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Sunday, October 16, 2011

At first we backpacked

When my wife and I met, I was an avid backpacker. She soon joined me on a lot of my hiking trips. Even after having kids, we still went hiking. Before long the kids were hiking with us.

Later, we did more canoe camping. We’ve always been water people and a canoe allowed us to take more comfort items. I even built a 20 foot cedar strip expedition type canoe. We had some great times.

Eventually the kids grew up and moved out. At the time, I was involved heavily with an on-line magazine. It occurred to me that as long as I could occasionally get to an Internet connection, I could do my work. My wife quit her job and we hit the road. Our car at the time was a tiny Dodge Neon. We put a canoe on the room, a tent in the back, and loaded up the dog. We spent up to 6 months a year living out of that tiny car.

Then I picked up an old Mercedes 240 D and converted that car to run on waste vegetable oil. It was roomier than the Neon and cheaper to run. I put a trailer hitch on it and towed a small utility trailer. Once again, the canoe went on the roof and the aging dog in the back.

We moved from that arrangement to a big Ford F250 extended cab diesel. It could carry a ton of stuff -and a canoe on top. Like the old Benz, this too was converted to run on waste veggie oil. After my wife had surgery on both shoulders, we thought it best to not do as much canoing. Instead, we got into sailing. Of course, the big truck worked out well as a tow vehicle for the boat.

Now I just picked up an old ambulance to convert into a mini camper. It’ll make a pretty good tow vehicle for the sailboat. This vehicle will also be converted to run on waste vegetable oil. We’ll be able to travel at a more relaxed pace. To avoid paying for hotel rooms, I’d often drive for 24 or more hours straight. I’d leave NH and drive non-stop for up to 1600 miles. With the new vehicle, I’ll just pull into a safe place to stop, crawl in the back and get a good night’s sleep.

Recently my lovely wife was reflecting on how complicated we’ve gotten since our backpacker days. Of course, we aren’t in our 20s anymore. My wife can’t hoist a backpack like she used to. I could, but the trips would have to be either longer in time or shorter in distance. That’s fine once in a while, but I do like to have adventures with my wife. The sailboat allows that to happen. It’s a small enough boat that either one of us can handle it alone, but it’s big enough to be able to comfortably lie down and get some rest.

The common thread in our lives is the desire to go on journeys. We like to get away from it all and see things. Some places become favorites and we keep going back, but we are always searching out new places to go to. When a person travels, they aways learn something. Staying in one place and doing the same routine would be deadly to me. Even though I like where I live and what I do, I still feel the need to travel.

I’ve gone from a 35 pound backpack to tons of vehicles and gear. Where will I be 5 or 10 years down the road? Who knows? Maybe we’ll simplify to living in a yurt half the year and on a small sailboat the other half.



  1. There is something to be said for a little creature comfort. They can keep their million dollar rolling/floating palaces. A snug converted ambulance and a little sailboat sounds like heaven on earth to me. Can't wait to see y'all's next adventure...

  2. Have you ever thought about heading west instead of south? There are a lot of lakes to be sailed, even in the desert, like Canyon Lake, AZ. And of course lots of lakes between you and there. Just a thought.

  3. Craig: maybe we are just getting older, if not wiser.

    Dizzy: We do make it to TX once in a while. We've wet a hull in East TX. Also did some paddling in Western KY.

    One year we made it as far west as New Mexico, but the dry dusty air was bad for my damaged lungs.