Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Sault Ste. Marie, Canada and J.J.

On my way up from Elk Rapids to the Sault, I drove through a bit of blowing snow and visibility was a little iffy. But, it was all worth it! I got to meet with J.J. Hilsinger, who owns the Water Tower Inn and has done both the Tour d'Afrique in 2005 and just finished the Silk Route Tour with the same company. He was a MAJOR help for me. At the same time, there is just so much to think about since talking with him that my head is a little muddy at the moment. He was most gracious though and offered me a bit of gin while we chatted in his office. He showed me his back room where a lot of gear that he took on the Silk Route Tour was in piles: tent, medications, spare parts, clothing, books, creams, and thermarests. J.J. reiterated how important it was to take care of your "bum." I just love Canadians! So, I will use the bag balm religiously on my own "bum" and monitor any sore spots to make sure they don't progress to lances or boils. Just so you know, bag balm is still around but is primarily used to put on cow's teats when one is milking them.

The main thing I learned from J.J. was to be independent. What he meant by that was to fend for yourself and try to NOT depend on anyone but yourself. Have everything that you need and be deliberate about where you put things ahead of time. That also means learning your bike inside and out and knowing how to change tires and having a system every day with your gear and your routine. He shared lots of tricks with me on how to minimize your gear (yeah right!), package it just so on your bike, and in general make your life on the road better. Part of this will require spending more money on my part. But, hey, spending money seems synonymous with Kerri these days and days past for those that know me!

After chatting in near darkness in his office, we had some dinner at his restaurant. Very nice! He invited a guy to dinner who is on his way back "home" to Manitoulin Island from a 6. 5 year bike ride around the world! A very interesting guy to talk to! We are supposed to meet tomorrow morning so we can watch J.J.'s DVD that he shot in Africa!

Thank god I have over a month left before I leave. Not much but still a month!

Thanks to J.J. for letting me pick his brain and giving me a HUGE discount on a room at his lovely hotel. I found him a most gracious person who has a heart of gold! Check out the Water Tower Inn the next time you are in the Sault, Canada!

Friday, November 30, 2007

My Research

As most people know the reason why I am able to do this trip is because I was awarded a sabbatical from North Central Michigan College, which is where I have been teaching for the last 9 years. Initially, I was interested in looking at the broad subject of Group Dynamics and specifically leadership, conflict resolution, and group role formation. As with all ideas, they evolve. These ideas have coalesced into one main question which is: how do extreme adventure trips change people? I am defining extreme adventure as ones that last for more than one month in duration and have participants being active for at least 4 hours every day in an activity. I am intensely curious as the capacity in which these events change someone for the short and long-term. You may ask how I came to ask this research question? Well, it would be an obvious answer: THE NORTH POLE! The expedition that I did to the North Pole with 12 other women in 2001 led to me asking this question as I have contemplated over the years how this trip has changed me.

In the end, I am also asking how the group at large (in this case the 50 riders that are doing TDA 2008) influences or supports this change in the individual. I know that the 50 riders will break down into small groups of probably 6-10 people per group. I expect people to start hanging out with people similar in them to age and nationality. Gender will probably be an influence at first and then will cease to be that important. I will also be curious in these small groups the roles that develop as well as the norms. It might be hard to extract that sort of data but I'll certainly give it the college try.

I have constructed a pre and a post survey instrument that I am going to email to the riders that will measure how this trip changes them. I am hoping that most people will actually take the time to fill it out! I also have a free personality test for them to take, generously donated by Dr. Travis Bradberry and team of the Personality Code. Please check out their dynamic website at

I will be making my research available to the Tour d'Afrique company upon my return as well as anyone that is interested.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

46 Days until I leave for the dark continent

Waves of anxiety, excitement, and periodic calm states have enveloped me since I have been earnestly training for this trip in mid-October. I am trying to tackle a lot of things at the same time: research, training, obtaining sponsorship, and learning to use the electronics that I will take on this adventure. Like most things in life, with patience and hard work things, even huge projects do come together. My research is finally beginning to take shape and I now have a personality profile as well as two questionnaires developed. My training is becoming cumulative to the point that I feel I have a solid base of athleticism in my body.

In the next 46 days I will increase my workouts. Try sitting on a trainer for 3 hours straight! I did that yesterday and I might up it to 4 hours in the next week. I am trying to get my butt used to my new seat. Jeff, my bike guy who owns Kinetic Systems in Clarkston, MI says that getting my butt used to the saddle is the best thing I can do for myself. Per the research end of things, I will send out the questionnaires and hope for 75% compliance! It would be great if all the tour riders responded but we know about surveys and lack of responding. I also have to buy a whole bunch of stuff before I leave.

I think packing will be the hardest part. If you know me, you know I like to bring a lot of stuff. Not quite at the minimalist stage yet! I am sure I will be frantically scurrying around my parent's house during the final few days trying to fit this into a bag and that into a bag.

Well, tonight I have a hot date with my Group Dynamics textbook so I must be off!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Friday, November 9, 2007