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!

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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!

Hope

The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay.” – Matthew 28:5-6

Today we celebrate the defeat of death, when Jesus Christ rose from the grave. When the disciples found an empty tomb. Resurrection Sunday. Easter. As followers of Jesus, we live with the hope and the knowledge of His resurrection each and every day of our lives.

Yesterday, while hanging out with some amazing people, I had a thought that made me pause and think: Despite everything they knew about Jesus the Nazarene, that day between the cross and the resurrection was the darkest moment for many of His disciples.

They had lost hope.

I think it is easy for us to be distracted by the expectations of this world and loose sight of the truth, that victory has already been won. Sometimes we get consumed by our own thoughts and get lost in the darkness of despair. We tend to wander from the path and are unable to find our way back.

Even when Jesus was missing from the tomb, some of the disciples didn’t believe. They didn’t understand. They doubted.

And yet, the Lord and King continued to pursue them and teach them about the Savior. He gave them new hope through His Spirit and continues to pursue us to this day.

Each time I have wandered, He has chased me down like the good shepherd to carry me back to the flock. Each time I have been lost to the darkness, He has blinded me with the love of a father and opened my eyes to the beauty of the struggles of this life and the hope of what is to come. And when the noise of this world becomes overwhelming, His voice breaks through as a whisper to remind me that I am His.

Today, we are reminded that this war has already been won. We remember that the Father has already paid the sacrifice for our sins and failures. Death has been defeated. And, through the Spirit of God that dwells within us, we are able to be in a relationship with the God who Knows Us.

Today is a celebration that continues throughout our entire lives. To trust in our Lord to light the path at our feet. To love as we have been loved. To forgive others and more importantly ourselves, just as we have been forgiven. To live a life that reflects our Fathers love for us.

I know that there will be days that are darker than others, but I also place my hope in something that is much bigger than I can ever dream to be. My hope is placed in the one who not only died for my sins on that cross when the temple veil was torn, but in the one who defeated death and adopted me into His family.

Bike the US for MS

Several years ago, one of the ladies that I served with through AmeriCorps rode across the country on her bike. Throughout the year that followed, we worked side by side in the world of conservation and disaster response, but her stories of biking from the Pacific to Atlantic coast pulled at a desire to challenge myself, to commit to an adventure that was bigger than myself.

A year or so later, I purchased my first bike. And over the next two years, I biked sporadically whenever I could. And in the back of my mind, there was always that desire to go coast to coast.

Back while I was still in AmeriCorps, I started looking around at different bike rides. I knew I wanted to do the TransAm, from coast to coast, but I also didn’t want to try it solo and unsupported the first time through. I happened to come across the organization Bike the US for MS and realized that this was the group I would, eventually, ride with.

BUSMS LogoFor several years, I put it off because of the busyness of life. But that has all changed.

This summer I will set forth from Yorktown, Virginia after dipping a tire in the Atlantic Ocean and head West. Over the following 62 days, I will pedal 3,785 miles alongside of the rest of the TransAm crew towards San Francisco, California.

We, as a group, will be riding to raise awareness for Multiple Sclerosis (MS), an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system attacks the sheaths of nerve cells of the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord). A person with MS can experience many different symptoms and no two patients will have the exact same symptoms. Some of the more common symptoms of MS are weakness, severe fatigue, impaired speech, numbness, blurred vision, and loss of muscle coordination.

I will personally be riding in honor of my sister, Katherine, who was diagnosed with MS several years ago. She continues to live with MS and fight each and every day, a symbol of strength for our family, both those connected to us by blood and those we have claimed through love.

I know that there are going to be days that suck, that hurt, that I will want to throw in the towel and say “nope,” but I know that every time it gets difficult, I will remember the warrior that is my sister and know that she has faced much worse. In those moments that challenge the soul (but more realistically physically and emotionally challenged), I will be able to find the strength because my sister has already proved that we can face anything, who has revealed her strength and courage through her fight with MS.

A couple weeks ago, while I was sitting in the Galley with some of the Stewies (Stewards who work in the dining facility here at McMurdo Research Station), one of them asked if I had ever done anything like this before. My response: “Nope,” with a huge grin on my face.

While I am slowly getting more confident in my biking abilities (still need to work on hills and mountain climbs), and there are parts of the adventure that terrify me (going down said mountains after the climbs), I know that I cannot do this adventure alone. I will have an amazing team of riders beside me (including Leads, support vehicles and drivers, and places to throw up a tent all organized) and my amazing group of family and friends supporting me.

Part of the adventure that is Bike the US for MS is that each rider raises funds to support not only the ride itself, but to support MS research and treatment clinics including UVA’s James Q Miller MS Clinic in Charlottesville, Virginia and to UCSF’s Weill Institute for Neurosciences and MS in San Francisco. The goal is for each rider to raise $1 for each mile that they ride.

I would love for each of you to partner with us as we pedal our way across the nation. If you are able and willing, I would appreciate any financial support you are willing to offer! You can go to my official fundraising page (click link here) to make a donation (I’m sure there are other ways you could get funds to me, but this is the easiest because I don’t have to handle the funds myself). If you are unable to support this adventure financially, I would encourage you to support us through your prayers and encouragement.

I’ll probably be posting daily updates either through Instagrams story feature (you can follow me at @skerr1932) both during training and the actual ride (I usually post art and random adventures).