Category Archives: Travel

Often times our adventures and discussions involve traveling.

Movie Tour Announced for “The River is Life”

The River is Life Tour, a first in independent filmmaking history, will be movie makers Ryan Jeanes’ and Phillip Hullquist’s second trip down the entire length of the Mississippi River.  The creative pair is “taking their show on the road” showing their epic documentary The River is Life – a fun-filled feature of their real-life adventure down the Mighty Mississippi – to audiences north and south along America’s Great River.

Jeanes and Hullquist departed in two inflatable Sea Eagle kayaks from Lake Itasca, Minnesota (the source of the Mississippi) in June of 2009 and filmed their exploits – staying in people’s homes, camping along the riverbanks, and contending with wind-swollen lakes, barge traffic, and massive boat wakes – for the entertainment of adventure lovers and seekers everywhere.

Their ninety-minute film is full of surprises. “A lot of people were amazed at how many people we met,” Jeanes says. “We couldn’t go a week without someone calling us over for a beer or for dinner or (with luck) a warm bed.”

“You’ll meet quite a funny cast of characters in this movie,” Hullquist adds, “from an over-size Kentuckian sporting his duck call to a racy Minnesota woman threatening to kill us in our sleep.  Boats and barges weren’t the only things we had to defend against,” he laughs.

Jeanes and Hullquist plan to bring the same sense of fun and adventure they relished on the river to their 42-stop movie tour, where they will present their film in many of the same cities and towns they stayed in almost a year ago.  “The shows will also be outdoors!” Jeanes explains. “This is a first for independent movies.  We want to give people a real-life Mississippi experience, so we’ve arranged to show the movie in parks all along the banks of the Mississippi!  It’s going to be a festival-like atmosphere where, if we do our jobs right, the whole family will have the time of their lives!”

The movie will debut in Minnesota where the duo started their journey. Over the course of three months they will make their way to New Orleans entreating audiences to “share in the adventure” and enjoy a heart-warming film not only about the majesty and wonder America’s most recognizable waterway but also the people that make this nation and this river so great.  “It’s a family piece,” Hullquist says, “it really is. Without the people we met along the way, who shared their lives with us, this film would never have been possible.  It promises to be an immensely enjoyable, immensely inspiring film.”

The River is Life Movie Tour begins August 4th and will end in New Orleans on Halloween night.  To find out more information please visit theriverislife.com for a schedule and free venue kit.

The River is Life Movie Tour. Be a part of the adventure!  To find out how you can hold a River is Life Tour event in your town, visit theriverislife.com or email phillip@11visions.com.

So, What about the English Channel?

It’s not happenin’.  At least, it’s not happenin’ until I know I’m doing it for the right reasons.

The Wrong Reasons

120px-Carte_de_la_MancheWatch this:  http://www.zimbio.com/watch/wAy4zhIK6kZ/Ice+Cream/Little+Miss+Sunshine

In the movie Little Miss Sunshine the father, played by Greg Kinnear, is afraid of being a loser.  You think, he thinks he wants to be a winner, but it’s not true.  He is more fearful of being a loser than he is excited about being a winner.

You think, he thinks he wants Olive to be a winner; but, the way he goes about it is through the principle of resistance.  “Just say no! Olive, to the ice cream!  Resist!  Look at it, but don’t touch it!”  Any recovering Mormon can tell you how well that bit of wisdom works out.

Resistance

Resistance is wanting.  It is wanting NOT to be and not to be without.  I wanted not to be without the swimming of the English Channel.  Failure was not okay.  I was hard driving myself and not having a good time.  I was showing up to swim practice… exhausted.  I was angry and surly and I just wanted this shit to be over.

I was not joyful, I was not present; I didn’t give a shit.  Even if I had swum the English Chanel, even if I had stood atop the stone on Cap Gris Nez, would I have been happy?  No.  I would have been devastated – my worst nightmare would have come true – I would have gotten what I wanted.  I would have opened a new door into the next thing I couldn’t stand to be without.120px-France_manche_vue_dover

I know that doesn’t make a lot of sense to some people, but think about it:  Ever hear the expression, “Be careful what you wish for; it just might come true?”  How true!  Had I finished the Channel, I would have gotten on the return boat to Dover; I would have felt like shit.  “What’s this all for?” I would have asked myself.  “Why?”  “What does this mean?  That I’m somehow a better person?”  “What for?  Why?”

There was no joy in what I was doing preparing for the Channel.  It took me a long time to realize that; but, luckily I made this decision before I made it to England.  At least I heeded my feelings before the big wedding day.  There was no passion in the pursuit of this goal, and I didn’t realize I wasn’t going to throw in the towel until I was halfway down the Mississippi River.  I knew I wanted to do the Mississippi.  There was joy, there was passion.  It was extremely hard, but I loved it.  There was no hard-driving football coach telling me I had to succeed.  I did it for me.  I did it for the love.  The Channel was not happening out of love; it was happening out of hate – the hate of not having, the hate of being a loser.

But can’t you swim the channel to become a winner?

120px-Strait_of_dover_STS106-718-28No.  You can’t.  You can’t swim your way to success.  You can’t overcome all your past failures through the swimming of a channel.  I interviewed many who had swum the channel; they told me they swam it for similar reasons to my own:  they were dealing with a divorce, dealing with getting older, dealing with failure of some kind.  Though they were proud of their accomplishment, I could tell something was missing – they still felt like losers deep down.  (Mind you!  That wasn’t everyone; but you could tell on some… you could feel it.)  Something still was missing.  The Channel had changed a lot of things, but it didn’t change everything.  And that was a problem.

“This was supposed to be my magic wand!”

“This was s’posed to be my ‘it!'”

“This was… it!  The Channel was going to be my BIG accomplishment.”

Some reading this blog are Channel swimmers and they should comment appropriately.  I think all of them will agree with me, however, that trying to accomplish something to prove that you don’t suck is not a very joyful way to go about life.

There will always more.  What will you do next?  Swim farther and farther until you can successfully fend off the loser feeling?  You’ll never fend it off.  You will “achieve” and achieve and achieve, and then what?  Another thing will show up.  Unless you are doing something for the love, your engergy can never be inexhastable.  Love is the only inexhaustable energy.  Something done out of love is done for its own sake.

But wasn’t the Channel a personal goal?

Greg Judge, who you will meet in The River is Life, said that paddling the Mississippi was reward enough.  It was its own reward, and I couldn’t help but agree with him.  Some force, some spiritual force was egging me on during the Mississippi – I had to do this even through the mosquitoes and fights and anger and pain and heat rash and sore muscles.  I went on and on and on and I didn’t care because I was lovin’ it.

I wasn’t lovin’ the Channel.  The more I trained the more it became apparent that it was not the right goal for me.

Shame.  It would have made an awesome goal… it just wans’t my goal.  And if it was, I wasn’t doing it for the love.

So what now?

On the Mississippi, Phil and I discussed the seedlings of what would grow into the Hell movie.  It was exciting; it had a message I wanted to say, a story I wanted to tell.  I was jazzed.  I knew the road would be long and hard, but I didn’t care.  It was okay.  Love egged me on.

No love in the Channel.  That took a while to admit.  Part of me wanted to hang on, wanted to finish the goal because I said I would, but it would have cost me my sanity.  I would have won the approval of some but not my own approval.  Inside I still would have felt like crap, and no one would have understood.  This goal, at least for now, is for someone else.  Someone else out there has the dream to to swim the Channel, and they feel the same way about it as I did about the Mississippi.

Is it okay to bail on a goal?

Hell yes.  Absolutely.  Some will disagree but that’s okay – they have the perrogative and the right.  France_cap_gris_nez_sbI was listening to a radio show by Michael Neill, a success coach, who was talking about his most financially successful client.  This client seemed to always have loads of money… always!  Michael asked his client how he set goals.  The term goal seemed foreign to the client.  “Goals?” he asked.  “I don’t really set them at all.”

“What?” Michael asked.  “How!”

“Well, I guess I kinda do.  I get together with my wife twice a year; we buy a bottle of wine and rent a really fancy hotel room and then we just daydream.”

“What?”

“Yeah, I get together with my wife, and we daydream.  We daydream about what we’d like our life to look like.  And those dreams I guess could be called our goals.  Oh, and if I realize after a while that that goal isn’t exciting for me anymore, I drop it.”

Michael was flabbergasted.  “So, you change your goals?”  This was completely antithetical to what he had been taught – Never! change your goals.  Commit!

“Yeah,” the rich client continued, “your life is about falling deeper and deeper in love with who you are and what you’re doing.  Why change that?  Why persue something you don’t feel passionate about anymore?”

Amen, I thought.  And amen, I affirmed to myself when I doubted whether I was doing the right thing making the decision to postpone? the Channel.  Just so you know, I might do some smaller swims.  The goal will be to fall in love with swimming, to swim for the right reasons.  It has to be a swim where, gosh darnit, you love being out there in that water!  No one to prove… anything to.

Choosing new and more passionate goals is the way, the truth and the light.

So next time you choose a goal, make sure it floats… or that it swims… to your heart.

Thank you,

Ryan

From the Vault: Hitchhiking with Fred

Ready for some more travel writing?  Let’s go retro and rummage around the Eleven Visions Archives for a story from The Hitchhiking Movie.  Enjoy.

“You move back!  You’re right in my eyesight!”

He said it dry like he was pissed off.  He had a snake-like look to him.  In fact, this man could have been a snake in human form which is, I must add, possible.  Haven’t you ever read conspiracy theorist David Icke?  (Come to think of it, I think we’ll interview Icke.  He apparently will interview with anybody, and if “out there” was left field, this guy clears the left field wall by 500 yards – like Waveland Avenue  at Wrigley Field.)

Snake people, and Rowdy Roddy Piper’s They Live aside, Fred did not represent the conspiratorial, controlling, power-crazed Illuminatus that Icke and other conspiracy theorists imagine; he was extremely kind even if his initial behavior belied that fact.

How we met Fred

Most who have been on this site already know about The Hitchhiking Movie, in which you can see several scenes from our encounter with Fred; but, what I’d like to do now is go behind the scenes and deeper into the psyche of one of the most lovable characters in our documentary.  While the movie is excellent in its gritty capture of a real life hitchhiking adventure, it does not (nor can it completely) capture the internal struggles of the characters involved.

Fred was a reptile… okay, seriously.  Fred was a Native American standing at about 6’2″ (about 185 cm for all you on the outdated metric system).  I walked up to him outside a truck stop in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.  I had seen him descend from his 26-ton, Diesel 18-wheeler that had big, metallic letters on the grill:  M A C K.  Mack truck.  Holy shit, I thought.  I did not want to ask this guy for a ride.  Somehow, I did anyway.

Once asked, he looked at me like I had just spit on him.  He seemed irked and responded irked:  “I’m goin’ to Kentucky.”  He popped his head back, started blinking and then looked sharply down.  “I’m goin’ to have to think about this,” he then said and left me flat as he went inside to pay for gas.  A skinny man, he walked like a hulking mass, like he could kick your ass if he wanted to and probably could.  I turned to Phillip.  “I have no idea what just happened here.”

When he came out, he walked right past me towards his Diesel.  Well, can’t win ’em all, I thought.  “You comin’?” he asked already 10 yards ahead of me.  I looked at Phillip:  “Now I really have no idea what’s happening here.”

In the Cab

Fred rearranged his junk in the front seat:  toilet paper, magazines, a general conglomeration of dirtiness.  Not many passengers had been in the cab.  I crawled in and sat in the passenger seat.  Phillip remained on the ground holding the camera.  “Where are you going to sit?”  I turned around.  “Oh there’s a bed back here.”  I moved into the dark back of the cab and prayed not to be greeted by a man with an ax.  Ever see that scene in Silence of the Lambs where the killer pushes the girl into the van with a couch?  Yeah, that’s what was going through my mind.

The Engine…

started and was loud.  It was hard to film.  Shaky, a cursed vibration that killed all intelligibility of sound, and dark, dark, dark.  Fred seemed completely unalarmed.  I know we were concerned for our safety, but Fred looked more annoyed than worried we were going to rob him.  We could have been carrying guns.  We could have maced him, tied him up and stole his rig.  Without going into that much detail, I asked him about that very fact:

“I let the Man upstairs guide me on everything I do.  When you asked me for a ride, he just let me know, ‘It’s okay.'”  His face was placid.  He really could care less if we were dangerous or not.

The line “Move back.  You’re right in my eyesight!” which was followed by, “I can’t see but through my mirrors!” was actually directed toward Phillip.  In the movie it looks like it’s toward me, so we just left it that way for simplicity’s sake.  Somewhere in the first awkward hour, Fred revealed that he was Native American.  WTF, I thought, this guy’s white as cotton.  Studying his face further you could see the stoic undertones of an Indian complexion.  His cheekbones were sharp and could have very well been the cheekbones of a buffalo-hunting, high-plains arrow slinger.  “I’m Cherokee Seminole by my dad, and my mother will tell you she’s a white woman, but she’s got Chickasaw blood in her.”  Ah, he was half white. I imagined his mother, wanting to get away from the Indian label, happy to appear white enough to distinguish herself from the dark-skinned Indians on the reservation.  In Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, one of her characters is an older half white/half black woman in an African American community.  Much as many a human has done, she uses this characteristic to distinguish herself, to make herself feel better by believing she is better than everyone else.  Unfortunately in the human game, it’s not enough just to say you’re better.  You need reasons, fabricated or otherwise.

Well, I guess, “My skin produces less pigment than yours,” is as good a reason as any.  Not enough?  How about:  “The fact that my skin produces less pigment means that I’m smarter and closer to God (check out Mormon doctrine on that one; to be fair they recently changed it, but this idea lingers in many protestant religions across the United States) than you.”  Ohhhh, you need science to back it up?  Okay, how about, “Whites are intellectually superior; I found it in my carefully-constructed testing.”  Nevermind that these “tests” didn’t even take into account their subjects’ socioeconomic background.  (If I’m black and I grow up in a well-to-do neighborhood with easy access to intellectual and social resources, I’m going to be “smarter.”  For the life of me, I can’t see how James Watson – a brilliant scientist – could conveniently forget these factors.  Intellectual rigor, unfortunately, is not necessarily a cure for racism.)

Sorry to bang on about this, but if you’re Bobby Fischer and I put you in an environment where you have to worry about getting shot every day, where you live in a rundown apartment in Chicago with no heat, where you’re friends and some of your family ridicule you if you express intelligence, and where the mass media conveys to you overtly or covertly that the best you’ll be is an entertainer or maybe a shoe-shiner; then, odds are, Bobby Fischer, you’ll be a broke-ass, dumb white kid and won’t do so well on your “scientifically sound” intelligence test.  Would you even feel like taking such a test in that environment?  Go live in a ghetto for six months before you form your opinion.

I could detect in Fred’s voice that his mother used her whiteness to feel better about herself; correction, to convince herself that it was her right; divine, scientific, or otherwise; to feel better about herself.  “I’m better, better than these half-breeds and I don’t have no Chickasaw blood in me.  Chickasaw, plah!”  When will we humans stop playing these games?  It was very faint, but I could detect the pain in Fred’s voice.  No matter.  He was very squarely proud to be Indian and made no bones telling me about it.

Cordiality

I confess that I am an accent slut.  I will whore my accent out to whoever I am talking to.  I have lived in Chicago, Nashville, Memphis, Dallas, San Antonio, Austin, Minneapolis, Mexico City (yes my Spanish is chilango), and Lyon, France (Can’t say my French is southern, but I do roll out a puteng! out once in a while when I want to make French people laugh; it’s the equivalent of hearing a foreigner say in a Texas accent “weeeelll, shiiiiiiiiiiit.”)  With Fred, I was going southern.  My drawl was extended.  I seemed more folksy.  I wanted to connect.  He started talking about Billy Graham.  A Christian Indian?  Well he did say “Man upstairs;” this guy’s intriguing. A cross between a good-ol-boy southerner and an Indian; if I had a dollar for every time I ran across one of those I could solve the financial crisis.  Phillip and I spent two whole days with Fred.  We packed two weeks of experiences with a person into those two days.  He talked incessantly.  I don’t know if he thought about it this way consciously, but I feel that when we had the camera on him he wanted to share.  He thought this was an opportunity, however small, to share his life with the world.  I want to think that anyway.  If you click here and scan down to Fred, you’ll see a small snippet of what he was like.

Nighttime, West Virginia

“What are you thinking about?” Fred asks me.  Phillip is asleep on the bed in the back… knocked out.  Come to think of it, during this trip, at least one of us was knocked out 90% of the time.  I have no idea how we found time to film.  Fred is eyeballing me, keeping one eye on the road.  This man had an uncanny ability to spot all things natural.  “See that hawk!” he’d say.  “There’s some deer.”  “Eagle, 12 o’clock, high.”  Amazing.  Likewise, he was spotting my animals, those of a demonic nature.  “You’re not going to solve that problem by thinking,” he says.  “You think you are but you’re not.  I don’t worry about anything.  Nothing.  I wasn’t worried when you guys got in my cab; I wasn’t worried when you pulled out the camera.  You – your wheels are turning – always – I can tell.”

“I do think all the time,” I replied.

“Let ‘er go.  You think you have control but you don’t.  You have no control.  God controls.”  He smiled, one of the few times he did.

Fred was a contradiction.  At times spiritual, at times pedantic, at times crass, he was a total human being.  After lecturing me on the dangers of letting your out-of-control mind run your life, he confessed that was on anxiety medication for some horrors of his past.

The Horrors

Fred was a military man.  “Keeping our freedoms free in peace time,” was all he would give me when I asked him what he did for the military.  He said he was in special ops.  Black ops.  “They told me if I died over there, all my mother would receive was a paper saying I was killed in a training accident.”  Nobody was allowed to know what I was doing.”  “What did you do?” I asked fishing.  I had the camera pointed on him just under my right arm.  I thought it looked more inconspicuous that way and the subject would open up more.  Fred knew exactly where it was.  Though he never took his eyes off the road, he saw everything.  A smirk again.  “Keeping our freedoms free,” he said again.  He knew I was trying to get him.  The wily cat wasn’t going to be trapped.

The Diner

The climax of our encounter occurred in a small diner in West Virginia.  The entire waitstaff was comprised of 4 overweight women under the age of 23.  Fred was tired, visibly.  I had no planned material for this encounter, so I asked Phil to turn the camera on and said, “How did you know I was thinking all the time?”  “Give me a question that’s hard,” he said.  He was smiling.  He thought that was hilarious.  “I have an ability.  I’ve never been able to understand it.  Some people call it clairvoyant.  I don’t call it that.  I just think the greater relationship you have with the Creator, the more you know.”  Jesus was his peace.  “I’m nobody special; I’m just a big, ugly sucker that does what the Man tells me to do.  I’ve stopped at truck stops several times for no reason because He told me to, and I find out later why?”

“Did God tell you to stop at that rest stop so you could pick us up?”

“No.  I stopped because my stomach said ‘I’m hungry; you better stop.'”  He thought that too was infinitely hilarious.

The End

The end was bittersweet.  We had shared something, the three of us.  We were all men, however, and didn’t really want to talk about it.  Fred had looked at a map and decided that the best place to let us off was in Lexington, KY.  He wanted us to smoke his prayer pipe first before we left.  (The movie explains the pipe a hundred times better than I can describe it; watch it here.)  He took a side road and meandered through Kentucky’s capitol.  The roads however, not built for an 18-wheeler, produced an eerie scraping sound.  “Fuck!” Fred said loudly.  He’d gone under a bridge.  The top didn’t scrape.  It was high enough, but it wasn’t wide enough.  “I just blew 2 tires.”  He knew instantly how many.  He knew by feel.  We meandered the streets for a while.  There was nowhere really to drop us off.  I told him to just take us to wherever he was going.  “No, no,” it’s gotta be a natural spot.  He looked at the map.  “There’s a spot on the way to Louisville.  I’m not goin’ that way, but hell, let’s just do it.”  Fred drove a crippled semi 5 miles out of his way so that we could get a correct experience of his prayer pipe, so that he could accommodate his new friends, so that he could say “thank you”… just for us being there.  His drive from Pennsylvania to Kentucky could have been boring.  He could have done it with less hassle, without two men who wanted to film him.  But he had people in his car, he had someone to share his life with, and I think he was grateful.  I really think he was.

Out of the Cab

I didn’t really know how to leave.  I didn’t want to leave.  Part of that was selfish.  We’d slept in his cab, we’d had a steady form of transportation (slow and plodding, but safe and reliable).  To look upon the other cars whizzing by you in your 26-ton behemoth is amazing.  You feel like God, you feel invincible.  Now it was time to leave.  Safety, gone.  Security, Fred, love, life, everything good… gone.  Time to leave the womb.  Onto the cold, hard concrete.  Before we left, at the truck stop where he had  settled on dropping us off, Fred tried to radio a ride.  “How ’bout it?” he said.  “I got two young men trying to get out to LA.”  Nothing.  “If you were female,” he said, “you’d have fuckin’ everybody goin’ ‘blblblblbbblbl!”

“Thank you Fred,” I said.  He had spectacles on.  He was looking at something, planning his trip in a notebook maybe, something; but, I got the impression he wasn’t really doing anything.  He was fake planning.  This was hard.  We were saying goodbye, and his way to handle it was to put his attention on something else.  Plans.  Math.  Miles.  “I can tell you’re thinking; don’t think.”  He didn’t think.  “We’ll see y’all,” he said.  Phillip had descended, and  I was supposed to descend now.  I was supposed to say goodbye.  I tried to think of something else.  Nothing.  Fred continued staring at his notebook the same way  he had stared at the road:  seeing everything but looking at nothing.  I wanted him to look at me, just once; but, with nothing to say I left.  It was sad.  I still asked Phillip to film me.  “We need to get a shot.”  Though emotional I still wanted to get something on film.  What an emotion whore:  The bane of the reality TV industry.

Moving on

We had a ride in five minutes.  God wanted us to move on.  It was over, no looking back.  Adios, Fred.  I will miss you. Part of me did not want to contact him again.  He’d given us good material.  God, I hate thinking of people in terms of material; but, as a documentary filmmaker, that’s exactly how you think of them sometimes.  People become tools, just as real emotions and memories become tools to the actor.  Then the emotions lose their flavor; the people lose their flavor.  I didn’t want that to happen so I tried not to think of Fred at all.  “I’ve still got his number,” Phillip told me the other day.  “We can interview him for the hell movie.”

“That’s an excellent idea.  He’d have some shit to say!”  I was thinking about him again.  It was good to revisit.  Floods of emotion came over me.  Floods of… I don’t know what.

“Part of me doesn’t want to contact him.”

“Why not?”

“I don’t know.”

“He’d be perfect.”

“Yeah, he would be… he really would.  I just hope the same flavor is there.”

“Ryan,” Phil said, “you can’t control that.  This is a new movie, a new time.”

He’s right.  A rebirth must happen.  Fred is different now.  I am different.  And if we do interview him for the new movie, I will be glad to tell him that I’m not always thinking.

“Free Lunch” Movie Will Document Hitchhiking Adventure

I’m going to take a quick break from the Mississippi River news to tell you about a new hitchhiking adventure beginning later this week which is similar to our own hitchhiking trip from back in 2007.

David, Docta, and Erik
David, Docta, and Erik

While Ryan and I have been pleased with the success of our own hitchhiking movie, there is always room for another one. That’s why I was so excited to hear about Erik Price’s new film tentatively titled “Free Lunch.” Erik and his team of two other friends will start together from Cameron Park in central California and plan to cover a route that will take them to the four corners of the continental United States AND hit every single state. It’s an ambitious goal to be sure and one that may end up taking longer than their estimated 4 week timeline.

The great thing about hitchhiking movies is that every one of them is guaranteed to be unique. The experience is so unpredictable that nearly anyone can go out with a camera and come back with very different stories. Erik’s also managed to one-up us by bringing an high-definition camera and covering a much-longer route. Both of our stories focus on a similar theme of the kindness found on the American highways, and follow the rule of not bringing any of our own money. By including three people in his group he’s not only tripling the fun, but also breaking new ground as most hitchhikers travel solo or as a team of two. It will be interesting to see how this affects their ability to get rides.

The Proposed Month-long Route
The Proposed Month-long Route

I spoke with Erik briefly about his plans and he seems to be well prepared for the journey. His team has just completed a 1000 mile trial run from central to southern California and back which helped them all get into the grove of what they will be experiencing during the long weeks ahead. A solid HD camera, a dozen extra batteries, and a dedicated cameraman means they are unlikely to miss any of the action.

Erik plans to record video continually for up to 10 hours per day, but I have a suspicion they will reduce this amount as the journey progresses. After all, hitchhiking inherently has lots of downtime and the resulting 300 hours of raw footage would certainly slow down the post-production process. Following the grueling trip, there is the even bigger task of editing down those hours of video into a entertaining movie. We wish Erik and his team the best of luck on their epic American adventure. The hitchhiking community certainly needs more media featuring the activity positively.

Follow Erik’s adventure: www.twitter.com/FreeLunchMovie
Join their Facebook group: www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=117678829253
Learn more about hitchhiking: www.digihitch.com

And we thought Minnesota was COLD!

I’m going to share a funny story that took place over the first couple weeks of our paddling trip. After you finish reading it, please take a moment to vote for us at the link below. We will love you forever!

Antarctica's only export is cold!
Antarctica's only export is cold!

Before leaving on our Mississippi River trip, Ryan bought a warm weather “sleep sack” to use while we camped nightly along the river. After all, it was summertime and the daytime temperature was in the 70s and 80s.

I was smarter and brought a quality 15 degree sleeping. So here’s how it went down: It turns out that Minnesota (where the Mississippi River begins) is really cold at night–even during the summertime! While Ryan froze in the night air which often dropped into the low 40s, I was toasty warm and sometimes even hot. I often bragged about this fact to poor Ryan while he shivered around the morning fire.

See, Ryan is a city boy from Texas and he doesn’t know the first thing about cold weather. I’m a country boy from New York state where we regularly see winter temperatures well below zero. I think it would be absolutely hilarious for Ryan and myself to blog from the coldest place on earth. Of course, I’ll remind him to buy a better sleeping bag first!

So basically how it works is that if we get the most votes, we’ll get a free trip to Antarctica! Please vote for me and I’ll force Ryan to come along and discover how really cold weather feels. Don’t worry…he’ll love it!!!

Here’s the link:
http://www.blogyourwaytoantarctica.com/blogs/view/437

My Mom is a Genius

You’ve got to read this.  My mom, holy crap, wrote this beautiful expose on the truth behind real religious devotees and the fakers.  Phillip told me one time of the Laodicean Chruch, who (I’m paraphrasing) Paul called a bunch of fakers.  Basically the Laodiceans weren’t sincere in their religious (or if you bend my way, spiritual) devotion; they just kinda went through the motions and hoped it was all good.  What I was trying to point out in the Thy Bounty post was that sincerity was present with the Fuechtmanns but decidedly absent with Little Miss Psycho Landlady.  The Laodiceans were insincere according to Paul, and he let ’em have it in his Epistle to the Laodiceans.

Well, my mom, is much better and much more eloquent at pointing out the grand difference between sincere and insincere spiritual practices than I.  I mean, it’s beautiful.  She also has something to say about my, ahem, language.  One day I’m a’ gonna listen to my mah and learn me some manners (hiccup).

Without her permission (manners, manners) here is her comment on the aforementioned post:

Comment:
Wow!  What an experience in Mexico!
My analysis of this is that you experienced different forms of “The Love of Christ”.

The old woman landlord used the “Image of Christ” based on the intention of her ego, her guilt and her manipulation.  When you refused to become part of her “world” you became to her “the devil” and all the superstition that she had been raised with as she lived and worshiped in her version of Catholiscism [sic].  You both then became blinded to the “Light of God” and saw only the “Devil in Eachother [sic]“.

The Fuechemanns [Feuchtmanns] revealed their devotion to you through the expression of the “Love of Christ”.  Their kindess [sic], their understanding, their patience, their generosity displayed to you the genuine intention to help make you comfortable and give you strength — through their food, their, wine and ultimatley [sic] through their love of God.

Your Truth line is:  I am genuinely interested in anything that is Genuine.

You recognized yourself in them.  The 3 of you reconginzed [sic]“God in Eachother [sic]:.

I still don’t like your cussing (and that is my right)… but keep up the writing!  You are amazing!
I love you,
Mom

I’m leaving from Hastings, MN tomorrow!  On to the Iowa border with a fish’s eye view of the west coast of Wisconsin!  Post about Lake Winnie comin’ up!

Ryan

The $328,835 Photo

Click for Full-size
Click for Full-size

Are you were one of the New Yorkers who had to buy new underwear after the US Department of Defense decided it was a good idea to fly a jumbo jet and two fighter planes over lower Manhatten? Well today you finally get to see what all the fuss was about! The White House finally released a photo showing their 747 flying above the statue of liberty.

Plenty of people have already commented about how it would have been easier (and $328k cheaper) to simply create the image in Photoshop. Today’s release proves them all correct. I mean this photo is seriously lame! and that’s after I spent ten minutes in Photoshop cleaning it up. Now don’t send me any letters…I like the statue of liberty and Air Force One as much as any American, but any of the guys at Worth1000 could have churned out a bad-ass photo with their right leg chopped off (edit: I meant arm).

So all this fuss about the wasted money got me to thinking… What could 11 Visions do with $328,835? (or even $328,500 for that matter)! Here is our MY list of three wacky ways 11 Visions would spend money with a DOD-sized budget:

Big Budget Boating
Big Budget Boating

We love our new Sea Eagle kayaks, but frankly there isn’t much extra room to bring hot babes along. I’m also not to keen on sitting that close to Ryan for the next 8 to 10 weeks down the Mississippi River. Now a Ferretti 68 yacht would be a complete step up to total luxury. However, we’d probably have to buy a wrecked one on a measly $328k budget as these lovely boats start in the millions.

Pros: Chick magnet, wet bar, leather interior, no paddling.
Cons: Pray that gas prices don’t go beyond $4 again.

Lucas's Wet Dream
Lucas's Wet Dream

Our last movie was shot using a Canon ZR500. If you’ve already seen the film and love the stunning picture quality, I’ll tell you how we were able to obtain such an amazing camera. Just go to B&H photo in New York City and ask for the the cheapest camera they have; something so crappy that even OJ Simpson wouldn’t steal it. Hey, it worked for us!

But if we wanted to do things right, we’d have bought the Sony HDW-F900. This is the camera that made director George Lucas declare that he would “never shoot another film on film.”

Pros: Now considered cheap at only $69,900.
Cons: Chriopractic bills after carrying it across America.

Not Much Fun
Not Much Fun

My mom would have reminded me that “it’s better to give than to receive,” but that’s only because she never got a couple free Sea Eagle boats in the mail.

If 11 Visions actually had $328k to spend (we don’t), it would have certainly come in useful in the last two years. After finishing our hitchhiking trip, we’d still have enough cash left over to buy most of the foreclosed homes in Stockton, California. (Ryan, how do you feel about moving 11 Visions headquarters to SoCal?) We’ll probably have to revisit this again after the Mississippi float trip

Pros: Sunny weather, cheap homes.
Cons: Stockton, California

So what would you do with $328,835? Let us know in the comments!

Free Ride Down the Mississippi River!

OK, so we have a wild and crazy idea.  Our first one!  We love our fans, and they love us (at least that’s what they tell us to our faces).

So for our upcoming Mississippi River Adventure, we’re going to do something a little bit different and a little bit wild in honor of you, dearest reader.  As you know, 11 Visions is floating down the entire length of the Mississippi River where we’ll be video blogging and making arses of ourselves as usual.

BUT THERE IS A BIG OL’ CATCH THIS TIME.  For this adventure, WE WILL BE TAKING ONE OF YOU WITH US!

“Who, meeeeeee?”

Yeah, you!

One lucky winner will win a 2 day/1 night cruise down the greatest river in America.

“Oh me, oh my, how ever will I be chosen?”

Easy peasy, my little lemon squeezy.  All you have to do is write us!

That’s it!

To be chosen as our honored guest on the Mississippi River for our Free Ride Challenge, email us at contest@11visions.com and tell us why we should give you a free ride down the Mississippi River.

“So like… what!!!???”

Yes.  We are going to tow you down the Mississippi River in a 2 day/1 night river cruise.  You will get a behind-the-scenes look at how 11 Visions makes its movie magic.  You will be treated to 3 full-course meals of, I don’t know, porridge probably and maybe some beans.  You will be treated to on-board entertainment (Phillip will do some hula hoop tricks and I’ll tell dirty jokes, maybe I can try hula-hooping while telling dirty jokes).  You will see the greatest river in America for 2 ful days!!!  If you haven’t already, WATCH THE VIDEO!  

To enter the contest, send a brief, 50 to 100 word response to this question:

Why should we put up with you… er… Why should you be chosen to ride down the Mississippi River with us?

That’s it.

Send your response to contest@11visions.com.

Contest winner will be chosen on creativity, humor and sincerity of response. If you really want to stand out from the crowd, send a creative pic or post a video response on youtube.

All entries may be and probably will be published on this site, so be proud, put your name on it, and win the MISSISSIPPI FREE RIDE ADVENTURE!

Skydiving into a Forest Fire and Rafting 3000 Miles, All in a Day’s Work

In preparation for our upcoming Mississippi Float Trip, we have chosen to speak with a select group of individuals who have successfully paddled down the entire length of North America’s mightiest river.  A general badass, I was thoroughly impressed with Buck Nelson and know you will be too.  This post is a fairly quick read and, if you have time, you may listen to the audio as well.  Enjoy.

 

bucksmokejumper
Buck Nelson, One of the Few Smokejumpers in the World and Outdoor Adventurer

His website is called Buck Track, and after talking with him, I became thoroughly convinced he could run down an actual buck and break its neck with his bare hands.  Looking online, there have been few people we’ve found who have actually paddled down the entire length of the Mississippi River.  For most people, the Mississippi River is “that thing those backwoods mofos from the Dark Ages used go down to hunt bears and shit.  I mean didn’t Napoleon or someone explore it?  I think it might have been Jean Baptist de la Salle – which of course means ‘of the Salle.'”  The Mississippi is iconic, a known entity, so much a part of our American culture, we accept it as we would the seasons, partisan bickering, and a new pair of shoes bought by J Lo.  For many of us, a missed question on a geography midterm or a drunken rendition of Tina and Ike’s Proud Mary is the closest we’ll ever come to actually experiencing it.  We have said it so many times:  “the Mississippi, the Mississippi River, biggest river in the United States, explored by La Salle – all lands drained by the River, I learned about that in a book one time…  I am in Illinois, it is 1983.  I am a young man – a young, young man of 6.  My teacher pulls down a strappy overhead map and it is a map of the United States.  On it she points to THE River with a long pen.  She has long fingers.  She is beautiful.”  Oh that memory.  Long gone.  The Mississippi River – a phantom, a mental construct, nothing but a cognitive placeholder in my mind.  Nothing more than that till I die.  That may have been true for me at one time, but for Phillip and me, THE River has become very, very real.

I am a man, a man now of 31 years.  I am going to paddle down this fuckin’ thing.  Holy shit!  I’m actually going to paddle down a map!  No, no, you can’t paddle down a map.  It’s not Ms. Hemmingson with her long fingers anymore, buddy, damn she had nice legs.  Hey!  Focus!  You need to get ready.  You’re actually goin’ down this thing and are making a movie about it.  You need to be prepared. For Phil and me, the Mississippi River has stopped being a neat mark on our cortical highways.  The fantasy, the passing fancy, the idea of actually going down it in our Sea Eagle kayaks is upon us.  In the summer of 2009, we’re paddling down it, and we need to talk to someone who has already paddled down it.

Enter Buck

Real man, is an understatement.  A smokejumper for 20 years, this man had seen his share of adventure… and danger.  One thing is to read about smokejumping, ah yes, isn’t that that thing they did in that movie with Richard Gere or something? NO!  It’s real! Buck knows.

When 11Visions makes enough money, Buck, I want you to take me smokejumping.  Of course it’d be a simulation, but what do you think, viewers???  Wouldn’t that be a badass story to cover?

Buck tells it best on his site, but one can gather that paddling down the Mississippi was something he was going to be able to handle.  You would think then that he would have been a bit cavalier about his preparations, perhaps even being a little cocky – I mean, come on, if you’ve jumped into a fire (can’t always get next to one), rope-landed from a tree, hacked down limbs with an axe, wielded a chainsaw, and are one of only 400 people in the world who can do this job, you’d call the Mississippi a piece of cake, right?

Wrong.

In fact, Buck’s first piece of advice to us was…

“Pay attention.  Always.”  More on this later, but this, he says, will save your life.  As we conducted this interview, I found his answers of real use.  The only people we had been talking to up to this point about our upcoming trip had been family members and well-meaning, but freaking annoying friends who said things like “you’ll die,” “you’ll drown,” “there are 5-foot waves,” “currents!” “bears!” and “lions!”  These are the sampe people that answered that geography question, “TRUE – Napoleon Bonaparte discovered the Mississippi,” but like I said, they meant well.

Buck was not one of those Mississippi “adventurers” who had gone down in a houseboat pulling into riverside bar and grills every hour and a half, slamming cocktails and playing grabass with the waitresses.  He went down in a canoe and camped on the riverbanks.  Real man.  So I asked him…

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

“Can anybody do this?”

“I think if somebody who is genuinely interested, with a little bit of preparation and by applying a little bit of common sense, I think an average person can do it.  I think it’s the type of thing a person never regrets so I would say, go for it.”

“During 9/11, most of us were in the ‘real world’ living our lives.  You happened to be out on a boat during the attacks.  How did being removed from the world affect your experience of that event differently than us?”

“I happened to be listening to National Public Radio, and it was a local program, and they were talking about some local dance troupe who was going to be giving a performance.  They broke in and said a plane had struck the second tower of the World Trade Center, and then they went right back to talking about a dance troupe, and I thought, ‘What in the world is going on?’  I was out there by myself and I had no one to talk to about it.  About the only way it changed my trip directly was I was going by The Rock Island Armory (they manufacture munitions) and the Coast Guard came out and told me to stop in case I was a terrorist.”

“What about your canoe?”

I don’t claim to be any expert on canoes.

Canoe on Lake Pepin
Canoe on Lake Pepin

It’s your standard 16-foot Alumacraft canoe.  It looked good enough to me so that’s what I went with.”

“How long did this trip take you?”

“I think 67 days.”

“I’m very curious:  If we have to go to the bathroom, what do we have to do?”

I think everyone handles it their own way, but when I was heading down the river, if there was no one around, I just peed over the edge.”

“What about #2?”

Land on shore, go into the bushes.

“Did you ever let yourself just drift, maybe falling asleep going down the bank?”

“Nope.  I think that’s one thing people kind of dream about:  getting out in the current, just kicking back and taking a snooze.  I think people tend to be afraid of the wrong things to a certain degree.  That would be really dangerous.  The current in a lot of places is really fast and even if it doesn’t seem fast when you’re flowing down with the river where everything is moving the same speed, if you came upon a buoy or something, you could hit it violently.  Or say you came to a wing dam, or

probably more dangerous than anything is a tugboat coming around the corner.  So you do have to pay attention.  Things can go from hunky-dory to ugly fast.”

“What is the scariest thing that happened to you?”

“One night I went to sleep like normal.  I was probably three feet above the level of the River and tied my boat off.  And I woke up and I heard water splashing and I thought, “Huh, a tugboat came by during the night and waves are lapping up towards my tent,” and I started falling asleep again and I thought, ‘Man, that water sounds so close.’  I unzipped the door of the tent and water was lapping right up against my tent.   The river had risen several feet in maybe four hours, and part of my tent was in the river.   I was thinking, ‘Is my canoe still there?’  I jumped out of my tent, yanked the stakes out of the sand and found a couple items floating in the shallows, threw them in the boat and drug it further up on the bank.  It was kind of a spooky feeling to have something so dramatic happen so quickly at night.”

“What is essential to bring?”

“Absolutely a life jacket.  A sleeping pad, good rain gear, sun hat, at least one long sleeve shirt, long pants to protect yourself from the sun and the cold, an insulating layer, sunscreen, and sunglasses.  You will spend a lot of weeks baking out in the sun.  Also, insect repellent and a reasonable amount of food and water to get you from point to point.”

“What kind of people did you meet?”

Sunset
Sunset

“I met a lot of people down on the river fishing, a lot of people down at the river to see the sunrise or sunset, and people on the big paddle wheel boats from time to time.  I just met two other guys in a canoe doing the whole River.  That was fun to be able to talk to somebody and compare notes.  A cross section of people.”

“What shouldn’t people be scared of?”

“I think people overrate the danger of the waves.  If you’re not paying attention and you let a big wave hit you sideways it can easily swamp you for sure.   But I just paid attention the whoooooole time, and I didn’t get too close to the boats and I didn’t get too close to the shore where the waves build up higher, and it wasn’t a serious problem.  People told me that there was gonna be six-foot waves that would swamp me for sure.  That turned out to be a myth.”

“What was the crappiest day you had – a day where you went ‘ah man I just want to go home?”

“The last night on the River I spent at Port Ives, a place where largely fishing boats and house boats gather, and the owner had told people what I had done, and a whole bunch of people where all excited and inviting me over for dinner, and it was really neat.  I felt kind of like a celebrity and some guy said, ‘You know what, tomorrow we’ll give you a ride up to New Orleans.’  And the next morning they gave me a ride partway to Venice and said, ‘You know what, we don’t have room for your boat,’ so I was stuck in Venice.  That was just a lousy feeling because I hadn’t asked them for their help, but they had insisted, and I was stuck – that really bummed me out.  But the way things happen… I was just sitting there and these other guys come along and say, ‘What’s up?  You know what, I’ll give you a ride.’  So my problems were immediately solved.”

“Can you paddle at night?”

“I wouldn’t recommend it.  One evening it was foggy, and I couldn’t see, and it was really creepy because all of a sudden I could hear water swirling violently, and it was a buoy with water swirling around it.  I thought, ‘You know what, I’m just gonna get to shore and I’m gonna stay there until the fog clears.’  Paddling at night is asking for trouble, and there’s enough hours in the day for the mileage you’d be covering.”

“Is the water polluted?”

“I talked to a tugboat captain

Towboat Captain
Towboat Captain

who had run into Jaques Cousteau twenty years ago.  He was doing a special on the River and said the Mississippi, for a major river running through a populated area, was one of the cleanest rivers in the western world.  I wouldn’t scoop up a glass of water and drink it, although that same tugboat pilot said he’d grown up doing exactly that.  The River is a lot cleaner than people think, so you can, and I did, swim in the River many times.”

“Do we have any chance of hooking up with girls on the River?” (Yeah, I asked him this!)

“Again, I think you make your own luck.  And if you want to make that happen you probably can.” (chuckle)

“You seem to subscribe to the philosophy that the Mississippi is a big, very complex, potentially dangerous system, but if you’re paying attention and you don’t push your luck and you’re not doing stupid things, there is no need to fear it.  Would you agree with that?”

“I would agree with it completely.  There’s a little risk the whole time; you don’t need to take extra risk, and if you’re smart about it, it’s not a very risky trip.  It’s a fairly safe trip if you play your cards wisely.”

“On that line, what should I tell my mom who’s freaking out about this?”

“I’d tell her the main reason she’s uncomfortable is she doesn’t know enough, and people tend to fear the unknown.  A lot of people have done the trip safely and if you are prepared you’ll make it in fine shape.”

“What new adventure are you on to now?”

Gulf of Mexico
Gulf of Mexico

“I’d like to do the Pacific Crest Trail.  I’ve got some irons in the fire for the summer – I wanna do some float trips, some hunting, and fishing, those types of things.”

“Buck, I appreciate your time.  I certainly learned a lot.  I can think of three specific things I was going to do on the river, and now I’ve totally changed my mind.”

“Great.  I hope you guys do it.”

END.

Well Crap!

Well crap!  Now, we’ve got to do it.  I’d feel like a complete tool if Buck found out we bailed our Mississippi trip which will begin from Lake Itasca this May.  Stay tuned by signing up for our newsletter on the right hand side of this screen

Buck was indeed the man.  After I hung up the phone with him, I felt instantly confident.  There is a real confidence that can be gleaned by talking to people who have actually done something as opposed to people who haven’t.  Friends, family, Romans, countrymen, I love you, but please read this interview.  This is a man who has done it.  He is a safety-minded individual who still believes complex systems like a giant river can be confronted if you prepare and keep your eyes peeled.  And that is what 11 Visions is all about – walking through that door with our eyes wide open.  Not being afraid of the danger but burning it up with the power of our attention.  Thank you, Buck.  We will pay attention.  And we invite you, dear readers, to come with us in May where we’ll be pushing 2553 miles towards New Orleans.  Let’s hope we don’t run into those douchebags at Port Ives.

I am a man, a man who has talked to a master – a master in the sense that he has accomplished something I wish to accomplish.  I am thinking.  I am thinking about my family, my fears and doubts.  I know I can do this if I, if we, keep our eyes open and PAY ATTENTION!

You can find out more about Buck’s adventures at bucktrack.com.


How to Get “The Best Job in the World”

40_lrgToday marks the final day of a worldwide job search conducted by the Queensland Tourism Authority in Australia. This thinly disguised viral marketing effect is already a success even though the winner hasn’t yet been chosen. Let’s see what’s at stake and why this is being called “The Best Job in the World.”

If you’re one of the 23,000 people who submitted an application, congratulations! You have a better chance of spending six months on a beach in Australia than the average lottery player. However, the thousands of applicants who are not chosen for this job will likely just continue their regular existence—an existence now slightly marred by wishing they were the lucky one enjoying the sun and water while blogging about their wonderful new life.

That got me to thinking. I’m about to start the best job in the world myself. Sun…check! Water…check! Nothing important to do for months…check! Blogging about the good life…check!

I’m talking about our upcoming Mississippi Float trip of course. The inflatable kayak will take the place of an Australian beach house and the mighty Mississippi will have to suffice instead of the great barrier reef. Okay, so it’s not exactly as luxurious but now the whole venture is in my control. I’m not anxiously waiting to see if I have been chosen out of the thousands of other applicants. It’s here. It’s now. It’s going to happen.

The best part about this revelation is that YOU can do it too. Out of work? Bored with life? Wanna see America? Get a boat and spend a few months on the river. We’re not the first to have made such a trip, and there’s plenty room for all the adventurous souls out there. You just have to decide to if you want to follow along by boat, or follow along by just reading this blog. “The Best Job in the World” only lasts six months, but a life of adventure never ends.