Glenn Charles


Photographer/Videographer specializing in Life Style, Travel, and Aerial Imagery.  FAA 107 Certified for sUAS flight operations throughout the US.  Fully insured.  Videography work is limited to Aerial productions.

Based in Maine (May-December) and SWFL (Jan - April). Available for travel year round.

Filtering by Category: Europe 2012

Bikepacking Ireland

As part of my 2012 Europe micro adventures, I am just back from 6 days of bikepacking the SW coast of Ireland.  Not enough time for sure, but enough to really wet my appetite for this amazing countryside.  It had been over 10 years since I had last been to Ireland and that was all in the North.  For this trip, I caught the ferry from Wales to Dublin and then the train from Dublin to Kilarney. 

My trusty Salsa Fargo in tow, I was able to meet up with my good friends Jack & Ellen, owners of Cohills up in Lubec Maine.  Ellen is a recent convert to biking, and with her new Surly Troll in tow, we set her up for the cheap and easy form of bikepacking. This setup is so simple that anyone can do it.  The basic components are two 10L dry bags and a frame or tangle bag.  We simply strapped one dry bag to the handlebars and the other to a Topeak quick release rear rack and she was ready to go.

We started by doing a warm up ride around the Dingle peninsula and then loaded up the bikes and headed out to the Beara the next day.  I have to say, this stretch from Dingle to Beara was one of the most amazing stretches of land I have ever cycled.  It was remote and rugged, challenging to ride, and awe inspiring to look at.  The weather was a bit damp, but that is spring in Ireland.  By and large I think we had more sun than rain.

After reaching the Beara, with many people questioning our decision to ride that peninsula over the Ring of Kerry, we finally found one person that thought it was a good idea, and thus our nerves were set to rest.  Every other person that we spoke to told us how difficult the ride would be.  After the day crossing from Dingle we were definitely on edge, just how difficult could this be.

Well, the first 10 miles or so were fine, and we were feeling quite confident, and then the Universe reached down and set us straight.  The ride was one of those rides where you are either going straight up or straing down.  Very little of the road was flat or even rolling.  Some stretches were downright mean, clearly built by folks that don't like cyclists :-)  On some of the outer farm roads the grade was so steep that I was pedaling no faster than Ellen was walking (sorry Ellen, had to throw that out there...). 

The ride to the tip of the Beara was unlike anything I had ever experienced before.  The ocean stretched far and wide, with the golden light of the setting sun reflected off of the barren cliffs.  Our map showed a town, but at a certain point we began to doubt.  It was so rugged and rolling that until we rounded a turn and crested a hill, there was absolutely no sign of civilization.  We were doing the route counter clockwise and by the time we made the turn and began heading north and east, the roads became somewhat more manageable.

Having met a lovely gentleman the day before, we were pleasantly greeted by this same fellow the next day as he came with an offer of being our tour guide.  One of the things I love the most about travel is when you are able to connect with the locals and get tours and information that you would have otherwise missed.  In this case we were taken to a Buddhist retreat high up on the cliffs and shown a castle that had long ago been burned down and vandalized.  Our tour ended as all good tours should, saying goodbye over coffee and pie.

Ireland is a special place and one that should most definitely be seen by bike.  The ability to stop and look and explore whenever and wherever you want is one of the great benefits of travelling by bike.  The people were amazing and incredibly friendly and we had zero issues with car drivers, even on the small and narrow country roads.  I can't wait to go back and explore more on the bike and circumnavigate the island by Kayak.

A full gallery of images is available here.


A Bar that is a hardware store...

These treats are AMAZING!!

10 days of bike packing In Africa

I am just finishing up with 10 day Micro Adventure bike packing on my Salsa Fargo in and around North Africa. It has been a spectacular trip and one that has taught me much. The people of Morocco have been some of the warmest and friendliest people I have ever met. They have opened their homes and families as well as shared their food with a scruffy vagabond traveler from America.

It has been an amazing experience and one that would not have been the same had I not been traveling by bike.

I get back to my computer in a couple of days and will then be able to do a complete trip writeup with images.


UPDATE -- My bikepacking images are now available on my Photoshelter site. To see them click here.

Norway - A winter micro adventure

For the past year I have dreamed of going and visiting places that are cold and have lots of snow. My first thoughts of this came as I cycled around America on my trusty Salsa Fargo, dreaming of where to go next.  I had become very enamored with the thought of snow biking on a Mukluk and thus began the seeds of my winter expedition dreams. 

When I got over to the UK, planning a trip to Norway became very high on my list.  I was unsure of how I would do this and what form of transportation I would use, but I knew that I had to find a way to visit this amazing land with its mountains, forests, and snow, yes much snow.  To date, I had never ski'd  always afraid of something dire happening to me as I imagined myself screaming and tumbling all the way down a mountain side ending at the bottom in one large lump of pain and injury.  Over the years, this fear grew larger and larger, and I began to just accept that skiing was something that I would never get the chance to experience. 

When it became apparent that I would only have a few days to visit Norway, I decided that combining two desires into one single trip was the best way to get over this completely irrational fear of ski's.  My goal was simple, learn some basic winter survival skills while at the same time experiencing Nordic skiing at its finest.  The challenge now was how to achieve these goals within a very short period of time.  Luckily Richard and I were able to convince our new friend Roger to tag along and teach us a bit of both.  You see, Roger has spent his entire life mountaineering in some of the most extreme places and was thus is a duly suitable instructor. A wee bit of bribery and we had our man.

As we left England the weather reports were already beginning to get dire.  Warnings of record low temperatures across Europe were springing forth from every direction.  While this would not have too much impact on our skiing, it would surely have an effect on camping out.  The coldest temperatures that I had experienced to date were in the very low teens (f), so warnings of 0 degrees were definitely getting my attention. 

Any time you bring 3 'Alpha' males into an arena, the first thing that seems to go out the window is planning.  We all were cognizant of not stepping on each other's toes, so the whole decision making process seemed to be a bit of a mess.  We arrived on a Friday and the plan was to spend the night in an Oslo Hostel and then head out the next day to rent ski gear and get to the back country.  The problem, well, we really only had a loose idea of where we were going and our timing was a bit off.  By the time we had done our shopping, bought groceries, caught a train, rented ski gear and were ready for the lesson, it was well past 2:00 in the afternoon, only 2 hours before dark.

I believe that awareness is a key element to growth as an individual, and one thing I have  become acutely aware of is that I like to have things planned out, which is quite odd for someone who is a travelling vagabond. What I have not figured out is if this is simply a function of travelling alone versus being with others.  When you are alone, it is possible that the two paths merge and become blurred, but with others, frustration springs forth when plans are not set out and followed.  So, it is now after 2:00 in the afternoon, with temps in the low teens, we are standing on the slopes, looking at 30-45 pound rucksacks full of gear -- darkness is a mere two hours away and I have still never ski'd and we are camping 8km from the lifts, accessible only by ski.  To say that I was stressed was an understatement...

Roger then did a great job of giving me a one hour crash course, yes I do mean crash, on how to ski.  He did the best he could do, but it was going to be up to me to figure this all out.  We loaded our packs on our backs and within 5 feet I came crashing down on my right side, slipping on ice as we crossed the sidewalk to the path.  Aching with pain, I picked myself up, cursed, made it two more feet and crashed again.  This was just not the way to get started and I was feeling incredibly defeated.  At this point it was not just the pain of falling, but the anguish of letting others down.  Instead of focusing on learning to ski I was now filled with anxious thoughts about travelling the 8km to our destination in the dark.  We were lucky that it was a clear sky and a bright moon, but neither of those items offered up much consolation.

I made an executive decision to walk.  This pained my pride greatly but I saw no other way of making it in any amount of safe time.  As it was, the 8km in the dark was likely going to take us 2-3 hours and that assumed we did not get lost.  So with pride at bay, I began the journey of trekking by foot all the way to our appointed camp location.  The only saving grace was that the pace was slow, and on the uphill I made up distance on the other two, which they then gained back on the descents.  This back and forth pace continued for the better part of 3 hours.

As I calmed myself from the embarrassment of walking, I found a beautiful calm peace in the forested winter wonderland. The three quarter moon shown brightly and other than reading our maps and the sign posts, no lights were needed.  It was a beautiful experience hiking through the snow, exactly the sort of winter adventure that I had been seeking.

We made it to the hut, and a team decision was made to spend the night inside.  Richard had a nasty cold and it was decided that getting him better was the priority lest we not be able to sleep out the next night.  Our dreams of snow holes turned to warmth as the lovely caretaker, Gretta, allowed us in to the great hall and stuffed our bellies with warm stew and fresh rolls.  Given how the day had gone, there is no doubt that it was the right decision.  While we desperately wanted to work on our winter skills, the threat of 0 degree temps and Richards condition made the decision a simple one.

We woke the next morning to the smell of wood on the fire and the first light trickling through the windows.  The lodge was built back in the 1930's and the great room was stunning.  Tables lined the hall with a fireplace on one end and pot belly stove on the other.  Carvings in the poles represented ancient traditions with a huge animal fur hung on the far wall. The smell of coffee drifted in as we slowly crawled out of our nice warm sleeping bags.

Today we would set out and simply ski, leaving our packs at the lodge where we would camp out upon our return.  This was a much better plan as small day packs were significantly easier to deal with than fully loaded touring packs.  I personally woke with a commitment to figuring this ski thing  out, something that in all honesty I was ready to bin the night before.  As we set out it was slow going, but with each fall I got better and with each downhill I gained more confidence.  Before long I was making it down the hills and only crashing as I crested the bottom and began the ascent, something that really drove me nuts.  It seemed impossible that I could make it down these little hills only to be tossed to the ground in the transition.  Eventually it all came together and I finally began to ski.

As we travelled the trails it became clear that we had an option to cut our own path down what is a road during the summer.  Fresh snow covered a pristine path with no visible sign of footprints or ski tracks.  We worked our way patiently down the forested path, taking turns in the lead in order to give each other a rest.  Whomever was in the lead used significantly more energy than those that followed, so we found a rhythm of switching off every 5 minutes.  The path led to an intersection with another trail, one that we hoped to pick up, but it was clear that this too was a summer route.  We would have to continue breaking trail, but this time down hill, through trees and a bit of forest.  It took a bit of discussion before there was a consensus. 

With everyone in agreement we set off down the hill. This was obviously a first for me, but I think Richard had issues as well.  The challenge was to find angles that allowed you to ski/slide for short distances before jigging back in the other direction.  Were you to simply go straight, speed would build up, and in my case a crash was bound to happen.  Without going into too much detail, I must have become a little to confident as I raced down the hill, desperately reaching for the tops of pine trees in an attempt to stop my descent.

Anyone that has ever traveled in fresh powder before knows that as the snow builds in these areas it begins to cover up the trees.  However, the pine needs and branches create a sort of hollow hole surrounding the actual tree.  As you get closer to the tree, you stand the chance of sinking into this hole very quickly.  I can tell you now from first hand experience that this is not only no fun, but also down right scary!  I eventually grabbed a tree to arrest my descent and quickly found that I had gotten in way too close, thus feeling the sucking motion of me sliding down the hole.  Visions of rescues danced in my head as I flailed a bit in an attempt to stop my fall.  I am sure at this point that it was no where near as dire as this sounds, but in the moment, I can honestly say it was darn scary.  I have a new appreciation for those that ski deep powder amidst the trees.

The three of us had worked hard by mid day and were quite happy to have successfully navigated to another little Kafe shop. We took off our ski's and headed into a room warmed by a very large wood burning stove.  On the table were luscious pastries, cookies and sandwiches.  Behind the little bar a woman was serving coffee, tea and hot chocolate.  We opted for all of the above, and set about devouring our snack while warming our bodies and drying out our layers.

The night was set to be cold again, somewhere in the 0-5 temp and we had about 4km to ski before we were safely back to our kit.  Our plan had been a short day, so we had neglected to bring some essentials, so with a bit of urgency we set out to make it back before dark.  It was here that I finally learned the art of going uphill, a skill that to this point had alluded me.  It is a strange frogger/contortionist act that one must make to work your way up steep inclines without sliding backwards.  As best I can tell, it is a coordinated set of actions between the ski and poles that when done properly allow you to make quick work of these ascents.  Watching the local Norwegians was breathtaking as they barely broke stride, always making quick work of these difficult ascents.

Temperatures on Saturday night were not quite as extreme as the night before.  The ski wax thermometer read -14C and that was early in the evening.  Clouds had rolled in and a light snow was falling, both of which would conspire to keep the temps from dropping much further.  We had found a set of lean to shelters that we would use as camp platforms for the night.  Since we only had bivy sacks and a tarp this made the most logical sense given the time of day and the snow that was now falling.  For me, this would be the coldest temperature that I had camped out in.  I was confident that I had brought a reasonably appropriate set of kit.

Using a 15F degree bag, with a bivy sack and all of the clothes that I brought, I hoped that I would make it through the night in relative comfort.  The weakest link was a lightweight sleeping pad that I had borrowed from Richard.  This pad in particular is very thin, and while fine for summer, it would be a stretch to stay comfortable on it as the temps dropped.  I inflated it early on as we made camp, with the intention of further inflating it right before bed.  When you are in these cold temperatures and you have an air pad, you must account for the fact that you are filling the pad up with warm air from your body.  As that air cools, it will compress and your pad will shrink.  Thus, right before bed, the idea is to 'top' it off before falling asleep.  This is what I have done in the past and it has always worked well.  However, this particular pad has a bronze valve and the moisture from my breath had frozen the valve shut.  Not being able to inflate the pad was going to cause me some discomfort and cold, but there was no getting around it, the valve would not budge.

Richard on the other hand, for whatever reason, had chosen to bring a 3 season bag to the frigid Norwegian environment.  I never understood this, and once it was revealed that he had a perfectly good 0 degree down bag at home, well it made even less sense.  For Richard, it was a long and painful night as he tossed and turned struggling to stay warm.  The only option he had to get any additional warmth was to go all the way into his bag and bivy.  While this provided short term comfort, it would have been a dangerous choice if we were camping more than one night.  When breaking camp the following morning he discovered all of the ice crystals on the inside of his bivy and the outside of his sleeping bag.  This was caused by all the moisture in his breath moving out of the 'warm' zone and into the freezing zone.  Had we been out for multiple days this moisture/ice would have built up inside of his bag making things even worse. 

Besides pads and moisture, the other great revelation or affirmation is how poorly cannister stoves work in any type of cold.  While I knew this to be true, it was good to see it in person when things were not life threatening.  Attempting to melt snow or boil water in 0 degree weather was simply painful.  It took forever to get any type of burn going and that was using a cannister that I had kept in my bag the night before.  The lesson learned is that liquid stoves are the way to go when the temperatures drop that low.

The final day was a mixture of clouds and snow, making for a beautiful ski back to the resort.  The tracks were filled with people ranging in ages from 3 - 80.  It was an amazing sight to see all of these people out enjoying the slopes, the weather and becoming one with nature.  Little kids aged 3-5 were bundled up and learning to ski.  Kids in the 7-10 range followed their parents up and down the slopes without blinking an eye.  Dads and moms towed infants in little sledges akin to those used by cyclists to pull babies.  Then there were the dogs.  Dogs, dogs, and more dogs, of all shapes and sizes bounded through the snow with what could only be some form of doggy jubilation.  It was without a doubt one of the most amazing experiences of my life, seeing people of all ages out and enjoying everything that nature had to offer.

The trip was way to short and I am already plotting my return.  Going back soon I will either have my Mukluk or if not, it will be ski's again.  While we were only right above Oslo, my goal next time is to head much farther north and experience more of the frozen and remote locations that Norway has to offer.  They have an amazing hut & trail system that allows you to travel light and fast, going from one hut to the next.  My intention is to follow one of these routes and perfect my winter skills before going on with my more extreme winter plans.  While I would love to just get dropped off in the middle of nowhere, I do recognize that safety is paramount and learning what you don't know is critical to survival.

Canoe and Kayak Scotland - Two Micro-Adventures

This past week I had the opportunity to travel up to Scotland and do 3 very cool things with some good friends.  First we got out on the river Tweed and Till for an overnight canoe trip around Berwick.  This was my first time out in a canoe on an extended trip and I must say I struggled to keep things going straight.  The weather was a bit cool, and with time, started to drizzle and rain a bit.  The river itself was a magical place, with meandering curves, a nice flow of water and some interesting rapids for a first timer. 

We paddled for several hours and then took a break on the shoreline for lunch.  Careful planning saw us eating wraps made of hame, tomato and brie, with some hot coffee thrown in for good measure.  Our host, Ollie Jay (Active 4 Seasons), was fantastic at giving me tips for maneuvering the canoe and dealing with the the rapids.  Most of these runs were very simple with only slight overfalls or rapids.  However there was one point where Ollie pointed out that I might want to make sure everything was strapped down and that I take an aggressive position in the canoe that gave me a wee bit of pause. 

The funny thing is that with these types of rapids, you really can't tell what it is like until you get on the down river side and look back.  For this rapid we pulled the boats over to the shore, got out and took a look, and then set off for the run.  I remember thinking as I went over this rapid that I was in the wrong spot, and how much I really did not want to get wet.  Luckily I was close enough to the proper line and the canoe paused ever so slightly and then slid down and through.  Safely on the other side, it was good to hear that we really had no other obastacles left to run.  The only issue left was a simple portage around a deep ledge and then we would finished for the day.

There is really something special about camping out with friends and so, having found a great little spot high up on the banks of the river, this was going to be no exception.  As the light faded, we quickly made camp, which for me and Richard meant a simple tarp and bivouac solution.  For the others they were using tents, something that for the most part I choose to pass on these days.  The feel of sleeping out, somewhat exposed to the elements is an exhilarating part of the experience for me. 

Even the best laid plans can run afoul and as we began to put together dinner, the cry went out for the Pasta, which apparently we all forgot to bring.  This led to a quick inventory of food, upon which we realized that breakfast was missing as well.  The lesson, well, communication and food inventory is critical before heading out into the wild.  We at least had the mince, a box of wine and a bottle of whisky so all was not lost.

The stars came out and the wind began to blow as we sat around the camp fire staying warm and telling stories.  These are the times that make you realize what you miss during solo travel -- I must admit, this comrade was a real treat for me given my past 3 years of solo adventure travel.  The night progressed and we spent the final hours high up on the hill stargazing, with the lack of light pollution, the skies were bright and clear with a gazillion  stars smiling down at us. A few shooting stars and wee bit more whisky and I think we were all set for a good nights sleep.

Tarp camping is not for everyone as you are still somewhat exposed to the elements.  In this case we had our down bags in a bivy to protect them from moisture, but still, the wind kicked up and blew cold air onto our faces, the only part of our bodies exposed to the elements.  Once again, for me, that feeling of cool air rushing across your face, while the rest of you is toasty warm in a bag, well, lets just say that is true heaven for me.  A good nights sleep behind us, and sunny skies to start the day and we were off after eating any left over scraps of food that could be found.

We finished the canoe trip with a short paddle to our car and then off to the coast we went for some sea kayaking.  This would be the first time using our new Reed Chillcheater touring cags, fleece, and aquatherm dry pants so we were excited to get going.  The day was bright and not too cold with a bit of swell in the water.  Perfect conditions to go play amongst the rocks and caves of the Scottish coast.  I had never been in the North Sea before, and there is something large about those waters.  Even though the conditions were not big, there was no doubt that these were serious waters that in the right conditions would challenge the best of paddlers.

Once again, Ollie Jay was our guide and he did an excellent job of leading us through rocks and caves, creating a nice game of follow the leader.  There were only a couple of times that I chose not to follow, and most often was pleased with my decision as I watched others struggle with their timing.  It is so important when shooting these gaps to allow another set to come through after the person in front of you. Unfortunately the tendency is to see them go through and immediately want to follow.  This of course often leads to less than positive results.

A great day on the water ended with a pint in the local pub.  We said our goodbyes and headed off for 2 days sightseeing in Edinburgh.  I could write a whole post on that city, what an awesome place.  You can see a gallery of city images that I shot posted here.  There is no doubt that 2 days was not enough and I will definitely find a way back.  The history, architecture, art, music, whisky, and food was fantastic.  I can't wait to get back and do more exploring on my Salsa Fargo.  Travelling the city by bike would be an even better experience because everything is fairly spread out.  Having a bike would make touring the city so much easier.

After a great time in the city, we were off to once again meet Ollie Jay at St. Abbs, located on the North Sea, for another day of paddling.  This time we had a special guest, Ian from the Scottish Sun, who was doing an interview on us.  When we finished up with the interview it was time to suit up and get wet.  Ian is a new paddler so we took some time getting him in the boat and acclimated to the basic kayak strokes.  Ollie did a great job of briefing Ian on what to do should he capsize, which in the end, was an invaluable briefing.

We paddled for 30 minutes or so in the protected harbour before heading out into the sea.  That day the winds were quite strong, blowing down from the high hills and heading out to sea.  We kept to the protected shoreline for the outgoing portion of the paddle and all was fine.  However, as we looped our way back towards the harbour a sudden gust of wind caught Ian broadside and over he went.  Richard took the lead, doing an excellent rescue and getting Ian back into the boat in a very timely manner.

In these waters it is critical to get back into your boat as soon as possible to avoid any form of hypothermia.  In this case, Ian had on good clothing and was back in the boat in a minimal amount of time.  As good a trooper as he was, you could tell that his sea legs were now missing, the boat somehow less stable than before.  I think this is a common occurrence when out for the first couple of times after you have gone over.  The sense of stability in the mind just disappears.  With that said, it was only a matter of minutes before Ian was back in the water.

This time Ollie was to the rescue in lighting fashion.  Before you knew it, he was on the boat, emptying it and getting Ian back on board.  It was a very impressive rescue to say the least.  We were now back at the harbour entrance and time for everyone to laugh and joke about the days paddle.  Ian was a great sport and we are looking forward to having him on The Spare Seat expedition for a couple of days.  Ian, I promise the tandems are much more stable than the singles so nothing to worry about there.

We said goodbye and now it was our turn to head out and play.  The tide had turned and the winds were up, so we had a great area to go play in.  Tide against wind, accompanied by a jetting point off the coastline created some great conditions to work in.  As before, we searched for rocks to play in and caves to explore.  Lots of hard work took us out and around the point with a stunning view of the St. Abbs lighthouse. 

By now the sun was setting and it was time to finish up our week long micro adventure.  With the wind at our backs we were able to surf and paddle our way back to the harbour.  Once again I have to give thanks to Ollie and his company, Active4Seasons for hosting Richard and I on this trip.  He has an amazing place to paddle, both in the sea and on the rivers, so if you are looking for a Scottish adventure you should definitely ring him up.

Micro adventures are fun and accessible to all.  This trip saw me extend my own personal boundaries by getting in a canoe and paddling off for two days on a river with several interesting overflows. The comrade of good friends was another bonus to several days of adventure.

The most important adventure is the one you take, so stop waiting and just go do it.

More images from the 3 days of adventure can be found here.

Images from Edinburgh can be found here.

8 Day Micro Adventure - Through my eyes

New shelter -- Old shelter

I had my first micro adventure of the year, starting exactly one year from the date that I set off to bike around America.  The start date was a pure coincidence, but one that was not lost on me.  It was a challenging trip as I set out on my Salsa Fargo to bikepack to Scotland.  I had spent only a little bit of time planning the trip, so it was a big surprise to me within a day or two of setting out the conditions informed me that I was totally out of my mind.

A few modifications to my kit, an adjusted attitude, and a new objective of just exploring was all that I needed to get me back on track.  The Salsa Fargo continues to handle every and all tasks that I give it.  This trip saw me riding on asphalt, cobblestones, dirt roads and single track trails.  It was the perfect test for my new Porcelain Rocket bikepacking kit which performed flawlessly.  I  have a video up that highlights how the bags were set up and what kit was stored where.  Since I had to deal with conditions that would range from 20F to 50F along with snow, rain, sleet and sun, it was quite the challenge getting the right gear selected and stored in the frame bags.  In the end, I think I adjusted quite nicely and found a good mix of gear to keep me dry and warm.

The trip provided me a great opportunity to reconnect with nature and find the silence of travel that I so love. There is something special about going to sleep under a tarp in the middle of the woods, nothing more than the wind moving the trees and the moon rising high up in the sky.  Snuggled in a warm sleeping bag, it is amazing how one can drift off at 6:00 and not wake until 12 hours later.  A good day of hard riding or paddling, coupled with a warm meal and cold air is all that is needed to send the body adrift.

I love being out on the trail and the opportunities it provides to connect with people that otherwise would not give you the time of the day.  The woman at the vegetable stand that helps you track down a charger for your phone and then, after you leave, proceeds to tell another person about you who then goes and tracks you down, across town, and offers to watch your bike and the buy you a cup of soup.  I mean really, these stories can't be made up and they never cease to amaze me and inspire me.  The world is full of such magical experiences that are simply out there waiting for us to track them down.  Simply packing up your gear and heading out for a small adventure is all that is needed to set your soul free.

Below are some of my favorite images from the trip.  I chose to make them all Black & White because this trip, while not all grey, was definitely dark and forboding.  Travelling in a new land, riding on the wrong side of the road, dealing with minimal daylight hours and winds that I would not normally walk in... well, lets just say it was one of the most challenging adventures of the past three years. 

I will have some articles up later in the week that talk about what worked and what didn't along with more details on the Yorkshire Wols, and the kindness of complete strangers.


Gallery of Images - Micro Adventure - English Countryside

Europe by Bike | Kayak | Skiis - Day 2

It is always a challenge to beat jet lag, especially when travelling east.  For this trip I attempted to just jump right into my normal daily activities and schedule in hopes of fending off that dreaded feeling that comes from loosing 5 hours of time.

The short playboat with Richard in the backgroundDay two, I woke fairly early, ate a good breakfast and then headed out to the river for a nice morning paddle.  Richards club is made up of canoe polo boats, racers, and little play boats.  I had never paddled a play boat, let alone anything less than 16ft, so it was quite a sight as I attempted to paddle strait.  Needless to say, while a beautiful setting, the pain of zig zagging and looking like a complete 'bloke' wore a bit on my ego.  Here I am on my first little outing with Richard, whom  I am going to do some big and epic trips with, and I look like a complete and utter newbie!!

After struggling to keep up and go straight, we made it back to the club, cleaned up, and headed off for our next adventure.  I finished putting the Salsa Fargo back together and making all of my final adjustments, including attaching all of the Porcelain Rocket frame bags.  Fargo and Porcelain Rocket Frame BagsI brought my 3 Salsa Anything cages to attach, but I will hold off on them for the time being. With the first generation Fargo, you really should not mount the cages to the forks using the existing mounting holes.   The reason is the cages and whatever you put in them gets a little too close to the tire/frame and can create a bit of a safety issue.  The current version of the Fargo and the Enabler Fork has corrected this issue by moving the brazeons outwards.  Since I am running smaller tires on the bike, I am able to get by with using the existing mounting points.

The warm setting sun lights up a fieldWe geared up and headed out for a 2 hour ride through the countryside.  The route was along streets and then off into the footpaths that run along the river.  The day was a bit chilly with blue skies and some dark storm clouds off in the distance.  I love those types of views because as the sun sets everything gets a bit dramatic.  The warm glow of the sun setting against the distant black clouds was absolutely stunning.  As we worked our way back to the house, the sun had set and rode with only a single light, me following the outline of the path as Richard led the way.  Tomorrow we will go through gear,sort out all of our lights and cold weather gear, as the temperatures are set to drop down to the freezing mark.Richard leads the way as dusk settles in

It struck me once again, as I was riding along these paths and through the countryside, just how amazing the two wheeled bicycle is.  Here I was, in a foreign land and yet the Fargo provided me with comfortable transportation and the ability to just go wherever I wanted to go.  I could easily have bivy camped out in these woods and had a beautiful night under an open sky.  The power of a bike is nothing short of amazing.  When Salsa chose the tagline 'Adventure by Bike', they really nailed it.

Europe by Bike | Kayak | Skiis - Day 1

Day 1 - December 7th-8th, 2011

I have spent the last several weeks planning and preparing for my upcoming winter adventure in Europe. This trip is going to be an opportunity for Richard and I to hone our adventure skills in a number of disciplines, including kayaking, biking and skiing.  We have been plotting for years to find a way to come together and now it is finally happen.

As part of our Spare Seat expedition that will take place in NY this coming spring, we had one of the tandem Feathercraft kayaks shipped to me in FL where I was visiting my mother.  My first task upon its arrival was to open it up, and make sure all was well.  There was also the issue of making sure it was treated as a used item and not as an import when I arrived in the UK.  I therefore dilegently opened the two boxes weighing over 120 pounds and proceeded to pull things out and get them a wee bit dirty.  Everything looked in order and was then re-packed in the appropriate bags.

Planning and packing for a multi month, multi disicipline trip is a bit of a real challenge. I needed to carry kayak gear, bike gear, cold weather clothes and moderate temperature clothes.  I needed my bike helmet and shoes, walking shoes, lounging shoes, and my trusted five finger shoes.  I needed to choose which parts of my ultra-light camp kit  to bring and which parts  would be provided by our sponsors.  Needless to say, the whole packing thing was a pain, but eventually completed.

Next up was to break down my trusted Salsa Fargo and pack it up in its shipping box.  Having done this several times now, I must say I am getting pretty good at it.  Still, breaking down a bike to fit in a box is definitely a bit of a pain.  I can see why people spend the money to get S&S couplers added to their bikes.  What a joy that would be... perhaps on some future 2 wheeled steed.

The great thing about bike boxes is there is generally extra room for miscellaneous kit, and my box was no exception.  I tossed in a few bits of camp kit; my Porcelain Rocket frame bags; and my two Northern Light 3 piece Greenland paddles.  Wow, these paddles are so nice.  I love paddling with them, and I absolutely love the fact that they break down into such a small travelling package.  Broken down and tucked into their protective bags they fit perfectly in the bike box.  I now use an old neo-air sleeping pad as extra padding.  Just a few quick breaths and it provides one more layer of protection for the bike and the paddles.

All in all I had 4 large bags, 3 of which weighed right at the 51 pound weight limit and the  4th, the one that contained the structure of the tandem, weighed in just shy of 65 pounds.  Talk about not going light... This type of packing definitely drives my ultra-light sensitivies up the wall.  Having triple checked everything, there was nothing else to eliminate so I gave in and loaded up the car; off to the airport we went.

Flying British Airlines was a breeze and everything made it safely to the UK.  A bit of in depth conversation with the customs official was required about the amount of gear I was carrying and the amount of time I was spending in the lovely country of Great Britain.  Eventually he let me pass, and so the adventures begin.

To say I am excited, and yet nervous is an understatement.  A new land, a new family, and new challenges will all conspire to test my belief in Spirit.  I am ready, and definitely stoked, to begin a series of micro adventures throughout Northern and Central Europe.  Richard and I have some amazing plans and I am so excited to share them with you as they occur.  We will be working hard to photograph and video almost everything that we do as a way of sharing our passion for adventure and the environment with each and every one of our readers.  (Note that at this time I am having some computer issues, so pictures are forthcoming once those issues are resolved)

In the coming days I will post an overview of the upcoming adventures and talk about the challenges that we will confront.  We will be ranging across climates, travel mediums, and temperature -- all of which will be real tests of our abilities.  Each of these micro-adventures will also help build up a key set of skills that we will need to complete some of our bigger adventures planned in the future.  These include snow biking the frozen Yukon River March of 2012 and skiing/biking/kayaking across the northern territory of Canada in winter of 2013.

Epic adventures to come; new friends to make; memories of a lifetime to create!  Let the fun begin now.


Set your intent and then manifest the life you envision