One of the most touching stories to come out of the Moab 240 this year was about the two runners who tied for 2nd place: Serbian professional runner Jovica Spajic (who we interviewed in our podcast about the event), and the winner of the 2018 Bigfoot 200, Wes Ritner (who wrote a previous post about that win for this blog).
It's not too much of a spoiler to say that the two ran the vast majority of the race together. In a race this long, that meant two top competitors running together in virtual lockstep for more than 2 days straight!
Wes was kind enough to share his personal account of the remarkable experience with us here.
Unless otherwise credited, all photos courtesy of Scott Rokis. He's one of the best outdoor and race photographers around, and we'd encourage you to check out his work.
It was the afternoon before the race, and I’d just finished the check-in process. I’d retrieved my drop bags from my car, and was carrying them to the designated area. That’s when I saw Jovica. He was up a small slope from me, standing where all 150 of the runners would soon gather to hear the pre-race briefing.
Jovica and I were too far apart for me to say anything. I could have shouted, but it seemed like that would have been obnoxious since we didn’t know each other very well. Instead, I waved. He waved back. His face was unmoved. Stoic.
I wasn’t sure how to read his lack of an expression. We’d been the first and second place competitors for the first 140 miles of last year’s Tahoe 200 race, so I thought that maybe he viewed me as an opponent rather than as a friend. I wanted to respect his feelings even if I didn’t understand them, so I decided I should just give him his space.
I finished the short walk to the drop bag area without another glance up.
I didn’t see Jovica again until we found ourselves standing side by side near the starting line the next morning in the gradually increasing light of the rising sun. Still trying to respect his space, I remained silent. We stood there for several long moments before he broke the ice by saying hi. We exchanged well-wishes for the coming race, then the horn blew and the race began.
Start to Breaking Bad. 57.3 miles. Mile 0 to 57.3
A few of us broke out ahead from the start, running just a little faster than was necessary for a race this long. I knew we’d be passing through a corner of Moab before turning onto a winding, single-track trail which included a steep, technical ascent to the top of a high mesa. What I didn’t want was to be caught in the midst of a large pack of runners as we moved along that single-track trail. It was better to expend a little extra energy now to get ahead of the pack rather than wasting energy trying to move through the mass of runners later when we’d all be limited by the confines of a narrow trail. Jovica must have had similar thoughts, because he was up with the lead group a few paces in front of me.
Once atop the mesa, the trail went through a valley before crossing several miles of slickrock. Jovica, Colin Marz and I ran together across the slickrock, chatting idly and working together to navigate through a couple sections where the route was unclear. At the Amasa aid station, mile 18, I had to transfer some fruit squeeze packs from my drop bag to my hydration pack, so Jovica made it through the aid station faster than I did. But I was less than a mile outside the aid station when I found myself again running with him.
At this point, on the trail to Hurrah Pass aid station, Piotr Hercog of Poland was in the lead. Jovica, Colin and I were running together in a collective second through fourth place. Ryan Wagner rounded out the top five, and was trailing close on our heels. Hurrah Pass was an eight-minute stop for me, and then I was on my way just a couple minutes behind Jovica. I caught up to him, and we ran the next, relatively flat 25-mile section at a reasonable, steady pace. Colin Marz dropped back sometime during that section, but there were a number of other runners not far behind us. The only time we deviated from our steady pace was after we were passed by Eric Deshaies, of Canada. We made a brief effort to not let him get too far ahead of us, but a couple miles later we chastised ourselves for being sucked into altering our pace. A small lead in the early part of a race as long as Moab was meaningless. There was a silent agreement that we wouldn’t make that mistake again.
It was at the Breaking Bad aid station, mile 57, that Jovica vomited for the first time. It would happen to him about five more times before the day was over. Every time, without fail, he’d pause momentarily after vomiting, then he’d walk forty or fifty meters, and then he’d start running again. There was no stopping him.
Our shared running patterns formed during these early miles of the race. Unless the trail was wide, one of us would be in the lead, and the other would follow close behind. If the lead runner started to slow down, the runner in back would pass and re-establish the pace. If one of us had to stop to adjust something in his pack, the other would sometimes stop alongside the first, but more often would just slow to a walk until the other caught up. None of this was ever spoken about or part of a plan. These patterns just developed organically.
Breaking Bad to Shay Mountain. 63.7 miles. Mile 57.3 to 121.0
Jovica is an experienced, successful runner from Serbia who has run some of the world’s toughest races. When he’s not out on the trails, he’s part of an elite Serbian counterterrorism force based out of Belgrade. Though technically a police force, his unit is closer to a military organization. I graduated from West Point and then served as an officer in various tank battalions for an additional seven years before leaving the Army and shifting to a career in manufacturing and distribution management. I have to believe this common military touchpoint shaped the discipline which seemed to be the root of our similar approaches to racing.
We hit the Hamburger Rock aid station, mile 74, at 10 PM. I had only one crew member, Annie, and Hamburger Rock was the first stop where I would see her. She was ready with a chair and a blanket set out for me. A hydration pack lay nearby, already loaded with fluids, fruit squeeze packs and everything else that I would need for the coming miles. I drank orange juice and ate some potato soup Annie had prepared for me. In races as long as Moab, my stomach tends to react better to bland food, so I had actually done a taste test of potato soups earlier in the year. The purpose of the test was to find the blandest potato soup available. And the winner? Well, if you’re looking for some utterly tasteless soup to serve to people you don’t like, I give Walmart’s Great Value cream of potato condensed soup a very high recommendation.
Eric Deshaies arrived at Hamburger Rock at about the same time as Jovica and I did, but Eric got back on the trail quickly, whereas we took our time. Ryan Wagner and Sean Nakamura arrived after us, but they departed before us as well. We passed Sean relatively quickly after leaving Hamburger Rock, but Ryan and Eric stayed ahead of us for a while.
By the time we hit the Island aid station at mile 87, Jovica’s stomach had settled, and it had been several hours since he’d last thrown up. We sat down in a pair of camping chairs to refuel and rest. After a few cups of Coke, I decided to try some of the aid station’s soup. Unfortunately, a couple swallows of the salty broth pushed my stomach over the edge, and it was my turn to vomit. Regardless, we were moving again within ten minutes of arriving at the aid station. I decided to back off the salt for a while. I stopped taking salt tablets, and, at the next aid station, I even switched to filling my pack with water instead of the electrolyte beverages I’d been filling it with all day. This worked for me, and I didn’t have any real stomach issues for the rest of the race.
The first night was easy to get through without falling victim to sleepiness. My body was used to this level of sleep deprivation from the 100-mile and 200-mile races that I’d run in the preceding years, and I no longer even felt the urge to sleep during the first night of a race. We passed Eric just before Bridger Jack aid station, about 27 miles after he’d passed us. Regardless, all of us—Ryan, Sean, Eric, Jovica and I—remained within close enough proximity to one another that it didn’t really matter who was in front of whom at this point.
We hit Bridger Jack aid station, mile 102, just after 5 AM Saturday morning, which meant we’d done our first 100 miles in under 22 hours. This was a little ahead of my planned time, so I felt pretty good about how we were progressing. However, in what was becoming a trend, Eric and Sean left the aid station ahead of us.
The route out of Bridger begins on a dirt road that winds slowly down the mountain. Several miles along this road I realized I hadn’t seen a course marker in a while. I mentioned it to Jovica, but we decided to go a little further because neither of us had seen anywhere to turn off the road since the aid station, so it seemed impossible that we could have missed a turn.
Then we saw Eric backtracking up the road toward us. This was not a good sign. Sure enough, when he got to us, he said he’d checked his GPS, and we’d all somehow missed the turnoff to the trail. We turned around and ran back up the dirt road a couple miles, looking for the trail as we ran, but we saw nothing. We eventually bumped into Ryan and a couple more runners coming down the road from the aid station who had also missed the invisible turn. Working off the maps on two of the runners’ cell phones, we searched together for a few minutes, but couldn’t find the turn. Then someone suggested going back the mile or two to the aid station so we could ask the volunteers if they knew where the turnoff was. I reminded them that the volunteers might not know where the turn was either.
In an effort to stave off this go back to the aid station line of thought, I turned on my phone and opened the GPS app into which I’d downloaded the course route. I noticed that the GPS tracks were a perfectly straight line through this area despite the fact that the road itself was smoothly winding. This meant that when the tracks for this portion of the trail were recorded, the GPS had lost signal. The inaccurate GPS track was a part of the confusion. But I also found a point of intersection between the trail we wanted and a point on the road where the recorded path appeared to be correct. This was where we had to go, and it was very close. I made a quick appeal to the growing cluster of lost runners, then headed toward that point of intersection. The group followed, and I found a hidden, unmarked turn which was our trail.
Fifty feet past the turn was a lone marker that couldn’t be seen unless someone had already found the hidden turn and started to walk down the trail. We moved the marker to a dead limb right at the intersection of the road and the trail. It wasn’t a great spot for the marker, but it was significantly better than where it had been before, and it was the best we could do with only a single marker. Hopefully, the runners arriving later would see it.
The trail dropped us into a dry riverbed, and soon we were beginning the long climb up Shay Mountain. There were six or seven of us in the same general vicinity at this point, but shortly after the ascent began, Jovica, Ryan and I broke off as a lead group to complete the ascent. All three of us would arrive at Shay Mountain aid station together.
Shay Mountain to Road 46. 45.7 miles. Mile 121.0 to 166.7
It was 3:30 PM on Saturday when we arrived at Shay Mountain. Annie was waiting for Jovica and me, and Ryan’s mom was there for him. Piotr, we soon learned, had departed the aid station about 30 minutes before we arrived. I ate some real food, and I curled up on a blanket in the sun for several minutes. I didn’t actually fall asleep, but it felt good to close my eyes.
Sean Nakamura arrived at the aid station after us, but he refueled quickly and departed before us. This had definitely become a trend that needed to stop.
We passed Sean within the first two or three miles of leaving the aid station. After we were a few hundred meters ahead of him, I commented to Jovica that Sean’s running style seemed to be to maintain a slightly slower pace, but to blow through the aid stations without wasting a moment. We needed to be quick at the next aid station so we didn’t enable Sean’s tactic. Jovica agreed. When we arrived at Dry Valley aid station at mile 139, we’d already established a specific time goal for our stop, and we departed right on the mark. As it turned out, after passing Sean back at mile 123, we wouldn’t see another runner for the remaining 117 miles of the race.
For all the facets of racing style that Jovica and I shared, there was one aspect that was almost comically different. It played itself out during several segments of the race. The latter portion of the route to the Road 46 aid station was one such segment. We were 160 miles into the race at that point. The conversation started the same way it always did.
“I think we’re almost to the aid station,” Jovica said.
We were ascending a gentle slope that seemed to have no end. I remained silent as I checked my watch to see how long we’d been running since the previous aid station. I made an assumption about our pace, multiplied it by the amount of time we’d been running, and then said, “I think we’ve got a few more miles to go.”
“No, I really think we’re getting close.”
I hesitated, unsure Jovica wanted to hear this next bit. “We’d need to be going about two minutes per mile faster than I think we’ve been running in order to be close. I think we’ve still got another five miles to go.”
Silence. We kept running.
Jovica and I both ran from the heart. We shared a passion for being out on the trail, we shared a passion for facing a daunting challenge, and we shared a passion for persevering through pain and exhaustion. There was discipline to our pace, and there was joy in the experience. But somewhere in Jovica was the need to believe that a respite, no matter how brief, was near. And somewhere in me was a need to try to understand exactly how far away that respite was. I never made those distance calculations unless Jovica brought up the topic, but, if he brought it up, I had to figure out how far the aid station might be. We never argued about who was right. It was always just two people sharing their perspectives. We always kept moving together. Side by side or one of us in front. Together.
Road 46 to Porcupine Rim. 57.0 miles. Mile 166.7 to 223.7
At the Road 46 aid station, Jovica and I met up with Kerry Ward. Kerry is an ultrarunner I’d run with throughout a long stretch of the Bigfoot 200 in 2015. On Facebook a couple weeks before the race, Jovica had made an appeal to see if anyone was willing to pace him for any portion of Moab. Quite generously, Kerry had answered that call, and had flown out to meet Jovica and pace him for 53 of the last 73 miles of the race. With Jovica and I running together, I would get the benefit of a pacer for those miles, and I’d get to spend some time with an old running friend. Kerry would run with us from Road 46 to Oowah Lake, then he’d take a break while we ran the 20 miles from Oowah Lake to Porcupine Rim so he could be fresh for our last 16-mile stretch.
The trail out of Road 46 is a steep, rocky ascent. Kerry led the charge, and had us moving along at a good pace until, a mile or two into the climb, he stopped abruptly to announce that we were off course. Jovica and I started looking for course markers while Kerry took off, GPS in hand, to find the trail. Kerry found the trail a few minutes later, and we all started moving forward again.
If there was one thing that characterized my experience during the fifteen miles from Road 46 to the Pole Canyon aid station, it would be extreme sleep deprivation. I fell into step behind Kerry and Jovica, my brain shut down, and I just moved along through a vague nightscape of rocky trails and stunted trees. I’d known the second night would not be as easy to get through as the first night had been. Not only had the endless hours of running worn on me, but I hadn’t gotten much sleep the night before the race. I’d fallen asleep at 8 PM on Thursday night—which would have been fantastic if I’d slept all the way until the morning—but I’d woken up at 12:30 AM and I hadn’t been able to fall back asleep. So, by the time the race started at 7 AM on Friday, I’d already been up for 6 ½ hours with only 4 ½ hours of sleep.
Kerry and Jovica chatted throughout this section. I would sometimes try to tune in to their conversation as a means to stay alert, but it only worked so well, and I’d eventually slip back into a semi-somnambulant state. At one point, I made a concerted effort to wake myself by engaging in the conversation. That helped for a little while before, inevitably, I fell silent as I became sleepy again. Kerry—ever the dedicated pacer—then made an obvious and reasonably-successful effort to give me something to focus on by telling the longest and most wandering story imaginable. The story centered on a friend of his who had recently run his first 100-mile race. It could easily have been a five-minute tale, but Kerry took the narrative down every rabbit hole and into every loosely tangential detail possible. I found myself focusing alternately on the story itself and the fact that Kerry was clearly stretching it out for my benefit.
When we arrived at Pole Canyon aid station, there was not a single sign of life. The lamps were out, the stoves were off, and the personal tents of the volunteers were all zipped up. I spotted two blankets, grabbed them, and immediately began looking for a place on the ground to lie down that wasn’t covered with jagged rocks. Jovica dropped into a camping chair and wrapped a blanket over his shoulders while Kerry began rummaging through the aid station supplies for food. Moments later, a powerful gust of wind flipped the aid station canopy and its poles into the air. The entire assembly flew over Jovica’s and Kerry’s heads and into the nearby trees. It startled all of us, and it woke up the volunteers who clambered sleepily out of their tents to begin reassembling the aid station and firing up the stove.
Not long after we departed Pole Canyon, I began coming out of my sleepy state, and, as the sun rose above the horizon, we started making better time. There was a memorable climb up a steep cow trail that required trekking poles and a lot of determination. Even the mindless, free-grazing cows in the area were smart enough to use this particular trail solely for descents. It was only the foolish, ultrarunning humans who were dumb enough to ascend it.
The last several miles before the Oowah Lake aid station consisted of snow-covered, rolling hills. With each step, our feet post-holed through the thin crust of snow and into the deeper powder beneath. It was slow-going, for the most part, aside from a few short downhill sections where momentum carried us more easily through the snowpack.
At Oowah Lake, I took the time to eat an entire cheeseburger and to close my eyes for a few minutes. Jovica refueled and swapped his grimy socks for a fresh pair that Annie dug out of my gear in the back of the truck. Eventually, we got moving.
The route from Oowah Lake to Porcupine Rim began with a single-track ascent before intersecting a dirt road that would take us the rest of the way to Porcupine Rim. We sped up once we hit the road, and, for the first time in the race, I pulled out my phone to see how far back the next runner was. Earlier, we had made a decision that we weren’t going to attempt to catch Piotr, the Polish runner in first place, but we wanted to make sure Ryan, the next runner, had no hope of catching us.
We were making good time on the road at the same time Ryan would have been hitting the pace-slowing snow on the trail to Oowah Lake, so, every time I checked my phone, we had opened a wider gap between Ryan and us. When I checked the gap for the last time, Ryan was almost 20 miles behind us, so I finally put the tracker away for good. Of course, not long after I put the tracker away, I heard….
“I think we’re getting close to the aid station.”
Smiling, I glanced at my watch and began making calculations.
Also smiling, Jovica just shook his head.
Porcupine Rim to Finish. 16.3 miles. Mile 223.7 to 240.0
When we arrived at Porcupine aid station, we decided to take our time and enjoy both our stop at the aid station and the subsequent sixteen miles without the ordinary pressure of a race. The race was all but done. Barring an injury, our finishing places were assured, so it seemed like a good time to bask in the joy of a hard-fought battle drawing to a close. Kerry rejoined us at Porcupine Rim, and Annie was there as well. We laughed and chatted with each other and with the aid station volunteers. Twenty-three minutes after arriving at Porcupine Rim aid station, we were on our way.
By this time, Jovica and I had run 224 miles together without ever talking about sticking together through the entire race. And we had certainly never discussed finishing side by side. But, somehow, we both knew that was our plan. About four miles into this last section, Kerry asked what our plan was regarding the finish. There were eighteen countries represented in the race, and, from past experience, Kerry and I knew that the race director always lined the chute to the finish line with the flags of all countries participating. With the sun setting behind one of the distant mesas, we decided that our multi-national team would each carry the flag of our country as we crossed the finish line.
We were descending the technical, rocky path that is Porcupine Rim trail. I’d run Porcupine Rim a couple times a year earlier. I loved the rocky beauty of that trail, and I respected its ankle-rolling nature. It can be a fast but challenging trail to run in the daylight. At night, with the play of shadows on the uneven rock surfaces, the trail becomes a little more difficult but can be almost as fast.
When the sunlight had dimmed enough that I started to have difficulty seeing, I stopped, took off my hydration pack, and opened the rear zipper pouch to take out my flashlight and my headlamp. I have terrible night vision. So, in races, I always have two sources of light. The first is an ordinary headlamp. The second is a small but extremely powerful flashlight. If I put my flashlight on its highest setting, the handle actually becomes warm to the touch, but the light will turn a swath of the night into day.
The pouch contained a pair of fruit squeeze packs, but no flashlight, and no headlamp.
This wasn’t a problem, because I was certain Annie had just tucked my flashlight and headlamp into another of the pouches. I checked the front of the pack. Nothing. I checked the rear pouch again. Still nothing. I unzipped the pouch that held the water bladder. It too was empty.
Annie had prepared my gear at more than seventy aid stations since she began supporting my crazy ultrarunning endeavors, and she’d never once left anything out of my pack. To speed up my naturally slow aid station stops, we always brought two hydration packs to each event. She, along with her sister Becka who typically supported me, were like a pit crew at a car race. I’d run into the aid station, drop off one pack and put on another that they’d already prepared for me. They’d respond to my changes in an instant if, for example, in the intervening miles since they’d last seen me, I could no longer stomach the yogurt squeeze packs they were resupplying me with, and instead needed them to give me a bottle of fresh grapes to carry. They made such changes quickly and without complaint even though I’m sure it was frustrating. And they did this despite sleep-deprivation which was often almost as extreme as my own.
Not having a light source as night fell was just something to deal with. If anything, it made me appreciate how unbelievably perfect Annie had been in every one of my races leading up to this point.
By now, Jovica and Kerry had put on their own headlamps and could see something was wrong.
“I don’t have a light,” I said. “I have terrible night vision. I’m going to be moving slowly.”
There wasn’t even a moment of hesitation before Jovica said, “You can use mine. I have good night vision. I’ll run between the two of you.”
I asked Jovica if he really wanted to give me his light, but I already knew the answer. In 230 miles of running, I’d gotten to know the kind of person he was.
Kerry ended up running beside Jovica while I ran directly behind him with the borrowed headlamp aimed at his feet. We ran at a pretty solid pace considering one of the three of us wasn’t wearing a headlamp. How Jovica was able to sustain that pace in secondhand light across rocky, uneven ground is beyond me. And how he arrived at the decision to give me his headlamp is even further beyond me. Somewhere through the miles and the hardship, he had become a true friend.
Toward the end of the descent, Kerry remembered that he had a flashlight tucked into his pack. He gave me the flashlight and I gave Jovica the headlamp. A mile later, we passed through a culvert and onto the bike path that we’d follow for the last three miles to the finish line. We paralleled the Colorado River for most of those three miles, and then passed beneath a highway. From there it was only a few minutes before we saw the lights of our final stop.
Kerry ran ahead as we approached the finish line. He grabbed the Serbian flag for Jovica, and the US flag for me. He handed us our flags and then, together, we walked across that line.
We finished in 62 hours, 40 minutes and 49 seconds. The winner, Piotr, had finished 2 ½ hours ahead of us. The next finisher, Ryan, would finish 9 hours behind us.
Jovica and I sat at the finish line enjoying the warmth of a propane heater and talking to the people around us. I don’t know how many words we said to each other as we sat in the comfort of the tent and the heater. There might have been many words, or there might have been none. I was too tired then to remember it now. It doesn’t matter. We shared a 240-mile adventure. We shared 240 miles of pain. We shared 240 miles of learning who each other was when we were stripped down to the bone, when every shred of pretense was torn away and all that was left was who we truly were.
We’ll share another adventure somewhere down the trail of our lives. Of that I’m certain.
Sunday night, in my hotel room after the race, I woke up three or four times. Each of those times, I woke up in sheets soaked by my own sweat. The dream I’d been having was the same every time. I was running on a trail covered with fist-sized, jagged rocks. It was very much like parts of the trail between Pole Canyon and Oowah Lake. I was running alone. I saw not a single person during the entire dream. I was just running and running and running.
Each time, after waking up, I’d drink a cup of water to replace what I’d just sweated onto the sheets. I’d crawl back into bed, but I’d shift a fraction of a meter to one side to avoid laying down between the wet, cold sheets I’d left behind. This cycle repeated itself for four consecutive nights. There were two queen beds in the hotel room, and, two of the nights, I actually had to switch to the second bed in order to find a dry spot to sleep.
On the fifth night, I woke up only twice. The first time was just like every other time. The bed was wet with sweat, and I’d been dreaming of running solo along that endless trail. But the second time I woke up was different. I’d still been sweating during the dream, but, unlike every other time, I’d dreamed that I’d actually finished this imaginary race. There were no people at the finish line just as there’d been no people in any of the dreams. The finish line was just another dry, desolate, rock-strewn spot. But I knew I’d finished. The race was over.
In the weeks since I dreamed of crossing that finish line, the dream hasn’t recurred. I don’t know what the dream meant. Maybe it meant nothing. But maybe, just maybe, it was my subconscious showing me how empty it would be to go through such a difficult endeavor without the help of partners and friends as great as Annie, Jovica, Kerry, and every volunteer along the way who gave me food or water or even just uttered a kind word of encouragement.
Thanks to all of you who helped me cross the finish line in Moab. It was an amazing journey, and I could not have made it alone.
If you enjoyed this story, we hope you'll check out our full 2018 Destination Trails 200 Mile Coverage, which includes Wes' other story from the Bigfoot 200, a couple of podcasts, and a ton of other fun stuff!
If you’re the type of person who daydreams about:
it might be worth thinking about New Caledonia.
I’m not sure if you can do those things there, but it seems like you probably could.
If you haven’t heard of it, it’s a small group of islands and islets in Melanesia - forming a roughly equilateral triangle with Australia and New Zealand, where it is the Northeasterrnmost point. It’s not that far from Vanuatu, if that helps.
If you aren’t already there, it’s almost definitely a long way from where you are. We booked an AirBnB on a woman’s catamaran in the main harbor in the capitol, and she told us that a lot of people arrive by boat and fly home, ditching their vessels because it’s too much trouble to get them back to Europe or the United States or wherever they’ve drifted in from.
It's pretty sleepy, but it still does a healthy tourist trade with English speakers and people from mainland China and Japan. The main group of foreigners, though, are French. The proper official name is Nouvelle Caledonie, because since 1853 the French have put themselves in charge of things. Along with a lot of blue water, the islands have one of the richest nickel deposits in the world, and the white people there taking it are primarily francophones.
Originally though, it was a Melanesian paradise - Kanak, specifically. People have been there for 3000 years, which is pretty incredible when you think about it. They still make up 40 percent of the population, and their culture is alive and quite visible all over the islands. As is the case everywhere I’ve ever been in the Pacific, they seem to exist in a uneasy detente with their colonizers. Just before we arrived in November 2018, there was a national referendum on whether or not to remain a French colony. Kanak flags were flying everywhere, and only 56% voted to stay.
I didn't know any of that before we arrived, and our own trip to the country happened mostly on a whim. We were looking for flights between the South and North Island of New Zealand, where we were traveling from our home in the US, and noticed a cheap flight to a place called “Noumea”. We Googled it, found out it was the capital of a country we’d never thought much about, and decided “what the hey”.
We were only there for a week, and I’m by no means an expert, or even a novice, but we did dig around enough to function something like scouts for others out there who might be interested in paying a visit.
What's it like?
The country felt, to me, as much like Latin America as anywhere else I’ve been - clearly colonial, clearly possessing a strong native culture. There’s a significant amount of wealth disparity, but poverty - while present - doesn’t appear to be the defining characteristic of the population. In the Capitol, Noumea, there are plenty of upscale neighborhoods and tourist businesses, while the Cathedral’s paint is slightly peeling, neighborhoods are dotted with grafitti’d empty warehouses, and the occasional house will have a couple of chained up rottweilers barking menacingly at you as a security measure. The physical location is beautiful, and everywhere we went felt safe and relaxed. The infrastructure is solid - roads are good, beaches are clean, and the parking is closely monitored - which we found out when we got a $10 parking ticket for some infraction that I still don't understand because it was in French. It was a small enough amount to seem as quaint as it did annoying.
Outside of Noumea, the country is notably sparsely populated. Even in beautiful spots that are marketed openly in tourist information centers, it’s easy to find yourself all alone. If you want long quiet walks on a secluded beach, you have plenty of good options.
For an anecdote: at the first campsite we visited - the largest in the area where we were able to camp right on the water and which came with several recommendations - we showed up in the afternoon to a closed gate. We saw that there were a couple of people milling around in the property - two campers, and a guy welding something - so we walked around the gate - there was a clear footpath.
When we got to the back of the property, a startled Frenchman asked us, “What do you want?!” Not angry - just genuinely surprised to see us.
“We want to camp - is that possible?”
“Oh, yes. The gate was closed, right? How did you get in?”
“We walked around it.”
“Oh, did you come in a car or something?” (We were at least 20 miles from the nearest town at this point.)
“Yes, we left it outside the gate.”
“Oh. I see. Do you have any toilet paper? You will need it because there is none here.”
We did, thankfully. He opened the gate and let us in, and drove away in a pickup truck, leaving us by ourselves at the site. Before he left he told us not to worry about paying until the morning. We never saw him again, but we did find someone who I believe was his wife - a Japanese woman who spoke perfect English and spent the morning sitting in a lounge chair, staring contentedly into the mangroves and ocean that the campsite bordered.
It seemed like a nice life.
Outside of Noumea it’s also notably more Kanak, and you’re as likely to experience and enjoy native culture as French. Life closer to subsistence is more visible in the countryside. Especially on the East Coast, it’s the kind of place where it’s most common for houses to be made of corrugated metal, and normal for men to wander the streets with machetes because they’re working their fields.
Tourism sites all say that Nouvelle Caledonie is known for its delicious French cuisine. And it’s true. It’s easy to find a good cappuccino, a fresh baguette, and pain au chocolate even in small towns.
It’s not a cheap place to travel, exactly, but it’s also not ridiculously expensive. I’ve heard prices commonly compared to New Zealand, and I’d say that is roughly accurate - though I think food is slightly pricier in New Caledonia. We would typically pay between $4 - 7 US for a good coffee, $8 - 10 for a national brand beer at a restaurant and $15 - 20 for a meal. If I had to guess, I’d say cost of travel is probably lower than Hawaii or Tahiti - the other two small Pacific Island groups we’ve visited.
And whatever the costs or the quality of their fois gras, most travelers go to New Caledonia because it’s pretty.
It’s surrounded by the world’s largest lagoon, which means that coral reef protects most of the main island from the heaviest waves (There are only one or two beach breaks for surfing in the country because of this). The water tends to be shallow, warm, and swimmable, and there are endless snorkeling and diving possibilities. Boat-based activities are one of the most common pastimes, and you’ll find lots of rental and tour options if that’s your thing. It wouldn’t be disappointing at all to go there and just hang out at the beach. Some of the prettiest we’ve seen anywhere were there, at Poe and Thio, and we didn’t even go to what’s said to be the most beautiful spots, on the Isle of Pines and the other offshore islands.
To our own interests, there is also a developed trail system in the country. The jewel in the crown is the GR1 - a 100k hut to hut hike that cuts through the south of the Island - but there are plenty of smaller trail systems through every type of geography. It was easy to find beautiful places to hike, run or mountain bike on well-maintained trail.
There is a spine of mountains that runs up the center of the main island, which adds to the beauty. The West Coast is quite dry - it looks like Australia, mostly, with dry hills, red dirt and white sandy beaches. The mountains are quite wet. And the East Coast is the way I picture Polynesia - ferns and waterfalls and beautiful coastline and dramatic mountains. It’s largely unpopulated and it’s where much of the best scenery on the main island is, in my opinion.
My personal favorite unexpected perk about the country is that it had what all warm climates should - a network of campgrounds that was as extensive as their network of hotels. Like the one where we found the startled Frenchman with no toilet paper, a lot of these seemed like a family with a bunch of land in a pretty place decided to set up some toilets and let people stay for a few bucks a night. That’s come to be maybe my favorite camping atmosphere - kind of Airbnb in a friendly person’s yard. And it wasn’t expensive. $10 -15 US per person is a bit less that what I’ve come to expect to pay in North America for a similar level of service.
We found a lot of campgrounds in spectacular locations. If you dream of camping with a beautiful view of turquoise water, but don’t want to worry about getting your rental car down a 4x4 track, New Caledonia had amazing options. In Poe, our $20/night spot was on the same beach, a few miles down, from an impressive Sheraton resort. The views were just as good and it felt just as secluded, and it was easy enough to sneak into the Sheraton for a dip in their pool when we got bored of the ocean. Plus there’s very little chance a wild boar will charge through your room at the Sheraton, and we got to have that experience in our campsite. (Edit: after I wrote this, a local wearing a tusk necklace showed us a picture on his phone of a boar that he saw at the Sheraton that morning, on the golf course. True story.)
Like good hustlers around the world, a lot of these places will also cook you a meal and sell you the basics of what you need if you ask, and some will pick you up from the larger towns nearby if you call ahead.
Here are four photos from places we camped.
9 essential things you need to know
6 top regions and how to get there.
For someone looking for a relaxed, budget tropical paradise, New Caledonia is as good a choice of Pacific Islands as any. Like any Pacific Island, it’s easy to spend money there on luxury and adventure tours. But it’s also an easy place to just exist contentedly - camping at the beach, hiking in the mountains, eating baguettes and charcuterie and drinking cheap beer from the grocery. If you’re a Kiwi or an Aussie, give it a go on your next holiday. If you’re reading this from the US or the UK, to be honest I have no idea how you might end up here, but if you do you won’t regret it.
Just remember to bring your own toilet paper.
If you like out of the way places and adventure on the cheap, sign up for information about our upcoming book, The Dirtbag's Guide to Life. It'll be your comprehensive guide to life, adventure, and living your dreams on the cheap.
by Ana Hinz
I'll admit it - I feel a little bit guilty because Angel and I have been posting Facebook pictures from a two month trip to New Zealand just as our friends back in North America are headed in to the depths of the winter doldrums. To add insult to injury, we've been enjoying a respite in the 2nd most popular place for Americans to threaten to run away to during the 2018 Mid Term elections. I can feel your jealousy and resentment from across the Pacific!
That's why I was really stoked when our friend Ana Hinz sent on this guest post for the blog, about how not to let social media inspired wanderlust ruin your life. It's a great set of tips that we wholly endorse - whether you're a world traveler or stuck in your day job - and we love Ana's humor and insight, and like us she is a former Mid-Westerner who dreamed of running away to see the world.
She describes herself as a Midwesterner transplant to Seattle who is happiest with a trail beneath her feet or a dram in her hand. To read more of what she writes, Ana blogs about running and hiking on the beautiful trails of the Pacific Northwest, and exploring the fascinating world of whisky at Will Run for Whisky. She also share an epic, hilarious story about running her first 100 mile ultramarathon on episode 60 of our podcast!
Here she is, on how to keep wanderlust, and Instagram, from ruining your life.
I'm someone that has always looked to the future, ever since I was a child. I distinctly remember a moment (I was probably 7 or so) standing at the edge of a field in my small hometown, and wondering where else could I go? What could I see? (Like Belle from Beauty and the Beast, but in Wisconsin and not France... so less brie and more cheddar.) While it's a charming thought, and likely the perfect start for a story about a glamorous world traveler (spoiler: I'm not one), it also has a significant downside. In short: wanderlust is ruining my life.
Let me explain.
I was raised as an only child, so I had a lot of solitude and time to entertain myself. Thankfully, I loved daydreaming and reading books about far-flung places. I got the fun of learning about it as well as imagining it, with a few well-curated photographs for illustration.
Contrast that with modern technology, and having Instagram at our fingertips. We can indulge in "travel porn" at any moment of the day. And wow, do we. We gobble up photographs of stunning locations around the world, and add new places to our exponentially growing bucket list. We double-tap these photos, and then after a 10-minute binge session, compare our own seemingly mundane existence, and ask ourselves what the hell we're doing with our lives.
No? Just me?
Is my life so disappointing? Of course not. I’m active and healthy, have a fantastic husband, a good job, amazing friends, and live in a safe and beautiful place. However, with time, my existence has become comfortable (the complacent American Dream, it seems.) And comfort does not spur growth. I want freedom, but from what? My privileged life? Ugh. I disgust myself. But traveling to a new place can be a catalyst for healthy challenges and personal growth, and I'm craving that adventurous change of routine (and Instagram is amplifying that desire.)
Of course, we all know that seeing people's perfectly curated lives on social media can spark envy. Sometimes it’s hard to remember that these photos are often staged and edited, and not a true representation of what actually happened.
We know intellectually that we shouldn’t compare someone's highlight reel to our blooper reel. Comparison is the thief of joy. Yada, yada, yada. But here's the thing: Instagram didn't create my wanderlust. It's always been there. And this doesn't mean that I should stop dreaming. Or setting goals. Or being inspired.
While wanderlust can push us to explore the world in new ways, it also intensifies dissatisfaction with our current lives. So how can we be inspired and not depressed by wanderlust?
1. Find local adventures.
This summer I spent time exploring local places within a few hours’ drive, and I loved it. It helped bring my focus back here to the present (and the financially feasible.) Go hike that trail you always meant to check out, or visit that vineyard you heard about one time, or visit that state park just an hour away. Microadventures like these remind me how many amazing places there are, right in my "backyard." Be a tourist in your home geographical region!
2. Take a social media break...or just tone it down.
Okay, let's discuss this one. While I'm all for taking a break from the soul-sucking dumpster fire that is Facebook and/or Twitter, I'm personally not quite ready to give up my visual escape that is Instagram. Mostly because it's not really the platform that is the problem. It just amplifies something that already exists in my psyche. However, as we all know, everything is best in moderation (except maybe chocolate and hugs.) So maybe dial back the usage to one session a day, or just a few minutes at a time instead of a 20 minute session that leaves you depressed from all of the totally-authentic-and-not-edited-at-all perfection you just witnessed on your feed.
3. Escape via a book instead of a screen.
If you still need an escape (ahem, I do), perhaps try a vintage form - a book! Flex that (possibly rusty) imagination by reading travel essays. (I love this collection.) Or if you want to feel better about your life choices, you can always read about dramatic polar expeditions or woefully unprepared Amazonian adventures by a former president. If you're still looking for a visual escape, check out a photography book as visual candy and a learning opportunity for your own photography. Reading books about traveling and adventure is my go-to when I desperately need an escape from the couch.
4. Get out of your comfort zone with a new hobby.
Want to escape to something new and exciting? Try a new hobby! Write about someone traveling to a new place. Take an art class to create your own beauty. Go to a concert featuring traditional music from around the world. Try a new sport with a friend, like trail running, rock-climbing, or kayaking. Begin learning a new language (in a class or using Duolingo - whatever works.) Take a salsa or ballet class. Try cooking some recipes from a place you’ve always wanted to visit. There are loads of small ways to get that thrill of experiencing new people, places, food, music, scenery without having to get on a plane. I’ve tried a number of these options, with varying levels of success, but I loved the challenge of each one!
5. Sell everything and hit the road.
If all else fails, this is always an option.
The goal is to lose the social media envy and keep the inner child who thinks about life's possibilities. When we indulge our wanderlust with travel, we are open to new experiences. Just like that little kid that dreamt about traveling the world. That wondrous soul gets stomped on enough in the demanding reality of adult obligations, so let's not continue that trend during our leisure time. Let’s take this opportunity to foster that curiosity!
While it may feel boring compared to a round-the-world vacation (sorry, fresh out of those), let’s workshop some solutions to this challenge! How do YOU encourage or tame your wanderlust?
If you like what we're up to here at Boldly Went, check out our Patreon page and consider joining the small but mighty horde of supporters, and pledging anything from $1/month in order to help make it feasible for us to continue creating the Boldly Went podcast and other online content!
Angel and I find ourselves in an unfortunate situation, whereby neither of us were born in the proper country.
After several months of research across the last few years involving street tacos, warm winters, warmer people, affordable everything, and locally grown coffee, Angel was able to diagnose recently that she was intended to have been born in Mexico.
I, on the other hand, have suspected since 2005, when we left after living there for a couple of years, that I was intended to have been born in New Zealand.
We find ourselves back here for the next several months, and I plan to spend most of my time staring contentedly into the distance with a barely perceptible smile on my face, absorbing everything wonderful that New Zealand has to offer.
Along the way, I’ll take a few breaks from my relaxed sense that all is right in the world in order to write blog posts, so you can share some of the magic.
I think and hope that some of these articles will be useful for people who are interested in visiting, but this first post, I decided to write something purely celebratory, and so would like to offer you this list of the Indisputable Best Things in New Zealand, as voted on by me. These things won’t be the things that you already know - about Hobbits and Rugby and universal healthcare and all that. They’ll be the little things that make the place magic.
1. It really is that pretty.
I know, I said I wouldn’t say things you already know. But when you just see pictures online, it’s hard to know what’s real and what’s an Instagram filter. But I can confirm that New Zealand is legit. It’s the stunningly attractive love child of Hawaii and Switzerland that somehow found its way to the middle of the Pacific, where no one could find it for the vast majority of human history, thereby preserving itself in pristine beauty. The light here is perfect. There are waterfalls and rainbows everywhere. The glaciers descend to sea level and the snow-capped mountains shoot directly out of the ocean. The whole country is swarming with delightfully adorable baby lambs, and they keep the perfectly green lawns covering the entire country (aside from the beaches and the snow capped mountains) mowed to professional standards. It’s not possible, but it’s real.
2. The birds here are fantasy creatures who just want to be your friends.
Some may be aware that a peculiarity of New Zealand’s history is that it broke off from the mainland of Australia before the evolution of mammals. As a result, aside from a few recently arrived bats, there were never mammals here to fill most ecological niches, so the native birds evolved to fill their roles. Hence the Kiwi, a ground dwelling, fur covered oddity that is functionally more of a lazy rodent than an actual bird. But also hence a wide variety of other very unusual birds, that seem like something out of one of Lewis Carroll’s fever dreams.
One consequence of the country’s isolation is that (although introduced rats, stoats, cats, possums, and adorably, hedgehogs, are wreaking havoc nowadays) through most of evolutionary history, the birds here didn’t have to worry about predation from creatures like ourselves. So they still behave largely as if we’re curiosities rather than threats. In the time that we’ve spent here, birds that we’ve had fly directly up to us, land just a few feet away, and interact with us as peers include:
The Morepork: A strange little owl with giant eyes whose call sounds, as you might have guessed, something like “more pork”.
The Kea: The world’s only alpine parrot, and my all time favorite animal, it has the diet of a goat and is known for eating boots and cars and anything else left alone for more than a minute or two. And for being cheeky and dancing for food and entertaining tourists. It’s the flying naughty clown of the high alpine peaks.
The New Zealand Wood Pigeon: A large, common, iridescently colored pigeon whose wings flap so loudly that they sound like small helicopters crashing through the brush.
The Fantail: A sparrow-sized bird with a boat oar for a tail, which does flips and tricks mid-flight, mainly just to impress you.
The Bellbird: A normal enough appearing forest bird whose call sounds uncannily like the clanging of bells rather than anything a living creature should be able to produce.
3. There’s great coffee everywhere.
This shouldn’t be the case, because as far as I know it isn’t grown locally, but it’s really easy to find good espresso here, even in strange little country towns that have no business producing pleasant cafes. They even have a signature drink - the flat white, which I honestly can’t distinguish from a latte though I’m told they’re not the same.
4. Kiwis have never learned to be cruel.
In the United States, people have learned that to stay on top, you have to crush your enemies, who are all around you. That’s not a political statement, it’s just a way of being for about 40% of the population, driven mad by cable news and fear of non-existent boogeymen. We assume our friends want to sneak off with our things and our neighbors want to murder our children.
In New Zealand, if your car breaks down at 2 am on a dark country road, you should walk up to the nearest house and knock loudly on the door without reservation, because the owners will greet you with pleased surprise about having just made a new friend. They’ll thank you for stopping by, invite you in, have a chat, give you some tea, offer you a room for the night, and lend you their car the next day so you can get where you’ll going. They’ll call their cousin to tow your car to the garage, and he’ll give you a discount on the fix because of your trouble.
And it’s hard not to feel like they’re on to something. Why not live like this?
5. Everyone here wears the same clothes every day.
You wouldn’t necessarily pick this up unless you stayed here for a long time, but it’s generally true that everyone here has a pair of shorts, a sweater (jumper), a couple pairs of pants (trousers) and a couple of shirts. Every time you see them, they’ll generally be wearing the same thing, with only minor variations to match the seasons.
Once again, this is an absolutely sensible way of living. New Zealand is a wealthy country, and people here could afford the same level of variety that Americans enjoy. But why in the world would you waste your money on a different set of clothes for every day of the month? As long as everyone agrees to follow this same set of rules, no one will feel social pressure to one up their neighbors, everyone will be much happier and will have much more disposable income to spend on things like pleasant coffees and sensibly priced holiday homes.
Speaking of that...
6. Holiday homes are common, and they’re quaint little huts rather than extravagant eyesores.
In my own upbringing, I don’t remember meeting anyone who had a vacation home, until my grandfather constructed his own cabin on a lake in Kentucky. To me, this was the height of financial success, because it’s true - in the US, where I come from, only the very wealthy seem to have vacation homes, and they’re typically complex affairs.
Here, it is extremely common for families to have a small “bach” on the beach or in the mountains, which are often unheated, communal, picturesque cabins where family and friends can get together and have shelter, a stove and a toilet in a beautiful spot anytime they’d like it. The country - at least the South Island - is composed entirely of empty countryside, so these somehow manage to never be intrusive on the expansive views that they offer.
7. All of the rivers are clear to bright blue.
I’m not sure how it’s possible, but it seems that there are no tannins here - except in the excellent wine - because all of the fresh water is picturesque.
8. The National Parks are free for all to enter, and no one can build on the water, leaving the coast open for all of the public to enjoy.
Again, why not live like this? Who does it benefit to sell off all of your beautiful things? Why not keep the best things in life free and open to the public? Please show me New Zealand’s social contract, because I would like to sign it.
9. Similarly, there are trails and huts everywhere.
If you’re wondering where to go in New Zealand for a nice bike, hike, or trail run, the answer is everywhere. Trails range from rarely utilized muddy cattle paths across private land that require permission to access to manicured Great Walks that are maintained meticulously, and at great expense, by the national government. But they are essentially everywhere you can imagine. It’s an outdoor lovers paradise. (Sorry - you knew that, but I can’t help reiterating that it’s true.)
If you ask them, Kiwis will find ways to convince you that this isn’t actually a utopia, but of the places I’ve been, it’s as close as anywhere. There’s no way any of this is hyperbole. It’s just magic and I’m sure that it was some sort of mistake that I wasn’t born here, because at heart I’m Kiwi as.
If you like what we're up to here at Boldly Went, check out our Patreon page and consider joining the small but mighty horde of supporters, and pledging anything from $1/month in order to help make it feasible for us to continue creating the Boldly Went podcast and other online content!
Between a car breakdown, sickness, and travel for out of state events, we were happy to be able to make it out on Saturday to the inaugural Refuge Outdoor Festival in Carnation, WA from September 28 - 30, 2018. A festival whose tagline was "To Explore and Celebrate Nature, Diversity, and Life", it was developed by Chevon Powell and Golden Bricks Events with and for people of color in the outdoor community. We met Chevon a few months back when she was kind enough to sit down for an AdventShorts interview about her experience in the outdoors, and her motivation for creating the festival. We're white. We know. We'll get to that.
Speaking concretely, the 2018 Refuge Outdoor Festival was a gathering of (primarily) people of color from around the country who are interested in the outdoors enough to pay money and take a bunch of time to go camping with other like-minded people of color.
It was camping, concerts, silent discos, hiking, service projects, presentations, hanging out by a river, and a series of conversations.
And it was genuinely diverse: we met people whose backgrounds were Columbian, Mexican, African, African-American, Native American, Native Hawaiian, Caucasian, Korean, Japanese, Vietnamese, and almost definitely more. Straight, queer, male, female, non-binary, and almost definitely more.
More abstractly, it was a rare experience - an “outdoorsy” event that was specifically for people of color. For reasons that might be obvious from the photo in the top right of this blog, it was a first experience for me in this kind of environment.
It’s worth us taking a minute to write about for a lot of reasons.
One is to signal boost. Chevon Powell, the organizer, told us that the one thing she wanted us to pass on from the weekend is that it will happen again. Please stop reading right now to follow them on their various social media, so you’ll get the updates.
I'll wait here...
Okay, welcome back!
As Caucasians at Refuge, we were along primarily to learn and listen, but a big direct takeaway from participants was that we should talk to our people about the things that came up during the weekend. While there are plenty of people of color in our audience, it’s more likely, if you’re reading this, that you’re white like me. So, here you have it.
A year before Bigfoot, in September of 2017, I was running my second Tahoe 200. I’d trained for Tahoe harder than I’d ever trained before, and, after finishing in fourth place the previous year, I went into the 2017 race with the hope of winning. Viewed from the online race tracker, it might have looked for a while as if I was doing reasonably well. I trailed Jovica Spajic of Serbia in second place for most of the first 120 miles, and a couple times I overtook Jovica to take the lead. By the time I hit the Tunnel Creek aid station at mile 140, the race was a three-way tie for first place between Georg Kunzfeld of Germany, Jovica, and me. We arrived at that aid station together, all moving a bit slowly. But the difference between them and me was that they seemed to be feeling reasonably well, whereas, due to major electrolyte issues, I hadn’t been able to keep any food down except a few grapes for the last forty or fifty miles. Jovica and Georg got back on the trail after a brief stop to refuel. I took my time at the aid station, eventually got moving again, and then dropped out of the race five miles later. I still couldn’t eat anything without vomiting, and, based upon my dark brown urine, my kidneys were in the process of shutting down.
That drop was my biggest disappointment in 28 years of running.
It was hard to get my mind off of what happened at Tahoe until March of 2018, when I began training for Bigfoot. I’d run Bigfoot once before, in 2015, and I knew it was a tough race through the Cascade Mountains with a lot of steep ascents. But it was my chance, in my mind at least, to move past what I viewed as a terrible failure. I didn’t have to win, but I had to give it the best effort I possibly could.
Start to Blue Lake. 12.2 miles. Mile 0 to 12.2
When the horn blew at the start of the race, I made a conscious effort to not allow myself to be sucked in by the excitement of running hard out of the gate. I wanted to be somewhere up with the frontrunners, but, above all, I wanted to control my pace. After the initial hundred meters of pavement, the first section of the trail was a relatively easy climb that most people near the front of the still-dense pack ran, with some occasional walking of the steep parts. It wasn’t long before I was able to look up the slope and count roughly nine runners ahead of me. It was possible a couple more had already slipped out of sight over the next crest, but it didn’t matter. I maintained my pace.
The route got tougher as we moved farther along the course, and the first signs of the pack stretching out a bit became apparent. At one point, I was about to cross of one of the ash-filled washes when I mis-read a course marker as indicating I was supposed to turn to the right and head up the ridge on the near side of the wash. I went a couple hundred meters before spotting two runners on the opposite ridge. Realizing my mistake, I turned around and headed back to the dry wash. There, at the base of the opposite hillside, was the marker I’d missed. My only consolation was that I’d caught my mistake before I’d gone very far.
Hey adventure buddies! Last post we had some discussion about where all of our money comes from in life - including streams of income from this business..
We had a thing happen this weekend, where 5 new Patreon sponsors signed up in a couple of days.
5 might not sound like much to any big name podcasters out there in the audience, but for us it was a jump of 10% in both number of sponsors and total pledged money.
It was enough to get us thinking, and to spur another money-focused post, about where the money's going when you all support us.
Thank you for patronizing us.
Here at Boldly Went, our most visible "product" is our podcast, but we have a couple of primary ways of making money. Within the flow of the business, ticketing for the events where we gather stories is our primary income source most months, and we get a little bit from event and podcast sponsorship and merchandise sales (thanks Territory Run Co!). And we occasionally take people out on tours around the Seattle area or rent them our kayaks through the Navigator Network.
Beyond those transactional pieces though, we also have a Patreon page where people who believe in what we're doing can pledge monthly, PBS Telethon style, to allow us to keep going.
Because you know those pledges come from pure support, it always feels especially good to get a new one. Selling a ticket is great (and actually amounts to more money into the business a lot of times), but getting a patron subscription feels like more of a personal affirmation that we're on the right track.
Practically speaking, those pledges are also super helpful because they're stable, in the sense that they don't require ongoing advertising work on our part, and aren't as up in the air as ticket sales. One of the most nerve wracking parts of this whole thing, especially when we're traveling, is wondering whether events will cover the costs of travel for the places we go, and it's great to have that consistent base so we feel like we can take risks on going to smaller towns and places that are more off the beaten path - like Poulsbo, WA, for instance, where we just had a fantastic experience last week.
At the moment of writing, we know a few things about our base of Patreon sponsors. The average pledge for Boldly Went is $10/month, which is 33% higher than the average Patreon account. We have 53 current patrons, and a decent number of those are friends and family, so that might factor in to the higher than average dollar amount. But I also think that it has to do with what we're up to. A big part of our goal is creating community - which involves making new friends and family. So the support feels warm and personal, and often either springs from, or develops into, real world relationships. People who have supported us on Patreon have also helped us get events organized in their home towns, let us crash on their couches (thanks Callista, and see you tonight, Dan and Stacie!), consulted personally with us on business development, and literally hung out in the woods for days on end. That's the kind of thing we're going for!
What's the money going towards?
We're not a nonprofit, so we don't have an itemized public statement of exactly where the organization's money goes (although Angel has this somewhere because she's on top of all of that stuff in a way that I'm not...), but I can tell you concretely that almost all of the money that comes in to the business goes towards the basic tools of the trade for us. It goes to keep our car running, to pay for insurance, to get gas and food between towns, to keep our technology functional, and occasionally to put a roof over our heads when we're on the road in the winter. We embrace a full-on dirtbag business model, so most of the time we're crashing on couches, in our car, or in a tent, and our tech amounts to a couple of old iPhones (one of which was donated by our friend - thanks Angie!), a couple of old laptops, and a used iPad (which we bought using Patreon money so we could do this more reliably on the road!)
From the beginning, I'll admit, we've been trying to build this business as a sort of life-hack: an attempt to create something we could get paid for that also grows out of things that we love to do. In Angel's case, traveling around, making new friends, and playing outside, and in my case writing, creating, and trying to help people navigate the thorny hellscape that we call the modern world.
Because it's so integrated with what we love, we put as much of ourselves into the project as we can - and concretely Patreon sponsorship buys us time and emotional energy to do that. It's letting us live out some dreams, because it's allowing us to spend less time on other work and more time on this project.
I've done a fair amount of fundraising work in the non-profit world, though, and in my experience almost no one gives money to people trying to replace the rear differential on their car or purchase an old iPad on Craigslist. People give to things that they feel personally invested in, causes they believe in, and products and services that they personally benefit from. So, those ideas guide what we're trying to build here. Our goal from the beginning has been to create something using the gifts and interests we've got that is concretely valuable to the world.
So what's the point of all that? The Grand Vision? Where's it all going?
That's the stuff that's worthwhile, we think - in terms of our time and your money. The important point isn't the type of recording device we're using. It's what we're using it for - to what end we're employing our time and resources. That's the big picture of what the money that goes into this business goes towards. That's what's interesting because I think we're creating something pretty unique.
So, what are we providing to the world that we hope is worthy of time, money, and energy? Both our own, and the people who support us?
1) Numbered lists, because people like lists.
2) A connected outdoor community.
One of the early recognitions we had when we were thinking about business ideas was that there was a niche to be filled in the outdoor community, because even though outdoorsy people have a lot of shared values and commonalities, they don't have many central, social gathering places. We'd said for a couple of years that outdoors-types need a bar in every city to hang out in, the way football fans have sports bars. Storytelling events have been a way to create that in a natural way, and it's been a ton of fun, and a real, unique added value in the outdoor world, we think. The Navigator Network has been one concrete platform to create real world connections through the business outside of events, but more than a few people have also met through events and the podcast, which we think is pretty cool.
3) A platform for stories to be told that wouldn't be normally.
It was also an early recognition that in the outdoor community, there is a particular type of voice that you normally hear at public events - winners, champions, record setters. It's not that we aren't interested in those things. We just also think there's a lot of value in hearing about the losers, oddballs, and also-ran's of the world. And it's been interesting - so many of the stories we've heard at events focus on failure, or things that suck, rather than victories and glory, that it's almost a surprise when someone talks about a big accomplishment. Our events and podcast, we think, create a uniquely robust picture of what the outdoor experience actually is, and what it's actually about, because we give anyone who wants it a voice at the table.
As a related aside, Patreon has been a great support for gathering these types of stories - because it gives us some freedom to go to smaller towns where we aren't likely to make money on events. There are good stories everywhere, in our experience, and our goal is to gather as many of those as we can.
4) A Platform to tell stories that are important.
I will be completely honest in saying that there was no real higher social cause (beyond connecting people who wouldn't otherwise be connected) when we first started developing this idea. What we were envisioning with events and the podcast was essentially lighthearted fun. But pretty much immediately, it became clear that when people came to events, and were given an mic to tell any story they want, most of them talked about reasons that their outdoor experience has mattered. They've either shared about lessons learned, or traumatic events, or ways that playing outside has taught them important lessons about life. Based on the platform, it was maybe inevitable that along with "that funny thing that happened that one time", stories have moved towards the interface of the outdoors and social issues, struggles with mental health, gender and sexuality in the outdoor community, and race in the outdoors, among many other things.
When we realized that was happening, we embraced it for what it is - a great opportunity to be a platform for people who are telling stories that are important beyond just recreation, and trying to be good stewards of those stories has become a central goal in what we do. That plays to an existing strength in lots of ways - we're healthcare providers, and I have a Masters degree in religion, so life and death, both literally and figuratively, has been our business for most of our adult lives. But at heart, it's a side benefit of the platform. Give people 10 minutes to share who they are, and they will show you something important.
5) A platform to tell stories that are niche but are interesting to the wider world.
As we've branched out, out attempt to connect with a broad community of outdoorspeople has naturally lent itself to stories that are about the way our weird hobbies are relevant to the interests of people of all kinds. As the business has been developing, a fun spin off of that has been that we've been able to attend, and tell stories about events like the Bigfoot and Tahoe 200 Mile Endurance Runs, and Seventy48, a 70 mile endurance paddle, and share them with a world that wouldn't normally have any idea what they're about.
6) Stories from travel and adventure that are helpful.
We've also naturally gravitated towards practicality. For a lot of adventure types, it's natural to want to provide beta when you're telling a story, so that people who want to can repeat your adventure. Because 10 minute stories aren't quite enough time for that, usually, our Field Notes have been a way to dig deeper into experiences in a way that's useful.
The book I'm working on, "The Dirtbag's Guide to Life", is entirely focused on communicating things we've learned along the way, and will eventually become a real thing you can read. In the meantime, I try to keep this blog primarily useful, because from the beginning we've really wanted to use our platform to make adventure more attainable for more people.
That's a relatively broad list, and while supporting what we're doing, basically, is supporting more events, podcasts, and web content, the important thing we think we're providing are the meaty intangibles - helping people make new friends, providing solid beta, inspiring people to get outside in ways they hadn't thought of, understanding a bit about why all of this madness we engage in on the weekends is important, and how all of it connects us to one another and to the environment we live in. All of that is why we do this, and we hope it's a contribution to the world that those of you supporting us find worthwhile!
Thanks so much for being a part of this thing and helping it continue to grow!
If you're interested in investing in this project with us on Patreon, I wouldn't argue with you, and you can do so by clicking the link below. You get stuff for your sponsorship too, so that's a bonus.
This week we're in Lake Tahoe, having just hiked 120 miles of the Tahoe Rim Trail, and we're preparing to host an adventure storytelling event tonight before working the Tahoe 200 at the end of the week. After that we'll head back up to Seattle before going to Portland, Bend, Moab, and then New Zealand in October. Earlier in the year we went to Calgary and the Sunshine Coast, and if things pan out, we might make it to Mexico by the end of 2018 as well.
A question that we were asked recently is how we afford to do all of this kind of stuff, and I've been thinking about how people afford to live their dreams a lot recently. Budgeting may seem a bit unrelated to all this travel and adventure and stuff, but it's nuts and bolts, and it's come up in more than one conversations recently.
I've got a couple of hours this afternoon, and I wanted to organize a few thoughts around finances specifically because I think it's helpful to provide real life examples of how people do the kind of thing we're doing - leaving a traditional full time work path in order to travel, play outside, and start creating your own thing from the ground up - without venture capital, a trust fund, or a wealthy benefactor.
We've pursued this kind of lifestyle for about 3 years now, and in that time it's been really helpful to have some role models ourselves (thanks Urbanski's!). I don't have any magical secrets here, but I do want to take a minute to outline the basic strategy we've been using to make this work. It's easy to make assumptions that this type of lifestyle is inaccessible to most people, and it's helpful to make things concrete and point out that there are real-world ways to figure it out.
I'm calling this a Dirtbag's guide to the financial hustle.
1) Absence of debt and marketable skills create a massive amount of freedom, even if your income and savings aren't huge.
For a bit of essential background, the life situation that Angel and I find ourselves in is a pretty good one, from the perspective of an entrepreneur.
We aren't independently wealthy, and we can't afford not to make enough income to meet our expenses for more than a couple of months. We aren't willing to take loans out to finance our lifestyle because we don't want debt, so we have to figure out a hustle from month to month so our income reliably meets our expenditures.
But, after 15 years working and saving diligently in our careers, we don't have much current debt, and we have a fantastic safety net because we have highly marketable skills. I'm a nurse. Angel's a nurse practitioner. If our given hustle isn't working, it's really easy to pick up shifts in order to quickly make enough money to survive.
For me, that's a big part of the reason that I feel comfortable enough to take the chance on figuring out how to make money in other ways. If it doesn't work out, we both have solid fallback options.
2) There are only 2 difficult steps: a) believe you can figure it out, and b) commit to hustle until you do.
From a position like ours, my personal experience has been that the most difficult steps in making a transition from a stable, long-term career path into something creative, entrepreneurial, and travel/adventure-based have been the psychological steps required.
I'm personally a creature of routine who likes stability, and it hasn't come naturally to me to give up a traditional contracted job in order to drift around and figure out how to survive. So the first difficult step, for me, has been to believe that I can figure it out. That somehow or another, I'll figure out how to make enough money to survive. Somehow, Angel has that instinct, so she's been the rock.
And related to that, it's difficult not to just retreat back to the familiarity of a comfortable job. I'm a nurse, I can work whenever and where-ever I want. There's a bit of hyperbole there, but not much. But in order to do what we're doing - traveling, creating a business, maximizing our flexibility - we have to be committed to the hustle of making it work across the long haul. That requires a continued commitment to the idea that we're going to figure this out - how to make a passion project pay in a way that's sustainable. That confidence might not always come naturally, but is reinforced the longer we do it, and the more years we manage to make ends meet living a non-traditional lifestyle.
3) The goal: lower expenses to an amount you can meet with income.
Because of our lack of debt, our basic equation is that, in order to keep Boldly Went-ing, we just have to figure out how to keep our expenses lower than our income. The way we've been achieving that, I think, is probably what you'll find most helpful here.
In order to achieve a balanced financial equation, there are really only two things you can do: drop your expenses, and increase your revenue. This is where the rubber hits the road: the practical answer to the question of "how we afford to do what we're doing." How do we make more than we spend while also traveling around, making up a business, hiking a bunch, doing what we want?
The two categories of actions we take include dropping expenses we can live without, and maximizing the number of revenue streams that we can cobble together.
a) Dropping expenses
For us, in 2018, dropping expenses has meant the following things:
b) Maximizing revenue streams.
I mentioned above that we haven't had traditional contract-based full-time jobs for 3 years. But that doesn't mean at all that we don't work. In fact, we work more now than when we would if we did have normal jobs. I'm almost sure of it. It's just that the jobs take the form of a series of side-hustles. And they're organized so that we can do them in a way that's compatible with a peripatetic lifestyle.
While for most of our lives, our sole income streams were traditional jobs, in 2018, there have been at least 10 ways that we've earned money. In roughly descending order, from most to least lucrative, here are our the ways we've made money this year (not including investments because we’re not planning to touch those pre - retirement, so the money’s not “real” yet for us):
None of those revenue streams is big, but pieced together, they're enough to allow us to travel around, work on establishing the business, and work on creating more revenue streams - writing a book, trying to build bigger events, finding more sponsors, and maybe picking up more fun side jobs that don't feel like a burden.
What’s life feel like in that context? Pretty damn flexible. There's no one job obligation that feels like it truly "owns" us. We have to figure out how to make money to keep doing what we want - but it's the "keep doing what we want" idea that feels like it's the focal point of our life, rather than the "making money" part. Life feels creative, and a bit unstable, but not in a threatening way because we always have nursing as a fallback. Our taxable income at the end of the year will be really low, but I definitely don't feel poor, because we have figured out so many options. And I think a variety of options in life is the true opposite of poverty.
Mainly, life these last few years feels like investing in something we believe in with this project - something really personal, creative, and cool.
Will our income streams be different next year? Almost definitely. Maybe we'll find some online income? Or take different side jobs? Or just work more at the hospital? Or less? Who knows? It's weird - it almost doesn't matter, because it's not the point. The point is finding out a way to afford to do what we're doing - traveling, building a business, working on passion projects, creating something cool in the world that we believe in.
A revenue stream that I'm having fun working on is a book - The Dirtbag's Guide to Life - and it will have a lot more information along the lines. If you want to stay updated as that book develops sign up for updates here.
Another stream, which we also can’t continue to do this without is Patreon - where lots of individuals chip in a few bucks to help keep our podcast, events, and other content happening. If you listen to other podcasts, a lot of them have entire, large production teams. Our team is us and our patrons. We hope you'll check out our page - it's a great place to both help out concretely with a couple bucks a month, and to provide feedback and advice about how we can make what we're doing more valuable!
Helgi Olafson is hilarious, hardcore, and inspiring. We met him originally at one of our Portland events, and we're stoked to share a bit of his work here.
Helgi Olafson is a hilarious dude.
He also happens to be a beast of an athlete, competing in 2018's Triple Crown of 200s series, which involves running three 200 mile mountain races in the span of roughly two and a half months - the Bigfoot 200, the Tahoe 200, and the Moab 200 (which, just for funsies, actually covers 240 miles).
And he's doing it all despite having ankylosing spondylitis (AS), which in his words is "a degenerative autoimmune arthritis involving fusion of joints resulting from inflammation of the attachment points of ligaments and tendons to bone. In layman's terms...if I don't MOVE IT...I will lose it.”
We were lucky enough to get to know him a bit at the 2018 Bigfoot 200, midway through the race when his feet looked like hamburger and he hadn't slept in days. He finished the race, and I was stoked to find out afterwards that he'd put together a piece of my favorite style of internet literature - idiosyncratic reports on the nitty gritty details of unusual adventure experiences. The type of thing that really allows you to dig into the emotional experience of what it takes, and what it feels like, to do something really hard and weird - like running the 2018 Bigfoot 200.
He calls it a race report, but what Helgi actually put together is a page turning mini-novella that has enough humor, background, and personal insight that it'll be interesting for someone with no experience of these things at all, but also enough detail that it'll be useful to someone in the planning stages of running this race, or another 200, themselves.
Helgi manages to reference the Truffle Shuffle, Scott Bakula from Quantum Leap, and his apple bong, but my particular favorite anecdote from the report was his description of an interaction around mile 160:
I remember whooping around a lake and then coming up on a father son combo. They were just on a short hike. I made eye contact with the dad as I trekked by. I was deep in thought, but I managed to say to this man, “Monday?”
This thing's full of these sorts of gems, so do yourself a favor and take the time when you have it to read the whole thing. It's classic literature: Helgi Olafson's Bigfoot 200 Race Report.
Helgi's report on the Tahoe 200
Just a couple of weeks after finishing Bigfoot, Helgi ran, and finished the Tahoe 200 - an adventure that he had essentially completed solo earlier in the year when he completed the Tahoe Rim Trail in the snow in not much more than race cutoffs would allow. He offers some humorous background on that experience, as well as another great write-up of his experience at the second of the Triple Crown races.
You can, and should, read that Tahoe 200 Race Report here.
Helgi has done a ton of advocacy in the AS community, and you can follow his adventures on his athlete page on Facebook.
And if you like what we're up to here at Boldly Went, check out our Patreon page and consider joining the small but mighty horde of supporters, and pledging anything from $1/month in order to help make it feasible for us to continue creating the Boldly Went podcast and other online content!
(All photos by the amazingly talented Howie Stern. Used with permission.)
Angel took on the medical director role for Destination Trail's series of 200 mile ultramarathons, and our first event was the Bigfoot 200 near Mount St Helens. We were stoked because that also allowed us to do a bunch of race recording with the goal of sharing the 200 mile ultramarathon experience with you all.
As our friends in New Zealand say, we're completely gutted to say that the day after the race, the phone that contained all of our audio and a bunch of our photos from the 2018 Bigfoot 200 went kaput during a run in Capitol Forest, WA, and the audio can't be recovered.
We lost a wealth of good material, runner and volunteer interviews, and humorous interludes, but the thing I regret the most is that we won't be able to share audio of Helgi Olafson screaming while Angel hacked in to one of his blisters with a pair of toenail clippers at mile 140.
Lemonade from lemons and all that, so at least this gave us a practice run at telling the story of a big event like this in the lead up to the next race, the Tahoe 200. We won't be able to put together a podcast episode from Bigfoot material this year, but as a consolation prize, here are 4 takeaways from our experience running medical at the 2018 Bigfoot 200 Mile Endurance Run.
1. It takes a village.
For the uninitiated, the Bigfoot 200 is a 206 mile point to point foot race through the Cascade Mountains, running roughly from Mount St Helens towards Mt Adams on remote trails and a little bit of forest service road. Participants have 105 hours (4 days, 9 hours) to complete the course, and it's not a stage race - meaning the clock never stops ticking, so racers are encouraged to sleep as little as possible and move as fast as they can. It's arguably the hardest, most scenic 200 mile race in the United States. Sure, there's not that much competition for that title, and there aren't really any easy 200 milers, but you get the picture - it's really something.
You might be wondering how a person might be able to complete that sort of thing. I am too. I can say as a bystander and someone who's also run very long distances in the past that it looked hard. More on that in a bit.
But stepping behind the curtain, the thing that stood out was that getting runners through that course was a massive production involving multiple paid professionals, and literally hundreds of volunteers, crew, and pacers doing thousands of hours of work. Being part of it felt a bit like being a member of a pit crew at a NASCAR race. The runners were driving, but a churning mass of coordinated humanity held things together to get the through the course. Communication alone involved the week-long presence of 40 volunteer HAM Radio operators stationed at various remote locations in the mountains. I heard that the Costco bill for aid stations was over $10,000, and there were volunteers who flew in for a week just to feed and support the other volunteers.
I'm not just saying this - it was a genuinely mind boggling thing to witness, and it gave me huge respect for Candice Burt and the crew who pull off three of these in three months, and huge appreciation for the volunteers who donate weeks of vacation time to hang out with a bunch of smelly runners trying to accomplish something ridiculous.
From my perspective, this was one of the things I loved about the experience. The whole philosophy of this Boldly Went thing is that it's community that makes adventure. This was a big ol' week-long illustration of that.
2. People are gritty.
And yeah, I guess the lunatics doing actually running these things deserve some amount of credit as well. These people are gritty.
The best, most representative lost story from our audio recording, in my opinion, is from Nick Davis, who's participated in the race all four years since it's inception. At mile 140, he asked me to look at his ankle, where he had intense point tenderness at the base of his (oversized) calf, and pain that had been getting worse for hours. I'm no physio, so I asked Angel to check him out, and she diagnosed him with a likely partially torn Achilles, and made the recommendation that he drop due to the possibility of serious long-term damage. He decided to sleep on it, and when he woke up, he told me he was going to try to go on, but wanted to build a heel lift and asked if we had any cork or similar.
After digging through the back of our car, I came across these nice, soft foam novelty Hulk hands:
I cut out a heel-sized chunk of Hulk using trauma shears, stuck it in his shoe, and Nick headed out for two more nights in the wilderness.
No sensible adult would argue that this was a good decision, but when Angel and I rolled in to the finish line, Nick had just come through, Hulk-flesh still in his shoe, having hobbled 66 miles past where we last saw him.
These people are resilient. Even more than other long, slow races, the game in 200 milers seems to be to just keep moving, managing nutrition and sleep deprivation and nausea and feet and soft tissue injuries and the entirely rational desire to quit. The most successful runners, in my experience, kept a sense of humor and perspective about the whole hardcore but patently ridiculous endeavor, pampered their feet like babies, slept when they started to get psychotic symptoms, and spent days on end convincing themselves not to quit until eventually they finished.
Exhaustion makes you regress, so runners would flop themselves into aid stations like over-extended toddlers into their parents arms, and put themselves at the mercy of crew and volunteers to feed them and fix their feet and convince them that they could actually do this before stumbling off into the woods offering profuse and mildly incoherent thanks. I can't speak to what happened out there in the woods, but from the view of the aid station, it's a scene.
People push through for up to 4 1/2 days on end with little to no sleep and nearly constant movement. That's gritty.
3. Ultra medicine = suffering management
Don't read this the wrong way - we kept people safe during this whole thing - but in order to be a medic in a 200 mile ultramarathon, I had to adjust my mindset a bit.
As a hospital-trained nurse, my goals at work are pretty simple: provide care and encourage people to do what they need to in order to get better as quickly as possible.
But as a medic at Bigfoot, where people are pushing themselves right up to the edge of their abilities, the goal was to help them hold it together long enough to get through the race safely.
So, while my inner clinical nurse would advise any patient with gnarly blisters, sleep deprivation, dehydration and strained muscles to take a shower, clean their wounds, drink some water and go the hell to sleep for a couple of days, as a race medic my job was to assess for safety, and patch them up and send them out into the elements as they weren't on the cusp of a medical emergency. A few runners quit the race with infected blisters and soft tissue injuries, but most of our job consisted of cleaning people up, slapping on bandages and tape, and telling them to keep moving. If they were hallucinating, sleep until they stopped, and then get back out there.
Hospital management would frown, but four days of well-managed and emotionally-supported suffering is essentially what people paid for in entering this race. Being a medic meant patching people up so they could safely keep hurting for a few hours longer.
200's are a thing.
Every outdoor and endurance discipline has its challenges. As someone who's thru hiked, run up to 100 miles, and moved up to 36 hours at a time, I was wondering what this experience would be about. I'm a bit of a natural skeptic, so part of me thought the number was a bit of a novelty - that it would just be standard ultra running, only longer. But, at least from the outside, it really did feel like its own game.
The endeavor obviously requires an extremely high level of physical fitness to complete - one of the medical volunteers was a long-time medic for the US Marine Corps, and he said that these runners fitness levels were on average much higher. But all ultra runners are extremely fit, and most of these runners aren't training differently for a 200 than they would a 100, at least physically. It's the mental game that seemed different, and the race required a huge amount of strategy and preplanning around sleep, foot care, injury management, and mental commitment to completing the race.
The most comparable experience, physically, seems to be thru hiking for speed or Fastest Known Time attempts on long trails like the John Muir or Arizona Trails. But the event happens with support and in a crowd, so there are hamburgers and friendship.
And that crowd piece is what made it feel important. My image is that the ultra running community at its core is a bunch of eccentrics doing niche activities on the edge of what's possible. While the trail and ultra communities have grown exponentially in recent years, making 100 miles feel human, if not normal, this crowd felt like an emerging expression of that spirit. Not mainstream yet, by any means, but still a bunch of hardcore oddballs creating something intriguing and weird enough to be important. It still feels like people are figuring out how to do it, so it's generative and experimental, and the formulas haven't quite been set yet. But people are clearly being sucked in. Participants were the types of people who'd done it all in other areas of running - local legends and international notables, and people came to the race from at least 8 countries and dozens of states. By report the Tahoe 200, which has about 100 more participants, is even more diverse.
In short, as someone experiencing this for the first time, 200's feel like a thing in the adventure world - gritty, nearly impossible, absurd, and innovative.
There's a lot of material already up on Facebook, but for amazing photos that really capture the human spirit behind the event, watch Howie Stern's page, who was gracious enough to let us use his photos here. And if you want to read about it, Ryan Chukuske is releasing a book about the event in November. And after the 2015 event, Kerry Ward produced a great personal YouTube documentary about the experience.
We're looking forward to gathering more material for you from the next two events, Tahoe in September, and Moab in October. And next time to avoid technological malfunctions, we're recording on audio cassette and circulating bootlegs like God intended.
If you like what we're up to here, check out our Patreon page and consider joining our mighty horde of supporters.
Tim and Angel
The goat in the picture lives in Silverton, CO, and tried to kill us. We survived to bring you this dirtbag wisdom for the ages.