December 2007


This year the Christmas season seems to be about building and rebuilding community. Thats my gift to me. I’m making new connections that are enriching my life, but I’m also trying go back and deal with things that I’ve left hanging.

I’m not a great web designer. I have some photoshop skills, and can translate those into a decent site, but that’s about it. I enjoy doing it though, and have found myself in the position of trading web work for stuff I need. I’m getting really great bread from Farm and Sparrow, the BEST mustard from Lusty Monk, good vegetarian meals from Bearfoot catering (I don’t have her site up yet) and in the works I have the potential to work with a wine shop, and for work on a landscapers site I’ll get the back yard graded so I can lay the brick patio. (I’m excited about laying the bricks but not the digging) So I’m really happy about taping into this barter economy. I’m enjoying the work and it seems to be well received. I feel like I have more control and flexibility than I would if I were taking cash payments, and most importantly, I really like the people I’m meeting through it. We’re a quirky bunch and it makes me happy.

I guess I feel like I’ve received some really wonderful gifts lately and I want to say thanks.

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Other good things that are happening – or – My Name Is Earl:

This trip is forcing me to deal with things I’ve been putting off – like selling the Charleston house and trying to resolve that nagging tax issue. I’m getting the house appraised early next month and I’ve called Oppenheimer and should be getting the last of the documentation I need for the taxes. That’s a loose end that been tying a noose in the back of my mind for a while.

Planning this trip has gotten me thinking about Kurt, the man who taught me to paddle – and who I drifted away from after my divorce. I found him through the power of Google. He’s the Huntsman at club outside of Aiken SC living on about 10,000 acres on the South Edisto. I’ve called him and I’m going to spend New Years paddling in the swamp near his house and drinking beers in the cold and wet. I can’t wait. I’ll take lots of photos and post them here later.

I’ve also sent an apology/I miss yall Christmas card to John and Hazel. When I first moved to Asheville I was designing their website and CD’s but I really dropped the ball. I felt so shitty about it that I avoided them – to the point of dropping off the work I had done at the bar where I knew John had a standing gig so I wouldn’t have to face him. That was cowardly. They are great people and I hope we can reconnect.

I still have Michael in McClellanville to try and reconnect with. One of the smartest, most creative people I’ve ever met. We had a falling out that stemmed from my insensitivity and I need fix it, James, who was getting married to his Latina sweetheart as I was breaking up with mine and I kind of just quit talking to him because I felt so shitty about it all. Very small and selfish. And Max who I just need to talk to more.

Kind of 12 step-ish if you know what I mean, but I need to deal with these things and the trip is making them feel imminent.

click for larger viewA short overview of the route: USA-Mexico-Guatemala-Honduras/El Salvador-Nicaragua-Costa Rica-Panama, Then take a boat around the Darien Gap to Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina. Its a two wheeled geography lesson.

I suck at delegating. I usually do things myself and look up what I don’t know on the web or in the library. Then I take stuff appart, “fix” it, put it back together, and repeat the process when inevitably it still doesn’t work.  Its a side effect of my testosterone poisoning. For this little trip I can’t be independent. I need to lean pretty heavily on friends.  It’ll be a good lesson for me.

Since I won’t leave till the Fall for BA, I applied for a Middle Fork Salmon permit. Launch dates are given by lottery. A group of us has applied for various dates and if one of us gets a permit, we all ride. I requested four dates in June. This is a trip I wouldn’t have dreamed of running on my own. It requires a lot of logistics and raft support. As an Eastern kayaker, I don’t know any rafters and the logistics are pretty daunting. If it works out I’m going to be relying on James and his contacts for experience and support.

I’ll also need some help with the bike. I bought the KLR. Its in great shape but it will need a few mods if I’m going to take it to Argentina. I’ve gotta say that when I was test riding it, it was hard to get my mind around the idea of riding this beefed up bicycle all the way to South America. I won’t be the first to do it, but the vehicle felt so small and vulnerable, and the road’s long and dangerous.

I don’t have a lot of experience working on engines. I’ve looked on line and there’s a huge community around the KLR 650. The basic bike has been available for about 20 years and its popular in South America, so getting parts and service shouldn’t be a problem. Shannon has also offered to help. He loves tinkering with engines and really knows his shit. He’s also expressed interest in riding with me for a while. Maybe to Guatemala, the first real destination, where I’ll take immersion Spanish classes for a few weeks. I’d love it if he did ride with me for a while. It would be great to have him along for a lot of reasons. He’s a good friend. I think starting off riding with him is what I was thinking of when I wrote the “Good judgment” post below.

SwampA long time ago I got the notion to paddle the Cumbahee River in the Ace Basin all the way out to Edisto island. In my mind it was going to be a grand adventure seeing the changes in environment go from intimate fresh water swamp to salt marsh. I got some topos of the area and enlisted the help of Kurt – my kayaking mentor.

The plan we came up with was for us to put in together at a spot where the road crossed the Salkahatchee Swamp near Walterboro. He’d paddle in with me for a few hours, then turn back. In about three days time, when I got to Edisto, I’d call and he’d come down with Meg to pick me up. Great plan – right?

Well, there were a few things I didn’t take into account. Like the fact that the water was only about 2 inches deep, there was no clear channel, no current to follow, and there were so many downed trees that we couldn’t go five feet without squeezing under or pulling over one of them.

With Kurt there this was all fine, but once he turned back and I was on my own things changed. I guess I went about a quarter mile more going over and under logs and trying to get around places that looked like a tornado had come through. Then, while pulling myself over some downed trees, I almost lost my glasses. I was able to grab them as they sunk into the black murk, but that set off a panic. I had visions of me trying to sleep sitting upright in the kayak with the sleeping bag on my head upside down because there was absolutely no high ground anywhere. Or worse, turning big blurry circles in the swamp because there was no current to follow and ending up as dried out alligator food because the skeeters got all the blood. Suddenly I was really scared. I decided to turn around and I hoped I could find my way back to the car before Kurt left.

Three shots from a gun, blasts of a horn or soundings of a whistle – three of anything like this are a distress signal. I was repeating a series of three blasts on my safety whistle like I was hyperventilating and paddling as hard as I could. If I missed Kurt things would be complicated.

I made it back to the road and the car was still there. I can’t tell you how relieved I was to see it. Kurt, however, was nowhere to be seen. I could wait. After a while he came out from under the bridge looking surprised to see me. It turns out he had found an old Nash Rambler station wagon sticking up from the muck, had climbed on top of it and finished his beers. He never heard me and little orange whistle.
This story has been in my head for the last few days as a lesson in how not to embark on an adventure. This story, and remembering how my heart dropped in La Coruña Spain when the bus pulled away leaving me alone in a foreign country. These are things I don’t want to repeat.

I called about the KLR. This is too weird to be anything less than fate. The bike is practically new – 4000 miles. It has a new Corbin seat, it’s been lowered, has a stainless break cable, the tires and battery are new, there’s a second set of knobbys, upgraded bars and grips, a bigger wind screen, helmet, warm riding gear, saddle bags. Its everything I need to get started. This is amazing!

And here I am, stairing down the planes of hesitation…

My first off-roadShannon took this shot of me at Worlds Edge near Hendersonville, NC. The beginning of the end…

I was diging in the ADV site and found some good stuff:

I should plan on leaving in the Fall to avoid the riany season.

Guatamala has great deals on immersion spanish classes.

Looks like I should get the book Two Wheels Through Terror. 

Very cool blog from a similar trip: http://www.bckgs.blogspot.com/

 List of stuff to think about: http://www.advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?p=2774308&posted=1#post2774308

Looked on Craigs List and damn if someone didn’t post a 2004 KLR 650 for $3500. Its like Shannon’s psychic or something.

Shannon stopped in tonight. He’s a loan shark and has access to shark tools that help look up the value of my cruzer. He puts it at about $2200. We also talked about what I should be looking for. He suggested a KLR 650, Honda XR 650 L or a Suzuki DR 650. He thinks i could get one for about $3500.

I’ve got some trading to do on Craigs List.

El Dia 

“On the plains of hesitation lie the blackened bones of countless millions who at the dawn of victory lay down to rest, and in resting died.”

Adlai E. Stevenson

monkey bassSo I have my step brother-in-law Gabes’ 1950′s Kay upright and I’ve been learning to play it. I traded him use of my Juan Roberto resinator guitar for use of his bass. I’ve put a new bridge and strings on it and I’m still working on dialing in the action. I need to talk him into selling it to me. We’ll see how that one goes…

I’ve been taking lessons and playing with The Hillys. They’re realy good folks from New Hampshire that have made a choice to live very simply and enjoy as much as possible. I’m not playing on the songs they have posted, but will try and post some of us as soon as I get a good recording.

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