Dealing with dogs and other unsavoury critters
Last time around dogs – or at least humans who didn’t fence in their dogs properly – were my biggest problem. In the end all I had to protect myself was some insect repellent and a large bone bought from a Dollar General store. This time I was going to be ready. So in terms of the least to most combative items I am now carrying:
- Knowledge that if a dog is looking like it wants to attack me, I should stop my music, walk/back away slowly, not look the dog in the eyes etc.
- Very expensive dog treats – loved by 98% of dogs apparently; to throw in their general direction. I’ll have these stashed right in front of me for easy access.
- A very loud whistle (carried around my neck) – to both alert other people and dissuade the dog
- A dog whistle – (also on a cord around my neck) apparently this is supposed to affect them… time will tell
- A personal attack alarm (the third item in the triumvirate around my neck) – seriously loud!
- A fog horn – recharged with air from my bicycle pump
- Bear spray – nearly the last resort; apparently it can stop a bear from 35ft (there are no bears here in the desert)
- A baseball bat – the last resort which I hope never to have to use
Dealing with the heat
Thanks to my Easter test run, I know what it’s like to dance in 30-degree heat. So this time around, with peak temperatures far hotter, I’m structuring my days differently to avoid that heat. I’ll dance in the early mornings and evenings, resting while the midday sun is most unforgiving. That means early rises – waking at 4am and hitting the road by 5, with my morning dancing done by 10 – and prancing well into darkness, from 5pm through to 9 or 10. To make myself extra-visible for the dark bits I have 6 rear lights and two powerful head torch lights so I can see exactly what’s coming and what’s coming can see me. In the midday sun I’ll set up my tent and above it erect a tarpaulin for double shade protection – using the walking poles that form my harness. At 9/10am and 5pm it’s still incredibly hot though, so I’ll dance using a hands-free umbrella I had imported from Germany. It’s impregnated with some kind of silver compound that makes it extra UV-resistant too.
Getting enough to eat and drink
I’ll carry on with my practice of drinking after every song played – it means I drink little and often and nip thirst in the bud before it arrives. One of my bottles contains energy drink, the other water with an electrolyte tablet dissolved in it (these seemed really effective the first time around – not once did I experience cramp). I have capacity to carry 34 litres of water (circa three days’ worth) with me – thanks to 3 x 10L Ortlieb water bags, plus Camelbak water bottles, a Nalgene bottle and a couple of collapsible bottles – and as a rule of thumb will always have a day’s more water than needed. I also have a water filter to use as needed. I have a GPS unit in addition to downloaded maps on my phone (and physical maps and compass) to guide me toward water sources and signs of human habitation if needed.
Food-wise, I’ll continue a lot of the strategies developed during my first dance. Breakfast will be cereal (Frosties have the greatest number of carbs per 100g of all) and milk if I can find long-life versions in small cartons. During the day during my short rest stops every two or so hours I’ll have peanut butter and jam on (if I can find them) cream crackers (more space-efficient than bread), plus Nature Valley-type protein bars and nutri-grain bars. In my final rest-stop of the day I’ll have a protein shake (I’m carrying LOTS of powder with me) and have the same again immediately after the day’s dancing is done. Because I’ll be camping this time I’ll be bringing a stove with me to cook an evening meal. After reading how Rosie Swale-Pope MBE fed herself on her phenomenal round-the-world run, I’ll be carrying a plentiful supply of spaghetti (again strong on the space-to-weight ratio). I’ll cook 250g in 750ml water, mix it with some form of vegetarian pesto / sun-dried tomato paste and if I can find it a little dried cheese. That gives me almost 1500 calories. I’ll mix the left-over boiled water with a pack of instant noodles – an extra 400 calories for just 85g, and ensuring I use up all the cooking liquid too.
Carrying enough for six weeks on the road
My earlier dance of two weeks meant I could pretty much carry everything I needed in one go – trainers, specialist energy drink powder and protein shake powders etc. But six weeks’ worth would just be too heavy – so on arrival in the US I’m going to split up these into roughly three two-week packs, and thanks to one of my hosts from last time around, have them sent on to future destinations for re-stocking. Included in these packs will be:
- Energy drink powder x 16 days
- Protein recovery powder x 16 days
- Electrolyte tablets – enough for 4 per day
- Multivitamins, Echinacea, Glucosamine x 16 days
- Ibuprofen & paracetamol x 16 days
- Trainers x 2 pairs (I go through one pair a week!)
- Yellow neon Tutu, headbands x 2, leg warmers x 2
- Planet Prancer T-shirt
- Visor & buff
- Toiletries – soap, toothpaste, anti-perspirant
Getting help in emergencies
I’m totally aware that even by taking all the aforementioned precautions, I am still about to embark on something hugely dangerous – to dance through a desert – and events and nature could throw plentiful possible spanners into my prancing plans. To summon immediate help I have my voice, my whistle, my personal attack alarm, my fog horn and my LED lights (white and red). I have two phones on three different networks to maximise the possibility of getting network coverage while out in the sticks. I have an emergency SOS button on my SPOT GPS device (the thing that updates my website every 5 minutes with my location) – this summons the evacuations/search and rescue services of GEOS wherever I am in the world (backed up by specialist endurance marathon endurance which pays for such a service if needed). I have a satellite phone so I can call out even if there’s no phone coverage – and it too has an emergency button to press to summon GEOS search & rescue/emergency services.
I know have one hour and four minutes until I begin this adventure. I’m feeling very nervous and very alone. It’s at times like this I find out who I am as a person. Let’s do this – no regrets.