Another Day, Another Season

It’s crazy to think that a year ago, I was waiting to step foot on ice for the first time. It’s crazy to think that I’ve been back for my second season here in Antarctica for a little over a week now.

This season has been different. Interesting. But good.

I’ve just finished the transition to night shift and am now an official Mid-Rat (named for the Midnight Rations that is the “lunch” for those working night shift). The Fire Dispatch that I worked last year has officially combined with MacOps, the non-emergency radio dispatch used by the scientists and field camps, into Central Communications (or MacFire depending on who you ask).

I did not have a delay in Christchurch this year, so after the one day of training, we boarded the Kiwi Airbus and made our way down to the ice and snow. The first C-17 doesn’t come down till tomorrow, and it is bringing the new helicopters.

The station is slowly growing as more people make the journey down. Scientists are starting to do science stuff and the field safety people are finding ways to safely make it across the ice that has a lot more cracks than last year.

I’m not sure how the pressure ridges look, but the recreation point of contact just made it down to the station yesterday and is hopeful to start tours as soon as possible. I’ve already been eyeing some hikes in the next couple days (I’m eyeing you, Ob Hill).

I’m also continuing my venture into film and whatnot, as I continue to capture two seconds of video a day like last season (I’m not sure if I shared it or not, so I’m sharing it again for your viewing pleasure):

I’m looking forwards to what this season brings. My team is an amazing group of dispatchers, most of us returning but one who is here for their first season on the ice. There are several people that I know who are making their way to the station, so it’ll be good to see them again in the next couple of days.

And the views are beautiful, as always! In the new communications center, we actually have windows, so I will be able to see out over the sea ice to the Royal Society and Asguard Mountain Ranges. And it’s perfect for time lapses of the sunsets and, eventually, the open water and breaking of the ice.

Part of me can’t believe the opportunities that have brought me to this place. And every time I go outside, despite the wind and the cold, I smile.

This place is special. And I thank God for the long journey that has brought me here once again.

Let’s Talk Safety

Everybody wants to look cool when they go to an event. Specifically, I’m talking about LARPs. We dress up in medieval clothes, grab our foam weapons, and head out onto the battle field to swing at one another, to test our strength. To prove to one another that we indeed are warriors.

At my very first LARP, one of the ladies got hit in the eye with a foam arrow. Two inches of foam padding and she walked away with a very beautiful black eye, blurry vision, and the name Fiery One-Eyed Maiden. She also spent the rest of the weekend wearing an eye patch.

Last year, we watched as LARPs around the globe banned round head or high velocity arrows after an unlucky participant of an European LARP lost an eye due to the impact of getting hit (at least that is the rumor). Most events switched to flat head, low speed arrows due to safety concerns.

Even at Bicolline, round head arrows have been banned, only flat head arrows are allowed.

And even with that change, I know of three fighters who suffered eye injuries due to arrows during the fighting at Bicolline, be it fighter training, skirmishes, or the grand battles. One of the guys took an arrow to the side of the face, resulting in a partially ripped cornea. Had he been closer to the archer, the force of the impact could have damaged the interior and back of his eye. And while it is hopeful that he will fully recover, there is a chance that he may have permanent loss of vision in his left eye.

But arrows and projectiles are not the only danger when it comes to LARPing. Many battles take place in forested areas, where you run the risk of tree limbs, branches, and thorns that seem to grab at the eye sockets of those passing by. You have dust and dirt drifting through the air and sweat dripping salt into your eyes.

When it comes to eye safety, it’s not strictly projectiles and environmental hazards that you have to look out for. Accidents happen and sometimes people make poor judgement calls and suddenly, you are taking a face shot from a spear or sword.

During Thursday’s fort battle at this years Bicolline, I took a halberd to the face. Twice. Both times it was enough force to knock me off my feet and see stars. The second time my vision went black for several seconds. And I’m pretty sure that if I wasn’t wearing my helmet, I would have been making a trip to the hospital for some broken bones.

We all want to look cool out on the battle field. We put so much effort into our costumes and our garb to look our best at events. We want everything to be decorum, to fit into the world to make it more immersive. And too often, safety is pushed aside.

I purchased my helmet specifically for safety at LARPs. While many events, like Weekend Warrior, ban strikes to the head, accidents still happen, especially when you have arrows flying through the air. At Bicolline, heads are a legal strike zone, except for the face, so there is more risk to getting hit.

My helmet, an Italo-Norman style of helm, includes a full face shield made of 14 gauge steel. There are many great decorum helms to protect your face and eyes, from viking style ocular helms to visored helms styled after medieval knights.

Yes, they can get expensive, but your safety is worth it.

Want a fun trick: snag yourself an inexpensive nasal helm. Fashion a face shield out of leather (6+ oz) and attach it with rivets.  Paint it. You now have a customized helm that protects your eyes and your face.

If you don’t have funds to snag yourself a helmet, grab yourself a pair of safety glasses. I don’t care if they are decorum or not, without your eyes, you will not be able to fight effectively. Protect your eyes.

I’ve seen people use modified paintball masks, field hockey masks, prescription safety glasses, hardened leather battle masks, and sparing / fencing masks. If it protects your eyes, it works.

LARPs are supposed to be fun. Yes, people get really serious about the battles, but everyone should be enjoying themselves. Your safety allows you to continue having fun. So, protect them eyes!

Voyaging North to Bico

A couple weeks ago I joined The Voyage North at La Bataille de Bicolline, the largest LARP in North America. It was an amazing experience, filled with adventure, combat, great people, and hundreds of thousands of memories and stories.

There is an unwritten rule that all great stories from Bico start out with the phrase: “No [edit], there I was…”, so lets get it started:

No [edit], there I was driving into the Duchy of Bicolline, a magical wilderness consisting of several hundred acres, two towns of over 200 buildings, and thousands of people who come from around the world, when I look over to see Stag Alley for the first time, the home of Ordo Cervi. A glorious green and tan walkway tucked between two buildings with a bridge and banners overhead, the tavern and its deck filled with gear, and some amazing folk who greeted us into the herd!

Those first moments of stepping into the world of Bicolline was like diving into the deep end of a swimming pool. Yes, it feels like a festival and a never ending party, but there are plenty of opportunities to participate in some role-playing if you are willing to put some effort in as well. And lets not forget the battles!

No [edit], there I was, standing shoulder to shoulder with my herd mates (Ordo Cervi is the Order of the Stag), proudly wearing the tabard of green and tan, facing off against a force that outnumbered us across the field. And then the horn sounded and the chaos of battle commenced in full. And suddenly, as we slowly marched forward, we turned and raced towards a different objective, the fort. I never made it. An arrow to the leg stopped me, and then an approaching wall of spears behind shields finished me off.

That first battle was chaos. We got slaughtered. But it was a lot of fun.

We had some training earlier in the day, but nothing can really prepare you to be on the field of battle with 2,500 or more other people. I chose to head out with a nine foot spear, commonly referred to as a win-stick. It’s a different style of combat than most LARPs.

Where most LARPs tend to gravitate towards a hero-style of combat, a lot of one-on-one, skirmisher style of fighting, Bicolline forces you to work together as a team. So a lot of the fighting tends to be the soldier style of fighting, working together in shield walls and formations.

No [edit], there I was putting on a gnome hat and dancing through the street in a joyful gang of playfulness as we made our way from New Town to the stage at Old Town. Why, you ask?  Why not!

We made our way through the streets, passing out gnome hats and adding to our number till we made it to the stage. And then the dancing began in full. Ridiculousness contained in the joy of having fun, laughing, and shouting until the band joined in. By the time I left with a small group of friends, we had run out of hats and people were still asking for hats!

We even saw some of those gnome hats the next couple days on the battle field.

No [edit], there I was standing side by side with one of our ally gilds, Lys Noir and the rest of the pirates, privateers, and corsairs for the Vermin-tide Skirmish against the Skaven (rat-folk), when suddenly the giant monster, Urr (who was playing a large rat-folk) came rushing by and I got the perfect opportunity to tap him on the head and back with my sword and he gives me a beautiful death as he dives head-first into the ground.

No [edit], there I was outside the fort during the second large battle, fighting around one of the open windows. I was on the side of the opening with one of those awesome, nine foot win-sticks, when out of nowhere a halberd slams into my face. Well, into the face plate of my helmet (one of the best investments that I’ve ever made for safety reasons).

Let me explain something real quick: while head-shots are allowed at Bicolline, the face is a no strike zone. And, blind shots around corners are off limits as well.

The horn sounds and we switch sides. So, now instead of trying to get into the fort, I’m trying to prevent the opposing side from getting in. Again, no [edit], there I was on the side of one of the open windows once again, when around the wall, the same halberd comes crashing directly into my face plate (again). This time, I not only see stars when I get knocked off my feet, my vision goes black for several seconds.

No [edit], there I was sitting on the side of the road with several things to trade and sell for solar (in game currency) when one of the gentlemen who stopped wanted to purchase a drawing and one of my tarot decks, and instead of giving me the agreed 20 solar, he hands me 40 and walks away before I notice.

No [edit], there I was on the left flank during the final battle, after our side had pushed the pro-slavery forces back almost to their respawn point, when I notice a group of opponents to the right that didn’t realize that their flank had fallen. So, I turned and hit all six of them in the back with my trusty win-stick, killing them before they realized what happened. As I turned to find more opponents, I heard them arguing in French as they pointed at one another and waved their hands; The only words I could understand were “[edit]ing Ordo Cervi” and I laughed as I went after another couple of opponents.

69309182_10156236663346960_4756485347548856320_nNo [edit], there I was sitting in the Tavern in Stag Alley singing along with my herdmates and all the new friends that I realize that the chaos of this place is what makes it magical. I sat back with a smile as we laughed at raunchy lyrics and out of tune antics as we came to discover that it wasn’t the physical place that made the journey so beautiful was the family that had formed.

And as we departed that place, I couldn’t help but think of all the things that I want to do next year!

Fellowship, Friendship, and That Which Makes Us Happy

Sometimes life can get hectic. We are constantly on the go, unable or unwilling to slow down and catch our collective breath. There is a fear that if you slow down, you will get run over and left behind. So we keep racing towards… something? Anything.

Then there are people that we encounter that cause us to pause. That remind us to take a break, escape, and take some time for ourselves. For some reason, these fine folk seem to be at peace with the hectic world around them.

Heck, who am I kidding?! STK_5613 (edited)

Let’s be completely honest: Sometimes you just gotta go out into the woods with some friends and run away from everything for a little bit.

Take your costumes. Your LARP and reenactment kits. Your weapons. And make sure to snag your camera before you head out the door!

About a month ago, just after I finished the TransAm bike ride in San Francisco, an amazing group of friends, a Fellowship of sorts, came together to do just that, to hang out, enjoy one another’s company, and run around in the woods to take photos, have fun, fight a little bit, and to laugh and sing together.

 

It’s fun to escape for a little bit. To hang out with friends without expectations. Without a set schedule or plan that has to be followed. To just enjoy being outside.

Yes, we goofed off a little bit. We had fun. We hit one another with foam weapons and fought one another with smiles on our faces.

STK_5779 (edited)And that is what fellowship is all about. To journey well together. To embrace friendship and all the hardships, struggles, and love that comes with it.

And, lets be honest, there were some great photos that came out of this chaos too!

So, until next time, may your journey be filled with friendship, fellowship, and a well fought fight!

Wheels on the Road

The past three months have been a nonstop adventure of chaos, friendship, and new experiences. As many of you already know, I spent all of June and July biking across the country with Bike the US for MS in honor of my sister, to raise awareness of and funds for Multiple Sclerosis research.

68399389_10155981106646685_1600546419284901888_nOver the course of 62 days, the team biked over 3,785 miles from Yorktown, VA to San Francisco, CA.

Let’s talk about the team real quick: We had teachers and students. Retirees and those who quit their jobs and sought out adventure. Elite level athletes and those who had barely ridden a bicycle in their lives. Professionals and those of us still trying to figure out what we are doing with out lives. We even had a Brit and a Canadian who joined us crazy Americans.

Basically, we were a ragtag group of chaos incarnate. And despite all our differences, we became a family through our trials and struggles along the road.

And a struggle it was! 69256092_10155981118196685_70883337094299648_n

I’ll be completely honest: Before this journey started, the longest I had ever ridden on my bike was two, back to back days of 70ish miles. So our day two mileage of 82 miles kicked my butt!

But, on all my training rides, I didn’t take any breaks. And when we had a rest stop every 20 miles or so, it made the ride a lot more manageable.

And soon, we found ourselves charging up the Appalachian Mountains onto the Blue Ridge Parkway, and flying down mountain back roads. We had a couple falls and one major injury as we made our way out of Virginia, but we continued on into the narrow roads and insanity that was Kentucky traffic, where we had some close calls with impatient drivers and rogue dogs that gave chase.

68411345_10155981118611685_4557208090604208128_nAnd then we came upon the storms and the rain. And after a quick, three-hour detour around the flooded Mississippi River, we entered the land of misery.

Sorry, that would be Missouri.

Rolling hills that went on for days. Pouring rain and fierce storms. And as much as it sucked, we had a lot of fun. Some of my favorite days were those we got soaked by the rain, banded together, and laughed and smiled all the way into camp.

After the foothills of the Ozarks, we entered into the Great Plains of Kansas and Eastern Colorado. It was here that we had some of our longest days and I discovered that I could, in fact, ride fast and I didn’t mind riding solo at times.

And I realized that barrel rolling on the bike is a bad idea.

68752591_10155981182506685_6783303693254000640_nWe celebrated the fourth of July in a tiny little town in the middle of nowhere and boosted their population as we invaded their little park. We even had fireworks. And hotdogs and hamburgers. And we may or may not have created a bonfire in the tiny little grill that was there.

And before we knew it, we were over halfway across the country and charging up another set of mountains. We hit the Rockies at full speed and quickly realized that these mountains were a different kind of beast.

Instead of the extremely steep climbs we faced in the East, these were slow climbs that went on for miles and miles and miles. But for each climb, we had amazing views and those headlong flights down the other side where we raced ourselves and tucked in to try to go as fast as possible.

68638639_10155981157331685_2162697899631181824_nAnd as much as people warned us about the Rockies of Colorado, nobody mentioned the hardest state of the entire route: Utah.

Utah was also one of the most beautiful places to ride. From the hell that was Hite Recreation Area (no shade and one of the hottest places on our trip) to the canyons and buttes that created some brutal headwinds, it was a challenge both physically and mentally. But then we also got to ride through amazing places like the Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monument, Cedar Breaks National Monument, Dixie National Forest, and past Bryce Canyon National Park.

It was there riding through the canyons that I felt the closest to creation. There were times when all I could think was: “How can you experience this and not feel close to the Creator?”

68927594_10155981157401685_8895905029920129024_nAnd as much as Utah sucked at times, Nevada was the worst, personally. It was long climbs and you could see forever as you came down into the valley and could see the next climb out in the distance, sometimes up to ten or more miles away.

And then I decided it would be a good idea to injure my knee. So, I jumped into the van for half a day so I didn’t damage it more.

And before we knew it, we were climbing all day up into the Cascades and into California. A full day of slow climbs led to a full day of twisting and turning downhills.

To be honest, the entire trip is a blur. It doesn’t feel like it was just a couple weeks ago, it feels like a lifetime ago. I met some amazing people who quickly became friends, and by the end of the journey, were as close as family.

69444685_10155981193661685_874538285874020352_nWhen we made it to the shores of Crissy Field, beneath the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, CA, so many emotions went through my head.

Exhaustion. Physical and spiritual exhaustion from biking 62 days and experiencing creation in every moment and pedal.

Joy. Raw, unfiltered happiness. My mother and grandmother were there, alongside my sister who I rode in honor of.

Sorrow. As much as parts of the journey sucked, it was coming to an end. I didn’t want it to end. I didn’t want to say goodbye to the amazing family that had developed.

Not only did we dip our tires into the cold waters, we dove in headfirst. We laughed. We cried. We hugged and said our goodbyes. And we embraced true friendships that time will never be able to take away from us.

The ride was more than a journey across the country to support an amazing organization. It was more than something I did in honor of my sister, who has been living with Multiple Sclerosis for the past eight years. It was more than a way to challenge myself, to test my own abilities and determination.

67595953_3044558815586578_7653872699202076672_o

This adventure became a personal journey of experiencing every moment in a way that allowed me to grow stronger in my relationship with our Father above. To find the hands of the Creator in every glimpse and expanse.

And would I do it again? Yes. Yes, I think I will. Eventually.

Passing On The Left

If you’ve ever been on a bike path, you’ve probably heard the call “Passing on your left!” moments before a bicyclist blasts past you as you try to make yourself as small as possible on the right side of the trail. Or perhaps you have been the biker that shouts the warning before swerving around some slower pedestrian or cyclist.

Maybe you have seen people attempt to get out of the way. Or watched someone just continue on their way without noticing, barely flinching as the bike flies past.

Proper bike etiquette says you should warn someone before passing on the left. Be that a shout or a bell or a horn. It’s also nice to see people out and about on the trail, moving over, waving acknowledgement, or smiling when one passes by.

I enjoy riding my bike.  So much so, that in a few short weeks, I will be joining the folks over at Bike the US for MS to pedal 3,785 miles across the country, from Virginia Beach to San Francisco.

And while I find joy in riding my bike, it’s not always sunshine and rainbows. I’m not a very fast rider. In fact, I’m on the slower side of the trail. Just as often as I give the shout before passing on the left, I have to move over to allow others to pass me.

My average speed is somewhere around “stop and smell the roses” and 13 mph. In fact, I think my quickest pace maxed out around 16 or 17 mph on the flats, where a lot of the more experienced riders in the area are topping out at 19-21 mph.

I looked at joining a biking group here in the Upstate, but one of the “qualifications” was an average speed of 17 mph. Yes, there are other groups that go at a slower pace, but those were reserved for children and senior citizens.

So, I putz along at my own pace and I still enjoy it.

One of the things that I love about biking is the same thing I once loved about running (before my joints started screaming at me about the impact). I love the feeling of being alone with my Father above, Abba.  The God Who Knows Me.

When I am biking, it is my time alone with God.

It started a couple years ago, when I would go biking in the early morning hours after working all night. Several members of my community group joined me from time to time. And it became a very intentional and prayerful event.

Now, when I bike, I feel closer to God.  I can get everything else out of my head, my body goes into auto-pedal, and it’s a beautiful moment to be in the presence of the Father.

In less than two weeks, I will be hitting the road and pedaling through the entire months of June and July. And I can’t be more excited (and nervous) about it!

And for a final quick update on fundraising: I have met my fundraising goals for the ride. If someone is still looking to donate, several of my teammates are still in the process of reaching their goals. If you are willing and able, please support them as well (as well as our segment and virtual riders)!

I do plan on updating the blog throughout the ride if I get the chance, but for more day to day updates, you can find them on my Instagram Story by following me at @skerr1932

Until next time, God Bless and PEACE

Foxes and Dragons

A couple weeks ago, I got the opportunity to head out into the woods with Fell and Fair to participate in filming the second installment of The Fox and The Dragon. If you haven’t seen the original, you should head on over to YouTube and watch it ASAP!

STK_4150 (edited) The second part of the film project is now in the post production phase. Filming is complete and it is in the hands of the people that make us all look beautiful.

There is something amazing about being in costume on set. When you stand in full armor and you hold a steel weapon in your hand, you become a something more than who you are.

I love being a part of Fell and Fair because it allows me to explore different aspects of my own character. I get to embrace the warrior and enjoy people that share the same passion about life that makes life worth living.

STK_3900 (edited)

But, its not all about the costumes and the stories that we share. Its about friendships and the community that surrounds us. We are photographers and film makers, storytellers and actors. Each of us brings a new vision to the project.

And all of us are interconnected into this web of the adventure.

I’ll be honest, I had way too much fun. During the first film, I got to stab someone with a spear multiple times because I ruined eight or nine takes because I was smiling. I don’t think I was that bad this time around, but I know there were several times when I was told to stop smiling!

We had several new people that joined us. A couple new actors got mixed into the usual contingent of Fell and Fair members. Some of the film crew came in from Atlanta and Tennessee to join in with people that we are more familiar working with.

We made new friends.

STK_4174 (edited)But lets be honest, who doesn’t enjoy putting on a helm and swinging a sword?

We have fun, and that’s really what it’s all about.

Yes, we all love to tell stories, but the community is what makes it worth it in the long run.

So, my challenge to you is to find something that you enjoy and embrace it, be it storytelling, LARPing, creating music or art. Find others that share your passion and create a community or tribe to gather alongside your side. And, above all, have fun!