Chapter 7–The Adventure is over and life is better.

This was a great adventure.  We laughed, we cried a little, we ached, we succeeded, we saw each other overcome physical and mental odds, we killed a black fly.  (Yeah, that fly was really bugging us in camp for a couple of days, so we took him out.)

During this adventure there were not fathers and sons or friends.  There were just three men pulling together to help each other be successful and reach their goal.  The climbs were a challenge.  The friendship and caring for each other was the great result.

Rob is a very special person.  He loves nature and respects it dearly.  “Dad, step on the rocks or the dirt so you don’t crush the plant growth.”  As I said before, the mountains seem to be his play ground.  He is so at home there and becoming so knowledgeable.  At the Climbers Camp guys that had been climbing for years were asking Rob for advise on where and how to climb.  Sometimes the jargon was so foreign I needed a translator to understand what was being said.

Rob is committed to climbing as much as I’m committed to breathing.  I’m not sure I could ask him to be more dedicated to something other than climbing.  I’m also not sure where it all leads.  By the time he is 30 he will probably have climbed most of the major peaks in this country and done many of the difficult rock climbing routes as well.  Does it matter that he will not be rich monetarily?  Well, when I see the joy in his face when he makes a new summit that question is easily answered.

And if nothing else, he has helped his father enjoy the adventure as well.  In the end, father and son are both doing quite well.

Mike Farmer, July 24, 1994


Rob did continue to do his adventures.  They changed as time went on.  And in his early 30’s he bought his own business and maintained it successfully for the next 17 years.  Now he is choosing to retire from that career and seek new adventures.  On the weekends he and his son, Coletrane, take the truck into the mountains of Western North Carolina and drive the many rugged trail through the beautiful natural forests.  He is teaching Coletrane to love nature and adventure as well.

As a result of that 1994 trip, I have gone on to climb mountains in the Himalaya, South America and in the US as well.  My special adventure has become biking and I have biked across the US coast to coast twice.  Last time at the age of 70.  I have also biked in some 25 countries around the world.

So what prompted me to do these adventures?  Clearly it was the joy of that climb in 1994 with Rob and Jim that let me experience the rewards of these physical endeavors.  As a father, I owe Rob a lot for showing me the way to truly enjoy the life that I have been given.  KEEP UP THE ADVENTURE.


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It’s funny how when you really care about someone and who they are and what you’ve accomplished together, hugs are a good way of expressing that care.

When we reached the summit of Gannett, Jim was the first to come over and give me a big hug of congratulations and many words of encouragement.  Rob did the same thing.  It was a joyous moment.  Jim, however, had lost his dad about two years earlier and the loss was still with him.  I hope that in some way I might have been his surrogate father for that summit and that he gave me what he had long to give his father at the top of a mountain.

Again, when we reached the lower saddle of the Grand, we all embraced warmly before Rob and Jim set off for the summit.  There is nothing guaranteed in mountaineering.  A slip, a mistake by you or someone else, can be fatal at high altitudes.  The send off hugs can be a bit tearful when you think for a fleeting moment that the person may not return.

At the airport Rob and Jim dropped me off and were anxious to get on the road.  I gave each a big hug and it was returned warmly.  I think facing an element of danger together and coming out the other side safely, creates a unique bond that can’t help but bring you closer together.

Hugs are good.  They say so much without saying a word.


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Chapter 5–Climbing Support

Any successful summit attempt is only reached with adequate preparation and a lot of support and encouragement.  We had something a little special on this trip.  My friends, the Cases, gave me a medal of the Lady of Majorica to wear.  I was honored and knew it was a strong force that would protect us and give us strength.

One night I told Jim about getting the medal.  I said you may not believe in its powers or religious significance, but I think it will keep us save.  He said “Well, actually I do believe in anything like that, that a person feels has the energy to protect.”  As it turned out going up to the Gannett Summit and later up Dinwoody Pass, I called on the strength of the Lady many times, asking Blessed Mary’s help to get me up the mountain, to calm whatever fear I had, and to keep our team safe.

Our prayers must have been answered cause we had a very safe and successful trip.  Thanks Cases.

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Chapter 4–Fathers can be Cool

Today was our last day together.  Rob and I were walking to meet Barb and Jim for breakfast.  I gave Rob some money for the trip back and some extra to take Jim and his girlfriend and Jenny to dinner.  But Rob protested saying that he really only needed $20 and that I had been far too generous on this trip already.  He said that he and Jim were both feeling a little bad about all the good meals and the other things that I had bought for all of us during the trip.

I told him not to worry.  This trip was special and I don’t usually spend money on him during the course of the year.  He said “Dad, my friends that have met you think you are really cool.  Before I left Missoula some of my friends who haven’t met you were asking me who was going on this trip with me.  When I told them I was going to spend a week and a half with my Dad and Jim, they said “With your Dad?  Why would you want to spend all that time with your Dad?”  I told them “No, he’s cool.  It’s really going to be fun.  I’m really looking forward to it.”

Then he said “Dad, most of my friends don’t have the kind of parents that they would want to spend two days with much less a week and half.  And Dad, Jim thinks you’re cool too.”

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Chapter 3–Fairness

Jim and I were waiting for Rob one day and were engaged in conversation about him.  Jim said “There’s something about Rob that I really admire.  He is totally fair and honest with anyone he deals with.  No matter who comes into his shop, whether its a fellow climber, a stranger or a drunk off the street, Rob will always treat them with the same amount of respect and honesty that he would any of his good friends.  I really admire him for that and I guess its why we get along so well.”

Obviously as a father this is a very special compliment for me as well as for my son.  I’m proud of Rob for being “fair” with anyone he meets.

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The Leader’s Decision

Chapter 2

As you recall from yesterday’s report, we were traveling in Rob’s van and enjoying all the comforts it had to offer–RIGHT.  We finally made it to our base camp and were preparing to climb.

Gannett Mountain is 13,809 feet high and is located in the state of Wyoming in the Wind River Range.  It was first summited in 1922.  While it is about 500 feet lower than Mt. Rainier it is glacieral and thus calls for additional climbing gear in order to reach the summit.  Ice axes, crampons and rope are necessities.

Walking up to Gannett base camp and later summitting and returning to the camp, I managed to render my left foot inoperable.  A heel blister had formed about the size of a half dollar.  Worse still I had allowed the punishment of that injured heal to go on so long that the bone was severely bruised to the point that a boot could not even be placed on my foot.

When we got to the Tetons, I had to pass on the initial day’s climb because of the damage inflected on the heel.  Rob and Jim agreed to hold off climbing the GRAND TETON (13,776 FEET) until Friday in hopes that the bone would heal sufficiently.  Unfortunately, Thursday night after heavy bandaging was applied to the heel, it was still very sensitive to a boot.

Rob was very concerned and when we walked outside at about 10:30 pm to test the wound, he confronted me with the question of what to do tomorrow.  We were scheduled to meet Barb at 4am at the Trailhead to the GRAND.  Rob needed to make a decision tonight as to my condition and the objective the team would go for the next day.  This is always a pre-climb requesite for the team and the team leader must decide.  The conversation went something like this:

“Dad, I know you want to make that summit badly tomorrow.  But I’m concerned about the condition of your foot.  It’s had me worried all day and we need to talk about it.”

“Okay Rob, lets talk.”

“Dad, I know how badly you want to do this.  I’m concerned about what you might do to your foot.  It may cause more damage and it may not be worth it to continue.  The mountain will always be there but your foot maybe severly damaged if you’re not careful.  I’m also concerned about the safety of the rest of the team.  It’s my responsibility to get us up and down as safely as possible.  If you fall behind, you may jeopardize all of us. If you can’t keep up you may be in jeopardy.”

We both stood there for a few minutes saying nothing.  The moon was out in full and we both stood looking not at each other but up at the GRAND that seemed like it was less than a mile away.

Finally Rob said “I know how badly you want to do this but I think you should decide now not to go to the summit.  You should go up with us but no further than the Lower Saddle at 11,300 feet.  From there you can get back down the trail safely by yourself.”

We were both still looking at the GRAND—not at each other.  When I did look over at Rob he was wiping tears from the corners of his eyes.  This was a tough request but he was the team leader and he had to consider the good of the team.  The conversation was more emotional than I can really describe.  But I finally told him that I would agree to go no further than the Lower Saddle or as far as I could get below the Lower Saddle.

Rob had great leadership skills and he doesn’t even realize it.   He had lead every climb with skill and decisiveness.  The rest of the team always relied on his judgement in any situation.  He knows when there is time to make tough decisions even when it’s your father that is involved.  For me it was a sad moment because I had waited several days of inactivity to have a shot at the GRAND.  But I was also proud of the way Rob handled it.  I’m sure if he were asked to give his version he’d say truthfully it was “no big thing”.

But standing there in the full moon with the GRAND at our feet and watching him wipe those tears away, I know it was a struggle for him.  I kept to my promise and stopped at the Lower Saddle.  To make up for it though I moved quickly up the trail.  Normally, the guided group reached the Lower Saddle in 6 hours.  Rob reached the Lower Saddle in 3 hours and I was not far behind at 3 hours and 40 minutes–bad foot and all.  In the end I felt good about this.  I also felt it was the right decision to not go further.  Once at the Lower Saddle, I still had at least a 3 hour hike back to the trailhead.  To go another 6-7 hours to the summit would have been torture on my foot.

The mountain will be there next time and I’ll summit then.  This time it was right to listen to the team leader, my son.  By the way, Rob, Jim and Barb made the summit at 2pm July 22, 1994.  Their third summit of a major mountain in the U.S. in less than a week.  The three were Gannett, Teewinot and the GRAND.


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Climbing the Mountain of Emotion

The following story will be much different than most of my biking stories.  This story took place in the summer of 1994 when my son Rob and I were attempting to climb some big mountains in the western United States.  The most interesting thing for me was the fact that “the son became the father and the father became the son”.  In other words, Rob knew what he was doing to have a successful mountain climb and I had only practice climbing up the Blue Ridge Parkway.  Not exactly a tough test.  So I decide to listen to Rob and do what he thought was best even if I thought I had a better idea.  By the way, at the time Rob was 25 years old and I was 51.  I hope you enjoy this story.  It will be in several parts so bear with me for the next few days.

Part 1–The Van

Part of climbing with Rob is living in his world.  On the road, his world is his van.  It is a 1970 VW Camper Van that shows all the battle scars of the 1000’s of unknown miles it had traveled.

A father’s patience upon entering this world, begins by suppressing any desire to bring order to the chaos that you have just entered.  It is the twilight zone gone crazy. Here is a description from the eyes of a passenger (me) riding in the back seat of the chaos.

Starting at the dash there are a collection of Reggae music tapes strewn across the dash.  I don’t know how many but some have the tape totally unraveled, some are in plastic cases and others are out.  There are some well worn socks keeping the tapes company.  Periodically a tin of chewing tobacco will appear on the dash.  There are various maps of regions either climbed or to be climbed.  Bugs of various species sit endlessly on the windshield and survey the maps below them.

The flight controls for this vehicle are also unique.  Of course, nothing works as the manufacturer’s designer had envisioned it to work.  First, in order to start the car you use no key.  There is a switch under the steering column that activates the engine’s inner workings.  The car is thus rarely locked.  No key after all.

The floor and front seat are a collage of materials from previous excursions to unknown places.  Today, Jim (Rob’s friend who is traveling with us) found a business card for a trapper in Oregon.  He asked Rob if he knew him.  Rob said the card came with the vehicle which had been purchased some four years earlier.  Really kept it clean, huh?

Watching Rob drive the car is both hilarious and somewhat frightening.  Simultaneously, he is steering the car at 55mph, selecting and inserting a favorite Reggae tape into the tape player and peeling a banana.  Amazing.

The flight deck again is simple–too simple.  There is no rear vision mirror.  There is a cracked driver’s side mirror and the one on the passenger’s side, while intact, is tilted in such a fashion as to be useless to the driver.  The normal right lane change goes like this.

Rob says to Jim “Hey Jim, is there any one on my right side? Is it okay to move over?’

I was going to end Part 1 here but there is still more to tell you about the VAN.  If you need to go eat dinner feel free and read the rest of this after dessert.

Part 1a–The VAN

Moving to the rear living compartment you find chaos with utilities.  There is a food table.  This will normally contain food, cooking utensils, drinking bottles, maps, clothes, climbing gear, lip therapy tubs, etc.  In other words, a catch-all.  There is no edge (raised edge, that is) that will hold the contents in place.  Every major left hand turn will see most of the contents of the table hurdled to the floor of the van.  Fortunately, they don’t fall far as there is multiple climbing gear scattered all over the floor.  The most discussing aspects of this scene are the pots and pans that still contain the fragments of a meal eaten some time in the past, like days past.  The boys also like to buy their bananas very ripe–on the black side in fact.  This is fine if eaten immediately but typically they are not.  Today a very black banana was found under some gear oozing it’s life onto Rob’s road atlas.  So I asked  “Do you want to throw this out, Rob?”  “No!  We’ll eat it later.”

Above the food tray, there are two plastic milk crate type containers.  These are suspended from the roof of the van with bungie cords.  As the VAN rambles along these crates will swing to the rhythm of the road.  If watched for an extended period, it can be quite hypnotic.

There is utility in the roof on the VAN as well.  A space is available where the tent to the VAN once resided.  In this cavity there are stored three ice axes, two pair of skies and some other paraphanalia difficult to describe.  The back passenger seats convert into beds.  The reverse is also true.  The bed in the back converts into a passenger seat.  It sort of depends on the phase of the moon and how ambitious Rob is when he gets up in the morning.  Throughout the rear body there are multiple rucksacks, caches of climbing gear, soiled but always wearable tee shirts and an infinite number of single soiled socks.  Amazing.

On the whole, the van begins to grow on you after a week.  You get use to riding upright in the back seat without support and the wind hitting you from five sides.  Soon you learn to store your food wrappers or beverage containers on any open spot on the floor.  It really won’t affect the appearance of the VAN.

There are also no lights in the VAN.  So after dark, in order to find something, you usually have to use a head lamp or light a small candle or simply forget about it until morning.  The VAN is not Wayne’s World, it is Rob’s World.  A mother should never be allowed to enter into this enviornment.  She would be instantly traumatized without any hope of recovery.  When I left Rob at the airport at the end of our adventure, I embraced him warmly, thanked him for the terrific time and whispered gently,  “Clean your van, Son.”

Part 2–The Leaders Decision–will commence tomorrow.  We will be climbing Gannett.  Unfortunately I had a blister on my left foot that made climbing very difficult.  Rob and I will discuss it before we climb.

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Bike Ride in Sweden–Day 5–Floda Kyrka

Today our shorter ride of 26 miles will take us through tranquil and remote parts of Sodermanland.  We will be headed for Floda Kyrka, where there is a sacred gothic building with magnificent liturgical fresco dating back to the 15th century.

As you can see the route today is very natural with beautiful fields and forests.  It is this natural beauty that makes this ride such a relaxing pleasure.

Once again our lunch is a spectacular presentation of wonderful food.  In addition, the setting is by a beautiful lake that makes the whole scene very unique and restful.  We are really spoiled.

After lunch we reach the Floda Kyrka and the gothic building that is magnificent in size and architecture.  There is a wooden bell tower in the front of the church.  This was constructed after the many lightening strikes had destroyed the church’s bell tower.

In this local area I happened onto the sighting of a beautiful rainbow.  Reminded me of home.

And once on the bus headed for the train, we see this rather unusual figure of a young boy playing with some kind of toy.  Several of the roundabouts in this area had sculptures on display.

That’s about it for today.  We finished the day with a train ride back to Katrineholm, where we had spent the prior evening.  Tomorrow our ride will take us to Mariefred. –35 miles away.

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Bike Ride in Sweden–Bike and Train to Katrineholm

As we leave the town of Sodertalje, we are greeted with a ride in the beautiful country side of Sweden.  In our brochure it is stated as “the land of the Southern men.  This title was given because the scenic landscape has become a place of longing to many Sweden lovers.  In this area there are about 400 manor houses and small castles.

On this, our 4th day of riding, we head to Trosa and traverse the heartland of Sodermanlands.  Our route boasts of wild beauty, speckled by the typical wooden houses, painted in red and ochre yellow.  As our guide has told us, the Swedes in this area worked on mining iron ore which had a unique red color to it.  And in the process they developed some of the first paint.  The initial color was “red” and thus many of the houses in this region are “red”.





Here is our group ready to take off after we hear about the route from our guide, Dieter.  The trails we rode on were very interesting and more rural as we pasted through many agricultural areas.


Georgie, who was the “Guide-Protem” (whatever that means) was seen standing in one of these fields as we approach our lunch area.  She waved us all in and of course we all followed her directions.



Somewhere along the way we took a short ferry ride across one of the many lakes and waterways.  We also saw more stunning churches.



In Gnesta we boarded a train to Katrineholm.  We will be travelling  on the oldest and still most important railway route in Sweden today.  The views of the country side we pasted through were again amazing and beautiful.  In some case, large herds of cattle or sheep filled the picture.



And before I finish this blog, I must say something about the incredible lunches/picnics we had virtually every day we rode.  These were prepared by Andreas, who was a young man who drove the support vehicle and worked late at night and into the morning preparing the most beautiful display of fruit, vegetables and meats for our lunch.  All of this displayed uniquely on a fold-out table generally under a tree somewhere along our biking route.



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Bike Ride in Sweden–Day 2 and 3–Castles and Churches

On our ride today we get the opportunity to visit Drottningholm Castle, the principal residence of the Swedish royal family.  Here are a few pictures of that beautiful palace.

The palace has a beautiful lake view.  The inside is adorned with pictures of the royal family.  The dining room will hold most families.  And the king’s bedroom looks comfortable.

After this tour we mount our bikes and head on down the road.

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