When I was a quarter of my current age, and half my current height and weight, I dreamed of escape: in a Prairie Schooner across the prairie and Rocky Mountains along the Oregon trail; out of Tibet and across the Himalayas with the Lamas; even over the Alps with the von Trapps (though I never thought of us being accompanied by the sound of music). Naturally I never analyzed these dreams much. Was I searching for adventure? A closer bonding for my family? An escape from them? Or was it just a strong urge to travel?

Then in my late teens, the father of my lifelong friend Mike Cambray took the two of us on an escape of our own: 200 miles on foot up the backbone of England on Arthur Wainwright's Pennine Way. It was just as miserable a trip as most of the people who actually took the journeys of my childhood dreams found theirs, I'm sure. It rained for days at a time, we got lost, we were up to our knees in mud, we walked all day to a pub which was boarded up.

But it was also a revelation, an inspiration, an anchor from which to tie myself as a person, and by which all other acts could be measured. After three days of Roger making fun of our fancy backpacks (his had already served him for a lifetime) he threw his away and bought himself one like ours. And never brought up the subject again. In those stricter times this was something I'd never witnessed before: an adult make a mistake or change his mind. After three days of rain, and putting up and taking down a soaking wet tent, we finally reached a bed and breakfast. Standing, naked-but-warm, and even at full stretch not be able to touch anything wet was a luxury that I never forgot. Coming across a farm house five miles from anywhere with a "Teas" sign propped against the garden wall where tea was served by the pint, and bread and butter (just plain old Wonder loaf) served up 6 slices at a time was a gift from the gods.

So now we're a generation further on, and it is time to pass on this experience to the next generation. The times they are a changing. My two children live on a different continent. My wife has a son by a previous marriage, and his cousin also lives with a stepfather. I can't tell them they have to do this--I can only make it seem interesting enough for them to want to go. You can't understand, and you sure cannot be told, the true benefit: you figure that out on your own. So my daughter isn't coming. She with the most to gain.

So we're setting off as a party of 6: my wife Claudia, her son Marty, my son Adam, Claudia's niece Alexis, Alexis' step-dad Wayne (my brother-in-law), and me. And a laptop computer, a digital camera and a bunch of software which we use every day to upload the news to the Internet, so our friends and relatives back home can follow our daily progress.

I dedicate this story to the memory of Roger Cambray, who died over New Year 1998.

Richard Thomson
December 1999

Brief history of the Web site

This site has gone through two phases. In the first phase, we attempted to keep it up to date as we walked. This was reasonably successful, but the entries were brief, and contained references to access problems.

In the second phase, I added a wealth of extra detail where I can remember it, and I removed the logistics references. But we were restricted to a 10 Megabyte Web site, which placed severe restrictions on the number of pages, especially the graphics that were possible.

So this final phase is being published on CD-ROM, where all the extra material has plenty of room. It also allows me to distribute the CD so that we can share it with the many friends we made along the way, and who played such a large part in making it the experience that it was.

Richard Thomson
7 December 1999