirt. I had several of these but now down to the lone survivor. This last of the bush wear is now 10 to 15 years old, tan, light cotton, and the most comfortable shirt I have ever owned…and discontinued. It has survived international travel, my FAA check ride, and hundreds of campfires and Jeep runs. I think I paid $30 for it at the time. When I look for a replacement… $85 and up through $140 for a nice bush shirt.

I know “cotton kills”, but I have my own thoughts and ideas of when it is acceptable to wear. For me, living in cotton is more often the important aspect.

Even Abby has taken to them….

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Following Bad But Well-Meaning Shepherds

You never have to go in the woods, roam the desert without water, or find yourself drifting on an iceberg to know the benefits of being mentally and physically prepared for a survival situation. It doesn’t have to be a catastrophe like a nation-wide power loss or even a post-apocolyptic zombie attack to use basic skills to not only survive, but make a bad situation better.

My office was closed today due to bad weather. The freeway was shut down and pipes had burst at the main site. So I spent my day working out of a local coffee shop. I tend to much better work here anyway without the distractions offered in a corporate office.

Around noon, I decided to head to the gym and get a pool workout in. After a rigorous swim routine, I was resting in the pool when suddenly I heard alarms going off. Immediatly the life guards started directing us out of the pool and towards the exit.

One of the first things I learned early in survival training is to question authority on its level of competence. When leaders are stressed, they make bad decisions. When leaders are fed bad information, they make bad decisions. Finally, when leaders are given direction by someone who is not on scene, yep….they make bad decisions.

Our bad decisions were made by a life guard, who probably was not more than 20 years-old. For the 20-30 people who were once in the pool and now standing at the back door with me, what he was asking could have been a death sentence. All of us soaking wet were being told to immediatly go outside. The past few weeks we have had ice and snow, along with single digit high temps. The life guard in shorts and a fleece jacket was sending women, children, the elderly, and tri-athletes (none of these groups do well in the cold) out to the parking lot while still wet in sub freezing temps.

As a group, we opted for a stall technique. We were clustered by the door in a highly open area where there was not an immediate threat. We could have easily stepped out the door if a dangerous situation broke out. Fortunatly, some fast thinking life guards began shuttling towels to us. I normally swim with a thermal swim shirt since I have had hypothermia and stillsuseptable to it. When I realized we were going to walk outside to wait, I immediatly pulled my wet shirt off and began to dry myself.

As more towels arrived, I grabbed not one or two….I took eight. I made booties for myself to walk in with two of the towels. Using a small dive knife that stays in my swim bag, I sliced the towels with life guards looking on and fashioned protection for my feet. I also made sure I had the other six towels to cover and build insulation with. An older gentleman (and Korean era Ranger) asked if I would make him a pair….another two towels and I had a fashion trend.

Eventually, word came from the fire department, we would have to go outside. Our stalling allowed us an extra 20 minutes of warmth, dry bodies, and towels for protection. In tne mean time, a bus had been commandered for us to go into.

Walking on tne snow was a wet and somewhat painful experience….for those who looked on in amusement of my booties before, now openly wished they had a little more than the damp (becoming soaking wet) towels laid on the ground by the gym workers.

Getting on the bus another strategy came into play. I opted to sit as close to the driver as possisble, but out of wind-shot of the door. This was the first seat on tne left. This allowed me to hear any information and updates, gave me a first out of the bus opportunity, and if needed, I could share a seat with someone, providing additional warmth.

We sat on the cold bus for about 20 minutes before being released. As soon as I was back in, I hit the hot tub to regain some warmth. Hot showers, dressing in the sauna, and then hitting the nearest cafe for soup and coffee followed.

No one died of hypothermia. No one was placed on heat packs. But having a few people aware of the decisions that were being made and making their own decisions kept folks out of trouble. I kept myself more comfortable, and possibly out of danger, while stalling for time. Being gung-ho to follow direction would have placed me, and possibly other followers in danger. Once we were outside the doors, there would not have been anyone to check on our progress for close to a half-hour. Enough time for hypothermia to set in.

Know the basics of simple improv can turn a bad situation better. Feel comfortable in making your own decisions, and don’t be a sheep….there are well intentioned shepherds just doing what the boss says…history shows us many cases of confident and well-intentioned leaders killing their followers……

Big Bend Biking

I still believe that when I die, I want my ashes spread over the various trails in Big Bend National Park. I owe my life to this place. This is where I have so often gone to seek solice. It is where I nearly died, where I learned to live, and it had incredible memories for not only me alone, but also with my wife.

While living in Texas we had made several trips to both the National Park, as well as Big Bend State Park. Don’t let the word “park” disuade you. This is a fierce place where you can quickly find yourself at the mercy of the elements.

Because we have spent so much of our adult lives away from family, Melissa and I have made it part of our tradition to travel on either Thanksgiving and/or Christmas. This is out of the norm for both of our families that draw closer to home during these dates. Because of the geographical distance, it just isn’t possible to get all of us to all of them in the brief period we have for time off. In addition, because of my time in the service, I was often away during the holidays and either drew close to my own family or my military family as we all did with my others being so far away. Melissa and I have had some incredible places all to ourselves including a beach at Thanksgiving, diving in Balmorea on New Years, Mountain Biking Fossil Rim Wildlife Refuge on Our anniversary, and of course, Big Bend at Christmas.

A year before my near death trip to Big Bend, I took Melissa there for Christmas. We left on the day after Christmas from my folks house in Austin. Abby was developing a bit of a cough so my folks asked that she stay with them while Melissa and I traveled the 10 hours west to the Chiuauan Desert.

Winter in the desert can be more than chilli. When you take off without your jackets, it can be downright miserable. Somewhere in the re-packing, the bags containing our jackets were left in Austin. After getting to Big Bend, we opted to drive the 200 mile round trip to buy jackets at the nearest Walmart. Instead we moved our campsite from the shadded Rio Grande Villiage to a sunny site 50 miles west in Terlingua.

Over the next few weeks, me armed with my new Raliegh M-60 and her with a modified Raliegh commuter bike (I beefed up with new shocks and mountain biking tires), we assaulted several trails, traversed into Mexico, and explored several out of the way places. Together we worked our way around the Big Bend area map on our mountain bikes, including a few 30+ mile trips down trails filled with miles of washboard roads, hours of baby head rocks, and endless washouts that would consume our tires. We had much of our belongings packed into a couple of trailers for some of the trips. Together we explored old ranches, rode to abandoned homesteads on the banks of the Rio Grand, and spent hours just riding in silence.

One of the disturbing aspects and one of the moronic decisions made by park authorities in the 1960-1970’s was the tearing down of buildings that had been errected prior to the park’s inception. The idea was to let the park return to its “natural” life, forgetting that there is a historical and archeological aspect to its life as well. Still, there are a few old outpost that still survive.

At the time, l was in great biking shape. I had been racing on the weekends, riding with my buddies all the time, and occassionaly commuting about 100 miles per week. Melissa was in decent shape at thetime, but needed breaks every few days. As a compromise, she would drop me off on a dirt road like Dagger Flat Road in the morning and meet me in the afternoon. This allowed her to pursue her love of history, wild life observation, reading, and just napping. In the evening, we would meet back at our camp and share the experiences of our day. In addition, camping close to Terlingua, we had access to real showers.

We also made sure to reward ourselves for tough days we rode together. I remeber after an incrdibly tough day of biking from Castolon to Buenos Ares and back, we rewarded ourselves with a huge dinner at Tivos. In fact, one evening after a few days of hard core biking we rewarded ourselves with both Tivos and the (can’t remember the name) local Itallian Resteraunt.

Melissa grew up around horses, and since she had been so good about climbing back on a mountain bike after breaking a collar bone, I could mount a horse. While there, we also took a horse packing trip. We signed up for a group horse packing tour. Melissa and I were the entire group. The guide was in a great mood, had no other plans for the day, so he took us to several of his secret spots. I also think that since Melissa is great with horses and I easily adapt to any adventure, he was enjoying our company. I was pretty worried about saddle sore, so I packed a pair of road bike shorts ( the tight spandex) that I covertly wore under my military cargo pants. The horse trip was really cool, and our guide and I would converse on history, philosophy, and politics of the Big Bend region. We capped of the day (late afternoon) with a hot meal at one of local hook-ups. Highly recommend….especially if your wife is really into horses.

We did venture into Mexico, and I will cover that in another post at some point.

New Years marked our last night in the desert. We hung out at the recreation center in the RV park and met up with a couple and their teenage son who had been traveling the US from Germany. I enjoyed the dialog since living in Germany was and still is one of the most influential periods of my life.

The following morning we packed our camp, loaded the car, took one last tour through the park and began the journey home. We stayed the night in a VERY nice hotel to recover. That evening we soaked in a hot tub, ate a real meal, and while she romantasized the trip, I planned the next.

Big Bend is an incredible place, and spending the holidays touring it with my bride only magnified its wonder. We would make several trips to the area for various holidays, and each one special.

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Thoughts on Adventure Prep

When I was teaching Scuba, many of my clients were often going on vacation in places like Cozumel, Truk, or even the Caribbean. There was not much interest in diving local lakes of Texas. I understand this after coming off of a few years diving the deep wrecks in the dark waters of New Jersey, where we were plundering wrecks left at the bottom from U-Boat torpedoes. My main counter argument was based on how much they were paying for their vacation and if they wanted to get full value of the dive.

My philosophy is the better diver you are, the more opportunities you have while diving. In addition, the more comfortable you are with conditions, the more you will enjoy your dive.

With all of the possibilities and opportunities, I wanted my clients to be able to participate in night diving, drift diving, and be part of the few in the water that a dive master might take them to “his special spot”.

I know when dive mastering, if I saw someone struggling with gear on the surface, or was uncomfortable in the water, I would pay extra-special attention to them, and conversely might not allow them as much freedom as I would with someone who showed a great amount of proficiency. Also, if I thought someone was fairly squared away with their skills, I could take them to a special spot on a wreck, show them a nesting area, or slip them into a grotto.

I bring this up because there are so many local opportunities in any adventure sport that better prepare you for when you do lay out allot of cash for a big trip. Here in Boise, I can tune up my skiing skills locally at Bogus Basin for a fraction of the cost of traveling to a resort. When I do travel to a resort though, my day is filled with excellent skiing, because I am used to the gear, the conditions, and I have a higher degree of confidence.

I would pass this same methodology on to my dive clients. Once certified, I would prepare them for diving in currents or doing drift diving in a local river. I could certify them for deeper diving in some of our bottomless lakes in our area. We would spend time doing night diving, navigation, and even renting a dive boat for a day to get used to working from a floating platform. I have even been known to “seed” some of the smaller sunken boats in a lake so my divers could do a bit of treasure hunting.

I guess I lay all this out because so often we think of the adventure being “THE ADVENTURE” we head out on. We forget about all the training and prep work that goes into this. I even struggle with this with the Adventure IQ crew, who don’t always see the benefit of us doing a weekend trip to work out the kinks on  (fill in the blank).

In the military, we used to do field problems and missions. There was a specific issue we were training to work on. In our adventure world, we could essentially take a single aspect of our trip- say river crossings, repairing a flat, or even preparing and cleaning up an evening meal. These can all be broken down and worked on so that when you do deploy on an expedition, the lessons have already been solidified and everything comes together like a symphony playing together. It is important when its raining and camp has to be set up, when its dark and a gash in the forehead has to be treated, or your gps fails and you pull out the road map, training for various conditions will make your grand adventure much more enjoyable.

In the next few months in preparation for some of our summer trips we are going to train on several areas, here is a VERY short list that will help in getting everyone working together.

Just like the divers I would send off every winter, well prepared and confident, we will hit our next adventure trained and ready to enjoy without the little things distracting us on our trip

Check out this episode

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Expedition Leadership Simulations

Nerd Alert!
Disclaimer….this methodology may be out of scope of what you may have considered for leadership development in adventure based activities….in addition…. I am not a true gamer. I was such an outcast in high school that the science club one shoved me in a locker and I was even turned down for a date by a girl who played French Horn…

I digressed from the start…

The past few years I have been using a self-modified version of Dungeuns and Dragons to teach leadership, decision making, communication, and expedition planning. Without going into the technical aspect, I have seen tremendous success in all of these areas.

Most adventure participants have a fairly decent grasp on their technical disciplines. Its when we bring a team together in place them in diverse and situations we see how well they can work together and communicate to successfuly resolve the situation.

In the simulations I have participants build on a multude of skills they either pocess, or the skills of their character. Since we have introduced Emergenetics into our Expedition Leadership coaching and workshops, we are not only able to see how thenparticipants prefer to act (through their character) but also to act OPPOSITE of their profile through their character. This provides them with a safe enviroment to test the waters of a preference or skill they do not pocess. For example, someone who scores with preferences of structure and analysis will ease into the technical aspects of the game. Hit Points, Armor Class, Skill Test, etc are easy for them. Developing a back story for their character, nearly impossible for some.

For nearly five years now we have been using this as another approach to build leaders as well as bringing teams together. While I may not have all the discipline of a game master (the guy who guides the game, acts as a referee, and essentially works to facilitate the adventure), I’m doing well enough to get teaching points across and facilitate the development of the participants….helping them transfer knowledge and skills from catacombs to camps.

For more information on our workshops, please visit our facebook page

We would enjoy it if you would kindly give us a “like” over there….

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Surrounded by Women or Once a Naked Nomad

You would think I would be ecstatic. Let’s see– I have a wife–so all the other female relationships had better be on the up and up.

I have a lovely daughter, soon to be 12. There are two dogs– one male and the other doesn’t know he’s male. He is emasculated.

Understanding women is probably like when NASA was trying to figure out how to get to the moon. Just when you think you’ve got it down–the whole thing either plummets to the ground or gets cut off due to lack of funding. Who ever said that women are complex– was right! But at the same time– I have to admit– if it wasn’t for my wife– I would probably be a naked nomad.

She is more than someone who finds my keys, takes care of the kiddo, proof reads TWO Master’s Thesises and walls of flip charts for my doctoral work, and provides “wife duties”–she is my soul mate. She also brings light to the other females that surround my life. Like those I work with, coach, and even my own family.

Guys– they are a part of us– they are made of our flesh and bone–and we have never recovered from the surgery.

I didn’t always pursue the women in my life once I “won them”. Shame on me. Women are not an adventure to be conquered– they are part of the adventure we live. They need to be pursued and wanted. They need to feel beautiful and desired. They need to know that they capture your eye.

A few years ago we camped in the snow in New Mexico– and I’ve got to tell you– my wife is pretty amazing. She not only looks hot in hiking boots–but she can also hang with the guys when she wants to. It was sitting by the camp fire that we had a chance to connect all over again and talk. No big plans– just little things to get to know her more. I found out things about her that I never knew. I never realized how much she had missed snow. This week, she should be right at home.

She grew up camping in Alaska and Washington state– but I never knew her passion for snow. Where I see snow as a means to adventure– skiing, snow shoeing, or snow ball fights– she sees it as beauty, and a reminder of her youth.

Yeah– they are complex–but if you want to know a woman–you have to know her story. Being the only male has its advantages–Shorter lines at the bathroom in rest stops, I can use “Its a guy thing” when I want to find refuge in the garage…under the Jeep…with headphones on…and asleep, and NOBODY sees the rationale. I get great treatment when I come home sick like last night and today, somewhat excused for riding the bike in the house –and oh yeah—when there’s a foot of snow on the ground–I’m the only one who can pee my own name.

My wife has been openly invited into the adventure since our early days of friendship and then dating. We have kayaked, mountain-biked, camped, and at one time devoted our lives to Scuba…she has become quite the outdoors……girl….

So glad that I am not only surrounded, but also consumed be her….

“Live Like You Got A Pair”

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