Thursday, August 30, 2012

Woes and I Wonder

I have a sad story to tell. My scooter, Freya, is in the shop right now. Her headlight is busted and I need that to be fixed so she will pass the safety inspection. She's been gone for a few days now and I've had to find alternative methods of getting to school and work. My plan number two was to solicit the help of Lydia, my Sector Nine cruiser.

It takes me about 20 minutes to board the two miles to work. My biggest obstacle is this huge huge hill I have to push up. It gets a little tiresome. I would be able to handle it like more of a man except for a few reasons. This weekend I played a really long and exhausting game of soccer with my friends. I also had the chance to go wakeboarding all day Saturday with some very generous kind friends on Utah Lake. When the weekend was over, my legs were spent. To make it worse, I have no idea what I did but I pulled my left quadriceps which really puts a damper on my longboarding. I've had to ride mostly mongo all week, I am getting really good though. Now my right leg is starting to get overly sore. I'm hoping my left leg will heal but I get lazy and push regular and hurt it all over again.

Now I promise I am not using my blog to whine to you. That is not the purpose of this post. I've just been giving some background information so you will understand why I have been asking myself the questions that I  pose to you now. When I'm on my long trip this summer, what if both my legs get too tired to push? What if I get too sore? Are there other ways of making the board move forward? What if I got a rope and a car to pull me like a boat (I'm kidding. DO NOT try that. I did when I was younger and it had disastrous results)?  What if I got a huge sail? Or a stick to push with? That would be cool.

I will be looking into that.

Me on the lake. You just have to love board sports. Love them.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Team Member Two: THE Kenton Durfee

Last camp trip we built a shelter
I would like to familiarize all of you with the second member of the Longboard For Love team, Kenton Durfee. Kenton and I have been close as can be ever since we were little boys. We lived right next door to each other until the age of three when my family moved to Kansas. However we would see each other every summer when my family visited Arizona. A lot of my favorite childhood memories are with Kenton during those summers. Everything from camping, to swimming in the irrigation ditches, chasing chickens, scenic hikes, milking cows, running around barefoot, and all sorts of boyish tomfoolery. Kenton is one of my closest friends and I admire him very much.

Kenton and I with his family
Kenton introduced me to longboarding back when I was 14 years old. I had just gotten back from living in South America and we were visiting the extended family. Kenton and I were nigh inseparable that summer. His dad had just bought a Sector 9 board, which would actually be the same model of board I would later buy, and he let us take it for a ride. I was instantly hooked. Riding up and down the streets for hours in the blazing Arizona heat. I loved longboarding the moment I stepped on a board and I couldn't really explain why. This glorified plank of wood, which had been shaped and worked, attached to metal bars with urethane wheels was one of the most thrilling things I had ever experienced.

Kenton's last visit we
 explored this cave
Kenton was patient with me and let me ride probably more than I should have. We would play, swim, and work during the day. Then, late at night, after the construction workers had gone, we would go to a nearby road which was being re-paved and would longboard for hours. Rolling on the newly paved road was like skating across a smooth sheet of ice, no bumps, little rumbling of the wheels. It was wonderful. As soon as my family went back home I began my own life of boarding. I guess we could say that one reason I'm doing this trip is because Kenton introduced me to longboarding. Thanks Kenton, and thanks Uncle Dale for letting us ride your board.

I'm really excited to do this trip with Kenton. He is a great guy. He is determined and hard working so he won't give up on the hard days. He has a great outlook on life and a positive attitude, which will help on those draining days when we push uphill with a headwind pushing us back. Best of all Kenton is my friend.

I'm sure he'll have a lot to say when he starts posting on the blog.

And then there were two...

Kenton and I playing frisbee golf while camping.
Its a family tradition for the guys.
Well I am more than happy to announce that I will not be embarking on this trip by myself. My cousin Kenton Durfee has agreed to accompany me. I called him a few months ago when I first got this idea. It was just after I went to meet Ben Smith on his trip, that I went to grab a bite to eat with some friends. I was sitting there and I got an idea. I quickly scrawled "Longboard really far" on my receipt stub, so that I wouldn't forget what I was thinking.

I thought about all of my friends who would agree do something crazy with me and then actually follow through, and Kenton came to mind first. We talked on the phone for an hour or so that night. We were absolutely thrilled at the prospect of doing something like this. The biggest obstacle has been organizing both of our busy work and college schedules together. Kenton has committed now...and he's coming. All he needs to do is figure out if he is coming for the whole trip or just part of it.

I'm still looking for others to join, especially if Kenton can only come for a week or two and not the whole trip. Anyone interested? Let me know.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Making a Difference

I really love to read books. Over this summer I was able to just read and read and read. I'm the kind of person who reads with a pen in their hand and writes all over everything. I underline, make notes, insert thoughts, and circle page numbers of really good pages. I enjoy doing this because it helps me process my thoughts about the book and its a lot of fun to return to a book and remember everything I learned.

The other day I was sitting in front of my bookcase, looking at my books (which I do in an almost OCD kind of way) and selecting them at random, revisiting old thoughts. I picked up a book, 1491 by Charles C. Mann, and I flipped through it. It is a book about the Americas before Columbus came and I remember enjoying it very much. I turned to the cover page where I had summed up my thoughts into one sentence. When I was 17, I had written, "One man, can change the entire course of history." I had been impressed over and over how one man would change everything. Whether things changed for good or bad, it often rested on the decision of a single person, or one small group.

There are good people who can change the world. Who knows if Columbus, Cortes, or Pizarro's impacts are ultimately for good or bad, but there are other heroes of mine. William Wilberforce is someone I truly admire and respect, he truly changed the world. His biography has a special place on my shelf, and I even have his portrait on my desk next to William Tyndale, Sir Thomas Moore (oh the irony), and a person from the Latter-Day Saint canon of scripture named Moroni. One person can make a difference.

This is something I think about in my own life. I'm 22 and planning the direction I wish to take. One thing that seems paramount to me is that my life have meaning, that I make a difference in some way. I don't want my career path to be all about making the most money I can make. That would feel like a pair of golden handcuffs to me. I just want to help, to change something.

I get so happy when I hear about good people doing good things. Like the Lundberg's and the Bridge of Love foundation, humanitarian groups, my friend Jeff who just wants to save the world, Boy Scouts doing their Eagle Projects, different religions and organizations reaching out to people in need, and even individuals who find the fire to right a wrong.

One such individual is a new-found friend, Chris, who is doing something quite similar to my own longboarding endeavor. He is sacrificing a lot of time and energy to make a difference where he sees one must be made. Hearing about people like him makes me happy. To know that the world still has good people. Check out his website. Hopefully his and my blogs help to show that any normal person can make a difference. You can take anything from a career, or a life's work, or a quirky hobby of yours and make a difference.

                                  One man can change the entire course of history.
Chris at

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Draculas Dash for Hope

The Bridge of Love foundation that I am going to do my longboard trip for, is doing one of their yearly fundraisers for the children of Romania. Dracula's Dash for Hope (yeah, Dracula is Romanian!). It is a 5K race and half-mile kid's run. The date is Saturday, October 13th at Cottonwood Complex, 4400 S. 1300 E. in Salt Lake City. You can register for the race here.

Additional information from the website: Sign up early and save $10. The kids race will begin at 8:30 am. There will be refreshments, medals and prizes. Costumes are encouraged but not required. The 5k is $25 through Oct. 1st or $35 after. The kids race is $10.

The event is a lot of fun and a great family activity. Please sign up to run. Please, if I can longboard 650 miles, you can run three. Not only is it fun and healthy for you, but it also is a great cause to help the orphan children of Romania. Below is the video from last years race. Check it out.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Journey to Utah Lake with a Side Quest or Two

One of my goals in training is to become better at longboarding longer distances. The furthest I had gone before I got this idea was about eight miles. Two days ago I put in my headphones and got on my board headed down the Provo River Trail. There are few things that are more relaxing than cruising on your longboard listening to some tasty jams. The soothing and constant rhythm of kicking your feet and carving down the trails, a steady grumble of your wheels spinning on the pavement below your feet, the warm summer sun beaming down on you as you have this time alone to just move and think. I absolutely love it.

Before I knew it I had been going for about a half hour and needed to turn around, a friend was coming to visit. I turned around and rolled on for a few feet when I saw a sign. It was a map of the trail and on it I saw that I had gone about five miles from my home and I was a mere half mile from Utah Lake. I turned back around and went all the way to the lake. It actually felt really cool to go there, but sadly they wouldn't let me into the lake property because I didn't have two dollars to pay the entrance fee. I just got to see the sign and turn back.

Headed home I was cruising along again and I looked over the the river on my right, I saw some kids on a rope swing swimming in the river. I jumped off my board and ran over to join them. This rope swing...was awesome. The water was deep and slow making it perfect to swim in, although it did smell a little like fish and was completely opaque. It was a fun little adventure and I have since gone back again with my friends to swim there. You can't see these things when driving by in a car. That is what is great about traveling by longboard, you are inserted into the local environment, you experience everything as you pass through, instead of just passing through.

Another thing I saw was a movie being filmed along the river. There were camera crews and a bunch of people dressed up in clothes from the 1800's singing and two men dressed in white in the river re-enacting a baptism from early Mormon times. I hope I didn't bother them when I was crunching through leaves and sticks trying to take a picture of the event. I'm a little disappointed with how my picture turned out but I didn't want them to film and view the footage later only to find a guy with a longboard and bright blue skating helmet peeking out of the bushes across the river.

I got home after 10-11 miles of riding and hung out with my good friends. One thing I want to mention is that my back started killing me in the evening, something that hasn't happened yet on a longer ride. I wonder what wearing a hiking backpack will do on 30-50 mile days will do. Hmmmmm.........

Longboard Helps: Regular or Goofy

One of the things I have been doing to prepare for this trip is physical training. I'll post on most of this later, but what I want to talk about today is footedness.

Whenever someone rides on a board, be it surfboard, snowboard, wakeboard, skateboard, or longboard they are standing sideways. One foot goes in front of the other. Regular stance is where your left foot is in the front and the right foot is in the back, usually your right foot is what you will push with. Goofy is just the reverse of that. Just like 90% of the world is right handed, most people ride regular stance.

Boarding stances. Courtesy of
It is a little tricky to find out what "footedness" you are. One test you could do is to get a soccer ball, set it on the ground, step back a few paces, and then kick it like you're scoring the winning goal of the World Cup! Whichever foot you kick with is probably your pushing foot when you longboard.

If you still can't tell which foot should go forward, stop reading this now and go get a friend to read this paragraph, I will wait.....Hello new friend. What I need you to do is to walk behind your confused compadre and push them hard enough to make them stumble but not hurt them. Whichever foot they put forward to catch themselves is the one that they push with when they ride. Congratulate them on being regular or goofy stance and apologize for shoving them, tell them I apologize too for asking you to shove them. Tell them they can keep reading if they so desire.

Regular pushing
Myself, I ride regular. Ever since I was introduced to longboarding eight years ago and snowboarding seven years ago regular has just been what works best for me. Whenever I try to ride goofy stance I get somewhat nervous of falling down. I can do it, but it feels really awkward. On a long distance trip this poses somewhat of a problem for me. I don't want to push with only one foot. If I do the quadriceps on my left leg and the hamstrings on my right will be out of proportion with the opposite leg. Also, if I can't find a way to push with both feet I probably have only half the endurance that is possible to me.

Riding Mongo
I could just stand regular stance and alternate pushing with my front foot (known as riding mongo), then pushing with my back,. I've been practicing this and like this solution a lot more than trying to ride goofy. I have found, however, that this poses the problem of steering while standing on one foot. My left foot is usually directly over or directly behind the front trucks making it easy to just lean a bit and steer the board. When I push with my front foot, my back foot stays on the board a couple inches in front of the back trucks, right on the bouncy flex of my Sector 9 board. I don't feel as stable. To be shamefully honest I have not practiced this much in my life and I wasn't too good to start of with. After a few embarrassing mishaps and crashes I have gotten pretty good at it.

If one can increase their boarding endurance 100% by learning how to push with both feet, there has to be more solutions to help us skate further. I will be looking into that...

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

A Route

The plan thus far is to do a longboard journey, to raise money to help children in Romania. Where would one do this trip though?

Beautiful mountain roads of Romania. Looks like fun
but probably too dangerous. 
Utah? Nope, Ben just did that, and Utah is a dry desert. I like living here, but there are cooler roads to go see. I lived in Kansas before it is a flat state, green roads, that sounds good right? Nope, I hate ticks and plan on doing lots of camping. Romania? No bugs, beautiful scenery. I know those roads very well after driving them so much, but I also know how dangerous they can be and I don't want to die on this trip. I would love to longboard there, but funds for the plane ticket and fear for my own safety are telling me to look elsewhere.

I've always wanted to go see Washington D.C. What if I just longboard from my Utah home to the capitol of the USA? Well...that's a little long for me right now. Mapquest tells me that its a little over 2000 miles.

After lots of thinking the decision has been made to travel along the coastline of California. Mainly on Highway 1. The road is about 650 miles long. I am considering traveling the whole California coast which would be more than 1000 miles.

According to my all knowing but still slightly dubious source Highway One is one of the most scenic drives in America. I also think it would be a good idea because there will hopefully be less elevation change if I stay at sea level. Pushing a longboard up a really large mountain for 20 miles is not the most fun thing in the world. 

So, right now, this is my route. Highway 1 and the Coast of California. We'll see how that pans out.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Why the Bridge of Love?

So have your crazy adventure, and your crazy idea to help out kids on the other side of the world, but, why? Why Romania and why Bridge of Love?
Well, dear reader, I will tell you why.

From 2009 to 2011 I lived in Romania. I was a missionary serving for two years for my church. I spent two years living with the Romanian people, learning their language, learning their culture, and falling in love with it all. I still feel very connected to that place. In fact I really was rooting hard for the Romanian gymnasts in these recent Olympics. So far...bronze all around and gold for the vault. That is cool. 

One of the people I met in Romania was a man named Alin. He is a gypsy, or, more politically correct, Roma. Alin was the nicest and happiest man I ever knew. This was something that always surprised me because he was also homeless. He had a recent falling away with his family and decided to move to the big city. Sadly he found no work and no place to live. For shelter he constructed a small hut out of garbage in the middle of a large dirt field. This field was a "community" of people in similar situations. He made his "living" by picking through garbage looking for old metal he could sell to junkyards. It was a heartbreaking situation.
Alin and I
To make it even worse Alin had two children, Alin Jr., and Denisa. They were the cutest little kids on the face of the earth, and neither was more than three years old. I remember one day I got invited to visit Alin. He was out in the field chasing stray dogs away and his kids were running around in the dirt. Little Alin Jr. was stark naked, barefoot, and all muddy. It was a deplorable and unhealthy situation for those children. Despite all of this Alin did everything he could to keep custody of his children, to keep them out of the orphanages. The thought of his children going there was terrifying to him, so they continued to live their sad little existence.

My mission President and his wife Scott Lundberg and Laurie Lundberg, had started the Bridge of Love organization years before they were asked to serve in Romania. It is a great organization that has helped many of the abandoned or orphaned children find a better life among foster homes. In fact, their youngest son, Josh, is a native Romanian who they had the rare opportunity to adopt.

At the end of my mission my family and another missionary's family, came to visit us before we returned to America. They coordinated with the Lundbergs to bring supplies like coats, shoes, school supplies and such to the Bridge of Love foundation. We got to deliver these much needed materials to the foundation and spend a day with the kids and their foster families. We had games and activities. The children looked happy, and healthy. They were connected and had a greater hope for the future than Alin Jr. and Denisa did. Things were different than they had been. The kids had homes, they had toys, they weren't sitting alone in cribs banging their heads on the wall like they were when the Lundbergs first visited Romania. Things were good for them.

I got to see for myself the difference that the Bridge of Love has made for these children. I love the Romanian people, and I would be honored to be able to do something, anything, to help them. This cause is near and dear to my heart. I'm grateful for what I can do to help the Little Alins and Denisas who don't have anyone right now.  

My mom, Tanner carrying a bag of clothes, and my
little sister in the back
My little brother, my mother, and I with a group
of the kids
One of the Romanian boys
One of the Romanian girls 
Playing games
My little brother playing with the kids

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Cause: Bridge of Love

The cause I would feel privileged to involve myself with is the Bridge of Love. A non-profit organization created to help the orphans and foster children in Romania. I'm going to share what the Bridge of Love is and what they do just by taking straight from their website:

Our Story
Bridge of Love was created in 2001 by Scott and Laurie Lundberg, of Taylorsville, Utah. The Lundbergs and their children traveled to Romania to visit an orphanage during their Christmas holiday in 1999. There they saw a situation they could never forget. Babies and toddlers stayed in their cribs nearly all day, starved for love and attention. The bedroom walls were bare, and a cold breeze seeped through the windows of the poorly heated orphanage/hospital.

There were no blankets or toys in the room, and the workers changed the babies’ diapers in silence. The toddlers rocked their little bodies back and forth for hours, the only stimulation they could create. The older toddlers banged their heads on the side of the crib—over and over—creating a new noise and huge lumps on their heads.

Laurie described the situation as “children living in a zoo.” They each had their own cage from which they couldn’t escape. Most of the children had been abandoned at birth, with little or no information about them left behind. There were no plans for these children—they just existed. Nobody was their voice.

The Lundberg family quickly became attached to the thirty-two children in the orphanage. They determined to do everything possible to save as many of the children as they could. They persisted when told there was nothing that could be done for these children. They knew that each child was important and worthy of love.

Bridge of Love has spent the past ten years saving these abandoned and orphaned children. The foundation began its mission by working to find loving homes for the children and helping to place them, one child at a time, in foster care with Romanian families.

Currently, there are nearly 40 children in foster care who receive support from Bridge of Love, plus a group of six older teens and young adults who were abandoned as children. This is in partnership with a sister foundation in Barlad, Romania called Podul Dragostei, which is Romanian for “Bridge of Love.”

More recently, Bridge of Love has partnered with other nonprofit organizations in Romania to help even more children and families in need. These currently include a maternity center for young mothers and their babies as well as an amazing organization called The Heart of a Child Foundation, both located in Galati, Romania.

Here is a video describing a bit more about what the Bridge of Love is.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

A Cause

An adventure would be cool. Longboarding somewhere in the world and seeing all the sights would be very cool. However, just doing that for the thrill of it is not a good enough reason to go. I really like how Ben had a purpose to his journey, he was helping and making a change in the world. I want this to mean something too. I want to help make a difference somewhere.

One of my favorite psychologists and thinkers, Viktor Frankl said in his book, Man's Search for Ultimate Meaning, "Man is originally characterized by his 'search for meaning' rather than his 'search for himself.' The more he forgets himself- giving himself to a cause or another person- the more human he is. And the more he is immersed and absorbed in something or someone other than himself the more he really becomes himself. Just consider a child who, absorbed in play, forgets himself- this is the moment to take a snapshot; when you wait until he notices that you are taking a picture, his face congeals and freezes, showing his unnatural self-consciousness rather than his natural graciousness. Why do most people have that stereotyped expression on their faces whenever they are photographed? This expressions stems from their concern with the impression they are going to leave on the onlooker. It is 'cheese' that makes them so ugly. Forgetting themselves, the photographer, and the future onlooker would make them beautiful."

Viktor Frankl
This fits well with the biblical wisdom "For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Matthew 16:25-26) or "Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it." (Luke 17:33).

Too often in life we focus on ourselves, being the best we can be, "finding ourselves" and things like that. We spend a lot of time and money on our own pleasure and enjoyment. Everyone wants to be happy and becomes very concerned with achieving that goal. What if that thought is the very thing keeping us from being happy? Frankl continues to say in his book, "Primarily and normally man does not seek pleasure; instead, pleasure- or, for that matter, happiness- is the side effect of living out of the self-transcendence of existence. Once one has served a cause or is involved in loving another human being, happiness occurs by itself. The will to pleasure, however, contradicts the self-transcendent quality of human reality. And it also defeats itself. For pleasure and happiness are by-products. Happiness must ensue. It cannot be pursed. It is the very pursuit of happiness that thwarts happiness."

And I've always wondered what Thomas Jefferson would have to say about that last line. 

Therefore, with my own paradigm of thinking I would believe it to be a waste of time to pursue this journey for my own joy, for the kicks and giggles. It would seem a waste to me. A cool experience, but largely a waste of time. I would rather be like Ben and use this to wrap myself into a larger cause (this begs the question, am I just using this cause to try to transcend myself and be happy? Is my own happiness still the end goal? Or is sincere altruism involved? I suppose we shall see). 

Now...where would one want to invest themselves? 

An Adventure

Hi, I'm Mason. I'm at a young and impressionable age right now, and age where I am making key decisions for my future, so I spend a lot of time thinking about the life ahead of me. At the moment I'm a student at Brigham Young University. I really enjoy what I do and the things I learn. Sometimes though I catch myself getting caught up in the routine of what I'm doing. School, work, homework, eat, sleep, school, work, homework etc. I get scared that too often, we get lost in the "doing" of things. I get scared that, although I have goals and a purpose, I focus too much on the end result, without taking much joy or learning in the journey. 

I think every now and again we need to do something out of the box, something to break the routine. I feel like I need an adventure. I'm at an age and situation in life where I can pursue a random endeavor, something to tell my kids about one day. Earlier this summer I was wondering what kind of adventure I want to do when I heard of something Ben Smith was doing.

Ben is in the middle and that's me on Ben's right
 holding the board
I know Ben through his older brother Mike, who is one of my friends from High School. Ben is a great kid. At the age of 15, before he could even drive a car, Ben decided to ride a longboard 400+ miles across the state of Utah. That in of itself is admirable. However, Ben didn't just do this for kicks and giggles, he was raising money for a friend named Gates. Gates had recently suffered an accident that left him paralyzed and Ben was trying to help him out.

I went to go see Ben as he passed through Provo and I was inspired. I want to do something similar. Longboarding is something that I have loved for years and years. It is one of the most relaxing and enjoyable activities. I also love to travel. Wouldn't it be fun to combine both? 

I have found it, my adventure.