Saturday, April 9, 2011

501(c)(3) and subletting update

It's taken some doing, but on Monday at 11:30AM, I'm going to be speaking with a business banker at the local branch of my bank, PNC, about the creation of a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. The consultation itself may not be free; this wasn't made clear when I arranged the appointment.

In other news, a perusal of my rental contract shows that it may in fact be possible for me to sublet my apartment. The language in the contract stipulates that there can be no more than one occupant, and that if, at any time, the occupant is not a family member, occupancy can only occur with permission from the rental office.

So I'll be talking to my local bank and to my rental office about how this all might be arranged. I want everything to be aboveboard-- no surprises, no sneakiness. I'm hopeful that we can work all this out.

(Meanwhile, my thanks to the Parks family for suggesting that I talk with my bank.)


what the ADP FAQ reveals

I'm tempted to file this under "lessons learned." As it turns out, the American Discovery Trail is not bike-able along its entire length, as I found out while reading the FAQ for the ADT. Bikers must instead follow detours, and even then, there are portions of the ADT that are impassable by bike.

I also found out that the ADT is not clearly marked as the ADT along its entire length; each segment is managed by a different state, and not all states are on the same page. Complicating matters is the fact that the trail's routes occasionally shift due to maintenance or construction, and maps that were valid last year are no longer valid this year.

Most of these problems are minor annoyances, not major obstacles. The idea that a trail might not be clearly marked is, well, par for the course with most trails all over the world (unless you're in Switzerland, where all the trails are scrupulously marked). Still, it complicates matters now that I know that the ADT, despite having a "society" devoted to it, is actually a rather disjointed path.

That "society" bugs me, too. Far from disseminating free information about the ADT online, the ADT Society has taken the most current information about the trail and rendered it in paper map and book form. I wonder just how many maps and books I'll have to carry with me at any given time. I'd much rather use Google Maps (which employs satellite/GPS) to guide me than to carry around a few ounces (or pounds) of paper. (Of course, paper doesn't run out of battery power, but it can wear out, crumple, fall apart in rain, and do a bunch of other nifty disappearing acts.)

I checked to see whether the trail was marked on Google Earth. It's not, as far as I can tell. There may be random photos pegged to the maps on Google Earth, but they aren't readily searchable as part of the ADT. That's frustrating, to say the least, and the upshot is this: the only way for me to get detailed information about the ADT is to buy it from the ADT Society. Shucking fit. Doesn't seem fair. Then again, that's capitalism, right?

Speaking of capitalism, I think it may be possible for me to couple the ADT with the notion of paid speaking engagements. I'm thinking that I can tie this in with eBay, where people are allowed to sell services (no, you pervs, not those services): I can set my fee at, say, $300-$500 to speak at a local venue; the money I collect can go to mostly the 501(c)(3) nonprofit, with the remainder being used to help keep me on my journey.

Gears are turning.


Friday, April 8, 2011


My brother David thinks I should consider subletting my apartment, instead of raising money to cover the rent, as a way to lower the costs of the upcoming walk. I'm going to check into the legality of doing that, but I'm not hopeful.


on blisters

I didn't include blisters in my "lessons learned" agenda because my feeling is that there isn't much to learn about them. The literature on blisters tends to be over-cautious, in my opinion; some authors act as if it's of utmost importance to treat them right away, to slap on that moleskin and save yourself from miles and hours of pain.

My conclusion, which I reached very early in my walk, is that blisters inevitably form in the early stages, especially if you're a big guy with a heavy pack, and all you really need to do is walk through them. Sure, they can hurt, but they don't really hurt that badly, and when you're sweating from carrying a 50- to 60-pound pack on your back, they aren't at the top of your list of worries. Pop them with something sterile and move on. Mother Nature, in the form of physics and repetitive movement, will take care of the rest.

This isn't to say that blisters are easy to ignore; when conditions are cold and rainy, blisters form readily, even on feet that have traveled hundreds of miles; they can become as annoying as the constant, subtle buzz of your next-door neighbor's alarm clock. But "not easy to ignore" isn't the same as "impossible to ignore," and the fact of the matter is that blisters will never hurt you enough to make you roll around in agony.

So when it comes to blisters, I say, "Man up!" Or "woman up!" --as the case may be. Trust me: you can walk right through them, and your feet will be the tougher for it.


Thursday, April 7, 2011

interesting CNN link

My brother David sent me a link to a CNN article about headaches and brain cancer. In the linked article are two videos, the second of which covers new vaccine treatment for GBM patients. This news isn't exactly new anymore, but it remains a promising development, and the video illustrates very clearly how the vaccine works.


Wednesday, April 6, 2011

stay tuned

Coming soon: a post, lessons learned #5, about using hotels and motels only as a last resort.


Tuesday, April 5, 2011

lessons learned #4: the importance of water

If you're out in the desert and you're a big guy who sweats a lot, water is no laughing matter. My 2008 walk started off easy: it took me from the US/Canada border down the cool, rainy, western spine of Washington State, where water was never an issue. My path then broke eastward from Portland, Oregon along the south side of the Columbia River to Umatilla and Irrigon, then hopped back up into Washington to end at Walla Walla. Right about the time I hit The Dalles, Oregon, the greenery abandoned me and the world became brown. I had left the Cascades behind and had entered the high desert, land of rocks and mountaintop windmill farms. Even from a slowpoke walker's perspective, the change was rather sudden.

Many of those days in the high desert saw temperatures over 90 degrees. On one particularly bad day, it was nearly 110 degrees out and I almost ran out of water about eight miles before Arlington, the town in which I had planned to stop. The sun's constant glare was withering, and I could feel myself slowing down. Rest breaks came more and more frequently, especially as my water supply dwindled (I used just about three gallons' worth), and in the end, a state policeman rolled up, told me I looked "bad," and gave me an eight-mile ride the rest of the way to Arlington. My knee was killing me; my mouth was dry by the time Officer O'Neill pulled up alongside me, and while I was still far from collapsing, I must have looked as if I were shambling like a zombie. My voice was husky, and I had begun to make bets with myself as to how many more miles I could do before needing to stop again. I ended up staying in Arlington for a week. That was probably the closest I had ever come to dying of thirst. Nature is an ass-kicker.

You've heard countless times that we humans beings are composed mostly of water. Evolutionarily speaking, our salty blood attests to the fact that we each carry a measure of the warm ocean, that cradle of life, inside us. This ocean needs to be maintained: lose too much water and salt through your sweat, and you may find yourself staring into the maw of heat exhaustion. On the day that Officer O'Neill showed up, I was edging dangerously close to that state. I still think I could have made the final eight miles on my own, but it would have been evening by the time I'd arrived, and my leg would have been useless.

So the lesson is obvious: in the desert, you've got no choice but to carry plenty of water, which means you've got no choice but to carry a lot of extra weight. I had a large CamelBak system with me, plus two large Nalgene bottles; my total capacity was close to three gallons. This turned out not to be enough for the twenty miles I walked in nearly 110-degree heat. Now imagine the same situation, but with no police officer pulling up, and no Columbia River close by if things got desperate.

The three primary practical issues related to water are carriage, storage, and potability. Carriage and storage are obviously related, but aren't exactly the same thing. Carriage is more a question of where you place your water physically on your person: do you hang it off your backpack? Do you hold a small bottle in your hands for those quick sips? Are you dragging your water behind you somehow? Basically: where are you putting all that water? Storage refers specifically to the containers used: will you be storing your water in milk jugs, camp canteens, Nalgene bottles, CamelBak drinking systems, or something else? These questions are more important than they may seem at first blush. When you're tired after ten or fifteen miles, regularly removing your 50- or 60-pound backpack to get at your water becomes a real logistical problem. Easy access while walking is important.

Potability, as a survival issue, subdivides into filtration and purification. As with carriage and storage, filtration and purification are related concepts, but not exactly the same. You always want to drink water that's been purified; it's not as important that water be completely filtered. A little grit won't harm you the way bacteria can. A good filter can take out a lot of that grit and can even work a little purification magic, but it won't necessarily kill every beastie that's in the water.

Which brings us back to storage. I made a discovery while walking along the high desert: if you filter some river water and put it in your translucent Nalgene bottles, you're creating a bacteria factory. The greenhouse effect ensures that the bacteria have plenty of light and warmth to go with their water, and in the space of an hour, the water in your bottles will be pretty much undrinkable. For me, this discovery took on a humorous cast: normally, when you're in a food-poisoning situation, one of the things you want to do is poop. On the day I realized that I was being attacked by my own water, I hadn't eaten for two or three days, so there was nothing for me to poop out. The consumption of some water didn't change that fact. It was a strange feeling, wanting to poop and yet having nothing to offer Mother Earth. I was, in fact, thankful that events went that way: I was able to recover from my queasiness once I had realized what was going on, all without suffering the consequences of diarrhea while on the road. That, friends, could have been disastrous.

The Katadyn filtration system that I had bought in Portland, Oregon served me well, as far as filtration goes. But as the above anecdote shows, purification is a whole different animal. It's probably not as much of an issue in the winter, when even the microorganisms are less active, but in situations of abundant light and warmth, something more than just filtration needs to be done. Two of the suggestions I received during that walk were (1) get a SteriPEN, and (2) buy purification tablets.

I'm going to avoid SteriPENs for reasons cited in a previous post: for your own safety, stay far away from any product about which no clearly positive opinion has emerged. SteriPENs are good in theory-- they emit UV rays that blast the genetic structure of microorganisms-- but customer and professional reviews note a few problems with them. First, there's the fact that the SteriPEN's effectiveness is limited if the water is even remotely cloudy. This has been a common complaint among hikers. Another is that the pen's battery isn't always the most reliable, which can mean flickering-- another crimp on effectiveness. Then, of course, there's the fact that the SteriPEN uses batteries at all, which brings us back to the power issue discussed in a previous post. Just how many different types of power source should I be lugging along with me?

Purification tablets (iodine and chlorine are the most popular) are probably the way I'll go. As Jason suggested in this long-ago comment, it's better to mix some Kool-Aid into the water (although this presents its own set of problems!) to blunt the foul taste of the purification process. I'll probably have some powdered flavoring on me for just that purpose. Purification tablets have been around forever; I used them when hiking in Switzerland years ago. They're cheap, they're light, and they don't need batteries. Coupled with good filtration, such tablets will get me through the walk.

On a somewhat sillier note, I'm also thinking of pinning a flag to my backpack that says something like, "NO RIDE NEEDED, BUT WATER WELCOME." Roadside charity would certainly save me from dipping too deeply into my own water supply. I'm also hoping that, if I build up enough of a following on Twitter, there'll be plenty of folks along the way who might zip out to my location and offer me an ice-cold bottle. God knows that, by Mile 15, water is something you think about constantly, desert conditions or no.


Monday, April 4, 2011

Monday weight check #1

295.7 pounds.

I was over 300 pounds when I started my new job. The loss of less than 10 pounds really signifies nothing, and when you're as large as I am, even losing 20-30 pounds does little to change your appearance. But if I can manage to lose 60 or so pounds by September, that'll be great, and my knees will thank me. To that end, God help me, I'm considering taking up the dreaded Atkins diet, which worked wonders for my brother Sean. I tried Atkins once, long ago, for about a week, and was left miserable, but part of the problem was my ignorance of the bigger picture, i.e., the full palette of foods available to me despite the draconian restrictions. Considering my current carb intake, though, I think Atkins would do much to steer me away from adult onset diabetes.

More on this as we go.