Backround: I’m a country boy who grew up in the farm land of Western Pennsylvania. I lived in the Amish region, observing their off-grid way of life. I was taught to take care of our animals, and that they would take care of us. Nearly everyone learned to hunt and had a knowledge of basic outdoor skills. I was a Boy Scout and learned “Be prepared.” I was a multi sport athlete in high school and college where I made life-long friends. I have a career in physical therapy spanning 38 years, and achieved a 4th degree black belt. I’ve been a CPR/First Aid instructor, been a prepper since 1998, and a father of two. I’m now 60 years old a still a sinner saved only by His Mercy and Grace.
After years of serious prepping, saving and working multiple jobs I was able to relocate my family from Hawaii to rural Montana. Fifteen years later we were fairly comfortable. I purchased a log home on a remote wooded 20 acre mountain where deer and elk freely ranged. We had both a deep well and an artesian spring. We had like-minded neighbors, two horses with tack, three goats, 25 chickens, 600 gallons of stored gas, 200 gallons of diesel, a home generator, two work trucks, gold & silver, a root cellar stocked with two years of supplies, 25 cords of firewood cut & stacked, ammo, various self defense weapons all on protected land. I felt pretty comfortable.
Early on a Monday morning there was a knock at the door and I was served divorce papers. My wife had already packed a truck. I watched her drive my two daughters down the gravel driveway separating our family forever. I fell on my knees, cried, threw up, beat my fists on the floor, cursed myself for not seeing this coming. I blamed myself for not preventing and preparing the most valuable items I ever had. Then I stood up.
Divorce changed everything. It is painful — as it should be. It’s not God’s plan. I didn’t talk, and didn’t listen. So please do, if you read no further than this, do as the Lord’s word says, “Don’t let the sun set on your anger.”
For the past several years I have been working as a traveling physical therapist. I’ve been on the road between Montana’s summers, when I get to be a dad and see my daughters. Then Arizona for the winter months and Hawaii as much as possible. A nomad? Gypsy? No, not even Mad Max. I’m a prepper. I have been since my youth and that won’t change with age or situations. This traveling, homeless lifestyle is quite different than living at a well stocked, fortified retreat. I’m always adapting, ever learning, constantly changing, praying and now always seeking the Lord’s wisdom.
I’m no longer a big fan of cold weather. Multi-joint arthritis, a knee replacement and surviving cancer kinda changed my cold tolerance. Men, get your farm land (PSA) checked. It’s an easy blood test. I thank the Lord for my arthritis doctor who would not accept my many “no thanks” responses. She saved my life. I was accurately diagnosed and treated just months before the cancer would have spread to my liver and pelvic bones.
My Recent Travels
This summer’s Montana physical therapy contract ended in October. I had no job, no home, had trusted friends who put me up in a spare room for a week here and there. I sold the 17 ft Toy Hauler RV that I’d used over the past two years. After praying, I packed up my 2007 Toyota with my preps, camping gear and a mountain bike.
I purchased and built a 4 ft x 8 ft trailer to haul my motorcycle. I had both truck and Harley maintenanced. For the Harley, I replaced the cam shaft, cam pressure plate, push rods, rollers, oil cooler, exhaust, belt and tires along with fluids. For the pickup; new 10 ply tires, front end was aligned, fluids, transmission, brakes and radiator flushed. I had enough savings and supplies to cover my expenses for about a month without any income. I wanted to test myself with a micro version of TEOTWAWKI .
In case of any accidents. I updated all of my worldly account information and forwarded all to my executive director. I revised my advanced directives and had it notarized. I included: credit union, checking and savings accounts, IRAs, 401s, recorded my safe combinations, made duplicate keys for locks, changed computer passwords and sign-on names. I purchased an additional three month supply of my cholesterol and blood pressure medications. How ’bout you? Got your “stuff” in order?
Now I felt ready, I left Montana heading south for the warmth of Arizona. My daughter’s next text said they got their first snow that night. He answered my prayer for the road conditions.
One of my first stops was the Grand Canyon. Looking in awe and amazement verifies there is a Creator. The temperature dropped down into single digits that night with a daytime high in the 20s. Yeah, the Arizona heat was freezing. Even using my sleeping bag and a cot tent, it was dangerously cold.
To some folks that’s Spring time weather, but my internal thermostat has changed. My past four winters have been in the 80s. So those cold conditions hurt. The cold was robbing me of sleep. I wore three layers of every piece of clothing I had, hats, shirts, pants, socks & gloves. I was out of my comfort zone within the first twenty four hours. I had thought that I was prepared.
When the sun rose that first morning, I broke out my BOB. I had packed and repacked it so many times over the years I kinda forgot what preps I had. I hadn’t actually used it in months. Mentally, I had reviewed various situations and the supplies I would need. But right now my hands were cold, stiff and surprisingly painful. My body was trembling from the night long cold. I was surprised at how dangerously uncomfortable I had become overnight.
Some Welcome Warmth
Fumbling past my knives and ropes, I found my camping stove, propane and coffee. What a treat, hot coffee and a warm stove were quite a lift. I immediately was feeling better.
I boiled more water and enjoyed a Mountain House scrambled egg and bacon feast. Great product, hot water poured into their pack. I only needed a spoon and my hunger. Little waste, quick and easy to pack in and out, it tasted great. I’m a big fan.
Over the next several days I continued South, camping, hiking, searching for warmer weather and a job. I stopped at Lake Mead for a few nights but the high elevation and cold temps continued to make situations difficult and uncomfortable. This was not what I’d plan for. But then it struck me: That this is why I prepped, to train and improve the ways I respond to the unexpected. I hadn’t expected the cold. I felt blessed that it hadn’t snowed, rained or really cut loose on me.
Over this cold restless week, I learned how vital sleep is. I was slower to respond, easily confused with simple tasks. The following nights were no exception. Irritability and confusion worsened so off to town I rode. I purchased a pack of 20 hand warmers and a second sleeping bag. I was very careful when I drove. I prayed hard, real hard.
As the sun rose and the temperatures followed, my hands and body would somewhat function. I would break camp. I learned how important work gloves are. Repeatedly performing outdoor tasks with cold hospital-sanitized hands had taken a toll. I had carelessly accumulated knuckle busting cuts on both hands which without any treatment, quickly worsened. I didn’t want to break out my first aid kit and use my supplies for minor injuries.
I have a first aid kit that would would make most Prepper’s proud. I have supplies for gunshot wounds, IV transfusions, an ambu bag with oxygen. I’m ready to set, splint and cast fractures but yet I didn’t address my minor injuries. I didn’t want to use my supplies of smaller band aids or open a bottle of antiseptic solution. Some health care provider!
I stopped at the Hoover dam and was truly amazed at this structure and what it represents. Thirty miles away I detoured to Las Vegas, six hours was enough over stimulation. If any type of disaster occurs that is one place I’d not want to be. I apologize to the folks who live and love it there. I did feast at an all-you-can-eat buffet. I ate all I could.
The Second Week
During the second week, I was camping in Sedona and Prescott, Arizona. Still in the higher elevation with temperature ranges of twenty to thirty degrees. Nights were almost bearable but camping had lost it’s glamour. The area is beautiful. Sedona is almost magical. But camping and living outdoors is difficult, everything takes longer and you are constantly exposed.
I stayed at a Granite Mountain RV site. Amazing what a hot shower can do to your soul after two weeks on the road living a Spartan life. Having electricity and taking a hot shower were rejuvenating.
On one on my mid-day hikes, I encountered a four inch thick black, hairy, tarantula. My first and only time ever that I was face to face, (er.. um.. not sure about the face to face part). I had never seen one in the wild. I’m certainly bigger and stronger than the spider was but it gave me a chill worse than any of the cold nights. I was really glad that I was sleeping off the ground on my cot tent. The thought of sleeping down at ground level with a tarantula shook my nerves. I’m praying this is my one and only tarantula encounter.
(To be concluded tomorrow, in Part 2.)