Category Archives: Adventure Romance

Self-publishing a book requires work and commitment, obviously, but mostly it requires courage. Confidence. Which, for me, meant quieting the voices in my head:

“My book isn’t good enough.”
“I need a professional agent to help me write this; I have no idea what parts are worthwhile and what I need to take out.”
“Later on, I may be embarrassed by this book.”
“Oh no, another typo. This book is going to be full of mistakes; I am no English major.”
And the worst: “What if no one buys it?”

I overcame the voices and self-published my first book about a month ago. It all happened so fast, and now I’m riding a happy little wave of success. My book has sold about 75 copies and sales continue to trickle in. People find it on Amazon, buy it, and when they leave a review it either warms my heart or causes me a sleepless night.

My book has eleven reviews. Many of them make my heart sing:

Breezy, fun writing style…” Oh my gosh, I have a writing style!
So well written!” Oh my gosh, I CAN write!
author has a real knack for the narrative…” Thanks, Dad. Dad was instrumental in the publishing of this book, and a ruthless editor.

Then a bad review came in, and I spent most of the night thinking about it:
“the story is inspirational, but the format is horrible to read on my kindle.”

At least she liked my story and wasn’t trying to be mean. She had valuable feedback for me and she was right. I made a classic software developer mistake: not testing my product enough before deployment. I was excited. I was busy and burnt out from working so hard on it. I was a creative person who wasn’t being managed. I ran amok and had to learn better publishing habits.

I embarked on a considerable effort to test my book across all devices and fix the formatting problems. This would be tedious work which would take several days to complete, so I settled into the bathtub and got to work.

Yes, that’s right. I wrote and published most of my book in a clawfoot tub at our AirBnB home in Salt Lake. The tub was the most relaxing and focused place for me, and the purple walls may have helped. Somehow, I always managed to keep my computer from ending up in a watery grave, and never electrocuted myself (never plug in the computer while using it in the tub).

I estimated this project would take approximately four baths, with each bath being 2-5 hours long. You do the math.

I changed the Georgia font size from 16 to 20 and tested it across kindles, iphones, androids, and also used an application from Kindle that lets you see your book on multiple devices.

The limitations of fixed format publishing were apparent, and no matter what I tried the book had tiny font on smaller devices like kindles and phones. I made sure the text was readable but it was too tiny to be practical on something as small as a phone. I added a short warning to my book description about the text size on smaller devices so people would know what to expect.

One of the best things about the Kindle reading experience is the ability to customize the text, so from now on I will write my books in a flowing format and include a couple photos at the beginning and end to accentuate the story. No more of this text drama. I spent a lot of time formatting the book, and it wasn’t fun creative time. Uploading the book to Amazon and setting it up to sell it was an easy and solid process. The difficult part was formatting the many photos which I felt added to the story and needed to be included.

Using a flowing format next time was an important lesson. Another lesson was the importance of combating feelings of doubt which can halt a creative project. Publishing a book helped me learn to quiet those thoughts. Everyone has feelings of self-doubt sometimes which must be overcome. And the greater the endeavor, the greater the chance for these doubting thoughts to kill a creative project.

But it is always our choice to give in to this, or simply learn to counteract these thoughts and move full speed ahead in pursuit of our dreams. To publish or to postpone. To chase our dreams, or get stuck. The doubting thoughts fade away now with every book sale, and I know I did the right thing.

I’m glad I tossed my first book out there to see if it would sink or swim. Self-publishing was a memorable process and my goal is to publish another book this fall/winter. Stay tuned!

It’s easy to find Seattle’s elite strolling Leavenworth’s fancy walking streets, but the intrepid observer sees another type of visitor among the throngs: the dirty adventurer with ropy calves and greasy hair plying the herd of clean city folks. They’ve been climbing or biking all day and now they’re hungry for Leavenworth’s great beer and food.

Leavenworth is a cute German-themed town full of touristy offerings, plus it has incredible adventures hidden in its surrounding mountains. We found it to be exceptionally good for van life and lingered longer than we originally planned. We lived in Leavenworth for a month in our van and we began to notice a few other vans which also seemed to be enjoying an extended stay in the area.

There are nice places to park near town on forest service land. We were given free water at Dan’s Grocery Store when we did our shopping, and there were many places around town to get rid of garbage. These things make van life much easier!

Leavenworth is a gem. Here are our favorite activities we enjoyed during our month there.

Mountain Biking

During our last week in Leavenworth we honed in on our favorite ride at the local ski resort. It’s a new one which doesn’t have a name yet, so for now I’ll just call it the Butter Loop. I found it by talking to a local who helped create the new uphill section of this loop as well as many other trails in the area. Kudos! You created something very special here.

The Butter Loop is the perfect short ride, with 6 miles of buttery, singletrack trails. It begins at the Leavenworth Ski Area with a steady, 1000 foot climb through the forest on a new, unnamed trail. Next you roll along a ridge with great views, then descend a section of Freund Canyon with well designed, super fun berms which go up and down like a roller coaster. The alternative to this fun roller coaster romp through Freund Canyon is a more challenging ride on the parallel Rosy Boa trail, but personally I found Rosy Boa to be too much! It had some very steep drops. Be cautious with choosing the Rosy Boa Trail.

After finishing either Rosy Boa or Freund, the final reward is an easy descent back through the Leavenworth Ski Resort on a trail called For The Boys. The Butter Loop is so good we did it three times in one week. Here is a map of the trails which make up this loop:
The Butter Loop On Trailforks

The Freund Canyon loop is an oldie and a goodie, too. It begins and ends on Freund Canyon Road near town. The only reason I like the Butter Loop better is that Freund Canyon includes about 500 feet of climbing on a dirt road, and I prefer the pure singletrack of the Butter Loop.

We heard about other great rides nearby at Horse Lake and Sage Hills, but didn’t have time to go there this trip. Next time! I love it that after a month in Leavenworth we continued to hear about new places.

Trail Running
The challenging and breathtaking 18 mile trail through the Enchantments near Leavenworh can be done as a one day hike/run. There is even a shuttle company to move folks from the lower trailhead to the upper trailhead at convenient times for only $10/person ( as well as a great private taxi service which can do the same (

The terrain is very challenging on both Snow Lakes Pass and Aasgard Pass, but the fantastic alpine zone and friendly mountain goats are incredibly rewarding. Go prepared with a headlamp and extra layers at the very least. This is a serious endeavor!

Another alternative is to hike up into the high country and then back out, beginning and ended at the Stuart Lakes Trailhead. We did this one day. and it took us 12 hours to go fifteen miles with about 4500 feet of elevation gain. This hike included climbing up Aasgard Pass and then going back down it, which was crazy. We saw some beautiful lakes and mountains at the top of Aasgard Pass, but it really just made us thirsty for more.

The trail run through the Enchantments is the big one, but there are other great places for trail running or hiking like the Leavenworth Ski Hill and the Leavenworth Riverside Park.

The Enchantments hike is best done as a backpacking trip. The Larch trees create some of the finest fall scenery in the state when they turn bright yellow in fall and we wanted to spend more time in this stunning area, photographing the landscapes and animals.

We had to be persistent to get a last minute permit for this hike. Each morning the forest service office in Leavenworth draws a name for permits to camp in the Enchantments and it can be very competitive. We went there three mornings in the middle of the week to try our luck at the lottery and each morning there were a half dozen people competing for a few permits. The first two mornings we lost the drawing, but the third morning we won!

Our four day backpacking trip in the Enchantments featured surreal beauty and relaxed mountain goats enjoying their alpine paradise. The larches were stunning and we had great weather. We climbed a peak in the backcountry called Little Annapurna, following nice granite slabs much of the way to the summit. Climbing Little Annapurna was a highlight for both of us.

Leavenworth is the climbing capital of Washington. We enjoyed nice climbs on granite near Icicle Creek and saw many people bouldering. We found the rock in this area to be good quality. There’s a helpful guidebook for this area but it is currently out of print. The nice people at Leavenworth Mountain Sports have a couple copies you can rent by the day.

We also went to Peshastin Pinnacles to explore the sandstone routes and found varying rock quality there. We found some good rock and some very crumbly kitty litter. After we explored the easier climbing options around town we decided our favorite spot was Playground Point near the Icicle River.

Reindeer Farm
We visited a Reindeer Farm right outside Leavenworth for a fun tour. While it’s not really an adventure, this was such a great experience it would be a shame to miss out on it. We learned a few things about Reindeer, and then got to go in the pen with them and pet them. Did you know their fur is made of hollow fibers, allowing them to float like a Polar Bear? Neither did we! Here is the website for the reindeer farm, reservations are recommended:

If you happen to come in October the town of Leavenworth erupts in merriment for three weekends in a row for Oktoberfest. Everyone celebrates with beer, Lederhosen, Dirndls, German food and dancing. This festival has a very celebratory mood and is a lot of fun, especially when you dress up!

So, there you go! Leavenworth is the perfect place to enjoy beauty, adventure, mountain goats and van life. The town is also delightful and we’ll definitely be back.

Yesterday I tried something hard. And failed. I’m not used to that, and it felt like someone let all the air out of my balloon. Brian was very supportive. I didn’t shed any tears, but there was definitely some pouting going on. Brian said we could abandon this adventure whenever I wanted, and that was ok. I thought about it a couple more minutes and then I decided it was time to get off the mountain.

We had embarked on one of my most challenging mountain bike rides and one of the best in the area. It was Frisby Ridge in Revelstoke, British Columbia. It’s been a long time since my last big ride and I didn’t take Frisby Ridge seriously enough. We started late in the day and all I brought was a simple windbreaker for layering. Initially I hadn’t felt committed to completing the entire ride, but wanted to try. I figured I would ride the ridge out and back until I got tired.

So we began, and the trail went steadily uphill nearly the entire time. The surroundings were nice, although it didn’t feel much like a ridge. We rode through a forest full of cedar and huckleberries for five miles. I kept thinking the alpine riding would start any minute, but after hours of riding in the forest the big, open views I craved were barely starting to show themselves. A more accurate name for this trail would be Frisby Forest.

I wouldn’t see the good stuff until the summit. I pushed on, getting colder and colder as I gained more elevation. Then the saddle sores started because I hadn’t prepared for a long ride, just a feel good, out and back ride. No Chamois Cream in the pack! Oh no! I was also getting tired now that we had climbed 2000 vertical feet. I am not used to big rides like this right now. I am good at pushing through exhaustion for a time, but with the lack of warm clothing and saddle sores I was facing a trifecta of suffering. At least we had plenty of snacks!

Now the ride had become a push to the summit and nothing more. It also wasn’t good to climb higher into the alpine zone without warmer layers. It could have turned into an edgy situation if conditions changed or precipitation started.

Feeling my limits, I sadly turned around and tried to collect myself as I began descending. Focus on the positive. Think about what you’ve achieved. Think about the beautiful ride. Think about the huckleberries surrounding the trail and our plans to harvest them on the descent. What I really wanted was to ride my bike in the sun, on a Thursday afternoon, above treeline with big mountains looming on all sides. That was the stuff of dreams. Still, there were many wonderful things about the day to appreciate and I tried to think about those things instead of the one thing I had missed.

The positive thoughts were needed; the descent was very chilly at first. After about twenty minutes we stopped in the sun to pick huckleberries. Feeling the warmth of the sun was a great relief to us both, and we had also reached a lower elevation with a higher temperature.

Plus we were surrounded by tasty huckleberries, warm from the sun, and Brian said we could try the Frisby Ridge ride again in a couple days. All these things raised my spirits. It was time to let disappointments go and immerse myself in the present. We gathered huckleberries for about 10 minutes (trying not to eat too many of them) and took some with us in a one liter Nalgene bottle.

The rest of the descent was uneventful and we were happy to reach the van. We quickly went to a fantastic campsite near the trailhead we had scouted out earlier.

We reveled in scenic views of rivers and mountains and cranked the heater up to ninety degrees. We huddled under a blanket until our core temperatures returned to normal. We ate a tasty dinner and huckleberries for dessert. This was van life at its finest.

It can be hard to let go of a meaningful adventure like this one. Sometimes I wonder if these adventures have taken on an outsized sense of importance in my life. For me, adventures give meaning to living in a van. Otherwise it would be pretty boring sitting in a van in the middle of nowhere. Achieving goals and strengthening my mind and body matter more out here than they did when I was living in a house. Instead of something fun to do on weekends, they start to shape life and give it meaning.

I look forward to riding Frisby Ridge again in a couple days. This was a good reminder to take hard rides more seriously. I will start early, prepare for a long ride and take extra layers. Frisby Ridge, we shall have a rematch.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere we were, camped in front of a giant glacier, next to the ocean, in a place of indescribable beauty. I looked around and started counting waterfalls. 36. I could see 36 waterfalls from where I stood.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe were in Blackstone Bay, a small arm of Prince William Sound in Alaska. We had just been dropped off by a water taxi for four days of frolicking in the wilderness.

We weren’t exactly roughing it. We had three sleeping bags, a down comforter and two pillows, as well as two sea kayaks and all of our mountaineering gear. We planned to explore the bay by kayak and do some mountaineering or glacier trekking. We were loaded with both adventure AND comfort gear.

We were most definitely glampin’!

Lawrence Glacier loomed behind us, a steep, bright white hunk of ice. We took a glacier travel and crevasse rescue course a week before this trip, and it gave us the confidence to walk around on dry glaciers, that is, glaciers without snow. We were ready to try our new skills.

P1140038 (Large)Lawrence Glacier had plenty of delicious icy curves for us to explore. This was going to be good.

First we explored the bay by kayak. Two tidewater glaciers tumbled all the way down to the sea. We enjoyed the gentle sounds of our paddles plying the icy water, punctuated by a loud boom every now and then when the falling ice from a glacier crashed into the sea.

Thankfully we were never too close to one of the glaciers when a large chunk of ice came off, which can create a dangerous wave!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOne snow white glacier was perched atop a cliff, slightly overhung, with a waterfall flowing from its base. It was breathtaking. Holy. This place was holy. We paddled over to see the waterfall and a small group of Kittiwakes (birds) flew by, loudly protesting our presence. Nearby we also found a large colony of Kittiwakes, chattering among themselves.

We returned to camp, blissed out by the wonderful paddling. We took a short nap, picked some berries and then decided to scout Lawrence glacier. We walked around, waded an icy stream, and eventually found a good way to reach the side of the glacier.

P1140158 (Large)It was a reasonable hike with no unstable ice or exposed climbing. When we reached the glacier I felt hesitant, so Brian climbed on it first and started walking around. After awhile I decided to join him and we enjoyed a little bit of the glacier together. When we reached the first steep section we decided to call it a day and return tomorrow with more time and energy. We were both excited by the easy access we found.

The next day we returned to Lawrence Glacier. We quickly made our way onto the ice. Soon we had our crampons on and were covering new territory. We reached the first steep section and Brian climbed it without protection, then built an ice anchor to belay me. I climbed after him, and now we were high on the glacier. Its curves glittered in the sun and blue crevasses regularly sliced into its depths. The surface rippled with what mountaineers call “sun cups”.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe climbed around on the labyrinth of ice and eventually reached an obstacle Brian wanted to cross and I didn’t. It involved a step over a crevasse with a deep hole (moulin) next to it. I didn’t like the deep hole, which would be difficult or impossible to escape from. I practiced building ice anchors while Brian stepped across the crevasse and explored higher. He soon returned and we decided to descend. I rappelled off my own ice anchor and then Brian climbed down after me.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABrian was confident on steep slopes in his crampons. I really appreciated that he could lead our climbs on the glacier, since Lawrence Glacier was even steeper than the glacier where we took our class. I felt comfortable following him and enjoyed building my own anchor and rappelling off it.

We even found an ice cave! Exploring the glacier was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done. We both had a fantastic time.

The next morning was our last in Blackstone Bay. We wanted to make the most of it and left early to get in one more paddle.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe water was flat and gray, dotted with small white iceburgs. We got in our kayaks and paddled toward one of the glaciers. Soon I began spotting seals in the distance floating on pieces of ice. We fell silent and slowly glided over to them, being sure to give them plenty of space. Imagine my excitement, and the conflicting need to stay quiet and still so as not to startle them. I was *bursting*! They were incredibly cute and blubbery.

We took many, many photos. When we were back at camp later the seals floated by on their pieces of ice out in the middle of the bay, riding the tide, looking relaxed.

P1140244-3 (Large)At the termination of this dreamy trip we knew, looking at our giant map of Prince William Sound, littered with islands, bays and glaciers, that we would be back. Next time we’ll be prepared to see more of this glacier-filled paradise. Maybe we need a small boat for Alaska. We need another tiny floating house.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADecommissioning a boat sucks. It’s hot, dirty and you know you won’t see your beloved boat for a long time. There are dozens of tiny bits of canvas to tie on the windows to protect them from sun damage, piles of ropes to wash and dry, and many things which must be somehow stuffed inside the boat or cockpit so they don’t blow away during a hurricane.

And, to top it all off, at the end of the decommissioning process we had a rather memorable overnight bus ride back to the U.S. It was one of those bus rides where the time to your destination is doubled because the bus stops at so many places along the way. Plus they kick you off the warm bus and into the cold night several times to clean the bus and go through customs. Basically, they torture you as you try to sleep. But the grande finale was after nearly 12 hours on the bus we were dropped off at 5 AM in an empty parking lot in Tucson, Arizona. There were no open businesses. Everything was dark and quiet.

IMG_2238 (Large)Then things improved. We took a taxi to the most wonderful AirBnB in Tucson where I got to pet a dog, bird and cat when I arrived. The backyard was a peaceful sanctuary with bird feeders outside the window and the sounds of chickens clucking from a large pen. The cat, Chico, was beautiful, loved to sit on laps and came when called. He was a dreamy cat. Animal therapy worked and I felt better right away.

We went to get our Sprinter and Jeep from storage and found the Jeep had a drained battery which was too old to accept a jump. We got a new battery and Brian tried to install it. The wires attached to the battery were too corroded and they fell apart. Back to the auto parts store we went for a second time.

Brian was able to get the Jeep working pretty quickly after we got the parts. We went off to tackle errands, one of which was getting Brian a nice outfit for an upcoming family trip to New Jersey to celebrate our brother’s graduation from Princeton.

IMG_2338 (Large)We shopped at REI and found a very nice outfit for Brian, one he may actually wear for occasions other than the graduation. However, we were both so sleep deprived that we somehow left the outfit sitting on the bench in the shoe department. We purchased other items at REI, and neither of us noticed the outfit was missing until we drove to the airport the following morning. By then it was too late to buy anything else. Luckily Brian’s family understands his casual nature and no one batted an eye when he turned up in board shorts and a tech tee.

I purchased a couple dresses online beforehand. Luckily, one of them was perfect so I did not have to do any shopping in Tucson. Whew! I was really not rested enough to go solo dress shopping at the mall.

IMG_2314 (Large)The trip to New Jersey was awesome. We enjoyed lots of good family time and the graduation events at Princeton University were well done with great food. Also, the campus is beautiful and we loved walking around everywhere. We once again lucked out with a great Airbnb next to a forested area with hiking trails.

After the trip to New Jersey I was exhausted. Our plane landed in Phoenix and it was nearly 100 degrees and forecast to get even hotter. It was way too hot for van life. The van wasn’t really ready for living either, with no food, water or organization. No way could I move into the van that day. I fired up and by a stroke of luck, saw a room with a jacuzzi tub for only $14 more than the cheapest room I was about to reserve.

IMG_0099 (Large)It may have been the best $14 I ever spent. We spent two days in the motel room and I practically lived in the tub. The body wash the hotel provided foamed up into huge clouds of bubbles. I could hear the bubbles popping softly all around my head. I floated motionlessly in a soft, warm bubble cloud and all my stress melted away. I ate breakfast in the tub. I watched tv in the tub. I wrote emails in the tub. I did everything possible in the tub!

IMG_0129 (Large)We also found a fantastic Thai restaurant nearby and ate there twice. I went shopping, did laundry and organized the van. Now the van is a peaceful, pleasant place, and we are living happily in it at a free, forested vagabond spot near Sedona, Arizona.

We made the transition! But I always forget how hard it is, and next year I’ll remember I need a really big bathtub during times like this.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe did it! We are back from our biggest offshore sailing and diving trip. We sailed 220 miles south of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico to the Revillagigedos, a volcanic group of islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. We spent 18 days at Isla San Benedicto and went scuba diving with giant pacific manta rays and also sharks.

I feel deeply satisfied we pulled off this advanced dream trip. I also feel filled to the brim with love for my husband, who gave me so much support during this journey. It was difficult at times. Sometimes I didn’t handle stress very well. The sharks frightened me at first. Sharing close quarters with family for three weeks was sometimes tense. I was shaken by a couple close calls where I felt our safety was at risk. But through it all, Brian loved me, encouraged me and helped me enjoy this amazing trip. Our relationship was strengthened by this experience, which I think is a good sign for our plans to cross the Pacific Ocean next spring to the Marquesas.

Brian and I will also forever love the giant manta rays which thrive at Isla San Benedicto. We swooned over these creatures so much we made up songs about them. You really do lose your mind a little being at remote islands for so long. We would take Christmas carols about “Santa” and make up a “Manta” version. “Manta, baby…”, “Here comes manta clause…”, etc. I’ll never forget the special times diving with the manta rays and how they would swoop gracefully around us, eyeing us curiously and coming close.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFew private boats venture to these islands. During our stay at Isla Benedicto we only saw two other private boats. We saw about a half dozen large liveaboard dive boats, and this is said to be one of the top ten diving sites in the world. It was absolutely amazing and I can’t wait to go back.

What an intense trip. My comfort limits were stretched in all directions. I watched Magic ride bigger waves than ever before and went scuba diving with aggressive sharks for the first time. We lived on the boat for three weeks with Brian’s mom Sue, and her husband, Tim. We never went ashore on the island, so for the entire 22 day trip our feet never touched land.

It was the most rewarding trip ever.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe left Cabo full of Costco provisions and headed south during the tail end of a wind event. We hoped to have about 10-15 knots for sailing. The wind had been stronger during the previous days, so we got to ride some pretty big waves in the Pacific on the way south to the islands. Our catamaran coasted comfortably and only a couple items flew off the shelves.

A small warbler visited Magic to rest and get a drink of water on the way to the islands. She was very friendly, hopped on our legs as if we were a piece of furniture and explored both hulls of the boat. She certainly made herself at home, then mysteriously disappeared sometime after the sun went down.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter a two day passage we arrived at the beautifully stark volcanic island. Tall cliffs made of jumbled gray and brown rocks formed the north side. There was no sand in sight. Pale green vegetation blanketed the steep upper slopes of the island, which is an active volcano. Its last eruption was 50 years ago, and we regularly found little bits of pumice floating in the water nearby.

We planned to anchor in a cove at the south end of the island, and thankfully there was a tiny, grey sand beach there and good holding for Magic. The beautifully curved volcanic cone rose steeply behind Magic and became a glorious backdrop during sunrise and sunset when pale pink light would paint its rippled slopes. Dark brown fingers of igneous rock reached out from the base of the cone at the south end of the anchorage. This was the wildest and most beautiful place we had ever taken our boat.

IMG_0428 (Large)The next morning a huge Pacific Manta Ray glided by close to Magic to welcome us to the island. I impulsively jumped in the warm water with my snorkel and mask to meet this wonderful creature I’ve heard so much about. Indeed, the black and white ray was friendly and curious. It made a close pass and my heart somersaulted. It flapped beautifully in the water right past me and kept on going.

Once the manta was gone I looked around and saw a six foot long shark right below me, way too close to my bare feet and I was really not ok with that. I swam about 20 feet back to Magic, swiftly but trying not to splash, my body pulsing with adrenaline.

Brian got our reef fish identification book and we looked at some photos. We hopped in the water to peer at the shark once more. We identified it as a Silky Shark, which the book said was typically wary but considered dangerous. Hmmmm. We would grow to accept this shark as our “pet Silky” over the coming weeks, because most days it could be seen circling our boat. After snorkeling with it a couple times I was satisfied it seemed sufficiently wary, although it was always on my mind when I thought about jumping into the water to cool off.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe saw sharks on nearly every dive, usually White Tip Reef Sharks or Silky Sharks. They were usually mellow and wary, but not always. We aborted one of our dives when three Silky Sharks began showing too much interest in us. They swam around nearby for a few minutes and then one of them circled us a couple times, coming between Brian and I. Brian swam over to me and smacked the circling shark on the tail with his underwater camera, but that is a story for another day.

Our fantastic memories of diving with Giant Pacific Manta Rays will always win out over the memories of aggressive sharks. The rays were the most interesting, curious and beautiful marine animals I have ever met. We’re excited to return next year and frolic with them again.

I will write more soon. It takes time to reflect on a trip like this, to make meaning of all the wonderful and difficult events, and to process all the lessons we learned.

Next Article: Encounters with Giant Manta Rays

IMG_3808 (Large)This might sound like a sexist list, but my experiences have shown me women are mostly on the receiving end of the whole “baby can I take you (backpacking, kayaking, canyoneering, mountain biking)?”

In my many years of canyoneering, climbing and biking I have only witnessed a handful of times when a woman introduced a man to an adventure sport. Yet I see men do this all the time. They are passionate about their sport and their partner, so what could be better than combining the two?

When this goes well, it goes really well. Achieving adventurous goals fuses a couple together with a bond that is much stronger than say, going to a dinner and movie together. When your romantic partner is also your activity partner, you have created an ‘adventureship’.

A couple who defines adventure as one of their strongest connection points. People in an adventureship pursue adventures together and in the process they learn to overcome challenges and work together to reach goals.

Study this list carefully, then go off and create the adventureship of your dreams!

1. How Interested is She?
So you want to invite a lady on an adventure with you. You want it to be the first of many wonderful outings together. First she must be interested in the activity. You may have some idea about her interest level from your past conversations.

It’s best if she suggests trying it herself. Then you know she will be an enthusiastic participant. If she hasn’t brought it up you could follow up a vivid description of your latest adventure with a simple comment like “it would be great if you joined me sometime”.

See how she responds. If this doesn’t get a positive response say no more. You will get nowhere by pressuring her. Your attempts to talk her into an adventure will almost always end badly.

Simply talk positively about your activities and be patient. Describe beautiful scenery and encounters with animals. Talk about how your adventures have enhanced your life or how beautiful the stars are when you get away from the city. Give her an enticing, yet accurate view of your favored activity. Focus on the positive aspects and do not brag about how tough anything is.

When you invite someone on an adventure in which you are experienced and they are not, you unwittingly become the leader. It’s important to recognize the role you’ve fallen into and consider how much experience you have leading others.

A good leader is organized. Create a gear list and double check you’ve packed everything. Photocopy the guidebook beforehand. Bring a map. Fill your car with gas and clean it before the adventure. Rather than tossing your gear in a pile in the backseat, take the time to place items in duffel bags or bins. Show you took the time to plan and organize before the adventure. This is the first step to building trust.

She will be trusting you to shepherd her through something about which she knows nothing. If you plan something and it doesn’t go well she will trust you less.

Never give orders or say out loud that you are the leader of any expedition. Conduct yourself with a quiet confidence and make her comfort and safety your top priority when making decisions. Show confidence in your role as leader and she will be more relaxed.

A good leader keeps a cool head when the unexpected happens. Blowing up or displaying your anxiety can really scare her when she’s depending on you.

Your goal for the adventure should be to share great experiences and create memories with someone you care about. Throw out any expectations about distance or speed. Instead, focus on her. Is she enjoying herself? That means you’re a good leader.

3. Pack Treats for Her12391129_10208105278852287_8677004293162265410_n
Think of a couple items you can secretly stow in your pack that will add to her enjoyment of the adventure. Extra water and food are always good. You can offer her a granola bar if she begins running out of steam or encourage her to drink some of your water if you notice she is running low. Consider packing an extra coat or some heat-producing hand warmer packs if weather is cold.

You can make the experience more special by bringing a favorite drink or a small pillow for her on a backpacking trip. If she loves a good steak, freeze one and pack it for the first night’s meal. She will swoon. Find out what her favorite foods are and then bring along the best version possible of these items. Fine chocolates, gourmet beef jerky, a fine bottle of wine or a carefully packaged slice of cake can be memorable treats in the wilderness.

You could even pack a small cooler with dry ice and ice cream, then have root beer floats in a beautiful location. The more effort you make the more impressed she will be, as long as you bring something personalized to her unique preferences.

1053488_10201579342424263_655437164_o4. Check the Weather
Weather will make or break your trip. Backpacking in the rain or kayaking in the wind can quickly kill her stoke for the activity. A sunny day with comfortable temperatures contributes greatly to the success of nearly any outdoor adventure. It’s essential to have good conditions for a first experience.

It is better to reschedule than to go out in questionable weather and have a less than wonderful experience. Her first impression of an activity, and how she feels while doing it, is powerful.

Always have a backup plan. What if you get to the trailhead and it starts raining? Make sure you know of a nearby restaurant or something else that will be fun for both of you. It’s easier to reschedule an adventure when you know you have a good plan B.

Be careful about just going for it anyway if the forecast is poor and she still wants to go. Express hesitation about the weather and then allow her to talk you into doing it anyway. Under no circumstances should you suggest continuing the activity in inclement weather if she is unsure.

11728961_10207579338500415_4058228172983668718_o (Large)5. Encourage, Encourage!
Anyone who becomes an expert at anything was once a beginner. She may have a difficult time at first and it’s your job to be positive and praise her efforts.

As she takes her first “steps” in this new activity, find things she does well and praise her for them. Do not overdo it or it may seem condescending. Make one encouraging comment soon after beginning the activity and at regular intervals after that. For example, when she pulls herself up on her first climbing hold, say “very nice” or “good job”!

6. Learn Her Pace
Everyone has a natural pace and it’s rare to find two that match. Pay special attention to how your pace compares to hers.

When one person struggles to keep up with the other they will tire more quickly and have less fun. A slower person chasing a faster person is not a sustainable way to hike together. Once you determine who has a slower pace it’s best for that person to lead most of the time.

If you begin in the lead make a conscious effort to go more slowly at first and only increase your pace when she is right behind you. Encourage her gently to take the lead if you notice her pace is consistently slower than yours.

IMG_1276 (Large)7. For the Adventure Curious: The Two Mile Rule
You have some big questions to ask yourself so you can make this a great experience.

How adventurous are her current activities? Does she enjoy challenging herself?

If she’s already adventurous you can simply show her how awesome your activities are. Once she’s had a good experience she is likely to include them in her adventure schedule.

Or, maybe she is only somewhat adventurous. She hasn’t done anything similar to the activity you have in mind. Maybe she enjoys hiking but hasn’t been on a rope. She may not be super fit or confident. She may be “adventure curious”.

Adventure Curious
: having a limited amount of experience with outdoor activities and thirsting for more. The adventure curious partner’s enthusiasm can be endearing, but this person does not realize how tough some adventures can be.

There is a good possibility an adventure curious lady will learn to love adventures with you. You can show her a good time in small doses. As she grows to love something and does it more frequently she will get into better condition. Soon she will be the one suggesting bigger adventures.

Begin slowly and cautiously with an adventure curious partner. The goal of the first adventure together is to leave her wanting more. The most important thing is to make sure she doesn’t feel overwhelmed. You do not want her to wonder “how many more hours until this is over?”
For the adventure curious, your first adventure together must be rated easy or the equivalent. It must be no more than two miles (or a half day).

To the experienced backpacker, an easy two mile hike to spend one night in the backcountry sounds boring. To the inexperienced, unconditioned hiker it can present plenty of challenge and excitement. It also allows an option to retreat if conditions become uncomfortable, like all your gear gets wet in an unexpected rainstorm or a foraging rodent tears your tent apart. Sometimes things just happen.

Mountain Biking
Mountain biking is hard, even if the trail is rated easy. She will probably be challenged if it is her first ride no matter which trail you choose. Do not subject her to big climbs or descents. There will be plenty of time for that later. Remember, you want to leave her wanting more. This means taking her on a short, scenic, two mile ride. This will build her confidence. You do not want her to think “how many more miles until this is over?”

Choose a trail system with loops. If she is left wanting more at the end of the first short ride you can do another short ride, also on an easy trail. Her confidence will soar when she easily completes an adventure you have planned for her, and she will trust you more when you plan future adventures.

I’ve done a lot of technical canyoneering and it is one of my more challenging and committing activities. Technical adventures like this can be intense, and the first one should be limited to a half day or less. Make sure she’s comfortable rappelling. If you’re not sure about her experience visit an indoor climbing gym together before the outdoor adventure.

Definitely don’t teach her to rappel while doing a technical canyon. What if she hates it? There she is, stuck in a slot canyon with you. Is she going to be able to ascend the rope and get out of this confined and committing place if she doesn’t feel like continuing? It’s not going to be a good day for either of you if the first rappel doesn’t go well.

Canyoneering adventures are especially committing, meaning you are stuck in the canyon until certain steps are taken to complete the adventure safely. Nothing is worse than being trapped in an adventure you’re not enjoying, especially while wearing a cold wetsuit.

The sport of canyoneering can have so many variables there is no way to predict all the things which could create discomfort. It’s best to keep it short and see if she how she responds. She may get cold, dislike exposure or have gear that isn’t comfortable in confining spaces. You will definitely learn a lot by doing canyoneering adventures together. Personally, I think any canyoneering date equals at least five conventional dates!

Also, planning for a half day adventure means you free up time for breaks in the sun, picnics, stolen kisses and other pleasurable moments. You can stretch out the adventure to a full day if it’s going well, or move more quickly if she prefers.

Kayaking together to a beautiful, secluded beach for a picnic lunch would be fun for a lot of people and a great way to introduce her to the sport. Follow the half day rule and make sure the water you choose to paddle is rated easy. The best way to introduce her to kayaking is by renting a large, stable, double sea kayak. Paddle it on a beautiful lake together on a calm day.

Paddling separate boats or paddling on a river instead of a lake could work, but consider the added risk. She could become separated from you. She could fall out of her boat and lose her paddle. Is there a road next to the river to allow retreat if things do not go well? Keep these risks in mind as you plan your trip. Try to plan the safest trip possible and avoid any unnecessary risks.

5548_10200669233087351_1109313891_n8. What if she’s much more than adventure curious? She’s a superhero!
Does she already enjoy her own adventures without you? Great! She sounds like a good candidate for an adventureship. You still need to be cautious and learn her pace and levels of risk tolerance when you plan your first adventures together.

Her expectations will be higher than an adventure curious lady. She has already planned and led her own trips and she will expect you to be prepared, organized and thoughtful about all aspects of the adventure.

She may be hard to please. Pay attention to safety and details when planning an adventure with her and you will gain her respect. A smart approach is to join an activity with her friends and be an observant participant. You will gain valuable insights into her comfort levels and pace.

For your first outing together, encourage her to take an active role in planning. In this case you are not taking a lady on an outdoor adventure. You and she are creating an experience together. A lot of the same points apply, but the length and difficulty of the adventure are more flexible. She may continue to expect you to act as the leader if you are more experienced, and she will still appreciate treats.
Please share this post and help more successful adventureships flourish in 2020!

Want more adventure and romance? Read about my first date with my husband (we went canyoneering)..

11187269_10206829526315579_5847633943282300870_oMountain biking is hard. Really hard. But I always wanted to love it. It looked fun and exciting. Mountain bikers always had great leg muscles. So I went for it. I found a used bike with the help of my friend Matt, and then started getting my butt kicked every time I rode. I panted hard uphill and clenched the brakes in fear on each downhill. Later on these would come to be known as my “false starts”. I’m an unlikely candidate for mountain biking. I was never that good on a bike, even on flat ground.

1275927_10202205540038812_1987344339_oThen, Matt found me a husband who became my mountain biking mentor. My true love for mountain biking began. Brian encouraged me to ride regularly and fed me water and Clif bars along the way. He would call out “good job” as I pedaled hard uphill and my legs would spin faster. He’s a skilled mountain biker who enjoys long rides and bike-packing (backpacking on your mountain bike), so his huge enjoyment of the sport was also inspiring.

11312788_10207133339070708_22818522475874109_oWe traveled all over the west in our van with our mountain bikes riding on a rack on the back. We visited delicious mountain biking destinations like Moab, Sedona and Crested Butte. There’s nothing more inspiring for a new rider than to suddenly be in a place which is cherished by pretty much all mountain bikers.

We did many ten mile rides on varied terrain. My confidence grew and I wanted to try my first long ride, 26 miles on the McKenzie River Trail in Oregon. I found out what a saddle sore was about 15 miles into the ride. We quickly aborted the ride and Brian went to get the Sprinter while I rested my injured parts. The next weekend we tried again (with lots of chamois cream) and we made it! It felt incredible to complete that ride, especially after failing the first time.

11953523_10207794000266825_3665510506410659414_oWe continued riding in Colorado this summer. We rode all the classics around Crested Butte and then did a 35-mile ride on the Monarch Crest Trail! This ride began at 11,300 feet and was simply spectacular. It offered plenty of smooth single track trail through green alpine meadows and nice forest riding as well.

Now I have about 100 rides under my belt, some of them pretty long and hard. I’m stoked to have made such progress! It definitely took a lot of patience and persistence. After two years of biking I can look at my collection of rides and say that I’ve become a mountain biker.

12049549_10207762528690253_1433115202285718913_nIt feels great to have worked up to such long rides, but my skills still need some improvement. I clench my brakes hard when I ride downhill and walk a lot of technical obstacles.

Two of my girlfriends who are great riders suggested a dropper seat post and I’m going to try that when we return from the boat next spring. Hopefully it helps, because I feel too high off the ground when I ride downhill. I love my big 29er bike, but sometimes feel like an awkward 5’11” bird perched on top of a tall seat post. Lowering my center of gravity should help me bounce over rocks more safely and comfortably.

887467_10207827623187377_1105679168592285859_oI ride cautiously, and my philosophy is that this sport doesn’t have to be dangerous. I’ve ridden expert trails all over the west, increasing my skills gradually and walking anything outside my abilities. I’ve gotten tremendous exercise, seen beautiful places, and enjoyed myself a lot.

In closing I’ll share my dirty little mountain biking secret. I’ve never crashed. Not even once. Not even a small, avoid-a-big-crash-by-taking-a-little-crash crash. I’m attentive and lucky. Cautious and quick to dismount when I see a hairy obstacle. But that’s just how I am, and even cautious people like me can learn to love mountain biking!

P1030095 (Large)I like to look nice even though I live in a van. I try to get a haircut and highlights on a regular basis. Sometimes it can be a pain to find a good salon when I’m travelling.

I usually find salons by looking for five star reviews on yelp or google. I thought this would be a foolproof way to get decent results. Not so. I got burned big time by this recently. I don’t want to name the salon on my blog because that’s mean. The stylist tried her best but my hair looked terrible when I left the salon. She styled my hair in a dark corner so I didn’t even see it until I was outside. Later, I called to complain and they had me come in the next morning to get it fixed. The same stylist worked on me and I looked even worse. I didn’t go back a third time.

Have you ever had your hair ruined? Well, how about after spending over $100 on it? Yeah, then it hurts even more.

P1030110 (Large)I am fed up with random salons. My regular stylist in Boise is skilled and does a great job. Other stylists I meet out on the road are a mixed bag. A lot of them seem to not be listening. I always ask for the same thing yet wind up with very different results. The results are great only about half the time. It’s frustrating, to say the least.

I’m not ready to give up. I want bright, beautiful, freshly cut hair. I just do. I’m sure this is some sick result of my societal conditioning regarding women and beauty but it’s hard to set it aside.

I went to my regular stylist in Boise and asked if she would teach Brian how to highlight my hair. Luckily, she said yes! Brian took a short video and my stylist gave him detailed instructions on how to apply foils and carefully brush the thick, white paste on small sections of hair. She also gave us a bit of leftover dye and showed us how to mix it.

P1030120 (Large)Allowing my husband to dye my hair would be a trust building exercise. Brian was enthusiastic about trying. He’s seen how disappointed I have been after some of my salon visits. I was optimistic he could do as good a job as most salons. I promised not to be upset if it didn’t turn out well.

We mixed up some dye in the van one afternoon. Brian brushed it on one thin layer of hair. We waited in suspense for 20 minutes and then washed it. It looked great! Using the right color and applying it sparingly is just as important as a cosmetology degree, apparently.

Then the big day came when Brian would use up the rest of the product to add more highlights to my hair. The test strip had come out well so we felt like we could proceed with the bigger job. He highlighted the top layers of my hair while we sat in the van. We parked in front of the hostel in Crested Butte, Colorado for this task. They had showers there so I could wash my hair afterward.

It was fast, easy and I didn’t need an appointment. My hair turned out great! I am so happy with it. By closely following instructions and using the right product we were able to get great results.

I think we are onto something here! I am excited to forgo salon visits for awhile. Whenever I visit Boise I’ll see my fantastic stylist, but for regular touch-ups the van is my salon!

As I mentioned in a previous post, I developed a breathing problem while visiting Phoenix. My diagnosis was an “acute allergic reaction”. The Urgent Care clinic gave me an inhaler and said I should be back to normal in 24 hours. The inhaler helped but the problem wasn’t totally resolved the next day. I returned to the same clinic to be sure I didn’t have pneumonia or something serious before leaving for Mexico.

They gave me a chest x-ray, no pneumonia. They told me I should have used the inhaler more often, although the instructions said not to. OK…how about if I just start using it more now?

No, they told me I needed to start taking these pills. These horrible pills. They were Prednisone, a powerful steroid. This was my first experience with a steroid and it was certainly memorable! I was prescribed 40 MG per day for five days, then 20 MG per day for five days.

Those pills messed me up. They cleared my breathing completely and immediately but I felt the way I imagine I would if I smoked a bunch of crack. I felt spacey and racy, breathless and sweaty, jittery and nervous with no way to direct my energy. We were flying to Mexico in just a couple hours and I was high as a kite. Should we go? Yes. I have to get out of Phoenix. It’s killing me.

As we traveled, I just followed Brian through all the silly things that must be done when flying, and it went fine. We took a direct flight to Cabo. Yay, Mexico!

A Cabo immigration worker was really mean and made me cry. Those pills were making me crazy. At least they let me through immigration and customs instead of giving a one way ticket to the Mexican loony bin. Brian comforted me. We made it out of the airport and once out in the tropical, humid air I felt calmer.

We were relieved to arrive at the boat and find it in good shape. I was also relieved to see how Brian handled a poor health situation with grace. Now we can officially say we’ve done the “in sickness and in health” thing, and we rocked it. Well, he rocked it anyway. I was kind of a mess.

I was desperate to stop the Prednisone. My body was not adjusting to the drug and I was lucky to get two hours of sleep each night. I called the Urgent Care clinic to see if I could stop after two days. They said yes. Then it took a week for me to feel normal again.

The clinic didn’t mention any side effects, but I did a lot of reading during my sleepless Prednisone nights. It suppresses your immune system. For six months after taking it, you’re supposed to tell your doctor or dentist because you’re more prone to infection. It’s common for it to cause psychotic episodes, too. At least I only cried, but it could have been much worse. This is a horrible substance.

Now I have been off the inhaler and Prednisone for over 48 hours. We’re floating in a bay near La Paz on the boat and I’m feeling pretty good. The only silver lining of my time on Prednisone was creating a piece of art in my cracked out state. Otherwise, it was an experience I hope never to repeat.


About the Author

Hi, I’m Lisa. I’m a tall, blonde superhero and I live in a van and on a sailboat with my superhero husband, Brian. I do it all. I rappel big waterfalls, scuba dive with sharks, dodge encounters with bears and wolves, and work remotely as a full time computer programmer.
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About the Van

Hi, I’m Vanifest. I’m a big, 4x4, off-the-grid van complete with solar panel for power. I'm a 2000 Dodge Ram Van and Lisa has had me since 2009. Read more about me here.


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