What’s Jen Up To These Days?

It’s been awhile since I’ve blogged on this site or simply blogged anywhere. I haven’t been feeling the call of the blog.

In July, I thought about doing a piece about Wonder Woman after the movie came out. I would talk about how I dressed up as Wonder Woman on Halloween in first grade. My bullet proof bracelets were aluminum foil, and my lasso of truth was some yellow plastic chord. I would talk about watching the Lynda Carter show and reading a book of Wonder Woman comics. I even changed clothes while spinning in a circle. Not the most efficient way to change clothes. I would talk about the new movie and how she doesn’t stop when all the guys say no. She doesn’t stop. She’s Wonder Woman.

Then Jen’s brain fizzled. It was sail boat racing season, and Jen’s brain was on boats, boats, boats. What’s Jen up to these days? Jen’s racing sailboats in Southern California.

I have been racing boats for a few years. With each year, the boats got bigger. Then, through a series of strange circumstances, I found myself on a fifty-two foot beast of a boat. Light hull. Big loaded sails. It was a little bit crazy, but I liked it.

Then I met the pedestal grinder. When you watch big boats and you see guys (it’s usually guys) riding bicycles with their hands, they’re grinding power into the winches in order to trim sails or raise sails.  I used to box, so I could move my hands quickly. I went back to the gym to get the power into my arms. I started grinding, and I liked it.

Recently, Ken, a photographer, came on the boat. He helped me grind the first half of the race. Then he pulled out his camera and took some awesome pics. When I saw them, I was a little shocked. Whoah. I look fierce. But I’m loving what I’m doing.


Check out Ken’s photos on his site. They’re awesome.

Why Did I Write These Books

The first of November will be the fourth anniversary of the publishing of The Slacker Pilgrim Guide. How did four years go by? It seemed liked not so long ago when I walked into Santiago de Compostella on a cloudy morning. I had no lodging booked. I just knew I had done what I set out to do, and I was so happy that I had done it. And the next day, I walked out of Santiago to go to Finisterra.

In my Osprey pack, I also had a notebook filled with notes and ramblings that I hoped to make into a book. The journey from notebook to ebook was as long as the Camino. I had to learn a whole new form and new way of writing. I also would discover a whole new way of connecting with the world. . .but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Recently the question of why I write these walking books was posed to me. I’m not completely sure why I write these books. I just do. Maybe if I talk about how I write the books, the why will become evident to me.

The Slacker Pilgrim Guide began simply. I was walking the Camino and thought, what if I wrote a book about the Camino. What if I wrote about all the little details—like Ladies Rooms and Café Con Leche. Instead of talking about the life changing epiphanies, what if I talked about the human and the humorous.

In 2012, the Camino was becoming more popular because of the film, The Way, and thanks to ebooks and the internet, one could learn about it. I knew that I had to get my book out quickly because the information in it was timely. I learned about ebooks and how to put a book up on Amazon.

The Camino had given me a certain courage to just put the book out there, but as a failed playwright, I was prepared for silence. I was prepared for only friends reading it. I was not prepared for the book to spread far and wide and for the book to connect me with so many people I had never met.

I became a Camino cheerleader. You can do it. Yes, you can do it. Sure, it’s gonna hurt. Sure, it might get uncomfortable. Go for it. I had never been a cheerleader. Cheerleaders did not appeal to my absurdist view of things, but I do know that a positive voice is what you need when you’re about to do something that might be a little crazy.

Through these books I have connected with folks. My story and my perspective have led me to hearing other stories and other perspectives. There was an exchange.

So why did I write the walking book and why do I continue to write walking books? At first, it was just an idea I had. But it was an idea that has developed into something larger. It is an idea that goes around the world and back again. It’s an idea that leads to connection and community. It’s an idea that makes me a better human.

I am not a super hiker. I am not a superior human being. I am just a person. I have faults. I get angry and upset and worried and scared like everyone else. But I have had moments when I see the good in myself and the world. I can walk for long distances (with cafes along the way) and everything starts to look good.

I like that you can go to a country and walk through it. I live in a country that is huge, and there are parts where that is difficult to do. I like seeing a place one step at a time. I like the slowness of a walking pace. I like it when I get a beautiful view after a little bit of work. All I had to do was start.

Dream Walks1

Writing Voice Map Walking Tours


Back in 2012, I realized there were three things I wanted to do with my life (besides the usual practice of eating, sleeping, and being kind to people and animals). Those three things were write, walk, and sail, and I set out to do them as often as possible.

Since 2012, I have found ways to spend most of my time writing, walking, or saiing, and I discovered that the three activities feed each other. I write about walking and sailing. When I walk, I develop the mental endurance to help me write and sail. When I sail, I develop the patience to help me write and walk.

So I was happily going along and singing my song when I received an email from VoiceMap. Would I be interested in writing walking tours for their app? It sounded fun, so I said yes.

VoiceMap uses GPS technology to take the walker on a set route in a particular place. You start at the starting point, and I tell you all about it. Then I tell you how to get to the next spot which will trigger the next bit of audio and so on along the route.

VoiceMap also encourages its tour writers to be creative, tell stories, show people our own corners of the world. When friends and family visited Los Angeles, I would play tour guide and show them around. I liked learning a few key facts about a place and pointing out the sights along the way.

Writing the VoiceMap tours, I imagined the listener as my friend, and that freed me up to be random and tell jokes. If I didn’t like a particular statue, I could say that. If we passed my favorite coffee shop, I could recommend it.

VoiceMap’s editors encouraged to bring myself into the tour. After all, I was the one speaking on the audio tracks, and they continued to support me in the recording process. Coming out of a theatre background, I knew I had to become an actor playing myself. Not so easy. I never liked the sound of my own recorded voice. But I relaxed, took a deep breath, and started to speak.

Once the audio was added to the tour, I had to test the tour to make sure the GPS points matched the audio. Yes, I had to listen to my own voice, but I removed myself from the listening. I became analytical without being overly critical. And I got to walk around some of my favorite spots in LA one more time.

As of right now, I have four walking tours on VoiceMap: Culver City, Marina del Rey, Venice Beach, and Santa Monica Pier. I hope any potential walker has as much fun walking them as I had putting them together.


If you’re interested in writing your own VoiceMap tour, you can go here.

If you’re interested in finding out which VoiceMap tours are near you, go to this spot.

Keep walking, my friends.



Baja Ha-Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha


You might be reading this blog because you are interested in doing the Baja Ha-Ha and you googled, and here you are. Welcome.

The Baja Ha-Ha is a cruiser rally primarily for sailboats (but powerboats are welcome). It begins in San Diego, USA and ends in Cabo San Luis, Mexico about 750 miles away. It happens in October/November, and you can find the official site for the Baja Ha-Ha here.

I crewed on my friend Greg’s 49 foot Jeanneau for the Baja Ha-Ha October – November 2015. In addition to Greg and myself, there were four additional crew members. Because the boat had three cabins and three heads (bathrooms), we had some space—sorta.

After saying yes to Greg and signing a waiver in which I acknowledge that I could die (we all will eventually), I hauled my gear and myself onto the boat in Marina del Rey. We cut the dock lines and off we went. We first sailed to Catalina Island, then we did an overnight run to Ensenada, Mexico.

Greg started the Baja Ha-Ha in Ensenada and not San Diego along with about a dozen other boats. As an experienced Baja Ha-Ha-er, he felt it was easier to make Ensenada his first port of call and clear customs and immigration there instead of in Cabo with a hundred other boats. With the help of the marina staff, we were able to get that business done quickly. Then, we could have fun on the Baja Ha-Ha.

The first run of the Baja Ha-Ha to Turtle Bay took two days and two nights with the crew taking watch shifts. We sailed a bit and motored a bit. We arrived in the morning then spent three nights in Turtle Bay. There was a softball game one day and a beach party.

Anchoring in Turtle Bay

The second run was from Turtle Bay to Bahia Santa Maria, then we were in the anchorage for three nights for a raft up party and a music party.

Anchorage at Bahia Santa Maria

The third and final run was from Bahia Santa Maria to Cabo. Again, Greg’s experience came into play. He had a reservation not in Cabo, but in the marina at San Jose del Cabo just down the road. We hired a car to go to a party at Squid Roe (a bar), a beach party, and an awards party. Yep, there are a lot of parties in the Baja Ha-Ha.

Lots of boats on near Cabo

If you do the Baja Ha-Ha, you will go to a lot of parties. You will also sail a lot. You could spend days without internet and a shower. There’s also the potential for sea sickness, boats breaking, and the beer supply running out. Just remember, you must eat and drink, you must sleep, and you must pee.

So is the Baja Ha-Ha worth doing? The last night on the run into Cabo, there were big rollers and the wind was shifty. I was tired and several hours from my pillow. I was in yesterday’s clothes. I looked at the waves and the stars and I thought, yeah, this is good, I love this. I sailed 900 miles (140 from Marina del Rey plus the 750 plus the extra to San Jose del Cabo), and I still love it.




Walking Offseason on the Via Francigena


From late October through November this year, my partner and I walked for 28 days on the Via Francigena from Fidenza (an hour and a half train ride out of Milan) to Rome. Because we both worked in the summer months, we had to wait until the end of October to start our walk, so we were walking offseason.

With almost no knowledge of Italian, we stumbled through Italy for 600 kilometers through sun, rain, and mud. We had done the Camino Frances in Spain, but the Via Francigena in November was tougher. The route was well-marked and sign posted, but the infrastructure was not as strong as in Spain. In some places the accommodations were limited. Also, the route could go a whole day without passing into a town although the cappuccino was consistently excellent.

Still, I liked walking the Via Francigena. It was like the Camino Italian Style. On our walk, we went over the Cissa Pass and into Tuscany with some beautiful landscape. There were also some amazing churches along the route especially in Lucca and Siena. After Tuscany, we went into Lazio, walked through Bolsena, Viterbo, and finally into St. Peter’s Square in Rome.


Like the Camino, pilgrims carry a credential which gets stamped at every stop. Then, you can get a testimonium if you walk more than a hundred kilometers. Even though I was focused on getting to Rome for most of the walk, I did not pursue the mighty testimonium. I guess it wasn’t important to me anymore. Maybe I really am a slacker pilgrim at heart.

If you are thinking of walking offseason on the Via Francigena, there are both advantages and disadvantages. There were no crowds of pilgrims on the Via Francigena and no crowds of tourists in Tuscany. We only met only one other walking pilgrim in our month on the road although we did see pilgrims a few days ahead had left notes in the books at the osperias (pilgrim accommodations).

In November, many of the osperias were closed, but in the ones that were opened, we were the only pilgrims in the place. When there were no osperias, we stayed in B&Bs which were around 45 euro for the night for both of us while the osperias ranged in price from donation to 40 euro for both us. Also, most of the osperias had no heat, so it got mighty cold at night.

Speaking of heat, it was never too hot or too cold for walking. When it rained (and it rained a lot), the temperature stayed warm. It would be cold in the morning and after the sun went down (which was early, usually by 5pm). We walked north to south, so temperatures got warmer as we went.


When we finally made it to St. Peter’s Square, we were able to sit in the sun and soak up the heat like the little lizards we had seen on our walk. We had also gotten to see an Italy that most tourists don’t see.


And yes, I am writing a book about it.

The First Step Is The Hardest


It is approximately thirty nautical miles from Marina del Rey in Los Angeles to Avalon, the town on Catalina Island just off the coast of Southern California. Recently I sailed there for the first time on a hot May afternoon. During the seven hour motor sail, I could see the smoke from fires down in San Diego, and I was glad to be surrounded by water.

Even though I spent only one night in Avalon, I did have time to Zipline. My Aunt had ziplined two years ago and raved about it. There was even a photo of her flying through the air and waving at the camera. I could do it. Yes, maybe?

There was just small snafu.

I have a problem with heights.

I discovered this twelve years ago while doing the Bridge Climb on the Sydney Harbor bridge. I was okay on the simulation, but when I was up on the bridge, I looked out at air, air, air, air, and froze. Everyone on the bridge learned my name that day. I remember actually embracing the ground once I got off the bridge.

So I have heights issues. Why would I want to zipline?

I have raced on dinghy sailboats and hiked out over the side of the boat with a harness on. I am comfortable in a harness. I know I won’t fall out. I trust that it will hold me.

However, all trust fell away when I stood on the first platform to zipline on the first of five lines. Sure, it was perfectly safe. Jake the brakeman had just gone a very long way across the line. Then the woman who had ziplined all over the world and said that the Catalina zipline was the safest she had ever been on flew across and actually took a hand off a handlebar.

Then it was my turn. Scott, the zipline guy, asked how I was doing. I had nothing except truth.

 I’m really really scared.

I wondered if there was a really really scared clause in the zipline release I had signed with my finger on an ipad down (way far down) by the beach.

That’s okay. Scott said and continued to talk to me about how it was totally rational to be scared while standing on the brink of oblivion. As he talked, we walked to the edge of the platform.

I looked down down down down at hillside and scrub and dirt and little rocks which will really really hurt when I hit them because even though I was in a harness, I knew without doubt that I was going down.

And my hands were sweaty on the handles.

I really didn’t want to do this. So much for trying new things and embracing life with a sense of adventure. So much for my action heroine self-image. I was a big chicken and I was holding everyone up. In fact, I was probably holding up the whole ziplining schedule. Why? Why did I decide that this would be fun?

Then I heard Scott’s voice in the clutter of my anxiety.

Just try one line. If you hate it, you can quit after one, but I think you will love it.

I looked down. I still couldn’t make that step. I took a deep breath. I took another deep breath. Deep breaths are bullshit.

Then I stepped. I don’t know how. I don’t know why. I just stepped.

And the harness held me.

And I didn’t have to do anything.

And I was flying. And the air felt so cool. And I was moving. And I was fine. And I was fine. And I was actually enjoying it.

And the handle mechanism slammed into the brake block. Whoah.

And I was on the other side.

Oh-my-God-that-was-awesome-I-want-to-do-it-again. I said to Jake the brake dude. I was bubbly and ecstatic.

She hated it, and she’s cursing your name. Jake said into his radio.

And I let out the biggest laugh.

I did all five ziplines down the canyon. I took a hand off on my second zipline. I still had nerves leaving the platform, but once I was off, I was flying.

I ended up with no picture to show my Aunt. When I did the photo zipline, I was overly confident and tried to do too much. In the photo, I was blocked by my derriere. Eeek. Then again, I don’t need the picture when I have the thousand (or rather 747) words.



My Toast for the New Year

Recently I was in Hawaii and drove up the scenic H3 highway on Oahu. We passed mountains and trees and more mountains and more trees and eventually arrived at the coast.

We pulled off at a scenic overlook and took the necessary pictures of the scenery.

Scenic overlook

As we walked back to the car, a piece of graffiti caught my eye. It read: Nothing wrong with wanting to be free.

I smiled at that sentiment and snapped a digital picture.

As I begin this new year and this new website, I raise my glass in a toast to being free:

Here’s to wanting to be free, trying to be free, being free. Here’s to being free in mind because that’s where it starts. Here’s to escaping whatever might trap us this week, this month, this year. Here’s to the calm that comes with freedom. Here’s to no more fear, no more wanting, no more anger, no more shame. Here’s to a year of being free. Let’s see where it takes us.

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