Only 4 days since I hit the road, and already I'm falling apart.
The week got off to a great start - I was feeling fit, healthy, and excited about doing my presentation to the 900-strong sales force for my title sponsors, Brocade. On Tuesday I was shown the venue where I would be speaking. "Wow, it's enormous," I said, looking at row after row of delegates' tables stretching into the distance.
"Hang on," said Michael Klayko, the CEO. "They've put the partitions across. They'll be taking those away tomorrow." Turns out the room was actually twice as large as 'enormous'. Gulp.
But in fact it went really well. I'd prepared carefully, including numerous run-throughs in front of the mirror in my room, and the hard work seemed to pay off.
Ogilvy PR had put together a very good 5-minute video to introduce me to the audience - and that alone got a standing ovation, before I'd even said a word. After my presentation I was overwhelmed by the number of people who came up to me to tell me they'd found it 'inspiring', or to say that they'd been following my adventures online. A speaker couldn't have wished for a nicer crowd.
I left San Francisco the next day, after the gala dinner that marked the end of the conference. On Thursday night I stayed with the new friends I'd made in Eureka when I unexpectedly landed up there after the Coast Guard airlift in August. And last night I stayed with Mick Bird and his family - Mick is the only other rower to have crossed the Pacific by the same route that I am taking. It has been a fun week, but now I've been partying for 3 nights in a row, and I'm flagging...
And somewhere in the course of my travels I have picked up a germ, and now my sinuses and throat are sore. I'm taking time off from training and am gulping down Vitamin C drinks in a last-ditch attempt to fend off a full-blown cold. Tomorrow I fly to Hawaii, inhaling germs from the aeroplane's recycled air for several hours, which is far from ideal. I arrive in the middle of my friend Mariya's birthday celebrations - yet another party. My next presentation is on Monday, to a group of Girl Scouts, so I hope I still have a voice by then.
I love the contrasts in my life. I can be happy sleeping in the back of my truck, but I can be even happier sleeping in a room on the 34th (executive) floor at the Hilton. I can be happy eating a freeze-dried expedition meal while watching the sun set over the ocean, but I can be just as happy eating seared scallops in the gorgeous salon of Farralon, under exotic chandeliers shaped like jellyfish and sea urchins - err, so long as somebody else is paying.
Tonight that somebody else was Leo Laporte, who with his assistant Dane had come into San Francisco to meet me and discuss technology, websites, and particularly the weird and wonderful world of the blogosphere. I, apparently, am some sort of a cutting-edge blogger, especially when I go oceanic and blog via satphone about a world that few people will ever get to experience firsthand.
We talked about how blogs allow us to drop, however briefly, into somebody else's life. In particular, we are hatching plans for future podcasting collaboration - another way to live vicariously. I know that during this year's curtailed foray onto the Pacific, a generous supply of podcasts of "This American Life" helped ease the passage of hours at the oars, allowing me to temporarily depart the small confines of my boat and let my imagination roam through another person's world.
It's fascinating to me to consider the way that people connect in the 21st century. Where once we would have sat around a fire, listening to elders telling epic stories of lives and legends, now we log on to the internet to get a glimpse of alternative versions of the human experience - but maybe the motivations remain the same: a desire to learn about what to do or what not to do, a wish to expand the horizons, a need to be inspired - or just plain curiosity about what it feels like to be somebody else.
Is it a basic human need to take a break from being ourselves once in a while - perchance to dream?
Yes, it's that time again. After a whole two weeks in Woodside (give or take a few nights away) I have spent today packing my worldly goods into the back of my trusty truck Quackers, ready to hit the road again.
I've enjoyed the relative stability of the last two weeks - it has been good to catch up with my California friends and to get into a regular routine of exercise and healthy eating. It will be a challenge to maintain good habits once I am on the road again, but with a bit of good organization it will be possible. A pair of running shoes, a skipping rope, a resistance bungee and a pair of dumbbells make up my mobile gym.
Despite the disruption to my training routine, I am excited to be back on the road. It is an opportunity to clear out any superfluous possessions that had started to accumulate - to clear out the clutter, both literal and metaphorical. Travelling helps me find a clearer sense of perspective and priority.
P.S. The details - for those who are really interested/really practical/really have another two minutes to spare:
Packed in the back of Quackers are bags and cases of clothing categorized by the various activities over the next two months, which will include: the Brocade conference in San Francisco, meetings in Seattle, speeches in Hawaii, a road trip to Minnesota, dog-sledding in Ely, and Christmas in Toronto. Temperatures will probably vary from 75F/24C (Hawaii) to 0F/-18C (Minnesota).
Also coming along are the sleeping bag from my boat (just in case I end up in a snowdrift), a couple of months' supply of vitamins and LaraBars, the new Tanita scales, and the seed sprouter that arrived just a few days ago, courtesy of eBay.
I'd been eagerly awaiting the seed sprouter, keen to get my sprouty superfoods again, but the timing is not ideal - the back of a truck is not the best place to be starting a vegetable garden. There again, if I managed to grow sprouts on the wave-lashed deck of a rowboat in mid-Atlantic, a truck-back-veg-garden might be worth a try. I've got a square bucket to put the sprouter in to prevent spillage, so it just might work...
[photo: me with Quackers in January this year, Washington State]
Today I had the pleasure of meeting Poppa Neutrino, courtesy of a mutual friend that I met at the Sharkwater event last Wednesday. What Poppa lacks in teeth (as far as I could see, one upper and one lower) he makes up for in character.
Do check out his website - at the very least for its fantastic James-Bond-meets-eccentric-adventurer theme tune.
He built a raft out of junk and sailed it across the North Atlantic with his family. Watch the trailer to hear what his daughters thought of their adventures. When their father recruited them into a circus act to prop up the family finances, they were tempted to run away from the circus to join the real world...
We actually had a surprisingly sensible conversation about boat design, centres of gravity, and self-righting capability, while Poppa chomped on a lunch of garlic bread and Coca-Cola. I guess a steak would be tricky with only 2 teeth.
[photo: Larry, me, Poppa Neutrino]
P.S. Owwww. The chest strap on my heart rate monitor is chafing against my skin, creating the kind of abrasion that stings like stink when I take a shower and just generally smarts. It has become especially painful over the last 2 days, with a 1:30 hr run yesterday, and 50 mins this morning, in unseasonably warm (and hence sweaty) California weather.
Has anybody else ever encountered this problem, and are there any suggestions as to immediate remedies and preventative measures?