Rob's Blog Archive

August 3,  2019











I just finished Tim Ferris' book, The Four Hour Work Week.  In the book, Ferris writes about stressing over things that don't matter and how much he did this.  As he's going through a list of concerns we blow out of proportion, I'm thinking to myself that my big concern is whether or not my hip will heal enough to let me spend a week in the Bob Marshall Wilderness next winter---not on his list.  If I can do that, I should be able to get back to kicking and patterns, practicing Taekwon-Do, too.

I am working on transitioning back from trying to make it as an adventurer---to date, I've failed---to doing technical work either as a physicist or data analyst.  I may be grossly disappointed once I start looking, but I expect I should be okay.  And, when Ferris asks, would it be a problem if I continued working my entire life, my unequivocal answer is no.  I still do proofs and math problems just for fun. 

It was 40+ years ago.  My first girlfriend had just left me.  I was floating.  Four things kept me going that summer.  I had won a small scholarship to do research I had designed.  I wanted to actually do something as a wrestler the next year.  I planned a one week backpacking trip for a friend and me in the Uinta Mountains.  And, I found my first Siberian Husky, Sapura.  By the time summer had ended, I had decided that I was physics, the mountains, and Sup.  Calling them passions wasn't enough.

Sapura was with me throughout graduate school, two post-docs, and my starting work as a senior scientist.  She passed away thirteen and a half years after I found her.  By that time, I was a second degree black belt in Taekwon-Do.  Since then, only injuries have kept me from doing my patterns.  I spent most of my time in the Bay Area working as a senior scientist, wandering in the mountains, and doing Taekwon-Do. 

Nine years after Sapura passed away, I got Dawn and Tenaya.  With them, I became physics, the mountains, Taekwon-Do, and my dogs.  That was more than twenty years ago.   

Five years after getting Dawn and Tenaya,  I left Silicon Valley for Montana.  At the time, I promised myself a nice telescope if I survived more than a year as a telecommuter.  I lasted three and a half.  Getting the telescope is on my list.  
I built my kennel up to as many as 23 dogs, and now have 14.  My goal is to get back up to 16, and keep it there for the rest of my life.  Well, as long as I'm strong enough to deal with the winters in Montana.  Thankfully, while my hip makes winter harder, it's still quite workable. 

As long as I have the dogs, the only long trips I'll take are with them.  Since moving here, I've taken three road trips to Alaska lasting five or more weeks, and they've all been in the winter.  I have been attracted to both cold and wilderness my entire life, and Alaska has both.   The rejoinder is Montana is "Alaska lite." 
Once home from the road trips, I take time to ponder was it worth it.  In balance, particularly for the two trips  where I was skijor-sledding the Iditarod Trail, it was.  However, nothing beats the ease of the combination of an incredibly efficient set-up for chores, being able to run my dogs from my house throughout the year, and being able to let the dogs wander in their yard, with me, whenever I want. 

That's on top of some of the best gravel riding along the Great Divide Trail and groomed x-c ski tracks five miles from my house.  There's lots of mountaineering within a few hours, too, but I haven't taken advantage of this, either with boots or skis.  I'll never get close to exploring all of the wilderness within a four hour drive of my home.  Doug Robinson wrote an essay about climbing in the Sierra and concluded going elsewhere didn't make a lot of sense.  Living here is like that.  If Ferris were to ask me could I be happy never venturing more than a few hundred miles from my house, I'd say yes.  It's not being a homebody.  It's taking the time to look at details.  With this, every step during any year differs, often dramatically,  from those previous. 

The one thing I find missing in Ferris' book is he never really writes about cheap ways to get what you want, the dirtbag life style, as Yvon Chouinard calls it.  My heroes include the folks who would sneak into the Yosemite Lodge and eat the leftover food off of the plates.  Ferris really does want to live like a millionaire.  Some of us never cared.

I have many heroes.  Among them are Colin Fletcher, Fred Beckey, and Gene Shoemaker.  With his books, Colin Fletcher did as much for backpacking as any other single person.   Fletcher wrote The Complete Walker, his how to book, with the best style I've ever seen for an instruction book.  Put simply, nobody will get close to the number of first ascents of quality that Becky put up in North America.  Beckey never endorsed anything and was the consummate dirtbag.  And if I bring a fraction of the passion and intelligence to science that Shoemaker did--he singlehandedly convinced geologists that cratering was an important phenomenon---I'll be happy.  National Geographic's: Asteroids, Deadly Impact portrays the life I'd like to live as a scientist. 

In the end, Ferris writes that what gives life meaning are service and learning.  For learning he lists language and physical skills.  The physical skills he's focused on have included everything from Brazilian Jujitsu to Tango.  With language, he correctly states that learning a language is necessary to understand a culture.  What I'd add is that, while science and math don't let us understand people, they do help us to understand the rest of the universe.  And, the drive to explore is the drive to do science. 

Audio:     Gyrations

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