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Sunday - September 14, 2003
Since September 11th, I have been contemplating the parallels of my personal loss in Göran's passing and its aftermath, with the tragedy that befell the citizens of New York after September 11, 2001. What a shocking realization that life is not the same anymore, and that lessons remain to be learned while all at the same time trying to cope.
What are those lessons?
There may have been a variety of lessons to be drawn, perhaps one was the most immediate: that life is short, that it can be extinguished at a moment's notice, that we have a finite amount of time on this earth, and that we have a choice over the legacy that we will leave behind.
What is it that drives us in spite of tragedy? Is it that tragedy can also be an inspiration to reach for greater goals, that setbacks in life can offer a window into a new world, to a different plane of existence? Could the Apollo Space Program have succeeded had NASA decided to pull the plug on it after the earlier highly publicized accidents with fatalities? When does one say "I quit" and what keeps us going in other instances? Can we just explain it away with a cliché like "the survival of the human spirit?"
I had a dream of this self-propelled journey around the world by human power evolving since 1997. The dream was the end result of many days spent in a software development lab that happened to have a world map on one of its walls that made the world look smaller, with ensuing daydreams germinating that wild idea. I read a great deal, and bought aviation maps with better resolution, looking for ways across where none existed. I had spent the summer of 2001 visiting Washington DC, talking to consulates about visa and permit requirements for each particular country that I would cross on my way. Potential beneficiary Red Cross and the potential sponsor National Geographic Society had rebuffed me on the same visit. It was the rights of passage for a dreamer to have doors shut in his face, to be told that his dream was somehow not valid for a given audience.
On September 10, 2001, I was in San Francisco to meet with a former manager of mine whom I respected a great deal and whose opinions I valued. We had a wonderful brainstorming dinner together that night. He was by then a successful executive with a passion for flying that was finding expression in the flight lessons that he had been taking. Over food, we even posed the question of how he would have approached a solo circumnavigation of the world by a single engine plane that he would have had to pilot himself. His thought process, his approach in resolving potential challenges and his enthusiasm to participate in that hypothetical question had shown me his sincerity and had allowed me to bask in the glow of "what could yet be." I was full of hope, bursting with energy, wanting to move forward as soon as possible...
By the time I woke up on 9/11/2001, the world had become a different place. As I drove home to Seattle in a rental car after the airlines were grounded, my dreams felt insignificant when juxtaposed with the sorrow of the calamity in New York; like many others, I suspended life that could have been. I put my dream of self propelled journey by human power on hold as a part of me died as well that day; I needed time to heal, and to regroup.
If there is one statement that I have to make, it is that those that hijacked the airplanes then had not hijacked my ideals, or my beliefs, or my desire to make this world a better place. It is very easy to destroy, yet infinitely harder to build. It is very easy to find fault, yet infinitely harder to effect change. It is very easy to be complacent and lazy, yet infinitely harder to carry through on commitments. My dreams needed tending, they needed nurturing to remain alive; hence, it has become yet another statement choosing to go on with life, to end my hiatus with the commitment to move forward...
I intend to walk this earth just the same, extending a hand of friendship, not judging but trying to learn and to understand. In doing so, if I can help others understand as well, perhaps I can then achieve my legacy. Life is a work in progress, I intend to labor at it despite whatever disappointments that come my way. Insh'allah, I will persevere...
See you on the flip side,
Monday - September 15, 2003
OK! Time to fall back into the fold and to give you an update... This hectic city life can make one dizzy ;-)
Today at 06:00 am, I started my second week of rowing workouts. I had taken a two week break from physical activities to rest my tired body before starting to row last week. I am taking it very slowly: the first four to six weeks will be transitional training, followed by all out training until my departure in late winter.
This mindset is not foreign to me and we applied it successfully in February as well. When I had left Seattle, I was nowhere near in as good of shape as the task at hand required of me to tow all that weight on the snowbound highways.
The challenge of pedaling long hours, compared to the few hours of training that I was able to put in on a daily basis before my departure, forced me to hold back on the distances covered per day. I had to pay attention to my injuries, inflammations and sore muscles. In case of any onset of injury, I had to take inventory to understand its cause. I had to make changes to relieve the cause of the injury, which ranged from my foot or body position to the amount of work. Planned rest days were a very common occurrence early on; later in the trip, days spent indoors while winter storms passed overhead doubled as rest days.
Now that I have bicycled 5,546 miles round trip with my 175lb rig from my home to the base of Denali, framing a month of climbing on the mountain, my lower body and my cardiovascular system are in excellent shape. I have lost some musculature elsewhere and a great deal of body fat - I now weigh 20 pounds less as compared to January.
My cardiovascular gains were obvious during the cycle ergometer test that Dr. Robert Schoene carried out on me at the University of Washington's Sports Training Center. My test topped out at about 40% higher by the time my legs had reached exhaustion. At the end of January just before my departure, we had carried out the same test to provide the baseline to compare - my friend Dave Engle now tells me that he was worried about my prospects based on the results of that test. The trip itself had to become the training, the mind had to wrap itself around the challenge, the body had to mold itself to the demands...
While these gains were a wonderful outcome that we had predicted, they also present the fundamental challenge in what I am trying to achieve: a multi-year, multi-sport undertaking that will demand of me differing musculature and different conditioning for each of its phases. Rowing will demand specific muscles to be trained along with specific skills to be learned and relearned each time the boat is launched into the oceans. I will have to pace and to remind myself how to keep the cycling rig upright with its entire load each time upon landfall. Each mountain will be of different nature - Denali tasked us with its long approach and fickle weather, Everest will present additional high altitude considerations, while Carstenz Pyramid will mostly be a wet rock climb. The obvious challenges of time spent away from Nancy, and of being isolated akin to solitary confinement in the boat come with the territory, only to be accepted and not to be questioned, else the undertaking becomes an impossible one to fathom.
So nowadays my transitional training into rowing shape is primarily focusing on proper technique, keeping a close watch on my lower back while my body retunes itself out of the cycling specific posture and conditioning. So far my back is holding up just fine! How I wish that we could secure the ocean rowing boat before too long... I probably will need another four weeks to adjust my rowing from the racing shells to the geometry of the seaworthy vessel. This is similar to the six weeks of conditioning that I had to pace through at the beginning of my journey to Denali from Seattle: I had trained on a lighter bicycle, transitioning to a heavier rig...
I will take some pictures of rowing action soon and let you know via the Yahoo! group when I post them on the web site.
Sunday - December 21, 2003
So much happened over the Fall season, and so many tasks are on our plate, it is hard to focus on any one thing to relay to you, our friends. So I am going to touch on various topics as this update unfolds.
I think the most important piece of information for me to convey is that we have positive news from the IRS about our 501(c)(3) tax exempt status. We were in communication with them to clarify various details of our application, and had been requested to amend our Articles of Incorporation. Now we heard that all they are expecting before issuing us our Exemption Letter is a confirmation from the State of Washington that our Amended Articles of Incorporation are in. We hope that this issue will be wrapped up before the end of December.
I am energized about this last bit of progress as it will provide a new impetus to how we approach potential sponsors, seek grants and pursue collaboration with other charitable organizations. Having the opportunity to share our dream with other organizations will lead to a synergy that may result in a more effective approach to achieving the goals in our mission statement. We have a wonderful team; however, we do not have all the answers, nor do we have all the resources. Input from others will undoubtedly help extend our reach…
The input will especially prove priceless on the educational components of what we are trying to achieve. In the best of outcomes, I would be the instigator in the formation of an "Educational Advisory Board" which would then take over and plot a course on how to navigate the educational system, how to access as many classrooms as possible, how to recruit qualified help, how to raise the necessary funds related to educational projects. We would lay out the lesson plans in partnership with other educators in the field, who would contribute in their areas of specialty. We would collect such input and present it in an organized fashion over a BLOG (short for a web log) over the internet, to educators around the world to apply within their classrooms… This is just one way to approach this big gorilla of a task that I have sitting my lap.
I have contacted friends and educators who have shown interest in what we are trying to do. In our discussions and subsequent exchanges, I have received a positive feedback from them. We are looking for ways to network with individual instructors and to reach them by way of the educational system - for example, via the Office of Public Education in the State of Washington.
Collaborating with other existing educational outlets that have already established a network of classrooms and that have a loyal audience of school children would be a win for us. We will be looking for such partnerships over the next few months.
In my efforts to network, I discovered the Explorers Club the Honorary Chairman of which happens to be Sir Edmund Hillary. I attended the annual dinner gathering of their Pacific Northwest Chapter where the members showed a wonderful interest in what I was trying to do. It is my desire to spend more time with their membership, and to get smarter by way of symbiosis - like, you know, learn by rubbing shoulders with people smarter than me ;-)
I have assembled a presentation from over 1,600 digital images that I had captured. Since I was using a digital camera, I could judge the images immediately after I took them, and with that kind of immediate feedback, I had improved my skills with the camera. These images were the ones that I had liked and had kept. So you can imagine my chagrin in trying to sort and select among so many images that I liked.
A great deal of my presentation now consists of the journey to the mountain and back where I met the most people, and enjoyed the friendship of strangers that did not remain so for long. This is not to minimize what the team accomplished in reaching the summit of Denali, and yet here was a huge approach to the mountain. It was the journey that counted and not the summit by itself.
I will be presenting the same at the upcoming Seattle International Bicycle Expo in March, and at the Vertical World climbing gym locations among others. I am working on a series of presentations which will include select Boy Scout troops and schools. I am hoping that I can find other venues to reach a wider audience and that will happen over time.
My friend Jeremy Cranford who was also on Denali has been working on a logo for Around-n-Over that will be useful to create marketable merchandise to raise funds. Obvious ones are t-shirts, mouse pads, patches, pens, pins, mugs, coffee cups among others. We will probably start with t-shirts such that we can provide them in exchange for donations as well.
We are in contact with a producer for a promotional DVD, and for a 40-50 minute video of what Around-n-Over is, which will be phenomenal in our efforts to present our project and the educational mission. I will announce the developments as they unfold.
The rest of my time has been dedicated to rowing training. Emil Kossev, a coach of national caliber, has taken
me on as a "special project." Emil currently coaches the Pocock Elite Rowing team, one that consists of
dedicated rowers who will represent the Pacific Northwest in national and international competitions, including
the Olympics. I am fortunate to have Emil's wisdom and his wealth of knowledge to prepare me for the oceans.
Just like we had done with my bicycling performance, we had a baseline ergometer test on a rowing machine on October 30th. The test took place again at the University of Washington Sports Training Center where Emil asked me to follow a predetermined stress test. We gathered valuable data under the supervision of Dr. Brownie Schoene which concluded that my rowing conditioning is better than when I started biking on Feb 1, but not as good as when I returned on Aug 24. This was a result we expected since much of my gain in the cycling performance had to do with better technique and muscular coordination to spin the pedals. My gain in performance had been higher than my measured gain in cardiovascular capacity. We fully expect a similar outcome in performance as my rowing technique improves and my muscles adjust to the different workload. We will eventually repeat the same stress test to compare our results, quantitatively measuring the effectiveness of my training.
Emil wants me to be rowing up to 100 km per week before too long. He is right to suggest that my body will not be stimulated otherwise to adapt. I am currently at about 30-40 km per week. I will make up the difference at first by logging more hours on the water to train; later as I improve my technique, I expect an increase in the distance that I cover in the same amount of time. It is interesting to note that when I row, I am not stressed in the legs at all. They remain my strongest and most fit asset after all the cycling. My upper body and my lower back are holding their own. I am suffering the most in my palms that get blistered often and in my forearms that get pumped quickly, especially in choppy water when rowing is not as steady and controlled.
I have had to learn to relax my grip on the oars just enough such that the oars find their natural alignment in the oar locks. If the alignment is off and the oars enter the water at an angle, they dive upsetting my balance on the slender boat. Early on I had to test every stroke as my oars made contact with the water before I applied force. Many times I had to stop mid-stroke to avoid capsizing. I am better now and I have learned a few easy tricks to stay steady.
Just imagine sitting on a boat that is as wide as your hips, such that when you look down on either side of you, there is water. Now picture this boat to be about 21 feet long, and the water only 6 inches below the seat. It requires the makings of a calm mind when the water is choppy in the wind…
When the water is calm as in a bathtub, when the only noise around me is the splashing of my oars in and out of the water, and when geese do a fly by over the water at eye level, it all feels right. When the sun rises with a fiery glow over the water, or when I catch the glimpse of a salmon jumping out of the water out of the corner of my eye, or when a seagull comes down as though it would land on my hull then obviously has second thoughts, I feel one with the surroundings and want to gain that effortless efficiency in my skills. That will take time, and when it does, I will be able to shift my focus more to what is going on around me. Such was the progression in all other sports that I have done, including wrestling, judo, running, and climbing.
I want to take this opportunity to wish everyone a wonderful holiday season. I hope that 2004 will be a memorable one for all of us spent in the company of friends, in great health and with joy.
I hope to provide updates more regularly going forward. Please stay tuned,
Sunday - January 11, 2004
I picked up our mail yesterday to find our exemption letter from the US Internal Revenue Service.
The letter says that Around-n-Over is now officially
"...exempt from federal income tax under section 501(a) of the Internal Revenue Code as an organization described in section 501(c)(3)."
The letter also states that grantors and contributors may rely on this determination by IRS that Around-n-Over is not a private foundation... This status is valid effective January 27, 2003, and it will add new momentum to our endevors going forward.
This is great news to share, and we are excited in Seattle. It was long in coming: we signed our application on April 9, 2003 and the approval was issued on January 6, 2004. We are glad that it is now done as there is a great deal yet to do.
Thursday - January 15, 2004
OK - I have to work on my presentation to improve it! Yesterday, I saw a fantastic presentation that Willie Weir gave at the Flagship REI store in Seattle where I work. He talked about his trip bicycling together with his wife through Turkey. His main theme was the "bad road" that everyone told him not to take. See his web site for more...
It went like this: Just before they were leaving for Turkey, the war in Iraq broke out. Everyone told them, "this is bad, don't go!" They left anyway. When in Turkey, talking to locals who only knew two words in English: good and bad, pointing at the roadmap, they got the nod and "good" when they pointed at the main highway busy with trucks and heavy traffic. When they pointed at the alternate road through the backcountry, the response was "BAD!" They tried the busy road which they did not enjoy, then decided to go back and tried their chances on the bad road. They met locals, they slept in villages, saw nature, did not come across any traffic to mention, and had a better time.
Much of what he presented and how he related to the experience resonated within me as I had taken the "bad" road despite the reservations others had expressed. I had traveled the Alaska Highway in winter up through Canada into Alaska, and on the way back had decided to take the Cassiar Highway south. I was told initially that winter was bad, then was warned strongly against the Cassiar Highway on the way back. Now I am convinced that the experience in both proved to be worthy of the effort, and that I would be willing to take a side road again to find that hidden gem around the corner.
Such is life on the road and one has to take any advice in context, and consider the source carefully. Advice given by those who are reliable, and who have actually seen or done what one is attempting weighs infinitely more. My experience during the time leading up to the journey and on the road was that people projected their own worries and their own fears on me. When I heard advice saying, "don't do that," it actually meant that they would not do it. When I was asked if I was afraid, it was because that individual was fearful of the same. It did not mean that I was not ready to take on the challenge, nor that I had shirked on my homework.
Is it any different in real life? Defining a challenge, accepting its demands, and living up to its magnitude provide the only guideline when one is committed to see that challenge through. There are no shortcuts, there is toil, and there is reward in the end when one is willing to put in the work that is required.
Nancy and I have to keep that in mind as I prepare for the rest of the journey. We are selling our condo in Seattle and moving into more affordable housing at the cost of some commuting so that we can acquire the boat. I would want Nancy to be able to meet me around the world as I progress; keeping her close to my heart and looking forward to the next landing where I would see her would give me that extra bit of incentive to keep going. We will be better prepared to do just that when our expenses at home are lower with commitments that are simpler and more manageable. This is another step in the right direction for us to live up to the challenge in front of us.
We started collaborating with a wonderful producer who is preparing a promotional DVD for us. There is thought of a feature length piece on the journey so far. I am working on a book. We have a design for a t-shirt that we will send to all of our supporters so far, and will present as a token of gratitude for future donations. We are gathering with a core group of educators with whom we will explore how to approach the educational components of our mission, and to better define the mission on that front. There is a great deal to accomplish beyond the physical challenge of my preparation and departure - the latter will be the easy part given my experience on the journey to Alaska.
More updates later.
Busy in Seattle,
Sunday - April 4, 2004
I have been incommunicado for a while and perhaps you are wondering. I hope to write an update
with a bit more details soon. In the meantime, let me give you bullets on the progress that we
I will leave you with these tid bits, hoping to return with more detailed news soon.
- The latest is that I will leave Seattle for Florida in early September. The timing is to
coincide with the starting of schools such that we can keep the students engaged.
- Expect a brand new face to the Around-n-Over web site very soon, I revamped the whole thing,
making is easier to navigate. I am working on the content, adding pictures as well. I will ping
you when it is deployed. This effort just about killed me with the sequential all nighters that
I pulled through the last week! Reminded me of finals weeks back in grad school ;-)
- I made two school visits in Seattle and in Kent during which I shared the dream and the
journey so far with school children ranging from Kindergarten to sixth grade. Working on more
schools, and networking with instructors.
- we have attended the Outdoor Retailer Winter Expo in Salt Lake City, meeting many potential
- we participated in the Seattle Bicycle Expo with a booth for Around- n-Over and I presented
three slide shows as a Feature Speaker.
- we are almost done with a promotional DVD that we will make available to potential sponsors
and to our fans.
- I just met an online training specialist and she may be participating in our educational
- I am contacting universities to seek their partnership, specifically the education and
oceanography related departments. I will also seek IT departments for showcasing virtual
- King5 Evening Magazine television show will feature Around-n-Over in May.
- Our team is growing in expertise and competence with new additions of talent to team. This
is true in the public relations and marketing realm, so we are hopeful for results in due time.
- I am close to bringing an ocean rowing boat to Seattle soon, more on that when everything is
firm. To wet your appetite, please see:
Ocean Regatta Web Site with rowing boats crossing the Atlantic as we speak. There are
pictures to give you a flavor for the types of boats, and of people involved in this obscure sport.
- Nancy and I sold our condo, and moved into a cheaper rental unit in order to afford the boat.
We are moving right along, hoping that sponsors will join in on the journey eventually.
Tuesday - April 13, 2004
I just registered Around-n-Over to a community of online vendors managed by iGive.com. You
can see your options at: iGive.com site.
The mission of iGive.com is: "To enable the economic power of individuals to benefit their
chosen communities." In short, they give you the option to channel some of your online
purchasing dollars to the cause of your choice. Since we are a 501(c)(3) organization, you
will still get recognition toward a tax deduction, if you so desire, once all the transactions
The participating vendors numbering over 500 include names like: REI, REI Outlet, Lands' End,
Barnes & Noble, L.L.Bean, Gap, Expedia, Eddie Bauer, JCPenney, Office Depot, Staples, J.Crew,
Dell, IBM, eBay, Spiegel, Drugstore.com, Orvis, HSN, Hallmark, Best Buy to mention a few.
For example, if you go to iGive.com, and renew your New York Times or Wall Street Journal
subscription through the link on their page, we would get part of the subscription amount at
no extra cost to you. The cost to you would be the same as if you were registering directly
at the NYT or WSJ site itself.
Also, if you were to tell your friends by sending online referrals from iGive.com, we would
get $1 per friend that joins. Once you join iGive.com, under "My Cause" tab you will see
various options including the link to tell your friends.
I hope this will give you a wonderful tool to support your favorite cause. You can always
choose another organization on your profile, or choose to receive a rebate check without a
donation, but I am biased, so leave it set to Around-n-Over. ;-)
Happy shopping, and best to you,
Monday - April 26, 2004
Well, it had to happen sometime in my training, there is a first time for anything: I went overboard today when I
tipped the rowing shell! The dive was actually very refreshing after rowing for an hour under unusually clear
sunny skies in Seattle. There was a bit of a wind and a surface chop on the water. I had to be careful with the
boat traffic around me, avoiding their wake as well. Those of you who have followed my journey back from Alaska
remember my complaining about the RV's with which I had to share the road. Well, the power boaters are just as
clueless about their surroundings and their wake that is a menace to low clearance boats such as a rowing shell.
Once I cleared the high traffic zone at the north end of Lake Union, I was a bit less threatened by the traffic, and
could turn inward. The sun was brilliant, the breeze cool on my back. Even though I did not have perfect rowing
conditions, I felt one with the water, taking the chop as part of the experience, making progress on my scheduled
50 minute row.
I was minding my own business, daydreaming about what else remained to do in the day after the rowing session when my
left oar caught one of the waves in the water. It was as if the blade of the oar was held by an invisible hand in the
water not letting go. The oar started pulling in as the boat's momentum kept it going, and the oar handle started
pressing against my chest; it was pushing me over to my left. The slender boat started tilting and just at the same
moment another chop snuck up from my right conspiring to knock the boat over. Before I knew it, I was in the cool
drink. The rowing shell with the rower is a top heavy inverted pendulum which would not remain in balance for long
were it not for the buoyancy of the oars... Losing the balancing action of one of the oars as it folded next to my
shell did not help the matters.
After I tried once to remount the shell and failed, I started swimming toward the shore of Lake Union. Fortunately
there are many small launch platforms along the banks of Lake Union, tucked away between the houseboats. I was
swimming breaststroke with one of the oars under my chest between my arms. That pulled the boat along with me
to the nearest launch.
There were people sun tanning that curiously looked on as I swam toward them. One lady called out from one of the
houseboats asking me if she should call for help if I was OK. I smiled and told her: "no, I will be fine, but this
water better be clean!" She laughed as she watered her plants next to her kayak tied in front of her houseboat.
It was amusing to pull out of the water with the help of the two ladies that were suntanning as we noted the "No
swimming!" sign on the launch.
Once I emptied the water out of the rowing shell, I sat back in my sliding seat. The launch was a bit too high for
a rowing shell that required help. The ladies obliged by pushing the boat away from the launch by the
end of my left oar, the culprit of my demise moments earlier. They had seen me go over and I had offered them some
entertainment in the middle of a dull suntanning session. They waved as I pulled away and I responded "thank you!"
- I dared not wave back since letting go of an oar would result in another quick dive!
So I had my excitement for the day!
Tomorrow, I am heading to Spokane for three packed days for a series of presentations at the Rogers High School. In
the evenings, I will be working with friends in that community to see how else we can bring the story to the other
schools. A week from tomorrow, I will be in Cle Elum just east of Seattle for another busy day of presentations at
their high school. These are great opportunities for Around-n-Over to engage the communities around Seattle.
I expect our reach will expand further over time, with nationwide and international following...
I will write about the trip to "the east side" next week. In the meantime, go swim in a lake ;-)
Saturday - May 8, 2004
If you live in the Seattle area, or in the states of Washington, Oregon and western Idaho, please keep an eye on the
King5's Evening Magazine program. This Monday the 10th at 7:00 pm, Evening Magazine will have a story on
Around-n-Over and my journey up to Denali in 2003. The same story should be rebroadcast in the Northwest Backroads
program as a later date. I do not have the schedule for that.
My hope is to obtain a licensed copy of the story to include in our promotional DVD which is in the works as we
speak. If possible, I will also try to provide the same as streaming media under our media coverage page. I will
ping you when that happens so all the rest of of you can see the same program.
Thursday - May 27, 2004
I am blessed. I am coming across the neatest people and those around me are putting their names on great
achievements. I can only be inspired. If anyone tells me something is difficult, I smile and think of these
people that are showing me what is possible with commitment, dedication and a love for their chosen path.
For example, Conal
Groom of Seattle’s Pocock Rowing Center
(PRC) won the third and decisive final of the men’s single sculls at the U.S. Olympic Rowing Trials Sunday
morning on Lake Mercer near Princeton, N.J. Both winners of the men’s and women’s single sculls at the U.S.
Olympic Rowing Trials are from the PRC, my club in Seattle.
Just the day before that on Saturday, Jennifer Devine, also of PRC, swept her best-of-three women’s single finals
to earn a trip to Lucerne and a chance to represent the United States at the Olympic Games. Devine had finished
ninth in the women’s double sculls at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games and finished seventh as the U.S. women’s
single sculler at the 2001 World Championships.
And just to think that I train at the same club as these rowers! Let's hope that their skills and dedication will rub on me a
little bit over time...
The Canadians Colin Angus and Tim Harvey will be taking on a journey that approximates the previous version of
my plans before I changed it to include the summits. They will go from Vancouver to Moscow by
human power, a grand plan indeed. They have figured out the details that had stumped me, so I will be watching
them with great interest as they make progress - their web site is Vancouver to Moscow. I have been in touch with Tim and we have already exchanged some of our
tall tales. IF the Swedish Consulate returns my passport on time, I am going to join them in Vancouver for their
send off on June 1.
Another intrepid traveler passed through Seattle last week. His name is Alastair Humphreys. He will be going all over the
world without the use of planes - he allows for sailing or a ship across the oceans and on land he is cycling. He
has been to Europe, Africa, South America and is heading to Alaska now. From there, he will aim for Asia before he
returns to his homeland England again. His perspective on traveling through countries that were challenging to
state it mildly, gives me hope that I too can press on as long as I keep a cool head above my shoulders.
I will take off for Sweden on June 10 to meet Niclas Mårdfelt who has already crossed the Atlantic with his
partner Rune. While there, I will learn the tricks of the trade from Niclas to survive the oceans. The same
ocean rowing boat on the right that they used in their Atlantic crossing will become my home in the following years.
We will ship the boat to US where we will be rendering it seaworthy once more. More on that soon.
Wednesday - June 2, 2004
I drove up to Vancouver yesterday morning. I wanted to be present when Tim Harvey and Colin Angus started their
journey to reach Moscow by May 2005.
It was a wonderful experience to share the joy and the excitement of the moment with them. Tim had called me
earlier to gather information on the approach to Alaska over land. He had found out about my ride there and back
by bicycle, the method that they would use also. We exchanged a few emails after that and I felt a wonderful
attraction to their dream.
The attraction was not accidental. My plans before Göran's accident followed a very similar path across the Bering
Straits. I was exploring the ways to traverse that part of the world in a westbound direction. The difference was
in the destination: I wanted to go through the Stans: Kazakhistan, Kyrgystan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan into Iran
and Turkey. I would then continue all the way to Portugal before committing to a crossing of the Atlantic to return
to the US.
As you know, I now have a different plan due to the tribute to Göran that introduced climbing of the highest summits
on six different continents. My plans now consist of continuous ocean rowing episodes between bike
rides to the summits upon landfall.
There is something very close to my heart about the journey that Colin and Tim are undertaking. They are realizing
a dream that I had for the longest time, bringing it to life before our very eyes. They are inspiring me!
We are living in an age when we have all grown lazy with the conveniences that surround us. Most believe that all
that has to be discovered on this world has been, and that it is foolhardy to take on these great distances by human
power only. They may dismissingly ask: "Why even try when nothing remains to be discovered?" I would like to argue
that there is that one domain yet to be conquered if I may use that word finally: the bastion of the impossible.
It is the impossible that some will see, and they will use the obvious challenges that await Tim and Colin to
predict failure. In this age of conveniences and fast cars, they will feel smarter for not taking on such a
physical endeavor, and hope to feel even more brilliant if Tim and Colin do not finish the journey somehow. They
will focus on the great distances, the cold waves and the battering snow storms to hedge their bets. Else, they
will nit pick the expedition trying to find any compromise that Tim and Colin may have to make to remain safe and
alive, and blow that out of proportion to negate the whole 12,000 mile, 12 month journey. And all the same while,
the team will press on ever westward to live their dreams.
Tim and Colin will hold on to that core strength and the belief that "yes, it is possible." They will chip away at
that bastion much like Göran did, and as I will continue to in due time. Someone once said: "Difficult we will do
immediately, impossible will take longer!" I truly believe in that. When one starts a journey fully convinced that
they can succeed, they will find ways to deal with the occasional set backs and the inevitable challenges. However,
a journey started half heartedly and without commitment will find the same challenges as excuses to stop and to
return to safe harbors.
I believe that Tim and Colin have what it takes to succeed. I will follow them with great interest, and support
them in any way that I can. I hope that you will do the same.
Inspired in Seattle,
Monday - June 28, 2004
Greetings from Sweden. It has been a busy stay so far visiting with friends, learning about ocean rowing,
contacting potential sponsors and worrying about when we could get the boat into the shop. I am in Uppsala now
staying with Niclas Mårdfelt who owns the
boat. Together we are pursuing media, sponsors and resources in Sweden.
I arrived at Sweden on June 11th, and Niclas picked me up. He had already towed the boat next to his apartment
where I got to touch it for the first time. The boat was bigger than I had imagined and looked in reasonably good
shape. There is damage along its keel sustained during transport that will need to be fixed.
The boat dimensions are 7.22m (23'8") in overall length, 1.98m (6'6") in width including the oarlocks, and 220kg
(486lbs) empty weight. The boat has solar panels to charge the batteries which then power all of the instrumentation
on board, the desalination unit to make fresh water from the sea and, of course, the MP3 player!
The boat was built near Stockholm for the Atlantic crossing that Niclas and his partner Rune completed in 2001.
Professional boat builders in co-operation with West System Epoxy’s development team were involved in its
construction. The main material used was precut marine plywood that was stitched and epoxied together. People
involved in the project had experience from 5 Whitbread’s and 2 Americas Cup-teams. Instead of paint, the boat is
covered with UV-resistant tape, saving more than 28 kg of weight. This costly tape may now have to be replaced
regardless in order to match my thoughts on the color scheme of the boat. The blue and white colors currently on
the boat may not be visible in the braking waves in case of a rescue, for example.
West System Epoxy will help in fixing the damage to the keel, yet their workshop has been occupied by another boat
that is taking longer than expected to complete. We are next in line for them to work on our boat. My return date
to Seattle is fast approaching and I would have liked to see the boat fixed and in the water before I leave. Oh
well... Maybe we can change the return flight, but highly unlikely since I had used frequent flier miles to get
here which further limits my options in the middle of the tourist season.
After I started adjusting to the local time overcoming jetlag, Niclas and I spent time talking about the intricacies
of life on board the ocean rowing boat. Food, living routine, rowing patterns, cooking on board were just some of
the topics that we covered. When Niclas was busy with his own work, I spent time reading.
I have read two books on ocean rowing by now while in Sweden. One is called "Daring the Sea" by David W. Shaw which
talks about George Harbo and Frank Samuelsen, two immigrants to US from Norway who rowed from New York to Scilly
Islands in 56 days in 1896. Certainly a remarkable achievement in an open boat, a performance ahead of its time
that was not repeated for decades to follow. The other book was "The Naked Rower" by Rob Hamill about their two
person team from New Zealand which placed first in the first annual Atlantic Rowing Regatta, crossing from the
Canary Islands to Barbados in 1997. In addition, I finally finished the classic called "Kon-Tiki" by Thor Heyerdahl
about their 4,300 nautical mile balsa raft trip from Peru to near Tahiti back in 1947. This trip was to prove the
point that the Polynesian Islands of the Pacific were populated by those arriving from the east whose leader was
Kon-Tiki - such were the legends on the islands.
Mid-Summer celebrations were taking place in Sweden on Friday. We were at a small seaside town called Kvarsebo with
summer homes all the residents of which gathered at the local soccer field. There were fun family activities to be
had, one of which was axe tossing. I got to throw the axe four times and only once was I able to even hit the
target log. All the other throws went astray, sailing over the target. Too much muscle, I guess, where some
finess would have worked better... Niclas was cheering me on, and Göran's father Gerard Kropp was coacking me.
The celebrations were progressing at a slow pace while we waited for the Mid-Summer Pole to be raised. This is a
pole with a cross beam on it, and two rings at either end of the beam. The pole and the beam were all decorated
with flowers as were all the women with their headbands made of fresh wild flowers. I am told that it is an ancient
custom for little girls to dance around the pole after it is up. As we were joking that we should just raise the
pole ourselves so that we could leave to have our late lunch, there was an announcement in Swedish. Niclas got
all excited, telling me to grab the pole. I first thought he was joking, then realized that the announcement had
asked for help to raise the pole. Before too long, Gerard, Niclas and I had raised the pole with the help of a
few others including a little boy who was touching the pole the whole time at about his height. We then walked
away to have our lunch, laughing about the serendipity of it all!
We spent Saturday and Sunday kayaking in the beautiful Swedish archipelago. We were five, including Gerard when we
camped on an island, one of the hundreds that dotted that part of the Baltic Sea. We came across swans and herons
on a regular basis as we kayaked around these islands. Each one was a granite formation that had been scrubbed and
polished clean during the Ice Age. Now there were tiny forests of spruce, juniper and pine on them. Taking a
midnight walk under the glowing sky was great fun, knowing that sunrise would happen in another hour. These were
the islands and routes that Gerard had kayaked with Göran in 2002, just a month before Göran's accident in Vantage.
It was special to cover the same ground with Gerard.
We will remain busy this week before I leave Sweden unless we change the return ticket to extend my stay. I hope to
write about our progress when I arrive at Seattle...
Wednesday - August 4, 2004
The challenge continues. I will not be receiving the boat from Sweden. Due to a series of constraints in
timelines, through no fault of Niclas's or of ours, I am now looking for a different boat. Niclas Mårdfelt will still plan to join me in US to participate
in the preparations. He will be with me before my departure from Florida on that different ocean rowing boat. I
am happy to have his continuing help and enthusiasm in my project.
Since my return from Sweden, I have focused on the search for sponsors. We now have a significant budget spread through 2011 including documentary production costs. About twice as that of amount required for the expedition will be dedicated to
delivering on the educational mission. The documentary production is part of the latter. As for the charitable goal,
we will need to visit Nepal first to assess the needs of the Göran Kropp Bishwa Darshan Primary School. This visit
will have to be by an Around-n-Over affiliate or a board member. We will need to budget for this "requirements
gathering" visit first, then come up with a plan to address the needs of that school.
The other focus area in our efforts is finding a way to create the lesson plans on an ongoing basis. This is
critical in putting the story into schools and adding learning value to the journey beyond the usual: "oh look, how
cool" effect that gets the attention of the students. That brief teachable moment has to be backed up with the
relevant standards-based lesson plans to make learning more effective and more fun.
We are looking for educators and educational institutions that will participate in such an effort. There are a few
- Our preferred solution: A qualified graduate research assistant in a department of education takes
on this challenge as a thesis. Partnership with the parent university leads to more than one GRA over the next six
years to participate in this on-going project. GRA's get their degrees, university gets visibility, students get
their lesson plans, we are relieved -- everybody wins.
- Instructors can take our story and apply it to their existing lesson plans, then share these with us.
We can make the same available on our web site to be used freely around the world. This would require the recruitment
of many instructors who would fill in the gaps in the multidisciplinary K-12 curriculum that we are planning.
- We could wait to generate funding from sponsors and/or grants to hire professional help to develop
these lesson plans.
- We could simply do the journey, tell the story and hope that the instructors can relay the experience.
This is the least desirable option as instructors already have their hands full to cover their required materials.
Our offering cannot displace what they already have to cover, hence our desire to have a "standards based" curriculum.
This would mean that teachers could grab one of our lesson plans and use it to teach a topic that is already on their
list of requirements. We would not compete with their requirements, we would provide a different tool for them to
reach the same end goal.
We need your help in realizing the educational plan primarily, and in fundraising next. If you have any suggestions,
contact information, access to resources or simply know a network of instructors who would want to introduce their
students to what we are doing, please let us know. For ideas on how to help, please see our supporters page. You can also e-mail
us and we will follow up.
I will leave you with a quote from Oprah:
"I've come to believe that each of us has a personal calling that's as unique as a fingerprint -- and that the
best way to succeed is to discover what you love and then find a way to offer it to others in the form of service,
working hard, and also allowing the energy of the universe to lead you. The key to realizing a dream is to focus
not on success but significance -- and then even the small steps and little victories along your path will take
on greater meaning."
Best to you,
Wednesday - August 25, 2004
I have good news. I have located another boat which is now on dock in Newark (UK) ready for shipment. It will
be placed in a container on the trailer that brought it there, and will sail to Montreal on Aug 28. From there
a train will take the container to Seattle scheduled to arrive on Sept 25.
I will delay my departure for Florida to receive the boat here from US Customs, and to secure it in a covered
storage space. I think Sept 29 for my departure from Seattle on the bicycle is realistic.
It is not decided yet whether any work will be done on the boat while I am away. December, January and February
will be the months during which I will be back in Seattle to tend to the boat soonest and to take it out on the
waters of the Pacific North West. I will spend time on it both to use it as a training platform and to figure out
the living routine on the water. The same period will be essential to deal with logistical issues awaiting me on
the rowing phase to follow.
The boat that we are buying was one of two that I had located in UK as viable candidates for purchase. The Ocean Rowing Society helped me in arranging their
inspection by Richard Wood, one of the earlier ocean rowers who had built one of these boats himself.
Based on his advice, I committed to buying Calderdale - the Yorkshire Challenger. It is 7.1 metres (23’4”)
in length, has a beam of 1.9 metres (6’3”) and is built out of marine plywood reinforced with fiberglass and
epoxy. It has two 12 volt batteries recharged by solar panels and a desalination unit is powered by the
batteries to generate drinking water from the sea.
The Calderdale boat was previously used by Sarah and Sally Kettle, a British mother-daughter team, in crossing
the Atlantic from La Gomera in Canary Islands to Barbados in the Caribbean. Sarah was a grandmother when they achieved this goal between Jan
20-May 5, 2004, taking 106 days to row 3,325 miles. In meeting this challenge, they also set a couple records:
Their project was named the Epic Challenge for Epilepsy. The Kettles used the crossing as a way to support The Fund for Epilepsy (RCN 1015822)
organized by a team of volunteers led by Malcolm and Jane Sykes. The Sykes had a son named Charles with
epilepsy which inspired the setting up of the charity in 1992. Charles died at Christmas 1996, aged 28,
shortly after gaining a BSc.
- The first mother and daughter crew ever to row an ocean
- The first all woman British pair to row an ocean