Wednesday, June 23, 2010

My New Best Friend

I’M ECSTATIC! Now that is a very strong word, so you may think I’m exaggerating -- but no, this is the real deal, full on, over the top excitement!! And what’s crazy is, I’m excited about a product. Not my typical area of intense exclamations.

Before we go any further, I should warn you, my faithful reader, that this product I’m about to rave over relates to a specific bodily function, and I know that “nice girls” are only supposed to talk about bodily functions in private (if at all), but this product is so remarkable, even life changing, that I’m willing to talk about it -- or rather scream at the top of my lungs about it -- regardless of whatever “nice girl” rules I might be breaking.

So, what’s this all about? Well.... peeing. Yes, this is a post about peeing. But hold on for a few more paragraphs and I think you’ll be cool with the topic, and the aforementioned product, and even afore that, the ecstatic part. Just hang with me.

Here’s the deal: I take a medication that forces me to drink somewhere around 7-8 LITERS of fluid a day... notice, I didn’t say glasses, I said LITERS (that comes to about 2 gallons a day), and that number can go up in warm weather. This presents a problem for servers in restaurants who swear they just filled my glass literally 6 seconds ago, but that is a story for another blog. The primary fallout is that I have to pee OFTEN. There is no old fashion version of a road trip where the Dad’s says, “You’ll pee when we get there,” and barrels off down the highway. Oh no, anyone who has traveled with me since I’ve become disabled knows that I’m a constant interruption on the road. This also means when I have to pee, I really to have to go, because I’m likely holding more pee at that interval than most people pee in a whole day. As a result, I can’t say (as many discerning women might), “Oh, that gas station was just too disgusting, I think I’ll hold it until the next one.” I don’t have that luxury. I’m trapped.

Now, we move on to my next challenge. I don’t have an abdomen. For those of you who are new to this blog see (Backstory); all the abdominal musculature was removed from my body, so I can’t do the hovering tricks or other antics that girls use to avoid sitting on a scary toilet.
Again, I’m trapped. If we add the complication of squatting when camping which for me is extremely difficult if not impossible without making a mess out of the whole deal, well, I have some peeing issues to say the least.

As I’ve been preparing for this trip, I’ve been worrying about how I was going to manage having to pee in the outside world for 50 days straight. Now, I had a vague memory from when I was about 12 or so, of there being a plastic sideways funnel for just such a purpose in the Whole Earth Catalog -- but I’d never heard or saw of anything like it since. When I presented my growing concern to my friend Liz Cross, who had just given me a hardcore Camping 101 lesson the week before, she set to work trying to resolve this problem. I am thrilled to say it was she who found the miracle product.

Before I introduce it to you, I just have to say I think that this marvel of ingenuity and convenience is the greatest mechanism of liberation for women since The Pill (hence my use of the word ECSTATIC! at the beginning of this blog)! As soon as it arrived I tested it, and I can honestly say there was not a single drop of dribble-age the very first time, AND I barely had to move my drawers! I’m telling you it is just that simple. Okay, take a look at the video:

A single pack of 5 only costs $4.95. And the thing is, one doesn’t need to be going on some big adventure to make use of this amazing little product. For me, it’s life-changing, a whole new way of thinking about peeing in the world! There are plenty of times when I don’t want to sit on a toilet in a restaurant, gas station, department store, I could go on, but I’m sure you get the the idea. And the cool thing, I was all crazy evangelical BEFORE P-Mate said they were going to sponsor Off The Map. This is an honest to goodness partnership!

The P-Mate is truly my new best friend!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Up to Speed

As of today, I am 21 days out from departure on my Midwest Scooter Training Tour (hitting the road Friday, July 9th). I thought I’d take a moment now to revisit some of the basics about this project, just to get everyone up to speed: this summer’s trip will act as a training session for my big tour of France, which is next summer. This training tour covers 3,400 miles: 7 States, 26 towns/cities in 50 days. I’m staying mostly in lower cost hotels, with a couple of B&Bs thrown in, but there are about 10 days camping (yikes!) well as a few more adventurous stays like in an overnight on a submarine and another on a Tall Ship.

Now let’s address the bigger question: what is this project all about? Well, I have a Hidden Disability (which you can learn all about in gruesome detail, if you wish, on the new website which I’ll describe in a moment) and I’m doing this project to share my story in hopes of raising awareness about Hidden Disabilities, something I and millions of other Americans deal with every day (see posting with H-P article). Around my depart date there will be a super cool web-site which will include real-time tracking that will allow all of you to follow along with me on my journey, as well as my updates and videoblogs and photos and the works.

In the meantime, you can keep up with me on my Facebook Group: Off The Map: Europe, Twitter: offthemap_eu or meet-up with me through (

Wednesday, June 2, 2010


What a lucky break: it was raining today for my private motorcycle safety class. Instead of rain catching me alone with the scooter in the U.P. on a gravelly road or the busier streets of Minneapolis, I had gentle guidance from Steve of Michigan's Safest Riders. It was awesome! I was so happy.

When I arrived, they asked what I wanted help with. I explained that I was having trouble with balancing the scooter, primarily starting out and at slow speeds. I also wanted to learn with confidence how to use the safety feature on the Piaggio MP3 that locks the two front wheels so that the bike doesn't fall over. As I found out during my lesson today, if I lock the wheels if they aren't straight, it can be a disaster; so I'm not locking them anymore until I'm stopped. I also was turning too wide, because I wasn't comfortable leaning properly.

The pavement in Kalamazoo was quite wet, with puddles scattered about. The parking lot we were working in had plenty of places where it was chewed up, so I had to pay very close attention. Steve was great. When I did an exercise perfectly right off the bat, we skipped ahead, and we spent as much time as I needed to become comfortable on the exercises that were a bigger challenge for me. In fact, at the end of the lesson, he asked me if there was anything I would like to do again. When I told him which exercise I wanted to work on, he had his assistant set it up and he let me run it until I could feel it right in my body. Better still, when I would do it wrong, I could feel what I had done wrong.

He said he was "very comfortable giving me my endorsement" (again, on this new vehicle). He went on to say that he was impressed with my progress from the beginning of the lesson—when I really couldn't lean on turns at all—to the end of the lesson when my lean was very appropriate for the bike and the size of corner.

Then I stopped at the Secretary of State's office on my way home to take the written test and get the official CY on my driver's license. Plus, this would allow me to get a new driver's license with my current hair color. I'll 'fess up and tell you: I failed the exam my first time through, but there were some questions that one could not know without reading the book... and I hadn't read the book. For example, in the State of Michigan, at what MPH does one need to wear sunglasses? I said 15 (correct answer: 35). There were also some clutching questions that I hadn't paid enough attention to during my first class (as it wasn't relevant to my twist-and-go scooter). Oh, and in case you don't know: What goes first when you drink alcohol? A. Vision, B. Hearing, C. Balance, or D. Judgment? I answered Balance—but the correct answer is Judgment.

Having blown the test the first time, I took the book, went to Orchards Mall, bought a Diet Dr Pepper, and read the Michigan Motorcycle Operators Manual. When I got back to the Secretary of State and took the test again, I did just fine. In 30 days, I will have a new license, with my CY and an adorable new picture (they let me see it, so I know I'm pretty cute).