A Tramp Abroad

A Tramp Abroad, etc

I really love this illustration from one of my favorite authors, Mark Twain.  An image of his mind while recounting his many adventures on the road and playing the self-critical and self-deprecating American. This is how my thoughts appear to me much of the time.

Travel Essentials

This is part of an ongoing theme to document travel and camping gear that has served me over the years.  These will be mirrored on the Traveler’s Gear page as I get them up.

As a traveler, primitive technologist, peaceful survivalist, affected provincial,  long-time Idler, and sometime field scientist I find the necessity for a shoulder bag to carry essentials.  I have two size shoulder bags as well as various backpacks, brief cases, and messenger bags that have served me well over the years walking thousands of miles on survey and in my travels.

DSC_0005I made this bag a few years ago based on an 18th century gentleman’s shooting bag.  If you are interested to see it’s construction, it is documented HERE.  Carried by naturalists, sportsmen, and explorers, this small compartmentalized bag keeps the essentials handy.  Sturdy 10-12 oz vegetable tanned leather from Hermann Oak means that this bag will serve many decades without fear of damage from wear.

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This is most of the contents from the above bag; mostly things I don’t like to be without. Clockwise (more-or-less) from the upper left: Brunton pocket compass with signal mirror, Moleskine notebook, pencil, folding knife, whetstone with bag, belt knife, wooden spoon, 550 paracord, insulated mug, hand lens, sunglasses.

Since I was eleven, I have been infatuated with mountain man style wilderness survival.  It was, by far, my favorite merit badge as a Boy Scout.  The merit badge book taught about the old idea of a “possibles” bag carried by early explorers that we now think of as a survival kit.  Although the above is far from a complete survival kit, this little bundle, with the addition of a water bottle, gets me through many long days of travel and field work.  Additional items include: lighter, flashlight, bandanas, and some first-aid essentials.  However, traversing the wilderness, or even through civilization, means more than having the right stuff handy, being dressed properly is probably even more important.  After years of walking in the wilderness I have learned the same lessons that our forefathers did; the importance of being well shod and covered with a proper hat.

Those topics will be covered down the trail.

Touring the Oregon Coast

It was great to escape the heat, dust, and chaos that is my normal life these days.  Oregon was everything I hoped for and more.  The Pacific air brought back many good memories and made me yearn again to live near this amazing coast.

102_0305The weather was perfect, the water was cold, and the seafood abundant.

102_0311My blood is too thick for the southern plains and this trip was an excellent respite from the drying winds of the Llano Estacado.

102_0331We spent three days just walking on the beaches and retreating to the woods to camp with little concern for the outside world.  The rest of the time we ventured around northwest Oregon and southwest Washington and just generally loafing about.

102_0348Debris from Japan was apparent on the shore and hinted at a tragic but interesting story.

102_0355It was great to travel with friends who know the region and could steer us in the right direction to get the most out of our short visit.

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102_0369Twenty years ago I was certain that I would spend my life in the Pacific Northwest.  Events transpired, or failed to, to allow this to happen and I have been drifting in the west for a long time now.  Every time I see and smell the Pacific, I’m ready to settle down and grow some moss.

102_0377It is certainly a rugged beauty but in a bountiful land.

102_0378I will definitely be back.  Hopefully without too much delay.

American Nomads

I never really classed myself as a “nomad” when I was young and traveled a lot.  It was more like I was just traveling to see things.  I was fortunate.  Though not wealthy, I was able to spend a lot of time in the American Midwest, camping and canoeing much of the Ozarks, bicycling southern California, and drifting around parts of Western Europe, even slipping into North Africa for some exciting adventures.  By luck, my college career sent me back to Europe and my early career as an archaeologist lead me around the western United States into some pretty amazing little corners of wilderness I would never have seen otherwise.

With the far-sighted perspective of time, I can see than I have been on the move much of the time since I left high school.  Being tethered to other, more sedentary people, gives a sense of having a base that may really be a false reality.  Having let go of things has opened my eyes to the freedom that having few possessions can provide.  It’s a big world out there, and it’s always an education to experience it.

Here’s another interesting documentary about modern American Nomads produced by BBC4 in 2011 based on the book by Richard Grant.  They come from all walks of life and choose some very different paths; “Among them are retirees in RVs, teens hopping trains, hitchhikers and rodeo cowboys.”  Check out his other books if you get a chance, they are certainly interesting reads.

About the author:

Richard Grant is a British writer currently living in the Mississippi Delta. He is the author of three books, Crazy River: Exploration and Folly in East Africa (Free Press, 2011), God’s Middle Finger (Free Press, 2008),published in the UK as Bandit Roads, and American Nomads (Grove Press, 2003), published in the UK as Ghost Riders. In addition, he writes articles for magazines and newspapers, publishing regularly in the Telegraph magazine (UK), and Port. He is the writer, presenter and narrator of the television documentary American Nomads, broadcast on BBC4 in November 2011, and currently working on a documentary about tribal life in Ethiopia.