“Who’s Blue Ridge Outdoors?”
A guy in jean cut-off shorts is standing next to me, shirtless, sweating in the late August heat and casually sipping out of a pint glass. He’s barefoot and a little drunk, standard protocol for any kayaking festival. I’m down in Ocoee, Tenn., for Ocoee Fest to host a slackline competition, though the word ‘competition’ is really a bit of a stretch. There are two or three people who can legitimately slackline – the rest are raft guides and kayakers who have never stepped foot on a line but, with enough coaxing and liquid courage, have been convinced to at least give it a whirl (under the pretense, too, that they may win the “best wipeout” category).
Perhaps lured in by the ENO slackline or the flashy green Go and the branded-out Jeep, this guy’s curiosity seems to have overtaken him as he nonchalantly eyeballs the interior of my car (a disaster, no doubt), clucking and whistling and wowee-ing over the camper.
“Oh I bought my first backpack from you guys!”
Uh. Not quite.
Aside from the question, “How’s it going?” (which I addressed in one of my earliest blog posts), I’d say that “Who/what is Blue Ridge Outdoors” is probably the second-most frequently asked question.
I have to admit, every time I hear that, I’m a little surprised.
WHAT. You don’t know know what BLUE RIDGE OUTDOORS is?
I’m less surprised when people are unfamiliar with the publication in, say, the southernmost part of Georgia or the northern tip of Pennsylvania. Though we cover much more ground than Blue Ridge proper, it’s hard to make a solid presence in every state. Nonetheless, that’s part of my job, and so, on that dreadfully hot and humid afternoon, I found myself launching into my tried and true “BRO-talk.”
I’ve said this spiel hundreds of times. It’s the one where I go over who we are, who I am, what we cover, and just what gives with that whole camper-car thing. I’ve given the elevator speech so many times, to so many people, it’s merely a matter of tapping into cruise control, shifting into autopilot, and letting my mouth do the talking while my brain checks out.
The unfortunate part about the “BRO-talk”? The questions don’t stop, nor do they ever change. As much as cloning wigs me out, I would be open to it if my second self’s only function in life was to answer the questions I’m asked time and again, the ones that could be answered with a little self-direction, a quick read of the SylvanSport pamphlet I’ve been handing out, or just plain common sense.
Like, “How do you shower?”
The smartass in me wants to respond with the obvious, “Well, I turn on the water, and then I get under the water, and then I soap up…”
But I never say that. Instead, I launch right into the textbook rundown of my Roadshower, how many gallons it holds, how it works, how rad it is. You know. I sell it.
Although I love promoting the magazine, the sponsors of this project, and helping our readers learn about all-things-road-life, at the end of the day, I’d rather talk about anything else, even if it’s what you had for dinner last night or how hot it’s supposed to be tomorrow.
Now, don’t mistake that statement by interpreting it as a plea for people to never ask me questions. I love when people ask questions. Personally, I love asking questions (good thing too, being a writer and all…). Asking questions shows you’re interested, curious, engaged. I encourage questions. But with four months of road life under my belt, I think it’s due time that I list out some of these FAQs and answer them once and for all, if not for my sanity’s sake then at least for the readers who sense my q&a overload and perhaps refrain from asking the obvious out of respect for said sanity (thank you, by the way).
1. So, what, you get paid to go kayaking and camping and stuff?
No. Not at all. My job as travel editor entails writing articles for print and web as well as shooting photo and/or video to accompany those articles. How do I get content? By kayaking and camping and stuff.
2. How do I get your job?
You can’t. I have it.
3. Don’t you get lonely?
Rarely. Sometimes, especially after a festival, I actually crave that solitude and those long hours on the road that I have completely to myself. If I’m really lonely, I stare at my concave reflection in a spoon and pretend it’s another person. Or I talk to my hand-carved, wooden leopard figurine that I got from the Amazon. His name is Tang. He’s a pretty cool cat (pun intended).
4. What do you eat?
Breakfast and dinner always start with three staples: pepper, onion, and Sriracha. For the breakfast version add egg and avocado. For dinner, maybe quinoa, pasta, or a sweet potato. Lunch is usually lots of nuts and dried fruit…or a tub of Nutella. What? Nutella’s made from nuts…
5. Where is your favorite place?
What a ridiculous question. I can’t answer that. Next.
6. Don’t you miss your apartment?
7. Do you stay dry?
I’m going to answer this question with a question. Do you stay dry when you camp outside in the Southeast?
8. What is the hardest part?
Saying goodbye to the wonderful people I meet and the places I fall in love with.
9. How do you stay “connected”?
When I’m not couch surfing or based out of Asheville or Charlottesville (where the BRO offices are located), I have an external battery that can jumpstart my car if I find myself in the middle of nowhere with a dead battery, no cell coverage, and not a soul in sight. That, in turn, can power a 400-watt power inverter which allows me to charge my computer, camera batteries, and other miscellaneous items from the comfort of the Go.
Most places nowadays have free Wi-Fi, but I always carry a Verizon Jetpack hotspot with me to make my life a little easier.
10. What do you miss?
Making smoothies and baking cookies. And at least having the option to veg out in front of a TV and watch a movie (though I haven’t owned one for the past five years).
11. Aren’t you scared sometimes?
Mmm. Nah. Although one time the shadow of my towel hanging up did cause me to scream like a little girl. I thought it was a serial killer…
12. Is it hard not having a place to call home?
Whatchu talkin’ bout? Home is where you park it. Sure, maybe my home is lime green and glows in the dark at night, but it’s a home! I even have a broom. And a rug. And cute little ENO twilights to add just a touch of homey-ness.
I’m sure I’m neglecting some really great questions that are entirely deserving of an answer, so I suppose I’ll allow this post to be more of an open-ended forum. So ask away! What would you like to know about the magazine, this project, life on the road, or plain-and-simply, me. This could be your only chance, so don’t be shy! I won’t snap. Promise.