Survivin’ the Outdoors and the Urban Jungle

I have been doing a lot of surviving lately.

First of all, allow me to tell you about my super-cool Outdoor Survival class. I’m taking a super-cool class called “Outdoor Survival” through ASU. It’s super-cool for several reasons:

  1. I only have to pay about $100 for it since it is covered by the awesome tuition waiver I get for teaching at ASU.
  2. Mike only had to pay about $100 to take it with me since he gets a domestic partner tuition waiver. This is the only benefit he is eligible for, but, hey, we’ll take it!
  3. Our instructor, Scott “Kozak” Kozakiewicz, knows his shit. He’s trained many of the Search and Rescue teams in Arizona as well as many other groups of outdoor bad-asses.
  4. We get to go on field trips! Where we play in the woods! And build shelters! And whittle stuff out of wood!
  5. I get three (practically useless) credits and an A (probably) for taking this course.

I’ve been on two field trips for this class, and both were so much fun. On the first one I was accompanied by Mike, 41 of our classmates, Kozak, and Kozak’s minions (former students, SAR folks, an 83-year-old man aptly named Buck). We (the students) had to build fires using only flint, knives, and natural materials; navigate a 3-4 mile compass course through thorns, poison ivy, and hilly terrain; construct a shelter to sleep 43 students using logs, twine, and tarps; lash together ladders on which at least 5 people could stand at once; and whittle “twitch up” and “figure 4” traps for catching wild game.

A reporter from ASU’s student newspaper The State Press came along to document our antics. Here’s the video he came up with:

The second field trip was not as well attended since it fell on the Veteran’s Day weekend. Lots of people were out of town, my friend Thomas was representing ASU in the Quidditch World Cup in New York, and Mike was shooting a wedding. I left Mike to fend for himself and caught a ride up north with a couple of friends from the class. This time we ended up with 9 students who went on the first field trip and 11 who were going for the first time. The 11 newbies were assigned the same tasks we had completed on the first field trip, but the veterans were given new tasks. We had to build a shelter using only natural materials that would sleep all nine of us and keep us warm without a fire, and we had to whittle a spoon and fork and 2 hunting tools. Did I mention that we were camping in the snow? It was a bit chilly, but I was a lot better prepared than most.

We started our shelter with a very large dead tree trunk wedged between the fork of a live tree. Then we started propping up the crossbeams.

From the inside...

Next we shingled the shelter with bark in order to fill in the gaps.

Finally we covered everything with as many pine needles as we could scoop off the forest floor.

My spoon/fork combo utensil!

After spending all day constructing our shelter, and spending several hours whittling past dark, I finally squirmed into my sleeping bag in our 9-person shelter. A half an hour later — before I had even fallen asleep — it started to rain. Our shelter seemed to be holding out, but Kozak woke everyone, told us to tear down our camp, and sent us home. With weather conditions being what they were (damn cold and sleety), he was worried that we would get trapped on the forest road or in an icy patch on the way home. Despite our early departure, I once again had a great time.

After surviving the outdoors, I was feeling a bit worn out and slightly sore (we must have hauled 50 trees and what seemed like 100 tarp-fulls of pine needles) but ready to teach on Monday morning. Alas, I had one more survival test to pass.

I was hit by a car on my bike ride to ASU.

There I was, minding my own business in the bike lane, when I heard screeching tires behind me. Before I had time to react, I was sitting dazed on the gravelled curb, watching my bike’s front tire spin to a stop in the middle of the road. Adrenaline kicked in and I picked myself up, feeling very little pain. A witness ran out an retrieved my bike. He was a pretty shoddy witness, though, because he didn’t really see what happened. The car that hit me took off, but the other car it hit was stopped just ahead of where I landed. That driver called the cops while I called Mike. After a policeman showed up and filled out the appropriate paperwork, Mike took me to an Urgent Care facility to make sure I was intact. By that time I was feeling a bit more pained — especially in my lower back and tailbone areas. I lucked out with no broken bones, only a few bruises and scrapes, and some pretty minor pains.

The other car that was hit.

My bike after it was pulled from the road. It is sitting approximately where I landed.

There was damage to the rear frame of my bike...

...and to the tire, rear derailleur, crank arm, fender, and rear rack.

My bike was not so lucky. It has suffered over $700 in damages, and I am quite depressed about its current status. I’ve had that bike for almost 5 years, and it has traveled more than 15,000 miles with me. Right now I’m trying to decide whether to fix it or replace it, and I’m also looking into whether any insurance will cover it. We’ll see.

For now, all that matters is that I’m surviving!

One Response to “Survivin’ the Outdoors and the Urban Jungle”
  1. JM Simpson says:

    Great post. Glad you’re okay!

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