Tuesday, May 31, 2011


(Coldfoot is where the red thingy is)

As I mentioned in my concluding post, I am moving out of North Carolina and heading up to Alaska to be Coldfoot's first-ever "writer in residence." In two days, I will follow a rather complicated travel plan to get there:

1. David drives me from his home to Winston-Salem (free)
2. Take a bus to High Point, N.C. ($2)
3. Take a train to Durham, N.C. ($14)
4. Take a Megabus to Washington D.C. ($5)
5. Take a subway to the D.C. airport ($2?)
6. Fly to L.A, then Seattle, then Fairbanks ($150)
7. Walk to North Alaska Tour Company's offices in town.
8. Figure out how to get to Coldfoot, which is 250 miles to the north.

Frankly, I'll be surprised if I get there.

While my travel plans may be complex, I've taken strides to simplify other aspects of my life. Because the Megabus only allows one large piece of luggage, I've had to condense pretty much my whole life into a large backpack. So I gave away lots of stuff from the van to Goodwill--my linens, my storage container, my cutting board, etc.--and threw out some ratty clothes.

I'd like to take a moment to say farewell to a couple of fine products that have served me well these past few years.

My cutting board, frying pan, etc.

Storage container and linens.

This was my first backpack. It's traveled with me to Alaska, up Blue Cloud, on two cross-country hitchhikes, and on many other adventures. The bottom of the backpack was full of holes, it was missing half of its plastic snaps, and most of its tightening straps had vanished. I bought this thing for $30 off eBay in May 2005 and it's been a loyal piece of equipment since.

This Pierre Cardin suitcase has probably been with me for ten years. At Duke, it served as my dresser drawer, holding all my clothes. When I ate in the van, I'd rest my feet on it which gradually took a toll on the material. None of the zippers work on it anymore.

Last but not least are my dear sweatpants. I've had these for about a decade. They were a curious pair of pants. They seemed to get longer and longer, no matter how many times I ripped off the tattered edges around my ankles. I must have ripped away about a foot of cloth from each leg, yet the pants still brush against the ground. I didn't have any more room in my new pack, so I had to make one final cut unfortunately. Goodbye, dear sweatpants!

I guess you could say I have two types of possessions. I have a collection of "long-term possessions" and a set of "need-now possessions." I sent 60 pounds of long-term stuff home to my parents house--things I don't need now but may want in the future: important books, dress clothes, and sentimental items like a pair of moccasins.

Here are all my need-now possessions:

Stuff I mailed to Coldfoot, AK:

27 books
Pair of slippers
Pair of sneakers
Winter coat
3 pairs of wool socks
5 pairs of short socks
Expedition-rated thermals
5 crappy white tees
Bottle of aqueous wax

Stuff I'll be carrying

Phone with pre-paid minutes
Sleeping bag
1-person tent
Water bottle
Hunting knife
2 books
Backpacking stove
Water filter
Wrist watch
Small camping supplies: matches, lighters, etc
3 pairs of pants
2 pairs of shorts
2 pairs of wools socks
7 pairs of underwear
Flannel pants
Thermal underwear
Baseball cap
6 shirts
Rain coat and rain pants
Backpack rainproof cover
Small travel bag with basic toiletries
Hiking boots

Here's a picture of me carrying everything but the mailed package. (The backpack was a graduation gift from my family.)

I must also report (with some mixed feelings) that I have not sold the van. I had it up on Craigslist for nearly a month and had no bites. I lowered it from $2,150 to $1,800 and finally to $1,500. A family member of a friend showed interest but she lives in NY and didn't have the money just yet. I got my first phone inquiry two days ago from a young man in Stokes County who inquired if I'd accept his "guns" as part of a trade deal, which I, needless to say, turned down.

Today I turned my plate in and canceled my insurance. Since I'll be getting room and board in Coldfoot, I no longer have one bill of any sort in my life, which is a first for me. (I promised Coldfoot Camp that I'd work one day a week without pay for room and board.)

So I guess the van will stay here in North Carolina at David's for the summer. I wish I could have gotten rid of this rather large possession, but sometimes I think things don't work out for a reason. We'll see.


RomanaS said...

If I had some cash to get to the USA I'd so buy that van, get some rego and insurance and do a road trip. Maybe one day. I bet when I can next afford it the Aussie dollar will be worth a pittance yet again. :(
Best of wishes for your trip into the cold wilds of Alaska.

Anonymous said...

Guns are easier to sell than an old van, you should at least check on what a local gun shop would pay for what the guy is offering.

Will said...

What are the two books?

Ken said...

Romana--I must have forgotten that you are in Australia. They won't be "cold wilds," fortunately. Summer in the arctic is actually quite balmy. 24/7 sunlight.

Anon--I think I'd be opening a can of worms if I took him up on his gun offer. He didn't sound well off at all. Given the amount of crime in Stokes County, there's a good chance they were stolen.

Will--"The Quiet World: Saving Alaska's Wilderness Kingdom 1879-1960" by Douglas Brinkley. So far, so great. The other is "Lonely Planet's Guide to Travel Writing" which I had to buy for my travel writing course a couple years ago. It sounds lame but it's really helpful/insightful stuff, especially now that I'm pitching articles to magazines.

Trailshome said...

Will asked my question about the books. I love to know what people consider essential. Looks like a good list of stuff to take into the next phase of your life.

I hope Alaska provides the springboard to new and wonderous things in this life you've so carefully thought out. Please continue the blog, so we can follow along to see where your road takes you next as we stay home and comfy. It's sure been an interesting trip so far.

Trish said...

yes, please continue the blog! you can't take us this far and then just leave us hanging! David wrote about you leaving on his blog and I feel ridiculously sad. I am way too sentimental. I hope you have a great time.

Stace said...

I second that! Please continue blogging, I love all your posts and pictures...you are so adventurous. I wish I could be like that one day. Please be careful in alaska...I heard someone died there b/c of consuming poisonous berries.

Jason said...

You could make a lot of money with your raw intelligence coupled with a marketable skill that you could easily obtain, Ken. Keep that in mind for later. Of course, you would have to exchange some of your time and life force in exchange for the money (sigh). That is the trade off for financial freedom in most cases. You may find it a worthwhile exchange, as you have made other significant exchanges for financial freedom such as living in a van.

Ken said...

Trails—I also sent a box of 27 books to Alaska—lots of Thoreau and travel/memoir books that will help with the writing of my own. As remote as Coldfoot is, it costs me the regular price for postage—so I can always just order more books from Amazon if I can stomach the long wait.

Trish and Stace—I’m lucky to have such loyal readers! The blog shall continue for the time being. I actually feel a bit liberated now that my experiment is over. I didn’t let it stop me before, but I guess I’m beginning to feel I have more leeway with themes.

Jason—that’s good advice. I’m going to see if I can make a wage writing. If not, I may very well have to momentarily jump back into Career World in some fashion.

Debbie Sue said...

I could use the van in Fairbanks. But I have to wait for the money from taxes.
Thanks for updating us on your progress. I look forward to more news.
Good luck in Coldfoot neighbor! Welcome back to Alaska. Maybe there will be a movie about your trip sometime.
I got on Independant Lens with a Swiss Film Crew last month. I will post a photo on my Facebook page.

Scott Wardle said...

Best of luck Ken. I hope you keep the blog rolling!

Ken said...

Debbie Sue--thanks for the warm welcome! To bad I couldn't bring it up to Fairbanks; though it probably would have cost me in gas more than the van's worth.


Anonymous said...

Ken, have your books safely arrived yet since you mentioned about the long wait?