Update November 2016

Wow....here we are...in November. It's hard to imagine that my last actual blog post was in July. It seems like yesterday, and also a lifetime ago. So many things have happened since then, mainly our story "going viral." My posts largely being on the instagram platform and telling short stories on there, live updates to over 100k followers. It was easy to neglect my blog of only 2 dozen followers in order to update a global audience. Yet, the blog can tell so much more...and I want to get back into that process. 

Folks joined in with us in the Keys and followed us up the coast of Florida and through the panhandle, on west and up north through Texas and Oklahoma. A quick stop in KC, then packing up in Nebraska. A trip with my Nephew to the Dakotas, and then finally on to Colorado. We had planned heading to the Pacific Northwest to finish our cross country trek...but Cancer came back in Bella's mouth and held us up in Ft. Collins for 6 weeks as we treated that. Unfortunately...the day we packed up to head down to Denver for the weekend to make our final decision on where we would go next, whether we would stay in Colorado near the CSU Vet school, come back to Nebraska to be around family, or make our final trip to the west coast to let Bella run around the Redwoods and sniff the PNW coast line, would be our last "road trip." We only made it down to Denver before her lungs were finally, yet suddenly, too effected by the masses growing in them to properly breathe. 

I said goodbye to her early the next morning, and it broke my heart. As much as I said that I wanted it to grow my heart rather than break it...I suppose I didn't realize that it had to break first before it could mend. 

Now, here I am in Denver...wondering what will come next in this journey. I just purchased a new computer, so I can finally have an easier time writing blog posts, as well as editing photos. I have a few things planned, a few ideas in the air...and am looking forward to what comes next. Yet, before I get deep into typing about my experiences....about the loss of Bella, I wanted to type this quick post to check in with everyone and see if the new subscribe button is working and if people are getting e-mail notifications when I post a blog. I'd like to type more on my blog...but also want some reassurance that it's being read, and those who want to read it are being notified of new posts.

Therefore, please comment below if you received a notification for this. I appreciate you helping me out with this, and this will be motivation to encourage me to update my blog, my photos, and my entire site more often. I miss the days when I had more focus on building the site, as it was very therapeutic, and I was honestly proud to building something that I could call my own. So again, please comment that you received this...where you're from, and how you found the blog. I'm already thankful for your help in advance.

Again, thanks for everyone who's been along for the journey so far...it's only just begun.

 

Much Love,

 

-Rob K.

Where we left off...in beautiful Savannah, GA

Of all the places that I "should've written about" during Bella and I's epic 5 month long adventure...nothing bothered me more than not writing about Savannah, Ga, while IN Savannah. For anyone that is a writer/painter/creator of any type, then you know a thing or two about inspiration. Some things need to be written about as they are happening, while you're surrounded by the atmosphere that inspires you to sit down and write it down, take the photo, or paint the scene to share it with others.

 

Thankfully, I've been given the chance for redemption, as fate brought me back here to this unbelievably charming city. Long story short on how we're back here, is that a friend needed a ride to North Carolina, and I couldn't resist the urge to come back to one of my favorite cities. 

 

While talking with my mother yesterday she asked: "What is it about Savannah that you like so much?" Well, I'll start off by saying that I was fortunate enough to have no expectations. I hadn't really heard much about this historic gem of the South. Rest easy, however, in knowing that no matter what I write about this place, it will exceed your expectations once you get the chance to visit, which I hope you do. Second, I said: "Because people WANT to be here, they Love being here, and it's easy to see why.

Driving into town from the North brings you across the beautiful Talmadge Memorial Bridge, which is extremely similar to the Arthur Ravenel Jr bridge in the not too distan Charleston, SC. As you cross over the Savannah River, you can see the historic downtown river front area of Savannah, and your first exit will take right into it's incredible historic district. The streets almost feel subterranean as you drive under the canopy of live oaks with Spanish moss hanging as if it were put there for decoration. The city FEELS alive, I feel as if it has it's own personality, it's own soul. I've never felt before, as if I could talk...to the city...and it would speak back.


The sidewalks are busy with some of the most beautiful people I've ever seen as they tour the city's unique history, dozens of parks from Oglethorpe's brilliant design, and countless restaurants, bars and shops. 

Savannah College of Art Design (SCAD) brings an eclectic group of people that have a style that I can truly appreciate, and the presence of their artistic spirit is felt across the city. I actually entertained enrolling there I was so intrigued as I met students having group photography and sketch classes in the open fields of Forsyth Park. That was until I found out that 18 months of a GI Bill isn't going to do much good against the cost of tuition, unless I planned on knocking off a diamond store along my travels.

Speaking of Forsyth Park....that is where I'm at...right now. Sitting on a bench, typing with a wireless keyboard and my iPhone. We're about 20 yards from the fountain, while Bella rests in the shade. Though it's hot, the locals are used to it and so are their dogs, it seems every other person has a pooch with them, and that makes it all the more lovable for me. We are currently blessed to have a man singing as he plays the guitar along with the harmonica. Our last trip someone had a brass instrument and I can't remember the exact piece...but it was beautiful. Again, the entirety of the park is lined with the oak trees and the Spanish moss, as well as a variety of trees and flowers that I'm not going to pretend I know what they are. I've shared Live videos on my Facebook feed, and I often do that because there are just not enough words, and if there are...I simply don't know them. 

The houses here....the places that you can live in and call your home...are unlike any other place that I've seen. Charleston, I suppose, has many similar, but they seem to be unrealistic for a man of my financial background to live in. Here in Savannah, the historic district seems to go on and on and there seem to be a healthy amount of options that are attainable. Just a few blocks from the park, my friend owns a beautiful Victorian home with 4 bedrooms 2 1/2 bath, I believe built in the 1890's, if I remember correctly. This house cost around $300k, and though to some may still seem expensive, it's a reality for a dual income household, especially if you take advantage of some revolutionary new movements such as AirBnB and rent out one of those bedrooms often enough to actually help pay toward the mortgage.

Okay, I'm getting off track here, let's see if I can wrap this up and get Bella and I back on the road. We stopped here so I could type a bit before we headed on down to Florida. Yup, we have some white sand beaches and an air boat ride in store for us. I can't tell you how excited I am about that.

So, let me just say this one last thing about Savannah, and perhaps I'll come back and write more again someday....but today I'll finish with mentioning the people. Granted, many people are tourists and transplants, but as I mentioned before...they LOVE being here. I'm not sure I've ever been welcomed into more conversations and invited to join in on more celebrations than here. "We're taking the boat out tomorrow, you should come!" 
 "Meet us out at Tybee island!" "We're having a barbecue, come on over!" "Have you been to this restaurant? Meet us there tonight!"

 

Tybee Island....man...that reminds me of how much more there is to write about this area. Bonaventure cemetery...the Savannah Wildlife Refuge. There truly are not enough words, or at least, there is not enough time for me to type them out at the moment....as it's time for us to get moving down to the Sunshine state. 

Looks like I'll have to come back and write more....I hope to see you there!

 

-Rob n Bella

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Ride2Recovery, on the road to transformation.

Well, here we are...in Gulfport, Mississippi. 5 days of cycling and about 330 miles are behind us, with another 90 ahead of us tomorrow until we reach our final destination of New Orleans, LA. I've never been to New Orleans, and I'm looking forward to it. In fact, I hadn't been to Alabama or Mississippi for that matter. Though cycling through a state may seem like one of the best ways to see it, when you're focus is being spent mostly on drafting from the wheel in front of you so that you can rest long enough to power forward and help push the hand cyclists up the hills....or which way to adjust your butt on your seat so it's not on fire, or you're simply in the middle of a pack of bikes at 18 or even 23 miles per hour, it's a bit difficult to really take in the culture of an area. So, I'll need to be making more trips back to these areas at some point in my journey. Whether it be on this trip, or decades from now, I'm sure it will happen.


So, if I'm not able to dive into the culture of these areas...why would I choose to leave Bella and put myself through physical suffering? Simply, because my mind needed it. The camaraderie, of course, is a huge factor in what put a smile on my face for the first few days here. There have been many great instances of hugs, smiles, laughter, and new friendships. However, along with those friendships come conversation...which for some people can be extremely cathartic as they may have never opened up to someone about their struggles before. However, for me...many know that in person it is hard to shut me up. Silence is extremely uncomfortable for me and I just babble...about anything. Plus, I do have a lot of curiosities and ask questions because I genuinely want to know. Various topics come up: family, work, travel, hobbies, and of course; unloading my baggage and offering to listen and learn about others. Often times I'll just be reading a sign out loud in the voice of a character I've made up or impersonating someone else. A few people love it and laugh, and others want to shove a sock in my mouth. The worst part is....I'll just end up talking more to make it seem not so awkward.


When I push myself to my limits, however, there is no energy left to converse. There is no time to focus on all of the problems in my world, let alone those of the entire world. My mind is consumed with what is immediately at hand. Riding a bicycle from point A to point B is a lot simpler than coming up with ways of how I'm going to help save the universe.


"Pedal...shift...dig...reach...push the bar...boost the rider...help your comrade."


Legs...knees...butt...back...shoulder....they all hurt. I want it to be over. I want to stop. Only 20 miles in, 60 to go....


"Pedal...shift...dig...here comes the bridge...catch your buddy, help him push the riders up the bridge."


I have nothing. I push in short bursts and can barely keep up. I can't push any longer...I don't have the strength. I need to fall back. I have failed.


"No, you didn't fail. You came here without training and need to be proud of what you've been able to do. Manage your expectations. Focus on your own ride. They have this. Fall back...fall back far enough where you can't hear the call for pushers, because you are now doing more harm than good when you answer it. It's okay...you're not conditioned for this...though it's difficult to fall back and leave your buds to finish pushing without you, be proud of what you've been able to do."  -end of monologue tangent


Well.... maybe my thought process is rarely a clean slate....and the few times that it really is...may just be when I'm operating at full capacity and not over it. Once I'm pushing beyond my limits, perhaps I'm being counterproductive once again.


I suppose the point that I'm trying to get at tonight is that pushing your physical limits and focusing on one thing completely is sometimes necessary to help do a hard reset of the mind. Through writing this and reading it back to myself I see that pushing them too far or having unrealistic expectations can lead to only more questions and clouds.


Balance...how often I need reminded about it's importance. 


On Ride2Recovery's website they mention that challenges will push a rider physically and mentally. That pushing, is helping me hit the reset button and to come out the other side, once again transformed into a man with a bit more of a purpose and sense of self. I must not allow the fact that I couldn't push as much as I wanted to distract me. I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to even finish this ride out of the blue, and here we are with only one more day left and I'll have completed another challenge alongside some of the most motivating and inspiring people that I've ever met.


The people....oh the people. Earlier, I mentioned my need to shut up and reset the brain. Well, luckily those short moments of "suffering meditation" can do a mini reset, if not at least close a few browser windows. Those little resets allow me to open up and be "myself" a little bit more. For those of you that have been following along the last few years, you understand that I've been searching for who that person is and often talked of dropping "the character." Today, I went full happy mode, perhaps manic could be used to describe the extreme high that I was experiencing...and when I caught myself in it, I became self conscious and a bit paranoid that everyone was thinking I was crazy, but that's an entire conversation in and of itself. Either way, I believe I'm in company that understands  my crazy, and have made a lot of new friends along the way.


The main staff are base of the  Ride2Recovery family tree, and they're welcoming arms and smiles have me feeling right at home. Meeting all the new riders has been much easier because of the welcoming staff. When you participate in a challenge such as this...you truly do form bonds with those you ride and room with. There aren't many times in life where I've put in grueling work kind alongside another person or a team without befriending them. These challenges are a way to facilitate those bonds and bridge gaps with people you may never have crossed otherwise.


Well...I'm not sure if this was written in a way that could be followed, but as always, I tried my best to verbalize what I was feeling tonight.


It's 10:22, the alarm is set for 6:15, and I am not going to stay up as late as I did on night one. Therefore, this is goodnight.


Almost forgot...there's a storm coming in that could derail tomorrow's final leg into New Orleans, so do your anti lightning/flooding dance to help us finish the challenge safely.


Thanks again,


Rob K. 

Photo Credit Tif Skuce

Photo Credit Tif Skuce

New Hope in Old Friendships

Apologies, as I've been horrible about updating my blog and a lot of it had to do with the fact that the only way to subscribe was via an RSS feed and not many of my followers know how to do that. I put in the work to install mailchimp on here and I hope it works. So, for my two, count 'em, two subscribers that I can see in my reading list, make sure to e-mail me to let me know if you were notified when I posted this blog. For those of you that have not yet subscribed, which is virtually anyone reading this besides my two Guinea pigs, please scroll to the bottom and fill out the info to receive emails when I post new ones, as well as giving me a way to show how many followers that I have tuning in. 

That being said, it's time for an update. I'm long over due and actually have a couple drafts that are hanging in dead space but I'll get to those later, and start giving what could be considered "live" updates more often. 

The last 3 weeks have been spent in Savannah, GA, which is multiple blogs within itself.  Tonight's live update has me in a hotel room, typing this on my phone at 11:32pm in Atlanta, GA. The alarm is set for 0600 and breakfast is at 0630. Then it's off to get my bike ready to cycle 47 miles with Ride2Recovery. 

There's two ways to look at those numbers. A non cyclist may say: "Wow, that's a long way." While a cyclist would likely say: "Oh, that's an easy day." Here's how I am looking at it: "I haven't been on my bike in nearly 5 months...I may as well be a non cyclist. Please, just let me finish without falling back."

What inexperienced riders may not realize, is that the booty is one of the hardest things to train when it comes to long distance cycling...and if your bike isn't adjusted to fit you properly...an entire world of hurt is headed your way. Which, beings that I'm riding my buddy's bike and wearing another buddy's shoes, both of which are too big...I have a high likelihood of pain on the horizon.

Again, just one day, right? 47 miles isn't bad. Suck it up. It usually doesn't hurt until day two. Well, here's where I tell you that though I planned to be here one day, it may work out for me to ride the entire distance, nearly 500 miles from Atlanta to New Orleans. The first question you may have is Bella...where is she? Well, though I trained her as a therapy dog through Pet Partners and Delta Society, we never finished getting her certified once I moved back to Nebraska and hit roadblocks with org and the certs expired before we got to start therapy. Even so,  that does not allow her on the premesis unless she's conducting therapy. Which, again, I'm sure we could arrange down the line but this decision came so quickly we had little time to decide. I was in Savannah when I got the email that R2R was starting the Gulf Coast Challenge out of Atlanta and I was simply too close not to come see the good friends that were a huge part of my life for years...then disappeared from it as I went back to school and couldn't make the challenges.

I stayed in touch via Facebook with the majority of close friends I made...but it always seemed like a past life. As if I would never link up with them again. In fact, after my divorce, the entire 5 years in California seemed to be as if it never had even happened. My time in the acting world, with Veterans in Film and Television, the Groundlings, acting classes with David Bottrel,  The Improv Trick with Bill Chott and BJ Lange, my trip to Haiti, then disaster relief with Team Rubicon, Surf Camp with TeamRWB...all of these things were suddenly as if they had never happened, because I was now back in Nebraska...finishing classes that I started 12 years ago...and I felt as if I had stepped 12 years backwards. Divorced, without a home...and wishing that California had never happened, as I wanted my old life back.  

Though we split amicably with a crying hug and well wishes towards each other, I hated myself for failing my marriage...and resentment built towards anything I was involved with in California, which is why I believe my mind was blocking them from memory, as well as my heart not wanting me to move back to California for fear of turning back into that man that I couldn't look at in the mirror. 

I just realized that I took this another direction, but this usually happens when I'm trying to explain my state of mind so that you can understand the impact of the experience. It's also incredibly therapeutic to get it out, and a wonderful tool for me to reference later and learn by reading what I've written. That being said, you're probably still wondering about Bella. Well, she's at my buddy's house at the finish of Day 1 tomorrow. His wife is loving her right now, but we're not sure what will be the plan for the week. 

Aha, speaking of realizations...that tangent above came out because I've been wanting to write about my divorce for quite some time, as well as explaining what it has done to my mental process. I'll go into more detail in an entirely different blog, yet it fits well into the "live update" as it's very important that you understand the impact of this ride. 

Walking into the hotel this evening and seeing the staff and riders of R2R that I haven't seen in nearly 2 years...was the first time since leaving California that those 5 years seemed like they existed. I was welcomed with open arms and hugs. Smiles and so much encouragement as I learned that many folks have been following Bella and I's travels even though they haven't been liking or commenting. There was no judgement for the dark places I've been since last seeing them in 2014, and only efforts to try and get me to be able to ride the entire trip. This feeling...is a feeling of hope. A feeling of belonging. A feeling of acceptance. A reminder that not all in my life before divorce has vanished. 

Now...how to pay attention to this. What to learn from it. How to grow from it. I believe, that it will be within my ability to push through this ride. The faith that they have in me to be able to handle it is reassuring, but I've been out of the saddle so long that I'm legitimately afraid to let them down. Not only are the legs a factor, your butt needs to be conditioned to sit on a seat for such a long period of time. 

There will be pain, there will be discomfort. This is the time for me to be the man I wish to become.  To suffer silently, but not as far as injury. To pay attention to my form and ride as efficiently as possible. To earn the respect that they're giving me by inviting me for the entire week.  

The nerve pain in my leg throbs every day, and the injury that I have in my foot has been making me grimace for two years now and I feel it with each downstroke of the pedal. My knee is swollen from slipping and hitting it on a corner months ago...and yet...I'm thankful to even have these body parts to hurt. Many riders with Ride2Recovery are missing limbs, paralyzed, or even blind. Who am I to complain about a single achy bit of my body. 

This is similar to how I started with Ride2Recovery in 2011...unsure of my body, and unprepared. Yet, finishing that challenge brought to light just what I was capable of....which was seemingly anything. I was slow and a weak climber then, but after a couple years I was strong enough to push the hand cyclists up the hills when needed. That move, from needing help to offering help was tremendous for my psyche.  Starting over will be tough, but to get anywhere...we must start. 

I may not be able to make the entire ride, but like a fighter talking about a title shot in the future after his next fight, I'm focusing on the fight ahead of me tomorrow. Me, oversized gear, an undertrained body, and a giant test of my willpower. I need this right now, not to prove to you that I can, but to prove to myself that I can. To focus. To drive towards a goal. To feel the hope of the future. 

If I can't bring Bella and she has to stay at my bud's place for 6 days....she'll be okay. I'm going to miss her like crazy, she most likely will miss me as well...but the man she see's coming back to her after accomplishing this mission will be transformed. I know this because I've experienced it before, and I'm  overdue for a transformative experience. 

Now it's time for me to get to bed as it's almost 1am and I'm down to 5 hours of sleep before the alarm goes off. Thank you for making it to the end and I apologize for the tangents as I hope my writing will continue to get better as time goes on and more is let out of my thought process and translated into words. I'm doing my best to give you what I'm feeling now, why I think I feel that way, the lessons I'm learning, and how I think I should apply them to the next situation. 

 (plus...typing all of this with my thumb is extremely difficult, sometimes adding to the fragmentation. I'll get my Bluetooth keyboard tomorrow to bring with me the rest of the ride)

Thanks again, and don't forget to subscribe below if you'd like to stay up to date. 

 

Rob n Bella

  

A Facebook "Memory"

5 years ago...(as Facebook just reminded me,) I was running around a film set pretending to be the Warrior that I had always hoped to be. Believe it or not, "playing" infantry related roles actually made me feel as if I was finally getting the chance to live out that dream a bit.
Then....after a doing it more and more...I began to realize it was all just an extension of the "character" that I had been playing while in the Marines all along.
What it means to be a Warrior...that's a way of life, living by a moral code, a sense of duty to utilize your time on earth to benefit your fellow man, to advocate for the weak, be a voice for the unheard, and to stand up when others are sitting down.
A man doesn't need an external anointing force to be a Warrior...as the Warrior Spirit comes from within.
I....of all people, need to heed this advice...and embrace that inner Warrior...let the fire burn...and quit seeking the approval of others to deem me worthy. Yet, I do need to realign that compass and follow it due North to the path that Spiritual Warrior guides.

A "Good" Photo

One of my best indicators of a good photo, is when I look at the image and think: "This is my new favorite photo."

When I say "good," I don't mean to judge the quality of the photo as if I were critiquing my performance as a "photographer," but rather that I simply captured what I saw and felt would be an image of the world that I would like to share.

Many times, I feel like I see something...and it doesn't translate to the photograph. Sometimes, it's merely the lack of expertise of the equipment I'm using. I'm still learning, and though I may never become an expert, as long as I can capture a few photos that either convey a feeling, or give the viewer a sense that they themselves are right there seeing what I'm seeing, then I know I'm doing my job.

When I look at this lighthouse, I am happy because I believe that in sharing it...those who see it will feel like they are on the shoreline gazing over at Georgia's smallest lighthouse.

With my writing...I've been neglecting to give it the time necessary. Someone recently mentioned that I should focus on marketing my photography as words have so many restrictions. Yet, my writing has been so cathartic as I've been processing this new phase of life, this new chapter that I've been slowly beginning to see the story with a bit of clarity. Perhaps you could say the pages were stuck together...or the road was too bumpy to focus on the words well enough to comprehend a sentence.

That being said, I'm going to do my best to continue to take the time to write and share that more, along with a couple photos here and there, because this trip is about much more than me traveling with my dog to get cool photos. This is about me taking the opportunity to take advantage of a period in life where I have little commitments/obligations and seeing and learning as much as I can about our vast country, and more importantly, myself.

Selling photos...is merely the byproduct of the work that I'm hoping to do and lessons I'm aiming to learn. I'm not posting these photos daily to say: "Like my photos to feed my creative ego," but rather to say: "I'm seeing something incredibly beautiful and I'll do my best to share it with you."

Labels...I've never been good with labeling myself...Marine...that was easily defined, even as a Reservist, it was my most identifiable categorization in the American society. Am I a photographer? I'm not sure. I like to consider myself a "story teller" but I wonder if that's only more pretentious as if I'm faking humility. Perhaps it is a way of guarding in order to deflect criticism because I can always cop out. "Well I'm not really a photographer, so that's why the picture is mediocre quality..." A friend who coached told me of guys that would only put out 80 percent during practice or even games...so that when they lost...they could always say "If I would've given 100%, I would've won." Therefore, giving them the power to never truly feel defeated.

Again, I'm not trying to gain recognition through my photos or my writing...but I am trying to continue to grow as a person through all of this...and perhaps writing about that...is what will continue to nourish that growth, and maybe help a few others along the way.

With all of that being said...here's a tiny lighthouse...I hope you enjoy.

Cockspur Island Lighthouse, Savannah River, Georgia

Early Lessons of 2016

Here's a look into the Atlantic Ocean, approximately 0640 on 01 Jan 2016

The first place which the sun can be witnessed to rise in the United States is from the top of Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park in Maine. Though Bella can hike quite well on her 3 legs, the hike was reported to be one that could put her at risk for injury. As I've said, she'll go and go...and it's up to me to set her limits to keep her healthy. Therefore, we opted to camp cliffside and rise early to watch the Sunrise at our own leisurely pace. 

FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out,) tried to sneak it's way in my thought process as I was dining in Bar Harbor last night and hearing of others' plans to hike the mountain and be a part of the small club that have been the first to witness the first sunrise of the New Year. However, I wasn't about to put Bella at risk, nor leave her in the car so that I could take part. 

This moment here, sitting on the cliffs and enjoying each other...was what I truly didn't want to miss.


Now, to be clear, these moments are not the entire story. I don't want to paint a false picture of constant tranquility and oneness with nature as I share this adventure with my best friend. Just after this Bella took off after a squirrel and about ran across the nearby road and my temper flared as I caught up to her, grabbed her collar and scolded her for not listening. Was I more upset at her for running off, or for the fact that I knew she should've been on leash and it would be my responsibility if she got hit by a car or flew off the cliffs chasing the dang squirrel? Most likely the latter. 

The look on her face seeing me upset reminded me of just how much work I have yet to do in 2016. The first step was to apologize to Bella for losing my temper, and the second was to forgive myself for being....simply human.

Her Majesty

After I apologized....we went on a short hike and found this. 

Away for the Holidays

As Christmas approaches quickly, my mind was second guessing my choice to be traveling over the holidays and I began to feel a bit guilty for not being home to celebrate with family. I didn't even send gifts home this year.

However, rather than presents, I am happy to offer my presence. I may not be physically present with family or those reading this post, but I am present here, now, today. Along with my presence, I'd like to stock your stuffings with my happiness, and throw any resentment into the fire.

Rather than being a resentful troll, gazing out of the window daydreaming about a grand adventure, I'm out on it and I brought my 3 legged bestie with me. She says she wants to keep spreading her happiness, too. Either that...or she wants a treat, I'm not sure..

Mom,

Thank you so much for understanding, and I'm grateful in knowing that you will be happier to hear the stories and see the pictures than receiving any gift I could offer.

Love ya, and Merry Christmas

-Rob and Bella

The Best Way I Know How to be Authentic…is to Tell the Truth, here's a Little of Mine:

I'm sitting at a dining room table at 10:30 am on Sunday in an AirBnB apartment that I booked in Lake Placid, NY….I've had the room for 3 days and considered the decision an "investment," as I would be able to sit and enjoy some solitude with my own space to really sit, sort photos, and write. I did this in bits and pieces throughout the days…but nowhere near as I expected. I'm in a zone right now, and it's 10:30…with a check out time of 12pm. Go figure.

Focus…focus is still something that I struggle with. Mainly what distracted me was where to head next, where we'll be staying, where we'll be exploring, the best way to share it with others, the best apps for finding trails and camping, and of course, how to sustain the journey.

Every so often, I am hit with a wave of clarity. If only that wave could be more constant. At the current moment, the heart is still and the soul is happy at the reminder that it's okay that I didn't get as much done during these few days as I wanted. Bella and I still Lived and Loved. We got to get out and explore more of this beautiful region of the Adirondacks. So much, in fact, that we could easily stay longer. The photos that we have shared have been enough to inspire countless people and that's what we have set out to do. We have done "enough" here, and now we will continue to move on and see more of this great country, and share it with others.

I'm still working on building my website and posting more blogs on there rather than simply sharing on social media. As I do so, I am being cognizant not to do so out of an egotistical "look at me" manner, but along the lines of "I would like to continue to explore, share, inspire and hopefully earn some income to be able to continue to do so." I don't believe that's an unreasonable method of thinking, and I know plenty of people have reached out to see how they can help. I've been researching a bit on how to submit to magazines or gain sponsors to help us along the way. I've also been looking for places and people to be around to help encourage the traveling/photographing bug that has its grasp on me. Building followers on social media seems to be a worthy selling point and great for networking, but as I said before, I still need to focus before I can do anything.

When trying to focus…I believe that without knowing WHAT to focus on…one can't expect to have any. Again, the wave of clarity is still present and as I embrace it I can see the truth of what I want. If you've made it this far in my reading, what I'm about to say next is the most important part. I want…to be authentic. I want to be genuine. I want to be me. I want to be the best me. This is why I am having such a hard time going back to any type of work that puts me in a uniform, or has me put on a face to sell something or be cordial to an entitled customer, even getting into a gym without feeling like its all just an overt act of narcism.

I want to continue to travel and see the world, meet her people, take awe in her incredible geographical playgrounds, see the amazing creatures that make this planet so full of life. That's who I am, that's who I want to continue to be. I should not be ashamed of this, nor think it impossible.

So…how do I do all of those things? Well…it's a grand idea, perhaps a wishful dream, but I believe that if I focus on being authentic and continuing to refuse to trade that for a corporate paycheck that it has a true chance.

Now that I've deduced all of these things down to being authentic, the next step is "how?" It's much easier said than done in a world that separates and segregates via categorization. Titles, Races, Religions, Nationality. How can I simply be a compassionate human on this earth? That's where the beauty of Bella comes in. With her, I am me. I am the best me that I know when I am focused on caring for her and giving her the best life that I know how. There's a quote somewhere along the lines of "We find ourselves through service to others." I felt this while doing volunteer disaster relief operations, but was so focused outwardly that I was neglecting to serve those closest to me, let alone myself and found myself unemployed, divorced, and near homeless. Through focusing on serving Bella during her last months, I will continue to serve myself by being my best self. I do not need to put on a face with her, and authenticity takes no effort.

Through doing this…is how my writing comes from the heart, from the soul, rather than from a way of selling it in hopes to be somehow noticed and picked up by a publisher of some sort. If I continue to write and share authentically, perhaps that will come, but if I try to force it, to rush it before I'm ready…I may lose the very thing that I'm trying to hold onto.

Lastly, as it is nearing 11:30, I want to leave you with something important before I finish this post and pack up my gear for the next destination. I want you to know that in reading this, you are reading the words of a man who often times seems to be lost and cold, caught up in fog of failed dreams when visions of seeing the world seem to be nothing more than a far off fantasy. Right now, I am not in that fog…I am not lost…right now, my vision is clear, the dream is alive, and so am I. This…is why I am here.

Now join Bella and I as we continue to get outside…and Live.

 


A "Mile"stone

Let me just start off by telling you how happy I am to have a vehicle that I Love and don't foresee a trade in the near future. If you've seen any of the photos of what I drive via Instagram or the album on my page titled "The Runner," you're sure know that I drive a Toyota 4Runner. To be a bit more specific, a 4th Gen, 2003 Sport Edition 4WD 4.0 V-6. It's been a while since I've felt comfortable enough with a vehicle to not even look at the newer ones with a wishful thought of being behind the wheel. Nope, I'm happy right where I'm at. I've often been told I could and should be a salesman, but I'm so awful with numbers that I'm much more of a promoter. When I get excited about something, I want to share that excitement and let other people have a chance at experiencing their own. I know, it's just a vehicle, but for those who get it, you simply get it. There's just something about certain vehicles that are an extension of your personality, that perhaps say a bit about what you like to do, where you like to go, and how you like to get there.

So, what's the milestone you ask? Well, my girl just hit the 100K mile mark this morning. I'm sure that may not seem like a big deal to many, and "It's a Toyota, 100K miles nothing!" That's precisely what inspired this post, as I'm not sure if there are many 4th Gens (02-09) left out there that are just now hitting that mark. This is easily considered the break in period for a Runner, as I've personally seen three with over 400K miles. Think about that, nearly 1/2 a MILLION MILES. I'm not sure if I'll ever make it that far, but I'd love to at least see 2 or 3 for the first number on that odometer before I move on to a relationship with another vehicle. Great...I'm getting sappy just thinking about it. I would rather have no other chariot for my Bella girl to continue to explore this beautiful earth during her last months on Terra Firma.

Break In Period....Complete

So, what is it that I Love so much about this Yota? Well, she can take me pretty much anywhere that I need to go. She's rugged, yet extremely comfortable. She's got some power, yet not a total gas guzzler. She can lay her seats down and make a perfect bed in the back for me and the mutt. I must admit, she also looks pretty damned sexy, inside and out. Yet...most importantly, she's reliable. As long as you keep up with regular maintenance on these, they are truly built to last. I've driven her nearly from Coast to Coast, and will have actually done so in a few days. It's nearly impossible to put a price tag on reliability and this is why Toyotas hold their value so well. They simply have a proven track record of dependability and durability. I'm looking forward to many more trips and hope to keep her in good enough shape to last as long as I'm able to keep going. Like I said, it's been a while since I've had the connection with a vehicle that is more than just a thing I sit in that has wheels and takes me places. She's literally been like a second home to me and the Bella girl, and it's one of her favorite places to be, and the seats are rarely ever folded up. The back window rolls down folks....why hasn't anyone else caught on to this!? Seriously, just an all around great vehicle and you just need to get in one and explore to see for yourself. I'm already attached enough that I actually took video of the odometer rolling over. I'm a sentimental fella, and even planned the trip to happen somewhere worthy, and this happened on a scenic byway in the Adirondacks in upstate New York. Not sure if I caught it on camera or not, but I jokingly said: "The break in period is over." Many more to come.

Look daddy.....the FOREST! I see a trail, go that way!

Ahhh...this is much better. I Love going Pawf-Road

Seriously? You went out of your way to find this mud. If you get stuck, I'm not pushin'.

Now I'm about to get a slight bit nerdy and talk what could be saved more a 4Runner forum, so if you're not into that, you've already read the "story" portion. Thanks for reading and no hard feelings if you part ways now. If you like vehicles and want to continue, then come along for the ride.

Now that I finally have off-road worthy tires on her, I'm hoping to get the opportunity to get a little dirty and climb over a few mountain passes. However, I need to get a leveling kit put in as soon as I get the chance because I hopped up one size from 265/65/17 to 275/65/17 which has enough clearance on the road, but stuffing the tire over some rugged terrain causes rubbing in the wheel well. I've been wanting to level out the stance since day one, because the 4th Gen is the only gen to sit low in the front. All the others sit nice and level from the factory, and I'm told that the early 2000's SUVs were succumbed to safety guidelines that required a lower stance on SUVS. Ugh...that's a few hundred greenbacks that I don't have right now. I could afford the part, it's the labor that's killing me, especially because it's not that difficult, just time consuming. Also, the decision of how high has been a thought as well....2 1/2 front only? 3 front 1 rear? I'm hoping to stop into an off-road shop sometime and have someone who really knows 4Runners to just say: "This is the best set up." Of course, then he might be selling me on aftermarket suspension kits for thousands rather than the simple spacers for hundreds. Unless I were able to get someone to sponsor such a thing, it's going to need to be the latter.

I should shout out to Adam Holland from Baxter Toyota for finding this gem for me: "This is the one! Only 70k, a real diamond!" Of course that sounds like a regular salesman's schtick, but he wasn't kidding. There was nothing else in my price range that had such low miles or was taken such good care of. I wasn't sold on the Grey Trim, but a little plasti-dip fixed that and can be peeled off if I ever do decide to trade her in. The service at Baxter (formerly Performance Toyota) has been phenomenal. The shop is cleaner than most restaurants I've ever been to, and the staff are friendly and knowledgeable. The best part about the service department is that I've never once felt up-sold to a service that I didn't I didn't really need at the time. They take pride in knowing their vehicles and making sure they keep running like new. Thanks for bringing that knowledge to the table Quimby, you've been awesome. He hooked me up with the body shop from Dodge nextdoor after Adam noticed a small scuff on the door. This resulted in a couple return trips before we finally got the paint on the door to cooperate, but they didn't give up and weren't going to let a less than perfect job slide. The last trip in, they even pulled a dent from my lift gate that was unrelated to the door, and didn't charge me. Talk about a happy customer.  Now, if we could just track down that owner's manual. (Yeah, I'll never let that one go)

Also, it's worth mentioning that Discount Tire did a fantastic job as well. I'm not trying to sell anyone anything here, but I am trying to share good information. I decided to go with Hankook Dynapro ATM's and was seriously struggling between them and the Cooper At3's. I remembered how well the Dynapro's performed in the snow on my '99 Silverado and how much tread they had left years and 30K miles later. I decided to stick with them and then when I was making the purchase, they offered a deal on wheels that I couldn't refuse, though I probably should have.  Sure it's not financially responsible, but damn it...I Love to put that signature on my vehicle to "make it mine." If any of you reading this are car guys/gals, you get it. The best part about Discount Tire is that they are located all across the country. This played a major role in why I went with them. I try not to shop many "Big Box" places and keep money local when I can, but I travel so often and such great distances that "Earl's Tire" just doesn't offer the dependability that Discount Tire can, let alone the pricing. I was 3 states away from home and was overdue for the re-torquing of my new wheels and stopped into the nearest Discount Tire, not only did they help very quickly and hassle free, they also sent me on my way with a new key-socket to have on my travels, free of charge, as the I apparently left mine in my garage back in Nebraska.

As far as the performance of the Hankook's, like I said earlier, they were amazing in the snow on my Silverado, and so far they've handled great in the little that they've seen this winter. Grip is apparent while road noise is minimum, which is what I wanted a good balance of. I lost about 1.5mpg, but that's expected with a little bigger tire and actual tread thats grabbing the road vs the slick Dunlop GranTreks I had on before. The ride is smooth and sturdy, and the look makes the Runner feel as if she's actually meant to be taken off-road, which is exactly what I was looking for.

So, for my sales pitch of the day: "4Runners are awesome. I Love mine, you will, too. See Adam at Baxter Toyota of Lincoln for a test drive to see for yourself. Check out Discount tire for the best deals and protection plans on new shoes. The Hankooks are a great addition for a more aggressive look and off-road handling without breaking the bank or howling down the road." There, that wasn't to salesy, was it?

Without further adieu, what you most likely came to see....more photos. I often take photos of Ruthie the Runner out and about as if she were the star of her own outdoor or off-road magazine. Perhaps I should let you in on a secret....that I would Love to do just that. Click "here" and watch this commercial....I'm basically living it....but without getting paid. So if you're reading this and have some connections, connect away. The adventures could use a little funding. ;) 

If "The Pontoon Option" was a real thing, i'd order it. 

Off-Roadin' in a winter wonderland.     -Well...not quite the winter we expected...but "Hey, Snow!"

Thanks again for joining in and tagging along our adventures. For those who follow mainly to check on the Bella girl, she's doing great and Loving every minute of our journey. Her ability and eagerness to run and hike inspire me every day. We're currently in Lake Placid, New York, and working our way over to Green Mountain National Park in Vermont. This area has been extremely beautiful and I'm hoping that everyone is able to enjoy the photos that I've been posting on Instagram and Facebook, as well as the stories I've been sharing on here. I'm a bit behind on sharing, as I've been busy doing and capturing. However, I posted up in an AirBnB rental which, though a bit over budget, it's nice to have some solitude with a shower, kitchen, bed, and wifi to get some images processed and stories told.

 

Until next time,

-Rob and Bella

Put-In Bay, Ohio: An Unexpected Haven

While visiting Bowling Green, Ohio, I met a young fella who told me that he had recently "moved off the island." After inquiring more and finding out that there is a community of year round residents on a small 3-mile island in Lake Erie, I had to go check it out for myself.  For those of you that don't know, I'm on some sort of adventure, or "walk-about," right now and am working my way along the northeast of the United States. I haven't made it very far from Nebraska yet, and little did I know that I would end up spending an entire week on this small island. I definitely wouldn't have been able to predict this after Bella and I ferried over and discovered the island to appear as a ghost town. "Well, that was a waste of a $44 ferry ride," I thought to myself. Since we were already here, I decided that we'd better drive around and scope it out. We passed the empty bars and the eerily uninhabited miniature golf course, and found ourselves at a small state park. It, too, was empty and it was absolutely perfect. It was there that Bella and I connected and I was reminded what this trip was about. If you've followed along, you know that Bella is a tripawd, having lost her front left leg to bone cancer, and was given 3-6 months to live due to the advanced cancer in her lungs. A large portion of this trip is a "farewell adventure" with Bella, and yet many of the photographs I had been taking of her previously were more along the lines of me posing her in front of recognizable objects. It was here, watching the sunset on the cliffs, that I remembered the importance of connecting with her while she is still here, rather than just collecting photos along our journey.

I took another drive around the quiet island and found a Restaurant/Bar that had a couple of cars outside and a few neon beer signs lit up in the windows. I popped in to see if they were serving food and sure enough, "Tippers" does serve food in the off season and is basically the only restaurant open throughout the winter. This, is where the unfortunate timing of coming during the off-season turned into the most fortunate. See, this island has anywhere from 10-15 thousand people having a party of their lifetimes during the summer season, and only about 300 locals stay through the winter. It was at Tippers that I met the local people. The townsfolk who stay year round. The true islanders. It was at Tippers that I met Steve, and was offered a place to stay in one of his rooms at "The Bird's Nest" so that I didn't have to sleep in the 4Runner in the park, and allowed me to trade a little labor for rent for the past week. It was at Tippers that I was invited to come back on Wednesday night and play Euchre, which I still have no clue how to play. It was at Tippers that I was able to see the "The Longest Bar in the World." Truly, it's in the Guinness book of wold records. It was at Tippers that I met Rob and Marie, the owners of "The Black Squirrel" who opened the doors to their bed and breakfast dining room to allow me to come have a coffee while I used their wifi. It was at Tippers that I met a man named Pinky, who I would later see dressed as Santa Claus at the community gathering at the lighthouse. The gathering which I was invited to after simply being at the lighthouse to capture a photo of the sunset. There was a potluck at the gathering and my contribution was to email the photo I took of the lighthouse. Hardly a fair trade for the amount of delicious goodies I stuffed down my gullet as I made new friends with Ed and his family. It was at Tippers that I met Patty and Molly, the friendly faced employees, tending bar, running food and I'm sure more things than I know. It was at Tippers where I met Susan, who added me on Facebook so she could give me pointers on places to visit while traveling through the northeast, as she told me great stories of camping adventures from years past. I met the mayor at Tippers, heck I even met Mr. Tipper himself, who still comes into the restaurant to cut the steaks every morning, and I must say he cuts a generous slab of beef. I blew my entire month's food budget here at Tippers this week, because I just couldn't stay away. In fact, when I finish typing this up, I'm headed back there for one last hoorah for the second half of Thursday night football. The Vikings are playing the Cardinals....and I can be glad it's not the Browns, because I learned quickly that's a sore subject in these parts. Oh, how I truly do know I hail from a small town when I feel right at home in a bar where everyone truly does know your name.

 

Now, this may seem to be a story about Tippers, but really it's about the community. It just so happens that Tippers is the heart of it. 

I'm leaving for Buffalo, NY in the morning, and though it's only been a week, I feel like I'm saying goodbye to family. So, for that, I thank you Put-In Bay, and to Tippers, because only a great community can make someone feel so welcome and so at home so quickly and effortlessly. I'll miss you all, and will never forget this week that I spent here with such incredibly friendly people, and friends you're all now considered.

Until next time,

-Rob and Bella

P.S. Chris...if you get a chance to read this, I truly did mean to get a pic of your pup! If I make it back up here, I know I owe ya.  To Rob and Marie, I replaced the banana that I ate on day one, in case you're wondering where that banana on the counter came from. Oh, and Patty, I said I'd leave info to follow along. Obviously you now have the website, but my Instagram is @robkugler I post on there quite often. 

Friendship

The East Shore

The Lighthouse

The Lighthouse

Sunset at the park

Sunset at the park

She does majestic well.  

Our final sunrise.  

Our final sunrise.  

I can't pass up a classic car

I can't pass up a classic car

The Monument

The Monument

"Where'd you get that Barn Wood?"

From a barn, of course.

It's often been mentioned, and I'd agree, that many of my photos would look at home framed in barn wood. If you're me...the barn wood can't merely be purchased from a merchant, or in pre-made frames from a big box store. True barn wood for frames must be searched for through the exploration of the plains. I'm sure there are plenty more places that a person can find a barn than the plains, but the plains are where I happen to be. Not just any plains, but great ones. I want to type a winky face here, or maybe a smiley with its tongue sticking out to imply that I'm attempting to be silly, but I'm trying to maintain some shred of professionalism on this page. Now, back to the barn wood!

It's late, and I need to get to bed. My writing is showing it, so I'll let the pictures tell the story. I thought it would be neat to share the time that I spent with my big sister and Bella girl as we rode through the hills to find the abandoned barn that we were given the okay to gather a few boards from. Turns out, it pays to have farmers in the family, especially in a currency of beef and wood from an old barn. Okay, Bella....lead the way!

Bella Girl is mocking the silly giant mooing kitties. "Look at me...I'm a Cow...deeeehrrp!"

Bella Girl is mocking the silly giant mooing kitties. "Look at me...I'm a Cow...deeeehrrp!"

"Daddy, stop for a windmill pic...it's Windmill Wednesday"

"Daddy, stop for a windmill pic...it's Windmill Wednesday"

"What's that? Sniff Sniff....I detect a barn in the distance! Keep pushing forward!!"

"What's that? Sniff Sniff....I detect a barn in the distance! Keep pushing forward!!"

"Hmmm....I'm sure I can smell an old barn around here somewhere..."

"Hmmm....I'm sure I can smell an old barn around here somewhere..."

"Ah-HA!!! FOUND IT! Just look at all of this good stuff!! I mean..would ya just LOOK AT IT!?"  

"Ah-HA!!! FOUND IT! Just look at all of this good stuff!! I mean..would ya just LOOK AT IT!?"  

Honestly....I had mixed feelings about taking down boards from the standing structure...

Honestly....I had mixed feelings about taking down boards from the standing structure...

So.....I took every other one. Now it's just well ventilated. 

So.....I took every other one. Now it's just well ventilated. 

Nailed it.

Nailed it.

That should do it. Piled up and tucked into a nice tarp blanket

That should do it. Piled up and tucked into a nice tarp blanket

"Bye Barn!!"

"Bye Barn!!"

"Bye Cows!"

"Bye Cows!"

"Hello Kitty!"

"Hello Kitty!"

So, there you have it. I hope you enjoyed that short journey over the cows and through the hills to the old barn house we go. We've got the wood, but getting them made into frames...that's a different story. Thank you for letting me take the easy road tonight and let the pictures do the work and Bella's joyous spirit tell the story. I think it turned out to be a bit of fun, actually. The kitty at the end was when we dropped off the tools...and I just couldn't pass up the "Hello Kitty" comment. Bella has a great sense of humor. ;)  There's that winky face, it made it in after all. Besides, one can only be in the "deep thoughts" mode for so long

That being said, I absolutely Love my 4-Runner and the new wheels and Hankook tires look great in these pics, even though the tread pattern collects more mud than I'd like, I've had great experience with them off road and in the snow on my Silverado. Just need a leveling kit to raise the front a few inches and Bella girl and I can keep on trekking across the country to remote destinations to collect our favorite thing: more great stories. That picture with her head sticking out of the back window and the barn in the distance....that pretty much sums up our relationship. She's always my copilot as we go explore, and there's nothing more she likes than a ride with her head out the window. Turns out...we must be related. 

Thanks for joining us,

R&B

Breathe...and Take a Journey With Me...

A friend recently turned me on to the Netflix Original series "Sense8" (from the creators of the Matrix Trilogy) and it's absolutely incredible. I'm not going to get into the specifics of the series, other than to say it's an incredible journey through the lives of 8 people from across the globe of varying cultures, races, religions, and sexual orientation. These 8 people, are all connected with a collective conscience. The cinematography is beautiful, and the look into so many different ways of life, yet each containing so many similarities... is amazing. Watching this series seems as if I'm getting to watch the entire human existence around the globe simultaneously. 

During the first episode, I heard the song that I will share below, and immediately knew that I wanted to hear the rest. I googled "Song from Sense8 Episode 1" and found an entire list of songs from each episode of the series. The artist of the song I was looking for, which was playing as a beautiful, young Icelandic DJ is taking the drug DMT aka "The Spirit Molecule," is Sigur Ross and the Icelandic title is "Dauoalogn,"  which translates to Dead Calm. I'm so glad that I searched it on youtube and found the official video. The view is incredible. When you watch it, please, I sincerely ask you to enter full screen and use the best set of headphones you have. Everything about this visual and audible journey is exactly the way I Love to look at this amazing planet that we live on. People imagine alternate realities, discovering other planets and exploring the strange, the unknown. I've learned that those can all be found right here...on our very own planet. From our own back yards to the far off reaches of other continents across the earth. This video resembles very closely how I see the world when I'm at my sharpest, most clear and present moments. Now, perhaps my biggest struggle currently is trying to embrace that, nurture it, and keep it at the forefront. I yearn to surround myself with people who see the world as such. Perhaps watching this video will inspire you, like me, to want to get out and truly LOOK and SEE the beauty of the gift we've been given. May the calm that flows over me whilst watching this soothe you as well.

So, without further mumbling from me....click the link below and please, give it your full attention. Remember, full screen and headphones if you've got them.

 

Enjoy:

 

Neighbor

I've often said I would like to go back through my Facebook over the last 2 years and migrate posts to this blog. This evening,  a friend commented on and brought back to life this post from December, 2014. I shared it on "Nebraska through the Lens" and the photo was 'liked' by thousands of readers. Sure, Likes don't truly mean anything, but it's nice to know you've told a piece of someone's story, spread some good in the world, and know that someone is reading. 

 

Original Post: 

Today, I was blessed with some great conversation  from my new friend, Pat. Pat and his wife, Jo, are both 85yrs old and they'll be quick to tell you that Jo is older...by 2 weeks. 

They live across the street from the house I'm staying in. Today I walked over and  told Pat that I've seen him mowing his lawn and shoveling his walk and wanted to offer to help, yet I was aware that is what most likely keeps him in such great shape. He agreed with a smile as he pet my chocolate lab, Bella. Nonetheless, I told him to reach out if ever needed anything. Which of course, was reciprocated. "Anything you need at all, just let us know. Besides money." I couldn't help but laugh and assure him that I'd only ask for a screwdriver or a cup of sugar. 

When the mail came during our conversation I showed him how Bella could be of service and she took a mouthful of mail to Jo, who was sitting in the garage while Pat was working in the yard...before I interrupted him, of course. 

I couldn't help but notice a letter from the VA. This struck up a conversation and I got to hear the story of his service during the early 50's as a Radar Approach Specialist in the Navy. His training started in San Diego, CA, then to Corpus Christi, TX, and on to French Morocco. He was very grateful for such a great tour of duty. 

After his tour in Northern Africa he came home to his awaiting bride to be and became an air traffic controller in Indianapolis.  They later moved back to their home state of Nebraska where he taught High School math in Lincoln for 30yrs. 

Today, at 85, Pat is proud to still be certified as an Air Traffic Controller. 

What a great story. 

What a great man.

(I later printed and framed this picture and delivered it to Pat for Christmas…he tried to pay me. Key word "tried.")

 

image.jpg

Spreading the Bella Love

It's become a bit of a routine of ours to frequent my favorite area of Lincoln, the Haymarket, during the evenings and enjoy the outside patios for a juicy burger at Brewsky's, a Spiced Chai at The Mill, or some delicious spicy cajun food at Buzzard Billy's. 

What we really go down there for....are the people. Since I came back to Nebraska I've tried to finish with registering Bella as a Therapy dog so that we can do great work together and I've had little success. No response from the organization that we tested with out of state, and the 2 local places I contacted said that they won't be testing for months and that it may not be in Bella's best interest, due to her health. I understand where they're coming from, and it stings a bit that they don't think that I would have her best interests in mind. I'd bring her wagging butt in a wagon to the hospital to see some kiddos if that's what it took.

See, like people, her best therapy right now is to continue to Live, to get Out, and be Loved. While walking up P street, past Ivanna Cone (where she stops to lick the pavement,) I let her choose which way we were going to cross the street. North, across P, or East, across 8th. When she saw this crowd gathered across 8th...she made her decision. "Let's go meet these people!" She knows what she wants, and that is people. She was an instant hit and everyone Loved on her and treated her like a queen. When the young man in the wheelchair was petting her, he said: "Awwe...you're handicap, too!" I told him that when we took the stairs at the neighboring building, she chose the ramp instead: "I go this way now, daddy." -sorry for that, Bella girl.

"Cerebral Palsy?" - I asked. "Very Good!" - he replied, "The Sexiest of all the Palsies." I laughed quite loudly and explained that my friend Jon Seyster, who also has Cerebral Palsy, is usually surrounded by the ladies as well...so there is definitely a pattern.

I should've told him that having a beautiful 3 legged labrador can garner a crowd of some beautiful ladies as well, and as someone mentioned one night "I get your game, you're bringing your dog to pick up on the girls." Though that is definitely not the goal, it is some collateral damage that I'll begrudgingly deal with along the way.

All joking aside, the true "goal" or "purpose" of bringing Bella down to the Haymarket...can be seen on the faces in the picture. Of course, it's a posed pic, as it's a bit hard to get candid pictures of my own dog with people as I'm holding her leash in one hand, talking to them...and a camera in the other. The point is...they are smiling. They are smiling as they see the Love that Bella carries in her heart for everyone. I truly believe that she is everyone's joy to be shared, not just my own, and I am happy to share her any chance that I get as the love from others only fuels her happiness to be carried onward to the next group of young artists such as these, or the young boy near the ice cream shop who got to give her a treat, or the young homeless couple that Loved on her for 10 minutes. Her happiness and joy for life is not mine, it's the World's.

Much Love,

-Rob K.

Boundary Waters: Outward Bound 2015

This trip had so many experiences of the physical, spiritual, natural, and psychological form that I'm not even sure where to begin. I feel as if an entire book could be written about the short 6 days that 7 people shared in the wilderness…hearing it from each perspective would be absolutely enthralling to me. Yet, I will only be able to share one perspective. I suppose beginning before the trip even started would be the best way to help me share my personal experience. The trip began just 4 days after I graduated from the Fire Protection technology program and my mind had not yet had a chance to calm it's waters before I was thrust into assembling the packing list for the trip. The course was a "Veterans Expedition" with Outward Bound: "Boundary Waters Canoeing for Veterans." The packing list that they sent was 3 pages long and, of course, a bit overwhelming as my mind was still storming from the finals and national registry testing. I was diligent to make sure that I packed everything on the list as well as adhering to the "pack lightly" advice to bring nothing extra. I packed everything on the list and nothing more. Of course, I didn't finish packing until almost midnight and I had a 0345 wakeup as my flight was scheduled to leave at 0500. En route to the airport I realized that I had left an extremely important item out of the bag, a headlamp, which was in my 4runner that was now at the shop as I planned to have its door repaired while I was gone. Great planning on that part, but not so much for leaving my headlamp in a now inaccessible vehicle. When I get dropped off at the small airport in Lincoln, NE, I approach the ticket counter only to learn that my 0500 flight had been cancelled and the only other option was to wait until nearly 1800. (sorry for the military time, I'm not usually so moto but I started it with the 0345 wake up and have to continue it throughout…right?) The 1800 flight would put me in Duluth at approximately 10pm, and it is a nearly 2 hour van ride into the Voyager campus from the airport. That simply wasn't an option and long story short, I had to mix the friendliness with sternness to motivate the customer service reps to call and wake up their manager to get us vouchers to pay for a taxi over to Omaha to get me and another gentleman on the flights that we needed to be on. Turns out, it's a very good thing that I did because once we landed, the ball started rolling immediately. There were 2 veterans and 1 staff member at the Duluth airport waiting for my arrival, and we hopped in a 15 passenger van to go pick up 2 more vets that bussed in from the Minneapolis airport. We smashed some Burger King quickly to get in one last taste of fine American fast food dining and then headed towards the Voyager school. In the van, we quickly shared what branch we were in and how we heard about the Expedition. 2 of the Veterans had recently been on an adventure with OB, 1 had done so 25 years ago, and myself and another had never been. We shared a few stories about other organizations and our thoughts on the Veteran community, and that's an entirely different blog post.

Once we got close to the Outward Bound school we pulled the van over into what looked like a scenic overlook, or perhaps parking for a trailhead, where we were to meet our instructors. Suddenly, they appeared from the woods and introduced themselves, Jesse and Lisa, both in their 20's and both excited to get us out in the field for a great experience. We formed a circle and made quick introductions and my intuition was telling me that we were going to get things started right away. Sure enough, after introductions, they asked us to put on our shoes that would be our designated "wet shoes" and brought us to the water where they revealed the large canoe that they had paddled in on. A quick paddling 101 class was taught and into the boat and down the waterway we went.

Paddling 101 (photo courteous of Chad Spangler)

 

Though I was trying to use my core as instructed, paddling the canoe was putting some serious strain on the arms and shoulders and right away I knew I was in for a tough week. Once we got to the destination, which OB calls "Home Place," we got out of the canoe and before we had the chance to check out the facilities it was immediately into drills for what to do when the canoe tips. If you've never swam with hiking boots on, I can tell you that it's a less than efficient mode of moving in the water. From there, we went to the building called "Trips." I'm not sure if it was an acronym or if it was simply named after the building you go to get all of your supplies for your trips, because that's exactly what we did. The first plan of action was "duffle shuffle," which you can imagine was a fun experience just by the name. It's funny, however, the difference of dumping your gear for inventory in a setting where you don't have Drill Instructors or the like screaming at you as you attempt to come up with an excuse for not having your headlamp. "No worries, we've got extra gear to loan you, here ya go." "Here, you're going to want longer socks than those, you can borrow this pair." Granted, they may have been pink, but there is no time or place for style preference when you're being loaned gear that will perform better in the field. 

Jesse goes over the list…Nick (in green) did not exactly follow the pack lightly advice.

Jesse goes over the list…Nick (in green) did not exactly follow the pack lightly advice.

After it was ensured that we now had all of the appropriate gear, we headed down to our first campsite where we learned about setting up camp. Now, mind you, this is a group of Veterans…so everyone is used to setting up camp, but this is where patience and understanding comes into play when you are in someone else's backyard learning their way to camp. If anyone has camped with avid explorers/outdoorsman, they have some pretty great and efficient ways which they have learned to do things, while others may be stuck to their own ways, I'm always eager to learn new things. There was an odd number of us, so there would be always be two tents/canoes of 2, and one of 3. There would also be a "brigade tent" that was more like a canvas tarp which we would store our gear under, and a bear system that would be the place to store our food. The bear system we used, which now that I think about it…I never got a picture of, was very simple: tie the food packs to the tree along with some canoe paddles and pots….and when the bear sneaks into grab a midnight snack, he'll make some noise and wake us up to then scare him away. I'll save you the suspense and tell you know that we never had the "pleasure" of scaring a bear away. I almost forgot to mention, the tent setup demonstration was done silently, as what I learned to be a wonderful teaching method of the Outward Bound staff. Waterproofing our gear came next which is an extremely important step for any expedition, let alone one where your gear will be traveling in canoes. Experiential learning is what they are all about, and I can tell you that is exactly how I operate the most efficiently. Tell me how to do something a million times and I may never get it, show me once and have me do it right afterward and I'll be tracking much faster. 

After camp was set up we were treated with chow that was brought down from Homeplace (as we hadn't hiked but a few hundred yards for night one/camp demo) and we learned a few traditions of OB. The first being the reading of a quote from a book comprised of a collection of various inspirational and thought evoking quotes from a variety of authors. The cooks of the day would choose the quote and read it aloud to the group before serving chow. Chow would be served as such: "Bowls in" means everyone puts their bowls near the campfire or food pack and the cooks would divvy out the portions and once all were full call "Bowls out." To me, this is an incredible way of teaching manners, respect, and the ever so disappearing action/mentality called courtesy. 

Tents Up, Sun Down

Tents Up, Sun Down

If you've made it this far in the post, you've read what's more like a black and white description of events. This happened, then this happened, then this happened. A to B to C. I could go on to do my best to describe the rest of the trip in the same manner, but I'm not sure if simply recalling every detail of the events would serve as much of a purpose as it would recalling the emotions felt, friendships made, and the lessons learned. Not to mention the fact that I may run out of the writing energy to express the emotion after trying to include the countless details. I may, however, try something I haven't tried before and come back to edit this post every now and again to add a few more things as I've recharged the batteries and/or remembered an important learning moment that I left out. There's simply so much that happened on the trip I feel that it could take me several days of being stuck inside typing to get it all out, but I need to at least get the bullet points out while they're fresh. 

Up to this point…our journey had not yet truly begun…we had merely been preparing, and realistically very little at that. I had no idea what to expect, no clue as to what was ahead of us other than paddling, portaging, and camping. Little did I know what that pace would be, even less did I know what that pace would teach me. Wake up came at 0-dark-30 and we moved quickly to put the canoes in the water, load in our packs, and hit the lakes paddling. If you've never seen the terrain of the boundary waters, it's hard to describe. It seems almost best described  to be a large body of water peppered with small and large islands rather than trying to describe the countless lakes that exist. Minnesota is the land of 10,000 lakes and they definitely are not over exaggerating. We started pushing forward and the group began to have its first conflicts once navigation became an issue as 5 veterans in 2 canoes had a hard time coming to one conclusion of just where the heck we were.

Jesse, showing us the route on the big map. These lakes were formed by the same glaciers that carved out the Great Lakes.

Jesse, showing us the route on the big map. These lakes were formed by the same glaciers that carved out the Great Lakes.

Lisa (instructor) speaking with Nick (student) about the route

Lisa (instructor) speaking with Nick (student) about the route

Unfortunately, as a common case within certain military communities, errors were not easily forgiven and there were many quotes of "Why the #$*& are we going this way?" as perfection was being expected. Joe, an Infantry Marine and combat veteran cracked me up when he spoke the simple truth of: "You 'think' it's that way? We have a map and compass, give it to me so I can shoot an azimuth and tell us exactly where to go." This was a common theme throughout the week of navigating the route and it wasn't until the last day or two that we began to set the tone along the lines of: "Its easy to take a wrong turn, we'll correct it and there's no race here." Yet again, it's still very difficult to tell an extremely completive person that things aren't a race. That competitive nature seemed to push the portaging trails into races as well, and what I learned about that was the value of a competitive person on a trip. His competitive nature pushed the rest of us to go faster and work harder, which, in turn payed off as far as time goes. As far as morale went, we were a bit put off by the competitive nature and it was starting to work itself into an issue. One of my goals is to work on being passive aggressive, as I tend to let things build until the point that they explode and it catches everyone off guard as I pull a Jekyll and Hyde moment. To prevent the snapping, I brought it up and talked about ego and teamwork. Our first conversation didn't seem to hold the weight I was hoping, as the quips kept on coming towards those who were moving slower. It wasn't until after the course had ended, in the airport having a one on one lunch with this guy, that I truly learned what his motives were. "When they told me to be in an expedition mentality, I flipped a switch to be in 'expedition mentality.' I only hopped on him for being slow because I knew he could push harder. I wanted to call him out and have him reach down and push." This lightened up a dark spot in my heart that had formed over the trip because I was so fed up with what I took as arrogance and cockiness that I didn't see his good intentions. The lesson reminded me that everyone has their story, their motives, and even if they seem to be brash or cocky…their heart may be in the exact place it needs to be.  A larger lesson in this, for me, is to get that one on one sooner and squash that beef before it spoils. I brought it up once, but didn't revisit it until the last day, and the trip could've been much more enjoyable in the moment if I would have taken care of it earlier. Also, that brings me to one of my other very important metaphors learned on the trip.

Below….is the way to mark if the "slammer" is occupied. X = Occupied || = Open

Trail to the Slammer X= Occupado

Trail to the Slammer X= Occupado

What exactly is the slammer, you ask? The picture below will explain it all.

If I had to estimate, the "slammers" were about 100 yards from camp. See those heart shaped leaves?? Natures TP. ;)

If I had to estimate, the "slammers" were about 100 yards from camp. See those heart shaped leaves?? Natures TP. ;)

So, how does this become a lesson? What's the lesson in a toilet at the end of a mosquito infested trail? One lesson here is that using those leaves worked absolutely wonderfully and resourcefulness requires thinking outside of the box. The bigger lesson, however, comes from the mosquitos on that trail that hang out and wait for the prize of fresh flesh being uncovered while a human does his/her business. The amount of mosquitoes and their tenacity was impressive to say the least, and their buzzing in your ear as you tried to expediently relieve yourself was enough to drive a person insane. As I frantically swatted at them I realized how worked up I had let them get me, and that I wasn't doing much good swinging at them in the air. It was at that moment that I took a deep breath and said aloud: "They're not bothering me until they're on me. They're not bothering me until they're on me." I quickly calmed down and every so often watched a mosquito come out of the cloud and land on one of my thighs. You're on me, you're bothering me, you're squished. This ties into exactly what I mentioned above, and may be one of the biggest lessons for me to take from this trip. "They're not bothering me until they're on me." How many times do we let ourselves be bothered by pests who aren't even on us? Who are buzzing around and being annoying in their own space, not affecting ours at all, perhaps except for what we can see or hear. Can we control what we see or hear, not very likely. We can close our eyes, put in headphones, or move to another location, but sometimes we don't have those options and are simply stuck with them and one thing we can definitely not control is someone else's behavior. Of course we can ask them nicely, tell them sternly, but we cannot force them to change it. What we CAN control, however, is how much we let the behaviors of others affect our own. It's a decision. "They're not bothering me until they're on me." I cannot tell you how much more peaceful my mind was and how much I began to forget about the hatred/disgust of the mosquitos "bothering me" as I transitioned to being thankful for at least having something to sit on as I did my business in the middle of the woods as well as being grateful for the soft underside of those heart shaped leaves. I hope to take this mantra with me for many situations in the future. "They're not bothering me until they're on me." Ahh…that just feels good.

Another great lesson would come while we were portaging and I was carrying the canoe on my shoulders. I hadn't got but a few steps from the water and there was a muddy pit in front of me that I needed to cross. This isn't the type of mud that you're okay with walking in, even if you're already in your wet shoes. This is the stagnant, "burn everything that touches it" type of mud that will most likely suck your shoe off if you step in it. I knew I needed to get across that darn thing…but I also knew I couldn't jump clear across it. If I just ran, I may slip and fall. So, I looked at the rocks and planned a route. I plotted out a path of three steps that would get me across and visualized each step. My left foot would hit the first rock, then right foot on another, and left foot on the third and I would make it to my objective. I took a step on the first one, then to the second, and my momentum carried my passed the third without needing to step on it. It was at that moment, that I started planning my first step once I got home from the trip. I know I've got to get across a muddy pond, and I'm not sure what's on the other side, but I know where my first step needs to be. I've graduated from the Fire Program and finished my EMT but still need to get registered for the National Registry Exam. That is my first step. I'm still not sure if I'll be pursuing a career in that field, but the first step from here needs to be taking the exam. The second step, is to get my photos printed and ready to be on exhibit at the V.A. via the Hildegard Center for the Arts here in Lincoln, NE. So often, we get so overwhelmed with what's across the pond and how to leap across it, that we get paralyzed because it just seems to far…there's too much unknown…we can never make it. The answer is the same as how we get to the top of the mountain…one step at a time. Sometimes it's necessary to look down at your feet and figure out where those feet need to land for each step. It's also okay to let yourself skip a step if your momentum is carrying you past it to the next one. 

No, I wasn't always smiling carrying that canoe…and yes…that is a fanny pack…and YES…it was the best thing I packed for the expedition.

No, I wasn't always smiling carrying that canoe…and yes…that is a fanny pack…and YES…it was the best thing I packed for the expedition.

Speaking of the fanny pack (seen so stylishly buckled around my waist in the picture above,) there is yet another lesson. I'm not sure how to phrase it, vanity perhaps? Let's face it, not many people want to be caught wearing a fanny pack these days, and for a few pictures, I made sure not to be wearing it so that I didn't "look like a dork." Well, I'm telling you that that dorky little item was hands down the best item that I had packed for the trip. Sunscreen, lip balm, inhaler (nothing equalizes dorkiness like an inhaler,) bug net, camera and my ever important spoon were always no more than a quick zipper pull away. I caught myself taking it off before a picture and thought…you know what, I'm rocking this thing out here and am damn proud of its versatility, I will wear it in photos with pride and share with the world the utility of such a pack. So, I'm doing my part in bringing back the fanny pack, I suggest you do the same! Also, I almost forgot that I had a hidden bonus in mine. The person who loaned it to me left a card in the zipper from Disney Land that read: "Your Key to the World." Therefore, I was pretty sure that I had our entire group covered for anything we encountered, because not everyday do you run into someone with a key to the world. Luckily, we were never in a situation where we had to use it, but by golly we were prepared if we needed to. Moral of the story, is that fanny packs are cool again. Well, I'm still not going to be wearing one to the mall anytime soon….but I'm not saying I won't be tempted.

The pace, I mentioned that earlier and haven't seemed to have said much more about it. The route took us through several lakes and more portages than I'd like to remember. Food was packed, fish were bonus meat, firewood was collected in the afternoon, feet checked and dried at the final destination, camp set up, one team on fire/dinner other team on camp set up, eating, clean up, bedtime, early wake up, fire started, breakfast, clean up, camp break down, and on the water to continue to the next objective…with a quick stop for lunch and if you woofed it down, some time to try and catch a fish. This pace lasted throughout the entire course…and it was exhausting. I commonly mentioned that I would rather stay in one place and appreciate than continue to move past everything at 100mph and miss what's in front of you. This was definitely not a trip to "recharge" the batteries. This was a trip to see how long the batteries could last. I was excited to be there, yet I longed to get to the end so that I could slow down and breathe. It wasn't until our "Solo Time" on day 5 that I realized the importance of that pace. We had worked so hard, and had so little time to ourselves, that the 90 minutes that we had on our own was absolutely some of the most well earned and most appreciated time to myself that I've felt in a long time. We were given some loose parameters of where we could go, "Just make sure you can hear us when we call you back." I had seen a little inlet before we pulled into camp and knew immediately that I wanted to head over near the running water. When I reached the rocks I was absolutely thrilled to see that I could bound across them and perch myself up on a boulder and take in everything that was around me. I had my time to take it all in, to look around and absorb all that I could see, hear, smell, and feel. It's times and places like that when and where I feel the most connected with the Universe. I got out my journal, which I bought specifically for this trip and had a good friend write my name with his calligraphy pen, and thought of what to write. I started writing in my journal as if I was writing on this blog…which is intended for others to read. I'm realizing that I need to learn to write to myself…without the intention of trying to sound like a "good writer" and just speak to myself so that I can process my truest thoughts and emotions. I share much of what I think and feel on here, but not all of it. Writing things down is a great process, but editing them for others to read can block the flow and cause paralysis. When I caught myself doing that, I simply turned the page and drew a little sketch of the waters that I could see. I quickly remembered why I like taking photos….I'm not a great sketch artist. The one good thing that I did get in my journal was the title: "Goodbye Society, Hello World." This is something that I truly believe in when I'm outdoors. I feel as if I am in the true reality of the planet, connected with the natural order of things, closer to being one with the universe. Then again, that doesn't mean I have to leave society, perhaps it just means that I'm looking to find a society of like minded people.

Goodbye Society, Hello World

Goodbye Society, Hello World

Another lesson that I learned about the grueling pace was about pushing limits. So often I wanted to just slow it down and enjoy ourselves a bit. So often I wanted to stay in one place and explore every tree and find every creature that lived there and again….just slow it all down. However nice that may have felt if given the chance, we would not have reached our objective. We had a destination, a pick up point that we had to reach at a certain time. How much time have I spent trying to slow things down, when perhaps what I need to do is speed things up and get my feet moving from rock to rock and get my butt across that muddy pond. I was happy to learn that I was able to keep out there on the trails and I intentionally grabbed the heaviest packs that I could as I was proving to myself that I not only "still have it," but actually have more of "it" than I ever did before. Being a Mechanic in the Marine Reserve was nowhere near the experience I had envisioned for myself in my service to the country when I signed the paperwork in 1999. My brother, Mike, was an 0311 (infantryman) at the time I joined and encouraged me to join the Reserve. The only option here in Nebraska was a Maintenance unit where I was given the job of a Engineer Equipment Mechanic. I remember talking to my recruiter: "If we ever go to war, I'm not going to be turning wrenches will I? I'm not going to be stuck on base if we go to war." It was replied with almost a snicker as if it were a stupid question: "Son, every Marine is a basic rifleman, if your country calls you to war, you'll be called to war, not to fix a forklift." Needless to say, when I went to war, I was on base…fixing forklifts. It was while there in 2007 that my brother was killed near Baghdad and any plans to transfer to a combat related career either through military or private security quickly disappeared. I've always regretted not doing something combat related, and knock myself down many pegs anytime I'm around veterans who are, but that's something I need to own and squash myself. A large piece of me died along with my brother, and that wound has only been deepened after my sister was killed last Easter in a motor vehicle accident while on the way to see my grandmother who was in the hospital due to a stroke, who passed away in July of 2014. I had been separated from wife for nearly a year at that time as I'd stayed in California to pursue my acting career and did not want to come back to Nebraska to live what I thought was "too simple of a life." I was offered a job with an organization in I participated with in San Diego and it was then that I realized if I took it….it would be the point of no return. I asked if I could have time to go back to Nebraska to talk things over with my wife in person, they said yes. I went back to Nebraska and I wasn't present…I wanted to be back in California and on my bike along the sunny coast, with the acting career always still a possibility. I chose to go back to California, when I got back…it was too late, the position was no longer open. I was lost. I put my attention back to another organization that I was involved with and went all in. Unfortunately, when I applied for a fellowship there I forgot to turn in my military DD-214, which was a requirement in the process. "Try again next year" I was told. I didn't have time for next year…I needed help, direction, then and there. Everything came circling around and I realized that all I really needed in my life was family. Family is all I had ever wished for, and I decided that my marriage should've been my first priority. By that time, however, it was too late, and my wife asked for a divorce. I broke her heart by staying in CA, then mine was broken when I couldn't come back home. I've beaten myself over this and that is another blog entirely. Death and rejection has battered me down over the past few years, and my confidence level has been at an all time low. I ended up going back to school in Nebraska to finish a degree that I started 10 years ago and may not end up pursuing. The past 9 months were spent sleeping in a home under construction, the first 5 months on a cot, the entire time with a hot plate to cook on and a space heater to stay warm. Most all of my friends have left Lincoln and my main companion was my Chocolate Lab, Bella, who is leaving us far too early due to Cancer. I applied for a work study at the school to work in the Fire Protection building to try and get in the mindset of a Firefighter as full immersion is my style of learning. However, it was denied for various reasons…partly due to income that still showed my ex-wife's income, and partly due to having taken too long to finish the program I started years prior. As I said, rejection has been a common theme and the confidence has been battered. I've openly shared the out of body experience that I felt most of the time I was going to school as I felt as if my body was moving and mouth speaking to which I had no control. "This isn't what I wanted to do." "Why am I here?," I often thought to myself as I felt that I threw off my entire course of action, which was to try and  This is where the lesson learned comes into play. I've shared openly many of the hardships, and just as I did in this rant above, left out any accomplishments, any great things that I've done over the past few years to which I'd never have expected myself to be able to do had you asked me a few years ago. I need to change my own perception of my life and take my own advice of focusing on the positive. 

This trip to the Boundary Waters, its fast pace, the heavy workload, and how I was able to overcome every obstacle and keep a smile on my face, as well as put a few on the faces of others along the way was exactly what I needed to jump start my confidence and remind me that I can push past the limitations that I've put on myself. It reminded me of why my friends tell me: "I don't know why you're not confident, you've done so many things with your life."  So then I thought about some the accomplishments…and reminded myself to not let the few negatives outweigh the many positives. With that in mind for the above recollection of the past few years, it would be changed to include such things as: Achieving the rank of SSgt before discharging after 10 years in the reserve. Following a childhood dream and becoming a SAG Actor after only a few months in Los Angeles, making it to the Advanced class at the Groundling's Improv School with absolutely no experience. Starring in a few short films that I was very happy to be involved with, putting in the work to get the footage, experience, connections, and move forward. Meeting many people that I'd dreamed of meeting for many years, such as being able to meet and tell Jack Black that he was my reason for moving to Hollywood to pursue acting. Meeting Ben Affleck on the set of Argo when my friend Tony and I were specifically asked to come shoot a small scene in the embassy Armory. Earning nearly as much money in one day's work on Jeep commercial that I did in a year as an active duty Marine SSgt. Getting a small, one-time role on a showtime show and having Matt LeBlanc tell me that I'm funny. Meeting Kevin Bacon and telling him about his great work in "Taking Chance" and how much that paralleled my own story. Making countless good friends and connections in "the industry." Being a part of a play in the American Legion Hollywood Post that was produced by the playwright himself. I made YouTube partner with my impersonation tutorials. I was interviewed to be a part of a makeover show with veterans giving back to communities, and was pitched to the network as a host. I worked with a promotion agency where I quickly moved to field supervisor and made great money by simply demonstrating the Kinect for X-box, later being offered a job to manage the X-Box One tour in the LA market, which I declined due to trying to get another job with a Vet Org. Cycling 500 miles each in California, Texas, Italy and climbing Alp D'huez in France with other Veterans as well as mountain biking in the Red Rocks near Las Vegas. The first trip barely finishing, the last being strong enough to help others along the way, making friends with countless Veterans along the way. Getting to be a part of a trial program where Buzz Aldrin is helping give flight lessons to Veterans as therapy, getting an autographed book from him that will be a keepsake for a lifetime and passed down to the children I hope to someday have.  Flying to Haiti to help 3 friends teach first aid classes and filter water for local schools and churches. Joining a disaster relief organization that repurposed Veteran's skills to work in disaster zones. With them I would deploy as a team member to floods in Marseilles Illinois, as a Team Leader to massive tornado in Moore, Oklahoma, floods in Lions Colorado, Operations Manager for the Tornado in Baxter Springs, Kansas, and Incident Commander for the tornado here at home in Beaver Crossing, Nebraska. I was able to pay my respects and honor my sister and grandmothers passing by singing Amazing Grace at their funerals. I traveled with a bud to a Veterans program in Malibu called Save a Warrior, to which he couldn't fly alone due to his struggles with anxiety and within a few weeks I helped him facilitate his Beta Project in Kansas City which is now fully functioning.  I came back to school in Nebraska to finish the Fire Protection Program that I started in 2005, got all A's except for a B+ in EMT, and graduated with a 3.5 GPA 12 days ago.  I ran my first 1/2 Marathon with Team RWB, and ran strong as I helped carry the flag along with our group that started and finished together. I passed the certification to obtain the Hazardous Materials Operations level certification and I passed the National Registry Skills test without needing a single retest, which few were able to do. I had great reviews while working in the ER during my clinical as I hopped in 150% and stayed an hour later than scheduled just to see more patients because I didn't want to stop learning. I've been there for many good friends, and have heard the phrase "you saved my life" more than once. I've helped a friend get a handle on his drinking problem during his divorce, I've been there for many people to talk to and to lean on. I honored my brother on Memorial Day by dressing in my Blues and taking part in the ceremony in the Cemetery that bares his headstone. All the while, I've been able to take photographs of many beautiful things along the way and really find a medium of art that I'm happy with and don't judge. I've found a new way of sharing my experiences and visions with the world. Prints of mine are now living in many parts of the country and I'm so happy to see that people have a little piece of me on their walls. I've been asked to be a part of local Art Center and will be sharing my photos on the walls of the VA here in Lincoln. Which, if you recall from above, was one of my very next stepping stones. 

Wow…looking at all of that in a written form truly makes my chin rise and my back straighten up, not with a sense of arrogance or ego, but rather a sense of accomplishment and compassion to let myself off the hook. To stop beating myself up for what I don't have, what I've lost, where I'm not at, and be proud of what I still have, what I've done, and where I've been. This is not at all where I intended this writing to end up…but I'm not going to edit it. I'm going to let it be and let it flow as is. The key is to remember to keep these lessons learned and apply them to everyday life, to quit telling the old stories and operate with a "New Narrative." I'm looking forward to sharing this post, and then being done telling stories of the past and working to live in the present. Outward Bound's trip was full of metaphors for life lessons not only because of what I experienced, but because the energy and ethos there supports and encourages it. They preach compassion and inclusion, and their methods work. Our instructors were some of the greatest people I've ever met on the planet, and they were as real as people come. Not only were they real, they were extremely positive and downright skillful. No skills are more valuable than that of minimalistic survival, starting fires with wet wood, using rope for a million things and knowing all the right knots to use, catching fish, then filleting and cooking them over an open flame, canoeing and navigating efficiently. I have so many good things to say about the instructors that I may just type another blog for them so that this post can end at some point. Jesse and Lisa are their names, and I hope to keep them in my life for many years to come. Absolutely great people, with good hearts and strong work ethic.

To keep in the theme of sharing the positive, let me finish by sharing with you a few more of the great experiences of the trip. I'll try to keep it simple with pictures and short descriptions. Some things that I was not able to capture on camera but I'd still like to share by description are: The beautiful Loon and it's majestic sound. If you've never heard the wail of a Loon, it sets the mood to make you feel as if you are truly in the wilderness, amongst creatures that are wild. We were able to get very close to a few here and there but the pictures never turned out. Another great "Nature Moment" that I swore I had a picture of but cannot find (I took a few pictures with a friend's camera so it may be on his) was a Dragonfly emerging from its nymph stage. I had no idea the big scary looking bugs that they are before they make the transition. It was very similar to the Cicada, as it's shell stayed clung to the rock. There were also a few mama ducks with their ducklings behind or on their backs. Most of us saw our first wild moose, but unfortunately it was laying dead in the water…it was a sad sight and I purposely didn't take a picture, I'll also spare you from describing the smell. We couldn't be sure as to what killed it, but apparently parasites have been killing moose in the Boundary Waters for sometime. My favorite moment may have just been hearing a wolf howl late in the night, it was absolutely magical. I couldn't help but to think to what his cry meant…what he looked like…just everything about him. A very patriotic moment was when a beautiful bald eagle flew directly over our canoes and we all stopped paddling to take in the beauty and appreciate the significance. The last day of excursion, after our gear was checked in, after the ropes course, and after time with the Sled Dogs (of course I have a picture to share of the dogs,) we were able to enjoy a sauna heated by a wood stove. We poured some water with a few drops of eucalyptus oil over the rocks and breathing that in through the mouth and out through the nose which opened the airway and seemed to clean out any gunk we had accrued over the week. We transitioned every 10 minutes, from the heat of the sauna, to the refreshing cold of the river, using the sand to exfoliate our skin. The trip was finished with an amazing display of the northern lights. Seeing this capped off the surreal experience of being in the northern wilderness. Seeing the lights in such a fashion has always been a dream of mine since I first saw them on a nature show when I was a young boy. Yet again, another dream lived. Thank you so much to Outward Bound for making all of this possible.

More than daisies in this field, are the wild strawberries that we stopped and enjoyed thoroughly. 

More than daisies in this field, are the wild strawberries that we stopped and enjoyed thoroughly. 

EJ and I cooking up one of my favorite meals on the trip, Peanut Butter Stir Fry

Jesse giving the fish filet 101 course. This was a Northern, and the previous day we ate a Walleye that I caught, which was actually the first fish I've caught and eaten. It was an incredibly gratifying experience.

A better look at the rocks where I spent my "Solo Time." I'd Love to go back there and spend an entire day.

Below is the entire crew, and I could truly write so much more about each individual, and may come back to do so when it's not 12:30 in the morning. I've been typing this blog for hours….and I am truly looking forward to getting away from the computer and getting some sleep.

 Left to right: Jesse, Lisa, Rob (me), EJ, Nick, Brian and Joe. 

The names of previous dogs in the Dog Yard. I absolutely Love the look of this cabin....

How fitting to be the last picture my camera took before it died, I Love a good howl.

Well, that is all for now. Thank you for making it to the end, and I hope that the experience was worth reading. I'm off to bed and am looking forward to letting my eyes take a rest.

From learning life lessons to pushing my limits and hearing a wolf to seeing the northern lights, the trip was an experience of a lifetime and I highly recommend Outward Bound for anyone who may need the same. Ultimately, you do not need someone else to take you on an experience like this, you can do it yourself...it doesn't have to be across the country, it could be at a local state or national park near you. It truly takes much less than you think, and that is the final lesson in it all. It takes so much less than we think to have everything that we need. 

If you do, however, have a Veteran friend or family member that could benefit from such an experience, please share this with them, here's the link for them to look directly to the course :   http://www.outwardbound.org/veteran-adventures/outward-bound-for-veterans/

Signing off,

Rob K.

 

 

 

 

Open the Lock

Sometimes it simply takes a person who's willing to stop and pay enough attention to look...and truly see. See that the lock isn't very secure, that's it's just temporary and we're merely waiting for someone to open it and look past the weathered exterior to reveal the Beauty, explore the Wonder, and feel the Love inside. 

 

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The Power behind the Pivot

 

The Power behind the Pivot. 

Pictured, is Chandler Ritchie, starting the Turbo Diesel Engine which powers the well pump, along with the generator that provides power to the electric motors on each set of wheels which engage to move the pivot. 

It's incredible to be an outsider looking in and see the evolution of science technology as the pivots can be controlled remotely to maximize efficiency. 

Nonetheless, regardless of the many technological advancements, the machine still needs the farmer. A farmer breaks a leg and he continues to work on crutches, a machine malfunctions and shuts down...it cannot improvise, it cannot overcome...it quits. 

Science and Technology has produced a new breed of farmer, one more knowledgable and capable than ever. The world is changing, and they are evolving along with it, if not a step ahead. They may have bigger tractors to help with the work, but where there's bigger tractors there's more work to be done, and where there's more work to be done...there are not more hours in the day. There is no technology to create more time...making it an invaluable entity...yet they sacrifice that more than anything. 

I'm more than proud to call a few of them Family. In fact, Chandler is my Nephew, and I've watched him grow into an incredible young man...mostly due to the family values and work ethic learned from life on the farm.  You couldn't find a prouder Uncle. 

Thank you, for what you do. 

 
Power behind the Pivot

Power behind the Pivot

 

Chandler (pictured above) is, in fact, my Nephew, and I've watched him grow from an infant in my arms into an incredible young man...mostly due to the family values and work ethic learned from life on the farm.  He may be one of the most capable 17yr old young men I've ever encountered.

You couldn't find a prouder Uncle. 

The Road we Travel

 

Perhaps you didn't become who you thought you were going to be...because you became who you were meant to be. 

Perhaps you didn't get what you wanted, because not getting what you want was exactly what you needed. 

Perhaps you didn't make it where you intended, because you were diverted to where you belong. 

It's okay if you're not there yet, as you are on the path that will lead you. You may be there already, and merely need to look around realize you have arrived. 

Regardless of where you think you are today...today is where you are. 

Every detour, wrong turn, pot hole, and road block has led you to this very moment. In this moment...you are alive. 

Take a breath, look around, and Live here...Live now...Live today. 

-Rob K.

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