4/24/12 – 0 miles
Today has been a rest and eat day. I did walk a couple of miles to get supplies, do laundry, and look around town. There are many hikers here, including the girl I met very early in my hike. She met a guy and they are now traveling together. A lot of the time, girls that start out solo will join a group or another individual, and most of the time it’s just a friendship relationship. Like I said before, we are like a family watching out for each other. It’s nice.

I’m headed back to the trail tomorrow. I hope to finish the Smokys and be in Hot Springs in a week. I had Daryl help me by ordering a new tent that should be waiting at the PO by the time I get there. Even though the National Park is a unique and beautiful place, it will seem nice to be beyond the northern border and away from all the strict regulations.

The weather is supposed to be good tomorrow so I may get some views from Clingmans Dome and Newfound Gap, but future outlook for the rest of the week is unsettled. It could be worse – I could still be in Buffalo in a snow storm.


- 4/21 . 19 miles
From Spence Field Shelter to Derrick Knob Shelter, we experienced the full challenge the trail could throw at us: steep climbs and descents, rocky traverses, muddy, rutted, and rooted sections, all the while encompassed by a mist that had increasingly turned into a steady rain.

2012-04-24 14.35.45
We donned raingear and pack covers and pushed on until at last, through the swirling mist, the shelter appeared. Once again the shelter was crowded. There was so much gear scattered about it was hard to find a place to cook your meal. I use an alcohol stove and had to find a ledge out of the wind to heat my noodle supper.

We had an industrious older man that managed to get a fire lit and several of us sat huddled close to the flames and talked. A lot of the conversation turns to people on the trail. Most of us have trail names now and are somewhat of a loose knit family. We are always asking if someone has seen some hiker from earlier encounters. Just last night I ran into a young Guy that I hadn’t seen in over two weeks. He told me of another hiker I met about the same time that was trying to catch me. She would read my shelter journal entry and say, “Castaway is still a day ahead of me!”

The next day was a perfect repeat. Walk in the rain, slip in the mud, and sweat beneath rain jackets. Towards afternoon, however, the weather turned particularly ugly. It started off as light sleet, and then cold and strong winds made us careful on the ridges. Soon the ground was covered with a layer of ice and sleet as one by one everyone found the shelter.

One of the hikers had a tarp and I helped him string it over the opening. It was still drafty and cold but infinitly more snug than before. We managed to gather wet wood and get a fire going with the help of a weekenders remaining fuel supply. Most of the hikers warmed themselves by the fire and then retreated to the warmth of their sleeping bags. By 7:30 we were all in our bags.

In the night the temperature dropped like a rock and the wind snapped at the tarp. The girl next to me opened up a space blanket to wrap herself in. I stayed pretty warm except when i rolled around getting comfortable, and I had to keep my face inside my bag. It was a miserable night and most of us were happy to hike out in the morning and get warm. It was time to go to Gatlinburg.


4/20 – 14.5 miles
This is the last year AT thruhikers will get to hike through GSMNP for free. Next year it will cost $20 – $10/Golden Access pass – for a permit to walk through the park. It goes against the spirit of the AT – every bit of it has always been free – but I guess the Parks are hurting for funds.

On the first day through the park, as we climbed from20120420_101123-1 1700 ft. to 4700 ft., there were splended views of wild, craggy mountains and deep, vast valleys. As the day wore on, wisps of fog obscured our views, and later in the day, a cold, penetrating, misty fog enveloped everything beyond 50 feet. Soon our high mountain trail became a tunnel in the clouds.

When I reached the first shelter where I planned to stop for the night, I met a Trail Runner (a kind of volunteer trail caretaker) that suggested I go on to the next shelter. It was only three more miles, and it would position me for an easier assault on Rocky Top and Thunderhead Mountains on the coming day.

At the next shelter I discovered six hikers already there and more rolled in throughout the evening until we were packed with 14 people. Part of the regulations in the Smokys is that everyone must use the shelters and only tent if there is no more room.

I’m getting used to sleeping in shelters now. At first I was afraid of offending people, but almost half of the men in each shelter have been snorers, and in some cases, outnumber the non-snorers. Most of the girls carry earplugs as standard equipment.


4/19 – 15 miles
It was a long downhill hike into Fontana Dam. I stepped out onto the road leading to town at about 3:00 in the afternoon. There was some excitement in town because police cars were streaking up and down the road with their sirens screaming. We learned later that some young hiker had too much to drink and got in a fight with some people at a shelter near Fontana Dam. The people called the police and they came and arrested the drunk kid. He was later released and told not to go onto the Smokys. That would have been the end of it except the kid wouldn’t let it go. He started up the trail into the National Park threatening to use a knife on the people that called the police on him. 20120419_084504-1

News like this travels fast through hikers on the trail and it wasn’t long before the Park police and sheriff’s crew – with help from several tips by thru-hikers – captured him and took him into custody. Now he’s really in trouble. Now he has federal charges against him.

Incidents like this are rare on the trail, but it just goes to show that even on the AT you are not completely insulated from the bad side of human nature.

There are a few hikers dropping off the trail, and it always makes us sad when we hear of someone giving up. I met a young lady a couple of days before reaching Fontana Dam, and hiked off an on with her as we closed the distance to town. As we got to know each other I realized why I was so happy to hike with her – she reminded me of Karen, my soggy-shoe hiking companion. This hike was the first AT expedition without my daughter and I was missing her.

When I hiked out of Fontana Dam, I heard that my new friend could not go on. She had tented alone in the rain the night before, and come close to hypothermia. That, and equipment problems caused her to call her hike off.


This post is out of order. Sorry! 4/15/12 – 11 miles – The shuttle picked us up at the motel this morning and took us back to the trail. It took almost an hour by the time the elderly driver rounded up passengers at two motels and stopped at two gas stations to get twenty dollars of gas. The first station was closed and it took the driver several minutes to walk into the second store. He shuffled like the old man character that Tim Conway played. One of the hikers jumped out to pump gas or we would still be there.

The hiking was fairly easy most of the day. There was a lot of uphill to start but it was graded well. Once the trail reached the mountain ridges, we had views for miles in all directions. The weather has been great for views. We have been lucky so far.

After a particularly hard climb over 5000 feet, we came to a stone tower on top of Wayah Bald built by the CCC in 1938. It was used as a fire tower for years, and then in 1983, it was renovated into a tourist attraction. On one of the placues that outlined distant mountains, it showed Clingmans Dome in the Smokys 26 miles away. It will take us 80 miles to reach it by trail.

Tonight I am camped with two hikers my age. They are called Saturday (because she thinks every day on the trail is like Saturday) and Beatnik, a retired teacher.

I know, Wilson, it’s time for bed.


4/18/12 – 9.5 miles
It rained all night long, sometimes lightly and sometimes at a downpour. Rain spoils everything. I found out my tent has a hole in it someplace. I seam-sealed it before I left but there must be a small pinhole someplace. The inside of my tent is wet along with part of my sleeping bag. I’m thinking about getting a new tent and sending this one home.

I hiked all day with a water laden pack and off and on rain prevented me from getting anything dry, so tonight I am staying in a shelter. I told everyone that I snore and they don’t seem to care. They may not be so forgiving in the morning.

Tomorrow I will hike 13 miles to Fontana Dam and the entry point to the Great Smoky Mountain NP. I may take a day off before I start the park. I need a little rest.




4/17/12. 7 miles-
The NOC is quite a complex. There are cabins, restaurants, stores, an outfitter, and kayak rentals. I took a shower and washed my clothes, picked up supplies, and had a half-pound cheesburger, then headed out of town. Hikers refer to places like these as blackholes. Once you get in them, you have a hard time getting out.

The climb out of the NOC was really hard. You start out at 1300 feet and climb to over 5000 in six miles. It’s one of those mountain that have several false tops. Every time you think you’ve reached the top, just out of site is more mountain, and then at the top of that is more mountain, until at last you come to what your sure is the top, but no, there is still more to climb.

I spent the night camped by a lofty shelter made for 14 people, but tonight because of rain packed with about 18. I am tenting and hope to stay dry.


4/16/12. 16 miles –
Today was another big Milage day. I didn’t start out to do such a big day, but I felt realty good when I reached the place I planned to stop – it was only 3 pm – and decided to continue on. Now I’m not sure it was such a good idea – I’m really beat.

Tonight I’m camped with four other hikers, only a mile away from the Nantahalia Outdoor Center, a river rafting adventure complex on the Nantahalia river. I will resupply and clean up but move on before afternoon. Most of my fellow hikers are renting rooms for the night.

I met a couple of young guys that use hammocks to sleep in. They are really nice kids, both Eagle Scouts, having a great time hiking. There trailnames are Wrench and Pocahontas.


I woke at 5 am this morning and forced myself to rise and break camp. There was a shuttle to Franklin rumored to pick up hikers at 9am where the AT crosses route 64. It was 4 miles away and I was not sure how long it would take me to walk there. I packed by the light of my headlamp, shouldered my pack, and headed north in total darkness, following the nervous beam of my light.

The AT is so well trod that it was easy to find. The only time I got confused is where I crossed a road and had to search the other side for a blaze. I finally found the path, zigzagging up an embankment on a narrow ledge. It’s not something I would do on a regular basis, but it was kind of cool to see the lights of distant cities far below.

Daylight finally began to filter through and I made good time up over Winding Stair gap and down to the road. It was only 8am when I reached the parking lot, so I resigned myself to wait for an hour. As luck would have it, five minutes later a camper from Canada pulled in, it was Spot and Starcraft whom I had met before. She was dropping her husband off for a section of the AT and offered to give me a ride onto town – a gift of trail magic for sure.

The rooms at the motel were not ready yet so I walked to a nearby McDonalds for breakfast. Restaurant food, even fast food, tastes wonderful after several days of noodles and constant exercise. By the time I finished breakfast, my room was ready and I enjoyed a hot shower and then went for a walk up town.

The outfitter’s salesman talked me out of buying a new sleeping bag. We both agreed that it will be warning up soon and I would be mailing the new bag home (Karen’s). I did mail a pair of heavy fleece pants and bought a new Patagonia puff jacket. It’s pretty stylish so I can wear it after the hike, too.

I’m sort of getting an idea of what I like to eat on the trail. I bought a small bottle of red pepper to spice up my noodle dishes, and of course I pack lots of snack food, mainly Rice Crispy Teats and granola bars.

Tomorrow I will get back on the trail again. The Smokey’s are only about 50 miles away. I know there is no cell service in the park and very little in the Nantahala Mountains before there so updates may be sparse. I changed the blog title because several people have asked me about it. They know me as Castaway and it will be easier to find it with a Google search.


Fri. 4/13 – The last two mornings were very cold. Yesterday, it was 25 on my little thermometer, cold enough that it froze water that I left out, and this morning perhaps not quite as nippy. It’s hard getting out of the tent on chilly mornings but I managed to get early starts both days. All the young guys sleep in till ten and still manage to catch me later in the day, kind of like the tortoise and the hare.

Today I did 16 miles – a record distance for me – which included a climb over Albert Mountain, the hardest work to reach a s/ummit yet. It was like climbing a cliff-face straight up for a half mile. I had to put my poles in my pack and use my hands to get up. Once on top, though, the view was spectacular.

I’ve been averaging about 12 miles the last few days. I pounded out more distance today because it will put me in close to the road to Franklin, NC. I will get up early tomorrow and hike four miles to US 64, where I’m hoping to catch the shuttle van into town. Along with a soft bed, shower, and greasy food, there is an outfitter in town. I’m thinking of getting a new sleeping bag; mine doesn’t seem to keep me warm anymore.

I’m still feeling pretty good. The mornings are when it takes a while to get the soreness worked out, but then I warm up and move okay. I hit another milestone today – 100 miles. I think I’ll keep going. I’m having too much fun to stop now.


I caught the shuttle from Hiawassee back to the trail at 9 this morning. The motel I stayed in last night was a little rundown, but it was clean and cheap. Some of the young hikers that stayed there partied for awhile and finally went to bed about ten. Hiawassee is a good place to get off the trail. Groceries and restaurants are all within walking distance and the people that live there are hiker friendly. They know that we drop a lot of money while we are here.

The hiking today was hard but perhaps not as bad as the last few days. I seem to be getting into a rhythm and develop a pace that gets me over the mountains. The bad thing about coming out of town is that you are loaded down with food from your resupply, and it’s always uphill.

I keep running into the same people each day. There is a group of hikers, all with about my same pace, I run into at the camps. We made it to the North Carolina state line at 77 miles -a real feeling of accomplishment – and are camped just beyond at Blythe Gap. Tonight will be very cold, forecast is for below freezing temps and wind. I had better get bundled in.20120411_144809


Today I am at Hiawassee, GA, a town 11miles north of the trail. Several of us camped at Deep Gap shelter, 3 miles south of the road crossing and got up early to meet the shuttle to town. The Budget Inn runs hikers to and from the trail for free as long as you stay at there motel. I will resupply and rest for today, get something to eat at a restaurant, then after sleeping in a real bed, shuttle back to the trail tomorrow.

So far I have walked 72 miles. In another 10 miles I will reach the North Carolina border, marking a significant milestone and a record of sorts for me.

Oh, the trailname came about when Karen said my hat on my backpack reminded her of Wilson, a vollyball that became constant companion of Tom Hanks, the lone survivor in the movie Castaway. In the movie Hanks talks to Wilson like he is a real person, but I’m not going to admit to that yet.


Sunday and Monday were good days. Holidays seem pretty much like any other day out here. You just push on North and marvel at the beauty of this landscape. I’m not meeting many day hikers now, most have gone back to there jobs and school. I feel lucky to be out here, exercising my body and relaxing my mind. The goals and needs of a hiker are simple and basic.

I feel good so far. The knee complains sometimes, but I slow down and baby step the descents. I have seen many hikers – younger than me – hobbling with knee problems.

I stay warm at night. It helps to find a campsite down low out of the wind, but sometimes your mileage leaves you with no choice but camp on a mountain. I spent Easter night on top of Rocky Mtn. and woke to howling winds and a temp of 38 degrees. It was pretty hard to crawl out and hike the next morning.


On Saturday, 4/7/12, I did another 11 miles into Low Gap shelter and tented with about 20 people. The hiking was easy in the morning, following logging roads and streams, and then there were some wicked climbs up to Poor Mountain. The views were spectacular in every direction. The weather is forecast to remain clear all week long, thank goodness. We ran into two trail angels today handing out Pepsi that said they remember this whole area deep under snow, this time in 2010.

I’m pretty sure the 89 yr. man left the trail. I think he tried to go too far each day. I’ve met a lot of nice people on the trail, most are young, just out of school, but there are a few retired guys, me included,acting like kids again.

I’ve built up a reputation of sorts. When I run into someone new and tell them my trailname, they often say, “Castaway, I’ve heard of you!” I guess it’s because I’m nice to everyone. Oh! I have to tell you how I got the name Castaway but I will save that for next time. It actually came from Karen when we hiked in the Allegheny Nat. Forest.

I did get another air mattress at Mountain Crossing outfitters. It’s called a Neo Air Extreme, even lighter than the one I had (It is the one you used Donna. I think you punctured it on a cactus ;)


I awoke at 7am on Friday 6, to the threat of rain. I quickly made coffee, packed my tent, and headed up Blood Mountain just as it began to rain. It’s a long gradual climb – 1300 ft. – to the top at 4450 ft. Usually the views are spectacular, but today all we could see was a swirling, dense fog, accompanied by light rain. Even though it was a long climb the path was more gentle with switchbacks. There were a lot of day hikers out – this being Friday.

Right now I’m at Blood Mountain Cabins, a nice place with a special rate for hikers. There is room in each cabin for four to six people, but when I told the owners I snore, they granted me a cabin of my own, with the exception I help someone coming in late in the rain.

I’ve dried my gear, they even washed my clothes for free, and tomorrow I will resupply and buy a new air mattress. The weather is supposed to turn cold which will be good for hiking but bad in my tent.


Day three. 4/5/12. You may see a lot of errors – more than usual – because I’m typing on my phone. My battery drains faster than my iPhone did and I hurry to write a blog.

The hiking was better today because of a good nights rest and gentle terrain for several miles. I’m starting to see more hikers but there are long stretches where I’m alone for hours. The woods are beautiful with giant mature oaks, hickory, and popular. Sometimes I will hike through tunnels of rhododendron, and the path is lined with beautiful wildflowers.

Tomorrow I will hike over Blood Mountain, the highest mountain in Georgia and stop at the hostle there. We had more rain and lightning before I reached camp, but the sun is now out and I am still dry.


Day two was a killer. I had Sassafras Mountain to navigate, along with several steep peaks and gaps all day long. The AT in Georgia likes to visit every mountain top it passes, and the trail builders never heard of switch-backs. By the time I hiked 11 miles to a place called Justin Creek, it felt like I had walked 20. I can see why novice backpackers quit after just a few days. These mountains are hard!

My feet are doing good – no blisters yet – just a couple of sore toenails. My knee feels good and I only feel it if I go too fast on the descents. I still don’t have much appetite and I know I’m not drinking enough. It’s supposed to get cooler next week so that should help.

I’m starting to meet a lot of thru-hikers now. One interesting man is 89 years old, attempting to hike to Maine. Another, is carrying a 90 pound pack – the one leaving stuff beside the trail.

I am pretty tired tonight. I should sleep pretty well except for an air mattress that has a slow leak and leaves my hip touching the ground. I may replace it at the outfitters in Mountain Crossing.


I started up Springer approach trail at 7:30 am. It didn’t take long before my zip-off pants came off and I was sweating profusely. Even early in the morning the temperature was close to seventy. I only passed a couple of day hikers on the way and met one young thru-hiker while I was resting at a shelter.

I’ve heard of hikers throwing away gear on the mountain, but never thought it was true. About two-thirds of the way up, I came to a campsite with gear scattered by the trail. At first I thought someone was camped there but no one was about and I realized it was discarded from someone’s pack. There was hi-tech clothes, assorted camping items, and eight expensive Mountain House dinners. I wanted to pack the food out but I had all I could carry as it was.

When I reached Springer and the start of the AT, it was still early so I decided to move ahead to the next shelter. And besides, it looked like a storm was moving in, prompting me to get to lower ground for the night.

The walk down the mountain was exciting. Lighting crashed all around, hail prattled my head, and the rain came in torrents. I was full of adrenaline, propelling me faster than I should have walked on slippery rocks, until eventually the sun came out again. By the time I reached Stover Creek shelter, I was almost dry.

I visited with a couple hikers and enjoyed good conversation until darkness and bugs drove us to our tents. I slept well but woke early in the morning.


I left Pittsburgh shortly before noon on Sunday, April 1st. It was only 650 miles to my destination in Georgia so I decided to take two easy days for the drive. Even though my job for the last year has been driving 200 miles every day, it still seemed like a long, tiring trip. I never realized how far it is from the top of West Virginia to the boarder of North Carolina. Interstate 77 intersects the fattest part of the state and also cuts through the Appalachian Mountains for half its length. My old van got tired from going up and down the mountains, but it faithfully chugged on like a true workhorse.

I stayed overnight at a motel just outside of Charlotte, NC, and in the morning drove the rest of the way to Amicalola Falls State Park in Georgia. As I continually made my way south, the weather seemed to change from spring to summer. Everything is lush with deep green color (even I can see it) and the trees are filling the sky with thick canopies of leaves. Someone said the temperature reached 85 today. It’s not going to be easy hiking with heat like that.

I signed in at the Visitor Center as thru-hiker (that’s how they spell it) number 702. I flipped back through the pages and counted 45 hikers signed in yesterday alone. Everyone plays the game of saying they are hiking all the way to Maine even though the odds are stacked 90 % against them. It’s funny to see the youthful, exuberance these young people overflow with. I guess it’s good that they are so positive and energetic. What surprises me the most is that I can’t believe how young they look. I think I have underwear older than some of them. At any rate, I sure won’t be hiking alone.

I talked with a Ranger about parking my van for a while and filled out more paperwork. Before I left, she told me about a side road that leads to the National Forest, just over the boundary of the Start Park, where I could park and camp free. So that’s where I am. In the morning I will park in the extended lot and begin the hike to Springer Mountain and the start of the AT. I weighed my pack earlier and found it weighs 31 lbs., more than I like but less than a lot of others.

This unusual, warm weather will be nice for sleeping, but it will also cause some problems. For one thing, I’ll need to carry a lot more water. Dehydration is not only uncomfortable but also dangerous for a person with kidneys like mine. Warm temperatures also bring out surly snakes and excitable, biting insects, and – probably the thing I fear the most – vivid lightning storms. All sorts of things can happen out there, but the most dangerous part is over – the drive down here.

I may not be able to update for a while. If I can get a signal, I’ll try to check my phone each day for email. Other than that I will turn it off to save battery life. Thanks for reading.

“Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning how to dance in the rain.” Anonymous


I awoke to my last day in Buffalo at the usual early morning hour. My body was still on the work schedule of the last year and told me it was time to get up. I doubt I could have slept in anyway because there was a certain excitement to begin my long vacation. I was ready to see what was out there.

There was a light dusting of snow on the ground and the air felt bitterly raw after the mild weather of the last two weeks. I loaded my van with the remaining items from my apartment, cleaned up the floors and bathroom, and after several checks to make sure I hadn’t forgotten anything, drove to meet Jenny.

It took us a couple hours to drive to the storage facility and fill out the paperwork to store my van. By the time we got back to the city, I was ready to head south and leave Buffalo for warmer climate. Thanks for everything, Jen.

The drive to Pittsburgh was uneventful. I had to keep reminding myself to slow down and save gas. At $4 a gallon, a little extra drive time will help a lot with expenses. Apparently, there are not many worried about how much gas they burn. All the way to Pittsburgh, SUV’s and heavy duty pickups flew by me like I was standing still.

Right now I’m enjoying a couple of days at Karen’s. She and Zack took me out to eat to celebrate my “retirement”, and then I went with Noah, Nate, and their Dad, to watch Noah play in a soccer game. All three kids are good athletes and it’s always fun to watch them play.

Karen has been helping me decide what gear to pack for my hiking adventure. I think I’m just about set. I know I will be carrying too much, but you can never tell what the weather will be in the mountains. Better to be safe than sorry. Tomorrow I will head towards Georgia.

Published on March 29, 2012, by admin in Adventure.

This week has gone agonizingly slow. I’m ready to get out of town and reckon back to the days of wanderer, ready to take a walk in the woods and see what lies over the next hill, and more than ready to stop living someone else s version of my life. All I have is one more day of responsible, dependable employment, and then I can revert to being a vagabond again.

Tomorrow will be sad good-byes to all the employees at work and the staff in pharmacies where I deliver. I always have a good relationship with my fellow workers and people I meet on my route, and they will be missed. When I told the pharmacy employees of my intentions, it brought many groans and sad expressions, but encouragement in the belief that I was doing the right thing. Who knows, maybe some day I will be back for another run of employment and see them again.

I have most of the apartment empty. I loaded everything into my new van except for an air mattress and a few clothes for tomorrow. On Saturday, Jen will help me take one van to a storage lot where it will remain until I come back from my southern adventure. The plan is to drive my old van down to Georgia, either park or junk it, and walk for a while in the Appalachian Mountains. Then I will shuttle back or forward until I arrive at someplace sensible. It’s no good having too much of a rational plan or it wouldn’t be much of an adventure. My friend at work told me he had a video that I need to watch before I start hiking in Georgia – you guessed it – “Deliverance.” Good one, Ron!

My first stop will be in Pittsburgh to see Karen and the boys. I will leave a few things with her in case I last more than a couple of days and need something mailed to me. It’s always good to get her input on the right gear to pack. Even though I’ve studied my supplies pretty thoroughly, she has that analytical ability to plan a hike much better than I do.

That’s about it. Things can and will change along the way, and that will be all right. I’ll try to update when I do something interesting…and, I guess even when I don’t.

p.s. It didn’t take David long to figure out how to toggle my phone to the computer.

Published on March 11, 2012, by admin in The Great Outdoors.

The weather was beautiful today so I decided to take a short hike. There were a couple of reasons to get out and do some serious walking: I wanted to test out my knee to see how it has survived the winter, and I also have a new backpack I’ve been dying to strap on. Everything went well, and I can report that the knee feels good. In fact – this point is baffling to me – it feels better after I give it a good workout. I’m wondering where the dividing line between moderate exercise and too much is drawn.

I would like to climb a few hills but that would mean driving at least 80 miles from Buffalo. With the price of gas I decided to walk in a town park not far from where I work in Cheektowaga. It’s a nice little park with several miles of graded trails. The paths wind through woods on level terrain with boardwalks constructed over the swampy areas. When the weather is nice, I walk there quite often. But this was the first time I had sported my full backpacking equipment and I received quite a few strange looks. The nice weather had also brought out tons of people to the park.

Most people would smile and greet me politely, although some kept their heads down and hurried by, like you do when you pass a homeless person with a sign. I explained to a couple of people that I was just getting used to my pack before I went on an overnight camping trip in the Spring, but for the most part I just smiled back.

My new pack is a ULA Catalyst. They don’t sell them in stores so I ordered it online. I’m not in favor of buying something as expensive as this pack was without trying it on or even seeing it in 2012-03-11 20.47.40person, but it had good reviews from the trail community and I figured I could send it back if I didn’t like it. I needed something a little bigger than my Gregory pack for cold-weather gear and several days of food while still remaining ultralight. It feels good and I like it.

Everything is set for my AT hike at the end of this month. I’m hoping to last a couple of weeks, anyway. After that I may drive through North Carolina and look at the small motorcycle I’m interested in. I called a dealer and they have two in stock. Then I will head indirectly west. I know the timeline flor visit is extended longer than some would like, but except for backpacking in the mountains, summer in the southwest is too brutal. I will try to update with more stories along the way, even if they seem pointless to me. I know everyone is thinking of me.

Published on March 6, 2012, by admin in Pieces of my Mind.

I just reread a couple of my recent posts and realized that I use the conjunction ‘but’ in quite a few of my sentences. It puzzled me why I write this way and I came up with several reasons to explain it. I might be trying to convey an opposing view, or maybe I’m not sure about my point, or I could just like the way the sentence sounds. I’m not sure exactly why I do it, but I don’t think I can stop.

Everyone is probably wondering where I’m living. The last information I posted hinted of staying in a motel, getting a room at the YMCA, or just living in my van. One by one I ruled these out on the grounds that they were too expensive, too far away, or invited uncleanness. Even though the Y was up in Niagara Falls, I probably would have stayed there. Unfortunately, when I went back to check on rooms, they had rented the last one. I was stuck. I resigned myself to either cough up the money for a motel or jump in my van and take off for a warmer climate.

Fortunately, Louie found me a place to ride out the rest of the winter. His cousin had a vacant apartment, only a couple of miles from where we were staying that I could rent without security deposit, hooking up utilities, or signing a long-term lease. We made an agreement for a set amount and I moved in. It’s not in the best neighborhood or anything pretty to look at, but it will do for now.

I did just buy a luxury. Every since I bought the new van, I’ve thought about getting a bigger TV for it. One van-camper told me how he installed a flat screen on hinges so it could be stowed against the ceiling when traveling, and lowered for viewing when parked. I liked the idea and decided to splurge early so that I could enjoy it while I’m waiting for departure. It’s a Vizio 27” razor. I chose it because it was so thin.

I’m limited to about eight over the air stations. There’s not a lot that I like on TV anymore but I do get some PBS stations and a couple of local broadcasts that have sitcoms I like. Over the weekend, I got hooked on a public broadcast and watched three hours detailing the life of Lincoln. The FOX news channel comes in crystal clear. Who knew I would be able to get fair and balanced news every night!

Published on February 19, 2012, by admin in More Stuff.

When I was at Dave & Lisa’s this weekend, I bought a new phone.

Karen calls me a traitor!

I couldn’t be loyal anymore after taking a look at Dave’s new phone and the Android operating system. If Apple would have upgraded to 4g, I probably would have remained with the iPhone, but the speed and power of this phone is amazing.

The phone is a Samsung Galaxy II Skyrocket, just a short generation above Daryl’s Thunderbolt. It has a 1.5 g dualcore processor, support for the newest 4g speed, and a gazillion more electrons flying around in a frantic frenzy.

I don’t know enough about it to judge every feature but I think it should work for me. The screen is a lot larger than the iPhone and its incredibly thin. I thought maybe it wouldn’t fit my pocket but I don’t notice any difference.

Dave and I were concerned about loosing our unlimited data plan, but I think AT&T is trying to keep customers happy and still supporting those of us grandfathered in.

One thing that I lost was the ability to toggle my laptop. I could still do it but would have to switch to a different data plan or install a third party program not legal with our provider. David and Lisa use very little data because they are connected to WiFi most of the time. I, however, used 85 gegibites last year- they charge $10/g for anything over 3/Mo.

Ill let you know how I like it in a month.

Published on February 19, 2012, by admin in More Stuff.

After only a few months of living in an appartment it is amazing how much stuff I have accumulated. In ten days I have to clean up, throw out, give away, and find a home for everything that overflows the space of a van.
It’s hard to believe how my possessions have grown since last year. I don’t think of myself as a hoarder but I can see how it sneaks up and overtakes you when your not looking.
I have several books that I bought last year. I really enjoyed reading them but can’t see myself reading them again in the near future. They’re not the type of book any of my friends or relatives would like and I don’t want the hassel of taking them to the library. I probably should just throw them out but can’t bring myself to do it.
I have a couple of pieces of furniture that I picked up at Goodwill. Nobody wants those either. I’ll probably end up leaving them for the next tenant. He may throw them out too, but at least I wont know about it.
I have way too many clothes to ever fit in my van. I don’t remember buying half of them and I regularly wear less than that. They must have seemed like a good idea at one time but I’m thinking the best option is to toss them.
I have a few item that I couldn’t throw out so I made a trip to Karen’s and another to Dave’s and Lisa’s, with instructions to yard sale all of it at their earliest convience. If they can’t sell it I hope they toss it and never tell me.
I have more to tell you but I think I will upload this much in case I mess up.

Published on January 7, 2012, by admin in Pieces of my Mind.

I’m bringing in the New Year suffering with another virus. In less than a month, I’ve caught two colds. I see so many people all day and it seems like everyone on my route is sick with something – colds; flu; laryngitis; bronchitis. I guess I don’t have a very good immune system because I always catch more than my share of colds. If only I’d had those tonsils and adenoids out when I was a kid.

I had a wonderful time with David and Lisa at Christmas. My present was new Black Diamond trekking poles from them and Karen. I can’t wait to try them out! Lisa made a delicious ham dinner, and afterwords, we all went to see a movie. When we got back to their house, Dave jail-broke my iPhone for me. I was thinking of moving up to the iPhone 4, but I really didn’t need any of the new features, and I would be hesitant to tamper with a new phone. I can now use my phone as a modem to connect my laptop, anywhere I get a data signal.

Trekking Poles

Trekking Poles

The next weekend, it was off to spend the New Year with Karen and the boys. It’s always great to see them. The boys are growing so fast and it won’t be long before they’ll all be leaving the nest. Next year, Zack heads to college, and the year after that, Nate will be going. Whenever I’m in Pittsburgh, I always get Karen to take me to the local REI. They were having the usual after-Christmas sales and we both bought some outdoor garments. I like the hiking clothes they have there but it always stuns me to see the prices. With the new rain jacket that Jen and Louie gave me, I should have everything I need to hike in the spring.

That’s about it for the holidays. In a way, I’m glad it’s over. The traffic and turmoil of delivery around Christmas time can be a nightmare. We will be giving up the apartment on February 29. I’m still looking for someplace to stay until spring. My plan is to continue to work until the end of April and then retire again. After I become tired of being retired, I may work so that I can afford new tires.

I found a company in Taiwan that makes small model motorcycles and exports them to the USA. The encouraging news I’m reading is that there are other people like me that want to relive their glory years with the 150cc bikes. It’s possible I may look into something like the SYM Classic 150.

Just for Donna, I’ve included a table of statistics on the motorcycles performance, and a couple of graphs detailing the power vs. torque analysis through the acceleration curve.

the Wad 055
the Wad 056


For some time now I’ve received emails and comments lamenting the fact that my blog has been abandoned. Along with subtle hints and direct prodding, there seems to be a unanimous consensus that everyone has had enough of tuning in only to discover “Swivel” as the latest update. I can sympathize with that. I’ve looked many times – always with optimism and hope – for a new update on anther blog, only to be similarly disappointed to see “Natchez Trace” still there. I guess I will attempt to update everyone with the happenings so far and maybe throw in some workings of my mind. Just be warned that that statement bores me. I can’t even imagine what it will do to you. 

I work. I eat. I sleep. There you have it!  Well, maybe I dream a little. Actually, I dream a lot.  It usually happens when I’m asleep but not always. I’ve caught myself quite often – and please don’t try this yourself – dreaming while I’m driving. Once or twice I almost missed my exit on the Thruway because my mind was far away from where it aught to be. I’ve caught myself several times on the verge of performing some careless blunder in traffic, only because I wasn’t paying complete attention. These close calls inevitably snap me back to the real world – often with a quick pulse and flash of adrenaline – and remind me of the seriousness of driving for a living. 

 I think we all let our emotions dictate our driving to a certain extent. During the holiday season, traffic is snarled, everyone is in a hurry to get somewhere, and the weather is often deteriorating, challenging us all to be better drivers. The other day, after making a delivery, it took me over a half hour just to get out of the Walmart parking lot. It was almost like everyone in town was at the store. Sometimes drivers would wait and motion you into the exit line, but eventually everyone became discouraged and fought for their own turn at escape. Usually, after much waiting and waining patience, two cars will move at the same time and bump into each other. That’s when you know your going to be there for a while. 

So far, my old RV (rusty van) has faithfully made the trip to Jamestown every day. With rust and corrosion slowly eating up the sides, strange noises and vibrations appearing regularly, and a host of gremlins ready and waiting to wreak havoc on a 260,000 mile engine, I nurse it along 5mph under the speed limit all the way to my destination. I figure if I can make it last until spring, I can throw it away with pride.

In the event of a breakdown, I have my new van as a backup. So far, the remodel is still in the planning stage. I thought it prudent not to spend a lot of time and money on furnishings until I knew exactly what the plan is. Even though I still intend to travel this spring, one never knows what might come up.  Here are a couple of scenarios I’ve been throwing back and forth in my head. Keep in mind that I’m not an optimist at all and have no trouble talking myself out of doing anything for which I can find a good reason not to. 

I would like to hike a section of the Appalachian Trail. Not just two or three days like all my hikes have been, but a serious section of extended length. It would get me fit again after a winter of sloth; it would be a great way to spend time outdoors and see nature; it would give me a chance to find out where my limits are. 

If I do this, it has to be now. Who knows when congress might come to an impasse and close down all the Parks, or even worse, take away part of my SSI(I’m being sarcastic about this one). And at my age, I may not have many more hiking years left. Already, my knees are complaining about every activity I do, and it’s increasingly alarming when I feel a new twinge in my back. These are the things I think about on my long drive each day. By the time spring rolls around I probably will be content to get another bag of potato chips and put my feet up on the couch. 

A while back, as I was driving to Jamestown, I came upon a motorcycle for sale by the road. I’ve always thought that van/motorcycle was the way to go. To carry a small motorcycle on the back of my van would allow me to camp and tool around the area with ease. I could also park the motorcycle at the trailhead and leave the van a few mile away, hike for a couple of days, pick up the motorcycle and shuttle back to the van. It seemed like a good solution but as I started to investigate new motorcycles, I discovered that they don’t make small ones anymore; at least not in this country. The smallest motorcycle made for the road is the Honda 230cc, weighing 300lbs and costing several thousand dollars. The small bikes we had when we were young have all been phased out in favor of high performance motorcycles and scooters. I’m not coming down on scooters. There’s nothing wrong with getting around on a scooter, but I occasionally like to go off-road – up a mountain trail, through a riverbed, or out in the desert – and thought a dirt bike would work better. 

The motorcycle I bought, with the intention of fixing up, is a Suzuki 185ts, built in 1974. Even though I paid very little for it, it may never work for me. I’ve discovered that parts are almost impossible to find, and what parts are avaiable are very expensive. i probably will take it to the level of dirt bike and sell it there. I have been watching eBay for restored motorcycles but they seem to all be in California or Arizona – great for my brothers but bad for me. 

That’s about it. I’m going to stick it out this winter and make a decision about travel when it gets closer to spring. I’m going to visit David and Lisa for Christmas tomorrow and next week I will spend New Years with Karen and the boys in Pittsburg. I hope everyone has a wonderful Merry Christmas!

Published on August 13, 2011, by admin in More Stuff.

When you buy a used vehicle there are always little things that need to be fixed. I had new shocks installed and complete wheel balancing on all four tires. I’m going to have the brakes and rotors replaced in the near future, and if you’ve ever dealt with an engine emissions light, you know how that can ruin your day. Small repairs don’t seem like much but they add up to significant money when you are budgeting to save for another expedition. The most important thing though, is to have the van mechanically sound before I take on the Rocky Mountains next spring.

The van came with swivel, captain’s chairs in the middle, designed to face the back seat for important conference meetings and socializing. What I really wanted was for the front passenger seat to swivel, serving a dual purpose of passenger and living room seating. It seemed like such a waste to throw away a swivel seat, but modifying and installing it in the front seemed like too big of a project. When I crawled underneath, I couldn’t even find the bolts where they came through the framework, and I was afraid that they would be rusted and impossible to remove.

As you can see from the pictures below: I did it! With a lot of drilling and rebolting, I now have my passenger/living room, easy chair. I had to remove the seat belt assembly from the front seat and install it to the swivel seat, buy longer bolts where they went through the frame, but it went well and I’m confident that it is safe.
Swivel Seat 036

Swivel Seat 034

Published on July 9, 2011, by admin in Adventure.

Here are a few pictures of my van. It is presently equipped with captains’ chairs that swivel, and a bench seat in the back that folds down into a bed. There are shades on all the windows, ducted A/C and heat, diverse interior lighting, and a nice sound system from the radio and TV. The inside is finished in plush carpeting and wood-grain paneling.
1997 Ford Conversion

I tried to figure out a way to save the seats and incorporate them into my camper van design, but the center seats took up too much room, and the fold-down bed was uncomfortable and cramped. So today I decided to remove all the back seats and start over with an empty space.
Van 036
Van 043
The modifications will progress slowly. I still need to use the new van as a backup in case my work van breaks down. I will probably build the cabinets for the kitchen and bed storage area, but still be able to remove them without a lot of work.
Van 044

WordPress made a mess out of this!


CyberChimps gives you the tools to turn WordPress into a modern feature rich Content Management System (CMS)