To Seek what Beckons

Well, my last blog post was nine months ago.  I've cut down the interval between posts by six months, so maybe I'm making progress.  The main reason I haven't posted is because progress with the preparation slowed down quite significantly.  In my last post I was fairly certain I could pull off a 2017 departure with the funds I had coming in.  It turns out I was wrong.  I couldn't quite pull it together with a safe enough margin.  However, that doesn't mean progress hasn't taken place; it's coming along very nicely.   

The boat structure is complete, and we are now focusing on finishing the internal systems.  Luckily the systems are fairly simple, so that means we don't have much left to complete.  As I was leaving from my last trip to the States, the interior deck hatches were just about complete, the interior was getting its second coat of paint, and final preparations for installing electronics were just about done.  Now all we have left is completing the plumbing, installing the ventilation system, and wiring the boat with electronics.  It's looking great and it's pretty exciting to see it all come together!  The boat was on display at the Portland Boat Show last January and was even featured in a short segment with a local NBC affiliate.  You can see the clip below.

I'm again overseas working, but I should be back in August/September.  When I get back, the remainder of the work should be complete and we'll be ready to begin stability testing.  We'll put the boat in the water for the first time in order to test the self-righting capability, to check the stability at different weight distributions, and to ensure the desired performance characteristics match what the designer calculated.  Once testing is complete and we are satisfied with the results, I'll turn my attention to outfitting and organization of equipment.  For example, I'll have to decide how I'll deploy and tie off the sea anchor/drogue, where I'll store important equipment, and how I'll manage the oars when not rowing, amongst many other things.  I'll also need to be well versed in troubleshooting and repairing anything that fails, so I'll spend plenty of time dissembling and reassembling vital equipment like the reverse osmosis desalination pump.  Until then, I'll continue to focus on the educational aspect of the trip.  I'll also continue to mentally prepare myself, which will likely be the deciding factor for success or failure. 

Mental preparation is a tricky element, I'm finding.  In pondering how to get into the right state of mind and how to prepare for the psychological challenges, I've delved into identifying my priorities and core motivations.  In short, it's a deeper look into the big why.  Why am I really doing this, and why am I sacrificing so much to get this done.  I knew the preparations were going to be daunting, especially with a custom design and build, but it's been exhausting.  I've drained every personal resource, I've isolated myself extensively in Afghanistan and Iraq to earn cash quickly, a relationship self-destructed (at least in part) due to my absence overseas, and it's taking much longer than anticipated.  So why then?  Why keep pushing on when the anxiety builds into restless nights?  It's not pride, it's not for accolades or respect, and it's not for the novelty of it all.  I have rational, logical answers - to push my limits, to grow as an individual, to gain new experiences, to quit looking for answers "out there," when the answers might be found by looking inward.  But in actuality, there's a nagging feeling, an itch that hasn't been scratched, a thirst to find meaning, it's a desire to question everything, to find a sense that what I'm doing in life matters.  

The standard model of how to live in our society just doesn't fit me, it doesn't feel right.  There's a dissonance within me, a natural tendency to reject the "normal" path and to forge something new, something unique.  I still don't know what that is, so I'm seeking, I'm following a path that beckons.  It sounds absurd, a man nearly in his forties still seeking.  But isn't the human condition completely absurd?  What are we really doing here, and why?  We're floating in a void on a spherical rock, orbiting around a ball of fire, on the outskirts of an insignificant galaxy (to paraphrase Alan Watts).  It's really an odd situation if you think about it.  It seems extremely inconsequential in the grand scheme, no matter what we do.  So why live a life that doesn't resonate with your core being?  There's a beacon calling, and I'm following, because it feels right.  I'm abandoning the largely dominant force of logic and reason within me for feeling and instinct.  Maybe there's something enlightening there; maybe I'll find something that has deep meaning, if only just for me.  There's only one way to find out, and I intend to see it through.  

A guy called Jason Silva has a YouTube channel called "Shots of Awe" and he begins one with a quote from Walker Percy- "To be aware of the possibility of the search is to be on to something.  Not to be on to something is to be in despair."  He discusses the subject of seeking within the video and since he's much smarter and more eloquent than me, I'll pass it on to him. 

So yes, I'm delayed until 2018.  But what beckons hasn't faded, and I will keep seeking.    

Paddle On

Preparing for the Portland Boat Show

A Late Update

It's been quite some time since I've provided an update regarding my ocean rowing plans, or any blog post for that matter.  Over a year, in fact - it seems like a flash.  But fear not, my time was spent wisely (for the most part) and progress was made.  It turns out custom boats are ridiculously expensive - big surprise!  Perhaps I should've set aside a few more shekels along the way.  Regardless, I began searching for a builder to construct my boat and this newfound obstacle became readily apparent.  Because of this, the project is now labeled Pacific Ocean Row 2017, a one year delay.  In the scramble of attempting to make a 2016 departure and recognizing a budgetary deficit, I searched for sponsors and attempted a crowdfunding campaign to no avail.  Not deterred, I began looking for employment that would enable me to fund the trip.    

Luckily, I found a job that should provide the funds I need for a summer 2017 departure.  I also found a builder on the west coast near my departure location in Portland, OR called Schooner Creek Boat Works.  I apprehensively signed a build contract in January 2016 with the knowledge that I didn't have the funds available to complete the build.  However, it was a necessary risk to prevent further delays.  The build commenced and the progress is looking great!  For ongoing updates and photographs see

My current employment is a pilot job outside of the United States in faraway lands.  It's definitely not ideal being this far from the build, but so far it's working well.  The fine folks at Schooner Creek are graciously allowing me to help with the build when I'm in town and are very supportive and accommodating in regard to my unique constraints.  

In more good news, a design brief of my boat was featured in Professional Boatbuilding Magazine, Issue #161, June/July 2016, written by the naval architect Eric Sponberg.  It provides a great overview of the design considerations while developing the architectural plans.  You can read the article at  I also found a nutritionist out of Oregon State who is helping me develop an appropriate diet for the journey, and I even found a personal trainer to help with my physical requirements while overseas.

Lastly, I found a filmmaker by the name of Dave Unitan who is creating a documentary of my journey (  We've already had some interviews, he's recorded me with a drone while kayaking on the Colombia River, and he's captured some footage of the build currently underway.  It's just the beginning, but it's pretty exciting and also a bit nerve-racking.  I've always been fairly private, so the acute awareness of being fully on display stirs feelings of vulnerability and nags at my insecurities.  But isn't that partly the point of all this?  It's facing challenges head on, facing fears, and seeing insecurities for what they truly are.  It's getting a clear view of all your doubts under a glaring light and staring them down until they dissolve into nothing.  Something like that.  

So that's what transpired over the past year.  While my original plan for a 2016 departure failed, each obstacle is gradually being pushed aside.  By the way, I successfully finished my bicycle ride across the country, but obviously failed to write about the overall experience.  Apologies for maintaining a blog without posts.  I'll just say it was an awesome trip with great scenery and amazing people along the way.  The objectives were met.  Other than the four previous blog entries, I didn't write much more about it, maybe I should've.  Upon completion, instead of lingering in thought about the trip, I immediately turned to getting a boat built.  I'm still working on this writing thing, staying motivated, and fending off the insidious objects of my attention.  And again springs another insecurity - putting my words out there doesn't come with comfort.  At least not yet.

Paddle On


My grandfather once lamented that the younger generations haven't experienced any real adversity.  I was probably 12 years old at the time.  I didn't really get the point, but it stuck with me.  By no means am I saying riding a bicycle across the country is adversity.  It's a bike ride.  I also don't think he meant everyone needs to suffer through a great depression and bread lines in order to build character.  Like most things, it's a sliding scale.  It's obvious though, we have it better now than ever (in most places).  Imagine meeting someone traversing the Oregon Trail in 1840.  While you're going on about jets and cars, he's suffering through dysentery and dehydration.  If he makes his destination, the character built during that journey would clearly outweigh the combined sum of everyone leaving out of JFK on a Boeing 737. 

I'm not saying we need a horse and carriage renaissance.  I love modern conveniences as much as the next guy.  However, explaining my bicycle trip to people brings out an incredible positive resonance that's difficult to deny.  Without asking, I've been given a book, magazines, bottles of water, food, and encouraging words.  One morning I was packing up camp and a lady walked over and handed me a breakfast burrito and said "You'll need plenty of energy!"  It was delicious, by the way.  When I was on top of the continental divide, I was invited inside a couple's RV and given water, fruit, and some cookies.  People have offered to drive me into town and back if I needed supplies.  One couple even offered to meet me later on my route to give me a sandwich.  I don't know why the offer was specifically a sandwich, but it was a nice gesture nonetheless.  For reference, this type of treatment hasn't been the norm for me.  People don't just hand me things when I'm walking down the street.  It's not because people think I'm friendly or I put out a good vibe.  I think it's because people recognize and appreciate someone willing to take a difficult route.  The thought alone sparks a sort of motivation or internal drive for something beyond the ordinary.  While these people might not be in a position to get out there themselves, they almost seem compelled to help those that are.  

I've tried to understand this type of behavior beyond the aforementioned surface level perceptions, which has taken me down some ridiculous mental rabbit holes.  For example, I was recently listening to a podcast called Invisibilia, which is a show about the "intangible forces that shape human behavior."  During an episode called Entanglement, it starts by explaining quantum entanglement.  We don't scientifically understand it yet, but the simplest explanation is the fact that a single object can be in two places simultaneously.  Scientists have forced two atoms to become entangled at distances over 88 miles, where changing something in one atom will instantaneously affect the second atom in the same way, faster than the speed of light.  This isn't possible within the constructs of Newtonian physics, and is the origin of the famous quote from Einstein calling it "spooky action at a distance."  Theoretically, a single atom in your body could be entangled with an atom in another person, or with an atom of another planet.  The stuff our universe is made of can be physically separated and yet the same thing.  Now that is wild.  When trying to incorporate this knowledge into my world view, the inescapable conclusion is we are all connected.  We're connected in ways we don't understand.  

It's a crazy jump between people being nice to quantum entanglement.  But, when I explain what I'm doing to a stranger, I see a change in their eyes, I can feel the resonance, I can feel the yearning to alleviate some of the adversity I may face.  Even if that yearning materializes in the form of a breakfast burrito, it's there.  My current endeavor isn't monumental or significant in any way, it's just a few miles on a bike.  However, gladly giving an unsolicited helping hand simply due to the perception of adversity demonstrates something very significant.  Even self-imposed adversity in the pursuit of something extraordinary brings people together in powerful ways.  Why?  Perhaps we are all entangled.  Maybe we are the same thing - physically separated, yet instantaneously affected.  It just takes pushing yourself right into the face of adversity to recognize it.  Maybe grandpa was right, we need some adversity to really grow, to build character, and to connect with others, even if it's just a long bike ride.      

Pedal On  


Yesterday I cleared a 7,000 foot peak, nearly fractured my hand inside the mouth of an American Rottweiler (he was "playing" according to the owners), and I was forced to utter the words "Hey, man.  Can I get a courtesy flush over there?"  Luckily, he complied; he was making my shower preparations quite uncomfortable.  As for the owners of the overzealous Rottweiler, they turned out to be incredibly nice - they even bought me a six-piece California sushi sampler and a box of mixed fruit, then gave me a couple of beers (all before the dog hand-mouth situation).  The people I've met so far have been great - I've had a park attendant go out of his way to help me with a tire, a couple that loaned me some tools and offered me a drink, a fellow traveler that gave me food and shared some good conversation over a couple of beers, and the good Samaritans that stopped and offered help while I was patching a tire on the side of a hot desert road.  I also met a group of people riding on a fundraiser commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Vietnamese American journey to freedom (  They gave me fresh fruit on the side of the road, some electrolyte packets, then offered me dinner and a beer when we all ended up at the same spot for the night.  Meeting and getting to know these wonderful people was completely unexpected, and more importantly, impossible if I didn't embrace the uncertainty of attempting this type of journey.  

I heard a TED Radio Hour podcast explaining that humans tend to embrace uncertainty when we play - both as children and adults.  We love suspenseful movies, unexpected plot twists of a book, and the uncertainty of a decision when playing a game.  It was noted that adults who still take the time to play tend to have a more balanced view on life.  I tend to agree.  Part of the reason I left the military was due to knowing that if I stayed, my life would be very predictable.  Sure, I might get an unexpected assignment, but overall, I knew exactly what my life would be if I stayed.  However, embracing uncertainty in our non-play life is a different beast.  Nobody wants to be uncertain if they'll have enough money, uncertain if a plan will work out, or uncertain if they are making the right choice in a major life decision.  I'm no exception, I've had doubts regarding my decision to leave behind a great job with security, retirement paychecks, and great benefits.  But it's not always about the future, it's about right now.  Because that's all we have, perpetually stuck between the past and future.  I, for one, would rather face the unknown and uncertainty than be perpetually stuck in a predictable present.  After all, the unexpected joys of life live comfortably in the unknown.    

Sure, I may have taken some fairly drastic measures in pursuit of these unexpected joys, but it has given me the opportunity to really slow down my mind - to patiently observe and embrace the human experience.  It has given me the chance to really appreciate the confident squirrel that wants a little of my trail mix, the galloping horse running alongside my bike, the stunning views of nature, and the kind hearts of passing strangers.  So I'm going to keep playing, because in the end, it'll work out just fine.  It always does.  

Pedal On  

First Week

I'm on my seventh day and I've traversed a grand total of 138 miles.  It's not very impressive, but as I've mentioned, I'm forcing myself to take it nice and slow, despite my inclination to just keep it moving.  I feel if I can't complete this journey without getting injured, I should re-think my ocean rowing project.  Based on my rowing timeline estimates, I'm even behind what I'm expecting to complete in a week of rowing - around 175 miles.  I'm mainly concerned with my knees, I don't want to strain any muscles or irritate any tendons.  After around 3 hours of riding, I start feeling the stress on my knees, hence the 3 days I've taken to rest in the first week.  My goal is to comfortably ride for at least 5 hours per day, completing at least 50 miles per day.

Other than adjusting physically, everything seems to be holding up fairly well, other than anything I have that inflates.  I woke one morning to 3 flat tires - both of my bike tires and one of my trailer tires.  I patched all three tubes, which helped for a while.  They held for a couple of days but ended up keeping a slow leak.  I ended up changing the bike tubes with a self-sealing type of tube in addition to adding a puncture liner inside of both tires.  Hopefully they will hold up for a while.  I also have a small one-man inflatable air mattress that died on me.  I'm going to try and patch it tonight.  I've gone through the gamut of emotions - gratitude that I'm in a position to even try something like this, frustration in my physical performance, questioning why I'm even doing this, to really enjoying the scenery and people I've met along the way.  The good news is I can tell I'm already getting stronger.  My efforts thus far are giving me some good insight on what's in store once I arrive to the East coast for my rowing training.  Up next is the continuous climb to the continental divide!  Until next time.  

Pedal On