Author: Jeff

Michigan Paddling

It rains in Michigan. Said rain drains into streams and then into hundreds of rivers and thousands of lakes. And this means there is an abundance of great paddling across the Mitten State.

Want to learn about the various watersheds? Check out these resources:

Michigan has a lot of water trails to paddle:

Paddling.com has a lot of useful information for planning single- and multi-day trips:

And of course there are many useful general guidebooks (loosely defined):

And some specific guidebooks:

And multi-state guidebooks:

If I feel ambitious later, maybe I’ll add rental outfits, guides, and retail outlets. Maybe. Until then, enjoy #PureMichigan.

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Herzog’s 24 Rules

I was watching Casey Neistat the other day, and he mentioned Werner Herzog’s 24 rules for filmmaking. I’ve only seen one Herzog film—Encounters at the End of the World, a documentary about Antartica (free advice: one should never publicly admit to how few books they’ve read or films they’ve watched).

“Werner Herzog has 24 rules of filmmaking?” I asked myself. “I wonder which will most speak to me.” Here is the answer:

#14 Ignite the fire within and explore unknown territory. (Courtesy: No Film School)

Both parts speak to me: (a) start your own fire and (b) go past your comfort zone into the place of learning.

(a) No one will ignite your fire for you. This connects with his first guidance to take the initiative. It’s up to you. No one else will get you out of bed and make you stay on point.

(b) It’s easy to stay where we know what to do and what to say, where we know the social  and intellectual landscape. There is more. Go there. Experience it. Learn from it. It can be scary. It can be exciting. It can be rewarding. It can be painful. Go.

Curious about the other rules, check them out here:

Which of the 24 most speaks to you? What are you already doing on the list? Which ones push you?

Oh, and today I shared Dan Mace exploring the theme of anxiety.

MORE Books on Parenting (UPDATED)

Four years ago I added a list of books on parenting to this blog. Now with a toddler running around, these are the books I want to read or re-read:

What books, films, or other resources on parenting do you appreciate?

UPDATE: I shared this post on Facebook, and a friend shared these titles:

Car-less Living: Six-month Update

Six months and two Michigan seasons have passed since we last owned a car. We’ve now made it through fall and winter; next up: spring rains and summer heat.

The original three improvements have held true: (1) we’re saving money on transportation even though we pay our friends’ gas when they take us places; (2) we’re spending more time with friends; and (3) we’re getting more exercise (but my waist has actually grown a pant-size over this time).

And the tools that make this workable remain the same as I previously described–quality local businesses, kind friends who let us join in their adventures, a big backpack, bikes in good working condition, and a grocery service (Shipt).

biking in the snow

Quick ride to the bank one morning before heading to the office.

A past motto has become increasingly important: my wife’s gear should be better than mine. If I think I need good rain gear, then she needs great rain gear. If I need a warm jacket, then she needs a super warm parka. Since she’s the one pushing the toddler’s stroller through snow drifts to get to the bank, the one waiting outside for the local bus, the one keeping an eye on a boy who seems impervious to freezing temperatures, her gear needs are not to be minimized. We’ve spent a lot of time outside this winter, so good gear has been important for making that livable.

“I’ve gone a little stir-crazy,” says Cleopatra. In the past we took a lot of spontaneous trips, so it’s been an adjustment to live a life much closer to home. It’s become a big deal to visit the next town down the road.

We recognize that our transportation constraints are a challenge for our friends. Normally, it would be easy to go see friends who live a 30-minute drive away. Now we’re dependent on their willingness to drive to see us. We can bike to visit friends in town, but those who live just a bit further down the road feel far away (and we’ve learned that Google’s bike transit time estimate is much faster than we can actually pedal; we now double the calculation).

The amount of time it takes to do some things has become burdensome. For instance, a twenty-minute doctor’s appointment takes about five hours of the day (waiting for an unreliable bus, commute time that fluctuates since there is no set route, the appointment, waiting for the next bus to come through the area, dealing with a toddler who has missed a nap, etc). Plus we have to plan ahead to have the exact cash for the bus, and we have to remember to call at the right time to reserve a spot on the bus. What once would have been fairly simple is now a major undertaking. There’s no easy outing for Cleopatra with a toddler. Using public transportation to run errands is hard.

“In general, I have to plan ahead a lot more,” Cleopatra says. “I can’t just run to the store and get something last minute. I have to be way more organized.”

We’ve been really fortunate to have access to our friend’s bicycle trailer that hauls two toddlers and two bags of groceries. When the owners come back, we’ll need to get our own trailer. Plus I would really like to get a second trailer to haul more stuff besides the kiddo, maybe a BOB or a Burley used on eBay. I want to be able to carry our inflatable kayak to the river. That would also make it a lot easier to go camping this summer. We’re still trying to figure out how that will work. Riding bikes simply means adventures are closer to home; this shouldn’t mean there are no more adventures. Of course, fat bikes and Xtracycles catch my eye too.

Cleopatra has experienced an unexpected benefit of not having a car–her accelerator foot feels a lot better now. She used to drive a lot for her work, and she developed significant pain from pressing the gas pedal. Driving exacerbated the pain of a previous foot injury. That pain has gone away this year. That is, until she borrows someone’s car and drives again.

Cleopatra summarizes her experience: “I don’t miss the car much. I don’t miss pouring money into gasoline, insurance, and maintenance bills. And the car stench coming from the garage into the house.” She adds, “I also don’t miss feeling guilty for being lazy. I used to really push myself to try to exercise. I hate exercising. It’s so boring to me. I either want to be looking at something interesting or doing exercise that has a purpose besides just raising my heart rate. So I’d lie around being lazy and feeling guilty for it. I don’t even think about exercise for the most part now. And I have more energy than I did last winter.”

If we find a way to family camp on bikes this summer, I’ll post a summary. Otherwise, the next transportation update will probably be either the nine-month or the one-year mark.

BONUS 1: Here are two videos about adventures on bikes: Slow is Fast (31:30) and The Last Hill (15:30).

BONUS 2: I’ve enjoyed following people on extended bike trips. A great example is Fredrika Ek, The Bike Ramble. She rode around the world in 1,000 days. Most impressive.

Three Types of “Fun”

The outdoor community often references the different types of fun, but I don’t think I’ve written about them here. I’ll share a few article excerpts that address the categories, and then provide a link to a representative t-shirt.

The Three (and a Half) Types of Fun, Explained (Ryan Dunfee, Teton Gravity Research, 10 April 2015)

On a base level, everything you could ever do in the outdoors qualifies as fun. From bluebird pow days off the high-speed quad to grueling multi-day backpacking trips in the rain and sleet, it’s all better than being at work, and thus fun. But do you know how to properly classify the type of fun you’re about to embark on this weekend? (link)

The Fun Scale (Kelly Cordes, REI)

Into which category a given experience falls, of course, is highly subjective and highly subject to shifts (particularly from III to II) born of the rosy reflections afforded us by the passage of time.

Which is probably a good thing. After all, as alpinists and mothers both know: It doesn’t have to be “fun” to be fun. (link)

When Fun Isn’t: A Guide to Type II Fun (Alex Blackmer, Backcountry, April 25, 2014)

Even if you’ve never heard about the fun scale, you will probably understand it pretty intuitively. On this highly scientific spectrum, Type I is the easy, fun-while-it’s-happening stuff—mellow powder skiing, lazy cragging, afternoon hiking. You’re bummed when it’s over, but you’d be hard-pressed to remember more than a few specific examples. Type III fun resides at the other end of the scale—miserable while it’s happening, still miserable when it’s over and just as miserable to think about later. Anything that ends with you eating your own shoes, being evacuated by helicopter, or featuring prominently in a non-fiction bestseller likely classifies as Type III.

Somewhere in the middle of this mess lies Type II fun, which is God-awful while you’re doing it, but totally worth it once you’re done. (link)

And now that t-shirt I mentioned. The Dirtbag Diaries podcast has a shirt that maps this all out (based on this podcast episode from December 2009):

chalkboard_logo

Get to Know Your LBS: Cycle & Fitness

Every group has its own language. If you read bike repair forums as I have over the past month while trying to learn how to fix a chain (successful) and mount a rack for panniers (not successful), one of the more frequent acronyms is LBS, or local bike shop. Who is your LBS? What do you like about it?

Since we’ve lived in this area off-and-on for the past 15 years, we’ve appreciated our LBS—Cycle and Fitness—for some time. I bought my lock and tire pump there about 10 years ago, and who knows what else along the way. Maybe you saw I listed them as a quality shop in SW Michigan a few months ago.*

With this new experiment in car-free living (car-ownership-free, to be more precise), we’ve been spending more time and money there. For example, after the accident, we used the insurance company’s short-term rental car to take Cleopatra’s bike in for a tune-up. She said it runs a lot smoother now, but I wasn’t sure what she meant until this week when I took my own bike in for maintenance. Amazing!

panniers

Taking a selfie with the new Ortlieb Back-Roller Classic on the rack C&F installed for me. My problem was with the top eyelits. Moments later the waterproof feature was put to the test. No problem, of course.

I have brakes again. They fixed my skewed front fender. They got the rear cassette in fine working order. They figured out how to get my rack on properly so I can use panniers now. Excellent service—quick, friendly, and very helpful.

When I rode in, I had a cargo rack in my backpack. When I rode home, I had everything in a pannier on said rack; a significant improvement. I should have caught the mechanic’s name.

With the rain making travel a bit dodgy, I decided to ride the bike to Cycle and Fitness on back roads. That made the round-trip about 33 miles, which was the most I’d ridden in a day since a 50-mile outing in the late 90s. Thankfully Cleopatra lent me her rain pants. True love.

While we were in the shop, I enjoyed talking a few minutes with Mike the owner and a fellow patron. They shared stories of riding through snow, dressing for the weather, and other biking tips.

rain
Appreciating my wife’s rain pants. “There’s no bad weather, just the wrong clothes.” And yes, those boots (or reservoirs) were “wrong clothes” for this ride.

We talked about a local rider who decided to go without a car for a year so he could buy the bike he wanted. At the end of the year, he decided to keep at it, and he’s now been car-free for three years.

It’s encouraging to hear of people making it work. I have a lot to learn. Over the past few years, I’ve been watching YouTube videos and films (like 23 Feet) about “van life” (plus Goal Zero’s En Route series). But now I’m starting to find stories of people living without cars; the opposite of van life, but just as engaging.

The LBS patron in the conversation advised renting a car once in a while to do all those things that are difficult on a bike — taking a trip up north, running errands that require more storage, whatever. He suggested keeping a list of everything you want to do when you rent that car so you make the most of the rental period. We’re going to remember this one, especially since the Muskegon yurt calls me in the winter.

Questions

  1. Even if you don’t sell your car, what errands could you start doing on your bike?
  2. Would it be possible to start commuting to work at least once a week?
  3. What would be your +one with biking. That is, how could you kick it up just one notch in either frequency or duration?
  4. Does your bike need some TLC this fall? If so, don’t procrastinate—check out your LBS, especially if it’s Cycle and Fitness in St Joseph, MI.

*If you live anywhere near St. Joseph, or you come for a visit, these are key outdoor shops to be aware of (and please suggest more in the comments section; I don’t know about hunting, fishing, and many other outdoor sports):