Friday, June 26, 2015

Book Review: Changing Gears, a Family Odyssey to the End of the World

In 2008, the Sathre-Vogel family--mom, dad, and two ten-year-old sons--began their bicycle trek from Alaska and the Arctic Circle to Argentina's Tierra del Fuego. The trip lasted about three years, and mother Nancy Sathre-Vogel chronicles the family's adventure.

Quite a journey it was, with desperately difficult terrain, medical emergencies, and equipment failure. Nancy Sathre-Vogel honestly tells their story, including her doubts and weaknesses, the powerful strength of family bonds, and the innocent exuberance of the boys.

Part of the journey's goal was to break the Guinness World Record for the youngest travelers to make the trek, and even though at one point the narrative reveals that over time the journey became more important than the world record, the official quest was a powerful factor in determining how the journey developed.

My personal opinion is that somewhere along the journey, the parents should have sat down with the boys and told them that the joy of the journey was more important than the Guinness record, and that they were all taking the next bus out of Long-suffering Town to a less hostile environment before continuing on bikes. The writer chronicles the family's suffering, their extreme conditions, and after a while I just got tired of the litany of suffering. After all, according to the mom, the journey was more important than the world record. Lots of bike travelers catch a bus or train to skip a particularly unpleasant area.

The sections of suffering aside, much of the book describes the beauty of the Americas and the "up close and personal" experience of traveling by bicycle. I enjoyed the book, for the most part, and admire the achievement of the Sathre-Vogel family. Because the book describes the entire route, it is a good reference source to know what awaits you if you choose to make this journey . . . and it may just convince you that you don't have to pedal every since inch of the journey.

Copyright 2015 by Thomas L. Kepler, all rights reserved

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The Apple iPhone 6+: Smaller (and Less) Is More

Well, I did it. I bought an Apple iPhone to replace all the electronics (and chargers) I was packing around on my bicycle.

Here are the devices I've accumulated and have been packing on my bicycle:

  • Kindle eReader
  • Canon movie/still camera
  • Tracfone (buy minutes of phone time)
  • HP mini computer
  • Verizon MiFi wireless 
  • Garmin Edge Touring GPS

What I've Learned So Far

I'm still on the learning edge regarding the iPhone 6+, but I'm very impressed and believe adding a new, monthly "communications utility bill" to my expenses is worth it. Buying the 64G phone should provide me with plenty of space for all my needs. >>Read more on my bicycle blog>>

This a sample piece from Tom Kepler Bicycling. If you find my adventures interesting, subscribe to my blog to receive emails when I post, or sign up via Networked Blogs to have my posts show up on your Facebook timeline.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Book Review: Old Man on a Bicycle: A Ride Across America and How to Realize a More Enjoyable Old Age

The title captures the flavor of this book, which is both compelling and insightful. The book is an excellent blend of description of the ride, the land, and the people, coupled with a life's worth of wisdom about what our journey of life, whether on or off the bicycle, is all about.
"When Don Petterson, a former American ambassador, told family and friends he intended to ride a bicycle from New Hampshire to San Francisco, most of them questioned his judgment, if not his sanity. He was in his seventies, hadn't been on a bike for years, and had never ridden more than a few miles at a time. But, in May 2002, putting doubters-and self-doubt-behind him, Petterson headed west."
Old Man on a Bicycle: A Ride Across America and How to Realize a More Enjoyable Old Age chronicles Petterson's ride, yet it also provides the reader with the distillation of Peterson's experience and research, not only of the ride and its environs but also on aging and how to stay vital. His Amazon Author page is also an interesting read and provides insight into Petterson's writing style. He has also written two books, one about the Sudan and one about Zanzibar, based upon his experience as a US ambassador. "Ambassador on a Bicycle" might have been a better title for the book!

If I understand the chronology correctly, Peterson took his ride across American at age 72 and then wrote the book 12 years later, using his journal of the ride as the focal point of his writing. The book includes journal narration in italics and also ambassadorial analysis and commentary on the terrain and the towns along the ride and more introspective analysis of how Peterson's mind and body hold up during the ride. The commentary includes footnotes. The author has done his research and has provided useful and interesting information about "an old man on a bicycle."

Behind the narration and commentary, or perhaps suffusing it, is the reality that this man rode across America at age 72 and then wrote a very readable book about that experience at age 84. The ride and book are testimonials that life is not over at retirement and that getting old need not be an impediment to living a gracious and meaningful life.

Read the book, and the younger you are, the better.

Copyright 2015 by Thomas L. Kepler, all rights reserved

Sunday, May 31, 2015

I've Decided Not to Retire

"So, you're just going to sit around and watch TV?" I was asked when I said I was retiring.

Those words or variations of them led me to believe I am inaccurately representing my plan. People are getting the wrong idea, or maybe they've allowed themselves to fall into the wrong paradigm.

"Yes, I'm retiring at the end of May from my position at Maharishi School as news writer and social media support" was the beginning of my last blog post. I realize now I should have used the word leaving instead of retiring. Much more accurate.

I plan to still write--to pursue contract work and tutoring--and also to spend much more time on my own writing projects. That's not retiring if the word conjures images that lack self-directed purpose.

So, I'm not retiring. This is my formal announcement.

I'm not going to retire if retirement implies inactivity, infirmity, and indecision. I am not over the hill or past my prime, nor have I outlived my usefulness or live in a world that is going too fast for me. No, I'm going into business for myself, or maybe going into the business of my Self. I'll do what I like and like what I do. I'm on my bicycle, and the open road is before me.

The thing is, this world is a wonderful place, and I am surrounded by wonderful people. I'm going to spend more time enjoying myself--and much of that time will be centered around the jobs or tasks I have assigned myself.

Consider it recreation as I re-create my daily schedule. I plan to be the chef, the restaurant owner, and the hungry gourmet; and I'll be dishing up all the achievement and fulfillment this table will hold. Tuck in, trencherman!

Copyright 2015 by Thomas L. Kepler, all rights reserved

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Re-retiring . . . or a Second Retirement

Yes, I'm retiring at the end of May from my position at Maharishi School as news writer and social media support.

I'm enjoying the countdown, and I'm making plans.

Some have asked, "What are you going to do?"

Well, I plan to continue engaging in life-supporting activities. I'll just have more time and choice as to what those life-supporting activities will be. To answer one question: no, I won't just be sitting around doing nothing. If I'm "doing nothing," it will be the productive "nothing" of meditation. Even in retirement, TM will still be a useful and effective preparation for activity.

  • reading and writing
  • being supportive of my wife's new business
  • being a good parent and grandparent
  • gardening
  • bicycling and bike camping
I have a few other possibilities, but first I want to focus on self and family. I've enjoyed my job this year, but there are some things I want to do that are more difficult when I have to show up to work five days a week. Bicycling and gardening, for instance. When the weather is right, I want to be able to take off, even if it's a Tuesday or Wednesday. That will be an enjoyable freedom.

So . . . this week and next week. More time for this blog, too. Good thoughts to my co-workers, and happy trails ahead.

Copyright 2015 by Thomas L. Kepler, all rights reserved